Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Since I don't know how many of you read the comments--and since I responded late in the game--I wanted to follow up on last night's venting. As I wrote in the comments to that post:
I don't believe that common courtesy is dead, but I do think that acting with disregard for others in public is more prevalent. Perhaps society as a whole will figure out how to integrate technology and politeness. Maybe it won't.

But so help me, with as much time as I'm in movie theaters, I've observed plenty of thoughtless behavior. Age doesn't play into it either. I've seen senior citizens answering phone calls and carrying on conversations from their seats.

Anyway, I was pretty steamed about those jokers last night.
That's not much of a post for today, but I'm worn out from a very busy day. I'll also cop to being exhausted by Presidential politics, predictions of economic doom and gloom (and worse), and astonishingly inept Cincinnati Bengals football. (OK, I'm joking about that last one, but watching that bumbling team is as close as one can come to getting depressed from spectator sports.)

So I'm going to watch some TV and try to recharge for tomorrow. How are you holding up in this most interesting and most vexing of times?


Monday, September 29, 2008

Common courtesy is dead

Tonight I headed downtown to see The Cardinals in concert at the Palace Theatre. For all intents and purposes, though, it was a Ryan Adams concert. His comments from the stage suggest he'd rather have released the forthcoming Cardinology and last year's Easy Tiger under the name of his backing band. The label likely insisted that his name has more commercial clout and nixed its removal from the covers. Nevertheless, the concert was booked under the band's name.

Adams had a reputation for being mercurial on stage, at least until he sobered up. The performer up there tonight was laid back and seemed pretty happy throughout the two sets covering nearly two and a half hours, but Adams did take a few moments to address something that I've often thought must irritate artists. When one particularly vocal audience member yelled repeatedly for a specific song, Adams stopped and explained why he thought it was rude, although he did it in an amusing, rather than obnoxious, way.

He hoped that what they were playing was taking people on an entertaining ride and that they would just enjoy the journey. He said that he wasn't up there instructing everyone how to sit in their seats between each song. (I've always thought that screaming for a song is a way to ensure that a band doesn't play it.) As someone who has gone to my share of concerts, I've often been bugged by such concertgoers, who come across as very demanding and/or smug. (Ooh, you know about some rare songs. Points for you, buddy!)

If only this was the most atrocious behavior of people in the audience. Sadly, no. In some unknown way that I have of attracting such specimens, three or four of them took up residence behind me shortly before the concert started. Then they proceeded to talk through the first fifty minutes, frequently cracking vulgar jokes and acknowledging their obnoxiousness. They knew they were annoying people, and they let everyone know that they didn't care. Finally, a belligerent guy in the row in front of me yelled back at them, which quieted them a bit but apparently gave license to the couple in front of me to start chatting.

It never ceases to amaze me that people will go to concerts and behave like they are in their living rooms. Of course, the movies are just as bad. Saturday morning I went to see Eagle Eye with the thought that the theater would be free of audience distractions. (Half of the film overlapped with the Ohio State football game.) Only five other people were in attendance, but wouldn't you know it, two people pulled out their bright, glowing, distracting iPhones during the film and browsed and texted for as long as ten minutes at a time. One guy pulled his out again as the film reached the pivotal scene. I saw someone else leave around this time, thinking that she was going to complain to a theater employee. Nope. When I left at film's end, I saw that she had just gone to the rear of the auditorium to mess around on her phone. At least she got out of the line of sight.

This kind of rudeness--and I won't get into cell phones in the classroom--to know that it's commonplace and seemingly considered acceptable. If so, common courtesy is dead.

(Tonight does let me strike off another of my greatest concerts never. Since I don't know if I'd bother to see Oasis if they rolled into town, I'm glad I've been able to check Ryan Adams and Radiohead off the list after missing shows I had tickets to.)

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Secret knitting

I'm catching up on the first season of Pushing Daisies, which has, of all things, a male character who knits in secret (or at least as far as I've seen in two episodes). It is somewhat disorienting to see this dramatized. After all, I don't expect that men who secretly knit are common.

Playing the crafty private investigator Emerson Cod is Chi McBride. Again, not exactly the type you'd anticipate seeing wielding the needles on TV. There he is, though, being introduced as someone who knits to reduce stress and is not fond of knitting in public. To be sure, these character details are few, and I don't have reservations about knitting in public in most cases. Still, I was a little taken aback at seeing this part of me reflected on the screen.

I secretly knitted in my office a couple times last week, so it is something I've been thinking about again. I remain of a mind that it's best not to reveal my knitting secret at work--just be careful sending patterns to the department's office printer--and certainly won't be slapping my name on this blog anytime soon. I know it probably seems silly at this point, but it feels like the appropriate thing to do.

Perhaps the writer who decided to give McBride's character this quirk chose it because knitting can appear twee and retro, qualities Pushing Daisies has in spades. Maybe making it secret can be explained away because it fits in with the show's larger themes of interpersonal connection and longing. Whatever the reasons, the depiction hit home. Hopefully, though, I won't be needing needles on me to extricate myself from a body bag.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

One foot to go

I think I have the hang of this sock knitting now.

I was determined to finish the first sock of the pair today. As you can see, I succeeded. Sure, there's room for improvement on the second one. Yesterday I wrote that I picked up stitches mostly through single loops, which has left some small holes at that point. There's a small hole where the gusset begins on the right and below the ankle. There's the hint of a ladder through the middle of the foot. (It looks OK head on, but viewed from an angle it's more noticeable. And of course I know it's there.)

The sock does fit, although getting it around my heel takes some work. When I tried it on while on the needles and when I put it on after weaving in the ends, I pulled the whole sock on and then wiggled the cuff over my heel. The sock fits really well, but the cast on row should be looser. It's a good thing I restarted knitting this twice because the final cast on is not as tight as the previous two. Would making the cuff slightly longer also help, or is it simply a matter of casting on more loosely?

But enough nitpicking over minor things. No one will be able to see the little flaws. What counts is that I like how the colorway knitted up, it's the right size, and I had no trouble making it. Since my first socks were made from worsted weight yarn--and thus used fewer stitches on bigger needles--I wondered how long of a haul it would be until I finished one of these with sport weight yarn. It took me about a week to make one, which seems reasonable considering from the heel to the tips of the toes the sock is 11 1/2 inches long.

My typical knitting routine has been to make the same projects over and over. Socks are a perfect example of the benefit of such repetition. I understand what was tripping me up on previous sock knitting attempts. I am improving from one sock to the next. Why, I might even be ready to tackle the oversized sock after completing this pair.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Heel we go

One of my goals for this pair of socks is to avoid having holes at the ankle. Via the Ravelry wiki I checked out a help page on pickup up stitches and got good advice on spacing them out. I'm not sure how to differentiate between loops and bumps in selvage edges--they all look like loops to me--but it made sense to pick up two of them and then skip one before picking up two more.

I turned the heel and started shaping the gusset while doing some secret knitting at the office. I felt pretty good about how the picked up stitches went, but as I look at the sock now, at least one of the sides is going to have that gap. Hmm. Well, there's another one to go yet.

I can also see that I should have been picking up the stitches through two loops. Going through just one loop looks to have left some small holes. It's not the end of the world or anything, but I wish I would have done better. Sure, I could rip out and do it again, but that won't be happening. My knitting is fine functionally. This is merely a picky thing about appearance.

And oh that appearance. I'm happy with how the socks look and how the variegated yarn is knitting up. Part of my initial resistance to knitting socks was that the FO examples I saw were usually bright, crazy colors that I wouldn't wear and wouldn't go with my clothes, and the zebra-like striping of my first pair didn't exactly thrill me. I wouldn't call this WIP "beautiful". The color palette is too subdued for that adjective to apply, in my mind. Maybe "sharp" or "smart" are better descriptors. Whatever the word, I like it.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008


What day is it? No, really, remind me.

OK. Got it.

Last week and this week have been a blur. October's almost here?! Since when?! My work isn't physically demanding, but the mental rigors and wear and tear from dealing with emotional 18-to-22-year-olds can be draining, especially at the school year's beginning. I'm wiped out already.

Of course, I started knitting to help reduce work-related stress. Despite feeling more like going home and collapsing tonight, I headed from the office to knit night. I needed some dedicated knitting time, and this was as good of a reason as any to squeeze some in. I'm no less tired from having gone, but I do have some nice progress on the sock to show for it. That'll work.

I'm ready to turn the heel and then pick up stitches, so I'm hoping that I might finish the first sock this weekend. I was thrown a little by the instructions for knitting the heel flap. Rather than just knitting half the stitches, the pattern calls for knitting a quarter of them, purling half of them, and then working the flap. Now I understand the reason for such stitch rearrangement, but it took several moments for logic to cut through my mental fog.

I think the sock is looking pretty good so far. I'm very pleased with my knitting, so there's a lot riding on picking up the stitches and not leaving any holes. Don't mess it up now! If mistakes are to be made, they can wait for tomorrow, by which time I should have slightly refilled the tank.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Independent study

So I write about learning and stuff, which leads to the inevitable question of what I want to learn. That's a good question and one without an easy answer.

Despite the goals I set for myself and have achieved with some success, my path through the knitting world has not had clearly defined objectives. I've just kind of wandered into this foreign land and done whatever strikes me at the moment. It might be something I'm curious to do or something suggested to me. It might come out of the blue, like the desire to finish my first pair of socks after putting it off for over a year.

I have some patterns in my Ravelry queue, but it's probably in need of some pruning. I don't look at that part of my notebook very much. What do I want to learn? Beats me.

For the time being I'm enjoying knitting socks. I'm going to need to finish my Red Scarf Project donation relatively soon. Beyond that, I can't say what I want to knit or learn. It's not a big deal. It's probably how I can keep a manageable stash since I don't hoard yarn in the hope of figuring out what to use it for later.

If pressed to name some things, I suppose I ought to learn intarsia so I can bring some conclusion to my first design experiment. That would also come in handy for a Blue Jackets scarf idea I've been kicking around. Or maybe Fair Isle is better. I have no idea.

I would like to learn how to join two colors seamlessly (if that's the proper word). And I probably ought to figure out how to do that blasted single crochet and back stitching so I can finally complete the formerly secret projects.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New beginnings

Fall is my favorite season, without a doubt. Since my whole life has pretty much been tied to the academic calendar, first as a student and then as a college employee, I associate it with a return to normal rhythms and new beginnings. The cool mornings and evenings, which will hopefully be here soon enough, soften the days. The weather tends to be less extreme and encourages renewed focus and hibernating instincts.

Contrary to the slower movement autumn wants to usher in, the season is often insanely busy. For instance, we are in just the second week of classes, but the first one was so overwhelming that I feel like I'm in need of break already. Today provided one in the excuse of needing to wait for a cable repair worker to come to my place. (Discovery HD kept showing as currently unavailable and refused to pop up when my cable box was reset remotely.) I could have changed the time of the service call, but I got permission to come home in the middle of the day.

I did some work from home while I waited. It was really nice to enjoy being out of the office when I would ordinarily be there. The technician never did come--I cancelled the appointment after he was 45 minutes overdue and a channel check showed the problem had fixed itself--but those few hours allowed me to reenergize for the forthcoming exhaustion.

I carved out a few minutes to knit and was reminded of how critical it can be to helping me grab a portion of the slowness that the season suggests I indulge. I look forward to seeing what I'm able to accomplish this fall. I've been knitting for almost two years, yet there's still so much for me to explore and enjoy. It's my time for learning just like the students who show up waiting to discover what their tuition gets them. Perhaps I should cut myself the break I give them and just concentrate on trying my best, reveling in the process, and seeing what happens.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

To frog or not to frog

After some time for reflection, wise words from LittleWit, and comparing this WIP sock with a washed (and less stretched out) handknit sock, I have decided to leave well enough alone and keep working on this one without a change in needles or stitches.

I've been having trouble sleeping for at least a week, and I think it's catching up to me in the form of crankiness and pessimism. (You could probably chart the darkness of my mood by how late I write blog entries.) And yes, I get a little hyper when I think I may be doing something incorrectly. I really don't want to redo this sock, but that's matched by my silly stubbornness to avoid gauge swatches.

The clincher, though, was when it was pointed out that a ribbed sock will be more forgiving on fit than stockinette. Since these socks have ribbing and I can get my foot into it, I don't think I should have to waste any more time worrying about it. I probably will, but I feel certain enough that I'm in the clear.

I had some initial buyer's remorse when I first started knitting the sock. Do I like the yarn's colors? Really? From what I've produced so far, I don't have reason to worry. These colors will certainly be more versatile. The variegation seems less predictable too, which ought to make the socks less likely to develop zebra-like stripes.

By restarting this sock twice I suspect that I finally found the least (and appropriate) tension for the cast on row. The cuff seems stretchier. Despite my concerns, I think this is going to turn out quite well whenever I'm able to finish.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Uncertain is the nicer way to put it

So I've started this new sock for the third time. I knitted eight rounds of the leg and began to worry that the sock still might not be big enough. I couldn't try it on because the dpns get in the way, so I took the project off the needles and pulled it on. I could get my foot through it. If I were to add any stitches or go up a needle size, it seems like it might be too big. I'm good to go, right?

I cast on for a third time and have knit back to the point where I frogged the WIP after trying it on this morning. And you know what? I look at it and think that it doesn't look like it should fit. It's a strange position to be in. I have empirical data that should have convinced me I'm fine, but I continue to fear that I'll invest hours into it and discover it is too small.

Maybe it's because the cuff isn't stretched out yet. Maybe it's because it will be too small. Whatever the case, I've put the sock aside for the rest of the night.

As for my adverse reaction to sweater vests, I am willing to soften my hardline stance after being given potential project links in the comments. This and this seem like they'd be OK in theory, although I'm not so sure about wearing a short sleeve shirt with the latter. These appear more stylish than what I see senior citizens wearing on football Saturdays. Also, it comes down to thinking I'll look like an idiot and sticking to the conservative instead. Like most men, it's fair to say that I don't think I have a style or confidence in an individual fashion sense.

The new Mason-Dixon Knitting book was released last week. After flipping through it at a bookstore, I'm glad I didn't order it blindly. I have zero use for the preponderance of women's and kids' clothing patterns. The Fair Isle section might be instructive as colorwork remains a mystery to me. The steeking instructions might also be worthwhile if I ever do that insane technique. Despite the photographic evidence, I have a hard time believing it doesn't create a disaster. It's counterintuitive.

I'm sounding really skeptical these days, aren't I?

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

S is for Super Socks

The Letter People and ONline, the German manufacturer of this yarn (made in Italy), are in agreement that S is for Super Socks and Supersocke. I've started and restarted on a new pair of socks with this yarn as I try to get the correct gauge.

Granted, I'm not doing that in the conventional way. Initially I cast on the number of stitches recommended for the men's size. After four rows of the cuff I suspected that what I was making wouldn't be big enough. I ripped it out and cast on four more stitches, which the pattern lists as a "bigfoot" size. My feet are not extraordinarly large, but apparently the yarn and needle combination I'm using would suggest that.

Now I know I should be doing a gauge swatch, but I'm stubborn and don't want to be bothered with it. I've compared the stretchiness of what's on the needle with socks I've purchased, so for now I'm going to continue in the belief that what I'm knitting will fit. I expect I'll be regularly trying on this project to ensure that there won't be a size problem.

Based on my limited perusing of sock yarns, it looks to me like almost all of them are variegated or self-striping. Is this a fair observation? Solid colors, which are the safer choices I'd wear, seem to be rare breeds. My guess as to what this yarn will look like knit up is blue primarily with mottlings of brown and gray. So far that appears to be true, although I've only done eight rounds.

As for the sweater vest future project suggestion, I'm not sure that's my thing. Sweater vests seem really uncool, not that I'm going to be recognized as a hipster anytime soon. Perhaps my view of the item is colored by its association with Coach Sweater Vest, but it just seems like something for old people or ironic fashionistas. Trying to convince me through the "no need to knit sleeves" argument is somewhat persuasive, but the fact that I might never wear it cancels it out and then some. (I own zero sweater vests, for what it's worth.)

I'm not saying never, but I'm not saying it'll happen either. Yeah, I'm a stick in the mud sometimes, even if saying that in regard to sweater vests makes no sense whatsoever.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Rick and Renault enter the fog

My divulging at prior knit nights that I have never been to Knitters Mercantile has been met with much surprise. From what I gather, it is The LYS in the area. As a Columbus knitter, my failure to visit was nothing less than a stain. I went today. Not out of peer pressure, mind you. That's the fastest way to get me not to do something. No, I decided that it was time, especially since I was in the market for sock yarn.

The short drive was hampered slightly by a traffic light still out from Sunday's windstorm. It sounded like the store has been closed all week, so luckily power was restored there by the time I dropped in for my initial trip there.

I was recognized by an employee and fellow knit night-er, so in no time she made some suggestions for the pattern I've chosen to knit next. I decided to go with the ONline Supersocke 6-fach, which is 75% superwash wool and 25% polyamid. (Since the light in my place at night is insufficient for photographing yarn, I'll try to post a picture of it tomorrow.) It's variegated with approximately three shades of blue, some brown, gray, and white. I splurged somewhat on it, so I better be more satisfied with it. Next time it's likely Knit Picks sock yarn for me. (This was something of an instant gratification purchase.)

I also needed the appropriate size of dpns, so I bought a set of Brittany US 4s in birch. I'm hoping they won't catch the yarn quite as much as the Clover Takumi bamboo dpns I've used.

So, I'm all set to start another pair of socks, although I need to recover from this frantic first week of classes and home electricity interruption first.

Note/question to Donna, per her last comment: a vest? Explain/justify. I need some convincing.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

On the right feet

Perhaps you recall that I made a pair of socks. Today I wore them, incongruously enough, under a pair of Chuck Taylors.

I will admit that they are more comfortable than the white cotton socks, my usual daily hosiery, that can be purchased in six-packs anywhere you look. (One job benefit is not having to wear dress shoes every day. Sneakers it is for me.) My handmade socks may be a tad too thick for current temperatures. Still, it was nice to have something more comfortable on my feet all day.

So I suppose you're wondering if this means I'm joining the sock knitting cultists, err, enthusiasts. I can't say I've reached that level of knitting ardor, but I can see the appeal and intend to continue. Depending on what tomorrow's schedule brings, I may even go in search of some yarn for a new pair. Yes, I still have unfinished business with some other sock yarn, but I remain unready to deal with it.

You all are in the know about sock yarn, so I turn to you for opinions and suggestions. Favorite fibers and yarns?

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two of a kind


Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Color: 39 (variegated green)
Needles: US 6 dpns
Stitches: 44

Miracles do happen. After a thirteen month hiatus, I finished this pair of socks. The funny thing is that I made the second one in two days, more or less. I even *gasp* enjoyed it and understood what the sock knitting maniacs out there like. You know who you are.

The break illustrated that I have progressed as a knitter. The first sock (on the left in both of the above pictures) has a looser fit and isn't knit quite as well. It looks just a little wonky, like an exaggerated version of the Platonic sock ideal, while the second is closer to the true form.

On the first day of my return to sock knitting, I knitted the cuff, leg, and heel flap. The heel flap looked slightly off, as though it were not wide enough, but I attributed this to knitting more tightly. I made an error while turning the heel and bravely (and somewhat stupidly) removed the needle and frogged this part as well as the flap. Due to all the slipped stitches, I couldn't figure out how to get them back on the needle. Granted, it helps if you rip out a stitch at a time instead of the whole row, but my foolishness was an unexpected blessing. For you see, I had misread the directions. The pattern for the heel stitch goes like this:

Row 1 [RS]: [Sl 1, k1] to end
Row 2 [WS]: Sl 1 , p to end

I had the bright idea that the bracket-free second row was supposed to be knit like the bracketed first row. This was a deliberate choice despite what the directions clearly show. This was responsible for my slightly narrower heel flap. I had a devil of a time getting the stitches onto the needle and wasn't sure they were all turned the right direction, but it all worked out for the best.

On both socks I have holes below the ankle. It's where I'm supposed to pick up the stitches. Note to self: pick them up closer to the last stitch on the working needle. Having encountered this problem on the first sock, I thought I had been more attuned to this problem. At least the hole is on the other side, which means that I can hide the holes to some degree by wearing the first one on my left foot and second on my right.

My biggest improvement is eliminating the ladder on the bottom of the foot. I think you can make it out on in this picture, especially if you click and enlarge it. I focused on the tension when moving to each new needle and pulled the first and last stitches tight. My tightness got the better of me on the cuff as it could stand to be a looser, but that's something easy to fix in the future.

So there they are, my first socks. They're far from perfect, but I'm proud that I was able to teach myself. When I made the first one, I didn't think I could do it. Calculating the proper stitch count remains an issue, but at least the actual work involved is something I can manage. Who knew?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I've got the power

And the power is back. Going by my clock radio, it appears that the electricity was restored around 12:45 p.m. today, but I have one more adventure in no home power to dispense. Then I'll write about the socks...tomorrow.

Last night I needed to write movie reviews for work, and one laptop battery's capacity wasn't going to cut it. Internet access wasn't a necessity; a working wall outlet was. The easiest and closest spot was Starbucks. The place was empty when I entered, but before long other powerless, wandering souls streamed in. The music and conversations were too loud. I couldn't concentrate, so I packed up and headed to a bookstore.

At this point I had decided to chuck the writing and finish the toe on the sock. The coffee shop section of Borders seemed highly populated for 9p.m. on a Monday, but there were plenty of people looking for available sockets or anywhere that wasn't a darkened home. I plopped myself down, finished the sock, and then wondered where I could go next.

The answer, for any of you wondering what can provide light, power, and a quiet work space after the usual options have closed, is: Tim Horton's. The donut chain is open 24 hours, but as I found out, they don't lock the doors until 2 a.m. Perfect.

I bought a donut but not a coffee. Some evening java at Starbucks was already a bad idea if I wanted to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Then I set up my computer, briefly tapped into some unsecured wi-fi ripe for the picking from a nearby salon, and pounded out a significant portion of what I needed to write. The only movement in the place was employees going out for smokes.

As I pulled into my apartment complex's parking lot, I again noticed how light the night sky seemed without illumination sources on the ground. The moon was stunningly bright and possessed beauty and power that is diminished when competing with our artificial light sources. I took some time to look at the stars and see if I could identify any constellations. I took an astronomy class in college--there's the liberal arts for you--but it's been ages since I thought much about what I learned then. The night sky was easier to scan without the light pollution, something that was a sore spot around here for those who didn't want to see the Big Ear Radio Observatory closed.

I was hoping to have power when I got home tonight, but when I drove up and saw that it was back, I had a little regret that I wouldn't be able to look up and marvel at what's overhead like I did last night.

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Monday, September 15, 2008


Power's still out while I type this backdated entry. These first two photos were taken during Sunday's windstorm.

Then there's the aftermath the next morning. (Actually, it still looks like this.)

From what I've heard, this is fairly typical around town. Other than driving to work and searching for places to plug in a computer last night, I haven't had a good look around. The scuttlebutt is that my area might get power back on Wednesday...or it could be Sunday.

By the way, the second sock is done.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Blown away

My September 14 Blog 365 entry comes to you on the late side because the remnants of Hurricane Ike paid us a rude visit Sunday and knocked out my power...and the electric of approximately 300,000 other people in Franklin County. Last I knew, which was 10 a.m. Monday, it was still out. Going by reports that place nearly sixty percent of the power company's customers still being without service, I expect I'll be returning to a darkened apartment tonight.

The windstorm that blew into town was like nothing I've ever experienced. Before sitting down to watch the Bengals game on TV, I walked over to a Chinese restaurant to get some lunch. It was windy but not exceptionally so. An hour or so later I could hear and see the wind blowing a lot harder. I also could hear the shingles on the roof being ripped off and tree branches hitting the apartment building. This went on with varying levels of intensity until 9 p.m. The fastest wind measured in Columbus was 75 mph. Apparently the damage wreaked across Ohio was equivalent to a tornado hitting the entire state.

Now I can't say that I was terribly concerned because the building held up well. Some unexpected bangs on the walls and the shearing of shingles were disconcerting to hear, but it's not like a tree came crashing through. If all the building suffered was some lost shingles, no worries; however, having lived in an apartment where I had water leaking in from the ceiling, I am fretting about the potential for a repeat of that mess. One of the biggest breaks this area got was the absence of rain accompanying the wind.

I experienced brownouts throughout the afternoon, but a little after 6 p.m. the power went out and did not return. I'd been knitting the sock, which would have been done yesterday if not for the blackout, but had to stop when the apartment became too dark. I opened the blinds to both storm window doors on the west and east ends of my place to let in what outside light remained, but that didn't last long.

With all the talk of downed power lines, collapsing trees, and inoperative traffic lights, going out wasn't an option. So, what did I do with nothing to fix for dinner and nothing to keep me preoccupied? I ate a piece of leftover cake that I bought a week ago from the grocery and listened to the local AM radio station providing reports. Quite the exciting evening.

I laid on the floor and listened to locals tell their weather-related tales to the radio host. Then, some words from their sponsors, which tended toward the sham medical products that dominates so much of AM radio advertising. I noticed that the night sky wasn't as dark as it usually looks. Do all of our manmade lights turn it blacker? Yeah, I was pretty bored.

After four hours of talk radio chatter, I moved to the iPod, which lulled me enough that I started to feel tired. I woke up around 5:30 a.m. and clicked on the emergency radio to check if work was closed. The announcer mentioned some places and then directed us to their website for the full list. Hey genius, if I don't have power, chances are I can't go online.

I'm inconvenienced but, I must stress, not upset. Certainly I have nothing to complain about in comparison to what people down south are experiencing. I've lost temporary access to my things and routine, but both will be back eventually none the worst for wear. The power company says seven days or more, but surely where I am I'll have it back before then, right? At least work has the internet.

More on the second sock on Monday night if the electric is on, Tuesday if not...

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The return of the sock

Almost fifteen months have passed since I finished my first sock. Today I started knitting the second again. Why now? I don't know. I just had the itch to do it.

It's been over a year since I've engaged in sock knitting of any kind. A different, too large sock killed my desire to keep knitting hosiery--I still haven't ripped out that sucker--but as I worked on this second sock, I decided that the long break was worthwhile.

When I started my sock knitting I did not have a lot of experience knitting in the round. I was often confused by the right side/wrong side thing. After making all those hats last winter, I have a better grasp on what I'm doing in the round. I also have a clearer understanding of how to read the knitting. I should be improved at picking up stitches after needing to use the technique with the market bags. While I need to look it up again, I should do ssk correctly now.

So, sock knitting should be a more pleasant experience this time around. I'm excited to do it and think I'm figuring out how to fix some of the problems I'm running into. I have ladders in the cuff, but I think I've tightened the yarn sufficiently that those will go away in the leg. I'm not sold on the variegated yarn that I'm using, but I have positive feelings about this project after the extended layoff. It doesn't hurt to feel like I know what I'm doing.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Round up

My current project, the Scrunchable Scarf for the Red Scarf Project, is approximately half finished. It's slightly longer than three feet. Since the pattern doesn't have a lot of stretch in it, I'm debating making it longer than six feet. I may not have much choice in the matter, though. I've almost finished the first hank and took the second one back to the LYS today to have it wound. (They'd been busy the day I bought it, and I wasn't sure if I was going to need a second.) Considering that the scarf is relatively narrow, I'm surprised it's taken as much yarn as it has.

My next project remains undetermined. I've been thinking about doing something quick (and non-wearable) for one of my brothers, but am stumped as to what it might be. Suggestions?

My Everlasting Bagstoppers have a habit of calling attention to themselves when I go to the grocery. Because it's rare for me to be buying a lot at once, I almost always use the self-checkout lane. The problem is that the computer measuring the weight in the bagging area balks at the placement of something there before anything has been scanned. I have to get the attention of the cashier, who may or may not be nearby, before I can proceed.

I'm not sure if the presence of my bags throws the computer off in other ways, but I've never had an issue with the self-checkout machine not recognizing that I have indeed placed the item in the bag. Tonight it just didn't want to cooperate with each of the first three items. Maybe the cashier is entering an approximate weight for my bags that's throwing it off?

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Don't encourage him

At knit night one hypothetical yarn was referred to as "variegated clown barf", which is a pretty funny and evocative name for a colorway if it existed. Unfortunately for me (because I spent way too much time on it) and for you (because you're going to read it), I felt compelled to revive something I regularly did in high school: compose allegedly funny Top Ten lists.

This is where the blog dips its proverbial toe into the disreputable pool, at least a little, although I rejected some ideas on the grounds that they were too crude or potentially offensive. (I'm not particularly into gross-out humor, but this list demands it.)

To lower expectations and absolve myself from bothering to publish it in the first place, I acknowledge that this list isn't funny and certainly contains nothing as inspired as "variegated clown barf". There's a good idea or two, but having batted around jokes for longer than I'd care to admit, I figured it might as well see the light of day.

Top Ten Rejected Yarn Colorway Names

10. Deep Thigh Bruise Ombre
9. Hangman's Noose
8. Hemophilia (not colorfast)
7. Urinal Cake
6. Agent Orange
5. Montezuma's Variegated Revenge
4. Khmer Rouge
3. Skid Marks (self-striping)
2. Purger's Delight
1. Golden Showers

I'm so ashamed.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Food for thought

I cannot imagine why the question and answers came to me as I woke up at various times in the middle of the night, but for some reason one of the things I was mulling over while I slept (and when it was interrupted) was fast food restaurant franchises that no longer exist. Seriously, I don't know what brought it on.

I'm not exactly sure what thoughts came during waking life and sleeping life, but I came up with three while dismissing a fourth for a nitpicky reason. Here are my answers to a question no one was asking:

1. Burger Chef

In terms of logos it seems fitting that the Burger Chef which used to be in Englewood, Ohio when I was a kid was replaced by an Arby's. Just trade the chef's hat for a cowboy hat on the sign outside the restaurant. Burger Chef has been long gone--the Wikipedia page suggests that the local change may have happened around 1982--but it's a perfect example of whatever mystery my brain was trying to solve in the early a.m. hours. I haven't thought of this place in forever, so I'm a little curious to poke around The Burger Chef Reliquary to see if I recognize anything.

2. Rax

Until Rax started going downhill, I preferred it over Arby's. Their roast beef sandwiches were better. The salad bar was ahead of its time for a fast food place, and I loved their mint chocolate chip shakes. The food was memorable, and so was the atmosphere. It always seemed like a classier fast food place than most. The lighting was not as harsh and set more of a fine dining mood. Assuming my memory isn't failing me, the floors were carpeted, and the front seating area was a solarium.

I can remember many Sundays after church with the Rax line snaking to the entrance. On the way back from Washington, D.C. I stopped at one off of I-70 several years ago, in part because I couldn't believe it was still in operation. Apparently Rax is still alive and kicking, barely. Perhaps a road trip is in order one of these days. Lancaster isn't that far. And to bring things full circle, Rax emerged from a corporation that began with a Burger Chef.

3. Roy Rogers Restaurants

Again, I haven't seen one of these in ages, and it's not like I remember them very well in my past either. I can envision one that I think was in the Dayton area--maybe it was Cincinnati, as there's some hazy memory of eating at one of these before some farm trade show down there--but unlike the other two, I can't say that it was a place ate which we ate with any regularity. To my surprise, Roy Rogers Restaurants are not defunct.

So here I was thinking that Rax and Roy Rogers weren't around any longer--with as few locations as both have, neither are exactly booming--but they didn't qualify while Sisters Chicken & Biscuits, my slumber-addled disqualified answer, most certainly does. I don't know if I ever ate at one, so the lack of a personal tie probably eliminated it in my mind. Sisters definitely isn't around now. It doesn't even have a Wikipedia entry.

Other bygone fast food places are starting to come back to me as I poke around for information, but these were the ones that came to me in the haze between sleeping and waking. I guess I can be grateful for coming up with a blogging idea during my off hours.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Knitting season

Perhaps I'm being premature, but I believe we have entered prime knitting season in my neck of the woods. There was a noticeable chill in the air for much of the day and definitely in the late afternoon while I sat outside knitting prior to seeing a documentary about the eccentric former pitcher Bill Lee. (Obligatory film critic content: the movie is nothing short of a mess but is still interesting from a baseball fan's perspective.) Forecasters claim that it will get as low as 48 overnight.

Knitting and cooler temperatures just feel more right, so maybe my output will increase as we lose degrees in the coming months. While I won't blame the summer sun for my slow completion of projects, my productivity definitely took a hit. It shouldn't. I had more free time than I'll have this fall and winter, but it's possible that a tighter schedule hones my efficiency.

As I enjoyed the crisp air while knitting in public, I realized that I still talk myself through every single stitch. The knit, knit, purl mantra echoes through my head as I silently say what I need to do. I even tell myself to purl the slipped stitch that starts each row. It is not the most engaging internal monologue, but I think it has the effect of intensifying my focus even though I'm not always aware that I'm guiding myself like that. When my knitting is at its most effortless, I can go faster. Do you find the same to be true?

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Wait for the beep

Thanks for the birthday wishes. Not that anyone suggested it, but the absence of my dad's name on the page from the baby book does not mean that my father is in question or unknown...as far as I'm aware. Seriously, though, I'm sure it was an oversight.

Since the scarf I'm knitting is so basic, there's nothing to write about in regard to it. Right now it's just a matter of continuing what I've been doing until the project is done.

So for blogging fodder I turn to my couple hours spent on campaign volunteer work today. No, I'm not going to dredge up politics. Rather, I want to reflect on the answering machine and the answering machine message.

I did not reach most of the people I called, so I heard a lot of answering machine and voice mail introductions. If I want to feel or sound old, I can recall a time when most people didn't have answering machines. Remember how it used to not be a big deal if you couldn't get in touch with everyone right this very second or leave a message for them?

As answering machines became more commonplace, you could buy a pre-recorded tape with "funny" messages. Crazy Calls, anyone? For about three years I did a radio station's music research via telephone, so I got to hear plenty of attempts at creative answering machine messages. Why pay $14.95 (plus $3 for postage and handling!) for a tape when you could cue up a CD player or videotape to provide some personality to your message?

If the ones I heard today are indicative of the state of the answering machine/voice mail message, creativity is at a very low point. Without fail most people tell you what number you've just called and then go through the usual spiel explaining what to do. I suppose it's helpful to know what number you've dialed, but it seems kind of unnecessary to me.

At least the number is potentially useful, but these days is there any need to tell people to leave their name, number, and brief message after the beep? Will callers be befuddled as to their course of action when the message ends? Granted, I'm not blameless as my work voice mail says who I am and asks for the caller to leave the pertinent information, but it's short and to the point.

My home voice mail message does not exist, though. It's merely a beep. The rare times I get calls, people seem to know what to do without my instructions. No one's ever mentioned my lack of a message. Of course, I can't take credit for this pure minimalist approach. When I switched to Vonage in 2004, I didn't know how to create a message and never became concerned about learning. (If my voice mail messages weren't e-mailed to me, I wouldn't know how to check them.) If I ever bother to figure it out, I suspect I'll tell people what to do after the tone. Funny how that is.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Happy birthday to me

Like the Miss America pageant, the first completely electronic television, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, ESPN, and Google's incorporation, today marks my introduction to the world. I also share a date of birth with Paul Brown, Buddy Holly, Dario Argento, Eazy-E, and the guy who plays Ben Linus on Lost. So there's the answer to the never-to-be-asked trivia question of what all of us have in common.

I suppose I'm at the age where birthdays are no longer remarkable. Sure, I was looking forward to it just because, but there's been nothing special about it. Watched the Bengals get smacked around like usual in a terribly boring and frustrating game. It tells you how bad they are that my interest had drifted by halftime of the season's first game. Defragging my computers may have been more exciting. There's always next year.

I knew I had a baby picture around here in the unpacked boxes from when I moved. I didn't find it--can't say that I looked that hard--but I discovered a couple boxes of old photos of me that my parents must have slipped into my possession when they helped me move in here.

It appears that I didn't like being photographed way back when. There must have been some controversy regarding my height (or length, in this case) as the book from which these photos are from have 21 1/2 inches and 20 3/4 inches notated. (Future biographers should note that the latter looks to be the accepted number.)

I'm going to attribute my night owl tendencies to my time of birth. Surely there's some junk science research study about this, right?

Anyway, happy birthday to me.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

So little to say

The well is dry. Some links for your amusement:

-Following the example of knitters is one suggestion for making use of time that might otherwise be wasted.

-A blind Kenyan Paralympian hopes to pay back the charity that helped him use a knitting machine to make sweaters so he could support. himself.

-Here's a nice story about a male knitter in the San Antonio, Texas area. The article doesn't go through all the usual points in pieces like this.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

A little bit of this and that

Politics-free scraps from a busy day...

-Attended three films today and an audience member's phone went off during all of them, including one in which there were only two other people in the auditorium. Seriously, would it kill people to turn off their phones for a couple hours? (There's a longer version of this rant, but I'm going to restrain myself.)

-Obligatory knitting content: there are a couple brief shots of women knitting in the documentary Up the Yangtze.

-As if all the losing doesn't make being a Bengals fan hard enough, the players' off-field shenanigans are what really make one feel like a laughingstock. But you know what? I'm very amused that wide receiver Chad Johnson has legally changed his last name to Ocho Cinco. (For the uninitiated, it's his uniform number rendered in Spanish.) This is the pièce de résistance of his petulant and bizarre off-season behavior. I wonder if he has some actual psychological issues in need of diagnosis, but whatever the case, I've got to give him points for style. He wants to be an entertainer. I'll take this kind of stunt over the whining he was doing in the spring and early summer. And at least he hasn't been arrested five times, cut, and then resigned.

-Somehow I missed when it started getting dark so early.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

A second last word

I promise this is the last of anything remotely political for a good, long while. I don't want to write it, but this is what has weighed on me more than anything else today.

Finally found some time to get back to knitting and knit night. Thank God for it. That may be the saving grace for me as politics becomes pretty much inescapable until Election Day. I was determined to stay out of it today, but it's the only thing people were talking about at work. Additionally, one of my brothers tried getting me embroiled in a big e-mail brouhaha over it. I won't tell him, but I didn't bother reading most of the enormous chunks of text he sent me because I've seen the talking points.


I think the most dispiriting thing about the matter is that it is nigh impossible to have calm, reasoned discussions about the issues. Maybe it's always been this way, but it seems to me that there's no longer room or need for differences of opinion and philosophy. Instead it's about who can shout louder and longer. (For what it's worth, I'm fully aware that the party with which I'm affiliated isn't blameless in this game.)

Those of you who are acquainted with me offline know that I'm fairly low-key. (For all I know, that comes through here.) I'm not one looking to rock the boat or offend. I'm happy to stay quiet and listen. (Of course, I'll also talk your ear off if you get me going.) It doesn't mean I lack strong opinions--good grief, I'm a film critic--but that I also believe in being deferential and respectful. Those qualities are largely absent in the so-called debate, which is why I get disgusted with it as frequently as I do.

At lunch I went to the local campaign office to find out what I could do to help. As much as I've griped about wanting to escape from the political, this might seem like a strange thing to do, but going there I felt like I was given the ability to do something positive rather than get caught up in the muck that comes from reading and watching the latest news. (I refuse to canvas, which is mostly related to my job and minor visibility in the community, although I will do phone banks.)

I need the new fall TV season now more than ever...


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Somebody stop me

Four years ago I decided that for the sake of my sanity I would stop watching television news. I simply couldn't stomach any more of the mostly useless content. I may have to start swearing off political coverage online as well. There's so much horse crap out there, whether from official channels or surrogates, that it drives me absolutely bonkers.

Yet I can't look away. What's the latest flowing BS? Refresh, refresh, refresh.

It's reached critical mass in the last few days. I really need to stop checking on this stuff. On top of that, one of my brothers has sent me an extremely long e-mail detailing all of the reasons he would not support my preferred candidate, although curiously there's not a whole lot he says in favor of his. I'm tempted not even to respond and to try my best to unplug from it all.

So I've got to say thanks for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Sure, they are comedy shows first and foremost, but at least someone's doing media criticism and pointing out the stuff that makes me crazy. If I can't find something in all this to laugh about the next two months, it'll be a long sixty-plus days.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Cake wreck

If I could have turned around and gone home after thirty minutes at work today, I would have been very tempted. It was one of those days when the ceiling comes crashing in and then, for good measure, the walls topple and floor collapses.

While everyone and their mothers were out on Friday, IT replaced two office computers, one of which functions as the server for a critical program. If this computer is out of the network, the program ceases to work on all of the others...and it just so happened that I needed this software for a show taping later in the day. (Never mind that I also had to write all of my scripts for the show and do the requisite video editing, which I figured would keep me occupied.)

Then I learned that the station was not on the air. Following the regular steps was not rectifying the matter. By the way, the hard line connection to the government building was bad again after being repaired last week and being needed expressly for this evening. And did I mention that I was the only one in the office until late in the work day?

This is the sound of my head exploding.

Everything got worked out one way or another, some from my ability to improvise and some due to others coming through when needed, but I felt like tonight was the right time to try out the fabled 5-minute chocolate mug cake recipe I'd seen on the Ravelry message boards. If it worked, this would be the ideal cake--no leftovers--to make myself for my imminent birthday.

The gist of it is that you mix the ingredients in a coffee cup and stick it in the microwave for a quick cycle. Then, cake! It sounded suspect to me, but what did I have to lose if it didn't work?

I'll grant that I used all-purpose flour rather than cake flour--like I'd ever use enough of that to have it on hand--but I did everything else by the book (assuming that high on my appliance equals 1000 watts). I watched it for the first minute to make sure that the blasted thing didn't explode inside the microwave and then came back two minutes later to check out the result.

Sure enough, there was something that looked cake-like in the mug. Amazing! Or maybe not. It was largely flavorless and spongy like all get out. Which isn't to suggest that I didn't eat all of it. I did. But I didn't like it.

Oh well. Disasters averted.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Dog days

Labor Day means that summer comes to an unofficial end today, but the heat that stayed away for much of the season has reacquainted itself with us in recent days. Whether it's the temperature, a lack of motivation, or a combination, I've been bumming around doing a whole bunch of nothing. That and staring at this Blogger box for a half hour trying to think of something to say. See you tomorrow.

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