Wednesday, 30 December 2009

FO: It Snows Scarf

This thing has been awaiting finishing for the best part of a month. It took all of about two days to knit and then it hung on the door until I could be bothered sticking the fringe on. Now, all done!

This is the first of three white knitted costume items I've agreed to knit for the upcoming Dukes Senior Youth Theatre production of It Snows.

Pattern:: Dropped Yarnover Scarf by Marnie Ann Joyce.
Yarn: Stylecraft Special Chunky in colour 1001 - White
Project: online on Ravelry

Sunday, 27 December 2009

It's Not About The Numbers...

...but this is a neat map of the UK showing which counties I've cached in (source: Looks like I mostly hide out in the North West/Midlands with two tiny forays outside... one to the North East (that was a flying visit to Newcastle travelling home from a camp one Sunday night) and one to the South East (that was a short stay in Guildford for Transformers).

[NOTE - This image will update over time so the text I write now may not match what you see]

As of today I have found 201 geocaches in two countries (the US and the UK).

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas FOs

Finished Object #1, Tija Mittens for Mum:

These really could have done with a good blocking but I ran out of time. The tops look a bit square for my liking too. I like the welts I added from the Norwegian Snail Mittens although that front one is obviously still a bit curly at the edges.

Finished Object #2, Dishy Fishies (set of 4) for Thom & Lianna:

Spotted the fishy pattern on a quick glance through the home section on Ravelry. Thought they'd be a quick knit in stash yarn and so knocked up a few for Thom & Lianna for Christmas. Wish I'd made the time to do some decent eyes for them.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Knitted Graffiti: IRL

Following my celebration of yarn-bombing/knitted graffiti/urban knitting last year, I've finally actually spotted some in England, in real life!

Spotted in amongst the Manchester University campus whilst tracking down a nearby Earthcache with a friend.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

WIP: First Fair Isle

The Fair Isle is now progressing quite nicely, it's recognisable as a mitten (which is what it's supposed to be). Since the following photo was taken, I've finished the thumb off on this first one and knitted the cuff of the second. Just working on the welt at the top of the cuff.

It's not terrible for a first go at colourwork, I'm not totally thrilled by the project but at least I've tried. Next time I see a colourwork project it might not get ruled out straight away... itching to start something new though, something with lace and/or cables. Go go go!!


Finish projects first!


I am being quite a good girl really. I've STILL not cast on the Damson for the Damson KAL which started on November 16th, instead I've finished two whole projects! After this one I think I will be allowed to start it (plus the stuff for the Duke's production of It Snows - they want knitted scenery, props and costumes!)

Also, this is a Christmas project for someone so I really ought to get it finished :)

Saturday, 28 November 2009

In Which Saffy Combines Two of Her Favourite Things

Thanks to, I have become aware that I have unwittingly earned a number of Cast On Knitting Scout badges! So, here are my achievements so far...

1) The Proselytize Knitting Badge - "A requirement for all Knitting Scouts, the recipient must do his or her bit to present knitting in a positive light, whilst at the same time avoiding all references to “hipness”, grandmothers, and yoga."

Here's hoping I do a good job of this, at various points I think non-knitting people I know have thought the particular project I was playing with was kinda cool. Many of my Guides thought the fingerless mitts I did were really clever (they weren't) and were insisting I should sell them (Um... right).

Incidentally... I didn't know the word proselytize; it means to convert someone's faith. I don't think I've got that far yet.

The “MacGyver” Badge (Level One) - The recipient must demonstrate clever use of a non-knitting tool in a knitting-related scenario. For instance, recipient has used paper clips as stitch markers, or successfully whittled and then utilized bamboo skewers as dpns.

On the canal holiday this year I tried to turn some of my waste yarn into a little scarf for Pengi (a small stuffed penguin, of course). I wanted a looser gauge than I could acquire with the one circular needle I'd brought with me (in the days of project monogamy), so I used a pen lid as a knitting needle. (One assumes I used something else too, not much knitting could have been done with only one pen-lid needle - I can't remember what filled the gap).

The I've Knit Items With No Conceivable Practical Application Badge - Recipients are those “special” campers who have knit items which somehow missed the mark of their intended application. There are probably more who are deserving of this badge than one would expect.

Undoubtedly awarded following completion of this:

This was my 'Big Baby' project. A but-what-is-it pattern that would have been a bib in the right yarn. It was mostly intended as a fixing-my-twisted-purls project but I was originally hoping for something out of it. It's now a small cat mat, it bears closer resemblance to that than it could ever have done to a bib. Molly's rather fond of it.

Also deserving of an honorable mention are these:

The Yancy baby hat with gauge so tight it would reduce a baby's heat to slush and the Exfoliate face cloth that would leave little face behind. Oops.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

'If at first you don't succeed', or 'why I'm not renewing my subscription to Let's Knit!'

Started over on my Fair Isle project on Friday. Not for any reason related to the fact that this is my first such project or through any other error on my part. My gauge was spot on, I'd spotted some glaring errors in the charts before I got to them and things were altogether going quite well, until... I let someone who wasn't me try the item on. I am a rather small person and the item in question is a gift for a normal sized person. Much like anything I knit from this particular magazine, the item was correctly sized in one direction (in this case, length) but not in the other (width).

Ripped back the whole thing, made a few adjustments to the pattern to fix the sizing issue (I hope, I haven't got that far yet) and took the opportunity to fix the roll on the stocking stitch edge. I've also redrawn the chart without the mistakes (finding another three incorrectly drawn stitches as I did) and with the colours inverted so the white boxes represent the lighter yarn and the dark boxes the darker yarn. I couldn't get this online chart maker to play nicely enough not to drive me mad so ended up drawing the chart in a combination of editors (GIMP, MSPaint and Paintshop - a Mac imitation of MSPaint). Very pleased with the finished result but time consuming, so the lovely Hobnob is making me my own in-browser chart maker; he is good to me :)

Anyway, here is the reincarnated Fair Isle as it stands at bedtime this evening (or yesterday evening, I'm not sure how I refer to a time that has quite clearly passed me by - I blame Hobnob, he's in the coding groove).

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

FO: Infolab Baby Sweater

Wooo! A finished object :)

Pattern: Seamless Kimono Baby Sweater
Yarn: Araucania Ulmo, colourway 760 - Green (1 skein), Patons UK Linen Touch DK, colourway 026 - Mandarin (0.5 skein)
Project: online at Ravelry.

Started this on 1st November, so finished it in just over two weeks - and most of that was probably bringing myself to weave in all those ends. Although I wouldn't have been able to finish the project in just the green yarn, I really didn't think out how none-trivial the bottom colourwork was going to be. Sadly I ended up creating a lot of loose ends and made the tension of all those joins a wee bit odd. It looks mostly OK now... just as long as you don't stare at the bottom sides too hard. (Guess who might do that).

Not a bad match for its namesake either :)

Kool-Aid Dyeing

Been playing with a little bit of the Kool-Aid I brought back from the US in August. Started out with a skein of ONline Linie 3 Supersocke 100, colour way 109 "helles jeansblau' (bright blue jeans), which is a grey/blue light denim colour:

This was the lightest sock yarn the market had and I was too eager to play to want to order something from somewhere online. So, I got the lovely Hobnob to wind the yarn into a skein for me and mixed up two sets of Kool-Aid, one sachet of Grape in one pot and then three sachets of Ice Blue Raspberry divided between two pots. The Ice Blue Raspberry was a pretty shocking blue, I wouldn't want to drink anything that bright!

Following the instructions in this knitty article, I then put the whole thing in the microwave. I think I did a total of four microwave zaps at two minutes each.

Here's the finished skein:

And here it is wound into a yummy yarn cake:

It still smells quite exciting. I wonder how it will knit up.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Blog Prettiness

I think I've made this blog a bit cleaner/prettier to look at. Let me know what you think.

PS - I am quite excited by the fact that I have, somehow, managed to operate GIMP, this is a total fluke and is entirely beyond my normal set of talents.

PPS - Hobnob got me started with all the GIMP drawingness. He spent a fair chunk of yesterday evening trying to draw what I wanted when I didn't really know. Then I told him I didn't like what he'd done because the text was too dark. This header has only about three things different to the one he drew me - thanks lovely.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

WIP: Infolab Baby Sweater... nearly there

Just ends to weave in...

Lots happier with the colours now than when I started - phew!

University Challenge: Lancaster

Spent some time last week writing this:

University Challenge: Lancaster

This is (hopefully) the first in a series of geocaches about and near universities. I'm thinking the next one will be the nearby University of Cumbria but then maybe Warwick (although there are a number of caches there already) and/or Staffordshire (in Stoke) and/or Liverpool.

This cache gives you a collection of little facts about Lancaster University, each one accompanied by a simple question. The answer to each question can easily be found with a quick web search (there's nothing cryptic or difficult to find about the answers to these questions, if you're looking for that try slateman's cache Duchy of Lancaster - again it's all online, but not quite so easy!)

Monday, 9 November 2009

You're Never Fully Dressed Without...

It seems the Hobo man and the Dapper Dan could have solved all their dressing problems in one with the happiness hat:

"... a servo motor moves a metal spike into the head inversely proportional to the degree of smile."

So, as they say on the radio, "Smile darn ya, smile!"

Wooly Bullies

Someone mailed this to the KnitCafe mailing list this weekend. It made me giggle :)

Which reminds me, I really must try harder with crochet. I'll never get the hang of it if I keep just knitting things instead :)

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

WIP: Infolab Baby Sweater

I always wondered who in their right mind thought that green and orange were two good colours to go together - and, in particular, why they felt the need to demonstrate their point in the design of our building:

(image from the InfoLab21 homepage)

It's green and orange, and slightly odd looking, and you can see it from the motorway.

And yet, when I came to think of things I wanted to do with my nice ball of green Araucania Ulmo, and when I'd finally settled on the seamless kimono baby sweater, and when I'd realised that my yardage was probably just on the short side, and I was shopping for a colour just to make up the yards and cover those edgings... what did I pick? Yes, that's right, I chose orange (Patons Linen Touch in Mandarin, should you be wondering).

(this lousy picture does the jumper no favours, I didn't think to take one until all the natural light had gone)

It's not there yet and the orange still looks awfully bright to me, but I'm sort of hoping that once the sleeve edgings and i-cord are in too then it'll just look crisp. Crisp, not too bright, but nice defining edges. Fingers crossed.


Can you tell I'm still not sure about this one? They did go better before I knit them up I'm sure.

Teaser Tuesdays Times Two: The Post-Birthday World (Lionel Shriver) and The Laying On Of Hands (Alan Bennett)

It's been a long time since my last Teaser Tuesday post, and I'm reading at least one good book at the moment (I suspect the other will be but I've only just started it).


TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
My 2 “Teaser” Sentences for today (book one):

"Irina was perched at the kitchen table over the New York Times with a lone glass of coffee, whose bottom she had carefully sponged before setting it first in a saucer, then on a coaster. In preference to explaining that in this household eating was a sign of weakness, she waved him off with a mumble about not being hungry."

Page 362 of The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver


And my bonus “Teaser” Sentences for today (book two):

"These thoughts had taken him and the procession to the chancel, where the choir filed into their pews and the spare clergy disposed themselves around, while still leaving the hymn with a couple of verses to run. This gave father Jolliffe a chance to think about what he ought to say about Clive and what he ought not to say."

Page 34 of The Laying On Of Hands by Alan Bennett

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Books I Read in October

Total 12 books:

A Modern Girl's Guide To Getting Hitched (Sarah Ivens)
Glass Houses (Rachel Caine)
Hunted (P.C. and Kristin Cast)
Untamed (P.C. and Kristin Cast)
Chosen (P.C. and Kristin Cast)
Betrayed (P.C. and Kristin Cast)
Marked (P.C. and Kristin Cast)
A Lion Among Men (Gregory Maguire)
Tips for Knitters (Debbie Bliss)
Incendiary (Chris Cleave)
When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters: An Emergency Survival Guide (Marion Edmonds & Ahza Moore)
Things I Learnt From Knitting (Whether I Wanted To Or Not) (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee)

A Modern Girls Guide To Getting Hitched
(31/10) didn't really tell me anything all that useful. It was also a wee bit, well, shallow. Borrowed from the library.

Glass Houses
(29/10) is the first book in the Morganville vampire series. OK, but not impressive enough to make me want to buy the rest of the series. If you're looking for more Twilight, try House of Night (below) before bothering with these. On Bookmooch.

I've been meaning to try the House of Night novels: Marked (18/10), Betrayed (26/10), Chosen (26/10), Untamed (27/10) and Hunted (28/10) ever since seeing them on Having finally given up all hope of persuading them to fix their website (tech support? Goodness no), I gave up and ordered them from The Book Depository. I ordered just the first one initially and then, after finishing that, the remaining four books in the series. They aren't the new Twilight, but they're not bad. I'm particularly enjoying the character twists as the series moves on. Will keep them around once I'm done with them so I can reread them as new books are published.

A Lion Among Men
(16/10) is the third book in the Wicked series. It's a while since I've read the other books so I can't really make a good comparison. I did find it harder to follow the clock part of this book than the lion bit though.

Tips for Knitters
(15/10) is another useful little knitting reference. Less things crammed into it than When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters but still rather useful.

(14/10) is stunning, simply stunning. On Bookmooch.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Knitters is one of the best little references I've seen. It may only provide one solution to every problem but, nonetheless, it has some useful stuff in it which I will no doubt refer back to again and again. Fab!

Much like Yarn Harlot (in fact, often rather too much like Yarn Harlot for my liking, I'm sure I'd read some of these before) Things I Learnt From Knitting was good but really not *that* good. It was OK - I read it once but quite probably will never read it again.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Friday Fill-In

This week's Friday Fill In:

1. It was a dark and stormy night, and so began yet another teenage vampire novel.

2. Lizi couldn't face the woman at the Library, so I offered to take the books myself. I've just remembered the library exists... is this good or bad? PS - I don't think this has actually happened, I have taken them back when she's been too busy though.

3. Rushing out, rushing round, silently panicing... it doesn't feel like this is the end of half-term. (For many people half-term is busy and stressful because the kids are at home. For me, without kids, half-term is usually a relaxing week with lots of time because there's no guiding in the evenings. Sadly, it's the end of half term and I'm not actually feeling that relaxed yet.)

4. Noisy teenagers ...I think I heard a howl!

5. Shhhh... I'm trying to pretend I'm asleep.

6. This weekend, give me something good to eat!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to sleeping, tomorrow my plans include knitting, I'd love to near the end of this sock, and Sunday, I want to feel like I really did have a weekend this time!

Monday, 19 October 2009


Left. Knitting. On. Aeroplane.


Friday, 16 October 2009

Christmas Mystery - All Finished

Wooo - I've finished my first Christmas knitting:

Do you know what it is yet? I thought I'd never run out of ends to weave into this thing. Crikey!

Friday Fill-In

This week's Friday Fill In:

1. So are we going home soon? This is less of an issue than it felt like earlier this week. It was a crazy stessed worky week at the start but it's been more managable yesterday and today. Perhaps just because I've given up :)

2.The weekend is what's up ahead.

3. I love to have time to knit and feel like I'm making progress.

4. I have done some work today... of some sort - honest.

5. I walk a bit and I call it excerise - I really should make more effort.

6. Cuddles are the true elixir of life!

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to crossing a few things off the todo list so I can justify spending the rest of the weekend slacking, tomorrow my plans include knitting with the Lancaster KnitCafe folk and Sunday, I want to not have to pack wildly and frantically for my trip to Pittsburgh!

Monday, 5 October 2009

First Mystery Christmas Photo

Because it's been a picture of some yarn for too long now. This is Harry's mystery Christmas knitting:

The sad thing is, I could have posted a photo of the full thing and I'm not sure it would have been guess-able even then... :s

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Books I Read in August and September

I forgot to keep track of August or much of September, no doubt this list will therefore be somewhat inaccurate.

Total 7 books:

Panicology (Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersey-Williams)
The Year of Living Biblically (AJ Jacobs)
Starting Over (Tony Parsons)
Songs of the Humpback Whale (Jodi Picoult)
Popco (Scarlett Thomas)
Divas Don't Knit (Gil McNeil)
Yarn Harlot (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee)

Panicology (30/09) had the potential to be a good book, the idea was pretty sound, sadly the actual writing of the book lets it down somewhat. Most notably, one of the authors appears to write coherently whilst the other rather struggles. Numerous paragraphs within the sections of this book seem to fail to make any clear point at all, usually because far too many things have been crammed into the sentences in an attempt to make 'smooth' links between points... not so smooth. I have a strong suspicion that with some simple statistics on things like sentence length, one could easily allocate the individual papers within this book into two separate author piles. I'll be listing this on BookMooch just as soon as I've finished this post.

Possibly the most intelligent thing I've read for a while (I really should make more effort), The Year of Living Biblically is a chronicle of precisely what it says on the tin. Funny and quirky, this book pointed me to some obscure bits of the bible I did know and many I didn't. My one regret is that the book wasn't terribly deep in places I might have liked it to be - I suppose they wanted people to want to read the thing though. Well-written and interesting, although I'm terribly glad I'm not his poor wife. Currently on loan to one of Hobnob's work mates, then maybe Hobnob will read it (but perhaps not) and maybe my Dad and then onto BookMooch I think.

I'm still not so keen on Tony Parson's newer books. I much preferred Starting Over to My Favourite Wife (and the truly uninspiring Stories we Could Tell) but it wasn't so good as Man and Boy, Man and Wife or One for my Baby. Reading the blurb for this novel, the plot grated a little (the whole memory effect thing seemed a bit naff - I'm just waiting for a Cecelia Ahern novel on the subject to prove me right :)). The writing was clean and easy but I don't really think I ever got over the plot. It did have some nice moments though, definitely preferable to the last two of his books I've read. Gone to Tiare (UK) via BookMooch.

I'll buy and read every Jodi Picoult once. Songs of the Humpback Whale was slightly curious as it's actually her first novel, republished for UK readers. The sad ending of this book is revealed at the start but it still manages to be almost tear-jerking in places (depending on your susceptibility to such things I suppose). Like all of her novels, the book dwells poignantly on relationships (with much success) and the controversial topic of this book appears to be age gaps between lovers (Picoult's books all have a 'controversial topic' of some kind so it's possibly worth identifying although I think this one features less heavily in the novel, when weighed against the remaining content, than in many of her others). This is a very bitty analysis of the book! Anyway, I enjoyed it. Have passed it on to MissMac (UK) via BookMooch.

With The End of Mr. Y still fondly remembered, I couldn't pass up on an opportunity to buy and read Popco when I spotted it in my local Waterstones. Like The End of Mr. Y, Popco is neatly written. I didn't find the plot quite so engaging, but it was pretty good. This book can stay on my bookshelf, for now at least.

Another knitting related book, this one totally fictional - Divas Don't Knit (14/08) was a bargain from Lillian's bookshelf as she emptied it to move house. The yarn shop setting was nice and cosy even if the celebrity friendship thing seemed a wee bit bizarre - I suppose it might happen... but never to me. An nice happy book that kept me occupied for a bit. On it's way to aganmooch (Germany) via BookMooch.

Yarn Harlot is one of a small collection (and it actually was small) of books I ordered for delivery home whilst away in the US. Cute and funny it might make a nice little gift for a knitting friend who hadn't read it already but... it would definitely make an ideal library book - I really don't see me rereading it in the near future. A good book to snack on but I'm wondering how long I can justify it sitting on my bookshelf just because it pertains to knitting.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

More Startitus

Started these yesterday. I'd seen the Patons Pompero in the market last week and had to squish it. It's super soft... strangely I felt the need to go back and buy a ball this week just to test it out :) So here is the first of two fingerless mittens:

It was originally going to be a knit and crochet wristwarmer but I couldn't convince myself that this fingerless mitt wasn't better and I did want to try cables in a small project sometime soon (although I also want to try another crochet project).

I did make some adjustments to the pattern:
  • Cast on two fewer stitches than called for in the hope of a snugger fit.
  • Added 4 extra rib rows to the cuff.
  • Added 2 extra rib rows to the fingers.
  • Added 1 extra knit row to the thumb (not shown in the photo).
  • Added 2 extra rib rows to the thumb (not shown in the photo).
Which has all given me a nice long slim mitten - wasn't I supposed to be making this an appropriate size to give as a gift for Christmas? Ooops... :) Who do I know with nice slender hands?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Accidental Ginger Cookies

Today Hobnob made 'accidental' ginger cookies. They're suprisingly good cookies, but why the accident? They were supposed to be cakes.

Here's the recipe:

8oz Plain Flour
6tsp Baking Powder
3oz Margarine
3tbsp Golden Syrup
1tsp Ground Ginger

Mix dry ingredients. Add butter and rub to breadcrumbs. Melt syrup and stir in. The whole thing should make one big ball. Break into about 8 small ball shapes approx 2" in size. Bake at 200C for 17 minutes. Transfer to cooling tray.

(Based on this recipe for Ginger cakes)

Thursday, 24 September 2009


I have startitus for everything except the other one of my short-row socks. I've cast on two Christmas projects so far this week. I really want to start a shawl but I'm holding myself back (so far) with the promise that I can... once the scarf is done.

On the plus side, one of my Christmas projects is a bit of a stash buster so I spent some time yesterday investigating my mystery yarns :)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Eskimimi Knits

Just spent too much time reading this blog of a local knitter. Here are my highlights...

19th September 2009:

Seasalt, an ethical clothing store in Cornwall, UK are taking donations of handknit scarves to sell in their store. All proceeds will go to the Bumblebee Conservation trust. Scarf donations should be mailed to:

Kathryn Wild
1 Church Street
TR11 3DN

First 'batch' of scarfs will go on sale at the start of October.

11th September 2009:

Super-useful gift tags to help your recipients look after their new hand-knits.

9th September 2009:

Craft your own sock blockers. Much better than previous suggestions I've seen (anyone want to speculate as to the likelihood that I can bend two wire coat hangers even vaguely similarly?). I particularly like the double-ended suggestion.

3rd September 2009:

Neat little pine-tree chart for a pair of Christmas socks she was knitting.

29th August 2009:

Oh man, this is so yummy. A beautiful little scarf I now *have* to knit.

Now, go and spend the rest of your afternoon reading knitty blogs instead of doing any work - and start with Eskimimi!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Much Love

I still find these exciting:Hurrah for project love!

FO: I Do

The shrug made for Dom & Elisabeth's wedding:

And just the sleeves:

Sadly none of the ones taken on the day itself seem to have much of the shrug in them - have we remembered to take a camera to any of the weddings we've been to in the last year or two?

Pattern: I Do by Jody Prival.
Yarn: Malabrigo Yarn in Black and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Multi in Steelers Pride.
Project: online at Ravelry.

FO: Wrenna

Finally got round to photographing:

I really wish this fit me in a way that meant I could actually wear it. :(

Pattern: Wrenna: Leather-laced cardigan by Kristeen Griffin-Grimes
Yarn: Brown Sheep Burly Spun in colour BS191 - Kiwi.
Project: online at Ravelry.

It all goes quiet

There's something about blog posts that makes them congregate. Like buses and busy evenings, you'll go weeks or months with nothing to write about or no time to write it in, only to find a day where everything you do is (in your head at least) worthy of a quick note to remember forever and/or share with others.

Today is undoubtedly still one of those days where I don't actually have much to post. I thought about doing the Friday Fill-In, but it seems a cop-out to fill my blog with memes so I don't have to worry about real content.

So why the lack of posts? I think the most accurate answer would probably be "meh". I've been semi-busy, semi-tired and semi-miserable for a bit and I can't seem to motivate myself to do anything much at all. That sounds more depressed than I really am. I think it's just that end of summer feeling, once I adjust to the darker days (and once I really get going with some PhD work) it'll all be good again.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Friday Fill-In

This week's Friday Fill In:

1. I feel tired, fed up and altogether ready for a weekend.

2. Being with Hobnob is always fun.

3. Right now, I can hear these things: mice clicking, keyboards tapping, doors creaking, doors shutting, footsteps past my door.

4. I can't believe how gorgeous I look in a wedding dress (they must have some magic powers I'd never realised before) and I'm glad of that, and also that I managed to think of something other than a grump about my PdD :)

5. The last time I felt like I was being productive at work/study was when I was not here. *sigh - I don't want to be not here but I do want to feel useful*

6. We don't get Monday off for this Labour day weekend (or indeed any Labour day weekend, this being the UK).

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to just being at home, tomorrow my plans include watching the weekend fly by too quickly and Sunday, I want to find that I do get some time for me and for house organising despite the Guideyness!

Thursday, 3 September 2009

JISC Study - PhD Blogging

Another JISC post, they've not asked for anything specific from us since last time but I felt like I really should be posting something (and also, I've not got much else going yet):


One method I find useful for keeping up with things happening in my research area is to watch the blogs of researchers I know are working on similar projects. For example, this week I've had a bit of free time just to read some papers - looking through recent posts on the blog of someone I've encountered at conferences, I found some papers he was recommending for a summer school and read those.


Sounds a bit trite really. Oh well.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Friday Fill-In

This week's Friday Fill In:

1. He was a man after God's own heart - David, the theme of this years Transformer's worship and workshop sessions.

2. The world getting going again is what I look forward to most this time of year (the end of summer often drags so).

3. My best friend is fantastic.

4. Yesterday was better to be honest with you.

5. Appearances can be deceiving - a traditional saying and yet so often true of so many things.

6. The last person I gave a hug to was Hobnob.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to not trying to pitch tents in the hail, tomorrow my plans include perhaps some knitting, tidying and maybe even a walk and Sunday, I want to feel like I've enjoyed the weekend and rejoice in the extra day I'll still have to go!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

JISC Study - PhD blogging

As a PhD student beginning in 2008 or 2009 and born somewhere between 1982 and 1994 I'm able to participate in a "groundbreaking 3-year study of the information-seeking and research behaviours of 'Generation Y' doctoral students". The Researchers of Tomorrow study is being commissioned by The British Library and the Joint Information Systems Committee and is being conducted by Education for Change.

The study's only just got going and one of the things they've asked us to do is keep a blog on their site tracking out PhD and how we go through it. This week they've posted a specific blog request and I figured I'd copy my responses in here too. The post is possibly a bit grumpier than it needed to be, I hate not knowing what I'm doing (the lack of real things to do has been quite useful for progressing on Brownies and wedding stuff though).
This week’s blog request…

We are keen to hear more from you on where you are right now in your doctoral journey."
So where am I? I'm coming to the end of the first year of my PhD and at this precise moment it all seems a bit up in the air. During the year I've worked on two or three projects all, in some way, vaguely related to what my PhD topic might be or, at least, what we thought it was when I applied.

On the plus side, I've had one paper published, I've attended a conference, participated in a Summer Spring school for my area of research, and I've worked on a project at an internationally renowned university other than my own. On the not so good side, I don't quite know where I'm going...
"What stage in your research are you at currently? Can you select one of the following to describe your present activities?"
My present activities probably best fit under ideas generation, with a sprinkling of background work and some preparing and organising.1

This particular week falls a bit into no man's land. I've just finished some work out in the US and we haven't yet worked out what's next now I'm back home (plus everyone's on holiday or going on holiday so there's not much chance of an immediate decision). Having spend the first half of the week frustrated, I think I'm going to spend the rest of today reading whatever papers I can find that might relate and that interest me - at least that should turn out to be sort of useful.1


1The full list of options was: ideas generation, background work, preparing and organising, analysing, writing or creating, dissemination of your research, none of these – please describe.

2Some of the papers I plan to read have been pulled from recent posts on Albrecht's blog, particularly this post about his Summer school reading.

Ravelry Widget Growth

The Ravelry widget in the sidebar of this blog has steadily been increasing in length. Two of these objects are actually finished and I've just not had chance to photograph them properly. Embarrassingly, the Happy Socks haven't even been cast on yet. Maybe I should delete that guy for now :)

I've not actually had any knitting time yet since I finished the Wedding Shrug in a mad panic before Dom and Elisabeth's wedding (and there are actually still two ends to weave in, I tied them in a little bow for the wedding). I have, however, sorted my stash into lots of little ziplocks. When we eventually have sensible storage places in the house the plan is to group them by weight.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Knitting with carrier bags? Well, if I'm ever short of yarn...

Actually, this might make a cute Guide activity. I'll add it to my list of cool projects. I wonder if there are some good examples on Ravelry.... Answer, yes - of course. The Morehouse ones don't seem to have made it onto Ravelry but their are plenty of results for "plastic bag" and "plastic recycled" most of which are variations on this kind of theme.

Friday, 31 July 2009

99.9% Finished

My 'other' WIP:

This is nearly, nearly, nearly (maybe already) finished. I've done all the knitting to be done and tucked in the ends. I just need to decide how it will fasten (I picked up a piece of black cord today that might do if I decide to use a tie) and whether I'm doing the crocheted edge. The edge wouldn't be in doubt but for the fact that my shoulders are a tad too narrow and so making this even a teeny bit wider is a little questionable.

Bit grumpy that I'm skinnier even than I thought. I did try the sample in Natural Stitches which seemed passable and at every possible measuring point this matched the instructions close to bang on... I wonder what the gauge of the sample was :o) Still, the yumminess of the yarn by far overshadows any size qualms - I absolutely love this colourway!

As to the project I should have been knitting when I was finishing this off? It's getting there. I've completed the right sleeve and have managed to get my way through the first repeat on the left - just have to find plenty of knitting time so I can move it along again.

PS - My work project is also in the 90-something% done stage. What a productive me! (Just don't remind me that I've only got two working days left before I leave).

Books I Read in July

Total: 9 books

Daughter of Regals & Other Tales (Stephen R. Donaldson)
All He Ever Wanted (Anita Shreve)
The Girl at the Lion d'Or (Sebastian Faulks)
A Walk Down the Aisle: Notes on a Modern Wedding (Kate Cohen)
Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
The Shadow in the North (Philip Pullman)
The Ruby in the Smoke (Philip Pullman)
Life Skills (Katie Fforde)
Stately Pursuits (Katie Fforde)

Daughter of Regals & Other Tales (29/07) begins with an explanation of how the short story must demonstrate a greater skill than the novel - unfortunately as short stories go, these aren't fine examples. That's not to say this book is full of rubbish short stories, but I've read some fine short stories and these aren't those. Mooched from Lee Hwang (USA) and later abandoned somewhere on CMU to be found by a lucky reader, or cleaned up and added to a mustering pile of lost property.

Mooched from eacook (UK) after reading The Last Time They Met, All He Ever Wanted has the same lovely descriptive style.

The Girl at the Lion d'Or (23/07) was one I mooched at around the same time as Great Expectations. I decided that whilst I was out here and mooching arbitrary books to read, I could try picking some off the Book list instead of simply reading all the chick lit I could find. This book isn't on the list but I already have the Faulks books on the list (somewhere - probably with bookmarks halfway through - not because they were bad books but simply because I got distracted/lost the darn thing). Anyway, this was inspired by the book list even if it wasn't actually on it. Shorter than many of his other novels but still great. Received from Jehannette de Lille (USA).

A Walk Down the Aisle - it was about weddings so I felt the need to mooch it. Not as academic as I might have liked but some interesting musings nonetheless. Received from cassiejane (USA).

Surprisingly easy to read (I always forget how easy Dickens actually is, the word 'classic' makes me assume difficult), I've been reading Great Expectations (16/07) in tiny pieces over the last month or so. I don't think I 'get' the original ending so it's a good job he didn't use it! Mooched from hmrakes (USA). This book features on the 100 books list, taking me to 46.

I read The Shadow in the North (12/07) and The Ruby in the Smoke (12/07) in close succession (finishing one and immediately picking up the other). Exactly what I'd expect from the author of Northern Lights, these are really nice little books if shorter and more obviously for a younger audience. Mooched from mel7996 (USA) and Priscilla Kraut (USA) respectively.

Life Skills and Stately Pursuits follow a very similar pattern to each other although set in somewhat different contexts. Slightly more refreshing than your average chick-lit, maybe. Mooched from Amy Watts (USA).

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Friday, 24 July 2009


My current primary WIP:

It's going to be one of these done in black and gold to match this dress - maybe even in time for the wedding I plan to wear it to :)

I'm using two yarns, a plain black (Malabrigo Sock [colour: Black]) and a yellow/cold multiway (Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock [colour: Steelers Pride]).

I started this project (after a number of false starts) on a smaller needle but had some gauge issues. Much happier with the way this looks on the larger needle (although I'm now having the opposite gauge issue, if rather reduced) and with the Steelers Pride colourway spread out a little more by the Malabrigo (in the first incarnations the bell of the sleeve was entirely done in the Steelers, I now do alternate rows - or thereabouts). There’s a bit of colour pooling on the very end of the sleeve, but never mind. Compare the above photos to this one showing the quantity of gold in the original:

Hopefully the end product will roughly fit, roughly match and be ready in time.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Do I 'despise' God?

I've been working on my workshop for XF a bit tonight. I'm looking at David after he sleeps with Bathsheba and has her husband killed to hide the resulting pregnancy (the Bible is full of these amazing Coronation Street type tales). Anyway, I'm picking up at 2 Samuel 12 when Nathan (a prophet) comes to tell David that what he's just done wasn't really all that great.

Rereading 2 Samuel 12 v 9 and 10 the way Nathan describes David's actions makes me feel slightly uncomfortable. 'You have despised the word of the Lord... you have despised [God] by taking Uriah's wife' [NLT].

The words despised God aren't something I'd like to be used to describe my actions and it's this that makes me feel uncomfortable. I know (head knowledge) that sin is bad, and I know that when I sin it's primarily against God that I sin (which isn't to say I haven't done someone else wrong by it too) and yet... despise is such a strong word - considerably more than the ‘you did a bad thing, have a smack on the wrist’ mentality I can often find myself using when I consider myself to have 'trivially' sinned in some way. Once again, head knowledge says there are no trivial sins, but in all honesty, that's just not how I see it in my everyday life - I probably rank sins a bit like this:
Murder (I'd never do it)
Rape (I'd never do it)
Adultery (I'm pretty sure I wouldn't do this either)
Stealing (I did try this as a kid I'm sure, but I probably didn't mean much by it, and I wouldn't do it now)
Lying (well I might do this occasionally, but they're small lies and I don't mean much harm by them)
Swearing (I wish I didn't do this and I don't do it often)
Yes, not only do I rank sins, but I also try and justify them and myself as I go. I know that in God's eyes all Sins are equal, but with human eyes that's awfully hard to see. Much easier is to line all the Sins I can think of up, large to small, feel pleased that I can say "I don't do that" to a great swathe of them, and so consider that those times I do say or do* something I shouldn't have to be excusable with a quick 'sorry' and a 'Thank you that you are a forgiving God'.

Going back to the passage, the language in these verses points to Sin being a way of showing a hatred for or devaluing God -- something that makes me feel a lot more uncomfortable about the things I do wrong. I know that when I sin I sin against God, but how often do I think about what that really means? :s

* It's also much harder to challenge myself over those things I think rather than do or say despite the fact that these are undoubtedly more numerous and would probably sit higher up my Sin list.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Friday Fill-In

This week's Friday Fill In:

1. The last thing I ate was a breakfast crepe (sausage, egg and cheese) and side salad.

2.Yarn is something I recently bought. (Actually, I've not bought any this week - but I can't think what I may have bought since)

3. When it rains, it's always the weekend - sunny in the week, rainy come the weekend. Typical.

4.Tracy (my supervisors PA) was the first person I talked to today.

5. Hugs are ...

6. ...extra comfort. (read with #5)

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to doing laundry, visiting the supermarket and maybe getting in a few rows of knitting - cardigan or scarf?. Tomorrow my plans include visiting Riverfront park and Sunday, I want to find a 'Y' geocache!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Dynamic Module Loading using Python

Suppose I have a number of supported database engines which I keep in a dictionary like so:

db_libs = {
space0: 'psycopg2.psycopg1',
space1: 'psycopg',
space2: 'MySQLdb', 3: 'sqlite3'

My user can then select the engine they prefer to use and I now want to import the appropriate library. I could, of course, do this...

if user_choice == 0:
spaceimport psycopg2.psycopg1
elif user_choice == 1:
spaceimport psycopg

Made even more verbose than it would be in any other language because of the absence of a switch statement in Python.

Clearly this is not a great solution. Everytime I add support for something new then I must write another elif clause - not cool! After I bit of playing around with eval, I got to...

Database = eval("__import__('{0}')".format(db_libs[user_choice]))

And after a little further investigation I also discovered the imp module:

from imp import find_module, load_module
fp, pathname, description = find_module(
Database = load_module(
db_libs[user_choice], fp, pathname, description)

More code, but it feels a bit safer for those cases where the dynamic element is coming from the user more directly.

#EDIT (July 10th) - imp.find_module() doesn't seem to support the two part module name (e.g 'psycopg2.psycopg1') although it works for my other examples. The eval works fine even in this case.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Using the Enumerations provided by VirtualBox's SDK with Python and XPCOM

Because this was surprisingly difficult to find out - thanks to Benjamin who provided the answer :o)

So... the VirtualBox SDK allows you to control VirtualBox programmatically. In particular from a selection of languages using either XPCOM or SOAP. I've been working with Python using the XPCOM method, which looks a bit like this...

vbox = xpcom.components.classes[";1"].createInstance()
session = xpcom.components.classes[";1"].createInstance()

default_id = "00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000"
mach = vbox.createMachine("my_new_vm_name", "Ubuntu", None, default_id)

All good so far... and indeed for quite a long while. Still, this last week Hobnob and I have been pushing the SDK a little bit futher and discovered a need to use some of the built in enumerations. For example, to register a hard disk within VirtualBox using the SDK you'll need the openHardDisk() method provided by the IVirtualBox interface. This takes, as one of it's parameters an enum AccessMode (which does the obvious), the documentation tells you that this is provided in VirtualBox.idl and looks something like this:

Looking good? Well almost. It's just a shame that there's no good examples around to show you how to do this. After some experimentation, Hobnob and I settled for looking up the values and then dropping them into the code I was trying to write:

AccessMode_ReadWrite = 2
hd = vbox.openHardDisk("/vm_disks/mydisk.vdi", AccessMode_ReadWrite, False, "", False, "")

Clearly this is not the way this was meant to be done. So how do you use the built in enums? Answer... like this:

ifaces = xpcom.components.interfaces
hd = vbox.openHardDisk("/vm_disks/mydisk.vdi", ifaces.AccessMode.ReadWrite, False, "", False, "")

Easy when you know how, huh :) So now I can remove these lines from my code:

AccessMode_ReadWrite = 2
HardDiskType_Immutable = 1
HardDiskVariant_Standard = 0

And replace them with:


And it turns out I wasn't using HardDiskType_Immutable anymore anyway :) You never know what you'll find with a quick code tidy.

"God, that's Good!"

I've blogged about this before when I first heard, but I've once again been reminded about Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland film. Found these fantastic concept images via via That's No Moon via Kards Unlimited. As an aside - I do like Kards Unlimited... if I was buying books over in the US they would be my first port of call, I've bought a few cute cards from them though and maybe I'll check their more oddball stuff out at least once more before I leave :)

Back to Tim Burton... whilst it may not be my nostrils "aquiver and tingling" I'm still quite excited about this film. And indeed, any Tim Burton really (especially if it included the ever-lovely Johnny Depp - that man should have a little "Eat Me" label all of his own).

(Image from - check it out on their site, these mini versions do not do them justice. Also, see more Alice in Wonderland concept art in their original post here and a slightly earlier post here)

And what a luscious green that is for the background - reminds me of the Burly Spun (in Kiwi) I've just cast on for my French Girl Knits cardigan (not the one in the any of the pictures on that page but if you click additional images, the one I'm knitting is the top-left image on the page labeled 5-8). Mmmm... yummy!

$85 for a charger??

The plastic covering over the wires in my Macbook charger has torn. Sometime between Hobnob arriving and him departing the tear has become more and more noticeable until last night I realised that the thing is about 30 seconds away from being two separate bits of plastic coating. Furthermore, my paranoia now prevents me from leaving the darn thing plugged in without my immediate supervision just in case the place burns down.

Decided to buy a replacement charger today on the way into CMU as Hobnob so wisely advised.

Slightly discouraged when the Apple Store on Walnut didn't open until 10am, but did get a chance to cast on a new knitting project (had to go back for a spare knitting needle when I realised I'd struggle to cast on over two needles if I needed one of them to do the cast on!) and to wake up a little more.

At a minute or so after ten I wandered into the store. I'd planned on finding the thing myself but the staff always seem to insist on helping you out so I let the bloke take it off the shelf for me. Got to the checkout to discover that the thing was almost $84.53 with tax - ouch! (So much ouch I had to go back to upgrade my wallet from the $65 I'd come out with).

Wonder what the profit is on those things? Pretty darned good I'd bet.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Books I Read in June

Total:11 Books

Slave to Fashion (Rebecca Campbell)
The Electric Michaelangelo (Sarah Hall)
The Accidental Virgin (Valerie Frankel)
Neurotica (Sue Margolis)
Four Blondes (Candace Bushnell)
The Adultery Club (Tess Stimson)
Making Minty Malone (Isabel Wolff)
The Trials of Tiffany Trott (Isabel Wolff)
Perfect Timing (Jill Mansell)
Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner)
Something Blue (Emily Giffin)

Slave to Fashion (21/06) - short and sweet. Somewhat predictable and slightly rushed, this book seemed to be over before it had started. Mooched from Amy Watts (USA).

The Electric Michaelangelo was easily the best book I've read this month and is probably the best fiction book I've read in a long time. I'd brought this book over with me from the UK, originally bought through the university small ads I think. Very elegant, evocative prose - even about Morecambe :o). Read my teaser here.

The Accidental Virgin (17/06). Mooched from Jamie (USA).

Neurotica (17/06). Mooched from Jamie (USA).

Four Blondes (16/06) was incredibly dull. That's probably all I can say about it. I did read to the end but I don't really know why. Mooched from Lee Hwang (USA).

Racing through the chick-lit at the moment - I need a man here fill my romance quota, until then I shall read it. Despite it's title, The Adultery Club (11/06) wasn't half bad. Won't be racing to read her other books but if it all gets a bit desperate I'd certainly consider it. I feel the need to mooch a few more challenging reads though. Mooched from Elwood (USA).

Making Minty Malone (09/06) was rather better than The Trials of Tiffany Trott but still not that great. I hate it when authors put cameos in their books from other books - if it adds nothing to the plot that whoever it is is called that then don't put it in. Mooched from Lee Hwang (USA).

I think The Trials of Tiffany Trott (08/06) may have stretched my chick-lit reading as far as it will go. Dull, poorly written and I still have another by this author to go. Mooched from ehj (USA).

Not as good as Thinking of You - a bit too contrived for my liking. Perfect Timing (06/06) was mooched from Kate (USA).

Slightly more lengthly than most chick-lit (I really should start trying to find some slightly less trashy reads whilst I'm here), Good in Bed really isn't too bad. Mooched from Stacy (USA).

Following on from Something Borrowed, Something Blue (01/06) picks up towards the end of the previous book but from another person's point of view. Nice idea, plays with any opinions you'd drawn in the previous book. Again a nice light read. Mooched from Riti (USA).

Friday, 26 June 2009

Friday Fill-In

This week's Friday Fill In:

1. She had a great bum. (Don't ask me why that's the first and only thing I could think of to fill that gap. More sexy jeans required.)

2. The Lord is by my side, always. (Feel the cheese...)

3. I know this: I am not young enough to know everything. (J.M Barrie)

4. Be still.

5. These words apply to me: make time.

6. Yesterday, the sun was shining.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to seeing Hobnob!!, tomorrow my plans include seeing Hobnob!! and Sunday, I want to do something fun with Hobnob!!! (Just a bit excited then...)

Monday, 22 June 2009


Hurrah! By some magic (and money) my car is legal for another year. Here's hoping it goes that long!

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Walking Alone

Sometimes it's just good to get away from everyone:

Apparently the shaft of this sculpture on the CMU campus vibrates in a way that was never anticipated. As a result, men with a big crane came and took almost all the people away. The people will be cleaned whilst the shaft is replaced and then they will be reinstalled. Not sure why she's been left behind.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

In Pictures: Homestead/The Waterfront

Homestead seemed to have a curious array of buildings, particularly religious (or so I assume) ones:

And on the other side of the road - this is America after all:

Just after a quick downpour, switched back to lovely weather as I explored Homestead cemetery:

Headless memorial - I spotted one or two of these. I remember Hobnob telling me the memorials without heads in the yard of Lancaster Priory were the result of the reformation. Did similar things happen over here?

For Hobnob. This really is a good place for trains - as long as you like goods anyway. You can see the weather coming back around again too :):

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Best Bathroom Ever

Trader Joe's in the strip mall with Natural Stitches. Nipped in for some bread and some relief! How cool is this?

Teaser Tuesdays: The Electric Michelangelo (Sarah Hall)

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!
My 2 “Teaser” Sentences for today:

"The show brought Claudia sadness finer than any requiem or any gravestone or anything beautiful or sorrowful that she could think of. On afternoons when she wasn't working with her husband or rotating on the platform in the Human Picture Gallery at Luna, she would go off by herself and pay her dime and linger in the corridors of the exhibit."

Page 231 of The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall


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