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.

Monday, July 10, 2006


While my mother was in town, J took us up to Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin

to see the lab he works in up there. The Observatory is no longer used for research, but the labs are functional (they use telescopes in other parts of the world).

Yerkes is home to the world's largest refracting telescope.

John is standing near the base to give you an idea of the scale. The white tube-like thing is the telescope. Only half of it is in the picture. The red wheels are part of the mechanism that moves the telescope up and down. The floor that J is standing on moves up and down so that you can actually reach the eyepiece.

After dinner, we waited for the skies to clear (it had rained), and headed back to Yerkes at 10:45 pm. This was the start of the most exciting part of the trip. Although we were not able to use the telescope pictured above (only the director is qualified to use it), we got to use another one of the telescopes and did some honest-to-goodness observing! We saw several nebulae and Jupiter. Jupiter looked something like this (images taken with a telescope at Yerkes--click on the first image). We also saw the four largest moons. I swear to God, it looked just like a picture out of a textbook. There were some high school teachers there using the scope--they had been there for a week-long workshop--but we just jumped right in ("step aside, real astrophysicist with his wife and mother-in-law here"). They were a little confused because they didn't know who John was, but we just shared the scope and everything worked out okay. The floor also moved up and down in this dome (the scope, while not nearly as big as the one pictured above, was still quite big and depending on what you had it pointed at and where the floor was, the eyepiece might be several feet over your head, or at your knees). I even got to put the coordinates in to move the scope (accompanied by a lot of warning to not let it hit my head) and I moved the floor and everything! Mom was absolutely thrilled, too, and we had a fabulous time.

We went to the hotel around 12:30 am and hit the hay and didn't get up until after 9 am (my mother normally goes to bed around 8pm and gets up at either 2am or 4 am, depending on whether she has to work overtime; so this was pretty crazy scheduling for her). Then, we headed back to Chicago. It was beyond worth it to go up there. Yerkes is a very famous observatory, so it was worth it historically, plus we got to use the scope which is probably a once in a lifetime experience, and to top it off, the University has just sold Yerkes and the land around it to a developer. While the observatory will remain on the site, if the sale actually goes through (and there's no guarantee about that because the town may block it) the University will no longer have control over the observatory and we wouldn't know someone who could just let us go in and fiddle around with the thing.

This whole experience has made me want to buy a piece of land in the middle of nowhere, a decent, but affordable telescope, and do some casual observing as a hobby with J (okay, so it may be a little weird for an astrophysicist to have astronomy as a hobby, but really, he doesn't get much of a chance to just point a scope at cool things in the sky and look at them). Maybe someday.....

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I'm alive

Just busy.

Last week, my mother was here and took the week off work and we did a few tourist things and she taught me how to sew. Over the weekend, I slept. This week, it's been a combination of trying to get work done and still being tired, so still sleeping a lot. Hrmph. Apparently, my body doesn't understand that after a week off, one needs to work like mad to catch up on all the stuff one could've been doing if one had been at work. Oh, and I had some friends over on the fourth and we played with some sparklers and had margaritas (a nice patriotic drink) and ate hamburgers and brats and blueberry/peach cobbler. Yum.

I'd be more interesting if I had more energy. Really. But for now, I'm just letting you know I'm still alive. ;)