Geek Girl Con, Saturday!

I’m at GeekGirlCon today!!! It’s awesome! 3rd year in a row!

I spent yesterday in The Attic, Seattle’s feminist community workshop/hacker/maker space. The Attic’s booth here at GeekGirlCon is representing the space’s combination of fiber, art, tech, robots, geekiness, hacking, and making things very beautifully and there are tshirts and stickers! That’s where I’ll be on Sunday morning and part of the afternoon, orbiting between the games area, the Art Alley, and The Attic’s table.


Here are some quick shout outs to people I talked with today and cool stuff I saw.

Heroes & Inspirations who make jewelry and art. Their new Ladies of Science series is great. There’s a Heroes and Inspirations Ladies of Science Kickstarter! I’m definitely backing this project and want several of the wearable tributes to admirable scientists!
Stasia Burrington who has a print (and tshirt) of a woman in a pile of cats and another that I love that is kind of the same concept with books. As I look through her etsy shop I want to buy a zillion prints… her work is so charming!
Bhaloidam, an interesting board game that is a storytelling RPG.
BigBrainedSuperheroes Club, a STEAM education organization!
Monkey Minion Press who have very beautifully done posters with SF retro WWII themes, often somewhat creepy.
ReelGrrls who are working with young women to teach video production skills and to support their work as film makers.
Women’s Funding Alliance which is a big philanthropic collective.

I got to talk a bit with Tempest who was on the panel “Changing Culture in Mainstream and Alternative Spaces” which I thought of as the “safer spaces” strategy panel. The panel was good. I also met up with Sigrid Ellis who I know from WisCon and who is now editing Apex Magazine. In a totally lucky random encounter I ended up talking intensely with Elsa S. Henry from Feminist Sonar and went to her Disabled Geeks panel which was not in the schedule booklet but which was well attended. Here are my notes on the panel! They’re a bit rough and were basically liveblogging that I have not fully edited.

Elsa and Stevi Costa are speaking on the Disabled Geeks panel. Elsa’s talking about comics and characters with disabilities. Disability is used as a narrative crutch. The words “inspiration porn” are also being tossed out there . . . for those of us who might be hate-watching things like Glee or watching Push Girls. (Audience LOL, ruefully). Disability is too often used as a metaphor for overcoming obstacles. It’s rare to have a character born with a disability who did not get bitten by a radioactive spider but has been how they are since birth.

Discussion of the Glee character who is a wheelchair user who is played by a non-disabled character. Elsa describes the horrible scene where he gets up out of the wheelchair and dances, which many people felt was a huge problem, since you don’t have to miraculously get out of your wheelchair in order to dance. You can dance while using your wheelchair or while you have whatever other impairment you happen to have in your life. Your dreams may be things that you can actually fucking do. Etc. An audience member describes her teeth grinding as the pretty girl gets to walk across the room getting out of her chair in some other episode. As if, aww, the other guy is the loser in the chair. There is also an Xmas episode where the guy wishes he could walk. Critique of the “walking” exoskeleton thingies. My personal reaction is that I am kind of glad I have never watched this show.

“Yay, accepting our cyborg bodies and then we become your OVERLORD.” *audience cheer*

Something something crip sex. (I had lost the thread, but start paying attention at these words…) “How did that feel to you?” “I dunno”. It was amazing but it just can’t make up for that dancing episode. Another episode where bullies take a blind person’s cane away. That was a painful moment for Elsa since people have done that to her deciding that she doesn’t need her cane so that they can bully her. Invisible disabilities represented, for once the character with Downs Syndrome is played by an actor with Downs. Great character usually but the school shooter episode was incredibly bad. Inconsistent with the character, makes it look like PWD have no future after the insitutional support of childhood and youth. Yes there is fear but they blew it out of proportion and people said online “I wonder if that’s going to happen at my school”. It represented disabled people as violent when actually we are often the targets of violence.

How about Oracle. (I cheer). Elsa loved Oracle, a great superhero with disabilities. And then they took her away. Oh, you’re disabled, you’re like one of the X-Men. No actually I’m not. And Oracle was a woman with an actual disablity who lived with her physical impairments.

In contrast in the Daredevil movie, she lasted 2 minutes, the movie was too much. “My nickname is snarkbat, I use snark to echolocate.” Why doesn’t he use the cane while he’s in the costume!? I’d like to see a superhero who uses a cane. So I had someone make me one. People with disabilities should be able to cosplay anything they want. My blind cataracted eye is not a special effects contact! Please do not ask me where I bought my own eyeball. Then I will tell you I bought it at Rubella and you will feel like a jerk. I’m playing Odin today. (Elsa holds up her cape with a raven (Munin) attached to the shoulder.) (I asked her earlier if it was Hugin or Munin) People ask Hey where’d you get that awesome contact, they assume you couldn’t be disabled so you become strangely invisitble again. Elsa asks for abled bodied people to not cosplay disability. It makes many of us really frustrated. We need to be recognized and read as people with disabilities. If you are playing disabled with your pirate eyepatch you are making the world worse for people who actually need to wear one. The fictionalizing means the people aren’t reading us as real.

Why would you go to all the trouble of finding visually impaired young women to play helen keller but as the understudy for the not-visually-impaired main actress who got cast for the role. There could be the name recognition if you start casting us in the roles.

Cons and accessible space. Getting trampled and pushed around in crowds. This con is good. People are educated to the point where they are not pushing into people in wheelchairs, people with white canes. This con has an introvert alley so people can go have some quiet space. We have a wheelchair lift here at the stage. (though . . . no one on stage who is a wheelchair user. . . .) Stevi asks Elsa when she goes to larger cons that don’t have any focus on inclusivity do you feel that you become invisible? Geek culture is not as inclusive as it is supposed to be. That is why Elsa does not like to go to cons. She doesn’t like feeling invisible and being trampled. She lives in NYC and is used to that environment but to come into a safer space where it’s “our people” it would be nice not to be run over. (I so strongly agree!! This feeling only grows in me that we have to insist on respect from our communities.)

Audience question about therapy dogs and fakers. Yeah Hmmmmm. Panel handles this question with perhaps too much patience. OK I popped up and asked the asker if she has a special need to police whether people are really disabled or not or a concern over being allergic to dogs or dog phobic so it becomes an issue for her or people around her. Come on. Is this the moment?

Elsa talks about how she wears glasses and can see partially. People go Hey are you really blind? Yes. they don’t give white canes out like candy and I really need it. People come up to me at cocktail parties and ask me how many fingers they are holding up. People just take my cane because they are curious. It’s not okay to just investigate my disability. Peeople with disabilities are not public property. We are human beings. TELL IT. Stevi adds that we narrativize it to where the story is that you have gone from being able-bodies to disabled and that is the dominant story.

Aud comment about being happy to be talking about people who were born with disabilities and glad we’re having this panel. She wants to talk about more pop culture and the show Covert Affairs. The character who is super sexy and confident. He is not really blind but the attempt to make a positive character is awesome and rare so props to them for trying. Elsa says she will have to watch it. She is the only blind burlesque performer she knows about. How does she know she’s being attractive? Well, she practices a lot and asks her friends if she looks good in her costumes.

Aud comment about the school shooting story. She wants to know recs for characters where their disability is not the issue.

Elsa recommends Switched at Birth it is sort of ridiculous and has some sort of weird republican thing going on, but they have an entire episode done in ASL where the characters are all teenage girls.

Stevi likes the Michael J Fox show because they address the inspiration porn question head on, in episode one and then they move on and he is just a character who happens to have Parkinson’s and that isn’t what it’s about. The first episode includes some epic crip humor. Then it becomes a normal family sitcom which includes a character with a chronic condition.

Another rec from the audience, the forensic doctor on CSI. He plays guitar, he happens to have one leg, he is awesome.

Back to superheroes with disability. The character Hawkeye lost 80% of his hearing. it became part of his character but then of course then in 2000s he got reset.

Can we stop resetting the disabled characters? OMG.

Fanfic writers cherrypicked that one detail and wrote after the Avengers movies how he had hearing loss. A lot of it was great but there was also a lot of problematic aspects where people wrote it as inspiration porn where he overcomes his hearing loss etc.

Breaking Bad and a character where a disabled actor applied for a character who was written as able bodied and he is a great actor, they just put it into his character, they didn’t reject him from the role, it was just like the color of a person’s hair or whatever.

Cosplay and able bodied people and disabled people What if there is an able bodied people who really likes Oracle and wants to cosplay Oracle. What if there’s a person in the wheelchair who wants to cosplay Supergirl. What then.

Elsa says people in wheelchairs can cosplay whoever they want. But if you are able bodied and want to cosplay Oracle just dont use a wheelchair. If you dont need it please don’t use it. Do not put on cripface. Geordi’s visor is fiction, it is not a real device so it isn’t going to be mixed up with reality. Stevi thinks it is possible to use an assistive device in cosplay in a way that is respectful, but it is tricky. Elsa wants people who are not disabled not to be read as disabled.

(Personally I have some complicated feelings around this and I don’t like the idea that people think they can just play disability. What the hell, isn’t there enough to play with? And, it is even more complicated because of actual discrimination and also I would add in fetishists as an issue. I don’t like the idea that, as with actors, Non disabled people get attention and fame from pretending to be us and perhaps “doing it better”. They get rewarded for performing “disability” in ways that are more acceptable to mainstream culture than the actual lives and being in the world of those of us who are disabled. How can this not fail to be offensive and have the fake cripple come off as perky or happier or reacting in some way that gets props from people who want everything to be okay. My first reaction is that it makes me instantly angry. I let people ride my scooter and manual chair to experience it as fun and not unimaginable. But I hate the idea that people would pretend they are disabled as their costume. )

Elsa talking about her current work writing a game module for ghost hunting blind people, warriors of midgaard, for role playing games. I know how to do and represent this thing. Pay me to do it. Rather than thinking you know it all and faking it.

Orange is the New Black, best humor moment with wheelchair, Scared Straight group goes to the prison and one of the prisoners goes you think you’re really tough . . . She is the most bad ass, I will shank you so hard character.

The panel wraps up. I did not count the attendees but would estimate 30-40 people as I think back on how full the room was.

YAY, great panel!

Bad Inventions: Dumpling Compass!

This is hardly a bad invention. It is sheer genius, because dumplings are fucking delicious. And because I don’t have time to create it, I give it to you. The Dumpling Compass!

Dumpling Compass is a phone app that points you towards the nearest dumpling source.

Consider the miracle of the dumpling. The basic idea is some sort of grain delicately prepared and cooked, often surrounding a tasty filling. There are so many nuances to this amazing food. Behold the Wikipedia entry for the Dumpling, and swoon in awe!


Using Dumpling Compass, you can filter by the doughy substrate (corn, rice, wheat), the method of cooking (boiled, steamed, fried, served in soup), the type of filling, and the national or ethnic background of the dumpling you most desire to find at any particular moment. Your compass will point you to it.

Someone go ahead and build this. You will make ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

Think how useful. Not like the Sockerchief or the Catula.

p.s. Tamales count!

The Superfest Dissie Awards

I had a great time last night at the Dissie Awards, part of Superfest, a very long running disability community film festival! Lawrence Carter-Long MCed and presented 3 or 4 short clips for each category like Worst Portrayal of a Disabled Person by Non-Disabled Actor and The Worst Disabled Villain. It was nice to see a bunch of local community leaders get on stage to accept the awards — some of the fake acceptance speeches were hilarious! Audio Eyes did an outstanding job of funny, sarcastic description that felt like watching Rifftrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000 rather than a boring documentary narration. Would listen again. It was great.

Dissie acceptance speech

My favorite was definitely the “So Sweet” which was about cute little white girls sweetly helping disabled people so I got to give several hearty rounds of booing to Heidi and Pollyanna (who along with Katy from What Katy Did, take up way too much of my brain with their angel in the house internalized ableism).

The event started off with a cocktail hour which I missed and then Lawrence opened up with a charismatic speech about how we would discern, disrupt, display, and discover as we Dissed.

Lawrence MC-ing

I can’t remember all the nominations but I did tweet most of the award winners for posterity. The Worst Performance of Disability by a Non-disabled Actor Dissie went to the guy playing the blind old man in Young Frankenstein. Prof. Georgiana Kleege accepted the award. In the world of Young Frankenstein, apparently blind people cannot get anyone at all to come over and share their soup. So sad! It was lovely to feel the audience reaction all around me as we cheered and booed how bad all the performances were as they played off stereotypes and made disabled people the butt of humor. It was often a hard call which movie to boo the loudest for as the judges watched and listened to the crowd, because the spectrum of Hollywood badness was so vast!

Shirley Temple in Heidi as she teaches Klara how to walk and then ends up being more important to Klara’s family than she is, won out over Pollyanna. It was a very hard call for me. Was it worse for Heidi to be telling Klara she could walk if she just tried hard enough? Or worse that Pollyanna told her sick neighbor lady, the one disabled person in town, that she wouldn’t die if she wanted enough to live, and then stormed out in a huge ragequit? The deciding factor for me was that it was extra, extra horrible for Klara’s dad not to love her until she could walk! Christina Mills from the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers accepted the award pointedly remarking that ther are great organizations like California Youth Leadership Forum where Klara could hang out instead of being with that poisonous little brat Heidi.

Crowd for the Dissies

Joshua Miele then took the stage to accept the award for Worst Miracle for the actor playing the paralyzed guy in Monkey Shines. I think it was voted up because the movie’s badness outshone the actor’s bad portrayal! Personally I was rooting for Forrest Gump and the moment where his leg braces exploded off his legs as he ran like a world class athlete. But hey, we’re taking this super seriously, can you tell? Josh invited his alterego, or friend, Manny Zannasshole, to give a speech about his sensitive directing and producing of this miracle moment inspired by his knowledge of “the differently crippled, or whatever you people are called these days, people with crippledness” provoking a giant laugh from many of us in the audience.

Most Tragic was a painfully stupid display as we saw Clint Eastwood feel the terrible pain of the actor in Million Dollar Baby asking him to put her down like her family’s old dog because she could never be on TV again. Wow! It had to win for being most actually horrible and harmful to people’s lives. For me it is a matter of people telling me to my face that they think it is better to be dead than like me, that they would kill themselves, etc. But for many of us it is directly a life and death matter that threatens our survival as nurses caretakers or even family members decide to express their mercy or support a person’s suicidal thoughts instead of getting them help or fighting to change their situation and society at large. So Million Dollar Baby just had to win. Victor Pineda took the stage for the award and was super badass and funny as he told Clint Eastwood he might be better off dead than that ignorant and Hilary Swank’s character in the movie could totally have better friends if he would get out of her life. I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it.

Dr. Strangelove then beat out Mr. Glass from Unbreakable for Worst Villian. There are SO MANY. Strangelove has to win for popularity and for the thing that most people want to joke about when they want to joke about your wheelchair. But Mr. Glass was more truly the winner for his villainy being based on his internal bitterness over being disabled! Reverend Scott (?) went up on stage to take the award with his one black glove! You would almost think he had expected Dr. Strangelove to win. . . do I smell a fixed contest here?

Accepting the Worst Villain Dissie for Peter Sellers

The Crips Gone Wild category for buffoonish portrayals of disabled people causing havoc (AS WE DO) gave us clips from Other Sister, Radio, and Blind Dating. They were all horrible. Blind Dating with a very extended scene of the guy trying to fake that he wasn’t blind on a date in a restaurant. Comedy gold!??? Aaaaagh! Then the last category was “Hey, Only We Can Laugh At That” for truly bad comedy that is “Satirization without representation”. They were all awful and I have forgotten which one won because by that time it was quite late and I was tired.

My teenage son came with me to the Dissies. He enjoyed it a lot. He laughed his head off and I was happy to share some good political awareness and humor with him. He gets enough of it from me day to day just doing things like riding the bus. How nice that he knows it isn’t just me making my usual sarcastic muttering comments. He will grow up knowing quite a lot and being a good ally for others, as well as having gotten all the awesome wheelchair and scooter rides possible.

I hope this event happens again! Thanks to the Longmore Institute and the SF Lighthouse for sponsoring Superfest! I hope I can come out to more events and meet people — I often feel totally disconnected from whatever Bay Area disability activist communities are out there as I flounce around in my own little world. I have the community feeling and solidarity online but not in person and hope to connect more in the future. Anyway, if this happens next year I will wear a sparkley tuxedo and do it up in real movie award style !!

Taking up too much space

Last night I had the incredibly pleasant experience of realizing I was in a crowd but no one was considering me as “in the way” and I didn’t have to worry about that with the same level of awareness I do in crowds where I am the only or one of few wheelchair users and where people are sadly ignorant of their own bigotry. Instead I was in a crowd where audience and performers were people with disabilities and their friends.

A layer of tension dropped away from me. I would not have to be apologetic, diplomatic, and assertive to the point of defiant all at once just in order to sit and watch the show or move around the room. No one leaped out of my way or yanked their children closer while I was 20 feet away from them. If I was in line, no one acted like I was the one person in line who was just where I should not be. If someone needed to get between me and another person or people in the room, they were just ask likely to say “excuse me” to any of us, politely, rather than picking me out and letting me know I was the one In The Way. I thought to myself: How low my standards have gotten, my expectations for other people’s behavior! How sad! But what a relief at least for this moment, this event!

This particular kind of bad behavior seems to me like it is unconscious but it reflects deep unwillingness to have people with disabilities in public at all or to consider us fully human. We are not considered citizens of the world. When we are in it we are always In the Way. A person with a suitcase might be in someone’s way. But just by being anywhere in a wheelchair people want to decide where I should be and put me there. It’s like, get in the corner!

This happens to me every day in every store, street, bus, or event I go to. It happeend last weekend at my conference and in the airport and in restaurants and bars and everywhere.

OMFG, you damn walkies!! Chill out!! We are all just people co-existing in space! Say “excuse me” if you want to get by, like you do with every other situation! Like I do if I want to get by as well! Don’t be acting like I am too big or too fast or must be specially humble and apologetic before I get to take up space in the world!

Tuesday I was at a conference party sitting around a table on a big, open patio. Behnd me there was a little group of people talking. After about the 10th person shoved into me trying to go between my scooter and the group standing a few feet behind me, some guy said something about how I should move so he could get by. I had had enough. I turned on him like a motherfucking cobra and said, “Why do you not just ask the guy right there, the guy behind me, tell HIM to move? Say excuse me to him since he can step aside easily and I can’t.” About 1 out of 100 times this happens, I explain it to some random stranger who wants to walk through a line or a crowd and point out they can just as well ask a standing-up person to move.

My loved ones and friends are very familiar with watching this play out. I am comforted that they notice how it happens over and over and that they share my reality. Constant social aggressions (I can’t bring myself to call them microagressions) take their toll.

Last weekend at the end to my own work conference one of the conference organizers told me I was in the way because “PEOPLE” needed to get by. She gestureed at the scooter with a sweep of her arm. PEOPLE might need to get by!

My scooter was not in the way. It was parked behind my own chair at a table with plenty of space behind it and not blocking any corridors. She did not seem concerned that ALL OTHER WAYS and all other places to sit were blocked for me, because in her mind, I am not “People” who might need to get by. I am an inconvenient Thing — that unfortunately can speak. I told her I had parked carefully so that no access for anyone else was blocked. The people next to me could get up from their chairs without any trouble. Others could walk past in every direction. But her sense of the rightness of the universe was perturbed, for her, unbearably by my presence.

That sort of thing happened over and over in the course of the weekend. It is why I talk about community education. People need to think through their assumptions and their bigotry. I can’t teach everyone how to behave, on the spot, all around me, every day. Don’t shove into my wheelchair like I don’t exist. Don’t pat me! And don’t fill up a room so I can’t get around, then tell me I can’t be in the one spot I can get to! Don’t lock the elevators and don’t act like I’m a liability waiting to happen! How hard can it be to treat me like a person?!

Last night I was overwhelmed with the feeling of not haveing that feeling. Then as I paused in an alcove of the lobby of the SF Women’s Building to call a cab. An usher for the event, I am fairly sure a volunteer or associate from the building not from the event itself, was standing to the side and in front of me. She told me I was in the way and asked me to move so that people could get by. Amazing! I looked up at her and pointed out, the corridor between the alcove I was in, and the central bit where the elevator was, was enough for at least 3 people to pass, 2 moderately sized wheelchairs, I was not in the way of anyone, and, she was standing more in the middle of the corridor while I was off to the side, so really, she was in the way much more than I was.

I asked her why she felt I was especially in the way more than herself or anyone else. She was unable to answer. I said it was egregious and horrible for her to say this to me and put it onto her to think about for her future. I said it at some length but diplomatically and included the words “I am angry.” I was extra sad because she looked like someone I would in most situations be friends with and want to talk to. Meanwhile people rolled on by us leaving the building and sometimes pausing in the hallway to chat with each other, as people do. No one evidenced impatience or acted like anyone else was in their way.

Well, I must report that I stayed in the spot. I took a picture of people passing by me and then called my son over from where he was sitting with his book, to cross the lobby and take a photo of where I was sitting so that I could write this up and show how very Not in the Way I had been and why this stupid incident made my head explode. I could hardly have been less in the way of anyone at all!! You can go to that exact spot in the Women’s Building and stand or sit there and see for yourself how unobtrusive it is.


The sign in this photo is offset (way closer to the camera) and not in line at all with where I was sitting. It may also not be clear but I am fully in a little alcove, ie, my wheels were inside the curve of the stairwell. In other worse this was my effort to park temporarily in a place where I would not block any traffic or be stumbled over.

It would have been maybe more sensible of me to go wait and text on the other side of the lobby. I get that. But…. I had the feeling of just being a person in some space that many people were using. Many people were standing around. They were not told to move. I could not believe I was considered to be in their way but they were not in mine. My fellow chair and scooter users were just hanging out and were capable of saying excuse me to each other if there was any inconvenience. I *knew* if an able bodied person had been standing there, in the same spot, taking up the same space, the usher would not have perceieved her as an obstacle.

Here is the view from my niche as people went by.

Corridor womensbuilding

I don’t think I swore at the usher and I remained “polite”; it was full on fierce coherence from me as I explained exactly how bigoted her action was. At some point my child and I went to the door to look to see if the cab was there and then we went to stay on the other (totally empty) side of the lobby.

As we waited for our cab at one point I looked up and saw a woman talking on her phone, standing right smack in the middle of the corridor several feet directly in front of where I had been waiting when I was in the way. She stood there a few moments as the usher looked right at her. Finally I rolled up and addressed the usher conspiratorially. “Hey, I just wanted to point out how very In the Way that lady is. You should tell her!” The usher said “UMMMM . . . . DO YOU WANT TO HELP ME MONITOR THE HALLWAY?” Nice move, actually, that made me laugh! It was a pretty decent attempt at defusing, but she had already gone too far and was a little too condescending for me to bear at the moment because she never bothered to apologize. How hard could it be to think it over for a moment and say, “Oh, I guess I did that. Sorry!” Apparently harder than figuring out a strategy for how to co-opt the angry cripple. What the hell is WRONG with people! Hahahah!

I go into a place, I think about where to put my scooter or wheelchair and where I can sit, and whether I am going to need to park it away from me if I sit in another chair, and whether I need help to move things to fit into a space politely, and so on, ALL THE TIME!

But people want to scold me and explain how I need to behave no matter what I do, because disability is disruptive and they feel perturbed and in need of being in control of something they don’t understand. How many bus drivers scold me and tell me the right way i should wait for the bus, signal the bus, get on the bus, be on the bus, communicate with them at all, and get off the bus. Do they think I was born yesterday? They scream at me to tell them where I’m going, they refuse to let me on because there is “no room” though they just let 20 walking people on before me, they scream “WHEELCHAIR GETTING ON!!” 5 times at the whole bus before they extend the ramp for me as if I’m incapable of going the 5 feet onto the bus without ramming every person there without the Enterprise going on Red Alert. They can’t take any of this knowledge on themselves and they’re not scolding other people who might take a moment to fumble for their bus pass but it’s open season on wheelchair users to lecture us like you’re a goddamn social worker. Nuh-uh. Not having it.

I am not an emergency or an obstacle! Get used to it! My public presence will just have to be YOUR mild inconvenience!

This ends my minorly pissed off rant and I will now go write another post about how nice the event was and top-post it on top of this long angry assertion that I and my MONSTER TRUCK MECHA SUITS can exist in public.

Squeezing dragon

My son and I spent some time this morning lying in bed, me with a big cup of coffee, still both in our pajamas, going through the blog archives of Johnson Tsang, a sculptor from Hong Kong. Our minds were blown as we paged through the many stages of construction of “Painful Pot” which is a dragon coiled around and squeezing a porcelain vase; and then “Convergence”, a pair of hands holding a melting gun balanced over a ravaged half melted face of Buddha. Both Milo and I liked Tsang’s politics, of peace and compassion over war and violence, and combining human contact with natural forms with all the ways he worked with faces and splashing liquids.

I love this blog especially for its exposure of process. How did Tsang get from this plain form,


to this incredible complexity?

coiled dragon pot

The holographic thought had to live first, in Tsang’s mind. Through the exposure of his technique step by step, we can follow a little bit of how the reality of that vision came to be. For the vision to be possible the knowledge of what was possible had to live in his hands, the practice of playing with materials and ideas. I love that with material and words, music and art, performances and even just daily life, there is space and we have infinite potential to fill that space. The next five minutes could be a calm silence or there could be a revolutionary speech that fires your soul or a piece of art so beautiful and complicated you cry at the joy of being alive.

Process exposure shows us possible paths for us to take potential into reality and make amazing things. As artists or conscious agents of our own reality we can take that steering wheel, though not every moment can hold that weight. We could fill our lives a little more with those moments or commemorations, reminders, of them in the form of what we make or in public art. Looking at this site with my son, neither of us are sculptors, but I came away with a renewed sense of commitment to my own craft and life. (Or maybe it was just the coffee….)

Thanks for the gorgeous blog, Johnson Tsang!

Fabulous rhymes

My friend Zach from Revolt wrote and performed a new song about living with Lyme disease. I really like it and can’t wait for the recorded and produced version! His other songs I’ve heard about history, philosophy, and revolution are complicated and beautiful! I wanted to share this now, even before the produced version is out. I’m super happy Zach got some press for his talent & ideas.

Mozilla Summit 2013: bugs, crafts, and fun

The Mozilla Summit in Toronto was a lot of fun. I met so many intense, idealistic, motivated open source contributors, it made me feel renewed energy for my own contribution.

On the first day I heard some of the keynotes but missed Mitchell Baker’s keynote on the Nature of Mozilla, which I’m going to watch today. People were talking about it through the rest of the conference, so I’m curious.

The talk I did was called Awesome Bugzilla Tricks and was a fairly short presentation of some tips for using Bugzilla.

As we went through these tips, the talk turned often into a good discussion of how people use these features of Bugzilla. We thought of a new way to implement Bugzilla tags to look more like browser bookmarks.

People talked about their own workflow as we went around the room describing what we do with! That is usually my favorite part of a workshop level technical discussion. It is like a series of sharing mini-demonstrations about actual working process, what we use and what we do and why. That is very illuminating. I realized in our discussion that I was talking with Kohei who made bzdeck, a tool that makes reading bug reports more like an email inbox. I had particularly wanted to meet him so was very happy he came to the talk and the discussion! 😀

Durng the talk I said something a little weird and abstract that was not in my slides, inspired by the discussion. Here it is…

As a literary critic I find it fascinating that it is a huge collection of textual information which we engage with as authors and readers. It is like the ultimate “difficult work”, like reading James Joyce except 900,000 times better and with a more interesting result. There is no way to make it easy to understand, even if you can make little pieces of it easier to use and learn, the underlying information and tasks are beautifully complex and demanding for anyone who engages with it, which means you can’t fail to learn something if you try.

Then, luckily, we went back to talking about practical things, features, dashboards, and workflow.

The other main activity I did at the Summit was to set up a big table with craft supplies. Based on an idea of Lukas Blakk’s, I set up beads, string, and charms shaped like ladybugs, dragonflies, bees, and beetles so that people could make necklaces, bracelets, and other wearable souvenirs. The beads had numbers and letters so that you could spell out the number of your favorite bug.

People did just that!

I loved seeing people think about what bug was their favorite or most important to them personally. Sometimes a first bug, or one that people were proud of fixing, or one with an important, complicated discussion. Several people told me that during the Summit, they looked up other people’s favorite bugs from the bug bracelets, and learned something interesting.

Bug 356038 was represented by number and by its Bugzilla alias, BCP47:


Rust and Github bug #5677, ‘Rustpkg “ready for use” metabug’ got some love:

Tim with Rust bracelet

Vu gave a shout out to bug 780076,

bug bracelets

And here is another bracelet featuring bug 808964,

Bug 808964 bracelet

For my own favorites I made three objects, one a wire necklace for bug 923590, “Pledge never to implement HTML5 DRM”, and a bracelet and a barette with my first patch because I was proud of submitting a patch. The EME or DRM issue was discussed very intensely on Sunday by many engineers. Feelings definitely ran high and people were determined to continue discussion. I was glad it got an official slot in the schedule for discussion and that there was widespread interest.

Favorite bug maker party

Bug 298619 was put onto a cell phone charm along with a blue and orange glass bead shaped like a beetle!


Many other people made Mozilla or MozReps necklaces, spelled out their names or their loved one’s names, with bug charms, or with wire, like this beautiful and creative copper wire creation:

copper wire necklace

And this Maker Party necklace!

Maker Party!

This resulted in “conference swag” was personal and made on the spot, worn and also given as presents! Many people commented that they felt soothed and comforted by hands-on activity in the middle of intense social interaction. I observed that people discussed what bugs or words to spell, how to design their objects, and what techniques to use, very collaboratively, so it was a nice physical representation of work and process.

Mozilla Summit crafts

After the first day, I left the craft station open 24 hours in the lounge, replenishing it with beads from West Queen Street on day 2 becasue we ran out of the letters Z and A, popular in spelling out “Bugzilla” and “Mozilla”. Of course this was because we were in Canada, where they use a lot of “eh”!

I would do this again at a conference, and now I know from experience what supplies are needed and which things are likely to be popular.

The other silly and fun part of the conference for me was wearing (and lending to people) the brainwave controlled robot fox ears! The looks on people’s faces, so priceless, as they realized the ears were really moving. Everyone who tried it laughed very hard!


robot ears

Thanks for a great and inspiring Summit, everybody!

FirefoxOS phone beta testing

I got my FirefoxOS phone and am doing some testing on FirefoxOS 1.1 beta. I’m about to switch over to using it as my primary phone, but so far I’ve just used its apps and web connection. It seems very responsive and fast.

green and orange FirefoxOS phones

My friend Tiziana and I compared phones. Hers is the orange one, a ZTE phone running OPEN_US_DEV_FFOS_V1.0.0B1. Mine is green and is from Alcatel, running FirefoxOS I definitely notice the difference in the new version of the OS in that it is more responsive and I feel more sure in control of the touchscreen. Typing works well. I miss having something to swipe across the letters so I hope an open source version of type-by-swipe is something in the works.

I have installed a few art and drawing apps as well as games. The only game I’ve tried so far is Little Alchemy, which was very buggy in earlier versions this spring, but works beautifully now.

Email setup worked great, browsing is good, I’ve been taking photos and emailing them. I’ve used the Wikipedia app to look things up, and the “I’m thinking of…” search feature to listen to music on the bus. The Music app comes pre-loaded with some albums but I haven’t figured out a good way to load my own music onto the phone. On the other hand I haven’t needed to since “I’m thinking of…” gets me decently fast connections to YouTube and other music sources.

One nice touch with this was that when I bring up my “I’m thinking of” Janelle Monae search the wallpaper background of my search screen changes to a giant aweseome photo of Monae in a tuxedo and I am offered the things on my phone to do with the search on top, then under a hairline divider, searches on Monae in many other categories like free music, Grooveshark, Google, Twitter, her official website, tickets, Amazon, and so on. Here’s what it looks like:

firefoxOS thinking of search screen

That’s different from my usual mental model of “search”. The result is interesting and, I think, powerful and useful. I’ll be exploring it over the next few days at the Mozilla Summit. And of course reporting bugs, but for now, I just wanted to share that the phone not only quite usable as a smartphone, it’s exciting to explore.