Friday, August 31, 2007

Beyond survival

A question during today's chat with a friend yielded a simple response that has provoked a lot of thought in me. I asked how she was surviving this hectic time of year. She said that she was surviving, not thriving.

It's a fascinating answer the more I reflect on it. Surviving, not thriving. That's how I feel I've been living for a long time, and I suspect a lot of people can relate. I'm not knocking surviving. It's certainly a far sight better than the alternative, but shouldn't we aspire to thrive rather than survive?

A couple days ago I wrote about the major and minor changes in my life this past year. Except for the most frivolous items on that list, those changes can help me thrive, even if I made the decisions with survival in mind. I moved to regain the peace of mind I had lost. I stopped keeping stats for basketball twice a week because I needed more time for myself.

I suppose this is just a streamlined version of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, but that doesn't take the shine off the wisdom contained in those three tidy words. I've taken my share of lumps this year. Nevertheless, I feel like I'm ready for a breakthrough. I'm prepared to do more than merely survive, yet I couldn't say that without the stability I've found in some areas. I know there are big enough challenges ahead of me, things I may hope just to survive. Still, for everything that isn't perfect, I need to acknowledge that some circumstances and developments are improved from what they were.

There will be days when surviving may be all I desire--that's life--but it's heartening to realize that I can reach for more than that. My friend probably typed those words without the hope I found in them, but inspiration can come from unlikely places. May we all thrive where we need it most.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Four things, part two

This week I've dropped a couple entries heavy on introspection, so let's lighten things up with the four things meme. Follow the link for part one.

4 favorite foods

-Fresh bread
-Chocolate, dark in particular

I'm such a philistine.

4 websites I visit every day

-The AV Club

One of the top spots around for pop culture criticism and essays.

-Internet Movie Database

Whether it's looking up the runtimes for movies I'll be seeing or checking the credits for something I'm writing, this site is an indispensable tool.

-Google Reader

The best way to keep track of the blogs I read. Some sites are slower to show that they've been updated, which is surely just a quirk in the series of tubes.


I can't help myself. I like to see how many hits my sites get and where they're coming from. Occasionally the site traffic stats tip me off when something I've written on my movie blog has been quoted or linked.

4 places I love to be


Having lived in a place where being home was stressful, I can really appreciate how wonderful it is it come home now and be able to relax. It may be trite to say there's no place like home but it's true.

-Movie theaters

Movie theaters get a bad rap these days. It's not entirely undeserved, although usually the criticisms have to do with the people populating them, not the rooms themselves. As familiar as the auditoriums are to me, there's still something magical about being in places where light shines through a strip of film and (hopefully) captures my imagination.

-Between the mile and a half and two-mile mark at Sharon Woods Metro Park

I haven't been to this park for walking and running too many times since I moved. I have closer places where I can get my exercise now. I love this stretch because it's a nice, flat section right after a couple of significant hills. You get a terrific view of the park, and if no one else is on the multipurpose trail, you can feel like you've escaped to the middle of nowhere in the midst of the bustling suburb. Of course, eventually you end up near the interstate, but it's nice while it lasts.

-Coffee shops

I like the smell and the laid-back atmosphere, assuming the music isn't being aggressively pumped in. Good for knitting, reading, writing, and talking.

4 favorite colors

-Forest green
-Midnight blue
-Fire engine red
-Cornflower blue

Beyond my favorite color--forest green--it's a toss-up. I couldn't have told you the names without the list of colors on Wikipedia.

4 names I love but wouldn't use for my children

Uh... Does having a Y chromosome exempt me from this one? I can't say I've given any thought to names I would use. After all, it isn't a pressing matter.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And you may ask yourself

How did I get here?

It's a good question considering all of the changes I've been through in the past year. I've been in my new apartment in a different suburb for three months. That was a major move for me, yet here I am about ninety days later feeling like this place has always been home. My office moved to a new building this summer. My parents moved about twice as far away. I've had a couple friends move out of state.

I worked on getting back in shape. Not perfect shape, mind you, but better shape. I took up knitting and daily blogging. I bailed on following Ohio State football and playing fantasy sports, things I was finding increasingly less enjoyable. I started following the Columbus Blue Jackets. I gave up doing stats for every one of my college's home basketball games. I gave myself permission to feel like I didn't need to see every commercially released film in town to be an informed critic. I got new glasses. I've been looking for a new home church.

All right, so some of those things aren't massive shifts in my daily life, but even the little things have added up. The me of a year ago would still recognize the me of today, although the old me would probably wonder how I survived it all. Honestly, the new me doesn't know.

I've not been resistant to change. Flexibility is an important part of my work. Being able to improvise when things don't go as planned is part of the reason I'm successful at what I do. Nevertheless, anticipating the need to change and flying by the seat of my pants is not how I conduct myself outside of work. I had lived in my old apartment for a long time despite being unhappy there for a significant stretch. I'd been keeping myself busy even though I could have been spending my time better, most notably by slowing down.

I'm still a work in progress. (All of us are, of course, or we should be.) I'm not satisfied with everything, but I press on. Really, that's all I can do. So much is outside of my control, but if I take hold of what is within my power, then hopefully the changes will be for the better.

The funny thing is that aside from the initial pain of mixing things up, eventually life's equilibrium returns and feels the same as it ever was.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Three strikes

I banged the hell out of my elbow this morning. While bringing my arm back I misjudged how close I was to my desk. Wham! I hit a spot just above my elbow pretty hard. I didn't think the pain would last. I don't see a bruise, but my arm is definitely sore.

A meeting about the upcoming school year left me relieved about some of the big, lingering questions. Cut to mid-afternoon and my boss making a visible (and, inappropriate, in my opinion) display of anger regarding a major issue that was thought to have been resolved a couple months ago. There's trouble in River City with a capital B. That rhymes with P, but this has nothing to do with pool.

Capping this day of misjudgment, the Reds fooled me into believing that they might actually make a ridiculous late season surge and get into the pennant race. I am such a sucker. Having been pulled back in, they proceeded to lose both games of a doubleheader tonight.

Anyway...knitting! It took a week, but the Texas dishcloth arrived safely. My brother said he doubts they'll use it because he doesn't want to ruin it. Thank you...but it's meant to be used! I suppose if they want to hang it on the wall or use it as a decorative item, that's fine too. I thought it was funny that I gave my permission for them to use the dishcloth, even if it sounds like they probably won't. I'll take compliments where I can get them.

I've added some more links to the sidebar. Go to ADAllen for your fill of ruminations on academia. Doniamarie talks about a little bit of everything, knitting included, at It's All About Hastening....Slowly. Jenn's Baking Blog should be self-explanatory. miss ewe knits is currently on a blog vacation, but perhaps she'll grace us with something new soon. If you need a place to catch your breath or find craft inspiration, a trip to tiny happy is just what you need. Donna shows off her knitting prowess at Toxophily. Check 'em out!

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Across the universe

After yesterday's lengthy, heavy post, I'd like to take some time to discuss Michael Vick and dog-fighting. No, no, just kidding. Enough is enough, as far as I'm concerned with that story. (Please ESPN, I just want to see my Bengals in their only preseason game of any significance.)

Before moving on to lighter fare today, I would like to thank everyone for the respect they showed me regarding that topic. I didn't expect anything else from you--thus why I wrote it, even if it could stand to be shorter --but religion can be a hot button issue. A lot of people struggle to wrap their heads around someone being able to be progressive and spiritual. Good grief, an offhanded comment in this piece led to some rather unpleasant assumptions commenters made about the writer. Opening yourself up in writing is a risky thing, and I felt bad reading the pig pile that built there. Those readers are a different crowd but still...

Above you see the Asherton Reversible Scarf that I'm knitting for the Red Scarf Project. (You have to join this Yahoo group to download the pattern, but it is free.) I've finished one repeat, most of which was done at picture time, and I really like how it looks. It's an easy knit, and I'll be happy to send it off to an unknown recipient.

Whenever this scarf is finished, I hope it gets to its intended location. It's been a week since I mailed the Texas dischloth to my brother and sister-in-law who reside in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. My brother says they haven't received a package from me. If necessary, I won't have any trouble knitting it again, but this marks the second time I've had a mailer containing a hand-knit item encounter some problems getting to its destination. In the other case, the item was intact despite the padded envelope being ripped.

Speaking of gifts, I need your feedback. I have a birthday coming up soon, and my mom asked what I want for it. I haven't given any thought to it, and I've been drawing a blank. I have been interested in the Knit Picks Options needle set. Opinions?

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Churches off the interstate

Moving to a new apartment also meant that it was time to find a new home church. I'd been going to the current one for a couple years. I liked it despite being anonymous and out of place. It's a simple matter of numbers that being young and single puts me in the church attendee minority, so I didn't hold their old people-and-families demo against them. I was put off that I e-mailed a few questions to the contact person for the small group for people in my age range--I don't think it was exclusive to singles--and never heard a peep, but maybe that told me all I needed to know.

So I approached my new location as an opportunity to search for a church, something I've really never done. The place I attended off and on in college became the place I attended more regularly once I was out of school. After being dissatisfied with it for awhile--a really old congregation plus a more conservative viewpoint coming from the pulpit did the trick--I decided to give another one a try. I walked in one Sunday and kept coming back. Honestly, I think I was expecting the same thing to happen when I began this search, but I ended up being more selective.

I went to the denomination's home page, plugged in my zip code, and pulled up a few options. I checked websites to see if I could get a feel for what they might be like, but the real test was to show up on Sunday and see for myself. The first church I attended was in a newer part of the suburb. Likewise, the church looked pretty new. The congregation was decidedly younger than what I was used to seeing, although it was predominantly couples with kids. I stuck out like a sore thumb, which isn't to say anyone noticed. Nope, I got in and out of there with little more than being handed a bulletin.

The service itself was fine, although too much of it was dedicated to stuff to do with kids' programs. In that regard I happened upon the wrong Sunday. The choir was really small. The young associate pastor had his sleeves rolled up just so as part of a carefully manufactured look that conveyed Contemporary Casual Church, something I would learn is a clear trend in worship these days. The space itself kind of felt like a sanctuary but kind of felt like a boxy conference hall.

Despite going unnoticed, I intended to go back the following week. Judging a church on one week probably isn't fair, even if I got the sense that I didn't fit. To me it seemed like a church for Desperate Housewives. I observed that many of those in the pews were likely in income brackets several higher than mine. (The parking lot alone was a telltale sign.) The people and place felt too polished, if that makes any sense.

For week two I elected to check out a different church. It too was relatively new and made from the same mold as the previous one. There was even a Contemporary Casual associate pastor with the rolled up sleeves. Again, the service itself was OK, if a little too contemporary for my tastes. Also, while it makes me sound like a film snob, I cringed when Patch Adams was brought into the sermon for demonstrating the point. I loathed that film. More discouraging was the fact that I didn't speak to a soul the entire time I was there. I didn't even get an attendance pad to sign. This may sound crazy, but I didn't rule this church out because I felt a little more comfortable there.

I located an old church nearby, so for week three I thought I'd make a break from these big box churches. Contrary to most my age--or at least what I perceive is the case--I favor a traditional service. I find it more comforting and less affected. I dislike the forced displays of emotionalism--the Shiny Happy People dimension--and the wispy songs that lack the strong, clean chords of old hymns. (Yes, in part it's because I don't like the music.) This church has been around in some form or another for almost two hundred years, so it was going to be right up my alley.

The sanctuary felt like a place of worship than a multipurpose area, and the service delivered what I wanted. I wasn't thrilled at the median age of the congregation. I was easily one of the youngest people there. Once more I came and went without being acknowledged. I don't remember if the minister asked if anyone was there for the first time, something I can't bring myself to respond to, but the fact is that I was getting pretty aggravated about being a ghost.

I went to a different church for the fourth consecutive week. I believe it has been around for awhile, but as far as I can tell, it has been remodeled in the modern style. Yet there are enough traditional elements in the sanctuary that made it feel like the right mix of yesterday and today. The spartan attendance and creaky congregants at the traditional service were not encouraging. I realize that I'm not going to come upon a church with a lot of people my age, but it would be nice to find somewhere I'm not the youngest person in the pew by thirty years.

A couple days later I received an e-mail from someone at this fourth church. Believe it or not, this was the first time I was contacted by anyone at the churches I visited. (Church #2 didn't have any way of contacting me, although that's a problem in and of itself.) I replied by saying that I liked what I heard from the pulpit but that I was also looking for a church with people my age. This person suggested going to the contemporary service. I decided that it couldn't hurt, so I went the following week.

Someone actually talked to me, which was nice for a change. The pew-fillers were younger too. I still prefer the usual old hymns, but the rock-style songs had more muscle than the contemporary hymns I've objected to on aesthetic grounds. I felt like this church was worth giving a chance, something I had confirmed to me on the following Saturday. I had a knock on my door. It was someone from the church who had come to give me a loaf of bread and some information about the church, something they do after one has attended twice. I wasn't looking for churches to woo me, but I appreciated that my attendance had been noticed.

I got information about the young adults group, which meets one weeknight each month. In spite of being nervous about going to it, I decided that I needed to do it. I found the room where everyone was supposed to be meeting. The lights were off, and no one was around. In an effort to find out what was going on I tracked down someone who was helping with Vacation Bible School. The small group meeting was on the schedule, but apparently it had been pushed back a week, something I couldn't know having never been there before. You would think this search would be a lot easier, wouldn't you?

I returned the next week and had to check three or four doors before finding one that was unlocked. I got to the room, and again it was dark and empty. I walked down the hall and found the youth pastor's office. I asked him about the meeting. It turns out that he and his wife lead the nascent young adults group, and the others who were there for the meeting were in his office.

It wasn't a big group. The three others included two college students, one who had transferred from where I work and knew at least one student I did, and one soon-to-be freshman. This wasn't what I was hoping to find. The small group discussion went well enough, although it was very obvious that I was in a much different spot than everyone else there. I was also the oldest person in the room. Churches don't know what to do with people my age and in my situation.

I've continued to go to this church and plan to feel it out for awhile, but the people I "know" has dwindled by two. (The youth pastor resigned this week.) I took a fairly unprecedented step for me and stuck around after this morning's service for brunch in the fellowship hall. My invisibility shield must have been up again as I got my food, ate, and left without any contact. Predictably, the brunch bunch consisted of families with little ones and the older crowd, so there's not anything unusual about that.

Congratulations if you've made it this far in this epic entry. I'm afraid, though, that there is no reward here. This is a post without a direction. It says what it says, and probably something more, but there's no grand summation.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dish Rag Tagged

Knitting's calming effect may have influenced me to give up the aggravation of fantasy sports, but it hasn't eliminated my competitive side. I was confident that the Dish Rag Tag box would arrive at my apartment today, so I set the foolhardy goal of getting it back in the mail the same day. I checked to see how late local post offices were open. Unless I summoned previously untapped knitting superpowers, it was doubtful I could get to the post office by three in the afternoon, but I located a nearby hardware store with a postal center open until eight on Saturday nights.

At 11 a.m. I heard a loud rap on my door. I opened it to find my team's box and went into action mode. Balls of red and white cotton were inside along with the dishcloth my team member knitted and a bag of 24 mini markers. Since I'm using red yarn for two WIPs, I opted to knit with the ivory to make the quilted diamonds dishcloth.

Everything was going well for the first hour, although the seed stitch border looked suspiciously like ribbing. Perhaps in my haste I misremembered how to do seed stitch, but the first three rows seemed fine. I was annoyed that I had messed up, but it looked OK even if it wasn't what the pattern called for.

I kept cranking away at it but took a break when I lost track of stitches and had to undo the better part of a row. I put lunch in the oven, knit a few rows, and then had something to eat. I'm guessing that this is when I lost my spot in the pattern. I didn't notice because my needles were clicking away, but a few inches later I saw that I knit a couple rows of pattern that weren't where they should have been. The mistake was compounded in that it switched the right side for the ribbed border. Ugh.

And the hits kept on coming... While binding off, both stitches on the right needle flew off. I took care of them, or so I thought, but then I noticed previously bound off stitches sticking up. I picked up and bound off again with these stitches. As I neared the final stitches I saw that there was a dangling strand of yarn, a sign that I had dropped a stitch while binding off. I didn't know how I might work back to correct it, so I covered it up when weaving in the end.

Quilted diamonds dishcloth

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Color: Ivory
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 46

The final product is... Embarrassing isn't the right word, but it's along those lines. The moral of the story, for me at least, is that I can knit fast or knit well, not both. I made this dishcloth in four and a half hours, so you know which option I chose. My apologies to the team member receiving this mediocre example of my abilities. I can do better than this. It might not be the worst looking FO I've knit since my practice piece, but it would be in contention.

It was something of a miracle that the box was processed for mailing. The employees of the hardware store with a United States Postal Service center didn't know what buttons to push to charge me for priority shipping and delivery confirmation. It took about fifteen minutes to check out despite there being no other customers at the counter. Here's hoping the package gets to Indiana without any delays. We have a race to win!

Did I mention that tornado sirens were wailing when I stepped out of the store? I didn't have far to go to get home, so I avoided being on the road when a brief but fierce storm passed by. I didn't see any funnel clouds, although I heard that some were spotted a few miles from here. It's probably best that I didn't see them. As a kid I was afraid of tornadoes, probably because I'd heard about the big one that hit Xenia. I still get a little on edge when I hear those sirens. Seeing a tornado, even if it's from the gods and not a front row seat, might stop my heart.

Oh, in the comedy of errors that was my day, I scribbled a short message on the side of the box. I started a word that I decided I didn't want to use. In an attempt to scratch it out I made a little blob, which I then tried to shape into the state of Ohio to cover up my mistake.

How appropriate that I saw The Boss of It All tonight. It's a comedy, although not in the knee-slapping way, not that I can recall any movie eliciting that reaction...but you know what I mean. Best and worst intentions are undermined at every turn. It helps to be able to laugh about what happens, even if you tend to take yourself too seriously.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Everything in its right place

I feel like I have regained some focus after a couple weeks adrift. In other words, two projects are on the needles. I have knit just four rows of each, but I'm encouraged that I have a quick knit and a more substantial project to keep me occupied. I'm making another Arkansas dishcloth and the Asherton reversible scarf for the Red Scarf Project. I'm using Dark Horse Yarn-Fantasy in cherry for the scarf. I've been knitting with cotton so much lately that the soft texture of the half nylon, half acrylic yarn was a pleasant surprise.

The day concluded a lot better than it began. I drove to a screening that didn't take place because the print was going to arrive an hour late, meaning we wouldn't begin until at least ninety minutes after the designated starting time.

Picking up some extra time wasn't so bad. I had two friends and their baby over tonight, so additional time to straighten up my place--translation: unpack or find a place for stuff that had sat untouched since I moved--was welcome. It also gave me the chance to squeeze in a trip to Jo-Ann's to get more needles. I'm hoping to receive the Dish Rag Tag box Saturday, so I needed to get US 7s to knit my dishcloth while the Arkansas dishcloth occupied my other needles. Of course, the store had almost every size except what I wanted.

Mildly aggravated, I popped in at Michael's. I found what I came for, but hold on, what's this? Aluminum needles in different colors? I put back the metal needles I was going to buy for the aluminum sticks in a nice shade of blue. That's right. Color was the determining factor in my needle purchase.

I wonder if cleaning up some of the remains of moving has helped me become unstuck. I've felt very much at home here, but I've had the nagging feeling that the move isn't truly finished until everything is in its right place. I can't claim I've achieved that level, but my apartment no longer looks like I'm still moving in. Getting it to that point made it possible to have a relaxed evening at home with friends.

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Thursday, August 23, 2007


Arkansas dishcloth

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Color: Red
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 38

We interrupt meme-ing for Actual Knitting Content. I've stalled on the crocheting that needs to be done on the secret projects, so I might as well add in something else to the packages going to my vacation hosts. One Arkansas dishcloth down, one to go. (The color looks better with one's eyes, not through the camera lens. My Nikon does not like red under artificial light.)

I may start another one tonight, although I run the risk of having it partially completed and needing those needles for Dish Rag Tag. Perfect justification to buy more needles, right? The box is winging its way west to me. I was preparing to skip something on Friday so I could receive the package, knit my dishcloth, and send it to the next team member in the same day, but it looks like the earliest I'll get it is Saturday.

Maybe that's just as well. I need to pick a pattern. Rendering Texas and Arkansas in cotton has been fun, but the final objects aren't big enough. (The person I'm tagging shouldn't fret that an Indiana dishcloth is forthcoming.) Rather than start another Arkansas dishcloth this evening, I'll probably flip through patterns so I'm ready to go.

My extensive vacation blogging covered a good bit of territory, but I failed to write about a charming southern custom. In my experience, parents in the south have their children address adults as Mr. or Miss First Name. For the life of me I can't remember how my parents had us kids speak to adults, but I'm pretty sure we didn't do the same. I like the formality and intimacy conveyed in the title and first name. Using Mr. Last Name would afford more respect than is necessary while saying only the first name would seem too familiar. Regardless of if the convention is used elsewhere, it strikes me as something uniquely southern. Plus, it's adorable coming from kids.

Note to Donna and Noel: sorry my Reds have had your Braves' number. I can't remember the last time they had this much success against Atlanta.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Four things, part one

There's something I wanted to write about today, but I'm feeling like I need more time to do the subject justice. So it's two days in a row with a meme.

I came across the four things meme on Ruth's site. Here goes...

4 jobs I've had

-Temporary employee as a police report transcriber. The Huber Heights Police Department employee I replaced for the summer was having surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. After several forty hour weeks of listening to reports on tape and typing them up, I understood why she had to have the procedure done. To add to the madness and aching hands, I worked overtime some weeks in an effort to pull in good money and help catch them up. There was an ongoing murder investigation, so I had plenty of the detectives' mini-cassette reports, many of which they dictated while eating meals. The work could be pretty interesting and really depressing.

-Statistician for the Dayton Wings, a World Basketball League team. I kept track of the minutes players played. The league folded before the season ended. I want to say that I showed up for a game after my work at the police department and found out that the league was shutting down, but I don't remember if that's true or not.

-Music researcher for a rock radio station. I called people who had signed up for contests at station events. If they fit the desired demographic, I would play clips of about thirty songs for them to rate. I would call two more times to do music tests before revealing who I really was with. (We identified ourselves as Metro Research, although the AM station housed in the same building showed up on caller ID.) One of the more ridiculous developments was when the program director didn't want us to use our first names any longer. Instead we were supposed to all go by Chris Johnson, male and female alike. Worst experience: calling to speak to someone, getting his father with the same name, and finding out his son had died.

-Little League baseball umpire. Parents are ruthless even if you are just fifteen or sixteen.

4 films I would watch over and over

-Metropolitan (Whit Stillman, 1990)
-This is Spinal Tap (Rob Reiner, 1984)
-The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) (Jacques Demy, 1964)
-Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)

I won't commit to calling these my four favorite films of all-time, but I've seen all of these several times and would watch them again in a heartbeat.

4 places I have lived

-Phillipsburg, Ohio
-Westerville, Ohio
-Dublin, Ohio

Yeah, I only have three. What a bore. I lived in two different homes in Phillipsburg and several different places in Westerville, but the fact remains that I've only had three different zip codes in my life.

4 favorite TV shows

-The Office (US and UK)
-The X-Files

I always have a hard time with questions like this, but NewsRadio is one of those shows I never tire of watching. Onto the list! Both versions of The Office are very funny. Lost is one of the most ambitious and compelling shows I've followed. The same was true at one time of The X-Files, which eventually crumbled under the weight of its own muddled mythology, but this was can't-miss TV for me. Go figure that I don't think I've ever seen the last episode. If I remember correctly, it aired the same time as the Survivor and Alias season finales. My interest had dropped off by then, and I could only watch one channel and record another.

This four things meme is awfully long. (C'mon, meme creator, where's the symmetry with nine categories?) I'm going to cut it short here and finish it some other time, maybe tomorrow.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Five questions

About a month ago I made up some questions to assist Donna with her daily blogging. Since it's getting late and I'm stumped for a topic, I thought it was only fair that I answer the questions I asked.

Beatles or Stones? Or are you the contrarian who picks The Who?

I like all of them, but without a doubt The Beatles have been more influential on my pop sensibilities and are better represented in my CD collection. I went through a phase in high school when I gobbled up any information I could about The Fab Four and their heyday. Mark Lewisohn's The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years 1962-1970 fascinated me with its tales of studio experimentation (recording, not chemical).

If you were one of the X-Men, what would your mutant power be?

I've never been a comic book guy. I liked the X-Men films. Yes, even the one Brett Ratner directed, although not as much as the others. I didn't mean for the question to be interpreted as asking which power among those in the X-Men would you like to have--I probably couldn't name very many of them--so I'll go with my original intent. My mutant power would be the ability to cut through metaphorical BS.

When did you discover your calling, and why do you think it is what it is? Or are you still looking?

Calling is such a big word. Who asked these questions? I think I knew from a fairly early age that I wanted to write, but pinning down when I realized that it was my calling is a lot harder to do. I starting writing DVD reviews online in 2000 and did so at an impressive rate despite not being paid a cent. I enjoyed doing it for the act itself. Isn't that integral in finding your calling? I might even say that the writing I've been doing on this blog has, in part, helped reveal that calling to me.

Why writing? I'm interested in sharing my thoughts and perspectives, something I discovered while doing radio and TV in college, and I'd like to think I have something worthwhile to say occasionally. I'm still hashing this all out--I can be kind of introspective if you haven't noticed--but if pressed, I think that writing is my calling because it is something I like to do and can be good enough at that it feels right. Not the strongest answer considering the question, but at the moment I don't feel like puzzling over it for a couple of hours.

What are people surprised to learn about you?

You mean aside from the knitting thing? That's a tough one. I bet that people who knew me through high school would be surprised to learn what I've become. Those who know me now probably wouldn't expect that I grew up in a small town where the family business was the grain elevator. What I do for a living is so far removed from that.

On what reality show would you like to be a contestant?

Truth be told, I doubt that I would be able to withstand being under the watchful eyes of cameras nonstop, but if I could, I'd love to be on The Amazing Race. The travel alone would make it worth the hassle, and it looks like great fun, which can't be said for most reality programs. My temperament is probably well-suited for the stress the show exerts on the contestants, but what do I know? Perhaps I would melt down in some cramped Asian marketplace and look like an ass to America.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Journey or Don't Stop Believin'

Today marked the start of the school year for some university-employed friends of this blog. For me it meant going back to work at the college after two weeks off. I can't speak for them, but I'm guessing we all had pretty hectic days. I'll get to relive the first day of classes crunch soon enough. In the meantime the awaiting avalanche on the first day back from vacation will have to suffice for me.

As you may know, there's been a lot of uncertainty and flux at my workplace over the last several months. Our offices moved this summer to a new building on campus, an overall positive change but one that triggered major headaches I won't detail here. (I know it's unlikely that anyone familiar with the situation might come across this post, but it's not worth the risk.) Let's just say we are behind schedule on some important stuff, and no advancement was going to be made while I was away.

I avoided checking work-related e-mail while on vacation because I knew something would set me off if I clicked on enough new messages. Not to worry. They were still there for me to read today. How long did it take for two weeks of rest and relaxation to vaporize upon returning to work? About two hours. OK, that's an exaggeration. I still feel good, but two hours at the office was like a sharply administered slap to the face after the last fourteen days.

And that's where knitting comes in. I began knitting as a diversion from work, as a way to take my mind off aggravations out of my control. Could last week's stuckness be attributed to the absence of that stress? While I think it's probably impossible to create without some pain, I don't believe that the greatest art comes exclusively from misery. Nevertheless, there's something to be said for using creative outlets to channel one's dissatisfaction and hurt. The universe tends to balance things on cosmic scales, so it follows that relaxed complacency might offset the need for knitting to equalize things.

Don't take this armchair philosophy to mean that I have to be unhappy or restless to knit. What I'm saying is that the things that bring us pleasure take on more meaning in the midst of circumstances that irritate or frustrate us.

How about I put it in different terms? Most of you know that I review films. I see an absurd number each year--250 to 300 in the theaters, depending on how gung ho I am--which means I see a lot of crap. Sure, I'd prefer not to see the dregs of cinema, but in watching the worst of the worst, the best films are more cherished. Finding a gem after wading through the bad and mediocre makes the effort worth the trouble.

I can't say that I'm thankful for bad movies, workplace nuisances, and personal discontent, but I accept that those things are part and parcel with being able to acknowledge what is good and worth pursuing.

So to my fellow first day survivors I say, "Take heart." At the very least today gave you a reason to pick up the needles.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007


Texas dishcloth

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar 'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Color: Delft blue
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 38

An FO! It's been such a long time. I cast on and knit a few rows after writing yesterday's blog entry, but I knit almost all of it this afternoon. It's not quite big enough to meet the Dish Rag Tag size specifications, not that I'm going to knit this pattern for the race. I feel like I should be able to crank out a dishcloth the same day I get the box, though. Is my mojo back? I hope.

This was a day for salvaging. Last night I got home from a cookout and discovered that some runny filling from the blackberry pie I made had dripped all over my shirt and shorts. (This happened en route from my car to my apartment, not at the party.) I thought that the stains might be impossible to get out. It didn't help that I was out of stain remover.

This morning I saw that blackberry pie residue had also dripped on one of my car seats. Picture above my head a cartoon thermometer with the sound of a slide whistle accompanying the rising mercury. I bought Zout Action Foam to do battle with the stains. To my amazement, I didn't see a trace of blackberries on my clothes when I took them out of the washer. Guess what's going on the shortlist for this year's Archies.

Google Desktop will be on that list too. The tool was a saving grace when I couldn't get a wireless signal in Arkansas, and it helped me get to information I needed this weekend while my work e-mail was inaccessible. I would have shown up late to the cookout, but Google Desktop let me search my computer for an old e-mail I had viewed on it.

These minor wins have given me the courage to sew my messenger bag strap. I need to find a sewing tutorial--something as basic as how to start--and then I think I'm ready to take the plunge with blanket stitch.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

State of the dishcloth

I'm still in a fix over my latest knitting-related calamities, but it's time to do something to get me going again. I need to get something on the needles and knit. It doesn't matter what. I dropped by the local yarn store earlier today to see what they had. It didn't matter that I saw some yarns I might want to get. I have no projects in mind, so it's hard for me to buy yarn when I don't know how much I might need.

If I haven't been knitting socks, a struggle that has produced more heartaches than successes, I've been working with cotton. It's time to return to old reliable: the dishcloth. I could use some for myself, but I'm going to knit one for my brother and sister-in-law first. They live in Texas, so what could be more appropriate than a dishcloth adorned with their state?

I am dissatisfied to have fallen into a knitting rut so quickly after a vacation full of needle work. I like to get things done, yet I can't honestly claim to have achieved any FOs in nearly two months. (Single socks don't count in my book, especially if one of said socks is too big.) Hopefully something simple and small will turn me around.

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Friday, August 17, 2007


Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.

The good news is that you see a finished sock. The bad news is that it is too big. It barely stays up, and it's wider than it should be. It's probably also longer than it should be. Losing my place during decreasing will do that.

There's also this scar-like phenomenon in the middle of the foot, although it's not anything that will ever be seen since it is on the bottom. I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure that this mistake was caused by doing ssk the wrong way. I wasn't actually slipping them off, just knitting into the back of the stitches. Donna got me straightened out on this, so ssk shouldn't be a problem in the future.

Do I decide that this is merely a practice sock and knit two more, the thought of which exhausts me at the moment? Do I knit a companion for it so I might be able to consider the pair completed but end up with only one wearable sock? Might I be able to get it to shrink after a trip through the washer and dryer? (Note to self: check to see if it is permitted to go in the dryer.)

Knowing how long this first one took me to knit, I'm wary of starting another with the expectation that I probably have to make two more. (That choice also means ordering more yarn.) Yes, it's a learning experience, but that's a lot of invested time for one lesson.

And then there's this dilemma... (Sorry for the unfocused photo. This is what I got with an unsteady hand and not enough light.) I've found an explanation of blanket stitch that makes sense to me, but understanding how to do it and putting it to practice are not the same. I think I could sew the messenger bag strap if I had two smooth pieces, but these folded over pieces are another matter entirely.

My primary concern is that I won't do a good enough job and it will rip again. (The first time was my fault for carrying too much in the bag.) To be perfectly honest, I feel certain this will happen. There will be a bulge where it's sewn together, which bothers me but not enough that I can't get over it. On top of that, I haven't been able to carry my messenger bag all week. I've come to rely on it, so not having it at my disposal is an additional frustration.

So here I am with a knitting-free week and a bag that is useless until it is repaired. I just want to knit something simple and fun, yet here I am in limbo. Whatever shall I do?

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lazing about

Considering I engaged in some intensive knitting while vacationing in Arkansas, you'd think that I would be a machine now that I'm home and off work for the week. Except for attending a few screenings, my schedule has been open. Lazy days have been spent going for walks, writing, and napping in the afternoon. I have not picked up the needles since returning.

I want to to knit. I should finish the secret projects, although they require weaving in ends, seaming with single crochet, and learning back stitch. I should cast on for a second sock so I will finally have a pair. (I've knit three singles, one for a baby and two different ones for me.) I should figure out how to do blanket stitch so I can sew the messenger bag strap together. I should get the items to include for my leg of Dish Rag Tag. That's a lot of shoulds.

So why have I been so unproductive? I blame too much freedom. Having no restrictions sounds good in theory, but in practice it produces chaos or paralysis. My days in Arkansas were far from rigidly structured, but they had enough shape to give me direction during free time. At home I can do as I please when it suits me, but formless days lead to aimless activity, if that much gets accomplished. Or I could lay on the futon and catch up on recorded TV.

All this lazing about isn't a bad thing--I'm not chomping at the bit to get back to work--but I could use a little motivation to goose my slacker ways. I could finish all those things that are awaiting completion, or I could throw something else onto the heap and see if that gets me moving.

Which means that I'm going to follow in Jennifer's shoes and participate in the Pay It Forward exchange. Here's the deal: I'll knit something for the first three people who leave a comment asking to play along. What I will knit is undetermined. Apparently I have up to a year to fulfill my end of the bargain, although we all know that I'll be faster than that. All you have to do is agree to do the same on your blog.

Leave a comment, but you should also e-mail me with your e-mail address, assuming I don't already have it. I might try to follow through for more than three people, but I reserve the right to get preoccupied with something else and stick to the rules as they are laid out.

That's better. I'm feeling motivated already.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bridge night

Today I'm rolling out the rest of the best (or interesting) photographs from my trip south. This picture is of a blossoming tree on the square in Fayetteville. (Below are some daisies growing in front of the newspaper's office.) Tomorrow it will be time to move on to other topics, but I would like to reflect and comment a little more on the vacation, though.

For instance, what did I learn? I discovered that taking notes about things that caught my attention or occurred to me while making a long drive helped the time go slightly faster. I found that Kentucky drivers were easily the worst I encountered in a trip that passed through seven states. I learned that telling a child that a tree is an emergency potty means she will share this information at a later time, potentially to the parents' embarrassment.

I had reinforced that where you are isn't as important as who you are with. Several people, including my hosts, expressed surprise that I would choose to vacation in Arkansas. Why in the world would I go there? The answer: to get away for a bit and to see them. It all seems kind of crazy and impulsive now. It did somewhat at the time too. Yet everything worked out very well. I got along swimmingly with the people I knew mostly through electronic communication.

Which isn't to say that it's been easy to explain to others. Au contraire. My impression has been that the nature of online relationships causes them to be viewed with suspicion. At least that's what I thought people believed. Perhaps that's what you were thinking. Those I met on the trip didn't say that they found anything strange about it, although I'm not sure they understood entirely. My mom called me Monday morning thinking I was home. When I explained who I'd been visiting--loaded with qualifiers, mind you, as I knew her imagination would run wild with the mention of visiting female friends--she asked why I thought she would think it was odd.

So maybe my perceptions are wrong. Maybe we've reached a time when people don't think there's anything weird about meeting those you've known almost exclusively online. Ultimately I think the diminishing of that stigma is a good thing. Certainly it doesn't hurt to exercise caution, and there's no guarantee that face-to-face communication will be as relaxed. Still, like the railroad bridge in Fayetteville pictured above, the electronic bridge that helps people find like-minded friends must serve a good purpose, right? That being said, don't worry. I won't be showing up on your doorstep. Not without an invite, that is.

For me, knitting and this blog have been a bridge connecting me to new friends, people I might not otherwise have come to know or come to know as well. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started knitting, and I definitely had no clue where this blog would take me, literally in last week's example. It's been my figurative bridge to the 21st century.

I am at heart a quiet person. Despite evidence to the contrary, there are still vestiges of shyness and a preference for privacy within me, at least on a wide scale. I have no trouble confiding in those I feel close to, but I don't feel a need to explain who I am to everyone. What's remarkable from this side is that I've shared more about myself on this blog than I ever intended to. In retrospect some of it is embarrassing, but I think it's also been important for me in attaining deeper knowledge of myself. And you thought this was just a knitting blog. And I thought this was just a knitting blog!

Superbad, which I saw with Noel while in Arkansas, may look like just a raunchy teen comedy about the big, final party before school ends, but at its core the film explores a serious question about friendship. It got me to thinking about those friends who have faded away, not because of any bad endings but due to life leading people in separate directions. Noel and I talked about that on the way back to his house and whether the film's ending was happy or not. Let's split the difference and call it bittersweet. It's sad for what is likely lost and happy in that it appreciates what they had and where they are going even if it may be without one another.

That was not what my vacation was about, but it called to attention how lucky I felt to have met Jenn, Donna, and Noel. The trip meant forging new friendships. For that I am extremely grateful.

Back to griping about knitting problems tomorrow. :)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Picture time

Since I've been writing all night--had to catch up on some film site stuff--I'm going to split the remainder of vacation photos and ruminations over two days. Hopefully you're not sick of it yet.

As you can see above, secret project #2 was knit in public while I had a view of the football stadium. Alas, my lugging around of a notebook computer and various other things in my messenger bag led to a rip in the strap's seam. I took it to JoAnn's today to get some help.

The bad news was that the rest of the stitches at that spot needed to be ripped out. The store employee did the painful work for me and helped me pick out some thread. She told me that I ought to sew it with blanket stitch and spoke as though this were an opportunity to do a design or something where the strap is disconnected. I like that attitude in creative people, but in this case I just fret that I've done irreparable damage to the bag. I do not have much confidence in my sewing abilities.

Here's the stadium I could see while knitting.

And the wild hog from which the university draws its nickname.

The Fayetteville library provides this spectacular view of the hills. One thing I forgot to blog about, but which I know one of my readers will appreciate, is the hand dryers in the bathrooms. (I snapped a couple of quick photos, but they didn't turn out. I hope you can understand that I was in a hurry to take the pictures without anyone walking in and wondering what I was doing.) The XLerator Excel Dryer succeeds where other electric hand dryers fail. It dries your hands. The rocket engine blast of air makes a rippling indentation in your skin. This thing has some serious power behind it.

I can't imagine how many years it might take to do an inventory of the Dickson Street Book Shop. It would probably be a Sisyphean task. If someone wanted to remake the "Time Enough at Last" episode from The Twilight Zone, this would be a good setting for it.

Yeah, they have a few books.

I didn't go to The Mystic Melon, but I thought the house looked interesting from the outside. Fayetteville has a bohemian vibe, something you can see in a home/gallery/flea market like this.

The Fayetteville courthouse is near the square. Will the contemporary architecture of such buildings look as interesting seventy years from now? I doubt it.

I got a kick out of this laundromat's name, so I had to take a photo.

More pictures tomorrow as well as some final thoughts.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

The Return

As nice as it might be to stay on a permanent vacation, the time came on Sunday for me to leave Arkansas and return home. I left refreshed. My heart was filled with the love shown to me by friends, and my suitcase was stuffed with the dirty laundry I accumulated. I loaded up the car, checked the oil, and said goodbye to Donna and her family.

I dawdled somewhat in getting out of Conway. I needed to get gas and add a quart of oil. I couldn't leave without stopping at Sonic to buy a Route 44 soft drink, a beverage size so large that it's obscene. I had plenty of driving to do, so I was going to need something to help stay cool.

I listened to the radio a fair amount on the drive down, but it was almost all iPod on the trip north. The new Kelly Willis album got things off to a breezy start, and then I plowed through the entire Fountains of Wayne discography. Something about the cheerful and modest suburban pop felt like the right music for the occasion.

And now the play-by-play:

9:44 a.m. Leave Conway.

11:15 a.m. Spot the first Ohio license plate I've probably seen in a week. Shortly thereafter I see another.

11:20 a.m. To my right I see a plane circling like a vulture hovering over its prey. At first I wondered if it was having some trouble. It was flying fairly low. When it made a second pass, I assumed everything was OK.

11:53 a.m. Cross the border into Tennessee. I-40 east: that's how I got to Memphis.

12:19 p.m. A backpacking hitchhiker sits alongside the interstate. You don't see someone trying to thumb a ride every day, which is probably just as well considering that conventional wisdom says serial killers and other unsavory characters are the only ones who do so.

12:57 p.m. Classy.

1:27 p.m. Stop at Bailey's Restaurant in Wildersville, Tennessee. Except for my Sonic fixation, I've eaten at local places during this trip. The partial dust and gravel parking lot, the basic brick building...maybe this is one of those road eateries where I can find a good, cheap meal and a gum-snapping waitress who calls diners "hon".

I enter and am not sure if I must wait to be seated or should sit down on my own. Since there doesn't appear to be a hostess, I sidle up to a long table in the non-smoking section. Yes, smoking is allowed, witnessed by the old ladies at the front puffing on long, slim cigarettes. The place is filled with real salt-of-the-earth types--something I mean no disrespect in saying--and probably looked the same twenty years ago except for the credit card machine. A wall near the bathroom has a line of country music singer autographed photographs made out to whom I presume are the owners.

I pondered the menu's options for some time before settling on the country fried steak sandwich with onion rings. The meal was OK but not the revelatory find that Alton Brown might have come upon when he did his Food Network show about road food. The onion rings were most likely from a plastic Ore-Ida bag, not homemade.

2:11 p.m. After refueling the car--and spilling leftover gasoline in the pump on my left hand--I get back on the highway.

2:55 p.m. The inevitable post-meal lethargy sets in.

3:25 p.m. I wrote down the time in my planner but didn't indicate what was worth commenting about. Maybe it's that I crossed the Nashville corporation line. That'll have to do because it's gone.

3:35 p.m. Oh no oh no oh no oh no. As I make the leftward turn to get onto I-65 north, traffic slows to a crawl. When doing this much driving in one day, getting stalled is more aggravating than usual. It turns out to be just a blip in the flow, so all is well.

4:04 p.m. Cross the border into Kentucky.

4:48 p.m. Someone used blue spray paint to proclaim "I (heart) BUTTS" on the overpass.

5:09 p.m. A sign directs tourists to Lincoln's birth site. By all accounts, Lincoln was a great President, but like Indiana's border proclamation of being Lincoln's boyhood home, this all seems like a challenge to Illinois' claim on the man that cannot be won.

5:11 p.m. Call my friend who is usually driving from Virginia to Ohio at this time. I'm getting bored and could use someone to talk to. He hangs up because he's going through a tunnel. We get cut off later because I'm in the hills and losing my signal.

6:11 p.m. Actually, it's 7:11 p.m. since I returned to the eastern time zone at some point. I pull into the hotel parking lot. This is the second time I've used Hotwire to book a hotel, and I'm pleased with the result. Research led me to believe that I knew what hotel I'd be getting before the travel site named it, and I was spot on. I got a great price and location, so no complaints here. I stay the night in Louisville, Kentucky with almost 550 miles of the trip out of the way.

Monday, August 13

I was slightly uneasy about the drive because the coolant temperature had been creeping up some on Sunday. It never peaked into any troublesome areas, probably because I sacrificed running the air conditioning when it approached the halfway point. The car had also become a little balky on starting on the first try. I'm going to chalk it up to the heat--Sunday was another scorcher--because I didn't have any problems today.

10:10 a.m. Depart.

10:26 a.m. On the interstate.

10:31 a.m. Choose to make one last stop at Sonic. An enormo-drink and some food should take care of me until I get home.

11:00 a.m. Back on the road.

12:12 p.m. Cross the border into Ohio. Donna and I had talked about bridges and our dislike for driving over them. Apparently it isn't the I-71 bridge that bothers me as much as it's concrete. The one on I-75 must provide a more frightening view of the Ohio River.

12:25 p.m. Hmm, why would I take a picture of this? It's also around this time that I give up the "shuffle songs" iPod option for the Cary Grant audiobook. I've made this part of the drive several times, so I need something to engage me for the last leg.

1:29 p.m. Enter Franklin County, my home county.

1:39 p.m. Pass the southern city limit for Columbus.

1:59 p.m. Arrive home.

While I was sad to leave, it's good to be home too. I'll finish off vacation ruminations and photos tomorrow.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Radiation vibe

The lion's share of running around was done on Thursday and Friday. Saturday was more like a typical weekend day except for doing pretty much whatever was possible to avoid the summer sun. Donna and Noel took the kids to the library for morning story time. I tagged along, toting my knitting with me, and worked on my sock while the librarian led the children in songs and told a few tales. One even mentioned knitting. There you have it.

After lunch at Cancun Mexican Restaurant, the place I first met up with the whole gang in 2005, it was time to visit Bella Lana Knitting, Conway's yarn shop. I'll reiterate that currently I don't have anything particular I'm looking for, so I emerged without making a purchase. Donna and I sat and knit with the proprietor and two other women. They were surprised to see both of us knitting socks on dpns, which earned a demonstration of magic loop knitting.

We left to do more knitting and meet Amanda at a coffee shop. Unknown to us, the anticipated spot closed early on Saturday afternoon, so we switched locations to Something Brewing but missed Amanda in the mix-up. Donna and I knitted and chatted. Really, it couldn't have been better. She's such a smart, interesting, and generous woman, and I'm blessed to have her as a friend. With good company and knitting, what else did I need?

Donna practiced her dishcloth for Dish Rag Tag while I continued to forget if I was on a toe shaping decrease round on my sock. I was amused to observe that she too wraps yarn with her left hand. (Just the other day my continental knitting preference took another knitter by surprise.) As was par for the course on the day, she continued to run into people she knew, reinforcing the impression that everyone, including Donna, knows everyone in this small city.

For dinner she took me to Mike's Place, her pick for Conway's best restaurant and one of the few "wet" establishments in this dry county. I should explain since I don't think I've encountered a similar situation elsewhere. The county could more correctly be identified as "damp", meaning that alcohol sales are not allowed except in approved restaurants that function as private clubs. One must be a member or be with a member to eat at these places. A nominal fee is required for membership, so unconnected out-of-towners can dine there, assuming that the visitors aren't put off by needing to spend a little extra to be permitted to be served. We had to sign in, likely to provide a legal record that no one will ever check. Dinner was delicious--I went for the French cut pork chops with side salad and baked potato--and the conversation was equally wonderful.

Back at her home it was more knitting and watching TV. I finished my sock--picture forthcoming--and had her give me a refresher on single crochet. I can come clean now and say that the secret projects are knitted needle covers from Hollywood Knits Style. As a way of expressing my thanks for their hospitality and friendship I've made one each for Jenn and Donna, my gracious hosts on this trip. They've seen the projects. I hoped to give these items to them while in Arkansas, but the single crochet seaming and edging has slowed my progress. And I still have to figure out back stitch.

At the risk of embarrassing Donna--I think I've probably already done that for Jenn--let me sing her praises here. She and her family embraced me with so much warmth that I felt like a treasured guest. I admire and respect Donna and Noel, not only for what they do but who they are. To spend time with and be spoiled by friends with whom I feel simpatico is wonderful in ways that words come up short.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Southern hospitality

Friday began with breakfast at Stoby's, a small restaurant that Donna said would give me the authentic Conway experience. Every town has a place for the movers and shakers to eat on a regular basis, and apparently this is it. I love biscuits and gravy, so how could I be in the south and not order it?

Fueled up for another cooker of a day we headed into Little Rock and the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. The former President remains popular with many in the area. For those weary of our current administration, a trip here is a refreshing reminder of what our leaders can be like despite their personal failings. Exhibits break down Clinton's accomplishments. Copies of his daily schedule, down to the mundane details, can be perused. A sampling of Presidential gifts are on display, including part of an enormous Dale Chihuly Christmas tree. (Donna explained that it comes in three parts and is too big to fit.) The Cabinet room and Oval Office are reproduced, so for a fleeting moment I could sit in the Secretary of Health and Human Services chair.

We hopped on a trolley to the River Market area and lunched at Boscos. I had my first taste of crawfish in a fried appetizer and went the healthy route with a fried chicken salad. The mixed greens offset the caloric cost of fried chicken, right? We walked around for a short bit before catching a trolley back to the museum.

The next destination was the Hillcrest neighborhood to meet up with her former students Justin and Kerry at a coffee shop. It was also our first opportunity to knit together or, in my case, to unknit. A lot. It's been some time since I worked on the sock, and I knit on the wrong side. I knew something didn't look correct, but I thought it might fix itself after two rounds. Honestly, I should know better. I got lots of practice undoing stitches and picking up dropped ones if undoing them was proving too difficult.

Noel made a good, light dinner, and then I got back to repairing the damage I'd inflicted on the sock. Donna had to take off to attend a graduation ceremony. I was able to resist the temptation to tag along. I opted for TV and knitting. There are a few stitches on the bottom of the foot which are messed up, but rather than frog a few rows, something which I felt could have catastrophic results, I left it as is.

I'm down to one full day remaining on the trip. I've had a great time. Donna and Noel have been exceptional hosts, and I've really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with them. Their kids are cute and well behaved. Although Donna might feel otherwise, their home is sufficiently clean, not something to fret over. An undeniable aspect of this trip has been the heat, but what I'll take with me is the warmth of a different kind I've received.

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Friday, August 10, 2007


Since the feature proved popular before, here's a minute-by-minute account (sort of) of my trip from Fayetteville to Conway. Truth in advertising disclaimer: unlike my other play-by-play, I did not keep a written record of times, so these are approximate.

7:49 a.m. Set sail for Conway.

7:51 a.m. Get thrown off by the directions since those I printed from the AAA website have me making a turn onto a street that isn't where it's supposed to be. Way to inspire confidence, leader in all things travel related.

7:58 a.m. Guide car into Sonic drive-through lane to purchase a caffeinated assist in the form of a large sweet tea. Coffee is good and all, but I was in the mood for this cool southern nectar. As Donna would point out to me, it seems pointless for a drive-in to have a drive-through.

8:08 a.m. Freeway!

8:15-9:03 a.m. Play AM radio roulette, otherwise known as hitting the scan button and seeing what it will land on. At some times it was a question of if it would land on anything. I went through some areas where the tuner searched from left of the dial and back again without stopping.

I did come across a few gems, though. There was the local talk show during which the telephone's ring could be heard through the mic, and the host answered it live on the air (meaning the host's voice was filtered through the receiver). It sounded like something originating in someone's garage in the 1940s despite the topic being city-wide wi-fi. I also liked the Arkansas radio version of craigslist, the sum of which was people calling in to say what they had to sell or announce their yard sale and then giving their phone numbers. My favorite--no joke--was the guy who had two goats for sale. Ordinarily I wouldn't be caught dead listening to Fox News Radio, but I got a kick out of the hosts taking the President to task for calling Barry Bonds to congratulate him for breaking the home run record.

9:35 a.m. Spot a sign for Mexican fast food franchise Taco Bueno. Words cannot express how much I love their awful, awful logo. It's a dialogue balloon with "bueno" scrawled in all capital letters. Even I, with my meager drawing skills, could whip up something like this in Microsoft Paint in a minute.

10:20 a.m. Arrival!

Donna introduced me to some university colleagues, and then we embarked on a tour of Conway and nearby attractions, beginning with a café lunch. The driving expedition included stops at Toad Suck Ferry Locks and Dam and Heifer International. It sounds glib to say we also passed the blackened remains of a house struck by a private airplane, but it was something to see.

I had dinner with the rest of her family, and then her husband Noel and I went to a screening of Superbad. I didn't have much time to spend with them when I was here last, so it's been really nice to hang out and talk. More to come...

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Knitter in the sun

Another day, more punishing heat. It's been good for my complexion. I also have a more than respectable farmer's tan. So there's that.

Breakfast meant a visit to La Maison des Tartes, which is a patisserie, not a house of ill repute. I had a blackberry brioche and coffee and then ventured to the library for some blogging. Perhaps you're wondering why I bother keeping up the daily writing while I'm away from home and on vacation. The trip is rooted in the internet, so it makes sense to write about it. Plus, I'm in the habit of doing this every day. Occasionally I'll have days when the words pour like thick molasses, but using the ol' writing mechanism regularly keeps it functioning. Trust me, if I didn't want to write, I'd ditch it. I feel a little obligated to keep up the pace, but motivation never hurt anyone.

Summertime in the south means barbecue--at least it does to me--so the Ozark Mountain Smokehouse was the place to get a heaping helping of pulled pork and cole slaw for lunch. Then it was back to roaming the streets.

If I were being sensible, I would have checked out Nightbird Books after breakfast. It's practically right beside La Maison des Tartes. There isn't much to say about Nightbird. It's a small independent bookstore with a nice selection and cozy space. Hold on, there is one thing to say. Their distinguishing feature is the aviary in the middle of the store.

The combination of heat and hills had me in need of something cold. I was near the library, and Arsaga's, located in the library's entrance, possessed the item to hit the spot: a frozen lemonade. I sipped it while setting out for another familiar location during my brief stay in Fayetteville: Hand Held-A Knitting Gallery. My projects may be secret, but there's no secret that I want to get them finished. I tried to remember how to do single crochet, but the knowledge was wiped clean from my brain. I knitted secret project #2 for awhile but didn't feel like I was being very productive with it.

I felt somewhat guilty for loitering in the shop two days in a row and not buying anything. I don't have any projects in mind, so yarn was out of the question. Sorry to disappoint you or violate the unwritten knitter code, but my style has been to buy it when I know what I'll be using it for. I had my eye on a tape measure, which I ended up getting, but I also found just the thing for when items need to be pinned for seaming. Knit Klips are sturdy plastic clips that should stay in place and hold together a large amount of knitting better than some piddly little pins.

It was back to the library and then back to the library once more when I got down the hill and remembered that I'd left the bag with my newly purchased knitting supplies behind. I met up with Jenn briefly. She had a prior engagement for the evening but had arranged for a friend to keep me entertained in the meantime. He brought some sandwiches he purchased out of a sense of obligation for occupying a seat at Arby's while listening to what turned out to be a pitch for a pyramid scheme.

Eventually I turned my attention to secret project #2. The knitting is done. Weaving in ends and finishing work await. Jenn gave me another abbreviated course in single crochet. Hopefully I'll be able to recall it when I sit down to do it. If not, I hope Donna knows a thing or two about crochet.

For yes, my time in Fayetteville is essentially over. I depart this morning for Conway and the blistering heat of central Arkansas. Time does strange things on vacation. I've been here three and a half days, but it seems like it has been longer than that. I mean that in a good way. It's been a relaxing time.

Again, my thanks to Jenn, who was generous with her time and made me feel welcome in a city of strangers. Thanks as well to her boyfriend Lance, who permitted me to stay at his place and made some fine dinners. Looking at it from this side of things (and quite possibly from your perspective this whole time), it is pretty incredible that I've been visiting someone I didn't know except through online communications. She knows Donna, who I have met before, so surely that minimized any fear of potential risk. All the same, trying to explain it to her friends made it sound as preposterous as it might be. It's been nice to be able to talk face-to-face with a new friend, and I hope she agrees.

Conway, here I come.

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