Saturday, January 31, 2009

Common ground

Flipping through radio stations tonight I heard a liner on one boasting that they were the place to hear three bands not all that similar stylistically. (The Pet Shop Boys and Poison were named. I don't remember the third.) The only thing the groups have in common is that they shared a home on Top 40 radio in their day. I can't claim to listen to a lot of Contemporary Hits Radio (or whatever the format is called today), but it seems to lack the variety that it had in my formative years. (Isn't that always the case?)

A large part of the reason is because everything these days, especially in radio, is about serving the niche. That's not necessarily a bad thing. We have greater access to the kinds of music and movies we want to hear and see than has ever been possible. We are able to feed our interests better. What could be wrong with that?

For one, the potential lack of diverse opinions among the whole occurs when we can hang out exclusively in our own corners of the culture. Echo chambers replace common ground. With that comes the loss of perspective.

Consider the film festival experience. It is possible for two people to attend the same festival and see little or nothing that overlaps. Obviously their individual impressions of the event may be quite different simply on the basis of no common ground.

For the most part the biggest things in pop culture aren't as big as they used to be. Some songs, films, and television programs continue to span the divides, but they're exceptions to the rule. The most watched TV shows tend to cater to specific audiences. It makes sense. With so many available options, it's easier to appeal to and please narrower audiences than everybody.

One of the few remaining cultural crossovers is sports. Super Bowl XLIII takes place tomorrow, and I suspect most of you will be watching or attending a party where the game is on even if you couldn't care less about football. It's a unifying event unlike most everything else. Pop culture used to provide entertainment like this on a wider scale, so let's make sure to enjoy these moments like when they do come around.

And yes, that holds even if those dastardly Steelers win.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Knit flick

All I know about the 1977 movie The Incredible Melting Man comes from its Wikipedia and IMDB pages. Well, that and this YouTube clip that features a lot of said incredible melting man spying on a woman knitting. (While I don't think the clip merits a warning, I'll cover my bases and say that this comes from a horror movie, meaning that the incredible melting man's appearance may bother some.)

The fact that there's a lot of onscreen time devoted to knitting makes this scene weird enough. But look at those needles! They're bent near the knob end (or whatever the appropriate term is).

Notice that the knitter never seems to get much done. It's hard to tell since her hands cover the stitches on the needles, but she's always working at the tips with no discernible progress. That's probably for the best because the two knitting close-up shots (at :16 and :48) appear to be the same shot repeated twice. Both shots last for approximately an equal amount of time and, to the best of my observation, look exactly the same.

As for the butterfly wall hanging...let's just say it's proof enough that this was definitely made in the '70s.

I'm extremely curious to see this film now, even though it is most assuredly terrible. Unfortunately it is only available on VHS and discontinued Region 2 DVD. While I have a cheap region-free player, something tells me that tracking down a DVD would either be difficult or expensive and require more time or money than it's worth. I don't have a VCR in my system since my old player eats tapes, and I haven't had a need to replace it. Still, it might be worth finding a videocassette and dubbing it onto a DVD at work, if just to find out what happens to the knitter. Something tells me it isn't good.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Snow days

Work was open again after yesterday's snow day, although chances are I could have made it to the office faster on Wednesday than I did today. Not many people were out and about yesterday. This morning, despite waiting until 10:20 a.m. to leave, I got to sit and creep along on the sloppy four lane city street before making it to the pristine interstate. It took longer to get to the highway than I spent on it, if that tells you anything.

Snow days are a rarity for me now, although they're just as treasured as when I was a kid. It feels like you got one over when a day of classes or work gets scrapped because of bad traveling conditions. All of a sudden the hours that belonged to someone else are yours again.

The night before a potential snow day was filled with the excitement of the next morning's good news of day free from school. (I should point out that I was one of those kids who liked school, but still, who doesn't enjoy a day off every now and then?) I'd wake up to the sound of my dad listening to the radio. Sometimes my brothers and I could hear the announced delays and closings from our beds, sometimes we couldn't. Mom or dad would inform us if school was still on, meaning we either had more time to sleep or needed to be up and about. We walked to elementary school, so there was no bus to get up early to catch.

What did we do on snow days? Honestly, I don't remember. I'm sure I did plenty of reading and probably some baking, whether with mom or at grandma's. I recall that we would put on snowsuits and play in the yard. What else would four boys do with all that snow beckoning? We didn't have any hills, but on some occasions dad would tie a sled to the back of a tractor (or maybe a pickup) at the grain elevator and drag us around. I'm sure today's experts would tsk-tsk at how unsafe it was, but no one ever got run over.

Living in a small town, it was impossible to be snowed in, at least as far as being cut off from getting the necessities. There was a grocery store a couple streets over that, even in the worst case scenario, could easily be reached on foot. All the other things that snow days could mean--dangerous travel, power outages, isolation--didn't really enter the equation. Whether a day or longer, snow days were like a cold vacation. I suppose that's why I remain eager to get one from time to time.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I went to bed last night with some faith that school would be closed today. When I left the office yesterday evening to go to a nearby screening, snow was falling. Traffic was bunched up and slow, but the roads were not that bad going by local standards. When I got out of the screening a couple hours later, the snow had switched to freezing rain and sleet. The roads were worse and drivers even more unsafely skittish, but if this was as bad as it was going to get, there would be no reason why my employer would close. School districts close; colleges and universities rarely do.

Of course, we were in for more frozen precipitation through the rest of the night and into this morning and afternoon. Although I didn't have my cell phone in the bedroom, it awakened me at 5:40 a.m. as an automated call came in from my place of work. I had no idea what time it was when I was jolted out of my sleep, so I chose to answer the call when I recognized the number. No one (or no thing, in this case) responded, but I figured it meant we were closed. A quick boot-up of the computer confirmed as much.

I slept in late and then decided to clear off my car so I could go across the street for an intended breakfast that became lunch. You see, it took me a good half hour to get through the thick ice on the windows and windshield. Scraping was worthless; I had to score the ice and chip through it. Luckily I had the foresight to raise my brand new windshield wipers the night before. Otherwise they would have been stuck to the glass.

Eventually I had enough snow and ice cleared to be able to drive the short distance for the meal. When I took of my hat, coat, scarf, and gloves I discovered that I was glazed with ice, snow, and water. What I had to eat warmed me up. Then I went home to watch TV for a bit, took a nap, and then finally did some necessary work that I should have been doing (and would have done at the office if I'd been there). Is it greedy to ask for another one of these days tomorrow?


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Flaking out

I ate all three meals at the office today and then spent extra time on the road getting home tonight. Snow and freezing rain have been falling since this afternoon and are forecast to continue through the middle of tomorrow. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that all I'm good for today is a photo and a wish for the elusive snow day.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

For convenience's sake

I am on record against grocery shopper loyalty cards, the despised Kroger Plus Card in particular. Kroger was unfortunate enough to provide my first exposure to this insidious creation and paid the price for it. I stopped shopping there altogether and haven't looked back. All hail Meijer and its resistance to the shopper loyalty card.

I've been fighting my war of passive aggression for perhaps as long as a decade, but a moment's weakness has undone the long battle. A couple weeks ago I was tired and getting home late but needed to pick up one item. A Kroger is across the street from my apartment. Going to Meijer meant adding ten minutes to my trip as it isn't on the way home. I decided that I was willing to pay the higher price and go to Kroger to save time.

Sure enough, it would have cost me an extra dollar or two since I didn't have a Kroger Plus Card. I was ready to pay the added cost, but the helpful cashier tracked down a shiny new loyalty card and gave it to me along with a reminder to fill out and drop off the personal information on the application. When I asked if I needed to complete that section, she said that I did if I wanted to receive coupons in the mail.

I accepted that card with no intention of ever filling out and giving my particulars to the store. I decided that it would be useful to have the card on hand for instances when it's simply more convenient to go to the closer grocery. Granted, it's always more convenient, but I was thinking of the times I only need one or two things. Plus, on the rare occasions when I've gone there, I've always felt a need to explain why I don't have one of these cards, which probably just makes me sound like a jerk.

My Kroger Plus card remains anonymous, but I must confess to shopping there a few more times since getting it (and I kind of hate myself for doing this). I still and will do the bulk of my grocery shopping at the store that hasn't instituted shopper loyalty cards, but as self-righteous as I'd like to be about the issue, it's so much easier just to pop across the road.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dishcloth redux

The A.V. Club Hipster Dishrag

Yarn: Lily The Original Sugar'n Cream (100% cotton; worsted weight)
Colors: Wine and Jute
Needles: US 7s
Stitches: 40

Two gifts ready to go in the mail and surprise an old friend.

You can see that the capital B in "Club" strains to appear, but there's not much I can do about that. The way the knits and purls sit side by side foils my best intentions, but it is there, even if it's easier to see when aware of its existence.

The first one took a little getting reacquainted to, but by the time I cast on for the second one late this morning, I was in the groove. With the pattern propped up on my knee, I knit as close to nonstop as possible, breaking only when I needed to stretch or get a piece of paper to help underline the row I was working on. Snow softly fell while I listened to the latest Lambchop and Animal Collective albums online and zoned out to this knit.

Not bad for a weekend's work.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Second time around

I'm currently knitting my own dischloth pattern for another friend who writes for the same outlet. Knitting it again gives me a chance to evaluate my own pattern-writing since enough time has passed that I don't know exactly what each stitch is doing while I knit it.

My first observation is that it truly does knit up quickly as long as I'm not trying to do anything else, like be involved in a conversation--it's not a good knit night project--or watch television. If I devote my full attention to it, I can knock out one in a single sitting lasting three or four hours.

While I know why I wrote out the k3 side border on every row--it made it easier to understand where I was in the pattern--it probably isn't necessary and just makes more stuff to read and mess up. Nevertheless, there's still some value in idiot-proofing the pattern. I know that in my early knitting days I got annoyed with patterns that assumed I know what they were talking about without fully explaining it. So newbies, that one's for you.

Lastly, I can't wait to see when someone has one of these on her own project page. I've received scattered hits from presumably curious knitters, but so far I haven't come across any works in progress or FOs. I know there's a very small number of people who might even consider making it--or who would even think of looking for it--but all I'm looking for is one. (And no, Donna, this is not a callout or challenge.)

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Friday, January 23, 2009

Brothers in yarns

Still not much to report on my own knitting progress, but in a desperate search for something to post today, I came upon an article about "The Best Known Male Knitters of the Twentieth Century".

What's most surprising about the article is learning that one man hosted a knitting show on the BBC in the 1970s. I tried looking for more information about James Norbury, but he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page. Needless to say, no one has uploaded any of his old programs to YouTube.

There is, however, a bit more on him in an old Knitty article naming the top 10 most influential men in knitting, although influence doesn't always equal knitter.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

And the award goes to...

Today was the big day for my other blogging beat, but I'm not here to talk about film award nominations.

In the spirit of those other awards, I'm curious what you would nominate if there were knitting bests to vote on. Be it the best pattern, yarn, knitting tool, personal FO, or whatever else strikes your fancy, what were the crowning achievements in knitting for 2008?

I have a tendency to make the same thing multiple times and a limited view of what yarn is out there, but passing on answering won't cut it since I raised the question and ought to play along, so...

Best Personal FO for 2008 is, without a doubt, the Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks scarf. It was the perfect marriage of pattern and yarn.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Still more remainders

I'm attending to other work that needs to get done and between projects, so I'm at something of a loss for blog content. Yep, it's another day of following up on previous topics. Bear with me.

As previously reported, the temporary cold weather beard is gone, but the cold weather isn't. If you were wondering if the facial hair did make a difference in the fight against the winter chill, the answer is absolutely.

It hasn't been as brutally cold as the end of last week, but we've still been having single digit morning temperatures and daily highs below twenty. And then there's the wind chill. We've had a solid cold spell, although supposedly it's to begin warming up, if you consider breaking the freezing point warm.

Anyway, the scraggly beard may have made me look like I was ready to ride the rails, but it did fend off the frigid air more effectively than I realized. Once it was gone, my clean shaven cheeks could feel the slap of the cold weather. That'll wake you up in the morning.

On a side note, I found it interesting that the hobo look brought no comments, not that I was seeking any. (I'm not counting those who read this blog as I'd already introduced it as a potential topic of conversation.) Similarly, there have been no comments regarding losing the scruff. I certainly notice the difference shaving (and not shaving) made in my appearance, so I'm not sure what to make of the non-reaction or if there's anything to make of it.

I really need to find something more worthy of writing about...

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

More remainders

Is a Monday holiday really a day off when you're twice as busy on Tuesday? What does that matter to you, you say? It means more remainders of previously blogged topics, I say.

I'm only in the third week of my resolution to eat better and eat less but so far, so good. I've used the Crock Pot to roast beef, pork tenderloin, and ham along with some vegetables. (Note to self: if you put vegetables in with ham, they will pick up a strong ham taste.)

The intention (and practice to date) is to make the food on Sunday, which gives me a week's worth of lunches and/or suppers. Yes, it can get boring, although I try not to eat the same thing for those two meals every day. Still, the preparation takes a lot of the uncertainty and easy alternatives/bad inclinations out of the mix. That's been an enormous help.

Since no weighing is part of this self-developed plan, I can't speak to any quantifiable data proving success, but I'm fairly sure I've dropped a few pounds. As I go along it will be more apparent, but I think I'm on the right course.

Let's see, what else is going on... Oh yeah, there was an inauguration today. I was too busy to pay real close attention to everything, but seeing the turnout in D.C. and around the TVs where I work can't help but make me feel hopeful that we're going to get things turned in the right direction. Maybe the unity will just be for a day, and maybe the complaints that were already coming from the new President's supporters even before he'd taken the oath will get higher pitched. But maybe things are different for the better now. Let's hope so.

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Monday, January 19, 2009


Touching upon some things mentioned previously...

Having finally completed the guitar portion of Guitar Hero: World Tour for the Wii, I must say that the song selection leaves quite a bit to be desired. While I'm up on the music scene, I'm not necessarily plugged in to what's on the radio. Still, I get the sense that there are a fair number of songs that aren't widely known. The hard rock (or active rock or whatever they're calling it these days) picks surely are confined to that genre. I haven't a clue where the Spanish rock offerings came from. Between these less well-known choices and some pop songs whose inclusion feels like a test for future niche games, I'm disappointed in what's available to be played. And please, enough with the epic-length songs too.

Reading at least one book each month wasn't one of my resolutions, but perhaps I should make an effort to do that. January can be checked off as I've finished The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman. It's light reading that can be picked up and put down at a moment's notice, which is good for my packed month. I found it to be consistently funny, even if the conceit of an almanac of false facts peters out now and then.

Yesterday I posted about an actress whose convincing on-screen knitting is due to her being a knitter. I should have clicked on the next item in my search before posting because this article goes into more detail about her knitting.

Finally, by request and gauntlet throwdown, I present photographic proof of my cold weather beard. (You'll have to follow that link as I'm not posting it here. I don't want to see it.) It took eleven days of not shaving to produce all that scruff. It's being sheared off tonight because I'm not going on TV looking like that and because I'm tired of it even if it's just now starting to look like a beard.

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Knitting as performance

I know how to play the piano, so I can usually tell when someone in a movie or TV show is really tickling the ivories or faking it. Granted, most times the given actor probably isn't playing (or at least the playing isn't heard on the soundtrack), but even when pretending to play, it's possible to tell who knows how and who doesn't. The larger the movements, the less likely it is that the performer possesses the skill.

I'm guessing that the same applies to knitting in films, TV, and commercials. Although knitting isn't commonplace in these places, I notice it more than I expect to see it. OK, so knitting tends to appear most often in period films or be done by old ladies. (It also seems to be a shortcut for communicating female domesticity. For instance, there's a current Burger King commercial with a wife knitting.)

Anyway, a familiar tactic is to see the knitter make a big, slow motion to wrap the yarn and complete one stitch--two at most--before stopping to participate in a discussion or to register shock or disapproval. This way the actress doesn't really need to know how to knit but how to pretend knit sufficiently.

I mention this because I noticed Vera Farmiga knitting in one scene in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and thought from how she was working on the project that she must be a knitter. It turns out that she is. She doesn't exaggerate what she's doing and, in fact, looks away from the WIP while knitting.

So, take note actors. If you're called upon to fake knit for your part, don't overdo it.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Head in a cloud

Seaman's Cap

Yarn: Shibui Baby Alpaca DK (100% baby alpaca; DK weight)
Colorway: Midnight (BA2955)--Deep Royal Blue
Needles: US 5 and 6 circulars
Stitches: 102

Nothing quite turned out as expected with this hat. While I should know by now that hand dyed=variegated (to some degree), I was expecting a more consistent color throughout. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. The stripes are consistently spaced, subtle, and probably keep the hat from being too boring. I just wasn't anticipating them.

I thought this hat was going to be a perfect fit. Maybe it would have been without the additional couple rows of stockinette I decided to knit, but it has some extra space at the top even when pulled all the way over my ears. Again, I don't know that this earns the hat any demerits. If anything, it means it provides more cover of the nape and won't slip and uncover my ears. (Note to English majors/amateur grammarians: based on the online dictionary definition, I'm using "nape" rather than "nape of the neck" as the latter seems redundant.)

Initially I was afraid that the hat might be a little tight around the cast on row, what with my uncertainty about making needle and yarn conversions to achieve gauge. As it turned out, the hat is very stretchy and fits quite nicely where the folded cuff is.

All of these unexpected results might sound like I'm unhappy with the hat, but that isn't the case. It's the softest thing ever. The softness of the Shibui yarn makes donning the hat feel like wearing a cloud. This is lightweight, luxurious stuff. The hat is knit well, if I do say so myself. There's no ladder, not even a suggestion of one, where I joined in the round. (Using only one magic loop, which I could get away with until the last few decrease rounds, may be responsible for this. Either that or my looser knitting.)

Sure, the hat's a little too big, but I'd rather have it slightly too long than too short. The color should go well with my overcoat and the scarf I've typically been wearing. While the hat feels as though it has zero weight, I expect it will keep my head warm, and that's the main thing that matters.

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Friday, January 16, 2009


The lowest temperature I saw today was a brisk -14 Fahrenheit when I got up this morning. The weather tool in my Google Desktop sidebar displays -10 as I write this blog entry. To say the least, it's very, very cold. The furnace is doing its job, but I can still feel the chill seeping through the windows. This is a day for long johns, thick socks, and thick, woolly scarves...and those might not be bad to wear inside.

I ventured out to see a movie, swap some screeners, and pick up some groceries, but other than that, this was a day for staying indoors. I don't recall having a day quite this cold in some time. My trusty car started without any fuss. I'm glad my shaving laziness provided a little more protection from the elements. I dug out one of my old, stretched out garter stitch scarves to help cover up. I could stand the frigid air, but I was wise enough not to stay out in it for extended periods. After all, it was so cold that the hairs in your nose freeze when breathing, and the chill drapes you like a gauzy garment.

The cold made this a perfect day for knitting, although I must fess up to taking a lengthy afternoon nap that kept me from finishing my hat today. Well, there's that and the fact that I've been knitting others like it too short.

I've made the pattern a fair number of times, but either I ignored or misread the instruction regarding the length. Actually, now that I look at it to write this, I'm not sure what's "correct".

The pattern says to knit until the hat measures 7.5" from the beginning. Then the crown decreases begin. This instruction doesn't list the measurement for the largest size, but at the start of the pattern it's mentioned that the smallest finished hat is supposed to be 7.5" long with the folded cuff and the largest is to be 8.25". I interpreted the instruction to mean that I should knit until the hat measures 8.25" and then start decreasing. Since the last one I made for myself is a little shorter than I'd like, some extra length is desirable even if it's unintended in the knitting.

For the previous hats I was measuring from the cast on row, but it occurred to me that this makes no sense. After all, the cuff will be folded, so shouldn't I fold it and then measure for the 8.25"? So that's what I've been doing. I've tried it on every now and then, and I think this is the right approach. It should be long enough to cover my ears completely and fit snugly at the crown.

But as I reread the pattern, the finished length with folded cuff is supposed to be 8.25". Mine's already that long before decreasing. This WIP is already longer than the one I made myself about a year ago. Now I'm thinking that I misread the pattern, but it's a good kind of mistake as this hat should be a better fit. I'm curious, though, what you think the pattern writer intends for the knitter to do. As for mine, it should be done and ready for wearing tomorrow.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cool as ice

While the subzero temperature, wind chill advisory, and a 9:45 p.m. average time getting home this week had me ready to skip knit night, I faced the cold and went. When it's that cold outside, the car's heater is fighting a losing battle. Sure, it was blowing warm, but it didn't feel especially hot in the frigid air.

Maybe it was chill-inspired speed, but I got a lot of knitting done. I'd forgotten how quickly the Seaman's Cap knits up once you get past the ribbed cuff. I started the evening with the needle size switch and stockinette portion. Now I'm nearly to the point where I begin decreasing.

My initial concern of not achieving row gauge was misplaced. The folded cuff will be prominent but not overly large. I've tried on the hat as best as I can with it being on circs. When done it should have a snug fit that's just right.

The one thing I'm not certain of is exactly how it will look. The yarn is hand dyed. In the right light, the cuff appears like it might be striped. I'm not saying this is necessarily a negative but that it isn't quite what I expected. However it turns out, the blues in the hat are well-suited to the color of the light this time of year.

Anyway, I know this isn't earth-shaking news, but at least I had something knitting-related to write about today. Depending how much I stay in tomorrow, perhaps I'll have an FO to show off in 24 hours.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Olly olly oxen free

It's been a cold, snowy day here. I've read one report of seven inches of the white, powdery stuff falling today, with an additional smidgen expected overnight and more showers tomorrow. As cold as it was today, it's supposed to dip into single digits the next two days.

Needless to say, this was a good day for staying inside, but I'm going to ask for you to come outside, so to speak. I missed National Delurking Day yesterday, but I'd still like to invite comments, especially from those lurkers out there. You don't need to say much. Name and location are fine, although you're welcome to say more, shamelessly promote your own blog, etc. Even if you come across this entry on a different day, pipe up. Now's your chance.

To make your blog visit more edifying than reading a call for lurkers to say hello, I snapped a few photos around the wintry campus. I'm not always up on what I properly consider campus--my office, for instance, is no longer there--but I had to be up there a couple times today.

Enjoy the pictures, and share a few words of your own.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Unintended as it may be, I now find myself with enough scruff on my chin and cheeks for it possibly to be called a beard. I didn't feel like shaving on Friday. The same went for Saturday. Why bother on Sunday? I planned to shave it on Monday, but again, I couldn't find the motivation to mess with the razor and shaving cream. Today it was going to be gone, but with the temperature dropping into the low twenties and headed lower, I figured it was a little extra protection against the cold.

If anything, the temporary facial hair is a way of mixing up how I look, even so I seem a little less familiar to myself in the mirror. It's not like I can do anything with my hair to change things up. As easily as it grows on my face, it just as fervently is receding atop my head. Can't say I'm thrilled about it, but what am I gonna do? (The answer: nothing. When it's gone, it's gone.)

The thing is, I'm not necessarily crazy about the beard. It comes in well enough, except the bristles tend to be lighter in color than my dark brown hair. Some small spots are even *gasp* gray. (Seriously, cut it out nature. I'm not that old yet, and you've already taken enough too soon.) I have noticed that if I look at this nascent beard when the light isn't shining on it, it appears darker, so I don't know what exactly is going on.

At five days' growth, going on six, the beard is on the verge of looking scuzzy and becoming an irritation to me. Not yet, but close. There is something strangely appealing about letting it grow as a statement of disaffection, however. Having it is a little like wearing a mask too.

When I shave it off, which will be soon enough, the same old me will look brand new again...and probably sport a nick or two from shearing it.

And no, you're not getting a picture.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

The pages of time

I used to be a fairly voracious reader, but I confess to not consuming as many books as I once did, especially in childhood. Go ahead Luddites, blame TV, the movies, and the internet. Without a doubt, those things are in part to blame.

I read lots of different things. Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigators, and The Hardy Boys mysteries led to Agatha Christie. I recall a James Herriott period in elementary school. I was never much into fantasy, but Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain series were some of my favorite books. The classics and sports biographies were regularly on my plate. I even went through a brief time reading trashy Elvis Presley tell-alls and Wilson Bryan Key's books about subliminal advertising and messages.

Mysteries were probably my favorite genre, but comedy books were up there too. I advanced from the writings of Gordon Korman to the compiled works of newspaper columnists Dave Barry and Lewis Grizzard. I was also a regular and thorough newspaper reader, even stuff like reviews of movies I wouldn't be allowed to see or had no interest in. Is it any wonder that I had journalistic aspirations or that I write semi-professionally or as a hobby?

Those humor books, though, were always a reliable source of amusement. Although they may not rank alongside the peaks of literature, they delivered on their purpose of providing a smile or some laughs. (I haven't read Dave Barry regularly in a long time, partially because it seemed like his columns were very formulaic.) While my tastes in pop culture probably aim slightly higher than the mainstream, one lesson from these books is to remember that there is worth in the popular and lowbrow as long as they are well-executed.

This reflection comes to me as I make my way through The Areas of My Expertise, which I received for Christmas. I've been busy and not ready to commit to a read that requires a little more brainpower, so John Hodgman's book of humorous nuggets has been a splendid companion at the moment. Laughs are not easy to get, so those who can do it deserve more thanks than we or they know.

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Sunday, January 11, 2009


It's only one day, but I feel like I've regained a semblance of normalcy. No rushing around, no deadlines to meet, no leaving home for any significant amount of time. There was clothes and dish washing, pork tenderloin and vegetable roasting, cookie making, napping, football watching, and knitting. Ahhhhh.

I ripped out the seaman's cap that I started and twisted on the 1st. I was extra careful not to twist it this time. I had to watch the cast on row with an eagle eye, but the additional time was worth the trouble. Ten rows are finished, and the hat isn't twisted.

I'm using Shibui Baby Alpaca DK in the deep royal blue colorway. It's wonderfully soft and beautiful yarn. I went down a needle size to achieve stitch gauge, but I don't think I'm getting the proper row gauge. I don't foresee any problem other than having to knit more rows and potentially running out of yarn.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

One week

It's sad but true that this week has been a ridiculously busy one. While I feel a little more energetic after collapsing for an hour and a half this afternoon, the truth of the matter is that I am whipped. So, for blogging purposes, I present a summary of the week's activities. This list is not intended to stir up sympathy but to fulfill my daily blogging requirement.

-Deal with the beginning of a new academic quarter, all of the attendant busywork, and the normal job duties.

-Create new set of internal rules regarding reported work study hours to deal with problem of overstated time and clarify what qualifies and what does not. (This is more complicated than it sounds.)

-View three films in the theaters. (For what it's worth, this is probably below my weekly average.)

-Write three reviews of films seen prior to this week.

-Complete all other pre-production work necessary for mounting a half-hour television show.

-Compose year-end nomination lists for two groups.

-Finish tallying one group's nominations and create online ballot.

-Write press release and everything else related to getting the word out to group's members and beyond.

-Attend group's awards party and reveal winners.

-Record half-hour podcast about the awards for alternative weekly newspaper.

-Keep official statistics for two college basketball games.

-Along with other people, meet up with two friends who moved to Seattle and whom I haven't seen in two years.

It's not a perfect measurement, but the average time I got home each day this week was probably 9:00/9:30 p.m. I was doing work the rare night I was home early. No wonder I haven't had the time or energy to knit or write about much of anything.

I have nothing on the books for Sunday, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to refuel a little before going right back to it Monday.

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Friday, January 09, 2009


If the week was catching up with me yesterday--a YouTube video post, of all things--then it ran me over today. Work, podcast recording, brief time home, and then an unexpectedly long evening out seeing friends who moved away two years ago. The meet-up was really nice and has allowed me to see how I've changed in that time, but I've got no energy for writing or much to write about.

This is when the daily blogging can become a challenge. Busy schedule, nothing terribly interesting happening, and not a lot of time to sit and be. I haven't knit since New Year's Day. Hopefully that will change this weekend.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

You knit what you eat

Have you ever felt like a meal would be better if you could knit your food? I've found the solution for the cost-conscious knitter and eater: knitting ramen noodles with chopsticks.

Um, now making dinner is twice as fun?


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A man, a plan

Two years ago I did well and got down to a weight I was happy with, even if I wouldn't have minded losing a bit more. About a year ago I noticed that I was starting to gain some back. I'm not surprised. Work stress ramped up, and I gradually broke the good habits I had adopted.

I thought the Wii Fit might help with my motivation. It did for awhile and was encouraged by the results. Then I discovered that the balance board wasn't going all the way down. I'm sure I lost weight, but the problem was that with an accurate measurement, I weighed more than where I started. Frustrated, I blew the good routine I had renewed.

The new year provides a convenient excuse to commit to everyone's favorite resolution to lose weight and so I have. The opportunity to exercise is going to be difficult during this season--I prefer to walk or run outside rather than use a treadmill--but significant changes in diet should jumpstart my effort.

Last time I didn't follow a specific diet or plan, but it worked for me. Here's what I'm doing to drop pounds:

-Make my own meals as much as possible.

Failing to do this is one of the biggest reasons why I regained weight. I resist laying out a menu for the week, especially because cooking for one already produces more than I need. I got a Crock Pot for Christmas, so I'm employing it to make something that will last several meals. Sure, I've already had pot roast and vegetables four times this week and still have some left over, but it's taken the guesswork and temptation at lunchtime. I've also had something else partially prepared for the other lunches or dinners, so it's easy and relatively quick. The challenge will be keeping this up and not getting bored.

-Lay off dessert.

I'm not going to cut them out completely. It isn't realistic long term and doesn't work. The idea is changing habits, not stopping eating some things.

-Drink pop no more than one or two times a week.

I would like to avoid soda during the week and indulge once or twice on the weekend. Drinking more water is something I need to do anyway. Coffee in the morning and tea later in the day keep it mixed up enough hopefully.


There's the potential for this strategy to backfire, but I'm trying to keep portion size down at meals and eat something healthy when snacking. Bananas have been good to have on hand when I get hungry between meals.

-Don't weigh myself.

I can tell if I'm losing weight without weighing myself. It may seem like a weird item to put here, but I find more motivation in losing the weight until I feel right about it, not by aiming for a number.

Exercise needs to enter the equation, but until I figure out where to sneak it into my schedule, we'll see if this routine will be effective.

So what does this have to do with knitting? Very little, really, although if the desired results are achieved, then I should be willing to try knitting a sweater.

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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Virtual knitting

I've read where some musicians are annoyed by the idea of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The argument against the video games is why spend your time learning to play pretend guitar when you could pick up an instrument and develop a worthwhile skill. Fair enough, but I enjoy playing the game and wouldn't mind learning the guitar now.

I suppose I'm more sympathetic to their point having become aware of KNiiTTiiNG. The currently in-development video game uses the Wii remote and nunchuk to simulate knitting. The game could be a good tool for assessing technique, but I confess that my first reaction is that it wouldn't be worth playing when you could learn the real thing. Sound familiar? Then again, maybe this game is what I need to free me from always looking at what I'm knitting.

From what I can tell, if KNiiTTiiNG gets out of beta, it looks like something that would be a WiiWare download, not a disk that Nintendo packages and sells in stores. (The site specifies that they have no affiliation with the company and its game console.)

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Monday, January 05, 2009

Knitting in the new year

The lack of knitting I've done since Christmas is indicative of the ridiculously busy schedule I must keep for the last week of the concluding year and first week of the new one. Right about now, when I'm supposed to be refreshed from a break, I'm dragging from the seemingly nonstop motion and the wear of knowing that there's more that needs to be done.

The one blip in my non-knitting came on New Year's Day when some of the knit night-ers gathered at a regular attendee's home for a potluck dinner and knitting. Yes, I went, even if it's not something I normally would feel inclined to do. Call it turning over a new leaf. Call it a momentary lapse in introversion.

Anyway, I cast on for a new hat for me. I was careful to check that I wasn't twisting my stitches on the first round and then proceeded to knit for another nine rounds. Well, my old problem of turning a hat brim into a Moebius strip appeared again. I'm going to blame it on the Options cable, which likes to curl on me, and the table, whose bad mojo claimed other knitters' projects that night.

Or, to put this entry in ten words, my knitting is stalled until some time gets freed up. Maybe I can find a little this weekend.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Rock of '08

I could hem and haw over assembling my top ten 2008 albums list because there's something unheard I want to hear or something I would like to listen to again to determine slotting, but no one's paying that close attention. Just throw an order together and be done with it. After all, I expect this entry will be more useful to me than those reading it.

In 2008 I kept up with new music, particularly the highly buzzed about stuff, better than I did in other recent years. Part of it is attributable to the amazing access the internet provides to hearing the otherwise unfamiliar. As for the other reasons, who knows?

What I find interesting about this list is the preponderance of bands working in the classic rock motif. It could be Guitar Hero III's influence. Playing the video game may have reignited an interest in listening to the music that I got burned out on. Innovation can be exciting, but there's also something to be said for workmanlike excellence in established forms. I can have an ear for more adventurous music. In the end I'm probably drawn to what is based in and builds on tradition.

I was going to embed select tracks from each album, but I couldn't figure out how to format the player without the extra search and advertising add-ons. Instead, I've provided links.

1. Fleet Foxes Sun Giant EP and Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes' debut EP and album are pretty much inseparable in my mind. The exquisite harmonies and musicianship are thrilling. (Track: "White Winter Hymnal")

2. The Hold Steady Stay Positive

I'm finding that I'm more about the music than the lyrics. That's not what I used to think. In the case of The Hold Steady, though, the storytelling is a big part of the appeal. Set to swaggering, stomping rock, the lyrics are sad, funny, and as dense as literature. (Track: "Sequestered in Memphis")

3. Los Campesinos! Hold On Now, Youngster

Bratty seven-piece band spits out energetic bursts. Should be fun to see them live in about a month. (Track: "Death to Los Campesinos!")

4. My Morning Jacket Evil Urges

I'm not sure how My Morning Jacket escaped my attention until this year, but consider me a big fan now that I've caught up to them. One of the fun things about finding bands with a decent-sized discography is the joy of digging into their body of work. From what I've read online their latest is viewed as a disappointment compared to the staggering achievements of It Still Moves and Z, but listening to Evil Urges again, I'm reminded of how solid it is. The length may be daunting and the diversions into funk and AM Gold confusing, but it's an ambitious, familiar, and pleasurable listen. (Track: "Thank You Too!")

5. Vampire Weekend Vampire Weekend

Fun, baroque pop with an Afro influence. Fine, they are just building off of Paul Simon, but innovation can be overvalued. (Track: "Campus")

6. TV on the Radio Dear Science

Going by most year-end lists, this is the trendy pick for album of the year. (Track: "Golden Age")

7. Kanye West 808s & Heartbreak

The music blogs would call this my obligatory hip hop album. I won't pretend that I keep up with that scene. (The only other new album I listened to this year that might qualify for that genre designation is Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple.) I'm a fan of Kanye, and this introspective album is an interesting shift from his outsized previous work. (The lack of slurs and swearing is also practically unheard of in hip hop.) I won't deny that there may be some nostalgia at work here, as the record has the sonic texture of 80s pop/R&B that I remember listening to at night when I probably should have been sleeping, but on its own merits 808s & Heartbreak is a fine contemporary pop album. (Track: "Paranoid")

8. The Raconteurs Consolers of the Lonely

The traditional blend of rock, blues, and country into one big, greasy mess won't be going anywhere as long as Jack White is around. (Track: "Many Shades of Black")

9. R.E.M. Accelerate

R.E.M. is one of my favorite bands of all-time, and I anticipated hearing their so-called return to form. After buying Accelerate I gave it a few spins, liked it in general, but sort of felt that there was a sameness through it that has also been on their more recently maligned albums. Later on I revisited it with fresh ears and ear buds. Listening to it more closely (rather than through a car sound system that isn't very good) revealed the melodies that drew me to them in the first place. (Track: "Supernatural Superserious")

10. Coldplay Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends

Sometimes big and popular is that way for a good reason. (Track: "Viva La Vida")

Since it was a robust concert-attending year for me, I figured I'd go ahead and rank the shows I saw. Placement at the lower end isn't necessarily indicative of quality. Someone has to be last.

I wrote at least a little about all of these concerts except for November's Marnie Stern gig at The Summit. For one thing, it started late, late, late at what looked like a hole in the wall near the Ohio State campus. (Only the street number identified the place.) Most of the concerts I went to were small--500 or fewer, with Radiohead and The Police obvious exceptions--but this was tiny, as in maybe 50 people. The opening acts played avant-garde stuff--knob-twiddling, atonal sound manipulation--that seemed fitting considering the setting. This was the sort of difficult music you might hear playing over the speakers at a trendy record store. It's not really my thing, but it did set an atmosphere. Stern's music is more melodic while still somewhat challenging. A half-hour blast of her finger-tapping guitar heroine skills was worth the low cover charge.

Concerts attended in 2008
1. Radiohead (opening act: Grizzly Bear) at Blossom Music Center
2. My Morning Jacket at The Lifestyle Communities Pavilion
3. Fleet Foxes at Mershon Auditorium-Black Box
4. St. Vincent at Mershon Auditorium-Black Box
5. Jens Lekman at Mershon Auditorium-Black Box
6. The Arcade Fire at Stuart's Opera House
7. Vampire Weekend at Mershon Auditorium-Black Box
8. The New Pornographers (opening act: Okkervil River) at Newport Music Hall
9. The Police (opening act: Elvis Costello) at Nationwide Arena
10. Ryan Adams and The Cardinals at The Palace Theatre
11. Marnie Stern at The Summit
12. Gnarls Barkley at Newport Music Hall

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

2009 knitting resolutions

All right, it's time to set some goals for another year of knitting. Let's begin with those I'm carrying over from last year.

-Learn how to do cables.

Learning how to do them so it's not a completely awkward process would be nice too.

-Figure out color work.

I considered axing this one from the list, but now is the time to be bold. Not living up to it is what the rest of the year is for.

-Finish the knitting needle covers and all other UFOs.

Seriously, I need to do this.

-Knit a sweater or sweater vest.

This has been a pie in the sky resolution the last two years. Give me until fall before encouraging me to follow through.

-Take better care of myself.

This should be a standard resolution every year, but I feel like I need to bounce back some in '09.

-Blog every day.

Nothing more than a continuation of last year.

Perhaps that's plenty, especially since I'm at a loss for what else to add except for one more resolution.

-Organize my stash.

Right now it's just a bunch of yarn, scraps, needles, ball bands, and pattern printouts dumped into a tub and a couple of bags. It's not useful at all. If this happens according to my typical apartment cleaning strategy, I'll think I should do it but ignore it until one day I just decide it needs to be done. I'm not feeling that urge at the moment.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 knitting year in review

2008 was my second full year as a knitter. When I made them, I wasn't sure if my resolutions were ambitious or not. Even on this side of things I can't say whether I set the bar too low or not. I'm pretty pleased with the specific goals that I can check off as accomplished, but the total seems thin.


-Finish a pair of socks.

Not only did I finish a pair I started in the summer of 2007, I knit another.

-Design something.

Done and sort of done.

-Blog every day.

You bet I did.

Partial credit

-Learn how to do cables.

I began a cabled dishcloth, but I never did finish it. I think I remember what to do, but I'd hardly call that learning. At the very least I should complete my practice cabled project.

-Learn how to read charts.

I don't know the how to read the symbols, but I picked up a little about reading rows when I was designing a project.

-Figure out color work.

I briefly experimented with double knitting and intarsia when trying to design the Reds logo into a dishcloth, but what little of it that made sense to me is long gone now.

-Take better care of myself.

Regaining some weight certainly is a strike against this one, and I've definitely burned the candle at both ends at various times in the past year. On the other hand, I think I did reclaim some time for myself that I needed. The balance is not in my favor, but a couple positive marks earn me partial credit.

Didn't even attempt

-Finish the knitting needle covers.

Curse you crochet edging and back stitching. Still catching some zzz's on my Ravelry project page.

-Knit a sweater.

Not even considered. I can use wanting to lose weight as an excuse--and it's a good one--but yeah, the idea of knitting a sweater kind of terrifies me.

As for the FO count, this year is not nearly as impressive in quantity as the previous year. Assuming there isn't anything I'm forgetting or haven't entered into Ravelry, the 2008 tally is 27 finished objects. The breakdown looks like this:

Baby hats: 2
Coffee cup cozies: 3
Design experiments: 2
Dishcloths: 6
Hand towels: 2
Hats: 3
Market bags: 2
Scarves: 5
Socks (pairs): 2

As for UFOs, let's carry over six:

Blanket: 1
Dishcloths: 2
Knitting needle covers: 2
Socks: 1

Only the blanket and a cabled dishcloth are new to the year-end UFO pile. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Tomorrow I'll post my knitting resolutions for this year. Did you meet the knitting goals you set last year? What do you want to do this year? What should I resolve to do?

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Thursday, January 01, 2009

The Archies: The Top 52 Things in the World (2008)

Let's start the new year with a bunch of positives. Donna began The Archies, which is a list of one's top things in the world (as opposed to favorites), and I've played along the last two years. So, I'm back for more this year.

Have I forgotten some things? Undoubtedly. This list got longer as I went along. Am I sure what the difference is between top things and favorite things? Not exactly. Should you participate too? Of course. Just make sure to let her know in the comments to her Archies '08 if you do.

Now, my Archies selections for The Top 52 Things in the World: The 2008 Edition.

1. A.M. Cinema (a nice way to spend a weekend morning and the only way I managed with all the press screenings I skipped)
2. The A.V. Club Hipster Dishrag (self-serving but I'm proud of my first design)
3. Beijing Olympics (especially that opening ceremony)
4. Benno CD towers
5. Black Box performance space (saw several very good concerts there at a reasonable price)
6. Blog 365
7. Blueberry pancakes
8. Cable cast on
9. Change we can believe in
10. Debt-free
11. Euro lap desk
12. Everlasting Bagstopper
13. Firefox
14. Fleet Foxes - Sun Giant EP and Fleet Foxes
15. Funny Games (the director's U.S. remake of his 1997 Austrian original is probably unnecessary, but it's more relevant in its cultural criticism now than ever)
16. Google Docs
17. Guitar Hero: World Tour (no slight intended to Rock Band; it's just that their peripherals aren't compatible with the Guitar Hero game I already had)
18. HDTV
19. Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks scarf
20. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
21. "In the New Year" - The Walkmen
22. Knit night (I'm baffled that I fit in, but I've found one where I'm comfortable)
23. Mad Men (watched the debut episode in 2007 and didn't return until recently; should have been back sooner)
24. Mar-Chele soft pretzels
25. Mario Kart Wii
26. Meijer Gold Mango Peach Salsa
27. Misti Alpaca
28. Mom's homemade peanut brittle
29. My Morning Jacket at The LC Pavilion
30. Newsradio Classic TV Club
31. NHL Winter Classic
32. The NY Times Sunday at Home Crosswords
33. Ohio IKEA
34. Pot roast sandwich and sweet potato fries at Tip Tip Kitchen & Cocktails
35. Priceless (Hors de prix) (there's always room for this kind of French cinematic trifle)
36. The Purple Rose of Cairo
37. Pushing Daisies (my added viewership this season is unfortunately too little, too late)
38. Radiohead at Blossom Music Center
39. Raising Cane's chicken fingers
40. Ravelry
41. Ravelympics
42. Roger Ebert's Journal
43. Roy Orbison - The Soul of Rock and Roll
44. The Sartorialist (I don't know much of anything about fashion and style, but this photographer's pictures from the streets make those things seem a little more accessible)
45. Scrunchable Scarf
46. Socks of my very own making
47. Tina Fey
48. "Transformer" - Marnie Stern
49. "Unknown Legend" in Rachel Getting Married
50. "Viva La Vida" - Coldplay (yeah, the band is extremely popular and totally not cool among the music snobs, but this is a perfect pop song...and the album's pretty good too)
51. WALL-E
52. The Year in Pictures (with that name, what else could it be but a photography blog)

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