Thursday, August 31, 2006

Cat's "525,600 Minutes" Meme

Cat, contemplative with the start of a new school year, challenges her blog readers to answer these five questions:
  1. How old do you think you'll live to be?

    For the longest time, I thought it would be 42, which happens in just over 3 months now. But a stress test last year turned out just fine, so now I don't know. I don't excercise enough, and I'm excessively fond of ice cream and fast food cheeseburgers. I probably will have my first heart attack sometime in the next 20 years, but I plan to survive it. I'd prefer to die in some wildly improbable, cataclysmic event -- kidnapped by aliens; infected with Andromeda Strain; crushed by Godzilla. More likely, it will be a car accident. Let's say 77?

  2. How do you measure the passing of time in your own life?

    I watch for the signs -- in both nature and culture -- for the cycle of seasonal change. The first lightning bug, the first frost. Dandelions poking up around Imbolc, ripe peaches around Lughnasadh. Orion lingering in the autumn morning sky. Graeter's Cherry Chip ice cream in February, Girl Scout Thin Mints in March. Soon the starlings will begin to practice their formations in the evening sky, and the new fall shows will air on TV. I look out into the near future for milestones, which speed up or slow down the passage of time, depending on how much I anticipate or dread them.

  3. What would constitute "the perfectly lived day" for you?

    A day lived mindfully, open to what comes, delighting in it. Ideally, it would be a bright, cool day, maybe in the fall. A light hike in a wooded area would be nice, maybe with few others around. I would talk with friends and family, probably laugh a lot. We'd have a tasty lunch. (But Cat's idea of starring in a Broadway show and finishing the day off with fabulous, crazy monkey sex would be OK too). At night I would dream that I could breath underwater.

  4. If you could pick one age or one year that you could live over and over, which one would you pick? Why?

    I had a friend who used to say with inappropriate irony, "It's true that I get better looking with each passing day." Me too: handsomer, smarter, wiser...more talented and fabulous as time marches on. (Humbler too). So I tend not to pine over the past; my best times have been the beginnings of something new. When I was fourteen, I promised myself that I would always remember and appreciate the complicated joy and pain of that transition from child into something else. My first year of college, my first year of grad school...all wonderful times. The early 90's were the best. I had found love, I was surrounded by smart friends. But still, I don't think I'd go back. I'd rather take what comes.

    And Slaughterhouse-Five had a fairly profound effect on my worldview. I think moments in time are eternal, and our perception of "now" is an illusion. Like Billy Pilgrim, we are all unstuck in time, if only we have the presence of mind to notice it. Every day is Groundhog Day.

  5. If you knew you were going to die in a year, what would you do in your final days?

    I expect "Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance," not necessarily in that order. I'd want to say goodbye. Or I think I would, until it became such a burden -- creating moments, bumming people out. I'd probably just get exhausted with it all. Then bitter about all the obligations a fore-knowledge of your own death imposes on you. I might undertake a project to hide little meaningful things everywhere, so that people would unexpectedly be reminded of me in future years.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Math anxiety

I'm about a month behind listening to Cast-On episodes, so I only recently heard Brenda kvell about the Widdershins sock pattern. I tried it before -- it was one of the aborted projects that I tried to do with the Handpainted Opal -- but didn't like it. Still, I know that Brenda has some of the same "sock issues" that I do, and if she says this may be the Holy Grail of sock patterns, then maybe, I thought, I should give it another shot. Other bloggers mentioned that the designer had written on her own blog about how to adapt the pattern to other stitch counts.

I thought I had sufficient math skills for my knitting (I whined to my GLBT-Knitsibs). I thought they were more than sufficient, actually. (Hey, I do Kakuro puzzles in bed).

And I was with the designer up to a point. I get that, if you have a 54 st circumference, you do gusset increases until you have 74 st: 27 for the instep, 14 each for the gussets, and 19 heel stitches. But I could not for the life of me figure out where that 19 comes from. The designer said:
For a round heel with a flap n stitches wide, the number of stitches below the heel turning is h(n) where h(k) = k for k.
Uh...what? I get what "h" is. I know I'm solving for "n." But what the hell is "k?"

The people on GLBT-Knit came through, leading me to realize that it's not about the math: there just need to be enough heel stitches to cover the bottom of the heel, whatever my gauge happens to be. So I made some quick notes and set off.

I leached the color out of this picture because these socks will be a gift, and the recipient sometimes reads my blog. I have to admit, except for the drama of the multi-variable equation above, the Widdershins construction is pretty cool. It reminds me a lot of Judy Gibson's You're Putting Me On socks. And I had an important sizing epiphany: a short-row heel would "begin" about halfway into your gusset increases. So with an L measurement of 6.5 inches, I'd want to begin my increases 15 rounds before I reached 6.5 (or around 5 inches, with my current gauge). Significantly more thinking is required than with my usual sock pattern, but I think this sock may be more comfortable for people with higher insteps. I think _____ is really going to like it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Stash Fairy

She signs her emails "lc2" and those who follow her blog (and you should: it's poetic, smart, spirited, and different, a glimpse into how one goes about surviving cancer) may know her as "rcclive," but I think I'm going to start calling her the Stash Fairy.

With the gift of a single skein of Bearfoot back in May 2004, she reawakened my dormant sock knitting (which now occupies so much of this blog). The gift sent me to The Stitch Stops Here in search of more of this marvelous stuff, and ensured that my generally stash-free existence was at an end, not to mention all the money I've blown on Addi Turbos.

I had lunch with her Friday, when she layered upon me several marvelous gifts: 10 balls of blue baby cashmere, some purple cotton Sockotta (mom will be happy), Trekking XXL, Trekking Tweed, and Trekking Color. She threw in a sock pattern with an interesting cabled/broken rib design, and a blue t-shirt that says "I just came in to pet the yarn." All of this in a canvas DRA Taos bag, which for a library automation geek like me is perhaps the coolest part of the gift. I want lunch with her to be a regular thing, as long as she promises to stop bringing me stuff (bad fairy!) and takes naps before starting for home. I was horrified to read how much our lunch had tired her out.

Oh, the picture? It's that first skein of Bearfoot, the first pair of socks I made two-at-once on two circs (toe-up, naturally). The cuff design is from Stash Fairy's own sock pattern, called "Twirly Toes."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

When One Cannot Invent

Years ago, I cracked open a fortune cookie to find this pointed comment: "When one cannot invent, one must at least improve."

See, I'm really not all that creative. I get flashes of inspiration, but they're usually just a recognition that something someone else has done is cool. I don't write stories because all I would produce would be crappy fan fiction with humiliatingly obvious Mary Sues: the visiting American professor at Hogwarts, the librarian that Harry Dresden turns to for Internet research, any number of guest X-men. My knitting kind of feeds into this: I don't write patterns, but I do experiment with substitute techniques: working in the round instead of flat, creating the object backwards like a top-down hat or toe-up sock, and so on.

All of which is to say, Gentle Readers, that I'm tinkering with my blog, adding stuff to the sidebar, and I'll probably be stealing things I like from your blogs. Like that nifty "On The Needles" widget I see out there (Ken is doing it on Blogger, so there must be a way). I've always been envious of people with Movable Type blogs with the plug-ins that show what they're reading or listening to, and I hope that the new Blogger has something similar. I'm trying to find some way, with minimal or no effort, to recreate in my sidebar the earliest days of this blog.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Matt's Gigantic Balls

[Apologies to those of you who read this through Bloglines or other RSS readers. I upgraded to the new Blogger Beta, and that seems to have republished my posts. Didn't mean to spam your aggregators.]

Hung out for a good chunk of Saturday at the Merc (story on Randy's blog) where I snapped this picture with my crappy camera phone:

That's Matt, showing off his enormous balls. Matt's knitting a sweater from mop cotton. Seriously, that is some gigantic yarn. His gauge is like 1.5 stitches per inch. The sweater is going to weigh a ton, and when it's wet I'm pretty sure Gus (did I get that name right?) will be immobilized. But it looks cool. I want one.

Great day; lot of laughing.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

You must talk about Sock Wars

Yarn Monkey reports that, as of Tuesday, there are 400 sock warriors registered worldwide.

I am ridiculously excited about this. It appears that I am planning the whole fall season around Sock Wars. Craftsman Hill has asked me to teach my toe-up socks class (or the "Steep Learning Curve" socks, as I call them), and I haven't confirmed because I'm worried about it cutting into my Sock Wars time. I'd like to go to Chicago for the weekend -- see Altar Boyz and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, catch a taping of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, maybe stalk Franklin and Dolores -- but what about my mission? Sock Wars will end on Thanksgiving, when I'm on vacation in Maine. Will I have enough stash to keep myself alive? Will there be a FedEx station nearby where I can launch my attacks against my targets?

On the Sock Wars Forum, I read a plaintive message from a sock newbie looking for helpful instructional videos because she didn't know anyone in central Ohio who knits. I decided that Cat and I should help her out. In fact...

All central Ohio knitters should form a Sock Warriors' Guild

...a geographical alliance of knitters, a cabal of sock-making ninja, banding together to encourage and support our own in this brutal battle. The experienced and seasoned will train the fresh recruits, help fix their dropped stitches, guide them through the first turning of their heels. But we should all be on guard, for in the end, each of us is in it for himself, and one of the Guild may be the assassin assigned to you.

(I was going to create a site, but it hardly seems worth the money. So if you're interested, leave a comment or send me an email, yarmando at gmail dot com).

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Handpainted Opal

I've made four or five attempts to do something with the gorgeous, handpainted Opal which I found marked down at Quiltessentials back when Mel took me there. I'm wondering if the frog and toad-like colors are encouraging my tendency to repeatedly frog it.

My first pass at it had too loose a gauge, so I went down a needle size. I didn't like the star toe, so I started again. I tried to experiment with gusset-style increases before the short-row heel, but I hated the way it looked, so I frogged back to make a normal heel.

By the way, I was working on this gusset experiment while watching High School Musical, so I associate the construction technique with that experience. Since I never want to watch the movie again, I wonder if I'll ever want to try this experiment again. Does this happen to other knitters, or am I just weird? I associate DNA cables with Kismet, the Shell Lace Pattern with Veronica Mars, and countless other connections, most of which I can't bring to mind unless I'm actually knitting the pattern.

Anyway, I think I've finally figured out what kind of socks this yarn wants to be, and whom it wants to be for.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Making socks that fit

One of the reasons I love knitting socks is because it's fairly easy to make them fit. You just need two important measurements: the circumference (C) of the widest part of the ball of the foot, and the length (L) from the tip of the longest toe to the center of the ankle. I sometimes have a hard time explaining to people the L measurement, so here's the illustration from the sock scriptures, Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy.

To get the L measurement, the author says, "I place a ruler on the floor at the inside edge of the foot, with the person seated and their foot resting lightly on the floor." It can be handy to know the circumference of the ankle, but that's usually somewhere close to the C measurement.

I also like making socks because nearly everyone likes them and can stand to have many pairs. How many hats, scarves, and mittens does one person really need? Sweaters take too long. And don't even talk to me about afghans, shawls, and lace.

And you don't really need to have a recipient in mind when you start a new sock. You can let the pattern and the yarn take you where it wants, and you end up with what I call "Cinderella Socks" -- whomever they fit, gets them.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


It's been too hot to blog. Franklin and Harlot have managed to write screamingly funny posts about the heat. I'm in awe of their stamina, not to mention their wit and charm.

And I've been busy. I've been trying to make time the past couple weeks to help my aunt move. This gave me an opportunity last month to drive around my hometown in the Big Atheist Truck.

Isn't that tacky? A total violation of my "one bumper sticker" rule. But only one of those bumper stickers -- "No Special Rights for Christians" -- would I probably not put on my own car. (I would wear it on a t-shirt, however). And I adore the license plate. I'd like this one for myself...

...but I know it would never get approval. (I'm told the only way my friend got HEATHEN approved was by telling them it was "Heat Hen.") Besides, "infidel" doesn't mean what it should mean. It should mean "unbeliever" generically, but instead its more common meaning is "non-Muslim." I'm not anti-Muslim. I'm not even anti-Christian. I am for worldviews that do not require a belief in the supernatural as the foundation for ethics.

No interesting knitting to report. Almost done with the cool cotton socks (working them one at a time, since the Sockotta balls tangle too much when you work from both ends). I was trying to do wrapped short rows with the heel and get the lovely results I see in other people's work. But my results just aren't as neat, tight, and tidy. Still, it's a perfectly acceptable sock. And the light, cotton yarn and small project size is perfect in this weather.