April 9, 2011


Category: Academic,Travel — Biella @ 6:38 am

I am going to Berlin to give a talk at Re:Publica and will be there from Monday through Thursday (11th-14th of April). I am interested in getting together with Debian developers so please contact me if interested. Feel free to leave a comment about your favorite things to do in Berlin as well as I might have a day or two to check out the sites.

September 7, 2010


This summer of 2010 has been memorable. It started with a difficult period following the hospitalization and death of my mother, a series of very intense and equally memorable conferences catapulting me out of my funk and ending with a trip to Ireland, perhaps one of my most pleasant trips ever. I have always wanted to go there, as I have some good Irish friends and I was also quite attracted to the place due to its history, so when the opportunity came for me to go, I did not hesitate to book my ticket. I was not left disappointed in any way, shape or form, although since I barely experienced the gray, misty, and rainy weather Irish is famous for, my experience may admittedly be a bit skewed.

These are some of things I did and some of my fragmented thoughts about Ireland and some photos, proof that the weather was UnIrish

Ireland and The Irish: Well I can’t—as no one can—speak of The Irish as if they were some unitary group but I did learn a lot about Irish history and managed hang out with a number Irish folks (even a family) and one thing that seems to mark Ireland as distinct, what makes it stand out from the rest of its Western European brothers and sisters, is the pervasive sense of history bleeding into the ambiance, perhaps because it is so tragic. The short version of the history, if you don’t know it, is that the Irish, especially the Catholics, got repeatedly screwed by the British monarchs/rulers/planters/government/ for nearly a thousand years, the last five hundred of those being particularly harsh and ugly, a cycle of slight gains crushed by various forms of tyranny and violence at least until part of the country achieved independence (Northern Ireland is a bit of a different story).

I may have gone a bit out of my way to learn about Irish history, more than I have done for any other place, but this historical consciousness seemed to be inescapable, precipitating into all sorts of conversations and places. To take one example, I went to see Gaelic Football, one of the two beloved national sports (the other being hurling), and the minute you learn anything about this sport, you learn that it is intimately bound with the Irish fight for independence and nationalism.

The Irish are also very warm, kind, and outgoing. They also seem to curse an awful lot as well, so much so cursing is a bit of a national pastime, which yes, I (f*cking) loved as I tend to have a bit of a foul mouth myself, curbed I will admit, in recent years and in the classroom. It crept up in a lot of places but was most pronounced during the All Ireland Semi-Final Gaelic football game when the ladies (not lads, mind you) behind me were constantly yelling at the referee, hurling the c-word (rhymes with trunk) whenever they made a call they disagreed with.

EASA/Maynooth.: I went to Ireland to attend the largest Anthropological meetings in Europe, and in specific an all day panel on digital anthropology, which seemed like a great opportunity given we are a a bit of a minority. The conference was impressively large with roughly 1200 attendees (can you believe there are that many anthropologists?), smoothly run, and the all-day panel on digital media was quite lively and I got to meet some really interesting folks. I was a tad sad to find out Maynooth is the only university in Ireland with an Anthropology department (for crying shame lads!!!) but at least it is located in a darn stunning university: the old quarters of the campus are strikingly beautiful.

Anonymous: I have done some work on Anonymous and well when I found out there was going to be a raid/protest at the Church of Scientology (a pretty dismal, and run down church), I got in contact with Irish anon to let them know I was coming. Although someone first decapitated me (at least in character with their norms, right?), when I showed up in person, they were not only civil but really quite hospitable (greeting me with one of my favorite songs). Overall it was a great day. I was reminded of important differences among Anons (Irish Anon’s take their anonymity pretty seriously, the New York Anons do not) and also good to experience the social life and metabolism of a protest, especially one attended by folks who have lost family to the church.

Dublin: Since I stayed with my friend and his family in Dublin, this is where I spent most of my time. I was able to hook up with various friends, including one from graduate school who just got back from years of fieldwork in Rwanda and hearing about his experiences and stunning but stunningly sad project made me feel like mine in comparison was Child’s Play (in fact, it really was). I got to see the Debian crew (many who work at Google) and I finally paid a visit to the office, which was exactly how I imagined it to be (good and abundant food, good lighting, lots of toys and bikes, lots of Star Wars posters.. Yep, it could have been in Silicon Valley). But I was surprised at the young age of the marketing and sales folks who were hanging in their lounge when I ran into them. In fact when I saw them I thought like I was looking at my freshman class or something! It was great to see the Debian folks (though no one I met was actually Irish), as well, one of my favorite things to do whenever I visit a foreign city.

I walked my heart out in the city getting a blister in a shoe that I thought was blister proof and while not as picturesque as some other European cities, it has a ton of character and no shortage of Guinness and pubs (no surprise there). My favorite places/things were: The National Library (great exhibit on Yeats, but make sure to use the multi-media as that is where all the information is stuffed), St. Stephen’s Park (overflowing with chubby ducks and lovely flowers), the prison Kilmainham Gaol (would not advise a visit if you are feeling in any way down, there is some heavy shit you learn during the tour), the simple stained glass that seemed pretty common, and finally the Long Room in Trinity Church, which you enter after the Book of Kells (I realized just how much I adore books when I visited this old library stuffed from floor to ceiling with old old old books).

The West Coast: I did not think I was going to head out west but after hurricane Earl started its burst along the eastern Seaboard and I was able to change my ticket for free so I stayed a few more days. I went to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher both totally stunning, really majestic. As is often the case with these type of these natural wonders, I am often left elated and awed but such strikingly wondrous places also seem to subsequently spur a more melancholic state of mind and heart.

Friends, Family, and Dogs: While in Dublin I stayed with my friend A. and his extremely hospitable family, which included, a brother, a father, and three Irish mutts, one of which, Buster (pitt bull/lab mix), pretty much stole my heart. Buster’s true love, is food, so much so he almost poised himself to death a little while back snorting down something he shouldn’t have costing the family a pretty penny to save him. My friend no longer lives there but came from Berlin and it was a real treat to not only spend days layered upon each other with a friend (it has been an awful long since I have done that outside of conferences) but also meet his family. You learn a lot about your friends that way and in this case, there is some serious and I mean serious intellectual jousting that happens, sometimes bordering on warfare but generally it plays out in more contained, civil and fascinating fashion. Now I understand why my friend is armed with seemingly endless knowledge: it was needed for purposes of defense at home.

So in essence, a great, great trip and a fantastic way to end a memorable summer and transition into what I hope will be a bit of a monkish (I call it monk mode) period for this academic year. I am (so so so) fortunate enough to have a fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study and am going to try my darnest to take advantage of the fact I am not teaching (Hell Yes!) and hide away and accomplish all that I have set out to do.

August 22, 2010


Category: Academic,Research,Travel — Biella @ 11:38 am


I am leaving for Ireland tonight, first to attend this Anthropology conference in Maynooth–a seemingly sleepy college town– and then on the 28th I head to Dublin to hang with a very good friend of mine. I plan on doing some travel and sightseeing in and around Dublin, so if anyone has any suggestions about what they love, love, love about Dublin (and anywhere within a few hours of Dublin), they are welcome. Dato is going to help me gather some Debian folks for an evening out as well, so I look forward to seeing anyone in town!

March 1, 2010


Category: Travel — Biella @ 7:55 pm

Londoners or those that know the city well: if you had to pick your favorite thing to do in London (in March) what would that be? I have 1.5 days there of mostly free time and would love to gather some intel.

January 26, 2010

New Zealand, a photo-round up

Category: New Zealand,Travel — Biella @ 8:59 am


Kiwis have to be one of the cutest birds of all time. A bit chubby and clumsy looking, they are (to me, at least), walking, breathing icon of furry cuteness. Truth be told, I did not see one “live” in action during my recent trip to New Zealand, but I did see a Weka bird which is pretty similar. (Micah and I just consulted the Internets and agreed that we did in fact see cherubic Kiwi not a Weka. In fact, Micah almost ran one over on the west coast of the southern island but his quick reflexes born from years of saving servers while typing saved the bird.

So as you can tell by now I finally got to go to New Zealand for a few weeks, even able to travel the south island before attending THE Linux conference of the region, LCA where I gave a talk (video to be posted when available). I jumped at the opportunity and was thrilled to find out that I could actually spend some time traveling around before the intense week long conference. So on January 5th I headed down with Micah to what I have found out is one of the windiest cities on earth (‘Windy Wellington’) for a few days before heading to the south island to do a loop on the northern half of the island.

I wanted to conquer the mountains made famous by a certain set of movies, but last semester was all about sitting in front of the computer, a sort of agonizing life of the mind, which did not prepare me physically for mountain trekking or as it call it there, tramping. So we decided to stick close to the coast (with one transalpine train that serenaded us through some awesome mountain passes) and hike along the coast, snorkel and swim, and kayak.

After Andrew showed us around Wellington, we headed to the sea town of Kaikoura brimming with sea life, such as seals, dolphins, and birds. The two highlights there were our snorkeling trip and a hike along the peninsula. Originally we were going to go diving but I arrived to NZ with a head cold so we opted for the sinus friendlier version and snorkeled in the massive kelp forest, which was strikingly beautiful (I am used to tropical reefs and waters). There happened to be a lot of seals and given their curious nature, they would dart over right next to you and play. One seal—I called him the twirler—was chubby and mellow and twirled next to me for a long while. The lady seals were sleeker and faster and liked to dive deep down and the zoom up and surprise you. As someone who has spent a lot of time underwater, I found it fun and weird to be with animals that pay attention to you given that most of the sea life ignores you.

The hike in Kaikoura was fantastic as well. You go high on a bluff and stare down at this water sparkling with the most beautiful blue hues brought out even more majestically by the white rocks. If I were to go back I would hike along the water and up above on the bluff.

After a brief stopover in Christchurch to visit a friend, we took the transalpine train (across Arthur’s pass) which was superbly beautiful and arrived on the west coast whose seas are far more rough, rocky, andtemperamental than on the east coast. The vegetation is lush as lush can be and you get the feeling that dinosaurs would have been a happy lot in these parts. The cool part about this area are the many rivers that feed into the ocean (we spent an afternoon swimming and exploring the caves in one) and then what are called the pancake rocks, which are odd geological creatures that really amaze.

We then made our way to the Marlborough Sounds area, which includes the city of Nelson (apparently the sunniest in New Zealand) as well as many olive and grape vineyards in outlying areas. We spent some time in the Alpine lakes region hiking but more of the time on the coast. The highlight for me and it is a place I would love to go back to is the Abel Tasman National Park. We spent time hiking and kayaking there and you can even hike down the coast for 5-6 days (there are excellent camping facilities along the way). The coast is simply majestic with alpine like forest conditions (unfortunately a cool old tree whose name I can’t remember is no longer common). This forest is situated along the most stunning waters, an electric but totally clear turquoise blue—deceivingly inviting because the water was quite cold (but not as cold as the Oregon coast over the summer, which I went swimming in only once after weeks of bike travel). Along with the blue, parts of the coastal waters were a stunning clear green that I have never seen despite my many sea travels. If you ever plan on going to the South Island, I would not miss this area and might even try to spend a few days or more hiking the coastal trails and listening to the cool-as/sweet as birds, one of which has double vocal cords so it sings what sounds to be like totally electronic bird calls.

We returned via the same ferry—a massive 7 story ship—from Picton to Wellington but the conditions were far far worse during our return trip. When we got out of the sounds, we hit the Cook Straight, notorious for being rough and tumble. And indeed, once we hit the waves, I felt like I was no longer in a boat but amusement park ride, the bow of the ship thrown high only to fall hard on upon the waves. It was sort of fun or fun for about 10 minutes until people, most especially kids, started yaking all over the place. It was really the most flagrant yakfest I have ever experienced (I mean it is a 7 story ferry, you can fit a lot of people on that boat) and that made the sail particularly difficult. I have pretty strong sea legs, never once getting sick sick during the year I spent at sea but massive yaking will bring out the sea sick feeling in even the hardiest of sea souls and I was thrilled to arrive in Wellington.

Wellington is the only large city I spent any considerable time in and it is a pretty awesome one. The city center area is flat and by the water, with a magnificent area filled with museums, the national library, parks, breweries, and piers where kids like to jump off high things. The botanical gardens were the most beautiful I have been to and since I am a flower nut, I was in high heaven.

In this area there are a ridiculous number of great coffee shops (NYC has a thing or two to learn as we don’t have enough, I suspect it has something to do with insane real estate prices). The city is surrounded by hills populated by houses, some of the precipitously perched on cliffs that require lifts to get to! It was a wonderful home base for what was a sweet as conference (as they would say down there). And I hope to write about it sometime soon.

January 18, 2009

Easy to Miss

Category: Puerto Rico,Travel — Biella @ 6:41 am

calle-monjas, originally uploaded by the biella.

In the last 8 years, I have spent a lot of time in Puerto Rico and I always hit the Old City for some food, walking, music, and beautiful views. When walking around my favorite streets, I noticed for the first time the lovely tiling pictured above, which features 5 dancing nuns. Even though I have walked on this street probably hundreds of times, I have never noticed it until last trip.

While this is a very small detail there are many things one might overlook when visiting PR as they are not well known. One of the easiest things to miss is my favorite trail in the National rain forest, El Yunque, Tradewinds. It is easy to miss because it is not on the main road (It is on the closed service road, which you reach at the end of 191) and it is not mentioned very often in travel books and web pages. But if you are visiting El Yunque, I recommend the trail. It is as lovely as can be. Since it is not frequented very often, I would make sure to have a hiking buddy as it is easy to slip and fall (there is tons of mud). But do check it out if you visit the rain forest. It is really lovely.

November 22, 2008

In San Francisco for the AAAs

Category: Academic,Travel — Biella @ 7:07 pm

, originally uploaded by the biella.

I have been in the beautifully dramatic city of San Francisco for a few days now to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and present at the AAA meetings, probably the single largest gathering of anthropologists on Planet Earth. I love seeing the friends, I love going to (some) of the panels, but I (totally) loathe trying to say something of substance in 15 minutes. A lot of my work in mired in esoterica (legally, technically, and culturally) and I am giving my short talk on protests against Scientology, the Lulz, etc. etc. and well, if you are in the know, I think I can pull it off in 15 minutes. If you are not in the know, it may strike as completely odd, esoteric, opaque but at least I can say I did it for the Lulz

June 4, 2008

In Brazil

Category: Debian,Tech,Travel — Biella @ 2:58 am

I am off to Brazil tonight, first to the city where some locals like to dress their dogs up on Sunday and take them to the park (Porto Alegre and I will be there until June 15th) and then I will be in São Paulo (from June 15-20th). I would love to get together with the Debian/Free Software folks while there so drop me a line so that we can arrange something. In a day or two I will also post some more details about my trip.

May 19, 2008

Israel, what to do?

Category: Academic,Travel — Biella @ 3:21 am

I am going to University of Haifa next week to participate in this conference on the commodification of community on the web. I will have a few free days on the 31s of May and June 1, and 2 to explore. I also know I am going to Jerusalem for a day and will explore Haifa for a day too. Any recommendations of what to check out would be appreciated.

You can contact me at the email provided on my contact page

May 3, 2008

Passive Aggressive Notes

Category: Humor,Tokyo,Travel — Biella @ 5:07 am

I recently found out about a pretty funny site, passive aggressive notes and submitted one of my photos from japan. I loved the note because there was very little English signage in Japan but anything having to do with slackers, well, that must be in English, no?