Category Archives: Essays

Dear NSF: Part 1

In what will surely not be the last time I ask the U.S. government for money, I made the plea to be a fellow of theirs today. The Nation Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSFGRFP)  supports new PhD students in their research aims for 3 years.  And I am told, and also suppose, that I want that. The way in which they ask you to prostrate is a standard multi-essay plus recommendations mode. The essays, when viewed as “papers for which you haven’t done the work,” were useful writing and thought exercises. I am quite energized by firming up a proposal about what I might do in the next three years, even if it seems incomprehensibly difficult and moon-shot-ish  right now.… Read the rest

The Universal Empathy Machine: Nonviolent Communication Explained with Mathematics and Computer Science

0. The Universal Empathy Machine

Empathy is not sympathy. What’s the difference? Think of the Universal Turing Machine. It is a machine that accepts a program and data, and runs that program on that data. In this way it can simulate all programs on all data. Let us think of a human as a program and human experience as data. Sympathy then, is running your program on someone else’s data. Empathy is running their program on their data. As you can see the results of the sympathy and empathy computations are not guaranteed to be identical. In a nutshell Nonviolent Communication is about becoming the Universal Empathy Machine, to be able to emulate the architecture of an arbitrary person given an arbitrary experience.… Read the rest

Notconfusing rules for conversation: 2 rules and a jumpstart.

Meeting people can be a slog. “Hello, what’s your name?”, “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?”,  “How do you yawn?”. Yawn? Sorry I was nodding off just writing about how repetitive and tiresome modern meeting and greeting can be. Owing to the way that social networks store information about us, we’re used to thinking about people in a list of attributes “forms” structure. Trans-inclusive feminism has already laid out how select-a-value gender is problematic for self-determination, and it has even subtler consequences in meeting people. We’ve come to assume the next person you meet is some combinatoric permutation of drop-down menus.… Read the rest

The best part of soup is that soup doesn’t have parts.

This is a piece I wrote for Bulbes, a zine about soup.
The concept of  “smooth” versus “striated” spaces  (striated means lined or striped) by Deleuze and Guattari, is a stream of philosophy with a missing interpretation through soup.
Depending on your choice of violent conflict, the smooth/striated dichotomy has popularly been depicted in the film “Die Hard” and the 2002 Israeli Operation in Nablus. In those scenarios parties moved not through the striated spaces of elevators, stairs, streets and squares, but through smooth and direct routes like air ducts and holes cut in walls.
I prefer a more pastoral example to grasp the notion of seeing a smooth space under a striated one.… Read the rest

Omni Radio 1 – What is the Omni Commons?

In this inaugural Omni Radio podcast, Kwe and I introduce some of the collectives of the Omni, it’s purpose and it’s position in Oakland’s current landscape. To find out more visit .

The interviewees in this podcast are Cere from Counter Culture Labs, Jesse from Food Not Bombs, Margareta and Andrew from Backspace Wellness, and Jenny from Sudo Room.… Read the rest

Should I Do My PhD In The Open?

“Whenever a work’s structure is intentionally one of its own themes, another of its themes is art.” ~Annie Dillard

My axe became stuck attempting to split this wood by myself.


It was a warm afternoon in Paradies – the park in Jena, Thuringia – exuberant children were pretending to be snakes and crocodiles, and I was attempting to understand what I wanted to pretend to be. My current thought was that a PhD in the computer science / information science realm with a focus on Free Culture was a path forwards as I explained to my mentor Daniel Mietchen. Neither persuaded nor unconvinced he socratically proposed, like the Free Open Culture advocate that he is, to open the problem up.… Read the rest

Prerequisite-free Set Theory – Just The Intuition

Logicomix, page 162.
Logicomix, page 162.

My favourite Hackerspace Sudo Room  is very close to  Bay Area Public School,  whose concept of a anti-capitalist University intrigues me very much. In chatting  about their plans for Math education, they expounded on the need for a primer to Set Theory, as they had been learning the Philosophy of Alain Badiou, who utilizes those foundations. Their request was for softer, more intuitive introduction. And just a short 18 months after that casual chat, this last, Saturday June 14th 2014, I held that public education, and it went brilliantly. 2 very curious mind showed up and we had fun reading the comic example aloud.… Read the rest

Sex Ratios in Wikidata Part III

For a better reading experience read this post in the IPython Notebook Viewer.



I recently got back from the Mediawiki Hackathon in Zürich, where I was once again energized and inspired by the Wikidata Dev Team and Community. In chatting, they reminded me of analyses I ran in March 2013, Sex Ratios and Wikidata Parts I and II, about the state of a controversial Wikidata Property – P21 a.k.a. “sex or gender”. They suggested it was about time to reinvestigate.

Since Part I and II a lot has happened: the property has been renamed (from “sex” to “sex or gender”), it’s database constraints have been changed (from 3 accepted values to 13), and of course Wikidata has continued to proliferate (now about 400 million triples).

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Book Review: Working with MediaWiki

Working with MediaWiki by Yaron Koren : WikiWorks Press: 227 pages. Paperback ($35), ePub ($25), and PDF ($20). .  ISBN: 978-0615720302.

Working With MediaWiki Cover
Working With MediaWiki Cover

Working with MediaWiki is the latest MediaWiki (MW) book to be released since March 2010, when MW1.15 was current (today in November 2012 Wikipedia uses 1.21). The text is split into two logical and spiritual halves. The first is a from-scratch guide to setting up and tuning MediaWiki in the style of the classical wiki we are used to seeing on the web today. That treatment covers best practices, as well as where two put the right type of brackets for the impatient coder.… Read the rest

What First Monday is missing.

Killer Features: The Vitality of Piracy Cultures


University of California, Berkeley




As experienced facilitators of an undergraduate discussion course on The Politics of Piracy, the authors are uniquely positioned to contribute analyses of several, specific Piracy Cultures. Questions about the relationships between content creators and consumers are posed to two self-identified pirates, each members of piracy groups. The results indicate creator-consumer relationships are present, but are merely one in a set of crucial motivations for piracy–elements herein called killer features. One case study delves into the world of LUElinks, a private linksharing community that is as much social network as media provider.… Read the rest