Moving toward different kinds of writing

So, this blog doesn’t get updated very often anymore. There are a couple of reasons for that.

For one, I’m busier than before; little more of a social life, and some more work.

At the same time, I feel less and less inclined to write a personal blog. What is so interesting about my life that it deserves a blog? I’m not discounting the value of writing and thinking about what’s going on, simply pointing out that it doesn’t seem like a particularly worthwhile thing to put out on the internet.

It’s been pointed out to me before that, particularly since I’m quiet, and conversation is by its nature collaborative, it can be helpful to read my own words without any interference. I get that, and I’m not abandoning this blog altogether simply… shifting.

If you’re interested to read my writing more often than my sporadic updates here, feel free to check out Sisterhood of Nerdfighteria – I post on Fridays, and all of mine are tagged with my name. In case you’re wondering, the reason that sort of collaborative blogging doesn’t bother me is because it feels like a conversation rather than a monologue.

I’m debating starting up some sort of crafty blog, and am leaning toward it, but that’d be it’s own, new thing. I wouldn’t subject you to that 😛 We’ll see.

I’ll certainly keep writing, but I’m hoping to move away from the narcissistic-feeling personal blogging; sheesh, it’s already too easy for me to get wrapped up in myself, I don’t need any enocouragement! 🙂

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Google+ and thoughts on social networking

Have you heard about Google+? It’s the currently invite-only social network set up by Google to attempt to dethrone Facebook as the social media giant. Since it’s in beta and invites can still be hard to come by, it’s whipped up a lot of interest and discussion from social networkers, bloggers, and tech geeks. But it doesn’t seem that the hype has reached most other people, with some not even recognizing the name.

But a big question here is whether it’d be worth it for most people to switch over and start new if Facebook is already meeting all or most of the needs of its user base. It’s the equivalent of a new MMORPG starting up and trying to convince World of Warcraft players to join; everyone shrugs and asks “what do you have that I’m not already getting?”

I use Facebook primarily for two reasons: getting updates from people I actually want to be getting updates from (no, seriously – I have under 50 friends!), and sharing interesting links (both receiving information in my feed from places like BlogHer and Lifehacker, as well as  sending/receiving geekiness with friends through walls and messages).

As far as I can tell, Google+ is better at both of those things. There’s a Sparks tab to look at pages relevant to interests (though I’d like to see the option to save my interests and have the Sparks page be kind of like a feed) and share them, site/brand/fan pages are apparently coming soon (so I can get the blogs I read directly in my feed… err… stream? I’m mixing up all my social networking terminology now).

As an added bonus, Google+ has put a lot of emphasis on the Circles feature, where you can drag and drop people into different groups, and for every piece of information you put out, you’re prompted about which circles you’d like to have see this. This would be handy for when I don’t want to clog up everyone’s feed with my Doctor Who fangirling, but have several friends who’d be interested in seeing it (without me having to post it on each of their individual pages).

And let’s be honest – I’d really like to not feel like a jerk for turning down friend requests all the time because I don’t want updates about what the person I had a single class in high school with had for lunch. Hey, sure, I’ll add you! I’ll just stick you in this circle where you don’t see anything that would’ve gotten me teased as a teenager, and I’ll never check this circle on my stream and be subjected to your diet updates. Or hey, ex-boyfriend-that-tries-to-add-me-every-couple-months, you can go right in your own little circle so you can’t social network stalk me but I don’t have to actually turn you down.

Facebook does have the same sort of feature in the form of lists, but it’s not well publicized, and the process of adding and organizing lists and people within them is a big pain, while Google+’s circles are simple and intuitive.

I really like both of those features, and while the whole place is still kind of a ghost town due to its beta stage of development, I like the fresh, clean feel to it.

Remember switching from Myspace, which had the option to completely customize every aspect of the profile (often resulting in seizure-inducing GIFs, backgrounds, and color combinations) and banner ads on all sides, to Facebook with its clean and simple blue and white?

It’s a similar feeling with Google+. No ads, no countless updates about whoever’s CityVille/Farmville/something-ville or those ridiculously annoying “so and so answered a question about so and so” that fill up a feed so quickly. I know this will be brief – the Facebook games will invade and there will likely eventually be ads. But for now?

Sweet simplicity.

I don’t know if Google+ can compete with Facebook. I’m not sure how wise it is to put even more information in Google’s hands – though I do know that if it allows integration between Google+ and other Google Apps, I will officially throw my right to privacy out the door and hop on that bandwagon.

Only time will tell; to use the Myspace example again, it was on top of the world for a few years and seemed so promising, and now it’s nearly dead. Who’s to say the same won’t happen with Facebook? But even if Facebook stomps down the fledgling Google+, I hope it takes some ideas from the competition and streamlines some of the features already available.

How to Make a Knitted Wizard Hat (felting optional)

Did you know that it’s next to impossible to find a wizard hat pattern on the internet? (Or, at least one that’s offered for free – come on, Internet! This is where you decide to start charging for crap?!) Well, okay, there are wizard hat patterns, but not very cool looking ones:(Also note that that hat is sewn, not knit, which the person I was making this for specifically requested.) I was looking for something more worn looking, more Gandalf-y, like this wasn’t some pasty wizard sitting up in a tower eating grapes and arguing about magical theory but instead actually got out and was taking care of things.

Now, my non-knitting friends (read: all of you =P), don’t feel like you have to read the instructions in this, I’m just putting this out there so the next person who wants to make a hat like this doesn’t have to go through all the frustration I have to figure out how the hell to do this.

This is the sort of pattern that, once you figure out how it works, you can pretty well do it however you want. Do you really want me to explain all the reasons why this pattern works, or do you just want the pattern?

You just want the pattern 🙂 I’ll be offering up directions for what I did, but since this hat is both felted and for a person with a huge noggin (literally, not metaphorically), you can stop the body of the hat and move on to the brim whenever it’s the circumference you want.

Felted Gandalf Hat

[Credit to Maggie’s Rags for the witch hat pattern I’m working from and Kimberly Chapman for information on how to help adjust the shape]

Felt a test swatch of your yarn (skip if you don’t want to felt your hat):

You’ll need to measure it before and after to see how it proportionally decreases. It’s a little risky to do this with a hat, as it may felt differently across its surface, but my friend wanted a felted wizard hat, and he bought the yarn, so who am I to complain?

My test swatch was 5″ x 5″, and felted it came out to 2″ x 4″. The circumference of the head I was making it for was 26″, and I was more concerned with the hat shrinking in the diameter and being to small than with it shrinking in height (but the test swatch was helpful because I then knew to make it about twice as tall as I wanted it to actually be). If you’re felting your hat, to figure out how big around it should be, plug in your numbers to this:

Multiply the length of test swatch before felting by the diameter you want the hat to be after felting. Divide all of that by the length of the test swatch after felting, and that will give you how big around your hat should be before felting.

Gather your supplies.

I used:

  • 3 skeins Lion Brand Wool in Ranch Red, medium weight (approximately the same size as worsted weight)
  • 4 size 8 double pointed needles
  • size 8, 26″ circular knitting needle

Stitches/techniques you’ll need for this pattern other than knit, purl, stockinette and basic knit bindoff:

Making the Hat – Body

Cast on with three stitches, working i-cord for several inches (for my felted hat, I did 10 rows; for a non-felted hat you’ll probably want about half of that).

Once it’s the length you want it, M1R between the second to last and last stitch on the first dpn (all of my increases occur between the second to last and last stitch on a dpn, and all of my decreases occur at the end of a dpn, so that instruction will be implied from now on). Continue this until you have six stitches (3 rounds), then divide evenly onto three dpns. I highly recommend putting a stitch marker on your first dpn, otherwise it’s easy to forget which one is which.

For the main body of the hat:

Rounds 1 – 7: M1R on the first dpn.

Round 8: M1R on the second dpn.

Round 9: SSK on the first dpn, M1R on the second dpn.

Rounds 10 – 15 : Repeat rounds 8 and 9 (all even rounds worked as round 8, all odd rounds worked as round 9)

Rounds 16 – 21: M1R on the third dpn.

Rounds 22 – 24: M1R on the first dpn.

Round 25: M1R on the second dpn.

Round 26: M1R on the second dpn, SSK on the third dpn.

Rounds 27 – 30: Repeat rounds 25 and 26

*Rounds 31 – 35 : M1R on the third dpn

Rounds 32 – 38: M1R on the first dpn

Round 39: M1R on the second dpn

Round 40: M1R on the second dpn, SSK on the third dpn

Rounds 41 – 46: Repeat rounds 39 and 40*

Repeat from * to * until the hat is the circumference you would like for it to be. Feel free to slightly adjust the amount of rounds you do on each dpn, it helps to make the hat shape more random. When your dpns get full, transfer your stitches to your circular needle, being careful to not drop any stitches. It’s helpful to use stitch markers to show where your needles had been, to make sure you continue the same pattern. If your circular needle is too large to hold your stitches when you first transfer them, use the magic loop method until the work is large enough to be able to knit comfortably.

I got annoyed with how long this hat was taking, and midway through began to increase by two while still only decreasing by one, and the shape of the hat wasn’t noticeably odd (though if you did the entire hat like this it may be strangely proportioned).

Making the Hat – Brim

Once the hat is the circumference you’d like, you can remove all of your markers and begin knitting in garter stitch. On knit rounds, increase by 8 stitches throughout the round (I just increased at random, trying to not increase at the same spots all the time), and purl regularly on purl rounds. Continue until brim is the width you’d like. My brim, even felted, was very floppy, so I’d recommend decreasing back down in the same manner (stockinette stitch, decrease 8 stitches on knit rounds and purl regularly) until the brim can be folded over and sewn onto the hat.

My finished product:

Ta da!

(I promise I’ll retire that picture after this post, Patrick. Thanks for being a good sport!)

Ouch, that hits right at the heart of it

Oh man. This week was tough for a couple of reasons.

For the week of not really being sure about my relationship with Alex, I let myself slip a lot on my reading for class. It’s not particularly unusual for me to be a bit sporadic with my reading, but I’m now pretty behind and midterms are starting next week. Eeek!

After five years of not having to think a whole lot about my friendships with guys, this week I ended up in a rather uncomfortable situation that stressed me out for a day or two. With a little bit of time to get my thoughts together, I worked up my willpower and faced it head on, which takes a lot of effort with my people-pleaser and conflict avoidance tendencies.

And then there was last night. I’d set a challenge a few weeks ago to go visit both Campus Crusade and Chico Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, but with all of the other stuff going on I’d put it off. I had a couple of reasons for deciding to go; partially it was to get a little practice being at peace with my roots so that this year I can sit through my family’s Christmas service without cringing the whole time, scoping out the recruiting possibilities for the Abbey, and taking a fresh look at what I left. I realize that I’ve reactively swung to the other end of the spectrum and may have tossed out good and useful practices and ideas because of their associations with evangelicals.

I ended up going only to Intervarsity, and Joshua came as well. It was not particularly pleasant for me. On one hand, particularly the music brought back memories of emotional worship and mission trips and all of those big moments that I had as an evangelical, but I realized that it no longer triggered those responses in me and instead felt soppy and boring.

There’s also the fact that I was hugely judgmental throughout the whole thing. Which is horrible! This is when I was really thankful that someone else was there to remind me that, while it wasn’t particularly good, it wasn’t that bad. I tried really hard to remind myself that if that works for someone then they should continue doing that, and I certainly don’t have all the answers.

I spent a lot of this morning trying to figure out why my reaction was so extreme, and I think I have at least a piece of it. You know the saying that what we dislike most in others is what we see in ourselves? Yipes. A huge chunk of my insecurities in my place in the Abbey and our surrounding groups – as the youngest, least experienced, least well-read and educated, least articulate, most prone to over-emotion, etc – popped out at me in the crowd of college kids. Being judgmental is a quick and easy way to elevate myself and make myself feel better that I’m “not as bad as them.”

And then Joshua had to go and remind me that I was just like that two years ago.

Annnd back to school

Alas, the last few hours of my Spring Break have slipped away and it is now currently…a school day. Dun dun DUNNN!

Okay, fine, it’s really not that bad. My first class is furloughed, so I only have to be on campus for a couple of hours this afternoon.

So what did I wile away my time with this week? I tried to roughly incorporate similar rhythms and routines into my life as what we’ll be starting after Easter, getting used to moving in and out of them as I had other obligations such as work. Probably the weirdest experience was the first day because time seemed to have slowed down so much; it got to the point that while I was out grocery shopping I thought vaguely about picking up my paycheck, but figured I’d be back for work in a couple hours and it wasn’t worth it. I then looked at the clock and realized that work wasn’t even open yet and I had 7 hours before I needed to be clocked in.

I’d like to say I did tons of homework and I’m all caught up. Well, I did some homework, but mostly I just enjoyed myself this week. I put in about three times my normal amount of time at the library, and spent time in the kitchen stocking up on some baked goods (and, surprisingly, having a whole slew of tasty things in my fridge seems to actually make me eat them less, I guess with the reasoning being “meh, they’ll be there for awhile, no need to gobble them all down now”). I cleaned and organized bit by bit, so while there’s still plenty to be done – somehow a sink full of dishes has crept up on me – it’s still significantly better (i.e. there’s no funny smell in the fridge anymore).

I tried out making homemade yogurt, with somewhat runny albeit tasty results, and am prepping to try out homemade candy bars this week. So I guess what I’m saying here is that, yes, I could’ve done a lot more, task-wise. But I feel rejuvenated and renewed, and I don’t completely hate college right now, so I think that’s a good trade off. Everything in balance, right?

I’m also currently deciding what to do with my tax refund. I already know for sure that there are several baking books I’d like to buy (is it a bad sign when a bread book makes you feel all giddy?), and I think I may want to pick up a cheap point-and-shoot so that I can have at least some photo-taking abilities back. Though eventually I’d like a digital SLR, this is definitely more in my price range right now.

I’m debating getting an ipod touch, but there are rumors out on the interwebs about a next gen coming out in the fall or earlier that includes a camera, and I’m all for multi-functioning devices (if it wasn’t for my attempt to minimize recurring bills, I’d be all over the iphone; phone, mini-laptop, games, music, and camera all in one). I guess for now my decision is indecision, I’ll wait around and see how things are looking; the only thing to lose is my patience.

I have no lunch recap for you this week, but I would like to share that I actually ate some fruits and vegetables this week. I swear! I have witnesses!

Finally, in complete shamelessness, I’d like to point out that my knitting class is starting up in a few weeks…

Credit to Summer Price for the flier.

Week 6

I officially have 1 unit less than I did at this time last week. It’s not much, but I’ll take it! =)

Lunches:

Monday: Muffin, scrambled egg wrap

Tuesday: Banana, french bread

Wednesday: Banana, pizza egg wrap

Thursday: Banana, garlic bread pizza, homemade granola bars (you’ll hear about that later)

Can you tell this week was the last one before I got paid?

Also, I’m realizing that not using pictures makes it quite hard for me to remember what I brought….

Steve brought home two big jars of garlic bread seasoning for everyone to use, so almost everything has had some form of garlic seasoning added to it. As an avid garlic lover, I really can’t complain. I’m putting some on the breadsticks I’m making for tonight’s meal, and they’re rising right now – they look divine. Me and my love of carbs.

Tonight Alex and his friend Jeff and I are going down to Chico for a late showing of Alice in Wonderland. I would like to point out that it concerns me just a tad that two college aged guys are actually really excited to go see it, and if they squeal when Johnny Depp comes on screen then Alex and I maaaaay need to have a talk.

Other than that, I’m just waiting out the next week to get to spring break. And byw aiting I mean being swamped with tests and projects. But yea, pretty much the same thing, right?

Day 1

Yesterday marked Day 1 of Week 1 of a new semester of school. I was pretty much in denial right up until I got on the bus, as if at the last minute I’d get a call from Chico State telling me there’d been a mistake, that I was all set to go into the credential program and could take this semester off, and of course that the check for my refunded tuition was in the mail.

The normal good feelings I get of a new start for the semester aren’t here this time, but it’s not horrible. In the afternoon, my best friend in my program was trying to convince me to take a class with her on Fridays, and, forgetting to censor myself (which is doubly unfortunate since this was also in front of our adviser), I quipped that I didn’t want to ruin my Friday with school. I have plenty of valid reasons for wanting to keep my Friday clean, but because I wasn’t thinking, of course I chose the one that summed them all up but also sounded the most rude. I really need to remember my audience better.

I am really looking forward to my art class this semester, since we get to actually do a lot of projects rather than just hear about them. I’m not particularly good at art, especially the 2D ones (painting, drawing, etc) but even if they aren’t masterpieces I still like creating them and find the process relaxing and rejuvenating. I could tell this was going to be a good class when the professor tried to gently explain that, having taught in our program for several years, she’s discovered that we not only have special gifts and talents but also special needs, and has adjusted the course accordingly. Most of the class looked confused, but I spotted a couple other people angling their heads down to try to hide their knowing smirks.

That’s about it for now. Yesterday was a long day of school and work and I’m feeling pretty tired, I’ve had to rewrite a few of these sentences because when I reread them I realized that they were completely incoherent. I get back in plenty of time for the meal tonight, so maybe I’ll find some time for some sleep then (since I have to get up even earlier tomorrow). There’s still several messes from youth group and candle making that I need to clean up at some point, and I’m realizing that even though I never had an amazing handle on balancing work, school, meals, cleaning, and taking care of myself, over the course of break I’ve forgotten how to do it at all. Time for some re-learning!

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