Monday, December 17, 2012

Recuperating puppy

As I scientist, I like to pretend that I am so above things like superstition and luck, but it just seemed like bad mojo to post anything about Sammy before he went under the knife and safely returned. He has been gimping around for the past few months, actually starting while we were still in Wisconsin, occasionally showing some lameness on his back right leg. Then it would seem fine for a while, then he'd start limping again after a hike or a rowdy time at the dog park. The vet we took him to here in town gave a resounding, 'Eh, we dunno'.

A few weeks ago though, he started refusing to bear any weight on the leg at all. A series of new vet visits and X-rays ensued, and it was concluded that we would have to make the 2.5 hour drive to Pullman, WA to go to Washington State University's vet hospital (we were spoiled living in Madison with the excellent UW vet hospital right next to my office). He had a torn ligament (cranial cruciate, or CCL) in his knee and needed a delicate orthopedic surgery. It's not from any particular injury, but is a degenerative problem. That's why he'd go lame for a while, then heal up, repeat. Long time blog readers might remember that this is not Sammy's first orthopedic leg surgery rodeo.  We thought that karma would surely not deal him any more bizarro orthopedic medical problems, right? Well, at least this one is a more common problem. 

He was on fairly strict activity restrictions before the surgery, wherein he got a little bored and developed what some might see as a strange obsession.

Of course we knitters totally understand. The only 'toys' he was entertained with before surgery were skeins, balls, and hanks of yarn.  He'd pounce, shake, and throw them up for himself. And of course a little chewing.

We took him for one last (leashed) hurrah in the snow in Mt. Hood Meadows, Oregon. They were having an epic powder day, so we got a little skiing in while Sam rested in the car.

Holding up the leg, but LOVING the snow.

Actually, on the way home from Oregon we hit up the alpaca place again, where I got a second skein of alpaca goodness, this one not from their alpacas but dyed by a local resident. I'll have to take some pics for ya'll because the colors are awesome. Once we got home, Sammy kindly took it out of the bag for me and slobbered all over it. I came upstairs to find him snuggling with it.

So this week we drove him over to Pullman on an extremely foggy Monday, scheduled for surgery the following day. I waited on pins and needles only to find that they had gotten too busy and pushed his surgery back yet another day. We returned on a slightly less foggy Thursday to pick up a partially naked, drugged up but relatively happy puppy.

Did they really have to shave like, half of him?
Now he's on very strict activity restriction, not that he wants to do much of anything right now. He's been pretty pathetic for the past couple of days, and his leg looks brutal with a combination of stitches and colorful bruising. We've been totally babying him, icing the swelling and doing some gentle range of motion exercises. I've been trying to get him to cheer up with some yarn but he's not in much of a playful mood yet. Can this be the last leg surgery, please? Give this pup a break!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ski season has begun!

So the area where I live currently looks like this:

But as of a couple weeks ago, one can drive a couple hours eastward and find this:

Hello, White Pass!

Both humans and animals were pretty excited to see the snow for the first time this year.

It's not necessarily safe to backcountry ski with dogs. They don't understand avalanche danger and can be cut by the ski edges, so we snowshoed around for a while so that puppy boy could join us.

Sammy says: You guys are so slow.

But we couldn't resist taking a ski run. The resort wasn't actually open, so hiking up was our method of transport. We used special strips on the bottom of our skis called 'skins' that allows them to only go forward and not backwards, like cross country skis.

I didn't wear my new hat because I was worried about the holey nature of the band, afraid my precious noggin would get too cold. About halfway up the slope I was really wishing that my hat had some ventilation in it. 

 An hour and a half later at the top:

OK, so it cools down pretty quickly once you stop.

First turns of the year! Choose your line carefully...

The spouse shreds.
A little soup and cracker tailgating at the car, and a little playing ball to close out the day:

Throw again, plz.
It was a good enough time that we had to do it again the next weekend. The weather looked a little different though:

But this time I had the good sense to wear my poofball hat.

Although, I had the opposite problem. At first, my head was indeed too cold and I was wishing I'd stitched a fleece liner into it. But then I of course got cooking as we started hefting ourselves and gear uphill and I enjoyed a little ventilation. It's true what they say, you can't have it all.

Hat stays on, facial expression remains goofy.

Clear skies made the scenery a little more interesting....

Hopefully this will be running soon.

More snow, plz!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Big ol' chunky hat

So last July, I declared that this Montana raised Western Sky Knits yarn should become a hat with a big poofy ball on the top.


This really needed to happen. I felt like big chunky cables should be involved too, but would look silly going vertical. They would be TOO chunky, know what I mean? I settled on making a horizontal cable band, a la the recent headband creation. I did about five iterations of this: starting with a more spaced out braided cable (too holey) and playing around with the edging (settled on a three stitch slip method on both sides).

The band was the hard part, then it was just a simple pick up of stitches around the circumference. But the essential part:

THE POOF. I used up all the rest of the yarn for this baby. I was tempted to leave it wild, but I gave it a little haircut.

Yeah buddy:

Very cozy. Although, as you might be able to see, there's a little bit of 'aeration' around the edges of the band (an occasional drawback of chunky yarn). I'm torn about this. I'm considering adding a band of fleece around the edges to act as a windbreak, but I don't want to make it too bulky. It also was a mixed blessing for backcountry skiing (more on that tomorrow). What do you think?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Girl power

I couldn't have hoped for a better response to last Friday's post. Quite a few of you knitters outed yourselves as fellow scientist and engineers. I can't thank you all enough for sharing your experiences. I was saddened (but not entirely surprised) to hear that many of you, whether in science and/or academia or otherwise, have experienced discrimination in one form or another for being female. The fact that only 12 companies out of the Fortune 500 have female CEOs is a clear indicator that this is a further reaching issue than academia.

Sure, it's gotten more subtle--but isn't that almost worse? We don't even realize it's happening (or that we might even be perpetrators ourselves). I'm sorely tempted to write a full follow up post, but really all the high points have been hit in your comments. Ewenique had a great point that programs that bend over backwards to recruit women into math and science positions (or any position where they are underrepresented) may often end up having a Cobra Effect--in essence, backfiring. When I expressed an interest in moving into project management a couple years ago, I was told by a senior scientist whom I respected very much that I'd "be promoted to your level of incompetence because you're a woman." It was clear that he viewed the push to get more women in upper management as a disregard for qualifications, and deeply resented it. Not a good way to bridge the gap.

I also anticipated hearing from at least one person who had been "Mommy Tracked" and was not disappointed (well, it's certainly disappointed that it happened--you know what I mean). Amanda described the phenomenon of employers' reticence to hire and/or promote women of childbearing age. When I mentioned the study I shared with you in the last post to a coworker, his first question was the age of the fictional women used in the study (the resumes sent out were identical but fake--the names were changed to be obviously male or obviously female). They were supposedly undergraduates, which puts them on the low end of the childbearing years. His point was that maybe the professors didn't find the women less qualified (although unfortunately the study indicates that they did)--they were anticipating the potential loss of productivity or even having to find a new employee in the case of a pregnancy. Don't even get me started on the problems with trying to get into a tenure track in academia if you're also ready to start a family. Is this fair? Hell no! Do I have a good solution? No I do not. I understand where the mindset is coming from and I have no idea what can be done about it.

But the unanimous verdict against staying in a career out of a sense of duty was an incredible relief. I suppose I don't even need to ask if I have an obligation to stay because of the desperate need for science in the US (the subject of my next post). Earlier this year, when I expressed some mild doubts about continuing my current path due to various reasons, I had a friend tell me point blank that he would lose respect for me if I 'gave up' and did something else. That comment wormed it's way into my mind and I began to wonder if it would be a common sentiment. As Voie de Vie points out, women have a tendency to put the needs of others before our own. I don't think we're necessarily born that way--but we are often molded, consciously or not, to be self-sacrificing caregivers. But as Al Pacino tells Keanu in The Devil's Advocate: "Guilt is like a bag of fuckin' bricks. All ya gotta do is set it down."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Where are all the ladies at?

I'm writing to you from 30,000 feet--ah, the wonders of technology. Actually, maybe it's not so great after all...the wifi many planes are offering carries with it a feeling of obligation that one should be working. And what do you know, that is a nice segue into today's topic. I've had a lot of things on my mind lately, and I'd like to do a series of posts laying it out there and maybe get new perspectives from my readers. I've noticed I have a lot of female readers, and that's a viewpoint that I need on  one of the issues that I have with my career:

Where are all the women?

But are we?

I never felt particularly constrained by gender roles growing up. My family never seemed to label activities or interests as 'boy' things or 'girl' things--there were only activities and interests. I was active in sports, but I also was a dancer. My dad taught me how to throw a football, which I still can (albeit poorly) and my mom taught me how to cook (somewhat less poorly). I grew up with the notion that men and women could do whatever they wanted.The ski scene is male dominated, the knitting scene is female dominated, who cares? I love to do both.

I always enjoyed science and math, so it seemed reasonable to study engineering. I think the notion that not that as many women went into the field probably appealed to me--I've always been contrary--but it didn't factor too much into the decision making process. And it wasn't something I thought much about in college. I'm a materials engineer, which is one of the most gender equal fields of engineering. I was never involved with the Society of Women Engineers or their ilk, saying that I wasn't a female engineer--I was just an engineer. I spent some time working at a nuclear plant, where myself and two others who came in at the same time were the only women in the department. The guys took to us like fish to water, I think it really tickled them pink to have some young women working with them. Some of them took it as their personal responsibility to look out for us and I never felt like anything but an equal.

But as I have been moving further and further into academia and the research sector, the lack of women in my workplace is something that has progressively bothered me more. When I get bored at a conference, I'll sometimes count the number of women in the audience. It is rare that it breaks out of single digits. A friend who has taken a similar career path as mine, but in biology, shared this article recently. Some highlights of the study:
  • "Science professors at American universities widely regard female undergraduates as less competent than male students with the same accomplishments and skills."
  • The professors were less likely to offer women a job, and if a job was offered the pay offered was substantially lower. 
  • Female professors were just as likely to discriminate against women as their male counterparts. In fact, "the bias had no relation to the professors’ age, sex, teaching field or tenure status."
Across the board, there was a distinct bias against the women scientists. And these small slights, accumulated over the course of a career, can result in serious setbacks. I think that the general mindset is that this was a problem that has gone away. It's certainly what I thought for a long time. But I'm noticing that at least in my field, which is a combination of nuclear engineering and materials, very few successful female role models are apparent. I literally have no one at work to discuss this with--I'm the only woman in the department (except for the secretary, natch).

Which has led me to two competing trains of thought. My career is an uphill battle: a field where I am going to be held back simply by who I am. I'm already a person who struggles with serious self-doubt sometimes, my scientific glass if often half-full as I realize just how much I don't know. Is it worth it? Would it be better to do something that I am more passionate about (something I'd also like to discuss in a future post), and where I have more opportunity for advancement? But! The second thought that creeps in--the situation is not going to change if women keep getting forced out. Do I have an obligation, even if I'm miserable, to forge ahead for the betterment of ladies in future generations? Is it selfish to move on?

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Easing into it

You guys know that I haven't been feeling much myself lately. I keep trying to write posts, and but so many negative thoughts come to mind that it's hard to come up with anything that someone would want to read. One of my friends advised me today that I should just write whatever comes to mind, and if it's terrible, it's not like I have to publish it. Excellent advice, really.

For some reason I've been having trouble getting started with projects (a metaphor for my life right now?). I told myself to just pick something from my recently purchased racist Vogue Knitting magazine and just do it. A friend had requested a headband, so I chose the Turban(d) and used the Plymouth Earth Homestead yarn from the CDA trip.

K, good start.

So as I was making this, I thought, as I always do about everything, wouldn't this be great with some cables and some buttons? I'd slap cables and buttons onto anything. So with the remaining yarn, I made my own little creation. 

One of my childhood BFFs blessed me with a visit a couple weeks ago, over her birthday no less.  What an awesome thing to come to my podunk town to celebrate! It pretty much made my month. I forced her to pose wearing it, and she looks adorable in it:

LOVE that smirk! She's probably going to kick my ass for posting this.

I love buttons. I picked these up from a little boutique known as "Hobby Lobby". You probably haven't heard of it.

What really clinched this purchase for me (I was there trying to buy elastic thread--more on that another time) was the sticker on the back. 

Let me help you out in case the print is too small: "This is not a toy. Not intended for use by children under 14." 14? 14?!? Are kids still swallowing and choking on small objects at that age? Are the buttons coated with pot or something? Not that you should be doing drugs at 15 either. 16, maybe. Regardless, there must be something awesome about these buttons.   

But I digress. My friend and I didn't get do too as much sightseeing as planned--it was raining here (300 days of sunshine, and of course it rained), as well as in the Cascades. Mt. Ranier was probably not even going to be visible. We went east instead, and visited Palouse Falls--a random waterfall in the midst of the desert.

But we didn't need to do anything special to have a good know how with old friends you can just chill, watch movies, and eat cupcakes for hours? Yeah, it's pretty much like that. 

And as I finish this up, I can breathe a sigh of relief...Barack Obama was just re-elected as President of the US. Ahhhh, some things can go right!

Edited about an hour later to add: And gay marriage and pot are probably going to be legal in Washington state. Washington...I...may love you. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Nanook of the North(west)

I wore this finished object (that I finished a few months ago) for the first time this past week:

Pattern: Nanook by Heidi Kirrmaier

Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, Rainier (purchased in Madison, WI at Lakeside Fibers, in anticipation of moving near Mt. Rainer!)

Needles: US 8 26" circ and 12" circ

This yarn was fascinating. Cascade 220 is my bread and butter, and I always love a good heather style color. This was a project I worked on during our road trip from Wisconsin to Washington in May. I was playing around with some of the scrap yarn, and unraveled it. To my surprise, the fibers were three different colors:

And as you can see, none of them were purple. The fibers were downright aggressive primary colors mixed together in such a way to give the illusion of purple, with the bright red, yellow, and blue only peeking out occasionally. MADNESS, I tell you.

Then I smoked some pot, and took a picture with it unpinned:

I enjoy wearing it both ways (that's what she said? No, it seems like it should work but it doesn't).  I was working downstairs in a lab area that is always cold, so it was going to be great to snuggle up in it and stay warm. And indeed it was, but the trouble came whenever I tried to leave the area, which is a radiological buffer zone, so everyone has to use a hand and foot counter before they exit to see if they are contaminated. I kept coming up contaminated on one arm, then the other, then both. Even when I pushed up the sleeves, it set off the detector. I even set it off for a couple of minutes after I took it off.

Is my sweater radioactive? Nah. I called the radiological technician down to double check, and he sighed and asked if my sweater was wool. "Static" was the verdict. False positive.

Check out this sweet pin that I used to anchor it! Kam Baker at Everyday Peacocks responded to my plea for a neat shawl pin and this was my first opportunity to wear it. I love it, in spite of my coworker's query of "so when did you visit Lothlorien?" Check out her shop for more fun knit accessories!