February 27, 2011

About crochet

Posted in Math and Science at 12:07 pm by changisme

Recently, I was gifted a few balls of yarn during an episode of internet withdrawal*. I started started to remember all the crochet patterns I was taught in school and by my grandparents, singles, doubles, squares, puffs, etc. Once upon a time when I was still young and idealistic (cough cough), I didn’t like crochet, because I felt it was one of those things I shouldn’t do if I didn’t want to conform to domestic femininity. My grandma never taught my male cousin to crochet, but told me that little girls should learn such things, together with how to use a sewing machine and how to cook (it turns out my cousin is a better cook now). I loved all the crocheted gifts my grandma made me, slippers, purses and hats, but I resisted really getting into it myself.

The funny thing was, I liked learning it, but I told myself, learning this is just piety. Now that I’m picking it up again, I feel less resistant. I don’t know if it’s because I’m starting to conform to traditional female roles, or better, I feel comfortable enough about my sexual identity that I don’t need to avoid some symbol because it signifies ideals contrary to my belief. Similarly, I’ve been wearing pink more. I used to love pink in my elementary years, but since puberty, I felt that I shouldn’t like that colour. Either because it’s not cool, or because it’s too girlie. Now I just feel, gosh, pink really simulate my visual cortex!

Crochet has a very geometric charm that goes even beyond cross-stitches, which is another one of my grandparents love. In crochet, how shapes are defined is very interesting, such as what makes a square square are its corners or vertices, while in geometry, we name convex polygons by their vertices because of this identifiability. Another very interesting part about crochet is how shapes affect one another. Often times, if there is a curve, the curvature is almost always determined by the shape next to it. In geometry, arc AB is not simply defined by points A and B, but also another point O at the center of the circle arc AB resides. Aside from these parallels, it’s also interesting to observe how two dimensional shapes assemble and forms a curved surface in the third dimension. I wonder if you could crochet a Klein bottle without breaking a yarn….

Last but definitely not least, I’ve been watching Star Trek and 3rd Rock from the Sun while crocheting. It’s much better than watching than while doing homework!


*while I was away from the computer, Zhangfei put “…. suffering from an episode of JON RULES KAREN DROOLS WOOOO”. And I’m very mature as to footnote this original line… just for proper practice…


February 16, 2011

On the debate about Wikipedia’s gender inbalance.

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:10 am by changisme

New York Times ran an interesting discussion about the severe gender imbalance among the editors of Wikipedia. The debaters mostly attempted to address why women contribute to the articles so much less, considering they, or we, constitute to the majority of internet users.

Some of the debaters uses the stereotype that women don’t like edit wars that are rude and too assertive. I’ve never really been convinced by this claim. For one, I think women are likely to be more courteous towards certain subset of the population, their girlfriends to be specific. They more likely to fight with their nails with other males, or their mothers for that matter. Wikipedia editing is yet another type of interface, that it is hard to say whether women are passionate enough to fight for the right.

Part of the reason I hesitate to treat the editors on Wikipedia as male, female, young or old, is because how Wikipedia looks. There is generally very little personal connection on it. The reason facebook and twitter have become successful among the female community is due to its social networking aspect. Not only do you not know any of the editors on Wikipedia, but you don’t see their pictures, their relationship statuses or their cat peeing on the rug. Zhang Fei recently had a status update asking how you can distinguish a user from a robot. Well, it’d be much easier on facebook than on Wikipedia, wouldn’t it?

This is not to say that all websites should have a social media cookie in its back pocket. Another way to understand this phenomenon is that we may just allow Wikipedia to be how it is. Afterall, it’s just one website. We can have an aggregate site that allows comparisons of explanations of different knowledge based sites, just like a airfare comparison site.

On an entirely different note, some people argue that females just don’t care about any single topic as much as the male populus. I have no reason to believe one way or another. My feeling is if there were any difference between the genders about passion, it’s probably negligible compared to the amount of variation between individuals within each gender.

Also, females who are willing to put up cat pictures are very different from those who are willing to write essays on Oscar Wilde with ample references. We like to say that there are more female geeks nowadays than before, but the truth of the matter is, the definition of geekism has changed or widened immensely.

On a final note, I wonder how the female population feel about Quora.com