Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Things old and blue

I think the end of the tunnel is visible with my work load. I got a lot done today for our "special edition" shows, and I think I can complete everything tomorrow. I will be ecstatic if that's the case.

Periodically I have to purge a bunch of electronic press kits from my office lest they tower over me from all sides. I must have been overzealous the last time I trashed a bunch of tapes because I couldn't find some that I needed. I turned to something old: a show from January 2006 to see if I could lift some video from it.

I was shocked by what I saw: me. I've lost some weight in the last seven months, but I couldn't tell you how much. (I don't know when the last time I weighed myself was.) Over the past month or so people have been making nice comments about my appearance, which are always welcome, even if one person asked if the weight loss was due to illness. Seeing myself on this year-old tape dazed me momentarily. It made me realize I've lost more than I thought.

I wasn't the size of a pre-Subway diet Jared Fogle or anything, but I weighed more than I should. I got tired of feeling tired, so I buckled down, paid more attention to what I was eating and how much of it I was consuming, and tried to go to the 3.8 mile track at a nearby park for a walk or run five times a week. I didn't follow any diet or exercise program. I just did what made common sense: eat less, eat better, and exercise. I didn't stop eating junk, but I didn't eat it regularly. I needed to change habits. Once I put my mind to it, I found it wasn't as hard as I expected, although the results took a long time to show.

I would still like to lose more, but the weather and my schedule haven't been conducive to getting much exercise. I don't feel like I'm putting any weight back on, though. Nobody likes a braggart, so that's all I'll say about that.

I had hoped to get out of the office around 6:00. Since my last solo KIP attempt wasn't so successful from a knitting perspective, I thought tonight might be a good time to try again. Didn't happen, maybe Thursday.

I was going to work on something blue: Donna's scarf. Last night I finished the first ball of yarn, which sounds more impressive than it is. There are only 68 yards per 50 gram ball. I ordered four and think I have enough. Of course, I can knit at home, and that's what I'll do while I try to catch up on all of the recorded programs on my DVR and watch tonight's late Blue Jackets game. If I don't run into any problems, maybe I can finish it on Friday or Saturday and then send two scarves on the way to their rightful owners.

What's next? I've got a pretty good idea, but I'll save that for another day.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One scarf saved

You will be glad to know that Donna's scarf has been spared a seventh frogging.

In this case, being busy kept me from making a decision that I shouldn't have made. If I hadn't worked Sunday night or practically every waking hour on Monday, I know I would have ripped it all out. I almost did anyway, even though I didn't have time to knit. I wouldn't have regretted the decision, but it wouldn't have been necessary.

I showed the scarf to Kristin after this morning's screening, and she unknitted back to the source of the problems. Watching her undo stitch after stitch, it occurred to me that I may not have been doing it properly all this time. What she was doing looked a lot easier than my fumbling attempts at unknitting. I learned that I didn't have to undo purled stitches the way I had been trying. My method doubled the work necessary and may not have been correct. (I won't say it again, but I suppose the pandering joke is just waiting to be made. Just like a man, right?)

In addition to having lost a stitch when the last two slipped off the needle, I dropped a stitch in the middle of the row as well. Can't say I noticed that. Kristin fixed everything and told me that she thought the width was fine. And so, dear readers, the scarf was granted a stay of execution. There was much rejoicing.

Prior to detailing my first solo KIP, I mentioned that I purchased some yarn for a baby sweater.

It's Baby Bee Sweet Delight Pomp in mint charm. It's 54% acrylic, 36% polyamide (whatever that is), and 10% rayon. It's nice and soft and, I hope, a good color for an expected baby of an unknown gender. (As far as I know, the happy couple doesn't know either. About the gender, not the baby being expected. Obviously.) So this sale purchase goes right to the stash. I also picked up a ball of The Original Sugar 'n Cream cotton in sage green for dishcloths. For 99 cents, why not? This is how a stash slowly grows like a fungus, isn't it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Busy signals

I'm going to use Donna's blog entry about busy days as license to gripe, and then I'll be done with it. Thanks for bearing with me.

I got to work around 9 a.m. I didn't leave until almost 9 p.m., and I left then only because I wanted a carryout supper from City Barbeque, which closes at 9. It's probably for the best because it gave me a reason to get out of the office and come home. I could feel bags forming under my eyes and a dull headache blossoming, yet I flirted with the idea of getting the food and going back to work. From when I stepped into the library--the station is in the basement--I don't think I saw outside until I departed for the day.

Although I know I accomplished something today, I don't feel like I'm that much closer to getting anywhere. Everything for the regular show we're taping tomorrow is finished. I laid down my voice for my worst of the year and honorable mentions packages. I wrote all the text for my top ten film blurbs, but I may need to trim some of them for time. I dubbed a lot of tapes and DVDs that will be needed for b-roll.

The biggest mistake I made was composing a list of what I need to do by next Monday, the day we're taping our special best and worst of 2006 and Academy Awards preview shows. That list looks awfully long. Discovering that the templates for these shows have been lost made me want to scream. I have enough to do without rebuilding the rundowns for programs we tape once a year.

I just need to tell myself that I'll get everything done and things will slow down after next Monday. I'm not sure I believe that my schedule will ease up, but if it gets me through the upcoming week, great. And what is this rash on my hand, and when did it appear? Seriously, I noticed it this afternoon and have no idea why it's there.

OK, that's the last you'll hear me complain about life in perpetual motion for awhile. I need to do it, but I know it's not very interesting for you and not very becoming of me. I shouldn't feel I have to apologize for it here of all places but I do.

During the holidays I noticed that when I moaned to my parents about how busy I had been and would be, their response could be summed up as, "It could be worse." I have a job. I have my health. Quit complaining. (Give my parents some credit. They weren't as harsh as that sounds.) It's one of those messages I'm sure I've internalized over time. While I imagine that the intent was to emphasize appreciation for what I have or not feeling sorry for myself, in practice it sounds like my problems aren't important. To be clear, I've never felt that directly, but it would explain why I sometimes feel like the complaining I do is unwarranted. Sometimes that may be true. I'll just blame it on the self-denial mindset lingering in my German ancestry.

In the comments to yesterday's post, Jennifer hoped that I wouldn't frog all of the scarf currently on the needles unless I wasn't happy with the width. She has the right instinct. I haven't done anything with it today, but I should probably practice frogging just a few rows instead of everything. If I don't get it, no problem. I think ripping it out is the best course of action, but this way maybe I can get the hang of something that I don't think I can do. When Kristin first told me about frogging, I thought it sounded horrible. Guess I got over that.

For all I know, my hang-up on the scarf's width might not be that big of a deal. After all, if I hadn't messed up, I'd still be knitting it at the current width. I'll see Kristin at a screening in the morning, so I've decided to leave the scarf alone for now and get a second opinion.

The sidebar will be seeing a few changes in the near future. I'll add some links. I've already added an e-mail address. If I'm feeling adventurous, perhaps I'll take the new Blogger template redesign tools for a spin.

If you're in need of a laugh, you might find one in an alleged humor piece I wrote for Kristin's site. I'll warn you, it's terribly nerdy stuff about punctuation and film titles. Now that you know what to expect, take a look at the newly published Hollywood to Blame for Punctuation Crisis and let me know what you think...unless you hate it. If you're eager for more, there's also The Disclaimer, which is even more conceptual and questionably humorous. It's dry, so I promise you won't hurt yourself from laughing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Coming undone

First of all, thanks to everyone for your comments about my first time knitting alone in public. I want to follow up with some additional thoughts about it, but today's events changed that plan.

As much as I didn't want to work all weekend, I knew it was necessary to keep on top of everything. Yesterday I had to be at the game we were taping, so today was to be writing day. I had to write up my worst films of 2006, which I've published on my film blog; the honorable mentions, a bulky list that would have taken less time if I would have been more selective; and my top ten, which I still need to write.

I hate doing these recaps because it's a good example of my writing at its worst. It's lazy and clichéd. Anything that reads like there was thought put into it was probably clipped from my old reviews. Unfortunately, I don't have reviews for everything, thus my problems thinking of comments for films like V for Vendetta. I saw it in March, don't remember what I said about it, and don't have any notes to work from.

So, even though I got a fair amount done today, there was a lot of wasted time staring at the computer with nothing coming to mind. One thing I did remember was that I also have to prep the Academy Awards preview show. Maybe I didn't get as much done as I thought.

I was in need of a break. Newly emboldened to knit in public, I decided to go to a Starbuck's where I thought I wouldn't run into any students. (I have no special loyalty to the coffee chain. There's just plenty of them around.) Since it was snowing, fewer people were out and about. I was a little disappointed. If I was going to go to the trouble of testing my mettle and knitting alone in public, the least everyone could do was make it worth my time.

I ordered a mocha and a toffee almond bar--neither of which were that great--and found a comfortable chair in the corner. Only two customers were in Starbuck's, and my spot was shielded from the baristas. It's probably just as well because I regret to tell you that the whole thing was a disaster. Not the alone in public part, the knitting part.

While I've been working on the ribbed scarf the needle has slid out of my last two stitches on a few occasions. I've saved it every other time but not this one. On the first row I was knitting, one of those loops got pulled through the stitch below it. When this has happened before, I've frogged everything. Since I've ripped out this scarf six times already and have about a foot knitted, that was not a desirable option. I improvised and pulled out a crochet hook. I pulled the loop back through where I thought it was supposed to be and purled the last two stitches. It didn't look quite right, but what else was I going to do?

I knitted 22 stitches on the next row and could see that something wasn't looking right back where I feared I had made a major mistake. I was sure I had dropped a stitch or something. I know how to undo knit stitches. It follows that you would do the reverse for purl stitches. I tried that, yet the yarn was not where it should be. I transferred the two stitches I'd just undone to the right needle, which let me move the yarn to the proper position, and put the stitches back on the left needle. Unbelievable. By accident I think I did what I needed to do.

I worked back to the trouble spot and hoped for the best. Again, it didn't look right. Maybe it's because the loops were really big, but I'm not sure. Mad at myself for a careless mistake and for what had proven to be a wasted trip, I packed my knitting and returned home.

What do I do now? I'm afraid I know the answer, although I haven't taken any rash actions this evening. On one hand, I could remove the needle, rip out a few rows, and reinsert the needle. I have zero confidence that I can do this, and even if I get the needle in without pulling out other stitches, I'm not sure I'll have the loops facing the right direction.

No, I'm afraid I'm going to have to frog this for the seventh time. On the bright side, frogging it means that I can cast on four more stitches and get the scarf closer to the width I want. (Yeah, I've been having some issues getting the desired gauge.) It's slightly crushing to start all over again, though. I'd already accepted that I was going to have to live with the scarf being narrower than I intended.

So Sunday turned out to be a bust for knitting. Forget getting the scarf done this weekend. Unless I pull out a miracle I'm back to square one again.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Knitting alone in public

I have knitted alone in public, and it did not kill me.

Before going to last night's Blue Jackets game, I had to make a stop at Hobby Lobby. Kristin tipped me off to a sale they were having. It sounded like a perfect opportunity to pick up something for a baby sweater, a project on my list of things to do. I found something really nice, but I'll reserve this story for a day when there aren't bigger fish to fry.

My yarn shopping almost put the kibosh on my intentions to knit alone in public. Why? If I had gone directly to the arena rather than visiting Hobby Lobby first, I would have arrived in plenty of time to assure myself of one of the 250 $10 tickets. I thought I was getting there early enough and was pleasantly surprised to pull into the parking garage and be charged just $3 standard parking than the $10 event parking. I've been offered the lower price before but had it raised when I asked if that was correct for those attending the game. Both times I was told that they thought I was working the game. I have no idea why they thought that, but this time I didn't protest and took what amounted to an early bird discount.

Around 4:30 I took my place in the line, which extended out of the box office and halfway between the arena and Nationwide Boulevard. I was glad to have my scarf and gloves, but I need to knit a hat soon. It was quite chilly outside. I felt confident that I would be able to get a cheap seat, but as I got closer, I began to wonder. Wouldn't you know it, with one person in front of me, the monitor listing the $10 seats was changed to read "sold out".

One of the few benefits of attending a game or concert by yourself is that you can often find somewhere to squeeze in where couples and groups can't. Sure enough, I got a cheap seat despite the sign stating that no more were available. I bet it was one of the last ones sold.

I walked nearby to Chipotle for some supper and then headed to Starbuck's for my first time knitting in public all by myself. As I got closer to the coffee shop, I saw a crowd outside and a sizable contingent of hockey fans inside. There was a line at least fifteen people long waiting to order and nowhere to sit. The game was sold out, and the visiting Buffalo Sabres, who possess the second best record in the NHL, brought out a lot of supporters. They were milling around the Arena District. Painted faces and coordinated cheers were common. In fact, you would have thought we were in New York from the number of Sabres fans waiting to get into the arena. Ordinarily I would have had no problem setting up shop in Starbuck's, but it was not to be this night.

I camped out in front of the arena and unsnapped the clasps on my bag so security could make sure I wasn't bringing in any weapons or bottled beverages. I left my scissors at home as I thought they might present a problem. It turns out that security didn't even look inside the bag. The guard patted it down quickly and seemed more concerned that I open my coat.

I took the ride up the escalator and the walk to the opposite end of the arena before taking my seat in the center end section's top row. There were two seats to my left and twenty-six to my right, so I was in a good position to feel inconspicuous. I'd hardly had time to get situated when a father and son, Buffalo fans no less, sat down beside me on the left.

It would have been very easy for me to use this as an excuse to abandon my knitting alone in public plan. I think a big part of the reason why I said something to Kristin was because I needed her confidence and reassurance to boost my confidence and comfort level. And believe it or not, posting about my public knitting intentions made me feel obligated to those of you reading.

One thing I learned last year was how important it is to have others to lean on when you need it, even if in this case that moral support was mostly from people I've never met and who probably hadn't even read of my plans until after I had gone through with them. I guess that's one of the reasons why knowing that people are praying for you can be so powerful. The awareness that others care is what matters, not what prayers can or cannot accomplish in measurable terms. I felt like you'd have my back, and I owed it to you to follow through. I suppose that sounds like a strange thing to say, but self-consciousness, which is ultimately what feeds my knitting alone in public hang-ups, is similar. The difference is that it puts forward mental images projecting negative outcomes.

Without any fanfare, I opened my messenger bag, pulled out the needles, and began knitting Donna's scarf. I wasn't nervous. The father and son didn't freak out or burst into laughter. In fact, the boy asked me if I liked crocheting. I explained that I was knitting, talked a little about why I was doing it, and said that I did enjoy it. He said that his mom crocheted. The father asked what I was making. Neither acted like I was weird.

You can't imagine what a tremendous relief this was. I think some people further down the row may have been wondering what was going on, but I was locked on what I was doing and didn't notice anyone else. I lucked out in who was sitting next to me. If I had my row neighbors from the last game I attended, it might have been a different story.

The seat to my right was unoccupied all night, meaning I had enough room to work during the intermissions. (One trade-off of sitting in the nosebleed section is that the seats are narrower and closer together.) Yes, I also knitted during the two intermissions. I did not knit during the game, for obvious reasons. The father and I talked off and on during the game and while I was knitting. We talked about sports and a little about work. He's employed at a prison, so he's probably seen odder things than a guy knitting at a pro hockey game.

My section was full of Buffalo fans. Considering the Sabres' record and the Blue Jackets' inconsistency, it could have been a long night. Just as surprising as my stress-free public knitting was the Jackets' 3-2 win. Being around all those opposing fans became a lot sweeter at the game's conclusion.

I've been greatly impressed with how quickly traffic is dispersed from the parking garage after these games, and last night was no different. I even got waved out an exit in the garage that let me bypass a large number of vehicles. Within twelve minutes of reaching my car I was on the interstate and on the way home. I've been trying to tell myself that this is a new year, and it's going to be a lot better. Nights like this one help build a convincing argument for this being my year.

The kicker to all of this is that I frogged everything I did. The scarf wasn't wide enough. I cast on twice as many stitches (32) and started over. That seemed like too many, so I frogged it again--the fourth time--and tried 24. I knitted just a few rows. Nope, that looks wider than I want. I cast on 20 and knitted a few inches. Again, the width was too narrow once I had knitted a swatch. That's right, I frogged it this evening and cast on 24 stitches. Something wasn't looking right on a corner, so rrrrrrip. Six froggings later, I'm happy with it.

I want to get a sizable chunk of work done on Sunday, but if I need to get out of the apartment, I might try knitting alone in public again. I'm not sure where I might go. I'd prefer a place where there's less of a chance that I'll be recognized. I am not a celebrity by any standard, but having a TV show for ten-plus years in this community means that I am noticed by strangers at the grocery store and other places on a regular basis.

I must say that it's nice to discover what I'm capable of doing. I never would have thought I'd be interested in knitting, and I certainly never thought I'd sit at a professional sporting event by myself and do it. I can't promise I've conquered my self-consciousness about it, but last night felt like a turning point. I hope it makes you feel as good as it makes me feel.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Here goes nothing

Wish me luck. Unless I chicken out, tonight I'm going to engage in some solo knitting in public.

I'm going to the Blue Jackets game this evening to reward myself for a productive week. (I've written five movie reviews, approximately 600-700 words each. For me that's unheard of.) It will also be something fun to do before what will be a working weekend of pain. Since I'm trying to get the cheap seats, I'll have plenty of time to kill between the tickets' 5:00 p.m. availability and the 7:00 p.m. start. I'll grab something to eat, which won't take more than a half hour, and then have nothing to do.

Except I have something to do. After a second frogging, more website consultations, Donna's insight in the comments, and the thumbs up from Kristin, the ribbed scarf is back on track. I'm feeling bold enough that I plan on using that free time to work on the scarf. There's a Starbuck's next to the arena, so I'll probably knit in there and nurse a coffee.

If I'm really feeling brave, I may knit while in the cheap seats before the game. The arena opens an hour before the puck drops. If by oneself, which I will be, there isn't much to do from when the doors open until the opening faceoff. We'll see.

Kristin reassured me that nobody will make fun of me. I'm glad she's confident, and it helps boost my confidence. Nevertheless, the old insecurity is trying to shake my desire to do what I want, but for the time being I think I can shove it down enough. This ought to be interesting.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Poked in the ribs

The first of two scarves headed for Arkansas is finished. The second has already been frogged once.

There's no way to write about this without revealing what I'm doing. Oh well. I thought I'd try knitting a ribbed scarf. See, I told you it isn't anything complicated.

Or isn't it? I know what ribs look like. My second coffee cup cozy is supposed to have them, although I don't really see them. They're a little more visible on the inside--yeah, I think I have the "right" side on the inside--but they don't line up, probably from the decreasing. Kristin has told me what to do, and I've looked it up online. I knitted an inch of Donna's scarf and didn't think it looked like any ribs were there.

The gauge wasn't right on my first attempt anyway, so frogging it was no big deal. Still, I think I'm doing it properly by alternating k2, p2, so the fact that it isn't turning out the way it should frustrates me. I'll give it another go tonight and see what happens. (Note to Donna: if you're thinking, "Blecch, a ribbed scarf," do me a favor and tell me. I'll make something else.)

I haven't suffered any knitting setbacks for awhile, so I had been thinking I might be able to finish this scarf by the end of the weekend. Now I see that fulfilling such high hopes will depend on if I figure out ribbing. More critical is if I will have any time to knit. As productive as I feel I've been this week, I'm looking at a mountain of work that needs to be completed by February 5, to say nothing of packing up my apartment. I've decided I should work all weekend. This is A Bad Decision in many ways, but if I can get to Monday feeling like I'm through the worst, perhaps I'll feel better. I have to work six hours Saturday as it is, although I can't use any of that time for the writing and editing I need to do for the special shows coming up.

The most aggravating thing is that I've been setting calendar markers and doing a good job of staying on top of things. Yet once I pass one of those points it's as though I discover that I was looking at only a quarter of what I need to do. It happens again and again.

Working all weekend doesn't fit in with my last resolution unless it's in a roundabout interpretation of it. (I'm taking better care of myself by getting that weight off my shoulders.) I've been taking vitamin C and a multivitamin every day, which I haven't done since I was a kid, so that's something. I know I'm due to get terribly sick, but I've fended it far.

I'm glad everyone thought my stash looked cute in its little container. I'm up for any recommendations you have for smaller projects that can use up scrap yarn.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Crash and stash

This morning I glanced at the front page of the paper and thought I must be looking at an old one. The Oscar nominations were announced a few days ago, right? No, that was yesterday.

Now, you might grant me such a mistake seeing as talk of who would be nominated for the Academy Awards has been going on since September or the beginning of creation, whichever came first. Needless to say, the blurring of time continues.

After another screening of another horrid film, I returned home last night for the daily ritual of fulminating in my car about my parking space being taken. I've given up on fighting that aggravation and counter it with exasperated muttering to myself while I drive to the city lot.

I settled in to watch some TV and knit. I made it through American Idol, meaning I watched it all and endured it. I have reservations about comedy based in humiliation and cruelty, but I confess to getting some satisfaction when the judges take the wind out of some contestants' sails. Jung would say such a response comes from the shadow self. Maybe. Or it could be that by now I expect anyone going on there ought to know what they're in for and are desperate for a fleeting moment of fame, even if it means being the butt of the joke. The entertainment of wretched singing and dancing can be a slog, though. This audition show was only an hour, but it was the fifth hour, plus two more tonight. It gets old after awhile. Onto Hollywood and the real competition, say I.

I thought about watching Veronica Mars, which fills the spot where I had a childhood love of Encyclopedia Brown and Agatha Christie books (honestly), but I have to be an active viewer during it. Since I didn't want to stop knitting, I turned off the TV and listened to The Shins' new album instead. My one-listen verdict: good but nothing spectacular.

I should finish Noel's scarf tonight, which means I'll be ready to begin Donna's. I'm going to try something I haven't done before. Nothing complicated, at least I hope not, but something that will provide a small challenge. As with the other scarf I just finished, I'm going to avoid posting photographs until they've reached their intended recipients so as to leave an element of surprise intact.

In lieu of WIP and FO pictures, here's a view of my stash in its 15 quart container. (It's just the start, isn't it?) That mess of dark blue yarn on the righthand side has some nasty knots in it that make it unusable until or if I can untangle it. The yellow yarn you might recognize from my practice piece. Perhaps I should work with it before diving into my plans for Donna's scarf, but what fun would that be?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


I have blogged nineteen out of the month's twenty-three days.

This is a cheap one. I've got nothing today.

I thought about posting a picture of my stash in its container, but I didn't like the way the photos turned out. I considered piggybacking on what Donna wrote about being in the public eye, even in a very small way but nixed it on the grounds that it would come off as self-aggrandizement.

Thanks for coming by, though. Sorry I couldn't be Have a great day.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Favorite Color Swap

Ruth let me know about a favorite color swap she's participating in and invited me to play along if I wished. Why not? It's secret, I'm secret. It should be fun, right? I believe I have used this space to profess my love for mail. (If not, here you go: I love getting mail.) I couldn't turn down the opportunity in which someone would be obligated to send me some. My neighbors may steal my newspaper and parking space, but they've left my mail alone, as far as I know. The most troublesome ones can't be bothered to take their own--seriously, they leave their lockable mailbox open and don't even remove what's in it for days--so I think I should be okay if there's a package in front of my door.

My biggest concern is selecting something too common to send. I assume that I shouldn't go to Joann's and pick something from their shelves. Everyone is supposed to get a questionnaire to assist with shopping for their secret pal, so we'll see what happens. If you'd like to take part in it, you can sign up until January 31. Just follow the link in the first paragraph or, you know what, here it is again.

I'm not a proud teacher, but I feel like one. Consider me a proud friend then. Donna has posted a photo of her first UFO. It looks like she's doing a fantastic job with her first scarf. How exciting!

As for my own knitting, I'm discovering that gauge makes a big difference, especially in regard to how fast I knit. My last FO was made with US 10s. I wouldn't say that it took a long time to knit, but the scarf I started on 11s yesterday will be done in a flash. On Sunday I zipped through the 50 gram balls of worsted weight yarn I'm double wrapping. That's right, I knitted 33" and am halfway done.

I don't know that I knitted for an exceptionally long stretch. It just sort of happened. I really like the color and texture of the Knit Picks yarn I'm using, so maybe I'm faster if using yarn that's more pleasing to look at and feel. Do two needle sizes up make that much of a difference?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Everyday is like Sunday

Winter has been pretty mild so far. Some light snow fell on Friday, but there was no evidence of it by midday. More powder fell today. The temperature is low enough that it's stuck around, as you can see from this late afternoon photograph I took. I'm not accustomed to a lot of snow, but the reactions of locals never fail to crack me up when a little of the white stuff falls. You'd think a blizzard hit every time a few flakes drop. Reports claimed we received three inches, which might have been a problem around here if the snow was wet and heavy. The roads looked fine. I trudged through the snow to get to church and saw that attendance was down significantly. If it had been a school day, I suppose some would have been calling for cancellations.

Although I'm eager to move, I've always appreciated the convenience of where I live. I can walk to work. The library, some restaurants, and the car mechanic's shop are all within a few easy blocks on foot. So was my dentist until the office moved to a bigger place about a year ago. There's even a record store, which I'll visit if there's something I want that may be harder to find elsewhere. (The internet takes a lot of the trouble out of these searches, but I got out of the habit of going to it because the longtime first owner lived up to the stereotype of the independent record store owner. He tended to look down his nose at whatever you bought.) It's a little like a small town--I grew up in a village of 700--although with the advantages of being in the biggest suburb of Columbus.

Apparently there used to a three-story fabric or craft store within a block of where I live. Talk about being unaware of your surroundings. It has since been replaced by a pub--a big deal since alcohol hadn't been legally served here for 127 years (although the pub was not the first place to do it). I probably went by the place every day, but I never paid much attention to it because what use would I have for yarn.

While my collegiate neighbors enjoyed their late night with gusto, I mostly blocked them out with an iPod--David Bowie got the spins--and finishing the scarf for Levi, who was the first to publish any of my writing online. There's nothing remarkable about this scarf. It's all in garter stitch, although I knitted it on US 10s, which is a smaller gauge than I've usually used. Originally I was going to do it in blocks with two different shades of green. I couldn't find what I wanted, and I knew that with my current fidgetiness, I wouldn't be in any mood to sew in all of those ends. He'll have to settle for a single color. The only difference with this scarf is that I was able to refrain from counting the number of stitches after knitting every row.

Today I started a scarf for Donna's husband Noel, and hers won't be far behind. (I'm kicking around a couple ideas for it, so that's why she isn't up first.) I love the feel of the yarn. I want to begin another dishcloth but haven't found the right pattern. Since I'm using Lily's Sugar 'n Cream, I thought I'd find something on the Lily page, but that website must not have enough hamsters on wheels to power it. Very slow loading over there. If you have any recommendations, send 'em my way.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Knitting for the time-challenged

Not being able to find enough time to knit seems to be a common lament among knitbloggers. I confess, I didn't understand. After all, I found time to knit in the thick of perpetual motion December, and if I could do that with my insane schedule, what's everybody else's problem?

I get it now. I'm as excited about knitting as ever, so it's not for lack of interest. Things have slowed down a little with work and work-related activities, but I feel like I'm having difficulty finding time to knit. Is it the lack of deadlines? As much as deadlines stress me out, they provide excellent motivation. (Donna, what was it you said the other day? Deadlines give us permission to quit?) I charged through December determined to get all of my Christmas gifts finished in time. I succeeded, although I sacrificed a fair share of sleep, something I'm smart enough to know I can't do right now. True, I'm not getting enough rest, but it's more than last month.

And maybe that's it. I cast aside hours I should have been sleeping--hours I picked up over those of you struggling to find the time--for knitting. Come to think of it, I'm not sure that work has slowed down a little, just my perception that it had because certain major tasks were out of the way. So it's gotta be the sleep, but deadline-free knitting is a contributing factor. Anyway, I can empathize with the time-challenged knitters.

A distant deadline wasn't an issue in something I did today that all of you--or the American readers--are going to hate me for. I finished and submitted my federal and state tax returns. (I haven't been able to get a form for the city return yet.) Granted, my returns are pretty simple to calculate, I use free e-filing to expedite the process, and I'm getting a refund. Still, this is a hassle I like having out of the way. My one tax tip: be sure to grab the telephone tax refund. I probably would have missed it if did my federal return by hand.

So, some money is on the way, and some "money" arrived in the mail today. That's right, I received the $150 Best Buy gift card I won playing McDonald's online Monopoly game. Sending in the winning piece and paperwork was one of those things I almost forgot in the December rush. Kudos to the fast food giant's prize redemption center. The turnaround time was shy of a month, which isn't bad considering how long companies take to send rebate checks, if they ever send them.

I read somewhere that businesses like gift cards because they entice recipients to spend more than the balance. I can see why. I've been wanting a laptop for awhile, so it's tempting to apply the prize and some refund money toward one. The good thing is I'm in no rush, and I'm not wild about bringing more stuff home with a future moving date awaiting.

I took another minor step toward that move by purchasing some plastic storage tubs. Target had them on sale, so I figured I ought to get a few in case I get the urge to tackle the junk stacked in my spare room. I also bought a smaller one for my scrap yarn, which is currently stashed in a cardboard box. I'm afraid that it won't all fit in the 15 quart container, but it's a starting point. At least I'll feel a bit more organized.

The scarf I'm currently knitting is about 75% finished. If I can keep my eyes open long enough, I may complete it tonight. Then I can dig into my new Knit Picks yarn. OK, enough blogging. It's knitting time.

Friday, January 19, 2007

In search of...

The Great Apartment Search moved from online research to location visits today. My lease doesn't run out until the end of May, so depending how much resistance I get from my landlord, I may not be able to move until June 1. I'm hoping he'll be understanding about the situation with my lousy neighbors, but his reaction is the big question mark for now.

So that I don't stir up any potential trouble, I'm not going to say anything to him until I feel I'm sufficiently packed and capable of moving. Chances are he will only be losing me a month or two early, about the time that the college students will be looking for housing for summer and the following school year, so I'm crossing my fingers that he'll release me from the contract. I don't see anything in it that penalizes me for breaking it, but I'm no legal expert. If I have to suck up living here for the duration of the lease, then that's what I'll have to do. I'm praying I won't.

I haven't seriously looked for a new place to live in a long time. There's more easily accessible information for prospective renters now, but what's out there can be incomplete and, frankly, overwhelming. I've looked at a lot of internet apartment guides and management sites. Most do not impress. Photos of the leasing offices are not helpful. Prices vary from site to site, and square footage may not be listed.

Visiting apartment rating sites are like negotiating minefields. It was very discouraging to read the comments. According to the anonymous raters, everywhere was terrible. I think it's fair to assume that those most likely to bother rating apartments are also the same people with axes to grind. If you're happy where you're living, why would you go online to rate it? Still, I couldn't help feeling like I didn't know what to do.

Kristin knows I am looking for a new place to live. She suggested a couple complexes she's driven by and thought might be good for me. She also offered to go along when I looked at some places if I wanted. If you ask me, that is friendship. Kristin had no obligation to help me in this way, but I really appreciated her support.

She found two very promising places. I couldn't dig up any black marks against them online, and the management's website was more polished than the others I've come across. We took a look at both of them as well as another place nearby that piqued my interest during my apartment guide trolling. Kristin's input and observations were helpful in processing all the information. I prefer one place over the other, but I feel confident that either of my top two choices are excellent options. While I'm no closer to moving than I was before the day began, it's a relief to have identified where I would like to be.

In knitting developments, my Knit Picks order arrived. Hooray! Scarves for Donna and her husband just got a step closer to becoming reality. Also, I have the yarn to make myself a hat. Next I need to find a pattern and be pointed in the right direction for knitting something that isn't a rectangle.

Thanks to everyone for the discussion about knitting for yourself versus knitting for others. First and foremost, this statistically insignificant sample size suggests that knitters are generous. Shock of shocks.

For those of you who have trouble knitting for yourselves, I give you permission. For Donna, who doesn't think she's good enough yet to give away her creations, I'm sure you're doing fine. Even if your projects aren't perfect--and trust me, my first few weren't--how can the recipients not be touched by the thought, effort, and time you dedicated to doing something for them?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

For whom the knitter toils

Karen asked why she doesn't knit for herself.

I've been stuck for a topic today, and this sounds like a good one. I have knit for myself, but it wasn't until I made twelve scarves. I'm back to work on projects for others and don't have a clear start time for the next item for me. The thing is, it doesn't bother me. If you've been reading since December, you probably came across times when I talked about how knitting put me in the Christmas spirit. I wanted to give and was unconcerned with getting anything. Why, though?

Is it because for me the satisfaction is in the making and the giving? If that's true, can such actions really be considered generous or selfless? Thinking about it is enough to make my head hurt.

I can't say for certain, but if I were to hazard a guess, the scarves I knitted and gave as gifts meant more to me than they did to most of the people who received them. I may have mentioned this before too, so pardon me if I'm repeating myself... The Christmas episode from The Office's second season has Phyllis giving Michael a knitted oven mitt for their secret Santa gift exchange. Taken at face value, that seems like a lame present. As a knitter, I now see it differently. Sure, an oven mitt isn't an iPod--the hot gift in the show's secret Santa turned nasty Christmas/yankee swap--but think of all the time and effort that went into making it. Regarding gifts, it sounds trite to say that it's the thought that counts, but when you're knitting something for someone, isn't that true?

I want to knit things for myself. I've made two scarves, and I plan to keep the dishcloth and coffee cup cozies I've finished in the last couple days. I want to make a hat for my premature male pattern balding head, and I'd like to get a sweater done before the weather turns warm again. But the projects I'm chomping at the bit to start aren't for me.

Ugh. I feel like I'm all over the map on this and don't feel like I'm any closer to an answer. Does knitting make one a giving person, or are giving people attracted to knitting?

What do you say? Would you rather knit for yourself or someone else? Why?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Jazzy coffee cup cozy x 2

Kristin's Jazzy Coffee Cup Cozy

Yarn: Bernat Satin (100% acrylic; worsted weight)
Color: Admiral and Silk
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 50

See how fast you can knit one of these? Unlike the one I showed you yesterday, this one has ribs or something approximating them. What a difference an even number of stitches makes. While binding off I lost a stitch because I pulled a little too hard. There was no way of getting it back, so I increased, or that's what I attempted to do, and hoped for the best. It seemed to work. The seam isn't as thick where I sewed this one together, so I'm pleased about that.

Really, though, I'm still amazed that I'm able to knit. I don't think anybody else who knows can believe it. The last time I talked to my mom she asked if I was still knitting. I don't know why she thought I might not be, but I let her know that I continue to get a lot of satisfaction from it. A couple friends who know the secret seem bored if the subject comes up, which is understandable. Their "loss" is your gain because I have to have somewhere to put my knitting talk.

This evening brought some knitting in public, the first time in awhile for me. Kristin invited me to watch her husband Paul play rec league hockey. After the screening of Letters from Iwo Jima--an austere, well-made film that's a step above Clint Eastwood's snoozer Flags of Our Fathers...but enough with the war movies, please--we made the hop, skip, and a jump to The Chiller for the game. It was fun to knit, talk, and watch the action on the ice. She finished a dishcloth, and I worked on a scarf. Good news: Paul scored a goal in the 9-2 win.

There were only two other people watching the game, and those women kept their distance from us. I doubt it had anything to do with the knitting. I can't say I paid any attention to them anyway. I didn't feel strange, but then again, I've always felt comfortable knitting with Kristin. It's the knitting in public on my own that will be the test.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Three handy FOs

Kristin's Jazzy Coffee Cup Cozy

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Color: 05 (green)
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 49

Today's been a pretty good day, and I have FOs to show!

Kristin adapted her Jazzy Coffee Cup Cozy design for two needles, although as we discovered, I needed to add two stitches, not one, to the pattern she wrote for knitting on circular needles. My cozy doesn't have ribs--it's sort of in seed stitch--but it functions well enough. (Since she was trying to guide me through the conversion to two needles via e-mail, she also had me k2tog rather than ssk.) I have plenty of scrap yarn in my stash, so I'll up the stitches to 50 next time and see what I get.

This was the first time I used US 7s and metal needles. Yesterday afternoon I went to Joann's to take advantage of their 50% off coupon. Rather than buy some plastic US 7s, which are too long for my messenger bag, I chose a value pack that had shorter metal 5s, 6s, and 7s. In the end, it cost me about what the plastic 7s would have been without the coupon. The last few stitches slipped off the needle a couple times, but other than that, knitting with metal needles wasn't any different. Plus, they make a pleasant clicking sound.

It took me about two hours to knit the cozy, and that's with breaks to check e-mail and shake off some early evening drowsiness. How satisfying to be able to knit something quickly.

Rather than return to the scarf, I decided the time was right to face the dishcloth. I've worked on it in fits and starts since December 26. It's been frogged at least twice, and I ran the risk of accidentally ripping out a lot of it last night. I knit best when my mind is clear. It's probably why I'm faster while listening to music than having the TV on.

Unfortunately, a clear mind isn't ideal for keeping track of rows. I knew I needed to undo two rows of k1p1, but I wasn't feeling patient enough for that. I removed the needle, carefully frogged two rows, and tried to reinsert the needle. I ripped out a stitch that I didn't intend to frog, so there went another row. Fortunately, I figured out how to keep from losing any more.


Yarn: Lion Cotton (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Color: Natural
Needles: US 8s
Stitches: 32

The pattern says that this is a simple seed stitch, but Kristin confirmed for me that that isn't what's going on here. It's more like a check pattern. This dishcloth has its share of mistakes. There are times where I lost track of what row I was on, holes that I assume are from knitting too loosely, and what looks to be some unevenness in width. I usually count stitches on every row, but I didn't for this. I dropped a stitch in reinserting the needle but recognized it when I approached it. Come to think of it, I think I decreased in that row when I should have increased. I found the dropped stitch and knitted it, so I decreased on the next row too. Maybe that's the explanation.

The nice thing is that it doesn't really matter. It's just a dishcloth, and it was good practice. After this and the coffee cup cozy, I feel better about my purling.

It's been a week since I finished my last scarf, so here it is at last.

FO #1 (2007)

Yarn: Knit Picks Sierra (70% wool, 30% superfine alpaca; bulky)
Color: Leaf
Needles: US 10 1/2s
Stitches: 14

Ugh. I was due to have a picture of me I'm not thrilled with. Call it vanity or insecurity or some confused mixture of both. Anyway, I'm very happy with the scarf. It turned a lot colder today, so it was very handy to have. A student complimented it and asked if someone made it for me. Why yes, someone did, as I cagily answered and dodged the question, allowing me to remain the secret knitter at work.

Kristin's been quiet of late on her blog and in the comments here, but I can report that she is very much alive. Like me, she's trying to get back to a semi-normal routine after the last couple months. Hopefully she'll post some photos of her recent work soon. At today's screening she wore a great sweater she designed and knitted herself. It's along the lines of something that would probably be good for my first attempt at a sweater, but if this cold keeps up, I better worry about a hat first.

Monday, January 15, 2007


So that's what a weekend is...

It's felt like such a long time since I've had two days when I haven't done anything. I can't say that I'm fully recovered from the mid-November to mid-January insanity, but I feel as though I've rebounded some. "Take better care of myself" was one of my new year's resolutions. These past two days of sleeping, knitting, and watching TV were an integral part of that.

Although the reviews I needed to write for Tuesday's show were on my mind, I told myself that I wasn't going to work on them until today. Yes, doing so means I'm working on the holiday, but there's no way I could write them tomorrow. I finished them early this afternoon, which means I have the rest of the day to enjoy without deadline pressure.

One of the rare ventures outside my apartment was a trip to Joann's for some yarn. I found some Wool-Ease on sale that I'm using to make a scarf for a friend who runs the site where I published my first reviews online. Sugar 'n Cream was on sale, so I bought a ball of the variegated blue cotton for other dishcloths. It might seem silly to get more when I haven't finished my first, but I think part of the reason why I've stalled on the dishcloth is that the cream color doesn't interest me.

While I was staring vacantly at the wall of knitting tools in search of a retractable tape measure, an older woman asked if I knitted the scarf I was wearing. I told her that I had, and we talked a little bit about knitting. I must say that this is one of the unexpected bonuses about knitting. Not striking up conversations with old ladies, not that there's anything wrong with that, but feeling like part of a community.

In the comments to my last post, Ruth wrote that she was catching up with the blog. (That's not an easy thing to do considering my prolific posting.) She said, "'Real' life got in the way, though sometimes I think life on-line is more genuine in its interactions than life 'out there'." I understand what she means. Having people visit here and post comments and doing the same on their blogs does have a realness even if it isn't "real". It feels like a little circle, even if I've only ever met three people who I know are reading this site. (Hashing this all out is probably the issue of the time for the great thinkers.)

In most cases I think it's a good thing. I don't know about you, but I could always use more friends. Sure, this is a lot different than interacting with people on a face to face basis, but it's nice to know that there are other people who share an interest and are interested in what's going on. Knitters seem to have a bond, although before I paint too rosy of a picture, I should point out that Kristin has told me some horror stories from her yarn store experiences.

I knitted about two feet of a scarf this weekend and made some progress on the dishcloth. I think I've finally got the hang of purling to where I don't feel as annoyed by it. I was hoping to finish it today, but last night I lost track of my rows and need to undo two rows--64 stitches--in k1p1. I was tempted to leave it, but the perfectionist in me knows that I can't.

Kristin has hooked me up with a way to make her Jazzy Coffee Cup Cozy on two needles rather than circs, so I plan on working on it today. In fact, it's time to step away from the computer for awhile and get to some knitting.

National De-Lurking Week is over, but the comments are always open. Also, I've amended my last post to include the direct link for the podcast I recorded on Friday. Or you could just click on the link in the previous sentence.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Party time

The secret knitter is one tired guy. Happy, but tired.

Last night brought the end of awards season as far as my direct involvement in it is concerned. Our critics group awards were announced, first to the bulk of the membership at a restaurant in downtown Columbus and then to the rest of the world via press release. (Here are the winners.) Thursday was a long day because of what I needed to prepare, which included the release, e-mail lists, and envelopes for our evening gathering. Lest you think it was very swanky, let it be known that I used long security envelopes, plenty of which I had on hand, not something with a nice shiny interior.

Although things got off to a rough start--the place wasn't entirely sure how to situate the twenty or so of us--it worked out fine. I had forgotten to eat lunch and didn't have time for it anyway, so I was starving. The dilemma was my total inability to make a decision. I stared at the menu and couldn't begin to figure out what I wanted. There's a sign that you're worn out.

Kristin, who was a big help with the whole process, assisted with announcing the winners. Dinners and beers were consumed, and conversation was had. As the laziest newspaper writer might type, a good time was had by all.

This photo from last night's shindig shows three-quarters of The Mod Squad, also known as #24 on The Archies-The Top 40 Things in the World (2006). I am on the left, Kristin is in the middle, and another Squad member is on the right.

Honestly, I couldn't be more pleased with how everything went. In the span of approximately three months the group became more organized, and an official website was launched. We handled our final voting through the site, which saved a lot of headaches and produced some interesting results. Film critics can keep to themselves, but after the whirlwind of awards season and especially after last night, I feel like we really are a group and that many of the critics know each other better. It's been a lot of work, but the time and effort were well spent.

I e-mailed press releases once I got home from the party and stayed up way too late as I tracked down forum discussions about our winners. The early opinions are very positive. Today I recorded a discussion about our awards for a podcast on a local alt-weekly's site. You can listen to it here. Do I sound how you expected I would?

I have to work tonight, but I should be able to collapse for the rest of the weekend and the Monday holiday. God knows I need it. I don't know if a couple days are enough recuperation time from my schedule's two month sprint, but it's a welcome sight. As long as taking it easy doesn't make me susceptible to all the sickness flying around here.

Thanks to all of those who have de-lurked so far for National De-Lurking Week. I haven't had time to comment because of awards stuff, but I'll get around to it. You too still have time to de-lurk. Post a comment, introduce yourself, etc. You'll feel better.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The life pursuit

Why knit? It would be less time-consuming and probably cheaper to buy a knitted item than do all the work oneself. Why write? It's not like the world has too few film critics, and very, very few people care about personal ramblings on a knitting blog of all things. Scott Gordon's interview with Ricky Gervais for The Onion A.V. Club has the British comedian giving an answer that works for me:
I think doing something creative is the most important thing to me, and I think it's probably just good for the soul for anyone, whatever it is. You don't have to be a film director—you can do gardening or something—but I think everyone needs to create something.
The sentiment is also at the heart of what Donna blogged about yesterday. Creating something feels good. You don't have to be making the greatest thing ever, or even something good, to enjoy the satisfaction and sense of accomplishment that comes with it. Donna relayed her first project progress in the comments to my post about schadenfreude and karma. She's knitted four inches. I understand how big of a deal that is. If this blog is anything, it's a daily exclamation of "I can't believe I did this, and I'm really excited about it".

I feel that knitting has changed me in some way inside, that the creative process involved has made me want to be more generous. It makes me more externally motivated whereas writing is first and foremost about me. Writing is leaning on the release valve to let out whatever is making me happy or sad. I feel honored that you're taking the time to read what I've written, a highly generous act on your part, but I suppose that I'd keep at it if no one were reading. (But don't go away!) Whether being creative means doing something for others or yourself, what makes it good for the soul is that you're doing something. I know I feel more creative--and, in turn, more alive--when I knit and write on a regular basis. Do you feel the same way?

With the best of intentions I led everyone to believe I'd have my seed stitch dishcloth to show off today. Sorry to disappoint you, but as you can see, I'm nowhere close to finishing. (I'm not sure if that's the right side or the wrong side of the dishcloth.) I took a nap when I got home from work and felt even less motivated to do anything after it. I needed a night like that, even if, in a familiar lament, I feel like I'm never going to get caught up.

I knitted briefly but didn't stick to it long. I was too unfocused. The pattern has four rows per repeat, but I couldn't keep track of them in my head. (I have two row counters, but they are either too small or too large for the needles.) I undid an entire knitted row that I'm fairly certain should have had alternating knit and purl stitches. After finishing a second repeat, I figured I ought to put down the needles until I'm not so scatterbrained.

Don't forget, it's National De-Lurking Week. Lurkers, poke your head into the comments and say hello, introduce yourself, etc. It's quick and painless, although I guess you have to register with Blogger if you want to comment with your name. I know there are some who find that intolerable, but consider it your good deed for the day.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Karma strikes back

First, Donna tipped me off to National De-Lurking Week. If you read but don't comment, please take the time to say hello and introduce yourself. It's nice to know that people are reading, and if you have a site of your own, I'd be happy to check it out. I'll even answer your burning questions about the secret knitter. Within reason, of course.

OK, with that public service announcement out of the way, here's today's entry...

Giddy over the football loss that rocked the city, it didn't take me long to pay my karmic debt for my schadenfreude, although it took a couple hours to notice. I was set to place an order with Knit Picks when I found that my debit card was not in my wallet. Strange. And then it hit me. I must not have taken it when I got cash from the ATM that morning.

I wasn't concerned that someone had stolen it. I made the same mistake several years ago, so I knew that these machines swallow cards if the owners leave them behind. Unfortunately, I also knew that the cards are shredded, or at least that's what bank officials have said.

I drove to the bank to get a replacement card and had confirmed what I expected. They could not give me a replacement there and then. It would come in the mail in five days. This is sort of a problem since I use a debit card for everything. I don't carry a lot of cash, and I haven't written any checks in a couple years. (Thank you online banking.) I can still get money, but I have to fill out a withdrawal slip and give it to a teller. I remember taking a class in high school in which it was speculated that financial transactions would become increasingly reliant on electronic payments rather than paper money and coins. I scoffed at the idea, but here I am doing exactly that.

So my order is on hold, which bums me out because I had hoped to have it in time for a lot of knitting over the weekend. I may have to buy some yarn at a store to give me something to work on, although what I would be knitting is to be determined.

I have finished the other scarf I was knitting for myself. Kristin, who has recovered from her holiday illness, intervened with the first parking garage knitting repair in awhile. She cleaned up the dropped stitch in the row I was binding off, which allowed me to finish the scarf in no time when I got home. I had enough yarn for a short tail, but I definitely cut it close. No picture yet. I'll get one up in the next day or two.

Tonight I'll work on the seed stitch dishcloth. If all goes well, maybe I'll have it to show you tomorrow.

Next...this teaser goes on hiatus except for when I know what I'll be writing about next.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Night on the Ghost Town

scha·den·freu·de Pronunciation[shahd-n-froi-duh] –noun
satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.

Forgive me for my fleeting moment of joy in the outcome of Monday night's college football championship. It is not happiness based in my team winning but satisfaction in the hometown team losing. And not just losing but getting the stuffing knocked out of them. I didn't imagine that Ohio State would lose, let alone get stomped, but that's what happened. Yes, I know I'm bad for relishing a loss that will send area residents into depression, but it's a little comeuppance for the smug attitudes and in-your-face fandom that has crossed from local pride and support into bullying. I'll be curious to find out in the morning if the riot police had their hands full in reaction to the game. Sadly, that's not a joke.

Believe it or not, but I used to be a fan. I probably still would be if I didn't live in the hothouse that is OSU football in Columbus, where fandom is more like being in a cult than having something fun to follow on fall Saturdays. I know, not all of the fans are itching for a fight if someone here dares to wear an opposing school's garments. Not all of them base interior decoration decisions on Ohio State's colors and schedule weddings around the games either. That doesn't matter. I reached my breaking point with all things Buckeyes because it seems to me that being a fan has been turned into a club to bludgeon those who aren't. Even if it's "teasing", particularly in relation to anything Michigan-related, much of it strikes me as hostile and unfriendly. Is it any wonder that a buckeye is a poisonous nut?

So that's why I'm feeling schadenfreude regarding the previously undefeated team's tumble in the only game that ended up mattering.

The mall was not a hot spot, which was precisely the reason I chose to go there. Other than those lonely workers manning their stores, there weren't many people there. I bought the latest copy of Entertainment Weekly--I really ought to renew my subscription--got orange-flavored chicken and mixed vegetables at Panda Express, had a small cafe au lait (a bad move on my part at night but oh well), and watched The Departed.

The coffee shop/lounge switched the in-house music to the game audio, but by that time I needed to get to the theater. Except for bored employees standing around, no one was in the lobby. Five people were in the auditorium for my film. I heard somebody yelling the O-H-I-O cheer in the hallway--nobody closed the doors to the auditorium--but that was the extent of my exposure to the game. The interstate was as barren as the mall, which made a short drive a tad faster.

I got home and was again perturbed that my parking spot was taken. I thought it was odd that the building seemed unusually quiet when I entered. I checked a sports site and was stunned to read that Florida was walloping Ohio State. Perhaps I could have stayed home after all, although it was sort of a relaxing night out anyway. I didn't think about work or my obnoxious neighbors but read about the upcoming season of American Idol--I got hooked last year--and saw a terrific movie.

I would have been free to knit in public without any embarrassment, but I'll have to do it some other time. I had the dishcloth in my bag, but I was content to read.

Speaking of knitting and embarrassment, a check of my site traffic log revealed that someone found this site by entering "embarrassed knitting" into Google. My first knitting lesson was the top search result. Let the record show that I am not embarrassed, although I am gunshy about sharing the secret with everyone. Knit Picks Sierra scarf.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Uh oh

So I was happily knitting last night and approaching the end of the second ball of yarn for my leaf green scarf when I did it. I made one big misjudgment and slipped up when I was binding off. Oh no.

My first problem was knitting one more row than I should have. I forgot that I had to bind off, so I thought I had enough yarn to do one more row. It wasn't a fatal mistake--I probably could have made it and had a very short tail--but it may have distracted me sufficiently to be responsible for what happened next. I was binding off when the right needle slipped out of my hand and the stitches slid off. I thought I found the correct stitch and put it back on the needle, but after binding off a couple more (and getting perilously close to running out of yarn), I could see that there was a spot where it looked like I dropped a stitch.

I know how to undo stitches, but I don't know how to undo this. On the bright side, I can take care of that row I shouldn't have knitted and have plenty of yarn for binding off, but I'm going to need some help. I went ahead and wove in the ends, so once I get this little disaster repaired, I should be done in no time. Still, it's aggravating to be this close to finishing and have to wait.

I'm not out of projects now--there's still that dishcloth--but I'm out of anything major to work on and out of yarn. I do have plenty of scraps, but I have nothing to do with them for the time being. Talk about a bad day to be without a project. Tonight is perfect for completing one of my new year's knitting resolutions: knit in public on my own. I'm in search of something to do this evening because I know that being at home is not an option, and almost anywhere I go is likely to be empty.

Why? The college football national championship will be played tonight, and this city will shut down. School board and city council meetings, high school athletic events, and practically all other goings-on have been cancelled or rescheduled so that everyone can watch the game. It is mass insanity on an even larger scale than what I wrote about in November. I have no desire to hear my apartment neighbors on all sides screaming for the three or so hours the game will take to play, so I'm planning to be out somewhere, hopefully where there aren't TVs with the game on.

Next...a night out on the ghost town.

Friday, January 05, 2007

From hank to ball


I'm relieved that my attempt to convert the hank of yarn into the ball pictured above wasn't as difficult as I expected. Why the hesitancy to do something that should be simple? Because I wasn't entirely sure what I was doing. It took me two tries. I held the hank apart with my knees and took one of the ends to begin the process of putting the yarn in a usable form.

The first attempt produced a cigar-shaped mass, which obviously wasn't right. I hadn't wrapped a lot, so unraveling it wasn't a big deal. I realized where I had gone wrong and began again. Making the metaphor literal, I dropped the ball a couple times, but it didn't go far. The ball isn't picture perfect, but it should be functional, which is the only thing that matters. So I'm finally ready to return to my green scarf. I plan to knit during the hockey game on TV tonight.

This was an off day in theory but not in execution. I headed out this morning to discover that a neighbor stole my newspaper again, one of those minor injustices that have stuck in my craw more and more in recent weeks. I went to see Little Children, which I thought was a well-made film with excellent performances from the entire cast. I'm not sure if I'm in a funk or what, but most of 2006's critically championed titles, the Todd Field film included, haven't bowled me over. Good, yes. Masterpiece, I don't think so.

My mistake was stopping at the office on the way home. Well, "mistake" isn't the right word as I attended to some awards work that I would have done at home anyway, but it was easier for me to peck away at stuff that needed to be completed, just not today, than if I wasn't in the office. Before I knew it, the afternoon was nearly over. There's always Sunday.

Donna, the intrepid Arkansas knitting beginner, posted some questions in the comments to yesterday's entry. I answered to the best of my ability and gave my advice in an e-mail to her, but I would like to solicit your opinions because a) I may not know what I'm talking about and b) I'm curious what you think.

She inquires, "So what's the deal with tight vs. loose? How do you find a balance?" I told her that I knit tightly, or I think I do, because intuition tells me you want to have tight stitches, except in instances where you're making something more open. Am I steering her in the right direction? How do you find a balance?

Donna also asks, "And what's up with the last stitch on the row -- how do you keep from having a big messy loop of yarn hanging off? I can't seem to figure out how to pull that one tight." This was one of my many questions for Kristin at my second knitting lesson, so I know that the last stitch is usually looser. I gave a convoluted explanation of how I try to tighten it up, but feel free to share your expert wisdom in the comments. FO?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Knitting in the new year

There hasn't been much of it.

My second hank of Knit Picks Sierra still needs to be put into a ball. I've frogged the dishcloth twice, although I think I'm good with 32 stitches on 8s. (I started with 40 and tried 36.) I've done two repeats of the pattern and am not sure if it's too loose. For now I'm fine with knitting it and worrying about the result when it's finished.

This has been an incredibly fertile week for creative endeavors, though. (Notice that the definition of fertile mentions productivity but not quality.) Since Monday I've written five movie reviews, blogged every day (including that mammoth Archies post), and completed a rough draft of a humor piece for I had no intention of doing the latter, but you do what you have to do when inspiration strikes. With all that, you'd think I'd be caught up--I'm not--and getting paid for it--I don't.

Friday is as close to a day off as I get right now. I need to see Little Children, which opens tomorrow. I've had an awards screener for a month or so, but there's been no time for DVD watching. While I'm softening on my stance that films are better appreciated in the theater, I'll make the trek even though I could watch the disc. I have film critic group award nominations to amass, although I'm betting the majority won't arrive in my inbox until the Saturday night deadline.

So what else will this off day bring? Knitting, for sure. I want to finish my other scarf, and this weekend seems like a golden opportunity to do so. I also want to bake some Christmas cookies. Yeah, I know Christmas is over. Even the twelve days of it are nearly past. I like baking and didn't have time for it during the holidays. Maybe, as the saying goes, it will grant me some goodwill toward men. I need to start my apartment search, a decision I feel more strongly about than ever, but I don't want to run around all day.

I will say that this week has gone okay in spite of the frantic nature of the new year and stress of my apartment situation. I'm not sure that I see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as a break is concerned, but it'll come...eventually.

Next...I'm kicking around a couple different topics. Check back in to find out.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Archies

Donna has initiated something she's calling The Archies, and she's cajoled me into participating. I'll let her explain the rationale behind them:
So I hereby institute and found a new tradition, to be engaged in by Friends of Mine, loosely defined as whoever happens across this post or subsequent annual editions, or whoever happens across the similar posts I encourage you and other readers to construct around the New Year and its anniversaries to come.

The Archies, named after my son (or the pride of Riverdale High, take your pick), is a list of the Top ___ (your number here) Things in the World. Listed items must be things in the world, and must have played a significant role in your year. Significance, as will soon become clear, is to be defined solely by subjective criteria.

As in the non-existent previous years of this brand-new tradition, I refrain from mentioning the perennial Top Things in the World: Noel, Archer, and Cady Gray. To avoid tiresome repetition, immediate family members have been retired as members of the Archies Hall of Fame. Things done by said family members remain eligible for the annual list.
Wonderful as they are, the part about Donna's family doesn't pertain to my list or yours if you choose to play along. I've arranged this in a mutated alphabetical order.

The Top 40 Things in the World (2006)

1. Amazon Prime

Satisfies the urge to get your orders faster and without all those pesky shipping costs. Thanks to my mom for letting me hitchhike on her subscription.

2. A.M. Cinema

$4 to see a movie before noon on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays? A great deal at first run theaters. I took advantage of it when there were screenings I missed or films the studios had the good sense not to show the press.

3. Blog commenters

Call it sucking up if you want, but I love getting comments. Yours are much nicer than the rare ones usually left at my other site.

4. Bloglines

One of the best ways to keep track of the blogs you read.

5. Browsers with tabs (I prefer Firefox)

As someone who likes to have multiple browser windows open, tabbed browsing is a godsend.

6. Official website for local film critics group whose name I've realized I better not use

I'm amazed this got off the ground in as short of time as it did. It occurred to me that Google may latch onto this post and put it high in the search results for this association if I put it here. Yeah, I don't want that happening. The link's good, though. And this is alphabetically between "browsers" and "Columbus".

7. Columbus Blue Jackets hockey

Cutting back in other areas has finally given me time to follow the hometown NHL franchise in depth for the season. The team has had its ups and downs, but I've enjoyed following a sport and a team that doesn't blow its own trumpet everywhere you turn.

8. Converse Chuck Taylors

I never owned a pair before being sent free shoes by Paramount to promote the Jackass sequel. I can't abide the show or the films, but the shoes are great. My pants cover up the Jackass logo, so I can wear them without feeling like I'm endorsing it.

9. Criterion Collection DVDs of The Double Life of Veronique and Metropolitan

Two of my most wanted titles made it to DVD this year. The funny thing is that I haven't had time to watch either of them. A third--Kicking and Screaming--hasn't made it into my shopping cart.

10. Donna Bowman

Not a suck-up selection, although it sure looks like one, doesn't it? Her blog is a must-read, especially now that she's found an excuse to write every day. And she started knitting!

11. Dunkin' Donuts coconut donuts

Why don't more places make coconut donuts? Tim Horton's discontinued them here years ago. I know of only one Dunkin' Donuts franchise in the area, and I don't think I've ever been to it. A Dunkin' Donuts was by my hotel when I was in Cleveland for the film festival. I made sure to get one or two of these to start each day's film cramming session.

12. Fantasy Moguls

I soured on playing fantasy sports in 2006, largely because it takes so much time and energy and leads to nothing but frustration. (My baseball team going down the toilet in the stretch run and a disastrous preseason football trade didn't help.) I'm retiring from it this year, but in its place I have the fantasy sports equivalent of being a studio executive. The site needs some work, but it's a fun little game that doesn't gobble up all your free time.

13. The Flaming Lips/Sonic Youth/The Magic Numbers concert

I didn't get to many concerts, but this one was just the thing to brighten my mood. I'd never seen Sonic Youth, who lived up to their legendary status. The Flaming Lips put on a feel-good show similar to when I saw them touring behind Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, but it was still a blast.

14. Gnarls Barkley "Crazy"

THE ubiquitous pop crossover hit of the year.

15. Häagen-Dazs Mayan Chocolate ice cream

Chocolate and cinnamon together at last.

16. iPod

I don't want to get rid of my CDs, but I'll confess that I never play them after ripping them to my computer and importing the songs to my iPod. Worth every penny I paid for it.

17. John Malkovich at Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival

You know how weird he seems in the movies? He seems like that off-screen too, which amused me to no end. It was surreal to get in line with him for coffee at the University of Illinois student union. He wore a white, woolly sweater every day he was at the festival.

18. Ken Jennings - Confessions of a Trivial Mind

Who knew the Jeopardy! whiz was such a funny guy and has such good taste in movies and music?

19. Knit Picks

Quality, inexpensive yarn.

20. Knitting

No explanation needed.

21. Knitty

A quarterly online knitting magazine, but you probably already knew that.

22. Kristin Dreyer Kramer
23. Paul Kramer

What great luck I had to make these two friends. I know Kristin better than her husband since he has the wisdom to avoid a good percentage of the bad movies we see, but it's been wonderful getting to know both of them. Paul deserves the credit for building that website at #6 on the list. As you know, Kristin deserves the credit for getting me hooked on knitting.

24. The MOD Squad

Three of the younger film critics, including Kristin and me, commonly at screenings. So named by the youngest of the bunch. References Thank You for Smoking.

25. My messenger bag

Not that I'm a fashion plate by any means, but I feel more stylish carrying this than a backpack.

26. My new glasses

I like 'em.

27. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

It wouldn't matter if she were singing the phone book. One of the year's best albums.

28. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Daily Scrub

What am I, an adolescent? This stuff does a great job of clearing up my complexion, although apparently its powers aren't always able to overcome high stress levels.

29. The new version of Blogger

I haven't played around with what it can do, but the features I have used are an improvement. If only it were around this summer when I was giving a facelift to my other site and had to work on the template code from a book.


Kristin lets me stretch my legs and write something other than movie reviews, although she's republished a good number of those too.

31. Night at the Museum blanket

If I haven't talked about the coldness of one local theater's auditorium during press screenings, well, there's this theater that doesn't feel like the heat is on... I sent e-mails to the PR reps after each bone-chilling screening. (They're based in Cincinnati and not in attendance.) They've started scheduling morning screenings at another theater, but in the event that we are at the cold one, they sent me this promotional item. I got a big laugh out of it.

32. The Pipettes

A girl group for the 00s. Their terrific debut We Are The Pipettes, featuring the insanely catchy "Pull Shapes", hasn't received American distribution. It's amazing what you'll find on MP3 blogs, though.

33. The Prestige

My pick for the best film of 2006.

34. Schrute-Space

The blog of Dwight on The Office. Probably not as funny if you don't watch the show and not updated regularly enough. Still, this is hilarious stuff.

35. Sufjan Stevens - Songs for Christmas

When it comes to Christmas songs, I'm fine with hymns and Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas. I could do without almost all of the schlock that you hear everywhere. (Fountains of Wayne has some fine Christmas songs, but nobody plays them.) Here's a collection of five EPs mixing the religious and secular, including several written by the prolific Stevens. He captured the spirit of the season and made some fine music to listen to year round to boot.

36. Team USA curling (or curling in general)

I love the Olympics, and I've always had a soft spot for the sports that don't get as much TV time. Last year's coverage was heaven when it came to televised curling. I recorded the US matches and tried not to come across the scores while at work. I thought the matches were riveting. It was also pretty cool that the athletes were closer to true amateurs, regular people who didn't make a living at their sport. The US men's captain runs a pizza shop, if I remember correctly. The game looks like a lot of fun, and I would like to learn to play.

37. Tim Horton's cinnamon rolls

Frosted or glazed, you can't go wrong.

38. Veronica Mars

This summer I gorged on the second half of the first season and the entire second season on DVD in preparation for season three. I can see why they've cut down the season-long mysteries into half-season arcs. It can be difficult to keep track of everything when viewing the episodes over a week or two, not the months of the TV schedule.

39. Wool socks

When pressed for a Christmas list, I couldn't come up with anything except for wool socks. (They would have been useful during our screening freezes.) Well, Santa came through (along with some other things), and I've been loving these. It hasn't been all that cold yet, but my feet must get cold easily. A practical and appreciated gift.

40. World Cup soccer

I'm not a soccer fanatic, but I follow the Columbus Crew. (They call themselves The Hardest Working Team in America, but hard work doesn't equal success, as they have learned year after year.) Major League Soccer doesn't hold a candle to the World Cup. I cheer for the US squad and whichever countries catch my fancy. I love the nonstop singing and celebrating in the stands and the tension that builds until a goal is scored. American sportswriters gripe about soccer until they're blue in the face. Lack of scoring is usually their chief complaint, but it's the rarity of goals that make them so exciting when they're made.

Donna was right. That was a lot of work, but it's a nice snapshot of what brought happiness into my life last year. Some of these things I'm certain to forget, and I'm sure there are some notable omissions. Nevertheless, it was a worthwhile pursuit. Hint, hint, everybody.

Next...trying to find time to knit.