Sunday, November 8, 2009

Or maybe Burger King will be hiring, instead.

I failed without even failing. I ramped my stress level up as high as it would go (not intentionally, never intentionally). I began each week with a headache that was bordering on migraine. I passed all my midterms with flying colors. And I screamed the paint off the walls every day, studying until I couldn't process anything anymore.

Clearly I was not made for this.

There were many problems with this major for me:
1. It was super-brand-new. I've never taken Chemistry, not even in high school. But my professors all assume that I have taken something like their class before. Except for my Chinese professor, ironically.
2. I'm not as smart as I wish I was.
3. My normal stress level is so high that only dogs can hear it. I am NEVER not worried about something. Throw three classes I've never had experience with into the mix, and you've got someone having Chernobyl-like breakdowns with admirable regularity.
4. One shot, one kill. I had one chance to apply for this program, and if I didn't make it, then the two years I'd already spent in school would be all for absolutely nothing.

I'm always plotting, scheming, looking for my next move, as if life is a rock wall, and I'm eternally searching for the next handhold. My Plan B was a long progression of options that stretched on into the horizon. There are no easy outs, nothing really looks any more appealing than anything else, and it was starting to come down between community college and trying to get my PhD.

Yes. Community college. Or a PhD. Right. Sort of like saying, "I'm either going to eat a bowl of potato salad or stick my arm down this badger hole." You can't really compare the two.

So I went crawling back to the liberal arts like a chastised dog. I went straight to the head of the History department and told him I'm considering applying for grad school. If I have to teach, it had better be about something I KNOW I can talk about at length. I really do enjoy History, even more than English. I like all the crazy little facts. I really enjoy proving to people that there was no such thing as "the good old days." I love writing papers, and I miss searching things out in the library. Will I enjoy being a teacher? Who knows? Apparently it's what life wants me to do. I'm not good at doing anything BUT going to school as a liberal arts major. And if I'm gonna do it, I might as well do it all. So in a few years I can tell my manager at McDonald's that no, I don't remember how to work a cash register, but would they mind putting "Dr. K" on my nametag?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Freshman redux.

I'm not posting about vacation because it was...overwhelming. It served its purpose, but there was one day where we slept 13 hours straight because we were so worn out, days that are a total blur for one reason or another, and stories that still need to be confirmed by actual eye witnesses. Then we came home, and it was as if I was dumped into someone else's life. I had so much to take care of and so much bad crap poured on me that I spent the next two weeks afraid to leave the house for fear of just One More Bad Thing occurring

I seem to have left most of the bad stuff behind (even if the aftershocks will be felt for a couple more months/years) and I started school on Wednesday. College is college, there's much that hasn't changed. I'm still wondering which syllabus I'll lose first. Books are still more expensive than most surgeries. But when I was in school the first time cell phones were rare. Now everyone has them, and the minutes before class are spent furiously texting. CD players have been replaced with iPods. Mercifully, all my syllabi are online, so I don't have to make copies at the library like I used to. I didn't realize the leaps technology has made until yesterday.

My homework is all online, which isn't entirely new to me. But my B.A. is Sociology. Lots of lectures, discussions, and papers. Now I'm in the hard sciences, which I take with a little more pride and a lot more electronic obligation. My professors will post homework on the website in advance, but all this does is make me feel like I'm going to miss something, like I should be refreshing the school website with the same frantic regularity as my Facebook page. At my first college my huge lecture classes came with three or four TAs and very little homework. Now there are fewer TAs and buckets of work along with the courses. Or so it seems. How would I even know? I can't remember the type of work my Engineer major friends were doing, or how often they actually had to turn in homework assignments. I can't even remember the sort of work required for my first math class in college, which was more about solving puzzles than actual applications of algebra.

Underneath the feelings of dread over my classes, I'm also really excited. The other day someone told me that with my major I will have no trouble finding a job. They said this without sarcasm, without precluding their statement with "What are you going to do with that, teach?" I still have to explain what my major is about, but my explanations are met with appreciative nods rather than snarky chuckles. My history teacher today actually said, "Where are my poor people, my liberal arts majors?" and I nearly died from relief over not having raise my hand to put myself in that category.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

You don't need a knife to clean a blue crab.

I finished the project of DOOM, and instead of feeling relieved, I feel drained. I snipped the last few ends, and then felt so wiped out I didn't even want to click the mouse button on my laptop. I'm not as pleased as I would like to be with this project. It seemed like a really good way to find out what I'm bad at, rather than a display of what I'd like to think I do well.

One way or the other, it's done. And now I have to figure out what's going on for our vacation. I looked at websites for Charleston a couple months ago, but there don't seem to be many resources for finding things to do there. In my mind it was always a fairly major city, maybe not exactly big, but certainly important. But maybe that's just because my mom went there when I was seven or eight years old and LOVED it. Or maybe it's because I've read Gone With the Wind forty-seven times. Either way, my parents seem to have a handle on things, so I think I'm going to let them just take the reins and lead me. My main goals are to have mimosas and get some seafood (one of the few things I miss about living in North Carolina is the seafood).

Richmond will take care of itself, since that's S's hometown. But Boston is giving me problems like Charleston. I normally have an idea of things I want to do when we go on vacation. In Italy we had to see the Vatican museums and I couldn't resist a day trip to Florence, and in Athens you obviously have to go to the Acropolis. But I'm at a loss for things do in American cities that aren't NY. I have ideas of things I'd like to see happen, like having a beer in an Irish pub, or sitting on the grass in Boston Common. There's so much history with the city that I KNOW I should be trying to figure out at least a couple historical spots to check out. But I also kind of like the idea of just walking around and seeing what happens. S is such a ridiculous joy to travel with because he's so easygoing, and often just picking a direction and following it works out really well for us. It was how we found the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain without even trying. It was also how we wandered into that military history museum, which would have been boring in English, but was nearly excruciating in Italian, but I take everything as an adventure on vacation. Who even knows what's going to happen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

It's not the Guadalupe, it's the Styx.

I underestimated the Hell that this place can be. We moved from a tropical rain forest climate that wreaked havoc on my skin, to a desert climate that is so oppressively hot I feel like my bones are breaking when I walk outside. We do have seasons, and no they aren't Summer 1 and Summer 2 like all the uber cynics here tell us. By October of last year S and I were stepping outside and squealing with glee over the fact that the mercury had gone below 75 degrees. Now the temperature regularly hovers around 105, which I hate with all my being. There's no point in going outside. It's too hot to live. Every day around 6:30 PM I find myself aimlessly wandering in the kitchen for no reason that I can come up with. Then I spot the pitcher of peach iced tea that has become standard fare in our fridge, and I realize that if I don't drink something you'll be able to make croutons out of my dry skin (ugh, there's some powerfully awful imagery for you). I guzzle a huge glass of tea, and immediately I feel better, even though I didn't think I was feeling all that bad to begin with. The dryness of living in a desert climate totally sneaks up on you.

In about three weeks (I'm not paying attention to the calendar, I'm on vacation.) we'll be in Boston, where the temperature is currently a delightful 71 to our obscene 101. I plan on packing all my handknit socks and my new Mary Janes so I can show them off. I told S to remember to pack his sweatshirt, to which he replied, "We both know I'm not going to remember that." I'm sending some things ahead of me to my parents' house (the wedding present of DOOM is too bulky to pack in a suitcase and still have room for my things), so I suppose his sweatshirt will be included in the box. I'm knitting a shrug, because I can't seem to ever finish an entire sweater, so I'm assuming finishing just the sleeves will be easier. It's Malabrigo, which equals aw skeet, skeet in the knitting world. This is the kind of yarn that I buy just because I can, not because I have a use for it. It's actually too pretty to knit. And this particular colorway I'm using is brown, which is boring, but sometimes looks a little purple, has slight hints of blue, and at one point appeared to be green. Color me stoked. It will be done in time for our vacation.

I finished spinning around 4 ounces of merino, which was also plied, and the twist was set, and it's now drying in my room. That all translates to: I made a functional skein of yarn that you could actually make a socially acceptable, completely useful scarf with if you were so inclined to do so, and I did it with a bunch of wool that wasn't spun yet. From the age of 23 on I have managed to surprise the hell out of myself with what I am able to do. I still have to work on the DOOM (pictures up after it has been given to the intended recipients), which isn't really making me very happy, but I did my best. Then I have a pair of socks on the needles (yellow, because I have about thirty yellow shirts, and no socks to match), and I have some roving given to me by friends for my birthday. Always exciting.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

spin spin sugar

First attempt yarn vomit. You can't really tell how crazy this stuff gets, but the super thick part is a really good indication of how bad it looks. It's thick and thin, and this is not what you're looking for. I think this was romney, but I really can't remember. It'll be stored in a plastic bag so whenever I inevitably have a day where nothing is doing what I want it to do I can look at this and remember where I started.

Number two. The penny is just so you can get an idea of the consistency, which is pretty...consistent. This is falkland, which was so nice and soft that I wanted to sit and pet it like a cat. It's furry. I love it. And it was so much easier than the first attempt that I started feeling super brave. Seriously, I kept stopping just to look at how nice this is all turning out. I'm super pleased.
I'm not done with all the falkland (it's AMAZING how much yarn you get from a pound of wool), but I got this merino in the mail, and hopped on it right away. And I was full of hate for it. The fibers are shorter, so it kept breaking, and at some point it broke and wrapped around the bobbin, and I couldn't find the end. I had to cut the yarn to get a new end, which made me go to my happy place and just chalk it up to a learning experience. My consistency isn't as good here, but it still really doesn't look bad. I'm not terribly crazy about the color. I think this will be my plied yarn experiment, too.
In non-fiber news, today is my fourth anniversary, which is a big 'ol yay. I have my stupid math final today (go figure), but I can get a thirty and still make a B, so I'm not worried about it. S and I have no plans, and tomorrow is my birthday, which is a little like having your birthday around Xmas in terms of S buying presents, and we never know what to get each other anyway. But it's still ultimate happiness to wake up to a hot sweaty guy trying to smother you with hugs under the down comforter in the middle of July muttering, "Happy four years, Woman!" at 5AM. Really.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When the zombie apocalypse comes, I'll spin yarn for sweaters.

A box from Ashford came today, which was pretty exciting. My first birthday present of the year, from New Zealand, no less!

All assembly required. They make the parts, and you get a nice Ikea-esque instruction manual, no words, just pictures. I expected this, though, and with my newly civilianized schedule, I had all afternoon to work.

The cats were just hoping this meant we ordered them a new box to play in.

A couple billion hours later, most of which were spent trying to figure out how to get the hole lined up in the handle for the wheel pin (answer: turn the wheel around), I had an Ashford Traditional wheel. Very exciting! I've been eyeballing wheels since last November, and been looking forward to getting this for months, ever since my mom asked me if I would use a wheel if they got one for me. And now, here it is, all the pieces are in order, everything is where it should be, I have practically a whole sheep in my knitting room waiting to be spun...

So I went to the library. I went to the store. I called my mom. I played a computer game. I ate dinner. I checked the snail mail. The wheel might as well have been a cactus. I walked around it. I sat down in front of it. I pushed the treadle a little. I got up. There was a spider I had trapped under a glass that I wanted to show S (I'm a little like a cat, I find these gross, creepy things and I save them for him until he comes home). I swear this thing had fangs that were so big you could have milked it like a rattlesnake. Instead of spinning, I slid a piece of cardboard under the glass and took the spider outside to be free. What is wrong with me?!? I hate spiders! The only reason I didn't immediately obliterate that one was because it was too freakishly buck-toothed not to show at least one other person. I stopped just short of doing my math homework. I had to face this thing. Just sit down and spin. People do this every day, they have been for hundreds, thousands of years.

So I gathered my supplies and my courage, and I started. Well, I kind of started. The yarn wouldn't go on the bobbin. I fiddled, I twisted, I pulled, I turned, I talked to the wheel. Didn't help. I sat back and asked myself what would Brian Boitano do? I went online. All the stuff they suggested was stuff I'd already messed with. What was I doing wrong? I thought about getting some ice cream. I thought about getting a rum and coke. I changed my search criteria on google. And BAM, there it was. Too much twist in your wool. Too much twist, the bobbin won't take it up, and you'll sit there accumulating twist in your wool until the tension creates a black hole in the universe and we all blink out of existence. It's not good for anyone. Once I got past that, I made this:

It's a yarn-like substance. I wouldn't knit with that. It's kind of ugly, there's no consistency in size, and it keeps breaking in places. But it's okay, because it's got twist, it's on the bobbin, it's wool, and I FREAKING MADE YARN. Sort of.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Aw fleece fleece.

Pictured above is two pounds of corriedale roving for spinning. This is a corriedale:

And this is me at my first and only attempt at spinning on a wheel back in November.

Yesterday I got a text message from my mom saying a spinning wheel is on its way for my birthday. Hooray! I'm pretty stoked. The corriedale came early, and it's keeping a pound of falkland company on the bottom of my yarn shelves. I tried the drop spindle thing, which was all right, but not really yielding the same results you can get with a wheel. Part of the problem is that my inital attempts at spinning on a drop spindle were with cotton, which has a really short fiber compared to wool (Yes, I'm geeking out on fiber talk.). My second attempts were with something like romney, which is easier, but not as easy as lambswool, which didn't have the natural lanolin washed out of it. It was kind of sticky...actually very sticky, which not only made me feel like I was spinning with honey, but made the spinning process much easier. The fibers tend to want to stay together, so it's harder to break your lead.
Yes, I've come to accept the fact that I'm a severe yarn geek. We all have our addictions.
So I've fairly conquered knitting (the title of this blog came from a compliment I got from a random British woman when she found out that I taught myself how to knit). I still don't do lace, and I have yet to finish a sweater, but it's mostly because I'm an avid sock-maker, and a knitter could spend the rest of their lives making nothing but socks and never get bored. Now it's time to see if I can make yarn, actual yarn, yarn that can be made into other, useful objects.