December 31, 2014


Made this scrappy mashup from a LOT of Noro leftovers. I owed Gwen a hat for Christmas - so what if it’s 6 days late?

That is NOT Gwen modeling the hat.  It's Gretchen, international woman of mystery.  Laughing hard.  

I am thinking that Gretchen should have gone with a less orange hue on her kisser:

If any of you are inclined to knit this hat, here's the pattern that I wrote (my first!):  


Yarn - I used a lot of bulky and superbulky: Noro Iro, and Kureyon.  You may want to hold together two different yarns (e.g. two stands of worsted to achieve desired thickness)

Pattern instructions

Cast on 82 stitches using cable rib cast on (k2 p2 rib) on a circular. Join, place marker. Knit until ribbing is desired height (I like ~ 2 inches).

Add in new yarns whenever you like, going for maximum stripey effect. I had some fun with slipping stitches to get that wacky pattern in the first band of fuchsia.  If you want to try this, here is how I achieved that effect (if you don't want that, just skip the next couple of lines - go down to the +)

1st round: Colour A is the fuchsia.  With colour B (greenish variegated here), *k1, slip 1 (with yarn in back)* for the whole row.
2nd round:  With B, * purl 1, slip 1 (with yarn in back)* for the whole row
3rd round:  Knit entire round with colour A

I think that it looks pretty good, but I might not do it next time.

+ Knit until hat measures ~ 6 inches tall.

Shape crown
1st row: k1 (k2tog, k6) 10 times. 71 sts.

2nd and every alternate row: knit.

3rd row: k1 (k2tog, k5) 10 times. 61 sts.
5th row: k1 (k2tog, k4) 10 times. 51 sts.
7th row: k1 (k2tog, k3) 10 times. 41 sts.
9th row: k1 (k2tog, k2) 10 times. 31 sts.
11th row: k1 (k2tog, k1) 10 times. 21 sts.
13th row: k1 (k2tog) 10 times. 11 sts.

Break off yarn, run yarn through remaining stitches, draw up and fasten off.

Make a GIGANTIC pompom. Attach and you’re golden.
Revel in your creative genius. :-)

Optional Musical Pairing - Doozer Knitting Song, natch.

December 11, 2014

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto.

In grad school, while researching intelligent agents / bots, I learned that the word "robot" stems from a Czech word meaning "forced labour" or "work".
I think that I spent most of grad school in a robo-like stupor.

When an opportunity arose for Nathaniel to join a robotics program - The First Lego League - I was so excited that I began to dance the robot, natch:

here's a glimpse of my magical moves
It's hard being this cool.

DNC - Does Not Compute - is a five strong team that has been meeting on Friday afternoons since mid-September.  They've been building and programming a robot that looks just like this:

image from:
Just joshin'.

That's Elektro, the world's first "modern" robot.  He was exhibited at the 1940 World's Fair with his sidekick Sparky.  Elektro walked, spoke in the neighbourhood of 700 words (using a 78-rpm record player), smoked, and blew up balloons - all essential tasks for a 20th century robot.  You can watch  original footage of Elektro on Youtube if you'd like to learn more.

Here are Molly and Nathaniel with Baymax, the team's Lego Mindstorm robot:

The kids have spent months honing Baymax's capabilities.

For those of you who like to read cut and pasted Lego League jargon, here's a description of the First Lego League program:

"... the children do the work; [they] program an autonomous robot (using a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot) to score points on a thematic playing surface, create innovative solutions to a problem, all while being guided by the FLL Core Values. These three elements - the Robot Game, Project, and FLL Core Values - make up what we call our yearly Challenge.  Teams also fundraise, create a team identity, and talk to experts in the field."

FLL's mission is to "inspire young people to pursue studies and careers in the fields of science, technology and engineering... our vision is of a world which celebrates success in these fields, and in which young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes... "

Awww.  It warms the heart.   

Speaking of heroes, the kids' coaches built a regulation size competition table in their basement so that DNC could practice with Baymax on an identical surface.  

Each team has two-and-a-half minutes to navigate their robot through as many challenges as possible.

There was definitely a festive and electric air at the competition.  This shot of Maya and Brock makes me laugh because Ed Holder (Minister of State - Science and Technology) is about to photobomb them:

Sidenote:  Ed Holder is surprisingly funny.  In his speech, he made two (bad) puns (are there any other kind?)  One is too painful to repeat, but I like "Canada kicks Bot!"

I snapped lots of pics of DNC's competition:


Lego My Lego came in first place and are on their way to the provincials
I was impressed by everyone's team spirit, and also by the Lego soap dispenser in the washroom :-)

In between matches, the kids visited with representatives from Mad Science, Western Engineering and Science Camps, and unLondon (which focuses on the intersection of art, media, digital, technology and maker culture to enable unconventional ideas and innovative solutions).

The UnLondon booth was my favourite because of their fun robot toys.  We were all obsessed with the Sphero (a glowing ball that you use your smartphone or tablet to control):

Nathaniel and I liked chasing it around the room, and maneuvering it between people's legs (the maturity of the 45 year old woman is equivalent to that of the 11 year old boy).

There was also a large selection of objects made by a 3-d printer.  My favourite was this purple foot:

A 3-d printer / industrial robot is a truly amazing thing.  I am not sure if you can see the texture up close in this pic, but that foot is made up of thousands and thousands of layers, each one with a "typical layer thickness of around 100 µm (250 DPI)" - whatever the hell that means.  Let's just say that each layer is super-duper-thin.

The fellow manning the booth told me that the Chinese had recently 3D printed two concrete houses.  You know what, I keep meaning to look that up, but I haven't yet so let's see if I can find a picture.

Wow! Check this out:

images from:
The process can build 10 eco-friendly concrete houses in just one day.  That is unbelievable!  Now there's a practical application that I like.

We also enjoyed seeing the robots that local high school students built:

These bots have corporate sponsors, flashy lights and speed.

Here's "The Hat" tossing a ball to a childbot :-)


Now back to the Lego bots.

After their first two bouts of competition, DNC were not in or anywhere near the lead.  Here's Coach Mark giving them a pep talk:

they look dejected
After the final few bouts, things turned around:

And DNC took third place in the robot challenge, with judging for the remainder of the challenges to come.

At the awards presentation, all the participants got up on stage to do the Cha Cha Slide with Ed Holder.  Hilarious.

sweaty, stinky dance kids
We were amazed when this team of (practically all male) judges, awarded the kids...

women are still so underrepresented in Science and Engineering, as evidenced by the lone female judge on the far right
first place for robot design! ---

And second place overall!

Preparations are on for the provincials in Waterloo on February 7th!

Musical pairing is Mr. Roboto by Styx, natch.

And here are videos of the competition, if you would like to watch the kids in action:

December 04, 2014

Give Him An Uintjie*and He'll Take a Miel

*It's pronounced AYN-chee, peeps.

Tick-tock, tick-tock, ticktockticktock... it's 50 minutes before the 2nd Annual Literacy London Adult Spelling Bee and I am feeling like I've lost my spelling mojo.  Clearly I need a drink.


Here is Oh Beehave at last year's Spelling Bee, abuzz with our second place finish:

Click on the mispeled word in this sentence to read more about the 2013 event.

Here we are, looking good, as Bee-lated Victory this year:

Vito's hair hasn't changed much.  

Other comical team names included, but were not limited to, The Awkwords, The Punk-tuators, The Beelievers, The Pedantics, Illiterate Beeple and The Doobees (who smoked blunts the entire evening).

I had high hopes for this year until I read this morning's Freeps:  What?????  There's a ringer?  And he's flying in from California just to attend the event?  

Here's the ringer - Dave Riddle - posing with my friend Tamara (an awesome speller in her own right) and her son, Davyn:

Sidenote:  Tamara raised the most money of all the attendees.  YEAH, TAMARA!  She will have to pipe in with the dollar amount, but I want to say that it was around $1000.

Back to Riddle.  Oho!  Another funny sidenote which has just occurred to me.  Tamara's maiden name is Riddle!  So maybe she and Dave are related and Davyn is their progeny?  Wait a minute, if they were related that would make Davyn the product of incest... whoa.  Stopping this line of thought NOW.  And laughing.  Anyhoo, back to the Riddler. 

I made the mistake of googling said ringer and found out all sorts of fascinating and discouraging tidbits.  Consider this statement of Riddle's: “spelling is kind of a hobby of mine." (he has studied up to twenty hours a week to prepare for a bee).  And then I read this:
"(it's) a “hobby,” apparently, in the same way Sidney Crosby dabbles at hockey — during a national championship in New York four years ago, Riddle won by spelling uintjie, an edible plant. 
Riddle found the London event online and flew in specifically for it: a diversion, he said, after a tough year of training for a speed-climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. (He and a guide reached the summit in 16 hours)."
Seriously?  I hate this dude.  :-)

I stalked him at the event, snapping a photo of him (the one above) and picking his brain.  He divulged that he was concerned about the variances in spellings between Canada and the U.S.  Grinning, I said, "you mean like wood and would?"  That gave him pause.  He didn't even crack a smile.  Then I said, "like color and colour?".  Again, no smile.  Dude was tough.

Riddle told me that he had spent the afternoon at a local bookstore reading the dictionary.  I asked him which dictionary he read (interesting topic to me).  He said, "Oxford".  A discussion about Oxford online and dictionaries in general ensued.  I had to leave in the middle of it for more wine.  :-)

While I kept my imbibing to a minimum so as to avoid stupid spelling errors, I did manage to slug back two glasses of wine and a beer.  Perhaps because of this, I found this year's words to be fairly easy to spell.  Keep in mind that what you read here are the spellings that my team submitted.  The asterisks in the first picture were added by me to note that I thought that we had misspelled these words.  I was right.  "Inoculate" has only one N, and the last word (pronounced "lad-oh-shun") is still a mystery to me.  I can't even find it in the dictionary or online.  If anyone knows this enigmatic word, please send me a message.

"Daquiri" is also spelled incorrectly.  The correct spelling is "daiquiri", which still looks completely wrong to me.  We scored 12 out of 15 and tied with three other teams for third place.  The second place team got 13 out of 15 words and the first place spelled 14 correctly (the Riddler's team, natch).

While the words this year were easier to spell, the organizers had some new (hard) games to test our wits.  I was sad to learn that the Boggle game was canceled, as was the homonym challenge (ate, eight; vein, vane; slew, slough etc).  And what did they have in store for us?  TRIVIA.  Yikes.  I am not a trivia aficionado (see how I snuck that spelling word in there? :-)  Some of the questions stumped us (2 and 3 for sure.  And a bunch of other questions that I didn't bother writing down, one of which had to do with the beer on the Simpsons, and the film Dead Poet's Society):
  1. How many colours are in the Google logo?
  2. What is the periodic symbol for Mercury?
  3. What is the correct word for a group of ravens?  (i.e. murder of crows)
  4. What group of vegetables does broccoli belong to?
  5. How many points does the Maple Leaf have?
Bee-lated Victory did not fare well in the trivia component.  I will post the answers below.

Here's a copy of the evening's program:

Let's talk food for a minute.  Remember last year, how I went on and on about the delicious dinner?  How tasty it was, how plentiful, how the packaging was so cute?  Here are a couple of pictures of this year's food:

No cute package.  A tiny paper plate.  Serve yourself.  Cheese, crudités, mini croissants and fruit (not pictured).  It was healthy, but I was dreaming of fried chicken.  

Here are some more pictures of the evening's highlights:

Bee-lateds poster children

The Esteemed Judges:  Murray Faulkner (former police chief), Becky Howse (Principal of Adult, Alternative and Continuing Education at the TVDSB), and Brad Duncan (Chief of Police - laughing at motto:  Deeds not Words).  

Getting my glamour on with the lovely Rita DeBook:

The Bee Game.  Last year, my word was Sasquatch:  

I went with "larvae" this year, because who doesn't love them some larvae?

Kevin Moore, one of my ex-colleagues at the London Public Library, was the evening's emcee.  Here's Queen Christine and worker bee, Kevin:

I can't wait for next year's event.  I wonder if the Riddler will show.  I wonder if I should start reading the dictionary ;-)  I think I'll just stick to Scrabble.

And so, I won't drone on, beelieve me, no one likes that.  Hah!  I'm full of beeswax.  

Pollen your leg, I can't stop.  Eeeeeyuwwww. That's a stinger.  

Leaving you with the trivia answers and a bee-yootiful tune:  Just Like Honey by the Jesus and Mary Chain.

  1. 4
  2. Hg
  3. an unkindness (I love that!)
  4. crucifers
  5. 11