September 2004 Archives

I Blame All My Troubles on My Parents


As the only firstborn in my immediate family (though both my brother and I married firstborns in order to bring up the proportions), I would like to say that I knew all along that cats don't cause asthma, parents cause asthma:

"Among a group of very ordinary children born in a small town in the U.K. and followed from birth to the age of 5 to 6, levels of dust mite and cat allergens in the home were not related to their development of allergies or asthma," said lead author Dr. Paul Cullinan, a reader in respiratory epidemiology at the Imperial College School of Medicine's National Heart and Lung Institute in London.
"The most important factors were having a parent with asthma and being the first-born child in the family," he added.

Demented Spiders


I spent some time working on my crochet problem this evening, after having a mild epiphany about double crochets, in which I figured out that I'm not just supposed to be pulling loops through each other: the point is to yarn over and pull that through. Well, the diagrams I have are highly suspect, let's just say that.

Anyway, this is where I started, with a very tight circle I made, apparently entirely with slip stitches. Beats the heck out of me how I did it, but at any rate it's very tight and tends to cup.

Then I tried my hand at a simple yo-yo, which got kind of messed up because the yarn I'm using has a tendency to come untwisted in very uncool ways. On the other hand, it was cheap and it doesn't feel totally unpleasant for a synthetic yarn, so I've kept it instead of just throwing the whole ball away.

I've been thinking about making a yo-yo afghan for Casa Decrepit, to keep us warm on cold winter evenings, so I'm going to have to have another go at that one.

Then I decided to try out double crochet, and that's when I had my minor epiphany, although of course James Joyce would just about piss himself if he heard me use the word that way. Anyway, I figured out the double crochet, but the pattern I worked with it still came out looking like something was wrong with it. So I went back over it and found out that she neglected to mention a chain 4 somewhere in there, and had me do an extra double crochet, which makes the whole thing look kind of buck-toothed.

For my next trick, I worked a circle with single crochets, and I had some trouble following the instructions (reading patterns SUCKS but I suppose there's no other way to learn how to read them than by reading them), but it still seemed to come out OK, so I went on to the next row of double crochets alternated with single chain stitches. Very fancy.

I was going to continue on to the next row of the pattern but I couldn't figure out what she meant by "Sl st into next ch 3 sp" because doing what it seemed to be telling me caused the whole thing to curl up into a tight leetle ball rather unattractively. (I have since figured it out, but I'm done fiddling with my hands for the evening.)

On the other hand, it looks quite nice as-is, an worked in a less finicky yarn would be quite easy.


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Well, I think I was just as close to a 5.9 earthquake as I've ever been.

We were in the middle of class and when everybody gasped as the entire Architecture building shook violently, the teacher (who hadn't noticed it because he was pacing) thought we were reacting to his lecture.

This being California, and a computer class, we immediately went and checked USGS's web site and saw that there were just a bunch of big ones and medium ones out in Parkfield (which is on the other side of Paso Robles from us). God, we are such geeks.

Instant Karma


I got all smug about my workload with Charlotte yesterday, and then one of my homework problems for statics totally and completely stumped me and my study partner today. It was stunning. We spent two hours writing and re-writing the same equations and finding ourselves with equations that had no fewer than two unknowns in them no matter what. We finally resolved to try to track the teacher down tomorrow, but I was unable to let it go and have been fiddling with the problem since I got home.

We had our "pin-up" today in studio, where we put out all our recent work and went through a critique. I thought the teacher was remarkably fair and gentle about things, but some of my classmates got all upset about her suggestions for improvements. She critiqued my portfolio first, and had nothing bad to say about it, so maybe that set up some unrealistic expectations. Actually, I would have liked some feedback more than "this is good."

Sometimes I feel like I'm really "getting it" and then I go through a pin-up and I was just totally wrong, but today it was just about right. I felt like the feedback I got on my work was in keeping with the amount of "getting it" I felt. It was very pleasant.

It was very nice to work in a studio with all my tools and things right there at hand. I'm glad Noel helped me take them in this weekend. There are still some things I could use from home, but what I have with me is good.

Now I'm going to go back to work on that statics problem.

No School Work


One thing that people told me over and over about transferring to a professional program in architecture was that I would not have many free weekends. So far, that is not the case. Noel came down through FIVE HOURS of traffic Friday, and we had a nice, relaxed weekend together, and now I'm sitting down to do some physics work and some statics homework which will not take more than a few hours.

On Saturday we went out to breakfast, then drove out to the airport to see if there was a book about planes Noel wanted at the store there. While we were there we looked at prices for flight school for me (relatively reasonable) and talked to an instructor about what the process would be able how much of a time commitment she expects it to be.

The idea is that if Noel buys a cheap commuter plane, I should be able to fly it, too, to make traveling that way safer.

Then we unloaded some things Noel brought for me from his car, and loaded a bunch of art supplies I needed to bring to school into his car, and went by my studio to drop it all off (much nicer than trying to schlep it across campus during the week). The key to the studio also opens the building, which is super nice.

Then we went shopping for a rolling set of drawers, to see what options were available and so forth, so I can have one set of drawers that I move on campus every quarter, which will roll around from place to place instead of having to be dragged. But prices were high and features were low, so maybe a bit more thinking things out is in order. I may decide to build something, but bought drawers have the advantage of having good locksets on them.

In the evening, we went out to eat Tsurugi, which was wonderful. Good, fresh fish, not terribly artfully arranged or as perfect in appearance as at Ebisu, but fresh fresh fresh, which counts for a lot in sushi.

This morning, we drove out to Morro Bay and had breakfast at a dismal little diner called The Coffee Pot, which had uninspired food. Then we drove around a little before we had to get back to my house and get Noel off to the Bay Area, so he could mow the lawn before it got dark.

Next weekend I'll be home, and the weekend after that. I get to see the animals!

A Stupid Question


Who needs a pattern to knit a scarf?

No, seriously. Even the lacy ones. It's just the same thing over and over, right? You cast on until it's about as wide as you want it and a nice tidy multiple of your pattern, then you knit until you run out of yarn or the scarf is long enough. I don't get it. I've read four scarf patterns online, and none of them contain any seekrit scarf ju-ju that is anything more than "do this over and over until you have a scarf."

Also, I'm completely stunned by knitting patterns for very simple ribbed hats. You don't need a pattern make that! On the other hand, reading one of those patterns helps me understand how to read more complex knitting patterns a bit better, though I'm still trying to assimilate some of it.

In case you couldn't tell, I finished my work in studio early, and now I'm sitting around my room (waiting until Noel arrives for the weekend, yay!) thinking of all sorts of misbehaviour to get up to. I think I deserve it, because I had an incredibly realistic dream last night about fixing the worst stopped-up toilet ever and woke up with this shuddering dread, thinking I had to go back to augering the thing.

Glue is Marvelous

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So I said I would say more about this portfolio project, and now I am putting out, as it were. The assignment was to make a container, at least 11" x 11", to hold and display the work we do this quarter. This container should say something about us, personally.

I was thinking along the lines of a binder, then I thought maybe a box would be nice, but it all came together when I thought of something Noel said to me on Friday when I showed him the tool holder I had worked on instead of painting the Front Bedroom: "You like to make things, don't you?" And I do. Making things was why I wanted to study architecture; making software was not as satisfying, and there was always the peril of one's hard work being wiped out with no trace.

So I decided to make an elaborate multi-layer portfolio, and in the end I decided to make it from printed cotton because seeing printed cotton always makes me think of my mom, who also likes to make things.

I chose four fabrics to keep it simple (but I ended up buying many more because I could not make up my mind). One looks like a wooden floor (the house), another is gold with bees on it (because I like bees and they are a symbol of female power), then there's a dark raspberry that's just mottled (no special symbolism in that), and finally a wasabi green with sushi and chopsticks printed on it (which reminds me of eating sushi with Noel and my favourite story about him overeating and not being able to lie down, and how I was laughing so hard).

There's more to the fabrics, though. The ones visible when the portfolio is closed are drab and brown, though nice enough. They make it look very ordinary:


But then you open it up and the raspberry is visible and it is clear that there is more here than is immediately visible. I feel like that says a lot about me.


As you peel back the layers, the sushi is revealed.


Keep in mind that when this thing is done, it will have papers covering most of the sushi.


These pictures are a bit out of date. I finished assembling the main part of the thing, and now I have to to some embroidery on the corners and sew on the large tortoiseshell button and a ribbon to hold the thing closed. But I'm proud of myself for having finished the major work.

You may wonder how I managed to sew this whole thing so fast, or how I knew to bring my sewing machine. Well, I did not sew it. I used this tape that basically glues the fabric together, which you set with an iron (the first time I ever used the stuff was on my Space Bee costume). So the miracles of modern chemistry came to my rescue. It's neat stuff, but I would never use it for something that I wanted to last 10 years. It's one thing if my portfolio disintegrates in less than a decade; it would be much worse for a quilt to do so.

Since I overbought on the fabric front, I may use some of the other fabrics to make little folders for projects that fit inside the portfolio.

Cut and Paste


I had my first long studio today. Five hours, from one until six. For the first two hours we went to see a photography exhibit my professor has up on campus, which was very interesting. A technical/architectural way of looking at light in Italy.

Anyway, here's a picture my new home away from my home away from home:


And my desk space:


We worked on some very basic cutting and pasting composition exercises today. This teacher is very classical in her approach, which is interesting and sort of a relief after the High Design of my last few design studios. I was working decently fast, so I felt able to take my time and do a job that was one step up from what I usually do. My gluing came out really nice.

I had a revelation in physics today, as I was trying to understand why we were getting a whole hour of lecture (well, screaming) on the concept of pressure being force divided by area. It was related to the fact that my statics teacher had spent an hour explaining vector addition and then said he'd go into more detail next time. The revelation was: Hey! My classmates are one or two years out of high school! They actually don't know this stuff! This is NEWS to them!

So maybe physics will not be my hardest class.

Now I'm going to go make some dinner and settle in with some nice comfortable engineering textbooks.

One of the Herd


A longish post composed over a couple days, talking about school and the new house and animals and impossible art projects, as usual.

Queer-Hugging Liberal Corporations


It seems that the anti-gay forces of the world have their backs up against the wall. Everybody knows boycotts against large, diversified companies simply don't work (even boycotts against undiversified companies like Coca-Cola don't work), so it's got to be desperation that made a conservative group call for a boycott of Crest and Tide.

"Procter & Gamble, to my knowledge, is the first corporation in this country that has given money for a political campaign pushing the homosexual political agenda," said the Rev. Donald E. Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association.

Note that they don't ask their members to boycott every other Proctor and Gamble product, like Swiffer, Jif peanut butter, or Pringles. Because that would actually require sacrifice, and Americans are completely and totally unwilling to make sacrifices at the expense of lifestyle.

I'd like to add that as a longtime P&G stockholder, I'm awfully proud of the company.

What's In Your Bag?

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I was browsing around, eating lunch and reading the news, when I came across this little gem. It seems that the average British woman is carrying A purse with a total value of over $1,000.

I thought that seemed a bit high, but then I considered the impact of a couple gadgets like a camera phone and a Palm, and I realized how quickly the total could grow. So I stopped for a moment to consider what I carry in the student version of a purse: my backpack.

Lesse, we have the laptop, which is about $2,500. Software: $2,000. iPod: $300. 40GB of songs on iPod: $sheesh. Graphing calculator: $100. Drawing tools: $100. Textbooks: $400. Phone: $300.

That's over $4,000, not including notebooks and pens and other assorted crap I might be carrying. I can't even say that it'd be an unusual day for me to be carrying all that, because that's pretty much what I've got to pack onto campus with me every day this year.

Well, at least now you know who to rob.



Well, I guess Simon has readjusted to being an indoor kitty.


Ana is still sleeping in the laundry or the dog bed in protest.

Pimpin' for Maya

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Somewhere in the East Bay, there is a lady named Maya who isn't very good at remembering the number for her new cell phone. She keeps giving out our home phone number, instead.

I've had this happen before: you get a spate of apparently wrong numbers, but from so many people for the same person that it's not just a coincidence. I've found that being helpful doesn't make it go away. What makes it stop is getting the charming wrong-numberer in a heck of a lot of trouble.

When Samesh or something like that was getting calls at my place in San Jose, not just any calls but long distance calls from India, I told his mother he was out with his fiancee, and that ended the odd-hours calls from around the world just about instantly. It's amazing what you have to do to get people to make a simple correction for family and friends you'd think they wanted to hear from.

So today, when Maya's boyfriend called for the third time (I do have to wonder why her boyfriend doesn't have the right number yet, but he claimed this morning that he called this very number last night and talked to her, so either he's got her twice in his speed dial or he's delusional), I told him she was out with her boyfriend.

He hung up and called right back and insisted on talking to Maya, but I was quite firm. Maya was out with her boyfriend. You know, that tall, buff black guy with the gold nose ring? I could just feel the anger through the phone. I predict an abrupt end to the wrong numbers for Maya.

House of Yelling


So Simon is back. Which means that in the last 24 hours, the house has been filled with him yowling, or Ana yelling at him, or Rosie barking at both of them.

He was so much more pleasant last night after the dose of Valium that I gave him another one this evening, when the yelling resumed (because it was that or strangle him). He's wide awake, but the Valium really takes the edge off his anxieties.

And because Ana was also driving me nuts by following him around and being bitchy, I gave her some, too, for good measure. She kept us up all night yelling, so this should make for a nice, quiet evening.

I considered a dose for the dog, but maybe I should save the last pill for myself. It's enough to make you wish for a tranquilizer gun. Sheesh.

I spent most of my day making the laptop have all the software it needed on it, and then backing up the images stored on the old PC to CDs, which Noel will put on the house server when it's installed and ready. I've also got a bunch of diskettes that need transferring, but we're going to have to locate a computer with an 800k disk drive in it, because none of the drive we have can read those disks. And I went through all the disks that had various backed up bits of stuff on them from various job-leaving instances, so I got to throw a bunch of stuff away, both physical disks and lots of redundant or obsolete files from the disks.

In case you wonder why I wasn't working on plaster all day, it's because I spent the morning doing that, and the plaster is still drying. So there. Also, Noel got all bossy with me about switching to use the laptop, which I've been avoiding because, frankly, I hate laptops and laptop keyboards, and especially laptop pointing devices. But the program wanted me to have a laptop, so a laptop I have, stupid asinine useless touchpad pointing device and all. And I'm evening writing this entry from it, so there. One task completed today was getting all the software I need installed on the laptop, and that is done.

I'm still irritated that the wireless network in the house is inaccessible in the library, so I basically have to sit at my desk to do anything on the network, which kind of defeats the purpose of the laptop, doesn't it?

Tomorrow I have to go buy scads of combination locks. I generally prefer key locks, and I already have several of those keyed to the same key. I like keys because you can give somebody access to the lock and then take it away, but the department requires combination locks because they want to keep your combination on file. So combination locks it is. I should also buy a bike lock, but the bike's not going to be ready until John gets back, anyway, so no big rush.

Other than that, the sheer enormity of moving a drawing studio 250 miles south finally did sink in today as I went a-plundering for something in the accordion room. This should be interesting.

Home at Last


Charlotte and Elaine came over for dinner, and while we were lounging it off in the library, Simon got caught in the trap. We brought him in, I dosed him with some Valium (the cure-all of the moment), and now he's running around the cat area, alternately eating and yelling.

Niggling Little Details


I've run out of plaster, so finishing the Front Bedroom plastering has to wait until tomorrow, when the hardware store is open and I feel like it (no, I won't shop at Home Depot in order to save some money and time; we have a nice hardware store close to home that has helpful staff and where I'm never treated like a criminal, and I am willing to pay some in cash and convenience for that).

Instead I've been doing a bunch of little things to get ready for school: buying a docking station for the laptop, so I can drop it onto my desk when I get home and use my customary keyboard and mouse, buying a carrying case for the iPod so I don't ruin it, buying a new handlebar and some baskets for my bike so I can use it for commuting (I think also some fatter tires are in order, but that can wait until John gets back from heliskiing and can advise me), sorting through desk items, installing more software (Adobe Creative Suite today), deciding which pieces of furniture need buying (so far: bed, bookcase, some sheets for the bed).

I had a little spate of buying new music last week, so I should have plenty of interesting things to listen to while working.

I'm moderately ticked off that the room I rented in San Luis Obispo ended up being smaller than advertised (more like 10' x 12' than 14' x 14' as originally claimed) but since I don't plan to spend a huge amount of time in there, it doesn't matter all that much. I do wish there were not a bunch of somebody else's stuff stored in my closet, but that can be Dealt With Later. I'm accomodating because I have roommates who won't rely on me to get them alcohol, and because I don't have to buy anything for the kitchen or the rest of the house; the stuff's all there. Also the place is close to campus and decently close to downtown, which is a nice bonus.

Everything else is going swimmingly, though: I have my classes and schedule squared away, books are ordered for classes that require them, I've covered my drawing board with vinyl board cover, I've got the information I need about where to be when on Monday next week, I've got my parking permit and attached it to its approved hanger (purchased for 50c from the cashier yesterday), I have almost everything ready to load into a rented van and move down there next weekend.

From here it's all filling in the details. Some people tell you that's the hardest part, but really, the hardest part is getting the underlying structure there to detail.

Caught in the Act


We spotted Simon last night. He's been hanging out under the cottage next door, and apparently Mr. Crankypants who lives there felt no need to let us know that fact for, oh, a month.


We had a spirited chase through our neighbor's landscaping last night, then gave up when it was clear we would not catch him. I fed him some food from a distance, and this morning I went to the pound and borrowed a trap.


So far, he's eaten all the food I left in a little trail up to the entrance. I retreated indoors and check on it every now and then. He's pretty hungry looking, so I think he'll go in the trap sometime this afternoon when he thinks the coast is clear.

Gratuitous Dog Photo


Rosie would like you all to know that she is tired of all this relentless home improvement, and she would like that lake to come back so she can play stick.


Scheduling Glee


Usually, when I talk about my schedule, it is with angst and much suffering, but today, it is with great happiness.

That is because yesterday, the Architecture department sent me e-mail telling me they were opening some slots in a class I needed, and today I was able to register for it. So my schedule is over at 6pm on the latest days, instead of 9pm as it might have done. This is a good thing because it starts at 8am every day, and I simply cannot handle more schedules like last spring (7am to 9pm).

Also, I was able to pre-reserve my textbooks online with a discount for doing so, so they will be ready for me to pick up the weekend before classes start (big bonus, because crowded bookstores are no fun). And the laptop is pretty much ready to go, as soon as Noel gives me the disk so I can install the fake Windows shell on it (so I can install AutoCAD). Last night Noel suggested I buy a docking station for it, which doesn't seem like a bad idea at all.

With my schedule set and the computer in line, I just have to arrange for moving down to SLO (renting a minivan seems to be the way to go). I'm going down to SLO this weekend for Old Fogies orientation -- one day of stuff rather than a week of seminars on things like how not to drink yourself to death and how to budget for studying time. Noel's coming with me (yay!) and we'll bring my drafting table and the sewing table (which will be my regular desk) with us. Should be interesting to meet my new roommates, as the room has been arranged entirely by phone.

Rosie is going to spend the weekend at the doggie daycare place, probably playing until she nearly explodes. I was soft of hoping to bring her with us, but what with her anxiety in the car and the new living situation, I think it's best if she stays home this time.


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We got back this afternoon from our road trip to Maine.

First, we had the requisite engine troubles (mass airflow sensor, Salt Lake City, repaired under warranty after hours; South Towne VW were the miracle workers). Then the dog was freaking out (to put it mildly) from the travel, so we had to slow down our driving and stay in motels instead of our usual drive-non-stop and sleep by the side of the road routine, so we missed seeing friends in Boston and New York (bummer). But we arrived in Maine safely only to find one of our hosts felled by an apparent flu (which later turned out to be appendicitis).

After five days in Maine, we visited my parents in Ithaca, then headed home. We took it much easier on the way back, doing only 15 hours of driving a day, and stopping lots for the dog to stretch her legs. We discussed renting an RV next time, because maybe more space would feel better to her. We discussed the relative merits of flying versus driving. Maybe next time we will try flying and see how she does. I wish large dogs were allowed in the cabin.

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