Sunday, December 24, 2006

Not dead yet

Just terribly, terribly slack.

So slack that I have not finished the crocheted dress. I am halfway through the top, but once I got to that point, I lost the hook for a couple weeks at the bottom of my purse. Which means I have to work on something else. A whole lot of something elses, actually.

Pictures later. I need to get some coffee first. Who knew Vandermint packed this kind of hangover?

Certainly not me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sick... Again!

It seems that a month can't go by lately without me getting some virus. I wash my hands so much at work that you'd think I was OCD, but I still catch something. I need to stop working with people who have children under 5 yrs. old, the little germ factories, grumble grumble. These are the purple/green Artyarns Supermerino socks I started for myself and gave to my sort-of-mother-in-law. I've finally started a pair for myself that I'm determined to actually keep for myself - they're cream, black, and light green - but I don't have a picture of the one sock I've completed just yet.

The worst part about being sick the past two days is that I'm falling behind on my knitting / crocheting schedule. Sure, I'm nearly done with one of the flip-tops of the fingerless gloves / mittens I'm making (Sorry! No photo yet!), and I'm about an inch and half into the top of the crocheted dress... and I swatched for a crochet project I'm planning, and did a couple rows on a red Sockotta sock I'm working on, but that just means I can focus a couple minutes here and there. If I felt fine, and didn't have a pounding headache constantly, I'd have those mittens done, as well as half the top. *tortured sigh*

However, not being at work doesn't bother me in the slightest: I get sick pay.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Back of skirt

With the help of Flickr, here is a photo of the crocheted dress thus far:
skirt-back

Chibi for scale.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Crocheting Away

This, in case you didn't know, is the 1920's dress I am crocheting:
It's three pieces: top, back of skirt, and front of skirt...plus some sewing and garnishing. I was feeling panicky all week about whether I'd be able to meet the Dec. 14th deadline of the office holiday party, but I'm happy to say I am 1/3 done! ...give or take some sewing, etc.

Unfortunately, Blogger won't unload the photo I took.

I'll try to get it up in Flickr some time this week.

Really.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

This about sums it up.


Except, of course, that the test doesn't ask why you're paranoid.

I'd say my largest personality flaw is my desire to avoid confrontation and just get along. This involves not getting hit by cars, too. I'd say it's pretty natural for someone who doesn't believe in an afterlife to want to stay alive as long as possible, don't you?

I've only taken one other personality quiz on-line, the Harry Potter one, and I came out Severus Snape. Really, I'm not that bad, folks. Honest. Dumbledore ordered me to do it.

Easy One Skein Noro Hat


A very serious hat.

Materials: 1 skein Noro Silk Garden, 1 set 4.25 mm double-pointed knitting needles (or circulars), large darning needle.

Size: One Size

Gauge: 6s = 1” / 10 cm worked in 2x1 (k2, p1) rib, unstretched.

Body
CO 105s and join for working in round, being careful not to twist.
k1, p1, *k2, p1, repeat from * until last s in row, k1.
Repeat in established pattern until piece measures about 7 ½” (19 cm).
If using dpns, divide the stitches evenly onto two needles.
Kitchener* closed (I advise against binding off, since it uses up yarn that could go onto making pompoms.)

Pompoms
This is a great opportunity for beginning pompoms makers. Part of what I like about this hat is that the pompoms are not fat, fluffy, overeager things. They are wimpy pompoms, so don’t worry if your pompoms suck. I made my pompoms by wrapping the yarn around the end of a 2” / 4 cm wide needle gauge ten times, cutting the end, sliding the yarn carefully free and tying it tightly around the middle with a 4” / 10 cm length of yarn. I cut the loops of the “pompom”, threaded the ends of the tie onto a large needle and sewed it onto the tips of the hat. Then I did it again. Just about any other method can be used, provided you don’t run out of yarn.

* There are plenty of free tutorials on the web for either technique if you haven't done this before.

Hats! Hats! Hats!

Just because I'm not posting often does not mean I am not knitting, folks. I am a busy bee.

Especially where hats are concerned.

Basic black seaman's cap. Yes, another one. This one is in superwash merino for my friend, Bob, who was expecting one last winter before I was derailed by all that X-mas knitting. Sorry, Bob!

The only X-mas knitting I am doing this year (Really! I mean it!) is this cabled version of the seaman's cap for my dad, a project that has been largely motivated by my suspicion that my dad has not hand washed the seaman's cap I made him last year, but is still wearing it, nevertheless. This is a humanitarian effort.

If you're at all interested how I worked the cables, leave a comment and I'll post the instructions.

Other stuff
These are not the only hats I've made. I also made a hat from one skein of Noro Silk Garden which I am going to post separately with the pattern.

I'm also still working on the boyfriend sweater, which is an incredible bore. Endless black stockingette! Ugh. I will finish this thing, if just to have it over with finally.

Socks are also happening. The purple Artyarn socks are done, but not mailed, and I've made myself several socks that don't match eachother using the One Sock at a Time Theory of Sock Making that I got from Jeanette this summer - that is, embrace your reluctance to knit that second sock and move on, because you can always get back to the the second sock later when it seems novel again. This worked wonders for her and I'm hoping it will do the same for me.

On the crochet front, I finally have the right yarn to make that 1920's dress. A bit of research revealed to me that it was originally done up in something a lot like embroidery floss. So I took a risk and ordered a 1 lb. cone of 8/2 black weaving tencel - US$25 after shipping for 3360 yds! (You may wonder what I would do with over 3,000 yds of fingering weight yarn if it didn't work out, but unfortunately I do have a few ideas up my sleeve. More than few, actually.) The dress is size 36", with 3 mesh stitches = 1", and the tencel worked up on the same hook to about 3 1/2" mesh stitches = 1", which is what I was hoping for since I am a 34" chest. The tencel is 2-ply, slightly prone to splitting, and slippery as hell. (I admit there was a bit of cursing yesterday when I started, but not enough to scare the cat.) I chose the tencel because it is supposed to have a good drape and sheen and is lighter than cotton. I'm still on the hem of the dress - I'll be there for a while - but I can already tell that this dress will be awesome. I hope to have it done by the office X-mas party since that is the only event I go to all year that is practically black tie.

Crochetting really has an undeserved bad reputation, in my opinion. Of course, I crochetted before I knit, so you could say I have a slight bias, but I'm sticking by that statement. Any craft or technique can create crap. With the possible exception of macrame, this isn't the craft or technique's fault. (I say this because it seems to be about 10x harder to make something tasteful from macrame than, say, knitting or beading. Please correct me if I'm wrong.) Which begs the question: Why is it that the only patterns in crochetting magazines these days that are halfway decent are mainly knitting? Why? Why? Perhaps I should embark on a personal crusade to improve the name of crochet, eh? Right after this dress. And all those knit socks. And the darned boyfriend sweater.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Stash Sorting

Let me see... Wool Ease (worsted); Wool of the Andes (Avocado); Cotton Ease (red); Merino Style (Coal); Alpaca (Rusty Heather); Angora (cat); Cascade 220 (black)...

Wait a second... Did I say "cat"? Hmm... That's going to be tough to knit.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

French Press Cosy Pattern


I believe I actually used less than an entire 70 g ball of kitchen cotton for this pattern. If I'm wrong, please let me know. Photo of the cosy I knit here. If you have any questions about the pattern, leave a comment and I will answer you there.

Materials
About 70 g any 4-ply kitchen cotton yarn
Thread to match yarn, sewing needle
Knitting needles, size 4.25 mm and 3.75 mm
Two buttons (1/2” / 2.5 cm diameter)
Darning needle
Crochet hook, size 4.50 mm

Gauge
20s = 4” / 10 cm on 4.25 mm needles or size needed to obtain gauge.

Filler Pattern
I used the Double Moss (Double Seed) Stitch as a filler for my cosy, but any stitch pattern worked in a multiple of 2, 4, or 8 can be substituted. (For symmetry, I shifted the starting point of the double moss stitch pattern on my cosy to be: p1, k2, * p2, k1, repeat from * to last s, p1, etc. This shift centered the V of the spout opening above a p2.)

Double Moss (Double Seed) Stitch
Row 1: (RS) *k2, p2, repeat from * across
Row 2: (WS) *p2, k2, repeat from * across
Row 3: (RS) *p2, k2, repeat from * across
Row 4: (WS) *k2, p2, repeat from * across
Repeat rows 1 though 4.

Special Abbreviations
(Just the ones that might not be too obvious.)
FS = Filler stitch
WS = Wrong side facing
RS = Right side facing

Note for open handles: My French press has a closed handle. If the one you are knitting for does not have a closed handle you may eliminate the button closure and work the body of the cosy entirely in the round until it reaches your handle. In this case, you would not cast off stitches after the 5 rows of 1x1 ribbing, and you would not need the two buttons or a set of 3.75 mm knitting needles.

Body
CO 61 s on 4.25 mm needles and work a 1x1 (k1, p1) rib for 5 rows.
Row 6: (RS) cast off 3s, K1, work FS to last s (56s total filler stitches), k1, turn.
Row 7: (WS) p1, work FS to last s, p1, turn.
Repeat previous two rows 16 times (39 rows total worked in piece), turn.
Row 40: (RS) k1, work FS 26s, k2tog, turn. Place unworked stitches on holder or waste yarn.
Row 41: (WS) ssk, work FS to last s, p1, turn.
Row 42: (RS) k1, work FS to last 2s, k2tog, turn.
Repeat previous two rows to 48 rows total have been worked in piece, turn.
Row 49: (WS) k across, turn. (21s)
Row 50 through 58: work 1x1 rib, turn.
Cut yarn. Place ribbed stitches on holder or waste yarn.
Pick up 29s from first stitch holder/waste yarn with a 4.25 mm needle. Follow the instructions for Row 51 through 58, substituting WS for RS, and WS for RS. Do not place stitches on a holder or waste yarn.
Place stitches from holder on 4.50 mm knitting needle.
At this point you should have two knitting needles with 21s each. Viewed RS, the needle on the left should have the stitches that are attached to the yarn ball. This is Needle 1. The other is Needle 2.
Row 59: (WS) work 1x1 rib as set on Needle 1, then work 1x1 as set on Needle 2 across, turn. (42s) All stitches should now be on one needle.
Row 60: (RS) work 1x1 rib as set for 20s, increse 1s by knitting into next s twice, work 1x1 rib as set across, turn. (43s)
Row 61: (WS) p2, (yo, p2tog, p3) twice, yo, p2tog, p4, yo, p2tog, p3, yo, p2tog, p4, (yo, p2tog, p3) twice, yo, p2tog, p2, turn.
Row 62: (RS) *k1, p1, repeat from * to last s, k1, turn.
Work 1x1 rib as set 4 rows. Bind off as set.

Button Flaps
Part 1:
Pick up 15s from center of the edge of body with 3.75 mm knitting needle, turn.
Work in 5 rows 1x1 rib, beginning and ending with a knit stitch on RS. Bind off as set.
Part 2:
(WS) Pick up 15s from center of the opposite edge of body with 3.75 mm knitting needle., turn.
Row 1: k1, p1, k1, BO 2s, p1, (k1, p1) 3 times, BO 2s, k1, p1, k1, turn.
Row 2: p1, k1, p1, CO 2s, work 7s in 1x1 rib as set, CO 2s, p1, k1, p1, turn.
Row 3 through 5: Work 1x1 rib as set, turn. Cast off, cut yarn.

Drawstring
With 4.50 mm crochet hook, make chain 16”/ 40 cm long, or desired length, leaving 2”/ 5 cm tails of yarn at either end.

Finishing
Thread tail of drawstring on large darning needle and run through yo’s in body. Sew buttons on flap with sewing thread and needle. Sew edge of bottom ribbing together with darning needle. Weave in ends. Place cosy on Fench Press. Make coffee.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The One Slipper Wonder

There's a multitude of patterns out there on the internet and in books. I don't know about you, but sometimes I suffer from information overload. So tonight I am going to post links to some of my favorite free internet patterns to save you from having to go running all around the ether and taking a chance on an unknown pattern. Think of me as your test knitter.

I think the pattern I knit the most is the seaman's cap. It's a simple pattern with nice details, and everyone I have made one for reportedly wears them obsessively. I've made it in yellow, pink, and black, and I am about to make it in black again. I'm planning to knit my dad a second cap in navy blue Cascade Tweed 220 with cables on the crown.

I tried the pocketbook slipper pattern because it looked so easy, and because I couldn't help wondering how it would actually work out. (There's a pattern out there for making them with a button, but since I am surfing on a dial-up, I'll save that link for another day.) I admit my expectations were not very high for this pattern, but I wasn't really risking much yarn. I am happy to report that I wear them. When I had the flu recently I wore them at nearly all times. I am, in fact, wearign them now. Or rather one of them. I can't find the other. But my wearing one slipper says something, doesn't it? I mean, aside from how odd I am.

The Irish Knit Tea Cosy was a nice knit, even though I have yet to size it to a teapot I actually own. I knit up a towel that hangs from my fridge door that I'm inordinantly pleased with, also. Both items can be seen here.

And that's it for now.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

F.Y.I.

I haven't been laid up for the past two weeks with the flu.

What I have been is a lame ass. I seem to have very little motivation to get on the computer once I get home. I don't know why. Obviously, I love computers, because I spend nine hours a day on one, right?

Well, maybe that it's quite the definition of love.

Knitting
No pictures. Sorry. Soon, though. I will deliver! And when I deliver the goods that is pictures, it will be of a new sweater and a finished pair of purple/yellow socks. Have I finished these items? Well... No. But soon. Very soon, I will. I am knitting the sleeves onto the body of the sweater as I type this. With my toes.

Ok, maybe I that's not entirely accurate. But it is on my lap and I am knitting the sleeve between hitting "Save as Draft", etc. (Oh, good ol' Pentium II. Believe me, if I had a different home PC, I wouldn't have so much knitting time.)

I did get a substantial amount of knitting on this sweater done while ill. I'm trying to work from the stash - which is also substantial, I'm pained to say - and I desperately need another black cardigan. Black cardigans go with everything, especially if you're like me and everything you wear is black, or might as well be. (Yes, it's true. I wear 90% black and gray. The remaining 10%? Brown, orange, and burgundy. Sometimes red. But mainly orange and burgundy. Together. Over something black and gray. I know, I'm terrrible. I don't know how I have evaded the fashion police so far.)

Wow! Am I rambling on. What do you want to bet that Blogger loses this post because I have invested so much time in it? How about two skeins of that discontinued KnitPicks sock yarn, "Sock Garden", in Zinnia? (Red, orange, yellow! Or was that three skeins? Gosh, I have alot of sock yarn!) If this post goes through, the first person who comments gets it. Even if you don't realize I'm giving away sock yarn! So there! (Don't that sound kind of like a threat? The yarn really isn't that bad, really.)

Boy, I'm in high spirits tonight. Must be all those fumes from cutting rigid foam with an electricified wire all week at work. Enjoy it while you can!

And now, I press the dreaded "Publish" button...

Edit: Arianna got the three skeins, although she insisted on doing something in exchange for them. So I got a decaf soy latte. (I think I came out ahead.)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cold? Flu? Sure!

I'm taking the day off today to do my slow nose leaking in private. I think the folks at the office will appreciate that. If not, then maybe Monday, when I come in with a chapped nose.

I'm finally knitting up the Artyarns I bought, and ironically what was intended as a luxury item for myself is becoming socks for what I call my Mother-In-Law. These are Get-Out-of-Visiting-Free socks: my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot is going down to Philly on the 14th for a surprise birthday party for her, and I'm still getting over the last trip I took to Philly last X-mas. There is no way I'm going. Not even for Thanksgiving. I will visit my family if I have to. (Hi, family!) So these socks should assauge the guilt.

In Other News
There's a new firewall at work that won't let me access Blogger anymore, which is probably for the best. This means I'll be blogging from home, most likely in the evenings from now on. I'm trying not to amuse myself too much at work with finding out what the firewall will and won't let me access. I'm hearing a lot of consternation all through my studio as my fellow workers try to buy Red Sox tickets, etc., and find themselves locked out. It's at times like these that I really feel one is not truly an adult if one works for someone else, especially if that someone else is a corporate model architecture firm. Too many people are relating to Dilbert, esp. where helplessness to control the situation is concerned. And I'm not just talking about the firewall. At least I don't need to tell anybody when I'm using the restroom, eh?

Not yet, anyway.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Boyfriend Sweater

Ahoy! There be pirate buttons here!

I got my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot to journey down to Windsor Button with me Sunday during the Knit Out to pick out buttons for the black cardigan I am knitting him. (There are actually six of these - five for the button flap, one for emergencies.)

As you can see, he's already getting the required alottment of cat hair in his sweater.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Knitter's Tea Swap 2

You can probably guess what this post will be about. If not, I am about to tell you what I think of tea, chocolate, and sock yarn for the benefit of my swap pal.

Tea
I am a bit of a purist. I like black tea, green tea, and herbal tea, but I don't like complicated blends. Irish Breakfast, Lapsang Souchang, etc., go over fine with me, provided they're not flavored with orange peels or something. Same goes with herbal teas. I like mint in my mint tea, chamomile in the chamomile tea, etc. There are a couple exceptions: I love Earl Grey, Gen Mai Cha, and flowers. I have a ton of Jasmine Green Tea and I even have some green tea I got at a framer's market that has organic lavender in it. I like the instant ginger tea that can be found in some Asian food stores. I hate licorice in tea.

Chocolate
You can't go wrong with dark chocolate. I don't give a flying fudge about brand, but the darker, the better. I like toffee. I also have thing lately for candied ginger thanks to SP8.

Sock Yarn
Oh, crap, did you know that I have four socks on the needles and enough sock yarn for 20 pairs? Hmm. (I guess this means I know what I like, eh?)

I've been moving away from bright colors, toward heathered varigated yarns and dark solids. I'm also leaning toward superwash since I am getting lazy. I have more red yarn than I can deal with right now, and I make socks in multiple gauges: 20s =1" (Jawool) up to 6s = 1" (Artyarns Supermerino). My itch tolerance is pretty high.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

French Press Cosy


Materials: about 1 ball (70g) worsted weight kitchen cotton, 4.25mm/US#6 & 3.75mm/US#5 (optional) knitting needles, darning needle, buttons

Size: fits a standard 12" circumference French press

This is a quick knit. I started to write out the instructions but it was making me crazy. I've realized that the fastest and most efficient way I can get this pattern across (with the least confusion) is to draw a Japanese-style knitting diagram. It's really quite simple, but there are some fussy little details that make it symmetrical. Of course, this is because I am totally anal. *sigh*

Friday, September 22, 2006

The world sickens me, but at least there's knitting

There is a painfull kerscuffle happening over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books on the issue of race.

I wish it wasn't an issue. I wish everyone could just get along, regardless of perceived race, creed, gender, nationality. Unfortunately, there is no escaping it. The legacy of genocide and slavery lives on in the US, as well as everywhere else in the world. Somebody is always killing or using somebody because they are different or alledgedly "inferior."

It digusts me.

One of my life goals is to live in a country not based on genocide.

Maybe before I die I will figure out what country that is.

In the meantime, we need to treat each other with respect. And behave humanely. Which, considering how humans behave, is an ironic word.

Knitting
On a less depressed and misanthropic note, I'm making a cosy for my French press.


If anyone is interested in the pattern, I'll post it when I'm done.

Edit: the pattern is here. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Photo Extravaganza

I'm not kidding. If Blogger lets me, I'm going to show you every picture I ever took of the Raglan Cardigan I just finished.

Let's begin at the beginning, as they say. I have a photo of the original thrift store man's sweater at home - but I'll insert that later. Which means for the moment we start with the pattern.
Good Ol' Style 7194, which I first went on about here. I hunted rather desperately for some time for a good basic cardigan pattern, only to discover it on my shelf in a vintage book called Campus Hand Knits. I also discovered after I was half-way through the cardigan that I had a nearly identical pattern that's knit in the round and debated frogging the whole thing to start over. In the end, I nixed this plan because the unevenness of the yarn meant I needed to block every piece face down before assembly for a smooth surface.

This project involved my first pockets, which I talk about here.


They are still virtually invisible.
Below you can see the reverse of the button flap. Edge of the cuff!
Neckline!
Finished sweater! (Blogger won't allow me to post any more photos, so here's a link.)

I used US#8 straights. There was a ton of splicing and tucking, of course, but fortunately this yarn hides it well. The color is actually a brown with a reddish-burgundy cast to it, like the buttons. I think I might have enough leftover yarn to make a pullover vest - we'll see.

Overall, this wasn't as fussy as some of my past projects.

Autumn Fantasy

It's just cold enough today that it's only 9:34 am and I have the shawl and the heater on at work. My Project Manager is likely suspended somewhere over Quebec right now, gazing down at tundra, and what is left behind doesn't know anything more about what my assignment is than me, so I'm going to pause for a fantasy. No one will notice.

This isn't the fantasy about finally finishing a ms and getting an advance that allows me to start fantasizing about quitting my job to be a writer 24/7. Although that one isn't half bad.

No, this an early autumn fantasy. It's not very unlike this one, but it's not rainy right now.

In this fantasy I am in a small apartment in Paris, one of those tiny wedges with a microscopic kitchen, a closet for a bed, an under-the-counter refrigerator and a wrought iron balcony overlooking a historic square that makes up for it all. There's a cafe below, the tables mostly empty. Leaves dance by over the sidewalk and gutters like Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

I am under a silk patchwork quilt by the closed balcony doors. I am reading Jane Eyre, and I don't have to be anywhere, all day. Maybe not even tomorrow.

Unless I want to pop downstairs for an aperitif.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kitchen Knitting

As you can see, I've been knitting away at the kitchen cotton. This is my Too Big Tea Cosy. It makes a good hat, or even a cat dress, but it's nowhere near the size of my teapot. The pattern is nice, though.

And below you see the kitchen towel I knit Sunday to hang on my refrigerator door. It's a very quick knit.

But don't let the photo deceive you - this towel is sizable.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Light Old West Comedy

Yesterday Carrie K. commented:

"I can't read romance novels. (Much. I like Jennifer Crusie but most of them have me throwing the books at the wall.) It's all so contrived and silly and un-real."

I'm not certain I have any problems with silly and un-real. (See: Terry Pratchett) Contrived? Well, I think it depends on the circumstances. If it's well done, I like silly and contrived and un-real. Unfortunately, it is usually not very well done. Which reminds me...

The Matchmaker
If you read yesterday's post you already know that I am in a tizzy about a romance novel I read recently called The Matchmaker that let me down. (I know, life is so hard!) Since I have been trying to be more serious about my own writing lately I've developed this tendency to read books with an eye for what I would do to fix it. And I'm not talking grammar, punctuation, etc. You can probably tell from this blog that recognizing an adverb is not my strength. No, I'm talking about plot and characterization. I'm not too hot in those areas, either, but humor me.

When I picked up The Matchmaker I was thinking it'd be the novel equivalent of something like Calamity Jane and Support Your Local Sheriff, oddly enough. Light, Old West comedy that's not entirely historically correct but amusing enough for it not to matter. Obviously, I was wrong. Now I am going to tell you in maddening detail what this book could have been, at least in my fantasy world. Then you can tell me if I am totally off my rocker or not.

First off, I would find a reason for a matchmaker to suddenly appear in this quaint gun-toting setting. Perhaps there is a war of the sexes going on (the tavern-goers vs. the Lady's Temperance Society?) that somebody thinks can only be solved by most of the troublemakers getting hitched - assuming that in the process of getting hitched they will come to understand the perspective of their potential spouse, and thereby bringing about harmony. For this to work, it must not get too deep (light comedy), or be too superficial (stupid comedy). Issues do need to be addressed and answered with more than the power of animal attraction. And, to make things interesting, bring in another crisis, as well.

This book would be a parade of Old West stereotypes, with slants on them to make them more refreshing. There would be a gunslinger, gamblers, ranchers, town clowns, prudish women, liberated women, prostitutes, burlesque dancers, cowardly town officials, piano players, bartenders, mustache-twisting villains, the villain's dim sidekick, and possibly a superintelligent horse. There would be a train scene, a tavern brawl, and possibly a shoot-out. Maybe someone getting dragged through the mud by the horse.

The gunslinger - let's call him Jed - comes to town on the same train as the new entertainer, a world-weary, aging singer/burlesque performer and her assistant, who also happens to be her son. the gunslinger is also world-weary and has just bought a ranch near town where he can settle down to a nice, peaceful life. Only, the town is far from peaceful. The war between the temperance women and the boozers is so intense that he can hardly get through a beer. He looks into the problem and realizes that nobody has either an idea of what to do or is capable of doing it. It is left up to him to save his dream of retirement. He becomes the Matchmaker.

The entertainer - let's call her Molly - is too ill (drunk?) to perform the first night of the show, but they're under contract and coming to this one-horse town was her last option, so in desperation her son cross-dresses and performs her act. He knows it by heart, and his mother is old enough and he's young enough that the dark hall conceals his true nature. However, the Temperance League intrudes, led by the mayor's spunky newspaperwoman daughter, Anne. Anne has a bit of a complex about not being feminine enough because she is so independant and forward-thinking: she is the kind of woman who would wear pants. She sees Molly's son on stage, their eyes meet, and it's kismet. However, Anne thinks Molly's son is actually Molly. Anne becomes flustered and leaves on a weak note.

And get this - Jed knew Molly long ago. He is, in fact, the father of Molly's son. But this doesn't get sorted out right away, especially since she changed her stage name.

Etc., etc., etc. Done well - with wit and motivations that don't insult the reader's intelligence - this could be a fun read on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Or at least that's what I think. Have I lost my mind?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Some annoying things I've noticed lately

I went to the thrift store with Jeanette this weekend and picked up a couple books. What I read is relatively random - I've taken to heart the advice Orson Scott Card gave in How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (regardless of what I may think of him personally) that one should read voraciously, and as indiscriminately as one chooses. So when I came across a Harlequin Historical romance called The Matchmaker, a Western about a town plagued by the secret mechanisms of - you guessed it! - a matchmaker, I thought, "What the hell. This could be campy fun."

This was the worst book I've read in a while, possibly even worse than a Regency romance I read a couple weeks ago that had scenes that were making me mad. This book was so bad, it didn't even piss me off. It was bewildering.

The author was competent enough - she could string words together in a grammatically correct manner, and they even had something to do with the words that went before them. (Some thing I often have difficulties with...) The problem is what the words were actually conveying. The situation looked promising: a secret meeting in the town tavern by the single menfolk to discuss the meddling matchmaker, and what they're going to do about it. (This might make you cringe, but a silly plot does not always make a bad read. It can make the read. It's called comedy.) Several characters were introduced, the plan devised, and tasks delegated. And then it went down hill.

There was poverty of description. We know what the characters generally look like, what they're wearing, what they're doing. We do not, however, have much of an idea, if any at all, what their surroundings look like. And when the surroundings are described, they're unconvincing for the Old West. Why would a bachelor have a marble pastry table in a house he nevers cooks in? Why would anyone other than the town baker have a pastry table? (I'm not even going to get into the idea of logging in Northern Arizona - that might require geographical research.)

Several characters are introduced as if they're going to be major sub-plots, but then the whole story focuses on the hero/heroine, who are, to a slightly less degree than everyone else, as two-dimensional as paper dolls. Even worse, the heroine is so naive and hair-brained that I was surprised she was allowed out of the house. Almost immediately I was thinking, "If he falls for her, he's just as stupid as she is." Think of Mrs. Bennet, young and in the Old West, spunkily trying to start up a bakery business, and you've pretty much got it. Except for the rack. She has a huge rack. (And it's not for storing utensils.)

It just gets stupider from there, without being funny or entertaining. (Sorry, Lisa Plumley, but that's my opinion. Maybe your other books are better...?)

Why am I going on and on about this? Because books have been making me a bit crazy lately. It's either a promising premise that lets me down in the execution, weak characterization, poorly thought out plots or annoying trends. It's getting very difficult to read genre fiction at all.

Take Jennifer Crusie. I seriously envy her for writing such wonderful light romantic comedy. However, I am getting sick of the word "lush" - she uses it in just about every novel. Lips are "lush", breasts are "lush", etc. This repetition reminds me of when I was on a Koontz reading kick in high school and had to stop because I noticed he had a particular, ten-cent word he used in every book. (Maybe I should try something like that. What do you say to me using the word "ubitiquitous" in every blog post from now on? Or how about "meander"?)

Crusie also describes her women as soft. The hero is attracted to their softness, etc. This isn't just something Crusie is doing, I've come across it in other romance novels. The heros are "hard." You know, everywhere. Abs of steel, etc. I don't know about you, but this whole hard/soft thing after a couple novels is putting me off. When I think of touching flesh - any flesh - I don't think "hard." Skin is soft. "Firm", I think, is a word that appeals to me more. And I don't want to be soft. I want to be Linda Hamilton. (Not that I'm doing much about it, but still...) All this "soft" talk is making me simultaneously feel fat and undesirably skinny.

Perhaps I just shouldn't read romance novels, because I get annoyed when the plot gets slowed down by the characters struggling with their lust or admiring bosoms. I know I've read books that had Happily Ever After endings and romance as part of the main plot that didn't do this in such an obvious and boring manner. (Jennifer Crusie manages this miracle.) Which reminds me of another thing I can't stand: lust posing as love.

The hero meets heroine, and it's lust at first sight for them both. Only, the heroine must maintain her dignity and resist. And she does this badly, because his buns are just so hard. Every little come on from this lust monger nearly has her caving in; where lust is concerned, she has no spine. Fortunately, near the end the hero realizes he loves this woman he has been debauching, so she won't be going of the whorehouse or anything like that at the grand finale. Happiness!

Of course, not every book is like this, but I have to wonder if it's truly inconceivable to have story where an attraction grows from feeling, or with getting to know someone? Just maybe once or twice? Or maybe a heroine who knows the meaning of the words, "No, you philanderer"?

I was wondering if maybe I'm bored with romance and lust, but I don't think so. I think I'm bored with this presentation of it.

But back to The Matchmaker again. This book could have been so awesome. I'm already rambling on far too long, my thoughts meandering everywhere, so I'll stop for now and tell you why I think it could have been so great tomorrow.

Friday, September 15, 2006

New sweaters from old

I'm wearing the vintage raglan cardigan right now at work. I told the architects I work with that I made it, they ooh-ed and ah-ed, then I apparently made the mistake of telling them how I unraveled a sweater from a thrifted man's XL sweater to make it.

Now they think I am insane. Why buy a sweater to make another sweater?

Maybe because the entire sweater cost me about $10, and I like a challenge. To which they reply, what's your cost of labor?

Well, that really isn't the point. The point is that hand-knitting (at least, in this country, these days) isn't something commonly done for a livelihood: it's a craft, an art. It is done for pleasure. So the point is I didn't spend much money on this pleasurable and time consuming craft, and I earned some knitting street creds in the meantime. (Is there such a thing? That brings some interesting images to mind.)

Still, they thought I am foolish and masochistic, and mumbled, "Well, if you enjoy it..." incredulously as they walked off.

At which point I remind myself what they find entertaining: Fantasy Football and running to the window every time the weather changes like house-bound pets. Enough said, right?

The sweater is awesome. I am very pleased with it. No photos yet, but there will be soon.

Edit: a photo can be seen here or here.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The dawn was quite beautiful this morning.

Did I just say "dawn"?

Um, yeah. I was jogging this morning. Sort of. Rambling, perhaps. Daybreak is my favorite time of day, but I usually enjoy it by staying in bed. It's difficult to remember at 6 o'clock in the morning that the dawn casts everything in a wondrously delicate and larger- than-life light, and that the day works out better with an early start. At 6 o'clock in the morning I mostly remember that the cat has been waking me every half hour or so "to play" (Translation: "to antagonize me by jumping over my head until I toss a book at him so that he can flee in terror, only to return a moment later, confused by the lack of angry pursuit.") and that the valet won't have the tea and scones ready for at least a couple more hours.

Not that I have a valet. But I'm usually half-awake at 6 am (if even that) so I might think at the time I have a valet, if you know what I mean. And a butler to corner the cat. I tell you, it's hard to get good service after 7 am these days, what with all the racket the alarm makes.

Knitting
I have almost completed the vintage raglan cardigan. I am at the armpits on the left front panel. Once I block it, graft the band at back of the neck, sew down the button flap and the pockets and seam the right sleeve and sideseam, it'll be done. Oh, and sew the buttonholes together and put the buttons on.

Speaking of buttons, if it wasn't for the complete muck-up of my buttonhole spacing I'd be seaming this sweater tonight instead of knitting it. I spent much of last night dropping stitches and re-knitting the buttonholes. I am beginning to see the appeal of sewn-on button bands. You can see in the link above to an older post about this sweater that the button-band folds over and is part of the front panel. It looks very nice but I can't help wondering if there's a better way.

Anyway, expect a photo extravaganza of this sweater soon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Crappy pictures

But they're better than none, right? Um.

One of the things I've been up to lately is making neat buttons into pins.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

SP8 and my stomach

I had a balony sandwich for lunch today. I'm not sure exctly what I was thinking at the time - probably something about how much I liked them when I was eight years old - but now I'm thinking it was a serious mistake. I'm not even done with my chips and my stomach is complaining. Urgh.

But enough about my digestive system. You may notice that there are no photos in this post. That is because I still haven't gotten off my arse to clear my memory card so that I can take more pictures of the stuff I'm doing. And I am doing stuff. Lots of stuff.

I made some brooches from buttons, I finished one Funky Sock, and I'm nearly done with the second arm of the vintage raglan cardigan I've been making since forever. I've also been tidying up the loose ends of swaps. SP8 is over, so now I can tell you that the person I was spoiling is Knittymama. Of course, I never remembered to take photos of what I sent her, so if you're interested, pop on over to her blog and look around. (Here, here, here and here for photos.) For each package I knit her a pair of baby socks - because I could, and because they're addictive. The yarn for the last two socks was donated by Jeanette since I had run out of suitable odd-balls.

Now I think I'm going to scare up some herbal tea from the office kitchen, and perhaps have a nice lie-down under my desk...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Quote of the day

"The captain glared at him. The sergeant put on the poker face that has been handed down from NCO to NCO ever since one protoamphibian told another, lower-ranking protoamphibian to muster a squad of newts and Take That Beach."
- Terry Pratchett, Eric

Friday, September 01, 2006

Confessions of a Secret Pal

Two business days from now the woman I have been sending stuff to anonymously through Secret Pal 8 will know my identity beyond a doubt, and then she will know what kind of Secret pal I really am.

That's right: she will know that her second package was delayed because I ate her chocolate, and that the third was delayed because I couldn't a find a box. She will also know that I was knitting her socks from Cherry Hill Tree yarn and realize that there are no socks by that description in her final package (which I also sent late.)

I have an excuse, really I do. It isn't that I intended to keep them for myself; I haven't even finished them. It was getting down to the wire and my enthusiasm for all things fiber was at a near all-time low. I had to make a decision: finish one sock (which was riddled with unacceptable mistakes I'm trying to ignore) and send it with a Second Sock I.O.U., or give my Secret Pal some equivalent yarn to make her own socks. She seemed to be on sock-knitting kick, so I went the way of laziness: I doled out the cash for sock yarn and then tucked the half-knit socks into a basket, out of sight. Understandable, right? Perhaps not a complete cop-out...?

I am a bad receivee, too. I have the secret password to reveal my Secret Pal's identity and haven't used it. I also haven't taken pictures of what she sent me in the final package. I WILL. Really. As soon as I get off my butt and clear my memory card. But in the meantime, for those of you who don't already know, here's a clue, courtesy of Arianna's cell phone:

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Vacation

I'm on vacation right now. However, I am not jetting to Cancun to bask in the sun or boarding some other large mechanized contraption destined to deliver me to some other exotic place. I am not even going to the Cape. And the people at my work think I am insane because they always travel during vacations. Coming from tourist areas, and living in one, I've never seen the point. I have traveled - I've been to the South Pacific, Hawaii, Canada, all the way up the west coast of the US from L.A. to Seattle and across the continent by car and bus - and I must say that one of the things I learned during all that is that visiting places for a very short time leaves me feeling empty and alone. Every city becomes identical and devoid of meaning, because how much experience and meaning can be jammed into a two hour stop over or even a two week stay? Especially since what makes a place is the people. Give me a month, or two or three, and I will visit. I will hurry out and then sit around, soaking it up so that I can take away what it is like to almost be a resident of the place. Until then, I'm at home.

And I am having a jolly old time. I'm writing. I guess you could say I am sampling the writer's lifestyle. I am setting my own clock. I got up a hour early today, and I can stay up as long the drive to create makes me. I don't have to tuck it in bed so that I'm not a zombie tomorrow. I am mailing off submissions, squeezing my own juice (I mean this literally), drinking too much coffee and following my instincts. There are moments of panic and anxiety, but they pass. It really helps that I am not financially dependant on my output just now. Hopefully this vacation will help me form some good writing habits and get a jump on my writing so that I'll have a rough draft this time next year.

A rough draft of what? you ask. Why, of the knitting story, of course. Did you think I totally dropped that?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lousy/ Not Lousy

This is a lousy writing weekend.

Not that this is a lousy weekend, per se. This has been a most righteous weekend, as a matter of fact. But for writing, lousy.

A Moment for Self Pity and Panic

Oh Gawd I will never get anywhere with the writing thing, it is so good I have a day job, because if I can't even sit down at the computer and write anything, I can't submit anything, and if I don't submit anything, I can't make money off of it and eventually quit my lousy job. I suck. What the hell am I thinking, trying to write?!?

Anyway.

How This Weekend Isn't Lousy

Saturday was one of the best days I've had in while. I think I blew something like $200, but it sure as hell felt good. At one point I ended up downtown at the Brattle Bookstore. If you've never been to Boston, or downtown Boston (specifically, the shopping area around the Park Street T) or to the Brattle Bookstore, well, maybe I can give you an idea of it. Picture an outdoor mall, with wide sidewalks and the occasional brick paved road that is often too cluttered with pedestrians for car traffic. And don't think of a suburban mall. The buildings are old, a bit smog-smeared and dirty without being sordid. They are just used. Really used. And if you look up, you'll notice that above the corporate chain facade the building is actually a Beaux Artes, with a delicate, weathered white marble facade with elegantly arched windows overlooking the shoppers below, or a gray stoned Neo-Gothic with crumbling plaster details.

The Brattle Bookstore is on a narrow side street, the kind that is almost always in shadow. There is a small paved area next to the little, two-story bookstore which was probably once a parking lot but which is now filled during business hours by rolling metal shelves piled with bargain books. Shelves are built on the sides of the buildings that can be locked up at night like cupboards.

So picture me there. Petite woman with disorderly hair, wearing gray cat's eye glasses and the kind of casual clothing that I really should know better than to wear outside of the apartment for anything more than running across the street for toilet paper. The asphalt is still damp from the night's rain and Elvis is in the air. Really. There's a man hanging two stories above the street on a large platform across the street blasting a really good Oldies radio station. And I am finding books, and books. For cheap. It was surreal. But that was only about $15 of my weekend.

I went for sushi, bought swap items, scored a black beaded antique purse that would be perfect for holding socks-in-progress. I bought The Best of Roxy Music and Carly Simon at a painfully trendy and hip record store, proving once again to the employees there that I am hopelessly square and always have been. (This is the same place I bought a Psychedelic Furs CD.)

And yes, when I went sushi I was still dressed abominably. We always are when we go for sushi. But we tip well.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Inner Turmoil, Conflicting Desires

The Poll Results:

Okay, Okay, I get it. I won't delete the blog. I'll post on occasion.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Aggravations

I really should stop reading so much from the internet. It's educational, but it's also aggravating.

Today I:
  • am reminded that some men are misogynistic, even if they don't call it that;
  • am reminded by that that I do most of the housework at home, even though I support us both, which annoys me to no end because the boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot says he doesn't want me to do all the cleaning, therefore I should just stop cleaning and we'll be equal in squalor together (This is so not happening. And it's not like I'm a neat freak. I'm a slob. So that gives you some idea of what his standards are.);
  • encountered a book someone is writing that villainizes my philosophical system (People disagreeing with, and having viewpoints completely opposite of mine, I am used to. Direct attacks, however, by people who more than likely have no idea what they're talking about aggravates the hell out of me. And no, I'm not a Scientologist.);

All of which not only makes me angry at men, generally and specifically, but it also makes me feel at odds with the world. Which just aggravates me more, because it's not how I want to feel. And it's not really true. For the most part I am aligned with the world. I eat, I sleep, I want to be happy, I cry at sad endings, I want to feel useful. Other human beings and I have a lot in common. I despise feeling like I am some kind of social pariah, esp. since not only am I right (hehe), I am also minding my own damn business.

Grrr!!!

As for the misandry, if he rememebered to make the bed before going to school so that the inspectiors don't know the color and state of our sheets, I'll get over it.

Now back to my trecherous tea-sipping and blueprint correcting.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So tired.

Hello.

I am still here, albeit halfheartedly.

All I can think about lately is writing. I am barely knitting at all. Writing, plotting, scheming... That's me. Maybe it will actually go somewhere.

I still need that vacation. The one I am not currently taking, and may not have a chance to take. When it comes to anything outside of the bare essentials (reading voraciously, updating my Netflix queue, taking notes on plot ideas and even occasionally writing some) I have no energy at all. Really. You should see my apartment.

Which reminds me: my building being inspected tomorrow, so I have to spend tonight cleaning.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Misdirected Vice

I sat down at the computer last night, turned it on, waited forever for it to boot (I have a used Pentimum II) and started a story. I've had this idea lately that I should write erotica shorts, no more than two pages maybe, to give to my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot to make things more interesting. (After all, we've been together for nearly six years.) He, as you might imagine, is not against the idea.

I like a nice plot. Or at least a funny one. So I had to think of one, and I did. Then I started to write. Things were going well: I had the scene, I had the characters, I had the conflict and the resolution and the reason for it all. I was happily typing away, only pausing every now and then to knit (I knit while I write. Don't you?) while I considered the exact phrasing or expression that would fit.

Just about the time my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot came home I realized I had a serious problem. Things had gotten out of control. I'm not talking whips and chains and dwarves, or anything like that. I mean I was about 300 words in and I still hadn't gotten anywhere near the sex.

Yes. That's right. Despite my best intentions, I was writing a romance novel.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Warning! This Blog Will Self-Destruct in 45 Days

I'm feeling a little cynical and tired today. In fact, I just nearly deleted the blog on purpose.

I've been making an effort to simplify my life, to purge unneeded or unwanted things. This involves considering what I do with my time and what I'd rather be doing with it. I'm not so badly off in this department: I get my way in a lot of things. I don't have a mortgage to pay, kids to take to soccer practice, strange obligations that consume most of my time. What I do have is a job I don't like and many distractions that deplete my energy.

I am usually too tired when I get home to write, or even think about it. Yet I want to be a writer. It's a a vicious cycle that has to end or I won't get anywhere. I have tons of free or stolen time at work when I could be writing, but instead I am blogging or reading blogs. My energy should be focused on things that I not only enjoy but get me somewhere, not things that give me ideas for more distractions from what I should be doing with my life.

Does this make any sense?

So, consider yourself on notice. I need to keep the blog around long enough to take care of a couple obligations, but after that, it's history. No more blog. It will go up in virtual smoke. When will this happen? Well, I like a nice, tidy date: 10-01-06

Edit: If you'd like to stay updated on my fiction writing, email me.

I am a reading fiend

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (2001)
Sookie Stackhouse, a telepathic barmaid in Northern Louisiana, meets the man of her dreams: Bill, a Civil War survivor and the hottest dead man she's ever seen. Too bad about that little vampire thing. A-

This is the book that kicks off the Southern Vampire series. I've read Club Dead, Dead to the World, Dead as a Doornail, and Living Dead in Dallas - all of the series currently in paperback - so I guess I'm a fan.

I'm a bit overwhelmed right now by Sookie's romantic options. There are a couple constant interests, which she takes more or less seriously and that appear more or less in every book: Eric, the head honcho vampire of the area, and former Viking; Bill, the first vampire she meets, mentioned above; and Sam, her boss. (I won't tell you what's unusual about him - go read the book!) Potential love interests introduced as the series goes on are Alcide, a werewolf; the head of a clan of werepanthers (whose name escapes me at the moment); and a weretiger.

So many options, all with their good and bad points. Let's break it down, because that's the kind of mood I'm in. (Spoilers in this break-down. You are forewarned.)

Bill. Bill is in love with Sookie, and he tries to protect her, (good points) but he's very much a vampire and as such has limited self control in certain situations (feeding frenzy, anyone?) , and tends to be secretive and a bit patronizing. He also is so reserved he's kind of a cold fish, in my opinion. Maybe this is supposed to be a kind of Mr. Darcy thing going on, but I'm not really feeling it. (Bad points)

Eric. Eric is a bit obsessed with Sookie, but he has no scruples whatsoever. A brief bought of amnesia turns him into what he probably was before he became a vampire - years and years and years ago - a nice guy - and he and Sookie have a fling during this period. Eric in this state is the perfect vampire for Sookie, since he is more warm and cuddly and vulnerable than Bill, and also declares his *cough* undying *cough* love. However, his memory is returned, wiping out his memories of their relationship, and he reverts to his usual ways. That is, being evil and dangerous (bad points) and on her side (good points) because he has a thing for her, even though he would probably rather be staked than admit to that kind of weakness.

Sam. (Spoilers here, too) Sam is not a vampire, but a shapeshifter who usually shows up as a dog. A dog is quite apropos for Sam because he is loyal, sensitive, and affectionate. Sounds boring next to vampires, eh? Well, not really. He can be any animal he wants, is good in a pinch, and probably understands Sookie more than the other dudes. (Good points, obviously.) His flaws? Other than that he knew Sookie for years but didn't realize he wanted her until all these other guys showed up? Maybe he's not as good of a protector as the vampires or some of the bigger shifters (Sam's not a big, hulking guy) - I always feel a little more afraid when it's him defending her because he seems so vulnerable himself - but other than that, it's just his lack of Go Get Her. Sam is getting to be Sookie's #1 loyal sidekick while she dates all these other guys, the poor bastard. He tries to make a move every now and then, but he always overshadowed by some gorgeous hunk who can turn into a tiger, or a vampire with hundreds of years of sexual experience to build upon. And it's not like he's unattractive. Did I say poor bastard already? Poor bastard. After six books, I'm gunning for him to be Mr. Right because he's the one I'd want to wake up with. (And then maybe take to the park for a game of fetch.) But I don't have high hopes: Sookie resists even thinking about him that way because he's her boss, and this series is really about her and vampires.

Alcide. The big werewolf guy. At first I liked him. He's good looking, and he's not evil. (Good points) But he lacks character. I don't mean he's not defined for the reader - he is. He's just too cloudy on the difference between right and wrong, even by his own definition, and he's caught up in the werewolf culture. I wouldn't count on him to guard my back. Not a poor bastard: just a bastard. He needs to get his priorities and loyalties sorted out.

The Werepanther. He likes Sookie, but in a kind of "She looks like a good breeder" kind of way. He'd guard her back, but he'd probably expect something in return for it that she wouldn't be comfortable in giving. There's too much keeping score with him about who owes whom even on little things.

The Weretiger. I hardly know this guy, but he seems fair-minded and honest. He is also an incredible physical specimen. (He reminds me of Arnold Vosloo, or maybe Billy Zane.) Poor Sam.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Summer Reading Program - Book Twelve

My Summer Reading Program goal was twelve books, fiction or non-fiction. Upon completing them I have a bonus goal, a book I have been putting off reading, largely because it is so, well... large: The Worm in the Bud: The World of Victorian Sexuality by Ronald Pearsall. I think this book weighs about five pounds.

It's not very likely I'll reach this goal. (I should have chosen something about toilets.)

I almost thought I wouldn't make it to twelve, what with how wasting all that time on Collapse* set me back.

(SRP12) Faking It by Jennifer Crusie 412 pgs.
This book was delightful. A con man trying to go straight falls in with a quirky family that has a tradition of forging paintings. Made me want to paint! A

*I am deeply disappointed by Jared Diamond.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Summer Reading Program - Book Eleven

Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie 336 pgs.

After twenty years, best friends Nick and Quinn realize they've always had the hots for each other, but have been using involvement with other people and the fact that Nick was married to Quinn's sister right after high school as means to deny it. You can well imagine that after twenty years, that gets old, as does everything else. Quinn decides to make a major change. Havoc ensues as everyone is routed out of their usual routines. Satisfying read. A-

Friday, August 11, 2006

Summer Reading Program - Book Ten

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris 310 pgs.

This is my favorite speculative fiction series outside of Discworld. (To give you an idea of it, I was up until 2 am last night reading it in the bathroom so as not to disturb my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot, then read it while walking to work and finished it at lunch.) Harris provides a fun read with some very attractive, dangerously supernatural characters. The main character is a telepathic Southern barmaid named Sookie Stackhouse who gets into all kinds of scrapes and seems to be courted by every vampire, shape shifter and werewolf worth a second look. In this one, someone is targeting shape shifters, and possibly Sookie. A- (no sex this time!)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Summer Reading Program - Book Nine

Grunts! by Mary Gentle 464 pgs.

When I was in high school I read Mary Gentle's Ancient Light and it blew my mind. Mary Gentle had managed to create an alien world I could hear, smell, taste, and feel. I went on to read Rats and Gargoyles and The Architecture of Desire. I was not disappointed.

Grunts! is the first book of hers that I've read in a long time, mainly because mainstream bookstores tend not to stock her books very often. It's also the first parody. I wasn't quite certain what to expect, esp. since it allegedly turns the underdog villains into the heroes of the story. She does succeed in doing this. The book is clever and somehow kept me reading despite the gore. I found myself rooting for obviously evil characters (they're not just misunderstood.)

However, Grunts! wasn't so clever that I was smirking to myself or laughing out loud as I do with some authors. It also suffered from something which in hindsight was also present in the other books I read - that is, the plot was not always obvious, leaving the reader to wander a about helplessly for a bit like someone lost in the woods. Nevertheless, I did manage to find my way out. B+

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Just say no

It's decided: I'm not knitting X-mas presents this year. Not only do I not need the pressure and stress, but it just doesn't make sense. I'm not Christian, and my family barely is. I'm really too tired to hold up my end of our secular holiday. They're getting New Year's cards.

Which makes me Ebenezer Scrooge. But I don't care. More yarn for me! (Esp. when you consider I have nine siblings (eight living) I am no longer knitting for.)

I can feel the weight lifting already.

How are you?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Doh!

This has got to be Monday, possibly Sunday. (Don't tell me the actual day, it will only upset me.) Really, I'm surprised I didn't leave the Cave with my bra on the outside of my clothing today.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Burning Out

I think I'm burning out a bit on blogging. So, we're going to Emergency Reserve Power while the rest of me goes on hiatus. That is, I am going to be posting twice a week (the SP8 minimum) until all systems return to normal.

What will I do with my lunch hour if I'm not blogging? you may wonder.

Well, I'll be reading everybody else's blogs, of course.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A couple new patterns at large

Today I:

  • had an onion bagel with salmon cream cheese for breakfast
  • have had three cups of tea
  • am eating a burrito
  • got a raise?

So, the new Vogue Knitting is out and I got a copy last night. It wasn't a waste of money, esp. since I knit socks. I considered taking photos before leaving the Cave this morning so that I could post them, but then my laziness got he better of me. No photos for you.

The preview for Rowan #40 is up. I haven't really taken a look at it yet.

I'm feeling very austere on the knitting front lately. That is, I've declared a moratorium on buying yarn for projects that don't already exist on the needles. This has far reaching implications for my budget, and for how often you will hear of me desperately searching through thrift stores for a sweater to frog.

Last night, I:

  • had a bag of chips and a decaf soy latte at the coffeehouse
  • drank the last of the wine (1/4 glass!)
  • watched Brazil
  • experienced astoundingly temperate weather

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Oh, the things I've eaten

Today I:

  • had two pieces of toast with margarine with jasmine green tea for breakfast
  • am having a salad for lunch

In the course of my websurfing today I came across a site on eating wild plants.

I paused.

Although the plants were Canadian it was an idea that really resonated with me. When I was still living in rural California I was exploring the edibility of native vegetation. My family had been in the area for over four generations, so such notions were not only considered pretty normal, but old-fashioned. (There are people in my family who have even seen water being divined.) Most of my family that still lives in the area have a vegetable garden in their back yard as a matter of course, and will eat wild plants without a second's thought. (Okay, maybe there will be second's thought, some thing like, "Did a dog piss on this?") Before I moved away I was drying spearmint on clotheslines in my room and contemplating just how much dandelion I would need for wine. And, how does one make wine?

I did a search through the internet and my memory, coming up with some interesting stuff.

I have eaten A LOT of berries. I could put bears to shame. Loganberries, blackberries - I learned the hard way that you need to wear jeans and a long sleeved shirt when you crawl into a briar. (Gloves wouldn't hurt, either.) I've denuded many a huckleberry and red huckleberry bush. (I was told not to eat the red huckleberries with black spots, but I have no idea why.) Pretty tame berries, right? Well, that wasn't where it ended. I also ate thimbleberries, the peach-fuzz leaves of which are nature's toilet paper. (Stinging nettle sometimes get confused with this plant, resulting in disasterous camping trips.) In my own back yard I ate the fruit of strawberry trees and fuschias.

Berries weren't the end of it. I remember being in high school reading something about some outback people eating sorrel salads and thinking, "What the hell?" and then, "I wonder if I can find any of that?" I was going to look it up. Ironic, really, since I now know that I had a thing for sorrel, and still do - I just called it sourgrass. Believe me, no other sorrel will do. But the sour part is not joke - after about a couple cups of sourgrass you're stomach will be upset. Trust me, I know.

I loved to go to the beach so that I could eat indian lettuce; screw the view. I also ate the seeds of something I can't find on the internet, some tall plant. Yeah. Hmm.

And I ate a lot of grass, mostly of the wild rye variety it seems.

Yep, my parents didn't have much trouble making me eat my fruit and vegetables.

Yesterday, I:

  • had a bowl of cereal with tea for breakfast
  • hada banana and home made burritos with carrots for lunch
  • drank a lot of tea
  • scored some boxes from my savior, Lissy
  • went to S'nB
  • had a decaf soy latte and a bag of chips there
  • drank a bottle of water (Did I mention it's hot?)
  • made another burrito for dinner
  • watched most of Time Bandits
  • knit

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Excuses

Jeanette just emailed me to inquire why I didn't post during lunch today. Well, my excuses are as follows:
  1. I am soooo broke; I have to pay a hospital bill, a student loan, tuition, and rent this week. I even borrowed money from my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot... You know, that guy I allegedly financially support? This leaves me too preoccupied to post.
  2. I am overwhelmed by work. So much so that I only have couple hours a day to read knitblogs. How can I fit posting into that schedule?
  3. The cat is making me crazy, so until he calms down enough for my posts to be remotely happy, I can't post.
  4. Blogger has ben uncooperative, causing me to lose all desire to post, even when Blogger does work.
  5. I am experiencing pre-PMS.
  6. Everyone is so much more wittier and creative than me, and take such lovely photos, that I don't know why I bother.
  7. Aliens captured me over the weekend, replacing me with a moving simulacrum. I will not be released until I teach them the Magic Loop technique. (Since I can't effectively use circular needles, this excuse could last a couple weeks, if not a month.)
  8. I am writing the knitting story.
  9. My computer isn't working.
  10. It is too darned hot out.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Swamped

I am remiss in my blogging. I know, I know. I am terrible.

I'm thinking and reading and writing, but not writing blog entries. I think this is partly due to my lack of knitting progress lately. I am really swamped.

I am swamped in more than knitting, actually. I can't seem to buy a box to mail swaps in, for one thing, so the stuff is sitting around, making me feel guilty. It's really very frustrating, because I LIVE ON THE SAME BLOCK AS THE POST OFFICE. Only, it opens at 8 am, and closes at 6 pm. If I am super fast and organized in the morning and there aren't already five people waiting outside the door I can stop in on my way to work without being late. (If you consider my utter lack of organization lately and the population density of my neighborhood you will understand why I still don't have mailing boxes.) If I am super fast and organized in the evening I can get back home by 5:55 pm and maybe stop by then, assuming there isn't a ginormous line.

It's a seemingly endless cycle. I may have to take a day off or something just to do this. (What about my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot? you wonder. Couldn't he run this errand for me? Well, what about him? I asked him to do it two weeks ago since he is within 5 mins walking time from the post office virtually 24/7, and look where it's gotten me.)

So, swamped.

I don't suppose you have any boxes, do you? And maybe a barrel of monkeys who knit?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Goodness Gracious

Here it is 6:17 pm on a Friday night and where am I? I'm at work!

I am selflessly waiting for the carpet installers in my building to leave so that I can lock up after them. Okay, maybe not that selflessly: I am getting time and a half and brownie (i.e., brown-nosing) points, but it's the thought that counts. Er. Of course, I'm only doing this because what with all the knitblog cruising I do all day, I figure some brownie points couldn't hurt.

So.

Boy am I bored.

Ubitquitous Tank Top

Today I:

  • had a bagel with salmon cream cheese at work for breakfast (someone threw out my Tofutti!)
  • have already drank two cups of tea
  • am having bean and rice burritos for the third consecutive day

I know, I know, this photo doesn't look like much. It's the Ubiquitous Tank Top I'm knitting. Since I threw out/gave away most of my clothes I'm now desperate for a decent black tank top I can wear to work. Hopefully, this will be it.

I'm not following any specific pattern, rather I'm constructing a hybrid tank top from all the tank top patterns I have. It's going to be ballet-necked on one side and a v-neck on the other. This is possible because I really have no bust to speak of (except for just now) which means I don't need bust shaping and can make this tank top essentially two fronts sewn together. If all goes well, this will be the tank top prototype from which I base all future tank tops for myself.

Yesterday, I:
  • had a bowl of cereal with soy milk and jasmine green tea for breakfast
  • had burritos for lunch with a banana
  • drank much tea
  • had 1/2 of a glass of merlot
  • knit a bit
  • wrote a bit
  • had tater tots with salad for dinner

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Finally!

Blogger hates me, my Secret pal loves me

I still can't upload pictures, and I'll be astonished if I can even post this. Grrr!

But - on an up-note - my Secret Pal 8 package came. My Secret Pal must have a line to a security camera in my LYS or something because she sent me 3 balls of black Regia Silk sock yarn, and I have been to my LYS no less than three times in the past two weeks to feel the stuff they have there. Coincidence?

Maybe. (Looking over shoulder.)

She also sent me a pack of notecards that are very nice and more ginger candy. (If I could post the photo you'd be able to see that the package is already open.)

All of this was enveloped in some hummingbird tissue paper. Hummingbird tissue paper! Where is this stuff found? Maybe I'm living under a rock or something, because all the tissue paper I ever see is solid, and mostly pastels.

Actually, I'm pretty certain I am living under a rock. I've never seen a podcast, I have no idea what an MP3 is, and I've spent the past couple days being very excited that I know trigonometry so that I can do sewage calculations. (This, of course, totally perplexes my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot, who still has flashbacks to nuns beating him whenever he is asked to do math. The sewage part he finds funny. But just think: when armagedden comes, and there are only a hundred people left alive in your city, who will know where everybody should pee so that the water supply isn't contaminated, giving everyone cholera? That's right! Me. Isn't that a happy thought?)

Anyway.

Darn that Blogger.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

We now return to our regularly scheduled ramble/rant

Today I:

  • had a bowl of cereal with soy milk and a cup of jasmine tea for breakfast
  • had half a tuna sandwich (!) and a bag of Kettle Chips for lunch
  • am moody

I think The Bitter Knitter mentioned some time back that she had compiled a list of 101 things she wants to have done in the next year. Or something like that. A life checklist.

I could really use one of those. I feel constantly at sea, all my interests vying for attention simultaneously. It can get confusing and sometimes I end up washed up on strange shores, completely baffled. *

But I won't bore you with that today. Here's another picture of the Funky Sock in progress.

This sock is cruising along. I'm really digging the way it looks. However, if you're considering making something out of this yarn I should warn you that it is rough. I mean, my Fugly Socks, which are made out of Lion Brand Magic Stripes yarn, are softer than this. Not exactly merino, and not exactly itch-free, folks. More like twine. But it looks cool, and I have a high tolerance for itch.

This isn't the only knitting I have going on right now, of course. I'm making a couple things for my SP8 and I'm knitting two tank tops...

Yesterday, I:
  • had toaster waffles with an inadequate amount of syrup and tea for breakfast
  • ate the dreaded Vending Machine Lunch
  • regretted it
  • had cold miso soup for dinner
  • ate a piece of peanut butter chocolate
  • read some more from Collapse (the Norse were in Greenland for 500 years...?!?)
  • ranted about how crappy my life is that I'm getting a 2yr. degree in 4 yrs.
  • drank a lot of water
  • had a salad

*With sewage all around me. I bought an awesome book this weekend on Wastewater Treatment Systems.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Funky socks

Today I:

  • had a bowl of cereal with soy milk and a cup of genmaicha tea for breakfast
  • had an onion bagel with fake cream cheese for Second Breakfast
  • am having a bag of Fritos and a banana for lunch because I don't want to go outside
  • learned that a friend of mine's parents are stuck in Lebanon
  • am making a point of thinking a lot about my knitting

Wednesday night I couldn't drum up any enthusiasm for any of my knitting projects, so I started a new one.


This is Lana Grossa Fun Stripes. Notice how much brighter it is on my picture vs. the one on the website? Mine is the true color. This colorway is funky, if you know what I mean, which is why I chose it. Of course, I don't have much to wear with it, esp. since lately almost all my clothes are non-colors. Hmmm. I think they might go very well with my snow boots. Which are black.

However, Jameison approves., so it's alright.

Last night, I:

  • had miso soup with udon noodles for dinner
  • ate some salad
  • had S'nB at the coffeehouse again
  • had a small decaf soy latte and a bag of chip there


Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Appeal of Fiction

Today I:
  • had a bowl of cereal for breakfast with a cup of genmaicha tea and soy milk
  • am drinking Earl Grey

When I am bored at work, I cruise knitting/craft blogs, literary blogs, on-line yarn stores and read the news. I read about as much news as knitting blogs, from various sources. I like to compare and contrast. For instance, lately I've been reading Yahoo! News, BBC News (International Version), and Indymedia (Lebanon, Israel).

If you don't want to be upset, don't click on those links. I was so upset yesterday by what I read and saw* that I almost didn't go to S'nB. I really don't want to talk very much about politics here, so I'm going to talk about fiction.

What does fiction have to do with politics, aside from the obvious cynical answer? Well, the realities of the world drive me to fiction, for one thing. If you take a look at my SRP book list, I'm not reading heavy fiction, no siree. No The Grapes of Wrath, no The Heart is a Lonely Hunter for me. (Not just because I had to read them in high school.) Real world events are heavy enough, thank you very much. (I also like "light" movies.)

But I can't always escape into satire, chic lit or British cottage mysteries. Which brings up my vivid imagination. Often, I image other worlds where things go the way I want them to go. What would have happened if Native Americans weren't conquered by European colonists? What if it was possible to sense if someone is lying? What if wishes came true? Next thing you know, I'm figuring out a plot for the idea, fabricating domino effects and doodling outlines on Post-It notes.

Yes, human brutality will make a person write fiction.

Yesterday, I:

  • had a bowl of cereal with soy milk and jasmine green tea for breakfast
  • ate two bean burritos for lunch
  • drank a lot of tea
  • had miso soup with udon noodles for dinner
  • drank a soy White Russian
  • talked to my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot about Japanese
  • had a bag of chips and soy decaf latte at S'nB
  • read more from Collapse (which doesn't exactly help the mood)

*images of dead Lebanese children taken by an AP photographer

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Random interests and some WIP pics

Today I:

  • had a bowl of cereal with soy milk and unknown tea for breakfast
  • am having two bean and rice burritos for lunch
  • am harassing innocent advisors at colleges about their foreign language programs
  • am taking a moment to consider the disparate nature of my interests

When I was still in school I called myself an Architecture Major with a Minor in Mandarin. I could see that some might find this an odd combo, but those were the subjects that interested me. The funny thing is that now I am not in school the subject I miss the most is Chinese. (This isn't because I work in architecture and am getting my architecture fix that way, mind you. The intellectual experience of school has very little to do with the intellectual experience of architectural practice. For example, today I am in love with a binder called United States Gypsum Company Architectural Reference Library 1999 CSI Division 9 (also Divisions 7 & 11). This binder is the most exciting thing to happen to me in months. Hardly debating the merits of Post-Modernism, is it? )

So. Chinese. Chinese is fun. I suspect Japanese is also fun. Because I am sick like that. I've been having this not-so-secret fantasy all week about moving back to California (where I can actually afford higher education) to major in Japanese with a Mandarin minor, or possibly Mandarin with a Japanese minor. Very pragmatic, yes indeed.

That or sanitation engineering. Love those septic systems.

Fiber Stuff

This is the red alpaca scarf I've been working on when I can't be bothered to count or to read charts.
And here we have two sewn together crocheted squares for... I don't know what. I was thinking "skirt" (See: Rowan #36) but then the yarn was so bulky I did a redesign that left me with two fairly useless squares. The yarn is some single-ply yellow/ecru fingering weight wool I have that is harsh as hell and pink mohair. I like the effect.

Last night, I:

  • ate an eclair in Paul Revere Mall
  • had miso soup for dinner with salad
  • drank a lot of water
  • went to bed fairly early
  • knit

Monday, July 17, 2006

Wherein I realize I do not like all Japanese food

Today I:

A brick facade on Mass. Ave. near the Central stop. They really don't make them like they used to, you know? That is, when they could afford it.

Yesterday, I:

Friday, July 14, 2006

...and still thinking...

Today I:

  • had a bowl of cereal with soy milk for breakfast with a cup of jasmine green tea
  • am having leftover pasta for lunch
  • actually have things to do at work that are interesting for a change*

This is a scene from last weekend. I had a terrible headache, so I figured a bottle of water, some aspirin, and way too much strong coffee might fix it.

It didn't. But the coffee was good.

Intellectualism

Last night my boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot and I went out to dinner with an old friend of ours who was visiting from Philly. It had been a year since I'd spoken to him, and it really took me back. The subjects we usually discuss are Foreign Policy, Silly Attitudes Toward Political Issues, Crazy People We Probably Shouldn't Have Dated, Culture Shock, Languages, Racism, Good Food, What the Hell am I Doing With My Life?, and Philly Sucks. (Not necessarily in that order.) It's always a relief to have someone to vent to about Philly who can sympathize, and a sheer joy to find someone whose loathing not only equals yours, but surpasses it because they are still living in Philly. My friend had a new complaint about Philly last night that I hadn't heard vocalized before, despite how many people are probably suffering from it in that city:

Philly is Anti-Intellectual, and It's Damn Hard to Find Anyone to Hang Out With Because of That.

My boyfriend/ partner/ whatnot and I were discussing the definition of "intellectual" as we understand it this morning over breakfast. His definition is that an "intellectual" is someone who is not afraid to actually think about things, and has nothing to do with perceived intelligence or whether someone has a bunch of initials after their name or not. We know people who fall into this category and people who don't, but generally the people we both know who are not intellectuals by that definition are nonconformists of one stripe or another - people with upwards of a hundred tattoos, people who work in an unusual field, people who make their life a kind of performance art. (We've also known obnoxious intellectuals who will argue about whether a particular word has a Latin or Greek root first thing in the morning while we're trying to have our coffee, but we wouldn't really call them friends.)

I know I'm non-conformist in some ways, and intellectual in others, but I wouldn't really call myself either. I think it's important to exercise the mind and make life interesting. (If not exactly exciting. I would never call my life that.) Alas, I think the way architecture is taught squeezes out the possibility of thinking about anything else (including new ideas in architecture) which is largely why it is not working out for me.

Back to my light bulbs.

Last night, I:

  • had fettuccini with marinara sauce
  • drank a Peroni
  • had some chips

*I'm assigning kitchen cabinet lighting and then counting how many bulbs! It's amazing how much this is lifting my spirits. (Try not to let the glamour of my job overwhelm you.)