Monday, May 29, 2006

Swirling Pentagon

I bought Knitting Nature last Friday and cast on for a swirling pentagon right away. Upon closer inspection at home, I found that this book is rife with typos. For example, on page 47, it says to use size 8 needles to achieve a 18x25 gauge in stockinette for the body, a size 6 needle for the 1x1 rib at the cuffs and hem, and a size 9 needle for the 1x1 rib in the swirling pentagons. Look at the volcano on Grumperina's initial attempt when she followed the instructions. I agree with her that the size 9 should have read size 6. Her finished sweater looks fantastic.

I made test swatches with some 98 cent yarn from Marukai Marketplace. The wrapper says 100% peruvian cotton made in Japan. I got 18 sts per 4" in stockinette with size 6 needles and a pentagon with 20 sts and size 5 needles measured 6 1/4" tall. It looked like I could make the 40" size (small) with this yarn if I cast on 22 sts per side for the pentagon. I went back to the store for more yarn.

They didn't have the same color, but I bought 14 balls of a lovely orchid pink color instead. I was about halfway through the pentagon when I realized that the pink yarn is considerably thinner than the taupe yarn. I tried doubling the yarn and the gauge came to 16 sts per 4". This sweater is not in my immediate future.

I was also interested in making the Mosaic Shrug on page 64. The instructions don't make any sense. If you want to make a pentagon, why would you cast on 80 stitches onto 4 needles and then work the decrease rows? The instructions for the decrease rows say to [k2tog, k to 2 sts before end of needle, ssk] 5 times!

Does anyone know if there is an errata for the book posted on the web yet? The designs are so lovely. I wish they had taken a little bit more time to copy edit the book.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shibori Slideshow

Last week, I attended a shibori workshop taught by Joy-Lily. We wrapped the silk scarves around cylindrical objects. As you can see, a Trader Joe's coffee can works quite well. We tied the scarves with crochet thread and painted diluted Procion H dyes on the scarves and string. (The dyed string makes interesting designs when reused later on another scarf.)

When the scarf is untied, it looks a bit like a sea-shell. This one is a chevron pleat design.

The scarves air-curing in the laundry room.

A close-up of the sampler scarf I made in class first.

The clothesline with shibori and Devore satin scarves I dyed in Procion MX and white vinegar on my own at home.

[The corn and tomatoes have grown somewhat since I took the picture. We do use a clothesline in the big, bad city. We have never lost any clothing from the line, though a neighbor did leave throw his surf towel on our line when he tossed it on the fence to dry.]

More Shibori adventures here and here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bicycle Commuting and Bike-to-Work Challenge

Today's LA Times has several articles about bicycle commuting in the health section. Our cycling club member and acting president, Dan Gutierrez, is even quoted on the front page of the section.

Click here for the LA Times' list of tips and resources. If you work in the El Segundo employment center (along with over 100,000 people), and you would like to try bicycle commuting, contact our bicycle club. One of our 'bike buddies' volunteers will assist you in choosing equipment and routes. We will try to find someone to ride the route with you your first day or so. Sometimes, people will want to try riding in for the first time on a weekend before tackling the ride on a weekday. That's okay, too. Our volunteers need the exercise.

It was great to read about the Bike-to-Work Challenge. When I first moved from Boulder to LA and tried to explain the contest to a room full of the commuter services coordinators of the large employers in El Segundo, I got many blank looks. 7 years later, it is the highlight of the week.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Suppose you are trying to live a low carbon lifestyle by living in a moderately dense urban infill neighborhood close to work, play and public transportation. You have neighbors within 10-20 feet in all directions and not much vegetation to absorb the echoing noise.

Wouldn't it be neighborly to keep noise to a minimum? That way, more people could learn how easy it is to live a low carbon lifestyle. There would be less incentive for people to move to sprawling suburbs. The new urbanist utopia!

Why then, does my neighbor allow his son to hold band practice in the garage ALL WEEKEND LONG?

keyword: LA, neighborhood

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Tesla Outing

I took my recently completed Tesla top to the Getty Center in Brentwood yesterday.

I followed Kira's pattern for the 38" size except that I started with more stitches and decreased to the proper stitch count at the waist. (I have a larger than average drop between hip and waist measurements and usually make this pattern change for knitting and sewing.) Like Claudia, I left the edges raw. I followed her advice to weave in the ends and then sew the little cotton flags to one another with sewing thread. The pattern warned not to use my 'good' scissors to cut the yarn. I used my wire cutters instead.

I am still on the fence about finishing the neck and sleeve openings with crochet and a firmer yarn. As you can see in the first photo, the shoulder straps became quite narrow after a time due to gravity and the loose structure of the fabric. I wonder if crochet can tighten up the neckline so that the shoulder straps are wider, like in Kira's version?

I used 4 balls of Tesla in color 01 but I have about a full ball left. I can find a use for the remainder, perhaps something like Airport.

I take back what I wrote earlier about how this is the easy way to knit with stainless steel. Knitting with Tesla is challenging, but not as hard on the hands as with wire. If you search this blog for wire, you can read the saga.

You may also want to read about Mardel's experiences knitting with Tesla.

Here is a close-up of the texture.

I went to the Getty with a friend to see the Robert Adams exhibit. Between the two of us, we were intimately familiar with all the areas (southern California, Colorado front range, Oregon coast) he chronicled in these photos. The exhibit was very worthwhile. We both thought it would have benefited from the addition of more recent photos showing the accelerating degradation of these places.

Afterwards, we ate lunch at the cafeteria and strolled the gardens. How do I begin to describe the lusciousness of the garden? I took over 100 photos yesterday, mostly in the garden. Here is just an example of the gorgeous colors and textures. This is just the groundcover.

Friday, May 19, 2006

California Bike to Work Week

We wind up California Bike to Work Week with a photo of my two favorite bicycle commuters.

The first Japanese iris of the season bloomed at Chez BadMom. One Siberian iris beat this one by two weeks, but I was too ill and tired then to go get the camera.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Good News

My sister is back in her fiber groove (and at the helm) and blogging about it. Visit Fiber Musings to read more about knitting and sailing at the same time.

Size Matters III

We watched someone struggle to put a Graco stroller into the normally capacious trunk of a Toyota Camry. I remarked that cheap American (but manufactured in China) strollers are really expensive in the end because they force people to buy bigger cars. We actually know someone who traded her Honda Civic for a Volvo station wagon when she discovered her Graco did not fit in the Civic. (Graco even produces a stroller cobranded with Jeep!.)

Mark retorted that it was easier to engineer something big and dumb than to engineer something small. He further added it was lazy American engineering. Before you flame us, we mean that in a sad, embarrassed sort of way. We wish America produced better quality engineering. (Hell, we wish our nation produced something besides marketing!) Our nation should be able to do better.

Dumb-ass strollers lead to dumb-ass big American trucks used to transport strollers and their accompanying children. Well, big American asses also lead to big American trucks.

keywords: sociology, cars, strollers
links: Size Matters, Size Matters II

A Tale of Two Alices

Iris and I have been reading Alice Through the Looking Glass at night. If I do not fall asleep before her, I go to my room and read some more. My entire adult life, I have gotten Alice Adams and Alice Munro mixed up. They both are published by Knopf and in similiar literary magazines. They were similiar ages, and wrote short stories about domestic dramas. I can remember that I love the work of one and hate the work of the other. But I could not keep them straight.

Unfortunately, A comes before M in the alphabet and the fiction section and I found a posthumous collection of Adams' short stories first. Blech. Don't even bother. It took me only a couple of stories to remember why I hated the stories she wrote. What was her preoccupation with homosexual men about? Can't women live in SF and not obsess about it?

That reminded me to search for Alice Munro. Hey, even Jonathan Franzen loves her work. I read Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage and Runaway in rapid succession. Wow. Comparisons to O'Henry do not do Munro justice. JF is right to say that you shouldn't give away too much about short stories in the review. Short stories are much too succinct to take any of the element of discovery and surprise away from the reader.

But the one you want to read is Alice MUNRO.

keyword: reading

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Happy Mothers' Day

keywords: mom, Iris, modern motherhood

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Be careful what you say to your kids

When we moved Iris from a daycare center to a preschool, she noticed that some of the other kids were picked up much earlier than she was. She discovered the creature called a ‘stay at home mom’ (SAHM). She asked me why I went to work instead of being a SAHM. Rushed as I usually am, I quipped it was because her daddy didn’t earn enough for me to stay at home.

Another day, soon after that conversation, she told me that she wanted me to go back to the daddy store and get a rich one.

Changing tactics, I told her that I also worked because I enjoy my work. I went to her classroom and told the kids about weather satellites, showed pretty satellite pictures and then topped it off with a NASA video of the Terra launch and deployment. [Satellite deployments are mesmerizing as the parts unfurl from the rocket casing-- like a flower emerging from a bud.] Thereafter, Iris gained cachet for having a ‘space’ mom and I thought the situation had been defused.

A few months later, she got mad about something and exploded. She went on about SAHMs again. I asked her why life with a SAHM would be so much better. She said that SAHMs pick up their kids right after class and take them home to bake cookies. She added, “All you do is go to work and launch satellites.”

What did I do? I bought a whole bunch of cookie cutters which were used exactly once.

I related this story to a coworker whose kids have all grown up and been successfully launched. He said that Iris is remarkably prescient in knowing that a satellite launch requires the work of thousands of people while cookie baking can only be done by the mommy and child.

We didn’t even eat most of the cookies we baked. I guess they were wrong for our household. But I did buy some rice ball presses. We had so much fun with those, we are inviting some other kids whose mommies (and daddies) have to work late tomorrow to come over to make rice balls with Iris and myself. Time permitting, we might even make some melt and pour soaps for Mothers’ Day.

Keywords: Iris, modern motherhood

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bad Neighbors

Why do some people treat other people's gardens as their personal private "cutting garden"?

I came home one day to discover a woman in my front yard, inside the fence, with a bag and clippers cutting hydrangeas from my bushes. When caught red-handed, she said that I wasn't home to ask and she didn't think I would mind. I told her that I did mind and to stay out of my yard.

I fight a losing battle with a teen-aged girl in the apartments across the street. She picks flowers as she walks, then tosses them on the ground when she gets tired of carrying them. She knows it is wrong because, when I am out gardening, she picks my next door neighbors' flowers. When my neighbor is out gardening, she picks only my flowers. Once, I told her to stop when she was picking my next door neighbors' flowers and she quipped back that I should mind my own business.

My neighbor said that she told the girl to stop picking my flowers in the presence of her grandmother. The grandmother than yelled at my neighbor that she shouldn't talk to children like that. The grandmother added that, "Flowers are for the people."

I should mention that gardens are very small in coastal LA because of the astronomical cost of land. Coastal fog, strong ocean breezes. lack of sunlight due to closely packed buildings and sandy soil also present gardening challenges. Each flower is tended and eagerly awaited at Chez BadMom. Look at the Lily of the Nile above. Notice that you see buds but no flowers. Here is a close-up.

The roses are apparently safer from opportunists because of their thorns. Some Gerbera daisies last year did not fare so well. They were denuded less than 2 hours after they were planted.

Anyway, I put up this sign and hope it will help. I will not tolerate creeping socialism when it comes to MY flowers.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Comedienne in the Family

Iris was crushed when another little girl told her that she was not funny. I beg to differ.

When she was 3 years old, we took her to the Beyond Geometry exhibit at LACMA. After seeing the Robert Morris’ Hanging Slab (cloud), we encountered the untitled white box sitting on the floor. Ever the eager meteorology teacher, I said, “Sometimes the cloud sits on the ground. Do you know what we call clouds sitting on the ground? Fog.”

Not skipping a beat, she replied, “Sometimes, the white boxes on the ground are really, really long. Do you know what we call them? Sidewalks.”

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


The topic of today's Daily Candy LA is new traffic lexicon.
Ped X-ing
v. Treating those who walk like they are second-class citizens.
Link: Nobody walks in LA

Monday, May 01, 2006


I witnessed history and I was too dumb to even know it. I worked one summer in the early eighties at a computer software company that made software to program playlists for FM radio stations. The algorithm was really hush-hush. It was a small company struggling against 2 other larger companies with competing algorithms. I have no idea who won, but FM radio is the poorer for the change from disc jockeys who played the music they loved to computer algorithms playing what was expected. Even the latter is preferable to stations playing what the studios pay them to play.

How refreshing it was to read this article today. How sad to find out the rarity of this type of station.