31 March 2006

I May Yet Survive

Influenza is an ugly thing, even in the garden-variety, not-quite-as-deadly form. Three days into it, my fever has finally dropped enough that I feel like I might actually live. It's a good thing, as I had to go out today to buy more bread (Self checkout lines rock! No need to cough on anyone!). It's looking unlikely, though, that I'll be improved enough by tomorrow to make it down to the alpaca show, which is where David is right now.

For those of you who are just dying to know (all of you, right?), I thought I'd expound briefly on the classification of influenza. The influenza viruses are all in the family Orthomyxoviridae. The family name comes from the Greek roots ortho- (meaning "straight", "correct", or in this case, "true") and myxo- (which the Romans adopted and passed on to us as the word "mucus"). The mucus part is spot on. The snot factory kicked into overdrive, and frequent doses of decongestants are only marginally keeping it at bay.

Now even though "myxo-" is in the family name, this is not related to the myxomatosis virus that Australians, bunny enthusiasts, and Radiohead fans are familiar with. That is actually a type of pox virus. That said, over the last three days I have felt rather a lot like this. And I suppose that someone may come along and point out that there are other viruses that can cause similar symptoms to influenza, but to them I say that it still makes you feel like shit either way.

So, my condition of the past few days has pretty much precluded knitting, as it's hard to concentrate on a pattern when you're trying to catch your breath in between the moans of pain and when every little movement exhausts you and hurts to no end (that and nobody likes snot-encrusted knitwear). Nonetheless, in the moments when the fever has abated a little and I've felt a little less like dying, this has been my primary reading material:

I really love the patterns in this book, and I think I'd like to tackle the fir cone square shawl at some point. First, though, I think I'm going to need to work on my backlog of UFO's a bit. One thing I did manage today was to wash and block (or at least stretch and shape - no pins were involved) the shawl I made for my mother's 60th b'day present. Said b'day was last September and the shawl has been otherwise finished since December, but she'll love it anyway. There will be photos at some point, I promise.

29 March 2006


Not this kind:

But this kind:

And tomorrow we're supposed to be going to Springfield, MA, for the North American Alpaca Show.

This sucks.

28 March 2006

Spring Has Sprung

I'm not sure if the same holds true in human ER's, but I've spent most of my 12 years in practice working in emergency medicine and the onset of warmer weather always brings an increase in caseload. Some things are to be expected just from pets (& wild animals) being out and about more - more vehicular traumas, more dog fights, more dog-porcupine encounters (or dog-venomous snake in the South) - but I have seen a lot of really, really sick animals my last two nights on. It's like someone flipped a switch, and I know it's only going to get worse as the weather gets nicer.

Painfully Slow

Snail hat #2 is progressing slowly. I know it's just a hat and should only take a few hours, but my hands have been acting up a bit and I've not been doing more than a few rounds a night, for the most part. My acupuncturist feels that the wrist problems are an extension of my back problems, so hopefully the needles will help.

I had my third session with the acupuncturist today and things do seem to be getting a bit better. I've certainly been sleeping better the last several days. He has told me not to expect a total recovery, which I've learned not to expect anyway. Although I've never been formally diagnosed, I meet all the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. It's something that most physicians are reluctant to diagnose, and I'll admit to still being a bit reluctant to call it that.

The problem with fibromyalgia is that it's a syndromal diagnosis, which means that it's a cluster of symptoms without a specific known cause. Those of us trained in traditional allopathic medicine really prefer mechanistic explanations for disease, so diagnosing a syndrome is generally considered a poor substitute, at best, and syndromes with an unknown cause are often referred to as "wastebasket" diagnoses - the bastard children of the medical world.

Fortunately, my pain issues aren't as severe as those of other people, and I've been able to manage them to some extent. The constant nature of the pain tends to wear me down, though, and at times it has been very difficult to deal with emotionally.

The ex, a physician, used to tell me that I hurt because I was fat and needed to lose weight - never mind the fact that I hurt long before I met him, when I was still fairly thin, and never mind that I am still far from obese. My weight was also his excuse for cheating on me for most of our relationship, even though we weighed about the same and I am broader of build. In retrospect, it's clear that his negative emotional energy only made the problem worse, so as difficult as the breakup was for me, I've come to realize that I'm far better off without someone like that in my life.

Of course, aggressive exercise only makes the pain worse, so while I do try to exercise regularly and stretch often, both of which help to loosen up the muscles and lessen the pain, I find it hard to do enough to get my weight to come down significantly. The onset of my wrist problems last year only compounded that, as it keeps me from practicing ashtanga yoga, which I had found incredibly helpful for both weight loss and pain management.

I owe a big thank you to Witt for pointing me towards the Spoon Theory. Fortunately, I have a lot more spoons to work with than a lot of people - I still can be fairly active, even though it's not as much as I'd like to be. But it's an appropriate analogy for me and how much the pain costs me physically and emotionally, and it's a nice reminder to me to be mindful of my body's needs and limitations.

26 March 2006

Stick a Fork in Me

What a night. What a mind-blowingly busy night it turned out to be. Work has been, by and large, fairly quiet of late. Thursday night was a steady trickle - busy enough, but manageable. Last night even started off fairly mildly. I was even able to knit a few rounds on snail hat #2. Then around 3AM the shit hit the fan. Not literally, fortunately, though that has been known to happen here on occasion.

I am so physically & emotionally drained by the path of death and destruction last night brought, that I am nearly seeing double. I can barely walk. I am definitely taking a nap before trying to drive the hour home, as I don't think I could even manage the walk to my car at this point.

One bit of fun last night was that I got to see Mr. Tittlesworth again. Here's a photo of him from his first visit to see me.

He is, as they say around here, "wicked cunnin'." He is not, however, a happy patient and requires, as you can see, something more than just kid gloves. In spite of his name, he is not British. He is, in fact, an African Hedgehog, so perhaps he's just pissed off that he's been given the name of the white devil oppressor. His human seems just slightly, well, unbalanced. She does, however, love this little guy to death and will undoubtedly be devastated when he lives out his short little lifespan. He's potentially got another 4+ years in him, though, so if he could just stay out of this place he may do fine.

And now, sleep beckons.

25 March 2006


There seems to be a confessional trend towards showing off the state of one's stash, so far be it from me to disappoint. At the moment mine is more or less in a state approaching some semblance of order. David deserves a lot of credit for that. This is the bulk of it.

And here's another bin of stuff doing double duty (space is at a premium in this house).

And here's yet another bin, mostly stacked up with knitting books (and a few DVD's that haven't found their way back to their drawer).

In the Works

I mentioned the other day that I was attending an alpaca seminar for veterinarians. It was led by Dr. Norm Evans, who is very well known in the industry and author of the Alpaca Field Manual. He's doing some interesting work right now evaluating skin biopsies to help determine the breeding potential of animals for better quality fiber. He's also a pretty nice guy, and I found the seminar very useful. It also got me thinking about investing in one of these:

There really are very few people (actually, only one) in this area doing ultrasound work with 'pacas, - even though it's the gold standard for doing pregnancy checks and evaluating the uterus and ovaries (That's what's shown in the photo, btw) - so I'm thinking it would be a good investment and nice little sideline to do in my free time (Who needs sleep?). I've also been bemoaning the fact that we don't have an ultrasound unit at the emergency clinic, and while a portable unit like the one in the photo won't have all the whistles and bells of a console unit, it would be a handy tool for the kinds of things I'd need it for in an emergency setting. Right now I'm just working on sorting out costs of doing something like that. The ultrasound unit itself shouldn't be too bad if I look for a decent refurbished one (not too bad meaning in the $10-15K range - it's all relative), but there's also the cost of supplies, medications, setting myself up as an LLC for solo practice, licensing fees if I want to go over the border to do this in New Hampshire....

And Just 'Cause It's Cute

I got this of Tolo as I was coming down the stairs from documenting the stash. He loves to sit on the stairs like this, mostly so he can pounce on any of the other cats (actually, mostly just Poqui - the girls will smack the hell out of him) as they try to make their way down the stairs.

23 March 2006

Where Has the Week Gone?

It's turned into a bit of a busy one. Monday was the all-day alpaca seminar, which was very good. I didn't sleep well at all the night before, though, which is not unusual for me if I'm not in my own bed. And after the seminar I had to drive 3 hours home. It took a bit longer, as I had to stop to eat, and then to pee, and then to put some gas in the car. On my way back past Northampton, I again waved to mamacate. It was too late in the evening to try to pay a visit to WEBS (also in Northampton), but someday....

Tuesday I was all tired and discombobulated from the trip, the lack of sleep, and just the general mess of having my sleep schedule all screwed up. I actually took a nap at work Tuesday night, which rarely happens even when I'm able to. Aside from being dead tired, though, I also wanted to get enough rest for Wednesday's task, which was to help my brother pick up his kids at the Manchester, NH, airport. They've been living with their mother since last summer, but she's in the Air Force and about to ship out to another assignment. It's an odd time to be moving and changing schools, but I think they're glad to be back living with their father.

Wednesday night David & I decided to have a "date night", which consisted of an Asian dinner (tempeh & snow peas in peanut sauce over rice vermicelli) and cuddling while we watched Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical. It's a very funny send-up of the original 1936 propaganda film, which is also on the DVD - lots of laugh-out-loud lines and great 30's-style slang ("We got more scratch than a sandpaper factory"). I just love Ana Gasteyer.

Between all that and trying to get my sleep schedule back to "normal", I haven't managed to do any knitting or spinning now for 5 or 6 days. Tonight I brought a skein of Patons Up Country and one of Elann's Peruvian Highland Collection Wool to see about making another snail hat. The Patons Up Country has a nice hand and looks nice, so it's kind of a bummer that it's a discontinued yarn. Patons seems to have largely hitched their wagon to synthetics, though. It's sad.

19 March 2006

On the Road Again

So tonight I'm in the Upper Hudson Valley. Tomorrow I'm attending a seminar on alpaca medicine for veterinarians hosted by Spruce Ridge Farm. I drove down this afternoon and waved as I drove past Northampton, where mamacate lives (Hi, Cate!). I realized too late, though, that I had forgotten to bring any knitting with me, so I'm contenting myself with watching South Park - the Sparky the Gay Dog episode. It's a rare treat since we don't have cable (or get television reception).

I also wanted to thank Sister Sue for her comments on last night's banquet. Some very wonderful and very hard-working people have put much of their lives into making Maine a better, more fair place, and it was good to see them recognized.

I helped a bit on the first No on 1 campaign in '95 - that time it was to stop an initiative to shut lgbt folk out of any access to basic civil rights. Then in '97 I moved away for graduate school right as we were in a campaign (ultimately unsuccessful) to keep the fundies from repealing a new civil rights law in referendum. Although I wasn't able to vote in that election, I wrote the following piece, which was published in a couple of Maine newspapers. I think it still speaks to the importance of this law, and I'm so glad I was back in Maine this past year to be able to cast my ballot.

A few months ago, I left Maine to attend graduate school in North Carolina. The past two years I had been living back in Maine were good ones for me, both on an individual level and as a member of the state's lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community.

In 1995, we defeated the Concerned Maine Families referendum attempt to deny queer folks civil rights protection. Then last May, Governor King signed into law L.D. 1116, which added "sexual orientation" to the state's civil rights law. It was a historic event, and it was indescribably exciting to have been a part of it.

Shortly after I moved, however, The Christian Civic League (CCL) of Maine, with the assistance of the Christian Coalition, produced a sufficient number of petition signatures to block implementation of the new law and bring it to a referendum vote. The referendum will be decided in a special election on February 10, 1998. If the CCL is successful in this referendum, it will be the first time in this nation that a statewide law of this sort has been repealed.

The prospect of repeal worries me very profoundly, as I hope to return to Maine one day. As I ponder what might happen if the CCL and its executive director, Michael Heath, prevail, I find my mind continually coming back to one thought - Charlie Howard.

Most Mainers probably remember Charlie Howard. He was a young gay man from Bangor who was murdered in the Summer of 1984. He was attacked by three young men who saw him on the street and thought it would be fun to beat up a faggot. They brutally beat him into unconsciousness then threw him off the State Street bridge into the Kenduskeag Stream, where he drowned.

I was fifteen years old at the time and spending the Summer with my grandparents in Hancock County. I vividly remember watching the news report of Howard's murder on Channel 2. I learned a frightening lesson that day: Faggots get killed. It would take me another seven years to learn to stop running from the fear that message caused and to reclaim my identity and soul. Charlie Howard's murderers did more than rob him of his life. They helped rob me of my adolescence.

Michael Heath and his followers have said they don't condone anti-gay violence. They frequently spew empty platitudes about "loving the sinner, hating the sin." And yet they still use such words as "vile," "evil," "perverse," "sick," "abnormal," and "abomination" to describe queer folks, and say that we are "a lie from the Pit of Hell."

The effects of such hate speech are well known. It relegates the targeted group to an inferior, even subhuman, status in the minds of their attackers, making them that much easier to attack. One need only consider the Holocaust or, in this country, the brutal lynchings of African-Americans between the end of the Reconstruction and the rise of the civil rights movement.

And since the Religious Wrong objects to comparing sexual orientation to "immutable" characteristics such as race, consider the recent horrors in Bosnia, where the so-called "ethnic cleansing" had little or nothing to do with race or language, but rather was based on religious affiliation. Religion is most clearly, to use the CCL's phraseology, a "lifestyle choice" and not immutable, yet it enjoys the same protection the CCL wishes to deny those of us who were born homosexual or bisexual.

The reality is that anti-gay hate speech places both straight and queer people alike at risk. It would not have mattered to Charlie Howard's murderers if he had been straight, simply because they PERCEIVED him as gay, and therefore less human and less deserving of life.

This type of violence is not a thing of the past, either. In the Fall of 1996, a 15-year-old Windham High School student was attacked by a group of teens when one his attackers yelled, "Let's go beat up the fag!" The victim had his elbow broken by one of the attackers who was swinging a metal lock wrapped in a bandanna. A similar incident occurred in Oxford around the same time.

Then in May 1997, a suit was filed against a 16-year-old Cony High School student for having brutalized a younger student, whom he perceived to be gay, over a period of greater than four months. The 15-year-old victim had been beaten, kicked, had his head slammed into the ground, and had been slammed into lockers repeatedly, despite multiple attempts at intervention by teachers, administrators and Augusta police.

At the time of the Windham and Oxford incidents, Assistant Attorney General Steve Wessler reported a significant increase in anti-gay violence (Heath and company have repeatedly accused Wessler of excessively inflating these figures but have never offered any evidence to substantiate their claims.). This increase corresponded roughly with Concerned Maine Families' anti-gay referendum in November 1995. It also parallels what has happened in other states, such as Colorado and Oregon, as a result of Religious Wrong-sponsored anti-gay referenda there.

Surely the connection between hate speech and hate crimes is apparent to Michael Heath.His predecessor, Jasper Wyman, used to use the same inflammatory rhetoric that Heath now uses. Wyman, however, finally realized that his words led to others' violence and has cited that publicly as one of the main reasons he left the CCL. Heath must know this, but he apparently does not care.

Of course, I still haven't said what this has to do with L.D. 1116 itself. It's quite simple, really. By giving us some measure of security in our places of work and in the greater community in the state, L.D. 1116 will better allow us to challenge the lies and stereotypes that groups like the CCL continue to perpetuate. While this won't eliminate the violence overnight, or even eliminate it entirely, it will make our lives safer in the long run.

The CCL understands this well. On their web site they assert, not incorrectly, that "the major reason gay people want these laws is to gain social approval of their lifestyle." If we have societal approval - i.e., society ceases to be anti-gay - then we will cease to be targets for anti-gay violence.

However, they also affirm their desire that homosexuality remain "universally regarded as immoral and perverse." The implications of their desired societal mindset are not lost on those of us who are its target.

If the CCL wins this referendum, the likely end result is obvious and probably inevitable - more Charlie Howards. This is because no matter how much they rant about the "homosexual lifestyle," mythical lifestyles never get murdered. Real gay people, however, do.

18 March 2006

Life's a Banquet

Tonight we went to the annual awards banquet for EqualityMaine, which I still keep wanting to call MLGPA (Maine Lesbian & Gay Political Alliance - it's former name). We're not political dinner type people, generally, but this and other organizations in the state have put so much effort for so long into getting a nondiscrimination law on the books here, and this is Maine, where black tie, $1000 a plate events are practically anathema.

It was a nice event. Good dinner (especially the chocolate cake!), lots of speeches, lots of standing ovations. The governor was there, as were numerous members of the state legislature, community leaders, & the executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force. David donated socks from his company to their silent auction, too.

For me, though, the most exciting part of the evening was that I got to meet Franklin's Sister Sue. I hadn't even thought about the possibility that she might be there, but her husband was one of the legislators in attendance. So at the end of the evening, I went over and introduced myself and David and we had a nice, but brief, chat. Then it turned out that she had placed the winning bid on David's socks! So it was a very nice ending to a very nice evening, and I hope that Sue loves the socks as much as I do (and that she buys more so we can someday afford to buy a farm).

Snail Hat

As promised, here is the pic of the snail hat I made with the two strands of Lopi, the pattern for which is in Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears. It makes a really neat little hat and the design is quite simple. I did make a few minor modifications to the pattern as she wrote it, though, so I thought I'd give a little technical info on what I did.

The original pattern calls for a cast on of 50 stitches, 5 rows knit back and forth, then increasing to 75 stitches before joining in the round. Because I wanted to do this as a child's hat and because 75 stitches at 2.5 st/in would give a fully opened diameter of 30 inches, I started instead with 40 stitches, then did 3 rows knit back and forth before increasing to 60 stitches & joining. This should fit a child readily, and even fits comfortably on my big head (It tried to take a pic of that, but I didn't like the results and trashed it, so there).

Then instead of doing 25 rounds in pattern, I cut it short by 2 and did 23 rounds before starting decreases. The decreases were done according to the directions until the very end, where she didn't give any real detail on finishing. Because I was a bit worried about things becoming a bit unbalanced if the number of purl stitches exceeded the number of knit stitches, once I was down to three purl and three knit stitches on each of my four dpn's, I decreased as follows:

*p2 tog twisted, p2 tog, k2*, repeat to end of round
*p2 tog twisted, ssk*, repeat to end of round
ssk four times

This maintained balance between knit & purl stitches & kept the twist going to the left. P2 tog twisted is not easy to do, but I find that this method works best for me: put the right hand needle through the back loops of the two stitches & slip them onto the right needle, then insert the left needle through the loops & behind the right needle & purl together. This keeps you from having to use your right hand to pull the loop through towards your left, which is exceedingly awkward.

Once I got through all that and was down to 4 stitches, I decided to add a bit of I-cord on top to do a top knot à la Ken's Dulaan Hat, as I think it adds a little extra whimsy to the finished piece. Most importantly, though, it should keep a Mongolian child's head very warm.

17 March 2006

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!

Well, it's the end of St. Patrick's Day, and I haven't done anything particularly Irish. I don't eat corned beef (don't think I've ever seen a vegetarian version) and had no potatoes or cabbage around the house. I don't drink green beer as a matter of principle, and besides, I'm working tonight. I did, by happenstance, put on a green t-shirt, but it's pastel. The only kelly green clothing I own is a set of green scrubs, but they're old and I didn't feel like pulling them out.

The day did get me trying to look a bit up on my Irish ancestry, though. My given name, Emuel, is supposed to be an Irish variant of Emmanuel. It was given to my great-grandfather by his mother, whose family was from County Cork, and I am the fourth with the name. I decided a few years back to return to the original pronunciation of AYM-ul, rather than continue saying it EM-yoo-el, as it had come to be pronounced, in deference to my heritage.

Great-great-grandma Kate was a Coveney, which is apparently a big political family in County Cork. One of them is even a member of the European Parliament. It's uncanny that this Simon Coveney and I could very easily pass for brothers, but after so many generations I'm not sure how much you could call it familial versus plain old luck of the genetic draw. I'm not sure where my lineage branched off of that tree, but we're a much more pedestrian lot, by comparison. We're also Protestant, which is probably part of the reason this day has never been so big a deal in my family. The Cork Coveneys are Catholic, so I'm not sure where or why the schism occurred, but I would imagine it'd make for an interesting story. Maybe one day I'll get a chance to track it down.

I've been able to make good progress this evening on the snail hat and should be finished with it in fairly short order. Picture to follow.

16 March 2006

(Some) Relief

I haven't been to bed yet since I got home this morning. I didn't really have time before my acupuncture appointment and by the time I got done running errands and eating a bit after the appointment, it was too late to sleep without seriously fouling up my sleep schedule, so my only real option was to stick it out and stay up.

The acupuncture appointment went really well. This new acupuncturist is Japanese (trained in Japan and China), very thorough, and managed to help reduce my pain levels even in a fairly short needle session. It's not going to be cheap, but I think it'll be worth it.

One of my errands on the way home was to stop in at the Asian market in Portsmouth, just because I hadn't been in there before and wanted to check it out. It's nowhere near as big as the one I used to go to in Pittsburgh, but it's got all the funky smells and packages you expect in an Asian market. I ended up buying a few items, but I did not bring home the durian fruit they had sitting on a shelf. Someday I'd like to try it, just to say I have, but there was no way I was going to bring it into my house.

In an attempt to keep myself awake, I decided to poke around in my stash to see what I could come up with for a Dulaan hat I could work on at home, since the other one is hanging out at work with TSKP. Anyway, I stumbled across a ball of Reynolds Lopi I was gifted by one of my receptionists a couple months ago. It's a green space-dyed colorway, ranging in tones from dark olive to really pale olive. It's really not a color scheme that excites me, as it makes me think of varying shades of fresh cowshit, but I took it thinking that I could use it for a charity knitting project and set about making a toque that got set aside and forgotten (like THAT ever happens!).

So I was looking at it and found in the same bag a ball of blue heather Lopi that I had bought, and the idea hit me that I should strand the two colorways together and make a proper EZ snail hat. The test swatch (below) turned out quite nice and just at the proper gauge, so I adjusted her pattern to a bit smaller size for a child and started knitting. I've gotten a good start, but at this point I'm fading fast and decided it was best to set it down for the night.

And since I set that down, I guess it's also time for me to set this laptop down and see if I can actually stay asleep for the next 14 or 15 hours.

15 March 2006

I'm Gettin' Needled in the Mornin'....

Well, technically, my appointment isn't until 12:30PM, and I'm supposed to watch a video or something first, but "I'm gettin' needled sometime in the early afternoon" just doesn't have the same ring. At least I've already filled out the 6 page patient history form. I'm looking forward to getting some relief, as the pain's been particularly bad lately - at times having me almost in tears. Usually I fall asleep during acupuncture sessions, and as I'll have been up for over 24 hours before this appointment, there's no doubt that I'll do so this time, as well. And if this video thing they're going to make me watch is just about qì & meridians & the needles they use, then I may take the opportunity to use that as nap time, also.

Before I left for work, I wound up the skein of handspun from Madelyn that I posted a photo of earlier, then knit me up a little test swatch, which you can see below. As one Miss LizardLipz would say, it's verra, verra nice. I passed it around here at work and everyone oooohed and aaaahed.

So, what this yarn decided it wants to be is a hat for the Dulaan Project. I decided I wanted a spirally pattern for it, so I'm going with something roughly based on Elizabeth Zimmermann's snail hat. This is alpaca knitting at roughly worsted gauge, not super bulky wool, so I don't expect it to look at all like EZ's hat, but I wanted a spiralling effect and that I shall have. It also won't be terribly thick, but it's alpaca and I'm gonna make it long enough to roll it up at the ears, so it should be quite warm. I've also been working a little on TSKP this evening, but my hands are acting up and being kind of crampy tonight, so I don't that I'm going to be making much progress tonight.

I also stopped off at my LYS on my way here tonight and bought two skeins - one white, one a brilliant fuchsia - of Plymouth Dreambaby DK (I was hoping for Baby Ull, but they don't carry it) to make into a hat for one of the techs here who just had The Baby Who Ate Portland. She tipped the scales at a whopping 11 pounds 13 ounces, and it took two doctors to get her out (planned c-section). At any rate, the yarn should make a nice hat. Even though it's an ACKrylic/nylon blend, it's got a decent hand and I don't expect it to be too distressing to have to touch. I got two colors with the thought of doing some traditional Fair Isle patterning, mostly because I really enjoy it and haven't done any lately.

A Little Family History

My interest in Shetland knitting, in particular, is primarily because of my ancestry from there. My great-great-grandfather, Charles Blance, was born somewhere around here in 1835. His family were crofters, which in the mid-19th century still meant living under a feudal (or more appropriately, a manorial) system. I don't know of any family history to confirm it, but it's a safe bet that his mother did production knitting to supplement the family income, and it's likely that he and his father also did so during the winter months.

Because it was not an easy existence, he followed the lead of a lot of young men at that time and went to sea as a teen, eventually ending up here in Maine. My grandmother has several letters from Charles's mother, Johannah, to my great-grandfather (Charles's son George, whom my grandmother calls Papa) in the very late 1800's (Johannah died in 1901) that make reference to money that my great-grandfather had sent her. He never met his grandmother and only knew her through their letters.

It appears that the letters were actually dictated to and written down by her minister, but it's not clear whether this might have been because she was illiterate or because her eyesight and/or general health were just too poor. She would have been around 80 or a little older at that time, so it's anybody's guess, though the letters give the impression that her final years weren't particularly golden ones.

All I know is that, in addition to the knitting gene, I really hope I also got the longevity gene. Charles Blance lived to be 88, and Papa lived to be 89. And in case you're wondering why there aren't another one or two generations in between Charles and myself, he married at age 30 - very late for that time. Papa married even later. He was 54 when he married my great-grandmother, who was 30 years his junior, and my grandmother was born a bit over a year later. He died an old man 12 years before I was born.

The longevity thing did nothing to perpetuate the surname, though. Unless my great-uncle, George Jr., decides to take a second wife and give it a go in his early 70's, the last hope for passing on the Blance name in this branch of the family tree rests with my cousin George (referred to amongst family as Little George, or more appropriately these days as Young George). And unless he or his partner Tom becomes the greatest miracle since the Virgin Mary or unless he decides to get in on the gayby boom (I wouldn't lay money on either), I'm thinking this particular patrilineal* history is pretty much over.

* Lest I be accused of being an instrument of the patriarchy, I do realize that western methods - indeed most methods - of passing down surnames are inherently unfair to the mothers. Even in countries like Spain, where a child gets one surname from each parent, the surname passed down from the mother is the one she gets from her father. But hey, at least moms get to pass on their mitochondrial DNA.

Franklin Made Me Do It!

In his latest post, Franklin wrote about iTunes' (apparently somewhat dodgy) algorithm that suggests music for you to buy based on your prior purchases. This got me looking at the iTunes music store, which I hadn't done for a while - my last purchase being 25 February, 2005. Aside from a few notable exceptions (Bobby Brown's My Prerogative?! Are you f*#%ing high?!), for me they seemed to be making suggestions that were a bit less out there than they were for Franklin.

Anyway, I seemed to remember that Warsaw Village Band was finally available on iTunes, so I looked them up and purchased their 2004 album, People's Spring. I plan on going back and buying their 2005 album, Uprooting, later on (after my next payday). I had first heard them on Late Junction over a year ago and their sound just bowled me over. At that time, they were only available through a German website. Since having it shipped from Germany would have more or less doubled the price of the CD, I decided to put off buying it for the time being, and then, of course, my life got really crazy for several months.

I don't understand a thing they're singing. I don't know the first word of Polish, and it's not a language I aspire to learn - 5 genders and 7 cases just doesn't sound like that much fun to me - but the sound this band creates is phenomenal. It just taps into something very primal and speaks to something I think anyone can understand at a visceral level, and the rhythms and the melodies are just so hypnotic and haunting that it's hard not to be drawn in.

14 March 2006

Random Fluff

A couple of depressing items in the news today: 1) A new study has reported that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rose at an unprecedented rate in 2005. I've thought for a long time that we're going to drive ourselves into extinction - the one species with the capacity for collective conscience - and I'm wondering increasingly if I'll see it beginning in my lifetime. 2) Pat Robertson is apparently even more explicitly trying to incite a holy war. No big surprise, but it's distressing that he's given so much attention (and hence, power) when he commands the devotion of less than one percent of the population. When he dies, I wonder which god's punishment it'll be.

On a somewhat more uplifting note, I read a post from Leigh Witchell about meeting Zacarias Moussaoui's mother on the subway. It's good to see some hope coming out of such ugliness - both the 9/11 attacks and our government's subsequent witch hunt. The government has been so hellbent on finding someone they can fry, when all it will do in the end is increase the death toll by one and create a martyr. What due process?

My own day has been fairly mundane. I went to the doctor's office and had blood drawn. Results should be back in about a week, but I won't be sweating it. Then came home and made an appointment to see an acupuncturist on Thursday. It's been nearly 16 months since I was last needled, so I'm really looking forward to it - makes a big difference with my back pain. This afternoon I went to the gym to swim and plan on going back when David goes this evening to do a bit of work on the weight machines. On the way home, I stopped first at the Fresh Market across from the gym to get some oat bran and was ecstatic to find that they also carry Scharffen Berger chocolate, one of my absolute favorites. I also stopped at our local library and checked out a couple books - Accounting for Dummies and Ginger Luters's Module Magic. Then, because the weather had turned so nice, I stopped at the town wharf and snapped this photo:

In the background are the Whaleback Light (click on the fog signal link to hear what I get to hear on foggy nights) and the abandoned Coast Guard rescue station. They look like one building complex at this angle, but they're actually on two separate islets. I love that I get to live someplace so beautiful.

Back on Schedule?

I felt much better today than yesterday. Sleeping 16 out of 24 hours seemed to help, though it's not good for my sleep schedule. Over a week of no gym has also taken its toll. My back and neck have been killing me, but I decided that it was probably more prudent to give myself another day to recuperate before stressing my body. So while David went to the gym this evening, I had a nice hot soak with some aromatherapy oils to relax the tight muscles while I listened to the latest Cast On podcast, which is the first one of Brenda's hiatus. Dave of Chub Creek is funny and did a good job guest-hosting, but he's not Brenda.

Speaking of Brenda, she finally got the great big wedding gift from the gang at the glbt-knit listserv on Friday. It had been about a month since I sent off the giant box of yarn and fiber, so I'd been anxiously waiting to find out what she thought. Fortunately for me - since I'm the one who picked everything out - she loved it. I was a little nervous because she'd mentioned in one of her podcasts how it was nearly impossible for anyone else to pick out just the right color yarn for her. For the most part, I tried to avoid this by picking natural tones and light colors that she could overdye easily, but at the end, when I was trying to make some final decisions, I threw in several hanks of Asti in what she described as "a gorgeous shade of aubergine" and a dozen or so balls of brightly colored Punch!, which I figured she could use for small projects - like, perhaps, a funked-up version of Mrs. Beeton.

Tomorrow, I plan to call and set up an acupuncture appointment. I haven't been needled in over a year, and my back desperately needs it. First, though, I'm getting up early (9AM - early by my standards) to have blood drawn for an HIV test. I haven't had one done since S dumped me, which will be one year ago as of Thursday. I'm not terribly concerned, since part of his job is treating HIV patients and since he's generally so uptight about matters of a sexual nature. However, since he had no apparent hangups about cheating on me and because he lied about pretty much everything else during our 4 1/2 years together, I figure it's better to be safe than sorry.

In spite of my early appointment, I decided to make myself stay up so I could try to get back onto my normal vampiric schedule. I sat down at my wheel for a while to work on spinning a bit more Madelyn fleece. The bobbins are filling up slowly but surely, but it's still going to be a bit before I can start plying, I think. And even though I have the weekend off from work, I won't have time to do much spinning. Saturday night is the EqualityMaine banquet, which David signed us up for (International fashion moguls have to go to these sorts of 'dos'.), and Sunday I'm going to be driving to the Upper Hudson Valley for a Monday alpaca seminar at Spruce Ridge Farm. The speakers should be good and the Monday program for veterinarians is free, so it was a must-do event.

12 March 2006

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

I got home from SC a little past noon today, having apparently picked up a virus while visiting my grandmother at the hospital. She was sick with it yesterday and was better today, so I'm expecting it to be short-lived. Fortunately, they were able to find someone to cover my shift at work tonight, which gave me a chance to sleep off some of the nausea and chills.

The visit was as nice as could be, considering I spent 4 days sitting in a hospital room. My grandmother was happy to have me there, though, and I was glad I could just be there for her. The hope was that she'd be moved to a nursing facility for rehab, but she had another severe arrhythmia episode on Thursday that delayed things further until they could try to sort out meds better. They've rescheduled signing all the paperwork for tomorrow, so hopefully things will go through soon.

I also got to spend a bit of time with my sister and her kids and even managed to get a few pics of the girls. They're both cuties, but Mary is definitely transitioning into her difficult four year old phase. "Terrible twos" is popular because of its alliterative appeal, but I think four is a much more contentious age, as kids seem to develop a much stronger (and more assertive) sense of self around that time. Alison actually has a fairly sunny disposition at two, which is nice, as she's always seemed to have a well developed sense of Schadenfreude (especially as concerns her sister).

No knitting today, as I've not felt particularly up to it. I got quite a bit done on TSKP on my trip, though. I'm on piece 8 of 19 now, which is the last of the big pieces, so I expect I'll finish it up in fairly short order (except for all the seaming, which I'm kind of dreading). I'm keeping it hidden until I head back to work, since I can't risk David seeing it yet.

At the moment, David is upstairs watching "Alexander". I managed a few minutes of it, but it wore thin pretty quickly. Apparently, Alexander came from the Irish section of Macedon. Everyone was also, apparently, very hard of hearing in 330BCE, as there's an inordinate amount of shouting going on. What got me, though, was the scene in the harem at Babylon, where they made a point of showing one of the concubines holding a persian cat - just so the audience would remember that it's taking place in Persia. Uff.

08 March 2006

Carolina on My Mind

I got into Charlotte around midnight last night, got my rental car, got to my hotel room, called David, then wound some yarn and took pics of it - because, well, that's what one does after getting no real sleep for 34 hours. I quickly finished piece #4 of TSKP on the flight (It's a smallish piece), and since I haven't given anyone a taste of it yet and because I haven't had any pics in a couple days, I decided to offer up just a sneak peek.

The yarn comes in fairly loose skeins, which wouldn't be a problem if I could take it home and wind it on the ball winder. However, because of the top secret nature of the project, that's not an option. It was risky enough just having it in the house with me before I left yesterday. With a little bit of time and effort, though, I can make very nice center pull balls of it. I realize it's not an especially spectacular skill, but it certainly beats the hell out of trying to tease out snarls while trying to knit directly from the loose skein.

I expect to be incommunicado for the next few days. Although the sharecropper cabins with outhouses are all gone (my great-grandmother lived in one until the last year of her life), my grandparents live in a very rural area. The nearest little mill towns are 10 miles in either direction, and there are no LYS's for nearly an hour. The Super Wal-Mart in town doesn't count. I hope to get a good bit done on TSKP over the next few days.

Now to get ready for the day, head to the Waffle House next door for breakfast, and hit the road for the last two hours of travel.

07 March 2006

Heart o' Dixie

Between flights in Atlanta at the moment. It's another hour before my next flight leaves and two hours before I'll be in Charlotte, and my brain is getting seriously deep-fried. I'll be a sure 'nuff hush puppy by the time I finally get to bed.

I learned on the last flight, though, that I am indeed capable of knitting in my sleep. I got a start on the next piece of TSKP, and I think I'm going to see if I can knock out a bit more while I'm waiting here.

Headin' South

Busy day today. After working a 15 hour overnight shift, I get to go home and pack for a four day trip to SC to visit my grandmother, who's spent most of the past 2 weeks in the hospital with heart arrhythmias. Before I leave, though, I have an appointment with a new doctor for a checkup, then I have to catch a bus to Logan Airport in Boston. I'll be getting into Charlotte after midnight, so I've booked a hotel room for the night rather than drive the two hours to my grandparents on no sleep.

I didn't get a chance to work on TSKP overnight, as I had work and non-knitting projects taking up most of my time. I also had to knit a couple gauge swatches with a prototype yarn David's helping design. Very nice stuff, and I'll say more about it later if allowed. For now, though, it's another top secret project. TSKP will be going with me, however, so I'm expecting to have some time to work on it.

Word from my sister is that they're going to be transferring my grandmother out of the hospital to a nursing or intermediate care facility where they can do physical therapy for a month or so before sending her home. It's distressing to see my grandparents decline (she's 86 and my grandfather's 91, so I don't expect miracles, but they've always been active people), but I'm hopeful that the PT will make a difference for her, as her poor health has kept from getting around as much and she's been getting progressively weaker just from inactivity.

06 March 2006

Spinning Progress

This is a pic of what I've been working on spinning. I've been following Ted's method and have been rotating bobbins each night that I spin in order to see if this seems to help with producing a more even yarn. Even Ted admits that he's not sure that it makes a difference, but I figure it can't hurt to try. I'm at a stage, though, where I couldn't honestly say whether a more even yarn would due to switching bobbins out or just improvement in my technique, in general. In any event, the plan is to ply this into a 3-ply yarn.

The fleece is Madelyn's from last year. I suppose I'll have to wait and see how much comes of this 3-ply project, but at some point, I also have some wool I bought at Fiber Frolic that I want to play with - a good bit of merino roving, as well as some Shetland/Icelandic cross roving - and I have some wool (unspecified breed) that I've Kool-Aid dyed (grape turned it a bright, flaming red) and plan on blending with a little sample baggie of mohair David didn't have any use for.

Work was very busy last night, but I did have a little down time to sit down with TSKP and managed to finish the third out of 19 pieces.

And just 'cause, here's a pic of David (on the right) and myself (on the left) at Grindstone Point in Winter Harbor, Maine - where my paternal grandmother grew up - last summer.

Mortgage Spam Count: 149, none new in past 24 hours.

04 March 2006


Not much else to go with today, so I'm going with the cute. Tolo is the youngest of my crew of beasts. What's particularly special about him is that he came into my life the same day that David did.

The weekend after I moved back to Maine, my mother and I went to the Fiber Frolic. On our way there, we passed my parents' neighbors on a walk, and they had a small kitten running along with them. They told us he had come chasing after them as they were walking down the road, so I told them to bring him by the house if they couldn't find an owner. At Fiber Frolic, I recognized David as the guy I was told I should meet & got his card and e-mail address. He said he'd remembered meeting me in Minneapolis, but played dumb as to the circumstances (says he was worried about embarassing me in front of my mother). Anyway, we know how that turned out.

On the way home, we stopped for a dog who had apparently been hit by a car, and as we were looking for the dog's home, the kitten came running out of the woods to us. Afterwards we called the neighbors and found out that he had run up a driveway that they had assumed was his home. My brother initially expressed interest in the kitten, but being the sucker that I am, I knew pretty quickly that I wasn't going to be able to give him up. I generally say that he found me, rather than the other way around.

Here's a pic of him I took when he was about 7 weeks old:

He was only able to fit himself into my shoe for about a week, so I'm glad I got that photo when I did. At that time, I don't even think he had a name. I had a hard time coming up with one until someone suggested Bart. I said that it would have to be Bartolomeo, and Tolo came from that quite naturally. This is what he looks like now, at 10 months of age:

More often than not, we refer to him now as The Monster. He's very loving, but he's also a typical fearless teenaged terror. Thankfully, his teens should pass by faster than a human child's.

Mortgage Spam Count: 105 and holding

03 March 2006

Boogie Nights

It's been another relatively busy night at work. I started with no hospitalized patients and have managed to keep the number down to two, but it was enough to keep me hopping for a while. Fortunately, both of my inpatients are likely to do just fine and go home sometime today.

As usually happens, though, things got a good bit quieter after midnight, so I have had time to make some good progress on the Top Secret Knitting Project (which shall henceforth be referred to as TSKP). All I will say about TSKP is that it's being made with Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Tweed yarn and requires the construction of a large number of pieces. I've never used this yarn before, but it's got a really nice hand and was, I think, a very good choice for this project.

And since once again I haven't provided much in the way of visual interest, I offer the Nerd, Geek, or Dork Test. I scored 82% Nerd, 39% Geek, 34% Dork, which puts me in the category of "Pure Nerd". Here's what the test had to say about my score:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

Mortgage spams: 65 in the past 24 hours and counting

02 March 2006

Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Baked Beans, and Spam

It appears that some group of spammers specializing in plugging shady mortgage companies has gotten hold of my e-mail address. At latest count, I have received 18 of these "You Are Already Approved!!!!" type e-mails today alone. Bless G-mail for having good filters.

I'm not really caught up on sleep yet, but I seem to be constitutionally incapable of sleeping for longer than 8 hours at a stretch. I did get in a little spinning today, and now it's off to work, where I shall hopefully have time to put in a bit of effort on the Top Secret Knitting Project.

At Last, Sweet Morpheus

I made it through my two nights working intact. When I first worked at the emergency clinic 10 years ago, the schedule rotation had me doing that once every three weeks. I was much younger then.

So was the couch I got to sleep on during the day Tuesday, though it was far from new even 10 years ago. I had a vague recollection that it was a sleeper sofa, so I pulled the cushions off, unfolded it, and discovered that it had most likely not been used as such in its lifetime. Underneath the piles of animal hair, and dust, and push pins, and applicator sticks, and broken potato chips, and pieces of crackers, and airline boarding passes, and old romance novels, I found what I'm fairly certain are the remains of both Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa. Fortunately, the cleaning guy was there and nicely vacuumed it all off for me so I could somewhat make up a bed.

Unfortunately, the cleaning guy was there to vacuum and buff the floors, and although he did so with reasonable haste and consideration, it did delay my sleeping for a time. And once he was finished and gone, there was still the little matter of the roofers banging away over my head. The banging was not constant, so I generally had just enough time to drift off so that the recurring BAM! BAM! BAM! had maximum effect.

Tuesday night was busy, too. Not to the point of total meltdown, but still quite hectic. Nonetheless, I made it through, made the drive home without stopping for a nap and without falling asleep on the turnpike, and got some (albeit not enough) sleep. Then David prodded me into going to the gym. I forgot my gym shoes but I had my swim trunks, so I opted for a swim in the pool and swam a mile.

Now I'm really tired once again and trying to avoid going to bed too early, as I work again tomorrow night. So I'm off to spin for a bit, but I'm leaving you with a pic of some of the last yarn I spun from Madelyn. No, it isn't master spinner quality work, but it's soft and should make a nice something-or-other when it tells me what it wants to be