Sunday, June 28, 2009

Too Lazy for Pictures

But not too lazy to write!

I broke down and bought a Skacel Schoppel Wolle Zauberball in the "Tropical Fish" colorway from the Fiber Gallery today. I also picked up a couple of Blue Sky Pretty Cheep project bags, in the periwinkle and tangerine colors.

I am SO SORE from hiking! Mostly my calves, butt & quads. Holy Moly! Climbing down the stairs was an event this morning. Another sign that I need to hike more!

I'm getting further on Daniel's sweater; probably a good 6" up the sleeve now. I also decided to make short socks out of my Cat Bordhi "Jeweled Steps" socks. I am just ready to be done with them. Maybe I took too long, but now I kind of think that pattern is a little boring. (!)

I am also spinning a couple of things - on the wheel is part of a 100 g braid of BFL roving I bought at OFFF last year. On my spindle is a tightly twisted thin singles of Gotland, which I drumcarded in a fit of excitement this morning before leaving for pilates. I think I am going to try and make a 3 ply sock yarn out of Gotland and possibly some silk and / or mohair and / or some other wool. I think two solid plies of something and then a variegated ply of something else would be really interesting looking... I suspect the outer coat of Icelandic wool would make a good sock yarn; it's not really soft, but it's sturdy and has a decently long staple (even the lamb's fleece I have).

I am also excited because my friend Jeanne got my loom for me!!! (I think!)... I should be able to pick it up from her Monday or Tuesday... WOOO!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009


I took a couple of test drives on Friday. My first drive was a Honda Insight, and that was shortly followed by a Toyota Prius.

The Insight is Honda's latest hybrid offering. It looks like a clone of the Prius, except it's smaller and about $3000 cheaper. I really wanted to like the Insight; I remember fondly driving the original Insight back when it was released in the early 2000's, and I worked for the California Air Resources Board. Then, as now, the driving was a little "ker-chunk"y. Back then, I think it was just that the manual transmission I was driving wasn't shifting very well. Now, it's the flywheel re-engaging when accelerating from a stop that is giving the clunky feeling. It's not enough to make a passenger sick, but it's noticeable to me, especially since my Civic is a fairly smooth ride. The other objectionable thing is that rear window viewing area has been compromised in the name of aerodynamics. You are forced to look through a window that is split in half laterally, and the C pillars are thick, so you don't get a lot of lateral-rear view. I don't believe the Insight comes with a rearview camera.

What I do like about the Insight is that it is smaller than the Prius. I like small cars, that's just me. I like that they maneuver more easily, you can get into tighter spaces, and park them in more areas than bigger cars. I like not having to think about how far away the ends of my car are. And I also felt that acceleration and driving were decent, if you don't take the kerchunking into account.

That being said, the Prius was a nice ride. The seat is firm, yet cushiony. The suspension is very smooth, as is the driving. I enjoyed the seamless transition from electric to gas-assisted power, and it provided acceleration that was at least comparable to my current Civic, if not a little quicker (probably due to the electric motor torque available on the low end). The rearview camera is a nice aid, but I would assume I'd be better off actually turning my head and looking behind me. The negatives... it's bigger, somewhere between a Civic and an Accord in terms of length, but the interior volume is equivalent to a Nissan Maxima. It's more expensive. The rear window is still in that annoying lateral-split configuration.

In the end, I decided to wait. I was eager to take advantage of the current promotion (if you take delivery of a vehicle with > 40 mpg fuel efficiency before August 1, you do not pay any sales tax). However, I think my parents, Daniel, and some friends convinced me to wait. I am going to ride out the flight test program at work, and see how my finances stack up after that; a few months of getting essentially double the paycheck should bulk up the savings quite nicely.

Tiger Mountain Hike

My friend Melinda and I went to a popular local hike today, called Tiger Mountain. All the reviews of Tiger Mountain I've read say it's a 5 mile out-and-back, but... I don't believe it. Melinda also thinks they redid the trail a few years ago, and we estimated we walked between 6-8 miles total. The signs up the trail, if accurate, mean that now the trail is about 4 miles to the western summit, roughly >2000 ft elevation gain.

ANYWAY, despite the possible / probably sign inaccuracies, it was a beautiful hike. And a challenge for me, which is something I enjoyed (when it was over, at least!).

I showed up at Melinda's house in Redmond at 8 AM sharp, and we drove about 20 minutes southeast on I-90 to arrive at Tiger Mountain (exit 20, if you're curious). We got to the trailhead early enough to score a parking spot in the lot directly adjacent to the trailhead. Upon exiting, we noticed that a ton more cars had parked, and people were adding about an extra 1/4 to 1/2 mile to their hike just to reach their cars!

Melinda seemed to have no problem ascending the mountain, but since I don't have a great cardio system (despite Crossfit), I was huffing my way up the mountain. I also chose to wear my knee braces, which was a smart move because the trails were fairly steep in a lot of portions, and the braces serve to stabilize my knees from lateral movements and causing further inflammation later.

Here I am at the top, after shedding my blue fleece and zipping off the lower part of my hiking pants. The cord around my neck that looks like it's choking me is actually a wide-brimmed hat, but the vast majority of this hike is underneath a deciduous tree canopy. Melinda remembered that if it's warm out, the forested area can get quite humid.

The view from the top is spectacular, especially on a beautiful day like today. In the next picture, if you look just to the left of the exact center of the picture, you'll see a white blob. That's the peak of Mt. Rainier.

Here is my "proof-positive" picture, confirming that we did make it to the top!

And here is a shot of Melinda and me, blue sky and green trees surrounding us at the peak. We played a brief game of fetch with an Australian Shepherd, and enjoyed a brief snack while taking in the scenery before descending.

I ran out of water from my Camelbak pack about when we were 1/4 of the way back down, which made for a slightly frustrating descent. Melinda had survived the hike with barely any water left in her bottle. We got down and I remembered I had some tea in the car, so we sucked that down, then drove back to her place, picked up her husband Chris, and went to lunch at Panera.

What a great day! My knees are still sore, but I hope that will go away tomorrow. I am going to take some ibuprofen tonight before I fall asleep, just to help inflammation stay away.

I really want to do more of these hikes, because getting out and hiking is the only way I can think of to really improve my hiking skills!


A side note: My new 3 rep max for military press is 25 kg. Yeah! That was after a 2000 meter row, too.

I got home and ended up getting a lot of knitting, and a few small things around the house, done.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Surprise Package

I received a small package in the mail yesterday. From Daniel! He is currently on a ship, and emailed me to say they were planning to let the sailors swim off the side of the ship for a while. Sounds like fun! Except I was wondering how they get off the boat...after all, most decks are quite high above the waterline.

Isn't it pretty? It's a simple piece of woven cotton cloth, with a fun print on it. The print reminds me of peonies or chrysanthemums, with the occasional bee flitting around. The funniest part is the slip of paper that came with it, showing how one could use the fabric. My favorite picture is the final one, "Bath".


I also wanted to show off a wool shawl I purchased on my trip to Madison. I got it at one of those ubiquitous "hippie" stores that smell like patchouli or Nag Champa, and sell goods that are ostensibly fair-traded. Anyway, this shawl is wonderfully light, yet warm and snuggly. I have used it at the office a few times, and find it easier to don and doff than a cardigan. Although a friend of mine did call it "a bit mature for you". :)


My friend Melinda and I went strawberry picking on Saturday, up north of Seattle in a town called Arlington. Here is the result:

Beautiful. luscious red berries. Sweet as sugar, and fragrant. The farm wasn't organic, so we had to wait and wash everything when we got home. $1.50 / lb. I picked 13 lb ($20 worth) and helped Melinda get 20 lb all within about half an hour, which attests to the farm's dense berry plantings.

Below is part of my haul, drying on blue towels on my stovetop. In all, I made a large strawberry milkshake (using whole milk, strawberries, vanilla extract, and stevia liquid), froze 4 quart size bags of berries, had 2 x 32 oz containers in the fridge plus another couple of bowls full of strawberries to deal with yesterday. Yum!! My entire place was strawberry scented!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Old Man on the Plane

On my way home from Madison, WI, I had a connecting flight to Minneapolis.

I sat next to an elderly man, with a bald pate but for a ring of wispy wild white hair.

Liver spots told tales of probable sun exposure, and he moved slowly, but surely.

I noticed he was reading "War and Peace", in a very large library hardbound version. He was a little over halfway through it.

I asked him how it was, and with a slight inhale, he responded,


He then told me a little more of his view on the Tome, and conversation shifted.

He asked what I did, when I replied that I was an engineer, he told me that he had originally gone to Johns Hopkins for engineering, "But I didn't like the engineers. So I switched to physics."

Turned out he had gotten his PhD in physics at Hopkins back in the late 40's / early 50's, and did work at the Applied Physics Laboratory out there.

He then told me he was once in a lab "where all the glass was etched and the plants were all dead. Now, what etches glass?" he asked, in a somewhat wheezing voice.

"Acid?" I responded.

"Yes. What kind of acid?"

I wondered if he ever taught classes.

"Hm... sulfuric?"

"...Hydrofluoric." He explained that the lab he was in was using fluorohexene (-hexane?) to separate out uranium from ore.... for one of the atomic bomb projects.

It's amazing who you sit next to on a plane sometimes!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Synthetics can Suck It!

Ah-hah! Another article justifying that cleaning with traditional Western cleaners can be bad for you:

I cannot stand being in a home where a synthetic-smelling cleaner, detergent, or bleach has been used. My allergies go insane, and sometimes I get a reaction similar to when I am near too many cats, or a dirty home with cats - I have much difficulty breathing. I start sneezing at work if anyone passes by and their cloud of cheap cologne or perfume wafts in my direction, or if they decide that NOW is the time to use a scented Clorox wipe on their desk. (The obscenely dirty cubicle desks some people maintain seriously frightens me. I clean mine every other day or so, and more if I see a stain on the desk).

When I clean my own home, I use three spray bottles: one with white vinegar, one with hydrogen peroxide (and the bottle is covered in duct tape so as not to let in light), and one bottle with a mixture of half water, half vinegar, and a glug of rubbing alcohol (this is my glass cleaner. The vinegar degreases, and the alcohol helps decrease drying time / streaks). When I clean countertops or other surfaces, I spray one layer of vinegar followed by another layer of hydrogen peroxide. My sister presented us with a study long ago that found that this combination was as antibacterial and effective a cleaner as synthetic "all purpose" cleaners. For sinks and tubs, I use an abrasive powder called Bon Ami, and a stiff bristled plastic brush. I was trying baking soda when I ran out of Bon Ami recently, but I went back to it because, in my opinion, it scrubs better. For the toilet, I use a toilet brush and a soy-based toilet cleaner that has peppermint oil in it. I hear Clorox GreenWorks toilet cleaner is pretty good, as well, but I think the smell is a touch overwhelming for me.

I was in Madison, WI this past week (coming in a separate post), and I couldn't share the inflatable mattress with my friend, because she smelled like fabric softener. To some, it might evoke memories of Mom's fresh laundry, smelling "clean", but to me it just smells hideous and I get a vague memory of walking by apartment buildings in college and having sneezing fits because someone was drying their clothes and the Downy was emanating from the dryer exhaust vent.

When my friend Kim visited, I couldn't let her share the bed with me, either. Whatever combination of personal care products she chooses left me sneezing and blowing my nose the entire weekend. She is a great friend, but I couldn't have her stay anywhere near me! :)

I also recently got duped by a deodorant; Sure, I believe, was the brand. It purported to be "unscented", and then I got it home, opened it, and HAH- it smells like Febreeze-cucumbers. I looked closer, and "masking fragrance" is listed as the final ingredient. I usually use a natural deodorant, either Tom's of Maine or a spray from Origins that contains essential (read: natural) oils. But for actual odor-killing, I turn to Dove Unscented sensitive skin deodorant; the one brand that has actually proved to me it's UNscented.


So, I say the above not only to whine about the overuse of synthetic "fragrances" in society, but to bring up a narcissistic viewpoint. Synthetic fragrances are gross! And if you believe the voodoo-hurdy-gurdy, they have been shown to deplete your aura, or energy field surrounding your body.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tapping Fingers...

Excitement! Daniel will be within Skyping range on Friday morning! I think this is the first time we'll get to talk in over a month (talk in real-time, not via email).

I'm also happy because I leave Friday afternoon to visit my friends John, Olivia, and Julie in Madison, Wisconsin! Actually, Julie is also visiting them from Los Angeles, but it will be good to see everyone! Apparently Julie has an interview at the university in Madison! Good luck, Julie!

So, having finished the Hemlock Ring blanket, I am debating on what big thing to start next. I swatched for Daniel's Hand to Hand sweater, but I also feel like I should get going on Priscila's alpaca socks and my purple STR socks, for goodness' sake!

I think what I'll do is: if I can get over the trouble I've been having with the Cat Bordhi sock pattern, I'll take that on the Madison trip with me. I think I am vaguely allergic to alpaca :( so spending long times with Priscila's alpaca sock yarn won't make me happy on a plane... or I could start a pair of socks for Daniel!


In bigger news, new toys are coming my way soon! A new car, likely in September, and a new road bike sometime.

Both are taking a lot of thought on my part, and also starting to save up (especially for the bike, since it's a relatively small purchase compared to a car).

The cars in the running are: Toyota Prius, Honda Civic, Honda Insight hybrid, Mazda 3, and the Subaru Outback Sport. Fuel economy, reliability rates from Consumer Reports, insurance rates, and whatever price USAA can wrangle for me will be final determiners.

The bikes are a little tougher, since I know less about them than I do cars, but there are a few Trek Women-Specific Design (WSD) that I am curious about, and a Novara (REI's house brand) that I am eyeing. Surprisingly, Novara has decent component packages for their price.


In unrelated news, I am getting a floor loom! A Harrisville 4 harness folding floor loom, to be exact. It is coming from a woman in Oregon, for a great price. She will be delivering it at some point to her son in Portland so I can pick it up! I even am redecorating for it. I sold my large bookcase yesterday, and that paid off my new smaller bookcase I bought, so that was nice. Maybe it's time to hang some art on that wall; it looks really bare without the giant shelf.