Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I need to plan better

The last time I posted, I remember thinking to myself, "Dude, you should seriously save some of these project photos for the next time, when you'll have made no progress worth a darn. Then you'll have something to show off, all ready. Like a Tupperware of chili in the freezer."

Did I take my own advice? No, I did not.

I hope this makes anyone who's ever given me advice that I've ignored feel better; apparently, I do it to everyone, so you're in good company.

I have been knitting, though. Truly. I am almost done with the garter stitch section on Damson. And I am further along on the zigzag scarf (I don't like the name of that scarf in the book, so that's what I'm calling it). That has turned into excellent meeting knitting, and I took it with me up to Tehachapi for Sunday's language work, so progress is slow but steady. I have also been spinning. I am almost done with the first third of the roving I showed you last time. I decided to work on this one first:
That is Wensleydale (in the Abalone colorway). Before buying it, I thought that was a cheese, but apparently it's also a sheep. (Related? I don't know, but now I'm going to have to find out.)(This will take some real research, because when I Wiki'd it, it only referred to the region. Nary a cheese nor a sheep in sight.) Kristine, from A Verb For Keeping Warm, recommended it highly when I told her that I was looking for fiber to spin into socks. And can I just tell you how much I'm absolutely loving this fiber? It is incredibly long-stapled, I'm guessing at least three inches, with almost no crimp, and it drafts like a dream. I'm putting in plenty of twist (which I find difficult, for some reason -- my hands want to product a loosely spun two-ply, somewhere between fingering and lace weight, and I'm trying here to produce a pretty fine singles, with very tight twist, so that I can end up with a tightly twisted fingering-weight three ply; we'll see how it goes), and it's taking it like a champ. I took the two hanks of fiber and broke each of them into thirds, keeping the colors in each third similar. We'll see how the final yarn turns out, but I'm having a lot of fun, and spinning each evening a little bit. I'm wondering whether it would be excessive to take my wheel along to Mammoth next week...

I also got myself a sock kit with which I am tremendously delighted. Check this out. How wonderful is that? I have a few modifications in mind, but mostly I'm going to knit them as they lie, and enjoy the completely over-the-top nature of those socks. So I need to wind that up and pack them to go on our trip.

Meanwhile, work continues. My field methods class is progressing beautifully. They were very brave, and over the last two weeks, four groups have worked together to elicit the Frog Story from our speaker. This sounds like an odd thing to do, but it's something that every linguist will recognize instantly. See, there's this book that Mercer Meyer illustrated years ago, called Frog, Where Are You. The entire book is pictures, no words, and the story is extremely active (it's about a little boy whose pet frog goes off hunting for some lovin', and the boy and his dog go out to find the frog and have many adventures before finding the frog with his lady frog and many froglets; the ending is happy, I promise). What this means from a linguist's perspective is that you can show this book to the speaker of another language, and ask them to narrate the story, in as much detail as you like, and you are guaranteed to get a story that is a) not influenced by translating from an English text, and b) has lots and lots of lovely verbs in it, because of all of the actions in the story. It's a staple of linguistic fieldwork. And that's exactly what happened here. Suddenly, all of the accusitive and genitive marking that I'd been waiting for in vain appeared out of nowhere, like mushrooms after a rain; we got verb tense marking up the wazoo, and a whole lot of other fun things, too.

It's also more fun for the students and for the speaker, I think, to be focusing on an actual narrative, rather than individual, unconnected sentences. But it is simultaneously hairier, in that you never know what's going to come at you from one sentence to the next. It's real language. We're lucky, in that we have an amazing speaker, who is both tremendously patient, and willing to work with the students as they analyze the sentences; in fact, I have to remind them not to rely on her too much, both because they need to do the work themselves, and because sometimes speakers either don't recognize some of the core phenomena of their languages (in fact, let's be honest, most speakers don't recognize most of the core phenomena of their languages), and sometimes what they've been taught about how language works is not, in fact, particularly accurate. In any case, my students all turned in their analyses of the story on Monday, and I've been having fun (honestly) reading them; with luck I'll have all of that done before we leave for spring break.

Friday, March 19, 2010


Actual, honest-to-goodness knitting. I haven't been whipping through any projects, but I have been working steadily, and this morning I finished a pair of socks.
I haven't taken pictures of the pair; this is from the pictures that I took last weekend, in preparation for a post on the projects I have OTN, but I promise you, there are two, and I will a) wear them out into the world very soon, and b) take pictures of both of them on my feet.
Aren't they lovely? This is the first kit from the Vintage Purls Summer of Socks club that Stella so wonderfully signed me up for. (As an aside, she has posted some really interesting discussions lately about knitting and designing; they certainly inspired me to think about my knitting in a new way.) I'm already looking forward to casting on for the next kit. You can't really see in this picture, but these socks are beaded, just up towards the top, which charms me all to pieces.

I knit these using my size one Signatures, which were perfect, as there were some k3togs and some sssks, and the pointy tips of the Signatures make light work of moves like that. They're knit toe-up, which is not my habitual style of sock knitting, but I like shaking things up a bit, and this cast-on was quite nice, and I like the round toe. The heel was particularly nifty, and of a style I'd never done before; it fits beautifully. And I really do love this yarn; I have at least one other skein of it in stash, and I'm starting to lay plans for it.

So that's mostly what I've been working on. Barring the bit where there was beading to be done (using my trusty little bitty crochet hook), these were excellent travel socks, so I've been schlepping them about with me and working on them here and there. I was vastly entertained last week when I pulled them out at a meeting. Everyone insisted on fondling the first, finished sock, looking at it and then looking at me strangely. "You're knitting a pair of socks?" one person asked. I gave my latest answer to this question (I've gotten it a lot lately: "You knit that sweater?", etc): "Someone's got to." There was a moment of silence, and then another person looked at me and said, "You can buy socks at Target, you know, for ten dollars a bag." Honestly. Someone actually said it. I thought that was one of those things that people only say to Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, but there it was. What I wouldn't have given to have had my recorder to hand. I don't think my fellow committee member understood why I found that so vastly entertaining; there is was, a trope from the modern knitting experience. But you know what? I couldn't buy these socks at Target for ten bucks a bag, baby.

I do have a few other things OTN, waiting for my renewed attention. I finally cast on for the Tibetan Clouds Stole using Sundara's fingering silky merino, although I haven't made much progress. It turns out that it's better for me to have only one beaded project going at once (which may mean that the stole may be derailed again soon, because wait 'til you see what's coming in the mail). But this yarn is gorgeous, and you all were right about the last set of beads I bought; they're perfect.
It's not much to look at now, I know; it'll be easier to see for a while once it's on circs. The way this stole is knit is very interesting to me; the center back is knit in the round, with increases at four points to create a square. Then I'll cast off one side of the square, put the next side on a stitch holder, cast off the third side, and begin to knit out, back and forth, on the last side. It's a fun structure, and the lace is lovely, so even if this does get put aside again, I guarantee it won't be for long.

I have two other scarves going, both of which are nice and simple for meetings or plays or movies.
This is the Wool and Camel-Down Ripple Scarf from the book Luxury Yarn One-Skein Wonders. The pattern really doesn't look like much in the book, but knitting in a colorful yarn like this, it does something lovely, I think. The yarn is Schaefer Nicole, which I quite like.

In fact, I'm liking Schaefer so much that I unintentionally stumbled at my LYS the other week, and picked up a skein of Schaefer Audrey, a gorgeous silk/merino blend (I really do like silk and merino together, can you tell?), in the happiest of springtime colorways. I needed it, don't you think?
It's all shades of pinks and greens, both vibrant and subtle, and it makes me very happy. I'm knitting it into Damson, by Ysolda Teague (Rav link), which is another little shawlet in the shape I've been loving so much lately. The skein is big enough that I might very well end up with enough to make two, which would be a nice outcome.

And that's it. That's what I've got going on right now. Nothing for a deadline, no pressure, and I'm thinking that I'd like to take advantage of that and do some spinning. I bought some absolutely gorgeous roving last summer at Sock Summit from A Verb For Keeping Warm, and it's been calling to me.

Remember these?
And these?
I think the first (a silk/merino blend, heh) needs to be spun up into a very fine two-ply to knit something lacey, and the second is begging to be a pair of socks. I'll probably start up the second soon, maybe even tomorrow.

Meanwhile, tonight we're going to see Cirque du Soleil's Kooza, the tickets for which were a birthday present from my beloved husband. I truly love Cirque du Soleil, and always find myself inspired to take better care of my body after seeing the things those performers can do with theirs. And tomorrow I think will be a catch-up day, as Rick leaves Sunday for a week in Virginia, and the girls and I will be spending Sunday up in Tehachapi (I'll be working, they'll be playing), which I think will be the perfect venue for my new socks, as it's much cooler up there than it has been lately down here.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ceonothus and hiking: A photoessay

The ceonothus is in bloom. It's a short window each year, when the hillsides around here are covered in flowering purple bushes; some folks call it wild lilac, which it technically isn't, but it most definitely is beautiful. So on Sunday we went out on a three-hour hike and picnic to enjoy the ceonothus (and the cool weather!) while we could.
See all those lighter patches? Purple ceonothus.
They were swarming with bees; you could hear the buzzing from feet away around each bush.
Of course, this rare moment of green and bloom comes with its darker side.
Yes, that would be our friend the poison oak. It was everywhere.
My three girls.
We stopped to admire flowers along the way.
Including these wild sweet peas. And some monkeyflowers.
We finally found a perfect spot for a picnic (rock to sit on = no poison oak, and no ticks).
Tilly thought it was about time.
After a lovely lunch, we headed home. There were more flowers.
More ceonothus.
A lot more poison oak.
And, of course, my favorite: live oaks.
I think we all would gladly have kept going.
So there you go, a little green for St. Patrick's Day. And a little Irish dance to go with it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Playing catch-up

Where does the time go? I thought after last Thursday was over that I'd be able to finally start getting back into a regular routine. Up to and including a regular schedule of posting to the blog (not to mention reading everyone else's blogs; I think I'm doing a bit better with that than with posting to my own). It didn't seem to work out that way. We went away last weekend to Los Angeles to celebrate my mom's birthday with my folks, and I spent some time trying to catch up on some things at work, and I kept composing blog posts in my head about all of the other things that are going on in my life: this rally and how hopeful it made me, the hate speech incident that happened on campus and how unhopeful that made me, the horrific news about Chelsea King and all of the thoughts I've been having about the culture of fear and raising daughters and and and...

And I finally decided that if I wait to post until I have all of those thoughts in order, I'll never get there. I will post about some of those things, as they've been the impetus for a lot of rearranging of the mental furniture, but I want to get that house a bit more in order before the tour. So, instead, a few pictures from L.A. (from my phone, alas, I forgot the camera). And next time, a review of all of the knitting projects that I've started since completing my Olympic debut.

Oh, and I should also report that the teach-in and rally were, by the standards of our small campus, extremely successful. We had 500 people at the rally, all of them riled up in exactly the right kinds of ways. I really wish that radio stations like KPBS and newspaper outlets would realize that there's another CSU here in San Diego county, and that we're doing some interesting stuff, too, but that's one of those rants that can wait for another day. Meanwhile, a few pictures:
And one of my favorite signs:
Students and faculty from our art department made black paper shadows to represent the 437 students who were qualified to come to our university last fall, but who couldn't be admitted due to lack of funding. It was a pretty visceral reminder of what we're losing when we don't have room for our young people in our institutions of learning.

Our weekend in Los Angeles came as a truly wonderful escape from the chaos of the last month. We headed up on Friday (both girls had half-days, and I had a -- deliberately scheduled on this day -- furlough), and met up with my folks downtown before walking to an absolutely fabulous restaurant for mom's big birthday dinner. Dad had done his research and done it well, and the food was spectacularly good. Rick and dad indulged in raw oysters, and Older Daughter even bravely tried one herself. I don't think she'll do that again for a while (heh), but it's always good to be adventurous, right?

On Saturday, we headed to Pasadena, where we took the girls on a brief driving tour (in the pouring rain) of Occidental, where Rick and I both went to college (in fact, where we met), lo these many years ago. (In fact, we both came to the realization that we started dating there 21 years ago next month. Who knew?) Then we went to the Gamble House for a wonderful tour; both of the girls were very impressed, and Younger Daughter has spent a not-inconsiderable amount of time since talking about the design features of the house, and about how much she likes the aesthetic of showing the way that things are put together. Rick and I, both being huge fans of the Arts and Crafts movement, can't help but agree with her. After that, we headed to the Norton Simon Museum, where I spent many happy (and cheap) hours as a college student.

Then it was back to the hotel for a quick refresher before heading out to another absolutely fabulous meal at a Japanese place (can you say crab? mmm...), and then to a concert at Disney Hall. I don't think I can possibly convey adequately how utterly in awe I was of the acoustics in that hall. I have never heard anything so absolutely clear and precise and warm. The orchestra was, of course, excellent, and the hall took the music to another level entirely. It is also just lovely, full of warm woods and colors, and it was a pleasure to spend two hours sitting and listening to Prokofiev in those surroundings. But it was the music that made the experience so perfect; I'm already wondering how to get myself back up there to hear something else in that hall. Magnificent. Truly magnificent.

And then on Sunday, we went to the Griffith Observatory, to which I've never (if you can believe) been before, and went to my first planetarium show. I loved it. And not only is the observatory wonderful from a planetary physics perspective, the architecture is beautifully Art Deco.
Such nice details.
(Ignore the thumb, please, silly camera phone.)

Rick and the kids chose planetary orbits for themselves.
And the views of the snow-capped mountains were quite lovely.
The girls were also charmed to pieces to actually see the Hollywood sign for the first time in their lives, and even more charmed when the movie we watched last night turned out to have a scene filmed on the very road that we drove up to Griffith. Their first experience of real-world/movie intersection.

And that's it for my travels. Next time, the four knitting projects upon which I am currently embarked. Meanwhile, we're off to a piano recital!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The other thing I've been trying to get done

Is happening today. I don't know if any of you have been tracking the series of events happening at college campuses across the nation today to remind people of the importance of publicly-funded higher education, but we're having a teach-in and rally here on my campus, and I've been part of the (very small but tremendously efficient) organizing committee. We talked about it and figured that we're teachers, and what we do best isn't carrying placards (although that has its place) or shouting slogans (although that, too, has its place) but rather teaching, so we have four faculty members on a panel talking about the California Master Plan, the politics of funding higher education, and the directions that our new models are taking us (a hint: they're not good). Then we'll be taking lots of questions.

The really cool (and terrifying) bit is that we're streaming this puppy live. Today, from 10:30-11:45. And we'll archive it, too. We're also going to be reading email questions to the panelists during the question and answer period. So, should you happen to see this, and should you happen to be interested, here's the url with the link to the teach-in (I checked, and my co-organizers said I could share):

I don't usually advertise things like this, but this issue of publicly-funded higher education is an important one (I admit, I'm biased), and I think it's all too often swept under the rug or misunderstood. I hope with all of my heart that today's events -- not just here, but everywhere -- will change that just a little bit.

I'm wearing my new sweater for luck, and I'll be reading out those email questions, so let's hope I don't say something silly or misread something crucial. And once this is done, I'll be past my last big hurdle for a while.