Thursday, November 30, 2006

Things You May Not Have Heard About

A couple of interesting things came across my desk today, thanks to Docuticker:

The American Sociological Association filed an amicus brief last week with the First Circuit Court of Appeals in support of the plaintiffs in Cook v. Rumsfeld (challenging the constitutionality of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy). The signors of the brief (go here for a list and press release) argue that there is no empirical evidence to show that gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military would harm military performance or unit cohesion.

Bill Clinton signed Don't Ask, Don't Tell into law 13 years ago today. I couldn't imagine anything more damaging or inhumane than that policy and didn't vote for him again (and couldn't bring myself to feel particularly sympathetic during the Lewinsky thing).

Also on Docuticker was the Human Rights Campaign's Buying for Equality 2007. The guide rates companies based on their support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. What I like about this is that so often we are told who to boycott (I still haven't forgiven Shell for not pulling out of South Africa during the apartheid era), and rarely who we can support (without guilt).

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Finished Towels

I've been feeling a touch of writer's block lately, so I'm going to just do a quick post. I finally pulled the Cat Track and Snail Tail towels off of the loom (much to Judy's chagrin) and got them washed and dried. The colors are not coming out in these pictures: the towels are dark purple (not black) and off white.
I'm pretty sure I wound enough warp for 4 towels, plus a little extra, but it was so long ago, who can remember. I have 3 towels, plus a little extra. Not exactly a set.
Detail-Purple Weft

Detail-Buttonhole Stitch
I love that the Buttonhole Stitch held up. It was a wee bit tedious to do it (who wants to do buttonhole when you could be weaving, after all), but it got a lot faster as I got better at it, and then at the end, no knots to tie, or hem sewing. Just rip the things off of the loom, cut 'em apart and throw 'em in the washing machine. Nice.
I also started Icarus. The yarn is Alpaca with a Twist Fino (alpaca and silk) and this picture doesn't begin to do justice to the color. It is a deep, rich blood red.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

I don't generally have nice things to say about Thanksgiving. I'm from a divorced family and the day always involved what felt like hugely complicated decisions, hurt feelings, guilt and way too many people.

So I will say this: may your crazy relatives be merely entertaining, may your turkey breast be moist (brining!), and may the drinks flow liberally. Eat some real stuffing for me; I'll be having Stovetop.

By the way, one year ago I wrote my first post (there was a post the day before, but it was really just a test).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


It's been a while since I posted about anything I've read. Frankly, I've been in a bit of a slump. I've been reading, but slowly.

In the last couple of months, I have finished "Home Cooking" and "More Home Cooking" by the late, very-missed Laurie Colwin. I've probably read these books 20 times by now. They are collections of essays Colwin wrote for Gourmet Magazine (mostly), and if you love food you must have them. They are gems.

I've also been reading "Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey". I didn't know anything about Gorey, so it's a bit of a revelation. I really had no idea that he died in 2000, I honestly thought he was a Victorian era illustrator. Yes. I am a dope in most aspects of my life!

I'm also reading the new edition of Janet Szabo's
"Aran Sweater Design". Yes. I am a geek. I lie in bed and read about cable crossings and gauge. Don't you?

And last night I finished "Cross Country: Fifteen Years and Ninety Thousand Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-in-Law, Two Kids, and Enough Coffee to Kill an Elephant" by Robert Sullivan. What a great book! It's about pretty much what the title says: driving across the country with family, odd details about Lewis and Clark, the history of the U.S. interstate system and the coffee cup lid, a bad luck story about a moving van, and more obsessions than should really be crammed into a 256 page book. It's funny, smart, and incredibly interesting.

When my brother Ken and I were 9 or 10, my dad drove us from Michigan to Montana to visit his parents. In a pickup truck. One of us sat up front, one of us rolled around the back (yes, at least there was a cap). We had a two person tent (which my dad made, from a kit, himself!) which my dad and I slept in, and Ken slept in the truck (his choice). I remember fried spam, crummy campgrounds, and severe boredom. Good times! Seriously. I would totally subject small children to the experience and I would willingly sleep in a tent again to do so (I wouldn't otherwise). I remember that KOA campgrounds were the worst (they put us next to the trash dump) and National Parks were the cleanest, even if you had to pee in an outhouse. According to my dad, one night we were surrounded by the KKK (my brother is black): he described it as a bunch of headlights in the night and the park ranger apologizing in the morning. They weren't exactly menacing. I remember looking up one night and understanding why it's called The Milky Way.

We went across the country again when we were about 13, this time with my stepmother, Linda and a pop up. I don't remember what they were driving, I can't imagine it was the pickup again. Maybe they had the mini-van by then. I don't have as much nostalgia for that trip, mainly because Ken was in a bad way.

I drove to Seattle with my cat in a Drive Away. And not much money. I drove through the Badlands screaming Pearl Jam. Nope. I wasn't cool enough for Nirvana. I drove home again, with the same cat, a couple of years later when my life fell apart. I think it was on that trip that I went into Walmart for the first time.

I wouldn't trade those trips for anything. This country is huge. "Cross Country" is an approximation of the experience, but only a slight one.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Knitting and Bad Lighting

This isn't going to be very exciting. Just pictures of knitting taken in very bad light. Photoshop can do only so much.
Mom's Scarf
This picture isn't so bad: the colors are right anyway. This is a scarf I've been knitting for my mom since last winter. I took it out again this past weekend.
AmGirl Sweater
My head is too full of snot to be able to explain this properly, but I'll try. This is going to be a sweater for a doll. Len's niece, Emily, got another American Girl doll (her fourth!) for her birthday, and while I find these to be less offensive (but far more expensive) Barbie dolls, she likes them. It seemed like a good an excuse as any to try my hand at designing a miniature sweater.
And here is another scarf (oh how I hate them so!). Why do I keep making scarves if I hate them, you ask? Good question! I don't really have an answer. Moving on: this is a Berroco rayon ribbon yarn that I bought many years ago. It is also an example of how all the Photoshop in the world can't make bad lighting good, especially in my inexperienced hands. The colors are right, but the picture is sort of blah.
I made this stitch pattern up. I sort of feel like a genius. Only sort of though. Mostly I feel like I have a lot of snot in my head. I need a nap.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Days off

I took a few, much needed, days off of work. I got tons of knitting and some weaving done and you would think I might have taken the time to take some pictures of said knitting and weaving. But no. I took no pictures. Pure laziness, on my part. The weaving looks quite a lot like it did in a previous post, and Judy continues to sleep on the warp. I don't really understand why.

In lieu of knitting, I offer this picture of Len and I. My friend Andy took it on Friday night. I don't think he was drunk.
The Essential Us
I wasn't drunk either.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Do you know what I like the best about the election results? Pennsylvania dumped that rotten Santorum.

Rumsfeld was so sad, he resigned.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Well, the pictures aren't very exciting, but I really have been weaving. Overshot reminds me knitting fair isle. It isn't really difficult, but I really have to be paying attention so that the shuttle with the right yarn is going through (I have two shuttles going, one with doubled yarn, which makes up the pattern, and one with a single strand for the tabby) and that I have the right treadle depressed (pattern and tabby). And don't forget the floating selvages.
Cat Track and Snail Trail
The pink yarn is the new waste I'm using. It's nice and smooth, so my needle isn't getting caught in it while doing the buttonhole stitch. Speaking of which. Is that really going to work? I'll be able to cut these apart, remove the waste yarn and have nice fringe without having to do anything more?
Close Up
See the mistake? So easy to make. So don't care.

One more angle, just for fun:
Artsy Angle

Last Week

Snow Berries

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ballot Proposals

In Michigan, some people (both from here and not-from-here) have decided to take it upon themselves to make law, rather than relying on the judgement of those we elect. Thus, they have gotten up petitions, gathered signatures, fought a court battle or two, and now we have 5 Statewide Ballot Proposals. Some of these will amend the State Constitution, some just create laws.

1. A constitutional amendment to mandate the conservation and recreation funds can ONLY be used for their intended purpose.

This is already The Law, but the Michigan Economy is so bad right now, I think the folks behind this are worried these funds will start getting sucked up for other purposes. I'm having a hard time with this one. How hard it is now to get at those funds? If it isn't allowed under any circumstances, or in only the most dire of emergencies, why bother with an amendment?

2. The "Civil Rights Initiative". This constitutional amendment would ban affirmative action in public institutions. These institutions include state and local governments, public colleges and universities, community colleges and school districts. Oh. It would ban discrimination, too.

Don't you want to take a shower after reading that? They call themselves the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and then claim they didn't perpetuate fraud in the signature gathering process (signature gatherers were accused of misrepresenting the petition). The name alone is fraudulent. While I will vote HELL NO, I have a bad feeling this will pass.

Jennifer Gratz (that's her official bio), who is heading up this initiative, sued the University of Michigan Law School, claiming that she was denied admission because she is white. I heard a rumor that she was wait listed, and had she returned her postcard, she would have been admitted. Is that true?

3. A referendum to establish a hunting season for mourning doves.

Didn't the legislature already vote for this and Granholm vetoed it? I'm inclined to vote against this one for that reason alone. We elect people to make laws and a governor who has the right to veto that law. Live with it. Otherwise, I don't really care; neither side has made much of a case. The doves aren't endangered, nor are they pests. I don't know why you would want to shoot one, but I don't really understand why people do anything (besides knit).

4. An amendment to prohibit government from using eminent domain for private enterprise.

Do you mean to tell me that Napoleon Township can take my house and let Mall of America build a cathedral to commerce in it's place? I don't think so!

5. A legislative initiative to mandate school funding levels.

I don't have kids but I think public schools are among the most important institutions our society has and I had a really hard time making up my mind about this one. On the one hand, schools have really been shafted in this economy -- primary and secondary education are underfunded and are stuck teaching to shallow standards. Higher education is becoming so expensive that soon all but the most privileged will be able to afford it. However, I'm really uncomfortable with mandated funding levels, especially when politicians are afraid to raise taxes. Michigan Radio has been doing a series on the State elections. They talked to an administrator of a Jackson elementary school who isn't taking an official positions, but wondered what would happen to other services the school uses, such as fire, police and road repair. That is what finally helped me make up my mind. I will gladly pay more in taxes to fund schools, but I just don't think this is the way.

So there you are. My blowhard opinions on our fun ballot initiatives, worth about as much as you are paying for them.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Much Knitting

Despite not having posted about it in a month, I have, in fact, been knitting. I mean really, when aren't I knitting? Unfortunately, lighting has not been conducive to great photography, so you will have to bear with me.
This is the second of the scarves I am making for the ALS/Sue Smith Euchre Tournament. This is random wool of the same variety as the other scarf. I had a really hard time picking a stitch pattern for this one. I had a few criteria: I didn't want the ultimate owner to have to block the scarf when it is washed; it had to be an easily memorized pattern (which pretty much limits it to or two rows for me) without being soul-suckingly boring; and I didn't want it to curl. While this pattern doesn't quite measure up, I like it enough to keep going. It curls and it is boring. The latter can't be helped, that is the nature of scarves, but I wish I had done something about the curling. Since I kind of suck, I can't remember which stitch dictionary this comes from, but it's a stockinette-based mesh; the yarn overs happen on the knit side, the decreases on the purl side. To prevent the curling, I could very easily have changed this to a garter stitch-based pattern without much trouble, but I had already ripped this yarn out many many times and I really didn't want to do it again. I've decided that it is a design feature. Moving on:
Swatches! Not just swatches, washed and dried swatches. I feel faint. I never do that, my usual swatching technique is to knit a few inches, decide it's right and rip it out and start the sweater. That just wasn't going to work this time.

The two swatches on the left are the blue tweedy Rowan yarn (Magpie!) from the other day. That yarn decided to be a sweater from a 2001(ish) Interweave Knits called Tuscan Hills:
Tuscan Hills
It's a simple, rolled edge pullover with the added fun of ridges: on the wrong side, you pick up stitches from several rows below and purl together with the next regular stitch (you do this at varying number of rows and it's supposed to resemble the "rolling hills of Tuscany". I've never been to Tuscany so I wouldn't know.) I was having trouble getting gauge and not really enjoying the yarn during the swatching process, when I remembered something from a discussion on the Aran Knitlist: wool can "bloom" and relax in unexpected ways. So I knitted a swatch on size 7 needles and one on size 8's. They were both stiff, curly and kind of unpleasant; once they were washed the fabric became soft and drapey, with the one done on size 7's being a little denser. I didn't get gauge with either needle (and really didn't want to go any smaller than 7), so I made some calculations and am knitting a size smaller than I would normally.

The swatch on the left is the yarn that Judy found for me. It thinks it would like to be this:
Modern Lace
I wasn't getting gauge with this either, but washing the swatch seems to shrink the yarn just enough. This seems to be the same basic pattern as my Waving Laces socks, which is good, because for some reason the chart for this one is giving me fits.