May 9, 2009


Category: Documentaries,Documentary,Events,Urban Farming — Biella @ 7:26 am

If you are into sustainable farming this movie will likely catch your fancy.There is a screening here in NYC at the end of May. Supposedly they are going to stream the movie online, which I certainly hope to be the case. A political documentary that is behind bars is really not so useful and is a contradictory project as well.

If you are into the idea of farming but live in the city, and New York City in specific, you can attend a Htink workshop on May 17th and start urban farming.

May 8, 2009

Capital Punishment

Category: Hackers — Biella @ 2:22 pm

Check out the one comment

May 7, 2009

Go Elsevier

Category: Not Wholesome!!! — Biella @ 2:21 pm

It looks like publishing fake journals was becoming closer to habit for Elsevir rather than a one-time exceptional mistake.

Scientific publishing giant Elsevier put out a total of six publications between 2000 and 2005 that were sponsored by unnamed pharmaceutical companies and looked like peer reviewed medical journals, but did not disclose sponsorship, the company has admitted.

Elsevier is conducting an “internal review” of its publishing practices after allegations came to light that the company produced a pharmaceutical company-funded publication in the early 2000s without disclosing that the “journal” was corporate sponsored.

I really hope people use this an an opportunity to detach fully from them.

Open Video Conference

Category: Events — Biella @ 1:09 pm

The Open Video Conference is happening in NYC/NYU in June and registration now open. The line-up looks fantastic so if you are inclined and are in the area, do drop by.

Make our words glisten

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Geek,Humor,Uncategorized,Wholesome — Biella @ 10:46 am

glisten vs hardened words, originally uploaded by the biella.

Now that I am (thankfully) done teaching until September, I have time to devour two small mountains of readings that I need to finish before I return to my manuscript, which I will be working on, I hope uber-productively, all summer long. One pile of readings deals with coding, open source, and the commons, such as Scott Rosenberg’s Dreaming in Code and David Bollier’s Viral Spiral. Another pile of reading edges toward the theoretical side of things, having to do with craft, pleasure, and humor, since it is pleasure in its many many many guises—from from the calm feeling of self-satisfaction that underlies pride in one’s craft, to the more sublime feeling of ecstatic bliss—that powers many creative sprints.

If one entertains pleasure, one must also entertain its darker side, for all of this “feel good” stuff is nonetheless often springs forth from a deep sea of passionate frustration. This seems to be the driving theme of Dreaming in Code and it is also what animates Ellen Ullman’s fictional account of pure frustration, The Bug. I am quite fond of “native” expressions of geek frustration and recently was provided with an exquisite example—a rant against the Adobe PSD format. The author of Xee, “A light-weight, fast and convenient image viewer for Mac OS X” explained his utter contempt for the Adobe PSD in the following way:

 At this point, I’d like to take a moment to speak to you about the Adobe PSD format. PSD is not a good format. PSD is not even a bad format. Calling it such would be an insult to other bad formats, such as PCX or JPEG. No, PSD is an abysmal format. Having worked on this code for several weeks now, my hate for PSD has grown to a raging fire that burns with the fierce passion of a million suns. If there are two different ways of doing something, PSD will do both, in different places. It will then make up three more ways no sane human would think of, and do those too. PSD makes inconsistency an art form. Why, for instance, did it suddenly decide that *these* particular chunks should be aligned to four bytes, and that this alignement should *not* be included in the size? Other chunks in other places are either unaligned, or aligned with the alignment included in the size. Here, though, it is not included.

Were it within my power, I would gather every single copy of those specs, and launch them on a spaceship directly into the sun.

Even if this account represents unadulterated irritation, he leaves us, the reader, with nothing of the irritation, only pleasure. This aftermath of frustration is delivered through the vehicle of humor, which within the hacker context, is the cultural container that best captures the spirit of hacker pleasure or so I will be arguing. Like many humorous rants from the world of hacking (and please send me any others you know of), this text dances with liveliness; it exudes its own rhythm; it “glistens” to use Ronald Barthes’ apt phrasing from his short book “The Pleasure of Text,” which I just finished as part of my theoretical escape into the pleasure-dome.

Although there are parts of his book which are to be frank, *really* *not* *pleasurable*, partly due to obscure references to High French Theory, which elide even an academic pair of eyes, the book generally pleases. And one of the most pleasing chunks is his definition of a stereotype:

“The stereotype is the word repeated without any magic, any enthusiasm, as though it were natural, as though by some miracle this recurring words were adequate on each occasion for different reasons, as though to imitate could no longer be sensed as an imitation: an unconstrained word that claims consistency and is unaware of its own insistence”

In contrast to the stereotype, a string of words that enchants does so by slipping off the page to hit you squarely in the heart or the gut. Unfortunately, while academic writing steers clear of stereotypes, often trying to present the detailed singularity of a phenomena (even when conditioned by social forces), it does not exactly “glisten,” though there are a handful of exceptions. I think we need more texts that glisten, even if only during sections or parts of our books and articles (much like the rant helped enliven the more staid technical document).

In recent years, in large part due to the influence of free software, there has been an explosion, a move toward going open access. All of this is laudable and I fully embrace it (and have gotten into some small battles over it). But without an aesthetic politics that values pleasure in reading and writing we are doomed to obscurity anyway. A move toward making our knowledge public also required a move toward thinking about the literary aesthetics of pleasure.

May 6, 2009

Not Crazy Just Nuts

Category: Food,IP Law,Not Wholesome,Politics — Biella @ 7:13 pm

So I am sipping some hot chocolate made from a recently purchased cream substitute by the name of Mimiccreme. Honestly, the stuff tastes good and better, it froths, unlike most non-dairy substitutes. Yet there is a hitch (there always is). As I was whisking away at my cream (mixed with water), I was staring blankly at the box and noticed that they have applied for a patent, which is indeed the case. Since their formula is made out of nuts, their motto is “Not Crazy Just Nuts” and if they are granted the patent (though I am confused as to what they are trying to patent) it will be Nuts and Crazy as well.

update: Ettienne pointed us in the comments to the the patent application

If Karl Marx was alive…

Category: Humor — Biella @ 6:50 pm

Marxist photo of the day. Goes well with this older (but classic) video.

The Year’s Work in Lebowski Studies

Category: Academic,Books/Articles — Biella @ 2:30 pm

Our beloved dude is now the subject/object of academic study. I hope the essays are playful or else they just won’t cut it.

May 5, 2009

David Bollier at NYU

Category: Events — Biella @ 5:44 am


Monday, May 18, 7:00pm


Courant Institute
251 Mercer Street (Warren Weaver Hall)
Room 109

TITLE: “The Struggle to Build a Digital Republic”


David Bollier will speak about the themes of his new book, Viral
Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own (New
Press). The book is the first comprehensive history of the “free
culture” movement and “sharing economy” that is empowering ordinary
people, disrupting markets and changing politics and culture. Bollier
will talk about the rise of free and open source software, Creative
Commons licenses, the new forms of non-market creativity (Wikipedia,
blogs, remix music, videos) as well as fascinating innovations in open
science, open education and “open business models.” More about the
book can be found at the website More about
Bollier can be found at

David Bollier is a leading American activist, author, blogger and
proponent of “free culture” on the Internet and the commons. He is an
editor of and Senior Fellow at the USC Annenberg
School for Communication. Bollier is also co-founder of Public
Knowledge, a Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for the
public’s stake in the Internet and copyright law, and the author of
Silent Theft, Brand Name Bullies, and four other books. He lives in
Amherst, Massachusetts.


Courant Institute
251 Mercer Street (Warren Weaver Hall)
Room 109

Move over bacon

Category: CUTE,I love pigs — Biella @ 5:33 am

Like a poodle but chubbier, cuter, and probably smarter (not to mention tastier, if you are into the other white meat). I have always (this is serious) wanted a pet pig but they need to GE the thing to make it the size of a pug, then I would be all over it.