January 31, 2006

The Knots of Knot All That

I made a scarf/wrap for my mom a couple years back. It's of Manos Del Uruguay, in two shades of blue and one shade of grey. And of all the things I've knit, it's the item that has caused me the greatest pangs, and the greatest joy... even though it was not particularly difficult to knit.

At some point in the distant past I agreed to make my mom an Aran cabled cardigan vest. She chose the pattern and the yarn and the colors, and I cleverly figured out how to change the color between the panels of cabled designs in a way that would be subtle-but-lovely (I can’t leave a recipe alone, either, I don’t know what’s wrong with me – Irish distaste for being told what to do, I guess). I diligently knit the back and the bottom half of one side… and then didn’t finish it. I can’t remember why.

What I do know is that somehow I ended up dragging the pieces and the yarn around with me through multiple moves and two decades, always stored at the bottom of a huge carton of knitting detritus. And the further I got from the time of the promise, the harder it was to think about going back to it.

And of course I eventually lost the pattern, and I didn’t have the courage or experience (I’d only ever knit two sweaters at that point, both of them pullovers) to try to design a cardigan front. Not to mention the issue of my mother having gotten somewhat... cuddlier... in the intervening decades. The old vest would be unlikely to flatter the current mother.

So there I was, twenty years later, still dragging around those stupid pieces. Every time I looked at them I felt a terrible pang of guilt, because at that time I had still never knit my mom anything. I had stopped knitting for fifteen years, and when I started I did so in order to knit a couple baby sweaters for the Vampire, and then quit again for a while… busy, busy.

Those pieces - and the leftover partially-used balls - were a visible broken promise. They hung around my neck like the Ancient Mariner's albatross, just as heavy and accusatory (although probably not as stinky).

They were also a horrible waste of gorgeous yarn. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Manos, the sheen and depth of it always gets to me. I don’t even mind having to pick out all those burrs and grassy bits (much).

So a couple years ago, when I came across that particular UFO again, I decided I was going to stop wasting that yarn and do something about it. I frogged the whole thing, re-blocked the rewound skeins, and designed… this. And gave it to Mom.

She was politely dubious about it at first. It’s a double layer, very thick, and it’s too wide and heavy to use as you would normally wear a scarf.

But Mom soon discovered that she could wrap it around her head and shoulders in any way she wished on those horrible below-freezing days we get in January and February here, and it would stay right where it was until she unwrapped it. And being a double layer as is, she didn’t have to deal with awkward, bulky double or triple winding. Now she loves it, nearly as much as I love her.

So we’re both happy. And guilt free.

Although I kind of wish I had had twice as much yarn, so that I could have made one for myself!

January 30, 2006


I mentioned in my last comments section that my dad had a dog that we all adored unstintingly - even though she was sometimes made it a bit difficult.

Maggie was brilliant in every way. She was very competitive, and would drive herself into the ground rather than be outrun, outhunted, outplayed or outwitted by anyone else, dog or human. She flew over the ground, was a 'spy-hopper', had a wonderful nose, was a champion jumper, was always Alpha of any dog group, won praise and admiration of everyone she came in contact with. She invented and played elaborate games with specific and definite rules; the best was the soccer game that she regularly played with the Vampire, with each of them having a 'goal' at opposite ends of the yard... she could steal the ball and 'dribble' it across the yard with the end of her nose quicker than the Vampire could ever move. They both enjoyed this game tremendously, and played it any time they were together and the weather allowed.

Maggie loved to dress up in costume (her favorite was the pink satin ballerina/princess outfit she had for Halloween). We celebrated her birthday on the same day as the Vampire's. He would sit on a chair at one end of the table with his birthday cake and candles, and she would sit on a chair at the other end with her decorated (liverwurst) birthday cake and candle, and she would patiently wait until the Happy Birthday song was sung and the candle was blown out before she ate her 'cake'.
She always seemed to feel that she was only in a 'dog suit', and that any day she would unzip a hidden zipper and step out... no doubt she would have been a Princess.

She was also stubborn, contrary, and an inveterate sneak thief. She would not only find and open a bag or container in order to get at a desired object or food item... she would carefully close the bag or container afterwards in order to conceal the evidence. Her favorite game at parties was to leap past someone who was holding an appetizer or bit of food and without turning her head towards them, snake her tongue out the side of her mouth as she passed and snag the food as she flew by.

I am allergic to dogs, and so when I pet my dad's dog I have to wash my hands immediately afterwards. Maggie figured this out and made it a game to find a way to sneak up on me whenever I came to the house and lick my hand on the sly. She only ever did it once per visit, and she never did it in a direct way. For her the point of the game was to be as devious about it as possible, so that I would be surprised when she 'got' me.

When Maggie got older and began to suffer from arthritic symptoms, my dad started giving her Glucosamine/Chondroitin supplements, which did significantly ease her pain. These supplements were individually wrapped and sealed in a similar way to Starburst Fruit Chews, and were quite challenging to open.
They also tasted somewhat like fruit chews, which she uncharacteristically objected to - so dad got into the habit of bribing her to eat them by giving her a favorite dog biscuit afterwards, as a reward. One day he laid out her biscuit and her supplement, intending to call Maggie in for her daily dose. At that point the phone rang; distracted by the demands of business, he wandered off, leaving both supplement and treat sitting alone and forlorn on the counter. Much later he returned, to find that both biscuit and supplement had disappeared. Since Maggie had a long history of pilfering and then hiding the evidence of her misdeeds, dad turned about to call the miscreant to justice... only to see a supplement wrapper, neatly laid out flat and empty in the center of the dining room floor. For once, Maggie had played by the rules. She had earned that biscuit, fair and most definitely square!

On Maggie's last day, an hour before she was to be put down, the Vampire and I went to the bakery to buy her favorite pastry, a poppyseed kolache. The Vampire took her out to the back yard, the scene of so many exuberant games of soccer and tag and frisbee, and he casually stood with his back to her, holding the kolache at a level with her head, so that she wouldn't have to jump in order to 'steal' it from behind. She no longer could run or leap to snatch her treasure, but he wanted her to still feel the triumph and joy of having pilfered the Illicit Treat.

It's nearly four years since Maggie left us, and rarely does a week go by without one of us reminiscing about some little trick or foible of hers. Some spirits just shine in a special way...

Maggie, we won't forget.


I went to visit my folks today, and as usual was greeted enthusiastically by The Snoot:

And while I'm at it, let's define a term I've used here and there.

This is a Muffin Cat:

Åren't they cute?

Garrison Keillor Is a Great Big Lie-Face

... and you've got to love a man like that.

He was using My copy machine at Kinko's today for a large project of some sort, so I had to use an adjacent one instead. And while I was standing there, waiting for my copying to wind to its finish, it was pretty hard to ignore him - he's a tall guy, and was wearing the sort of lovely tailored black wool coat that you don't generally see in Kinko's on a slushy day in January in my neighborhood.

Most of the clients in my neighborhood Kinko's are students or other working class folks who if they had that sort of coat, they'd only wear it for parties and trips to the Ordway. They would never chance brushing such a precious and pristine sort of garment against the dirty salt-encrusted sides of the cars in the crowded Kinko's parking lot.

But Mr. Keillor isn't afraid of the Dry Cleaner, even though he probably doesn't live in a neighborhood where there's a Cleaner on the nearest corner. He stood impassively in front of his copier, looking a bit distant and foreboding in his tailored bit of darkness.

When I was finished with my copying, I had to go around him to get to the machine (adjacent to him on the other side) that would print up my receipt. And while waiting for that printed receipt I started to feel a bit... well, obvious.

I had effectively surrounded the man, in spite of his aura of being protected by a fairly large area of Personal Space. I'm simply not small enough to be Ignorable. I'm a great dirigible of a woman, and it takes a lot of fairly determined maneuvering to pretend that I'm not there; enough so that in a less grave-looking person than Mr. Keillor, the effort would look a bit silly.

So I wanted to do something that would allow us both to save our dignity, acknowledge our mutual awareness of the other's existance, without requiring the Expensive Tailored Celebrity of us to pretend to be open to Intrusive Public Conversation.

So I said, "Thank you - you've given me a great deal of joy over the last 25 years."

And he frowned slightly more intensely, pinned me with a stern look, and gruffly said with the straightest face imaginable, "You're not old enough to have done that."

And at that moment I remembered that I'd inadvertently lied, myself.

I went to a live performance of Prairie Home Companion when I was 16, with my fiancee (not the Pirate). I'd been listening to Mr. Keillor's voice for 30 years.

Which makes his lie even bigger, and even kinder.

A man like that can probably charm his Dry Cleaner into not minding having to remove the salt smudges from that coat...

January 29, 2006

Evidence Against Me

I realize that this will probably count against me on so many levels with the White Coat guys, but the important thing (to me) is that in the end I feel, perhaps unjustly, that I present here proof that I have triumphed over the Mutant Caterpillar.

This wasn't as easy as it should have been. I won't even speak of the frogging, primarily due to my insisting on knitting while I was watching movies in the dark (both in the theater and on DVD at home). One too many slipped stitches, and your pattern goes way off... and it's a little difficult to know this in the dark until you are a couple rows up. Don't Try This At Home (or anywhere else, unless - well, you know, you really *want* to meet the White Coat guys).

No, what made the process difficult was the last few days, when I was wandering vaguely around the house wailing "Where's my Chibi? I NEED my Chibi... has anybody seen my Chibi?"

The boys would have cheerfully gagged me and locked me in the basemen
t, if it wasn't for the fact that I had hidden the tickets to last night's performance of Les Mis. For a person as distractable and unfocussed as I am, I sometimes have amazing foresight. I'm cunning that way.

On Thursday I had given up on the Chibi. No, I did not go out to buy a new one; I knew that my current Chibi would show up the moment I finished sewing up the Mutant Caterpillar. So I Made Do, as any cunning yarn-crazed knitter would do. And obviously I WAS crazed, because:

I used my crochet hook.

I did not let myself become deterred by the fact that I have not a clue how to crochet, or that my last attempt to do so (a mere 30 years ago) was met by hoots of derision by classmates and teacher alike. I didn't even look for some sort of elementary instruction in one of my many knitting tomes.

I just made it up as I went along.

Which, if I may say so myself, worked out just fine. I even wove in my ends
(on the backsides of the fabric, which is doubled over so that the scarf is patterned on both sides) with the hook. I was really proud... except that I couldn't figure out how to weave in that last crochet-line of yarn neatly, once the entire scarf was seamed up.

Not to worry. This morning I FOUND MY CHIBI. It was, of course, right where it should have been. Under my DVD-Watching Chair.

Now I can't find my favorite basic knitting reference book, and I want to knit a pair of socks in an unfamiliar guage and size. Gah!

In any case, here is proof that I have tamed the Mutant Caterpillar, and I am deluding myself by thinking that it doesn't need blocking.

The Pirate wants me to make him the same scarf, in a different set of colors.

Do you think a college student would be caught dead in it?

January 28, 2006

Chris Rocks (I Don't)

Lookee what I got in the mail today...

No, I didn't get The Cat in the mail. They would just send her back if we tried to get rid of her. There's probably a Postal Service Regulation against sending packages full of Fiendish Ill Will through the USPS.

What I got was a dear little digital camera, thanks to knitting/blogging pal Chris.

Chris Rocks. I Don't, because although I have put together a little box of goodies for the Sweetest Girl In the World, I have let the fact that the Pirate has been using the car for the last two days deter me from visiting the Post Awful in order to send said goodies as promptly as Chris deserves.

I'm just not the kind of gal who braves icy sidewalks and gloom to walk a paltry few miles in order to do so, proving just what kind of friend I am (a lazy one).

I promise that I *will* get the goodie box mailed out on Monday, on the way back from the Vampire's voice lesson.

About The Cat: Her eyes are blue, and so of course Red Eye is a problem... well, that plus I don't have any Photo Shop type program (if that disc you sent was one, Chrisdear, it's unfortunately a Windows Only program, and so won't work on my Mac... that's okay, just having a camera is Good Enough!).

The Cat would probably like it if she could make her eyes look all scary like that in Real Life, but unfortunately they are just a very pretty and mild blue.

Her nose is white... that greyish streak is just a trick of shadow and the way her fur is laying at the moment. That little black spot on the end of it is not white, though... it is a semi-permanent scab, caused by her allergies, which for some reason cause her to lick a little bit too much right in that spot.

She is nesting in her two favorite blankets (the eons-old 'not for company' ones that she's
allowed to sit on).

Shortly afterwards she let me know that she does not approve of flashes.

Now we can talk to the butt...

January 27, 2006

Pre-Syndrome Syndrome

It's quiet.

Too quiet...


The Vampire has hied himself hence to a friend's birthday party. **

And I mean 'hied himself'. He is now willing to walk a couple miles and back again on his own in order to visit a friend or group of friends. Another step towards adulthood, and the day that I am formally a member of the Empty Nest club.

It's very quiet and peaceful here in his absence, which to me is at least as obtrusive as Too Noisy To Think.

It's astounding how much Presence even a relatively quiet teenager manages to establish in a household. I'm not always aware how much I've adjusted to the sound of papers turning over, pencils scritching, humming-under-the-breath and occasional loud joyful singing, muttering of plots or script lines or complaints (or complaints about script lines), bumping against furniture, snack preparation, sound leakage from the headphones of the 'personal CD player', clinking from the ever-growing Dirty Cup collection on his desk and/or bookshelf, Gloating Maniacal Evil Laughter, expletives undeleted, phone conversations in pseudo hushed tones to girlfriend or normal tones to 'regular' friends,
random crashes, dice or other objects being thrown or dropped, and portentious utterances of 'Ummmm... Mom?'

Without the background noise and the Presence, the house seems terribly silent; in spite of the clutter, it almost seems to echo with emptiness.

It should seem peaceful. But I am a fretter, and as a fretter I am thinking more of the *truly* empty house to come than I am of the potential bliss of the moment.

Luckily for my state of mind, the Vampire will be back before 6pm. He'll slam open the door, throw his coat on the nearest surface, roar whatever news he has about his Party Adventures, clomp towards the kitchen and crash into several chairs in the process, raid the refrigerator, open the oven door, complain that the ribs aren't done enough, tease The Cat, complain that he has to spend the rest of the Pre-Girlfriend-Call evening on homework (History [Lee & Grant], Literature [Orwell's "1984"], Philosophy [I have no idea], Calculus [ditto], Composition [I think he's still working on John Brown] and SAT Prep), slam his bedroom door, put on his headphones, and start his homework (interspersed with as much RPG planning and plotting as he thinks he can get away with).

And I'll go back to my work, happy in my Presence-filled house, and leave my Pre-Syndrome Syndrome for another day.


** This is not the actual birthday party, mind you. This is a Cunning Plan of a party, a Decoy Party. The Captain of the Vampire's Epee team has declared himself impossible to surprise, so they are having a Decoy Surprise Party today at an early version of their regular Friday RPG session, with cards and presents and cake and everything, and then they will set up the *real* surprise party on his actual birthday on Sunday by ambushing him in the bakery/cafe where his family goes every Sunday after church. Of course, the cleverest Cunning Plan may still be the Captain's, as he is ending up with twice as much cake and presents as he otherwise would have gotten. That is, perhaps, why he's the Captain...

January 26, 2006

Confessions and Excuses

I had something or other to say earlier today around 5pm, when I caught a moment to actually sit down at the computer... but blogger was down, and I not only couldn't write a new entry, I couldn't get to most of my friends' blogs to read, either. Withdrawal!!! Whimper. Whine...

Now I don't remember what I was going to say, so I'll make some confessions. I'm in a confiding sort of mood today. Here they are:

1. I hate making breakfast for someone else even more than I hate eating breakfast, myself. But I don't mind making breakfast *food* for someone else (or myself) at lunch time.

2. I wait until the tank is *well* below a quarter of a tank before I refill.

3. I'm a really crappy driver for two days of every month. On those two days I'm really creative and funny, but really distracted... so there's certain things that I just don't See when driving. Like other cars that are coming in my direction when I turn out of a parking lot, for instance. I try to avoid driving on those days - but this is not always possible. Sorry about that.

4. I still have my Christmas tree up and decorated. At this point it has stopped being a matter of sentimentality and more a matter of anxiety-produced avoidance; I'm afraid that my trash collector will refuse to take it, and that it will just get added to the Much Too Much Brush and Deadwood in our back yard.

5. We watch American Idol religiously in our house. We have done so since the very first day of the very first season. We can't help ourselves, even though we spend much of the time gripping our heads in order to keep the damage contained in the eventuality that they explode. We expect this to happen at any minute.

6. Centipedes make me hysterical. I kill them myself, but I take much too much grim satisfaction in it - rather like the peasants took in hunting down Frankenstein's monster. I mash them until their little legs float away. And then I laugh triumphantly, ha HA!! Vampire and Pirate tend to very quietly edge away from me when I do this.

7. I always remonstrate with the Pirate and Vampire about the way they torture the cat by waking her up and scroofling her whenever she gets really settled somewhere. But secretly I think it's funny.

8. I feel very anxious about the way that The Yarn Harlot keeps saying that all knitters look at the back/inside of other knitters' products in order to judge the finishing. I'm a middling-decent knitter, but my finishing skills... well, they suck. Which may be why I have so much trouble actually completing any of my knitting projects. As long as they are UFO's, they don't need to be Finished. (please don't tell me to pay someone else to do it... if I could afford that, I'd be using that money to buy more yarn, so I *still* wouldn't be able to afford it)

9. I've got too many addictions at the moment. I've got so many that I'm feeling guilty about neglecting some of my addictions because I'm spending too much time with other addictions. When my anxiety about this gets too great, I distract myself by adopting a new addiction.

10. I actually think that this is relatively healthy behavior. Which should make you really worry about my relatives.

January 24, 2006

Minnesota Stoicism: Weather Wars

(this lifts heavily from my comments to Crazy Aunt Purl, who asked if Minnesotans love and discuss their regional cuisine in the tender yet obsessive manner that Southerners do)

Don't let Minnesotans fool you. We love our hot dishes, yes. Hot dishes are a regional specialty - the 'homier' (heavier) they are, the better we like 'em. When away from home we crave our lefse, and cheese curds, and whatever gawdawful thing we ate as kids. But it's NOT THE SAME as the way the Southerners love their regional foods.

We save that sort of intensity for our obsessive love/hate relationship with the weather. Temperature, humidity level, snowfall - we've got decades and decades of it stored up in our heads. Real Minnesotans remember snowstorms that occurred while they were still in the womb. I, personally, recall in micro-detail several weather occurances that were experienced by my grandmother in her youth, a century ago.

There is nothing more obnoxious than a Minnesotan in a weather pissing contest. You can't win. Relocated Minnesotans reminisce together over how deep the snow drifts were when they were kids, compare how close they've come to standing in the eye of a tornado, and count each other's fingers and toes. They pride themselves in an unbearably smug-yet-laconic manner on their unflappability in the face of the weather crises of their adopted states/countries.

"Oh, this bit of damp breeze is a *hurricane*? Huh. A bit inconvenient, I s'pose, but nothing to close the schools over..."

Our weather is *always* colder, hotter, more humid, more dry, more unreliable and more miserable than yours.

You can keep your Grits and your Pecan Pie. *I* ran out of candy during the Great Halloween Blizzard of '91...

January 23, 2006

Olympic Report #1

I found my entry on the Olympic Knitting list of entrants, and... well, it was slightly heavy on the vowels. The Vampire read it out loud, and it was basically the soundtrack for a movie where someone climbs over the top of a mountain and discovers that the other side isn't *there*.

Eileee.... *n* (thud)

It was a significant indicator of my state of mind that I didn't find this amusing enough to mark with even a tiny, slightly hysterical giggle. I was too busy trying to find some magical escape from the Monstrous SpiderWeb of Doom that I've made for myself. What was I thinking?

I, personally, blame the acrylic. I've been breathing Natural Fibres for too long, and the change in atmospheric conditions caused by the Mutant Caterpillar has obviously inflicted some sort of knit-induced brain damage.

It's my own fault. I volunteered to participate in the Red Scarf Project in the first place, when I knew it required the use of non-natural fibres. This fact could probably be used in a court of law, in order to suggest that the brain damage had occurred prior to the advent of the Mutant Caterpillar, but I maintain that the impulse was born of lingering Holiday Spirit ("the Christmas Pudding Defense").

I suspect that the Tree was sending me subliminal messages.

The following is my proof that It Was the Acrylic What Done It:

1. I entered Michael's, a heavily Acrylic-laden atmosphere, in order to buy a skein of red acrylic yarn per the RSP instructions.

2. I left Michael's with a skein of red AND a skein of white. This was the first sign that something had already gone horribly wrong.

3. Knowing that time was limited, I decided that rather than searching through Michael's list of patterns for scarves, or any of the several pattern websites, or even through my many knitting books, I would try out a few different stitches, do some swatches, see if I could find something fun to do. I spent three of my limited RSP days busily swatching away, frogging and disposing of various clever but unusable plans.

4. Still knowing that time was limited, I decided that rather than follow a pattern or do something familiar (like cables, for instance), I would use this as an opportunity to learn something new. Mosaic knitting, that looked like fun. I found a stitch pattern I liked. Sure, it warped the material, and would have to be knitted at a double length so that it would have two 'right' sides, which means it would need stitching *and* blocking. I loathe stitching, and loathe blocking even more, but it was for a Good Cause, right? Sure.

5. Knowing that I had only one needle of the correct size, I decided that I would try knitting the scarf in the round *lengthwise*, even though I suspected that the needle I had was not actually long enough to hold the requisite number of stitches.

6. I cast on 500 stitches, knit two rows before realizing that I actually needed 525 stitches, frogged the entire thing, cast on 525 stitches, and knit 5 rows before I admitted that there was no way that I'd be able to knit the whole thing on a needle that short. Frogged the thing again, and decided to knit it width-wise.

7. It is the 23rd, I *might* get this done by the 27th, it's a million miles long and I think I'm going to stitch it up, wash it, and get it blocked and dried and delivered to the bagel shop in two days. I also think that the red is not going to bleed into the white and turn it into a faded red and blotchy pink scarf with which no self-respecting college student would walk into even a well-darkened auditorium.

8. While in this delusional state, I decided that I would join the Olympic Knitting event.

9. Even though I love the Winter Olympics, and watch the skating and skiing and sledding events with nearly religious fervor, I decided that I was going to make this the moment that I would try to do LACE.

10. Lace, which I have never done. Lace, which requires blocking. Lace, which requires absolute attention to detail and UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should be attempted by an amateur who is simultaneously trying to count rotations in Michelle Kwan's triple salchow.

You see it, don't you? That I'm going down for the third time? That I shouldn't be allowed to cross the street by myself, let alone be allowed to set my own Knitting Agenda? Why did you let me do it?

You're in league with the tree, aren't you?

(excuse me, I'd better go outside and just breathe a little bit...)

January 21, 2006


For those who were interested, the Pirate is back to torturing The Cat, which means that although he still has some 'discomfort' (don't you want to break the nose of every doctor/dentist who lays claim to that particular outcome?) he is well on the Road to Recovery. The Cat says that when she grows up to be a Tiger, the first thing she's going to do is eat the Pirate for lunch.

And then she'll take a nap.

On the Fence II

Here are a few photos my father took of the Vampire's tournament.

Here is the Vampire, helping out a teammate.

Here is most of Minnesota Swordplay's High School Men's and Women's epee teams. I'm not entirely certain why the Vampire and his team Captain seem to be trying to pull off their teammate's head. The Captain is a very efficient sort of fellow, so I'm sure that whatever happened to the head, it was for the good of the team.

Here is the Vampire during a bout. All of the action shots came out blurry, but from this you can get the general idea. You'll know that you've got it if your impression of the general idea is "My, the Vampire certainly has big feet!"

January 20, 2006

Memory Lane

A big shout-out of thanks to Wordgirl for the trip down Memory Lane that she gave us today. If you want to come along, just click the heels of your black patent-leather Mary Janes and repeat after me: "There's no place like the school cafeteria..."

January 19, 2006

Vampire On the Fence

First of all, I'd like to thank all the people who took the time to comment on my Poll... I really appreciate it, and I will happily abide by your wishes and keep the format as is. Thanks!

Thanks particularly to Lady Blue and Cheryl for speaking up - it's nice to hear new voices. I especially appreciate Cheryl's input; I suspect she gets way too much of me already in my BossyBoots mode, so it takes real bravery (or masochism) to voluntarily expose herself to *more* of my abuse blatherings in this way!

On to the News Portion of our show:

The Vampire had his first tournament of the year today, and was very nervous. This was understandable, since his Tuesday night class/practice was cancelled nearly two months ago, and the only other fencing class available runs at exactly the same time as his Guthrie acting class. This has been a huge and painful sacrifice for him, since he loves fencing and his favorite set of friends (his Gaming group) are also in the Saturday fencing class... but the Guthrie class is an unprecedented opportunity, and so in the end the fencing had to take second place.

So the poor kid had to go to the tournament having not had a minute of practice for two months. And to top it all off, when he got there it turned out that the wiring on his epee was broken, and he had to use an unfamiliar weapon - one with a different balance and weight to the one he's accustomed to.

Given the pressures and situation, he did very well and won one of his three bouts against a strong team. He and his friends won the Men's Epee competition, and his team (Minnesota Swordplay) also won most of the other competitions today, as well. So the Vampire is feeling fairly set up in himself and his team, and is hopeful that they will have a better showing against their next competitors than they did last year. Tuesday night practice is rumored to begin again in February, so hopefully he'll get at least some coaching and practice in before the next two tournaments. Keep your fingers crossed!

On an unrelated subject, I finally used up my gift card money and got a copy of Charlene Schurch's "Sensational Knitted Socks". I don't think the instructions make as much sense as the ones in Ann Budd's "Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns", but it has some interesting stitch pattern information, had information on how to make toe-up socks, and had a nice clear explanation of Mosaic Knitting. So I'm happy. :)

The giant mutant caterpillar that is my Red Scarf Project is coming along... I'm not *entirely* sure that this is a good thing. I don't want the recipient to have to do major blocking every time they wash the stupid thing, and so far it is looking pretty labor-intensive. We'll see what happens when I wash it.

Speaking of which, I'd better go to it. Only ten days or so until I have to get it to the dropoff!

January 18, 2006


I've noticed in my new bloglines account that this blog design ends up with an annoyingly pale font in the feed there, and I'm a bit concerned about my few subscribers going blind in trying to read it.

This brings up an issue that I've been chewing on, which is my feeling that this particular light lettering against dark page design may be easier on the eye according to my opthalmologist (you'll notice that I've recently settled on a small set of font colors that I'm using pretty regularly, in my belief that they are a bit less jarring to the eye than the ones available on the pre-set color palette offered on the Blogger toolbar), and it definitely makes a better frame for the occasional photo, but I worry that it *may* be annoying to many people, and turn away readers who otherwise might take the time to stop and chat a while. Or at least read a while.

So I'm considering switching over to a more standard, simple design with the dark-font-on-light-page format. But it will mean spending a serious amount of time copying and pasting and fiddling around in order to get the old entries arranged on the new format, so I don't want to bother if it won't make much difference to my readers.

So - what do you think? I would *truly* appreciate votes from anyone who has an opinion, even if you're generally not the kind of reader who makes comments - just a note in the comments saying 'change' or 'don't change' would help a lot!

Thanks for your assistance in this - I *hate* making decisions...

Made You Look...

Ha! Fooled you, didn't I? You thought I was going to actually *write* something worth reading.

Nope. I am just Checking In.

But as long as I'm here, let me say a couple things:


Dear Pirate:

Thank you for staying in bed for nearly two days, even if your reasons had more to do with the schedule of the National Football League than with being a rational human being with a giant bleeding incision. I'll take my blessings where I find them.

I do NOT thank you for scaring me silly by picking up that carton of soda cans. Stop that.

Oh, yeah... love you, and everything. Whatever.


Dear Vampire:

Thank you for sitting still and not protesting (much) when your parents decided to Tag Team you into submission with the whole Studying For Life lecture, and for lying yourself blue in the face by protesting that your eyes were NOT glazing over and that you DID understand that what we were saying was important. I'm glad to see that you are developing a few survival skills.

Thank you also for voluntarily using your Christmas Gift Card for buying that SAT study guide when you could have used it for a really cool Poker set without incurring another lecture. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and refrain from assuming that the reason you did this is because you were with your very studious and ambitious girlfriend at the time. I will instead pretend that you did it for yourself. (No, I'm not giggling... my throat tickles. Or something.)

My gratitude is equal to my determination not to let you off the hook. Get used to the books, buddy, or get used to not having a Social Life.

Oh, yeah... love you, and everything. Riiiiiiiight...


Dear Red Scarf Project:

Don't think I am oblivious to your devious and hideous plot. I see what you are doing, and I am not going to let it stop me. I am going to stitch you up, and then I'm going block you, even if it means that I have to pin every stitch down flat. I'll sleep on the floor and pin you to the mattress if I have to. So you keep on looking like a mutated catterpiller, mister, and see where it gets you. I've dealt with tougher customers than you. If I can control 35 kindergarten kids in a Science Museum, I can control you. But I don't have to love you.


Dear Cat:

I'm sorry that your meal was two minutes late today - I will try not to let that happen again. That said, please stop eating my hair while I am knitting. It may be a reasonable form of retribution, but I'm reasonably certain that it's not good for your digestive system. Anybody who produces hairballs that impressive should probably not add hair that measures two feet in length to the mix.

I won't embarrass you by declaring my affection. But you know what I mean.

January 16, 2006

Flouting Fashion Rules

Okay, I'm ready for those nice men to come in with the white jacket with the looooong sleeves now.

I am finally on my way with the stupid Red Scarf Project (great Charity Knit, stupid designer/me).

It's not only that the scarf is unnecessarily complicated and will require lots of STITCHING (I've mentioned that my stitching is worse than my surgeon's was for my recent surgery, didn't I?). That's bad enough.

But it will also require BLOCKING. Which I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to. And possibly Fringe Making. Ditto.

Really, I think the only way I could make this project more complex in its process is by insisting on knitting it up on The Cat's back claws. Yes, I am quite aware that she's unlikely to cooperate. My point.

So. Having set myself on this perilous and insane course, and knowing that I really should find and finish the Pirate's sweater, what do I plan to do when I'm done with this scarf?

I'm going to join the Knitting Olympics, of course.

I haven't decided what I'm going to knit. It's got to be lace - I have that ball of handpainted laceweight just sitting there, and I can't afford to buy enough yarn for a sweater, even if I completely deplete my stash of Koigu.

Right. Lace. What's the problem?

Just because I hate blocking? And because my one and only attempt at lace so far was a simple one, and encompassed only a few inches of sock leg (and didn't need blocking, coincidentally)?

Pish, I laugh at danger and scoff at the Fates.

Bring on that jacket. I'm not afraid to wear white after Labor Day...

January 15, 2006


I got tagged!

Four Jobs You've Had

1. Comedia Del'Arte actress for RenFest.
2. I didn't accept, but I once accidentally applied for a job as a scheduler for a 'Companion' service, and was offered the 'position'.
3. Owned a F/SF/Children's Book/Gift/Art store.
4. Counselor for local Sexual Violence Center.

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over

1. Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet
2. African Queen
3. Start the Revolution Without Me
4. Harold & Maude

Four Places You've Lived

1. In a friend's 'carriage house', where the mice had *colds* and exploded all night.
2. Next to the landlord's apartment - he practiced fencing in the hallway every day.
3. In an apartment where I called the landlady "That Woman"... she snuck into my apartment every day to close my windows and turn up my heat, I came home and opened all my windows and turned the heat down. Every day. Including weekends. She had to have been watching me so that she could run in the second I left the building. At least once she slipped in while I was collecting my laundry from the basement.
4. In the same room as my sister for 17 years, and for that I should still be getting Veteran's Benefits.

Four TV Shows You Love To Watch

1. Firefly (okay, it's not current, I don't care, I love it)
2. Gilmore Girls and the new 'Relations' - they should count as being the same: "Neurotic and fast-speaking gals with high IQ's squeak amusingly about their privileged lives"
3. Frontline, American Experience, Lehrer News Hour - PBS documentaries and news shows mostly Rock
4. Secrets of the Dead, Nova, Nova Science Now - the PBS science shows are an endless source of amusement, outrage, fascination and dread. Love 'em

Four of Your Favorite Books

1. anything at all by Jane Austen, but my softest spot is for Northanger Abbey
2. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman - You killed my boredom. Prepare to laugh.
3. The Collected Works of Robert Service, and/or Billy Collins - Sometimes only good poetry really hits the spot
4. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, illustrated by Adrienne Segur - the stories are well chosen and well told, and the illustrations are awe-inspiring. A poll by Terri Windling (author and editor of many collections of fantastic fiction) found that this book has inspired more of our modern Fantasy writers and artists than any other. There's a reason for that.

Four Places You've Been On Vacation

1. Europe (3 months - Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, not in that order)
2. Canada (Vancouver, Toronto)
3. The Boundary Waters (Canada & MN)
4. All over the US, except the southern coastal states, California, Alaska and Hawaii.

Four Websites You Visit Daily

1. Lots of blogs
2. My Aspergers/Homeschooling Board
3. Google
4. Wikipedia

Four of Your Favorite Foods

1. Bouja (no, you *don't* know what I mean) and potato dumplings
2. Indian, specifically Tandoori chicken with raita, or my curried chicken
3. French, esp. seafood and/or escargots
4. Tea with milk, accompanied by fyrstekake

Four Places You Would Rather Be Right Now

1. Walking on the Irish seacoast, in a nice fresh breeze, wearing a handknit sweater
2. Sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Paris, watching people go by
3. Walking at random in the Art Institute of Chicago (the Louvre wouldn't be bad, either)
4. In the Ordway, watching Les Mis... oh, wait, I'm doing that on the 28th... (gloating? me?)

Four Bloggers You Are Tagging

1. Sis, who doesn't blog but should
2. Tink
3. Mrs. Pao
4. Anne, who doesn't blog but I'd like to know the answers

Be Very Suspicious...

I've had to frog the entire scarf *again*, and this time I was at least 1/3 finished... I thought.

I think this yarn has it in for me, I really do.

If you hear that I was found laid out near The Basket, with suspicious ligature marks around my neck, tell the Police that it was the Red One that did it.

And don't believe its protests of innocence. You watch... when it's brought to the Witness Stand, it'll plead the Fifth.

January 14, 2006

Pointless Updates

The Pirate is doing fairly well today, after a couple rather rough days which weren't helped by his refusal to do as he is told. Last night and today he stayed down more, and today he was bleeding much less.

I suppose it would be bad form to say "Toldjaso"?

I'd like to extend my thanks to the NFL, without whom I would have been unlikely to give this happy report. It's much easier to keep your husband on the couch when the Playoffs are on the telly all day and evening!

On other fronts, the news is less unmitigatedly cheerful. I have been casting on and knitting up the first few inches of my Red Scarf Project for the last few days... and frogging, and recasting, and reknitting. And frogging... ad nauseum.

I'm starting to think that the Knitting Gods/Goddesses are trying to tell me something. Something like 'this yarn SUCKS'. Or maybe that I should give my designing aspirations another good long look. From a lot further away. Maybe the next state over.

I *think* that I have figured things out, and should have a cute project worked out... but first I have to cast on nearly 550 stitches. And I don't think this circular is long enough and I might have to buy another Addi that I probably won't ever use for any project after this and so is a complete waste of my limited funds.

If *this* attempt doesn't work out right I'm going to have to be watched carefully for a day or two, to make sure that I don't hang myself with a skein of red yarn.

Yeah, I LOVE knitting. Because it's so relaxing, don'tcha know...

January 13, 2006

Just Bother Me, Okay?

The Pirate is trying to Not Be A Bother, and he's driving me CRAZY.

Within hours of surgery I caught him in the kitchen, all hunched over, trying to refill his ice bag himself. I had to nearly carry him back to bed by force. In less than twenty-four hours, I've already been reduced to a bundle of quivering nerves, and there are nearly two weeks to go. I don't know if we're both going to survive this ordeal.


Dear Light of my Life:

What, exactly, was unclear about the doctor's order that for the next two weeks you aren't to get off the couch except to go to the bathroom or to bed? Is there something not-quite-clear about the message you get from an incision that keeps opening and bleeding every time you get up? Why is it so hard to understand that it is a greater Bother for me to have to constantly monitor you in order to catch you before you re-injure yourself doing something that I could easily do for you, than it would be if you simply *asked* for what you need?

Get it through your head: you have never, nor will you ever, get points from me for being a Tough Guy. That is not why I married you.

And you have never been a convenience to me. Heaven knows it's bother enough to go around behind you picking up everything that you drop right where you lose interest in it, and you have been doing that for the last quarter of a century.

Now is your opportunity, so grab it. Enjoy your brief moment of glory, when it is appropriate to be one with the Lilies of the Field. How often are you going to get a chance to be Merely Decorative, without being resented?

Don't worry, it won't be long before I'm kicking your butt off the couch and demanding that you take the garbage out. For now, please just Bother me, okay?

January 11, 2006

Cute Pirate Tricks

In this case, the Cute Pirate Trick is that he is actually *seeing* through those lenses, and through the eyes behind them. A few weeks earlier he had been nearly completely blind. It's been a tough few years, and I am unbelievably grateful that we were lucky enough to finally find the right doctor. Dr. Carpel, I love you. But not as much as I love the Pirate.

January 10, 2006

Open Mic Night at the ER

Yah, our boy is Gifted…

Last night our son made a whole series of brilliant decisions, which ended in our lovely stay in the Emergency Room until the wee small hours of the morning.

Being the King of Drama, he of course used the opportunity to make an Audience of the ER staff, and had them In Stitches.

(Sorry, couldn’t resist… I’m really, really tired)

So here’s the story:


Setting: Quiet early evening in small urban household. The parents are happily settled in to watch television, the Teen of Doom is playing a Green Day cd in his room. The parents are tuning this out. They frankly would rather not listen to what is going on in the teenager's room. Innocent fools...


Against my repeated orders to the contrary, the Vampire swings his ‘quarterstaff’ (long pole) around in his tiny bedroom, practicing his moves. In case you are keeping track, this is Brilliant Move #1.

In the process, he shatters the fixture and light bulb on his bedroom ceiling.

It is night, and he has no other light source in his tiny room, so it is dark and he can’t see.

Undeterred by this circumstance, he decides to ‘save Mom and Dad the trouble’ (gee, thanks) by replacing the bulb himself. In the dark. So that he can’t see details.

Details such as that there are still shards of glass attached to the remains of the bulb that is still lodged in the socket.

He decides that a sock around his hand is the sole appropriate safety tool for the job.

He doesn’t think to turn off the wall switch. His parents are grateful that they didn’t have to take a Fried Child to the ER.

He stands DIRECTLY UNDER the fixture during his attempt to get the remainder of the bulb out of the socket.

The Vampire does not wear glasses.

You can guess the next part.

He comes out to the living room, RUBBING HIS EYE (hard!) and complaining that ‘something’ is in it. At this point we are innocently unaware that anything has happened in his room. I casually order him to the bathroom, which has a handy bright light source. I assume we are complaining about a speck of dust, or perhaps an allergic reaction of some sort.

I see A PIECE OF GLASS lodged in the white of his eye.

I get an edited version of the story from the Light of My Life. Since the Pirate’s eye condition means that we have lots of Saline Solution laying about the house, it occurs to us to flush the Vampire's eye with it. The glass remains stubbornly in place.

Consultation calls ensue… insurance company, admit nurses to urgent care and the Children’s Hospital. It is decided that it would be safest, although of course much more expensive, if the Vampire were brought to the ER.

We leave for the ER.

Partway there the Vampire thoughtfully murmurs, “Maybe I shouldn’t have left that message for (Vampire's devoted girlfriend).”

A bit of detective work reveals that somehow he had time to privately leave the following message on his girlfriend’s phone, no doubt in tragically fading tones:

“I won’t be able to talk to you later, love, I have to go to the Emergency Room. (click).”

Yes, he knows how to milk a Dramatic Moment when it arises.

We arrive at the ER, where the admittance nurse foolishly asks the Vampire what is wrong. Version #2 of the story is given… this one takes about 2 minutes, and is mildly amusing (“I’m Gifted”). He gets a chuckle. Unfortunately.

We are sent to the waiting room, where I argue with the Vampire for several minutes about calling his lady love and giving her a less dire picture of what is going on. He’d rather wait indefinitely until we know exactly what the prognosis is. I win this argument, and he calls the poor girl… who in her concern upon hearing his message, has left several panicked messages by phone and email addressed to myself. She has also called the Vampire’s doting grandparents.

She lets the Vampire know in no uncertain terms her opinion of people who leave cryptic terrifying messages on answering machines.

I call the aforementioned Panicked Doting Grandparents, and promise to call again with updates.

3 Emergency Victims Staff call us for a more detailed account of the Vampire’s tale of woe. The Vampire, having now assessed the room, recounts Version #3 of his Tale of Disaster. It has grown to a 5 minute monologue. All three suckers laugh heartily, one actually almost falling off his chair. The Vampire, unfortunately, is encouraged.

We wait some more.

We are called to an office, where we talk to their billing/accounting people. There are three. Version #4 has grown to a 10-minute One Act Play, which I try to squash a few times, to no avail. Mild laughter, some looks of puzzlement, one uneasy glance at me. They may be under the impression that the child has been dosed with something. They are partially correct. The Vampire is Drunk With Power.

More waiting.

We are called to an examination room. Three different techs show up individually to question us; all three carry clipboards, but suspiciously, only the first one writes anything down. Version #4 is repeated three times, with some extra embroidering.

More waiting, this time for more than an hour. The Vampire has lost his audience, and he is bored. He makes himself comfortable on the exam table (the Vampire’s compliments to Children’s Hospitals, and gives their exam tables a 5-star rating), and entertains himself by playing an electronic game. He holds it above his head, so as to position his eyes in such a way that the glass embedded in his eye does not irritate his lower eyelid. The Vampire complains that this position significantly impedes his gameplay.

The Doctor comes in, and asks the Vampire what happened. The Vampire, who has been waiting for this moment, draws a deep breath, chuckles in anticipation, and launches into Version #5. Three minutes later we haven’t gotten past the description of his ‘quarter staff’ and the size of his room. I interrupt, and give the doctor the 30-second version of the entire tale.

The exam ensues, during which time it is discovered that the Vampire actually has multiple shards of glass in his eye.

I will not detail the treatment, except to say that the Vampire thought that the part with the fluorescein and blacklight thing was really cool, and thought it a shame that he couldn’t use it as a special effect for a movie… and that when the treatment for abstracting the glass from his eye began, much dramatic whining ensued. If you can imagine that one voice could do a creditable job of imitating Gollum’s cry of “… it BURNS”, and follow it up by a lengthy surreal improvisational version of Darth Vader moaning about his eye being frozen, you have an approximate idea of the performance.

The doctor congratulates the Pirate and I on our initial home treatment; luckily we had flushed his eye with lots of saline, so the glass had mostly been ‘swimming’ in the edges and corners of his eye, instead of scraping around over his pupil. His lens is okay, although he has lacerations and scrapes on his cornea and a ‘flap’ where that larger piece of glass had lodged. To the Vampires combined relief and disappointment, he needs no further treatment, other than antibiotic ointment to be applied to his eye. I’m sure that it will be fun to be his Captive Audience for that.

And he has to wear an eye patch at night. Yo ho ho...

The Vampire’s grandfather has offered to corral us a Parrot.

January 08, 2006

Once Upon a Time...

A long, long time ago, in Pre-Historic Times (or at least Pre-PC), people used a certain primitive tool called the 'typewriter'.

These 'typewriters' were big and heavy and awkward, and they made lots of noise, but they seemed an improvement on writing with sticks in the sand. This was especially the case in Northern climes, where the ground freezes up in the winter... snow is an unreliable medium for communication.

There were certain advantages to typewriters. Once you had one, when you tapped out your message on the keyboard the typewriter actually printed the letters onto paper as you went; nobody had to wait in line for the printer, or worry about paper jams, or had to take their equipment to the repair shop when the needles from their Christmas tree got into the works.

Times were simpler then.

But there were disadvantages to typewriters, too. There was no Internet (gasp!) or Conference Calling, and so it was difficult for groups of people to communicate with each other when they were geographically separated.

That made The People sad.

It made the Geeks and Nerds *particularly* sad, because they had trouble communicating in person, as well. Which pretty much left them sitting alone in dark corners, fondling their Pocket Protectors and Official Star Trek Fan Club membership pins.

But the Geeks were clever, and the Nerds were creative, and they came up with a solution to their tragic isolation. They began publishing independent magazines, which they sent out to a number of subscribers, who largely consisted of other Geeks and Nerds who shared similar interests. These were called variously "'Zines'" (zeens) or "Fan 'Zines", and they were largely printed up by a mysterious and rather messy blue process called "Mimeo", which involved typing onto a special set of treated papers that could be attached to a machine that would create multiple gradually-fading copies. These papers gave off a sour smell that Old Geeks still remember with nostalgia today, similar to what they experience when they think of the smell and taste of Library Paste.

You youngsters are tragically deprived.

The important thing to remember about the Mimeo process, Dear Readers, is that the sheets that The People typed on were relatively expensive, and that it was not possible to erase or 'white out' mistakes. If a mistake was made, one had to either re-type the entire page, or strike it out.

The Geeks and Nerds would type up contributions to a particular 'Zine and mail or deliver their sheets to a Central Geek who had access to a Mimeo machine (this was usually an employee of a school or someone who had access to the office during off-hours). This Central Geek would print up, hand-collate, and staple enough copies of the 'Zine to be mailed out to all the Subscribers.

Many 'Zines consisted of two parts.

One part would be 'official' contributions, which would vary depending on the common interests of the subscribers of the particular 'Zine. These could consist of articles, stories, poems, songs, rants about whether George Takei was a sucky choice for Guest Speaker at the next Con - whatever was of import to the subscribers.

The second part would consist of comments from the various subscribers, and were generally addressed to the *other* subscribers. Sometimes these comments would be general, but often they were specifically addressed to a particular fellow subscriber, in response to a comment made by that subscriber in a previous issue. It was in these Comments sections that the strikeout came to be used as a (supposed) form of High Humor, such as "John - George Takei is a Son of a Bitch Grand Fellow, and we should certainly tar and feather support the Con Committee in their assinine well-considered decision to waste our money invite him to attend as Guest Speaker. Please convey to the Chair my deepest loathing and white hot hatred gratitude and appreciation."

The Alert Reader will have come to two conclusions by this point in our story:

1. The Geeks and Nerds who published these 'Zines had designed a form of printed communication that seems suspiciously similar to that used in the modern electronic Bulletin Board/Email/Elist. This should not be surprising. Remember who *designed* the modern electronic Bulletin Board/Email/Elist. Duh.

2. The author seems suspiciously conversant with Geek and Nerd history.

Umm, yah, there's a reason for that...

January 07, 2006

In the Wee Sma's

I'm going to babble like an idiot for a minute, here. Just take note of the time at which I am writing this, then forgive and forget. But it's at insomniac moments like this that I am able to appreciate things fully, without the interference of sanity or a sense of proportion. So I just want to take a moment to appreciate this:

1. Sis, who is a truly wonderful human being and a bit of a nudge, took the time to cough up the html secret of the strikeout to me. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

2. I have discovered the awesome powerfulness of my Statcounter account (go on, try it, the first one's free... you know you want to). I have been obsessively visiting my account's Summary page in order to see whether someone had accidently stumbled over my blog address in the last few minutes/hours and downloaded a page before s/he came to her/his senses. I've been checking up on this far more often than anyone was visiting my blogsite - I'm a bit wired about new toys, and it takes me a while to settle in, gain a more balanced perspective, get bored and drop the entire production. (Look! In the time it took me to write this entry, someone has visited *and downloaded two pages*! I Rock!!)

But this toy turns out to be a lot more complex and interesting than I'd thought. Hey, lookie here on the sidebar, in plain view, a menu that I'd never bothered to even glance at! Buttons to click! And they even DO stuff! Like tell me how many individual return readers I've got, and where they come from and how often they've visited and what website they linked from (Thanks, Chris!) and... and...

Okay, now I'm a little creeped out. Because this makes me realize just how much information the two billion sites I randomly visit in a regular month have about ME. I also realize that some of my regularly visited bloggers can tell what a spaz I am, because they can see that I visit their site, accidently close the window, visit again and immediately accidently close the window again, reload and hit the wrong archive link, go back to the original page, accidently close the window again...

3. I don't know whether I should be flattered or a little bit scared that some people (I won't name names) load my blog and then apparently leave it up on their screen for hours and hours and hours. Either some of you are REALLY slow readers, or somebody has a crush on either the Vampire or his girlfriend, or I am a *lot* funnier than I thought. And I'm pretty sure it isn't the last one. Unfortunately.

4. Someone from Estonia has visited my site 3 separate times! In spite of the fact that I don't have a camera and so have not been able to include pictures of most of my Finished Objects on this site. Estonia! I am not worthy. Really... just looking at the cover of Nancy Bush's book, Folk Knitting in Estonia, makes me a bit faint (argh, another unavailable book to put on my Wish List - I am *never* going to catch up, I can feel books going out of print as I type).

5. I am up much too late, and since I am off the caffeine, I am not entirely certain that when I get up in the morning this entry will actually turn out to have been written in English, rather than some trance-induced form of Klingon. I'd better go now, before I do something more dangerous than drooling on my keyboard.

I think I'll go listen to Cast-On.

January 06, 2006

Resolutions Report

I only have 1-2 days left (depending on how you stretch it) before my New Year's Resolutions deadline, and I haven't been doing very well. Really, I'm shocked. Well, okay, I'm a little surprised, although 'shock' may be stretching nearly as far as that '2 days left' thing.

But I have a VERY GOOD EXCUSE*. (I am, perhaps, better at excuses than I am at any other activity, but we'll let that pass for now... this really was a good excuse)

So far, here's how I'm doing:

#1: Ha! Got this one licked! Didn't even start. Yay, me. We'll break this one again next week, just for fun.

#2: I actually did weave an overlooked end on a sock that I had finished in early December. The other ends had already been woven in, so obviously this lone end was an oversight - I noticed it yesterday when I was peering at it intensely, trying to remember which sized needle I had been using, in order to knit its twin. Does that count? I have otherwise been cavalier about end-weaving, and have NOT woven in the ends on my many UFO's.

Heck, I haven't even managed to *find* all my critical UFO's - the dreaded Iron Aran Sweater of Doom, which I have been knitting for the Pirate for several years now, has not as yet been unearthed from The Basket's lower depths. I'm a little bit afraid of what I might find there, actually... and what I'm *not* going to find there (the pattern for the IASD, and the notes for the changes I was making to the pattern for the IASD, for instance).

I am ignoring my (more important) projects in favor of obsessive knitting of socks. I've got a good excuse for that, too... my poor mom's ankle incisions are torturing her, and she doesn't have socks that are soft enough or wide enough for her poor swollen ankle and foot. I must make very very soft socks for the invalid. Suggestions welcome (see 'comments' board... and while you're there, vote on whether the Forgotten End Sock counts as a UFO).

#3: So far I've been unaided in my occasional brief stabs at Housekeeping (mostly consisting of one bout of toilet scrubbing, accompanied by unflattering comments regarding the UnFair Sex). But I can't rest on my laurels; tomorrow is Cleaning Day, so we'll see if we can maintain our record in this category. The Pirate was so happy with the results of the Pre-Susan cleanup that he threatened me with regular cleaning assistance. But he may have been full of Christmas Spirits at the time, and he's had a couple weeks in which to regain his sanity - so I still have high hopes.

#4: Not even a squeak of ambition in the direction of the back yard. I think this one's a gimme...

#5: Poverty has prevented me from weakness in this area... but even though the Pirate's paycheck (which came in today) won't come anywhere near catching us up, and we are still going to be subsisting on eggs and pasta if the money owed me doesn't show up soon (if one more person tells me how lucky I am to be working independently from home, I'm going to break their nose), I may manage to buy something at the LYS down the street within the deadline... remember those socks for my mom. See what I mean about being good at (finding) excuses?

#6: Tree still up and decorated. What's the chances that it'll come down this weekend? Another vote: if the Pirate *does* take this down (it got in his way yesterday while he was on some quest or other), does that count as 'helping with cleaning'?

#7: Budget? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA *snort*

#8: Really, stop... my stomach hurts, and the Vampire is bound to come in and ask why I am sitting out here giggling hysterically to myself, and I'm pretty sure that telling him would skew the results.

#9: Oh, this one was too easy. I broke it somewhere around 3 minutes after I wrote it. Just a few minutes ago the Vampire was muttering vile threats under his breath because he'd finished his schoolwork early, and was rewarded by my assigning him the task of unearthing his Calculus text and doing a couple chapters of that. The search alone will keep him busy for an hour. I can't help myself...

#10: I don't know if there's been a day this week when I *haven't* broken this one. I'm old and creaky and out of shape, and I have nerve damage in one leg; why, then, can't I learn not to perch cross-legged on any available surface, when I KNOW it inevitably leads to disaster? Why can't I learn to look where I'm going? It's a mystery, and part of my charm (I'm very entertaining, as long as it's not *you* that I'm tripping over, bumping into, or falling against).

Well, now that I'm looking at the report, it's not as bad as I thought. My mistake was in thinking that this was going to be too easy. Obviously it's going to be a challenge to break *all* of my resolutions in the remaining day or two, but I'm ready to give it my best. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

* the excuse is that my paychecks managed to be 'lost' somewhere in the system last month, which also happened to be the month that my dad and sister both celebrate their birthdays AND the month in which Christmas (with all its necessary gift and/or food and wine giving, decorating needs - trees are expensive now - and guest entertainment costs) happens to fall. We consequently apologize to various Utility and other companies who haven't gotten their expected payment... but if it makes you all feel better, we've been living primarily on eggs, pasta, and cheese products for the last two weeks. For those of you who are paying attention, this 'diet' does help me with one of my Resolution issues. It hasn't been so helpful for my waistline (where did it go? I know I saw it around here a few years ago) or my... plumbing. 'Nuff said.

January 05, 2006

Parent Tricks #3: The Lawyer Rule

Sooner or later, your kid is going to turn into a Junior Lawyer. Not once, but several times over her/his growing years. Unless you've always wanted to be a judge on the Family Court circuit, this is going to be very, very annoying. Annoying in the way that an infected ingrown nail is annoying, or finding an angry swarm of nomadic hornets in your bathroom is annoying, or having a 10-inch chef's knife stuck in your neck is annoying (don't you just hate when that happens?)

We all expect and are prepared for the arguments that our Lawyer Child will make in order to be allowed to go somewhere s/he wants to go or do something s/he wants to do. The part that really gets up our nose, and which we usually are not prepared for, is the constant picking away at everything and anything that we say or do, having to explain and justify every little decision over and Over and OVER again until that chef's knife starts to look like our best anaesthetizing friend.

Now, you can grit your teeth and bear it. If you want to do that, I accept your decision. But don't expect me to follow you down that dark path, dear reader... There Be Monsters (and the nice men with the special long-armed jackets).

The Vampire showed a fine sense of the letter of the law when he was less than three years old.


Our little family was visiting my old and dear friend, whose beautiful son was ten months younger than the Vampire. The adult couples sat down in the cozy kitchen for a nice game of cards. My friend's son Max, who was barely verbal at that point but was already conversant with the devastating effectiveness of Tragedy Eyes, came running into the room with the news that "He hit me!"

We called our miscreant into the room, told him to stop hitting Max, and both boys cheerfully ran out of the room. Our game continued. For about two minutes. Again, Tragedy Eyes invaded our peace. "He hit me!" Again the Vampire was called to the carpet, and told in no uncertain terms that he will be In Trouble if he hits Max again. The Vampire trudges deterinedly out of the room, Max trailing merrily in his wake.

I'm not entirely sure we had another two minutes before the next advent of The Eyes. I'm pretty sure that my tone was not dulcet when I called my son back into the room.

"Stop hitting Max."

The budding attorney eyed me coolly.

"But I like hitting Max."

Okay. I admit that this took me aback a bit. Not the response I was expecting from a child who habitually admitted to, and sincerely apologized for, infractions that he hadn't even actually committed. So my response was a little flustered:

"Well, you can't."

Another long, cool appraisal from my darling boy, who was still a long, long way from being toilet trained.

"It is *possible*, so I can."


You see the problem. When the Vampire entered the first of his *real* Lawyer Phases, I spent a week or two going slowly Telltale-Heart-style mad. Until I thought up this Rule, which worked like a charm:

You may argue with something I say ONCE, and only once, per day. On that one issue I will promise to listen to your position very thoroughly, fairly, and open-mindedly, and will do everything I can to either agree with you, or to find a win-win compromise. HOWEVER, if after that one argument per day you make any other argument, knit-pick *or request*, my answer will *automatically* be in the negative, no matter how reasonable your position or request may be, and any whining, bugging, repeated questions etc will simply be ignored and/or you will be sent to your room, where you can pester yourself to your heart's content. So choose your battle very wisely, because you won't get any slack for the rest of the day.

My son, a kid with his eye on the main chance and a fine sense of Priorities, usually stopped Lawyering within a day or so - he'd 'save up' his one argument all day, for fear of not having it available when he really needed it, and usually ended up not using the opportunity at all.

Hooray for Sneaky Parent Tricks!

January 04, 2006

Knitting Tales: Sock Questions

My mom had some nasty surgery on her ankle a bit ago, and is looking for natural fiber socks that are *very* soft. She complains that she can feel the purl bumps on the bottoms of the socks I've knit from the various sock yarns... but right now her incisions are having lots of trouble with being rubbed raw by her commercially-knit socks.

Question 1: Any suggestions in terms of super-soft yarn that wouldn't pill/wear out too quickly on a sock? (I've knit some lovely cabled socks with 'Aran Cashmerino', but they pill and fall apart *much* too quickly). Something that would breathe, so that her feet will stay well-aired?

Question 2: I'm thinking of knitting a pair with the sole being in reversed stockinette, hoping that this might solve the 'bumpy' issue. What do you think?

Question 3: Should I knit in a tighter guage so as to minimize stitch size? Or should I knit more loosely, so as to make the stitches more 'squooshy', less defined?

Thanks in advance for suggestions!

January 03, 2006

The Drier Doesn't Just Eat Socks

I can’t understand it.

I know for a fact that within the last month I have twice noted that my deodorant was getting on the low side, and I have twice bought new sticks during random trips to Target Boutique. On one of those trips I actually bought TWO sticks. Somehow in the intervening time, ALL THREE sticks have disappeared. I’m pretty sure that the first one didn’t even make it out of the bag.

This would be marginally understandable if either of the men in my household (or The Cat) used Dove Sensitive Skin deoderant, but they don’t. They are Old Spice kinda guys (except The Cat – she uses Eau de Tuna).

Today I ran out of even the Dregs of the stick on my shelf… which inspired a desperate search similar to those depicted in the Indiana Jones movies. I wedged myself beneath the couch (“Indiana Jane and the Temple of Dust Bunnies”). I looked in the refrigerator (stop laughing – if you live in Minnesota and don’t keep your deodorant in the fridge during the summer, you are missing one of the simple joys in life). I looked in the box that holds our Christmas Ornaments (remembering that Target Bag, and thinking it may have been ‘misplaced’ during our flying pre-Susan cleanup). I turned the bathroom and my bedroom upside down and shook them.

No deodorant.

Does anyone have a clever idea? Other than going out into the ice and snow in order to buy a fourth stick, I mean?

Please send help… I just had to improvise, and although I love my husband, I don’t particularly enjoy smelling like him. Not to mention the laughability of linking me with anything remotely related to “Pure Sport”.

January 02, 2006

Tagged II

The delightfully evil Chris has done it again, and I *still* don't know enough bloggers independent of herself (she tagged more than 5 people, too, which adds insult to injury) to fully obey the rules of the game. I will count myself as one of her 'extras', so that I won't feel bad about somehow killing the Gauntlet.

Here is my list of 5 , as requested.

5 Weird Things About Me:

1. I dropped out of high school on Principle (I wanted a better education), got the Parent Advisory Committee disbanded by the School Board (I got them to want a better education for their kids), never got a h.s. degree, but still managed to get into college.

2. One of my Comfort Foods is peanut butter and bread-and-butter pickle sandwiches. Go ahead, try it. It's goooooood...

3. I love to argue, but I hate conflict.

4. I share musical tastes with my entire family. Which doesn't sound that weird, until you note that this includes: Classical, Celtic,
Latin, Folk, Jazz, Country, Indie, Metal (this one's limited for me, I admit), Blues, Reggae, Ethnic Rock/Pop, Opera, many types of Alternative, Emo, Gospel, Musical Theater... I could go on, but the list gets too long. And I managed to pass this taste (or lack thereof) on to the Vampire. Yay, me!

5. My Teenager thinks I'm Cool. Think about that.

January 01, 2006

New Years Resolutions

Who invented New Year’s Resolutions, anyway? I want to borrow my dad’s prettiest shotgun (yes, I said prettiest… the Professor has a collection of old guns that have gorgeously carved stocks, and they are things of beauty) and hunt him or her down.

Does anyone keep to their Resolutions for more than a month or so, tops?

I’m just going to drag out a few here for the sake of entertainment, and resolve to break them as soon as possible. Let’s see if I can get them all broken within a week. There’s a challenge I can relate to! I will update this post with reports on my progress as we go along. Do you think I can do it?


1. I will start up, and stick to, the new diet. In spite of the fact that no matter how long I stay on it and how much I lose (I’ve managed up to a year of serious dieting, folks, I’m no weenie), the moment I stop dieting I will balloon up to at least 10 pounds over the place I started. Because, you know, I never learn.

2. I will weave in the ends on all those UFOs in which the only thing stopping them from being actual items of clothing is the fact that they are imitating mutated alien-style octopi. I can report on this one right away. There is no way that I’m going to weave in the ends on even one UFO this week. I win!!! In order to make this one more fair, let’s have a vote: since I’ve actually been weaving in the ends on my projects as I’ve finished them during the last 3 months, should I count projects I am finishing up on this week? I know I’m going to finish at least one sock in the next couple days…

3. I will get the guys to help more with cleaning up around the house.

I crack myself up, sometimes…

4. I will get the guys to clean all the brush out of the back yard. HAHAHAHA… this shouldn’t count. It’s too easy.

5. I will not stash up any more sock yarn unless I have less than 5 skeins of sock yarn already in the basket. I will make it really challenging here, and not count the huge stock of Koigu as sock yarn, so I am (due to financial constraints and the necessity of getting yarn for the Yuletide Prezzies over the last two months, combined with a serious bout of obsessive public sock knitting) actually at least one skein down at this point. Getting sucked in to buying at least two skeins of yarn before the end of the week is going to take some serious lack of restraint. But I think I can do it, given the right incentive. After all, I have that new LYS that moved in ONLY THREE BLOCKS AWAY this past year…

6. I will get the Christmas tree un-decorated, properly packed away, and out to the garbage this week, instead of waiting until the week before Valentine’s Day.

7. I will stick to our budget.

8. I will not answer my son and husband on autopilot and at random when I am sitting at the computer.

9. I will resist the urge, when the Pirate and/or Vampire have done something helpful around the house, to reward them by finding more for them to do.

10. I will remember that I am not incorporeal: I will use the handrail when going down the front steps on icy days, I will remember not to bump my head on the @#*&@ water pipe when I go down to the basement, and when I have been sitting on the floor with my legs crossed for a long period of time I will remember to check to make sure that neither ankle has fallen asleep before I make the attempt to rise… especially when I’ve been sitting in a public place, like in front of the Knitting Book section, and I have a pile of heavy books in my arms.

Okay, is that enough to make a challenge, do you think?

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