There are lots of things my Mom did intentionally, to model proper behavior for my sister and I. Share! Be nice! Eat your cheesecake parallel to the crust! I’m not sure either of the following two things were intentionally done on her part as examples for my sister and I, but they sure stuck.

When I was in seventh grade, my Mom got my sister and I a puppy. A tiny, squirming too-smart-for-her-own-good mutt who knew when it was a friend coming up the walk, effectively blocked a 250-lb repairman from coming near anyone in the family despite her less-than-imposing 7-lb weight and instantly became one of the family. Turns out D.J. was the model by which I now judge all dogs (and to be brutally honest, people), but it was a difficult adjustment to learn how to take care of her, to integrate her daily needs into our lives when we were just kids who wanted to go play.

Right about the same time, my Mom brought home a “laptop.” A huge, hulk of a machine that weighed as much as I did, had a tiny 7″ orange-type screen and a detachable keyboard that formed part of the hard outer-shell case. It ran DOS and made sad little beeping noises when you accidentally typed “D:\” instead of “C:\” at the > prompt. She used it to create really complicated documents, muttering the whole time about “reveal codes” and how she always had to fix other people’s stupid formatting mistakes. But it had Q-Bert and that made putting up with her muttering and carting its bulk up and down the stairs to my room worthwhile. Turns out that big, giant hulk of a machine was the model by which I now judge technology. And–let’s also be brutally honest here–some people (especially the ones who make sad little beeping noises when you make tiny mistakes. Sadly, these people tend not to pass the dog-yardstick test or come with the redeeming Q-Bert install).

Thankfully, the model the dog provided and the model the computer provided serve very different purposes. I know now that dogs and people often live up to the admittedly-high D.J. yardstick, but computers will forever outpace my ability to measure them. And I learned that we add things to our lives because, even if they complicate life in some unpredictable ways, our lives get better. Easier. Faster. More rewarding.

I am who I am–a geek with a willingness to accept that things can’t stay the same forever and a great longing for both fountain pens and bleeding-edge technology–because my Mom brought home the dog and then the computer. Because Mom always questioned her environment and looked for the right thing to change. She got the fantastic dog who added so much responsibility and joy to our lives. She used reveal-codes when most people just selected text and pressed the “bold” key regardless of what might happen.

That means Mom has the longest-running geek-grrl influence in my life, making her my Ada Lovelace Day/Women in Technology/Let’s Honor The World’s First Programmer role model, whether or not that’s what she intended. Instead of hanging back and staying in the typesetting field with which she was so familiar, she taught herself how to code and now runs Web sites. She is–and she will kill me for saying this–nearing retirement age, but instead of coasting and doing stuff that makes her comfortable, she pushes boundaries, tests herself. She’s learned HTML, CSS, and basic scripting in 2 different languages, all in the last 2 or 3 years, and mostly on her own, and that list doesn’t include all the things she’s taught herself beyond the scope of that 2-3 year timeline.

Still, the most important thing I learned from her about technology is even more fundamental: she never uses technology solely for the sake of using technology, and she never sticks old methods solely for the sake of comfort. It’s easy to do both. Newspaper closures all over the country suggest how difficult it can be to break free of an old model, in much the same way that every failed new-new-thing product demonstrates how stupid it can be to do something bleeding-edge solely for the sake of doing something new.

What I learned from my mom is that wisdom applied to technology is the real key. Changes in paradigm that use technology can, when they’re done right and for the right reasons, make life better. Easier. Faster. More rewarding.

And let’s not forget: more fun….

I guess it’s been one of those weeks. You know, a week where everyone seems to have exactly the same week?

Blogless Norma and I have been splitting the sleep allotment of a single person–and apparently, the same kind of obsessive behavior when it comes to combining coding and academic research–but that doesn’t really photograph well.

What does tend to photograph well is a confluence of knitting. Chemgrrl has been working on a scrum-diddly-umscious pair of orange Sock-Hop knee socks for a few weeks, perhaps as long as I’ve been working on a much more boring pair of navy knee socks knit of Karabella Margrite (or something like it in sport weight, can’t remember, details TBA). She’s just been more diligent about documenting her work.

No longer. No longer will these socks be hidden in the shadows of my procrastination, subject to the injustices of my slackerdom.

Knee Socks

But where’s the other sock?

The only thing I’m worried about is whether or not I have enough yarn to make it just one more inch in pattern before I start ribbing, which should allow the socks to cover my ridiculously large lower-leg area.

Like chemgrrl, I had to do some in-pattern increases to get the poor socks to fit. Unlike her, I’ll probably release a pattern at some point.

Knee Sock Calf Increases

Look at how planned that looks…. Not at all as though I winged it. Wung it?

And, like chemgrrl, I hope someday to name these after someone in my knitting group, because it’s The Best Knitting Group Ever ™.

In high school, my physics teacher called it thermoGoddammits, not thermodynamics. And for good reason, because any isolated system will tend to become more disorderly over time, even with intervention. And if constant vigilance doesn’t have an effect, well, then that seems to me like a perfectly good reason to swear.

Swearing also takes work. Effort. Involvement. And I have enough work-effort-involvement elsewhere in life right now, what with conferences, teaching, writing, researching and begging for cash to fund the aforementioned conferences, teaching, writing and researching. It takes lots of work–and swearing–to keep the isolated system I like to call “My Life” from spiraling completely into chaos, so I thought I’d try something different.

I thought perhaps if I let entropy do its work on one part of the isolated system, as embodied by my current pair of WIP socks, I might be able to keep the rest of the system under control.

Randomly Ribbed Sock Toes

Random! Disordered! Unplanned cables! Whee!

This has turned out to be harder than I expected. Either I’m not random enough, or it really does take planned effort to make something look effortless. I’m not sure how to interpret this turn of events. If it takes effort to make something *look* as though it’s descending into an unplanned spiral of madly placed cables, does that mean I can just leave well enough alone in the rest of the “My Life” system and things will fall neatly and nicely into place?

If so, the stupid second law of thermoGoddammits has it all wrong.

Dear other person in the dorm cafeteria:

I am very sorry I stared fixedly at your back for 10 minutes. I was reverse-engineering your sweater, not engaging in some sort of odd lovelorn behavior.

Or perhaps, on second thought, I do have an unrequited crush on your knitwear.

Either way, I’m not creepy. Really. I promise.

xoxo,
hapagirl

It finally happened. My horrible sister and I were nice to each other for a week, and the day she was scheduled to leave, Indiana got 13 inches of snow.

Which gave me just enough time to publish a new pattern perfect for this kind of weather: a quick-knit super-bulky hat and scarf pattern that will be done before the next snowstorm hits….

The Mistaken Identity Hat & Scarf was finished a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have it test-knit or verified until just a few days ago. But it’s done now, and just in time! Yay!

cover
Look, I’m serious for once!

The pattern in full is available for purchase at Ravelry, here:

People all day have been describing their role in today’s inaugural events–whether they’re spectating live or watching remotely–as “making history.” I felt some of that myself, and that played a role in the fact that I let a(n early American history) class out 5 minutes early so they could see our new president take the Oath of Office live.

Still, the impact of people’s participation in something as momentous today makes me really wish we saw our day-to-day lives as historical artifacts. I’ve been thinking about the many knitted heirlooms people brought in to Knit Purl in to be admired, repaired, copied and reknit. These physical remnants of the things we do every day–the things we take for granted and which others often mock as frivolous–are proof that the mundane is just as much a part of the history we make for ourselves as grand events like this inaugural celebration we’re all watching intently.

And that’s what’s got me really thinking. Today is important, sure, but how can we take rhetoric that makes us feel good and turn it into reality. The only answer I can think of is this: We can’t just make history on big days like today. We have to make history, with intent and vigor, on days like yesterday and tomorrow, with the little tasks we have at hand individually. We have to treat each component of our lives as a little piece of history or we may again lose sight of how much each of us individually contributes to the world around us and to the successful completion of the big tasks that face us as a nation and a planet.

There is something profoundly weird about the life academic. The strange juxtaposition of grade-or-die work binges slammed up against equally intense periods of absolutely nothing can be a little jarring, even though that parabolic cycle of rest and ruin fits my own preference for a very strict, careful division between work and play. I have, if you will, my own little personal firmament* that divides work from play, semester from break.

This winter break, the division between work and play wasn’t accompanied by a plane ride anywhere. Instead, the play** of break wrapped itself around the same geographic surroundings that had marked the real work of the semester. Finding a way to reconcile the change in behavioral patterns without a concomitant change in environment was a little isolating and required quite a bit of readjustment. Ultimately, the new non-geographic way of dividing work from play rendered up any number of worthwhile things, some corporeal and tangible, others slightly less so.

Among the corporeal:

Socks On Ice

Finally! At long last! I had time and leisure to finish the final edits on a basic 2×2 ribbed-sock pattern that has sizing for the forked heel. It’s available for purchase now at Ravelry and it never would have gotten done if not for the photographic stylings of chemgrrl. (Thanks!)

The socks (and a hat/scarf set that is still to come) were accompanied by intangible rewards: personal validation, though that too had a corporeal form in the shape of evaluations from students. Good ones. Really good ones. So good that I’m almost afraid to talk about them any more, lest I jinx myself for this term….

2008 was a very serious test, in many many ways. The early part of last year’s academic summer break, and the accompanying early-summer break-up, tested my will to pursue a life undertaken with great care and intent, and that meant serious consideration for what’s most important in that life. Fall semester brought with it not just another division between work and play, but a growing division between gloomy past and promising future. Friends and family (hey, that’s you!) have provided support in spades, but it still came down to whether or not I could harness all of the help and good will flowing in and channel it effectively in the unexpected process of reshaping my life. As a result, the fall semester was one long pep-talk. I kept reminding myself over and over again that the measuring tape that matters most is the one in my own head, not the one that someone else handed to me.

The ongoing emphasis on internal validation coupled with the strange, isolating, unfamiliar shape of this winter break meant I had lots of time to think. That’s been good, but it also had me feeling a little bit like I was tuned to a different frequency than everyone else. The stack of very important papers sitting next to me, heavy with the penciled-in scribblings of students, proves that occasionally, regardless of how sure you are of what you want, what matters is some sort of sign from the outside world that you and it are orbiting the sun at basically the same rate.


*You know, the firmament? From Genesis? It divides the waters below from the waters above. And God called the firmament heaven? Nevermind….
**”Play“! Hah! Take that, Derridaean critical theorists!

Two wrongs–or in this case, four similar wrongs and a screwy cast-on–finally make a right.

The slouchy hat that tortured me last week is, this week, my willing accomplice in knitting success.

A good oops

I struggled with what to do with this bulky yarn and like the results enough that I’ll be putting together a pattern. When I have pictures that do the finished product justice, that is.

Now I just need a camera capable of capturing the saturation of Alchemy’s Koi Pond colorway, because my little guy just can’t handle reds and oranges. There is, however, hope on the horizon. A digital SLR body awaits, though it will be delivered by dog-powered sled from the far reaches of snowy Alaska.

Not really, but saying my mom and sister will have it in their carry-on luggage when they visit from Portland doesn’t quite evoke the same dreamy visions of a young Ethan Hawke frolicking with wolves in White Fang.

After months–months, I tell you!–of hemming and hawing over what I would do with the fabulous, beautiful skein of hand-dyed merino/bamboo Celebration (from Briar Rose Fibers), which I bought at the Greencastle Fiber Event in early April, I have at long last cast on for a project. At least a project that I didn’t immediately rip back.

The good news is that this project suits the yarn (and my available yardage) exceptionally well.

The bad news? Well, the bad news is that I swore I’d never knit this pattern again. Why, you ask? Because I’ve knit it 6 times already, and so has every other damn knitter on the planet.

You’ve all seen Clapotis a hundred million times (because you already have one you wear regularly around your neck, right?), so I focused on the yarn instead of the pattern.

Clapotis Closeup

The shift in focus away from an overview of the pattern also let me play with the settings on my camera, which I’ve been futzing with for the last few weeks in order to figure out what its limitations really are. (Yes, yes, I should have done this before, but my natural instinct to rebel against everything my parents–all three of them–love led me to avoid anything that resembled an interest in photography.)

Clapotis Closeup 2

The only difference between these two shots–I didn’t even move the camera–is a toggle between the camera’s auto-focus on standard macro and the camera’s “Digital Macro” setting. In any case, it’s clear that “focal length” is the key phrase here. Very interesting. Instructive, even.

But I still probably need a new camera, because it frustrates me that I couldn’t control the focal length effectively. (There, I said it. I’m becoming my mother, my father and my stepmother, and all in one single evening of innocent photography. I’m doomed.)

This is the story of a hat. A very bad hat. In fact, it might very well be the horror-knitting-story hat-oriented version of that new movie that’s coming out about the teenage girl being haunted by the ghost of her unborn twin brother.

The first version of this hat, now frogged, has come back to haunt the second, third, and now fourth versions of the hat, and the spectre of the First-Hat Haunting will likely continue to hover over all future versions of any hat made with this yarn. Before I present the most flattering of the hat photos (I couldn’t bring myself to post anything less flattering because I look like a misplaced RennFayre court jester mistakenly cast out into the modern world), let me unfold the horror in its full glory before you…..

It began with a slouchy-hat wish spurred on by all of the slouchy-hat goodness going on around me. The problems were compounded by a recently finished scarf in Alchemy’s Lux, a mistake-rib keyhole scarf that is truly a thing of beauty. I wanted mistake-rib-matching slouchy-hat goodness and bulky gauge in the same hat, which led me to Ysolda’s Urchin, a sideways-knit garter stitch hat that was both bulky in gauge and interesting in technique. Good for all of us, right?

Wrong.

The garter stitch was just not the right stitch pattern for the yarn, which is cabled and drew together and create a too-stiff fabric. So, I reasoned, why not knit a stockinette stitch version sideways to solve the compact-fabric problem? Sadly, reason had very little to do with that version of the hat because the band was too loose. Reason also had little to do with version 3, in which I tried a stockinette crown with a knit-on in-the-round brim in mistake rib (to match the scarf). Better, but still unwearable, because picking up stitches in a gauge this bulky just. Did. Not. Work.

Which leads us to Hat #4, a stockinette crown with garter stitch brim, still knit sideways because at that point, I was stubbornly wed to the technique and determined to make it work (thank you, Tim Gunn).

This time, things were promising, except for the odd pointy bit at the short row, which I figured would work itself out in blocking. Given my past blocking experience with this yarn, I had hope. Even after 3 failed hats, I still had hope.

Little did I know that this truly was the denoument of a horror movie, in which our heroine turns around thinking her nemesis is dead only to be attacked one last time before she finally slays the evil incarnate in a gruesome and very permanent way.

Evil incarnate, indeed.

Horns of the Beats

I have horns. Actual horns. Consider briefly that this is the only photo that didn’t make it look as though I’d put on the Statue of Liberty’s crown before donning the hat, and I still have horns.

On the other hand, perhaps this qualifies me to direct the next I Know What You Did Last Summer sequel.