October 29, 2003

Lordie, We Got Hacked

Category: Personal — Biella @ 2:11 am

evil-wire the server home of all my web junk and mail was hacked bad, bad, bad last week and all of my stuff was targeted and deleted. Luckily there were backups and everything is back although I need to go back and “publish” blog entires from the last couple of months. More about this later but I have to say without access to my blog, I felt naked and lost. Strange, huh?

October 23, 2003

Fascinating research: the organized geek

Category: Tech — Biella @ 8:07 am

Danny O’Brien of NTK is a purported total 100% disorganized mess but damn a great writer.

One of the things that interests him is how certain geeks organize to get things done and how they do so technically. He is going to start a small research project to collect the information and present it at a conference and he is asking for some help and suggestions for specimens.

This is a topic that has fascinated me throughout my research so I can’t wait to hear his results. But one thing I would have him look for are the “little” and minute practices of efficiency that might go unnoticed just because they are so so so second nature. The one thing I am thinking of is in particular is the keystroke. It amazes me how programmers and technical types are able to move about their environment almost entirely punching keys, avoiding entirely the rodent apparatus to their side. Switching windows, desktops, moving about text in a way that makes click, highlight, cut, and paste seem entirely at turtle speed modus operandi. I am enthralled by the damn keystroke and am only slowly getting the hang of it to move around in my own environment. I think that geeks embody forms of efficiency even when they might be outwardly disorganized!

Anyway, good luck to you Danny and yes, I would love to see a Soap Opera about geeks. You could star as the evil villian who would muck their almost perfect artistry of efficiency!

If there was a soap opera for geeks, it would be all about people juggling sixteen projects while filtering sixteen thousand emails on twenty monitors. It would be called “Shoulder Surf” and would be on at five in the morning and to save time it would be broadcast in fast-forward.

October 22, 2003

dreamy, snow

Category: Personal — Biella @ 7:39 am

I woke up early from a partial nightmare. I had gleefuly jumped into a large ocean-pool (yes an ocean-pool) to get a closer look at Ganhdi’s religious ablution only to find out that I had lost my purse in the process. And while I should not have cared because those things like my wallet, phones, and keys, as Gahndi’s ways have shown, are JUST material, I was filled with anxiety because franlkly it is hard when you lose such things. And then I was also studying for some qualifying exam like the ones you take to enter PhD candidacy atlhough it was an exam for after fieldwork. It was double anxiety for me although in my dream I was coming up with some pretty productive material and alas my purse turned up. And the I woke up and was like “phew, I don’t need to take a test, I just need to write my dissertation” and then all of a sudden the dream did not seem all that bad. And then I looked out of the windows in my dad’s house in Vermont and big fat snowflakes were gliding down to the ground. Very dreamy indeed.

October 18, 2003

black bag of mystery

Category: Personal — Biella @ 4:30 am

Have you ever wondered why airplane pilots all carry the same black, very square bag and what the contents are inside? Whenver I see a pilot totting one around, I wonder about this and finally last night as I got off a plane in Manchester, NH I asked.

The pilot seemed thrilled to show me the contents of his mysterious black bag and tell me why all pilots use them. They are not “forced” to own them nor are they given the bag when done with the air force academy or pilot school (or wherever else they learn to fly) which is what I thought, but it is mere custom and functionality which guides them all to have this very rugged looking balck bag of mystery. Basically it holds all these manuals and charts, which are handy I guess for piloting a plane (there were about 4 or 5 of them), and they are thick sqaure manuals that would not fit in an ordinary briefcase, but they fit pretty much perfectly in this bag. Indeed, he even offered to tell me where I could order such a bag (which I declined) although I thought it would be amsuing to have one while traveling through the major airports of America. Sort of as a means to catch the attention of pilots which seem to be so stoic, strong, tall, and composed compared to us mortals who have no idea how to pilot some large hunk of steel into the sky.

But simply asking him a question about the bag shot that image of the pilot right out of the roof and instantly revealed the nature of this great mystery (at least for me.)

October 15, 2003

The clarity of fall

Category: Research — Biella @ 8:21 am

Lately my life has been firmly that of being student. Sitting, reading, writing, and transcribing. No complaints especially given the fall season which is perhaps my favorite for studying. Fall weather has been in and out in Chicago although today it is unmistakably “in,” with brilliant blue skies, red creeping into already creeping green ivy, and yellow and orange tree leaves melding with the sky and scattered on the ground. One can’t but help admire the almost sick perfection and clarity of the colors, the vibrant feel of the air, and that sensibility of change which is what fall is all about.

As of late I have really appreciated things well done (that is, things that come close to sick perfection) although always, of course, measured in relation to to their genre and my enjoyability. On Friday, I read something horribly unclear, which given the fact that I had a fever at the time, left me really frustrated. It seemed like such a shame, such a waste of communicative energy. I wanted to understand what was being said but was forced for reasons out of my control into this ludicrous guessing maze, mucking through prolific assumptions and interminable paragraphs and sentences that never even gave a clear sense of argument and intention. And then perhaps I thought it was just me and sometimes it is. But then when you come across something well written, like Referential Practice by William Hanks, and, well, it feels akin to talking a walk during a fall day. He writes about cultural lingustics which is something that never came easy to me. Yet, reading his account of it made it clear in such a way that I never encountered before. You can actually enjoy the process while reading and perhaps learn something. It does not frustrate; it invigorates.

It makes me ask if struggle really should be part of reading? I do feel a little guilty blasting someone for jumbled writing and praising those who gush with clairty. The thing I fear the most about writing my dissertaton is that I know clear writing is far from a simple task. So despite my clarity of ideas and goals for my dissertation, I am afraid that my clarity will just be that, mine. And I want it to be yours. Well at least my advisors.

Writing is for me a two step process. I write in part to to self-understand my material. While I might have a pretty good and clearn working sense of what I want to say, until I put it in words, structure, paragraphs, that is in a larger whole, my understanding is still somewhat at the level of the abstract. I guess I need the vehicles of words and letters to fully concretize, to make real what is otherwise just in relation to I. But the end of writing should be so that the reader comprehends what you have come to understand. It is an I-thou relationship. And this is tricky given that you have a lot of extra material in your mind that your readers don’t. I guess in the end, the struggle should be yours. Yours so that you achieve some sort of clarity so that your readers can instead walk through the brisk day, feeling somewhat invigorated by what you say even if they don’t agree with it.

October 7, 2003

Dissertation Environment

Category: Research — Biella @ 1:55 pm

It is a beautifully warm day in Chicago. The sun is shining and the crazy orange lady bugs that seem more present than Cubs fans are flying erratically outside of my window. Thick and round they fly as if they were little alien spaceships buzzing round and round.. And yes, they sting. Despite the pull to be outdoors, today I have made progress is setting up what I will call my “dissertation environment.” Although I first balked at the idea of writing on CVS(Concurrent Versions System) which is what programmers use to produce code collaboratively (or just keep track of versions), I am convinced it is the way to go. Thanks to the help of my friend and sometime collaborator, Mako Hill (who is sort of like those lady bugs, full of quirky energy), I have learned some of the ins and outs of CVS (on past projects) and now we have a directory set up for my dissertation.

Now, I have to find the right style sheets (or I guess create them) for TeX which is a typsetting program, not unlike html or XML, that I will use to write my dissertation. Once you have it set up, it is actually quite easy to use and then with the change of a few commands you can completely change the layout. I hear this is a good guide and then there is this nice online guide. One of the things that I am learning is how to use BibTex which is the tex program for writing and formatting bibliographies. It is really snazzy, yes snazzy is the word to describe it although I have to play with it more. I am also afraid that there is no “anthro style” but I think the chicago style is close and can me modified to make it match.

So geeky, no? I mean I might as well match the content of my project (geeks) with the form of producing it (geek tools)… I remember years ago that someone told me I should write my dissertation in TeX and I laughed… Right. I was wrong.

October 2, 2003

Wireless in my office

Category: Tech — Biella @ 11:16 am

I still dont have an IP address to connect to ethernet in my office but I gave wireless a shot today and lo and behold, there was a connection! The joy, the joy of finding a wireless connection is a little like the feeling of Christmas morning as a kid. I hope that joy stays around……

Will the GPL stand in court?

Category: Research — Biella @ 8:51 am

I sometimes wonder if Darl Mcbride is not made of the same idiot cloth as that of our wonderful president. He recently made a claim that the GPL would not pass legal test. I mean, who knows given the craziness of this country but that is a bold claim… Imagine if it did not hold? That would mean my research would get MIGHTY interesting….