28 June 2006


NSF surveys today. Interesting stuff if not directly applicable to my current job (most of the NSF surveys focus on graduates in science & engineering fields, and the most detailed of those focuses on research doctorates; our science & engineering grad programs are mostly in allied health fields, which are considered professional - e.g. not research - degrees).

I've been staying engaged by knitting, though. The first of the alpaca & silk socks is *gorgeous* and I'm about a third of the way into the heel flap. I did decide to do Hedera and did I mention that the sock so far is *gorgeous*? So, so soft and the lace pattern is just enough to add luster and depth. I almost can't wait until the sessions on SESTAT and WebCASPAR tomorrow so I can finish it!

In the meantime, I'm working on putting together a quick little report on how our regional peer comparison group is expected to change once the new Carnegie Classifications take effect to use as my little 3-minute presentation for the end of the week. It's something I've been asked a couple times by folks at my institution, so it seemed like a good use of my time.

27 June 2006

How to get out of a knitting slump.

  1. Go to a week long institute where you're expected to spend all day in a computer lab listening to people lecture on things you actually are rather interested in.
  2. Realize that knitting will allow you to stay conscious and attentive.
  3. Start socks (small, unobtrusive, mindless).
  4. Finish first sock on first day.
  5. Finish second sock on second day.

  6. Plan to start third sock, this one out of smaller, arguably softer, yarn on much smaller needles, on third day and hope these take two days per sock.

  1. Contemplate other options just in case.

  2. Option 1: Start Rogue sleeves.

    Option 2: Consider if the Candle Flame wrap pattern is sufficiently imbedded in the subconscious to be considered "mindless".

    Option 3: Figure out if there'sGo to a yarn shop in Bethesda (on Thursday when they're open until 7).

26 June 2006


Anyone who doesn't believe that the global climate is effected by all the polutants we've poured into the atmosphere the last several decades should be in DC this week. It's been raining, hard, for the last 48 hours (registration required).

Which in some ways makes it not so bad to be stuck in a computer classroom all day watching people read off their PowerPoint slides describing the various postsecondary national datasets. I mean, at least the classroom is air conditioned.

And learning about the datasets is neat, but I wish they were able to let us loose and do more hands on stuff instead of just projecting slides at us and talking about the data. Which is important - we need to know about the methodology for the surveys and the data considerations and how to use the weights (especially for the longitudinal surveys) - but not very exciting.

But! I have knitting. Socks, no less, which are small and mindless and unobtrusive. And I expect to have two pairs completed by the end of the week. I finished the first sock today - one of a pair from Artyarns Handpaint Stripes - and expect to finish the pair tomorrow or at the latest Wednesday morning. Thursday through Saturday will be spent working on a pair in Blue Sky Alpaca's Alpaca & Silk in Chestnut. Mmm.. I think I need to find some mindless but pretty pattern for the alpaca and silk socks.. possibly Hedera.

24 June 2006

The best part..

.. of an expected, but more or less unplanned visit to a good friend is that staying up until 1 a.m. or later (earlier?) talking about come what may after an evening hanging out and chatting and playing poker* doesn't necessarily interfere with any plans for the following morning. Because there aren't any. Or at least none that can't be changed.

Our plan for this afternoon begins with brunch, massages and facials, followed by a jog over to Georgetown to visit Lush and maybe get some henna, and then a run up to Capitol Hill to explore Stitch DC (oh, but I see they have a Georgetown store, too, so we might just go to that one since we'll be there anyway). Then there's the idea of going to Eastern Market for crabcakes. Mmm.

Yup, yup. The fun gets pre-empted tomorrow afternoon, though, when I have to head out to Potomac for the AIR/NCES Summer Data Policy Institute. Which I am looking forward to, just not as much as I am looking forward to today.

* I'm not, by nature, a poker player. I generally understand how to play, but have only actually played any kind of poker a couple times. Last night, the game of choice was Texas Hold 'Em, which I'd never played. But Kevin explained it, it's not that difficult a concept, and I'm a statistician by training** so games of chance make a certain intuitive sense. It was fun, and not only because my little pile of black chips kept growing. *smile*

** It runs deep into my subconscious, in fact. The first time I underwent sedation dentistry, the dentist checked in with me at one point and asked me to rate my comfort level on a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 being very uncomfortable. The next time he checked in with me, he reversed the scale and I "caught" him. I remember none of this - the drugs used for sedation dentistry keep you conscious and responsive throughout the procedure, but with absolutely no memory of what happened. It's a little strange, but far preferrable to the alternatives.

21 June 2006

K is for..


Kaleigh is my niece, my sister's youngest child. She turned two last month and this picture is actually fairly recent. She's a very sweet tempered and rather patient child, quite content to play quietly by herself for as long as you'll let her. She has an infectious grin and very clearly has us all wrapped around her little finger!

All has not been sunshine and roses for this little cherub, though. At birth, she was diagnosed with laryngomalacia, which meant that she had a hard time breathing sometimes and would often be most comfortable as an infant with her head thrown all the way back. Partially because of this (at least I think), she never learned to really hold her head up as a very small infant, which led to a series of developmental delays - she couldn't hold her head up, so she didn't get put on her tummy very often and didn't learn to push herself up, etc.

Additionally, she is Gumby-incarnate. A more flexible child I've never met - she's destined to be a gymnast or a yogi! Even now, at just over two years old, she can lie flat on her stomach and pull her legs from a supine position around the side to directly under her torso. In fact, for quite some time that was her preferred method of sitting up (instead of rolling over onto her back and using her stomach muscles to pull her torso to a vertical position).

She, like her older brother, has also been "blessed" with her father's ears and her mother's eyes. Her father was plagued by ear infections as a small child, to the point that his ear drum ruptured one day when he was in 2nd grade. Knowing this family history, both her older brother and Kaleigh were watched fairly closely when they started getting repeated ear infections and they both now have tubes in their ears. Six or so months ago, during what I think was a routine exam, the doctor did an eye exam and determined that Kaleigh couldn't see as well as she should. As dubious as some of us were that they could accurately prescribe eyeglasses for a child so young, it's undoubtedly true that she engages the world around her with considerably more interest and enthusiasm than she ever did before she got her glasses.

These combined mean that at 2 she is just learning to walk - her muscles and her joints are just learning how they're *supposed* to work together, though her hips and her ankles still seem like they're not quite sure which direction they should be going - and also not yet talking (that's more the laryngomalacia). Her parents, my sister and brother-in-law, have been working and playing with her regularly and she attends regular sessions with a physical therapist, who has been instrumental in guiding them toward activities and toys that will help her get stronger and learn proper body alignment for walking and the like. They're trying to teach her sign language so that she has a method of communication in the instance she decides not to talk. And just in the last six to eight months, she's made tremendous strides.

All of that said, she's by far one of the most content children I've known. Now if I could just get her mom to put her in something other than pink..!

20 June 2006


So, I started out yesterday morning wearing my completed Brioche Bodice for the Very First Time, paired with a simple, knee-length grey knit skirt:

Apologies for angle of the self-portrait.. Here's one of it flat, but it's almost as bad an angle the other way..

And somewhere in the course of the day, I ended up wearing this (note the cute black sandals - those are the ones I got in Chicago):

No, it's not because the Brioche Bodice is a touch too see-through to wear without something underneath it (it is, but it wasn't so bad that I felt I couldn't survive a day in it). Neither is it because I had a terribly tragic accident and had to change my clothing.

No, much more nefarious, it was a plot hatched by my co-workers (faces intentionally blurred).

See, Fran (she's the second from the left) is retiring. And apparently some weeks ago, Betsy (she's the one in the middle) wore this dress to the office and Fran commented that it looked awfully familiar. And it was a nice little chuckle and we all forgot about it (well, to be honest, I never knew about it.. my office is somewhat removed from the central office, so I tend to be rather out of the loop on these kinds of things).

Until yesterday when Fran and Betsy both showed up in the dress. And, as coincidence would have it, yesterday was Fran's retirement party (you were wondering how that figured into all this, weren't you?), so the collective mind that is the females in the central office decided we all needed the dress. And it was even on sale - half off of $40 - and an unnamed accomplice was willing to run out for all of us who were scheduled into meetings and interviews and other Very Important Activities(tm) and get them for us in time for us to be a sort of warped version of the Bobsey Twins at the party yesterday afternoon.

(I admit it, my arm was twisted - I'm not usually one for smocking in dresses, but I need some more summer work clothes, and it was all for a good laugh, so I caved. I have to admit that other than the smocking, I rather like the dress. And the smocking is sort of growing on me. Or at least, I haven't felt the need to rip it off my body yet.)

15 June 2006

Brought to you by the letters..

Those are the three prints by Ursula that Jack got me for Christmas. The women who took our order for the framing seemed to rather disapprove of the brightly colored mats - she thought we should use more subdued tans and browns to complement the sepia tone of the prints - but I rather like how they turned out.

(Yes, yes, I'm behind on the ABC-along.. and while I could pr'bly technically use this as the K entry, I sort of feel like that's cheating. I owe at least K, L and pr'bly M at this point. I'll try to get them up soon.)

In other news, I've made progress on both the Brioche Bodice..

(shown here with the shoulders seamed, but still needing side seams, ends woven in, and blocking)

NOTE: I started this post last Thursday. Since then, I've finished weaving in the ends and seaming the bodice, but I need to make a minor modification to the neckline. It plunges rather drastically right now and since I'd like it to be work-friendly, I'm going to fix that, probably tonight. I'll try to talk Jack into taking a picture to post of it finished.

.. and the Candle Flame Wrap.

(shown here half-way through, which is *exactly* 7 pattern repeats, but without any attempt to pseudo-block it)

I'm not sure I like how the colors started to pool in the second half of the first skein, but it looks like they're spreading out again so hopefully it will work out okay in the end.

In the meantime, I have collected some worsted weight mohair in a dark green (and still have some in a light yellow) and am thinking they're going to become scarves or shawls or something of that sort to donate to auctions or whatever. Or maybe even just to hang on to as "last-minute" gifts. We'll see.

Otherwise, my stash yarn that is of sufficient quantity to plan projects has dwindled, so I might have to replenish some at Stitch DC this weekend. Must remember to leave extra room in my suitcase to bring back yarn. *smile*

10 June 2006

One of these things..

.. is not like the others..

That would the entrance to the dining room from the kitchen. It turns out that the trim around that door was white, grey, peach, white again, off-white, white another time and pr'bly a few other colors thrown in for good measure over the course of the last mumbletysome years. And while I can understand not scraping down your *walls* every time you repaint them, why would you not in any of that time think that it might, oh, I don't know look better if you scraped the old (flaking, chipping) paint off the *trim* before applying the new paint?

This does not even begin to address why *some*one in the last mumbletysome years didn't want to restore the trim to it's natural wood so it would, oh, I don't know, match the rest of the woodwork in the house. *sigh* Fortunately, the wood underneath all that paint is beautiful. Unfortunately, there's the rest of this door frame, a single window frame, and another door frame (and a door, but that might just get full out replaced) in the kitchen like this, and a single window frame, a medicine cabinet frame, and another door frame (and another door, which again might just get full out replaced) in the upstairs bathroom still to do.

The above was the results of I think four or five coats of orange stripper stuff. We're going to try a heat gun on the rest because while the stripper isn't difficult, nor likely to be any less of a mess than a heat gun, a heat gun will hopefully be faster and cheaper. The stripper needs to sit for at least an hour before you can strip it off again, so now you know what I did today.

Yesterday was largely this..

Those are the two dining room windows, which were darker before, but now have mumbletysome years old varnish removed so now you can see the wood grain and not the cracks and slubs in the mumbletysome years old varnish. Mumbletysome years old varnish turns to sludge when you put in the stripper stuff, which isn't bad, just.. messy. But a heat gun is not an option on this woodwork (which, as I mentioned, other than the kitchen & upstairs bathroom, is the most of the rest of the house, including the stairs and the eight inch baseboard trim around every room), so there will still be lots more orange stripping stuff in my future.

The windows still need to be sanded and we have to decide if we want to just poly over them as they are now and try to match the unfinished doorway into the laundry room to them, or restain them and try to match the unfinished doorway stain to the new stain. But that will be decided later. Because I still need to strip the baseboard and the entry to the living room, which leads to doing the living room baseboard and windows, which lead to doing the stairs (because the baseboard runs into the stairs, which are framed in matching trim). So it's unlikely we'll get to the actual finishing of this re-finishing project for quite some time.

But at least now it's started. And that is a Good Day's Work(tm).

09 June 2006

Rust, varnish and mud.

Note: My extended family has recently broadened their internet horizons and since at least one of my uncles (Hi, Uncle Jerry!) likes to know what we're up to, I've pointed them here. This shouldn't change what I post about, but you may find that I put in more explanation than usual to keep things clear.

Things might seem quiet lately, but only because I've been trying to work in the garden and start working on some home improvement stuff lately, so I've not had much progress in knitting bits to report. *shrug* I'm still working on the Flaming Candle Scarf during my morning commute and I have the front of the Brioche Bodice about half complete, so there might be more interesting things to see in a few days.

In the yard, things are growing fast. The yellow flowers that I think are a variety of coneflower are doing well and very pretty. The phlox hasn't started blooming yet, but the plants are getting to about the right height to start kicking out flowers. I have one lonely little orange lily stuck in the midst of the yellow flowers that's just bloomed the last day or two and I'm trying to decide if I should snip it and bring it inside to enjoy.

(All pictures are clickable thumbnails; clicking on the picture will open a larger verison of it.)

There's a mystery flower popping up in the front lawn direcly underneath the bushes. It's beautiful, but I have no idea what it is other than to speculate based on leaf-shape that it's related to a bleeding heart. The flower looks more like a fuschia to me, but they aren't supposed to grow "wild" here. Part of why I want to identify it is so I can figure out how to transplant it before we pull those bushes out or it will probably get pulled out with the bushes when they go.

The roses have also started blooming, both the bright pink bush in the front and the light pink old fashioned ones in the back.

The bush in the front seems to have become infested with "rust", though, as has the big bush that I haven't identified yet, so we picked up some fungicide today to try to make it go away. I have to wait to spray though because it's threatening rain this afternoon.

The apple trees also appeared to have some sort of disease issue, but I looked it up on the Extension website and they said that it wasn't something treatable, but also wasn't something that was likely to cause permanent damage to the trees. We might not get as much fruit this year, but since we don't actually harvest the apples to eat anyway, I'm not worried about it. They did advise, however, that we clear the deadfalls away completely at the end of the year to prevent this from coming back.

I planted the 4 O'Clocks and cukes in the interior bed and they seem to be surviving and maybe starting to thrive. The tomatoes were not as successful in the side bed. I think there's a rather large colony of ants that managed to eat all the little baby tomato leaves in the course of two days. So in addition to the fungicide, we also picked up ant spikes to try to kill the colony. Once I'm not seeing active signs of ants in that bed, I'll plant more seedlings (I didn't plant all the first one I started because I worried that something might happen to the first set).

Inside, I've started stripping varnish off the window in the dining room. The orange stripping stuff we got works very well and is pretty easy, so that's been kind of a fun project. I'm hoping to finish the window today and maybe start on the door frame between the dining room and the kitchen. The stripper says it works on paint and varnish and I would *LOVE* to get the nasty pale teal paint off the woodwork in the kitchen. It that goes well, the upstairs bathroom will be next, even though it's "out of order".

So far the stripped wood is beautiful. There enough of the color of the varnish soaked into the wood itself that it's still dark even after a light sanding, but with all the old varnish stripped, you can actually see the wood grain. We may just sand it down and put a coat of polyeurethene over it instead of reapplying varnish.

I haven't set up the pottery wheel yet, mostly because I'm still trying to devise a way to bring it to WW (which is a camping event for the SCA in Black River Falls) to set up at Artisan's Row, which I'm coordinating this year. I'd love to have the wheel there for folks to try, along with some handbuilding stuff (assuming I can get Mark to spend some time on the Row doing handbuilding since it's really not my area of expertise), but it's rather cumbersome and we already load the car *full* to get our regular equipment there. There's a possibility that we could make two trips, but that just seems extravagant, especially with gas prices where they are. But I'm not resigned to leaving it home yet, either, so it's still in the garage awaiting a decision (it will eventually live in the basement, but since WW is so close, I didn't want to carry it down there just to have to carry it back up in a couple weeks if I can find a way to get it there).

I need to do more beating of the bushes to get artisan's for the Row, too. It sounds like we have a strong Dyer's Corner contingent. I've also heard from an armorer, but I'm not sure if he will end up on the Row or over in Smith's Corner, and one of the Shires is taking on scribal stuff. There's a couple folks who've expressed interest in music, which I think would rock - imagine spending a day working on a project with a group of live musicians playing period (or period-esque) instruments in the background! - so I hope that pans out.

I'm a bit surprised not to have any carvers, cooks, or spinners/weavers/knitters yet, so I think I'll drop a line to a couple guilds and see if I can get any takers. It seems that groups centered around a common theme will be more feasible, so I'm trying to promote that idea while still making sure it's clear that individual artisan's are more than welcome. I'm not inclined to stress over it overmuch, though. At least some stuff will happen, so that's a good start.

In other more or less random news, our white Taurus died this week. The transmission went out on Jack while he was driving up the big hill on the way home. The car is 12 years old, so it's not really worth putting more money into it to fix it. Fortunately, we commute together so we don't *need* to replace it immediately. We're doing some research and so far we think we'd like to try to get a used Pontiac Vibe, though we're also planning to test drive a PT Cruiser to see what we think. Our second car just needs to get decent gas mileage (we don't need something we can load up for events and the like because the grey Taurus works just fine for that), but we can't afford to buy a new one, so we're keeping an eye out for good deals.

Jali also had her annual check up this morning, complete with Distemper and Rabies shots. She's getting old, so the vet essentially confirmed that some of the things we've started seeing in the last year - cataracts, trouble with her back legs - are just signs of aging and not anything acute we need to be worried about. He gave us some glucosamine treats for her that they've had good success with in helping with arthritic joints in dogs and suggested we use a special dental formulated food to keep tartar from building up and possibly causing infections, so we have a small bag of that to try out.

02 June 2006

Most productive morning in weeks.

Thanks, in part, to the City Minion who decided that 6:30 a.m. was the perfect time to sweep the streets, and, in part, to an impatient little black dog who wanted breakfast, I was up before 7 this morning even though I have today off. (I, in fact, have the next several Friday's off, in an effort to use up some vacation time and get some much needed time at home.)

Rather than wallow in self-pity, though, I decided to get up and start my day. I had several bananas that were just about overripe that I wanted to make muffins or bread or something with and we're going to some friends tonight for a barbecue and are supposed to bring something desserty, so the arrival of the newest Cooking Pleasures (the Cooking Club of America* magazine (website is largely members only) yesterday was well-timed.

There are several recipes in this edition that I want to try - there's a recipe for Chicken Satay with peanut sauce that I'm *dying* to try (I've been accused of only ordering the chicken to use as a vehicle for getting as much peanut sauce as possible into my mouth.. I will neither confirm nor deny that motive. *grin*) and a couple other things on the grill that I'm intending to try to talk Jack into trying. There's also a recipe for "Fruity Morning Muffins" - which, in addition to bananas, has strawberries and raspberries - and a recipe for "Mixed Berry Cobbler", both of which I made this morning before it got to warm to contemplate turning on the oven.

The muffins are spectacular. Moist and delicious and perfect for quick breakfasts. I had two for breakfast this morning and have stashed half of the rest in the freezer for later and the other half will undoubtedly be gone by midweek. The cobbler looks wonderful, but as it's for the barbecue tonight, I haven't tasted it yet. But really, it's fairly difficult to mess up cobbler, so I'm not expecting any tragedy.

While the cobbler was baking, I had some coffee and checked my email** and watched My Man Godfrey with Jack. Once the cobbler was finished, I grabbed my little garden spikey-diggy-up-thing and went out to weed the interior garden bed in anticipation of soon being able to plant the 4 O'Clocks and cucumbers there. Managed to get a rather large blister on my finger, but the bed is weeded and ready to planted once the plants get just a little bit bigger.

And it's not even noon yet. *self-satisfied smile*

.. I wonder if I can make that chicken satay for lunch..

* The Cooking Club of America is well worth the membership. I am, in fact, a lifetime member (which means I don't pay dues anymore because I paid something like 10 years of dues all during one year), so I get the magazine every two months and all the wonderful recipes and pictures and also get the opportunity to test products free. Most recently, I was sent a coupon for a free bag of Ghiradelli 60% Cacoa Chocolate Chips, which I already use regularly to make truffles because they melt and set up so nicely and taste divine. I've also tested spice mixes and kitchen tools and a popover pan and a variety of other things over the last several years and while none of it has been hold-the-phone-oh-my-this-is-really-valuable, we have found several things that have become staples of our kitchen. Plus, it's fun to try out new things and both the magazine and the product tests give me an excuse to do that. Oh, and they have several recipe exchange things and you can order reprints of any recipe they've printed, up to something like 6 per year free and for a nominal charge after that.

** Got some rather terrible news in so doing. Nothing that is terrible directly for us, but news that the child of an acquaintance died last night. Obviously, this is nothing to simply gloss over and we are sending are thoughts to the parents as they struggle with what is undoubtedly hell. We are well assured that they are surrounded by a multitude of loving and supportive friends and family, though, so they are getting whatever solace is possible from those that love them.