Thursday, May 25, 2006

Boston yarn shops, here I come!

Today, we're heading into Boston. John is going to see some old professors and talk astrophysics. As exciting as that sounds, I'm hitting the yarn stores instead. Dave Daniels has graciously sent me a list of stores to try. Will let you know how they are!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

It's true

I've been ignoring you, dear readers. I have been putting off writing blog entries by saying things like, "I don't have any pictures to post," and "I'm too tired," and "I don't feel like it." I appologize, really I do, but, well, life got the best of me last week.

Last Wednesday, my dear Ghiradelli had to have several teeth removed. He now only has about 3 left. This is not a problem because cats mostly swallow their food whole. To do dental work on a cat, you have to use general anesthesia (big surprise). Now, my kitty is a little old. And he's a carrier for FIP. And he has a very low heart-rate (possibly because he's so mellow). So, I was nervous about the procedure. I was in tears the night before, and stayed home the day of because I was such a wreck. In such circumstances, I'm like a wounded animal, I curl up and hide and read fantasy science fiction (okay, maybe that last bit is not like a wounded animal, but I bet if wounded animals could read, they would pick fantasy novels). Fantasy because it gives me the much-needed escape. I can completely lose myself and all sense of time and that's a good thing when you're waiting to hear if your precious fur-baby got through surgery okay (which he did, of course, just like everyone said he would). At any rate, after surgery, he needed to take an antibiotic for several days and the standard one has been giving him an upset stomach, so we went for another one--a liquid. Boy, was that fun. The first day, I got it all over him. The second and third days were much better. The fourth day it started giving him diarhea, so I had to stop giving him that one and take him to the vet on Monday so the vet could look at his mouth and see if we should try yet another antibiotic--pills this time. So, I have a week's worth of pills that are bigger than the usual ones, a cat who hates taking them (okay, that statement is redundant), and I'm leaving town so Roommie will have to do it. Poor guy (both the cat and the roommate).

Watery Bolero
It's really taking shape but I wonder if I will really get it done on time. I've got all of that traveling time tomorrow, but since we are going into the city on Thurs. and maybe staying the night with John's brother, I'm not sure how much I'll really get to work on it besides that. I'm bringing a back up sweater just in case. I am less that a quarter of the way done with the front and after I get the front done, I have to do the neck shaping, ribbing, and sew the thing together. Yeah. I'm not going to get it done. Oh well.

Just in case by some miracle I finish the bolero, I need another project(s) to occupy my time. I have been neglecting my roommate's socks, so I'm bringing that project along. I had gotten a stain on the foot of one sock and I need to wash it or rip out a huge section and cut the yarn to get rid of the stain. Neither of which has sounded appealing, that's why the sock has been languishing. But, I really need a portable project (you need something small and inconspicuous when you're knitting during a wedding) and Roommie really deserves the socks, so I am determined to try to fix the problem soon. I will also bring along a pattern for a tank top and some yarn to start it (which requires bringing a variety of needles, but that's okay).

Don't know how much I'll be posting this week since I'll be out of town (not that I post all that much in town).

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I'm awake

Really, I am. I am not about to fall over face first on my desk and start snoring.

Last night, I went home from lab at 10:00. Having gotten there at 9:30 in the morning, I really feel I put in a full day of work. However, it was a stupid day, because I didn't actually get very much work done at all. There was the doctor's appointment in the morning, a talk in the afternoon, and then a practice talk for a qualifying exam for our newest student in the lab and the revisions of it that lasted four hours.

So, knitting? Not so much. I had figured that if I knit 2 inches per day on the Watery Bolero, it would be done by the time I needed it. I'm about 3 inches behind schedule. Hopefully, I'll catch up this weekend. However, I am really loving this yarn--Saucy Sport. It has superb stitch definition which makes even stockinette look fabulous. The only problem with it has superb stitch definition so every little mistake is glaringly obvious. Still, I think it will make for a good little bolero whenever it is I get it done (hopefully before the end of the summer).

In other news, I think my experiments are working. *knocks on wood* But shhhh, don't tell anyone. If everyone knows my experiments are working, they will mysteriously start not working, just to be contrary. I can't tell you, though, how nice it is to be able to say to my boss, "Hey, I have a result," instead of, "Nothing works and I can't figure out why," or, "I've gotten nothing done because I had to take several mental health days in a row." Though he's so stoic, his reactions to each of those three statements looks very similar. But I like to think that somewhere inside him there's a little happy face that lights up when I show him results.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Furry Feet

For Mother's Day, I thought I'd make my mom some furry flip-flops (when I was a kid, we called them thongs, but now that thongs has entirely new meaning, I have switched to flip-flops because the visual image from the statement, "I thought I'd make my mom some furry thongs", just isn't what it's supposed to be anymore.) On the right is the shoe as it came from the store and on the left is the magic that can be done with a some fun fur eyelash yarn and a crochet hook. I tried them on, just to get an idea of what they'd be like.

And here is the completed pair next to the anklet socks I made for my grandma for Mother's Day (the yarn is Cascade Fixation):

And while we're showing pictures....

Happy Anniversary to Us! We've been married six years (it used to be that people didn't get very excited until you'd been married 20 years or so, but these days if you make three years, people are congratulating you on beating the statistics).

I knew you'd want to see the shawl/wrap in more detail, so here you go. I used one ball of Gossamer in black with gold and silver sparkly threads in it and knit 50 stitches in garter stitch on size 15 needles until I ran out of yarn (which gave me about 5 feet of shawl). I was actually making it to wear to a wedding over Memorial Day weekend (with the new dress that I'm wearing in the photo), but I finished it Sat. morning and hurried up and blocked it so I could wear it that night.

So, what am I working on now? The Fiery Bolero from Interweave Knits summer 2005. Only in navy blue. I'm hoping to wear it with a yellow and blue sleeveless dress at the rehearsal dinner. Cross your fingers!

Monday, May 08, 2006

You guys are great

Really, you are! I feel soooo much better about being in lab today. But, I think this sort of situation is exactly why there are few women in the higher levels of academic science. It is not, as the former president of Harvard has suggested, that we are not as intelligent as the men. It's because at a certain point, we start getting sick of dealing with all the bullsh*t served up by the men. The aggression, the competition, the feeling like it's a big boys club. All of it. And then we leave. And, I confess, I am so tired of research and being under constant pressure and stress, that I'm not sure I want to stay in research anyway, though that seems to be fairly normal thinking for a senior grad. student.

So, for now, I'm going to take Kate's advice, "Assert yourself and make statements, not questions. Repeat after me: I will never state a fact as a question." But, I've also come to the realization that there is no reason why I should even try to deal with these problems (ie disappearing glassware). I'm (hopefully) going to graduate in about 9 months, I don't have time to deal with this kind of crap (but, I do have time to write blog entries--but that's therapy and necessary). The younger students can do it. They actually like doing it, in fact (we've got one who is really enthusiastic about making things better and more efficient, which, I admit, sometimes drives me nuts because as an old student I don't like change). If I can't do my experiments because there are no suitable flasks, I will just order some and let the others figure out where our flasks are going.

I knew this day would come. I saw each of our former grad students go through the same thing toward the ends of their studies--they just stopped caring about the lab as a whole and did whatever it was they needed to do to graduate. Woe to the person who got in their way. And they were not pleasant to deal with, because they were sick of this whole place just like I am now. So, as a 3rd and 4th year grad student, I said, one day, when I'm a senior student, I'm going to become a b*tch. Not because I want to, but because it's inevitable. It's like when you start turning into your mother. There's no way to escape it. But it's still a startling realization when it finally starts happening to you.

And, here's the thing. The Boys. No problem today. All smiles and being nice just like nothing happened on Friday. This, I know, is a Male Thing. They have a fight, it's over, they move on. They do not sit around at their computer and think, oh God, I'm sooooo not looking forward to seeing so-and-so today after that fight last Friday, it'll be so awkward and what if he's still pissed off? Nope. It's all done for them. Today is a New Day. "Hi, how are ya'? Liked your email about the lab gift for the post-doc who is leaving--very amusing." All in all, it's not a bad policy, really. Just let it go. That's what I should do--let it go. I'm working on it.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I don't know

I have no idea what to name this blog entry.

I work in a lab. It has its good days and its bad days. Today was a bad day. Not because of experiments, but because of people. See, nothing can be simple in this lab. A person cannot just buy something for the lab without other people sticking their noses into it. And they are not just politely curious, they are aggressive about it. And one person cannot just take care of a problem that they have found, everyone has to get involved. And when I say everyone, I usually mean The Boys. There has to be discussion, there has to be debate. Do we really need this thing you are ordering from a company? Why can't we use this other thing? Is this problem you are trying to take care of really a problem? Maybe it's just your imagination. For example, you must defend why you want to talk to the dishwasher about missing glassware, because maybe there's another explanation for why our good glassware is gradually getting replaced by substandard glassware (gnomes, perhaps?). Have you put radio transponders on every piece of glassware and tracked their movements? Perhaps we can put GPS chips on them and set up a computer program. It doesn't matter that unless someone is stealing the glassware there are only two ways it can disappear--breakage, and not coming back from the dishwasher. And unless breakage is linked to the spontaneous appearance of the not-so-good glassware (that doesn't have the lab initials on it, and is of a brand that we don't buy), then it seems to follow that logically we are not always getting back our glassware after washing.

Seriously, it is so bad that I think if I said I had menstrual cramps they would say, "How do you know they're menstrual cramps? Couldn't it be appendicitis? Are you actually menstruating right now? Are you sure? I mean, has there been any blood loss in the last hour or so?"

You think I'm exaggerating, but I am perfectly serious.

Which is why today, I just couldn't take it anymore. I got upset. I started arguing. Literally, I got so mad, my vision blurred. I have never, ever been that mad in all my life. Over missing glassware. And then, when I tried to cut off the argument, they just kept going! I had to forcefully state, "!" And leave the room. And when I came back in (because, you know, I have work to do), somebody brought it up again and I had to say again, "I don't want to discuss this anymore." "Not ever?" was the reply.

Honestly, how am I supposed to deal with this? And is it all men who do this, or just scientists. I can't tell because most of the men I deal with do this sort of thing to one extent or another but they are all scientists.

You know, I don't even really care about the glassware. It is the complete lack of respect for my opinion, knowledge, experience, and in the end my privacy that just drives me up the wall and makes me want to cry. I cannot just say, "I don't want to discuss this anymore," there has to be debate even about that.

If ever there was a day that I was going to walk out of grad school, it would've been today. I have stayed in grad school through my husband moving away for three years, two cats dying, and serious mental illness, but today, I was ready to walk out the door.

Over glassware.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Did I mention?

That I'm claustrophobic?

So, when I was in the elevator today on my way to get some tea from the argo tea kiosk in the hospital and it stopped abruptly, I was slightly disturbed. And when it wouldn't start up again, I was even more disturbed. And I thought, I wonder how much oxygen there is in here?

Fortunately, I was not alone, or I probably would've gone straight into hysterics. There was a facilities engineer in there with me. Not that I found him all that comforting (and he was breathing my oxygen!) but I have to maintain a good front at all times in front of all people, so the presence of another person kept me from screaming, "Omigod, I can't breathe!!! There's not enough air in here!!! The walls are closing in!!! I'm too young to die!!!! Get me out of here!!!" Caught without my ativan or knittting, I just stood there, quietly going crazy.

The facilities guy had his radio. He informed me that sometimes they don't work in the elevators just before making his call. Fortunately, somebody answered or I would've had to kill him to stop him from breathing my air. What transpired was a series of strange conversations which gave me a bit of insight into why nothing in this building works properly.

"Hey Al," Mr. Facilities says.
"You'll never guess where I'm stuck."
Dead silence for at least 60 seconds. Apparently, he was really trying to think of a place.
"Hey, I'm in the elevator in C*ummings in between the 6th and 4th floors." Now, some elevators have numbers that light up as you go past the floors, but the ones in this building do not, so all he could do was guess.
More silence.
"Where are you?"
"I'm in the west passenger elevator with a female passenger and we're stuck between floors." I don't know what the purpose was of telling the dispatcher that it was a female passenger. Perhaps it was code for, "take your time," or maybe, "hurry up before she freaks out on me."
"Alright, I'll send someone. Don't move." I'm almost positive that was joke.

More silence. I take this moment to tell the nice facilites man that I am claustrophobic. He says, "Good thing you're not stuck in here by yourself, then, huh?" Yes. It's quite a good thing. Except that you're breathing my air.

"Don't worry, there are so many cables holding this thing up." Yes, but what about the air??? It had not actually occurred to me that the cables might snap, but thank you for putting that into my head. "You know, we just put a new generator on this car yesterday, and it was working fine except that there was no light in here and the fan wasn't working." I contemplate being trapped in a dark elevator car with no fan. "We just got all that working, and now it gets stuck. It was acting kinda funny before you got on, too. Stopped on the 10th floor, but then I pressed the open and close buttons and it just took off again." He now takes this opportunity to try to slam the doors shut more. Which causes the car to shake alarmingly but this is okay because there are so many cables holding the thing up.

Did I mention he was breathing my air?

So, we hear someone far away shouting "Hello!"
We shout back, "Hello!"
The radio says, "Now, where are you again?"
"I think we're around the 5th floor," Mr. Facilities says.
The radio says something incomprehensible.
"Well, I don't know, maybe we're on the 4th floor then."
"Hello!" Someone calls down the elevator shaft.
"Hello!" Mr. Facilities calls. "Don't you open up those doors, Bob! You'll get your head cut off!"

I'm thinking this means that if he opens the doors they'll slam back shut (as some sort of safety measure to keep people from opening the doors when the elevator isn't there), and this will decapitate poor Bob. This was not hard to imagine. Many's the time that I've shoved my leg in the door to catch the elevator and the door just kept closing.

"Hey, we've called the elevator guys."
"Don't you open those doors!"
"I know, I'm not going to!"
"You'll get in trouble!"
There's laughing.

Mr. Facilities now tells me that it used to be that if an elevator got stuck, the facilities guys would just open the doors and pull the people out. But this aggravated the elevator repair guys on campus, and now there was a new policy that they couldn't do that. Great, I'm going to die of suffocation because the elevator guys will get in a snit if the doors are opened before they get there. Mr. Facilities says that if it's after hours it could take the elevator guys an hour (!!!) to get there, so they call the fire department who comes and just rips the doors off, which causes an even bigger problem for the elevator men because they have to actually put the doors back on, so it's a bit stupid, really.

It's starting to take awhile for the elevator guys, so Mr. Facilities decides he's going to try the emergency call box which calls the campus police. As he pushes the buttons he says, "These things don't really work." Oh good. "The other day, I was trapped in the freight elevator and I pushed the button and I hear, 'U of C police, can I help you?' and I try to tell them I'm stuck in the elevator and they say, 'U of C police, can I help you?' and I keep saying I'm stuck in the elevator, but they can't hear me so I finally said, 'You're an idiot!' Fortunately, there were some electricians around and they let me out."

Note to self, don't take the elevators after hours. I only work on the 8th floor. I can walk up.*

Finally, after what seems like 10 billion years but was more like 15 minutes, we hear another, "Hello!"
"Hello, hello!" says Mr. Facilities.
"Where are you?" I swear you'd think there was a window in the elevator and a road sign nearby.
"I think we're on the 5th floor."
There's a terrible noise as the elevator guys pull the doors open. We were on the 5th floor. Almost. There was about a foot and a half distance between the elevator floor and the corridor floor.

There are two elevator men there. They are both standing in the door. It's not a very large door. They start talking to the facilities guy ("Yeah, the doors were acting kind of funny, not closing right on the 10th floor...") I can't get out because the elevator men are in the way. I'm staring at them. Finally, they let me out. I took the stairs the rest of the way down.

You know, I was heading out for some caffeine to wake me up. I ended up with decaf and the largest, sweetest, stickiest cinnamon roll ever. How did I get back to lab? I took the elevator. Just not the one I had been stuck in. I don't think I'll be getting in that one for awhile.

*As it happens, the operator on the other end could hear us just fine and said they would call the university.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


These are my sockpal socks which I blocked over the weekend and sent out today--on time! Hooray!

My next project:

An incredibly simple rectangular wrap in garter stitch on really big needles because I need to wear it to a wedding at the end of the month and I know there's no way I'm going to be finishing something more complicated in that amount of time. It's a non-shedding mohair blend with silver and gold periodically spaced throughout which you can't see in the picture. It's not lace, but it's still one of those things that will look much, much better after it's blocked (I hope).

Monday, May 01, 2006

H is for....

Hyde Park

I am so far behind on my ABC-along it's not even funny.

Hyde Park is the neighborhood I live in on the Southside of Chicago. It is a tiny oasis of relative safety in the vast unsafeness that the Southside is famous for. There's very little to do down here and it's ridiculously far from downtown and the fun that is the Northside, but people seem to like it. I go in cycles. At first I hated it, then I had a few good years of liking it, and now I hate it again. Good thing I'll be leaving in a year or so.