Friday, October 26, 2007

Update, Short Form

Okay, so I've totally given up hope that I will write about all the things I've been up to lately, so I'm going to blog in outline form and call it a day.

- Knitting: working on Henry (and I do mean working.... I think the scarf will be great, but it seriously stresses me out to knit it), made some fingerless mitts with the alpaca yarn that Sarah gave me in August, started this shrug in a purple silk/wool blend. No pictures yet, but the mitts just need their ends woven in, and the shrug is 2/3 finished, so I just may wait and photograph them when they're all done. (I think this new-found obsession with things on size 10 needles is directly related to the fact that I'm knitting a scarf on size 2s.) The unbloggable knitting project has stalled in favor of these, but I'm going to try and get back to it soon-ish. (Christmas knitting? What Christmas knitting?)

- Ben and I were able to go home two weeks ago, which was wonderful - highlights were seeing both sets of parents and my youngest sister, spending time with friends, and finding my wedding dress! All around a great weekend. (Also, I found and acquired dried kiwifruit at a grocery store in Manhattan, which was not a highlight so much as a weird thing I'd never seen before. They're much better fresh, for what it's worth.)

- We also went to Regina Spektor's concert at the Hammerstein, which was fabulous. Go to her site and check out her music videos - she is just as adorable and talented in person. (And she is seriously talented: she's a one-woman show, and there were multiple points at which she was simultaneously singing, playing piano with one hand, drum pad with the other, and stomping on the stage for added percussion. It was like watching someone live inside their music.)

- Research is winding up, which means I am frantically writing two manuscripts simultaneously while endlessly hassling our statistician. I'm sure he's having just as much fun as I am. (EndNote, by the way? Rocks my world. Once it works properly.)

- Ben's parents are visiting this weekend, which is why I have given up hope of really updating the blog this weekend. (A trade I am delighted to make, by the way.) They came in last night, and I'm really looking forward to spending time with them and getting to play tourist at home. (We've already had one culinary adventure, and it's shaping up to be an action-packed weekend.)

- I made pumpkin pie this morning. While wearing a sweater. It really must be fall.

- Also, I really don't have time to do this. I really don't. But I want to - I think it would really interesting to explore the evolution of the concept of a "hospital" historically: start with Islamic medicine c. what, like, 400 AD and the spread of "hospitals" throughout the world. (Because, seriously, there are a lot of ways in which hospitals are structurally and ideologically bad for the administration of health care (and a number of ways in which they do work, of course) but it would be interesting to see how we got to this structure.) Or take a look at the relationship between religion and medicine (ancient temples of healing, hospitals run by religous orders, faith healing, etc) thoughout history. But somehow I don't think I'll be able to crib something together during my surgery rotation. Alas.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Geekery. For real.

Okay, so I haven't posted in forever, and this really isn't what I meant to post next, BUT I couldn't bear to deprive all six readers of the totally awesome thing I found: Free Rice. I'm not sure how much it really helps the developing world, but it's a vocabulary game where they give you a word, you pick the synonym/definition, and if you're right, you get a harder word; wrong, you get an easier one. (Apparently, since the [really very tiny] ads refresh each time you submit a choice, the sponsors are using the ad revenue to donate rice to the UN. I have my doubts about the efficacy of this, but: vocabulary game!)

There are 50 levels, and each word you get wrong drops you down a level; each three or so words right bumps you up. It's completely addicting (I may have spent an hour on this site last night), and the thing is, it's hard, and I'm usually not too shabby in the vocab department. So far, I've topped out at level 48, but hopefully I'll get to level 50 soon - I'm very curious as to what will be there, because I've already run into a lot of words I've never even heard of. Anyway, go play! It's fun, I swear.

(I totally warned you this was geeky.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jes's Pick-Me-Up Dishtowel

My friend Jes has recently moved down to Mississippi to earn her Ph.D. in chemistry (because she's awesome like that), but is finding the move kind of tough. So I decided to knit her something bright and cheery and also, you know, useful in 95 degree weather. Unsurprisingly, the fine women at Mason-Dixon Knitting came through.

Two ballband dishcloths, and a dishtowel based on the Nine-Patch Dishcloth that Kay Gardiner designed. I modified the pattern in order to make it large enough to use as a dishtowel, and thought I'd post the pattern (such as it is) here, in case anyone is interested.

Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream Super Size Solid in White (C1), Hot Pink (C2) and Green (C3). [Each 4 oz (113 g) ball has something like 200 yards; I used one ball each to knit the dishtowel and two ballband dishcloths, and have enough left over for probably another ballband.]

Needles: 4.5 mm/ US 7

Pattern Notes: (Based on Kay Gardiner's Nine-Patch Dishcloth)

There are a LOT of ends to weave in here, what with all the color changes and the striped miters. As someone who hates weaving in ends, I advise you to do it as you go along - not only will the dangly bits of yarn not be driving you crazy, you also won't have to feel like an idiot when you sit down to do two hours of finishing on a dishtowel. (I'm not kidding. Weave in as you go.)

You will be knitting in intarsia for part of the time, and so you may want to divide your C3 ball into two balls. I will admit that I just knit from the other end of the ball, but you may be less slovenly.

Also, I have specified to pick up all sts on the RS, which gives you a kind of patchwork effect exclusively on the WS, like so:

If you want to distribute this effect to both sides, just pick up some squares on the WS.


With C1, cast on 16 sts. K 32 rows (16 garter ridges). *Break yarn, join C2 and k 32 rows. Break yarn, join C1 and K 32 rows. Repeat from * once: you will have a strip of knitting with five blocks of color. Bind off.

With C3, on RS of work, pick up and K 16 sts along one C2 block. (You can easily pick up sts at each garter ridge, and so your squares of color will match pretty well.) Leave C3 yarn dangling, and joining C2, pick up and K 16 sts along the center block in C1. Leave C2 yarn dangling, and with second ball of C3, pick up and K 16 sts along the second C2 block.

Now you have three color blocks that you will be working simultaneously. Just knit across all sts, changing colors at the edge of each block. (This is the intarsia bit, and it's really not hard - just make sure you twist the yarns around each other, bringing the second color up from behind the first, so there's no gap between sts. I found this very difficult to imagine, but simple to do once I had the knitting in front of me. Check out this link for an illustration, but if that seems confusing, just start knitting - what you need to do quickly becomes apparent.)

K 32 rows/16 garter ridges along all three color blocks. Bind off in color pattern, against twisting the yarns in the bind off row as you have done for the color blocks. Repeat for the other side.

(Now we'll work the mitered corners, basically as described for the Nine-Patch Dishcloth, except that I picked up the miters on the RS, and we're striping three colors.)

In one corner, using C2 with the RS of work facing, pick up and K 16 sts along one side of the corner, 1 st in the corner itself (the center st), and 16 sts along the other side of the corner. (If you want to place a marker, do so before the center st, but I found the marker more cumbersome than helpful.) On WS, K to center st, purl center st, and K across to end.

Row 1 (RS): Letting C2 dangle, join C3 and K to 2 sts before center st, SSK, K center st, K2 tog, K to end of row.

Row 2 (WS): K to center st, P center st, K to end of row.

Letting C3 dangle, join C1 and knit Rows 1 and 2.

Continue in patt (working miter stripes in C2, C3, C1), stranding yarn up the side of the work, until 3 sts remain. On the next row, slip 1 purlwise, K2tog, PSSO. Fasten off the remaining stitch.

Repeat for the other 3 corners.

Weave in ends and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On Repeat

Today has consisted mostly of working on my manuscript and, when that stalls, messing around with my iTunes playlists. (There's a reason I haven't posted in a week.) But - sometime in the past few days I have rediscovered Sarah Harmer, which has been delightful. I've listened to Basement Apartment, oh, at least five or six times today, and so wanted to share a link to the music video on YouTube. The perfect song for a kind of cloudy, kind of boring Tuesday. (Although I have to say that the fake leather pants really threw me.)

[Edited to add: Also, for anyone who watched this week's episode of House and is obsessive like me was wondering about the Alanis Morissette song, I did some internet sleuthing: Not As We.]

There's really no new knitting news - I'm slogging along on Henry, which is turning out nicely but is more than a little tedious. 400-plus sts per row! In tiny dark yarn I can't see while watching TV! On the other hand, the pattern really is very easy - you get into a slip 2, knit/purl 2 rhythm pretty quickly. I do enjoy the first four or so rows of each repeat, as the jumbled-looking mess resolves itself into chevron stripes, but there's only so much joy to be had there. (Joy that is counterbalanced, incidentally, by my irrational conviction that it really is a jumbled-looking mess, even though this has played out a couple times now without catastrophe.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Because updating the book log feels like work today...

A meme! One that combines easy blog content with my love of LibraryThing, which is wild and passionate and knows no bounds.

What follows is a list of the top 150 titles marked "Unread" on LibraryThing, with the number of books so marked in parentheses. I have made bold things I've read, italicized the ones I've started but didn't finish, and colored red the ones I couldn't stand and green the ones I loved. Feel free to play, too!

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (149)
Anna Karenina (132)
Crime and punishment (121)
Catch-22 (117)
One hundred years of solitude (115)
Wuthering Heights (110)
Life of Pi : a novel (94)
The name of the rose (91)
Don Quixote (91)
Moby Dick (86)
Ulysses (84)
Madame Bovary (83)
The Odyssey (83)
Pride and prejudice (83)
Jane Eyre (80)
A tale of two cities (80)
The brothers Karamazov (80)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (79)
War and peace (78)
Vanity fair (74)
The time traveler's wife (73)
The Iliad (73)
Emma (73)
The Blind Assassin (73)
The kite runner (71)
Mrs. Dalloway (70)
Great expectations (70)
American gods : a novel (68)
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius (67)
Atlas shrugged (67)
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books (66)
Memoirs of a Geisha (66)
Middlesex (66)
Quicksilver (66)
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West … (65)
The Canterbury tales (64)
The historian : a novel (63)
A portrait of the artist as a young man (63)
Love in the time of cholera (62)
Brave new world (61)
The Fountainhead (61)
Foucault's pendulum (61)
Middlemarch (61)
Frankenstein (59)
The Count of Monte Cristo (59)
Dracula (59)
A clockwork orange (59)
Anansi boys : a novel (58)
The once and future king (57)
The grapes of wrath (57)
The poisonwood Bible : a novel (57)
1984 (57)
Angels & demons (56)
The inferno (56)
The satanic verses (55)
Sense and sensibility (55)
The picture of Dorian Gray (55)
Mansfield Park (55)
One flew over the cuckoo's nest (54)
To the lighthouse (54)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (54)
Oliver Twist (54)
Gulliver's travels (53)
Les misérables (53)
The corrections (53)
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay : a novel (52)
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (52)
Dune (51)
The prince (51)
The sound and the fury (51)
Angela's ashes : a memoir (51)
The god of small things (51)
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present (51)
Cryptonomicon (50)
Neverwhere (50)
A confederacy of dunces (50)
A short history of nearly everything (50)
Dubliners (50)
The unbearable lightness of being (49)
Beloved : a novel (49)
Slaughterhouse-five (49)
The scarlet letter (48)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Pu… (48)
The mists of Avalon (47)
Oryx and Crake : a novel (47)
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (47)
Cloud atlas : a novel (47)
The confusion (46)
Lolita (46)
Persuasion (46)
Northanger abbey (46)
The catcher in the rye (46)
On the road (46)
The hunchback of Notre Dame (45)
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of… (45)
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into … (45)
The Aeneid (45)
Watership Down (44)
Gravity's rainbow (44)
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its … (44)
White teeth (44)
Treasure Island (44)
David Copperfield (44)
The three musketeers (44)
Cold mountain (43)
Robinson Crusoe (43)
The bell jar (43)
The secret life of bees (43)
Beowulf : a new verse translation (43)
The plague (43)
The Master and Margarita (43)
Atonement : a novel (42)
The handmaid's tale (42)
Lady Chatterley's lover (41)
Underworld (41)
Little Women (41)
A brief history of time : from the big bang to black holes (41)
Stardust (41)
Jude the obscure (41)
The chronicles of Narnia (40)
Possession : a romance (40)
Fast food nation : the dark side of the all-American meal (40)
Never let me go (40)
The trial (40)
Kafka on the shore (40)
Bleak House (40)
Sons and lovers (40)
Alias Grace (39)
The Arabian nights (39)
Baudolino (39)
Confessions (39)
The great Gatsby (39)
To kill a mockingbird (39)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Gla… (39)
The alchemist (39)
Candide, or, Optimism (39)
Snow falling on cedars (39)
Midnight in the garden of good and evil : a Savannah story (39)
Midnight's children (39)
White Oleander (39)
A passage to India (39)
The elegant universe : superstrings, hidden dimensions, and … (39)
The house of the seven gables (39)
The lovely bones : a novel (38)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (38)

I've missed a number of classics, apparently. And also a lot of Austen, which is unsurprising, I suppose, because I don't particularly like Austen, but now I'm wondering on what, exactly, I based that opinion, because Jane Eyre wasn't so bad. I think it may have been Pride and Prejudice, although it was so long ago I don't even really remember why I disliked it. Hmm. I'm surprised at how few books are on this list that I couldn't stand, but I had forgot how vehemently I despised The Catcher in the Rye. I wonder if I'd appreciate it more on re-read - I think I was just too close to Holden's age (and, in attitude and life-view, Holden's polar opposite) to connect to the book at all when I read it. I think his angst would annoy me less now. It would certainly feel less... threatening, I think. There are a number of books on this list which I love and I hope the LibraryThingers who haven't read them intend to do so.

(By the way, my username on LibraryThing is my first initial and last name - for those of you who know it - in case you'd like to book-stalk me. I will say that I haven't gotten around to entering all my non-fiction yet, so my catalogue is skewed towards the fiction side of things. Someday.)