Sunday, May 25, 2008

clams wear sweaters, barnacles are well endowed, and lots of other random learnings

Mark and I are up in Carlisle, MA, visiting my brother in law, Chris, my sister-in-law, Sandy, my niece, Natalie and my nephews, Zach and Jon. I flew up to Rhode Island for work last Monday (5/19) and then Mark flew up on Thursday to spend the long weekend with me and his brother and family. We fly home tomorrow after a long fun weekend. Here are some random musings from my trip:

1. Clams wear sweaters. Soft-shelled clams, also known as long neck clams or pisser (pronounced pissah) clams are steamed and then the clam meat must be pulled from the shell. With other clams I have eaten, this is all you have to do before dipping the clams in butter and popping them in your mouth. With these though, you then use your fingernails to carefully peel the dark rubbery nubby casing off of the long neck, much the way you would peel off a turtleneck sweater. This may not seem exciting to you, but after a very full day in which I gave TWO successful presentations (Woohoo!!), and a couple of beers, I was quite giddy over the concept of clam sweaters and peeling them off to eat yummy steamers. The wikipedia link doesn't show or mention the clam sweater, but a local New Englander described it as that and showed me what to do, so I trust her.

2. Barnacles have sex and are well endowed. If you don't believe me, you can watch this hilarious video on YouTube. I have met the guy in the baseball cap who is up for tenure at Northeastern U. this year and I am working with one of his colleagues on some park service research. We had a field visit to discuss sampling rocky intertidal areas and discussed various plants and animals including snails and barnacles which is when the subject of barnacle sex came up. Here's a pic of the type of habitat we spent the morning looking at:
After 3 days of intense all day indoor meetings in Rhode Island, this was a great place to work for the day. I can totally see why Rocky Intertidal researchers like what they do, even if it is hard work. Here's kind of a cool pic of snails predating on barnacles for the ecology nerds:
3. While I was out at this field visit, I got to peek at part of a set for Leonardo Dicaprio's upcoming movie, Ashecliffe which will be filming some scenes there. They built the bottom part of lighthouse,
and will probably use CGI for the rest. No Leo when I was there, which was probably a good thing because the movie people would have made it difficult for us to do our field work, but it coulda been cool to sneak a peek at him too :)

4. Despite all of my travels, I have shown a lot of restraint in the yarn shopping department. Ok, I haven't shown any restraint with respect to online shopping, but I haven't gone into any yarn stores in NYC, or Duluth, or Rhode Island or any of the other places I've been to recently. Yesterday, however, my very cool sister-in-law and I spent the morning out with Natalie. Among other errands, we casually stopped by 'Wild & Wooly' yarn shop in Lexington...where I couldn't resist this HUGE beautiful skein:
We're talking 800 freakin' meters of yarn awesomeness!

5. So far, Mark's sock is cruising along and I love the Misti Alpaca sock yarn:
6. Katherine commented that she wants me to make her socks, but she doesn't want to pick out the yarn herself...sorry Katherine, I'm drawing a line in the sand (or in the fiber?). Mark and I are coming up for Maggie-Fest (which I've been meaning to email you about), and we'll probably come up a few days early (which I really have to email Liz about to ask if we can stay with her). When we do, you and me and Liz and Jess (and whoever else wants to) are going to Mosaic Yarn Shop where you will inhale yarn fumes and look at pretty colors and pick out exactly what you want. You might ask why I'm insisting on this. Well, it's because I really think that at some point you will break down and start playing with yarn like the rest of us, and if inhaling the yarn fumes helps move that process along, then it is worth all of the harassment. As an aside, even Mark has gone into yarn shops with me to pick out the yarn for his socks...if he can do it, so can you :)

7. Last, but certainly not least, I am usually not good about taking pics of family, but my niece Natalie is a complete ham so I have some great pics of her. Here is a great hammy Nat pic:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No breakfasts here!

I love breakfast, I really do! Also, being a New Yorker, diner food is in my blood...real eggs (any way you want them), home fries, etc...these are necessities. In my mind, and you may disagree, a real diner will serve breakfast food all day in addition to anything else it serves for lunch or dinner. Blacksburg didn't have a lot of real diners, but it did have really great brunches at Gillie's and Boudreaux's. All is good if I can get a poached egg...that's not too much to ask, is it?

Well, as it turns out, when you live in northeastern Mississippi, a poached egg is way too much to ask for. As it turns out, there is no place to get a decent breakfast with poached eggs in Starkville. There was a very fancy restaurant that had a fancy Saturday brunch, but they're closed now. The next town over has a decent farmer's market from May to October, and you would think it would make sense to have a restaurant nearby to capture the market crowd, but you'd be wrong. We did find a breakfast place about 4 miles down the road from the farmer's was ok, and the omelet was decent, but this was not a poached egg kind of place...heck, this wasn't even a place where people order water with lemon. Mark and I requested water with lemon and this is what we got for the lemon:
Sigh! On the bright side, I have now mastered poaching eggs myself so there is that.

On a completely unrelated note, here is a serious bit of weirdness:
In case you can't see what I am talking about through my dirty windshield, here is a close-up:
This sign has been up on the side of the road for a few weeks now pointing across the road towards a semi industrial lot with a series of corrugated metal sheds. What I really can't figure out is if there was a luau there when the sign first when up and they forgot to take the sign down, or if it was originally pointed the opposite way towards a house, or if 'luau' just means something really different here. I dunno. I pass this sign about 4-5 times a week and I always look around trying to figure out where the heck the luau is. If I ever solve this mystery, I will let you know.

And finally, I have finished my first 'Toe-up Spiraling Coriolis' socks and I am a now a big fan of both toe-up knitting and this particular pattern.
Speaking of which, I have had two requests for socks since my last blog post. After thinking about it, I am willing to make socks for anybody I know who will buy the yarn, IF you don't mind waiting until I get other stuff in my knitting cue done.

As for yarn, one of my favorite sources that has a bazillion color options is Blue Moon Fiber Arts. If your feet are Women's size 11 (Men's size 9) or smaller, I will only need 1 skein. If they're bigger than that, I will need 2 skeins (Sorry Rob). Order the 'Socks That Rock Mediumweight' yarn. Do not order the lightweight yarn which also is nice but finer so it takes longer to knit with.

If all of this hasn't caused you to lose interest yet, let me know in a blog comment, and I'll email you my mailing address and a diagram showing the foot measurements I need. (Rob and Katherine, if you really want socks, I'll email you both after Memorial Day when I return from my trip).

If you want socks from me and would rather pick out sock yarn at a local yarn shop (which is always good to do), be sure to get something appropriate for needles that are 2.75mm to 3.00mm in size (US Size 2) and ask the shop dealer about getting enough yarn for your foot size.

Alright, I'm off to Rhode Island and Massachusetts for few days of work and some play time with Mark.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gardening, knitting and presentation writing (Ugh!)

Mark, my awesome husband, built us these beautiful raised beds on the side of our house which we have now filled with plants...tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, chives and parsley....mmm, mmm, good.

We're probably going to build one more bed and fill that one too once we get back from our trip to New England for work and play next week.

In addition to all of the potential veggies, I have started planting flowers in the beds we have around our two front trees. Of all the flowers I've put in so far, the ones called 'Buggleweed' are my favorite because 1) their name sounds Harry Potter-ish, 2) they are a perrenial ground cover plant that will eventually choke out weeds in the bed (I really appreciate these characteristics in a plant), and 3) their flowers are small and purplish and really cool looking. I think I'm going back to get some more of this. (Update: I have since bought 3 more buggleweeds and a bunch of other perrenials for our various beds)

Mark also worked on this bed near the house today which then I filled with Daylillies. Yay, pretty colors and a long growing season.
(Ignore the area surrounding the daylily bed...that still needs work.)

Other than that, I'm chugging away on this second sock. I should be done be tomorrow.
When those are done, I'll be working on a pair for Mark that I started the toe of already to make sure I have knitting to do during my upcoming trip.
I've also started a pair of slipper socks for my mom.
After that and my May sock club delivery, I might knit something that isn't worn on feet so that I don't burn out on socks...but there are just sooo many different fun patterns to try...

Lastly, I am giving two presentations at a network review meeting for the park service. I have drafts of both done, but the problem with powerpoint is that you can just keep fiddling and fiddling and fiddling with the slides and never be done. I leave next Monday for a week in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Mark is flying up to meet me on Thursday so we can spend the weekend with his older brother's family.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Duluth ( a little delayed)

Surprisingly cool, both figuratively and literally. I've been missing the cold weather while living down here in Mississippi. I really missed the snow and have been feeling that parts of the country/world that don't get any snow at all (beyond the occasional dusting) are deprived.

Duluth was a nippy 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and cooler at night which really felt great and the city itself is beautiful. It's right on Lake Superior and takes full advantage of that with a great 'Lake Walk' path that goes a few miles in either direction from the great hotel (Fitger's Inn) we were being put up in.

Lake Walk looking in one direction from outside our hotel. We walked down this path to get to our dinner restaurant the first night.
Lake Walk looking in the other direction

The workshop I was invited to really did spoil us a bit with fantastic restaurants every night, a much nicer hotel than I usually get to stay in, and all of us were given lake view rooms. These pics we're taken from my hotel room cuz I scored the corner east facing room and had to be up early every morning for the workshop.

The first day I got this weird 2-sun effect because of the glass reflection
The second morning, I was able to get this
cool, huh?

I was too tired to knit during the whole trip, except on the planes, but I have to say spending 3 days in a workshop discussing methods for detecting ecological thresholds with a group of ecologists and quantitative people like myself was a really good time. Yep, I know just saying that makes me a nerd, but after months of telecommuting, sharing ideas in person is such a nice change. Some of the discussions have really inspired some new ideas for my if I can just keep my motivation up. ;-}

The EPA lab where we were meeting was also right on the lake and I got some neat pics from there as well:
Overall, I loved Duluth. If you have a chance to visit, definitely go. I think the residents don't want too many people to move there and overpopulate the area, but they're very friendly to visitors.

PS While I was away, Mark's 12 year old Saturn broke and he had to jerry rig a repair until he could get a part he needed. He was driving around with it looking like this inside:
If you look closely below the displaced stick shift, you can see the zip-tie he used to keep the shifter functional until the part arrived. It's fixed now, but we are definitely in the market for a new car.