February 11, 2009


Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 2:25 pm

Not so long ago, I was lamenting to some Debian developer about how LONG it took for me to write stuff, of any quality at least. And aside from my own slowish pace, the academic publishing process is slow as molasses. The two together make for a deadly combo. This friend reminded me that Debian took a heck of a long time to release and at the time, this reminder actually made me feel a lot better. Well, after years of toiling, updating, bug squashing, and lots of lots of arguing, Lenny is coming out and those of us in NYC are celebrating. Though this has been circulated on the Debina-nyc list, it never hurts to circulate a little wider, especially for this event.

Attention New York City Debianistas,

The astrological confluence of 1234567890[0], the impending release of
Lenny[1], and the odd sighting of a horned mythical beast that
cryptozoologists are calling a ‘new FTP-master-assistant/slave’ being
sighted in the mist off the shores of the East River[2] will result in
all emacs users to transcend and all vim users to be transponded to
their respective motherships, which are scheduled for near-orbit on that

You will only be taken if you have a sip of beer on the 13th, before
6:31:30pm at the Pacific Standard[3].

If you come late, you may suffer nano for all eternity.


ps. All nano users will be Left Behind™ to tend to the servers that we
did not bring with us on the Rapture® rickshaw.

ps. lets keep the the post-apocalyptic space editor battle that will
erupt between the S.S. Church of Emacs, and the H.R.H VIMperator
mothership for later, and drink with revelry together now.

0. `date -d ‘@1234567890′`
1. http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2009/02/msg00000.html
2. http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2009/01/msg00004.html
3. http://www.pacificstandardbrooklyn.com

February 10, 2009

Wild Hacker

Category: Hackers — Biella @ 8:06 pm

This takes the cake as most ludicrious hacker representation….. It is like Blue Man Group, gone arctic and hackish at the same time.

New Media Practices in International Contexts

Category: Academic,New Media — Biella @ 3:13 pm

In the next 11 months, I will be spending a significant amount of brain power and time writing a fairly long review article on digital media and ethnography which will assess the state of the literature and various trends. Since my expertise certainly lies in the west or global questions. I will be immersing myself in the literature that looks at various international, national, and regional contexts, which is exciting. It is nice to leave the well trodden path and venture into new lands.

There is a handy new site related to this topic, which some of you might be interested in: New Media Practices in International Contexts Blog Series. The entries are less blog-like and more article-like but that is was makes them great resources.

February 8, 2009

Electric Sun

Category: Politics — Biella @ 8:25 pm

Welcome, Congress, to our generation’s electric sun.

Earlier, I had posted the Wikileaks link to these congressional reports with comments of my own but I thought I would pen down a few thoughts as I finally electronically leafed through some of them. These reports remind me a little bit of another set of reports that are publicly available, which are the Congressional Quarterly reports, which are an excellent resource for research. They are a bit dry but provide a wealth of information and perhaps more important, citations to law cases, journalist articles, and academic pieces (everything that journalistic pieces, in other words, do not do). It does 1/2 the research for you, as I like to think.

The few reports I have scanned from the leaks remind me, in fact, of the CQ reports, in content, style and tone. And while I thought CQ reports published on a wide range of topics, these semi-private reports are far more extensive in terms of topics and far more specific as well:

CRS: Humane Treatment of Farm Animals: Overview and Issues, December 10, 2008
CRS: FDA’s Authority to Ensure That Drugs Prescribed to Children Are Safe and Effective, December 2, 2008
CRS: African American Members of the United States Congress: 1870-2008, December 4, 2008
CRS: The Pigford Case: USDA Settlement of a Discrimination Suit by Black Farmers, January 13, 2009
CRS: Selected Legal and Policy Issues Related to Coalbed Methane Development, March 9, 2004

I look forward to hearing/learning more about how they are used (I can’t imagine that each report is read by many) and why exactly they were hidden away as they don’t seem to be the type of information that should be kept classified.

People of the screen

Category: Academic,Books/Articles — Biella @ 9:50 am

Geeks are creatures of the screen. Many, I have found, are also great lovers of books. I have peered into the homes and apartment of many and books usually adorn the walls and the tables. The exist in abundance. Though I am more or less paid to read for a living but these days, I don’t seem to the time to do extra reading and I often mourn the fact that I spend so much time getting scraps of stories and information from the net as opposed to delving into a great book, over the course of weeks and weeks (and as opposed to reading, often hurriedly but totally intensely, for class).
I do manage to get in some good articles and last night, I pushed through the heaviness of sleepiness to read a pretty interesting article People of the Screen by Christine Rosen.

Though a bit too alarmist for my taste, I enjoyed reading it, largely because it was written well and also brought some interesting questions and points to the table about the transition from a print culture to a digital one. One point, that I was not surprised to read, is the most avid of screen users (programmers, the digerati), are also avid readers. But among the less (economically) privileged, who have different educational relationships to books and who also may not have the time to read, reading in the traditional sense, is may soon be a more or less historical fact.

What I also enjoyed reading about and contemplating are the different material properties of the screen vs print book and the ways in which these affordances might create a different user/intellectual (almost existential, the author would argue) experience. For example, she argues that the emotional relationship to treeware books are more profound, or that reading a long novel (vs playing a video game) is about submitting your will–at least for a while–to the narrative and the story. I don’t agree with all of her assessments but I certainly agree that there are phenomenological differences between reading words on sheets of paper and the pages of a compact book, and then reading from the blue hue of a screen, often sitting upright, and whose text, at least for me, does not seem quite alive as it is when imprinted on bounded paper.

But I don’t think this necessarily has anything to do with some inherent properties of the screen. For example, writing on the screen does nothing but enliven text for me. When it comes to writing, I cannot imagine doing it any way but via the screen and the keyboard. I can play around with some words and erase with impunity. I can move around a whole paragraph here and there, split it into two or three and as such it feels dynamic and quite alive. I am sure I have lost, or there is something to lose, by not going straight from brain to pen but I never did all that much serious writing without the keyboard and so perhaps there was nothing to lose, no bodily transitional for me to undergo, and thus nothing to really mourn.

So, I suspect many readers of this blog are voracious writers and readers, on screen and off screen. Do you, can you read novels on the screen? If you love the printed book, why? Are you concerned about the loss of this medium? Or is there nothing to really worry about since technologists will eventually create a new digital medium that will surpass, in terms of a good user experience, the printed book?

February 6, 2009

Lazy Web

Category: Academic,F/OSS,Open Access — Biella @ 4:51 pm

Hi everyone,

So do people know of a relatively famous book (academic, fiction, non-fiction trade) published by a female author and under a Creative Commons license?

February 3, 2009

Viral Power

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 6:49 pm

So I know, I know. There are a lot of annoying memes circulating on the net/facebook/[pick your spot] and well, sometimes the best thing to do is stop the damn thing by ignoring its existence. But I have to say, I have completely, totally and absolutely have loved reading the 25 things… notes on facebook. It just provides a window into the extraordinary character that emerges from the collection of mundane events/likes/pleasures that make up people’s lives.

Reading them took me back to elementary school when and where I was an avid slam-booker. I have very fond of collecting and reading the tidbits of thoughts and information people left behind in my notebook. What also struck me about these recent 25 thingie notes is how odd or not as interesting, I think, it would be to have them recited to you over coffee or at dinner.

Now I could be wrong here but I think the list-like quality would just not fly in a conversational context. A few facts with more embellishment would work but a whole string of thoughts would just sound flat and out of place. A reminder that format does matter for engendering certain types of knowledge.

So here is my list..

1. I looked like a boy for the first three years of my life (but a cute one, I think).
2. I love dogs so much that I often think that if I had a criminal streak, I would be a dog nabber.
3. I would routinely bring home dogs from the street when I was a kid. Many of them ended up dead after being hit by cars (they liked to return to the street and this only happened to 2 of them).
4. My favorite concert was Jimmy Cliff in a parking lot. There was lots of rain and lots of weed.
5. I like have a penchant for tall men. My mom claims it was because I lacked a strong father figure in my early childhood years. Who knows if that is the case.
6. I knew the instant that I took an anthropology class I wanted to be an anthropologist. I guess I made it happen (and it was one of the few moments of clarity in life).
7. I started the first environmental club in my high school and my car was called the recycle-mobile because there were always cans in the back seat.
8. I love the ocean; swimming, snorkeling, diving, sailing, and just watching it, though the cold ocean is not always by cup of tea.
9. I had terrible insomnia for a year and slept for a good chunk of it on a couch. I like the snuggle feeling I got from sleeping against a back.
10. I am very indecisive person. It is annoying as i tend to worry a lot about whether I made the right decision.
11. I was a shy kid and barely talked until meeting my best friend in kindergarten, Yael
12. I also failed the psychological test to get into school but my mom managed to get me in anyway.
13. I often wonder if I would have been a nun if I had lived prior to 1900s to escape various domestic obligations. I think it might have been fun to be a nun.. Fun to be a nun also has a nice ring to it.

February 2, 2009

Hacking RFID

Category: Hackers,Politics — Biella @ 4:01 pm

Have you seen the New American Passport? If you have, you know it is kinda creepy. First, the abundance of patriotic pictures (eagles, presidents, flags, you get the picture) is in fact so patriotic, it might burn a hole in your hand if you hold onto it for too long. Aside from the visual creepiness, well, it is also RFID enabled and depending on your take, this is creepy (or not). But whatever your view, here is a great example of how easy it is to crack, . RFID is, as Chris Paget puts it succinctly “available to be queried by a suitable reader.