Saturday, March 31, 2007

Pater socks

Basic ribbed socks for my father
Yarn: Lang Jawoll from Springwools (just less than 100g for the pair)
Needles: 2.0mm dpn's
Pattern: none, just basic 4x2 rib

Notes: I did these toe-up, with short row toes. A few new techniques were learned for these socks. 1) Norwegian purl. I've been unhappy with the way my ribbing usually turns out- the knit stitches before and after purls are definitely not uniform. So for this, I used the Norwegian purl, a way of purling that keeps the working yarn to the back, instead of bringing it to the front. It's slower than my normal purling, and hurts my hands a bit after a while, but I really like it for the ribbing. I think it makes the ribbing much more even. 2) Fleegle heel. In my quest to find a good, non-fiddly heel, this time, I used Fleegle's. It's good- it's definitely non-fiddly, and gives a gusset, unlike my so-far-preferred short row heel. It makes a triangle-shaped heel, which looks kinda weird, but looks fine when actually being worn. Here's a closer picture of the heel:
I reduced the number of increases on the gusset, partially because my dad's feet aren't that wide, and partially because it was clear that, by the time I'd increased as much as Fleegle recommends, the sock was going to be waaaaay too long. That's one thing that may keep me from using the Fleegle heel more- not being able to predict exactly when to start the gusset increases. This would improve with practice. 3) Sewn bind-off. I finished up the cuff with 1x1 rib, and used Elizabeth Zimmermann's sewn bind-off. I won't be using it again, I don't think. For one, it's not any stretchier than, say, Grumperina's bind-off, and second, it's a bitch to frog! Yes, after I'd finished off the second sock, I realized it was a full 1.5 cm shorter than the first, so undoing the sewn bind-off was adding insult to injury. Lastly, I like toe-up socks because when you're done, you're done. No kitchenering or other fussy finishing. Having to whip out the tapestry needle and sew the bind-off seems like more finishing work to me.

These will go off in the post with my sister's Anna socks, and some HP sauce that The Limey has promised to send.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A little experiment

So I've been looking at job websites. It turns out there's not much call for science PhDs in Ireland. Even the Big Pharma companies who have manufacturing sites over here don't need PhDs; they just need someone to sit in front of their gas chromatographs and press the "On" and "Off" buttons when beeped at to do so by the machine. This is interesting, because apparently the Irish government has a goal to double the number of science PhDs produced in the country by 2013. Hmmm...great way to guarantee a steady export of your brightest young people: over-educate them, then have no available jobs to offer them.

But that is another rant. Today I'm going to talk about my little experiment, which will hopefully find me a job, and keep me entertained for a little while.

My name (full name, as well as its individual components) is unpronounceable for most English speakers. Not only that, it just looks really...foreign. When confronted with its full 3-syllable glory, I think most people just blank it out, or go "Wha?" and their eyes just sort of slide past it to something safe and recognizable. It doesn't help that it's really short, and so seems like it should be simple, but the strange combination of letters gets 'em every time. I've always quite liked my name, and it's been relatively simple to learn to spell it every time someone asks for it. However, I get the feeling that, in a very competitive job market, it may make it awkward or difficult for someone reading through a stack of CVs. ("Let's call Mr Smith first, and if he's not there, we can call this...uh...this...person from the second CV here.")

However, now I have another name at my disposal: The Limey's. The Limey has a nice, safe, recognizable, common, easily-pronounced surname. What I'm going to do is write one CV using his surname, and one using my name. Then I distribute them on different websites and with different agencies, and monitor the difference, if any, among the responses to them.

I'm totally excited to see what happens. On the one hand, of course, I kind of hope they don't treat the two CVs any differently. On the other hand, if it gets me a job, or even job interviews, hey, I won't be overly upset.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

tacky souvenirs

When The Limey and I decided to cement our unholy union, we did it in New Zealand, which was conveniently so far away that no family members would be able to make it, even given months of notice. When the officiant (apparently wearing an Elvish Lord of the Rings-type ring himself) asked if we were going to include rings in the ceremony, we said,, and he said, Great, that's 5 minutes off of the ceremony then. Making it a two minute ceremony. Afterwards, we hung around and chatted to him for a quarter of an hour or so. Really nice, friendly guy (like all the Kiwis, really).

A couple weeks later in Auckland, and we were due to fly to San Francisco a few days later. Since we would never dream of lying to immigration, The Limey would tell them that he was in the US to visit his wife's family. At this point, we decided it might help things along if we at least tried to convey the appearance of marriage, at least to the average person. So we picked two simple jade bands from the little bowl full of them at the counter of the souvenir shop at Te Puia when we visited Rotorua. At the equivalent of EUR 6 per ring, those were the cheapest wedding rings ever.

Now, The Limey actually wears his ring all the time, more or less. I, however, hardly ever wear jewelry, and anyway, my parents never had wedding rings. So I wear mine if I happen to pass by my dresser on the way out and remember to put it on.

Well, fast forward a few months, and we are due to fly to the UK to have a wedding reception for his family. On the aircoach, halfway to the airport, I notice, of course, that I'd forgotten my ring! The Limey was not happy- his family were half convinced it was all fake, anyway. I figured they wouldn't notice, but he said, No, they'd want to see the rings. So we had to think fast. At the airport, we passed by a Carroll's gift shop- you know, the green one, that sells all kinds of Oirish shite. This one had a stand of jewelry! We were saved! It took two seconds to find one plain enough to pass as a wedding ring (plain Celtic knotwork), although at EUR 20, it's kinda pricey for a wedding ring, for us. But it was convincing enough for his family, anyway (although I think some of them did wonder why it didn't match his ring).

I'm strangely pleased that both my wedding rings are cheap, tacky, touristy souvenirs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

In progress

This was a great yarn weekend, but I'll talk about that later. Meanwhile, some progress in certain projects.

My father's socks. This is mostly through the gusset increases on the second one. I'd decideded to go with Fleegle's No-Flap, No-Hassle heel. This makes a triangular shaped heel, and I haven't decided whether I like it yet. Part of the problem is that my father isn't here to try on the sock, and I'm just guessing at the size. I think it may look better on the actual foot it's meant for.

As for the black Cathay scoop neck top...well, it turns out there was just enough yarn to finish it, but then I looked at it and thought, Oh, it's just a black tank top. Blah. So I decided to buy another ball of the Cathay (at This Is Knit, and of course, totally different dye lot, but it's for the sleeves/ribbing, so I'm going to call it okay) and I'm going to do the cap sleeves. I have a lot of cap sleeve tees, and I love them, so why not one more? Plus, I'm excited about trying to figure out how to do a cap sleeve. I have some ideas.

Third project on the needles is this:

Looks terrible, but that's the curse of unblocked lace. It's Eunny Jang's Print O' The Wave Stole, knit in a cobweb-weight merino from Margaret Stove I got in New Zealand last year. Here's a better picture of the lace pattern:
I'm on the fourth repeat, and if I do say so myself, it's gorgeous. I can't wait 'til it's done. It's slow going, because, although the lace pattern isn't difficult at all, I'm scared to death of making a mistake, and so I've been too nervous to work the pattern from memory. I sit there with the chart in front of me. I put in the lifeline after every repeat, too, which slows things down only a little bit.

Speaking of lifelines, if it seems like there are a lot of random ends of yarn in that first picture of the lace, it's because I've got the normal lifeline, and two vertical lifelines. I first heard about them on either the Knittyboard or Knitter's Review forums, and found a description in Fleegle's blog. Basically, it's a way to help pick up stitches around the vertical edge of a piece of knitting. After I'm done with the centre panel of the stole, the instructions say to pick up 240 stitches at each long edge of the piece. 240! I hate picking up stitches. It's probably why I will never do a standard heel flap for a sock again. No matter how careful I am, it always seems messy and haphazard to me- more an art than a science. Putting in a vertical lifeline is easy- I just have to remember to loop my working yarn around a piece of waste yarn at the beginning of every row, thus "carrying" a piece of waste yarn up the side of my work. This means every other loop at the vertical edges of my work will have a lifeline through it. When it comes time to pick up the stitches, they'll be picked up already, almost- I just have to run my needle through those loops. Since it's only every other row, I'll probably also have to pick up a few extra here and there, it's way better than 240 all at once! Here's a blurry close-up of the vertical lifeline:

I remembered it after I'd done most of the first repeat, but it'll definitely be a life- and sanity-saver when the time comes, I think.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Oh, happy day!

Just as I was getting bored with sitting around all day as a "lucky jobless bastard", I hear a rumour that the DETE (Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment) will grant work permits to spouses of EU citizens living in Ireland while they wait for the Department of Justice to process EU1 applications! I don't have to wait for over six months while the DoJ s....l....o.....w....l....y processes their backlog of EU1's. They've already entered into illegal EU territory by taking longer than the EU-mandated six months.

I called the DETE this morning, just to see if this was too good to be true, and apparently, all the rumours are right. The DETE will fast track applications from spouses of EU citizens. You still have to apply for a work permit, but there will be no fee, and the normal rules for non-EU work permits will be waived (i.e., the employer will no longer have to prove that they've advertised for x number of months, and no EU citizen can fill the vacancy). Also, the "fast track" means that the permit should be granted in 1-2 weeks. I will still have to get a job first, though, and have the potential employer fill out the work permit form.

Ooooh, now I can actually look for jobs!

Oh, wait. That's no fun at all. Now I'm not sure why I was so excited.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

An anniversary

Last week was the one year anniversary of the day The Limey quit his 11-year smoking habit. A cause for celebration if there ever was one. Clearly, this called for cake.

I asked him what kind he wanted, and he sort of went off into a dreamy "mmm...cake" free association for a bit, when his eyes grew round and he said, "Jaffa cake...cake!" So this is my first-order approximation of a Jaffa cake.
I used orange marmalade for the centre bit, but I also made an orange sponge cake for the base. I topped it off with ganache and called it done. It tastes good, but absolutely nothing like a Jaffa cake. Oh, well. I think, more research next time before I attempt something like this.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A few things

Three projects in various stages today.

Finished: Lace socks officially done. After looking through Hickey's and the Dublin Woollen Mills, I found a spool of gray elastic sewing thread. I wove this through the ribbing on the lace socks, and it works perfectly! Stays up like a dream, but without cutting off circulation, either. And the thread is easy to work with and easy enough to lace through the ribbing without showing on the outside (as you can see...or not...on the sock on the right there).

Finishing: Scoop neck top. I've just got the one armhole to finish the ribbing on. I've already picked up the stitches there. I'm in total denial about this, though. See that little tangle of yarn there at the right? That's all the yarn I have left. This won't be enough for the four rounds of ribbing and binding off. I know this. In fact, I knew this while I was doing the ribbing for the first armhole. But did I stop? Did I get more yarn, or rethink the design? No. I went on anyway, knowing full well that I won't have enough yarn, and that I will have to rip out most of the ribbing I've already done...and continue to do.

See, if I have to buy another ball of yarn anyway, I may just put in those little cap sleeves that were in my original design, and also make the armscye a little longer- it's a bit snug at the moment. So I'm going to have to rip out all the ribbing. But for some reason, even after I figured this out, I refused to stop, and in fact, continued to add more ribbing. Sigh. I think basically what will happen is, my brain will refuse to see the truth here until I actually run out of yarn at around the second row of ribbing.

Starting: Basic ribbed socks, for my father. I figure if I'm going to pay the postage to send off my sister's socks, I may as well add in another pair. It's from some Lang Jawoll I got from Springwools. I'm not sure why I picked this colour- it's a tweedy blue that isn't particularly to my taste, but as sooon as I thought about knitting some socks for my dad, I knew it would be perfect. It kinda knits up into a denim-y fabric. As you can see, I knit this toe up, with short rows. I'm not sure right now whether I will do the short row heel, or maybe the upside down heel flap, a la Baudelaire, or Fleegle.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Less than a month late!

Anna socks (aka Cute Librarian Stockings)
Yarn: Two balls (100 g) of Jaeger's Matchmaker merino 4-ply, from This Is Knit
Needles: 3.0 mm, 2.5 mm, and 2.0 mm dpn's
Pattern: Anna socks from Rowan 40

Notes: These are a -belated!- birthday gift for my sister, who is a librarian. I thought lace knee highs would be super cute, and kept imagining her wearing them with a gray wool skirt. I chose this purply colour just to match this imaginary wool skirt. This lace pattern is easy. YOs and K2togs, no purls, even. 4 row repeat, easily memorised and easy for learning how to read your knitting, as well, since the pattern is so simple.
I had reservations about this pattern. It only comes in one size, and some have found it too large. It has no calf shaping, so everyone who has knit these in the blogosphere (The Daily Purl, Knitlit, and basically every link that comes up when you google "Rowan Anna socks") has suggested switching needle sizes for calf shaping.
So I took everyone's advice. I started with 3.0 mm needles, switched to 2.5 mm once past the largest part of the calf, and switched down even further to 2.0 mm needles at the ankle and for the foot. As for the sizing issue, I basically ignored the pattern altogether. I used it to get the lace pattern, but then just knit until it fit. I'm a small person, and my sister is an inch shorter and a size smaller in shoes, so I figured it was definitely going to be too big for her if I followed instructions. In addition, these are lace, so I knew they'd look better if the lace had a chance to stretch, so, whenever I could (one lace repeat more or less, needle sizing, etc), I estimated to err on the small side. I also did my preferred short row heel instead of the pattern's heel flap one.

I think they turned out really well. They mostly stay up, but I think I will add elastic to the ribbing, just so there's no need to pull them up during a busy library day.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Thinking about food

...And not just in a "Mmmm...lunch" kind of way.

I've just finished reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. In this book, Pollan has three meals, following their production from the ground up, from the three different "philosophies" of eating that he can think of. The first is the big agribusiness monoculture way of getting calories and the subsequent meal is, not surprisingly, McDonald's, eaten in the car. For the second meal, Pollan goes to work for a week at a "beyond organic" farm in Virginia. The farmer there uses his livestock to fertilize his fields, and his fields to feed his livestock, and does everything sustainably, organically, and, importantly for me, humanely. Pollan uses meat and vegetables from this farm, as well as other locally sourced ingredients, to cook his friends a meal. The third meal is one that Pollan gathers, grows and hunts himself. Veggies from his garden, mushrooms gathered from the forests and fields of northern California, yeast for the bread from the Berkeley air around his home, and pork from a wild boar killed by Pollan himself.

I've always read Pollan's articles for the New York Times Magazine and I found this book fascinating. This is a subject that I'm very much interested in. My personal way of eating can be summed up as "no mammals or birds, but I'll try anything once." I eat fish and seafood, so I am not a vegetarian. I haven't eaten mammals or birds for just over ten years now, from my second year in college, when I realized that I would never be able to cook the meat dishes the way my family does, and that I didn't find the choice available from the school's kitchens that appetizing. Also, and most importantly, I had learned about how meat was produced in the US, and I was not impressed.

I have nothing against the eating of animals. Hey, we invented the spears, and we have the teeth and digestion system to deal with meat. I have no issue with this. I do have an issue with the way meat animals are treated. I believe we owe it them, simply as fellow living things, to treat them humanely and with respect. Beef cattle, crowded together by the tens of thousands, standing knee-deep in their own feces and being fed corn instead of the grass they are evolved to eat, and then dosing them with antibiotics because they get ill easily from this lifestyle to which they are not adapted? No. Cutting the beaks off of chicks because chickens get stressed from being piled together in mesh cages with no room to move in and will peck each other to death? No. Cutting off the tails of pigs because these highly intelligent animals get depressed when crowded together and will chew each other's tails, causing infection and therefore a less "efficient" farm? No.

However, this is how the vast majority of meat is produced in the US. So I refused to contribute to it by eating the results. (Not to mention the health issues of ingesting the vast amounts of antibiotics and hormones that these animals are subjected to.) When I moved to Ireland, I thought about starting to eat mammals and birds again. I had a vague thought that farming was done differently in Ireland and in Europe. But I don't know whether this is true. I haven't found anything telling me how it's done here. I know I can find "organic" food and meat. But what does it mean here? What are the standards? What does the "free-range" on the egg carton actually mean for the laying hens?

I guess I'll be thinking about food for a while yet. Hopefully, I'll be thinking about food every time I eat or think of eating.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Two and a half months

When I tell people that I'm not allowed to work for six months until the Justice Department and immigration people process some paperwork (go on, ask me how efficient the Irish government is at this), usually they put on a "you lucky bastard" face and tell me they'd love that and to enjoy it. A few people who have actually had large amounts of work-less time, for whatever reason, had more sobering advice: make the most of it during the short amount of time that this will be enjoyable. They told me that they loved it for the first 2 to 3 months, after which they nearly went of their minds with the pointless, aimless, dull sameness of the days. Apparently, there are only so many days that you would enjoy not showering, sitting around in your robe, and having no reason to leave the house or talk to people. At that point, asking yourself, What am I going to do today? leads to despair, because the answer is moot- whatever it is you decide to do, it really doesn't matter.

Well. I officially entered this second stage yesterday. I did the usual: got up, had a bagel (toasted, with cream cheese), had some juice (orange, usually with added calcium, but not this time), fired up the computer, looked at my knitting for a bit, checked my e-mail, and then, suddenly thought, Oh Jesus, I can't be doing this all day again.

I know, I know... more energetic and gung-ho people have said, Get out of the house! Do something! But it's March in Dublin; it's wet, and cold, and it's freakin' miserable outside. Plus, I'm not supposed to spend any money, so outside + no money needs a bit of creativity. At any rate, I'm really just lazy. If there's no compelling reason for me to put on proper clothes and shoes and step outside, I just won't do it.

But now, this four more months of doing nothing, stretching away in front of me, is making me totally depressed. The thing is, with six months of no job, I should have had a Project. Something big that I should have taken advantage of the time to do. Write the great American novel, started a knitwear design company, learned how to paint, trained to become a plumber...something! But, no, not only have I not done anything, I don't even have enough energy to think about it at this point. I've wasted two and a half months, and I look set to waste the next four.

Oooh, I've totally failed at this "having no job" business. Yuck.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I'm officially old

I didn't have that much of a problem with turning 30 last month. I'm still living in my student-y lifestyle, so the Big 3-0 was not accompanied by much angst or panic. Until today.

I was flipping through the monthly Irish Film Institute schedule. It's a great place- my preferred theatre to spend film-related money. They show new artsy and foreign films, as well as old classics, usually in mini-film festival blocks. Well, this time, a showing of "Kiss Me, Kate" caught my eye. I got really excited, 'cause I've only seen it done at the university theatre level in Seattle, and it was great. I may have let out a little squeal.

Then I read on, and realized this was their selection for their "Wild Strawberries" group: a "film club for older people". So there you have it: I'm officially old. (Housemate said that I would totally fit in there if I went in with my knitting.)

Monday, March 05, 2007

So much for that one

Well, after more examination of the Sodera sock, I became convinced that it wasn't recoverable to the point where I'd be satisified with it. There were three problems (that I could find):
1. My SSKs were messy and didn't mirror the K2Togs well at all. When I searched for a solution to this, I found that this was a common complaint, and that lots of people had gone through lots of different ways to try for a clean neat left-leaning decrease to complement the right-leaning perfection of the K2Tog. I'm doing up a stockinette swatch now to see which way may be best for me.
2. My YOs before a purl stitch were much looser than my YOs before a knit stitch. Since the YOs before purls came at the left side of the lace panel, and the YOs before knits came at the right side, I wasn't getting that nice, clean, double row of lace holes that should have been showing. It looked really lopsided. This could be fixed by being more careful and keeping my YOs at the same tension.
3. I was slipping purlwise in my sl1, k2tog, psso double decreases. This made my whole left-leaning line even more messy.

So, given all that, it wasn't really rescuable, or rescue-worthy, so I frogged it.

Whether because of these problems or not, I decided that I was no longer quite so in love with the Hedera/Sodera lace pattern, and looked more closely at the Anna socks. There are a few problems with the Anna socks that made me dismiss them before: no calf/ankle shaping at all; knit top down; only one size. But I decided those could all be dealt with one way or another, and after looking at some finished Annas, I grew to quite like the diagonal, lattice-like lace. So I cast on (top down, unfortunately) and started the lace.

And found that it was really easy, dead simple lace. YOs and K2Togs, that's all. This neatly sidesteps all my problems with the Soderas! Obviously, I will need to learn how to do all that at some point. But right now, I could crank out these socks, which are already late for my sister's birthday.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Symmetry is good

I'm knitting the Sodera socks for my sister. They are basically Cookie A.'s Hedera socks from Knitty, but knee-length and toe-up. Although I consider myself an advanced beginner-intermediate knitter, I have done very little lace. So these are something new for me. And I've run into a problem. Here're some pictures of the Hedera (left) and Sodera (right):

See how the lace gives two nice, symmetric rows of yarnover holes running up and down each lace panel? The left- and right-leaning decreases gives nice clean lines running up and down the panels opposite each other:
Mine, so far, look like this:

I'm not sure if you can see it that well int his photograph, but not only are the yarnover holes not nice and open, the holes running up the right side (on this photo) of the panels are larger than their partners on the left. Also, although my right-leaning k2togs are nice and neat and make a line, the corresponding ssk are terrible and look really messy. I'm doing the "improved" ssk by slipping as if to knit, slipping as if to purl, and knitting through the back loops.

Basically, my left- and right-leaning decreases don't match at all. Not sure what to do about this. Try going back to the old ssk (slip both as if to knit, knit through back loop)?

Friday, March 02, 2007

So close!

Pub quiz last night. We had a large-ish team, and came in second, tied with a couple other groups. But only two points behind the winners! And I blame myself for those two points, honestly. We lost two points in the very first round, and they were both my fault.

The first question: who headed the investigation into the Clinton and Lewinsky affair (pun not intended...sort of)? For some reason, Ken Lay popped into my head, so I wrote that down, but even as I was writing it, I knew it was wrong, but close!, and I could not for the life of me remember if that was the actual name.

The second question: what colour shirts did Italy's fascists wear in the WWII era? I was sure it was brown. I wrote "brown". The Limey said, Weren't they black? I said, No, definitely brown. And another member of the team said, Yeah, they were brown. But, no, of course not, they were black.

So close! So close!