Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chin up, cheer up

It is a new week, and I am determined to have a positive attitude. Good things await. I'm going to the season opener for the Blue Jackets on Friday and, if it works out, might catch The Arcade Fire in concert afterwards. If that weren't enough, I was considering going to Cleveland Thursday night to see The Pipettes at Beachland Ballroom, but their North American tour has been postponed due to visa paperwork delays. That would have been a lot for one week, so it's probably easier on me. See how I deployed the power of positive thinking there? I even promise not to grouse when the Bengals get crushed by the Patriots on Monday Night Football. Hey, I said I was going to have a positive attitude, not be a Pollyanna.

It has to be a good week because I should finally come crashing through the doors at Ravelry. As of this writing there are just 1778 people ahead of me in line. At the rate the invites have been going out, I expect mine should arrive Wednesday or Thursday.

As for knitting, I'm past the halfway point on the blanket. This thing is going to be massive. It's already quite big, and I've only done five decrease rows. Only 158 to go! Actually, I'm surprised I've been able to get this much done in a week. The two times I knitted smaller baby blanket versions I reached the saturation point and had to stop for awhile. This go-round I'm loving the brainless simplicity. The Options needles seem to be helping with my speed. Is it possible I could finish in two weeks? Since it will be a Christmas gift, I'll feel good to have one done this far from the holiday. I know it will be here before I know it.

I also need to get busy on my secret pal's scarf for International Scarf Exchange 5. I haven't decided on yarn or what to make. I've heard from both of my secret pals. The one knitting for me said she's looking forward to knitting for a man because she's used to making girly things. I'm excited that something I'm knitting will be headed overseas.

So, no, not everything is gloom and doom despite the incessant moaning I feel like I've been doing. I know there will be challenges this week, but I need to keep my chin up. Sound good?

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sweet sundown

For all intents and purposes I spent the better half of Friday afternoon and evening in Cincinnati, Ohio even if I really was in Newport, Kentucky. Sure, I was on the southern side of the Ohio River, which meant I was in the Bluegrass State, but most of the cars had Ohio license plates. The main indicator that I wasn't in the Buckeye State was smoking in the bar section where I saw the concert. (Ohio has a smoking ban in all restaurants and bars. The concert I saw in the ballroom was designated nonsmoking, but there are three performance spaces in the building. People were puffing away in the lounge.)

Above in the background you see Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Bengals; Great American Ball Park, home of the Reds; and some of the Cincinnati skyline. (If you look closely, you might notice a building familiar from WKRP in Cincinnati.)

After a morning press screening and a stop for lunch at one of the city's two Sonic locations, I made my way south. (I should mention that aside from whatever strange bond I've made with Sonic, their food leaves something to be desired. The drinks are where it's at.) I've made this drive several times and never found it to be very interesting, but with the kind of week it was, some brain-clearing time behind the wheel listening to music was a welcome relief. I looked more with amazement than anger at the stubborn jerk with the Jack Bauer for President sticker on the rear window of his van. He was driving under the speed limit in the left lane and steadfastly refused to get over or speed up, meaning that traffic was backing up quite a ways behind him. (A semi was in the right lane, so no one could get around.)

I arrived in Newport around 3:30 p.m. and took some time to get my bearings. I found where The Southgate House was and then was ready to knit. As I wrote yesterday, I was undisturbed as I busied myself with the blanket.

Newport Oktoberfest was taking place by the river, so I wandered over to it for a short bit. The party hadn't really started yet. The oompah band was doing a soundcheck, and the vendors were twiddling their thumbs waiting for people to arrive. I wasn't all that hungry, but I knew I needed to eat something. The options were minimal: two German food vendors and a pizza chain selling slices. No wonder admission was free. I bought a bratwurst and walked along the river for awhile.

I still had a couple hours until the doors opened for the concert. I decided to take a look around Newport. As I made my way back to Newport on the Levee I was somewhat taken aback to see Kelly Willis, who I had come to see sing, walking toward me. Although she was wearing black rectangular glasses, I recognized her. I don't think I get particularly starstruck, but it can be jarring to see someone in public whom you're accustomed to seeing only on stage or in the media. I didn't say anything as we passed at the intersection at Third and Monmouth. I figured most people in her position would rather not be bothered, and what did I have to say anyway? Good luck tonight?

While sitting in front of the aquarium I finished my second skein of yarn. According to my estimate, 42 rows of increased stitches is equal to a one foot by one foot section of the blanket. The second skein yielded exactly 42 rows, from 116 to 158 increases, a mathematical symmetry I found rather pleasing. I'm increasing to 168 stitches, so I'm fairly certain I will need a fifth skein to make a four foot by four foot blanket. (Don't ask me how the math works in this. I'm not sure it's correct.) I bought another today, so I have my bases covered.

The historical marker in front of The Southgate House informed me that the location was the birthplace of the inventor of the Tommygun. It's an interesting venue for live music. The lounge and ballroom are simple, unpretentious spaces that invite you in. (I didn't see the parlour.) The house also has an art gallery.

I guess they ran out of L's for their sign and had to resort to turning 7s upside down. The Southgate House's schedule features an impressive list of performers coming through. This picture shows some of the diversity. I'm not familiar with the music of Deerhunter, just their notorious antics that have been detailed at Pitchfork and Stereogum. Pretty different from what I was going to be seeing.

I've seen Kelly Willis in concert several times, but I never quite know what to expect audience-wise. She's been releasing albums since 1990 but never broke through on the country music scene. The most consistent place she's played that's reasonably close is The Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It's a wonderful, intimate venue that holds three or four hundred people tops. She drew well every time I went to The Ark, and I'm surprised she's not playing there while promoting her newest album. Southgate House saves me an hour on the drive, so no complaints here.

I was toward the front of the line waiting to be let into the general admission seating area, but I didn't expect that I would end up snagging a seat at the center table in the front. I was five feet from the stage, if that, and had an unobstructed view. Not bad for less than twenty bucks. I sat with the people who had been ahead of me in line, and we talked until the show started. The period between getting in and waiting for the concert to start can seem interminable, so having some people to talk with was nice. (Going back to my assertion in the first paragraph, none of them were from Kentucky.)

I reckon that there were only fifty people in attendance, but Kelly and the five members of her band (guitar, bass, fiddle/mandolin, drums, and keyboards/organ) tore through twenty-three songs as though the room was packed. Translated from Love, her latest album, is the most upbeat collection of her career in terms of tempo and subject matter, and the new songs sounded great live. After a hard week, it was a joy to hear her energetic set.

Most of the music I've listened to through the years has not been steeped in virtuosity. Rock and roll's power often comes from a distinct lack of it. With Kelly Willis, though, her remarkable voice is what hooked me. It's like a combination of honey and vinegar, sweet with notes of the sour. (Maybe a comparison to balsamic vinegar is more apt.) That voice, coupled with unerring taste in songwriters and her own strong writing, is what made me a fan.

She's the real deal as a singer. Her voice shines through on CD and is just as strong and clear live. She may sound even better in person, which I expect isn't true for a large number of today's singers, whose voices have been processed like crazy for recordings. On stage she comes across as modest and passionate, qualities also inherent in her music.

Anyone who spends significant time consuming art in various forms knows that it isn't necessary to like the creator to appreciate their achievements. I like Kanye West's albums--honest--but the guy projects the image of an egomaniac. Still, it's nice to find talented people who appear to value humility and hard work. I have no way of knowing, but Kelly Willis seems like someone with a good soul whose success has been earned through years of plugging away at her craft. There weren't a lot of people at Southgate House to see her, but she seemed grateful for those who were at the club and knew her work. We were rewarded with a terrific concert.

For me the time out of town and the concert provided the opportunity to shake off what's been weighing me down of late. (I mean that in the metaphorical sense. There was no dancing.) When opening performer Amy LaVere took the stage and started slapping away at her upright bass and playing her bluesy and jazzy songs, I could feel myself relaxing as the music washed over me. (I was totally unfamiliar with her but liked what I heard. Her music was kind of reminiscent of Joe Henry.) I badly needed the relief I received from having time to knit and see one of my favorite singers perform. Take me to the river indeed.

A note on the concert photos: I haven't figured out the best way to shoot these with my camera. I don't use the flash, in part to keep from being obnoxious but also because it probably would be ineffective. The result is that many of the photos can be smeary. I'm also of the opinion that my camera doesn't handle red very well. I've attempted to correct the color and sharpen the images. Applying the black and white effect smooths out the fuzziness and delivers a nice image, which is why I included one of those pictures here.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Powers of invisibility

Through the magic of backdating, I'm posting on Friday after my day trip to the greater Cincinnati area. In truth, I didn't get home until nearly 1:30 a.m., but this would have been my Friday entry if I'd been able to write it then. I'm too tired to blog about everything I'd like to comment on, so in an effort to get this done faster, I'll keep this strictly to the knitting part.

I arrived in Newport, Kentucky almost four hours before the doors opened at the concert venue. That's how I planned it. I wanted to get there without the stress of Friday rush hour traffic, which I figured would be more intense with a Reds game and a citywide music festival taking place. I knew I could get there plenty in advance and use the spare time to knit.

I walked around Newport on the Levee, basically a smaller riverfront version of Columbus' Easton Town Center, before settling in at the Starbucks in Barnes & Noble. For an hour or so I knitted with a nice window view of the river and Cincinnati's skyline.

I took a break and wandered around before setting up shop on a bench in front of the Newport Aquarium. This was a busy area. I saw a lot of people who were going to the Reds-Cubs game. (Many take advantage of cheaper parking on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River and walk to Cincinnati via the bridge.) While I did catch one quizzical stare and might have heard an epithet hurled my direction--I know what it sounded like--I was basically unseen.

It's funny that my initial fear about knitting in public was other people taking notice of what I was doing and ridiculing me. If experience is any indicator, knitting in public turns me invisible. Unless another knitter spots me, I am left alone completely. I was almost ready to pack up when a woman commented that she was trying to teach her niece to knit. I didn't hear a peep from anyone else, although as mentioned above, there was one woman who may have called me a name. (I'm fairly certain I know what I heard, but I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt.)

Obviously many people saw me knitting, but as far as they were concerned, I wasn't there. The invisible aftereffects from knitting must be to blame for the two cars that nearly ran me down when I tried to cross the street. I'm not exaggerating for effect. I was stunned that both cars turning left didn't slow down until the last second as they approached me. And yes, I muttered something unprintable.

Photos and more on Saturday...

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Open arms

I don't really have much to say today, but I want to say thanks for your comments on yesterday's post. I think it isn't until you need to hear them that you remember how valuable a few reassuring words can be. Virtual hugs may not replace the real thing, but they're certainly better than none at all.

Blogging about yourself can feel like a big risk. Writing about your experiences and feelings and making those thoughts available for anyone to read takes courage. I'm not patting myself on the back and saying, "Hey, look how brave I am." I don't consider myself brave. Not in the least. I'm just pointing out that exposing yourself in strength and weakness takes some daring.

If you want to let someone in, you have to be open. Being open makes you potentially vulnerable. More often than not, I believe the payoff is worth the risk, not that it makes it easy when you get burned.

This is going to sound like a dumb example--and I feel silly for bringing it up--but the primary thing that moves me about the reality show Kid Nation is how openly the kids express their fondness toward and concern for the well-being of each other, especially when some are having a hard time. I'll be among the first in line to gag at idealized media representations of childhood, but the unguarded sincerity and affection in the kids' actions and reactions touch me.

I feel incredibly lucky to have made friends and deepened friendships through this blog. I don't know that I can fully express what that means to me. Some of you I've met; many of you I haven't. I'm grateful for the kindness you've shown me, and I hope I've been able to return the favor in one form or another.

Mini-knitting content: the blanket has been increased to 143 stitches. 25 to go. I'm beginning to wonder if I might be a skein short. If so, I may have to raid the yarn shops of Columbus to ensure that I find the right dye lot.

And in blog news, Friday's entry will likely be backdated. I'm heading across the Ohio River to The Southgate House to see Kelly Willis in concert. (It's in Newport, KY, but for all intents and purposes I'm going to Cincinnati.) I don't expect I'll be getting home until at least midnight, so some fudging of the time will be in order.

Hmm, I guess I had more to say than I thought when I started.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

There are some things he should keep to himself

It would be a lot easier to skip the writing today, to skip it for a few days, but I'm certain at least one friend would tell me that would be the wrong thing to do. I'll make no bones about it. I've had a bad day. I didn't want to approach the subject at all, but there's no overlooking the fact that nothing else has taken precedence today. I could avoid it, but there'd be nothing but a blank space here. I guess I could have taken the pomo route, but it isn't an original idea. (Dave Eggers' short story "There are Some Things He Should Keep to Himself" in How We are Hungry consists of the title on one page followed by five blank pages.)

I'm not trying to be coy as I skimp on details. I just don't think it is appropriate for me to write about unless I can do so in the most oblique way possible. Perhaps that will come in time. Perhaps not. Certainly not today.

I realize that as a reader this has to be frustrating. That's a feeling I know really well at the moment, so go with it. I don't want to cause undue alarm or encourage a guessing game, so let me assure you that my health is fine, no one has died, and this is not anything catastrophic. It hurts me deeply, emotionally speaking, but that's all I'll say for the time being.

I cringe that this reads like earnest moping, practically a parody of the conception of blogs as emotional puke buckets. I'm happy that I've been able to use this corner of the internet to converse with you in a manner more forthcoming than I ever intended it to be. I think it's been good for me, and it's been a pleasure getting to know many of my readers, something that I don't know would take place without a more personal touch. That being said, on days like today I feel guilty for unloading on you.

Ordinarily I wouldn't go trolling for sympathy, but I would greatly appreciate some kind, reassuring words from you today. I know I will be OK, but for now I could use a hug. Since that's not feasible, I welcome your comments.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

WIP it

It's been a long day and could have been a little longer. On the way home from a screening of The Kingdom, a film whose shaky, handheld camerawork gave me a headache, I could see that interstate traffic was coming to a halt. Never a good thing to see after 9:30 p.m. I was able to get over and take an exit before getting trapped in it for who knows how long. Seeing as I hadn't been home in nearly thirteen hours, those were precious minutes I saved.

Anyway, I'm not in a writing mood, and I don't know that I have anything worth saying. So, I present to you a photo of my WIP. I was able to increase to 116 stitches with the first skein, which strikes me as an awful lot since the baby version increases go to 126. That is supposed to take three skeins. When finished, this will be a Christmas gift for my brother and sister-in-law.

And that, as they say, is that for today. In the less than immortal words from a short film I made with some high school friends, time for me to take a little nap. Let's hope that young undead hooligans don't show up to disembowel me. That wouldn't be fun.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

To everything there is a season

The blanket is coming along quite well, mainly because I've done a lot of knitting the last couple days. In other words, knitting as palliative. The soothing repetition of mindless garter stitch is what I need. I've almost polished off the first skein. I'll have to take and post a picture of the WIP tomorrow.

Of course, lots of knitting means lots of time parked in front of the television. When I was learning, I thought that knitting would mean a reduction in the amount of TV I watched. I even dropped a couple of shows from my DVR record list. I needed to focus all of my mental energy on the task at hand.

Once I got the hang of knitting, I needed background noise, even if I wasn't actually looking at the TV enough to be able to say I was watching it. Often it doesn't matter what's on, just as long as something is on. (I'm also finding this to be true when I want to take a nap. This isn't a good thing, is it?) I've even reached the point where I'll record programs that I wouldn't make an effort to see but figure I can use them as a knitting companion. Sad but true.

This week provides, well, not manna from heaven but grist for the mill. The fall TV season begins in earnest this week, so there is plenty to sample while my needles click away. Thanks to Amazon Unbox I've already seen the pilot episodes of four NBC series. (They were free downloads, and until now new programming was hard to come by on network TV.) That's OK. The DVR will be filling up quickly enough, so a head start will do me good.

As a kid I devoured the fall TV preview issue of TV Guide, a hefty volume filled with the most positive spins on each of the new programs and what to expect for returning ones. It didn't matter that I wouldn't see many of the shows. Their descriptions were likely better anyway. (While my parents monitored what we watched, I didn't see many of those programs because I had other things to do--throwing a tennis ball against the side of the house to work on my fielding and make up baseball games, reading books--than watch TV all the time. Umm, not to imply that I don't have better things to do now...)

My simultaneous knitting and viewing skills have improved gradually, although there are some shows I can't knit during without risking missing key information. It's surprising how few shows those are, though. The premieres are arriving, and I'm ready to settle in with them and my knitting. Cooler weather shall be here soon.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Words to live by

For each day in my planner there's a quotation on the daily notes page. I don't always pay attention to them--OK, more often than not I don't--but they've been put there for a reason. Who am I to ignore the line or two of wisdom that might be the lift or inspiration I need that day? September 13 featured Maya Angelou saying, "Surviving is important, but thriving is elegant." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Looking ahead at the week, I noticed that tomorrow's quotation comes from Mignon McLaughlin: "Courage can't see around corners, but goes around them anyway." Good timing, planner quotation layout person. I also take some comfort in this Eleanor Roosevelt saying reprinted earlier in the month: "You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best you have to give." (Grammar nerd-ery: I don't think that comma should be in the first quotation while one is missing in the second. I've reproduced them as they appear in the planner.)

I've made no secret of my dissatisfaction with how things have been going lately. That's probably something you wish I would keep quiet about. I know. Grumble, grumble, grumble. Yes, it's my blog, and I can do with it as I please. Still, I'm the host, and guests don't want to spend time with a grouch and a worrier. I feel like I've been particularly unpleasant recently, which I don't like being. And let me reiterate that things aren't as bad as all this talk might lead you to believe. I'm just very frustrated at the moment.

All of which is good for knitting. I'm blazing through the first skein for the diagonal blanket. I've increased to almost one hundred stitches on the circs. Now that I've received the proper instruction in how to attach the interchangeable Knit Picks Options needles, I'm knitting like a machine. No more needles needing to be tightened again and again.

This is the right project for the right time, especially for a football Sunday. I try not to get so invested in the fate of my favorite sports teams that I take it personally, but being a Bengals fan has a way of spoiling one's mood. They managed to salvage a loss again today, but I was knitting and not letting their ineptitude get to me as much. I'm extremely thankful that I gave up fantasy sports for knitting. Seeing one's drafted team going down in flames is like catching an express train to Bad Attitude City.

So even though things didn't go so well on gridiron and it may go against my worrying nature, I'm going to greet this week with courage, hope, and optimism. If there's still a trace of those things remaining by this time tomorrow night, I'll call it a win.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just knitting

Asherton Reversible Scarf

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Color: Cherry
Needles: US 8s
Stitches: 40

This is my contribution to the Red Scarf Project. I had fun knitting it, but I am ready for something that requires less brain power. Time to fire up the Knit Picks Options needles and knit a blanket.

Christmas knitting begins. I'm making the diagonal baby blanket again, but you can go ahead and remove "baby" from the project's name. I've crunched the numbers and am hoping I have applied the correct logic to my computations. If 126 stitches on the diagonal equal a 36" square, then it follows that 42 stitches equal 12". I've decided that a 48"x48" blanket is a good size for adults, so if I increase to 168 stitches, I should be able to get those dimensions. It took three skeins for the 36"x36" blanket, so four skeins should do the trick, right? I'll find out sooner or later, but if you see a flaw in my math, please let me know.

O glorious garter stitch, how I adore three! After an embattled week, it's nice to be able to zone out and knit to my heart's content. The Options cable is more flexible than the one with the plastic circs I used to knit the other blankets. I'm also having an easier time moving the stitches. So far, so good with the new needles.

I'm perplexed by what purpose the cable keys serve. How are they supposed to help in tightening the needles to the cable? I have noticed that the needles can become loose, but there have been no accidents yet.

That said, I courted disaster while knitting the blanket in the Borders café. The last stitches on the needle attempted to slip off a couple times. The lid on my hot chocolate popped off, and I almost slopped the drink all over my lap. (My WIP and iPod would have been ruined.) I paused in the middle of a row to find more music after an iPod playlist ended. Apparently I reversed course when I resumed because things weren't looking right. I have no idea how I did it, but I caught the mistake before I knit many stitches.

All in all, not a bad day. I started a new project and rediscovered a terrific album in my collection (Sloan's One Chord to Another). That sounds like a good end to an otherwise frustrating week.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Through the stacks of wax

I'm supposed to be showing you my latest FO. Problem is I forgot to take a picture while it was still light out. So you're going to have to wait one more day. Since I'm between projects, I'll keep the daily blogging going with another music entry in lieu of actual knitting content.

I've talked about various artists and bands, many of whom may be unfamiliar to you, so I thought it might be fun to trace my evolution as a music listener.

I had the foresight to hold onto records during the great purge when my parents moved last Christmas, so I can say for certain what some of my first musical memories are. The albums look to be in fine shape, but the jackets were stuck together. They must have got wet wherever my parents stored them.

Anyway, the early days were heavy on Disney and Sesame Street records. Disco was in vogue. I recall being particularly enamored with the Discopedia Vol. 5 record and am certain that it's the second copy we had. (I think the first was broken rather than worn out.) I'm not going to apologize for it. The knee-jerk reaction is to mock the genre, but as The Last Days of Disco soundtrack demonstrated, the era produced its share of good pop music. Not that I spend much time listening to the stuff now. I just think it's silly to write off everything from that time.

I also dug up several Disney story records with dialogue and music from the studio's films. I know we had plenty of 45s, but I don't think I lugged those home with me.

Around the house I would hear my mom playing hymns and songs from old musicals on the piano. I started playing in second grade, so I became schooled in classical music. I also learned some pop hits. Still, most of what I played was classical canon than Laura Branigan's "Self Control". (I want to say I played the later for the fifth grade talent show.)

My parents didn't listen to the popular music of the day when I was a kid, although some of it would slide through on AM radio. (I swear I remember hearing a Top 40 countdown on an AM station during a summer trip to Knoxville.) They did listen to oldies, and I enjoyed curling up with my transistor radio on Sunday evening to hear the hot wax show on 700 WLW.

I wasn't completely oblivious to pop music. Probably by junior high I would sneak listens to Z93, the Top 40 FM station in Dayton. I would tape favorite songs off the radio and try to get them without the DJ's talking over the intros. My mom didn't--and still doesn't, to my knowledge--like electronic music, so she didn't want to hear it, although her objections had more to do with the morning DJs and their suggestive patter. (The scandal of Phillipsburg's sesquicentennial was some inappropriate remarks that Doctor Dave made while hosting the beauty pageant. Keep in mind that my hometown had a population of 700.)

Since I played the piano, I became a fan of Billy Joel. Thus began a deeper immersion in popular music. Next stop: The Beatles. Do high school students still go through this phase? I soaked up everything I could about The Beatles and, to a lesser extent, the biggest bands from the 60s. Classic rock followed. By the time I was a senior my friends had more adventurous tastes, and so began my introduction to modern rock.

U2 and R.E.M. were the bedrock bands and served as jumping off points for further exploration in rock and roll. Nirvana broke during my first quarter of college, so that would introduce me to a bunch of stuff that was foreign to me. I was also heavily involved at the college radio station. I devoured the charts in radio industry publications and set out to be a program director.

By the time I was a senior, commercial radio had appropriated alternative rock. I was checking out indie bands, largely due to Dayton lo-fi legends-to-be Guided by Voices. I should mention that I didn't abandon the other music I liked; the focal point moved.

The next seismic shift was unlikely. Give credit to Johnny Cash's American Recordings for giving me permission to dabble in listening to country music. I heard Kelly Willis' self-titled album and was captivated with her voice even if I felt as though I wasn't supposed to like it. Welcome to the label, which allowed me to justify this newfound love even if there was nothing "alt" about her other than lack of commercial success.

The next group to make a significant impact on my listening habits was Belle & Sebastian. The mystery surrounding the Scottish group added to the allure of their twee pop and opened me up to embracing the music I liked no matter how uncool it might be. B&S were "cool" in that they weren't widely known, but the wispy nature of their music could inspire eye-rolling among the rockers.

Suffice it to say that my musical tastes are broad, although I am partial to that which is more melodic and displays tangible yet modest craftsmanship.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007


My donation to the Red Scarf Project is finished. I almost had the Asherton Reversible Scarf done before going to bed last night, but I saved four rows of garter stitch and binding off for this morning. Weaving in the ends was a lunchtime activity. Parceling instant satisfaction to reduce the stress of the day is a sign that I'm way overdue for a string of breaks in my favor. And yes, that means I found pleasure in weaving in the ends, something I typically don't like doing.

Despite a couple setbacks that called for frogging, this scarf provided a mood boost. I guess it is reversible in more ways than one. May the scarf serve its recipient well too.

I disliked every photograph I took of it in my office today, so I'll hold off posting a final picture until tomorrow. It will look better under natural light than fluorescent anyway. The same probably applies to me too. When I left work I realized I had been inside for eight and a half hours straight with limited glimpses of outside. Being cooped up like that can't be helping.

I've been in a fire-breathing mood off and on today. Everything seems to be going wrong. I swear I'm trying to find the humor in it. There's nothing life or death about the circle of aggravation I'm trapped in, but it is ever so irritating nonetheless. I know I'm a worrier, which doesn't help matters, so I need to find another knitting project to give my mind a reprieve. If only I could solve that math problem.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Greatest Concerts Never

All year there have been no concerts around here that I've been interested in attending. Go figure that in the next two months there are more than I can hope to see. I have a ticket to see Kelly Willis in Cincinnati at the end of September. I'm considering making the drive to Cleveland six days later to see The Pipettes. The next night Arcade Fire are in town, but I have a ticket for the Blue Jackets' opening game across the street that evening. October also brings a Columbus visit by Wilco, who have been wonderful every time I've seen them. November delivers Feist, back-to-back "Long of It/Short of It" concerts by The Decemberists, and Jens Lekman in Cleveland.

I could take the risk and buy an Arcade Fire ticket under the assumption that they won't hit the stage until the hockey game is over. It's a distinct possibility, but with the doors opening at 6:30, who knows? (The game starts at 7:00 and should be over around 9:30.) Of course, it's the most expensive ticket out of all of these, so taking a chance adds an additional cost to face value.

Maybe I'll try to get one as a walk-up if it looks like I'll only be passing up the opening band. I can't in good conscience purchase one and miss some of the headlining act. I wouldn't want to add Arcade Fire to the topic of today's post: concerts for which I had a ticket but didn't see. (I've already written about the best I've gone to.)

-Oasis at the Newport Music Hall (Columbus, OH/1995)

The brash British band was touring in support of (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, an album I loved in no small part because they were supposedly the latest import to pick up the mantle of The Beatles. OK, it didn't happen. Neither did this concert. Canceled.

-Radiohead at Bull Run Park (Fairfax, VA/2001)

Radiohead was scheduled to play shows on consecutive days at a nontraditional outdoor venue. Only one problem: rain and lots of it. I had a ticket for the second day, but flooding washed out both shows. To rub salt in the wounds, I could have gone to their show at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio four days earlier. I had a ticket but was going to be out of town on vacation. (I seem to recall having to buy the tickets months in advance.) Since I was going to see them near Washington, D.C., I sold my ticket to the Ohio show on eBay. Whoops.

-Ryan Adams at PromoWest Pavilion (Columbus, OH/2002)

I made the decision not to go to this concert. While I had to eat the ticket--no takers on eBay when I tried to sell it at the last minute--at least the trade-off was worth it. The night of this show my alma mater was playing in Salem, Virginia for the Division III NCAA basketball championship. I wasn't guaranteed that when I made the trip. The semi-finals were on Friday night, with the finals (and the concert) on Saturday. Still, the chance to see my school in the Final Four won out. They won. I seem to recall reading an unfavorable review of the concert.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007


There's no other way around it. I'm boring today. Oh, I'm sure I'm frequently boring. That may even be my natural state. But today... I can't think of anything remotely interesting worth writing about. You don't want to read any more complaints about me being sort of sick, and I don't want to write something that examines the details of a spectacularly unremarkable day.

There's no knitting to write about. I haven't had time to do any, and frankly, I don't feel like starting at this point in the evening. I have no reader-submitted questions to answer or memes to spend a day's worth of words on. I tried searching for a meme--the last refuge of a desperate writer--but was turned away at Technorati. Apparently the site is down temporarily.

There's no hometown tourist stuff to show you because I wasn't expecting to be in this predicament tonight. A day like this is the perfect time for a recurring feature, but that requires advance legwork I haven't done.

Nope, I'm just going to be my boring self and settle for seeing a few blocks of words assembled in a readable fashion. It gives the appearance of an entry, but you would have gained just as much from staring blankly at your monitor as you have from consuming everything written so far. Sorry about that.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Code red

Am I sick? I don't feel great, but I'm not incapacitated. I might be getting that scratch in the back of the throat that signals the onset of something, and I'm kind of tired for no good reason. I was feeling chilled at work, but then I learned that the faculty members were complaining about it being too cold in their offices. I also found out that the thermostat that regulates the temperature in my office is responsible for cooling the TV engineering and control rooms, which makes me wonder if I'm going to be frozen out in the new building like I was in the old one.

I'll blame this unidentified malaise for the knitting mistake I made at lunchtime. I hoped to finish the scarf today, but after knitting eleven rows during my lunch hour, I spotted five stitches that weren't as they should have been. My frame of mind obviously wasn't right since I decided I could live with the mistake and knitted another row. Thankfully it was the last one I did before returning to work.

Of course I couldn't leave the error there. It was only noticeable on one side, and even there it wasn't too bad. The recipient probably wouldn't pay any attention to it. But I would know. Cursed conscience. I knew I had to fix it.

I also attribute my next mistake to feeling mildly run-down. I can save some time frogging by taking the scarf off of the needle, ripping out the necessary rows, and reinserting the needle! Who needs to go stitch by stitch? Fortunately I realized the error of my ways after frogging a few stitches and got a needle into the loops. (I should have remembered what happened when I tried this wrong-headed method months ago.)

For the longest time I had difficulty seeing how to undo stitches. I'm not sure that I always see it now. Sometimes it's intuitive more than anything, but as long as the needle finds the right spot, I'm satisfied.

So I'm back to where I began no worse for wear. If only all mistakes were as easy to undo as these today.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007


This "pond" near my apartment makes for a pretty picture, although I'm guessing it's not something one would want to take a dip in. The culvert behind my place leads to what I presume is this man-made body of water. The ducks don't mind swimming in it, though.

I thought it was a nice shot to take while I was out for a walk this afternoon, but it makes for a good metaphor. I look all right, but underneath I'm less than one hundred percent. I feel like I'm coming down with something. I don't get sick very often, so I'm surprised to sense I have a bug this early in the quarter and while the weather is good. The temperature has cooled--it was in the mid 50s when I went to church--so maybe I'm just thrown off by the shift to a chillier climate.

If I had more vigor today, I might have finished the Asherton Reversible Scarf. I had a coffee-fueled hour in which I was really tuned in on knitting, but that energy has dissipated. By my calculations I have three hours of knitting remaining until I can call it an FO. It's going to have to wait until tomorrow as right now I'd rather lay down to watch one of the free fall TV premieres I downloaded with Amazon Unbox.

Although I haven't seen what the service can do, I can't say that I'm likely to pay to use it. (One major drawback: it appears to forbid transfers to iPods.) I'll take it for a spin at no cost, but I don't feel any pressing need to pay to download TV shows or movies.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Nonlinear equations

On days like today I wonder how I managed to keep up the pace I did in past years. I used to host a football coach's show, which meant that for ten Saturdays in the fall I went to the team's games. Home games meant slightly shorter days, although my work commitment with the TV station had me there a few hours early and about an hour afterward. Road games were almost always all day affairs that followed work on Friday night for a high school game. Fall weekends were not times for catching my breath.

A couple years ago I handed most of the show's responsibilities to a student. I wanted more time to wind down and found that I needed it. To bring in some extra bucks I'm still the official statistician for home games, but this only takes a few hours out of five Saturdays...usually. It's not so bad, especially since this fall my Friday nights are free for a change. (We're handling production of the high school games in a way that doesn't require my presence.) I actually have a weekend. Hallelujah.

After years of fall Fridays and Saturdays being busy, slow weekends are appreciated. I took an early afternoon nap that culminated in a feeling that was like shaking off the rust of a thousand years. Then I turned to knitting for a significant portion of today's remaining hours. If I would have dug out a jacket to stave off the chill in the air, I might have knit outside on my west balcony. (That's where I snapped the picture at the top of this post.) Instead I situated myself in front of the television.

The Asherton Reversible Scarf is about two repeats from completion. I will be proud to send it to the people at the Red Scarf Project, and I will be glad to have it finished. I couldn't be happier with how it looks, but I'm beginning to get a little tired of constantly checking the pattern. I'm ready for some mindless knitting.

I'm thinking of making the diagonal baby blanket but want to adapt the pattern so it's bigger. Unlike the two previous times I've knit it, the intended recipient isn't a baby (or its parents). I've been trying to calculate the math out loud and scribbled measurements utilizing the Pythagorean theorem, but I'm having trouble determining how many stitches I'd need to make it 48"x48" or 60"x60". What would be a "proper" size for adults?

9 stitches and 18 rows=4 inches. The pattern increases to 126 stitches for a 36" square blanket. Apparently I am unable to summon my algebraic powers to compute the number of stitches. What's the easy answer and formula I'm not seeing?

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Out and about

It's coffee shop knitting that isn't at Starbucks! I had about ninety minutes between the end of the work day and the start time of 2 Days in Paris, so I bought a coffee at Stauf's and sat outside to knit. We've had wonderful fall-like weather this week, but I've been indoors most of the time. Fresh air and knitting solitude was the right prescription for easing into the weekend after a stress-filled first week of classes.

There was a steady hum of traffic, both pedestrian and vehicle, on Grandview Avenue. A conversation about bicycles and the smell of a passer-by's cigarette caught my attention, but otherwise the goings-on faded into the background as I worked on the scarf.

I'm going to consider this the unofficial first entry in what I hope to make a recurring feature. Periodically I'll write about and share photos of local sights whether remarkable or not. Actually, the more commonplace, the better. If I'm trying to convey what everyday life is like here, the ordinary spots will provide a more accurate reflection than the landmarks.

I saw something similar on another blog some time ago, and I've been thinking about doing it since Donna asked me what Ohio is like. This state is the only one I've called home, so you'd think that would have been an easy question for me to answer. It wasn't and still isn't. Since many of you don't live here, I thought it would be fun to give you some glimpses of the area while I attempt to approach the city with fresh eyes. Many pictures I took in Arkansas were of things locals would see day in and day out, so I'll try to do the same at my home. I encourage you to play along on your blogs every now and then too.

These pictures are from my vantage point outside Stauf's. The photos aren't very exciting--like I said, it's an unofficial start--but perhaps something in them will catch your eye.

Unexciting sounded good to me after too many close calls on the roads. A busted skid was scattered in my lane on the interstate. I was fortunate to be able to get over and avoid it. I had a speed demon driving up my tail pipe in the morning and nearly got sideswiped on the way home tonight.

That was an eventful return trip as I also had a semi in front of me pulling onto the highway shoulder, possibly from a blowout, and needed to jam on the brakes when traffic on the four lane road near my place came to an unforeseen halt. Did my car have a target on it? In a nifty bit of timing, this was also the day I needed to pay my car insurance. The payment was made. I had no accidents. Still, there were too many near misses for me for one day.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Do not disturb--knitting in progress

As promised, I took my knitting with me today. Since I had a press screening this morning I got to the office later than usual. So, no lunch hour to knit during, but I planned to stick around later to wait out the traffic en route to another screening tonight. Oh how I needed it. Another pound my head against the wall day...

Shortly before 5 p.m. I closed the door to my office and removed the scarf from its hiding spot in my backpack. My new office is suited for knitting in secret. It's mine and mine alone. Unless the department secretary was given a key, I think I'm the only one in the building who can enter it. There are no windows, just four walls painted in Standard Institutional Color, but the lighting is a lot better than it was in my dimly lit old office.

So I tried to knit away the stress of a most unsatisfactory day. Fourteen rows didn't make up for all the annoyances, but if the onset of sleepiness meant anything, perhaps it smoothed over the rougher edges. It's been a weird week. I've been busier, which has been good, but the days have felt extremely long. It's Thursday? Really?


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Keeping it real

I've finished the first skein of yarn for the Asherton Reversible Scarf, meaning I have 60% of my contribution to the Red Scarf Project completed. (See, I told you there are numbers kicking around in my head.) I'm eager to get it done for a couple reasons. I'd like to be knitting something that requires slightly less attention to what row I'm on. I also want to use my new Knit Picks Options needles. All I've done is take them out of their packaging.

I've considered knitting the scarf off the straights and onto the circs, but I'm exercising patience and sticking to the needles that have produced the beautiful work in progress. I'm not in much of a waiting mood, though. I deplete enough of that during the day.

I'm also beginning to realize that I have put off Christmas gift knitting past the point I should have, so I feel like I need to pick up the pace. Truthfully, my intention to knit log cabin blankets--say, five of them--in time for the holiday was full-blown insanity, so I'm probably better off acknowledging that it is impossible and developing an alternative. (Don't say socks. I still haven't finished one pair.)

I want to knit a couple items for me too. The scarves I made myself are fine, but I'd like to make something shorter than the ever-stretching garter stitch objects I knitted. I also want to knit a hat or two for myself. Those I knitted on straights have the problems of an ugly seam or being too tight. At the time I didn't know the long tail cast-on or how to use circular needles.

I'm tempted to take my knitting to work now that I have my own office. I've been closing the door while I eat my lunch, so taking some of that time to knit might be a good idea. Certainly it could ease the aggravation that continues to bubble up regarding our still incomplete operational status from the move.

That settles it. I am the secret knitter, and I ought to be living up to my name. The scarf goes with me to work tomorrow.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Mathematical Mind

Work has picked up now that classes are back in session. Suddenly I have stuff to do. Maybe that's the cure for the summertime blues. While it was nice not to have pressure to get things done, I was bored out of my mind. Being in limbo didn't help either. I'm not out of it, but at least now I have something to keep me occupied.

And what, pray tell, has been the focus of this work? Making pieces fit together, the calculus of schedules. Bringing several conflicting schedules in concert for one master calendar while still allowing for flexibility pleases my left brain. Really, it's not much different from putting words together in an interesting way, although I'd like to think my creativity with language can be more elegant than mere assembling.

Seeing structure must be a family thing. My three younger brothers all work as engineers. While I don't think they always respect what I do, especially compared to their jobs and "hard" majors, it isn't altogether different. They're looking for congruence with numbers whereas I'm seeking it in the production of television shows and writing about it in art, be it words, images, or sounds. That's probably why I have a soft spot for artists who find creativity within established and potentially limiting forms. It's the improvisation or the novelty within a framework's confines, the discovery of unknown dimensions, that can bring so much pleasure.

Which brings me to knitting. I enjoy seeing how the manipulation of stitches creates patterns. The numbers can be reassuring even if I'm unable to envision the end product at first. I'm getting the itch to design something, although I'm not sure that I have a good enough grasp to do it properly yet. I don't know how one goes about doing it. I don't know what I would design either. Yet that love of form and an interest in playing with it calls to me.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Happy thoughts

It's been a full day. The beginning of classes kept me busy at work. A screening swallowed the early part of the evening. The last part of today was spent watching the recorded Bengals-Ravens game on Monday Night Football. I tried blogging while keeping an eye on the game, but it wasn't happening.

I've attempted writing about a few topics, but all have been non-starters. I feel like my writing of late has been on the glum side, so how about a few things that make me happy?

-A Cincinnati Bengals win, no matter how ugly.

As a lifelong fan, the team has broken my heart countless times, not the least of which is their uncanny ability to find novel ways to lose. (I won't even go into their decade and a half of futility.) Despite the cautious optimism inspired by tonight's first quarter, I knew well enough to expect the worst with this franchise. They almost blew it, but they came out on top. All is well.

-Feist's "1234" video

Feist's The Reminder is one of my favorite albums of the year, and this irresistible toe-tapper, with a soaring gospel-like chorus, is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I'm a sucker for visual ideas conveyed in long tracking shots, so this playful video is right in my aesthetic wheelhouse. Yeah, yeah, it's also featured in a current iPod commercial, but this is just another instance of contemporary ads being plugged into the music scene more than their predecessors and today's radio programmers.

-A local Sonic

Actually, I've discovered that there are two within twenty miles of home, although neither are particularly convenient. One is sort of close to an arthouse theater I go to for morning press screenings. A post-film trip isn't too much additional driving for an occasional indulgence. I won't make any great claims about their food, yet there's something appealing and unpretentious about this fast food franchise. It was a favorite stop of mine during my vacation. It's nice to know I can stop by if I get the urge.


Sunday, September 09, 2007


The football game spanning two days continued to throw me for a curve. My weekend routine wasn't ruined, but for whatever reason I've felt a bit off today.

I woke up later than usual--no alarm for me this morning, thank you--but still had time to make it to a church service. I've been considering Donna's advice to give the liturgical traditions a look as they might offer what I'm not finding in my church search. Today seemed as good as any to follow through since I didn't have time to make it where I've been attending but could visit an Episcopal church with a later service.

I was raised Methodist, switched to another denomination when my parents wanted to find a church with a thriving youth program as my brothers and I reached those ages, and have been going to Methodist churches since college. I'm still a member at the church back home and came to appreciate its pacifist tradition, but it's not really an option for me here.

I realize I'm being coy about naming the denomination. There's nothing sketchy about it. It's mainline Protestant and often confused with other similarly named denominations. Both of my parents are ordained ministers. Since Google's search engine seems to have taken a liking to this site of late, I'm avoiding naming it to lessen the likelihood that they or their parishioners might stumble upon my blog.

I noticed a big difference upon entering the doors to the chapel at the Episcopal church. The old triptych behind the altar, something I associate with Catholicism, is about as far away from the modern art cross in the middle of the sanctuary where I've been going on Sundays. I slipped into a seat at the end of the last pew, looked up, and found that my view was obstructed by an enormous pillar. In my mind it was too late to relocate, so I hoped that I'd be able to see most of what would take place. (I could see about half.) I assume that the congregation puts up with several "bad" seats in the small chapel because the church is on the National Register of Historic Places. (There was a hole cut in one pew for another pillar, if that gives you any idea.)

When it was time for the first hymn, I paged through the book vainly searching for it. I knew I had the right one, but the page number didn't correspond. Finally I figured it out--ah, there are three numbered sections--but the hymn was over by then. Likewise, the rest of the service had me feeling like a foreigner in a place where I could understand the words but not the customs. Holy Eucharist, Rite II? No clue. I also had no idea what the pecking order was with those leading the service. I'm not used to canticles, someone carrying a cross on a metallic pole, making the sign of the cross, or kneeling. The passing of the peace was literally that. Was I breaking some code when everyone was shaking hands and saying, "Peace" while I greeted them with a "good morning"? The sermon wasn't as formal as the rest of the proceedings, which threw me for a loop. That it was being given by an openly gay deacon only continued the head-spinning nature of the experience.

And then there was Holy Communion. I've taken it by intinction and in the pew with ushers passing collection plates full of bread cubes and tiny cups of grape juice, but this was something altogether different. Wafers, drinking wine from a chalice, kneeling at the altar... I elected not to partake, mainly because by this point I knew I was not accustomed to this method of worship and didn't want to draw any more attention that I might have already.

I wasn't entirely sure which way I was supposed to go when the service was over. The Mother, a cheerful, young-ish blonde, greeted me warmly and said that she didn't know me. (There's a change for once.) By this time I was flustered but managed to spit out that it was my first time at an Episcopal service and that it was quite different from what I'm used to. I didn't say that I felt like I was watching a movie--maybe a scaled down Scorsese film.

The service was about as much on the other end of the continuum as possible from the contemporary service I've been attending. This is undeniably a church service whereas the other is like a churchy stage production. I'll take hymnals, which also include the music for those like me who can read it, over words projected on screens. I left today feeling different--in a good way, I think--yet I don't know that what I experienced is for me. It might be a nice, sober alternative every once in awhile to the loosey-goosey Methodist service, though.

I should have been more pumped up for the rest of Sunday since the National Football League schedule began in earnest, but my team doesn't play until tomorrow night. Again, the day was lent this strange quality of not being what it was supposed to be.

I knitted some and slept some during the snoozer Steelers-Browns match-up, wandered out for exercise, and soaked up the last day before classes start. Perhaps all this "off-ness" has been beneficial. I usually get quite anxious before the beginning of fall quarter--I don't know why--but I've been preoccupied with making sense of today to get worked up about tomorrow.


Saturday, September 08, 2007

And the rain came down

My daily blogging tends to be done around the same time each night. It's so reliable that you could almost set your watch by it. So allow me to explain what happened today that threw everything out of whack and why I'm writing this at 2 a.m. (I've altered the posting time and date so it appears to have been written on Saturday. I assure you that it's being written in the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning.)

An entry may have popped up in Bloglines or Google Reader mid-afternoon on Saturday. If it did, there's a perfectly good reason why you won't find it here. I was getting a head start before leaving to keep football stats tonight, but I accidentally pressed the "publish post" button rather than "save now". I deleted the entry, but I'm betting the RSS feeds grabbed it before I removed it.

I didn't foresee any trouble in posting before the clock ran out on the day, but Mother Nature had other things in store. I arrived at the football stadium an hour and a half before game time. I wanted to make sure that the students I scheduled to tape the gridiron showdown were ready, and I needed a brush-up on the stats program. The rain started falling steadily after six. Lightning accompanied the precipitation. It also meant that the teams left the field and the game's start would be delayed. Every time lightning was seen, the game couldn't start for another thirty minutes minimum.

How long was it delayed? An interminable two hour and fifty-five minutes. Kick-off was pushed back to 9:55 p.m. Ordinarily the 7:00 p.m. game would have been done or almost finished by then. I'd say they were determined to play it come hell or high water, but the rain accumulation was slight despite it coming down in sheets. I was none to pleased about the delay or that they were going ahead with the game, but as essential personnel, I didn't have a choice but to stay.

The few of us in the press box were getting punchy as the game wore on. The public address announcer, who handles the same duties for Ohio State football, was wiped out and fell asleep sitting up during halftime. His day started before 6 a.m., so we cut him a break and let him doze until the second half was near. The penalty-plagued game wrapped with a total time of three hours twelve minutes. I didn't leave the stadium until 1:30 a.m. And my alma mater and employer lost too. I'm used to that--they won nine games in my four years as an undergraduate--but still...

Oh how I wished I had my knitting, even if I wouldn't have dared brought it out in front of this group. I had considered bringing a book because I expected I'd have some time to kill before the game. I could have used it.

After a quick drive home I woke up my computer and settled in for pounding out this post. But wait! Then Firefox started acting wiggy, adding further delays to what I intended to do.

I engaged in some more knitting in public earlier in the day. I walked to the newly opened Starbucks and did half a repeat while drinking my coffee. One of the employees took interest in the scarf but said she could never learn how to knit. She prefers to crochet, the intricacies of which have eluded me so far. Seriously, people, knitting isn't that hard. It takes patience and perseverance.

The photo at the top of the post is of the scarf in its current state while at the coffee shop. Doesn't it look nice?

Thanks for all of the birthday wishes left on my birthday post. I enjoyed getting them.

And now it's time for me to get to bed...

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Happy birthday to me

The big day is here. How, you may ask, did the secret knitter spend his birthday this year? While you're welcome to imagine 24 hours of unfettered revelry, the truth is much more sedate. To jazz up the account, feel free to append "while wearing a lampshade" to the end of each sentence. Let's give it a shot.

I didn't go to the office, although I took care of some work from home...while wearing a lampshade. See, doesn't that paint the picture of a raucous celebration?

After lunch I went to Starbucks for coffee and knitting. The other day I searched for nearby coffee shops that aren't the Seattle-based chain but turned up none. I did go to a different Starbucks, though. I noticed that there is one a half mile from my apartment. How did I miss it until now? Easy. Today was the first day it was open.

The cashier recognized me, although I'm not from where she initially tried to place me. (She asked if I was a teacher at the local high school. I told her where I work, which happens to be where she attended college.) I had a piece of chocolate cinnamon bread and a tall coffee while I sat in a leather chair in the corner. Late 1950s-60s jazz instrumentals and songs--think Sinatra and company--played while the overeager employees gabbed. I got a little distracted listening, knitted a few stitches incorrectly, and had to undo them.

One customer admired what I was doing. We talked briefly about the needle arts and men knitting. Her husband pointed out that the former football player Rosey Grier knitted, which sounded vaguely familiar. If a big, tough guy like that can knit, who's to question it? My research shows that the member of the Fearsome Foursome was into needlepoint and macramé, not knitting, but the point still stands. He even wrote Rosey Grier's Needlepoint for Men.

I came home and played Ms. Pac-Man for a while. At Christmas I was given one of those battery-powered retro games. Lately it's become something of a mission to get farther than I ever have. I don't remember how well I did playing it at an actual arcade--not very well, most likely. I've reached the third set of boards with the banana, but I haven't been able to advance beyond that.

Thrilling stuff, eh? More? On Jenn's tip I signed up for International Scarf Exchange 5 and received confirmation that I'm in before the cut-off. I got dinner at City Barbeque, easily one of my favorite places in Columbus.

And that's pretty much it. Oh, there is one other thing. Coincidentally, today marks a blogging milestone. This is the 300th post I've made at Knitting Confidential. Assuming I keep writing on a daily basis, I'll have missed just a handful of days in the site's first year. (The blog's birthday is October 21.) Writing about knitting has been almost as important as the knitting itself. I'm amazed I've found enough to write about. Anyway, happy birthday to me and many thanks to you for visiting.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Take two needles and a ball of yarn and call me in the morning

If firsthand experience didn't tell me otherwise, I would be skeptical of the press release "People Who Knit and Crochet May Be Happier and Healthier". I wouldn't be so concerned that a yarn company issued the release. Of course they're going to jump at the chance to promote the benefits of hobbies that use their products. It's the troublesome "may" in the headline that would set off my skeptical sensors.

That single qualifier can make any statement technically true. People who knit and crochet may metamorphose into dermatologist recommended laundry detergent between 2 and 3 a.m. See how one word implies that what follows is true even if there is no evidence? I guarantee you'll see it in every medical study story printed in newspapers. That's not to say every study lacks merit, but it's an easy way of hedging one's bets.

Enough with the hairsplitting, though, and back on point. This isn't the first time I've come across this theory. Based on how I've felt knitting has changed or brought out something in me for the better, I'm inclined to believe that knitting can increase happiness and health. Yeah, I know I've been grumbling a lot of late--for good reason, I interject--but I notice time and again how knitting makes my stress subside.

Today's a good example. The cumulative effect of one setback and aggravation after another had my head ready to explode. Picking up the needles and knitting the scarf this evening helped calm me down. Mentally and physically I feel more at peace. I've incorporated knitting into my daily routine because it plays an important role in taking care of myself. I know the same holds true for most of you, if not every last one.

While my knitting identity may still be kept secret from the majority of those who know me, I don't feel self-conscious about showing this side in public. Knitting has become natural to me, so there is no need to hide it where I feel comfortable. (I think the same goes for the more personal things I've written here. I never intended to be as revealing as I can be.) I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but I can't imagine the past year without knitting. That's merely anecdotal evidence to contribute in favor of the researchers' results, but I'm confident that my experience isn't outside the curve.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The dishwasher and the delivery

An entry in the infrequent but recurring series "Things I Love About My New Apartment":

-A dishwasher

I enjoy cooking, but I hate cleaning. I'm sorry to say that in my dishwasher-free apartment I lived up to the single man stereotype of a sink full of dirty dishes and kitchenware. I didn't feel good about it, but apparently I didn't feel bad enough about it to clean the stuff before mold made an appearance. It's shameful. Those days are behind me, though, as I bask in the wonder that is the dishwasher. OK, so the first time I flooded my kitchen floor not unlike Bobby Brady and the washing machine, but we'll chalk that up to inexperience. No longer do I wait until I've run out of plates or until the stack in the sink starts to smell. (Sadly, that's not an exaggeration for comedic effect.) Thanks to this glorious invention I am a reformed man on the matter of kitchen cleanliness.

-Package acceptance at the rental office

This is what spurred today's topic. I arrived home and found a sticky note from UPS on my door. They tried to deliver a package to me, but I wasn't there to sign for it. No worries. The delivery person dropped it off at the rental office, an option I didn't have at my last place. No more hassles of needing to be home at the right time or having to go to the shipping company's office. This isn't an issue except when awards season kicks into high gear. Then the packages requiring signature confirmation arrive regularly.

Earlier today I read that Fox Searchlight is already sending awards screeners, although I didn't think I was high enough on the list to be getting them yet. My birthday is in a couple days, so most likely this unexpected package was a birthday gift. Whatever the case, I love getting mail. I located the box with my name on it and knew from the address that it was a present. Since my birthday isn't until Friday, the package sits unopened until the big day.

Nah, just kidding. Of course I opened it, although I knew what was inside before slicing the packing tape and prying open the cardboard lid. The return address was a giveaway. My parents sent me the Knit Picks Options needle set. (Rather, I should say that my mom sent it as my dad probably has no idea what gift they gave.) I can't wait to begin knitting with them, and I have a project (or projects) in mind. I want to make log cabin blankets from Mason-Dixon Knitting for Christmas gifts.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

This Perfect World

The last of the reader-contributed memes gets answered tonight, and boy is it a dangerous one. Jennifer asked, " What is your idea of the perfect meal, date, vacation, job, can call the post Mark's Perfect World : )"

Perfection and I have a tricky relationship. For better and for worse, I am a perfectionist, a pragmatist, and a romantic. There are enough contradictions in that last sentence to make your head spin, so I'll give you a moment to wrap your brain around them all.

Maybe the easiest way to explain it is that I hold myself to high standards, acknowledge that achieving such is rarely possible, but strive for it nevertheless. My perfectionism is pointed internally, which I suppose is better since if it were directed outward I would be perpetually disappointed in all I encounter. That's not how it is. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm more forgiving of shortcomings in others than I am in myself.

All right, then. If I'm trying to attain perfection, what specifically am I chasing? And here's where the unsatisfactory answer comes and where it ties in with the meme: I don't know. I have a vague idea, but I can't say it's something I dwell on. Perhaps it all gets back to what I was talking about with the surviving vs. thriving perspective.

What would be the perfect meal? Food I like with good company. What would be the perfect date? Having one would be a good place to start. What would be the perfect vacation? I'd like to go to Europe, but you know what, my trip to Arkansas in August was pretty good in its own way.

What would be the perfect job? Ah, there's something I might be able to pin down a little more, mainly because, at least in my mind, I was faced with the possibility of having to look for one. In spite of the issues where I am now, I have it pretty good. I can come and go as I please within reason. I do a variety of things over the course of the day and the week. I get to indulge my passion for writing and movies. Hopefully I make a positive impact on a student or two. I'd like to have more time to write and less time dealing with the bureaucratic aspects, but join the club, right? We've been here before, but I suppose in an ideal world I'd be writing, period.

Sorry Jennifer. I know you proposed the questions in good fun, and I had to go and spoil it with a weighty answer. But I can't say I give much thought to singular perfection because I am amenable to perfection in multiplicities. It's hard, though, for me to start rattling off those many abstract answers. If that seems like a dodge, well, it isn't.

Sorry to everyone else for the run of deep, introspective posts of late. My intellectualized bellyaching is helpful to me, but I feel like I shouldn't be putting it on you all. I guess you wouldn't return if it bothered you, but still, I'll try to keep the carping about this stuff to a minimum if I can. After all, surely I'll mess up some knitting project soon enough to provide me with the opportunity to blow off some steam.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Come undone

I wrote yesterday that the Asherton Reversible Scarf had managed to remain error-free. Bzzt! What I failed to observe at the coffee shop was that five stitches in the last row I worked on were purled when they should have been knitted. I did ten more rows before spotting a splotch of garter stitch ruining the pattern.

Even if I weren't making the scarf for charity, this was a glaring mistake I would have to fix. I saved the repair work for this morning. It was slow going, so I put it down for more immediate frogging satisfaction. Yes, after a delay of more than two months, I ripped out the sock in variegated green yarn with too many cast on stitches.

What I didn't think about was the mess of unraveled yarn pooling on the floor. Might this come back to bite me? You bet. I picked up the pile and began winding it into a ball. But oh, the knots! I picked and pulled at them. I took what remained in the skein and unraveled it on the floor, turning my living room and dining area into a surface for an extremely long and winding river of fiber. Having devoted at least an hour to this task, I accepted that a couple judicious snips of the scissors would take care of the problem without losing too much yarn. For Pete's sake, I have another skein of the stuff. Determination can be a drawback.

When ripping out a lot, is there a good way to keep the yarn from tangling? I know that I'll have to do massive frogging sooner or later and would prefer not to deal with this secondary headache again if possible.

In the afternoon I undid the seven other rows necessary to get to the root of the problem. Five wrong stitches meant undoing 440. A stitch in time saves nine., so the saying goes. I suppose that rolls off the tongue better than a stitch in time saves eighty-eight.

Lately I've noticed a slight uptick in my site traffic via search engines. Lurkers new and old are welcome to make themselves known in the comments. Those same stats also show a couple visitors via a Ravelry discussion topic. Knowing that I've come up in discussion somehow, no matter how insignificant, and not being able to check it is maddening. As if having 11,000-plus people ahead of me in line for Ravelry isn't enough.

The good news is that it sounds like the day is near when the doors will be thrown open to the thousands of us on the waiting list. Donna gave me a peek at the site when I visited her, but this video tour really has me eager to join all the cool kids.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

September Sunday

Now that's how a day during the long weekend should be: slow, relaxing, and yet productive in its own way.

I wasn't going to mention church, but since a pertinent issue was raised at the pulpit today, I might as well start there. The current slogan for the United Methodist Church is "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." The minister spoke about how churchgoers can get comfortable in their insular worlds, be it residential communities or places of worship. He wants people to be capable of reaching outside those zones to strangers, including those in the pews they don't know, and inviting them in.

He said that this church gets a lot of visitors, yet only six percent return to become further involved. (I don't remember if he was talking about becoming members or what. I wasn't taking notes.) The average--and I find this hard to believe--is thirty percent. That's a huge difference.

I have a few reservations about the place, but the reason I've kept coming back is because the church noticed I've attended. Granted, I'm mostly invisible on Sundays, but they're doing better than other places I've visited.

First on my day's unwritten to do list was finishing Jennifer Egan's The Keep. The book turned out to be not at all what I expected. (No, I didn't think I was getting F. Paul Wilson's horror novel of the same name.) Synchronicity must have led me to pluck the book from the library shelf as it is concerned with communication and connectedness in this modern ageand art, writing in particular, as a means of discovering and protecting what is dearest to us, topics I return to again and again. The narrator shift is very jarring the first time--insert cartoon sound of tires squealing from vigorously applied brakes--but I like how Egan used the device.

The weekend must have been making me a little stir crazy, so I went to Starbucks for a coffee and knitting in public. I plugged away at the Asherton Reversible Scarf and was happy that I didn't lose my place in the pattern. There are 44 rows in the repeat, with every two rows being the same. It shouldn't be hard to keep track of where I'm supposed to be, but on several occasions the last two times I've knit it I've needed to refer to the cast on tail to remind me what row I should be knitting.

I don't know if it was the caffeine, but I felt the need to be on the move. Since we've enjoyed good weather this weekend, I decided I ought to take advantage of it while it lasts. I put my knitting and a book in my backpack and grabbed a water bottle that I'd refilled with tap water. I set out on foot for the park. I would get in some exercise, take a break to knit and read, and finish my walking routine around the park.

Do you ever put on anything that makes you feel different? Maybe it's a favorite piece of clothing that inspires a more confident attitude or makes you feel comfortable. I slipped my arms through both backpack straps, set out on foot, and felt like I was ready to embark on an adventure. I stood straighter and got an energy boost. Or maybe that was the coffee.

I made one trip around the park--a canvassing mission, if you will--in search of a tree with shade for knitting and reading. I took note of and ruled out where dog owners were taking their pets for quick relief before settling on one of the trees behind the elementary school. I sat down and brushed away the few fibers of a spider's web that I felt on my head. I resumed knitting the scarf, although the process was interrupted more frequently than I anticipated it would be. The sensation of black ants and tan millipedes traversing my legs was disruptive enough that I had to pause every so often to flick them off.

My soundtrack was the soft breeze rustling the leaves, children having fun on the playground equipment, and the friendly chatter of Hispanics playing a pick-up soccer game. I don't know Spanish, but there's one insult the players exchanged that I could discern from the many other words unknown to me. (Subtitled movies can be educational.) The air was like cotton candy, light, sweet, and sticky when it met the moisture on my brow. I was at peace knitting. If only it weren't for those bugs.

I tired of being a climbing wall for insects, so I packed up my knitting and held off starting Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union for tonight. I walked the rest of the concrete, blacktop, and grass path that I follow for exercise while taking in the scent of charcoal grills dotting the remainder of my jaunt.

It hasn't been a remarkable day, but it's brought welcome calmness before the inevitable post-Labor Day storm. I hope you've been able to find some tranquility too.

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