Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Time compression

I had a very hectic evening last night. I went straight from work to my knitting group and spent a very pleasant two hours chatting and knitting my fluffy tank top which is zipping along nicely. Unfortunately one of the consequences of having such a good time is that I didn't hear my phone ringing which meant that I missed a number of phone calls from frantic friends looking for overnight accommodation in Oxford. When they finally managed to get a hold of me we had a desperate rush across Oxford so that I could get changed and feed my kittens before heading out to a local restaurant to help celebrate a friends successful completion of his viva for hisDPhil (congratulations still going out there by the way).
Problem was that Tuesday night is my relaxation evening when I knit, watch CSI, read patterns and generally revel in having the house to myself whilst the husband is out playing darts. So by about 10 is was gently nodding off and getting confused about why no one was being finger printed or accused of murder. There was lots of new people to meet- all of whom where super lovely, but I was having trouble concentrating on the conversations and hearing them above the background music and susurrus of voices. I then had to shepherd two drunken men back to my house and try to pack them into bed which inevitably didn't happen until stupid o'clock in the morning, which in turn led to me sleeping in this morning and being late for work. I didn't sleep well either so I have been fighting off the yawns for most of today and have only managed to stay awake by maintaining a constant stream of caffeinated drinks into my body. This was essential for my survival at work today as I have needed to use my brain in order to figure out the basics of insect robotics in order to then write about them for the new displays. There is a ton of stuff that I could now relay on this subject to y'all but I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that I'm not going to. Instead I shall just provide you with this link to the most interesting paper that I found that demonstrates how water striders move across the water surface. It has pretty pictures if that tempts you.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

All things skully

For some reason my brain has been stuck on knitted skulls today. I think it's keeping me amused whilst I plough my way through the tedium that is the new displays at work (it's reached the killer stage of adjusting minor details rather than just gluing things together which is much more fun I have to say!).
Anyway, after a few minutes perusing the internet and having a think about the sorts of things I have seen around I have made a short list of my favourite knitted goods that have skulls on. So in no particular order I give you The skull illusion scarf, Skull stockings and Skull and crossbones beanie. I now have plans to make all of these though I have no idea when I would be able to fit them into my busy knitting schedule! I realised this morning that I have a knitting deadline now on my friends scarf which was originally meant for an xmas present but got postponed due to over committing myself. I am seeing her in about three weeks though- eek! and I only really figured that out this morning. Its one of those dates that seems like ages away but then sneaks up really quickly and bites you on the ass. I am already working on three different projects at once at the moment and adding in a fourth is going to be a real pain. The worst thing is that I don't then have enough time to devote to any one project so it feels as though nothing is really getting done. I think the worst one for this is the cat bed that I am knitting which just involves going round and round in circles trying to make it big enough for Fenway- he is a pretty leggy cat now after all, and it is so slow as its hundreds of stitches at this point due to all the increases. I keep getting fed up and measure it against the cat every round or so. I just know that it will end up either miles too big or too small as I'm not following a set pattern for it at all, more sort of making it up as I go along. Oh well, I'm sure Fenway won't mind either way anyway.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Teaching the husband to knit

I REALLY want this to happen but I fear that it may be one of those pipe dreams again. Having said this he did have a bit of a go last night so we are one tiny baby step along.
One of the upshots of me sorting through my stash was that I finally got around to casting on for a cat bed that I have been meaning to make for Fenway for ages and ages. I know I said that I wasn't going to start anymore projects but I couldn't fit the wool in the box (as its a 500g ball and is therefore huge) and it couldn't stay where it was (wedged in the front of the TV cabinet in the lounge) as Fenway kept stealing it and tangling the wool up so I figured it would be better to get it underway than leaving it again.
So I decided to make it round and cast on on dpns. I have now progressed to a circular needle and am just going round and round and round until it looks roughly the right size. I measured it up against Fenway when he was sat on my lap last night and I still have a fair way to go- I think he's sneakily growing every time I look away.
Anyway, so its an easy project and it doesn't matter if it gets messed up as it is only for the cat after all so I press ganged the hubby into giving it a go. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was reasonably competent and although a little heavy handed had no problem with it. Really all he needs is a bit of practice and he'll be fine. I was exceptionally pleased as he always argues that he is rubbish at making stuff with his hands. I now know that this is a fib and actually if he where just to try it then he'd surprise himself. I now harbour dreams of hand knitted socks to keep my toes warm- made by the husband. It's actually quite hot to see guys knitting and I keep on pointing this out so maybe it'll sink in eventually. My main motivation however is just to try and get him to spend a bit of time with me and share an interest that's of my choosing (he gave me baseball, I want to give him knitting). I have no doubt that he's now done as much knitting as he is ever going to but it would be nice to be able to talk to him about it and know he understands and has a least a bit of interest. We could swap sock patterns....
Sorry, was off day dreaming again.

Stash times

I went through my stash the other night and was amazed at how much wool I had packed away in various corners of the house- which was good because it means the other half doesn't know the half of it! No, actually it wasn't too bad. I knew all the whens, wheres and whys I had certain stuff and although it means I have plenty of projects to keep me going and no excuse for buying any more wool in the foreseeable future it did reassure me that actually very little of my stash is expensive wool. About 70% of what I have is stuff that was bought in charity shops- either by myself when I first started out or by relatives since then. I had a fantastically geeky time lying it all out on the lounge floor and arranging it. The results are:

I have one small box for little diddy balls of wool that I use for scrap, sewing up or toy making, or at a pinch for fixing things.

I have a medium sized box which holds two 'Make your own kits'- one for Winnie the Pooh and one for Tigger. I have every intention of finishing these this year although I have lost the instructions for knitting pooh which might slow me down a bit.

I have one large box of wool that contains odd balls of fun colours that I have used for various projects in the past or larger quantities of good quality wool from charity shops. These are mostly 100g balls that are still largely intact and can be used for a variety of projects. There is a nice selection of soft greys and things and is my fall back stash for smaller projects, toys, handbags- that kind of thing. It's not the most used part of the stash so I had a bit of a prune and parted with a few balls of wool. I have to say that I was loathe to give anything away as it might be useful at some point in the future but at the end of the day I just had to admit that I have lots of knitting to do at the moment anyway and to just let it go....sniff.

The main bulk of my 'to be knitted' wool is in a big wicker basket. This contains all the wool that I keep meaning to make things out of. Most of it is not stuff that I have bought myself but things that my well meaning mother has given me. For instance- it contains 20 balls of eyelash yarn (which I would NEVER have purchased myself) that my mum gave me. I do have plans for it- some of it will go to making cushions for my bed BUT it's not stuff that I can get wildly excited about and I didn't pick it out myself so I keep forgetting to do something with it and then it hangs around taking up room. I have promised myself however that I will not buy any more wool until I have made a bit of a dent in my stash. Its not because I feel that stash reduction measures are needed but because I have all these plans that never get completed otherwise. And then the next time I see the wool I just feel guilty about not ever seeing something through to completion. It does mean that I am going to have to do a bunch of projects that I am less than excited about but I'm sure that if I put my mind to it I can find some way of jazzing things up a bit.

Finally, the last place that I keep wool is in a basket in the lounge. This contains a box with all the most expensive balls of wool in it which are precious and small in number. It also has a few balls of wool for things in progress or the next thing to be knitted so it's where the sock wool ends up. I have a nice pile of kidsilk haze in this basket and a few balls of Louisa Harding, Debbie Bliss and even one of Noro wool. I just take them out every now and again and give them a little squeeze.
It also contains my needle box which takes up a good proportion of the room so it looks more full than it actually is.

So that's it. All fully justifiable. I have a small Blackwells bag full of wool that I'm going to get rid of either by finding someone at my knitting group that wants it, putting it in the knitting groups general help-yourself-box or donating it to a charity shop (last option as I don't believe that they look after it well enough to deserve having it). I do have a scary number of projects on needles however so am really going to have to be good and finish a few of those off. I think I might have bitten off more than I can chew in that respect...

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Now I know

what a bug feels like after its been stamped on. Have spent the last few days in agony after pulling various muscles throughout my back and left shoulder. It wasn't too bad until it started to impinge on my knitting and now it's just pissing me off. The worst part is that I have more lifting to do this afternoon and tomorrow- I know, I know, I should just NOT do the lifting and find something else to do but the problem is that we have a deadline for this particular bit of work so I don't have that happy option. So I shall just have to keep gobbling the painkillers and hope that it all works out well in the end. Our diptera collections will look super pimp by the end of it all however so that makes it worth it in my mind :)
Talking of flies here are some pictures. The first is of a bee fly which belongs to the family Bombylidae and the other is a robber fly which belongs to the Asilidae. These are two of my favourite fly families- mostly because they are fluffy.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Science madness

The museum hosted the wonderful event known as 'Wow!How?' this weekend which meant that I had to come in for Saturday and woman the departmental stall that does the bug handling. Normally it's a really busy event with thousands of people swarming around and we get run ragged handing out millipedes, cockroaches and stick insects for people to squirm over. This year was a bit quieter though I think that this was because we had a few more stalls so people where spread out but the grotty weather may also have kept people away until the afternoon. It all hit the fan at about 2pm which made it that much more tiring as we had been stood around all day by that point so the enthusiasm was starting to wane and we'd been up and running since about 9.
We only had one little girl do a major freak out which her mum was mortified by. Many tears and hiding behind people to get away from the horrible slimy bug. She'd let the stick insect get onto her hand before deciding it wasn't a good idea and then flailed around until the poor thing finally gave up trying to hold on and went for the drop. It hit the floor with a convincing splat and I really thought the kid was going to stamp on it for good measure but mum fielded her well and I rushed round to collect up the remains in case that upset the little girl even more but it turned out that the stick insect was still with us and practically unharmed apart from a bad headache and a slightly bemused expression on its face. Mum and I had to then spend a few minutes calming down small child to the point where it was happy once again although I don't think she will ever be a fan of stick insects I have to say. She seemed a bit happier with the millipede but then they are so cute that I think that even the most hard bitten of insect haters would find it difficult to freak out over them.
The other source of regular entertainment came from the boss who was walking around with a tarantula on his shoulder. He does all the 'poisonous' insect handling so carries around the scorpion and tarantula. The tarantula spends all day happily sat on his shoulder and its amazing how many people are that unobservant that they don't notice it there. Every 30 mins or so someone would turn round and find themselves face to face with the spider and do a complete freak out. This entertained all the handlers no end- you could almost set your watch by this event. The only down side to it is when you get people (usually teenage girls I am ashamed to say) that enjoy making a fuss and insist on screaming and shouting repeatedly. You can always tell the people who genuinely don't like the spiders- they just avoid it and more often than not just walk away without much fuss, thus removing themselves and eliminating the problem. It's the drama queens that are the let down. They are only scared because they think they should be and get a bit of a thrill from being the center of attention. I always try and frown at people like this, not only because I disapprove but also because it upsets the insects. Screaming never helped anyone and its a good way to piss said scary critter off, be it an elephant, tiger or tarantula.
Anyway, the event went well on the whole and I got to play with the mantis for the majority of the time which kept me happy. The more I do these events then the better I get with the insects and I am now much more confident with them. I am slowly working my way up to being a scorpion handler and eventually hope to be able to hold tarantulas. I'm not a spider lover so can understand other peoples fear but I really think that its just a case of familiarity and mindset so I'll keep at it until I've got it nailed. Expect a massive post if I get that far!

Killer Ninja Penguin

Should have explained the 'Killer Ninja Penguin' character as well. The husband wanted to come up with a little saying that would help remind the kids about the chemicals that are used in fertilisers. These are Phosphorus (K), Nitrogen (N) and Potassium (P), hence Killer Ninja Penguin. He did ask the kids if they could come up with their own rhymes but none of them where half as good though one bright spark did come up with 'Never Poke Kids'. This was quickly glossed over though I doubt said child will ever forget his fertilisers now.

Friday, 7 March 2008

The midnight duck

I've got a bill,
It's going to make you ill,
Whip crack,
Hear me quack,
I'll take on the Killer Ninja Penguin,
I'll make him sing,
When I smack him with my wing,
I am the midnight duck
I don't give a fuck,
I'll rhyme what I like,
Feel my might,
I have you in my sights,
I'll take you down,
And make you drown,
At midnight, in my duck pond.

The husbands new persona is the 'Midnight Duck'. This came about after he tried to tell me this morning that he was 'as dark as midnight' (this was whilst I still waking up in bed and he was getting dressed after his shower) which I heard as 'a duck at midnight' hence the Midnight Duck was born. I have had to put up with really, really, bad puns all morning.
I need more sleep.

The morning after the night before

Thursday was heralded in by the insistent beeping of the alarm that went off at 6 and which I could have murdered with a hammer (I like to think of the alarm clock as a sentient being as I want it to feel pain when I thump it each morning- I am not a morning person). The husband had been instructed to let me sleep in on this occasion which was well needed as I had had insomnia after getting home and had very little quality sleep as a consequence. I do remember him getting up and trying to be quiet which is not something that he does well but I was too tired to notice much more. I also remember we had a conversation and he bought me a drink and rescued my phone from my coat pocket. The theory was that I would drink my drink which was a lovely cold bottle of coke (bizarrely I was feeling a bit dehydrated. I put it down to the bus being too warm on the way back) and set myself an alarm on my phone for about 8 which would give me a little more time to sleep and get me into work at a reasonable hour. As it was I fell straight back to sleep again clutching my phone in one hand and a bottle of coke in the other.
I was woken up at 9:30 by the bin men which was incredibly disorientating but not as weird as finding myself still holding the bottle of coke which was now warm. It took me until 11 to drag myself in to work but that was okay as I had put in extra hours in preparation for this and I'm working all day this coming Saturday as well. I feel that 11 wasn't too bad in the grand scheme of things. I spent the day feeling a bit old and worn out and very, very, tired. We did lots of insect sorting though and put a great deal of things away into new storage so I was super productive despite that fact that thinking made my brain hurt. When I got home I curled up on the sofa and listened to my copy of 'Anasi Boys' by Neil Gaimen which I have just purchased as an Audible book. I did a bit more knitting on my sock and stroked the kittens who where in a funny mood and couldn't decide whether they wanted to sleep on us or just near us. The husband got the chance to watch most of two different football games which made him super happy but not as happy as I was when I finally crawled back into my bed at about 9:30.

The Verrall Supper

So, now we are up to Wednesday.
Wednesday evening was spent attending the Verrall Supper at Imperial College in London which is the one night of the year when entomologists come together from all over the country and have a real good piss up under the name of 'formal dinner'. The only problem is that we normally leave from work to attend this event so I either have to put on my formal wear and go into work wearing it in the morning or carry a ton of stuff into work with me. On this occasion I chose to wear the dress but take the straightening irons into work as the alarm clock went off at 6 and there was no way I'd have enough time to pretty myself up otherwise. So I put on my yellow dress and sensible flat shoes and packed the high heels and make-up into a bag. Upon arrival to work I then had to straighten and put my hair up in a complicated twist- I must admit to feeling a right twit when the cleaner walked in to find me in formal wear at 8 in the morning. I then had to flounce round the department all day trying to pretend that this was what I normally wore. We had a visitor in for his first visit to the department and I answered the door in a cocktail dress and pashmina. I have no idea what he must have thought.
Anyway, we left around 3 and met others on the bus which made me feel better as there was now 5 of us looking foolish together. We had a nice journey into London and upon arrival there I had the chance to do my make-up and make final adjustments to the outfit so that at 6:30 I walked out of the ladies loos looking fresh faced and properly attired for a formal dinner.
I met other friends there, drank far too much red wine and although I don't think I managed to do anything silly as a consequence I did feel crap the next day. It was deserved.
I got home at about 1:30 on Thursday and sneaked into bed in an attempt not to wake the husband up in the knowledge that the alarm was going off at 6 the next morning. So all was well up until that point and then Thursday struck...

The name is Mortimer

Aaah! Such a busy week. I have been run ragged over the last three days and no mistake, so now I shall have to put all my posts on at once. Firstly we shall step back in time three days to last Tuesday (insert shimmery effect here) when work was overflowing with visitors and I was getting a workout from trotting up and down the length of the department and hopping up and down stairs.
I started extra early and put a bunch of stuff out in the new displays (which are starting to look super pimp by the way and I hope everyone shall be dropping by to visit them at some point) and then had to field visitors for the rest of the day. Come 5 I was supposed to be rushing out of the door and to my knitting group but decided to wait on the husband instead who had a doctors appointment. It turns out that he has blocked tear ducts in one of his eyelids which is why it looks a bit lumpy. One assumes its because they don't flush through properly i.e. because he doesn't cry enough (at least that was where my logic took me) but despite my best offers he declined to let me provoke lachryma by means of blunt force. Big wuss that he is.
So anyway, I hung round the department to await him which gave me a chance to pick up the stitches from my provisional cast on for my black socks which are knitted toe up. This is the first time that I have attempted to knit them this way and although a little fiddly I found the method easy enough. I just wish that I hadn't chosen black wool to try this with for the first time as it makes the stitches almost impossible to see. Well, I got the fiddly bit out of the way just as the husband made it back to work to collect the car and I managed to blag a lift to knitting so I turned up in time to get a pimp seat and have some leek and potato soup that was yummy though a little lacking in seasoning.
I then had to leave knitting early to get to the theatre in town as we where going out to see a production of Terry Pratchett's book 'Mort' thanks to a kindly friend who pointed out that it was on. Now I would have been on time for this had the husband not told me that I was completely wrong in thinking that the entrance was where I thought it was and instead provided me with instructions on how to get to what turned out to be the back of the theatre. After hanging around for a few minutes I thought 'bugger this' and went a bought sweets. After finding the front (which was where I thought it was) and our friends (who had the all important ticket) I then had to spend 20 mins worriedly pacing up and down looking for the other half as he was late. REALLY late. They had just threatened to shut the doors on me and I was making a last desperate bid to leave the ticket on the front desk when he bowled through the doors, puffing like a steam engine as he'd just run half way across the city. We then had to rush through to our seats, seconds before the lights went down and fill up on skittles for dinner. The play was surprisingly good. I hadn't really been sure what to expect as Pratchett adaptations are hard to do because of all the scene changes but the script was well written, sympathetic to the story with all the important bits left in and most of the good jokes. The acting was good enough to evoke laughs but not quite fluid enough to say that it was brilliant. But it was as student production and all things considered they did bloody well. The only thing that made me wince a bit was the crap props- and I don't mean ones that where constrained by budget as that's understandable. I'm talking about the ones where it was lack of care and attention to detail. If they had taken a little more time, or had someone with a little more skill doing the props then it wouldn't have been so bad but as it was I think that they where lacking that person in their troupe and had concentrated on other things.
But I really enjoyed it and was very glad that I got out of the house for once. We had to do a mad dash back so that I could prep for a formal dinner I was going to the next day but that's Wednesdays story...

Monday, 3 March 2008

To Gloucester and back

After having failed to find anything interesting to talk about last week I have a rather busy and fun week ahead of me and so shall be overflowing with stories by Friday. Today looks as though it will be rather calm however- its a sort of run up day so that I can get stuck in to the rest of the week with vim and vigour. Work should be relatively restful so I have time to attack the paperwork and then this evening I have to dust off the posh frock and shoes ready for Wednesday when I have a formal dinner to go to in London. I also have plans to finish the second sock tonight which will please me no end as it means that I will then have finished the husbands socks which is pretty good in itself but also means that I can start the next pair which look as though they are going to be very exciting to knit and the pattern is a toe up one (not tried it that way before).
Anyway, yesterday heralded the start of my exciting week with a trip to Gloucester to see my Nana. I took her two enormous bunches of flowers that where full of roses and lilies and may have been a little excessively large in retrospect. We did microwave training and had what turned out to be a lovely lunch of cottage pie (we love you M&S). Nana is recovering well after her fall though her leg is still a bit stiff and sore and she has to hobble to get around so she is not allowed to do any cooking that involves carrying hots pans etc around. So the family has got her a microwave and instructed her that she is to only eat food that can be cooked in it but she keeps forgetting how to use it or that she has ever used it in the first place. Repeated use will soon solve that problem however. I spent a very pleasant afternoon chatting about various things whilst doing a spot of knitting and then nipped back home in the car. It's only about an hour and a quarter away which makes it an easy enough drive and only one person really tried to kill me (when I rule the world driving tests will made much more difficult and you will have to resit it every few years so as to keep complete bloody idiots off of the road) so I consider it a success all round really. I just wish I had more time to go over and see her as it gets a bit lonely being stuck in the house with a broken hip all the time. I did have to give up cleaning the house in exchange (and I was devastated by this as I'm sure you'll understand) for visiting but I've decided not to worry about it at the moment. The house will just have to stay mucky as I have a busy week ahead of me now and no time to clean. As a quickie solution to this I shall be wearing blinkers all week but it will make for more interesting stories than 'tales of cleaning the bathroom' I'm sure.