28 December 2006

Y is for...


(What did you expect?!)

In particular, *my* yarn. This has been a very exciting week.. I've been spinning for over a year, but just learned how to ply this summer. And I have yet to actually make anything with anything I've spun & plied. You see, I have this unnatural fear of cutting my plied yarn. I think that somehow cutting it will undo the magic that makes it yarn and it will come all unraveled. But yesterday I had to spin the yarn for the Breed Swap and then *gasp* cut it into 1-yard lengths. The above is a shot of the yarn after a quick dunk to let things relax. I'm happy to report that even though I didn't take a picture, cutting the yarn did not, in fact, make it unravel.

So now I'm all charged to finish the grey merino so I can make something with it. I have one skein plied already and waiting for me to finish the rest. The singles from the second spindleful were on my spindle for so long that they became de-energized and I didn't want to try to ply them that way, so I dunked them to re-energize them.

I'll probably ply this up tonight and then start spinning the last bit left - which might be another full spindleful, but I don't think so. Then I think it will be socks.. it's superwash and I had 4 ounces of it, so I think if I do toe-up socks, that will work out nicely.

And now that the holiday knitting is finished, I'm happily working away on a special request from my "little sister":

These are done in KnitPicks Essential (which means they're machine washable; the last pair of pink socks got accidentally washed and .. well.. yeah) and I'm using one of the six-stitch patterns from Sensational Knitted Socks - waterfall lace. The recipient has tiny little feet, so I'm making them pretty small, but the lace is pretty stretchy, so they should still look good when she wears them.

I'm hoping to deliver these in two weeks and also to pick up the yarn for the largesse project (stockings with clocks from Folk Socks, I think) which will need to be finished by early February. I also need to finish Peek a boo by the end of February.

Oh, and I ordered yarn (Knit One Crochet Too Angora Soft in Moss & Light Moss) from Webs annual year end sale to make Celtic Icon from Inspired Cable Knits, so between that and the two sweater kits I already have, I think I'll have more than enough to keep me busy for awhile!

27 December 2006

X = 2.37


Guess what arrived yesterday?

SQUEE! That is 2.37 pounds of processed Clun Forest lambs fleece. I send just over 4 pounds off to be washed and processed and wasn't sure just how much I'd get back after washing and processing. (See how I worked that into my X post? Aren't I clever? *smug*)

It's much whiter than I expected - the fleece were dirty and still had some guard hair in them when I sent them to Blackberry Ridge, so the color surprised me.

Looks like a lot, eh? Each of those little bundles is about 2.5 to 3 ounces, except the little one on the top. (Jali was very intrigued by the fleece, but once she got a sniff or two, she pretty much left it alone.) It's not so overwhelming when you realize that a full two pounds of it got parceled out into 1 ounce packages to go to the Breed Swap. *smile* I'm a little torn about sending so much of it away, but in seeing just how much an ounce is, I'm equally excited that I'll be getting 32 1-ounce samples of different fleeces like that from the other participants!

Along with the 1-ounce samples, I'm to send 32 locks and 32 yards of two-plied yarn. I held back the fleece I washed to pull the locks, but haven't actually pulled them out yet; I'll do that this afternoon most likely. Spinning the yarn, though, meant I had to get the merino singles that I had on my spindle off:

That is 309 yards of merino singles, which I need to wash to re-awaken the twist so I can ply. In order to figure out how many yards I had, I had to measure my Pex niddy noddy, which turns out to be 80 inches for a full wrap. Slightly larger than a 2-yard niddy noddy, but if I decide I want to make it a 2-yard one, I can cut down the Pex. I didn't measure the small one, but I suspect that it will come in just over a yard.

It also turns out that my estimation of how long it takes me to spin 64 yards of yarn is *way* off. I spun this last night:

It's about 20 yards of singles, or 10 yards of two-ply, out of about .2 ounces. So today I'm working through a .6 ounce chunk (that little ball on top in the pyramid picture), which should give me the yarn I need for the swap. Then I'll pack it all up (in the box that the roving came in, most likely) and run it down to our post office to ship it off to the Breed Swap organizer.

I have about 2.5 ounces left to keep for myself (and I'll get an ounce back when the breed swap supplies come back) and I'm contemplating spinning it up and dyeing it. My friend Carol does period dyeing stuff and I think it might be fun to try some with this fleece. Of course, I might get impatient and try to dye it with Kool-Aid first!

26 December 2006

Once upon a time..

.. in a land far, far away, someone referred to their children as "good little monkeys" when they'd been good and fair and helpful. While I can't remember who it was that originally used the term of endearment, the term itself stuck with me and as such things are wont to do, worked itself into my vocabulary.

One day at work, when asked by a friend and colleague how a meeting run by a usually trying colleague earlier that day had been, I responded that it had been fine and that the usually trying colleague had been a good little monkey. This ellicited, as I'm sure will surprise no one, a look of confusion, prompting me to have to scour the depths of my subconscious to try to determine where I'd picked up the phrase. Later that afternoon, I relayed the story about the phrase of unknown origin to a couple other colleagues and then pretty much forgot about it.

Until this

appeared, along with two like him on my other two ABC print frames. I have no idea when exactly they arrived, and none of those that I remember relaying the story to will cop to putting them there, so they remain a mystery. But it got me thinking about tokens and thank yous and ways to let people know that they're appreciated and in the back of my mind, this idea percolated away until I by chance stumbled upon a game that had pieces very similar to my little monkeys and then it was decided.

I needed to start leaving little monkeys for people who'd done good things.

However, given the sometimes negative connotation associated with monkeys, I decided I needed a way to make sure that the recipients knew they were getting the little monkey because they'd done something good.

Somewhere in there, we hit Thanksgiving and my sister mentioned that she'd been to a craft show with some friends to try to sell some of the cards she makes. We started talking about her making some nice thank you cards* that I could use for work because store bought thank you cards just never seem right to me.

(I got the little insignia stickers from our campus store, but the rest my sister did.) While we were talking, it occured to me that she could also make some little cards that I could use to leave with the monkeys to give some sort of explanation as to why the monkey was being given. I wanted to keep this as anonymous as possible, and to figure out a way to sneak the little monkeys into people's offices and leave them with a little calling card for them to find when they would. Ideally, people would keep the monkeys moving forward - you get one, you notice someone else doing something neat, so you pass it along, etc. The plan was becoming more solid.. I just needed to find out what to put on the cards that would be an explanation without giving away who the monkey was from.

Enter a random blog comment thread, and I knew I'd struck on a way to indicate to folks that they'd done something neat, but since I didn't have $1,000,000, they were getting a monkey instead. So I emailed my sister, who was confused, but humored me anyway:

I'm not sure how often I'll manage to get the little monkeys out there, or how long it will remain more or less anonymous, but I like the idea and the little cards and monkeys are cute and make me happy.

The End.

* My sister also made me some really beautiful personal thank you cards, but I don't have a picture of those yet because they're at home. She does really good work and while her cards are more expensive than if I just bought some from the store, I really would much prefer to give a nice thank you when it's deserved. She made me 24 of the work ones and I think 20 of the personal ones (which are blue and silver).

22 December 2006

W is for Whimsy!

In a fit of .. whimsy .. I decided yesterday to buy two skeins of Cascade 220 and make not only a bucket hat for me, but also for the intended recipient of Peek a Boo. As the latter is a gift, it got made first:

I tried to get a shot modeling it, but the rim is still wet, so it's floppier than I hope it will end up. I also didn't full it quite as much as I might because the recipient has thicker hair and I decided it would be easier to make it smaller if needed than to make it bigger. When it dries, if I'm still concerned about it, I might find a scrap of fleece to line it with.

Mine is already cast on and the brim almost finished. It's dark green, almost black in some light, to match the accents on my winter scarf. I suspect it will be finished tomorrow in time to wear to our first family holiday gathering Sunday.

21 December 2006

Box o' Goodies!

Whee! I got a wonderful box of goodies from my Secret Pal today! Thank you so much, Pal!

It's chock full of fun stuff. The back left corner is a bag of Cadbury caramel truffles.. mine! All mine! In front of that is a snowflake shaped box of bath confetti; I can't wait to try this out - it's toasted almond scent and the little confetti flakes look like snoflakes, too.. this is pr'bly the only way I'm going to get a white holiday this year, so that makes it even better! In front of the bath confetti is a "Bi Tien" handblown, handpainted (from the inside) glass ornament.

It's really lovely and I'm thinking I should pick up one of those little mini shepherd's crook things that will sit on a suface to hang it from because it deserves to be displayed more than just for a few days. The little box it came in is also very neat - it's fabric covered and lined the perfect size to hold small treasures when the ornament isn't using it.

In the back on the right is a spiral bound journal that had two little scrapbook bits tucked inside:

If you click the picture to make it big it will orient properly, too.. not sure why it won't in the thumbnail.. Anyway, the little bits are adorable - the one of the left is three mini skeins of yarn and tiny little knitting needles and the one on the right is a knitting basket with more tiny yarn and needles. I think the journal needs to become a project journal for me - I'm terrible at keeping notes on things I've made and I inevitably end up trying to remember if I followed the pattern exactly or not when I'm making the second sock or sleeve. Maybe a journal will remind me to take better notes..

The real jewels, though, are these gorgeous handmade stitch markers that my Pal made for me. I have to admit, I'm not usually a fancy stitch marker kind of girl, but after seeing these up close and personal, I just might be a convert. I've already got them placed in Peek a boo and they are *SO* much prettier than the little white plastic ones (and they don't dig into my hands when I hold them on the needles). And they really just look so lovely that it makes me happy to see them as I'm knitting. The pink ones are a little smaller (presumably for smaller needles) and just so delicate and the bluegreen ones remind me of bright, sunny skies and the ocean (yes, even with the mitten charm!).

This lovely gorgeous soft lusciousness is baby camel and tussah silk top roving. *drool* It's *so* soft, and the color will complement the camel down that I got at the state fair, I think, so I can't wait to spin them both up and contemplate something truly luscious to make with them. I keep sticking my hand in the bag to pet it and it's really gorgeous stuff. Definitely motivation to dedicate a day to spinning as a New Years Resolution!

The little splash of color in the top photo that stretches across the roving is a set of four (three now) flower suckers. They're very cute and quite tasty!

Thank you again! It's all wonderful and made this grey dreary day so much brighter!!

I'm working from home today.

I wasn't originally planning to, but I woke up and didn't want to get out of my snuggly warm bed and started thinking about what I had to do today and that I didn't have any meetings I needed to be in the office for, and decided that I had a much better chance of actually being productive on the things I have to do if I work from here. It's a bit odd, I admit, but I've found that if I have to write and/or edit long-ish reports, I can't focus on them in my office and it drags out interminably and the end result is almost always spotty and choppy and generally not my best work. However, doing the same tasks from home usually results in more coherent, well written work. I think this is a throw-back to when I was in grad school because I wrote all my papers at home and there's some mental switch that is stuck in a position where "home == writing" and "office == productivity". No, they're not mutually exclusive - I write short memos and newsletters and reports in my office all the time, and I can be equally productive with data no matter where I am - but for longer reports, that's how it seems.

(For the record, my lovely new very comfy chair was an early birthday gift from Jack. We tend to spend a lot of time hanging out in the den this time of year listening to audiobooks and I didn't have a really comfy chair to sit in up here, so he got me this one. It's a glider rocker & recliner and I love it. This is the chair that I most often knit in lately, as evidenced by the proximity of the ball winder, the back of Peek a Boo draped over the chair, and the ball of yarn in the seat. That paper over the radio is the bucket hat pattern Jack got me from Chic Knits, and underneath it behind the tissue box are leftover skeins from a few projects back. Tucked in behind the chair where you can't see it is my felt knitting bag which has the in-progress front of Peek a Boo and a smallish stack of knitting books, including Inspired Cable Knits, Sensational Knitted Socks, Folk Socks, the Tied Up Tee pattern, and the latest copy of Interweave Knits.)

It doesn't hurt that it's a grey, rainy, foggy day, either. A day like this in my office feels oppressive; at home, it's just encouragement to snuggle in. *shrug*

20 December 2006


So yeah.. I've been busy. And sick. And haven't been doing any knitting.

But I did make Massaman curry last night to bring in for a potluck at work today (without the chicken so that it's vegetarian; if I'd used coconut milk instead of heavy cream, it would even have been vegan!). I hope it turned out okay.. it's not quite the color I was expecting - more yellow than I'm used to. I used to order Massaman Curry from the Snail all the time when I lived in Chicago and there's is more brown.. maybe they add more peanuts or some satay sauce.. I'll have to keep experimenting. I also brought in some of that microwave-in-bag rice so that I wouldn't have to worry about how to heat up two things for a potluck.

So, yeah, no knitting means that the last intended holiday gift (Peek a boo) isn't getting done. This is not so tragic - I was able to find a gift that I'm just as happy to give, and now I'm more than half way finished with a birthday present. And it's been nice not to have to spend every waking minute knitting, I must admit. I'm torn on what to start next, though.. I have socks for MJ and my bucket hat pattern and socks for me and a some lovely merino fleece to spin.. decisions, decisions.

Speaking of (or at least mentioning) spinning, I'm contemplating dedicating a "day" to spinning, ala Stephanie. Mine won't likely be Tuesdays, but instead maybe Saturdays. Jack games Saturday nights, unless we have other plans, so that might be a good time to dedicate to spinning. I'll have to start stocking up on good movies to spin to. And at some point I would like to get somewhere that I can try some wheels so I have a better idea of what I do and don't like, but given that I can't afford to buy a wheel yet, that's pr'bly not urgent.

Right then.. off to stir the curry and try to get some stuff finished for my meetings this afternoon.

13 December 2006

What I got for my birthday.

My birthday started with an unexpected gift from an anonymous benefactor:

In case it's not clear from the blurry picture, my right eye felt slightly gummy last night at bed time, but I assumed it was due to spending several hours in the car, which usually dries my eyes out a bit. I woke up at about 4 this morning and the eye was crusted shut. I have no idea how or where, but some time in the past few days I was apparently exposed to a bacteria that causes pink eye. Ugh.

I've never had this particular affliction before and I wish I'd been able to live out my days without this experience. I now have antibacterial eye drops that I'm to use three times a day, but at least for the rest of today, my eye is likely to remain gummy and crusty and just generally unpleasant.

In an effort to try to make things not so bad as we made coffee and gathered together some necessary survival bits (e.g., holiday knitting) in case we had to wait a long time at Urgent Care (we didn't), Jack decided I should open one of my presents from him (lest you think the rest of my family neglectful, my parents and sister bought me my drum, which I actually took possession of a few months ago).

This is a print from Ursula Vernon. Some of you may recognize the style from the ABC prints that are in my office - same artist. I really like her stuff. This guy's a wombat, and he's one of her signature pieces. The print is exquisite and it certainly helped brighten the morning.

As I mentioned, Urgent Care let me down - I got absolutely no knitting done while waiting because there was no waiting. I was in an out with a prescription in less then 15 minutes. When I came out, Jack mentioned that he thought he was starting to show symptoms, too, so in he went. Today is also Jack's last day of classes, so I was a little concerned about him going to class if he did, in fact, have pink eye (if he does, it's not showing nearly so blazingly as mine, but he does have a 'scrip just in case), but since we were already in town, he decided to go to his first class and then take me home. Rather than try to deal with being in the office, I opted to hang out in the car in the parking lot while he was in class, and managed to finish the second Father sock:

No, I haven't started the front of Peek a boo, yet, but I figured I have options if Peek a boo doesn't get finished, but half a pair of socks just wouldn't cut it. And thanks to my anonymous "benefactor" it looks like I'll be home the rest of this week (despite what your child care places might tell you, pink eye is contagious until the eye is clear again; I work on a college campus and it's finals.. something tells me that this is *exactly* an appropriate time to use my sick leave), so I'm pretty sure that I should have Peek a boo back on track soon. My only lingering concern about it now is running out of yarn.. I had 17 skeins, the back took somewhere over 5, so I'm hoping the sleeves are lots smaller than the back. They should be.. right?

When we got back home, Jack had me open my other birthday present:

These little guys are the Felt Sheep Kit from Fiber Trends and they've been on my wishlist for a couple years - just as a cute little whimsy bit. Jack decided that after the stress of the fall, whimsy was in order. Hee! I can't wait until after the holidays to make them. Sheep!

I'm contemplating a nap (rather than try to go back to sleep, I simply got up at 4 and did some stuff for work and such.. I at least waited until after 5 to send any emails, though!), but want to wait until I do my next round of eye drops. Guess it's time to cast on for the front of Peek a boo!

10 December 2006


Assuming I'm going to finish the last holiday gift on time, I determined that I needed to finish the back by the end of this weekend:

I have a groove in my left fore finger from tensioning the yarn and an odd little numb spot on the side of my left ring finger where I grab the needle, but it's finished. There's more arm hole shaping than it appears - there's a column of reverse stockinette that's curling up on itself in the picture.

I'm at least a few hours ahead of schedule, and given what else I need to finish, that's good. To stay on schedule for completing Peek a boo, I figure I need to have the front finished by the end of next Saturday and the sleeves finished by the end of the following Friday, leaving Saturday for seaming and blocking.

In between times (hah!) I also need to start and finish the other Father sock, and make the ties for the Tied Up Tee. I'm a bit torn on the best way to do the ties, though. I think that I-cord will be more time consuming than it's worth, so I might try to do them on the lucet, which I think I can manage to do while attending an all day meeting on Tuesday.

06 December 2006


Someone (if I look I can pr'bly find who)(Aha! It's MimKnits! And now I must go ask her where to find the pattern for the monkey!) on my blog roll has a countdown to the solitice. This is a Good and Noble Thing(tm) (or is that s'posed to be a Right and Proper Thing(tm)?) - not for any religious* reason, but because that's when the days will finally start getting longer again.

But that's not really the point. It's the countdown bit that's the point. Because I've reached that part of the holiday gift knitting where I'm counting down until it's done** because I want to move on to other projects*** that are not holiday gifts (some of them are gifts, just not gifts with a deadline, per se). Not because I'm not enjoying the gift projects, I'm just feeling .. confined.

* I'm atheist. I believe that there are forces at play in this world - natural forces such as the gravitational pull of the moon - the have effects on how things happen, but I don't believe in predetermination or that any of those forces are sentient. I've tried to figure out if this means I "lean" toward one or another nature-based "religion", but I've given up. If you care to have a theological discussion about it, go for it, but don't expect you'll change my (or anyone else's) opinion on the matter. *shrug*

** For instance, I have half my last pair of holiday gift socks finished, which means I have half left to do - 1 sock still to complete. All but the ties for the Tied Up Tee are finished, which means I have two short (about 3/4 yard) and one long (about 2 yards) i-cord ties to complete. I'm about a third of the way finished with the back of Peek a Boo,

which means I have.. a lot left to go. And three weeks to do it in. You'd think that having started holiday knitting back in September, I wouldn't be in this position. (Admittedly, I have completed three full adult sized garments, one child garment, a pair of kids socks and half a pair of adult socks since then, but *still*!)

*** Like the Felted Bucket hat for which my darling boy just bought me the pattern (it's an early part of my birthday present). I have leftover Knit Picks Merino Style from the Fair Isle 101 sweater that I'm contemplating using to make this hat, but I can't start it until after the holiday knitting is finished (but it's darned cold out there this week!). Or the pink socks for MJ, which I really would rather do because I can do a more interesting pattern (that I haven't knit four**** times already) *and* because the girl needs pink socks already! Or the largesse stockings with clocks.. or other fun socks for me.. or I could work on the sweater kit I got *last* birthday/holiday.

**** Yes, four. I made the first child sock in the toddler size which was far too small.

05 December 2006

V is for Visitor, Redux.

It seems our little falcon has found some good hunting in the circle outside our student union. We saw him this afternoon enjoying what appears to have been a pigeon.

We got to sit and watch him for some time, and I'm almost positive he is, in fact, a Peregrine Falcon. Now that I know he's out there, I'll have to keep an eye out for him. Though he might have better luck if he ate squirrels instead..

04 December 2006

U is for Unexpected Visitors

The keen eyes of a co-worker spotted this little guy hanging out in one of the trees outside our office windows this morning.

I think he's a falcon, but I'm not 100% sure. He's awfully small to be a hawl, unless he's a juvenile, but even for that, it's awfully late in the year for a juvenile still so small. He's also got more white on his tummy than I'm used to the hawks and eagles around here having.

He looks an awful lot like a Peregrine Falcon, but they're endangered in WI, so I'm hesitant to believe that's what he is, especially since I think this guy's got too much white on his tummy. But this area has apparently been the site of at least one releasing in the last 15 or so years, so it's possible.

03 December 2006

Insert clever post title here.

I'm sure I did something this weekend other than knit, but in all honesty, the knitting is all I have to show for it.

That would be none other than the Tied Up Tee, finished by for the ties and blocking. The color in this picture is pretty much all wrong - the red is far too bright and the towel underneath it is actually forest green, but it was this or a shot that is too washed out to see anything. I machine washed it and originally machine dried it, but it tightens up quite a bit that way. Fortunately, wetting it stretched it out again to the proper size, but I'll have to be sure to include a note so the recipient knows not to machine dry it.

I really like how well the neckline on this one turned out, and in general I'm still rather fond of the shaping in this line. It's a pattern in the "shapely" series from White Lies Designs. The only pattern bit that I'm still a bit troubled by (and it's not just this pattern) is that there seems to be more bulk under the arms where the sleeves join the body than there should be. It's almost as if the top of the sleeve cap is just a smidge too long - or maybe too narrow - and it causes some bunching on the underside or something..

The ribbon yarn is a little scratchy to me, but I'm hoping it will soften with wear and washing. I'm tempted to try to run it through the wash another time or two to see if that will help to soften it before I gift it, but I don't want it to look used. :/

With Tied Up mostly done, I've cast on (and am actually half through the first repeat now) my last holiday garment. I'm using Knit Picks Shine Sport in Sky and so far I'm rather fond of it. It's very soft and has a beautiful hand, but the cables should still pop quite well. I'm really liking the color for this one as well - it's enough to give it shading that the white model lacks, but not overpowering.

It's a slippery little yarn, though, so I'm having a hard time settling on proper tension - the cables mean the tension should be a little looser or I have a hard time making the crosses, but I don't want it to be so loose that it stretches out when it gets washed. I'm hoping the 60% cotton will help combat some of that. It also splits pretty easily, which so far hasn't been too much of an issue with the cabling, but is another reason to try to keep things a little more loose than I might want.

The yarn is also pretty light, which is a little surprising given that I'm used to high cotton content yarns being rather heavy for their bulk. If this one turns out as well as I'm hoping, this might be a yarn (or at least a fiber combination) that I can use to make sweaters for Jack out of (he's allergic to animal fibers and we've not had the best of luck with either acrylic or 100% cotton for sweaters for him).

I even sat down and knit up the swatch of Cotton Fleece I used to make an earlier gift so I could wash it and provide appropriate warning for how much it might shrink (Color in the second shot is accurate). As I'm told is usual for cotton yarns like this, the shrinkage is much more noticeable in the length and in the width - and it's substantial! It shrank just about 3/4 inch over an original 4 3/4 inches, which is almost 16%. So the warning will be either not to machine wash/dry, or to know that it will lose about 15% of the length. I suspect the latter won't be that big of a deal, so it might be what the recipient opts for.

01 December 2006

What are you wearing today?

Support World AIDS Day

Today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day. Personally, I think it should be World AIDS Awareness Day, but won't quibble about semantics.

It's an annual reminder for me. Too easily, too frequently in my life, I skate through days, weeks, even months without ever stopping to think about the terror that is AIDS. I could, now that I'm thinking about it, spout statistics or case studies of countries in Africa, or point everyone to Respectful of Otters - written by a psychologist in an AIDS clinic - but Rivka's been a tad preoccupied with L'il Critter lately to be posting that much.

Instead, for those of you who don't know, I'll tell my tale. It's not terribly dramatic or frightening or brave or even sad. I've been extraordinarily lucky that none of my close family or friends have contracted HIV or died of complications related to AIDS. But there was a time when I was much more active in the AIDS service community. A time when I was living in Seattle, in a monogamous heterosexual relationship. A time when I wanted to do something more to help than assist at fundraisers for the Northwest AIDS Foundation (now, the Lifelong AIDS Alliance, created when NWAF and Chicken Soup Brigade merged in 2001).

A time when I volunteered, through the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington Hospitals, to participate in a double-blind, experimental HIV vaccine trial. The vaccine being tested had completed all stages of animal testing and they were recruiting for people to participate in an 18-month Phase I human trial. This is the first human testing for any drug, and they're primarily looking to evaluate the safety of the drug when given to healthy subjects.

I was an ideal candidate for them - I had none of the risk factors associated with contracting HIV - which was rare given that many people interested in participating are interested because HIV and AIDS has direct implications for them or their loved ones.

HIV vaccines aren't like typical oral or shot vaccines. In most regular vaccines, the vaccine is actually a severely weakened form of the virus itself - strong enough to elicit an immune response, but too weak to mount an attack on your system. Because HIV is so dangerous, though, vaccines have to be constructed differently. The particular kind of vaccine used in the trial I was in was a DNA based vaccine where a small piece of HIV DNA was created - a piece without the capability to reproduce itself, but hopefully with enough of the genetic characteristics of actual HIV to prompt my body to start producing antibodies.

The trial, in and of itself, was simple. It involved several blood draws and four injections of either vaccine or placebo. Neither my clinician nor I knew whether I would get vaccine or placebo - that's the double-blind part - until the study was unblinded at the end. Blood draws were usually multiple tubes drawn from my arm. Tubes were sent to various research centers around the country, including UPenn and Johns Hopkins, where they maintained living blood lines for each of the participants. My blood was tested at each draw for signs of antibodies using a standard HIV antibody test, and also for signs of the virus itself with a Western Blot test. The hope was that the vaccine would first and foremost not be dangerous or have any unbearable side effects and also produce an antibody response independent of exposure to the virus.

At the end of the 18 months, I was getting ready to leave Seattle for graduate school in Chicago. I found out during my last visit with my clinician that they wanted to give participants boosters of the vaccine and continue monitoring them because immune response had been less than what they'd hoped for. Because there is not an HIV Vaccine Unit in Chicago, however, I had to withdraw and did not get the booster.

Almost two years later, I got an email from my clinician with the unblinding information. I'd received 3 mgs of the Apollon DNA vaccine on 01/06/99, 02/03/99, 03/03/99 and 06/29/99.

Practically, there's been no lasting effect on my physical person from participating in the trial. The only point of any concern is that it's not known if, for some bizarre physiological reason, my body may at some point start producing antibodies in response to some bit of the vaccine that was dormant, but that's a very far stretch. All the same, I have an ID card from the National Institutes of Health that identifies me as a participant in an experimental vaccine trial should I ever test positive on an HIV antibody test. At that point, NIH would come in and run a Western Blot (which tests for the actual virus, not just the antibodies and therefore usually takes longer to get results from) to ensure that I don't actually have HIV. But, as I said, the possibility is so small it's almost not worth mentioning.

Psychologically, the effect has been somewhat muted. Many people react to hearing this tale with something akin to awe tinged with a fair amount of fear. I don't see my participation as anything particularly brave or outstanding. I wasn't in any danger, I was just one of many participants nation-wide in a much larger study, in an even larger drug-testing system. Even if, years from now, a viable vaccine is found that can trace some portion of it's evolution to the one I received, my contribution was infinitesimally small. *shrug*

So why then, you may be wondering, am I bothering to talk about it now? Part of it is reminiscence on my part.. Part of it regret that I'm no longer active in the AIDS service community.. Part of it is to demonstrate that you don't have to be directly effected by something to work toward resolving it. And still part of it I can't quite explain, other than that however small, it stands as my most significant contribution to fighting the spread of HIV and AIDS.