Monday, June 25, 2012

Free pattern: Flip-top gloves

I finally wrote up the pattern for the gloves I made before Christmas!  You can see more pictures here and here.


You will need:   4-ply/fingering weight yarn (~200m) – I used Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-Ply
  2.75mm DPNs/two pairs of circular needles, or size required for gauge
  Stitch holders or scrap yarn
  Stitch markers
                          Darning needle


The PDF file is available here.


Please let me know if you find any errors in the pattern, and if you make a pair, I'd love to see them!

EDITED to replace the big long pattern with the dropbox link, because it's much less aesthetically displeasing.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Space oddity and lace gloves

My boyfriend's uncle had a new baby recently, so my boyfriend commissioned toys for him and the existing toddler.  The two(?)-year-old likes playing with machines and gadgets, and I couldn't find a nice robot pattern, so I made him a spaceship.

The pattern is Orbiting Oddity from Knitting Mochimochi.  I used DK yarn instead of worsted, and accordingly smaller needles, so I hope a discrepancy in size between the toys won't be a cause of contention. I think I should have used a more muted colour to stitch the eyes. The pattern used yellow, and I thought white might look less glowing and sinister.  Boy was I wrong. Still, the kid has to learn fear of aliens sometime.

The new baby is only a few weeks old, so doesn't have discernable interests yet. I'm taking the opportunity to make... something I'm quite excited about. Because I'm a child.

It's probably pretty obvious. But I don't want to say until it's finished for reasons of eeeeeh.

I made this gloves to sell at the craft fair, but I left them blocking on Friday night and they weren't dry by Sunday morning.

I bought a lot of Louisa Harding Willow Tweed on sale before Christmas, intending to make a tank top. Then I realised I wouldn't wear it. Now one skein of it is gloves! It knits very nicely, and I'll probably use the rest for similar projects. The pattern is taken from a stitchionary and plugged into my own glove pattern. (I have patterns and tutorials to write up, but I'm too busy being an unemployed wastrel and working through the 'To Read' pile that has been building over the course of my degree.) It took me a while to settle on one, but the yarn is so lovely and light that I couldn't but knit something lacy with it.

There were bees buzzing around while I was taking photos of the gloves. I thought they were aesthetically pleasing.


I turned twenty-two yesterday! It came with conflicting sentiments based on the facts that 1. I haven't been on any adventures or done anything noteworthy I'm never going to do anything I'm boring. 2. Literally my entire career is ahead of me I am ridiculously young.

When I walk around a house where everyone else is in bed or in their rooms, my heart still sometimes speeds up when I open a door to somewhere empty for fear that there will be something on the other side waiting to rip out my throat and/or eyes. But now in my imagination it's a person, rather than some manner of zombie or hatred-fueled ghoul or Lovecraftian monster. I believe that's what they call growing up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Craft market knitting!

I'm selling at my first craft market is this weekend!

Aya scarves!

I forgot to take photos of these neckwarmers in the winter when I made them; they look like this:

Snuggly and warm. Seasonally inappropriate, but I think our three-day Irish summer is over.

Hair clips!

I have other bits and pieces, but they were less photogenic. Hopefully it goes well and I can clear some space in my room! Probably not, though, because Dublin Woolen Mills are having a closing down sale, and I am a vulture.

Like you would have done any different. It's a sign of respect, really.

I have some specific plans for the yarn (Tom Baker gloves! X-Men gloves! I'm a geek!), but the rest was just in case.

The first day of the market is also the World Wide Knit in Public Day for Ireland! For me this is synonymous with "day I leave the house", but it's still nice to have a designated day. I'll be missing the This is Knit event, but I'm excited about the competition!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Science in cinema

for two films, a TV show, and a book. So you can't say I didn't say.

A disproportionate amount of the films and TV I've watched recently have had science as a key plot point. I'm all for creative license - I know if I were to start working in an office very few people would be as fabulous as Joan Holloway - but if a work is trying to address the issues of the day, or raise important questions, I do think they're due some regards for facts.

So, here is what I think of things I have seen recently, and one thing I have read!


Contact by Carl Sagan (1985)

I like this book an awful lot. I found the writing style to be extremely elegant - it's almost in the style of a report, not florid for its own sake, and yet still evocative and moving. Maybe that's just because the story is told through someone* who loves science, and hot damn do I love science. It seems as though it should be dry, and yet it's not, which I think is some feat.

One thing I love about this book is the accuracy of the timescale. It starts sometime in the eighties, and ends around the turn or the milennium. It's funny, because the back cover of my copy promises "Aliens are coming to judge us" and the book itself describes in loving or masochistic detail the waiting, and the struggles for funding, and the internal power struggles, and the politics of big discoveries, and some further waiting. Between the style and the content - the book is over three quarters of the way through before aliens make any sort of appearance, and they don't really have that much to do with it - I can see how it wouldn't be for everyone, but I really like the respect Sagan shows for the tedium.

The book is also an ongoing discussion of the relationship between religion and science. Sagan was famously good at courteously debating believers in real life, and in his book he doesn't reduce the religious spokespeople to mulishly short-sighted hillbillies, but allows them intelligent discussion. One of them is the strongest characters in the book. It was refreshing to see that degree of complexity explored, when the debate in pop culture is often reduced to "invisible sky wizard, hurr"/"evil soulless monsters spitting in God's face", depending on who the writer agrees with.

If I'm honest, I didn't like the ending - searching for the imprint of the maker of the universe in primes - but Carl Sagan is flat-out better than I, he can do what he wants.

Also, I will never say no to The Future, as predicted by the eighties.


Contact (1997)

Okay, I realise they can't have three quarters of the film be Jodie Foster sitting in a dark room waiting for something to happen. It was never going to compare well to the book for accuracy. It shows the squabbling for funding at the start, at has a "Four Years Later" cut-scene, but after that, it falls into the trap of having everything happen at once. They discover the message, then they discover the image within the message, then they discover the blueprint within that, the latter two within minutes of each other. Everything is discovered by the one group of people, as well. Sagan allows non-characters to make discoveries and collaborate on research, rather than have his characters be the shining geniuses every step of the way.  These are all pedantic points, but they're so commonly ignored in pop depictions of science, and the source material addressed them so maturely that it's a disappointment. As these things go, it's quite a good depiction of science.

The only part of the film that really jarred with me from a "That is not how science works" perspective was the ending. Jodie Foster leaves the building where she was being questioned about her experience in the machine, having conceded that she can't reasonably expect anyone to take her word for it, to be met by cheering crowds howling signs saying that they believe her. On a personal level, anyone would love that level of support, especially after hours of questions from a mean government man. As a scientist, I'm not sure how I would feel if I had no evidence for my findings, and people chose to believe it because it made a good story. I feel it strays from the point of the book. And science. (Also, surely she would have noticed the crowds on her way in to the building.)


Prometheus (2012)

Everyone in this film is a terrible scientist, with the exception of the geologist, and I'm only giving him a pass because he doesn't do any geologing.  The stated aim of the voyage was that it was a scientific expedition, and at no point does anyone adhere to anything resembling the scientific method.

The thesis of the two... archaeologists? Maybe? is that as the same images appear around the world, they must represent something real. That it quite a jump, and not a reason to spend trillions of dollars. It's also uncomfortably reminiscent of the argument for theism that all these separate cultures can't have come up with religions and afterlives and creation myths on their own, so there must be something to it.

When it turns out that the space-god-aliens are dead, the male archaeologist sulks and goes drinking and says that the expedition has been for nothing. Then his drink poisoned by morally ambiguous Michael Fassbender robot, so I guess that's a lesson in not giving up the second things don't turn out the way you want them to. Really, I have no idea how he completed a PhD with that attitude.

On a technique-based note, Noomi Rapace and Ford are awfully careless with the two thousand-year-old, immaculately preserved head they find. "Oh look, are those living cells on the outer surface?" Maybe, but it seems more likely that they belong to a detrivorous micro-organism than to the head! And why would they assume the brain has the same structure as a human brain when they start shocking it to see what happens? And why has their DNA apparently not diverged from humans in the interim since our creation? And why did this scene sound like the writes wrote down all the biological-ish terms they knew and tried to work them in?

On a personal note, I hope that one thing that comes out of this kind of sci-fi is that when space travel becomes common, there are safety procedures for dealing with terrifying aliens. Also space-ghosts.


Jekyll (2007)

I like Steven Moffat quite a lot when he wrotes short, contained stories. It's just a pity he can't carry an arc in  Doctor Who. (Hee.) This one is about a man, Tom Jackman, who learns he's a descendant of Doctor Jekyll, and begins to lose control of the Hyde alter-ego. He also gets chased by a shadowy organisation who want to use Hyde for research

This story isn't hugely grounded in science, but a theory floated by one character is that Jackman is a clone of Henry Jekyll created by the shadowy organisation, since the latter left no children.  She says that Jackman was never born, but "grown here". NOT HOW CLONING WORKS. First of all, a DNA sample is required, which means tissue that's been dead for more than minutes will be useless. Secondly, since cells can't yet be induced to develop fully - or even very far at all - in a lab, an artificially created zygote still needs a surrogate mother. The only developmental stage of 'test tube babies' that occurs in vitro is fertilisation.

The twist is that there was never a potion, Hyde was brought out by Jekyll's love of his servant, Alice. The second twist is that it is Jackman's wife, Claire, who is the clone of Alice. Claire is horrified by this revelation, insisting "I'm a real person!" I wasn't aware of that as a stereotype, that if you're a clone of someone you somehow don't count. I can't see how being genetically identical to someone affects your personhood - after all, identical twins exist. I can see how she'd react like that if she found out she were a robot that had been programmed to believe it were human, but I think writing in that horror - at the fact of being a clone, not that fact of being created to turn her husband into a weapon - shows a fundamental misunderstanding of cloning, to the point of being irresponsible writing.


In conclusion, science is good, and the scientific method is good, and you can't use your films to accuse scientists of playing god if they haven't performed any science, and if you're writing about hot topics you should understand them, not pander to misinformation.

* I cannot remember the term for the narrative style is omniscient, but focuses on the perspective of a single character rather than jumping between them. Writer people, help?

P.S. I had reached the bust of the top I mentioned in the previous post when I realised it was going to be too wide and rip it all out. It was very sad.