Archive for July, 2014

July 30, 2014

A (sexy) gardening question

Coriandrum sativum - Köhler–s Medizinal-Pflanzen-193.jpgA pioneering study in 1954 found that rodents with electrodes implanted in the pleasure centers of their brains will repeatedly push a button to provide electrical stimulation to that area, neglecting adjoining buttons that dispense food and water until the poor creatures die of exhaustion.

This hard-wired, evolutionary push towards reproduction extends to even the lower kingdoms, for which “pleasure” cannot be experienced.  I have long known that when trying to grow herbs, you have to pinch off the buds that grow at the tops of the stalks.  Because plants, like rats (and humans), preferentially spend their energy trying to spread their seed, as opposed to growing the leaves that would permit photosynthesis, both essential to life and the tasty portion I’d like to snip and use in my cooking.  But despite our habitual herbal castrations, I still end up with these wiry, unflaggingly flowering plants…and flavorless food.  So, my question is this: besides daily de-blossoming, what else can I do to discourage my herbs from chasing tail?  Bonus points for clever wordplay or hilarious analogies involving horny teenagers or misbehaving pooches.

July 18, 2014

Festivals and finals

IMG_1050So, the last couple months were hell (See: “The world didn’t end“).  Not only did I have my qualifying exam but an additional gauntlet of scholarly tasks leading up to it.  But it wasn’t all bad.  I made time to do a couple fun things in the early summer (You know, before the soul-sucking malaise of the weeks just before the qual wouldn’t permit me time to properly eat or bathe.  Did I have to make things so hard on myself?  Absolutely not.  But I did, and the bitterness remains.).

Anyhoo, this included some lovely festivals.  (I’m kind of a dork; if this is news to you, you haven’t been paying attention.)   As always, I attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival at the beginning of May.  But this time, I thought, instead of posting the same old photos I do each year, I’d introduce you to some of the new things I discovered this time around…



Firstly, there was Melissa Jean: an online store based in Marcellus, New York that specializes in handmade porcelain buttons.  I know, I know: buttons are not technically a new, amazing discovery.  But you see, I’m a relatively new knitter and very much still learning, so most of the time my money’s spent on buying the basics.  However, I am increasingly finding, to my delight, that as my skill set expands, I am able to accumulate more advanced accoutrements.  And not to be overdramatic (read: to be as dramatic as possible), my realization at that moment at the festival that I may be ready for buttons was, in a word, revolutionary.  So, my partner-in-crime Sarah and I giddily snatched up as many buttons as we could hold, the ones by Melissa Jean being, by far, the most charming.

Melissa Jean - Handknit Design IMG_1035

Now, this next finding was a true novelty.  The booth for Loop the online fiber store had all kinds of unique textiles to look at.  They had these spun skeins of batting in an array of vibrant colors that dispensed from the center, which makes the unspun fiber far more workable.  And perhaps it’s just me and my laughably pitiful spinning skills (I suck), but that is a definite plus with how tricky roving is to work with.  They also a bunch of other funky fibers, like these cords of unspun fiber tied together with string; the especially interesting ones had chunky beading or even Treasure trolls woven in (these things, for the young folks).

IMG_1036 IMG_1038

And speaking of spinning, we also had the opportunity to get a tutorial from a lovely lady at The Spanish Peacock.  She showed us how to use these supported spindles that come with these lovely, divotted wooden bowls for spinning on a surface.  An attractive option to the clumsiness of a drop spindle or the seemingly impossible difficulty of a Turkish spindle.  I was especially taken with a deep blue one (pictured below), and I very much had to resist the urge to immediately possess it.  In a dear-God-I-think-I-may-actually-die-if-I-don’t-buy-this kind of way.  I just had to keep reminding myself that the grace and deftness with which she spun the thread is not included with the purchase of the spindle, and, with regard to spinning, I suck…hard.

Supported Spindles Untitled

Ah, another successful festival in the books…without the same well-worn assemblage of photos… Okay, fine, one baby alpaca photo.  It’s tradition!  Her name is Wanda.


July 16, 2014

The world didn’t end

Aaaaannnnnnddddd I survived!  To catch everyone up, you may have noticed that I vanished after April.  This is because it was my turn to endure the tortuous, graduate school rite of passage…the qualifying exam.  Also known as the comprehensive exam, prelims, or the ninth circle of hell.  It is widely regarded as the worst experience of grad school (my vote can now be included in that- I’m declaring it with still a few years to go) and has, outwardly, a seemingly insufficient payoff: I get to pursue a Ph.D.  But wait, you may say, wasn’t that what you were already doing?  Sadly, no.  During the first two years, you must acquire the knowledge and then prove you are “ready”.  Yes, that rigorous, merciless raking-over-the-coals was rewarded with, effectively, a “Yeah ok, you can stay”.  And yet it is EVERYTHING to a grad student.  We’re insane.

One does not simply   pass the           Qualifying Exam.

You guys, that was my first meme!

Anyways, I am now a third year and right on track for the idealism plummet that, so I am told, leads to an actual, semi-successful career in the sciences.  All-in-all, I’d call that a win!

 <– Truth

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