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Free software activities (April, 2019)

April was a very exciting month for my free software life. Namely, I switched jobs, sadly leaving the FSF and excitedly starting at the GNOME Foundation. No one was mean to me in April, which is exciting as always.

Pink tulips and two red poppies from above.

Personal activities

  • I started my second term on the Board of Directors of the Open Source Initiative. Three more years!
  • With Debian, we took further steps with GSoC and Outreachy.
  • I attended my second bug squashing party. Yay, Debian!
  • I spoke at FOSS North and Linux Fest Northwest.
  • There was an OSI board phone call.

Professional activities

  • Wrapped up work at the FSF!
  • Started at the GNOME Foundation as the Strategic Initiatives Manager!
  • Attended and tables at Linux Fest Northwest on behalf of GNOME.
  • Failed to determine if I want to pronounce the “g” in GNOME.

Last week in digital rights

I’ve been really busy and 1) missed a week (or two?) and 2) fell behind on my reading.

Neato things happening in free software

* Firefox’s new browser will keep brands from stalking you – Mozilla to
take more aggressive measures for our privacy –

* New GNOME release, Almeria, announced –

Quite interesting

* Life behind the tinfoil curtain – Read about how a hacker sysadmin
plays out his use of security in a day-to-day –

Facebook, Google, and other Monoliths

* Why California’s privacy law won’t hurt Facebook or Google –
California introduced CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), which is
like a weak version of GDPR –

* The solo JS developer challenging Google and Facebook – Vue is made by
one dude and is a FLOSS JS framework that’s gaining traction. –

* Facebook blocking local news stories – Facebook is blocking local news
stories (by accident?) –

* Linux foundation continues growing – The LF just got a lot bigger. The
LF is the home of the Linux Kernel project. –

* Not in our name: Another Article 13 post – Another article 13 post,
from the perspective of European creators –

Not in our name: Why European creators must oppose the EU’s proposal to limit linking and censor the internet

Other people doing things we probably don’t agree with

* Motorola patents a robocop autonomous car – Cause that’s going to be accountable to people processed by it –

Motorola patents a robocop autonomous car that brethalyzes, mirandizes you, calls your lawyer and collects your bail

* Nintendo’s promised cloud saves won’t work for every game – Why is
this a software freedom issue? It means that games people purchase (and
their saves, even) are being controlled, with a high probability
of DRM involvement –

* Verizon lobbyist runs for NY AG – And wants to recuse herself from NY
state suing the FCC about net neutrality… –


* Required online access in order to use headphones leaves flyer without
noise canceling benefits –

* Xbox adaptive controller is now out – and is a little less accessible
than hoped for –

BOS > MTL (03)

Day 3: North Adams to East Hebron (54 miles)

Day three and day two ended in the same way: me, tired after steadily going up hills, finally finding a flat or downhill section of road, only to come upon one last painfully steep climb. These climbs rose in front of me like a tsunami, just waiting to crush me if I stop long enough to wonder what the hell I was thinking.

However, hours after day two ended and miles before the final climb of day three, I was at a lovely bike shop in Williamstown, MA. My bike gloves–wonderful, disgusting things–were too big. That had been okay before, but they started to chafe somewhere in day two and I knew I wouldn’t make it all the way without smaller ones.

Nearby North Adams was a friendly sounding bike shop with a hip name. Actually, I hadn’t heard they were friendly. I heard they were kind of jerks, but I needed new gloves or my hands would become something unfit for use.

I showed up ready to do the thing where I have to either feel awkward, listen to someone talk at me, or assert loudly and repeatedly that I know what I’m doing. Luckily, these people turned out to be pretty awesome.

After I picked out some gloves, I decided I might as well also deal with a problem I was having called “my pedal got stuck on something and broke in half,” which was later followed by “my other pedal hit something and broke in half.” I asked Paul (the dude who works there, according to Yelp) for their cheapest pair of clips–pedals with cages that trap your feet, making it so you get “more power from each rotation” but an “increased chance of falling if you start to lose balance.”

j/k I love my clips.

He tried to convince me to switch to clipless pedals (in the midst of a muti-day ride?!), and we argued about it for a while. He then offered to put the (clipped) pedals on (I had a pedal wrench), and -then- he started to explain seat fit and how he thought mine could be better.

This is where I interrupted Paul and explained that yes, my seat fit was fine, and I launched into a prepared spiel about how badass I am.

One of my pieces of advice of people who have low self-esteem (i.e. nearly everyone) is to prepare some stock answers about how great you are. You don’t have to believe them. Just list some facts that explain how legit you are in a specific context. It’s really, really useful because you have an answer that feels more like referencing a Wikipedia article you’ve read than gloating about yourself.

A photo of a paper map of Bennginton, MA, and Hoosick Falls, Cambridge, and Petersburg, NY
Paul’s route

The dude’s attitude changed and he pretty quickly treated me as a peer. My guess is he runs into a lot of people who have fancy bikes but don’t know what they’re doing, and that he tries to make them (and maybe beginners? idk) understand how to do things better. I like to think that he was trying to be helpful, but just didn’t understand my situation.

He became pretty chatty. He gave me advice on the trip, asked what kind of days I was running, what route I was planning. His advice was based around roads he thought were good, locations worth stopping, and a few possible places to sleep, which was the least planned part of my trip.

So, I went back to pedaling, my mind shifting in and out of spaces where it knew how to do anything else. I giggled as I passed into Vermont, cursed silently as I meandered my way up a mountain, and rejoiced as I crossed the border into New York, following close to line between the two states.

Somewhere around there I also realized I really needed to figure out where I was going to be sleeping that night.

There are a bit over 110 miles between North Adams and Middlebury. This is a good two day ride for what I imagine is the lower-to-mid range of your adventure-cyclist–e.g. me. Sparing you the details of my calculation, there was a general range of ten miles in which I thought I ought to sleep–my goal had been to limit sixty mile days, and the idea of a seventy mile day sounded unappealing.

A photo of a cyclist, wearing a red and orange cycling jersey, pink sunglasses, and a black helmet, shrugging in front of a road sign that says "Town of Hebron" and "Right to Farm Law." There is a field, a tree, a telephone pole, and a road in the background.
I’d never heard of Hebron before either

There was a campground south of my range, and another north of it. I started e-mailing bed & breakfasts in the area, asking if I could set up on their lawn for a discounted rate. The first one that responded was also the least out of the way and offered me a bed with a cyclist-discount.

That was how I found myself at Hopkins House Farm Bed & Breakfast.

I’ll save all my actual praise for a review, but seriously. These people were great. They fed me TWO BREAKFASTS. They sent me away with oatmeal scones. They had A DOG. Their house was so beautiful it was a little painful, in the way wide floor boards worn smooth from centuries of feet and latch close doors break my heart.

A photo of a very blue sky with clouds, multiple red farm buildings with grey roofs, and a grass path leading to a green metal gate.
How a photo of this place is on Flickr with a CC license is beyond me. Photo courtesy of Colin Poellot on Flickr. CC-BY-SA

What I won’t write in a review is how great the hosts–Charlie and Aggy–were. They sat and talked with me for hours–about their lives, the places they grew up, how they got to a hobby farm and bed & breakfast in New York. We took apart books we read, music we liked, things in nature and science that we think and know and are captured by, what it’s like to raise chickens and how that differs from children. They talked about the afterschool programs they help run down at Salem city hall, in Washington County, and submarines and power reactors.

When you bike across Washington County, though lovely, with cute little towns and sprawling fields, you also pass for sale signs up on ramshackle buildings with promises of acreage. There are trailers and double-wides next to collapsed houses. Every farm stand has cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, and piles on piles of corn. Corn, I learned, is best when really, really fresh–especially it’s going to be sitting out in the heat. Corn for farmstands is gathered several times a day, and I stopped by one such place where the guy working there (who filled a bag for me and wouldn’t let me say no) said he went out and picked more five times a day.

Day three, most unfortunately, had kicked off the period of the trip where I stopped sleeping 10 hours a night. Somewhere between not eating enough calories and spending all day creeping across New England, my body switched into some prehistoric evolutionary space. From then on, I slept between 4-6 hours a night. This was not my best decision, and one I greatly regretted after I realized how comfortable the bed at Hopkins House Farm was.

total miles: 54
elevation gained (in ft): 1,745
hours slept the night before: 10
eggs eaten: 3
great people met: 4

BOS > MTL (02)


Day  2: Northampton to North Adams (44 miles)

A bike, loaded with gear, leaning against a sign. Behind it is a large, historical hall, and to the left a tree.I knew that day two was going to be miserable. At least, everyone kept telling me that and the little graph of elevation gain was steady up for some 37 of the day’s 44 miles.

Thirty-seven miles up hill.

I don’t really know what else to say beyond that.

I spent a surprising amount of the trip singing songs to myself about Massachusetts and New England. In one rendition of “New England,” Jonathan Richman replaces the line “I love New England,” with “Jonathan loves New England.”

In spite of the day being basically one long climb, it wasn’t a painful climb. I became acquainted with every gear on my bike and had the opportunity to try out every combination.

This day was also my first encounter with The Dirt Road.

Dirt roads may seem like they’re lovely, in that they wind through lovely places. Beautiful places. Places that cause you (or me) to stop and take a rare photo. Places that make me pause to look around and appreciate the world. To have a cow loudly moo at me in confusion or, I hope, friendliness.

Dirt roads are also positively miserable to bike on. I don’t recommend it if it’s at all avoidable.

A dirt road to the left, with a snow fence and field to the right. In the background there are mountains and, straight ahead, a tree. There may be a cow in there somewhere.When your bike is loaded, your balance isn’t all that great. You get better at it–much like how by the end of day two I was much better at starting while going up hill and getting my second foot into the pedal clip–but your balance isn’t great. It’s a delicate thing, easily disrupted by, say, a rock only part of your tire hits. Or maybe another rock that ricochets off your back wheel and makes a ping that makes you nervous enough you want to stop and check to make sure nothing is wrong. But wait, you can’t because you’re now going downhill and you need to keep going because if you try to break you will definitely skid and lose balance.

But it was still real pretty.

Me, in cycling jersey, sunglasses, and blach bike helmet, standing in front of the Mass MOCA buildingIn eastern MA, we have these lovely signs as you roll into any given down limits, declaring where you are. They’re iconic–to me anyway. I could not find a single one in the rest of Massachusetts. Maybe they don’t exist. Maybe they were on different roads.

Luckily, MASS MoCA is in North Adams, and is fairly well known in its own right. It’s basically, as far as I’m aware, the reason people go to North Adams. That and flower farms.

The reason I took this particular route was that IR did some friendly but serious advocating for the cross-MA trip to Montreal. She helped make this all easier by putting me in touch with a friend of hers in North Adams. I deeply, deeply appreciate the kindness from both IR and her friend, who not only made me some dinner, gave me an incredibly comfortable couch to sleep on, and very kindly stocked my favorite handsoap in the bathroom, but she also washed my clothes.

Erica, you are a beautiful person. I want you to have not just nice things, but good things. You deserve happiness, sunshine, flowers, warm rain, and days filled with joy.

total miles: 44
elevation gained: 1,873 ft
hills climbed: 2
hours slept the night before: 11
homemade dinners: 1
new (human) friends made: 3
new (cow) friends made: 1

Boston > MTL (01)

I kind of can’t get over that I powered myself from Boston to Montreal. Saying it was just me is self-indulgent and, moreso, inaccurate. Even before I left, people I know rallied to help me make plans I’d procrastinated on for too long. IR gave me a route, BK helped me find the first place to stay, and half of the residents of a local warehome helped me pull together all sorts of provisions–from an extra warm sleeping bag to snacks.

A hoto of a black bike with a brown saddle, the backrack has two red panniers, a tent, and a sleeping bag. It is leaning against a door labeled "the Worcshop."On Day 0, I hitched a ride to Worcester, where the super cool people at the Worcshop let me crash for the night. This really helped–I felt a little bad about “cheating,” but at the same time I didn’t. I highly encourage people taking bike trips to take public transit in and out of cities, because that’s usually the worst part of the trip. I would go as far to say that I have nothing bad to say about the Worcshop, but I ended up (unsurprisingly) staying up too late. So, rather than leaving at 8 or 9, I was out the door closer to 10:30. (This is a theme.)

Day 1: Worcester to Northampton (60.9 miles)

Day 1 took me across eastern MA to land firmly in the center of the state. There were a few “tricks” to my trip, that I think are important for anyone considering such a thing. A few useful points when considering these:

  1. I am extremely pale
  2. I get heat-related migraines and dehydrate easily
  3. I’ve been on a ketosis diet and eating high-calorie, low volume foods.

This relevantly translates to:

  1. I need to use a lot of sunblock
  2. I need to drink a lot of water
  3. I need to eat small amounts semi-regularly to have some semblance of enough calories.

A photo of a black hemet on the wall aroun a cemetary. A black bicycle leans against the wall.

I pretty carefully managed my time. I set the alarm on my phone for every 75 minutes. I’d stop, take a ten minute break, reapply sunblock, have a drink and a (small) snack, check the map, and then keep pedaling. I ended up stopping in a lot of cemeteries, because they occur fairly regularly, have low, wide walls, and aren’t immediately at the side of the road.

So I pedaled. And I pedaled some more. I stopped and applied sunblock, and then more sunblock, and then more. Over the course of that day, I applied a tube of sunblock.


I also drink a lot of tang. If this trip was sponsored, it should be sponsored by tang (or whoever makes it). I drink a lot of tang. Seriously. It’s like gatorade but orange flavored (the color, not the fruit).

When you bike long distances, you should estimate 10 miles/hour. Or at least I do. Between breaks, fatigue, and occasionally revisiting your route during times with a lot of specific directions, it seems to end up that way.

I rolled into Northampton (climbing another hill!) in the afternoon. Total success.

A photo of me! in a cycling jersey, pointing at Northampton city hall.
This was the closest thing I could find to a sign that said “Northampton.”

All in all, very good day.

total miles: 61
elevation gained: 1,873 ft
long breaks taken: 2
sunblock tubes used: 1
hours of sleep the previous night: 6
pre-existing friends seen: 4
friends made: 3

Ice Creamsmith / Neponset

Summer means such wonderful things as bike rides, ice cream, and bike rides to ice cream. We kicked off the “biking absurd distances to eat ice cream” season with what was not an absurd distance for some pretty solid ice cream.

The ride itself was pretty easy–there was really only one hill in Southie, in addition to a small hill going up to the Arboretum itself.

We set off from the Museum of Science on a little tour through Boston and across Southie, weaving in and out of residential and industrial districts with surprisingly nice roads and long stretches without traffic lights.

When we got close to the Harborwalk, a sticky, ocean breeze came up the street. The lovely sea-side path gave way in Dorchester to a very unlovely, poorly maintained path. However, we eventually did land at the Neponset River, which was the goal. We didn’t follow the river for as long as we wouldd have liked, but the grasses were tall and the hills gentle, which brought us very close to the Ice Creamsmith.

Positive points to the Ice Creamsmith, negative for us for not knowing how to do it. They do a mix-in thing like uhhh that ice cream place. Cold Stone. Right. Cold Stone. mix-ins are only mixed in for small and larges, not their junior size, which We all ordered because it was quite enough. The base ice cream was solid–appropriately creamy, not overly sweet, with a small, but nice array of flavors.

That’s what surprised me: the selection of flavors. I now expect a long list, including things with non-descriptive names that need an explanation, and several flavors that require a taste before making a decision. the Ice Creamsmith is not like this. I mean, you could ask, but there’s not much of a need beyond knowing that they are all, in fact, good ice cream.

The trip back home swung past the Arboretum. Traffic up Dorchester Ave was kind of awful, but not as bad as commuting into work, and it was brief. There’s a bike path from Forest Hills to Northeastern’s campus, which was surprisingly sparely populated for such a nice day. This, however, was good for me as it made biking easier.

I did about 27 miles total. I would rate the ride 2 out of 5. The ice cream gets 3 out of five.

(1 – not worth the effort, 2 – neutral, 3 – would do if convenient, 4 – would do it someone else suggested, 5 – would go out of my way/recommend to others)

FSRG: Anarchism in Action Followup

In addition to chickpea and okra curry provided by DN, wine, and chocolate cake, the (barely) September meeting of the FSRG contained a meandering discussion around and over philosophy, technical issues, and case studies.

Below are some thoughts I had on the readings and discussion.

I liked Benkler’s “Practical Anarchism” for the most part. It was extremely well written, which made reading it fun. It was very political and didn’t have as many numbers as I wanted to see in a piece talking about what came down to the practicality of anarchism as a governance model–judging the successfulness of a project. How successful these projects are was mostly based around: 1) whether they still exist and 2) trusting the reader to know what they are and assume they are successful.

The biggest problem we had (as a group) was Benkler’s discussion of meritocracy: he worked on the assumption that meritocracies are meritocracies, which is rarely the case, as one can just learn from reading twitter and how people talk about their experiences in FLOSS.

We also spent a lot of time on the idea of whether or not an anarchistic model was sustainable or if you can have a true anarchy within a project (hint: the answer is “no.”) Structures, procedures, and forms are emergent properties of group behavior and, in order to produce something, people develop strategies, best practices, and roles–self-created, but organization nonetheless. Benkler seems to take the stance that “anarchy” really just means “outside of government or corporate control.”

The next topic will be on funding and money in free software.