Friday, December 19, 2008

Crunch time and the formation of new traditions

Every year, I get knitter's delirium and forget that there are only so many days in December before Yule, Christmas, and Chanukah. I've done a little better this year, making washies for several people I know and love and giving those with fancy soaps. I like fancy soaps and I can give them every year! Whee! Also, the people at Tennessee Gourmet are no less than wonderful. You should buy their stuff. I sent some gifts from there, but the shipping was crazy whoa, so I called them. Their gal, Sue, not only got my order down from $140-something to $102-something, but her follow-up email made me feel like a real live person instead of just an order number. Thanks, Sue!

Anyhow, I'm short by three or four gifts at this point and there's no way I'm going to get something handmade for those people at this point. There's just too much to do between now and then. Fortunately, we're going out into the world today and have pennies enough that we'll be fine.

So, John, Iris, and I have been a family for more than seven years and I'm not sure why, but we never managed to form holiday traditions of our own. I've been content to participate in the traditions of others and happy that I've made Yule part of my annual winter holiday thing, but the three of us didn't really have anything that was just for us. I thought of traditions as something that kind gradually form over time, but this year, we made a conscious decision to have family breakfast, just us, on Christmas morning. While the day of our Yuletide family breakfast may need to be fluid to allow for participation in other things and for work schedules, that time is just for us. It's something to build on and make our own.

Another new thing is Chanukah with my sister-in-law. Iris was introduced to Chanukah through John's parents, but they don't really have a big to-do at any of the holidays and have since become Mormons. I don't pretend to understand Mother of John, so I'm just going to go with it. Stepdad of John seems to just go along to get along. He's got a California surfer dude vibe to him... probably because he used to surf in California. Anyhow, my SIL is whatcha call a Jewish American Redneck and I love her so much. She asked us if we would be staying in East TN for longer than just for Christmas since Chanukah overlaps both Christmas and Yule this year and she wanted to know if she should hold back a few gifts for Iris for the days of Chanukah we'd be there. Iris is so excited about celebrating all the holidays (except for Kwanzaa, she says), but we never get around to Chanukah.

We'll have a tree and presents and lights for Yule, a tree and presents and lights and pancakes for Christmas, and latkes and presents and lights for Chanukah.
Happy Holidays, y'all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Clicky and close

Here lately, I've had a bazillion things running through my head like each one is one of those is a stock ticker with the latest update, only there are so many stock tickers that you can't see the newscast. There are several things I'm working on finishing and each time I manage to move past one of them, I clicky and close one of those tickers. I think you might be able to see Tom Brokaw's eyeballs now.

One of those things was a map and presentation for my ArcGIS class. I finished the project, it was fabulous, it was beautiful, and now I'm done. I finished the rough draft for my proposal, but haven't edited it yet. I finished my Seminar class, a pair of socks, lots of washcloths, and I've almost finished sewing one Yulemas present.

One of the bigger things I recently finished was a length of weaving that I absolutely had to have done before Yule. The weaving is done and I cut it in two yesterday so that I could sew the two pieces together. Cutting it made me a little lightheaded, but I had to and I did it. The most amazing thing about this project was that I could not have done it alone. I had help from Dear Husband, Kadollan, Bubbo's Pants on Ravlery, Peaceful Pastures, Matt and Jaime at Wooly Knob Fiber Mill, and even little Iris. She helped me ply some of the yarn I used. Thank you, all of you, and thanks to the nice woman that sold me the loom. I definitely could not have done it without her.

Every yard of yarn used in this (approximately) four yards by 23 inches of fabric was handspun by somebody. I spun all the warp threads, but the cool funky colored stuff was graciously donated by Andey and the pinky red was a trade with bittlerely on Ravelry for spinning the most lovely batt. I almost kept it, it was so pretty. There's only one that was a handspun in my stash that I don't know the origin of.

I am so pleased with this. I can't tell you how happy I am with the fabric. I made lots of mistakes along the way, but hopefully have learned from them so that next time I weave, I'll do even better.

Here's a random side note that is almost completely unrelated to everything I've posted about so far. Iris asked me to braid her hair the other day with one on each side, leaving mostly down hair, according to her instructions. She ended up looking like Elrond's great great great granddaughter. So cute.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dear and darling readers,
Please pardon me while I fall off the face of the planet for a while. My brain is full. Dear God, my brain is so full.
I'm not doing NaNo, but I'm poking at my story about Elves
The Holidays... 'nuff said.
I have another thing I'm working on that's kind of huge for me
Then there's school.

Dearest wodentoad? You're one o' them - unless you're one of a something I didn't mention. You tell me which one you are, 'cause (in theory) you'd know better than me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everyone needs a washcloth...almost

I've been making a metric f***ton of washcloths for the season of gift-giving. With Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Pagans, agnostics, and a Deist in my family, it gets complicated. I don't mind having an excuse to give pressies to my family members and friends and such and it doesn't really matter what you call it. Anyhow, I was going to take a picture or several pictures or something, but I must needs charge some batteries first.
I knit during my Seminar class wherein we sit and discuss some controversy in biology for about an hour, twice a week. I'm the only one there that knits and it seems that my fellow graduate students are just fascinated by the whole thing. One girl, Leslie, came in late and whispered to the person next to her:
"What is she making?"
"A washcloth."
"Another one?"
Of all the topics we've discussed in this class, the male reproductive organ and my knitting have been the most consistent.
In weaving news, I have more than two yards woven. Since this was the absolute minimum that I needed, I feel like I can breathe a little. I've got more than two to go yet still, but it's nice to have that first two yards done. Right now, my spinning is just barely keeping up with the weaving, but still keeping up. I just finished setting the twist on two hanks of alpaca and I've started some lovely and rilly rilly soft llama.
I'm considering making a scarf for the president-elect later on out of the llama. 'Cause he needs a llama scarf. You know 'cause I told you.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Once I speculated that we might someday, in the future, when I was older, maybe elect a president who wasn't a white male. I thought we'd grown and changed as a nation. I believed in us and I believed that we were more than black and white. I was told that it wouldn't happen. Not in my parents' lifetime, not in my child's lifetime, but it happened last night. I believe that it is the power of optimism, of humility, of the willingness to work hard that won this. This is huge.
The best part, according to exit polls, "Race really wasn't that big a factor."

I am proud of us.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled knitblog.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Many of my dear friends are doing NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month, for the uninitiated - and I am not. I'm in grad school and it would not only be irresponsible of me to do that, but I would crack. Someone would put me in a hug-me jacket and off I'd go to the land of padded rooms and one way observation mirrors.
So I've decided to declare this National Proposal Writing Month so I can get this over and done with. I've already started writing, so I have a jump on my NaNo brethren and sistren. Except I'm totally lame and have only 637 words, including a page of references. Many of them are really big words, but even still...
Also, as a defense mechanism, I'm working on my own fiction story. I'm not doing it in any NaNo capacity. I just want to write this story a little here and a little there 'cause it makes me happy.

In fibery news, I've hurt my wrists weaving. On the one hand (ha) I've got over a yard of fabric in three days, on the other hand, ow. It hurt to spread peanut butter. I seem to be recovering and plan on weaving for shorter amounts of time so this doesn't happen again.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I hope you enjoyed reading about my Adventures in Peru. Now it's back to your regularly scheduled knitblog.

Except that today it's weaving. I finally finished warping my loom and am now able to weave on it. I find that I like weaving twill more than tabby, but I haven't done much more than that yet. There are six treadles (those are the pedals to make the yarns go up and down), but I only know how to use four at a time. I'm not terribly concerned about it yet, though eventually, I'll want to make more interesting patterns. Considering that when I got said loom, I started with parts and not even all the parts and some that had to be replaced, I'm exceedingly pleased and tickled and happy and joyful that I now have a working loom. The fabric I'm weaving was meant to be rather wider than it is, but I didn't correctly calculate how many threads I'd need and ended up about 14" short. I think I'll just go with it and not worry too much about it.

I'm using 100% handspun yarn, most of it my own handspun, but some from Andey on Ravelry and at least one that is definitely handspun, but I don't know the source. I also put in it the first yarn I ever spun. I thought it appropriate to use for my first weaving on a big loom. The bumps and slubs of the handspun yarn makes the fabric just beautiful. I just love how it looks.

This last weekend was the fiber festival here in the 'Boro and because I have this 100% handspun weaving project, I went on a holy quest for fiber. I came back with three bags full. I got one fleece from a sheep named Sophia, some purple something, and some grey something that I'm going to ply with the purple. We watched a sheep shearing, had some apple cider, and did not agree to help a farmer with his nature trail in exchange for wool. A good time was had by all (except the cutie little sheep who seemed mildly annoyed).

Oh - I do have a bit of knitting to show. These are socks I made for little one out of Tofutsies I bought for my birthday. The picture isn't very good because she absolutely could not wait any longer to put them on and I haven't had the chance to take another picture of them. I finished weaving in the ends on one and she put it on her foot while waiting for me to weave in the ends on the other one. I think this is a definite sign that she likes them. I'm also knitting a pair of socks for Kadollan's little man in a dudely green color and I finished one fine gauge washcloth in a blue mercerized cotton and one Warshrag ala Mason-Dixon Knitting. I don't have pictures of everything yet, but I have now made a whole stack of cotton washcloths for gift-giving purposes.

I long for a cardigan...

Speaking of which, the time to finish my ManSweater is NOW. It's frikkin' cold outside.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Adventures: Day 11 & 12

Sept. 12
There wasn't supposed to be a "Day 11" but there was. No breakfast. I ate a granola bar and some cranberries, but I wouldn't call that "breakfast" exactly. We went to the Airport to try and find a Delta representative - no luck. We were "very helpfully" directed to a travel agent who booked us a flight and wanted an insane amount of money in cash. A. We didn't have that much in cash B. Couldn't get that much in cash and C. Wouldn't give him that much cash, even if we could. It was something crazy like $5K. We were booked on an airline we'd never heard of that had a two bag per person policy. I'd like to note for the record that three traveling scientists will probably have more than two bags each. "No problem" says the travel agent. Just to be sure, we checked with airport information to see if the airline was real. It was...unfortunately.

While Andy went to downtown Lima to find a Delta representative, Josh and I entered locality data for some of our study species. No lunch. It's a tedious job, but it helped get my mind off of the fact that I missed my baby so much. When he returned, there was bad news. We would not be flying home on Delta because their flights were all screwed up by Hurricane Ike. We don't like Ike. So, off we went to the Lima airport, again. We went to check in and not only did we have too many bags, but we had to make sure they were each under the weight limit. There was cursing and juggling around of items and bags, but we eventually managed. Nobody was happy. No dinner. Also, no knitting. Apparently, I can knit on the flight *to* Peru, but not *from* Peru. I was not happy.

Having checked in with some time to go before our flight, we go to eat. At this point, I'm in the shaky blood sugar dropping no coordination stage of having had nothing but a granola bar and some cranberries early in the morning. We go to the food court and have some Peruvian fast food, including an Inca Kola. This stuff is really sweet and it's a good thing, too. As I sucked it down, Andy says "You're like a hummingbird!" True facts. I have a metabolism like whoa. Twenty minutes later, I feel much better, but I'm not quite in the place where I believe I'm going home.

Eventually, we made our way to the gate and I took one last look at souvenirs. There's one shirt that has a cartoon alpaca, Incan dude, and conquistador lined up hip to hip. This was the funniest damn thing I'd seen all week. At this point, I was out of cash, so I didn't buy the shirt. Oh, I wanted it, though. "Perhaps they're conga-dancing..." says I, grinning.
"Yeah...they're 'dancing,'" says Josh. I've never heard him say anything funny before or since, but this made me laugh. I take final peek at the overpriced get it while you can alpaca store, but just for purposes of window shopping. I'm twitchy at this point 'cause I have no knitting. Josh could tell. It was like going through withdrawal. I saw a woman winding yarn into a ball and considered doing something... I'm not sure what, but something. We'd already been through security, but they searched our bags again before we boarded. I'm not sure what that was about, but whatever. I just wanted to go home.

This flight was as awful as the flight to Lima was nice. No beverage, snack, or dinner, unless I wanted to purchase something. No, I did not want to purchase something. No little pillow, no movie, no sleep. I can't sleep in a moving vehicle. At best, I kind of close my eyes and half snooze. I couldn't see the ocean until we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, but at some point during the flight, I finally feel like I'm on the way home. At this point, Day 11 fuzzes into Day 12. We go through customs and as the lady stamps my passport, she says "Welcome home." Never in my life have those words meant more to me. I almost cried, but didn't because I didn't want the guys to think I couldn't handle the tough stuff. I'm of the opinion that crying doesn't mean you can't handle it, but rather that it's okay to have emotions about the tough stuff. In customs, there was this poor stupid man with limes in his bag and a number of other food items. The customs dude tried to explain, "We regulate all of this stuff! No, you can't have this! No!" We re-check our bags and get ready for the next flight. No coffee. Josh bought a pack of gum and shared to get that "God, we've been traveling" taste out of the mouth.

Ft. Lauderdale to Atlanta was a short flight and we ended up on the exact same airplane we'd just flown on. They changed flight attendants and they seemed nicer than the Lima to Ft. Lauderdale crew. The plane was not nearly as full, so that was nice, and because they booked my seat twice, I had to move to a vacant seat. No problem. I picked a row with nobody in it so I could have some time to myself. All the being jerked around for two days, the crap flight, the "Welcome Home," everything, came out at once. I cried quietly almost the entire way.
I sucked it up before we landed and really did start to feel better once in the Atlanta airport.

Collecting our baggage took for God and Ever, but at least there was coffee. I was so happy, I drank it with no sugar. There were giant fire ant sculptures on the ceiling of the baggage claim area and finally, I had my knitting again. I chatted with random woman #3 as we waited and eventually we had our bags and a rental car to drive from Atlanta to Murfreesboro. It was cheaper and quicker to do it this way than to try and book another flight into BNA.
Remember in Cusco, when all they had was a tiny little compact car at the rental place? This was the car we took up and down mountains, around winding gravel mountain roads. In Atlanta, when we would be traveling on paved highway and no more up than Monteagle, all they had at the rental place was an SUV. I was amused. It wasn't the kind of vehicle I'd do any actual mountain driving in, though. This thing was big to be big. It was the epitome of conspicuous consumption and I think it would cry if it got its tires dirty. It was that kind of car.

We stopped a couple of times, once for Taco Bell and once because traveling is rough on the intestines. The Appalachians looked different to me. They were tiny, small little hills, hardly mountains at all. Everything looked different, too big, too much, too wasteful. Damn but aren't we a fat, rich, spoiled country and most of us don't even realize it. I didn't understand myself, really, until we were on our way home. I felt really rich, really fortunate to live in the US, and a little spoiled.

Home. I was finally home. I walk in and the house is clean, dear husband is folding laundry, and dear daughter is so excited, she shuts the door in Andy's face (we opened it again). I had missed her so much that I just hugged her for a very long time. That evening, we went to D&D as usual and I kind of verbally vomited out an account of my trip, distributed gifts, made a first level character, and promptly fell asleep.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Adventures: Day 10

Sept. 11
I'd forgotten completely what day it was and now that I think about it, perhaps our trip home was jinxed somehow. So we got from Cuzco to Lima just fine and had several hours to kill before our flight home. Here's Andy trying to work with Peruvian bureaucracy and failing. Kieth (redheaded English dude who was confused about the sock before) had a projector confiscated, so we were trying to get it back for him. I knit while Andy took care of this and Josh just sat down and people-watched.
Since that was an exercise in fail, we hung out with our friend Gerardo at the Museum of Natural History in Lima. They have this big reproduction alligator (note the sock) and where they found the fossils of this guy, they also found a tortoise shell with a bite mark on the shell that matched his teeth. In the background of picture #2, you can see an artist's interpretation of the 'gator vs. tortoise. They had big whale bones and other such interesting things, too, but I didn't get a picture of those. All of what I saw was outside, which I thought was weird, but they don't get much rain there, so weathering from rain is not much of a problem, I suppose.
There were also a number of interesting plants and trees. The one pictured below was my favorite. It's a coffee tree. If there is ever any tree that should be hugged, it's this one. I love you, coffee tree! I still don't get the thing about instant coffee they have in South America. I mean, they have access to the good stuff, so why drink the crap? Anyhow, it was neat to see a coffee tree with beans on it and banana trees with bananas on. It's like the thrill of going to the farm where your food is grown, except times a thousand. Right after my imaginary fiber tour of South America, there will be an imaginary culinary tour of South America wherein we sample all the wonderful things that grow there. Coca grows there. Whenever I had coca tea with breakfast, I'd get this feeling that I was doing something harmless, but slightly naughty like staying up past my bedtime or having ice cream for breakfast.
Gerardo took us to this fancy place for dinner where we had pisco sours (I had two, which was more than plenty) and really really good food. I tried some ceviche and had some seafood thing for dinner. I was so stuffed and schnockered by the time dinner was done.

I was wearing the happiest sweater ever that I described before, so Gerardo says, "You know your sweater is like the flag of Cusco..."
"I know." says I.
"...which is very similar to the homosexual flag."
"I know." says I.
And then while I looked over the menu, I saw several items with "bruja" in the name. "Do you know what bruja means?" says Gerardo.
"Yes, it means 'witch'" says I.
" means 'witch'" says he.
"I know." says I.

I told this story to dear Husband who then says, "I'm a gay witch in Cuzco, okay?!"
-which is not entirely accurate, but damned funny.

Anyhow, after dinner, we whiff over to the airport only to find that the check-in counter was only open for an hour...which we missed. Our plane was still physically at the airport, but we could not check in. The customer service people tried to explain this to me in Spanish while I am schnockered. I'd like to state for the record that this is not the best way to deliver bad news. Long story short, we were stuck in Lima. So, we got a hotel room. I'd like you to note the heart-shaped headboard and the fact that this picture was taken from a strategically placed mirror - one of many. Classy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In other news

My loom is very nearly up and running. I'm waiting on delivery of a part and I need more yarn - a lot more yarn. The project I'm working on is hand spun yarn only and I have a deadline. ACK! Anyhow, the loom takes up a fair amount of space in the office, but it's totally worth it to me. Dear Husband isn't as sure about it as I am, but we made a deal involving video games, so it's all good.
In other other news, I met Ann and Kay of Mason-Dixon Knitting! How cool is that? They are made of awesome and I want I want their new book. Husband, Daughter, and I all went to the Southern Festival of Books "for his birthday." Yeah, that's it. We were going for his birthday. He caught on pretty quickly, but had a good time anyway. I'd like to go next year just because - whether or not there are any knitting authors there. I keep meaning to link them in the sidebar, but I haven't yet. I generally click on BFF Jill's link and then on her Mason-Dixon Knitting link. Btw, Kade, you totally should blog. Like, seriously. Go now.

Adventures: Day 9

Sept. 10th
I woke up to dear Aunt Flo and insufficient equipment to handle her. I had some, but not nearly enough. Claudia had already gone back home, so it was just me and three guys. Andy's Spanish is quite good, but dude - he's my boss. I can't be asking him to go get supplies for me. Josh doesn't speak Spanish at all and I really don't know Gerardo well enough to ask him to get feminine products for me, so it was all me. I asked for directions to the pharmacy, found out what time it opened, found the pharmacy, and managed to communicate (though not well) what I needed - in Spanish, by myself. WOOT! Victory!
I returned victorious and we soon left for a collecting day.
Or shall I say a not collecting day. We were at about 4,000 meters or so (12,000 feet) and we found a spot that looked promising. After running around for a bit unsuccessfully, it started to hail and rain. And it was cold. Running at 4k meters is not ideal, by the way. So we piled back in the car and drove some more. And then we kept driving. We drove almost all the way to Lake Titicaca (snicker) but not quite. At one point, I say to the guys "Okay, I have to stop now." Not only did I have to pee, but was in danger of leaking. We stop at a gas station and as I go in, Andy says something like "Fortify yourself," as though to suggest that the bathroom might be below my expectations. Actually, it exceeded my expectations. It was a clean hole in the ground.
This was the kind of toilet where you squat to pee. I've been in outhouses more advanced than this, but it was fairly clean and there was a trashcan. The odor of the place wasn't vile, either. I thank the Gods for small favors.
So, we drove back to Cuzco. The countryside was lovely and reminded me of pictures I'd seen of the American West (having never been there myself). We saw flamingos and we considered stopping in this one town where the specialty was cuy. I never did have any cuy while I was there. Maybe next time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

And now, for these commercial messages

So, first I was a little weird about buying shoes online because you like to try them on to see if they fit and so on and so on, but
I frikkin' love these shoes:

I've had mine for about two months and I got a pair for Iris as well. They're no more expensive than a pair of shoes at the shoe store (particularly when they have a good sale Go now.) and they're wicked cute.

Also, I want some of this.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Adventures: Day 8

Sept. 9th
No pictures from today, unfortunately.
It was nice to have a warm shower in the morning after having been on the road for a bit. We had a modest breakfast at the hotel, which was blessedly included with the room. I ate fruit and bread with coca tea and that seemed sufficient. There was no collecting to be done, so we had a day to be tourists. My first stop was Michell for some alpaca yarn. I really wished I'd been able to purchase some from the lady before, but this would have to do. It was clear that they cater to gringos, but I was determined to purchase some nice yarn in the land of many alpacas. I got a kilo of a natural tan colored yarn in a light fingering weight, possibly lace weight, for about S/ 100 - which is 2.2lbs for $30-40 USD.
I split it with kadollan when I got home 'cause I promised her yarn.
We went about town, looking at old Incan walls and shopping. I purchased the happiest sweater ever in rainbow colors, a bag for collecting, and a used bottom whorl spindle that the person tried to pass off as "antique." I only paid S/ 10 for it (about $3), so that was good. Andy bought for me a wee llama finger puppet at lunch. They were adorable and he insisted. That went to kadollan's eldest who has a thing about llamas.
There was dinner and then bed.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Adventures: Day 7

Sept. 8th
We collected some moths on our way to breakfast at the tiny little restaurant in Quincemil. Gringos, it seems, get cheese sandwiches while everyone else gets vertebrae with rice or omelets. It could be that we simply arrived too early, but breakfast was sparse nonetheless. There was instant coffee and Claudia, my roommate, had acquired some bananas, which she shared with us. She's an undergraduate at a university, I forget where, and she has this crazy hat that looks like a sleeping animal on her head.
Anyhow, we loaded up and left after breakfast, stopping to chase butterflies just a couple km outside the town. We didn't find much, probably because it was too early, so when Gerardo and Claudia caught up with us, we moved down the road a bit. There's a picture from this site with me and my net, but I don't have it. I'll post it when I get it, though. The jungle is just gorgeous during the day. There are banana trees and all kinds of interesting plants besides. I recognized the banana trees because they had bananas growing on them. I hadn't seen bananas growing ever before, so I just thought that was the coolest. It would have been awesome to have a plant press, but probably difficult to bring back specimens.
Our second stop was so much fun, I can't even tell you. There were so many butterflies that at one point, I had one that I'd just caught in an envelope I held in my mouth and another in my net. Again, no pictures because we were too busy chasing butterflies.
The third time we stopped, it was because Andy had seen some Heliconius butterflies, his favorite group, and he just couldn't stand it any longer. What he found was a Heliconius and it's mimic in the same place. I promise you that it was a wicked cool find. I didn't catch much at all, but it was kind of fun to watch the guys running around. That's Andy in the 1st picture and on the left in the 2nd picture and Josh on the right in the 2nd picture.
Since we were in the Amazon Basin, there was nowhere to go but up. So, up we went.
We stopped at another site where I managed to snag a couple butterflies - even in the group that our grant is paying us to study! I was kind of excited about that. It was a bit too cool for them, so again, we didn't find much.
About two in the afternoon, we stopped in this one town to try and find a place to stay. Gerardo talks to the children in the town to locate someplace with a couple of rooms where we can stay. They had this wicked statue (I don't have a picture of any of this) of a condor attacking a cow. We were directed to another part of town where there was supposed to be somewhere we could stay. Gerardo went down the hill to investigate, so we waited at the top of the hill. While we waited, we saw a family slaughtering a cow. It was kind of interesting to see. I'll see if I can get Andy's pictures - his are better than mine because he kind of doesn't mind looking like a gringo tourist. Gerardo comes back up the hill, shaking his head. "Not to be recommended." he says, and we move on.

And up we went some more.

...and up some more.

...and after that we went up some more.

I can't very accurately describe how much up this is. It feels like you're at the very top of the whole world and then drive up the mountain. The haze in this picture is not just fog, it's a cloud. It's not even a low cloud.
As you can see, there's not very much here, but there are people and animals living even at these great altitudes. It's not the most robust existence, but they're there.
After a while, it became apparent that Gerardo's truck was not well. He ran out of gas far before he ought to have. At this point, it was beginning to get late and the temperature was dropping. Josh stayed with Gerardo and Claudia while Gerardo's driver, Marcelino, went with Andy and me to get some gas. It was about 55km to the nearest gas station. 55km is a long way as I soon learned. It's an even longer way when half the distance is one lane winding mountain roads with rapidly diminishing daylight and then dark. It must have taken an hour and a half to go from hither to yon and another hour and a half to go back again. I tried to stay awake, I really did, but between the altitude and the fact that I hadn't had a good night's sleep in some time, I ended up kind of awake, but unable to open my eyes for most of the way back.
We all managed to get back to the gas station together and we once again tried to find a place to stay. We once again failed. At least from here, the rest of the road was paved. We kept driving for most of the night and finally found a small hotel in Cuzco so late in the evening that it was beginning to get early. There was talk of getting something to eat, but I was so tired that I faceplanted in the bed and didn't get up until the next morning.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Adventures: Day 6

Sept. 7th
Wherein we start our grand adventure.
We drove and we drove and we drove out on our grand adventure over hill, over dale, etc. etc. across a pretty good cross-section of Peruvian landscape. Our destination was Quincemil. I had no idea where Quincemil was on the map and so contented myself to ride along in the front seat ('cause I get carsick) and take the occasional picture out the window. I couldn't knit, so I just kind of watched the scenery and took pictures.

Anyhow, there was a weird Incan wall...thing. We weren't sure what that was about. I'm just certain that building walls is some sort of compulsive Peruvian thing because the entire country is made out of rocks. You know, more than usual on the surface.

There were a number of "Urban Zones" with big speed bumps, presumably for the Enormous Fuel Trucks of DOOOOooom (more on that later). They use the term "Urban" really loosely. Pictured here is one such "Urban Zone." This one is one of the larger ones. Wherever there stood two buildings and more than one chicken, there was an "Urban Zone" and a dead policeman. No, not an actual dead police officer, a really big speedbump. They're called dead policemen in the vernacular.

We went up the mountains and just when I thought there wasn't any more up to go, we went up some more. You can really feel the change when you go up so quickly. At 15,000 feet, I fell asleep for just a minute and woke back up on the way down. The view was breathtaking, and not only because we were way up the mountain and there was no air. It really was beautiful. Never have I been so close to the clouds and still on the ground.

There were alpaca everywhere. Even where there was apparently nothing else, there were alpaca. There were also sheep, but mostly alpaca all over the place. Peru is silly with alpaca. I hadn't found any yarn at this point, so I made up a little rhyme:

Fiber, fiber everywhere
and all the wool did shrink
fiber, fiber everywhere
and not a stitch to tink.

I saw women there with their herds carrying (and using) drop spindles, though I didn't take pictures of them. I just feel weird about taking pictures of people without asking their permission and I didn't want to be disrespectful. Anyhow, it was really kind of awesome to me to see people living this very simple life and making yarn like people have done for thousands and thousands of years. One of these days, I'd like to do a fiber and fabric tour of Peru. There is so much to be learned here.
Also, there were quite a few horses, though Andy couldn't fathom why. I'm not entirely sure myself, but he asked me kindly to take a picture of them for him, so I did. You can see the shape of the earth behind this one where animals have been walking up and down the mountain for gods only know how long. It seems on the surface that most of the animals were quite healthy and while we did see the occasional mangy sheep, it was a rare occurrence.

There is a huge project to pave the road we were traveling - I'm talkin' HYOOOGE - as in, there's a city that was built just to house the road crew. While we were traveling, we had to stop for about thirty minutes or so while some enormous machinery was moved up the narrow gravel road. We did get the opportunity to see the beautiful cloud forest. This is not just a name. It is literally in the clouds. It kind of reminded me of the Smoky Mountains, except...more up. Much more up. I got a good chance to look at the vegetation and realized that I recognized absolutely nothing. I found something in a family I recognized, but that's it. It was a weird feeling not to know the plants.
So, the fuel trucks of doom... DOOM I tell you! And on such a narrow road, there's extra doom. Have you ever been on a narrow mountain road where one side is sheer cliff and the other side is mountain? It's like that, only x1,000. So, one of these fuel trucks is coming up the mountain as we're going down the mountain and we, being in a tiny little compact car, were obligated to move aside. Bigger gets the road. So we move aside to a tiny bit of space on the cliff side of the road, but we were not quite far enough over. So, Andy backs the car up and we feel a little bump. We're stuck. The fuel truck guys get out and try to help. Josh gets out to help. and we manage to get the car back up on the road. We thank the fuel truck guys, Josh gets back in, and we go on our merry way. "Do we want to know how close that was?" says Andy. "No. No you don't." says Josh, who at this point has the big eyes. You see, we had one wheel off the cliff and it was nothing short of a blessing that dear Josh didn't go tumbling down. There are times when you pray, like when someone you know is sick or when you have a difficult exam coming up, and there are times when you pray, like when you almost drove off a cliff.
Having narrowly averted danger, we proceeded down the mountain into the jungle. We hadn't really intended to go to the jungle, but there we were anyway. We finally found Quincemil at night in the jungle and managed a place to stay. It was a little hostel in this backwater town and to say that the room had four walls would be exaggerating. It was more like a stall with two beds. We had some dinner and beer before we bedded down for the night. Dinner consisted of french fries and microwave pizza, but it was hot and it was food. We walked back to the hostel and as I climbed into bed, I thought to myself. "Gee, I hope there are no bed bugs."

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm sorry, did you say your head's off?

Yeah. I've been kinda busy and distracted. Mostly distracted, except when I'm busy. So, if your head's come off and I didn't notice, I'm terribly sorry. I will get back to Adventures in Peru pretty soon, I hope. In the mean time, I'm on a crochet kick for some bizarre reason. I'm working on a red and purple tacky crocheted something, some crocheted washcloths, and I've finished a tacky crocheted bag in green and know, the kind of red that's blue and not red at all.

geez, I'm fried.

I'm working on the DNA scarf more frequently than I was before. I don't think I'll get it done in time unless I decide to give it to someone else. You see, I had intended to give it to Jill at work because she works with the DNA in mosquito blood meals. Then, I thought I might give it to Josh (her husband) because he was working on the DNA for our big butterfly project. But they are moving to Texas in three weeks. I'm not certain they have winter in Texas and I am certain that Chuck Norris is involved in the weather patterns of Texas.

The problem with a DNA scarf when you are a biologist is that there are so many appropriate people to give it to...

Speaking of Chuck Norris:
Chuck Norris as Hamlet, Cristopher Walken as King Claudius

(From a conversation with my dear friend Elflore)

So now I finish my wine and go to bed. I hope tomorrow is more productive than today has been.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Adventures: Day 5

Sept. 6
Iris's Birthday. I tried and tried and tried to call or email today, but with no luck. I finally managed a quick "I'm here and safe" email toward the end of the day, but communication was really dodgy. Today we had the pronopholine talks, but Andy was sick so I didn't understand about 90% of them. By the time we got to the conservation talks and butterfly house talks at the end, I was almost completely lost. Honestly, I don't think any of it really stuck with me. I did manage to do something much more important than sit through talks on pronopholines. I took sock photos of lepidopterists. This first one is Mitsi, who was just facinated by my knitting. I showed her how, which was only a little bit of a challenge considering that she didn't speak any English and my Spanish is quite basic.
No symposium would be complete without an after-party. For this one, the evening began with pisco sours and native dancing. Then on to a buffet, drinking, and more dancing. I skipped the last part since we were meant to go collecting the next day. Sr. Lamas, who was our guide/host in this endeavor did not.
Here we have Carlos Giraldo, from Colombia who studies Ithomiines. His sister, it seems, is quite the artist and painted hats and t-shirts to sell at the conference. I bought a black one with a little orange and yellow Ithomiine on it. He's one of those charming Latino lads that you just want to take home with you.
Next is Tomasz Pyrcz whose last name has no vowels. He's working on the same group I am and also doing morphological work. In fact, with any luck, he'll be sending me some specimens. He's got this stern "I'm a Polish dude" look about him in this picture, but don't let that fool you. He's actually a lot of fun to be around. When I started corresponding with him, I went and learned how to say "hello" in Polish because I thought it would be nice. He thought I'd had contact with Poles, but I had not. In fact, he's the only Polish guy I know, but he thought it funny that I had gone out and learned "hello" in Polish. He speaks Polish, Spanish, and English quite well as well as several other languages. He told me a story about the first time he'd left his home country. He was six years old and on a field trip with his class. They were near the border of Slovakia and crossed a few feet over the border. "Ooh! We're in Slovakia!" they said. It's much funnier when he tells it 'cause he waves his arms about and uses his best little kid voice.
Here's Angel Viloria. He's good friends with Tomasz and another Nymphalid person. He's got a big job as the director of the IVIC, Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigations, but he's really a creative and down-to-earth type. He likes bluegrass, so I've invited him to come visit. Maybe one of these days, but the big job does keep him busier than he'd like. He seemed quite impressed with the fact that I knit. We are eccentrics among eccentrics.
Next up is Gerardo Lamas, another Nymphalid person and works at the Museo de Historia Natural in Lima. You wouldn't think from looking at him that he likes to party, but dude likes to party. I'll tell you more about the Museum later. Needless to say, they have a real insect collection that makes ours look amateurish. Okay, so it is amateurish. It's kind of awful, really.
<--Here's Blanca of the Tropical Andean Butterfly Diversity Project, who helped put on this shindig. She also gave a talk on conservation.

And Keith, also with TABD, who was very confused about the Sock. He's an assistant curator at the McGuire Center in the University of Florida.-->

<--Then we have Kayce, my hero from before. She's at UC Davis. We heard of each other by way of Ravelry. She doesn't knit, but one of her labmates does. We were introduced by way of SquidWidget, who was suprised to learn that there were two bug bum-lookers on Ravelry. After I took this picture, she asked, "Does it look like I'm knitting?" Nope, it doesn't. Maybe one of these days you'll join us.

Lastly, we have Jason Hall-->
<--and his wife Alma. He works on Riodinids and gave a talk on mimicry. I don't remember what she studies because she didn't give a talk this time. She was quite pleased, in fact, that she could relax and enjoy the trip for once. Believe me, I understand.
Not pictured is Carlos Peña (how did I miss him?) who is another Pronopholine person (like me).

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Adventures: Day 4

Sept. 5th

No pictures today. Having recovered fully, I attended the conference and sat through many many butterfly talks (with my knitting). These kinds of talks are difficult to keep up with in your own language, let alone in a language in which you are not fluent. My Spanish is fairly basic, but passable. Fortunately, there were a couple talks in English and lots of pictures.
I met some native craftswomen of the area who are part of an association to preserve native crafts. She showed me several weaving patterns and their meanings and sold me S/ 60 of stuff. She was good. She was really good. I was really impressed with her English, which was way better than my Spanish, especially considering that her first language was Quechua, followed by Spanish, and then followed by English. I was going to buy some yarn from her, but never managed to hook up with her again.
I finished sock #1 of the Maizy socks, had some Peruvian fried chicken, and missed my baby girl.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Adventures: Day 3

Sept. 4th

The hotel we stayed in was really nice. I mean, I've stayed in some nice hotels, and that is a nice hotel. It was a monastery that was converted into a hotel, but they preserved the chapel. I don't know if anyone worships there, but it was really neat. This picture is from just outside my room into a little courtyard. The tree on the right hand side of the picture is an avocado tree.
We registered for the conference at the other nearby hotel and my poster was tacked up next to all the others. Mine wasn't nearly as slick or shiny as some of the others, but it wasn't a bad poster. I like it. I neglected to trim off the white borders before we left, but that's not a big deal. Most everyone who was interested in looking at it was more concerned with its content. I sat through the welcome speech, but I could tell something was wrong. I didn't feel like knitting.
I had altitude sickness. My stomach was sour, my ears were ringing, my head hurt, and I felt really really tired. Kayce was my hero. Her roommate hadn't arrived yet and her room was closer than mine. She even gave me water and put a vomit bucket nearby. There was no vomit at that time, thank goodness. There will be a picture of her later. I later made my way back to my own room and slept the rest of the day. All day long. I'd get up for a couple minutes, think I was okay, and then I'd go down again.
I had dinner at the hotel with Andy & Josh and did vomit a little afterward into the poor chrysanthemums, but only a little. I went back to sleep and decided I'd think big thoughts the next day.

Sorry, folks

My internet is really really slow lately and Blogger seems to be having some issues. I apologize for any wonky formatting and the slow speed at which I'm posting. I'm not sure what the issue is, but I hope it's resolved soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Adventures: Day 2

Sept. 3rd
So, we arrived in Lima, but since it was just a short layover in the airport we weren't really "In Peru" yet. It's on the coast, not that you could tell, but there's an ocean out there somewhere in the grey. It turns out that Lima is always this color. Anyhow, we had a cup of coffee in the airport and then off we went to Cuzco. Yes, that's a Starbucks. They don't have real coffee in Peru (with the exception of the airport Starbucks). If you're lucky, you get a syrup to which you add hot water. If you are unlucky, you get Nescafé. Most of the time, you are unlucky.
The Andes Mts. are mountains like they mean it. The Rockies look up to them and say "We're not worthy." The Appalachians are too old to care and too busy telling stories about "Back in my day, we didn't have people climbing all over us. And we liked it!" Only the Himalayas are like, "Bitch, please."
Once again on terra firma, my first impression was along the lines of "Wow, this is going to be an adventure," followed shortly thereafter by "Oh, God, the sun!" and "There's no air here!" All of these statements turned out to be true. The city is in a valley at over 3400 meters in altitude - that's 11,000+ feet for you gringos. Murfreesboro is at about 200 meters or 656+ feet. We were 3200 meters closer to the sun and farther from where the air is. Forget culture shock, try system shock. We did *not* buy a can of oxygen at the airport. That's just silly. Instead, we tried to take it easy until we got used to the altitude.
Note the word "tried." It turns out that the day we arrived, there was a transportation strike, so the taxis couldn't take us to very many places. There were big rocks in the road and a parade and we had to walk many several blocks with all of our luggage to find the Avis office. In said parade, some people were waving this flag (not my photo). "I bet that means something different here," says I to myself. It does. That's the Cusco city flag. Don't make fun, they're kind of sensitive about it. Anyhow, as we walked around, there were these bike carts all over that descended on us like vultures, but we respectfully declined and eventually found the rental office. They took us to the lot (which you could fit maybe three cars in, if you were a really good driver) where we stuck our luggage in the rental car until the strike officially ended. I searched for yarn, but to no avail. The shop was closed for inventory. We kind of tooled around the city being tourists for awhile, had some lunch, found our way back to the lot, and then left for Urubamba where the conference was to be held.
It was a lovely drive and I got to see the big white Jesus statue. Also, they like to write things on the sides of mountains. I am told that this is a habit that is an extension of the Nazca lines and that you really can see something of them from the ground. They just like to write and draw big things on the Earth. They also seem to compulsively build little walls everywhere. I'm not sure what that's about. The drive was pleasant and pretty and we arrived at the hotel later that evening. There was dinner and beer and all was right with the world. I had a coca beer and a Cusqueña at this little place down the road and I think that was the evening that I had alpaca steak. It tasted like alpaca fiber smells. I didn't order it again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures: Day 1

Sept. 2nd
All packed and ready to go with my enormous suitcase of doom (you could pack me in there, for goodness sakes), Josh, Andy, and I are chauffeured to BNA by Josh's lovely wife, Jill. She's kind of awesome. She works with mosquitoes and you can't help but dig a chick that smashes up mosquitoes for the DNA of the critters they bite. Having made it through security with my knitting needles (and TSA guidelines in hand, just in case there was an issue - there wasn't), I waited patiently for the plane.
We got on said plane and began to take off when there was a disconcerting kthunk sound. The passengers looked around at each other as though to say, "Is that normal? Should we be concerned?" Turns out that it was not normal and we should have been concerned. One of the cargo doors malfunctioned, so the plane returned to the airport and we had to catch another flight. This was problematic. By the time we'd have gotten to the next airport, we would miss flight #2 and each flight following. On the way back to the airport, I spoke with a Danish pastry chef who was going home after a convention in Nashville. No, danishes were not his specialty, he was from Denmark and made awesome sculptures with chocolate. He was terribly worried that he wouldn't be able to get home. I do hope he got home okay. Fortunately for us, we had Mr. Mullett as our customer service dude. He'd helped us check in before and recognized the three of us. When he got to the counter, I think he must have called almost everyone in the whole airport and at one point had a phone on each ear. It was nothing short of amazing. Not only did he get us a new series of flights, but he got us a really nice flight from Miami to Lima on an airline called LAN. We each had our own personal video screen and could watch one of many movies. There was a little pillow and blanket, real food, and even tiny glasses of wine for no extra charge. Other than the fact that I can't sleep in a moving vehicle, this was a very very pleasant flight. Thank you, Mr. Mullett. You are my customer service hero.