Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Gauge Invariance

Posted by me on Friday, the 8th day of June, anno domini 2007 at 2:35 PM, local time.

or, How I Acquired Two New Hobbies at the Expense of some Free Time

This post is about knitting and crocheting. For you poor theoretical physicists worried about the fact that $A_{\mu}(x)\rightarrow A_{\mu}(x)-\nabla_{\mu}\alpha(x)$, this might help, although you might learn useful things about differential geometry if you stay here for a bit. Probably not though. And for the few engineers who stumbled here trying to figure out why your extruded metals are not the right size, I can’t really help you at all, though you really should fix that in case I need some 1’s to make a sock or something.

But seriously, I digress. On to the real point of this post: Learning to knit (and crochet). After learning both things, I am really convinced that they are one and the same. That is, Knitting Theory can be expressed using Crochet Theory, though I grant that it could be quite difficult keeping that many loops on your hook at once, and I don’t really know that you’d want to anyway. But, even though I am pretty sure knitting is a degenerate form of crocheting, and crocheting (in its simpler, most commonly practice forms) is much easier to do, I think knitting is probably more generally useful, and certainly is more often practiced. It is surely for these combined reasons that shortcuts from using crochet hooks for knitting were developed, known as knitting needles (Surely this is how it came about.) Anyway, I digress again.

This may be boring to some of you, but I thought I would talk about the why and how I learned to knit (and crochet… that’s getting old. From now on, I’ll just assume you know what I mean). When I was a young lad, maybe 5 or 6 or so, my grandmother taught me to crochet. I assume it was mostly to keep me busy and out of her hair. Anyway, I don’t remember crocheting much, but I think I still have the hook she gave me somewhere in my room back home. More recently, as in, mere months ago, I saw some websites online where they talk about crocheting and knitting complex mathematical surfaces to get a better feel for how they look and work. I mentioned this before. Also really awesome: this Lorentz attractor!. As a mathematician at heart, I was intrigued, for there were lots of really cool complex shapes that have really simple equations, but its really hard to get a feel for how they look, even when its just in normal euclidean three-space. Let alone hyperbolic space, or higher dimensional spaces. So at that point, I kinda wanted to learn how to do this stuff.

Luckily, my good friends Jim and Pam, also known as the spectacular husband and wife knitting and crocheting team, were kind enough to teach me how to do this amazing things. Jim taught me to crochet, and that went really quick, and I seemed to get the hang of it pretty easily. Pam, not willing to let another go to die Dunkelseite, taught me to knit. Knitting was much more difficult to master, and I still have a few issues now and again, but it is also enjoyable, and there are definitely benefits.

So, I started making some swatches, and started making an afghan with crochet, and it was good, but slow going (also, it will take a lot of yarn). Its easy enough to figure out what to do with crochet (everybody likes afghans, and everybody needs potholders), but I was having some trouble figuring out useful things to make with knitting. Luckily, my main failing is that I like to buy books.

Enter, Knitting with Balls. A manly set of knitting projects that were useful and interesting (everybody needs beer cozies, and a simple but warm hat and scarf set is always useful. Also: a very interesting cabled laptop case. Haven’t started that yet. Need more practice!). So, I’ve started a few projects there, and now I got another book about making socks, cause that always looked interesting to do, and takes far less yarn than making afghans.

I am just starting to make socks though, and am working through some initial issues. First of all, when knitting on the round, I have trouble with the gauge and tension in the neighborhood of the initial join. I almost need to just practice that a few times, with only a couple rows of actually knitting afterwards before ripping it out and doing it again. That leads into another general problem I have with all sorts of knitting (and thus leading to the title of this post): Gauge Invariance. I don’t know if I’m holding the yarn wrong, or pulling too much after each stitch, or what is going on, but my gauge does not appear to be constant throughout my fabric. Especially when going back and forth between knitting and purling a lot (as in the ribbing for the hat I am working on), and when joining rounds (like the socks), and even sometimes just on the edges of the fabric when I turn around. I suppose with practice I will get better, but still, its a little frustrating.

Well, a longish post, but I’d been typing it for a while. At least I now have something to do while I am watching television. I always felt bad before, because whenever I watched TV, it seemed like I wasn’t doing anything useful, and wasting so much time. Problem solved!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My lack of Discipline.

Posted by me on Tuesday, the 27th day of December, anno domini 2005 at 10:32 PM, local time.

Recently, I’ve been backed into a corner and forced to take stock of my pitiful life. Not that I’m not a generally happy person, with a good family, good friends, and a good job. But rather that I have no discipline, lack direction, and just generally am not good at doing the things I want to do and am fully capable of doing.

Now, as I have said, I have been forced to see this about myself, and definitely see it as a Bad Thing. More difficult, however, is figuring out what to do about it. And even more difficult than that is to actually do something about it, since, as mentioned previously, I lack discipline.

Now, one might wonder, what are the sorts of things that I am not doing that I wish I were doing? Why, says I, a wide variety of things, both boring and less so. Call me a dork if you wish (though really, ahem, thats not actually necessary, I do believe…)…

I want to read more.
Now, now, I know what you are thinking. I read too much already. But I disagree. I think that I need to read quite a bit more. More specifically, I need to read different kinds of things. I already have the books to do so, I just don’t. I need to be reading the Bible more often. I need to be reading my math and physics books (I don’t even want to hear it) so I don’t start losing it all and end up as stupid as Patrick. I should be reading my history books, and actually spend some time learning the languages I am so fascinated by. I should be reading my books on sociology, and my books on psychology, and my books on music and art. I really need to read more.

I need to exercise more.
Again, I know what you are thinking. Surely a buff, in-shape, jock such as myself need not exercise even more! Alas, I surely must. I rely entirely on my overactive metabolism to keep me as fit as I am, which is really not fit at all. In the winter, I should be taking walks and utilizing the exercise and weight room in my apartment building while I still have it. In the spring, I need to be jogging and running and rollerblading on the trail that goes right past my freaking apartment!!! And all year long, I need to be walking to work, since its not going to be next door forever. I should be doing calisthenics in the morning and walking in the evening. I used to do these things, why do I no longer?

I need to eat more.
Shut up Adam, I have a high metabolism. But seriously, I really do need to eat more. Not irregularly, as I am now. There are days that I forget to eat lunch or supper, when left to my own devices. Since I hardly do anyting, it doesn’t actually matter. And when I do eat at home, I eat cereal, or yogurt. Seldom anything nutritious and substantial. I should be making my bread at greater volumes and eating it every day. I need to be bringing home more fruit and meat and eating that every day as well. The cheese that I love so much and sits in my refrigerator needs to be eaten as well.

I need to shave more.
I am a lazy lazy bastard, and the fact that I grew a pitiful beard is really just an expression of that laziness. Its easier to occasionally maintain a beard than it is to actually shave every day. How sad is this? That I find this extremity of laziness and flock to it? I need to shave more often. No more of this beard nonsense.

I need to water my plants more often.
Scarcely relevant right now, since I only have about 6 plants indoors through the winter that need to be watered since they are not dormant, like the other 30. And I will grant that last summer I did keep almost all of them alive. But I think they would have grown much better and more regularly if I had kept a closer eye on them all and watered them as often as I should have and fertilized them regularly and properly instead of just buying more plants. Of course, this brings me to my next problem:

I need to finish more projects that I start.
I have such wide ranging interests that I find myself starting many projects all the time, often with no real hope of finishing any of them, since I just start more. I had a great plan to help me water my plants more regularly, but I apparently just lost interest in the project and there it sits, doing nothing for my plants but mocking me with its unfinishedness. As well it should! In the wood shop, I have even more unfinished projects:

I need to spend more time in the workshop.
I enjoy wood working so much and have invested heavily in being able to continue doing so, yet lately I just have not done much at all. I have so many projects that I outline and would be wonderful to work on and finish, but I just don’t give them enough time. I need a new tool to continue, or I need more materials, and I just put the whole thing on hiatus for months. My plant nursery/growing box has been 70% finished for a month now, and my stool just needs some stain and varnish, yet I do nothing. And my experiments into the joinery necessary for my wine cabinet and bookshelf need a new miter gauge to continue, which I have even located and confirmed will work, yet I don’t buy it and use it, because I am lazy.

I need to spend more time cleaning.
Why is it that I always wait until I am completely out of clothes before I begin cleaning the old ones? Why do I wait until there are no spoons before turning on the dishwasher??? Why must the dust make the television unwatchable before I actually clean it off? This makes no sense! I may have had a breakthrough recently with this one, and hopefully it keeps on, but some may have their doubts.

I need to spend more time sorting through old records.
I have piles and piles of old bills, receipts, statements, purchase records, etc., etc., sitting around waiting to be sorted, collated, and filed away into the proper folders in my filing cabinets. By doing this, I would gain more room around my apartment and also would be able to start the next stage of this project: analyzing my old receipts and bills to see where my money goes and how to better leverage it. The problem is that I am too ambitious and want to enter it all into a database, see, where I can easily query all sorts of information, such as how much money did I “invest” in Barnes and Nobles in the year 2003? Or how much money do I spend in a typical March on food? This would be invaluable information in the formation of a dynamic, accurate, and streamlines budget for myself. Instead, I am left to simply guess and estimate, making my budget fat in places where it could be far leaner, and making it lean in places where I could do to spend more. Surely this is a noble ambition, if a rather ambitious one (yes, I know).

I need to paint more and draw more.
Ha! Bet you didn’t see this coming! Once upon a time, I took great pleasure in pencil and ink drawings, and would like to once again. I also would like to learn to use the watercolors that sit on my bookshelf to do some simple paintings or letterings. I have blamed my non-doing of these things on my lack of a suitable table on which to do them, but, as was pointed out to me, that is utter crap. I need instead to just sit down and begin to paint.

I need to become more musical.
Such lofty ambition for one who has never played an instrument other than a recorder in my wee years. I have long wanted to learn to play the cello, as many people surely know. But I have made no effort whatsoever to actually begin to do so. And the piano! I love the piano, but I have not even tried to learn. Many times, my sister has offered to help me learn, but each time I was too busy. Even now she plays softly downstairs. Perhaps later, Alaina. Perhaps next time I’m home. Perhaps when I’m old and grey. Perhaps when I’m dead! Why should I wait? The window where I could actually learn to play well may have long since passed, but at least I could gain some semblance of ability even now. And really, if I learn to play neither piano, nor cello, nor anything else, I will never learn to write the music that I so love to hear and that constantly plays in my head. Will my whistle forever be my only instrument with which to share the music I love so dearly? Perhaps I am better off merely listening to what has already been created, but I had so long hoped not.

I need to write more.
I still remember the days of my youth, when it was assumed that all the days of my life would be filled with writing. In grade school, a great number of my teachers encouraged me to no end in my writing and were certain that I would become an author one day. But what to write, said I? Scattered everwhere in my room at home are half starts at fiction, poetry, philosophy, and other such writings. Volumes I have written, but nothing that is coherent, nothing that is finished, nothing that is worth reading, nothing that has been written in the last five years! What has college done to me, that I no longer wish to write each day? That I no longer wish to ignore all else for long stretches of time and simply commit thought to paper? Now even this “blog” is sparse and empty. What I do write here is barely worth reading and is more of a general complaint than anything else. The most I have written, other than for school, are my detailed accounts of my beer making, and even that is formulistic and mathematical.

Where, I ask, is my ambition now? Where is my motivation? Why do I nothing? Why do I go nowhere, seek nothing, and merely exist? I lack discipline, but where can I find it? Where has it gone? Surely once I had it. I had such plans, such loft goals. I would do research, I would start a company, I would make millions. I would travel the world, I would be famous. Such foolish goals. I am a simpler man now, but I still have goals, I still have things I would like to do, things I should be doing, things I must be doing. Why do I do them not???

A simpler man, who seeks only a good life, a good family, and the discipline to take those things as they pass me by.

Lebe, du Narr, da dir Leben gegeben worden ist.
God put me here for a reason, but rather than seek it out, or in fact do anything at all, I sit here and wait for him to take me away again. At that time, I will say, “See? I am a good little boy, who sat still and waited for his Father to come retrieve him from where he was left for a while.” So deceptively simple to say that. So pat and perfect. And yet, and yet, the parable of the Foolish Steward comes to mind, it surely does.

Leben, Lieben, Dienen, Sterben.

For so long, I assumed that the first step on der Weg was a given. But I see now that I am wrong. The second step I assumed would come in time if I just waited. It seems that is also not the case. The third step was the one I knew all along would be difficult, and it has not proved otherwise. The fourth is out of my hands, I assumed, and would come when it came. Well, surely it will, but to have completed the other three in time may prove more difficult than I had originally assumed.

My my, what a strange and twisted path this post has taken. An interesting introspective though, and I thank The Instigator for sparking it off.
I still have not yet discovered how to best get a move on with all I wish to do, but Wish me Luck! And wish me luck also, as I do my best to follow the way.

Its funny, that a bit of fiction can be so relevant to der Weg, but it surely happens from time to time:

The Way comes but once. Be Steadfast. (With apologies. I like it better this way.)

Tags: , , , , ,