Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dear Reader ...

....I am here to apologize for my poor judgment in voting (numerous times) for that incomparably selfish individual Arlen Specter. I, who gets the creepin' eeps from anything ideologic, kinda liked that he was a loose cannon. However, I didn't anticipate his selfishness and gutless behavior. When he caved and voted for the "Oink" bill, I wrote him an email that said something like, you tossed all PA under the bus, and that I hoped he had enjoyed his time in the Senate, because he lost both my respect and support. He (his office) wrote back with a long winded explanation that he didn't like it, but it was the best they could do yada, yada. As if doing "nothing" was not a viable option. (It was and still is, IMHO.) Then I heard him trying to explain his position on some news program, and it hit me, he was clearly scared....really scared, and saw this as the only way he could do "something". That capped it for me. Being in the Congress, much like being a teacher, is not for the faint of heart. I coach grad students, who are teaching, and I often give them pep talks that start with something like "teaching is not for wimps and weenies". You have to be able to stand up to criticism, both fair and not. Arlen has lost his nerve. So when he was faced with what is beginning to look like an insurmountable challenge to his seat, enhanced by his very unpopular vote, he bailed. I can't think of an insult bad enough for what I think he has done to the residents of this state. As for the red herring excuse that that the Republican Party is getting too conservative, well ask the true Regan conservatives, and then duck. John McCain would never have been nominated by a truly conservative party. Huckabee would have been the nominee in a conservative party. How dumb do they think the public really is. Or is this just noise for the lap dog news media to bark about? I am not enchanted. (Sorry I couldn't help myself.)

So, yet again, I find myself in the position of having to change my voting status from "unaffiliated" to Democratic, in order to vote against Arlen in next year's primary. And I don't care who the other candidates happen to be. Anyone is more deserving of this Senate seat....are you hearing me Arlen?

I feel better now....on to knitting. I became exhausted by all my forever and a day projects, so I took a lead from another blog I read and whipped up this....

Crofter's Cowl (Rav link, sorry). The very cool thing about this cowl is that the points face each other. The uncool (for some people) is that the way you achieve this is by knitting it in two parts and grafting in the middle. Since I am not "afeered" of kitchener stitch (can't be a weenie and be a knitter either), I went ahead and it turned out beautifully. The yarn is elsebeth lavold's incomparable Silky Cashmere (55% Silk, 45% Cashmere), and I used about all of three skeins (44/skein). This is precisely the reason I chose this cowl. I had limited yardage. The color is a very beautiful "wine" color, that is not reflected in my photo.

I loved this pattern so much I immediately made a second one (no photo) for a friend who has lost an enormous amount of weight, and is now chilly all the time. For that I used a lonely skein of bulky alpaca from Knitpicks. It doesn't look like they have it anymore. It isn't a firm bulky, so it worked out very well. Some of the comments in Rav indicate that folks had trouble getting the points to align. I had no such difficulty.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Black Hole of Knitting.

Followup re: Bottom Line Books, I'm pretty mean when I'm mad enough, and even though the call center person was just doing her job (and I told her that) I rarely have time for bullshit. And I don't suffer fools gladly. When she indignantly said "This isn't a scam!" She pushed me over the edge. I said she couldn't possibly know since she was sitting in a cubicle somewhere reading from a script. Sheesh. As for my MIL, they only reason she called me is because she thought it had something to do with the "web". Her children were a little peeved at first because they assumed that she had ordered these books without realizing it, but a little research told me that she wasn't alone and probably hadn't made this error.

The books themselves are a "Yearbook of Medical Snakeoil, 2008", which means there is a new one every year. We will need to keep an eye out next year. I don't trust this company.

Ah, yes, the "black hole" of knitting. You've been there, I know you have. The Lace Ribbon scarf is 80 inches in the pattern. I already told the story of ordering and re-ordering more yarn so it would be long enough. I am a long scarf kinda gal. I was shooting for between 72 and 80 inches, unblocked. I began measuring about each repeat or two beginning at 60 inches. I'd lay it out on the floor, and get it as flat as possible. It seemed to stay 60 inches for days. And I was about knitted out on this pattern, let me tell you. (This is my lunch time/coffee shop knitting.) When I hit 68 inches, after I broke out the champagne, I figured I'd go about 2 more repeats which would take me to between 72 and 74 inches. (I started his piece back in October, by the way. It was on hiatus for Christmas knitting.) I've been really busy this April and didn't get a lot of lunchtime knitting in. I was coordinating a big program in the Northeast part of the state in early April and spent a night with my mom instead of at a hotel. I took the scarf, and when she saw it, she kept saying, "Isn't that looooong?" "Are you sure you want it that long?", until I wanted to strangle her. So maybe this is payback for my black thoughts.

Anyway, I finished it up on Friday night, and measured on Saturday morning and GADS! it had not gained 4+ inches, it had gained about 12+ inches. Without blocking the blasted thing was 85 inches!! I honestly wondered if the scarf had been kidnapped and knitted by aliens. I forged ahead, and soaked (spun in net bag in washer), and laid it out flat to dry. I measured and now it was 89 inches!! Sigh. I was pretty sure this would be unwieldy, even for me. I waited until it was dryish and tried it on. By Saturday evening I had convinced myself to wear it awhile to see how I felt.

Sunday morning, I just decided nothing doing, why worry myself silly over such a small thing. (I like to look at the big picture most of the time.) This was the advantage to knitting. There are always do-overs. (Except in wire knitting, ask me how I know this.) So I snipped the end, and unraveled about 6 - 8 inches, reknit the border, and voila.

Lace Ribbon Scarf

Size #4 Harmony circular needles

3+ skeins Koigu KPM in pretty apricot, about 80+ inches

Mods: I knitted a three row seed stitch border on both ends.

I didn't need the fourth skein I bought. The first skein only knitted up to 20 inches, but the 2nd and 3rd went further. I think the third skein took me to about 78 inches. I would have stopped there if my measurements had been accurate. The yarn pile in the photo above is almost all I used of skein 4. Now I need to figure out what to do with a partial skein of Koigu.

I actually enjoyed knitting this pattern. I didn't memorize it until late in the process or I think I would have liked it even better. But as with most things that drag on, there came a time when pattern fatigue set in. This was my first time knitting with Koigu. I really loved it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Nothing is ever easy

If you ever get a package from Bottom Line Books (Notice I am not putting a link to their site, I wouldn't do that to you) DO NOT OPEN IT! Unless, of course, you actually ordered from them. Feel free to open the package then. Instead, do a Google search and you'll find, literally, dozens of complaints on consumer sites about them. Their scam is that they acquire names, addresses, and email addresses from somewhere (probably purchased), they then send books [unsolicited] to you and then invoice you for the "purchase". These books are familiar snake oil clap trap about health and wellness. My dear MIL got a box from this uh...let's call them a business, but I have more descriptive names, and because she was expecting a package from me (I reuse boxes, even not on Earth Day), she opened it only to find books she never heard of. The smarty boots Googled the company, and found the piles of complaints and called me for help. Here's what I discovered:

They send books to people that the recipients never ordered or even heard of. Legally in PA, if you get something you didn't order you don't have to do ANYTHING (why pay to ship something back you didn't order). They then invoice you ("we hope you're enjoying the books"). When you decide to put this to rest and just ship the books back, they then SHIP YOU MORE BOOKS because you've now JOINED A BOOK CLUB! If you pay for the books to stop the invoices, THEY SEND YOU MORE BOOKS! They ignore pleas to stop the shipments. In one spectacular case (assuming it's accurate), a "collection agency" called a victim who was ignoring the invoices. Now most people, particularly elderly folks, don't want to keep anything they haven't paid for, get spastic if they get an invoice, and generally hate loose ends such as these. My mother-in-law had to be talked off the roof several times over the past month.

As a public service, I'm going to tell you what worked for us with a minimum of stuff and bother. YMMV depending on what state you are in.

File a preemptive complaint with your state's Consumer Protection Bureau, part of the Attorney General's office. I called ours explained the situation, and the rep told me we did not have to either ship the books back or pay for them. I filed a complaint in writing, telling them that we wanted a pre-paid label, and an assurance that she'd never hear from them again, and told my antsy MIL to sit tight. Ten days later she received an invoice, and got all upset (even though I told her not to worry). I found an 800 # somewhere on line, of course there was no contact number on the invoice. I called and scorched the ears off the poor phone center person. Told her we wanted a pre-paid label shipped immediately, and as a bonus we'd send a copy of the filed complaint along with the unwanted books. [She kept trying to read from her "script" that someone with ordered the books blah,blah, but I just cut her off, and explained that I was a computer science faculty at a big 10 university and I was running a web server when she was playing with My Little Pony. Did she really think that I couldn't find a web browsing history? I told her to save her breath. Mean, yeah. I was not in a good mood.] Less than 7 business days later MIL had not one, but TWO, pre-paid labels, and curiously two very different letters instructing her to send the materials back. One said "sorry you got these in error but we have an invoice from you", the other said "sorry you didn't like the materials, of course you can return them". Neither was accurate. I was a little taken aback, but meh. We got what we wanted. She crossed out the "we have an invoice" part of the first letter, enclosed the complaint and the extra label, and sent the crap back. About 2 days later, she got a letter from the AGs office asking what the status of her case was. Was she satisfied with the resolution? LIGHT BULB. The second letter/label was a result of the AG office intervention. So, all told it took about a month to resolve, (it probably took that long off her life, she worries too much), and Tom Corbett's (PA Attorney General) Office is A-OK in my book.

For making it all the way through this saga, you dear reader get a bonus.

My Lace Ribbon Scarf.

It really isn't this orange. The photo below is a better representation of the color.

This fits perfectly with the nothing is ever easy theme of this post. That's because on Sunday morning, after a Saturday of blocking this is what I spent about an hour doing.

There's a story here, but I'll have to get to it tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Lost is a funny word...

I actually had another post in process. And in fact it was even going to have knitting in it!

Then I was going to write about the ethereal nature of things like darning needles and tape measures. A little while ago I was waiting in the car for my husband. So I pulled out my knitting to kitchener up a seam and like magic, no needle on the end of the yarn. I know I had the needle when I left the house because I put the whole mess into a plastic bag, and stuffed it into my purse. It was lost, not in the knitting, not in my purse, not in the car. Lost. Completely.

Then I saw this:

Kay [of Mason Dixon Knitting] and Peter.

Kay doesn't know me from a cake of soap. But I feel like I know her. I know that she is generous. She's funny. She has really beautiful children. She's a talented knitter and writer. I know that she's about my age -- give or take. I assume that her husband was also her age -- give or take. Which means (sans beautiful children, generosity, knitting, writing, and being funny), we are alike in some ways. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to "lose" someone who is that close to you. I only lost a needle today. I have no idea what I would do if I lost a person I loved.

ETA: I just checked and her Peter was younger than my DH. Yikes!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I believe in a previous post I mentioned the boomerang (personnel review) with which I was targeted. I thought I was out of "range" on Friday. But no such luck...Yeah, it came back and it hit me right in the arse. I hurled it back and I'm hoping that will be it for 2009.

I've started this post about 52 times.....There's just so many disjointed things going on that I'm only going to list the sort versions.

**Last week there was the great hew and cry about the "training video" that dissed veterans. I was stunned to learn this because I used this video last fall for a "students in distress" workshop, and used in context it was a great piece. (It was created by a group on campus that helps students, and faculty, deal with difficult and often emotional situations.) Let me make clear that I have a personal connection to veterans. I am a staunch supporter of veterans causes and affairs and I'm rather sensitive to the chilly climate vets sometimes endure. I would never have used anything that would insult someone's service. Here in the "Land of Political Correctness" that puppy had its paws vetted off. It was a vignette on a student who wanted his grade changed PERIOD END OF STATEMENT His character profile was just so the vignette would have a little interest. What happened was that some yahoo found it, took offense, ripped it off, CHANGED THE TITLE, added subtitles, and posted it. So if you saw it, unless you found it on our site (it's been pulled see Land of Political Correctness above), you saw an altered version. If you've been teaching for any length of time, and you haven't had a variation of this experience (my personal experience was almost word for word the same)then you must be teaching kindergarten.

**I keep wondering at the stupidity of this administration. OK, so we're not supposed to call people who fly planes into buildings terrorists, that 9/11 was a "man made disaster". But a memo comes out of Homeland Security (Napolitano apparently didn't read the memo, though she signed off on it --she was "briefed", her word), that calls veterans and people in right to life groups possible "terrorists". So the only thing I can infer from this is that it is acceptable to call our own citizens terrorists, but not the people who actually engineer "man made disasters". Even typing this is weird and confusing.

**I am a "twit" because I don't "Tweet". And I really don't care what you're thinking or doing at any particular moment of the day. I am an "ambivalent networker". Go read it, it's good.

I'm coming to the realization that Facebook, Twitter, and the one that simply pushed me over the cliff 12 Seconds TV (it's just what it sounds like--video Twitter), are obliterating the way humans communicate, and not in a good way. I have friends who now communicate ONLY through these mechanisms - one or two sentence "status updates". We used to communicate by actually constructing paragraphs, not to mention speaking to each other, no longer. I want to know about the context of your life, I don't much care that you're "a blue crayon" or "I'm loving this weather" two actual comments from my Facebook friends. Ugh. I guess I'm just not worth the effort anymore to actually initiate a few paragraphs, privately when you can communicate with all your peeps and get lots of inane responses in return.

**Which brings me to...NO FINISHED OBJECTS. I am so totally jealous of all the blogs I see that show items with lots of progress, and some that have finished items every week. I've been working on the Lace Ribbon scarf simply forever. Probably because I only work on it at lunch. It is a long bugger. It is also now a little too big for a purse project, but I'm at about the 70 inch mark and I want to finish it. I'm trying to practice project monogamy to get this outta here. And it will make my "Wrap Me Up" group feel better when I'm not so very far ahead anymore.

I'm on the second Embossed Leaves sock. I love the pattern, but not the yarn I'm using in the pattern. I thought the shorter color runs would make for a more interesting pattern. But nope. And I'm afraid I'm not one of those OCKs (Obsessive Compulsive Knitters) who unravel finished pieces. They're socks people!! I'll wear them on my feet.

There is one blog I read that has several finished objects every week. But I finally realized that the knitter: 1) knits cowls out the wazoo; 2) uses sport weight for socks. So, I'm going to start a cowl with cashmere/silk tomorrow.

Stay tuned...I'm not finished with my "stories" yet.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Wouldn't you know....

...I'm finally back. Review over (I think. However, it has come back like a boomerang on occasion.) But now I'm listening to the service for the three Pittsburgh Police Officers who were ambushed and killed on Saturday morning. So far the mayor has choked up, and the public information officer has a shaky voice. It must be brutal for the families. I just don't know what to say. This was so unnecessary.

Final Salute...