Monday, January 16, 2012

Knitting as the non-smoker's pipe-smoking

I tweeted one day:

"I should take up knitting! It's like the non-smoker's version of pipe smoking. I'll sit in my armchair and knit and think."

And unlike a lot of such things I tweet, I actually did take up knitting, much to my grandmother's delight. Well I say delight; she keeps saying "you must be able to knit" then fixing my dropped stitches and teaching me to purl. There are three advantages: 1) it doesn't require much concentration; 2) it's not a computer; 3) I can quite happily suck at it.

1) It doesn't require much concentration

Of course this wasn't the case at first but eventually I achieved my lofty dream of sitting in an armchair, knitting and thinking deep thoughts. I'm sure there are many proverbs and literary quotes referring to busy hands which totally escape me at the moment. This is nothing new I've discovered and I don't claim that it is. I'm one of those people who sometimes concentrates better with music - it's like I need to distract part of my brain so the rest of it can get on and do stuff.

2) It's not a computer

With my iPhone as my default go-to for queues, bus trips and distractions, it's nice to not activate whatever part of the brain responds to bright lights, to not risk distraction by numerous bells, chimes and whistles signalling who-knows-what. And it's nice to have something tangible at the end of it, the very existence of which tracks the passing of time. Because I can spend hours on the computer or iPhone and everything would reset at the end. But I can't be stuffed knitting that long and I can't knit more than a few rows before I'm satisfied and/or inspired to do something else. Maybe this is yet a budding addiction, though. Either which way, it is very clear that the rows have been knitted, that the scarf is growing and that time has passed.

3) I can quite happily suck at it

To my grandmother's perplexion, I take great pleasure in how bad I am at it; it seems appropriate to have holes and pulled threads and unevenness and unintentionally gained stitches. I'm not knitting to be a knitter, and as I have a friend whose PhD in Art is knitting I definitely have a sense of perspective on this. I'm calling it my "legitimation scarf" as I started it listening to seminars on Legitimation Code Theory, continued it writing my thesis which legitimates me as a researcher, and finally if I eventually finish it, it might, despite my earlier disavowel, make me a knitter by being the only piece of knitting I've ever finished in my life, in comparison to the half-dozen times between 5 and 22 that I took up knitting only to give up after a few inches, with a few more random balls of fancy wool I over-ambitiously bought.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 13, 2012

Every presentation ever

I return to my theme of advocating non-coma-inducing presentations with this video. I'm ignoring the sale at the end, but it's got some good points. We all know when a presentation sucks. We don't all know when we suck at presenting. And we don't always know how to stop it sucking. But here's to greater awareness!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If Doctor Who was a linguist

People assume that language is a strict connection between object and name, between meaning and word, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... semioticky semanticky... stuff.