Watch it

I seem to have spent the entire last week spectating one event or another. I started out by watching the Yankees trounce the Mariners on Friday night.
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It was rewarding to finally see the Yankees put some runs on the board and get a win, in a game that included some fancy baserunning by the Captain, a clean outing for Andy Pettitte, and an opposite field double by Jason Giambi (I know the last one is hard to believe, but it did happen).

I spent the rest of the weekend in Massachusetts meeting friends and going to parties of all sorts. I could have gone to Minds Eye Yarns out in Porter Square before attending a pottery painting wedding shower, but elected to stick around Somerville for their Memorial Day Parade instead.
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In addition to marching bands, local politicians and veterans, the Somerville parade also features re-enactors of just about every war since the Revolution and a very healthy contingent of Shriners. I know that the Shriners do very, very good work, but I have never seen so many forms of miniaturized transportation in one place in my life.

Finally, I watched people lining up to watch Manhattanhenge:
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I missed getting to see how things lined up at sunset though, because I was heading north, and Central Park blocks the view.

Unfortunately, one of the things that I *wasn’t* watching was what I was doing. I was so happy that I had finished knitting my second February Baby Sweater after knitting group that I didn’t really look too closely before washing it. If I had, I might have noticed a pretty crucial flaw:
One of these things is not like the others...
I couldn’t get the sleeves to block out evenly because one sleeve is a lace repeat longer than the other. Did I mention that I didn’t realize this until the sweater was sopping wet? I had to wait a day for it to dry out before I could rip back and fix things (although I was sorely tempted to make a go at it when the sweater was merely damp), but now that I have, I’m feeling much better about the whole project. I still think it’s a darling little sweater, and if I had more babies in my life right now, I’d definitely be knitting even more of these.

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Thinking Cap

Yes. I did go there.
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I spent last weekend back at MIT for the annual MIT Mystery Hunt, a multi-day puzzle solving extravaganza that’s a traditional part of the Independent Activities Period. I’ve been doing the hunt since I was an undergrad, and for the past several years I’ve been playing with a team that’s based in Simmons Hall, an undergrad dormitory.

Overall, I had fun, because I was doing the Mystery Hunt, and the Mystery Hunt is fun. This year’s Hunt was one of the more difficult ones in recent memory, which was a bit frustrating and tiring at first for this casual puzzle-solver, but I do realize that I’m not really the target audience here so that doesn’t really matter. Besides, once I got past some Friday-afternoon issues with our team spreadsheets and more puzzles got released, I felt much happier and more like I could contribute something. I also was able to get plenty of rest over the course of the Hunt. Once it became clear that things weren’t going to end in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I felt free to go and get a full night’s sleep, as dictated by the T’s schedule.

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The crew who organized our team did a very good job of going around and making sure people were having a good time/weren’t getting too frustrated/got the help they needed/were coordinating with our remote solvers, which also helped matters greatly. I enjoy being on a team that has a high percentage of undergrads, because you can always count on them to keep the enthusiasm level up. They’re also much more likely to play along and humor you when you’ve reached the tinfoil hat phase of the Hunt (for example: “OK, we have these 6 possibilities that are longshots, but might be right, maybe. We don’t want to annoy the organizers too much by repeatedly calling them in ourselves. Will you call this in in 20 minutes, and sound extra cute and innocent?” “Sure!”). I’m also glad that I didn’t quash their enthusiasm and veto the idea of calling strangers in various places for the puzzle Nationwide Hunt, even though I was very sure that no puzzle could ever work like that. I would never have been able to work up the nerve for that. Our usual strategy tends to be to collect as many metapuzzles as we can during the Hunt, but we amended that goal to simply solving puzzles and having fun. All in all, we held together pretty well, solving 41 or 42 of some 129 puzzles, and one metapuzzle.

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I’m grateful to Palindrome, the constructing team for putting in so much effort into creating all those puzzles. The plot of the Hunt seemed interesting, although it did get lost in the deluge of puzzles. I might have liked a bit more interaction with the organizing team, but I do understand that they were a small group and had to deal with a lot of stuff on the fly. I also thought that a number of the puzzles might have been a bit more enjoyable with one or two fewer steps, but again, I’m just a casual solver, and overall I had a good time. There were too many neat ideas to name all of them, really. They even had a knitting-themed puzzle as part of the first round (link to follow if I remember when the puzzles get made public). As a Jersey girl and a chemist, I also found the Turnpike Black Book meta puzzle adorable. Finally, congratulations to everyone on the Evil Midnight Bombers What Bomb at Midnight, the team that brought the Hunt to a close by finding the coin on Sunday night. I’m really looking forward to what they’re going to put together for next year.

My weekend didn’t just involve theoretical, puzzle-based knitting. Since I knew it was going to be Seriously Cold over the weekend, I decided to knit up Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Unoriginal Hat. I didn’t have any of the original yarn used, or the original size of needle used, so I substituted 3 strands of Dream in Color Classy in Blue Lagoon on size 11 needles. I started on the bus to Boston, and ignoring the little voice in my head that was telling me that this hat looked awfully big, plowed on until I was nearly finished. When I finally finished it up on Friday afternoon, I realized that it was indeed too big for me. However, as the temperature dropped going into Saturday and Sunday, I also realized that I didn’t care. I was wearing every piece of outerwear that I had access to on my way back and forth from the T to Simmons.

This is the final version of the hat:
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I decided that the major problem that I had with it was its height, and that if I could fix that, I’d be more likely to wear it when I wasn’t desperate for warmth. So as soon as I got onto the bus for my return trip, I ripped it all out and started again. My row gauge was such that I thought that the hat would be just about right if I took out the bottom half of the first repeat of the cable pattern, so that’s what I tried doing. As the bus pulled in to the Port Authority, I finished the last set of decreases and knew for sure that I had made the correct decision. This was one of the first projects that I felt a twinge of regret about ripping out (a very unusual sensation for me. I usually find ripping something out to be very satisfying), but in the end I’m glad that I did. Even though I got plenty of nice comments about the original version, the new hat is a lot more comfortable to wear, and tends to stay on my head better. Plus it gave me plenty of extra practice cabling without a cable needle. I can also see why this pattern has become so popular. I didn’t think of myself as a hat person, but it’s such a fun knit, with its chunky yarn and big, plush cables. There’s a good chance that I’ll be making a bunch more of these.

Better on holiday

I really like to have something on the needles while traveling, but the current security procedures add a lot of uncertainty to that. So last year I picked up a set of short Bryspun double-pointed needles, figuring that they’d be so harmless looking that I wouldn’t be asked to ditch them by the TSA. It was a successful gamble, and last year I managed to finish half of a pair of socks, between a trip to England and a trip out to Chicagoland (which sounds an awful lot like a theme-park, but isn’t). After that, I’d put the project aside, because I much prefer magic loop, or even 2 circular needles to dpns. My family’s trip to Disney World last weekend turned out to be a perfect opportunity to pick my traveling socks back up again.

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For symmetry’s sake, I decided to take a sock picture outside of the British Pavillion at Epcot Center. It’s really amazing what they do with forced perspective to make the buildings look realistic (both here and on other rides throughout the park).

As an aside, the yardage on the Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport is insane. I have average-sized feet, and I got one entire sock (with an 8″ cuff) and about an inch past the heel turn on a second one, in this feather-and-fan pattern that I’m using. With a shorter cuff, it looks like I can get two socks comfortably out of one skein. I also love how fast it is to knit with sport-weight. If I hadn’t botched the toe twice on the plane on the way down, I’d be well past the heel turn, having only worked on the sock sporadically for 5 days.

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Of course, I could have gotten more knitting done had I not spent so much time on the various roller coasters like Expedition: Everest. We went to the animal park on a chilly, overcast day, so the crowds were fairly minimal, and when I went in the single-rider line, I managed to ride that one twice in a row with no waiting whatsoever. It was hard not to get jaded about lines, actually–the longest posted wait we went for was 40 minutes, and the waits were never quite as long as what they posted. Plus, the weather was warm, which is much more than could be said for the Northeast (we weren’t the only ones who went south to avoid the cold).

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The other bonus to going to Disney early in December was that we got to see the Christmas decorations there for the first time. There were plenty of whimsical touches all throughout the parks.

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They also extended the fireworks shows, by several minutes in some cases. At Epcot, they even added a segment narrated by Walter Cronkite.

We also loved the trees that they set up in the parks and at the hotels. The one in the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella’s Castle looked especially pretty at night.

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But the nicest part of the trip was definitely getting to spend the extra time with my family. It can be hard to get away, but it’s so worth it.

Eye Candy Friday: Butterfly Bush

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This wasn’t an actual Butterfly Bush, but the next best thing: a grouping of lantana plants at Longwood Gardens that was positively swarming with swallowtails.

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There were some monarch butterflies in the gardens, but they were way outnumbered by swallowtail butterflies, at least on the Flower Garden Walk. That may have been related to the types of plantings they had there, which were very heavy on the lantana (the garden walk is arranged by color, and they seem to come in every color imaginable).

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And finally, on a lantana across the pathway from the others, there was a really gorgeous black swallowtail.

The Out-of-Towner

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I have a bit of a confession: I am a serious overpacker. When I went on my trip to Longwood Gardens last weekend, I brought a sweater to finish as well as the sock that I generally carry in my purse (I did leave the yarn to cast on new socks with at home, though). I’ve been sort of ignoring the socks lately, just knitting a row here and there, and mostly focusing on the sweater (which also fit into my enormous purse). Sometimes this overpacking trait all works out, though. If I hadn’t been dragging my Reunion Sock (the current traveling project) around with me everywhere, I wouldn’t have been able to take a picture of it, in all of its drooping elm leaf lace-y glory, with a real live elm tree I came across at Longwood Gardens.

The red chiffon tied around the tree is part of an art exhibit they had going on around the grounds. It’s supposed to symbolize the tree’s indomitable will to survive Dutch Elm disease, or something along those lines. I may be exaggerating a little bit, but the prose on the signs about the art was seriously flowery (they wrapped red chiffon around a metal contraption used to prop up heavy branches on a tree and called it a testament to human ingenuity).

When we got to Longwood Gardens, the first thing we did was to go make a beeline for the Waterlily Garden in between the two main Conservatories:
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I especially get a kick out of the miniature waterlilies sprouting from the center of lilypads:
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After that, we took a break to have some peach cobbler, and then toured the rest of the greenhouses, before falling into a bit of a sugar coma.

We watched the main fountain show:
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Everything seems to sort of come to a halt around the gardens while the fountains are running. It’s actually a really good time to walk around the conservatories without having a lot of crowds around, or to beat the line at the cafeteria.

We walked up the hill to see the bell tower, waterfall and rock garden:
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Then we went to see the Italian Water Garden:
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That one is a bit of a hike from the entrance and the conservatories, but it’s worth it.

I took a ton of photos, and I think that I have Eye Candy Friday fodder for the next 5 years or so. Not surprisingly, the flowers attracted a lot of butterflies and other insects. I spent some time watching a bumblebee collecting nectar in one flowerbed. We saw some honeybees at work along with the bumblebees, which was kind of a comforting sight.

It rained pretty much all day on Sunday, but luckily that didn’t affect our trip to see a traveling exhibit of WWII bombers at a local airport. They had a B25, a B17 Flying Fortress and a B24 Liberator, all restored to working condition.
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This exhibit was of special interest because my grandfather was a navigator in the Army Air Corps, and the B24 was what he flew in. Even though I didn’t have any real knowledge of where the navigator would sit before going through the plane, I was lucky enough to get a picture of the navigator’s position:
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After taking a walking tour of the B24 and the B17, I have even more respect now for the servicemen who flew those planes than I did before. Those planes were not easy to get in and out of (especially the B17, which had some very tight corners and was higher off the ground than the B24 seemed to be), with a lot of very small spaces, narrow walkways, and low doors. I was actually a little nervous about falling out of the bomb bay of the B17, but I maintained my footing.

During all the driving from place to place this weekend, I found the time to finish my Wicked sweater. I tried taking some pictures of it, but it was a rainy day, so they didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. I’ll give it another shot when it’s sunny out, if it’s ever sunny again.

Yankees at Orioles 6/27/07

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We’ve secretly replaced their New York Yankees with the Staten Island Yankees. Let’s see if anyone can tell the difference.

You know how usually, even if your team has a pretty bad game, you can console yourself by telling yourself that a bad day at the ballpark is often better than a good day at work? That doesn’t work so well when it’s 97 degrees out when the game starts. When the two Yankee fans in front of you end up running down to tend to an unconscious old man in the upper box seats while they wait for the EMTs to arrive, you just know that you’re in for it.

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Handing in lineup cards

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Roger Clemens was the starting pitcher for the Yankees, and he was no match for Bedard, who I believe leads the league in strikeouts. In fact, we saw Clemens’ first game in which he went 6 innings without recording a strikeout in many, many years.
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He was doing OK for several innings–he worked into and out of trouble, but by the end, it was becoming painfully obvious that he didn’t have anything left in the tank. The trainer even came out to the mound at one point, but even so, nobody in the bullpen stood up. This would prove to be Joe’s fatal mistake–in trying to get Roger his 350th win, he left him in way too long–with the way the Yankees were batting, an RBI single followed by a 3 run home run were enough to do the job. I can’t blame him for tiring out, because it was so miserable out, but I do blame Torre for not pulling him in time.

Oh well. As bad as the evening was from a team-performance perspective, at least we got to watch Mariano pitch. We have to take what we can get, right?
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Another thing sort of marred the evening for us. When you go to watch your team in another ballpark, you don’t expect the fans of that team to greet you as liberators, but you do expect civility from the organization that was happy to charge you a premium for your seats at the game and to collect your money for food and beverages throughout the night. On an individual level, a number of people who worked for the O’s were absolutely lovely, especially the lady at the souvenir stand who gave me one of her own supply of pencils so I could use my scorecard. However that courtesy didn’t extend to the folks running the scoreboard and PA system–playing a recording of “New York, New York” interrupted by a record scratch after (yet another) half inning in which the Yankees didn’t do much offensively was just the icing on the cake. For the most part, the fans of both teams were polite to one another and got along OK–it was management that was the problem. If that’s how they like to treat paying customers, then I don’t really have any desire to be one ever again.

Overall, though, despite ending on a down note, it was a good trip to Baltimore. My father got to help fold up the “post” flag at Fort McHenry after some rough weather on the horizon caused them to exchange it for the “storm” flag, and we also made a trip to the St. Jude Shrine downtown.
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I’m still working on my Razor Cami, and I’m finally at the point where I’ll have to divide for the front and back. I really can’t wait for it to be ready–I’m so looking forward to wearing it!

Another traveling sock

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After I collected myself from my sprint to make the train to Boston last Thursday, I cast on for my new set of traveling socks. I wanted to do something simpler than the Gothic Spire socks, and something toe-up, because so far I do like the short-row heel the best. I made a lot of good progress on the train (it’s amazing how fast having an extra .5 mm in needle diameter makes the knitting go!), and continued on and off throughout my 5-year college reunion.

I’m still not sure how I managed to get any knitting in during the reunion, but over the weekend, I managed to get to the point where I turned the heel. Of course, I also took time to take a tour on “enemy turf”:
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Spend an afternoon at my class’ “Field Day”:
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which also gave me the opportunity to be a “dizzy bat” referee/participant catcher…

Watch them fully light the Great Dome for the first time in 30 years or so:
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And just generally see a ton of my old friends and have a wonderful time.

As you can guess from my first photo, I also took my socks to a Diamondbacks-Yankees game this week.
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Chien-Ming Wang wasn’t brilliant, but he was more than good enough, lasting 7 innings and only giving up a solo home run. Brandon Webb didn’t fare so well–the majority of the scoring happened in the first inning, where an error was followed by a single by Jeter, which was followed up by a 3-run homer by Bobby Abreu. To top it all off, Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless 9th inning, and sure looked like he’s back to being the Mo of old:
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A good time was clearly had by all:
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Finally, here’s a closeup of the toe of the socks. I’m using Fleece Artist Sea Wool in Parrot from my latest The Loopy Ewe on 2.5 mm Addi Lace needles. Before I headed out, I copied and charted out the Drooping Elm Leaf pattern from Barbara Walker’s First Treasury. I had to use a “figure 8” toe-up cast-on because I forgot how to do the Magic Cast On, and it seems to have worked out.
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