20 February 2009


No, not itchy yarn. Itchy hair. I got my hair cut this afternoon and it's driving me crazy. The short little ends (shaping the back and neckline take a lot of snipping) have caught in the ballerina neckline of my shirt and keep digging in.

I'd go change into a different shirt, hoping that all the loose hair has left my head and is now captive in my shirt, but I just did an amazing amount of laundry and the only people things not yet washed are my nightgown and the sheets. I even washed the load of microfiber cloths, which have to be washed separately, and the new red-purple bath mats (which produced two lint filters full of lint and still aren't dry). I feel so virtuous to have done so much laundry, although I still need to run a load for the covers on Gordo's crate pads.

Usually I take a bath and change clothes right away, as soon as I get home, but I got distracted and now it's so late I'm not sure my hair will be dry before I go to bed. I have a lot of hair and it only dries quickly if it's about two inches long at the most. Back when I was in college, I wore it in a pixie cut, with blonde frosting, but now I wear it about four inches at the crown, in what used to be called an artichoke cut (turn an artichoke upside down and ignore the stem to get the idea). No frosting, just gray and silver for "highlights". I stopped coloring my hair on my sixtieth birthday because I'd gotten tired of the constant need to get the roots colored.

I'm going to post this and then go brush my hair over the sink again (for the third time) and put on my nightgown. One load of laundry for the people tomorrow, one for Gordo, and a load of dishes and then everything in the house will be clean and we'll start getting it all dirty again.

No end in sight on laundry and dishes, ever.

Updated about an hour after posting: I brushed Gordo quite thoroughly, much to his dismay. I got a lot of hair off him, both undercoat and guard hairs. Smooth coated collies shed as much as do rough coated collies, only the hair is about a third or a quarter the length and a lot harder to get off the furniture, particularly furniture upholstered in Ultrasuede. Then I went in and brushed my hair again, took off the itchy shirt, and am now comfortable in my nightgown.

I got into the habit of changing the sheets on the bed on Saturday, back when I worked, and I've kept it, here in Lancaster. Down at the Palm Desert house my cleaners, who come on Wednesday, change the sheets for me. But I still feel as if I should be doing something on Saturday. Old habits die hard.

18 February 2009

Miscellaneous News

I thought I'd update everyone on what's going on here. Not that it's a lot, but there are a few little things I've written about earlier.

The crown that I thought would be cemented a day or two ago still isn't here. I finally called and asked about it; I'm sorry to say that the mother of the lab guy passed away and everything has been delayed. However, I have a really good temporary on the tooth, so I'm not in too much of a hurry. I would like to be done with all this, but another week or two isn't going to make a big difference in the long run.

Gordo the Wonder Puppy is doing well. He hasn't had a seizure for a month and he seems to be less drugged than he was when he started on the Keppra. This latter is a mixed blessing; he's recently learned to tip the recycling bin over and fish out something interesting to drag into the family room and dismember. On the other hand, he's sleeping through the night, which has greatly improved my sleep.

My Rainbow Argosy Afghan is about 80% done. Well, maybe not so much, since I dropped a stitch about eight rows back and am tinking back to that point, two rows at a time. I can't just drop the stitches near the error and re-knit, because there's a yarnover in every other row and I don't have enough yarn to make it. Very annoying, as there's also a new ball of yarn joined in the the rows that have to come out.

Anyway, here's a photo of it at about 70% done.

And here's a close-up to show you the pattern and how the variegation works out.

This yarn is really soft and puffy. The afghan is going to be nice and warm. I do like Lorna's Laces yarns. I got a skein of Helen's Lace, which is 50/50 merino and silk. It's a big skein, maybe six ounces, 1200 yards (three-quarters of a mile), and beautifully dyed. I also got a shawl pattern for it. Unfortunately, I've got a number of projects that I absolutely must complete before I start another big lace project. It doesn't help that I have four other lace wraps that I really want to knit and another six or eight that I have in mind.

16 February 2009

Out of the Blue

I got a very interesting phone call last week and it really was a thrill. It's kind of complicated, so I'll have to start with some background.

Back in 1991 a couple of guys I worked with doing in-flight simulation were Technical Chairman and a Session Chair, respectively, at the AIAA Simulation Science Conference, which was held at the same time and place as the AIAA Guidance, Navigation, and Control and Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conferences. My husband and I always went to these conferences, which are in August. The guys wanted me to write a paper about in-flight simulation at Dryden. There were two reasons for this, that I'd been managing the in-flight simulation at Dryden for years and that it wouldn't look like an advertisement, since Dryden used the various aircraft, rather than providing the service. I guess I need to mention that the conference TC was the USAF manager of their in-flight simulators and the Session Chair was the department head of the company that operated those aircraft and a couple of their own. You can see where them writing such a paper might not look entirely neutral on the subject.

So I wrote the paper. It took a lot of research and I spent a lot of time up at the Ames Research Center, going through fiches and reading old, old papers. I blew a lot of them back and would have a heavy box to carry back on the KingAir on every trip. I went around and interviewed past and present research test pilots and engineers and generally had a good time, but it was harder to write this paper than it was to turn out a more focused paper on some flight test results. I also spent a lot of time picking out photos so the paper wouldn't be just text.

I gave the paper at the conference (it was in New Orleans that year) and the room was full to overflowing and engineers came up afterward to tell me how much they'd liked it, engineers I knew and respected. As a result, I decided it was a pretty good paper. AIAA couldn't publish it as a journal paper because it was way too long and there was no good way I could cut it down, so I was kind of stuck, looking for a more widely distributed publication method. I happened to talk to Dick Hallion, who was working as a historian for the Air Force Wright Aeronautical Laboratory at the time, about the paper (he'd liked it) and he suggested I try the Journal of the American Aviation Historians Society. Dick had written a very good history of Dryden some years before this, which was when I'd gotten to know him.

So I sent it to the AAHS and they were very happy to publish it for me. I made a few small changes and we sent it off, with a stack of photos, and got back copies of the magazine some time later. They did a beautiful job printing the paper, because they used glossy paper and photos were important to them.

You can read the TM version of the paper, In-Flight Simulation Studies at the NASA Dryden Flight Research Facility, here. It's not very technical and it may be interesting.

OK, that's the background. You can see why I said that you needed it to understand what happened last week.

Dick Hallion is back working for NASA as a historian again. The agency is putting together a four-volume series on NACA/NASA aeronautics research history, aimed at letting the young engineers learn about all the stuff that has been done in aeronautics over the years. Three of the volumes are about aerodynamics and wind tunnels and the fourth volume is about handling and flying qualities and topics like that. At least, I think that's how Dick described it. I may be wrong, though. Dick is in charge of this effort (I think he's a contractor, not that it matters) and he'd remembered my paper all these years and thinks it should be included.

So he called me up to ask me if I'd like to bring it up to date for inclusion in this, because he thinks it's important to include the topic and I'd already written such a good paper, he thought. This is a form of profession immortality, in its way. I'll be a contractor to NASA and I think I'll be able to use the Dryden library and photo lab, as well as having access to the pilots and researchers. So far as I know, there hasn't been a lot of in-flight simulation studies at Dryden since I wrote the paper. Handling and flying qualities research has really dropped off the charts for funding these days, as has aeronautics, at least at NASA (and, I think, the USAF). Aeronautics has kind of been the red-headed step child at NASA once the Space program really started sucking up the funding.

And I get a copy of the four-volume set, too. Plus they pay me, although not a huge amount.

10 February 2009

Something New & Yard Work

I did something I never thought I'd do. I ordered the DVD of the entire first season of a TV show, The Big Bang Theory. I really don't watch much TV, but I like this show. My goddaughter, who was then majoring in physics at Penn State, recommended it to me at about the second show, but we didn't get around to watching it until late last year. Now that we've discovered it, I had to have the first season. It's really a funny show.

Hard-science guys with little or no idea about social interactions; where I have seen that before? Why, could it be at UCLA, where I was an engineering student? Or at NASA Dryden, where I was an engineer for most of my career? Or both?

We're having the trees trimmed today and tomorrow. We have three big forty-year-plus fruitless mulberries and they have to be "laced" every couple of years to reduce the sail loading when the wind blows. We also have a Chinese pistache that's nearly as big and a beautiful liquidamber beside the driveway that needed a little trimming, nothing as drastic as the mulberries.

My pomegranate bush needed to be cut back severely, though, since it sets fruit on newer growth. It's down to about four trunks now, instead of a dozen. I only had about a dozen fruit on it last year, if that many. It may not produce much this year, but I should get a bumper crop the next year. If the school kids leave me enough, I'll juice them and make jelly. Messy, but gratifying. Making this jelly is a family tradition dating back almost fifty years. I cheat and use bottled pomegranate juice from the supermarket when I don't have fresh fruit available. I posted the recipe here earlier.

The junipers on the other side of the driveway had encroached quite fiercely and we cut them back about three feet, maybe more. They really look ugly now, but they'll grow back. We've created some nice humus under there, I noticed. I asked the trimmers to cut the ivy and Virginia creeper in the back yard back to the ground. Both had really gotten out of hand and were taking over. They're going to move my Madame Galen scarlet trumpet creeper around to the back yard so I can see it from the windows (which are almost all on the back of the house). I'm not really razing all the plant life at the house, although it may sound like it. I'm just tidying up stuff that has needed attention for a while. I'd kind of coasted on some of this but I suddenly got tired of the overgrown vines and the narrowed driveway and the clutter.

This is the same team that's going to transplant my big Mediterranean clumping fan palm from here in Lancaster to the front yard of our house in Palm Desert. We left a big space for it when we landscaped down there. It's outgrown the place I have it in here and needs to be moved somewhere. It was a gift from a very dear friend, a guy who went to college with my husband and worked at Dryden for many years. He has since died, so the palm is very dear to me.

Here's the Mediterranean clumping fan palm from the south. To give you an idea of its size, the block front of the raised bed is about 26". You can see some of the Virginia creeper on the left side of the photo, growing into the palm. These three photos were taken in September, which is why the creeper still has its leaves. Right now it's just a bundle of light brown stems and really ugly.

Here's a photo from the southeast, with the trunk of the Chinese pistache on the right side. You can see Virginia creeper on both sides. The stuff really spreads.

And this photo is from the north. The grass-like plant that you can see arching on the right is a volunteer clump of pampas grass. The neighbors on the other side of the wall had pampas grass against their side of the wall and it seeded freely. Pampas grass is nasty to deal with. It's very hard to kill and the leaves are exceeding sharp. It'll cut bare hands readily. This little clump is going away tomorrow, along with all that Virginia creeper you can see.

Gordo the Wonder Puppy has greatly enjoyed having the tree trimmers over. They are very obliging with pats and attention and have flapping pants cuffs to chase. He had to come into the house because I decided he was a bit of a tripping menace, chasing cuffs and boot laces. I think the crew was relieved to see him go. I would have been. It was really funny to see him take in the changes in the back yard after the team knocked off for the day. The ivy is down off the little metal shed in heaps and some of the privets have vanished.

Gordo went to the vet to have his blood levels of his epilepsy meds checked. He's up to 68 pounds, at 9.5 months. He's supposed to weigh about 75 pounds when he's fully grown, but I'm beginning to think he may be a little heavier. He'll still fit on my lap, as long as I have the hassock under my legs to extend my lap enough. He napped briefly on my lap this afternoon, having been worn out by all the excitement and getting up early. He's definitely still a puppy.

05 February 2009

Latest News about Gordo the Wonder Puppy

About a week ago we started Gordo on another drug, Keppra, for his epilepsy. This is in addition to the Phenobarbital and the potassium bromide. It actually seems to have controlled the seizures that were slipping through the first two drugs, but it also seems to have really upset his digestive system. His appetite has really gone away and he has been producing very soft stools, which are a real nuisance to pick up off the lawn. He also seems to be really uncomfortable and doesn't like to have him tummy touched, which is new for him.

Today we took him over to the vet to discuss this whole thing. They took blood to check the Phenobarbital and potassium bromide levels and examined him, poking at his tummy and listening to various places. The vet told me to take him off the Keppra for a while, to see if the problem clears up. And they gave me probiota paste and capsules.

The probiota paste, which has all kinds of beneficial digestive bacteria in it, comes in a tube about half the size of a caulk tube, like you use around sinks and tubs and stuff. I dialed up the 5-ml dose, convinced Gordo to let me put the end into his mouth, and squeezed the stuff onto his tongue. He promptly spat the entire dose of beige paste out, right onto my white jeans. Then he sniffed it, licked it off, and started looking for more.

Now I wonder what's going to happen with the next dose. I know I won't be wearing white jeans again. Khaki pants, maybe.