A Sanguine Neurastheniac

Entries from April 2011

Gender, Technology, and the Desk Job

April 22, 2011 · 2 Comments

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 sensors) in the minds of people with different expertise.  Soft circuits (and play dough circuits and slime circuits) give electronics a new physical vocabulary.

As a result, conductivity and computing are undergoing an invigorating re-think.  Crafters don’t think about circuits the same way electrical engineers do, and they are free to ask new and compelling questions and demand innovative solutions.

Anyway, that’s a whole ‘nother thing but one undeniable outcome of the e-textile movement is that it has massively increased womens’ use of microcontrollers.  According to Leah’s dissertation, makers of high-visibility projects with Arduino are about 86% male and 2% female, while Lilypad user are 25% male and 65% female.  (The genders of the rest of the users couldn’t be determined.)  You can read more of Leah and Benjamin Mako Hill’s work over here.

So it got me thinking again about gender and tech, which is coming up a lot this year.  There’s some big stuff in the works.  I’ve been meaning to post my notes from the UN panel that I spoke on in March, and now’s a good time to start. The talk is split into 3 sections about the professional, volunteer, and leadership positions I’ve been in.  Here, I’ll start with the professional bit.

But first, please enjoy this awesome NSF-funded study called “Stemming the Tide:  Why Women Leave Engineering” and the author’s great summary.  A hat-tip to Tracey Welson-Rossman from TechGirlz who hipped me to the study:

As noted in our research, it’s a myth that women undertake rigorous educational training and join the workforce only to quit their jobs for ‘lifestyle reasons.’ Most cannot afford to or even want to quit. Stymied by long-standing institutional and structural barriers and entrenched gender stereotypes at work, many women professionals often alter their career trajectories and seek to satisfy their career ambitions in workplaces that respect, promote, and leverage their skills and talents. Again, not very different from what men do.

Ok.  Now on to my 2 cents about it as a woman and sysadmin.


Categories: Gender tech and
Tagged: , , ,

Crowdsourcing my thesis: Wanna be a reader?

April 14, 2011 · 1 Comment

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.


Categories: Thesis
Tagged: ,

“Soldering is Easy!” Comic Book

April 12, 2011 · 2 Comments

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 basically do whatever you like with it!”  So, yes, get started on that Hindi version if you fancy.  :-)

Categories: Tech Ed
Tagged: , ,

New word: Make-cation

April 11, 2011 · Leave a Comment

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

Categories: Making stuff
Tagged: ,

Best auto-complete of the day

April 7, 2011 · Leave a Comment

Wanted: “US Department of Defense”.

Got: “US Department of Deficiencies.”

Inches away from a completed thesis draft…

Categories: Thesis · Uncategorized
Tagged: ,

Not So Funny: April Fools and Rare Earths

April 1, 2011 · 2 Comments

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 one year ago.


Categories: Thesis
Tagged: , ,