Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 knitting year in review

A proper photo of the handknit I received in International Scarf Exchange 5 is now live on the ISE5 blog. My post of gratitude is here.

There will not be any FOs today, so it is time to review the month and year on this, the last day of 2007. I capped the year with a respectable six FOs in December: five hats and one dishcloth.

Here is the FO breakdown by month and by item:

January: 6
February: 6
March: 7
April: 8
May: 7
June: 5
July: 0
August: 3
September: 1
October: 3
November: 4
December: 6

That adds up to 56 FOs for 2007.

Baby bibs: 2
Baby blankets: 2
Baby hats: 4
Baby socks (practice pair): 1
Blanket: 1
Cat mat: 1
Coffee cup cozies: 8
Dishcloths: 13
Felted needle holders: 2
Flower pin: 1
Hats: 11
Scarves: 7
Slippers (pairs): 3

I've decided that the practice baby socks should be counted as a pair since they're probably best left as samples than actual infantwear.

On the UFO front:

Dishcloth: 1
Knitting needle covers: 2
Socks: 2

I knitted a few rows of the dishcloth in June and have let it hide since. I'd probably do just as well to rip it out and start over again since I'm not sure I remember what pattern I was using anyway. The knitting needle covers have been nearly done since August but lack the crochet seaming and pocket backstitching to complete them. I finished two different adult socks but not a single pair. One of those socks needs to be frogged entirely because it was too big. Perhaps next year I'll give socks another chance.

In July I took stock of what I'd learned this year. Not bad. But what about my new year's knitting resolutions?

-Learn five other stitches.

By this point I realize that I meant stitch patterns. Garter stitch and basketweave were the only patterns I'd done when I made this resolution. Some patterns can't be memorized, but considering everything I did, I feel good about counting this as accomplished.

-Learn how to use circular needles.
-Learn how to use double pointed needles.
-Make Kristin's Jazzy coffee cup cozy.
-Make a hat for myself.
-Felt something
-Knit with something lighter than worsted weight yarn.

Yeah, I can put check marks by these.

-Make a baby blanket and baby sweater.

I achieved half of this goal twice, but a baby sweater was never attempted.

-Make two adult sweaters.

How naïve of me to think that doing just one might be a cop out. As intimidating as knitting a sweater sounds, I think this is something that needs to be included among my 2008 resolutions.

-Become better at knitting and watching TV at the same time.

I'll give myself half credit for this. I've probably improved, but I'm still fixated on the needles much more than those I've seen who can look around and not watch what they're doing.

-Knit in public on my own.

For those of you who weren't reading this blog a year ago, you probably don't have any idea how big of a challenge I considered this. I've improved a lot as a knitter over the course of the year, but mustering the courage to knit alone in public is the greater achievement. A year ago I was less confident about how being a knitter would make me be perceived. Sure, I still have some hang-ups about being a man in what is primarily a woman's world. For the most part, though, I feel like being a knitter is an important part of who I am and that I belong with the rest of you.

-Continue to blog regularly about knitting.

I didn't intend to write every day on this blog. Nevertheless, except for two January weekends (6 &7, 13 &14) and March 22-24, when I had limited to zero internet access at a film festival, I've blogged 358 of the 365 days this year. What I write from time to time may be frivolous or of limited interest even to my most devoted readers (and embarrassing to me in retrospect), but I feel that it's been an important part of my self-contemplation. I thank you for reading and for being in this conversation with me.

-Continue to knit for others.

Most of what I made this year was given away. I probably could stand to make more for myself, but I don't regret the amount of knitting I did for others.

-Take better care of myself.

The scales have to tip in favor of accomplishing this goal, if only by the fact that I moved to a new apartment this year. A year ago I was ready to crack from the stress of where I lived. My neighbors in the building were unbelievably obnoxious and wore me down to the point of being miserable whenever I was at home. It took a lot for me to make the decision to move, but a change of scenery is the best thing I did all year.

2007 has been an interesting year. I'd hoped it would be less stressful after a rocky 2006. It has and it hasn't. There have been ups and downs, and there always will be. A work issue that I thought would be resolved by now hasn't been entirely. There was one major disappointment that I let bother me longer than I should have.

Yet looking at where I am from where I was one year ago, I must acknowledge that things are better overall. I live in an apartment where I can relax. I've made and strengthened friendships that mean the world to me. Although I still have much room for improvement, I have gained more self-confidence.

In one way or another, knitting has played a key role in many of the items on 2007's plus column in the ledger. I've been shown so much kindness because of knitting and am extremely grateful for it. Who would have thought that learning such a simple skill would bring so much joy? Not me.

Have a safe New Year's Eve and a blessed new year.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

#1 with a question mark

Knitting has been put on hold while I clear out the cobwebs in my head from back-to-back days of basketball stats-keeping and attend to more immediate matters. This may seem like it's better suited for my other site, but I wouldn't want to erode my rock-solid authority by vacillating like this there, would I? *wink*

When I'm wearing my film critic hat--a fedora with a handwritten "PRESS" card sticking out of it, natch--the end of the year has the additional fun and stress of cobbling together the obligatory ten best list. There's also the list of honorable mentions and worsts, if so inclined, and awards nomination ballots. (Yes, plural.)

It's something I enjoy, but that stretch from Christmas to New Year's is already jam-packed with so much else that it is hard to find time for this nebulous process of weighing films and performances against each other, let alone squeezing in one more film for a first or clarifying second viewing. I'd like to do a best of 2007 music list, but that goes on the back burner. And the Archies have been on my mind on a regular basis throughout the year, but those can wait until January 2nd or 3rd at the earliest.

One of my ballots is due by the turn of the calendar, so I macheted my way through the thick overgrowth of the annual movie release list and the performances, music, and other technical achievements therein. I dashed off my nomination ballot because I figured I could live with something that would never be published. The hard work of nailing down my top ten list remains.

Really, though, it's the weight of what to put at #1. Do I go with There Will Be Blood, whose greatness has helped it burble its way up the list from where I would have put it immediately after seeing it? Daniel Day-Lewis' performance and that ending...goodness gracious. Or how about Ratatouille, certainly a less trendy pick but one of the most purely enjoyable films I saw all year? Of course, I really fell in love with Once too. And nearly every critic seems to have crowned No Country for Old Men for good reason. What about Atonement, which I might have liked even more if I hadn't been so tired when I saw it, or Zodiac, which has improved over time in my mind even if my initial evaluation wouldn't have it sniffing the top ten? Can I look at them again before carving my list in stone?

I know, it's hardly a life or death decision, but I want to be more certain in what film I anoint than I am right now. Complicating things more is that I have all of these on DVD except for Paul Thomas Anderson's oil epic, so I could put them to the test in a mini-marathon at home.

But can I even trust my instincts now? Ratatouille would be a novel choice--seriously, where's the year-end love, crix?--which lends it an edge. No Country for Old Men has the opposite problem. It's been feted by practically everyone, which is kind of a strike against it in a perverse sense. Once may have captured my heart the most, but it doesn't have the formal polish of the competition. Am I just a blind fanboy gushing over There Will Be Blood, especially since the director's Punch-Drunk Love topped my 2002 list?

Hashing this out in this space has helped cement one matter. Hot Fuzz goes no higher than five.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

In alphabetical order

I've been saving up the ABC meme, swiped from here, for a day like this.

The rules: List a word that describes you for every letter of the alphabet. Offer as much or as little explanation as you wish. Please keep the words positive and feel free to get creative.

A: Aesthete
B: Barbecue eater
C: Contemplative
D: Double major (earned degrees in Speech Communication and Psychology)
E: Efficiency striver
F: Film critic
G: Good listener
H: Hoarder (but I've become better at breaking my pack rat tendencies)
I: Inquisitive
J: Jungian (Jung's theories appealed to me during my studies)
K: Knitter
L: Low-key
M: Mindful
N: North American exclusive (I've never been to another continent)
O: Oldest child (of four)
P: Protestant
Q: Quiet
R: Romantic (read: idealistic)
S: Saturn driver
T: Thunderbolt (per my high school days)
U: Unsure (about so many things)
V: Voter (it's rare I miss an election)
W: Writer
X: XTC album owner (that would be Nonsuch)
Y: Yearner
Z: Zero Effect fan

So much for what I hoped would be a fast entry. That was a hard one.

The marathon eight-basketball-games-in-two-days is done. Hopefully things will return to some semblance of normalcy starting now.


Friday, December 28, 2007


Oof. Four basketball games in one day might be fine if you're attending the NCAA Tournament, not that I have, but working them just isn't a pleasurable experience any way you slice the situation.

So, with that in mind, today I present a compendium of forgotten leftovers and new tidbits...

Yesterday I mentioned driving by the strangely fascinating place with the "Famous Old Time Music" sign. In my mind I pictured a secret enclave of performers hiding out in the countryside to play their songs to whatever unsuspecting strangers might be enticed inside. Minimal searching turned up what it really is: a bluegrass specialty shop in Wapakoneta. I bet it looks less mysterious in the light of day.

My mom must be liking knitting so far. I received an e-mail detailing her progress. It's nice to know that she's enjoying it and doing well.

One cable-join Gorilla Glued connection made it through one hat without showing signs of another separation. I think we've got a winner in that extremely thick adhesive.

How bad is Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem? Pretty bad, even with extremely low expectations.

I'm going to hate to see December end, if only because it's been a wealth of mail almost every day. Movie awards season has meant the arrival of a package of some sort almost every day. There are also the Christmas cards and a gift or two that have shown up to satisfy my fondness for receiving mail. What does January bring? W-2s?

I haven't signed up yet, but I got an e-mail about Blog 365, an expansion of NaBloPoMo, and intend to participate. I've practically done it this year, so how much harder can it be to add a few more days?

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

If the hat fits...

Seaman's Cap

Yarn: Cascade 220 Tweed (90% Peruvian Highland wool, 10% Donegal; worsted weight)
Colorway: 7627 (let's call it taupe with colored flecks)
Needles: US 6 and 7 circulars
Stitches: 102

One more FO before I left my parents' home... I knitted this in record time for me. Rough estimate: 26 or 27 hours on the clock from start to finish. And yes, that includes time for sleeping. Obviously it didn't require that many knitting hours.

Although it was made in a short period of time, I'm really pleased with the quality of my knitting. There's a small area I could get self-critical about, but this is the season for being generous, so I should extend that to myself, right? I'm proud to wear it.

A note on the colorway... It appears that I have misplaced the wrapper, so I've guessed at the number. It's closer to a brownish gray/grayish brown--I'm told that's called taupe--as seen in the picture below than the reddish brown seen at the top of this post.

The tweedy bits give it just enough color to spice it up rather than being a bland monochrome hat. In this photo you get a glimpse of the scarf I got from my ISE5 pal. Don't you think the color goes well with my overcoat?

I arrived home in Ohio after a four and a half hour drive early tonight. Like the days with my family, my time on the road flew by. The drive itself was unremarkable, although it had the relative intrigue of being the first time I made it.

While on route 33 in western Ohio I passed what looked like a barn in the middle of nowhere. There was a string of blinking lights and an illuminated sign whose red letters on a white background promised "Famous Old Time Music". Pray tell, what kind of music is that, and what is going on in that building? This place snagged my curiosity, although anything slightly out of the ordinary would do that three or so hours deep into a drive in the pitch black early evening that felt like the dead of night.

I enjoyed the time away, I'm glad to be back, and I can't believe that I don't feel like I'm limping into the end of the year for once. Ah, but the next two days bring a mind (and butt) numbing eight basketball games for which I will be keeping statistics. For the moment I feel up to the challenge.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Knit-o-tron 3000

With the extent of my Christmas day knitting limited to casting on, I made up for lost time with an absurd amount today. While America rushed to the stores to exchange gifts and make additional purchases, I got cranking on a hat for myself. And by cranking I mean I knitted 8.25 inches and am ready to begin the decreases. It's outrageous, really.

There wasn't much happening around the family homestead. One of my brothers was flying into Chicago and taking the train to South Bend, a trip that lasted a lot longer than he had anticipated. The night before I tried to tell my dad how long it would take. I'd considered hopping on the train and meeting him at O'Hare. Once I saw that I'd have to be on the train by 6:30 a.m. and wouldn't get back until 4:00 p.m. at the earliest, I nixed that plan. It would have granted me plenty of knitting time, but I had that without hours on mass transportation.

Instead I plugged away at my latest WIP and intervened on numerous occasions when my mom made mistakes on her first scarf. It felt good to know that I could identify her errors and undo the minor damage. I showed her how to unknit stitches, not that I think she understands yet. (Hey, it took me awhile.) It's been easy to explain because she's using variegated yarn. The old stitch is usually a different color from the stitch being undone.

In the process of repairing her mistakes, I feel like I'm now more comfortable with frogging. It can still be a tense situation when removing the project from the needle and ripping out stitch by stitch, but my frogging attempt with her scarf was a calamity-free affair. Cleaning up the mess was much faster this way and allowed for spotting the problems better.

She's doing well. The time commitment may be her undoing in the long run, but she likes knitting for the time being.

There was a visit to a local yarn shop. Heckman's Quilting and Yarn in South Bend held a greater variety of yarn than I thought it might considering the order of the supplies in the store's name. I didn't realize that the trip was predicated on my mom purchasing yarn for me to make her one of the seaman's caps. She prefers the style and fit over the ribbed beanie I made her for Christmas, which I'll admit to being a shade tight. Truth be told, I'm getting a little tired of making these hats, but that's to be expected when I practically knit one in a day. She selected Cascade 220 in a deep purple shade that should be a fun color to work with.

If all goes well, my hat will be done when you hear from me tomorrow. I'm leaving for home sometime in the afternoon. The visit here has been less stressful than I anticipated it might be, but it will still be nice to return to my place.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas knits

Knitted gifts were given, knitting books were received, and I taught my mom how to knit. A little Gorilla Glue appeared to fix the cables separated from the joins. It's a Christmas miracle!

The gifts seemed to be received appreciatively. (It can be hard to tell with my brothers.) One of the hats was worn outside today, so I'll take that as a sign of approval.

I've flipped through both books Santa brought me. Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book looks to have plenty of information that I can really use. Now that I feel like I know what I'm doing, the tips should be helpful and somewhat understandable. The stitch dictionary has given me a few ideas for future projects. I might even be able to use the instructions to figure out the crochet work I need to do to finish those long-delayed secret projects.

Knit Fix: Problem Solving for Knitters may prove to be an indispensable addition to my knitting book library. I'm certainly good enough at the problem creating part of the equation.

As for me putting on the teacher's hat and showing my mom how to knit, it went fine. She had already purchased a beginner's kit and a couple of books. When I started, reading the books was more confusing than seeing someone else knit. My mom seemed to be having trouble learning from the printed page, so it was up to me to provide illumination. I showed her the knitted cast on, the knit stitch, the purl stitch, and binding off. I demonstrated the long tail cast on but advised her that perhaps the knitted cast on was best for now.

She wanted to learn the English method. I use the continental method, but I tried to instruct her as best I could. I was soon reminded of why I wrap the yarn with my left hand. I have a terrible time holding both needles with it.

My mom struggled at first and lost a stitch somewhere in her first knitted row. She slowly knitted row after row. She got the hang of it faster than I did. This is not to the credit of my teaching skills. (Apparently she kind of knew how to knit years ago but didn't remember how.) I showed her what to do and explained to the best of my ability. She was knitting very tightly, which I cautioned her about, but otherwise the stitches were looking good. Her practice piece looked nothing like my atrocity.

I let her knit and purl while I played euchre with my dad and brothers. After my team claimed victory, I showed her how to bind off and weave in the ends. By now it was after 11 p.m., but she wanted to get started on a scarf with her variegated Red Heart yarn. I pointed out how to read the yarn label, especially when it comes to gauge, and let her decide how many stitches to cast on for her first project. I thought she could do a basketweave scarf, but she's content to knit one in garter stitch for starters.

I don't know that I really gave her that much help in picking up the craft. Although slow, she understood what to do without much prompting. I was probably more valuable as an inspiration than as an educator. I'll take it, though.

I used the Gorilla Glue to reattach one end on all four cables to the joins. I went ahead and did the rest of the job separating the last remaining cable that had not pulled out all the way. It was headed there. Since I was gluing the others, I figured I might as well do this one too. I'm hoping they hold.

When all was said and done, I didn't do much knitting of my own. I cast on for another hat, one for me. I don't mind that I didn't get to knit. I got to share the products and knowledge of the skill I learned just more than a year ago. That seems like a fair trade for one day. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas too.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Nick of time

Seaman's Cap

Yarn: Patons Classic Merino Wool (100% pure new wool; worsted weight)
Colorway: 00229 (natural mix)
Needles: US 6 and 7 circulars
Stitches: 102

The final hat that I absolutely, positively wanted to have done by Christmas was completed a little while ago. That still leaves time to put it in a box and wrap it up. I have one more hat I want to knit as a Christmas gift, but this one was the most urgent. In other words, it's for someone who will be under the same roof on the holiday.

I never cease to be surprised how quickly I can knit this pattern. It's pretty easy, although I nearly made a colossal mistake as I tired during the decreases. I switched the number on the row counter before I was finished with an all knit round. I did two k2togs before seeing the stitch marker indicating that I hadn't reached the round's beginning. I undid my errors but wasn't sure that I unknit the k2togs properly. I think I made minor mistakes there, but I can live with them.

There's also something a little weird at the end of the first round of stockinette. It seems to have led to minor but noticeable ladder. I don't know that my non-knitting family will be able to tell, so I should congratulate myself on knocking out this project so quickly rather than dwelling on the imperfections.

The cable did not separate from the join but is well on its way to doing so. Maybe tomorrow will be the day to attempt gluing all of the cable-join disconnections caused by magic loop.

My mom and I trekked north about thirty miles to visit Red Purl in Niles, Michigan. I called last week to confirm they'd be open today. I was told their hours were 12-4 p.m. Thinking that perhaps they'd be closed on Christmas Eve regardless of what the person answering the phone said, I called today and didn't get an answer. I would have taken this as a sign of their closure, but it took me two calls last week to get someone to pick up. We went anyway.

We were there long enough for me to plant my feet in another state, pull on the locked door, and snap a picture. Turns out that the shop was not open today. I told her that at least she knows where it is if she wants to come back. It seems pretty common for my parents to drive fifteen to twenty miles to the grocery and other stores, yet I got the impression that this appeared to be too far away. Maybe it has to do with the perception of going across a state border. Can't say I didn't try.

The Christmas Eve service is a couple hours away. Since we boys are convenient fall-back options for last minute cancellations by service participants, the three of us who are here have been roped into tonight's program. Wouldn't want to give Santa any reason to put me on the naughty list this close to the big day.

Merry Christmas.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stormy weather

The race is on to finish one more hat before Christmas arrives. I don't expect I'll have it done in time, but I made pretty good progress today. I knitted five inches of the seaman's cap, an impressive feat considering I slept for a generous portion of the afternoon.

Knitting success was a nice antidote to this morning's chilling experience. Chilling, as in literally cold. That's right, the power was knocked out in the middle of the night and was off for seven or eight hours. Leaving the house didn't solve the problem. Since the parsonage where my parents live is next to the church, there was no electricity or heat for the Sunday service either.

Among the several times I was awakened early by family members, there was this conversation:

"It's ten after eight. Church is at 9:30."
"And I just want to make sure you're ready in time."

I don't know how long my mom thinks it takes me to get ready in the morning, but I can assure you that I don't need almost an hour and a half, especially when my destination is less than fifty feet from door to door. Needless to say, with the wind rattling a door most of the night and a whimpering dog waking me up frequently, this light sleeper could have used those minutes better.

I may visit a local yarn shop on Monday. If my mom is to learn how to knit, she needs to be aware of where she can go for yarn and possible knitting assistance. I've located a place in Michigan that's about a half hour drive away, so we'll see if we make our way there.

That's about all that passes for excitement in this neck of the woods, at least for one day.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Home and away

Greetings from northwest Indiana.

This getting up early stuff has to stop. I rose a little after six a.m., hit the road by seven, and arrived at my destination five and a half hours later. A couple brief naps have revived me, but I have a feeling I'll conk out pretty good tonight.

I picked up my great-aunt on the way here. I was kind of surprised that she was willing to make the trip--about four hours from her home--since she doesn't venture far from the farm house where she's lived her whole life. This is probably the farthest she's been away from home in a couple decades, if not more. During the drive I asked her where she'd been out of state. Essentially, if the state doesn't touch Ohio, chances are she's never been there. My dad said that one of her brothers probably traveled no farther than one trip to Indianapolis and didn't go beyond adjacent counties much during his life. We hear a lot these days about eating locally and the like, but I wonder how many would be willing to confine their lives to, say, a fifty-mile radius now.

The drive was uneventful and not terribly interesting. (I suppose that's preferable to a nerve-rattling trip.) The most noteworthy thing may have been passing an alpaca farm, something that was unusual enough to catch my attention.

I left early this morning so one of my brothers and I could take my dad to an afternoon Notre Dame basketball game. My parents live relatively close to South Bend. For years I've seen games at the Edmund P. Joyce Center on TV and didn't think it looked very big, but I was surprised to find how small it is once I set foot inside. I can't believe it seats 11,418 for basketball.

We sat in the bleacher seats. Ordinarily you'd think they would provide a less than desirable view, but there isn't a bad seat in the fieldhouse because everyone is close to the court. I can only imagine what it would be like to see a good game here with the crowd in this basketball-mad state cheering at their loudest. The opponent we saw was San Francisco, a program with a proud tradition but not much relevance in today's college ball universe. Notre Dame should have wiped the floor with them but got sloppy after building a big early lead. The final score was closer than the game was.

In knitting news, I am going to claim early success with casting on for another hat. The cable has not separated from the join. The brother it is for drove the hour-plus back to his place to see if a package arrived, so I may be able to work on it openly and not have him see his gift take shape. I have the soon-to-be crowded basement to myself, at least for one night. Tired as I am, it's a good start to being home for the holidays.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

One for the road

I had an appointment to get new tires and alignment for my car at eight this morning and have pretty much been on the go since. It's been an insane day. And I still have to pack and get out the door by 7 a.m. tomorrow.

So, I'll make this a quick one and leave it at that. After letting the morning caffeine circulate through my blood stream, I felt alert enough to cast on for the last hat that I have to complete by Christmas. What better time to knit than during the interminable wait at the tire shop? I was positioning the cast on row so I could join it in the round when the blasted cable came out of the join. And this was one that hadn't been showing any signs of the cable starting to come unglued!

I have four of the 32" Options cables. The cable and join have separated on two of them. There's signs of it on another. That leaves me with one potentially problem-free cable and another that snags the yarn. I feel bad about calling Knit Picks about this again, but I'm not pleased with how easily the cables are coming out. I'm not being rough on them, at least not any more than the stress caused by magic loop.

I bought some Gorilla Glue to reconnect the cables and joins to tide me over until other replacements will be sent. People seem to swear by this stuff. Has it met its match?

I'm back where I began the day: nothing on the needles. I need to pack like a maniac tonight and get to bed so I can salvage a decent night's sleep before darting out of here first thing in the morning. I'm headed to my parents' place for a few days. All I want for Christmas at this point is peace, quiet, and rest. Too much to ask for? We'll see.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

No strings attached

While standing in line at the post office to mail some Christmas cards and a package, I got to thinking about how nice it feels to give knitted gifts. (All the better that I was thinking this than how much I'd like to throttle those ahead of me for being unprepared when it was their turn and dragging out the wait even more.) I enjoy being able to give the products of my hard work. I keep the recipients utmost in my mind when deciding on projects, and I hope that what I give is appreciated.

So it is with a lot of mixed emotions that I read a thread on Ravelry that stated to veer into viewing knitted gifts as self-serving behavior. I didn't expect to find knitters, of all people, to call into question the motivation behind knitting something for someone.

I've not had anyone reject these gifts to my face, so I assume that they were welcome, even if they weren't loved. Is it possible my brothers have their scarves in the back of the closets never to see the light of day again? Sure. If they (or anyone else) were unsatisfied with them, I'm none the wiser. I'm not campaigning for sainthood in knitting some of my gifts. I just think that it's nice to do something that showed thought and care went into the gift. It's not about proclaiming, "Wow, look at how much time I devoted to making this for you."

I kind of got the attitude from some commenters that there is something wrong in the giver getting something in the experience, but if that's not "allowed", why would gifts be given in the first place? To be clear, I'm not looking for the gifts to be reciprocated or quid pro quo. Quite the opposite. They're given with no expectation of that. Of the gifts I've already given, I feel like I've already been rewarded in my attempts to brighten the days of others simply by expressing my appreciation and love for them. Is it suddenly untoward to take pleasure in being generous? Am I being really greedy because I was also able to get the benefit of knitting things?

I feel like knitting has made me more generous. I want to make and give things to those important to me. I don't believe this stems from a narcissistic impulse but a genuine desire to display how I feel.

So, is knitting gifts self-serving, or are the naysayers in lockstep with Scrooge?

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Seaman's Cap

Yarn: Cascade 220-The Heathers (100% Peruvian Highland merino wool; worsted weight)
Color: 2424
Needles: US 6& 7 circulars
Stitches: 102

Yo ho ho, it's another hat for the high seas and yuletide cheer.

With much trepidation I took the WIP off the needles and began ripping. I needed to frog two rounds to ensure that I was past the multitude of dropped stitches, and I was prepared to wipe out more to return me to a pre-decrease round if necessary. I tried sliding a smaller needle through the stitches but found that I needed to do them one at a time rather than trying to get all of them on at once. There went another round or two.

Slowly but surely I got the stitches onto the needle. I thought I had them all, but there were two at the beginning of the round that appeared to have been dropped. I picked them up but could tell that something was off. I had already decided that I was going to skip tonight's screening--I'll have to hold my breath over National Treasure: Book of Secrets until Friday--so I headed to knit night at the LYS to get the hat straightened out.

I don't know exactly what the problem was at the beginning of the round. Once it was fixed--and a dropped stitch spotted in the middle of the round--I was able to get back to work and finish what should have been done six days ago.

Some of the stitches were snagging on the cable coming out of the join. Magic loop is unkind to that spot on the Options interchangeables. I think I have at least one decent cable among the four in my possession. I need to dig it out for yet another hat.

It was really nice to knit again. I know that much of my knitting of late has been with a cautious eye for the Christmas deadline, which can make it less enjoyable. Having not knitted since last Thursday, though, I can say that I'm just happy to be doing it again. Two more hats to go and then one for me...

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Injured reserve

I miss knitting. I haven't knitted due to last Thursday's mistake and the next day's cable incident. Disregard the fact that I'm losing critical holiday gift knitting time. I just want to return to an activity that has been part of my daily routine.

The time simply hasn't been there to attempt a salvage effort. I've been wiped out when I finally get home from work. Four films, four different theaters, two days...and three more movies remain on the week's schedule. I'm flirting with the idea of skipping tomorrow night's screening--the National Treasure sequel can wait--so I can stay home or go to knit night. I know I'm not going to finish the gifts for my friends by Christmas, but I need to get a hat done for my brother. Since it's unlikely that I'll have any privacy at my parents', it needs to be already done.

I haven't forgotten about posting better photos of my International Scarf Exchange 5 scarf. (And I need to do my duty on the ISE5 blog too...) I just need about eight more hours in each day. Then I'll be good to go.

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Monday, December 17, 2007


It's just as well that I haven't been able to knit for the last few days. Setting the needles aside allowed me to concentrate on writing movie reviews for the show we taped tonight. Considering how quickly the day passed, it's good that I wasn't trying to bang out the reviews at the office. Plus, having them in hand made me feel a lot less stressed.

The move at work put the show on the back burner for months. (We're still not on our regular schedule.) Without deadlines looming every two weeks, I got out of the habit of writing. I don't think I'm an especially fast writer--each entry here is probably nurtured for an hour minimum--and trying to think of things to say when I'm not certain the words are there doesn't help matters.

That said, I'm generally happy with the four reviews I wrote this weekend. I can be extremely self-critical, so that's high praise for myself. It pained me to cut down the online versions for TV, which means that I didn't feel like they were padded out to fill space or time to meet the appearance of proper full-length reviews. I hope that there are a few novel observations and clever turns of phrase. I pray that the pieces aren't as mechanical as they often seem to me.

Here's a secret: I worry that I'm a hack. Truth be told, I'm sure I have been in the past and will be so on future occasions. Ideally those instances are exceptions more often than not. I look at what I wrote this weekend and think that maybe I know what I'm doing. I'd love to be brilliant, but I'll settle for being merely good. Does this recent output achieve that? I'm not sure, but I'm not embarrassed to have my name attached to it.

Anyway, the point I was working toward is that I've used up my allotment of words for the day. I'm tired after some long work hours and weary looking at those that are ahead. Thankfully, they are a renewable resource. Back with more tomorrow. Maybe I'll find some time to knit. These are precious days to be losing so close to Christmas.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

I've got a flair

My mother wants me to teach her how to knit when I go home for Christmas.

Color me surprised. She's been supportive of my knitting, so it's not as though she cast a skeptical eye on it in the past and is now coming around to it. No, I just didn't think it was something that she would want to do or have the time or patience for.

The prospect of being the instructor unnerves me because I don't really feel like I know that much. Sure, I've made a lot of items during my brief knitting stint, but I still see myself as a novice. Good grief, I've eschewed doing gauge swatches. That sets a bad example off the bat, right?

I'm better equipped for delivering an introductory lesson than I would have been a year ago...or even six months ago. I'm willing to try to teach her. Out of all my family members, I certainly have the patience that may be required for teaching another. (Whenever my brothers try to explain something to her about the computer, they zip through and get huffy about follow-up questions.) Because I've made plenty of mistakes and had to let some things sink in before understanding them, I think I can strip the basic techniques down to the essential.

And yes, it is flattering to know that she obviously finds value in something that I do. Although I've bonded with my dad about sports, I think I've usually felt that I have more in common with my mom. I got my love of reading from her. Before she switched to an education major in college, she studied music. That translated into piano lessons when I was a kid and an appreciation for music in general (although I'm sure she'd hate some of what I like). So it makes sense that she might be interested in an activity that I enjoy.

Before I embark on this undertaking, I welcome your advice for how to get her started. I'm thinking that I should show her the knit and purl stitches and let her practice with those. Once she feels she has the hang of it, I can attempt to explain gauge, yarn weight, and the basics for beginning a project.

A potential trouble spot comes in how to wrap the yarn. I'm a continental knitter. She wants to learn the English method. I was taught to use my right hand but somehow got to wrapping with my left early on. It felt more comfortable. Since she is left-handed, it makes sense that the English method would seem correct to her.

I have asked if she knows anyone in the area who knits. I definitely don't feel knowledgeable enough to describe what to do over the phone or via e-mail. There's only so much I can teach her in five days, especially if I want to do any knitting of my own during the holiday.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The needle and the damage done

OK, I'm not as disenchanted with my messed up WIP as I was last night. I'm still not happy about it, but it's not the end of the world. Perhaps it was good that it happened. In swearing off knitting for the weekend, or at least until I get my movie reviews written, I feel like some of the weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I was putting too much deadline pressure on myself. Plus, writing while tired always make me sound extra cranky.

Thinking about the situation now, I think I know what I need to do. I'll take the hat off the needles, frog at least two rounds, slide the stitches onto the smallest Options interchangeable needle I have, and then resume knitting on the appropriate needles. It's not without risk, I'm sure, but it seems doable.

It sounds like I should also get some glue to reattach the cable to the join. To clarify, I'm not having a problem with the needle staying attached. The cable has been separated from the join. I'm wondering if using longer cables for magic loop would lessen the stress put on the cable-join connection. Thoughts?

This has been kind of an odd day. I knew that snow was a possibility, but I didn't expect to walk out of the movie theater this morning and find a couple inches on the ground and my car. We got enough to postpone the basketball game for which I was supposed to keep stats. That pleased me since I could stay home and get a review done instead. It would feel really good to scratch out another tonight.

I also read a book for awhile, something I haven't done in a few months. How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James L. Kugel doesn't qualify as light reading, but I'm finding it to be pretty fascinating. While the subject matter offers a lot to digest, it has been a relatively easy read. (Thanks for mentioning this book, Donna!)

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Friday, December 14, 2007

There will be blood

I took last night's knitting catastrophe to the local yarn shop for repairs. The employee couldn't figure out what I had done, although it didn't matter how I got the stitches in that state but how she could fix them.

Everything seemed to be going along fine. Then she tugged on the cable to get the magic loop. Out popped the cable from the join. She was able to put it back in and continue working on my mistakes on the hat, but I wondered if this cable was now shot too.

I'm not having much luck with the 32" Options cables. This was one of the replacements I was sent. Are they just not suited to magic loop? Is there something I'm doing wrong? Is there any way I can reattach the cable more permanently? I don't want to call Knit Picks and ask for another replacement.

Since she had been able to finish cleaning up my errors, I resumed knitting with this cable. It looked like it was in. You can see what's coming, can't you?

I finished the first round and went to make one of the loops bigger. That's when the cable came out of the join again and took several stitches in the middle of the round with it. I tried my best to salvage them, but I know that I multiplied the problem as I tried to pick up the dropped stitches. Frankly, it's a disaster.

I'm not sure what to do now. I'd feel horribly guilty about going back to the shop to get this fixed. I'm tempted to take the entire project off the needles and start ripping, probably prior to where I began decreasing. (Undoing decreased stitches confuses me a lot.) Even if I do that, how in the world do I get the project back on the needles?

I'm close to giving up and not knitting all weekend. I have work that I need to do, so maybe it's not a terrible idea. While I'd been hoping to give this hat and another one yet to be started as gifts on Monday, I don't think I'll have anything finished by then. I was so close to being done with this one. Not anymore.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

A screeching halt

Knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit, knit... Hey, wait a minute... What's going on here?

Uh oh.

Rather than having an FO, I have a mess on my hands. I got to the last half of a decrease row but discovered that somehow I had three extra stitches. This didn't add up at all. I counted back and counted again. I wasn't seeing how I'd knitted myself into quite a fix.

OK, undo the stitches to the beginning of the row. Surely it will become clearer then. No. Additionally, I dropped a couple stitches in the process but picked them up to the best of my ability.

My best guess is that at some point I forgot how many I needed to knit before knitting two together. I was keeping track with a row counter, except I wasn't putting the row number on it but how many stitches to knit before k2tog. Since there's a row of knit between each decrease row, I think I lost my place, although I still don't know how I'm off by this number of stitches.

I've been putting a lot of pressure on myself to get this hat and another done by Monday. Oh yeah, I also need to squeeze in four films, write four reviews (not all of the same films), do basketball stats, attend a high school mentorship student's presentation, and edit clips for a Monday night taping. It's no wonder that I got mixed up. Ugh.

I don't really feel like I have the time to go to the LYS to get a hand in straightening out my errors, but I guess I'll have to find a moment to do so. I suppose I was due for a major screw-up, but the timing stinks.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

All's well that ends well

(Writer's note: In retrospect, the following car repair stuff is a lot longer than I intended. Feel free to skip ahead to the knitting content if the journal-type stuff bores you.)

If my mood today were plotted on a graph, the resulting image would look like a check mark. I wasn't going to mess around with the "service engine soon" light and took the car to a dealership for an oil change and a diagnosis of what triggered that blasted light.

As a rule I never go to a dealership for repair work. Too expensive. I have a local mechanic I trust and who charges reasonable prices. In this case I had a free oil change certificate. That gain was offset by the fiftysomething dollars it cost for them to hook up the car to a computer to determine the source of the problem.

Expecting the worst, I knitted in the waiting area and tried to block out the horrid daytime television blaring in front of me. Although I thought I might have a bead on the car maintenance issue, my general belief about this sort of thing nagged at me. It's going to be bad, and it's going to be expensive.

The service consultant approached me with the recommended treatment plan. Before he started, my eyes drifted to the bottom of the sheet and popped out of their sockets. I saw an estimate subtotal of $2227.65.

I do not feel confident dealing with automotive repair workers because I usually don't know what they're talking about and have the niggling sense that they're trying to pull the wool over my eyes. This was an incredible estimate. I already knew that I wouldn't be having any work done at the dealership, which tempered my initial reaction of full-blown panic. The light was tripped by a faulty EGR valve. Something to do with emissions. Beats me.

I examined the report while I waited for the oil change to be completed. My mood improved incrementally the longer I looked at the paperwork. Best I could tell, many of the suggested repairs were unnecessary for the car to continue running as it has been. This EGR valve was still more than I had been anticipating spending, but it was a far sight less than twenty-two hundred bucks.

One thing that did pass their inspection was the shocks and struts. I found that interesting since the last place that did my oil change said I probably ought to have them replaced soon. No wonder I distrust those who work on cars.

I called my mechanic to get an estimate on the EGR valve and to see if he could fit me in today. When I told him what needed replaced and the number of miles on my car, he said that he didn't think I needed to bother with it. I feel relieved, to say the least.

The day ended on a high note when I found a package on my doorstep tonight. It was from my International Scarf Exchange 5 secret pal in Australia!

I was impressed with the care taken in wrapping each item individually. I regret to say that I went to no such effort in sending mine. Inside I found my scarf, of course. (Better pictures to come. This isn't representative at all of the color.)

Some stitch markers my pal made...

And chocolate biscuits and yarn.

This made my day. My pal did a wonderful job. The scarf is beautiful. While the fringe surely wasn't as difficult as the pattern, I'm amazed at how it was attached because I have a hard time with it. (That's why you rarely see it on scarves I knit.) The stitch markers will be very handy. I'll have to brainstorm a good project for the yarn. I'll try to practice some discipline and not eat all of the biscuits in a flash. (To my knowledge they're no available in the US.)

Thanks very much Katherine!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Arkansas Dishcloth

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

I was tired of seeing this WIP sitting first on my Ravelry project page. So, just like that, done and done.

At first it was weird knitting the dishcloth. I haven't used straight needles since finishing my scarf for International Scarf Exchange 5 a month ago. Adjusting didn't take long. Two hours or so later I had an FO. I did something funky--read: wrong--in a couple of the final rows but didn't notice until I was done weaving in the ends. Repeat after me. It's just a dishcloth. It doesn't need to be perfect.

As fast as I've been able to knit hats, it was nice to have (relative) instant gratification with the dishcloth. I had knit only ten rows when this project went on hiatus in September. I cranked out the rest of the dishcloth in about two hours tonight. I've never considered myself to be that fast of a knitter, just one who plugs away at something with patience and dedication. Maybe it's time to reassess my knitterly speed.

I should probably pick up the needles and knit away my anxiety. The "service engine soon" light began glaring from my dashboard tonight. My car has been very reliable in the three and a half years I've owned it. That doesn't mean I'm ready to make up for lost time regarding auto repair expenses.

I am clueless about car stuff, but my gut tells me it's one of two things. It's possible that the light kicks on around the mileage I've racked up on the odometer. After googling I'm of the opinion that my catalytic converter may be kaput. When I had my muffler replaced I was told that the catalytic converter wasn't long for this world. He couldn't give me an estimate for when it would conk out, but it stands to reason that this part is what triggered the light. Fingers crossed that it's only this couple hundred dollars repair.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

December doldrums

According to the song, it's the most wonderful time of the year. Anyone agree?

No, I'm not feeling Scrooge-like, but the busy nature of the month is starting to take its toll. The perpetual grayness outside and time under fluorescents inside doesn't help either. I'm not sure why everything caught up with me today but it did. I felt sluggish when I got up and couldn't shake the dead weight even after a potent morning cup of coffee. (Perhaps it was too strong. My nerves were jangling past lunchtime.)

I've been feeling pretty good about the Christmas knitting I've finished. I've made a blanket and five hats. A sixth is on the needles, and only two more are planned. Nevertheless, I feel behind. (Let's not even think about the Pay It Forward exchange. I have eight months to fulfill that obligation.) There are other projects I wanted to get done in time for the holiday. A glance at the calendar is all I need to acknowledge the impossibility of doing so.

Selfish as it sounds, I'm ready to knit something for myself instead of working on another item I'll be giving away. The few things I've knitted for myself bear the scars of learning. Two scarves are absurdly long because I didn't factor in garter stitch stretching. I knitted two hats last winter. One has an ugly seam. The other is kind of tight. The hat I made this fall isn't long enough. I knit two pairs of slippers last winter. The first set was too big, and the second has an expanding hole at the toe where I must have dropped a stitch.

I'm sure that the desire to knit for myself will subside once I get into a mindless knitting zone with the current WIP. I do enjoy making things for others. Just not at the moment. Today I want something for me.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Behind the scenes

Seaman's Cap

Yarn: Malabrigo Kettle Dyed Solids (100% merino wool; worsted weight)
Color: Vaa
Needles: US 6 and 7 circulars
Stitches: 102

There has been lots of knitting this weekend. I finished my dad's hat late last night. It's tighter than the other seaman's cap I made, although it should fit satisfactorily. Considering my prior experience with Malabrigo, I'm of the opinion that I should move up a needle size with the yarn regardless of what the label states.

I cast on for another hat this afternoon. I've knit almost four inches of it. I stopped to write out of my sense of dailyblogging duty, not because I needed a break. I'm seriously in the zone right now.

What's my secret to marathon knitting sessions? I've been watching some TV, but that isn't any different from what I usually do. (Also, if it hasn't been established well enough by now, by watching I mostly mean listening.) The new wrinkle in the formula: DVD commentaries. I've been gorging on first season episodes of 30 Rock this week--not while knitting--and worked my way to the disc with the commentary tracks. I popped the DVD into my laptop and listened to the commentaries while making the hat.

With no need to look up or fast forward through commercials on DVRed shows, the DVD commentaries proved to be excellent knitting companions. Now, I should point out that the 30 Rock commentaries I've listened to have been, to put it in generous terms, disappointing, but they have served my purpose. I switched to The Office commentaries, which are funnier and more informative. Hours melted away as I kept on knitting.

I enjoy listening to DVD commentaries, but since I got away from reviewing the discs, my consumption of their bountiful extras has diminished greatly. There's just so much "added value" on DVDs these days that no one can watch all of it. (In some instances you wouldn't want to.)

Putting audio commentaries on in the background while I knit seems like a good way of sampling the bonus features I haven't had time for while doing something I enjoy. What do you do while knitting to make time vanish?

Here's a bonus photo of my mom's hat. The purple is brighter than it appears, but it looks more purple and less blue than in the picture I previously posted.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

On ice

There will be no more knitting at the hockey games. It's not worth the hassle.

No, I didn't have a bad experience with anyone observing me knitting in public. It renders me invisible, so the non-reactions of others isn't the issue. Security is the problem.

I'm beginning to wonder how the arena became the first place I knitted in public on my own. It seems like they're cracking down on what can pass through the doors. Earlier this season I was told that backpacks are not permitted into the venue. Since they look through all bags and purses, I'm not sure why backpacks are forbidden. Arbitrary and seemingly nonsensical rules are just part of security, and there's no use fighting it. Now that my messenger bag is fixed, I thought I'd slide through unscathed at the next game. I've brought it before and not had anyone check it all.

Tonight's game was part of the ticket package I bought a few months ago, so I didn't need to go down early to line up for a cheap seat. Still, I felt like grabbing a quick bite at North Market and doing some knitting before the game. I was happily working on my dad's hat when I was informed that the market was locking up. Seemed a little earlier than I thought they closed but no big deal. Since I'd spend extra time waiting in the arena, I figured I'd take the knitting with me rather than return the bag to the car.

At the arena I went through the routine with security of opening up my coat and thought I was good to go. Then the security guard wanted to know what was in my coat pocket. Gloves. He wanted to see. Fine. Here they are. He asked me to open the bag. What's inside here? A planner, my knitting.

Get this. He extracted the planner and wanted me to show him what it was. Weirdly, this isn't the first time the planner has been called into question. Prior to a promo screening of Enchanted the security guards wanted me to unzip the case and show it to them. It's no different than what thousands of others use, so I don't know why it falls under scrutiny. Maybe it's how heavy it is?

What's stranger is that he patted the bag down and made no mention of the digital camera or iPod, both of which are permitted but more likely to feel like questionable objects, in my opinion. He didn't see the circs or feel their pointy ends, or so I'm guessing.

I was allowed to enter. The amusing thing in this rigamarole is the security guard overlooked the regular-sized pair of scissors in a case in the bag. If this were really about searching for weapons, which I'm fairly sure it wasn't, I would have understood an objection to the scissors. I expect that the shakedown is primarily about keeping outside food and drinks--OK, alcohol--from getting inside.

I knitted in my seat for about twenty minutes, so it was worth the inconvenience this time. I don't feel like putting up with it any more, though. If I bring my knitting with me to the arena district in the future, I'll deposit the bag in my car before heading to the game.

I should finish the hat before going to bed tonight. That's one more knitted Christmas gift that can be checked off. Speaking of gifts, I'm being pestered for a Christmas list. As usual, I'm drawing a blank. My mom even asked if there were any knitting things I wanted and put books, specifically Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book, as a possibility. I'm unfamiliar with the book and can't think of any knitting supplies. Any thoughts?

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Memories are made of this

Time to catch up on some old business. About a month ago I asked for questions, but I never answered any. Let's fix that.

Karen asked, "What is your earliest memory from childhood?"

I think I have a pretty good memory, but as I've been keeping this blog, I've realized that I'm not always very good at retrieving childhood memories. Perhaps I'm just not old enough. The elderly seem to recall things from their childhood as if the events happened the previous day.

I'm fascinated with the issues surrounding memory, perception, and identity, the things that help make us who we are and how we see ourselves and others. Memory tends to be a lot faultier than we believe it to be. This is my way of providing a disclaimer that what I believe to be my earliest childhood memory may not actually be it. I believe I remember it, but it's entirely possible that I recall some of these things from a reconstructed history via 8mm home movies and family reminiscing. (It's likely to be more severe for today's kids who have everything videotaped. What memories are real and what ones are Memorex?)

When I was three (I think), my family went on a trip to Hawaii. My dad had sold enough seed at the grain elevator to win this vacation. I can't say that I remember a lot about the trip. I can conjure some vague images of the island if I think hard about it.

I remember the hotel room and lots of white. I can see a baby bed, which would have been for my brother, who was around a year old if I have the time line correct. Yet what's clearest in my mind is something incredibly banal: a pink Hostess Sno-Ball. I don't recall myself or anyone in my family ever eating these particular snack cakes, but I swear that I see one of them in my memory of Hawaii. Talk about totally random if it is true.

I have some faint recollections of being scared of the seagulls--or were they pigeons?--but I know that's something my parents have told me about after the fact. I can also envision a luau, but I'm guessing that may exist on an old home movie too.

Rather than claim that my earliest memory features a prominent role by artificially colored junk food, I was going to say that I remember the United States bicentennial parade in my hometown. That would beat Hawaii by six months or so, but I'm not as certain about this as I am about that Sno-Ball, even though it may be a figment of my imagination.

On a related note, am I the only one who sees what little I remember of the 70s as though it's on fine grain film stock? There's kind of a sepia tone too.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Meme for the holidays

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Wrapping paper. It's pretty lame that I had to do a web search to learn how to wrap gifts, but I think I can do it somewhat competently now.

2. Real tree or artificial?

My family always had an artificial tree.

3. When do you put up the tree?

I've never put one up while living on my own.

4. When do you take the tree down?

What does not go up does not need to come down.

5. Do you like eggnog?

I've never had it. The name sounds gross, mainly because of the "egg" part.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Nothing in particular stands out. Maybe something Star Wars-related. I was excited to get a CD player when I was in high school, but is that too old for this question?

7. Do you have a nativity scene?

My parents have one. I think we've already covered the fact that I've never put up any decorations.

8. Hardest person to buy for?

I imagine I can be since I have difficulty making a list, but that's not sticking to the spirit of the question. If I think about the people I'm buying for, I usually don't have that much trouble.

9. Easiest person to buy for?

I'll have to say my dad. I've usually purchased tickets to a sporting event. He's probably the hardest to buy for because who knows what he wants and easiest to buy for because the tickets have been a sure thing.

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

Again, nothing really jumps out at me. There have been clothes I didn't like and felt ashamed for not wearing or not liking. A chocolate-colored short sleeve shirt comes to mind. I'd probably wear that now.

11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?

I appreciate that we're all busy, especially at this time of year, but mailed Christmas cards trump their e-mail counterparts. It isn't close, even if no more effort than signing one's name is taken. E-cards are better than nothing, though.

12. Favorite Christmas movie?

I'm embarrassed to say that I am not well versed in Christmas movies, although I've probably seen every bad one released in theaters over the past decade. I hadn't seen It's a Wonderful Life until a few years ago, and even that was viewed out of obligation. I enjoy Elf quite a bit.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

It just sort of happens. Let's say the beginning of December. For knitted gifts I've started in October.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

Nope, can't say that I have.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Cookies, chocolates, it's all good. Might as well add peppermint ice cream, a Christmas Eve staple, to the mix too.

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree?

Colored, without a doubt. It might be nice to get a few strings of lights to put around my place. I've always liked the atmosphere in homes with the Christmas lights on indoors and the rest of the lights out.

17. Favorite Christmas song?

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". It feels like a song for the end of the year, when you feel like slowing down from the hustle and bustle. What does this say about me, though, since this song made The AV Club's list of morally dubious holiday entertainments?

18. Travel for Christmas or stay home?

Travel. I'm kind of dreading the longer than usual drive this year and the fact that I'm probably going to be strongly encouraged to go out of my way to pick up and bring back an elderly relative.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

Sure. If you know the words to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", this is a no-brainer.

20. Angel on the treetop or star?

You know, I can't remember what my family used. My impulse is to say that an angel was atop the tree.

21. Open the presents on Christmas Eve or morning?

We've always opened presents on Christmas morning.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year?

The commercialized aspect of the season bothers me. News reports would have you believe that you're not performing your civic duty to spur the economy by going hog-wild in the nation's stores. With every fiber of my being I loathe the diamond commercials on television. They make me feel guilty, and I don't even have someone to feel guilty about not buying the sparkly rocks for.

23. What I love most about Christmas...

Ideally, I love being able to take a few days free of the daily demands and obligations and relax. I also love being able to make others happy.

24. What's your favorite Christmas memory?

Every year my grandmother would take each of us to lunch and to go shopping so she would get an idea of what we wanted.

25. Believe or not?

Santa? Yeah, I think the spirit of selflessness and giving is revealed more at this time of the year than at any other.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Self-declared snow day

The first snow of the season fell overnight and through the morning. It created quite a mess, or so I heard. I trudged out to clear off my car so I could get to a morning screening. It wasn't going to be fun as I'd forgotten my gloves and hat at the office. I slipped on the hat I finished last night to keep from freezing my head and reluctantly plunged my hands into the accumulated powder on the car. I broke my big ice scraper last winter and hadn't been able to find a replacement because the stores weren't carrying them toward the end of the season. All I had was a little scraper without a brush.

As I was in the process of numbing my fingers, another resident in the complex told me that I might as well stay home. He had tried to get to work but had turned around due to the backed up highway. If traffic was at a standstill on that interstate, chances were I wouldn't make it to the theater in time. Although I want to see Margot at the Wedding on film, I have a DVD awards screener, so it's not like it was essential for me to risk an accident or a late arrival.

I declared it an unofficial snow day and camped out at home. I did what work I could from my place, watched a few first season episodes of 30 Rock, and cast on for another seaman's cap. I had committed to keeping stats for the women's basketball game in the evening. By the time I ventured onto the roadways, everything was clear.

In the afternoon I braved the cold to snap a couple pictures of the hat. Here you see the design the decrease makes on the crown. It isn't anything elaborate, but I like that it adds a little something special.

You'll likely never see me sans glasses again. This was strictly for modeling purposes. I'm only using the photo on display because it turned out better than those in which I was wearing glasses. These self-photos aren't easy to take.

I like that this hat doesn't mess up my hair as much as others I've made. No, it's not a vanity thing--well, not entirely--but a consideration I make because I'd rather not go around all day looking unkempt.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Pleasant surprises

Seaman's Cap

Yarn: Cascade 220 Tweed (90% Peruvian Highland wool, 10% Donegal; worsted weight)
Color: 7625 (tan with black and white flecks)
Needles: US 6 and 7 circulars
Stitches: 102

If making this hat in essentially two sessions is any indication, I've rediscovered those old knitting superpowers. I worked on this Sunday night, knit a couple rounds during lunch yesterday, and finished it off tonight. I'm stunned, really. This was remarkably easy to knit, even if 102 stitches in k1, p2 for 27 of the first 28 rounds was kind of tedious. All it took was getting in the zone and knitting away.

I'm bursting with pride over this FO. I think it looks fantastic. The design on the crown is pretty cool. (Photos tomorrow.) It feels soft and warm. The fit is snug, and the length is perfect. The brother getting this hat for Christmas better watch out that I don't take it back. I love it.

Knitting this hat so quickly was totally unexpected, which is one reason why I'm so happy with it. Maybe this will be a week of pleasant surprises. This makes two days in a row.

Last night I decided to head downtown early to get a decent parking space for the Spoon concert. Across the street the Blue Jackets game was starting at the same time doors were opening for the show. I'd noticed that three opening acts, all local, were on the bill. Rather than stand around forever waiting for two bands I'd never heard to go on stage, I thought I'd see if I could score a cheap seat for the hockey game and then go to the concert.

Now, I don't have much experience with scalpers, but I knew this was a rare case where I would be in a position of power. Ultimately I didn't care if I went to the game. My intention was to buy a $10 seat in the top rows, but I figured it couldn't hurt to see what those trying to unload tickets were offering. I made a point of not getting any additional money from the ATM and even took a few bucks out of my wallet. You could say I did all right.

A weeknight game wasn't going to be in high demand, especially with the team struggling of late. Plus, it was bitterly cold, so the traffic outside the arena was practically nonexistent. A half hour before the game I approached a scalper out of curiosity. I told him he probably wanted more than I had, but he was willing to talk. (Of course he was.) He wanted twenty dollars for what appeared to be a season ticket holder's seat. I told him I was pretty sure I didn't have that much--I knew I didn't--but he was willing to wait for me to check. I showed him I only had fifteen. He accepted.

I walked in pleased to have landed a lower bowl seat (face value: $72) for a price lower than anything the box office sells except for the ten dollar tix they put out two hours before the puck drops. There was that momentary fear that the ticket might be counterfeit, not that I had any reason to believe it was. The ticket taker scanned it, and I walked straight ahead to my seat.

As you can see, I had a pretty good view. I was a dozen rows from the glass directly behind the goal. It's easily the best seat I've ever had. I got a much better sense of the speed and violence of the game from where I was perched. Oddly, it wasn't as loud except for the keen smack of the puck against the glass. I couldn't even hear the goalie banging his stick on the ice to signal. The game was a bit of a snooze, and the Jackets lost in a shootout again. I got my money's worth, though.

With the game extended to an overtime period and shootout, I was a little concerned that I would miss the start of Spoon's set. Not to worry. I walked into the sold out show at 9:50 just as the third opening act was taking the stage. It was a general admission show, so I did the best I could in finding a view of the stage without forcing my way through the crowd. I claimed a spot in the wings and figured I'd naturally drift to a better location as the mass pushed forward. (When all was said and done, I was about ten feet closer than where I started.)

Spoon went on more than three and a half hours after the doors opened. Ugh, club shows. They played a tight 80-minute set concentrated on their last four albums. "The Ghost of You Lingers" and "I Summon You" were chill-inducing even though I was weighed down with cold weather clothing in a packed venue. The audience was more talkative than I would have preferred, but that was to be expected with the five dollar ticket price. In other words, the guy near me who had been carrying on a conversation the entire time until he exclaimed familiarity upon hearing "The Underdog", a single receiving local airplay, seemed more the rule than the exception. Whatever. Great band, good performance, and exceptional ticket price.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Sports talk

Since I have no idea at what late hour I'll be getting home from tonight's Spoon concert, you get an early, non-knitting post.

A question on Donia's blog grabbed my attention: is sports the main form of bonding between males?

There's usually at least a kernel of truth in all sweeping generalizations. That's how conventional wisdom and stereotypes come to be accepted. My reflex is to give an affirmative answer to the question, but is it even true in my own experience?

I read a lot as a kid. I started at an early age and was apparently so taken with books that my parents feared I was going to be an egghead. (The comment didn't reflect anti-intellectualism on their part, but the word must have stung for me to be able to recall it even now.) To their relief, I got into sports while retaining my love of reading.

I was never the most gregarious child--to a lesser degree, the same is true of the adult me--so sports smoothed the way to interact with others. Being a fan of the Reds, Bengals, and Dayton Flyers was something I could share with my dad and the community. Playing Little League and pick-up games were easy ways to get to know other boys my age.

Competing in and following sports provides plenty to discuss. Unless you're dealing with trivia, there are rarely, if ever, definitive answers when it comes to sports talk. It's just opinions, and non-threatening ones at that, especially when compared to politics and religion, two topics people take as seriously. Oh, I know people get worked up about sports, but in casual conversation it's a safer subject than most. It's something to talk about without getting personal.

Most of my male friends then and now are interested in sports. Frequently it's the center of conversation. Sports and pop culture probably do battle to be the primary source of discussion. Certainly it's true in groups, but it's also the case one-on-one.

Gender stereotypes would have us believe that men don't talk about their feelings. My experiences tell me that a lot of guys are uncomfortable opening up and hearing someone else do so. I can think of instances when I've needed to talk about something and had trouble getting male friends to listen because it was something that couldn't be kept beyond arm's length. Sports allow bonding on an unspoken level, which is how many would like to keep it.

Similar personalities and backgrounds are major factors in all relationship formation, but for many males, I think that sports participation, observation, and discussion is on the next highest level. I don't believe that it is always a conscious decision but rather has more to do with our acculturation.

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