Gender, Technology, and the Desk Job

I’m inspired by the speakers at Textile Messages earlier tonight, an event about e-textiles organized by Yasmin Kafai at UPenn.  One of the speakers, Leah Buechley, developer of the Lilypad Arduino, is also speaking tomorrow at a UArts/Hive76 event that I wish I could make it to.  The Lilypad took the Arduino idea and put it in a sewable form that gave e-textiles a big kick in the pants.  E-textiles or soft circuits are exciting for a lot a reasons that deserve their own exploration, but suffice it to say that what gets me gesticulating excitedly is the idea of mashing up different audiences with fluency in different technologies.  Putting electronics in crafts/clothing/sewing gives it a new accessibility, and gives it access to new creative thinkers.  By clearing a path for crafters and sewers to start thinking about conductivity and sensors, soft circuits make space for electronics (especially … Read the rest

Crowdsourcing my thesis: Wanna be a reader?

Dear friends, colleagues, strangers and spammers,

Around Monday-ish, I’ll have a 2nd draft of my Capstone project for a Master of Environmental Studies ready for reading. I (mostly) have the readers I need to get a grade, but I’d love to have input from more folks. You are qualified if you can read and if you have any interest at all in technology and/or the earth. One friend has already commented that my writing style is kind of journalistic and that it’s almost an enjoyable read. If you have the time and inkling to read about 45 pages of double-spaced content about e-waste, rare earths, and environmental justice and policy, please comment or email me! My final revisions are due May 3, though I might be able to make minor tweaks up until May 10 or so.

Thanks!… Read the rest

“Soldering is Easy!” Comic Book


There’s a great new comic about how to solder by Mitch Altman, Andie Nordgren and Jeff “Mightyohm” Keyzer . It’s based on a one-pager that Andie and Mitch made last year, and it’s totally cute and informative. It’s a fantastic example of friendly tech ed, and it’s shareable under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license.* Apparently the comic will be part of a book on microcontrollers for beginners that Mitch and Jeff are publishing through No Starch Press later this year.

Here’s the pdf, and check out Jeff’s site for copies in other formats and languages, and even a no-text version if you want to make your own translation.

* Thanks to Asheesh for his characteristically astute request for clarity on the type of CC licence.  Jeff says that folks “are free to teach with it, color it, modify it, share it with your friends, translate it, and … Read the rest

New word: Make-cation

With compliments to–and on the urging of–new friend and awesome electrical engineer/artist Sophi Kravitz, I give you my new word:

Make-cation – 1.  Time off to make stuff.  2.  The stuff you do when you’re procrastinating to avoid the other stuff you’re doing.

Usage: 1.  “Argh, I’m working so much lately that I don’t have time to do anything creative.  I need a make-cation!”  2.  “I’m taking a quick make-cation from writing my thesis to whip up a batch of milk paint.”

Example: When you take a week off for carpentry, cabinetry, or welding classes at the Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Vermont, that’s a make-cation.

On make-cation at Yestermorrow
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Not So Funny: April Fools and Rare Earths

Update: I’ve done a bunch more reading on this since I wrote it and I don’t totally agree with everything I said anymore. Specifically, the monopoly was a long time coming and export quotas have been ticking down since 2005. Yes, the market failed, but China’s export quotas may have as much to do with protecting natural resources as sending a message to the market. Will file an update soon.

Today we got some awesome lulz and a few, well, less awesome, being the first day of the fourth month which is dedicated to chicanery and such.

Tonight I was reading up on mining and recycling of rare earth metals like the stuff in super strong magnets, wind turbines, hybrid car batteries, compact fluorescents and LEDs. I found a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report about rare earths in the defense supply chain. Strangely, it was published on April Fools Day … Read the rest