Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I am blaming Vacation Brain entirely for the fact that I had to reopen the same program three times as I was getting ready to leave work today — oh, wait, just one more thing I have to do here — and my inability to remember the location of my shopping list, the form I need to mail in so Miss B can try out for soccer in the fall, or any of the things we need to pack for vacation. In this state of mind I find doing laundry takes on a complexity comparable with, say, neuroscience.
VB could also be responsible for the fact that although, as you can clearly see, I've completed quite a few repeats of this lace, I still can't remember the pattern, even though it's completely symmetrical and has only four rows (well, eight, but half of them say "purl").
I'll just have to keep dragging the book around with me. Now where did I put it?
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
N is for Nebulous
I probably shouldn't surfeit you with Rangeley pix right before we go up there, since I'll be giving you plenty of views of mountains, clouds, sky, clouds, lake, clouds, shoreline, and clouds over the next two weeks. So I'll leave it to just these few (shut up! six pictures is not a surfeit) for the moment, with a Boston skyline and a couple of Mexican peakscapes thrown in.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Terry started it, then passed it to Sandy, who lobbed it over to Margene, who threw it back this way to Carole, who passed it to me.
Here is the poem that landed on my blogstep:
Lightning splits dark skies
Dramatic summer storms.
Winds howl through the leaves
Bird clutching branches tight.
Clouds dance in circles
Clean laundry snaps on the line
Warm rain falls in sheets
Blue skies brighten the day
Time to head to the beach
And here is my contribution:
Sparkling blue-green wave
Zips me shoreward at top speed
The world's best thrill ride.
Now the question arises: who gets it next? Since no one signed up after me, I could ship it back to Terry... or, if you're interested, I could give it to you.
Update: Roxie is next, and I too eagerly await her contribution. If you want to play, head on over to her place and drop her a line.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Rainy Day People
Today, of course, it's been raining again. It had looked ominous for a while, and the heavens finally opened early this afternoon. I had forgotten how delicious a wet Sunday can be. Last night I finally found my Gordon Lightfoot CD, which I had seen in a CD case at Rangeley last year but not since, despite looking very thoroughly through all the CD cases I could find. The case rematerialized on the downstairs coffee table; apparently Elvis had it, because no one would admit to having seen it before or put it there. Taking advantage of Grant's midafternoon cat nap (he hates Gordon Lightfoot, and for that matter virtually all pop music) I listened to it...
while working on a tiny lace project. I know, it looks like a scrap of drek, but it's lace, that's what it's supposed to do until it's blocked.
I haven't done any spinning yet today, but that's next on my agenda.
I haven't plurked either, and at the moment Plurk is taking forever to load, which probably means it's down, which means my karma will decline. Somehow I don't care. (I've been trying just to enjoy Plurk and ignore the whole karma thing; sometimes I even succeed.)
All in all, it's been a wonderfully relaxing day.
Unless, of course, you lack the sense to come in out of the rain.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
When I joined the Tour de Fleece (unofficially, anyway: was I supposed to sign up somewhere?) I set a goal of spinning up both braids of Spunky blue merino. While I've gotten a lot done, for me (look, it's blue), it seems pretty clear that I'm going to fall well short of the finish line, since I haven't even finished the first braid. I've spent a lot more time spinning than I normally do, though — Carole's Ten Minutes a Day helps too — and it's been time well spent.
I'm still hoping at least to get the first braid done. One thing is for sure, though: I'll enjoy the ride.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
But most of the hand-wringing I've seen along these lines looks only at the debtor side of the coin. I'd bet my skivvies those brazen bankrupts of lender lore are far outnumbered by the Mr. Potters who seem to have hung out a shingle on every street corner. Where is the stigma attached to taking advantage of the poor, the ill-informed, and the underpaid?
And Grant and I may be risk-averse, but we're also lucky. In a ton of ways, I realize once I start to count them up, we've been in the right place at the right time, through no effort or virtue of our own.
I found a couple of interesting links on the subject. The incomparable Fred addresses credit scores with his usual wit and verve; and on a new-to-me blog Tanta lays out subprime 101. If, like me, you look at the whole fiasco and wonder "what were they thinking?", you'll be fascinated by this post.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Groundhog Day, Automotive Edition
So we put Taz in the Saturn and headed for Frank's, but we didn't get far. Luckily the car had the presence of mind to break down a few feet from a gas station, so we limped in there and called a neighbor and AAA, who in due course arrived and took me and Taz home and Grant and the Saturn to Frank's respectively.
At that point Grant and I decided that it might be a good idea to get serious about car shopping again, and headed up to Lowell to try out a Saturn Ion. We liked it, but we wanted to try one with lumbar support out of respect for Grant's back, and also to give Miss B a chance to weigh in. We bought one with the lumbar support yesterday, Miss B having given it the thumbs-up, dropped off the plate from the old Saturn this morning, and will pick the Ion up this evening.
Which is a good thing, because the van overheated this morning on the way to the pickup point for Miss B's camp, round two. (Round one was a month of your basic swimming-boating-arts-and-crafts Y camp; round two is a week of marine science camp near Woods Hole.) We can still drive it as long as we stop every 15 minutes or so to put more coolant in it. After work Grant will put coolant in the van, pick me up at work, put coolant in the van, and we will drive to Saturn of Lowell, which at this point is beginning to feel like our second home, collect the Ion, put coolant in the van, drive toward Frank's, stop, put coolant in the van, drive the rest of the way to Frank's, and leave the van there again.
I sure hope we get it back soon in a better state of health. Wish us luck.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Too Much Skin, Too Few Brain Cells
Only trouble is... um... I can't remember who's running the contest. Can anyone help me out here?
All right, now that we've got that out of the way...
Happy weekend, everyone!
Update: Danielle is correct: it's Lara. I take my all-concealing big shirt off to you, Lara, if only just this once.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
As much fun as I'm having with the new camera and with Wendy, I do take time out from shooting and spinning to knit once in a while. I looked through the Walker treasuries with the intention of making a lace bookmark and hit on this pattern in the second one; it's called Wings of the Swan. You will probably notice that for a bookmark it's just a bit wide. I should frog it and pick something narrower, but I really like this pattern. Maybe I could turn it into a super-skinny scarf? Except I'm not sure how many balls of that yarn I have.
Maybe I'll use it only when consulting the New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. (The relevant word there is shorter: the NSOED is two hefty volumes, as opposed to the 20 volumes of the full OED.)
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Ten on Tuesday
- When I was twelve my family stayed on Cape Cod for a month in a cottage on the bay (inner) side. My most vivid memory is of a day we drove over to the ocean side. We had a little styrofoam surfboard, and most of the waves were maybe five feet high (on the bay side there are no waves to speak of), so I had a great time riding them until I tried to catch an extra-big one and it separated me from the surfboard and rolled me briskly right at the pebbly shoreline. When it receded I got up, retrieved the surfboard a few feet away, decided I wasn't hurt and went back in — but I left the bigger waves alone after that.
- The summer I was 18 my family spent ten days camping in Nova Scotia. I went swimming in the Bay of Fundy. C-O-L-D. (This might explain why I don't find Miss B's willingness to fling herself into the briny off Yarmouth, Maine, especially noteworthy.)
- On that same Nova Scotia trip, our last night there, I found the most amazing blueberry patch I have ever seen. Seriously, the ground looked blue from a distance. I went and grabbed the crew and all the empty containers we could find, and I think we picked a gallon in the half hour of daylight that remained. The next day we smuggled them across the border (you're not allowed to bring pretty much anything alive across for fear that you will accidentally import the next gypsy moth caterpillar) and back to my stepgrandmother's house in Portland; pie was forthcoming.
- Grant and I honeymooned in Montreal, where I ate rabbit for the first time. It was cooked in a light cream sauce, and it was yummy. Since then I've eaten rabbit at every opportunity, despite Grant's tendency to refer to it as "le Thumpeur."
- I visited my oldest friend in San Francisco about 25 years ago. We hung out in the city for a few days, and then we headed north with her boyfriend, Kevin, and a friend of his, Ron, to camp at a clothing-optional resort in Napa County. There were maybe 50 people there, of whom I was one of two who opted to wear clothing. This decision did not sit well with Ron, who was on the rebound. He kept telling me I was making a spectacle of myself. Finally I asked him, "The whole point of vacationing in California is to feel free to do your own thing, right?" He agreed. "All right, then," I said, "my thing is being an uptight New England Puritan." I may not have convinced him, but I did shut him up.
- Some cousins of mine used to rent a campsite by Cupsuptic Lake, one of the Rangeley Lakes, and invite my parents, Grant and me to camp with them for a weekend. (This was how Grant and I got acquainted with Rangeley and environs.) About six one morning Grant and I found ourselves the only ones awake and went canoeing in the fog. It was otherworldly peaceful.
- When I was expecting Taz Grant and I took what we knew would be our last chance for a good while to vacation in France. We mostly stayed in fairly low-budget hotels, but we did spend one night in a castle and eat in the restaurant there. I think there were seven courses. Grant still raves about the lobster-and-sweetbread salad. It was the most expensive meal we've ever eaten, costing a good deal more than the room, and we didn't even have wine because I was pregnant.
- My oldest friend got married five years ago in a beautiful park in Sonoma County whose name unfortunately escapes me. (T, if you're reading this, help me out here.) The dancing afterward was terrific fun, and the food was the best I've ever eaten at a wedding.
- Remember the Rangeley rainbows? Not only had we never seen any up there before, but that one with the dark clouds behind it stayed brilliantly photogenic for about 20 minutes.
- On our Mexico trip a year ago we could always see mountains wherever we went, raw, jagged spikes rising abruptly from the plain, completely unlike the hunched New England hills.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Where Credit Is Due
In turn, Barack Obama among others has proposed a "credit card bill of rights" that would forbid this practice, as well as prohibiting so-called universal default clauses and requiring disclosure of reasons that credit-card companies can raise interest rates. No more "whenever we feel like it": they will have to spell out, if (and only if) you do x, we can do y.
You will be shocked to hear that credit-card companies hate this idea. They're used to having it all their way (witness so-called bankruptcy reform); I can remember when it was considered bad form for respectable creditors to base their business model on trying to mire their customers too deeply for them to get out within the next decade, but not so far that they would throw in the towel and declare bankruptcy. Time was when you would know you were over your credit limit because your transaction would be declined; now you find out when you get your bill and discover that you've been socked with a fat fee and your interest rate has doubled, probably not only on that card but on any others you may have as well. Credit grantors call all these dirty tricks "risk pricing," and say that if they're not allowed to use them, they may (gasp!) have to refuse some people credit.
My gut reaction to this is, damn right. If a company can't grant someone credit on reasonable terms, it shouldn't be granting it at all. I'm trying to decide if this is really a good idea. I frankly can't see any benefit in losing sleep and getting ulcers because you can't pay off debt you never should have been able to incur in the first place; but what if your car dies, say, and you need it to get to work, and you don't have the cash to get it fixed or buy another one? Obama says he will encourage banks and credit unions to make so-called micro-loans; I like this too, but I'm not sure it will really work.
One thing that really bugs me about all this is that people (like me) who pay their balances in full every month can get much lower interest rates than people who live close to the edge, and the latter are much more likely to miss a payment and get their rate jacked up even more. I suppose this is yet another illustration of the old maxim that you can qualify for a loan only if you don't need one. I do understand why creditors do this: it's risk pricing again, the idea being that if they're lending money to two pools of customers, A and B, and B is twice as likely to default as A, B's rate needs to be higher to produce the same profit on both pools. I can't help feeling that there's something basically wrong here, though. From the individual customer's point of view, having to pay a higher rate will make default still more likely, not to mention the predicament of the poor schnook who finds himself rudely dumped from pool A into pool B because he missed a payment on some other card.
There's a simple counterargument to all of this, of course: if you can't pay a loan, don't take one out; if you can't afford a house, wait until you can. But a high percentage of bankrupts got pushed over the edge due to unforeseen medical bills (which is the topic of another rant entire: can you say "universal health care"?) or other catastrophic events; they get looked on as deadbeats and riffraff, while the executives making the risky loans get... huge bonuses and nice severance packages if the whole house of cards actually collapses.
All right, rant over. What do you think?
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Today was a lovely midsummer day, comfortably warm but not scorching, and just sunny enough to get the laundry nice and dry.
We had given up car shopping for a while, as weekends had gotten full of soccer and fiber festivals, getting Miss B ready for camp and taking her there. We're looking for a high(ish)-mileage car, but Grant's height limits our choices quite a bit. He's only six foot two, but our legs are the same length (I'm five foot seven), meaning that most of his height is in his torso. Cars that look like they should be big enough for him are, as long as he's willing to drive with his head permanently tilted to one side like Vince D'Onofrio trying to psych out the traffic. Strangely enough, though, our very low-slung 1993 Saturn wagon accommodates him quite well, so I suggested sometime back that maybe we should look at Ions. Finally today we betook ourselves to Saturn of Lowell, where we found that indeed he does fit in an Ion, and it's a very nice car. Next weekend when Miss B comes home we'll head back up to see what she thinks. (She gets a vote, but not the deciding one.) We could have a winner here, ladies and gentlemen.
Grant ordered takeout for dinner, and we've been hanging out reading (Grant) and spinning (me) and watching the game (the Sox won). Not a bad day overall.
Friday, July 11, 2008
And it may well have been, but last night the drive band put me out of my indecision by disintegrating entirely, so that I was forced to create a new one out of the cotton string recommended by the Wheel Goddess, on which I had stocked up and which, miraculously, it took me only a couple of minutes to find even though I had no memory of putting it where I found it. Which I did, and all is now well. There will undoubtedly be more pictures of blue yarn.
As if I were not already feeling dumb enough, yesterday we got a new camera. It's a Sony DSC-H50, with bells and whistles undreamt of in my photographic philosophy, and thank heaven it has a mode labeled EASY, because otherwise it would take me years of study to get up to speed on the thing.
This is a really nice camera.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Tension on the Tour
The drive band is a piece of linen string, which I wouldn't have thought would stretch much if at all, but apparently it does. Can I fix this problem simply by using cotton string instead? Or will it stretch too? At the rate I'm going I'll be lucky to spin up what's left of the first braid, never mind starting the second.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
I've long maintained that acrylic yarn has its place. It's tough and durable, not to mention generally less expensive than natural fibers. The afghans I crocheted as a newlywed remain alive and well, having survived numerous trips through the washer and dryer. My 15-year-old niece still sleeps with the baby blanket I made her all those years ago, from which she refused to be separated at the age of three; it's in remarkably good shape, considering, although admittedly it's now mostly gray instead of white.
And, of course, the cheapest acrylic is the ideal material for random swatching, when I don't really know what I'm after, and I'm likely to rip, and rip again, and yet several more agains, before getting to what I want. I wouldn't ask laceweight to stand up to that: I'll probably do a swatch or two just to make sure that the yarn and the pattern work together, but only after I have a pattern.
As I work with this honest and unassuming green yarn, however, I find myself muttering under my breath. It's so sticky, so plastic, so... acrylic.
Good grief. Have the priestesses of the Church of Natural Fibers finally turned me into an unregenerate yarn snob? Well, no... I fear I got there all on my own.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Ten on Tuesday
Rather than take the easy ones, I decided to do minor characters. Very minor in some cases, and not exactly a character in one, but I do what I can.
- Joe Junior, While You Were Sleeping: This movie has such a good supporting cast that it's hard to pick one, but the closet scene is on my list of all-time greats.
- Tim the enchanter, Monty Python and the Holy Grail: I just want to learn that flame-throwing trick.
- Jeff, Tootsie: You slut.
- Fainting nun, Ghost
- Wendy, A Fish Called Wanda: Another hard choice from several possibilities. Best line: You can stick this marriage right in your bottom.
- Chocolate, The Birdcage: Trina McGee has one line and about seven seconds on screen as the woman with whom a senator is caught dead to rights, as it were, but she makes the most of them.
- Wilson, Cast Away: All right, so he's not exactly a character, but this role takes the common dramatic device of having minor characters on stage just so the lead doesn't have to talk to himself to its logical conclusion. (British servants seem to have been invented to give Shakespearean royalty someone to talk to.)
- Dennis the elevator operator, Pretty Woman
- Restaurant customer ("I'll have what she's having"), When Harry Met Sally: Another great one-line role.
- Roz, Monsters, Inc.: I don't want to see any paperwork on this.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Gently Down the Stream
We visited Miss B at camp yesterday, took her shopping and out to lunch, and moved her stuff from her old cabin to her new cabin. The cabin-switch thing is new: I never had to do that at camp. But she's now with a few girls she met last year, and she seems happy about that.
This is the pond they swim and boat in. Look, it's blue. It's quite lovely. (I presume it's a pond as it's on the small side.)
Taz started special-ed summer school today; it's a five-week program that aims to keep students from losing ground during the long summer break. Since the school lunch staff doesn't work summers, and eating is a major part of Taz's school program, I sent various foods in with him this morning. (The staff works with him not on eating politely or on eating specific things, just on eating: during his cancer treatment he basically stopped eating, not an uncommon thing, apparently, and ever since he's had tube feedings to make sure he gets enough nutrition, so we've all been working with him hoping eventually to get him to the point of no longer needing the tube.) I had forgotten to put a couple of things on my shopping list, though, so we stopped at the grocery store on the way home to get soy butter and chocolate milk, the kind in the boxes that doesn't need to be refrigerated. The soy butter tastes (to me) a lot like peanut butter, but isn't dangerous to people with nut allergies.
Nut allergies puzzle me. I don't remember anyone's ever having them when I was a kid, especially not the kind where the sufferer will die if one peanut molecule infiltrates the school building. All right, I'm exaggerating a bit here, and I'm sure it's no laughing matter if it's your child, but I would really like to know where all the allergies came from. Now there's a movement afoot, in our town anyway, to confine all food to the cafeteria: no more snacks eaten sitting companionably in a circle in the meeting area, no more birthday celebrations in the classroom. (None with food, anyway. If you ask me there's no such thing as a food-free celebration.) We've all learned to avoid sending in nuts — the invention of soy butter makes it a lot easier — so this just seems like another way of sucking all the fun out of life.
I just saw the new(ish) Verizon commercial again, the one where the spooky-looking woman appears in the couple's yard and tells them she's surprised they moved in after the terrible fate befell the previous occupants: "It's a dead zone. They could never get cell-phone service, and they ended up going completely insane." There's always one commercial shown during baseball games that I can't help liking; last year it was the "Naaah-flac" goat.
I'm thinking seriously of knitting a triangular shawl, a shape I haven't done before, and I have some ideas for lace patterns to use. They have to be easy to use in the standard triangular construction, which is to say tessellating and fairly small. What are your favorites?
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Mountains to Climb
Until I read Stephanie's post today, I had somehow managed to skip right over the "challenge" part of it. Reading the second sentence of her post, I began to consider what how I should reach deeper to find that extra gear.
I've been spinning Amy's beautiful merino on Wendy pretty much since I acquired them both at Fiber Frolic, which was, yikes, almost a month ago. I think I've finished about half of the first four-ounce braid; in my defense, I'm spinning laceweight, but even so, that's not going to set any speed records. So, I thought, why not stretch to finish both? That would be a total of about six ounces, or, for my friends outside the US (pauses to operate calculator), about 168 grams. Not a bad goal, I thought.
Happy to get that settled, I continued reading Stephanie's post. In what she calls a bow to reality, she has scaled back her ambitions: two kilos might be a little much, she thought, so she is proposing to spin a mere 1500 grams of fiber.
Just look back, make out that speck waaaay at the bottom of the hill, and wave once in a while.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Saturday Sky: More Mexican Memories
The entrance to Las Grutas de Garcia, the caves we visited in Mexico, is from a ledge on a cliff face on one side of a valley framed with the spiky mountains we saw everywhere there. The landscape is totally different from any other I've ever seen. As far as we could tell there was no natural water at all in this valley. I should have asked someone about the perfectly conical peak rising from the valley floor: it looks like it would have to be volcanic, but what do I know?
Friday, July 04, 2008
Friday Flower Flashback
Thursday, July 03, 2008
M is for Multitude
Eight US states begin with M, and one of them is Maine. M is also for mountains and merganser.
M is for merino.
M is for midnight and marine, just two of the numerous shades of blue in this lovely roving.
M is for midpoint. Deciding pretty much on a whim to post daily in 2008, and too uncertain of success to join the group, I marvel at having made it halfway.
M is for Maggie Matchless, of course. I must say she's a lady: of late she's been displaced by Wendy, but she handles it with grace and style, never reproaching me with so much as a murmur.
And, last but hardly least, M is for mean mom. When I did my Mean Mom post a couple of weeks ago, Angelia suggested that we needed a signal, and I actually managed to come up with one. Note the thumbs between the ring and pinky fingers: that's M in the American sign language alphabet. Maybe when two mean moms meet they should do M bumps, see if we can get Faux News all nervous again?