Sunday, April 17, 2005

I'm concerned about conferences with serious gender imbalances, much like Kathy Sierra and Shelley Powers with their recent posts on ETech. However, it's not ETech I'm thinking of.

To put it bluntly, a knitting conference can be hostile to men. The interaction style is touchy-feely -- women walk right up to strangers and fondle their knitted garments, invading personal space. Although some have said that men aren't discouraged from attending and in fact receive positive attention for being there, this can be of the form of "How nice it is to have men attending", "Is this knitting book for your mother?" (ref) and "I'm sure your wife will love this yarn.

All the instructors at knitting conferences are female, and one wonders if the mostly-female program committee could have something to do with that. In the expos or markets, one finds patterns for shawls, purses and female garments. Although some of the market vendors are male, they are clearly there as "booth bunnies", to attract women to look at the yarn. Some of the male vendors are even pressured to wear demeaning and ridiculous knitted vests.

What can we do about it? Well, we can be more equal in our language, for a start. Articles like this, although mentioning a few knitting men, are given titles like "The yarn is flying as more women discover the joys of knitting." Vendors like Habu textiles are taking a step in the right direction, offering stainless steel yarn, which is sure to appeal to men. Joe, a male knitter, has some other great ideas, such as making the act of knitting into more of a competition.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Researching Bali, found this:

The once beautiful Bale’s and other buildings have long since fell into a state of disrepair. It was as if the villagers had ‘locked-on’ to the ring of the till from the tourist dollar. This was more than evident when I had a short but sharp conversation with one of the souvenir sellers:

Tourist: I was here 18 years ago and I am surprised at the change in the village.

Seller: (Abrupt tone) What’s wrong with the village?. Now I have a motorbike. We have TV and electricity and... a phone!

It was my point precisely! Too many cultures in this world are decimated by the tourist dollar. Not only that, the intrusion of the modern world has an overall affect upon the social, religious and political aspects of that society. So much so that it literally forces the entire socio-cultural structure to undergo a metamorphosis in order for adaptation. Having said that, tourism is good for the state of the economy in any country. However, when it has a serious affect on the core culture of that country, then it becomes disadvantageous.

Much as I'd love to visit other countries and have them be all picturesque and unique, I can't begrudge a Balinese his motorbike, TV, electricity and phone. I wouldn't give up my conveniences to live in the style of my grandmother, nor would I appreciate pressure to maintain the religion of my ancestors. A tourist like this one would have to stop being a tourist (being one of those intrusions), go back to the country of his own ancestors, give up his own conveniences etc. for me to take those sentiments seriously.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Philippe pointed me to David Berlind's list of Technology's top ten failures. Two of them are directly about calendar standards, asking for the ability to schedule meetings and share calendars. Another two are email related. Good news, David, we're working on the calendaring standards, and calendar and email implementation issues for you, already. Sorry I can't -- personally -- help you with phones and printing problems just yet.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Who is your favorite Philosopher?

Ekr points out that the question "Who's your favorite philosopher" does not have an analogue in all fields. In highly technical fields, you wouldn't ask "Who's your favorite cryptographer" or "Who's your favorite biologist". OTOH it's common for musicians to talk about their favorite pianist or favorite composer, for painters to have a favorite painter, and for writers to be asked about their favorite writer (it's a formula interview question particularly for writers). So I guess that means that in not only asking the question but insisting on it as a valid or important question, David Brooks is implying that philosophers are like artists, their work subject to aesthetic judgements, preferences and stylistic likes and dislikes. I'm not sure that's what he intended in bringing attention to the question.

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