30 November 2006

Meme-alicious! Memelectable, even!

First of all, because Cate said so (and because [insert one or more obscenities] Flickr won't let me [insert even more obscenities] log in to show you cute 'paca pics).

go here and link it to your blog.

then "ping" here.

And then I have elemmaciltur to thank for this:

All things considered, cuddles can be a pretty potent superpower. Maybe W should try cuddling Mahmoud Ahmedinejad (or vice versa), even though the thought of it is kind of creepy. I could have done worse, like the head tech at work who claimed last night to have "psychopathic powers".


Stupid Flickr decided to work long enough for me to access the latest photo of Juliette, which was taken on Monday. It's about time, as it was starting to get pretty obscene around here (well, not if you're used to reading a certain other blog, but relatively speaking). I digress.


Adorable, no? She's also getting more and more grey in her fleece, which is very exciting. Dark rose grey, particularly this dark, is a very uncommon color, and one that we very much like to see. I'm not sure if the show judges will like it so much come spring, but I'm pleased.

23 November 2006

Happy Tofurkey Day!

photo stolen from here

I've always thought these were beautiful birds, even back in the days when I ate them. Now I just enjoy seeing them out in the wild. I am now on my way home from work. This evening we will be partaking of the holiday dinner with the landladies, Landlady Wendy's father, brother, and sister-in-law, and 6 dogs. Over half the humans will be vegetarian. I suspect none of the dogs are, though there are two I'm not certain about. I shall be baking sweet potato pie - a rare delicacy here in New England - and David will be making a tofu chocolate pie and dressing (I guess once we've eaten it we can call it stuffing). At some point I hope to get in a nap.

Whether you're Amurcan or Furn, celebrate the holiday or not, I hope you all have a wonderful day.

22 November 2006

More Posey

I made a provisional cast on for the second sock tonight and did a few rounds, but my wrists are complaining a bit, so I decided to leave it at that for tonight and focus instead on combing up more of the Posey fleece. My Louët mini combs have really come in handy with this particular project, as they've allowed me to turn this (note: This is a relatively cleaner bit):


into this (I know it's blurry. I blame Lee Ann


and ultimately into this:


With a lot of this left over:


I believe the waste is about 40% of the total, which is quite a bit. It's not a fleece I would have chosen if I'd had the option, but seeing as it's a labor of love, I keep plugging away at it. The final yarn is actually quite nice and not overly scratchy. Dyes arrived today from Halcyon, so now I just have to decide which I want to use on this yarn. I'm hoping to be able to haul out the dyepots this weekend and see what I can do with it.

21 November 2006

Toe Long

This is what that sock I've been working on looked like this morning:


This is what it looked like a week ago. Now look again at the photo above. Notice anything odd?

When I took it along to Boston on Friday, I forgot to take along a tape measure to monitor my progress and held it up against my hand to eyeball the length. As I was working my way up the leg, I was bothered by what appeared to be a longer foot than I'd anticipated. So at work last night, I pulled out a tape measure and checked. An inch too long.

Now, this is for my nephew, who will turn 12 in January. Although he has always been on the small side for his age, I fully expect that he will shoot up in the next couple years and would eventually be able to wear a longer sock. Because this is meant to be a present for this year, however, giving him socks an inch too long just was not acceptable, so I mulled my options. I figured I could a) frog back to an inch before the gusset increases and work my way back up, b) pick out the toe and rip out to an inch into the foot and then start the toe anew there, or c) throw the whole thing into a dark corner in a fit of frustration and buy him a gift certificate.

Because I really want to be able to give him something handmade for Christmas (and save the gift certificate for his birthday) and because I figured it would mean less work in the end, I went with option b. Once I had finished up the leg and cast off the cuff using the bind off method described by Grumperina here, I picked up stitches one inch after the last toe increases and set to ripping out the toe.

I discovered that the standard method of M1 from bar between the stitches actually creates loops through stitches when it's being ripped out from the bottom up, so every time I encountered one, I had to pull the entire length of the yarn through the loops. I just really hadn't thought about it, but when visualized it makes perfect sense and is due to the twisting of the bar to make the new stitch. It made the whole process rather a bit longer than I'd expected, but it moved along relatively smoothly (the mohair in the yarn did make it a bit stickier than it might have been otherwise, though), and once I got to the picked up stitches it was a simple matter to do a wide band toe. Tonight, I performed a very cosmetic graft on the toe stitches, and I can officially consider it a semi-FO (still have to do one more to make a pair).

A Completely FO


This is the first of two brioche hats I'm making for my brother's stepsons. Brioche because it will keep them nice and toasty in the Maine winter, and Lion Brand Wool Ease because with two preteen boys, machine washability is pretty much an essential requirement.

This hat is for the younger of the two. I thought the olive and brown suited him well, as he's the more likely of the two to continue in the NASCAR, huntin' & four wheelin' tradition of the family (My brother and I get along very well, but I call him Bubba for a reason).

For his older brother, I'm going with blue as the main color and a dark orange heather as contrast. It would be an understatement to say that I am not an orange person, but I thought that this particular shade actually went well with the blue. Besides, this isn't for me. It's for a boy who needs to have his sense of style nurtured. His mother says he could be my child, and I think we're pretty much all expecting that a few years down the road he'll start sorting a few things out and he and Uncle Mel will need to have a little heart-to-heart about being not quite like the other boys. Just a hunch.

18 November 2006

Posey Meets Flat Gabriella

I could have shown you the progress I made on the holiday gift sock I had started here. I got quite a lot done on the bus to and from Boston and finished turning the Widdershins heel, which I really like, overnight. But I haven't taken any photos of it yet, so you're gonna have to wait.

Instead, I thought I'd share a photo of Posey, now that I actually have one. Today Posey got to meet Flat Gabriella, who is the alter-ego of Not-So-Flat Gabriella, older daughter of David's friends Mike & Sue. Flat Gabriella came to visit almost two weeks ago, but we've been rather busy and not the best of hosts, so she's extended her stay so we can take her around and show her more of the local sites so that she can take back a report to Not-So-Flat Gabriella of her travels. Apparently at some point, all the kids will be getting together with their homeschooling group to share their flat versions' adventures with everyone else. Seems like an interesting, and not too costly, way of getting kids to learn a bit about the world outside their community. Anyway, that was a rather long-winded way of saying here they are:


David & I are a wee bit concerned about Flat Gabriella, as it seems she may be hitting the cough syrup just a little too much. Still, she's been a remarkably quiet & undemanding guest, so we can't really complain.

Definitely Not Gay Man

I do so love satire, especially in comic form.

17 November 2006



The quiche, she is a versatile dish, non? Mix most anything with eggs and cheese and bake it in a pie shell - nice and easy dinner-in-a-pinch. Tonight it was mushrooms, onions, garlic, veggie sausage and spinach. Delicious.

I have been doing things other than cooking this week, as well. In fact, I've had enough to do that I haven't had much time for blogging about it. Sleep is one of those things, as it's always good to catch up on that. I continue working on the holiday knitting, albeit slowly.

The other big project I've been working on this week is turning a fleece from the resident Shetland sheep, Posey, into something useful. This has turned out to be rather a big task, as Posey doesn't exactly live on verdant pastures. Rather, she shares her space with four rather rough-and-tumble pygmy goats, and said space is kind of short on grass. This means that a lot of the fleece is not usable, but I have managed thus far to spin up nearly enough to ply. This is the nearly-full second bobbin:


It's been an opportunity for me to practice woolen spinning and long draw. I'm not expecting the most even of yarns, but I should have something nice enough to turn into a hat for landlady Paula to wear while she's doing her farm chores in the winter. I'm finding that I didn't get the grease out well enough when I scoured, though. It's nice enough for my hands while I'm combing/carding/spinning, but I can see I'll have to use plenty of detergent when I wash the skeins.

There has been more going on this week, of course, but most of it has been of the mundane. I had some additional allergy testing done on Tuesday, which was again all negative - though I did have a lovely delayed hypersensitivity reaction to Candida, which I shall be kind enough not to share photos of. We also spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get David's pickup out of the mud after transporting a few alpacas for his office manager. Suffice to say that we need to invest in a good tow rope to keep handy if we're going to be doing any more of that.

Tomorrow we are off to Boston for the evening. David's friend Don will be in town for a conference, so we're going down for dinner and possibly a visit to the MFA. Hopefully the weather will have improved by the time we get down there. It's damned blustery out tonight.

14 November 2006

On Faith

There's been a rather spirited debate going on in the comments on Joe's blog the past few days on the topic of religion and its place in determining law - specifically with respect to the referenda banning same-sex marriage. As someone who's often on the receiving end such faith-based ballot box bashings, I have a real problem with the melding of faith and the public sphere. I don't know that I'd go quite so far as Richard Dawkins - to the extent that a person's faith gives them a framework to work towards improving themselves, then it can perhaps serve a function - but I fervently and adamantly insist that faith has no place in developing law in a secular society. That's what theocracies are for.

My other big problem with faith is best illustrated by a story. Three years ago, S & I went to Europe on vacation. We spent about half of our time in Rome, and one evening we were approached by a fresh-faced, blond-haired, blue-eyed American kid who, obviously not familiar enough with Europeans to recognize that we were distinctly American, asked us, "Parla inglese?" I had a suspicion about his motives, but I took the bait and told him that we were American. And then the proselytizing began - all about the wonders of Jesus Christ and faith and everything that I'd heard every day of my childhood and long since rejected. So I politely told him that I didn't share his faith and that I had no problem believing in a universe without a creator and that, if anything, the fact that this world existed at all was made even more magical by the thought that it happened in all its complexity purely by chance. His response was, "I just HAVE to believe that there's SOMETHING."

It was late, so we politely took our leave, but the question I wanted to ask him was, "Why? Why do you HAVE to believe in a God?" Why, indeed, does anyone? What does it matter if this is all there is? Doesn't that make this world and this life more precious? Doesn't that increase the need for us to be decent to one another? That is the very basis for secular humanism, after all, and yet the term "secular humanism" gets spat out of the mouths of religious fundamentalists as if they were saying "shit sandwich". To fall back on faith just because you "HAVE to believe" is, to me, intellectually lazy (NOTE: I count among my friends many people of faith who are anything but lazy, but they're also people who don't use their faith as a crutch and who aren't afraid to question their beliefs).

One of the main things that attracted me to Buddhism is that, despite the mythologies that have sprung up within the tradition, it is at its core a humanistic religion. There is absolutely no incompatibility between being an atheist and being a Buddhist. Granted, there are Buddhist nations with some serious internal problems, but it seems to me that the problems lie not so much with the religion itself as with the fact that the religion (or at least particular versions of it) has become institutionalized in those countries to the extent that form has generally become more important than substance. Siddhartha Gautama's last instruction to his followers was, "Be as a lamp unto yourselves." I feel that teaching often gets lost to a society's detriment. To institutionalize "Christian values", or at least the particular version espoused by most evangelicals, in this country would be no less problematic and damaging.

Holiday Knitting

And now on to more funner topics. I've started working on my holiday knitting, though I'm by no means sure I'll get everything done that I'd like. I wanted to knit something for my niece and nephew who are currently living in Phoenix, so I settled on socks. My LYS has started carrying Bearfoot sock yarn from Mountain Colors, so I've started this one in 'Mountain Twilight' colorway:


For my brothers two stepsons who live here in Maine, I'm doing hats in Lion Brand WoolEase. Machine-washability is essential and I can make them functional and comfortable hats that will keep them warm in the Maine Winter. I'm still undecided about my sister's girls in North Carolina, but I doubt I'll have time to crank out anything additional in time. Maybe hats, though.

Overnight here at work I've been working on something for David. I will only say that it's not for public viewing and it's all Franklin's fault. And if you happen to be astute enough to figure out what it is, don't you dare say anything to spoil the surprise.

09 November 2006

Holiday Plans

We booked our holiday trip the other night. I have to work both Christmas night and New Year's Eve, but I'm off the days in between, so we're going to Minnesota to visit David's friends Mike & Sue and their kids in lovely, chilly Brainerd and hopefully visit some of my friends in the Twin Cities. There may even be a brief side trip to South Dakota to see David's parents, but he says it depends on whether his mother behaves*.

If you're not quite sure whether you've ever heard of Brainerd, it used to be known for this:

These days, though, it's best known for this**:

I intend to stay well clear of any woodchippers.

*They belong to the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, which is a fundamentalist sect. His dad's not too bad but doesn't quite seem to get it. His mother tries to pretend I don't exist, which is, of course, problematic if we're going to visit them.

**I realize this may be confusing to those who may not have seen the movie, or who have forgotten the plot, or who just weren't paying attention, but very little of the movie
Fargo actually takes place in Fargo.

08 November 2006

To Solace a Stickerless Sheep


Lovely, no? I opted for a somewhat different design for the center panel than Mr. Habit with his Barbie shawl, but then, to be a copycat is rather gauche and, well, just not very knitterly.

And If That Wasn't Enough To Make You Smile

The Republicans have been pretty well trounced in House races, and control of the Senate is coming down to two seats where the Democratic candidates appear to have the edge, albeit only slightly. I'm particularly pleased that Pennsylvania is cleaning up that big Santorum stain. I was unfortunate enough to spend three years as one of his constituents that he spent much energy trying to hurt. I won't be sorry to see his smarmy smirk and evil, evil ways go away.

Of course, Maine re-elected our senior Republican senator by a large margin, despite my vote for her liberal progressive Democratic challenger. As Republicans go, we could do a lot worse than Olympia. She has not been afraid to buck her party's line from time to time (though she did recently vote in favor of the torture bill). She is still, however, a Republican, and that makes a big difference in terms of which party chairs the commitees that decide which items of proposed legislation see the light of day (long sentence, I know, but when the machinations of the Congress are under discussion, verbosity is to be expected).

My own personal recollection of Olympia is the commencement address she gave at my graduation from the University of Maine many years ago, when she was still in the House of Representatives. She prefaced her remarks by saying, "I know none of you wants to hear a long speech, so I'll make this short." By short she apparently meant somewhat short of a filibuster, as it was one of the most interminable and boring addresses I've ever had to sit through. It was an outdoor graduation on a hot, sunny day, too. I still blame her for the sunburn.

07 November 2006

Vote Early & Often

I shall be casting my votes in a bit over 8 hours, before I go to work. Because we the people only works if we the people vote, I suggest you all make a point of fitting it into your day. If you've voted early, bless you. And if you're not quite sure who or what to vote for, look up your area on the Project Vote Smart website. If you're voting in Maine's state Senate District 6 (I am not - Peter Bowman gets my vote), vote for Phil Bartlett. I happen to know he's got Franklin's (and Sister Sue's) endorsement.

Barbie Shawl Update

The Barbie shawl is finished and blocking as I write this. Only one major unknitting adventure, which slowed me down by an hour or two. Since it's white yarn blocking on a white throw pillow, I didn't think photos would be particularly useful or revealing at this point. I shall take some and post them soon, though. It's enough to make me think I could even do a full-size project.

06 November 2006


I recently bought the latest issue of Vogue Knitting for an article on brioche stitch in the round written by Meg Swansen. I'd read about brioche stitch, but I'd never actually dabbled with it and thought it might be useful to make thick & warm items for Dulaan. So my first item made in brioche was this hat:


To be honest, it's a bit shorter than I'd like it to be, but I think it would work well for a small child and it is ever so plush and warm, warm, warm. And I liked the stitch so much - bold yet simple, and thick and squishy at the same time, that I decided it would be perfect for the scarf I wanted to make with the Briar Rose yarn I got at Rhinebeck. The dragon skin pattern, while nice, just wasn't showing off the best characteristics of the yarn the way I'd hoped.


I don't think I'll ever get tired of this yarn. The color repeats are short, so it doesn't stripe and the yarnovers of brioche stitch make for a nice, soft blending of the blues, greys, browns and greens. The colors are muted and subtle, which I love, and the stitch really shows the soft hand of the yarn, which is what really sold me on it in the first place. I'm looking forward to being able to wear this.

And speaking of things to wear, I was sitting here the other night pouting a bit over the whole vest debacle I wrote about in the last post and shivering at the cold, and I decided to click on over to Webs, where they had Araucania Nature Wool Chunky on clearance. I bought enough to make myself a sweater to wear on these cold nights and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Naughty Toys

No, it's not what you're thinking. A couple weeks ago, David's customer service rep, Mendy, sent him some SpongeBob figures you can put in water to make them expand. David's a SpongeBob nut, so they were a guaranteed hit. It was a little odd to see SpongeBob expand into what looked like a garishly-painted piece of deep-fried tofu, but there is another which is even more unsettling.

I give you Penis Head Patrick.


03 November 2006

A Nightmare on Haley Rd.

Anyone remember this incipient vest? The Harrisville Flax Wool affair I started the better part of a year ago, then frogged, then restarted way back in June? Well, progress has been slow - very slow - but I've been trying to pick it up and do a few rounds here and there while we're watching movies. And I was doing okay with it, getting ever closer to dividing for the armholes.

Until a few nights ago, that is. While we were watching Freddy Krueger devour an impossibly young and adorable Johnny Depp, I was happily knitting away and then looked down to notice....



I would have sworn they were from the same lot, but the ball bands are long gone, and anyway it's obviously a moot question.

Frogging time, yet again.

Bat Bites

From the Associated Press:

November 02,2006 | INDIANAPOLIS -- A 10-year-old girl who was diagnosed with Indiana's first confirmed case of rabies in nearly half a century died Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Shannon Carroll had been bitten by a rapid bat in June and had been hospitalized since early October, said Riley Hospital for Children spokeswoman Jo Ann Klooz said.

More than 30 of the girl's relatives, friends and classmates were offered injections to prevent the spread of the disease. Some parents whose children attend the girl's school in Bourbon, 25 miles south of South Bend, worried about possible exposure since rabies can stay dormant for more than a year.

Rabies is a viral disease transmitted to humans and other animals through saliva, usually in a bite. It attacks the brain and nervous system and typically leads to death once symptoms appear. Human-to-human transmission of rabies is possible through direct contact with saliva, health officials said.

State records show Indiana's last human rabies case was in 1959, when a Sullivan County resident died from the disease.

The details on this are a bit sketchy, as journalists are usually not very good on providing the information that's most interesting to health professionals. From what I can gather from earlier news items, though, there was apparently a bat found in the girl's house in June. I can't tell if it was known that she was bitten beforehand, but in many of these cases the people don't know they've been bitten. The species of bats seen most commonly in North America have tiny teeth that generally don't penetrate the skin completely.

From one news report, I was able to gather that the virus was identified as bat strain from molecular testing, which is common practice in human cases these days. So my assumption is that they're piecing together information rather than working from prior knowledge of a bite, particularly since there was about a 4 month gap between the presumptive exposure and the time she was hospitalized with symptoms of the disease with no apparent treatment in the interim.

So my point with all this - and I do actually have one - is that you should never take a bat in the house lightly. Yes, bats are very important from an ecological standpoint and, I think, wondrously beautiful creatures. I've always had a fondness for and fascination with them. Watching them flying around outside in the evening is a great summertime pleasure - not the least because I know they're eating the goddamned mosquitoes. Nonetheless, a bat found in my house would be tested for rabies, period. I'm vaccinated and check my antibody titers annually, so I don't worry about myself, or even my animals, who are all vaccinated. I would never, ever take a chance, though, that might put David's life at risk. I would hope that the rest of you would do the same for yourself and your loved ones.

And now I'll get off my soapbox.

01 November 2006

P Minus 10

Happy Samhain, or All Souls Day, as it now happens to be. I did not pig out on candy, though I did buy a bag in preparation for the 6 trick-or-treaters who came by a day early. I do not understand the whole concept of Halloween-on-a-day-that-is-not-Halloween, but I will save that rant. I now have less than 10 pounds to go to reach my target weight, and that is what I wish to write about today.

My stated and immediate reasons for starting this little dieting journey were health-related. Those were certainly the catalyst, but I've come to the realization that there's another reason I'm doing this. I'm also shedding the baggage of my relationship with S. When I reach my target weight, I will be about 5 pounds above my weight when I started dating S, and I may well go on and lose that additional 5 pounds, as all of it was a product of that relationship.

You see, when S and I started dating, we both gained a fair amount of weight fairly quickly. This was most likely a product of my love of cooking and his love of all things starchy, but the weight eventually became a physical manifestation of emotional baggage - largely that which he was dumping on me. S had a problem with fidelity, as it turned out, and in the end, the relationship was based pretty much on his lying while he fooled around behind my back for 4½ years. When he dumped me a year and a half ago, he claimed that all of it - the cheating, the dumping, and basically everything in between - was because I wasn't hot enough for him. Because of the weight gain, of course.

Now, he weighed just as much as I did, had gained as much weight as I had. And he'd basically undermined every attempt I'd made to lose weight by throwing temper tantrums when I tried to cook healthier meals. He also threw temper tantrums if I tried to listen to any music that wasn't Bach while he was home and ignored me if I tried to talk to him while Bach was playing or Law & Order was on TV and was generally not an easy person to live with. And even though I am a fairly self-reliant and self-confident person by nature, this took an emotional toll which made the weight loss even harder. But it was still ultimately my fault, in his mind, that he was cheating.

So I've come to realize that losing this weight is, in part, ridding myself of the weight of that relationship. Not long after I started dieting, S e-mailed me with details about his refinancing of the house - the last major step in disentangling our affairs. At the end of that e-mail, he expressed a wish to resume being on speaking terms. I took a few days before responding and then, as civilly as possible but in no uncertain terms, told him that how he had treated me was abusive and that his actions were his own doing and were no fault of mine. I also told him that unless and until he could fully own his actions and quit trying to rationalize or excuse them, I didn't feel it was in my best interest to have any contact with him. I've not heard anything from him since.

Now, I will say that I don't believe that S is completely bad. He was certainly nowhere near as awful as Franklin's Mr. Ex, and though he did some pretty awful things in our relationship, I do still care for him and do hope that he someday learns to deal with his own baggage. Still, ridding myself of the emotional and psychosomatic baggage he saddled me with has been wonderfully liberating, and I look forward to seeing the rest of it go.