December 22, 2011

The Best of NYC

Category: Canada,New York City,Personal — Biella @ 3:37 pm


Now that the semester is done and now that I have compiled my crazy paperwork for Canada (wow, it is a lot), I will be heading in six days to the wonderful city of Montreal to settle down, at least for a few years.

I am ready to leave but it is not an easy move, as I like NYC and my job. I came to New York City for the first time at the age of 19 after spending a year on a ship and I rather did not like the city for those 5 years, although loved my college years and all the time I spent chasing a Frisbee while running on grassy fields all over the east coast. When I left in 1998, I said, ‘never again.” But the future is impossible to predict so of course I came back when I got a job, my only job, at NYU MCC and headed quite happily here (incidentally from Canada).

And NYC was much much much better the second time around, most likely as I had a salary, and here is what I <3 and loved about the city.

1. Not having a car (which will still be the case in Montreal)
2. The bike path on the Hudson, especially the gardens and the Irish famine memoriall
3. The farmer’s markets (won’t miss the prices though)
4. High walkability factor (and though I did not love my hood, I loved being 1.5 blocks from my office)
5. The music jam circles in Washington Square Park (I was always left wondering if they were spontaneously generated or long standing groups // prolly both) and the occasional but mighty impressive hawks in the park.
6. Coney Island especially under certain special conditions when you can rly enjoy the lights radiating out of the amusement park
7. Leaving the city for some nature time
8. 24 hour trains (despite not loving them cuz the noise robbed some life from me every time I took them)
9. Grand Central Station’s ceiling
10. The gluten free options (this is going to be the hardest to give up as Montreal sort of sucks in comparison)
11. Being able to take your small dog on the train ;-) which is only a recent pleasure
12. My department
13. East Asian Starr library at Columbia University (still my favorite library in the world) and totally loathed NYU’s Bobst, ugly on the outside, ugly on the inside
14. NYC sunrises which I have like only seen 3 times (sadly) but they have been stunning every time
15. Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge
16. HOPE
17. The Highline
18. The Strand
19. My favorite thing = Massive Snow Storms in the City (good thing I am moving to Canada, eh?)

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

June 22, 2010

Wanna Volunteer during Debconf?

Category: Debconf10,Debian,New York City — Biella @ 4:59 am

Debconf is fast approaching I thought I would pass on some helpful news: some helpful to you all, some more to us. First, a number of volunteers have compiled this astonishingly detailed list of things to do in NYC, including many that are free. Clearly you can come to Debconf and not come to Debconf. We hope you still do, but if you want to sneak out a few times and venture into this city, this is the list to consult.

We are also now coordinating our on-site volunteers and perhaps you are interested in pitching in here and there. If you are, here is a list of things we need help with. If you do want to help, you can drop a line on our mailing list (please write [volunteer in the subject line). You can post even if you are not subscribed (although there are times it takes awhile for message approval. Alternatively, you can drop me a note (contact information here and I can pass on the information.

April 15, 2010

Cultural Cornucopia

Category: Debconf10,Debian,New York City — Biella @ 5:05 am

Today all across America, many are experiencing a soft form of hell, anxiety, and constant cursing for it is tax day. Thankfully last night I squared those away (more or less). Today is also the last day to register forDebconf sponsored registration. Even if there is a chance you can’t make it, it is worth filling out the form just in case.

For those spending a little extra time in NYC or planning on sneaking out to take a whirl in the city, here are some more fun options. NYC is known to be a cultural cornucopia of sorts and one reason are the many museums. I just found a twitter list listing those museums with a feed. Probably one of my favorite museums is located in the far north of Manhattan, the Cloisters. It is a haven, an oasis with small beautiful gardens, as well large stone rooms and buildings filled with medieval art, tapestry, and manuscripts. If you need to get away from people, chatter, and computers, this might be a good place to visit.

Museums are easy enough to find but there are other spots in NYC that may be a little harder to spot. If you want to hit Chinatown for dim sum, I would recommend Jing Fong, which is mind blowing largely because of its LARGE (like there are escalators that take you up) room, which gets pretty darn packed on the weekend.

If you want something that involves not just food but involves sweat, water, food, sun, hot rocks, body scrubs, funny looking pink, orange and blue uniforms and all in a cross-cultural context, then Spa Castle is the place to go to. Just check out the website and you will see what I am talking about. It’s family friendly, has a cornucopia of saunas (filled with jade, gold, ice, Tibetan bricks), some decent Korean food, among many other attractions. In general is one of the best deals in NY.

April 4, 2010

Advice Dawg: what to do in NYC #1

Category: Advice,Conferences,Debconf10,Debian,New York City — Biella @ 11:12 am

So since a lot of folks are coming to NYC for Debconf I thought I would post some material on fun stuff to do in the city. I recently found out about this blog Walking Off the Big Apple, which looks great. I posted a recent entry that shows the trees in bloom and I am lucky enough to have one of those trees smack in front of my window.

If you are into walking and radical politics, this book might be for you.

Finally (for today, more to come), a nice guide for keeping it cheap in NYC

November 28, 2009

Professor Alvarado!

Category: Academic,New York City,Research,Wholesome — Biella @ 7:06 am

professor-alvaro2, originally uploaded by the biella.

I love this guy. He plays in Times Square and is totally into his synthesizer. I can watch him for hours. One day I will ask whether he was a professor and if yes, of what (music? philosophy? both?). If only I could retire by performing in a subway station with a keyboard and dancing dolls. . .

Thanks to the update left in the comments, you can watch him in action and find out what type of professor he was/is.

November 10, 2009

Fsck Purity: The Politics and Pleasures of Free Software

The great thing about living and working in NYC is that there is a steady stream of conferences to attend, such as the fast approaching digital labor conference entitled ‘Internet as Playground and Factory.’ The problem is that since I live 1/3 of the year in San Juan and often get stranded and stuck when my mother gets hospitalized, as is the case now, I am often not in NYC. Depending on my mom’s prognosis tomorrow, I may or may not make it but I am working on my slides and revamping a few of my thoughts as I would like to attend.

My new title is one I think some readers of the blog might enjoy: “Fsck Purity: The politics and pleasures of free software” (thanks karl) and the talk will be part of a panel “The Emancipatory Politics of Play” with Chris Kelty, Fred Turner, and Ben Peters. If you are interested in attending, register soon as it is free and open to the public but requires advanced registration. There are also already a collection of short interviews videos available, the one by me is a basic discussion of the politics of free software, conducted at the end of a very long teaching day, so I am not sure it makes any sense. I never watch my own interviews so I can’t quite be the judge :-)

October 25, 2009

Branding Politics, Branding Change

Category: Academic,Events,New York City,Politics — Biella @ 6:42 am

Brands are most often associated with the world of crass consumerism but they can play a key role in fomenting political change. Or so claim some pretty clever thinkers and activists and they will be giving talk about the importance of branding for democratic politics, this Monday at 7 PM, at the Change You Want to See

Please join us this Monday, October 26th as we continue our series on Symbols, Branding and Persuasion with an exploration of branding in the context of electoral and legislative politics. We’ll start with a presentation by media theorist Stephen Duncombe, author of Dream: Reimagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy and the forthcoming Branding the New Deal. Afterward Jessica Teal, design manager for the Obama 2008 presidential campaign will join Duncombe for a conversation via video skype.

Like it or not, propaganda and mass persuasion are part of modern democratic politics. Many progressives today have an adverse reaction to propaganda: ours is a politics based in reason and rationality, not symbols and fantasy. Given our last administration’s fondness for selling fantasies as reality, this aversion to branding, marketing and propaganda is understandable. But it is also naïve. Mass persuasion is a necessary part of democratic politics, the real issue is what ethics it embodies and which values it expresses.

Looking critically at how the Roosevelt Administration tried to “brand” the New Deal and how the Obama campaign leveraged principles of marketing and advertising gives us an opportunity to think about different models of political persuasion.

August 25, 2009


Category: Humor,New York,New York City,Uncategorized — Biella @ 9:11 am

Bourgeois-Bus, originally uploaded by the biella.

We found this bus at South Street Seaport on Sunday. Someone thought I was photo shopped in but I was really there, lampshade and all. Someone should tell the bus owner that he/she needs to replace the image with something less Amish-like/Chinese-ice-skater and more fitting.

August 23, 2009

Hacking the MTA

Category: Events,New York,New York City — Biella @ 8:07 am

Da Path

For those in New York and interested in Public Transit and getting reliable information from the beast of an organization that is the MTA, you may be interested in the Public Transit Data Summit with beer!

WHERE: 148 Lafayette St, NY, New York, 12th floor (map)
WHEN: Tuesday, August 25 at 6pm
WHAT: Meetup to discuss how the MTA and the developer community can best collaborate.

I doubt the Path will receive much air time but I just had to include the logo above as it is my favorite transportation logo, not only because it looks cool but it signals the TIGHT relationship between NJ/NY, a relationship that nonetheless can be pretty tense. Here though is the relationship represented in Total Harmony.