Wednesday, December 14, 2011

things

Things I will miss about Denmark:

Some of the kindest and smartest people I have ever met
A ridiculously welcoming and warm work environment (with the bonus of the best work-based christmas party ever)
The solitude--the haunting and echoing loneliness of being in this city of spires and no skyscrapers, where everything is quiet at night and the lights glittering on the far side of the black and isolated lake make it seem welcoming, but so far away.
The food--damn, can the Danish bake! They also have some mean shawarma places that VA doesn't do any justice to whatsoever.
The city's attitude towards the holidays. I think it encompasses the absolute best parts of the holidays in the states--tiny white lights glittering through the darkness, the smell of pine trees wet in the rain, christmas markets and hot wine, and the gathering of the ones you love.
The outdoor mentality--it's very much a city good for walking and biking, for spending time out of doors.
An excellent bus and metro system
The ability to go pretty much anywhere without it costing $3000 and requiring a visa six months ahead of time.
The wind that sweeps this city every day and makes lovely pulling sounds on the windows.
Lots of yarn stores.

Things I won't miss about Denmark:

Not being near my family and friends
Not having a cat with me.
Smokers. Everywhere. Can't wait to be free of them.
Not having a car.
Being alone.
How frickin' expensive it is to live here. In most cities you can get a quick cheap lunch for <$10 without much effort. Here, you are luck to find anything <$20 at any given time. Laundry costs me $5 wash, $5 dry.
It being gray all the time. Damn do I miss some sunlight.
Having to say "Sorry, I only speak English" every time any one bothers to talk to me--and also the fact that that so very rarely happens.
The way everything in the city closes at 5pm every day of the week, 3pm on Saturday, and all day Sunday.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

goals

Well, it's October. Only 3 months left before the year is over. Time to review my goals.

(she says, as if she did this with any regularity or consistency).

I set myself a few knitting goals this year:


1) make my first shawl evar
2) try making a shetland or estonian lace shawl with my 1200 yds of red laceweight
3) Socks! at least 3 pairs, for myself
4) learn how to cable
5) felt for the first time evar
6) Steek!
7) finish all my UFO HAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAA


well at least #7 is accompanied by realistic laughter.

1) Goal Exceeded!

I did this back in April--I made a mini shawl from Araucania Multi, fingering weight, green and brown wool, mostly following EZ's pi shawl pattern but inventing a leafy lace edging as I finished it. Badly inventing, I might add. Then in May I did a Summer Flies shawl using some luscious purple Malabrigo sock yarn that made me drool. So on the regular shawl front, I have exceeded expectations

2) Prevented by Outside Forces

So I had fully intended to make Queen Silvia or the Crown Prince shawl from my book o estonian lace, but since that book got left at home for the half of the year I intended to knit it in, it was doomed from the start. But I am not one to be thwarted (bwahaha! okay at least when it comes to knitting!), so I cast on for Print o' the Wave with some tiny tiny purple cotton instead. This stuff is so thin I think it might be cobweb weight--it's more like sewing thread than yarn. I picked it up at Habu Textiles in April and I think I maybe should have asked them to ply it for me or something, but it's working up to a lovely stole/scarf--it might be too skinny to be a proper stole in this thread. Oh well.

3) Goal In Progress

This is a goal that I'm going to need to put some serious work in if I want to accomplish it this year. Things looked pretty good in August when I completed a pair of socks in +/- a week, but the September socks have become the October socks and the October socks have disappeared. Part of the problem is the September socks are the often thwarted pair I've described in the previous post--lots of ripping back. Fortunately the yarn is holding sturdy, and I'm at the ankle of the first sock from the pair. I still have a long way to go, but if I can finish them up in October and cast on for the third pair by November, I should be in good shape to finish by the end of the year.

4) Goal Accomplished!

I figured out that the trick to cabling is that you don't do it every bobdamned row (except for some cables). This is what I get for teaching myself by "basically understanding how it's done" as opposed to reading or even watching an internet video or, you know, following any directions whatsoever. What can I say? instead of learning how to cable, I foraged how to do it instead.

5) Prevented by Outside Forces

Again, this is a goal/project that got delayed due to my 6 months abroad. I finished knitting the item I want to felt--a small bag--but it's at home, awaiting my eventual purchase of a zipping laundry bag and my return to my abode and kittens. It will be an interesting event when it finally occurs. I also have a couple of small toys in progress that I plan to felt, so it's only the last step that awaits me.

6) Goal In Progress

But that is little progress indeed. I decided to add this goal this year when it became clear that felting wasn't going to happen, and when I finally started a sweater and realized they're not impossible. Now, the only progress I've made so far is to pick out a pattern--Knitty Deep Fall 2011's Takoma, don't ask me why, I just love it--but I haven't even acquired the yarn yet. Still, there's no better place for skinny, sticky wool, perfect for stranded knitting and steeking, than here. I have a hard time finding even worsted weight wool. And I'm in the middle of a pullover, so the odds of me finishing that and the steeky project by the end of the year are pretty slim. But I am going to try! (and more than that, I'm going to buy the yarn for a third sweater while I'm here. This wool+cotton blend is awesome and I think they have some tweedy colors too. I love the tweeds!)

7) HAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

hahahahahahahahhhhahahahahhahahaha.

Like this was ever going to happen. Any progress has been in the opposite direction--I have tons of WIPs and planned projects (where I designate the yarn to something, but haven't cast on yet), but I'm lucky that I've finished 10% of what I've started :P


So, do you have goals for your knitting? I like to organize mine by year, but really these are more steps in a life time of goals than something that must be learned/done NOWNOWNOW. How do you do it? go about learning, and planning? or do you run willynilly into knitting? Not like there's anything wrong with that--sounds kind of fun.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

off

It is an off day for me. The second of my two conferences is over, and my presentation is done. My flight leaves at 5 in the afternoon here, so I have some 4+ odd hours to fill before worrying about taxis and etc. Since I have no laptop charger (of all the damned things to forget at home) and I only have 2 hours of battery life left, I am snuggled into bed at the hotel, reading knitting blog archives and checking out the changing faces of the mountains from the window. Soon I'll go down and get some breakfast, take a shower, and knit on my sweater (hoping to finish the body before I get on the airplane today--there's only an inch or two left, and I have to figure out some sort of edging/bindoff that will prevent it from rolling and not ride up my hips), drop a box off to be mailed from the front desk, leave my luggage as I check out, arrange my transportation, and go to a local museum for an hour or two. Then I'll fly for one billion hours and get some sleep and knit some lace or some socks.

I do have some (read: 400) papers to read as new references from the conference. But that's all right, I will worry about them later.

What all am I knitting? For this trip I brought my in-progress sweater, the damnblue socks, and my current purple lace. I figured I only had 1 ball of sweater yarn left so I'd probably run out of it, and then I thought I would get more done on the socks during the actual conference itself (lots of time to knit during 10 hours of talks, but it turns out I was busy taking notes, running programs, and writing my very brief presentation). The lace was for variety, and it's a small project. I hope to work on it on the 10 hour plane ride back, and I've written down the pattern to that purpose.

The problem with the damnblue socks is that I've been working on them since the last conference, and I've had to rip them back about 4 times now. Not because of the pattern (Chevrolace, from Knitty)--it's a very cute pattern. Not because of the yarn, either:



It's a lovely blue yarn from Trekking, in this gorgeous sky blue color, and it's sproingy and a little stiff but it softens up lovely after a wash, and it doesn't split and it works very nicely on my size 1s or 0s.

No, mainly I've ripped back due to incompetence. The first time I did the sock as directed and it was too big, so I took out a pattern repeat and tried again. That was better, but then in the midst of the last conference I had to improvise a short-row heel and three inches later I discovered it was too tight. Rip, rip, rip. I left it alone for two weeks in frustration and came back to it on the airplane, did a flap and wrap-and-turn heel, picked up stitches for the gusset, knit an inch during the current conference, and figured out that the ankle was too big. So now I'm about to do more decreasing for a couple of inches before starting the pattern.

The pattern is a 12 row repeat; perhaps that's the issue. It's a bit long, so it makes things either too big or too small. I suspect that after decreasing 12 stitches I will now find the ankle is too small, whereupon I will throw this beautiful yarn out the airplane, laughing maniacally as it disappears into the equally beautiful sky right before the air pressure difference sucks me out too.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review: Happy Feet

Let me take a moment to step back from this vacation/work frenzy and share a yarn with you.

I have long loved sock yarns, mostly because their yardage/cost ratio is very high, and I can't help being somewhat frugal. I am always reluctant to pay $10 for 100 yards of worsted, but for 400 yards of fingering weight it seems much more reasonable.

With that in mind, I picked up some Happy Feet sock yarn by Plymouth Yarns sometime last winter, probably from the sale bin of my LYS--so I'm not sure how much I paid for them. The colors were warm red and brown, absolutely delicious. For the longest time they just sat in my stash, but I tossed them in my bag of travel knitting. When it came time for me to go to Stockholm, I had decided I wanted, nay, needed to knit myself some socks, so this was the only yarn I took with me.

This yarn was a great re-introduction to socks. It is very squishy but also firm, not splitty at all. I worked it on size 1 DPNs and I have a very firm cozy fabric on my feet right now, keeping my toes warm. Since I was improvising a sock pattern from the toe-up, I ripped and re-ripped this yarn, but it was just as delightful on the reknits as it was on the first time around. It has a bit of spring to it--that's the nylon--that makes it resilient and pleasant. The only downside I found was that it pills up a bit while I'm walking around, but that's to be expected for things with a lot of contact, socks or the elbows of sweaters for example. This would probably make a great hat or shawl. The yardage, too, was generous--I cast on from the two separate skeins for my socks to try and match them, and knit a 3-4 inch cuff, and I have plenty left over for a sock yarn blanket or maybe even enough to make an additional set of anklet-length socks.

The best thing about this yarn, though, is its warm, toasty colors and its subtle variation. You could do lace patterns easily in it--I did ribbing and cables, and they absolutely pop.

Gratuitous shot of yarn on a beach:



That's the Baltic Sea, there. I dipped my toes in it, then climbed back up the rocks to have lunch and take a picture.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

overwhelmed



I am up to my neck in work--two separate projects, with a paper each, and a third (and technically a fourth) project that I have been ignoring somewhat as I fight first one, and then the other, of the primary pair.

This involves juggling a lot of details and staying late at work and programming a lot.

I used to hate programming. I took the introductory programming class in college. It was Java, and it was definitely not introductory. I scraped my way through it, learned almost nothing, and hated every other minute of it, because nothing made any sense. (In my defense, it was my first semester. I didn't yet know how to find other resources when a professor lecture turned out to be useless.)

I made my way through most of undergraduate with the same opinion, only reinforced by somewhat confusing experiences with programming in IDL in my Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. Then I went off to graduate school, and in my first year and my first semester I discovered I rather badly needed it. I learned a lot (a lot) of IDL in my first semester, and picked up most of the basics of general programming. (not object-oriented, though. That still confuses me). Now it is the beginning of my third year and I am surprised to find that I've been programming for class and for research for over a year straight, and been doing well okay decent at it. I even picked up working and programming a bit in IRAF (not much, but I can get by).

I'm surprised by how much I enjoy it. Obviously this is influenced by the fact that some of my programs in fact actually work, which is a drastic improvement over my first work in the field. And I get the gist or general structure of a straight line-by-line implemented program. I understand loops, and I've picked up troubleshooting methods (hint: print statements will help you find where you are going wrong). I've even managed to decipher someone else's program (not a professional one. just a peer-written piece of code, which is never as well annotated as you would hope. But it made sense!). But I'm not a programmer. I have no ability to make things elegant or streamlined; I have a tendency to cram everything into one big program file instead of making individual processes that might be multipurpose, and I know nothing about how to make my loops efficient.

Anyway, the point is that with a lot of work I've made improvements, and I'm not sure *how* I've made them, but I'm proud that programming no longer makes me run screaming. (Though it still makes me grimace).

Now I'm at a stage where I don't know anything about modeling. But I'm beginning to learn... to pick up pieces. This makes me optimistic. Maybe in 5 or 7 years, I'll actually be skilled at it.




I still have a million things going on in my head at once but as it's the end of summer I have started kicking out things other than work. Still, knitting has its place firmly rooted, and its something I turn to when I need a mental break from work.

Like programming, I'm surprised to see that I've been *really* knitting for over a year. I did some simple scarves on and off for almost 4 years now, but last year--early last year, say January 2010--is when I really got into it. I'd joined ravelry and found some good patterns, and my aunt bought me a book on socks, and my sister'd asked for me to knit her some and picked out the yarn. I found that knitting kept me awake in class when no other force on this good earth ever had (I loved my classes. I hated sleeping through them, but it happened anyway), and so I started the socks. And then I had some interesting yarns in my stash (how? I don't know, I just picked them up) and I made myself some ugly wrist warmers that laced up with ribbon. I was living alone at this point in time and I'd unpacked enough to find my original Stitch and Bitch book (now tragically lost) and I figured out how to do stripes and seed stitch and then a seed stitch scarf had been started and was churning along and I made an ugly fish and a book mark and a knitted cat toy and I'd picked out yarn for a blanket for my mother and actually started it and I was a knitter. It picked up momentum, it happened gradually over a long period of time. But last Christmas I had 2 knitted gifts for family members--3 if you count the scarf, which didn't make it to its intended recipient--and I felt really, really good about my skills.

Why I felt this way is uncertain. I hadn't done anything except rectangles and a pair of socks at this point. I didn't understand short rows or shaping, and I had to look up what "wrap and turn" and "pick up stitches" meant on youtube. But there were so many things I wanted to do and learn--and my stash was growing, and growing.

I wanted to make a shawl--I did. My first was an Elizabeth Zimmerman Pi Shawl, rather too small because I lost patience once the rows got too big and invented a leafy bindoff early. Next I found a free pattern and followed it (Summer Flies, on Ravelry, which at this time is free) and even analyzed it. I also did what I consider my first real lace shawl, in linen that I picked up here in Denmark--in the Birch pattern, from the tip up. I loved knitting every instant of it--the pattern was easy to memorize, a major major bonus in lace knitting. I cast on a shawl in practically-cobweb-weight cotton that I picked up at Habu Textiles, though that is still in progress. And I have plans to do some Estonian Lace when I get home again, where my book is.

I wanted to do amigurumi--and I did. I made a tomato and plunged straight on into a snail that got abandoned when I got confused in the directions, but I can't wait to get home and work on it again. And I've got an alligator on the needles here, all but done--need to figure out how long to make it before felting it. I got in on the hexipuff craze ever so briefly and made a few of them.

I wanted to make socks--and I did. Or a sock, anyway, completed. The other one is in the process of having its cuff re-knit for the third everloving time. After that this pair will be for me and I have plans for three more pairs--two with lace, the other plain. I find I love toe-up socks because the sizing and shaping is intuitive. I want 500 pairs. They're easy-ish and fast-ish and the colors are great usually and the product-to-yarn ratio is very good. (not so for a sweater)

I wanted to make myself a sweater. That's in progress, kind of. Turns out I'm so lazy (and busy--see above) that what I really want is an easy sweater. And the stuff online is all a bit complex. So I'm improvising a top-down yoke sweater with some sort of stripey yoke pattern using Elizabeth Zimmerman's percentage system as a guideline for how many stitches to put on the side for the sleeves. So far I'm a few inches in. We'll see how well it goes.

I wanted to create a pattern--and I kind of did, a few times. They're just in my head. They're both simple objects--fingerless mitts and a cowl-hoodie which I call a cowloodie. I made the cowloodie first and frankly hated the outcome--the cowl part was too big and the hoodie part was awkwardly shaped due to my aforementioned lack of understanding of short rows. I ripped it out and made it into the mitts (garter stitch, and fix the problem with camoflauge-effect-yarn by striping with something plain) with an attached i-cord edging that I love.

The problem is that I have a lot of yarn. I mean a hell of a lot of yarn. I keep going to the yarn store and finding beautiful stuff. And it's reasonable to pick up souvenir yarn while traveling--but I want to knit it all. I want to make beautiful cabled fingerless mitts for my aunt and more socks for me and a hat for my sister and a knitted felted dragon and two or three different ribbon-based scarves and at least 3 separate versions of Clapotis for my friends and more socks for me and a another sweater and that's where I know I have a problem because there is no way in six hells that I will ever, ever finish this stuff in a reasonable time (ie before I get back to the States with 500 pounds of yarn with me).

So I need a plan. An outline. Just to keep things feasible so I don't go buy more yarn every weekend.

1) a square for a friend's blanket. I already have the yarn for this, I just need to do it
2) mini mittens + a bit of a gift for another friend who's feeling down
3) many pink mitts and maybe a pink scarf for my oldest friend who is getting married this year
4) finish my alligator for knit-it-forward 1
5) make some charcoal mitts for knit-it-forward 2
6) figure out something to make in jewel tones for knit-it-forward 3
7) knit-it-forward 4 and 5 are done but need to be mailed
8) I really want to finish these three-times-reknit socks. They are very comfortable and a lovely color
9) finish mitts + maybe a scarf for my aunt
10) christmas gift for my sister (partially done!)
11) christmas gift for my other sister (not even started :P)
12) a blanket for my brother--this one I've run out of yarn on so I have to wait until I get back or until I get it mailed to me. Whichever happens first :P
13) I'd like a new pair of socks other than the ones I've worked on 400 times
14) I'd like *another* new pair of socks.
15) I have so many sock yarn bits--I think I'd like more hexipuffs, to stuff with catnip for the many cats I love, for christmas
16) experiment with plain yarn + ribbon yarn for gorgeous scarves.
17) my first real major scary lace needs a lot of work and a few more lifelines. I'd like to finish the first hank of really thin cotton
18) I really want to make more linen birch shawls. maybe 2-toned. One for Lauren?
19) I have accepted that I will never in my life manage to make a sock-monkey hat for my mother because I hate it--I hate sock monkeys and I can't find any yarn that isn't one million dollars. so I will buy it for her instead and then knit her some wrist-warmers in blue with cables. maybe.
20) rainbows and unicorns dummy clapotis

the fact that the clapotis I am half-knitted is at the very very bottom of the list is just an indication of how much I dislike it currently. It needs size 3s--same size as my sweater--and I want the sweater more.

(note that the sweater isn't even on the list. I feel like the odds of it actually getting finished are so slim it's hard to imagine working on it. But I guess I'd consider it number 0: sort of omnipresent and necessary for the rest of this list).

Now the problem is that in addition to all these projects I also have--stripey purple white thing, red lace, thunderstorm lace epic, scratchy grey lace, knitted dragon, knitted lil alligator, and other crazy ribbon yarn in pastels. All this yarn is in my apartment in Copenhagen. Half, at least, I brought with me from the U.S.--the other half is acquired here. and I want more of it. I was just thinking about sari-silk yarn and how there are two different types and one is soft and the other is sort of rough and stiff and how the rought one would look like rose petals when knitted up and how I really like red and warm colors and I should probably get it. And also I should get some of the soft stuff.

In short, I am imagining yarns and projects far, far faster than I am ever working on them. As long as I work late (yarn stores close as early as 5pm here, and 3pm on weekends, and are closed on Sundays), I will be all right--I can't buy yarn if I can't get in the store. But one of these weekends I am going to get up at about 9am and casually get dressed, catch a bus to the shopping district, and come home with another $50 of yarn. And be really really happy, and still have no finished projects.

the sad thing is I'm having a hard time seeing that as a problem.

Here are a few pictures of my visit to the big cemetary here in the city, where Niels Bohr's family grave site is (and H.C. Anderson, and a few other famous people as well).











Monday, August 15, 2011

a storm is gathering its folds on the horizon, above a molten sunset. Cold wind licks the face of the building and whispers through the open window. The trees stir and toss, restless and sleeping. Gold fringes of dying sunlight gild the swollen surface of the clouds, glossing over the gray and scudding base of the storm. The first whistling drops of rain sound out on the tile roofs of this foreign city, hissing through the leaves, tousling poplar and birch and oak. A magpie launches itself from the garden, raucously objecting to the rain. Its cry and the flash of its blue feathers the only thing for miles and miles.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Behind with the times

We last left our heroes on a bridge. And that bridge leads to a castle!

Yes, that's right, I went off to check out one of the awesome castles that are part of Denmark. More specifically, I wanted to see the ruins beneath Christiansborg Palace. Apparently, Christiansborg is a palace built on the tops of the ruins of 4 other palaces, dating as far back as about 1150 A.D. The first was built by a bishop named Absalon, and as such he gets this big statue of him outside the current palace.



The Gauls whom the bishop spent his life hasseling came along and disassembled the bishop and the palace in vengeance. Eventually a guy came along and unified the bits of Denmark into a kingdom and built his own castle at the same spot, which is rather ideally located on the ├śresund Strait leading into the Baltic sea and lots of trade routes. This was initially called Copenhagen Castle, and bits of its walls are visible amongst the ruins of Absalon's Castle, all well below the ground level of today











hehehe. jordklump




Two more palaces were built there, first by the famous architecturally-inclined king Christian the IV and then by Frederick the VI. Both of them lasted about 50 years and burned down due to overheating stove pipes that were part of the heating system. The current palace was built in around the 1900s and looks something like this:



Of course it was not only to visit the ruins that I visited. Beforehand I wandered around that part of the city and the isle of Slotsholmen. It's a very beautiful place--I think I am in love with Danish architecture.







While I was meandering through the streets I encountered a display from the World Wildlife Foundation about various endangered species spread throughout Europe. Walnuts took offense because the seal is laughing at him.



Slotsholmen is a beautiful island. It holds a lot of the governmental buildings (including, I believe this was the stock market or something similar--check out the awesome tower made from 4 twining dragon tails) and a gorgeous library.




The weather was pretty gray and blah, but I found this gorgeous garden outside the Danish Jewish museum.






Finally, I ducked into an armory museum. Most of their exhibits were closed for remodeling (so I couldn't check out the awesome swords) but the cannon/artillery room was open. It was... disturbing. Have you ever read Dirge for Sabis? It's an incredible book, powerful, well written, and deeply indicative of a society torn apart by war. Staring down the barrel of some of these beasts sent a frisson down my spine and made me want to cry. I cannot imagine having to face one of these items when it was actually in use.







Finally I stopped for lunch and finally tried sm├śrbrod. That translates literally to butter and bread, but really what it is is an open-faced huge sandwich on a slab of bread loaded with toppings and vegetables.


Of course I went yarn-shopping while I was out. *cough* Actually that's kind of what inspired the whole trip in the first place. It was after I'd found the store (yarn store in copenhagen are hard to find sometimes, it's called Sommerfuglen) that I noticed the whole underground ruins thing. I picked up some DK-weight yarn for a light cardigan that I haven't started knitting yet, and had a hard time not buying more stuff for mittens. I absolutely love making mittens and I can't wait for it to be cold weather again so I can make a dozen pairs. Or at least to get back home to where all my different worsted-weight multi-color-fuzzy yarns are.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I will never be an astronaut

which is a dream I didn't even know I had until today. The last launch of the space shuttle was today, and watching the astronauts suit made me bawl. I don't know why. I hate heights, I hate flying, even. But to be able to taste that feral, untamed edge of the world, to see the positive curvature of the earth falling away, to have all the stars exposed and naked, to see the glow of the planet below cutting across a sky so black it aches...

I didn't know I wanted those things. But they'll never be mine now. And in 5 years, or 10, we'll go to space again, and I'll have missed my chance, and a whole generation will grow up without knowing what that dream is reaching for, without knowing what it means to break through the boundaries of human existance and fly just that little bit further into the vast unbroken emptiness of space.

Hubble is dying. That's the nature of a telescope--there's only so much maintenance that can be done, only so many repairs. Kind of like a car--eventually, even if you replace every component in it, it will fall apart. It's not a piece that's broken. It's everything wearing down. Old age. Chandra is dead, and Spitzer is dying. WMAP is running its course. We have reached the end of the great space telescope era, and that burns even more than the loss of space flight. To think of all the things left in the universe to see and to understand--to think of the inspiration, the portal into the most alien of realms that Hubble gave us, and to know that in 5 or 10 years we will not even be close to seeing anything like that again--that's a deeper, bitter hurt. The James Webb Space Telescope has had its funding slashed, fallen victim to the partisan politics that cater only to money. I know it's a small thing in the face of the poverty, illness, and ignorance that the politics also fosters--but it is a terrible blow to the future. I cannot think but that it is a bad idea to sacrifice the future for the moment.

Monday, June 27, 2011

One thing I am both insanely glad for and upset about is that nobody asks me, "what are you thinking about, right now?" Sometimes, if I am very lucky and pensive, they might ask, "what's on your mind?" but that's not really the same question. In that case I have to pick an answer, a small thing to bring up, usually related to the recent trend of conversation. My brain is not usually focused on that. I know that saying it marks me for what I am: a bad listener. But my head is a weird place--it's processing a lot of stuff in the immediate vicinity, but it's also looking at things from 5 and 10 minutes ago, and from 5 hours ago, and from the last time I was in a situation like this or with the person I'm with. And not just the last time, but all the other times, and how they are all fitting together or not depending on what's happening.

So today, if someone were to ask me, "what are you thinking about right now?" I would say:

I am thinking about what a beautiful day it is outside, and this is making me want to leave work right now and go enjoy it because we really don't get a lot of sunny days here and I should use the opportunity to get some vitamin D and take pictures of the purple shawl that I finished yesterday in the park near by. But also I am remembering that I am moody and morose when it is gray out and I don't like to go in to work, so I should really stay here at work while I am in a good mood and focus on etting as much science done as possible, because I've checked a few simple things off my list today but I came up with another list that looks at the bigger picture of what I am doing and I really need to do that. And I am reading up on Apphot, which is an IRAF package that I can use to analyze my data, and I want to use it to verify some conclusions on the images I am working on, but I also simultaneously want to find out if the lack of flat-fielding for these images caused problems in the numbers I used for calibrating the data that I want to verify, so I don't even know if I can do the verification because it might be wrong and if I am not careful with mistakes then my science could be faulty but no one is here to point that out because I am not in class any more, no one is going to give me a grade for this. I have to figure out if my conclusions are faulty on my own and it's easier to keep them from being faulty than to just charge ahead and try and figure it out later. And I want to go to the market and get milk so I can make mushroom lasagna, which will be fun and a new experience and I'm not sure if that will work in my mini oven. But on the way home I want to go for a walk around the lake and stretch my legs, and I should use the time to go see how much it costs to do laundry at the laundromat cafe because I really need to wash some clothes and I need to know if I need change or a credit card. And if I left now I would have time to go for a walk and check out the laundromat and go to the market AND do some knitting and reading when I got home. I really want to finish up the complicated intarsia of the blanket I'm working on so I can get to the plain stockinette part, and I have that really tricky lace shawl with the really delicate cotton that I want to work on while watching Dr. Who, except I shouldn't watch more Dr. Who because it just makes me feel lonely and miss my cats. And there are thirteen million other projects I want to make like socks and hats and a sweater, and I have yarn and an idea for a sweater now, so I should start that, it will take some time. But I really shouldn't knit and goof off when I get home because I need to work on my master's thesis, it just has a few little blips that need to be ironed out and I should start writing the paper/report that goes with it and make sure I can access the last of the data I need to access, and figure out how to calculate what I should be calculating. But I also need to read papers for the project here, and I have data from November (November, people!) that just needs a bit of poking and a write up and then maybe I could have a finished project, or two, or three, before the big meeting in September. And speaking of meetings, I should really register for that meeting in California and get the paperwork started on that, and fill out my VISA application. I hope that doesn't cost any money. I wish I could buy a bicycle so I could get places faster. These walking sandals really aren't that comfortable and kind of make my heels hurt--maybe they're too big. I miss my cats and my family and I don't know how the hell I am going to make it six months without physical contact because the Danes aren't touchy people and I almost hugged a secretary today and that was bad.


stupid head going in circles and a million directions at once. So many things to get done.

Among them, blogging. But as you can see, I'm too busy and insane to do it. So, here are some pretty pictures for you, with little snippets so it's not too much work to write it all up.



The view out the window of my apartment is simply awesome. I could stare at this all day long. In fact, for a couple of days I stayed home and knit sitting in the window, watching kids play in the street and watching birds over the lake, and didn't leave home at all. It's a bad plan because it makes me feel lonely and I'm always glad when I've gone out, but I like the view.



The lakes by my house are square-ish and pretty clearly manmade, but they have a wide biking/jogging path around them, and lots of bridges, and lots of benchs. I knit on the bench sometimes, because the view is so nice. The breeze is a bit chilly--I can't quite believe how cold it's going to be in winter, and I don't even have my winter clothing. Except for mittens. This lake is a half block from where I live.


They mowed this grass a few days after this picture.


Took the flowers with it. But they were pretty and are already growing back.

Meanwhile, look who arrived late last week!

His name is Walnuts, the Walrus! he is here to keep me company, courtesy of Louise-and-Patrick, and my Twin who mailed him to me and who is one of his favorite people and who has his lover, Wallace, with her in NYC.

Walnuts is very adventuresome and came with a list of demands after traveling all that time in the airtight package. He already got to fulfill some of his demands--he rode the bus with me when I went yarn shopping last weekend. By last weekend, I mean, a week ago, because I am lazy and my thought process works like I described above so I didn't get much written between now and then.

Walnuts has been very busy this past week. He rode the bus with me, and went to the yarn store with me, and helped me eat a Danish.


More updates with Walnuts soon! But meanwhile, I must get some work done, so I leave you with this TEMPTING picture.

walrus in repose.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

the land of the Danes

Nearly a week later, I might finally have recovered from jetlag. Maybe. It's still damned hard to get out of bed before 10am which makes me look pretty lazy from the work perspective but I can work anywhere there is a computer so as long as I turn out results I don't think they care. Am I turning out results? *cough* no. not yet. I'm re-learning IRAF with which I've only had the briefest experience, but it's going well so far. I'm also working on an introduction to a paper, and I'm reading other papers that have been recommended by my thesis advisor. Paper reading is a pretty slow process because it's intensive--I swear authors are more concerned about spouting vocabulary than actually communicating. I take extensive notes on each paper I read as I translate it into something logical, but I try not to over-summarize; one of my bigger problems, on the citizen side of the citizen-scientist thing, is that I tend to try to sum up the whole thing I just read in a sentence. maybe two. There's usually a lot more detail and that detail is usually pretty significant in terms of the broader picture into which the research fits, so I'm trying to keep careful track of it.

ANYWAY. You're here for pictures, right? right. I took a lot of pictures and it's only been 4 days and a couple of hours, but I'm sure that will trickle off eventually.

Despite my enthusiasm for international travel, I was very numb for the whole trip--a combination of a very stressful semester full of burnout and a whirlwind week and a half of vacation, seeing family and friends and many many cats. I'm also still healing; it's been six months since Dad died, and it feels like it was yesterday, but at least I'm beginning to have feeling about that again. I sometimes can't believe that I made it through December exams and January qualifying exams at all--looking back now I can see how intensely broken down and numb I was. It was like I was floating the whole time....



ANYWAY. Since I was out of it, I only got one shot of the whole flight. That's the chicago-to-copenhagen airplane, and while it is bigger than it looks, it's really not all that big. 8 or 9 seats across/two aisles, sure, but so was the one I flew down to CA a few years back. It's probably the plane construction itself that makes it capable of international flight--something about how much altitude it can withstand, and how much fuel it holds, and maybe even where the wings were positioned (they were further back than I expected).

The flight was surprisingly easy, and I have to mention that the United representatives on my short flight were very helpful--they moved me up a flight and transferred all my luggage at no charge just to make sure I'd be early enough for the international flight. Albeit they put me on a plane full of people who had been waiting on the causeway for an hour and were probably pretty grumpy, but that was due to bad weather in Chicago.

The international flight was good. Shorter than I expected (8 hours or so, though reported at 15; I must've moved through 7 time zones then), and very smooth. The plane had cameras that you could watch on your screen showing the forward and bottom view, so I did get to see the ocean even though I didn't have a window seat. The staff were very polite and helpful, and I did indeed get two meals and a warm wet towel, which is probably the best thing ever after 7 hours in an air-controlled environment when you are very crunchy and dehydrated.

(there's a tip for new flyers: drink a lot of water on airplanes. I used to get horrible migraines when I travelled, and I thought it was my ears not popping, but it was really dehydration. I always bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up by the gate. On this flight I had three bottles of water and a couple of cups and probably could've had more). Food on international flights is also better. Which is reasonable, because if I'd gotten a dry bagel with whipped cream cheese for breakfast I probably would've gnawed someone's arm off. Probably the kid sitting next to me.

Downsides? mainly the kid sitting next to me. It was an overnight flight, 10pm to 1:20pm the next day, and this 8 year old brat tossed and turned and twisted and rattled and kept sticking me in the side or trying to lean on me, jerking me out of sleep. I finally gave up entirely and knit in the dark. Oh, and I recommend headphones+ music, just to fill the space with something peaceful and classical instead of thrummy and talky. Anyway, I didn't sleep more than an hour or two despite my headphones, so I was pretty loopy when I arrived.

I followed the signs, in English, through immigration, which involved a 30 second wait while the official stamped my passport (!) and absolutely no hassle, and then around past customs (nothing to declare, so no line there), and picked up my luggage. My advisor was waiting for me with a sign, so we shook hands and he navigated me through a rather confusing train ticket system and got my dropped off at my apartment. I greeted my landlady and two slightly grumpy small dogs, dragged my luggage up three flights of stairs, and goggled.

The apartment is really nice. REAAAALLY nice. Also furnished by IKEA. that made me giggle a bit, but I guess it's appropriate.

Bedroom above.



It is simply *full* of light, which I love. White walls, white curtains, white couch, pale birch colored floor (that's not right... what is it, pine, that looks very pale when cut?) all unfinished. Pardon this picture, my camera was unable handle the glowing light and decided to make everything look dismal instead. I assure you, I don't need to turn the lights on until an hour after the sun sets; sometimes not even then.

The kitchen is also very light, and lots of utensils. There's an induction cooking element that takes some getting used to but is very scientifically cool, and a.... well. oven-substitute, which is to a real oven what Splenda is to sugar. It's about the size of a microwave and has a pretty short cord, but I used it to make garlic oven roasted potato-and-hotdog-casserole, so it works all right. I'll try baking some cookies in it or something this weekend. (don't judge me! the local market didn't have much meat that I recognized so I got some hot dogs. They're not very good. I should go to Germany.)

The bathroom is normal. I also have a tiny balcony and a couple of sun-roof-windows, which sound GREAT when it rains.

After I took a quick nap on Sunday, I dragged myself out at about 4 in the afternoon to see if I could find a place to get food for supper. My landlady said that there was a grocery store around the corner, so despite feeling like death I went for a walk. I ended up going about 3 miles, past the market and a bakery, a park, a museum, and then a long way by some train tracks. I was feeling a little lost and hadn't yet seen an ATM so I stopped in a hotel where a bunch of tourists were getting out of a bus and asked about money exchanges. They told me point blank that their rates weren't very good, and I mentioned I heard ATMs had good rates, so they told me where to find one. And the rate was very good--I think 1%, even better than the airport (why am I surprised by that?), so I took out 1000dkk and wandered on. I still felt like death because I hadn't eaten for six or seven hours and I was getting pretty thirsty, but I found my way back to my apartment and went to the market.

it's a very small market but it has essentials, so I picked up cereal and pasta. Apparently Denmark has good milk and dairy products, so it's a bit like going home but in a totally foreign language. Then I went over to the bakery but they were closed for the day (who closes at 6pm??? even if it IS a Sunday?), so I had cereal for dinner and then collapsed.

I slept in and went to work, and met a lot of friendly people; participated in an astro-ph discussion within 15 minutes of walking in the door; and got my computer set up. Left at 6pm and made some food, played around on the internet and called some people, then went to bed again.

This time I slept until 3 the next afternoon, and I could have slept more. I think I understand what people mean when they say jetlag, now. Exhaustion like a wave, and it takes several days to recover.

It's just been work and sleep and internet for me since then, but I'm planning to explore the city center this weekend and hit up a real/bigger grocer store for something simple, like meat, tomorrow or at least this weekend.

Oh, and for your daily yarnporn fix, here is a pic of the last skein I picked up on sale in MPLS before I left, and the knitting that I did on the airplane. The first flight was an hour long, and I got maybe 3 repeats of feather and fan done before I figured out that I'd joined with my stitches twisted :P dammit! I pulled it back and recast on, and this is pretty much all from the international flight, knitting in the dark.


I haven't touched it since I got here. I'm not liking the way it's going--the feather and fan looks less awesome and more dorky than I expected. This yarn is Aslan Trends Bariloche, which I haven't heard of before. It's worsted weight, very loosely plyed (or rather, it doesn't appear to be more than one strand wrapped around another; it's just twisted around itself), and it knits up very quickly. So far it's not too fuzzy, and the colors in-ball are great, but they look very eclectic when knit up.

Anybody want a cowl?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax, or in other words, Mittens

I love Sherlock Holmes with a vasty and unyielding affection. Though I've read all the stories many dozens of times, I still like to skim through them before bed--they're just a little bit of excitement before I drop off.

However, unlike the above story, my own disappearance is not quite so thrilling, and has no roots in my wild mining days (since I have none). Long story short, I've been ridiculously busy finishing up classes here in graduate school. I still have research left to do--lots of it, as I'm going for my Ph.D.--but today I get to walk for my master's degree, and I will have no more schoolwork from this point on.

It's a strange feeling because, quite frankly, I haven't ever *not* been in school before. Summers aside, I've been taking classes constantly since, you know, kindergarten.

I know that research will take all of my hours soon enough--and I'm glad for it. But it is very freeing to understand that my time is now my own, to produce the best possible research from my data that I can. And also to do knitting. I've cast on 4 or 5 projects in the past month. (oops? I blame stress. Knitting is a form of relaxation, you know). I've only cast off one (a knitted bag) but it needs to be felted so it's not officially done. But I've found my latest addiction, and that is mittens.

Meanwhile, here's just a bit of yarn porn for you:



Okay, first, a disclaimer. I have a lovely but old Decrepit Camera and it's biting the dust. In fact, these are the last pictures I pulled off it before it decided to stop turning on entirely. New Camera has been acquired and will soon be put to use for your porny pleasures! but it's not entirely my Decrepit Camera--this stuff is scarcely plyed and it's fuzzy as a llama's butt. The colors are also not coming through as well--there are so many delicious tones and layers to these two skeins that it's amazing. The blue is full of jewel-colored shades and even a bit of shadowy black to give it the color of deep sea. It's so delicious that every time I start knitting with it, I get distracted for a bit. The green you can see some of the variegations, but they're more intense--it captures the play of shadows and light in a dense summer forest like we have around here, with hints of gold and brown as well. I also picked up a chocolate brown, a bright purple, and a cream.

And what to make with these colors? Well, they work so well together that I think mittens are really the only way to go. I started my first stranded colorwork project and my first mitten at the same time. Stranded colorwork is remarkably easy with this yarn because it's very sticky--even when I drop a stitch it really doesn't make it very far. And as for a mitten pattern, well, I kind of improvised--I cast on 50 (using a knitted cast on and size 4s, this gives me a small size for my small hands), k2-p2 colored ribbing until I had enough wrist (10 rows or so), then knitted upwards with 2-st increases around one mitten "edge" to make a thumb gusset. Once I got to maybe 8 or 9 rounds with an ever increasing thumb I put those stitches on some scrap yarn and kept going up for the hand.

The best thing about stranded colorwork is that when you start to get a little bored with a project (I'm easily distracted by other things), you can just switch colors, and it's as fascinating as starting over.

The best thing about stranded colorwork with this yarn as that the brown, green, and blue look like trees on a summer sky.

Downside? Well, I used a rubber band to keep my stitches tight on the DPNs, and it really fuzzed up the yarn. I like it, but if you're a neat freak it might not be for you (I feel like I could give these guys a shave and they'd be fine). But that's one of this yarn's unique characteristics--it's very bouncy, it's lusciously colored, and it would felt in a heartbeat

More pics to follow once I get New Camera up and running. Guess she needs a name... Cassiopeia the Camera, perhaps?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Knitting for others :P

So I've always wanted to get in on a yarn swap or something like that. However my circle of yarny friends pretty much consists of my sisters and a couple of best friends, and, well, let's just say that it would be overkill to actually start planning what we do on a normal day to day basis.

Buut I thought I might give this Pay It Forward thing a try.

The rules are as follows: I will make a handmade gift for the first five people who comment on this blog post as long as they promise to blog about this and send a gift to the first five people who comment on their blog post.

If you want to participate, simply leave a comment on this post with a link to your blog post. If you're one of the first five people to comment, you'll receive an extra-special handmade gift from me before the year is through. I'll be emailing you to get your mailing address so please leave your email with your comment.

If you're not one of the first five commenters, feel free to participate anyway! If nothing else, this is certainly a good way to spread the joy of craftiness.


That's direct from Off The Hook Astronomy, whom I've read a little of and would like to know more about. So... your turn, my lovely lurkers (and... maybe some LSGers?).

I know I'm not a very prolific blog poster (though you can find more non-knitting material at Astroknot because I have plenty of life to bitch about), but I promise that I will be a prolific knitter for others this year.

Technically speaking ONE of these spots goes to Jiyati, whom I promised something in a similar thing on Facebook. But it was a while ago, so who knows if she still remembers.

Best wishes, all

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Misti Alpaca Chunky 100% Baby Alpaca

I just couldn't wait to rave about this yarn. I was recently Yarn Stormed (details here, though the Ravelry group is more informative), so I have a box full of truly luxurious yarns. Even among merinos and 100% peruvian wool, this one stood out.



I've spotted this Misti Alpaca in the local yarn store (LYS) before. It's always in a loose skein that I just love to dig my fingers in, and then rub all over my face. I'm sure that the LYS employees are probably grumpy about that, but I just can't resist. It's like nuzzling a cloud. Except a cloud would be wet and cold, and this is just fluffy as all get-out. Even though it's chunky, it's not heavy like the bulky Jo-Ann Sumptuous I got for my last log cabin blanket. It's like air, and each individual strand is squooshy to the maximum.

Is there a downside to a yarn like this? That depends on what you want to do. It's a 100% animal product so it's going to felt if you try to machine wash it. That makes using it for a child's blanket or toy prohibitive. A single skein has 100g/108 yards and costs ~$14.00 (for my LYS, anyway), so if you wanted to make a cardigan, you'd need 5-10 skeins and then the cost really gets up there.



in the words of the great Despicable Me, "It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!"



I'm thinking that mittens or a scarf would be ideal for this yarn. A lot of different mitten patterns need only 100g, and then the soft richness of this fluffy yarn will be always at your fingertips. And of course since it's so fluffy it should be amply sufficient to keep you warm even in the chilly climes. On the other hand, this Robin's Egg Blue pattern would be really cute and warm, especially with a giant and colorful button. If dpns are too much bother for you, then a garter stitch scarf or a quick cowl like Susan Chang's Wham Bam Thank You Lamb! neckwarmer (which you can find on Ravelry) would be great as well, because then you can have this luscious yarn nuzzled into your neck.

Used this yarn? words of praise or scorn? leave me a note!

Welcome to YarnPorn

Every knitter knows the feeling--the glorious luxury of excellent yarn. Even if you use acrylic because it's cheap as heck, you can't stop yourself from fingering the pure wool, the silk-and-bamboo mixes, the stiff cottons.

This blog is dedicated to that feeling. Once a week I'll post a picture of a new yarn that I've acquired, talk about it, recommend a few patterns, and comment on what it's like to knit with. So if you love yarn, or if you're just learning about new types, come by and see me.

Not me, but clearly someone who loves their yarn:












Image reference: craftzine, accessed 01/28/2011, http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2011/01/checking_in_with_the_worlds_la.html