Thursday, July 31, 2008

Other: Yes, It Can Be Done

I just managed to leave Target with a shopping cart that brimmeth over and zero Target plastic bags.

No, I didn't steal anything. Yes, the security guard asked to see my receipt.

I brought 2 good-sized fabric grocery bags, bought mostly bulky items like cat litter, used the large plastic storage bin I was buying to hold the paper products, and there you go.

The checkout woman seemed a little confused when I said I had brought my own bags. As adept as they seem to be at putting only one item in each bag, maybe I was going to ruin her quota.

Anyway, I think I deserve a medal. Or at least a cookie. Or one of these Reese's Peanut Butter Cups that I bought...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pandora's Litter Box/Knittin' Crap: How To Torture Your Cat (Benignly)

This person seems to enjoy torturing her cats, Greaseball and Fifty-Fifty, with knitted fashion. (Greaseball looks so much like a Russian Blue look-a-like I grew up with named Tigger. Please note I was 5 when he was born. "Tigger" is a name a 5-year-old would come up with. Please note also that my aunt has a dog, yes, dog, named "Tigger." Please note that she named him when she was, ok, let's be nice and say in her 50s.)

Greaseball as the Statue of Liberty!

Greaseball az zee French cafe denizen!

Fifty-Fifty as a ninja kitty!

The fez is also really cool.

Her cats are amazingly patient. I'm not sure I could get away with trying to dress up my cats. Spoon would likely freak out and make for the underside of the bed, and Pandora might put up with it, if she deemed the article worthy, or she might take my hand off at the wrist.

Whiteboard Jungle: Is This Another Drill?

So, yes, there was an earthquake here in Southern California yesterday.

I was at work. Coincidentally enough, our building had had its annual fire drill that morning. We knew it was coming, as they had passed out notices the day before. While we were all standing around in the hot sun, the fire officer told us to be sure to get the studio's earthquake safety handout from our floor wardens. By the time I got to my floor warden, I saw someone else grab the last one he had from his hands. And my name wasn't even on his checklist. I could pass out from smoke in my cube and no one would come to look for me. I've only been here 14 months. Geez.

Then, per standard organizational planning here, no one was around to turn on the building's elevators after the drill. Genius. I was just going to stand around waiting on principle, because if they can't plan ahead... Then one of my co-workers started mocking me, that I couldn't climb all the way up to the 5th floor. We're not talking about Mr Fitness here, either. I knew if I didn't do it, he would just Not Shut Up. The biggest problem with the stairs in my building is that, to get to the stairwells on the first floor, you have to go through HR offices. Ok, I'm not saying the HR people are scary, but these are not the "we're here to make you happy" HR types, these are the legal "we're here to keep you from suing us" HR types.

Of course, I made it to the 5th floor first. Nyah.

Anyway, about an hour later, we were in our group meeting. Then things start moving.

Did I mention my floor warden was out of earthquake handouts when I found him?

I was sitting there thinking, wow, they didn't tell us this was earthquake drill day, too! You know, I work at a movie studio. It's conceivable that they might, um, be able to simulate... ok, never mind.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Knittin' Crap: Stash Reorg Pt 2

Well, I really liked the first set of Space Bags. They really compressed the yarn. The only issue is that yarn balls are lumpy, and so the vacuumed bags were also pretty lumpy. I played some with re-opening and rearranging them, and they got a little flatter.

I went back to the store and got some more. This time I got the new "cubes." I could stick them in one of the bins directly! They did actually work for that. I did lose some "gained" space because of the lumpiness, but I can stick small skeins in some of the gaps. Unfortunately, the cubes seem to be a little poorly made. I did tear one when it got caught without my noticing while I was putting in, post-deflation, into a bin. My fault, but I was a little chagrined that it didn't take much force. I put pieces of clear mailing tape on both sides (it was less than 1") and it seems to be keeping. The other problem was that the blue plastic sliders that help you with the zipper lock don't really work. I would hear air escaping when I turned off the vacuum, and had to go back and re-seal manually multiple times. This had not happened with the original "flat" bags.

That said, I filled all the bags and I have definitely saved a lot of space. I also managed to get the fabric I had in various places, most of which I use for making or lining bags, into one of the extra-large cubes which, once compressed, fit into of the 66-quart bins with some space left for dropping in other sewing notions. I was impressed.

Different yarns compress differently, too. Fiber density and yarn construction affect the compression. I didn't bother taking yarn out to rearrange them after learning all that, but I will pay attention for future packing.

That said, I'd rather have a bunch of the medium-sized flat bags, because I could stack them in the large plastic bins. I only saw them in the flat bag "combo," though, which also has the large and extra-large. Both the cubes fit compressed (as long as the extra-large isn't completely packed) in the bins, but only one at a time, and like I said, they seem less well-made overall.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Knittin' Crap: The Bliss of Stash Reorganization

Any knitter (and I'm sure this applies to most hobbies which require raw materials) who buys yarn without plans to knit it immediately has a stash. Depending on your level of self-control and/or ambition, this can get large. And yarn takes up a lot of space. I was a hard-core beader for over a dozen years. I've been a hardcore yarnie for less than 3. The yarn is taking up more space than the beads.

I use those really large 60+ qt storage bins, which work pretty well. I have a list (queue) of projects-to-be, and if I've already gotten the yarn for them, they're kind of organized in order of the list, to make it a little easier to find. Of course, as stuff gets pulled out of the bins, I don't move the yarn queue up, so the bins start getting empty. Meanwhile I have several large cardboard boxes of yarn sitting around I need to categorize.

At the fabric store the other day, I saw those Space Bag thingies on sale, so I bought a box of 4. Today is "reorganize the stash" day. Well, Day 1 of who-knows-how-many.

Pros of stash reorganization:
  • Space reclamation
  • Opportunity for yarn fondling. (Ella Rae Bamboo Silk is beyond exquisite.)
  • Rediscovering yarns you'd forgotten
  • Realizing exactly how much yarn you have
  • Wondering if you'll ever get to it all

I'll let you know how it goes. If you don't hear from me soon, send help.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Knittin' Crap: Chinese Death Blessings

Well, now that Brad's comment to my last post has given me nightmares about getting gnawed to death by a blob of yarn...

See, I have this movie on DVD called Mr Vampire. This movie is awesome. I don't actually own large number of DVDs. There just aren't that many movies I care to see over and over, whenever I want. But, particularly since English-subtitled versions of Chinese movies tend not to stay in print, I had to make sure I had this one around.

The late Lam Ching-Ying plays a Taoist priest who specializes in taking care of troublesome corpses. Apparently when you have a hopping vampire infestation, you need to have lots of pieces of yellow paper inscribed in red ink on hand so that you can paste them to the vampires' heads to get them to become dead undead again. Or something. Of course, a good stiff breeze can blow the papers off and then you're back to where you started (running away from hopping vampires), but anyway.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot of the cultural nuances and backstory here, but the movie features some great action scenes, and Lam is just so cool as the priest who spends as much time kicking rotting butts as he does kicking the moronic butts of his two assistants.

So, anyway, I tried to figure out what was written on the yellow papers. Turns out they're called Chinese death blessings, but although one of the handful of English-language sites I found said the writing was just nonsense, I wasn't sure. The wife of my friend Steve is Chinese, and she says that it's not Chinese writing. Ok, that's good enough for me! Thanks, Teresa!

So, time to figure out how to knit a Chinese death blessing. It's reassuring to know that I don't have to worry about botching some Chinese ideograms. Instead of "Be dead again, Grandpa!" I'd end up with something like "The moon fell on the pig." While that might buy a little time by confusing the vampire, I doubt it would be effective. But I guess they can't actually read anyway, so the point is moot.

And remember, until you have your death blessings ready, hold your breath so the hopping vampires can't find you!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Knittin' Crap: Awesome Amigurumi!

These people have designed some awesome amigurumi! (What, you say, is this amigurumi concept? Eh, look it up.)

Like this Mr Slave-a-like...

And, I love this, a Chinese hopping vampire! Hopping Ghost 01

Knittin' Crap: Smackdown!

I'm signed up and ready to go for my first Yarn Smackdown event! (What, you say, is this "yarn smackdown" concept? Well, that's what the link is for!) Ok, fine. Basically, you're given a target and a weapon. Except you have to knit or crochet the weapon. And the weapon could be a scarf or some socks or a hat. Or, in my case, amigurumi, aka the "deliver death with a smile" event! (What, you say, is this amigurumi concept? Click the link!)

Basically, you're given a target and the pattern for a weapon. The object is to complete the weapon and mail it to your victim before someone sends you a cute and deadly.

My event starts August 9. Hormonally-suppressed, 4'9" 15-year-olds doing backflips on broken ankles got nothing on this!

Pandora's Litter Box: Puppy == Punishment

Friday, July 18, 2008

Knittin' Crap: Wacky Plushie Lady Strikes Again!

Yummy Pancake of the crocheted Easy Bake Oven fame has tackled that terror of (almost) every high school science lab... well, maybe not the terror (now I'm envisioning a crocheted dissected frog), but anyway...

The Plushie Microscope!

Plush Amigurumi Microscope

(Yes, I have accidentally poked myself in the eye on a microscope.)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Pandora's Litter Box: Stupid Honor Students

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Metro Journal: July 11 Good Jujubes!

This morning was much cooler than it had been recently, so I walked the 1/4 mile to the 780 stop. I was all psyched because I would be there just at the right time. Then I got there and realized I had left my purse at home. So I walked the 1/4 mile back to get my purse. My timing was totally off for all the short-cut buses, though, so I walk the 1/4 back to the stop. I was a block away when I saw the 780 go by. Then I had to wait 25 minutes for the next one. I mentioned that they're supposed to run every 15 minutes, right? So by this time I was totally running late, and I was pretty cranky.

The man in the motorized wheelchair from the previous day was apparently also running late, because he was at the Broadway & Brand stop again. And again, most people at the front cleared out, but they did the left side again, which is not the side he liked. There was one woman left on the right side, talking on her cell phone. As soon as someone asked her to move, though, she immediately got up, put the seats up, and found another seat, all without skipping a beat on her phone call. 15 seconds max, and she didn't act at all put out.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It just wasn't that guy with the white beard the day before.

The evening 780s were also apparently not aware of the 15-minute rule. Anyway, when I was about to get off the one that finally showed, a young man asked me how long before the bus got to Pasadena City College. I had to guess, and probably guessed low at 20 minutes. He said that was ok. I told him it was the last stop for this bus. "Will they tell us that instead of turning around?"

I told him I was pretty sure they would kick him off at that point.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pandora's Litter Box: LOLCATS!!!

I have a cat named Pandora. I have to clean out her litter box. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, I found out about the most awesomest lolcat site, So then I had to try to submit my own lolcat picture, starring Pandora!

funny pictures

Go vote for her so she'll get on the main page! kthxnbai!

Metro Journal: July 10 Bad Jujubes Coming Your Way

I was more or less on schedule this morning when the 780 stopped at Brand and Broadway and a man in a motorized wheelchair had to get on. I'd seen him ride before, and he always sits on the right-hand side as you face the front. He seems to have a little difficulty speaking loudly, so I assume he wants to be in eyesight of the driver.

The bus was fairly crowded, but everyone in the seats that get put up to make room for wheelchairs got out of the way. Except for one man. He had a long white beard and kept sitting. The ramp on these buses makes a really loud beeping noise, and since he was, well, near the front, unless he was deaf he should be able to hear. The bus driver started saying, "Excuse me, sir, you need to move" several times. Finally someone tapped the man on the shoulder. He was apparently not deaf, because he asked why the man in the wheelchair couldn't sit on the other side, behind the bus driver, where the seats had been vacated by people who weren't self-absorbed jerks. The driver told Mr Proof-That-Common-Courtesy-Isn't-Very-Common that the man in the wheelchair wanted to sit on the other side, where he was sitting.

You realize, of course, that all this time we were not moving. There was a line of people waiting for the wheelchair to get settled so the driver could put up the ramp and they could get on.

Finally, Mr Just-Because-You-Lived-Long-Enough-To-Join-AARP-Doesn't-Mean-You're-Allowed-To-Act-Like-A-3-Year-Old made this big production of getting up. And then he made an even bigger production of picking up all the stuff he had brought on. At least 2 or 3 minutes had past by this point. In bus-minutes that's like 3 hours.

So, Mr Just-Deal-With-It sits down on the other side, making a big production (I realize we were on Broadway, but it wasn't that Broadway) about banging down the seat someone had been polite enough to put up on the other side. Except the motorized wheelchair was pretty large and I guess it had a big turn radius, so the man in it, who had been unfailingly polite and patient, politely and patiently asked Mr Makes-Karen-Wish-She-Had-A-Voodoo-Doll if he could stand up for a moment because he needed room to turn the chair around. So, Mr Where-Is-Instant-Karma-When-We-Need-It makes this big, slow production of getting up, slamming up the seat, and waiting for the man to turn his wheelchair around.

You know, if the most inconvenient thing that I had to do in a given day was move to a seat across the aisle of the bus, I would count myself damned lucky.

I don't know what he thought he was going to get by spiting every single person on that bus and waiting to get on, but what he did get were my ocular inviso-daggers boring into the back of his head. I'm sure he noticed.

Ok, I need Pandora to give me lessons.


Anyway, at the next stop, there was another man in a wheelchair waiting. The driver asked where he was going, then asked if he could take the Local which was right behind us. She said there was a man upfront "having a difficult time." I think what she meant to say was, "being a difficult ass," but she apparently had more patience for that crap than I do. Well, and I can't really get fired for chewing out someone on the bus. Unless my boss happens to be on the bus.

Anyway, the whole damned thing threw off all my connections. I got off at Western and waited what seemed like longer than normal for a bus. Meanwhile, someone was trying to sell pepper spray. Too late.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Knittin' Crap: Plushie Appliances!

Ever stub your toe on the corner of the fridge? Pull toast out of the toaster too soon and burned your fingers? Had to lug a freakin' heavy sewing machine around a movie studio lot? Poked yourself in the eye with a lighthouse? I have! Well, not the lighthouse one.

This woman designs and makes some amazingly cool crocheted stuff.

Other: Inspirational Thoughts

My friend Steve found this one. I wonder if I would get fired if I printed it out and hung it in my cubicle.

Knittin' Crap: The Great Linen Yarn Pre-Washing Experiment

(Previously posted on the Ravelry forums.)

Louet Euroflax is a beautiful 100% linen yarn that comes in many colors and weights. Unfortunately, it is also stiffer than all get-out when new, which makes it difficult work with. Like all linen, it softens up tremendously as you keep washing it and sticking it in the dryer. So why not start that process before working with it to make it easier?

I just finished my first experiment pre-washing Louet Euroflax and I’m calling it a big success.

I bought six skeins of the Euroflax Worsted Weight, 5 in Purple Mystere and 1 in St Lawrence (both marled) for Doris Chan's Tall Latte pullover. I did some reading and here’s what I ended up doing. I did it with all six skeins at once. Keep in mind that brave, lazy, and stupid are often synonyms.

  1. Tie the skeins in lots of places. I used natural-colored Sugar’n’Cream because I had it handy and it’s cheap. First I put the ties spaced every 3-4” around the looped skein, and then I tied the two halves together at 3 points into one long snake. I knotted the ties tightly but I didn’t wrap them around the skein too tightly.


(Picture is after washing… look how floppy! But at least you can see all the ties.)

  1. Soak in extremely warm water and a little Woolite for about 2 hours.

  2. Rinse well. Watch the purple water swirl down the drain.

  3. Wring the excess water out, but do not untie.

At this point, some people might have gone straight to the dryer step. Well, I find new linen stickier when it’s wet, and I had nightmares about tangling. But mostly I wanted to throw them in the dryer with something else, figuring the banging around would loosen the fibers more. And I didn’t have anything to dry them with because that would have required doing laundry. I live in an apartment building and I’m lazy. So…

  1. Lay out the still-tied skeins on a mesh sweater-drying thingie.

  2. Two days later, or whenever you get around to doing laundry… stick the skeins in a lingerie bag. Throw in the dryer with your wet jeans and at least one dryer sheet.

Yay! Maybe it would have softened more if I had thrown it in the dryer when wet. Maybe not. The lint filter had lots of purple lint, but it didn’t stick to my clothes, even my off-white jeans.

I’ve only balled one skein but had no problems at all doing it. It’s still not as soft as linen that’s been washed lots of times, but it’s as soft as I need it, and you can certainly repeat the above steps as often as you wish.

I haven’t swatched it yet, but I can feel a huge difference. One thing I did notice is that the strands not on the outside of the skein did not get quite as soft, presumably because they weren’t coming into direct contact with the dryer sheet. Not a huge difference, but it could affect gauge in some instances. It probably would have been worse if I had pulled the ties tighter, but I wouldn’t want to loosen them much, either, because you might get more chance of tangling.

I think for additional softness at this point, you’d probably only need to repeat the dryer cycle, and maybe add a lot more dryer sheets. Considering the excess dye I got when I washed it, though, I would definitely do that at least once first.

Knittin' Crap: I Am So Square

squaresblanketsquares I saw this pattern in the Spring 2006 issue of Interweave Crochet. I decided it looked really neat, but I didn't want to use the wool yarn shown. So I bought a bunch of different colors of Tahki Cotton Classic, which comes in 128 colors. (I only bought about 16). Since by this time the number of colors I had no longer matched the number in the pattern and my gauge would be totally different because the Cotton Classic is much heavier than the original yarn, I just decided to come up with a random list of my own colors.

Geek that I am, I made my computer do it.

I wrote a script in Perl that does the following:
  • Takes the list of color names (the array @colors)
  • Makes the specified number of each size (i.e. number of rows) square (the has %size_odds)
  • Always makes 2-row squares two different colors
  • In larger squares, increases the odds by 10% that the following row will use the same color as the row before it... I didn't want a bunch of 8-row squares in 8 different colors
  • Makes sure no two squares will be exactly the same
It outputs to two files. One uses the numbers assigned to each color by its position in the array @colors (only add to the end of this list if you add colors or it will get out of whack if you need to add more) and saves that to a file in case you need to add more squares later (that's a different script which, yes, I did have to write). The other produces the human-readable output, which looks like this:
1:orange 2:berry

1:candy pink 2:lime 3:lime 4:lime 5:sky blue 6:lilac

1:berry 2:lime sherbet 3:lime sherbet 4:lime sherbet 5:royal blue 6:lime 7:lime 8:canary 9:lilac 10:sky blue 11:navy 12:coral

1:candy pink 2:berry 3:sky blue 4:tangerine 5:green 6:dk pink

1:orange 2:navy

1:taupe 2:navy 3:navy 4:lime 

What it doesn't do: you can't specify the amounts of yarn you have by color and it doesn't compute the size of the blanket or conversely how many squares to make for a particular size.

I did actually run out of the lt. yellow, mainly because of that 12-row square in the picture where rows 7-12 were lt. yellow. It's probably not the last so far, so I wrote another script to replace it with other colors. I already have some partially made blocks that called for it.

Here's the script:

# blocks - make random colors for blocks for a blanket
# Karen B.

# Distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

use strict;

my $namefile = "newblocks"; # Outfile - human-readable
my $savefile = "saveblocks"; # Outfile - numbers only

# Name your colors
my @colors = ( 'lime', 'sky blue', 'navy', 'candy pink', 'royal blue',
'dk pink', 'tomato', 'green', 'lilac', 'orange', 'coral',
'turquoise', 'jade', 'canary', 'lt. yellow', 'lime sherbet',
'taupe', 'tangerine', 'berry' );

# Number of rows => number of blocks in that size
my %size_odds = (
'2' => 50,
'4' => 49,
'6' => 16,
'8' => 7,
'10' => 2,
'12' => 2 );

my $cnum = $#colors + 1; # Actual number of colors

my %done;   # Hash of finished squares

foreach my $size (keys %size_odds) {
my $lim = $size_odds{$size};
while ($lim-- > 0) {
my $done;
my $out;

do {
 my %used;

 $out = '';
 my $round = 1;
 my $cur = int(rand($cnum));
 my $last = $cur;
 $done = "$cur";
 $out = "$round:$colors[$cur]";
 if ($size == 2) {
   until ($last != $cur) {
     $cur = int(rand($cnum));
   $out .= " $round:$colors[$cur]";
   $done .= ",$cur";
 } else {
   while ($round <= $size) {
     if (int(rand(3)) == 0) {
       $out .= " $round:$colors[$last]";
     } else {
       do {
         $cur = int(rand($cnum));
       } while ( $used{$cur} );
       $out .= " $round:$colors[$cur]";
       $last = $cur;
     $done .= ",$cur";
 } while ( exists($done{$done}) );
   $done{$done} = $out;

open(OUT, ">$namefile");
print OUT join("\n\n", values %done); # This naturally "shuffles" the list

open(COL, ">$savefile");
print COL join("\n", keys %done);

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.

Knittin' Crap: Intro

I knit a lot. And crochet. And a bunch of other stuff that could be euphemized as artsy-craftsy. I will now proceed to post about some of those things here.

P.S. I haven't actually knit any reproductions of crap, but I do plan to crochet some Happy Poo.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Metro Journal: July 1 Sitting on the Most Intelligent Part of Your Anatomy...

There was a group of about 3 or 4 obnoxious, loud, and magnificently stupid teenage boys on the 780 this morning.

Dumbass A: What's estrogen?
Dumbass B: It makes you gay, dude.

Then wouldn't all women be lesbians?

[part of some joke about prostate cancer, which ruffled my feathers as my father is a prostate cancer survivor. Of course, they were such inveterate dickheads that I was already wishing I was sitting closer to them if only so I could "accidentally" stab one with a knitting needle.]

Dumbass A: Where's your prostate?
Dumbass C: Right here, dude.
Dumbass A: Oh, I thought it was in your ass.

No, that's where your head is lodged. Dumbass.