The Price of Nice Nails

10nailsweb1-superJumbo

I have never been one for manicures. The first and only time I ever had one was at College, courtesy of a Beauty student who needed someone to practice on.

Still, even in the cities of London and Manchester, I’ve noticed the nail salon spring up in often unexpected places, much like mushrooms lighting up the dankest streets in the dullest parts of town. Their low prices obviously mask even lower wages for the workers, as highlighted in ‘The Price of Nice Nails‘ by Sarah Maslin Nir.

Such cases are always complicated to figure out. Yes, workers are being exploited but in their exploitation they are also able to make money and better lives for themselves and their families. We’ve heard the usual rigamarole of argument and counter argument. It’s tough. As the daughter of immigrants myself, it might sound strange, but I understand the value of these places that allow children like me to go to school and get into University but also allow us to emulate the fashion models and society belles when we cannot afford to.

However, in an age where employment and immigration are the issues on everyone’s lips and the spectre of AI and automated workers looms, this stood out:

Around the time her first semester of English classes wrapped up, Ms. Ren asked for another raise. It was then she learned there are actually two price lists at her salon. One is for customers. The other is jotted down in a hidden-away notebook and lists the prices employees must pay the owner to learn new skills: such as $100 for eyebrow waxing, $100 to learn how to apply gel and cure it with ultraviolet light. A raise would require a new skill — her boss suggested eyebrows and gel — and the cash fee.

She was in the nail salon van when her boss told her of the fee, as he drove her to a different Long Island salon he owns. He shuttles employees between the two shops, depending upon which is busiest. An iPad propped on the dashboard played video feeds from both salons. Ms. Ren responded to the new fee with uncharacteristic furor.

Her boss relented: He would give her a 50 percent discount. She refused.

“I already paid when I first came,” she said. “Now I’m an employee and have been here for so long. Why do I still have to pay to pick up new skills?”

It’s almost as though one can see the future of work in these next few paragraphs. Workers constantly being upgraded and encouraged (perhaps quite firmly in some cases) to take further skills, the payment for them out of their own pocket – or perhaps that of the business for the better class employer – in the meantime the latest technology of the day being used as the marshal, the middle man. Not so much replacing the worker as a potential colleague, but instead becoming their prefect, their warden.

Hearing Through the Silence – additional thoughts

Artillery company of the Nigeria Regiment

About a month ago, I was asked to write some thoughts on WWI by the parish priest at the church I attended when I lived in Manchester. My short article is available to read on the church blog.

I’ve decided to reproduce the article here, with additional commentary. True to form, there were some things I had in fact misunderstood and only got to clarify once I’d told her about the short blog post I’d dedicated to Great Uncle George. It’s always funny how that happens.

Continue reading Hearing Through the Silence – additional thoughts

The Post-Capitalist Museum and Derby Silk Mill

tonybutler's blog

I have only a rudimentary grasp of economics but I am thoroughly enjoying reading Paul Mason’s Postcapitalism

His provocation is that capitalism is broken. Cycles of boom and bust punctuated by state bail outs is unsustainable. Soon the state will be milked so dry that it won’t have enough capital to patch up the system. Bail outs transfer money from the poor to the rich, which eventually will make our society so unequal that social conflict will become inevitable.

But from the wreckage of a system built on unsubstantiated credit, a new economy can emerge. One based on information technology which is open-sourced, home-made and shared. This sharing economy is not made of controlled platforms like Uber or Airbnb, but of co-operatives sharing non-market goods, time banks and LETS currencies. It’s an economy based on sharing of knowledge skills and information.

In showing how we have got here, Mason…

View original post 952 more words

Poster Design time!

One of the nice things about organising events is that I get an excuse to sit down and do some design work. It’s never amazing as I’m under time constraints but it’s nice being able to experiment with photoshop and develop my style.

There are two events on the way at the moment – MancsterCon, a comic convention which will be held on 29th August and AfroFutures_UK, an Afrofuturist conference in October. I’m busy doing art for events promo, mostly for MancsterCon as that’s approaching right soon, but a little on the side for the October event – hopefully that means by the time September comes, I’ll have some truly amazing posters on the way.

As such, I haven’t been updating this blog that much, although as ever, there’s about 50 draft entries waiting to be finished up. There’s been a lot going on, from events management to coding to hackathons and I will get it all out soon… just not right now!

NASA is indexing the ‘Deep Web’ to show mankind what Google won’t

Featured Image -- 690

Understanding web technologies has become my latest obsession (which I think fits in neatly with my rediscovered enthusiasm for complexity studies and whatnot). One of the my favourite ranting topics is the segregated nature of the web UX – a term which for me is about more than the user interfaces, but the very processes used to enable discovery and information retrieval.

Hence why I found this article pretty well timed, in short.

Fusion

There is a part of the Internet—most of it, in fact—that is hidden from Google. It is private, or illicit, or simply unknown. And NASA wants to help you reach it.

The space agency announced last month that it will join forces with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to help make sense of that part of the Internet commonly referred to as the Deep or Dark Web. Most Internet users first heard about it, if they’ve heard about it at all, in the context of Silk Road, the now-defunct online drug marketplace that was hosted on a hidden Web service. Silk Road was only accessible using the anonymity-enhancing browser The Onion Router, or TOR.

Now, NASA’s mission to explore the universe includes the furthest reaches of cyberspace. “It’s uncharted territory,” Chris Mattmann, NASA’s lead on the project, told Fusion in a phone interview. In a press release, NASA explained that it will help DARPA…

View original post 706 more words

STEMmette of the month: Natalie C

Branded  (3)

The greatest thing about being a geek is all the brilliant people you get to meet. One such person is Natalie C who I bumped into at the Manchester Girl Geeks Barcamp. We’re both really passionate about encouraging diversity in STEM, but with a similar emphasis on empowering women of colour to be able to make their own stuff and challenge the status quo (but that’s a whole other blog post…).

So, we’re doing a co-blog where we ask each other some key questions about how we got into our fields and any words of encouragement for other young lady geeks out there.

Anyway, without further ado, Natalie C!

Branded  (3)Name: Natalie-Claire

Subject/Industry: Structural engineering

Job – what you do: Currently a STEM ambassador and aspiring graduate structural engineer. I go to schools, colleges and career events to promote civil and structural engineering as a worthwhile career.

As a structural engineer, I would be involved in designing structures like: buildings, stadiums, airports, bridges and even oil rigs. By working with architects and other engineers together we create safe, sustainable and spectacular structures around the world.

Picture of Civil Engineers waving at the camera

Something cool about your career & why you love it.

The best part about being a structural engineer is to see your work/design become a reality and on such a large scale: London Eye, Tower bridge, The Shard, The Gherkin, Sydney Opera house, just to name a few well known structures.

How you got to where you are today – school, subjects, inspirational people.

At school my favorite subject were maths and science. So I went on to study: maths, physics and computing at college. My physics teacher was a great inspiration to me, he saw potential in me and encouraged me to look into engineering as a career. So I then studied Civil engineering and then Structural engineering at university. The best decision of my life!

Word of encouragement to younger women who want to have a career in STEM. 

If you love maths, science or technology research the many careers available out there. And you can become someone who makes a difference in the world we live in today. I am passionate about engineering and I want to spread the word to all the young women out there that it is a great career path to take!

Natalie blogs at Engineer with Unique Style and can be followed on Twitter @NatCLiberty

Tomatoes in bloom!

IMG_0613

A few weeks ago I was given two tomato plants courtesy of a fellow chorister at my local church. When I lived in Manchester, there was a whole community around self-sufficiency and vertical gardening and I always wanted to have a go, so when my fellow congregant mentioned he was growing tomatoes, well I couldn’t help mentioning I’ve always wanted to have a go at growing some, which I have.

I was duly given two juvenile plants – a cherry tomato and a… bigger tomato type plant (forgotten the name). For a while I was convinced I’d kill them dead within the week as I am the least green fingered person in existence but I managed not to. It turns out they really like mussel shells (three weeks prior I’d ordered a kilo of mussels so I have plenty of shells to spare) and only a bit of watering and good compost.

IMG_0613Just over a week ago I noticed an array of buds on the tallest plant and then on Thursday, I was greeted with a few lovely yellow flowers! I also realised I need taller sticks and larger pots to repot them, which I’m not looking forward to as they’re so tall now. Which also suggests I need to do some severe pruning too.

As I mentioned to a friend, this is probably why I have no fear of a calling to motherhood. True, children tend to make more noise than tomato plants if you don’t feed/wash/clothe them properly but I suspect I’d still keep it too late.

A day of Girl Geekness in Manchester

manchester_girl_geek_header

Around early May there was a certain something, a frisson disturbing the still waters of online girl geekdom. A new javascript framework? A working implementation of Quantum Computing infrastructure applied to knowledge mapping Big Data sets? Bless you, no – the Manchester Girl Geeks Barcamp was back!

I’ve been attending the Manchester Girl Geeks barcamps since 2013 and they’ve pretty much become one of the highlights of my year. Each one gets better and better – I get to listen to a variety of fascinating topics, meet very clever and hardworking women from a wide range of backgrounds and get to eat amazing cake.

manchester_girl_geek_header

This year obviously I had to travel up from Warwick which meant getting up ludicrously early on a Saturday following a very tiring and stressful week. Still I arrived on time, even though it seemed not that many others did. Anyway, undeterred I checked out the speakers already signed up on the board and took a comfortable seat ready for the launch of what promised to be a day of girl geek amazingness. Not least because we were given adorable mini hemp goodie bags (obviously I took a purple one).

Continue reading A day of Girl Geekness in Manchester

In which a Hackathon is actually won

I’ve developed something of a craze for hackathons, probably not helped by signing up to the Hackathons and Jams meetup group. I used to enjoy the prospect of being part of a team and creating new projects but after a particularly painful experience, my attitude now is more about exploring the free technologies on offer and messing about with new APIs.

Such was my philosophy when I signed up for the NBCUniversal Comcast hackathon. Having attended a talk held by Ladies Who Code London during which Mairead Buchan @tiny_m gave a really nifty demo of using leapmotion as a means of interacting with the web, so I was quite keen to get my hands on one and have a go hacking about with javascript. As it was, I did indeed end up on a team (doing a hackathon can be a real boost to the self-esteem, for those of us unused to being in demand!) and by the end, I was actually very happy to do so.

Continue reading In which a Hackathon is actually won

Natural hairstyles!

I’ve just taken out my crochet weave and I’m happy to say that the shaved sides are growing back (I got myself a mohican cut a while back but the sides of my head have always been problem areas for hair growth). One of my goals – along with re-learning Spanish, Japanese and Igbo properly – is to get good enough at cainrow so I can do proper, fancy hairstyles as opposed to the vanilla left to right style I usually do.

Unfortunately the current do is still very rough so I’m also looking around for nice headscarves (where are the african fabric shops in Birmingham? WHERE??) as I work on my skills. Thank heaven for ebay. There are some gorgeous prints out there. Still a shame everything is in London, or at least, if you want to pay reasonable prices for it.

I’m basically putting a whole bunch of links I found for future inspiration:

Six Protective Styles for Short Kinky Hair

70 Braided Hair Styles – thinking of doing some twists for myself.