Saturday, June 27, 2009

Books & Music

I've spent the last week stocking up on boring banalities. This is always how it is. I start with some crazy list that includes doctor's appointments, electric coverters and buying stuff. I cross stuff off until I'm finally left with the more intriguing choices: books and music. Here's what I'm traveling with.

Books: The music question's interesting since this is the first time I'm going overseas with an ipod. The last time I left town for months, I left my music collection behind, too. I don't see a specific reason to do it again, but truthfully, I didn't miss it. When you visit places that are so different from what you know, most music that you already know sounds jarring and incongruous to the landscape anyway.

So this time my ipod is well-stocked. I kept all the Daft Punk and Justice I've been listening to, and before I left work on Thursday, I added:I'm most likely being wildly optimistic in thinking I'll get to read or listen to half of all that, but it's nice to have choices!

Anyway, I'm signing off for a few weeks. Be well and look for photos and blog posts upon my return.

On Luggage

SFOYesterday I dug out my backpack to look for traveling stuff and found 116 Indian rupees and 84 British pence from my trip in 04.

Luggage-wise, I've gone upscale since then. Not that I've ever really been a hostel-partier but I've abandoned my backpack for my rolly suitcase.

When I bought the backpack, it felt like a rite of passage: student travel, rail passes, Lonely Planet guidebooks, and living cheaply. The first time I went overseas on my own I was 23 and newly single from the boyfriend that didn't like to travel. Post-breakup I decided to skip Christmas with my family and fly across the pond solo. God, it was lonely and exhausting to figure out everything on my own. But I needed that first trip to figure out how to do it better next time: to try to plan a trip around something that I wanted to see/do, to stick to one country, to decide what I was going to a place for rather than just seeing "the sights". Whenever I traveled with that backpack, I knew who my people were instantly even if I chose to continue on my own. I felt pride in being so mobile as to carry all my possessions on my back.

Later when I bought the rolling suitcase for my first "business trips", I felt all grown-up and vaguely important. I was about to spend the summer of 2005 commuting back and forth to DC from Boston. Since I had to look semi-professional, it didn't make sense to cart a backpack around. At that moment, with my rolling suitcase (which I never checked), I fit in with the other road warriors that flew the US Airways shuttle with me. No, I couldn't carry all my stuff on my back anymore, but now someone else was paying for the trip.

Since both of those times, I've discovered that business travel is overrated and that I can indeed live out of a small backpack for months but that maybe I don't always want to anymore. I've also given up the childish construct that frugality automatically equates with adventure. Having a little more money is nice since it lets me do more and do it more often. At this point in my life, I think it's more important to find the time and go, just go. At the time of purchase, the choice of luggage was about the sort of traveler I aspired to be - which pack of people I felt like I belonged to. Now, it just carries crap.

Anyway, I dumped the rupees and pence in the funny money jar for the next time I go to India or England. Since the jar awaits a deposit of Morccan dirham and Euros, I decided to finish packing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Open Source Ethos

The intern book club has turned into my favorite reason to read hyper-music/tech-focused non-fiction. The last selection, and my favorite thus far, was Jonathan Zittrain's Future of the Internet.

I found most interesting his discussion about what the internet was built to do: 1) perform only actions universally useful since specific problems could be fixed later and, 2) trust that all its users were working towards the common good. In short, the engineers built dumb pipes that don't care what information is being sent or where it's coming from or going to.

It's insanely naive and endearing to me that people built a network on the assumption that no one would want to mess with it intentionally. I heart geeks. But those assumptions, especially about the lack of malicious intent, are how we arrived where we are today: a glorious place that's revolutionized how we interact with each other and a place where spam and viruses and copyright infringement abound.

What I find so fascinating about the theories underpinning the internet and code and collective endeavors like Wikipedia is that the way they're built run counter to capitalism. In the brick-and-mortar world, we pay people for knowledge, solutions to problems and functionality. Our Constitution specifically encourages creativity by granting people an exclusive right to license for a time their creativity for a cost. The value is created by retaining your right to keep information scarce and then profit from its sharing.

In the digital world, websites are easy to build because you can grab code from any other website; solutions to problems are shared freely so someone else probably has already fixed your problem and left you with time to fix another problem; and the network is flexible enough to accommodate any functionality you want to build on top of it. The value instead is created by sharing information to build something greater. This student gets that and his professor certainly doesn't.

So, are the "problems" with the digital revolution only those of mindset? That we're giving away things we used to sell? And now are we trying to overlay the old economy of goods-for-money onto an open source ethos when instead we should be rethinking altogether?

I don't know, but it's nice to stumble upon a new way to view the same problem, which is why I'm interested. So check it out: the book's available free via Creative Commons license or here's an interview for just a taste.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Salad Days

I'm Tellin' YaAfter all that traveling, I had a most necessary three day weekend. I've since lost that easy, relaxed feeling, but it was a fun mish-mash of lots of activity and not.

Among the highlights, I explored the Capitol Crescent Trail, which I hadn't realized was so nearby in Georgetown. That day it was a sun-dappled, multi-use trail full of people well-schooled in passing etiquette. My knee was being a bit gimpy so I didn't go all the way to Bethesda, but I'd like to return soon and try it on wheels rather than on two feet.

On Saturday night, I checked out The New Gay's dance night "Homosonic" at Town. Music was eh and all sounded the same unfortunately and the DJs were secreted away in a booth so you couldn't just go ask them to play something else. Cheap, strong drinks though.

Thoroughly enjoyed the most recent issue of The Atlantic, whose feature article was about the 72-year-old longitudinal Grant Study and George Vaillant, the latest guy to conduct the study on what makes people happy, healthy and well-adjusted. I found the whole issue interesting enough that I'm thinking of supporting print media and getting a subscription.

I also spent some time inhaling my new Angel box set. I'm appreciating it on its own terms this time around rather than strictly in comparison to Buffy. Season 3 in particular is excellent. The show does occasionally succumb to the standard network requests for more stand alone episodes rather than season-long arcs. Doesn't that approach just end up disappointing everyone? The hard-core fans want stories to move and the newbies sort of understand what's going on but don't understand the fuss since they're not seeing the fuss-worthy bits.

Anyway, I'm back at it now and trying to keep everything afloat. I think that extra day off has made this week's push possible.


Discovered last Friday while taking advantage of an empty office to crank the tunes, my new summer song is Passion Pit's candy-coated "Little Secrets". Fits right in with summer songs of years past: Mint Royale's (featuring Pos from De La Soul) "Show Me" and Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs' cover of The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight".