30 April 2007

And You Think You're Slow....

I'm knitting some four-stitch I-cord for a little pink cotton/model top I started knitting in about 1981. I think I finished it in about a month except for the crocheted cord with bobbles. I don't crochet all that well, so the top got put aside until a friend could teach me. Somehow that never happened. Then the pattern got lost (I sure wish I still had it) and the whole thing just sat. And sat. Until today, when I decided to forget ever finding the instructions and learning to crochet and started a piece of I-cord. I've got about a foot done already. It goes fast, doesn't it?

Here's the top, in all its rolling stockinette stitch glory.

Here's a better photo of the yoke. The top is turned inside and stitched down, with the I-cord inside, so the neckline can be tied. The lace motif is a pineapple. My grandmother crocheted hundreds of pineapple doilies, tablecloths, and other items, which is why I'd picked out this pattern. And why I wished I hadn't lost it.

Can you guess that I'm not wild about finishing?

Incidentally, I know when I knitted this top because I know when the paper my husband gave at the SIAM (an association of mathematicians) yearly meeting we went to was published. Buying handwork projects as souvenirs makes them easy to date. I got a great needlepoint pillow top at the same time. The conference was in Denver, at a downtown hotel, and I studied the phone book and went to Larrimer/Larrimore/Larri-something Square, to a great shop, and bought two projects. I worked the needlepoint when we drove from SoCal to northeast Iowa for my husband's high school reunion, coming home by way of Banff and Waterton and Glacier.

28 April 2007

Aircraft I Have Loved, Part I Of Many

It's funny about airplanes; we love them for the oddest reasons. Sometimes it's because they're just plain beautiful, sometimes it's because they're not. I don't just have one favorite, I've got a bunch. Favorite century-series fighter, favorite post-century-series fighter, favorite transport, favorite bomber, favorite recce plane, favorite lifting body, favorite carrier airplane, favorite Soviet airplane, favorite Antipodean airplane, favorite attack airplane, favorite X-plane, and so on.

My favorite "regular" post-century-series fighter airplane is the McAir F-4 Phantom II, with the McAir F-15 Eagle running it a close second. Both of these airplanes are definitely heavy metal. The F-4[1] is extremely resistant to battle damage and so, probably, is the F-15 (it just hasn't been in as much combat). There were F-4s in Vietnam that came home sucking fuel from a tanker because they'd been so shot up that their tanks couldn't hold enough fuel to keep the engines running. And there was an Israeli F-15 that lost almost all of one wing in a mid-air collision and still flew and landed safely. In fact, they replaced the wing and the airplane went back into regular use.

The F-4 has been called "the triumph of thrust over aerodynamics", among other things, and there's a kernel of truth in this description. It's excess thrust that made the F-4 such a successful airplane and such a favorite with pilots. It was possible to put a tremendous load on the F-4 and still fly reasonable distances. It could be decked with all sorts of munitions and have enough thrust to take off and fly with them. It was big and tough and, to quote one of my friends who flew them, "a real man's airplane". It looked like a kick-ass war plane.

I love F-4s. Getting a ride in one was one of the highlights of my life. I was lucky.

I still remember what must have been the last time I saw F-4s take off. We'd gone to Reno in mid-January to go to the AIAA Aerospace Sciences Conference because I was on the Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Technical Committee and we had a meeting every year at Aerospace Sciences. I was walking out to pick up the rental car and go back for my husband and the luggage and I heard the magic sound of four J79 engines spooling up. I looked over at the runway and there were two Nevada Air National Guard F-4s doing the last before-takeoff checks. They finished the checklist and, after a moment poised there in (probably) MIL power, they released the brakes and started rolling down the runway. Going faster and faster they rotated and lifted off gracefully, in a perfect formation takeoff, and flew away into the blue winter sky. It was just beautiful.

[1] This way of referring to an airplane, with the letter and number, is my habit because that's how we do it at NASA Dryden. We don't call airplanes by their names or, usually, by their nicknames. It's an F-4, not a Phantom or an Iron Rhino or Double Ugly or Old Smoky.

An Invisible Finished Object

Well, it might as well be invisible for all my camera and laptop are willing to do. I can look at the photo in the viewfinder, but that's it. I can't get the laptop to acknowledge the camera's existence, no matter what I do. I'm about to go try with the desk-top after having spent all of yesterday fighting with the problem.

Anyway, I finished the shawl yesterday. I have almost three yards of yarn left from the ball. I wasn't getting very nervous, because I have two more skeins of the yarn. I did get nervous enough to go wind off one skein into a center-pull ball, though. Now I should go back and skein it off, rather than leaving it in the ball.

The shawl pattern is Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl, by I'm Knitting As Fast As I Can. It's an interesting pattern, easy enough to memorize fairly quickly, but just difficult enough to keep the knitter engaged. And it's pretty. I added a few repeats, to make the shawl bigger. I was using a different yarn and went with US 8 needles. I liked the size given in the pattern, but the recipient, who isn't a small person, asked me to make it bigger.

The yarn is two-ply fingering (sock) weight Peruvian wool in Mermaid and I bought 300 g, in three skeins. It's very nice to knit with and the colors are gorgeous. I think it came out quite beautifully, although I am a bit biased. The yarn is from Enchanted Knoll Farm and I recommend this supplier highly.

I frogged my 50/50 silk/merino DK version of the shawl. Now that I'm made the other one, in fingering weight, on the same-sized needles, I think that I should have been using larger needles for the DK. It just wasn't going to stretch much and it was too small. This former shawl has turned back into two center-pull balls. It's kind of sad, but I have to admit that there's a certain thrill in frogging an entire (if small) lace shawl.

I'm going to make something simple, like another wool scarf, before I start on the next shawl. Actually, I'm thinking it might be a stole, not a shawl. Or a circular or semicircular shawl, just not a triangular shawl. Not everyone looks good with the tip of a triangular shawl pointing right at their bottom. I really like knitting triangular shawls, but I do have to consider the recipients, too.

Wait a minute! I just thought of something to try. I have an itty-bitty 8-meg memory card that my laptop will read directly. If I set the camera for 1-meg photos, I should be able to squeeze a few shots onto the card.

Ah, ha! Photos of the finished but unblocked shawl.

I can't model it because I'm wearing a batik patio dress that's green and blue and matches the shawl superbly. You'd hardly be able to tell the difference. Both yarn and dress are just a little darker than this photo shows.

Here's a closer shot to show you the unblocked lacy pattern texture. I think the texture looks kind of nice, but I know it'll be gone the first time the shawl gets dunked into water, which is going to happen fairly soon now that I've gotten photos posted.

And here is what was left of the ball of yarn:

Am I good at estimating how many repeats are left on the ball or what? Lucky, that's what. I'd have had to frog 18 rows of about 250 stitches each to correct things properly if I'd run out, although I suspect I'd have cheated and just frogged four rows, to skip the last two rows in the hem edging. It wouldn't have looked quite as good, I'm sure, but it would have looked OK to anyone who didn't know how it should look.

27 April 2007

Three More Rows And The Bind Off

I'm almost done with my shawl. This is the first non-scarf project I've knitted in maybe two decades.

I haven't forgotten to post, having been busy lately, but now I'm going to wait another hour or two so that I have a Finished Object to show you.

23 April 2007

Pomegranate Jelly And Tradition

My mom was a really good cook and she frequently made jam and jelly. She was renowned for her pomegranate jelly. Pomegranate jelly is beautiful. It's a deep ruby red and it tastes just wonderful. It's almost a bit addictive.

She used to make a couple of batches for me every December, in both the little four-ounce jars and the eight-ounce jars (for the real aficionados), to give to my friends and cow orkers. This custom had started out with about three jars and, over the years, grown to about two dozen. Everyone who had ever tasted it wanted more. When my mom came out to Dryden and I was introducing her to people, about half of them would say something like "Oh, I love your pomegranate jelly and I look forward to Christmas and a jar of it all year". My cousin even mentioned it in his eulogy (and the attendees nodded in agreement).

I'm carrying on the tradition; I just made a batch of pomegranate jelly. As usual, it turned out very well. I don't know that her recipe is foolproof, but it seems to be. In the hope that someone else will start this tradition in their family, here's the recipe.

Katheryn's Pomegranate Jelly (makes around 9 one-cup jars)

4 c pomegranate juice (squeezed from six or eight pomegranates or bought)
¼ c lemon juice (squeezed from two lemons or bought)
1 box pectin (check the date on the box)
7½ c sugar, measured into a separate bowl

Put the juices into a large, deep pan and stir in the pectin. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add all the sugar at once and stir until it's dissolved. Skim off the froth with a metal spoon. Stirring, bring the mixture to a boil that you can't stir down and let it boil for exactly one minute. Then take it off the heat, skim it some more, and pour it into prepared one-cup (half-pint) jars.

Jar preparation: wash the jars in the dishwasher on the hottest cycle or wash them by hand and sterilize them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Put them into warm water (hot jelly in cold jars can result in broken jars) before you start cooking. Boil the flat lids for a couple of minutes and leave them in the water. Wash the rings.

Pour the jelly up to about ¼-½ in. from the top, put on a flat lid, and screw on a ring. Don't screw it down tightly, but do get it on firmly. When you have all the jars filled, put them into a large, deep pan and cover the jars with water. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Turn off the heat and lift the jars out and set them on the counter. As they cool, the lids will pop, showing that the vacuum packing worked. If a jar lid doesn't pop, reprocess it or refrigerate it and use right away.

Be careful, because hot sugar syrup is very dangerous.

Eat the jelly with fresh butter on hot biscuits or toasted English muffins or toast. You can substitute cream cheese for the butter, if you'd like.

22 April 2007

Technology Is Winning This Week

My Usenet reader, Forté Agent, played a dirty trick on me earlier this week and I'm struggling with it. It lost all the message list information for my favorite newsgroup, alt.fan.cecil-adams. That wouldn't have been so bad except that I was about 20,000 messages behind already. However, losing every message is a bad way to catch up.

I dinked around with various suggested fixes but finally dug out my hard disk that had the Agent data files backed up in February or so. I copied that data folder over, getting rid of everything I'd done since then. Then I downloaded all the messages that the servers had between then and now. It's almost done, maybe another fifteen minutes. Then I'm going to have to go mark huge chunks of messages as read so I can get back to where I was before this happened. What a pain!

I'm worried about my Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl. I'm halfway through the second skein and I don't think it's going to be large enough. It's not the fault of the pattern's author, though, it's mine. I wanted something bigger than a shoulder shawl and I wanted to use the Cherry Hill Yarns 50/50 merino and silk. I'm going to snap a few photos and then put it aside for a bit. I'll probably start another lace shawl, though.

Oh, yeah, that's the other victory for technology. I'm still having trouble with my camera and my laptop cooperating. I'm going to take some photos of two finished scarves for Iowa so I can mail them off Monday, whether I get them uploaded here or not. They're beautiful; one's Morehouse Farm bulky merino in berry colors and the other is navy merino/cashmere blend from Lion Brand, knitted in the Argosy scarf pattern.

So don't worry. As soon as I subdue the upstart technology, normalcy will return.

16 April 2007

Busy Weekend

On Friday we went over to Beaumont, to look at a retirement community. The trouble with Lancaster is that there are two passes between here and there, meaning it's hard to get there in winter. Plus there's a dangerous strip on SR 138, which is only two miserable lanes with a lot of slow trucks and impatient people.

So, I'm thinking that when I sell my mom's house we can buy a new house in Beaumont. The few pieces of furniture I'm keeping can go into my living room for a while. Then, once the Beaumont house is built we can move everything out of our Lancaster house and sell it. I really don't want to put stuff into storage if I can avoid it.

We looked at four models in the Hovnanian development. The first of them was Arbors I and it's the "standard" house. Except for the furniture, washer, dryer, refrigerator, and window coverings, it's exactly what you get standard. It's a nice house and I was fairly satisfied with the features. After all, this is only a summer house; our Palm Desert house is our main house. Then we looked at the Arbors II house, which is the one we think we'll get.

Here's the floor plan:
It's about 1800 square feet, with three bedrooms and two baths. The front door is around on the side and when you come in you're right between the "parlor" and the dining room.

This photo was taken with a wide-angle lens, making the room look a lot bigger than it really is. I really like the way the house is decorated, with the "wood" floor and the white paneling and furniture. I'm inclined toward doing my house that way. Doesn't it look cool and bright and cheerful?

You're looking right down the spine of the house here, to the back door. The front door is just to the left and the parlor is right behind you. See how nice that floor looks? You probably can't tell, but there are fancy leaded windows here (and in all the other rooms, too, I think). The kitchen is just the other side of the wall, with the nook and family room just beyond that.

Here's the kitchen, with more white. The default cabinets are a wood finish, about the color of the counter on the island. There's a good-sized pantry across the hall here, so it's not quite as small as it looks.I'm not sure I see much need for the breakfast nook here. I'm inclined to just use the dining room and use this space to extend the family room.

The master bedroom etc. is right across from the family room and it's reasonably sized. Still, it's not as large as the wide-angle lens makes it look.

There are also two small bedrooms, opposite the kitchen. The model has the so-called second master bedroom option, which is the two small bedrooms combined into one and the doors changed a bit so that the bathroom is en suite, sort of. I'm not putting the photo of that up, because it's not at all informative. One of these bedrooms has a walk-in closet that's maybe five ft square, which is nice. That's the room I'd take for my stuff.

And here's the elevation I like, with a bay window on the front.

That adds a tiny bit of space to the parlor. It looks like more than it is, though. I don't know why bay windows work that way, but they do.

We also looked at two bigger houses, the two Landmark models. One of them, the one with the casita and courtyard, isn't bad, but the other floor plan frittered a lot of space away in a pretty, but not very useful, entry hallway. We don't need that much space, anyway, so it was good that I wasn't instantly smitten by one of the bigger houses. I really do like the Arbors II, parlor and all.

It's not like we're going to rush out and buy a new house, but it was very interesting to consider the possibility. Palm Desert is just too hot in the summer but it's really nice the rest of the year, so finding somewhere tolerable in the summer solves that problem for us. We'll see what happens.

12 April 2007

Done With One, Starting Another

I finished the scarf for my brother-in-law yesterday, except for weaving in the ends. It's an Argosy, knitted from four balls of Lion Brand Cashmere Blend in navy, on 6.5-mm (US 10½) needles. I think it came out beautifully and the yarn, which is mostly merino, is very soft and very pleasant to work with.

I'd post a photo, but my laptop is giving my camera the cold shoulder (or vice versa) and I can't get the photos to transfer via USB. I'm working on it, though. If I get really desperate, I'll try using our desktop computer to retrieve the photos and write a CD-ROM for the laptop to use.

Having finished up the scarf, I needed a new project. I went to my folder of downloaded patterns and printed out a whole slew of them. I settled on the Forest Canopy Shoulder Shawl, which I had purchased a week or two ago. It's a nice easy pattern, with only eight rows per repeat and very easy to memorize.

I'm not entirely sure if the yarn I'm using, Cherry Tree Hill's Silk & Merino DK in Dusk, is that good a choice, though. The colors may be just a little too bright and they may be in segments that are too short. I'll get a photo posted as soon as I can. However, the yarn itself is really great to work with. It's very soft but it isn't excessively slick. I'm using an Options needle, which is slick metal, and the yarn isn't sliding off the needle or doing anything else objectionable. The merino is probably what makes it behave so well.

I'd forgotten how much I enjoy lace knitting. It's been a while, like maybe twenty years, since I last knitted any sort of major lace project so I picked a pattern aimed at beginning lace knitters. I just finished the eighth repeat and it's going very well.

09 April 2007

Scarves Go To College

This is the big, relatively warm scarf I knitted for my goddaughter. The yarn is a combination of cotton, rayon and cotton, and rayon strands, with a fuzzy acrylic strand to soften it. I bought it from Spin City Yarns (spincityyarns) on eBay. I buy a lot there, as they have wonderful yarns at excellent prices. You can't really tell it in the photo, but the fabric has a beautiful drape to it.

The pattern is just a five-one ribbing that shifts to the left one stitch every other row. It's enough to keep the scarf from curling, while offering just a little textural interest. The scarf is eight or nine inches wide and about six feet long.

This is a Moebius scarf made from Berocco (I think) Cotton Twist. The pattern was just (k3,p3) on 287 stitches. As a result, the pattern shifted one stitch per round, giving me a chevron stitch. This pattern was based on some of Cat Bordhi's comments. I was mostly trying to keep the scarf from rolling. It has an I-cord bind-off which looks really nice. You can just see it in the photo. The yarn is a very delicate pale apricot.

Four Fun Fur garter-stitch scarves for spring.

The yarn on the left, below, looked more spring-like in the ball.

I really like the way the colors on this scarf worked out. I think this is called flashing but I'm not entirely sure.

Washcloths here. The one on the right is the Ball Band Washcloth from Mason Dixon Knitting and the band around Peaches 'n' Cream cotton yard. (It's not my ball band pattern, which is for the one that is a diamond, with yarn overs on all for sides.) The left one, in doubled white cotton is a pattern I picked up somewhere that I can't remember. It has a very nice textured pattern that's pretty much invisible in this photo.

The last thing that went into the package was a bag of four tangerines, right off the tree in my back yard. This is a little beauty of a tree, with glossy dark leaves. The orange fruit really stand out from the foliage and look very festive. I think it's actually a clementine, not a tangerine, but the difference is minor.

07 April 2007

The Queen Of The Grill Strikes

Last night I grilled. And grilled. And grilled some more. Then I vacuum-packed and froze. No more grilling for a while. It's going to get hot out there, so I'd rather grill and freeze than slave over a hot grill in 100°-plus heat. Or heat up the kitchen for the air conditioning to deal with.

I'd found boneless center-cut pork chops on sale at an excellent price, so I'd gotten a dozen of them. One package (of four) was a bit thinner than the other, so I marinated them in an herb, vinegar, and oil dressing for about half a day and grilled them first. They cooked really quickly and smelled so good, it was all I could do to grill the rest of the meat, rather than diving into these chops. I also slid a pair of stuffed potatoes, from the service deli, onto the warming shelf when I first turned the chops.

Once those chops got done (I go to at least 150° on pork, mostly out of habit), I re-oiled the grill and tossed the other eight chops on the fire. I gave them a little over a minute more on each turn (three turns or, actually, a rotation, a turn, and another rotation to get crossed grid marks on each side). About when they were done, the potatoes were heated through and I pulled them off, too.

Then I tossed the four New York steaks (rump steaks to the British and their other former colonies, I believe) on the grill. These had also been on sale. Getting the meat on sale was why I was grilling; I don't usually pay list price, as it were, for meat, except low-fat hamburger. While they were cooking I tidied up the trash (it takes me about a third of a roll of paper towels to cook this much meat and then there were the trays and plastic from the store, so I had quite a bit) and put the chops, in their covered casseroles, on the bottom shelves of the cart. When the steaks were done, they too went into a casserole and I shut off the gas and zipped the cart into the kitchen.

I should mention that somewhere around when the first chops went onto the grill a bourbon and 7-Up highball magically appeared on my cart, right beside the salt and pepper. It took almost an hour from when I started to when I was done outside, but I wasn't in a hurry and I didn't exactly crowd the grill. The glass was nearly empty, except for a few rather sad, warm pieces of ice, when I came in.

So I mixed another drink, cut one of the steaks in half, added a potato to each plate, dished up a little tossed green salad for each of us, and served dinner. It was really good. Of course, I was absolutely starving after sitting out there by the grill, smelling the meat cook. I love grilled steak and pork chops and I love my gas grill that lets me make them just as well as a restaurant can.

When I finished dinner, I went back out to the kitchen and vacuum-sealed the other three steaks and all of the chops. I put the steaks and eight of the chops in the freezer. We're going to have marinated chops tonight and plain chops tomorrow. Monday is my 60th birthday and we'll probably go out to eat.

I like having this grilled meat in the freezer. It heats pretty well, without much drying out, and the vacuum sealing prevents freezer burn. Putting dinner together can be really quick using it. And it's unusual enough to seem like a little bit of a treat when we do have it.

Then today I worked on getting my stashes of yarn and beads into the closet tidily. Some of the beads just simply have to go. I'll never use them; many of them were hand-me-downs from a friend who got tired of beading a few years ago and weren't really my style. I don't know exactly what my style is, but they aren't it. Between the USPS flat-rate shipping and eBay, these beads should find a home. I'll let someone else find a place to put them.

Photos of the closet will appear tomorrow, once I get most of what I'm keeping put away. For some reason, the closet seems to keep getting smaller and smaller, the more I try to put into it.

06 April 2007

Shopping For A Mini-Van

We're currently driving a modified 2000 Olds Silhouette mini-van. It's out of the extended warranty now and it's getting a little old, even though it has less than 60,000 mi on it. The modification computer developed some problems and we had to disconnect the power door. Then the microswitch on the ramp quit working and now it doesn't extend unless dragged out by hand. In addition, the modification systems were drawing a lot of electricity and running down the battery. We hadn't noticed that when it was being driven to work at least three time a week but we sure did notice it after we retired.

So we've been looking around for a new mini-van. We won't actually buy the van; the folks doing the modification do that. They're actually dealers for a wide variety of vehicles. Anyway, we decide what we want, consult with them about the mods, leave a deposit, and wait for them to drop the new mini-van off. They'll even take the old one as a trade-in. If it weren't that it needed work on the mods, we'd probably try to sell it ourselves.

So, anyway, there are three possibilities, Honda, Toyota, and I forget (hey, we're just starting). At the southern end of our development, right on I-10 at Washington, we have an auto mall with both Honda and Toyota dealerships. So I dragged my husband off to look at Hondas. We got a very accommodating salesman who brought the exact model (fortunately in the wrong color) we were considering around and let us sit in it and play with the gadgets. It even had a sunroof, which nearly clinched the sale.

It had really slipped my mind how nice a new car is. I was ready to take that baby home right then, without even looking at the other two possibilities. Fortunately, I'd known I'd feel this way and I was prepared for it, so all we left with was some literature.

Not yet being totally reconciled to a lifetime of driving a mini-van, I also got some S2000 literature. I wouldn't let the salesman bring one of those around to look at because I know exactly how weak my willpower can be. Besides, I'm still thinking red Mustang convertible, have been in high school when the Mustang was introduced (we had a '64½ Mustang convertible for years and years, until we got the Olds Cutlass convertible in '92). Notice, however, that there's no mention at all of visiting a Ford dealer. I know better than that.

Next week it's the Toyota dealership. I need to do a little research on the Web, so I'll know what to expect. I'm pretty sure their mini-van will be just as nice as is the Honda.

I need to go set the pork chops and steaks out on the counter to warm up for dinner. I'm going to grill like crazy this afternoon. I got about ten of those thick boneless center-cut pork chops and four New York steaks. I'll grill them all and then freeze most of them. Then when I don't want to heat the house up on a miserably hot night I can just thaw out a package and nuke something potato-y. I might marinate some of the chops, now that I think about it.

04 April 2007

Oops! Oops, Almost! And A Bit About My Early Career

I finished the Morehouse Farm FishKnit scarf yesterday. It's just gorgeous and the yarn is an absolute wonder. One tiny flaw, though, which I discovered after I was done. They sent me the wrong color. I'd ordered "Zest" and they sent the berry-colored yarn. Oops! Obviously, I didn't have much of an investment in the color, since I didn't even notice until I'd finished knitting the scarf, but I did call them to give them a chance to set their inventory system right.

The second Oops wasn't, fortunately. I was opening more cartons that we'd brought down from Lancaster and discovered what I thought at first was another box of knitting books. Now I was quite sure I'd only brought two boxes of these, so discovering another was kind of a shock. When I pulled out the two knitting books on the top I found mystery and scifi magazines nestled atop the phone and headset my husband had bought. What a relief. There's a limit to how much shelf space I have and another box of books would have thrown me into total disarray.

Our friend and former cow-orker who flew the SR-71 was by on the weekend. He didn't have much news about NASA but did remark that he enjoyed seeing the research aircraft he'd flown on display, particularly the Blackbird. I didn't have the heart to ask him if the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire was one of his favorites; it's a squatty little USN plane of no particular grace, although it had great merit. I liked it myself, but not for its looks. I spent a fair chunk of my career working on it.

The first airplane I worked on, where I had my own particular aircraft that I could go down to the hangar and look at, was an F-4 Phantom II. I was working for McDonnell Aircraft Co. at Edwards AFB, waiting for the new, unflown F-15 Eagle to show up. In the meantime, I worked on this F-4, which had an analog fly-by-wire system installed. This was being evaluated for resistance to battle damage, hence the project name SFCS, Survivable Flight Conditions Systems. Some really badly damaged F-4 had managed to struggle home in Vietnam and the USAF and McAir were trying to increase the percentage that made it back. This was in '72, when the fighting was still going on in Southeast Asia.

When the F-15 finally arrived (it did fly in, but in the back of a USAF transport aircraft, with its wings not installed) I worked on both F-15 #1 and the F-4 SFCS. About the time the second F-15 arrived, the F-4 program ended and I worked exclusively on F-15s. I eventually had three aircraft, numbers 1, 2, and 7 (I think) of my own.

I was a data engineer, handling the data processing requirements of the various discipline engineers. This was shortly after I'd finished the course work for my MS in Engineering from UCLA and had worked at NASA Dryden on stability and control derivative estimation. I was doling out the overnight computer results (the computer was in St Louis and we did everything remotely) and really startled and amazed an engineer by sorting out some of his maneuvers and pointing out that he'd gotten the start times about a second too late and needed to re-run them. He was astounded that I knew that much, since my position was an entry-level sort of job, with no real expertise required. Once they realized I was married to the guy who invented the estimation technique and had some experience in the analysis, my job changed a bit. They also started trying to recruit my husband away from NASA, telling us we'd love St Louis, etc.

Anyway, I misjudged the length of the F-15 Cat I & II testing and went to work for the General Services Administration down at the USAF AFFTC (Air Force Flight Test Center) as a Brooks Bill computer programmer (the Bill allowed agencies to hire contractors to help convert old programs, etc, when the agencies got new computers). I'd thought the McAir job only had a couple of years more to run, but I was really wrong. Still, I got a permanent Civil Service appointment with GSA, which counted for a lot.

About a year later, in the middle of a hiring freeze, Dryden had a engineering position open up. It was for a GS-9 engineer, no relocation expenses, and they opened it, by law, first to NASA employees who had been RIF'd or RIG'd (Reduction In Force, Reduction In Grade). Being a lowish grade, with no moving expenses, they didn't get any takers. Then they posted it again, for current NASA and other agency employees, because they couldn't hire anyone, just transfer people either within NASA or from other agencies. I was the only eligible applicant and they didn't have to ask me twice if I wanted the job. Finally! Not quite 28 years later I finally left.

03 April 2007

The Wheels Are Here! The Wheels Are Here!

Is Seville Classics good or what? My grids. connectors, shelf holders, and wheels showed up this afternoon. I've already got three sets of wheels and another layer of cubes on the three by two grid in the previous photos.

Of course, I ended up dumping at least half of that precious hand-painted yarn all over the floor, but at least it's a clean floor, having just been mopped. Actually, all that colorful yarn, all over the white tile floor, looks pretty good.

My trusty tape measure (always get the widest metal tape measure you can, because the wider it is the more of the blade will stick out unsupported and the further you can stand away from what you're measuring) and I have been checking the grid system and the closet quite carefully. It appears that the closet shelf support is exactly in the middle of the wall, dividing a 60-in. wall. And it also appears that two cubes are 30 in. wide (three are 45 in.), so either I can leave out the center cube on a fourth row and put the grid right up against the back wall and an inch or so from the side wall or I can put three cubes in the fourth row and put the grid system a little out from the back wall. Either way the door will still open and close.

Decisions, decisions. I'll probably go with the three-wide top row to get more stability and a little more shelf space. Once I decide and finish putting the yarn in the unit, I'll wheel it out into the hall, pull everything out of the closet, put the yarn unit in, and start pulling my hair out trying to organize all the beadwork stuff.

This is definitely one of those projects it's more fun to watch than to do.

Someone Out There Is In Trouble

I'm talking about the miscreant who forced me to visit the Morehouse Farm website and buy a couple of scarf kits. You are so going to pay, except that I don't know whether the payment is going to be hearing your praises for finding such a wonderful site or getting a demand that you stop me before I buy again.

The kits came yesterday, while I was knitting on Clapotis. About 2000 I opened the ziplock bag of the Fishknit Wrap and pulled out the fat little skein of yarn. Wow. It was so soft I couldn't wait. I wound it off into a big ball, pulled out my size 13 (9 mm) needles and cast on. That was at about 2015. When I went to bed at 2215 I was halfway though knitting, even with having had to run a couple of loads of laundry.

This yarn, Morehouse Merino Bulky, practically knits itself. It's fat and soft and springy. It knits exceedingly evenly, too. Even the edge stitches are nice and tight. No need for a chain selvedge here.

Plus, it's addictive to knit with. Between the soft texture of the yarn, its spring, and the great resulting fabric, I just can hardly put it down. I've got window washers coming this morning and I haven't done a thing in preparation, I've been so busy knitting.

02 April 2007

Scarf Progress And Organization Of The Stash

I got the scarves and washcloths for my goddaughter washed and blocked (as much as you can block things mostly made of cotton or synthetics) and packed up. The box is sitting on the door mat outside the front front door, waiting for the UPS guy to pick it up so it can get to Pennsylvania, and her, on Wednesday. I sneaked a little California surprise in with the knitting, too.

I had tried to send it Priority Mail, in one of those neat flat-rate boxes, but I couldn't get the system to print out the label and take my money. I could print the sample label, but not my label, even without postage. I tried restarting my browser (Firefox), using another browser (IE), not buying postage, everything. All I got was a trouble message. So I went with UPS. It was a lot easier and just a little over four times as expensive.

I'm back working on my Clapotis. Let me go get a snapshot right now. Wow, I just discovered that I don't need to start up any software to transfer photos from my camera to my computer via the USB cable; I hadn't known that. OK, here are three photos.

First, the whole thing, with the growing ball of yarn:

There's too much gold in the yarn for it to look too good in my living room. The chaise is plum and a lot darker than it looks in the photo (the camera tries to make the image about 18% gray, so it lightens dark things sometimes). Plus, purples are hard for digital cameras to deal with.

That ball of yarn keeps getting bigger, not smaller, as I knit. It's also getting rounder. When I took it off the ball winder, it was a nice, compact little cake of yarn, not the big round ball it is now. It doesn't feel a lot softer now than when I cast on, either. I cheated and weighed it last night, though. I've knitted 46 g and there's 68 g in the ball. I could have made the scarf a little wider now that I know that. It's 36 in. on the long side, 31 in. on the other, 9 in. wide at the end with the dropped stitches. Of course it's not blocked yet. I think it's about half done.

A close-up of the end, with the dropped stitches:

My husband accused me of knitting this pattern because I enjoyed dropping stitches. He might be right.

And a close-up of the other end, with undropped stitches, too.

You can see that I just dropped the last stitch and it hasn't been pulled out as tidily as the others.

Now, about my stash. I got tired of rummaging through bins and boxes and decided to get more organized. I had most of a nine-cube box of grid storage out in the casita (golf cart) garage, so I brought it in and put together as much as I had connectors for. Then I ordered more connectors, more grids, wheels, and shelf holders. They're supposed to be here on Wednesday or so. Meanwhile, I couldn't bear to wait and I started loading up the cubes, as you can see in this photo.

This is not quite every skein and ball I have of hand-dyed and hand-painted yarn. I started sorting it into the cubes just to see what I had. What a shock! I had no idea I'd accumulated quite so much. Thank heaven I didn't pay anything like list price for most of it. Some of those skeins and balls cost less than a dollar each.

This looks like a lot more yarn than it really is, though, because I piled it all at the front, like books are shelved. There's a whole bunch of empty space behind that yarn, so that the cubes that look half full are barely a quarter full. It's a lot of yarn, I admit, but it's not as bad as it looks. Does that sound like a rationalization to you, too? It sure does to me.

Let's see, the bottom left and center cubes right now are all Noro. The bottom right cube is ribbon, mostly CPY Party, and hand-spun, hand-painted silk. The top left cube is sport weight, the top center is sock weight, and the top right is a mixture. There's lace weight yarn on the right, hand-dyed chenille in the center, and hand-spun, hand-painted silk on the left, with hand-dyed boucle at the back. On the top right and center is a base layer of Great Adirondack in various weights and colors, with Katsura boucle rayon and boucle silk on the left. Piled on top of that is Schaefer Blossom, Blue Heron chenille, and a lot of other hand-painted brand, mostly from independent dyers.

This structure is going to go into the 5-ft x 5 ft walk-in closet here in my office. There will be three more cubes on top and wheels on the bottom (where else, I hear you say), with shelves in the middle of some of the cubes. I hope to get all my yarn organized. I've still got quite a bit of regular yarn to put away too. For example, I've got an entire under-bed bin of Lion Brand Microspun, which I bought for about 30 cents a skein. Then there are three bags of Jumbo Merino from Elann, plus about another half bin of it from eBay.

I've knitted up about 60-75 balls and skeins since August. That may not sound like much, but the most any single project took was three and a half balls of chunky wool. Scarves just don't take a lot of yarn. All of those projects have been given away, too. I don't have any lying around, since the UPS guy just picked up the box for Pennsylvania.

I'm thinking of selling some of the Noro and Schaefer yarns. For example, a huge skein of loopy mohair, no matter how beautifully dyed, just doesn't fit my needs. With one of my main recipients allergic to wool, the Noro isn't too practical, either, not with so much merino and BFL (blue-faced Leicester, a breed of sheep) on hand. If I get brave and venture into e-trade, I'll post the eBay sites here. It probably won't be before fall, though. Who wants to buy wool in April?

Honesty compels me to mention that the walk-in closet isn't exactly empty right now. It's got a bunch of beading stuff in it, mostly very organized in roll-around carts with shallow drawers. One of those carts is up in Lancaster, but the others are here. I'm going to roll them out, roll the cube unit in, and then roll most of the carts back in. I think one of them might go to the casita garage, since it doesn't have craft supplies in it. It's mostly got cables and stuff in it, so it doesn't need to use prime space.

You may have noticed the mostly very organized there; I've got to organize all of the bead stuff, too. I can't do it all until the cart in Lancaster returns, but I should be able to put most of it away. That cart mostly has seed beads in it, so I can put the larger beads where they belong here.