Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Democracy in action

I'm hesitant to bring up politics these days (you know how fun that's been to talk about recently), but as a Wisconsinite I feel I'd be remiss not to share a bit about the protests going on in my fair city & state. If you haven't heard anything, a quick recap: 1) the WI governor proposed a bill ('Budget Repair Bill') that while helping fix the budget also needlessly stripped the state workers of the right to collective bargaining, 2) state workers got PISSED and congregated in the thousands in and around the capitol building to protest, 3) all Democratic representatives fled the state to block the vote--this is the point where it started getting national attention. We're currently in limbo--nobody is budging.

I'm not going to get into the debate here, but I will say it's been really amazing to see people come together over a something they really believe in regardless of what side they are on--as well as being polite and civil to those that disagree with them. This article exemplifies why I'm proud to live in Wisconsin. An excerpt:

"Wisconsonites are united, even in times like this, by many things, including a love of University of Wisconsin, Madison, athletics and the program's strutting mascot Bucky the Badger; a devotion to the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers NFL football team; and, of course, a love of beer, brought to the state by its German settlers and honed by brewers whose names are part of American history: Pabst, Schlitz, Miller and Blatz."

Here's a slideshow of the action compiled by Madison photographer Terry Talbot (who took wonderful photos at our wedding):

Last Sunday, 60,000 - 100,000 (depending on whose estimates you believe) gathered on the capitol square to make their voices heard. It made me feel hopeful to see people marching side-by-side sporting "Kill the Bill!" and "I support Walker" signs, sometimes spiritedly debating but not heckling each other--a rare sight in our nation's polarized political environment. My personal favorite sign was, "I disagree with Gov. Walker, but I'm pretty sure he's not Hitler". Keep it classy, Madison, I'm doing my part:

Friday, February 18, 2011

Scientists utlizing the awesomeness of the fiber arts

Dude, if I give these people some wool, could they make me a sheep car?

And while we're on the subject of nerdiness + fiber, there was a great story on NPR's Science Friday a few weeks ago about building a nano-yarn:

Micrographs of nanoparticle/nanotube yarns. Image © Science/AAAS.

You can listen to the podcast at the site, but the gist is that they're using nanotubes and nanoparticles that are functional in some way (conductive or catalytic, for example) and twisting them into fibers. The fibers could then be woven into textiles that are superconductive, energy storing, energy generating, etc. Sweet! So when is energy generating yarn going to be available in my local yarn shop?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Knitting neuroses

I think I've been subconsciously avoiding blog update-ification out of embarrassment. I keep coming up with excuses: "Oh, I have too much work to do." "It hasn't been that long." "Man, I really should probably tweeze my upper lip hairs instead." Here's why I've been avoiding you, my friends--the sock I showed off last post, the one that you had nothing but kind words about, has been pulled apart into its original yarn ball state. By me. On purpose.

Hear me out. Knitting neurosis #1: I get an idea in my head for what I want a piece to look like, inevitably can't find any patterns that suffice, and foolishly decide to just design my own. The socks were inspired by the kind of ski tracks that you often only see very early at a resort on a powder day, or in the backcountry: the powder 8. Two ski tracks crossing each other as perfect opposites.

In the backcountry at Whistler, BC a couple weekends ago. Love those smooth curves in the background (and on the skier, rawr).

So I've got these curves stuck in my mind. I wanted twisting lines to come down the sides of the sock leg, and then split off like skiers going in different directions at the ankle. Naturally, this is also the part I had the most trouble with. I re-worked the heel three or four times on the original iteration and still wasn't pleased with the results. It's difficult to tell from the original photo, but in trying to keep the pattern straightforward, it ended up looking plain funky. During a few boring work days after the completion of the first sock, I rewrote the leg-ankle section entirely.

And hence the conundrum. I'm ready to start on the second sock, but it's going to come out with a different look at the ankle, and actually be a different length in the leg. When I started obsessing about it, I even kind of wanted the toe section to be longer. I considered about asking you, dear reader, what you would do--but I think I was afraid it would be a resounding "Leave well enough alone you crazy asshole!" But here comes knitting neurosis #2: If something is wrong with a knitted piece, I'll obsess about it until the end of time. So I unraveled the sock in a frenzy before I could change my mind. I know. I know.

Which brings us full circle to where we left off last time: one sock completed. Here's the new, improved ankle section:

Lovingly longer leg section:

Expanded toe section:

Neurotic sigh of relief. They will match.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Belated blogging

Work keeps getting in the way of blogging--I need to get my priorities straight.

I realize I never mentioned where I was going when I got all bitchy about traveling. After taking a weekend avalanche safety course in WA state (which was ironically canceled halfway through due to extreme avalanche danger), I had to head to Las Vegas for work. Now, now, before you respond, "What do you mean, had to? Hel-lo, free trip to Vegas," hear me out--I was there by myself, for work. There's something disheartening about traveling for work when virtually everyone else on the plane is in Hawaiian shirts talking about how shitfaced they're going to get/how much they're going to win gambling/how they're going to see the Thunder Down Under:

One really can't engage in any of these activities solo without feeling a little trashy; a partner in crime is required, so to speak. Someone you can say, "Wow, I'm glad I'm not as big of a drunk/gambling addict/whore as she is."

Virtually everyone coming from the airport wanted a taxi--I ended up in a 45 minute line of partially shaded cattle runs as if we were at an amusement park:

No exhilarating rollercoaster at the end of this line, but there was a dirty car driven by a dude who drove like an ass and barely spoke English. Po-tay-to, po-ta-to.

But I can't complain about the weather. From WI winter to the upper 60's? Totally worth it:

Outside the lab - What's the heck is that bright yellow thing in the sky?

Even if these things kept flying overhead every 10 minutes or so bringing more tourists to taunt me with their revelry:

Perhaps best of all, I came home with one of these finished:

A sock! Made from a droolingly soft merino-possum blend. More on the formation of the sock, and the work on its partner, next time.