Wednesday, December 06, 2006

WTF Wednesday

I have never participated in What the Fuck? Wednesday, but today, I have to. Why? Because I got the following email from a labmate today:
Long story short, there was a short in the switch to turn on
the lights in lab.

After some phone calls, me getting to pull a fire alarm for
the first time in my life, AND a visit from 10 or more fireman
power was turned off to that switch. should be fixed by 8 AM
they say, but until then only safety lights in lab.

Yay! Lab burning event averted!


Okay, first of all, no burning down the lab before I graduate, are we clear? Second, there are still no lights in our lab. It is now 10:40am. Fortunately, we have electricity from the outlets so our equipment still works, but the lights are out. Also, fortunately, it is one of those rare sunny days in Chicago otherwise it would be much, much darker in here. But, the windows are small so it's not like we're flooded with light. And, I have a lamp. So, there's some light there. But, here's the thing, I have seasonal affective disorder so darkness, it is not good for me and second, my experiments aren't working, I have to get them to work before I can even start on the next thing, I have to get all of this done to graduate and I'm leaving this Friday to go to LA until Tuesday (Yay!), so that's time away from lab, so I can't just say, "fuck it," and go home. People have been called. Advisor out of town so no help from that quarter. If the lights aren't on by this afternoon, I'm going to hunt down the facilities people and force them to work on the lights at gunpoint (don't ask me where I'm getting the gun, this is the Southside of Chicago, I'm sure I could buy one off of someone fairly quickly, and as long as I get a receipt, I can get reimbursed).

That is all. Rant over. For now.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Knitting unto others

I have been doing the charity knitting. Here are the finished hat and a pair of mittens*:
I think the mittens are actually too small to be worn by the same person who wears the hat, but that's okay. The mittens are connected to each other by a long, crocheted chain so that they will stay together.

A close up of the hat:

I actually like how the fair isle came out.

I have started a red scarf. I went through the same problems with this one as the first one I started except for the hating the yarn part. I really liked the yarn, I just couldn't decide on a pattern. And I had to go down a needle size. But I think I have something I'm happy with.

Grandma update: I haven't been able to get ahold of her, but I talked to my mother after she saw her and Grandma is doing great! She is pain-free for the first time in years. According to the doctors, her hip was the worst they'd ever seen in terms of arthritis. The past couple of years, Grandma has really started to look old. She never had before, but all of the sudden, she just sort of sagged, and looked unhappy and frail. Mom says she looks like her old self now. So, hooray!

Speaking of Grandma, we have a Grandma's Mother's Day socks reprise. The socks I made for her didn't fit. So, the last time I saw her, I took them back. Here they are along with Mom's flip-flops before I mailed them off:
I lengthened them, and sent them off today:

I couldn't find the left-over yarn I had (probably in California), so I redid the toe in purple. Then, to make the toe look like it really belonged with the sock, I did the purple ruffle at the top. I sent these to Mom so she can bring them to Grandma next time she sees her. It makes me smile to think of Grandma wearing these pixie socks in the rehab facility.

*Ghiradelli has been complaining that he doesn't get his share of blog time. "There's a picture of Lucy everyday on Wendy Knits," he complained, "And Miss Lulu Kitty gets screen time over at Cabin Cove." I tried telling him that I didn't want to exploit his cuteness for the sake of my blog, but he just sniffed, turned to show me his butt, and walked away. So, I decided to try to include him in my pictures here, but he wasn't particularly cooperative. Honestly, how am I supposed to include pictures of him in my blog if he doesn't pose for me?!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

All is well

Grandma made it through the surgery fine. Well, that is, they didn't accidently amputate her leg or anything like that. We'll know more about how the hip is in a few days. I haven't talked to her yet (she didn't answer the phone when I called), but my mom is going to see her tonight so I'll be able to get second hand info.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Knitblogger something or other

I was at Norma's when I found out about this. It seems that someone is doing a study on memes and how fast they travel. And while I am a no-meme zone, since Norma is as well and she was doing it, I figured it was okay. So, the deal is this: visit the link above (this) and then say something on your blog about it and ask other people to do the same and ping technorati. I'm not even sure what that does, but you know me--lemming all the way. Besides, I'm a sucker for an experiment.

Grandma's surgery is today. I am staying in Chicago. I am trying to be a productive person but failing miserably. This does not surprise me, but at least I'm trying.

Monday, November 27, 2006


My grandmother is having hip replacement surgery.

It was supposed to be late in December.

I had not decided if I was going to go to Iowa for the surgery or not.

The surgery is now on Wed. (yes, THIS Wed.).

I don't trust hospitals.

There can't be someone there with her all day everyday.

I don't trust hospitals.

I need to go to Iowa.

I need to graduate.

Maybe I don't need to go to Iowa.

Or I do.

Or I don't.

I don't know what the hell to do.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


My husband is becoming quite the traveler. I was trying to find a time to visit him in January and here's the schedule I have to work around:

Jan 7-12: Seattle
Jan 13-22: Hawaii
Jan 31-Feb. 2: Ontario
Feb. 2-5: Chicago.

Craziness. Some of you may be wondering about the Hawaii trip. The telescope is on the top of Mauna Kea on the big island. It is cold up there. He brings a hat and gloves. It is not a vacation!

Speaking of hats, my dear husband has asked me to knit him a hat that is medium-warm. See, I knit a hat out of wool-ease that he wears when it's not too cold (the man starts wearing a hat when it getst to be 50 degrees out; he's a little thin-blooded). Last year, he requested a warmer hat. I made him a double-knit hat using KnitPicks Decadence, a bulky weight 100% alpaca yarn. It was slightly big, but it was warm enough for walking half an hour from our apt. to campus everyday during a Chicago winter (I just took the bus; this may explain why he is a stick while I am pleasantly plump). Apparently, this hat is "too warm" for Hawaii, but the wool-ease hat is "not warm enough" therefore, I need to make him a hat that is "just right" (perhaps I should start calling him Goldilocks?). Therefore, when I ordered the red scarf and Dulaan yarn from KnitPicks, I also ordered more of the Decadence to knit him a single-knit (as it were) hat. I hadn't planned on giving it to him for Christmas, but since he's going to be going to Hawaii in January, I want to get it to him before then. So that's one more project to add to the Christmas list.

Speaking further of hats, I finished the second pattern repeat for the Dulaan hat. I tried some of the techniques Eunny suggested in her recent post to even out my stitches on my colorwork with mixed success. I think I need to just keep doing colorwork projects until it becomes second nature to me. The Dulaan projects will be good for that. Anyhoo, I suspect that, with the holiday weekend approaching, I'm going to finish this hat before my red yarn shows up, so I am wondering what I'm going to do for charity knitting in the iterim. I will have some yarn leftover from the hat, but I'm not sure it will be enough to make matching mittens. I suppose I could just make small mittens. It'd be nice for a child to get a "set" but not mandatory I suppose.

You may be wondering how it is I'm getting so much knitting done these days. It's A. She knits constantly. You would too if you had six scarves and a pig to knit before Christmas. And a duck to put together. Though she has finished one scarf and is 2/3 done with a second. The first was worsted weight knit with size 8 needles and the second is bulky weight knit with size 10 needles (Brittany needles that I got her for her birthday which she loves due to their pointy tips; she's been using Clover bamboo for everything else). And they aren't very long scarves. But she is really cranking them out. So when she's home, if she's not sleeping, in the shower, or eating, she is knitting (and watching tv). This, in turn, inspires me to knit more because even when I'm dead tired and don't feel like doing anything, having her sitting there knitting her little fingers off makes me want to knit.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with good food, good friends, and knitting!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Look, pictures!

My brother-in-law's scarf:

I folded it in half prior to arranging it for its picture. It needs to be blocked so that the ends (on the right) don't look wider than the rest of the scarf. The yarn is a Borrocco wool/acrylic blend that is not only variegated in color but also in thickness. There is a faux cable rib (rows 1-3: k2,p2 rib. row 4: *k2tog keep stitches on the needle, knit through first stitch again, slip both off needle; p2*; repeat from * to * around). It's soft and warm and should go well with his dark gray coat (he's not a bright colors kind of guy).

My sister's socks:

These are made out of a sport weight sock yarn from either Cherry Tree Hill or Bearfoot Mountain Colors (lost the ball band) using size 4 needles. In trying them on, I noticed a couple imperfections I'd like to fix, but after that they will be ready to be wrapped. I used the same faux cable rib that I used on the scarf. It's a simple stitch pattern that is easy to follow, gives you more variety than plain rib, and makes a nice looking fabric (though it's difficult to tell in this picture). No, my legs have not seen the light of day for years, why do you ask (hey at least they're shaved)?

Mom's sock:

The yarn is Lorna's Laces and the pattern is Grumperina's Jaywalker. The yarn did some strange pooling around the ankle and I ended up fiddling with it so there wouldn't be a ginormous red spot on the instep. I like the striping that occured on the foot and wish it had done that for the rest of the sock, but I'm not going to be picky about it. For both this sock and my sister's socks, I used a short-row heel which I like much better than heel flaps (because I hate picking us stitches and then decreasing down). Usually I knit two socks at a time to avoid second sock syndrome, but I was having a hard time with the pattern in the beginning (first I couldn't count to seven, then I kept forgetting to knit in the front and back of the first stitch in the repeat because I had just knit in the front and back of the last stitch of the previous repeat) so I decided to do one sock at a time here. I cast on for the second one yesterday and have the cuff ribbing done and have started on the pattern (much easier the second time around). I am using 2.0mm Inox express circular needles (love, love, love these needles--much pointier than addi's).

And finally, the product of my Weekend of Charity Knitting Agony:

The fair isle pattern actually shows up very well in this picture; much better than in person. In the photo you can't see the little hairs that obscure the pattern a little. This is a very hairy/fuzzy yarn. Here's a lesson for you: take a moment to look at your colorwork pattern to see if it makes sense BEFORE you start it. The pattern is supposed to be evergreen trees and the chart was written assuming you were making a bag. Think about it for a second and you'll understand why this is a problem if you actually want to have evergreen trees. However, I like the pattern as is--it's not crucial to me that I have right-side-up evergreen trees (besides, the yarns are blue not green, although I suppose they could be blue spruce). I have finished one pattern repeat and am starting the second at the top of the chart so that the colorwork will have mirror symmetry across the horizontal axis. Once I finish the second pattern repeat, I will make the rest of the hat in the color of the brim which will eliminate the problem of decreasing in the middle of colorwork. I haven't measured the hat yet, but I think it will fit an American child 5-8 years of age. I'm not sure if Mongolian children grow at the same rate (nutrition really does make a difference for that sort of thing), but I'm sure it will fit some child. That's the nice thing about knitting for charity, you don't have to worry about the item being a particular size--it's bound to fit someone.

Right now, I'm knitting on the hat at home and Mom's sock on the go (on the bus, in seminars, in the dark room while I'm waiting for the machine to develop my film for lab [where today, btw, in the faint glow of the red safety light, was desperately looking for something I could use as a stitch marker--is it normal to wish you carried around stitch markers in your pocket?], etc.). The hat should be done by the end of the week. Hopefully my red yarn from KnitPicks will arrive by then. If not, I'll go scavenging for my wool for Dulaan projects. Along with my red superwash yarn, I am expecting some 100% Peruvian in green, yellow, blue, orange and red which I plan on knitting for the Dulaan project. I am going to make a vest. It'll be my first large garment (well, I'm not sure quite how large it will be, but you know what I mean). The vest may have to wait until after Christmas, though.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Decision-making: Not my strongest point

Norma asks: What are you knitting on THIS INSTANT?

Nothing. I'm sitting at my computer typing. Ha.ha.

With Saturday being the start of Knit Unto Others, the fact that I had a strong belief that Dulaan knitting should be done in wool because it is warm, my (erroneous) belief that I had no wool that was unspoken for, the fact that Dulaan knitting is due in July while the Red Scarf Project is due the end of January, and the fact that I still had a considerable amount of the one pound of Caron red yarn (acrylic) from last year's Red Scarf Project, this weekend I cast on for a red scarf.

Almost immediately, I regretted this decision.

I did some swatching because I wanted to modify a pattern from a Vogue knitting Scarves book (the pattern called for sport weight yarn and I was using worsted). I tried size 10 needles and hated the look of the resulting fabric (I guess I'm too used to making tight-knit socks these days). I switched to size 8 needles. This was better, but I wasn't enjoying the yarn so much. Undaunted, I figured out the modifications of the pattern that I needed, ripped out the swatch, cast on, and completed about a foot of scarf.

I hated it.

The pattern had horizontal ribbing along the bottom edge and vertical ribbing along the sides. This created a look of concentric rectangles in the finished scarf which was very nice. But the vertical ribbing pulled in the sides too much, making the bottom look weird. And this being acrylic I wasn't confident I could block the problem away. I ripped it out.

By this time, I had really started to dislike the yarn. It was stiff and unwieldy. It didn't help that A was sitting next to me knitting a scarf out of KnitPicks Andean Silk, an oh-so-soft alpaca, silk, and merino blend. I pondered what I should do next. I looked at various pattern books. I couldn't come to a decision. I sat and watched tv and mised out on prime knitting time. I went to bed.

The next morning, sitting in front of my lightbox, I cast on for another red scarf, this time a basketweave pattern with a seed stitch border. I thought that maybe part of the reason I found the yarn unwieldy was that I was using bamboo needles and the yarn wasn't sliding off the needles as easily as I am used to with my Inox express and my addi Turbo needles when I knit socks. But, I didn't have size 8 metal needles, so I went back to using 10's. I wasn't sure I liked it, but I kept on trucking. I put my knitting down to wash some dishes, then went to my room to listen to my audiobook and do some serious knitting. I still didn't like it. After knitting about a foot and a half of scarf, I decided to take a nap.

When I woke up from my nap, I ripped the damn thing out again.

I hated the scarf.

I didn't like how it looked, I didn't like how it felt, I didn't like the fact that my hands hurt after so little knitting when they normally didn't hurt at all even when I knit for a long time. About the only thing I did like about it was that it seemed to be knitting up quickly and thus would blessedly be over soon. I thought about how much I usually like knitting and how it is a peaceful experience for me. How it is a welcome respite from the lab which I hate and resent every minute I am stuck there trying to finish this damn PhD. I thought about the kind of karma I was imposing on this scarf as I sat there and resentfully and painfully knit it. It was like the opposite of a prayer shawl--one of those shawls infused with prayer as you knit it that you give to someone who is needful of comfort. I thought about what a dreadful thing it would be to give a scarf with such gloom associated with it to some poor college student who had enough problems without wearing The Sinister Scarf of Depression and Anxiety. I thought about how much more I would enjoy this project if I had a softer yarn to work with and how much more the student would enjoy wearing a soft scarf next to the delicate skin of the neck. I decided to buy some red superwash wool yarn.

In the meantime, I needed something to knit. I dug through the box of yarn that I had with me. Much of my stash had been sent to California. But, I found two balls of Cascade Pastaza (I have lost the ball bands, but I think they may be numbers 28 and 85) which I had originally intended to use to make a bag from the Handknit Holidays book. I started the project but had abandoned it on the needles when I realized that no matter how small my needles were I was just not going to get gauge and the bag would take up much more yarn than I had. I cast on for a hat for the Dulaan project.

I wanted the hat to be plenty warm, so after about an inch and a half of two by two ribbing, I started the evergreen tree fair isle pattern that was in the original bag pattern. For the bag, I had planned on using the flower pattern, but that repeat was a little wider than I thought I could keep track of while watching tv. I got less than 10 rows done before it was time for bed.

I looked at the hat. The fuzziness of the yarn obscured the colorwork somewhat and my floats were not as even as I would like them to be. I had alternated between holding both yarns in one hand and holding one in each hand to see which felt better (the verdict: neither; but I'm going to keep trying the two-handed technique). The hat, though, was stretchy enough to go with the ribbing, that is, the fair isle part didn't become obscenely constricted as it had other times I have tried fair isle which meant I wasn't pulling my floats too tight which I think had been my problem in the past.

I'm going to keep working on this hat. It is not perfect, but have wanted a chance to practice stranded colorwork and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. Also, I remember Norma had once said that she liked the Dulaan knitting because it let her try new things and if there was some imperfection in the finished piece, that was okay because a slightly imperfect vest or hat or scarf or mittens was better than not having anything at all and that's what would happen if she didn't send the item in. I think it is quite a nice hat, really. You can tell that there is a pattern there, even if it isn't crisp as in traditional fair isle, and the stranding on the inside will act as another layer against the cold. I would probably not use the yarn for a garment for an American to be worn against the skin as it is a little itchy when you put it against your face, but I do not think this will be a problem for the Mongolian children who do not have the same luxury of having wussy, pampered skin as we do.

I'm going to order red superwash yarn from KnitPicks today to use for the Red Scarf Project. I still think the best thing for a college student is something that can be tossed in the washing machine. I have a sample card of that yarn and it seems quite soft. I have some other yarn to order from them anyway (like more wool for the Dulaan Project among other things).

So that's it. That's how I decided what to knit for the Knit Unto Others knit-along. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it finally got done. Lord, am I worn out from the experience!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

You knew it was coming

With the plethora of posts about charity knitting floating around in Knitblogland, it was inevitable that such a post would show up here, as well. I like the idea of knitting for charity as we approach the holiday season with its growing commercialism and excess of shopping, so I have joined the Knit Unto Others knitalong (see button in sidebar). The idea is to knit at least one charity item in the next two weeks starting Saturday. And while this seems completely doable, I am feeling overwhelmed with the choices of charities to chose from. Do a I knit a scarf for the orphaned college student? Do I knit a hat or mittens or scarf for a child in Mongolia? Do I knit a hat, mittens, or scarf for someone in Afghanistan? Do I knit a hat for a child in Oklahoma? Do I knit a baby cap for Save the Children? Every charity I see seems worthy and none of them speaks to my heart of hearts more than any of the others so I feel like a deer caught in the headlights--rooted to the spot, caught in indecision. Honestly, everytime I think about starting a charity project, I get so overwhelmed with the possibilities I just stare at the yarn and needles for awhile, then pick up one of the many gift knitting projects that I have going right now and work on that. There is such a thing as too many choices.

Friday, November 10, 2006


Meet Dr. Eugene Losev, Ph.D.

Eugene was in my entering class for the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology and we joined the same lab. Last Monday, he successfully defended his thesis and has earned the title of Doctor. Hooray!

Tomorrow is Roommie's birthday. Since today it got pretty cold, I decided to give him his hat and mittens.

They fit quite well which is a relief. I tried making him a hat several years ago when I first started knitting and it was ENORMOUS. This time, I secretly measured his hat and mittens that were in the closet and went by those measurements. It worked!

And here we have the Sister-In-Law votives:

These were knit with 24 gauge wire using glass beads both from Michael's. The bead size is a little confusing and I didn't quite understand what it meant. The beads were variously referred to as 6/0 and 3mm. I followed the guidelines from Handknit Holidays. Since Kristen has asked, I will give you more details as to how I did it as soon as I can take some demonstration pictures. It's really not that hard and it goes pretty fast. I did each of these in one evening while watching tv.

This weekend promises to be pretty quiet. Roommie is going out with his boyfriend tonight and tomorrow night for his birthday. E, temporary roommate A's husband, is in town and they are staying at a hotel for the weekend. So, it's just me and my knitting. Maybe I'll watch my beloved Pride and Prejudice this evening while knitting and drinking hot chocolate. chocolate. On Saturday, I am going to afternoon tea at the Four Seasons with my good friend, B (who's Roommie's boyfriend). Afternoon tea is my favorite indulgence. I don't go for manicures or pedicures, I go to posh hotels and sip finely brewed tea in china cups and savor delicate little finger sandwiches and scones with lemon curd and devonshire cream. Holly Golightly may have thought that nothing bad could ever happen to you at Tiffany's but it's my firm belief that nothing bad can ever happen to you while at Tea.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I'm awake

Really. I am. I keep telling myself this even though there is evidence to the contrary. Just an hour and a half ago I had so much caffeine in my system, my hands were shaking and now I feel like I wanna take a nap. Damn that switch from Daylight Savings Time. Yesterday I needed 20 minutes in front of my light box, a cup of tea, a half an hour nap (yes, a nap when I had only been awake for an hour!), and some ibuprofen so I could feel awake enough to leave the apt. Ahh, the joys of seasonal affective disorder.

But, enough of that. I've been knittin' up a storm.

Presents for Roommie:Made with Karabella Aurora 8. The multicolored yarn is actually a blend of the brown on the cuffs plus cream and green. I think they will go well with his green coat. Or any other coat he is likely to buy in the future. The pattern is just a basic hat and mitten pattern I made up off the top of my head with help from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns. (Confession: the mittens are actually done, but I don't have a picture of the finished set, yet).


The finished pair is Grandma's socks which look surprisingly big in this photo. I made them loose because she has poor circulation and socks normally cut into her legs. The one at the top is first of Mom's Jaywalkers in Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (btw, I cannot count to seven; this may explain my problem with math). The pair on the left is for my sister for Christmas and they are Baby Cable Rib from Sensational Knitted socks in either Cherry Tree Hill or Bearfoot Mountain Fibers (I lost the ball band).

Also on the needles, a scarf for my brother-in-law using a Berrocco wool/acrylic novelty yarn and a similar baby cable rib. The yarn changes from light grey to black with a stop at charcoal grey in between. I like it, but I confess I'm a little concerned about sending it to him. The yarn also changes from thin to bulky weight and back again and is spun quite loose (wait, why did I buy the yarn? that's exactly what my homespun looks like!) and this makes the stitches look uneven. On the one hand, I think that's part of its charm. On the other hand, I'm afraid John's grandmother will see it and think I'm not very good at knitting (she's a retired knitter--retired because her arthritis is too bad for her to be able to knit anymore). We have this knitting bonding thing going and I don't want her to think I'm inept. Yes, I know I have Issues.

Moving on. I have completed two beaded knitted wire votive sleeves ala Handknit Holidays for Wife of Brother-in-Law (Christmas is coming you know). They knit up very fast and look great so I think I'm going to make more for other people. Pictures will be up sometime soon(-ish).

In other news, John was here over the weekend and it was wonderful right up to the moment he left when it TOTALLY SUCKED. I was so happy, then it all came crashing down at once and suddenly, I felt worse than I did a week ago before I had seen him. You know, it's like the wound had scabbed over and then the scab got ripped off and I was bleeding all over again. (Lovely visual, I know.) I just keep telling myself, "This is only temporary." It helps that A is living with me right now and she is in the same boat. We commiserate and eat chocolate and watch Law and Order and knit and that helps a lot.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I have Ebola

When I was in college, in the early to mid 1990's, the general public was just becoming aware of the hemorrhagic fever viruses like Ebola. The book The Hot Zone had come out, the movie Outbreak was released, and one of the evening news magazine shows had done a feature on all of those scary new infectious diseases and had talked to people at places like the CDC and USAMRIID. Among my acquaintances, it became the norm--when one was ill with a cold or the flu--to claim to have Ebola (I think this was partly due to the fact that Ebola starts off with flu-like symptoms). It was obviously untrue (where the hell would the average Bostonian college student come in contact with Ebola?) but it was amusing and indicated how miserable you were (ie that you had contracted a horrible disease and wanted to die). After I left college, I read the book The Coming Plague and realized that one did not need to claim to have Ebola when one had the flu because the flu could be bad enough (just look up the 1918 flu pandemic). I suppose nowadays it's more fashionable to claim you have bird flu if you want to be melodramatic, but I think it's not quite the same because sooner or later someone in the US is going to have bird flu and it's going to be bad.

All of this to say: I have a sinus infection. Again.

I went to dinner at a friend's house Friday evening and he had a sinus infection. And while the food was wonderful and I love the friend dearly, frankly, I would have rather he cancelled because then I wouldn't be sick. And normally I wouldn't let this faze me but John is coming tomorrow and I haven't seen him in a month and I really wish I wasn't a giant bag of mucous. (Ewwww)

I've gotten quite a bit of knitting done here and there, though. I started some socks for my sister for Christmas. I started and finished a hat for Roommie for his birthday. I started a pair of mittens for Roommie for Christmas, but I think I may have them done by his birthday and now I am torn whether I should give him both the hat and mittens for his birthday and do something else for Christmas or try to wait to give him the mittens. I'm not good at waiting.

Temporary roommate, A, was practicing knitting with waste yarn until our Knitpicks yarn came in, but the wait was too long (not overly long, less than a week, but still she was getting bored) and so she started a penguin stuffed animal for one of her nephews. She has all of the pieces knit up and the body is stuffed she just has to attach the feet and beak and stitch eyes. Then, she's making a duck for a different nephew. And then she's making six scarves with the Knitpicks yarn. I am not kidding.

I am concentrating on socks for Christmas. Grandma, Mom, and sis are all getting socks. I am making John a scarf to go with the double knit hat I made him last year but I'm not sure if it will be his Christmas present or not (in case you're wondering why a man living in southern CA would need a scarf and a double-knit hat, when he goes to the telescope on top of the mountain in Hawaii it is very cold--cold enough for snow). I'm making some washcloths for John's mom to go with the handmade soap I bought her. I'm hoping I'm keeping my holiday goals reasonable, but I guess you never really know that until it's about a week before Christmas.

Now, if you will excuse me, it is time for some sudafed.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One present down

Grandma's socks are finished! Yay! Pictures will appear one of these days. I grafted the toe at SnB without a book in front of me. First time I've ever been able to do that. Now I'm swatching for Mom's Jaywalkers.

And now for something completely different.

Today, the Yarn Harlot wrote a post that really spoke to me. She often does, but this one spoke to me on many levels. And while I may not be quite as eloquent as her (which is okay because writing is not my profession), I felt I wanted to add my two cents. Especially since she mostly avoided the issue of women not taking credit for their talents.

I am a scientist. And a woman. This makes me something of a minority, although in the biological sciences, at least at the graduate student level, we are reaching numbers comparable to men. Last year, when the president of Harvard made a not-so-complimentary remark about women in science, the U of C had a panel discussion about women in science. One of the professors had gone to grad school at Harvard and she said that even though she got very good grades and even though she knew she was doing better in her classes than her male peers, when speaking with them she always assumed they were smarter than her. Until that moment, I thought I was the only idiot who felt that way. And it is idiotic that a person who values the truth of data, who knows that to have any credibility you must base your models on what the data is telling you would hold a belief that the data does not support. And yet, I did and so did she.

I have an incredibly hard time accepting compliments. With knitting, if someone comments on a project I will tell them that it was easy regardless of the amount of time I put into making it, how many times I ripped it out, how many new techniques I learned. I imagine that even if I procured a sheep, built a pen for it on top of my apt. building, took care of it every day, mucked out the stall (boy, wouldn't passersby on the sidewalk be surprised when that came hurtling off the building?), sheared the sheep myself, washed, combed, and carded the wool, spun all of it using a drop spindle, plied it, dyed it myself, and knit an wedding ring lace shawl out of it that would fit a giantess when asked I would probably say, "Oh no, it wasn't hard at all." And when asked how long it took to make, I would likely say, "Not very long." Because, after all, I hadn't raised the sheep from infancy, right?

Or why, when upon hearing that I am a graduate student in molecular genetics and cell biology, someone says, "Wow, you must be smart," I hurriedly assure them that this is not the case? Why do I not say, "Well, I've always done well in school and I've worked pretty hard for it"? Or just say, "Thank you"? I would give seven kinds of hell to any one of my friends who did the kinds of things I do everyday. I would encourage them to shout it off the rooftops. I would tell them to be proud and hold their heads up high and for the love of God take credit for your accomplishments. But I never do so myself.

It's a mystery. I have no idea why I do it. I'm sure my former therapist could come up with some reason. But, it doesn't really matter what the reason is. I need to stop doing it. If somebody says, "Your hair looks nice today," I need to stop saying things like, "I didn't even style it this morning." When someone says, "That's a lovely bolero, did you make it?" I need to stop saying things like, "Actually, the stitches aren't as even as I would like them to be." In short, I need to take credit where credit is due. I need to learn to appreciate the things that I do and assign to them the worth they truly have instead of putting them on the Everyone Else in the World versus Me Double Standard Sliding Scale of Accomplishment.

Who's with me?

Monday, October 23, 2006

I am NOT back from Rhinebeck

Because, as we have already established, I did not go.

I did, however, finish my pumpkin socks.

Toe up pattern roughly based on Wendy's with short row toes and heels using Cascade Pima Tencel yarn. I made up the ruffle off the top of my head by increasing every other row by knitting in the front and back of every stitch until I thought it was enough. They're a little loose on the leg. If I had to do them over again, I'd decrease going from the heel to the leg. But, as they are perfectly comfortable (and soft!), I'm leaving them as is. They make me feel like a kid. Most people say they remind them of carrots. I think next time, I'll do a little jack-o-lantern face on them, and maybe a knit 4 purl 1 ribbing to give them that unmistakable pumpkin quality.

Temporary roommate, A, finished the scarf for her mom (perhaps I can get her to model it for a pic) and is coming with me to SnB tonight. Another one bites the dust. We have decided that when we are both finally in the LA area, we will hang out in yarn shops until Julia Roberts comes in. My husband asked what we would do when she did come in, and, since I hadn't actually thought of what we would do next (because, in my mind, seeing Julia Roberts in the flesh, buying yarn, was enough), I said the first thing that came to mind which was, "Have her sign the ball band of some sock yarn." However, I've decided that I would have her knit a stitch in my project instead because, hey, items that have been partially knit by JR have got to be more rare than her signature, right? However, I'll likely be too embarassed to approach her, and won't want to harass a fellow knitter when she's just trying to buy yarn like a normal* person, and will likely say nothing to her and simply post to the blog, "Hey, I saw Julia Roberts in the the yarn store today" and that will be enough for me. A's next project, by the way, is a pair of fingerless mitts for herself because it's too damn cold in her lab and her hands get cold while working on the computer. Given the size of her hands and the rate at which she is knitting, I expect she'll be done with them by the end of the week. The girl is fast!

I am on the toe decreases for Grandma's socks using Cherry Tree Hill sport weight yarn in the Birches colorway (I know this yarn is heavier than fingering weight, but I cannot for the life of me find a link to it online, I suspect it has been discontinued) that are supposed to be a Christmas present, but I just don't know if I can wait that long to give them to her. So, I might send them early. I want to know if they fit properly. If they do, I can knit her more for Christmas or something. I really should get started on the socks I'm making for Mom, now, though. I think she'd be disappointed if Grandma got a pair (or two) and she didn't. Since I am the only knitter in blogland who hasn't made a pair of Jaywalkers, I think I may do that. I'll have to figure out how to modify the pattern, though, because I'm going to be using thicker yarn and I don't think I'll get gauge.....

Labwork? What labwork? Oh, right, I'm trying to graduate. Ugh. I can't seem to get my butt into lab on the weekends. My excuse this past weekend? Head cold. It's a good one, isn't it? I came up with it on the way into campus this morning. In my defense, it is pretty hard to concentrate on labwork when mucus keeps running down the back of your throat and your nose feels like you've rubbed sandpaper across it (and not the fine stuff, either, we're talking the stuff with the serious grit). I take stuff** for it, and it works, but I just feel worn out all the time. Whine, whine, whine. (Norma, if you're reading this, I am not using a neti pot, but I have a nasal rinse thing and I have been trying to use it, but my nose is so stuffed up, it doesn't work quite right.)

DNA scarf--no recent progress. Probably ought to get back to it if I'm planning on knitting one for my thesis committee chairperson, too.

*That is, normal to us, which, in a countrywide poll of a representative sample of Americans may not, in fact be the norm.

**The angel of mercy must've visited me last night because this morning I found some good old sudafed (not the new PE stuff) in the medicine cabinet. I swear it wasn't there over the weekend.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I'm a knitting pusher

It's like a drug pusher, only more dangerous. I try to convince people to knit. My latest victim is my temporary roommate*, A, who is a natural at it. Last night, I cast on about 20 stitches for her, showed her the knit stitch, and within two rows she didn't need me to watch her anymore. Her stitches are becoming more even and she rarely drops a stitch or picks one up. I wish I could say I caught on that easily, but alas 'twas not so.

I am getting close to the end of the pumpkin socks. I should be able to finish them this weekend. Then, I'd better concentrate on holiday gifts. Where has October gone, I ask you?

I am one of the three knitters in North America who will not be at Rhinebeck. After hearing about it last year, I decided I'd try and go this year but then that whole pesky move to California took up so much time and money that it's just not in the cards. I wanted to play blogger bingo and watch people attempt to keep the Yarn Harlot away from the Grafton Fiber booth and eat lamb chops next to the sheep building, but it is not to be, I guess. It's not like I even really know anyone there, but it would've been nice to put faces to names. There were even perfectly acceptable sheep and wool festivals in this area of the country, but I didn't manage to make it to them, either. But, that didn't bother me much. What were they? Did they have a multitude of knit bloggers flying in from all over to attend? Were they set in upstate New York near the end of fall when you'd want to cut out the middleman and just wear the sheep? Had every blog you read been talking about them for days?

So, it is with heavy heart that I stay home this weekend, knitting pumpkin socks and nursing a head cold (why, oh why do we have sinuses? Is it part of God's punishment to Adam and Eve? "Thou shalt have pain in childbirth and every spring and fall thou shalt have a terrible pain in thy forehead and there shall be much wailing and gnashing of teeth and sudafed except that I shall make the unworthy want to buy sudafed to make a terrible chemical from it and it shall be most difficult for the righteous to buy sudafed and therefore thou shall have to satisfy thyself with sudafed PE instead."). At least I now have a knitting buddy living with me.

*A is staying with my and Roommie because her husband also moved to LA in September (it's like an epidemic around here) and she is desperately trying to finish her PhD. Luckily, we still have a futon for her to sleep on.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Liar, liar, pants on fire

I believe I said something about showing you progress on my Trekking socks during my California Migration. See, um, the thing is, well, uh, a bear stole my camera. Right. Yeah. And then, uh, he told me that he'd give it back to me only if I didn't post my progress pix on my blog. I'm sorry. I know ya'll were looking forward to them and everything, but what could I do?

I finished the Trekking socks last week and wore them this weekend and I loooove them. They fit like a dream (my first pair to do so) and are soft and warm and look great. I want more. I'm not sure what I'll do with them when I get to California, but I'm not going to think about that.

In the meantime, I started some Christmas socks for my grandmother in the Birches colorway from Cherry Tree Hill. And I decided I wanted some pumpkin colored socks, so I'm making some for myself. I forget what brand the yarn is, but it's a DK weight cotton/modal blend and knitting up super fast. I decided to use a toe-up pattern, which is slightly confusing because I never know when I should start the short-row heel. At least with a cuff-down version, I can just keep going until I cover my toes.

I am doing okay (just barely) with John gone. There's a lot of things that have piled-up against me at once and I feel like I'm barely keeping my head above water. John's gone. All of my stuff is in California and I'm living in a denuded apartment, using a utility table to eat breakfast at. I'm pretty strongly affected by my environment, so this has shaken me up more than one might expect. And, I'm feeling the stress of getting my thesis research done, and it's not going as fast as I would like which means I may not get out of here in March. And, the days are getting shorter and it's been gray and rainy and my Seasonal Affective Disorder has kicked in. All of this has combined to make me feel anti-social and therefore not up for blogging. But, I will try. I know that being around people (even virtual people) helps me stay sane and not depressed, so I am trying to make an effort to do that.

Monday, September 18, 2006

A leeetle bit of blogging

Right now, I'm focusing on my travel blog which you can find here:

However, I don't want to scare my family away with the knitting news, so I'll still be posting that here.

Remember the Trek-Along? Also known as, "I am so not finishing those socks on time." Well, I decided to work on the socks for my cross-country trek. Here they are just before entering Nebraska:

I'll try to post updates of them as we head West.

Monday, September 11, 2006


With the move fast approaching, and then being on the road for awhile, this may be my last post until October! Things are going as well as can be expected, but I have very little time for anything other than preparing for the move and sleeping. Blogging is on the bottom of the list for now, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Bumper Stickers

A Chinese student in our lab asked me what a bumper sticker was. The explanation had to include what a bumper was (she doesn't have a car). She then told me she wanted to get a gift for a friend who was going to be a journalist. She had found a bumper sticker that said, "Do it with a journalist and feel the power of the press." I started laughing. She said,

"I don't get it, is it funny?"

Oh dear. Why do I always get stuck explaining these things to people? You know when you have to explain these things you try to be a little bit vague hoping that they will get it without going too much in depth? A few years back I had to explain a rather crude joke to my roommate, who, upon explanation, still didn't get it (I believe he said, "Okay, but what does that get you?" In his defense, it dealt with female anatomy and positioning and being gay he really never thought about those sorts of things). I then had to explain exactly what was going on and why it would be desirable. It was a tad embarassing. I believe his reply was, "Oh." Jokes really aren't very funny if they have to be explained in that kind of depth.

Today, fortunately, once explaining that "it" was sex, I didn't have to go any further, although I think maybe she didn't think it was as funny as I thought it was. I guess her sense of humor is a little different from mine.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I'm back to doing it. Thank you for the well-wishes for my meeting. A bit about committee meetings:

By committee I mean my Thesis Committee. The people who decide whether or not I will graduate. Our program requires meeting with your committee once a year so that they can haze you you can get their opinion on your work. The idea is that by gathering their input, you will have a better thesis project. Near the end of your graduate career, you have what is known as the penultimate committee meeting (the ultimate one being your defense) at which time your committee says, yes, you have done enough, you may start writing your thesis now (up until this point, it's all been lab work). Today was not the penultimate meeting. But it was the meeting just before the penultimate meeting--the pre-penultimate meeting if you will.

I had been feelling pretty good about the thing. I had been working hard and was tired, yes, but I had some solid data (which I've never had before), and it was the kind of data that you build a thesis around. Then, I stupidly did another experiment earlier this week. Dumb, dumb, dumb! I should've known the results would contradict some of my previous results. It's Murphy's Law of Labwork. Anything that can go wrong will, and at the least opportune time.

When I got my result, I freaked out. I almost started crying. I was two days away from my meeting and now I had to rewrite everything. I had, in fact, already given my committee my report which contained the erroneous data. After talking to my advisor (who thought I was getting a little too carried away), I started to realize that it wasn't as bad as I thought, but I was still up a creek with a teaspoon.

Then, I went to a baseball game.

Not because I find baseball particularly soothing, but because it was a lab event and the tickets had already been bought. So I sat and knit and tried to relax.*

I spent the entirety of yesterday putting together my presentation. I put a sign on my bench chair that said, "Do not disturb except for tea or chocolate," (we don't have offices, just the desk attached to the lab bench, and if you're sitting at your desk, people just come and talk to you). I spent hours in Powerpoint, Adobe Photoshop, and Adobe Illustrator. Making figures, fixing figures, putting together slides, practicing, running things past other members of the lab to see if I was being coherent. All of it. I forgot to eat lunch. I remembered around 3:00. I forgot supper and managed to find two pieces of bread to eat. I lost all track of time. Twelve hours later, I had a finished presentation. I was dead tired. John came and picked me up, and I had a bowl of cereal and a banana because I was feeling nauseous.

All of that stress for nothing.

It was fine. They liked my experiments, wasn't worried about the conflicting results and think it's reasonable for me to finish in March. Such a waste of perfectly good hysteria.


can't talk, committee meeting, feeling sick, not ready, data screwy, sunny out, wearing socks, nauseous, nauseous, must focus, they're smarter, no I know more about this than they do, but they're faculty, that doesn't matter, I can do it, I can do it, no I can't, must buy refreshments, don't have time, practice, practice, practice, husband moving to California, no must focus on meeting, tired, must graduate, must convince them I can graduate, it's okay, no it's not, pass the ativan

Friday, August 25, 2006

Well, thank God!

Imbrium posted a comment yesterday about how the snakes got on the plane. I won't reiterate it here in case someone skipped the comments yesterday because they didn't want to read a spoiler.* So, on to the next big question:

How did Samuel L. Jackson get stuck in this movie? Is he being punished?

I have to say, snakes on a plane is a pretty Bondesque way of killing someone, if you know what I mean. Wouldn't poisonous gas work just as well? Or, I don't know, a large bomb? I mean, if you can sneak anything you want on the plane, why snakes? Although, if this were a Bond film, James would probably whip out a flute and demonstrate his snake-charming skills that he learned while undercover in Egypt to lure the snakes into one of the bathrooms and lock it up. Or, Q would've conveniently equipped him with a tie-tac that, upon pressing a specific point with a pin, emits a high frequency sound capable of knocking out snakes.

Please don't mind me. I'm on the verge of sleep-deprivation induced hysteria.

Turns out that if you overwork yourself (or at least if I overwork myself), you get a little loopy. Not the good kind of loopy, like with yarn, but the bad kind, like when you start running into doorways and think it's funny (which has happened to me in the past, sadly). This morning, I was reading a Terry Pratchett book while eating breakfast and I got into a giggle fit. Now, I don't know if you're familiar with the writings of Mr. Pratchett. He's a favorite of mine, especially when life has been going rough. He writes deliciously smart satire that will make you laugh your arse off. Now, I often laugh a little while reading a Pratchett book. But, it's usually something like, "Hah!" Then I go back to reading. This morning, it was more like, "teeheehehehee" *stifle*stiffle*snort* "teeeheeeheeee, okay I'm going to stop now, heeeheeeheeeee" *lays head down on table*stifle* "teeheeeheee" *eyes start watering* "teeheeeheee, the vampire, heeeheeheee, is a photographer, heeeeheeeheee, and when the flash goes off! Heeeeeeheeeeheeeeee." Ten minutes later, I was still giggling at odd moments and John was staring at me and I know he was thinking something like, "well, she's finally gone around the bend, but I didn't think it would look quite like this."

So, I'm actually going to leave work early today, go home, take a nap, read a little more Pratchett, watch Stargate, and go to bed.

*I can't imagine this is true, but I want to be polite and not spoil anyone's movie-going experience. *snort*

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Just. don't. get it.

So, not all that long ago, I saw a commercial for a movie, and thought, this movie looks like the most gawdawful thing ever, then saw it's title, Snakes on a Plane, and thought, it's so bad, they can't even come up with a better title. At least they aren't trying to trick you into thinking it's good with a clever name.

Despite this, it seems some people have gone to see it. From the knit bloggers, it has been getting solid Ds (for Dreadful). This does not surprise me in the least. Personally, I have no intention of seeing it, especially since I have a little snake phobia. But, there's one thing I want to know.

How do the snakes get on the plane?

Try as I may, I cannot think of any quasi-plausible way to get a large number of deadly snakes onto a plane. This is probably why I am a cell biologist and not a screenwriter (or a terrorist). Here are the completely ridiculous ways I've come up with.

How are we going to get this exhibit full of the 50 most lethal snakes to the National Zoo by Wed.? I know what let's do! We can send them by plane in flimsy crates that will fall apart as soon as it hits some turbulence.

Honey, how are we going to get Jimmy's lethal snake collection to our new home in California? The moving company said they won't handle them. And anyway, the poor things would starve on the way. What do you think about putting them on the plane with us? We'll just pay the fee to check extra luggage and not tell the airline what's in there. People bring their cats and dogs on planes on the time, it can't be too much of a hassle. I'm sure we can just keep them in their rubbermaid containers. Just fasten a belt around them so the lids don't accidently come off. Oh, and put an extra one around Bob's container. You know how he likes to sneak out. Naughty snake!

Okay, folks, bin Laden has given us two thumbs up for the snakes idea, so we're going to roll with it. This is going to be slightly more complicated than the exploding latte idea, but we're running out of options, people. And, anyhow, we've made them so paranoid about the carry-on luggage, nobody will even think to check the cargo! Anyone have ideas about how we're going to disguise the sounds of snakes? Yes? Lable the container Madagascan cockroaches? That's brilliant! Everybody knows they hiss and nobody will want to look at them. Right, now let's get to work on the device that will blow the lids off the containers once they're in flight.

"Hey, Frank, whadya think's in these crates?"
"They say diplomatic papers, Charlie."
"But they're hissing."
"That's probably some device that maintains a constant pressure on the documents."
"I ain't never heard of such a thing."
"Well, ya' gotta start reading the technology magazines, keep up with current events."
"But it feels like there's something moving in there, Frank."
"Oh, that's probably a device they use to help keep the crate level."
"I wouldn't think documents would have to be kept level and at constant pressure, Frank."
"They don't pay us to think, Charlie, just put the crate on the plane."

I'm dying to know how the snakes get on the plane. It's the only reason I can think of to watch the movie. But I'm not going to pay big bucks to find that out (plus, I'd have to leave before the movie's over because, I have this little snake phobia). So, if you've seen the movie, could you tell me how it's done? Please?

Monday, August 21, 2006

How did this happen?

When I first started in this lab, I was on my way into a serious depression. There were days when, if I managed to be in lab for four hours a day, that was a success. For awhile there were too many days when I didn't make it in at all. There were a couple of weeks I spent almost entirely in bed.

For the last couple of years, I've been (mostly) sane, and therefore have been in lab on a more regular basis. And, I've been able to put in 35-40 hours a week. But there has always been a certain limit to how much time I can spend in lab on any one day. It didn't matter if staying one extra hour could save me an entire day*, I just couldn't do it.

But, lately, I've been working like a complete maniac (for me, that is, there are still people in the lab who work many more hours than me). I've been in lab for 14 or more hours some days. I've spent the better parts of the last two Saturdays in lab. I've had days (like today) where I get to a certain point, an acceptable stopping point, and I'm dead tired, and I've stayed the extra couple of hours in order to save me a day. Some days, I've stayed a whole extra 4-6 hours so that I could have the data by the next day.

I used to do this a lot when I was a research tech, but I haven't had it in me for a long time. In fact, I thought I would never be able to do this kind of thing again. I had accepted the fact that I just get tired more easily than I used to and wasn't going to berate myself for not going that extra mile.

So, I'm not sure where all of this stamina is coming from. I didn't expect it. I didn't try to muster it up. I didn't sit down and have a real heart-to-heart with myself to say, "Self, you have just got to work harder." I just....started working harder. I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is one of those rare moments when I am actually amazing myself.** I'm sitting here thinking, "Damn, you're starting to kick some ass with these experiments!"

Perhaps it's because the end is in sight. Perhaps it's because I know I get to go to California as soon as all of this is done. Perhaps it's my biological clock egging me on so that I can go make babies soon. I don't know. I'm completely bewildered. The cynic in me says it will only be so long before I collapse from exhaustion, but even if I do, I'll still have gotten an amazing amount of things done in a short amount of time.

*An example of this is the following: a certain procedure takes 1-2 hours, then has to sit at least 16 hours before the experiment can continue. If I stay the 1-2 hours to do it, I can pick it up again sometime the next day and continue on. If I don't, then it will take me an entire day longer to do the experiment because no matter what, I have to wait those 16 hours.

**Generally speaking, I am my own worst critic (as many people are). Accomplishments that would have me saying congratulations and patting people on the back are nothing special if I am the one who did them. This is One of Those Things I Need to Work On.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Behold the power of The Block

As I mentioned on a previous post, my DNA scarf was looking a little rumpled around the edges. So, before I got any further along, I decided to block it to make sure the problem would go away with blocking.

Here is a pre-blocking picture:

Here it is post-blocking:

I now pronounce blocking to be a Good Thing.

So, I decided to go ahead and continue working on it while watching Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis last night. I was able to do about half of a pattern repeat (the above picture is one pattern repeat, just to give you an idea). I probably could've done more, but the TV was taking a lot of my attention. The fact that I am able to work on it at all watching TV is due to the fact that I regraphed the pattern:

The arrows on the post-it note were key to stopping all of the tinking back; I kept reading the graph from right to left for every line. If you are at all familiar with graphs, you know that you read row 1 right to left then row2 left to right and so on. The post-it note itself is an indispensible tool for graphs. Without it, I have a hard time focusing my attention on the line I'm actually on. I thought I was really clever when I first discovered this, then I found out that this is a pretty universal method for reading graphs.

I continue to be pleased with the way the scarf is coming along. In the process, I have uncovered another one of the positive side effects of sock knitting. When I knit socks, I use fingering weight yarn and size 1 or size 2 needles and I have around 70 stitches per round per sock and I knit both socks at once. So, I'm used to rounds taking awhile. Not so with 40-stitch rows of worsted weight yarn. Those things just fly by! I feel like I'm zipping back and forth, especially the wrong side rows where there's no cabling. Plus the yarn itself is so soft and smooth. It feels great on my hands while I'm knitting.

One thing I had been worried about was whether I would have enough yarn (even though I had done the math and even bought one more ball than I thought needed), but I'm no longer worried about that. The scarf is seaman style, meaning it's just ribbing around the neck. Each of the sides is composed of 5 pattern repeats. I bought six balls I'm definitely going to get at least 2 repeats out of the first ball of yarn, so I'm pretty sure I will be fine.

In Other News, we found out we got the apartment we wanted! Yay!!! Now, we are trying to find a good moving company. If anyone else has moved across the country and has any words of wisdom please share them!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A day in the life of Elisabeth

ETA an important afternoon event that somehow slipped my mind!

7:45am: Wake, shower, pray that the janitor will deal with the bathtub drain sometime before we have have to stop taking showers and start taking baths instead, eat breakfast.

8:30am: Start bikeride to campus. Nearly run over the Rev. Al Sharpton as he comes out of the dry cleaners (yes, he lives somewhere near me, either that, or there is someone out there trying to be his clone).

8:40am: Get to lab. Read email. Start experiments. Read more email.

10:45am: Leave for psychiatrist appointment. Discuss pregnancy and psychiatric meds (for the future, guys, don't be getting your hopes up). Discuss finding world class psychiastrist specializing in the above in LA.

12:00pm: Get back to lab. Throw out experiment because cells aren't growing. Curse the nature of biology. Sit around wondering if I have time to get lunch before next doctor's appt. Look up doctors who specialize in depressed pregnant women because the wait lists for new patients are often quite long, so in order to see a doctor in April, I might have to make the appt. now. Look up Caltech health plan. Realize none of the doctors I found are on the plan.

1:00pm: Female doctor's appt. (I don't want to talk about it, but I left feeling like a dumbass.) Curse the nature of biology.

2:00pm: Continue to feel like a dumbass. Try to pee in a cup.

2:30pm: Finally pee in cup. Take back over to hospital. Everything normal. Feel that it was all worth it. *snort*

2:45pm: Wonder if I am ever going to get any work done today. Still feeling like a dumbass. Can't concentrate on labwork.

3:00pm: Sister calls. She's getting married! Next year in October. Wonder how it is I could be living in Chicago for the last 10 years (a mere 7 hour drive to my mother's) and then the moment I move to California, two of my three siblings set wedding dates that force me to fly back to Iowa only months apart (although in Meghan's defense, when I moved to Chicago, she was 10; oh, and the other brother has bought the ring, he's just waiting for the right moment--but shhhh....don't tell his girlfriend!).

3:45pm: Labwork. Right. Going to get around to that.

4:00pm: Set up some cultures and leave. Ride bike home without almost running over any celebrities.

4:10pm: Take nap.

7:30pm: Wake from nap. Go watch TV.

7:50pm: Go buy pint of Blue Bunny Cookies 'n Cream ice cream. Eat said pint for supper.

8:00pm: Watch Eureka. Think about how the characters are so unlike scientists and still so like scientists. Wish that I lived in a talking house with a really great bed.

9:00pm: Talk to John about health plans, specialists, and money. Argue merits of expensive health plan that will pay partial out of network charges vs nonexpensive health plan that won't pay out of network. Wonder how much it costs to see superspecialized doctor and how often I would have to see said doctor. Blow up at John when he suggests maybe we should wait longer before having a child.

Him: We don't want to go into debt to have a child!
Me: I'm 32, we can't wait much longer!
Him: I'm just saying maybe we should wait until I have a better paying job!
Me: My eggs are old! Every year we wait it'll be harder for me to conceive and more chance that there will be birth defects!
Him: It's just that maybe now is not the best time!
Me: There is never going to be a best time! As soon as I graduate we are going to have a baby and that's final!!!

9:30pm: Go into bedroom with laptop and continue mad hunt for psychiatrists who specialize in depression and pregnancy in the less expensive Caltech health plan.

10:00pm: Start losing hope I will find such person. Email current psychiatrist to ask about the necessity of having a superstar psychiatrist.* John comes in and appologizes for being crazy about money.

10:30pm: Read knitting blogs.

10:45pm: Apply antibiotic cream (please don't ask where). Tell John I hate being a woman.

11:00pm: Go to bed.

11:15pm: Resolve that if John piles the blankets on me one more time, I will go sleep in the living room.

11:30pm: Fall asleep.


*It's not, btw. The medications I'm on are so benign, it wouldn't cause a problem. I should just find someone I like that is covered by my insurance and keep in mind the names of the superstars in case something goes horribly awry.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Mondays and Mutagenesis

Have you ever noticed that the more you have to do, the less inclined you feel towards doing it? While, in theory, I should be busily tinkering with experiments and writing in my lab notebooks (because, you know, I want to graduate soon), I have spent a huge portion of the day checking my email (despite the fact that I haven't had any new messages in the last couple of hours) and reading blogs. And then, when I ran out of blogs to read, I looked for more. Then, I went to get some tea from my new favorite beverage kiosk, Argo, in the Center for Advanced Medicine which is down the street. This despite the fact that I have a perfectly good cup of licorice mint tea on my desk already. And I bought a whoopie pie (frosting sandwiched between chocolate cakey cookies covered in chocolate) despite the fact that I had just eaten lunch and was not at all hungry.

This is the usual Monday routine. Absolutely nothing of importance gets done. Well, I did schedule a medical appointment.* But that's it. I feel (and I think I'm not alone on this) that Mondays really serve as a buffer between the weekend and the rest of the week. It's a day to ease back into the idea of working. Nothing too important should be done because it's bound to be screwed up in such a way that will take you the rest of the week to resolve.

In knitting news, I have done one pattern repeat on the DNA scarf. Which means I have enough to show you a picture in the near future. I have a small concern, however. The bottom seed stitch border does not lay flat. It bulges in the areas that have the beginnings of the helix cables. This is something that I dearly hope will come out in blocking. One approach to this little glitch would be to continue to pray it will come out right, knit the rest of the scarf, say a rosary, and block the hell out of it (in order to get the hell out of it, perhaps I should also wash it in holy water, too?). Another approach (and one that is slightly more sane, I think), is to block what I have and see if, indeed, the problem can be resolved by blocking because, while I have already spent some significant time on it, I have not yet devoted months of my life to it. Since, I am working hard on avoiding unnecessary denial, I think I will choose the latter option. I will try to remember to post before and after pictures for you guys.

Otherwise, I'm quite pleased how the scarf is coming out. The fabric has a nice drape (although that may be why I'm getting the irregularity at the bottom edge--perhaps the pattern needs a stiffer yarn), feels soft, and the cable is coming out well. However, I do make a lousy polymerase. I can't tell you how many times I had to rip out a couple of rows and reknit them. Even so, there is still a slight mutation at the very beginning. This does not bother me in the slightest, I am calling it allelic variation. (Sorry guys, the biologist in me can't resist). I do think one of the reasons I'm able to catch the mistakes relatively quickly is because I know what DNA should look like and if it doesn't look like that, I've done something wrong somewhere.

Today's biology lesson was provided by Elisabeth, a graduate student who is more interested in education than research, and Wikipedia.

*The appointment was about a "female issue," so I called student health and asked to have an appointment with my favorite nurse practitioner. "She's gone until Sept. 6," they say. I try to make an appointment with my second favorite nurse practitioner, "She's gone until Aug. 31," they say. At this point, I say (and I'm using my actual quote here), "Well, hell, just give me whoever's available that's a woman." The appointment specialist found this hysterical and kept giggling through the rest of the phone call. I'm glad I could brighten someone's day, even if it was at the expense of my own discomfort.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Enough with the bitching

It seems like everytime I post these days, it's to complain. So, here are 10 things I'm thankful for:

1. I will be finishing grad school sometime in the next school year.
2. I have a husband who loves me (and I love him).
3. I have the greatest kitty in the world.
4. I can knit and that helps soothe me.
5. The DNA scarf is going well so far.
6. I am moving to a sunny place and that will certainly help my seasonal affective disorder.
7. My bedroom is air-conditioned.
8. My boss is understanding and helpful.
9. I like most of the people I work with.
10. I am quasi-mentally stable (hey, that's more than I could say not that long ago).
11. My experiments are actually working fairly well. (Hey! One more thing that I was aiming for! Bonus!)

Yes, I have started my DNA scarf. I haven't gotten very far. Imagine 8 rows of seed stitch in camel colored wool and you pretty much have it. I started on the cable part and had to stop so that I could chart out the whole thing. The DNA cable is charted but I was having a hard time keeping track of the flanking mini-cable rows which were not charted. Overall, though, I'm liking it. The yarn is soft and a joy to work with. And it has fabulous stitch definition so the cable is going to look terrific.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Back in Chicago

And hating every minute of it.

Honestly, if I wasn't a few months away from finishing my PhD, I would've said screw it, let's just stay in Pasadena and send for our stuff.

We got in really late on Wed. and went straight to the hotel. We started the apt. hunting bright and early on Thurs. Half of the places we went to couldn't show us an apt. because the apt. was still occupied. The other half showed us an empty apt. identical to the one that we would be getting, but they couldn't show us the actual one we'd be getting because it was occupied. It seemed odd to us because we've moved a couple of times in Chicago and every time, the manager has showed our apt. to people while we were still living in it. The last apt. we saw on Thurs. was the one that we liked the best. They wouldn't let us take any pictures, but this website has pictures of the outside. We are going with a one bedroom, one bathroom that is more expensive than our current two bedroom, two bathroom with separate dining room and sun rooms.


Still, I'm excited about it because the apt. is nice with new appliances and a gas fireplace and a patio. And it's within blocks both of Caltech and a major shopping area, as well as only a few blocks away from this:

A lovely yarn store called Elegance. We stopped in and had a chat with the owner who was very friendly and told us all about the events in the area and about their Wed. night knitting group. She offered John a chair and even managed to include him in the conversation.

And then, of course, we're only a short drive from this:

But, really, I'm more excited about the shopping area. You'd have to be familiar with my current neighborhood to understand why. Hyde Park has almost nothing to do. There are a few restaurants (that is, there are an absurd number of Thai food places and a smattering of other things), but almost no shopping, there's no movie theater, there are no cafes, there's pretty much nothing. To get to anything of interest, you either have to drive and pay around $10 for parking (if you're lucky), or you have to take public transportation. It takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes to get downtown and that's not even where the fun stuff is. If I wanted to do anything north of downtown and was going to take public transit, I'd leave a good hour or more for transit time. In Pasadena, everything is right near where we want to live. Parking is cheap ($5 or $6 maximum on the parking garages! in Chicago, it's $20 maximum). But, for a lot of things, we wouldn't even have to drive.

I've been in Chicago for 10 years now, and I'm sick to death of it. In fact, I hate it. I might not feel that strongly about it if I could live in another neighborhood, but with grad school being in Hyde Park, I have to live here. Prior to grad school, I worked at the University, so I had to live here.

I'm from Iowa. I'm used to having nothing to do (though, it was easier and cheaper to go to the movies at least). But having nothing to do is not the only problem. The buses are loud and they go right outside our windows. Our window sills are covered in more grime that I ever saw on any window in Iowa even if the sill had not been cleaned in 10 years. And this is only a few months worth. I can't keep up with it. It seems fruitless anyway. And the crime. My roommate and his boyfriend were mugged at gunpoint a few weeks ago. I would say half the people I know have been a victim of a crime. Being held up at gunpoint is not uncommon. And just last week at 6am, two women were accosted and "fondled" by a man not two blocks from my workplace.

In short, Hyde Park has all of the disadvantages of living in the city and none of the advantages. I cannot wait to get out of this hellhole.

But, to continue on with the Pasadena trip, on Friday, having found a place we liked, we wandered around a bit during the day going to a children's museum and the yarn store, and had a nice dinner. Sat., we left and got back ridiculously late in Chicago due to airline issues.

We have submitted our application so the management company can see how much we owe in student loans and check to see if we're serial killers or anything like that. I don't anticipate having any problems (juvenile records are sealed, right? j/k), but I'm still nervous. We should know by the end of the week and then I will feel better.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

An embarassing moment leads to S.E.X.

Monday evening is supposed to be Stitch 'n Bitch night. However, last week, the Yarn Harlot was in town (more on that in another post), and this week, Arcadia Knitting was having a Meet the Bloggers party. How could I resist this opportunity to meet Franklin?

Boy am I glad I went because in addition to meeting the delightful and charming Mr. Habit, I came home with this:

I won this set of goodies by being brave enough to tell a room full of knitters my most embarassing email story. I got a signed original Franklin Habit drawing:

Knit Two Together

Which would've been more than enough, but I also got: a signed copy of The Happy Hooker, a sparkly addi crochet hook, two skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted, and a gift certificate for the store.

What? You want to hear the embarassing email story? Well, alright. Never say I don't love my readers.

I was a sophomore at Boston U and I was emailing a friend in Iowa who had recently started a relationship and had commented that he found the array of condom choices bewildering. So, I very helpfully wrote him a review of the condoms I had some, ahem, experience with, full of reasons why I liked or disliked them. Then, I sent it to the university bulletin board instead of to him. At the time, the bulletin board was being used as a sort of chatty newsgroup for a large number of people at the university, including the vast majority of my friends.

The shop owners picked their top three choices and then read them to the crowd. The one with the most applause won. And, well, it's hard to compete with sending your condom preferences to the entire university. Who knew that one day that moment of horror would lead to a Stash Enhancing eXperience? When I got home and told my husband I had won all of the above with an embarassing email story he said, "The condom post?" (Interesting aside: we weren't dating when I wrote that email).

Everyone who attended got a goodie bag:

I got some Fiesta ribbon yarn, a sock pattern, several yarn samples, a list of classes, and an invite to their first yarn swap. Everyone pretty much got the same thing although which yarn and which pattern you got varied.

I also bought these (not with my gift certificate, I'm saving that for buying a decadent yarn for something for myself):

When these guys grow up, they will be a DNA scarf for my advisor which I plan to give him after I pass my thesis defense. I'm going to try to make scarves for the rest of my thesis committee members, too, but we'll see if I actually am able to get four scarves done in between now and then (whenever "then" is--hopefully sometime this winter).

Well, today I'm off to California to look for an apartment. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Freak show

So, you really want to know what being double-jointed in your thumbs looks like, huh?

Well, this is what happens when I move my thumb at the point where it connects with the rest of my hand. I don't think the picture quite shows you the oddity of it.

This is what most people's hands look like when they try to do what I did above. They can't make the thumb-hand joint jut out on its own, the whole thing moves together.

Which is why I have to wear these stupid things. The plastic keeps my thumb from jutting out like that. I have one for each hand. The little gloves are supposed to keep the braces from rubbing my hands raw and are these flimsy things that are difficult to wash. One of these days, I'll get around to knitting myself a pair that will be vastly superior to these. I'm going to use some short-row shaping to make the space between my thumb and my index finger higher than on the pinky side of my hand.

Some people charge admission for these things, but I'm letting you view my little oddity for free! Can you feel the love?

Right then. Moving on to knitting.

In the last couple of weeks, I have completed the following:

Watermelon socks for afghans for Afghans. They recently had a drive for items for school children and I made a hat, but then they sent out a plea for anything but hats for older children, so I made a pair of socks that would fit me. These are made from Cascade 220 and I used Wendy's Generic Toe-up sock pattern--my first toe-up socks. I gotta say, I liked it a lot. They came out quite nice and should be very warm. I'm not sure they have watermelons in Afghanistan, so I'm not sure they'll understand the color scheme, but that's okay.

I also made these:

(pen included for scale)

An aquaintance from college just had a baby; a girl after already having two boys. I decided she needed something a little girly (but not frilly). So, I made this Cascade Fixation hat and socks set in "Sunset" (I think that's the name of the color). The striping is actually more subtle than this picture indicates. They're soft and stretchy and I hope they fit properly.

I'm still working on my roommate's socks. I have 5 inches done on the foot--only 6 more to go! I have also picked up a baby cardigan that I had set aside awhile back. My husband's cousins are expecting their first baby in March. Too early to know if it's a boy or a girl, yet. I haven't decided if the cardigan would be suitably boyish for the son of a military man, if they do have a boy. Might finish this one and start something else, just in case.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Evolution has failed me

I'm double jointed at the base of my thumbs. Double-jointed is a funny term, but what it basically means is that the ligaments in my thumbs are loose enough that my thumbs constantly dislocate themselves. Since this is not at all painful under normal circumstances, I was completely unaware that my thumbs were different from anyone else's until I was in my last year as a research tech (about seven years ago) when I started to have symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. Since I was a research tech in cell biology and using a micropipetter was part of my everday existence, I was not surprised to get a repetitive motion injury. And, since it seemed to be getting worse, my doctor sent me to the orthopedic hand surgeon to get steroid injections, and he got to the root of the problem. It wasn't CTS at all, it was my thumbs. I will never forget him coming in with two or three residents (a resident saw me first but couldn't identify the source of my problem) and then sitting there moving my fingers and my thumbs into odd positions until he finally said, "there, look at that!" The residents were now staring at my hand with a sort of sick fascination. I looked down at the position he had pushed my thumb into and asked, "what's wrong with that?" To which one of the residents replied, in a tone of revulsion, "normal people's thumbs don't do that!"

It was then explained to me that I had "loose ligaments" in my thumbs, that my thumbs constantly dislocated themselves, and because I was over-using my thumbs (pipetting--as though I had any choice about that!), I had finally irritated a nearby nerve and that was mimicking CTS. I got braces made especially for my thumbs (to keep them from dislocating themselves) and had to wear them everyday (but not at night, fortunately) and after a few months, things were better, although I was still careful and had started using my pipet with my index finger instead of my thumb. The doctor had told me I should probably eventually have surgery in which they would, "use a scalpel to rough up the ligaments," in my thumbs. *shudder* No thank you. That just sounds a little too scary for me.

So, everything continued just fine until about two weeks ago when I had a flare-up. Suddenly, I was back to wearing those damn braces and everything I did irritated my thumbs. Do you know how hard it is to do anything productive and not use your thumbs? I began to envy monkeys with their non-opposable thumbs.

The only thing that did not hurt was knitting. It was a mystery why until I really looked at my hands and saw that I held my needles in such a way that my thumbs were in their sockets exactly the way they were supposed to be. I think this may be God's way of telling me to quit science and knit for a living.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

For your viewing pleasure....

.....The Bolero!!!

I finished weaving in the ends over the weekend and was able to wear it to stitch 'n bitch on Monday night. I think it came out pretty well! This is my first ever knitted garment. Oh, I've knit socks and hats and scarves but never something with sleeves and shaping and, well, size requirements.