Sunday, December 31, 2006

Under the wire

I made a couple of resolutions for 2006. I wanted to end the year with fewer UFOs (unfinished objects) than at the start. I finished some projects like this Dragon Teeth scarf.

Here is a closeup that better shows the texture.

Other projects just weren't doing it for me. Rather than finish them, I simply unraveled them. Their potential will just have to reveal themselves to me another time. Yarnex and this lace scarf met the same fate.

2006 began with 4 UFOs at my house. One didn't get picked up at all. I finished Iris' modular poncho, a Golden Chai two-tone scarf, and a sweater that I started in 1997. It was an ill-conceived project; I finished it 10 months ago and haven't worn or photographed it yet.

WIPs (works in progress) include the Basalt Tank which will be picked up again in the Spring. Add the Icelandic circular yoke sweater, carry over the 2005 project and that leaves only 3 UFOs.

Big Sis left a comment gently suggesting that I am overthinking the circular yoke pattern. Look how cute her sweater, which she knitted by the seat of her pants, came out! I got fuddled up while charting color work and decreases, and then realized that the floats were going to be way too long for a beginning stranding project.

Did I get off my bum and begin knitting again? No, of course not. Knitting in the Old Way arrived in the mail. It was time to do more research! Reading another book is the best way to procrastinate.

My other resolution was to consume less healthcare than I did in 2005. I failed on that front. I won't even try to guess how much healthcare I will consume this year. I am going to set the bar lower. I just want to feel more like myself again and less like a patient.

Friday, December 29, 2006

It's all relative

This week has certainly been windy in our area. Mark and I were debating whether it was windier than "windsday" this past March?

First, I checked the jet stream and surface winds analyses at the California Regional Weather Server. Then I decided that was a misapplication of technology; I need only check the relative wind strengths at a few nearby weather stations.

From the pier in Santa Monica, a storm in January had stronger winds. In Manhattan Beach*, this week's peak speed of 28 mph was stronger than March's 25 mph. Redondo Beach sat on the fence--both storms had similar wind gust speeds of 30 mph.

Then I realized that I had fallen into another technology trap. Those wind gauges doesn't tell me the relative wind strengths at my house.

Because I don't have a wind gauge, I will have to use my eyes. Look at this tree across the street. It remained upright through the March 2006 storm only to list to the south this week after the storm. That's how the old meteorologists did it. They walked around with their eyes open and looked at the trees.

Read the entire Windsday series.

* There's a rumor in meteorology circles that the MB weather station is not installed at the regulation height, biasing their wind measurements relative to properly installed stations.  I have no first hand information about that.

Polar Bears and Existentialism

Polar bears are in the news (and Coca Cola advertisements) lately. How can something so cute be so politically polarizing?

I have been worried about them for years, ever since I read an article about the declining body fat of female polar bears. Like humans, they can't ovulate if their body fat crosses a threshold. When that happens, the species cannot reproduce and becomes essentially walking ghosts. If we continue on our current course, it is likely that polar bears will cross this threshold in a few years, not decades.

Read this CBC News background article about polar bears and scientists who track their declining health. It was written in 1999 and the problem has only worsened since then.

I find the thought of a future without polar bears deeply troubling, even though I am unlikely to ever see one firsthand in the wild. I don't want to see the earth become a habitat solely for humans and the things that humans eat. Who can put a price on seeing the look on a child's face when they learn about a new and wondrous animal? That does not appear on a balance sheet anywhere. However, a world without polar bears would make me feel poorer.

What does this have to do with existentialism?

Extinction always recalls to my mind, Graham Swift's short story, "Hoffmeier's Antelope". The unnamed storyteller's uncle, a zoo keeper, had been trying unsuccessfully for years to breed the last known pair of Hoffmeier's antelopes in the world. If the pair die without reproducing, the species will become extinct.

In an act of desperation, the uncle disappears with the pair of antelopes so that their fate will be unknown. As long as no one knows for sure if the remaining Hoffmeier's antelopes are alive or dead, they cannot be declared extinct.

Graham Swift's short story collection, Learning to Swim, has been republished in paperback and I highly recommend it.

Read critiques about time and existentialism and Hoffmeier's Antelope.

That's all folks.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

MPAA Ratings Decoded

Iris walked into the computer room while Mark was viewing the Grindhouse trailer. She said, "I think that is for a R-rated movie."

Mark asked why she thought that.

Iris said that it was because the girls had guns. In the PG movies, only the boys have guns. Sometimes the boys die and the girls have to pick up the guns. That would be PG-13.

I asked her what makes a movie G-rated. She replied, "No one has guns."

She has that one nailed. Read more about Iris and movies in MPAA rating and parental complacency.

That's all folks.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

"Saying Yes to Mess"? Not so fast

Mark couldn't resist emailing me Saying Yes to Mess.
Exhibiting the charm that made me fall for him in the first place, he wrote:
You probably saw this article,and were hoping I didn't see it. Well, I did and it's quite interesting.
Notice that the messies in the article protest that their messes are healthy and normal. They claim that the others are the ones with problems? Hmm. I would take this article a bit more seriously if we didn't have so many hammers buried somewhere under our junk stuff.

This household does have a problem. We are just coming up for air after 8 nights of Hanukkah and Iris has presents strewn everywhere. So she doesn't feel left out, Santa visits her every year. Then we face celebrate, 15 days of Lunar New Year in February.

One of Iris' WASP friends was upset that her family was Christian. Why does Iris get 8+15 days of presents and she only gets one?

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Santa Chronicles 2006

The Santa Chronicles continues. Click here to read the beginning of the Santa Chronicles. Click here to read Santa Chronicles II.

She had been agitating for a specific Bratz Rock Angels doll. I dislike Bratz even more than Barbie. (In fact, I have softened considerably to Barbie since watching the 'Barbie Princess and the Pauper' movie in which Barbie saves her kingdom from financial ruin with her geological prowess.) I told her to save up for the Bratz Rock Angel in question. At the time, that seemed to be the thing she most wanted so I dispatched Mark to the store after bedtime to secretly buy it for her.

Iris wrote to Santa what she most wished for in the whole world. She didn't want to tell anyone what she wished lest that spoil her chances of receiving it. Then she finally let on to her dad what she asked for. She wanted not one, but two dolls! One doll was the one we had already bought and hidden away, but she also wanted the My Scene Lindsay Lohan doll.

Oma searched the stores and came up empty. The internet failed us. Besides, even if we could find it online, it would not arrive in time. I tried to talk her out of it. I asked, how could Santa bring you the Lindsay Lohan doll when we haven't seen it in any stores? She said that Santa has ways. Besides, the elves can make anything that kids really want.

While waiting in a doctor's office this afternoon, I conversed with a sixth grade girl. She told me that the doll could be found at Toys R Us. I asked if she meant My Scene dolls in general or the Lindsay Lohan doll in particular. She thought a minute and said she was sure she saw the Lindsy Lohan doll. I called Mark right away by cell phone and he braved the crush at Toys R Us. Alas, the rumor was not true.

A friend told me about how she lined up at 6am in order to buy her daughter a Cabbage Patch doll in the 1980's. I marveled at her motherly dedication and decided that I would never do that.

This year, Iris will have to learn about the fallibility of Santa Claus. But perhaps we shall send Mark to the Mattel store at opening tomorrow...

We already had one miracle today. Mark asked me to try to buy more Hanukkah candles today as we did not have enough for tonight. I turned the box upside down and found exactly 9 candles!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dragon Teeth

I am still knitting, but not on anything that requires concentration. I stopped by Artfibers twice during my week in San Francisco. The first time, I showed great restraint and only bought this scarf kit. The colors leapt out at me because they reminded me of peacock feathers.

I have been obsessed with peacock feather imagery ever since the Waist Down exhibit. The colors of the yarns don't show up very well in this scan, but they contain many of the rich shades seen in peacock feathers. I think I will finish the edges of this scarf with fluffy black fur yarn.

Speaking of peacock feathers, I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams during the trip. I have admired BK's work since listening to Prodigal Summer last summer (while I was laid up in bed with an infection, uveitis and laryngitis). She renders characters from a wide variety of backgrounds with such sympathy and understanding. Some look at a bunch of people and see differences. Others see commonality. Barbara Kingsolver is certainly the latter type.

Later in the week, I returned and bought another scarf kit and yarn for two more sweaters. While swatching in the yarn tasting bar that late afternoon, I met Thomasina, who was also in town for AGU. Check out her guide to geeky knitting. She recalled reading my essay in Cheaper than Therapy. She didn't say if she liked it, but someone actually read me.

That's all folks.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Now where are my presents?

We don't normally use candles or the fireplace at chez badmom. It struck me that we don't have many opportunities to watch smoke rising. Yes, it is polluting. But it is mesmerizing.

She is still wearing her TKD uniform because she received her orange belt today.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Standing in Line in Perspective

A friend emailed that, rather than more women attending AGU this year, there might have been fewer restroom stalls instead. She pointed out that the restrooms in Moscone Center have movable partitions to adjust the relative size of the men's and women's rooms.

I did wonder about the paltry size of the women's rooms and why there was no line on the men's side. There were so many more men than women, and how could they manage with only 3 stalls? Duh.

This revelation sent me on a walk down memory lane.

I recall a night at the Julia Morgan theatre in Berkeley. As the lights came on for intermission, I ran to the women's room. A long line had already formed and I spent the entire 20 minute intermission in line. Finally, when there were only 2 others in front of me in line, the house manager came through to clear the lobby.

He told the women still standing in line that we must return to our seats immediately or he would lock the door. There would be no late seating. Several women walked glumly back to the theatre.

I was boiling mad. I spent the entire intermission painfully waiting in line while Mark was able to breeze in and out of the men's room, buy a coffee and consume it leisurely while strolling around the lobby, looking at pictures of prior productions. I was not going to be denied.

I told the house manager that I did not dilly dally. I dilligently ran to the line as fast as I could. It was their fault that they did not provide women with enough stalls. Furthermore, I paid the same for a ticket as the men to see the play. If he did not hold the second act until all the women in line were able to use the facilities, then he would have to comp us seats for another night. (I was emboldened because I had worked with the house manager the prior summer where we spent many backstage hours together.)

He relented and led several women, including myself, to the backstage restroom and started the second act after all the women waiting in line were back in their seats.

I also thought about the status of women in science.

I have visited many science buildings that were built without women's restrooms except near the administrative offices. In some of those buildings, the signs were simply changed from men to women on alternate floors. In the tower where I did the bulk of my graduate research, the single stall restrooms went unisex by simply removing the men sign.

Late one night, I did sneak into the men's room in the laboratory wing. It was so huge relative to the two-stall women's room down the hall, you could play hockey in it. (Late at night, grad students sometimes played street hockey in the hallways to help stay awake and to alleviate the tedium of babysitting marathon experiments.)

And then I thought about the whole unfairness of the restroom business.

Much has been written about how women need more time in the stalls than men. But most writers ignore that women need to use the facilities more often than men. We simply have smaller bladders. The uterus takes up about the same amount of space as a typical female bladder. This is not even counting pregnancy! Men carry much of their gonads externally which frees up lots of bladder room.

So here we are, doing the human race a favor by bearing the young, and we are thanked by banishment to long lines to relieve ourselves. Grrr.

Every time someone (usually a man) brings up that women live longer than men, I quip, "Yes, but it doesn't really count because we spend it all waiting in line to use the restroom."

Read the earlier post, Standing in Line, to find out what brought this rant on.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Whitewash This!

I swung by the Union of Concerned Scientists booth today and learned about the destruction of the EPA libraries. Hauling away a library in the dead of night is truly the modus operandi of despots.

Al Gore also gave a pep talk about how scientists had a responsibility to reach out to the public. I guess that I am a pessimist. I think that scientists would like to reach out, but hardly anyone is listening. Judging by search engine statistics, the public is more interested in Britney Spears' divorce than in this nation's loss of topsoil or ancient aquifers.

After the meeting, we had dinner with my dad. We walked from our Union Square area hotel to Chinatown. On the way there, my dad pointed out the Stockton Street tunnel and told me how he lived in Chinatown for two months before starting graduate school. He walked to work at Macy's every day via that tunnel.

On the way back, my dad pointed to the Maiden Lane marker on the sidewalk and asked if I knew the history of the street. I had never made the connection before he grabbed my arm urgently and pointed down. Instantly, I realized that Maiden Lane must have been an euphemism for the street of cribs.

I searched for "Maiden Lane"+"San Francisco"+crib and discovered that the street had been renamed from Morton Street to Maiden Lane in an effort to clean up the image of the city. At Berkeley, I read a textbook for an Asian American history class. The pictures of the women in the cribs were heartbreaking. Click here for a brief history of the Chinese American "crib girls" and a picture (courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California History).

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Standing in Line

I am at the American Geophysical Union, AGU, Fall Meeting in SF this week. I guess it is a sign of progress that there are lines in the women's room. I don't recall having to wait in line in previous years.

It turns out that there wasn't a sudden influx of women at AGU. Moscone center staff had decided to allocate only 3 stalls to the women's side of the restrooms. See the follow-up post, standing in line in perspective.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tofu and Toto

Yeah, I have not made any progress on the yoke sweater so I am going to blog about food again.

We returned to Yuzu last night for omakase. Perhaps they should call it omigod. It was a fantastic eight course meal. After course 5 or 6, they actually asked us if we were getting full. If not, they could make us a sashimi platter before the finale.

Last time, we looked jealously at the diners who had called ahead to order omakase. This time, we began with a seared albacore salad and continued with cold water ahi sashimi with avocados. The huge seared scallop wrapped in toasted nori was a disappointment only because we both compared it to the seared scallop appetizer at the sadly defunct Lavande in Santa Monica.

The tofu in broth with prawns made up for the scallop. A ceramic charcoal grill arrived with 4 cubes of Kobe beef and strips of japanese eggplant, all simmering in an orange sauce (mango? squash? we couldn't tell), perched atop a magnolia leaf imported from Japan. Let's enjoy this meal and not think about the climate altering effect of flying all these ingredients from Japan.

I watched Mark pop a cube in his mouth, close his eyes and chew with a look of sublime bliss on his face. This is quite a contrast to the time in grad school that I watched two young men eat a 128 oz steak each at the Traildust because, if they could finish it and hold it down, their meal would be free. Oh, why didn't I look away? The sight still haunts me. I will take the four perfectly enjoyed cubes over the massive quantity any day.

We thought the grilled dish would be the highlight of the meal until the iron bowl of sizzling rice came out. The waitress motioned us to lean back and then poured a dungeness crab broth (with many bits of crab) over the egg and rice confection. Although it was my favorite dish of the night, I was too full to eat more than a fraction of it. We decided to go back and order that dish another night.

We sadly reminisced about the shuttered Umenohana (Tofu Kaiseki) restaurant. We normally avoid Beverly Hills, but when we read Irene Virbila's rave review, we made reservations there for our next splurge meal. (The review was pulled from the LA Times website when the restaurent closed but it is still mentioned in this article about new Asian food in LA.) Scroll down the first Umenohana link to see the wooden chest that they use to serve several of the courses. Open the drawers for a surprise treat in each one--an eastern Advent calendar.

Scroll further down to see the interior shots. Umenohana was the most beautiful restaurant I had ever seen. It was like an art gallery. I took a circuitous route to the restroom just so I could admire all the artwork.

The restroom at Umenohana was memorable because it was my first encounter with a Toto washlet. I had thought my sister was a bit over the top when she blogged about her Toto lost. But once I experienced it, I could understand her enthusiasm.

Anyway, we are determined to support Yuzu so that it doesn't go the way of Lavande and Umenohana. Hmm, doesn't umenohana mean plum blossom?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The past, deliciously present

Reading The East Is West: The Best Chinese Restaurants in Southern California started me daydreaming of meals gone by.
There are probably more Chinese in Los Angeles than in any metropolitan area outside of China. (The same very likely could be said of Mexicans, Iranians, Koreans, Japanese and more, which is what makes Los Angeles the best international eating city in the world.)
You will get no argument here.

Last week, I failed what should have been a routine lab test, which sent me on a whole 'nother merry go round of lab tests. Mark could tell I needed cheering up. He booked dinner for two at Yuzu, a newish washoku restaurant (traditional Japanese simple food with exquisitely fresh and high quality ingredients). It is in the mixed-use complex kitty corner from American Honda Motor Co. HQ and down the road from Toyota USA HQ in Torrance.

As soon as I stepped in, I was transported out of my everyday existence. The interior is every bit as hip, cool and sexy as mentioned in reviews by Counter Intelligence and Daily Gluttony. It had an abundance of dark polished wood, like a wooden Ryokan in my imagination, but it also had ultra modern and sleek details. The look is organic modern. It is light years away from the decor of medical waiting rooms and my workplace.

The clientele was just as described in the other reviews. The tables were all full of Japanese businessmen in dark suits. The wide bar in the center of the restaurant was inhabited by hip young Japanese professionals with multi-hued hair in colors that do not exist in nature. For most of the night, Mark and I were the only ones in the restaurant who didn't speak Japanese. (In fact, Mark was the only non-Asian person.)

Yeah, but what about the food?

Mark wanted to order omikase, chef's choice. The hostess explained that, unfortunately, the large parties had all booked way in advance and requested omikase, taxing the chef to the limit. He simply could not accomodate any more omikase clients that night.

Then a young man with slightly better english came over and tried to explain the menu us. He suggested that we order one small plate from each of the categories in the menu. We did and the food came out in roughly the order they appeared in the menu. (The menu order is carefully designed specifically to balance the flavors.)


We started with the tofu salad which was just creamy fresh tofu topped with scallions. We were told (with gestures) NOT to put soy sauce on it. That would be sacrilege. Order it and you will know what I mean.

We ordered a few other dishes recommended by Linda Burum in Counter Intelligence, honey-marinated Berkshire pork loin and soba with crossbred duck. We also ordered the fried oysters dusted in panko recommended by the Daily Gluttony (click the link below to see the picture of the dish). As she would put it, those oysters were phat.

We capped the night with sesame ice cream, a very nonpedestrian dessert with a very bland description. Not only was the ice cream superbly flavored with sesame throughout, but the most amazing black sesame seed sauce had been drizzled across the top. As you would expect, the presentation of every dish was every bit as deliciously beautiful as the flavors.

Just writing about it, I decided to call to reserve omikase for tomorrow night.

The East Is West: The Best Chinese Restaurants in Southern California
Daily Gluttony

Counter Intelligence: The past, deliciously present
Check the weather station at American Honda Motor Co., Inc., Torrance, CA

I didn't have a camera with me last week. But the food at Yuzu reminded me of a meal my cousin treated me to at the revolving restaurant in Sapporo. It, too, features many small courses of fantastic ingredients, beautifully presented. I will post those pictures instead. The meal at Yuzu was much, much more reasonably priced than the meal in Sapporo-not even factoring in airfare.

That's the "american cousin" and 6 of her cousins in Sapporo. That's all folks.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Icelandic Yoke Progress

The work continues, but there is not much more to show. I spread out EZ's Knitter's Almanac, MR's Sweater Design in Plain English, Fall 2003 Interweave Knits with a Norah Gaughan yoke sweater pattern, and Best of Lopi (edited by Norah Gaughan and published in 2003 in a coup of marketing synergy).

I also got out graph paper, colored pencils and wrapped yarn around a large needle to audition colors. Iris misplaced every single calculator in the house so the calculations were done with pencil and paper.

The leaf design violated one of EZ's rules of stranded color knitting. It had more than two colors in a given row. So I abandoned that design and am going to make a geometric pattern. But which geometric pattern and how will I stagger the decreases?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Alarm Clock

We felt an earthquake at 6:19. It was one quick, clean motion. Mark said that meant we were close to the quake epicenter. We are not seismologists so that was a WAG. We did report the quake here. Fill out the web form if you felt it, too.

The quake just showed up on the shake map. We were really close to the epicenter. See?

My first thought was, did Iris fall out of her bed? She was ok, but it woke her up.

That's all folks.

Rest of post

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Inconspicuous consumption

My sister wrote about how embarrassed she was by her conspicuous consumption at SOAR (Spin Off Annual Retreat). See an artistic subset of her loot here. It didn't look like that big of a haul to me. She said that it filled up her entire (compact) station wagon.

See, if she drove a minivan like me, she could have brought home more!

Take a look at her fair isle project. Beautiful, isn't it?

My kid can beat up your honor student.

Maribeth at the Smart Bohemian wrote a hilarious post:
French women know that less is more, so they always remove one fashion accessory before they leave the house.

For example, if a French woman were driving a Honda Odyssey sporting a cartoon family decal and several Elementary School Student of the Month bumper stickers, she would see no need for a vanity license plate reading "SCCRMOM."
I am more likely to sport a bumper sticker that says, "My kid can beat up your honor student." You see the proof.

The dialogue is not terribly clear. He told her to kick THROUGH the board. She tells him she is not sure if she can remember how to do it as it has been a long time since they last practiced with a board. He tells her to just try. Then she pulverizes the board into three pieces with her jumping scissors kick.

She breaks boards with her roundhouse kick, too. The combination of such sweetness and lethality is irresistable.

Anton said it was her birthday. It was her birthday party day, but not her actual 6th birthday. Because all but one of the attendees of the party needed to attend the belt test, we took a break and went over to the park.

Family Day at the Getty Villa

Today was one of those absolutely gorgeous fall days in which Malibu looks like the Mediterranean. Look at that blue sky with nary a cloud or drop of fog! How very unusual, except under Santa Ana wind conditions. How very unusual to have Santa Ana winds in Malibu without a wildfire! There was a sinkhole that had closed down a portion of Pacific Coast Highway, but that is the price of paradise.

We scored 5 tickets and one parking pass for the Family Festival at the Getty Villa. We met up with another family on Pacific Coast Highway with the aid of cell phones and headed up to the villa's new parking garage.

Iris and B listened to Tunisian and Italian folk music and storytelling. Iris and I made two mosaics each. We also spent some time looking at Tunisian mosaics. Later, while strolling in the inner courtyard, I noticed the motifs on the Tunisian drums.

There is a sense of urgency about seeing the permanent collections at the Getty. You never know when they will be claimed by and repatriated to other nations. The mosaics were lent by Tunisia and the commentary tried to be sensitive to that issue. Taking the mosaics out of the elements preserves them, but also take them out of the context that they were meant to be seen and enjoyed.

For instance, fish spill out of a tipped basket. They should look like they have spillt across a floor. Instead, they look like they are swimming up a wall.

That reminds me of a comment by an art critic about when quilts made the big leap from the bed to the wall. I didn't understand that comment until today. I am young enough to have taken it for granted that some quilts belonged in museums and that they would, of course, hang vertically. (The hugely influential Whitney exhibit of Amish quilts in 1971 proved that.) I hadn't realized what a difference a change in perspective from horizontal to vertical can make.

We had a lovely afternoon. The evening was just as beautiful. This is the view leaving the villa just before sunset. Note the green sod roof on the new parking structure.

The sunset from the corner of PCH and Sunset Boulevard. Note the child's balloon that flew into the picture frame. A jet forms a contrail just to the right. You know that the air aloft is cold (because a contrail is visible) and dry (from how quickly the contrail dissipates).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Time to bring in the specialists

Part of growing older and wiser is knowing when to call in the professionals. I came home yesterday at 2:39 after the usual round of medical appointments and errands that make up my "day off".

There was a trickle of water moving across the garage floor. It was coming from the drip pan of the hot water heater. I called Mark right away and left voicemail telling him about the water and that he needed to call the plumber right away. I proceeded to bring in the shopping and hang up the laundry that was still in the washer when I left that morning.

Mark called back to say he was coming right home to investigate. Turn off the water main on the side of the house and wait for him. I did not think this was a problem that he could fix. I had discovered cracked water heaters before and the inevitable response from landlords were that they were coming over to investigate. I did a little investigation of my own and decided my first instinct was right.

It was then 3 pm on a Friday afternoon. Something had to be done quickly if I wanted to have hot water this weekend.

I walked 2 blocks to the plumbing supply store. The owner was out but J, a senior plumber was there. I told him about the puddle, the slow trickle coming out the bottom of the water heater, and that the top of the tank and top fittings were all dry. I told him it was most likely a cracked water heater because it was at least a decade old. He said that it could be the water heater or the fittings.

J looked across the store at a junior plumber, C, and asked if he was done for the day. C said it was ok, grabbed several different kinds of fittings, and walked out the back door. (C and J had both been to our house on other plumbing matters in the past year.) J wrote out a work order and told me to walk home. C would probably be waiting for me there. I beat C back to my house by a minute. Mark had already arrived home and was inspecting the water heater. C took off the water heater jacket and, voila, we saw the crack in the side of the water heater.

C called his partner to go pick us up a 50 gallon hot water heater. He asked us for a garden house and proceeded to flush and drain the old water heater. We went inside . C's partner delivered the new tank. The two of them lifted out the old tank and put the new one in. C's partner hauled our old heater away while C finished fitting it and cleaned up that corner of our garage floor. Luckily, the mops and brooms are stored in that corner.

By 6pm, we had a new heater, hot water and C had a nice big check.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Home at Last

The holidays are upon us. Mark and I went down our list tonight over dinner. Notably, I will be making fewer gifts this year.

I have mixed feelings about making things for others. Look at the quilt I am proudly holding at left. I made it in 1995. I was younger then and let myself be talked into giving it away to one of my husband's college friends as a wedding gift.

The bride apparently didn't like it as the groom was able to retrieve it from her attic after they divorced. He had promised to retrieve the quilt from the attic and mail it to me a decade ago, but he never got around to it. The groom was using it in his new loft, as a kind of shelf liner, burying it under a pile of books. This was not the fate I had hoped for. That quilt took weeks of planning and work. I probably spent about 40 hours on it in total. At my consulting rate, that is one expensive wedding quilt. My free time is doubly precious to me so, perhaps, I should multiply the rate by two. (Now I understand how the Pentagon can spend $800 on a hammer.)

I have no shame. I saw the quilt there last month and asked for it back. I am so happy to have "Flying Kimonos" back.

Click "Read more!" for more.

In 1995, I was having problems with vague pain and swelling. I didn't think it would last. I thought I had much more time and many more quilts left in me. I made quilts for most of my friends' first babies. I made a couple of wedding gift quilts. I even made 2 quilts for my husband's co-worker's babies because he asked me to. I had no idea that sewing would become more physically difficult for me over time.

When Iris was born, she didn't have a quilt. I wasn't able to sew her one. No one sent her one as, by then, they were busy with their own children. Friends sent lots of purchased gifts but I still feel sad that I didn't make a quilt and save it for her.

I think about the quilt that took me 30 hours and was given to someone I barely knew. When my husband's coworker next saw me, he thanked me for the "blanket". Years later, when his wife had started sewing seriously, she asked me how long it took me to make the quilt for her son. I estimated 30 hours. I guess that made her feel guilty. She sent us several boxes of kids hand-me-down toys and clothes.

Another time, I went to a recipient's house and saw that, despite the sleeve hand-stitched to the back of the quilt and the dowel I gave her, she had hung the quilt up by putting nails through the quilt at the two top corners. I always signed my quilts and packed them with care instructions. I was shocked at the treatment given that quilt. It had paper pieced 1" half square triangles. Though relatively small in size, it was not small in expenditure of time.

Is it any wonder that I have an affinity for the song, "God bless the child...that has his own"?

My favorite gift recipient was a Chinese graduate student whom I also barely knew (another of DH's coworkers). She said eloquently, "China is a poor country. If we want to show someone how much we care, we spend a lot of money. America is a rich country, but no one has enough time. If you want to show how much you care, you give them your time. I know how much this means." All 4 fellow grad students that worked on the quilt misted up right along with her.

Check out the gift knitting lists of cmeknit and yarnknita! I am glad that there are such generous people out there. I just don't feel up to it this year.

Icelandic yoke sweater update
I went to Slipt Stitch today at lunch and bought the soft green heather worsted of my dreams. I didn't see the yellow/orange of my dreams so the light butternut worsted from my stash will have to do.

And because I worry about everything

A nameless catalog came to our house today with "It is not too late" and "Order as late as December 21" emblazoned across the cover. Read Procrastination and Climate Change for why that really bothers me.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Icelandic Circular Yoke Sweater New Beginnings

I have been acquiring books at an alarming pace. Last week, I decided that I had to start an Icelandic circular yoke sweater over the long weekend. I ran to the Slipt Stitch at lunch on Wednesday and bought the Best of Lopi at full price.

While sorting out the old stash and putting it under the new bed, I became reacquainted with all the wonderful yarns in my stash. (I don't know what came over me the last time I went to the Yarn Lady Famous Semi-Annual Bag Sale. Half price on Italian yarns! I came home with 4 bags of 10 balls each--enough to make 4 sweaters. I will not be going to the one this weekend.)

But 10 balls of Lane Borgosesia Maratona extra fine merino in a soft blue violet heather would make the perfect main color (MC) for my dream sweater. I curled up with the Lopi book all weekend, dreaming of color combinations and geometric patterns. Unfortunately, the patterns are all written for the Lopi (13x18) or Lite Lopi (18x24) gauge and my yarn has a 20x28 gauge. Fortunately, I have graph paper and I know how to use it.

I am almost up to the underarms on the sweater body. I won't post a picture just yet because it is not very exciting. At the moment, it is just a tube with 2x2 ribbing at the bottom and 4 waist darts. I am still not sure about the final pick for a yoke pattern. Right now, I am leaning towards aspen leaves and diamonds in soft yellow/orange and a pale green, rimmed with dusky purple or navy. (I miss the Rocky Mountain fall colors since I moved back to California.)

I did some research about Icelandic and Bohus sweaters. I consulted Elizabeth Zimmerman (Knitting Workshop), Maggie Righetti (Sweater Design in Plain English), Barbara Walker (Knitting from the Top Down) and my stash of knitting magazines. One European magazine, I forget which one, added short rows before beginning the yoke to build up the back. EZ adds short rows in the back neck ribbing. MR wrote that short rows can be used either before or after the yoke patterning to build up the back neck if desired. BW did not use short row shaping, reasoning that a reversible sweater would give one more wear. The Lopi book does not employ short row shaping. Authentic Bohus sweaters did have it, but I don't have any Bohus patterns to see how they did it.

Anyone out there want to share their experiences and opinions? To short row or not to short row? If yes, then where? Should I be noncommittal and put a few both above and below the patterned yoke?

Click 'Read More!' for more.

I wore Plum Blossom with some pull-on knit pants today. At the time I got dressed, I didn't realize that I was briefing one of my (work) projects in front of top brass today. How can you be underdressed for a presentation when you are wearing a hand-knit creation? In pink, no less. They asked good questions about my work work, but not the sweater.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Reading Home Schoolers Content to Take Children’s Lead gives a much different impression about the unschooling movement than viewing the slideshow gives. The tone of the article, at least in the opening paragraphs, painted a negative impression about the teaching method. It sounds like a free for all.

Yet the picture of the family calendar shows, that there is a weekly structure to this homeschool and that the calendar is very full. In one picture, the 6 year old works alone with a math workbook and the aid of some beads. Other children are reading or playing educational games. In every picture, piles of books spill everywhere.

Unschooling looks very similiar to Constructivist Education. Read this explanation of Constructivist learning theory from the Institute of Inquiry (link).
What is meant by constructivism? The term refers to the idea that learners construct knowledge for themselves---each learner individually (and socially) constructs meaning---as he or she learns. Constructing meaning is learning; there is no other kind. The dramatic consequences of this view are twofold;
  1. we have to focus on the learner in thinking about learning (not on the subject/lesson to be taught):
  2. There is no knowledge independent of the meaning attributed to experience (constructed) by the learner, or community of learners.
It is not as crazy as it sounds. I have reluctantly taken on the role of partially homeschooling Iris in math. She does her homework at school and her lessons at home. Her teachers also supplement with age-appropriate GATE math materials. She comes home with logic puzzle worksheeets that she loves. I also bought The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat for her.

I had originally intended for us to read one story (of 28) in Penrose every week. So much for that plan. Iris has pretty much read through the entire book on her own. She appears to be attempting the activities on her own and asks me for help when she is really determined to explore a lesson in depth. Other times, she just like to read it for the stories.

In one chapter, Penrose explains how to see the forest from the trees with probability. Now Iris sees probability everywhere. When we played Candyland, I showed her how we could substitute a die for the pointer that goes from 1 to 6.

We rolled one die many times and graphed how often each number came up. We then rolled two dice and graphed how often each individual number came up and how often the sums came up. Our graph of sums did not look like the one in Penrose. Why? The answer lay in the uneven distribution of individual numbers evident in our first graph. Evidently, these 2 dice almost never fell with the 4 face up.

That got us started on how dice can be loaded (with internal weights) so that the probability of coming up with some numbers can be increased or decreased.

That led us into random number generators on computers. I tried to write a random number generator for her on my iBook with GNU Fortran 95 but had trouble with the random number seed. (This actually led to a 2 month detour during my PhD research in which I learned about and tried different computer random number generator algorithms.)

Next, we will investigate the random number generator in Microsoft Excel. Anyway, this one story in Penrose has led us into many interesting discussions about math, physics and computer science. We are both having fun and she is really learning. Sounds constructivist to me.

What does Read More! mean?
Because I am rather longwinded, I have split up some of my posts so that only the first part displays initially. To read the rest of the post, you need to click on "Read More!" Unfortunately, the "Read More!" shows up on all the posts, even on the old posts when I did not employ this technique. Going forward, I will note when there is more of the post. Try clicking "Read More" to read the rest of this post.

Back to the Unschooling article.
Mark's major beef with homeschooling is the lack of diversity of opinions and approaches. In this we agree. Exposure to different teachers introduces children to different styles of teaching and learning. Even when children who get teachers they don't "click" with, they learn important lessons about human nature.

The red flag that I saw in the Unschooling article was about the math lessons. The parent quoted mentioned math only in the concrete computational sense. I fear that many parents won't expose their kids to the beauty of math because they have never experienced the full beauty of math for themselves. But that brings us back around again to showing children a diversity of experiences.

There is another article in today's NY Times about
What It Takes to Make a Student. Notice how it involves teachers working 50 hour workweeks for which they are not fully paid for the extra time they put in. Why?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bring in the Nonspecialists

Last night, I heard Leora Raikin speak about African Folklore Emboridery. She said something that really resonated with me. When she described her upbringing in South Africa, she recalled a home where her parents encouraged her to learn and create something every day. Later, when she talked about the art of the Ndebele people, she also emphasized how everyone in that culture created beautiful things out of everyday humble materials, including other people's castoffs like soda pop cans.

The urge to create, to "make special", even in the face of severe poverty, is extremely strong. Virginia Postrel makes a persuasive case for this in her book, The Substance of Style and her article, The Marginal Appeal of Aesthetics Why Buy What You Don't Need? She wrote in the article, "In subsistence societies, people people spend a relatively large portion of their resources on adorning themselves and their environment." For example look at the woman on the left from the Akha tribe in northern Laos. A simpler headdress would have kept her just as warm. (The picture was taken by Karen Inman and used with permission.)

This brings up a related story. My daughter's first Montessori teacher told me how living in Thailand changed her life. In the western world, people tend to see themselves and others as specialists. Art, music, craft, and satellites are created by specialists, usually other people. In Thailand, she saw that creating music and handcrafts and other useful things was a part of everyday life for everyone. Similiarly, healing was done, not by specialized experts, but by other family members.

I want Iris to remember her childhood fondly and tell people how her family made things. Her father made the most wonderful noodles and salmon; he made music on the piano while making silly jokes. Her mother made the things that kept her warm and colorful. Her childhood home was full of things made by people who mattered to her. We will leave the expert stuff at the office with all the market work baggage.

Leora was the guest lecturer at the monthly South Bay Quilters Guild meeting. When I received the monthly newsletter reminding us that she was speaking, I made a note to myself to bring the finished hippo kit that I bought from her last spring. However, a last minute deadline, a road closure on the commute home, and my generally frazzled nerves of late conspired against it. I will have to post a picture of the hippo for Leora instead.

Don't miss our annual quilt show February 17-18, 2006. Our guild members are a wonderfully diverse group. We do beautiful and thought-provoking work. (We are not modest, either.) I entered a quilt made from new and recycled fabrics. Unfortunately, the guild is also a prolific group and there is no guarantee that there will have enough room to display my entry. I wonder if a plug here will improve my odds?

Another Addendum
Unbelievably, the commute home on Wednesday was even worse than the one on Tuesday. Can't drivers have the good sense not to tangle with a truck carrying toxic chemicals on one of the most congested freeways in the world on one of the busiest traffic days of the year? Interstate 405 was closed around LAX today, sending traffic mayhem coursing through the nearby surface streets.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Another Way

"THE KEY TO MODERN LIFE IS STRATEGIC IGNORANCE," wrote Joel Achenbach in a preceptive article, Another Way, about energy use in the Washington Post Magazine. He visited a rural enclave called Earthaven in North Carolina whose inhabitants choose to live in an environmentally sustainable way. It is a long article by newspaper standards, but it makes some excellent points.

Americans, for the most part, are woefully ignorant about their energy use.
"If everyone lived at the lifestyle of Americans," says Jim McMillan, who works on alternative energy for the Department of Energy, "we'd need five planets."
Most of the homes in Earthhaven have energy meters in a prominent place so that residents can easily monitor their current energy usage. Why do conventional homes have their electric meter on the outside and not also on the inside of the homes?

A Swedish study showed that drivers adjusted their driving style and improved their fuel economy by an average of 10% when current MPG (or liters/100km) was displayed. An internal display of real-time electricity and gas usage could similiarly influence behavior.

Secondly, sustainable living will be attractive to more people if they feel like they are gaining something rather than giving up something (or wearing a hairshirt like Jimmy Carter's sweater). I live in a dense neighborhood because it frees up time that I would have otherwise spent on commuting and running errands. Everyplace I absolutely need to go is in a very tight radius. It is both time and energy efficient and a sanity saver. Plus, if I walk or ride my bicycle, I get exercise without taking any additional time out of my day.

We use a clothesline because it saves time. We start up a load of laundry after everyone in our family has bathed and before going to sleep. In the morning, I toss the shirts and small items into the dryer and hang up the heavy items up on the clothesline. After breakfast, I pull the shirts out of the dryer and hang them up to dry the rest of the way. When I get home from work, I take the clothes off the line and fluff them up in the dryer for a few minutes. We chat while Mark cleans up after dinner and I fold the laundry. It seems to take no time at all compared to the whole days that other households spend waiting for their clothes to dry in the dryer.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Who is keeping score and why?

I've been reading and thinking about school testing and math curricula lately.

Just Whose Idea Was All This Testing
As Math Scores Lag, a New Push for the Basics
The Math Moron
• Search on “standardized testing” on the Atlantic Monthly’s website. If you can access the subscriber archives, Nicholas Lemann’s history of standardized testing in the September 1995 issue, The Great Sorting, is especially good reading.

As scientists, my husband likes to see metrics. But we also know that data can be misleading. What if schools are hijacked by the metrics and give up teaching any content save for what can be measured by the tests?

Schools need to educate youngsters for many reasons and on many levels. For instance, mastery of arithmetic is a useful skill for everyone. Any math instruction should include enough practice for every pupil to develop a good command of arithmetic. Yet, for a truly competitive workforce, we need to go beyond that.

We need to instruct in a way that will help inspire and develop thinkers that understand mathematics at a much deeper level. We need these people to help our nation grow our economy, defend ourselves, and increase human knowledge and understanding.

Drill and kill arithmetic is not going to do it. It is just going to make people hate math.

I was particularly alarmed to read the NY Time article about a push back to basics in teaching math. The article mentions a movement away from the Everyday Math curriculum which was the best curriculum I had seen for my daughter. You can read more about it at the Everyday Math website. EM is also highly recommended by Hoagies website for Math Gifted Education.

I took a poll at lunchtime at work the other day. 100% of parents of school-aged children who also hold PhDs in science prefer the Everyday Math curriculum.* For inexplicable reasons, our own neighborhood school, and the entire school district, had stopped using EM despite more than respectable standardized test scores and teachers who loved the teaching method. Perhaps EM pushed some parents out of their math comfort zone (read The Math Moron)?

If you really take a good look at EM materials, you will see that it takes a holistic approach to teaching math. There are practice drills which everyone agrees is necessary. But it also introduces advanced math concepts in an elliptical way that helps facilitate the development of math intuition. To truly understand a math concept, it is helpful to approach it from different angles. E.g. one can more easily trust a difficult to decipher proof if another proof, from a different approach, shows the same thing.

* sample size n = 2. Be wary of statistics; they can be very misleading. ;-)

Disclaimer: I am not a math educator. I have consumed a great deal of math education (BA in math and PhD in science). In addition, I am a parent of a child who falls nowhere near the median in math. I have been researching math curricula lately in order to help my daughter’s school district come up with an appropriate education plan for her.

In an earlier post, I mentioned my belief that deep understanding of math cannot exist without intuition. Sex, Lies and Statistics gives an excellent tutorial on statistics, randomness, and Bayesian statistics. Matt Johnston wrote in his blog about whether gifted students are legally disabled?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not more tie-dye!

Yup, we had another tie-dye playdate this Sunday. Check out these onesies by a newbie. This is her first effort. Pretty great, huh?

I dyed a few things. ;-) Here is her "Rock Star" pose, learned from watching a Polly Pockets movie. Click here to see the back.

This is the air guitar move learned from watching School of Rock.

Before I got started, Mark told me he didn't need any more t-shirts. I asked him if he was sure, because this shirt has a pocket. (I sometimes pick up shirts from thrift stores to overdye.) When this shirt came out of the dryer, he asked, "Is that for me?" in a hopeful voice.

A yoga top in relaxing blue for me.

Size small (14-18 #) onesies. Would the reader in NY email me with her preference for her grandson?

Click here for a prior tie-dye entry with recipes for soda ash solution and dye-mixing.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cabled Cardigan Wrap-up

I finished the Norah Gaughan cabled cardigan from the Gray's Anatomy feature from the fall 2006 issue of Vogue Knitting. It went pretty smoothly except for changing my mind about using a contrasting silk yarn for the cabled scarf portion.

I bought 5 balls (500 g) of Patons Classic Wool for the body/sleeves and 2 balls of Art Fibers Golden Siam (silk tussah) (100 g/330 yds) for the scarf. I used almost 4 balls of wool for the body and sleeves but decided against using the silk because the cables did not show up at all against the variegated yarn. (See the yarn in a prior post.)

The optimist in me tried to make a go of the cabled scarf part using the leftover wool. The finished sweater body weighed 210 g. The finished sleeves weighed another 190 g. I knit as far on the scarf as I could with the remaining yard and that measured 125 g and (and an optimistically streteched out) 47". The cabled portion should have been 54" but the picture showed that the scarf dangled below the hem of the cardigan.

I have read enough Maggie Righetti (Sweater Design in Plain English) to be wary of the funny sweater photo in VK. Notice that the wide end of the scarf is longer than the narrow part. That increases the weight imbalance between the two halves even farther. Look at how the model is standing with the wider side lower. To better balance the weight of the sweater, I wanted the narrow side to be longer.

I sewed the wide side to the same length as the sweater and hoped that the narrow side would end up at the right point. I mattress seamed merrily along, row to row, except at the back neck, and discovered that I was about 6" too short.

In the spirit of the improvisational Gees Bend quilters, I auditioned several yarns from my stash and choose a skein of Cascade 220 in a silvery gray. About 8" later, I bound off the Cascade 220 and continued seaming the sweater.

I should have mentioned earlier that I knit the sweater body in one piece and divided at the armholes. If you look at the pattern, you will notice that the decrease ratio when switching from the 3x3 rib to stockinette stitch on the fronts, back and sleeves vary quite a bit. After referring to the schematic, it was clear that Norah Gaughan meant for the sleeves to be straight and the body to flare out. Hence, the different decrease ratios. But the ratio for the back and fronts still varied and I could only surmise that it was due to the contortions of providing for a neat seam at the side in such narrow front pieces. I avoided the whole math thing by picking a reasonable enough decrease ratio and knitting the body in one piece.

Then I short-rowed the shoulders and knit the back and shoulders together with a 3-needle bind off. I learned several short-row techniques and use a modified version of the yarn-over short-row. Nonaknits has an excellent tutorial on three short-row techniques.

The inside of the shoulder is on top, the outside is on the bottom.

Finally, a picture of the completed cardigan reclining on BOSU. (Even on days I don't have physical therapy, I still need to do the exercises at home.)

Who is that person with bedhead modeling the cardigan in her nightgown so her 6 year old can take a blurry picture?

The wrap-up
By sewing the right side of the scarf front higher than the designer intended, I also made the scarf wider at the neck than she intended. This pushed the sweater off my shoulders and caused the neck to fold back upon itself. With 20/20 hindsight, I should have eliminated one of the small cable repeats to cut down on the width. Also, the sleeves are just as long on me as on the model in Vogue Knitting. I could have easily eliminated 1-2" in length. If I had made those 2 changes, I would have had enough yarn. But, then I wouldn't have had that cool contrast color section.

Cable Tip
If you have been intimidated by cable charts and different sections of the sweater having different row repeat lengths, relax and try this.

The cabled scarf has 4 and 14 row cable repeats and decreases every 8 rows. The least common multiple of 4, 8 and 14 is 56. All the action takes place on the right side, the odd rows. So I wrote out a cheatsheet for myself with only the odd rows. See how I circled the rows where I need to make the small cables, marked decrease rows with a d and where to make the large cable move? If all else fails, use several row counters, one for each cable motif.

Click here for a simple explanation of least common multiple and how to determine one. For even more least common multiple fun, try this link.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Knitting Vet

Today, I sat in the car even, after I arrived at my destination, because I wanted to hear the entire public radio interview with Adam Visher. The 24 year old Iraq war veteran talked about how he knits to calm himself down. His father said that knitting helped Adam through post-traumatic stress.

It's worth listening to.

While stationed in Iraq, he hid his stash in his HazMat suit. In honor of Adam, I will post a picture of Iris in a HazMat suit.

Friday, November 10, 2006

It is a fashion extravaganza!

It's fashion week all over again at Los Angeles area museums this winter. LACMA offers Breaking the Mode: Contemporary Fashion from the Permanent Collection. MOCA is showing Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture. On December 1, Dress Up Against AIDS: Condom Couture by Adriana Bertini will open at the Fowler.

Much as I enjoy visiting the Fowler (and they do have monthly kid-friendly programs), I doubt I will bring Iris with me to see Condom Couture. We all know how successful I was explaining the Birds and the Bees to Iris. I am not ready to explain condoms to a 6 year old.

I have read criticism that museums should not devote exhibitions to fashion. It is not "high" art. The art present in everyday life is as worthy as any other art. It is commercial. Like art auctions are not commercial transactions? It is pandering; fashion exhibits are very popular with the public. Getting more people into museums is a worthy goal. Why shouldn't a cultural institution show what the people they are supposedly serving are interested in seeing? The only part I find objectionable is when museums allow themselves to be advertising vehicles for the fashion houses.

Iris and I visited Breaking the Mode already; I wrote about it here. LACMA allows photography of their permanent collection as long as a flash is not used and it is not expressly prohibited. The full exhibition title is "Breaking the Mode: Contemporary Fashion from the Permanent Collection". I pulled out my camera to take pictures of clothing details and was told to put the camera away. I tried to argue, but the guard showed me the sign saying that all photography is forbidden in this exhibit. I need to return without Iris and with a sketchbook to make sketches and take notes.

Fortunately, LACMA posted a slideshow of outfits in the exhibition. The pictures don't do justice to the intricate detailing and engineering that really elevate these pieces, though.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mommy and me and intellectual property (again)

Iris insisted that we wear our mommy and me outfit today. We debuted this outfit at a mother's day brunch at her preschool two years ago. Another mom came up to me and asked where I found mommy and me outfits that look like normal outfits one would want to wear. They are not for sale anywhere. ;-)

At SAS Fabrics, I found a remnant of the pink on pink cotton jersey with the tropical motif. Iris wanted a swirly skirt and I drafted a pattern using a yardstick compass contraption. I used Burda 3152 for my own skirt. It is an extremely easy pull-on skirt that is snug through the hips with a slight trumpet flare at the knee. I've made it twice in drapey heavy rayon and soft cotton jersey and both look great. I trimmed this skirt hem with some dark fuchsia sueded rayon leftover from another sewing project. Recycling fabric makes me feel so virtuous.

I knitted the sweaters from Cotton Ease that I stashed when the yarn was discontinued. Knitting from the stash makes me feel doubly virtuous.

I've been thinking about times that I was inspired by the designs of others. I create my own versions, tweaking the design to suit me. Take the two tank sweaters above.

I was inspired by a lace tank pictured in the Patternworks catalog. I had no intention of buying the pattern book for just one lace motif. Besides, the pattern book was written specifically for the gauge of a yarn I wasn't going to use. I cast on a swatch and was able to replicate the rib and lace motif.

I also own a copy of Mags Kandis' "In Living Color" pattern book for 1812 cotton which contained a pattern for a two-toned tank (Dee). I had two colors of pink Cotton Ease which knits up at a similiar gauge. I cast on for the right number of rib and lace repeats for my hip measurement and started knitting upward in the round. Just before I hit the armhole shaping, I switched to the lighter color. At the armhole shaping, I separated the front and back and continued knitting upward. I liked the neckline of Dee, but thought it would be fun to make the tank reversible. So one side has a rounded neckline and the other has a squared neck.

Then Iris clamored for her own sweater. I cast on a fewer number of rib and lace repeats and gave her a boatneck.

So I copy, too. We all do, whether consciously or unconsciously. When people ask me about my creations, I always attribute the design inspiration. I draw the line at publishing a pattern that is a knock-off of someone else's design and passing it off as your own work. Was Vladimir Teriokhin aware of the Alexander McQeen cabled coat? I have no idea.

Inspiration or Plagiarism?

When does inspiration cross the line into intellectual property theft? The holiday issue of Vogue Knitting shows the above cabled coat. It is a lovely coat but it looked familiar. Below is a scan of a photo of an Alexander McQueen cabled coat from the trend report of the Fall issue of Vogue Knitting. The copy replaced part of the 1x1 ribbing of the original with garter stitch ribbing. Nevertheless the similiarity is striking. Would you be upset if you were Alexander McQueen?

Cabled Cardigan Update
The scarf collar portion is 33" long now. Unfortunately, I may run out of yarn before the requisite 54". I bought only 5 100g balls of Patons Classic Wool in Grey Mix because I had originally intended to use a coordinating silk tussah yarn for the scarf portion. I used up 3 2/3 balls for the body and sleeves. The first 29" of the cabled scarf ate up the last whole ball. I don't know how much length I can eke out of the last 1/3 of a ball.

I went back to the store three times to look for more with no luck. Each time, they have plenty of the dark grey but the light grey bin is always empty! (I go to physical therapy 2-3x weekly and pass the store on the way home.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Four-day Birthday Weekend Extravaganza

Iris wrapped up her four-day birthday weekend extravaganza with a trip to Disneyland on Sunday. She loves the place and was especially happy that I was able to go with her for the first time in 3 years. (I had been too sick to accompany her and Mark earlier and it will be too dangerous for me once I start on some medicine next month.)

Mark and I also have a fondness of Disneyland. It is partly childhood nostalgia and part awe. Disneyland is a marvel of operations research and systems engineering. Compare it to glitches common in other theme parks with only a fraction of the crowd size.

You know you are in a highly controlled environment from the moment you enter the parking structure and you are given NO CHOICE about parking space. You give up some freedom, but the parking system improves safety and always allows you to always find your car. Just tell any "cast member" what time you arrived at the park and they will drive you to the row that was filled in the parking structure at that time.

Iris coined the phrase, four-day birthday weekend extravaganza. As she sees it,
  1. Thursday, her PT nanny (and FT college student) took her to watch the sunset and eat dinner on the pier. Her parents got to go on their weekly date night and watch a movie.
  2. Friday, she was taken out of school early and taken on a lovely drive to a beautiful hotel. The only down side to that day was the lack of a birthday cake on her real birthdate.
  3. Saturday, she saw a rocket launch-a huge birthday candle in the predawn sky. She also got a slice of birthday cake from the bakery.
  4. Sunday, she went to Disneyland and they gave her a birthday button which entitled her to a free ice cream sundae with a candle and a song at lunch and birthday greetings from many "cast members" throughout the day.

Knitting Content

All that driving gave me lots of car knitting time. The scarf front is 20" long.

Election Day

While at my daughter's soccer game, one of the dads asked me, "The ozone hole, are you for it or against it?"

"I am not for it or against it. It just is."

"You mean it is real?"


"How long have we known that?"

"20 years."

Sometimes, it irks me that his vote counts just as much as mine. On the other hand, I realize that I am fortunate to live in a country where women can vote.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Take your daughter to work a bit early

Badmom (and dad) pulled Iris out of school early to drive up the coast before the Friday afternoon traffic started on the 405 over Sepulveda pass. We tried to put her to bed early at the hotel, but she refused to cooperate. Then we hauled her out of bed at 3:45 AM and made her sit on cold metal bleachers. Why?

We have liftoff. The rocket is the bright spot on the right of the corkscrew contrail.

The early morning sunlight hit the upper portion of the contrail first and made it glow relative to the lower contrail below.

It was the prettiest launch I have ever seen. Usually, we watch the rocket for a few seconds before it hits the stratus deck and see nothing but a diffuse glow after that. Today, we saw everything.

Read more about it here. I made a 3 minute video of the launch, but it is 19 MB and I haven't mastered imovie or youtube yet.

Then we went back to the hotel for breakfast and checkout. On the way home, we stopped in Solvang to buy some birthday cake at Solvang bakery and to buy some needle-felting supplies at Village Spinning and Weaving. We got home with just enough time to eat lunch and rush out to Iris' last regular season soccer game.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Math Intuition

I always bite my tongue when people say that they are bad at math because they are intuitive by nature. How do they think that the breakthroughs in math are achieved?

This actually happened at dinner last night. The three of us were sitting around, eating and talking with our mouths full (because we were in our private home and not out in public). Iris talked about her upcoming birthday and how she would be SIX.

I asked, "do you know what the factors of 6 are?" and proceeded to tell her that the factors of a number are all the numbers that can be multiplied to make a given number. I gave the factors of 12 and 4 as examples and asked her to tell me the factors of 6.

She got them right. Then she stated, "I know the factors of zero."


"Yes, the factors of zero are every number because every number multiplied by zero is zero!"

She further mused, "Are the negative numbers also factors of zero?"

Wow. 6 years ago, I became a mother to this wonder.

Ask Dr. Math explains the factors of zero in further detail.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Business Travel for Moms

I read in Working Mothers Find Some Peace on the Road how business travel is a guilty pleasure for moms. We get to read, network, eat long meals out and even squeeze in bubble baths and spa treatments! Well, not quite. The article did mention that mothers travel less than fathers and also spend more time preparing the home front before leaving. Even astronauts are not exempt from this last minute dash to prepare the home for their absence.

I have written about business trips repeatedly (e.g. here, here, here and in Mommy don't go). Additionally, I am the woman who worries about everything. I stress about my contribution to climate change every time I get on an airplane. (The impact of airplane travel on climate change has even been getting coverage in the popular press and is the the subject of a humorous ad campaign.)

I am definitely ambivalent about business travel. On the one hand, I enjoy travel and discussions with colleagues. On the other hand, I worry about what I might miss at home. When my daughter took her first steps, I was at a business meeting 1000 miles away and my husband was at a meeting 2500 miles away. Her grandparents called my cell phone and said, "she's walking!".

My heart sank. Iris didn't get the memo about how her mother is supposed to witness the first tentative steps. I left the meeting and flew home early, hoping to catch a glimpse of her first unsteady steps. No such luck. She has always had amazingly good balance. When I got home the next night, I watched her take 23 steps in a row. She might have gone even further, but she came to a wall and didn't know how to turn around on 2 legs yet.

One solution is to bring your family along. But business travel with children is stressful. One is always torn between spending time with colleagues and time with family. I try to go out alone for the first part of the trip. Then Mark and Iris can join me near the end of the meetings. We did this on my last trip to Europe.

As I passed through security at the international terminal at LAX, I noticed how the only ones travelling alone appeared to be males. The women all seemed to be travelling with family or friends. Momentarily, I felt profoundly lonely. Then I realized I belonged to an elite sorority. How many women on earth will ever travel by jet? How many have careers that take them around the world? How many are the mother of the most wondrous child in the world in her age category? Plus, one can read an entire novel uninterrupted on an inter-continental flight.