I get to the hotel where we’re staying for the fest and start paging through the dense, brightly covered booklet that describes the bands playing and other events over the course of the weekend. Bz tells me, “just read the first sentence of the description,” and I do. It says, “Welcome one and all to the biggest punk rock, shirts off, stale beer smelling, bear hugging, cheap booze swillin’, high five greeting, coosie totin’, family reunion, holiday, circus of fools we lovingly embrace simply called THE FEST.” It’s cheesy and frankly, I have a hard time feeling myself in those words, but I’m here. Amidst the amped up party atmosphere, there are some great people, and their great bands. Playing fewer and fewer shows with Defiance, Ohio has made being together and the shows we do play seem more special, which is kind of exciting. It makes it feel like this year, the show we play will actually be special instead of the anticlimax that comes with it being just another show, albeit a hyped one.

It is really nice to see people. There is a comfort in being reminded of the things that you know deeply about people, but sort of forgot. The hotel room table is covered in stacks of books from various authors and I remember how hyper-literate my band mates are, yet we’re still able to indulge in America’s Next Top Model marathons. There’s the ability to be goofy as we take videos of our own top-model style commercials for the fest. We take turns making sultry eyes at the mobile phone camera and end with our best “I love to fest.” Whether it was the last-minute, homemade togas the last time we played in Bloomington or these videos, the ability to make weird, theatrical things for our own enjoyment has been one of the most pleasurable experiences with my friends over the years.

We heard that the Max Levine Ensemble was playing a house show, so we wandered around Gainesville for a while until we found the house. It’s easy to spend a lot of at the fest wandering around and getting lost, but the walk felt nice and I like not feeling stuck on University Avenue.

After The Max played, we saw the Hot New Mexicans who were really good. I’ve seen them play a lot, but since we haven’t played many shows this year, I feel like my attention span for shows is so much longer. It’s nice because it helps me really enjoy seeing bands, even ones I’ve seen before, and notice new things about their music.

When their set finished, Bz, Sherri, and I went over to see 7 Seconds. The last time I had seen them was at a Warped Tour when I was a teenager. Unlike Bz, they weren’t really a band that I listened to a lot when I got into punk, but the first time I heard them, I realized that they were a huge influence to so many of the local hardcore bands in my home town. As, I get older, I’m inspired by people much older than me continuing to play music. We have a narrative of people touring and playing music until they burn out and self destruct or dropping out into a more conventional life, but there are many people who have decided to have families, or maybe careers who struggle to strike a balance with still being involved in punk music and I think their stories often go unmentioned. Kevin Seconds is an engaging performer, and a good storyteller. After performing for a few decades, its obvious that telling stories or connecting an old song with current events comes more easily, but not without sincerity. It’s so important to me, and one of the things that drew me to punk initially, that the songs come from somewhere, that there is such a direct link from experience or perspective on the world to lyrics and performance. It was interesting to hear the story behind the classic song Walk Together. Apparently, it was written after a show was canceled due to fear of metalhead vs. punk violence. It’s nice that their response was to write a song celebrating unity rather than a call to kick some metal ass.

Punk can be so contradictory, at once macho and positive, crucially critical and irrelevantly divisive. Listening to the radio and reading Billboards, I realized how conservative Florida can be. There was one stretch where there was an anti-choice billboard with a giant fetus every few miles. After seeing the preserved fetuses at the You: The Experience exhibit at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, the billboard seemed even more manipulative because the fetus next to the text “My heart beats after 18 days didn’t look like the 18-day-old embryo that I saw at the museum. This is besides the point, though. For me, the debate isn’t really about what constitutes “life” at a certain stage of prenatal development, but about a consistent cultural desire to control the bodies and lives of women and a lack of support for health care for women and children as well as support for families that don’t fit the one mom, one dad, 2+ kids model. It’s just scary to think about all the energy and resources that went to put giant embryos beside the highway.

I also saw a billboard advertising the Fraternal Order of Police’s gun show and I just don’t see how encouraging people to buy guns helps ensure safety or order. The kicker was to hear a commercial for a conservative “Black Tie and Blue Jeans” event that said, “Conservatives, come eat MEAT while those liberals are eating their granola and driving their hybrids.” Note to progressive punks, snark and irony won’t change anything. The reality of talk-radio-style conservatism is so ridiculous that it will be more bizarre and gross than any parody. It really feels like there is a culture war, and I don’t want to fight in it. It feels like a test of faith, that there are enough people, coming from all different experiences, who want to be connected and empathetic to other people, who want to really solve problems, who want to base their perspective on things that are external to their experience on a careful, comprehensive discourse. I don’t want to “win” over people or organizations who promote ideas that I think are really harmful. I just want there to be a critical mass that makes them irrelevant.


A panoramic view of Roman from across the Tiber

I took some photos of Rome from a beautiful hilltop across the Tiber and pieced them together (albeit slopilly) using the awesome Pandora GIMP plugin.


I’m in Oakland for the CR10 conference.  We flew in a day early and it was nice to have some time to chill before being at the conference and to get to think about the content of the dialog that Decarcerate Monroe County is participating in at the conference.  I went running this morning around Lake Merrit and it was really awesome.  I’ve realized recently that excercise really helps me feel more mentally sharp and less scatterbrained.  I love neighborhoods that have heavily trafficed public spaces and there were tons of people hanging out around the lake.  There just seemed to be all different kinds of people walking around and being active and enjoying the autum weather.  This was  a really different experience from when I went running on Defiance, Ohio tour in South Philly.  There, I felt so out of place, and I realized that, in many ways, even an activity that seems as accesible as running can be pretty classed.  I’ve ran, on and off, ever since I started running around my neighborhood in Boiling Springs to get ready for soccer season.  It feels startling to realize that something that you feel like you have a very intimate relationship with is really mediated by the places and cultures that you come from.  I guess this is a no-brainer, but it feels pretty profound when it feels like something that feels natural to you sets you apart from other people, or identifies you as an outsider.

Oakland has hella Asian people.  Being multiracial and growing up in a place where there were definitely not hella Asian people (or non-white people in general, for that matter), I know my exsperience is really different than a lot of the Asian people who live here, but somehow it’s still comforting.  At the supermarket, I paged through a book about Oakland’s Chinatown, and I thought about how many of the photos reminded me of photos of my grandparents.  It made me wonder what my dad’s life would have been like if he had grown up in a place less isolated from other Chinese Americans.

In the Bay Area, I think Chinese Americans have a huge and indelible role in the region’s history.   I tried to think about how Asians are perceived in Bloomington and didn’t come up with much.  I think they are largely assimilated into White culture or perceived as foreign students, having an akward and temporary relationship with the town.  One perception that came to mind out of nowhere though, was of an Asian family that owns a lot of property around town.  I don’t know how I get this feeling, and it’s hard to trace it to specific comments, but I just feel like there’s this expectation that, because the landlord isn’t white, he should be more down than white landlords.  Stingy, profiteering, condescending, or indifferent treatment that people seem to expect from your archetypical white “evil land owner” seems to be taken as a little bit worse from the Asian landlord.  This made me think about how whiteness is stereotyped and is, in many ways, is defined by a set of paradigms for success in our culture.  People of color seem to face additional barriers to this kind of success and also face additional criticism for aspiring to it or taking part in it.

Asking about animal ingredients in Spanish


We were in Miami 2 days ago and were pretty excited to make sandwiches with Cuban bread.  Unfortunately, a lot of Cuban bread has lard as an ingredient.  I struggled to ask if bread contained lard.  I found on the web that the Spanish word for lard is manteca (or perhas grasa de cerdo).

My high school spanish question should have been: ¿Hay manteca en este pan?

push: Psychogeography

I heard an interview with the author on Living on Earth on NPR and it sounded interesting, and linking reading the Power of Maps and other things I’ve been thinking about when traveling.

From the interview:

GELLERMAN: It’s interesting on airplanes now, on the backs of the seat in front of you, you can see, you know, a map and you see yourself traveling virtually over this place. But, for all intents and purposes, you’re just in this hermetically sealed airplane.

SELF: Yes, and I think it’s a virtuality. I mean, everything about modern flight, which I’ve expatiated on elsewhere in that book, is in fact designed to make the experience boring and dull, it’s designed to virtualize it within a corporate environment. You know, there’s no reason why they couldn’t put much bigger windows in planes. There’s no reason why the stewards and stewardesses shouldn’t wear, you know Ride of the Valkyrie helmets and the captain shouldn’t shout over the P.A., ‘wheee!’ as you take off. You know, they don’t want you to be excited. They don’t want you to know where you are. And in a sense, nobody really wants to know where you are or wants you to know where you are. You know, people who travel for business especially, may go to many different cities in a year, and apart from a tiny little grid of streets around their hotel, they’ll have no real sense of orientation.

GELLERMAN: This line jumped at me, actually. I was surprised to read it. You write that ‘the place chooses you. It’s not so much that you choose a place.’

SELF: I’m not sure whether I mean that literally. But what I think I do mean is that – again, we live in a culture where place is sold to you. We’re kind of accessorized by place. People say ‘oh, I went to x,’ or ‘I went to y,’ or ‘the beaches are fabulous at z,’ or ‘they’ve got fantastic ethnic jewelry in p,’ and ‘why don’t you go to m?’ You know, they’re products. Places are products and travel magazines and travel journalism is by and large a catalog of these products that’s sold to us. And people acquire place as they might acquire any other object in that way, you know, their memory, their digital cameras, you know, they’re loaded up with these vignettes of place just as any collector might show you their Sevre pottery or their beer labels or whatever it is they collect. And I think that, you know, in order to have a profound relationship with place, again coming back to this idea of kind of knowing where you are, you have to look for those places that choose you in that way and say, ‘you know, you’re not going to be here for a day or so or a couple of days, you’re going to have an evolving, perhaps a lifetime relationship with me. I’m a place that you want to know about.’ And I think, you know, for all of us who, who think about, about the world, and who think about our place in it, that that’s true. That has a resonance. And when I look back over my own life, I mean – you know, a couple of the places that I’ve come to think of as kind of ‘my places’ over the years, I didn’t even like them when I went there. It wasn’t about liking. It wasn’t necessarily about having a good time. There was something more profound going on there.

Link to LOE interview.

walking through san francisco

“What I’ve come to know is that the death of a loved one and the death of an era are equally sad.”  – Jonathan Wilson in The Best Time in My Life, a selection from the Who We Are exhibition

In San Francisco, on Market street, they still have vintage street cars as part of the public transportation system.  The cars seem to have been collected from cities all over the US that have long since abandoned their street car systems.  It is a strange collision of the active and the nostalgic as the cars creak and clatter but the doors open automatically by some weight sensor when you exit the train.

San Francisco Trip

I’m on vacation in San Francisco with my family. It’s been a long time since we’ve been on a family vacation, and it’s crazy how, even at 27, and even if it’s been more than a decade since I’ve lived with my parents, how some of the roles and scenarios feel so repetitive or familiar when we spend time together. Maybe the best way to describe this trip is in the map that Tim and I have been using to navigate our way around the city and note points we’ve been to and points we want to visit.

Title: My Bay Area Map
Description: Map I made of locations relevent to my current trip to the Bay Area

View Larger Map

albio in prague

I’ve had this on an ATM receipt floating around my notebook since this summer.  Chiara and I ate a very good meal at a restaurant in Prague that specialized in vegetarian/organic/local foods:

Truhlarska 20
Praha 1
(accessible via the namesti republiki stop on line b)

Prague to Berlin bike trip methods

The plan was to ride bikes from Vienna to Budhapest and then from Prague to Berlin.  Plans changed, and we only ended up doing the Prague to Berlin ride.  But, I wanted to make a few notes about the way that we did things in case anyone wanted to travel similarly in Europe.


We flew from the US to Europe on British Airways.  They actually let you take bikes as one of your checked bags for free!   In Europe, we originally planned to take trains, but bikes were officially prohibited on some of the routes (e.g. from Milan to Prague), though Chiara was pretty certain that you could get away with it if you tried.  We didn’t have any problems with traveling with the boxed bikes on any of the regional railways that we used to get to/from the airports in Italy and Germany.  To travel between European destinations, we ended up using low-cost airlines.  Easyjet seemed to be consistently cheap and have lots of destinations.  They also let you take boxed bikes (in lieu of your checked bag) for a small fee (around 15 euros I think). It was more difficult to find the policies of other discount airlines regarding bikes, so I’m not really sure what the others offer.  It was crazy how much cheaper the discount airlines were than trains, and it sort of makes it scary to think that the day of rail travel might be numbered, even in Europe, where the system is so much more culturally integrated than in the US.

Trains/Public Transport/Bike Boxes

For the plane, we just re-used the large cardboard boxes used to ship bikes from the manufacturer to bike stores.  My dad got some free from a bike shop in PA to go to Europe, and to return, a bike store in Berlin also gave us some for free.  We had to ask around at a few places in Berlin because, although there are bike stores as numerous as the cyclists themselves, many seemed to just carry used bikes and didn’t have the boxes.  Lugging the boxed bikes, or bikes around along with boxes was a pain.  For our trip from Chiara’s mom’s house outside Milan to Milan-Malpensa airport, Chiara’s brother built some ingeneous simple rollers that we fit on the boxes.  It was still taxing to pull around the heavy boxes, but it would have been nearly impossible to do it without a car otherwise.

A quick note on the regional trains/public transit.  The one from the station in Milan to the airport was like 11 euro (+ maybe 3 euro to get from the town where we were staying to the city.  If you were taking the subway, it would be about 1 euro).  Amazingly, in Berlin, we got tickets for the bikes and us (clearly marked on the automatic ticket machine in the stations) that worked for both the metro (u-bahn/s-bahn) and the regional train to the airport for under 4 euro each.  In Prague, there was no way to get the bikes from the airport to the city center other than taking a rented van.  The bikes cost the same as a person, so the total was going to be pretty expensive.  So, we just put the bikes together, packed our paniers and rode to the airport.  You can take bikes on the metro in Prague, however, and we used this to get out of the city more quickly.  It wouldn’t be a problem without heavy paniers, but it was pretty difficult to carry bikes down metro station stairs.  Also, in Prague, many of the metro stations were accessible mainly by very long escalators.  The info points in some metro stations will be able to tell you which stops have elevators, though they’re still a tight fit.  You put the bikes on an extended seatless area on the last car of the metro that is reserved for bikes and strollers.   In Berlin, metro cars that can accept bikes are marked with a bicycle symbol.


This isn’t that important, but I wanted to note it  because it was something that brought out my obsessive tendencies.  Before leaving the US, we bought a stove to use while cooking at campsites.  We got the multi-fuel MSR Whisperlite Internationale because we were concerned that fuel canisters would be hard to come by.  This turned out to not be the case as they were available at the grocery store at the more developed campground in Barcelona, and at specialty camping stores close to where we stayed in Prague.  Finding fuel for the multi-fuel stove ended up being more difficult than expected.  The directions for the stove said that it could use White Gas, Diesel, Kerosene, or Unleaded Gas.  We tried to use Diesel in Barcelona, and it was a disaster, with the fuel burning really inefficiently, producing gross black smoke and fumes, and leaving a sticky, oily residue on the pots and stove.  In Prague, I got a tip that white gas (the recommended fuel for the stove) was called “technicky benzin” and could be found at hardware stores.  We tried a few small hardware stores in the city center without luck before heading for the Hornbach store (like a Lowe’s or Home Depot in the US) outside of the city where we found the fuel in the paint section.  It worked much better with less smoke, fumes, and mess than the Diesel.  We saw signage for a number of hardware stores on our route, so it seems like it would be much easier to find en route, if you didn’t want to carry around fuel canisters.  Still, if you have a canister stove, it seems like it’s no problem finding fuel.


We picked the Vienna to Budhapest route from a book, but the Prague to Berlin route we picked more because of the destinations that we wanted to visit.  Because of this, we couldn’t really find a route on the Internet or in books.  We also had a hard time finding road maps with detailed depictions of small European roads from the US.  So, we used a combination of different Internet sites to figure out a route.  viamichelin.com is a European map and direction site similar to google maps or mapquest.  One important difference is that it lets you pick what kind of vehicle you’re traveling in and lets you select a route accordingly. One of the vehicle options that it lets you use is a bicycle!  However, the maps that it provides for directions are either too zoomed out or zoomed in to be useful for navigation.  So, we used Google maps and followed the via Michelin route, printing out a series of maps from Google and highlighting the route with a highlighter.  The via Michelin routes were very good, and I feel like all the roads that it selected were appropriate for bicycles, and many of them took us through very beautiful parts of the countryside.   However, I wish that we could have had a larger map in Germany as many of the roads were unmarked and at junctions, only gave indications in the direction of cities that were off our maps (which were usually only about 15 km wide).  If I had it to do over again, I would try harder to get a roadmap, or print larger maps from Google.  The place where the narrowness of the maps was a  big problem was on our second day, riding over some tough mountains from Usti Nad Labem in the Czech Republic to Dresden in Germany.  After reaching Dresden, we were trying to reach a campsite in Radeburg, but accidently followed signs in Dresden towards Radeberg which was about 25 km away from Radeburg.  The neighbor of the woman that we stayed with in Milan also rode from Prague to Berlin, but followed a route that was closer to rivers and that was comprised of more car-free bike paths.  In Germany, there were tons of bike paths, not just in Berlin, but between even many of the small towns in the former East Germany.  It was a nice surprise as many of the roads were narrow and had no shoulder.


For lodging, in Prague we stayed at a hostel/apartment place that Chiara found in hostelworld.com, which she says is a useful site.  Along the way, we stayed at a cheap hotel in Usti Nad Labem (390 Czech Crowns for a double room), two campsites in the former East Germany (9-11 euros for 2 people and a tent), and a hotel outside of Berlin that seemed very American-like (65 euro for a double room including a nice breakfast).  Other than the Hostel in Prague, we didn’t really plan for lodging.  There were a lot of forests with hiking trails through them where it seemed like it would be possible to camp easily (though perhaps not legally).  I think that along with the aforementioned network of bicycle paths, there are numerous hiking paths crisscrossing the area, and both campsites (one which Chiara found via Google, and another which we just came upon) seemed to be near the convergence of some of these trails.

In Berlin, we stayed with a woman who we met via a site called Couchsurfing.  This site is very cool, and is essentially all the framework of a social networking site like MySpace (profiles, friends, comments, messaging, etc.) but with a point.  The point of the site is to connect people in far off places with each other for the purpose of offering travelers a place to stay on each-others couches.  I can’t say enough about this site.  It was so nice to actually stay with someone who lived in Berlin rather than being surrounded  by a bunch of other tourists.  Moreover, I feel like in our conversations with Marion (the woman that we stayed with), we were able to get such a perspective on Berlin and Germany which might not account for the majority perspecrive, or the “local” perspective, but felt so much more sincere and authentic than what you would find in a tour book or in most situations oriented around tourism.  I stay with relative strangers a lot, so the situation is pretty comfortable to me, but Marion was really good about setting boundaries and expectations, so it was even more comfortable.  I think that the Couchsurfing site does a good job or providing users with tools to build trust and a background of communication between all the people.  Also, it’s so nice to stay with someone local, just because finding little needed resources or ways of navigating the city is so much easier.  And of course, staying on someone’s couch is free, but I don’t think that’s the point.  I think of the zero-monetary-cost place to stay as the impetus to think of more real ways to return someones kindness, like small gifts, or making dinner together.