January 2011 Archives

Gendered trouser issues

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My phone just fell out of my pocket, crashing to the floor, losing its battery and back, as well as dislodging its SIM card. Why? Because I'm wearing pants designed for people who aren't supposed to keep things in their pockets. And by that, I mean to say that I'm wearing pants designed for women.

Women, as we know, are supposed to carry purses. We don't keep our phones or wallets in our pockets because, on many of our traditional garments, there are no pockets. Even on garments which might be at home to pockets (trousers and jeans, for example), the full pocket potential is not met. On trousers, they are avoided, because they might disturb the line of the garment. On jeans they're marginal at best, allowing very little actual storage space.

I'd go so far as to call it gendered personal storage determinism. Because adequate pockets are not provided on garments designed for women, women are forced to come up with workarounds for the transportation of their personal effects. So often, this takes the form of a purse, reinforcing the place of the purse in the daily kit of women. Without equal access to pockets, women are forced into a vicious cycle of purse ownership (or voluntary simplicity).

One day, the pile of books will slip and crush me

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Below, the continuing progress of my desk, as it gets increasingly covered in work. This is from Monday. It's slightly worse now. The big news this week, though, is that second computer you see on the left-ish edge of the image. It's new and exciting, but troublesome. You see, I'm being a more conscientious geek. I'm attempting to switch from Ubuntu to Fedora. It's turning out to be a wee bit slow going, thanks to lots of things that need tweaking. More on that later, though.

Below, you'll see the ever-growing pile of books; the also apparently growing collection of computers; a little bit of the colour-chemistry work space; a roll of sticky vinyl being used for a computer prettification project; the continually changing selection of foods that can be prepared with the aid of a kettle, for when living off lattes becomes impractical or sickening; the shaker of standard-issue vegan seasoning salt, for when the convenient but boring astronaut soup becomes too boring.

More news as the situation develops.


Turning frustration into a clean house

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During my undergraduate education, there was a common phenomenon around exam time. The majority of my friends (mostly the women) had spotless apartments and unending supplies of baked goods. It was as if the favoured coping mechanism for stress was domesticity.

I got to thinking about this a little bit in December, when I had roughly five different projects on the go and an entertainingly stress-filled time in my personal life. Despite all the work I had to do, my house was spotless, I had a brief mania for home improvement, and I began to not only keep fresh flowers in the kitchen, but created a complete flower life cycle which involved transitioning wilting flowers to dry conditions in order to ease them into their final state: pot pourri.

All of this seems a little strange to me. I'm used to living among piles of books, computers, chemicals and tools. I don't even like pot pourri.

I'd like to posit, just now, that perhaps some people (I can't really define who) use domesticity as a refuge. Maybe it's a subset of the idea of "clean house, clean mind." But it's a little interesting. Is it just women? Mostly women? Is it a habit of young women, or does it carry across ages and generations? Why do so many university-age women procrastinate during exam time by baking? Most importantly, why the heck do I sublimate agitation into a desire to clean up my living space? When I know that I have any number of things to do, why do I feel the urge to set them to the side and make my house attractive?
Slowly but surely, all parts of my life which are not related to work, research, research-related work or work-related research, are being taken over by the parts which do relate to those areas. Here, a photo of the evidence. This photo illustrates: the state of my space, as of 8PM on a Friday night; dinner (note the hummus, crackers, fizzy water and barely visible posh chocolate bar for later snacking); my expensive beverage intake from the last eight hours, as indicated by disposable cup tower; the stack of books for this week (colour theory from artistic and scientific standpoints, histories of the development of standardized weights and measures, Bruno Latour's Laboratory Life); computer, displaying article about a novel way of teaching physics teachers to teach physics to their students; a structure made of chicken wire and bits of pipe, used for storing things like mugs and mittens.

All of this makes up my current habitat. On more productive days, there's no food on the pile, because I've gotten through the books in time to go home and actually cook. Today is not one of those productive days.

Oh yes, this is where the magic happens.


A little less vapour: cross-posted from OCS blog

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Given that I've been working on the Open Colour Standard for two years, it's easy to assume (if you're not as intimately involved with it as I am) that it's not really going anywhere. The good news is that that couldn't be farther from the truth. It's just that the physicality of the project, by necessity, makes it pretty darn complicated and time consuming.

However, in the spirit of dispersing some of the apparent vapourousness, I'm going to share some pictures of what's happening right now, in my ad hoc laboratory. Since the big task right now is coming up with a good foundational set of colours for a couple of different applications, I've been focusing on acid dye (for animal protein-based textiles and some synthetics) and screen printing ink. Below, some of the tools involved in that development.


labimplements.png1. Box for pH meter, which stresses the ISO 9001 compliance of the company which manufactures the meter; 2. Test swatches of dye on both paper and wool; 3. Commercial, semi-permanent hair dye (for use as a pH comparison for successful cold dying of animal proteins); 4. Instructions for calibration and maintenance of pH meter; 5. Packets of FD&C dye powder (purchased from hobbyist soap making company); 6. pH meter (from scientific supply store); 7. Rack of FD&C dye packets; 8. Storage solution for pH meter; 9. Buffer solution for pH meter; 10. Tester inks made of FD&C dye solution (solution, combined with clear extender base for screen printing); 11. FD&C dye solution; 12. Thermometer (actually intended for cooking); 13. Spatulas, droppers and Pyrex measuring cup; 14. Jar of citric acid crystals, wrapped in plastic bag (purchased from textile dye supply store).