Finished colourful sweater!

After many months of patient knitting, here is the result:

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I opted for a warm and colourful sweater with some extra challenge. Strange Brew pattern looked promising, as it was simply explained and open to customisation. I used a spreadsheet to test various pattern and colours (putting numbers in each cell, and using colouring rules according to those numbers to test out different colour palettes), and then headed for the wool shop to buy all I needed:

… the challenge of alternating colours started right away, and turned out to be fun:

It was a nice knitting project to do, except maybe for the boring body part worked in the round… but the yoke was worth waiting for. Now the last step is wet blocking, and then I’ll wear it! Luckily it’s still cold in my city 😉

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Visiting a luthier

Wateau, a luthier specialised in guitars, moved in my extended neighborhood around a year ago. Since then, I have been quite curious about his work, and finally had the chance to visit his worshop thanks to the European Artistic Crafts Days.

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I was the first visitor to come for the open day, and Mathieu guided me through the workshop, explaining the functioning of odd tools and giving me information about guitar construction techniques. Then a few clients arrived and while he was performing a few fixes and tuning of their instruments I looked around, searching a good subject for a sketch.

I finally decided to draw the press that Mathieu built himself, and that is used to bend the wood of the sides of a guitar. I somehow didn’t save the picture of that tool, but only the one of the drawing:

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The press works by appling heat to flexible metal plates, between which the soaked wood is placed, and by progressively bending the wood in the shape of a half-guitar template (that is a removable part of this tool).

It took around 20 minutes to sketch it, including a quite long phase of observation. It is definitely an odd machine with a lot of parts and it was quite difficult to choose where to start! But Mathieu has been patient and let me sit on one of the tall chairs while he cut wood parts for guitar necks and cleaned one of his workstations. It was pleasant to share a silent moment with each one focused on independent things. I found it remarkable, because it is usually the result of a longer acquaintance, but I’m experiencing it more and more often with like-minded people whom I just met. I plan to ask him to pay another visit, so that I can sketch a few more subjects, and enjoy the atmosphere of the workshop. Stay tuned for more craftsy posts!

 

 

On several ways of experiencing loneliness

Today I listened to the BBC4 “All in the Mind” podcast about loneliness. I found relieving to hear that loneliness can be seen as a neutral or positive state, at least in some cases. For many people, or maybe more for the general expectation of the society they live in, loneliness is seen as unhealthy, unwanted and sad, or even lousy. I agree that there are people who at given times of their life would like to have more social interactions, but have problems finding/keeping friendships, and this makes them unhappy. I also agree that unwanted loneliness can have serious consequences on a person’s health and life quality. On the other side, I think that each one of us has their optimal level of social interactions, so it’s very difficult to give others advice for “feeling better” by suggesting a specific amount (or even type) of social contacts.

I see myself as a solitary person who enjoys close friendships, and I know I’m not good at smalltalk or at mantaining not-so-close friendships. This led me to have a somewhat small network of people I regularly check with, and to feel unpleasantly lonely sometimes. I have recently met new people in the city, during meetings about shared interests, and this has made me feel definitely better. I also think I feel better since I decided that it was OK for me not to improve my smalltalk or my standard social interactions, because I felt uneasy in playing a role very different from my real self: I am authentic from the start, and I find like-minded people to share great moments with.

I don’t feel like celebrating loneliness per se! I’m rather interested about how I feel when I’m alone or with others, what can help me when I feel unpleasantly lonely, and how I interact with other people. I feel it is a work in progress: my understanding of loneliness is part of my path towards understanding myself and maintaining authentic relationships.

I chose to end the post with a picture of the Dolomites. The(se) mountains have been for me the perfect place for being alone in a magnificient, natural, healing, powerful and humbling landscape.

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Unusual books at the library

I regularly visit the libraries around my place and I’m delighted to find rather unusual books. Some of them can be put in the category “oddly specific”:

You can see a guide on how to use concrete for decorative art projects, a guide on how to keep piranhas in an aquarium, and a very thorough manual on how to build different kinds of chicken stalls. Not pictured here are books on goat keeping, beekeeping (with focus on beehives in the city), and very encouraging “My first ducks” guides! I absolutely love the practical approach of this type of books, it is so encouraging for me, as I need a lot of information before even starting to dream about a new project.

Another category of books that bears strong surprises is the cooking category. Among the most varied cuisines and traditions, there are over-the-top celebrations of food like “Sauerkraut Powerkraut”, absolutely innovative proposals like “Köstliche Insekten” (“Tasty Insects”), and half-serious ones like “Die Bier-Diät”:

Not pictured was a shelf of pro-veganism books with an anti-veganism book among them. I appreciated how more than one voice was represented, and by having a look at the anti-veganism book, I think it contained reasonable objections and encouraged critical thinking. That’s why I keep looking for thought-provoking books, and am glad that librarians fill the shelves with such a refreshing selection 🙂

Children and perfectionism

During my Montessori teacher course we were worried by how a relevant number of children are terrified by making mistakes, or get very angry when they happen – or even avoid them altogether by doing only things they know well. How does it happen that the children themselves become their own tyrannic “teachers”? We discussed about it and many thought that these children see error-free work as the best present for their parents, and the best (only?) way to get approval from them. I don’t want to be harsh on parents here, quite the contrary, because they all want to be great parents and learned valuable lessons from their childhood. What I suspect is that this message about mistakes comes indirectly and diffusely, for example when one of the parents is harsh on himself about a mistake he/she made: the children would naturally do what the parents do, and learn to be equally harsh on themselves. Or it can happen that mistake-free homework or games are highly praised by the parents – then the children try really hard to get that special praise, and have to run this impossible (and unhealthy) challenge.

This post is actually an expansion of Making mistakes – which is more about my own path to embrace mistakes as valuable information.

As usual, you are welcome to share your thoughts in the comments, I’d be happy to hear your opinion on this topic!

 

 

Ten years of OpenStreetMap contributions

Today I wish to talk about my participation to OpenStreetMap, a collaborative map of the world. I started mapping in 2008, borrowing one of my research group’s GPS devices, and taking notes on paper. This direct contact with maps led me to using computer-based GIS (geographic information systems) and later learning how to program. After university I didn’t map for a long time, except for a few fixes. A couple years ago I found a renewed interest in mapping, and have walked around the city with a printed Field Paper for systematic mapping, or StreetComplete for more casual, on-the-fly mapping. It’s amazing to see how the map needs constant grooming: a new shop opens, the opening hours of a museum are changed, there is a new cycleway in a nearby street, the bus schedule got updated… that’s why we will never be done mapping!

For OpenDataDay 2016 in Santiago, Chile they asked passers-by in a public square to put sticky notes over a big printed OpenStreetMap map. Read more on this OKFN blog post. Source: OSM Wiki

I also contribute indirectly to OSM as an editor of the weekly OSM news. Every week I get to read articles about mapping, city planning, research, software, mapping initiatives, geography in education, and more. I then write a short summary and link the source, and provide the French translation. I dedicate a couple hours a week on this task, and I feel enriched and motivated by all the activities of the OSM community all over the world.

Are you interested in knowing more about OSM? First, you can check how your surroundings look like on the map! Then you can find all information in the wiki, and find mappers around you who can guide you in your first steps. Or you can start with the weekly OSM news, by writing articles and/or proofreading them. For any question, feel free to contact me as well!

Book recommendation: “Mythos Begabung” (“The Myth of Giftedness”) by Ulrike Stedtnitz

I’d like to write a review for this book, even if it’s currently available only in German. I found it a compact yet deep analysis about the perception of giftedness in my cultural environment. Each chapter ends with a page of questions that readers are invited to ask themselves, with the goal to better understand their own thinking and how it influences the people near/dear to them.

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Dr. Ulrike Stedtnitz starts the book with the analysis of potential, success, intelligence, and giftedness. It is nowadays clear that all these concepts can be modeled in many ways. Moreover, gifts evolve with time: for example, a child who learns to read at an early age is not necessarily going to keep being a reading genius, nor show potential in other domains.

It becomes clear that giftedness without practice doesn’t go anywhere, and that practice alone usually goes pretty far! Many people (especially children), who show a gift in a particular domain, usually make initial progress quite fast and effortlessy, and start struggling far away along the road, as they need a background of exercise and effort management they haven’t developed. Therefore, the author’s suggestion is to teach how to manage effort, concentration and persistence, and let personal capabilities and creativity collaborate to success.

She then ends the book with three chapters, one about dealing with emotions (how to cultivate/teach emotional stability and resilience), one about early education (where she mentions many principles in common with Montessori method, and the method itself) and the last one about school (with the invitation to abandon fact-learning, test-based evaluations of the whole progress, and to better prepare for working life).

What I liked in Dr. Stedtnitz’s analysis is how she makes clear that giftedness doesn’t require a fast lane or special rewards in school in order to lead to success – on the contrary. It is described as a specific advantage, which can backfire if it allows the child to skip crucial parts of the learning process, especially if it makes the child associate effort to insuccess. Therefore her suggestion is to have an education system that focuses on managing effort, developing concentration, intrinsic motivation, and let children experience and later generate moments of flow. I share these ideas, and I want to integrate them into my teaching model – a likely smooth task, as the Montessori method already shares many of these basic principles.