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Now available at Ravelry!

This brand-new heel turn technique, the “forked heel,” will win over die-hard devotees of short-row and heel-flap techniques alike, thanks to the extra heel room and more anatomically correct shape.

To compliment the devilishly clever forked-heel technique, saucy forked-tongue flames lick up the sides of the instep and the cuff, warming you up in spirit even as the days cool down.

The pattern is available for sale for $5.95 through Ravelry.

The toes of a forked sockWhy is it that we only emphasize the very end of something? As evidenced by the photo at right, it’s really the process that’s the fun part. Look, socks!!!!! Of my very own cables-and-lace design!

Stuck landings in gymnastics are just about as important as stuck landings in real life. It’s usually what you do during the bulk of the routine/class/business meeting/knitting project/friendship/day that really counts, not how quickly you walked out the door when the day finally ended. In real life, we comport ourselves as though every moment counts, and gymnasts do the same thing, because tiny steps on the landing only add up to ten percent of the overall deductions in an average gymnastics routine.

We talked about extension and amplitude yesterday. Today, it’s form and execution. Elfi Schlegel compliments gymnasts who have great form and execution all the time–Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson, along with the Chinese team, got most of those compliments today–but she doesn’t really explain what “great form” really means and how gymnasts “execute” moves well.

There are only a few body shapes the human body can make under duress: straight/slightly arched, bent at the hips, and bent at the hips and knees. Gymnastics “form” is just a measurement of what shape the gymnast made compared to the shape specified by the code of points for a particular skill; good or bad execution expresses the degree to which they deviated from that body shape.

Straight-body moves like handstands require the legs, arms and hips to be lined up and stretched into a near-straight line, with the insides of the ankles touching (rather than crossed). Bent-hipped body positions can be done with the legs/ankles together (piked) or the legs separated (split or straddled), but the knees cannot be bent and the hip-bend must be at least 90 degrees; if your bent-hip position is a split position, that means at least a 180-degree split. Tucked positions require at least a 90-degree bend in both the hip joint and the knee joint, and the ankles again should be together but not crossed.

Deviate from the specified form for a skill and execution deductions kick in. Each 10 or 15 degrees of deviation in an execution deduction–the difference depends on which apparatus–has a set deduction. There’s one deduction for missing 10 degrees in your 180-degree split and another for missing 20 degrees in your 180 degree split; deductions for each 10-degree bend at the hips in a layout position; even deductions for not having your hips bent enough in a pike. If your arms were bent in a handstand on bars, there’s a deduction for that, and it too is specified to the very degree. Flexed feet, crossed feet, head position, and too much arch in a straight-body position are also incorporated into execution deductions.

It takes time to train your eyes to see all of the different angles of deduction, time to see all of the body parts at the same time, but it doesn’t take much to appreciate it when you see a skill done right. At least not when you understand how amplitude, extension, form and execution all come together.

It’s always nice to see a stuck landing, but it’s the confluence of great execution, high amplitude and precise extension–and not the endings–that make a routine world-class. It’s not the end of the day that makes a job worthwhile, or a goodbye that cements a friendship.

It’s the middle part, and as any gymnast will tell you, the landing of one routine just means it’s time to prep for the next apparatus, the next routine This week, Huan-Hua (on the left, with Katie) moved on to the next routine, and even if endings don’t count for everything, they should still be celebrated with a good application of beer.

The 2008 cycle of Olympic gymnastics has begun, and it started on a high note, both as a couch potato and as a spectator (the two activities having subtly different emphases).

A Chart is Born!In couch-potato terms, I finished one of my 2 big summer writing projects and printed out a draft of the other to read for sentences that are too long (always my last step). I also came out on top in my epic struggle against the cables-and-lace pattern that I’m hoping will accompany the first official sock pattern with my new heel turn (a very small, very incomplete sample at right, just to make you salivate a bit). Pretty damn impressive for a 24-hour period of time, but it’s really just a bunch of projects that have been percolating all coming to a close at nearly the same time.

In gymnastics spectator terms, I finally got to see one of Alexander Artemev’s pommel horse routines without having to scream to no one in particular about how horrifying it is that he fell. Artemev–and to be fair, quite a few of his competitors–has what we call “extension” and “amplitude” in the gymnastics world, words which the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad NBC Commentating Trio toss around but never really define.

You can try out both extension and amplitude for yourself at home: think of the difference between reaching out with a straight arm to grab a pen and reaching out with a straight arm for a wall that’s several inches away and has a million-dollar bill taped to it (but without ever moving your shoulders). That difference in tension and the length of your arm is the difference between “straight” and “fully extended.”

Now imagine how high you’d jump if you were just asked to jump over that pen, and how much higher you’d jump if the million-dollar bill were hanging 3 feet above the tips of your fully extended fingers…. That’s amplitude, which can also refer to how far away from the equipment you can push your body–maintaining full extension, of course–even if you still happen to be physically touching the equipment.

If you just watch gymnastics every 4 years, the inexpressible difference between “Meh….” and “My god!” will–given the same difficulty level–probably come down to an athlete with OK extension and amplitude vs an athlete with full extension and amplitude. Artemev’s pommel horse routine–when he hits it–has both. The Chinese men are unbeatable because they have both on all 6 events.

Not only am I’m excited to see how this home-court advantage will work for a very deserving Chinese men’s team, I get to be excited about gymnastics and my knitting at the same time! Favorite things, indeed.

Tomorrow, more about how to make gymnastics scoring make sense, a rundown on the women’s prelims, and actual photos of actual socks made of actual yarn.

It’s been a while since I felt the kind of displacement that comes from spending a few weeks on someone else’s floor and hunting down guest Internet connections in a city that’s theoretically home. In what I’m finding is a fairly regular alignment of the stages of various things in different parts of my life, the BrewFest vacation, my computer projects, my knitting projects and my academic projects are all simultaneously in conjunction, contributing equally to this odd feeling of disjointedness. It’s both encouraging and a little unsettling, since displacement comes from change and change is usually a varying combination of fun and scary.

For a long time when I went back to Portland, I slept in the house that had been home since before I was a self-supporting life-form. The last several years, of course, the sleeping quarters were my own and when I flew somewhere, coming home really was exactly that. This trip came at the transition point, where the new city wasn’t quite home in the real sense of the word but the old city didn’t have quite the familiarity it once had. Even though the old haunts are still there and the things newly discovered just before our departure a year ago are still making their imprints on the psyches of the people who walk by everyday, the simple act of scanning for an open public wi-fi network brings with it a certain amount of other-worldliness.

As much as we all long for excitement and the thrill of the undiscovered, there is something to be said for predictability. I just never figured that Bloomington would be the latter and Portland the former…. My knitting group has a lot do to with that.

The knitting itself, however…. I’m working on a new sock design, which is unusual for me. I knit a lot of socks and I futz with sock designs all the time, but I rarely think about designing socks for publication, much less designing a cables-and-lace pattern from scratch. Still, a new heel turn method (yes, more teasers) deserves a completely new pattern. And this is what it looks like right now:

With help from my knitting group (Thanks, Huan-Hua and Nicole!), I have a substantial part of the charting done on an exciting and very knittable sock pattern. In a desperate effort to get the damn thing done quickly, I’ve set it up as my Ravelympics project.

Out of the desperate effort to get a sock pattern done also comes a desperate need to redesign my pattern stylesheet, and that’s where the current computer project comes in: a complete reinstall. Again.

Thanks to Adobe’s shoddy programming and inability to mandate the use of case-sensitive code, I’ve had to reinstall my OS for the second time in six weeks. Fool me once, etc., etc., etc.

In any case, the reinstall prompted a rethinking of my computer set up, and boy, has it changed. Unfamiliar computer surroundings apparently translate to real-world unease. Weird. Though I do have to admit, as I was transitioning my Time Machine backups from one hard drive to a bigger external hard drive, that I was perversely disappointed by the fact that my old backups were only 50K short of 2 million trashed files. Two million! (Ah ah aaah! Maybe I should change my nickname to The Count?)

Of course, before the knitting starts, and before the sock design really gets underway, we have the academic projects to tackle. I use the royal we because first-person discussion is much harder here. I have a total of four paragraphs in 8,000 words that are dragging down an otherwise fantastic project, and once I solve the problems in those four paragraphs, my life will take on a very different shape. These are the key paragraphs; they define the framework of a Big Project, set out the methodology for what I want to do for the next few years, and I can’t fix them because I can’t quite justify the building of mental research walls yet. I don’t want to have a focus because I like futzing with a wide variety of things, but I can’t move on to the next stage of Big Project until I focus on this one and just get it the hell done.

On the other hand, the socks are coming along nicely.