November 23, 2010

An unlikely story about a pit bull attack, free software, and a New York Times reporter

Category: Academic,F/OSS,New York City,Pit Bulls — Biella @ 6:43 am

If I told you that in the last two days, I have been caught in a vortex of coincidence, a vortex composed of pit bulls, free software, diaspora (the software), mold, and a New York Times reporter, I bet you would think “not likely.”

So the story started on Jet Blue, which offers snacks, lots of them, and Direct TV. Since I don’t have TV I kinda go on a binge, watching all sorts of shows as I make my way home. I watched a pretty distributing but interesting documentary on Jim Jones on CNN and a show on Animal Planet on pit bulls and parolees. When I rolled into my my current digs in northern Manhattan (I am currently banished from my downtown apt due to mold, but that is a whole other story), there was a dinner party well underway. At some point in the evening prompted by me, we talked pit bulls as my friends want to get one but their family has issued a threat of disavowal if they do.

The next morning, I was scoping out the website for the Animal Planet show as I was intrigued by it and frankly I kinda like pit bulls (maybe less now although I think they are unfairly maligned). Five minutes into pursuing the site, I hear screeches from hell. It sounds like a woman is being attacked. And she is. A woman right outside of my window was being attacked by… a pit bull.

So I am staying with a friend, an open source developer, Karl Fogel and good soul that he is, he runs out to help the lady (since I have been subject to 5 weeks of sickness due to mold—or so that is what we think it is—was enough for me; I could not stomach the idea of getting bit so I played the role of concerned spectator). It took minutes upon minutes, really just too many minutes to get the pit bull off, even a brick pounded against his head failed (apparently, a cigarette or match held to the throat does the trick, which I found out later). Eventually, the dog was extracted, a huge team of cops showed up, the dog was whisked away, the victim taken to the hospital, and life returned to calm and quiet.

So the next day, I was being interviewed by a New York Times reporter Jim Dwyer who wrote a story about Diaspora for the New York Times back in the summer, helping to propel it from relative obscurity to near insta-fame (one of the Diaspora developers, Max, was my student). We were running out of time (I had another appointment) so I asked him if he lived in northern Manhattan as that is what his bio page indicates. He confirmed, I explained I was up there and that we could meet up there later to finish up. He inquired what part, I told him roughly where I was, he remarked he was near there, and so naturally I told him about the crazy pit bull attack I witnessed from my window as I can’t shut my trap when it comes to things like that.

Well yes you know what is coming next next: he was there, helping Karl (and others) deal with the pit bull attack. He lives nearby and heard the shrieks of agony and came out to aid. All and all it was pretty horrific. He also “met” Karl in so far as Karl gave him his phone number and email just in case he was needed as a witness (Karl had to dash off to catch a plane). Well, the “funny” thing, or as you also might guess: Jim, who is doing some more writing on tech, free software etc, should really talk to Karl given his key role in the community, so they already met, although under odd and terrible circumstances.

I am not sure if I am more wigged out by the fact that I was reading about pit bulls when the attack happened or whether the reporter I was interviewed by was there along side with a free software developer he really needs to interview. Whatever the case, I kinda hope the vortex of coincidence now leaves me to hit someone else (sans any horrible attack). Or else, as Karl noted in the blog comments, I will have to be very careful about what shows I watch:

Amen to that! Enough with the coincidence vortex. As I said to Biella in IRC later: “Do us a favor — don’t watch any shows about nuclear attacks on New York, okay