Monday, March 31, 2008

Another catch-up

My knitting life seems to consist of deadlines -- whether for design projects or more commonly for a gift that has to be given by a certain occasion -- which create periods of feverishly trying to finish something; and after the deadline is met (more or less) I lapse into stretches of inertia, where I have so many projects I want to work on and yarns I want to knit with that I end up dabbling in a lot and finishing little.

In other words, it's feast or famine.

Today I am mailing out a finished item for my second book. Yes, it's true, I'm finishing up a second book that will be published by Interweave Press either late this year or in early 2009. I am forbidden from telling you all about it just yet. I can tell you it's a multicontributor book, and it's been amazing to see the creativity of many very talented designers who sent in submissions.

Having just finished a period of intense knitting, though, I'm hoping that I don't immediately fall back into inertia. I'm working on the next installment of the BBF Sock Club (I decided to give the members an extra week or so since no one seems to be finished with the last shipments...) but I don't want to lose the ability to focus and finish something when it comes to my knitting. I will promise you, however, that some more No-Bull Book Reviews are in the pipeline and I'm hoping to have one done later this week.

Now I'm off to, um, stare at my unfinished projects and fondle my stash and figure out what to do next.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Too much book larnin'

Yesterday the twins came home with these in their backpacks:

These children are SIX years old. I was at least 42 before I knew the meaning of the word "oviparous."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

February Book Report (late again)

1. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwen. Beautifully written, but sad and haunting.

2. True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa Michael Finkel was a reporter working for the New York Times Magazine when it was revealed that a story he wrote about the African chocolate trade contained misrepresentations (he combined multiple interviews and details to create a fictional boy that he "profiled", including providing fake photos). He was sacked. Right around this time, he was contacted by an Oregon reporter who told him that a man accused of murdering his wife and three kids had been hiding out in Mexico using Finkel's name. Finkel draws parallels between his own journalistic deception and the lies spun out by the defendant (who by then was facing capital murder charges). Finkel befriended the defendant, and so there are shades of the Joe McGinniss-style dilemma of a writer getting too close to the story. To Finkel's credit, he doesn't spare himself, and he used the experience to help figure out traits of his own personality.

3. My Father's War by Julia Collins. I stumbled over this book while looking for a completely differene one. We hear a lot of grandiose stuff about the Greatest Generations -- and it's true: that generation suffered and triumphed over World War II, changing America (and the world) forever. But what makes this book so interesting is that it gives us a glimpse of the toll that those achievements took on the ordinary men and women who were part of the Great Generation -- and the price paid by their children. Collins' father was drafted while a student at Yale. He fought in the Japanese theater, including the brutal fighting on Okinawa. His wartime experiences affected him profoundly, and Collins weaves together his memories of the war with her memories of growing up as the daughter of two deeply-troubled parents. Her father suffered from what would now be diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder, but forty years ago, no one had ever heard of that or knew what to do. Especially compelling when you relate it to all of the Iraq veterans out there.

4. Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach. I enjoyed Roach's earlier book but for some reason, didn't finish this one. The topic was interesting -- an examination of a random assortment of phenomena pertaining to life after death, including the doctor who weighed terminal patients at the moment of death to determine if a sudden drop of weight indicated the departure of a soul. For some reason, I found it too bogged down in detail to get sucked in.

As always, feel free to recommend some recent good books you've read in the comments -- I'm always looking for new stuff to read.

Monday, March 24, 2008


One thing that has consistently tortured me since I started handdyeing is trying to photograph the yarns and fibers so as to do them justice. I am painfully aware that I just don't know enough about photography to be able to do this properly, and I am constantly taking and retaking photos in different settings, with different light sources. I even got one of those little white light tent thingies to see if that would help me take better photos. (It didn't. It looked like I was taking photos on the inside of a parachute. A very wrinkled parachute.)

So recently I discovered a Ravelry group called "Yarnographers" which was designed for people like me.

The focus of the group is on learning more about one's camera and how to take better, more interesting photographs of one's yarns, fibers and knitted projects.

I started by printing out sections of the User's Manual for my camera so I could get to know some of the less obvious functions of my camera. Then I began playing with some of the tips that the Yarnographers suggested.

The photographs in this post are some of the ones I've taken in the past week using info I learned from the Yarnographers group. I still have a ways to go, but at least I am starting to capture a fraction of the gradations of color in my yarns, and the overall quality of light seems better. (By the way, these are all photos of BBF Chunky Wool, about 475 yds a skein, knitting at around 3.5 sts per inch or so, well-priced (if I do say so myself) at $40 a skein. Except the last one which is the Blue-Faced Leicester Superwash Sock yarn...

Diane snagged the BFL rainbow skein, but I like the photo of it so I'm including it even though it's a bit of a tease.)

The willingness of the knitting community to use the Internet to share their knowledge repeatedly astounds me. And although I understand why there is some resistance to people providing technical information and patterns and other valuable services for free through the Web, I would hate to see the knitting community lose this vibrant exchange of ideas that the on-line knitting world provides.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Joyeuse Fete des Lapins! (Happy Bun-day!)

Okay, Ve-Ve, correct my lame French up there, but Happy Easter to all who are celebrating it.

We provided you with a fuzzy bunny in our last post; today here is Griffin the Goat, courtesy of faithful reader Mindy.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Make mine chocolate, please!

At the risk of sounding preachy, it is time for my annual reminder about giving live animals as Easter gifts: please don't. Each year, clueless people bring home fuzzy widdle bunnies and each year, the buns end up at animal shelters a few days later. Bunnies are wonderful, wonderful pets -- but like all pets, they shouldn't be brought home on impulse. (The same goes for chicks.) If you are seriously considering adding a bun to your family, check out the Interactive Bun, from the Make Mine Chocolate website, which gives you some practical information to decide if a bun is right for your household.

P.S. Um, don't give chocolate to bunnies -- it's no good for them. Charcoal will get a couple of plain cheerios...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A terrible anniversary

Five years ago, George Dubya Bush led this country on a fool's errand into Iraq. He did so by lying to us. Here are some statistics:

U.S. Fatalities: 3,990
U.S. Casualties: 40,229
Iraqi Fatalities: Unknown
Iraqi Casualties: Unknown
Cost: $504,000,000,000.00

Those statistics do not hint at the damage and devastation this war has wrought. The number of American soldiers who survived the war, but now join the legions of walking wounded grappling with post-traumatic stress. The families of these soldiers, who suffer daily whether their loved ones are home, still serving in the Middle East or deceased. The incalculable damage on our country and its standing in the world. The introduction of al Qaeda into Iraq where they were not before Bush's invasion. The deeply felt cynicism that people like me feel toward a president that would betray the sacred trust that comes with the power to send our troops into war.

I am embarrassed to say that I believed the Bush administration when they said there were weapons of mass destruction. I now know that I was being lied to by the government, abetted by a half-ass media too intimidated by the administration to speak out or too lazy to do their jobs. I am ashamed of them. And I will never make the mistake of believing a word that comes from George Bush's mouth again.

Please remember all the victims of this ill-begotten war today. Please resolve to fight against the forces of greed and corruption that have taken over our government. It's time for a change -- a fundamental, profound and lasting change in our government. And if anybody claims that Barack Obama is a handsome lightweight, or is not yet "ready" to assume the mantle of leadership in Washington, then sit down and read the words he spoke five years ago, words that are frightening in their prescience and that still ring true today:

"Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances. The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don't oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton's army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

I don't oppose all wars. After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this administration's pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again. I don't oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear - I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity. He's a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the President today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let's finish the fight with Bin Laden and Al Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use
the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in
our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own
people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and
mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education,
without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let's fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil,
through an energy policy that doesn't simply serve the interests of Exxon and
Mobil. Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that
we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and
greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not -- we will not -- travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Holy crap, I'm 43!

Okay, that was a really nasty bout of flu, and I still feel unbelievably tired, but today is my 43rd birthday, and before I even had my first coffee, I'd had confetti made of construction paper thrown upon me and then this was unfurled:

I've got a manuscript due tomorrow and lots of yarn to wind, so I'm off to start catching up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

I raise my bleary head from my sick bed to say...

if you live in Pennsylvania, March 24th is the deadline for registering to vote.

If you are registered already as an Independent, know that YOU CANNOT VOTE IN THE PRIMARY. Pennsylvania has what is called a "closed" primary. In order to vote in the primary, you must be registered with one party or the other. In other words, you must be registered as a republican (and then you only vote in the republican primary) OR a democrat and then you only may vote in the democratic primary.

For the forms you need to register or switch affiliation from Independent, go here.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sick Bay

Now I am sick, too. Bronchitis, maybe flu or some virus on top of it. It's ugly. Hopefully we'll be on the mend soon.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

I got Knothin'.

Elvis got strep this week and now G. has it. Can N. be far behind?

So basically, I've got nothin'.

Except some good Knews: A knew knitting magazine called Knotions, courtesy of SavannahChik. Jody is a smart cookie and a kick-ass knitter, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what develops at Knotions.

In the meantime, the only other thing I can offer you is Bunneh Schnozz:

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Recent conversations around my house

Tom: We really have to fix that broken towel rack before Franklin gets here.

Carol: Does your old Mac notebook still work?
Tom: No.
Carol: We better get it fixed before Franklin comes -- he prefers a Mac.
Tom: If he brings his own, he'll be able to use our wireless internet!

Elvis: Am I going to like Franklin?
Tom: Of course! I like him and I've never even met him.
Carol: Plus if you're nice to him, he'll teach you curse words in Latin.

As you may or may not know, when Franklin makes his Philadelphia-area debut at Wool Gathering for the 1,000 Knitters Project, the weekend of April 19th, he will be staying with me. Me, me, me! Nanny-nanny-poo-poo! [insert raspberry sound]

Don't worry, I shall share.

A little bit.

But I am excited.

A lot. (Scroll way, way down to the bottom of my blog to see exactly HOW excited I am.)

Tom: Do you think there will be screaming hordes of knitters running up and down our street, like when they chase Ringo in that Beatles movie?
Carol: Maybe I better call the township to see if we can borrow some traffic cones.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Guillotine Birdfeeder

My husband has already suggested that I've become the "Erma Bombeck of knitting blogs," but I shall ignore unhelpful comments from the peanut gallery.

Saturday, I looked out at the birdfeeder in my backyard. "Oh look," I thought to myself cheerfully, "that gray bird is really enjoying a winter snack!"

A few hours later, I glanced out back again. "Wow! That bird is back again, enjoying the best birdseed Target has to offer!"

The next morning, I saw that the bird was back again. In the exact same position. Not moving.

I know a dead bird when I see one, and this bird was definitely dead. [Passed on! He was no more! He had ceased to be! Expired and gone to meet his maker! A stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! He's kicked the bucket, he's shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!!]

My birdfeeder guillotined him.

We have really cheeky squirrels and this was described as a squirrel-proof model. A little flap allows lightweight birds to get seed but a heavy squirrel makes the flap come down. Apparently this poor birdie found some way to get his head stuck in the flap at just the wrong time.

(This led Tom to speculate that what made the birdfeeder squirrel-proof was the prompt appearance of a dead bird stuck to the feeder. Who'd want to eat after staring into the glassy eyes of a poor dead sparrow? But personally, I don't think our piggy squirrels would let a minor detail like that stop them. They are that greedy.)

Being that I want only to feed the birds, not kill them, I put on my rubber gloves

and threw the whole damn thing away.

We'll try again today, with a less bloodthirsty model.