Anna Koop

December 24, 2013

Many New Years

Filed under: Personal

The actual start of the year seems oddly arbitrary. And it doesn’t make any sense in the academic year, at least in North America. The start of a new Winter term is vaguely relevant, but I feel like Winter Solstice would be a better start to the calendar year. The time when the days start getting longer. Technically the shortest day of the year, but I prefer the more optimistic framing. Maybe that’s why it’s later though? Because starting the year out on the shortest day of the year seems a little depressing? On the other hand, it’s only up from there.

So these are the early days of my personal new year. The other new year is September, of course—the start of a new term. That’ll be a time for academic reflection (or panic)—unavoidable really, with deadlines and progress reports due then.

But in terms of personal life, this is a good time to reflect. It’s been an interesting year—as they all are—with everything being much the same (still in school, still in Edmonton, still myself) and everything being different (new nephew, new career possibilities, new adventures with Joel). I don’t know what to expect going forward—the same simultaneous states of all-the-same and all-new, I imagine.

I’m considering writing more. Which: A) tautological at the moment and B) nothing to consider, just write. (Relatedly, I’m continuing to work on mindfulness and living more in the moment and less in my head. It’s an ongoing process.) But yes. I don’t always default to the things I care about—long term or short term. It’s very odd (I went on a random internet search about akrasia, but more about that later). So there is some thinking or planning to be done that isn’t just endless empty promises. It takes deliberate action to be doing what I love and not just distracting myself or worrying about all the things I “should” be doing and which one should be at the top of the list.

I am lucky enough this year that the things I have to do/should do/want to do are pretty much all aligned. With enough micro-decisions required that I can still get myself in trouble, of course. And all the fears of failure and success and disappointment and inadequacy that make doing what I love to do difficult. But hey, the days are getting longer now. Light is increasing, and I have tools to make up for shortfalls.

July 27, 2011

Two Worlds Collide

Filed under: Personal

So I’m in Portland for Sock Summit, the epic knitting convention. Yes, these things exist. Yes, they are totally awesome.

But it happens to be co-located with OSCON, so when we walked into the convention centre, Leah and I were struck by “Hey, our *other* people!” And when looking around for knitting registration, we ran into a friend from Grace Hopper. Quick catch up and “no, really, we’re here for the knitting” and some discussion about girl geeking and smart textiles and now we have a plan for browsing the OSCON expo hall this afternoon.

The world is small, geeks collide, and the integration of disparate loves is where magic happens.

March 21, 2011


Filed under: Personal

Fact 1. I have more interests and ideas than are possible to follow through on in a lifetime.

Fact 2. The more signs of those interests and ideas that I have scattered about on my computer and physical environment, the more often the “what if” and “I want to . . .” trains of thought are set off.

Conclusion: I should clean up before trying to work. And maybe try to keep the number of projects out and about down to a dull roar?

March 19, 2011

The Mythical Writer

Filed under: Personal

I have had impossibly high standards for writing, and I’m only just starting to realize this.

I love writing and have loved it for as long as I could do it. Yet for most of my years I would only count certain kinds of writing as Writing, the kind of Writing that makes you a Writer. Letters didn’t count. Journals definitely didn’t count, or only when they were written for some future grandchild to discover and use to explore a lost yesteryear. Notes on things I was learning didn’t count. When the internet came around, Usenet and then forum posts didn’t count. School assignments—certainly not. None of these were Writing. Doing these things with pleasure did not make me a writer, let alone a Writer.

Things I thought would count: poems, although I had an obligation not to inflict more bad poetry on the world. Stories, especially (only?) the eventually publishable kind—and these would require good ideas and excellent writing and well-formed thought and perfection in many other ways. Articles if they were written for publication—requiring good ideas and thorough research and reams of proposals. Blogging if you were very serious about it, building up a readership and posting daily with carefully edited and thoughtful articles on a specific topic—and what did I know? And did I want the pressure?

In grad school, I started to think more seriously about non-fiction writing as Writing, and that academic papers could maybe count, although a textbook would clearly be better. And anyway, I wasn’t a real paper-writer until I was first author and really owned the topic. And paper-writing isn’t real writing, because have you read the average academic paper? Clearly not written by a wordsmith. An academic paper is about getting the ideas and information across, not Writing. Thinking of it as Writing would just mean I was wasting time and energy that should be spent on Communication.

My Master’s thesis? Not real writing, because everybody has to do it.

So in spite of regularly spending a huge portion of my free (and work) time writing, I steadfastly refused to see it as Writing. This meant I must be either self-destructive or deluded—how could I think of myself as a lover of writing and call myself a writer when I didn’t write?

In retrospect, it’s pretty embarrassing that it’s only in the last year I’ve realized that I’ve been writing all along. It has always snuck in there one way or another.

So, Writer/writer and “real” writing be damned, the important thing is that I am writing. A lot. And I adore it.

March 11, 2011

Geeking out over meditation — SleepPhones and NatureSpace

Filed under: Personal

My birthday present from my sister Sarah came today last week: SleepPhone Headphones from ThinkGeek. They are everything I hoped for—comfy, not too warm, good sound without blocking too much noise (but you can always ramp up the white noise generator when you *want* to block noise). Perfect for sleeping while away at conferences and might even be good great for sleeping at home.

Okay, since my initial enthusiasm, they have only gotten better. The addition of the NatureSpace iPhone app and a bunch of their tracks—the best relaxation trick since podcasts (if not diaphragmatic breathing).

The thing about the NatureSpace tracks is that they use the stereo sound, not just to route sound to both the headphones, but to make it feel like you’re sitting in the middle of the thunderstorm, or relaxing in front of the campfire (realistic campfire sounds—no mean feat!), or lying on the grass in a mountain meadow.

I’ve been forcing people to listen to the tracks because they’re that awesome. I knew about NatureSpace before, but only having earbuds I couldn’t make it work. Some of the tracks sound fine on speakers, but right at your ears is much better. The addition of soft headphones, so you can lie on your side or leave them on for hours without your ears getting sore, is just fantastic.

I’m listening to thunder tracks and cheerful birdsongs while writing, and for relaxing the campfire, the lake at night (complete with loon call, of course) and the burbling creek (Moosejaw Creek is the proper bubbly one, the others are more of the river/waterfall variety, although awesome if that’s what you want to be imagining).

I must get Joel his own soft headphones, I think. He wasn’t thrilled about them for audiotracks or music, but for nature sounds he’s all over it. My sister has added them to her wishlist too.

I have to add—the headphones look incredibly dorky. So I’m sticking to my earbuds when out and about (also, I love the mike/button on the Apple earbuds). But at home they’re getting tonnes of use. Simple genius!

ETA: I contacted NatureSpace over a little issue (that turned out to be an Apple bug) and they got back to me immediately, with info on how to fix it. How great is that?

February 15, 2011

My Collections

Filed under: Collections

There are two tangible things I collect (knowledge and hobbies are more difficult to quantify): rocks and spindles. Very high tech for a computer scientist.

I’ve been wanting to keep better track of my rock collection for ages. I don’t particularly like keeping them in sealed boxes with the paper labels, but having the information is great, plus when my mom picks up a rock from the pavement by the pyramids I would like to remember which one. So. The life-long goal of cataloguing the rocks online begins. I also get to learn more about rocks and minerals in the process, which is always a win.

Putting the spindle collection online has a more selfish motivation. Besides wanting to share pictures and reviews with whoever cares enough to search for the relevant terms (I love the internet), it’s part of an effort to point out that really truly, family members, if you get me a spindle I will love it. If you really want to make sure it fills a gap, you can check (because like all obsessions, there are more details in spindle buying than you can imagine!). But, if you like it, I will too. This is at least partly about the shiny, and it’s not like there are that many inferior spindle makers looking to get rich quick off a shoddy product.

Spindle Collection Overview

Filed under: Spindles

Eventually these links will point to dedicated posts and I’ll have more detailed reviews of each, but I thought I would throw this up now. This is the current state of my spindle collection.

Suspended spindles, Top Whorl:
Tabachek Deluxe in Purpleheart and Hickory, 40.0g/1.41oz.
Tabachek Delux in Pear and Imbuya, 47.0g/1.66oz
Houndesign Laceweight in Pau Amarillo
Ask the Bellwether starter spindles The Bellwether Spinde page
Zebisis Designs in Labrodorite and Black Rosewood, 24.8g/.87oz. 1 5/8”/40mm whorl, 10 1/2”/26.5cm shaft. Etsy listing
Spanish Peacock Top Whorl in Australian Cypress and hard Maple, 2 1/8” whorl, 8” shaft. Etsy listing
Spanish Peacock Top Whorl Snowflake in Holly and Cocobolo, 3” rim 10” shaft. Etsy listing
Grizzly Mountain Arts Mini Rim-Weighted in Thuya Burl and Cocobolo, 31g/1.1oz. 2” diameter whorl and 7 3/4” shaft. Etsy listing
Bosworth Maxi in Quarter-sawn Red Oak and birch, 49g/1.75oz. 9 1/4” shaft. Maxi Spindle Page

Suspended spindles, Turkish:
Jenkins Turkish Standard in Beeswing Nara (and maple?), 2oz. Turkish Standard page
Threads Through Time Medium Turkish in Tulipwood and Bloodwood, 1.6oz. 6 4” whorl, 3/4” length. Etsy listing
Jenkins Kuchulu in Marblewood and Kingwood (#167), 10 g.. Turkish Kuchulu page

Suspended spindles, other:
Forrester Akha

Supported Spindles:
Tabachek Tibetan in Ash
Takhli from Celeigh wool

Spindlemaker wishlist:

Spindles by Sourkraut – New Zealand silversmith and word turner. She started making spindles fairly recently and has the most beautiful organic shapes.
I love the whorl shape on this one. And I want to get a Silver Inlay spindle. Or one of the gem-flower ones, or . . .

Bosworth Spindles – Incredible workhorses with smooth and lasting spin. I have a maxi but want more sizes. It is probably not possible to have too many of these ones.

Jenkins – Still want a Meadowlark/Jay and possible a Aegean.

IST Crafts – Ian from the Isle of Wight makes beautiful spindles. Sharon at Golden Willow in Regina stocks them too. I’m particularly curious about his teeny Turkish spindles, although I hear great things about his other ones as well.

Gripping Yarn – Lisa is the queen of supported spindles. She has developed her own hybrid spindle, the Rose, which is a blend of Russian and French styles. I would love to get one of hers some day.

Golding – Ah, the Golding Ringspindles. These are sweet. Now, I’m not saying I need a Swan Lake or anything, but a Tsunami or Solid would be perfectly reasonable. Someday I’ll see a Golding Spinning Wheel in person and that will be a sight to behold.

Jeri Brock Woodworks – the scroll work on these is fantastic. Someday, for sure.

Trindleman – these are just nifty and have a very different feel. He’s now making them with interchangeable beads, too, so you can fit different weights on the same shaft. I spun one at Olds and it was really nice.

Autumn Hollow Farms – this is purely for the beautiful combination of wood and stone. I like the inlay and I hear they spin well.

Wood and stone are my first loves, but there are some really interesting spindles made out of other materials. Top of my wishlist are:

Petlyn Alpaca – an Australian maker that has metal spindles. They run a little heavier than what I see most commonly but I think I like it that way. I love the Paisley designs, and dyed fibre can look beautiful through the spokes.

Wildcraft Resin Spindles – again, the clear resin lets you watch the fibre cop build up. Beautiful. I especially love the ones with flowers and leaves embedded in them.

Tilt-a-whorl – These are really skillfully up-cycled spindles. I like the rainbow ones, and he’s also started making some teensy ones that I really want to try.

Know that the Spindle Candy group on Ravelry is almost entirely responsible for this addiction (check out the flickr spinoff). And Spindle Lore is to blame for the next section.

Spindle type wishlist:

Phang – rhymes more with song than fang, but still looks entirely like a vampire stake. Gripping Yarn version, Phang in action.

Navajo Spindles – crazy different from other supported spindles. Maybe should wait until I have a bigger apartment, but these spindles are for making bulkier yarn. The shaft is 3 feet. Bristlecone Artisan Heirlooms has some lovely ones. Video of a Navajo Spindle in action. Longer video about Clara Sherman, a Navajo weaver

Bulgarian, French — more to come soon.

February 11, 2011

Curse you, XKCD!

Filed under: Personal

( .

You just can’t do that to me. )

), I say!

January 30, 2011

BorealDesigns on ArtFire

Filed under: Personal

We’ve gone and done it now. A few stitch markers and cards up  right now, more to come as we work out the kinks.

I’m going to be moving knitting posts over to the ArtFire blog, just to have some content there. Which makes this personal and research I guess, mostly. Maybe. We’ll see. This is not an exact science.

BorealDesigns Artisan Studio ArtFire Buy & Sell Handmade.

January 29, 2011

More on loving what you do . . .

Filed under: Thought of the Day

It might be a simpler shift than I thought. Rather than “Do the thing you love”, it’s “Do the thingS you love.” There. Done. Clearly not demanding you sacrifice all on the altar of following your dreams.

© Anna Koop & Joel Koop