Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Directions

I quietly reached a milestone this week--I submitted a job application.

I have spent the last twelve years in universities, nine as a student of various stripes and three as a post-doctoral researcher.  A post-doc is what happens to someone with a PhD in science after they graduate.  They have a PhD, but don't have the experience or seniority to be a professor.  So they hunt for a research grant that lets them work on another research project for two or three years.  Post-docs oversee the day-to-day running of the research and training of students, and in large collaborative efforts like mine, start getting involved in the organization of the collaboration and publication of papers.  Most new science professors have held two or three post-doc positions prior to getting their professorship; with their PhD work, they have experience in three or four different types of work and a developed network of contacts to use in getting an assistant professorship and moving towards tenure.

This means that I have worked closely with four professors in the last twelve years and taken classes from and talked with many more.  I have the utmost respect for a research professor--it is a challenging position to do well.  From my perspective, a good professor needs to be able to wear four or five different hats.  A good research professor must be a good researcher, with a deep understanding of the history and current knowledge of their field.  They need to be critical thinkers and able to create and implement experiments and research projects.  Professors must also be good lecturers, since a large part of their time will be devoted to lecturing to hundreds of students at a time and organizing the homework and testing of those students.  They need to be good bureaucrats, since professors serve in several but not all of the positions in running departments and colleges.  They will be working in committees with each other and interacting with lots of offices and departments around a university, and need to be able to be productive in those settings.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Dewrinkling Chiffon

While I’m complaining about finicky fabrics, chiffon is an annoyance as well--it rips and wrinkles at every opportunity.  To counter rips, sew them up as soon as possible.  Wrinkles are a bit trickier, since you can’t apply a lot of heat or steam to chiffon.  It will melt under high heat, and it will distort out of shape when steamed.
Often people say to hang wrinkled chiffon dresses in the bathroom and take a long hot shower, but that never worked for me.  My best luck in getting wrinkles out was either with an iron on the lowest setting, or to use my hair dryer on the wrinkle itself.  I actually found the hair dryer most effective.

It also helps to let chiffon shirts hang outside of garment bags if at all possible, so they aren’t bunched up.  Their own weight will help get rid of wrinkles that way.  Just drape the bodice of the dress over a hanger or curtain rod.  Try not to hang the dress from its elastic straps; lycra will stretch out under its own weight, and that gets worse when the lycra has seven layers of organza and 3000 rhinestones hanging off it. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Cleaning Satin Shoes

As far as fabric choice goes, putting satin on shoes was a terribly idea.  The lovely shiny finish is gone as soon the shoe touches dirt, and satin spots when it gets wet.  The best option to keep your shoes pretty is to wear them as little as possible, and that can get in the way of practicing in them and improving your dancing. 

While I know of no way to restore the shine of new satin, you can clean your shoes to improve their appearance.  Perhaps you want to get a big scuff mark off before a special lesson or workshop.  To do so, mix up some room-temperature water and your fabric cleaning agent of choice.  A clothing detergent that can be used for hand-washing would work great.  Using a soft cloth (something that doesn’t have much of a ply, so not a dense terrycloth) wet in your soapy water, wipe off the dirt using circular motions.  I would normally wash the entire front half of my shoes this way, to avoid any extremely obvious line as to wear my washing ended.

Immediately afterwards, grab your hair blow-dryer and dry your shoes.  You don’t have to get them bone-dry, but getting most of the water out will prevent the satin from spotting.  The shine will be gone, but your shoes will be clean.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Finished: Inlay Socks

Universe, enough already.  In the past twelve days, I discovered my practice skirt had disappeared an hour before a lesson, had a horrible performance at a big competition, had a three-day disagreement with my supervising professor, and tried to rearrange plans because other professors want to reschedule a meeting into my vacation time.  Something was blocking the railroads out of Brussels last Friday, so getting to Germany to spend the weekend with my husband required changing trains three times only to skid into the final station 45 minutes late.  DB only gives refunds for delays of an hour or more.  To cap it off, the direct trains I have been using for this Belgium-Germany commute are not available now due to the summer holidays, and my next best options run at odd times and take over an hour longer than nominal.

At least the long train rides mean buckets of knitting time.  I got the Inlay socks done.
Inlay is by Hunter Hammersen and was published in the First Fall 2011 issue of Knitty.  The pattern is thorough, and I love the texture of the final fabric.  I think it gives the sock a unique look when compared to the far more common cables and lace sock patterns out there.  I never managed to memorize the entire repeat, so I kept a paper copy of just the charts in my knitting bag and referred to it often as I worked.  The pattern was worked cuff-down on two 2mm metal circular needles.