Saturday, October 30, 2004

Alright, I'm going to have to start posting even if I don't have any knitting progress to show. I finally got off my butt and started accomplishing things for work this week, so I haven't had nearly as much time to knit. I also need to go back to the cuffs again on the gloves. Turns out I was right the first time on how to do the thumb. Grr. I'm knittig them out of "Fair Isle Gloves and Mittens" which has many beautiful patterns, but is not the most user-friendly book around. Each section (women's gloves, mittens for children, etc) has basic instructions at the beginning and then just charts and comments with each pattern. This seems like a great way to be efficient, but the gloves have some very different techniques used in them which are never explained. In this case, the difference was between an afterthought thumb and a gussetted thumb. At first I did it right, but then when I read the instructions more carefully I thought I was wrong and should wait to start the gusset. I'm still not entirely sure whether I increase during the gusset (rather than moving the repeated pattern after it over), but I think that's what she means when she adds boxes in the middle of the chart. That's what I'm trying this time, at any rate. I'm also going to give the Norwegian purl a shot. Up to now I've been using both hands when color knitting, but this seems like it would be very slick.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Mark got ripped for his next assignment today. Doesn't that sound like he got in trouble? After being confused for a bit, I figured out that it means he was told where and when to go. It turns out that he will be closer than originally anticipated. Rather than being 2928 miles away in Georgia, he will be a mere 2584 miles away in Mississippi. That's better, right? 7 hours less driving...

I have a new plan for when he leaves; I want to rotate Seattle for two weeks, Columbus for two weeks. Travelling would be a hastle, but it seems much more doable than just being apart for a year. And I've have lots of quality knitting time on the planes. Now I just need to convince my advisor. I was hoping to find a university near Columbus with the equipment I need (we'll already be paying to use it, what does it matter who we're paying?), but no such luck.

As for the gloves, they are not going to be done in time (tomorrow). I'm going to have some chocolate or flowers delivered with a "more to come" note. I was almost to the fingers on one when I realized that I had used the wrong color first. Since I made up the colors, I could say that this was fine, but the reason I had chosen the order originally was because the darkest blue is almost impossible to tell from the black, and my mistake had them next to eachother. Frogging turned out to be the best thing to do anyway, since I had done the thumb very wrong. Unless my mom was in some horrible accident leaving her thumb sticking out of her wrist, these were not going to fit.

Friday, October 22, 2004

So now that I need to focus on those gloves, I can do anything but. I have made some progress:

Both cuffs are done, the one on the right is folded the way they will be in the finished product. Can you see those two black yarn strands sticking out the bottom? I have no idea what those are about, and I'm afraid they can't be good. Ah well, I will just pull them through to the other side, weave them in and hope for the best. I finally realized (after knitting the first cuff twice and beginning on the third) that the pattern is hearts rather than just abstract. I'm not totally thrilled about this, as it doesn't seem too much like my mom to me, but I think it will be okay since the main pattern is just a traditional all-over.

Below the cuffs you can see the beginning to the DNA scarf. This is requiring great self control. The yarn is just so wonderful I want to do nothing but work on this scarf. Must... get back to... gloves...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

For those of you who didn't know, that last post meant that I passed the qual and am now an official PhD candidate. Well, mostly. Technically, there is an oral portion of the exam involving presenting and defending a summary of a 20 page paper describing preliminary research results and future plans. I get the impression that they just won't let you do that until they're sure you'll pass, so that's a lot of work but not so terrifying. So back to celebrating!

On the knitting front, I began my DNA scarf today. The DB Alpaca Silk is devine, of course. I'm debating whether to begin again, however. I don't want the scarf to get to wide (my yarn is of larger gauge than the pattern), so I went way down in needle size, using a fours rather than eights. The result is predictably rather dense, though not quite as much as I had feared, but that could be a good thing since it is for warmth... Decisions, decisions. I need to finish those Fair Isle gloves first. Ten days left to B-Day. Hmm, now that I actually count it out I'm seized by panic. I'd better get knitting!

Monday, October 18, 2004

90.5 Baby!!!!

Friday, October 15, 2004

I'm getting outrageously spoiled by my knitting groups. Lately, I have never been going home empty handed. Last night the wonderful bakery folks sent us home with extra goodies from the day (oh palmiers, how I love thee), which is getting to be a pretty common occurance, and on Wednesday I got free panties! Before you start imagining wild knitting orgies or any other exciting explinations, I should explain that one of the women in the group is an assistant buyer for Bon Macy's and had a trade show. The pen collections I aquire at the trade shows of my life pale in comparison. I bet Dupont makes materials used in panties, where are they, huh?! Of course I'm not sure the heavily male materials world is ready for that sort of sample...

Even though I was so tired I could barely hold the knitting needles (I think I may be getting the flu) I made good progress on the Orcas Islander scarf. That's the specific design of San Juan scarf I'm doing; I don't think I have ever actually said it before. Just 11 more inches to go! Honestly, though, the row or two takes a tremendous amount of time and then it's fairly smooth sailing, so it's not that much left. I don't think I'm going to be able to exchange my Crystal Palace needles today, as I have to go listen to Bill Gates speak (rah), so maybe I can finish the scarf and dive back into the gloves without any longing for incomplete projects. Well, not this incomplete project, at least.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Well the qual is over. And I'm not travelling any more. It's all very odd. I've been pushing away vague feelings of anxiety, brought about by not actively preparing for anything, for the past two days. We're supposed to find out within a week if we passed, so I guess the anxiety may get less vague. I think I did really well on the test, but I don't think I passed. You need to get 90% correct, which I haven't done on anything since high school. I'm not sure I've even seen more than one example of someone getting a 90% in college or grad school. I don't think I entirely believe it is possible. It's also rough because this is the first test I have taken (maybe ever?) in which it doesn't matter how anyone else did. Usually I can comfort myself by listening to others and knowing they got the same things wrong so they won't really count. This test just has an absolute standard. We'll see.

On the up side, I can now get back to knitting. Frantically, actually. My mom's birthday is the 28th and I have got to finish her present. First I have to exchange the needles, though. About ten minutes into knitting on the plane to Europe the cable join slid off on of the needles. The next day the other side went. From what I have heard, this is a fairly common problem with Crystal Palace circulars, but the cables are so soft and flexible I want them anyway! We'll see if it happens with the next pair. I may be able to glue them, but I want to just try a new set first. It was slow going needing to hold the join on everytime I needed to slide the stitches on or off the cable, and I lost several stitches more than once. The magic loop method is going quite well other than that, though, and I think I'm sold. I especially like that I don't need to also buy dpns.

Monday, October 11, 2004


Sunday, October 10, 2004

I'm back from Portland, and came bearing a brand new PowerBook. Yea!! Three cheers for educational discounts and no sales tax! I actually haven't gotten everything transferred to it from my iMac (which will now be handed down to my husband), or even really had a chance to play with it as the qual is tomorrow!!!

I've got to get back to studying, but here is that picture of the scarf I promised.

A quick note on the train from Portland: I took the Coast Starlight train back, and I don't recommend it. I had a little more personal space, but it was a horribly jerky and bumpy ride (there was a terrible moment when I connected that fact with the smelly, sticky floors in the bathroom). It was very uncomfortable, and made writing nearly impossible. The only other time I've had such a rough ride was between tiny towns in rural Spain, not the primary route between major cities (LA to Seattle)! I suggest taking the other train.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

I don't think I mentioned that I am currently in Portland for a workshop on multivariate analysis. I am going out of my mind! Class from 8:30-5 is just so very, very long. The material is interesting, and will hopefully be useful, but this may actually be making it worse. If it weren't, I could take an hour or so off and go decompress my brain somewhere. Ugh. I still have two more days, and it's only going to get worse because I finished my knitting today. I've been working on the San Juan Islander scarf, which the instructors find hilarious, and it has really been helping me focus. My mind wanders so much more, and I tend to get distracted doodling or writing to do lists, when I'm not knitting. The difference is really quite extreme. I finished the ribbing for the neck today, however, (I'll post a picture when I get back) and I can't work on the complex cable pattern in class and still really be listening. Either my knitting or learning will get screwed up.

The non-workshop aspects of the trip have been good so far, though. I took the train down so I could knit rather than drive. It's only $50 round trip! It actually takes longer than driving, but it's a trade-off I'm willing to make. When I sat down, I saw the 9-year-old across the table from me was also knitting. Part way through the trip, the woman across the isle joined in. It was very fun.

I'm also staying at an awesome hotel. I was supposed to stay at the La Quinta, but they had raised the price everytime I talked to them, were very rude, and the place looked really dirty, so I left. I walked all around the area and checked probably ten hotels (I need luggage with wheels!), which all had the exact same rates. The Residence Inn Mariot was a clear winner, though. My room is bigger and better than my first apartment! I have a full kitchen, a living area with a fireplace, and a very large vanity. Breakfast and an "evening reception" with plenty of food for dinner are included. They'll even grocery shop for me for no extra charge! It doesn't have a lot of character, but it's very nice and clean (no bedbugs here!) with lots of extras. This is all very exciting for a grad student, especially on the departments budget rather than mine.

I'm really bummed I'm missing all of my knitting groups this week, too, though. I can't wait to get back.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I will be finishing the description of my vacation today, and we will return to our regularly scheduled program.

The only things left to mention about Helsinki are that all of the restaurants in Rick Steves are closed so rather than walking all over the city you should eat at the Picnic sandwich place (yum), and that we went to the Finnish Folk Museum. There I got to read many things about Finnish history and culture (which was pretty much entirely new to me) and saw the way clothing was made before knitting really caught on:

This seems fun to look into and give a try, but the thought of making all of my clothes this way makes my hands ache.


After getting back to Stockholm we looked around a bit. And a bit more once a mad dash through the city failed to catch our train. Never, ever say that you "wish you had more time here." That's exactly what happened in Oslo, too.

We spent most of our time in the Gamala Stan (old) neighborhood, which was very cute.

The armory of the royal palace was pretty cool, especially the coach exhibit. The coaches were amazingly ornate.

Learning about the history of Sweden from the audioguide restored some of my pride in the quarter of my heritage that is Swedish. I had been beginning to wish I were Norwegian instead, because their history and culture are just so cool...

I toured a very nice church, which had these royal "box seats" dating to the middle ages. As an American, I just can't really understand what it would be like to live my daily life around these immensely old things. It boggles my mind.

We took a night train to Copenhagen, which I love doing. Even though the train was almost sold out, forcing us to fork out the money for couchettes, it was a much better deal than a hotel and we got to sleep during the boring travel part. I hate wasting days on transportation.


Rather than staying to look around, we breezed through Copenhagen on to the suburbs for Roskilde (to see more Viking Ships) and the Louisiana (to a modern art museum). The Viking ships in Denmark were not as well preserved or interesting as those in Norway, but the museum had much more on their construction and an interesting exhibit on Vikings in Ireland. We were pretty disappointed in the Louisiana. The art was not very interesting (there was about one painting each from the famous artists mentioned in RS), and it was very expensive. The grounds were a lovely park with great views, however.

If we lived there I could see it being a very nice place to spend a day picnicking.

At the end of the day we took a ferry to the island of Aero. This was probably our favorite part of the trip. We walked to a hostel just out of town (then walked back into town to the ATM because they only take Danish credit cards. Damn you Rick Steves.) and stayed the night. It was a very nice, clean place, and we had our room of four bunks to ourselves.


At breakfast we encountered a very clever cheese cutter that raises the cheese as you spin the crank to cut off a slice. This was right up there with the collapsible spoon you get with your yogurt! (Please bear with me: I'm an engineer married to an engineer.)

We rented bikes from the hostel, and after a bit of poking around the town of Aeroskobing we went biking around the island. Here is a little tour of what we saw:

The ceilings were painted in this traditional fashion from the middle ages. There were also model ships hanging from the ceiling, which is apparently very common in Danish churches.

These guys were hilarious when we biked by.

I'm pretty sure everyone on the island has Guard Geese. They were fine with us stopping there, but went nuts when I took one step too close. I stepped back, and everyone was quiet again.

Aren't these beachhouses adorable? And look what's in front! Real, live swans!

The bike tour was not entirely wonderful, as we got horrendously lost (terrible directions from a certain guidebook, perhaps?). This of course happened right when we were starting to get tired and a freezing rain began. Fortunately, the rain didn't last long and we found our way back, though the trip was much, much longer. Overall, our time on Aero was still great.

We then proceeded to make the biggest mistake of our trip; staying at the Sleep-In Green in Copenhagen. This was a hostel, but not an IYH affiliate. We could tell it was a little grungy, but it was really cheap and just seemed like a dirt-cheap student place. There were lots of nice people there, and they made great hot chocolate, so we stayed and didn't worry about it. We rented blankets and they had run out or something so they gave us old blankets and a refund. Again, we were just happy we had gotten something free. Then I woke up with huge, itchy, red welts all over my body. Apparently I had been attacked by bedbugs (I had no idea that was an actual, specific type of bug). The itching would last for days and the welts for weeks. I was miserable for the rest of the trip, and especially the flight home. Suffice it to say; don't stay there. Of course, this could just be filed under s**t happens and wasn't really their fault (after all, Mark had no problems), but with tons of other places to stay in Copenhagen, why take the risk?


Our last day in Europe was spent looking around Copenhagen. We had icecream on the waterfront of Nybro:

We did a walking tour of the town, on which we found a bust of Neils Bohr:

Hans Christian Anderson told me a story:

And, of course, we visited the little mermaid:

We also went to the National Museum to learn about Danish History. It was not as good as its counterparts in Norway, Finland and Sweden, but was fun. We raced into the art museum two minutes before close to see The Thinker, but discovered it was unavailable due to renovation. That was disappointing, but at least then we didn't have to feel bad about getting there with so little time.

Rather than pay to stay anywhere that night, we rode the train as far out of town as we could and still catch a train back before midnight (we were out of days on our railpasses). We slept on the trains and then in the airport before our 6am flight to Amsterdam. It sounds horrible, but it really wasn't, and was less stressful than paying another $100 to really stay anywhere (our accounts were pretty dry at this point.)

That's pretty much it for the trip, except for one last detail: you will never guess who was on our plane back to Seattle. The one, the only, Rick Steves. It was crazy. Had this been on my last trip to Europe I would have run over and joined the crowd gushing. Well, maybe not, but I would have thought about it, and my thoughts would have been with them. This trip, however, I just restrained Mark from going to explain what he thought of the Scandanavia book up close and personal, and sent hate rays with my brain. Not that we won't use his books in the future, but it had been a long trip.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Let's see if this will post now...


The five hour train ride to Stockholm actually wasn't too bad, but we had to walk all over creation and back to discover the TI had moved right next to the train station. Very convenient if you know... Then we had to go back the exact way we had come to buy our Helsinki cruise tickets (so worth it, but I'll get to that). At least by then we had dropped most of our stuff in a locker for the day and could begin to enjoy what an awesome city Stockholm is. I think it may have been my favorite. Olso was very nice, but pretty nondescript. Stockholm has all kinds of old and interesting architecture everywhere. It just had more character.

We started with the Nordic Museum, which was built like a Danish castle and very cool. If you are into social history, this is the place for you. They had all sorts of displays on daily life, dining, festivals, etc set up with wax dummies (Scandanavia has a penchant for putting dummies in all of their displays, sometimes hiding them in corners where you don't notice them until you're alone and see them out of the corner of your eye where you're sure no one was before. I swear those things come to life and dance around eating human flesh whenever no one's looking.) The audioguide was free and really interesting. I have never bought an audioguide before (I'm very cheap), but I loved this museum that would have been pretty boring without it so I started taking Rick Steve's advice on when to get them more seriously.

Before setting sail we went to see the Vasa Museum. It was fascinating, and probably our favorite site of the whole trip. The Vasa was an incredbly elaborate 17th century warship (named after the father of modern Sweden) that sank 15 minutes into its maiden voyage and was brought back up from the ocean floor 333 years later.

Isn't that amazing? It has been described as "the world's largest jigsaw puzzle," because lots of the outer boards and ornamentation had fallen off and had to be put back on. They compared the nail holes on every single piece of wood to those on the frame of the ship to put it back together! I can't even imagine how tedious that would be! You know there were a whole bunch of very happy anthropology grad students who got to sort through all of the muck and catalogue all the finds. That sounded really sarcastic, but I was serious. What a thesis!

Here's a detail shot to give you a better idea of how ornate this ship was:

They are now working to figure out what colors everything was painted based on chemical analysis and knowledge of paints used at the time. Now that is a project I would love to work on (I would go nuts putting the boards back). For some reason it never occurred to me that these things were painted; I always thought they were just wood colored. You learn something new...

The exhibit about why the boat sank was particularly interesting to us as geeks - - I mean engineers. Unfortunately we couldn't stay for the movie about it.

Our overnight cruise to Helsinki was awesome. When we read about a one night cruise, we were not expecting this:

That's, like, an honest-to-goodness cruise ship! It's barely smaller than our week-long Caribbean cruise ship! That ship did not have a Turkish bath, an authentic Finish sauna, and many jacuzzis, though. This was the best deal of anything we did in Scandanavia. $260 total for two nights lodging, transportation to and from Finland, a smorgasbord dinner, and buffet breakfast both mornings!

Granted, the smorgasbord was a disappointment. If you have ever been to a buffet dinner before, it's not that exciting and is pretty expensive (almost $30 apiece). If you don't eat fish or seafood (a constant problem in Scandanavia) it really sucks. The substance of your meal is then lunch meats. There are of course salads and other incidentals, but you're not going to find a chicken breast, for example. I did get to try a few regional things that I hadn't before. For me, trying new food is probably the biggest part of experiencing a new culture. I was going around merrily plopping anything on my plate that I could be reasonably sure had neither fish nor bananas (eeeeew), when midscoop of something Mark asked what it was. When I cheerfully replied that I had no idea, he wailed "how can you do that?!" Some people have no sense of adventure.


We only spent a day in Helsinki, but we really got around. Seven straight hours of walking will do that. There were some very cool things. Here's an areal view of one of them:

Now brace yourself for what I am about to say: that building is a Lutheran Cathedral. If you have no American (or the other parts of Europe I've seen) Lutheran expericence this may mean nothing to you, but let me tell you it's shocking. Here's another view:

Surprising or not, this place is cool. Here's a shot of the organ and the main man:

We also went to a Russian Orthodox cathedral. I had never been to one before, so this was pretty interesting.

All over Helsinki we saw little guys like these:

I'm not sure what they were for. My best guess is that they were "no parking" turtles and racecars. They were cute anyway.

Here is an example of something we saw a lot on our trip:

What's with the soapy fountains? Is it mold control?

I'm exhausted, so I'll finish Finland tomorrow. Just one last thing before I go:

Behold the power of cheese?