Sunday, July 30, 2006

LA had weather and I missed it

Several years ago, I attended an American Meteorological Society meeting mixer. Our nametags give our names and hometowns (usually our work hometowns). Mine said Los Angeles. I overheard lots of comments along the lines of, "Florida, wow! Hurricanes!"; "Oklahoma, awesome! Tornadoes!" When people saw my nametag, they said, "I am so sorry."

There is even a movie about the lack of weather in LA.

So I left town and what happened? My husband told me I missed the best thunderstorm and lightning show in years. Then it rained HARD at our house. See the history here. See what caused it here. (scroll down to Emelia)

At least Iris and I got to witness some weather events in Colorado. Rain is such an unusual event for her, that she breaks out in "Singing in the Rain" and imitates Gene Kelly whenever she experiences it. This kid seriously needs an agent.

Friday, July 28, 2006

First Race!

Iris competed in her first footrace, the West End 3k, yesterday. I was so proud. She chose a tough one for a beginner. Boulder is at about 5340 feet above sea level, where we live. The weather was sunny, dry and hot (over 90 F). She said she knew she wasn't going to win, coming from sea level, but she just didn't want to come in last. She did great as you can see from the results. Notice how respectably she placed amongst the 5 year olds. She is also the only entrant from sea level.

It was the first time I actually watched her run a long distance (not across a playground or down the driveway). She has excellent form with no discernible bounce, almost no motion above the waist and a long stride. I asked her who taught her how to do that. She said that is just how she runs. She is a natural. Did I mention how proud I am of her?

I forgot to pack my camera. Otherwise, I would post lots of pictures of spectacular scenery and wildflowers.

Digression: The race started at the west end of the Pearl Street Mall and went westward to the roundabout at 4th and Pearl. My baby ran right by my old grad school apartment at 4th and Pearl! Of course, the area was not so ritzy back then. As my old roommate (a human geography grad student) put it, graduate students are the shock troops of gentrification. (My apologies to Margaret Atwood who wrote first in Cat's Cradle that artists are the shock troops of gentrification.) When we first moved there, homeless people slept among the weeds that grew between the decrepit rental houses and apartment buildings. I awoke every morning to the sound and smell of a homeless man peeing on the tree outside my bedroom window.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Basalt Tank Progress Report

No one left a comment on how to proceed after the Basalt Tank Derailment. So I frogged back to the second eyelet row and continued in stockinette. I had about 12" of yarn left after completing the hexagon. I plowed ahead and picked up stitches for the side hexagons. I didn't really pick up stitches so much as liberate the provisional cast on from their crochet chain.

The huge savings in yarn when I used stockinette instead of garter for the second band in the hexagon made me stop and think. Less yarn means less weight and less hot. That should be good in a summer sweater. So I made the partial hexagons with stockinette centers as pictured in the book as well. I left the first green hexagon alone as basalt columns are not identical in nature anyway.

I decreased every 4th garter row and every 2nd or 3rd stockinette row. I think the formula was decreases on the 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 10th stockinette rows. That makes for fewer decreases on the purl side. The hexagons look pretty flat.

I am making the short version with some bottom trim to lengthen it slightly. I am also adding half hexagons to the top of both sides. This should make the tank fully reversible. Here is the side view.

I pinned the 4 hexagons to a tank top that fits nicely and measured how long the straps need to be (5 inches). I think 20 stretched stitches should give me about the right length strap. Garter stitch is very stretchy.

My main worry is that the tank is looking awfully wide. Even though my swatch hexagon came out 6 1/4 inches at the top and bottom, the thing measures 13 inches across. Go figure. The tank will be 3 hexagons in circumference which makes for a 39" chest instead of the 36" chest I was aiming for. I am not sure if it is because I used a provisional cast on instead of picking up stitches the way the pattern is written. Picking up stitches creates a little ridge which takes up some of the width.

I am too lazy to frog this anymore. I will just push onward and hope that blocking makes the tank narrower and longer. I might also try using fewer stitches across the top half hexagon to pull it in around the upper chest.

Keywords: Knitting Nature, Basalt Tank, Norah Gaughan, knitting

MPAA Rating and Parental Complacency

How does the MPAA come up with the ratings? They obviously are not familiar with the workings of the mind of my kid.

Take the movie, Camp, which is rated PG-13. Mark showed the movie to Iris when she was 3 because she was so fond of singing and dancing. He thought she would enjoy a movie about kids putting on a show.

Back in those days, she thought girls wore dresses and boys wore pants. When she asked me why one of the boys in the movie wore dresses, I explained that some boys like to wear dresses. They are called drag queens.

Shortly after her 4th birthday, we took her to see The Hoboken Chicken Emergency at the Theatre for Young Audiences in Orange County. At the intermission, we looked through the cast bios and we noted that the mutant chicken, Henrietta, was played by a man. In the second act, the slightly older child to Iris’ right pointed to Henrietta and referred to the chicken as she. Iris turned around and explained, “Actually, that’s a man in a girl costume. He’s a drag queen.” The people within earshot just bust out laughing.

All in all, Camp was fairly innocuous despite the PG-13 rating. YMMV.

Then we showed her Chicken Run which is rated PG so it should have been milder. You would think. But it is a chicken egg farm and eggs lead to chicks. The eggs were being collected to be eaten by people. As if that wasn’t traumatic enough, chickens that didn’t produce enough eggs were also being killed and stewed.

That led to discussions about whether, if left alone, the chicken eggs would hatch into little chicks. I told her, if the eggs were fertile, they could hatch. She said, “Oh, they are like fish. The girl fish lay the eggs and the boy fish swim over and fertilize the eggs.” I asked her how she learned that. She said that she saw it on the Discovery channel with her daddy.

Then she asked how come there was only one rooster and so many hens. I pointed out that another rooster joined the farm. She asked how one or two roosters can fertilize the eggs of so many hens. I did not want to discuss polygamy with my 4 year old. Then she wondered how the roosters can fertilize eggs with hard eggshells after they have been laid.

I tried to distract her by telling her about the insects that pollinated the flowers and vegetables in our garden. She kept going back to the chickens. I couldn’t believe that I was having a discussion about the birds and the bees with my 4 year old. It just wasn’t fair. I was supposed to have a few more years to warm up to this subject. I was going to play it cool and not slip into clichés about the birds and the bees. But there I was, talking about chickens and bees and flowers.

The moral of this story is that movies with milder MPAA ratings are not necessarily safer movies to show my kid. I might also add Discovery channel is not innocuous either.

While driving with a 3 year old Iris in 2004, she told me that, “Boys marry girls and girls marry boys, right?” I said that is usually right, but mommy is from San Francisco. In San Francisco, boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls. She went and related this to her entire preschool class. I got funny looks from the other parents for weeks.

To a 3 year old, marriage is about weddings and pouffy dresses. This conversation did not lead to a discussion about the birds and the bees.


Monday, July 17, 2006

Early Alarm

I woke up shortly after 4:00 AM to the sound of thunder. Around 4:30, we had brief but very heavy rain. I could not go back to sleep after that so I looked at the radar pictures. It was a very thin rainband which explains the brevity of the rain.

The rainband moved out toward the sea.

A glance at the GOES west IR image shows the summer monsoon snuck in from the southeast, hitting the desert first. This also happened in July 1997. Leave a comment if there was a similiar storm more recently.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Tie-dye Family

We had another tie-dye party yesterday. My dad and his friend came for a visit today and we wore our tie-dye proudly. First we ate dimsum at Regal Palace Seafood in Lomita, then we went to the Point Vicente Interpretive Center. We were very favorably impressed with the exhibits at the newly reopened center. That's the Point Vicente lighthouse behind us.

Here is the back of my T-shirt.

Here is a better shot of Mark and Iris in their new duds.

Some friends had a baby which means more onesies. Iris received some new underwear earlier this year. Each pack came with a few white ones which she refused to wear unless I tie-dyed them. So I tossed a pair of white undies into the ziploc bag with each onesie. The panties are placed next to their corresponding fraternal twin onesie.

The purple and fuchsia onesie on the left is my personal favorite but the blue and yellow swirl is a close second.

The mother of a recipient of an earlier batch of onesies told me that visual texture near the bottom was great. It helps camouflage diaper blowout accidents. So I got a little crazy with the scrunching and rubber bands near the bottoms.

The technical stuff:

I used the same dyes and solutions as last time. I bought a second, very informative book about tie-dye from Dharma Trading which explained how to achieve many new (to me) visual textures. I used the ying-yang twist on my t-shirt which was thrown into a ziploc bag with some soda ash solution (SAS) and Deep Purple dye. (The first book I bought about tie-dye was also very useful and I highly recommend it.)

The new book also showed how to achieve the crystal effect on Mark's shirt. I cheated a bit by stuffing the whole carefully scrunched shirt into the plastic shoe storage box instead of wrapping rubber bands to hold the scrunches in place. Then I poured Sapphire Blue, Emerald Green and Burgundy dye solution on the shirt, being careful not to overlap the colors. Next, I poured SAS into the box to just cover the shirt. Lastly, I put plastic wrap over the shirt and pressed down with my hand on the shirt. This made the solution and dyes rise and bleed together a bit.

For the onesies, from left to right:
  1. Lemon Yellow was splashed on selected portions and the whole thing went into a ziploc with SAS and Fuchsia Red dye.
  2. SAS and Fuchsia Red dye.
  3. Fuchsia Red dye was poured on one side of the fan folds, then the whole thing went into a ziploc with SAS and Deep Purple dye.
  4. Lemon Yellow and Sapphire Blue dye solutions were poured onto one half (180 degrees) of the swirled and rubber banded pancake. The whole thing went into a bag with SAS.
  5. Lemon Yellow was splashed on and the whole thing went into a bag with SAS and New Emerald Green dye.

The panties were just scrunched up and thrown in the baggies. They tended to come out a combination of the colors in their fraternal twin.

All the baggies and plastic shoeboxes were placed on a sunny flagstone patio to cure for 4 hours before rinsing and washing with synthrapol.

Have fun with your own tie-dye adventures.

keywords: tie-dye instructions, ziploc baggie dyeing instructions, Modern Motherhood

My vision is finally clearing up. The doctor says I can hope to be back at work in another week or two. Lying around in a darkened room, listening to books on tape, was getting a bit old. I did grow half an inch (according to the physician's assistant who measured me) from all the lying around in the past month.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Recycling Shipping Containers

Speaking of the afterlife of shipping containers, the LA Times published a story about a house made up of recycled shipping containers going up in my neighborhood. Click here to read it. The Pirkl shipping container house is very close to my favorite jacaranda tree so I have many reasons to visit that street.

While I am proud to live in a diverse neighborhood that is open to new housing concepts, I do have reservations about the house. My first reaction when I walked by was, "It is so BIG." The house volume is huge; it might be even taller than the McMansion next door to it.

This was once a single story neighborhood. The newer houses are two or two and a half stories tall. The newest houses also have soaring ceilings of 9 to 20 feet. 8 foot ceilings are not good enough anymore.

Our city's building code constrains the square footage of living space and the peak height, but there is no limit on building volume. The new houses have so much bulk, they are houses on steroids. Suddenly, the neighbors' homes and yards are thrown into shadow by someone else's need for bragging rights to the most headroom. (Let's not discuss the height of SUVs.)

The media helps fuel this frenzy. I lost track of the number of times I have read stories in the LA Times magazine about homes built on tiny lots in Venice with 10, 12, 14 and 20 foot ceilings. If you do the math, a 3000 sf house with 12 foot ceilings has the same volume as a 4500 sf house with 8 foot ceilings.

Low ceilings in new construction signal considerate, good neighbors.

Addendum: I read in the article that the containers were imported from Florida. What's wrong with using some of the shipping containers sitting in our backyard? Or rather, the backyards of some of our poorer neighbors in Wilmington?

keywords: neighborhood, neighbors, architecture, shipping containers

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Shipping Containers

In my little bubble world, I thought that shipping containers were something that merely clogged up the highways at inopportune times. I had never given any thought to what happens to all those shipping containers. I had assumed, that they were reused for shipping goods back and forth.

What happens, when the goods are shipped only one way? The shipping containers would be sent back empty for reuse. Surely they were too valuable to let pile up?

I was wrong. Read this article in the LATimes. The shipping containers are piled up in poor neighborhoods-sometimes stacked 7 high. The print version of the article has an accompanying graphic showing the number of incoming and outgoing shipping containers in Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors by year. (The graph is missing in from which is another good reason to subscribe to the hardcopy.) In essence, the graph shows the outgoing shipping containers remaining relatively constant, 2.4 million in 2005, while the incoming climbs relentlessly from 2.6 million in 1995 to 7.2 million in 2005.

earlier post: Goodie Bags and the Wealth of Nations

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Basalt Tank Derailment

I started the Basalt tank yesterday using stash yarns in Amish colors. I encountered several difficulties. These are the two hexagons I had intended to use for my center front and back.

I made the hexagons in the round. For the first hexagon, I used green yarn and the corrections posted by cmeknit but the hexagon puckered in the middle in an unattractive way. So I frogged it back to row 24 and made both garter stitch/eyelet sections the exact same way. I was happy with the result until I got to the inside stockinette section. The decreases were too frequent and caused puckering in the center.

I had previously made two other sweaters with equilateral triangles, but the decreases came at the rate of 6 stitches over 8 rows. Click here for a discussion about the correct decrease ratio for equilateral triangles. Click here for another discussion about the correct decrease ratio for right triangles.

Since I was knitting in the round, I placed paired decreases every 3rd row (6 decreases every 9 rows). The resultant green hexagon has a slight volcano which is barely noticeable. The hexagons in the photograph have not been blocked (just patted down a little bit for their photo op).

So, if I used 2 colors of the same yarn, Cascade Key Largo, then why do I have a small amount of the green yarn left over after completing the hexagon but ran out of the red yarn with 7 stitches remaining on each side?! If you read the label, they both are supposed to be 110 yards.

So I am at a crossroads. What should I do?

    1. Join a ball of dark berry colored yarn and pretend I planned a contrast section all along.

    2. Bind off and leave a peekaboo section in my midsection.

    3. Frog the whole thing and use it as a side 5/6 hexagon. (But this would put the red right next to the green and make a summer sweater look like Christmas.)

    4. Frog back to just after the second eyelet row and continue in stockinette until I run out of yarn. Stockinette would take less yarn than garter stitch and I might have enough yarn to knit the center completely in stockinette (or leave a smaller peekaboo section).

    5. Some other solution from the wisdom of the internet.

    Addendum for knitting these hexagons in the round

    The pattern was probably written for knitting back and forth to avoid the jog at the end of the rounds. See the mismatch at the change of rounds when switching from garter to stockinette?

    Here is what happens when I remembered to knit the first stitch of the round together with the stitch immediately underneath it. The garter purl ridge is lifted up just enough to meet the ridge at the end of the prior row. No jog!

    Pay no attention to the pink yarn. I was trying to avoid lumpy seams by using this nifty trick in Lucy Neatby's latest newsletter for crocheting a provisional cast on.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bye-bye Adele

I made Mark drive me to LACMA Thursday evening to see the
Klimt paintings before they left for New York. We arrived at 645 pm and waited in a line that stretched around the building. Iris was impatient, but we told her it was really important that we see those 5 paintings. By 7 pm, the staff told people not to bother getting in line as they were not likely to get in before the gallery closing at 8 pm.

Iris was bereft when she found out that the paintings were leaving forever. She blamed us for not bringing her to see them earlier. How could we give her only 10 minutes with her favorite painting in the whole wide world (Adele I) and then tell her that it was leaving forever in 2 days!

The gold portrait called Adele I was really stunning. I have never seen such a sumptious painting before. Photographs do not do it justice. The silver amid the gold just do not read in photographs of the painting. Iris and I also spent time admiring the color and composition of the later portrait called Adele II. Something about it reminds me of Matisse's the Girl with the Green Eyes. Note how both subjects face the viewer squarely and that the backgrounds are broken up by horizontal lines below the faces with off-center vertical lines below in both pictures. The top portion of both also contain asian motifs.

The next day, I had a cortisone injection in my L eye in the hopes of improving my vision. It was about as painful as it sounds, but it really did help. Maybe when I can see clearly again, our whole family can go to NYC to visit Adele I again. How was I to know that the painting Iris didn't even want to wait in line to see would be her all-time favorite piece of art?

Anyone know family-friendly and moderately-priced places to stay in NYC?

Keyword: art, modern motherhood, bad mom

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Translating a pattern for knitting in the round

tcknit asked how I translated the instructions for the swirled pentagon pullover for knitting in the round. There are many sources on the web, but here is how I did it.

Usually, one would leave out the seam stitches when knitting in the round. But I left them in because, in my gauge and with my body dimensions, I needed the extra room the seam stitches would provide.

My gauge was 17 sts/4 in instead of 18. I wanted to make a 40" circumference sweater so I needed about 170 stitches all around. I used the instructions for the petite size, 82+82 = 164 stitches, which should make a sweater that was 39". I cast on 164 stitches, worked the 1x1 rib for an inch, and then switched to stockinette, adding some waist shaping along the way.

I knew that I wanted my sleeve to be slightly wider than 12", so I used the instructions for the size small (40") sweater. I hoped that I could ease the excess stitches into the stretchy yoke without any dimples.

Choosing to work with the written instructions was more than laziness. I could have customized the stitch count more to get exactly the right size. But I am fallible and know from prior experience that I can get the stitch count confused at the armhole shaping. Working with the written pattern stitch count gave me a safety net in case I lost track.

So I knit the sleeves and body pretty much exactly the way it was written, (except for waist shaping). I placed my underarm increases 2 stitches on either side of the join. I placed my waist shaping darts 20 stitches on either side of the center front and back. I used markers for the center front and back, sides and waist darts for the body and at the join for the sleeve.

When I got to the underarm shaping area, I bound off 3 stitches on either side of the sleeve join and the body's "side seams". Then I joined all 3 pieces and placed markers where the seams would have been (round 1). Then I knitted one row even which is equivalent to BO 3 at the beginning of the next 2 rows.

Where it said BO 2 at the beginning of the next 2 rows, I decreased one stitch at each end of the section.

2 stitches from each "seam", I made decorative decreases, pairing the S1, K1, PSSO decrease and the KSP decrease described here.

On round 9, I divided for the center front and back Vs and knitted back and forth. Something I did not do, but should have done, was put the body join at a center front or back. That will make the conversion to the round easier. I placed the join at a side seam and the body and the sleeve row counts were offset by one for a little while. Not easy to keep track of.

I bound off the stitches at the top of the sleeve cap and the yoke as described in the pattern. I avoided the stair step by slipping the first stitch as described here (and in many other places).

Here is the armpit area of the sweater after I sewed the bound off edges together.

A view of the decorative decreases. It might have looked better if I made the decreases only 1 stitch in from the "seams". Oh, well.

I used only one strand of the pink yarn when sewing the yoke to the sweater. Notice how the sweater is "rowed out" at the top? It is more obvious from the inside.

That's why I knit the sweater in the round. When knitting back and forth with inelastic cotton yarn, I simply cannot make my rows even. The sample above was knit using combined knitting. With normal western purling, the difference would have been even greater.

keywords: knitting, sizing, knitting nature, norah gaughan, swirled pentagon pullover, plum blossom

Sizing Knitted Pentagons

I thought some people may be interested in how I sized the pentagons in plum blossom. I used a yarn with a slightly different gauge than called for in the pattern and had to make several changes. I started by swatching in both stockinette and 1x1 rib. Then I tried to find the number of stitches to cast on for a pentagon with the correct height (~6.5 inches for my size). Unfortunately, the schematic on page 48 only gave the height of the pentagon and not the length of each side.

I did some websurfing and found that the ratio of a pentagon's chord and it's side is the golden ratio. There are many proofs on the web. Here is one. But the height of a pentagon (which is given in the pattern schematic) is shorter than the chord. (A chord is a line connecting any two non-adjacent vertices of a pentagon.) I worked out a formula for calculating the length of a pentagon side as a function of the height using trigonometry. But, I can't find my calculations and this solution was much more elegant than mine.

If s is the length of a pentagon side and x is it's height, then
s = 0.65 x
x = 1.54 s
Plugging in the numbers from the schematics on page 52 and 64 ,which give the dimensions of both the pentagon heights and sides, showed that the formula is correct.

I wanted a 40" chest pullover which meant I needed a 6.5 inch high pentagon. That translates into a pentagon 4.25 inches long on each side. My swatch suggested that 20 stitches of 1x1 rib using my yarn and size 4 needles would work. I made a test pentagon, washed and dried it, and then measured it. It was just shy of 6.5 inches because the sides of the knitted pentagon are somewhat curved, not straight. Nevertheless, I plowed ahead with the rest of the pentagon yoke.

When I tried on the completed pentagon yoke, it was slightly too tight. I guessed that, once completed, the weight of the sweater body and sleeves would stretch out the yoke. That turned out to be correct. Whew!

Suppose you want to knit a pentagon using another stitch? The ratio of the sides to the height remains the same, whether you make the pentagons in stockinette, rib or garter stitch. The decrease ratio may need to be adjusted for the row gauge. Stockinette and rib have the same row gauge so decreasing one stitch per round (or two stiches every other round) gives pentagons with a slight volcano effect (protrusion in the middle) which blocks out flat. The book's instructions for the garter stitch pentagons in the mosaic pullover also decrease 2 stitches every other round and the pentagons appear flatter.

Still skeptical? Grumperina wanted to make a size petite sweater and used stockinette for her pentagons. She used 15 stitches on each side. If she achieved a perfect 4.5 sts/in gauge, then her pentagon had a side of 3.33 inches and a height of 5.13 inches which is pretty much dead on to the 5.25 height given in the schematic.

keywords: knitting, geometry, knitting nature, norah gaughan, swirled pentagon pullover, knitted pentagon