November 29, 2009

Cat’s videos that make your inner cute swoon

Category: CUTE,Video,Wholesome — Biella @ 9:46 am

I am normally not so keen on GMO but if you managed to Clone/GMO/Tweak-Feline-DNA to make one of these for me, a one that stays so youthfully cute, I might be open to such modification.

November 28, 2009

Professor Alvarado!

Category: Academic,New York City,Research,Wholesome — Biella @ 7:06 am

professor-alvaro2, originally uploaded by the biella.

I love this guy. He plays in Times Square and is totally into his synthesizer. I can watch him for hours. One day I will ask whether he was a professor and if yes, of what (music? philosophy? both?). If only I could retire by performing in a subway station with a keyboard and dancing dolls. . .

Thanks to the update left in the comments, you can watch him in action and find out what type of professor he was/is.

November 25, 2009

Ninja Mind Tactics

Category: Alzheimers,Puerto Rico — Biella @ 5:42 am

Over the years—far too many years—I have occasionally chronicled the slow death of my mother, a death of mind, personality, really person that comes with Alzheimers. She has officially had the illness for 7 years now but had symptoms prior to this time, in the form of perceptual disturbances that are the defining feature of the rare type of Alzheimers she has, Benson’s syndrome.

As her illness progressed and we saw her doctors they would always ask: “what other illnesses or health problems does Vera have?” And I would answer “none.” Without fail and almost immediately, the inquiring doctor would respond back “none?” often with a slightly raised eyebrow, the one word uttered not to challenge the veracity of my answer, but used instead to convey another meaning, often bathed in some mixture of compassion and pity. It was an acknowledgement of the future that awaited us, basically stating “with no other illness, this is going to be on heck of long and difficult haul of a life experience,” which has indeed been the case.

However, after nearly two years of being bed bound in a nursing home, physical health problems are now creeping in—and my mother is descending into different type of hell, especially since she can no longer communicate the physical pain she might be in. The words she knows are few: “no” and a few other words (she likes to tell people they are “loco” and indeed I can only imagine how true this accusation of “crazy” is given that we are keeping her alive against her wishes). Her consistent and persistent wailing, agitation and crying do of course communicate the depth of suffering—this being the hardest thing to bear witness to. She does have periods of calm, coaxed in part by the drugs she is given but these are not enough to override the pain she and we feel.

About two months ago, her body started to give, the first problem being a fracture that led to significant internal bleeding and required a blood transfusion and a brace she is still wearing. A few weeks ago when I was visiting her, she basically developed these black and red welts on the bottom of her feet in a manner of two days, so instead of boarding a plane to NYC, I took her to the emergency room and stayed a full week while she was pumped with intravenous antibiotics. At first, doctors thought it might be gangrene, which was mortifying mostly because of all the associations that come with it. The doctors determined that it was not in fact gangrene but that she has a bone infection—technically called osteomyelitis —a tricky condition to treat that requires at minimum 45 days of IV antibiotics.

The hospital/doctors who had originally determined she would stay there for her treatment, changed their mind unexpectedly and announced their intention to ship her to a long-term care facility, which in theory we were not opposed to, except for the fact that it is very far from where my sister lives, and also it is a facility we had not verified for ourselves. On top of it, we knew she had a legal right stay in the hospital (though some doctors informed us otherwise). We preferred the hospital because it is so close to our house, we would be able to hire someone to visit her when my sister is at work, and we suspect that she will have additional complications from 45 days of IV abx so why not stick around and receive treatment and care from the same internist who had been nothing but a great doctor.

The story took a turn toward the surreal when the infectious disease doctor decided to “release her” to her nursing home with a treatment of oral antibiotics, even though every single doctor we saw from the emergency room doctor to the weekend internist who subs for her regular doctor, repeatedly informed us the only treatment is IV antibiotics for at least 45 days, possibly more (which is the normal treatment protocol).

November 21, 2009

How Far Can it Go?

Category: Academic,Berkman,F/OSS,Free Culture,IP Law,Open Access,Politics — Biella @ 10:20 am

During the month of October I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the past, present, and future of F/OSS. This was due in part to participation in a Berkman Center event on Free Culture, where we discussed the historical arc of Free Software to Free Culture, the relationships between them (and their differences), and also the content and meaning each. Over the years, what I have found so interesting about Free Software is how it left its enclave to inspire countless groups into rethinking the politics and ethics of production and access and yet, as I raised in this pod-cast interview (due to the prompting of my interviewer, Elizabeth Stark), Free Software and/or Free Culture is still pretty bounded and contained phenomenon especially when compared to something like the existing consciousness over the environmental movement, which many folks “know” about and understand even when and if they are not involved in doing anything for the movement. I always ask my first year students whether they know what Free Software or Free Culture is and 9 out 10 stare at me with those blank eyes that basically speak in silence: “no.”

Now, there are a group of activists, many located in Europe, a number of them with deep roots in the social justice movement who are taking Free Culture down a different path, trying to expand its meaning and conjoin it to social justice issues, build a broad set of coalitions across the political spectrum so as to override the fragmentation that is so characteristic to contemporary political moment, and use FC as an opportunity to critique the market fundamentalism of the last few decades.

If you are interested in these issues, take a look at their charter: they are looking for comments (critical and constructive) as well as endorsements (here is the long version).

I myself have a few comments, for example, I think it is worth noting something like the limits of what FC can do, that even if in many ways it can be activated to do good in the world, it is also best to highlight in the same swoop that FC is not some political panacea and has limits.

For example some groups in the world, notably some indigenous communities abide by a different logic of access and culture, whereby full access is not culturally or ethically desirable, as the work of Kim Christen has illuminated. I also wonder in what ways issues of labor might be addressed more forcefully, and though they briefly raise the question of environmental sustainability, it is worth expanding these more directly and deeplyas this article by Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell make clear.

There is more to say but I will leave it here for now and just say it is really great to see Free Culture taken down another political path that is rooted in coalition building.

November 20, 2009

Moral Grey Zones: Roller-Hitching

Category: Debian,Geek,Geekitude,Humor,Uncategorized — Biella @ 2:58 pm

Moral Grey Zone

Many moons ago while doing fieldwork I went to a radical tech activist camp sponsored by The Ruckus Society to give a presentation on Free Software (which I actually still have online in the gaudy orange I so loved. I could only stay 2 days as I had to go to Debconf2 in Toronto for fieldwork but it forever changed my life in pretty significant ways.

One remarkable thing about Ruckus was that for the first time I meet a particular kind of geek I had yet to come across: the crunchy and chewy granola/environmentalist/hippie hacker– a type of hacker that can be found world over but is likely to be (unsurprisingly) living, sometimes in the trees (literally) in the Pacific Northwest. They are one of my favorite kind of people as I can talk endlessly to them about 2 of my great passions: Free Software and environmental justice. Comfrey, pictured above, was one such hacker from Portland who I met at the Ruckus event and now routinely shows up, usually unannounced to our house at least 1-2x a year.

I woke up this morning to find him on our couch, got a bunch of knot-weed to chew on compliments of his foraging, and took the afternoon off to share some food. Among many stories, he told me of a new transportational pursuit of his, Roller-Hitching, which he uses to get around the country. He uses old school roller skates to skate along the road, even highways, until he gets picked up and get where he needs to go.

Naturally, these old school states are not just functional in the sense that they are faster than two feet in motion, but since they signify a particular spirit of the 1970s–you know, the groovy, dynamite, free love spirit of things, they draw positive attention and apparently when he roller-hitches, he gets picked up frequently (and made it from Minneapolis to Portland in 2 hours and 2 days: not shabby).


In California while on the 101 north of Arcata, California, Comfrey got stopped by the highway patrol and basically the cop wanted to kick him off on the grounds the he was a pedestrian (apparently prohibited on this patch of the 101). Comfrey, being a bright fellow, basically noted that roller skating is not really a pedestrian activity, that he was using, much a like a biker, a transportation device of sorts, so that he was in a grey zone between bikes and walking.

At the time, the cop was convinced enough but did tell Comfrey to look up the law in the library cuz the next time he would give him a ticket and the next time after that throw him in jail. Comfrey has yet ‘sourced’ the law but soon will. When he does, since I like to report on geeks and the law, I too will report on whether one can roller skate down or up the highway for those that might want to give Roller-Hitching a try.

November 18, 2009

Phreaking your way into Egypt?

Category: Academic,Advice,Hackers,Phreaking — Biella @ 7:47 pm

At times I am secretly (actually more openly) jealous of my colleagues in the English department who get to teach literature day in and day out. What a treat.

So I always make sure to sneak at least one fictional story whether short–such as Kurt Vonnegut’s “Unready to Wear” in Welcome to the Monkey House, which is superb or something longer and way more verbose than Vonnegut who is the epitome of sparsity, such as Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson (Cryptonomicon is too long).

I have just been informed by Phil Lapsley of one of the only fictional accounts on phone phreakers Loving Little Egypt and I might just make this the fictional account for my hacker class I am teaching next semester. I can never get enough of phreaking and since there is so little on the topic, this can top things off.

Has anyone read it? Any thoughts? Any other fictional accounts on phreakers?

November 17, 2009

The Winners

Category: Academic,Humor — Biella @ 9:15 am

These are the winners from my yearly class contest :

SERIOUS BABY……lol…..sometimes

Did I just Get Rejected From McDonalds? (Watch to the end)

This is one of my all time favorites funny videos and it has a nice catchy tune and I will also post one of my ALL TIME favorites after I show it in class next week.

November 10, 2009

Fsck Purity: The Politics and Pleasures of Free Software

The great thing about living and working in NYC is that there is a steady stream of conferences to attend, such as the fast approaching digital labor conference entitled ‘Internet as Playground and Factory.’ The problem is that since I live 1/3 of the year in San Juan and often get stranded and stuck when my mother gets hospitalized, as is the case now, I am often not in NYC. Depending on my mom’s prognosis tomorrow, I may or may not make it but I am working on my slides and revamping a few of my thoughts as I would like to attend.

My new title is one I think some readers of the blog might enjoy: “Fsck Purity: The politics and pleasures of free software” (thanks karl) and the talk will be part of a panel “The Emancipatory Politics of Play” with Chris Kelty, Fred Turner, and Ben Peters. If you are interested in attending, register soon as it is free and open to the public but requires advanced registration. There are also already a collection of short interviews videos available, the one by me is a basic discussion of the politics of free software, conducted at the end of a very long teaching day, so I am not sure it makes any sense. I never watch my own interviews so I can’t quite be the judge :-)

November 9, 2009

The Pulse of Humor

Category: Academic,Humor — Biella @ 6:53 pm

So when I teach my Introduction to Human Communication and Culture class, we usually do a section on humor and among other articles, I assign a chapter from one of my favorite books, On Humour. It is a nice, quick read delivering however some serious philosophical punch.

Given the pervasiveness of humor on the Internets I also ask students to send me what they think are 2 of the funniest videos. I then compile the list, send out to the class, and they vote on the 2 funniest ones. Here is the list and in a week I will report back on the winners, at least ‘winners’ from the perspective of NYU freshmen:







G )

















*Thanks to James and emacs, here they are with links!

Sick Animation
Funny or Die
College Humor

November 3, 2009

Touching Music via the Voice-O-Graph

Category: Academic,Aesthetics,Digital Media,Ethics,Music — Biella @ 7:54 am

In no way can I be describe myself as music aficionado for I rarely seek music. But music being that it makes its way into your ears through so many venues and vehicles, certainly finds me. A few years ago I stumbled upon Owen Chapman’s music at live performance (using ice among other objects) at a conference on copyright’s counterparts.

I immediately loved it not only because it is a genre of electronic music I tend to like but because of the depth of its texture. While all music enfolds this feature, when I listen to his music, it is as if I am not listening to music but also touching it (and vice-versa).

He just released an album whose song and sounds keep with his signature style of deep texture. It also makes an ethical call and claim: since remixing/sampling is citational, akin to academic quotation, it thus deserves a kind of explicit recognition and commentary. To honor this he is providing his music free of charge once one dips in with their own commentary and contribution. Full details and music here