Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How to suck up to your in-laws:

Spend Christmas week at their place knitting their son a pair of socks.

(Actually, I don't need this kind of PR, because The Limey's parents love me.)

Waffle rib socks
Yarn: Lang Jawoll Silk, 100g, from IKnit
Needles: 2.0mm dpns
Pattern: an easy, mindless, but visually interesting broken rib

Notes: I got tired of plain ribbed socks for The Limey, so this one is done in an easy four row repeat ribbing: two rounds of 2x2 rib and two rounds of plain knit. This gives the sock a great waffley-looking texture when un-worn, like above. When worn, it shows the ribs more prominently, and could be mistaken for the simpler garter rib, which is maybe what I'll try next.

I really like the texture. The rest of the sock is my normal toe-up recipe with figure 8 cast-on and short row heel. This yarn is a wool/nylon/silk blend, but to be honest, I can't really tell there's any silk in it- it's not shinier or smoother than a plain wool/nylon blend sock yarn. It does feel like it will wear well, though.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Science me up, Gok!

As a scientist, one of my personal pet peeves is the amount of pseudo-science that is spewed at people, particularly in advertising. The health and beauty industries are the absolutely worst offenders. The Limey and I keep a folder of pictures of products that are given a "nano" name because it just sounds so cool and cutting edge, even though the product is nothing of the sort. I once saw a bottled water advertised as having "added oxygen". W. T. F?

So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw my first episode of Channel 4's "How to Look Good Naked". For those who haven't seen it, it's a show in which our fearless host takes a British woman who hates her body for one reason or another and convinces her that her self-image is what needs work, that her body itself is beautiful and then shows her how to dress and style herself to show that body off. I know, it sounds a little bit...reality-show. Which it is. But I love it.

The first and foremost reason to love it is the host, Gok Wan. I tell you, we need more flamingly gay Asians in the public eye. We do.

The second reason is that, even though this sounds hippy dippy, he always convinces the women that they are beautiful as is. There is no suggestion of dieting or plastic surgery. Nothing of the sort. It's nice.

Third, and getting back to the science bit, is the way the show does its product reviews. They do them really well, and in a manner that is satisfying to my scientist brain.

  1. They have a panel of 100 women, which is a good, large enough number for the data to be believable. If there are a few outliers, it won't affect the result.
  2. They have the women test the products over a period of time. So they use the products as they are meant to be used, and they get to note reactions along the way. This is much better than just a first impressions kind of product trial, obviously.
  3. Most importantly, they decant all the products into plain, un-marked jars. So it doesn't matter how much money is spent on packaging and advertising, and the testers can't be mis-led by scientific-sounding claims from the manufacturer.
As you can imagine with this kind of product testing, the more expensive, "exclusive" products more often than not end up at the bottom of the league. The women are often really surprised that the product they thought was best (at, whatever, wrinkle-removing, tanning, moisturizing, etc.) is the cheapest brand, or the one available at your normal supermarket.

The other result that kinda makes me feel smug and "I told you so" is that, for many of the products, there's very little difference in the ratings. That is to say, the night cream serum for eyes (or whatever) that gets ranked highest had a score only several percentage points away from that which ranked lowest. There's hardly ever a product which was obviously better and preferred by a majority of the testers. Meaning, most of this shite? Yeah, it's the same. And probably doesn't really do much anyway.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Help me out here

I'll get around to taking pictures of the yarn I bought in the US in a few days (it wasn't that much; I have the credit crunch to think about), but I do have a picture of one skein I bought that I want to work on soonest.

Yummy, no? It's a skein of Misti Alpaca Handpaint Lace, bought at Article Pract in Oakland. The colours are pretty true in this picture. Usually, I am very good at resisting most variegated yarns- I'm of the school that they look best in small projects in a plain stitch, so as to be able to show off the colours. Otherwise, it just makes highly-textured and patterned knitting just look kinda messy.

Well, here I am, then, with 800 metres of some of the softest yarn I've had the honour of getting my grubby mitts on. I bought the lace weight because I've had the insistent, nagging feeling for a while now that my next big project is going to be some fantastic lace.

Except...see above about textures and variegated yarns...

So I've been trawling through Ravelry and my books and magazines, but I thought I'd ask you guys: any ideas? Criteria: rectangular shawl/scarf pattern, only one skein of 800m of yarn, looks good in variegated yarn, in a mentally stimulating pattern. I don't mind paying for a good pattern, so anyone care to point me towards something awesome?

(For the non-knitting readers of this blog: The Limey and I went on a quick 24-hour trip to Brussels this weekend, but, uh, forgot to take the camera. I assure you all the city is beautiful. You can imagine it, right?)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Two continent living

So my father has decided to move out of the place we've been living in since I was 12. And for some inexplicable reason, he doesn't want to move the random combined junk of four children that is now taking up most of the volume of the current place. I know- WTF?! So apparently, we are no longer allowed to use the parental home as free storage space. The nerve.

Anyway, I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster I don't have much there. Well, okay, yeah, so when I moved to Dublin, I did send nine years of accumulated stuff from Seattle down to San Francisco. But I was going to move back and reclaim it after the post-doc! At any rate, I got rid of almost everything via Craig's List (have I mentioned how disappointed I am in the lame-ass Craig's List over here?), but I couldn't part with my books. I think, in the end, I sent down 14 or 15 printer-paper-carton-sized boxes, 10 or 11 of which were filled with books. Not too bad, really.

This was back in the day when the US post office still had a book rate option for shipping, so those boxes cost only, like, 10 bucks each to send across three states. However, they've gotten rid of this option, and posting my stuff to the UK would cost crazy amounts of money. So while The Limey and I were over there, we weren't going to waste our free baggage allowance, were we?

Between the two of us, we were allowed 4 bags, 50 lbs (23 kgs) each. So we filled two suitcases solely with books, and stuffed books anywhere we could in the other two to get up to the maximum weight (with some leeway; I wasn't going to get fined for being a pound over!). With this, and some culling of the collection, I've gone down to 6 boxes of books left at my father's, plus a few boxes of random bits and pieces. I think we're going to look into getting those sent over by sea freight or something.

The problem is...uh...where are we going to put all these books now?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Back in our little hovel

Got into Heathrow at silly o'clock this morning. Spent the whole day sleeping, therefore ruining any chance of a good recovery from jetlag.

At some point, we'll probably manage to get some pictures up.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


There is one word that captures my week-and-a-half visiting Seattle/Portland/San Francisco, and that word is: food.

I've been pretty much stuffed to the gills the whole time I've been here. I can barely move most of the time. I still have a list of restaurants to visit.

I'm rolling myself off to bed now.