Friday, December 9, 2011

Malabrigo Rios - Yarn Review

Firstly, this is more of an ode of adoration than a review. Malabrigo Rios is my new favourite yarn. It's 100% merino, well plied and very springy, soft and squidgey. In short, it's amazing. I've knit two hats and two pairs of gloves from it and will be knitting more. It comes in 100g skeins with 210 yards so it's worsted weight and makes very snug items when knit on 4mm needles. Like Malabrigo sock I would prefer if it came in more solid and semi-solid colourways. Purple mystery and solis are gorgeous though! It has a great handle, wonderful stretch and would be perfect for garments, accessories or cabled items. The spring-back would make it less suitable for lace. Another hat, mittens and cowl in this yarn will soon be made!

Monday, April 18, 2011

I is for Irish

I am Irish and I love my language. I love to speak it, read it and hear it. It's like music to my soul. So it aches that I cannot use it very much any more. My husband and colleagues have very little (if any) Irish. It's only around my family that I get to use it for more than simple sentences, properly spoken with the real natural pronunciation and not the 'standard' dialect I use for non-native speakers. To go from fluent to the state my Irish is in now breaks my heart. Sadly given the international context of my work this is unlikely to change.

I-mathematician is Ito and 'i' is for the square root of minus one.

H is for Hotel

A hotel in Paris is where I spent last week. I couldn't get internet access on my laptop so I've to catch up on letters again! The hotel was undergoing renovations so getting into/out of my room was an adventure. The drain backed up one day and flooded the room, unfortunately the day I desperately needed a nap. More on this in later post. Then the water went entirely. Bit of a disaster hotel really. That said I had a great conference in Paris: my presentation went very well, I had lots of time with my colleagues and met mathematicians from around the world.

Hamilton is one of the most well known Irish mathematicians. Famed for his work on mechanics, differential equations and the invention of the quaternions. The quaternions are described by this equation

and are one of only four finite dimensional normed division algebras over the real numbers. There is an annual pilgrimage in Ireland from Dunsink Observatory where he worked to Broom Bridge where it is believed the idea for the quaternions struck him. Apparently he engraved the idea into the bridge and there is a plaque there now to commemorate him. Each October the RIA hold the Hamilton Lecture given by the best of mathematicians.

2005 was the 200th anniversary of his birth and a commemorative 10 Euro coin was minted in Ireland. I received one as a 21st birthday present and treasured it until giving it to my husband as part of our marriage ceremony. One side looked like this:

Finally a note on 'h' in the Irish Language. It is the third most frequently used letter as it is the most common representation of the 'séimhiú' since Irish switched to the roman alphabet about the 1950s. Previous to then a dot above the consonant to be leniated was used.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for G

G is my wonderful husband, an ever patient ever kind man. I'm incredibly lucky to have found him and even luckier that I get to keep him.

G is also for guilt: I'm guilty of writing three letter-posts in one day to catch up on the blogfest!

Grá is the Irish word for love and how appropriate for today, dedicated to G my 'fíorghrá' - 'truelove'.

Gauss wrote 'Disquisitiones Arithmeticae' and many other important works. A pre-eminent mathematician there is too much to say about him so I will direct you to a biography. There is also Galois, who by his death at the age 20 had already begun the investigation of an entire new area of maths, Galois Theory.

F is for Fields Medal

Arguably the most important honour in mathematics the Fields Medal has been awarded every four years "to recognize outstanding mathematical achievement for existing work and for the promise of future achievement". Between two and four mathematicians, no older than 40, are chosen and the prize is awarded at the International Congress of Mathematicians. The medal bears the head of Archimedes and the inscription "TRANSIRE SUUM PECTUS MUNDOQUE POTIRI", one translation of which is "To transcend one's spirit and to take hold of the world". Sometimes called the Nobel Prize of Mathematics, as there is no such, it certainly carries the significance of such though the recently begun Abel Prize follows the Nobel Prize idea much closer. I used to dream as a child of earning a Fields Medal one day.

Favourite Fields Medalists: Jean Pierre Serre (the youngest so far), Timothy Gowers (co-founder of Tricki) and Terence Tao (mind-boggling genius).

'Fréamh' is one of my favourite Irish words, meaning 'root'.

F-ing Amazing mathematicians include Fibonacci, Fermat, Frobenius and Fourier.

Finally F is for fantastic friend, fried food and fabulous frock.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

E is for Emergency Shawl

This is the shawl that took 6 days of frantic crocheting to make on time to wear to the wedding. It took almost 800m of laceweight merino (bought at This is Knit) and about half a tube of beads from Winnie's Craft Cafe. It's about 1.5m x 0.5m and delightfully soft and warm. I had a really painful swollen wrist after the constant fast crochet and couldn't crochet, type or knit for a few days. Couldn't fit my watch or wedding rings on either. Now it has returned to normal and I'm easing myself back into typing and crafting again.

E brings us many incredible Mathematicians: Euclid, Eratosthenes, Eisenstein, Erdos and Euler to name a few. Euclid wrote the geometry book 'The Elements' which still forms the basis of geometry today, despite being written over 2000 years ago. Eratosthenes was librarian at Alexandria in its prime, before it was burned down at the turn of the millennium. He calculated the circumference of the earth to remarkable accuracy considering the times and is renowned for his 'sieve' algorithm for determining the prime numbers. Euler was possibly the most prolific mathematician ever and introduced much of the notation that is used today, including the 'e' for that mathematical constant that is the base of natural logarithms. Famous also for his identity
His contributions to mathematics are vast and I am entirely in awe of him.

The Irish word of the day is the verb 'éalaigh' - to escape. Often you will find a sign saying simply 'éalú' for exit or emergency exit.

D is for Dancing

Dancing is one of my favourite things to do. Even more than maths, even more than knitting and crocheting. There is such freedom and soul in expressing oneself to music, spinning around in the arms of another or having a boogie with friends. Above is a little picture of my husband and I swing dancing.

D for Delightful ladies at knit night too, I was glad to be able to knit a row or two again but have to be careful of the wrist/hand still. No progress on anything until it heals fully. Can't wait to get back into the secret garden shawl!

Dirichlet is the magnificent mathematician of the day. He made progress on two cases of Fermat's Last Theorem and was generally amazing in number theory, potential theory and all of maths really.

D must also be for Dónal Mac Mathúna a man beyond compare and the Deora (tears) I shed when he left this world. Read and listen here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Coding

Coding Theory is the area of maths that I'm researching and writing my doctoral thesis on. Essentially it's all about achieving efficient information transmission (or storage) by adding or removing redundancy.

C is also for Ceol - the Irish word for music. Each year as part of National Irish Week (Seachtain na Gaeilge) there is an album released of popular music with Irish language lyrics instead. The 96cambridge channel on youtube has some of the songs from these.

For a mathematician we have Cauchy- one of the most prolific mathematicians of all time with almost 800 papers.His name appears frequently and in many seemingly disparate branches of maths.

As mentioned before C is for Commutative. In maths we say an operation * is commutative whenever a * b = b * a. Addition and multiplication are commutative but subtraction and division are not.

Honourable mentions go to Crochet, Cryptography and Calves that ache after dancing my socks off at the wedding!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Brian&Rachel

Today is the day that Brian and Rachel get married. I hope it is a Beautiful day and that they continue to love and cherish each other, to grow together and to work to make life better for each other. I felt after getting married that nothing had really changed but yet everything was somehow Better. I hope they feel the same.

B is also for the Irish word 'buamaite' meaning 'moment'. It's my brother's favourite word and I'm quite fond of it too.

Boole is certainly not a b-list mathematician as his concept of Boolean logic and algebra underlies the entire digital age. Find out more on wikipedia.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for April

This month I will be attempting to participate in the Blog a letter a day (excluding Sundays) challenge. This will be quite difficult as I'm travelling a lot in April. April is also Maths Awareness Month which I will endeavour to embody. I will be giving at least three mathematical talks this month as part of my travels so I think I'm set up.

A is for Anew, Afresh, Again.
Today I attacked my work with renewed vigour. Revising my paper and presentation for Paris, again. hopefully this fervency will continue to develop for the month and my work will progress quickly. I also took back up the Secret Garden shawl which languished while I was furiously crocheting the Emergency Shawl. This enterprise left me with a pretty shawl but a sore and swollen hand. One day of planning, 6 days of crocheting, 2 days of blocking and it's ready to pack for tomorrow.

A is also for the Irish words ait and áit meaning 'strange' and 'place' respectively. As in 'Is ait an áit é seo': this is a strange place. It is amazing the difference a fada can make.

Finally, in the mathematical world A is for Abel the mathematician and Abelian groups. More on this when we get to 'c is for commutative' day!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Giving Up.

For the second time in my life I am giving up on a book. The first was Catch22. Started several times but could never make the end. This time it's book 2 in the Crowthistle Chronicles by Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Well of Tears. While the prose is pretty the plot and characters could not keep me interested. The first book, The Iron Tree, was certainly enjoyable but the sequel I failed to be captivated by in any way. When I do have time to read for the sheer delight of it I prefer if the book is at least pleasant or interesting. I'm now reading 'Finding Moonshine - Mathematicians, Monsters and the Mysteries of Symmetry' by Marcus du Sautoy and it is a far more gripping, enthralling read. I loved his previous book 'The Music of the Primes' and so far his latest offering is just as beautifully written.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seanad Election 2011 - the NUI

Recently I received my ballot paper for the Seanad Election by registered post. As a graduate of UCD I am entitled to vote in the NUI constituency. I registered in the run up to the last Seanad election. I am supportive on the original idea behind the Seanad and certainly the university representatives have included some very eminent persons. That said the entire construct is unbalanced and ineffective. Nonetheless I consider any vote a grave responsibility and so I have endeavoured to research the (many) candidates on the ballot. Thus far I have discovered very little beyond this short summary on the NeverFeltBetter blog and the leaflets on the site for Irish Election Literature. I am as yet undecided but will fulfil my civic duty to the best of my ability. Is anyone else contemplating their Seanad vote?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Emergency Shawl

Thanks everyone for the good wishes! This is the shawl that started the Secret Garden adventure. Updates will be on the ravelry page. I'm in the middle of a colour transition so it's not portable knitting at the moment.

In fact the project has been temporarily abandoned until I finish a shawl for a wedding next weekend. I accidentally found the perfect yarn for the dress on Wednesday, the beads that evening and did the resizing calculations that night. The yarn is Malabrigo lace in Emerald Blue. I'm working off a previous crochet shawl, also in Malabrigo Lace. Started a 414 stitch chain yesterday, the rows are long and I'm almost through the first skein already. Hope I did those calculations right!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Into the Secret Garden

As part of the 10 shawls in 2010 challenge I won a spot prize for my southbay shawl, as photographed by Julie of and the prize was the making of another shawl. So I've had the Secret Garden pattern and 6skeins of Luxe yarn from the Unique sheep in the Eleanora gradience colourway sitting ready to go.

After practising several cast ons and some gauge swatches with some spare Malabrigo sock I decided to cast on. This will be my first circular shawl and my first project of this size. I'm excited and a little scared. I'm hoping to have it done and blocked my the end of June. This gives me about 3 months. I think I'll need it. The needles were flying along until I reached the Fountain Lace pattern and the first colour transition. Double decreases over stitch markers are not fun and so I'll be knitting mostly marker free. Wish me luck.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Ladybird Collage


Playing around with picassa I've put together my first collage, of some ladybird items in my posession. Collages are fun and could be a great way to blog my fibre art accomplishments. Expect to see more.
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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Writing Scared, Sick and Tired

First thing this morning an email arrived. The final version of my paper has been received and compiled. Whew. Soon I will be excited about going to Paris to present it. Right now I'm exhausted.

Back in January I realised the submission date for the International Workshop on Coding and Cryptography was approaching fast. By the time I'd agreed to submit a paper with my supervisor I had five days to write up my work as a paper. At which time I came down with a viral infection. Thankfully I had the research complete and most of it loosely typed up. Unfortunately it's the words in between the maths, the history and conclusions that I find the hardest of all. Years of practice studying pre-tonsillectomy, lots of determination and a HUGE amount of support from G and Suey meant I made it. My first paper submitted to an International conference.

A few days recovering from the illness were ok but I still had seminar to write and present, a talk to prepare and give and on top of all that a more general theorem to prove. When March 1st came along I found out my paper was accepted! Delighted! There were a lot of corrections to do before final submission though, not surprising given my feverish, analgesic addled state writing it. Finally got it all adapted, edited and typeset perfectly last night, just in the nick of time.

While it is joint work with other authors, I would like to secretly dedicate "Characteristics of Invariant Weights Related to Code Equivalence over Rings" to writing 'even though' scared (even though you're scared you won't be able to do it, scared it won't be good enough, scared you'll make a mess of it, scared you'll miss the deadline), sick (trying to plan your painkillers so you're not too fuzzy-headed to think, or too in pain to concentrate, even though you should be in bed, ignoring how your body feels so you can work) and tired (tired of writing, tired of having to work all the time, tired of being awake for too long) and the amazing magical people that encourage and support us to do it.

Now back to writing the Thesis.

Monday, March 7, 2011

World Book Day

I didn't get to celebrate World Book Day on March 3rd so I did on the 4th instead. I splashed out on a copy of 'The Name of the Wind' by Patrick Rothfuss. Possibly the best fantasy book (or even book?) that I've ever read. Given the rate at which I typically read books that's quite an honour. Although I've had very little time for enjoyment reading lately. With the launch of the sequel I thought it was essential that G rectify the travesty of not having read the first book yet. I hope he enjoys it as much as I did. Looking forward to a quick re-read before I can borrow the latest book. Despite running out of shelf space this book definitely deserves a place on the bookcase.

Monday, February 28, 2011


I have a thing for all things ladybird related. Other people have realised this and so I've collected quite a few ladybird treats. Even my husband knew I liked them before we really knew each other well. He brought me back some chocolate ladybirds from Italy which sparked the start of a lovely romance. We then had those little ladybirds for wedding favours, one of the fun things we indulged in. There was also the pi cake and the polka dot dress. Of course I completely forgot to explain the ladybirds to anyone on the day. But we knew the significance of it.

I thought I might include some pictures of my ladybird paraphernalia, including the stuffed one that inexplicably appeared on my desk. I have yet to discover its origin. There will probably be a pinterest board on ladybirds once I actually get used to pinning. For now you can see my bits and pieces on flickr.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

World of Wool

At Christmas I received a beautiful spindle of my own from a wonderful friend who had been lending me hers. It's a clay top whorl drop spindle from Zebisis designs on Etsy, 26g approx, and I love it. It wasn't long before my new resolution of spinning a little every day brought me close to fibre-less-ness.

Hence I decided that the perfection celebration of my paper submission to a major conference would be an order from World of Wool. 2 kilos of fibre is an appropriate prize, right?

February came and still no sign of my fibre. I was down to my last pieces of fluff. Well, apart from the silk I'm saving for the day I'm able to spin consistently. I had to spin as thin as I could so the fibre would last until the WoW order arrived. Eventually all problems were sorted and I am now the proud owner of a years supply of fibre. 500g corriedale which I hope to make ablanket from. A mix of 3 natural bfl fibres. Some bfl and silk to try, some coloured merino to be pretty and some amazingly soft camel to snuggle.

I finished the fibre on the spindle as fast as I could so I could try a little of each fibre. Mammoth plying session left me a little burnt out. Should probably have just waited and plyed the two singles. Patience will need to be worked on. A great excuse for another spindle I think.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Today, I'm taking part in Nicole Ducleroir's Bernard Pivot blogfest!

What is your favourite word?
Today it was 'interesting', repeated ad infinitum.

What is your least favourite word?
definitely, necessary - I have trouble spelling both of these.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
space to think, freedom to be me and experiencing nature.

What turns you off?

What is your favorite curse word?

What sound or noise do you love?
the sound of the wind and sea, babies giggling, piano music.

What sound or noise do you hate?
high pitched buzzing/whining/screaming. Also the 'sound' of touching things like polystyrene or rough fabrics.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
doctor (everything from dermatologist to pathologist), fine carpenter, mechanic, psychologist, professional fibre artist, dancer, science journalist, designer and many MANY more.

What profession would you not like to do?

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
You did your best and that was good enough.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


To help with my technical writing I will *try* posting here more often. Topics will be as disparate as usual and may include anything fibre/wool/maths/science/books/education related and assorted opinionated rants. Please allow that I might be 'trying on' a viewpoint or discussion basis rather than laying out my personal beliefs.