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Internet Blackout #SOPAStrike

January 18, 2012 Leave a comment

As you are hopefully already aware, the U.S. Congress is planning to vote on two bills on January 24th, 2012: the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House of Representatives, and a corresponding PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate.

I could write on the dangers that such a vague bill, written and co-sponsored by frankly technology-illiterate politicians, poses for a free and open Internet in general, and more specifically for many of the people in my personal sphere and for myself. A vague bill means innumerable opportunities to abuse the laws written in it in the interests of whoever can pay the legal fees.

I could write about all of this, but others have already written much more eloquently and clearly than I could. Here are some resources. I hope you will read and sign the petition. Today, January 18th, many sites will be on a blackout strike to make their own opinions on SOPA/PIPA clear.

The proposed bills:

Articles and letters on the proposed bills:

Petition sites:

A very small selection of the sites that are participating in the blackout strike:

[Edits:]

Interesting new development: a comment made by reddit user owsmanifesto.

Here is the full text of the bill they referenced: H.R. 1981

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Categories: admin, geekpost, links

More Max whip photos

December 18, 2010 2 comments

One of the things on my short to-do list while I was in Seattle was to take more photos of the whip I made for Max.  I ended up taking them on a table with really strong sunlight, so they’re a little higher contrast than I’d like, but here are two that turned out alright:

Categories: geekpost, photos

Education Revolution

November 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Education has been on my mind a lot lately. Specifically, the state of most education systems in the world.  A pretty hefty subject, but it seems to have continually cropped up within my social networking sphere the past couple months.

I ran across two of William Deresiewicz’s essays, one titled “The Disadvantages of an Elite Education,” and the second, “What are You Going to Do with That?”  Both gave me a lot to think about, in terms of my own educational history, the paths I’ve chosen to take along the way, as well as the outward factors that influenced those decisions.

The two essays reminded me of another I’d read years ago when I was seeing M, who was very education-focused, as he was the co-owner of an ESL school.  I learned a lot through M, and he pointed me to the essayist, VC, and entrepreneur Paul Graham.  The essay I remember is the one entitled “How to Do What You Love.”

At the same time that I was discovering these articles, I also came across the wonderful RSA Animate series.  I saw the video on changing Education Paradigms:

 

And immediately went in search of more information on Sir Ken Robinson.  That was how I came across his two TEDTalks on radically changing the education system:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

And finally, another TEDTalk, this time by Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs:

Random thoughts:

I agree, quite emphatically, with all of them.  I have only my personal history and observations to draw on, but I believe the education system is irreparably flawed and in need of radical change.  While I was trained and cultivated throughout my childhood precisely to succeed in the linear model of the current system, it was rarely a satisfying experience except when I took those classes that completely deviated from the norm.

From William Deresiewicz’s essays I find a lot that strikes a chord in me, along with a bit of residual bitterness and dissatisfaction with my college experience.  But it is equally true that I’m grateful for opportunity to go to college without incurring nearly the level of debt that many of my peers faced after graduation (before disowning me for the second time, my mother almost completely covered my academic fees).

Although it was an unpleasant experience at the time, I now see that event – being disowned and the withdrawal of financial support – as probably the most useful in helping me break free of my mother’s influence over my future and my decisions.  I saw clearly her overwhelming desire to simultaneously see me as an adult and keep me continually semi-dependent on her, in the often distorted way that parents define and express their love.

I was also able to feel less guilty about breaking off the path she’d so carefully cultivated for me ever since I was born.  I have since made a lot of pretty crazy decisions, like driving across the country without knowing where I’d end up.  I’ve made my share of mistakes, of course, but in the long run I’ve been incalculably happier than I think I ever would have been with the options that were laid out for me by familial precedence.  I am constantly amazed that things seem to be working out, and this is, I believe, because of the narrow model of success I’d been taught.

Now, whenever I see my family, my mother often remarks that I will likely be the one with the lowest degree in our household.  I never have a response to that, but I sincerely cannot believe that the pursuit of an advanced degree is the right choice for me right now.  Still, it’s hard to take her sometimes scathing comments, even though I understand her motivation is to shame me into “making more of myself.”

I came to another realization while reading and listening to all of these thoughts: I have, since entering college, felt a kind of self-loathing and sense of being a fake or fraud for enrolling at such a prestigious school.  Although my primary interests lay in the arts, especially in graphic arts and design, and despite the fact that I endeavored to take an art class almost every term, I never put much weight on the talents I had in visual media; it wasn’t a real or useful life skill.  Yet I also never felt compelled to pursue more lucrative options.  I defaulted to biology, because at least I was also interested in ecology, and because Jane Goodall had been my childhood idol.  It was also a safe choice that my family could accept – biology could mean a path to a medical field.  But I never felt truly immersed in the material except during labs or outdoor excursions.

It’s only now, two years out of the academic sphere, that I can finally admit to myself how much more I’m actually interested in things that fall under the often-stigmatized heading of “skilled labor” – things like woodworking, metalcraft, and leathercraft.

There are also other views to take on the people I’ve linked to and what they have to say; a look at the comments sections of Mr. Deresiewicz’s articles is telling of the scorn people feel for an academic scholar criticizing the system that helped shape his career.  And I could argue that most of the people I knew personally fell outside the kind of privileged students he describes.  But I also have to admit to having a circle of friends who were more the exception than the rule at our school.

Regardless, I can personally attest to being the recipient of all the stereotypical comments one hears made to smart people who don’t pursue the well-trodden path: I’m not applying myself, I’m wasting my talents, my degree, and my future, I could succeed if only I were more motivated, I’m making a huge mistake.

I believed all of that, and I was weighed down by the belief that I was being intentionally self-destructive and the belief that I was a failure not only to my family and friends but also to my own intrinsic potential.

 

Reading these essays and watching the TEDTalks, as well as hearing stories every now and then about others who’ve also taken unconventional paths and were successful – using a much broader rubric for defining success – continues to encourage me and help me believe that I am, in fact, capable of a successful, happy life, even if the path in front of me is only vaguely defined and involves a lot of bushwhacking.

 

Categories: art, geekpost, hope, life, links, school, video

Pretty pretty whip pictures

November 6, 2010 7 comments

Because I have been too sick the past few days – ever since Max left on Wednesday, in fact – to process his visit and write about that, or about much of anything else, I’ll substitute thought with pretty pictures instead.  When I was up in Seattle for Paradise and staying with Max a couple months back, we took a short side trip to David Morgan’s store.  There, Max gifted me with my very favorite kind of gift – raw material for creating something with my hands; in this case, it was a whole, black-dyed kangaroo hide.  And perhaps he wasn’t expecting anything in return for that, but in my mind the fate of that roo hide was very clear: to become a whip to gift to him.

For weeks after I returned from Seattle, I didn’t touch the hide, except to inhale its heady scent now and then.  It was beautiful, strong, and supple – and like a blank canvas, I was afraid of making that first stroke, the first cut into the hide. I made some test cuts from the free bag of scrap leather I’d also picked up at David Morgan’s instead, and I instantly fell in love with how beautifully and smoothly the leather cut using my lace strander.

But finally, with Max’s arrival only days away, I unrolled the hide and began putting together the parts for his whip.

Above is the shot-loaded core, a tapered strip of leather 33 inches long, duct-taped into a cone and filled with #11 lead shot.  Here, I am getting ready to cut out the bolster to wrap around the shotbag.  Various implements and tools of note, from left to right: tape measure, glass jar of aforementioned lead shot, nitrile glove with which to handle the lead shot, pens for marking the leather, a paper funnel for getting the lead shot into the shotbag, bonded black nylon thread for the whip’s braided cracker, utility knife, duct tape, Aussie lace strander, and scissors.

Other things I used that aren’t shown in the photo: staple gun, tacks, electrical tape, and sewing thread.  Oh, and a tiny strip of paper that had various measurements on it for adjusting the width of the strander.

I should also note that the shotbag and bolster were cut from a long strip of soft leather gifted to me by the lovely Sparrow, whose beautiful leatherwork and craftsmanship are an inspiration. Thank you, Sparrow!

Once I’d begun the process, things went fairly smoothly and quickly, and I felt the whip coming together much more easily than with my first attempt.  I did hit a minor learning curve with the lace strander but got used to it after a few trial runs.

I am ecstatic to be able to say just how happy I am with the finished product.  It is not an exaggeration that Max’s whip is exponentially better than my first whip, and it is completely satisfying to see the lessons I learned from my whipmaking experiment translate into a better product the second time around.

There is a pure, giddy joy in learning a craft that involves using my hands.  As much as I enjoy my digital hobbies and the skills and learning that those require, I will always treasure being able to create a physical object for another person to enjoy tactilely.  (And, as it turned out, this particular object would be enjoyed very tactilely on me.)

But enough words. Here are some quick photos I took before handing the whip over to Max.  I wish I’d taken more of the entire thing, as I didn’t end up getting any pictures of the braided cracker or any detail shots of the heel knot.  I will have to remember to take more photos the next time I see Max.

 

Categories: geekpost, links, love, photos

How not to make a whip

July 10, 2010 4 comments

Short of a heel knob pineapple knot, I am finished with the whip that consumed the better part of the past two and a half weeks of my life.  My left hand is incredibly sore, my right only slightly less so.  And the almost-finished product is far, far from perfect.  But, all in all, I’m happy with my new toy, and have been enjoying practicing swinging it around our living room and cracking it a little bit.

That said, every step I took with this project was so completely ineffective to the point of being ridiculous.  From taking apart bullets to get lead shot, to cutting and beveling twenty strands of leather with a utility knife, I made this the most labor intensive process possible.  I have learned, more than anything else, how not to make a whip.

I also have to make a confession: the shotbag, bolster, and braided belly I documented on this blog does not exist in the final whip.  After I completed that part and was waiting to get more supplies to make the overlay, I made the mistake of visiting Mr. S Leather and looking at their signal whips.  They were much thinner and lighter than what I had with just my belly.  So, in a fit of crazed inspiration, I cut out a new shotbag, took apart the old belly, and poured the lead shot into the new bag.  I used the same bolster, trimmed down to fit around the new core, and then, looking at the unbraided strands, decided I wanted to try and bevel them to see what the difference would be like.

I spent an afternoon painstakingly beveling both sides of each of the eight inner braid strands, by skimming my utility knife down the edge at a roughly 45 degree angle.  I would end up doing this for the twelve outer laces as well.  Does my wrist and forearm want to fall off right now?  Yes, yes it does.

But, enough of that.  Here, in photo form, is a rough chronology of the whipmaking:

Part 1: Shotbag and bolster

Part 2: Braiding the belly

The new braided belly

Braiding the overlay

Rounded base for the heel knob done, and wrist strap attached.

And, just for the record: yes, believe me, I’ve noted and groaned over every imperfect braid and lace, but at this point, I just need to accept it as is, because no way in hell am I going back through and cutting new laces.  At least, not until I get my Aussie strander, which still hasn’t arrived.  But, seriously, it would be better just to make a new whip rather than try and fix everything that’s wrong with this one.

Anyway, I’ve accomplished the basic goal for this, which was to prove to myself that I could actually make a whip.  It’s not too bad for my first leather project, I think.

Categories: firsts, geekpost, links, love, photos

the saga continues…

June 29, 2010 2 comments

I’ve almost finished braiding the first layer of my whip.  Although – three hours and a torn off blister later -I’m wondering if my hands will last a second braiding.  Continuing with the theme of making this whip in the most tedious way possible, I hand cut the laces using a cutting mat and exacto knife.  I had gone to a local leather store in the hopes of finding a lace cutter, but all they had was the equivalent of a pie cutter for leather.  However, they did have six foot long leather straps a half inch wide, and for $2 each I could get the leather I needed fairly cheaply.

I also buckled and ordered an Australian strander for help with cutting the overlay laces.  Maybe by the time it gets here, my hands will be up for another round of leather braiding!

Here is a close-up of the whip so far:

It started out with 8 strands, and I just dropped it down to 6.  I will braid it a bit more before dropping it down to 4 and finishing it off there.

Some things I didn’t do:

  • bevel the edges of each strand.  Those white outlines on the lace show where I cut the strands and exposed leather where the dye didn’t penetrate through.  If I’d beveled them, the strands would have laid a bit more snugly, and those edges probably would be less noticeable.
  • use braiding soap to lubricate and condition the strands before braiding them.  Mostly I wasn’t very motivated to find a pound of lard.  If I did this over, I would try to make up this mixture, though, because it was a bit difficult to braid the leather smoothly.  Perhaps for the overlay…

However, since this will be the belly, these things won’t be noticeable and hopefully won’t affect the whip’s performance.  What I have been most careful with is keeping the braid straight, as I’ve read that a skewed braid will impact the way a whip throws.

Part 1: Shotbag and bolster

Categories: firsts, geekpost, links, photos

Whipmaking

June 25, 2010 7 comments

If you didn’t think I was serious about the whips, here is proof that I am actually obsessed.  Yesterday I got the package I needed to start making my whip: 3 boxes of 50 cartridges each of rifle ammunition.  Why did I get tiny copper bullets that I then needed to pry open to get the lead shot out, instead of just a bag of lead shot?

That would be because I didn’t find that site until just now, despite it taking hours to even find a site that sold #12 lead shot.  Sigh.

Well, now I know.  But yes, instead, I bought 150 copper cartridges filled with tiny balls of lead.  It was the tiny balls of lead that I needed to fill the core of my whip.  So my afternoon was spent prying each cartridge open with scissors and an allen wrench and dumping each ounce or so of lead shot into an empty pill bottle.

Once I’d done one box, I decided to start making the shotbag.  Following these two tutorials, I cut a tapered strip of leather, duct-taped it into a cone shape, and filled it with the painstakingly-extracted lead shot.

Over the shotbag, I tied on a leather bolster, which is now as far as I can go until I cut some laces to start braiding on the first layer of the belly.  So, there’s still a lot of work to do, but I am still inordinately proud of how the whip looks so far.

I can’t wait to start braiding!

Categories: art, geekpost, photos