Friday, December 15, 2006

I am so busy I could... ooh, look, shiny things!

My brain is about to explode.

At one point this afternoon, after I had lost my train of thought for the fourth time in ten minutes and again forgotten the correct answer to the question I was grading, I put down my red pen, closed my eyes, rubbed my temples, took two deep breaths and said, "Dammit. What the hell is wrong with me?"

The woman sitting across the desk from me didn't even look up from her own pile of exams as she replied, "Maybe it's because you've been grading out your ass for the last two weeks."

Indeed. She has a point. Actually, it's been three weeks. Before that, several days of frantic work on a joint project, and in early/mid-November, a conference. It seems so long ago, and yet when I look across the living room in the corner, I see that I never unpacked or put away the books that I took with me on the trip. I just stacked my dirty laundry on top of them. Not, perhaps, the best of signs. Notice the pile on the left side of this photo. Yep, evidence, even. Ford, of course, is wondering why on Earth I am typing and taking pictures when there is food distribution to attend to:

But anyhow, as of 7pm this evening, the grading is all done. All the projects, all the final exams. Emails are sent to the appropriate people and I am slowly beginning to remember how to spell my name again. Next hurdle? Finish the layout on the never-ending Festschrift, make final revisions to an article to be submitted to a journal late next week, and begin working on my dissertation plan, of which 10 solid pages must land in the hands of my committee on January 8, since we're meeting on January 10.

Wait a minute. Read that last sentence again. It implies that I have both a dissertation topic and a committee. Who knew? More on that saga another day, perhaps.

Last Friday was a Christmas party. This past Wednesday was the Mississauga Pops Christmas concert, followed by party. This coming Sunday is the annual quintet gig, a Christmas Sing-A-Long at The Ben Wicks pub. Invitations have been sent, music has been purchased and practised. And they have Guinness on tap. I think this will be the first Ben Wicks gig in 5 years where I haven't had a huge deadline for something the following day. Do you think it's possible I might enjoy myself more than usual? I will make an attempt at pictures, perhaps.

Next week, two SCA Christmas thingies, informal, but I need to deal with garb issues. I believe that will be my weekend project, if I can coerce someone into helping me tomorrow. Tonight, though, there are some drop spindles and wool with my name on them.

Finally, shiny things. This morning, after I parked in front of the library, I ran into a friend. As we stood there chatting, I noticed a shiny thing on the sidewalk. I am easily distracted at the best of times, but in my current state, it's nearly impossible for me to focus on a single topic for more than a minute. I also have a habit of picking up small change that I find on the ground (thanks for that, Mom). So in mid-conversation, I bent over to investigate. It was a glass bead. And another. And oooh, look, another! Soon - what conversation? -I was fully engaged in the scavenger hunt. I enlisted my friend and we picked up as many as we could find from the sidewalk and the nearby pavement. I guess someone's bracelet or necklace broke. I even went out later in the day and did another pass, finding more. For my troubles, I was rewarded with this delightful collection:

Not a clue what I'll do with them, but hey, shiny!

Monday, October 23, 2006

A Time to Spin, Part 3: The not-quite-exponential stash increase

The pink roving is now all spun up, and currently looks like this, on my poor man's bobbins:

The roll in the front with the least amount is what I spun the first day I bought the spindle, included here for comparison. I'm relatively pleased. This was all spun on the carved clay low-whorl spindle.

I'm currently tackling the rest of the Cosmic Pluto roving from the spinning class last month:

On the top whorl is most of the rest of the colourway that produced my first skein. However, this second batch of roving was obviously sitting in a better place in the dyepot, because the colours are far more vibrant. That makes me happy. Since I want it to look mostly like the mini-skein produced in the class, I will spin it all up onto this spindle and make it into 2-ply.

On the carved clay spindle is the second colourway of roving bought at the class. I'm trying a bit harder for consistency now, and purposely breaking and rejoining when it gets too thin. I'm still not very good at joins. I do it five or six times and it still breaks and then I get frustrated, and it ends up being ugly and lumpy. I briefly thought I would ply the pink roving together with this, but looking at them together, I think not. The pinks are different enough that I think the pink roving would dull this down too much, and I really like this, even if it does make me crave gelato.

And since I didn't go to Rhinebeck when it seems like everyone else did, and I do mean everyone, I stopped by Lettuce Knit on Friday (which sent a large contingent) and bought some consolation wool that I've had my eye on for a few weeks (if you love it let it go, if it comes back it's yours... well, it didn't come back, but it was still there, so now it's mine):

Over the last month, while I've continued to try and avoid work, the spinning stash has increased dramatically. Here, for your viewing pleasure, are several pictures of lumps of fibre goodness, many of which look similar in their whiteness, but I can assure you they're not. First is the Almost-White Alpaca, which I might ply with the pink roving or with the gelato yellow/pink roving. Or not.

There's the Brown Shetland, which I might ply with The Fleece. Or not. They are similar, but different, and a plied colour probably needs to either compliment or contrast, but most definitely not clash. I'll decide when I start spinning it and have them both out side-by-side.

The only certain thing is that this white superwash will be plied with the grey superwash, because, well, superwash. You know.

And finally, because I'm crazy and have no idea when I'll even get an appropriate spindle for it let alone feel comfortable enough with my spinning to give it a try, there is Silk Noie...

...and some dyed silk hankies:

My master plan is to ultimately buy at least two more drop spindles, one small and light, the other more average, both nicely finished. The unfinished edges of the whorl on the Ashford Student spindles are somewhat rough on the fibre. Whaddya think? Another, better Ashford? A Bosworth? Mmmm, Bosworth. Maybe two Bosworths, dang, those are nice. I also want good wool combs and carders. I'm thinking Christmas presents. Yep.

I also had a lead on a free, unwashed fleece, but after the initial emails, I haven't heard anything for two weeks. I'm guessing that won't happen - there were three up for grabs to the first responders, and I doubt I was one of them. But since it would be coming through a network of acquaintences, it could just show up with very little warning in a bag with my name on it. Mmmm, free fleece.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Just be glad I didn't include pictures this time.

I am rarely moved to poetry, but then, home renovations are even more rare in my world, save for the occasional lightbulb or lampshade.

Last weekend was surprisingly eventful, though, and confirmation that marriage is indeed a partnership, and crisis nearly always brings you closer. Remind me to tell the story of our first "date" sometime, which culminated at 2am on a deserted Pittsburgh street with one of us holding a tire iron and the other a jack, as the S.W.A.T. van drove by.

Good times.

And so, for my dear Daniel, I present the following. I didn't say it was good poetry, but it comes from the heart.

Ode on a Toilet Seat

For many a year, a month, a week,
we had turned a blind eye to the old toilet seat.
What I cannot see couldn’t kill me, I thought.
(Domestic Goddess, I am not.)
But on Saturday morning, just this past week
the gross-out factor reached its peak.
I got a good look where the brush couldn’t reach,
and firmly repressed an ear-splitting shriek.
So off to Canadian Tire we went,
a magical land where much money was spent.
We returned home, proud owners of wrenches (not tires)
and a new toilet seat, Some Assembly Required.
The first step, brave husband, remove the old seat,
then much cleaning and scrubbing for me, what a treat!
But the old seat removal proved no piece of cake -
it had been attached 15 years, give or take -
at that time installed, by some sick (not us) putz,
using metal bolts, and plastic nuts.
Those bolts were rusted through and through.
It was as though they’d been attached with glue.
(Glue would be easier, I thought to myself -
there’s chemicals to dissolve that stuff.)
But we crawled in behind the old toilet and tried
not to think of the state of things growing inside.
Much swearing and WD-40 ensued,
but the seat would not budge from its toilet friend true.
A couple hours later, still having no luck,
an “Aha!” from the husband as inspiration struck.
“Break the old (plastic) seat, leaving just rusty bolts,
then hit from the top, they’ll fall out with a jolt!”
With sponge, mop, and gloves, I descended in turn
to crawl in behind there and kill scary germs.
Once scoured, the new seat it’s time to attach -
So we opened it, only to find it was cracked.
Thus, back to Canadian Tire I raced
to return it, by closing, and try to replace.
My mission successful, the seat was installed
in its clean, shiny glory - clamshell pattern and all.
And as I first sat upon the new throne
and opened up a hefty tome
(for reading material was now required),
I’m certain I heard a heavenly choir.
And I said, “Hey guys, do you have to watch?
This is kind of a private moment, as such.”
The descending angels did look abashed,
for I was sitting there quite bare-assed.
And here Ends my Tail, we are wiser (a smidge),
and God help us if I look beneath that old fridge.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Time to Spin, Part 2: Er, it can't be that hard, right?

I arrived home with the Pennic haul in mid-August. Book in tow, I bravely began to tackle my new supplies. First, the pink roving. It's pretty densely packed, this stuff, probably felted up a tiny bit when it was being dyed and then packed up tight for a while. I wasn't sure how to prep the roving, so I pulled off a little sliver and started pulling it apart, then attached it to the spindle, and off I went. I ended up with rather light-weight yarn with a lot of twist. Here's the picture again of that first go:

That's a picture of the first attempt at spinning the roving. I had so much twist on it that one night I wound it off and then moved it back to the spindle, slowly unspinning it a bit at a time to let some of the exsessive twist out. Is that the "proper" thing to do while handspinning? Who knows, but I did it. It's now a little better than it was at first, as we'll see below.

Next, I decided I couldn't keep my hands off of it: the washed fleece. But what the heck to do with it? Card it? Comb it? Try spinning right from the fleece? I didn't have hand-carders or wool combs, and wow, are they expensive. A trip to the pet store netted me 2 dog brushes, and I tried to remember how to card wool using the instructions in the book and some online references. The last time I did this I was about 10 years old. (OK, don't work it too much, you just want to straighten it all out a bit...) I finally ended up with a few rolags, and spun those on the top-whorl Ashford student spindle. Here's the spun version of what I carded:

Neat, but it's a little fuzzier than I expected, and when I tried drafting it thinner, it wouldn't hold together. Perhaps I should buy the expensive hand-carders, I think. Maybe I should try combs! I would definitely have to order those, no one seems to stock them, not even (I checked) the ToRontO-shop-which-shall-reMain-Nameless-but-they-sent-me-Into-the-basement (Toronto knitters, you probably know The Basement.) Perhaps I'm not using the right spindle to get the weight of yarn I want... er, better yet, perhaps I should actually go and talk to someone who knows what the hell to do with this stuff!

Enter Lettuce Knit, and Laura's drop spindle class. We were provided with some lovely hand-dyed roving and a spindle (another Ashford student spindle, ah, what the heck), and 4 hours of solid, patient instruction for 2 hours, two Fridays in a row. Here's my roving from class (I bought the matching second skein for $6):

Sadly, I'm lacking pictures of the in-progress spinning or of our "homework": 2 toilet-paper rolls of singles to take to the second week's class for our plying lesson. Perhaps when I spin up the rest of this roving, I'll fill in that gap. However, I do have pictures of the finished product, or My First Official Skein (2-ply hand-dyed merino):

I have to say, thanks to Laura's wondermous roving (which she had already pre-drafted a bit for us) it suddenly made sense. It's all in the fibre preparation. The better-prepared the fibre is, the easier it is to spin. This stuff is wonderfully soft, and made learning to spin on a drop spindle way easy. In fact, it was so much fun to spin Laura's roving that I bought more:

Laura also humoured me and brought "real" handcarders and wool combs to the second lesson, and at the end we played a little with various types of fibre preparation. I brought The Fleece, and the class got to meet it, and Laura carded a little bit and combed a little bit and everyone got to see how that works. I came to the conclusion that my dog brushes are actually pretty good (just a little small, so not as much volume, meaning, slower to card everything).

And I definitely decided that I need wool combs. I'm considering calling these guys, although that would be a bit of a splurge. Alternatively, a much more affordable option is the combs from Majacraft, which I think I can order from The Black Lamb. However, Lettuce Knit can also order the Louet Dutch Combs, and I really love Lettuce Knit. And folks, service goes a long way. I'll stew on it for a couple more days and let you know.

Armed with my newfound spinning knowledge, I tackled the pink roving again. Now that I actually know how properly predrafted roving is supposed to feel before I spin it, I'm more comfortable working with the densely packed roving. Here's how it's spinning up now, compared to that first batch of spun yarn:

Improvement? Not? Who's to say. It's not as even and it's not as light, but I'm more relaxed, the hand-dyed nature of the roving colour is coming through better, and my hands don't hurt from holding it so tightly. In other words, works for me. Perfection is overrated anyhow.

And finally, I tried spinning some of the grey superwash straight out of the ball o' fluff. Fun! Different! Harder to keep it together... but if you think about it, that makes sense. [Teacher Mode]The little scales or barbs on the wool fibre (when seen under a microscope) are what allow us to do so many wonderful things with it. Those little scales are what cause wool to felt when exposed to heat (which opens up the fibre more) and agitation (which causes the barbs to rub together and get tangled up due to the friction). The little scales are also what help wool to become yarn, because the natural friction of the fibres, when combined with a little twist, makes them stay together. [/Teacher Mode]

In other words, yay friction! But the treatment to make wool "superwash", as I understand it, strips away some of the outside of the fibre - some of the little scales. And therefore it doesn't want to stick together as much. In practise, it means I'm having to put more twist on this, after very carefully training myself over the last month how to use less twist. I hear you laugh. Anyhow, here's some of the superwash yarn in-progress:

So, that's part 2 of the spinning adventure. In part 3, more roving, some combed top, alpaca and silk! Woo! And did I mention Lettuce Knit offers regular Spinning Wheel classes? Hmmm? Maybe that's for Part 4.

I leave you with this picture. As for a caption, I was thinking, "Thank you for your offering, pitiful human", or perhaps, "Yes, lovely, but I'm still prettier." Husband's response was, "It's not a hairball, honest!"

Monday, September 25, 2006

Picture, thousand words, blahblahblah: The Knitting Spot

Crazy Aunt Purl has asked her blog readers to send her a picture of their knitting spot. I, needing little encouragement to procrastinate on the work I should have been doing for the last week and didn't, was more than happy to oblige. In fact, I took several pictures, which I now present here, with commentary.

SIDE NOTE: In Fall 1993, the beginning of my final year at Syracuse University, I took Intro to Archaeology as an elective (point of fact: Best Elective EVER). As our major project, we were asked to create an archaeological artifact list of our dorm room. In other words, imagine that in October 1993, a volcano erupted and buried Syracuse, New York. You are an archaeologist a few centuries later who has broken through the roof of a buried room, which has been left spectacularly intact buried under the volcanic ash. Give a complete artifact inventory, and speculate about the life of the room's occupant.

It's amazing what people can learn about YOU by studying your living space.

This is My Knitting Spot:

Tiger, asserting his Feline Right-By-Birth, moved over to my spot the moment I got up to take the picture. I habitually occupy the left side of the couch, because there's a little table there where I can put scissors, yarn and drink, and it's a good place for the OTT Lite. Stacks of magazines on the table are sorted and tossed every so often, or more likely when they fall over. Notice the wallet, cell phone (charging) and ever-present Starbucks Venti Caramel Macchiato peaking out from behind the OTT Lite. This is where I sit as soon as possible after coming home. I drop my things (backpack to the right) and check email (laptop computer on the coffee table). It's also where I work, knit, stitch, watch TV and spend most evenings.

Behind the couch (second-hand from an aunt, actually a love seat, biggest we can fit into tiny basement apartment), is the wall-o-cds. It extends off to the left. A little bit of the completely mirrored wall behind it can be seen poking out to the right of the CD racks, with the reflection of things off-screen. Moving further right, the "unwatched" DVD stack. I've mentioned our DVD and CD obsession before. So, photographic evidence now. Hanging on the side wall in the corner is another CD rack shaped like a lizard. Cute, gift from my mother, not a bit practical as far as volume goes, but I like it. We're actually thinking of packing away most of the CDs, now that the entire CD library has been ripped to the IPod.

The backpack is leaning against an old TV stand, which serves as another place to acumulate piles of papers and more junk. Underneath it we store some computer peripherals. You can also see the pet brushes that serve as my wool carders, until I can afford good ones. Box of little hand sanitizers on the table. Next to the backpack, on the floor, a pile of books with a new board game on top. Hanging on the wall above the TV stand is an old poster of this painting that I had up in my dorm room over a decade ago.

Wedged between the little end table and TV stand are the knitting WIP bag (lower, canvas) and the spinning WIP bag (upper, black with pattern). Two plastic bags perched on top contain this past weekend's spinning purchases, in full view so that the husband could see the evidence when he came home. I'll detail those in a later post, but they include alpaca and some hand-dyed silk hankies, woo!

Under the end table, photographic evidence of the other cat, Ford, in the form of shredded bits of paper. It's a hobby with him. I think that was once a pizza flyer. He hangs out under there sometimes.

Now then, no "knitting spot picture" is complete without a view of what one sees from the spot. So I give you My Knitting Spot View:

Ford is occupying his normal spot, front and centre, on the coffee table, and will surely kick both remotes off the table as soon as he stretches back out, as is his way. My computer on the left, husband's computer to the right. (He usually takes it to work with him, but today was a "running late" day.) We have a wireless hub in the back of the apartment, so both laptops can be online anywhere in the place.

Against the far wall, the television setup. More DVDs in front of it and on top of the left speaker. These are "what we're working through now." Also in front of the TV is the new MacMini, for which the television also serves as a monitor, and below it is the TV-tuner thing that allows it to take an incoming television signal and view it through the computer, and also record shows. This setup is intended to replace the aging VCR and DVD player, which are still there and will be sent away once we work all the bugs out of the new system. (The silver mouse on the coffee table is for the MacMini, the keyboard is under the coffee table.) There's also a PS2 under the TV (hiding behind my monitor), and you can see the end of our old telephone, which I insisted stay accessible for when the power goes out and the cordless phones don't work. Found that out the hard way.

To the right of the stereo (and the cat thing on top of it), PS2 games and Oh-my-God-More-DVDs. Help me, please, I'm being buried in them. Small pile of take-out menus under the Star Wars movies. To the far right, you can see the corner of my stash storage boxes (mostly cross stitch patterns and knitting supplies). Hanging above is an Animaniacs lithograph bought many years ago - a storyboard of the "I'm Cute" segment, signed by the voices of the Warners. The cats like to sleep on top of those boxes, in front of the print.

Hanging next to the Animaniacs print (from a light) is a dreamcatcher, hand-made by a local woman as part of a stash exchange. She didn't have stash to trade, and this is what she offered! It's neat, and by far my favourite trade ever. Above the TV us my finished and framed Teresa Wentzler "Unicorn". Better picture can be seen here.

A word on the wallpaper: Yes, I know it's nasty. It was here when we moved in over 12 years ago, and it will most certainly be here when we move out in a couple years. We couldn't be bothered to deal with it - we are renters, and I have an aversion to anything resembling construction projects and home improvement, being the daughter of a contractor (meaning: our house was always the last to be finished - the bathroom was under construction for years.)

To the left of the TV you can glimpse a corner of the door to the kitchen. Another Venti Starbuck's cup is clearly visible. I hope it's empty, otherwise, um, eew, gross. It's sad, this addiction.

Two final notes: The big white plastic bag below the stereo contains board games, used yesterday by my husband at a gathering and not yet packed away. I mention it because Tiger has a plastic fetish, and unsurprisingly chewed off a corner of the bag some time in the night, and then promptly puked it up with his breakfast this morning. On my bed. Yay, laundry time.

Finally, on the floor in the bottom right corner: that white and black thing is Fuzzytail, or Ford's Most Beloved Toy. It was his first toy when he was a kitten, over 11 years ago, a strip of rabbit fur that originally had a piece of wire inside (removed immediately so he wouldn't hurt himself) and a rubber band string to hang from a stick and make it bounce around (chewed through in first 5 minutes). Fuzzy tail is getting a little bald on the ends from much licking and playing, but he persists.

So there we go. Enlightening? Er, maybe not. But a good way to spend an afternoon? You betcha.

Finally, in the tradition of Crazy Aunt Purl, a cat picture with a caption:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Time to Spin, Part 1: The Pennsic haul

I spent several idyllic days in August visiting my family, although most of that time was spent at Pennsic. (That's the official link. Another linky here). Any SCAdians reading this will know exactly what this is, for the rest, this is a large (really, really large) event hosted by the Society for Creative Anachronism (another link here). This event has been taking place for a couple decades now at the same campground in Western PA, and growing every year. Conveniently, the campground is about 5 miles from my ancestral home, where my parents and a number of friends and relatives still live. There aren't a lot of perks to be had from that (my knowledge of the local back roads and places to go in the area means little at an event where people don't have much reason or desire to leave the site), but it does make the laundry thing far less troublesome, and I have a place to crash if it all gets to be too much and Oh-my-God-I-just-need-a-real-shower-and-a-bed-now.

One of my nieces has been going for several years, and I finally managed to go and spend some time with her. I've been wanting to go to Pennsic (and possibly get more involved in the SCA) for some time, but there was the university thing, followed by the getting married thing, followed by the moving to Canada thing, then the "Oh my God, I have to work for a living" thing. Then came the "I want to play in a concert band" thing and finally the "This would be a great time to go back to grad school" thing. Before you know it, 15 years have gone by, and I've STILL never made it to Pennsic or looked up my local SCA groups. Which is pathetic, really.

So this year I went. I had two goals: 1) See if I would be comfortable at an SCA event and if this is something I would like to do more often, 2) Learn to spin on a drop spindle. The jury is still out on the first goal, although I've since been in contact with my local groups. I'm going to their meetings for a bit to observe quietly and see if any of them would be a good fit for my interests.

The second goal, however, was quite sucessfully met. In the interests of full disclosure, I bring you Bridget's Pennsic Stash Haul:

First, drop spindles, and a book to teach me what to do with them. The top whorl spindle is your basic Ashford Student (inexpensive) spindle. I like it well enough. I bought it with the book, along with some roving. The second is a hand-made clay low-whorl spindle, bought from this shop. It's heavier than the Ashford, spins forever, and I adore it. In this picture, it's holding my first spinning attempt.

The brooch was bought from the same merchant. I needed it for the scarf, which I feel I should explicitely state was bought from a completely different merchant.

Ahem, the scarf. I should explain a bit. I had no garb of my own. Rather, I was wearing garb borrowed (mostly) from my father. His shirt was huge, oversized, and fit like a sack (not a bad thing, honestly). There was also a large piece of cloth that he wore like a tartan, over one shoulder and belted around the waist. I decided to wear that as a head covering instead of a hat (which is problematic with my hair up in a bun), lest I roast in the August sun, SPF 50 be damned. I discovered very quickly the first day that his pseudo-tartan was far heavier material than I wanted. I was sweating like a freaking pig. Hence, the scarf. A very lovely scarf, much cooler, with the ends beautifully yet heavily overdyed using who-the-hell-knows-what-but-damn-its-BLUE. It was also definitely NOT colourfast dye. To be fair, the merchant I bought it from warned me. She suggested I buy this scarf since most of it was undyed (most of her others were completely dyed), and thus I wouldn't end up with a smurf-coloured head and face as soon as I stared sweating on it. She also recommended that I NOT allow it to be rained on, and if I intended to wear it as a head covering with any regularilty, that I wash it and try to fix the dye once I got home, perhaps with vinegar. Under normal circumstances, I probably would have moved along to the next merchant and bought something confirmed to be colourfast, but the scarf was pretty, and I was desperate.

This lovely scarf got me through the rest of my trip without incident (and, in fact, netted me a couple compliments from complete strangers - Pennsic is like that). I managed to keep the ends from touching my sweaty self the whole time. I tried to set it with some really good dye fixative when I got home (Raycafix, recommended for "unknown" dyes), but alas, let's just say that the scarf ends are no longer that brillant shade of blue. In fact, it bled so much that if it were red instead of blue, it could have made for an awkward conversation with the neighbours in the laundry room. It's now a lovely, pale aquamarine, at best. Not a big deal, it wasn't expensive. I'm going to play with it a bit and see if I can re-dye it. If so, perhaps the scarf will make another blog appearance.

Anyhow. Back to the rest of the stash.

Next is the pink roving, bought at the same place as the Ashford spindle and the book. Apparently it was dyed with Brazilwood using tin as a mordent.

This roving is the first thing I tried spinning, on the clay low-whorl spindle. My first spun yarn is here, with a better picture of the spindle. Considering how densely packed the roving was (it needed a lot of pre-drafting) and the fact that I'd never used a spindle before, it's not too bad, actually. There's too much twist, of course, which isn't surprising for a learner, especially given how heavy and fast this spindle is.

When I was buying the clay spindle, I also grabbed another bag of fleece. This one is merino lamb's fleece, superwash treated. It's so light and fluffly that I can spin it without brushing or combing. The staple length is a little shorter, though. I'm just starting to play with it now, so more on that in the next post.

By this time, the fleece-buying frenzy had completely taken hold. A few merchants were selling raw fleece as well, and I wandered into one such tent. The woman was a dear - or perhaps a deer is more accurate, since she had antlers strapped to her head. (They looked great, btw... did I mention I was at Pennsic? *grin*) She took one look at my red, sweaty face (this was the day before I bought the new scarf), and she promptly sat me down and plopped a handful of ice into my hands. We sat on the bench in the shade and rubbed our faces and arms with ice for a while, talking. A third woman joined us. After a bit, I realized I'd come into her shop to look at the fleece! The one I really liked wasn't washed, and even I - an enthusiastic newbie in the throes of fleece-buying euphoria with a healthy credit card, realized that I didn't have a convenient way to wash and dry a large fleece promptly upon returning home. Seriously, I live in a basement apartment, and I have no yard. The shopkeeper obliged by finding me a smaller, washed fleece. Meet my new friend, a Romney Cross:

Here's a close-up picture showing some of the lovely crimpy locks. I'm not sure how visible it is, but there's a grey touch to some of it. I think it's in the undercoat. I've been playing with it. I carded a handful, combed some, and spun a bit straight out of the fleece with just a little pre-drafting of the more matted parts. I was happiest with the combed locks, so I'm probably going to get some good wool combs and learn how to use them. This is mostly for spinning practise anyhow, I'm not really worried about how much yarn I get from it in the end.

Best of all, it smells sheepy, a bit like a barn but not too strong. I find it a most comforting smell. I wasn't raised on a farm, but I was surrounded by them growing up. Most of the farms around us stuck to cows, but the sheep were my favourite. As soon as I catch a whif, I am instantly transported back about 20-25 years. Friends raised sheep and angora rabbits that they would show at the Butler Fair (we lived close enough to bike there, if not walk) or the Farm Show. Their mother spun and knitted with the wool. When the kids were showing animals, they slept in a stall in the barn next to them, sleeping with the sounds of quietly bleating sheep.

It's funny. Twenty years later, living in a large city many hours away, and I finally figured out how to bring home to me.

Finally, I needed a bag to put it all in, and for good measure, I picked up some silk/wool yarn that will probably make the loveliest socks ever:

So, that's the Pennsic Haul, as we're calling here. My husband received fair warning of my purchases when I was still 5 hours away, and did not have me committed upon my arrival home. After I played around with everything for a little bit, I decided I should probably get someone to show me how to spin in-person. I wanted to take one of the classes at Pennsic, but I missed them the first week and didn't stay long enough into the second week to catch the next one.

Next post, my local handspinning class goodies, and my first skein.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This blog will return soon. Really. With pictures, even.

So, since the last entry, I sucessfully defended the paper (it was very anti-climactic and all, but it's done THANK GOD), and then I ran away for a bit to visit my family and attend Pennsic with my niece and specifically NOT think about school and papers and dissertation topics (or rather, lack of dissertation topics) for at least a week. After I came back, I continued to not think about any of those things for the remainder of August and at least a week of September, although I did come out of hiding just long enough to fulfill my duties as the departmental "space cadet" (Assigned task: fit 43 graduate students into 28 desks and convince them to be happy about it). Aside from that and a little bit of volunteer editing work, I've been avoiding work for a solid month.

I bought wool instead.

And drop spindles. Three, to be exact.

These were accompanied by two types of roving, several hand-dyed combed tops, and best of all, one skirted and washed (but otherwise unprepared) fleece. It still has some bits of veggy matter in it. And it smells sheepy, which is a smell from my childhood that I'd forgotten.

It's also a smell which I find remarkably comforting. More on that later.

I'm feeling somewhat better now, and beginning to work on the dissertation topic this week. Next week I start TA-ing again, but I'm remarkably calm about that. It's the same class I did last fall.

My second of two drop spindle classes is this Friday. We'll be plying. I have pictures, and a much longer post coming. Maybe even two. Before and after plying. Hmmm.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

...and so it begins

This is shaping up to be a long night.

The paper defense is tomorrow. I had a panic attack almost exactly 12 hours ago, when I opened up the file and read my 10-15 minute opening presentation aloud, which I had "prepared" over the weekend and then put up for a couple days.

It sucked. I mean big, gulping-gasps-of-air sucked. Worse-than-Monkey-balls sucked. I have been so focused on addressing the questions that my second reader might ask that I was forgetting about my own analysis, trying to apologize for it before they had even put me in a position of having to defend it. I can't believe I didn't see how bad this was when I was writing it!

I rescheduled my 2pm dry-run with EPAWS to 4pm and had a go at some damage control, only to come to the conclusion by 3pm that I should just show her what I had and see what she said. I went to my meeting, she listened to the whole apologetic mess, and then she set me straight in that very patient, kind way she has. "Don't forget about your own analysis! Stick to it. He's probably going to ask those questions anyhow. But you're setting yourself up for a much harder defense than if you start off by talking about how great your analysis is and make him ask the questions!"

In short, I was doing my utmost best to walk into the room tomorrow with a huge bullseye on my (ample, and thus hard to miss) chest, and with a sign on my butt that said "Kick here." And don't forget the neon arrow blinking over my head.

We talked through it, and decided that it was good that I had what I had, since it meant I was obviously thinking out my responses to the second reader. But that I shouldn't say any of those things in my 10-15 minutes, and just let them come out if the questions go that way. And that some of it I shouldn't say no matter what, because that's why it's called a defense and not a "retreat."

I knew this, clearly I knew this, but still, I needed to hear it. Why is that? And why couldn't I have gotten to that point last week when I started preparing this? Gah. I am a walking space case.

So, I am rewriting my 3-ish pages tonight, and creating a very short "token" handout, and then I'm going to bed. I will probably stare at the ceiling for several hours and get no sleep, but I'll be damned, I'm going to try.

Any good vibes anyone can spare around 2pm EST tomorrow (Wednesday) would be highly appreciated. Aim in the direction of Robarts Library.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

That sound you hear... just me banging my head against the wall.

Final draft of paper. Due Monday. All I have to do is address 2/3 of the 4.5 pages of comments from my second reader, which I'm about 1/2 done with, give it a final read-through and proof, and turn it in Monday morning.

Then all three readers (one of whom has never seen it before and who I can't talk to about it until the defense) will have 10 days or so to read it, during which time I prepare for a defense, in which they grill me and ask me questions which I may or may not be able to answer. The defence will happen some time during the second week of August. If all goes well, I'll hopefuly just have to address a couple small issues (or NONE? None would be good!), and then it will be done.

I am terrified about the defense. Kind of a once-bitten-twice-shy thing. The defense of my first generals paper was an ugly, brutal affair that I do not wish to repeat. I know this isn't the same thing. It's not even remotely the same topic, for instance, and the personalities involved are very different this time around. The people in the room are far closer to being on the same page than the previous group, and there is some consensus between the first two that the paper is OK, even in its present form. There are holes, certainly, as there are in any work, and differences of opinion on a theoretical level (as in, one guy prefers a completely different approach), but I think I understand where the issues are and generally how to respond to them intelligently and diplomatically.

But I am still terrified. Deeply. Totally. Sick to my stomach. I feel like the best I can hope for is to not make a complete ass of myself. I know it can't be much worse than the last time, but that doesn't make it any easier. Because I don't think I can handle that again, I really don't.

Pleaseohpleaseohpleaseohpleaseohplease let it be over soon.

Because as soon as this is done, I can then start formally stressing out about my (lack of a) dissertation topic. All the stressing about it up to now has been very informal, you see.

*thump* *THUMP* *THUMP*

Nothing to see here, move along...

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's like being followed, only a little creepier

I don't know about you, but in my world, The Hoff (yes, one Avid-Day Assel-Hay Off-Hay) has come up at least once a day for the last week. How... odd. There's the chandelier/shaving/surgery incident. The (rumoured) Wimbledon incident. There's yet another horrific reality show which will never, ever see screen time on my television. There's the music videos and commercials, a few of which some kind soul has gathered together in one place. A few of those have made the rounds recently on some bulletin boards that I frequent.

Why have I noticed this, in particular, you might ask? What would possibly motivate me to post all of those links about, well, that guy? Memories, my friends. Memories.

My best friend in middle school was a Hoff fanatic. It was just... scary. Really terrifying. But I loved my friend. I was supportive. I bought her a Hoff button for her jacket once. It was a little freaky staying over at her house, with The Hoff staring down at me from the walls as I slept. Admittedly, I was one of the masses who watched Knight Rider with my family because, you know, the car was pretty cool. But Hoff fandom was, even then, beyond me.

One day, something in my friend snapped. She called me up, I went over to her house, and we slowly and methodically tore up all her Hoff pictures and poked each item into the open furnace. It was an exquisite moment. When we were done, I hugged her, and told her how proud I was of her. Later, her Mom made us pizza while we camped out in the basement and watched MTV all night.

It's the little things you remember.

When I spent some time in Germany in the 90s, I was horrified to see The Hoff in a number of shop windows. He had, God Help Me, albums. Plural. Apparently, The Hoff had quite the following. But I vowed never to find out why, at least, not voluntarily. A friend told me that Baywatch was quite popular, too. It mystified me, but I was already fighting enough culture shock, being away from home for the first time. I chalked it up to "One of those wierd German things," which is what all good exchange students do when they find a cultural phenomenon that they simply cannot grasp. People buy Hoff albums here. So be it. I collect albums recorded by current and former Star Trek cast members. Not because they are good music or that I listen to them regularly, mind you, but because they are occasionally hilarious. To each his own.

I put it out of my mind for a couple years after returning to North America. One night, during a bout of insomnia, I turned on the television. Baywatch was on. I grimaced, and hit the mute button while I dug around for the TV listings. Nothing was on. I got something to drink and sat back down to my stitching, forgetting to turn off the TV or change the channel. A little while later, I realized that I had been passively watching Baywatch for about 30 minutes with no sound. And here's the scary part, folks - I understood it completely. That's right, no sound was necessary in order to understand the show.

And then it occurred to me. Baywatch was the international language.

No wonder the world is so screwed up sometimes.

Someone pointed me to the reviews (all 1008!) of one of his (many) albums on Amazon. This is some funny, funny shit. Take, for example, this five-out-of-five review, or this one.

Did I say the world was screwed up? I take it back. Magic Eight Ball, what do you think?


MEB says, "The song 'Hot Shot City' is particularly good."

Well, who am I to argue with Magic Eight Ball?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What doesn't kill you...

I am struggling.

Every day, it's a battle. A battle to continue writing. A battle to tackle just one more page. One more paragraph. One. More. Sentence. This paper is going to drive me mad. And if it doesn't, that doesn't matter. The next one will do it instead.

And then there are the deeper, more personal battles. Like facing the fact that, once this is done, IF this is ever done, I have to keep going right on. No break. Dissertation topic time. I thought I had a topic. I don't. If I don't have one within the next couple months, I will be the cause of major problems at an administrative level. And I can't shut the thought of dissertation topic out long enough to work steadily on this project. It's always there, in the back of my mind, screaming at me. While I sleep, eat, write, laugh, knit (shhh!!). Always there.

The struggle to pay enough attention to my husband so that he doesn't think I'm angry at him because I haven't spoken to him in hours, even when we're in the same room. It's just that speaking, conversing, takes energy. Energy that I don't have. The struggle to not snap at him, the cats, the people in other cars and on the television.

The battle to get out of bed. The battle to stay awake for more that a couple hours at a time when I do.

The struggle to not cry all the time, and not to stare at the walls or the screen for hours at a time, trying to blank out my mind so that I can concentrate.

Remembering to eat. I've given up on controlling my food for quality. Pop-Tarts and Pringles are my friends. The two Ps. There's probably a third in there somewhere.

"Take a little break," people say. "Get some fresh air." Oh, I've taken breaks. I'm a great fan of breaks. I think I might even be taking one right now. But there comes a point when another break is simply procrastination, a delay of the inevitable, a way to ensure that you won't make your "final-final" deadline that is still, when it comes right down to it, an arbitrary date pulled out of someone's ass. Yeah, I don't think I should be taking any more breaks.

The battle to keep going at all. I flip-flop from hour to hour between "Why am I doing this?" to "I'll never be able to finish this" to "No problem, plenty of time" to "Oh my God, there's not enough time." One moment I despair that I'll never complete a PhD (especially since I'm going into my fourth year and I DON'T EVEN HAVE A DISSERTATION TOPIC YET), and the next I think I have plenty of time, an eternity, surely I can come up with a freaking topic. Other people have topics. Other people have presented their topics. Other people have taken longer than you by a full year to present their topics. Doesn't have to be formalized or anything, lots of questions are OK, just need a solid direction. A worthwhile issue. A minute later, I'm panicking again. It's not good enough. What I have isn't good enough. It will never be good enough. Other people are so much better than I am. I'm not good enough. Not fast enough, not competitive enough, not driven enough.

My mind whirls. I surf for a few minutes. I check my email for the forty-bazillionth time. I get some iced tea. Pet a cat. Tell my husband I love him, whether he's awake to hear me or not. Right now, not, but I tell him anyhow.

And then I start again. One more page. One more paragraph. One more sentence.

I can do this.

I will do this.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Obligatory Paper and Cat Update

Blogs are funny things. In my case, for instance, it has the ability to remind me how much I've done in the last year, while simultaneously and in technicolour detail demonstrating exactly how little I've done in the past month. Neat.

The paper is not yet written. In fact, the draft is only marginally longer than it was a month ago at this time. My EPAWS (Eternally Patient and Wonderful Supervisor) is still exactly that, and I'm not certain how she continues to respond to my weekly assurances of "it's going well" and "soon, I'll have a big section to you soon" with nothing but serene calm and "just keep working at it, as long as you're working, I'm not worried." And I am indeed working - except I write three sentences, reread them, highlight two of them and turn them into footnotes. This is the first time I've written a paper in Word, and I seem to be enamored with and have a newfound respect for Word's ability to handle footnotes with ease. The paper is probably 1/3 - 1/2 footnotes right now, which would be funny if it weren't completely exasperating. But I'm working. See, working, can't you tell?

There was a horrific paper SNAFU last weekend, though, which involved me putting the Word file in the trash and emptying it (accidentally! long story! everybody's nightmare!), some hyperventilating and tears, and the purchase of a file recovery software in record time. In the end, nothing major was lost save for a little time. All is now back to staus quo, and EPAWS and my husband are gently but persistently reminding me to back up more frequently. We've also discovered that when I'm panicking, I apparently develop an overwhelming need to compulsively check my email and delete evil spam messages:

Me (with increasing hysteria): "But can't I just check my email? Just once? I probably have, like, 30 spam messages sitting in there in the last 10 minutes, with more accumulating! Please?"

Husband (very patiently): "Dear, you know that any use of your computer right now decreases the chances of your Very Important Document being recovered intact. Here. Use my computer."

Me: *sniffle*

If only I could channel that obsessive-compulsive streak into a need to do dishes or vaccuum or scrub the bathroom spotless. But I digress.

I visited my family in PA the weekend before last. All I can say is, it's not really a visit home until the PA State Police have knocked on someone's door. Just the average family chaos, you know. That story has been filed away for telling at a later date.

Ford, my knitting model of the previous entry and normally fuzzy, snuggly grey ball of hugs and occasional Holy Terror, spent a reluctant day with the vet today, returning victorious (i.e. he repaid their 6x drawing of his blood with his drawing some of theirs). He is currently recovering from battle by napping on the coffee table between the two laptop computers so that the fans blow warm air simultaneously on his belly and bum.

Ford was diagnosed diabetic in late March. For two months now we've been valiantly struggling to get his insulin dose regulated with occasional morning blood tests, to no avail. Despite the fact that the vet originally felt he was "not a good candidate for a blood-glucose curve", I insisted. Doing a BGC involves a full day at the vet, where they administer his insulin and test his blood every two hours to see how his system is metabolizing it. But an accurate result involves the cat being calm, relaxed and eating normally throughout the day, which are only three of the long list of things that Ford will not, under any circumstances, do while at the vet.

I ended up going over at mid-day at their request to see if I could get him to eat. He did, but only once he was out of the cage and allowed to roam free in a room, and after I pulled out his favourite china plate (yes, really) and a can of moist food. I also had to help them get him in and out of the cage while I was there, because he was, in their words, "Not very happy with us right now". That is vet-code speak for much hissing and growling and swiping with claws.

The vet is glad we did it, though, because we learned:
1) that the insulin is working fine (insulin resistance was a concern)
2) his urine always reads high for glucose even when his blood sugar is in the normal range or even a little low (this can sometimes happen, and means that urine tests aren't a very good indicator of how well he's regulated)
3) we might be able to decrease his dose (YAY!) if we can control his diet better (*sigh*), and
4) that his claws are, indeed, still very sharp (he got the poor vet pretty good on the arm, hazard of the job, I guess).

Now that he's home, he's reverted to his normally angelic, snuggly, hungry self. He gave me no problems for his evening insulin shot, he chased and was chased by Tiger for a bit, and he later feigned perfect innocence when he kicked a mug of water off the coffee table while "stretching". The mug was followed by a nearby magazine, which landed in the water, followed by a half-dozen CDs, which didn't. Although I'm pretty sure he was aiming for the water. Dat's my boy.

It has not escaped our attention that his name - unsurprisingly inspired by Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy - can also be used as an acronym for Force Of Random Destruction.

Actually, it's been a bad couple of months for us at the vet. Or, good, if you're the vet, because I think we're contributing considerably to their new equipment upgrades. Tiger (age nearly 13) started limping sometime in late April. When it hadn't gotten any better by last week, I loaded him up and took him over. He was treated to much prodding and some x-rays, with the conclusion being that he has a touch of arthritis in his left rear ankle. Some anti-inflammatory meds later, and he's doing much better, though he'll probably have to continue to use it sparingly for his remaining years. They LOVE him at the vet. They can poke and prod him to their heart's content and he never complains or makes a sound. They didn't even have to sedate him to get him to hold still enough for x-rays. What a trooper. I will have to get some pictures of him up here soon.

So, this has turned into a cat post. And just like that, it's June. See? Blogs are funny things.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

My professional model shows his stuff, while I waste time professionally

So, what does a professional procrastinator do when she has a large-paper-upon-which-her-academic-career-hangs-in-the-balance to write? You know, that one that I'm supposed to have been diligently working on for the last three weeks but haven't written a word in nearly 10 days? In my defence, the last 10 days have been unusually productive, just in other areas. I finished my sections of a co-authored paper (which had been in my hands since December) and sent it off to one of the other authors. I slapped together a rather nice-looking poster about corpus construction for a presentation on Wednesday. I attended a rehearsal or performance 5 out of the last 6 days. I began dealing with an editing/layout job that I've been ignoring for the better part of 6 months. I paid my taxes (back taxes owing, WAAAH!!).

So what about today? Last week is now out of the way. I can get back to the paper at hand. But what do I do? Laundry. Photocopy articles that aren't relevant to the paper, but might come in handy "some day". Pay bills. Crawl around ON HANDS AND KNEES picking up bits of cat food off the livingroom carpet (this was something of a low point in the day). Inventory my somewhat-neglected knitting WIPs (N = 7) and my long-neglected cross stitch WIPs (N still = 10). Contemplate starting more. Check my email compulsively. Post to a board game bulletin board. Go out to dinner with my husband. Update my knitting pics on my website. Make a midnight snack.

Wait a minute, what was the one before that? Yes, that's right, I finally broke out the time-waster-to-beat-all-time-wasters: I updated my knitting pictures. Just think of how much more time I can waste in future evenings, because I have to post at least one finish to the Knitty board! Why, that could take... hours, surely! I suspect this sudden burst of inspiration to update the WIP pics was brought about by the purchase of two new books: Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker and Big Girl Knits. So many new and wonderful patterns makes a girl want to finish a few things so she can start something new!

Anyhow, here's the highlights of the updates:

Here are the cable clutches that I talked about previously in this blog entry. I made the cables a little poofier on the second one (i.e., a couple stitches wider and do a couple less rows between cable cross-overs). It's also a little bigger overall. I think I'm fairly happy with the pattern, so now I have to make it a little longer and then figure out how to finish them, for which I'll probably require the sewing expertise of my MIL.

Next is the shrug, Shimmer, which I prattled on about here, here, here, here and here. Ford was kind enough to model the full shrug for us:

Here's a closeup of the replacement cuff. It's far, far easier to play horn with this than with that ruffle-from-the-depths-of-Hades (which could be seen in the old WIP picture). I'm definitely not a ruffle gal. The lace band pattern is "Fancy Leaf Edging" from Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge, page 129:

Finally, Ford also insisted on modelling the Marley's Ghost WIP, which I mentioned starting here. I don't know how long I'll end up making it, but I still have a ways to go. Then it will be felted. I've tried to talk DH into wanting one in traditional chain-link-charcoal-grey, but he insists that I do the Tom Baker Dr. Who scarf first - he noted that while I said that would be finished by winter, I didn't say WHICH winter. (DH: "Personally, I just figured it would be a cold day where I am when I get it.") Sigh. :) ANYhow, here's my version of Marley's Ghost, which I might have to start calling "Nearly Headless Nick's Scarf":

I also added new WIP pictures of the Tasha bag and the Shapely Tee.

So, now that I've done all of this, if I don't get some work serious work done on the paper tomorrow, I'm going to have to start freaking out. Did I mention the upcoming meeting with my (eternally patient, encouraging, wonderful) supervisor on Friday afternoon? The one that I'm expected to have a significant portion of the paper written for, lest she become less than eternally patient and wonderful? Right then. Tomorrow will be better. I am far more productive on Tuesdays than on Mondays.

Too bad tomorrow is Wednesday.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

In which I am properly introduced to The Knight of the Woeful Countenance

About two weeks ago, I got a call from a friend and fellow horn player. She does a lot of musical theatre gigs, playing in the orchestra, so she's made her way up the local amateur call-list. It seems a production of Man of La Mancha had lost their previously arranged horn player and was having trouble finding a last-minute replacement. Someone gave them her name, and since she was coming off of two shows back-to-back in the last 6 weeks and fighting exhaustion, she called to see if I could take it. Of course, I have such an enormous amount of free time (since sarcasm isn't obvious in print, let's say it now, that was a snark), so I jumped at the chance. In all honesty, I would like to do more musicals, but I haven't made the contacts to get my name out there and on "the list". I would have been crazy to turn this down.

But - since we're on full-disclosure here - I really don't have a lot of time right now. So she and I agreed to split the work. We would both attend the 4 remaining rehearsals, and then each do 4 of the 8 total show dates. And that is how I ended up in the pit for one of my favourite shows ever. Pure luck. I was so excited after she called (and terrified - I have three papers to write in less than a month!), that I dialed up the ITunes music store and bought the most recent Broadway soundtrack, which I've been meaning to buy for ages anyhow. Then I called Mom, who is a long-time musical theatre accompanist, while it was downloading. It's one of her favourite shows, too.

But no matter how much you listen to a show, or how many times you see it live, it can't prepare you for playing the score. I lucked out, the horn parts for this show are wonderful. That's not always the case, as I found out the last time I did this (for Annie Get Your Gun, which is most definitely not one of my favourite shows). I feel a little bad for the trumpet players, though... they were playing their trumpets upside-down at one point this evening just to make it more interesting (and no, they didn't miss a note :) ) I wanted to snap a picture of them with my fancy-schmancy camera phone, but that would have been bad, especially since the orchestra isn't in a pit below the stage, but on-stage, against the upstage wall, behind a thin curtain dividing us from the action. Visible for all to see, at least, for those with good night-vision.

The score calls for two horns, but we're only using one. Not certain if this is due to budgetary constraints or some other reason, but it's the only bummer in the whole experience. In the rehearsals with two of us there, we occasionally played both parts for fun, and it sounds so much better... this show is lushly and beautifully scored for two horns, with wonderful harmonies. But given the utter lack of space in our playing area, we don't dare try to play a performance together. We briefly considered it, but one of us would have to sit on someone's lap, and that would not be pretty. Alas, it's their loss.

So here is where I put in my plea to musical theatre directors everywhere: if you've decided to use a live orchestra for your show and the score calls for more than one horn - DON'T SKIMP ON THE HORNS!! For goodness sake. No one ever skimps on trumpets, even when half of their part is flourishes and the other half is 'tacet'. Ah, but we can get by with one horn, right? Sure you can. If you like stereo sound with the right channel missing. I understand that horn players might not be plentiful where you are, but surely there are options. In a pinch, you can have a trombone or baritone cover the other horn part - it's better than nothing.

My plea is made. I am off to bed, to dream of knights, dragons and windmills.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Today's blog sponsored by ITunes, and the letter "W"

My husband and I were sharing an enjoyable task the other day - I was ripping a small stack of CDs into ITunes, then copying everything over to the external hard drive so that he could re-synch the IPod. When we bought the IPod last summer, we spent many evenings in front of the television, ripping the our entire (embarassingly large) combined CD collection for posterity. Every few months since, after we acquire a small stack of new CDs, we rip those and re-synch. I mentioned once before that we buy a lot of DVDs. We buy a lot of CDs as well. Starbucks CDs are my current weakness.

Yes, we are multimedia junkies. Moving on.

As we synched the IPod, he started to giggle. The computer was displaying each song title as it synched, 8430 songs in total, in reverse alphabetical order. It was in the middle of the letter W. He started reading aloud, and pretty soon we were both laughing.

So, for your enjoyment, I present a small sample of songs from the letter W. Read it aloud, and fast, and hopefully you'll find it as silly and funny as we did. If you're really bored, try and guess the artist and album for each song.

Who Wears These Shoes?
Who Wants to Live Forever?
Who Shot Mr. Burns?
Who Said I Would?
Who Needs You?
Who Is That Standing At My Window?
Who Is It?
Who Dunnit?
Who Do You Think You Are?
Who Are You?
Who Am I?
Who's The Boss?
Who's That Lady?
Who's That Girl?
Who's Next?
Who's Knocking on the Wall?
Who's Gene Autry?
Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Who'll Stop the Rain?

Monday, March 20, 2006

My first meme. I feel so cool.

I got this from Stitching Readers board that I frequent. Hey, why not?

Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you might read, * the ones you won’t, underline the ones on your book shelf, and place parentheses around the ones you’ve never even heard of.

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J. K. Rowling
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Animal Farm – George Orwell
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
*Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
1984 – George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling
(One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
*Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
*The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
(The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold)
Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
Angels and Demons – Dan Brown
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
Neuromancer – William Gibson
Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson
(The Secret History – Donna Tartt)
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess
*Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
*Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
(Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides)
(Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell)
The Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
*Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Good Omens – Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman
(Atonement – Ian McEwan)
(The Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
*The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
*The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Dune – Frank Herbert

Some discussion: I've noticed that not many people in the BB thread that I got this from have books listed as "on my shelf" (underlined) as well as "might read" (italicized). I have seven! What does this say about me? Hmmm... I've been buying books with good intentions since high school. Catch-22 was recently purchased and I'm reading it right now. Catcher in the Rye and Animal Farm were from high school reading lists where I had to choose from a short list to do a book report. I bought several books and decided later. Both have been started. Slaughterhouse 5 has also been started - it's in a Vonnegut hardcover anthology, from which I read Cat's Cradle. Cryptonomicon caught my eye several years ago at the local SciFi bookstore in Toronto, Bakka. Their store tradition of employees writing little reviews on index cards and thumbtacking them to the shelf under the book is one of the many reasons why I love the store, and has helped me find at least two new "favourite authors" in recent years. The book sat on our shelf for months, until one day my husband asked me why I bought it. I told him it had a good review at Bakka, and I figured he'd read it and tell me what he thought about it. So he did. :) The copy of Dune on our bookshelf came with my husband.

Most of the starred books are ones I have tried and couldn't get into, particularly the Jane Austen, both Brontes and Hemingway. I've tried a few times with Hemingway and even own a couple others (For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Sun Also Rises), but just couldn't get into any of them. The Bell Jar, Brave New World, Kite Runner and Geisha are undoubtably excellent books, but there is only so much "heavy stuff" that I can take, so I'm drawing the line somewhere!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Beware the little red crosswalk man

My husband found this article this evening. It's like deja vu all over again!

A little background: For a little over 5 months (late February to early August) of 1993, I was an exchange student at Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. It was a wonderful time. Marburg (another page of links here) is a lovely little German university town. It's full of students during the term, so there's plenty of things to do - movies, theatre, nightclubs, shopping... but it's also not a huge city, so it's not overwhelming. It's surrounded by hills, so there's fresh air and trees (dare I even say.. woods?) to hike around in. The Lahn River runs through the town, and there's a bike path that follows the river. You can even rent boats and paddle around. It also has a good amount of traditional German charm. There's a 13th century gothic church, a fully functioning and delightful Altstadt, complete with a picturesque Schloß, Rathaus (city hall) and more than a couple Kneipen (taverns). I heartily recommend Der Hinkelstein, in the Altstadt.

But I digress. Back to the article. I swear to you, this is the God's Honest Truth. Whatever you do, don't cross the street against the light, especially if there's a small child nearby. To quote the fourth paragraph of the above-linked article:

First, never ever cross against red in front of an impressionable child. At best, you'll get a nasty look from most of the adults present -- visually incriminating you for tempting little Heidi or little Franz into certain violent death next time he or she attempts to cross the street alone. An apparently uninvolved bystander may take it upon him or herself to launch into an indignant tirade at your expense. At worst, you could even get a stern talking to from a morally superior five-year-old.

People, I have witnessed this. Standing at a street corner in Marburg on a Saturday afternoon: myself, a youngish woman (mother?) with a small child, a middle-age woman (who did not appear to be with the young woman & child), and a male in his late teens or early 20s. Not a car in sight. The young man looks both ways and quickly sprints across the street against the decree of the little red crosswalk man -- and damned if the middle-age woman didn't immediately start loudly yelling out at him, "Oh, aren't you a good example to the child! You should know better!" (a rough translation). She continued her tirade until he was surely out of earshot.

Luckily for me, I was never the recepient of this kind of public embarassment. I was warned by a new friend (the American student who lived across the hall from me) shortly after my arrival in Marburg to not tempt the Germans to disobey the little red crosswalk man.

Ah, fond memories. Like Monty Python films and Star Trek: TNG dubbed into German. And celebrating 4th of July with 3 Brits. And introducing non-Americans to our dizzying variety of Girl Scout cookies. And the effect of hitting an umlaut key on a German keyboard when you're using a Telnet application. But those are other stories.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Musings on the cable clutch

Although I haven't posted much about it, I have been knitting recently. I didn't get much time to work on anything last semester (Sept - Dec) except here and there. Over Christmas, one of my husband's cousins was raving about these lovely little hand-knit clutches that are apparently quite the rage in some fashion circles. Well, raving might be too strong a word... cousin is in her late teens and generally doesn't "rave" about anything at family gatherings lest she appear less-than-dignified. But she really likes them, nonetheless. After admiring the website for a bit, I decided to have a go at a knock-off an approximation.

I also went back through the archives of a couple knitting and craft boards to see what others had come up with. I think mine is turning out better than some of the other knock-offs, but we'll see. I noticed occasional indignation from some knitters: "US $150 for THAT? But it's just a simple cable pattern, sew up the sides and add a bow!" When cousin's mother asked me if I thought the designer clutches on the website were worth the price they were asking for them, I did some quick math and said, "Yes, if they're really hand-made and you account for the inflation of selling in New York City." I spent CND $25 on two balls of mid-range-price superwash wool and about 5 hours of knitting. At $20 an hour for my time (which is reasonable for quality handmade work) that's minimum CDN $125 right there. And I haven't bought lining fabric, ribbon, a magnetic fastener, the handles or sewn up the sides and finished it yet. I'm sure the designer can have them made faster and gets wholesale pricing on materials, but still. I don't begrudge them one bit for making money on what appears to have become a lovely niche product for the fashionable.

Our cousin, of course, is not going to spend US $150 on a designer clutch, so I will make one for her and probably one for myself. Beyond that, though, I won't be taking orders. If you've been knitting for any length of time and done even simple cables, you can figure out the pattern for yourself. Here endeth the math lesson, and why I don't attempt to put a price on my handknitting.

I repeat my mantra: pictures eventually. Really.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

When DVDs Attack: A reality check for We-Of-Little-Willpower

For goodness' sake, we bought more DVDs. Why, in the name of sweet justice, WHY?!?!? We haven't watched the ones we have, and we're bringing home more? But then really, how could I walk away from "Alien Nation: The Complete Series"? Or "The Flash"? Or Jon Pertwee as Dr. Who in "The Claws of Axos"? I ask you, how could anyone walk away from "The Claws of Axos"?

There are priorities, and then there are priorities.

So here we are, bursting at the seams with DVDs, mostly seasons or complete series sets of old TV shows. We are, in a word, addicted. Admittedly, we are dual-income-no-kids 30-somethings who don't spend money on things like drinks at bars, cigarettes, cover charges, or movie and theatre tickets. Our nieces and nephews are either past the indulging age or too far away to indulge. Our only vacation in 4 years was a three-day trip to New York City a few weeks ago between Christmas and New Years (The Cloisters and MoMA, by the way, are highly recommended). So, DVDs are our entertainment. We rarely watch broadcast TV, the exceptions being the original CSI, the new Battlestar Galactica and my own recently-developed fascination with Lost, which I give a 50/50 chance of lasting through this season.

So, there's justification, yes. But now, the reality check. We have too many frickin' DVDs. I mean, I know which cash registers at 5 separate Best Buys and Future Shops won't read my debit card without a swipe-fight, which is a level of familiarity with those stores that a non-employee shouldn't have. I absolutely, positively MUST declare a moratorium on DVD buying for a good long while now. It would be fine if I had two weeks to sit on my butt and watch DVDs all day while I knit, then I might get through the backlog we've been building up. But the new term has started, and I have work to do which I've been ignoring since mid-December.

So this time I mean it. No more. Really.

Except the 5th season of the original "Twilight Zone", of course.

But not until I watch the previous 4.