Thursday, May 31, 2007

I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral

(Missed the reference? Click here, and then go brush up on your Gilbert and Sullivan!)

Note the new avatar fanciness at right. Don't know what an avatar is? What, did you go to public school or something? (I'm so kidding. I, of course, went to public school, and they taught me plenty of fancy words like "avatar" and "autocracy" and "deus ex machina".) In the literary sense, an avatar is the very embodiment of something, an idea or philosophy manifest, an archetype. Alternatively, it can also indicate a deity taking on human form, but it's really this manifesting embodiment usage that's most frequent, particularly in the virtual world, where the word has gained outright common usage. Because now, we're all assailed with programs to create graphic, stylized representations of ourselves that can stand in for actual images in various realms. Avatars. Useful things. Given today's world, and doing what I do for a living, eh, I'm not going to post an actual picture of me in my profile.

While wandering around the internet today trying to find a usable picture of the main street of South Park for...well...what will ultimately be a commissioned piece of artwork for my office, but that's perhaps another story for another day....I stumbled across the South Park Studio site, courtesy of the folks at the Planearium (no, that's not a typo), where you can create your very own South Park Avatar and learn lots of things about South Park in German. If, of course, you read German. I made two. One, I found the little straitjacket, and I thought that was hysterical, you know, what with the psychiatrist thing. But then I looked at that for a little while, and I thought, eh, maybe that's just giving the wrong impression. So I made another one that was a lot more vanilla. It was very cute. You can tell which one won out.

Vanilla I ain't.

In other news, there's a super-secret birthday project in the works. I'm pleased with the progress I managed to make while my mother was at work today. Alls I'll say is that it's crochet, which, during the hours of crocheting today, I'd composed a whole treatise in my head, that started with, "here's the thing about crochet..." Now? Hell, I don't remember. Maybe tomorrow. I also finished the heel flap on my dad's sock, turned the heel, and am smokin' into the instep, because I needed something to work on after my mom came home, while amidst the third concurrent project of the day - my best friend loaned me (thrust upon me) Season One of Veronica Mars, which I have to watch and return before I leave. I made it all the way to disc 4 today, and damn if I'm not sucked right in like Powdered Donut Pancake Surprise at Cartman's house on a Saturday morning. (See? I wanted to bring the whole South Park thing back full circle for you. Be grateful I didn't go to Liane Cartman with that "sucked in" reference...")

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A flurry of FOs

(Incidentally, an FO is a finished object. A girl wrote in to the Ample Knitters group the other day and asked us what the heck that meant, because the explanation Google had given her wasn't very nice at all. I laughed really hard, not because the dear heart didn't know, but because with that explanation we all must've seemed like total assholes!)

Anyhow, I'm finally reunited with my camera, so I thought I'd take a few pictures and pop 'em on here so it's kind of like a knitblog and whatnot. Well, and as evidence that I do, on occasion, finish things...

This, is a bear. I did not knit the bear, but I did make its sweater. However, the sweater was supposed to fit my five-year-old God daughter, who is already like seven feet tall or something like that. Um, perhaps not. It does, however, look quite fetching on the bear.
Materials: Lorna's Laces Shepherd's Worsted in Bittersweet, less than one skein, plus a little bear button that you can't see here. Oh, and a bear, au Target
Pattern:Anthropologie Inspired Capelet from Craftster, which is a super-simple raglan shrug, except worked in worsted on size 9 needles. Note: this pattern alteration will not downsize it from smallish adult to tallish child, it will downsize it to "bear"
Cost: I dunno. What's a skein of LL run these days?

This is a crocheted baby blanket for my any-day-now niece, Annaliese, which I should mail to her mother (my cousin) before the kid is in college (and probably before I email her the link to this blog, too...). This is notable because it was my very first big crochet project! Having eschewed crochet for years because it made no sense/I couldn't get it to work/it was ugly/stupid/I was sixty years too young for it/excuse of the week because I couldn't do it, I finally got the hang of it (thanks, Joyce!), and now, I apparently can't stop. Note the fancy shell border, which is very difficult and complicated and arose out of me randomly piping up during Sunday knitting at the coffee shop, "how the hell do I border this thing, anyway?" Seriously, very easy. Yarn: Four balls of Encore Colorspun in Color 7512, one ball of Encore worsted in cream, on a J hook
Pattern: a giant square of sc, surrounded by a shell stitch border that lines up well enough.
Cost: Um...I think it would've been about $25? But I still got paid in yarn at this point, so, really, who knows.

This IS NOT A THONG. Which, until it actually resembled something like shawl size, everyone who picked it up asked me, "Is this a crocheted thong??" Which, no, it isn't. It's a shawl. What's funny about that is that it's a thank you gift for the adorable little old lady who heads up, and was my supervisor when I was a therapist in, Loyola's Sexual Dysfunction Clinic this year. But, alas, it's a shawl.
Yarn: One skein (ish - a little bit less) of Handmaiden Sea Silk in, um, that color.
Pattern: Yeah, not so much. I kind of just alternated single crochet, double crochet, treble crochet, and half-double crochet stitches, in rows, as I felt like it. I increased two stitches per row initially, then decided that was growing too fast, so I dropped it to one increase per row. And then of course I topped it off with the "isn't this new thing I learned just the coolest?!" shell stitch, and sc'd the rest of the border.
Cost: Oh, hell, I don't remember. Why do I keep putting this in here?

This thing is the Multiple Cottons Bathmat mentioned of yore. C'est finit, except for all those pesky yarn ends and the fact that it needs badly to be blocked so that it is an actual rectangle instead of, um, that. But it's ready for travel, at least, and will go nicely with my flamingo shower curtain.
Yarn: You know, I'm not entirely certain? The pink is Frog Tree, 2 skeins, and the green is one skein of Cotton Fleece by Brown Sheep in Peridot. The was originally thinking it was Touche, but you know, I think it's actually Frog Tree, again, 2 skeins.
Pattern: Cast on, I don't remember, so, enough stitches onto size 11 needles using two strands. Knit five rows. Leave in basket for three or four months. Frog three rows, work crochet bind off. Sc with J hook into theoretical rectangle, changing one strand when you get bored, until you run out of yarn.

And since that's probably all the FOs you're going to get for a loooooooong time, how about one UFO?

These would be socks. Well, the first sock, actually. A sock, one of two, in theory, for my dad. They match one of his flannel shirts, so he thinks they'd be a good Christmas present. Which explains why I'm obsessively knitting them in May...?

Anyway, that's the cuff and leg. Note the lovely stripeage. Ooooh. Aaaaah. The yarn is Austerman Step, which I'm loving. I'm using size 2 needles, which Sarah seems to think is some sort of sock sacrilege, but, I'm pleased enough with the density. They're quite stretchy, too. Yes, that's Magic Loop I'm doing. Which, you know, just isn't all that magical, but it's simplicity is part of why I like it. I think it's a whole lot less complex and fumbly that the two circs thing. Personally. Myself. Is alls I'm saying. Don't lynch me.

Can't say there's a pattern here, but I cast on 80 stitches, ribbed until I could stand to rib no more (which lasted about an inch), and then worked mindlessly until I had 8 inches of sock, and then began the heel. Sarah also talked me into the lovely Eye of Partridge Heel, or as I am prone to calling it, the Partridge Family Heel. Here are the beginnings of same.

That's the knitting update, kids. Possibly a flurry, definitely not a blizzard. But considering that the stash is all packed and most of it isn't arriving down South until August anyway (not to mention my impending 80-hour work weeks), that might be the biggest FO-fest you get for a long time....

One of "those" moments...

So, tonight, I have this box to ship, right? Okay. Having very carefully printed out my UPS label and taped it within an inch of its papery little life, I saddled up the Jeep and drove over to drop off said box at the store on 75th by the BP, which I’ve passed a million and twelve times because it’s also next to the Starbucks I've gone to almost every morning for the past six months...and which is...of course...a FedEx-Kinko’s.

Damn it.

Sometimes all the red hair dye in the world isn’t quite enough to negate the fact that the color growing in is still, in fact, blonde.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Will you still need me, will you still feed me...

(If you don't get the reference, click here)

My mother's birthday is on Monday. It is not, in fact, the birthday of Beatles' fame, but the one after it, the one about which the Social Security Administration makes a point (at least now, in its agonal moments. When I'm 64, it's entirely possible no one will care). I think this entitles her to the proverbial Big Deal being made out of it. But being my mother, like everyone else in this family, she tends not to think birthdays are all that exciting, even the landmark ones. So she's sort of lukewarm on the idea of the Big Deal.

I asked her if going out to dinner on your 65th was analogous to your 21st. You know, how they make a production about carding you and bringing you your drink? I asked if they'd make a similar fanfare out of carding her for her senior discount. Although, apparently, you have to be, like, 40 to get those these days at some places.

Which, is interesting, because "old" these days is clearly the new young. As the "War Babies" and the Baby Boomers pass out of middle age, they've refused to do so with any hint of the complacency of the generations before them, many of whom took their forced retirement and bought a polyester pantsuit and called it a day, even though they weren't necessarily ready for the twenty or thirty years of puttering that awaited them. Yes, that's a gross overgeneralization, but in some ways it also isn't too far off. They left vocations they loved and which fulfilled them and many took on roles of passivity and dependence because of faltering health (which we now can more effectively treat), limited incomes (which usually resulted from reaching retirement age, not necessarily a desire to retire), or because that's "what was done." Face it, not twenty years ago, when I was a kid, old people were a lot older. Now, a lot more of them are independent, world travellers, taking up new hobbies and learning new skills, staying on top of current events, and generally doing what they want to do...and well they should. As I'm heard to say probably much too often, just because someone else - even society at large - tells you that you're something, doesn't make it so.
The other issue, though, that arises with the advent of my mother's birthday is the curious need I feel to get her something. She, of course, is no help with this. And I don't feel like I have enough time to actually make her anything, which would be the most appropriate thing, especially not if I intend to hide it from her until Monday, because I live with her again. I did make her these for Mother's Day, which isn't usually a gifting holiday in our house.

If I'd planned better, I could've made them a birthday gift. Or given her one for Mother's Day, the second on Monday. Ah, well.

In case you're curious, they're slippers. More or less the Sweet Mary Jane pattern (link here) with a couple of extra rows of single crochet worked around the top. It's a nice pattern, actually; worked toe up with a kitchenered heel, but a simple knit that goes fast, very appropriate for the intermediate or advanced beginner knitter who has a handle on basic crochet (all you need is sc), and a good intro to toe up without having to turn the heel. The yarn is a second from when Dream in Color, for whom I used to work, was trying to find its 200 series blue. I like this one, frankly, and there was another one with a little bit of red that I really liked as well. Alas, they both lost. The other one became a Christmas gift for the mailman...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Taking over the bandwidth

Knitters rule, man! We're slowly taking the world over, and we'll undoubtedly do so bearing handknitted socks for everyone. Go check out Lorna's new blog. Lorna is by far my most adept and prolific student to date, and is another casualty of Sarah's blog-beginning pesterings (we all succumb). Plus, if you read her blog, maybe she'll tell us more about Tole painting.

Turns out I know what Tole painting is, I just didn't know it had a name. And oddly enough, I've seen it at Lorna's house.

Well, firstly, the first move went brilliantly yesterday (#2 -Me and Maggie and a Jeep-full of stuff, Chi to NC, is in T-14 days; #3, all my real-life shit in a semi, NH to NC, is three days after that). I had everything unplugged and broken down and piled up and cordoned off by the time my friends got there, of course (and well before, because I'm what? Pathologically early). But they were freakishly fast and by FAR the longest amount of time was spent thusly: Me, driving a 14 foot U-Haul truck with the steering wheel permanently tilted 45 degrees (that can't be the sign of good things), 35 miles, in the rain, through the back roads, going the speed limit or under (do you know how that pained me with my lead foot?), trying desperately not to run over anything or anyone. I succeeded. It was fine. And Jeremy did a kickass job of following - stayed close enough that no one would cut in (although, why would they want to?) but far enough back so I could still see him, ran interference for me every time I needed to change lanes. Good show, my friend, good, good work. And then, of course, we unpacked the truck in - I'm not kidding - under 20 minutes. Freakishly fast. Also, not much stuff and not going far, but still. All in all it was a marvelous experience.

And I gained a whole new reverence for all those who regularly drive those behemoths. Seriously. I need to have a conversation with my favorite Man in Brown about this and how he is never, ever allowed to refer to himself as "just a truck driver" ever again.

We then went to this fabulous Mexican restaurant which was, of course, a very timely discovery for me, and then they talked me into seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End with them. Which, well....I have to say, I did enjoy it. But a, I'd been up moving things since 13 hours prior to showtime, b, I'd had a margarita (just one, and I'm not a lightweight, but I was tired, and the combination of a+b=punchy), and c, I hadn't seen the first two. So, whatever, we're sitting there, and I'm following, and they're pirates, and I'm getting that there are probably relationships between the characters that I would better appreciate if I'd seen the previous ones, but, okay.

And then, suddenly, there's a man on the screen with tentacles on his face.

So I lean over to Brett, who's sitting next to me, poor bastard, and I said, "Who...what....dude! What the hell is that?!"

And he says, "Davey Jones."

I thought about this for a moment. At which point I blurted the only thing there was to say:

"The Monkey?!"

Which, no, no, not Davy Jones from the Monkees, not that Davy Jones at all! But at that point the movie just became uproariously trippy for me. Seriously. Especially when the lady turned into a giant pile of crabs, because, aside from the "she's got crabs" jokes that had to be made in the car ride home, I found that I suddenly had the "Crab People" song from South Park running through my head, which was about the funniest thing I could imagine just then ("Tastes like crab, looks like people!").

And, bless their hearts, they still like me. My friends, of course, not the Crab People.

Have I mentioned how much I love my friends?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Well Rounded Knitters

Okay, first of all, everybody go read Franklin's Blog today. Well, because, a, that is an adorable niece he has, but moreso I redirect you for the second part of the post, regarding his 1,000 Knitters Project. The short version is that he is, at heart, an artist who works in the photographic medium, and he initially had this idea to photograph 1,000 of Chicago's gay men. Who, it turned out, were way too high maintenance, and so he said, wait, why not knitters? Apparently, many of us wrote in to his appeal for subjects and said, sure, as long as you don't mind that I'm fat, and he has some very wonderful and well-said commentary on that. Go. Read. Adore.

I will admit to being one of those, btw. Well, sort of. He made reference to several of his gay men who had cancelled at the last minute because they felt fat. Others, he noted, either felt that they were far too hot and should be paid, or just wanted to have sex with a photographer. I commented that I was entirely likely to be feeling fat given that, well, I am fat. However, I gave him my word that I would not get all entitled bitchy queen or try to have sex with him.

Beyond that...the bathmat is about two rows from finished! Maybe crocheting does actually go more quickly. Either way, I like the way it's turning out, and am actually quite glad I went the crochet route, even if I did initially choose it for its expediency - I think it looks better than it would've in garter stitch, which was my initial plan. Plus! While the girls and I were at Knitche the other night for Thursday night knitting, I bought the coolest toy I've gotten in a while: a lighted crochet hook. Much more manageable than those silly twelve foot long straight knitting needles by the same manufacturer. And it's of surprisingly good quality and utility for something that I suspect is mostly about novelty. So before I go to bed tonight, I will hook my last two rows in the dark (because I'm a dumbass and gave away my bedroom lamps already) and be able to see them. Pretty cool, huh? I'll try to post a pic or two shortly, after I get back to my camera, which is currently living with my folks, as Maggie and I will be doing for the next two weeks. After tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the big moving day! No, that's not true. It's the little moving day. It's sort of the first of three. I'll get into that tomorrow...meanwhile, I think that I will follow Sarah's lead, and in the absence of actual project pictures, post gratuitous photos of my pet.

This would be my dog, working very, very hard, when she used to come to work with me every day at the yarn store. I think it's entirely possible that this is my favorite picture of her. Especially because I woke her up about three seconds later and shooed her off the couch. I know, I'm a big bad meanie...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

CAVE people

This, this is some cool shit.

But it brings up a couple of points.

One, yes, that could be a fabulously useful tool in the medical world. I don't exactly know why they think this could be useful for work in genetics, per se, but the other possibilities I see are amazing. However, no, it isn't going to replace cadavers for training, as they suggest. There are things that simply cannot be learned virtually - the feel of the scalpel slicing through tissue and how it changes as you vary your technique. An appreciation for how the tissue planes separate and a full understanding of the miracles that appear by (and the limitations of) blunt dissection. And frankly, an inkling of the diversity that occurs "within normal limits" inside the human body. You can look at pictures of fifty different brachial plexuses and say, huh, okay, they're all a little unique, but something different happens when you walk around a cadaver lab and look at your friends' dissections in their cadavers and call them (the cadavers) by the names you've all given them in the context of the stories you've told about them and you start to understand the awesome and mystifying complexity of the human body on a whole different level. And then, when you start looking at living people, and think about where their internal stuff is, and how you're going to approach that stuff when you invade their body, you end up thinking back about something much more actual, much more tactile, and much more...well, important than the images in Netter or even on some big fancy 4D thing. You respect it more. You start thinking back on real people. They may not be the same real people they were in life, frankly, because you often don't get their personal data, but they're real to you. My anatomy lab cadaver's name was Millie Schmutz, she was in her early 60s when she died, and she'd just had a lumbar laminectomy (surgery on her lower spine). The wound hadn't even healed yet. She also had three heads to her bicep (there are only supposed to be two), a benign tumor in her parotid (salivary) gland, and a goiter. Oh, and raging cirrhosis, although we never knew if it was from alcohol or infection or something else. We also decided she was a nurse who'd had three kids and a family who loved her (I read her palm - don't be impressed, I had a book - before we skinned it). See? It sticks with you. (Thanks, Millie.) There's just no substitute for the real thing. And cadaveric tissue is no substitute for the live stuff, either, I concede, but it beats a hologram. For training. For planning, for educating, for many other things, though, this is fabulous.

2. This is relatively cheap technology. $500K-2M Canadian? That's astonishing. Ever price an MRI machine?

3. Wait.....this was developed because the massage therapists thought it would be useful? Where the hell were we? Hello, training, planning, education?! Oy. That's a little embarrassing...

Doctoring has hit a new low

This morning, as Maggie and I made our requisite trip to Starbucks, I found myself next to a blindingly yellow van that advertised itself as the "Dust Mite Doctor". I thought, huh. Maybe I should've skipped the four years of intensive training and sleepless nights and copious stress and crazy debt and just bought a van and painted "Doctor of Crazy" on the side. I could've just driven around and done therapy in the back of my van. Well, okay, maybe not.

I had a friend in medical school who came in with a PhD in entomology. I called him Joe, the Doctor of Bugs. It amused the crap out of me, and he didn't mind. I don't know actually know what his area of buggy expertise was, although we had a very interesting discussion about bees once, which occurred when we went out to my friend Nicole's car and found a huge swarm of them all excited about her little Saturn. She freaked out, he leaned over and proceeded to brush his finger over the surface of the hood and lick it. Apparently, she'd parked under a tree that had weeped something all over her car that, he surmised, tasted sweet. And that's why the bees were there, that's all. She continued to freak out, I sat there laughing for like the next three minutes about the fact that he'd just friggin' licked her car.

He was a good kid. I don't actually know what happened to him. He graduated after me, so I lost track of a lot of those friends, unfortunately.

Still packing, here, although I'm running out of things to pack, which is useful, although causing me more little fits, because now I'm down to the minutia. Also in my inbox this morning, from one of those daily listserv things I subscribe to, was this quote:

Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. --Arthur Somers Roche

Alright, alright, I get it, thank you, Universe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's as good a reason as any.

So, Sarah says I need a blog. And I opened this Blogger account, like, what, a year ago? So, since I'm moving and whatnot, and what with the whole "new life" thing, maybe now is a good time to start writing.

What it is not, sadly, is an interesting time to start writing. Today, I packed. And had fits about packing. Which are probably more likely fits about all the things that are going to happen in, oh, the next six weeks, but from where I sit today? Panic attacks about packing. Packing up my small, nearly empty apartment, so I can move what stuff I have thirty miles south this weekend, not even yet packing up for NC. I rented a cargo van, for Pete's sake, not even a truck. Because I have that little here. Yet, freaking out.

Oy. See? I'll be a wonderful psychiatrist. I'm already neurotic and a little off-kilter, and believe me, that's a prerequisite for the job.

In fiber news, the Austerman sock I have on the needles is giving me other fits (see? Again with the fits) because it seems way too big and I swear it's going to fall right down off my dad's scrawny chicken legs, but after the last sock-knitted-for-a-man debacle in our circle and The Incident of the Freakishly Large Heels (sorry, sir, I meant, Manly Spartan Heels), I worry more about them being too small.

When did I become such a worrier? Jeez. If worse comes to worst, I'll just keep them and knit my dad a new pair. Scrawny little chicken legs are not one of the things I inherited from him.

I also am attempting to crochet together my Mismatched Cottons Bathmat that I bought three different kinds of cotton yarn for, like, I don't know, whenever Joyce finished hers, so, four, five months ago? I figure it'll be easier to transport as a bathmat, and besides, I've been looking at the yarn for however many months thinking "I should finish that" and then I actually knit four rows of it and then it sat there for like three months all in its little balls and meanwhile I kept sliding all over the bathroom floor. So, time for it to get finished. Plus, now I have something to work on when I take to my bed in moving-related terror (I'm only partially kidding). Oh! AND I discovered that I'm never starting another crochet project with a foundation chain. I ripped back to the cast on row of this thing, right? And then I did a crochet bind off, and poof! I was in business with a lot less swearing (am I the only one who doesn't find the foundation chain all that...foundational?). So, from now on, I cast on for all of my crochet projects.

Um, yeah, Sarah. I definitely need a blog.