by dichroic in daily updates, knitting

(FO = Finished Object, in knitterspeak.) Here’s a thing I haven’t posted for a while; I’ve mentioned my knitting, but haven’t posted any pictures or been too specific.

So far this year, I have completed the following. I will include links to Ravelry for all projects – no membership is required to see them. Info is there on yarn, patterns, and how long each project took me to complete. I have photos of everything in Ravelry, but some of them aren’t really very good, so I won’t include those here.

  • Aisling vest
  • Branching Path cowl
  • Pinot wine cozy – this one is my own pattern
  • Follow Your Arrow shawl – This one was from Ysolda Teague’s second mystery knit along, where there are two options for each of five “clues” – meaning you get a new section of the pattern once a week for 5 weeks, but there are two choices each time, so there are 32 different ways the shawl can be knit up – more, if you include more than one color. THe thing I dislike about knit-alongs is the idea of ending up with the same item as everyone else, so this is a good way for me to do one.
  • arrow

  • Char gloves – for Ted. THese were a pain to knit and I’m going to need to pull out the ends of the fingers and redo them to make them longer. Blah.
  • Gradient Infuscation – for Mechaieh. I wish I did have a better picture of this one, because it came out beautifully in the gradient yarn that shaded from teal to violet, but unfortunately I forgot to take a picture after blocking and before shipping.
  • Green Sprout – baby hat for a gestating coworker. My own pattern.
  • Wildwood Utility socks – knitting while hiking doesn’t actually work out all that well, it turns out. But the socks came out nicely in the end.
  • wildwood

  • Colorsparks socks – these turned out to be harder to knit than I expected; the patten wasn’t very complex, but the problem was that I had to look to see where I was in the stitch pattern, not once but on each separate section of every row. Annoying. I do think the pattern shows off the variegated yarn well, though.
  • colorsparks

  • Beachglass cardi: FInished Saturday, blocked yesterday, looking forward to wearing it tomorrow. I love the way the colors came out, and it’s gorgeously soft – perfect for wearing in summer over a tank top.
  • beachglass

    I have another pair of socks on the needles (literally – knitting two at a time), but I need to start something else because I have some upcoming travel that I’ll need a knitting project for, but I’ve just finished the heel on these and don’t have too much further to go.

reunions out the kazoo!

by dichroic in daily updates

I do think five reunions in one year is a bit much. We had the one from Ted’s college friends in November in New Orleans; the one from my high school in January in Philadelphia; the one from my dad’s family in Philadelphia a couple weeks ago; the one from Ted’s dad’s family in southern Oregon in a couple weeks; and now we’ve been invited to one from Ted’s mom’s family in DC in September. I don’t think we’re going to be able to get to that one! Too bad, because we’d be seeing the cousins we really like. (The cousins I really like on my side were at my family’s reunions, but the people there basically broke down to my immediate family; three sisters and their family; and one other aunt. So I got plenty of time to talk to the aunt, whom I also like a lot, but of course the three sisters were mostly interested in spending time together. Oh well.)

award processes are hard even when they work well

by dichroic in books

Very glad I don’t have to vote for this year’s World Fantasy Awards! Here’s the Best Novels slate:


  • Katherine Addison, The Goblin Emperor (Tor Books)
  • Robert Jackson Bennett, City of Stairs (Broadway Books/Jo Fletcher Books)
  • David Mitchell, The Bone Clocks (Random House/Sceptre UK)
  • Jeff VanderMeer, Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy (Farrar, Straus and Giroux Originals)
  • Jo Walton, My Real Children (Tor Books US/Corsair UK)

I’ve only read two of those, the first and last, but I’m damned if I could choose between them!

non-minimal packing

by dichroic in daily updates, travel

I thought I was doing well because everything fit in my backpack but Rebeccmeister’s packing list for her trip to Seattle now has me thinking that, as usual, I’ve probably overpacked for my four days in Philadelphia. At present, I have

knit dress
3 t-shirts (blue sleeveless, black ballet-neck, I forget what else)
knit skirt
jean shorts
sari silk skirt
shorts and top to work out in
bathing suit
one pair shoes (I will wear sneakers on the plane)
plus my knitting, Kindle, iPad, phone, chargers, etc

I wasn’t going to bring the sari skirt, but it arrived a couple days ago and is just too cool *not* to bring. As it can be a skirt, top, or even shawl, maybe I can ditch one t-shirt and either the skirt or shorts. I wish I could have the cardigan I’m knitting done and ready to wear, because it would be just right for this trip, but it still needs sleeves and edging. I could take it as my knitting project, but I have a pair of socks started that are much smaller to pack.

I’m really, really not good at minimal packing – part of that is just that I like clothes, like having options, and don’t like wearing the same thing for multiple days. I don’t feel freer when I have less stuff – I just feel constrained by my stuff’s limitations. I still need to put my purse and electronics into my pack, but I don’t think it will be overstuffed. Also, Ted’s decided to check a suitcase, because he wants to bring the good (SLR) camera instead of just using iPhones. So I can put my toiletries in there and not have to worry about digging them out for airport security, and there’s room for my shoes and probably a bunch of my other stuff too, if I don’t feel like carrying it.

holiday weekend

by dichroic in daily updates

It was a good holiday weekend; as best as I can remember, I spent most of it either on a boat (rowing shell or kayak) or on the deck looking out at the water. I also got some weightlifting in, since the lake house is where our weight set lives. I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to get outside at all because we’re in the middle of a heat wave (temps in the high 90sF) but it really wasn’t bad – row in the morning, and kayak in the afternoon. Sitting out wasn’t bad either, as long as you were in the shade.The sit-on-top kayak we bought a few weeks ago works very well for this; it’s a double but you can move a seat and row it as a single, and you get a lot wetter than in a sit-in kayak, which helps on hot days. We finally got to christen it, too, since we had chamgpage out on the dock on July 4, to celebrate our anniversary and watch the fireworks. (I know, it’s bad luck to take a boat out before it’s officially named. Oops. Those were just test paddles!) It’s Kayak Opportunity, because the two sit-in ones are Spirit and Curiosity.

I could have done without the neighbors’ calling over judgements on our wimpy fireworks but I’m pretty sure they meant it as friendly teasing. Our neighbors on the other side had some huge (illegal) ones, and the pro show was across the lake. It’s fun being ble to sit out and watch them all around. The house is pretty well sound-insulated, so I hope the cats weren’t too traumatized. If so, they just hid in their usual places. We had an earthquake, too – only 4.2 but quite close to us. Don’t know if the cats minded that one – it was the middle of the day so during their usual napping time. And of course Oolong might have still been sleeping off her usual carsickness. We had to take the backroad up, due to traffic, but unfortunately this time she reacted even coming back on the highway.

Also, there was knitting, wine, steak, salmon, and strawberry-rhubarb tarts (filling from this recipe in puff pastry. Next time I will make square tarts instead of round ones, so as not to waste pastry. Yum.

Too bad we couldn’t take any extra time off, but this weekend we have to go to a family reunion. Hope it’s as fun as the last one.

a clothing rant from a slightly different perspective

by dichroic in clothing and style, daily updates

What do you know, my marriage (to a person of the opposite sex) actually changed today – mostly, in that I no longer feel vaguely guilty about having taken advantage of a privilege that not all of my friends have. I can live with that – and now we can celebrate our 22nd anniversary next week with light hearts and clear consciences.

On a completely different topic… It’s a truism, among feminists, that men have all the advantages in clothing: they have pockets in everything, their trousers come in lengths as well as widths without having to be specially ordered online, and most of all they have “default outfits” so that it’s possible to dress for work in clothing that won’t be noticed as too ornamental, not ornamental enough, unsexed, inappropriately sexy for work or any of the myriad other contradictory criteria women are inevitably judged by.

Every one of those words in the above paragraph is true except for one: the word “all”. There are benefits women’s clothing has, that aren’t available to men in this society, and the hot weather we’re getting in this city reminds me of that.

For one thing, we have a lot more flexibility. In a ‘business casual’ work environment, I can wear clothing that are nearly exact replicas of what the guys wear (except for being more expensive, having fewer fit options, and having useless pockets or none) but I can also wear skirts, dresses, or even skorts. I can come to work in an outfit that is basically pajamas – knitting leggings and a long knit top – and with maybe a belt or jewelry can appear professionally dressed, in an outfit that doesn’t bind or cramp anywhere. On a hot day I can wear a knit dress that hangs from my shoulders, isn’t tight anywhere, and stops just above my knees, and no one will say I’m dressed inappropriately.

In a dressier environment, I can wear things that the guys can only get away with when they go casual: I can wear a fine-knit t-shirt to a job interview (which is about the more formally I ever dress) with a jacket over it, and no one will think it’s sloppy. I can wear sandals to the office – not just any sandals, but at least I have dressy and work-proper ones available to me. Men don’t. at least with current styles.

I’m not minimizing the problems with women’s clothing. Not having pockets annoys the fuck out of me – or only having ones too small to actually keep anything in. I was pissed off recently when I went shopping for pants in a store that carried clothing for both men and women, and found that they had different lengths for men right there in the store, whereas women had to order tall or petite sizes on line – and men had several lengths available, not only three. Worst of all is the way designers seem to be convinced that fashion trumps all other considerations in women’s clothing, even including professionalism in clothes that are designed specifically for work, so that at the moment I can’t find pants that aren’t skin tight. I noticed the other day that a new pair of cargo pants were tighter in the thigh than plain khakis made a few years ago by the very same manufacturer – even though the whole purpose of cargo pants is to be loose and have lots of pockets.

I’m just saying that our current system of clothing that’s rigidly separated by intended gender hurts men too. Why shouldn’t they be able to wear comfortable clothing to work, no matter what the temperature is?

summertime blues

by dichroic in daily updates

This year’s Father’s Day wasn’t as bad as last year’s, when my Dad had died only a month before and also it fell right on his birthday, but still I’m glad it’s over.

The next parental challenge will be Mom’s visit to us in August. I’m not sure how much time I want to take off from work – balancing not running out of vacation time with the fact that I’m not sure how self-sufficient she’ll be. I’m hoping I can convince her to take the train downtown on her own at least one day; then I can just dart out of work to give her a ride to the station. Or maybe she’ll want to just sit around the pool one day, not sure. Meanwhile, we need to take a couple days off for a family reunion on my side next month, and possibly another on Ted’s side – and I’m not convinced his doesn’t conflict with Mom’s visit. This could get tricky.
(Yup, I just checked – his reunion, 5 hours away, is scheduled for two days before my Mom comes in. Wish I’d realized that *before* booking her airfare last night!)

Today’s surreal moment was when someone I was good friends with in about 5th through 7th grade, and whom I last saw in Paris almost 20 years ago (which was surreal in itself – he and his wife were living there then and I crashed on their couch) messaged me via Facebook to ask for recommendations for a good sushi place in Portland. Unfortunately he’s only here on a short business trip and won’t have time to get together.


by dichroic in daily updates

1) It’s always pleasant when I can find a Jane Austen fanfic I can read without wincing. Sherwood Smith has a few stories (novellas?) out, available at Amazon: The Poignant Sting, a followup to Emma, and Henry and Fanny, an alternate ending. But what I wasn’t expecting was for the former to end with what might be two of the most powerful sentences I’ve ever come across, especially as I was reading in the wake of the Charleston shootings:

“Faith does not answer questions. All it does is sustain our belief that one day we will find the answers.”

2) I’ve also been reading the Corinna Chapman mysteries, a modern series by Kerry Greenwood, author of Phryne Fisher. Corinna is very different than Phryne, but she strikes me as someone who could have created Phryne if she (Corinna) were a writer rather than a baker. Thus I suspect that Corinna has a lot of Greenwood herself in her character. (Phryne always strikes me as wish fulfillment in exactly the same way Lord Peter Wimsey was for Sayers – not who you’d want to have, but who you’d want to be.) But I would just like to say that someone with a knowledge of astronomy, meeting a man named Kepler, is really, really not likely to start spouting off about his three lawas and how Newton proved them with GMm/r^2. And I say this as an engineer with an MS in space science who has known people named Fermi and Kelvin.

nowt so queer as folk

by dichroic in daily updates

We’re getting ready for the Black Sheep Squared Retreat – that’s people who hang out at my favorite local yarn shop, Black Sheep, staying at our house while attending the Black Sheep Gathering fiber festival in Eugene. (The shop owner didn’t even know about this festival two hours away when she named her store.) As usual, people are being squirrelly. One person initially said she wanted to come, then never responded to later posts – this was good because I don’t know her, and others who do informed me that she has a service dog who has been detrained to the level of very annoying pet dog. (She does function as a service dog, but also goes around getting in people’s faces, grabbing their yarn, asking for treats, and so on.) So I’m glad she’s not coming. Of the others who are coming, one person just bailed out because she sat outside the other night and realized her allergies are really too bad to be spending any time out of doors (ETA: she just IM’d that it seems to be a cold, so I’m glad she isn’t sharing it), another will leave early because she has to work Sunday, and the third asked if she can bring her husband and then told me that she’s not sure if he can come but she is bringing her adult son, who’s visiting. At least they all gave me some advance notice!

I wouldn’t mind the husband and son if they were coming to the fiber festival too, but at least the former just wants to hang out on the deck and read. This is fine, as long as he’s self-entertaining; I don’t think it’s fair for Ted to have to entertain my friends’ self-invited spouses while I’m gone – he’s not much of a people person.

We’ll pick up some pizza on Friday night and do a potluck Saturday, with me providing main courses (two spatchcocked chickens, plus some roasted tomatoes and onions because one person is a vegetarian). I was kind of worried how things would work out last year and we all had a great time; probably this year will work out the same way. The good thing about all this is that this really is the way we want to use this house: as a gathering place. Ted’s been wanting to have a group from work over, but hasn’t been able to get them to settle on a date.

On other fronts, work’s been reasonably busy. I haven’t been very good about working out – I’m still on the erg 5 days a week but am doing far too many 5km steady state pieces instead of longer/harder rows. I probably won’t do more than that today, because I’m going grocery shopping for the weekend, and then I might not be able to row on Saturday before we head out to Black Sheep. Maybe I’ll have time to kayak afterward. Maybe someone will want to come out with me!

We don’t really have any interesting travel planned this year, just spome family visits. Mom’s planning to visit here in August, but she seems to be more interested in seeing Portland than the lake house. (She’s been there once before, and just isn’t much of an outdoors person.) She’s only staying for a week, because she plans her schedule by her grandson’s social schedule; she cares for him three days a week. I don’t really understand the way this works. My brother has a business trip so my SIL has decided she can’t handle the four-year-old alone, so is having him stay with a friend for the week, thus Mom is free to travel. I don’t quite get it, but SIL does have some chronic pain issues that may explain it. Mom doesn’t really have the energy or stamina to just bring him with her, which would solve everything.

I believe Mom and Dad last visited us in approximately 2011. Dad’s illnesses provide some reasons for that, but my mother has visited about five times in 25 years – and two of those were because she used us in the Netherlands as a strongboard to visit London. Dad stayed home for those, so he only ever visited me three times. My brother has visited exactly once. I’d be ok with all of that, except they expect me to want to visit them in Philadelphia. At this point, I have no real wish to go there again – except that I have to, if I want my little nephew to remember me. Anyway, we’ll be there next month for a family reunion.

Alexa vs Siri

by dichroic in daily updates

Our Amazon Echo finally arrived. I’d originally wanted it for Ted’s birthday last December, but Amazon was doing a phased release. Once I signed up for the waiting list, it finally let me order in around March and the thing itself has just arrived. On the plus side, as a Prime member I got it for half price.

The Echo is supposed to do a bunch of stuff – tell you the weather, various other useful facts, play music, let you put stuff on a to-do or shopping list, set a timer. To let it know you’re talking to it, you start each utterance with “Alexa…” So far the most fun thing I’ve found to do with it is to have it compete head to head with Siri – giving the same command to the Echo and as a voice command to my Apple phone.

Alexa wins on hands-free use; I think you can set Siri to wake when summoned by voice, but only when the phone is plugged in.

Alexa is also better at music. You can tell her who to play and if you don’t have that artist in your Amazon library (which appears to consist of music you’ve downloaded from Amazon, but I didn’t think I had much) and are a Prime member, it will play that from the Prime music library. Siri will play any music on your phone, and will also play iTunes radio – but I tried that out the other day and was very unimpressed. (I set up a radio station similar to one I have on Pandora, with lots of different music I can sing to, and while Pandora grasps the concept of singable music (she refers to it as “acoustic sonority” and provides me a wide range of music where I can tell that the different seeds (songs or artists) I put in are influencing the music choices, with the iTunes radio even though I listed lots of songs and performers, the whole station seemed to be keyed to the first song I listed. As that happened to be “California Dreamin’ “, it decided that what I wanted was music that could have been performed on the Sonny and Cher show. It probably goes without saying that that was not what I wanted – I just like the song’s harmonies and folk-rock sound.)

Alexa and Siri both do well on the weather. I suspect this will be the prime use for the Echo – I can check weather on my phone or iPad, but it will be convenient to do it handsfree as I’m getting ready. Alexa also can provide a news report, which can be customized. It can read my Audible audiobooks, but I’m more likely to keep having my phone do this, since I need to use headphones t hear well when I’m erging. (I used to use earbuds attached to an iPod clipped to my waistband; now I use my phone with Bluetooth headphones.) It was nice that when I told Alexa to read my book, it went to my current location. (I have the audio version that’s synced with my Kindle so Amazon is supposed to be remembering where I am in it – this isn’t an unexpected invasion of privacy.)

But where Siri way outclasses Alexa is on information. Alexa can provide Wikipedia entries, but Siri harnesses true websearch capabilities. The result was that Alexa was totally confused by “What is the value of the Dow Jones index today”, and “what is the Dow Jones” just gave me the Wikipedia entry for it – not too helpful. Siri brought it right up. When I asked “What is the right temperature to cook fish to?” Alexa was again baffled. Siri websearched, and came up with a table of safe cooking temperatures at the top of her list of responses – but to see it I’d have had to open it up, which since I didn’t have my phone open at the time would have meant putting in my password or fingerprint. Not the most helpful thing when you’re cooking and have raw fish all over your hands.

Verdict: nobody’s perfect yet, but both are god enough to be useful. Siri is better – but only when your hands are free.