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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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It's my monday, and I'll cry if I want to.

I don't have much of import to say today. Many pretty pictures of many pretty yarns and some pretty animals.

I will say that I am very proud of, and very nostalgic for, Bill Clinton. If only the Democrats will learn from his example and get up in people's faces, and stop rolling over and taking this from the media, from the Rethugs, from the administration. Learn from your wise elders, children. And while you're at it, learn from Keith Olbermann, too. He had yet another amazing "special comment" last night, which is widely available both on you tube and crooks and liars.

In my determination to learn, again, to relax, I spent time yesterday spinning the remainder of the "black cherry" silk/merino blend top that I started a couple of weeks ago. A pound of this fiber netted me six skeins, or about 700 yards of heavy worsted two ply. It's unspeakably soft.

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When I got home from work today, the three final skeins were dry out on the porch, so I brought them in then decided to take the wheel and the dogs outside and watch the sun go down while spinning "maple sugar". I do love Copper Moose fiber.

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This is one "Maple Sugar" skein with three "black cherries". The maple sugar color is not merino, I think it's coopworth or a blend, but it's still very soft and as all Bill's fibers, a joy to spin. The play of colors in the top...

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...comes out beautifully in the finished yarn. I'm trying to make this DK but I'm really having a hard time regulating the feed .... I think it's time I admitted that the Babe wheel, as wonderful as it is, is not the precise tool I'd like to have. But it's ok for my needs, especially for the fibers I've collected in my stash. If I still have as much interest in spinning in a year, maybe I'll start looking at something more refined. For now, it'll do.

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We had a nice sunset.

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If only we didn't have that light pole. Still pretty.

And here are cute animal pictures. Dylan and Lily, our corgis, have been playing with each other more than usual lately. It's cuter than words.

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I'm getting better at taking pictures of Figment. He's an amazing cat.
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I really can't express the energy that pours off of him. When he stands on your lap to be petted, he seems to weigh 30 pounds. His feet are so heavy. He purrs so loudly that it echoes. He's very ... substantial. In many ways. When he curls up in my lap and gets loved, you can feel the love pouring off of him. Amazing cat. Never knew a cat quite like this.

Bob brought home cat food and stuff today. The cats were waiting for him. Impatiently waiting. Or just appreciating him.
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That's about it for now. I'm tired, and crabby, and about to behave in a way that I will regret later, so I'm just going to grab something fast to eat and go to bed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

... and the buffalo jumped over the moon

Fiber, then seriousness.
Steeler Sock one of four has turned the heel and is coming down the homestretch. I just completed the gusset-i've been working on this less than four days. Mostly on the bus and breaks at work. Buddha approves.
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Yes, this is a different ball of baby alpaca. I don't want to talk about what happened to the other one. Suffice it to say, it's waiting until I'm ready to work with it. In the meantime, this one is on larger needles, with the same lace pattern. I am hoping it will make a nice gift for my mother.
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In other news, my Local Yarn Store is now carrying Koigu. Koigu is the caviar of sock yarn, for those who do not know. Pictures do not do it justice, only touching it will, but here is a lovely portrait of hand dyed merino goodness.
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Serious Ranting Ahead-be warned.
An ad for Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield runs here pretty regularly.

"I was getting pretty big. My coach was worried, my parents were worried... I was ... pretty big. I didn't like getting my picture taken."
A red-haired moppet, about ten, eleven years old, runs across a soccer field.
"Then I got help. My doctor is helping, the school is helping... "
Said moppet runs into the loving, accepting embrace of her teammates, crunching an apple joyfully.
"I love my team picture now! I'm not big in it!"
Congratulations, you've just given this child a lifelong eating disorder. You've just condemned her to judging herself first by her size, and by everything else next.

I object enough to the use of the word "big" in this ad. When a boy is "big", that's a good thing. A boy is supposed to be Big. Big is manly. Big is good! A girl, however, is not allowed to be Big. Being Big equals instant ostracism for a little girl, according to this ad, by implication, she would not have the love of her teammates had she remained Big. Now that she is Small, delicate and girl-like, everyone loves her.

Just say she was getting fat, for crying out loud. And be done with it. It's not the end of the world.

Highmark, you have perpetuated evil by two things. The first thing is that this child who was probably (in her ficticious life) perfectly happy, active, and healthy, will now have an obsession with being small. A girl subject to this perception will almost certainly have lifelong self-esteem issues, which may include eating disorders, cutting behaviors, depression, acting out. The second evil that you have perpetuated is the "gender sizing" myth. Only Men can be Big. Men can be Huge. Men can be Gigantic. That's Manly, right? Women, however, cannot be Big, or they are not women. Women must be small, frail, delicate, childlike. Strength, Bigness, are not allowed.

Fuck you very much, Highmark.

Being a slightly overweight child is difficult. I remember. When I was little, I was a "big" for my size. I remember what they said to me.

"you're getting as big as the side of a barn!"

"Slow down, nobody's going to take it away from you!"

"Oh, what a fat, jolly child!"

Being a fat adult woman is hell. It is a worse hell than it needed to be because I was told these things as a small child. I was not grossly fat. I was chubby. My family is all slightly chubby. If they'd left me alone, let me grow up and be active and not allowed me to think I was this enormous, elephantine thing, perhaps I wouldn't be like this now.

Or perhaps I would.

It's easy to look for something external to blame for your problems. But it probably didn't help. I look at old pictures, from grade school and into high school, and I was overweight, yes, but an overweight I'd be overjoyed to be, now. I wasn't sideshow freak fat like I am now. I wasn't immobilized fat like I am now. I wasn't edema, arthritis, joint pain, high blood pressure, varicose veins fat like I am now. I wasn't every waking moment in pain, physically, and usually mentally and emotionally. I was then, as now, consumed with self-loathing and I did some very stupid things, then, to be thin and waiflike, and girlish. I am old enough now to know that the stupid things are stupid and I will not do them. But what am I to do? I am sick, now, with this fat. I'm sick, inside and out. I loathe looking at myself in the mirror. I don't like going out in public. I am angry that a wonderful companion and friend like my husband is stuck with a carnival fat lady as a spouse.

Note that I am not placing responsibility on my family or my upbringing or any external thing for my weight. I am responsible for it. I did this to myself. The motivation doesn't matter. The fact is that it was, maybe for a while anyway, something I could have controlled. I chose to lose control.

One of the things I'm being screened for is Cushing's Syndrome. Two of the symptoms are "buffalo hump" and "moon face". Could they possibly make it sound any more appealing? Appalling. Cushing's is caused by consistent elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It makes you gain weight in your belly, and on your upper back in a hump. It's no less disgusting to think that maybe a disease did this to me than just a case of sloth and greediness. Either way, there it is. Either way, I'm grotesque.

No, wait.

Make that Big.

If I find out that I am well, I will lose just enough weight to make myself happy, and the hell with what anyone else thinks. And if I ever see that red-haired moppet, I'm going to show her that it's ok to be Big.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Endings and Beginnings

Sometimes, it's really difficult to know when something has ended. Sometimes, it's really difficult to express why something has ended.

In romantic relationships, it's pretty simple to define. But what about when a platonic relationship ends? What about when you're just not friends any more?

And how do you know if you've ever really been friends?

And does that matter?

I've known this woman for at least six years. We helped each other move a couple of times. We spent a lot of time on the phone, visiting with mutual friends, at gatherings together. The last couple of years we've drifted apart pretty seriously. I've tried to tell her that a friendship is just like any other relationship in that it needs at least a little nurturing to survive, but she doesn't seem to understand that, or doesn't seem to care. It makes me very sad.

So I think that at this point, the friendship is over. I've tried to reach out to her several times in the last couple of months, and while she hasn't rebuffed me or outright said anything, she's avoided responding. It makes me very sad. At some point, the drift became irreparable. She made an offhand comment that hurt me very deeply and she didn't understand why it hurt me. Sometimes if you have to explain, you shouldn't.

I'm sucking at explaining this. I can't put it into adequate words. I've lost someone in my life who was important to me, and it feels like I just wasn't important enough to her to make any sort of effort. Looking back, it seemed like every time we talked, if it wasn't about her, it became about her. I'd call her with a problem or a sadness or an issue and soon, we'd be talking about her problems or issues or sadnesses. I always felt like I was never quite "cool" enough for her, like I was marginal. I guess I built up some resentment behind that. So, there it is. I'll survive. And I have no doubt she'll survive, too.

On a happier note, Bob and I went to see Hollywoodland last night. Very deep movie. Very good. Very sad, and thought provoking. Some of the acting was downright amazing, especially Diane Lane and Adrien Brody. What is it about Adrien Brody that I find so fascinating? He looks like a male k.d. lang with a really big nose. But damn, that boy can act. His face is incredibly expressive. Incredibly sad. I recommend seeing it, but only if you don't like your movies wrapped up in neat little packages.

On to the fibrous things.
This is a big ball of "Ecological Wool" by Cascade in Silver.
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It's destined to be, I hope, two "Irish Hiking Scarves", one for an uncle and one for my former cubemate from my old office location. It looks like a simple cable project and I think I can do it. This is a lot more yarn than I thought it was when I bought it!

The baby alpaca that I posted a couple of weeks ago has begun transformation into a lace shawl. Well, lacy, at least. I hestiate to call it actual lace because the pattern is so easy, only a four row repeat.
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It's about 20 rows now. Maybe a little more. We nearly had a disaster last night when we returned from the movies. Miss Lily, our innocent one, grabbed it out of the project box (where I had irresponsibly left it on the floor) and ran off with it. I didn't even notice, Bob found it on the bed. Fortunately, no real damage was done. It was slightly damp, a little misshapen, and had a big loop of yarn pulled out, but it all went back into shape with minimal effort.

The second sock of my third trial pair is coming down the homestretch....
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These are very loosely stitched-I think a size 2 needle would have been better. Ones were too small, threes are too large. Duh. But at any rate, in honor of that and also to have something else small started, I cast on the first steeler sock.
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Someday, I'm going to try toe-up socks. Maybe next. I got the Schurch book that my friend M recommended and it seems very good... in another language. I can't quite interpret it yet. I am but an egg.

Monday is my cardiac stress test. I am not looking forward to this. In fact, I may cancel out of it. The more I think about it, the less I want a radioactive element injected into my body. And I am 98% sure there is nothing wrong with my heart. The more I read up on Cushing's Syndrome and excess cortisol, the more convinced I am that it's the real problem. On that note, I am going to get a list of things written up to take to the doctor on Monday, because I will NOT allow him to steamroll me. And I'm still damn mad about that MRI incident.

Monday, September 11, 2006

In memory of a lot of things.

The Constitution only applies when the going gets easy.
War is the answer, even when you forget the question.
The truth is for sissies.
America has never faced an enemy as dangerous and as intent on killing us as King George, the Civil War, World War I, the Germans, the Japanese, a nuclear Soviet Union Al Qaeda.
The real September 11 story was badly in need of editing.
Just because they say it makes it so.
We have always been at war with Oceania.
A fool is born every election day.

Due process is for the innocent.
Patriotism means never having to say you're sorry.
It's all Sandy Berger's fault.

(courtesy of The Daily Kos)

What follows are my distinctly unpatriotic feelings-my opinions only to which I am entitled.

This shit has gotten out of hand.

I grieved for the dead. I did. The number of dead US soldiers in Iraq is close to, if not past, the number of 9/11 dead. And those are just US SOLDIERS, not Iraqi citizens, contractors, journalists, or other non-combatants. This country is in such an economic shambles that we rejoice when gas goes below 2.49 a gallon, and we reminisce that maybe Nixon wasn't such a bad preznit, after all. We are ruled by reactionary fundamentalists who squander our resources and the blood of our soldiers to fight other reactionary fundamentalists and use our national sentiment as lubricant to slide away our freedom, our constitution, our rights. They play fast and loose with the truth, just as they have since that sad, sad day, five years ago, when I came home from work, weeping, to hug my dog and await my kids' return from school. These reactionary fundamentalists have divided us, have fomented hatred and strife, have drawn lines across this nation that no terrorist ever could, and while the lines get broader and broader, they laugh at us.

Oh yes, they laugh.

They laugh at the gullible populace. They laugh while they hand us Soma in the form of sensationalized news, more JonBenet and more Human Interest and less substance, less outrage. They whisper campaigns and push with polls and tell us what to think, and the vast, vast medicated, attention-deficited, material-addicted unwashed overworked masses capitulate and think what they tell us to think because it's just easier, because then we can feel part of something, because then we can be part of the RIGHT side, the side that WINS, whether it's just or not.

They continue to erect straw men and strap them to windmills, at which they then tilt, knowing that knocking Roe V Wade or Gay Marriage or Freedom of Religion asunder would leave them no rallying cries. They throw money at the richest and keep the poorest entertained, more bread and circuses, more reality television, more spectacle, more monkey shows at gaping wounds in the ground. More uncompleted memorials and more undiscovered dead. Will there be a five-year memorial for the victims of Hurricane Katrina? Did you know that they are still finding bodies in New Orleans? Did you care? They milk the religious and the self-righteous, and laugh while they mock their beliefs, because all they believe in is money, power, and control.

I am angry. All the hard work done in my lifetime, all the international goodwill, all the progress in equality and justice and REASON, dammit, pure, sweet REASON and science and love of our Mother, this planet, has been destroyed in the past five years, all in the name of Security, of Liberty.

There are more deaths than the 9/11/01 deaths to mourn today. There is the death of reason. The death of justice. The death of tolerance. The death of equality. The death of so many of the ideals that this country was founded upon, that I believe in, that I fought for and watched others fight and die for. And so many of them under the rallying cry of "never forget!"

You're damn right I'll never forget.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

We love the moon, simply because it is close to us.

This has been quite a week.
Pittsburgh lost a mayor. Bob O'Connor, who was a force in local politics as long as anyone can remember, died of central nervous system lyphoma last weekend. By all accounts, the cancer was vicious and relentless. He didn't have a chance once it set in. Bob was a good guy who was determined to make a difference in Pittsburgh and in the whole region. I think he would have done it, too.
Bob was also a big-time Steelers fan. At the home (and season) opener on Thursday, which was also the day of his funeral, fans did this.
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(picture copyright pittsburgh post-gazette)
Maybe some people think it was tasteless. Bob O'Connor would have loved it, and he would have loved his son on the field leading the fans in the Terrible Towel wave, too.
Bob O'Connor's death makes me sad. I hope that the many, many years he served Pittsburgh on council and behind the scenes inspire those who succeed him to keep his dream alive. He only got six months, but maybe, just maybe it was enough to kickstart this beautiful town into a new era.

And on to the fiber goodness.
Knit One had a wonderful birthday party, where I ran into an old friend of my mom's who was quite shocked and pleasantly surprised to see me. We spent some time talking and catching up-I look forward to seeing her there another time when it is less chaotic. I got a pattern for my very first lace project, a very simple shawl designed by Lily Chin. I normally don't like her designs, but lace seriously scares me and I need to break the ice somehow, and this is seriously easy. In fact, it might actually be more boring than the Clapotis, by the time it's done. A four row repeat, no lie, with yarnover increases and that's it. But it ought to show off that beautiful baby alpaca just fine.
Also got a hank of cascade worsted in silver to make my former cube-mate a cable scarf... wow, taking on lace and cables at the same time, I AM adventurous! Two BIG balls of sock yarn (the one-pair kind) because sock yarn doesn't really count, you know. I got my mom five balls of some sort of higher end furry fluffy yarn that she loved. She loves that novelty crap. If I got her into that store, she'd be in trouble, but it would maybe, maybe break her of red heart for good. Elizabeth Zimmerman's "knitting without tears" and a set of size two DPNs for our steeler socks completed the excursion. Good stuff! The sales were pretty nice, and as always, the people there were delightful.

Here's a picture of my socks finished and languishing in a juniper.
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Less than a week on the bus and breaks at work, those went fast.

The Clapotis is done...
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As my lovely and weird daughter models it.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

agito ergo sum

Clues filter in, bit by bit.

This past weekend, I was at a Mensa regional gathering here in Pittsburgh. I spent quite a bit of time with my friend M, who happens to be a nurse. She was there when my other friend, the Reiki master B was doing some energy work on me. We were talking about my symptoms, and she said I should have my cortisol levels checked. Googling Cortisol today, I found Cushing's Syndrome, which is brought on by elevated cortisol levels, which can be brought on by prolonged stress.

Now I know I've been stressed out for a long time, but I really, really thought I had it under control. Or at least was getting it under control. But more than half the symptoms were things I've been experiencing. Food for thought and something to discuss with the doctor.

Here are some pretty pictures of ongoing projects.

I did get to work on the clapotis a little over the weekend, so it's getting very close to done-I'm in the decrease rows now. I think it looks pretty damn good... can't wait to see it blocked out and finished off.

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I present to you a sock and a half out of my handspun. I love how the stitches look in this yarn. Nice cozy slippersocks!

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And lastly, some yarn porn. We took a field trip to KnitOne during our "craft and complain" session. I got this 665 yard hank of superfine baby alpaca and I have no idea what to do with it... but I can't stop touching it. It's about a sportweight. I'd love to do a shawl but it IS alpaca, so I don't want anything too dense or heavy. Suggestions welcome, bearing in mind that I'm a baby beginning knitter.

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And this shipment of "shimmer" from Knitpicks . Again, no idea what to do with it, but love the colors and my goodness it's soft. I wish I was ready for lace knitting... but I can't do anything with this until Anna comes home for a break, because she's my swift!

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