Beki Grinter

Archive for the ‘DRAFT’ Category

Knitting and Racism

In DRAFT on February 6, 2019 at 2:31 pm

For a long time, knitting was where I went to get away. It was a place of refuge, disconnecting me from the computer (you can not type and knit). It was a source of calm,  sometimes it’s almost like my hands are working without me, disconnected from my mind. My mind freed to go to other places—often to reflect and remember those who taught me or just to relax and watch the world go by.

More recently, knitting and cross-stitch have become political outlets for me. My way to express values. Women’s rights sewn into cloth or knitted into a hat. Pink, I was told was reclaimed.

Pink was perhaps reclaimed for white women, like me. I read the critiques of the hats. Knitting and other fiber and fabric arts have other ways to exclude, for example, their cost. Forums I read remind me that not everyone can afford all the yarns they would like. I watch with joy as people triumph in finding beautiful yarn in thrift shops, and “like” posts with people who produce amazing things with acrylic yarn.

2019 has seen the knitting community revisit conversations about racism—this time sparked by a blog post written by a knitter. I’ve watched YouTube videos, and read posts, learning as I go. Some of this took place on Instagram, reminding me of its role in the knitting community, and here is a list of POC designers and dyers that I can and will start following. Much of it has been a reminder to be vigilant and thoughtful about how I can promote and support inclusivity in my own knitting practice.

Perhaps most importantly I’ve downloaded a copy of Layla Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” Workbook. I am sure this is going to be a long, difficult journey. But, as a white woman its a journey I need to take.

Beki’s favourite craft tools

In DRAFT on January 3, 2019 at 7:23 pm

It’s been a while, several years since I wrote anything for this blog. I suppose I finally have something to say. It begins sometime in 2018, back when Summer was still refusing to give way to Fall.

I’d been cycling for about a year, by which I mean I’d been using my e-bike as a commute vehicle and tool to be outside in the relentless heat of the Atlanta summer. When I wasn’t cycling to work, I’d been biking to my Local Yarn Store (LYS), The Craftivist in Inman Park. It was in the month of September when temperatures are supposed to drop from the 90s (F not C) that I discovered Topstitch Studio and Lounge, my Local Fabric Store (LFS).

Now at the start of 2019, I find myself with all the fibre arts within cycling distance. My LYS supplies my knitting and crochet needs, while my LFS manages my cross-stitch and sewing habits. This is the most access I’ve had to local supplies for crafts since I was a teenager who worked in Norwich and spent much of my money in the haberdashers on St. Stephens Street. The result is that I am spending much more time making things, including clothes which hasn’t happened since the 1980s.

So, since I last crafted at this level what has changed and what do I love?

  1. My toolbox. I’ve been through three this year, but I’ve finally found one that works for me. It’s a toolbox advertised for professional contractors. It has two shelves in addition to the large container. It’s deep, but not too long or wide. Perfect for keeping everything organised—really that’s a battle with crafting.
  2. Seam guide magnet. It’s a magnet that sticks onto the sewing machine, it helps you sew straight seams by ensuring that you always have the right distance between the edge of your fabric and the needle. It’s the first thing that has ever worked for me, and I’ve tried a lot of different things.
  3. A widescreen monitor (computer implied). I’ve always liked (I say liked, the process is usually one in which I swear a lot, procrastinate, but eventually get on with it) to customise patterns. Tops are too short for me, pockets either don’t exist or are repressively small. So I like to blend patterns. I also like to watch a film while I work. Sometimes I need to stop and watch a YouTube help video. What this means is that I need three windows open, side by side. Two PDFs, or a PDF and website, and then a video window.
  4. Smartphone. This is the tool of choice for knitting get-togethers (a.k.a. stitch-and-bitch). Carrying my pattern, checking a quick video, touching base with Ravelry to make sure that I don’t already own the size needle I’m about to buy again. It also connects me to Instagram, a useful social media platform for the fibre arts I now realise. (It’s also a social media platform that I find somewhat confusing, that’s been interesting.)
  5. Circular cutter. Wow, how did I not know of the existence of a circular cutter? It’s a pizza wheel for fabric and it’s an amazing cutting tool.
  6. The automatic needle threader (any needle threader). When I was a young teenager I always wondered why anyone needed help threading a needle. When I was a slightly older teenager I started to realise that arthritis might make threading needles physically difficult. It’s now as a middle-aged person I understand the importance of light in this process. My automatic needle threader, and the more basic needle threaders, along with those needles that are easier to thread… I understand their value. I’m also grateful for LED lights.
  7. Circular and interchangeable needles. My recollection of knitting needles as a child is that they were long and straight. As a small child, wielding them felt a bit like my first encounters with chopsticks: how am I supposed to make these work? Circular needles are knitting needles that allow you not just to knit round things, but also support knitting very long straight things without having a needle as long as your arm. Interchangeable needles allow you to screw on and off different sized needles.
  8. A glow in the dark crochet hook (or knitting needles). Seriously, it lights up. That must be useful even though I’ve been too embarrassed to use it in public.

I’m really grateful to be reconnecting intensely with my crafting passions. I’m delighted to have two Local F/Y Stores, not just because I can support small business, but also because they are routes to communities of makers. I’ve also felt more acutely how the digital has come to infuse my crafting, not just for help or other practical matters, but also to entertain me as I work. At the same time, some of the things I’ve discovered remind me of how my crafts history is embedded in my family history, how the things I need now are probably what my mother, grandmother, aunts and great aunts would have wanted or used if they were available to them. It reminds me that I was once a young crafter, now I contend with my new physical reality.


10 Reasons People Fail to get a Ph.D.

In DRAFT on January 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

list of reasons people fail to get a Ph.D., I can think of others but those are largely circumstances beyond an individual’s control. This list focuses on things you can control, but require discipline to do so.


C21U Launch

In DRAFT on September 27, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Today I attended the C21U launch event. C21U is Richard DeMillo’s new center, focused on the future of the University. The launch event was keynoted by Jonathan Cole (former Provost at Columbia an author of the Great American University).

After his keynote and some remarks by Rich about the center, there was a panel on the future of higher education with Jonathan Cole, Stephen Cross (Executive Vice President for Research, GT), Devin Fidler (Institute for the Future), Alan Kay (President, Viewpoints Research Institute), Roger Schank (Executive Director and Founder of Engines for Education Inc, and Chairman and CEO of Socratic Arts, Inc) and Lynne Weisenbach (Vice Chancellor, Educator Preparation, University System of Georgia). The panel was moderated by Jeffrey Selingo (Editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education).

As I said, the focus was on the future of Higher Education, a future that I’m particularly vested in. I think Jonathan Cole got at the heart of a paradox, which is that for all the successes of American Universities, they have never been the subject of as much discussion about their future, and whether it’s in peril or not as now. What’s the role of technology? What’s the role of a University? What is education? Whom do we serve and why? Are the expectations of our multiple constituencies aligned, and if not where not? These were all questions I heard today. I was glad to be there. When the materials are available online (above) its worth a watch. There will be disagreements, but as one of the panelists put it, if the extreme things aren’t said how can they be thought about in discourse.

A Teaching Philosophy

In DRAFT on September 22, 2011 at 1:33 pm

From the Chronicle of Higher Education, a piece on teaching philosophy.

I resonate very strongly with the idea that teaching is a performance and the more you put in, the more the students and instructor get out of it. I think that my viewing it as a performance is why I get so nervous right before the first class. Who are the audience? Will they respond? They’re a new to me. The source of my anxieties.

And I find myself agreeing with the last part too. At the end of the semester I don’t like to say goodbye (although I am usually pretty exhausted with the semester) but the routine encounters are hard to let go of. They’ve become part of my weekly patterns. I’ve learned what to expect of them. I know who will laugh if I make joke, and who won’t. Who’ll stay behind to talk to me, and likely what they will talk about. Through their assignments and projects I get glimpses into their interests and passions, and less often insight into domains of non-passion.

I’m glad someone’s written this. Good teaching obviously begins with mastery of the material, but it doesn’t end there. It ends with a whole set of human-centered concerns, the ones that give the richness of face to face teaching its values, once those nerves abate.

Slow Science

In DRAFT on August 4, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’ve just found out about the Slow Science movement. Their argument, which is fairly thin on the ground at this point (perhaps they are taking time to think about it), is that Science has been sped up too much and actually needs to precede more slowly. There are critiques from Scientific American and the Atlantic which I thought were more thoughtful, because they go into more detail about what might be both good and problematic about the slow science movement’s stance.

I found reading these to be a good pause and think moment and an opportunity to reflect once again not just on what we do, but how we do it, the circumstances in which it is done (the resources, the institutions) all of which influence the outcomes. If I have a critique of the slow science movement is that the critiques of it do a better job of surfacing the context in which science occurs than the Slow Science movement. And also that without that contextualization, the Slow Science movement seems to suggest some independence from those contexts.

A Call for Immigration Reform:

In DRAFT on July 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Whoever posts Barack Obama’s Facebook statuses posted this today:

Quote of the day: “Immigrants today have great ideas that can change the world. The question is whether they will develop them in the United States or somewhere else. Our immigration system should be designed to encourage talented people to study in the United States and start companies here.”—Austan Goolsbee, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, on the need for comprehensive immigration reform

Sounds great. But every action that Washington takes (and those they fail to take) around the debt ceiling convinces me that this Congress in particular can’t tackle anything as substantive as immigration reform because to do that they’d would have to be willing to negotiate, listen and compromise. I fear that immigration reform discourse devolve into the same old tropes regardless of whether they are the actual problems. As a fairly new American this realization disappoints me more than anything else.

When not to Design

In DRAFT on July 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

I just finished reading (finally) Baumer and Silberman’s CHI 2011 note “When the Implication is not to Design (Technology).” I should say from the outset that I thought their treatment of Susan’s research was very thoughtful and thought-provoking, as well as kind. But I liked the paper even without that extra plus. I’ve been wondering for a while what the boundaries of HCI research might be. Where should we stop? That’s the question I see them taking up. I liked their questions to ask to think through the question of whether a novel technology is useful.

Of course, and as they also point out, it might be worth building that system anyway, but not for usefulness perse, but for a demonstration and proof of a different technical concept/approach/technique. Even though I am far more involved in empirical HCI, I think usefulness is sometimes harmful. (Hmm… useful considered harmful…). There are other outcomes for HCI. Learning in any form about the human-technology experience and what it takes to create, sustain, evolve, etc…

Finally it reminded me about failures. I’ve been reading up in the area of ICTD. A number of scholars have called for more studies of failure. This paper makes the same claim for HCI. I agree. If we are really interested in the human experience of technology then understanding how we, and others, continue to create poor examples, despite what we have learned, seems interesting to me. Indeed, I wonder whether we can ever really eradicate failures, or whether we can only come to predict them with more accuracy and timeliness.

HCIC: Domains of Influence?

In DRAFT on July 7, 2011 at 4:35 am

I recently attended the Human Computer Interaction Consortium (HCIC) meeting at Asilomar, California. The last two years have been devoted to discussing the many different “ways of knowing” within HCI. I interpreted that, hopefully correctly, as understanding the methodological diversity that comprises HCI.

During the workshop I learnt about the importance of disciplinary location. It matters to people that HCI exist within a broader discipline, and that can be Computer Science, Information, and likely others. It’s taken me a while to process this, but it now strikes me that perhaps HCIC should consider a ways of knowing workshop that is about how disciplinary location shapes problem formulation and solution.

I offer myself as a modest example. When I was an HCI researcher in Software Engineering, I was very influenced by the domain of Software Engineering in problem formulation. Reflecting on this and the problems I have worked on, I would say that I have been more influenced by my disciplinary location and who was nearby than methods. Indeed, the methods I have used to solve problems has probably changed less.

I am now in a School of Interactive Computing, and in a College of Computing. That continues to influence what interests me, where I see opportunities. I wonder what it would be to have people come talk about their inspirations based on their disciplinary location.

Good Beer and Strange Plumbing

In DRAFT on June 30, 2011 at 3:32 pm

I’m packing in preparation for travel to England tomorrow. Clearly the beer is obvious. It requires no explanation to defend the virtues of a real pint.But strange plumbing might.It’s my experience that every single shower in the United Kindgom has a unique mode of operation. Quite frequently this involves enough knobs and dials that one is unclear whether one is attempting to shower or actually participating in the next launch of some rocket. My least favourite of all the settings is the one that the nanny state has provided to tell you how hot it’s going to be… although sometimes after 15-20 minutes of fiddling around with it, you can sometimes get it hotter. And this is important because that is the route to getting a hot shower. The nanny state prefers tepid. I just don’t want the Government in my shower (does that make me a libertarian?).

Which is not a problem in my parent’s “guest shower” which maybe the pinnacle of eccentricity. The “guest shower” is approximately 1 square foot. You think I joke, but it is quite hard to move your arms in such a way that you can rub in shampoo. Another “feature” of this shower is that the hot water appears to be hooked up to a boiler in Eaton (the next village on from Cringleford). You turn the shower on, and then wait, and wait, and wait. I know a thousand environmentalists are weeping as they read this. Fortunately it is the guest shower so it’s not used too often, and my parents are trying to redeem themselves by disconnecting their exterior gutters from the drains and diverting all the water that comes in into a large barrel (thank you local brewery). So if you wondered, no we’re not brewing at my house, we’re just watering the lawn.

So after some time you get hot water (their defence for this is that life is slower in Norfolk and good things are worth waiting for). And it is hot. So you attempt to mix the controls to bring in some cold water. They were set very approximately and apparently like to move around during the course of the shower. So after waiting it is an incentive to get done in less than 2 minutes in which you will have experienced hot, cold, and everything else in between.

I think this shower may win an award for its eccentricity. But despite that, I’m so excited to go, looking forward to seeing them, sampling life in Norfolk which is a bootiful county… I guess I am a Norfolk lass.