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.