Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Knitting in transit

I flew to Boston last week to attend a conference, then took the train up Maine to spend the weekend with my sister. Usually trips like these provide an occasion to do lots of reading, and while I did read one book, I spent much of my travel time working on this pair of socks.

Made from Steinbach Wolle "Stapaz Cotton Effekt." My mom prefers cotton socks, and I like this yarn more than some others I've used, but I'm not thrilled with this colorway. I also think the heels would look better using the after-thought heel method.

The book was Counting Heads by David Marusek. It's the first book reviewed in the new science fiction column "Across the Universe" in the New York Times Book Review. The review wasn't glowing, but I was intrigued enough to give this a try. Densely imaginative, with nanotech, artificial intelligence, cloning, medical immortality, and a planet colonization subplot, it reminded me a bit of Neil Stephenson's Diamond Age. I liked the short story that began the novel, but I thought that later the book gets cluttered, and our emotional attention shifts too much to really care about anyone in the end (kind of like "Diamond Age," now that I think about it).

While in Maine, I stopped into Halcyon Yarn to pick up a skein for replacing the neck of my enormous green sweater. I finished this sweater in October 2004, and was fretting because it was entirely too big. This was before I started keeping the blog, so I created a "Can this sweater be saved?" webpage and asked for advice from the GLBT-Knit crowd. In exchange for a pair of fingerless gloves, a seamstress did the tailoring work to help make the sweater wearable.

As a sweater, it's still a failure, but it makes a nice, big hiking sweater. The neckline was bad though -- too low and too tight. So I decided to unpick the collar and make a turtleneck in dark gray yarn. The picture documents the wad of unraveled collar yarn, and the new charcoal yarn that will become the turtleneck.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Heel experiments

List-sib John pointed out this pattern for basic ribbed socks using the Sherman heel. I've tried the Sherman heel before; the concept appeals to me, but I've never felt like I quite "got it." I knit one trial sock to see if I liked these directions better.

Took me 6 hours, 40 minutes to knit, a little less than I expected. I think it might be faster to knit one sock at a time. It's beautiful, isn't it? The yarn is Trekking XXL, which Brenda says is like knitter's crack-cocaine. I only picked it up because my aunt said she needed brown socks, and the plain brown was just too boring to contemplate. I thought I could use this yarn for accent stripes, but it cried out to be made into a sock of its own.

The heel isn't bad, but it just didn't feel elegant to me. I decided to try it on a light, sport weight cotton so I could really study the structure and analyze the results.

Then once I started, I couldn't stop, and I kept knitting experimental short-row heels:
  • Sherman heel, meticulously following directions
  • Sherman heel, twisting the lifted stitches
  • PGR heel, with yarn-overs
  • Short-row heel with wraps
  • Catch method (from the article in Interweave Knits)
  • Japanese method
Mike says the picture looks like 6 condom tips.

I think the Japanese method yields the best results. It looks exactly like the PGR heel, with its clean exterior. But fiddling with all the stitch markers was a pain, and I don't see myself making a habit of that technique. I've got a few more experiments I'd like to try, but my prediction is that I'll stick with the PGR heel.

I woke up this morning thinking of a couple other experiments to try.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Sixteen hours of socks and Galactica

I made some mistakes with the stop watch -- I once let it run overnight -- but it looks like it took me about sixteen hours, fifteen minutes to knit these socks.

I find this timing thing interesting, and may try to make a habit of it. I'm wondering now if it takes more or less time to knit socks one at a time.

Most of the ribbing was knit this week while I'm taking a slacker break from work -- vacation time with no plans to go anywhere or do anything. I've had small goals: do laundry, get my car serviced, vacuum the house. My biggest goal was to watch the first season of "Battlestar Galactica." I've avoided the series so far, mostly because I'm bitter that SciFi Channel didn't pick up the option of "Firefly." Every time I see the camera effect of a rapid zoom and clumsy focus on a spaceship, I feel a small twinge of rage. And once again, there appear to be no gay people in space.

But over all, I'm liking it, which I suppose isn't a surprise. The people are all very easy on the eyes; Jamie Barber is too hot to be real, but Aaron Douglas seems more my type. (Hmm, maybe there's a slash fiction pairing of Apollo and Tyrol out there somewhere. Distraught over the whole Sharon thing, Galen turns to Lee for comfort?) The Cylons have this interesting "Blade Runner" vibe going for them. The religious themes are intriguing, as are the politics. And this is probably old news to everyone else in the world, but I think it's cool that the producer provides podcast commentary for each episode. A couple years ago I said I wish there was an easy way for talented amateurs to produce good commentary tracks for movies; podcasting seems to have given us that. I'll have to look into those further.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Sentimental Journey Hat

My friends Aubrey and Charles are up from Florida this week, an opportunity for Aubrey to return to his hometown, drop in on relatives, and reconnect with distant friends. Thursday we went on what I kept calling his "Sentimental Journey" around Marion. We visited the house where he grew up (knocked on the door, but no one was home), the comic book store where he worked after high school, his church, the old downtown theater where he performed in some high school productions. It was a marvelous day, full of synchronicity and surprise encounters. And memories: I've always been struck by how revisiting old haunts causes memories to awaken, almost as if those memories are not in your own mind but are waiting there in the places themselves.

We stopped in a big-box store at the edge of town to buy mints and a hoodie (poor Floridians were finding the above average warmth a little chilly), and Aubrey was about to buy a hat. I couldn't have that. I went to the craft section, bought some thick chenille and size 11 double points, and set off trying to finish a hat for him the car. I failed. First attempt was too tightly cast-on. The second attempt, a top-down creation, was going along fine until stitches got dropped (it was a struggle to fit the entire circumference of the hat securely on four needles).

Still, I'm determined, and at home last night, with superior tools (my 60" Addi size 10 circular), I whipped up this creation.

Mike and I are meeting Aubrey and Charles at the zoo later this morning, where I'll give him the hat. He'll have no use for it in Florida, but it was fun to try making something momentarily useful.

My favorite new memory of his visit: getting styrofoam cups from the comic book store so Aubrey and his sister could take some holy water from the church of their youth. They'll bring this water to the ingathering and water ceremonies at their Unitarian churches later this year.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Edelstein on the Oscars

At the beginning of the year, my favorite film critic David Edelstein left Slate for New York Magazine. He seems to have reigned himself in a bit there, but still worth checking out. He continues his annual Oscar chat with Lynda Obst at his new home. The site design is terrible, and the conversation is difficult to follow chronologically. Here's a list of the messages in order:
The discussion over at Slate between Bryan Curtis, Troy Patterson, and Dana Stevens is worth reading even if Edelstein isn't there.

Mike and I probably won't stay up for it all. Gone are the days when we used to have a party and invite people over. Now it's like the Tonys: something we have on in the background while we do Sudoku puzzles.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Nine hours to the cuff

I'm 9 hours into the "timed sock," and I've just set up the ribbing for the cuff. Progress will be slower from this point on, as K2P2 ribbing just takes longer for me.

I still did the heels one-at-a-time on these socks, but I didn't move them to separate sets of needles -- just let one sock flop there while I worked on the other one. Didn't care for it. It wasn't excessively awkward, but it puts too much weight on the working sock, stretching the stitches where the heel joins at the ankle even more than usual.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Modern, Cool Nerd

I followed the link from Mel's blog and took The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test, which rated me...

Modern, Cool Nerd
65 % Nerd, 69% Geek, 34% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd and Geek, earning you the title of: Modern, Cool Nerd.

Nerds didn't use to be cool, but in the 90's that all changed. It used to be that, if you were a computer expert, you had to wear plaid or a pocket protector or suspenders or something that announced to the world that you couldn't quite fit in. Not anymore. Now, the intelligent and geeky have eked out for themselves a modicum of respect at the very least, and 'geek is chic.' The Modern, Cool Nerd is intelligent, knowledgable and always the person to call in a crisis (needing computer advice/an arcane bit of trivia knowledge). They are the one you want as your lifeline in Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (or the one up there, winning the million bucks)!
I also did one Muppets Personality Test that, no matter how I tweaked my answers, I was Miss Piggy. I think it's rigged. So I did another one, and also came out Miss Piggy. It must be a conspiracy. (Although with a little answer tweaking, I came out Scooter, who seems like a Modern, Cool Nerd to me).