Thursday, May 31, 2007

Under the Hood

Discovered during an oil change: a mouse nest, made of shredded newspaper and fluff, nestled on the car engine between the manifold and the rocker arm cover.

Mousie nest

Huh. Usually the mousies build grass nests on the distributor cap. No idea what the change of location and materials portends.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Spin Cycle

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer for many people in the U.S. – it's certainly hot enough today roundabout Exit 151. Amazing to think one year ago I had my very first spinning lesson at Modern Yarn from a terrific teacher, Stacey Rothrock. We met at a Yarn Harlot reading and the happy meetups, real and virtual, have been nonstop ever since. I've spun in public (thanks, Cara), finished the Tour de Fleece (thanks, Katherine), and dyed-spun-knit with the Twisted Knitters (thanks, Margene). I've also been in two spinning swaps, Yarn Aboard 2 (thanks to generous Lisa for a fabulous package and to Amanda for organizing) and Spin to Knit (thanks to angel Jen, book author Shannon, and swap organizer Jaime).

I've also accumulated my first spinning UFOs (!). Pictured are two never-ending coils of beauteous Blue Face Leicester from Cloverleaf Farms, with my Made By Ewe spindle and production to date.

Blue Face Leicester roving, singles, and 2-ply

It's last summer's Tour de Fleece project.First attempt My goal was to spin consistent laceweight, which a year ago seemed quite a challenge. My first attempt (left) was uneven, but by the end of TdF I was pretty happy with the results. I continued spinning, but the trouble with spindle-spinning laceweight is the roving looms large and the output seems puny and [cough] distractions abound.

Happily,Spun Stitches button Teresa and fellow Jerseyan Kirsten have organized the Spun Stitches KAL for would-be handspun shawl makers. It's great to have company (plus the buttons are gorgeous)! I'm hoping that with the support of the group, I'll be able to spin and ply sufficient yarn for a shawl and knit said shawl before the end of summer.

In other spinning news, I was shocked to see that CaféPress has been selling T-shirts, mugs, and stickers that promote violence against bicyclists. One bears the legend, "I don't share the road" and a picture of a car striking a bicyclist. There are others, bizarrely interspersed with bike-friendly designs. When I telephoned CaféPress (toll-free 877-809-1659) to register my concern, I got a recording. Huh. Let's see if a complaint via the contact form works any better.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wailing Ban

The fancy new lemon computer crashed again and System Restore hasn't been going well. At first there was wailing at the heavens while waiting for tech support. Alas, the heavens have been not merely uncaring this week, but also actively pelting rain, so I banned wailing, set up the old reliable hamster wheel computer, tidied everything within reach of the telephone cord, and knit a bit on a sock for my Sockapalooza pal. Here's the backal view of the sock in progress.

Sockapalooza sock in progress

After starting to knit a published pattern, I decided to design a sock for my downstream pal. The other was lovely, to be sure, but this will be uniquely hers. My pal knit a Kiri shawl, and the fern lace got me thinking about the fossil rainforest discovered in an Illinois coalmine. The sock stitch patterns – peacock tail on the cuff, fern lace and 3x3 ribbing on the leg, and moss stitch on the heel flap – are meant to suggest the plume-like fronds of the 30-foot (10 m) tree ferns and the giant trunks and stemless foliage of the 100-foot (30 m) club mosses in that ancient forest. The ribbing also should give the sock a better fit at the ankle while allowing plenty of ease for the heel.

Another inspiration is Ann's magnificent vintage lace stockings. Her stockings use geographically consistent patterns instead of mixing what are usually considered Estonian, Shetland, and Aran patterns. I have additional, pal-specific reasons for selecting these particular stitch patterns. All shall be revealed in August (or come to MY SnB to hear the alternate narrative). For the moment, let's just say the design is, er, pangaeic.

My upstream pal left a comment [waving hi], so my little corner of the vast 1,000-member Sockapalooza universe is officially connected and presumably humming along. Which is more than I can say for the fancy new lemon computer – or tech support. I'm going to try spinning next. As Risa notes, the transfer of twist from spinner to fiber has known health benefits, and it sure beats wailing.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Only the Good

Here's yet another look at Bike New York 2007, with the bad bits glossed over.

Or view here.

I gotta admit, it makes me smile.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Walking Bike NY

Bike New York on Sunday was a decidedly mixed bag. I inadvertently left the house with all of $3, was late for the start, missed meeting up with other cycling knitters Sarah, Debby, and Devorah, spent an inordinate amount of the ride walking, got rained on and sunburned my nose, missed the free snacks, and discovered English bulldogs are sweeties but their kisses are yucky. Not to mention my socks were mismatched. [Sigh]

One of the reasons I love BNY is the glorious views. There were plenty of those, including this vista of the Manhattan skyline from the Queensborough Bridge offramp in Queens, after it stopped raining. Many tall New York bridges have spiral ramps to save space, which are a delight to speed down.

Manhattan skyline

On the downside, this year the amount of walking was excessive. At the start I walked inched along Church Street from Broadway to Reade Street (see map) when ordinarily the group mounts up around Rector Street, before the bridge between the American Stock Exchange and Trinity Church. The walk through Midtown before Central Park also was much longer and much slower than usual.

Walking at the start   Walking in Midtown

Central Park is usually a pleasant spin, but this year I had to dismount three times and walk. The gracefully curved park drives allowed one to see the great stream of walking bikers, which was esthetic and irritating at the same time. The ride opened up a bit in Harlem and the Bronx [joy!], but became congested again on the FDR Drive [no joy]. I expected to pause for a vest check before the Queensborough Bridge, but not to be obliged to walk halfway across.

Walking in Central Park   Walking on the Queensborough Bridge

I got fed up with taking pix of the exceptional congestion, suffice to say there was more walking in Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. The mob scene at the exit of the festival at ride's end was worse than anything I've seen, a disgrace. A chatty ride marshall admitted this year's ride was well below par, in part because registrations were one-third higher than normal despite an early closeout, which badly overstrained services. (I'm really glad I brought those baby wipes.) Also, past complaints about rogue riders resulted in some new, possibly unworkable, constraints on the ride. It would seem there's nothing like being killed off by one's own success.

On a happier note, all the walking did provide many, many, many opportunities to ogle other people's gear.Wingtips The most unusual footwear I saw all day was this pair of ill-fitting wingtips. The rider proved to be fleet and adept in the peloton, but I chased him down [ha!] and got the photo [haha!]. The most exotic vehicle I saw was a recumbent tricycle in the tadpole configuration (two wheels in front, as opposed to delta configuration, two wheels in back). 'Bent trikes can regularly achieve speeds of 55 mph (88 kph) or more on a flat – they're probably the fastest of human-powered vehicles, although not stable on uphill climbs.

Also happy, I had three quite pleasant chats with neighborhood folk in Staten Island, which beats the hostile exchanges of some years. Plus a friendly English bulldog followed me for half a block and, despite her owner's remonstrances, slobbered on me. I take that as a sign of acceptance, but bulldog slobber is no ordinary doggy kiss. Hooray for baby wipes!

Kim asked to see my socks. I wore one modified Jaywalker and one Flying Pig, pictured with the remnants of a free snack (thanks, Bonita! the only tour sponsor to provide enough munchies at every rest stop). I'm happy to report that my handknit held up well to the rigors of the tour and was more cushy than storebought. My storebought bike sock, made of high-tech materials, was noticeably better at wicking, but in the cool, windy conditions, cushy was good.

My socks

I also brought my Sockapalooza sock, barely in progress. Theresa astutely surmised that my pal favors blue. Very true. Alas, my downstream pal has not responded to repeated requests for actual foot measurements rather than shoe size, so I'm using the measurements in Sensational Knitted Socks to modify a pattern in Socks, Socks, Socks and am hoping for the best. I've not heard from my upstream pal, but trust my pal is out there.

Sockapalooza sock in progress

After all, yesterday a tardy parcel arrived from my Knit the Classics series swap pal. Thank you, Julie in Texas! The book, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, looks to be from a genre (bodice-ripper-time-travel) I don't ordinarily sample. It should be fun beach reading.

Knit the Classics swap goodies

Also in the parcel were a foot buffer (excellent, my feet are soooo not ready for sandal weather), toile notepaper and a matching candle, bath fizzies, bookmarks and bookplates, a notebook, a red tulip magic wand lollipop (I'm going to wave it over my garden and see if it helps), and three skeins of Patons SWS yarn (the same as in the Yarn Harlot goody bags).

While I was traipsing all over NYC, amazing Jessica was taking in MDS&W, yet somehow she managed to add me to the Summer of Socks blogroll. Thanks, Jessica, that's nothing short of amazing! I'm looking forward to participating, not least because I've opted in on the design competition, my first. I'm inclined to blog the design process – surely I don't have to worry about industrial espionage.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Getting Ready

Maneki nekoThe reminder email for Bike New York arrived this afternoon, which reminded me that Debby (who is riding with Sarah) and Devorah wanted to know how to recognize me on Sunday. Well, I'm rather camera-shy, but here's the maneki neko [beckoning cat] squeaky toy on my handlebars. Maneki neko are supposed to bring good fortune, luck, health, etc. I also have a pink JelliBell. It's a BNY tradition to ring bike bells at the start (30,000 at once!), also to hoot like banshees in the tunnels on the FDR Drive.

My ride is a black cherry ombré (that's what the owner's manual says) Giant hybrid. The weather forecast is for a warm day, so I'm taking a hydration pack and a road trunk. I'm glad I checked the hydration pack – the bladder had black fur inside it again (euw!). This keeps happening to my Camelbak, never to my Platypus. I scrubbed it out, treated it with a fizzy cleaning tablet, rinsed many times, let it dry thoroughly – it's good to go.

My ride

As for the trunk, I usually follow the BNY suggested packing list, with two additions. I bring a purse pack of baby wipes to clean my hands at lunchtime, also in case there's no toilet paper in the portable potties. And I bring a traveling sock.

Here's some of the candidates for my Sockapalooza pal's sock, not to mention Modern Yarn is offering a 15% discount to 'paloozers. Decisions, decisions.

Potential Sockapalooza socks

I don't know what I'm wearing yet. White helmet, yellow windshell, and BNY vest to be sure, but the rest I'll leave to Sunday morning. If I finish my first Jaywalkers in time, I'll wear 'em.

Just for fun, I'm bringing a small surprise for cycling knitters (or knitting spectators). Five or six should be sufficient, doncha think? They'll be in the rear pocket of my road trunk. A meet up may be statistically improbable, but odder things have been known to happen and I do like to be ready.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Jaywalking Backwards

My first pair of Jaywalkers suffered a not unexpected setback over the weekend. I've been tweaking the pattern and on the second sock finally got the fit just right.

Almost a pair

After which the first sock simply wouldn't do. At least the ribbing can be re-used.

Backwards progress

The pattern as written yields a baggy cuff with a soft drape that contrasts with the firm chevron fabric more than I like, so I cast on 64 sts using 0s, worked the 2x2 ribbing, changed to 1s, increased to 76 sts, then began the chevron pattern. In the chevron pattern, I substituted left- and right-leaning m1 increases for kfb increases because I prefer the look. The result is a somewhat inelastic sock, which I hope will prove hard-wearing. I plan to use this pair for cycling (hence the hi-viz mi bandera colors). If I can finish on time, I'll wear them for Bike NY.

Also this weekend, I spotted this pair of blue morph snow geese at Clarks Pond (Exit 151). Their size, pink legs, pink bill with black grin patch, and black primary feathers make the identification fairly certain.

Snow geese

Except the bird book says eastern snow geese are pure white with black primaries and western snow geese are blue with black primaries. Both forms are supposed to migrate in vast flocks to spend the summer on the arctic tundra. Huh. Guess this happy couple didn't read the book. If they stick around and set up housekeeping, it'll be interesting to see what their goslings look like.

ETA: trek is having a contest – check it out and help her reach her dream goal of 145 comments!