Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why I don't recommend Air Jamaica

The flight went. No modifier in that sentence, but I'm home. They boarded us when they said they would (at 6pm rather than 5pm), but then we sat on the plane for half an hour or so before they announced that we would be stopping in St Lucia for fuel. Oh, and because of strong headwinds the flight would take 30-40 minutes longer than usual. People were *pissed* because we were already running pretty late, and because they announced it on the plane rather than in the waiting area where we might have been able to contact folks back in the states that we would be even later. Another half hour went by and we started hearing luggage scraping underneath. I asked the woman by the window, "Oh my goodness, are they still loading luggage??" and she looked. "No, honey, they aren't loading luggage, they are unloading luggage." The captain got on the intercom and told us the story: the Grenada runway is too short for the plane to take off with a full load of passengers, a full cargo of luggage, AND a full tank of fuel, that's why we were going to stop in St Lucia (please don't get me started on the question of why this seemingly obvious issue hadn't caused a change in plane selection and/or schedules before that day). However, the mechanics had filled the fuel tank to the brim, and apparently you can't really take fuel back out. But you can remove luggage! (By my account after watching the number of people lined up to report missing luggage at JFK, at least 75% of the luggage was removed)

In addition to the frustration of being late, not knowing if/when we'd see our luggage, and being crowded into the smallest seats possible, we also had to worry if the plane was going to take off - did they remove enough luggage for us to lift up? The take off was the most silent I'd ever experienced. No one was talking. Babies were even quiet. As we taxied to the runway, I laced my fingers together in my lap and made peace with myself - everyone in my life knows I love them. My only concern was that some of the people I love might not hear about my demise should the plane go down, but I figured that word would get to everyone eventually. Maybe I should make a phone chain?

Suffice to say, despite the very rough, very steep take off, we did indeed make it into the air, we did indeed make it to New York without running out of fuel, and they did indeed neglect to leave my luggage on the plane. My camera battery and adaptor are therefore still somewhere other than here, and all of the beautiful pictures will have to wait for another day. The island was much more beautiful than the trip home, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


After a lifetime in the states, it takes some work to remember what it means to unwind, slow down, and spend an entire day in relaxation.

The trip to the airport was uneventful, and rather beautiful as the sun rose over the city.
So many thanks to Brant and SQ for waking up at the crack of dark to send me off. SQ was sad to see me go, even laying on my clothes as I tried to pack, but Brant made no attempt to hide his smiles as he hugged me goodbye.

Arrived safely, albeit a bit crushed.
A very happy Sa greeted me, and whisked me to her place for real food (vegetarian meals don't really exist on Air Jamaica). We then dashed off to meet some medical student friends for a ride to a nearby town Fish Fry, but in true Grenadan fashion the bus driver was at first just late, and then a complete no-show. So we gave up and settled for pizza and wine in a local cafe.

In case you don't know where Grenada is, this might help. Venezuela is 9 miles in this direction:

We didn't do absolutely nothing during my first day, but close to it. The market was an experience, but it remains unphotographed by yours truly as it didn't feel appropriate to document people living their lives as if they were specimens in a museum. Sa gave me a tour of her little town, as well as a sense of perspective on many things Grenadan. The rest of the day was spent either reading, napping, knitting, or chatting. On the beach or in the breezes of her abode. As I believe this will be the schedule for the ensuing days, I'll save pictures of that for another day.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Birthday holiday

I'm proud to say that I have single-handedly established the practice of birthday holidays at work. Maybe not for the entire company, but at least for our lab. It just doesn't seem right to work on your birthday.

As such, I was off last Thursday for a trip to NYC. It had been a while as home responsibilities have been taking up so much of my time. When I arrived, the day was so beautiful that I decided to eschew the subway (it's underground) and walk everywhere. This decision was greeted with a beautiful plays of light on buildings that I've never seen before:
lights on wall
lights on corner
I also enjoy observing how New Yorkers honor the season in their concrete jungle:
xmas in chelsea
Mostly it was a day of wandering. Had a lovely lunch on a patio, chai at a cafe, and window shopping.

I concluded my day with the unavoidable trip to The Tree
rock tree
(and decided that I can now avoid going up there again for another 5 or 6 years.)

And that was my day. It's official. I'm older.
me at 31b

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

In the light of a dying sun

My left hand is challenged. We've upgrade to "challenged" from a number of other curses and insults over the past few days.

I've decided to try two-color knitting, as it's the last big knitting technique I have yet to take a stab (ha! knitting pun) at. I bought this pattern the last time I placed an order with knit picks, as it seemed like a pretty simple place to start - plus with the variegated yarn as the second color, it should end up looking much more complicated and lovely than I really deserve credit for.

I had the forethought to give two-color knitting a go first with a simple hat project, no pattern, just cast on some stitches and alternate colors. (it's cold here, and a double thick hat sounds great right about now) Of course, I didn't start by reading about two-color knitting, I didn't even start on a flat swatch, or with a simple set of needles, or even with a small repeating section. Nope, 70 stitches on two circular needles (I didn't have a 16" circ needle of the right size), with clingy unforgiving wool. Oh, and I've never even tried to knit continental before. After ripping and restarting three times, I decided that maybe I should take advantage of the internet.

Ahhhhh. My intuitive little technique was a bit of overkill. That was the problem.

With this little bit of schooling I sat myself on the back stoop, in the dying sun of a wistful late fall afternoon. I picked up the sock and went at it like we should cruise along smoothly. Cabling and lace had come so easily, surely I had the tools necessary to master this latest technique.

Unfortunately, every knitting thing I've done up until now has relied almost solely on my right hand. The left hand just sits there holding the needle, sometimes guiding an errant stitch back onto the needle. But it turns out that Mr. Lefty has been getting jealous. He's been watching that right hand steal the show, and when given the opportunity, he was a bit too helpful. Think of the awkward chubby little ballerina who tries to upstage the graceful lead dancer. The left hand and I had some conversations. They mostly went something like this:
Me: Stop moving. Just stay right there until Right Hand moves the needle toward you.
Left hand: (drops yarn)
Me: Damnit! I said don't move! (replaces yarn)
Left hand: (drops yarn)
Me: Argh! (throws needles on steps)

It's been a couple days, and the conversations have continued. I can't say that my left hand is getting anywhere close to adequate, but we're improving.

two color sock
notice the change in tension? see how it's all poofy right under the brown ribbing, down through the blue part? that was Sunday. further down where it's tighter? that was Monday.

I have mixed feelings about this sock. I know the appropriate thing to do is to frog back to the start of the two-color section and start over, now that my guage is improving (though it still varies considerably, from section to section, and depending on how well my left hand listens to me). But A) I don't really like the colors, they're much more contrasty than anything I ever wear; B) the pattern is boring, and although a good exercise to practice on, it's kind of like going to a piano recital to listen to someone play scales all night; C) I like having a record of my improvements; and D) there are so many other great two-color patterns I'd like to try (see this, or this, or even something I design myself). I am capable of ripping and reknitting something that is desperately wrong or that I really care about (Brant's x-mas socks took three restarts to get the guage and size right for his foot), but this sock is a sock. If it's a bit goosey in some sections, they might work themselves out, or they might not. I need the practice, so I'll push forward, but I'm totally fine with wearing the wonkiest sock ever knit.

In evidence of my capabilities in other things knitting:
maslowski mitts
Maslowki gifts.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Now my dog and my living room floor match my hair

The living room floor has been an archeology dig into bad-taste. We started by ripping out the raspberry synthetic carpet.
Beneath this we were greeted with - look closely - shag carpet-print lineoleum .
floor - lino

But one more layer down...
floor - wood + lino
Ahhhh. Beautiful 100-year old hardwood floors. Well, soft wood to be accurate, but beautiful old boards nevertheless.

After removing all of the carpet, padding, and lino I swept, vacuumed, swept and vacuumed. Then I rubbed the floor down with a gentle wood cleaner. And that's when it became clear: the previous owners were complete wackos. Apparently, at one point, the POs wanted to paint the wood brown but I guess they didn't want to first lift up their area rug. So they just painted around the rug. So instead of a pock-marked and slightly worn 100-year old wood floor, I had a 10x10 foot square of pock-marked and slightly worn 100-year old wood floor, surrounded by a 2-foot-wide border of paint. If the whole thing had been painted, hell, I'd just paint it a new color. If the whole thing had been stained, I'd have re-stained it. But when only 30% of it was painted...?

As with so many things in home improvement, this took much longer than I'd hoped. But never fear, I had assistance:
floor - wood+lbr
Scraping paint is about as much fun as it sounds, even if it's "only" the two foot border. Let me say that I highly recommend toxic chemicals. I'm normally a gentle-on-the-earth sort of girl, but not for paint removal. I couldn't rent a sander because the floor was too uneven, so I had to do each board individually with a hand sander. The stain is being absorbed differentially due to the different treatments over the years, so I've had to do several coats of stain to even it out. And finally, the soft wood is splintery, so I've had to lay down many coats of sealant to protect wayward bare feet (any injury would probably be mine - I'm perpetually barefoot, though I'm learning).

But in the end, I think it has been worth it. Photos don't do it justice. You'll have to come visit.
finished lr floor

Monday, December 04, 2006

Kid crafting

In honor of my goddaughter's 3rd birthday, a picture book for you:









(I know it takes the fun out of it when you can't play with the finger puppets)