Monday, September 17, 2012

Scholastic Nightmare

In about a week I'm heading back to school to get my MS in biology. I applied shortly after graduating from college, took a year off to get used to married life, and submitted finalization paperwork earlier this spring. Or I thought I did.

This last month and a half has been nothing short of a nightmare. Apparently the university's website and affiliated websites (e-mail, registration, etc) only work in Internet Explorer. I haven't used IE since I installed Firefox the same day I purchased this computer. It's kind of a terrible program. So I did not fill out the necessary forms in IE. I filled them out in Firefox. A few weeks ago, I was turning in my stipend paperwork which does things like wave my tuition when I ran into a little hitch in the giggle.

I wasn't enrolled for the fall. sort of. I had all the necessary programs up and running. I had an e-mail, a student ID number, a stipend, but I wasn't slated to come in the fall because they never got my formal acceptance. This raised a lot of questions, the most important being, "Oh dear sweet me, does this mean that they didn't file my stipend paperwork back in April when it was due and so now I need to find $10,000 if I want to continue my education?" followed by, "Did I just make my husband's commute 20 minutes longer for no adequately explainable reason?"

Well, after running from office building to office building (nightmare--everyone in a college is on vacation in August. EVERYONE.) I ended up properly enrolled. Next, the man who may or may not be my adviser (it's impossible to say, since there aren't any secretaries to check. They're all on vacation, too. For now, let's just say I afflicted myself on him) called in a favor with the dean and made sure that I was okay on tuition and such. Then I was able to enroll in classes.

But they were all closed.

2 weeks ago I received an e-mail saying that I would have to be a full time student to get my stipend. So I scrounged around and dug up 7 credits. About 1 weeks ago a spot in mycology opened up. I enrolled. 12 credits. full time. good. (except for the mycology part--when you want to go in to molecular embryology, the study of molds really doesn't fall under your umbrella of specialization)

2 days ago, I received an e-mail from the department giving me my TA assignment. I checked my schedule to make sure all was right with the world. Surprise: it wasn't. I am currently triple-booked on Wednesday afternoons. I have to be 3 places at once, because the TBA seminar is now at the same time as mycology is at the same time as my TA assignment. Awesome. Way to go guys.

So I thought, well, I'll drop mycology if I can. What other classes are being offered? Oh. all their labs are also Wednesday afternoons. So what about a 400 level class--the grad program says I can take those. Oh. I have to take prerequisites like science 101 to be enrolled in those, but not the 500 level ones. My "adviser" said to look at some independent studies, so what about those? Oh. I have to fill out paperwork and know what I'm doing well in advance? Pardon me while I go tear out my hair.

So I'm going to go and grovel at someone's open office door. Hopefully they will be able to offer something resembling help and coherent advice.

At the beginning of the summer I joked about signing up for piano and voice lessons. Do you think the music department would mind?

Monday, September 10, 2012

In which I do something I haven't done in a while...

I love knitting, which comes as a tremendous, unprecedented shock to most of you.  This means that I usually have 2 or 3 projects germinating in the back of my mind at any given point, and only my restraint and good sense (okay, maybe just common sense) keeps me from casting on a seemingly infinite number of projects.

That being said, I have a tendency to make only a few, specific things--neck, torso, head, and hand coverings. I occasionally foray into the world of stuffed animals or socks, but rarely because that's not what I "want" to be knitting but rather something for someone I know who will appreciate the finished product. I'm not a selfish knitter and I'm aware that I would knit exactly 1 sock if I didn't have someone waiting for the finished pair.  There's a few projects which you will almost never see me make, and the rarest of those is the felted bag.

There are a couple of reasons for this. I made 2 purses while I was still in high school and I used them, but I recognize that they were, on the whole, very ugly. Felting is a weird process to begin with and modifying the process for our high efficiency washer was a bit daunting. That's not to say nothing was felted in that machine--my mother insisted on washing my Hemlock Ring Lapghan after I'd finished it because back then Eco-wool smelled exactly like a barnyard. I told her it would felt. She said she'd use cold water. I told her it would felt. She told me it wouldn't.

I was right.
Dang it.
The lace was still visible and the pattern was unharmed, so I still used it for quite a while with no real ill feelings over the whole debacle, but the blanket was a bit smaller than I might have hoped...

But I digress. I just haven't found a lot of purse patterns that I like. Most felted bags are be-decked and be-dazzled in various ways to make them more "eye-catching"... shiver.. Which is not to say that all of them are terrible, but rather that it is a sub-genre of knitting I tend to avoid for practical and aesthetic reasons.

There is however, one purse which has called to me for years--we're talking way back when I first started knitting--and I haven't tackled it because I am cheap and don't buy books of patterns--$20 is too much for a single pattern. Recently and much to my delight, Interweave has been releasing a slew of patterns from their older publications as bait for purchasing those books. I won't take the bait, but I'll take the free, well edited pdfs, thank you very much. And that's how I got my pattern.

I had a bunch of yarn still unpurposed after the business with Anhinga and I used every last yard of it (seriously. Those cable swatches? Gone. I needed them. That's why the top is a crinkly mess.) making the Formal Boot Bag, which took a day and a half to knit. The felting and finishing has taken a couple of days. I sew like an idiot, so making the lining took more than a single attempt. I didn't understand the handle installation and ended up having to manufacture alternate means of attaching them to the bag (Who makes rings that aren't meant to be opened? Me. and the handle manufacturer. Not a good combo. I like my solution but I still feel like an idiot for not reading the directions before I felted the sewn down handle tab...) But it's done and it looks amazing. I could not be more pleased. Even the extra front pocket seems perfectly functional.
There are supposed to be buttons along the front pocket as little accents. I stared at the buttons for 20 minutes and came up with exactly zero acceptable possibilities for that purpose. I may go back and try again, but when the only thing you can think of changing is a minor cosmetic accent, things are going well.
Look! Purple flannel lining! 
I'm playing around with some stash yarn for the time being. I have a bug in my brain and if I can pull off the cowl in my brain, things are going to be a lot more colorful this winter.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

I win.

1.) It turns out that you can, in fact, pick out the individual burnt fibers with a tweezers and salvage a horrible situation. When I singed the vest, my husband could point to the spot. Now he can't find it and even if I point to it he says that it's not actually different. Victory.

2.) I thought I should share some swatches from the beginning of the vest design process. I knew that I wanted continuous cables over the corners, but I didn't know how many stitches needed to go into each wrap if the cable itself was going to be a 90 degree turn. (This is actually a lie. I did know. I was just pretending to not know in case I could magically get by doing less. This never works)

 So, the swatch on the bottom is my standard, straight cable which makes up the bulk of the border. The swatch on the top right is the corner cable without the slipped stitch border which I later deemed necessary to keep things clean. The swatch on the top left... well... it's a pentagon and it's also what happens when you are a lazy bum who doesn't follow her own knitting rules. The thing is hilariously ugly and unusable, and the cables make this odd sort of star at the short end that augments the hideous nature of the thing.

3.) This is the part where I shamelessly gloat. Look at this.

I need to block it some more, and the armpits are a little wonky (I think I can fix it with some well placed crocheting), but I love this thing. As soon as it's no longer the temperature of the sun in our town, I will wear this everywhere. As things stand, it was almost too warm to take pictures of the darn thing. I think for a first "person shaped" design project, I could not ask for a better end result. The in-betweeny idiocies, I could do without, but the end product is wonderful.

4.) Bonus mini-game: Try and find the scorch marks. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

I'm an idiot (part II)

You didn't think it was going to be a 2 parter, did you.
Neither did I.

I'm almost finished with my vest, probably. All signs point to yes. I divided for the shoulders yesterday and finished the front and back today. All that's left is the 13" of collar that stretch along the back of the neck.

I wanted to make sure that everything was hunky-dory, so I decided to steam block each panel and measure the whole garment before moving on to that final step. I still think this was a good idea.

I set up the ironing board, filled my iron, set it to "lots and lots o' steam," and let it heat up. I started gently blocking the band, trying to get the cable to roughly the appropriate width. But then I smelled something. Turns out the iron hadn't gotten the steam memo (or so it claims) and I had burnt a large swath of cable that would sit roughly over my belly button. Burnt it to a crispy, yellow-orange, which stood in sharp and unappealing contrast to the blue-purple-grey tone of this yarn. The color contrast was so stark that my husband could identify the problem area in low light with no prompting other than, "Do you see what I just did?!?"

Upon lifting the iron back to vertical, steam started to pour forth again (I swear to you it had been steaming before I used it the first time), so I blocked the rest of the garment, trying not to scream or cry or throw the iron across the room. I had ruined my vest. I was 13 inches--just 4ish repeats of cables away from going out and buying hook-and-eyes to close the sucker. 13 inches away from being terrified of my mathematical fallibility. And I burnt the dang thing with an IRON.

It's not like I could rip back to the section or cut out the bad yarn--I burnt rows upon rows upon rows (about 16, in fact) and I would need to throw away about half of a hank of yarn which I'm not sure I could replace. I put the cable stitches on some waste yarn and took the sucker to the sink, wetting the offending (offended?) section and agitating it a little to force the fibers into small clumps. I got my snippers and cut away the larger bits that weren't integrated into the fabric.

I am currently sitting with a damp vest in my lap, picking away at the fibers 1 stitch at a time with a pair of tweezers.  I think I can salvage this thing.

Oh please let me be able to salvage this thing...