Friday, March 27, 2009

Sayonara and Ni Hao

Brief post, without even a picture, to let you all know that in eight hours (sheesh!) I'll be leaving for Beijing. I'm gone for just over a week, and while there will be plenty of picture-taking, a bit of knitting (I've got to knit at least a few stitches on the Great Wall, after all), and at least enough internet to call my dad on his birthday next Thursday, there will be no blogging. Rest assured, dear reader, that I will be having plenty of fun without you.

When I get back, reports on the trip, Watchmen, and that *@^%$#&@(@&$^%$% blanket. Later!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Progress Report For Those With Low Standards

Now for an actual knitting update.

Well, I've been... not living up to my own expectations. There's a big surprise.

On the one hand, I finished Brenda's gloves, a project I started back in January, I think. Way overdue.
Name: Not Quite Xmas Gloves, for Brenda here in Yats. A belated Christmas gift.
Pattern: Fetching, by Cheryl Niamath. Again.
Yarn: Ski Yarn Imperial Junmou Aibito, in color #3. Ski Yarn used to be Motohiro, the name that's on the label I have. I noticed the change in Ravelry and it made me wonder. Why in God's name would you make that change? It's possible that "Ski" is actually some mangled anglization of the Japanese word "suki (好)", which means "like" as in "I like this yarn" and is pronounced much the same as "ski," but so many uses of English words in Japanese products are so completely and obviously random that I can't be sure.
Needles: Bamboo DPNs, size 5
Other Stuff: Nothing exciting. Tried a new trick with the thumbs that didn't make any difference. Worked on these at Starbucks, at home, on the train, and most unusually, at work last week. I went and hid in a back room with my Japanese homework poised to cover it should someone walk in. While nobody has specifically said that I cannot knit at work, I know damn well that it would not go over well. However, I'm four months from going home and finding it hard to feel guilty. Most likely I'll be doing more of that.

Gave them to Brenda over the weekend and she loves them. Too bad it's already spring here and they are no longer necessary. Bummer. But there's always next year!Also, the Moon Booties are just about done. They're only waiting for some sort of tie-type thing to go through those little holes. I haven't made one yet because I need to finish the edging for the Leaf Blanket first, then I'll see what the yarn situation is like.

On the other hand, the Leaf Blanket... I'm not sure I can make myself go into that right now. Later, maybe, after I eat this pig-shaped cookie one of the other teachers gave me for some reason. I mean, how can you go wrong with a pig-shaped cookie, right? Oh, wait, this is Japan. The number of things that can go wrong is very large.

Thank you for your kind thoughts regarding my computer! It's nice to know that others are as addicted as I am. And really, what did people do at work before the internet? Knit, I suppose, or read, or chat with their co-workers. Take long coffee and smoke breaks. Maybe they even worked? Naw. If that were the case, wouldn't we all have flying cars and peace on Earth or something?

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Love My Powerbook

My baby

I would have updated sooner, but on Monday I spilled water on my beloved, my pet, my precious Powerbook. I was at work, goofing off as usual, and I knocked over my mug of water so it splashed onto my touch-pad and part of the keyboard. I freaked out a little bit, and the super-sweet teacher who sits next to me jumped up and helped me wipe up, and it seemed okay. I started using it again, intending to continue playing Lexulous on Facebook, when the touch-pad started wigging out. In turn, I wigged out, and immediately shut down the whole computer. For good measure, I took the battery out, since it's in that same corner that was drenched, and wiped everything down again. I decided to leave it all that way for a while.

Oh. My. God. Is work boring without a computer. I was at junior high and I had no classes and nothing to busy myself with but the school computer (looks bad if I sit there and use it all day. well, looks worse than usual, anyway). Suck. I emailed a few people for advice and was told by another Apple advocate about how he dropped his iPhone on train tracks in the pouring rain and just let it dry out for a few days, after which it continued working fine.

So I left everything off and apart until Wednesday night, when I pressed the power button with a pounding heart and a thousand fears. Thankfully, because Macs are awesome, everything was golden. I promptly did a complete back-up to the external drive and aside from checking my email, left it at that.

Now I'm in the process of making sure all my photos are double backed-up on DVDs and the EHD, since if I were to drop this thing down a flight of stairs tomorrow, those would be what I missed the most. And today is a holiday (Vernal Equinox, word), so I just spent a few hours catching up on all the blogs and Facebook updates and other useless stuff to which I have become so thoroughly addicted in the last year and a half.

You know, one can live peacefully without a computer. Tuesday at work was pretty mind-numbingly boring, but by Wednesday I'd wised up, brought a book and my knitting, completed my Japanese homework (bleah), graded a bunch of papers, and sneaked off into a corner in the afternoon to finish Brenda's gloves. I know, it's really wrong that I let them pay me to knit, but hey man, it is what it is. It's just that if you have a computer, and if you're used to amusing yourself for eight hours a day on a computer, and using your computer to talk to your family who are on the other side of the world, you kinda get used to having it work.

I've also been doing a bunch of knitting stuff, but I'm honestly trying not to let these posts drag on too long. I get wordy, I know. But I did want to share with you the saga of my brilliant, lovely, more than three year old Powerbook that's full to the brim with stuff and still works like a dream even after getting wet. Okay, maybe "works like a dream" is pushing it, but seriously. Considering I've schlepped this thing all over the world, not to mention to work everyday on a bicycle, this is an amazing piece of machinery. Thank you, Steve Jobs, thank you.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Flowers

Isn't Friday supposed to be for eye candy or something? I keep seeing that on other people's blogs. So I've got something for you.Last Saturday I went and climbed the 777 Steps. This is exactly what it sounds like - a giant staircase up a mountain. Saturday was a nice day, and after reading about the Great Wall and talking to Pantalones del Fuego about the hike from one section of the Wall to another, I reflected that I am sadly out of shape and decided to tackle the steps. I've done them twice before, since they're only a little farther than my school, and last fall a group of us did the 3,333 Steps that are about a half hour away by car. The 777 killed me the first time, not so much the second time, and the 3,333 crippled me.
Also, I've been trying to get in shape so that I can climb Mount Fuji in July, just before I go home for good. That hasn't been working out so well, in that I haven't been working out much at all.
Surprisingly, while I was wheezing like an old smoker by the time I got to the top, it wasn't as bad as I thought. It takes less than 15 minutes to get to the top, and there's a lovely view of Yats from there, and I sat for a bit, ate an onigiri, and knit a row on the Leaf Blanket. But it was a bit chilly at the top, my fingers started to freeze when I cooled off from the climb, and I left.

There was this dude, however, who was just coming down when I got there, passed me on my way up as he climbed again, then passed me again on his way down as I was still struggling up, and then did the whole thing over again twice more while I was at the top and on my way down. You should have seen him! Charging up and down the steps like it was nothing! Five times at least! He must be made out of rubber bands and iron.Anyway, back to your eye candy - on the way home (I biked, by the way, so that was extra exercise), I stopped to take pictures of these lovely weeds. Aren't they pretty? Spring is just about here, which is thrilling! There were bees absolutely swarming over these guys, which I didn't realize until I'd started snapping away. Tried to get some good ones of the bees, but they were zipping around too much.And that's all I got. Oh, except I joined Twitter, for some reason. Anyone on there? I'd be happy to follow you, since I clearly need more ways to waste my time on the internet. I'm Traky007.

Edited - whoops, hit publish WAAAY too early.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

These Boots Were Made For Walking... on the Moon.

The blanket is still blocking. Actually, it's probably not blocking so much as sitting, pinned all to hell, on the futon upstairs.
Wanted to show you the booties in progress. I no longer remember how or why I came across this pattern (that's the magic of Ravelry, isn't it?), but I fell in love with how it looks. Don't they just look like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or maybe the original Star Trek?
I'm making them out of the same yarn as the Leaf Blanket, but I think it's really too thick for them. I'm using size 1 needles, as the pattern suggests, and it's a struggle. My shoulders turned into extremely tense earrings during the first one, and I haven't tackled much of the second yet. Though really, the reason I haven't done the second one yet is because the Harry Potter books I ordered arrived and I realized that I needed to re-read the fifth one immediately or some sort of vortex of hell would swallow me up.
Anyway, the first bootie is so cute I could cry, but there were some difficulties. I found the instructions for how to shape the top of the shoe a bit odd, and then doing joining again in the round for the leg part left a small hole. Worst, though, is that I stupidly, stupidly did not do a looser bind off at the top. The pattern says 22 rows after the eyelet row, which seems weirdly tall - I only did 20 and it was very long. With a regular bind off, it tightened considerably, and while I don't know much about babies, my limited experience tells me they all have chubby little legs rather than twigs. I folded it over as in the picture, and here's hoping it fits without cutting off the circulation in her ankles. And then, how in the heck did it get all arched like that, and why are the top ribby things so much larger than the bottom?

Tonight I will try to make myself practice a crochet border and see about starting the actual border on the actual blanket.

Oh, and I do have the answer to one question I raised last time - that day's lunch was a typically bizarre combination of two dinner rolls, sauceless spaghetti with bacon bits and pieces of spinach, half a hard-boiled egg in some sort of meat shell, and fruit-and-yogurt salad. Ah, Japan, how I shall miss you. I'll have to try much harder to get my daily dose of weirdness back in the States.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Baby Blanket Blocking

Hagadaga! All right!The Leaf Blanket knitting is done. That bad boy is blocking in my apartment as we speak (type/read/whatever).

These pictures are terrible, and for that I am sorry. It's been raining for the past two days here, making picture lighting non-existent, and the only surface on which I could block this thing is white (and yes, it is a futon). So you can't see it well, but just use your imagination, that's what it's for. Alternately, wait until it's finished-finished, and you'll get a better picture (hopefully).Why yes, yes, I did pin the hell out of it. I'm nervous how it will turn out once I un-pin it and start the crochet border, because the yarn is mostly acrylic and acrylic doesn't block well, right? Making it not an ideal choice for lace projects. But there is wool in the yarn, and when I got it wet to block it there was a reassuringly wet-wool smell, so maybe that will help. Who knows?Now I have to figure out how to make a nice border. I had planned to do it in the same yellow yarn I used for the cabled baby blankets last year, but when I actually held up that yarn to this blanket, it was clear that would never do. Again, bad lighting = no picture, but since the blanket yarn is a cream in the slightly yellow range (you can't tell here, but I promise it's true), it looked atrocious with the rich butter yellow (sort of neon under florescent light) of the Fantasy yarn. A word popped in to my head immediately upon seeing it, and that was poisonous. Very apt.

I do have a skein of the Fantasy in pink, which I could do since the kid is a girl, but I detest that kind of gender-based color coding. The blanket took less yarn than I thought, and I have one skein of the Hamanaka left over. But is that enough? Am I going to get a tiny bit of border, run out, and then be forced to re-do or find my way back to Kumamoto to buy more? Is the border even going to work with my pathetic crochet skills? Will it take six years and inhuman patience? Will I finish and send it this month? Will Sheila and baby like it? What's for lunch today? What do you think birds think about when they fly? Are we alone in the universe?

The answers to these, and many others, probably not on this blog.

Edited for poor diction.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Travel Planning!

Here's where I'll be in just over three weeks:
Even knowing that the baby has arrived and time is short, I haven't really knit anything in the past couple of days.

First, there was drama. Now, I'm a little too old for drama, but I basically live in the equivalent of Melrose Place for the foreigners of Yatsushiro. Except with less sex. As far as I know. Anyway, there was drama and that involved coffee and gossip sessions, and I got distracted. Bad Tracy.

Second, my books on Beijing and China arrived. Yea! At the end of this month, I will be leaving to spend eight days in Beijing, but all I've got booked so far is the flight, the first two nights at a hostel, and my visa. So there is a lot to research and plan. I got the Lonely Planet guide to Beijing city, and Fodor's China. They both seem pretty good so far, and I got them both slightly used but in excellent condition from BetterWorld Books, who sent them promptly. I love that site.

Originally I had hoped to have the Prepster done by that trip. Now I think I'll be lucky to have sent off the Leaf Blanket.

In either case, however, I will be in China at the end of the month. How rad is that?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Introducing Mary Kathleen

It happened! Here she is, Sheila's new baby:
How the heck do I rotate this?

Mary Kathleen, born February 15th. She was early but apparently hefty - eight pounds. Not exactly in Big Fat Baby Tracy range, but hefty. Isn't she cute? Well, as cute as a wrinkled red ball of baby can be, I guess. This does confirm my belief that newborns all look a bit like aliens, but she's a precious alien, anyway.

Naturally, what with a newborn, a two-year-old, and a large extended family, it took a while for the news to reach me. Yes, that crushed me just a little, but it's one of the consequences of moving across the world. Her first child is my godson, and I've seen him once, at his baptism - two-and-a-half years ago. Bleah. Five more months, I keep telling myself, five more months.

If you want more cute baby-ness, another friend's wee one is now teething. That's Ben, my friend Trish's son. He looks adorable, but I'm awfully glad I'm not having to deal with teething noises. Shudder. Trish is nice enough to be my first blog follower, even though I suspect that with a teething child, a husband, a doctoral thesis, and no interest in knitting that I'm aware of, she doesn't read much of my whining about needle sizes.

Also, this means that the blanket is two more weeks overdue than I thought. Yurk!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I Bought Yarn! Yippee!

I bought the yarn for the Prepster! Yea!Terribly excited. Isn't grey and pink a nice combo? I found this yarn at Tokai Craft Heart, the neat little craft shop inside the Youme Town. It's Wister Araeru Merino 100, an obviously wool yarn that's worsted weight - I think (Ravelry agrees). That's the same as what the pattern calls for, and just to be sure I took some bits of yarn to the store with me, including the clearly too thin Diaepoca.
There's only 78 meters to the skein, so I bought seven of the main color and three of the contrast color. I also bought the other needle I needed - Japan size 6, which is 3.9 mm. The pattern calls for a US size 5, which is 3.75 mm, and US size 7, 4.5 mm. The Japan size 8 is in fact 4.5 mm, but I was concerned about the difference in the Jpn 6 vs. US 5, so I also bought a Jpn 9, which is 4.8 mm (in case you're wondering, a Jpn 7 is 4.2 mm). In any case, I now have a range of needle size choices, which is good because I am finally concerned about gauge. I knit tightly, and I'm going to convert this pattern to a circular one piece rather than two pieces on straight needles, so I think I'll need choices. I have a feeling I'll be starting several times.Of course, I won't be starting at all any time soon, because there is still the leaf blanket to get through, and I am way behind, and for all I know, Sheila is having the baby right now. So today is for laundry and knitting. Perhaps if I am very good, I will allow myself to swatch tonight. But only if I am very, very good.

3/2 Edited for links.