Friday, March 30, 2007

Death of a Hard-drive

It was a quick downward spiral from a slow computer to a complete hard-drive failure. The kicker is that because the hard-drive was failing, the CD burner would not work, nor would the computer read my USB drive. Thus there were unbacked up files on the computer. The computer guys downstairs have been fighting valiantly to save my files. I won't know the final outcome until Monday.

The good news
The computer is still under warranty (for another 75 days or so) and they already have the new hard-drive
The majority of my files are backed up. Though I will have lost some of my powerpoint lectures.
I was able to get all my photos off the computer using the card to the digital camera and the card reader. Thank goodness. I would be crying right now if I had lost all those pictures.
I don't have to work on the computer over the weekend.

Go back up your data right now!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Silk Spindle Bag

Since the goal of this project is to make something that could be sold in the silent auction at SOAR (which is used to fund future scholarships), I decided that a spindle bag would be the perfect project for which to use this silk. It seems likely that a little spindle bag is something a SOAR attend would want.

This project is just the type of knitting I really want to do right now. Beautiful colors of a really nice fiber. The knitting is done on really small needles (size 1's) in a pattern that I am making up as I go along. It is so much fun to play with the color choices. I am just going with the flow on this, knitting what I feel is right. I am also playing with texture a bit, using a combination of knits, purls, and slipped stitches. I imagine that I will run out of the colored yarn before I finish the bag, so the bottom portion will be all white.

I have plenty of the white silk, but it needs to be spun up. Which is great, as it has gotten me back into spinning. I don't know if my technique for spinning silk is the best technique -but I am liking the results. All of the yarn I have so far has been spun on my drop spindle, but I have been spinning some of the white silk on my wheel. I really think it will be underspun, so I may have to run it back through to add more twist. The yarn I spun on my spindle had a lot of twist in it.

SOAR Silk Teaser

I have decided on what to knit out of my handspun silk I got at SOAR and have started the knitting. Updates and pictures to come soon.

Images of Spring

We returned from Chicago to find spring blooming all around us. This time of year is so much fun.

Ah, the dandelion. Hated by many. But in our household we love them, the sunny color, the cool leaf shape, and the fun of blowing the seeds around.

Violets are another plant that may be considered a lawn weed by grass enthusiasts. When we lived in Missouri our yard was full of violets and I really loved them. I truly prefer biodiversity in my yard.

Trees do have flowers.
As a botany teacher, I find my students often have the misconception that flowers are one type of plant and trees are another. Thus trees do not have flowers. The same misconception is held about grasses. In fact, most trees and all grasses are flowering plants. It's just that the flowers are often reduced and we don't notice them because they are not showy. But this time of year, it is blatantly obvious that trees have flowers.

Flower pear - just beginning to open up.

Magnolia Tree
Maple Tree - Technically, this tree has finished blooming and the fruits are starting to develop. The fruits of the maple tree are the helicopters you may be familiar with. This type of fruit are called samara and are specialized for dispersal by wind. They are just starting to develop. Helicopters are a favorite at our house, so expect to see more pictures of them as spring progresses.

Woody Shrub - Forsythia. Another sunny yellow flower, which brightens up cool, cloudy March days.

Finally, a close up of a daffodil (or is that narcissus?)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Vacation Knitting

In the end, I did not take the SOAR silk with me. I am planning on using size 1 needles for this project, and the needles I have are bamboo. I was worried they would break in transit (and of course my bag ended up getting inspected. I always get inspected). Instead, I knit two hats while in Chicago - one for each of the friends we stayed with. Somewhere, sometime ago, I read about a woman who would knit a hat or a scarf for her hosts while on vacation. At the end of the trip, she would have a hand-knit host/hostest gift to give. I have always thought this was a brilliant idea, and so decided to try it out. I was able to finish one of the hats while in Chicago (for my friend Beth), and so left it with her. Of course, I did not think to take a picture. I did not finish the hat for her fiance (Josh) until after I got home. Here's a picture. The hats are both knit in a basic pattern I made up on the fly. The only difference is the yarn.


Yesterday was gorgeous outside and we had had lots of rain so the ground was nice and soft. Perfect for pulling weeds. So I spent about an 1 1/2 hours yesterday preparing what will become our vegetable garden. It will be a mixed garden though, as the previous tenant here left several perennials - yarrow, lavender, daisy, and coneflower. I went ahead and planted spinach and lettuce (though it may be a bit early for the lettuce). We'll see if it survives the squirrels.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What I learned today

Actually, there are two things
1) Ants like Agave nectar.
2) You can't eat cheesepuffs outside on a windy day.

Book Review 1: Full Tide of Night by J.R. Dunn

I have been reading again and looking over my handwritten book journal I started several years ago. This lead me to the decision of posting, more formally, reviews of the books I have been reading. So I am calling this book review one, despite that I have posted a couple of book reviews in the past. Also, these book reviews are not going to be in depth, or even creative. But I want a record of the books I have read, reminding me if I liked them or not and why.

Full Tide of Night by J.R. Dunn (1998).
First, I have to admit that I was drawn to this book by the cover and the size of the book. It is about 4 inches by 6 inches. Relatively small for a hardcover book. The description of the story on the inside of the book sounded really interesting. It is categorized as a science fiction book.

For me this book is difficult to review. The story was compelling, but it left me confused. Basically, it is the story of a woman, Julia, who escaped from the destruction of earth by a people called the Erinye, travels through space to a icy planet, and, using genetic technology, populates the planet with humans. All of this with the help of Cary - an artificial intelligence computer. The story starts 150 years after Julia's escape from earth. Her "children" are rebelling against her, as is Cary which is going through the AI equivalent of adolescence. At the same time, a mysterious ship is headed towards the planet which may contain the evil Erinye. Most of the story however, focuses on the splintering of the rebels: the regular rebels and a group called the Rigs, who are very much fashioned after communist China. The story gets mired down into the political rantings of the Rigs and the counter movements of the leader of the regular rebels. On top of this, there is the rebellion of the computer.

I was confused by a lot of the story and felt like the more boring points were discussed in detail while the interesting points (how did Julia populate this planet, how did the communities evolve) were barely touched upon. There is a strong anti-communist, ant-totalitarian sentiment about the book. The story thus is more political than science fiction.

I guess overall, I did not really enjoy the book and probably would not read another book by this author.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Chicago Recap

We did have a great time while in Chicago. We were visiting a friend (Beth) who went to grad school with me here in Kansas and her fiance (Josh). We managed to pack a lot into our trip, even though on most days we did not leave the house until after 11 am. Places we visited, the Shed Aquarium, the Chicago Botanical Gardens, the Art Institute, and Millennium Park. Beth and Josh are to be married in the Granger Ballroom (which we were able to peak in on) with their reception at the Shed Aquarium. The Shed may seem like an unusual place for a wedding reception, but Beth is a snail biologist. Plus the Shed is gorgeous and after fighting our way through the crowds on Sunday, I am really looking forward to seeing the Shed when we have it all to ourselves.

We also ate at some really good restaurants. My favorites were the Bongo Room and Potbellies. We had brunch at the Bongo Room, a small restaurant that has been rated by someone as the number one place for breakfast in Chicago. Their specialty appeared to be fancy pancakes covered with sweet-goodness. Steve and I split our orders - each getting one half of a breakfast burrito and one half of a croissant sandwich. SO good. Definitely worth the 45 minute wait. Potbellies is a local Chicago sandwich shop. It was the best sandwich I have had in a long time. I ordered the Italian. The bread, the meat, the cheese, all were delicious with the sandwich toasted to perfection. The best part - only $3.98.

While in Chicago we also went to see Second City. I highly recommend this - it was funny, relying on wit instead of vulgarity for laughs. My favorite skit was about the Art Institute, which we had visited just a few hours before.

We also did a lot of just hanging out - watching MST3K, playing video games, and talking. Plus, Josh and Beth got us both to play World of Warcraft (something I have been resisting for a long time). It's a good thing that I don't have high speed internet.

In comments to the previous post, Pat asked if Chicago was a beautiful place, because she had heard that it might not be so. I have to say, that I was surprised by how nice the downtown area was. Granted we had terrific weather while we were there, no cold, cloudy, windy days for us. But still, I did not expect the downtown area to look so clean and to have so many interesting sculptures and parks. And the lake - the one thing that surprised me the most was the color of the water in the lake. Never in a million years would I have expected this color of blue. What I was expecting was gunmetal gray. So I was surprised that even on the cloudiest day we were there that the water was so blue.

In addition to the downtown area, we spent a little time in the Wrigleyville area (without getting to see Wrigley Stadium itself). It was a neat area also, not a grand as the downtown, but not ugly.

But we did not venture into the poorer neighborhoods or really to anywhere that I would call slums. We did drive by one area that is bad off on the way to the airport and saw lots of old houses that were boarded up. And the area around the airport is not pretty at all.

All in all it was a great trip and I looking forward to visiting again.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Visiting Friends

A few pictures from Chicago
Penguins from the Shed Breakers on Lake Michigan
Gargoyle at the University of Chicago
Cactus from the Chicago Botanical Garden
The Bean (aka the Cloud Gate)

Friday, March 16, 2007

RedBud Update

I was starting to wonder if the redbud tree was dead. Other redbud trees in the neighborhood have had large buds on them for a couple of day. But today, I noticed a small change in the tree. Can you see it?

Does this help?

I am excited to see how much the tree changes in the next few days.

Walking today we saw a red bud with green buds. I think this tree will have white flowers.

Spring Break - At last

I am really looking forward to spring break this year, much more so than usual. Oh how I will welcome a week of sleeping in, of hanging out with friends in Chicago, of watching basketball, of knitting, of spinning. I also will get sent in two manuscripts - one has been accepted I just have to make a few minor changes (i.e. small edits). I hope to get that one sent in tomorrow before we catch our plane to Chicago. The other is almost ready to send in for review.
But what about the knitting. There has been a serious lack of knitting in my life the last few weeks. But I did start a new sock project. The picture is from last weekend, so a few more rows have been knit on it. Details will follow.
I think I will also take with me the SOAR silk and my drop spindle (to spin up more of the white silk). I have an idea and I want to play around with the silk. I am also going to take the camera, so hopefully I will be able to get some good photos.
Hope you have a great weekend.

Monday, March 12, 2007


A couple of years ago I was a scholarship recipient for SOAR, a spinning retreat and workshop sponsored by Interweave Press. At the end of the week they have a silent auction, with the proceeds going to fund scholarships in the following years.

SOAR was a great experience and I hope that I will be able to attend again in the future. While I was there a very generous woman gave each of the scholarship recipients a couple ounces of handyed silk. I quickly spun up the yarn (the blue, green, and gold yarns) using the drop spindle I bought while there. Ever since then I have wanted to knit something wonderful with this yarn. Something that would be worthy of being sold in the scholarship auction. I did not think I would have enough of the colored yarn to make something substantial, so I bought some natural colored silk top and have been spinning that up to help stretch out the colored yarn.

The struggle has been in deciding what to knit. The yarn is 100% silk and is between a lace and fingering weight (the thickness is not consistent within or between colors). I have plenty of white silk fiber to spin up and could easily get more. There is a bit more of the green and blue yarn that is not pictured. So I was thinking along the lines of a stranded knitting stitch or a mosaic knit pattern (similar to my hats I posted earlier). I could make a bag, a hat, or pulse warmers. Maybe a scarf, but that would not work with stranded knitting. I like the idea of a bag, but I don't like sewing linings in. Maybe a hat, but how would that be with 100% silk.

Any suggestions?
Maybe I should start swatching.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Finished Object - Happy Socks

Last night I stayed up late to finish these socks for my husband. How lucky I am to have a husband who actually wants me to knit him bright and colorful socks. He really likes them and says they are comfortable. He is dubious though about how well they will stay up. I guess only time will tell. They are the first socks I have knitted for him.

Pattern: Gentlemen's Plain Winter Sock from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks
Yarn: Froehlich Woole, Blauband, Maxi Ringel. I received this yarn in a swap several months ago.
Needles: Size 1

Knitting Projects Revisited

The past weekend when visiting my family, I had the opportunity to photograph two additional old knitting products. I am first presenting the baby sweater I made for my youngest nephew when he was first born. In fact, my sister wanted us (me, my mom, and my other sister) to be in the birthing room with her. So I was actually knitting on this sweater as he was being born. It was an incredible experience.
He was not able to wear it for about 9 months. And now it is too small. But she had him wear it last weekend, and I really appreciated that.

This scarf is probably the second knitting project I started and completed. It is for my mom. I really like the fringe.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Friday thoughts

This week has been busy - I gave exams in both of the my classes. I get more nervous about giving exams than I ever did about taking them. But they both went well. Preparing for them and grading them has taken up all of my energy and time this week.

I did start a new knitting project, despite not having finished any of the old one's. It is a simple mistake-rib scarf, but it is knit in some of my own handspun yarn. I had been hankering to knit with this handspun, so I finally gave in. The simple knitting is just what I needed for this week. I am really liking it. Pictures will be taken this weekend.
Also, stay tuned for updates on the works in progress - including two that I have not mentioned here before.
In the meantime, a picture of some of my handspun yarn I created last year after getting my spinning wheel.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The return trip home

One the way home we saw the lunar eclipse. The moon rose blood red from the east. Now, it is hard to get pictures of the moon in a moving car at night, not that this stopped me (and I was not driving). As a result I got some really freaky pictures, which I adore. Here are a few, and you can see the color progression from orange to moon-colored.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The weekend

The past weekend was full of family and fun. There was a lot of shopping in preparation, so much in fact that my youngest sister got a little goofy and made a plastic bag head-dress.

A cake was made.

Bumper-cars were ridden.
(my husband took this picture as I was riding)

Candles were lit,

though Batman did not survive the ordeal.

Toys were played with

And the baby toddled around.

There was also boomerang throwing and swinging at the park, but my camera battery ran out of juice, so no pictures of that fun. It was a nice, but busy weekend full of family.
The craziest part was going to the Incredible Pizza Company. This place is Chucky-Cheese on steroids. A huge pizza buffet (with not so good pizza) with several dining rooms. They were packed to the gills on Saturday night when we went. After dining, there are games, go-karts, bumpercars, miniature golf, ski-ball, and other fun. Though some of the games really seemed like a pre-cursor to the casinos. For many of the games the goal was to stop the light in the right spot - if you did you hit a jackpot of tickets. And of course the tickets could be turned into prizes (like plastic boomerangs and inflatable guitars). Some kids had figured out how to work the system. They stood, glassy-eyed, with a pile of tickets coiled around their feet. We stuck mainly to ski-ball. The kids had fun, the adults, not so much.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Knitting from the past

Most of my past knitting projects have been given away to friends and family. I took the opportunity this weekend to photograph a few of these old projects.

First, the gnome hat that I knit for my mom. This hat was one of my earlier knitting projects and incorporates the very first handspun yarn I ever made. Several years ago, my friend Sparkling Squirrel and I took a spinning class at the YarnBarn. It was a lot of fun, and I ended up with a little bit of crazy looking handspun yarn. It just happened that the colors of the yarn were the same as those of the high school I had attended, and where my youngest sister was going at the time. My mom and step-dad were really into going to the Friday night football games. So I used the handspun as the brim of the hat. I did not spin the white yarn, it is from Henry's Attic. The pattern was one that I made-up as I went along.

I did not intend for the hat to end up so pointy, but I liked it.

"Artistic" show of the sun shining through the yarn. This is not my handspun, but the store-bought. This photo was taken while we were stuck in a huge traffic jam trying to get to The Incredible Pizza Place for my nephew's birthday (which will described in the next post).

Looking back at some of my early knitting projects, it is interesting to see how "fearlessly" I dove into creating my own patterns. (Fearlessly is in quotes because I am not really afraid, but less free with creating my own knitting patterns lately). I hope I can capture that back.