Sunday, January 31, 2010

Manning the needles

I've been hard at work for most of my waking hours on something that needed to be done a long time ago, so today I'm only able to provide a link and spare a stray thought or two.

Why, look, it's an article about men who knit in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois area. I'd have to check, but I'm pretty sure I've been to both LYS locations mentioned in the article. Other than the local angle, it's a prototypical story that weeds out the condescension that creeps in sometimes.

And of course I had to laugh at this:
"It's not the kind of thing you're going to be as open about ... as women are," Brechin said.
Whoever would have such an attitude?

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

The cut-out bin

Every now and then my memory gets jogged regarding a forgotten song or artist from my high school and college days. Typically it'll be something I don't own and haven't heard in ages. While a foundation for my musical tastes existed before my teenage years, it wasn't until then and the young adult years that my active listening habits had me branching out more.

I've been slightly alarmed to find that some of the albums from that time are out of print, especially those that I don't have but might have an interest in. Out of print already? Of course, the record industry doesn't see an early or mid-'90s modern rock album that didn't sell particularly well as something worth keeping in print. How many 18-year-olds are looking to pick up a Trash Can Sinatras album? For that matter, how many people twice that age are? (Maybe more than I think since it's apparently a still-working band, although their profile in the U.S. is pretty low.)

I did a little trolling on eBay this week and snagged the lone album by The Grays for virtually nothing and one by Zumpano, a band I didn't know at the time but which led to one of the members going on to form The New Pornographers. I also had some time to burn and dropped by Used Kids Records--their entrance is pictured above--to browse their overflowing bins.

I didn't have anything in mind for purchase. Really, just going through stack after stack and being reminded of music that had come and gone, some for the better, was fun in its own right. I did end up parting with $3 for a World Party album, which I wouldn't have purposefully set out to do. No complaints, though.

Listening to Bang! seventeen years after its release, it's interesting to hear what was both current and retro about it. Most notably, there's a clearer and more direct echo of The Beatles in the Britpop of the day. '60s pop/rock is riven throughout the CD--a big plus, to my ears. (It's not all that different from the '80s revivalism going on in pop now.) Borrowing from '60s music was fairly common at the time, whereas today's pop catalog plunderers in indie rock tend to be sifting through The Beach Boys discography, not that that's a bad thing either.

Digging through the cut-out bins and discount stacks at used music stores brings that sense of rediscovery. It's enjoyable to have a second chance to stumble upon music that I liked back when but didn't feel strongly enough about to buy. (In the process of finding links for this entry I came across another World Party song I knew but probably haven't heard since college.) Today's discards were yesterday's great new hopes. Perhaps some of them are worth salvaging, if even for just a couple moments.


Friday, January 29, 2010


As I've mentioned, it's a busy, busy time for the secret (and currently intermittent) knitter. I've tried to cook more this week to combat the various things I've been dealing with. Time in the kitchen can be a good way of getting out of my head and simply focusing on the matter at hand.

I've been wanting to make chocolate chip cookies all week but didn't get around to doing it tonight. For this batch I elected to mix things up and use an ingredient I've never used before: blue agave nectar.

My mom and one of my brothers are on some special diet that strikes me as being excessively restrictive, but that's neither here nor there. They can't have white sugar, among other things. Naturally, their dietary requirements was quite the topic of discussion--and a driver of some food selections--during the holidays. Long story short, blue agave nectar and stevia are among the sweeteners they are permitted. I received some of the former to try out as a sugar replacement, so I finally put it to use for these cookies.

Per the information I found on the web, I cut the amount of sugar needed by twenty-five percent--this stuff is sweeter--and lowered the oven's temperature by twenty-five degrees. I may have left the cookies in a minute or two longer than usual, but I was just using the upper range of the suggested baking time.

So how did it work? The dough didn't have the graininess that I sometimes get when making these with white sugar, but in general it tasted the same and had similar consistency. The baked product has a lighter, almost cake-like texture than what I typically get. I can detect a slight difference taste-wise, sort of as if there was honey in the cookies.

As experiments go, this one was a success.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Out of focus

This is going to seem like a really random thing to ask and write about. What do you look at when you're getting your hair cut?

I went in for a haircut after work. As usual, I removed my glasses after taking a seat in the stylist's chair. My nearsightedness means that pretty much everything in front of me is fuzzy. In the mirror before me my eyes look like two dark, out of focus pits. I can't read the labels on anything on the counter top. I certainly can't tell at a glance how well the stylist has done in cutting my hair.

I was sort of zoning out during tonight's haircut when it occurred to me that I'm seated in front of a big mirror that is of no use to me until I put my glasses back on. (Yes, my powers of observation are strong.) Then I got to thinking about how the better sighted and contact wearers have a completely different experience. They can sit there and watch their hair being cut. But do they do this? Isn't that a little strange to watch?

Since watching my hair being trimmed isn't an option, I realized that I just sort of blankly look at the bottles and such on the counter top. It can be a meditative experience, especially if the stylist isn't talkative.

I'm genuinely curious what my eagle-eyed and non-glasses wearing readers look at when in the stylist's chair. Fill me in on your perspective in the comments.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I will freely admit that I am not a fashion plate or someone who puts a great deal of energy into determining what I wear. I know what I like and think I look respectable enough--I hope--but I do not, as the saying goes, dress to impress. I'm not concerned with being trendy and not sure I could pull it off even if I tried.

I suppose you could say I don't have much variety. For instance, I own four pairs of shoes: New Balance cross trainers, which I've bought over and over for at least five years; dress shoes; Timberland waterproof boots; and Adidas baseball cleats that may actually be soccer shoes.

Yet unwittingly I have spiced up my wardrobe with the products of my own efforts. I've been wearing my Noro scarf for most of the winter despite second guessing if it's right for me. It has replaced the Ruggles Reversible Scarf that I wore last year during the coldest season. Prior to that I would alternate the red and green garter stitch scarves I made in my early knitting days. I can even switch out hats if I so choose.

You say that accessories are supposed to be changed up? See, that's not something I've ever really thought about or done. Here's this one thing; stick with it until it wears out. That I've sort of adopted this idea of an annual scarf is unheard of. Does it make me more fashionable? That's highly unlikely. But I can see the appeal of shaking up the routine.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Take what you can

The temperature was significantly chillier, and there was snow to be cleared from the car this morning. Nevertheless, it was a good day, not in any big way but just in a general sense that all is well...or better than it has been. To wit:

-I aced my dental check-up.

-For the first full day in about a week I felt much closer to being one hundred percent. I guess I had been sick? I hadn't felt right--sluggish, mostly--since the middle of last week, but it wasn't anything I couldn't fight through and still do what I needed to do. After whatever that was, I have a new appreciation for feeling well.

-I got a relatively quick appointment scheduled for the assessment and removal of this inflamed sebaceous cyst (or so I assume) on the back of my neck that's been bothering me for awhile. (Sorry, am I sharing too much?) I had one of these a little more than a year ago, so I'm pretty sure a new one--rather, an old one that isn't playing nice--is the culprit. Since I tend to treat using health insurance as something "for disasters only"--I concede that this is likely the wrong approach--it's a relief to know that what I have banked in my HSA should cover the entire cost.

-The Blue Jackets won a game, which has been rare enough of late. It was also one I was attending. That's definitely been hard to come by this season.

That's not a notable day, but it sure beats the ones I've been having of late.

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Monday, January 25, 2010


Every now and then I document even the most mundane instances of knitting in films when I come across them. If you're in search of examples, doing an Internet Movie Database search with the keyword "knitting" produces an interesting list of the best knitting titles.

I reckon that "best" means highest rated with knitting listed as a keyword, not best knitting content. For instance, the top entry is for a Newsradio episode. Even as a big fan of the show, I don't recall a lot of knitting action, but sure enough, there's Maura Tierney knitting (or faking it) in the last forty seconds of the "Daydream" episode.

The second entry is for a 2005 short The Knitting Machine. Yep, it's another art installation piece, this time with two backhoes wielding utility pole "needles" to knit an American flag.

So, if you're in need of entertainment with at least a modicum of knitting in it, there are 92 other titles in the list for your perusal.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Marching in

It's only appropriate on a day that the New Orleans Saints advance to their first Super Bowl that I link to a story about one fan and her team-related knitting. There's not much to say except that it's a funny piece about a couple with split football team loyalties.

As a fan of a traditionally bad team, I'm glad to see the Saints, who possibly have an even stronger losing tradition, go to the championship game. I don't know that I can root for them in the Super Bowl. Due to the Indianapolis Colts' relative proximity, I will pull for them from time to time, so I suppose I probably want them to win. Regardless, it stands to be a pretty good game two weeks from now.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Knitting TV

While scrolling through the on-screen TV guide I accidentally stumbled across the offerings on my local PBS affiliate's secondary digital channel. I don't know if today's schedule is representative of their usual programming, but Knit & Crochet Today! was enjoying a marathon run. (Apparently the title has been changed to Knit & Crochet Now for its third season.)

I watched parts of a couple episodes and took in the entire "Projects for Guys" episode. First observation: this would be an excellent show to have on in the background while taking a nap. That's not meant as an insult. It just has a soft, soothing quality, especially in the audio production.

I was somewhat surprised at how basic the instructions are. In second season episodes there are still descriptions of how to do knit and purl stitches. Maybe I should have been paying more attention when they were crocheting.

Although a man showed how to make a sweater and scarf that would meet with male approval, make no mistake that the "Guys" episode was aimed at women wishing to find projects to make for the men in their lives. (Fair enough.) In my opinion the patchwork scarf was kind of ugly and way too busy with the different stitch patterns. The sweater had far too much ornamentation for my tastes. (C'mon, they were doing a variation on bobbles.)

They would have done well to heed Debbie Stoller, who was interviewed about Son of Stitch 'n Bitch in the middle of the episode. She said that most guys like plain clothes--this one does--even though that may not thrill the knitter.

Based on this sampling, the show would seem to be more for novices, not anyone who's been knitting for any substantial length of time. Still, I might take another look at it again at some point.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

The late shift

It's been more than a little weird for late night talk shows and their behind-the-scenes politics to be a hot topic these past couple weeks. I haven't watched any of them with regularity for at least ten years. It's probably been more than that.

I'm not sure why I drifted away from watching them. It's not like I'm sleeping then or don't have the means to record them. Somewhere along the line they lost their immediacy, and I didn't make a habit of tuning in.

In my high school and college years I was a frequent viewer. I was into Late Night with David Letterman pretty seriously and would record the show each night. I might watch some of it in the morning before going to school. I certainly recorded the prime time Letterman anniversary specials and had a friend who showed me most of the special episodes he had on videotape, such as the upside down show. I followed that friend's lead and also started writing Top Ten lists.

I kept up with the industry news when Johnny Carson's replacement was being selected and when the ensuing publicity war popped up in the wake of the decision. I watched Carson's last week as The Tonight Show host. It was a big deal when a band I liked played on any of these shows, especially if the group or artist wasn't somewhat popular. You just didn't see them on TV otherwise. Plus, in the '90s late night talk shows were being mounted by anybody and everybody, although many of them--*cough* Chevy Chase, Magic Johnson *cough*--didn't last long.

With the ubiquitous movie star and other celebrity appearances on talk shows of all stripes, not to mention the internet, there's something less special about them being on the late night shows. Maybe it's because their converations often feel canned, as though they've worked out everything in the pre-interview. Maybe it always was that way, but I didn't see it then. Whatever the case, I do think these programs have lost the luster that they had in a smaller media world.

So it's been strange to revisit The Tonight Show for the last few evenings to see what's what. Conan's O'Brien's farewell lap this week has displayed more devil-may-care attitude than I suspect the rest of his seven months' run as host did. (I wouldn't know. Unless I'm mistaken I, along with much of America, had not watched a full episode until this week.) Honestly, that looseness was what was most appealing about it.

Next week will I go back to ignoring late night TV for the most part? Probably, at least until Letterman is close to signing off. But like those people who got up in arms about O'Brien's ouster but also didn't watch, I like the idea of it being there, just as long as it isn't Leno.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Defining filler

Haven't felt all that great today, so to fill today's entry, here's one of the surviving videos of Keyboard Cat playing with Hall and Oates. Enjoy.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In the pipeline

Chances are you know that I'm not one for buying yarn for the sake of acquiring it. I usually need to have a project in mind. Then I'll get the yarn.

I've been feeling like I ought to make some more socks. It has been more than a year, after all. With that in mind I took a look in Yarn Chef's online shop and found this variegated brown yarn. Look, I'm not going to wear socks with all kinds of crazy colors in them, so this colorway seems to be pretty much perfect. It's neutral and should be versatile in terms of what it can be worn with, at least if I understand the fashion of socks and one's clothing.

Since the previous two pairs I've made haven't quite been exactly right, I'm thinking of trying to make toe up versions. Do I have a pattern in mind? No, but something simple will suffice. Do I have any idea how to knit toe up socks? I don't have a clue. I've found the yarn, though.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Knitted by nanas

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

All right, then.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Feeling Minnesota

If it weren't a man doing the knitting, chances are it wouldn't merit a news story. Nevertheless, a retired Minnesota man knits hats for the needy. He's using a ring rather than needles, and it sounds like he's pretty productive with it. He made about 300 hats last year.

Of course, an article like this must have a punchline.
"It keeps him out of trouble," Sabatka's wife, Maxine, said.
Whatever works.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sugar sugar

I love Dr. Pepper, so when I was in Texas a couple years ago I made a point of seeking out Dublin Dr. Pepper in the local stores. What makes it different from what I can find here up north? The Dublin, Texas bottling company's version stays true to the original formula and uses cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup.

What's the difference? A Dr. Pepper with sugar tastes cleaner, lighter, and a bit sharper than one with HFCS. I've also found that this holds true for other "throwback" soft drinks. Taste-wise, the difference is subtle--less sweet, perhaps.

With HFCS being one of the nutritional bogeymen du jour, Pepsi has capitalized with limited edition sales of "made with real sugar" Pepsi and Mountain Dew. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this time around Dr. Pepper, which is distributed by Pepsi, is also being sold in a retro version (or "heritage", as described on the can).

That Pepsi has brought the products back, even if for a temporary period, indicates to me that there is a market for them, so I wonder why they're still limiting their availability. If anything, they can probably get away with charging a little more, as is the case with Dublin Dr. Peppers. I'm under no illusion that there's anything healthy about drinking these beverages made with sugar, but I would be up for having them available all the time, mainly because they taste better.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Sticks 'n' Stitches 2010

The annual Columbus edition of Sticks 'n' Stitches took place at Nationwide Arena this afternoon as the Blue Jackets hosted the Chicago Blackhawks. To my knowledge this is the third year the event has been held here, and in my observation it was the best version of it yet. (There's still the niggling matter of the CBJ actually winning on one of these dates. Then again, being victorious is something they've had trouble with the last couple months.) The game itself was a sellout due in no small part, I'm sure, to the approximately 150 Sticks 'n' Stitches tickets sold.

Goody bags included: a hank of Caledon Hills Worsted Wool in Mallard (green), a free PDF pattern from WendyKnits at The Loopy Ewe, an issue of Cast On and Interweave Knits, a stitch marker from In a Pear Tree..., bags from Temptations and Namaste, a Twist Collective pin, yarn and needles for charity knitting, a free pass to the Ohio Historical Society, and other knitting and local information.

Other contributions were available as door prizes. Yours truly continued his streak of not winning one. This is not a big deal. Anyway, my eyes were on winning the 50/50 raffle--not affiliated with Sticks 'n' Stitches--that I entered with a dollar I found on the ground yesterday. I didn't win that either.

The distribution of freebies and information about door prize winners was handled as smoothly as something like this can be, especially when the organizer is limited to a couple tables in a metaphorical corner.

Since the group was kind of nestled into its own corner of the arena, it was a different atmosphere for a hockey game. As a partial season ticket holder, I'm familiar with the routine and the traditions, such as shouting "Leo!" when the national anthem singer is introduced and standing to cheer and clap along when the team scores a goal. (In that sense it's like following the ceremonial actions in a church service.)

I tended to be one of the few who stood after a goal. Then again, I overheard one person realize late that she had been accidentally cheering for the visiting team. Not all of the Sticks 'n' Stitch-ers were hockey newbies, but it was a less engaged group. That can be OK. The bellowing fan behind me at my regular location can be a bit much, so less vocal attendees have their benefits.

So, lots of goals, some free yarn, and a good turnout from the local crafting community. I think that qualifies as a success. Great job, Erin!

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Friday, January 15, 2010

A musical interlude

After yesterday's rather heavy entry, let's lighten things up a bit with something that I forgot to include on my 2009 Archies. I spun New Order's Singles collection a lot last year. "True Faith" is one of my favorites, and its music video is a quintessential example of a certain type made in the 1980s.

Back to regular business tomorrow with a report on this year's Sticks 'N' Stitches Columbus.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

It's one of those patently ridiculous questions one will be asked occasionally, especially by potential employers. Maybe to some it isn't an unanswerable question. I can't say that I've had the foresight to predict or even know specifically where I want to be in life so far down the line.

No, I'm not interviewing for another job, if that's what you're thinking. And no, this blog post wasn't triggered by anything specifically. I think the impulse to get all existential has been percolating for awhile and has reached the point where it needs to be written about.

Now stick with what's going to sound like a major gear shift but will tie in with the above eventually...

Working at a college can be a bit like living in Groundhog Day. Student issues repeat quarter after quarter, year after year. Sure, the students and times change, but the experience of dealing with young adults who are taking big steps forward in their lives and pursuing higher education (or at least that's the idea) stays consistent.

From my office's vantage point I am unfortunately privy to some of the stuff that, frankly, isn't my business, nor do I wish to hear it. I'm talking about the whinier conversations and chest-thumping that is a distraction when I'm trying to work. Worse, I hear this chatter and wonder, "Did I sound like them when I was that age?"

Naturally, this has spurred me to reflect on myself about twenty years ago. I was still in high school then, but college wouldn't be too far off. While I don't believe I ever gave voice to the arrogance--and, let it be known, unearned bragging--that I now hear filling the open area, I may have been capable of bemoaning things with the same ease and frequency. (I was and am too well practiced at self-loathing to have been so cocky, though.) It's enough to make me retroactively embarrassed about the me of twenty years ago.

Who was that guy? Certainly there are many qualities we share, but I also shudder to think what I may have been like. (Keep in mind that I was not problematic or rebellious, so it isn't as though I was on a rampage then.)

OK, ten years ago....who was I then? Today I'm more like 2000 Man than the twenty years younger version, which is as it should be, but in some ways I know that he had different expectations for life in 2010 than how things are. It's not exactly disappointment--OK, some of it is--but more like befuddlement at how in the world I ended up with the good, the bad, and the indifferent.

Even if one is an old soul as a youth, self-awareness still comes with age and experience. That I can clearly see as I watch eighteen to twenty-two year-olds as they struggle to figure themselves out. Nevertheless, time and accrued wisdom don't help me see myself any clearer in ten years. I have some specific, but mostly vague, notions of what I'd like for that guy to be. So future me, how do I get there?

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Resolutions revisited

So apparently I made some knitting resolutions for 2009. How did I do?

I didn't mess with cables at all. If memory serves, I did not pick up one UFO. I didn't remotely consider making a sweater or sweater vest. I'm not exactly sure that I took better care of myself. (At best it's probably a split decision.) I certainly didn't organize my puny stash. I did blog every day. I did figure out color work, more or less.

Err, that's not very good, is it? (Actually, secret knitter, that's terrible.) I know that my knitting hit a screeching halt for an extended period of time due to lack of ideas and being busy in general but still...

For the time being I'm not going to establish any 2010 resolutions, not because I failed at keeping last year's but because my head just isn't in the right place for it. Like this time last year, I'm extremely busy and don't feel like exerting the mental energy to come up with a list. I'm thinking about making a pair of socks, but I have a couple items that need to get on the needles first because they are owed to the recipients.

So for now, the strategy is to do what I can. Try to knit more this year. It's hard when I'm not home for eleven to thirteen hours of the day or working on things from home. (This has also affected my semi-professionally oriented blog, in part due to lacking the will to put extra time in it. There was another reason, but I think it has abated as a cause for my dereliction of duty there.) Still, I can do better, and at the worst it'll give me something to write about here.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Organization

Regarding my Archies '09 post, Donna B. of Arkansas writes:
Have you always done it alphabetically and this is the first time I've noticed?

Also, how do you do it alphabetically -- by hand, or using computer-assisted sorting?

We need an "Archies Behind The Scenes" featurette for this post!
Why yes, Donna, I have always arranged my Archies selections in alphabetical order. How else would one give shape and symmetry to such a list? One alternative might be to place them in chronological order, the benefit of which is to show an evolution through the year, but I've not kept track of these things well enough to do that method justice. Also, that just occurred to me as another way of doing it. For my purposes, alphabetical is where it's at.

As for the how, I follow in the tradition of the finest artisans and sort the list by hand. More specifically, I sort by hand with the computer screen as my blank page to work on. As the items come to mind, I enter them into a word processing or blogging document and then proceed to put them in order by cutting and pasting each into the appropriate position. This could probably be done faster with a spreadsheet document like Excel, but that's not what I've done in these instances.

Alphabetical sorting, or sorting of any kind, is something that comes second nature to me. I had at least one temp job that required putting stacks of files back in many rows of drawers, so the easiest way to attack such work was to alphabetize the files first. (I also worked part-time in a library for a few months in high school.) Keep in mind, many years after junior high choir I have retained the useless talent of being able to name the states in alphabetical order from learning the song "Fifty Nifty United States".

I think it's all about seeing structure where it may not be immediately apparent or providing structure where there is none. For instance, my music collection is arranged alphabetically by artist. (I use the artist's last name, not the maddening first name method that iTunes favors, although I understand why it is set up in such a manner.) The albums are arranged in order of release. Singles follow their corresponding albums and are also arranged in order of release. Multiple artist compilations and soundtracks are grouped together in alphabetical order after all the artists.

I also keep books in order first by author name and then by the order in which the books were released. (This tends to pertain to novels and non-fiction. Specialty books, such as knitting books, are not in the above mix.) DVDs and Blu-ray discs are alphabetized by title, with music and television programs each self-contained subsets. Naturally, Criterion Collection titles are separated out and put in numerical order.

Maybe this all sounds obsessive-compulsive, but it has value to me. In High Fidelity, both in the book and the film, main character Rob Gordon puts a great deal of thought in how he arranges his collection and reorders it on a regular basis. (I believe one method is the order in which he acquired the albums. Good luck with that one.) Like much of the book (and film), it struck a chord with me. Other than making it easier to find what you want, is there a need to do this alphabetizing? Probably not. Does it please me? You bet.

(And yes, it's shameful that those are the only three Springsteen albums I own and that I have more Tobin Sprout solo albums.)

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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Archies: The Top 51 Things in the World (2009)

For many people, the fact that 2009 is over is worth celebrating. Sure, the year presented its share of hardships and aggravations, but let's not forget the good things too.

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 three years. So, I'm back for more this year, even though I've most assuredly forgotten some things. If you'd like to participate, just make sure to let her know in the comments to her Archies '09 if you do.

Now, my Archies selections for The Top 51 Things in the World: The 2009 Edition.

1. Andrew Bird and St. Vincent at the Southern Theatre
2. Auto-Tune the News
3. Back-to-back Cincinnati Reds games (nice, brief overnight trip to see two games in one trip)
4. The Beatles Stereo Box Set
5. Busch Stadium (gorgeous St. Louis ballpark and a Reds win)
6. Chungking Express
7. Cincinnati Bengals' winning season (they're rare even if the playoffs disappointed)
8. The Decemberists at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion
9. Don't Stop/All Night EP - Annie
10. Duplicity
11. First Columbus Blue Jackets playoff appearance (even if their brief stint was a disaster)
12. Flannel sheets in the winter
13. Gateway Arch
14. Google Chrome
15. GPS
16. Grandma's letter
17. Hotwire
18. Inglourious Basterds
19. Inventory by the writers of The A.V. Club
20. iPhone
21. Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
22. Leonard Cohen at the Palace Theatre
23. Married life montage in Up
24. Martinelli's Gold Medal Sparkling Cider
25. Matt Damon in The Informant!
26. Minor league baseball games in the midwest and south
27. "My Girls" - Animal Collective
28. My own small, artificial Christmas tree
29. New car (despite all the repair issues)
30. New car radio (despite one being stolen)
31. "Night Shift" café scene in 35 Shots of Rum
32. Rubz
33. A Serious Man
34. Snowville Creamery milk
35. "So Far Around the Bend" - The National
36. "Stillness is the Move" - Dirty Projectors
37. The Stone Roses debut album reissue
38. Summer Hours
39. Timberland waterproof boots
40. Tom Scharpling and Paul F. Tompkins on The Best Show talking about the 2009 Gathering of the Juggalos infomercial (runs from 1:26:55 to 1:51:14) (so funny it reduced me to tears, although it helps if you've seen what they're commenting on)
41. Twitter (I've resisted social networking sites, but this one has been a lot of fun)
42. Two Lovers
43. "Two Weeks" - Grizzly Bear
44. University of Central Arkansas dishcloth
45. Vacation hosts
46. Watchmen (the graphic novel; the film was just OK)
47. Wendy's Spicy Chicken Sandwich (best fast food sandwich ever?)
48. Whole Foods
49. Wingate by Wyndham Birmingham (not to mention the killer price I got the room for)
50. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix
51. Yo La Tengo at Stuart's Opera House

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Sunday, January 10, 2010


As I was scanning my entries from last January to find some information, I discovered that in this stretch of the calendar the blog kind of grinds to a halt even though I'm tacking up something every day.

It's no mystery. Classes resume, so work picks up. I'm putting the finishing touches on something I do as the leader of a group. I'm also getting ready for a couple of additional projects that spring up annually. Add to that the potential for very cold temperatures, which we've had, and it's no secret why I'm drained by the time it comes to writing something here.

With nowhere in particular to go today, the rat race of the past week--and let's face it, weeks before that--caught up with me. I conked out after a late lunch and slept about as deeply as I have in some time. It was the kind of sleep where even when I was slowly waking up, I just laid there without the energy to open my eyes. I knew I'd been out for a fair amount of time as I could hear the TV announcers saying how much of the football game I'd dozed through. Eventually I dragged myself into an upright position reenergized but still sort of hollowed out.

I'm coming off a productive week. I hope to accomplish some things this week that will put me a little ahead so that I don't have to push so hard. I get done what I need to get done, mostly. (My apartment is a mess.) If only the things checked off on the list included recharging in a timely manner.


Saturday, January 09, 2010


As a Cincinnati Bengals fan I am used to being disappointed, aggravated, embarrassed, you name it by my favorite team. They've only had winning seasons or made the playoffs two times in twenty years. They last won a playoff game in 1991. That did not change today.

Even when they're winning, like this season, there's a sense deep down that it isn't going to last. Boy, was that well-honed internal pessimism ever accurate. This team isn't jokingly referred to as the Bungles for nothing.

Spectator sports are a funny thing. Other than a lifelong commitment to watching this team, which wasn't in my hometown or where I live now, I have no connection to the organization whatsoever. Nevertheless, it's days like these that metaphorically kill me.

So why bother with it? For better or worse, it's my team. It's something to talk about with my dad--he called me at halftime--and others. It's something to vent frustrations on. (There's one thing this team is good for.) When it's going good, it's something to lift my spirits for a bit.

Am I mad that the Bengals suffered more injuries to what was an already banged-up squad and played mediocre at best? Absolutely. I'll also be right back there rooting for them (and probably ripping my hair out) when the next season begins.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Live in '09

One of the big tasks I've been busy with has involved with evaluating the best films of last year. (If only my individual list were finished...) Since I need to get around to putting a wrap on several things here, I figured I'd start with the concerts I attended in 2009. The best albums will have to wait until a later time. (To check out the back catalog, see what I put down as the best in music for 2008.)

Looking over the list of shows I attended, what I'm left with is the ability for the music to transport. Yo La Tengo were like magicians with their pretty songs and feedback squalls. Leonard Cohen and Lambchop each played low key shows, but you could have heard a pin drop at either concert. The Decemberists brought their dense concept album to life and then came out for a rousing victory lap. Not quite co-headliners Andrew Bird and St. Vincent played transfixing sets that did a lot with a little.

For me 2009 was a pretty great year seeing live music. Here's to 2010 being anywhere near its equal.

1. Yo La Tengo at Stuart's Opera House (Nelsonville, OH)

One for the books, in my mind.

2. Leonard Cohen at The Palace Theatre

Let's face it, this may well have been a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was reported that Cohen had never played Columbus, and at his age, chances are he won't be back. He did not disappoint.

3. Andrew Bird and St. Vincent at The Southern Theatre

Other than when he invited St. Vincent, the recording/performing name of Annie Clark, on stage at the end of his set, it was just Bird on stage with his violin, which he played, plucked, and looped, yet his music was totally mesmerizing, sort of in a hushed, religious manner. St. Vincent was a fine opener, playing her arty songs with angular beauty.

4. The Decemberists at The Lifestyle Communities Pavilion

The Hazards of Love has a fairly convoluted narrative, but presented as live theater it made much more sense. For a band with lyrics like literature and, let's face it, would be mistaken for nerds than rock stars, they brought a powerful sound and did a smoking Heart cover.

5. Phoenix at Newport Music Hall

Nothing flashy but who needs that when you've got this French band turning out solid, tuneful pop-rock in a professional manner. (That is a compliment.)

6. Lambchop at the Wexner Center Performance Space

The amalgamation of soul, country, rock, and perhaps some jazz probably shouldn't work, especially with the offbeat lyrical content and singing that sometimes borders on speaking, but it does on record and did in a live setting.

7. St. Vincent at Southgate House (Newport, KY)

8. Los Campesinos! at Mershon Auditorium-Black Box

9. Wilco at Mershon Auditorium

Not the best show of theirs I've seen but still a good one. It may be better in retrospect since it spurred me to relisten to their latest album and realize that it stronger than I thought.

10. Bruce Robison at Columbus Maennerchor

11. The Flaming Lips at The Lifestyle Communities Pavilion

Far too familiar to what I've seen before, although once I heard their new album, unreleased at the time of this concert, it made sense why they didn't play more from it. Still, I'd virtually seen this exact same concert a couple years ago and didn't have a lot of patience with my fellow concertgoers.

12. Times New Viking (heart) the Velvet Underground at Mershon Auditorium-Black Box

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Leisurely winter driving

The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Or so it is to be believed considering the way today's snow showers were breathlessly reported.

This was not a good day for a winter weather advisory. I was responsible for organizing an event that I didn't wish to cancel and couldn't reschedule if necessary. Even if some might choose to opt out at the last minute because of icy roadways, I didn't have that luxury. I had to be there.

Driving the snow covered streets wasn't my favorite thing ever, but I think I found the best solution for dealing with what can be a stressful situation. I accepted that the drive was going to be a pain and left so far in advance that even in a worse case scenario I would not be late. I fired up the iPod and settled in to the sounds of Pavement. Most importantly, I was in no hurry.

Good thing. It took about a half hour to go the two or so miles from my office to the interstate on ramp. Once I hit the highway, the road actually opened up. The interstate was a mess, but for some odd reason, especially at rush hour, there weren't as many cars on it as on the local streets. Cruising at 35 mph with three lanes morphed into two extra-wide ones made for a nice leisurely drive without much threat of spinning out. Getting flattened by a fast-moving semi? That was more likely.

For the drive home several hours later I elected to stick to city streets. It was a slower way of traveling, but I was much more relaxed. OK, so one car in front of me ran two red lights from a full stop and stopped at a green light--color blind? drunk?--but that was about as exciting as it got.

It turned out to be a pretty good night. The event went very well, and only two people elected not to attend due to the weather. For all the stress I've had behind the wheel during longer travels lately, tonight's slow-moving drives were, dare I say, enjoyable.

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Today was to be the day that I purchased new tires and had them installed so as to keep my car from barreling down the road as though I'm competing in luge. (Note: I've never been on one of those sleds, so imagine how out of control I might be.)

Only half of the day's task was accomplished, although without the abundant information at my fingertips, chances are I would have a new set of tires on my car. As you know, things are different now. Research about stuff one may know practically nothing about can be called up at a moment's notice and make you informed enough to be dangerous.

Before I decided to get a new set of tires, what did I know about them? Not much. What do I know about tires now? Slightly more than not much. In other words, I know enough to think I know what I want based on poring over reviews and user ratings. I've probably devoted four hours to determining what tires best meet my criteria and who is offering the best deal for purchase and installation.

It was more work than I wish it had been, but fine, I've saved a few bucks in the process and found tires that should be a good match for me. The only problem: the place where I went to get them didn't have any. Also, they're backordered. Perhaps for up to a month. My back-up choice--see, I was thinking--was also backordered, although they might arrive in a few days' time.

How about these tires, which are the same brand (but not ones I researched), asks the not particularly dynamic salesman. Let me check, say I. Through the power of technology I am able to find reviews that dissuade me enough from agreeing on the spot. Maybe I'll be back to get them, maybe I won't. Initial data indicates that they're probably not what I want.

Told that I'd be facing the shortage regarding these specific tires elsewhere, I elected to go home and work more on the problem. A friend recommended an online vendor to me, although I figured that after the cost of shipping I wouldn't be saving anything. I knew that they were showing the tires I wanted in stock, though. After a quick call to my mechanic, who told me what he'd charge, I decided that an online purchase was in order. And yes, I shaved a few--very few--dollars off what I would have paid today if the tires had been at the shop.

I won't have them in time for the big snow storm that's supposedly on its way. (The tires won't be delivered until Monday or Tuesday.) While I may face some hairy driving situations between now and then, I am happy with the way this worked out.

The site where I purchased the tires had provided the bulk of my research information, so I suppose it was only fair that they got a sale from it. I'd rather have a mechanic I trust install the tires, especially with the less than diligent efforts I observed where I went this morning. Still, for a decision that years ago would have been based upon going somewhere and asking for their recommendation, it has left me somewhat tired.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Central Ohio crafters might have some interest in The Virtual Pasture at the Wexner Center for the Arts. The art exhibit doesn't have anything to do with knitting or yarn, but since it involves sheep--real animals will be grazing on the Ohio State campus for a few hours on Mondays--I thought it might be worth pointing out.

Don't ask me to explain it. The local paper's article on the project adds some explanations if you're having difficulty figuring this out.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Getting traction

The area is receiving just enough snow for it to be an inconvenience and to make driving mildly dangerous. Unfortunately the situation does not merit business and school closures. Considering that today saw classes resume after a break since Thanksgiving, it's probably too early for me to be wishing for snow days anyway.

After my holiday adventures with snow and ice and some slipping and sliding around here the last few days, I do believe it's time to bite the bullet and get new tires. According to the handy system of measuring tire tread with coins, it would seem that I have enough tread to drive on them in normal conditions but not in the snowy and icy conditions that have arrived.

I've been pretty careful in how I've been on the roads because I've definitely felt enough moments when I feel like I don't have full control of the car. (Granted, one should be cautious when driving on slick roadways.) I thought my adventurous holiday trips may have been due solely to the conditions--at least that's what I wanted to tell myself--but the past couple days have given me enough data to reinforce what I instinctively knew was true: the tires aren't fully capable of handling the current weather. This car is heavier than my old one yet slips like it weighs nothing.

With light snow forecast for the whole week, there's no time like the present for doing the smart thing and getting new tires. I'm just hoping to get these old ones through one more day before I can find the time to get the job done.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010


Have you heard? Knitting is the new trend for the times. The economy has people more conscious about making things rather than buying things. Down with consumerism! Why, even celebrities are getting in on the act!

Or maybe it's an evergreen story that outlets can whip out and bend to whatever the mood of the moment is. And the lazy blogger on a lazier Sunday turns to it under the pretense of providing content.

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Hitting the links

Late night duties that involve wearing my film critic hat beckon, so today's edition of the blog features a link to a story about the benefits of a knitting project in Scotland that attracts ex-cons. (This is a positive story. No tongue-in-cheek attitude here at all.)

That's the best I can do for tonight.

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Friday, January 01, 2010

A new year

Considering how work and output-focused our society is, I'm always a little surprised that (for most) the first day of the year is dedicated to a day of rest and celebration rather than putting noses to the grindstones. Even the grocery stores cut back when they're open, and they are almost never closed during prime waking hours.

It's a day that I cherish because I'm usually in need of recharging right now. Just like it's good to warm up before exercising, I find that it's helpful to ease into a new year. Activity will ramp up soon enough. (Oh, will it ever.) What could be better than to sample the Rose Bowl parade, various football games, watch a movie or two, and carve out a nap in there as well?

I've had a quiet day that has allowed me to relax and even cook a little, which is something I ought to do more in 2010. There are 364 other days to be productive this year. This one is for me.