Friday, November 30, 2012

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Attias

Attias

Porto

Porto

The Importance of an 'Empty Future'

The Importance of an Empty Future

by AMY on APRIL 12, 2012
What’s in your future? Hopefully, not much.
When your future is empty—as in wide open, blue ocean, blank slate—you’re sitting pretty to put whatever you want there.
Most of us do not have an empty future.Most of us have a jam-packed future. Do you know what it’s full of?
The past.
We drag all sorts of stuff around with us everywhere we go. Like a big ‘ole ball and chain.
We drag around stories that we made up (and forgot that we made up).
We drag around rigid beliefs that limit our possibilities and don’t benefit us.
We drag around judgments that reflect us much more than they reflect reality.
We drag around pain. And from the pain we invent and drag around methods for protecting ourselves from more pain. Except our methods rarely work the way we want them to.
We drag all of this stuff from the past—and much more, actually—everywhere we go. Into the present. Into our relationships, careers, and hobbies. And into the future.   
If we’re not careful, the past becomes the basis for all of our future plans. It shapes our future vision (if we even have a future vision. When we believe the future is just going to be more of the past, why dream?).
The past severely limits what is possible for the future because the future is no longer wide open, blue ocean, blank slate. It’s “this is just who I am….” And “that happened when I was six….” And “things like that don’t work out for me…”
Isn’t that kind of backwards? The past is done and over and unless you’re constantly reminding yourself of it and dragging it around with you, it has no place in the future. How could it?
So how do you keep the future nice and empty so you’re free to create whatever you want there?
Leave the disempowering parts of the past behind you. This doesn’t have to be difficult; just notice the content of your thinking enough to recognize when you’re replying something that is o-v-e-r.
Or when you’re telling a story that hurts.
Or reciting your “this is just who I am….”, “that happened when I was six….”, “things like that don’t work out for me…”
Choose to let that go. It’s heavy and it’s been weighing you down.
In your mind’s eye, see the future as wide open. I literally picture a huge open space, completely void and empty, stretched out as far as the (imaginary) eye can see. 
Then choose what you want to put there. Remember that you need not bring anything from the past along—everything you need will be available to you when you need it.
You get to paint this picture on a clean canvas.

Bio

Bio

Whereever You Go

Whereever You Go

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What Happened When NYU Students Discovered They Could E-Mail 40,000 People At Once

What Happened When NYU Students Discovered They Could E-Mail 40,000 People At Once

Amor é um fogo

Amor é um fogo que arde sem se ver; 
É ferida que dói, e não se sente; 
É um contentamento descontente; 
É dor que desatina sem doer. 

É um não querer mais que bem querer; 
É um andar solitário entre a gente; 
É nunca contentar-se e contente; 
É um cuidar que ganha em se perder; 

É querer estar preso por vontade; 
É servir a quem vence, o vencedor; 
É ter com quem nos mata, lealdade. 

Mas como causar pode seu favor 
Nos corações humanos amizade, 
Se tão contrário a si é o mesmo Amor? 

Luís Vaz de Camões, in "Sonetos"

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Relief

"For people who are experiencing stress at any given moment, a form of relief can be to simply change your physiology—take a couple of deep breaths. Most people only use 20% of their lung capacity taking small short breaths, but 70% of the body’s toxins can actually be released when taking a full breath! By taking the time to fill your lungs and release, you can not only improve your health but also radically decrease the anxiety related to that moment. There are many ways to change your physiology and in our seminars we prove this time after time by taking people who feel depressed and having them make a radical shift. Intuitively we know this can be changed not only by the way we move, but our breath and body temperature as well.
The second thing that affects our state is what we focus on. For example, if you’ve been at a funeral honoring someone you cared about and everyone is in a sad state and afterwards someone shares a story or anecdote about something that person did that was extremely humorous, suddenly everyone goes from tears to laughter. In an instant our states can be changed by what we focus on. What’s wrong is always available—but so is what’s right. Whatever we focus on effects our state and our state then effects the story we have about who we are, what’s life about, what’s possible and what’s not. From that story we will often determine whether or not we will maximize our capabilities and the strategies that will help us achieve what we’re truly after in a sustainable way."

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”


“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”
-Marcus Aurelius

Parking Spot Bubble Hong Kong, Near Historic 1998 Bubble Levels.

Parking Spot Bubble Hong Kong, Near Historic 1998 Bubble Levels.

vitamin a sources

vitamin a sources

"In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that everything you post from this moment forward belongs to me." $FB


"In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that everything you post from this moment forward belongs to me. I also lay claim to any Bacon or other snacks you have in your house.


By reading this you consent that under the Uniform Commercial Code, all your base are belong to us. Further, by liking or sharing any content on Facebook you agree to repeal the laws of thermodynamics." - John Moore

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How Series

How Series

Mohamed Morsi bars court challenges and orders Hosni Mubarak retrial #US-Ally ?

Mohamed Morsi bars court challenges and orders Hosni Mubarak retrial #US-Ally ?

Egypt's president, Mohamed Morsi, has granted himself far-reaching powers and immunity from legal oversight as he ordered the retrial ofHosni Mubarak over the killing of protesters during the country's revolution.
In a surprise move, Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader who was instrumental in securing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, issued a series of measures preventing Egypt's courts from challenging any laws or decrees passed since he assumed office in June.
The decrees prevent the courts from attempting to dissolve the upper house of parliament or the body tasked with drawing up the country's new constitution, both dominated by his Islamist allies.
The declaration came barely 24 hours after Morsi was praised by Barack Obama for his role in bringing the latest round of the Gaza conflict to an end.

“If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.” Milton Berle

“If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door.”

NYC Charity Sandy

NYC Charity Sandy

'Here's what I'm grateful for right now: being human'

"Here's what I'm grateful for right now: being human. 

The whole of it. Everything that being human entails.  

I used to think being human kind of sucked most of the time. With our habitual patterns that run on auto-pilot and our irrationally fearful thoughts and our unpredictable emotions.

Human-ness felt like a big hassle. I would fantasize about being super-human; not another species or anything, just one of those people who seemed untouchable and above the petty problems and insecurities of the rest of us.
Not just spiritual but uber-enlightened. Buddha-like.

And part of me would still love to be led by Spirit so much that it feels other-worldly. But this world--and being human on it--isn't so bad either.

My change in thinking came mostly from my clients.

This isn't something I normally go around talking about and it's going to sound cheesy as all get out, but I'm okay with that...

You see, I sort of fall in love with these people who let me into their lives and ask for my opinion. I'm serious about that. It felt weird at first, but I'm starting to really like it.

Each time someone is honest about who they are and what they're struggling with, you come face to face with humanity. When they unabashedly share their full-on human-ness, you wonder how you got so lucky.

Every time someone is willing to not only own their imperfections and vulnerabilities but reveal them...well, it just doesn't get much attractive than that.

Why is it so sexy? For one, you get a peak behind the curtain. We all have shame about what's behind our own curtain so when someone lets you peak into their imperfect inner world, you feel more human yourself. You relax a bit about your own imperfections.

There is almost nothing I've ever heard from someone else that I couldn't personally feel or relate to in some way. I know that's true for you, too. We don't all experience things the same way, but the thoughts and feelings that make us human are much the same.
Byron Katie says there are no new thoughts. Watching someone else bravely feel what you've felt imparts a bond that's indescribable.

So what I'm really grateful for right now is being human. In all its messy vulnerability and emotion and turmoil. And for the friends and clients and honest strangers who have helped me see that it only feels ugly when you hide it. When you're pinching the curtain closed so that no one gets a peak, the thought of being uber-enlightened and super-human is very enticing.

But you don't need all that. All you need is the courage to be human. Trust me, what feels so ugly to you won't look so bad to whomever you're showing. They might even fall in love with you for it."

Explorer Rock


#Outrage in #India over arrests for #Facebook $FB post

#Outrage in #India over arrests for #Facebook $FB post

As India's financial capital shut down for the weekend funeral of a powerful politician linked to waves of mob violence, a woman posted on Facebook that the closures in Mumbai were "due to fear, not due to respect." A friend of hers hit the "like" button.
For that, both women were arrested.
Analysts and the media are slamming the Maharashtra state government for what they said was a flagrant misuse of the law and an attempt to curb freedom of expression. The arrests were seen as a move by police to prevent any outbreak of violence by supporters of Bal Thackeray, a powerful Hindu fundamentalist politician who died Saturday.
"We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship," Markandey Katju, a former Supreme Court justice who now heads the Press Council of India, wrote in a protest letter to the chief minister of Maharashtra.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

In a sermon aired on Hamas' Al-Aqsa television, cleric Yunis Al Astal stated, "Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam.

In a sermon aired on Hamas' Al-Aqsa television, cleric Yunis Al Astal stated, "Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam.

Sheik Yunus al-Astal, a Hamas legislator and imam, in a column in the weekly newspaper Al Risalah in 2008 discussed a Koranic verse suggesting that "suffering by fire is the Jews' destiny in this world and the next." Astal concluded "Therefore we are sure that the Holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.Ref IHT 1 April 08

Sheik Yunus al-Astal, a Hamas legislator and imam, in a column in the weekly newspaper Al Risalah in 2008 discussed a Koranic verse suggesting that "suffering by fire is the Jews' destiny in this world and the next." Astal concluded "Therefore we are sure that the Holocaust is still to come upon the Jews.Ref IHT 1 April 08

Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas said in his sermon at the Katib Wilayat mosque in Gaza that "Jews are a people who cannot be trusted. They have been traitors to all agreements. Go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing." Ref IHT 1 April 08

Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas said in his sermon at the Katib Wilayat mosque in Gaza that "Jews are a people who cannot be trusted. They have been traitors to all agreements. Go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing." Ref IHT 1 April 08

Moreover, the Charter quotes Hassan Al-Banna, a Nazi sympathizer who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. There is no doubt that the Hamas views itself as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood and an ideological heir of al Banna. The Muslim Brotherhood spawned a number of radical Islamist movements including Al-Qaeda.

Moreover, the Charter quotes Hassan Al-Banna, a Nazi sympathizer who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. There is no doubt that the Hamas views itself as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood and an ideological heir of al Banna. The Muslim Brotherhood spawned a number of radical Islamist movements including Al-Qaeda

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times. It is characterised by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgement, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.

Some observers deny the relation between the Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the Charter states:
The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times. It is characterised by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgement, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).

"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree,  would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).

"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

"After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying."

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

"There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors."

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. "

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

The principles of the Hamas are stated in their Covenant or Charter, given in full below. Following are highlights.
"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it." (The Martyr, Imam Hassan al-Banna, of blessed memory).

‎"Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life" -Marcus Aurelius

‎"Remember this, that very little is needed to make a happy life" -Marcus Aurelius

#Antisemite #Antisemitism Anti-Semitism in Europe is back

#Antisemite #Antisemitism Anti-Semitism in Europe is back

WAIT! You can jump down from space but you can not base jump from a small height? #VIDEO #FAIL

WAIT! You can jump down from space but you can not base jump from a small height?

Nim Chimpsky

Nim Chimpsky

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Attorney Files Lawsuit Against LIPA Over Sandy Response

Attorney Files Lawsuit Against LIPA Over Sandy Response


Fury Rises as Blackouts Persist from Sandy, Electrical Worker Attacked

Fury Rises as Blackouts Persist from Sandy, Electrical Worker Attacked

#Floods in #Venice #Flood - Make Lemonades


Disaster Resources

Disaster Resources

Hurricane Sandy Relief and Recovery NY

Hurricane Sandy Relief and Recovery NY

Long Island Community FoundationMarie Smith (516) 348-0575Hurrican Sandy Long Island Relief and Restoration Fund

Boatloads of Portugese Emigrating To Angola Due to Crisis

Boatloads of Portugese Emigrating To Angola Due to Crisis

With the help of the state oil company Sonangol's petrodollars, the former enslaved nation is going on a shopping spree in Portugal. The Angolan elites, many with ties to President José Eduardo dos Santos, in power for the last 32 years, are buying up Portuguese government-owned companies that have to be privatized quickly. Portugal's conservative prime minister, Pedro Passos Coelho, spent his childhood in Angola, where his father was a doctor. This connection has prompted Coelho to advocate closer relations between the two countries, "their citizens and their companies." Now Angolans are buying up shares in Portuguese media companies and they are purchasing prime property along the Atlantic beaches as well as luxury real estate in Lisbon and designer clothing. They are also snapping up workers. Close to 150,000 Portuguese have already obtained visas for Angola.
"For every shipwreck in Portugal, there is a lifebuoy in Angola. Here a professional desert, there an oasis," raves the Lisbon weekly magazine Visão. Since the end of the four-decades-long war, Angola has seen frenetic rebuilding. Roads, railways, airports, housing, schools and hospitals need to be built. But the country also needs help organizing its electricity and water supply, developing Internet access and revamping the agricultural sector.
For all of these reasons, headhunter Fonseca sees a new El Dorado for skilled professionals and managers taking shape in the Angolan capital Luanda, which is only a seven-hour flight from Lisbon.
Some 40 percent of the 18 million Angolans are illiterate. Those without education and training are unable to find work, and two-thirds of the population survives on less than €1 a day. Only a small upper class has university degrees, and an even smaller minority has obtained a coveted foreign degree. This -- and the fact that they face no language barriers in an African country where Portuguese is the national language -- explains why teachers, doctors, engineers and agricultural experts from Portugal are in such great demand. Companies draw up the employment contracts for Angola under Portuguese law, and the workers from the motherland are sent to Africa as expatriates.
Heeding the Call
"I can't stand it any more, the constant talk about the crisis here in Portugal," says Marta Gonzaga, 39, standing on the terrace of the chic Bairro Alto Hotel in Lisbon. She gazes through large, round sunglasses at her neighborhood near Camões Square, above the Tagus River. "For many of my fellow Portuguese, things are constantly going downhill." Gonzaga, a single mother with a 12-year-old daughter, loves this part of Old Lisbon, with its tourist magnet, the Café A Brasileira, and she would like to continue living here. But she is heeding the call to Angola because of work. For Gonzaga, the African country offers a "bright outlook."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Couchsurfing New Yorker Article


According to the CouchSurfing Web site, the average age of members is
twenty-eight, with more than a third between the ages of eighteen and
twenty-four (seven hundred and ninety-three members are between eighty
and eighty-nine). Reasoning that these youngsters would never welcome
me as a house guest, fearing perhaps that they’d have to get out the
defibrillator, I subtracted nine years from my age on the profile.
However, when twenty-three-year-old Sydney Provence, a University of
Iowa physics grad student, picked me up in her Toyota Corolla at the
airport in Cedar Rapids—the first stop on my surfing odyssey—I
immediately confessed my misdeed. “To anyone in her twenties,” she
said, “forties, fifties, it’s all the same.” As we drove through
winter-browned fields and then, for my touristic benefit, meandered
through Iowa City, Provence called my attention to local sights. She
said that she first couch-surfed four years ago, as a broke college
student eager to see Austria but not without a companion. On that
trip, she spent Christmas in St. Valentin with a girl her age and the
girl’s mother, eating homemade holiday treats. Recently, Provence and
her younger brother couch-surfed in Costa Rica, where they stayed with
a tavern owner, a lucky break for her brother, who discovered that he
was of legal drinking age there.
We reached Provence’s house—a clapboard bungalow built in the early
nineteen-hundreds, which she acquired with some inherited money two
years ago. The house has a wooden kitchen floor convincingly painted
to look like a signed Matisse cutout, holographic art created by her
father, a little red panic-like button that has no purpose whatsoever,
and, best of all, a large downstairs with a daybed (and bathroom) for
me to share with her beer-brewing equipment. When I marvelled at how
grownup her house was, she observed, “You know you’re an adult when
you have separate toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins.” We had
dinner at a Japanese restaurant and then stayed up late, gabbing
about, oh, you know, molecular beam epitaxy, blackbody radiation, and
the Topless Tuesday Pancake Dinners she attended in her undergraduate
days, at the University of Virginia.
When I told friends that I would be sleeping in the company of
strangers, the second most frequent question they asked was “How do
you know you’re not going to be bludgeoned to death in the middle of
the night?” The most frequent question was “What about bedbugs?”
Regarding the latter, I have not come across a single mention on the
Web site of these pests, so, New Yorkers, get over your paranoia. As
for safety concerns, a twenty-nine-year-old woman from Hong Kong was
raped when she travelled to Leeds in 2009. There have been less dire
violations reported, too, such as burglaries and harassment, but
Daniel Hoffer, the company’s C.E.O. and co-founder, who is
thirty-four, says that, statistically speaking, couch surfing is
remarkably safe. “We have had over six million positive experiences,
with only a tiny fraction of one per cent negative,” he told me at the
groovy new CouchSurfing headquarters, in San Francisco, a double-level
aqua-and-orange-painted loft sheltering seventeen couches and two
swings suspended from a roof beam.
O.K., but what happens if Jack the Ripper signs up? There are three
protective measures, each indicated on a member’s profile. First, for
a credit-card payment of twenty-five dollars, the Web site will verify
your name and address (which means that a member can be certain she is
hosting the real Ripper, and not an impostor). Another feature, “the
vouch,” is a sort of seal of trustworthiness conferred upon a member,
say, Jack, by another member, say, Mrs. Ripper. Only members who have
been vouched for three times have the power to issue such an
endorsement. The most helpful security information, however, is the
references that hosts and guests are encouraged to write about each
other after every rendezvous. According to a 2010 study conducted by
researchers at the University of Michigan, the ratio of positive to
negative evaluations is twenty-five hundred to one. Still, an astute
reader can read between the lines in an assessment like “Jack has an
awesome collection of steak knives” or “He can put out a fire really
fast.” Given these safeguards, it is unlikely that anyone on
CouchSurfing could get away with murder more than once. How
comforting.
My next hotelier, cicerone, and instant buddy in Iowa City, Deborah
Yarchun (age twenty-six), was neither verified nor vouched for, but
she had thirteen gushing references. A strawberry blonde dressed in
black who rides a unicycle and does micrography, making drawings
composed of tiny words, Yarchun is pursuing an M.F.A. at the Iowa
Playwrights Workshop. Over morning coffee at the Prairie Lights
bookstore, she explained that she joined CouchSurfing after she moved
to Iowa, in 2010, and missed having roommates. “The first time I lived
alone, I lasted three days before I bought a hamster,” she said.
“CouchSurfing is perfect, because I can share my space a day at a
time.”
She went off to her classes, lending me a set of keys to her
apartment, a one-bedroom appointed with furniture from the annual Iowa
City-sponsored garage sale and a black futon from Walmart that has
been transiently occupied by, for instance, a student from Lyons,
France, in town to work on a paper about Grant Wood; a motivational
speaker who visited after he and his fiancé parted ways (“His spiel
was about balance”); and, most recently, by me. That night, before
attending a tech rehearsal for her upcoming play, we had dinner at
Hamburg Inn, a diner famous for pie milkshakes and for being a
mandatory political stop for candidates during the Iowa caucuses.
For all this generosity, what did I offer in exchange? Many guests
cook a meal, clean the house, or walk the dog. I gave Yarchun—and
everyone I visited—a book, a box of chocolate cookies, and an
authentic hundred-trillion-dollar bill from Zimbabwe. If the bill had
been worth more than the pittance I paid for it on eBay, I would be
kicked off the Web site, as would Yarchun for accepting money. “It’s
about the exchange of stories, not cash,” Yarchun said, offering up a
hair-raising tale about being attacked by seven vicious dogs in
Ecuador.
CouchSurfing is neither the first nor the only organized pajama party
on the block. Servas, generally regarded as the earliest hospitality
exchange, was founded, in 1949, as a means of promoting world harmony
(its original name was Peacebuilders). Servas is so archaic—or do I
mean utopian?—that not only is it recognized by the U.N. but its
members still communicate via postal letters and must be interviewed
before joining. (I talked to one couple who had applied for an
interview, were informed that it would take six months to be approved,
and were now, a couple of years later, still waiting.) Other networks
include Global Freeloaders, Be Welcome, Nomadbase, Tripping, Evergreen
Bed and Breakfast Club (for those over fifty), Pasporta Servo (for
speakers of Esperanto), and the Hospitality Club, which, with more
than three hundred thousand members, is a distant second to
CouchSurfing in terms of size.
CouchSurfing was the brainchild of Casey Fenton, who is thirty-four,
and who told me over the phone from San Francisco that, as a boy
growing up in Brownfield, Maine, he’d become fascinated by the concept
of free will, cherishing the hope that someday he would have the
existential wherewithal to escape his home town and explore the world.
Chalk one up for volition: Fenton graduated from high school early and
began travelling soon afterward. “I travelled randomly,” he said,
“buying tickets that would take me as far away as I could afford to
go.” In 2000, in preparation for a trip to Reykjavík, Iceland, he
spammed fifteen hundred university students, canvassing for free
accommodation. He received between fifty and a hundred invitations,
proceeding to bunk with a few of the respondents, and even the family
of one. “When else, I thought, would I have an opportunity to stay
with a socialite and a nationally known R. & B. star?” he said.
Eureka!
Fenton—by training a computer programmer—spent several years
developing his travel Web site. In 2004, with the help of Daniel
Hoffer and two others, who are no longer part of the team, he launched
CouchSurfing as a public company. Its mission was “to internationally
network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise
collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural
understanding.” In those days, before CouchSurfing had an office,
idealistic volunteers, provided with room and board, worked together
out of group houses that were rented in It places like Turkey, New
Zealand, Costa Rica, and Alaska. The phrase “couch-surf” was in use at
the time, but, according to Fenton, it meant to watch TV on a friend’s
sofa, lazily flipping through the channels. “We popularized the term
and gave it an adventurous association,” Fenton said. “We changed the
context so there was a community aspect.”
A small segment of the community became angry when, last August,
CouchSurfing accepted $7.6 million in investment. Never mind that the
company has used some of the funding to hire computer engineers, or
that it converted from a traditional nonprofit to a B corporation, a
new type of company that is contractually required to be socially and
environmentally responsible. Certain diehards simply do not like doing
business with the Man, or even doing business. From their perspective,
CouchSurfing’s raising capital is the equivalent of the Salvation
Army’s developing nuclear weapons. The discussion group on the
CouchSurfing Web site that is entitled “We Are Against CS Becoming a
For-Profit Organization” has more than three thousand members. To put
this in context, the “Barefooters” group has eight hundred and
twenty-eight members; “Pirates!” has four hundred and three; “People
Who Like Singing in the Shower” has one hundred and sixty-eight; “Chin
Scar!” has fifty-five; “The Cute Guys Club” has eight hundred and
thirty-five; and the “Cute Guy Club of Florida” subgroup has one.
Speaking of moola, Bermuda is a swell place to couch-surf. I take it
you know more or less what this Manhattan-size archipelago looks like,
but, if not, picture a subtropical island, then doctor the picture so
that the blue water is bluer and the pink beaches are pinker. Don’t
forget the limestone houses painted in Necco Wafer colors, with white
ridged roofs designed to funnel rainwater into cisterns. True, you may
not find CouchSurfing digs chez Michael Bloomberg, Silvio Berlusconi,
Ross Perot, Michael Douglas, or any of the other folks who live in the
gated community of Tucker’s Town. If you are as discerning a reader of
profiles as I, however, you can be put up in houses that, were they
hotels, would receive five stars.
Night No. 1: Cris Valdes-Dapena and Ian Birch. This recently married
couple in their sixties—he’s an aspiring clockmaker and paraglider
from England, she’s a partly retired real-estate agent from
Pennsylvania—welcomed me early one evening to their semi-detached
condominium, a handsome white concrete house overlooking Hamilton
Harbor and the Great Sound, a panorama I could admire through the
sliding glass doors of my bedroom. (I had a marble bathroom to myself,
too.) Valdes-Dapena and Birch joined CouchSurfing last year, having
heard about it from Valdes-Dapena’s grandson. A few days before my
stay, they hosted a sixty-four-year-old former travel agent from
Victoria, Canada (“We reverse age-discriminate”), whose mission, as
stated on the CouchSurfing Web site, was “to feverishly explore the
world before I croak.” He’d been on a gruellingly circuitous journey
in order to accumulate frequent-flier miles, and showed up late,
conking out almost immediately on the sofa. I had taken a mere
two-hour flight, so that night, over an unhurried dinner of spaghetti
Bolognese and garlic bread, Valdes-Dapena and Birch gave me the
lowdown on Bermuda politics and economics and regaled me with tales of
their travels—they have places in Colorado, Mexico, and New York, and
have trekked along the Annapurna Circuit, in Nepal, and Camino de
Santiago, in Spain. Later this year, they will walk through New
Zealand for three months.
I, on the other hand, accepted a lift from Birch the next day to a
nearby bus stop. When, half an hour later, on the other side of the
island, I stepped off the pink-and-blue-painted No. 10, Andrea Wass, a
winning thirty-eight-year-old insurance underwriter, was there to
escort me down the steep driveway to her charming rented house. She
led me to a room that overlooked a landscaped lawn and, beyond that, a
private dock where she keeps a kayak. There were flowers on the
bedside table. “You have your own room,” she said. “I don’t include
that on my profile, because I’d be inundated with requests.” Wass was
transferred by her company to Bermuda six years ago, so by now the
visits from friends and family have ebbed. (She travels regularly to
the States.) Wass said that she misses having guests—and that, I
suppose, is where I came in. The night I arrived, we dined with four
delightful expat friends at a nice hotel restaurant, where I learned,
among other things, that in 1992 a construction crew working for Ross
Perot illegally blew up a coral reef so that he could moor his yacht,
the Chateau Margaux, at his doorstep. The next day, Wass and I visited
a cave, wandered around St. George’s (possibly the oldest continually
inhabited English town in the New World), and tooled around the island
on her Vespa, I, the terrified passenger, trying to fake blasé.
Wass has never officially couch-surfed herself, though when she was in
Rome recently she posted a listing on the local event page inviting
CouchSurfers to join her one night for dinner; twenty guests attended.
Nor has Jeremy Sommer, a fifty-four-year-old retired furniture
manufacturer, who is so seasoned a traveller that he has two
passports. Sommer wined and dined and housed me and a French
CouchSurfer in his large Victorian house in San Francisco (my room
could have been at the Four Seasons), yet said, “Why would I want to
stay with someone I don’t know?” Most members, however, have played
both roles. According to additional University of Michigan studies,
there appears to be a high correlation between the number of times a
member hosts and the number of times he surfs, though, significantly,
only between twelve and eighteen per cent of the stays are directly
reciprocated. In other words, CouchSurfing is a largely rhizomatous
affiliation of strangers intersecting with one another not only out of
self-interest but for the good of all. How can we explain this
pervasive and—some would say—unexpected coöperation? What is to
prevent an overabundance of freeloaders from bringing down the system?
Essentially, this is the question that George Zisiadis, a researcher
at CouchSurfing, who graduated from Harvard last year, with a degree
in sociology, asked in his senior thesis. After drawing a lot of
diagrams with arrows to show that the dynamic between members is not a
typical case of indirect reciprocity (A gives to B, B gives to C, C
gives to A), Zisiadis attributed the success of CouchSurfing to its
raison d’être—namely, to forge meaningful social connections. Whether
you make the sofa bed or sleep in the sofa bed, you will come out a
winner.
“I joined to save money,” Barry Hott, a genial twenty-five-year-old,
said. Hott lives with his family in Great Neck when he isn’t sleeping
on a couch in Eastern Europe or Asia. “But now I’d happily pay to meet
these people and have these experiences,” he went on. “CouchSurfing
has given me the chance to be charitable. This is where I volunteer my
time and energy. Helping strangers.” Hott, who works as the
social-media director for an online eyeglass company, is one of about
twenty-five hundred Ambassadors, an unpaid position that involves
answering questions from newcomers, organizing events in the
community, and being a cheerleader for the site. I’d e-mailed him when
I joined CouchSurfing, and he promptly offered to drive into Manhattan
and meet me at a coffee shop, where he’d brief me about the Web site.
Hott estimates that he’s met half his closest friends through
CouchSurfing. Several times a week, he attends one of the many
CouchSurfing activities in the city; there are potluck dinners, movie
nights, Argentinean tango lessons, karaoke parties, outings to
museums, concerts, and sporting events. When I asked about the regular
Thursday-night meet-ups at a bar in downtown Manhattan, he said,
“There’s nothing like them in terms of how open and friendly everyone
is. If you go to a party or even a wedding, you mostly talk to people
you know. Here you’re encouraged to join in the conversations of
strangers. You’ll find warmer smiles and hugs from people you don’t
know than from your friends.” Yeeks.
Another Ambassador, Gabriel Stempinski, from San Francisco, is so
zealous about his office that he holds monthly dinners for new
members, throws rooftop parties for up to two hundred guests,
accommodates as many as sixteen surfers a night at his loft (five on
the round bed, one on the massage table—you get the idea), and a few
weeks ago he asked his girlfriend to marry him at the company’s
headquarters (it’s on YouTube). What explains this unstinting
conviviality? “I’m not a fan of being alone,” Stempinski said, as we
toured San Francisco in his black BMW.
There’s always a multitude in Ithaka, a seventeen-person housing
coöperative situated in two adjacent wood-shingled residences on a
quiet street in Palo Alto, and the site of the final bed on my tour.
Here, in this community of Stanford students, awesome hugging is
commonplace; job assignments include granola maker, rag launderer, and
general entropy-reduction enforcer; and smoothies are processed
outside, on the bike blender, a kitchen blender mounted on the front
of a stationary bicycle and powered by pedalling. I arrived after the
communal dinner of bruschetta with caramelized onions, salad with
weeds from the garden, and custard with blood-orange syrup (“Meals are
vegetarian, even though most of us are carnivorous, but we want
everyone to be able to eat”), and was taken around the rambling main
house by a handful of occupants and their guests.
Come, let me show you around. This is Ellery’s room, but Ellery sleeps
on the porch. Here’s the lounge. Here’s a bathroom. One thing you need
to know about the bathroom: if yellow, let mellow. Here is Ben and
Andi’s room. Here’s Dan’s room. His girlfriend is Rachel; she doesn’t
live here anymore, but she’s staying here now. Last year, the two guys
who lived here slept outside. Bobby lives here, but his stuff is in
the car. He’s a digital nomad. Bobby believes that “the host-guest
relationship is one of imposition and annoyance, made pleasant only by
the novelty of the guest,” and that “neither of us is having a good
time if you have to ask me every time you want to use the shower,” and
that therefore, in the ideal world, call it post-couch-surfing, nobody
will be a host; rather, each party will host the other. We call this
room AbunDance. Mostly we dance here. We try to keep it as empty as
possible. See the hula hoop, the beanbag chairs, and the bearded
fellow smooching on the floor with the pretty, long-haired woman who’s
wearing a shawl? This is Jonas. He doesn’t live here. He lives in a
co-op in Berkeley called Fort Awesome. His sweetheart is Lena. She’s
been on the road for two years, but right now she’s camping in the
yard out back. Have you heard of warmshowers.org? Lena’s an unofficial
showerer. Here’s the puppet theatre. A lot of couch surfers stay
there. If you don’t want to sleep in the puppet theatre, you can have
Jan’s room and he’ll sleep with Tess.
Has our relation with machines made us feel so deprived of human
contact that we befriend anyone and shack up with whoever has a
mattress? Moreover, how profound can a social connection be if it is
arranged through paperwork and typically lasts only a day or two?
“It’s sad when they leave,” Sommer, one of my San Francisco hosts,
said. “But then you get another one.” People, it seems, are becoming
fungible, and, as in a game of pinball, you score points by bumping up
against as many of them as possible.
Does CouchSurfing represent something new, then, or is it simply an
Internet-enabled version of the age-old practice of crashing with the
friend of a friend of a neighbor of a third cousin of someone you sat
next to on a bus? When I was young, I hitchhiked through Europe,
staying with strangers I met along the way. I was just looking for a
place to crash; I did not expect to find soul mates or playdates.
Contrast this with the remarks of a cheesemonger in New York, who
wrote in his profile, “I’m in this for the relationship and the
person, NOT just the free place to sleep.” Or the
thirty-three-year-old real-estate agent in New York, who warns anyone
contemplating him as a host, “If you are not fun, social, cool, not
looking to go out and enjoy the nightlife of NYC, please request
elsewhere, I do not want someone that goes to bed at 10pm. Sorry.” On
a loftier plane, consider the official objectives of CouchSurfing:
“Our goal,” the company’s Web site says, “is nothing less than
changing the world.” I think it has.
My place? I’d love to have you, but we’re sanding the floors and the
fish has the flu.