If you want to learn a lot about your personality type without taking some sort of written test, take up knitting, seriously. It’s like the hobby feeds upon your weaknesses (and strengths), concentrates them, and projects them back to you with terrifying clarity.
I can be kind of a perfectionist. My parents will gladly tell anyone about how when I was a young kid coloring in coloring books, straying even the slightest bit outside the lines was enough for me to abandon that picture forever. (On a similar note, it should surprise no one that I’m also a fairly rigid rule-follower.) Unfortunately, I’m also lazy, so I’m not always willing to put in the amount of work needed to accomplish tasks to my satisfaction. The end result is, I’m a huge procrastinator sometimes.
How about that Tom Servo sweater I posted about a month ago? Well, I made it through the corrugated ribbing and the i-cord cast off, picked up my provisional cast-on, and was cruising along on miles and miles of stockinette stitch, when the first ball eventually ran out and I attached the second ball. I noticed that the new stitches seemed a bit lighter, but continued on anyway.
Once I got about two inches along with the new ball, I moved the sweater onto waste yarn so I could try it on. I was really happy with the fit, but once I got a good look at it in the mirror…the difference in color between the first ball and the second ball was super obvious. I told myself I didn’t care, I’d be starting the Servo chart in a few more inches anyway and it would barely be noticeable.
I put the sweater back on the needles, and about a week later…I had only knit a row or two more. I kept stopping, staring at that line between the old ball of yarn and the new one. I looked at the third ball of yarn I had, and it definitely looked darker to me than the second one. I tried to convince myself the color difference wasn’t bad enough for me to rip back the two inches I had knit and try the other ball instead, but instead the sweater just sat in time out for a few days.
Eventually I came to the realization that if I just bit the bullet, ripped out the 16 rows or so I had knit with the lighter ball, and did it over again with the darker ball, I’d probably finish the sweater faster than if I just left it sitting in time-out indefinitely. So yesterday, that’s what I did, and suddenly I’m happy with the project again, and making good progress. There’s still a bit of a color difference between the balls, but not NEARLY as obvious as it was.
Of course, since I only have the three balls, I’m going to need to use that lighter one at some point no matter what. I think I’ll switch to that one when I start the Servo charts; I’m sure that when the blue is broken up by Tom Servos, it won’t be quite as noticeable that it’s lighter than the rest of the blue on the sweater. Then, if I run out of the darker ball while knitting the sleeves, I’ll just finish up with the lighter ball. I can live with a slight color change near my wrists a lot more than I can live with it RIGHT ACROSS THE BOOBS. (Did I mention that’s exactly where the change was?) ;-P
The lesson is, either learn to live with things being less than perfect, or get off your lazy butt and work to make things fit your vision. (Ideally, try a little of both.)
Have any of you taken a class at Coursera? It’s one of several websites aimed at offering free online college courses (Udacity and edX are a couple others, though I haven’t tried those yet) from various universities. You don’t get university credit, but a lot of the courses do offer a statement of completion.
For many years I’ve had an interest in artificial intelligence and robotics; I took Introduction to AI my senior year of college, which was hands-down my favorite class during my college career, and my senior design project was a six-legged walking robot. After graduation, though, I never really pursued those areas any further, and certainly none of the jobs I had pertained to those areas. Recently I was reading an issue of Marquette Engineer that profiled some of the new faculty, and discovered there’s a new professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering department that’s going to have a humanoid robotics lab. My immediate reaction was “WHERE WAS THIS GUY WHEN I WAS IN SCHOOL?!?!”
I suddenly felt a strong desire to go back to school for an advanced degree, but with a toddler running around the house, and probable plans to add another kid to our family in the next year or so, it doesn’t seem very feasible for me right now. I’m sure if I had to, I could make it work, but I’d rather not attempt grad school with an infant. So, if I do go back to school, it will probably have to wait till kid #2 is at least 2 or 3. I can’t just let my math, programming, and general academic skills deteriorate in the meantime (any more than they already have, of course), so I decided to take a few Coursera classes.
So, for the past month I’ve been taking AI Planning and Control of Mobile Robots. AI Planning offers three levels of completion: Awareness (which involves just watching a selection of the lecture videos, and then taking an exam), Foundation (which requires watching all the lecture videos, taking the Awareness level exam, and taking a Foundation level exam with more involved questions), and Performance (which involves all of the above, plus a couple of programming assignments.) Being the nerd that I am, I went for the Performance level. I’m glad I did, because the programming assignments were no joke, and it really helped refresh my skills a lot.
I’m enjoying Control of Mobile Robots a lot too; it’s definitely a challenge considering the fact that Control Theory uses a lot of differential equations and it’s been about a decade since I took differential equations. I’m finding myself really tempted to buy a little robot kit so I can test out some of the stuff I’m learning.
I managed to finish AI Planning a week early this past weekend, which is good because this week I’m starting another course: Natural Language Processing. There are going to be a few programming assignments for this course, and while I could probably do them in C++ (the language I know best), I’ve decided to learn Python and use that instead. For one thing, it was one of the programming languages recommended by the instructor, and for another, I’ve read that it’s well-suited for NLP, and for another, I want to learn it! (In case anyone cares, I’m using the tutorials at Learn Python The Hard Way.
I’m really enjoying this format for taking classes; I can fit in my classwork during Drake’s naps or after he goes to bed, or whenever Kevin takes him off my hands. Even if I don’t ever end up going back to school formally, I’m really glad I’m doing this.
P.S. Some of my hobbies (knitting, video games) have fallen by the wayside a bit, but I am trying to make time for them once in awhile. I’ll save some of that for another post, seeing’s how I’m doing an abysmal job at my blogging New Year’s resolution!
All right, there are lots of knitting projects I’ve finished over the past few months that I SHOULD be posting about, but since I haven’t gotten around to taking proper pictures of any of them, instead I’m going to talk about my current project!
Ever since I saw all the cute modifications people have made to Kate Davies’ Paper Dolls pattern, I started craving my very own geeky sweater. After giving it some thought, I decided to make a sweater featuring my favorite robot, Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000.
I made my very own super-awesome Tom Servo knitting chart:
After much agonizing over which yarn to use, I settled on Dream in Color Smooshy in Romeo Blue.
I also ordered Knit Picks Palette in Pimento, Silver, White, and Black for Tom Servo himself.
After deciding on yarn, I spent an obscene amount of time on Ravelry looking at other people’s Paper Dolls projects to learn about issues that they’d encountered or mods they’d made. As a result, I’ve come up with a fairly lengthy list of ways I’ll be deviating from the pattern as written. (This is probably going to be boring for non-knitters [and possibly knitters] to read; it’s more of a way for me to keep track of it all.)
- The pattern starts out with an i-cord cast-on for the body, but a lot of people seem to have had issues with it and I didn’t really want to deal with it. So instead, I’m doing a provisional cast-on, knitting the corrugated ribbing for the bottom of the sweater downwards, then doing the i-cord bind-off. Then I’ll pick up the stitches from the provisional cast-on and continue on knitting the body upwards. (Reminder to self: increase one stitch after picking up the stitches.)
- A LOT of people had issues with the yoke of the sweater puckering, and one way they’ve mitigated that is to knit the yoke a size smaller than the rest of the body. I’m seriously considering doing this, and also redistributing the decreases in the Servo chart so that they happen a bit more gradually.
- I’m planning on making long sleeves instead of short, and also knitting them downwards. So once I get to the yoke, I’ll provisionally cast on the sleeves, knit a few rows, and then connect them to the body for the yoke.
- I’ve also read that the decrease row on the chart (where half of the stitches are eliminated) is pretty extreme. I’m considering either making the decreases more gradual or moving them up closer to the neck.
- I may also skip the last set of decreases at the neck since a lot of people complained about it being too tight.
- I’m probably going to knit a few extra rows of yoke before starting the Servo charts to avoid the tight underarm issue.
I think that’s about it. I’m really excited to make this sweater!
One of my knitting friends mentioned a delicious carrot ginger soup she’d tried at a local restaurant, and I was intrigued by the idea, so I started looking for recipes online. I found this one, made a few tweaks, and ended up with something amazingly delicious.
I was also excited for the chance to see how my immersion blender could handle a huge pot of soup, because let’s face it, transferring hot soup to a blender or food processor in batches is a pain in the butt. Fortunately, the immersion blender did a great job of producing a very creamy soup. In fact, Kevin was wishing the soup was a little chunkier, so next time I’ll probably set some of the veggies aside before blending.
Be forewarned: this makes a LOT of soup. It’s almost all I was eating for the next few days. Next time I make it (and there WILL be a next time!) I may freeze half of it without the cream, then reheat at a later date and add the cream. (I suppose I could just cut the recipe in half, but it’s always nice to have delicious food waiting for me in the freezer!)
Carrot Ginger Soup
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 onions, peeled and chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Salt and white pepper
Sour Cream (optional)
Green onions, sliced (optional)
In a large pot, melt butter over medium high heat and add onions. Cook and stir until the onions are translucent, then add garlic and cook while stirring for another minute. Add broth, carrots, celery, and ginger. Reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are tender. (I let mine simmer for about 30 minutes.)
Remove from heat. Blend with an immersion blender to desired consistency, or blend in batches in a normal blender. (If freezing a portion of the soup, do so now. ) Stir in cream and heat soup over high heat until hot. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with sour cream and green onions if desired.
So much for posting more regularly! That’s ok though, because tomorrow is a new year, and amongst other things, I’m resolving to write more often!
I’m not always (ok, I’m almost never) successful with New Year’s resolutions, because I always make too many and they’re always too vague. (“Get in better shape”? What exactly does that mean?) Actually, I think my only resolution for 2012 was to lose weight, which I did (despite forgetting about my New Year’s resolution entirely until just this very moment when I checked my Google Talk records to see if I’d even made one), thanks to running and breastfeeding. I have a few definite goals for 2013, and I’m feeling fairly optimistic.
1. Run a half-marathon
I plan to join the next 10k training at Fleet Feet, which starts in two weeks. However, that’s just a stepping stone on my way to doing the half-marathon training, probably for the Brewers Mini-Marathon in September.
2. Write 52 blog posts
Originally my goal was going to be “Write one blog post a week,” but I like phrasing it this way better, because it allows for me to slip up once in awhile but catch up later.
3. Plant a vegetable garden
Even if it’s just a tomato plant and some green onions or something, I’m determined to grow some sort of food in my yard this summer!
4. Get all the achievements in the Dragonborn expansion of Skyrim
Well come on, it’s me, so there has to be something video game-related on here. I’ll probably have this one done by the end of the month, anyway; I’ve already got 2 down, 8 to go!
5. Do something out of the house with Drake every week
I really need to entertain the little guy more, especially now that he’s a toddler. He needs more playdates and outings, plus I’m still unreasonably timid sometimes about even taking him shopping with me (although Christmas shopping this year went a long way towards curing me of that. I even tried on clothes at Kohl’s with him!) So, here’s to a fun 2013 of mommy-toddler time!
I think I’ll stop there, even though it’s tempting to come up with more. I’ll feel a lot better about making five resolutions and succeeding at all of them than making ten resolutions and failing half of them!
So, last time I mentioned games on this blog, I had just finished getting every achievement in Skyrim. After that, I picked up Final Fantasy XIII-2. It wasn’t bad, although the plot seemed to get confusing after awhile. (Wait, they have to do what? And why? Something something the timeline is altered?) Oh, and the ending was an unbelievable downer. I haven’t tried the DLC yet, but sometime I probably will. I did, however, get all the achievements, of course.
High on my success of having 1000 achievement points for two games, I realized I’d never feel right unless I picked up FFXIII again (which I had beaten at the end of November 2011, after a year and a half of extremely sporadic playing) and finished off the last few achievements I needed for that. Of course they were pretty much all the most difficult and time consuming ones; it didn’t take long for me to remember why I’d skipped them the first time around.
But, I’m pretty stubborn when it comes to grinding out achievements.
After I finally finished that, I bought Diablo 3, which had come out a couple weeks before. It’s the first Diablo game I’ve ever played, and I was pretty into it for awhile, especially since there were all sorts of achievements to get. And unlike WoW, they were account-wide! Hooray. Since I had no intention of getting ALL the achievements (level two characters from each class up to 60? NO THANKS), my main goal was just to catch up to my bestie Travis, which unfortunately I was unable to do before I burned out. I did get to about 3400, though.
Another factor in my loss of interest in Diablo was that the Dawnguard and Hearthfire expansions for Skyrim had come out (and with them…you guessed it, more achievements). So that’s what I’m currently playing. I finished the main questline for Dawnguard (on the vampire side), and right now I’m grinding my way through building three houses. The one achievement I’m having my doubts about is “Kill a legendary dragon,” because apparently those don’t even appear with any regularity until level 70 or so, and I’m still at level 50 (and have been ever since I started playing again.) So if I want to have any chance of getting that achievement, I foresee some long hours of level grinding ahead. Too bad there’s not a job that would pay me for being an achievement junkie!
I know, I’ve been beyond pathetic about posting! But, since my knitting friend Leah has started posting regularly again, I’m feeling inspired to get back into it as well! There’s a lot I could talk about in one long post, but I think I’m going to break it up over a few days so I don’t immediately run out of material.
For the past eight weeks, I’ve been training to run a 5k. If you didn’t know I was a runner, that’s ok; I wasn’t! In order to understand how I became a runner, we have to go back three years. (Don’t worry, this won’t be THAT long of a story!)
In September of 2009, Kevin and I took a trip to San Diego and stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house. My Aunt Trina gets up ridiculously early and goes for a run every day before work. During the course of our time in San Diego, I saw tons of runners all over the place and thought, “Man, I wish I were more in shape!” I mentioned to my aunt that I was potentially interested in running and she lent me a book about getting started running.
When I got home, I read through the book and even bought some good shoes at a local running store. I started doing one of the training programs in the book, which had me doing intervals of running/walking, with the eventual goal of running for 20 minutes straight. Unfortunately I sort of fizzled out on the running, and my nice running shoes became my favorite walking shoes.
I had given the running store my e-mail address, and for the past three years I’ve been getting their newsletter, which I never unsubscribed from for some reason. Periodically the newsletter would mention an upcoming 5k training program, and I always thought, “Maybe someday.” Well, maybe it’s the fact that I want to be in better shape at the start of my (eventual) next pregnancy than I was with the first, or maybe I just felt like I needed to add another hobby to the pile, or maybe I’m trying to mitigate the fact that someday Drake will no longer be nursing and I’ll no longer be burning those extra calories, but when I saw a newsletter in August about the upcoming 5k training, I decided to finally attend the info meeting.
Eight weeks later, I can run (albeit slowly, but still) 2.75 miles without stopping. This Saturday I’ll be doing a mock 5k with the group, and then in two weeks I’ll be running the Jingle Bell Run at the Milwaukee County Zoo. I think I may also have been bitten by the running bug; I’m already considering signing up for the next training session which starts in late November, possibly as a mentor. After I get a couple 5k races under my belt, I’d like to try a 10k, and then eventually maybe even a half-marathon!
I think the big difference from my previous running attempts has been the group setting. There were probably times during our group runs that I would have been walking, if there hadn’t been other people around me running and helping set an achievable pace for me. (I definitely have a tendency to push myself harder than I should when I’m running alone, which causes me to burn out.) I actually find myself looking FORWARD to running, which I’m not sure has ever been the case before!
On deck for tomorrow: I think I’ll slide over to the very opposite end of the athleticism spectrum and talk about my video gaming activity of the past six months!