Tag Archives: knitting

usbkeynecklace

Are all female programmers also knitters?

Like many geeks, I’m a big fan of making things or hacking them to suit my needs. A friend recently asked if all female programmers are also knitters, and while I think that’s unlikely (I only learned to knit two weeks ago, and I’ve been a programmer for getting close to two decades), it does make a lot of sense that people who are good at writing code might be drawn to other types of patterns such as the algorithms used to generate knitted and crocheted items. What do you think?

And while I’ve got the maker spirit, here’s two three geeky things I made this week:

16g necklace

This hardly counts as something I made, as all I did was make a little circle of wire to attach this very shiny USB key to a necklace, but the end result is a reasonably cheap and totally functional piece of geeky jewelry. Bonus: the USB key is waterproof, so I don’t have to worry about it getting wet if I get caught in a downpour or sprint all the way to work.

Kindle Fire Case

I’m not usually an early adopter for hardware since it’s so easy to get burned, but I snagged a Kindle Fire before Christmas and haven’t regretted it. What I *do* regret is that cases can be so darned expensive! I learned to knit less than a week before making this, so it’s clearly a project suitable for a beginner. Instructions here for those who like patterns (or just want to know what yarn that is).

Edit: I forgot another geeky thing I made last week on the plane:
Penguin Ball

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve crocheted a lot of Angry Birds as an excuse to play games with strangers and friends alike. The round penguin pattern I made as an extension of that for when I was playing “real life Angry Birds” around open source folk, as a reference to the Linux penguin. This is one of a bunch I made for the Pycon sprints, where I gave them out to my fellow GNU Mailman developers. If you want to make your own, it’s a very quick project: I wrote the pattern up here.


So… while all female programmers probably aren’t also knitters, I know there’s a lot of makers of various stripes within the Geek Feminism community. Please tell us about the cool things you’ve been making in the comments below!

It’s not a gender issue, it’s a linkspam issue (25th March, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Interview with Indymedia sys admin Kristina Clair

Yesterday the EFF reported on a “secret” subpoena served by the U.S. government on Kristina Clair, the sysadmin for the independent news site indymedia.us. The subpoena demanded information on all IP traffic for the site. It also demanded that Clair keep the request secret.

With free legal help from the EFF, the subpoena was dropped and the secrecy order abandoned. Take a look at this long report by an EFF Senior Staff Attorney, which goes into fascinating detail.

Kristina Clair with handknitted scarf

Kristina Clair with handknitted scarf

Right on Kristina, for not keeping logs of IP addresses in the first place, and for standing up for First Amendment rights. It seems well in keeping with The System Administrators’ Code of Ethics as well as with the EFF’s Best Practices for Online Service Providers.

I thought geekfeminism readers might be interested in more of Kristina’s story, so I asked her a few questions over email.

Here’s the interview!

Liz: When you got the subpoena, how and when did you decide to contact the EFF? Did you talk it over first with others? What was it like to call the EFF and ask for their help?

Kristina: Actually, someone who helps admin the server asked a general question on an Indymedia mailing list, and they recommended the EFF for Indymedia-related legal questions.

I was definitely completely clueless about any legal processes, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to talk to them and say, ‘Hey I got this thing and I have no idea what to do about it’. But they were completely helpful from the beginning and made me feel comfortable right away.

Liz: As a sys admin, how did you decide *not* to keep IP logs?

Kristina: It’s standard imc policy. It’s standard policy for anyone that wants to keep their visitors’ information private.

Liz: Is there any use of IPs of your sites’ visitors that the site owners or you might find useful? In other words, what factors might make you want to keep IPs?

Kristina: I can only speak for myself – I’ve found IP addresses to be useful for debugging. Sometimes the only way I’ve been able to track down an error in Apache’s error log and tie it to a page visit by the IP. I’ve also used IPs to track down hacker behavior on servers, but that’s not always reliable because hackers often connect from several places.

I think generally IP addresses are used for statistical data – the country, mainly. But I think if you really wanted that data but didn’t want to store IP addresses you could find a way to do it.

Liz: Is your work for Indymedia volunteer? Do you do similar work for other organizations? Personally, I tend to do a bunch of back end support work for nonprofits and organizations that I like. Do you have any advice for other volunteer sys admins and web hosts?

Kristina: Yes, Indymedia work is volunteer. I also do some volunteer work for riseup.

I tend to not do too much support for other organizations because my skillset is not desktop-oriented, and that’s generally what they need. I’m completely useless setting up a windows network or setting up a printer or things like that!

The common advice for volunteer work is to have good boundaries with it so that it doesn’t burn you out.

Liz: What are your thoughts in general about free speech, privacy, technology, activism and so on?

Kristina: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal information and privacy. There is one train of thought I’ve been interested in for the last several months which is more personal than activist: before computers and emails and blogs, people commonly wrote letters and kept written journals. These things were not things that are necessarily accessible to anyone except those who had physical access. They were private. when that person died,they would go to a family member, probably. Now, these types of things are often not even things that we own ourselves. Most people have email or blogs hosted on someone else’s server, and while they can still access that information, it’s not quite the same as having it physically on paper. That’s a huge history of personal communication that is sitting on a hard drive somewhere, connected to the Internet.

There is something to this that I haven’t quite been able to articulate,but that’s where my interest has been lately in regards to technology and privacy.

I guess where it starts to matter is that, at least in my mind, there is some degree to which all of this information is public, regardless of what information someone wants to be public — obviously people want their blogs public! Privacy is really hard to think about and protect when non-privacy is so convenient. It’s important to me to help provide alternatives for people who want to use the Internet but are concerned about privacy.

Finally, doing all of this in a way that supports freedom of information and open source keeps things really interesting.

In the past, in the activist realm I’ve done a lot more work having to do with accessibility, particularly in regards to gender in IT.I’ve done a lot of work with the genderchangers (genderchangers.org) and the eclectic tech carnival, which are both based in Europe. Both groups focus on technology education for women.there is also a project which I helped create called systerserver, which is a Linux server administered by women for the purposes of learning. Due to some hardware troubles, this project has been moving forward slowly lately.

Liz: It looks like you’re part of LinuxChix and other local Philadelphia computing organizations. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with them and what the Linux/FLOSS scene is like in Philly?

I haven’t been actively involved in LinuxChix for quite some time, actually. I’ve been a bit of a lone wolf here – all of my collaborators and coworkers live elsewhere.

Liz: Have you experienced any particular sexism or solidarity in your field?

Yes, lots and lots of sexism. My favorite examples of this are when I’ve received emails that begin with “Dear Sir,” in reply to an email that I’ve sent and signed with my name.

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of positive experiences with men in the field, however. The person who taught me Perl is male, and I’m currently doing some work with the riseup collective whose members are extremely aware of gender issues in the field and take active steps to discourage it.

Liz: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, personal history or interests, what kind of work you do, and so on?

I’ve been working in web hosting for about 10 years, mostly programming Perl and administering linux servers. Recently I’ve been working with ruby and ruby on rails on the crabgrass project.

I’m protective of my time and spend as little time as possible in front of a computer, though! I have balanced it out by extremely physically-oriented activities like cooking, knitting, sewing, and yoga.

Liz: What are your favorite Linux distros?

I like CentOS and Debian for servers, and I use Ubuntu for a desktop (I really like Ubuntu 9.10).

Thanks to Kristina for the interview!

Open Thread: First Fun with String

I first learned cat’s cradle from other little kids on the playground in kindergarten. Through elementary school, yarn and string fads would sweep the playground. We’d do cat’s cradle, finger crochet, or string figures. Some other kid in Detroit taught me four-finger knitting.

Like hand-clapping games and jumprope rhymes, string figures are passed from young girl to young girl over decades and centuries. Older women teach these games too and of course also teach knitting, weaving, and other textile crafts. But think about how great it is that kids teach each other this complicated, geeky skill.

At some point I realized that most guys didn’t even know how to make a braid, much less the complicated ways to do fingerloop braiding, and that most women, and most girls, in the U.S. of my generation, could braid, single crochet, and do particular string figures. That seemed quite odd, since U.S. society hasn’t depended on women doing textile work by hand for many years. Yet it’s still ingrained very deep that it’s something we teach each other.

It strikes me we could learn something crucial, as geeky feminists, from the pattern of how knowledge is passed on between young girls, and how that is presented to them and by them as gendered knowledge – as something “girls know how to do”.

Single crochet is just making a loop with your fingers and thumb, and tying the same sliding knot over and over. It teaches the skill of maintaining tension on a strand. It’s easy enough to teach to a very small child, and it’s useful skill for life to make a weak cord into a stronger, thicker one.

Four-finger knitting seems a bit more rare in the world of playground games with yarn. I remember being absolutely fascinated with the way it worked, how the structure would evolve as it got longer, falling from the back of my hand like the rib cage and spine of a very long dinosaur, then would magically change to a knitted tube once I’d finish it and pull it taut.

Cat’s cradle I learned very early, maybe around 4 years old. Later, around 5th grade, I tried to make drawings of the possible configurations; the cradle, the manger, the candles, the diamonds, cat’s eye, and the other ones I didn’t have names for, and charts of how they connected to each other. It was hard to graph out, and now in poking around on the net, I don’t see any such graph. Let me know if you make one or find one! It is also interesting to find how-tos that try to develop a vocabulary like that of knitting to describe the actions and name the sections of the bits of string as they change.

Here’s some string figures I learned from other girls:

* Cat’s Whiskers
* Jacob’s Ladder
* Crow’s Feet
* Something I called “Pitchfork” but which is often done today as “Pick a banana”
* Handcuff (called “Hand Catch” here)
* Something I called “Pinwheel”.
* Cup and Saucer

string!

What figures did you make? How did you learn them? Can you still do them, and do you teach them to anyone? What are the popular string figures of your childhood and culture? If you like, post a photo of yourself with it, or attempt to describe how it’s done!

Geeky things to do with bits of string

I knit. Sometimes I crochet, and sometimes I sew, but mostly, lately, I knit. My Nanna taught me when I was a kid, and I’ve done it on and off ever since.

Sometimes people look at me funny for liking textile crafts, as if it were a strangely un-reconstructed 50s housewife sort of thing to be into. I disagree, but let’s save that for some other time.

Instead, have some geeky things made out of string:

Got any more to add to the list?