offline blogging: austria

I am in Vienna. I met many Wieners when I was in Linz and am staying with a woman I met named Marty. Many people who went to the conference in Linz flew in through Vienna, so last night, we had a small party. Several members of the vegetable orchestra were present. This legendary group’s shows include making instruments out of vegetables and then playing them. One of the folks last night apparently has a technique where she can get a zucchini to sound exactly like a tuba. They used to follow up the performances with stew made from the instruments, but this was time consuming and also kind of gross, so now they pre-cook their stew with other vegetables.
Last night was some of the most fun that I’ve ever had. We were artists and geeks and sex workers and Europeans and Americans and all feminist / progressive. Austria has its political problems, certainly, but the indie scene is great. We were hanging out at the queer center. There was spray paint on the outside wall that said "gender queer." It made me feel very happy. I really like that term.
The last day that the con was going in Linz was unbearably hot. There were my last minute workshops. A quick intro to svn, how to podcast, etc, but it was all so hot, the entire building emptied out and migrated to the bank of the Danube. I was not the only one who went skinny dipping in the (brown) Danube. After painting myself in thick coat of spf 50 sunblock. The current was swift. The water was freezing! So much fun.
Alas, my whole experience made me feel pangs for my youth. Ah, to be in a place where women work together and trans-masculinity is validated, and where my body is not a cultural artifact, but just the space that I inhabit, without expectations written across the shape of my chest.
Linz was home to some important historical figures. Bruckner used to play the organ in the town’s cathedral. Some of you will recall that Bruckner wrote for the wagner tuba and thus is important in its history. Also from linz was Adolph Hitler. He went to a real schule near the haupt schule where we slept. One of the people in my room attempted to determine whether he attended the school that we slept at. Since he was an art student and this was the arts magnet, it was a possibility. Anyway, she failed to find out. Maybe i slept in hitler’s homeroom?
I think that I am now involved in the european feminist forum. We are going to set up a wiki (or drupal) which has a bunch of howtos for activists and non-profits. Leftists simply should not be giving their institutional funds to microsoft. If they’re in to people power, they should use free software. Also many outside the first world don’t have the luxury to buy buggy bloatware because it costs too much. Our documents will hopefully be useful to folks worldwide. What do orgs use computers for? Their website, email, spreadsheets, documents, making posters and officy stuff like that. These kinds of applicstions work very well under ubuntu and don’t require much computer power. Old computers can be turned into powerful tools for activists.
We need a parallel structure. Anti-capitalists cannot depend on for-profit enterprise to solve their problems. This is a clear use for self-help and anarchism! Amyway, I’ll set something up when i get home and then make an announcement and then go away again. The intended audience is computer novice activists, so part of the issue is trust. It’s ok to link to other howtos, but its essential to gain their trust. They’re often suspicious of new technology and wary of geeks, so even if this project is redundant, the feminist perspective will help.

In Linz

I’m in Linz and darn tired. Wrote some music on the train. I’m doing almost all new stuff, but re-using the second half of my first supercollider piece. The piece is kind of klutz and doesn’t work well in stereo, except for the second half, which is cool on it’s own. I got a new joystick two days ago. It was really great when I first plugged it in. 0-255 for real. 10 bits. 4 channels of analog stick action. woot. But it’s become flaky. Sometimes the range of the sticks is cut in half. Sometimes the buttons have different IDs. It’s making me a little nervous. I thought I was buying a name-brand joystick, but the name is actually just similar to what I thought I was buying. Oh well. Maybe I’ll get a third soon and in the mean time, I’ve got a bit of a challenge. Usually unplugging it and replugging it works. Or I could put my awesome joystick brain in it.

In other news, if you plug a Dell laptop into a step-down voltage converter, it fucks up the screen in MS windows. (wtf?)
MY clothes are mildewy. meh, I say. Also, I feel a bit weird about being in a women’s event, even if the sponsoring group is called “gender changer.” Hello, I am twice the gender changer that you are.
Overheard this morning: “somebody was playing the digeridu at 10 o’clock last night!” la la la.
The conference fees include food and lodging, which make it a really good deal, although I was kind of surprised not to be comped in, given that I thought they were going to pay me. We’re staying in a haupt schule. This is a kind of elementary school. They have very thin matresses on the floors of the classrooms.
“Haupt” means half. It’s a half-school. In Germany, and apparently also in Austria, they have really extreme tracking. College bound kids go to something called Gymnasium. At the end, they take a test. If they pass it, the can go to a university. If they don’t pass it, the have they still have their high school diploma, equivalent to those who graduated from a real schule. They just get a diploma and don’t have to take a test. Finally, there exists haupt schules. In high school, these kids go to school part time and spend the other half of their time apprenticing to be things like florists or auto mechanics. If you were going to try to figure out what was the most valuable part of every kind of schooling, the big test result is the payoff for the gynasium. The diploma for those in real schule. The apprenticeship for those in haupt shule.
The one that we’re at is an elementary school. The tracking starts very early. Transferring from one track to another is virtually impossible. Unless you go to gynasium and pass the big test, there is no way that you will ever go to a university in your country. The American in me rebells to this. But the same sort of tracking also exists in American schools and is more subtle and probably, therefore, more evil. Also, we track kids straight to jail rather than in to apprentice programs, so we suck worse.
Interestingly, the school is an arts magnet. The kids must go on to art academy. I always wondered about the liberal arts value (or lack therof) of conservatories. This seems to confirm my suspicions. Also, I’ve seen the alphabet posted in all the classrooms, but not a single math-related thing. Maybe it’s all on a different floor.