Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Knitting Backlog

Anybody out there remember taking pictures on film?  And getting them back from the developer weeks later?  And then throwing them into a box promising you'd put them in albums Real Soon Now?  And opening said box to do it and realizing you haven't been putting this off for 2 or 3 years, or even 4 or 5 years, but more like 18?    Yeah.  Me too.

So, even though it took me the better part of 4 months to get all my vacation pics posted, really, I've improved.  And I love having done it- going back and reading over my old trips and seeing the pictures again brings back all the fun we had.   But the actual doing of it is still subject to some procrastination.  And what do I do when I'm procrastinating?

Read, yep.  Play games, check.  Clean the, well, sometimes.  But mostly I knit.   So there's a whole pile of finished knitting to show off (and really the desire to show it off helps push me to get the other blog stuff done, so it's all good.

I finished (and finally blocked) the Nutkin socks I left behind when I went to Scotland (the ones I started in Scotland haven't moved much- I'm a little socked-out, plus, the yarn is too dark to easily work with in many of my frequent knitting locations.
(Note to self, get a better picture of those.  The new camera and I are still getting to know each other.)

There's the Noro silk garden shawl.  I did some shopping last weekend looking for a shawl pin for it and finally went to Etsy, but it hasn't arrived yet.  This is destined to be a Christmas present (for someone who doesn't read my blog, obviously).

I even got to use my new blocking pads and wires.  Though I'm definitely going to need a second set of the interlocking blocks- one set barely handles a medium shawl.  And the big slab of styrofoam suffered a cat-astrophic failure and had to be thrown out.

There's the long pastel vest, which I've actually knit the full length of, but it's been waiting for me to make a decision on the edging.  (It looks the same as the last time you saw it, only longer.)  I've made and discarded a zillion plans but I've got to try something.  So, I have picked a pattern.  And will start working on it again Real Soon Now.

There are hats- I wanted to use up the bulky yarn left from the last sweater I made my husband, as it would go quickly and free up some space.   So, the plain hat.

The slouchy hat.

The Thorpe hat.

The Unoriginalish Hat (since the yarn was bulky and not super-bulky I added a pattern repeat and added another half-repetition of the chart by starting halfway through and knitting the half-plus two more chart repeats to get the right length before doing the decreases).

And I'm finally out of that yarn.

Next, I had this giant skein of angora-like novelty yarn.  I tried a couple of things, but nothing seemed to suit it until one of my knitting group suggested big, big needles.  No, even bigger needles.  So- this may be the first plain garter stitch scarf I've ever made.  I actually wound up kind of liking it, though it's not really my style, so it's going into the gift bin.

Then my husband and I settled in to watch the new Ken Burns miniseries on the Roosevelts- fabulous! Great stuff.  I needed simple knitting for that, so I made some mittens.

And some more mittens.

And even more mittens.

And finally a colorwork hat, because I've got a ton of sport weight yarn that needs using, and hey, colorwork.  Totally addictive.  I get withdrawal symptoms if don't do it for too long.

And that brings you pretty much up to date on my life.  Busy, eh?   Biscuit is just exhausted with all the supervising he's had to do.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PS: The Slideshow

Looking for just the pretty pictures, without all my babbling?  Look no more.  Here's a massive slideshow of the whole trip in pictures:
rfholly's EnglandScotland2014 album on Photobucket

Friday, October 24, 2014

Day 16: The Royal Society

Our last Saturday in London, we went to see the Royal Society's summer science show.  Founded in 1660, the Royal Society has been a center for the exchange of scientific knowledge and promotion of science for centuries.   And every summer, they invite researchers to present their work to the public. We scheduled our trip, in part so we could attend.  And it was fascinating.  We spent a good chunk of the day wandering around, looking at the displays and chatting with the researchers.

What sort of exhibits were they?  Well:

  • The University of East Anglia is doing research into leaf-cutter ants.  The leaf-cutter ant does not cut leaves to eat, it cuts leaves and uses them to farm fungi, which it then eats.  The ants produce a number of compounds in their bodies that help them to encourage useful fungi and discourage unuseful ones.  Some of those compounds are known antibiotics.  But the ones that aren't- those have the potential to generate entirely new classes of useful drugs.  So the researchers are isolating, analyzing and testing these compounds to see what they can do.  
  • Another group is working on interactions of bacteria in our guts with the immune system.  This has enormous potential for the treatment of conditions like colitis and IBS.  
  • The police academy in presented research on accident investigation and analysis. 
  • A presentation on research into use of ionic liquids for treating polution (ionic liquids tend to be short-lived compounds but can be extremely effective solvents. 
  • A bio-medical imaging study that turns tissue transparent so it can better be analyzed (right now, it's limited to dead tissue, but they're working on doing it with living tissue). 
  • The Rosetta mission to land a probe on a comet.  They expect to catch up with the target comet in November- I'm quite keen to see what happens.
  • Use of proton beams to treat cancer (they have lower energy than the typical radiation therapy and can be used with less damage to healthy tissue). 
  • 3D laser imaging being used to map and analyze the possible movements of dinosaurs. 
  • Software to make 3D images using 2D cameras. 
  • Smart wing design
  • Using ultrasonic waves to levitate small items, locate flaws in solid objects, and provide tactile feedback for use in virtual control devices.  

I can't begin to do the coolness if it all justice.  Do check out the show site.  The early 21st century is  just an amazing time and place to be alive.

Views from the Royal Society terrace

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Day 12-17 The Rest of the Story

July 2-6, 2014

The next day was our last in Carlisle.  We spent the morning at the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, which is basically the museum of the city of Carlisle.  It had everything from Roman artifacts (Carlisle was the western endpoint of Hadrian's wall) to art to a lovely Jacobean garden filled with plants used for cooking and medicine as well as for decoration at the time the house was built.

From there we took the scenic train back to London via Leeds.
JT liked the 'Cafe Choux Choux' sign.
Leeds was preparing to be the starting point of the Tour de France this year and the city was filled with all things bicycle.  Including gold biking jerseys all over the city.

We made it back to London in time to check in to our hotel and enjoy some walking.  The hotel this time was the NH Harrington Hotel, which we liked a good deal- very comfortable, quiet, and notable for toiletries that smelled like citrus flavored candy.  I kind of liked them, but JT professed to find smelling like a Starburst fruit chew a bit disturbing.

The rest of the trip was filled with activities, though not the sort of thing to benefit from a linear recitation.  We walked, of course, admiring the lovely crescents.

We spotted favorite signs:
Outside a pub:  "Well behaved children welcome,
the rest will be made into pies."
We admired noticed public art.
This is either art, or a fugitive prop from
Dr. Who.  You decide which. 
We went to see Westminster Cathedral, which we had briefly walked through on our first trip to London over 10 years ago- this time we took the verger's tour, which was excellent.

The city's attitude toward pedestrians was occasionally worrying:

We got to see new construction.   This new building is sometime called the 'Walkie-Talkie', and is infamous for generating car-melting reflections.   I thought the juxtaposition with the building to its left makes it look more like a giant stapler, jammed hinge-first into the ground.

We went to an exhibition on Queen Victoria at Kensington Palace:

And, having learned about William Kent's role in the interior design of the palace, we also went to see a special exhibition at the V&A on William Kent, Designing Georgian Britain. Very cool- not all of his work survives, but there were films of buildings and gardens that do, and images, prints and paintings of ones that don't.  Also some of the fabulous furniture he used in his decor.

We took in a couple of plays- the musical of Charlie and the Chocolate factory in the theater district. I had wondered how they were going to manage the fantastical effects of the story- as it turns out- brilliantly.  It was excellent, particularly the actor playing Willy Wonka.

Outside the theatre we found a monument to a favorite writer.   It was put up in the theatre district to commemorate the umpty-enth performance of the Mousetrap (which we saw on our last trip).

We had another lunch at the Kerb street food market.  Yum!  Not quite as warm, so there were fewer toddlers rolling around in the fountains.

We went to the summer science show at the British Royal Society- I'll write a separate post about that, as it was fascinating and deserves more time than a brief blurb.

We were able to get tickets for a Shakespeare performance at the New Globe Theatre.  The play was Titus Andronicus (which is obscure for a reason) but the experience was fabulous- seeing the staging, the excellent acting, the use of the audience for crowd scenes,  and the broad humor.

We found another entry for our sign collection- just the fix for droopy cannons:

Speaking of public art, we were non-plussed by the giant blue rooster in Trafalgar square.  You think I'm kidding you?
We had no idea.

We had dinner at Chimes, a favorite restaurant, and went to a classical music concert at St. Martins-in-the-Fields- something else  we've done before and always enjoy.  And we spent an evening at Cecil Sharpe House, home of the English Folk Song and Dance Society in Camden, watching a concert put on by all the various groups that meet there.  The theme was 'Spinning Yarns', which was bound to appeal to me:
Fiddlers at Cecil Sharpe House
We walked back from Camden, enjoying the late daylight and the rosy sunset on the Georgian architecture.

There was more walking, sausages at the Borough market, our traditional last-day stops for English cheeses at Neal's Yard Dairy and Hatchards' book store, a trek to the airport, the ritual last purchase of English chocolate and the long flight home.   And a long sigh for the end of another fabulous vacation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Day 11: Kendal and Lakes

July 1, 2014

The next day we took the train to Kendal, an intermediate stop on our way to the Lakes District.  Not that we didn't find it lovely in its own right:

We went to visit the Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, that being the kind of thing we tend to like.  We got a nice view of local history, crafts (including some lovely old quilts) and let us not forget the Kendal Mint Cake- basically a mint-sugar candy bar with a long and storied history (they went up Mt. Everest, you know).

Naturally I had to try one...sweet and minty, as advertised.
We enjoyed a stroll around town- including passing by a half-timbered Chinese restaurant (what can I say, we're easily amused)-

-and enjoyed sandwiches while we waited for the bus to Windermere.  Not to be outdone, the Indians had their own half-timbered establishment:

We got to take a short stroll around Windermere, including our first glimpse of the famous lake:
And the town:

And then we took another bus, admiring the scenery all the way.

We had a gorgeous day- not that it was entirely due to luck, as we tend to structure our plans so we can swap indoor activities out if need be- but once again we enjoyed really fabulous weather for most of the trip.  We made our way to Ambleside, where, in obedience to the name, we got out and started ambling.

We did see a few passing clouds, but no rain aside from a few light sprinkles.

We acquired a map of the local walking trails in Ambleside and set out to walk to Grasmere, widely reputed to be exceptionally pretty.  We took the evocatively named Coffin Route.

We spent some time speculating as to why the locals would have carried coffins over the hilly path rather than taking the much flatter road.  We eventually found out that the road was a toll road, and decided that was probably why.

The path wound up through copses of trees and across streams.

And we found, much to our amusement, that yarn artists had come before us:

We passed fields where the sheep roamed freely but the baby trees were penned (presumably to protect them from the sheep).

And at every turn we enjoyed the spectacular scenery. At some point we really need to go back so we can spend several days hiking and walking.

As we came down into Grasmere, we spotted a parasailor enjoying the breeze.

The village was as pretty as its reputation.  We strolled through and found a cold drink.  (Alas, the line at the gingerbread specialty bakery was so long, we decided to give it a pass.)

And that was pretty much the end of another fabulous day of walking, sightseeing and exploring.

We retraced our path by bus and train to Carlisle, where we at last got our Mexican food.