Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sinusoidal Scarf

This is an easy pattern for a knitted scarf.  I made it up to practice knit and purl stitches, to build up speed and work on keeping an even gauge as I go.  It is supposed to be wavy when finished, resembling the shape of a sinusoid curve.  This is done simply by alternating garter stitch sections, which lay flat, with stockinette stitch sections, which tend to curl towards the knit side.  I alternate the side the stockinette faces to form the max and min points.  So, this is a very nerdy project.

(Any yarn and needle size can be used, gauge is not important, adjust stitch count for the width of scarf you want.)

Yarn: St. Denis Nordique, 100% wool, 50g per 150 yards, 2 to 3 balls, blue eggshell

Gauge: 19 stitches for 4 inches

Needle: US 8 or 5.00mm

Cast on 30 stitches.

Rows 1-4: knit all stitches.
Row 5: purl all stitches.
Row 6: knit all stitches.
Row 7: purl all stitches.
Rows 8-13: knit all stitches.
Repeat rows 5 through 13 until scarf is desired length.  Bind off.




Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Color "Pants Left in Wash"

(Title of post is from an Eddie Izzard routine where he talks about laundry.)

I wear enough red clothing that reds get their own load. Pity the poor white article that gets accidentally swept into that pile! One particular expensive t-shirt was abused in just that manner, oh, many years ago. I kept it around, not sure how to remedy the pale pinks and splotchy reds now decorating the whole of it.

Technology has advanced, and now they sell small packets of dry chemicals to remove evidence of this particular moment of stupidity. I tried out Carbona's color run remover on the shirt. After soaking for about an hour, most of the shirt was whiter than when I bought it. The commercially applied graphic was not harmed at all. There is a small splotch of very light pink where the darkest red splotch used to be, but you have to know it is there to see it. (I think the chemicals in one packet were exhausted by removing the rest of the color, and didn't have enough strength to take care of the last portion.)

The next time I was in Hancock Fabrics, I bought another box to keep on hand. I've also been very annoying telling my friends about this in person, so I figured I'd put it up here and tell all of you at once. Please do make sure the colors you want to keep are colorfast, or you'll have the experience of the upset Amazon reviewers who are blaming the product for ruining their stuff. Sigh... - only one entire panel of the box is dedicated to warning you against using it where it would damage the garment!

Monday, May 3, 2010

New Lens?

Now that I have basically the nicest camera I can imagine, I've been working on upgrading my lens collection. In late November of last year, I bought a Konica Minolta 28-75 f/2.8 lens, used, from eBay. It is my absolute favorite lens ever, and I love having the constant f/2.8 aperture. The focusing is fast, and the only thing it is missing is macro capability. In most situations, this is the only lens I use.

My wider angle needs are covered by a Vivitar 19-35 f/3.5-4.5.

My candid very-low-light shots are handled by a "vintage" (thanks, Barb + Nik!) Minolta 50mm f/1.7 prime lens.

The hole in my arsenal is at the telephoto end. I've got a Minolta 75-300 f/4.5-5.6 (known as the Big Beercan style lens) that I also bought used from eBay but has MAJOR problems.
For example, it can't change apertures anymore and I think the AF motor has a short circuit inside the lens, so it is manual focus only.

I've got a Quantaray 75-300 f/4-5.6 that I bought used from a local guy, for $30, which is functional but not very good. I can tell from the shots of the Lens Align focus targets that it just can't resolve fine detail very well.

In the middle of March, for the special occasion of D&R's wedding, I rented a lens to cover this hole from I had a good experience with the site, and would recommend them to you if you need this sort of a thing. For $62.25 they shipped me a fully-insured Sony 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 G SSM to use for nearly a week. (A four day rental ordered on Monday to receive on Thursday actually arrived on Wednesday and they didn't want it shipped back until the next Tuesday because they don't consider the rental period to start until the first full day of use that you scheduled. Sure, I'll take it. All of this UPS-ing back and forth was included in the price.) It is supposed to be a very nice lens, and retails for $850. I thought I'd love it.

Eh, not really.

I used it at the St. Louis Zoo, and wasn't floored with the experience. I ended up not using it at the wedding at all, partially because quarters were so close, but mostly because it wasn't fast enough. (As in aperture size, not focusing speed. It focused very quickly.) The previously mentioned favorite lens took care of almost the whole event, excepting a few wide angle shots of the venue.
(The ducky shot above was taken with the Konica Minolta lens.) I was glad I had just rented, rather than buying, an expensive lens I ended up being less than thrilled with.

Now we come to the point of this post. I recently learned that a patent I am primary author on was issued! We get some $ as a reward for IP disclosures, and more $ when the patent is issued. I like to do something significant and optics-related with these bonuses. The first patent I got, I put the money towards buying a lifetime membership in SPIE.

I am considering getting a nice telephoto zoom lens this time. Specifically, the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 Macro which is also about $800 but does have the f/2.8, does have Macro, and is getting very good reviews. On paper, I'll love it. But, I'm wondering if I should rent it first, to be sure? That would be $84, insured, for another four day rental. If I don't like it, I send it back and keep looking for my knight in shining armor. But if I end up buying it anyway that adds 10% to the cost of the lens for the risk-reduction exercise. What do you think?

(P.S. If you know who I am in real life, please do not comment on WHICH patent I got on this blog. I don't need the Internet to know my full name, etc. Not that facebook gives a rip anymore...)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At the Mall I Learned

If I don't start posting simple, small, things again, this blog may never restart. (I hope you are all using feed readers like Google Reader instead of checking this site manually, I'd feel less guilty for wasting your time.)

Anyway, at the mall tonight I learned that I am in a minority for wanting to wear boots all year, and am particularly stupid for trying to buy more of them at the end of April. I found a few pairs on clearance to replace the ones whose heels have worn down past the point of repair, then came home and ordered another pair from the Internet.

I also stopped in the Apple store. iPads are slightly smaller than I thought they would be. Maybe all the people in the promotional video are smaller than I thought, so the scale was not coming through correctly?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Challenge and Compromise

Yesterday I finished participating in the 2010 Ravelympics as a member of the Crochet Liberation Front's Flaming Hooks team. My chosen challenge was to use Tunisian crochet and make a sweater from the Spice Market Tunic pattern. The rules for the competition involve starting a project no earlier than the Opening Ceremony for the real Olympics started, and finishing no later than midnight PST on the day they ended.

That is a lot of crochet in a short amount of time. Especially since I have a job to go to, other commitments to keep up with, and no previous experience doing Tunisian crochet. I worked crocheting sessions into spare moments, during long trips, over lunch, and put in a few marathon sessions when I had large chunks of free time. People would ask what I was doing, I'd explain it, then I'd get a variation on this next question:

"So, what happens if you don't finish?"

Maybe I read into it the wrong way, but it always sounded like they were wondering why I put so much effort into something that didn't have to be done. They saw me working towards an artificial deadline, with no real consequence for failing to finish on time. Nothing bad would happen, no penalty would be applied, it wouldn't go down on my permanent record as a black mark saying that in February of 2010 I failed to finish a sweater. Why, then, was I applying myself with such dedication, when no-one said that I had to?

I work hard for myself. My strongest motivations are internally sourced. I took on this challenge as a personal test. Could I do this thing? Finish? Crochet faster and better than I ever have before? Would I get a bright red sweater and a shiny blog badge or a half finished pile of frustration and tangles? The answer to those questions is what I would get out of it. The only bad consequence would be having to answer, "No, you can't pull this off" to myself.

And now I know I can. I could, I did, I'm done. There is a bright red sweater in my projects page on It is marked finished, in time, on the correct day. The stitch-work is even, the seams are neat, the pattern of tps and tss alternating on the front panel is perfect. I win.


But, here is the compromise mentioned in the title of the post: there are no sleeves. The pattern has sleeves. What happened? The sleeves are made last, after the front and back pieces are done. I had been crocheting for 8 hours (counting stitching time only) on Sunday before it started to become painful. Half an hour later, at 2.5 hours in to the first sleeve (and about halfway done with it) I decided that I could not continue with Tunisian crochet motions. My fingers, wrists, shoulders, and back were simply too worn out from the speed and the strain I was subjecting them to. [The yarn had already caused brush-burns on the fingers of my left hand as it wrapped over-under-over for tension. I had put bandages and cloth tape over the reddened skin to keep going in less pain.] My rational brain knew that the sleeves would not be finished yesterday. I acknowledged that my original goal could not be met and put down the hook.

A great thing about internal motivation is that
when you want to change direction, you only have to convince yourself. Also, in sewing patterns they often include two versions of a shirt or a dress in one envelope. There is a sleeved version and a sleeveless version. The only difference between the two is that you don't make the sleeves - there are no other changes to the bodice pattern pieces. So, leaving off the sleeves is a design decision. In this particular case it was encouraged by my situation.

In the end, I still win.

(P.S. Now I have a crazy idea brewing to add a skirt and sleeves made from fabric and trimmed with the yarn, and turn this into a dress. Later.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hey, Look, More Pictures of Trees!

I went to a Pro/E Technology day today in Wheaton, and it ended at 3pm. Since the weather was so nice (sunny, near but still above freezing) I decided to visit the nearby Morton Arboretum for the first time. I went ahead and joined for the year at the individual membership level. (This also gets me in many other gardens that participate in the American Horticultural Society's Reciprocal Admissions Program.) I had my big camera, warm snow boots, and two hours before the park closed. There is a sculpture exhibit that opens in April, Steelroots by Steve Tobin, but the sculptures were already placed among the Conifer section. Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip:






Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Papercrafting for Prizes

Did you know it is National Engineer's Week? They celebrate it all week at work. They give us cake, and gifts, and hold competitions with nifty prizes. Today I won a portable hard drive by making the strongest table out of 8 sheets of newspaper. A few years ago I won a laser level by making the strongest tower out of index cards and staples. (I do real engineering, too, where they let me specify aluminum and stainless steel to make parts. But that is all year.) Happy National Engineer's Week!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Last Inconvenience is Now Convenient

I was as surprised as you were when I turned the corner at the grocery store and discovered from a display set up in the center of the cereal aisle that they now make INSTANT Irish Oatmeal! That means I can have Irish oatmeal whenever I want now, not... never.

I got my introduction to real Irish oatmeal on a horseback riding trip in the Canadian Rockies that I went on with my family a long time ago. I even bought myself a bag of the stuff from King Arthur's Baker's catalog. But then I think I prepared it a grand total of ONCE. It takes a looooong time to prepare, especially for a breakfast food, so I always passed over it in favor of other choices.

Not anymore. I am eating it for dinner right now.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Luxury is making beautiful things because I want to, not because I have to.




Top to bottom:
The Irish Eyes motif from The Harmony Guides: Crochet Stitch Motifs: 250 Stitches to Crochet.
The Clover Hat from Crochet in Color: Techniques and Designs for Playing with Color.
Cold Shoulders from Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker.

(Luxury is also new pillows, fresh windshield wiper blades, a good song stuck in my head, and a cat on my lap.)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When Your Grandma Gets Her iPad

please send her over to We could use more crocheters to balance out all the knitters who have taken over a little.

Seriously, I didn't bring my laptop on vacation last week, and I got along fine just using my iPod touch for Internet consumption. Ravelry works well on the iPod/iPhone, the only problem at the moment is that it has trouble marking forum posts as "read". That, and the screen was too small - I had to keep zooming in. So, a giant iPod (aka the iPad) would have worked even better.

Will I get one? Ask me again when the 2nd Gen comes out. One problem is I wouldn't be able to carry it constantly like the iPod. First, it doesn't fit in my purse. Second I doubt I could legally bring it into work with me like I can with the iPod. (It is a bit too much like a computer and not enough like a phone or an MP3 player.) I'd lean towards the model with the largest hard drive, but no 3G service. I do like the display specs - it would be wonderful for viewing photos.

Actually, I'd like any high quality, high resolution computer display that had LED back-lighting and good color gamut, interfaced with my laptop, and wasn't gigantic. Unfortunately everything I've seen in that idiom would take up most of the dining room table. Anyone have a suggestion?

Monday, February 1, 2010


I finally canceled my free membership. They are no longer relevant now that we have facebook, and their most recent privacy policy update was concerning to me.

I also sent in my cancellation notice for my L.A. Fitness gym membership. A new fitness center has opened up at work. It is free, convenient, and I won't fear for my personal safety. (That comment is about the parking lot at our specific L.A. Fitness, not meant to be a joke about the unfortunate murders in a different state.)

I un-joined facebook and Ravelry groups I don't care about much, unsubscribed from marketing email lists, (except for the ones that send good coupons), lightened up my Google Reader subscription list, cleaned out my iPod apps, and cleared some of the mail off the dining room table.

It feels nice, like I'm a little lighter.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I Hadn't Seen One of These Before

We saw this in the distance off to the north, after walking up to the St. Louis fort in Marigot, St. Martin. B thought it was a water spout. It did start raining once those clouds got to where we were, about two minutes before we got back to the hotel.


The "Chewbacca Rock" was on an overlook point on another hill we hiked up in St. Martin, at Loterie Farm. B and I were joking about how we tend to "find a hill and climb it" whenever we go on a vacation. Maybe it is because we don't see hills with views in our day to day lives in the Chicago suburbs.



As usual, clicking on the pictures will take you to the Flickr page and you can see the rest of the album. There are photos of B and I, but you've got to be my friend or family on Flickr to see them.

Saturday, January 2, 2010


First, full disclosure: I was sent four free tickets for admission to LEGOLAND Chicago, as a result of either my previous blog posts or some email conversations with the promotional staff. So, K, R, D, and I were not spending our own money to wander around this morning. We almost made up for it in the gift shop, though.

Here's my favorite picture - poor Batman doesn't know what he's in for:


Little Santas had taken over the Chicago skyline and appeared to be rioting in the streets below:


Upstairs in the open-play area they had these huge soft bricks, almost like a ball pit, but actually usable to built things with:


One main objective of the trip was to take engagement photos for D and R while they were in town for New Years. Their wedding date is 3/14, Pi day, and there will be Pie. So if you are a friend of mine on Flickr and are looking through the album, that should explain the various "cute couple" poses and the engagement ring on top of the LEGO pie. All other nonsense will remain unexplained.


There aren't many photos of the photographer


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