March 30, 2005

The Emperor’s Clothes

Category: Politics — Biella @ 10:20 am

Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: “Look at the Emperor’s new clothes. They’re beautiful!” … “What a marvellous train!” A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage. “The Emperor is naked,” he said. ”

In the world of IP and politics, there is a now a child who says “The Emperor is naked” although it is not really a boy but a movement of laboring bodies who have chosen to produce software without the restrictions of IP law. In the process, and without stating it, they have punctured holes through the ossified assumptions justifying a regime that has only become more powerful and intrusive in the last twenty years. The logic is not so water tight anymore, water rushing through, a wave that more than anything has brought in debate over the future direction of IP law.

FOSS by acting like this kid, has not pronounced a blanket statement that has changed minds but has opened a debate and a debate it is. Along with the prolific rise of new technologies like p2p, the debate is ever more fiercer especially as different parties fight it out in America’s top court.

The coverage on the MGM vs. Grokster case in the mainstream news (look above) and the blogsphere has been steady and excellent. Worth checking out are Mako’s, and Timothy’s blog and Corante who have good on the ground summaries and all the right links.

What I was somewhat surprised by was at the NYT’s editorial “When David Steals Goliath’s Music.” It is as if the media relations staff from the Emperor’s entourage wrote it. Presenting the issue as in a black and white tone, this deserves a much more complicated hue of colors..

March 26, 2005

I watched em so you don’t have to..

Category: Personal — Biella @ 11:52 pm

I am prone to the bad habit of liking sub-standard, low-brow movies, better if funny. But I do have standards, even if quite low. And tonight, one has fallen below the low bar Bong Water while the second met the bar, but got no higher (although the costumes were +++, teerific).

March 25, 2005

If I miss your wedding….

Category: Personal — Biella @ 3:14 pm

So I can’t remember the last time I woke up crying and so today when I woke up with a wet face stuck against a damp pillow after a horrid horrid nightmare, I was quite surprised. I had a dream that my childhood best friend was killed during her wedding (by some evil- doer and worse in the ocean) and then once dead was mostly gobbled by a bunch of hungry sharks. Since I chose not to attend the wedding, no one bothered to tell me she died, making me miss her funeral. When I found out of her death, I could not stop cyring until I woke up.

While thankfully none of my childhood friends have had this fate, many of them have tied the knot in the past year and I have missed two of those weddings because of various reasons, mostly having to do with time and money. Clearly missing these events has had more of a profound effect on me than I am willing to admit.

This has been one of the tougher years mostly because of my mom’s illness, leaving me with very little literal and at times emotional time for others. I feel like my friendships have suffered some and often this is because I am not so good at letting others know at the toll, time-wise and emotionally, that this can take on one, especially when finishing your dissertation (which also means you are broke).

So anyway, if I have missed your wedding or keep saying no to your invitations or am not reciprocating like Marcel Mauss tells me I should, well at least I still dream about my friends although I hope that the nightmares end, replaced with dreams of a lighter nature..

March 24, 2005

The patent owner may object

Category: Politics — Biella @ 11:36 am

So India has moved to adopt a new patent law. Necessary to gain admittance in the WTO, it may act as a new hurdle and barrier for the delivery of low cost drugs in India. The news is pretty dismal, as is the reporting, which is pretty appalling. Either the new law is still in amorphous mode, many of the key provisions left unspecified, or reporters are doing a lackluster job (probably a bit of both).

For example in the New York Times article, the author explains:

“Under the new law, a maker of generics can apply to copy a patented drug, but only after it has been marketed for three years. In addition, the patent owner can object.”

“the patent owner can object…” And what may this mean? Of course they object. That is a given. But can they easily strike down the application nearly every time? Or just voice a resounding, NO WAY, keep away from my patents? I mean, of course the patent owner can object if the maker of generics must apply but a sense of the procedure of objection may help, a little.

March 23, 2005

It’s like Beef Jerkey

Category: Personal — Biella @ 11:07 pm

So it has been a long time since I have taken a full day off of work/school/errands/teaching/moping-lounging etc. But since my friend Jake is in town, visiting the midst of a traveling spree, I decided to take the day off and do some serious hanging. The highlight of the day was going to see Body Worlds in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. It was pretty fantastic, at once utterly intoxicating, at times a little gross, and always stunningly stark because of its evocative brilliance. Some of the human muscle meat, looks quite coarse. As M said, “just like beef jerkey” while other fragments of the body, like the arterial system, were presented as a delicate flowering network, the marvel being how mr. science-art man rendered the system in tact as much as the biological system itself.

The show is a little pricey but well worth the dollars although I would skip over the movie. Way too much cheese about the marvel of pregnancy.

So, being that Jake is a hacker-turned-photo-journalist, he has captured some really superb photos of Chicago including the exhibit, which he did undercover (amazingly because he has a large camera). So warning, there are a lot of pictures all on one page (299) so it will take a bit to load. But it is worth the wait. Make sure to scroll down to catch the corpses!

March 20, 2005

Roy Brown is Coming to Chicago

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 4:54 pm

So, I am not going out much these days, having entered monk-mode as I wrap up this year. But But But I have already got my tix to see Roy Brown (warning his site makes my browser crash) a Puerto Rican folk singer and political activist who is playing Monday April 4th at Roberto Clemente High School in Humbolt Park. Sponspored by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and the National Boricua Human rights Network, I encourage folks to go.

His songs are stunning to say the least and I am very happy that I will get to see him live. Here is a sample of one of my favorite songs, Descarga Number 51.

March 17, 2005


Category: Other — Biella @ 11:20 pm

Has anyone every seen or read this book on this history of MIT hacker pranks? Not that I have comments or anything working so it is more rhetorical question than actual but if you love/hate it, do email me. Looks pretty interesting.

What the Hack, again

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 6:36 pm

So althought it is a little on the pricey side (150 Euro), What the Hack looks like it will pretty incredible. They finally have a website up for registration and starting to fill with some other information. I still don’t know if I have the resources to make it there this summer but I will give it my best.

March 16, 2005

How will you leave your mark?

Category: Personal — Biella @ 9:46 pm

So I am coming to the end of my grad school career and I am feeling that I am not so sure how much of a mark on the world I have made in the last 8 years. But really that is ok because I just checked up on a place of my past, that consumed most of my days while in college: the Columbia women’s ultimate team and I was pretty stoked to see that they have kept on with the name: New York Phat Disc, that I came up with in 1995. I may not have touched a disc in years but I am super happy to see the name lives on. And even better is that on their extra’s page, they have a link to some classic school girrl karaoke

March 13, 2005

The ethics of deception

Category: Personal — Biella @ 9:17 pm

The quarter is over and I am for now, done teaching. It had been years since I had taught, the last time being the summer of 2001 when I taught a version of the hacker course as well as another one on medical anthropology. This time around, I confronted new challenges that layered a subject already quite idiosyncratic. Instead of having 8 students, there were over 20. While my students before were all mostly anthropology majors or geeks, this time I had students from 5-6 departments, ranging from economics to gender studies, anthropology to classics, and of course a few inquiring computer science students.

But during the last ten weeks probably one of the hardest parts was seeing my mom take a irreversible plunge, for the worse. Knowing this, there were days I had to perform when it was the last thing I wanted to do. But human psychology I guess is remarkable; resilient and in some ways remarkably warped. I could for the most part, for at least an hour and twenty minutes, shove it aside and act as if everything was ok.

Though most of her problems are perceptual, my mother is now afflicted with more of the classical Alzheimers symptoms: she has a lot of difficulty recalling words which leaves her more angry and frustrated than ever. Some of her friends have stopped calling her and I had to call her brothers to let them know that if they would like to have her sister recognize them, they should think about visiting sometime soon.

There have been at least some positive developments. We convinced my older sister to move back with her which was great to see (both for my mom and my sister) and my father and his current wife who have been in PR for months have helped out a lot.

But as she gets worse, a routine reaction to her situation is deception. Since she refuses to get outside help we have gotten help for her, pretending the woman who comes over is a volunteer, although she works for a wage. My mother is also the one footing the bill though she has no idea because she “trusts” her daughter’s to manage her money because she can’t see and she is having more trouble than ever dealing with numbers.

It feels awful to deceive, to break her trust, but I guess it would also feel awful to get the phone call where I am told she has been hit by a bus since crossing the street is a life or death challenge. It would also feel pretty awful to take her to court to make her get help. I think this would rip away at the last shreds of her dignity, which she is clinging to hard, because she is so humilated by her loss of mind, of sight, of self, of independence.

My mom of course thinks that a 6 day a week, 8 hrs a day volunteer is a bit odd. She is not that gone and she has always had a good 6th sense, a bit too good perhaps. So, to address her suspicions, we have had to layer upon another swath of deception: “Why not pay her a little money Mami?” to which she assented, although her top price was $5 a day. My mom is pretty confused about the value of money too, thinking somedays, for example, $100 is $1000 dollars. It is sort of humorous and cute that she thinks she is paying this woman $5 a day (which could for all I know mean $50 because it is hard to tell what she means by numbers but it is probably $5), all the while it is pretty depressing too. And I wonder how long the arrangement will last.

But while deception often feels pretty wrong (at least if you find it generally questionable), it is never so clear cut because context, the living moment of the situation, is essential to making ethical choices, to understanding what role deception may or may not take. To take ethics as a set of abstracted norms that bear in the same way and directly across time and place, is what Bakhtin called ethically