Monday, February 23, 2015

Winter is finite

     As I pick my way through mounds of snow and treacherous black ice, it's hard to believe that I'll probably be in the garden within a month. At least, that's when my garden plan has me planting peas, lettuce, and spinach. In the meantime, the first sprouts are growing under my bedroom grow light.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Snow tires

     Today I learned how to make DIY snow chains, a skill I wish I had not needed to learn. I blithely headed to church this morning, because we had only had about four inches of snow yesterday and the roads looked clear. When I pulled into the church parking lot, though, I discovered that it had not been plowed. In fact, church had been cancelled. I'm from the Midwest, and this weather didn't seem that bad, so it hadn't even occurred to me to check if  there would still be a service. Unfortunately, the parking lot is on a steep gradient, and you have to drive uphill to get out. While I could get in, I couldn't get out.
     A quick phone call to my father, who is not only an engineer but also lived in Minnesota for many years, yielded useful suggestions. I didn't have any gravel or sand to spread under my tires, and I couldn't walk anywhere to get some. I could shovel away some of the snow from the tires, and I could jury-rig my own snow chains. My wheel rim has holes in it, so I could tightly wind rope around the wheels to provide additional traction. After I tied the ropes on the back tires, a helpful bystander drove up and noted that the ropes needed to be on the front tires, since my car is front-wheel drive. (Of course I should have known this.) So I repeated the whole procedure, and eventually got the car out of the parking lot, about an hour after I drove in.
     Afterward, my father asked if it was worth doing it myself instead of calling a tow truck. My provisional answer is: yes, if the grease stains come out my clothes. DIY car repair is messy work.

Friday, February 20, 2015


Tomorrow I'll find out if I've bitten off more than I can chew. A friend of mine has started holding "Sewing Days". She sets up an ironing beard, clears off her kitchen table, and brings in extension cords. Several friends come over with our sewing machines and we all work on our own sewing projects in comfortable companionship.
Since I finished my trousers last month, I was looking for a new project, preferably one that to use some extra wool fabric. I'm still a novice seamstress, having only completed two projects. Both of the projects have perhaps been more challenging than necessary, because I didn't use regular patterns. I like vintage clothing, and actual vintage patterns are (a) extremely expensive, (b) rare, and (c) not the same size as modern people are, so I tend to rely on other methods. The apron I made using instructions from a vintage pamphlet and the trousers were based on an old pair that I ripped apart and copied.
This time, I bought a "pattern" which is really a set of instructions to draft your own pattern. That means that they give you a tiny scale drawing and you expand it, based on your measurements. This is a bit tricky. It is made harder by the fact that I've never made a skirt before. And I've never used this scaling system. And the directions are from Australia, so everything is in centimeters. Oh, and the book was originally from France, so the pattern has a smattering of French instructions.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Royal Teeth

I a bit disappointed in my new temporary crown. I knew that after my root canal, they'd cap my tooth first with a temporary crown, then with a permanent crown. “Crown” sounds impressive, so I figured it probably wouldn't be gold, but it might be ceramic or metal. So a temporary crown sounds like it should be something like steel or aluminum, right? Sadly, it's just acrylic. That means they spread on some plastic goop and then baked it on with an ultraviolet light.

The only good thing I have to say about this crown is that it doesn't hurt, so I will have no problem eating my delicious pancakes for dinner, for tonight is Pancake Tuesday.  

Thursday, February 12, 2015


     That's a sigh of relief you hear from me, way over here in DC. I just got back from Seattle, where I ran two conferences in a row. I work various conferences throughout the year, but at least once a year there is "my" conference. While there are a lot of people involved, I have the most responsibility for this one. And in 2015, we decided to have a bonus conference right after the first, so it's been a busy week.
     When you're in charge of the conference, it means that you really need to be there the whole time anything is going on. Between talks, workshops, planning breakfasts, and late-night poster sessions, I worked some long days. And if you do the math, you will discover that you can, in fact, get 8 hours of sleep and work 15 hours in a day, as long as you only need 30 minutes to get ready and 30 minutes to completely decompress and fall asleep. Running conferences plays to some of my strengths: I am someone who can develop a schedule and follow it, even when time is scheduled in two-minute increments.
    Now I am home and enjoying luxuries: a short 8-hour working day, the company of my cat and dog, and food that did not come from a restaurant. I am not enjoying quite as much my damp bed, because the ceiling has sprung a leak. But in that case, I can count my lucky stars that I am a renter right now and not a homeowner.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Sewing class 102

    And... it's the great unveiling of my second sewing project. I used a pair of old pants I already owned as a pattern, so I didn't have to adjust the fit at all. My mother helped me a great deal during my winter vacation, and I finished them last week. I'm quite pleased with the fabric I chose, since it's a wool blend that is washable. However, I hadn't considered that wool (warning: physics ahead) is a material that likes to give up its electrons, easily becoming positively charged, especially during the winter. A charged cloth is very good at picking up spare cat and dog hair. In fact, I may quit vacuuming my apartment, and just start vacuuming these pants after I wear them.