Sunday, May 31, 2009

Zeroes and ones

This short video talks about converting knitting patterns into binary code. Some of the technical computer talk is beyond me. I'm not sure that it is useful in any way, but I find it interesting nonetheless.

I'm pained, though, that the slide show features a few instances of purl spelled like the precious gem.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Irrational response

It's interesting to discover what elicits responses. My tale of dealing with a door-to-door cable television salesman got more than anything I've written in awhile. Rather than put my reply in the comments, where it is likely to go unread, I thought I'd follow up with a proper entry.

I didn't mention the cable provider, but I don't have a problem saying that I have Time Warner Cable and was being visited by one of their representatives. Whether the person who knocked on my door is an actual employee or a contractor, I don't know. He gave me a telephone number that comes back with a Time Warner listing in the reverse telephone directory, for what it's worth.

I was visited by an AT&T U-Verse rep in the fall and, in a move out of character, agreed to schedule a switch to them. I canceled the next day when I noticed that they didn't carry Fox Sports Ohio HD and are IPTV rather than cable.

I have encountered the problem of one person quoting a price and a phone representative not confirming it. In this particular instance I believe the door-to-door salesman overstated by three times what I'm paying for the movie package with IFC and Sundance, so the "deal" he was going to give me to lower that along with signing on for their phone service wasn't as good as advertised.

The fact that I wrote quite a bit about the experience that night and am following up on it again should tell you how aggravated it made me. I probably spent a good twenty minutes talking to this guy and trying to explain why I wasn't interested, even if it didn't make sense to him. Next time I just need to make it clear that I am not interested at all in adding or switching any services on my account. If they would like to lower my rate as a gesture of thanks for being a longtime customer--I've been a cable subscriber since 1995--then I'll gladly accept. Otherwise, have a good night.

I know that I said this less forcefully to the salesman, but he heard this as, "I'd like to pay less even if it means switching to Time Warner digital cable, even though I say I don't want it."

My reaction to the situation reminds me that I don't like being sold to and am inherently suspicious of such tactics. I repeatedly mentioned that I was happy with Vonage and had not had any problems during the several years I've been a customer, yet the TW salesman kept speaking negatively of their services compared to those his company offers. Running down the competition in terms contrary to my experience is not going to persuade me.

I'm a little surprised to find the commenters in agreement with me regarding my irrationality in this matter. My brothers certainly wouldn't see it this way.


Friday, May 29, 2009

The ads of time

Commercials come and go, and most of the time we try to avoid them by timeshifting our television viewing as best as possible. For example, with a DVR I rarely watch live TV outside of sporting events. Yet the old ads that might have annoyed us way back when, especially the cruddy local ones, elicit different feelings a couple decades later. What was once irritating may not exactly be remembered fondly, but the feelings tend to a little more affectionate.

The A.V. Club's writers compiled some of their favorite local commercials. Since an old friend writes there, he mentioned some Dayton "classics" from our youth regardless of if clips were available. These businesses and pitchmen hadn't crossed my mind in ages. The one commercial he showcased still kind of creeps me out, but it did bring back memories of laying on the living room floor watching our console television.

I tried to dig up some other Dayton-area commercials from the 1980s but couldn't find much except for a few Renaissance Music spots. I'm not sure if I remember them or not, but these are the kind of zany (and terrible) local advertisements that are part of the landscape and shared past.

TV advertisers in Dayton don't appear to have many well-aged commercials on YouTube, but the fact that the Concord City ad and record store commercials are there at all is kind of amazing. Why would someone still have a 25-year-old coat store commercial on tape and go to the trouble of uploading it to the internet?

Perhaps these commercials have such pull because they're like 30-second time machines. Seeing them transports us to very specific places frozen in recent history. Whether they were entertaining or badly produced, these commercials don't comprise memories but provide recall gateways. That's not of any use to the man hawking winter jackets in the mid-1980s, but for the rest of us who put up with the ads on our TV sets, it redeems him and his compatriots a little.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009


While I heard a cable salesman talking to a downstairs neighbor, I slipped out to get some evening exercise. I figured it was my cable company's competition trying to get new sign-ups and switches, and I didn't want to deal with it. I was gone for about 45 minutes and assumed I had dodged this door-to-door seller, but within a few minutes of returning home I heard a knock on my door. Surely it wasn't the same guy I'd observed pitching someone else in my building three-quarters of an hour before.

Oh, but it was.

Turns out that he is employed by my cable company. He was checking to see if I'm satisfied with my service, although I'm sure that was a pretext for trying to get me to add additional services. I was a little put off by the quasi-stalking behavior--obviously he noticed I'd left and waited until I returned-- but I figured that I might be able to get a lower rate out of the situation.

When asked how I felt about their product, I said that I was satisfied but that of course I would appreciate a lower rate. Granted, this was a way for him to start selling. He started talking about their turbo speed internet, but I brushed it off by saying that faster would be nice but that I could live with what I currently have.

Then he transitioned to talking about a package of cable, phone, and internet. I told him that I use Vonage, have been satisfied with it for the five years I've had it, and know that the cable company cannot beat the price as I've talked about this with their telemarketing salesman several times. (In brief, my plan gives me 500 minutes per month with free long distance, and I come nowhere close to using this time. On average I probably use ten to twenty percent.)

Undeterred, he offered a package of all three that would slightly lower my cable bill and eliminate my Vonage bill. A rational person would probably acknowledge this and accept the deal. Maybe this person would push for a better offer, but I'm guessing he would switch.

For whatever reason, I am irrational, especially on this topic. I am not interested in the cable company's landline digital phone service. I have not had any difficulties with Vonage other than being unable to use it when the power is out, but in those rare instances I have a cell phone that can ably fill in.

The salesman tried finding other places where he could save me money, such as adding some free months of movie channels. I explained that I do film criticism and see those movies in the theater, thus giving me little to no need for HBO and the like. He pointed out that I do have an Encore movie package, which I kept for Sundance and IFC, but frankly his bringing it up reminded me that I probably ought to cancel it for as infrequently as I watch them. I said as much except that I pointed out it might be necessary to keep them because when I did cancel HBO my monthly rate was raised. It sounds insane but is true. He told me that such a policy is no longer in place.

And then we were back to adding phone service. He tried and tried, saying that I had mentioned wanting to save money and that I could do that with switching. I responded that I would like to spend less but that I'm also satisfied with my provider and thus uninterested in switching. He asked what he could offer that would get me to change to their digital phone. I told him that I didn't know what there was, if anything.

Here's the thing: he's right, I could save money under this proposition, although I wonder if that's while the introductory period (the first year) is in place only. He tried like mad to find a way to convert me. Here's the other thing, one that he couldn't understand: I was being completely irrational and stubborn.

To give myself a smidgen of credit, something I probably don't deserve here, I didn't want the hassle of needing to set up an appointment to be at home for them to do whatever they need to do. In regard to the free movie channels that could be added onto what I already have with no charge, I don't want the burden of needing to cancel them before that time expired. (I've fallen into that trap once before.)

I really think he didn't know what to do with me because he was making no headway and was stupefied by my resistance to the logical choice. Or to put it more succinctly:

"Hey, switch your phone service to us and you will save some money each month per your statement that you wish to do so."

"No, I'm not interested in switching telephone service."


"Sorry, no thanks."

"Does not compute."



Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An update

It's been awhile since I've blogged about my knitting, so I suspect you are probably wondering what I'm up to in that area.

Truth of the matter is that I'm stuck. Life has been busy. I wasn't feeling captivated by the scarf that was/is my current work in progress. The warm weather certainly doesn't compel me to knit it or feel rushed to finish it.

Mostly, though, I've simply been preoccupied with staying on top of everything and just haven't felt the urge to pick up the needles. I'm not sure when I'll next work in earnest on something. It could be tomorrow, it could be in two and a half weeks when classes are done and I feel like I have more time for myself. (Insert insane laughter. I'm sensing that this summer is going to be ridiculously busy at work.)

Anyway, I just thought I ought to explain myself since I've been in this rut for a few months.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Would you ever make your own double pointed needles?

I understand that knitters take pride in what they can create with their own hands, but this seems to me like one of those situations in which you'd be better off spending a few dollars more to have something manufactured. Talk about the potential for gauge inconsistencies.

I'm skeptical that one would have most of the supplies on hand, but maybe it's just me. Only an additional buck to fashion your own needles from pre-cut dowels, though?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Alternative nation

Talk about technology and falling down the rabbit hole... I saw a tweet about an early '90s band I hadn't thought about or heard in ages. Next thing I know I've blown a couple hours sifting through videos on YouTube and bios on Allmusic to find bands and songs I'd forgotten.

The funny thing about popular culture is that what is very of the moment or the next hot thing often ends up relegated to the cutout bin and unremembered within a few years. Of the songs I've managed to pry from the corners of my brain, only "Divine Thing" resembles anything resembling a Top 40 hit. "I Wanna Be Adored" is a modern rock classic, although I suspect The Stone Roses are better known for "She Bangs the Drums" because it's on Guitar Hero III.

Granted, I was trying to recall alternative rock singles from my high school days listening to 97X ("the future of rock & roll") out of Oxford and, more crucially, my college days as the campus radio station's music and program director and a viewer of MTV's 120 Minutes, the standard bearer for college rock, and Alternative Nation, the passable and more frequently aired imitation.

There's little rhyme or reason for why I've chosen to link to these songs. (I don't even own any of these songs, although I'm tempted to rectify that in some cases.) Mainly these are ones I could remember or was led to through the related videos column. Welcome to the sounds of 1989-1995 that have mostly gone by the wayside. (And because I know this is an extremely self-indulgent post, Meryn Cadell's "The Sweater" ought to be amusing to knitters.)

-The Charlatans UK "Can't Get Out of Bed"

The first of two British acts here that had to alter their names because U.S. artists claimed to own them. Thus, The Charlatans UK.

-The Connells "'74-'75"

-Dig "Believe"

Remember MTV's Buzz Bin? (I wish I had before I'd started writing this, although the Wikipedia page isn't complete by any means. This one's missing.)

-The Grays "Very Best Years"

Too poppy to get much radio play in the era of grunge. I'm kicking myself for not buying this album way back when because it is now out of print. At least it looks like used copies are affordable.

-Jellyfish "Baby's Coming Back"

This is the band who spurred this entry. I like the music, but I remember being put off by their image at the time. Let these fashion disasters be a warning to today's bands. (I'm more partial to "That is Why", but the clothes and hairstyles are quite as ridiculous in its video.)

-Material Issue "Valerie Loves Me"

-Satchel "Suffering"

I seem to recall this song getting a fair amount of airplay on the local alternative rock station, but to my knowledge it never really made a dent anywhere.

-The Soup Dragons "Divine Thing"

In 1992 this song peaked at #24 on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart and reached #3 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart. I'd also wager that this song has been mothballed for at least ten years, if not more. It's a great example of a once relatively popular song that you don't hear at all now.

-The Stone Roses "I Wanna Be Adored"

-Suede "Metal Mickey"

One of many "next" bands from England, Suede were pushed as the next Smiths. While they enjoyed popularity at home, it never translated to the U.S. The group even had to change its name to The London Suede here because of, as Allmusic puts it, "an obscure lounge singer".

-The Trash Can Sinatras "Hayfever"

-Velocity Girl "Sorry Again"

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Here, there, and everywhere

The headline to the blog post says it all: "Has our addiction to technology hindered our ability to enjoy life?" The question is posed regarding the iPhone and its usefulness versus intrusiveness in nature, although I imagine it could go for any portable device that allows the electronic umbilical cord to the internet to remain unbroken no matter where we are.

Not to hedge, but I'd answer with a qualified, "It can if we choose to let it." I don't have an iPhone or Blackberry or anything that puts the mobile web in my hand whenever I please, so even though I'll freely admit to being online a great deal, I don't feel lashed to it. Maybe I would behave differently if I had a smart phone or received calls or texts more frequently than I do, but I doubt it. I don't feel like I have to be preoccupied every blessed second.

I see how people--OK, students--tether themselves to the technology so that they're focused on the phone when (ahem) they should be paying attention in class or are trying to have an in-person conversation. (Funny how texts and calls take priority over the person in their presence.) I see adults who are just as bad at movies, sporting events, and concerts. In those cases they pay money for these diversions yet can't break the tether for a couple hours.

I wonder if this is driven more and more by a need for instant gratification or if it's a way of surrounding ourselves with white noise so as not to be alone with our own thoughts. If something always needs our attention, then there's no time for reflection or immersion in whatever is at hand.

I've found myself feeling less of a need to take photographs or use my camera to record (badly) at concerts because it interferes with my ability to be in and enjoy the moment. Otherwise I'm seeing the performance through a screen or a viewfinder, which turns it into a third person experience in which focus is placed on framing the shot and trying to hold the camera still enough.

Certainly I'm not against technology that permits the instant ability to communicate, find information, and document. The ways we can be connected today are unprecedented and largely for the better. I just wish that people would take a little more time to root their minds where their bodies are and not in the electronic cloud.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

All the right moves

Two years ago on Memorial Day weekend I moved to my current residence. I'd called my previous apartment home for close to twelve years. I'd lived there since a couple months after my college graduation. The living conditions--OK, the building's other residents--finally drove me to find a new place, though.

Still, as ready as I finally was to relocate, choosing to move wasn't an easy decision. I hate moving, and I lived within walking distance of work. My apartment had its shortcomings, but I wasn't sure I could afford a different one. Surprisingly, the initial hunt nullified the cost factor. I was going to be paying a little more, but the living space improvements would easily offset the increase.

It didn't take long in my new apartment to acknowledge that the move was for the best. I had much more quiet. I now had to drive to work, but the relatively small distance allowed some necessary mental separation. My new surrounding area offered just about anything I could want (grocery stores, movie theater, bookstore, restaurants, library, yarn shops, park) within five miles.

It sounds strange and feels weird to say that I'm grateful for the circumstances that led me to move. I wouldn't want to endure again those stress-filled months when being home was regularly unpleasant, especially in the late/early a.m. hours. Nevertheless, those difficult days made me do something I had probably needed to do years earlier but likely wouldn't have done without the situation reaching that point.

Today I was able to get a coffee and donut across the way, drive about two miles to see a movie, stop at a bookstore on the return home, exercise at the park that's a short walk up the street, take an afternoon nap uninterrupted by noise, and make a quick trip to get some ice cream. Yeah, I definitely made the right move.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Smaller than life

I've linked to the story of a village recreated in knitting already, but I came across another article that shows different pictures of the project. The work and detail never ceases to amaze me, even if I think the first article I linked gives the wrong impression that the thing took twenty-three years to make. Instead it was knitted in 1986. It's just been in storage since then.

That takes a little luster off the project but not much. This knitted village is still a pretty cool achievement.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Something doing

Books, music, movies/TV, web...this week's posts have ended up being about what media I'm consuming. Keeping up the theme, today is devoted to what I'm doing.

-Work. The ol' occupation has been keeping me busy. At this point it's a matter of holding on for a few more weeks until the summer break arrives and, in theory, eases the load somewhat.

-Exercise. Except for today I've been able to get out and put in a couple miles every day this week. Along with getting control of what I'm eating, this has gone a long way in making me feel reenergized.

-Moviegoing. There's been one to attend every night this week, and three more beckon over this holiday weekend.

-Laughing. Tonight I went to see a legendarily bad six-year-old film that was pretty funny during but has been hysterical in retrospect. Whether I've been reading about it or watching a clip online, I'm really tickled by how entertaining its badness is. (This is not very common for me, actually.) I haven't laughed so much and so hard about a movie in ages.

-Wondering. A couple months ago I asked at the rental office if I had overlooked something because I hadn't received any information about signing a lease renewal for my apartment. (Last year I got a letter more than five months before it expired.) I was told they were sending them out closer to renewal time this year.

I still haven't received anything and checked on it today. My lease is up at the end of June. I don't think there are or should be any issues. I'm hoping that some paperwork just got overlooked and am awaiting a response. Still, the thought that I could be out of an apartment in about a month's time unnerved me for awhile until I convinced myself that nothing shady is afoot.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Gone surfing

Already covered in this unintended theme week: what I'm reading, listening to, and watching. Today I thought I'd point out a couple articles on the web that have caught my attention recently.

-It's not a good time to be in the newspaper business, but why did print media get in this position in the first place? This piece makes some interesting points about how living in the midst of a transition can make it difficult to see.

-My apartment has a cathedral ceiling. I like the openness it brings to the living area, but I never really gave the architecture much thought. This article addresses tall ceilings and their benefits. Gotta agree, high ceilings are nicer. And the rental company does charge more for mine.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

For your eyes only

A blogging theme ended up developing this week. I've already covered what I'm reading and what I'm listening to. Today I'll cover what I'm watching.

When it comes to movies, I can pretty much say whatever is in theaters or opening soon and have it covered. Of course, that's not of any use to anyone. Up, the latest film from Pixar, doesn't arrive until May 29, but I can tell you that it's, umm, up to the studio's high standards. Even if a documentary about a heavy metal band doesn't sound like your thing, Anvil! The Story of Anvil is a sneakily inspiring story of two guys doing what they love and hoping for a breakthrough thirty years after they started playing.

TV-wise, I've been watching my fair share of Cincinnati Reds baseball. Of course I've been keeping up with the season finales of the shows I follow all season. Lost had an interesting end to its next-to-last season. Survivor wrapped a strong season that had plenty of drama from strategic play rather than interpersonal hatefulness. Fringe set itself up to go in a fun, new direction next year if it chooses to do so. The Office was at its cringeworthy best, especially in the second half of the season.

And of course there's American Idol. Kris has been quietly consistent and shown some ability to step outside the prefab Idol box, whether it's a different arrangement or choosing to sing a song from Once. I don't care for Adam's need to bludgeon every song, but I'll allow that he's been better than this year's (weak) competition.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

In rotation

Yesterday I wrote about what I'm reading. Today, by request, I'm writing about what I'm listening to. Perhaps there's a theme developing this week.

-St. Vincent Actor

Multi-instrumentalist and singer Annie Clark performs under the name St. Vincent. Her recently released second album Actor continues her development as an eclectic artist who one might compare to Kate Bush or Feist. With interesting arrangements and Clark's prodigious guitar skills, file under eccentric pop.

Track: "Actor Out of Work"

-My Morning Jacket It Still Moves

Not a new album but one that, in less than a year, has become an all-time favorite. I called this up on the iPod while driving to the Reds game about a week ago and found myself entranced with the spacious, golden mix of classic rock and country. Listening to this on a sunny day on the road was practically a spiritual experience. I can't believe I was ignorant of this band for so long.

Track: "Mahgeetah"

-The Decemberists The Hazards of Love

The Decemberists make literate rock n' roll that, if I'm stereotyping, is catnip for English majors. This concept album, their most recent, probably isn't the best introduction to the band, if simply because its prog rock flourishes and heavier sounds aren't what most would associate with them. I can't say that I've followed the story threaded through the songs, but maybe it will make more sense when I see them in concert in two weeks.

Track: "The Rake's Song" (FYI, I do think it's fair warning that the entry describes the song's dark lyrics thusly: "A tale of young marriage, a sudden discontent spurred on by the joint deaths of a mother and newborn, leading to delightfully angry infanticide." Think of an Edward Gorey story put to song. Or not, if that puts you off.)

-Pixies discography

Somehow I had managed to own zero Pixies albums until a recent book store CD clearance sale lured me into buying three of their discs. (To salvage some credibility, I did have a compilation.) Alternative rock of the 1990s was practically built upon what they did.

Track: "Velouria"

-1980s pop

That same sale allowed me to indulge in purchasing Duran Duran and Tears for Fears compilations, which join an ABC greatest hits bought earlier this year. And for four bucks how could I turn down finally upgrading my cassette copy of No Jacket Required by Phil Collins? That album is loaded with hits, and I couldn't resist hearing "Don't Lose My Number" in CD clarity. If I had any of this stuff, it was on tapes long unplayed. As distant as this music may seem from everything else listed in this entry, I genuinely like this popular stuff too and not for nostalgic or kitsch reasons. But yes, it was my soundtrack while I mowed lawns as a kid.

Tracks: ABC "Be Near Me", Duran Duran "Union of the Snake", Tears for Fears "Head Over Heels"


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Wrapped up in books

Ignoring the fact that I had to turn the heat back on today, when warmer weather arrives, I am able to read books with more regularity. It's likely related to having fewer work demands and all the time I spend on the beach and in airports. (OK, those last two aren't true.)

I've only been able to read three books so far this year: The Areas of My Expertise, a comedy book of fake facts; Watchmen, the seminal graphic novel that you may have heard was adapted into a movie; and Geek Love, a not-for-the-faint-of-heart novel about a traveling carnival family.

The latter two aren't the sort of books I would typically read. I've never been into comic books, which means that I don't pay attention to them rather than that I possess some highfalutin objection to them. I felt like Watchmen's stature required me to read it before seeing the film. I enjoyed it, but what a dark journey it takes one on.

I picked up Geek Love because it was the inaugural pick for The A.V. Club's book club. The description didn't sound like it would be my thing--a husband and wife conduct chemical experiments on her to produce a brood of freaks for their carnival--but I wanted to participate and gave it a shot. To say that it's transgressive is to point out the tip of the iceberg. Certainly it provides a lot to think about, and I don't regret reading it. That said, I don't know that I'd say I liked it--I take some issues with how it's written--and don't foresee reading it again.

Currently I'm reading More Information Than You Require, the follow-up to The Areas of My Expertise. It's light reading that can be picked up and put down at a moment's notice, which is why the book is a good choice for me right now. I finished Part I of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle a couple months ago but haven't found the time to read the rest. (No, Oprah's endorsement is not what led me to get it.) What I've read has been good.

Nevertheless, I'm feeling the itch to start reading more. Cormac McCarthy's The Road and David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest are on my list of potential upcoming reads, although the former may continue the string of bleak rading and the latter may just be too blasted long and complicated. Suggestions?


Saturday, May 16, 2009

To each his own

Actor John Glover knits, although I'm having trouble figuring out the way he does it that keeps him from knitting in public:
"It’s his bizarre technique. With a long needle between his legs, he uses his right-hand needle to manipulate the yarn. This method produces perfectly uniform stitches, which he acknowledges with pride."
I can't picture how doing this produces more uniform stitches than the conventional manner.

Apparently he's been knitting off and on since the 1960s and only does scarves. Whatever works.

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Friday, May 15, 2009


Notes from a day...

-Ordinarily I'm not in the office (or not in the office much) on Fridays, but today proved to be the proper Friday to head out early for work. Apartment complex workers were handing out a box with a half dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and a single serving bottle of Sunny D to each resident. (Apparently in this rapid age the old Sunny Delight name is too long.) Nice gesture even if I really don't need six donuts in my possession as temptation.

-As for my recently renewed eating and exercise routine--I hesitate to call it a diet because the plan is for it to be a permanent switch--it's progressing along nicely even with the carside delivery of free donuts. Minneolas have become a favorite evening snack. I'm feeling better. Amazing how that happens when food consumed is based on what's healthy rather than what's convenient.

-The spring here has brought mild temperatures, some of which have been downright cold, but the air conditioning had to be turned on tonight. It remains to be seen if higher temperatures will linger, but it's been pleasant to have the sliding door open to let the cool air in the past couple weeks.

-Of late I've been interested in taking a look at films from the 1980s to see how much moviemaking style practiced during my formative years has changed. I popped in the Romancing the Stone Blu-ray tonight and mostly enjoyed the silly fun of the romantic comedy adventure even if it hasn't aged particularly well. (The synthesizer score recalls sitting in an optometrist's office or listening to on-hold music twenty-plus years ago.) Anyway, within the film there's an explanation of where the term "crocodile tears" originates. I knew the meaning, but I was unaware of the derivation.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Another knitting story link

Knitting...what can't it do? In Indiana a new group is using the needlecraft as an option for the unemployed to deal with stress.

What I find most interesting in the story is that the learner pictured and interviewed is a man, yet his gender is unremarked upon in the story. I think almost every story I've seen that mentions men knitting explains away why someone with XY chromosomes would do something traditionally associated with women. Here it doesn't even merit a raised eyebrow or qualifying statement.

That's progress, right?

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009


One of the things I appreciate in art are creative attempts writ large. Whether such ambitious efforts are rooted in folly or wisdom, the boldness is what intrigues me. Jacques Tati's Playtime, Infinite Jest (which I haven't read), a Guided by Voices 100-song box set of unreleased material (which was just the first of two)...the bigness is almost enough that success becomes irrelevant. (For instance, to no surprise the GBV 4-CD set is scattershot.)

Perhaps these things have an inherent appeal to me because I'm not given to making the grand gesture. Maybe it's natural for people in general to be in awe of works that go beyond the usual scale.

This is all my way of leading up to how nonplussed I was when I came across a 23-year knitting project duplicating a village in yarn. Apparently it was even made to scale. Wow.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I suspect that there's something fake about the video of a man throwing his Wiimote into his HDTV even if I have no reason to believe it's staged.

While I'm skeptical that someone would record themselves playing Wii Sports bowling, The King of Kong taught me why people videotape themselves playing video games. (It's a way to prove that your high score is legitimate, although even that gets dicey in the film.) Anyone who has ever played with a Wii knows that the Wiimote wristbands are there to prevent the very thing that happens in the video, which isn't to say that someone would not use them.

If it's real, I'm not proud to say that this struck me as really, really funny the first two times I watched it.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

More filler

Today's edition of the brain-dead blogger filling the daily obligation leads to a public radio story about a church's knitting club. Sounds like quite a bunch of characters or, in other words, a group of knitters.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mama said

With it being Mother's Day, it follows that I should write about my mom in one way or another. Since she can't read this because of the whole site secrecy and all, I figure it's only fair that I write about the influence she's had on me. Because my allergies, something she also passed along, are killing me tonight, I'm going to limit my list to four qualities. Suffice it to say that the list surely would be longer than this.

1. She encouraged my interest in books, music, and the arts in general.

In college my mom studied music before switching to education. Her enthusiasm for listening to and playing music, as well as reading books and fostering other arts-related interests, probably rubbed off the strongest on me, her eldest child.

2. She taught me to apply critical thinking to what I encounter.

This kind of goes along with the interest in the humanities. Since she had some background studying music and books, they were treated as things to be consumed and analyzed. I had her as a long term substitute teacher in fifth grade, and I can remember asking if she'd assign book reports because I wanted to do them. I don't know that she always provided the best examples. I recall watching a video about hidden messages in rock music that someone loaned her, but I think the value taken even from that is to be a critical consumer of what one sees, hears, and reads.

3. She taught me to be curious and have an open mind.

My mom entered seminary around the same time that I was in college. It was interesting to see how the experience broadened her opinions while my views of the world were also transforming. In a sense I suppose it made it safer for me to become more liberal because she was shifting that way too. While both of my parents come from conservative backgrounds and raised us the same way, I never felt they were overly strict or politically ideological. To bring my dad into the equation for a moment, it has been exciting for me to see how intellectual openness and curiosity has allowed both of them to examine and adapt their views still today rather than clinging exclusively to what they were taught as kids.

4. She showed me how to be strong in the face of adversity.

As she embarked on a new career in ministry, my mom often ran into her share of resistance from congregations that were unwilling to accept a female pastor. This seemed patently absurd to me, especially when people would quote chapter and verse from Scripture to bolster their arguments against her. As I know she runs into some pushback even today, such attitudes continue to boggle my mind. Nevertheless, her persistence and success are a strong reminder to fight for what you want and believe to be right even when--perhaps especially when--rejections of you aren't based on anything rational.


Saturday, May 09, 2009

The old ball game

Football has probably usurped baseball as America's pastime, but it remains my favorite of all the sports. I thought about driving to Cincinnati on Friday to see that night's Reds-Cardinals game, but the weather forecast scared me off. If I were going to drive almost two hours to attend a game, I would prefer not to encounter a cancellation, a long rain delay, or sitting in precipitation. Although the pitcher I preferred to see was throwing on Friday, I decided to hold out until the supposedly better weather on Saturday.

I made the right choice. Today was a perfect day to be at the ballpark. The sun was out, but there was no humidity and just a hint of coolness. I was never uncomfortable in short sleeves. When the game concluded at 9:45 p.m., the temperature was 60 degrees.

I got in the car around 1:40 p.m. to have plenty of time to make the drive south. It's a good thing I got to the stadium early because the gorgeous day brought the fans out of the woodwork. The game was the first sellout since opening day, which is always a tough ticket to get. Maybe it was the bobblehead giveaway that brought people to the game, but more likely it was due to the fact that days like this were meant to be enjoyed outside doing anything. A ballgame is a pretty good option.

The Reds have added an enormous new high definition scoreboard since I last came to a game. When I read about it, my initial thought was to grumble that the team sunk money into it rather than, oh, signing a right handed power hitting free agent. Having seen it in action, I must say that it enhances the experience of being at the game.

Watching batting practice was a pleasure. St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols smacked some mammoth shots in a dazzling display of hitting prowess. Luckily he did nothing of that sort during the game.

My perch, second row in a view level box almost directly behind home plate, was a terrific spot to catch all the intricacies of the game. The field was laid out in front of me for watching how the defense positions itself, what kind of command the pitchers have, and how the plays develop. Of course, that's all well and good, but a day at the ballpark isn't complete without a Reds win too.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

At the plate

Now that the weather has improved and I can get some exercise to go along with eating better, I'm more focused on losing weight again. I tried in those winter months, but my work schedule, lack of exposure to sunlight (via an office without windows and building in which I have access to very few of them), and whatever else is handy to blame conspired to thwart my best intentions.

I'm in the second week of my plan to reintroduce better habits into my routine. So far, so good, as far as I can tell. My mom tried to convince me to follow the diet her doctor has her on--no wheat flour, no dairy, all organic (if I remember correctly)--but in my opinion it's way too unrealistic to sustain. It might be something that could be pulled off in the short term, but this is about changing habits for the long run, not a temporary period. I don't think my mom's diet is being that restrictive permanently, but whatever the case, I'm not interested.

That said, I am trying to integrate some of the ideas into my approach. I'm aware of Michael Pollan, current opinions about processed foods, and the push for organic even though the term can be used deceptively. (After all, sugar and butter can be organic.) Honestly, it can seem overwhelming. Attempting to reconcile these ideas with wanting to eat well and pleasurably can drive me insane and make it easier to abandon it all.

Of course, starting is the hardest part. I think I'm through the roughest stretch. Desire for stuff I shouldn't be eating has decreased, although I'll grant that I haven't eliminated it entirely. Then again, my thinking is that completely cutting out such things, like a morning donut or an occasional pop, isn't feasible longterm. Anyway, here's my loosely assembled plan of attack:

-Eat organic and preservative-free food as much as possible.
-Eat more fruit, especially for snacks and dessert.
-Drink water, tea, and coffee rather than drinks high in calories.
-Don't buy junk food in the first place. If it's not at home, I won't be tempted to eat it.
-Eat when I'm hungry.
-Watch portion sizes.
-Walk or run at least five days a week.
-No weighing.

Two weeks in I feel like the plan is working. I imagine I could be cutting out more and losing weight faster, but the idea is to do something I can continue rather than something that yields the most immediate results. I've done it before. The thing is that I need to stick to it over the long haul, not for six months or a year.


Thursday, May 07, 2009


In the last two months I took a little vacation time from work to go to film festivals. I needed the days away from the office and enjoyed what I did, but as I'm finding now, it wasn't exactly restful time off.

Sleep was at a premium, and I felt deadline pressure to write and post online about what I was seeing at these events. (With a few of those days still not blogged, they continue to hang over me.) Granted, the writing was a significant element of what I was doing--press passes weren't just handed out for kicks--but mixing pleasure and business (of a sort) didn't make for the most relaxing time.

I'm not complaining...exactly. Fun was had, and the passes are one of the few indirect compensations I've received for doing that specialized writing. Nevertheless, right about now, with five weeks remaining until work shifts into summer mode, I can tell that I'm badly in need of a break, even if it's just the reduced workload that comes outside of the regular academic year. This is the time when the students start to show the strain. What they don't know is that those of us on the other side feel the same way too, perhaps moreso.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Playin' at the talent show

While Britain's Got Talent made Susan Boyle into an international sensation, it has not done the same for three older ladies whose audition was to teach people finger knitting. Can't imagine why.

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Toque overload

I wanted to write about something more philosophical today, but the energy just isn't here to dig into it. In it's place I give you dogs in hand-knit toques. I was hoping for cute, but truthfully, I found the gallery kind of horrifying. (The one in the middle of the bottom row will haunt my dreams.)

On the off chance that someone from the company comes across what I've written, let me be clear that I'm not taking issue with their work. There's just something about those pictures that creeps me out.

I'm amazed the dogs put up with it. The dogs my family had didn't take too kindly to anything put on their heads.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Nature calls

One of the small, pleasant things with warmer temperatures has been opening the sliding door and taking a nap while the cool air trickles in and the birds sing. A tree sits close to my west balcony, so I can watch my birds and critters come and go if I choose to. I saw a bright red cardinal perched in the tree about a week ago but wasn't fast enough to get a photograph.

As I was eating dinner after work tonight I noticed that I had a visitor sitting on the balcony ledge. A squirrel was hanging out. Again I tried to snap a shot, but my movement must have spooked him. The best I could do was get a blurred picture of the squirrel scampering up the wall. While I usually have the screen door closed, this encounter was a good reminder to keep it that way unless I want to let nature inside. Which I don't want to do.

Later on I went for a walk a couple times around the park and school and in the neighborhood. I always enjoy seeing the dogs playing in yards or on walks with their owners, and if I'm lucky I may get to pet a dog or two. We had a dog for most of my youth. I've not had a pet since I've been on my own, but I like giving the dogs a friendly greeting and scratch behind the ears.

During tonight's walk I also spotted a beautiful blue bird that, I'm guessing, is an Eastern Bluebird. It looked darker than those pictured on the website, but that's the best ornithological guess I have to offer. I suppose it could have been a Western Bluebird, although its name suggests it probably wasn't.

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Getting it

Newspaper articles about knitting seem to be fairly common--my search for them helps plug days like this when I'm short on things to say--but many of them tend to be a little agog that people still do it.

This article has a better grasp on what brings people to knit and what they receive from doing it. The writer gets it, which makes me wonder if she is a knitter herself. I wouldn't say that non-knitters are unable to understand what the attraction is, but their pieces tend to be more flippant about the craft.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Spinning wheels

Today would have been a good day for me to get back to knitting. Other than seeing the new Star Trek film this morning--surprisingly, it's really, really good--I had nothing else on the docket for this cool spring Saturday.

So what did I do? Ripped some CDs to iTunes, read a little, and took a long afternoon nap. My knitting has ground to a halt in recent months because I've been very busy and thus been satisfied with vegetating in front of the television. Also, I've not worked on a project that's interested me greatly in a long while, so it's not as though picking up the needles is the first choice when I have some free time.

I'm sure I'll return to knitting more regularly again, which can only mean better things for this blog. I don't think it's a coincidence that readership has fallen off significantly since I got away from posting photos of projects and writing about my knitting.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

Midnight madness

Last night I left home near midnight to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine at 12:01 a.m. (After all the trailers the starting time was more like 12:20.) Although I've enjoyed the other X-Men films, I'm not a hardcore fan or comic book reader, so I wasn't going out because I absolutely had to see it at the first available opportunity. Honestly, I expected the movie would not be very good. (Those expectations were correct.) No, this screening just fit into my schedule better. Really.

As far as I can remember, the last time I ventured from my apartment at such a late hour to do anything was about a year ago to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Then I was going because I was eager to see the movie.

It was never normal for me to run around late at night, but doing this happens so infrequently now that departing home to do something at such an hour is like visiting another world that used to be a little more familiar. The atmosphere from the blanket of night makes the same places feel transformed. It's like a secret society that emerges while most people are tucked into their beds.

To a certain degree I'm comforted by being out and alert at those late hours, as though it's liberating to roam in the moon's shadow. (This may say as much about where I am and have been than anything.) Maybe it's simply that this time of the day is quieter.

I didn't have to go to the midnight movie, but I confess that I got a bit of a charge at the idea of doing it. Sure, attending this screening let me support the theater that's a stone's throw from me and freed up those two hours the rest of the weekend, but I also wanted to catch a glimpse of what's going on when most reasonable people are sleeping.

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