Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tour de France KAL update

Brewgal is in danger of being dropped off the back of the Peloton. The race has reached the Alps, and I have reached row 57 of the Baby Surprise Jacket only to discover that instead of the 114 stitches in the pattern, I have 116 stitches in the center section of my jacket. At some point I picked up 2 stitches. Do I rip back and start over? Abandon? No way. I've just got to figure out how to distribute my 10 stitches over 116 rather than 114.

Need more coffee.

I also made an equipment change after stage one. I'm now working on circular needles. The straights I picked out were sticking to the yarn.
Look! A sleeve!

It's also brewday in the Brewgal household. Here we see Brewguy heating water for the wirt boil (technically called the "hot liquor"). It is heated to a temperature in the 160 degree farenheit range. The water is used first for the mash, and then later for the sparge. See what Brewguy is doing in the background? He is about to spring the fruit fly trap.

We have an abundance of fruit flies. I think they came home with us from West Virginia. We first tried the paper over the glass trick, a trap suggested to us by a former neighbor who was a professor of biology. He was conducting experiments on special species of fruit flies in his lab and used this method to trap wild fruit flies. You place a small amount of sugar water (or beer) in a jar or glass, cover the top with a piece of paper secured by a rubber band and poke a small hole in the top with a pencil. The fruit flies can go through the hole into the glass but can't find their way back out. When the trap was full he microwaved the jar.

We've used the same method, sans the microwaving. With our luck we'd only create a species of microwave-proof fruit flies.

The paper trick didn't work last night. Brewguy got up early to brew and discovered that instead of being inside the glass, all the fruit flies had clustered on top of the paper, like they were waiting for the club to open. So he trapped them by placing a flower vase on top and released them into the wild.

It's the Hav-a-Hart of fruit fly traps.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Brewgal et al have survived her family reunion. This is a reunion of the mother's side of my family. She was one of six children. We try to get together every two years. This year's reunion was held at Pipestem State Park in West Virginia.

Some fun facts:

30 = family members who showed up. Not a bad turnout.

3 = generations represented. My grandparents have both passed away.

19 = family members who went white water rafting. This was an event I approached with much trepidation. I've never been rafting before, and I had visions of the little brewers being thrown into the river and crushed by the rapids. I'm sure it didn't help that I had recently read the story about the kayakers who went over a dam and were sucked into the dam's turbines and killed.

3 = minutes it took me to realize I cannot control a raft. They put most of us into two person "duckies." Little Brewer #1 and I were in one, and soon discovered that despite our best novice paddling efforts, we were going around in circles. I'd paddle on one side, and she would paddle on the same side, which meant I'd have to overcorrect on the other side. All the while we were drifting farther and farther away from the calm water where the group was located. Little Brewer #1 was in tears, I was upset, so after we finally managed to paddle back to shore, we requested to go in the big raft, the one with the guide. Much, much better.

1-2 = class of rapids on the river.

1 = number of falls on the river. Captain Andy, our guide and raftmate, told me to paddle through the waterfall. "Most people forget to paddle," he said. "The water is going to want to take us close to the bank, but keep paddling so we go through the middle," instructions I interpreted to mean, "paddle or die." We had picked up another passenger by this time, 5 year old Max. "Ok," I answered with some trepidation. The kids were instructed to hunker down in the raft and hang on to the straps. I am perched on the edge of the raft with a paddle. Then Little Brewer #1 started bouncing up and down saying "let's go! let's go!" Off we go.

As we approached the waterfall, the sequence of thoughts in my brain was as follows:

Hey look, there's a pullout just before the falls if you don't want to go over the falls. Can we do that? paddlepaddlepaddle

Wow, that water is fast. paddle!paddle!paddle!

Holysh!t!Waterfaaaaaaalllll! tryingnottofalloutofboat boatistipping! splashysplashy

Floosh. Calm water. I realize I forgot to paddle.

5 = family who ended up crashing their rafts on the waterfall and going into the river. We watched them, one after another, as they went down sideways in the waterfall.

1 = number of rafts lost in the waterfall.

2 = babies under the age of 6 months. So cute and squishy!

23 = pizzas consumed. We are like a swarm of locusts at mealtime.

7 = days spent at Pipestem.

5 = days it rained. After five days of rain I was ready to rename the state Wet Virginia.

5 = total number of reunions taking place concurrently. We felt totally outdone by the reunion with the big banner and the one with the gift bags.

1 = celebrities seen (Morgan Spurlock, courtesy of the Spurlock family reunion).

12 = hours driving there and back.

$4.19 = price of gas in Hinton, WV.

2 = number of years until next reunion.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Le Tour est arrivé!

Bonjour mes amis et bienvenue a Lincoln Street Knitting! Le Tour de France est arrivé! As you may have noticed from my sidebar, I've joined the Tour de France Knit Along. I'll be attempting a baby surprise jacket from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Opinionated Knitter. This puts me in contention for the yellow jersey, as the project is in my skill set but somethingI've never tried. Go Team Credit Agricole!

Action shot:
I've cast on. The yarn I'm using is handspun mystery yarn from a friend who is a fiber artist. She cleaned out her studio a few months ago and showed up at my door with two bags of handspun in various colors. How exciting! And how apropos, using mystery yarn for a surprise jacket.

Tomorrow we're heading to wild West Virginia for a week-long family reunion. Internet access may be spotty, so I'll post when I can.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Fun With Amtrak

As I metioned in my previous post, I've been busy. We returned from the week of camping on Saturday, 21 June. On Sunday I left to go to Boston. Rather, I attempted to go to Boston.

I had a reservation on Amtrak. I knew in advance that Amtrak had cancelled all Acela trains between New York and Boston between 14 June and 17 June to repair a bridge in Connecticut. No problem, I wasn't leaving until the 21st. What I did not know was that the bridge repair was not finished.

I had packed all my fancy clothes (I was scheduled to present at DIA) and just before we left the house, I turned on my cell phone. There was a voicemail message from Amtrak saying that all trains between Boston and New York had been cancelled starting on Tuesday. Uh oh. I immediately dialed the Amtrak reservations number but "all their agents were busy." I could talk with an agent if I waited a mere 21 minutes. In 21 minutes I was supposed to be on a train. So we took off for the station.

Bad move #1.

At the station, the line to talk with an agent is almost out the door. There is one - one!- agent at the desk. My train is scheduled to arrive in 10 minutes. So I got out of line and tried to pick up my ticket at the Quick Ticket machine, thinking "I'll just get on the outbound train and fix the return trip in Boston."

Bad move #2.

The machine tells me that my reservation is "not found." Now panic starts to set in, that rising hot feeling in your stomach that you are truly screwed. Not found? Where the hell did it go? I have the confirmation email. I've paid for the ticket. I have to be in Boston tomorrow to give my presentation.

My train arrives. I run to speak to the conductor, telling him that I have a reservation on the train but that I cannot get my ticket out of the machine and the line is too long to get to an agent. He says he can't let me on the train without a ticket. "But I have a ticket, I just can't get it!" I say. "I can't let you on without a ticket." he replies. I look to the other Amtrak train employee on the platform for help. "He's the conductor." the employees says, shrugging. Arrrgh! Now I am hot, sweaty, panicky, and MAD.

So back into the agent line I go. The train pulls away. When I get to the window, I explain my plight, starting with reservation not found and ending with "and now I've MISSED my train." The agent, whose name was Mariea, was incredibly helpful and patient. She explained that the machine can't handle changes in train schedule and that is why it wouldn't print my ticket. Note to Amtrak- if your machine can't handle train changes, please come up with another message than "reservation not found." Like, say, "please talk to an agent."

She fixed my return. Because of the bridge work there were only two trains out of Boston on Wednesday, both in the morning and both regional, meaning the trip would take 10 hours, rather than 6. I would miss the morning sessions at the conference but getting home was important. Now for the trip to Boston. The next train was a regional- so much for my comfortable Acela trip. Add to that the complication that the next two trains were showing sold out, so she couldn't know if there was really a seat available until the trains left Washington, DC. In the end I got a seat on the afternoon Acela (in first class!). I missed my dinner date but I did make it to Boston. My presentation went fine and I gained a good story to tell.

While I was at the conference, I mentioned my ordeal to a colleague, who looked at me in horror. "You mean, they've cancelled all the Acelas this week?" she said. Obviously Amtrak didn't notify everyone, a fact that became even more clear when I arrived at the Boston station on Wednesday to ride back to Baltimore. Person after person showed up at the station to discover their train had been cancelled. With only two trains between Boston and New York I can't imagine how these people got where they were going. Also, because the train was much taller than the platform I had to lug my bag and carry-on up three narrow stairs. I need to work out more.

The kicker? I was so flustered at getting the initial Amtrak call that I forgot to take any knitting or crocheting with me. I did catch up on all the episodes of Cast On, however.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Camping fun, 2008

Alas, poor blog. How I have neglected thee.

I am not dead. Nor am I injured, in jail, or on
Brangelina Baby Watch. I’ve simply been really, really, REALLY busy.

We spent our vacation camping on
Assateague. It was a great time. The tent was destroyed by a thunderstorm on day 2. We were hanging out watching the ponies, having had an early dinner of grilled fajitas. Looking up, Brewguy noticed the weather front moving in our direction. Lines of grey clouds were sweeping across the sky, fast.

“Ooo! Ahh!” we all say. “Neat!”

As the front passed overhead, there was an immediate downblast of wind, followed by a sideways blast of wind that became a sandstorm. A strong blast. So strong, in fact, that as we looked across the loop at our tent we saw it bend down to the ground.

“Noooo!” We all took off at a run for the tent. By the time we got there, no more than 1 minute later, the tent had ripped away from the stakes holding it to the ground. The main poles were bent and the rain fly pole had snapped. We threw the kids in the car (thunder had started) and immediately began dragging everything out of the tent and putting it in the car. There is nothing worse than wet sleeping bags when you are camping.

Imagine the scene: Here I am, flat on my stomach, the wind pressing the tent onto my body as I try to drag pillows and clothes out of the tent, shoving them out behind me because I can’t stand up. There is lightning and thunder and it has started to rain. All I can think is, “I’m going to get struck by lightning in this stupid tent.” The little brewers are shrieking with fear and delight at the whole deal, bouncing up and down on their seats as we throw pillows, clothes and blankets on top of them.

Five minutes later, everything is out of the tent and we are in the car. Rain starts pouring down. Lightning and thunder are rampant. The clouds in the sky look like giant scary fingers reaching down from above. The little brewers are still shrieking with delight and wonderment about 1) the storm, 2) where we are going to sleep (“Are we going to sleep in the car? Can we sleep in the car?”) and 3) all the stuff piled on top of them. I look at Brewguy and say, “I think I saw a
Clarion in Ocean City.”

The Clarion turned out to be a very nice hotel. So nice, in fact, that we stuck out considerably with our windblown hair, sandy feet and slightly dazed look.

The next day we drove to Salisbury to replace our tent. There at
Gander Mountain, amid the guns, ammunition and duck blinds, was a small tent section, enough for our needs.

The rest of the trip was much more uneventful. SPF50 and OFF! are still my friends. Little Brewer #1 invented a noisemaker out of an empty Gatorade bottle and some yarn. It sounds very much like a diggery-doo. My car finally got a name: Big Red. I try to name all my cars but this one didn't speak to me until now. Next year we will figure out a way to bring bicycles.

Next up: Fun with Amtrak!