Sunday, December 25, 2011

What I got for Christmas

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Undergrads Have Left! Hurrah! Hurrah!

It is quiet at the office now. I don't get to hear about who spurned who at the nightclub, how the homework is hard and other such nonsense. ~happy dance~

Oddly, by shear force of habit, I was still coming to the office. Yes it is silly, I'm hoping that the 3 weeks I have off breaks that little habit.

I've finished my Grandpa socks.

 I made a few interesting fractals, unfortunately the aspect ratio is off on this one. Go to the sorce if it is too small.

For this week's challenge I submitted this guy.
There were a few people who had a similar idea to mine, so I don't think I have much of a chance of winning. (which I didn't this blog post has been a long time coming)
I even made one that is supposed to look like hot chocolate, where the black bits are supposed to be the last sickly sweet dregs.

The next challenge is to make a snow flake without any of the julia(n) variations. It should be interesting. I started with a linear base, I'll have to watch the entries and see if I can come up with other clever tricks.

Just a word of explanation for the pictures yesterday, I tried and tried to post images of the wedding shawl I received from my future MIL, and when nothing worked I posted them on the blog instead of dropbox. For some reason my public folder wasn't playing nice.

Take care guys,

Molly : )

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Double double toil and trouble

For those on dial up, just skip this post. I've got a giant pile of pictures, including my cauldron (evil cackle).

I had sushi today, and it was divine. I need to have sushi way more often. It is a luxury that isn't that expensive. I shared 2 California rolls, and one I love Tuna roll with a friend. And for 11 bucks apiece, I think I can afford to do that more often. I had wanted sushi since August, I should have just bit the bullet and had it sooner.

In other news I had a baking experiment this weekend. I have a 5 lb bag of Rye flour in my freezer, from when I tried to make real German pumpernickel bread. (Never again). I was looking for an American style recipe, and I came across a blog I had heard about but hadn't visited before (smittenkitchen). Well I saw the pumpernickel recipe, but below it was a link to what she thought was way better, Russian Black Bread.

I immediately wanted to make it. So out came the rye flour, out came the yeast, and I pulled out all of the ingredients I had on hand, which was about half. I substituted oatmeal for bran, skipped the espresso powder, subbed in onion for shallots, skipped the caraway and fennel seeds. For the recipe see here. I will make more, and I will include all of the ingredients next time. I was just in a rush to get started, and bread only really needs 3 ingredients, water yeast and flour. Everything else just makes it better.

I had fun playing with my food. I had the dear sweet loveable one take a picture of me tossing the bread ball around it the kitchen. It was very solid. Perhaps that isn't the best state for yeast bread, but that is what I had.
And then I wrapped it all up and tried to let it rise. It did not rise much, hence the very compact loaves. I think I need to replace my yeast. It said it was expired, and now I believe it.

I threw one loaf in the freezer, and other one I had with eggs as toast, and just smothered in butter. It was worth the effort for sure. So that is cauldron item number 1.

Cauldron item number 2 has to do with knitting, more specifically dyeing yarn.

So I have a theory about knitting. If something doesn't fit right, it isn't going to get worn, and all that work to make it is wasted. SO, if you aren't using something, even if it took 5 weeks to make, making it over again will result in something you will actually like, and wear and use, and it is worth the time to remake it.

The first item I frogged was a pair of mittens I made with a merino alpaca blend. I have a really awesome pair of mittens. I will drive across town to retrieve them immediately if I drop one. They are made from old sweaters, and lined with cashmere. They kept my hands warm when I biked outside when it was -6 F outside. The mittens I knit, while nice, are completely outclassed. So I ripped them apart. I don't know what I will do with the yarn. Probably a cowl or hats.

The next item on the chopping block was a sweater. I know, swatches are your friend. Wash your swatch, dry your swatch, measure twice, cut once. I live life dangerously.

Back when I was happy about the sweater, shortly after finishing
I originally bought the yarn when I was severely bored waiting for my equation solver to spit out an answer last year. First I searched and searched for a cabled cardigan pattern. And then I started scoping out yarns I could use for it. And then I went to the web site, and compared all the colors, and visited a few others before settling on the dark turquoise colorway of Drops Karisma.

Sorry, my sad face doesn't look very sad.

I really wanted something more blue, but the turquoise was cheaper, and I was in a thrifty mood that day.

To make a long story short, it grew.

My hands are fully extended in that picture. And the sweater was not very flattering anymore. I spilled coffee on it last month, so I brought it home to wash it. That night I washed my socks. I didn't bother washing it until I ran out of clean socks again, a month later. This met my qualification for not wanting to wear something because it wasn't fitting right. It was barely dry, and I knew I had to rip it all out.

I felt sick to my stomach once I started, but I got over it and got into a ripping grove. The seams were the hardest part to get, and since this was in 5 pieces, there were many seams to rip, and woven in ends to find, and tangles to handle. But I managed to get it into a ball, tying in strands of yarn as I went. Then since the sweater was a little damp I turned the ball into a skein by winding it onto the kitchen table. The dear sweet lovable one helped me out with that one.

I tied it in a few places, and I had to take a picture of 1.) a sweater's worth of yarn in one place, and 2.) the cocker spaniel effect of frogged yarn. It only took a trip to the sink to get the yarn to straighten out. I then soaked it in vinegar and water overnight. Because frogging an entire sweater was not enough. I needed to over dye the dull dark turquoise color too. So while the yarn was soaking I tried to figure out how to dye all that freaking yarn.

I tried the crock pot method first, however the crock pot was not big enough to hold 500g of worsted weight yarn, so I switched to the stove, and the biggest pot in the cupboard, and got it up to 170 degrees way faster. I mixed the food coloring with vinegar, and dumped it in. And the yarn soaked it up instantly, which meant I went though a few iterations until I ran out of blue. I sort of wanted to try other colors, but I didn't want muddy colors, so I held off. I left the yarn to simmer, and hover around 210 degrees for an hour, pulled it out of the pot, and let it cool until the next night.

I dried the yarn by using the final spin on the washing machine, and this was the result.

 It was hard to get a good picture of the color. It was definitely more blue, see the pic with undyed yarn laying across the dyed yarn. But it was not very even, as shown in the pic on the bottom right. I have heard that dyeing at home is not very consistent, but I guess I needed to try it to believe it.

At this point, any normal person would have stopped, but I was not satisfied. So I went off to the store. Much to my chagrin, they sell larger bottles of red yellow green and black dye, but not blue. So I bought 2 more 4 packs. I also bought a tube of blue gel, since it sounds like the food safe yarn dyers of the world like that sort of stuff. I didn't use the gel.

The dear sweet lovable one pointed out that we have a huge pot, which is actually the pot for his pressure canner. So I dumped in 4 cups of vinegar, water to cover the yarn, and stirred in one container of blue into a separate cup of vinegar.

This time I brought the yarn up to 180, lifted the yarn out before dumping in the dye/vinegar mixture, then put the yarn back in. It instantly soaked in, so I took the other container of blue, along with half a cup of vinegar, stirred it in, lifted the yarn. dumped the dye, put the yarn back in, then got it up to 210, and let it simmer for an hour. I checked it, there was still a little unabsorbed dye, so I left it go for another 20. It didn't look any different. I figured a light blue was ok.
And then I had a hot steaming pile of yarn :D
Isn't that a gorgeous color? I think it is so cool that I could take a picture of a hot steaming pile of yarn.
 I tried to take a comparison picture without the flash, but the colors were all screwed up. Obviously you can tell that the yarn is much darker than it used to be, and hopefully that darkness is just blueness. However, the drama continues, because rinsing is not getting the yarn to stop bleeding.
What went wrong? I added more vinegar, nearly boiled for an hour, but still it looked like a pale blue as above. The sage knitter advice was to leave it in the dye pot overnight. Apparently on top of needing a ton of acid, blue can't be rushed.

Frankly I am tired with fiddling with it. It looks pretty, so what if it bleeds a little. It's not like I am washing it with anything other than itself in the sink.

Take care guys,

Molly : )

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Long and Lonely Road

What has been bothering me lately? A problem that I don't think many people like to talk about.

  • How can it be that on any given day we see scores of people, but feel lonely and isolated? 
  • Why is it that we have hundreds of friends, but no one to share with? 
  • Where can I find people who I want to be friends with, and they want to be my friend in return? 
  • Who wants to admit that they feel isolated? 
  • How can you share that you feel alone, if you feel uncomfortable talking about such personal subjects with your friends? 
  • Are they really your friends if you can't talk about these things?

When I turned to the internet, to feel less isolated, I was really surprised to find out how many people felt the same way as I did. These same questions kept cropping up, again and again. No one really had a good answer for why it was so hard. It used to be so easy, so natural, I used to be surrounded by people. Why did that number dwindle so quickly? Why could I not find these people now that I was older?

I had blamed myself:

  • I'm too introverted, not outgoing enough. 
  • I'm too weird, no one wants to be around me. 
  • I'm too busy, I always say no.
  • I don't keep in touch, if I don't call, they won't call either. 
  • I'm too quiet, I don't have anything important to say, or the will to say it.

All this self-hate, is frankly self-defeating. It doesn't really get at the root of the problem, which is for the first 18-20 years of life you were surrounded by your peers and you had tons of opportunities to mix and meet. The moment you enter the world as an adult, you are never going to have it that easy ever again. Nothing in your previous experience prepared you for the day when you had a job, your own place in a new town, and none of your original support system. You aren't surrounded by your fellow students, and you didn't really choose who your neighbors were, or your coworkers either. There is no guarantee that you even will like them, or you will have anything in common.

Of course understanding the reason why, is not the same as having a solution.

I wandered around facebook, I guess I have 458 friends. I went through the list, there isn't anyone there who seems out of place. They were my friend, at some point in time. That said, I don't think I have talked with hundreds of them for months or years. Obviously there are those I want to hold onto, because they were very dear to me, and those I still see on a regular basis. But honestly, are there 10 people who I am close to? 5 people even? Am I going to spend the remainder of my adult life on the long and lonely road?

Yes I have my fiance, who is best friend, lover, and companion all rolled into one. But being together is not a substitute for friends, or for not feeling lonely. We can feel lonely even when we are together. I know when he starts making phone calls to his friends, scattered across the country, that he feels lonely sometimes too. I wish I would do the same thing, but I really hate talking on the phone.

It might be a subtle point, but depth alone is not enough, there needs to be breadth with depth. Breadth really represents the possibility, if you spent enough time, maybe one day you could be close.

I'm interested in what you guys think about this, if you have felt this way too.

Take care,
Molly : )

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bully Pulpit

In high school, I was on the school newspaper. I realized after the first issue that the very best position was that of editor, so I started hanging out during the production stage, and learning how to use photoshop. Oddly, my mad photoshop skills come in really handy as a researcher. Who knew making figures was such an important part of the job? My second year I got to be news editor, and it was then that I realized the only better position I could have was that of a columnist. Columnists got to have 750 words dedicated to their own special thoughts and they got to use the word I, which is a big no-no in the newspaper business.

Why did I want to be a columnist? I really liked the idea of the bully pulpit. There were many things that bothered me in high school. I didn't like the social norms for women, or how people treated each other, or the lack of imagination, or the complacency of my peers and how no one wanted to be challenged. So I would get all hot and bothered, and I would write 750 words, and maybe someone read it. Frankly this blog is my new bully pulpit. I hadn't realized it when I started, but the voice I developed in high school, to complain about my lot in the world, and suggest how to change it, is mostly the voice I use here.

There might have been some engineering school related atrophy of my communications skills, but if you spend six and a half years exclusively hanging out with people who feel writing is hard, you start believing it actually is more challenging than before, and start using significantly shorter words. If I got a dollar for every time someone requested I use English in undergrad . . . That aside, I haven't changed that much. Every so often I get hot and bothered about something, and then I would complain about it to the dear sweet lovable one, or just let it stew in my mind. Let me tell you, writing it out is hands down the best way to get me to stop thinking about it.

Writing organizes thoughts, and once those thoughts are arranged neatly in paragraphs and publicly posted, I can let it go. Writing is a process of refining, my mind wanders a lot, and if I want to make a point, I need to decide what is important, and get my examples to follow the direction I want to go. And finally writing takes time, so you only write about things you feel are important, in the hopes that someone else feels they are important too. I was so glad start getting comments on my blog, because at least to me it means I hit on a topic that someone else found interesting too.

 The thing I actually intended to write about today is really far from being coherent. It isn't worth complaining about something until I have some solutions. I thought I had worked it out, but being frustrated is not the same as having a point to make. I have also been writing to procrastinate, because what I need to do is absolutely the opposite of what I want to do. It isn't worth the time to figure out right now.

I am finishing the last thesis corrections, then I have the remaining time to document code. Whee!

So what's happening with me? I'm making things, and perhaps this weekend there was a creative explosion. I read books, cover to cover in one go, which meant I needed to write, and I had free time so I knit something in a day, and I made tons of fractals.

My computer can not keep up with all the rendering I want to do. It looks like I will have time to start another one on my work computer. I came up with a cool idea where I used a variation called separation, in combination with linear, to fill the flame with copies of pieces of the inside. When there is symmetry this does a good job of adding elements related to the main event, without distracting.
Fractal explosion!

Knitting Explosion!

There is actually more knitting done that this, but I haven't had camera time.

That's all for now, take care

Molly : )

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Master Bachelor Bachelor Molly

I passed my defense!

I got to have my glass of wine, and fantastic seafood risotto, and lovely conversation with family and friends.

I'll post a composite picture of my thesis when I turn in the final copy.

Only a couple of corrections and I will be home free.

Take care guys,

Molly : )

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thesis is done: Defense is not

Had I known what I know now, 6 months ago, I probably would have done things differently.

Unfortunately, 6 months ago I hadn't known I needed to write a thesis.

Had I known what I know now, 2 months ago, I would have been a lot less stressed out, and I would have defended on the 21st, not the 1st.

Unfortunately, the tightest scrutiny seems to come at the most inconvenient time to fix it.

When I am put to the test, it will not include everything that I learned, and was trying to master in the past year. And I was really disappointed this Wednesday, when I finally managed to send out my document to my committee. I was somewhere between livid, tearful and exhausted. I had so much work to do, I could not procrastinate at all. I can now believe when people say that their thesis is not their best piece of work. I know everything that I wanted to do, but ran out of time to finish. Don't get me wrong, the document is great, and I am proud of what is there, but I am pissed about what is not there.

I got to recharge this weekend, collected my last bridesmaid (the count is 5), had adult conversations with members of my extended family, and watched a lot of TV.

I don't normally watch TV, but my family does. When I was in high school I would watch West Wing with my parents, and that was it. When I made it to college I didn't watch anymore, and at this point I don't own a TV. The DVD collection is quite large, but that is the end of it. Sometimes this results in less small talk, on the other hand, it results in far more time to do things I want to do, or waste time on the internet . . .

It has been a slow week for fractals (note title)

I made one for the challenge this week, and that was it. I don't like 3D fractals, maybe because I haven't learned how to properly make them. The idea is interesting, but I am less interested in traveling the learning curve on this one (right now). I didn't add many bells and whistles, it is bare bones, but sometimes that is a good combination for a tutorial challenge.

On the knitting front, I managed to use the sock-u-lator to successfully cast on the right number of stitches, and at least the leg fits my grandpa. At this point I am on the long haul of the foot. Supposedly this is going to be 11.5 inches long, and I think I have around 8 done. He was bragging to his sister, an ex-knitter, about it, so I believe he has proven most knit worthy.

The shawl project is on hiatus, at least until the socks are done. I don't know if I am considering the socks to be a Christmas present or not. I wanted to finish them before my grandpa went back to Florida, which I believe is the 29th of December. It should be totally do-able. A lot of knitters this time of the year are completely freaking out about the projects they are working on as gifts. Until my grandpa had remembered my offer to knit him socks, I wasn't planning on making anything for anybody. Why stress out about making too many things for too many people? Why bother when the things I make are met with a lukewarm reception? I think I prefer my projects to be an as-needed, as-requested sort of affair. I will happily make things, but on my own schedule, and only because they are needed/wanted/appreciated.

I have a couple more things that are on my mind, but this post is full enough. I'll have to make separate posts later.

Take care guys,

Molly : )

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thesis Death March

Ok, it's fine.

I just really like the sound of the title, the situation is not a death march, more like a stumble across the finish line of a marathon.

Actually my shawl is also turning into a marathon too. I have a long way to go. Don't let the epic star wars shot fool you, this puppy is a long way from being done.

Perhaps the people that I have been talking to lately are sick of me complaining about how I am not to square yet. What is square you ask? When the length is about equal to the width.

 Where was I when I took these pictures? Eh, about 13 by 20. I should have used the size 4 needles, since this is supposed to block out to 26 inches, and this all pinned out is not that wide.

 But look! Pretty variegated yarn, pump little nupps, and whoops, this picture is the one where I made a mistake across the entire row of the chart

Oddly, the macro feature on the camera does not work so hot when the flash is off. Even with the flash off, this is not the actual color of the yarn. Imagine it is more blue.

I am still rendering fractals. This one made the cut as my new desktop background at work. Sometimes it just works out that the only way to make a fractal really sing is to put it on a white background. The black in the gradient really highlights the fractal in this one.
The apo challenge this week is really hard. Red background. Red does not like to play nice with other colors, most gradients just clash horribly.
 This is the one I decided to submit. There is actually a Gaussian blur in the center that gives everything a grey/black cast, which makes it so the red isn't so vibrant and over powering.

That's all for now, aside from I have an equation that 2272 pages of a word document. Be afraid, very afraid.

Take Care

Molly : )