Sunday, August 31, 2008


I've been feeling sluggish all day, probably the aftereffects of being in the heat for such a long time yesterday. So, while I move in slow motion, how about watching Miriam Tegels, the world's fastest knitter?

Her interview with Kelley at Knit Picks is broken into five segments, although I'd recommend finding what you want to watch on YouTube so you can view in high quality. The speed knitting lesson shows an example of how fast she is. (If you just want to see that, go to the 3:20 mark.) Two other, non-Knit Picks videos provide better examples of how incomprehensibly quick she is with the needles. Crazy.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

O my

Until today I hadn't attended any campaign stops, which is hard to believe considering the election seems like it's been going on for ages. (The Arcade Fire for Obama concert doesn't count.) With the Democratic ticket dropping by a few miles from my apartment and nothing on my schedule, I decided that this was as good a time as any to go to a rally. They'd probably never get any closer--I could have walked there in an hour or so--and I was curious.

I took the advice of someone who attended an Obama rally a few months ago and showed up at 1:30, three hours before the gates were scheduled to open. (Tack on another two and a quarter hours before the event was supposed to start.) I had little trouble getting a nearby parking spot. Eventually I found the end of the line, which had snaked around the trees and was starting another curve by the time I arrived. (The above picture was taken about two and a half hours later.)

I would have brought knitting, but attendees were encouraged to bring as few personal items as possible. Instead I loaded up with my camera, iPod, a bottle of water, an emergency poncho, a pen, and The New York Times Sunday at Home Crosswords. If I was going to stand and sit around for hours, I needed something to keep me occupied. Luckily I was able to stand in the shade during most of the wait.

In line brief conversations were struck up, usually more about event logistics and Ohio State football updates than politics. Vendors hocking t-shirts, buttons, and hats roamed the lines and set up shop in the middle of it all. Enterprising neighborhood residents lugged around coolers on wheels to sell pop and water to those who didn't bring any liquid refreshment or had already consumed it.

You did not need to have a ticket to gain admittance to the event, but in a savvy maneuver, campaign volunteers passed out pink and yellow tickets that were really a way of collecting contact information from those who'd come. I've attended a few Presidential campaign events during prior elections, but I was especially impressed with the organization of this particular one. Sure, it was a hassle waiting so long and going through security, but the atmosphere and speed with which everything moved was pretty remarkable.

The gates opened a half hour early, and before long I took my stage left bleacher seat. For as long as people had waited and would still have to wait, I was impressed with the good spirits everyone was in. When music began to play, people were dancing and clapping and generally having fun. It's easy to get jaded about politics and politicians, and there's nothing to guarantee those I was there to see won't let me down. Still, it was inspiring to see the diverse crowd that gave up a significant portion of their Saturday to listen to a man they believe has their and the nation's bests interests at heart.

I've seen today's crowd estimated at 20,000. Sitting in the stands I was astonished watching the people pour into the place while the ends of the lines never seemed to come. (In the picture above, you can see a line in the distance emerging from the trees. This is more than two hours after the gates opened and the event had begun, and that was not a primary line.)

I didn't grow up in a particularly political family. My parents didn't advertise who they voted for, and until recent years I don't know that I could have pegged their leanings. I suspect they've grown more progressive, which would have surprised the childhood me and pleases my adult self. It's not so much about them accepting my political values--I expect we still differ in some areas--but that they're displaying the willingness to continue examining issues and not staying locked in a mindset.

If you watched the Democratic National Convention, the speeches given here weren't demonstrably different from those delivered to a national audience. Really, this seemed more about keeping up enthusiasm to me. The proceedings had a call and response vibe, which can be something to behold with this many people involved. Maybe if enough people believe and work toward it, miracles can happen. Good grief, the headliners took to the stage at the listed start time, which has never happened in my experience with political events.

Considering all the enmity that engenders today's political discussions, I tend to avoid them completely with those who disagree with me and those whose views I don't know. It's also why, for the most part, I've skirted such talk in this ostensibly political post. Yes, it's my blog, meaning I can say what I want, but I'm not looking to rile up those who prefer other candidates. Nor am I interested in engaging in a debate about it. From time to time this knitting blog strays off-topic and covers what I've done for the day. This is what I did today.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Not much

The long weekend began with a slow day that saw some public knitting in a coffee shop, which may have elicited a half-heard derogatory comment, and in my car while waiting for a movie's start time to roll around. The scarf is progressing quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

Not really much else to say today, so how about a couple photos to tag as part of my infrequent hometown tourist postings?

This is the Union Station arch. It's across the street from Nationwide Arena. And, umm, I was pleased to find a parking meter near it with 38 minutes remaining.

And here's a closer look at the arch.

Oh, while I didn't take any pictures of it--better to avoid getting hit crossing Neil Avenue--I got a glimpse of the ballpark where the Clippers are relocating next season. It's been awhile since I've been in this part of downtown, so it was surprising to see how much is up.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


The weather was near perfect for sitting outside during knit night at The Northstar Café. I enjoyed a Thai burrito and made good progress on my scarf.

Cranked up My Morning Jacket's Z on the way home, caught up in the reverberating riffs that seem tailor-made for a cool late summer night.

Tuned into Obama's convention speech and felt some hope restored. I'll be honest, the political season tends to get me down, especially with all the pettiness, bitterness, and flat-out nonsense. At least for one night that vanished.

And Radiohead made a live stream available of their last U.S. date on this leg of the tour.

Smooth sailing at 64 degrees on a late August evening. All is well.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Return to the Red Scarf Project

All right, so the pattern I'm knitting for my contribution to the Red Scarf Project is very, very easy, but it produces a distinct design and looks more complicated than it actually is. I'm slipping the first stitch and knitting the last one to make a selvage so that the scarf won't curl.

Sure, I don't have much done, but this early into the project I can tell that the final result ought to be pretty striking even though it's about as basic as knitting gets. That's one of the needlecraft's primary aspects that appeals to me. With a minimum of technique I can make something that looks fantastic.

Originally I cast on 23 stitches to US 8s. The stitches weren't quite as tight as I liked, and the width was probably too narrow even for admitted preference. (I don't know if I've stated it before, but why bother making a scarf really wide if it's just going to be folded in half anyway?) I frogged everything, switched to US 7s, and cast on 29 stitches. I'm happier with the closeness of the stitches now. While it may still appear to be on the narrow side, I know that it ought to be fine once the scarf has some length.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Scarfing it up

I guess the mere act of writing yesterday's entry helped decide what I'll be working on next. I'm going to make a scarf for the Red Scarf Project. I bought two skeins of Cascade 220 in a nice, rich red after comparing several shades at the LYS. I'm fond of this wool, especially in the hats I made last winter, and some of this purchase might end up turning into a hat for me if there's enough left over.

I haven't picked a scarf pattern yet. I might knit the Scrunchable Scarf, although the pattern is so simple I ought to be ashamed for even considering it. Then again, I'm not one to turn down mindless knitting.

I was considering making Henry, but now that I've looked more closely at the pattern, I'm going to have to pass. The yarn I've bought is too big for it. Of greater concern to me is that it calls for being knitted on US 2s and 3s. I don't mind using smaller needles but probably not on something as long as a scarf, especially one being knitted lengthwise. Mercy. I like how it looks, but with the kind of time commitment it calls for, I think I'd have to be selfish and keep the scarf for myself.

I've not chosen against knitting Clapotis. Rather, I need to decide on yarn and may go the Knit Picks route since this project appears to require a lot of it. I briefly--very briefly--flirted with the idea of trying Noro for the first time, but a check on price put the kibosh on that idea right away. With as much yarn as I'll need, it would cost more than I'm willing to drop.

This raises a question of knitting etiquette. Since the cost to make Clapotis is likely to be more than most of what I've knitted, would it be wise to ask my mom what color she would specifically want it to be in? I think I know what she likes and would prefer to surprise her, but on the other hand, the sane route would be to get a definitive answer from the recipient than deciding myself.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

The future is now

Decisions, decisions. I'm market bag-ed out for the time being, so what to knit now?

Now would be the appropriate time to make something for the Red Scarf Project. I don't think I've done any charity knitting this year, so this would be a worthwhile endeavor to participate in again.

Of course, it's never too early start thinking of beginning to knit Christmas gifts. I think I'm going to back off on the amount of stuff I make for family this year, mainly because I don't know if it's wanted or appreciated. Plus, I've done scarves. I've done hats. I'm not doing gloves, at least not for that many people. Maybe for myself eventually.

I am entertaining the notion of knitting the ridiculously popular Clapotis for my mother, though. If I don't make it for her, I'll have no reason to ever attempt the project that Ravelers can't get enough of.

Without looking at anything I'm trying to conceive how one purls through the front and back. (For the moment I can't make a mental image of knitting through the back loop, and I had plenty of practice doing that.) I'd also have to look up ssk again because I don't think I'd been doing it right during my mixed success knitting socks last year and don't remember how to perform the technique.

Other than those readily solvable issues, the pattern looks easy enough to knit as long as I am able to keep my place in it. I'm sure a few of you reading have made it. Thoughts, suggestions, warnings?

Is there something else I should contemplate knitting next? (Despite my knitting resolution, don't bother suggesting a sweater, though. I absolutely will not be making one this year.)

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Bell lap sprint

Everlasting Bagstopper

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Color: Bright Navy and Early American Ombre
Needles: US 5 and 10 1/2 circulars; US 5 dpns
Stitches: 44 for base, 116 for body

Per my understanding of the Ravelympics rules, I needed to have this project finished by the time the closing ceremony came to a conclusion in Beijing if I wanted it to count. Considering the Chinese city is twelve hours ahead, that didn't leave much time for Sunday knitting. Wisely or not, I stayed up until 4 a.m. putting the last touches on this market bag. I definitely wouldn't have done so without a deadline, but all that matters is that I'm done.

Having finished my first Everlasting Bagstopper a week ago, I knew that finishing (binding off, handle making, weaving in ends) was tedious, so it's a good thing that the Olympics were on to provide background accompaniment. Staying up through the late coverage even meant getting to see snippets of the javelin competition. Catching highlights of a classic but television-marginalized Olympic event was one bonus of burning the midnight oil.

As I plodded through the sewn bind off, I discovered what produced an extra stitch last time I was finishing the edge. The circular needle not being used would sometimes find its way into a stitch or the long tail of the yarn being used to bind off. If I hadn't noticed it getting in the way, I might have had a couple unwanted extra stitches again. In my effort to guard against any additional or loose stitches, I probably bound off too tightly, but I expect that some flexibility around the bound off edge will come as the bag gets used.

I-cord wasn't hard, although it was hard on my wrists. Trying to make sure that the stitches, particularly the first one, were tight meant keeping a lot of tension in the yarn and my hands. The three I-cords I knit turned out fine and took about an hour each to make them twenty inches long. That amount of time is in line, if not less overall, with what it took to do the linen stitch handle on the previous bag. The progress felt faster at least.

Accidentally dropping just knit stitches on the cords, a problem that arose more frequently as night bled into morning, presented a dilemma of its own. The cotton's splitty nature could make it tough to tell what had been a stitch and what wasn't.

I only had two stitch holders, so I kept the live stitches at the end of the I-cords on dpns. It wasn't the most elegant or manageable solution but one that met my needs. When it came time for the braiding of the I-cords, including one still attached to its ball of yarn, I had quite a mess on my hands. Tails tangled. Dpns dangled and fell out. I didn't have a clue how to braid the three cords, so I stuck with what seemed to be producing a sufficient result. By the time I'd nearly run out of cord length to braid and wrangled the live stitches onto a holder, good enough was acceptable for the handle.

There is some space between the braids on each side where the handle is attached. It seems like it's probably "wrong", but I think it looks all right and will be OK from a support standpoint. I might have made each I-cord longer--this handle might be a little short--but in the dead of the night, the thought of knitting more was not one to be followed.

I tried the suggestion to weave in the ends and then splitt the plies and knot them to keep the ends from reappearing. The process was time-consuming but provided relief that the whole bag won't fall apart when carrying something with a little weight.

Overall, I'm satisfied with this project's final result. After adding the upper border in navy the preponderance of white in the variegated yarn bothered me less. The overall effect is pleasing to the eye. (For some reason it reminds me of a sweater.) Because it won't stretch as much, I prefer this handle to the one I made on the first market bag. My novice attempt at braiding isn't bad considering I didn't know what I was doing and was bleary-eyed. (Note to Karen, per her comment: I don't have any nieces--or nephews, for that matter--so there are no cool uncle points to be earned.)

So, Ravelympics comes to an end and were quite successful on my end. I made two FOs and learned some new techniques that I can use. And, oh yeah, I'm ready to knit something that doesn't use cotton.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

So the I is for idiot, eh?

Binding off, knitting a handle, and weaving in ends are all that remain on my second Everlasting Bagstopper. I don't know how this one was knitted as fast as it has been, but I'm not complaining. In fact, I'm pleased that I've found that groove I had back when I was learning the basics and knitting scarves just about every other day.

The big news is that I'm going to try Donna's braided I-cord handle suggestion. I took another look at Knitting Help's "How to Make I-cord" tutorial and understood it. I have no idea why it didn't click for me when I watched it before. The best I can guess is that it seemed like a new thing to learn, which caused my brain to rebel and refuse to absorb the lesson. And I didn't want to add dpns to the mix.

Assuming I don't break my hands in the next twenty-four hours, I think it's safe to say that I'll have a new FO to show off tomorrow and a second Ravelympics medal to claim. It'll be a nice way to cap my long vacation too.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

In the round

Between my second and third films of the day I found time to knit in The Oval at Ohio State. There was bench in a nice, cool spot under a tree, so I set up shop for awhile and continued on the market bag. Can't say that I got a lot done--less than I expected to do this afternoon, actually--but it was a welcome pause in the day nonetheless.

I'm not sure what I think of the variegated yarn's look now that I've knitted one ball of it. There's more white in it than I would prefer. I don't know what I expected, except that it isn't exactly what I'm making. I'm not dissatisfied with what I've done, just uncertain if I like it or not. I can be weird this way, but I'll probably come around.

Well, if I'm to get this finished by the time the closing ceremony at the Beijing Olympics ends, I better stop blogging and start knitting.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Citius, Altius, Fortius?

I've placed no expectations upon myself regarding my second Everlasting Bagstopper and the Ravelympics. I'm not sure if I'll have enough time to finish it by Sunday night, and anyway, I've already marched to the top of the podium. Completing this market bag in the next few days would be all bonus.

After ripping through one skein during knit night, though, I'm inclined to believe that I might be able to get it done by the deadline. A quick measurement shows that the body of the bag is halfway finished, although I'm not sure how accurate my measuring is. Regardless, I made terrific progress tonight.

I have a love/hate relationship with deadlines, which I suppose is the same for most people. I know that my motivation is stronger when deadlines are in place, even if that motivation sometimes doesn't kick in until near the zero hour. One of the reasons I wanted to participate in Ravelympics was the extra incentive it provides to accomplish a task. It pushes me a little more to discover what I can do. Will I be up to the challenge over the next three days? We'll see.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On second thought

So I'm knitting another market bag and get to the part where I need to turn the work. It took me a couple moments to remember how the needle can get in a position to pick up stitches. It's not rocket science, but I'm still learning.

I also came to the realization that I didn't need to knit another row to get the needle in place to do this, which is what I did the first time. I could have just turned the knitting around and gone from there. Again, not exactly a genius level observation but a worthwhile one for me.

Picking up stitches is not the easiest thing to do, especially when it comes to determining how much space to leave in between them. I have more rows with the available edge than I need. For instance, I need to pick up fourteen stitches on the short sides, but I could pick up more. I did OK with this on the first short side, but on the second short side I was picking up too many on one half and had to leave larger gaps between the last ones so I could reach the turn that marks the start of the round.

It occurs to me now that a simple solution would have been to drop the stitches I picked up on that side and started over, but this didn't cross my mind at the time. I have another idea for this problem when making a third bag, though. I should pick up more stitches than I need but which correspond to the number of rows or close to it. The next time around I can knit two together at the corners. (I'm thinking I need more along the lines of sixteen or eighteen stitches on the short sides.) This way I'll still be working with the suggested number of stitches and make cleaner corners where I've picked them up.

As it stands, two of the corners look pretty good. They're definite improvements from the last time I did this. One looks kind of wonky but is acceptable. The last corner has more of a hole than I'd like, but I knew I had to cover more ground with the last six picked up stitches. Weaving in the ends should cover it up sufficiently.

Improving on past and current mistakes is one of the benefits of knitting the same thing over and over, something I do that may be alarming to anyone who looks at my projects on Ravelry.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Slow news day

Links, links, links...

What do you do after having a disappointing Olympics? For one New Zealander, the choice is to take a year off and "go knitting".

The world's biggest sock is being knit as I type. (How there isn't an accompanying photo is beyond me.)

There's nothing particularly remarkable in this article about a knitting group that meets in a pub once a month, but I point it out for the laugh-inducing next-to-last line: "The group has also brought knitting to the internet – by setting up its own Facebook group to keep its 100 members up to date with news." Shocking!

The group must have a good public relations person or something because here's another, more thorough piece about them. The bringing knitting to the internet thing is stated again, although a paragraph later the writer acknowledges that the needlecraft has experienced a resurgence due to the information available online. And although it's a small one, Ravelry does manage a mention.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Cotton matters

In a gesture of magnanimity, those on Mount Ravelry decided to permit sign-up slackers like me to participate in the Ravelympics fun after all. This afternoon I strode to the podium and received my medal for completing the Bag-n-Tote Backstroke. Scroll down the sidebar to see what Bobicus Maximus honored me with.

Obviously I was going to knit the bag despite not making the initial cut in time for the knit-along, yet there's something about being allowed in after the fact that pleases me a great deal. I can't explain it. It's like being a grade school kid who does well on an assignment but is more in thrall of the scratch-and-sniff sticker the teacher put on it than the grade.

Fresh off the podium, I was energized to find a new project. I was tempted to aim for a better result on the Everlasting Bagstopper, but the thought of entering a different Ravelympics event was enticing as well. I debated trying my hand at the 4-Corners Dishcloth, but learning the invisible cast on, using waste yarn, and grafting like mad seems slightly too dangerous to attempt for now.

For now I'm going to turn my attention to making another market bag. If I get it done in time for the end of Ravelympics, fantastic. If not, that's OK too. I left the apartment in pursuit of yarn and color inspiration for the second bag. The closest JoAnn's had a limited selection of Sugar'n Cream that didn't do anything for me. Michael's had even less. Hobby Lobby came through again as the best stocker of cotton brand, although at first I was sure if any of the colors were jumping out at me.

I settled on Early American Ombre for the bag's body and Bright Navy for the base, garter stitch edging, and handle. I'm considering doing something crazy and knitting the half of the top edging and handle in Bright Navy and half in Wine. (And when I say half, I mean half of each row, not half of the rounds.) Wine doesn't exactly match up with the similar color in the yarn, so I'm undetermined on that stylistic component for now.

I thought that the balls of variegated yarn were lighter than the single color balls, and sure enough, there's only two ounces versus two and a half. There's probably a good reason why the variegated is more expensive--you get less for the same cost--but it's beyond me. Anyway, I'm restocked and ready to start knitting again.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Podium worthy

Everlasting Bagstopper

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Colors: Dark pine and Jute
Needles: US 5 and US 10 1/2 circulars
Stitches: 44 for base, 116 for body

Since I was too late to the Ravelympics party, I'll have to give myself a medal for making this during the Beijing Olympics. I've knit it in the spirit of the Ravelry knit-along. I started during the opening ceremony and have worked on it diligently while watching (or listening, as the case may be) the Summer Games. So cue up my anthem as I take my spot. I believe I've earned it.

The handle gave me all I could, err, handle. I'm not sure how long I worked on it last night--possibly an hour--but it took around three hours this afternoon to finish it off. I wasn't expecting that. Then there was another hour-plus to graft the handle onto the stitches on a holder and weave in the ends. I've done the Kitchener stitch before, but it's been a year. As I was almost done, I saw that I should have been pulling the yarn tighter while grafting. I tried to hide the problem and strengthen the graft when weaving in the end. I think it'll work.

The color change and a couple extra strands, the remnants of a surprise knot in the middle of the ball, gave me plenty of ends to hide. Due to the nature of the bag's body, I was a bit perplexed as to how to sew them in without them showing and keeping them there. Time will tell if they reappear.

Linen stitch made a nice, firm handle that isn't as stretchy as, say, garter stitch. It will loudly announce every mistake you make. I committed a couple but am still pretty pleased with how the handle looks. I regularly debated the final length and decided to go a couple inches longer than the approximate width of the bag, settling on eighteen inches. As I would discover, the handle is stretchier than I expected and could have been shorter, but that's just something for me to note for the next time.

I had put off going to the grocery store for a couple days because I was determined to make my next visit with this bag. I didn't need to get a lot, although I purchased more than one plastic bag would accommodate. The market bag easily held it all. Next time the orange juice will go in its own bag as I sweated carrying this all the way to the car. I had visions of the handle ripping off and the bag's sides splitting. That would not have been cool.

Overall, knitting this bag was a positive experience. I was reminded how to pick up stitches and do the Kitchener stitch. There are some less than beautiful picked up stitches on the base, but they're go virtually unseen. Plus, I know how to do it better in the future. I learned the linen stitch and sewn bind off.

OK, so all of that's basic stuff, but I think it's safe to say I'm more comfortable making incremental advances than enormous leaps in my knitting. This FO may not be worth a gold medal, but like plenty of athletes in the Olympics, I'm thrilled with a bronze. Thanks for being the teammates cheering me on, providing advice, and pushing me to do something I wasn't entirely convinced I could do.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hard to handle

I've been stuck on binding off and the handle for the better part of the week. Now that I've started knitting it, I don't think it will be much longer until the bag is finished. I spent too much time this afternoon writing a review and finally posting a new one on my other site that I don't have the patience to knit the nine stitch pattern the rest of this evening.

I followed Karen's advice and checked out a Ravelry project that described a simpler handle. The linen stitch is easy, if a bit slow due to switching the position of the yarn after every stitch. Working with smaller needles (and the circs' cable getting in the way) is responsible for taking me longer to knit the handle, but I'm making a dense piece that won't be coming apart. In retrospect I should have made this twelve stitches wide instead of nine, but the narrower strap will work just fine.

That pesky and mysterious extra stitch will be pinned down/woven in when all that remains is sewing in the ends. Success is near!

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Friday, August 15, 2008


Not a whole lot to say today. Went to the latest Woody Allen movie here.

And caught the new Guy Maddin film here.

The weather has been ridiculously good in these parts. Temperature in the 70s, little to no humidity, breezes that slip over one like a silky cloak. I've even had the air conditioning off for a good portion of the week.

I'm off work for most of next week. Being spoiled with this weather, plenty of movies, the Olympics on TV, and a lot of knitting time (when I'm not stuck), it's going to be tough to go back. Better enjoy it while it's still here.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Finishing moves

After kicking around some ideas and doing some exploring, I decided that the best way to bind off for the market bag was to use Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind off. With 116 total stitches, it was tedious but appears to be effective.

After 49 stitches I broke the yarn and slipped the next nine onto a stitch holder. Since I was wondering how I'd connect the yarn without having the strand hanging down, I decided to do the sewn bind off through the stitches on the holder but not remove them from it (obviously). I bound off a few more and then reconnected the yarn.

Everything seemed to be going well until I got near the end. As you see above, there's a gap after the beginning/end of the round followed by what looks like an extra stitch or inadvertent yarn over. I'm not sure what the best way is to deal with it. I think it's too far away to treat it like something that could be knit together with the true last stitch. If I drop it from the needle, it'll just be hanging out there waiting to get snagged on something.

I'm thinking that my only solution is to drop it and figure out some way to weave the end over it and then in. Yes? No? Any clue what I did?

As for the handle, I think I'm going to try the linen stitch. It sounds like it won't stretch as much. Since I'm not planning on slinging this around my shoulder, that's a desirable handle quality.

I'll be returning to knitting flat, so the right side/wrong side business is important. Correct me if I'm wrong, but my first row will be a right side row, won't it?

I should point out that the picture at the top of this post is the right side. The garter stitch "border" came when I joined the new color and did the first row of garter stitch in the round by purling. That's what the directions said to do, although the directions were for something the same color. I don't know that it's a "mistake"--it looks OK--but I've since realized that I probably would have been fine if I'd knit the first row and purled the next.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Still on hold

A not unexpected but not-with-a-lot-of-advance-notice one-night visit from my parents pulls me away from writing much of anything today. Yes, it's the proverbial filler when my time playing hotelier does not permit the fulfillment of the daily blogging obligation.

For fun, an observation:

Getting my dad to state his opinion has reached beyond comical proportions. Whatever you ask him about, it is "all right". (This answer does not indicate approval or disapproval, by the way.) Having done my research to determine its content appropriateness, I took the folks to an advance screening of Henry Poole is Here. Besides dazzling them, I'm sure, with my ability to gain admission without a pass--my version of a Jedi mind trick--I must have displayed a little magic in finding a film with strong spiritual themes for these two pastors to see.

My dad seemed engaged with the film, even leaning forward a bit toward the end. In the minivan on the way back to my place, I asked what he thought. He struggled for something to say. I interjected, "It was all right?" Yep.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On hold

I read and appreciate everyone's advice regarding my market bag handle problem. I did not do anything else with it today, though. I'm not sure how since I didn't really do anything--no, I wasn't parked in front of the TV all day--but the day slipped away from me without this becoming the center of attention. (It didn't help that Ravelry was inaccessible when I might have tried to solve this conundrum. It's too late now to put my mind on it.)

I still don't follow it all. Should I break the yarn for each one of the places where I'd make an I-cord? I don't see where else there'd be a place to attach yarn or any to work with. I haven't a clue what I-cord is--I know, look it up--so that's something else to figure out. Stupid as it is, I don't know what's an appropriate length for a handle. I don't know how to graft, and I'm spooked about trying out a different bind off.

If you're shaking your head and rolling your eyes, yeah, I understand that this is exceptionally obnoxious. It's a confidence issue. I stomp my feet and mutter, "I'm stupid. I can't do it," which I believe and don't believe. I have this strange way of expecting a lot from myself and expecting little or nothing. I know it's not terribly productive or becoming. So let me carry on until it's out of my system, point me in the right way if you can see what's tripping me up, and ignore the rest.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Q & Q

The body of the market bag is finished, but now I'm stuck, stuck, stuck. It's time for a handle, and I'm completely and utterly confused.

Donna was kind enough to leave some instructions in the comments to yesterday's post, but I'm afraid that this help needs some major translation before it gets through my thick skull. Maybe it would be better handled via e-mail, but I figure the collective wisdom out there might crack the code that I can't.

-"Knit halfway round the last round of the top border, put 9 stitches on one side of the bag on a stitch holder, knit the other half to the last 9 stitches, put the first 6 on a holder."

And the questions begin... I assume that I'm not knitting those stitches on the stitch holder. If not, am I able to get around those first nine without making some weird, misshapen thing at that spot? And where it says knit, should that mean bind off? If so, what's a stretchier bind off, per the pattern's instructions?

-"Then I made I-cord from those last three stitches (fairly long -- probably too long -- remember braiding will shorten it by about a third)."

I-cord? Any idea on length? I don't feel like I have any clue to make a guess.

-"Put stitches on holder at the end, break yarn with nice long tail (at least 6 inches)."

So I need three stitch holders?

-"Attach yarn at second three stitches beside where you started the I-cord, do the same; then the same again for the last 3 stitches."

Here's where I'm totally mystified. Where am I attaching the yarn? If it's just stitches on a stitch holder, I don't understand where there's anything to attach to.

-"Braid the three I-cords together. Then graft them to the 9 live stitches on the other side."

Here's where my gender gets in the way. I've never braided anything. Tips? As for grafting...???

I will say that this part of the bag is a major reason why I considered not knitting it in the first place. There's a lot of stuff I haven't done before, which I don't see so much as a challenge but as something to run away from shrieking.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bag of tricks

Having been on the go in recent weeks, it's been nice to take it easy yesterday and today. My Sunday schedule so far: church, knit, nap, knit, exercise, blog. More knitting is to come, I'm sure.

Depending how I measure, I've finished around seven inches of the bag's body. Unless I do some major slacking, I'll be ready to knit a handle (or handles) tomorrow or Tuesday. Suggestions?

I continue to search my mind for why this color combination seems so familiar. Maybe it resembles an old lawn chair. For some reason I also think of tackle boxes. The bag's body reminds me of a planter holder, perhaps due to the ropey color and pattern. Is this some kind of Proustian madeleine? Do I need to develop an auteur theory for knitting?

Of course I've been soaking up Olympics coverage all day. I'm already sick of the McCain attack ad and the payday lending industry's deceptive spot trying to get enough petition signatures in an effort to overturn the state's recent legislation to rein in their usury. And what's with the creepy public service announcement (WMV file) the state is running repeatedly to warn us about pandemic flu? "It will happen again." Talk about killing the Olympic spirit.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

In the bag

With some much appreciated help in the comments and the light over my head turning on, the Everlasting Bagstopper is coming along quite nicely. For awhile I was befuddled how to pick up stitches. I was trying to pick them up clockwise. I could only do one, and even that took quite a bit of maneuvering to pull it through the edge. Eventually I realized that I needed to go counterclockwise. That made my efforts significantly easier, although picking up stitches can still be a challenge.

Thanks to Karen--who I originally thought was this Karen--I had a set number of rounds of stockinette to knit. Of course, if I weren't blind or something, I would have seen that this information is, in fact, in the pattern. I guess I stopped reading the sentence after it talks about the marker for the start of the round.

The next ordeal was getting the stitches to move on the needles when I swapped out the US 5s for the US 10 1/2s. I pushed and pushed and pushed, practically to the point of piercing my hand, but couldn't get them to budge. And then a revelation! If I replace just the needle doing the knitting until the first round is done, then I can actually do something with the stitches. Sometimes it takes me awhile...

As I've knitted the body of the bag I've learned to do the yarn overs and k2togs with less tension. If I knit them as tightly as I ordinarily would, I'll go mad before I'm done with the project.

I have some time until I have to figure out how to put handles on this thing. For now I'll enjoy the knitting and not worry about it. The color combination seems like it's something for tennis or golf equipment in the 1970s. It has an odd pull on me, as though it reminds me of something from my past that I can't quite recall.

I can see myself making several of these bags. I could certainly use a couple to take care of my small grocery store purchases, and I imagine they could come in handy for just about anyone. We'll see how long it takes me to finish one, though.

I've been knitting the bag off and on all day--there's more done than what you see in the photo--while watching the Olympics. I have three HD channels providing coverage and stayed up until nearly 3 a.m. to see the first events. Having taken a couple of fencing classes in high school, it was fun to watch women's sabre, although the action is so fast that it's almost impossible to tell for myself who earned the touches.

Also, good for NBC Universal showing events and match-ups that ordinarily don't get the TV time: France vs. Angola in women's handball, singles badminton matches without US athletes. Sure, I'm interested in watching Michael Phelps and gymnastics, but I like getting a broad view of the Summer Games. There's more available than I could ever watch, but I like having the choice.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

On the sidelines

Due to an oversight on my part, I did not qualify at the Ravelympic Trials and thus am not participating in Ravelympics. (In other words, I thought I could sign up today. Nope.) I'll have to pretend I'm playing alongside the big kids while I knit during these Games.

I've decided to go ahead and try my hand at the Everlasting Bagstopper, although I'm not sure what I'll do when it comes to making handles or knitting the stockinette portion on the base. (The pattern doesn't specify how much of that to knit, thus my confusion and potential stopping point.)

I'm doing the base, top border, and handles in Sugar'n Cream's dark pine and will do the body in jute. Hopefully I have enough yarn. I cleaned out Hobby Lobby's stash of the latter color, so anything else I get will likely have a different dye lot.

I've knit about two inches of the base while watching the Olympics' stunning opening ceremonies. I'm a fan of director Zhang Yimou's Hero and House of Flying Daggers--Curse of the Golden Flower looked great but left me a little cold--so I'm not surprised that he's been able to put together a visually dynamic program. Zhang knows how to do things on a big scale, and boy does this ceremony have that.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

For those about to Ravelympic

OK, I need some help and the sooner, the better. I've been running around like the proverbial headless chicken, so I've neglected to find a project for Ravelympics. I think I know what I want to do, but I have a few too many questions to dive right in. Doing so would be like performing a belly flop from the high platform. So I need some answers before I commit.

I'm planning to knit the Everlasting Bagstopper. I know I've freaked out about the pattern before, but there are some things I'm still not sure about. I understand that the base is knit flat, but after picking up the stitches, how much do you knit in stockinette? The pattern jumps from picking up the stitches to the bag body.

If I'm not messing around with the ribbon handle--actually there's no if about it--how much more additional yarn should I plan to need for that part, and how long should it be?

Is it reasonable to think I can complete this during the Olympics?

I could have sworn I had more questions when I looked at this pattern earlier today, but maybe some of them were resolved in looking at comments addressing my initial irrationality.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

For whom the bell tolls

Having attended a couple minor league games recently and having pondered heading to Akron a day early this past weekend for seeing one there, it was my duty to visit the team in my backyard. After all, the Columbus Clippers are getting ready to play their final games in Cooper Stadium.

One of them there newfangled ballparks will open in the Arena District next year, leaving the future of this 76-year-old stadium in doubt. The old yard isn't flashy but still gets the job done,; however, its location on the south side and the area's reputation are often raised as reasons why more people don't go out to see the hometown heroes. It didn't help that their longtime affiliation with the Yankees ended a couple years ago and was replaced with (ugh) the Washington Nationals.

After tonight the Clippers have just twelve games left here. I imagine that the players won't miss the concrete dugouts, and those fans who don't buy box seats will likely have more comfortable alternatives than the metal seats that the program asks visitors not to bang. There will probably be a better view than the cemetery that can be glimpsed through left center field.

I'm not sure why I haven't gone very often since I've lived here. True, I have no special affection for the team. I follow the Reds and the other Major League clubs, so if I'm going to go to a game, I'll head further south on I-71.

Still, I've been here a few time through the years. As a high school senior some friends and I had free tickets and made the drive east on I-70 to take in a game. All I remember is Oddibe McDowell playing for that day's opponent, going to Schmidt's in German Village, and seeing the TV movie Knight Rider 2000 when I got home. In college I came a few times, including one playoff game that might have even been when they won a minor league title. I saw the presumed Japanese phenom pitcher Hideki Irabu take the mound. A couple times I attended the Ohio Cup, a Reds-Indians exhibition game the day before the regular season started. My college played the crosstown rival in football when the field was covered with Astroturf.

Sliding into my seat behind home plate tonight, nothing seemed all that different from when I last sat in these stands. Oh, the scoreboard looked like it was trying to hold out just a little longer to make it to the end, and Captain Clipper had been replaced by a parrot who wanders the stands with a seal. The songs were the same, although I don't think I heard the two "classics" that embed in your brain and are hard to pry free. The "new" one, "Our Team Our Town", has to be several years old by now. God knows how old "Hometown Heroes" and "Ring Your Bell" are. (Dig that synthesizer.)

If there's one thing that defines a Clippers game, it is the cowbell. I'm not kidding. People ring 'em like mad during the song imploring them to do so as well as when the team does something worthy of approval. Sure, it's hokey and can even be annoying, but to hear them pealing one more time in The Coop...well, it's a part of this city's history that was worth experiencing this final time.

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Sail to the moon

The two-lane road that leads to Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, a suburb of Akron usually listed as Cleveland in tour listings, takes you into the woods and seemingly far removed from civilization. The unpaid parking lots are hilly and unlabeled patches of grass scattered among the grounds that one hopes to recognize when looking for the car after the concert.

This natural backdrop provided a wonderful setting for more than 20,000 in the sold out crowd to watch Radiohead, whose music might best be described as lullabies for robots in a dystopian future. (Or, to use a lazy, not-entirely-accurate comparison that might be useful for the uninitiated, they share some similarities with Pink Floyd and could be said to play art rock.)

My ticket gained admittance to the pit, the open area directly in front of the stage. I knew I lucked into one of the best spots in the house, but walking into the pit slapped me with the realization that I was going to be experiencing a shed show as though I was in a club. The ticket price had seemed reasonable to me considering what other concerts this size cost. Now it seemed like a bargain.

Opening act Grizzly Bear, a critically-acclaimed indie band whose name I knew but music I'd never heard, played a low-key set for 45 minutes that helped set the atmosphere. I imagine they sounded better from my vantage point as they must have been washed out for those at the back of the pavilion, not to mention concertgoers at the rear of the spacious lawn.

Thirty minutes later Radiohead came out. They opened with "15 Step" from In Rainbows, an album performed entirely over the course of the show, and off we were transported for a little more than two hours.

Radiohead is a band that concentrates on crafting albums moreso than singles, so I can often be bad at identifying song titles. I knew everything they played, but I would have been hard-pressed to name the songs. I remember the dynamics here, sonic strokes there, as well as the timbre of Thom Yorke's often operatic singing. Not to discount lyrics, but Radiohead is very much about atmosphere to me.

With a dazzling light show accompanying the music, there was atmosphere aplenty. The spectacle enhanced the experience, but I also have to give credit to something that probably sounds like a dirty word in rock n' roll: professionalism. Yorke mostly eschewed stage banter, and the band quickly segued from one song to the next like a well-oiled machine. This was no small feat considering the number of instrument changes, sometimes within a song, yet it all went off without a hitch or a lag in the flow.

I don't know that I've ever watched a band play their instruments as closely as I did during this concert. I was on Ed O'Brien's side and was intrigued to see how his guitar playing technique changed depending on the song. On one he was strumming the strings at the very top of the neck to get the necessary tone.

Then there was multi-instrumentalist Jonny Greenwood. He played his guitar with a bow. He picked the strings with a violence that would have seemingly torn them off. (Aside: I never would have thought it, but after Monday night I'm convinced "Paranoid Android" is destined for the rarified air of rock's defining songs.) It wasn't uncommon for him to play three instruments in one song. He had a panel of knobs that he would fiddle with like a mad scientist trying to tweak his experiment and a large remote control that looked like something out of a 1950s science fiction film. Seeing how Greenwood and his bandmates create sonic textures was as exciting as the flashing lights.

The fluidity of the concert permitted a feeling of transcendence to creep in. Even without the visual stimulation it was easy to get lost in the wash of guitars, electronic sounds, and Yorke's lilting voice. I can't ignore the fact that my proximity to the stage had a significant impact on my concertgoing experience. Nevertheless, it's extremely rare for me to go to a concert and have the music make everything else fade away. Great band, great concert.

(For one other pic, check out yesterday's post.)

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space

OK, the title comes from a Spiritualized album, but it fits so well with the spell cast at tonight's Radiohead concert that I had to use it. I knew I had a pretty good "seat"--my ticket put me in the pit--but umm, wow...

I'm staying the night in Akron and have to drive a couple hours home in the morning to go to work, so I'm just posting this teaser to get something up today. I'll have a fuller report with plenty of photographs on Tuesday.

Considering I ran into some bad luck seven years ago when I had tickets but didn't get to see them, tonight more than made up for it. Amazing.

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

Make it work

Off and on for the last few days I've been straightening up the apartment and now have it in a condition that I find mostly acceptable. If all goes well after I'm done with this blog entry, I'll finish off the writing I need to do for work and can begin to feel more like I'm on vacation. Sure, I have to go to the office Tuesday, but I'll have crossed off two big tasks that I wanted to get out of the way before kicking back.

Although it would have been nice to have been aimless, I'm pleased that I have been able to get all this done. I'll be able to go to tomorrow's Radiohead concert without fretting over things undone and can take my time heading to work in two days. I can be a terrible procrastinator, so getting a jump on something for once provides a good feeling.

In hopes that this entry is worth your while, let me point you to something of great use to me that turned up in my Google Reader friends' shared items: a guide to fabric care symbols. I've been perplexed by some of the symbols I've seen on yarn labels, so this will be extremely helpful.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Game, set, match

Between having two friends and their thirteen or fourteen-month-old over earlier today and catching up on blog posts I should have read earlier, including the one informing what I'm writing now, I got to thinking about family time.

I suspect that most parents feel at least a little pressure for the big gestures to make memories for their kids--vacations, most notably--but one of the more pleasant times I can recall is something small stretched over years: playing ping pong and (eventually) tennis with my dad.

I don't remember when we first set up a ping pong table in our garage, but I know I spent a lot of hours knocking the little ball around with my dad. We'd play after dinner with 700 WLW's Sports Talk, hosted by Bob Trumpy and then Cris Collinsworth, on in the background. The broadcast would either play over the intercom system in the house--don't ask me why the previous owners installed it--or the old console radio that had AM, FM, and shortwave options.

Kids tend to believe that their fathers are great at everything, and I certainly thought he was accomplished at this game. I also wanted like crazy to beat him. I improved to the point where I could hold my own with him. I learned how to use topspin and backspin, and I developed strategies for where on the table to place my serves and returns. I didn't surpass him, but we could have very competitive games.

The space in which we were playing was less than adequate for a sanctioned set-up. The garage door was close to my back. Anything too far to one side of the table meant I might swat some junk piled up to the sides. The games were often interrupted for rooting out the ball after winning and errant powerful hits. Whether digging around in the board games or in back of the deep freeze behind my dad or the old hospital bed, croquet set, fishing equipment, and lawn chairs down at my end, finding the ball could be a challenge. (Oh yeah, there was also a mousetrap.) If we opened the garage door during the warmer months--the house wasn't air conditioned--there was a good chance I'd have to run into or across the street to collect the ball.

The table wasn't always level and at some point started slanting down at my end, allowing my dad to profit from shots that would clip the edge of the table and be impossible to swat back. The ceiling was low enough that some spectacular saves would be thwarted by being hit into it.

Still, I wouldn't have traded this less than perfect space for a sizable rec room. The garage was sort of its own zone, where it was just the two of us playing and talking.

It wasn't until I got into high school and learned how to play tennis that we traded some of the table tennis time for the big court. My parents must have played tennis together at some point as we did have a couple wood frame rackets around the house. I was a bigger fan of baseball, football, and college basketball than I was of tennis, but I followed the matches on TV on a regular basis. I always liked watching Wimbledon and continue to associate it with the 4th of July. I also associate it with a day that my parents inevitably decided that we needed to trim the hedges and rake and bag the cuttings. (I hated that.)

We had a small park next to our house, so we could walk a short distance to play on one of the two concrete tennis courts. I know that on several occasions we'd play until the sun had set enough that reaction time was severely hindered by obscured vision and the community center's parking lot lights turned on. I played one of my brothers from time to time, although he constantly irritated me with his insistence on hitting everything as softly as he could so I'd always have to run to the net.

We didn't take many vacations when I was a kid, but from this side of things, I can say that it didn't matter. Those countless hours playing table tennis and tennis were more valuable and less expensive than any trips never taken. Last weekend I had a small taste of those days when he and I faced off in the tennis that's part of Wii Sports. (He, my youngest brother, and I spent more time duking it out at the virtual bowling alley.) No, it wasn't the same, but it was nice to be reminded of the time he gave me...and to best him on the court again.

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Friday, August 01, 2008


Following up on my musings the other day about life in rural areas or small towns/cities, one of the things I like about living in a larger metropolitan area is the wealth of entertainment/cultural options. For instance, one big local coup is the upcoming Andy Warhol exhibition, its only North American stop.

It's cool that on a day like today I can decide on a whim to see Gnarls Barkley in concert. While not all of the hot bands come through Columbus, we get a fairly high percentage of them. If not, there's a pretty good chance they'll land somewhere within a couple hours of here along I-71. This was one of those shows I didn't even know about until a day or two ago, but I thought it might be fun to go if I could get a ticket. I am on vacation, after all.

I had a busy day doing work (seeing The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Swing Vote, and The Wackness) and then moseyed over to the Newport to catch the concert. For this show it would be a good thing to bring the funk. Standing on the floor prior to the performance I realized that I definitely had. Unfortunately this was the funk of the malodorous variety. I was completely mortified, not to mention mystified. I'd bathed and put on freshly washed clothes. Sure, the day was a scorcher, and I'd perspired plenty on my walk from my car to the OSU campus area theater and then to the concert venue but...this?

Now, my powers of invisibility are strong, but this scent, which seemed to come in waves, was less easy to hide. The idea of standing around in a crowded space for two hours until the headliners came on was making me sweat more. I had half a mind to leave. Instead I staked out a new spot toward the back and away from the fans of the air-circulating kind. The stink seemed to disappear, which let me relax, but I tried to maintain a larger buffer around me just in case.

As for the concert, I was distracted to get the full enjoyment out of it. Between fearing that I carried an unmistakable stink and getting annoyed with the constant chatter from those in attendance, it was difficult to attain any of the transcendent moments that music (and live music in particular) can deliver.

Seriously, why do people pay good money to go to concerts and then carry on the most inane conversations possible or keep popping open their cell phones, with their irritating glows, to talk or text? A half hour into Gnarls Barkley's set I heard one woman near me screech, "You're still here!" to someone she knew who passed by. Gee, I'd hope so. It cost more than a cover charge to get in the door. Every time I looked over during her incessant chatter, she had her back to the stage. As for the phones, I'm glad that now everyone is important enough that they can't turn off the devices for a couple hours lest they miss a call or text message.

Anyway, there were no crazy costumes, just Cee-Lo, Danger Mouse, and the backing band in suits, bowties, and (briefly for the supporting players) Buddy Holly glasses. Danger Mouse bobbed his head like a camel while playing the organ. Cee-Lo looked like a roly-poly infant blessed with a set of pipes that gives the band a distinctive vocal sound reminiscent of old rock n' roll and rhythm n' blues.

It was a good show, although nothing remarkable. Even if they do have just two albums to draw from, the relatively brief performance time--about an hour and ten minutes by my count with plenty of downtime between songs--was irksome for a mid-priced ticket. The cover of Radiohead's "Reckoner" was quite nice, though, and "Smiley Face" put a bounce in the step as they left the stage.

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