Sunday, October 30, 2011

Risk and Euchre

I used to believe that I was completely different than my family.

I am an engineer, I wanted a boss, I wanted clear goals, few risks. My dad's side of the family are entrepreneurs, they are either starting businesses, or running them.They aren't always successful, but that doesn't stop them from finding something new to do when things don't pan out. There is always a new opportunity, or hard work to keep the current business afloat in tough times.

I have realized that even though I don't want to start a business, I actually have a pretty steep appetite for risk, and a high tolerance for failure.

Many pundits write about how my generation is risk-averse. We try to lead perfect lives, get perfect grades, have the right mix of activities. One missed step and our little lives will come crashing down. We don't protest, we don't speak our opinions loudly, we're too busy keeping our noses stuck to our phones to see the world.

I make important decisions like I play Euchre. I call trump, because you can't win if you always let someone else decide for you. If you wait for a sure thing, it will never come. So you need to make the most of the cards in your hand, and pick a suit you have the best chance in, not lament about not getting a loner.

This means making choices without full information, deciding to do difficult things, getting people to bend the rules because you are too young, and being willing to spend the time if things are going sour.

It's funny because in this time of endings, I had been fixating on the fact that I am leaving a lot unfinished, and in a sense failed. However, I have accomplished a lot since June of 2009. I worked hard, occasionally screwed up, but generally managed to get things to work. It was a risk doing Direct-PhD, it was a risk working on a nanotechnology project, it was a risk deciding not to take the overview math class, and it was a risk deciding to work for a guy who hadn't graduated any students yet. Overall I can look back, and see a lot of success. It was my call, and it was a decent one.

In high school and college I pulled a lot of tricks to challenge myself, to not be bored, to get paid more. It didn't always work out. When it did work I believe in increased my appetite to try again. The other funny thing is that it often gave me good interview material, because I had to find workarounds when things did not go right. Now, a little older and wiser, I feel I've gotten myself to a place where I am not exceptional, and I am constantly challenged. The risks I take now are not the same sort as ten years ago. Now it is a conscious choice to not do something because it is easy.

Of course, there are costs to taking on risks. Just like in Euchre, when you make a risky call, and it doesn't work out, the other team gets 2 points, and prolongs the game. By not betting on a sure thing, I probably added a least a year to how long it will take for me to walk out with my Doctorate and I lost a great adviser. For this second, and likely last try, I cannot afford to screw up.

We dissect ourselves everyday, turning over every sinew, searching every shadow in our soul. Never thought to feed what we had, only long for what we lack.
Dad, I am much more like you than I had thought. I hope I am every bit as tough as you are too.

Take care,
Molly : )

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Keeping track of it all

I might just have a case of the sillies. I talked to a flower guy, thinking he was the baker guy. Whoops. I missed the name because my office has dreadful reception. Oddly enough, I think he makes way more money on weddings than Christmas stuff, which would explain why he was willing to drop everything to get my business.

I have been trying to get a hold of the photographer so I can get a date reserved and maybe have pictures taken. And the chair cover lady, and the baker, hair and makeup stylist, and the catering.

This weekend was good, because many things were decided.

Snapdragons are cool, wildflowers are more my style, I like flowers with a mixture of colors and shapes and sizes, rather than just one type, or uniform colors, rope only comes in color combinations that recall 1988, rocks of different sizes look cool in glass, sand and rocks of different sizes do not, unfortunately this resulted in 50 lb of play sand becoming useless, luckily 50 lb of play sand only costs 3 bucks.

 Black while classy, didn't really make sense as a wedding color. It appears navy blue is the winner. And we concluded that the chiffon bridesmaid dress with the sweetheart neck and the ruffled back was the nicest dress. I have added pictures from the internet! Obviously since my little sister is 5'11" and itty bitty, any dress looks good on her, but it should look good on my other ladies, crossing fingers.

This is style B3034, because it takes some time to look that up.

I don't really like talking on the phone. I am not sure if this has always been true, or if I have become stranger with passing time. That's probably a blog post in and of itself, does getting a higher degree make you hopelessly strange? I had been really nervous about calling people, but, that said it isn't that hard. I just need to get over it. The reason why I am calling is happy. If it was bad news maybe it would make more sense to be nervous.

In terms of new and exciting things, there are probably a handful.

The apo challenge this week is pretty interesting. We have to make fractals that look like colorful sea slugs with only 3 transforms. This was try number one. I'll probably give it another crack before I submit something. I'm not winning any awards for this, I'm just working on not getting stuck in a never-ending fractal rut, where I make spirals until everyone including me gets bored. It is enough a distraction that I keep moving forward, without losing track of time completely.
By the magic of taking a long time to write a blog, the other two I made are done rendering.

I have two knitting projects going on right now, a shawl, that takes every bit of attention I can muster, and socks, that are flying off the needles. I might write the pattern for the socks so people can understand them, since it is written in Estonian. I asked for permission on the lady's blog, and since she is a fan of the Yarn Harlot, I assume she knows English, or can translate it. I received some yarn in the mail Monday, two tangled skeins. It is strangely calming to untangle them. I did the first one Monday night, and started the second before realizing it was 1 AM and I needed to sleep. The second one is berry colored and it is so freaking pretty. Unfortunately I believe I have violated my yarn acquisition rules of reasonableness. The 2 skeins were free, but that means the stash of yarn for socks, will in fact equal the number of socks I have knit. I have the same number of future socks as existing socks. This is not counting all of my scraps, which pulls the total up to more future socks than present socks. I like my stash to be about a year's worth of yarn, and I don't think I will be knitting over 20 pair in the next 52 weeks . . .

Take care guys

Molly : )

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Knitting is not art

I don't really think knitting is art.

There are people who make art with knitting, and there are pretty things that I can knit, but for the love of Pete, it is a craft, geared toward making useful things.

I keep my mouth shut when people talk about fiber artists, because I'm not one to flame intentionally. It is an easy way to lump knitting, spinning, crochet, tatting and weaving into one big happy family, but so is lovers of yarn.

Knitting was a cottage industry. People used to get paid for how much weight they knit up. Nupps were invented so Estonian women could make their shawls heavier for the weigh-in without significantly adding to the total time to knit, for when their finished pieces were collected to be sold. People wore belts so they could have a spare hand to do other things while simultaneously knitting. I'm not arguing that as a knitter I should exclusively make things with the idea in my head that I can sell it. I'm not arguing that there aren't skills needed to make awesome knit things. I'm not arguing that people don't make pretty things.

Art evokes an emotional reaction. Generally people will say that art is pretty things, but really good art can invoke horror, disgust, joy, jealousy, longing, and wonder without ever being pleasing to the eye. When have you had an emotional reaction to a piece of clothing? Maybe a well or poorly dressed person, but to specifically what they were wearing? I have a pair of socks I made that I hiked to the top of a mountain, got proposed to, and hiked down in. My boots are still stained pink. I have an emotional reaction when I see those socks, but that is for the memory of one of the hardest and most wonderful things I have done. It isn't specifically the socks, it is the event. People feel that way about pairs of blue jeans, or a favorite hat or blanket. Your emotions tied to the object bring back memories, but the object itself, brand new and unused, had no emotional response.

I wear the things I make because they are pretty, I worked hard on them, and they are useful. If a sweater or socks don't fit you don't wear them as often, if a hat doesn't block the wind then when it is freaking cold out you pull out one that will do the job, if a scarf is itchy it stays in the closet away from your tender neck. Useful is what gets knit things pulled out. Prettiness might get me to make it in the first place, but it will sit unused if it doesn't fulfill a purpose. When has art been useful? It decorates, it commemorates, it fills columned buildings, dusty attics and hallways all over the world. Art is admired, studied, debated and observed. Art is not used.

Knitting is not that far removed from its humble roots. And frankly, it would be ruined if it stopped being useful and started to become art instead.

Take care guys,
Molly : )

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cultivating Distractions

Ok, I admit it, I am procrastinating. I don't feel like making a high level literature review for the introduction to my thesis. I would rather do many other things.

However, I need to finish it, which means I am cultivating the appropriate level of distractions so that when I don't feel like it, I can take a 5 minute break, and then hack away at it some more.

What am I doing now? Writing blog, listening to Incubus, knitting the second glove for the dear sweet lovable one, searching for a better apartment closer to campus (not much luck).

The bigger question is why I want to be half distracted. I would much rather get it over with when I decide to go into work, and hardly work at all when I am in 'working'. It brings up the question of how much I want this. The project was not exactly what I wanted to do, but I said yes because it seemed close enough. It was really frustrating to see that the project I wanted to do, go to other people. I wonder if I had the skills to actually do the project I wanted. Given the motivation, would I have been more willing to learn, less willing to give up, more eager to keep working?

There isn't much point to speculation, because I feel like everyone who is getting a higher degree feels this way about their project. The piece you work on is so small it seems insignificant in the context of anything else, so narrow it can't possibly be worth the trouble, and so hard to be impossible. Part of my frustration has been that I understand the big picture, and the concepts, but the application of the concepts to my work breaks down completely. It sounds sort of ridiculous, I know how, but for some reason can't. If I didn't know how, I could ask for help. But I know how and can't, so I don't know how to ask for help. From my perspective how the hell can you even ask for help when you don't know the reason why you can't make it work. It seems like the help you need is for someone else to do it, which sounds like you are mucking around with something that you completely don't understand. Which brings me back to the first part, I think I understand what I need to do.

In more happy news, one of my fractals was chosen for a daily deviation yesterday.

For those on DA

It comes as an exciting surprise, one of my watchers had a good track record for suggesting daily deviations, though this one is really unlike what I typically make. Oddly, this might prove that once you start the get the attention across the entire site, you will continue to get featured regularly. I got my first Daily Deviation  for this fractal
Which I think is one of the coolest ones I have ever made. It was chosen as the cover of my undergrad's literary magazine, and when I participated in a swap my partner was so kind to print it on a water bottle.

Speaking of undergrad,
The dear sweet lovable one and I had a wonderful time. It's hard not to have a good time with a proximity suit and a three story tall bonfire.

I got to do it back in 2007, though it appears I won't have another chance.

Oh well, such is life.

Take Care Guys

Molly : )

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


A big weight got lifted this week, and I feel a whole hell of a lot better because of it.

Ever since April I have been pretty stressed out because I didn't have a plan for past December, and the end of the world could have happened then and I wouldn't have cared because I frankly I couldn't see where my life was heading, or if it was in a remotely good direction. I have a direction, and gainful employment, and a future that unfortunately involves several more years in a state I'm most thoroughly sick of. For now, it is the right place to stay, so I'll grind my teeth and continue on. I'm not settling here, and the type of jobs I want when I am done are not here, or where I am from originally.

I made some pretty nasty mistakes, and it would be unfair to blame anyone but myself for what happened.

In the meantime I am in the process of finishing. I am writing my thesis, which so far has been going at lightning speed, though it will be slowing down this week since I am starting the introduction and conclusion. I have decided to be done by Halloween, and frankly I don't see a reason why that can't happen. Mostly it is a battle in terms of sitting down and actually writing down words. The internet obviously cannot be up if I ever hope of actually writing.

In parallel, it appears that I need to start nailing down the details of my wedding. My mom and I had a "gentleman's" agreement to not talk about it until a month after my sister's wedding. I wanted to give her a break, and she seemed exhausted as stressed out when I left. But a month to the day she calls and I have a list of things to do, like getting engagement photos, wheedling information from the venue, asking my friends to be bridesmaids, and hotel stuff.

There are some things about this process that don't make much sense to me, like, does the color of my invitations really have to match the color of my wedding? Blegh, whatever. I have excluded the dear sweet lovable one from the process, because whatever he likes, she doesn't. And the one thing they agree on is probably not going to happen. So, I need to decide things, and it may be that the more things I decide, the more things there will be left to decide. I'm not sure.

It was very strange going to knit night and feeling that I had the most accomplished finished object, and I had completely reconfigured a pattern to suit the needs of the project. I started to stalk off in the direction of design. I changed the lace pattern to cables, and then I had to increase the size of the chart, which also increased the stretchiness of the fabric, just so it would fit just right. Is that the point of having a blog about knitting? Certainly there isn't a very big audience for how you made something among friends and family. Most of them don't care about the how, and they certainly don't love you enough to listen to all you have to say about it. On the other hand your knitting group loves to hear the details, but they only meet so often. But with Ravelry, you find a big huge varied group of people who do care, and will crash servers, and compliment and comment on your cool ideas. On the flip side any internet community gets you geared up to try to be the very best. I've felt I could get published when I was in a writing group, or that I could win in that MMRPG, or I could sell my fractal art. Am I just getting carried away again? Am I actually any good at this, or do I have unrealistic goals?

On the fractal front I've made 2 seriously cool ones.
It is interesting how adding constraints can actually make me more creative. It is in fighting against the limitations that some interesting results can pop out. It is the 100th apophysis challenge this week, and though I have not participated in them all, I'm really glad I did this week, because I think I can mine some interesting images by using bipolar as a basis, even with all of my usual tricks.