Monday, April 30, 2007

Joining in the round

From your comments it sounds as though I had some special insight regarding joining in the round. I can't take credit for any special knowledge as I went by The Knitting Answer Book's explanation. Since this may be the rare occasion in which I have information for some of you, let me share what to do.

I joined by casting on one more stitch than was necessary. The last stitch on the right needle is slipped onto the left needle. Knit two together, and there you have it.

The other option is to slip a stitch from the left needle onto the right needle. The left needle brings the second stitch on the right needle onto the left needle. It's the same idea as binding off, except this stitch stays on the needle. Knit accordingly. That's all. Class dismissed.

The Knitting Answer Book is an essential item to have when I'm knitting, so I can't recommend it enough, even to those of you who know what you're doing.

The errors of my ways

Kristin's Jazzy coffee cup cozy

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Color: 15 (shade of blue)
Needles: US 7 dpns
Stitches: 48

My first project knitted on dpns has been completed. The majority of it was knitted after my four and a half hour drive home from Champaign, Illinois. The festival wasn't friendly toward providing knitting time...or, for that matter, anything not related to the movies at hand. By their nature, film festivals return attendees to a state in which meeting the basics on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is as advanced as it gets.

I knitted the cozy well aware that there was a glaring mistake in it. Jenn told me that she believe there was an error in the pattern's decrease rows. She believed that it should say to work in the k1p1 pattern rather than knit all but the first two and last two. Her advice was well-intended, but as I knitted, I could see that she was wrong.

At first I didn't notice any problems, but as I neared the end of the first row after decreasing, I saw that the knit and purl stitches were off by one. I assumed I had done something wrong, but I couldn't figure out what. Correctly or not--actually, incorrectly--I kept going. Everything was fine on the next row.

I figured it out when I was knitting it tonight. K2tog and ssk at the start and end of the row throw that pattern off if you work k1p1 in between. My thinking was that k2tog and ssk took care of the k1p1 for those stitches in the decrease rows, but it didn't occur to me that they would be out of step with the other stitches in the following rows. So there's no error in the pattern.

I could have undone everything, but I decided to keep going with the same mistake. I wanted to see how it looked, and I couldn't bear the thought of ripping it all out. Thus, you'll notice that the ribbing is almost diagonal.

There were other mistakes too, such as in the joined area picture above. It looks fine where I joined the piece in the round, but I must have dropped one or two stitches at the end. I thought the joined area was strangely loose as I knitted row after row. Again, I initially placed the blame on my abilities and the awkwardness of knitting with four needles. My best guess is that two stitches slipped off the third needle in my haste of putting the project in my bag and removing it. I picked up one stitch, but that gave me an odd number. Rather than pick up another, I did an ssk. I attribute such bad decision making to the fatigue of the festival clouding my thinking.

The real brain scrambler was how I suddenly found myself with all the stitches on two needles rather than three. It took me several moments before deducing that I kept knitting with one of the needles and didn't bring the newly empty needle back into play.

Although the cozy has some obvious mistakes, it looks better than those I've knitted on straights. Those cozies have gaps between stitches in the rows after casting on and before binding off, a problem eliminated by using dpns.

Hopefully the next one knitted on dpns will turn out the way it should. The dpn learning curve wasn't too bad, although I still need to find a way to make this method feel more comfortable. The four needle method has one thing going for it, though. To the neophyte and non-knitter, it looks impressive because it appears to be harder than it is.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

One for the road

In the end it turned out not to matter that I didn't have a knitting project to dedicate myself to while at the festival. If I get none done before the closing day film, I'll have completed only five rows. I probably would have finished more if I were knitting in a way familiar to me, but I've needed a dpn adjustment period. Plus, I can't get past the fact that time has been a lot tighter during the festival than I expected it to be.

I reread the ssk instructions a few times before it finally clicked. (Initially I didn't get how it was any different from k2tog.) I was so focused on doing ssk right that I jumped the gun and did it after knitting the stitches on my first dpn. I caught my mistake before I wound up with a mess on my hands, but it was yet another reminder to slow down. It's not easy to do since the festival experience is hurry up and wait. I'm in a rush eating lunch right now as I know I need to get to the theater.

I depart Champaign this afternoon, but before I leave I am going to get some Cotton-Ease just because. I've enjoyed attending three film festivals within the past month and a half, but it will be good to get home and concentrate on getting everything ready for the move. 27 days and counting.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Four Sticks

A quick one while I'm away...

I started my waiting at the festival with joining the cast on row in the round. I've brought along The Knitting Answer Book, which described two ways of doing this. I tried the first method. I cast on an extra stitch, slipped it onto the left needle, and then knit two together. Just like that the project is joined! (I'll post a progress photo, maybe on Sunday. Time has been tighter than I anticipated, and if it weren't for dedicating myself to daily blogging, this entry wouldn't get up.)

I was so pleased with myself that I proceeded to knit every stitch in the first row and started to do the same on the second row. At this point I realized that in my haste I had forgotten to follow the pattern. I had to frog everything and begin again.

I cast on and joined again. Knitting with four needles and divided stitches is awkward, but the second and third rows were slightly easier to manage than the first. This is the perfect project to have at the festival because it doesn't take up much room, and I can quickly put it back in my bag if needed. Having the stitches divided among three needles also aids in quick stashing, although I fear I may lose my place if doing so when partially through a row.

I'm at a decreasing row in the pattern. I've never done a ssk--I've always knit two together when making it on straights--so that'll be a new skill to add to the arsenal.

OK, time to rush to the theater and wait around some more...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Divide and conquer

Not much time to write today as the festival is keeping me plenty busy, but I had to pop in to show that I have my cast on row situated on three dpns. I'm ready to join in the round, which shouldn't be too difficult since I've been reading and rereading the instructions in the book.

Knitting was on hold for most of yesterday as the time between the first and second films was shorter than expected, and the break between the second and third was devoted to getting deep dish pizza with some festival friends at a place near the university. You know it must be good if the menu lists preparation times ranging from thirty to fifty minutes depending on which kind of pie you order.

I met another knitter while waiting in line for the theater to open. Another grandmother or someone in that age range, of course. She told me that I had located the yarn shops in town, so if I wanted or needed anything, they would have to do.

On the celeb spotting front, I've seen actors Gil Bellows and Scott Wilson here. Alan Rickman was at the festival for a post-film discussion last night, but I'm pretty sure he was whisked in before it and taken away immediately after. You never know, though. Perhaps I'll run into him around the theater.

Those of you in the sock knitting cult should know that Kristin has warned me to watch out for you all. She is not a true believer and even used "cult" to describe your fanaticism. I guess you're consistent in trying to recruit members to the dark side. I'm onto you.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Quest for yarn

All right, now that my prattling about driving is done--sorry about that--it's time for yarns about my knitting activities on the road. In the span of an hour and a half, I may have visited everywhere that sells yarn in the Champaign-Urbana area and found time for a haircut.

On the way to Needleworks, the only local yarn shop my online research uncovered, I noticed that there's a JoAnn's less than a mile from my hotel. I've probably passed it many times since I began attending this film festival in 2001, but I never took note that the fabric store was there. (It's not like I had any use for it until now.)

I entered the LYS and was greeted immediately. I explained that I didn't know what I was looking for because I didn't know what I wanted to make. Kind of hard to select yarn when you don't have a project in mind. The store employees weren't short on suggestions, but a scarf or hat just didn't seem right with it being spring. Granted, the chillier temperatures might merit making one of those this week, but neither seemed right.

I mentioned that I wanted to knit something small and portable while at the festival. You won't need three guesses as to what word came out of their mouths. I get it. I should knit socks. It will happen, just not this minute.

I poked around the store and took some photos. Finally I realized what I could knit. The slippers I made my mom for her birthday are too big. I could make her another pair. There was a yarn in a lovely lavender shade, but unfortunately it was worsted weight instead of bulky. (I'd try doublewrapping it except my first pair of slippers turned out too big from doing that.) I left without buying anything and felt kind of bad about it since everyone was nice to me. I might make it back later this week, but it's hard to say.

I was in need of a haircut, and lucky for me there was a salon next to the yarn shop. The front desk clerk at my hotel was no help in directing me to a place where I might get a quick trim, but this place looked good enough for me. When I get a haircut it never fails that they ask if I know what setting they should use on the clippers. Note to those who cut my hair: I don't know because nobody ever tells me...not that I'd remember. I was happy with the job the hair stylist did, which often isn't the case at home. In taking a long time she must have been trying to stroke my ego like the others do. I appreciate the effort, but sadly, I'm aware that it's falling out up there. No use denying the obvious or stretching out what can be done in a few quick snips.

I figured I might as well stop at JoAnn's and see if they stocked yarn that I might like for my newly chosen project. No chance. This store was older and smaller than those at home. The yarn selection was maybe a third the size of what I'm used to seeing. I thought I might find the scarlet and goldenrod Lion Wool that I had wanted but couldn't find when I made the felted needle holder, but they didn't have those colors.

On the way to Meijer to get some supplies I spotted Michael's. Their selection was not overwhelming by any means, but I made two notable finds. First, they have Lion Cotton-Ease. All I know is that Kristin told me it was coming back after being discontinued. Apparently this is a big deal. I haven't seen it anywhere except here. I would have bought some, but I don't know what it is used for. Any clue?

Also, this Michael's had the two Lion Wool colors that I had been unable to find. The yarn also has the company's snazzy new labels. This felt like a small victory, no pun intended. If only I had my other wool with me, I could work on another felted needle holder this week.

I knew that my online search for yarn stores around here mentioned Hancock Fabric, so while I was at Meijer I borrowed the yellow pages, called the store for their location, and made my fourth yarn shop stop of the afternoon. To put it lightly, I was unimpressed. All they carried were Lion products. It looked like someone had taken half of the available fun fur and removed it from the shelves. There was also an unpleasant odor.

Can you believe that all four of these places are within two miles of where I'm staying? If sticking to the chains, they're probably all within a mile and a half, if not as little as a mile. I have entered the Bermuda triangle of yarn shops. If only what I saw was more to my liking.

As I trudged through the rain and tried to keep my newly purchased umbrella from turning inside out, I saw a woman making an enormous blanket while sitting in the line to get into the theater for the film festival. If the weather had been better, I might have stopped to take a picture, but I just wanted to take my spot around the corner under the fire escape.

I met up with the couple I've come to know from previous years attending Ebertfest and gave them the cat mat I knitted. They were pleased with it and said they'd let me know how their cats take to it.

Depending how Thursday goes, I might try casting on the stitches for the coffee cozy on dpns. I could take the coward's way out and do it on straights, though. My patience and the room I have in the theater will be critical factors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The road warrior

Thank you for the well wishes for a safe trip. They were needed. I departed Columbus around 9:45 p.m. after a screening of The Condemned, a terrible, terrible, terrible film made bearable by the incessant chatter in the room. The amateur commentators had all sorts of inappropriate and hilarious contributions to add to the experience.

I was feeling kind of tired, which isn't the way to begin a couple hours of nighttime driving, so I grabbed a coffee before hitting the road. I plugged in the iPod and cruised west on I-70, the car gobbling asphalt like Pacman dining on pellets. The right music can make time vanish, and I had a good upbeat mix going. The music of Neko Case and Spoon seemed perfectly matched with the night. Case's songs evoke dark, lonely places and car wrecks, the kind of things that don't feel right in the light of day.

Most of the trip breezed by. Few cars were on the road, and I could spot the half moon through the car's sun roof on this crisp evening. The rain started as I got within a few miles of Indianapolis and my exit. I hate driving in the rain at night, but I wasn't troubled since I was near my destination...or so I thought.

I-70 is undergoing major construction in Indianapolis. Much to my surprise, my hotel's exit was closed. No one mentioned it to me when I called to inform them I'd be arriving late. I had the Holiday Inn's phone number written in my planner and gave them a call as I tried to navigate the uneven road and the rain. The front desk clerk said that the exit was open despite what it said--I couldn't tell and it was too late now--but he stayed on the line to direct me where to go. I exited on a downtown street at least five miles past where I wanted to be. As I prepared to turn left to reenter the interstate, someone tore by me on my left. I was extremely lucky not to get sideswiped by someone driving straight ahead from a left turn lane or the wrong side of the street.

As if that wasn't heart-stopping enough, I merged onto the highway with one semi spraying my windshield with water so that I couldn't see and another semi on my rear bumper. Apparently in this configuration I missed where I needed to go because I ended up on I-65 south, not I-70 east. I called the hotel again to confirm that I was going the wrong way. I righted my course and nearly saw two cars in front of me collide. I was quite ready to be at the hotel.

Fortunately I arrived unscathed, although a little rattled. To top off the evening, the internet connection wasn't working in my room. I wonder if a firewall on the college computer was not permitting access.

I booked the hotel via Hotwire. It's the first time I've used the site. I'm pretty happy with how it worked for me. I got a nicer hotel and bigger room for a lower rate than the average nightly cost of the shrunken Red Roof Inn room where I'm staying during the festival. And free internet access, if it would have worked. At least there was wireless access in the lobby and restaurant, so I was able to do the necessary e-mail checks in the morning.

Today's drive to Champaign was less eventful. I-74 past Indianapolis wasn't seeing much traffic, which was just fine with me. It's not an interesting drive, but having broken it up into two chunks made it less of a drag. It helped that I got a good night's sleep, although I woke up at one point and had no idea where I was. I didn't get eight hours of rest, but it was significantly more than if I'd been at home and heard the big dig in the street in front of my apartment kickstart around 7 a.m.

I checked in at my Champaign hotel when everyone is supposed to be checking out, so I had plenty of time go yarn shopping before opening night of Ebertfest. That's where I'll pick up next time...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A mat for a cat

Cat mat

Yarn: Patons Shetland Chunky Tweeds (72% acrylic, 25% wool, 3% viscose; bulky)
Color: Dark forest green
Needles: US 10s
Stitches: 48

Working from a suggestion I saw at another site, I came up with this knitted rectangle for feline repose. It's one foot wide and two feet long with one inch of ribbing on each end. The rest is in garter stitch. As you can see, I still have issues with casting on and binding off. I did both too tightly. One of these days I'll get it right.

It could stand to be wider, but 48 stitches took up most of the straight needles' length. If I make this again, it would be wiser to knit on circs. I think it turned out okay, but I'm not as fond of it as many of the other things I've made.

I had to pack during lunchtime, at which point I got a bag and tossed a lot more knitting stuff than I will likely need into it. I am notorious for overpacking. Do I take clothes for warmer or colder weather? Spring temperatures in the midwest can shift dramatically, so it's hard to say what it will be like the rest of the week.

I have procured a laptop from the college for my time on the road, so I will try to post daily updates here and at my film blog. (I have a press pass for the festival, so the idea is to compose reports from each day at the event.) The schedule doesn't look to be as brutal as in past years, so I might be able to write and get some sleep. That would be nice.

I've felt rushed all day, so it will be nice to finish taping the show, get to tonight's promo screening, and then finally hit the road for two and a half hours of driving (thereabouts) to Indianapolis. I don't relish that much driving at night and checking in around midnight, but it leaves me with two to two and a half hours of driving on Wednesday. That will afford me plenty of time to visit the local yarn shop, get a haircut, and, I don't know, knit, write, and/or relax.

Monday, April 23, 2007

On point

The cat mat is almost finished and just in time too. I'm giving it to some friends at the film festival on Wednesday. I'll have a photo and all the details posted on Tuesday. Depending how the day is going, I might have it up in the afternoon. Otherwise it'll be a late night post from Indianapolis.

I decided that I'd like to get part of the drive done on Tuesday evening after a screening. It's how I've traveled to this festival every year prior, but my parents' home is no longer on the way. I earned a certificate for a free night at the hotel where I'm staying in Champaign, Illinois, so I figure I'm not out anything by getting a room tomorrow.

The big question is what will I work on while at the festival. Unlike the first couple years I attended, there will be some gaps in the schedule. It'll allow for getting something to eat and not feeling rushed, but I confess that I'd like to spend some of that time knitting. I'm going to take the baby blanket with me, but that's probably not going to leave the hotel. It's too big to carry.

Small projects would be good, but I don't know what to make. Before the sockarazzi bombards me with their suggestions, let it be known that I might be a step closer to knitting your beloved hosiery. Jenn is trying to convince me to knit Kristin's coffee cup cozy pattern in the round. I balked at the idea, especially since it would require two pairs of circs or dpns. For the longest time I thought it required two circs and dpns, not one or the other. Jenn probably wanted to reach through the chat window and shake some sense into me.

Finally I sort of understood what she was saying and am willing to give it a shot. I bought some bamboo double-pointed needles. I'm intimidated, especially at the idea of figuring out how to do this when I won't have a computer nearby for reference. We'll see how it goes. I ought to come up with another project just in case, but I have no clue what to do. I could make a dishcloth, but that doesn't seem very exciting.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sunday Sun

While I probably stayed inside too much for what was a lovely day, I managed to spend a little time outdoors. One of the nice things about the film festival here is that it doesn't chew up every hour of the day like most others. I spent the early afternoon going through all of my clothes and deciding what I could donate, what I should throw away, and what I would keep. I donated several bags of clothes about a month ago, and I have three and half more ready to be dropped off. I feel confident that I can consider the clothes issue finished as far as my moving preparations are concerned.

Then it was time to head downtown to the last day of the fest. I hadn't eaten, in part because I wanted to have a meal outside at a restaurant near the theater. They didn't have their outdoor seating section set up, so I had to enjoy my bison burger and sweet tea indoors. I had an hour until my first film was starting, so I walked over to the North Market for some ice cream. (The photo shows the back side of the North Market.)

I've heard nothing but great things about Jeni's Ice Creams. I sampled the creme de violet, which had a nice mild flavor, but went with the salty caramel, which I understood is one of the signature flavors. Good stuff.

In between films I made myself at home on the floor and knitted the cat mat for awhile. Like clockwork, an older lady took notice and asked me what I was making. She said she liked how I was throwing the yarn. (I'm a righty who wraps left-handed.) She told me about the sweaters she made for her husband, who I assumed was standing beside her. With a bit of a wink I said that I hoped he had thanked her sufficiently for them. Turns out that husband died years ago--oops!--although she seemed to like talking about him.

I've been lax in knitting the cat mat. I'm supposed to give it away at the festival in Illinois this upcoming week, so I better get to working on it. Until tomorrow...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Catching up on film fest knitting

Has it almost been a month since I made my second trip to this year's film festival in Cleveland? Nothing like timeliness in sharing some stories from the experience. Here's what I wrote during my first three days at the festival. Now I pick up from the gaps in my daily blogging from March 22-25. (There was an entry on the 25th, but it was of the "I am dead tired" variety.)

This time around there were more people I knew who were attending the festival, which made it a lot more fun than bumming around on my own and working on fest recaps for the film blog. (On the other hand, I'm still behind on those entries from the second weekend.) I hung out with Kristin, so there was a fair amount of knitting to keep us busy at those times when we didn't want to watch films or were waiting for them to start.

Tower City Center has a dollar store, and that's where she helped find a couple items to meet my knitting needs. Previously I'd been carrying around all of my knitting tools (crochet hook, needles for weaving in ends, scissors, tape measure) loose in my bag. She spotted what probably is used as a pencil case for a binder, but it works just as well for keeping that stuff in one handy place. While it took combing through aisle after aisle, she also found a garment bag that I could use for my first felting project.

When knitting between films (or skipping a session), we took a spot by the fountain. It's about as visible of a place in the whole mall. Kristin was amused to see the reactions as she sat knitting a bib and I worked on my felted needle holder. One woman approached to ask what we were doing. Kristin told her. The next question, directed to her, was, "What is he making?" It was like I wasn't there or a deaf mute. Really, though, it was OK. She's been to enough screenings where the reps, unaware that she is a film critic also, mistake her for my plus-one on a pass. I could be the invisible one this time.

It wasn't all movies and knitting. We met up with two other critics at a happy hour party that was practically our own little event. Apparently the other festival attendees had better things to do than miss a session to drink discounted martinis and eat free appetizers at a ritzy steakhouse. Our colleagues--one is pictured on the right while the other took the photo--were in rare form that night. It carried over into the next screening, something that was very funny and made us very glad that we weren't sitting by them.

My secret was revealed to these two critics at the festival as they walked by while we were knitting one night. I didn't get any needling from them, which was something I thought might happen. After the festival I thanked the one seen above. When I started I thought he might tease me about it, but he complimented me for having the courage to do it.

By the festival's last day energy was at a premium, and it leaves me with one final knitting-related story to tell. As Kristin and I sat by the fountain knitting and her husband was using his PDA, an older gentleman with an eastern European accent came up to me and asked if he could take my picture. I'm not crazy about having my picture taken in the first place, but weakened by days of movies and some sleep deficiency, I consented. Kristin's husband thought he wanted to have his picture taken with me, which would have been really weird, and got up to take it. No, this older guy thought it was unusual to see a man knitting, which was why he wanted to snap a picture and didn't want to be in it. Yes, that was strange.

There you have it...some short tales of how to occupy down time at a film festival and the reactions I provoked from strangers. Knitting during the festival added the relaxation and necessary breaks to what is a good time but an exhausting one as well.

Friday, April 20, 2007

What a gas

As I sit here late on a Friday night trying to think of what to write and reflecting on the week, I am aware that I have been very, very busy in recent days. It would be fair to ask when that is not the case, but this week it affected the time and mental energy I had to devote to this blog. I know, I know, no one's holding me to daily blogging but me, and the world won't stop if I don't post an entry. I like doing it. I want to do it. I'm disappointed when I see the mediocre entries, but what's done is done.

Overall the week was OK. Kind of strange and kind of long. There have been few knitting opportunities--the only "free" night I had was Monday--so that goes a long way in explaining why my knitblog entries have been less inspired. When I worked on the baby blanket last, I noticed that the yarn over holes are "off" in the pattern for a couple inches on one side. (They don't line up.) I'm not sure what happened, but I'm not fixing it. Again, what's done is done.

I had a plan for what I was going to do today, but the gas company had other ideas. I arrived home after midnight from the film festival's opening night and found a tag on my doorknob telling me to contact my natural gas provider and have them turn on my meter. I didn't think anything of it before going to bed; however, there did seem to be a chill in the air that awakened me all night long. Sure enough, I got up to find the thermostat at 57. The furnace was blowing cold air, and I had no hot water.

I called the gas company to find out what was going on and why I wasn't given more advance notice. I didn't get a clear answer. The customer service rep wanted to know why I was calling. I complained about the lack of notice for having my heat turned off and asked that they get it fixed as soon as possible. I was told that I had to be at home for a four hour window to have it taken care of. I wasn't going to be home for four hours straight, but what choice did I have when she told me that they didn't work weekends?

I rearranged some work plans and intended to be at home three hours earlier than I initially told the representative. I called back to pass this along. This CSR told me to cancel the current technician request and call when I arrived at home. That sounded more reasonable.

I phoned a third time. The person I talked to told me that someone would be out between then (12:30 p.m.) and midnight. That set me off. I told her that this entire situation was unacceptable and that they had already inconvenienced me quite a bit. Now I supposedly had to stick around the apartment for half of a day in the hope that they would show up eventually? I didn't yell, but there was no doubt she could hear how unhappy I was. (It didn't help that her responses were akin to "it'll be on our terms, take it or leave it".)

Fine. I wrote a review, straightened up my apartment some for Saturday's invasive potential renter visit, and steamed that no one from the gas company had come. I was washing some kitchenware when I saw a truck pull up down the street. Almost an hour passed, and still no one had fixed my problem. I needed to leave in about a half hour, so I marched out of the apartment and went a half block to speak to the tech at the truck.

Would you believe that he was in the area to fix something else and knew nothing of my problem? He radioed someone and then came over to my building. The meters are outside. Oddly enough, mine was the only one turned off. Everyone had had notices on their doors, so you can imagine who was getting angrier about this nonsense. The catch in all of this is that I have the only furnace requiring a manual start. That's why I had to be home. I took the tech to the basement and unlocked my storage area so he could fire up the hot water tank. I brought him into my apartment and pointed him to the attic to get the furnace working.

The tech said that the guy operating the backhoe for the sewer line replacements was nicking the gas lines left and right. That's what started the whole mess. I give the tech a lot of credit for taking care of the matter quickly and not blowing me off. It's a good thing I took an assertive approach because I came home tonight to a voicemail left at 8:50 by the gas company. Someone was in the area to fix my problem. Idiots.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sock it to me

Go figure. One of my shortest entries ever--and one intended as a space filler since I didn't have time to write anything else--turns out to generate the biggest response of anything I've scribbled on this blog. You sock knitters are relentless. Karen encouraged a brigade of sock knitters to show me the light. Remind me not to get on the bad side of this bunch lest I be on the receiving end of a denial-of-service attack.

I appreciate the replies. I promise to try socks, but they will have to wait until after I move.

I feel bad about posting another brief entry--I know, it happens--but I've been busy writing reviews and spent this evening at the opening night film and after party for the local film festival. I had a really good time, but there's not much to say about it.

Thanks again for the comments.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Socks appeal

OK knitters, explain it to me. What is the appeal of knitting socks? I don't see or hear the fanaticism for knitting scarves or sweaters, but I've encountered socks mania plenty in blog land. Most recently Donna has fallen prey to the sock-knitting cult. Socks are probably the number one suggestion whenever I put out a request for future projects. (Incidentally, I could probably use some for my film festival trip next week.)

Do I not get it because I don't wear crazy, multi-colored socks? If I did, would I be a true believer? What is it about socks that captures the imagination of knitters like nothing else?

I promise I'll attempt to knit some after I've moved. Until then, clue me in.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A little of this and that

The weather appears to be coming around to what it should be like for spring. I'm hoping for rain this weekend--nice weather could be a death blow to local film festival attendance--but I'm not a fan of precipitation in regard to my street. If we get much rain, I'll be ankle deep (or deeper) in mud and...well, hopefully just mud. The city is replacing sewer lines.

Not much knitting news to report. I'm making good progress on the baby blanket and might be able to start decreasing tonight if I abandon writing a review for picking up the needles.

Knitting media watch: don't hate her because she's beautiful edition... In the April 6 issue of Entertainment Weekly Czech supermodel Paulina Porizkova of The Cars videos and Her Alibi mentions that she knits. If her knitting ways don't demonstrate enough good taste, it seems that she's a fan of The Colbert Report. (She called Stephen "hot" during a Good Morning America interview, a clip that he got a lot of mileage from on last night's show. How that didn't make the episode highlights is a mystery.) I'd say that makes up for appearing on Dancing with the Stars, but I've never seen the show...or Her Alibi. This was supposed to be somewhat funny, but it's just dying on the vine. I'll quit while I'm behind...

I'll finish on an up note. One thing that helped make my day came unexpectedly. I was joking around with a couple students at work about how mean I was being in making them do something. That's when one said that I was the nicest of the three of us employed at the station. I seriously doubt I'd win a popularity contest. I don't work with a bunch of ogres, so it is a big compliment.

While I would like to think I'm relatively aware of how I'm perceived, this was not something I ever expected to hear. Maybe I'm stuck with a perception of a past version of me when people accused me of being unfriendly, which was really just quietness misinterpreted. My co-worker and I don't have good cop-bad cop roles, although I'm the tough one more often than not, which I figured didn't play in my favor. Being considered most straightforward with them I could see; the nicest, not so much. This student's comment meant a lot to me, more than she could ever know. More than any job evaluation, it tells me I must be doing something right and that I need to reassess how I think others see me. That's not such a bad thing.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Let's Push Things Forward

Baby bib

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar 'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Color: Faded denim
Needles: US 9s
Stitches: 25

Here's the baby bib I made to go along with the baby hat. It's a coincidence that the colors turned out to be so similar. Both were made with yarn leftover from other projects.

I gave the gifts to the happy dad at this morning's press screening of Hot Fuzz, a ridiculously entertaining send-up of action films that was a great way to start the day. The baby can wear my bib when he isn't feeling hardcore.

There was interesting news on the apartment front today. A week ago a for rent sign went up in front of the building. My landlord knew I was looking for another place, but I hadn't told him that I had lined it up. My apartment was in no shape for him to be bringing prospective renters through--something I really hate, by the way--and I knew there wasn't any rush to tell him officially. I wondered if the sign was because of our last conversation in March or if someone else was moving out.

I got a call from my landlord tonight. Our talk confirmed for me that he's about as good of a landlord as one could want. I filled him in on my plans. It seems that he already has someone interested in moving in once I'm gone, and he's interested in buying my washer and dryer if I don't want to move them. (Any idea what a fair asking price is?) I asked if another apartment was opening up. Turns out that both of those occupied by the problematic students are going to be available. The more obnoxious ones are choosing not to return. My landlord has decided not to renew the contract of the guys living below me, due in part to their habit of setting out trash but not taking it to the curb.

Although I'm not staying, it's still good news. If anything, it continues to hide my moving plans from my neighbors. I'm sure they assume I'm not going anywhere, so perhaps it will keep them marginally better behaved.

Remember the first dishcloth I made? I finally used it this weekend. Why such a long wait? Considering the knitted item's purpose it's going to sound weird, but I didn't want to get it dirty. It was pressed into service because I didn't have any clean dishcloths. Now that I've seen how sturdy and effective it is, I wish I'd been using it earlier.

Ruth tagged me for a Thinking Blogger award, so it's time I lived up to my end of the bargain. Here are the rules:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn't fit your blog).
I'm going to have to exercise some nepotism since the blogs I read most regularly are by people I know. Complicating matters, though, is that I can't tip off bloggers I know who have no idea about "the secret knitter". For that reason some of these will be familiar to you:

1. Pens and Needles by Kristin Dreyer Kramer

An obvious selection but without reading it and talking to her, I doubt that I'd be knitting or writing about it.

2. Union, Trueheart, and Courtesy by Donna Bowman

An inspiration on the writing side. Donna's commitment to daily blogging and her words of advice about writing in general can be credited (or blamed, as you see fit) for encouraging my attempts to post every day. Whether it's brainy entries about religion and pop culture or amusing stories about her kids, she's a daily must-read.

3. Poems, Prose, or Parody by Jenn Miller

It's good to see Jenn writing more regularly. She shares her grad school homework assignments, creative writing, and personal observations in a fun little blog.

4. Kodachrome
5. Tiny Happy

I don't know either of these bloggers and am not sure how I stumbled upon their sites. Both feature wonderful photography, whether it's of their crafty creations or other things.

Off I go to tag the authors...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Working for the weekend

This weekend certainly went by in a flash. If I wasn't preparing for moving, I was knitting. I feel like I made more progress on the needles than in the apartment, but something is better than nothing.

It's easier to gauge my knitting progress, obviously. With the apartment I have no idea how much time it will take to complete everything. I feel somewhat better about the state the place is in, but I'm going to have to stay on top of it or else.

If anything, maybe regular moving preparations will make my headaches go away. I've had them off and on this past week and woke up with one Saturday morning. That didn't make me feel like trudging through the process of determining what to keep and what to throw out. The heat was on for today to be more productive. I did much better and even tackled cleaning the bathroom, the place where it's a constant losing battle versus mold. I won't miss this bathroom at all. It is very small, nothing works all that well, and there's no ventilation, so mold is always a problem.

Amid my tireless work on another baby blanket, I nearly forgot to sew the button onto the bib I finished yesterday. (I'm giving it and the baby hat to the father tomorrow.) I've increased the blanket to almost one hundred stitches, which includes completing one skein of the Plymouth Encore Chunky yarn, since starting it last night. Yeah, I've been knitting like mad. This one seems to be going much faster than the first. The stitches are sliding more easily on the circular needles, and the yarn splits less. I'm more comfortable with the circs too. The blanket might be lighter and not as soft as the first one I made, but my knitting is very even.

I'm guessing that there was no newspaper stakeout as hinted last Sunday. The plastic wrapper for today's paper had my address and a warning not to steal it written on it. I don't know that the message dissuaded the likely thieves as much as the fact that I heard those guys get in very, very late. Thanks for waking me up at 3 a.m., fellas.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Box Full of Letters

Jazzy coffee cup cozy

Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Silk (55% superfine alpaca, 23% silk, 22% merino wool; worsted weight) and Bernat Satin (100% acrylic; worsted weight)
Colors: Cranberry and silk
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 50

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Colors: 14 and 15 (shades of blue)
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 50

My letters for the Knitterly Letter Swap departed this afternoon for parts known. I included coffee cup cozies I knitted as nice surprises for my pen-pals. I've made enough of them that I can whip them out fairly quickly. I'm getting better at them, although eventually I need to try making them with circs and dpns rather than on straights.

I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter, whether by hand or electronically. With the ease and speed of e-mail, what reasons do we have these days to sit down with pen and paper? For the purposes of this swap I didn't have any stationery until I went out and bought some. Initially I thought it might be a frivolous purchase, but after writing two letters this morning, I like the idea of having it on hand for future correspondence. Now more than ever there is something special about sending and receiving a handwritten letter. The most valuable resource all of us have is time. To devote yours to writing a letter is to tell someone they're worth it.

I've mentioned several times that I love getting mail. I love getting e-mail too. Seeing messages in bold at the top of my inbox is a simple pleasure as long as I'm not wading through a bunch of spam. But "snail mail" is hard to beat. There's the daily excitement in opening the mailbox to see what has come. More often than not there's nothing good awaiting, but all it takes is one piece of worthwhile mail to make me happy.

As a kid I collected baseball player autographs by writing letters. There was even a book with the home addresses of every past and present player. It was a thrill to come home from school and find out if anything came for me. There was no home delivery in my village of 700, so sometimes I got to check our PO box, which looked something like this. (The photo is of a bank, but the door is pretty close to what our box looked like. I think ours had two, maybe three, dials on it.)

As far as I was concerned, the mail always brought good things. Obviously I've learned that isn't the case when you're an adult, but I'm still eager to see if anything good has come. I'm practically abuzz when waiting for packages I know are on the way to reach me.

But back to the issue of letters... I've been working on cleaning up my apartment and getting it packed for my move in May. One of the rare benefits of being a pack rat is that you save things that you might otherwise have thrown away. I've found some cards my grandmother sent me once I was no longer living at home. While some of the cards just have her signature, I've been thrilled to find some she wrote short notes in. The messages are basic, so they have purely sentimental value. Still, it's nice to know that I have them, especially since she died a couple years ago.

Letters make personal connections that old e-mails don't (or at least they don't yet). They're more tangible in a way that e-mails, even in printout form, aren't. The paradox of the internet is that it connects people more than ever yet disconnects us too. E-mails are great, but they can't beat letters. Ditto for e-cards. They're nice to receive, but they lack the personality of those that show up in your mailbox, don't they? It's the personal touch behind something that physically passes from one location to another that makes it more special. It's everything: the handwriting, the postmark, and the paper.

Do schools have pen-pal assignments any more? I remember having one, perhaps in second grade. His name was Merrill, and he lived in Iowa. (I think the only reason I remember his name is because Merrill Lynch sponsored a University of Dayton basketball tournament, so it stuck because it was an unusual name shared with a financial management company.) I don't think we wrote other than that one time.

I have no idea if I'll keep exchanging letters with my two pals beyond the swap obligation. Maybe our contact will end after this swap or transition to e-mail. Whatever the case, I hope that the swap has reminded me of the virtues of writing letters and spurs me to do it more often.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Letter from an occupant

The work week is over; the working weekend is ready to begin. Ugh.

This week wasn't bad, just busy and tiring. For better and worse, this weekend must be spent preparing for my move in 43 days. So while I'm dreading what must be done on Saturday and Sunday, I'm hoping that in 48 hours I'll feel relieved about how ready I am to change apartments.

Mentally I'm more than set, of course. Tonight's a good example. I came home after a longer day at the office than anticipated and wanted nothing more than to watch TV and knit in peace. It sounds like the football players' fraternity is tearing it up in the apartment below me. Thankfully the stoner apartment beside me has been relatively subdued, although I've had to put up with the occasional hyena laughter and what sounds like elephants charging up and down the stairs. But enough of my moaning...

One bright spot today was the arrival of a letter from my secret pal in the Knitterly Letter Swap. Perhaps some day I'll devote an entire post to why I love getting mail, which was my main reason for choosing to participate. Anyway, thank you to Jessica in New York for her letter. If you're reading, let me know if you have a blog.

That makes two letters I need to write. I still haven't fired one off to my other secret pal, although her coffee cup cozy is ready to go. (Yes, I've started another one.) Seeing how Jessica chose to approach it gives me a starting point. I'm afraid I might write pages and pages otherwise. I even thought about typing out a rough draft, which violates the spirit of the idea, doesn't it?

I have an almost FO that I began after blogging last night. I've knitted another baby bib. I need some thread in the appropriate color to sew on the button before I can add another to my already ridiculous April FO count. I knitted a little more of the cat mat, which I need to have done by the time I go to Illinois for the film festival. It isn't the most exciting thing I've ever made, but the finished result should look good.

I thought I had more juice in me to write tonight, but I can tell that I'm flagging. So with that I sign off until next time...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Knit bits

Not that there's any doubt that I'm into this knitting thing, but today I searched for yarn stores in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois area. I'll be there in a couple weeks for Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival and thought I might pop into a local shop if time permits.

It appears that this place is the only non-chain store. Having attended the festival since 2001, I'm mildly familiar with the area. I have a pretty good idea where the shop is, so it may be the place to go if I arrive in town early or have some spare time between the morning panel discussions and the films. On the off chance that someone reading has any recommendations for the area, let me know.

Last night I knitted a coffee cup cozy for my pal in the Knitterly Letter Swap, but I got caught up in work and the associated drama today that I forgot to take a photograph. Now if only I could write the letter.

Ruth tagged me for a thinking blogger award. It doesn't take something like this to make me feel honored to have everyone reading, but it's nice to know that what I write means something to those who make return visits. This blog has certainly exceeded my expectations for what I wanted to get out of it. I will have to fulfill my thinking blogger award obligation of naming five blogs that make me think on another day. For one thing, I'm tired and not thinking all that clearly at the moment. It's been a long week.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Oh Baby

Baby hat

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic)
Colors: 14 and 16 (shades of blue)
Needles: US 8s
Stitches: 54

After another long day yesterday, I set about finishing this hat. Knitting when tired isn't the brightest idea. I went to knit two together, but I think I just transferred the stitches to the other needle. I can't say for sure, though.

This would have been easily fixed except that in my weary state I thought I needed to undo stitches. To make a long story short, I ended up with one stitch less than I should have had. It didn't look like I lost any stitches, but something wasn't quite right. Since this was on the curly stockinette edge, I decided that I could hide any mistake in the seaming. I decreased the row and purled the next, but by this time I was convinced I had screwed up something.

I was very proud of the knitting I'd done until last evening's potential debacle--I said that it might be the best thing I've ever knitted--but I noticed a spot that looked kind of askew before my decreasing began. This and the possible new problems led me to stop what I was doing, which probably wasn't a bad idea anyway, and wait for confirmation or repudiation of my assessment.

I did frog the coffee cup cozy I began at the hockey game, though.

It turns out that everything was OK with the hat, so I knitted two more rows, one decreased and one purled. There were 22 stitches to be drawn together, which still seemed like a lot, and then it was time for seaming. Since the stockinette edges curl, it was more challenging to do the mattress stitch.

I'm not 100% thrilled with the seam, but all in all, I'm pleased with how the hat turned out. The colors go together well--I used leftover yarn from Kristin's scarf--and there are three stitch patterns (seed, stockinette, and garter) in one FO. This is going to sound like stating the obvious, but I was surprised how small the hat is.

I also want to make a baby blanket for these happy parents, so it was time to hit the yarn store. I didn't feel like going, but it seemed like a nice diversion for a day that had been a total bust in terms of accomplishing anything. Work is fine, save for a few issues, such as the fact that we are currently operating without a budget.

To explain briefly, we are mostly funded by the city. The college chips in some money, but the city pays for the bulk of our operation. They did not approve a budget back in November, gave us a frozen one for the first quarter, and have yet to designate funds beyond the end of March. Did I mention that the station is supposed to be moving this summer?

The financial issues are definitely causing a lot of concern about the move and the future, let alone what happens day-to-day. As much of a mess as this sounds like it is, I think everything will work out in the end. Not knowing is driving us crazier than getting an answer we don't want to hear. To make it more complicated, bad news could actually be good news--or not--and vice versa.

So between this and my upcoming move, I'm all kinds of stressed out. What better time to get some more yarn, right? I wasn't finding the baby blanket color I wanted in Lion Homespun, at least in what is available locally, so I embarked for the local yarn store. I brought the Homespun label to ease the computations in finding a proper substitute yarn. I was going to find other bulky weight yarn and buy enough yardage. Fortunately the store employee pointed out that I needed to consider the number of stitches per inch. She explained how I can figure it out if it isn't listed. Lesson learned.

I bought four skeins of yarn in light green for the blanket and two skeins of the Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy, one in pink and one in rose, for another baby hat. I'd take pictures, but I'm ready to move away from the computer for knitting and TV viewing.

And apropos of nothing, my book review of Ricky Gervais Presents: The World of Karl Pilkington can be read at (It's not my site, which is why I'm linking to it.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Masculin féminin: 1 fait précis

Being productive sure doesn't leave time for much else. It's been another busy day. I haven't had time to knit, although my plan is to finish the baby hat tonight. The pattern seemed weird when it came to the decreasing. There are a lot of stitches left on the needle. Kristin suggested doing two more decreases in the direction the pattern was headed--(k2tog, k3) across, purl a row, (k2tog, k2) across, purl a row--rather than cut the yarn with almost forty stitches to be drawn together.

Rather than blather on about this or that and end up spending an hour trying to force an entry, I'm going to go to a standby: borrow something from elsewhere. Donna blogged about an online test that is claimed to measure gender traits. I wish there were more explanations about this test since there seems to be a very particular viewpoint in what gets defined as masculine or feminine. Several of the so-called feminine qualities have negative connotations. I'm not sure how "loyal" and "understanding" are supposed to be associated with one gender, but this is all intended to be a lark, a conversation starter, than a scientific evaluation.

Five of my six answer columns were separated by no more than three points. Three of the columns, including both neutrals, had the same score. My score: +11, which qualifies me as "nearly masculine" on the test's scale. As with any of these tests--Myers-Briggs, for instance--the outcome can fluctuate depending on one's mood. Regardless, guess I need to dig a ditch or something to make me a man.

Seriously, though, the result doesn't surprise me, and I'm perfectly fine with it. I'm talking about it on my knitting blog. That alone ought to be enough to torpedo my masculine points on the test.

Although I had to pause to consider how I'd rate some of the traits--am I likable? warm?--I think I'm pretty self-aware (perhaps too much so). I've not felt the pressure to live up to the cartoonish image of masculinity to be a man, which isn't to say that I'm immune from it. (Who do I know that took his sweet old time to reveal his knitting secret and still keeps it hidden from some?) In the end I think it's more important to be at ease with yourself rather than try to match some socially constructed definition of what your gender should be.

Jung was always one of my favorites in psychology courses. I liked how he stressed the importance of finding a balance of one's masculine and feminine traits. Maybe that's what I've done, whether it's been conscious or not. (I could bastardize his theories, which I've not studied in years, but instead I'll point you to the Wikipedia entries on anima, animus, and Carl Jung--check out the anima and animus section--if you'd like to pursue it further.)

Hmm, that didn't turn out to be a fast entry after all...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Tapped out

Write, write, write. In the last 24 hours or so I have written three movie reviews and my Easter blog entry. You know what you're getting here now? Not much, I'm sorry to report. I'm tapped out for today. Never fear. My writer's block days seem to be behind me for the foreseeable future, so I expect to have my word count replenished on Tuesday.

Rather than make this a totally useless entry, I'd like to invite lurkers to delurk and everyone to suggest potential projects (with links, if applicable). I'm at a loss regarding what to make for myself, and when it comes to baby things--which most assuredly are not for me--I don't know where to begin. One set of friends has had a boy; another couple is expecting a girl.

OK, have at it in the comments. Sorry for this lame way of keeping the daily blogging intact. This one's free.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

Nothing says Easter like temperatures colder than those at Christmas and very light flurries. No complaints, though. I could be in snowy Cleveland.

I might as well have been since I spent the day like a shut-in. I went to the 11:00 a.m. church service--no sunrise service for me--although that meant getting there fifteen minutes early in hopes of obtaining a seat. I would have been earlier, but upon leaving the apartment building I saw that my newspaper had been stolen again. I walked back up the stairs to my place and reported the missing paper.

Luckily I was able to squeeze in at the the end of the pew in the third row. It was closer than I preferred, but it was better than sitting on a cushion in the window sill. No joke. The sanctuary was packed, with some people on folding chairs in the narthex and others perched on the concrete sills. (I've sat there once before. Uncomfortable is a word that comes to mind.)

Shortly after returning home I had a chat with the newspaper delivery manager. He had a replacement paper and some comments regarding the numerous thefts I've called in. Apparently I have achieved "you won't believe who called" status. I'm not sure how many times I've reported my newspaper stolen in recent months, but it's been a lot. Maybe twenty times this year and almost every Sunday. I trust that it is being delivered but that someone else in my building is taking it.

Anyway, the delivery manager told me that he had come by at 8 a.m. and saw that the paper was on the front steps. When he returned to the office about two and a half hours later, he was told that he wouldn't believe who called in to report their paper missing. That's right: me. He wasn't blaming me, but it was obvious that he is fed up with the situation. (Tell me about it. That's one of the reasons why I'm moving.) Some days the paper's bag has writing on it specifying that it is for me only. Sometimes it'll go a week without being swiped. The fact is that it happens regularly, and this guy is ready to bust heads.

In all honesty, I hope next Sunday's paper does get stolen because it sounds as though he's going to sit in his car to see who takes it. He has a suspicion about which apartment's residents are stealing it, and he's going to give them an earful if he catches them in the act. I didn't realize that they would go to those lengths.

I watched some of the Reds game and napped through a good chunk of it. The rest left me refreshed to begin a new knitting project. Two friends, one of whom is a member of The MOD Squad (see #24 in The Archies), recently had a baby boy, so I am going to make a baby hat for them. I found this pattern to make, although I'll be omitting the pompom.

I almost bought some yarn for it yesterday, but I remembered that I have a lot of nice blues in my stash from Kristin's scarf. The yarn is half nylon and half acrylic, so it has a wonderful softness perfect for a baby item. I've knitted almost four inches of the necessary five before decreasing. I think it's going to look great. I would probably have it finished if I hadn't slogged my way through writing another review tonight.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Finished Object and Finished Season

Baby bib

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar 'n Cream (100% cotton)
Color: Pastel print
Needles: US 9s
Stitches: 25

Bailing out of the French film last night meant I was able to make this in time to give to my friends expecting their first baby. There wasn't any rush. She's not due until mid-June, but I decided I wanted to give them the blanket now. Why not knit a bib for good measure?

I had only a couple rows of this knitted before getting to it last night, but it took no time at all. That's good since I didn't set my alarm this morning and didn't have time to weave in the ends or sew on the button before scampering to another screening this morning. I presented my friends with the blanket this afternoon along with some amaretto chocolate chip cookies I made. (If you check out the recipe, I made the cookies and didn't bother with using them for ice cream sandwiches.) I told them that I had one more gift to give if they didn't mind me working on it in front of them. I was able to do the requisite weaving in and sewing fairly quickly. I shouldn't have put the button so close to the edge, but hey, I'm learning.

I didn't know the gender of their forthcoming child, but they thought that the bib colors were good for a girl. And that's how I found out what they're having. These colors are OK for a boy, though, right? Or does it depend on the parents? If I felt in over my head on some of the knitting stuff, the baby stuff is definitely out of my league.

I left their place to stand in line one final time this season for the Blue Jackets cheap seats. (Some might say that's all a ticket to see them play is worth. The franchise has never had a winning season.) I took my spot in the box office line slightly more than an hour before the $10 tickets would be made available. Already there were 25 people ahead of me, so I wasn't as early as I thought.

I got the first seat in a short row, so I had some extra room. Also, being on the side made me less conspicuous, so I decided to knit while I waited for the arena to fill and the game to start. For the Knitterly Letter Swap I want to send my secret pal a coffee cup cozy along with my letter. The cozy seemed like a quick and easy project for the pre-game and intermissions, and I finished about half of it. (As I take a look at it now, I'm probably going to frog it all.)

It's funny how a man knitting in public quiets people. Those sitting in front of and next to me didn't say anything. I'm not the chattiest person when by myself somewhere, but it's not unusual to strike up a conversation at a game, if just to pass the time. There was none of that here. I could tell that I was confusing them. They didn't ask, and I didn't feel like explaining.

The Jackets lost 4-3, although they scored two goals in the third period to make it interesting down the stretch. I went to eight games, with Columbus going 3-5 in those contests. That's the most games I've attended for a pro team in one season in any sport, yet I spent just $86 on admissions. This was my first season regularly following hockey. Prior to this season I'd been to three Blue Jackets games in their seven years of existence. (One season was wiped out due to a strike.)

Despite the losing effort put up by the hometown team, I enjoyed the time I spent watching the games on TV and going to several. Plus, without hockey I likely wouldn't have had as unique of a story about knitting alone in public for the first time.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Knitting a blanket and drawing a blank

Diagonal baby blanket

Yarn: Lion Homespun (98% acrylic, 2% polyester)
Colors: Sunshine state
Needles: US 11 circulars
Stitches: up to 126

I am a patient person in general. I've felt that patience diminishing some lately, but I'll get to that in a bit. Where I have no patience is in keeping FOs to myself. I get too excited and have to show off my work, which I did earlier today, and give the knitted items to the intended recipients as soon as possible. I'll be passing this blanket to the expectant parents on Saturday. At the rate I'm going, there may be a bib accompanying the blanket. I didn't expect to have much knitting time tonight, but the couple hours I picked up have been put to good use on a bib.

You see, today was looking like the day of marathon movies. Around lunchtime I saw Grindhouse, which clocks in at more than three hours. (In a nutshell, the Robert Rodriguez film is stupid, lurid, and too long but mostly fun. Tarantino's film was a big disappointment and probably why I'm leaning to a mixed review overall for the double feature.) In the early evening I showed up to see a 193-minute Jacques Rivette film. While I was curious to see the French film, my body rebelled and used the darkened theater as an excuse to have me sleep. (I'm probably averaging six hours a night, so it's not a surprise that I dozed off.) I don't know how long I was out, but 45 minutes in I was totally lost, due in part to my snoozing.

A domestic DVD isn't available, which was the deciding factor in choosing to go despite knowing I didn't really feel up to attending. (The ticket cost didn't enter into it since I have an annual pass.) That was about the only reason to compel myself to stay. It wasn't enough. As I struggled through the next thirty minutes, I kept thinking that I would rather be at home. I could watch the Reds game, and if I wasn't too sleepy, I could knit too. That sounded a lot better than enduring another two hours of a movie that was making absolutely no sense. So I got up and left.

The reason I mention all this is because I've been feeling for awhile like I'm undergoing a transformation. I don't mean in a drastic science fiction way or an altering of my core but a change of some kind. With everything that's happened in the past year and is going on now, I suppose it's fair to say that I've given a great deal of time to self-reflection. (Believe it or not, this blog has played a significant part in that too, even if I don't always publish what it might stir up.) My circumstances at home and at work are in a state of transition, so it adds up that I'd feel that way.

Still, it seems like it goes deeper. One way that is reflected is in my reactions to the movies I'm seeing. It wasn't a conscious decision, yet I know that there's been an aesthetic shift in what films are speaking to me. I've always had a populist streak and a fondness for narrative, but I learned to appreciate the tone poems and master shot cinema. In large part the art stuff--and the mainstream films with healthy doses of it--aren't doing it for me these days. A couple of years ago today's viewing selections would have seemed like locks, yet I'm cool on Tarantino's latest and didn't have the stamina for what's supposed to be one of Rivette's best. Good grief, I sat through all of Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma despite the fact that those films mostly made my head hurt.

I'm not sure where I intended to go with all of this. I had a much clearer vision of it while driving home from the theater than I do now. Maybe it means that I'm losing my edge, not that I'm sure I ever had one. Or maybe it means I just need to get more sleep.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A blanket answer

I stopped knitting last night when I had decreased the baby blanket to fifty stitches on the needles. I thought I might be able to finish it tonight, but I had no idea I'd be able to whip it out as fast as I did this evening. About two hours of working on it during NBC's comedy block--how quaint to watch TV programs as they air--and overtime of the Blue Jackets game was all I needed until I bound off. (Aside: Why didn't I add 30 Rock to my DVR record list months ago? That's a funny show.)

No pictures yet as I have to weave in the ends. You should get those tomorrow.

Thus ends my first experience knitting with circular needles. In the beginning I struggled with the cable coiling up and getting in the way, and it was sort of an issue as the number of stitches decreased. I can't imagine there being any other way of knitting something like this. Surely you couldn't--or wouldn't--knit it on straight needles. The weight of the blanket would pull your arms out of their sockets. As with anything else, once I got the hang of it, I liked it. My next test will be knitting in the round, I suppose.

Let's see, what else is going on? A week after I was quoted in the New York Times I got slagged by a prominent internet movie blogger/gossip/crank for not hating Are We Done Yet? enough. (You can get there by following the link in the comments to my review. There's no way I'm linking it here and providing a potential track back to this site.)

I'm pretty thin-skinned about being criticized, but in this case it doesn't bother me because I considered the source. I used to read him but tired of his mouth-foaming shtick. And it's not like he generated much traffic for me yesterday. Wednesday was a slow day, which tells me that people aren't looking for reviews of Are We Done Yet? and perhaps his readers don't leave his echo chamber.

Just watch, next thing you know I'll be mentioned in Vogue Knitting or something.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Better Learning Through Undoing

Note to self: pay attention when resuming knitting.

I got home from work ready to return to knitting the baby blanket. I blew through about eighty stitches and was impressed with how quickly I'd knitted them. I was almost at the end of the row. That's when I realized I didn't follow the pattern at the beginning of the row. Blast!

I turned to my emergency help line to confirm what I was afraid was the solution. I would have to undo about eighty stitches. I seriously considered knitting the rest of the row and restarting the pattern on the next one. It's not like there aren't some mistakes in it already. (I forgot to do yarn overs a couple times or did them at the wrong spot. Those errors are too far back to fix.) Reluctantly, I decided to go through the painstaking process of unknitting all those stitches.

If making mistakes is the best way to learn, then consider me schooled in undoing stitches. I've struggled at times to see how some should be undone. I think I've got it down now, save for the first/last stitch on the needle. That one always throws me. It took me a half hour to get the job done while watching the baseball game, but everything was as it should have been. Knitting stitches after they've been undone is a little more difficult--that's common, right?--so it was slow going to get the row done properly. Whether it was not enough sleep the last couple nights or the major shift toward colder temperatures again, I was ready to doze and did so through the next two and a half innings.

Now that I was alert and had probably ruined my sleep pattern for tonight, I picked up the blanket and continued to decrease. If I counted correctly, I'm down to seventy stitches in the row. As you can see in the above photo, it's getting there.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Good Day

You know what? Today was a pretty good day. I figure I complain enough that I ought to point out when everything goes well for 24 hours.

I didn't delight too much in the NCAA basketball championship loss of the local university's team, but it did make me smile. (Still, I learned my lesson about enjoying the schadenfreude when the Buckeyes are on the losing side of the scoreboard.) I would have been OK with them winning, although the way the fans latched onto it as a way to soothe their battered egos over the football championship loss had me pulling for Florida.

I finished 6th out of 16 with my bracket in the movie nerd pool. I correctly picked three of the Final Four teams, which isn't bad considering I didn't pay nearly as much attention to college ball this year.

I got a lot of knitting done during the game and have decreased to 87 stitches per row for the blanket. I knitted a few rows with the third skein, so I'm in the home stretch.

But back to today... I was very productive at work due to the item that may be my saving grace: a daily planner. My usual method for keeping track of everything has been trying to remember it all. I do a pretty good job of recalling essential information, but as I've found now that I've used the planner for three days, it's exhausting filing all of that in my head and hoping I'll retrieve it when needed. I also combine the memory method with the multiple scraps of paper method. It isn't very efficient.

I thought I'd dedicate myself to using a planner despite previous efforts writing things on a calendar that I never checked. I'm not just filling in hours with appointments but making lists of things to do during the day. Having a clear view of what I hope to accomplish during the day and what can wait until another day gives me a manageable list of tasks that I want to check off. You know what? I did get to most of them. Completing everything on the daily lists is wishful thinking at this point--too many reviews to write--but I can plan my week better. The improvisational approach is fine in some situations, but it isn't the best motivator.

One of the things that wasn't on the list but became a reality before I left the office was a long-needed restructuring of how we do the news. (For those unclear as to what I do for a living, I'm in charge of production at a college/community cable channel.) I killed our weekly half hour news show effective this fall. It's not served viewers or the students as well as it should. I've been dissatisfied with it for a long time and tend to get very stressed out on the one day we tape it.

My solution is to find five student producers and five to ten anchors. One producer and one or two anchors will be assigned a weekday to assemble a five-minute newscast for the quarter's ten weeks. It ought to be a better learning experience that delivers more valuable content to viewers. At the end of the week we can still compile all five updates into a show if desired. Also, it should reduce my workload or at least get me out of the office earlier. I'm very excited to see how this works in practice.

If that wasn't enough, Fountains of Wayne released a new album today. I haven't had time to give it a thorough listen, but their blend of pop arrives at the right time of the season. I got an unexpected thank you note in the mail, something which wasn't necessary yet made me feel good.

I could have topped the day with the promo screening of Grindhouse, a movie I'm eager to see, but rather than arrive early, get stuck afterwards in the parking garage, and add an estimated hour and a half onto the film's three hours, I elected to see Are We Done Yet? I hated Are We There Yet?, but the sequel, while thoroughly mediocre, was OK. (I'll take that in this case.) You know where to find my review. Yes, that means I also got my review written today!

I don't know that anything earth-shattering happened today, but the accumulation of small victories, surprises, and achievements added up. I'm not going to take a day like this for granted.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Opening Day

You know the seasons are changing when baseball begins again. For once the weather was on the same schedule. This would have to be the year when I couldn't get tickets for Opening Day in Cincinnati. (I've attended the first game on some frigid and rainy days in early April.) Although I wasn't at the ballpark--I took the above photo on Opening Day 2005--I did head home early to watch the game. Was it the same? Of course not. But I did get to knit.

I became a closer follower of professional hockey this season. Like baseball, one of the things I like about it is that keeping tabs on your favorite team's performance is part of the day-to-day routine. Hockey clubs don't have as many games per week as baseball teams, but both are with you through the week, unlike football teams, which can only be bothered to take the field once every seven days. Sure, there's plenty of information in the sports pages and websites every day, but so much of it is pointless conjecture that I don't feel a need to keep up with every bit of reported minutiae like I used to. No wonder I've abandoned fantasy sports for the time being.

Baseball on TV is well-suited for knitting. Since I'm still not self-assured enough to knit and not look at my hands most of the time, the slower pace of the game is perfect for allowing me to work on my project--the baby blanket, in this case--and look up to see what's happening.

All was going well. The Reds took an early lead. I was making methodical progress. I would get up to check e-mail or instant messages when I heard the notification ping, something that was more dangerous than I realized. I must have lost my place and reversed direction in the middle of a row because suddenly things weren't looking right. Hmm...

This was cause for panic, although it wasn't the time for it. I unknitted some stitches, but I dropped three in the process. I thought I had made a colossal mistake beyond the dropped stitches and was ready to shelve the blanket, but I stuck to it and eventually got it fixed. By now you'd think I would acknowledge that I have a decent grasp on this, but I'm still astonished when I repair errors like these.

I have 99 rows of decreasing left to get me to seven stitches and the final rows. If I can polish off the second skein tonight--the blanket called for three--I'll feel like I might get this finished before my friends' baby arrives.

In other knitting news, Jenn told me about the Knitterly Letter Swap. I decided to sign up for it and was given my pal's address yesterday. I love getting "real" mail, so this was impossible to turn down. Of the nearly 200 participants, guess who is the only male?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

March knitting progress report

The first of the month means it's time again to check on my new year's knitting resolutions. The joke's on me today, and not in an April Fool's way, because I thought my tally for March was going to be low. The second half of the month wasn't very productive, but overall I knitted more FOs last month than in either of the previous two.

The felted needle holder allows me to cross off "felt something" from the list. I have plenty of wool remaining, so there will be more felting in the future.

Since five of my seven March FOs weren't for me, I've kept on track with knitting for others. OK, so I've been informed that the slippers for my mom were too big, but it's the thought that counts, right?

I did a fair amount of knitting in public, primarily at the film festival. This led to some colleagues who didn't know about my knitting becoming aware of it, but none of my worst fears of teasing came to bear. At this point I think I'm perfectly comfortable knitting in public as long as it doesn't intersect with anyone I might encounter at work.

My blogging suffered a hit during my second stint at the film festival, but I'm still keeping an almost daily writing pace. It's inevitable that a day here or there will get skipped, especially with questionable internet access on the road. I'm proud to have kept it up like I have.

I have a second stitch pattern to add to ribbing. I've now knitted in stockinette. Who knows why it took me this long to knit something in it? It's a cheap one to put on the list, but it's another nonetheless.

The biggest accomplishment may have been in the self-care resolution. Not going bonkers and seeing the maximum number of films that I could at the festival was an achievement in its own right. Perspective, perspective, perspective. I enjoyed the festival more by skipping some sessions, and I certainly bounced back from it faster.I'm amazed that I haven't been sick yet. I've been taking vitamins and watching what I eat, although I've chowed down on a lot of crap this past week. I know where my new home will be and when I can move in.

Picking up on part of yesterday's entry, it's good to know that others feel like frauds too. :) Seriously, I hesitate to write stuff like that, if only to stem the tide of "there he goes again" thought bubbles popping up from readers' heads, but it helps to know that others feel the same occasionally.

The FO tally for March looks like this:

2 pairs of slippers
2 coffee cup cozies
1 dishcloth
1 felted needle holder
1 flower pin

With six FOs in January and six in February, my 2007 total stands at 19.

I have three UFOs on the needles. I've knit about seven inches of a cat mat and a few rows of a baby bib. I resumed work on the baby blanket and have plenty of it remaining to keep me busy for awhile. I alternated projects today, so it's good that I have options.

April brings two film festivals, one in town and one in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. Monday will mark the first Cincinnati Reds opening day in at least four years that I haven't attended. (The team got greedy and didn't put single game tickets on sale for the guaranteed sellout, although it saved me getting up at 4 a.m. to sit in line at the ticket outlet for a 9 a.m. on-sale.) And who knows what else might come my way in the next thirty days?