Friday, September 30, 2011

Powder 8 socks return

I wasn't entirely sure what to pick up after finishing the sweater. As you can see from my Ravelry progress bars, I could of course work on Mystery Wedding Project know. It's boring. I do have a couple of projects languishing, one of them being my experimental socks that I dubbed the 'Powder 8' pattern (because it looks like it has little ski tracks running down the sides. Yeah, I like to make stuff up). I re-did one of the socks after I modified the pattern for the second one--and then had a knitting tragedy the finished second sock jumped out onto the floor of a commuter jet, unbeknown to me until I had transferred to another flight. After a brief mourning period, I ordered yarn of a 'complementary color shade' since the color I originally had was discontinued. I was glad to get anything close to the original color in the same type of yarn, because in fact the entire line of 'possum-merino' blended sock-yarns had been discontinued.

After all of this drama, I realized that I was freaking sick of the pattern, and the yarn, and socks in general and I took no joy in working on it. Back in the pile. Then I got this message about a month ago.

The only reason I hadn't made the pattern available is that I never had a full pair finished at once (although when I'm done with this one I'll have knitted a total of four socks) to take pictures with. I didn't start on it right away, but it stuck in my mind that I should get to work since one human being was interested. After the sweater, though, it was the logical choice. It was already about 1/4 done, and socks are the best knitting projects to travel with. I've made some progress...

I'm hoping to make some more progress on my flights home today. I had forgotten how small the Idaho Falls airport was. I arrived an hour early to find no one manning the Delta counter (a sign read 'Ring Bell for Service') and the security area completely deserted.

There was another sign reading "Security Area may not open until 45 minutes before your scheduled flight". I'll be damned. I haven't seen anything like this since flying to out of the Rockford, IL airport (which I would highly recommend--free parking) where the two people who checked me in also acted as the TSA and then the gate agents (but not the pilots, thankfully). Idaho Falls has a slightly bigger operation: 3 gates, instead of two.

Can we talk pitas for a second? More specifically, pita packaging. The lab I worked in the past couple of weeks didn't have a cafeteria, and in money-saving fashion (what my coworker colorfully refers to as 'dirt-balling it') instead of going out to eat every day I went to the grocery and picked up a bunch of snacky lunch type items to nosh on over the week. One of the items I grabbed was pitas.

Doesn't it seem weird to gear your food towards a particular gender? I've never considered different types of food to be manly/girly. I can see my husband picking this up at the grocery and thinking, "Hmm, this appears to be for women. Must have some chick hormone in it or something, better not get it." Isn't it bad business practice to alienate half of your potential customers? Just struck me as an odd strategy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Well, Yellow there!

I know I occasionally complain about it, but by and large I love that my job gets me out and about traveling. That being said, I was not looking forward to a trip to Idaho Falls to do some work at Idaho National Lab (INL). I had been there twice before--once as an extremely green graduate student, and once when it was on fire.

The first time, my advisor sent me an email out of the blue, "Hey, I can't attend this meeting, can you present something for me?" I honestly don't even remember the point of the meeting--maybe a nuclear fuels consortium? It doesn't matter. I said sure, and made up a poster highlighting my one and only (and in retrospect, very bad) result of my research. Believe it or not, it's common practice for scientists to print up posters showing off their research, and conferences and meetings will have a 'poster session' where you can walk around and look at everyone's posters and chat with the person presenting it. I was there for four days: I knew one person at the meeting, and exactly one person talked to me and asked about my poster (they were the same person).

The second time was actually also poster related, now that I think about it. I had won a poster contest (yep, such a thing also really exists, usually to encourage students like me) and there was a cash prize as well as an 'opportunity to visit INL to tour the labs and present the current state of your research'. As I was checking into my hotel, I got a call saying that the tour of the lab was canceled...because it was on fire. Wildfires had been threatening the area for several days before I arrived, and they had finally knocked the power out and hence shut down the lab. With a day to kill and four students on his hands, my advisor drove us around the desert in a rental Hummer. We gawked at the fire, visited the first town to ever run on nuclear power (pop. approx. 14), and somehow ended up at a dive called 'Pickle's Place'.

Rather than presenting to the materials science department of the lab, we ended up presenting in an auxiliary conference building to about 4 people since everyone had the day off after the lab shut down. Good times.

Rock bottom expectations make it easy to be impressed, but I'm having a fairly sweet time so far. No fires, the work is going well, but the gigantic cherry on top has been a weekend road trip. My office-mate (and friend, I don't want to pigeonhole you as merely a coworker) came out the week before I did and highly recommended a trip to Yellowstone National Park. I didn't really know that they were that close, but look:

It's only a two hour jaunt to the west entrance of the park! At first, it seems like your typical national park: beautiful mountains, lots of pine trees, picturesque lakes. But tucked into this are all of these crazy geothermal features that make you feel like you're on another planet. Brightly colored pools of boiling water....

My shadow is making a cameo in this shot.

Mud bubbling like a cauldron....

This mud is actively bubbling! Glop, glop.

Steam and water blasting up out of the earth....

The people living here hundreds of years ago must have been very religious, because how else would you explain this stuff without vast scientific knowledge? The most logical conclusion at the time would have been that GOD IS POWERFUL AND POSSIBLY PISSED OFF.

A build-up of minerals and heat-loving bacteria make the beautiful colors and terraces around the pools.

Many of the geothermal pools are readily accessible by terraces near the road. I decided that I wanted to do a little hiking and get away from the crowds. I pulled over at a trailhead that said 'Fairy Falls, 1.0 mi'. So two miles round trip, I could easily see the falls in 45 min. So I walked.

And walked, and walked, and walked. I kept thinking, 'OK, the falls must just be over that bend'. Since I do a lot of walking with puppy-boy, I figured I'd already gone two miles when I got to a sign, 'Fairy Falls, 1.6 mi'. Aaaah!! I turned around in defeat. I soon passed a couple of European guys who asked, 'Where are the falls??". I told them about my discovery, and they made irritated noises and started walking back with me. They passed the news on to another couple, who made some disgusted noises and turned back as well.  We hiked for about a half-an-hour, these guys staring us down from the distance:

Heh heh BOOBS!

Geographical breasts being the most interesting thing I'd seen on my hike, I felt obligated to go see Old Faithful. Unfortunately, I got there just as the spout was winding down. To kill some time, I checked out the Old Faithful Inn and got some ice cream. Not a bad deal, it's an amazing old lodge (and ice cream is always welcome, natch). I hope to someday own a home someday with 100 ft ceilings and vast beams made of wood.

Ninety minutes later, here we were. Hundreds of people, all starting at a hole in the ground. I started to feel a little silly.

Is it your ass, or a hole in the ground?

It was actually worth the wait....

OK, so it's pretty cool.

Here's the only shot that contains me. One of the disadvantages of solo adventuring: no one to take pictures of you in front of picturesque spots, or pretending to pick a statue's nose, or standing on your head in front of a geyser to make it look like it's coming out of your rear end (the other disadvantage: no one to be your lookout when you need to take a leak in the woods).

Proving I was there...not that the sunburn doesn't do the trick. Ow.

My friend had advised me that it was quite cold, and that I needed a jacket. I hadn't brought much in the way of winter clothes, so I layered up before I left. About 30 seconds after stepping out of the car into the park, I stripped down to my long-sleeve t-shirt, and five minutes later I was down to a tank top. I hadn't brought sunscreen since I thought I would be wearing lots of clothes the whole day.

In eight hours I only saw a small fraction of the park, and I find myself trying to figure out some more work that needs to be done in Idaho Falls....

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bits and pieces: part deux

Just one more mental dump. Bear with me, as the weather cools, I'll start to compose more frequent and possibly even coherent posts.


I've heard quite a few people within the past few years assert something to the effect of, "I never go to the movie theater anymore." The reason most commonly cited is cost, but I've also heard laments about sticky floors, noisy kids, obnoxious old people (apparently we just take free license to do whatever we want at both ends of the age spectrum) crappy projectors, the list goes on. Despite my propensity for crotchety-old-ladyism, I'll be the first to admit that I LOVE the moviegoing experience despite the pitfalls. There's something strangely charming about the ritual of sitting in a dark room with thirty or so strangers, feet sticking to the floor, trying desperately to hold in your urine for two hours while simultaneously chugging a giant pop--all while enjoying anything from a subtitled art film to the latest Micheal Bay 'splosion fest. Seriously, how could it get any better?

 Well worth the 30 min drive.

Answer: the drive-in movie theater, my addiction of the summer. You still get a bit of the communal experience of watching a movie with fellow cinephiles, without the chance of a sitting behind a group of obnoxious kids or next to the guy who keeps texting. And always a double feature! AND I don't have to worry that I'm annoying people with the click-click of my needles. I took Mystery Wedding Project (now officially a year since the wedding, and counting) to every movie this summer and made a respectable bit of progress.

There's even a retro snack bar--with real mid-western food like cheese curds and pork tenderloins. Especially fun were movies that were a little scary, being outside in the dark added to the suspense. I was glum when Labor Day rolled around...closed for the season.


I often feel a little guilty because we don't have a have a yard for our highly active husky-shepherd to run around in, since we live in a condo. In a way though, it ends up being a pretty sweet deal for him--he tends to get two or three long walks a day.

One morning a couple of weeks ago, we were sauntering through the park when a the sound of a fire truck stopped Sammy in his tracks. He's always fascinated with sirens--when he hears one, he'll drop whatever shoe he's chewing on and listen, tilting his head back and forth in the way that all dogs do. In this case, he plopped his butt down and refused to go any further.

The fire truck appeared in our view and made it's way slowly down the street while Sammy tracked it, totally captivated. After a few seconds, he raised his head to the sky and howled in tune with the siren. I was so surprised that I melodramatically clapped my hand over my mouth. Never has he made a sound like that, as far as I know.

In that moment I saw him as something wild--despite looking quite a bit like a wolf, he's never acted like one before in the least. I saw him running through the woods, hunting prey with his pack, and howling at the moon. Then he looked back at me with his big doggy grin and the illusion was gone. Just sweet Sammy, tongue hanging out of his mouth like the goofball he is.

How is that even comfortable?


Finally. FINALLY. The sweater is done....and I love it! Check it:

I currently don't have anyone to take pictures of me actually inside of it, so this'll have to suffice for now. I went though about four iterations of sleeves since we last spoke and you verified my suspicions that the sleeves were too tight. The next iteration was a total overcorrection, kind of like what they tell you never to do if you're driving on the highway and you go off the road and onto the berm--I twisted the steering wheel too far the the left and ended up in the oncoming traffic of a huge-ass sleeve. After settling somewhere in the middle, I tried the cap sleeve that we agreed should look nice, but I didn't like it for two reasons.

1) The fabric is actually quite a bit heavier than I thought it would be, and I foresee wearing it in cold weather. Not having the top half of your arm covered really makes a difference in how warm a sweater makes you. (Rational reason)

2) I hate my upper arms. Always have. (Irrational reason)

So instead of seeing a therapist to work through those issues, I made it a little longer. I also continued the pattern on the sleeves wherever it had happened to intersect the armhole--so there's a bit of the pattern on the sleeve, but it's not as dense as on the body. I seem to be a little obsessed with transitions like that, so it satisfied my OCD tendencies.

When I cast-off the first sleeve, I didn't like how loose and floppy it still was. But the other sleeve was still on the circular needles, and the stitches on that sleeve kind of gathered together when I tried it on. I loved the look! Ah, serendipity. I ended up with something I like to call "poofy sleeves" (not to be confused with the Seinfeld poofy shirt).

Booties are also done, they still need to be sent to their recipients. I'm hoping the babes' feet aren't growing freakishly fast. I also got some news that I have cause to make another set, but I can say no more for now (in case this isn't obvious--it's not for me).


I traveled to Richland, WA to do some work at the lab there for what I thought might be the last time before I graduate. It was a little bittersweet at the time (I kept thinking, "This could be the last time I dine at Dr. Bill's Bistro", ""This could be the last time I check into my mildly dumpy motel", stuff like that) but I've since convinced myself that I need just one teensy more visit to get a little more data.

However, it was my last time visiting their LYS--or rather, I found that my previous visit had been my last. I made the trip without all the knitting supplied I needed (Sammy has successfully chewed up all of my darning needles) but was confident that I could get what I needed at the Richland Knitty Gritty.

I went down to my favorite shopping area ("Maybe for the last time!") and went up to what I thought was the yarn shop. An arcade? Hmm, must have gone to the wrong store. I walked around the entire area twice, then looked closer at the arcade--the layout of the front room appeared to be the same as the ol' LYS.

Using my amazing powers of deduction, I sensed that something was amiss. I asked around at a couple of the other stores, but no one seemed to know what happened. When I searched for their website to try to get some info, all I got was this. What a bummer. The last thing I bought there was this skein:

They even wound it for me! I'm easily impressed.
I took the photo on my iTouch the day I got it and deemed it non-blog quality, but now it seems fitting. I feel like I need to make something extra special with this one.


I feel a little bit lost without the sweater to work on......