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Gung Fu Personal

Eyes wide open

Last week was an amazing week. I had an incredibly instructive, inspiring and mind-awakening week studying with a Shaolin Gung Fu Master who has had quite an influence in my life.

I started studying Gung Fu when I was almost 15 in a small Shaolin school in my hometown run by Shi Fu Jason Parks (Xing Mu). It was amazing because I found people and ideas that challenged me, new ways to look at life, and perspectives that looked beyond the mundane (and ironically back again). I’ve always had a strong connection with Chinese culture, language and martial arts and have over a period of almost 14 years spent about 8 years studying Shaolin, Mezong and White Crane Gung Fu as well as a combination of weapons, Qi Na, Qi Gong and Chan Buddhism. The more I study the more I want to study, and the more sense it all seems to make – which leads me to a core goal in my life, clarity.

Shi Fu with some sickles - awesome!

Anyway, I hadn’t seen Shi Fu Parks for 10 years and jumped at the opportunity to visit his Shan Men Shaolin Gung Fu school for an intensive week of training and study. I spent 4 1/2 days training ~8 hours a day, studying hard and spending quality time with Evie, Shi Fu and his partner Karen‘s beautiful little girl. Karen has also studied Shaolin Gung Fu and is as awesome Pilates instructor. I had a fantastic class with her which was a first for me in understanding the value of Pilates, even though I’d been to classes in Sydney.

An unexpected surprise was when I realised weapons are not nearly as regulated in Tasmania as in other states, so I got to play with a bunch of weapons that I’d need a special permit for in New South Wales (my home state). I played with Nunchucks for the first time which was awesome, scythes and my main weapon, the pole.

One nunchuckTwo nunchucks!

One of the core lessons that arose from this week was how my entire life is actually in fact one big classroom, and how the constant habitual segmentation of life into this and that is both completely unnecessary and ultimately divisive. This sense of wholeness about it all was quite a relief. I learnt a whole schwag of new Shaolin fist and weapons forms, and polished up some existing stuff I already had. It was awesome and although I got a little sore, I was actually quite surprised that I didn’t get much more sore! I guess time goes quickly when you’re having fun 🙂

I spoke to Shi Fu and Karen about getting their ideas online. They were interested and excited about the concepts of FOSS, software freedom and Creative Commons, and it felt pretty cool to explain it all. Jeff and I set up some blogs for them and will be helping explore how something like Gung Fu or Pilates might balance both the ability to engage broadly online, and the personal interaction so necessary in a teacher/student arrangement like you’d have in Pilates or Gung Fu. It’ll be an interesting challenge!

It was also fun to help two non-geeks get excited about WordPress and feel empowered to play and tinker. Karen made the comment that she didn’t expect it to be so much fun, and I’m really pleased to be sharing something back 🙂

Evie!

So a big thank you Shi Fu and Karen for their lessons and time, and a huge hug to Evie who personifies gentle tenacity, and from whom I’ve a lot to learn 🙂

Categories
FOSS Personal

‘freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose’

Wow. I was in a doctors waiting room and picked up a Readers Digest (they aren’t half bad for 30 minutes of distraction) and I read an article about Randy Pausch, who amongst other achievements is the developer behind Alice 3D (an awesome animation/programming tool for learning). It was quite bizarre to be reading about him in this random mainstream magazine, and to have the article talk about how the project was Open Source (a little).

Randy has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and he gave an amazing “Last Lecture” talk from which the title of this blog derives, as well as many other amazing jewels of strength, optimism and a firm resolve to live happy and well. It is a funny and inspiring speech that has been translated all around the world, so I wanted to help get it out there 🙂 It is available on his website.

It reminded me about how we need to treasure every moment and really live in the now such that we actually experience what we are here to experience. It is so easy to get caught up in what is happening next week, how I should have done blah at work, or what is the point of it all, and in the meantime precious silken moments slip away from us without a thought. The wonder around us is somewhat obscured by a need to be busy, or clever or successful, and we forget it is only ever as real as we want it to be. I try to capture the moment, even though I also (unfortunately) surround myself with busy-ness, and that moment, that beautiful centre of it all is a quick reminder to not take this all for granted.

Back to Randy, who is still going strong and inspiring people everywhere! You totally rock and hopefully people will be inspired to embrace such humour, optimism and pure tenacity to their own lives 🙂 He has plenty of wisdom for a happier and more rich existence. Thank you Randy!

So my next piece of advice is, you just have to decide if you’re a Tigger or and Eeyore. I think I’m clear where I stand on the great Tigger/Eeyore debate. Never lose the childlike wonder. It’s just too important. It’s what drives us. Help others.

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Personal

A broken work record!

Yesterday I did a 24 hour work day. 5pm to the following 5pm. It was crazy! I had a good sleep last night, and came back onsite for today.

Basically it was only supposed to be overnight, but then there were some complications in the morning so staying “for an hour or two in the morning” just lengthened out.

I’ll be having a restful weekend, promise 🙂

Categories
Personal

A new model for artists

Nine Inch Nails have for a long time been one of my favourite bands. The music may not appeal to everyone (not my parents anyway!), however the ideas and leadership of Trent Reznor are quite incredible. Even though this happened a little while ago, I know many people who would be interested in this who aren’t NIN fans and read my blog 🙂

Trent Reznor - yum!

Last time NIN toured Australia, Reznor made the news by basically giving permission to “steal” his music, saying that the music companies have been ripping music lovers and artists off for years in a despicable manner. At the time he was still bound to a music label so you can imagine they weren’t too happy about this statement.

When he finished that contract, he decided to try something new. Something that has proven new models can work to the benefit of artists, and that openness and financial gain need not be mutually exclusive. I think his example will simultaneously inspire artists to explore new models and inject a great deal of concern into the large music labels and fear-mongers like Copyright Agency Limited (CAL).

So what did he do? The latest Nine Inch Nails album – “Ghosts” – has been released online with five options:

  • A quarter of the album is available freely (“high-quality, DRM-free MP3s”) under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike Licence along with some beautiful artwork. People are strongly encouraged to remix these tracks
  • The full album is available for sale from the website for USD$5 under normal copyright
  • A 2xCD set – 2 audio CDs with 16 page booklet is available for USD$10
  • A $75 deluxe edition – hardcover fabric slipcase with 2xCDs, 1 data DVD with all tracks in multi-track format and a Blu-ray disc
  • Finally there is a special package available for USD$300 for hard core NIN fans. There were 2500 of these and they sold out in three days before the album even was released. That’s USD$750,000 alone!

All up it is clear NIN have made many millions from this album, and without the limitations and impediments of a record company.

It is completely possible now for many artists to create and publish their works online, make money, and maintain ownership of their work (as opposed to having to sign it over to a company, which authors typically do for a set period and musicians do for good). Massive global connectivity also gives artists the ability to take their talents globally in an instant!

Overbearing lock-down of artistic works (such as DRM or DMCA-like measures) benefit neither the artist nor their fans, and it takes just a little imagination and thought to balance the value of openness and the internet with the necessity of financial success for artists. Trent Reznor has done an incredible job at showing this in practical terms.

I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate.

Wired article

Categories
Aus Community FOSS Government lca2007 Personal SFD

Foundations of Open 2020 submissions are up

I was really proud to be involved in Senator Lundy’s Foundations of Open Summit and wanted to follow up with some more resources. There are videos from all talks available, Donna just did a great blog post about it as did Brianna from Wikipedia.

It is important to recognise the initiative and interest of Senator Kate Lundy in openness, and I greatly thank her for her efforts in getting openness on the political agenda.

The submissions from the day (which all participants were open to contribute) are also online which all contribute to the 2020 Summit discussions are awesome. Some tidbits:

The rise of the use of FOSS in the IT industry is without doubt a revolutionary force that will have a huge impact on the way that society interacts with computers into the future. The question that I would like addressed by the Australia 2020 summit is what can be done to ensure that Australia can benefit to the maximum degree possible from this change in the IT world.

Andrew Tridgell – Freedom Fighter 🙂

It is widely acknowledged that open access to Crown copyright material is important not only as an element of open democracy, but is “a key driver of social, cultural and economic development”. With the emergence of digital technologies that enable dissemination of government material at low cost, copyright law is now the last significant barrier to truly open government.

Jessica Coates – Creative Commons

Establish a national mechanism for discoverability of spatial data. Discoverability is necessary to effectively deliver spatial data when and where it is needed, especially in emergencies but increasingly for general use, and would unlock enormous opportunities for innovation and creativity with the use of these data.

David Hocking, CEO ASIBA

Australia’s infrastructure will face even more difficult challenges unless we take advantage of IPv6, particularly for water and energy. For instance, critical energy and resource conservation measures will require large increases in the scope of control systems. There is an urgent need for greater national IP capability to use in reducing our global footprint in this way, but the capacity of our
current IP system is nearly exhausted.

Tony Hill – Internet Society of Australia

Amend the Broadcast Act to clearly define the fair use of broadcast material nationally for all educational institutions. Amend the role of Screen Rights to measure/clear international sources.

Clarify that educational organisations have clearance to use any free- to-air live broadcast services and to share them nationally within the academic realm for purposes of study, archive and analysis. As part of their participation in Australian society, any broadcaster supplying free-to-air (unencrypted) services anywhere within our shores would be bound to allow national open access to their material for educational use.

George Bray

Physical Infra-structure and facilities be made available for the schools sector to improve network speeds and bandwidth traffic loads.

Kevin Karp, StudentNet

Open information and knowledge – allow information produced by the public sector to be easily accessible and freely available to citizens and businesses for reuse, including commercialisation with appropriate exceptions such as law enforcement, security and privacy. Placing government produced IP in the public domain, such as maps and data, can unlock public and private value – U.S. property appraisal data makes www.zillow.com a more innovative service for home buyers than www.suburbview.com

Patrick McCormick, The Nous Group

Open Source is no longer an emerging technology. It is here now. OSIA[2] believes it’s in Australia’s best interest to not only adopt Open Source software, but actively contribute to the Open Source economy of ideas and innovation. Each of the 10 areas of focus for the 2020 Summit depend on the new reality of a global interconnected information economy. Google and Wikipedia were built with Open Source Software because it was the only way it could be done. Open Source Software enables us to compete, connect and communicate.

Donna Benjamin – Director – Open Source Industry Australia

If the potentially major transformative benefits to be derived from “Open” both from the technological and digital knowledge perspectives are to be fully realised then it is essential to establish or identify internationally credible standards and specifications etc. which support the desired outcomes. The real value and potential of PSI is realised only through its extensive re-use. Open will overcome the present major impediments which prevent this full potential from being realised.

Neale Hooper – Principal Lawyer, Whole of Government Licensing Project, Office of Economic and Statistical Research, Queensland Treasury

The availability of high speed broadband across Australia has the potential to reduce many problems of resourcing and access to information faced in Australia due to our dispersed population. Students and researchers in remote areas could be provided with equal access to quality resources and texts that students in metropolitan centres have. If every student has access to a computer and high speed broadband, then all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, can have access to knowledge.

However, the ADA is concerned that overly complex and restrictive provisions in the Copyright Act 1968 continue to impede this potential. […] In short, the ADA sees great potential in the digital education revolution, however, without significant copyright reform the ADA believes that students will have access to high speed broadband, but will not have the access to knowledge that should flow from this.
Laura Simes, Australian Digital Alliance

Laura Simes, Australian Digital Alliance

We have The Internet technology and we have the need. Many more activities need to be open and accessible, so that together we might advance the world instead of letting it slide into catastrophe.

Nick Sharp

Openness as a default position for ICT innovation and development provides many clear opportunities and advantages. Clear leadership and assistance is necessary from the Australian Government so individuals and organisations from all sectors can make informed decisions how openness can benefit them.

Me 🙂

Another news article about the event was in the Canberra Times, which had Jeff and I as the photo. Unexpected and a little odd 🙂

Foundations of Open in Canberra Times

Categories
Personal

Things not to do when busy #1 – go to hospital

Today, on the eve of our launch of the Open Source industry & community Census report I got a pretty nasty kidney infection that has been brewing for almost a week and a half, and had to go to hospital for most of the day (about 9 hours) for intravenous antibiotics and serious pain killers. Jeff was left holding the fort and finishing stuff off for tomorrow. Not a great day!

I’m ok, and on more antibiotics and pain killers for a few days, and I guess a few weeks of absolute rabid work just caught up with me. We’ll see how I go tomorrow, and hopefully I can stay out of hospital :/

Categories
Aus Community Government Personal

Sorry

I was really moved by Kevin Rudd’s speech this morning, where the Australian Government finally acknowledged the trauma and loss of Indigenous peoples in Australia through the misguided and destructive actions of the Australian Government for most of the 20th Century. This was done with a strong apology and commitment to making life better for Indigenous Australians through a bipartisan effort to bring about equal access to opportunities, better health, better education and other work to give Indigenous peoples the same opportunities and quality of life as other Australians.

It also made me feel for the first time in a long time that Australian politics can indeed be both inspiring and practical. It gave me a lot of hope for what is to come and to do my part in helping bring about a strong and united Australia. I hope that the lessons that we see from the Open Source community, were people can overcome gender, political, cultural, religious and all other divides to work together productively, can be brought to the broader Australian community.

Categories
Aus Community Personal

Another “Obstacle for Women in the IT Industry”

Recently Russell Coker blogged about “an obstacle for women in the IT industry”, where the obstacle in question is apparently how women sometimes respond to men like they are trying to pick them up. On one hand there is certainly a point to be made about people (men and women) who assume the worst when someone is communicating with them and then close down communications. However, I think Russell used really bad examples which end up making his post pretty upsetting for a lot of women, and pretty dumb for general readers. My synopsis of the unfortunate points is below to help Russell and others avoid such divisive writing and hopefully better understand the issues:

  • Saying that “well according to Pia’s research, statistically less than 45% of linux.conf.au attendees are likely to be trying to pick up” doesn’t make it a non-issue. This is unfortunately saying “so only 200-300 people might try a come-on line”. Yeah, that really makes women want to attend linux.conf.au! For the record I’ve never had someone try a come-on line with me at linux.conf.au. I’m sure it happens but there are by far more awesome people at linux.conf.au than not 🙂 and I would hate to think that comments like this turn women off coming to linux.conf.au and miss out on such a fantastic experience!
  • Citing a couple of examples doesn’t mean you’ve proven something conclusively – Russell basically says “this Lenovo guy found that a woman was uncomfortable when approached in an airport” and “well I had an experience with a woman at a FOSS conferences and they told me they had a boyfriend when I was just trying to talk!”. He seems to think this conclusively means all women are doing this to themselves in the IT sector. It is worth mentioning most people wouldn’t feel comfortable if a salesperson came up to them in an airport unsolicited, the Lenovo guys post only mentioned _one_ incident of this which wasn’t even the point of his post, and as Matthew Garrett points out in Russell’s comments, Russell has an overly familiar approach even to strangers, which I can imagine would make a person feel a bit uncomfortable, and if some women decide to say they have a boyfriend (or girlfriend) to preempt the behaviour, then that isn’t exactly unexpected. Actually, I’m not sure why this would be offensive anyway. They’ve made clear what this isn’t to avoid any confusion, and now you can get on with discussion.
  • On this last point, there are unfortunately still (and will always likely be) jerks who do try to come on to other people without any invitation or interest (male and female) and as there are more men than women in many IT and FOSS communities, the statistical probability of a woman having already had this annoying and sometimes horrible experience is much higher than a guy, so isn’t it far better if the person you are talking to gets this possibility out of the way if for any reason she/he feels concerned about it? Don’t be so egotistical to think “but I wasn’t!” because how would she/he know and what experiences have led them to be concerned. Isn’t this a great reason to say “wow it is sad that some women in our community feel uncomfortable about this, what can I/our community do about it?”, rather than saying “I’ve got it! Women just need to stop assuming the worst!”.
  • The Lenovo guys post didn’t talk about this issue at all, in fact most of the examples he gave weren’t gender specific, so assuming “gifts of free hardware and advice on technical issues related to computers were provided only to men because the reaction of women was bad enough that it wasn’t worth the effort!” is completely bogus.
  • The majority of experts in the IT industry are male in Australia, but not all countries. In countries where IT isn’t as gender associated as it is here there are a lot less problems.
  • Women, like men, come in all different types. We can be shy, outgoing, confident, confused, strong, crass, polite, etc, etc. Please don’t assume that any experience with one woman speaks for all of us. That goes to everyone. If a person of any category does X, it doesn’t mean that category all do X.

Ultimately Russell says this is a problem that needs to be improved. I think that the less contentious point about people (including women) trying to not assume bad intentions when talking to new people is a good point. It is true that some women miss out on opportunities to learn because either they assume a male is approaching them inappropriately, or because someone is approaching them inappropriately. Some women miss out on opportunities to learn for a plethora of reasons from different communication styles, to feeling uncomfortable to ask a question (from what I’ve seen some women can be turned off IT and FOSS from only one or two sexist or sleazy people if the behaviour goes unchecked). Wouldn’t it be great to focus on how we can ensure our community is a comfortable place for all people so they don’t miss out on opportunities to learn and contribute? My suggestions would be:

  • Be understanding – people go through a lot of different experiences. Try to understand it from their perspective and it’ll help you approach them appropriately. This goes for everyone!
  • Be polite – flaming someone is never appropriate. It is never successful or constructive either. Think about ways to communicate to achieve what you want without making the environment ineffective to work in.
  • Be respectful and inclusive – some women feel quite isolated at geek conferences because they are treated differently. We are all part of one big community, so just treat everyone respectfully, and be welcoming. A girl geek is no less interested in technology as a guy geek, so be inclusive.
  • Encourage positive behaviour – encourage newcomers to your community to do the right thing by others in the community. For example, often a code of conduct can help keep things relatively positive and effective. Particularly remember that silence is default acceptance of behaviour. Letting sexist or racist jokes slide on IRC or mailing lists turn people off, effectively and silently.
  • When it comes to women in particular, try to remember some women in our community have been through a lot, often just for being female and being in IT. Some of us have had abuse, an assumption that we’re stupid, idiotic and unsolicited sexual advances, frustrating assumptions (“you’re too pretty to use mutt”), death threats and a whole lot more. If you feel so miffed about being told a woman has a partner, try to think about what she may have been through to get this response.

I am constantly made aware that I am a women in IT. Not just an IT professional, not just a FOSS advocate, but a woman and many women in IT and FOSS feel that constant assertion of our gender placed upon us when most of us just want to get on with working, hacking and enjoying our chosen careers and tech lifestyle. I love the FOSS community and the fact that I can go anywhere in the world and talk with people that have a common vision of freedom, opportunity and openness, and I firmly believe we have a platform in FOSS for creating a better world through those shared ideals. A world where anyone can achieve their maximum potential through their own efforts, and are not limited by their gender, religion, culture, disability or any other factor. If the question is “what needs to be improved?”, then look at your own communities, codes of behaviour, personal behaviour, and ask yourself how you can act better to help our community be a great and comfortable place for everyone.

Categories
Personal

Some great geek art

Just found this collection of geek art. It has some pretty hilarious references, and I’ve posted my favourites below.

All your base belongs to us
Fatality

And finally my favourite:

make install human

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Personal

Spicks and Spectacular

Tonight I went and saw the Spicks and Specks roadshow, “Spicks and Spectacular“. Really awesome, see it if you get a chance. Great work by Adam, Myf and Alan!