Friday, November 5, 2010

Sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel is Minnesota

Here's how my week at work went, told, as always, in the form of an analogy:

me, to software developer: I downloaded the updated version of your program, as instructed. But now every day it locks up, and my fingertips turn bright purple. ( enter the analogy)

developer (to be fair, we have known each other for years): Ha ha ha ha ha!

me: I'm not joking.

him: I've never heard of anything that would cause that. Hey, listen, guys! (retells story to roomful of developers; much laughter ensues). Are you sure it's our program that's causing the problem?

me: When I quit the program, my fingers go back to normal. It takes awhile to quit the program, though, because it's hard to type with purple fingertips.

him: Try this...

me: Didn't work. But I found someone else with the same problem.

him: Two aren't enough. You need to find more people with the problem.

me: Or you could just help me re-install the old version.

him: (Walks me through it, pointing out along the way that I'm doing it wrong; I try his way.)

me: Now the old version of the program causes the same problem.

him: I talked to the IT department and they said purple fingertips are bruises and it means you are typing too hard!

me: Ha ha ha ha ha no. I know the difference between a bruise and this. And bruises wouldn't go away when I quit your program.

him: Okay, try this...

Meanwhile, trying to find more victims has resulted in a slew of advice on manicures, gloves, and other non-helpful options.

Some days, retirement shines bright.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Last week I ordered a pinch-pleat curtain panel, hooks, and curtain rod for the sliding door in our study. Sounds simple, doesn't it? I drove myself nuts though, because I knew what I wanted but didn't know what any of it was called. And after that, I couldn't seem to find a thermal curtain in white. But finally, on the website of a company I have done excellent business with in the past, I found everything I wanted, and the order went in.

This Thursday I came home from work to find three boxes at the front door, one of them clearly a curtain rod. I carried them all in and set them in the study, and went on with my day (I'm on a tight schedule in the afternoons to get swimming laps squeezed in between work and supper). After supper my husband asked why they packed each curtain in a separate box, and I said that, since it was only a one-piece curtain, I had assumed that the curtain hooks (I had to order two sets to have enough) rated their own box.

It was days later before he actually opened the boxes. With a laugh, he delivered one of the boxes to me straight away.

Not curtain-related at all! I hadn't expected to see this order so soon. And in the surprise of it, the next thing I knew, I had cast on the new project. *sigh* I'm never going to finish anything at this rate!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Elephant included for scale

This is, quite possibly, the cutest package of yarn I have ever received (elephant included for scale). (Okay, ruler, too.)

Here's the thing: there are three two1 skeins of yarn in there. And I am fully cognizant of the large, awesome object they are going to become (a gift for a loyal blog reader, so pardon me if I don't even show the return address).

How is this even possible?

I am going to surround air with small, discrete edges, linked together. With my bare hands! (Okay, and a size 5 circular needle that I don't own yet2).

Once upon a time I had a little sister who believed that I was magic (aren't little sisters great?). There are days I believe it myself.

1 I finally opened the package...

2 And I'm really happy about that. I am rotating through three projects on a daily basis, frantic to finish even one of them. If I had a size 5 circular needle, I would cast on this project, and none of those three projects would EVER be finished.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's Officially Fall

Not because of the autumnal equinox, which isn't until later this week.

Not because the weather has cooled off a little, and the AC is finally off.

Not because the school year has started again, or even because my last child has moved out (I'll miss you, LG!):

No, our official sign of fall is a visit to the county fair. (Do not even get me started on the local system that holds the county fair long after the State Fair.)

I watched Duck Races,and bought a duck (a Candy Corn Duck, no less);

we watched sheep showing off,

and another complaining (loudly!) about his missing coat;

There may have been funnel cake, but there is no photographic evidence.

Annual, traditional fun (and the prettiest weather we've had since spring).

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Read it Aloud

Thanks, Franklin. I approve the sentiment. We're going to do it as a round-robin later this evening.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I was on a military post at 5 pm the other day. That doesn't happen as often as it used to, since my husband retired from active duty many years ago. Still, as the bugle call sounded Retreat, I automatically stopped and faced the general direction of the flag, too far away to be seen. As the lovely warm breezes of a May evening washed over me, I closed my eyes and took a moment to enjoy the sun on my face.

I found myself faintly anxious in the silence as the last notes of Retreat faded, that same feeling when you know what the next movement of a piece of music is going to be, but it hasn't started yet. Or, since I pre-date the Shuffle Generation, that moment when some deep part of you knows what the next track will be, and relaxes in familiarity as it starts. And sure enough, at the first notes of To the Color sounded, I relaxed.

I thought about friends overseas, and their families, and was instantly transported back to a memory of when that was us, a family overseas, with DH even further away in a war zone. We weren't always on post in the evenings, since we lived "on the economy" in a beautiful little village. But that evening we were, and the girls knew what to do.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Epic Fail

The whole and entire point of having a knitting blog (at least for me), not to mention a Ravelry account, is to document my work so that when I want to go back and make something I've made before, I can remember how I did it. Except that this past month, two things I wanted to document simply weren't document-able.

Here is a pretty scarf I made for sister K:

I can tell you that it is made from one skein of some lovely cinnamon-colored alpaca that my co-worker brought back for me from her trip to Peru. No label, but 100% alpaca, and it felt like lace-weight to me.

I can tell you that I probably knit it up on a size 9 circular, because I can vaguely remember the color of the needle it was on.

But can I tell you what the pattern is? I cannot. I found it on the internet, copied the relevant pattern rows to one of the scraps of paper my life is littered with, and went on my merry way. *sigh* I can tell you that I chose the pattern because I do not trust alpaca to stay blocked, and it looked nice even as unblocked lace. I can tell you that I did not find the pattern on Ravelry. I probably found it on Knitting Pattern Central. Wait - wait - memory is stirring... Bingo! Bramble Lace Scarf, and credit where credit is due. As you can see, I made it quite a bit lacier, but even in it's unstretched state (which I firmly believe alpaca reverts to), it's still pretty.

Well. Maybe if I start a blog post about the other lost pattern, memory will jog again. Time will tell.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Blast from the Past

Towards the end of winter, my sister sent me back a pair of socks I had knit her. I was shocked when I opened the package. Not because they were in such pristine shape - I already knew that she'd never been able to get them on, so they were completely unworn. But they had to be among the first pairs of socks I ever knit.

I do things so differently now!

Let's start with that pointy little toe, since these are toe-up socks. I believe the original had you cast four stitches onto a straight needle, knit in the front and back of each stitch, then slide the whole thing off the needle, where it opened up neatly into two halves, which you then slid onto two double-pointed needles. You knit the first two stitches onto a third needle, and there you were, ready to start your toe increases. Although I deeply loved the magic of sliding those stitches off and watching them open up, these days I use a magic-8 cast-on of 20 stitches, resulting in a much blunter toe.

And nowadays finding "European" sets of double-pointed needles, with five to the set instead of four, means that my socks rest on four needles in a square, rather than three needles in a triangle. Yes, I know about magic loop and the wonders of two circular needles. I've made progress, but I'm still old-fashioned.

Then there's that heel, which, although simple to execute, makes a much narrower opening for the foot than a nice gusseted wrap&turn heel. I use Wendy's, because she's done the math for different yarn weights and foot sizes.

Although the mock cable ribbing was pretty, I tend toward the practical elasticity of a 2x2 rib these days.

Finally, and from my sister's point of view the most important thing, I have learned the miracle of Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn cast-off when it comes to the top of toe-up socks. Unlike my first attempt (where I believe I confidently cast off using a needle two sizes bigger), these are wearable.

Now I'd better re-knit the other one and get them back on their way!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

Finished, Mom's really cool socks:

Yarn: Knit Picks Essential (now Stroll) in Granny Smith, Cocoa, Pumpkin, Sarge, and Bare

Needles: Knit Picks Harmony dpns, sizes 2.25 mm and 2 mm

Pattern: Nancy Bush's Ilga's Socks from Favorite Socks

Mods: none whatsoever

Mom had picked these out as her favorite pattern in the book. I didn't jump right on them, as colorwork has never been my strong suit. But somewhere along the way last summer, knitting sock after sock in the Leyburn pattern, it occured to me (I'm a little slow at times) that if spreading the stitches out along the needle while you carried the yarn in front prevented puckering in Leyburns, maybe the same thing would happen in colorwork. I checked this brilliant insight out at my knitting group, and they kindly didn't laugh, and assured me it was indeed the way to do it. So my first favorite thing about these socks is the nice flat colorwork.

My second favorite thing is the eye-of-peacock heel. I just love me an eye of peacock heel, although I admit it's a little hard to see here.

And lastly, the cute little round toe, so cute that I quickly worked out a way to do a round toe in a toe-up sock, and cast on my next socks that way.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom! What's that? You want to wear them? Seeing them isn't enough? You do realize they're wool, and this cool weather isn't going to hang around much longer... all right, all right, I'll bring them up next time we come.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Liitle Drops of Water, Little Grains of Sand

I finished my computer socks. Computer socks? You know, the project I keep beside my keyboard at home, to see me through those moments when something won't load, or is taking its own sweet time about completing a function. They're also handy when the phone rings while I'm at my desk and I don't want to be distracted by the internet. Or when I've decided to watch something on Hulu... well, you get the idea. Certainly a project I wasn't in any hurry about (mostly because they're for me).

This was the last of the Patons Stretch Socks yarn I spent all last summer on. Leyburns for KD, NKD, Mom, and me. And then, because there were leftovers, ankle socks for everybody, but in someone else's color. So KD and NKD switched, and Mom and I switched. Are you confused yet? Everyone wound up with two pairs of socks in two different colors and patterns.

Now I need a new, mindless, small knitting pattern for Computer Knitting. Although actually, Mom's really cool socks are far enough along to be mindless...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Facing Facts

It's been a good weekend for facing facts. Yes, we are going to have to do some gutter repairs after the Blizzard of 2010. Yes, the shed is a goner due to the weight of the snow. Sometimes, as fascinating as a class is, you know that due to circumstances beyond your control (see the aforementioned blizzard), you may be too far behind to ever catch up. As much as you'd like to, you're not going to lose any weight before that trip you're planning. And then there's the knitting.

You know that moment in the Olympic downhill skiing where the Olympic hopeful becomes a giant snowball with head, arms, and ski tips sticking out? That would be what happened with my Olympic knitting this year.

It started out well enough.

I had the pattern, the yarn, the needles, and the recipient lined up.

I signed up for Stephanie's Olympics and cast on while watching the Opening Ceremony. I figured out how many inches I'd have to knit each day, and started the sleeves as my travel knitting.

Here we are a week later, and I'm taking stock. I've discovered mistakes along the way, but they were nothing I couldn't live with as, ahem, design elements. No, the snowball moment came when I measured the sleeve length to find out how much I had to go to reach the proper length after finishing the increases. Uh-oh. A negative number. Really?

Yes, really. A quick check of gauge revealed that despite knitting with the yarn called for on the needles called for, I was completely off gauge. I'm not anti-swatching. I've swatched a recent project to a fair-thee-well, because I'm messing with the pattern, yarn, and needles. But I wasn't modifying this pattern in any way, so I didn't swatch.

You can't show me many Olympic champions who haven't done the proper training.

Now I could finish this sweater in a week. But it wouldn't fit the recipient. And that would be a pretty hollow victory. So my friends, avert your eyes as I frog this pretty thing back to its constituent skeins, and begin again, two entire needles sizes down from those called for.

Because the point is to make a pretty sweater for my daughter, not win a race.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Catching up

There's a blue jay in there - see him?

So I'm back on line after 56 hours without electricity thanks to our first February blizzard of 2010. Really, calling it the Blizzard of '10 as if there couldn't possibly be another was just asking for it. And don't even get me started on cutesy names like Snowmageddon and Snowpocalypse. Over-exaggerate like that and the universe will show you what words actually mean.

We've dealt with the 2-3 feet of snow (impossible to measure accurately with all the blowing and drifting), and restocked for the next nor'easter, arriving in a few hours. I'm scheduling this to post tomorrow, whether we have power or not (thanks, internet!).

The undeniable truth about being snowed in and without electricity is that it makes you glad you're a knitter, on so many levels. I have never been so happy that I own multiple pairs of hand-made, personally-fitted, wool socks as I have been this week. My semi-felted jaywalkers that fit like gloves for feet are my favorite for wearing under boots while shoveling. And to think I was sad when they first shrunk a little in the wash and I thought they were too warm!

One of the primary benefits of knitting is that it prevents boredom. In the evenings, huddled under blankets in a room lit and mildly warmed by 24 (of course we counted) votive-sized candles all gathered on the coffee table, knitting turned out to be easier on the eyes than reading.

Knitting? I'm glad you asked. In January I made my son is first-ever pair of handknit socks, because he was finally going to be somewhere cold enough to wear them. And he approved.

Yarn: Patons Kroy Socks FX in Cadet Colors, 2 skeins
Needles: #3 dpns
Pattern: Standard toe-up sock sized for a 9 1/2 inch foot, Wendy's wonderful toe-up gusset heel, 2x2 rib uppers.

Then I fired off a pair of socks for NKD (both of these were Christmas promises), striving to achieve something reminiscent of stars and galaxies. She was pleased.

Yarn: Berroco Socks Metallic in Curacao, 1 skein
Needles: hmm. I was borrowing Knitpicks Harmony dpns from a friend just before I bought my own set. I believe it was the 2.75 mm size.
Pattern: Well. I started with Charybdis (Ravelry link), then made so many modifications I may have lost track. I changed the number of sts around to accommodate her smaller foot, and adjusted the number of sts between spirals accordingly. I did lifted increases instead of yarn overs, because it's too cold for lacy socks. I worked Wendy's above-mentioned toe-up gusset, because experience has shown that a short-row heel will not go over her foot (and because left to myself, I would never work any other heel ever). After the first full spiral up the leg I increased one stitch in every spiral by working an increase row without the corresponding decreases between two normal pattern rows, and worked the extra sts into the pattern. I did it again when the next full spiral started, so that the fit expands slightly up her leg, and mimics the widening spirals of a galaxies arms.

The odd thing was that I only used half of a 100-gram skein of yarn (really? two socks out of 50 grams? How the heck did I do that?). I picked out a possibilities and she settled on this hat, which matches nicely (and look how much yarn I had left!):

Yarn: Leftover Berocco Socks Metallic
Needles: #3 dpns
Pattern: Sheepytime's Swirl Hat (Ravelry link), no mods whatsoever

Finally, my snow knitting has been Calluna in Knitpicks Gloss HW (Wine). I made a total botch of the first attempt from failing to read the pattern closely enough, despite all the discussions on Ravelry, and am now on my second. The charts read in alternate directions for each row. How did I miss that? Meanwhile, I'm not slip-stitching up the front edges (I slip-stitch the edges of scarves, but this is fine as it is). I'm not knitting the button band separately (although I swore I would do that on my husband's next sweater), nor am I working short rows into the garter edging. The slight difference in length just doesn't bother me. I haven't decided about buttonhole placement yet.

And now I'd better finish shoveling off the deck!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A moment between blizzards

My husband has a new love. I realized it was serious when I noticed I wasn't hearing any more talk about the house he's building for us; now it's all about the house he's building for her. Right in our own backyard! She's younger, of course. Much younger. And she was there for him - all right, for us - in our time of need. But still.

Not to mention the family betrayal - she's my brother-in-law's cast-off, which I'm sure makes my sister happy. Although I don't think he cared for her as much as much as my husband does, since he kept her isolated in a small place close to his office.

And really, what can I say about it, when it's clear we're going to need her again, right away.

Just wait until spring.