22 January 2012


I got the call this morning that my maternal grandfather had passed away in his sleep overnight, two days after his 97th birthday. I had been hoping to get to South Carolina to visit him sometime this winter, as I knew that his body was beginning to fail. My mother hadn't expected him to survive through another year and had just gone down there for an extended stay. It sounds as though he passed shortly before she found him this morning, pretty much as she had put him to bed last night.

I've always felt exceptionally fortunate that all of my grandparents survived well into my adulthood. None of them was famous or particularly known outside of their respective families and communities, but within their realm and within my life, they've been nothing short of monumental. Their presence in my life has always been something I've treasured deeply.

My Granddaddy, Ervin Merchant, was born in 1915 to George and Lessie Baird Merchant. He was 14 when the Great Depression hit and ended his formal schooling, as he and his brothers had to work to help keep the family afloat. He worked for quite a long time as a buyer for the large timber companies, and I remember riding with him as a small child as he paid his work crew, using an old pull lever adding machine to  calculate their wages. As a second career he worked as a driver for the state home for the mentally handicapped, and throughout both those careers, he and my grandmother maintained a farm to feed the family.

Along the way, he and my grandmother raised four kids, became fairly comfortably middle class, traveled the country, built themselves a vacation cabin in the North Carolina mountains, and generally lived the American Dream. Although he spent his entire 97 years living within just a few miles' radius of where he was born, he was most definitely a larger than life person. He could be stubborn as a mule and twice as tough, but he was a fundamentally kind and fair-minded person, and I never heard anyone speak ill of him.

Although we're all feeling a sense of loss, his mind had decompensated badly after my grandmother's death a year and a half ago. I think that escaping in the lost corners of his mind was the only way he could get some temporary respite from his grief, though I don't think it gave him much comfort in the end. Her loss was devastating, and he wasn't able to recover from it. As difficult as it was for the rest of the family to deal with, for him it seemed like pure anguish trying to hold the mental demons at bay while he waited for his body to give out. And for as sad as it is to lose him, there's a definite relief that he can finally have some peace.

19 January 2012

Making Progress

I'm a little past the first repeat of the first color chart on my Luke's Diced Vest. I only do one or two rounds while we watch TV at night, but I think that keeps it from feeling like a slog. The red is einband Icelandic from Frelsi Farm here in Maine, and it's haloing ever so slightly, which is pretty much perfect.

18 January 2012

Sopapillas not SOPA/PIPA!*

Fortunately, it appears that my Congressional delegation is united in opposition to SOPA (the House bill), and its companion Senate bill PIPA, which is scheduled for a vote next week. Because of that upcoming vote, though, and because I don't always trust Snowe and Collins to follow through based on their expressed concerns, I just sent them both the following:

I am writing you to express my opposition to the Protect IP Act. I understand that your office has expressed concern about this measure, and I do hope that you will vote against this bill when it comes up next week. While I certainly understand and support the need to protect intellectual property, applying a ham-handed, scorched earth policy such as this is not an appropriate way to address the problem. It is akin to destroying the Interstate Highway system because somewhere, at some time, it might be used by criminals. As much as it would stifle the free exchange of ideas, it would also stifle innovation and commerce.

As a nation, these are not losses we can afford, especially given the current economic and geopolitical situation. While this bill may be well-intentioned, it is not well thought out, and I appreciate your help in defeating it.

My Representative, Chellie Pingree, has come out more forcefully, indicating her intent to vote against SOPA, but I still sent her a version of the above thanking her for her opposition. If you're a US citizen and you haven't taken a few minutes to contact the people who represent you in Congress, why not? If you don't know what to write, just copy, paste, and adapt what I wrote. Go ahead, I give you permission.

*I don't know that Congress should mandate sopapillas either, actually, but I probably wouldn't get too upset if they did.

08 January 2012

Luke's Diced, in Progress

Hopefully, this should work.

06 January 2012

Back in a Flash?

So, there really was going to be more of a report from Rhinebeck, but it seems that over several months, life has kind of continually sidetracked me from the blog. Anyway, it was a nice time. Busy, as usual, and we didn't see nearly everyone I would have liked, but such is life. We also had a nice day after hanging with my folks and seeing some of the sights in Hyde Park, so on the whole, it was another good Rhinebeck experience.

Yarn was also purchased, and there was supposed to be a photo here of my Luke's Diced Vest that's in progress, and in which I'm using some Rhinebeck yarns, among others. As it happens, though, Blogger and my phone seem to have communication issues, and it's already past my bedtime, so no pic tonight, I'm afraid.

I think part of the dearth of entries here is due to the Facebook effect. In fact, I'm sure of it. But I think that the shift in my work schedule also plays a role, since I don't have as much time for expository writing, which is what I've more typically done. The omphaloskepsis continues; it's just not making it to this medium. I could schedule time to blog, but I'm not sure I want it to feel too much like work.

So in the new year, I'm trying to decide how best to continue this. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to be starting an online Master of Public Health program through the University of Massachusetts, which is going to add about 50% to my level of busy. I may shift to shorter entries - longer than tweets but shorter than essays - and I may look into porting everything over to Tumblr or another platform. Blogger's got issues, aside from the aforementioned communication ones, and I'm not sure if I should stay in this neighborhood or find somewhere that suits me better.

Anyway, I'm still around, still living life, and looking forward to the new year.