Re: Teaching Manual Skills

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I am horrible at learning manual skills. Flailing randomly until I do it right and hoping somebody or something (e.g. the ball moves in the right direction) reinforces that is my actual plan.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:10 AM
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Like I said, I think that's more common than not. I really do think of it like training an animal: instructions are more to sort of guide the general type of flailing that might help than to be followed precisely, and all the serious information transfer is in identifying and praising the accidental successes.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:13 AM
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I've embraced the flailing and no long even pretend to pay attention to the instructions.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:16 AM
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Based on fading memories of martial arts, I think being mindful of your body and quickly translating instructions into action is a skill that can be learned over time.

Also, everyone at my elementary school crocheted, all genders. It was a craze.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:19 AM
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And kids are much harder to train than adults -- most attentive adults, once you spot them doing something right and identify it for them two or three times, it sticks and you can watch for the next thing. Kids, they can get it right and lose it again over and over and over.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:19 AM
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4: Crochet is really easy and fast. Once you know how, you can make complicated stuff with very little effort and not much skill beyond learning the initial stitches. There are arguments to be had about how desirable the products are once you've made them, but they're certainly easy to produce.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:20 AM
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I had a comment about teaching people kickboxing recently, and it's definitely true that a lot of people are hopeless at following directions, or even copying other people. Most eventually learn, and some pick things up near instantly. The remainder, I'm surprised they can walk in a straight line and eat without choking.*

I am very good at copying movements, or understanding physical directions, despite not really thinking of myself as naturally sporty. It covers up for a lot of sporting sins [as I'm overweight and underfit]. I'm not sure how much that's an innate thing, or years of playing musical instruments, and ten or more years of martial arts training combining to develop the basic 'copy shit' ability.

* you can tell I occasionally get frustrated by them.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:25 AM
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I'm not terribly good at it either, snotty as I sound about my students. Much better with my hands than with my whole body -- when I start trying to do things with my feet at the same time as my hands, I lose track of right and left and the whole thing goes to hell.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:29 AM
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The process in the OP sounds eerily like the instructional methods used in law school.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:31 AM
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It's also the method that I used to learn how to drive a standard transmission. It worked out OK unless you were behind me during the first week.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:33 AM
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I can't follow those instructions, staring hard and reading them slowly. (I think I'd be better with a demonstration, though.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:45 AM
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I do have one advantage, in that when I tell people 'keep your hands up ... no, not by your waist, in front of your face .. no, not there ...' eventually I can kick them in the face. 'See!'

But that's a dick move with beginners, and yet ... by the time I feel it's OK to boot them in the head, the habits may be ingrained.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:46 AM
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I can't follow them because I'm left handed.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:46 AM
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It helps if you have a story or rhyme instead of just instructions. The rabbit comes out of the hole, runs round the tree, then jumps back down the hole - congratulations! A bowline!

Remembering more than three steps is hard when you are learning something new. Giving the student something to help organize the information makes a huge difference.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:47 AM
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When I learned to teach skiing they taught us to make sure we included 3 approaches each time: describe in words, demonstrate, and give the students a chance to try. Learners favor different approaches.

The problem with your "instructions" is that they don't include all the necessary steps for people who haven't mastered the subskills. If I hold the yarn on the left where should the string go - over or under the fabric? So, for most people your instructions are woefully incomplete.

That's the beauty of learning by doing, it exposes this incompleteness, which is different for each person, and gives you the chance to fill it in.

I'm much better at learning by doing and copying than translating verbal instructions into a novel skill. Though I did teach myself to ride a unicycle mostly using usenet discussions. It was hard, and it took me a lot longer to learn than if I had access to a teacher who could give me feedback along the way.

BTW, I suspect your condescension for "people who have to be trained like a dog" is related to the low value you put on "manual skills" in general.


Posted by: simulated annealing | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:47 AM
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The thing is that to follow this sort of directions, you really have to step outside of the situation, socially, and be in charge of yourself. Like hold up your hand and ask the instructor to stop talking for a second (assuming it's a one-on-one situation), then close your eyes, and visualize what they just said. So it takes a lot of assertiveness.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:49 AM
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14.1: I just feel sorry for the poor rabbit who can't get the rope off of his tail.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:50 AM
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describe in words, demonstrate, and give the students a chance to try. Learners favor different approaches.

"Now the first thing to remember about learning to ski is that it's not scary. I'll walk you through everything you need to know. So, first you want to hit the cornice at about a seventy degree angle and then pick up your body weight as you make a snap turn before those rocks. Try to ease up on your edges so you don't break off the cornice and end up with an avalanche behind you. I'll demonstrate, and then you go!"


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:50 AM
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Also, with your instructions: are you moving item by item, with the group copying each move one at a time? Or giving them all six steps?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:50 AM
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Also I'm the best stick-shift teacher ever.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:50 AM
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The other thing here is that a lot of people can't give instructions or directions without disintegrating into word-salad. You know, the thing! That one! Now, the...um...


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:54 AM
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When I have to provide technical support, my partner usually tends to get angry with me.

Hilariously, she had to give someone instructions over the phone last night, and inevitably worked through the stages from faintly exasperated, to sarcastic, to red in the face. "NO! THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN E-MAIL NUMBER!"


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:57 AM
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LB, I'd love to have you teach me to crochet, which I've never really bothered to learn properly.

Lee and I are making plans for a trip to NYC the weekend of December 13 (Thursday) through probably that Saturday or Sunday. I'd love to meet the Fresh Salt gang and am trying to give lots of notice since a Fridays in December sounds like it could potentially be busy.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:57 AM
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21: to be fair, writing (or speaking) about complicated actions involving spatial relations is extremely difficult. Even LB's (quite well written) crochet instructions in the OP are missing (as far as I can tell?) some information that would be necessary.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:00 AM
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I feel like I'm destined to be an ornery ass on this topic, because I pride myself on being good at explaining things, but there's no evidence online of this, of course, just me asserting it more and more aggressively and pretending I have monopoly on teaching expertise.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:02 AM
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There's also the tangent of types of knowledge in which simply getting feedback is more valuable than any epistemic information, like chicken-sexers. The philosophers can probably tell me what I'm talking about here. And there are in-between cases, like some article I don't really remember in which a surgeon mentioned how much better he got at surgery after asking someone to be his mentor and just give comments after operations.


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:14 AM
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some article I don't really remember in which a surgeon mentioned how much better he got at surgery after asking someone to be his mentor and just give comments after operations


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:15 AM
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It seems to me that you can break down manual skills into at least three overlapping, yet distinct skills. You need the dexterity to make you hands manipulate your tools and materials the way you want. You need spatial understanding, to see how to move things to get them to your end goal. And there's a third thing I want to call finesse, which I think is perhaps the ability to optimize the first two to achieve the best possible outcome with the least effort and time.

You can train yourself or learn dexterity to a certain extent, though there are limits for some people with some tasks. Spatial understanding can be immediate and intuitive, or can be a part of rules that you memorize for doing a task. And finesse is something that you develop by doing something over time, though it will come faster for some people than for others.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:22 AM
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Tweety is my google-mentor!


Posted by: Awl | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:24 AM
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I can't understand LB's instructions very well at all. I guess actually seeing the things she's talking about would help. But, for instance, we're told "each 'v' is a stitch," then something about "under the next stitch". Does that mean a place where there isn't yet a 'v', but will be? And if so, what does "under" it mean, if it's a gap where there isn't yet a stitch? And then it just gets more puzzling from there.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:27 AM
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I did a bunch of research on learning strategies for my last job. Only about 10% of the population is actually good at learning from listening. For most of us, spoken instructions are pretty close to useless. Learning by doing is much more effective, and across the board, multiple strategies (look, listen, try, problem-solve, explain to someone else) are far more useful than a single approach.

Depressingly, quizzes are excellent learning tools because being forced to recall information on demand is really good for retention. (This was depressing because it meant developing approximately 3000 quiz questions for the projects I was working on.)


Posted by: Sarah Wynde | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:27 AM
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It took me three tries to learn knitting. I don't think it's because I can't be told how to do something complicated or can't follow directions so much as I have some difficulty with spatial things.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:27 AM
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I've been doing the 'teaching people kicking' thing for a few years now, and I'm pretty decent at it, I think. I adopt various methods. A very analytical step-by-step breakdown of movements, lots of imitation, letting people just do it and correcting their mistakes, using various feedback techniques, e.g. pushing them to demonstrate that their weight isn't in the right place, or whatever, and many more. It's just that there's a wide spectrum of abilities, with most people sort of in the middle, a decent minority who are really fast learners and get frustrated that you aren't moving quicker, and a similar sized minority who are hopeless. The dog-training method is, I think, a fairly good analogy.

Part of the problem is that the methods that would really work for some people -- endless mind-numbing repetition, for example -- aren't really something I'm comfortable with, and since I'm not doing a white-suity-culty martial art, I'd feel guilty getting all Miyagi.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:32 AM
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33.1 sounds more conceited than I meant. I'm better than most of the other instructors I've seen [in my thing] at getting the basics across to beginners. But not as good with the advanced people or fast learners.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:42 AM
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t have to hand them the hook and watch them flail randomly, watching like a hawk for the moment they accidentally do something right that you can praise: "Yes! Right! Just like that!" Eventually, they put together enough accidental right moves that they're doing everything right, and then they know how, but following the instructions wasn't a large part of it.

This isn't just true of teaching manual skills. It is a part of teaching in general. Really, you are just creating an environment in which people can more easily teach themselves. And the process of teaching yourself is going to look a hell of a lot like random flailing to an outside, especially one for whom the skill is second nature.

One thing to look for is error patterns. You think it is random flailing, but really there are things people are tempted to do that aren't right. Once you identify an error pattern, you can target a lesson at getting people to avoid that pattern.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:43 AM
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+you jus


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:44 AM
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I wouldn't expect the instructions I gave to be comprehensible without the crocheting to look at -- essear's question in 30 is perfectly reasonable, but shouldn't be puzzling at all to someone watching me show them the row of 'v's and seeing where I put the hook.

(To see if I can clarify using only words -- the student is learning by crocheting the next stitch on a pre-existing piece of crocheted fabric. New stitches are added to that piece of fabric along the top edge: you make one stitch after another starting from the top right corner and moving to the top left corner, at which point you turn the fabric over (with some slight complication at this point) and move back stitch by stitch in the other direction.

If you look at the top edge of the fabric, it has some thickness. What you see looking down on the edge is a row of 'v's made up of two pieces of yarn, one making each side of the 'v'. (Actually, if you look close, it's the same piece of yarn -- it loops under the point of the previous 'v'.) Sticking the hook through under the 'v' means putting it through the fabric, from the side facing you to the side facing away from you, such that the hook is under both sides of the 'v' but not under any other part of the fabric -- the hook now has those two pieces of yarn on top of it, and the rest of the fabric is hanging off the hook by those two pieces of yarn. Does that clarify it?)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:48 AM
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30: you are adding a row of loops (stitches?) that attach to an existing row of stiches, so until you reach the end of the (existing) row there will always be a "next" stitch. Those stitches look like V's (because, I am assuming, the end of the fabric to which you are attaching the loops is facing down?), and the hook passes through the point of the V (which is to say, the place where the two lines in the V meet the edge of the fabric). That's my guess, anyhow. It didn't occur to me until just now that the edge of the fabric to which you are attaching the loops would be the lower edge, and so I was picturing inverted V's.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:51 AM
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Hey, I was way off!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:52 AM
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I'm good at learning from instructions, as long as you're only doing one thing at a time, and there's no timing involved. If you need to remember multiple things at once or if you need to things at the right moment that's way way harder for me. Some people who are worse at learning from directions might be better at learning timing and complex actions quickly than I am.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:57 AM
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I see some of the confusion -- the 'v's are lying (mostly) flat along the top edge of the fabric. If the fabric were a piece of wood, and you painted a row of 'v's along the edge of the wood (like, if the board were an inch thick, on that one-inch-wide surface) with the top of each 'v' facing to the right and the point of each 'v' fitting into the top of the next one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:58 AM
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I just wish people trying to train me how to do things would actually manipulate my body parts in the way that they want them to move. Every part of, say, a dance step involves a second or two of thinking "Should this be forward or backward?" "Should this be up or down?" "Should this be left or right?" Not to mention that, let's say, i'm correctly moving my left hand from right to left instead of left to right, but it's supposed to be over my head instead of at stomach level.

Without bieng provided a detailed diagram I'd have as much luck trying to imitate the "Gangnam Style" dance as I would trying to imitate Allie Raisman's floor exercise routines.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:05 AM
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So the Vs are nested inside each other, like >>>>>, as opposed to WWWWW?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:06 AM
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Most adults can't follow those directions, even after seeing them demonstrated a couple of times. Teaching them is more like animal training

So they say.


Posted by: knecht ruprecht | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:07 AM
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Also, 23! Definitely, remind us when December gets closer. (Someone else is in NY in October, and I've forgotten. Who was that?)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:07 AM
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43: Exactly, but with the points to the left rather than to the right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:08 AM
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I'll be in Boston mid-November for a meet-up.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:09 AM
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I pride myself on being good at explaining things, but there's no evidence online of this, of course,

Actually, there was a thread a while back where you explained how to show that a sphere with two non-interlocking handles was topologically equivalent to a sphere with two handles linked to each other that was impressively clear and comprehensible.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:18 AM
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That's right! Oh, you're nice.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:28 AM
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I just wish people trying to train me how to do things would actually manipulate my body parts in the way that they want them to move.

I did a ton of that when I was teaching martial arts. I am also good at translating verbal instructions into body movements, but I had two decades of training at that.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:01 AM
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I guess I'm a very visual learner; I already know how to crochet and I found the written directions kind of confusing (probably because I think of it as going into the next little hole rather than under the next "v")

I've taught a few people to knit; I usually sit right next to them with knitting in my own hands and just have them copy what I'm doing, while trying to describe it at the same time, and explain it conceptually also ("you're trying to pull a new loop through each loop on the left, and then transfer the new loop to the right needle," etc.)

Unfortunately with knitting the hardest part is by far just learning to do those basic knit and purl stitches. It's not really like anything else you do with your hands, ever, so you just have to slog awkwardly through and practice, practice, practice until your hands learn what to do. Some people have a harder time because they have worse manual dexterity to begin with, others discover they don't really want to knit badly enough to bear with the very boring and awkward part at the beginning.

I've found that people who learned to knit first find crochet really confusing, and sometimes vice versa. They seem just similar enough that you keep trying to do the one thing while learning the other, when really they are completely different ways of pulling loops through loops.


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:04 AM
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people who learned to knit first find crochet really confusing

I am one of those people! Also I would be hopelessly confused by your explanation, LB, because with only one needle hook I'm not sure which is the current stitch and which is the next, or even exactly what constitutes a stitch. Also I would have all of essear's questions.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:12 AM
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Also also.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:12 AM
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I'd say the opposite, that knitters are much easier to teach than people who haven't done anything with yarn before. But that's purely because they already know how to tension their yarn, which makes learning the rest of it infinitely easier. The difference between someone who picks up the yarn in their left hand running through their fingers with some kind of control and someone who keeps on dropping it and picking it up again with their fingertips is like night and day.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:14 AM
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(Someone else is in NY in October, and I've forgotten. Who was that?)

Me! Me! I'll be in town from the 30th to the 4th of November.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:23 AM
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Also I would be hopelessly confused by your explanation, LB, because with only one needle hook I'm not sure which is the current stitch and which is the next, or even exactly what constitutes a stitch.

This confusion is actually the root of even slightly more advanced crochet, to which the answer is that it doesn't really matter. You don't need to put the hook through the next stitch unless you want to -- you can put it through anything at all (the previous stitch; a stitch two rows down; a nearby hula hoop) and go from there.

But for what I was trying to explain, looking at the crocheting in front of you would make it clear -- that wasn't what was throwing people.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:25 AM
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55: Early Guy Fawkes day drinks (to continue the pointless Britishisms thread)!


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:25 AM
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No idea if this would be true for crochet, but learning to knit was for me made much easier by first unraveling a swatch of knitted fabric, so that I could see what the structure was and how the yarn traveled. Once I understood that, I still had to learn the movements, but at least I had a schema to fit them into.

I suspect this would not have been true for Scomber Mix, who always wants to go from turn mechanics to eventual goal when being taught (or teaching) a new game. Which drives me out of my mind, either as a learner or as an observer to a third party's being taught. The one thing that seems clear is that we have to not interrupt each other when teaching a third party; people eventually get the picture through either the top-down or the bottom-up method, but the topbottomdownup interruption-fest definitely does not work.


Posted by: Gabardine Bathyscaphe | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:38 AM
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The transmission of technological knowledge is a big topic in the history of technology. Generally, words and even pictures just can't cut it. There is too much tacit knowledge.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:41 AM
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Oh wait, I have a crochet hook in my bag (as one does). I could experimentally try to follow the directions in the post.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:44 AM
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Oh wait, no I can't. OP assumes piece of crocheted fabric to start on.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:46 AM
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Probably wouldn't work -- those instructions don't include how to get started, which I teach after I've got people crocheting on a pre-existing piece of fabric, because it's harder.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:47 AM
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Crocheting for economists. Assume a piece of crocheted fabric.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:55 AM
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||

Oh my fucking god I need a xanax and to get far, far away before I punch someone.

I just did a peer evaluation for a (fantastic) colleague. A group of Honors students were unpacking the first chapter of this book.

(The instructor did a great job, and they spent 85% of the class understanding her thesis and supporting evidence, etc.)

At the very end, they had a chance to air their emotions and opinions. Here's what I learned from them:

1. She's so biased. She never once talked about how racist black people are against white people. It really goes both ways.

2. She says black kids and white kids do drugs at the same rates, yet black kids are way more likely to be arrested and put in jail for drugs. Maybe the black kids also did a bunch of violent crimes, and that's why they got arrested for the pot, because there was more to the story.

3. You see way more black people walking around with a blunt in their mouth than white people.

There was exactly one kid who was (timidly) defending the author, and a few silent kids who may have just felt too nervous to speak up, and a few who felt she made some good points but was just too biased.

I hate this world and want to get far, far away.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:04 AM
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Wow. HG, that is infuriating. How did (does) the instructor handle this?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:11 AM
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The OP reminds me of trying to learn the awkward turtle from the blog's written instructions. Daunting until I see a video.

My mother, a retired art teacher, says that over 3 decades of teaching, her elementary school students got progressively worse at fine motor skill activities like weaving, drawing and even some clay work. She thought it was because the kids just weren't doing fine motor skill things at home, like sewing or origami. I pointed out that she didn't teach me to sew until high school and I had to check origami books out of the library. Doesn't seem to faze her...


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:11 AM
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Wow. HG, that is infuriating. How did (does) the instructor handle this?


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:11 AM
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I have no idea how that doubled.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:12 AM
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|| AFSCME goes for the jugular against Romey -- great stuff. All three worth looking at. ||>


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:16 AM
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He mostly stayed neutral, except to distinguish facts from opinions. Whenever students claimed a sentence was biased, he asked them what evidence the author used to support that biased statement.

At the very end, he reminded them that there is an extensive body of research underlying all this and that she is an expert on this. For the most part, there were twenty people trying to cram in heated statements into 10 minutes, and so he didn't have time to unpack very much.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:17 AM
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66: My sister said similar things about other surgical residents back when she was one -- that they tended to be these academically very strong students who were really low on manual skills because they'd never done anything with their hands but type.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:18 AM
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What I am doing is upending my daily schedule and going running right this very instant, so that I can calm the fuck down and become functional. I didn't bring my towel/shower stuff because I planned on exercising at the end of the day, so too bad for me, and those around me.

This is why I teach math. This is why I only discuss politics with people that I agree with.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:19 AM
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they tended to be these academically very strong students who were really low on manual skills because they'd never done anything with their hands but type.

Kept reading this as "they tended to be [the type] who were ....never done anything with their hands butt.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:21 AM
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3. You see way more black people walking around with a blunt in their mouth than white people.

I've only ever seen white kids opening using pot. Of course, I don't actually see that very often because everybody hides their pot from the middle aged white guy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:22 AM
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over 3 decades of teaching, her elementary school students got progressively worse at fine motor skill activities like weaving, drawing and even some clay work

Probably add handwriting to the list, too.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:33 AM
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69: Those are very good. And in case there's anyone who hasn't seen it, here's the greatest union PSA of all time.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:57 AM
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I'm kind of shocked that I actually did manage to teach myself to crochet, but it really helped that I used a book written for kids.

Otherwise, I have a really hard time manipulating my hands or other parts of my body to follow instructions, though it helps somewhat if I can mimic someone else. For both bellydance and for yoga, I had the most success with instructors who were hands-on.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:07 AM
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Oh, and I'll be in NY for Comic Con Oct 12-14. Anyone interested in meeting for Sunday brunch?


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:08 AM
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Maybe I won't be in NYC. I thought my parents were a sure thing for watching the girls, but they aren't available after all and I don't know who we could leave them with who could handle getting Nia to school and so on, so I may back out and stay home with them and let Lee have her special birthday trip with my aunt, which is kind of weird too. I'll update if it happens, though.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:21 AM
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I'm out of town (going upstate to celebrate my niece's having made it through Marine boot camp. I sort of wish she'd been able to figure out a better way to get herself out of town, but I am impressed, and it's clearly a better plan than continuing to manage a Pizza Hut.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:22 AM
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I'm generally quite good with my hands (Laydeez), but yarnwork baffles me. I'm OK with knots, but reading something like LB's first para is more or less gibberish to me. Iris got a Strickbarbel thing from a German cousin (I gather it's called corking here), and I'm utterly unable to figure out how to do it to show her (including after watching a Youtube video). There always seems to be a step in the middle that is best summarized "And then a miracle occurs". In LB's case, it's #6.

Actually, in general, there's some mental distinction between categories of manual things I get easily and only with great difficulty. I've always had an aptitude for carpentry-type things*, and can pick up pretty much any construction technique easily, but mechanical tasks, like bike maintenance and disassembling/reassembling machines are hard for me. I don't see what the difference is, but it's fairly consistent. I literally find it more onerous to adjust the brakes on my bike than to replace a sash chain on an old window.

* pre-dating any architecture-related education


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:28 AM
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80: some of the bigger bases overseas have Pizza Huts.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:34 AM
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||

Woohoo, first real grant application I've ever personally worked on submitted. That... is a fairly ridiculous process, gee.

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:39 AM
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The only experience I have with teaching manual skills (broadly defined) is the occasional bit of informal ski instruction. There's a little of what you describe when trying to get people to do things properly when standing still and it gets much worse when trying to implement it.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:44 AM
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I should add that I am absolutely terrible at learning such skills. I couldn't even pick up the most basic sewing technique and it took a couple hundred days worth of skiing before things finally clicked.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:47 AM
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I spend a lot of time writing paragraphs describing exactly what people are doing with their hands in excruciating detail. I always include pictures too though because the prose descriptions are so ridiculous.

Teaching ASL, I am noticing that a lot of my students have a lot of trouble recognizing whether or not they're doing the same thing as me, even when I'm standing right next to them. I don't really know if that's more language-related or more motor-skills related but it makes it tricky because to explain what they're doing wrong I have to stop modeling the correct whatever. Tricky but pretty entertaining for the most part.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:50 AM
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||

Hey Messily so we have a deaf (Deaf?) first-year in my department so there are ASL translators that follow her around and do all the talks and class lectures and stuff; they're doing live translation of highly technical, fairly jargon-y, heavily geometrical (as in, lots of semi-abstract discussions of the relations between complex manifold-y kinds of shapes and so on). Is that as hard as it seems like it would be? Because the consensus around the lab is holy crap it seems like it would be really hard.

|>


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:55 AM
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I shouldn't just give away nuggets of genius like this, but here goes:

Properly done ASL youtube interpretations of the obscene children's book titles. With special crocheted accompaniment for gold-star level kickstarter fans.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:57 AM
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I couldn't even pick up the most basic sewing technique and it took a couple hundred days worth of skiing before things finally clicked.

If you'd spent your time at the sewing machine, you'd probably have picked it up sooner.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 11:58 AM
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87: First, to be super bratty right off the bat, if they're doing it live it's interpreting not translation.

Yes, technical interpreting is very difficult. Often, in my experience, schools are not great about making sure that the interpreters they hire actually know the field. And often programs with one or few deaf people in them don't do a great job of remembering to talk with pauses, wait for the interpreters to catch up, provide notes ahead of time, etc.

It's also quite difficult to follow less-than-qualified interpreters who get put in jobs that are over their heads. I get a lot of interpreters at conferences and workshops and whatnot where they are absolutely lost most of the time and it is an incredible amount of work to figure out what the source language was once they get done with it. (Even with very smart well-educated interpreters, they still have to know the field and the vocab to be able to interpret it correctly. And not that many interpreters have advanced degrees in anything other than interpreting).

But, if the deaf person knows the field and the vocabulary and is in higher ed, she probably is able to put together what is being said even if the interpreters aren't top notch.

(example: at the LSA meeting last year, I went to mostly talks on spoken language phonetics and tone. Hilarious moments included a long confused period before I figured out that what was variably being interpreted as "eye pub" or "eye railing" was actually supposed to be ɨ or as phoneticists call it, i-bar)


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:13 PM
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typically, deaf designates audiological deafness and Deaf cultural deafness. Yours could be either or both.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:15 PM
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typically, deaf people struggle with closing tags.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:15 PM
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Back on the original post, I should say that I wouldn't expect anyone to learn how to do something physical from written directions with no visual aids, at least not without a lot of trouble. The directions I wrote out were really only intended to represent the sort of oral instructions I would give while demonstrating.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:21 PM
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typically, deaf designates audiological deafness and Deaf cultural deafness. Yours could be either or both.

Yeah, I... I knew that, actually. I dunno what my confusioin was.

And often programs with one or few deaf people in them don't do a great job of remembering to talk with pauses, wait for the interpreters to catch up, provide notes ahead of time, etc.

I assume people are doing the final part of this where they can, but the class today was a three hour (relatively) unstructured seminar.

The one mitigating factor might be that it seems to be (two of) the same four interpreters (as a sidebar, why (usage-wise) is it interpretation and not translation?) with her all the time, so if they don't know the field now they presumably will get a pretty good introduction to it.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:24 PM
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One of my friends was at a math conference with a Deaf attendee with an interpreter. I really really wish I could have been there. It seems almost impossibly hard to me. My dad does a reasonable amount of interpreting in a technical field that he does have an advanced degree in, but for many technical fields is next to impossible to find interpreters with serious knowledge of the field.

Linguistics is an interesting subcase, as good interpreters should know at least a little bit of linguistics. My dad's definitely taken linguistics classes, but certainly had to learn more linguistics prepping and interpreting for a linguistics conference than in a linguistics 101 class.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:31 PM
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I mean, I can't even understand most of math talks in my field. How on earth are you supposed to interpret a math talk?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:32 PM
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(as a sidebar, why (usage-wise) is it interpretation and not translation?)

What the hell is wrong with me today? Never mind this.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:33 PM
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83: Yeah, tell me about it. Some jackass decided that on top of everything else, I now have primary grant writing responsibility. Sure, there's a lot of boilerplate that just gets recycled, but going over the instructions again and again in case you missed something takes forever, and our contract grant writer is pissed that a chunk of her income disappeared, so her help has been less than perfectly timely or adroit.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:36 PM
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Well, when I have (nonlinguist) interpreters for more hardcore linguistics stuff I usually tell them to just do more or less straight up transliteration and I'll figure out what the content/meaning was. Plus I usually meet with them ahead of time to tell them a bunch of specialized vocab (both English and ASL) that normal people wouldn't be expected to know.

So I assume it'd be the same with math, not that I've ever been to a math talk.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:36 PM
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99 to 95/96, more or less.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:37 PM
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What's the advantage of that over transcription?


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:38 PM
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I actually sort of enjoyed a lot of it. My role seemed to be "write a section of the project summary that describes what [ my adviser with decades of experience ] knows about [ super broad subject I don't know much about ]", which was just the kind of ignorant winging-it where I think I thrive. Who knows if it'll pass as competent, though.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:38 PM
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None. Transcription would be much better.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:44 PM
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(although similar problems arise with transcription as well. Cf every time any remotely unusual word gets mentioned in a live-broadcast television show and the captions go all nonsensical)


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:46 PM
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Now I'm curious how many new technical vocab words would come up in a typical math talk. I'll have to try to keep track next time I'm at a conference talk. The problem is that the "basic" parts of math are so far past what a typical educated person knows. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'd assume that most good interpreters know most of the vocab from Linguistics 101, while almost none of them would know anything from Linear Algebra.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:46 PM
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When I was in college it seemed like transcription was more common in classes than interpreters. Though the class I'm particularly remembering was a poetry class, so the advantages of transcription were especially obvious.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:49 PM
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I mean, that's probably true, but talks at linguistics conferences don't really limit themselves to concepts addressed in Linguistics 101...


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:49 PM
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IME, the quality of a transcription has a lot to do with whether the transcriptionist is able to type corrections/additions/whatever. With that, I'd have high-90% accuracy, but without it I go as low as the high-80%s. That's counting punctuation and formatting and stuff, too, and under non-lecture conditions.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:50 PM
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There needs to be a googlefight for ASL interpreters. "Semi-definite Hermitian matrix" vs. "alveodental retroflex": go!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 12:57 PM
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107: Of course, but exactly the same is true of linear algebra.

I guess the point is that I can understand technical talks in a lot of other fields better than I can understand math talks. The same is true of papers, I find say a random geology paper much more readable than a random math paper.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 1:11 PM
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Was anyone doing simultaneous interpretation (into any language) for the LHC announcement? Experimental physics seems like it'd be really brutal, fast dense talks with plenty of obscure vocab.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 1:13 PM
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You don't need to put the hook through the next stitch unless you want to -- you can put it through anything at all (the previous stitch; a stitch two rows down; a nearby hula hoop) and go from there.

This is crochet's superpower, and is why it so much easier to crochet complex shapes than to knit them. (See, for example, amigurumi, crocheted Lorenz manifolds, etc.) Getting back to LizardBreath's earlier comment about the desireability of crocheted objects, I've found it's much easier to find examples of beautiful crocheted things on Pinterest than on Ravelry for some reason. I've taken up the hook again after all these years ...


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 1:15 PM
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Data point: knitter, found the written instructions in the post gibberish. Honestly, I find physical demonstration with minimal word salad to highlight complex or important parts the best way to learn manual skills. I get confused trying to listen to complex descriptions; it takes my concentration away from carefully observing just what the hell is happening with the yarn.

The only reason I can knit or spin is because of obsessive repeat viewing of YouTube videos. Two dimensional depictions in book diagrams never cut it. But now I can Navajo ply and knit little stuffed animals. I did crochet one slipper but it seemed awfully lumpy and holey compared with knitted stuff. If the other slipper is ever getting crocheted, there will need to be some YouTube refreshers.


Posted by: Amber | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:14 PM
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Data point: knitter

That sounds like the kind of book I like to read on airplanes.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:18 PM
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I've taught a couple score people to make bread. A few people don't understand what it means to not rip the dough while kneading, and more people don't have the texture-sense to notice the difference between dough well-kneaded and merely cohesive, but there are visual cues.

Texturing soil gets complicated down in the loamy clayey regions, and you just... practice a lot. There are competitions, but I've never been in one.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:20 PM
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`crochet's superpower' is excellent. So is crochet's ability to be stuffed into a pocket on short notice. The only result I like is Irish crochet, especially the punto in aria imitations, in the tiniest thread I can manage. So I don't even need a big pocket! Nor have I much daily use for the stuff.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:22 PM
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Lumpy and holey is what crochet is like. You work with it, but you're never getting a nice smooth fabric like you do with knitting.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:22 PM
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CHAMPION FLOCCULATOR


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:22 PM
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You laugh, man, but flocculation does some cool stuff.

The previous link was tidy but didn't cover testing for stickiness.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:28 PM
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I owe a classmate a sonnet on soil texturing, and want to get 'il faut metter la main a la pâte' into it. Metter? mettez? Damn. Anyway, I used to be able to turn off a proper sonnet hardly thinking about it, and now can't at all. How I loathe (most) academic writing (just about all of mine, so far).


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 6:31 PM
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|| So if we get to midnight without precip, we'll have tied the record set in 1896 for days with no precipitation. We're going to make that. This June was the wettest month ever. They're saying it might snow early tomorrow morning. Who cares if we get any here, but maybe it'll fall in Idaho too and put the damn fires out.|>


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:05 PM
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il faut metter la main a la pâte

Does it help if it's "mettre"?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:17 PM
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If I want to feel up some baked goods, or just for scansion?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:37 PM
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For grammar?


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:41 PM
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121: I think we're at driest-since-the-1880s here. Sounds like things are going to get pretty cold by the end of this week. And of course, last year we had no winter to speak of. I think I shoveled twice, probably unnecessarily both times. And then winter 2010-11 was extraordinarily cold AND snowy -- there were streets that were covered in ice all winter, and piles of plowed snow that lasted well into June. At least this summer was not too awful. Fucking global climate instability though -- kinda scary when you thing about how much of the food supply is made up of a very few, very overbred types of crops. We're probably just a few years away from an S.M. Stirling-style cannibal holocaust. With the clawing and the biting and the BRAINS, hnyah.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:43 PM
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INFINITE FLOCCULATION!


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:44 PM
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I move that in Internet English, "thing" will henceforth be an acceptable variant spelling of "think".


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:46 PM
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If you think that, you've got another... well, you know.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:47 PM
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la pate rhymes with forgot.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 7:58 PM
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We're probably just a few years away from an S.M. Stirling-style cannibal holocaust.

And then, Halford will owe me dinner.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:06 PM
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Which he will only be able to provide from his own flesh.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:08 PM
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Or someone else's.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:20 PM
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I guess the point is that I can understand technical talks in a lot of other fields better than I can understand math talks. The same is true of papers, I find say a random geology paper much more readable than a random math paper.

Every time I read this kind of thing I wonder how anyone can stand this situation. I mean, I kind of get why math is so intensely specialized, but doesn't it get really old, having no idea what anyone else is doing or why?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:21 PM
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132: Anti-Semite.


Posted by: Bave | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:26 PM
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Actually I guess I feel that way whenever I read things like what came up here sometime recently about grad school being about learning to slightly extend the boundaries of knowledge at one tiny little hyper-focused corner. That degree of specialization just sounds horribly lonely to me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:28 PM
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Megan will wake up to find a mysterious slice of Halford-flesh on her floor. Along with a new refrigerator magnet.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:28 PM
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133.last: I've never read a math journal in my life but not knowing what is going on or why is a very common experience for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:33 PM
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Actually I guess I feel that way whenever I read things like what came up here sometime recently about grad school being about learning to slightly extend the boundaries of knowledge at one tiny little hyper-focused corner. That degree of specialization just sounds horribly lonely to me.

I agree, but then that's part of why I didn't go into academia.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:44 PM
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But I'm not sure you're interpreting the thing about grad school (which I posted) quite how it was intended.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:44 PM
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Strange way to make good on a bet for dinner, but after the cannibal holocaust, one can't be picky.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:44 PM
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Here it is again, in case anyone missed it the first time.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:47 PM
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I don't feel so lonely about my "specialization," but English is different from math in that way. Lots of people are interested in the kinds of things I do, and I'm interested in the kinds of things other people do. Sometimes it's hard to focus on particular research interests because I'm constantly devising ways that me with my expertise and you with yours could get together and make a whole new set of ideas that would be completely bitching.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 8:55 PM
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Semi-on-topic/to the other knitfolk: I am learning entrelac. It is going slowly. I need LB to hit me over the head with how to pick up stitches. Also I am not certain it adds enough value to be worth the effort.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:05 PM
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135

Actually I guess I feel that way whenever I read things like what came up here sometime recently about grad school being about learning to slightly extend the boundaries of knowledge at one tiny little hyper-focused corner. That degree of specialization just sounds horribly lonely to me.

I was under the impression that this isn't unique to math. Isn't physics also very specialized?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 9:24 PM
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Math is the ultimate in specialization and utter incomprehensibility.

Let's see ...

Journal of Applied Physics table of contents: I don't know what a lot of the words mean, but at least I understand "resonance", "temperature", "film", "nanowire", "charged", "crystal", and several other terms.

Annals of Mathematics table of contents: the only word I understand is "cube". Even words like "graph", "loop", "group" have special strange mathematics meanings. I think "surface" means the same thing in mathematics as it means in reality, but the Wikipedia definition of "surface" is "a nonempty second countable Hausdorff topological space in which every point has an open neighbourhood homeomorphic to some open subset of the Euclidean plane E2", so maybe not.


Posted by: Crypti cned | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:07 PM
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Oh, also "function". I know what that means.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:07 PM
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"Le lemme fondamental pondéré. II. Énoncés cohomologiques"

C'est quoi?


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10- 2-12 10:31 PM
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145: Surface has the ordinary meaning. That absurd definition mainly rules out various pathological examples. The only restriction that matters is that you don't count the edge as part of the surface (if there is an edge). So the top of a piece of paper is a surface, but you wouldn't count the edge of the paper as part of the surface, just the inside.

"Orthogonal group" means "the set of all rotations in n dimensions." The rest is completely incomprehensible, yes.

Something I found disturbing is that there are major open problems in mathematics that would be difficult to explain to even second-year math graduate students, like the Hodge Conjecture.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 12:32 AM
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"Positive characteristic" means that there's some sum of 1's that gives you zero. Like clock arithmetic instead of ordinary arithmetic. "Singularity" means a point that's not smooth, i.e. some sort of crinkle.

I could probably understand the main points of 2 or 3 of those papers. I could probably understand the details in one of them if I spent a week on it.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 2:42 AM
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148.last: Forget second-year graduate students, there's plenty of things (e.g. the Fundamental Lemma) that are hard to explain to most professors.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 2:45 AM
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Weird, poking around suggests that the top linguistics journals are all specialized, with no analogue of Annals.

In the current issue of PLoS biology the words that I don't understand are: all abbreviations (mostly they seem to be gene names though)., remodeling, bouton, apoptosis, cytokinesis, multimeric. That's a bit more than I would have expected, basically every title has a word I don't understand. The introductions are easier to read than the titles or abstracts.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 4:40 AM
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135: I must admit, I do not think that's quite how my field works. Arguably because we don't actually know anything yet, hundreds of years in, but anyhow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 4:48 AM
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Mister Smearcase: I've tried and failed at entrelac once before, though I'm thinking of giving it another shot now that there are YouTube videos to watch. I'm not sure it's really worth the effort either, but I'm keen to learn how to knit backwards. (Though I could just learn to do that for knitted on borders instead, which I love to use on shawls).

LizardBreath: It's true that you can't get anything like smooth stockinette in crochet (except for in Tunisian crochet, at which point you might as well be knitting, really), but you can make a pretty fair imitation of lace and cable fabrics with a really nice drape comparable to knitted fabrics if you crochet with lace or fingering weight yarn. A friend gave me some staggeringly expensive hand-dyed lace weight yarn a few years ago and I couldn't knit a thing with it; plain stockinette made it too feathery light to be wearable (by me anyway), but any cabling to bulk it up or lace patterns to make a shawl just disappeared in the high-contrast variegated colors of the yarn. I finally decided to crochet with it, and found a simple 3dc-1sc-3dc etc. pattern that gathers the shortish color repeats into pretty little clumps that show off the stitch rather than hide it, and it drapes nicely enough to make a shrug out of it. (I'm still not sure if I've got enough yarn to finish it though, crochet does eat up a lot of yarn).

Anyhow I'm taking another speculative look at all those variegated yarns that look so beautiful in the skein but turn into muddy disappointing stripes when knit up. Of course they tend to be expensive hand-dyes so maybe that's not a good thing.


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 4:55 AM
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Even some of the institutional affiliations in the Annals of Mathematics are inscrutable.

Javier Fernández de Bobadilla
ICMAT
CSIC-UAM-UCM-UC3M
28040 Madrid
Spain

María Pe Pereira
ICMAT
CSIC-UAM-UCM-UC3M
28040 Madrid
Spain

These two must be robots.

Anyway, how do you recruit new faculty members if nobody understands what anyone else is working on? How do you have, like, departmental seminars or journal clubs?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:06 AM
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This stuff isn't crazy expensive, and knits up fairly attractively; long color changes that look good on a stranded pattern of two balls of the same colorway out of sync with each other. I'm ambivalent about the yarn as yarn -- it's really loosely spun, to the point where there are patches that are almost unspun roving -- but the colors are pretty.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:08 AM
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149

I could probably understand the main points of 2 or 3 of those papers. I could probably understand the details in one of them if I spent a week on it.

I think most mathematicians could follow the big picture explanation of the Ramsey graph paper without too much trouble. The details which go on for 60 pages are another story of course. But I may overestimating how many mathematicians have even heard of Ramsey.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:23 AM
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I just like saying his name: Frank Plumpton Ramsey.*

* precocious polymath bastard. Makes virtually every other academic look like a slow-coach dullard.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:34 AM
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151: I guess PLoS Biology is an all-purpose biology journal, but I don't think it's reached the point where it's somebody's ambition to publish in it. You either want to be in the top journals in your sub-field (virology, "infectious diseases" in general, cancer biology, neuroscience), or in a journal that basically has all branches of science not just biology (there would be three of these, Science, Nature and PNAS).

The most generalized prestigious biology journal I think is Cell which contains all aspects of cell and molecular biology, without giving you the foothold of papers about bumblebees and tree ecology and monkey behavior. It contains highly specialized papers that you might also see in specialized journals, but it's getting to the point where it's so hard to publish in Cell that you need to send in the equivalent of about five year's work by five different people, so the papers actually end up having fairly understandable abstracts whose significance is immediately obvious, combined with way too much data for anyone to comprehend.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:36 AM
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154. LMGTFY:

The Instituto de Ciencias Matemáticas - ICMAT (Institute for Mathematical Sciences) is a joint research institute of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas - CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) and three Madrid universities: the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M), and the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM).

Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:37 AM
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I was thinking Cell seemed oddly neurosciences but then I noticed it's a special issue on Alzheimer's, so there you go.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:40 AM
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158.1.last: proceedings of the royal society?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:41 AM
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160 should be "neurosciencey" not "neurosciences".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:42 AM
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I was going to look at Nature, but found their website too confusing. Are there really only 3 articles in the current issue? Plus, I wanted something open access so I could look at intros and not just abstracts.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:47 AM
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Nature is not going to be terribly informative either; those articles are compressed and written for a general(-ish) audience.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:51 AM
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The various "Trends in..." journals might be good. Here's Trends in Microbiology.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:57 AM
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156: I find the abstract of that paper very tough going. I bet I could follow a colloquium talk on that topic, but I think the paper itself would be tough for me. I've certainly heard of Ramsey, and I vaguely know what Ramsey graphs are (though I couldn't produce a definition, and I can't follow how the word is being used in the intro). I don't know the meaning of: 2-source, disperser, entropy, min-entropy, extractor, challenge-response mechanism, concentration. I don't think I could read the paper at all easily.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:03 AM
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Nature is not going to be terribly informative either.

Let Nature be your teacher, lab-boy.


Posted by: Opinionated William Wordsworth | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:04 AM
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Coaching/teaching swimming is similar. I try to break it down into small parts.

Often, people have put together some stroke that enables them to move through the water. When I break it down into components, their weaknesses show and they can get frustrated. I spend a lot of time telling them that they need to go slow and do it correctly so that they can swim easier and faster.

Most of my swimmers were triathletes so their main goal was finishing with more energy.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:04 AM
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I don't know the meaning of: [...] entropy, min-entropy

Huh. I know those two, at least. Actually that paper seems to come out of the world of computational complexity so it makes sense that I sort of vaguely grasped where it was probably coming from.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:05 AM
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I mean, I kind of get why math is so intensely specialized, but doesn't it get really old, having no idea what anyone else is doing or why?

This was probably the biggest reason I dropped out of the research track.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:06 AM
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I've never done anything but research, but switching to research that is more likely to be directly applicable did make things clearer for me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:17 AM
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LB: True, I've seen a lot of really stunning stranded projects on Ravely for the slow color-change yarns, but I've just about given up knitting any single-plies for the reason you mention; they tend to pill like crazy even if they don't unspin themselves as you're working with them. The Kauni Effektgarn is the most beautiful IMO but the yarn itself is scratchy and unpleasant. I'm thinking about getting one of the cheaper acrylic knock-offs that have started appearing in the big box stores. The colors aren't as nice, but at least whatever you make is likely to wear well, and of course it will be soft to wear. They still seem a little too expensive for what they are, though, so I haven't tried any of them yet.

(Btw, if you're interested I put a link to my Ravelry page for the lace-weight crochet project in progress in the URL field in this reply; I hope that means it will link from my name in the post? Though I don't think you can see it if you're not a Ravelry member).


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:24 AM
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but at least whatever you make is likely to wear well, and of course it will be soft to wear

But doesn't it make you sweaty? I don't know from home-knit items, but I definitely avoid mass-produced acrylic sweaters for this reason.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:31 AM
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I only wear cotton sweaters because any other kind and I get too warm.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:34 AM
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Smearcase, this is a pretty good tutorial on picking up stitches, though her "pretty" version may not work for you in entrelac. The only entrelac I've done was elaborate lacework (sorry about the humblebrag) and I wasn't really into it, should give it another chance someday. But I finished a shawl last night!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:52 AM
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My friend's mom collected all the hair that their black labs shed, and eventually spun it into yarn and knitted some sweaters with it. They turned out very beautiful but apparently smelled like wet dog when they got wet.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 6:53 AM
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Sheila, I just made you a friend on Ravelry even though I'm barely using Ravelry these days. I love your Niebling and you and LizardBreath have both made the Yggdrasil!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:03 AM
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175: Very nice.
176: I'm kind of grossed out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:04 AM
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Ok, entrelac turned out to look boring in this only slightly variegated yarn and it's a color (deep teal, man) that I'm not sure would look great alternating with another so...what is not especially lacy and looks fancy with one only slightly variegated color? Thorn? LB? Sheila? Beuler?


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:18 AM
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it's a color (deep teal, man) that I'm not sure would look great alternating with another

Orange?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:23 AM
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179: Some sort of two-color brioche! It's a fun new (I think) technique, eats yarn a bit but can get you a really warm and great-looking cowl or scarf or hat or something.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:23 AM
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Deep teal is practically a neutral. I wouldn't pair it with purples or with a royal blue, but just about anything else goes.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:24 AM
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Mint green! Browns! Oranges! Light rose/pinks!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:25 AM
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Oh, sorry, you said NOT another color, though of course I'd vote that you add gray and make the teal pop. Then I change my vote to single-color brioche and still think you'd like it and it would be snuggly and make you and all who see you happy.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:27 AM
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re: 176

One of my cousins is/was a lecturer in fashion and textiles.* She used to have her own spinning wheel and did that. She made yarn out of dog hair, various other animal hairs, I think once human hair. It was largely as experiments for her teaching, I think, rather than to wear.

* and before that, iirc, worked at Dior. Although I expect in some very lowly assistant job.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:31 AM
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* and before that, iirc, worked at Dior. Although I expect in some very lowly assistant job.

"And you'll be here in this windowless basement knitting dog hair. No, I can't tell you why."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:33 AM
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181: Oh I'm open to another color, I just wasn't sure this color was born to be entrelac. Maybe I'll do the two-color brioche, which I almost did for my last scarf. p.s. now Hall & Oates' "Yarn Eater" is stuck in my head. They wrote no such song but there it is anyway.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:40 AM
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re: 186

Heh. My mum tells me it was all very exciting second-hand. Working class girl, in Paris in the swinging 60s -- my Mum and her friends were envious. But yeah, it was probably 'make 1000 yak-hair button covers'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 7:41 AM
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My parents also knew someone who knitted a doghair sweater, oddly enough. Meanwhile, I wore the vintage Lacoste French-version-of-a-Crombie coat I bought months ago for the first time last night when it was pissing with rain.

And...it smells like a wet dog.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 8:48 AM
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I've never done entrelac -- that's sort of on my agenda for after I get through this massive fairisle thing I'm working on now. And picking up stitches neatly is actually a bit of a personal weak spot.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:00 AM
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The math part of this thread is really bumming me out.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:10 AM
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Why is that, L.? I'm excited to learn that I know just a tiny amount less math than mathematicians, relatively speaking.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:17 AM
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I'm a grad student in math.


Posted by: L. | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:24 AM
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193. Never mind. The 'tariat is here for you.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:30 AM
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Don't worry, L, someday you'll know topics that you couldn't explain to the present-day you, either.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:36 AM
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Also, someday after that, you'll forget many of those same topics.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:39 AM
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And parts of math grad school are lovely!


Posted by: heebie-heebie | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:49 AM
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193: what kind of math?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:54 AM
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198: you wouldn't understand.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:54 AM
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Which reminds me of a funny story I don't have the patience to type from a phone.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 9:56 AM
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197 Heebie and friends attend a graduate seminar.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:02 AM
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I think a lot of the problems with the incomprehensibility of papers is with the format of papers. Give a few mathematicians in different fields some whiskey, a blackboard, and a couple hours, and they'll all come out learning something really great. Plus, the lifestyle of being a mathematician is objectively awesome.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:02 AM
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Okay, back to being able to type on a keyboard, so to follow up on 200:

A physics professor at [place I work] encountered a woman selling headgear designed to protect cell-phone users from cancer. According to him, it basically looked like a literal tinfoil hat, which this woman claimed she and her father had invented. He asked her how it worked, and got a confusing answer, so he said "wait, first, let's clear something up: how is it that you're saying the cell phone is going to give me cancer in the first place?" They went back and forth for a while and finally, exasperated, she shouted at him "Oh, you'd never be able to understand it anyway. It involves quantum mechanics!"


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:33 AM
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According to him, it basically looked like a literal tinfoil hat

Uh oh.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:35 AM
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But doesn't it make you sweaty? I don't know from home-knit items, but I definitely avoid mass-produced acrylic sweaters for this reason.

Well, you would think so, but the only person I knit acrylic sweaters for insists that's what he wants. (Oh, and babies, but they can't complain in that much detail, the poor dears.)

I've been wanting the long-color-change yarn mostly for scarf and mitten projects, so acrylic should be okay for things like that.

Smearcase: I always default to cables when in doubt because I love them, but a friend of mine was making this big cushy Herringbone Cowl a while ago that I coveted, and I think it looks very nice in mildly variegated yarns. There are lots of examples of different degrees of variegation in the project gallery here. But if you're going with brioche, may I suggest Hosta? I think it would look terrific in teal and another color.

Thorn, you are too kind! I have friended you back and am going to swipe that little girl's cabled coat you just queued. Probably to make in sweaty acrylic. (The little girl in question is still not up to full sentences yet, so it's probably safe).


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:36 AM
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Sheila, I'm probably going to use an acrylic blend for mine, too, if that's what I end up making Nia. Clothing for kids needs to be non-scratchy and washable. I think a lot of the wearability of the acrylic depends on how the yarn is made. Ones that are sort of lofty and fluffy are often comfier than ones that are trying to make a slick, smooth stranded yarn.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:39 AM
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Mathematicians do often look like fun and/or interesting people. For example, the aforementioned relatively accessible paper "2-source dispersers for no(1) entropy, and Ramsey graphs beating the Frankl-Wilson construction" seems to be largely the work of this person.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:45 AM
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207: That person looks completely normal to me.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 10:53 AM
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I am trying to put a little pleat or two in the Circle of Human Knowledge, which really looks like a savoyed cabbage leaf.

I also want to learn lace knitting because it's almost the last lacemaking I haven't tried, and I would like to do toe-up two-at-a-time-on-a figure-eight-needle because it's brilliant, and long lace stockings for dancing in would be delightful. I know the first couple tries will be more like cabbage leaves, though.

Also fibrous: I have a lot of `technical hiking socks' with the wooly fiber worn through in spots, but the knitted synthetic core of the yarn in perfect condition. I tried poking unspun alpaca into the bare spots in hopes it would felt with wearing. It didn't particularly. Is there a different fiber that is soft enough to darn but would felt better?


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 12:08 PM
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clew, have you considered needle felting? I haven't done much with it myself (actually, nothing beyond some experiments on Lee's hair when she had dreadlocks) but I'd think it would work best. I half remember that alpaca is not great for felting, I think because the fibers are so smooth.

I have a Japanese book on the Turkish crocheted lace that women put on headscarves and once I learn to crochet I'd like to learn to do that. I should have said this on the sabbatical thread, I guess.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 12:12 PM
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Don't forget to join the Unfogged Ravelry group, folks!


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 2:20 PM
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I forgot.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 2:28 PM
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I can verify that the person linked in 207 is in fact fun and interesting.


Posted by: Unfoggetarian: "Pause endlessly, then go in" (9) | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 2:29 PM
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Well, I just joined! But it looks like everyone else has forgotten to post.


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 3:02 PM
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Sort of, yes. I'm not really sure what to say in an Unfogged ravelry group. All I every post on Ravelry is "How do I do this?" pretty much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 3:11 PM
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"How do I knit Mutombo?"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 3:23 PM
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I figured it would mostly be a place to share pics of things we've made, though it's been a while since I've remembered to upload them.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 3:29 PM
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157

precocious polymath bastard. Makes virtually every other academic look like a slow-coach dullard.

Sadly Ramsey died at 26.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:07 PM
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166

... and I vaguely know what Ramsey graphs are (though I couldn't produce a definition, and I can't follow how the word is being used in the intro). ...

A special case of Ramsey's theorem says given integers k1,k2 (>=2) then there is some value n=f(k1,k2) so that if you 2 color (say red and blue) the edges of a complete graph, G, on n (or more) vertices then G must contain either a complete subgraph on k1 vertices all of whose edges are red or a complete graph on k2 vertices all of whose edges are blue. This is easy to prove by induction. The values f(k1,k2) are Ramsey numbers. The graphs (and colorings) showing f(k1,k2)-1 doesn't work are Ramsey graphs (more generally any 2-colored complete graph without a red k1 subgraph or blue k2 subgraph). There is an easy probabilistic argument that reasonably large such graphs exist but it has proven difficult to explicitly construct them. This paper is claiming to improve the previous bounds for explicit constructions (but they remain smaller than the graphs guaranteed by the non-constructive existence proof).

I don't know the meaning of ... entropy, ...

Entropy is a measure of information content or uncertainly. Roughly it is the expected number of bits needed to describe something.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:42 PM
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170

This was probably the biggest reason I dropped out of the research track

I stopped doing research because it is too hard.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10- 3-12 5:44 PM
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Ah. I've never used the "share with a group" function, I guess I could start if I ever finish this shrug. (Crochet is not so fast as all that on lace-weight yarn.)


Posted by: Sheila | Link to this comment | 10- 4-12 4:23 AM
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