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more on open source and digital preservation

October 23, 2009

My last post was a little toe-dip into some hardcore library school geek material and it seems that some of you are into it. Let’s continue then! You learn amazing things in library school all the time. And I am not being facetious! Open Source software is like an anti-capitalist’s wet dream. Open Source communities have created a world in which people work together towards a common purpose without getting paid for it – and as a result, the final product is often tighter, more user-friendly, and has fewer bugs than its proprietary version.

This week I completed an assignment wherein we were given a folder (a virtual folder) with 14 word processed documents in it, all created and saved in outdated formats with file extensions that microsoft word would not open. The two main programs we used to open these files were a program created at the National Archives of Australia (NAA) called Xena, a free software program that transforms files in outdated formats into new, open source formats. The NAA’s investment in creating software like Xena is for long-term digital preservation – it is backed up by the well-understood notion that open-source formats are digital preservationists’ best friend, as they are the most stable and most likely to survive long-term.

Xena did not work with all of my files, however. Some of the extensions were too old even for Xena to read. Miraculously, OpenOffice (the free software I told you about earlier this week) was able to open all of the remaining files except for one. The last one was a PowerPoint file, created and saved in an older version of PPT which of course PPT 2007 refused to open – thanks, microsoft, for preventing me from opening a program created with your own software. I had to turn that file into a PDF to make it readable.

Why should you care? Firstly, when you think of regular archives, it’s nonprofit professionals who are in charge. When it comes to digital materials, we have software and hardware that mediate our access to those materials. And we do *not* want microsoft or any other corporation controlling our access by controlling the software!

Secondly, those of you who are from or live in the US will not be surprised that the US is behind many other countries (mostly in the EU or former British colonies) in its plans and resources for digital preservation. That is why my school had to bring in someone from New Zealand to teach the course that I’m taking. It seems that the US’s penchant for privacy and individualism trumps the importance of managing the long-term survival of digital materials. And to be clear, I am not talking about people’s individual files, I’m talking about huge amounts of scientific and other scholarly research, as well as government records and other similar information.

Want to read more?
Ariadne is a free online magazine geared towards library, museum, and archives professionals but could be read (or at least perused) by anyone.
The Ten Thousand Years Blog is written in lay language – unfortunately difficult to find in the world of digital preservation. The author is an archivist and historian but writes about current digital preservation issues.
The LOCKSS program is pretty cool. LOCKSS stands for Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. It is based at Stanford and it is an initiative to provide libraries with the software they need for easy and cheap long-term digital preservation, and then saves the files on servers in multiple places. Pretty freaking great.

More useful OS stuff:
The Open Source Initiative – all about Open Source software. Contains news stories and other updated information.
Sourceforge.net is an amazing website for finding Open Source software.

The Europeans also have humor in their education about digital preservation. I present the latest installment of…DIGIMAN:

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a return, perhaps.

October 18, 2009
this food p*rn is here to lure you so you will keep reading.

this food p*rn is here to lure you so you will keep reading.

I took a little pause. And I may take another. But since I last posted (August 2007) major changes have occurred in my life and in the world and therefore, the content and format of this blog may be changing. Hopefully for the better. Here’s a brief overview.

Saltyfemme:

  • has moved to another colder but friendlier city.
  • has started library science school and is currently in her third semester.
  • is writing the post with html, just because she can.
  • has not joined twitter, and is hoping to hold out.
  • has not joined twitter, though she does understand that shorter is often better and therefore will make a concerted effort to write shorter posts which hopefully will mean they happen more often.
  • has become a voracious fermenter and bread-baker and hopes to post about these things.
  • believes in wikipedia. And will link to it. It’s true.
  • is not using saltyfemme.com anymore. damn the man and his $15 a year charge for domains. https://saltyfemme.wordpress.com is the new place to hang.

Today I am thinking about: digital preservation and file formats. Good god, how did we get here? Well, these are things we sometimes learn in library school. My digital preservation class is mostly folks who are learning to become archivists, which I have no interest in. I do have an interest in what digital preservation means for the masses – in a world in which more and more of the things we create and save are in a digital format, how are we making sure those things actually get saved and what does all of this have to do with CAPITALISM?

It has everything to do with capitalism. When you write a word document, you are probably saving it as a .doc or maybe even as a .docx. These are file formats that are owned by microsoft. Owned. That means that if tomorrow they decided they wanted you to use a different format, you could open your computer and find that your .doc files are unreadable. This is true of most file formats.

How can you avoid purchasing and therefore supporting such evil practices while simultaneously avoiding the potential havoc that proprietary file formats can wreak? Open-source software, my friends! Open-source is where it’s at. Many proprietary softwares have open-source equivalents that are either as good as or nearly as good as their expensive proprietary counterparts. So instead of going out and buying microsoft word when you get your new computer (or grabbing that disc from your office), consider downloading OpenOffice, the open source version of microsoft office. I am using it presently, and I love it. And best of all, its file extension (ODF, open document format) is compatible with many other word processing programs. OpenOffice is totally FREE. Hell yeah.

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Complicating the Gay Marriage Debate

August 2, 2007

Forgive me, loyal readers of saltyfemme. I’ve written about this topic so much I have queer self-righteousness coming out of my ears. But the Feministe readers haven’t heard me rant yet, so now I’m giving them their turn. Reposting here. Feministe readers who have moseyed on over, find more of my gay-marriage rants here:

Recent Ruminations on Gay Marriage (June 2006)
Beyond Rhetoric (July 2006)
NYTimes on Those Rebel Gays (July 2006)
Wedding Bells Ring Again (October 2006)
Potlucks, Purim, and Gay Marriage (October 2006)
Blame it on the Gays. Seriously! (November 2006)
Maybe DOMAS Should Address This Instead? (November 2006)
Whose Agenda is GENDA? (July 2007)

And now, the post from Feministe:

There are supposed to be two sides to this marriage debate. Either you’re a member of the Religious Right and are opposed or you’re a good liberal and are in favor. Right? Not so much. I’ve seen a huge range of opinions on this issue from queers who don’t identify with either of these mainstream opinions. I wish that more of these voices were represented in legislative actions and in media representations.

Gay marriage advocates are fighting for the same rights that straight people already have. I’d like to question why straight marriage is the model from which to build gay marriage. Is it convenience? Strategy (i.e. what is winnable?). Why aren’t we fighting for more, why aren’t we representing nontraditional family structures instead of just traditional nuclear family structures? (and no, I’m not talking polyamory right now). What good is the right to share health insurance with your partner when millions of Americans don’t have health insurance to begin with? Furthermore, why should the government get to police who shares our benefits, who can inherit from us, and who can adopt our children? Considering that only 25% of families in this country follow the traditional nuclear model, wouldn’t we be better off instead seeing what might be best for everyone? How do (or will) co-parenting families, cohabiting adults in non-romantic relationships, single parents living with a sibling, and elderly parents living with their child and their child’s partner (among countless other permutations of family) benefit from a marriage that only provides rights to two romantically involved adults? Furthermore, it seems ironic that in a time when it seems like every straight person is avoiding marriage like the plague, gay people are fighting hard.

Academic John D’Emilio puts these changes into historical context brilliantly in his November/December 2006 article in the Gay and Lesbian Review, The Marriage Movement is Setting Us Back. D’Emilio actually argues that gay marriage goes against history. He explains:

Since the early 1960’s, the lives of many, many heterosexuals have become much more like the imagined lives of homosexuals . Being heterosexual no longer means settling as a young adult into a lifelong coupled relationship sanctioned by the state and characterized by the presence of children and sharply gendered spousal roles. Instead, there may be a number of intimate relationships over the course of a lifetime. A marriage certificate may or may not accompany these relationships. Males and females alike expect to earn their way. Children figure less importantly in the lifespan of adults, and some heterosexuals, for the first time in history, choose not to have children at all.

These new “lifestyles” (a word woefully inadequate for grasping the deep structural foundations that sustain these changes) have appeared wherever capitalism has long historical roots. The decline in reproductive rates and the de-centering of marriage follow the spread of capitalism as surely as night follows day. They surface even in the face of religious traditions and national histories that have emphasized marriage, high fertility, and strong kinship ties.

The gay marriage movement has also been accused of racism and classism and of taking up so much of the mainstream LGBT movement’s time and energy that it has little left for any other issues (trans rights in NY state, for example).

Is gay marriage the way to go? Can’t we embrace the fact that the nuclear family structure is no longer useful for so many people in this country and legislate to be able to support and be supported by who(m)ever we want and choose? To be clear – I support anyone who wants to celebrate their relationship privately or with their community. In the post, I am addressing gay marriage in a legal sense, the problems I have with the government policing our relationships and the rights that those relationships bring us.

I don’t want to leave out last summer’s Beyond Same-Sex Marriage (BSSM) statement, the most widely-read document that I know of that questions the legitimacy of the gay marriage movement and its “you’re either with us or against us” mentality. The BSSM executive summary is certainly worth a read. Its signatories advocate for:

  • Legal recognition for a wide range of relationships, households and families – regardless of kinship or conjugal status.
  • Access for all, regardless of marital or citizenship status, to vital government support programs including but not limited to health care, housing, Social Security and pension plans, disaster recovery assistance, unemployment insurance and welfare assistance.
  • Separation of church and state in all matters, including regulation and recognition of relationships, households and families.
  • Freedom from state regulation of our sexual lives and gender choices, identities and expression.

Realistically, this will never pass as legislation, though I don’t think that was the intent of the writers. I believe they wanted to spark a conversation, to bring the gray areas of the marriage discussion to the fore. Since last summer, not much follow-up has been done, save for a few events here in New York (one of which I attended and kept some notes on). Queers, marriage skeptics, if you’re out there, does BSSM speak to you? Is there anything useful (media or legislatively speaking) we can do with it? For all of you — what are your thoughts on gay marriage beyond the “I believe in equality for all people” lines and in light of these issues? Is gay marriage really the path to equality?

cross-posted to Feministe

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pro-lifers can be rendered speechless

July 31, 2007

…when you ask them what would be a proper punishment for women who have abortions if they became illegal. Truly amazing stuff.

UPDATE: I can’t embed the YouTube video anymore, but you can watch it here.

Via Feministe. Read Anna Quinden’s piece and then Jill’s commentary at Feministe. They said it better than I could.

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dudes declare sexual assault funny as long as the victims are men

July 30, 2007

I’m guest blogging at Feministe this week! Check me out. And check out this entry over there for discussion, it’s cross-posted.

It’s humor so this warning may seem strange – this video is potentially triggering.

I was wary of posting this video for fear of directing more traffic to it. When I saw how many people have already watched it (it has nearly three million views on YouTube and counting), I figured it might be worth the attention. “Bro rape” has achieved mass popularity among (mostly) white college students for reasons I don’t entirely understand. Offensive stuff aside – and I’ll get to that in a minute – I actually just don’t find it funny.

The video is supposedly a parody of Dateline NBC’s programs about catching pedophiles. The Derrick Comedy group, made up of a group of NYU grads, write and perform pretty typical white college student humor, involving alcohol and sex jokes and always tinged with tones of sarcasm and self-mocking.

For those of you who don’t care to watch, here’s the opening bit. After a pretty gross fake rape scene, the fake news announcer jumps in (camera frozen on a “bro” being raped by a fellow “bro”):

It’s a type of rape that’s gone overlooked for decades. And it’s risen 44% in the last year. I’m talking, of course, about bro rape. What is a bro? A bro is an 18-24 year old male who wears Birkenstock sandals, watches Family Guy, plays ultimate Frisbee, and wears an upside-down visor or a baseball cap with a pre-frayed brim. You know, a bro. For every suburban house party, four bros will be raped, and only one in seven bros will tell their boys what happened the next day. As a result, most bro rapes go unreported.

The skit continues with the fake news team luring “bros” on the internet to come to “Chad’s place” to do dudely things. The reporter then rifles through each culprit’s bag, finding dudely items like gamecubes, beer, Axe deodorant and always a big black dildo, at which point the bro is considered caught. If someone can fill me in on why this is so funny that three million people have watched it, please do.

The skit ends with another fake rape scene. News flash to privileged college boys: rape is REAL. Men have been and continue to be victims of sexual assault. This is a pretty ugly contribution to the stigma men face around being rape victims. It mocks and silences male survivors of sexual assault, all of whom deal with the same crap as female victims plus all the feelings around not being real men because real men, straight men, don’t get sexually assaulted. And here’s why this video is silencing male survivors of assault – a group of college boys can make a video mocking male sexual assault that millions of people watch and find hilarious and not feel guilty about it because sexual assault against men is somehow not real. It’s almost as if the reason this sort of comedy is allowed is because it is so far from the realm of possibility. Everyone knows it’s not funny to mock sexual assault against women. Men, of course, are fair game. The reason it’s so funny is because it could never happen, right? A straight man could never rape another straight man. Right, except that most of the perpetrators of sexual assault against men are heterosexual. All of this humor rests on the fact that it is mocking something the creators deem impossible. This is dangerous territory for three million viewers.

Is it possible that they are mocking their own masculinity as a performance in and of itself? The opening lines from the newscaster I blockquoted above are some of the funniest lines in the skit, I think. It is a pretty impressive feat to have a group of boys who possess an overly heterosexual masculinity and style be able to step back and mock themselves. But are they simply reasserting their heterosexuality by mocking the idea of male sexual assault? I’m also curious about what makes this college humor among (mostly) white students. There is also be a bizarre race thread in this skit – why are most of the bros white (with one exception) and all the big dildos black? Mocking rape survivors, racism, homophobia, hints of sexism. And huge popularity with little criticism. What am I missing here?

Crossposted to Feministe

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salty sunday

July 22, 2007
africa-save-the-kids.jpg
This is from an actual ad campaign by UNICEF in Germany to raise awareness about education in Africa. I didn’t know blackface was making a comeback. More at Black Women in Europe, via BFP. (great comments underneath both of these posts, in case anyone is looking for a bit of analysis)


A Tale of Two Genocides
. Check out this article raising questions about US inconsistencies when it comes to genocide in Africa. Turns out, shockingly, that what matters is not how many people are dying but who is vying for power. Via Sylvia.

Via TAN: white people think it’s easier to be black than to not have TiVo. Sounds like an Onion headline, right? Yeah, not so much.

Hollywood is not dealing with abortion in this summer’s blockbusters about accidental pregnancies. Curious. Via Kaiser.

Transpeople and bathroom issues at Feministe.

Ooooh I just lurve this headline. Corporate America: The New Gay Activists.

The next generation of republicans: more war, less gay. Or something. Via Feministe.

And finally, some satire. Stephen Colbert presents “the Susan B. Anthony of Pole Dancing,” your feminist of the day. Via Feministing.

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on femme invisibility and street harassment

July 21, 2007

There’s been a great deal of fantastic blogging about street harassment (SH) over at Feministe – first, a post on SH with a focus on queers and one about SH and race/class, both courtesy of Jack, who is guest blogging this week. I don’t usually read the comments underneath the posts – mostly I don’t have the time or the energy. My ears perk up, though, when I see nuanced writing about an issue that is not explicitly queer that includes queer perspectives on it. Jack asks towards the end of her post:

And then I always think – how do visually feminine women, who get way more of this than me, deal? How do femmes and other feminine queer women handle that on the daily?

While I can wax theoretical for hours and hours around other queers about my experience as a femme, I haven’t had much experience doing it with straight women. (sidenote: the vast majority of the women who comment at Feministe are straight – case in point, Jack gives her queer perspective, asks for others to give theirs, but with a few exceptions, the thread ends up being dominated by a discussion of whether a man should be allowed to give a polite compliment on the street – as in, is it a man’s tone or the mere fact that he’s talking to a strange woman that makes me feel degraded and violated?).

Maybe I’m just exercising caution. The differences between straight femininity and queer femininity are pretty huge but nuanced, especially to the naked (i.e. straight) eye. Hell, the differences between how white women and WOC experience femininity are also huge and complicated and I wouldn’t even know how to touch that. I can only talk about my own experiences as a white femme and admit that I share some of those experiences with white straight women. I fear that when I talk about empowerment or “reclamations” of femininity or especially about how I relate to masculine partners, I will hear the dreaded “why is your experience any different than a straight one?”

This is actually exactly what happened at Feministe. I posted this and then got this response. Read it if you like, the gist is that I wrote something about invisibility and about the complications of queer femininity becoming lost on the street and that catcalling further invisibilizes the queerness. The responder rightfully asks, how is your experience any different from a straight one?

I can’t speak for straight women. I don’t know what makes up their personal reaction to catcalling. I would guess that if you are normatively gendered, you don’t necessarily think and obsess about your gender presentation the way queers do and you certainly don’t feel your gender being erased in the same way. After all, I experience my gender as mostly synthetic and unnatural and in that way, it is pretty fragile.

I am not saying that straight women do not obsess about appearance. I’m saying that as a queer feminist, I’ve gone through phases and thought long and hard about what femininity means in the world and the ways that it’s been oppressive and powerful and sometimes both and the ways that I, personally, have experienced it as both. I’ve also obsessed over what it means to have a queer perspective on the world, looking out from inside a body that often passes as straight. And the answer, over and over again, is about invisibility. My answer about SH was not about straight women, it had nothing to do with straight women. And maybe I just need to make peace with the fact that straight women can and do relate to some of my words. (And blah blah identity politics we can have overlapping experiences and still be different people.)

At the same time, queer femmes walk around all day long being taken for something we are not. We’re misread as straight, and of course enjoy the privileges that come along with that, and also are included in the joys of SH. This asshole comes along, “hey baby, hey sexy,” and it’s like boom, again, hit me when I’m already down and already feel like I don’t exist. If the femme experiences of femininity is “empowerment,” there’s nothing more disempowering than a strange man telling you you’re sexy. (And for the record, I hate the word empowerment but I can’t think of anything better. I wouldn’t hate it so much if the fucking Pussycat Dolls and white middle-class pole dancers hadn’t co-opted it.)

And now the navel-gazing must come to an end, please go read and take part in the discussion about SH and race/class issues – namely about why sites like HollaBack seem to be dominated by stories of white women being harassed by men of color.