Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

happy giftmas!

We watched "fear and loathing in las vegas" with Terry Gilliam's commentary last night. What a marvelous and twisted film.

Then, this morning, I got a terrific gift.
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He's a terrific husband. I dunno what I'd do without him.
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Now, to overeat at my Aunt's house. Better update later.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yule

And now, the corner is turned. The light is returning! Rejoice! Be glad! The long nights are drawing to a close, and this night, the longest night, is one to savor. Once again, our Earth, our Mother, has begun the long task of turning her face toward the Sun, bringing life and light and joy back to us, her children. The light is returning! Rejoice! Be glad! The cold remains, and will deepen, but the light, the hope returns. The Bright Season begins, the Darkness is ending, and we have survived it, we’ve made it through.

Blessed, joyful, hopeful Solstice to all.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

It's the most hideous time of the year

Knitting my poor little fingers to the bone. I have turned the heel and finished the decreases into the foot of sock two of my mom's socks. Mom's are the pastel ones. I have gone about an inch past the cuff ribbing in the second of Anna's socks, hers are the primary ones. Momsocks are sportweight (Knitpicks "Parade") on size 2 needles, Anna's are fingering weight (Knitpicks "simple stripes") on size ones.
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I'll be glad when I can sit down and spin again... it seems like forever since I've had time, and I miss it, badly.

Tomorrow I need to take my boss's scarf and my clerk's scarf in and gift them. I also must interoffice mail my former cubemate's scarf. I have the sinking feeling that I'm forgetting something, but I think at this point, everything is covered that is going to be covered.

And I'm not even christian.

On the bus last week, two women were talking about what toys they were getting their children. One bemoaned the fact that they just don't make enough of the popular toys. "Why don't they make enough? Don't they realize that they're not making enough?" It was all I could do not to say...
"Look, dummy, they don't make enough ON PURPOSE. If there is an inadequate supply, the demand will go WAY up. Look at all the morons who paid thousands of dollars for a playstation three on ebay or such, rather than wait a couple of weeks or months or hell, gods forbid, even YEARS to get one at a reasonable price. It's sheep like you who make 'orgasm elmo' a cottage industry unto itself. "
"Why don't you try this? Buy your kids LESS cheap plastic crap and give them MORE real values, like conservation, and lack of greed, and generosity towards those less fortunate, and the value of love that can't be proven by the pile of gifts under the pagan symbol in your living room."

And about that pile of gifts. The commercials this year are appalling! From the child who dives headfirst into the HUGE pile of gifts (which include a puppy, a hockey net, a motorized bike, and who knows what all else) to get his Best Buy box, to the shrieking kids freaking out over some toy in an ad for grownups (who REALLY gets a Lexus for christmas?), the message is more blatant than usual. More blatant than ever, which in a twisted kind of way, gives me hope.

Why hope?

I'll tell you why.

Maybe the retailers are getting desperate. Maybe people really ARE consuming less. Maybe the populace is waking up to the fact that this time of year, whatever your religious affiliation or lack thereof, is not about who buys the most stuff. It's about the return of hope, the return of the light, the rebirth of the sun, or the son, the days finally getting longer and the promise of spring, just a few short months away. No matter what you believe in, the Winter Solstice happens and is worth celebrating.

Or maybe I'm sadly misguided, and the constant appeals to greed are working, for the time being.

But as ever, I have hope. I hope that people will open their eyes, that greed and consumerism will not prevail, that beauty and lasting craftsmanship will again be valued, and that the things that are really important will regain their true value, and a 1200.00 piece of plastic will not be counted among what gets you into the afterlife of your choice.

I did cheat a little, though. I asked Santa for a hot tub. I hope he comes through!

Joy to all, in all seasons.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Only One pic

Hopefully, I'll have more in two weeks, after the recipient receives it. I'm not sure who all might be led to this blog via family... so this is the only picture you're getting for now.

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The final look, size, and character is currently up to a bunch of pins and styrofoam. I'm not blocking it terribly severely, as I want it to be cushy. Plus, it's big. Really big.

Ok, on to other stuff.
Dinner tonight is thai curry chicken sausage with fried rice and green beans. I have some lovely fruit thawed out for dessert.

Giftmas is really pissing me off this year. The commercials are more craven than usual. Retailers must be really desperate. And people are in a regular buying frenzy. I feel like Charlie Brown. I really hope everyone appreciates my hand made gifts. There's more in them than money can buy.

Recently, I commented on a home and garden thread to someone who wanted to learn to knit. I thought it was good enough to repost.

Find a local yarn store in your area, and take a lesson, if you can. Knit how you're comfortable doing it, and don't let anyone tell you that you're doing it wrong. If the stitches come out looking the way they're supposed to look, you're doing it right. I suggest trying both english and continental methods and doing what works best and is most comfortable for you.

Mainly, relax, take your time, and learn at your own pace. If you get frustrated, put it down.

Take ripping-out sessions as learning experiences and move on without regrets. Appreciate the process as much as the finished product. Knitting is only two stitches, the knit stitch and the purl stitch. And since the purl stitch is actually a knit stitch done backwards, it's only one stitch. it's all in the order of the stitches, the size of the needles, and the shaping of the finished garment.

Don't let anything about knitting or knitting projects scare you. If you see something you love and want to make, do it. My second finished object (after a scarf) was a pair of socks. My blog has some excellent links for knitting related stuff. Jump in and have fun with it!

Lastly, do not cheapen your hours of labor by using cheaply made yarn. Get the highest quality material you can afford that is appropriate for your project, always. I knit and crochet less because I save my money for good yarn. Appropriateness is relative, of course, the appropriate yarn for a nice washcloth and teatowel set (like I made my mother in law for xmas) cost a buck a ball. (Lily Sugar and Cream) You will thank yourself later if you invest in the best material possible for your project.

Oh, and SAVE TIME by CHECKING YOUR GAUGE. Always. Do. A. Gauge. Swatch.

Kind of a very reduced version of the knitting manifesto from livejournal. Very reduced. I liked it, though.

Oh, what a night

Goodness. It's 209 in the morning, and I'm relatively awake.

I found this very amusing.

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I have about nine rows on my mother's shawl to finish. I've finished my father in law's scarf, and have about five repeats on the last of the warshcloths. Other than socks, that's it for holiday knitting. (unless I decide to whip off a scarf real fast for my aunt Ginny, which I might, considering it appears I have time.)

I'm torn between finishing off the shawl and going to bed. I think if I don't go to bed, I'll regret it tomorrow, but then again, tomorrow might be a busy day and I really want to get this thing done this weekend so I can block it and have it dry by next weekend.

It's clocking in at about 320 stitches across on size ten needles. It's big. I'm ending it sooner than I thought I would because if I don't stop, it'll be too big for her. I'm concerned it will already be too big for her. I managed to get a nice color balance despite not using all the yarn I planned on using.

I might actually get a chance to work on my entrelac scarf again before the holidays! Yay! I put it away, it looked like this then.
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And about those socks? I'm into the foot of the first of Anna's, so I have slightly less than one and a half socks to knit. I might try to get one more pair done, we'll see how that goes. Overly ambitious, probably.

Every paragraph, almost, starts with "I". So I guess this post is all about me. Sometimes, that's okay.

All right. It's bed. I'll try to post more tomorrow with pictures, or maybe Monday.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Is Enough Really Enough for Raul Malo?

Or is it all my imagination?

Last Friday, we went to see Raul Malo at the Byham Theater. Malo’s a very talented singer who used to be the front man for the Mavericks, an alt-country band that was quite popular for a while in the 90s and early 00s. He put out three solo albums since then, a couple of collaborations, and participated in a some tribute projects, most notably (to me), “Beautiful Dreamer-the Songs of Stephen Foster” in which he performed the title track. Malo’s voice is velvet. He has a Roy Orbison range with a Mel Torme’ timbre, and chooses material that is impeccably suited to his talent. The show was amazing. Not only is he an extraordinary singer, but he knows how to play to an audience, how to captivate, enthrall, and mystify. The show wasn’t sold out, but very nearly so, and while the Byham is a small theater, Malo seemed impressed with it, calling it “fancy” and “really beautiful”, stating that “y’all aren’t supposed to keep these! Get with the times! Knock it down and put up a wal mart or something!” which met with boos and laughter from the audience. An audience, by the way, who were very serious Raul Malo fans, judging from the banter, the back-and-forth, and the delivery to the stage of a bottle of tequila and four glasses by a contingent of well-dressed, giggly, 40-something women.

On the way home, Bob and I were discussing why the guy isn’t a huge star. He could be a huge star. He has the talent, the presence, the relationship with his audience. He has the chops, and the connections. He’s good looking, and knows how to work a room. He ought to be huge. He ought to be topping the charts the way Roy Orbison did. He ought to be saturating the pop and country airwaves. But he’s not. He has a small but devoted following among public radio listeners. He seems to sell enough records. He has a very talented small band that is suited to achieving the sound he’s seeking. He doesn’t seem to bother to memorize all the words to all the songs he does (he had to consult lyrics for Beautiful Dreamer, of all things!) but that’s just a matter of buckling down and doing it, plus, not all minds are suited to rote memorization.

Then it hit me. Maybe that’s enough for him.

What a concept! A performer who loves making music, and doesn’t care if he gets mega-famous. An old-school musician, who sings because he wants to sing, plays because he wants to play, shares with his audience instead of taking from them, and won’t concede a thing to the demands of the record industry, or MTV, or VH1 or CMT. A musician with principles? Is it even possible? A musician who makes a living and is modestly well-known without a huge ego or ten thousand lines of merchandise and a viral video on You Tube?

A blue-collar musician?

I don’t know if this is what he is. He may desire fame and fortune, a multi-million dollar record deal with videos in heavy rotation on CMT and play on all the ClearChannel stations twice an hour, a stadium tour, and he may just be falling short of it. But I doubt that’s the case. The sincerity, the obvious joy and enjoyment and the marvelous rapport with the audience, all said to me that he’s doing what he wants, on his own terms, and that, for once, maybe enough IS enough.

Go on, call me an idealistic sap. You’d probably be right. But if I could make 100K a year as a musician, I’d be the happiest girl on the face of the earth, and it would be enough for me.

I do know one thing as an absolute fact. If Raul Malo and k.d. lang ever did a record together, I’d die of joy. Probably on the spot. So guys, don’t do that, ok? At least not for another 40 years or so.

In other news, I've applied for supervisor at my job. They're hiring "10-20" supervisors county-wide, so the odds are in my favor, I think. I look at it this way-I dislike the job. I might as well dislike the job for a ten percent raise and not dealing with a caseload any more.

Finished objects continue to churn their way off of the ends of my knitting needles. I only need to finish my mom's shawl (almost done, maybe 20 more rows at about five, ten minutes a row), finish my father in law's scarf (also almost done, and chunky wool knitting up fast), one half a dishcloth, and one and one half socks. I'll have photos soon, I hope.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

forget the dreams, perchance to just freaking sleep.

Lightning update. I'm not sleeping worth a darn. Can't get comfortable in bed and am tending to wake up at outrageous hours of the morning and be unable to go back to sleep. Five days off and for four of them, I've been up at the asscrack of dawn.

Eye doctor appointment yesterday confirmed what I suspected-it's bifocal time. I'll live. Also, my days as a wearer of contact lenses are at an end. I have corneal vascularization which means I've starved my eyes of oxygen (by overwearing cheap contact lenses). Also, my prescription has gone up and with the bifocal aspect, it just won't work for contacts.

I did enjoy those days I had of waking up able to see. I'll miss them.

Lots of knitting. I'm making a real dent in my holiday stuff. All I need to get done now are some more washcloths, two mobiuses (mobii?) for my aunts and finish my mother's FNF shawl, which is like an anchor around my leg. I am really not motivated to finish it. No idea why. I think I just need to get back into a groove with it. I did finish the four-stitch scarf and did a whole 'nother one in a bigger needle size, one for my ex-cubemate, one for my boss. This is the one for my boss.
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This is a multi-directional scarf that I made for my clerk, Barb. She's a very tall, very thin woman who is extremely energized. I adapted the multi-directional scarf pattern to be stockinette with an occasional garter row for visual interest. The first picture is more true to texture, the second is more true to color.
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Those are both from handspun.

Recently, I picked up some Patons SWS (soy wool stripes) on sale. Decided to try some entrelac with it. If this works, it'll likely be for me. So far so good.
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They're six-stitch squares, not the standard eight, and I'm not doing the slipstitch edge, rather being very careful to be consistent in where I pick up from the edge so the squares all match. I am really loving short-rowing lately. What is up with that?

I'm going to try lying down for a while.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Rodney King Moment

Warning, y'all. This is a political statement, and includes no pictures of yarn or completed knitted or crocheted objects. There are also no pictures of fuzzy cute animals. Please buckle your safety belt, make sure your thinking cap is seated firmly yet comfortably on your head, and hang on while I do some twisting and turning.

I like to read Letters to the Editor in my local paper, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (link in the sidebar.) I like to think it's a finger on the pulse of the local mindset. Sometimes, it's downright dismaying.

There's something to notice, though, in the recent letters. It's been out there for a while, and I'm noticing it more now. There's been talk of how divided the country is, sure. And there's no doubt the red-state/blue-state division is a real one. But the division in rhetoric is much deeper, and much more toxic.

What is the breeding ground of this noxious rhetoric? From what foul pit commences the malodorous accusations of facism, weak-kneedness, cowardice, totalitarianism?

I know, I know. You open the dictionary to get a definition of "bleeding-heart liberal" and there's a picture of me, so you think I'm going to say Fox News. You'd only be partially right. It's Fox, or as I prefer to call them, Faux, all right. In fact, they were the ones who started it all. Infotainment, straight out of the script written for them in the cautionary movie "Network". It sells, so it's good enough for them. The only problem is that now, it's not just Fox that's the problem.

All the networks are the problem. The AP is the problem. The internet news outlets are the problem. Newspapers and news magazines are the problem. The local stations are the problem. Vitriol sells. Controversy sells. And We the People have a horribly short attention span.

So last week, while the GOP narrowly elected a known racist and segregationist to the minority leadership position (irony of ironies!), the press in all of its iterations crowed about how Dear Little Nancy Pelosi was facing FAILURE because she showed loyalty to a friend by supporting him in something he wanted to do. Despite the win/win aspect of the House Majority leader vote result for Speaker (elect) Pelosi, all the press could do was trumpet the implied weakness of her and the choices she made. Blindness must prevent them from seeing the truth of it, that Rep Hoyner was going to win the leadership position and she knew it, and that Rep Murtha simply wanted to run for the position, and likely would not win it, and she knew it. She backed him because he'd backed her. She backed him because they are friends and understand each other. Then in grace, all three stood together in unity for the majority of the House and faced the press. Who, in gracelessness, reported that the party was divided and splintering and squabbling amongst themselves, despite the evidence before them of three happy Democrats, ready and willing to work together for the good of the country.

And so I return, circuituously, to the scene of my original point. There is so much anger. There is so much division and hatred. People are so totally convinced that they're right. It's sad. The letters to the editor spew mean-spirited taunts, lobbed like literary Molotov cocktails, across the divide, both sides missing the point. Both sides, missing the facts. Both sides, missing what a Democracy is and what it means to us, the rabble and the roused.

We are, at this point, forced to DO Something. The Founding Fathers, in their flawed wisdom, created a very good system of government with some dangers. We've been living the fruits of that danger for the past six years, and really, for the past twelve. (Clinton's second term was so fraught with witch hunts and trials and scandalmongering that it seemed executive and legislative were controlled by one party.) But it is now not so. It is now, as the Drafters of the Constitution intended, a multiple party system, controlled by more than one, with enough voices on either side of the aisle to give oversight to whatever legislation comes through the pipeline. There is no more rubber stamp for this failed, hubris-ridden president. An angry, maligned party holds the purse-strings now, and he'd better hope that they have the good of the Country at heart, and not just vengeance.

Fortunately for all of us, I think they have good intentions.

It's a deeply flawed system. I'd far prefer a true multi-party system like other countries have instead of our two-party. It's too polarizing. It's too Jingoism-Making. But for now at least, it's what we have. And for the first time in quite a while, it has an opportunity to work properly.

The American public, by and large, needs a long course in Political Science. They need to be taught that it's not about the team. It's not about who wins, your side or mine. It's not about who has the catchiest campaign slogans or the best jokes, or the most attractive spouse, or the most money to run commercials, or who can say the most bad things about the other guy. It's really about what's best for everyone. Everyone.

The running of our country, state, municipality, is not a sporting event, and the press needs to take a front line in dismantling the prevailing mindset. Will they? Not likely. It wouldn't sell many papers or advertising minutes. So until that day comes, it's up to us to educate ourselves, and each other.

And of course, our kids. Maybe they'll grow up smarter than we did, and a whole lot less gullible.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Okay, now what do we do?

My mind is in a whirl. I can't believe what this last week has wrought, and I've had various pithy thoughts about it rolling around in my head which, of course, I have not bothered to take the time to jot down. I don't think they're lost, just hiding.

It's upsetting to me that I have to go back to work tomorrow. You'd think that four days off would be enough, but it isn't. And to top it all off, I have a way too long list of things I want to do around the house. I should know better, really.

So, I guess I'll hold off on the political commentary until I'm more organized in the thought department, and just move straight to the fiber.

Friday, I did an experiment in felting. A lot of my early handspun yarn isn't really suitable for garments, it's uneven, thick, underspun. So I decided to try felting with some of it. I made a bowl, which looks rather like a Dr. Seuss' child's hat. I like it. I lost patience, though, and stopped felting it before it lost all stitch definition. My weakness, as always.
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I do like the result, though. It's fanciful.

Here's the bowl posed in a lovely, artistic still-life with a "garterlac" washrag, and my take from someone's LiveJournal destashing. (three and 3/4 skeins of elann pure alpaca and 400 yds trekking sock yarn.)
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I liked doing the garterlac, it was nice to learn the technique, and I look forward to applying it to more complicated projects in the future.
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It's done in Aunt Lydia's "Denim" crochet cotton. It's really nice stuff, very soft and very drapey. I'm thinking this will be a face cloth, not a dishrag. And hooray, I have a total four skeins of it in different colors that I bought on sale a while back, not knowing what I was going to do with it.

A while back I posted the little fern lace washrag, it's growing a big brother, a teatowel, and I'm hoping the set will make a nice gift for my mother in law if I don't kill myself out of boredom with knitting it first.
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Patience is definitely my biggest weakness. I get bored too easily.
But it'll be pretty.
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That's about it, other than a progress shot on the four-stitch scarf.
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(with sleeping corgi for interest)
Now, to shake off this malaise.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

hope I haven't made a terrible mistake....

I switched to the blogger beta thing. We'll see. There seems to be a problem with the feed that I can't fix right now because I have to go to work. It does still seem to be available just via buttercupia.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

...and they all lived happily ever after

Holy cow, am I ever going to have a lot to say tomorrow. Tonight, I'm tired. We were up late last night, and I was very keyed up all day, compulsively checking the internet for updates at work, not getting much if anything done, and being surprised by the depth and breadth of my own feelings. But for tonight, pictures of knitted things.

A few months ago, I spun up a batch of yarn that was two ply. One ply of both colors was a sparkly blended very poofy coopworth type wool. The other ply of one was purple/blue romney. The other ply of the other was green brown sheep mill end. They ended up looking like this.
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with two more skeins of the blue/purply. Nice, huh? A bit too heavy and not quite soft enough for a next to skin sweater, a bit not enough of it for a cardigan or blazer. So, it becomes another feather and fan comfort shawl, this one for my mother, and it will be sparkly enough for her to wear to the opera, if she chooses. I'm a tad stuck right now because I need longer cables. The knitpicks options 60 inch cable (and 47 inch cables, and a gift book, and some new DPNs, damn free shipping with a $40 order but I digress) are currently in the shopping cart awaiting my paycheck. When I get the longer cable, work on this can commence. It's showing great promise, though, and the knitpicks options needles are a dream to work with.
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Lena Sock #1 is on the needles. #1 DPNs, my smallest yet. I'm liking the results. Very nice. The yarn is "online" sock yarn, self-patterning. VERY cool, nice soft yarn, will make her a good pair of socks. The thing I didn't like was it was all one ball and I had to really work to divide it into equal parts. I need a scale that measures in grams.
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Remember I mentioned the Yarn Harlot 4 stitch pattern scarf that refused to be photographed? It's in a better mood today.
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And the warshrags march on.
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Much more tomorrow. I have a four day weekend coming and plan to make the most of it.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm only going to ask this once.

Go vote. Please. And hope to the deity of your choice that it makes a difference.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Oh yeah, the fiber content

Lest I forget that this is supposed to be "paradise for the fiber-obsessed"... (why did I pick that name?) I did do some knitting this weekend, and some spinning today.

I'm doing a scarf using the yarn harlot's one-row scarf pattern. You're going to have to take my word for it because it refuses to be photographed. I also finished two ballband washcloths that are going to be part of a birthday bundle thingy in fall colors. I didn't photograph them. I did photograph this one

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that I did during the football game.

Today, I scrubbed cabinets and spun. The cabinets in my kitchen are actually a completely different color than I thought they were. I'm a bit alarmed by this. Mainly because I got one of those "ut oh, done bit off more than I can chew" things going. But I accept that it is not going to get done in a day, since it took what looks like 40 years to get the grime on them, it's gonna take a couple weeks to get it off of there. The wood is blonde and pretty. Amazing.

I spun the remaining blue superwash merino. It came out just like the other one, slightly smaller than the other skein but very close.

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And this blend of blue/black/green/multi that I've had in the cedar chest for a while. It's from Annie May on ebay, originally.
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That's about 210 yards. Nice stuff, two-plied.

So that's about it for today. More later in the week.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

After all, it's only a game.

Today's blog entry begins with an apology. I have not had any incisive insightful biting commentary on things political. There are so many who can say it so much better than I. Political expression only happens when I get angry enough, and while I have been angry lately, I feel impotent, helpless, yet hopeful. Hopeful in the sense of the abused spouse who believes, on the face of it, the assertion that it will never happen again, but in her heart of hearts, awaits the next blow. She knows it will come. This is the state of mind in which I await next week's elections. I want to believe. My heart wants to know that this long nightmare of the past six years is coming to an end. But further in, in my heart of hearts, I know the blow is coming. I know the promises are empty. And so, we shall see.

I've never been a good housekeeper. In fact, most people have described me as a slob. This does not bother me; it's fairly accurate as these things go. But lately, I've been working the "flylady" system (flylady.net)and it's been working really well for me. The house is usually decent, now. I'm getting into the corners and closets and nooks and crannies gradually. I'm learning routines to pick up after myself. And now when I see clutter, I can deal with it instead of getting frustrated. I can't recommend the system enough, really. It's making a huge difference in my life. But the reason I brought it up is a different one. Today I was doing a decluttering mission in the bedroom, cleaning out junk drawers in my dresser. In the bottom center drawer, I found a dog kerchief, a collar with tags attached, and a stuffed toy. The kerchief read "I'm Max, a Dog Park Regular, '96".

My entire life, I'd been a cat person. I love cats. Cats are low-maintenance. But the kids wanted a puppy, a long time ago when we lived in Springdale, when I was a bus driver, when life was very different than it is now. I did research. Decided a Welsh Corgi, Pembroke was the way to go with a puppy. Herding, so inclined to be smart and self-sufficient. Not inclined to bark overmuch or roll in dead animals. Wash and wear coat, no special grooming needed. It took about six months to find a breeder with an appropriate puppy. We brought Max home in April of 1995. He was about six months old. His name was "Leaning Oaks Conan" but we called him Max, (and registered him as "Leaning Oaks Conan Maxwell's Silver Hammer")and he was perfect. Smart, funny, loyal. We only got seven years with him. He died in January of 2002. I put a few of his things aside in that drawer and didn't see them, really see them, until today.

I still miss that dog so very much. His memory can still bring tears to my eyes, like it was yesterday that we lost him, like the last shovelful of dirt on his grave is still moist and fresh.
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A good and perfect pet is as rare as a good and perfect mate. You're lucky to ever get one. I was very lucky indeed to have Max in my life, even for those seven short years.
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On to happier things. I took Melissa her shawl today, and she loved it. We had a nice visit. Arrived back home before gametime and cooked the Korean barbecued beef ribs on the grill-they were amazing. We had tater tots, chips and dip, and generally an excellent meal to compliment a horrid football game. One of the very nice things about having a good system of cleaning and organization is that my kitchen is functional now. It seems much bigger now that the clutter is gone and everything is in its place.

Figment is such a character. He's probably one of the more personality-filled cats I've ever met.
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That's his spiderman imitation. And he likes the heat that comes from the router and the cable modem, so I often find him sleeping behind my monitor with his head on the router, leaning on the modem.
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Fall is waning, already, and soon it will be Yule. I like Yule, because even though it marks the beginning of offical winter, it is the day when the light returns, when the days get longer and brighter and spring is around the next corner.

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I look forward to the new wing of the conservatory opening in December, too, so we can go see it and absorb some springtime a little early.

Until the next time.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A dog, a shawl, and styrofoam

Ah, yes. At last, at long, long last, it has finished.

I haven't much to say except that lo unto these what, two weeks or so that I've been working on this shawl felt like 100 years, and it has finished.

I feel very, very rewarded and I do not regret the time I spent on this. It is absolutely gorgeous. Melissa will love it. It is soft, beautiful, and full of love.

Here it is finished but unblocked, last night, taking up slightly more than half the dining room table.
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I washed it in the sink with regular laundry soap, rinsed it several times until the water was clear, and gave it a little downy in the final rinse to make sure it is soft, soft, soft. Then I took it downstairs and spun it out in the washer. THEN, I rolled it up in four beach towels and sat on it for about fifteen minutes. It was still pretty wet after all that. I then wove in the ends, and proceeded to start pinning. The dogs got nervous...
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...but all was well.

And here it is, pinned out on foam, glorious and at least half again the unblocked size. I was afraid it would be too small, now, if anything, I'm afraid it's too big. I'm going to have to block the very ends seperately after the rest of it dries, because I simply can't get it all on the boards.
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I am amazed at how the detail pops when it's blocked. I hope she loves it.

And here's a gratuitous dog posing picture. Miss Lily, our ham.
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Better update later in the week, I must now go poke and prod at the shawl until it is completely, totally, straight across the top.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Drive-Through update

A moderately quick one because, as Willy Wonka so eloquently put it, there is far too much to do. Anna is home for the weekend and has brought her roommate Erin with her. We went out to Buffalo Wild Wings last night, where it was... interesting, to say the least. When we walked in, the place was packed. It was packed because they were auctioning off girls for charity. Ironically, for St. Jude's. Our young women were curious as to what the auctioned girls would then do to/for/with the men who "won" them. I was so disgusted by the implication and the imagery, it really set the tone for me. To top it off, they were using an unimaginably loud, distorted PA system. Instant headache.

We did manage to get a booth. BWW's booths are not comfortable. In fact, they're downright agonizing. It was not helped by the large family of mom, dad, and 27.3 children in the NEXT booth. The 27.3 children were all kicking the seat, which sent lovely shock waves up my back constantly. Since it was so crowded, the service was crap, and we couldn't get playmakers that worked for trivia. I ended up asking dad in the next booth to please get his horrible little monsters to stop abusing us. I think he was kind of shocked, because frankly, it was obvious to everyone but me that his little brats shit rainbows and piss vintage wine. And the look his wife/concubine/girl-he-won-in-an-auction-ten-years-ago was giving me was one for the books. I was like, hey, bizatch, bring it on. I'm mad enough at your kids that if you decide you wanna swing on me, I'll hit you so hard they'll ALL feel it.

The worst thing about quitting smoking is having to sit where the small children are. But I'm not going to go off on a rant about modern child-rearing methods (or lack thereof) right now, I'm just going to say how glad I am that my children knew how to act in public.

So, the whole feeling emotions when they happen thing is working out.

My back feels much better. I still get pains. The pain is moving around, trying new places to torture, I get headaches, weird sensations in my legs, my hands go numb sometimes. I do as instructed by the books and examine how I'm feeling at the moment, and invariably, it makes it much better. Except the headaches, I can't make them go away yet. My mobility is improving, my stress level is MUCH better, and it's getting noticable.

And Anna was amazed by how the house looks. Lowering my expectations on myself actually resulted in a cleaner house. Who knew? Of course, flylady helped with that, quite a bit.

Fiberish things were pretty major this week. I'm not going to take a picture of the ridiculous amount of Sugar n Cream cotton I bought on sale at Michael's because it was a buck a ball. I will show you this, the first of many.
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That's a ballband dishcloth, obscenely easy, and looks like I'll get about three out of two balls of yarn. You can whip one off in an evening. Will make lovely all-purpose stocking stuffers and things to give out as gifts to family and co-workers. Also makes a nice break from the neverending FNF shawl of doom that can't even be kept in its box anymore.
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I do think I'm down to the last three balls of yarn on that, though, so the end is in sight.

Spinning was also very good this week, the abortive attempt at navajo plying notwithstanding. I had a breakthrough in fiber preparation and feeding. It led to a nice thin "maple sugar" single which I attempted to navajo ply. To say that did not work out would be an understatement. I did stop before I'd ruined the entire 350 yards of nice thin single. I then split it out and two-plied it.
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It wasn't a total loss.

The next project was a blend of blues in a superwash merino. I just filled two bobbins as far as I thought was okay...
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(probably slightly further than that) and plied them together into a ... dare I say... thin, amazingly thin, mostly sport weight two ply that looks really amazing AND is 239 yards.

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Lemme repeat that. Two hundred and thirty nine yards. My biggest skein before this was about 150 yards.

Two hundred and thirty nine yards. And it is gorgeous.

That's no big deal to folks who have been spinning for a while, but it's a very big deal to me. Now I know I can do better yarn than I thought I'd ever be able to do. Happy!

Monday, October 16, 2006

The more things change...

It's been an interesting week, to say the very least, here at Chez Fritz. Bob and I went to see The US Vs John Lennon on Friday. It was a hell of a good movie.

It amazes me that things are coming back around to that place again. I don't think they'll ever quite make it there, though. Today's youth are not like the youth of the 60s. They're too medicated, too complacent, too jaded. Give peace a chance doesn't have a chance in this world. All the connection that is possible makes people more isolated, more insulated. After all, if I'm talking on this cell phone, or emailing from this laptop, or texting someone from this treo, or watching a video on this ipod, or playing a game on this PSP, then I'm not HERE, I'm not In This Room, I'm not On This Bus, and whatever is happening in the real world takes a back seat to the fantasy web I'm weaving around myself with portable electronic devices. Unifying today's youth in the face of the plugged in entertainment available as an alternative to actual social consciousness and action is an impossible task. It won't happen. The kids are too distracted.

At least until there's a draft.


On the personal side of things, I'm actually feeling a good bit better, if confused. I've been reading about something called TMS, or Tension Myositis Syndrome. Guy named Dr. John Sarno is behind it, and he says that the current epidemic of back pain and associated disorders is due to emotional repression rather than our backs suddenly devolving to weakness. Very interesting stuff and holds a lot of water for me. Research and stuff is ongoing, but hopeful.

Boring fiber week, at least until today's mail. I got a happy happy ebay package of Lorna's Laces sock yarn..... mmmm, it feels amazing.
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There I go with the purply/pink again. What is with that? And I also got my pound of red superwash from the same vendor as the yellow superwash. It seems to be just as nice as the yellow. Hey, I could make Penn Hills yarn! (those are the colors of the Local High School, red and gold.)
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Figment investigated and approved both purchases.
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Steeler sock #3 is coming down the homestretch and with any luck I'll have two completed pairs in time for next week's game, maybe the week after. I only work on socks on the bus and at work, so it's slower going than it would be if I'd been putting as many stitches into the socks as, say, this.
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Melissa's Feather and Fan Comfort Shawl out of handspun yarn. I'm about 140 rows in with maybe another 50 rows to go. The pattern is very purdy.
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Very purdy indeed.
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Monday, October 09, 2006

Updating just to update? Discuss...

What a surprise it was to find that a week had gone by and I hadn't updated.

The latest scandal out of Washington is no surprise to me. What does surprise me is that they continue to try to blame others, the evil alcohol, the wicked clergy, the preverted homos, instead of blaming the guy who did the deeds, or tried to do the deeds, or thought/emailed/texted about doing the deeds, in other words, the actual sick fuck afflicted with pedophilia, the only cure for which is castration, chemical or otherwise. The amount of filth being swept under the rug is so huge it's taking on the distinct shape of an elephant.

I wish I could draw, that would make one heck of a political cartoon.

In the meantime, how many deaths in Iraq last week? How many US soldiers? How many Iraqi citizens? Way too many. Way too many.

On to happier things. It has actually been a moderately productive fiber week here. I did another skein of the Maple Sugar yarn. It's hanging out to dry with its brother. My current spinning is gold superwash
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that I initially thought I'd dye because I got it for a really good price. The color turned out to be a sincerely Steelers gold, though, so I might end up doing some self-striping black and gold out of it. I'm (so far) doing OK at spinning it thin, it's nice fiber and easy to control.

I did up two pair of cabled fingerless gloves. The pattern is from Knitty's summer edition, and is called Fetching.
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I'll be making more of these because they only take a couple of hours to make and will make great stocking stuffers and showcases for my handspun. I will not, however, be using this particular pink yarn again, because it was far too thick for the size needles I had to use and it caused me a lot of pain to finish them off. But the effect... wow. The cables really popped.
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So last night I cast on for a feather and fan comfort shawl for my friend Melissa, for which I'll be using the last of my pink Flynx yarn.
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It's a much happier process than the gloves were with this yarn.

There is one pair of steeler socks, and I'm into the leg of sock one of the second pair.
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Maybe when they're finished, it'll turn the team's fortunes around. I have to say I was not encouraged by last night's game. One team played the first half, a different, suckier team played the second half. Ugh. I hate to kiss off the season already, but I don't see much choice here. They were bad.

And finally, last night we had a wonderful dinner. We went to Frick Park with the dogs. It was a beautiful day. I was in a lot of pain when we got back from the trail, though, so we drove through Wendy's and got salads and baked potatoes to go with the steaks that were waiting to be grilled. While they were cooking, I got some stuff from the yard and put a vase of flowers on the table. White sage, russian sage, cosmos, and daisy fleabane. I think it's pretty, and it's in the vase our friend De gave us as a wedding gift.
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