Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Omigod, it rained today!

OK, the sky really just spit a little bit today. I actually heard thunder just now. Who said weather in LA was boring? I know this is not big news to people who actually experience weather where they live. But, what else do I have to blog about? The Chandler dysfunctional family and the fate of the LATimes?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Home from Camp, II

This was our home away from home the past week.

It seemed like the laundry would never end. I also visited 4 doctors today for followup care for my illnesses which flared up last week. It appears that my medical disability period will need to be extended.

Before I lost vision in my left eye, this was the view that awaited me every morning as I stepped out of the cabin. Not a bad place to sit and knit, non?

As mountain biking and hiking were out of the question, I had plenty of time to finish the swirled pentagon pullover sweater which I have renamed (drumroll) Plum Blossom. Mark said that this sweater would be a really good seller at the pentagon gift shop. But that pentagon has linear forms. These are curvy and reminded me of fruit blossoms. The color is just right for plum blossoms.

Here is a closeup of the yoke

and this is the back, showing the waist shaping.

I did not find any additional errors in the pattern . It was really a fun and challenging design. Like Grumperina, I thought the sweater came together really well.

I tweaked the pattern slightly.
  1. I used a different yarn which yielded a looser gauge. I compensated by following knitting instructions for a petite size body and yoke and a small size sleeve.
  2. I added waist shaping, making 4 decreases/increases every 6 rows 5 times.
  3. This one is a biggie. I translated the instructions for knitting the sweater in the round. I joined the sleeves and the body at the underarm as in a traditional yoked sweater. After 8 rows, I divided up the knitting in 2 parts, left and right side. After binding off the last of the body stitches (row 26 after joining), I finished the sleeve (39 rows after joining).
  4. I made the decreases decorative, like the ones I learned in making this cardigan.
  5. If I were to make the sweater again, I would have made the sleeve cap about 2 rows shorter. Your row gauge may be different than mine, but I think the fit of my sweater would have been improved without the very slight wrinkle at the sleeve cap.
  6. I omitted the turtleneck.
  7. I did not fasten off the half pentagon at the back neck until there were 2 stitches in each section. (The pattern said 6 stitches.)
I bought the yarn at the Gardena Marukai 98 cents store for 98 cents a 50 g ball. The label said it is 100% Peruvian cotton, manufactured in Japan. I bought 14 balls and used 12. The yarn sure is soft to wear and washes well. I did not find the yarn in the Torrance Marukai store (but found some sushi-shaped candles which were not available in Gardena). Did anyone find the yarn at the Marukai stores in Hawaii? I would love to get more, but can't find any more in Los Angeles.
keywords: knitting nature, swirled pentagon pullover, lair of the golden bear, Norah Gaughan

Links: see the completed yoke, before sewing to the sweater body.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Back from Camp

We returned last night from the Lair of the Golden Bear family camp. Following Pat's example, I make one tile each year to commemorate the visit. Last year's tile looks like this.

Here is this year's tile.

While there is an official Lair packing list, it leaves out some crucial information. How were newcomers to know that they should bring wine and cheese for cocktail hour (from 5pm till the dinner bell)? Or that food must be kept in sealed, squirrel-proof plastic bins? So here is our family's list.

Lair Packing List

• Twin sheets for cots
• Sleeping bags
• Towels: beach, bath, hand, washcloths

Things for keeping warm:
• Heating pad
• Electric blanket
• Comforter to throw on over sleeping bag

Clothing: (Dress in layers that can be peeled off)
• Hats
• Swimsuits
• Cover-ups
• Swim goggles
• Long underwear (good also for pjs)
• Sweatpants for pulling on over shorts or long underwear (2)
• Hiking shoes and socks
• Mountain biking clothes and shoes
• Anorak for wind or rain
• Polarfleece jacket
• Sweater or sweatshirt
• Sun blocking shirts, shorts, pants
• T-necks and t-shirts

General Organization: (most cabins have shelves)
• Keep clothes in clear plastic bins (66 Qt Sterilite fits under most cots), 1 per camper
• Extra plastic bins for food (to keep critters out)
• Sports equipment, 1 bin per sport
• IKEA Komplement folding drawer organizers (great for corralling odds and ends on shelves)

Home Comforts:
• Stacking plastic tables
• kids chairs
• Folding camp chairs (not needed at Oski)
• Folding table
• Clamp-on shop lights with fluorescent bulbs
• Clothes line and pins
• Laundry detergent, 1 scoop/sandwich Ziploc, encased in larger Ziploc
• 1 flashlight/camper
• Walkie-talkies
• Extension cords
• Xmas lights
• Plastic bags for trash

First Aid:
• Sunscreen for face and body
• First aid kit
• Toiletry kits
• Ice bag
• Mosquito repellent

• Cocktail hour shareables
• Soda and juice boxes
• Snacks
• Trail food

Art and Leisure Supplies:
• Personal paint brushes (they supply cheap ones)
• Knitting or other handwork
• Old t-shirt or smock (throwing pottery is messy!)
• Books
• Journals and sketchbooks
• Camera

Friday, June 16, 2006

Goodie Bags and the Wealth of Nations

I stood in the party favor aisle at Party City and realized that the wealth of our nation is leaking away, one goodie bag at a time. All that useless stuff. All made in China. Our balance of trade, tipping ever further into the red. What are we doing?

Before that moment, I had resented goody bags only in a personal sort of way. What busy mother doesn’t resent having to assemble the goodie bags on top of everything else she has to do to ensure that her child has the perfect birthday party? (Let’s not even get started on why mothers instead of fathers are stuck with this task.)

Last weekend, Iris and I watched a 20 year old VHS tape of The Bernstein Bears Forget Their Manners. At the end of the party, each bear was expected to take exactly one favor from the single goodie bag as they left the party. So it is not my imagination. They have upped the ante. The individual goodie bag full of multiple useless trinkets is a recent phenomenon.

When Iris and I returned from a recent birthday party, I was upset to discover that she had already broken one of her goodie bag toys on the way home. When I asked her how she could be so careless, she replied, “It’s only a goodie bag toy. They break.”

If the toys are cheap and break easily, and the kids don’t care about them, then why are we still handing them out?

I spend the bulk of my time between LA airport and LA Harbor. I had another epiphany while driving on that stretch of the I-405 freeway. All those trucks laden with shipping containers coming from the harbor freeway are full of goody bag toys. While that may be an exaggeration, one has to ask if Americans really need as many things as we have. Why else would closet organization be such a growth industry? Why are low prices so important if we already have too much stuff?

Let’s start small. It’s time for détente between mothers. Just say no to goodie bags! Our nation’s balance of trade will thank us.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Missing Butterflies

Angels and Vagabonds mentioned how butterflies are disappearing from urban backyards. It made me realize how few butterflies I have seen lately compared to my childhood. I looked out the window this afternoon and spotted one.

I grabbed my camera and went outside to capture this rare event. Then I noticed another butterfly species.

Yet a third type of butterfly appeared as if on cue. Alas, it was too small and quick to be captured by my camera.

Perhaps this abundance of butterflies is due to our lack of vigilance against snails, slugs and other garden pests.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tae Kwon Do Class

Iris had her last Tae Kwon Do class for the school year today.
Here is the start of her lethal scissor kick. If you think about where the round house kick of a 5 year old lands, you will understand her lethality.

Here is her teacher, Anton Kasabov, demonstrating how they should break the board. (Look at the gorgeous jacaranda in the background.)

Notice he drew a target to teach the kids where to aim. In class, he often talks about how they need to focus on beating the 'bad guy'. I fail to understand why the bad guy is represented by a smiley face.

keywords: Iris, Tae Kwon Do

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Making Progress

Making the yoke of the sweater was fiddly, but never boring. Making the body of the sweater is simple, but boring. SNORE. The body is 6" long and I am done decreasing for the waist shaping. Another 1.5" and I can start increasing. I intend to shorten the sweater and shape for the armholes at 14". At least it is good movie watching knitting.

I found this note from Iris at the bottom of the staircase. I think that she dropped that note from upstairs to tell her dad that we were making good progress on sorting and cleaning out our files and then transferring them into our new, sturdier file cabinets. It was a big, two-day job. Iris was surprisingly helpful. She loved feeding the unneeded papers into the shredder.

Some people have remarked upon her creative spelling. I have been known to mark down lab reports for bad spelling and grammer, even as the students protested that spelling shouldn't matter in a science class. However, those were college students. Iris is 5.5 years old and I will not be correcting her spelling for another couple of years. Right now, I treasure every little note she leaves me.

keywords: Knitting Nature, Norah Gaughan, Swirled Pentagon Pullover, Iris

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The view from my window

If you see a purple haze over the LA basin in June, it might be Jacaranda season. Or it might be smog or a linear combination of the two.

Mark is intrigued by the view from my window series on Andrew Sullivan's blog so here is the view from our bedroom.

I am especially fond of this tree in our neighborhood. I find myself taking a detour to pass by it as often as I can in June.

Mark informed me this morning that the biggest threat to our marriage is gay marriage! And to think all this time I thought it was division of housework.

keyword: LA, neighborhood, garden

Monday, June 05, 2006

25 Years

The media is full of stories about the 25th anniversary of when AIDS was first written up in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

I first learned of AIDS before it had a name. (I grew up in a suburb of San Francisco.) One of my high school English teachers, an ex-Marine, was rumoured to be gay. He was also rumoured to live with another male English teacher. I remember him for several reasons.
  1. He was very muscular.
  2. He was very strict with students.
  3. He loved the novel, Moby Dick and spent en entire quarter teaching us to really appreciate that novel. To this day, I cannot look at a mandala without thinking of him and Moby Dick.
  4. He gave hard tests. Once, when someone stole his exam from a locked file cabinet in the classroom, he pretended not to notice. Then he gave a different and incredibly tough exam on which I scored only 1 or 2 right answers.
  5. I was so scared of writing essays for him, that I procrastinated and missed a deadline once. I owned up to him and met with him with my notes for the essay. He reminded me that his penalty for late essays was one letter grade per week of tardiness. I told him that I knew, but I needed help pulling my ideas together. We sat down and worked on it. I went to the library and made draft after draft. I figured I was going to lose a grade anyway and poured a whole week into it. When he graded it and returned it to me, I was shocked to see that he gave me a B+. He wrote on it that I should have started working on my essay earlier.
The next year, he was hospitalized with a mysterious illness. The doctors had asked him if he had ever been to Egypt. I later learned that Kaposi's sarcoma, a cancer that afflicts AIDS patients, had previously rarely been seen outside of Egypt.

When I was an exchange student in Germany the following summer, my host father read about the disease. He told me that there was a disease that was killing all the bad people in my country. They should import it into Germany.

I thought about my English teacher. I became very angry. The sum of someone's life is not how they died, but everything they did in their lifetime.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Unseasonable Lushness

We got some unseasonably late rainfall May 22 and we rented a convertible the a week later. We drove through Malibu and Latigo canyon to Agoura Hills on a beautiful, cloudless and fogless afternoon. Can this be late May? It looks more like March.

The next day, we drove south around the Palos Verdes peninsula. You can see the Hollywood Riviera in the distance. It is usually browning by now.

keywords: LA, weather

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Completed Yoke

I joined the Knitting Nature Knit-Along. I enjoy watching others' progress. But I noticed that everyone is struggling with typos in the patterns. It does not appear that there are any entirely correct patterns in the entire book.

I found another typo in the instructions for the final half pentagon. It said to continue in 2x2 rib when it should have said 1x1 rib.

Here is the back of the yoke, with the half pentagon filling the center back gap.

The instructions said to fasten off when there were 6 or 7 stitches on each DP needle. I waited until there were 2 or 3 stitches on each needle (and I used a single circular needle with markers instead). I plan to leave the yoke as is, without adding the 2x2 rib portion. I live in LA after all and we don't have turtleneck weather very often.

A gratuitous shot of the front of the yoke.

The yoke came together fairly well. There are very slight volcanos at the centers of the pentagons. (Volcano is a technical term in quilting when your lone star doesn't come out quite flat.) Hopefully, they will disappear when the rest of the sweater is attached.

If I had it to do over again, I would have started the ribbing k1,p1,k1...p1. Then, I would have decreased at the beginning of each section with a ssk instead of decreasing at the end of the sections with k2tog. I am working with 100% cotton yarn and I find that ssk stretches the yarn out less than k2tog. Hopefully, this will be less noticeable after the first time I wash the sweater. The pentagons would swirl in the opposite direction but the overall effect should be the same as long as they all swirled in the same direction.

keywords: Knitting Nature, Norah Gaughan, Swirled Pentagon Pullover, pattern errors.

links: see the completed sweater at Home From Camp II

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Pink Swirling Pentagons

[Only 2 of the 4 pentagons completed so far fit on my flatbed scanner.]

I became obsessed with the swirly pentagons in the bookstore and started a swatch right away. You can read about my gauge trials ad nauseum here. Fortunately, after some sleep, my gauge problem corrected itself. I had miscounted the number of stitches.

Anyhow, the doubled pink yarn gives me 17 sts/4" and 20 sts per side of the pentagon gives me the right size pentagon for a size S. Because my gauge is slightly bigger than the yarn used in the book, I will use the directions for XS which will (hopefully) make a Small sweater.

Since I fell in love with the pentagons, I am knitting them first. (It's also because I saw Grumperina's pictures. The thought of turning the whole sweater round and round and round just made me feel tired.) After I knit the yoke, I plan to knit the body and sleeves in the round from the bottom, join them at the underarm, and continue knitting until I get to the yoke. I haven't decided yet whether to graft the live stitches to the cast on edges of the yoke or to bind off the body and sleeve stitches. Anybody have thoughts on this approach?

Knitting 1x1 rib in the cabled cotton yarn is hard on my hands and wrists. I can make about 2 pentagons a day before it starts to hurt. Maybe I will start on a sleeve and finish the rest of the pentagons another day.

Like Christine, I had difficulty figuring out the best way to knit these units. I tried magic loop with one circular (click for result) , 6 double pointed needles and finally settled on knitting with two cirulars. As I worked inwards, the dangling ends of the circulars became more and more awkward. But they still beat the DPNs falling out everywhere, dropping stitches. Magic loop worked well on the outer part of the pentagon, but became unwieldy towards the middle.

keywords: Knitting Nature, Norah Gaughan, Swirled Pentagon Pullover

Neighborhood Errands

This morning, after a doctor's appointment, I dropped off a bag of surplus goods culled from our house at Goodwill. I also bought some vegetables at the Lebanese vegetable market next door to Goodwill. Then I bought some picture hangers at Kurt's Hardware, where I was helped by the proprieter himself, Dick. Where else can you walk into a hardware store and get helped by someone with an engineering degree from Caltech? We just love this neighborhood.

keywords: LA, neighborhood, shopping