Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Second Lives; Sixth Bags

Filed under: Games,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 3:49 pm on Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Okay, I’m going to come clean. One of the things that is sometimes taking me away from the knitting is Second Life. If you don’t know what that is, it’s an online, virtual world. People can interact, create virtual objects, own land (if you have a paid account), build houses and decorate them, attend live concerts, and much more – all online.

I’m not entirely new to Second Life. I originally created my account back in December of 2005. I think I may have logged on all of two, maybe three times back then. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with it, so I just never went back.

Until recently, that is. I have a First Life friend now who is an avid CG artist, and who has been playing in Second Life for a number of months. I’ve been hearing her stories about the house she built, the objects she created, and the fun she has in there for all this time. Finally, she guilted me into logging in to actually see what she’s been talking about.

I think a big part of why I didn’t do much with it before was that I was learning the interface entirely on my own, trial-and-error pushing buttons and clicking on options and not having a clue what I was doing. This time, having my friend Arondelle as a guide, I felt like I could get some control over what was happening.

And I think I like it. Gryphon and I used to be very active in EverQuest – I was even a guide for a short time – and we were beta testers for Star Wars Galaxies. What I loved best was exploring the virtual worlds, and making use of the crafting skills available in each game.

Unfortunately, the most important part of most such online games is getting together in groups and going out to kill critters and monsters. Which is fine. But I really, really wanted a world I could just wander around in, discovering and doing cool things.

I think Second Life may be that world. For me, it’s all the best parts of EQ and SWG (the well-detailed world to explore) and the offline game The Sims (a virtual dollhouse), without the annoying parts like being obligated to spend time killing things to make any progress, or having to monitor your Sims’ health and social activities when you’d rather be decorating the house.

If, by chance, you’re a Second Lifer as well, my online name is Probably Perhaps. Yeah, you heard me right. It was, back in Dec. 2005, the best I thought I could do with the choices of last name I had to pick from, and I wasn’t too happy with it. Now that I’m going into the game more often, I’ve been receiving a lot of compliments on my name, and I think I’m glad I picked it. Anyhow, feel free to look me up and add me as a friend. And one of these days, I just might pay for that Premium Account so I can own a piece of land, and invite you to my housewarming!

If you’re not a Second Lifer yet, but think it sounds interesting, it’s absolutely free to try. That’s right – free. If you ant to, you can play forever in the game without ever having to spend a First Life penny. So what’s to stop you from checking it out? If you decide to come in, look me up!

The Sixth Bag Grows – Slowly

Sixth bag because this is, in fact, the sixth time I’ve knit the Market Squares pattern from Bags – A Knitters’ Dozen. It doesn’t look much different from yesterday. But I did pick up the rest of the yarns that will be used in this desert-themed bag.

Christmas 2007, #3 - Desert-themed Bag

What you’re seeing is two shades of a rusy-looking red for the rocky outcroppings, and a variegated brown/green/gray for the scrubby brush on the desert floor.

I started this bag with the intention that every color would run for an entire round of entrelac squares, in a straight row around the bag. Then, I thought it might be more interesting if the lines were irregular, suggesting outcroppings of rock at various heights. I began to wing it for this plan by doing a few squares on Tier Three in the golden yellow color.

Now, though, I’m thinking I need to plan the pattern a bit more, so I’ve gone to the Graph Paper Generators link on the sidebar of this blog, and created a sheet of Axonometric Perspective graph paper to draw my entrelac bag out on. No, I don’t know what that means, either. What I do know is it produced nice, diagonally-placed squares all over the paper for me, perfect for plotting out my entrelac pattern.

I’m not sure what this will look like when it’s done, but I’m having a lot of fun creating it!

Drive-By WIPing

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 1:19 pm on Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Not much time to write today – I’ve got to clean the house for craft circle tonight, then I have to leave early to pick up a friend and get to the yarn store.

I’ve made some progress on the desert-themed entrelac bag (pattern: Market Squares from Bags – a Knitters’ Dozen). I decided to carry the sky into a third tier of squares, but to start to introduce the highest outcroppings of rock on that tier as well.

WIP - Christmas 2007, Desert-themed Entrelac Bag

Trust me, those pieces that look orangey-red are actually a nice golden yellow. Like sun-kissed rocks on the desert.

Since I’ll be at the yarn store, I’m going to pick up the next two colors for the bag while I’m there – two different shades of red rocks.

Extreme Rat Issues, and My First Malabrigo

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 3:22 pm on Thursday, September 13, 2007

Things are not as well as I’d like in the House of Rattie. We tried putting Lola and Sable back together, but the aggression from Lola continued. Then, Tuesday night, we had a frightening experience.

The cage was peaceful, both rats sleeping. My friend Anne and I were sitting and knitting together in the living room. Suddenly, Sable came to the door of the cage, clinging to it with all four paws and gnawing at the wires. She was desperate to get out of there.

I opened the door, and she shot across my lap, the end table, the ottoman, up onto Anne’s chair, across her chest and shoulder, and onto the back of her armchair. There, Sable sat and panted, staring back in the direction of the cage.

What inspired this terror? I have no clue. My best guess was that Sable was getting as far from Lola as she could, but Lola was sleeping so soundly she didn’t even react to Sable’s sudden exodus.

Sable crawled into one of the nesting boxes outside the cage, and remained there for the rest of the evening. Meanwhile, I did some research on the web. I found this site, www.ratbehavior.org, and an article that discussed aggression in rats. This section about Offensive and Defensive Tactics, and the next one after about Subordinate Strategies, shed much light on our situation.

Some of Lola’s behaviors that I’d been interpreting as submissive were, in fact, not that at all. When she flopped herself belly up under Sable’s nose, I assumed that, as in dogs, she was exposing her belly and showing her submission to Sable. In fact, in rats it’s a whole other matter.

Dominance in rats involves nipping the opponent on the rump. Defending your dominance includes putting your rump where your opponent can’t get to it. What Lola was doing is called a belly-up roll, and it’s specifically designed to put your belly between your opponent and your rump.

Since losing Star four weeks ago, the dynamics of our little Rattie family have clearly changed. Lola has, in Sable’s grief, achieved clear dominance. Her massive nest structures are probably a manifestation of her position as Queen Rat, and her aggression towards Sable is meant to maintain that position.

As for Sable, there are two strategies that subordinate rats engage in – either staying close to the dominant, or avoiding them. Sable is clearly an avoider – she attempts to get away from Lola whenever she can. The bad news here is that, even if Sable accepts Lola’s role as dominant, as an avoider she’s at more risk from increased violence from Lola, possibly even leading to her death.

We separated the girls Tuesday night, and it looks like we’ll have to keep them that way. Lola’s not happy with the isolation. I’m not happy with Lola for beating up on my girl Sable. Sable just plain isn’t happy. She’s seeking safe, cozy places to hole up, and isn’t eating as well as we’d like.

Sable has also had a couple more incidents of terror and fleeing the cage, even without Lola in with her. I’m beginning to think she’s having the rat equivalent of night terrors, and running from something unnameable that has frightened her.

I feel so powerless to help Sable. She clearly misses the company of a rat, but is scared now of Lola. Lola, meanwhile, is back to being a solitary rat.

When we get the new pair of rats, we’ll have to see who they get along with. We can’t afford the space to have three separate cages – they either have to go with someone we already have in the large cage, or we must give up one of the existing rats. And I have to confess, the way I’m feeling about Lola right now, I think she’d be the one finding a new home.

And I hate to go that route, because we took Lola in, and we made that commitment to her. But I don’t know what else to do if things don’t work better.

If anyone out there has suggestions for how to comfort a solitary rat who has lost her lifelong companion, please feel free to comment or e-mail me. I’d love to hear what you think.

Knitting

On a happier note, I found that I did, in fact, have enough of the light green yarn to knit both straps for the Christmas 2007 entre-lac bag.

WIP - Christmas 2007 All Knitted

Now I just have to weave in ends, felt/full it, and sew the straps on.

I’ve begun knitting a second Christmas gift, but I can’t blog that one until it’s been given. I did, however, buy the first two skeins of yarn for another entrelac bag today.

Malabrigo

This is two skeins of Malabrigo. Three more skeins – two Manos del Uruguay, one Malabrigo – are waiting at the LYS for me to pick up in coming weeks. The orange skein on the right is actually more of a golden yellow. The theme for this bag is an abstract desert landscape. This will be my first time working with either Manos or Malabrigo. I knew, though, when I went into the store with this theme in mind, that those yarns would have the vivid, yet slightly variegated, colors I wanted.

I was forced to make this purchase today, because the other current knitting project is one I can’t take to Thursday night Knitting Around at Panera. This way, I’ll have something I can work on. Don’t you have it when you have to buy yarn?

Over at Shopping Jen:

I posted my review of Archer Farms Wasabi Mustard Potato Chips today.

Tomorrow:

Don’t forget to check back for this week’s Freebie Friday!

Arachnophilia

Filed under: Announcements,Crafting Miscellany,Folkcat's Fotos,Holidays,Knitting,Wayback Wednesday — folkcat at 1:56 pm on Thursday, August 30, 2007

…aka, Wayback Wednesday comes on Thursday this week.

I’ve got no crafting to show you, because I didn’t do any yesterday. A few of the fingers on my right hand are objecting to the amount of small work I’ve been doing.

I can’t entirely blame them. My crafting has been alternating between hand stitching 1/2″ hexagons together using a tiny little quilting sharp for a needle, and knitting socks on US size 0 double point needles.

So yesterday I gave my hands a rest. Not my body, though – I wound up doing the major portion of our grocery shopping for the week, involving 2 1/2 hours spent at an Asian grocery and two supermarkets. My legs ached last night, too, but we won’t have to pick up anything but odds and ends the rest of the week. Plus, I found a few interesting items to review at Shopping Jen in the next few weeks.

I started thinking about my Christmas knitting, too. I think I’ll avoid doing a project as ambitious as the Monk’s Travel Satchel that I knit for my brother last year. I haven’t finalized exactly who’s getting what yet, but I think I have a general idea of some things I can start knitting now, then assign to recipients later. The knitting involved is larger scale than the socks, too, so it’ll give my hands a good rest.

In the meantime, so far we’ve got a post without a picture. So I dug back in the photo archives to September of 2005 to come up with this photo of a spider that had built its web over the side surface of Gryphon’s gas grill.

Spider on BBQ Grill

I know many people are frightened or disgusted by spiders, but I find them amazing. Especially these orb weaver types, with the patterns they spin into their webs to draw in their victims. Spiders, and their webs, are among my favorite things in nature.

Coming Friday:

Today is Thursday, and that means Knitting Around at Panera tonight. So I’m likely to have some knitting to show you.

Also, tomorrow I’m going to debut Folkcat’s Freebie Fridays – a weekly giveaway of some cool prize or prizes. It could be something I made, or a collection of craft materials, or cool books. This week, I haven’t made the final choice yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a hand beaded bracelet, made by yours truly. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for your chance to win!

Holiday Postings

Filed under: Blog Admin,Gryphon,Holidays — folkcat at 12:51 pm on Tuesday, July 3, 2007

…will be sporadic this week. Gryphon is actually only working one of his two jobs for the Fourth of July week, so we have more time to get things done together. Meaning less time for posting.

Have a great Fourth (those of you who celebrate it), and I’ll see you for certain next week!

No Macaroons For Me, Either

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 4:03 pm on Friday, June 1, 2007

As much as I wanted some almond macaroons to celebrate National Macaroon Day with yesterday, I wasn’t willing to pay $4.59 for a dozen of them at the supermarket bakery. I looked around for a less expensive alternative, but was unsuccessful. So, no macaroons for me, even though they were there in the bakery. I just couldn’t justify the expense.

Reality continued to fall short of expectations the rest of the evening. Knitting Around at Panera had its largest turnout in some time – six of us attended, making a large and lively group chatting and knitting around the fireplace.

Where it fell short? I had thought I might make rapid enough progress on my second sock to perhaps even finish the pair last night, but the conversation was so good that I only made it just past the heel.

SF/P1S2

That’s okay – I have no plans today that take me away from the house, and no burning desire to work on anything but my socks. Expect a finished, modeled picture on Monday, and perhaps even a photo of Socks for Folkcat, Pair Two, Sock One (SF/P2S1) in progress!

Until then, I hope you all have a great weekend. Happy Crafting!

No Coconuts For Me

Filed under: Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 1:47 pm on Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Holding Pattern – It’s what I’m in, but it’s not a bad thing. By “Holding Pattern,” I mean that things are continuing much the same as last time I wrote – all of yesterday.

As I noted then, I expected to spend the day knitting Socks for Folkcat, Pair 1, Sock 2 (SF/P1S2), and that’s exactly what I did. SF/P1S2 is now within an inch of turning the heel, which should go quickly enough, and then I knit four inches of leg before binding off.

I’m so far along, in fact, that I’m going to choose my next sock yarn and take it along to Knitting Around at Panera tonight, just in case.

No pictures yet, I want to wait until I can model both socks for you. Which could be as early as tomorrow, and certainly no later than Monday.

Nothing more exciting than that to write about, I’m afraid. Except that today is National Macaroon Day. For me, that means I’ll be buying some macaroons at the local supermarket bakery and eating some later. And no, I don’t mean coconut! Can’t stand coconut. Nope, I’m a huge fan of almond and marzipan and such, so it’s Almond Macaroons all the way – yum!

Quilting, Sewing – Same Skills Apply!

Filed under: Holidays,Sewing — folkcat at 11:54 am on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Did a little sewing yesterday, on Quilting Day. I’m really pleased with it, because this time, I made something very practical that replaced something old and worn that I’ve been using for over ten years.

Dogbone Neck Pillow

The original dogbone pillow had been purchased at a drugstore a long, long time ago. It’s been in continuous use ever since, and frankly, was getting a little funky – and not in a good way. I decided I could make my own new one.

Saturday, I began the disassembly process on the old pillow. The goal was to get one of the three identical body pieces out intact. Seam ripper in hand, I attacked.

Turned out the entire thing had been sewn very cheaply – monofilament, and not a thin one at that. With much fuss, especially at the ends where all three pieces came together, I worked the stitches out and separated the desired section.

No pictures of the process. It was at this point, I discovered just how gross the thing had gotten over the years. Skin oils had worked their way into the polyfill stuffing, even. I threw that out, and set up a dishpan with hot, soapy water to wash the fabric piece.

My plan was to make a pattern by tracing the fabric. Would have worked, if I could have found a piece of cardboard good enough to make a template from. What I did find, however, made the job even easier – inkjet printer acetate transparencies! I ironed and folded the clean piece, placed it on my scanner bed, and ran a copy on the acetate.

The printer side of the acetate is a little tacky, and the ink takes a long time to set up. I didn’t want it smearing on whatever fabric I chose to make the pillow from, so I got out my Xyron laminating machine, and laminated the acetate with clear plastic on both sides. This covered the smudgy ink, and added a little extra thickness.

The final step to turn this into a traceable template was merely to cut out around the outlines of the photocopy, including the notches that indicated the center of the end (the point where all three seams come together on the ends). Et voila! I had a durable, traceable template that I could even see through to place it precisely on the fabric.

Next up was to pick the fabric. I dug into the stash, and came up with the funky cat fabric I’d bought on clearance – the stuff with the adorable, wacky cats in a large, directional print that I didn’t know what I’d ever use it for, but had to have?

Placing the template on the print, I discovered that the line of cats climbing on their branches would fit perfectly across each side! With a chalk pencil, I traced three pieces, then carefully cut them out with scissors. A quick run of the seams on the sewing machine; turn it right side out; stuff it to within an inch of its life with polyfill; hand stitch the last opening closed.

In a matter of a couple of hours, I had my new dogbone neck pillow!

FO - Dogbone Pillow

The right hand end looks larger because it’s closer to the camera. In real life, both ends are about the same size. I may have stuffed it a little on the firm side, but it works well. And I love how the cats line up so perfectly along each side.

Hey! Today’s a Day, Too!

Okay, here’s an easy one to celebrate – it’s National Pretzel Day! So pick up a bag of your favorite pretzel form – I like the mini’s myself – and have a nosh.

Endless Doesn’t Have To Mean Forever

Filed under: Daily Life,Holidays,Knitting — folkcat at 1:23 pm on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Turns out there was a reason I had trouble sleeping Monday night. If you take a medication intended to help you sleep, it helps if you actually take the medication intended to help you sleep. When I went to my 7-day pillbox Tuesday night to do so, I found that the pills for Monday night were still in their little compartment.

Oops.

I know from past experience that such an oversight leads to me feeling extremely crappy the next day. My odyssey of discomfort yesterday included a surprise migraine in the evening, complete with both eyes tearing up. Not the “my head is split open, kill me now” level of pain, but for me, any pain with a migraine is unusual. I normally get more of the other neurological symptoms than the pain itself.

I’m fine today, though, having gotten my proper sleep last night. I just wish there were a way for me to realize sooner than 24 hours later that I forgot my sleep med.

Knitting

Tuesday is Anything Goes Day for crafting, and yesterday I chose that to mean knitting. Specifically, I pulled out my still-not-finished Carnival Glass Shawl to continue the drudgery of knitting the edging.

I took a slightly different approach this time, and found that it doesn’t have to be quite so mind-numbing. Oddly enough, the secret to making progress and not minding the knitting process is just keep knitting. It’s been my practice before this, having found that I was bored silly by the edging pattern, to make myself do four repeats, after which I’d allow myself to set it down and do something else.

Not last night. Last night, I decided to knit the edging during Craft Circle, which meant while chatting with my visiting friends. I could have stuck with the “four repeats and out” plan, but I thought, this time, that since I’d be chatting with my friends while I worked the fairly simple pattern, I might not notice the mind-numbing part so much.

I was right. Eventually, I put down the knitting, not because I had reached four repeats, but because I needed a break on general principles. The evening’s progress has brought me within about 5 repeats of the center point area, and I’ve made enough distance to actually see the difference between when I picked it up, and when I put it down.

WIP - Carnival Glass Shawl, Near Halfway on Edging

There’s still a long ways to go, but with this new strategy – ignore the mind-numbing, distract yourself just enough to do so and keep going – I actually have hope this shawl could be done this year, instead of next!

Special Holiday Note!

Today is World Penguin Day!

Celebrate by:

  • watching Happy Feet or March of the Penguins;
  • visiting a penguin exhibit at your local zoo;
    Penguins at Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, NY
    Humboldt Penguins at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, NY
  • knitting your own penguin to hugAnne's Penguins
    Knitted Penguins from the Knitty.com pattern
  • emulating the penguin experience by wearing a tuxedo and eating whole sardines.
    (Earn Bonus Points: tap-dance at the same time!)

Just a few suggestions – the creative mind can come up with many more penguin friendly activities, I’m sure!

If I Plant Them, Will I Get a Jelly Bean Bush?

Filed under: Holidays,Video Clips — folkcat at 11:00 am on Saturday, April 21, 2007

“Beans are neither fruit nor musical.” – Bart Simpson

Sunday is National Jelly Bean Day! Celebrate by eating your favorite variety of jelly beans – mine is Jelly Belly. If you’re not convinced it’s worth participating, perhaps Jim from The Office can talk you into it:

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