Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The solution to the lawn problem

Y'all know that I hate mowing the lawn, but I think I've found the perfect solution:

miniature sheep

I really like the miniature Romney sheep. Check out those horns! Plus, their wool makes great yarn for knitting. :)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

riddle me this...

So why exactly did Oscar and I spend most of our day working in the yard when the entire ideal behind a manicured yard is to emulate the class of people who either have the leisure time to have a manicured yard or the money to pay someone to keep it up?

I really fracking hate the lawn.

Friday, April 25, 2008

the most beautiful thing in the world

Continuing with the philosophy that joy is found in the little things, I present you with the most beautiful thing I have recently seen:

This is the laundry hamper full of Oscar's clothes. What makes this so beautiful is that I did not put them there. Nor was it laundry day.

Oscar put his own clothes in the laundry hamper without me saying ANYTHING.

Ah, it truly brought a tear to my eye.

Let's contrast that with one of the most frustrating things in my world:

This is the kitchen wall, bereft of shelves. There used to be shelves there before Oscar got sick of them and took them down to replace them with much cooler shelves from IKEA to satisfy his designer-y soul.

He took these shelves down last November and it is now almost May. And he complains how inefficient and cramped the kitchen is...

I figure six months is plenty of time for him to have taken care of this before I gripe publicly.

Besides, he has said that he doesn't read my blog anyway. :P

Pre-21st century wifely complaint: "You never listen to me!"
21st century wifely complaint: "You never read my blog!"

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

the one word meme

1. Where is your cell phone? Kitchen

2. Your significant other? handsome

3. Your hair? uncontrollable

4. Your mother? insane

5. Your father? unknown

6. Your favorite thing? sleep

7. Your dream last night? unknown

8. Your favorite drink? scotch

9. Your dream/goal? wealth

10. The room you're in? office

11. Your ex? none

12. Your fear? insecurity

13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? elsewhere

14. Where were you last night? Skamania

15. What you're not? uber-thin

17. One of your wish list items? furniture

18. Where you grew up? California

19. The last thing you did? Eat

20. What are you wearing? PJs

21. Your TV? disliked

22. Your pet? mulitple

23. Your computer? Apple

24. Your life? content

25. Your mood? sated

26. Missing someone? always

27. Your car? basic

28. Something you're not wearing? bra

29. Favorite store? yarn

30. Your summer? hopeful

31. Like someone? yes

32. Your favorite color? blue

33. When is the last time you laughed? today

34. Last time you cried? unknown

35. Who will/would re-post this? Kat(ze)?

Road trip!

Part of the trick to achieving happiness in life is to look for the joy in small things.

For example, right now I am incredibly happy that I live in Tacoma because I just spent the last four hours in a minivan with three very intelligent, competent, and successful women who are also high-strung, Type A types complaining about their children. What bothered me most was not that they were complaining about their children, but that the tone of their complaints was veering very close to self-pity and self-martyrdom that I felt rather disgusted and wanted to throttle each and every one of them.

I am so glad that I live in Tacoma so I didn't have to ride all the way back to Seattle with them.

See? Little things like that. I feel much happier now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

what you do when on a business trip

It's a beautiful resort but the weather is horrendous. It takes a hardier soul than I to go for a walk in a mixture of freezing rain/snow. A drink costs $10 in the bar and most people went to bed really early anyway.

I brought my computer with me, theoretically so that I could input all my notes but that ain't happening. It's my own computer (I am not eligible to get a laptop at work) so I don't feel guilty at all sitting here and playing with the Photo Booth application.

Nothing like trying to take a picture of myself to paste on my Facebook page so that my long-lost friends can see what I look like now than to realize that my hair is absolutely awful and completely uncooperative.

A thoughtful look. Maybe it's because I washed my hair?

Life can be very funny!

(What is this look? I was trying for philosophical but I think I look a bit more startled.)

I need to get my hair cut.

The graphite pencil effect, pt 1.

The graphite pencil effect, pt. 2.

(I don't even like Andy Warhol.)

Generic, non-effect photo. Crappy color, which is why I went with B&W.

But I've been productive! (That's half a sock, in case you were curious.)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

it's getting to me

We've been having some rather unusual weather lately. Three weeks ago it snowed. Last Saturday was a very lovely but unseasonably summer-like day (which caused just about everyone in the Puget Sound area to mow their lawns and cause great distress to all those who have grass allergies).

The past few days have alternated between cold rain, warm sunshine, sleet, snow, and hail. Often within the same hour.

Oscar, Kat, and I went up to Seattle yesterday to go to some yarn shops. (I thought Kat's husband Crash was going to come along too, but he recently joined an Ultimate Frisbee league and had the pleasure of playing the entire game in that weird hail/sleet/snow crap that's been falling from the sky.)

I spent the afternoon updating my Ravelry account, and trying to take pictures of my yarns that I haven't put in the database yet. I was trying to take pictures outside but I could only take a few snaps at a time before the weather turned nasty again and I'd have to move everything inside.

I swear it wasn't until just a few minutes ago that I noticed a theme among the yarns I bought yesterday:

First, a lovely alpaca yarn from Bolivia

Second, a thick sock yarn from Sweden

Third, an unusual linen paper yarn from Japan.

Apparently, this weather has erased all desire for color out of my life.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

then and now

Some of you may not know that our dog Kate came into our lives the day we moved into our house. She was starving and had some terrible cuts and scrapes on her body.

Here's a picture of her right after we got her:

Can you tell how skinny she was? All of her ribs stuck out and you could count all the vertebrae in her back. You can see the scrapes above her right eye, too. Those have healed but she still has the scars.

And here's a picture of her just two weeks after we got her:

Shiny coat. Snuggled up on the couch. Happy and relaxed.

And here she is now, totally at home, with her best bud Seamus:

Total snugglebugs, both of them.


1. What is your occupation? Transportation Engineer

2. What color are your socks right now? my favorite: "Schlange"--striped orange hand knit socks made from Opal Yarns Rainforest collection

3. What are you listening to right now? whatever Oscar's watching on the TV. Probably some reality show.

4. What was the last thing that you ate? Burger and tater tots at Dad Watson's in Seattle. Too much food. My stomach hurts now.

5. Can you drive a stick shift? Oh yes. I prefer it.

6. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Midnight blue

7. Last person you spoke to on the phone? My friend MF

8. Do you like the person who sent this to you? of course. I wouldn't be filling this out if I didn't!

9. How old are you today? 39

10. Favorite drink? believe it or not, I'm a big fan of water.

11. What is your favorite sport to watch? whichever has the cutest guys wearing the smallest outfits.

12. Have you ever dyed your hair? pretty regularly until I was 30, when I had this great idea of starting the new decade of my life by bleaching my brown hair platinum and putting blue streaks in it. Even though I had it professionally done, it needed four separate bleaching applications to get it light enough and it left my scalp terribly blistered and my hair in absolutely awful shape. Once the roots became really noticeable, I dyed it back to my natural color and haven't dyed it too often since then.

13. Pets? Two dogs, Seamus and Kate and two cats, Sasha (aka Mr Whineypants) and Maggie

14. Favorite food? I love so many foods it's hard to narrow it down. Mashed potatoes. Oscar's gyoza. Sushi. Pho. Green Tea Ice Cream.

15. Last movie you watched? It's been awhile. I think "No Country for Old Men"

16. Favorite Day of the year? Thanksgiving. Any holiday based on nothing but good food is my kind of day.

17. What do you do to vent anger? stuff it right down into the pit of my stomach where it festers.

18. What was your favorite toy as a child? My stuffed dog named Beautiful.

20. Hugs or kisses? hugs, but I wouldn't give up the chance to kiss Orlando Bloom. Or Johnny Depp. Or Takashi Kaneshiro.

21. Cherry or Blueberry? Cherry.

22. When was the last time you cried? Not sure really

23. What is on the floor of your closet? Boxes

24. Who is the friend you have had the longest? My friend Mr B, whom I have known since I was 16.

25. Who is the friend you see the least and miss often? Katze

26. Favorite smells? laundry dried in the sun, freshly cut herbs (except dill, which I hate with a passion), fresh baked bread, the scent of electrical discharge (it reminds me of making cakes with my mom, which is a really pleasant memory in our usually tumultuous relationship)

27. Who inspires you? believe it or not, Bono.

28. What are you afraid of? rats

29. Plain, cheese or spicy hamburgers? cheese, with extra pickles!

30. Favorite car? I hate driving, but it would probably more pleasant in a Mini.

31. Favorite dog breed? mutts and Rottweilers

32. Number of keys on your key ring? too many

33. How many years at your current job? 1.5

34 Favorite day of the week? Sunday

35. Who is your favorite in-law? my mother in law, although I think (most of) Oscar's family is pretty awesome. I got lucky in the in-law department. He got the crazy ones.

36. Do you think you're funny? I believe I have a sense of humor. I don't know if I'm funny though. Occasionally witty.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

and the newest blog baby is...

Welcome Kat to the blogosphere! check out Katlandia; it's a very nice place. The native population wrongly thinks it's dull but when one's homeland is flush with wit and intelligence, these things seem so normal and everyday, and they forget what rare gems they are.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

weight watchers goes global

Berry Agutuk is made with fresh berries, seal oil, and diced caribou fat.

In case you are curious, the Weight Watchers database lists that one serving of berry agutuk has 6 points.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

thank you for the concern but...

despite all my whining about the exam yesterday and how the afternoon test was like nothing in the study materials, there is no cause for legal action.

I was truly just griping about the shock of just how freaking hard that exam turned out to be. On the exam website, there is a list of all the reference materials that are used in formulating the questions and I didn't bother with bringing any of them. (In fact, there was only one question that referred to a reference material that wasn't on the list, and seriously, that one question isn't going to make or break you if you've been prepared for the other questions.)

I felt really underprepared for the exam as a whole, and that's my own fault. I had originally booked a room in downtown Seattle for the night before so that I wouldn't have to get up so early and thus possibly improve my chances of passing. I ended up canceling that reservation because I didn't feel all that confident (again, based on the having not studied all that much) and decided to not spend $120 on a hotel room. (And this is for a room with a bathroom down the hall. Verrrrrry expensive to sleep in Seattle, apparently.) Instead, I woke up at 4:30 on the morning of the exam to catch a bus between 5am and 5:30 to give me plenty of time to get to Seattle Center by 7. Now wouldn't you know it but it was that rare day when there were no traffic problems and I got to downtown Seattle by 6:15 and ended up hanging out in a Starbucks for half an hour. Then I walked to Seattle Center from Westlake, which is not all that far and is really quite a pleasant walk except that I am normally not carrying a box of books that weighs 30 lbs (15 kg). Although you have to supply reference materials, the exam administrators frown on backpacks. I didn't want to risk being denied entry because I may have overlooked a forbidden pencil at the bottom of my backpack. (You think I'm joking? Go to this site and check out the "Candidate Agreement".) However, there were several people with backpacks although most people used rolling suitcases (and a few people had hand trucks).

Despite having to carry a heavy box of books, I'm glad I did walk to Seattle Center because a young man with a rolling suitcase approached me with a very worried, almost panicked expression on his face, asking me if I knew where Seattle Center was. The only people going to Seattle Center at that time of day were employees, homeless folks, or wannabe engineers. Because he was so kempt as well as having a pretty snazzy suitcase, I assumed he was going to the exam and asked him so. Yes, he was. He had stayed in a hotel the previous night, and had misunderstood the directions the hotel staff had given him and he had been walking in circles for half an hour. He was Canadian and his firm did a lot of work in the US, which was why he was taking the exam. It would also explain why he was lost, since he asked for directions to "Seattle Center" (and not "the Exhibition Hall in Seattle Center") and was given directions to the Space Needle, which is also in Seattle Center and is a great landmark.

Anyway, I felt really unprepared going in, but actually felt really confident after the Breadth portion. I felt like I had a real chance, that even if I didn't know the answer, I had enough knowledge of the reference materials to be able to find out how to solve the problem. (As a last resort, you could always guess. That's a benefit to a multiple choice exam. (Not all PE exams are multiple choice. Civil engineering is, structural engineering is not.) However, the phrase "the answer is most likely:" really struck fear in my heart. Like one question gave the dimensions of building walls to be constructed with a certain size of concrete blocks and you had to figure out how many blocks you'd need. This is really a straightforward question but of course the answer I got--twice--fell in between two of options. I ended up going with the answer with the greater quantity than what I'd calculated, because the other option wouldn't provide enough bricks to actually construct the walls. Assuming I'd calculated correctly, of course. Of all the questions on the breadth exam, this one bugged me the most. Wouldn't you know that the same question appeared in the Depth exam as well, but in a more complex form. You had to figure out the cost of the wall, based on cost of bricks, labor costs, labor rate, salvage value, etc. A fairly straightforward question, even if the answer I calculated wasn't one of the options given so I ended up guessing it anyway.

At least it's over

Hah, you thought I was talking about the sweater I'm making for myself, aren't you. No, that's still sitting in the basket, waiting for me to make the neckband.

Yesterday I took the Professional Engineering exam up in Seattle (see below). I have been dreading this for ages, and really didn't put the amount of time into studying that I really should have. It's the first time I've taken the exam but I am quite sure that it's not the last.

The exam is divided into two parts: breadth and depth. Civil engineering is really a broad discipline and the breadth section reflects that. Basic questions on transportation planning, roadway design, structural analysis, geotechnical. When I say "basic", I mean that all the information you need is right in the question. You still have to know how to determine the answer but there aren't five or six additional pieces of information you have to derive in order to get the final answer. (That kind of stuff is saved for the depth exam.)

The Civil depth exam is divided into five modules--transportation, structures, geotechnical, water resources/environmental, and construction. This is the first time the construction module has been offered (water resources and environmental used to be separate modules), and I bought the review manual from the exam site to get an idea what would be on it. The construction module contained a lot of question types that used to be in transportation (e.g. surveying and roadway design questions), as well as a lot of economic style questions (e.g. figuring out how much it would cost to build a wall based on cost of materials, labor cost and labor rate). Complex problems, but not entirely difficult ones, and I felt reasonably prepared for that. The transportation module was a lot less roadway design now than planning analysis, so I opted to take the construction depth module.

Which probably would have worked out as well as anything else if the damn exam was anything like the actual study materials. Remember, this is the first time the construction module was given, and the only study materials were offered from the same organization that actually writes the damn exam. If I had realized that most of the questions would be structural engineering, I wouldn't have taken it. If I'd realized that fully 25% of the questions would be about worker safety codes, I wouldn't have taken it? Why? This is an open book exam, and since I didn't know that I'd have to refer to OSHA requirements, I didn't have any materials with me. I didn't have any ASTM reference materials or the Pile Driving index put out by a national industry publication.

About 25% of the questions I could actually answer based on my knowledge and reference materials, and about 15% I felt I could make an educated guess. The rest were pure guesswork. How bad was it? We had four hours to take the exam and just after two hours had passed, I had done all that I could do. I decided to actually tackle the transportation module and mark my answers separately and if at the end of the exam, I felt like I'd done better on transportation, I'd have turned that one in instead. But I didn't have enough time to do those questions either, so it was a wash.

If I do pass, it will be total luck and I will be deeply cynical about the license. Most likely, I'll end up taking it at least once and probably twice. Most people who don't pass it on the first try pass it on the third, and about 20% don't pass it even after the fifth time.


Engineering in the US is rather unusual amongst the licensed professions in that professional licensure is not linked to formal education.* Unlike medical doctors, nurses, or lawyers who need their professional license in order to work, engineers only need a professional license for certain activities (e.g. like running their own company or approving engineering drawings). Qualifications for the PE exam is based on a combination of educational background and work experience (unlike medicine or law, where successful completion of an approved curriculum is required to even qualify to take the exam).

*It is a bit more complicated than this. The engineering licenses are administered and run by the individual states, and each state can set its own qualification requirements as well as passing rates. The basic exam is national and is accepted by all the states, but some states have state specific requirements in addition to obtain a license for that state. For example, for an Alaska PE license, you have to demonstrate knowledge of engineering in permafrost soils, and in California, you have to have a lot of knowledge of seismic issues.

What I think is rather interesting is that in many states I don't qualify to take the PE exam since I don't have an engineering degree. In other states, I don't have enough work experience to qualify. However, since it's a national exam, and each state recognizes a PE license earned in another state, I could still work as an engineer in those states once I get my PE license. All I have to do is a pay a fee to that state's engineering board to get a "state PE license" (just talking about the basic license, not state specific engineering knowledge, although California and Alaska are the only two states I know of that have additional requirements.)

Even more interesting is that by international agreement, a PE license from the US is accepted in the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, even though in Australia and NZ at least, professional licensure is more restricted than in the US. In fact, the whole reason I started down this torturous road of getting the PE (first step was passing the Fundamentals of Engineering exam) was because I had this crazy idea of moving to New Zealand.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Keepin' da Knittaz challenged

As you may know, Lambs Ear Yarn is my local LYS (Local Yarn Shop) and the owner hosts a Knit Night every Thursday. I've been going regularly ever since I found out about it early last year. It really is the highlight of my week. I've met awesome women there; people who have become actual friends.

While everyone who comes knows how to knit, every one is at different skill levels and everyone has individual tastes, as to be expected. Many of the women are used to knitting with craft quality yarns, those acrylic or acrylic blends that you find at big chain stores like Jo-Ann's or Michaels. I'm not a yarn snob; I don't care if people want to use Caron's Simply Soft or Wool Ease Thick and Quick. I'm happy to see them knitting!

(I have to revise that. I am snobby against one particular brand of yarn--Red Heart Acrylic. This is the most basic of the craft yarns, and it is essentially spun plastic. It actually squeaks. It's the worst that yarn can be. It doesn't slide easily through the fingers, it's itchy, and it doesn't make a warm garment. The company has a print ad in knitting magazines of a young boy decked out in a hat, scarf, and mittens made from this yarn, having fun tossing snowballs. The ad headline reads "Somebody loves me!" and my thought is always "not very much". )

Many of the women come to Knit Night having used only craft quality yarns before finding Roxie's lovely LYS and I believe that each of them has eventually succumbed to the wonderful Cascade 220 (a 100% wool yarn that is both high quality and inexpensive, a perfect step for someone who wants to move beyond craft yarns).

Then there's me, always bringing in some "weird" yarn:
And now New Zealand Possum yarn.

I found the Possum yarn on etsy (of course). 3 ounces (about 75g) of handspun, merino/possum yarn and it is incredibly soft. Check out the pictures on the etsy site. Her pictures show the texture quite well, although the color is a much darker brown. Right now, the hank is airing to fluff up from being squished in the post, but I can hardly wait to use it. 3oz isn't a lot of yarn but enough to make a small object. I'm thinking fingerless gloves would do nicely.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

more of the same

I feel like whining about the rotten cold I have but instead I will share this tidbits

I woke up this morning and my bangs were glued to my face with snot. Oh joy!

Anyway, animal pictures:

Kate and Seamus. Kate's eyes always look freaky with the flash.

Maggie, hanging out in the cat bed.

Kate, in her favorite spot. This dog's a total couch potato, ideally snuggled right next to you.

Friday, April 04, 2008

where'd my brain go?

I have a cold and mucus production is at an all time high. I've used two full rolls of toilet paper as Kleenex over the past two days. (Why buy Kleenex when Charmin toilet paper is both cheaper and softer?)

I swear my brain is leaking out my nose.

In knitting news, there was a little tiff at the group last night. I made a crack about a mohair willy warmer that I saw on ebay and some of the other members ran with it (we can be rather crude) and MF suddenly stood up and said, "Goodnight. I'm leaving," and quickly left. I immediately apologized to her and she said "why, you didn't do anything wrong." Except for bringing up the whole topic of willy warmers in the first place. I like MF a lot but I know that she's been having second thoughts about coming there. It is a really long drive for her and gas is really expensive now, and the group can be really loud and crude. MF is old fashioned, but in the best way. You know, manners and politeness old-fashioned. Not close-minded and "kids these days" old-fashioned. I feel bad because she is my friend and despite knowing that she gets uncomfortable with crude humor, I brought up the topic without thinking. I'm going to call her later and apologize again. I feel badly about the whole thing.

In more knitting news, I finally finished my brother's DNA socks. These weren't difficult but the complex stitchwork was definitely time consuming. Check 'em out:
This photo was taken without a flash. The color isn't accurate (the yarn is actually a dark gray) but this shows the stitchwork nicely. The one on the left has been blocked, and the one on the right is fresh from the needles. What a difference, eh?

What's blocking? The item is washed and then stretched out to its proper shape while still wet and allowed to dry. I finally broke down and bought a set of sock blockers, which is like a sock shaped wooden hanger. I've never bothered with blocking socks before but since these are a gift, I wanted them to look nice. I think the effort is worth it. I hope my bro likes them. I hope they fit, too. They are too big for me.