Basic celestial navigation

I came across this fantastic introduction to the night sky today. I’ve browsed night sky books before and taken introductory astronomy, in which we got some practice identifying constellations in the night sky, but it’s always nice to get a refresher — especially for those of us immersed in city nightshine. I have to applaud the author of this particular resource, whoever he or she may be, for creating an experience that is informative, fun, interactive, and educational! Highly recommended.

How to become a Master Knitter

I recently joined The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA), out of a desire to learn more from (and about) the knitting community. The membership comes with various benefits, including the opportunity to take classes at the annual conferences and a subscription to their quarterly magazine, Cast On. And as I was paging through the online brochure, I came across this advertisement:

Test your skills!
Earn Master Knitter Pin and Title

The TKGA Master Knitting Program (c) is a noncompetitive and rewarding achievement program for advanced knitters. You will work hard to earn the coveted “Master Knitter” title and pin.
The program consists of specific written instructions for samples you are to knit, questions you are to answer, and research you will need to report on and document. The Master Knitting Committee will review everything carefully. Portions may be returned for rework according to constructive suggestions for improvement. Each participant’s work is evaluated by objective measures, and criteria for evaluation are applied equally to all.
You must successfully complete each level before ordering and moving on to a higher level.

They had me at the headline. An opportunity to “test my skills”! I was salivating immediately. Oh, I can see the manipulation going on, the appeal to ego (“the coveted title” — and pin, don’t forget there’s a pin!). And the program isn’t cheap: you do all of the knitting, and then you pay to get the chance to have your work reviewed and vetted. But the implied challenge, the structured progression from level to level, the feedback from experts, the chance to effectively grow from journeyman to “master” — I have no ability to resist these things. Bring it on, TKGA!

MASTER LEVEL I, Hand Knitting


  • Sixteen knitted samples: three swatches each of ribbing and basic stitches and gauge, mirrored increases and decreases, yarnovers, cables, and color change.
  • Seventeen questions to research and answer.
  • One hat.
  • Two-page report on blocking and care of knits.

It’s a chance to focus on skills and exercises rather than the products themselves. I’m in heaven, and I haven’t even purchased the kit yet. I’ve attempted each of the items listed at least once already, so it should be within my power to satisfy the requirements (the subsequent levels look much harder, involving techniques I have not yet attempted and original design). Now I just need to find the time.

For some reason, it cracks me up that there is a written report required. I wonder how many submissions they get that were written in LaTeX?

The demise of the adverb

DRIVE CAREFUL PEDESTRIANS MAY BE IN ROADWAYOut on a walk the other evening, I encountered this sign. It was so egregious that I was forced to whip out my cell phone and take a picture. Now this may be a common exercise for you all, but my cell phone is more like an afterthought than an appendage. I had to spend several minutes standing in the roadway while I figured out how to get the picture off the camera and up onto the Internet somewhere. Apparently, the only method on my severely crippled Bluetooth Motorola RAZR (thanks, Verizon!) is to send it to “MY PIX PLACE”. (Have you been counting the number of misspellings this post has forced me into so far?)

Once home, I slogged around the Verizon Wireless website until I finally found MY PIX PLACE, where I can turn the picture into an e-card with a teddy-bear frame, or send it to someone else’s phone, but not, of course, simply download the thing. MY PIX PLACE assures me that the picture has been stored at its “full resolution” (800×600, according to my “gallery”); it’s all there, sure, but I’m not permitted to get at it.

Stupid technology rant aside, the real reason we’re here is the content of the photo. One asks: why was “careful” left stripped of its suffix? Was there an “ly” shortage at the letter factory? Was there too little room to squeeze two more letters in? Why was “careful” given the shaft while “road” was decorated with a completely unnecessary “way”?

We may never know. For now, I’ll just amuse myself by inserting punctuation to correct the grammatical mistake and make it read just a little bit better.


A little dose of Latin

Inspired by a friend’s use of Latin in signing his email, I went a-browsing for some additional interesting Latin phrases. All of Latin would make this post rather more lengthy than even my own attention span, so let’s focus on phrases that start with E. Here are some interesting new ones I learned:

Latin phrases beginning with E:

  • ecce homo: “Behold the man!” (apparently a Biblical reference to Pilate giving up Jesus to the hands of the people, but I can think of several other fun uses for this one)
  • eheu! fugaces labuntur anni: “Alas! Our fleeting years pass away.”
  • esse quam videri: “To be, rather than to seem.” (“And have you the will to be of it?”)
  • eventus stultorum magister: “Fools must be taught by experience.” (Perhaps fools “must” be, but even non-fools find experience useful. Go empiricists!)
  • en nukti boule (Greek, not Latin): “In the night there is counsel; sleep on it.”
  • exitus acta probat: “The result justifies the deed.” (Now there’s a dangerous one…)

(thanks to for the translations)

Why phrases that start with E? Well, let’s take a look at one more, which was the phrase that inspired my browsing:

  • ex animo: “From the heart; sincerely.”