Monday, February 18, 2008

fail with consequence, lose with eloquence

So, I've never pointed you all over to xkcd, which is a fantastic webcomic about "romance, sarcasm, math, and language." And that's a tragedy I'm rectifying today, because it's absolutely hilarious (and will provide you with a few hours' entertainment browsing the old strips). I thought today's comic "How it works" was an excellent introduction to everything I love about the artist's comics, and also a pretty good reminder of how it does work, sometimes:

Go enjoy reading the rest of them. (Edited to add: And make sure you let the cursor hover over the comic to read the embedded pop-up text thing that I'm sure has an actual technical name. They're usually just as funny as - if not funnier than - the actual text.)

In other news, I just discovered this: Sea Socks Cruise and Yarn Expedition! I want to do this. I particularly love the question in the FAQ: Can you bring your family? As if you have non-knitter family members you might be able to convince to spend seven days on a ship surrounded by knitters, who probably would not be so much concerned with getting a tan on their vacation as protecting the handspun from harsh UV rays. It sounds like heaven. However, I think the family medicine AI is going to have to take priority.

....Also, I started Tuscany (lace shawl from No Sheep for You, scroll down for a pic) yesterday and am already one skein of Pure Silk into it. I'm ... not entirely sure how that happened. Further progress may have to wait until the arrival of my gorgeous new stitch markers from Etsy vendor SeeJayneKnitYarns, as I'm approaching the end of my stitch marker collection with two lace projects on the needles. I did get some good work done on it this morning, when I finally brought knitting to our completely useless Monday morning lectures. It helped some.

title from "Consequence," The Notwist

Friday, February 15, 2008

holidays are made for reading

There are free books on the internet! I wanted to pass along this link - SF publishing house Tor is trying out this whole viral marketing thing, and the rewards they're offering are pretty good: a link to a downloadable .pdf full-text book every week! I just received my first book today (Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, which I know nothing about), and next week's text is John Scalzi's Old Man's War - I've actually been meaning to pick up a novel of his, so I'm pretty excited about this one. So for all you SF fans out there, wants your email address, and in return they will give you weekly free e-books. I'm pretty okay with that.

This is also probably a good time to tell you all about my favorite sites to get free books on the internet. I've had these links on my side-bar for a while, but for those of you who are interested, LibriVox is an archive of free audiobooks, produced by volunteers, whose texts are in the public domain. For a fantastic free archive of such texts, check out Project Gutenburg, which has gotten much more tech-savvy and user-friendly since I first discovered it in, like, 1999. Both places are great for discovering interesting books written, you know, a hundred years ago - I particularly enjoy browsing the medical texts, which are mostly hilarious but frequently terrifying. Also included in the public domain are, of course, all the Victorian era classics - I've been listening to Emma recently while knitting, which has been fun.

I am woefully - woefully - behind on the booklog thing, and I may not return to it, especially since I don't know if anyone but me is interested in reading about what I'm reading. I also think my ability to read literature critically has declined in proportion to my increasing ability to read nonfiction and academic literature critically, so I feel that I have very little that's new or interesting to say about books I've read recently. However, for completeness' sake, here's a list (more or less) of the books I've read since the last booklog update - as I recall, all were pretty good and worth the time.

Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, 2006.
The Invisible Sex, J. M. Adovasio, Olga Soffer, and Jake Page, 2007.
Salt: A World History, Mark Kurlansky, 2002.
Fledgling, Octavia E. Butler, 2005.
Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, William Bryant Logan, 1995. (Truly excellent. Seriously. Completely entertaining and you will never look at dirt the same way again.)
Atonement, Ian McEwan, 2001.
Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor, Perri Klass, 2007.
Master and Commander, Patrick O'Brien, 1994.

I've also been reading The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart, which was a Christmas present (thank you, Lola and Peter!) and a fantastic reference on the art of bread-baking. I've made a few breads so far, including the pain à l'ancienne and the pain de campagne, both of which turned out to be pretty tasty.

I have an ungodly number of works in the "to be read" pile(s), especially after I stopped at a Half-Price Books yesterday out by my clinic in Mentor and left with 7 new books. (Total cost was something like $32, so it wasn't such a ridiculous splurge. But a splurge nonetheless. And here might be the time to mention how much I love buying used books: the sense of history that someone else has read this, the economics of it, the fact that it's effective recycling that works. Love it.) I picked up a Spanish-English dictionary, a pocket guide to Spanish verb conjugations (in anticipation of heading off to Central America next winter to learn Spanish) and some books I've been meaning to read for a while: Octavia E. Butler's Kindred, Toni Morrison's Paradise, and E. M. Forster's A Passage to India. Unfortunately, they had only really crappy knitting books, but you can't have everything.

title from "Things to Forget," Sarah Harmer. (YouTube has failed me on this one, unfortunately.)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

we are bound by symmetry

It's done, it's done, it's done! Here, have some photographic evidence:

That is Henry, blocking away on our sunroom couch. Done! I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be done with this: the finished product is great, but the knitting was very boring, very fussy - and did I mention boring? The bind-off ALONE took 3+ hours, which I'm really trying not to think about. But it's done (finally!) and Ben will be able to wear it at least a few times this winter, which pleases me immensely - I really hadn't thought I'd get done with this sucker until June. Done!

Pattern: Henry, by Mareike Sattler in

Yarn: Aussie Sock in Oak Moss, about 1.5 skeins

Needles: Size 3 / 3.25 mm for the body and size 2 / 2.75 mm for the first and last three rows.

Modifications: Only that I did 6 of the 7 pattern repeats, mostly for my own sanity. If I were ever to knit this again (which appears very unlikely), I would probably see if I couldn't get away with less freakishly time-consuming set-up and bind-off rows. I don't think the edges look that great, especially considering how annoying the bind-off is. Also, I'm not in love with the little weird ridge at the ends of the scarf, but it's fine.


title from "Red Right Ankle," The Decemberists

Saturday, February 9, 2008

want a garden by the ocean tide

So I was home visiting my family last week (for my grandpa's 80th birthday!), and I received this very lovely present from my sister Jen:

She threw this flowerpot and tray (or whatever the bit is called that goes under a flowerpot to catch the water) in her ceramics class, and I cannot wait to get some herbs planted into it. I think a big bunch of parsley would look great with the gorgeous glaze. She had also done me a huge favor and glazed a porcelain pot that I had thrown, according to the date carved in the bottom, in 2002:

I can't believe it's been 5 years since I've done any ceramics work. It was something I loved in high school, and I always thought I'd keep it up, but I haven't really touched a wheel since then. (2002, of course, was after I graduated, but if I recall, my ceramics teacher had let me come back the summer after freshman year and play around a bit, which is when I had made that bowl.) I think both knitting - and cooking, to some extent - have fulfilled some of that creative urge, but I do miss the alchemy of taking a lump of mud and turning it into something pretty and useful. Another item to add to my fantasy farm: a wheel and a kiln to share space with the apple orchard and the goats. (I do know how ridiculous this is. Watch I spend the rest of my life living in Manhattan, growing miniaturized fruit trees on the roof and hiding a chicken coop up there from the zoning department like a crazy person.) Anyway. I had really just wanted to share the pretty pictures.

In other news, Ben and I went to go see Chris Rock last night at the Palace Theatre downtown. He was, of course, absolutely hilarious, and I'm not sure if my abs are hurting today from yesterday's workout or from laughing so hard. He had a number of political-oriented segments, and a really interesting bit about white privilege, where he discussed the people who live in his upper-class neighborhood in New Jersey. The four black homeowners in this community are him, Mary J. Blige, Denzel Washington and Jay-Z. All extremely famous people who are superlatively good at what they do. And yet the white guy who lives next door is a dentist, "not a great dentist, not in the Dental Hall of Fame, but a yank-your-teeth-out dentist." The punchline of the segment was along the lines of: "And do you know what a black dentist would have to do to live in this neighborhood? He'd have to invent teeth!" And it's a very funny line, and it's really a great example of what makes Chris Rock's comedy so hilarious, which is that it's absolutely spot-on true. Not literally, obviously, but this segment of his show very clearly illustrates what it means to have white privilege and how the lack of privilege manifests itself in day-to-day life for people of color. (If you've taken a sociology class in the last ten years, I'm sure you've seen this, but more for my own future reference, a link to "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," which is the article that really made the idea of white privilege real and immediate for me - and, I think, the one that first defined it in the academic literature.) At any rate, it was a great show, and also something I'll be thinking about for a while.

(A parting quotation from Robert Heinlein on humor: "Of course it wasn't funny; it was tragic. That's why I had to laugh. I looked at a cageful of monkeys and suddenly I saw all the mean and cruel and utterly unexplainable things I've seen and heard and read about in the time I've been with my own people - and suddenly it hurt so much I found myself laughing.... I grok when apes learn to laugh, they'll be people.")

(I sometimes wonder what Heinlein was like in real life. It must have been rough on your psyche to hang out with him all day long, but it just might have been worth it.)

title from "Nolita Fairytale," Vanessa Carlton

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

fill our mouths with cinnamon

An actual finished object! With pictures! (And with much thanks to my sister Jen, who has let me take her camera back to Cleveland after I dropped mine off a table and it became displeased with me.)

Pattern: modified from Absorba, the Great Bathmat (from Mason-Dixon Knitting)

Yarn: about 3 lbs total of worsted weight cotton, knit with three strands held together: the same 2 strands of neutral (cream and natural) throughout and changing color with each log cabin strip. From Bernat and Elmore-Pisgah.

Needles: size 13 / 9.0 mm circulars

Modifications: increased the row width to 8 garter ridges, knit a bigger (17 garter row) center square, added two strips to each edge to get a longer rectangle.

I'm not sure what it is about the Mason-Dixon patterns that make me want to knit eight of them in a row, but I found this to be a lot of fun. I'm already contemplating rugs for the kitchen in more tame colors arranged in an actual pattern.

And here's a picture of my latest project, which is really a very old project that I knit 8 rows of and decided that I couldn't handle lace. Eighteen months of knitting experience later, magic happens so that "Oh, my God, I would rather be scrubbing the toilet" turns into, "Oh, the flight's almost over? Maybe we'll have to circle for a while? I hope?"

I've officially caught the lace bug, I think.

title from "Sons and Daughters," The Decemberists