Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sticking the landing

Olympic Gold.

I did it. I finished this baby last night, in time to wear to Younger Daughter's school open house.
I think that one is closest of all to the color of this gorgeous yarn.

Project details: This is Anne's henley; the pattern isn't released yet, but I'll be sure to let you know when it is. It's knitted out of the absolutely gorgeous Grandma's Blessing that Chris sent to me; I love this color more every time I look at it. It's exactly the complex set of shades in the bark of a live oak tree. It's knitted on size four lace Addis, except the edging, which was knitted on size two Addis.

And here's the kicker. I cast on during the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, February 12, and sewed on the last button yesterday afternoon at 4:30, February 26. By my count, that's fourteen days. To knit an entire sweater. With lace. And cables. Craziness.
I think I really nailed the fit on this one. See that shoulder seam? It's sitting exactly where it ought to. (And as an aside, I think my seaming skills are getting better; not perfect, but definitely better enough that I'm willing to post a picture which focuses on a seam.)
Yup, just right. And it's tremendously comfortable. I'm wearing it over a t-shirt in these pictures, and have been all day; the yarn is soft enough that it's not been a problem at all. And the lace/cable combination is forgiving enough to have a lot of room for movement, so it's not at all tight, even though it's very fitted. I haven't blocked it yet (let's be honest, I haven't really taken it off except to sleep), but I think that I'd like to, as it'd help the button band to lie more nicely.

Things I've learned from taking on this crazy Olympic knitting insanity in the middle of a month full of deadlines at work:

1. It's a really really good thing that I can knit 2x2 cables without a cable needle, because this sweater has 2x2 cables every eight rows, and I never would have been able to finish this in time if I'd been mucking about with a cable needle.

2. When living cheek by jowl with a single knitting project every spare minute of every crammed-full day for two weeks, it really helps to absolutely madly adore the yarn and the pattern. I did, and so I still do. (Note: I have not declared that I can't bear to look at this thing again now that it's finished. I'm wearing it now, and have already begun to devise a way to wear it every day this week without looking like someone who's finally gone around the bend.)

3. My family is tremendously patient with my weird knitting obsession, and is willing to pick up a lot of extra slack around the house so I can knit madly whilst muttering to myself in a corner, so long as they know it's only for two weeks. (Note the second: We are all supportive of one another's obsessions; today we went to the beach with Rick so we could watch the tsunami come in. It was not particularly observable, involving less than a foot of amplitude difference, but the rain and wind certainly were observable. And wet. Nevertheless, it was exactly the kind of thing that charms the heck out of a hydrologist.)

Aside from those smaller things, though, I also really learned a lot about my own process when I have a lot to get done. These kinds of realizations, it seems to me, are some of the best things about getting older. I've read in many places that it takes at least ten years to truly master something, to really understand it, and to begin to make significant contributions to whatever field of knowledge it is that you've mastered. And given that none of us comes with an instruction book, or a preexisting academic literature, or a master from whom to learn, it seems to me that it's reasonable to expect that it'll take a bit longer than ten years for me to really start to be a mistress of the knowledge of myself. Maybe this is why women often say that they finally feel like they start to come into their own when they turn 40. Maybe it takes a good 15-20 years of adulthood to learn oneself. Or at least to start to know where the dark corners are, and to develop the clarity of sight that allows one to penetrate the gloom. Maybe it's just me.

Either way, my experiences of this past month reinforced something that I've long suspected about myself. I really can't be incredibly self-disciplined in more than two areas of my life at a time. And I appear to have a four-week limit on serious self-discipline if it's happening in two areas at once. By self-discipline, I don't mean getting to the usual day-to-day stuff, or even a big project or two; I mean the kind of thing where I have to do lots and lots of things that are hard for me, that I have to work to make myself do, that require effort for me to plan for and execute. But in this past month, I've had to prep two classes, help develop the fall schedule for linguistics, write an 8,000-word chapter, prepare and give a presentation, write a performance review letter, write three or four letters of recommendation for students, write a grant application, write a peer-review for a journal paper, help write and present a huge committee report, prepare a proposal for a special edition of a journal that I'm co-editing, and help plan for a huge teach-in and rally that we're hosting on campus next week. Not to mention the usual rote stuff: teaching and grading and dealing with student and colleague emails, and taking notes at meetings and preparing minutes, etc etc. Getting all of that done has meant that when I sit down at my desk in the morning, there has quite literally not been time to indulge in a little blog reading, or a little Dilbert laughter, or a little checking with the International Herald Tribune to see what's going on in the world. This whole month I've known that if I didn't get through the day's tasks before it was time to do the next day's tasks, the entire house of cards was going to come crashing down around my ears.

And on top of that, I knitted a sweater.

First of all, I realize that I said yes to all of these things myself. (Although I would note that it's not my fault that every single academic anybody seems to think that February is a great month for things to be due in -- everything from letters of recommendation to review committees to the fall schedule to book chapters all seem to come due in February; I'm not the only one who's noticed this, either, it's been a major topic of conversation in my hallway lately.) But the point I'm trying to make isn't that I need pity or anything, just that I can do all of that in a month. I totally can. I know, because I did.

But what I can't do, is do all of that and, for example, stick to, oh say, a diet (to pick something at random). I can eat well, but I can't lose weight during a time like that. Nope. Nor, apparently, can I lift weights. Because those things, for me, take effort to make myself do. And what I'm realizing is that I only have so much effort of that kind available to me. And now I'm kind of done for a while. I guess what I'm saying is that I need balance, and I am finding out how long I can be out of balance in one direction before I need to swing back, and how long that swing needs to be before the pendulum comes back to rest in the center.

Tonight, I'm going to celebrate the fact that I'm almost through with all of these deadlines, the fact that I have finally learned to schedule a break for myself after four weeks of being on top of everything, and the fact that I have a fabulous sweater to wear next week. I'm a little surprised I manged it, but very happy.
Now, where's my gold medal?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Hat trick

So I've learned a new phrase during these Olympics: hat trick*. And, now that I know what it means, I think that I can safely say that as of Sunday night, I'd completed my very own hat trick. One sweater back, one sweater front, and one sleeve. Three goals in one game! (Right?) It helps to think of these things as small discrete finish lines, you know?

And I'm on my way to the fourth finish line. Once again, PhotoBooth to the rescue, since I knitted all of this last night after dark, but at least there's evidence of progress. I have realized that the color in my last PhotoBooth shot (in the last post) is probably the closest I've come to capturing what it really looks like. And Alwen is absolutely right: it looks like the bark of an oak tree, all browns and greens and gnarled and lovely.
I'm about halfway through the increases for this sleeve, which means maybe a third of the way through the total knitting for the sleeve, since the rows get longer as I go. I cast on for this on Sunday night, as soon as I cast off for the first sleeve. If there's one thing I've learned from knitting, it's that it helps to get the starting bit over with right away. Once the set-up is done, it's much easier to be disciplined about picking things up to continue. I've been applying this lesson to my many work deadlines this month, as well, by making a point of getting the start to a new task done before I finish work for the day. It's somehow much easier to pick up the next day knowing that the first little bit's done. (This doesn't work with everything, but with some things it makes all the difference!) I've been doing that with socks for ages -- in fact, I don't cast off on a sock unless I have time to cast on for the second one -- and it's really helped with that SSS that haunts so many of us.

In any case, if I can finish this second sleeve by tomorrow night, then I can seam the sweater on Friday night, and take it along with me for all of the driving and dancing on Saturday morning to knit the collar and button bands. Since both of those are in garter stitch, that should be good travel knitting (which is why I'm pushing to seam at home on Friday; seaming is most definitely NOT good travel knitting!). If all of that holds together, I may actually nail this thing.

Chris is working away on her sweater, too. I got an email from her earlier saying that she was struggling with the first set-up row for Flyingdales. So I went and got my copy of the pattern, and dang, that has got to be THE most confusing set-up row I've ever seen in my entire life. I think if I tried to knit something like that right now, as tired as I am, I'd burst into tears and burn the book. This is why I admire Chris, though; she perseveres. And boy howdy, did she ever persevere on this one. Look! She not only made it through that set-up row in the end, but is now working her way up the body of the sweater.
It's a gorgeous pattern, truly it is, it's just that every row involves partial repeats of pattern sections, melding into seed stitch, plus cables. Insanity. It looks good, though, doesn't it? And do you see what's behind that sweater? Roving. Yummy soft delectable gorgeous roving. Can you tell I'm missing my spinning wheels a little bit here in all this Knitting Olympics insanity? Heh.

So there it is, the latest Olympic update. Knit on!

* You can imagine that I needed to know where the heck the phrase "hat trick" came from, me being me and all, so I went searching. Wickipedia was singularly unhelpful in this regard. Oh, it gave all kinds of history of which sport first used the phrase "hat trick" and to which sporting feat it referred (for the record: in cricket, "when a bowler dismisses three batsmen with consecutive deliveries", that's a hat trick; I'm assuming that makes more sense to those of you from places with a cricket tradition -- I have tried and tried to understand cricket and haven't quite gotten there yet). But what it didn't tell me was, why "hat"? Why why why? So I finally went to my favorite source of all time (the OED, of course) and got this definition: "Cricket. The feat of a bowler who takes three wickets by three successive balls: orig. considered to entitle him to be presented by his club with a new hat or some equivalent" (first cited in 1886). Now the term has been extended to mean "a threefold feat in sports or other activities"; hence my very own hat trick.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Time trials

I'm plugging away. Knowing that next weekend will have very little time for knitting, I've had big goals for this weekend. I might even achieve them. But I feel a little like Apolo Ohno on that short-track, trying to pass two Canadians and two Koreans in a lap and a half.

Yesterday was a pretty successful day. I split the front of the henley on Friday night while watching It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World with Rick and the girls. (I'd decided that I needed some comedy. I realized afterward that while I adore slapstick, I tend to prefer slapstick that happens unexpectedly in the middle of something else to the constant, unrelenting sort of chaos in a film like that. Which isn't to say that I didn't laugh out loud many many times during the movie, just that I'm refining what it is that I find truly hilarious.) On Saturday morning, I finished the right front before lunch, and then I finished the left front during the afternoon before dinner. I even managed to make that dinner, a big pot of vegetarian black bean chili with butternut squash and bell peppers and black beans. Mmm... And then last night I cast on for the first sleeve and pounded away on that for a while as I watched the Olympics (staying up until after 11:00 to watch the aforementioned Apolo Ohno).

That makes one back, one front, and the better part of a sleeve to date. Not bad, but not a gold medal, yet.

This morning I woke up early and got straight to work. My goal is to finish this sleeve today if it kills me. Which it might. There's a lot of sitting still happening here. We did, however, take quite a long break in order to go mattress shopping, which was very successful, and high time. It was, as my mother would say, a good job done. We also got new sheets for the bed that's going into Older Daughter's room, as well as some nice outfits for her for some events that are coming up in the next couple of weeks.

That's all very well and good, but it's not knitting, and I've got a gold medal to win, so I'd better get a move on here, eh? If I get the sleeve done today and cast on for the second one, I figure I might just have a shot at finishing by Sunday. Maybe. It's a crazy-busy week, with not much in the way of daytime knitting time (mostly because of all of the other work deadlines that I am dealing with; I figure neither my chair nor the Dean is going to be particularly understanding if I call in and say that I can't work this week because I'm knitting for the States, eh?), and then we're going to be up and out very early on Saturday to drive up to Thousand Oaks for Younger Daughter's feis. All I can say is that this is going to be a photo finish, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'd wanted to get some pictures today of the progress, but it's gray and drizzly, so here's a quick PhotoBooth shot, just to prove that I'm not talking out my ear.
Oddly enough, that top bit's about as close as I've come yet to capturing the glory that is the color of this yarn. I'm still charmed to pieces by it, which is a very good thing in this kind of knitting project. Chris, too, is chugging along, and I'll post updates of her sweater as they come through. Go, team, go!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knit on, dude!

Well, I've managed to catch a cold. I'm pretty sure I know exactly where I got it, too (a well-meaning student who came to class sick as a dog so he wouldn't miss anything; I'm sure that was it, since half that class was hacking up a lung on Monday). But I figure if the Olympic athletes can compete with broken thumbs and knee surgeries and bad backs, I can knit through a cold.

With that can-do attitude, I finished the back of the henley last night. Does that count as getting through a quarter-final, maybe? I even cast on for the front and knitted through the edging so I could switch to the larger needles and knit the set-up rows for the stitch pattern, figuring that once I had the front that far, I'm back to mindlessness for a few repeats before the shaping starts. So I'm doing fairly well here. Of course, there's no point in showing you any pictures, since for all intents and purposes* it still looks exactly like the last set of pictures.

Luckily, Chris has saved us all from boring, photoless posts -- thanks, Chris! She sent me a picture of her gorgeous oevre-in-progress:
As of Monday, she was eight inches into the body -- go, Chris, go! And is that scrumptious**, or what? A reminder: This is the lovely Flyingdales, knitted in Chris' very own Abundance. I love those colors, and it seems like they're definitely in that granite-y theme, along with mine, no?
Power neutrals. That's what these are, I think: power neutrals. I'm already excited to wear mine -- it's better than a medal -- and it totally matched the outfit I was wearing yesterday.

Of course, knitting is more like one of the distance sports, rather than being like, say, the combined moguls, where those skiers go all out for 43.786 seconds, and then bam! It's over. Not with knitting. Knitters, like marathoners, have to think stamina; we have to plan, know that if we make it to this landmark by a certain time, and that landmark within the next bit of time, we might have a shot at the gold. Chris says, "I have wound up 8 big cakes and I have figured that I need to knit a cake every two days. One down! Sadly as of 4:00 pm (right now [on Monday]) I am not through half of a cake for today. mmmm...........???? YIKES???" All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not the only one who a) does these kinds of calculations on my way to the finish, and b) doesn't always make it to my goal for the day. (BTW, you can see those cakes of yarn, all wound up and ready to go, on Chris' Rav page; you can also leave a note there to cheer her on, since athletes all need a cheering squad.)

So, that's my update. One back done for me; eight inches of body done for her. We're on our way to the podium!

*Note: The latest iteration of this phrase in many of my students' papers is: for all intensive purposes. You've got to love language change in progress!
**OK, here's the cool thing I just noticed. A student of mine asked in class the other day about the fact that when most people say "warmth", they're actually pronouncing it with a "p" ("warmpth"). He's absolutely right, and it's because it makes the articulation of that awkward combination of sounds (m + th) easier. This student, being one of those students that I love who takes the initiative, then appeared in my office hours to tell me that he'd done more research and discovered that this process of insertion is called epenthesis; he's absolutely right (and beat me to it; we're covering that in class next week). But what's even cooler is that I just noticed that the "p" in "scrumptious" probably comes from the same process, but since there's no word "scrum" (at least not with a related meaning), as there is with "warm" to keep people on the p-less straight and narrow, "scrumptuous" gets to have its "p" in the spelling, while poor "warmth" doesn't. I vote we all spell it "warmpth" from now on; Truth in Spelling!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

For whom does the knitter root?

I have always been a weird fan, rooting for teams and people for reasons which rarely have anything to do with them being from my home country or city. The Olympics appear to be no exception. For example, I really wanted Jen Heil to get gold last night, because I figured it'd take so much pressure off of the rest of the Canadian teams to have that no-gold-on-home-ground bugaboo taken care of, and I sympathize with all of the Canadian athletes who are trying to break that curse. And I really wanted the Slovakian hockey team to score at least one goal; their goalie played one of the most valiant games I've seen in a long time, and it just seemed like she deserved it. See? Random, I know. Of course, I was delighted Apolo Ohno took silver -- I like him, heh.

But in the end, it's really the Olympics that I love. Even the weird sports like the nordic combined competition (whose idea was that, anyway?). I've been thinking all weekend how much I enjoyed the opening ceremonies (the part I managed to stay up for; I finally abandoned at 11:00, and they still hadn't lit the torch!). I was particularly moved and impressed by the up-front inclusion of First Nations peoples. This is something that I've noticed in other places (for example when I visited New Zealand) that I think is still a shameful lack here in the United States. Until we come to terms with our history -- all of it, not just the pretty stuff -- it's hard to imagine how we can move forward with any kind of integrity. Including First Nations people in things like the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games doesn't mean everything is perfect or better, nor does it make up for past history (which can't be made up for in any case), but it is an important part of acknowledging one's history and heritage and of making steps towards moving forward with true integrity, and it was pretty thrilling to see it.

It was also funny to hear the commentators talking about how impressive it was that the folks out there on the stage were dancing all the way through the parade of atheletes. Having attended parts of four-day ceremonies, during which the dancers dance for hours at a time for the entire four days, with little to no sleep, I was impressed but by no means surprised. I did love seeing the hoop dancer, though -- hoop dancing is very cool.

I'm going to try to post more frequent updates during the Olympics, just to keep on top of the knitting that I'm doing. I have knitted through the shaping on the back of the henley, and have about another two and a half inches to go before I start the armhole shaping. Not too bad, eh? (That's about 12 inches there.)
Of course, I'll be slowing down considerably during the week. Tomorrow's my long day at work (classes until 8:15 at night), with very little knitting time to speak of, and I won't be able to knit during at least one of my big meetings on Tuesday, alas. So we'll see if I can maintain my speed.
I don't know if you can see the shaping running through the middle there, where the motifs merge and then separate again, but I'm quite liking the effect. This whole thing is reminding me more and more of oak woods. I still haven't captured the true depth of the colors of this yarn, but I'll keep working on it.

Aside from knitting for the U.S., I've had a pretty busy weekend. Among other things, I went to a wonderful class on spinning cotton on a takhli yesterday. I've really been wanting to work on my long draw in spinning, and it seemed like working with cotton on a supported spindle might be the way to do it. It took some effort, but I finally got to the place where I was actually spinning cotton, really and for true, and understanding that teachers do not say "hold the fiber like a baby bird" simply to torment their students. Done right, that actually works. (Just for scale, the whorl on that spindle is about the size of a U.S. quarter.)
See that bit of yarn coming off of the spindle? I spun that. (Actually, I spun all of the yarn on the spindle, but some of the stuff towards the middle isn't nearly so nice.) And when it goes well, it's more fun than a basket full of kittens. I had some trouble convincing myself to knit last night instead of playing with my spinning. I had to be disciplined. Just like an Olympic athlete. (Yes, you may laugh now.) The teacher also gave us some seeds for green cotton, which I am going to attempt to grow. Rick snorted, but when I pointed out that it's better than sheep or goats (from his perspective, that is; I fail to see the problem with adding livestock to our menagerie, but he remains unconvinced even when I point out we'd never have to mow the lawn again), he subsided. The girls are saving me space in the herb garden they're in the process of planning.

I hope everyone else who's knitting through the Olympics is feeling good, getting their second wind, and knitting injury-free. Go, knitters, go!

Friday, February 12, 2010

On your mark...

Tonight's the night! The opening ceremonies for the Games start here at 6:30 pm; we'll probably be a bit late with the start, but we'll be watching them, and I'll be casting on. I've been clearing the decks this week, in a lot of ways, getting things off of my various to-do lists. The chapter that's been hanging over my head is due on Monday, and although I'm still 800 words over the target word count, I think I'm going to call it good for this first round; bibliographies and abstracts don't count, right? (The real answer is: yes, they do, especially bibliographies, but I don't want to hear it.) I keep thinking that I could ask for a two-day extension and finish it up during my furlough next Wednesday (shhh, don't tell the state), but the fact of the matter is that it's really close to being done, and I have three more deadlines coming right up after this one, so I really should just send that off so I can work on other things on my furlough day (shhh, don't tell the state). Or maybe take a nap. We'll see.

In knitting news, I finished the babushka (don't blame me, I didn't name it) during a budget forum yesterday, and promptly put it on (it was chilly in that room). I've been wearing it non-stop ever since, and the way I'm going, I doubt I'll ever block it, since I don't want to take it off. I'll get some good shots of it someday, but for the moment, these will give you an idea of what I'm talking about.
This is a fabulous little scarf, because it's so light, but the seed stitch makes it very insulative. It feels like wearing luxury waffle weave. It's a very long half-oval, which is a shape that I am more and more taken with. It can be worn like a scarf, because it's long enough to do the multiple-wrap thing, but it can also be spread out across the shoulders like a shawl. It's a scawl. Or a shawrf. Either way, I like it. I might even consider knitting another one of these, seed stitch notwithstanding. And in spite of the second-to-last row, which took me (I am not exaggerating here) three hours of meetings, and two hours of knit night to finish. One row.
To recap, this is the Silk Alpaca Babushka (Rav link), knitted out of Jade Sapphire Silk/Cashmere 2-ply on size 5 needles. I used about a skein and a half of the yarn, and am contemplating what I might do with the rest. I wonder whether I'd have enough to hold it double to knit myself a small pair of mitts? That's what I'd like to do, so we'll see.

Meanwhile, tonight I'm casting on for the Knitting Olympics. I'm even officially signed up, if you can believe. Four years ago, when Stephanie last did this, I was barely a knitter. It would never have occurred to me to think I could knit anything in two weeks (I was just out of my "three years per project" stage). And now I'm taking on a challenge. I'm going to knit Anne's henley (it's the purple one in the bottom left corner of that top shot), in the Grandma's Blessing yarn that I was showing off the other week. I'm not promising I can get it done (I just realized that I'm going to be out of town for the entire last weekend of the Olympics, oops), but I am going to give it my very best shot. I've swatched already (the rule count swatching as "training").
And I am thrilled to pieces with the combination of colors and stitch pattern. I am going to get a good shot of this if it kills me, sometime during these next couple of weeks. It reminds me of granite (I should mention here, lest this be misinterpreted, that I adore granite -- the rough, mountainous kind, not the polished kitchen kind -- and that is exactly what this is like).
I really love it. So, the project is Anne's henley, knitted in Chris' Grandma's Blessing, which I think we all know is just about my favorite yarn ever. You can do anything with this yarn (and I pretty much have): socks, sweaters, shawls. Lace and cables. Talk about a workhorse of a yarn. And Chris dyed this up to give me for the Olympics, which makes it that much more special. She's taking on a challenge herself during these next two weeks, and is going to knit Flyingdales from A Fine Fleece, out of Abundance; we both promised we'd do something with cables together, and I think we've got some fun patterns chosen. She's promised to share pictures, so with luck I can share that, too.

So that's it in knitting news. We just took the kids to see The Lightning Thief, which they absolutely adored. I thought it was fun, although (natch) not as good as the book, and I was a bit disappointed with the sword fighting. I do love me a good sword fight scene (perhaps a legacy of that short stint on the college fencing team?), and these were a bit stiff; everyone was telegraphing every move they made and watching anything but each other. Ah, well. You can't have everything, and the hydra made up for a lot, not to mention Uma Thurman as Medusa. Very nice casting.

So now we're heading out to have an early family Valentine's Day dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and then it's off to the races.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Spoilt and some progress

Even though we have not yet celebrated my birthday here Chez KL, I am still feeling quite spoilt this week. I've gotten some really fun and unexpected packages in the mail, which I always enjoy; there's something to be said for surprises, I think.

Rachel sent me some books, which is always fun for me; I love to read, and I love to see what other people find interesting and worth passing on in their reading. I'm almost all the way through the book that made her start her book-sending spree, and I have to agree with her that it is a wonderful book, very hard to put down. I've already recommended it to another friend who is in a book club that focuses on books not written in English (it's translated from Afrikaans). It's about a part of the world, and a time in history, that I know very little about, with characters who become more interesting and rich as the book goes on. It's also about many of the topics I care about: the environment, labor, the relationship between mankind and other animals, stewardship.
Really good. Really, really good. Also, apparently, out of print and therefore not that easily gotten. I'm so glad Rachel found it for me, though! The other two books look equally intriguing, and I'll be sure to report on them as I get to them, one by one, to make them last.

And on Thursday, I came home to find a truly unexpected package from New Zealand. When I opened it up, lo and behold, inside was the first installment of the Vintage Purls summer sock club, sent to me courtesy of my friend Stella, who truly spoils me sometimes. Its arrival was nothing short of serendipitous. I'd been dithering over my decision not to join the Rockin' Sock Club this year, wondering whether I shouldn't after all, as I do like getting packages of yarn in the mail; I'd also just spent an entire evening at my LYS really wanting to find something purple to knit -- I'm rather craving purple for reasons which are not entirely clear to me -- and not feeling inspired. And then this came in the mail.
Look at that. It's a sock club, and that yarn (it's hard to see, because it's very gray here today and the light isn't good) is the most gorgeous shade of pale grey/lavender you ever did see. And those socks have beads knitted into them (and we all know how I've been feeling about beads lately). And it came with chocolate (mmm...) and really fun post-it notes (thus fulfilling my love of office supplies). Everything I could ever want, in one small package. I'm dying to cast on.

But I'm also trying to get a few things off the needles. I've reached a good resting place with the babushka, having finished the main body and the first skein of yarn simultaneously.
All that's left now is to pick up umpteen billion stitches along the bottom edge, and then to knit the little lace ruffle edging. I'm still not sure how I feel about the construction of this one, but I do know that I'm going to love wearing it; with the seed stitch, this feels like a particularly luxurious sort of silk/cashmere thermal underwear, you know? I'm wishing it were done so I could wear it now, as it's gotten chilly and wet again, but I think I'll set it aside for a moment. I'd like to finish the unbloggable project (close, so close), and then swatch for the sweater I'm knitting during the Olympics, and I really want to knit those socks up there; I miss having socks OTN, it seems like it's past time. So the ruffle may wait a little bit, we'll see.

I've also made progress on the paper I'm struggling with. After working on it all day yesterday, I managed to go from 9,000 words to 9,600 words. Not progress, alas, in the direction of the desired 8,000 words. After a walk with Rick, though (I find that walking really seems to get the blood moving in the right direction), during which I blathered about the paper and he listened, it suddenly occurred to me that I might be able to make my argument quite nicely (and more neatly) if I delete one of the sections. Now I'm down to 7600 words, which should leave me plenty of room to neaten up the transitions and overarching lines of argument and to finish the references. I hope. We'll see...

In the meantime, I've had a lovely Saturday. Two friends took me out for brunch and a pedicure today for my birthday, which was exactly what I needed. This afternoon, in fact very soon now, we're going to hear Older Daughter play violin in a school concert, and then home for a birthday dinner and chocolate cake and, I hope, some knitting. This seems like the right way to spend a weekend.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's Imbolc

And that means it's my birthday.

I have decided over the years that I far and away prefer associating my birthday with Imbolc than with Groundhog's Day (although they are not unconnected themselves, actually); this may have to do with memories of being made to crawl out from under my desk in grade school to see if I could see my shadow. I don't know where grade school teachers get ideas like that, nor why they think that such a thing would a) lead to positive memories and/or b) not lead to major teasing throughout my remaining school years, but the upshot is that my general feelings vis-a-vis Groundhog's day are not the most positive.

Imbolc, though, that's another story. Here we are, at the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The sun is truly starting to come back. It's no longer dark when the girls and I leave piano lessons at 5:30, and I'm beginning to have faith again that the day will come when it's no longer pitch black when I leave campus on Mondays at 8:15. That's a good thing to remember when there are still fewer hours of light in a day than there are hours of dark. The wheel is turning, and will continue to turn, so I'll enjoy the light as it comes and remember that next year, I will once again be eager at winter solstice for a time of dark in which to rest.

Meanwhile, today's a furlough day, which means I got to start my day with a lovely walk with a friend, followed by some quiet time spent knitting and reading (knitting on the project that I cannot share right now, alas, but good knitting nonetheless). Then Rick took me out to lunch at Q'ero, which I do believe I've mentioned (whilst drooling on the keyboard) in the past. Love that place. Love love love it. It's been a peaceful day, rare and wonderful, and especially nice after a late-working Monday.

(Fair warning: Some of you expressed interest in the field methods class. This may have been politeness on your part, which I very much appreciate. The reward for your civility is more information than you could possibly want about the class. I'm sorry. This is what happens when someone makes the mistake of showing any kind of interest in one of my passions. Please feel free to skip this bit.) Last night we had our second field methods class, which went really well. Two teams of students were in charge of the elicitations, and they'd met with me last week to plan them all out. This isn't easy, as they've never had to develop questions about the inner workings of a language before, let alone follow those questions up with an actual plan as to what they want to ask a speaker in order to investigate those questions. It's the scientific method in action, but not everyone is comfortable with the idea that one must be simultaneously rigorous and completely open to changing direction based on new evidence when necessary, often on the fly.

I suggested that they start with something simple, and try to figure out whether and how nouns are marked for singular and/or plural, and whether those markings change depending on the role of the noun in the sentence. To that end, the first group developed a set of sentences around intransitive verbs (e.g. The wind blows; The airplane flies; The cat sleeps), and then played with the number of the nouns in the subject (e.g. Airplanes fly; Some cats eat; Cats eat; etc)(those, by the way, are some of the actual sentences that they used). They also elicited subject pronouns (e.g. I sing, you (sg) sing, she/he/it sings, etc), and found (to my delight and their consternation) that second person subject pronouns (you and y'all) distinguish between the very casual (to people younger than oneself and those with whom one is very close), the "regular" (used when talking to people who are one's peers), and the formal (used with those older than oneself, strangers, social superiors). My friend, the speaker of Bengali for this class, is a fabulous consultant, and is very aware of some of these kinds of forms in her language, which means she's good at providing the information the students need; it's a real treat to work with someone like that, and after last night, I think the students really realized how it makes their job easier.

The second group looked at the same kinds of issues for noun phrases which are direct objects, in sentences like, The boy hugs the girl; Some girls hug some boys; Girls hug boys, etc. We're already getting all kinds of neat information (like, plurality is only marked once; if the word "some" is in the sentence, the noun doesn't get the -ra plural ending). By the end of class, the next two groups of students already had some sense of what questions came directly from these data, whose answers should be investigated next week (for example, prounouns for object noun phrases), and some ideas for new areas of investigation (kinship terminology). It's a pretty exciting thing, even if we're all just wiped out by the end. The part that makes it the most unpredictable of any class I teach is that there's no way to tell from week to week what we'll find, and therefore what we'll need to cover the next week. One week's results lead to the next week's questions, in a way that's very organic, and which requires a certain willingness to be comfortable with log-rolling -- always trying to keep up with the bit of log that's under one's feet from moment to moment.

Which is probably a useful lesson for life in general, right? With that, I think I'll go knit a little bit more before getting the girls from school. Soon I'll be swatching for my knitting olympics project, and there will be some knitting that I can actually show off. In the meantime, happy Imbolc.