June 26, 2006

The Distractions of Today

Category: Humor,Tech — Biella @ 11:32 am

While it may not be half-naked chicks and dinosaurs, the general point is so on the money. Thankfully a good portion of my research is on and about the Internet.

Apparently the link gets redirected so here here is the link to the blog entry with image

June 25, 2006

Before another month passes, a little on Mexico

Category: Debian,Tech,Travel — Biella @ 7:09 am

Last month I went to Mexico to attend Debconf6 and then I traveled with 4 geeks to Oaxaca. Here are a few photos from the trip, which was quite lovely, though I stalled writing anything about it here because I was thrown into a strom of sickness during my last week there and into my first week here.

I have been to Mexico a few times before though usually in passing or in Baja, which is somewhat nice but desolate. This was the first time I had any sustained exposure to Mexico and it was quite nice. Some of my favorite things about the country and my visit are perhaps a little odd but they are what took me in and here are some of them…

For example, during Debconf proper, I feel in love with the following reptile and very surprisingly, because, when it comes to animals, I usually like the soft and cuddly and not the scaly and spiny. But…. this lizard was…. special. Here is how I found him: We were eating at a restaurant after a visit to some ruins and there we found this little guy caged at the back of the restaurant. I was more than a little miffed that he was trapped (and by butting his head against the cage, he clearly was saying I WANT OUT) and so was about to pull a “PETA move” and just let him out. But I decided that was not such a good idea so instead I went over to the owners to ask why the little one was caged. In answer to my query, they promptly pulled him out and told me he first that he was a chameleon (which does not seem right to me) and was usually free to roam but when there are a lot of folks (as there were) they lock him up.

He plopped the little one on my arm and alas, what I pleasantly found out was that a lizard can act an awful lot like a dog. He LOVED to be pet and basically had a look of all-out-pleasure when you stroked his back. And at times, with a particularily good stroke, he would even subtly smile and flutter his hind leg a little just like a doggie.

Aside from a special dog-like reptile, there were many other things that I loved about Mexico. The food at the market was divine, divine, especially the corn smut a.k.a huitlacoche and all the salsas were better than you could imagine. It is tragic that every city does not have a local market with such divine food.

The architecture of Oaxaca was especially stuning as was the whole city center. It reminded me of viejo San Juan in Puerto Rico but the buildings were a little lower (apparently because of earthquakes) and the environment was dryer and more expansive. Our hostel was courtyard style (as were many houses there) and I think the courtyard should be revived as the defacto style for housing as this is probably one of the most enticing and smart architectural styles ever (at least in warm places). While a home is suppsed to provide shelter to enclose, the courtyard brings some of the outside inside and some of the inside outside.

While in Oaxaca we met some folks from espora, walked a lot in the city, met up with other Debian folks traveling about, and cleaned out Vagrant’s ear which was truly … well I won’t go into that. We also drove for a few hours up to the mountains for a few nice hikes. The town hoped we happy trip and I think we did.

Mexico city, by a number of measures, is one of the largest in the world and I unfortunately only got to see the Zocalo area as well as the subway. The center was quite impressive and especially nice before a thunderous storm One night at the Zocalo we happened upon a free concert, the lineup including the Tijuana Nortec Collective.

One of the most dynamite parts of Mexico City is its impressive and I mean impressive subway system. In a nutshell, the system is large, clean, efficient, cheap, and quiet (thanks to thick and black rubber tires). The trains come quickly, ferrying the millions of riders who pay 20 cents for a ride on a lovely bright orange train. Every time I rode it, without fail, a vendor entered the car, loaded with a backpack that doubled as a radio/stereo, who was selling pirated music. I appreciated the sample and bought one disc chock full of mp3s.

Like most urban trains, the riders are silent and I have always wondered why this is so. When I go to PR, I ride the busses much more and there, as in the states on the busses, there seems to be more open flow of chatter. Perhaps it is because trains are quite comfortable and they lull already tired riders into a state of quite contemplation. Who knows.

So these are some of the things that I liked about Mexico but perhaps the most exciting part about the country was the clear political heatwave passing through, just as it is with much of Latin America. In the zocalo of Mexico City there were various stands protesting the attacks in Atenco, as well as general protests against neoliberal policies. The city of Oaxca was also filled to the gills with protesting teachers, demanding a pay raise. Thousands of them were camped out all over the city center, which is apparently a year rite. Sadly, in the last week the police broke up the protest, violently

June 14, 2006

Gnome, Google Sumer of Code, and the Ladies

Category: F/OSS,Politics,Travel — Biella @ 12:27 pm

Hannah Wallach is not only amazing because she introduced me to the trippiest game ever, Rez (and is an amazing player herself), but has worked diligently over the last few years to get more women involved in free software. Not only is she one of the ladies that help ignite Debian Women, she has helped spearhead an initiative to get more women in Gnome via Google Summer of Code. So a double thanks to Hannah and read on below for some more info on the initiative.

BOSTON, Mass – June 13, 2006 – The GNOME Foundation is offering USD$9000 to female students in order to promote the participation of women in GNOME-related development.

The money originates from GNOME’s participation in the Google “Summer of Code” program (code.google.com/soc/), for which GNOME developers will mentor 20 students working throughout the northern summer on GNOME-related projects. This year GNOME received 181 applications to Google’s program, yet none were from women. The GNOME Foundation has therefore chosen to reinvest Google’s contribution into a new program designed to increase the participation of women in GNOME. The program has no official relationship with Google.

“Free software prides itself on being open to anyone with a good idea, yet less than 2% of free software developers are female. We, as a community, need to be actively working to change this statistic, and programs like this one are a much needed step in the right direction.” said Hanna Wallach, a GNOME developer who is involved in several projects that encourage women to participate in free software development.

The Women’s Summer Outreach Program is currently accepting applications from female students. Accepted students will receive a stipend of USD$3000 over a two month period. A pool of project ideas is provided at www.gnome.org/projects/wsop/, though original proposals are also encouraged. Projects may either be related to GNOME directly, or indirectly via projects such as Gstreamer and Abiword. Each student will be assigned a mentor to provide guidance throughout the program.

June 13, 2006

The AAA does not support open access

Category: Anthropology,Politics,Tech — Biella @ 1:00 pm

As soon as summer hits, my muse takes an extended vacation and I only write sparingly and occasionally (and somewhat painfully without the muse).

But as soon as I read and heard from a number of places, notably Savage Minds that the American Anthropological Association is lobbying against open access, I decided to work against my disinclination to write to say a few words. Rex at Savage Minds, as well as others have already covered thoroughly and thoughtfully, the basic issues as well as why it is incredibly problematic for the AAA not to endorse what is an otherwise powerful and positive Federal initiative that would require final mauscripts based on federally funded research to be accessible to the public after 6 months. So I wont be redundant here and will keep this short, but I would like to say that in an era in which government roll-backs (and in nearly every quarter of life) are simply commonplace and causing a fair deal of social problems, any initiative in which there is a push to make scholarship, *based on federal funds*, public and accessible, seems imperative to support, not squash. Many anthropologists, as probably many scholars, I imagine,like to think that some of their work has some public import and as such, we should do everything possible to make the work as accessible as possible, which will also give access to the communities and people we work with. They mention the supposed threat open access will have to peer review. First I don’t think that arguement stands up and more important, if peer review is simply a self-referential exercise, in which it can’t happen in a context of openness and accessiblity, what good is peer review??

Given the recent AnthrSource Initiative, as well as the general open/populist/ liberal/downright radical political inclinations among anthropologists, and the fact that the discipline in the last 25 years has been somewhat obsessed with the question of ethics, I was quite shocked at this move. But apparently (and thankfully) there were very few people at the AAAs behind the decision, which is somewhat comforting. What I hope now ensues is the formation and expression of a very strong response among the members of the AAA asking for a response from our elected board and an eventual rethinking of this stance.

Javanese Gamelan and Wayang Shadow Puppets

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 6:19 am

Marc Perlman who I had the pleasure of meeting at various conferences this year will be performing on June 18th in NYC at the Symphony Space as part of performance of Javanese Gamelan and Wayang Shadow Puppets. If you are NYC, you should try to go, as this is not to be missed. I, however, will sadly miss it, as I will be out of town, yet again.