Monday, April 28, 2008

I kept forgetting to get a picture of my pink and purple hair. I noticed this morning that the purple had started to fade, so I got a few pictures (by way of clever application of bathroom mirrors and a little photo editing). The main color is a kind of pinky color over brown, called "orchid," then there's a bright purple and some PINK that was applied to pre-lightened hair. Theresa did a fantastic job. Next time, I'm going to have her do RED. As in RED-RED-RED.
Butterflies, you see, are attracted to red. If I can attract them with my hair, I can catch them!

No, the fumes from preserved specimens aren't getting to me. Why do you ask?

In knitting news, I'm too stupid to sew up my man-sweater. Miss Kade, however, is practically done. Hers looks just fantastic and is apparently quite comfortable since she didn't wait until it was finished to wear it. Mine is not clothing yet. I've ripped back the bluejaywalkers (hopefully) past some horrid error and haven't picked them up again. I've made good progress on the Snakes! sweater and only lack the sleeves and making-up and I'm working on a 2x2 ribbed scarf that's progressing nicely. The last one is my "stupid knittting" and takes up the least amount of brain power, so gets worked on more than the others. The Snakes! is pretty easy, so it gets worked on a lot, too. Not that the bluejaywalkers are hard, I just haven't thus far managed to pick them up again.

I hope to all that's good and holy that I regain the use of some of my knitting brain cells soon. I've got one more exam on Wednesday and a paper to write, and then I'll be done for the semester. I did fairly well on my Plant Anatomy final and my flowering plants collection is finished and turned in.
Forgive me if I seem a little loopy this week.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ach! Waily!
I am so tired, people. I walked 11.5 miles to and from school last week and walked/biked 3.4 miles today. There was much doing of dishes and drinking of wine on Saturday, followed by not very much sleep. It's finals time again, so I have to say "no" a lot until I've got the semester squared away. My legs are very sore in places I forgot I had muscles and my brain is so full it's not even funny. I was explaining to a non-knitter how I've sworn off lace for a while. After I explained that the brain cells that are responsible for lace-knitting are currently occupied in taxonomy and anatomy, he completely understood. He's a graduate student as well, so understands the level of crazy that can be.
This afternoon, I'll be taking little bit to dance class, then tacos for dinner, then I stagger to bed and pass out. In the morning, it's more butterfly butts! Wooo!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Polemerized Cellulose

Cellulose is the most abundant polymer on the planet. It's followed by lignin, the material that binds with cellulose to make wood hard (stop snickering.) and straw crunchy. Anything with a cell wall has lots and lots of cellulose, grasses, trees, fungus, even the lowliest of weeds is choc full o' cellulose. It's kind of awesome how the plant makes it. We all know that plants make sugar from the sun, right? Well, they take this sugar, make a few minor alterations, and then send it through a nifty little pump that right on the cell membrane. It's like a tiny little cellulose factory. Sugar goes in, cellulose comes out.
Anything nature can do, we can do better, right? Well, not better, but we can sort of do something like what cell walls do. We human folk use a lot of cotton, wood, soy, corn, and other plants. Inevitably, there will be waste and leftovers from the processing of these materials, and most of that will be cellulose of some kind or another. We take these waste products and cook them in lye, Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) being its uptown name. This is the same chemical I use to clear butterfly butts. Carbon disulfide is added to help break down the cellulose. The end result is a viscous liquid goo that is spun into an acid bath which neutralizes the NaOH. This acid bath may contain sulfuric acid, sodium sulfate, glucose, zinc sulfate, and water. Sodium sulfate speeds up the precipitation of filaments, glucose softens the fibers, zinc sulfate strengthens the fibers, and water adds volume. What you end up with is Rayon, which was originally referred to as "artificial silk." Sometimes a dulling agent, such as titanium dioxide, is added if you're looking for something that's not quite so shiny as rayon. You can also add a bit of crimp to the fibers, either mechanically or by reducing the acid concentration. This aids in the spinning process, as anyone who's ever spun wool will know.
All of this information is as of the mid 1960's, so I'm not sure what advances or improvements have been made to the process. Some of those chemicals are pretty nasty in high concentrations, so this kind of processing is probably not the best for the environment. However, it's got to be better than polyester or acrylic. Not only are rayons softer, more absorbent, and wear better, but they're made from the waste of other manufacturing processes rather than petroleum.

Oh - I don't have a copy of the picture I drew for the Harlot. I'll be drawing more and different ones in the future, so perhaps I'll get one up here when I finish a new one. I'm learning how to dissect the reproductive parts out of the rest of the abdomen today, so hopefully I'll be able to get a clearer picture of all the different pieces parts.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I've just finished my presentation on plant fibers. I'll say this again and again, 'cause it's true. I'm pretty sure that I now know more about plant fibers than is reasonable for most humans. I may go into detail in a future blog entry, but here's a little tidbit:
In the 1300's this English fellow, Sir John Mandeville, came across some cotton being grown in India and described it thusly:
"there grew there a wonderful tree which bore tiny lambs on the endes of its branches. These branches were so pliable that they bent down to allow the lambs to feed when they are hungrie." Ummm...yeah. I think your rye's gone ergot, Sir John.
Cotton has been grown, spun, and woven in India for about 5,000 years. It soon spread to Egypt and surrounding areas. Our word "cotton" comes from the Arabic, "quoton." Cotton has been used in the Americas for about 4,500 years, according to our best estimates. Columbus was greeted with gifts of cotton when he "discovered America," which had been there the whole time, as those cotton-producing natives could have told him. Today, the US exports the most cotton of all the countries in the world, but China is the largest cotton producer.

Now to put together my list of references and fluff my butt a little.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Big knitters come in small packages

I can't not blog right now. I have been touched by her woolly appendage, the Harlot. I haven't been blogging lately because, as most of you know, I've had my head in a microscope, trying to understand the reproductive organs of butterflies. I'm still a bit fuzzy on the details, but I'm getting there. I'll be dissecting out some reproductive organs tomorrow, and possibly going collecting.
So me, Kade, Gret, Koren, David, and half of our husbands buzzed up to Brentwood to listen to, watch, bask in the woolly glory of, etc. the Yarn Harlot. I would totally have a beer with that woman, maybe three. I did forget to tell her that Iris said "Hi." So, dear Harlot, if you are reading this, Iris says "Hi."
I gave Ms. Stephanie a picture of the reproductive organs of (I think) Neomaenas monachus, though I'm not sure that's the correct genus. Of course, that's what I'm working on for my thesis. As far as I'm concerned, they're all up in the air, and nobody really knows what belongs in what genus. I'll get back to you on that. Anyhow, she loved the picture. I am so tickled, I can't even tell you.
Here we are, two fun-sized knitters (Knitters may be shorter than they appear. This is to be considered a normal part of the variation in knitters and should not be perceived as a flaw).
While waiting, listening, and waiting some more while chatting, I knitted a goodly portion of the Snakes! sweater for Colin's baby (Fig. 1). Colin, you see, is a herpetologist and clearly needs a snake sweater for his offspring. I also eeked out a few rounds of the Blue Jaywalkers. 'Cause, you know, sock picture.
After that, we all went out for Thai food/sushi. I drank a lot of tea and had Rama chicken (which was beautiful, but very peanutty).
Then I looked in my cup...
Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

In other, loosely related news, I'm kind of excited about my presentation in Plant Anatomy on various plant fibers. I now know more about plant fibers than is probably healthy for any individual.

Edit: I was working on the above-mentioned butterfly and the correct name is Quilaphoetosus monachus (Blanchard 1852). Like I said, it may yet change again. I saw the same insect referred to by FOUR different genus names! This group is just a mess, taxonomically.