Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace day!

It's Ada Lovelace day today, and to celebrate some folks are getting together to write blog entries about a woman in technology they admire. I try to avoid putting too much politics here, but I figure this fits into the 'geekery' aspect of this blog.

So, I'd like to tell people about Graciela Chichilnisky. This will be largely based on her article "Sex and the Ivy League", so it's not exactly well-researched or cross-checked.
So first, who is she? She is one of the forerunners of modern mathematical economics, using geometric techniques to build economic models which have had some *huge* shifts in development policy worldwide.

Why do I think she's so admirable? Firstly, she is ridiculously talented. She skipped through college to start a phd in maths early, where in a 'test' year she proved herself by coming top of her class. (This despite raising a 2 year old child by herself and not speaking much english). And the rest of her career seems every bit as impressive.

Secondly, through all of this she remained deeply committed to helping others, to building models of international development that would help poorer countries and give them a more equal footing in the world, and particularly to the concept of sustainable development. She states that "the only genuine source of happiness in life is the feeling of being useful to others", and she really lives this.

Thirdly, she has had to go through some pretty shocking discrimination to get where she is. She says in this article that she recommends a policy of "turning dung into fertiliser" for women suffering discrimination, to take the 'energy' of that discrimination and turn it to their own advantage. When I first read that, it struck me as pretty blase, pretty dismissive, and maybe it's only that easy for her because she is so talented. But reading more about her, I'm realising that she *really* know what discrimination means, and even with her abilities it hasn't been easy.
Professionally, there have been several points in her career when important results have been attributed to male colleagues with serious career-threatening consequences, and spent at least 10 years in litigation against Columbia over pay discrimination. She also suffered more personal discrimination when she found she could not travel to Argentina with her first child - at the time the child would belong entirely to the father, a fact which kept her away from her home and her family at a particularly difficult time in her life. And she seems intent on using these experiences to help other people who are dealing with the same things.

So, Graciela Chichilnisky. She is an amazing mathematical economist as well as a fantastic person, and I would recommend reading more about her. I'm very much planning to myself :o)

Happy Ada Lovelace day everyone o/

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Slogany mittens

Ok, I should post about this now for time reasons.
The idea for this comes from a discussion about Lisa-Anne Auerbach's knitting. LAA knits amazing designs with witty slogans on them, and is quite simply amazing. You can find her on Ravelry, and she also has a couple of websites. Her subjects are usually political, often provocative and always genius. My project won't actually look anything like hers, but I really wanted to plug her work.

So, sloganny mittens. The idea is to have a pair of mittens, with a slogan on each.
On the right:


The motto of the world-state from Brave New World. And on the left:

Avoid Magic!
Be Aware!"

A saying from a short story "Solitude" by Ursula le Guin(in the collection "The Birthday of the World").
The first is the guiding principle behind the perfect(in some sense) human society, in which everyone is cared for and looked after, everyone is content and noone wants for anything. It's also entirely social - noone does anything individually or has(or needs) any privacy.
The second is a saying from what le Guin describes as a society of introverts - they live alone, not intruding on each other, everyone in perfect freedom. The meanings of the three phrases are a little obscure, and exactly what is meant by them is kind of the point of the story(go read it!).
So the two slogans are kind of opposite, but neither is really the whole story by itself - Brave New World is written as a dystopia, this perfect world is in it's own way a nightmare scenario, as would be the world of "Solitude".

I wanted to post this now because I notice radio 4 have a programme about Ursula le Guin up just now - it was broadcast on Tuesday, so folks in the UK will still be able to find it on iPlayer(I think iPlayer is only available in the UK, but I could be wrong?)

That's the plan!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A tank which is also a giraffe

Right, giraffe-tank pictures!
The tank part is made up of a simple block with an angled front and the tracks are garter stitch loops sewn on. I had intended to cover the tracks on top(apparently this is standard in tanks nowadays), but I found the thickness of the tracks would make this too bulky. The head and neck of a giraffe then replaces the turret part.

I like how the giraffe part turned out, but I really think the tank was a bit too simple. The track coverings might have improved this, or it might have been better to extend the giraffe's splotch pattern over the tank. Still, as a nice quick project I'm quite happy with it, and I think it nicely leads the attention towards the giraffe part.
Now, I need to think of something I can actually *do* with this?
(Pictured here with Ray, who happened to be wearing a tank-related t-shirt when I took it along to visit anime-people)

Coming soon - hats. Lots of hats.