August 12, 2004

A calm storm of a summer

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 1:02 pm

I will remember the summer of 2004 as the summer of storms. Chicago has had some stunning storms of thunderous lightning and brilliant thunder. I am now in Plainfield, Vermont and the storms have followed bringing along cool air, lightning, and thunder making it feel a lot more like a New England fall than summer. I’ve enjoyed the storms, funny enough, feeling like they put me in a state of calm. Of course, I have shelter which always helps when there is pelting rain but it is like the storm gives allowance for me to just sleep in, not have to worry about going out and “getting stuff done.”

And I decided to be like the French and take most of August off, doing the bare minimum I need to do to fulfill prior committments. This includes blogging and hence the sparse or just non-existent postings. I have had a lot to write about but just feel somewhat unmotivated to transform what are musings in my head into something a bit more coherent and tangible. My thoughts have little desire to go anywhere I guess. I am sort of burnt out on writing and was most of the summer but until now, I pushed through most of the summer to get some done but I think if I want to be more effective with it in the fall, I just need to give it a full fudged break.

I came to Vermont to present a talk at the Institute for Social Ecology. The talked compared free software to indymedia in terms of their stated politics, their political impact, etc..

It made me realize or confront again how hard it is to convey the geek world of free softwar to those who know very little about hackers, technology, or intellectual property law. To present the subject matter effectively either requires some really good metaphors, or time to explain some of the basics of law, technology, and geek culture. I am glad next year I have a whole quarter to teach a course on hacker culture, though I still am not crazy it is a quarter and not semester… I always felt jilted after a 10 week course, feeling like you know, we just got everything on the table and now were at the place where we could wrap things up.

During the talk we got in a big, at points contentious discussion about women in technology. It is rare this question does not come up among activists, and I always flounder when it comes to give an adequate account of “why” there such few women in the tech sector. It is not that there are not explanations, it is just there are many, and it seems like very little empirical work has been done on the subject (correct me if I am wrong though, I would love to read more about it)

Today there was an interesting article in US News and World Report which published some recent and scawy figures:

That sense of isolation and inadequacy is one reason the number of women earning computer science degrees in this country has plummeted over the past two decades–with women dropping from 37 percent to 28 percent of graduates–at the very moment their presence in other scientific and engineering disciplines has soared.


I was also able to also take a couple of the courses offered during thier summer session called Theoretical Inquiries in the Age of Globalization. I took one class on Foucault and Anarchism taught by Todd May and another on History and Revolution in Anarchist Thought taught by Chuck Morse. Both were really interesting and it was great to revisit Foucault who I had largely chose to leave in the closet after some farily intense exposure to him starting as an undergrad. I appreciate his perspective on power, but I still feel like he is fairly limited in what he has to offer in terms of a politics and hence he is not the first one I turn to when it comes to those things. He offers a nice slice but if you start making that into the pie, you are in for some pretty depressing baked goods.

It was great to be on the student side of the classroom which I have not really done since 2001. It made me wonder why more teachers or professors don’t take a class every now and then. Is it time? Or just socially unacceptable? I think you learn so much more when some other teacher has taken the time to complie a class and when you actually deal with some material over weeks with a group of people.

Along with class, sleep, great food, lots of cute animals climbing all over my computer, people playing “scawy” DOOM 3 in the house (yes there are still geeks in rural vermont), I have been also jumping a lot on a trampoline. I have really enjoyed that prolly more than anything aside from the great sleep I have been getting.

All right back to my summer R and R, hope everyone is having an equally nice time :-)

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