Friday, June 26, 2009

Object in Mirror...

Art Imitates Life

During season 2 of Battlestar Galactica, Admiral Kane revealed her secret for swift, effective meetings: remove all the chairs. People don't like standing for long periods of time, and so no one was willing to prolong a meeting unnecessarily. 

I am tempted to implement this in my job. Sadly, I am not a meeting organizer. I am quite possibly the lowest rung of the authority ladder; in fact, I don't even get to sit around the table during the project management meetings (I get one of the peripheral chairs).

Last Thursday was my Day of Meetings: straight from 11:30 to 3pm. They are usually torture but this week, I thought they went very, very well. Very productive. Decisions made. Clarifications. 

(Note to person who suffered the embarrassment of having their cell phone go off during the meeting. You may not have noticed that I was not one of those people making a face nor doing a goofy chair dance because you'd set your ringtone to "Ice Ice Baby". This is because a few weeks earlier, I--a person who NEVER gets phone calls*--got a phone call during the project management meeting. And my ringtone is "Hate to Say I Told You So" by the Hives. And it's set really loud. So I empathize. Still, "Ice Ice Baby"?)

*Seriously, about 95% of my cellphone use is playing Sudoku, and about 4% is taking photos. I really don't use my cellphone as a "phone" much at all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Round six

I am determined not to let a ball of string win. I hunted down the missing ball, and found it oh so cleverly hiding in one of the bags I use for carrying around socks in progress. But it wasn't in the bag where the rest of its brethren was stashed. See what I mean by clever?

Round 4: Tried Lindsay from Cookie A's Sock Innovation. The lace pattern was coming along quite well but try as I might, the set up row looked really weird. I checked the errata and there were none for this pattern, so either it is a yet-unidentified-by-publisher-errata or else my left-handed/backward/mirror knitting style has frakked me up again. But the frakkin' pattern is symmetrical, so it shouldn't matter if it's knitted from the left or the right. This is one of the reasons I chose this pattern! I lost sleep over this stupid thing. How did I screw up the set-up row? Why doesn't it line up with the lace pattern? Frog.

Round 5: Bluebell lace from Sensational Knitted Socks. Pattern came along fine. I just didn't like the way it looked. Frog.

Round 6: Waving Lace Socks from Favorite Socks (this is actually the pattern featured on the book's cover). Another lace pattern with a lovely scalloped trim. So far, everything seems to be going all right. Sock looks to be the right size. No errors in the pattern. Lace pattern is challenging enough to keep my interest but simple enough to be easily memorized. All balls of yarn are accounted for. 

Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

string vs. human

I bought some very lovely Nature's Palette yarn from my LYS with the plan to make some socks for me. I've used this yarn before and it makes very nice socks.

However, after working with it for a bit, I realized the color wasn't quite "me" (too pink) and so I decided to make a pair of socks for a friend, who does like this color. 

First try: I cast on Diamond Gansey socks from Socks from the Toe Up. Great pattern--looked good with the yarn, easily memorized, and interesting to knit. However, by the time I'd halfway finished the first sock, I realized the sock looked a bit big, so I tried it on and found out it was waaaaayyyyy too wide. I doubt my friend has a foot with a 13" circumference, so I frogged it. 

Second try: smaller sized needles and tried the Oriel pattern from my favorite sock book, Sensational Knitted Socks. I've wanted to make this pattern for awhile because it's very pretty but I usually knit socks during my commute, and a 28 row, lace pattern seemed a bit challenging for commuter knitting. However, after starting it, I realized the pattern was very regular and fairly intuitive and I probably didn't need to bring a copy of the pattern with me. So I happily knitted on the way to work, following the "regular and intuitive" pattern and all was well until I realized I'd totally screwed up and ended up with about 10 more stitches than I needed and couldn't find out where I'd screwed up.  Frog and try another pattern.
Third try: I was very intrigued by Outside In in the latest Knitty, even though the pattern calls for it to be knit from the cuff down. (I prefer to knit from the toe up, because if I run out of yarn, I end up with a wearable sock with a shorter leg than I wanted instead of a sock without toes.) Most sock patterns can be converted from cuff down to toe up without too much trouble but this sock has an unusual heel construction so I decided to follow the pattern as written. Generally, I use 64 stitches per round when making adult socks using the size needle and type of yarn I'd chosen, but this pattern said 64 stitches around was small and narrow. I figured that was an error (sadly, errors are very common in knitting patterns) and cast on using 64 stitches. It is a ribbing pattern, after all, and ribbing is very stretchy. I knit past the heel and the yarn I was using broke. The skein had been joined from separate skeins (not uncommon) so now I had two roughly equally sized balls of yarn. No big deal. It just meant one more end to weave in at the end. So I knit a bit more and then decided to try it on was too frakkin' small. I couldn't even get it over my heel. And then I found out something about's stretchy in the perpendicular direction to the rib orientation. Vertical ribbing stretches horizontally. But this pattern produced ribbing on a diagonal, which is still very stretchy except that legs don't stretch that direction. Frog. Try to think of friend with really narrow feet I could give this to, so I wouldn't have to admit defeat.
5.  Starting to think that this yarn does not want to be socks and then berate myself for thinking that I am being directed by an inanimate object. Have trouble sleeping that night because I keep thinking about the stupid sock.
6. Next day, cast on the largest size (80 stitches) and run out of cast on yarn at 70 stitches. Rip out and try again.
7. Pull out longer tail of yarn, cast on and run out at 78 stitches. Curse. Rip out and try again.
8. Pull out an ungodly amount of yarn, successfully cast on 80 stitches and start knitting. I'd finished the cuff and was halfway through the first pattern repeat when I figured out that I'd screwed up somewhere and now had 88 stitches. Curse.
9. Get another ball of yarn and start making a different pattern for my friend's socks.
10. Decide that I am not going to be bested by 50 frakkin' grams of superwash wool so I get another pair of needles to start these socks again. And discover that one of the little balls has disappeared, so now I don't have enough yarn to make a pair of socks. 

I admit defeat. The yarn has won.

adventures in refinancing

Oscar and I are trying to refinance our mortgage. We have two, actually. 75% primary mortgage and 25% second balloon mortgage. When we bought our house, this was the best deal (I thought) because I could make the payments under these terms and not have to depend on either getting a 20% raise or having the house value increase dramatically. Also the other mortgage types we were offers were either interest only or variable rate, neither of which I wanted. (Now I think I would have been better off with a variable interest rate mortgage and refinancing because I can only refinance the primary mortgage and at least the variable rate loan would have been the "primary" and only mortgage loan. Oh well, live and learn.)

(Still, given the housing and mortgage loan disaster, I think my choice was prudent at the time. I didn't want to enter into any deal that I knew I couldn't handle given my current situation.)

So anyway...I spoke with a mortgage consultant at our credit union and I took today off work to meet her in her office, since the office that specialized in Pierce county was located in Lakewood, which is south of Tacoma. (Going into work would have involved a 3 hour commute for four hours of work, so I decided to use some of that hard-earned exchange time that the agency gives me since they won't pay me overtime.) So Oscar and I drove down to Lakewood, which is the most confusing town I have ever been in. There's no real center and the main streets just kind of wander around and criss-cross each other and I always get lost when I go there. I swear it's just a random collection of strip malls, clusters of cheap hotels ($155 weekly rates!), and rundown houses that have just kind of grown together. 

We did finally find the credit union office, waited for our mortgage counsellor who told us a few things: 
1. The last two comparable homes that sold in our neighborhood (based on square footage of the house) sold for $168,000 and $55,000, which she said "tells her absolutely nothing about the market value of your home". 

2. we qualify for the government's Home Affordable Refinance program but we need to talk to the holder of our primary mortgage to find out (in our case, it's Wells Fargo Bank). From what I understand, if we qualify and WF agrees, they can lower our interest rate without going through the hassle of refinancing and having to pay those associated costs. So she suggested that before trying to refinance through the credit union. (That is good advice, but I still wonder why I had to take a day off work to meet with someone face to face for some basic information that could have been done over the phone.)

3. On the way home, I called WF to get some more information about this program and as soon as I entered my mortgage loan number, a pre-recorded pleasant female voice said "your loan qualifies for the Home Affordable Refinance program. Please check our website for more information."

4. Now, this is one of my biggest frakkin' peeves. If I could easily access your frakkin' website for information, why the frak would I bother calling you?

5. Upon arriving at said abode, I typed in for information and after poking around, I found the section on this program which informed me "For more information about your eligibility for the Home Affordable Refinance Program, speak with a local Home Mortgage Consultant."

6. Of course, this is what I was trying to do when I called the damn customer service number.

7. Irritated, I try to figure out the closest Wells Fargo branch to my house and then I realize that I probably don't need to meet with someone in Tacoma to adjust my loan rates. So I decide to find one close to the office so at least I don't have to miss too much work. I type in my work zipcode and as soon as the results come up, I literally smack my head with my hand. 

8. Why? In my irritation, I forgot that I work in the building in downtown Seattle called "The Wells Fargo Building" and the closest branch to my office is in the lobby of the building. Which I walk past at least four times a day.

Monday, June 08, 2009


The pen may be mightier than the sword...

but NOTHING strikes fear into the hearts of engineers like a well-used red pencil. 

I have the power!! Bwah-hah-hah-hah!!!!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Why economics aren't rational

Here's an interesting article from a NYTimes economics reporter who got caught up in the sub-prime meltdown. And, boy, does he meltdown. He doesn't ask for pity, but he is trying to figure out how he, Someone Who Should Have Known Better, got suckered.

Abandon hope, all who enter here

I received the letter the other day. 

I've been officially transfered permanently to the Highway to Hell project and my old workgroup and job has been dissolved. 

Man, it was much easier to push myself when I thought I was only going to be there until October. 

But there are some really great things about this new position. 

The best thing is that I work with an awesome team, truly the cream of the crop. The best bit is that while each of has our "assigned" roles based on our official job descriptions, we truly work as a team because we see what needs to be done and then we divvy the work up based on who wants to do what. "River" is an E1 (engineering grade, level 1) and he's doing some E3 work. I'm an E4 and I'm doing some E1 and E2 work. I don't care, and neither does River. The same with everyone else too. (The agency does have limits on this sort of thing...since River is union, I can't force him to work "above his station" for long periods of time without extra compensation. It's very common for people to get a 6 month temporary promotion, especially in times like now when there are hiring freezes. One of the guys I used to work with was "temporarily" promoted to E3 for two straight years, until a permanent E3 position became available.)  

Besides, River is an extraordinary worker--he's talented, capable, laid-back, and an all-around nice guy. I need to be on his good side; he'll probably be my boss someday. 

This good thing is balanced by a bad thing. While my team of agency folks is incredibly flexible, the consultant people I work with really aren't. They are under the impression that working on Contract Provisions is my main focus (indeed, that was the reason I was originally brought over here for), but I'm not exaggerating too much when I say that I spend approximately 0.05 hour a week working on Contract Provisions and about 55 hours a week working on Engineering Design approval. Why? Because the five other members of my agency team are also working on Contract Provisions and no one else is working on Engineering Design approval (although River does help me out when I request it). 

You see, while Contract Provision are indescribably important (after all, it's merely the documents which tell a contractor what to build), with deadlines, the process has a built-in revision process, which extends 16 weeks after the contract has been advertised. However, engineering Design approval has a much firmer deadline (you might even call it a Deadline). If this isn't done no later than three weeks before the project is advertised, the contract doesn't get advertised at all. You see, without design approval, the construction funding won't be released, and a project without available construction funding won't be advertised. (Which makes sense. It'd be like telling someone you were going to hire them but there isn't any money to pay their salary.)