On Biohacking, Dry Ice Cream, and Being a Clown

Last weekend I headed off to Woodward Reservoir to join the Symbiosis Gathering. Symbiosis is the second gathering of its kind that I go to, and it’s hard for me to describe what it is. I like to think of it as a giant art project, a lifestyle festival, or maybe a playground for adults. It’s a playground where people come to listen to great music, enjoy gorgeous art projects, practice yoga, meditate, and possibly explore themselves with nudity and/or drugs. All by a beautiful and serene lake in Northern California.

But, I am not writing this to talk about any of that.

For me, my experience at Symbiosis was more of an educational one. In addition to the packed festivities, I attended a number of workshops that I found insightful, interesting, creative, or outlandish. I wanted to briefly share some of these experiences here.


Biohacking is a field that I had been completely oblivious to. I was not aware that there are kits out there you can buy with chips that you can implant in your body to give you, let’s say, “super powers”. A kit presented to us at the workshop is made and sold by dangerousthings.com. It’s an RFID chip that, once implanted in your hand, can be used to replace your home and car keys entirely. It effectively turns your hand into a fob. Of course, it’s not approved by any agency and is to be used completely at your own risk. Despite that, one person in the workshop volunteered to have one implanted.

The Digestive System & the Topless Model

In this workshop we learned about the digestive system, but in a rather outlandish way. The workshop was “taught” by a physician, an artist, and a topless model. The artist started painting the digestive system on the model while the physician was explaining how the digestive system works.

For us, students, we were all given sketchpads and charcoal. After the physician gave her briefing, the artist gave us tips on how to draw and sketch nude models, along with how to draw the digestive system on top of that.

To my slight surprise, I felt like the presence of a topless model wasn’t at all erotic, but having her as a catalyst to draw the digestive system was interesting and, admittedly, effective.

Smoothie + Dry Ice = Ice Cream

I unfortunately missed the first part of this cooking workshop, but one thing I learned is that you can use dry ice in food! The chef made a vegetable smoothie and mixed it with dry ice to create some delicious ice cream. Because of the dry ice the ice cream tasted a little carbonated at first, but if you let it sit out for a few minutes that carbonation goes away. I want to try this with smoothies I make one day.

The dry ice and the smoothie were together mixed in a blender. Small quantities of dry ice are added a time. Here’s a little snippet of what that process looks like. You can see the fumes of the dry ice flowing out of the blender.

How Arachnids Have Sex

Another workshop was given by a biologist specializing in arachnids. She had discovered a few new species herself in her travels in the tropicals. Fast facts about things I learned in this session:

  • There are 100,000 known species of arachnids, and it’s estimated that 90% of arachnid species remain undiscovered.
  • Scorpions give birth while spiders lay eggs. In fact, female scorpions do make eggs, but they hatch inside the female then the female gives birth to it.
  • In some species of spiders, the female kills and eats the male after mating.
  • In some species of spiders, the male mutilates the female’s genitalia to prevent other males from mating with the same female. Ouch!
  • Some spider males have feathers like peacocks, and they use it to attract females.
  • Spiders are musical, and some spider males play a “symphony” to a female that can range from 30 minutes to 6 hours to attract the female for mating. Here’s a quick video that shows how this can look and sound like:

These were all a small fraction of the workshops that I attended. Other workshops I attended were about hacking the financial system, how to make sauerkraut and pickles, feeling euphoric with a cacao ceremony, exploring your senses with sensory speed dating, popping and waving, and more!

There was so much to explore that weekend, and it made me realize more and more how I enjoy learning, especially when bundled with a creative and outlandish environment like Symbiosis. More to come.

Oh, and this doesn’t count as a workshop, but I’ll throw it here anyways. I am constantly accused by people that know me that I am way too serious, so here’s me and friends at Symbiosis making clowns of ourselves!


Admittedly, we weren’t very happy clowns.

A Week without Eating

I realized I didn’t give a full update on my fast, so here it is!

During Ramadan I decided to be a vegetarian. I have been thinking about being a vegetarian for a long time for both sustainability and humanitarian reasons, and I found Ramadan to be a good occasion for that. In fact, Ramadan has somewhat evolved for me into a month where I explore various diets and various ways of restraining myself from food.

In the last week of Ramadan, I decided to try another experiment. Rather than just be vegetarian, I decided to live fully off of a food supplement that I bought from 100% Food. I like to call it “Space Food”.

I bought a huge packet that has the nutritional value of 21 meals (3 meals/day for 7 days) and I would add almond milk or water to mix it and drink it whenever I was hungry. Under no circumstances do I consume anything else.

Here’s a picture of the packet. It weighs around 3.25kg. This version is the “double protein” version, which has twice as much protein as the normal recommended diet. They sent the chocolate-flavored version even though I ordered the no-flavored one, but that wasn’t a big deal.


By far I would say this has been the most interesting diet experiment I have tried thus far. I would describe how I felt during that week in phases:

1. The Confusion Phase

For the first couple of days my brain was confused. I would drink the space food, but my brain didn’t process the fact that I was full. I would still feel hungry despite drinking significant quantities of space food. I would try to drink more and I couldn’t because my stomach was completely full. These were definitely the hardest two days, but afterwards I had adapted and I could better tell when I was actually hungry.

2. The Deprivation Phase

For the next two days, while my brain has finally started processing and understanding my new food intake, I still felt deprived of the joys of eating. Smelling the delicious food while I am walking by restaurants or passing by the cafeteria at work and knowing that I won’t be able to have any of that for days was a somewhat difficult feeling to process, but then came the next phase.

3. The Adaptive Phase

By day 5, I felt like I had completely adapted to this lifestyle. Space food was just “the norm”. And, despite being attracted to the smells of the deliciously looking food all around me, I just got accustomed to the fact that it wasn’t for me.

As strange as it may sound, but I felt this feeling of freedom and liberty. I was no longer attached to eating as I was, and I just no longer had to think about it. I did a short trip that week to Santa Cruz and guess what food I packed with me for the trip? Yep, just a large bottle of space food and that was all I had to do. I felt a very strong will against eating anything (including desserts, which have always been a weak spot for me).

What kept me going throughout that entire week was that my energy levels that week were better than they had ever been. I had extremely stable energy levels with no low points throughout the day at all, where in comparison to normal food I experience low points where I feel tired in the middle of the day on a semi-regular basis.

So did I give up food entirely? Absolutely not – chewing remains one of my hobbies 🙂 I do, however, replace a regular meal with space food often if I am short on time or just don’t want to spend time preparing food. Also, my willpower against food has remained and I find myself a lot stronger in resisting temptations of food that I don’t find particularly healthy.

The Fast: Day 2

It’s now been a little over 50 hours since beginning my fast. Needless to say, I am definitely missing food, especially smelling the great food that Omar cooked today and the eggplant parmesan that Jennifer and Kate had yesterday after our yoga class.

I am, however, feeling different. My energy level seems very stable. I haven’t experienced yet the ups and downs in energy levels that come with eating food, and I like that. A few more days to go. Hopefully the fasting gets easier moving forward.

أنا مشتّت

أنا مشتّت، و أقولها بكل معنى الكلمة. هو ذاك التشتيت الذي جعلني أنسى تليفوني منذ يومين في التاكسي. هو ذاك التشتيت الذي جعلني أفقد جواز سفري و أنا في المطار قبل صعودي على الطائرة بثوان. هو ذاك التشتيت الذي يجعلني أنسى مفتاح بيتي بين الحين و الآخر. هو ذاك التشتيت الذي يجعلني متباطئ في عملي. هو ذاك التشتيت الذي يجعلني لا أرد على كثير من الرسائل التي تأتي إليّ بالرغم من أهميتها. هو ذاك التشتيت الذي يجعلني متقاعسا عن التركيز في أولوياتي. هو ذاك التشتيت الذي يجعل غرفتي غابة لممتلكاتي. أنا ببساطة إنسان مشتّت.

على التشتيت الذي أعاصره أن ينتهي، و في الأيام المقبلة سأفكّر مليا في مكافحتي له.

The Fast

We’re now in the last week of Ramadan. Just like last Ramadan, this Ramadan I have been a vegetarian. In this last week though, I plan to step up the challenge. The essence of Ramadan in my opinion is to practice restraint and willpower, and that’s the intent of this exercise.

In this coming week, I plan to survive entirely off of a bag of nutritionally complete powder that I ordered from the folks at Space Nutrients. It’s been 24 hours now since I started my fast and, while I definitely miss food, I feel like my energy levels have been very good so far. More updates to come as the fast progresses. Here’s a picture of my week’s worth of food supply:


An unexpected Vegas

Last Tuesday our team at Twitter (the EEASy team), was scheduled to go an offsite after weeks/weekends of working on launching EEASy. I’d say that, after the 7-night Alaska offsite that I helped organize earlier this year with the Data Products team, my bar has become super high. But, given that Dobromir was the one organizing it, I knew it was going to be good!

Dobromir kept the offsite specifics as a suprise. As noon it was time for us to head out of the office, and little did we know that we were on our way to the airport – the first time I ever go to the airport without know where I was flying – exciting!

Dobromir organized a treasure hunt for us where he gave us clues on activities we had to do.

I embarrassed myself to help gain some of these points, but I won’t dig into that. Some of those moments are found here 🙂

Admittedly, I was very skeptical about our trip to Vegas. Before this offsite I had been to Vegas twice and I swore to not come back – it’s a fake place with little substance and much trouble. That skepticism subconsciously carried over to the first couple of hours of our stay there. I didn’t feel like it was right, and couldn’t wait to be back. It took me some time to loosen up and to enjoy the company that I was very fortunate to have, and then the fun began!

A Health Setback

One of my goals this month was to get a workout routine for myself sorted out. I haven’t been exercising as much as I would like. While I “workout” often, these workouts are generally very soft and, at best, do a good job of warming me up. The only exception to that are the yoga classes I take in the office with Deb Burkman – she’s amazing!

This month I decided to solve this problem the professional way. I searched for a personal trainer to help me with my exercise routine with particular focus on my flexibility and muscle tightness. Personal training is not cheap. In fact, it was going to cost me more money than what I currently pay for rent, but an investment in your health is a worthwhile investment.

The main reason I wanted to focus on my flexibility and muscle tightness is due to the injury I had in my right shoulder. It’s a long story and I’ll leave to another post, but my shoulder got injured first in August 2014 in Egypt, then much more seriously in February 2015 in a flying trapeze class.

My body has been, and still is, prone to injury, and that’s largely due to how tight my body is. It’s been getting better with yoga and acroyoga, but definitely a lot of room for improvement.

Unfortunately, my shoulder got injured again last Sunday – the first setback to my shoulder since I had my surgery in March 2015 🙁 How did it happen? I threw a basketball. That’s it. I felt like something got displaced and there was acute pain that lasted for about 15 seconds until I managed to put things back in place.

I visited an orthopedist and the nature of the injury is still unknown. I did an x-ray but that wasn’t revealing. I will be doing an MRI soon to see what could be wrong.

Also, to make things even better, I suffered from food poisoning the day before yesterday 🙁

Conquering the FOMO

FOMO, or the “fear of missing out”, is something that I used to feel very regularly. I know that, as I am writing these very words, that there is some event, some gathering, some festival, some hackathon, or some thing” is out there right now that if I attend I would find incredibly rewarding, but I am unfortunately not there. Even worse, I have no idea where, what, and when these events are.

Reflecting and meditating has been helping me appreciate the moment and the present wherever that is, and that certainly helps, but that’s also a double-edged sword. Just because I am content with where I am in the present doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t seek things that would make my time even better and more worthwhile.

I am at fault, and I know that. I don’t actively seek events or gatherings to go to, despite how rewarding some of them were for me. Last weekend, I decided to rebel against this lazy person that I am. Rather than actively seek events though, I decided to automate that process. I wrote this nifty little script that finds interesting events on EventBrite and automagically adds them to an “Events” calendar on my behalf.

Here’s how the initial version looks:

Events Calendar

It’s certainly not amazing, but not bad for a first iteration! Now whenever I want to make the most out of a day, I can just check out this calendar to see if there’s somewhere worthwhile to go. Just yesterday I ended up going to a meetup on Non-Gaming Virtual Reality, which was super interesting – I would’ve not known about it if wasn’t on my calendar.

I’ll be working on improving this over time. I’ll think about other areas in my life that I can better optimize too.

May’s Techshop Classes

I am going all in on classes at the Techshop this month. So far I signed up for the following:

  • Vacuum forming
  • Making a metal rose
  • Magnet Printing
  • Making a leather wallet
  • Woodshop SBU

There’s no particular direction or agenda behind these classes. Each one of the classes above opens a new domain of knowledge that I am currently very unfamiliar with. Hopefully some inspiration comes out of it.

Plans for May

I am feeling this very strong sense of willpower lately. This morning, for example, I forced myself to wake up at 6am to see the sunrise despite heading to bed fairly late. Why? Because I know that behind this barrier of laziness in the morning there’s something out there that makes my day feel amazing.

Waking up in the morning is one habit I plan to stick to. In fact, a couple of days ago I created a page where I list my habits and started to track how well I am sticking to them via a spreadsheet. Am I going overboard by doing this? I don’t think so. Moving forward I want to be very deliberate with my behavior. I want to choose what to do and what not do very consciously.

With that in mind, and in the light of this new month, I also want to be deliberate about how I plan to spend it. I don’t want to over plan, especially because I am very new to this and don’t want to over do it.

Things to understand

  • Business: I want to be more business-savvy. When I watched “The Big Short” I felt like an idiot who doesn’t understand what’s going on in the world, and that was the one key thing Larry Smith was trying to teach us in his economics class back in Waterloo. I need to fix that. I want to have a better understanding of the world economy and what’s happening around me.
  • Nutrition: what does it mean to eat well? What’s good for you and what’s not? I have some understanding of this based on hear-say (e.g. that sugar is bad for you), but I want to understand at a deeper level the different effects of food on your body.
  • The Internet: this sounds rather embarrassing, but I am unsatisfied with my understanding of how the internet works. More specifically, how two computers communicate at a fundamental level. E.g. what is a connection? What does it mean to have an open connection between two computers?

Things to explore

  • Techshop Classes: I still have coupons for nine more classes at the Techshop, and I better make use of them this month. In a later post I’ll dive deeper into what classes I plan to take.
  • Mindset: a few days ago when I spent 45 minutes singing I felt very zen. I almost felt like I was on drugs. In some way I felt like I was altering my mindset by singing. I want to explore what other exercises one can do to in that space.
  • Exercise: while I do workout, it’s very unstructured and I can be long stretches of time/days not working out at all. I’d like to put some structure to it by the end of this month.

That’s it for now. More to come.