Archive for April, 2007

Your Silence Will Not Protect You

Monday, April 30th, 2007

One Day Blog Silence

I don’t know if you’ve seen this little black button on other blogs today. If you click on it, it will take you to a site that tells you that we’re supposed to not post on our blogs today in order to (a) support the 30+ people who died at Virginia Tech two weeks ago and/or (b) support, and I quote, “all the victims of our world.”

Yeah, there’s nothing quite like equating silence with victimhood to give me the warm fuzzies, let me tell you.

So, for all the battered, raped, sexually-trafficked and genitally-mutilated women in the world, let’s be silent.

For all the children who go to bed hungry, let’s be silent.

For all prisoners of conscience, let’s be silent.

For all refugees displaced by armed conflict, let’s be silent.

For all victims of torture, let’s be silent.

For all the people in the United States who have to decide between paying for health care vs. paying for food, rent, or utilities, let’s be silent.

For all of our dead, maimed and traumatized soldiers in Iraq, let’s be silent.

For all the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, let’s be silent.

For all the Iraqi and Afghani civilians murdered by our “collateral damage,” let’s be silent.

For all the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgendered people who must live in silence or face ostracism (or worse), let’s be silent.

Silent my lily-white ass. Since I titled this post with a quote from Audre Lorde, I’ll end it with one from her as well.

“Silence has never brought us anything of worth.”

~

Gregor Will Never be a Supermodel

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Gregor (Mr. Squeakypants, the Mama’s Boy) will never be a supermodel. It’s not that he isn’t amazingly handsome (he is), and he certainly has plenty of prima donna qualities; it’s just that he’s simply not, um, stationary. I’ll get the camera ready to take his picture, and he’ll decide he wants to come over and see me for cuddling.

Out of the dozen Gregor pictures taken this morning, these are the only “usable” ones, and some would argue that two-thirds of these aren’t usable at all — except to make a point. Thomas, on the other hand, is extremely photogenic.

Don’t Wake Me With So Much

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I`m awake, you know?
— Ernest Hemingway

This was one of those Quotes of the Day that appear on the blog’s sidebar. I’m not a huge Ernest Hemingway fan(1), but this one was worth keeping. It’s not that I necessarily perceive my life as “falling apart,” but that sleep is, what? Valued. Desired. Elusive.

I’m an insomniac. Well, part of it is insomnia and part of it is that I just prefer being awake in the small, liminal hours of the early morning. 3:00 a.m. 4:00 a.m. (2) I find it exquisitely restful to be awake at those hours. Nothing is moving. I can hear the highway in the distance. The birds haven’t started their songs, and the air smells so different — cleaner, rarefied.

Then there are the nights when I don’t have the luxury of those hours. Nights prior to a working day, when I have to force myself into a noisy, diurnal schedule like everyone else. Bland days. Days I can’t count as my own. The nights preceding those days are a struggle. Not all the time, not every night, but all too often I’ll lay in bed and I’ll still be awake at 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m., and it most definitely NOT exquisite nor restful and I begin to resent the waking world and how much time it takes away from me.

That’s where the insomnia part comes in (you were wondering if I would every wander back to that topic, weren’t you?).

One of my ways of helping myself fall asleep is to imagine myself elsewhere — an Elsewhere where my time is my own to spend. My current Elsewhere is a bedroom in a cool, stone tower on a mountainside. It’s wintertime. I imagine myself hearing the wind outside and the crackle and pop of a fireplace, and I tell myself that there are no clients or phones or schedules or lists of things to do tomorrow.

Then I sleep.

******
(1) I count Proust and Borges as my favorite authors. Compared to Proust’s Byzantine prose and Borges’ labyrinths, Hemingway is much too terse.

(2) Not getting up in the early morning, but staying awake to get there; they’re completely different psychological states.

Yet Another Meme or "I’m 12 on the Inside. Really."

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Yes, I’m very, very psyched that they’re making The Golden Compass into a movie, but I have to say that I’m disappointed by the hairstyle they’ve given Lyra. Curls?! Shirley Temple-esque CURLS? Good gravy, people, Lyra isn’t a foo-foo girly-girl.

That won’t stop me from going to the film, though.

~

It’s Springtime

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

[I was going to segue into “Springtime for Hitler,” which has been playing in my head for a few days, but I thought that not everyone would get the reference to The Producers, and that that wouldn’t be kosher. Er, not cool, even.]

Yes, I am just tickled that Laurie took the time to post a comment on my nondescript wallflower of a blog. I had to go back and do a little judicious editing of the “Things I Learned from Crazy Aunt Purl” List, too, by the way. That list was longer than I imagined.

What I would like to write is that Laurie has influenced so many of her readers — but I’m having one helluva Pain Day and can’t quite find the words. Bear with me. This goes way beyond fried chicken recipes.

Many women wrote that her writing about her divorce — and the pain/fear/loneliness that went with it — helped them get through their own divorces and break-ups. Just being able to feel “I’m not alone in experiencing this” helped them cope. I just about cried when I read this one:

I crashed, I burned, and I spent so many many days and nights wishing I’d never been born. I read your blog.. your entries about how you felt.. and I want you to know that you helped. As much as someone that I couldn’t talk to, didn’t know, and had no opportunity to vent to.. you helped. Every day. You made me smile when sometimes nothing else did…. This [the book publication news] has made my day. Keep on keeping on. Some days that was all I kept saying over and over. It will get better, I used to tell myself (although I secretly suspected I lied even to myself). Its still hard. I still think about him too much during a day. I get up, I move through, I take care of my kids and the house and my seventeenmillion jobs, and then I do it all again. You’ve been an inspiration. I’ve preordered the book, and I can’t wait to read it. Thank you again.

Amen.

Love the Yarn, Pet the Yarn, Fondle the Yarn…

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

Six skeins of Malabrigo kettle-dyed merino wool arrived today (the color is “Paris Nights”). It’s my understanding that this stuff is about as addictive as, say, heroin. This is definitely being put aside until my l33t knitterly skillz are much more l33t-er.

In other sort-of-knitting-related news, Crazy Aunt Purl has finally gotten around to publishing her book. The responses and comments on her blog today are simply overwhelming, in the best sense of the word. One commenter wrote this:

All I could think when I read this was “wow, Laurie got published” and wanted to tell someone my “friend” got published. Then realized I’d have to explain that no, I don’t really know you and no, you have no idea who I am, but hey – My friend got published!!

That’s about how I feel, too. I’ve been reading Laurie’s blog for about six months now. She’s the one that turned me on to Dyson vacuum cleaners, Magic Erasers, and Noro Big Kuryeon(1). She is the one that motivated me to start my own blog. Laurie is like a friend, in a way, because she writes about so many topics that resonate with me — books, relationships, cats, being looked at as an “eccentric,” u.s.w. I am so ridiculously happy for her.

*****************
(1) [EDIT – I forgot about the budget worksheet, her demonstration of how to put those 1-pixel borders on the photographs, the fried chicken recipe I have to try, directing me to the Kitty Pi pattern, and about a dozen other things, I’m sure]

~

The Best Laid Schemes of Mice and (Wo)Men

Friday, April 20th, 2007

I thought it was “best laid plans,” but a search on a quotations site says it’s “schemes.”(1) Who am I to argue? In any event, this blog post is about knitted cat toys — not Robert Burns’ quotes.

Since I have a LOT of that Noro Big Kureyon 20 from My First Sweater remaining, I was thinking it would be an excellent color for a catnip mouse. I recalled seeing a catnip mouse pattern on the Wendy Knits web site, as well as in her book that I bought for myself after the Lenten Book Fast. (2) There were two patterns: one for a plain ol’ garter stitch mouse, and one that had a cable in it. The Excruciatingly Easy Garter Stitch Catnip Mouse vs. The Sophisticated Cabled Catnip Mouse for the Debonair Cat-about-Town. Her words — not mine.

I knew the garter stitch one would bore me to absolute tears, and I thought the more complicated one was worth a try because I could play around with knitting cables and not worry too much about how they looked. This would be for my cats, after all. If catnip is involved, they tend to be uncritical.

My first attempt was not pretty. The picture is in black and white because it shows the stitch pattern — or utter lack of a stitch pattern — better than in color. I remember reading that it was supposed to be a cable surrounded by two panels of seed stitch. Um, that ain’t it. You can see some stockinette stitch in the upper right hand corner, and Lord only knows what’s going on with that cable. It’s been broken in two. [Yeah, yeah, I know it’s a bad picture. Trust me. It doesn’t show any more detail in the color versions.]

I went back to the web site to look at some of the photos other knitters had posted, and I found this one:

That is not seed stitch. That is so not seed stitch I could just spit. Looks like stockinette to me. Stockinette. Boring. Easy. No thought involved. If someone would have posted that it’s two panels of stockinette (instead of two panels of seed stitch), I would have saved some time and aggravation — not that I get very aggravated with the knitting. Much. I know I’m a beginner and that I learn from making mistakes, etc., etc. /sigh

I’m thinking that I should save my first attempt at making cables for posterity. Years from now I will look back at it and laugh. I hope. I had better be laughing.

************
(1)

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

(The best laid schemes of Mice and Men
oft go awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!)”

–Robert Burns

For some reason, I’m remembering that the first two lines of this poem appeared in one of our grade school reading books, but it was the version with the Scottish vernacular. I can’t recall anything about the story, but I think a mouse was quoting. Or a cat. ‘Tis a puzzlement.

(2) I give up buying books for Lent every year. I’ve been doing that for a while, so it’s become less of a deprivation over time. This year I gave up books and yarn.

~

Anniversaries, of a Sort

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

My first thought was “Wait, it’s a few days too soon. It’s not the 20th yet.” April 20th. Waco. Oklahoma City. Columbine. (1)

We’re hearing some, on the news, that this was a premeditated act, which kinda/sorta reinforces that idea. Someone had an axe to grind and an itchy trigger finger.

Then, there’s what we’re hearing about how the first shooting (in the dorm) was a “domestic” dispute. I was thinking that the University was to blame for minimizing what they saw as a “typical” boy-shooting-girl-who-rejected-him event; thinking the incident contained, they didn’t see the second shooting coming. I have to confess that when I heard the words “domestic dispute,” I leapt to a similar conclusion: “Man, oh man. Here it is again. A woman has the audacity to say ‘no’ to Mr. Magic Penis, so he blows her away.” (2)

What sort of sad commentary on our society is THAT, I ask you, when we become numb to this scenario, when we see it as stereotypical? The Husband said that I may be putting too much of a feminist spin on this. I’ll allow that possibility, but part of me wants to articulate how women have to learn a different set of rules – from how to stay safe when we’re out alone after dark, how to stop an attacker, and rape spam, to how to dress and behave so as not to attract unwanted (male) attention. It’s the never-ending background music. Men are the predators – women, the prey.

/pound head

Too many grey areas, too little answers. What the hell do I know writing about this?

* * * * * * * * * *
(1) This isn’t entirely true. Technically, the Waco raid and Oklahoma City bombing were on April 19th, Columbine High School on April 20th; and my first thought was to try not to spit the bottled water I was drinking all over my keyboard (I called up the Yahoo! news headlines right when I returned from lunch).

(2) I hear that the gunman is of “Asian descent,” so I leap to additional conclusions about his degree of testosterone poisoning, need for male dominance, etc. I’m just as susceptible to stereotyping as anyone.

I am a Good (Feminine, Singular) Citizen — It’s Tax Time!

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I know how to say that in Russian (the “good citizen” part, that is), but, alas, cannot remember the Cyrillic alphabet. You’re just going to have to trust me on that one.(1)

I’ve just checked the numbers on the return with He Who Wishes to Claim Cats as Dependents, and have e-filed the whole mess on to the Infernal Revenue Service. I take great pride in doing our taxes, but I do whine about it to a certain extent. I want my pats on the head, I suppose. Thank God for Turbo Tax.

Photo courtesy of Meme Cats

* * * * * * * * * * * *
(1) I’ve taken classes in French, German, Russian, and Japanese, with varying and widely disparate degrees of success. Learning to write the Cyrillic alphabet was a hoot. It took us a few weeks to get to the point where we could “sight read” Cyrillic (class met once a week in the evenings; that’s why it took a while).

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday (Redux)

Sunday, April 15th, 2007
You know the Bible 95%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses – you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

I thought a Bible quiz on Sunday was apropos.

I’m an uninspired blogger this week — still recovering from whatever-it-was that hamstrung me on my vacation, and sinus infection/allergies. I hate spring.

Digressions, Leaps and Tangents; How My Mind Works (if One Would Call it “Working”); and More Footnotes. Forth Eorlingas!

Sunday, April 8th, 2007

So, reading Crazy Aunt Purl’s post about books, and children’s books, and thinking about how many of us who commented had strong emotional bonds to our books (whether in our childhood or now), sorta/kinda led me to this very long and strange digression.

My childhood book was Johnny Go Round. Gramma Fran would read it to my twin brother and me several times a day. I think we liked it because (1) it had a cat in it, and (2) there was a brother/sister pair that looked like they were twins, too. I never know what happened to our original copy. Mom mentioned several years ago that she couldn’t locate it, even though she thought she had saved it somewhere. So, Johnny Go Round vanished.

A few years back, I was talking to one of my co-workers about childhood books, and mentioned Johnny. She had asked if I had ever searched for it online. I had, but my searches weren’t fruitful. A few minutes after I returned to my desk, she had sent me an email with a link to a used book seller in Pennsylvania, saying “Is this it?” It was. I called the bookseller immediately and had it sent to me at the office. When I opened up the package and saw that oh-so-familiar cover, I just wept.

And now on to the digressions. Going back to read further comments on her blog post, I discovered a few Lovecraft related ones, and sent an email to one of the commenters about the H.P. Lovecraft Fan Club and the walking tour of Providence they do on his birthday, which ends in a reading at his grave site (click here, too). I have wanted to do this for years (and I didn’t even know there was such a club or an event). I must go. I see myself in the Providence graveyard, reading The Cats of Ulthar and getting choked up.(1)

Thinking of Lovecraft led to thinking of Lord Dunsany, and thinking that I needed to find that quote about throwing things of value out of a burning house. Reading the last paragraph of the quote led to thinking I should type up the entire thing; so here it is:

Preface to the Last Book of WonderEbrington Barracks
August 16, 1916

I do not know where I may be when this preface is read. As I write it in August 1916, I am at Ebrington Barracks, Londonderry, recovering from a slight wound. But it does not greatly matter where I am; my dreams are here amongst the following pages; and writing in a day when life is cheap, dreams seem to me all the dearer, the only things that survive.

Just now the civilization of Europe seems almost to have ceased, and nothing seems to grow in her torn fields but death, yet this is only for a while and dreams will come back again and bloom as of old, all the more radiantly for this terrible ploughing, as the flowers will bloom again where the trenches are and the primroses shelter in shell-holes for many seasons, when weeping Liberty has come home to Flanders.(3)

To some of you in America this may seem an unnecessary and wasteful quarrel, as other people’s quarrels often are; but it comes to this that though we are all killed there will be songs again, but if we were to submit and so survive there could be neither songs nor dreams, nor any joyous free things any more.

And do not regret the lives that are wasted among us, or the work that the dead would have done, for war is no accident that man’s care could have averted, but it is as natural, though not as regular, as the tides; as well regret the things that the tide has washed away, which destroys and cleanses and crumbles, and sparest the minutest shells.

And now I will write nothing further about our war, but offer you these books of dreams from Europe as one throws things of value, if only to oneself, at the last moment out of a burning house.

Which leads to a digression on the “necessity” of war which Dunsany seems to imply.

This current war in the Middle East is far from necessary. American soldiers are dying for no good reason whatsoever. George Bush is a lying sack of excrement and a murderer. But I can’t follow this digression, since it makes me far too angry. Far too angry.

* * * * *

(1) Why this emotional outpouring? It happens to me all too often; I cry at the drop of a hat it seems. A recent case in point – watching the Lord of the Rings movies. I cry when the beacons of Gondor are lit. I cry when the Rohirrim arrive at Minas Tirith (2)(4). There is something that resonates with me – a courage I can not even hope to achieve myself, though I wish it.

(2) Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
a sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!
Ride now, ride now, ride to Gondor!

Yeah, I’ve got The Return of the King at my desk as I type this. Forth Eorlingas!

(3) When I looked up the entire text of the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” I was sorely disappointed by the last stanza. When I first heard the first stanza recited, in some movie, as an anti-war sentiment, it was moving; but if you read the entire poem, it’s a rationalization for further bloodshed.

(4) Even my footnotes have footnotes. Woot!

Just Another Meme; or, Gotta Love that "Agreeableness" Score

Saturday, April 7th, 2007

My Personality

Neuroticism
66
Extraversion
10
Openness To Experience
43
Agreeableness
2
Conscientiousness
31
You are introverted, reserved, and quiet with a preference for solitude and solitary activities. Your socializing tends to be restricted to a few close friends. Stressful and frustrating situations can often be upsetting to you, but you are sometimes able to get over these feelings and cope with these situations. A desire for tradition does not prevent you from trying new things. Your thinking is neither simple nor complex. To others you appear to be a well-educated person but not an intellectual. People see you as tough, critical, and uncompromising and you have less concern with others’ needs than with your own. You like to live for the moment and do what feels good now.
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More Quotes, and Knitting, and Knitting Quotes

Friday, April 6th, 2007

I’ve been in a “knitting mood” recently. I’m certain the return to freezing temperatures and snow flurries has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this “knitting mood.” Nah. Note to the Powers That Be: Huh-LO. It’s APRIL down here and it’s really about time this foolish snowing business ended for the year.

So, knitting. I’m working on a funnel neck sweater(from this book) in Noro Big Kureyon Color 20 (discontinued). I have one sleeve and one back/front panel finished, and am feverishly working on Sleeve Number Two. As much as I love the colorway (cream, taupe, sienna, brown, grey, black), I’m already thinking about doing another sweater in a solid color (matching yarn colors when I have to start a new skein is, frankly, a bitch).

And so, whilst perusing my knitting books looking for a sweater pattern, I stumble across all the quotes that just tickled me from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears.

Emergency knobs for double-pointed needles may be made from tightly wound rubber bands, or from those rubber needle guards which are never to be found when wanted. Dorothy Case links her needle guards with wool; then they can both get lost together.

***

A #6 aluminum needle has been known to furnish an excellent emergency shearpin for an outboard motor. It once saved us seven miles of paddling. Then I had to spend hours re-pointing the needle on rocks, having nobly, but foolishly, offered the business end instead of the knob end for sacrifice.

***

Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.

***

There is no right way to knit; there is no wrong way to knit. The way to knit is the way that suits you, and the way that suits the wool and the pattern and the shape that you are currently working on. Show me any “mistake” and I will show you that it is only a misplaced pattern or an inappropriate technique. There are patterns that include dropped stitches and twisted stitches. There are projects which should be as tight as you can possibly knit; there are others where you have to relax to the point of lethargy in order to make them loose enough. I’ve not yet found a pattern which includes a split stitch; this is the only real mistake I know.

Elizabeth Zimmerman died before I knew that she once was one of the doyennes of the knitting world. A shame it took me so long to discover her; I truly like her style.