Friday, July 31, 2015

Summer Reading, Part 2

In which my time was just not my own this month....

1.  The Martian, Andy Weir - I first heard about the Martian (not surprisingly) on Books on the Nightstand, but it wasn't long before it was getting major buzz from just about every book source I am aware of.  On Father's Day our family went to see Jurassic World, and were treated to the trailer for the upcoming movie adaptation.  My oldest leaned to me and told me she really wanted to see it.  I told her that it was originally a book, and that I'd heard lots of good things about it.  Would she want to read the book first and then see the movie together?  YES!  It's a really fun book, and I have to say that it's one of the few book to movie adaptations that I'm truly excited about.  Weir has written a math and science heavy love letter to the human spirit and to the power of creativity and problem solving.  I couldn't put it down!  (I was interested in the accuracy of the math and science, and to my delight there's info in the back of the book about that.  This guy is no slouch.)  The story about how this book came into being is just as awesome.  Can't wait to talk about it with my girl.  (She devoured it in less than three days at the end of the month!)

2.  Uprooted, Naomi Novik (audio) - Interestingly enough, this was a very recent BOTNS audiobook of the week recommendation.  They don't tend to talk about fantasy that often, so it made my ears perk up.  I immediately went to my library's app, and to my delight it was available.  I now want to read everything Novik has ever written.  It was amazing...a grown-up sort of fairy tale based on Eastern European folk traditions.  The audio took a bit of time to get into because the reader had an accent that my untrained ears want to place as Polish/Slovakian of sorts, but once I adjusted I found that it added a lot to the authenticity of the story.  It was original, it was well-written, and it was immensely satisfying!  (I bought a hardback copy to keep!)

3.  The Bone Doll's Twin, Lynn Flewelling - Flewelling was perhaps my last great bookstore find before I switched to ebooks.  (I used to have a knack for finding new authors....to my disappointment, the current cover art trends are so offputting to me that I have trouble now...)  I adore her, and this particular trilogy is one of my all-time favorite series.  The first time around, though, I started reading before the series was completed, and had to wait for a ridiculously long time for the last book.  In deciding what to read next, and in looking through old favorites, it was clear that not only did I want to reread these beloved books, but that I also really wanted the opportunity to read them straight through.  And so I started....I cannot even begin to say how much I love this book!

4.  The Awakened Mage, Karen Miller (audio) - And having made it through the awful final chapter of The Innocent Mage, it was time to face this book.  I had forgotten that I'd actually read a little bit into it.  Truth?  I couldn't finish, and I just can't quite put my finger on what the problem is.  I was way into listening, but I hit a point where I wanted to suddenly stop and skim ahead through the book.  I did, and none of it surprised me, and I never went back to the audio.  The best answer I have as to why these books aren't working is that there is a certain joylessness to them.  or maybe a lack of humor?  or maybe they're just too darn depressing.  This is not to say that fantasy books should always have happy endings or be light and sweet....I read plenty of fantasy that is dark and has lots of horrible things in it...but this is something else entirely.  Sigh.   I think trying twice is enough.

5.  Tattoos On The Heart, Father Gregory Boyle - I'd been meaning to read this for quite some time, and finally checked it out from the library.   (I prefer to borrow nonfiction from the library as I usually won't reread it.)  Father Boyle has been credited for helping to reduce significantly gang violence in Los Angeles through his work with Homeboy Industries.  I sobbed my way through the book, which is part memoir and part a lesson on what Christianity should be.  (Just a taste - Christianity is messy, and it should be about love and compassion - and not about judgement.)  Father Boyle is someone who's made a huge difference in this world by living his faith fully, and he's very much someone I admire deeply.  Imagine what a different world we would live in if more of us followed his example.  I'll be buying a copy for myself, and I imagine I will reference it often.

6.  Armada, Ernest Cline (Audio) - This is the newest release from the author of Ready Player One, which is a book that I forced my husband to read because I knew he would love it as much as I did - if not more because he would actually get the pop culture references.  Truth be told, I'm not sure why I like these books so much.  I've never been a gamer, nor have I been the sort of pop culture nerd that Cline is writing for, so you would think I'd have a hard time relating.  Nevertheless, I do enjoy them.  (Might have something to do with the fact that I'm married to a gamer nerd.)  Armada is not quite as good as Ready Player One, but it was still a lot of fun...if sometimes highly predictable.  Of course, part of my enjoyment is due to the fact that Will Wheaten provides the audio narration.  No, he's not the best reader in the world....but he is pretty much the most perfect reader for these specific books, bringing a refreshing enthusiasm and a natural enjoyment of the work to them.

7.  Shades in Shadow: An Inheritance Triptych, N.K. Jemisin - I love Jemisin's Inheritance trilogy, and was delighted to find this collection of short stories based on that world.  Such a beautiful collection.  It's a nice way to tide me over until Jemisin's next book is released. 

8.  Points of Departure: Liavek Stories, Patricia C. Wrede and Pamela Dean - I adore both of these women and their wonderful writing, and had preordered this book without really knowing what it was about.  I was a tad bummed to find that it was short stories (I'm usually smarter than this...) but then was delighted when I started reading the stories.  It turns out that Liavek is a world that was created by a group of writing friends as a place to play in, and Wrede and Dean decided to publish their works from this world together in this book.  I absolutely loved it!  The stories very much remind me of Greek mythology, although they truly aren't.  I may have to track down more Liavek stories. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Le Tour De NO

My grand plans to participate in the 2015 Le Tour de Fleece fell through.
Rats. 
 
The first major obstacle was that weird reaction I had to spinning the wool/angora blend.  I have to admit, that was extremely upsetting.  Still, I had intended to give it a few days and then test the fiber again to see if it was truly responsible for the headache and itchy hands.  Unfortunately, the weather was against me.  We had a lot of damp conditions that week which led to very high mold counts.  Mold is, as you know, one of my major allergy problems, and I struggled that week with a variety of symptoms that broke through despite everything I do to manage my allergies.  If I had tested the fiber again that week, the results would have been tainted by those problems, so I knew it was going to have to wait.* 
 
Time was my other enemy.  We've been very, very busy, and I left partway into the Tour to teach at SPEC.  (Check it out....it's an amazing experience!)  As I had met another staff member in my dorm last year who had brought her Lendrum spinning wheel, I had fully intended to take either my wheel or a drop spindle with me.  In the end, though, I just didn't have the space in my car.  As it would turn out, though, I didn't have much leisure time anyway.  I barely touched my journal, my knitting, or my books.  It was a crazy busy week. 
 
So no Tour for me this year.  I'm more than a little bit disappointed, but it is what it is.
 
Here's hoping that August is better for spinning!
 
*I'm going to test the fiber again next month.  August is usually pretty good for me allergy-wise, but once we pass into the fall all bets are off...so I need to get it done asap.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Wrinkle In The Plan

 Le Tour de France started yesterday...and so did Le Tour de Fleece.
 
My plan was to spin a little bit each and every day, with no particular goals in mind as to what I wanted to accomplish.  It's been a while since my wheel and I spent any time together, and the point was mostly just to get reacquainted.
 
First...the good news.
 
I happened to check the Ravelry forums page, which I don't do all that often.  To my surprise, there were a few new responses in the Lendrum group to my questions about my wobbly wheel.  To my delight two new people reported having the same problem and told me about a new Ravelry Lendrum group that actually had a discussion about said problem with info directly from Lendrum about how to fix it.  (The original group met me with a lot of incredulity that anyone could have a problem with a precious, precious Lendrum and more than a little bit of annoyance that I was saying anything negative about the brand.) 
 
So I toodled on over to the new group, only to find out that wobbly wheels are way more common than one would think.  They tend to be related to the jumbo plying head - about half of Lendrum users love them and the other half hate them, which is news to me.  It makes sense.  If I remember correctly, my problems initially developed after plying a huge batch and I've always fought that plying head a bit. 
 
The long and the short of it is that I am doing everything right to fix it, and it may just need to be periodically messed with.  I'm not crazy about this...and I'm not sure I entirely trust the wheel...but I feel a million times better knowing it's a known glitch, knowing that others have to deal with it, and knowing that it's something that I can work with it.  I might still call Lendrum at some point, but this is a huge weight off of my shoulders.
 
With all that settled, I decided to use my wheel to start making a dent in that pile of fiber that was pictured on top of the dresser in my last post.  It's lovely stuff - a fine fleece from a friend in my guild mixed with giant angora.  (Wish I knew actual percentages...I remember what I paid for the fleece, but it's been so long ago I can't remember if it was $7/lb for 5 lbs or $5/lb for 7 lbs.  Not to mention the fact that it was just a giant bucket of rabbit wool...never stopped to weigh it....whoops!)  Suffice it to say that there is a LOT of it.
 
The first thing I noticed is that it didn't feel as soft and lovely to work with as I thought it would be.  I remembered when that fiber came home...it was like touching a cloud...and this was actually kind of coarse and scratchy.

I should have had a clue then.
 
Two hours later I had a raging headache, my hands were super itchy, and a wave of exhaustion had crashed down over me.
 
Uh oh.
 
Yeah...I'm thinking allergic reaction.
 
The alpaca problem started with a funky smell, and then progressed to some confusion over why this stuff, which my memory told me felt like a cloud, was so darn rough and coarse.  It's now so bad that I don't dare go into yarn shops anymore because it'll hit my lungs in just a few minutes.  Scary stuff.
 
To have this problem with wool...that would truly be devastating.
 
So, I'm taking today off from the wheel, and tomorrow will turn my attention to something like silk, which has little to no chance of causing a problem.  In a few days I'll try this fiber again to see if I have a reaction.  If not, yay!  It was a fluke.  If so, damn.  Some decisions are going to have to be made.
 
I have some ideas floating around.  I'd noticed the funky smell with the wool from my parents' sheep, and this wool shares the fact that it was also raised locally.  It's entirely possible it's an issue with being locally raised amongst all of the pollens and molds that make me sick.  I've never noticed a single problem spinning more commercially prepared stuff.  Problem is, that could trigger a full blown wool allergy if I'm not careful.
 
Sigh.
 
Trying really hard not to be upset about this.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Le Tour

 I've come to a decision.
 I'm going to participate in the 2015 le Tour de Fleece.
The fun starts tomorrow....

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lucky

 The blog may have been quiet lately, but my hands have been busy!
 
In mid-May I started this lovely Estonian piece from Haapsalu Ratt.  In my efforts to use up the stash, I chose a lovely batch of 6 skeins Knit Picks Shadow in Opal Heather.  It can be tricky to estimate yarn amounts with lace sometimes, especially given that it's the one type of knitting where the knitter's preference for look and feel matter more than actual gauge.
 
When I had first ordered the yarn, I had only ordered 4 skeins.  I was fairly sure that I would like it, and 1,760 yards is more than enough for a nice shawl.  When it arrived, though, I realized that I didn't just like it...I LOVED it!  So I ordered two more skeins.
 
Now, I shouldn't have been surprised when the yarn arrived and I discovered that the dye lot of the two new skeins did not match up with the four original skeins.  I briefly considered exchanging it all, but ultimately was too lazy decided that it would be ok somehow.
 Now, I'm a pretty smart lace knitter, and after a little bit of messing around with the pattern and yarn I realized that the original four skeins were just the right amount to do the center and the two newer skeins were just the right amount to do the border.  Problem solved!  Even if they were just a wee bit different it wouldn't matter.
 
So I started knitting....
 
...and today I hit the halfway point in the center.  Yay!
 
Which is when I realized that in a recent stash reorganization I'd managed to screw up whatever plan I'd had to keep the two dye lots separate....umm....and I'd tossed the tags from the first two skeins I had used...which I'd wound one at a time...and now I had two different dye lots with two skeins each....and...umm...there was no way to tell which one matched the yarn already used.
 
Sigh.
 
It's one of the dumber things my little knitter brain has done.
 
A 50/50 chance of getting it right is NOT good enough when it potentially means finishing and blocking a shawl before you notice a possible difference in the dye lot colors.  (If you are lucky, there isn't a problem, but dye lots do vary, and I've seen a lot of finished projects that have a weird, sometimes slight, sometimes not so slight color change.)
 
I was relatively sure I remembered which was which, but I wasn't quite ready to commit.
 
But then I had an idea....
 And I pulled the book off of my shelf and started flipping through....
and got really, really darn lucky.
Crisis averted!