Friday, October 31, 2008

A civic exercise in patience

Despite all the talk of early voting, I'd been intending to wait until Election Day to do my civic duty. After all, I can walk to my polling place, and yeah, I didn't want to miss out on the excitement on THE day. I wasn't worried about a lengthy wait in line, and it wouldn't matter for me if I had to. I'm taking the day off work to volunteer for the campaign, so I could afford to wait.

My mind was changed this week, though. The Obama campaign wants those of us committed to voting for the candidate to vote early so we aren't lengthening Election Day lines and potentially causing less dedicated voters to give up due to the wait. I had to be near downtown Columbus today anyway, so I figured I could give up an hour to get my vote out of the way. (For comparison's sake, I had to wait about 45 minutes in 2004 at my polling place.)

The line of cars pulling into the Veterans Memorial parking lot was pretty steady, and the line of early absentee voters was just beginning to nudge out the door when I took my spot. I had no idea how long the line really was. It wound up and around a flight of stairs, but that was all I could see.

I was a little worried that my wait would be for naught because I'd forgotten to bring my most recent utility bill. I don't know how it is where you live, but in Ohio you must show a valid photo ID and, in some cases, something else to prove place of residence. (In my case, my driver's license still shows my old address.) I had pulled my vehicle registration and proof of auto insurance out of the glove box as backup identification proof and hoped that I wouldn't face any problems. With all of the nonsense going on in this state regarding challengers in the polling places and lawsuits over voter registration rolls, I knew it was good to be prepared.

It didn't take long to get up the stairs. To my right I could see people snaking around in a line more suited to amusement parks. Still, if this was just stretching across the lobby, that wasn't bad. Well, I was wrong. I turned the corner and saw the line on my side was longer than I realized. I turned another corner and saw that the line reached down a long hallway and then came back around. Eventually it wove its way back to that waiting section on the right. And who knew how far that was from the voting area?

By now I figured I wasn't going to be making the 11:10 a.m. screening of Changeling. I finished reading the newspaper while I was on the side of the long hallway that was making its way back to the holding area on the right. I had my knitting with me, but it would have felt weird to knit standing up. Plus, the line moved too frequently, and quarters were sometimes a bit to tight for that.

Finally I made it to the snaking line. It bent around and back to form three lines and was between a set of red, white, and blue curtains. I had assumed that this temporary patriotic interior design indicated being close to where we would vote. That was sort of true. The catch was that the line curved around on itself three or four more times on the other side of the southern curtain. (A concession stand behind the north curtain sold pizza, pretzels, candy, coffee, and bottled water and soda, although it was best positioned for those leaving after voting.) Upon reaching the other side of the curtain I could see that the end of the line was not only outside but wrapped from the side entrance to the front of the building.

I was lucky that I wasn't in any particular hurry, so the waiting wasn't too bad. The kids accompanying their parents would have had a better excuse for fussing, but they stayed well behaved. After two hours-plus of patience, I entered the room where I would vote, and two and a half hours after getting in line, I had my three-page ballot in hand.

I had to change booths twice before completing my ballot. The pen ran out of ink before I finished the first page. The pen in the next booth I picked didn't work at all. That ought to tell you how many people have been cycling through. I've done electronic voting for awhile, so I went over my ballot and the instructions for securing it in the envelope a couple times. Then I was ready to drop it in the ballot box. I don't recall ever physically placing my vote in a big container, but I did so today. It wasn't worth nearly three hours invested in the process, but getting to drop it in was a nice grace note to the morning.

Later in the day I spoke with someone who mentioned having to wait more than five hours to vote last time in the Presidential election. In that case, my wait today wasn't so bad. It's impressive to see how many people are showing up and waiting to make their voices heard, but there's got to be an easier and faster way to do it. At least we have had early voting here. I can't imagine what the polling places would be like on November 4 if the thousands who have already voted couldn't have done so until then.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008


I've always been aware that there's my job as it is detailed in the description and the job as it functions. I help students learn about a particular field, but I am also, for lack of a better term, a counselor.

This comes to mind as I've had to help minimize and negotiate some student drama in recent weeks. The specifics aren't important--or all that interesting, really. It's the usual interpersonal conflicts that flare up when a group of students are working toward a common goal but have different ideas of how to achieve it and how much effort is required. Some of it goes beyond work and into the realm of personality clashes and, in the most inflammatory instances, broken romantic relationships. The tension is magnified even more within the smaller circle of a small college setting.

Fortunately I'm not on my own in trying to navigate the choppy emotional waters of 18 to 22-year-olds, although I tend to be the calmer voice of reason. I don't think it's something I anticipated having to do when I originally took the job, but boy am I glad to have a psychology degree. It's given me some valuable tools when listening to students blowing off steam or expressing uncertainty about what to do.

I can't say if I'm any good at listening and giving advice to these students. (It's certainly draining enough.) Sometimes there's a definite sense that what I say is going in one ear and out the other, if the words even get in the ear in the first place. It may not be what I signed on for, but I realize that ultimately I'm there to help these students find their course, whether it's in my academic area or elsewhere. Here's hoping I'm doing right by them.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Running in place

I feel like I'm living at 500 miles per hour right now, which is probably why I feel more behind on things than I actually am. I see the unread blog posts counter ticking upward in Google Reader and try to clear enough of my DVR's hard drive so it can record more without deleting anything that I might want to watch but haven't. I feel too distracted to catch up on either in the evening. Sleep comes in fits and starts. (I'm blaming too much work and election craziness that broke my BS detector weeks ago.)

So, because I need an entry today and it's the only topic that occurred to me, I present to you some of what I'm watching--or not watching, as the case may be--this fall TV season.

The Amazing Race and Survivor: As far as I'm concerned, the blooms are off the roses for these longtime reality TV programs. I'm still watching, but the thrill is gone, especially in regard to Race. I suppose there's only so much that can be done to keep these shows fresh, but the biggest shortcoming is that the cast members fit into prescribed roles that lack any surprise. Regular viewers know the templates cold, so without any people who pop on screen, what else is there? Before episodes are over I'll often pick up my knitting to entertain me.

Pushing Daisies: I finally caught up with the strike-shortened first season and am up to date with the series, tonight's episode excepted. The comedy, romance, and general whimsy distinguish it from anything else on TV, but this is a dark, twisted show if you stop to think about it. Fun stuff.

Heroes: I lost interest in this in the second season, but with the relatively new HDTV, why not try to get back on the bandwagon? Maybe because the show is terrible? I don't particularly like the characters, who seem to change drastically from week to week anyway, and the plotlines aren't interesting. I dropped this one from the DVR record list, and it's not going back on.

Worst Week: So far this comedy of discomfort has been able to sustain its concept of a well-meaning guy messing up everything possible over the course of different weeks. It's consistently funny and mortifying in that oh-no-I-feel-bad-for-him way. Yes, for some reason that last quality is a good thing.

The Ex List: I'd read some positive early takes on this show, so I figured I'd take a chance even though it hadn't looked like my thing. I haven't watched a single recorded episode, and now comes news that it's been cancelled. Looks like there's four hours I can quickly clear off the DVR.

Fringe: This potential X-Files wannabe hasn't totally won me over like the show that's influenced it, but of the new shows I've watched this season, it's probably my favorite. At this point in time I'd be perfectly happy with "monster of the week" episodes rather than an overarching mythology, but it seems like the creators are trying to balance these qualities.

Life on Mars: I could do without the on the nose period references and dialogue in this time travel (?) cop show--a modern day New York City policeman wakes up from an accident and finds himself in 1973--but overall I like what I've seen. The cinematography has a nice, burnished look, and I'm curious about the central mysteries that have been introduced.

Life: I didn't have strong feelings about this Los Angeles cop show during its first season, but there's something appealing about its procedural sturdiness and just-quirky-enough characters that has me watching this before other programs on the DVR. I'm hoping they've ditched the documentarian interviews because, frankly, I couldn't care less about who was responsible for framing the detective and getting him sent to prison.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008


What a good day for wearing one's knitted projects. The temperature before sunrise was worth pulling out the winter coat, although I resisted and just busted out my hat. It seems like we skipped over fall and went directly to winter, although it's supposedly going to be in the 60s on Friday, so who knows what's up with the weather around here.

I was also wearing my own self-knit socks, in part because I could use any small comforts available while slogging through an extra-long work day. (It was just an hours eater of a day that had its share of slow, time-killing stretches.)

I need a good pattern for men's slippers as I think that's what I'm going to make for my dad for Christmas. (Take note that I said slippers, not socks.) If you know of something, particularly a pattern knit in the round, let me know.

I know that awhile ago I said that I wasn't necessarily planning on doing much holiday knitting. OK, I won't be knitting for my two youngest brothers unless they tell me otherwise. Is that better?

I haven't taken a close look at this list of 653 patterns for as little as one yard of yarn and as many as 285, but I imagine it must be an indispensable resource for using up leftover yarn.

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Monday, October 27, 2008


I wish... was November 5. much of today's politics was not about fighting the 1960s and the New Deal all over again.

...that the countless hours of news and sports talk was devoted to the calm and reasoned discussion and research of topics rather than shouting over one another about spin, speculation, and analysis of the spin and speculation. of the professional sports franchises I root for would win on a regular basis.

...that these World Series games would end at reasonable times.

...I could find a definitive answer that the new Guitar Hero: World Tour peripherals will work with Rock Band 2 and vice versa.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Slacking for the weekend

In the comments to yesterday's post Donna informs me that ripping out from the cast on row down doesn't work. If I think about it, this makes sense, but it seemed like a rational way to go about correcting the problem. Oh well. I'll fiddle with the other end of the sock later this week.

Not much to report knitting-wise. I've finished about twenty percent of the Christmas gift scarf for my brother. It's nothing fancy--just moss stitch--but the texture makes it look and feel more intricate than it really is. If I were willing to make a big proclamation, I'd say that's a key part of my aesthetic. I'll hedge on making such broad strokes, though.

I think it's been awhile since I opened things up for "ask the secret knitter" questions, not that there's been a moratorium in place. Because I anticipate this week producing a shortage of blog-worthy activity, I'll make a pitch for questions serious, silly, or somewhere in between, with the stipulation that I reserve the right not to answer ones that I'd rather not answer. I'll post my responses whenever I'm feeling like I don't have anything to write, but I'll try to be timely about it.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tenacious tedium

This was a busy week for me, and next week will be at least as hectic. Needless to say, I was in need of a slow day. Well, I found the solution and then some.

Early tonight I decided it was time to undo the cast on edge of the sock that does not want to be ripped out. It took awhile, but I slowly learned how to find the right stitch to pull the end through. Armed with the smallest crochet hook I own, I methodically made my way around the cast on row. With a sigh of relief, I undid what looked to be the last stitch and hoped that everything that followed would now easily unravel.


The yarn switched directions instead. It did become easier to undo each stitch, but I was still having to use a deliberate process of pulling the end through the stitches. I also had to trim the yarn I had already ripped out because it was starting to split and tangle itself when pulled through the stitches. I don't mind losing some yarn if I can salvage the rest. If all I needed to do was to frog the first knit row to be good to go, fantastic; however, it doesn't appear that's the case.

I'm pretty certain that I've gone stitch by stitch through the cast on row, the first knit row, and maybe half of the second row. Keep in mind that I cast on 88 stitches. This is intensely boring work, and it doesn't look like anything is going to change if I keep up with it. I've exercised a lot of patience during the three-plus hours I undid stitches, but there's simply no way I'm going to do this for the entire sock.

I think I've made things worse (and tighter) at the other end of the sock where the yarn will rip out except at the one seriously knotted spot, so I'm not sure where to go from here. I've put it aside for the rest of the evening, and I think I'll probably leave it alone for couple days. After that, who knows?

I have found someone on Ravelry with three skeins, one from a ripped sock, that is the same color and dye lot. Buying it might be the easiest way to resolve the situation at this point.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Some philosophical twaddle to end the work week

Have you ever had a day in which you haven't had a single meaningful conversation or interaction? Doesn't it make you feel a bit like your reality is, I don't know, off? To clarify, I'm not having a mental breakdown, nor am I sliding into a funk. It's just been a weird day.

Since gas prices have momentarily dipped to a more tolerable level, I decided that this was the right day for driving 220 miles round trip to IKEA for the CD towers I've been meaning to get. I could have ordered them online, but the shipping costs and the hassle of having them delivered, likely when I would not be home, nixed that idea. So I got into the car at 9 this morning, drove to north of Cincinnati, made the purchase, and returned home by 1:15.

I forgot my cell phone for the trip. This wasn't a big deal since I'm not bombarded with calls, especially urgent ones, but I considered turning around to get it because what if my car breaks down, I get stranded, etc. Never mind that I may have never used a mobile phone in one of the few times that I've had vehicle trouble on the road. I didn't have that safety blanket. After a few miles I shrugged it off and zoned out as time vanished during all of the driving in the rain.

I came home and assembled the CD towers. Then I elected to head downtown to snag a cheap ticket for tonight's Columbus Blue Jackets-New York Rangers game. I stood in line for a good twenty minutes, got dinner, went to the game, and came home. Through all of this, I didn't have one significant interaction.

I don't mean that my days are ordinarily filled with at least one rigorous intellectual discussion of Proust or soul-baring conversation. (For the record, I've never read Proust, but he sounds like a good hoity-toity author for the purposes of this illustration.) In fact, it's the regular, mundane interactions with people you know that, in a weird way, sort of reinforce your existence. Brief exchanges with cashiers and such, not so much. Maybe what I mean is that the content in the communication doesn't matter as much as the shared history between the communicators.

I will grant that I may not be making any sense or am getting too philosophical. (This is precisely why I wasn't going to write about this, but lack of blogging fodder forced my hand.) It's just been an odd feeling to experience a day and not have anyone around who supports that perception of reality (and to know the next two will be similar). This seems to be one of the central questions of the ABC TV series Life on Mars, so I'll blame watching it for having me thinking about the matter and potentially sounding like a lunatic on here.

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Knot comes loose?

So I've been having some trouble frogging a long dormant sock project. I brought it along to knit night with the hope that someone might have insight into what in the world I did to make this thing seemingly indestructible. Seriously, this thing does not want to unravel.

Granted, I probably created more difficulty for myself when I brazenly decided to cut a random strand from the toe because I couldn't find the woven in end. Still, you'd think that this sock would dissolve fairly easily after that, even if it didn't mean losing a little yarn in the process. Nope.

Part of the problem appears to be that the yarn split in one or two places and has created a knot in the toe decrease that I can't rip past. My fellow knit nighters helped salvage it to where the sock will rip up to this point, so there are three potential ways to resolve the matter.

One, I can finish undoing the cast on row and unravel from there. It's feasible but slow. Through this process I am learning that I'm doing good enough with working the cast on end into the project that I shouldn't have anything inadvertently coming undone there.

Two, I can keep ripping around the foot and letting the unraveled yarn pool around this one problematic decrease section. In theory this will work, but it also creates the potential for many more tangles and a rat's nest of unraveled yarn around the crisis area.

Three, I can figure out how to undo the knot or knots in the place that's the source of all this consternation. This is likely the best solution, although as I've fiddled with it since coming home, it's going to require a lot of patience.

I'm calling off any further attempts for tonight, but I'm hoping to conquer this mess over the weekend.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

As simple as that

Brainless knitting...the refuge of the tired, unmotivated, or unimaginative knitter. Yep, the post-work nap requiring, creative knitting-avoiding person, that's me at the moment.

I've started a Christmas gift scarf for one my brothers. He received the first I made. I offered to make another to atone for my shaky newbie skills. I've started on it, but the pattern is nothing more than moss stitch. Nothing to think about. That's fine by me, but it won't make for riveting reading.

I'm also going to make a new scarf for his wife. Maybe by the time I get to it I'll feel like messing with cables, but right now I see them in patterns and get tired. Cables have been mostly demystified, even if I've never finished the dishcloth I was learning/practicing them on. Still, they look like way too much effort...or more than I feel like exerting.

For no reason in particular, here's a better photo of the baby hat I made a couple days ago.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Turning two

Two years ago today Knitting Confidential was born. I started this blog a mere eight days after learning to knit. This is the 711th entry I've written. In addition to coming to you from my Ohio home, I've blogged from Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Texas. I've even brought you my road version of inclement winter weather coverage. And of course I'm doing that Blog 365 thing in which I post something here every day (including the permitted-to-skip leap day).

As with the knitting, I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. I'd written online for years before but not in the more personal and (some might say) irrelevant-to-everyone-but-me manner that I suspect is one of the identifiable aspects of this site. Sure, you've come to know me through reading the blog, but I've discovered a few things about myself as well. That wasn't my purpose when I set out to keep this place.

In the beginning the idea was to share my knitting excitement, which I wouldn't/couldn't tell anyone else, and then to have a reference spot to keep track of what I was doing. Both aspects still apply. My knitting remains largely secret from those who know me, so I have to talk about it somewhere. I document my projects. It's fair to say, though, that this blog has become something beyond those founding utilitarian purposes.

What else is Knitting Confidential? It's a journal, a writing exercise, a resource for soliciting knitting help and advice, an outlet for venting, a place for making friends and keeping in touch with them, a routine, and probably several other things that don't immediately come to mind or haven't occurred to me.

I am privileged to have readers who care enough to pop in regularly and leave comments. Seriously, you're busy and have better things to do than check in on whatever content, nonsense and otherwise, that I slap up here day in and day out.

The internet won't melt due to the number of hits this site receives, but I get more than I would have expected when I started. If the returning visits counters in my traffic log and familiar names in the comments are any indication, my readers are faithful. Bless you for it. A writer's work gathers meaning through its consumption, so in doing me the honor of reading what I type up, I strive to meet (or exceed) your expectations.

I'm rambling, which is my cue to wrap the entry. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being encouraging. Thanks for two years of participating in an important part of my daily routine.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Loose ends

Knitted Newborn Hat

Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns Fantasy (50% nylon; 50% acrylic; worsted weight)
Colorways: 31 (Baby Pink) and 33 (Dark Rose)
Needles: US 8 circulars
Stitches: 54

Tonight I wanted to tie up some loose ends. I've needed to fulfill my end of the Pay It Forward exchange with one person. Since she had a baby a week ago (and thus should have better things to do than reading my blog), this seemed like the perfect thing to make. I'm not completely satisfied with what I've done. There is a fairly bad and loose ladder at one of the decreases that I tried to cover up when weaving in the end. Oddly, the place where I've usually had a noticeable ladder on hats--the place where the hat is joined in the round--is better than usual.

A baby hat is not what I originally intended to do, but I've been thwarted a bit on that project. I started it months ago but kept getting tripped up and ripped it out a couple times. I considered using that yarn for this baby hat, but I couldn't find the label and am not sure what the yarn is. I'm guessing I'll have to go back to where I purchased it last winter to identify it. I unearthed many labels, plenty I probably no longer need, but the one I needed to find eluded me.

While I'm botching things up, I pulled the Knit Picks Option cable out of the join when removing this WIP from the needles. Good work! Gorilla Glue will fix it but still...

Of course, the one thing I'm trying to fix, the finished sock in need of frogging, won't cooperate. I was ready to rip it out last night, but I couldn't find the end woven into the toe. It figures that I can't see the end the one time I need for it to poke out and wave at me. After messing around pulling some stitches loose, I pulled out the scissors and cut a strand in half thinking that I could freely unravel the sock. Hardly.

I've been pulling and undoing stitches one by one, but the whole thing isn't coming apart. On the one hand it's good to know that my handiwork won't fall to pieces, but in this case that's what I want it to do. Any tips for how to rip out a completed sock?

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Purple Rose of Cairo

The Purple Rose of Cairo

Yarn: Noro Silk Garden (45% silk, 45% kid mohair, 10% lamb's wool; Aran weight)
Colorway: 241
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 28
Pattern: 1x1 rib (first stitch slipped with yarn in front, last stitch knitted; sewn bind off)
Size: 4" wide, 58" long

I didn't know what to expect when knitting with Noro for the first time. I wasn't sure how the drastic color changes would knit up. I'd read the horror stories regarding the extra "stuff" in the yarn. I was unsure if I'd get satisfactory length out of the two skeins I purchased. All those concerns turned out to be not such a big deal as the result says it all.

I'm thrilled with how this simple scarf turned out. I think I did a good job knitting it, but the colors in the yarn take care of all the heavy lifting to impress. There was no need to do a complicated pattern when a k1, p1 rib rendered the colors quite beautifully. I don't think I'd be so bold to wear something in these colors, but I'm certain my mom will love it. I wasn't entirely sold when I began.

Is Noro worth the trouble and cost when factoring in the complaints of knots, hay, and stick pieces in the yarn? In this instance I'm going to say that it was. I ran into three knots--one in the first skein, two in the second--but did what I probably shouldn't have done and just knit them in as is. One is at the end of the row, and the other two are hidden well enough. The vegetable matter, assuming that's what it is, wasn't much of an issue in the second skein but was all over one section in the first. I have to figure out if there's a way to get it out by soaking the scarf, but even if I can't, I don't think it diminishes the item's appearance.

The tiny pieces of sticks and bark were more annoying but also more easily removed. For yarn this nice and this pricey, I don't know what the deal is. Certainly it gives Noro an even more rustic feel, but I can do without the yarn earning some kind of natural street cred because of it. I don't particularly mind the yarn weight inconsistency that ranges from bulky down to possibly a lace weight at times, although one puffed up section widened the scarf when I was knitting one color.

Since I knit this at a narrow four inches, two skeins was barely enough for a scarf. I would have preferred to get a couple more inches of length out of it, but I came close enough to my target that 58 inches is sufficient. I intentionally knit this more loosely than my other projects, which was easier on my hands and wrists. That may be the most important lesson I learned on this scarf.

So I've finished a Christmas gift in a week. I don't know how many more I'll be making, but I'm pleasantly surprised this one came together so quickly and looks so fantastic.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008


Until the last day or so it has seemed too warm to feel like fall. I think the seasons have finally crossed over, though. Today would have been a beautiful fall day to feel the sun's warmth and the air's chill. As I was busy keeping official stats for the college's football game, I just got the cold from the press box's open windows. Seriously, I was wishing for a hat in the first quarter. Get out of the sun and it was a very cool day.

Of course, that makes it a perfect time for knitting. I haven't had time for it because I was so wiped out from my three hours of refrigeration that I've either been unmotivated or asleep.

Since I don't really have anything else to write about, I'll point you toward the recent additions of Little Wit Knits - Unplugged and In Knitting News to my links over in that there sidebar. Both sites are maintained by fellow Columbus area knitters, so pay them and the others in the sidebar a visit.

This is where I should point out that if you don't see them in the sidebar, you're not reading this post where it was intended, ie., my blog. There's one site that steals my posts and republishes them without permission. I'm not sure exactly how it's done, especially since the occasional word or two is changed as though mistranslated. (Just to clarify, I'm not taking a shot at those with RSS subscriptions. The reason why my full posts don't show up in Google Reader, Bloglines, and the like is because I've been trying to make it more work to take my writing. It hasn't worked yet...)

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Friday, October 17, 2008

A rose by any other name

The Columbus Blue Jackets had their home opener tonight, so I utilized some of the time before doors opened to do some knitting at the North Market. Can't say that I got a lot done, but I took advantage of the good light to take a picture that more accurately reflects the scarf's colors. You don't get much of the green, but at least I know that if I shoot this in natural light, the colors show up correctly in the photograph.

Maybe it's worth mentioning that I'm naming this 1x1 ribbed scarf The Purple Rose of Cairo. Typically I just slap the pattern name in the project name box on my Ravelry page. It's kind of antiseptic, but there has to be some art movement from which I can claim inspiration for this naming method.

Since I'm not working from any written pattern--and really, there's no need for one--I'm given a blank slate for which to name the scarf. I suppose if I wanted to stay true to form, I could put 1x1 Ribbed Scarf in the name box, but what fun is that?

Let's be honest. Naming stuff is fun. I've chosen The Purple Rose of Cairo because the green could conceivably be thought of, in abstract terms, as a stem. The purple then speaks for itself. And, oh yeah, it's also the title of a Woody Allen movie I like.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Keep on truckin'

It's been all about the Noro Silk Garden scarf this week. To answer my own question, this yarn can be spit spliced. (One realizes how crazy fast the web is these days when a Google search on this very subject produced my blog entry as the #7 result.)

I have around 40 inches of the scarf knit now. Considering that I'm just doing 1x1 ribbing, I'm not sure how I've been able to keep such sustained focus and high speed. I think the regular changes in the yarn's color provides enough variation that it seems like something new every few inches. Still, I may finish this scarf in record time, even for me.

The problem of Noro knots has been minimal. So far I've encountered one per skein. I considered cutting the yarn on the one I ran into tonight, but it seemed like it would be unseemly to stick the yarn in my mouth at knit night. Sure, everyone there would know what I was doing, but the rest of the restaurant's patrons wouldn't. (And I would have felt weird.) Anyway, the knot came at the end of the row, so I figured it wasn't really any different than if I had joined another skein at that point. I let it be and kept knitting.

The way this scarf is going, I suspect I will finish Saturday. (Tomorrow is too busy. Otherwise I think it would be feasible to crank out the rest.) I'm going to be tempted to send it to my mom right away rather than wait until Christmas.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

In a jiffy

I've been exceptionally fast at knitting the 1x1 ribbed scarf I'm making as a Christmas gift for my mom. I finished the first skein of Noro Silk Garden this evening. I've knit about 28 inches. Assuming the second skein has about as much yardage, an FO will be slightly shorter than I was hoping. I'm aiming for at least 60 inches. I'll have to mull over whether getting a third skein is worth it. For now I'm thinking that it isn't, that something in the range of 55 inches will be acceptable.

I'm beginning to wonder if some of those early pencil shaving-like strands that I've mostly ignored might actually be the silk in this yarn. Perhaps it's a good thing I haven't been yanking most of those out. If that's true, the first skein didn't have nearly as much junk in it than I thought it did.

Before I start working with the second skein, I have a couple questions. Will the spit splice work with this yarn? It's 45% silk, 45% kid mohair, and 10% lamb's wool. My uninformed guess is that the yarn will be immune to the technique, but I suspect someone out there knows without me having to put the fibers in my mouth.

If it won't spit splice, any tips for how to do a jogless join? I'm really happy with how the scarf is coming along and would hate to have one row where the new skein starts and produces something akin to a dotted line.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Since I wasn't sure if two skeins of Noro Silk Garden would be enough to make a scarf, I decided that I better start knitting so I'll know if I need to track down more. Although I've never used Noro, I am aware that the yarn is notorious for containing knots, vegetable matter, and inconsistent weight. Yet for all of the complaints I've read, Noro seems to be highly regarded. How bad can the problems be?

It didn't take long for me to find out. I encountered stuff that looked like thin pencil shavings. Separating it from the yarn wasn't too bad but kind of annoying. Then there was a knot which, wisely or not, I chose to knit in as is. A little bit later the yarn plumped up and had more of those fine shavings mixed in. I decided that I'd drive myself crazy if I attempted to remove all of it, so I kept knitting in the hope that there is a way to take it out once the scarf is finished. (Before I try to turn up an answer on Ravelry, does anyone out there have any advice on this matter?)

I've also discovered small pieces of bark or a stick, so I completely understand why some knitters think this yarn is more trouble than it's worth. I'm enjoying seeing and feeling how the yarn knits up (assuming I don't run my hand across more of that rough stuff). The combination of purples, tan, and lime green (!) has surprised me.

For this scarf I'm doing a simple 1x1 rib. I'm slipping the first stitch with the yarn in front and knitting the last stitch, which is producing really nice edges. The basic pattern allows the color shifts to be showcased and makes for a nice, reversible scarf. I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when I picked this yarn, but the finished product should be something that will impress my mom.

On a photographic note, the yarn in the picture looks bluer than it really is. I'll try to shoot this in the natural light, which ought to render more accurate colors.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Commemorative marker

I learned to knit on this date two years ago. If you've been here from the beginning of this blog, you might recall that my practice piece looked like this:

Needless to say, I've come quite a ways. In my early days as a knitter I knew I had a lot of improving to do, but what I lacked in skill, I made up for in enthusiasm. I knitted twelve scarves for Christmas gifts and finished one for myself shortly after the holiday. Thinking about it now, knitting thirteen scarves in two and a half months sounds like madness. Maybe it was. After all, I did learn on Friday the 13th, not that I believe in that superstitious stuff.

In actuality, I was under a great deal of stress at the time, and knitting provided a necessary outlet. It's a bracing reminder that as overwhelmed as I can feel right now, I was facing bigger stresses then.

I would say that it wasn't until my fourth scarf that I made a good one, and even then it probably was too long since I failed to account for garter stitch's stretchiness. As proud as I was of those early ones, I'm sort of embarrassed by them now. I couldn't exactly see the sloppiness or read the knitting. I had a rudimentary understanding of purling. I had difficulty undoing my mistakes. My yarn knowledge was minimal, so I made some fiber choices I wouldn't make now. That's all part of the process, of course, but I'm offering to knit new scarves for one of my brothers and his wife since they got my first two messy creations.

Although it may not seem so now, it's remarkable that I learned to knit, stuck with it, and have achieved whatever level of knitting competence can be applied to me. I still keep my knitting secret from most who know me and get weird looks when sitting in public with needles and yarn. There was no guarantee that I was going to love this craft. I'd like to think that it has made me a better person--more generous, more open, more at ease--but perhaps that's just me patting myself on the back.

This blog will have its two-year anniversary in eight days, but this time is just as good for saying thank you for reading. Knitting has brought its share of surprises, and blogging about knitting has delivered others. I've come to know some wonderful people through this site, a few of whom I've had the pleasure of meeting. My readers have been encouraging and helpful with their comments and don't complain on those days when I write nonsense no one should put up with reading. I appreciate your support.

I'm not sure what I'm going to knit next, but today seemed like the right day to get some yarn I've never used. I bought two skeins of Noro Silk Garden for a scarf for my mom, although now that I've looked at some patterns, I probably didn't get enough despite what I was told. The learning continues. I hope you'll continue following along on my journey through the knitting world.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

An orphan scarf

Scrunchable Scarf

Yarn: Cascade 220 (100% Peruvian Highland Wool; worsted weight)
Colorway: 9404
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 29
Size: 4.25" wide, 72" long

Sundays have become good knitting days for me. I'm getting a lot done--about a foot and a half on this scarf today, for instance--and salvaging some enjoyment from the time spent in front of the TV watching my miserable NFL team.

This scarf has been made for the Red Scarf Project, so it will be packaged and on its way before long. I participated in this charity knitting last year and encourage those so inclined to whip something up before this year's deadline arrives.

The Cascade 220 wool knitted up thick and squishy without being too heavy. The scarf has enough weight to it to give it density, yet it feels fairly light. The pattern looks sleek and, at least to my eyes, more complicated than it really is.

I slipped the first stitch with the yarn in back (if I have that term straight) and knit the last stitch of each row. It doesn't make the same edges face on each side, but I made sure to keep it consistent when I saw this was the case. It still looks good, so I don't imagine anybody is going to notice.

I prefer to make narrower scarves. Most people end up folding wide ones in half anyway. Here you see me and my grizzled jawline taking the scarf for a test drive to demonstrate this preference and reasoning.

(For inquiring minds, it's a long weekend, and I'm lazy and haven't shaved for three days. The alarming amount of premature gray showing up in my facial hair--I'm blaming it on years of acne creams--means I usually don't go unshaven for more than a day. Might as well add that to the premature hair loss too. But no, I'm not growing a beard, just looking scuzzy for the weekend.)

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

This post may be screened for quality assurance

Rather than write something surly about what had the potential to be my imminent war of aggression with the cable company, I've chosen to scratch such petty rantings. (It helps that Fox Sports Ohio HD actually did return, even if it was after almost half of the first period of the Blue Jackets game was gone.) But if I don't complain about the shortcomings of my local cable provider, what else is there for today?

Not much, but I figured you'd prefer to see a photo of my current WIP than read my gripes. So, with that said, time to watch the hockey game in glorious HD. Everybody wins.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The way of the dinosaur continues

As I said the first time I created this meme, I would like to think I'm a progressive guy. I'm up to speed with a lot of things, but I am out of step with some of modern life's ways and tastes. Here are some more:

1. I have a tape deck in my car. Granted, I use a cassette adapter to play an iPod through the radio, but my car must have been made at the tail end of of tape decks being standard instead of CD players. On a side note, my car also has manual locks and windows. (Yes, it does have power brakes and steering.) This is merely a matter of circumstance than active choice.

2. I only use a cell phone for phone calls. I don't text message. My phone now has a camera in it, but I've never taken a photo and haven't felt a need to do so. I've never used it to browse the internet, watch video, or download a ringtone. For that matter, I've never changed any of the settings, including the wallpaper.

3. I don't use social networks. I know, I'm on Ravelry, but I don't think of it primarily in those terms. Years ago I created but never updated (or ever check) pages on Friendster and MySpace. So far I have refused to sign up for Facebook, mostly due to a work-related incident a few years ago in which I was the target of some unkind commentary. (That's also part of the reasoning behind why I blog pseudo-anonymously here and what keeps me under wraps on those occasions when I think about lifting the veil.) Perhaps if I ever open that Pandora's box, it will not be under my name.

4. I don't use grocery shopper loyalty cards. At this point everything one buys probably gets tracked and is part of a data profile unless you use cash, but Kroger's introduction of these particular cards riled me up so much that I stopped shopping there altogether. The tracking in exchange for coupons or price cuts irked me. What really put me against these cards, though, was the inherent dishonesty in the discounts they supposedly gave. The prices were outrageous without the cards; with them, the prices were higher than before the loyalty cards were instituted. Nice racket. At least Meijer has held out.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Enough is enough

Work on the Scrunchable Scarf has resumed. The first thing I needed to do was join skeins. Rather than do the usual knotting together, I tested out the ol' spit splice. Once the strands had melted together, I gave it a tug on both ends to test it. The yarn stayed together, and I wasn't even certain where I'd spliced it. Hopefully that's a good sign that it won't come undone. Plus, two less ends to weave in!

Of course, then I had to remember how I'd been knitting it. The pattern is the essence of simplicity, but I struggled to recall if I knitting the last stitch. It appeared I had done so on the last row I knitted a few weeks ago. I felt like that couldn't be right, but sure enough, it was correct. Is my memory getting worse?

Knitting the scarf for a significant amount of time tonight, I can see why I got the urge to take a break from it and knit something I wasn't as confident doing. I'm bored with it, at least at times, because it is so easy. I'm ready to be done with it. I think the scarf looks really nice but enough is enough.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Going for baroque

More concertgoing for the week, this time the sold out Fleet Foxes show. The five-piece band plays folk-rock music that sounds like it's straight out of the late '60s/early '70s. (CSNY sounds like a big influence.) I've been known to blanch at some of that stuff--too earnest or hippie for my tastes--but the gorgeous harmonies and pristine instrumentation on Fleet Foxes' Sun Giant EP and self-titled debut really appeal to my ears.

Opener Frank Fairfield came out looking like an O Brother, Where Art Thou? character who'd come to play the Anthology of American Folk Music. Depending on the song, it was just him and a violin, banjo, or guitar. The twangier the instrument, the more it suited the performance. Fairfield sang with a constipated look on his face and a pinched voice. Although he acquitted himself nicely playing the instruments, there was something about it all that seemed like watching an actor playing a part in a museum piece. A little of it went a long way, as far as I was concerned.

As for Fleet Foxes, they excelled in a live setting, which wasn't much of a surprise as their output sounds like it was recorded under similar circumstances (minus the audience). The video above is for "White Winter Hymnal", one of my favorite songs of the year and a goosebump-raising highlight of the concert. (I'm such a sucker for the Pet Sounds vibe this song gives off.) Their harmonizing can suggest a church-like feeling, and the concert was restful in its own way.

Lest I give the impression that the band is merely recreating old sounds, I do think they've made an interesting album and EP that bring unexpected things into the mix. For instance, concert capper "Blue Ridge Mountains" houses a Chinese musical element that isn't the most obvious addition.

Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes

On a technical note, the picture I took is not in focus. It isn't purposefully so. The subdued concert atmosphere led me not to take many pictures, and circumstances being what they were, holding the camera steady enough wasn't likely. If I want to claim creative license, then it's blurry like a memory. Also, since I typically don't embed other media on this blog, let me know if you find yourself encountering problems with the video or audio track.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Looking ahead

So what's up next on the needles? Well, I really ought to get the Scrunchable Scarf for the Red Scarf Project finished. That got pushed aside when I received the calling to give socks another chance. The time is now for me to knit up the second skein.

The sock of too big proportions may finally have its year-plus stay of execution lifted and get ripped out. I can't see myself doing the frogging before the weekend, but the point is that I'm ready to bite the bullet. The question is if I stick with the same pattern or try out something else.

I need to think about and start on the Christmas knitting that I choose to do. For whatever reason, I'm not jazzed about doing it this year. I did tell family members that I wasn't planning on doing much, if any, unless they make specific requests. I stressed, though, that I'm not likely to be making socks for anyone else despite my recent breakthrough. I didn't get much of a sense that anyone cared one way or the other before. After telling them, I could read between the lines that a couple might want something. We'll see.

Following up on a question about what else I'd like to demystify, I've sort of done that with cables, although I haven't worked on (or completed) the practice cabled dishcloth I was knitting a couple months ago. I may have to re-demystify that. Intarsia/colorwork in general also goes on the list, although right at this moment I'm not in a learning mood. I'm just too tired.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

It still moves

After seeing My Morning Jacket at The Lifestyle Communities Pavilion (otherwise known as The LC) tonight, I feel I have a sense of what it must have been like to see some of the monsters of 70s rock in their day. The Louisville, Kentucky band played for two hours and fifteen minutes with nary a wasted moment. Other than a pair of eyes projected onto the cyclorama, there really wasn't much in the way of a stage production beyond the usual light show. The focus was on cranking out song after song primarily from their last three studio albums.

The one, two, three punch of "Mahgeetah", "Dondante", and "Gideon" alone (links selected for audio fidelity) was just about worth the price of admission, but the knockout blow came with "Lay Low" and easily the longest jamming I've ever witnessed on the instrumental end of the song. (I would guarantee it's longer than the California performance I linked to, but maybe this is one of those situations where perception of time is off.) Granted, I've never been into the kinds of bands that, when given the chance, would go on and on and on and on and on and on... Pretty spectacular to hear and see while not at all coming off like a bunch of guitar wankery. OK, maybe a little bit, but it was awfully cool.

My Morning Jacket made a mighty racket that seemed just right for a cool evening outdoors in the early fall. Is there any need to say more than that?

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Sunday, October 05, 2008


Campfire Socks

Yarn: ONline Supersocke 6-fach (75% superwash wool, 25% polyamid; sport weight)
Colorway: 1091 (blue, gray, and brown variegated)
Needles: US 4 dpns
Stitches: 52

If someone who doesn't know I knit were to find out and ask why, these socks would do well as an explanation. They're not perfect, but I'm really proud of them. I like that I have the ability to make something and wear it. I like that I've been able to learn the structure of something and can reproduce and understand it. I enjoy the process and the product. I'm impressed that how to knit socks makes sense to me.

The second sock of the pair is much better made than the first. I cast on a little looser, which makes this sock easier to pull on. I'm being gentler with these than I would with some inexpensive store-bought socks, but I could probably get away with a couple more stitches to make them slide on with worrying about ripping anything. Nevertheless, they fit very well.

The pattern lists a couple recommendations for avoiding a holey gusset. I added these tricks to the other tips I've practiced. I still ended up with a small hole near the ankle on one side, but the other side looks great. The difference was in not having holes where I picked up stitches along the heel flap. I picked up slightly deeper into that selvage edges and knit those stitches through the back loop the first time around. The resulting look is more polished, although I did find that I feel a thicker edge on the inside of the sock. Hopefully you can tell that the knitting on the top sock's gusset is smoother in the picture above.

I've had some issues with a ladder through the middle of the foot where the stitches are divided. It doesn't appear that the hint of a ladder is noticeable. Cool. I figured out that I may have been creating one through counterintuitive knitting technique. I'd been pulling the last stitch on the third needle and first stitch on the first needle very tight. What I was doing was then creating a small but perceptible tension gap between those stitches and the ones surrounding them. When I stopped trying to knit those as tightly as I could, it looked like the ladder disappeared. Looser knitting is also good news for my hands and wrists, especially with these small needles.

I'm really happy with how these socks look. I get why variegated yarn is all the rage for sock knitting. The regular change in color keeps things interesting while you're working with it. (There's also the benefit in being able to figure out if you have the right piece of yarn when picking up stitches.) I'm unconcerned that the socks aren't perfect matches as far as the distribution of the colorway goes. There's probably a way to determine how to do that, but it didn't matter to me.

Frankly, I'm shocked that I've been able to knit these socks as quickly as I have. (I still had some of the leg to do when I resumed knitting yesterday.) Certainly it's a sign that I enjoy making socks and grasp the process. I don't know when I'll start my next pair, but unlike scarves and hats, I have a need for several pairs of socks. Guess I'm on the bandwagon.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Don't try this at home

When I first started writing film reviews I didn't have access to advance screenings, so moviegoing marathons ruled my Fridays or Saturdays. (It depended on which day I had to be at work.) Seeing three or four in a day was not unusual, and a return trip the following day wasn't out of the question. Eventually I found out how to attend the press and promo screenings. I still saw a film or two on the weekend, but I viewed the majority during the week. To conserve time and fuel I've gone back to the old model this year. I'd even been cutting out some of the films I knew would not be worth my time.

This has been a mostly smart change, but with nearly thirty films opening in commercial release here in the last three weeks, playing catch-up and sampling the goods (for deciding what to review on the show) has chewed up a lot of recent weekend hours. I saw three films yesterday--all duds--and three more today. Tomorrow brings one more. (Good thing I went to the promo for Flash of Genius last week, I guess.)

As I left the theater around 4:15 this afternoon, I shook my head and wondered how I used to do this every week. (And yes, I know I've thrown down more films in one day than I did over both of these, but that's the film fest exception.) Granted, I didn't see much I liked, but that's almost beside the point when you're a critic. Knitting has been good at slowing me down and reminding me to take a breather. A case like this weekend provides a shining example.

After seeing Blindness I'll park myself at home in observance of the lessons knitting has taught me. I'm tempted to trek to Ohio State to see Bruce Springsteen play at a rally for Obama, but I went to a similar event four years ago. Lots of standing around and waiting. More importantly, though, I have a sock that needs finishing. I won't be doing that if I'm hanging around The Oval for the better part of the afternoon and early evening.

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Friday, October 03, 2008


Today marks a year for me on Ravelry. It might seem weird to bother making mention of such an occasion. Do people on other social networking sites notice when they have used those services for a year? Of course, I don't--and I suspect you don't--think of Ravelry first and foremost as a social networking site but as a one-stop shop for all things knitting, so that may explain the difference.

My Ravelversary seems like a good time, though, to heap praise on a site that plays a significant role in developing who I am as a knitter. I am an organized person, but sometimes my organization is in theoretical mode rather than in application. Ravelry makes it very easy to keep track of my projects, which makes it easy to find when I blogged about an FO and need some of the information from those posts. Really, it serves one of the purposes that this blog was semi-intended for.

Ravelry has also made it exponentially easier to find patterns that might interest me and direct me to knitting information. Remember the days of using search engines to find patterns and the like? Does anyone still do that outside of Ravelry?

It's also connected me with other knitters. I don't quite remember how I found out about the Wednesday knit night at the local LYS, but I suspect it was through a Ravelry forum. Later on I found another knitting group I'm more comfortable with and which fits my schedule better. It too came to my attention through Ravelry.

I've been attending fairly regularly for a few months now and don't feel so much like the odd man out (although I am, literally, the only male) now. I imagine my mostly quiet presence still befuddles many, but I've been welcomed in. I may feel like an interloper from time to time, but that's coming from me, not them.

Ravelry has helped me set goals, whether through site activities like Ravelympics or that nagging need to complete something because of the progress bars. I might finish the blanket I started making for myself if I would only add it to my project page.

Finally, I get a nice feeling of accomplishment when seeing the little hearts underneath my projects. Shallow but true. I don't know what draws these (mostly) strangers to look and leave their seals of approval or why this hat has been showered with far more love than this hat. (I prefer the way the kettle-dyed yarn knitted up in the latter.) Whatever the case, I'm pleased to receive such positive feedback.

Jess and Casey have done a remarkable job of filling a niche. The response must have exceeded their expectations. Ravelry may still be in beta a year after I joined the club, yet in my mind it is the definitive knitting site. If you aren't part of it, what's the hold-up?

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hey, hey, what can I do

Temperatures stayed on the chilly side today, so for the first time this season I wore long sleeves. I'm going to have to remember how to knit with those. After three days away from the needles, I picked them back up and kept getting them snagged in my sleeves. It didn't help that I felt like I was knitting in slow motion while parked at knit night. The week was catching up with me, and I could feel myself fading earlier than usual. Plus, I needed to get home to watch the Vice-Presidential debate and test whether or not my head would explode. (And in a really nerdy way I wanted to see the venue because I've broadcast basketball from there.)

I showed off the first sock of the pair at the gathering and was particularly gratified when a non-knitter expressed amazement at what I'd done. (Using four dpns makes it look incredibly complicated.) To be sure, I appreciated the other knitters' compliments. Such words make me feel like I can pass for a knitter. The opinion of a non-knitter, though, reminded me of how mysterious this whole knitting thing can be to those who don't do it.

It was a little less than two years ago that I began to have knitting demystified. I wasn't sure if I could do it. Looking back, it seems like a silly attitude to have held, but that too reveals how far I've come. I wouldn't put my current skill level any farther than beginner--maybe advanced beginner if I'm feeling generous--but I've come quite a ways. Who'da thunk it?

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Perspective prescription

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about these crazy times and the relation of my bad mood to them. I should clarify that I'm not worried...yet...about what the economic chatter might mean. (Maybe it's because I don't really understand it.) I was griping because I was tired and grumpy from a couple long work days and having my break from the grind being an aggravation due to concertgoers intent to ruin the experience. Plus, being in a battleground state, it's hard to avoid the mudslinging in the Presidential campaign. (Is it me or has this been a really nasty campaign?)

Nevertheless, your comments reminded me to be thankful for what is in my favor. I am debt-free. I own my car. My job should be relatively secure, although there's the potential for things to get dicey if a tax issue fails on Election Day. Where I call home should not be threatened even if things take a dip because the rental company is fairly big and appears to be doing well, not that I have any way of knowing. The latest polls regarding Obama's likelihood of winning are heartening, although who knows if they can be trusted.

Sure, work can take the wind out of my proverbial sails, especially at the beginning of the week. While it can be tiring, I feel like things there have stabilized (mostly) and are on an upswing after a rocky couple of years. I also feel like I'm doing better work and being more valuable to the students. I never really know how I'm doing, and I can be extremely tough in evaluating myself. So for me to acknowledge this is saying something.

I could continue to fume about a certain knitting site that's been stealing my posts for months (and will probably swipe this one), but that's wasted energy. I'll have another crack at not having the concert experience ruined when I see My Morning Jacket and Fleet Foxes next week. (Yes, it's ridiculous that I'll have gone to three shows in ten days. No complaints here.) For better or worse, the Presidential hysteria will be over in little more than a month. (It will, right?)

Sorry, no knitting to report as I haven't had time for it since Sunday. I'll try to get back on task and be more pleasant next time.

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