Monday, June 30, 2008


While I wasn't looking half the year passed by. Where did it go?!

So, since I'm idea-deficient, I present my not-very-well-thought-out best films of 2008-to-date list. (Do I need more hyphens?) For those keeping score, selections are listed alphabetically and are thus unranked. (I was going to include an in-progress best of list for music, but this took a lot longer to cobble together than I counted on. Expect it tomorrow.)

For what it's worth, I consider lighter fare just as worthy of the greatest praise, but the fact is that a significant percentage of the best films I've seen this year are heavy. Don't feel bad if you've only heard of two of these.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile): A nearly two-hour squirm of a film about a Romanian woman who arranges her illegal abortion in the 1980s. Not for the faint of heart to be sure but a powerful and complex exploration of a hot button issue.

American Teen: The advertising campaign for this documentary bothers me, but then again, I also have some questions about how the film was made. Those concerns aside, this is a funny and heart-wrenching film that revives all those complicated feelings experienced during adolescence.

Be Kind Rewind: I have no evidence that director Michel Gondry is a knitter, but with the love for the handmade exhibited throughout his body of work, I imagine he'd at least be an admirer of the needlecraft. It's a fun goof on backyard moviemaking and a sincere statement of the magic of expression through art.

Funny Games: As unsettling as the original Austrian film about a family held hostage and tortured by two visitors, Funny Games pokes its proverbial finger in the viewer's chest whenever it isn't wagging said finger. Its stern moralist message about audience enjoyment of and complicity in film violence is perhaps even more relevant today when considering what else is in the multiplex.

Iron Man: Character development and comedy are just as important in this superhero movie as the explosions and impressive special effects expected for something released for the summer movie season.

Paranoid Park: Another cinematic tone poem from director Gus Van Sant. A skateboarder involved in the accidental death of a security guard wrestles with his guilt and inability to share this secret. I told you this list wasn't filled with laugh-a-minute stuff.

Priceless (Hors de prix): This thoroughly charming French romantic comedy about a gold digger and her suitor/protégé is classic Hollywood with a more continental attitude about spelling out the duties of such pursuits.

Redbelt: Is there a point at which the cost of personal integrity is too great to maintain it? Set in the mixed martial arts world, David Mamet thrills with another of his patented con man mysteries that functions pretty well as a morality play too.

Snow Angels: This compassionate study of the often unlikable people wrapped up in a small town tragedy burrows painfully into the heart, but such is the cost of empathy, or any human connection for that matter.

WALL-E: Pixar can do no wrong. Seriously. I'm not sure what it says about the state of cinema that the most romantic yearning I've seen on screen all year features a robot hoping to hold the hand of another, in a computer animated film aimed at kids no less.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008


Knitting on the hand towel continues. I finished a skein of the red while having a fair amount of the yellow left. Not sure what happened there other than a significant discrepancy in the size of each skein.

Knit Picks is having their 40% off summer book sale. Any favorites, old or new, worth considering?

Sorry, that's all I have today.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

This and that

With some luck and better hydration, this is the last update I'll be providing about my kidneys. I received the analysis of the lab results, which found that the kidney stones were the most common type. I need to drink more water, but that's it as far as diet is concerned in relation to these painful little pebbles.

In search of something to write about today I came across a story about a Canadian seminar helping students reconsider their assumptions about gender. The pertinent part, as far as this blog is concerned:
In Grade 6, students try to decipher what kind of person owns a variety of bags, which their teacher has filled with, say, sports equipment and knitting materials. Teachers help students question their assumptions. Is the owner of the sports bag male? Could it belong to a girl? And couldn't the knitting belong to a boy?
Yes, yes it could.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Just another Friday

In my continuing effort to be less cranky about all matters health insurance-related, I bring to you the small victories of a rather pleasant Friday.

When I was researching what HDTV I wanted to buy, I watched the electronics ads like a hawk. (I finally pulled the trigger when I saw the best deal in months.) I'm still scanning the ads for the potential post-purchase price match and spotted one that saved me about $75 when I took it to the store today. And no fuss from the customer service rep. Win!

I didn't need to get gas, but the price was the lowest it's been in awhile: a "bargain" at $3.79. I figured it wouldn't hurt to fill up. Tonight at a station near my home I saw it $4.15. Another win!

On the first of two days of Movie Catch-Up Weekend I saw Standard Operating Procedure, a good but incomplete Errol Morris doc about the abuse and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib; Mongol, an undercooked biopic about the early years of the man who would be Genghis Khan; and Last Year at Marienbad, a notorious baffler that could be Exhibit #1 for those arguing that French art cinema is pretentious nonsense. (Of course, it's also considered a classic.)

I've not had a lot of patience for more obtuse films over the past several months, but for whatever reason the gorgeous black-and-white imagery and widescreen composition was very soothing and cleansing to soak up. I wouldn't blame anyone for thinking it's a bunch of falderal, but it clicked for me. One major win, one minor win, and one split decision!

I had a nice walk in between the first two films and was only accosted by one panhandler while meandering up High Street. The temperature was in the high 80s, but the cloud cover kept it from feeling too oppressive for late June. A win!

I took about forty-five minutes to knit, which was enough time to finish the repeat I was midway through. I'd planned on knitting more, but getting out to stretch my legs was needed. Still, a win!

There wasn't anything in particular that made this an outstanding day, but it's nice to be at the end of it feeling like I came out on top for a change.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hand towel update

With nine and a half repeats knitted, the Chevron Stripes Hand Towel from Mason-Dixon Knitting is almost twelve inches long. The finished length is supposed to be 24 inches, which is to be achieved in knitting the same twelve rows 27 times. It looks like I could do it in twenty repeats. If I choose to make it that long--and I certainly have the yarn for it as I'm still on the first two balls, with two of each color remaining--then I guess I'm almost halfway done.

As best I can tell, I'm dead on the width (14 inches). I am substituting Knit Picks CotLin for the recommended Euroflax Originals linen, which is apparently letting me complete this faster. I think it's just as well. While I've come to enjoy knitting this, I'll be a lot happier when it's done. It is, perhaps, too easy for me.

That's not something I figured I'd say when I was trying to figure out knitting in the front and back and SKP. Now that I have those tricks down, the notoriously long time it takes to knit those rows can drive me a bit crazy.

Tomorrow I should have a fair amount of knitting time to chip away at this project. In my effort to consolidate driving, I'm seeing Standard Operating Procedure, Mongol, and ("for fun") Last Year at Marienbad spread out over an eight-hour period rather than making two or three trips. It's kind of exhausting thinking about it, and it's killing me to put off seeing WALL-E until Saturday. (With some of the advance word about Wanted, waiting a day to see it as well is not a big deal.) Still, I'll have a decent break between the first two, and knitting seems like the best use of the time.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On the plus side of the ledger

All right, let's try and brighten things up around here after my recent negativity with Things That are Making Me Happy at the Moment...


Part of what makes the ER bill sting is that it comes on the heels of purchasing a new television. I'd wanted one for a long time and finally was in a position where I felt I could afford it. (Certainly it became less in the budget with the arrival of unexpected medical expenses.) At least if I'm going to be stuck at home I've got this beauty to gaze at.

-She & Him Volume One

The band name annoys my inner grammarian, but this album pleases my retro pop-loving ears. Zooey Deschanel possesses a limited vocal range, but her voice's unique timbre and the song arrangements are well-matched. Currently my favorite track is "This is Not a Test" (hear it, see it). Obligatory gripe: Deschanel and M. Ward will be here in concert...the same night I'm seeing Radiohead.

-Summer hours

I haven't been able to take full advantage of them yet--it's been the reverse, actually--but simply knowing that I can cut back some is a relief. Faculty members could stand to drop the quizzical looks and questions about why I'm there so much, though. It's not like I get the summer off.

-Blueberry pancakes and bacon

Whether I'm making this or ordering it for breakfast at a restaurant nearby, it's a delicious way to start the day. I try not to eat bacon too much, so maybe that's what makes it taste so wonderful when I do.

-Coming to terms with the slowness of knitting the Chevron Stripes Hand Towel

I've learned a couple new techniques, and it's looking good. So what if it's not progressing as quickly as my impatient self would have liked.

-NewsRadio in TV Club

NewsRadio is one of my all-time favorite TV shows, but preferring it over other comedies at the time was very much the contrarian stance, or so I've always imagined. (Resolve: Seinfeld will not age well whereas NewsRadio is more timeless.) It's nice to read what Donna has to say and see other fans coming out of the woodwork for the weekly appreciation of the sitcom.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

ER blues

I appreciate the commenters assuring me that I wasn't stuck with this outrageous emergency room bill, but I'm sorry to report that it is indeed the case that I owe a couple thousand dollars. That's my deductible and thems the breaks.

In a nutshell, it's down to my choice of picking a plan that banks on not using health insurance (thus a high deductible and a Health Savings Account). I had to switch at the end of last year, and this option seemed best to me since I've not used health care. (Even in those rare instances when I've needed it I've had to pay for everything out of pocket.) Essentially I gambled and lost, which doesn't erase the fact that the costs are obscene and doesn't make it right that people have to gamble on their health. You'd think there would be a better way.

I've been told that I can and should negotiate/grovel with the hospital when I receive a bill for the amount the insurance company isn't covering. Apparently that's how the game is played. Seriously, though, this is the best we can do?

Sorry for the black clouds. Back to knitting talk or bitching and moaning about something petty tomorrow...

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Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm on fire

I have deliberately put some time between when I opened a piece of mail today and when I'm writing about what I found inside. Blogging while angry is not a good idea.

I'm still furious (and completely shocked), but I feel like I've let off the worst of my reaction. Nevertheless, you might want to put on the fireproof suit lest you get scorched by what follows.

So you may remember that I recently paid a trip to the emergency room to find out that I had kidney stones. And I thought the pain and misery was over. Today I received a statement of services that they sent to my insurance company. The total cost for my time there comes to almost six thousand dollars.


The CT scan, which confirmed what the doctor suspected, ran almost four grand. The physician care was nearly $1700. Are you kidding?

Now I should mention that I am incredibly dense when it comes to the workings of health insurance, so perhaps everything will work out OK. I don't expect it to, though. More than likely I'm on the hook for two to three thousand dollars, an outrageous sum considering what I had done. God knows what the follow-up doctor's visit is going to cost.

This only confirms my worst fears about going to the doctor even when having insurance. Until last week's follow-up appointment, I had not gone to a regular medical examination of any kind in at least fifteen years, probably more, and didn't have a primary physician. I've felt fine, more or less, and I haven't wanted to pay the exorbitant fees that I've imagined.

But this situation takes the prize. I figured I'd come out owing a couple hundred dollars, a few hundred at most, not something in the thousands. I'm well aware that health care is prohibitively expensive here and that the current system doesn't work for a lot of people. I never dreamed it was this bad.

Obviously my mistake was checking to see what the problem was. I don't really know what the alternative would have been, but the pain from the eventual insurance company bill is going to last a lot longer than the four-day ordeal I went through.

There's not anything else to say except that I'm livid and beaten down because of this.

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to the life

I might be farther along on this hand towel than I realized. I compared it to a different hand towel I made and found that it has maybe 40% of the that towel's length. I'm not that far in the pattern, but I may settle for something shorter than what the pattern specifies. (Some quick math also suggests that the pattern may be incorrect in the number of repeats it lists, but I'll reassess as I get closer to a workable length for me.)

I wasn't feeling as bored with knitting this today, which may have to do with not feeling as restless about things in general. I've worked a lot in the last month and had plenty of additional stresses there that have done nothing to brighten my mood. Then there were those pesky kidney stones a week ago and general (although likely unfounded) concern about my health. Call it a mini-existential crisis.

With all that in mind, I've taken it very easy this weekend. I haven't ventured more than three miles from my apartment the past three days. I've slept a fair amount, watched a lot of sports and The Office (US edition) on DVD, and let myself recover. The slow repetition in the current WIP has become less maddening as I have gotten my groove back, so to speak.

I'm still on the warpath regarding the Russian or Chinese site stealing the content of this blog and many others. (It's back up. Hello to the thief, who I know from site traffic visits regularly.) But I'm less angst-ridden than I'd been, which means you don't have to read that nonsense for awhile, hopefully.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Not much

Links for a lazy Saturday...

-A new children's book by an author who took his lumps as a boy for liking to paint and knit is about being happy with whatever you like to do, even if it doesn't conform to cultural norms.

-It looks like tickets for the Stitch N' Pitch in Cincinnati features half price tickets where the seats are. Perhaps that's a way to justify going considering the cost of gas to haul myself there.

-Anyone know where the seats are for the Cleveland Stitch N' Pitch?

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Friday, June 20, 2008


To center pull or not... I switched to this method a few months ago, but I've been having a devil of a time pulling from the middle with one of the skeins in use for my current WIP. Somehow both ends were wrapped around each other inside the skein in a highly aggravating way. I would knit for a short period and then have to stop to untangle.

It finally reached the point where I had to cut the yarn to pick through all the knots and twists. Now I'm not beyond making a mess of things, but it sure seemed as though the way the skein's innards came from the manufacturer was screwy.

In the end I probably spent as much time untangling and wrapping yarn as I did knitting. One skein of CotLin is now in a ball that will roll all over the place but which will still be less frustrating to knit with.

Previously I've mentioned that the Chevron Stripes Hand Towel is an endurance test. Repeat these 12 rows 26 times?! I have 22 repeats to go. Those I've already done have taken quite awhile. I'm happy with what I see, but I simply don't think I'll ever have the patience to make another one of these.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008


Some days I'm a chatterbox (something that isn't always evident in person), some days I don't have much to say. This would be one of the latter.

I suppose the last several days have been "interesting", although they've also been mostly unpleasant. Today was uneventful. Thank God for that.

I picked up a new pair of needles so I could resume work on the hand towel. I debated whether to go to knit night, eventually choosing to attend since lately I'd had more than enough of my own company while suffering from the kidney stones. I got a nice bit done on the project even if I feel like it will be a neverending one.

And that's pretty much it. Here's to a relaxing weekend.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Look, it's knitting

Was tonight the first time I've knitted in June? It's hard to believe, but I think so. What a month.

I can't say that I got much done because a) the Chevron Stripes Hand Towel from Mason-Dixon Knitting is not something I'm fast on and b) I discovered that one of the aluminum needles is bent. Whether it was that way when I picked them up is uncertain. I was tense, so is it possible I bent it in the course of knitting and purling?

I assume that the stitches knitted on this bent needle will be fine, but I've stopped because it is a little awkward to use.

With the time that this project is going to take and a WIP blanket that's been languishing, it's clear that I need some instant gratification knitting.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Heaven knows I'm miserable now

Listening to Marketplace on NPR this evening amounted to subjecting myself to enough gloom and doom that the best solution would have been to go home and cry (or switch the station). High oil prices, bankrupt seniors (and general economic dismay for everyone), and the food crisis...not mood-lifting stuff. Having had enough of that I flipped over to the Reds pre-game in time to hear that Ken Griffey Jr. was ailing and would not be playing on the night designated in his honor. For Pete's sake!

I'm just now getting home from a long day at the office, which says enough in its own right. I'm tired but I can report it's been an incident-free day on the health front. There's something to be thankful for.

But all this got me thinking that there is an awful lot of bad news, or forecasts of it, in the atmosphere these day. That's enough to grind people down even if dire circumstances haven't peaked or been felt sharply. The word on the street seems to be that we better watch out because it's only going to get worse. Being prepared is a good thing, but does it reach a point where it becomes debilitating? As an individual I can't solve peak oil, sectarian violence, the national debt, or environmental catastrophes.

More and more I feel like it would be so easy for all of us to become like Mark Wahlberg's character in the comedy I Huckabees. He's a fatalist crippled by the powerlessness he feels living amid such global concerns.

I don't mean to suggest that I agree with the character or am headed that direction. It's just that I think it illustrates very well what we're being bombarded with and how it can make us crazy if we try to be conscientious about everything.

Of all days in recent memory this is the one that should have me thankful. My kidneys aren't screaming because the stones seem to be gone. My seasonal allergies have not flared up for several days now. And hey, I unlocked the ability to play Mario Kart with my Mii. (How's that for frivolous?)

What's keeping you happy and upbeat in times like these?


Monday, June 16, 2008

What's happening

All right, so I spoke too soon about passing all the kidney stones, but I've been feeling much better since about ten hours ago and think/hope that the worst is over. I have the sizable evidence, so at least there's less rattling around in me than there was. But enough about my kidneys and urine, both of which I've been more preoccupied with in recent days than I care to be...

I'd like to get back to writing about knitting. You know, the whole reason I started this blog... I've been taking it easy today and almost picked up the needles, but with as much system flushing that I'm doing, knitting something that requires keeping track of the stitches didn't seem like a good idea.

I can attest to spotting knitting in a new film. I ducked out for a brief bit to see The Happening, which has a couple shots of old women wearing gas masks and knitting. (The film is about an event in which something airborne is causing those who come into contact with it to kill themselves.) I've been pretty fond of most of the director's work and held out hope that the beating he was taking for this film was a matter of people having the knives out for him.

Alas, it's not very good, even if I'm inclined to permit him a wider berth. If I'd seen this with an audience--I had the theater to myself this afternoon--I imagine they would have been doubled over with laughter at points. I don't think The Happening is terrible, just severely misconceived and directed. But hey, I was happy to have a couple pain-free hours out of the apartment.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Rite of passages

The wise choice would have been to stay home today, but I felt an obligation to the graduates to go to work if I was up to it at all. I wasn't, not really, but I thought that if I went out and grabbed a little something to eat that I might feel well enough to endure a few hours.

You see, I've had no appetite, so I've been avoiding taking anything to reduce the pain lest I end up wrapped around the toilet. I suffered through the graduation--I'm sure I looked miserable--but I wanted to be there to send off some students who have been very important to the program the last four years. Was it worth it? I'd like to think so. I work closely with the students, and this bunch meant a lot to me.

The good news is that at some point this afternoon I passed the stone that has been giving me all this grief. Since Friday I haven't been able to find a comfortable position for sitting, standing, or laying down--what else is there, suspension?--so you can imagine my relief to be rid of it. Overall I've been fortunate regarding my health. I can certainly appreciate that normal state of being a lot more now that I'm back in it (or so I assume).

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

This and that

I'll spare you more moaning and groaning about the stone rattling around in my kidney and instead direct you to a nice article in the local paper about Ravelry. The knit night referenced is the one I've been going to, although it's my understanding that the writer incorrectly attributed who started it.

Today is World Wide Knit in Public day. Did you indulge in some public knitting? I had planned to go out for a KIP, but earlier today it took all I had to make this Go Out in Public and Find a Painkiller That Won't Have Me Puking day. Going by the effects the hospital-administered and prescribed narcotics have had on me, it's safe to say there's no danger of me becoming a heroin addict.

Anyone heard anything about the Ohio Stitch N' Pitch events? As a Reds fan I'm more inclined to attend the one in Cincinnati, but I'll keep an open mind about the team in the northern part of the state.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday the 13th

I am not superstitious about Friday the 13th, but today has been nothing short of hellish. I sincerely hope that flipping the calendar to another day will change my fortune. I'll warn you now that today's entry may be tough reading.

I awoke at 5:30 a.m. with lower abdominal discomfort that spread to my back. I went to bed feeling fine, so I was perplexed as to what might be causing this fairly significant pain. My first thoughts were food poisoning or (sorry) constipation, but the solution to the latter didn't ease things. I laid around and paced for about an hour hoping that I would feel better, but if anything, I felt worse.

I called my insurance company's toll-free nurse line to get an opinion on the situation. The pain did let up some while I was on the phone, but I was hurting enough that I knew I couldn't let it pass. The nurse recommended going to the emergency room and directed me to the closest hospital, which is about a ten-minute drive my place.

By 7:00 I dragged myself to the car and hoped that I could make it to the hospital without any further complications. I cursed aloud every driver in front of me going under the speed limit and then staggered into my destination. There was no question that I needed to be in the emergency room. Fortunately I didn't have to wait and laid down on a bed as soon as possible.

The prognosis seemed pretty clear by now. I probably had a kidney stone. I had a very small one about ten years ago, but I don't remember it being this bad. (My dad has had issues with them, so I wasn't particularly surprised that this was the cause of my misery.) The nurse told me to change into a gown. This will tell you how rare it is that I'm in this bad of shape and how unclear my brain was. Thinking I'd provide easier access to the doctor, I put it on backwards. Modesty had gone out the window. Whatever was going to get me pumped full of painkillers the fastest was priority number one.

The nurse put another gown over me and eventually covered me with a sheet as I'd been writhing around. There was a period of probably ten minutes, which felt like hours, where the E.R. personnel were doing whatever they needed to do. Meanwhile I moaned in pain desperate for them to do something. It is the loneliest I've ever felt in my life.

The drugs didn't immediately take effect like I desired, but by the time the radiology tech was done with my scan, the pain seemed to be dulled pretty well. Waking up early had me tired. I hadn't eaten anything, although the IV was putting something in me. I was content to lay there and attempt to sleep in between the bedside visits.

Sure enough, I had a small kidney stone. The doctor said I ought to be able to pass it at home. They were going to release me about two hours after I'd arrived, but I had to drive myself back to my apartment, which simply wasn't doable with the Dilaudid and other drugs in my system. They let me rest for another hour. I didn't feel like I had my legs under me, so I read the newspaper and sipped water in the waiting room for another hour. Then I, umm, expelled it all and decided that I better wait a little longer.

Finally I thought my condition might be solid enough that I could drive to the grocery store to fill my prescription and get home. I made it unscathed, although there were probably smarter alternatives.

I've had no appetite, but I managed to eat some bland, inoffensive food so I had something on my stomach for taking a Percocet to work on the returning pain. The pain has been muted but present the rest of today. I've passed a few infinitesimal gravelly bits, so I'm hoping that the worst is over. I feel lousy and don't want to eat at all, so I've had to suck up the pain for the last couple hours. I may have to force myself to get something down so I can take another pill and get some sleep.

And to add insult to injury, when I was feeling a little better the power got knocked out just as I'd beaten one of the songs on Guitar Hero III in expert, keeping it from being saved. Maybe there's something to this curse of 13 after all. (Not really...but it makes a nice close.)

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Huh huh huh huh huh

Reading this remembrance of one guy's musical education via an animated television show was a blast from the not-that-long-ago-was-it past. The bands, many of whose CDs were long ago relegated to the cutout bins and college radio station trash cans (or used record stores' 99-cents stacks), sounded familiar even if I'd be hard-pressed to identify any of their songs by ear or by name. It made me want to dig through the box of still-unpacked CDs from my college radio station days that didn't earn places in my proper collection.

Perhaps more enjoyable, though, was wallowing in the humor from that once controversial program, Beavis and Butt-head. Considering the earnest image I feel I project, it may come as a surprise to say that I loved the show. Never mind that Beavis and Butt-head is sharper than its detractors credit it for being. (In its own way, it is a decent approximation of music criticism.) I appreciated it for all the dumb, vulgar, puerile comedy too.

I haven't seen the show in years, but I was cracking up reading the quotations commenters were appending to the article. Then I went to YouTube to track down some clips. There aren't many available, and thosepresent are wanting in the A/V quality department. Still side-splitting stuff, though.

Unfortunately clips with the boys providing commentary on music videos are rare. These were the best parts of Beavis and Butt-head, but licensing issues have kept most of them unreleased on commercially sold tapes and DVDs. I laughed myself silly watching their takes on MC 900 Ft. Jesus and Letters to Cleo. These artists, blips on the popular music scene in their time, and the show may not be in the public consciousness much (or at all) these days, but what a fine time it was to enjoy lunkheaded chuckles with these animated suburban headbangers then and now.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

School's out

The last day of finals has passed. Summer can officially begin.

Oh sure, there's still graduation and the hectic stuff that goes with being the only employee in my part of the office for the next three weeks, but I'm glad to have reached the time that should bring a general shifting down in daily activity (or at least a constant stream of interruption). There are a couple things that have me very worried--old, unhealed wounds which I'll have to continue taking lumps for--but I'm trying not to worry about them until the hammers start flying my way.

The academic year rhythms can spoil one terribly. We have three fairly intense periods when classes are in session, but the sizable break during the winter holidays and almost three months freed from classes during the summer are (usually) terrific times for clearing my head. Much about my job remains the same; there's just less of it. What other careers give you those kind of breaks as natural breathers in the schedule?

Students are always in a hurry for classes to end, but those of us on the other side anticipate this time as much, if not more. I'm ready for things to ease up a smidgen. Fingers crossed that they will.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Not much happening in these parts is worth writing about, so here are some knitting news items for your browsing pleasure:

-Knitting can help with math problems beyond my understanding.

Perhaps that will give knitting some cachet with my engineer brothers.

-World-Wide Knit in Public Day is approaching.

I wasn't aware of the day's background, so that was kind of interesting to read.

-The Ravelry thread about stolen blog content offers one potential solution.

Yes, yesterday's post about the site stealing my blog entries was also swiped. There's something rich about seeing it on there. I recall getting a hit from there months ago. My suspicion is that this blog has been plundered and republished for months. To say I'm displeased about it is an understatement.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Stop, thief!

The thieves over at have decided to steal three of my last four blog entries (if not many more in the past) and repost them wholesale. I'm far from the only person who is getting my content stolen. The site looks to be nothing but purloined writing.

Conveniently there is no contact information whatsoever on the page. From examining the page source information, I could see that the person (or persons) are using Wordpress. I tried contacting them via the spam abuse form, but it wouldn't go through as Wordpress doesn't host the site. (It did direct me to the Whois page, which doesn't appear to offer helpful info to me.) I used the regular form for Wordpress to send a question, so we'll see if that goes anywhere.

If there's anyone out there more tuned in on these things, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I've posted about this in a couple Ravelry forums. The old thread in "Needlework on the Net" hasn't yielded any responses, but there have been a couple in the Blogging forum. (The designer of the Asherton Reversible Scarf has been facing the same problem with the site in question, so it's not just small potatoes sites like mine.)

The irony is that this post will probably end up being swiped too. If you're reading this there, you aren't supposed to be able to.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Apologia and piffle

I apologize if I've been a pill and the blog has been a drag to read during the past week. With the work-related drama, long hours, and lack of sleep, I sense that I've been generally unpleasant. Not having knitted in a week, I haven't had any yarns to write about. Instead I've been in whinefest mode, which I need to do in moderation but which you don't necessarily need to read.

For today's recovery regimen I slept in, slipped out to get some lunch since I didn't feel up to exerting the effort to make something, slept some more, and then stared vacantly at the TV. I'm hoping it's an uneventful beginning to an uneventful week, but I'm steeling myself for additional workplace aggravation. Like it or not, there's probably another month of those particular headaches to come.

The brief time I was outside provided the notice that summer is here. A normal spring has been virtually nonexistent, making this a season-less stretch. The heat and concluding of the school year usher in what I think of as summer, even if the calendar hasn't reached that season yet. Bring on the less demanding days (in theory) and the satisfying taste and relief of a cold beverage. I'm ready.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

The longest day of the year

Oh, graduation day, how I loathe you so. Three high school commencements, fourteen hours, lots of crushing boredom.

As it turns out, I wouldn't have felt much like knitting anyway. We were in a new location that was kept at the appropriate temperature for storing sides of beef. It was supposed to be in the nineties outside today, but it was so cold inside that a coat would have been welcome. The cold environment combined with an extraordinarily early morning for me meant I was drained, drained, drained for much of the day. We're talking that logy feeling which numbs every cell in your body.

Classes were promised to be the best ever. Their legacies will live eternally in the halls of their alma maters. The future is assuredly bright with these future leaders. Yada, yada, yada. I estimate that I've worked nearly forty of these commencements, so I know the platitudes and praise before they're ever uttered. Yeah, I'm sick of it.

Between the stretches when my mind went blank I read Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam. This interesting read about quacks focuses on a particularly galling man whose biggest "medical" claim to fame was implanting goat testicles in men who had, umm, lost their vigor. The story of him and his contemporaries is hard to believe and yet not unfamiliar in this day and age. The book appears to be well-researched--it details how the main character also affected politics and radio--although the writing can be scattershot.

Anyway, obligatory knitting content from the book... After losing his medical license in Kansas this quack turned around and mounted a 1930 gubernatorial campaign that had the parties nervous. The book describes the other candidates thusly: "Both were novices, both were bachelors. One liked to knit."

This longest day of the year produced a bit of unwanted excitement as I got within a couple miles of home around dusk. A deer darted across the road a few car lengths ahead and nearly leaped over the vehicle in front of me. Seeing it was like being in a dream, although it quickly became a time for fast reactions as a couple of the deer's hooves landed atop that car, sending the creature tumbling to the ground. It was scrambling to get up and come back my way as I passed at 35 mph, but I suspect it had to have at least one broken leg.

Sad to see and kind of surreal too. Makes one feel glad to get home with aching muscles and dull mental faculties.

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Friday, June 06, 2008


With all of Thursday's fireworks I didn't feel like going to knit night. To add insult to the day's injury, I missed...

...the Ravelry gang in attendance.


Umm, but on the plus side, I got some needed apartment cleaning done...

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

The middle man

I had to laugh when I saw a spam e-mail with the header "How to Manage Emotions Under Pressure" atop my inbox. Let's just say that what should have been a relatively quiet week at work has produced escalating problems that had me furious by the time I left the office today.

I'm not going to go into specifics, but the situation can be generalized well enough to convey what's happening. Problem outside of my control arises. Do what's in my power to fix it and then pass along an explanation to the necessary parties before they inquire about it. Get criticized for problem arising. An outside party ascribes bad intentions to problem despite explanations. As a courtesy, inform inside party about perception that may exist regarding the problem and offer additional solutions for the future. Get reamed for original problem and open up a Pandora's box of other issues.

My biggest mistake was in keeping lines of communication open. Ordinarily that's what one is supposed to do but... I expect that those who know me beyond this electronic page would say that I am relatively cool and collected. Or I'll say it for them. This situation, which is part of a years-long tradition, must be wearing me down because in spite of my efforts, I manage to feel more defeated than if I'd not bothered to do address it at all.

The advice I'm getting from colleagues and superiors is to ignore it, which is wiser than it may sound, although it's kind of hard to do because I care and because I'm going to continue to be stuck in the middle and get hammered regardless.

I suppose the frustrating thing is that I can accept taking the heat when I mess up--I don't like it, but at least the criticism is rational--but struggle to deal with getting drilled for doing what is proper.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Nine songs

Grasping at straws for a blog entry today, so let's put the iPod on shuffle and see what pops up...

1. The Cardigans "Do You Believe" Gran Turismo

Most people expect this Swedish band vanished after "Lovefool", a nugget of pure pop bliss that was their lone mainstream American hit, but they're still around. Can't say that this song (available in a live version for your listening pleasure) is one that I'd highlight by a band I like fairly well, but thems the breaks when the iPod is randomly selecting from the 5660 tracks I've loaded onto it.

2. Sufjan Stevens "I Saw Three Ships" Songs for Christmas Vol. II: Hark!

Is it OK to admit that a lot of the popular Christmas music on the radio, especially what rock stations spin, makes me cringe? Stevens' five volume EP set of traditional and new holiday songs is just the thing for me: Christmas music without the saccharine.

3. The Apples in Stereo "The Silvery Light of a Dream" Tone Soul Evolution

Hey iPod, quit messing with what I'm trying to do. This track is almost entirely connective tissue on an album rather than anything one would listen to on its own.

4. The Beatles "Girl" Rubber Soul

Simple yet so satisfying. I don't listen to a lot of pop music on the radio, but one quality that strikes me about it is how it sounds so overproduced. It'll be really interesting to hear if those songs will sound as fresh as this classic forty-plus years later.

5. Big Star "In the Street" #1 Record

You know how there are bands that get name checked by your favorites and eventually you decide to see what all the fuss is about? In this case the praise was more than justified. Some of #1 Record sounds a little too of its time for my tastes--it's no wonder That '70s Show borrowed this for its theme song--but it's still a terrific album. This video shows the reformed band performing it twenty-some years later.

6. The Posies "Love Letter Boxes" Frosting on the Beater

I swear I'm not rigging this. The iPod, in all of its random wisdom, made a pretty cool segue here as members of The Posies played in a reformed Big Star. I'm in no position to list my favorite albums of decades, but this power pop record would probably be in the running for a top ten or twenty of the '90s.

7. The Dave Brubeck Quartet "Take Five" Time Out

A quintessential jazz track that I could listen to again and again and again. It seems like the epitome of vintage cool, whether it is or not. My mom owned this album, and I've since come into possession of her old vinyl LP.

8. The Pipettes "It Hurts To See You Dance So Well" Judy single

When I first heard something from The Pipettes, a modern version in sound and appearance of a '60s girl group, I fell in love instantly and went Google searching to see what else I could find. None of their stuff was available domestically at the time, but various sites had scattered tracks and the UK mix of their debut album. This sounds like an earlier incarnation of the band--the voices are different and the song is shorter--and the lineup in this video may now be out of date as I think two of the singers seen here have left. Regardless, I can't get enough of this kind of peppy retro pop.

9. Sleater-Kinney "Modern Girl" The Woods

This is a vestige of one of the CDs I borrowed from the library, ripped to listen to later, and promptly forgot about. Now it surfaces two years after...

Well, I hope that was fun, instructive, or worthwhile in some small way.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Secrets and stitches

This Saturday brings about one of my least favorite days of the year: the work day of three high school graduations. This is a day tailored for knitting as I will likely have little to do but minor troubleshooting and major trying not to be bored right out of my skull. At the mention of this looming day of misery, a friend asked if I might break the secrecy that is my knitting stock in trade.

My first impulse was to say no, absolutely not. I know how chatty and gossipy the students can become, and I know that me knitting in the middle of a crowd of a few thousand would ignite the grapevine. Thanks but no thanks. I don't feel like subjecting myself to the scrutiny and whatever other blowback there might be.

I've thought about this off and on since. In moments of weakness I have considered shedding this secrecy in the workplace and among students and co-workers, but then I snap to my senses and remind myself that such ideas are lunacy.

But why? A list, which I state at the outset may have the sheen of rationality but is likely irrational:

1. I fear what others will say and how it will make me look.

Yeah, yeah, who cares what other people think? That's true to some extent, but it's also so very untrue. Working with a small group of college students (and among a small campus population), word gets around pretty quickly. I do think that if this were a bigger place or I were smaller profile in my corner that I'd be less resistant to revealing the knitting secret. So in that sense it's not about people knowing but about specific people knowing and having to interact with them and whatever assumptions that an unconventional hobby for my gender leads them to make.

Actually, I think that's the issue in a nutshell. I would continue to blog anonymously even if it is unlikely that students would come across this place. So it isn't a list of things but one (or two) similar things.

I suppose I've always been a relatively private person, which fuels the secrecy surrounding something I expect could or would make me an object of ridicule. In one instance a few years ago at work I was burned pretty significantly regarding perception and the associated whisperings that I became all the more protective because of it. That complicates the matter quite a bit.

Saturday I don't plan to knit amid my students and a co-worker--never mind all the graduates and their families--and I doubt anyone could convince me to do otherwise. I'm not looking for persuasion, but I am curious to hear what you think about this.

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Monday, June 02, 2008


A day I've been looking forward to since finishing college all those years ago finally arrived. That's right, I paid off the remainder of my college loans. I know I teased something else for this entry, but today's transaction is important enough to me that the other stuff can wait until tomorrow.

Making the final payment this afternoon allowed me to breathe a big sigh of relief as it means that I am now 100% debt-free. I don't say that to boast--I certainly have no right to do so--but to relish a moment that has been a long time coming. I could have made payments over a few more months, but after looking at the balance and knowing I could wipe it all out today, it took all I had to keep from leaping out of my skin and zeroing what I owed.

Whether one owes monetarily or otherwise, the feeling of being in debt is never a pleasant one. It is an inescapable gnawing sensation that, if talk about the economy is at all accurate, is familiar to at least a few of those reading. I'm no longer burdened by it, but I empathize if you are.

I know that talk about money is considered verboten in polite company, but for this one instance I have to shout for joy. As long as it took to reach this day, I feel like I've earned a little celebratory expression.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Just a touch

May certainly was an active time for knitting even if the FO tally is just four. There was the Moss Grid Hand Towel, two ballband dishcloths, and a design experiment of my own. I also taught myself double knitting, learned a couple techniques I haven't used before, returned to the Wednesday knit night, and ventured to a new-to-me knit night on Thursdays. It must be the 31 days in the month that allowed all that to be fit in.

Or maybe it's the allergies that are making me want to batten the hatches and coop up in my apartment. I'm not kidding. This is the worst I can remember it. If I'm not taking the over-the-counter medication, I'm in bad shape. Itchy eyes, runny nose, tight chest...the works. It's just tolerable even with the antihistamines. I've read that that the conditions are a lot worse than normal this year. Direct experience confirms it.

At least the temperature seems to have finally turned warm. It's hard to believe it's June 1 in part because it's been on the cooler side for much of the spring. I think I've gone a week now without having the furnace on at night, if that tells you anything.

Graduations are upon me--not mine, just the four (!) I have to work--and thus comes decision time regarding knitting. This week I'll write more about this issue that cuts to the heart of being the secret knitter.

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