Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap day

Here's the yarn that got me fired up to begin my scarf. My plans for doing a lot of knitting today didn't work out. This may be an extra day on the calendar, but it's been used for catching up on work that needs to be done, not as a free twenty-four hours to indulge my whims.

I was able to steal a half hour to freak out the general populace by knitting in public, but that's been it so far today. We'll see what progress I make this weekend. If I had my druthers, I'd already be finished with it.

The nice thing is that I have the pattern memorized, so if I have the project with me while in a situation where I'll allow myself to knit, I can do a few rows to utilize available minutes. That will make it ideal for the film festival next weekend. Maybe if I'm lucky I'll get it done when I'm in Cleveland.

Switching gears... I've learned a small lesson about shaping thanks to a woman who was knitting at a LYS I was in a couple weeks ago. I showed her what I was working on, and she talked about the sweater she made. She was wearing it but was less than thrilled because she shrunk it some. She explained that stretching it after a pass in the washing machine can help get it back to its original length, but not always. I've inadvertently shrunk some sweaters in recent weeks, so I thought I'd try this shaping thing that I've read, and now heard, about.

It seems to have worked! There were two sweaters I had stopped wearing because they were a little short after (gasp) putting them in the dryer more times than I should have, but shaping appears to have done the trick. How about that?

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

The fever

Here's the cozy hard at work. It may take a little stretching to easily slide over a coffee cup, but it will fit around a medium. My small gift was warmly received. May it be put to good use from here on out.

Today was a big mail day. I was really excited to open the box to find my media pass for the upcoming film festival and, more importantly, my Knit Picks order. The four skeins of Elegance in Cornflower were practically calling out to me because one of the first things I did after walking in the door of my apartment was to begin knitting with the yarn.

It was like the yarn had cast a spell on me. I couldn't wait to start using it, even though I only had about an hour before I needed to head out again. I started the scarf and was ridiculously happy to be working on this project. I'm not sure what came over me. Perhaps it is because I've not knit as much lately because of all the other time eaters. Perhaps it is because I really feel motivated to knit this scarf in particular. Whatever the reason, I would have sat there and knit that thing the rest of the night if I hadn't had somewhere else to be. I'm ready to stop blogging this moment and resume knitting this scarf.

I have the fever, and the only prescription is more knitting, not more cowbell.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Back to the basic

Basic Cup Cozy

Yarn: Adrienne Vittadini Bianca (100% extrafine merino wool; worsted weight) and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted (100% superwash wool; worsted weight)
Color: Black (0600) and Pewter
Needles: US 6 circulars
Stitches: 42
Pattern: 3x3 rib

I really needed to knit today, but I didn't think I'd have an FO when all was said and done. This was one of those projects that snuck up on me. I wanted to do a little something for a friend, and this seemed like the quick and simple object best suited for the situation.

I wanted to try something a little different, so I pulled out Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book and looked at its stitch dictionary. I decided to try the diagonal cross rib, which has a left twist that produces a cable-like pattern. It requires knitting through the back loop, which I soon found was extremely trying for me. I ripped out once because I picked up an additional stitch the first time. I ripped out again when my stitch count was wrong three rows into it. I did not cast on for the diagonal cross rib pattern again.

I'm not sure how I kept getting the wrong number of stitches, but it happened twice. This was going a lot slower than I'd hoped, which was why I knew that diagonal cross rib would be better attempted some other time. I was getting frustrated, and I didn't have anything to show for the time I'd put into it. For all I know, I'm not even properly knitting through the back loop. (It certainly was no walk in the park.)

So I switched it up to 3x3 rib. A couple hours later I had finished and was generally pleased with the result. I probably bound off too tightly, but that shouldn't prevent the cozy from performing its function.

Really, it's too bad that I failed. I was excited about trying to do something different and adapting it for circular knitting. I don't know if I was correct in the assumptions I was making, but I think I was headed in the right direction.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yarn yearnings

Knitting time (or free time in general) may be virtually nonexistent these days, but I stole some minutes to order yarn for a scarf I hope to begin once it arrives. I decided to go with Knit Picks Elegance in cornflower. It should be a nice contrast with my dark blue overcoat and might even match some of the tweedy bits in my hat. I'm glad Knit Picks has a warehouse in a nearby suburb because I want this yarn now!

In response to one theory about my Moebius strip twists in the round, I don't think it is due to unintentional yarn overs. I haven't had any extra stitches, which I would definitely notice. It almost seems as though it has to do with how the cable is coiled in the loop splitting the stitches. Another possibility is that I'm simply losing my mind and seeing a problem that isn't there, but that can't be the case if the twist exists when the project is off the needles. Anybody want to call me in as being sick tomorrow so I can take some much-needed time off and get to the bottom of this mystery?

As much as I'm complaining, I really shouldn't. It sounds as though my dad's surgery went well today. My mom has to sleep at the hospital because of the amount of snow they've received over there. My recent days have seemed long and tiring, but both of them had to put up with a lot more than I've had to. Even the snow here is nothing in comparison. We've been getting flurries practically every day for the last week or two, but they are mere dustings that are gone before you know it.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

What's next

I ripped out the problematic project again while doing my late night Academy Awards viewing. Best I can guess is that I'm twisting the stitches when I join in the round. Curses! This was never an issue before, so I'm not sure why it has suddenly become one.

I've decided that it's time for me to make another scarf for myself. Those I made in my early knitting days are fine except for being too long. They're nice for wrapping around twice, but I have to stuff the ends in my coat pockets when I unwrap them. I'm getting a little sick of doing that.

While I could finally give cables a try with the oft-suggested Irish Hiking Scarf, I'm inclined to make the Ruggles Reversible Scarf that I made for the International Scarf Exchange. I liked how it looked and felt. It would be a little snazzier than the basic garter stitch scarves I've knitted.

I was going to order some yarn from Knit Picks today, but work kept interfering with those plans. I've been feeling too brain dead tonight to make a decision. The new catalog came in the mail today. The colors look a bit more accurate in print than what I see on their site, so perhaps I can carve out some lunch time on Tuesday to make a choice and place an order. This seems like a good project to have on hand at the film festival, which begins next week.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Now, now

I felt like a truck ran over me when I got up this morning, but a prescription of knitting, napping, and live music went a long way in curing what ailed me and steeling me for the hectic week to come.

I ripped out everything I knitted on the project I started Friday. I'm not sure how the item I'm knitting in the round got twisted, but had a Mobius strip twist where I split the stitches for magic loop. After seven rounds I'm beginning to think I've done the same thing again. GRR! For now I think I'll just knit for awhile and see if everything is fine once I have more to show for my effort.

I decided that today was going to be hopeless for getting any work done at home, so I gave in and rested. I didn't feel like going out this evening, but I had a ticket to see St. Vincent, which I was looking forward to.

Multi-instrumentalist Annie Clark, who performs under the name St. Vincent, was joined on stage by a violinist, bassist/keyboardist, and drummer to play songs from her debut album Marry Me. It's an eclectic and detailed record, one that doesn't necessarily translate to live, small-scale performance, but I was really impressed with the expansive sound they generated and recreation of the songs' complexity without relying extensively on pre-recorded loops.

The 70-minute set saw Clark doing some interesting reworkings of her songs as well as covers of "Dig a Pony" and Nico's "These Days". She was the only one on stage as she ripped through the fuzzed-up Beatles song and cooed the quiet song written by Jackson Browne, which served as a fitting encore. I'm a fan of American Idol, but one thing I wish the show's singers (and producers) understood is that you don't have to bludgeon a song to death to sing it well. It was such a pleasure to hear Clark sing well technically without overdoing it. Her singing of "These Days" was like a whisper, yet it was absolutely riveting.

Ah, live music... For as rotten as I felt at the day's start, this concert did its part in restoring my energy.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Knitting on the radio

I've got nothing today, so check out Susan Stamberg's NPR commentary about knitting and her life covering politics.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

A day in the life

I'd hoped to have something to write about tonight, but here it is near the end of the day with nothing in the tank or electronic inkwell. My eyes droop while I try to watch TV, which has just been a way of relaxing without engaging my mind. What do I write about? Ugh, am I at that point again of needing to fill space but having zilch to say?

I hesitate to do a rundown of the day because, honestly, who cares? But the deadline beckons, and such an idea is all I can salvage at this point.

I saw films at 10 a.m. and 1:10 and 3:15 p.m. There was time for knitting between the first and second movies. I started a project with the yarn I purchased at this LYS the previous week. With the icy roads and cold, wet weather, the store was not a hopping place, but that was just fine with me. A little peace and quiet plus knitting time was good to get.

I had about a half hour between the second and third films, which were at the same location. I considered knitting there, but I couldn't determine if I'd twisted the stitches when joining the cast on row in the round. I was the only person in the theater at the time, so I examined it to see if I could tell what was going on. I heard the whoosh of the door opening to the auditorium, followed shortly thereafter by a couple of loud voices, and decided to put away my project.

I should have left at that point, and not just because the film irritated me to no end. The couple that came in were talking loudly before the film started. She went back to the concession stand at one point while he paced the length of the aisle over and over as if he was looking for something. With as many movies as I've attended, I can spot problematic audience members a mile away. My radar was chirping when they first set foot in the theater, and here was early confirmation. I had no idea what I was in for.

I think he went to the concession stand after she returned with four cups of something. He got back in time for the trailers, which they proceeded to talk through, and not in their inside voices. Shortly into the movie I heard the woman say, "I'm going to take my shoes off." (Actually, this is not the first time I've experienced an audience member removing their footwear and putting their bare feet on other seats.) They continued to talk at a pretty regular basis through the film, something they might have done because there weren't many people there but which I expect they would have done if the place was packed.

I was starting to get a headache and smelled something that reeked of cigarettes. When I heard the tapping of a pack, I realized that indeed they were smoking in the theater. That hasn't been legal in ages, and it's not like I was in some dump where anything goes. This was unbelievable.

The movie ended, I entered rush hour traffic in the freezing rain, and then I banged out one review from the day's viewing. Read an e-mail that was bad news because it means more work that I don't have time for this week. I watched a little TV and surfed the internet. There you have it.

Saturday brings two more films and working two basketball games. So that should cover the start of the day until about 9:30 p.m. You would expect that Sunday means a lazy day at home and watching the Oscars, but I probably ought to write a couple more reviews. That evening I have a ticket to see St. Vincent in concert. (When I bought the ticket it didn't occur to me that the Academy Awards are the same night, although what's the difference in watching them on the DVR afterwards?) And then things really get crazy...


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Busy as a bee

I'm beginning to think that I need to get to the Cleveland Film Festival for things to slow down...and that's when I'm seeing four or five films in a day, if that tells you anything.

So, another day is over in the blink of an eye, and I can hardly tell where the time went. I'm behind on reading blogs, so if my commenting has vanished, now you know why.

Somewhere in these busy times I've managed to get to what would be the halfway point of the blanket if it were baby-sized. I have three films on tap for tomorrow, but there is a window of time for dropping by a local yarn shop to knit. I'm going to try to take advantage of that, especially since Saturday will be nonstop activity. Just thinking about what is in front of me this weekend makes me tired.

Favorite Color Swap 3 is now up and accepting participants. I haven't done anything like this in awhile, so I should probably get around to submitting my name for it.

I'd really like to watch the new episode of Lost before going to bed, so I'll call this a blog entry and hope to be more interesting tomorrow.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A dark side of the moon

Did you see tonight's lunar eclipse? I know you can't tell from this photo, but the moon was shadowed. It was clear enough that I got a good look at it. By the time I got home it was almost entirely darkened. Pretty neat. The last time I remember one of these was fifteen years ago, but maybe there's been a lunar eclipse since then. I'm too lazy to look it up.

When is the next solar eclipse? I remember one when I was in third or fourth grade. I think recess may have been canceled that day. The blinds were lowered and closed to prevent students from looking out the windows at it and being blinded. I recall another solar eclipse that occurred when I was in college. The light had an unusual quality, and I want to say I saw little half circles on the ground during the phenomenon.

Astronomy is a fascinating subject. I took a class on it as part of my liberal arts education. It may have been the most difficult course in my college career, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's mind-boggling stuff, but it can be awe-inspiring too.

If you're like me, it can be easy to lose sight of all the astonishing things around us. Seeing the lunar eclipse was a nice reminder.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Speed knitting

It's been a long, busy day here, but I hope to be "back" tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out this article about the world's fastest knitter. 262 stitches in three minutes?! And how about the trash talk in the comments?!?!

If that isn't enough, here's a piece about North America's fastest knitter and some background about the Knit-Out.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Action vs. inspiration

Wednesday's quotation in my planner:
"We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action." -Frank Tibolt
Fair enough. But as far as this blog is concerned, the action is being generated on my other site tonight in preparation for being used at work tomorrow. The energy for that is starting to ebb, and I've got nothing for here.

The quotation is accurate according to my experiences. Waiting to be inspired is a surefire way to get nothing accomplished. I wouldn't mind a little inspiration, though.

Strangely enough, I can't find much of anything about this Frank Tibolt character. He isn't on Wikipedia. A search turns up this quotation in several places but little more. (Granted, I've done the most cursory of searches to find an answer.) Best I can tell is that he's a motivational speaker.


Sunday, February 17, 2008


Having finished the first skein for the blanket, I decided to take my chances pulling the yarn from the center for the second. (My informal poll produced no consensus on the best method.) Lion Brand Homespun flops around a lot when using the end on the outside. I waste a lot of time unwinding yarn from the skein, so we'll see how the center pull works. I didn't have any problem finding the end buried in the middle, so I'm off to a good start. My primary concern is knots. I've lost hours trying to undo them while knitting previous projects, and I really don't want to go there again.

If you're wondering what a bunch of knitters at a hockey game look like, check out these pictures from last Sunday's Sticks N Stitches. (FYI, I am not lurking in any shots.) Here are some pics of the items for the goodie bags and door prizes.

With television being dreadfully boring of late, I have rediscovered programming that is good to have in the background while knitting. C-SPAN2's Book TV features interesting presentations and discussions that don't lose anything if I keep my eyes on my work instead of on the TV. Daniel Schorr's talk about his many years as a journalist and commentator was quite good, as was Michael Pollan's lecture and Q&A about his book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Process vs. product

I didn't come across much of use to me as I flipped through the copy of Interweave Knits I got at Sticks N Stitches, but the short column about process and product knitting provided a little food for thought.

If forced to pick a side, it shouldn't surprise you that I would cast my lot with the process knitters. The final item matters, but for me the act of doing, the process of creating, is where it's at. I suspect that's the only way I could produce as many FOs as I did last year.

I've realized that this preference for process isn't exclusive to knitting. It certainly applies to my writing. Sometimes those pieces, whether blog entries or reviews, just need to be done. Pounding out the sentences, no matter how tortured or inelegant, is the hard work required to accomplish the task at hand, final quality be damned.

Perhaps it's a coping strategy, my way of accepting what I've done regardless of how pleased or unhappy I am with the products of my labor. I can be notoriously dissatisfied with what I write, an affliction I imagine I share with most writers. I am not greatly assured in my efforts, just dedicated to pushing through the doubt. Most days I'd say that what I do is passable, neither good nor bad but merely adequate. I'd say the same holds true for attitudes about my knitting, although I'm more likely to be happy with what I've knit, maybe because it's not something I expected to be able to do.

I reckon that no one does something that they're OK at unless the process is valued, yet I don't want to dismiss process knitting (or process anything) as the solace for those who lack confidence. As much as I admire those who slave for years on single creative works, I think I tend to prefer those who produce more frequent results from their blood, sweat, and tears. If you have a talent, better to exercise those muscles regularly than only when the spirit moves you.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Actual knitting content

It's catch-up weekend in terms of movies, which means I had some time to kill between two films around lunchtime. There's a yarn shop near where I had been and my next cinematic stop, so I decided to pop in and knit for awhile.

I've only been there once before, but I was welcomed and recognized by the owner, which surprised me. I hadn't been there since October, but then again, I imagine I stand out a little more than the average customer.

It occurred to me tonight that this is the first time I've been in a yarn shop all year. If that isn't an indication of how busy I've been and how little knitting I've done, I don't know what is. I purchased a single skein of wool to be put to use for the Pay It Forward Exchange. I know what I'm going to make with it, but I'm not telling what it will be or whom it is for.

How pleasant to sit in the shop and knit for forty-five minutes. Listening to the conversation, I'm obviously not the only one who feels that way. I couldn't add anything to talk of hysterectomies and breast cancer, but I understand where the other knitters were coming from when discussing the stress reducing effect. Of course, you already know that.

I'm getting close to polishing off the first of five skeins for the blanket I'm knitting. At this rate it will be done in mid-April. So I'm in need of some other projects. My mother's birthday arrives in almost a month. I'm need to figure out what to take when I go to the film festival in Cleveland in three weeks. There are plenty of lags in the schedule for knitting to fill. Any suggestions?

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

Oh, Valentine's Day...the day when being single and unattached is felt a bit more deeply. There are 364 other days out of the year to feel self-pity--365 this year!--to let this one be more bothersome than the rest, but you know you're in bad shape when the most you have to show for the holiday is this:

At least the movie studio kept me in mind, although I think I'd rather not get a card with Larry the Cable Guy holding a rose in his mouth.

It's such a normal state of being that Valentine's Day isn't all that different from any other day, except that working at a college means being surrounded by two types of people (students, mainly): the lovey-doveys and bitter, bitter singles. And they can't stop talking about it. And they inevitably turn to the administrator and wonder aloud what the deal is with me. This can necessitate all manner of expert dodging. I know I'm pathetic, but it's certainly not my place to confirm for them that women aren't knocking down my door.

Anyway, I had plans for tonight. Vertigo, one of my favorite films, was screening in a 70mm print, so I wasn't going to sit at home and mope (not that I would have been doing that if I'd stayed home). I was feeling tired, but the film has a dream-like quality, so maybe my weariness enhanced it.

Immediately after the film I went next door to see Vampire Weekend in concert. (I don't think it's a particularly good band name but whatever.) They've been the buzz of the music blogs for awhile, and the backlash has already started despite their debut album coming out just two weeks ago.

Their press clippings have been pretty favorable to this point, so I'm not going out on a limb with the prediction in the next sentence. I've enjoyed the record, but seeing them live gave me a greater appreciation for the album and the gut instinct that they're destined to be big. Whenever they return, I doubt they'll be playing to a crowd as small as the 500 (if that) at tonight's sold out show.

My camera isn't fast enough to grab performance shots without the flash (or with it, for that matter), but the smeary, pinhole camera-like effect is kind of cool.

The concert had been pretty good, but they won me over completely when they played "M79". With just a single record (and a short one at that) to their credit, I expected it would be a short concert. They played every song in their repertoire in the 45-50 minute set, including the non-album track "Ladies of Cambridge" and a new, untitled song, and it was plenty satisfying.

Would the day have been better if circumstances were different? Perhaps. But they weren't, so all in all I feel like I made the best of it. Really, that's the one thing any of us can do.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wind it up

It's a question of yarn and how you work with it. Several, actually. Wrap it into a ball? Leave it in the skein? Pull from the center?

My impression is that pulling from the middle is the ideal or proper way, but I almost never do this. I can't find the end that's hiding in the middle, and I've had a couple incidents with nasty, nasty tangles.

If the yarn comes in a skein, I find the end on the outside and begin knitting with it. This can be a problem, especially with Lion Brand Homespun. The yarn doesn't come off in the most convenient way, so I frequently have to stop what I'm doing and pull a bunch off so the skein doesn't flop around. I've never wound a skein.

If the yarn comes in a hank from an online store or place that doesn't offer winding as a service, then I have wound it by hand into balls. As far as I know, there are no other options when the yarn is packaged this way.

What about you? I imagine opinions vary. Care to make a case for your methods?

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Snow and celebrities

The day began with light snow and slush--nowhere near as much as forecasters ominously predicted, by the way--but it was like Hollywood in these here parts.

Ed Begley Jr. was on campus as part of a lecture series, and I accompanied the students who had the opportunity to interview him. My impression: tall but not as tall as I expected.

This evening I went to Ohio State to see author James McBride interview Spike Lee, the recipient of this year's Wexner Prize. Since the weather promised awful rush hour traffic, I slipped down to the university area early, got something to eat, and found a quiet spot to knit in public. Since I haven't had much time to knit lately, it was wonderful to have a half hour that I could devote to working on a blanket.

I liked it so much that I decided to continue knitting when I got to my seat in the auditorium. A middle-aged couple sat down behind me. I could tell that they were talking about what I was doing. I struck up a conversation with the woman, who is also a knitter. She is currently working on a sweater for her son. Another woman a couple rows down also expressed a wish that she had thought to bring a sock to knit while waiting for the program to begin. Around this time I stopped knitting because I encountered a bad spot in the yarn, but I did get to kill the time chatting about knitting with these strangers.

I had high hopes for the interview with Spike Lee. I went to a similar event in 1997 when Roger Ebert conducted a fascinating talk with Martin Scorsese. The two discussions could not have been more different. Tonight's program was, in a word, underwhelming. Some other adjectives: unfocused, rambling, and, in a word I don't associate with the provocative director, boring.

Perhaps my expectations were incorrect. I thought I would get Lee talking about his body of work. After all, that's why he was awarded the prize. Instead I witnessed a scattershot chat about Lee and, more specifically, the film he has coming out later this year. (McBride wrote the source book and screenplay, which explained his presence.) We got to see a teaser montage cut to opera (?). The discussion was over in what I'd estimate was a little less than an hour, which was just as well if it was going to continue in the same vein. Definitely disappointing.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

(oh no)

Today was the big taping day, when the hours I've poured into pre-production for two shows is realized in one hour's worth of TV programming. The tapings went well enough, and I got ready to wrap up the shows by posting some b-roll that would have been too difficult to cut in during the live-on-tape process.

And then I made a horrifying discovery. Due to a routing error, the only audio on the record tape was from one of the three playback decks. In other words, none of the sound from our on-set discussion was captured, just the audio from one of three machines. The entire effort was for naught.

Oh no.

My co-host and the crew were already gone, so it's not as though we could regroup and reshoot everything right away. I have something every night the rest of this week, so taping the shows in the next few days is out of the question.

Oh no.

For what it's worth, I'm not angry. When my co-worker found out, he apologized profusely, but I was fine. He made an honest mistake. It happens. Would I prefer that the shows were on tape as I expected them to be? Of course. They're not. So be it.

While I have little desire to reshoot both shows, I've proposed an alternative solution. (My co-host will have an unfortunate surprise the next time he checks his e-mail, so nothing is final yet.) One show will likely hit the scrap heap for timeliness considerations. I expect to tape the other again next week. The most work went it, so saving it is of greater importance.


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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sticks N Stitches

Tonight the knitters were let loose in Nationwide Arena for Sticks N Stitches at the Blue Jackets game. If ever there was a a good night for appreciating handknits, this was it. The frigid air and whipping wind made walking to the arena and waiting to get in quite the ordeal. Suffice it to say that I was very glad to have the scarf and hat I made myself.

Although it would have been appropriate for me to bring my knitting with me tonight, I chose not to do so because I'm not working on something small. Plus, I figured the seating area would be cramped enough.

The goodie bag made up for my lack of needles and yarn. Two US 8 straights and skeins of Lion Brad Wool-Ease, Valley Yarns-Amherst, and unidentified yarn were provided, along with some other treats (the latest issue of Interweave Knits, needle inventory sheet, a "Bob" sticker from Ravelry, two pens, a red bag from South West Trading Co., a 20% off coupon for a yarn shop in Troy, and a WEBS tape measure).

As if that wasn't enough, door prizes were given away, and the ticket to the game included a voucher for a free small soda, hot dog, popcorn, and Blue Jackets hat. (Since I don't eat hot dogs or popcorn, I didn't bother with the frank and gave the popcorn to a father and son behind me in the concession line.)

I'm not sure what the final count was, but I believe that more than one hundred turned out for the event. I'd say the Sticks 'n Stitches crew took up about four rows in section 206. When I took my seat there were already knitters doing their thing in the stands.

I was by myself in a three-seat island in the next-to-last row. The two aisle seats to my right were unoccupied. On my left was a step up to the top row. (I was sitting in front of a column that broke up the last row.) I could have kicked myself for not bringing any knitting because I had all the room in the world to knit. I probably looked like a poor soul who had accidentally been put in the section with the knitters.

The section seemed to be into the game, but it was a different experience. When the Jackets tied the game at a goal apiece, I jumped up and started clapping, which is usually what everyone else does. Not this group, probably because their laps had yarn and projects in them. (Yes, many knitted during the game.) I don't yell a lot at sporting events, but I "interact" with the players and officials from time to time. I kept a little quieter since there weren't many nearby who were shouting.

Don't get me wrong. I had a good time and am glad I went, even if the rapidly cooling team, which lost in a shootout, is starting to get on my nerves. The previous paragraph is intended to convey the differences, not to criticize.

A big thank you to LittleWit for all of the organizing she did to make this happen. Just look at the goodie bag preparation she and her family did. I might be wrong, but I think one of the reasons this gathering got off the ground was because of Ravelry's ability to connect knitters. The idea was floated a few months ago, enough people responded with interest, and tonight was the culmination of it all.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel

I've been plodding through the work that needs to be done for the special shows I'll be taping Monday night. My co-host and I are doing our annual Academy Awards preview and revealing our picks for the best and worst films of the previous year. These programs require a lot of preparation, and I'm so very glad to be nearly finished. By the time I take my seat stage left, the shows are practically an afterthought.

So that's what's been eating my time in recent weeks and why my knitting has been almost nonexistent. Even if I haven't been chipping away at the pre-production stuff, it's been in the background draining my energy. The end is in sight. Thank God for that.

If you're curious, my best of 2007 list and honorable mentions are posted at my other site. Think of those films as the top 10% of what I saw last year.

If I made an allowance for short films, then one would have invaded my top ten. Alexander Payne's "14th arrondissement" (from the omnibus pic Paris, je t'aime) is a beautiful piece of cinema that I want to share with you. I found it on YouTube this week and have rewatched it twice.

Payne can be perceived as being contemptuous of his characters, and initially it might seem that way in the short. The American tourist's over-enunciated French and cultural ignorance would appear to make her the butt of the jokes, but that glorious final scene in the park erases any doubts about how the director sees the character. The ending turns me into a puddle every time. I hope you love it too.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Price fatigue

If you've opened a paper or seen any news, you know that the economy is slumping. I've got no head for that stuff, but I would like to write about one money matter: the persistent feeling that you're getting jammed no matter what you buy.

Take pickle relish, for instance. I went to the grocery for the sole purpose of buying some. Although there were a ridiculous number of brands on the shelves, the one I typically get was not in stock. I was worn down from a twelve-hour day and not feeling all that sharp, so I was going to base the decision on price and not tax my tired brain.

One well-known brand appeared to be on sale, but after I flipped up the sale sticker to see the regular price, I discovered that they were one and the same. Sneaky. OK, let's check the store brand and compare the price. They were only pennies apart, but wait, what's this? The smaller size, which would ordinarily be more expensive, is significantly cheaper per ounce at its regular price.

Regular prices masquerading as sale prices? Smaller quantities cheaper than larger quantities? Really? I know businesses aren't charities, but it seems to me that these shenanigans aren't in good faith.

Then there's Ticketmaster. Earlier this week I bought tickets to see Spike Lee, Vampire Weekend, and Jens Lekman. I went out of my way to buy them at the venue's box office because they don't pile service fees and convenience charges on top of the tickets' face values. This is not an insubstantial amount. Based on other experiences of being socked with the fees, I estimate that I gave myself a 33% discount by buying where I did. These events are all inexpensively priced, but that changes when the seller tacks on an additional fifty percent for what they claim is the cost of doing business.

And then there's the big purchase I'm contemplating. I've wanted an HDTV for a long time, and I think I'm close to being able to justify it. I've done my research and determined what I want. It drives me crazy, though, to track the prices and see how they arbitrarily rise and fall. If you didn't pay attention, you could pay a few hundred dollars more by walking into the store the wrong day or week. I'm amused to see what they consider the base price from which they put it on sale because none of the places I've checked have ever sold it at that top price. They utilize it as a way of appearing to offer a deal even when it's not the best or second best price they've advertised. (Buy it online you say? Then I have to pony up the use tax that the state asks to be declared on income taxes.)

Bigger purchases like this are always subject to buyer's remorse, especially when you consider all the extras that are essential or make sense down the line. If I get an HDTV, I'll need to get a new display stand since it won't fit in my current entertainment center. And then there's the outrageously inflated HDMI cables. And potentially an upconverting DVD player. And a receiver that passes an HDMI signal since the one I've owned for nine years does no better than S-video. That's a lot of add-ons!

I expect this kind of gamesmanship with big ticket items. That doesn't mean I have to like it, but I realize it's how the world works. But trying to pocket thirty more cents for a jar of pickle relish? Come on...

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Thursday, February 07, 2008


The extra work that has been looming over me is heading into the home stretch. Monday will be here before I know it, and there can be no extension if I'm not finished. I'm taking the rest of this evening to try and put a dent into the most critical stuff remaining: writing.

Since I'm empty-handed yet again, I offer up knitting content elsewhere. Three writers in The Chicago Tribune's Lifestyle section are having a knit-along. The women, each reflecting the three experience levels, are sharing their thoughts and tips as well as answering reader questions. Might be worth a look.

I know it seems like forever since it's been business as usual here. Hopefully I'll be back in regular form sooner than later. Thanks for stopping by.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Purling for penguins

The story is old and hard to believe: knit a sweater for a penguin! Of course, it couldn't be true...except it is!

Although penguin sweaters are no longer needed, the pattern is still available. It isn't every day you come across these instructions: "Stitch up sides to decreasing to 27sts (opening for flipper). Add elastic to the top and bottom to prevent the penguins getting out of them."

Truth really is stranger than fiction...

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008


I enjoy words. Fallen out of common usage? Effectively obsolete? Regional colloquialism? More please.

It's like hearing language out of time on the rare occasions when old-timey words are spoken. I had relatives who called couches "davenports". I've never heard anyone else call them by that name. The thought of the word makes me smile.

I had the good luck to get a ticket to the Blue Jackets game for five bucks tonight--thanks students for not buying them all from student activities!--and got to hear a fan express himself in a way I've never heard at a sporting event. At one point he implored an official to make a call and referred to him as "old bean". Where am I, jolly old England? Another time he objected to a call by claiming it was "balderdash". I waited for "tarnation!" and "bosh!" but had to settle for just two gems.

I laughed deep inside at his use of these words, and I'm finding myself pretty amused thinking about it now. Fans in the stands don't usually flaunt such rich (or patrician) vocabularies. To hear these words was quite pleasurable; to hear them in the context of a hockey game was positively sublime.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

The brigher side of commuting

For the majority of my working life I have not had a commute. Until I moved at the end of last May I had been able to walk to work for years, and I confess that the convenience of living so near to the office was an overriding factor in not looking for another apartment even when I was less than satisfied where I was.

Since the move I have a daily fifteen-minute drive to and from the office. I've come to value this time as a way of easing into and transitioning out of work mode. I am not a morning person, so I appreciate the added minutes to get myself energized and ready to take on whatever awaits. On the other end, I like having a more definitive way of recognizing a break between the job's time and mine. It may be illusory--I have work I need to finish from home tonight yet--but I can feel a difference.

Living within a few minutes' walk to the office can be dangerous. It is easy to get dragged back to take care of things that may or may not be critical because of being nearby. The most important difference I've found, though, is that a little bit of physical distance also offers mental distance. Whether I knew it or not, being so close to work made it almost like I never left.

I know that everyone is supposed to hate the commute, but I enjoy having that brief time alone in the car. Granted, I have the flexibility to avoid the morning rush by leaving a little later and often dodge the late afternoon/early evening crush by ducking out just before it gets heaviest or hanging around an extra thirty to sixty minutes to stay out of the worst. The winter weather has not presented any nightmarish driving conditions so far.

Work has regained a few measures of sanity, but one of the outcomes is a sense of perpetual interruption. I feel pulled in several directions for the majority of the day and struggle to focus. (I may have to start closing my door more.) The commute has a calming effect, permitting me to enter into a bubble where it's just me and the radio or iPod with no other demands but the immediate task of operating the car.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Super Sunday

The jinx worked! The Patriots lost!

NFL fans, prepare to see in perpetuity the play where Eli Manning evaded a sack (when in most other circumstances he would have been called down for being in the grasp, right?) and David Tyree somehow caught the pass against his helmet. I watched the game with varying levels of interest--I knitted for most of the third quarter--but I take satisfaction in the outcome.

While watching the halftime show I wondered who will be playing events like this fifteen or twenty years from now. Those in charge of planning the mid-game entertainment extravaganzas have chosen rock and pop standard bearers since the infamous 2004 mishap. Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, and Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers have broad mainstream appeal, but will there be any artists like that with sustained careers in two decades?

Think about it. Music is increasingly becoming the domain of niches. The top pop acts don't seem to have the staying power they once did. What are the biggest rock bands in the world? Do they truly exist anymore?

So, here are my guesses for who might still be relevant and asked to sing to the masses on Super Bowl Sunday in a decade or two, as well as a few unlikely to make the cut:

-U2: They performed at the 2002 halftime show, so their selection has precedent. In ten or fifteen years their flagging reputation among music hipsters will probably be due for reconsideration.

-R.E.M.: They're no longer as big as they were in their heyday, and this doesn't particularly feel like their thing. Still, they're an important band for a generation and may be poised for rediscovery. The little I've heard from their forthcoming album has me hopeful.

-Radiohead: Among those with a claim to the title of biggest rock band today, Radiohead has to be near the top of the list. Their songs are too weird for this event, though. I can't foresee them having the slightest interest in doing it.

-Coldplay: They're everyone's favorite punching bag, but they sell a lot of albums and have to be popular with somebody. Hey, I have their CDs. And like them. I know, my cool card has just been revoked.

-Green Day: Somewhat inexplicably they have become one of the top rock groups that came to attention when I was in college. Can't say I saw that happening. Granted, don't expect them to play "Longview" right after the teams break for the half unless the FCC's standards have slipped.

-Pearl Jam: After their 1994 dust-up with Ticketmaster and decisions to cut back on promotional efforts, Pearl Jam has slipped under the radar. Is halftime at the Super Bowl too corporate for Eddie Vedder and company? The biggest strike against them is their current mainstream invisibility. Maybe when Ten celebrates its thirtieth anniversary it'll be time for their dinosaur act.

-The White Stripes: Simply put, too rough around the edges. Also, Jack and Meg would mandate that the field must be red and white.

-The Dave Matthews Band: The group doesn't interest me, but he/they has/have a loyal fan base and had enough radio hits once upon a time that I could see him/them being the kind of safe choice the producers would want.

-Foo Fighters: You know what, this might be the wide appeal rock band with a large body of work tailor-made for a Super Bowl halftime in a decade. I haven't heard a new album of theirs in forever, but the fact that they remain popular and well-known gives them a big boost.

-Justin Timberlake: All will be forgiven for his involvement in L'affaire de Janet Jackson. Let's pencil him in sixteen years for now for the twentieth anniversary.

Who do you think will still have wide-reaching popularity in ten or twenty years to step up to the mic?

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Saturday, February 02, 2008

Saturday appetizer

Here's a better look at the hat I finished yesterday, even if the color is darker than my digital camera admits. I'll drop it in the mail Monday and cross my fingers that it isn't too tight.

I've begun my next project...or my next go-to project when I don't feel like working on something more complicated. That's right, I'm knitting another blanket. This one is for me and will be made using Lion Brand Homespun in olive.

Since there's not much to say today, I'll wrap with a prediction for tomorrow's Super Bowl:

New England Patriots 28
New York Giants 13

Considering my lousy record at picking Super Bowl winners and the second I took to decide upon this score, I encourage you to avoid wagering based on my prediction. For that matter, I hope I'm wrong. I want to see the Patriots lose.

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Friday, February 01, 2008


Seaman's Cap

Yarn: Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian Highland Wool; worsted weight)
Colorway: 8886 (purple)
Needles: US 6 and 7 circulars
Stitches: 96

Where do the hours go? Lately it's like the hours pass in a flash. Days progress like DVD chapter skips. All of a sudden half the day has gone by. Some of this temporal disjointedness can be attributed to busy times at the office, where I'm in a constant state of disruption. Work hasn't been bad, just hectic and regularly interrupted. Slowly but surely, I am getting things done, but I can't concentrate with the hum of activity outside my door and passing through it. I don't mind zipping through the work day, but with some deadlines bearing down on me, it's becoming very disconcerting how quickly time is slipping away from me and how much of this weekend I've already carved out for it.

So I don't know how or when I managed to finish the hat you see above. (The insufficient lighting in my apartment turned the hat blue in most photographs. I'm pleased to get one remotely close to the yarn's true color, even if it shows up too light in the picture. If I get the chance, I'll try to take one outside tomorrow.) Hoping that the medium size will fit my mom, this hat required six fewer stitches per round than the others I've knitted. That explains why I made it so quickly, but for the life of me I still don't know how it is finished.

Rather than continue with some additional work upon arriving home tonight, I picked up this project and watched television. I didn't plan to finish it, but next thing I knew it was nearly done. I haven't entered one of those knitting zones for awhile.

Although I finished it on the first day of February, this one is going in the January FO tally, which amounts to a whopping two hats. It's an inadequate start to the knitting year, but the first month pulled me in so many directions that there wasn't the time for it. Let's hope February is better.

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