Friday Five

1. Tell us something you’ve done in the last 24 hours that’s made you happy.  Watched the courtroom scene from My Cousin Vinnie.  She so totally pwns the prosecutor.

2. What’s the last thing that really scared you? I have to pick one thing?  Let’s start with the state of the world and work down.

3. Where’s the last place you went out for a meal? The Mexican place down the street from my office.

4. What’s the last thing your significant other said to you? “Talk to you later, sweetie.”

5. Want to come over and watch the UFC fight with me tomorrow night? Good God, no.

I’m Sorry, You Seem To Have Mistaken Me For Someone Who Cares

Email from someone in the office saying, “Hi, these people don’t know what to do to sign up for the meeting!  Fix it!”

Screw off.  I take the reservations and put ’em in a spreadsheet, dude, I don’t answer questions.  You people do not pay me enough to think.

Save Me

Tell me that I do not need this dress.  Even though it would look great on me.  I have no possible place to wear such a thing…

Meme Time

  1. What time do you usually wake up in the morning? About 6:30.  If it’s not a work day I usually go back to sleep.
  2. Coffee or tea? Funny you should ask that, since I have just this morning discovered once again that there is nothing I can do to coffee that will make me like it.  Once you take out the overwhelming bitterness, what’s left is barely a taste at all, just a sort of dusty water effect.  I do this every year or so, on the off chance that the correct taste bud has finally turned on, and it never comes out well.
  3. What did you have for breakfast?  An apple fritter from Starbuck’s–see above about the periodic coffee experiment.
  4. What color are the sheets on your bed?  At the moment, light blue in satin and matte stripes.  I got them a few months ago and it’s finally been warm enough to take off the flannel sets.
  5. What did you dream about last night?  Not to put too fine a point on it, that is none of the blog’s business. 🙂

Cue Disney Song

Irregular Webcomic today has a discussion of Siamese cats and why they have the color pattern they have.  The short form is, they have a mutation in their melanin that means it only gets dark at cool temperatures, and the extremities are cooler than the main body.  (If the mutation worked the other way, Siamese cats would be dark on the body and light on the face, legs and tail.)  People who are going to be showing their Siameses often put the cats in little jackets for a week or so beforehand to make sure the body stays nice and warm, and therefore pale.  But all of this is not why I’m posting about the strip.

I’m posting because one of the photos, of the Siamese cat in Finland, was taken by someone I know.  We’re not close these days–in fact, in theory it could be some other Elissa Ernst in Finland.  But that’s not such a common name, and I know Lissa has visited Finland on several occasions and in fact lives there these days.  So I’m thinking it’s probably the Elissa Ernst I know.

I will now sing the Disney song.  You all know the one.

What We Have Here

If I don’t know what the problem is–if I don’t know there is a problem–I cannot fix it.

You’d think this would be plenty fucking obvious, wouldn’t you?

Apparently not.

I Can’t Watch

I have seen a few episodes of Glee recently, or parts of episodes, and I have come to a sad conclusion: I can’t watch it.

I would love to be able to watch it.  I mean, a show about high school show choir, with better production values than Hempfield could even conceive of?  Yeah, sign me up.  Except for one problem: the cheerleading coach.

The character’s name is Sue Something-that-begins-with-an-S, and I cannot stand her.  Just having her on the screen sets my teeth on edge.  She is everything I hate about authority figures: dogmatic, arrogant, bullying, illogical, and arbitrary.  As I understand it, the idea is that she grew up with absentee parents and a handicapped younger sister, and this is supposed to explain her.

Well, it may, but it doesn’t excuse her.  Your parents weren’t around much, so you had to raise your little sister?  Doesn’t mean it’s OK to bully teenagers under your authority.  The little sister in question was handicapped?  Doesn’t mean you can randomly insult people who’ve done nothing to you.  You’re nice to the one girl who reminds you of the sister?  Doesn’t get you out of being a normal human being and actually interacting with people as equals.

I realize that the whole point of the character is to be a parody of the extreme, abrasive teacher, and that I am supposed to hate her–for that matter, everyone in the show is a parody of something.  But I think the creators took it too far.  I hate her so much I can’t watch, because at any moment she might show up…


OK, here’s the deal: First five people who comment here get something from me before the end of the year.  It won’t be huge, and I’m not promising knitting, but something.  This will mean you’ll have to give me contact information of some sort, if I don’t already have it.

There is a catch: You have to post to your blog, and make something for five other people.

Let’s see if we can get something going.  I caught the meme here.

The Area of My Expertise

There’s an old post on Charles Stross’s blog about how many people you need to maintain given tech levels.  Comments there are closed–the post is from midsummer 2010–so I’m going to talk here about something I saw there.

Most of the discussion goes way over my head.  Metallurgy, chemistry, electronics: none of these are stuff I’m good at.  But one commenter hit right in the middle of one of my specialties, that being fiber technology.

He says something along the lines of, “We don’t need silk and rayon and nylon and all that; cotton and wool and we’re good to go, maybe data on a few synthetics in case there’s something there that eats cotton or wool.”


First: if you’re going to take only one plant fiber (and he’s ignoring the fact that he already mentioned hemp), linen is a vastly better choice than cotton.  It doesn’t deplete the soil nearly as much, is vastly easier to harvest, process and spin, is stronger, and has desirable qualities such as “doesn’t kill you if your linen garment gets wet on a chilly day”.  About the only downside of linen is that it’s hard to dye, and our ancestors spent literally millenia using linen for the plain next-to-body layers and wool for the bright public layers (in areas where they were using sheep’s wool rather than silk, alpaca, camel…).

Second: Yes, you really do need silk.  For all the things you’re not using rayon for, or did you think you were going to make your lightweight backpack out of wool or (linen) canvas?  Silk is a polymer, essentially plastic manufactured in bug guts rather than in a big tub.  Its big drawback is the amount of work it takes to make it useful, and that’s not tough (for the values of “tough” that a society contemplating interstellar colonization must consider) to automate.  The food silkworms require, mulberry leaves, even comes from a plant that produces useful human food too.  And silk is great for all sorts of things, including clothes that are warm without being bulky and fabric that takes dye easily.

Third: You need synthetic fibers for things other than clothing.  Rope, fr’instance.  And also that lightweight backpack, though you might sensibly choose to make that out of the organically-manufactured silk rather than the industrially-manufactured synthetics.

I think what we have here is a case of someone assuming that the fiber is a simple field, because it’s something that low-tech people and women do, and making further, reductive assumptions therefore.  It’s irritating.  I mean, I don’t know much about metallurgy but I don’t claim we can get by with just copper and iron, either.

Knitty Spring-Summer 2011 Review

Knitty went up yesterday afternoon, and didn’t get completely clobbered!  Which is great.  But the issue itself is…not so great, sadly.  They’ve almost given up on articles, and the patterns are both relatively few and extremely uninspiring.  Even Stitches in Time is, well, you’ll see.

Julia by Jennifer Wood: I really want to like this.  It’s got a sort of chiton, sword-and-sandal feel to it.  Something about the execution is off, though, and I can’t tell what exactly the problem is.  Perhaps it’s just that it’s so clearly a summer garment but can’t be worn alone; the neckline is way too deep, and the fabric isn’t opaque, so without something under it you’d be flashing the whole world.

Corrinne by Crystal Erb Junkins: This is the first of the patterns from this issue that is just boring.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a nice, basic pattern, but usually Knitty is a little more adventurous and a whole issue full of nice basic patterns gets old.  It’s a cardigan, with a yoke, in garter stitch.  I shall wave a tiny flag.

Adeline by Heather Hoefle: A bolero for a coverup, OK, though it’s the second boring pattern of the issue.  But I have never gotten the point of coverups with short sleeves.  Maybe it’s because of my personal quirk, where I won’t warm up unless my elbows are covered, but I don’t see the point in something that’s going to leave me still chilly, especially given that the single button lives at about navel level and the thing looks like it’s about to slip off the model’s shoulders at any moment.  It’s knitted in the world’s dullest off-white yarn, in stockinette.  And just for fun, it’s in pieces and seamed.  No thank you.

Rondeur by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark: Very clever construction, but a whole lot of effort to end up with a not-very-flattering t-shirt.  (Seems to me this is the same designer who had two of my least favorites in the latest Interweave Knits, too, which implies I just don’t like her style.)  Short sleeves are a down-check, and I really don’t like the way the bust shaping hits on the model.  Shirttail shaping on the hem is a cute touch, but it really doesn’t go with the rest of the look, in my opinion.

Daedalus by Jodie Gordon-Lucas: I can see where the designer was going with this, but it just doesn’t work.  Way too much extra fabric hanging around; it might look nice when standing but it’s going to get all bunchy and annoying as soon as you try to sit down.  It’s a great big rectangle with sleeves, about as wide as the wearer’s arm-span, and that’s just not practical; it’s an art piece, not a wearable garment.  I do like the eyelet pattern and the lace on the collar and sleeves, though.

Make Up Your Mind by Julie Crawford:  From the front, this is an OK piece, once you get around the fact that an openwork pattern on the bust means another ultra-summer garment that can’t actually be worn alone.  I like the bands of different stitch patterns, though I have some misgivings about the wisdom of horizontal stripes on people who aren’t as petite as the model.  But it’s a racerback, and I know of approximately three women who don’t hate racerbacks.  (Also, there has got to be a prettier color in the yarn the designer used, but since yarn color’s easy to change I won’t complain too much.)

Amiga by Mags Kandis: The front bands are the interesting parts of this cardigan.  They’re wider than usual, and pretty clearly picked up and knit perpendicular to the main body; the buttons are the kind where you wrap yarn around a ring.  These things save the pattern from being boring as all-get-out.  I don’t know if I’d want to use the suggested thick-and-thin yarn, but that is personal preference, and honestly the effect is quite nice.

Omelet by Joyce Fassbender: The first of three lace shawls.

OK, time for a digression.  I get why people like knitting lace.  It’s challenging, thus fun, and leads to a really pretty finished product.  What I don’t get is the determination of designers that the finished product must then be worn, as a great big piece of fabric draped over the wearer.   I am in the SCA; I have worn draped garments; you spend too much time trying to make sure that nothing falls off, gets caught in anything, or goes into your dinner to accomplish much that’s practical.  Pretty lace pattern, great!  Put it into a sweater.  Or, you know, a doily.  I guess a lot of people don’t have doily-type houses these days, but still.  Sweater.  If you don’t want to deal with fitting issues, there are ways around the problem.

Right.  Digression over, back to your regularly scheduled rant review.

So Omelet’s pretty.  It’s a pretty lace shawl.  Next?

Lilah by Heather Storta: Another pretty lace shawl.  I kinda like this one because the designer was inspired by a book I’ve read, and rather liked, that being the sequel to Sharon Shinn’s Archangel.  And most people don’t do black for lace, so that’s a nice touch, and the manipulation of the lace motifs to give the desired effect is great.

Forest Ridge by Mary Formo: Lace, and not even big enough to have a prayer of staying on through its own weight.  The yarn’s a lovely color, though.

Verdant by Susan Newhall: The technique on this one is quite cool.  There’s a background yarn, with which you work all the stitches, and also a motif yarn which is only used where you want the motif.  Therefore, on the motifs you’re knitting with both yarns at once; if you carry them correctly, you end up with the motif yarn mostly covering the background.  It seems rather more fiddly than I’d want to deal with, but the basic idea is really neat.  That said, I find the pattern kind of boring; it looks like rather like wallpaper from the era when stylized vines were cool.

Summer Neckerchief recreated by Franklin Habit:  It’s a triangle.  It’s so boring they don’t even show a picture of it laid out.  And it’s intarsia to boot.  I expect better pattern choice out of Franklin.

Ornamental, Susanna, Rivercat and Zingiber: Socks.  Apparently twisted stitches are big these days.  Ornamental has a neat heal treatment.

Evelyn’s No-Sew Blankie by Janice Kang:  A nice quick little knit for a gift or the like, and the construction is neat enough to be interesting.

Flappy Flounder by cheezombie: A really cute little toy, if you’re OK with fish and great bit googly eyes.