Freedom

(This post explains why I donated to the FSF. Really.)

“Your entire life here is from MH and MM, isn’t it?”

One of my housemates asked me this over coffee. Well, she’s was drinking coffee. I had tea. I could not deny what she said. MH and MM, and the IRC channel they started, have led me to the life I have now. They suggested I visit. They suggested I move here. MM suggested an internship for the Free Software Foundation when I was trying to figure out how I to stay after the summer ended.

My internships (I also had one at OLPC), led me to an RA position at Berkman. The friends I made interning at the FSF helped me get the job I have now, by giving me both an understanding of free software, and general free as in freedom issues, and some pretty kick-ass references.

When I first got to the FSF, I wasn’t entirely convinced. I got the importance of free software (have access to your tools, own your tools, understand your tools, etc, etc, etc), but I thought a lot of the arguments I had been hearing where too ephemeral. I was going through a brief spat of rejecting the idea that “moral underpinnings” were what you needed for an argument–I thought needed practical points to even be worthwhile. (That phase ended pretty quickly.) I also didn’t buy that negative campaigning stuff, and I didn’t see what the Foundation had actually been doing.

In the fall of 2010, the FSF was in the financial red. Two people were laid off during my time there. Everyone else quickly became overworked. A significant portion of my internship shifted to helping with mailings, membership databases, and writing blog posts.

I started getting e-mails from people who read my blog posts. None of them declared undying fan-love, which was a bit of a downer (I thought my brief stint with semi-celebrity blogging was supposed to lead to fame, fortune, and cute nerds trying to sleep with me). Instead, I got thoughtful responses thanking me for bringing attention to issues or projects, or just explaining things in ways that were easy to understand. Not only did I feel good about myself, but I got that the FSF was actually reaching people.

Being in the community allowed me the luxury of thinking everyone thought the way I did. Everyone knew freedom was important, but just used Apple or Windows products because they were easy–they consistently worked without any effort. Once I left the FSF, understanding (though not entirely believing in) the arguments they had and used, I began to see the privilege I had had to work with people who got it.

Freedom is like health insurance. We want it to be there. What we have we think is good. But then, when pressed, we can see it isn’t actually good. Ferrett told me that you don’t know the quality of your health insurance until you have cancer. Similarly, you don’t know the quality of your freedom until it’s tested.

The freedom of software is tested when DRM content you purchased is removed with no recourse offered to you. When a single switch being flipped on or off restricts your operating system. When you’re using a piece of software and want it do something differently, but can’t change it because you don’t have access to it. Freedom in software is about agency, which is something we generally don’t have.

Software is something that is such an integral part of life, realizing you have no control over it is pretty scary.

Or comforting. Some people just don’t care about freedom. Caring about it is hard and depressing. Using what you’re given, what is functional, is easy.

Freedom, in general is important. There are a lot of great groups trying to help with freedom. The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild, Amnesty, Occupy Together, City Live–just to name a few.

However, in my financial support of freedom, I decided to become a member of the FSF during their membership drive.

[FSF Associate Member]

I have a button and everything. (Which you could click on to donate, should you so desire. Today is the last day of their membership drive, but one could join, or donate, at any time.)

Mostly I decided to give them money because of peer pressure. When you see the majority of the employees socially, it’s hard not to feel the expectation that, now you have a job, you’ll join. But I also support what they do and want to help them do more because they can do more. I like that they’ve been adding their voice against proposals like ACTA, PIPA, and SOPA. I like that they’ve restarted the GNU Education Project. I like that they take digital/electronic rights issues (like DRM), draw on the relationship of these issues to software we don’t realize we’re using and become involved. They need to be in a position to hire more compliance officers, to help people (student people, adult people, people involved with computers, and people not involved with computers) understand not just the insane role software has in our lives, but what it means to have no control over this software. They need financial help to be in a position to help change the way we interact with the things we own.

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Google

Google is going to implement a new privacy policy. It’s pretty easy to read, which is nice. ACLU Lens wrote about the new policy, highlighting the most important point it raises: Google can, and will, “combine the personal data you share with any one of its products or sites across almost all of its products and sites (everything but Google Chrome, Google Books, and Google Wallet) in order to obtain a more comprehensive picture of you. And there’s no opting out.”

ACLU Lens, more or less, addresses what I think of as the Horse Porn Conundrum.

Once upon a time, we were having an exciting night in when an offhanded comment lead to AG taking my laptop and googling “horse porn.”

And while it’s easy to see some of the benefits of the new policy, it’s important to keep in mind the other implications of the changes. For example, have you ever Googled something you didn’t want to tell your parents/spouse/friends/doctor about? [Like “horse porn”] Have you ever had a personal conversation over e-mail that you didn’t want broadcast to the world? [Like “Remember that time we watched that horse porn? That was a bad idea.] With this new integration, your e-mail content won’t influence only what ads you see in Gmail, and your search terms won’t influence just what ads you see when you’re searching.

I decided to walk home from work. I emailed SGM, housemate, iron blogger, and researcher in a lab near my office, asking if she wanted to “walk home with me.” Our e-mail exchange was short, but brought up advertising relating to walks and homes, none of which was relevant for me. However, other google pages do not reflect this.

A screen shot of the adverts from a gmail page.

As of March 1, your e-mail content and search terms could influence ads you see on any Google site. So, imagine watching a YouTube video with friends or family and suddenly having an ad based on what you assumed was a private e-mail conversation or a personal Google search appear.

What’s more, this data aggregation is not just about what ads you see, but as ACLU of Massachusetts describes, it creates an even larger treasure chest of personal information ripe for government picking.

And what about anonymity? Google is planning to “replace past names associated with your Google Account so that you are represented consistently across all our services.” But, what if you deliberately keep different names on your various accounts? What if, for instance, you want your e-mail address associated with your legal name, but would prefer for your YouTube account not to tie directly to you? Unfortunately, Google’s new integration policy will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to do so.

I guess some sort of secret-computer magic will allow Google to connect various google accounts.

In theory, in the spirit of privacy is important. In practice it is too. I dislike Google’s new privacy policy on many principals. I mean, I don’t want everyone to know about the horse porn incident.

And yet!

In 2010, after I returned from Korea and was laid up on my parents’ couch with a destroyed left ankle, I found solace in Caprica. In the first episode, we learn that through clever manipulation of interet magic, including signal traces of their activities (as I recall!), a sentient, virtual version of Zoe is brought into existance. Tamara is also given such a second chance at virtual-life.

I look at what Google is doing and wonder if this will somehow lead to the immortality of my mind.

Ship

As far as I can tell, there are five types of sexual tension in television shows–either intended by showrunners or entirely constructed by viewers.

  1. Sexual tension that is never actualized
  2. Sexual tension that is actualized in the final episode
  3. Sexual tension that is actualized and then that “ruins” something
  4. Sexual tension that is actualized and then characters develop
  5. Sexual tension that is actualized and then thrown out the window

(Spoilers below)

1) Sexual tension that is never actualized.

I just finished the first disc of Season 3 of Battlestar Galatica. This is relevant to what I am going to say next–if I am wrong, don’t correct me, please. This is my own case of sexual tension–perhaps even something I desire to see! (Among Fans, this is called “shipping.”)

Roslin and Adama. I believe that they want each other. I never expect to see them get together. This would have major effects on the plot, and maybe never be actualized. In fact, that’s probably for the best.

2) Sexual tension that is actualized in the final episode.

This can also just be in the final story arc or at the end of the series in general. I’m going to go with Kaylee and Simon from Firefly. In the series they are on and off in how explicit their tension is–how often they interact with each other, when Kaylee’s own way of dealing with it ebbs and flows, and when Simon decides how to indulge his desire for Kaylee and his idea that he cannot have her while taking care of his sister.

Their relationship comes to fruition in the conversation where Simon, effectively, tells Kaylee that there are things to fight for and she utters the special line, which I believe was designed for fanboys: You mean like sex? I’m going to live!

3) Sexual tension that is actualized and then ruins everything.

Buffy and Angel.

That is an independent sentence.

When we were watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer during undergrad, AG made the comment that when Buffy and Angel finally have sex, it depicted the fear of every teenage girl: when they have sex with their boyfriend, he will change forever into a jerk and cruel monster that she then has to slay in order to save the world from the Hellmouth.

Or something like that.

Buffy and Angel are totally into each other and even kind of together. They go on dates and everything. However, in this particular case, their sexual tension is not actualized right away.

When Buffy and Angel finally do get together (“bang” in the vernacular), he actually becomes a monster–losing his soul and humanity after his moment of “true happiness”–and this ruins their relationship forever.

4) Sexual tension that is actualized and then characters develop.

In “Bones,” Booth and Brennan have their sexual tension throughout most of the series thus far. This is approached explicitly at various points during the series, including conversations between Booth and his doctor/friend, Brennan and her best friend, and Booth and Brennan themselves. There is no actualization, of the tension or their relationship, until recently when they banged, she got pregnant, and now they’re together. They’re getting a house, they’re going to raise a baby, and they’re in love. They are developing as characters and changing both in their relationship with each other and those around them. It’s pretty cool.

5) Sexual tension that is actualized and then thrown out the window.

I really want to write about the X-files. I really want to write about the X-files. Unfortunately, I have not seen that new movie, but did read the Wikipedia article which says that Fox and Mulder are not living together and aren’t together. I reject this canon and instead am going to talk about Fringe.

I will sum up my thoughts on this in a simple letter to the show’s producer.

Dear J.J. Abrams,

What the fuck?

Love,
M.

In order to not have to develop characters in Fringe, and perhaps even keep things interesting, the show resets after each major story arc (more or less season). First, Peter and Olivia get together, but then Olivia is kidnapped and replaced with Fauxlivia. Then when Olivia comes back she is too damaged to deal with it. After some time, they get together, but shortly thereafter Peter disappears from time and space but somehow comes back (due to his love for Olivia?). However, she no longer remembers him (see “disappears from time and space”).

Old

When I was younger, my dad worked for larger corporations. I constructed this idea of corporate culture from what I saw him do and from there I had an understanding about being “old” and how it fit into corporate culture.

When he was at MBNA, as a family we would go to various family functions. We would do the MBNA walk for education every year. I forget how far it was, but really, it wasn’t that bad and at the end of it there was ice cream. Where and when I was going to get ice cream was a major concern of mine as a child. Once I cried on a family road trip because I slept through an ice cream stop. Seriously.

Now that I can get ice vegan-substitute-for-cream whenever I want, my driving forces for institutional interaction are different. I don’t go to “family themed” things. I don’t go to most things, unless my co-workers are going and I tag along.

However, with the start of GetFit@MIT looming, I find myself drawn into my first corporate involved and a strange feeling that this is what being an adult it: finding excitement in a social obligation to exercise a certain number of minutes a week.

GetFit@MIT is a program where you form teams. Each individual on the team is responsible for doing a certain number of minutes of exercise a week. Kind of. Because this is MIT, instead of individuals having a flat rate requirement, teams have an average-per-individual requirement. So, for example, if you have five people on your team and the weekly requirement is 150 minutes a person, your team total has to be at least 750 minutes.

The thing is, I’m -excited- about this. I’m totally into the idea of coming up with a humorous and hopefully intense team name. Puns, pop-culture references, and insults to others are all benefits in team names, as far as I’m concerned. “What’s What She Sped,” for an all-ladies racing team has potential. Mostly I’m thinking of pub quiz names that are funny to hear the announcer say.

Battlestar

R and I have been watching Battlestar Galatica. The new one. Recently we tackled a story arc during which someone was raped. After this episode, I went on a huge rant about how poorly the show was going to handle it–how they weren’t going to address it, how this was going to be another case of a woman being stuffed into a refrigerator, how you can’t not address rape once you bring it up.

And then in the next episode they faced it head on.

I turned to R and said “Oops.”