So I’m knitting now.
Katie, a friend I have made among my class of teacher candidates, is an avid knitter. (Her teachables also happen to be the same as mine—math and English—how cool is that?) Eventually our conversations about her knitting culminated in an offer to teach me how to knit. I was not digging for this—the thought had honestly never crossed my mind. I used to do some very basic cross-stitching, but my ability to do things with my hands (aside from typing) has always been minimal. Knitting seemed like a daunting skill to learn.
So I said yes, of course. I had an ample supply of yarn left over from my cross-stitching days. When Katie returned to Thunder Bay after the Christmas break, we went shopping for a perfect set of needles and searching for a perfect beginning pattern. We eventually decided upon this hat pattern, which has the advantage of being knit flat and being done entirely in knit stitch (no purling). Another professional year friend, Hélène, deterred me from starting with a scarf: as she put it, a scarf is long and boring and repetitive; I needed a beginning project that was easy enough to complete but challenging enough that I could use it as a scaffold for improving my technique.
(We’re such teachers now.)
The hat did, in fact, turn out to be a good project. Knitting was not as difficult as I feared it would be. Once Katie explained the basics, I got the hang of the motions pretty quickly. “Follow the pattern” essentially means “follow the algorithm”, something we mathematicians are rather good at doing. Aside from the spectres of losing count or dropping stitches, it transformed into an endurance sport. In this sense, knitting is an art that is different for every knitter: beginners like me are little more than human looms, injecting little originality or creativity into our pieces; more advanced knitters, however, have the understanding and skill to create things that are baffling, amazing, and marvelous. I don’t know if I’ve enough talent to ever get to quite such a stage, but I’m sure that with enough practice I can become fairly competent—I might even start improvising a little!
But let’s not get too carried away. With much diligence on my part, not to mention the assistance of Katie and Hélène, and I managed to finish my hat. You can see all the details on the project’s Ravelry page. My hat definitely has that “first project” feel to it: lopsided and uneven because of my varying tension, a little too small because I haven’t yet learned how to judge and adapt a pattern to my needs. Katie has dubbed it a “sarcasm hat”. I think I’ll make another soon.
My next project is a tissue box cover. The pattern represents a good step up in difficulty for me: it involves purling and some slightly more complicated instructions; plus, I need to size it to my tissue box and yarn! I started it on Thursday, and yesterday Hélène showed me how to improve the way I hold my needles so as to help with my tension and speed. Much like knitting, purling is not as difficult as the dramatic music that accompanies the term always made it seem.
Oddly enough, knitting has opened up an interesting dimension in my social life: apparently many of my friends are secret knitters (or crocheters) in disguise! I had known about a few of them, but others are a surprise. When I went to meet Aaron, Jessica, Rachael, and Tim—my friends from my summers of math research—it turned into an impromptu knitting/crochet circle. Aaron and Jessica were crocheting while Rachael and I were knitting; Tim had obviously missed the memo about the cool new activity on campus, so Rachael provided an extra crochet hook, and Aaron taught him the basics.
Finally, knitting gives me something to do while watching TV. I can read for hours at a time, but I find it difficult to watch an entire movie all the way through. I suppose the medium just doesn’t occupy my mind enough, and I feel like I need to be doing something. Knitting gives my hands something to do and demands enough concentration to keep me focused while not so much that I can’t pay attention to the movie. By the same token, I can knit around others when we are having lunch or something, and it makes me seem slightly less rude and asocial! Plus, knitting in public is badass.
I will certainly blog more about knitting in the future. Until then, however, just as you can go to my Goodreads page to stalk my reading, you can find my knitting on Ravelry. Katie and Jessica urged me to join this site. As a newbie knitter I am finding it very useful, and as a programmer the way it is designed and functions is impressive. Once again, the Internet adds a dimension to an offline skill and makes it that much more awesome.
Recently I talked about the threat to Canada’s public domain. The following is a letter I have sent in response to the government consultation on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As with all my blog posts, it is published under a Creative Commons Attribution license. I encourage you to speak up by February 14 and write your own letter declaiming the desecration of the public domain! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am writing as a concerned Canadian citizen, as well as a student and future educator, with regards to the effects of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) on Canadian copyright law and the public domain. I am aware of the potential benefits of the TPP for Canada’s trade and economy. However, analysis of the proposed agreement reveals that accepting the TPP would commit Canada to extending its copyright term from life of the author plus 50 years to life of the author plus 70 years. This would effectively leave the public domain in Canada stagnant for 20 years. Beyond that, the increase in copyright terms will mean an additional delay—in some cases, more than a century—between the publication of a work and its entry into the public domain. Many Canadians, including myself, feel that such a commitment is too high a price to pay, regardless of the other benefits the TPP may bring. The public domain is an important, essential cultural resource and a part of Canada’s heritage. Limiting it by extending the term of copyright protection will be counterproductive and deleterious to creators and consumers alike.
Copyright was originally created as a way of giving a creator a limited monopoly on his or her intellectual productions. By providing the creator of a work with this economic advantage, it created the incentive for creators to continue producing new works. Copyright is a valuable and important part of intellectual property law and the economy. However, like any law, it must be balanced in the extent to which it curtails the rights of one group in order to protect the interests of another. Hence, copyright does not last indefinitely. It ends a significant period after the original creator of the work can no longer stand to benefit from it. I have yet to see a convincing argument that extending the term of copyright an additional 20 years has a positive economic impact. If the author is already dead, who stands to benefit from the work remaining in copyright? The publishers or distributors, maybe. Perhaps the author’s heirs—if there are any. But the distributors have had at least 50 years to continue making a profit off this work; the same goes for the heirs, who should in time have found their own ways to earn a living. At any rate, the fact that the work remains copyrighted does nothing to further the original goal of copyright, which is as an incentive to the creator to produce new works. There is no economic benefit to extending the term of copyright.
Perhaps this move to extend copyright comes from trepidation over the nature of the public domain, particularly now that the Internet and the World Wide Web have revolutionized how we communicate and distribute information. Yet the public domain is the single largest body of intellectual property on the planet—and it belongs to the people, as it should. When a work enters the public domain, the creator does not lose money—indeed, the creator will be dead. Rather, the Canadian people gain a valuable piece of culture that can be reproduced, translated, adapted, and derived from at will. Speaking personally, as a student currently training to become a secondary school teacher, the public domain is an essential resource to public education. It is a vector for the potential within every student, every child, everyone who desires to express his or her creativity. Individual artists and creators benefit from a healthy public domain, for additions to the public domain act as inspiration and source material. The same holds true for the larger corporations whose vast collections of copyrighted works often put them in the position of advocating for stricter copyright. Those corporations benefit from the public domain—would Disney have been so quick to make Cinderella if it were still in copyright? The lack of licensing fees makes public domain works particularly attractive for individuals and corporations alike.
The public domain is as much an economic and cultural resource as the natural, technological, and human resources that have made our country great. To limit the public domain in the name of protecting intellectual property is a shortsighted and ultimately ineffective endeavour. If the Canadian government signs the TPP as it stands and extends the term of copyright to life of the author plus 70 years, they will be sending an unequivocal signal that they do not think the public domain is of value. Worse, they will be consigning the Canadian public domain to stagnation, endangering the cultural heritage of all Canadians in the process. An entire generation of Canadians will grow up thinking that this gross distortion and abuse of copyright is legitimate. If the TPP is truly in the best interest of Canada and its people, then by all means, continue pursuing negotiations—but please consider doing so with an eye toward intellectual property provisions that are thoughtful, balanced, and just.