Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Tyranny of Religion and the "War on Christmas"

I posted about this briefly on Ravelry today, and realized that I had so much more to say that I really ought to just post it to the blog. It comes not just from the Ravelry thread, but also things I've been seeing in the presidential race. Basically, there's just been a perfect shitstorm of religious hypocrisy that sets me off.

The thread on Ravelry had to do with celebrating Christmas, and specifically whether it was really any big deal that people, governments, corporations, what have you, wish you a Merry Christmas, rather than a Happy Holiday. After all, it is postulated, what's the problem with people wishing you well? Is Christmas a secular holiday, a religious holiday, or an appropriated pagan holiday and does it make a difference?

To start with, let me say that I come from a Jewish background, but I am an agnostic, and I am also definitely anti-religion. That is to say, whether or not I believe in some sort of deity, I do NOT believe that any organized Religion currently being praticed has any truth, relevance, or place in this world. I capitalized Religion in order to differentiate what I call mass-market, organized religion from more individualistic ways that people revere whatever principle they hold dear. As far as I'm concerned, capital-R Religion does nothing but create artificial divisions between people; engendering an "us v. them" attitude that causes wars: literal, cultural, and familial.

In general, I think that people out in the world who do not know me (read: checkout counter workers, Target employees, etc.) who wish me Merry Christmas are not evil religion pushers. Even people who do know me who still send me religious themed holiday cards are generally given a pass. Most of the people in this country do, after all, count themselves as part of some christian denomination, and it is not often readily apparent who is or who isn't christian. "Merry Christmas" is being said with good cheer and not with evangelical intent. Usually.

What pisses me off no end are the people who insist that there's a "war on Christmas" that liberals, atheists, and other evil non-Christians are perpetrating to corrupt the country and the souls of little Christian children everywhere. "This is a Christian country!" they proclaim. There should be manger scenes in town squares, and boo to anyone else who wants the holiday that they celebrate at this time of year to be represented in the town square as well. These same people (who generally ARE of evangelical bent) boycott stores that have the dastardly pratice of wishing their customers a "Happy Holiday" instead of a "Merry Christmas."

Well, guess what. This is NOT a Christian country. This is a country founded on religious liberty and freedom from established religion. There is no reason not to respect that others may not share your beliefs. Nothing is stopping anyone from celebrating Christmas in whatever way they want. They are free to celebrate with their families, their friends, and their churches as much or as little as they want. Whether the checkout person at Target says "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" has NO effect on your beliefs whatsoever.

At base, the problem here is that there is a very vocal faction that wants to establish religion in this country. In the guise of "religious freedoms" for Christians, they chip away at religious freedoms for everyone. The current administration, for example, routinely uses religious beliefs and tenets over scientifically established evidence to formulate and enact its policies. That, too, is an establishment of religion and I object.

Moreover, I object to the way religiousity has become a prerequisite for elected office. The ridiculously named "values voters" (i.e. the evangelical voters) played such a big role in electing Shrub that current presidential candidates, Democrat and Republican, are falling all over themselve to prove they're religious, Church-going, God-fearing folk. I firmly believe that, at this point in our country's history, an atheist or agnostic could not be elected President. You know what? I don't care whether my leaders go to church, temple, mosque, or whatever, as long as they are thoughtful -- and realistic -- about the problems that face the country, and are willing to be open-minded and reasonable in their approach to solutions. There are so many issues facing this country right now that voting based on a candidate's stand on one or two incredibly narrow issues (e.g. abortion, gay marriage)* is just plain ignorant. What about other values? Do we value all of our children enough not to ignore poverty? Is torture a Christian value?

* For the record, I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. I also believe that people of the same sex who want to make a lifetime commitment to each other should absolutely be able to do so. Their love and commitment is no threat to my marriage, or to marriage as an institution.

OK. Rant over. Soon I'll be back with some nice, soothing knitting content.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Almost There

I have been making some progress on Autumn Rose, despite feeling kind of blah and having much to do. I'm almost to the bind off and casting on for the neck steek, which means I'm also pretty close to attaching the sleeves and entering the home stretch.

I'm in a groove now. Hopefully this won't take too much longer. I wonder if weaving in the ends will take as much time as knitting the sweater?

I haven't made any progress on the Milkmaid's Stockings, simply because I've been focusing on AR.

Holiday shopping, doctor's appointments, and holiday commitments will take up a lot of my time between now and New Year's, so we'll see how much knitting time I manage to cram in.

On a non-knitting note, I need to decide whether to put Senior Junior up for the lottery to enter one of the magnet middle schools in our area. The program is really geared towards very independent, self-motivated kids, which Sr. Jr. had become (past tense intentional). Lately, however, his attitude has been changing, and I'm not sure the school would be right for him. Luckily, our neighborhood middle school is also excellent, with a number of accelerated classes for kids like him. I wish I knew what to do to improve his attitude. He's 10 going on 15, with a very tweeny thang going on. Lots of eye rolling and exasperated "Mooo--ooom!"'s going on. The old parental curse of "I hope you get a child just like you" is rearing its ugly head, but at the very least, I knew that if I did well in school, so much other stuff would be overlooked. I wish I could just magic him out of those awkward and torturous middle school years and save him all those growing pains. No one told me when I got pregnant that I would hurt for my child as much as, if not more than, he does. I certainly don't think that was the case with my parents, with regard to me, anyway. My brother is a whole other story.

So, what should I knit next? I'm thinking shawl, in that STR raven laceweight, but I can be tempted by something else...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving; Progress without Satisfaction

Thanksgiving always makes for a crazy week. The kids were out of school after Tuesday, and I had a dentist appointment on Tuesday, so there wasn't much time this week to make any real progress on anything.

We spent Thanksgiving day with my father-in-law and his wife. They cooked; I made the desserts -- one apple pie and one pumpkin-ginger cheese tart. Yum. The only problem with this arrangement is that it leaves us with no precious leftovers. So today I roasted up a large turkey breast and made some cranberry sauce, with stuffing and brocolli as well. Mmmmm. And now we have leftovers :)

On Wednesday night (the anniversary of our first date) we took the boys to see "Enchanted." First choice had been "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," but it didn't start until too late. I really enjoyed "Enchanted," but the boys hated it with all the burning passion that two girl-hating little testosterone nuggets can manage. Needless to say, the movie was way too girly for them. I was reminded in no uncertain terms that this is a household in which estrogen is in the minority. But it was nice to indulge my inner little girl and see a princess-y movie. I'm sure that won't happen again for a looooooong time.

Knitting-wise, it's been a slow week, like I said. I've gotten almost no knitting done on Autumn Rose. I've made some very good progress on my Milkmaid Stocking (from Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters), because I can do a little bit here and there in between bits in the kitchen. I've modified the pattern a bit. The original pattern has a nice triangle/geometric lace pattern going up the arch of the foot and up onto the leg, but it also has some added ribbing at the back of the ankle, some futzy stuff up the leg, and a bit of feather and fan-type stuff at the top cuff. It all looks nice on the sock in the book, but I wanted a cleaner look. I eliminated all but the lace insert and one rib going up each side of the leg, framing the insert. I'm not sure exactly what I'll do at the cuff. I'm almost there, so I need to decide soon.

I like this "architecture" a lot. I've got lots of ideas for patterns to put in that arch triangle are swirling about that will find their way into future socks.

On a more general life-level, my husband says I need to relax. Yes! I do! Please to take kids and go away now so I can sit and knit and relax! But no, that's not what he has in mind. Don't know what he has in mind, but it doesn't involve what I think will be relaxing. Somehow he thinks that the row here or there that I knit today in between cleaning and cooking while he and the kids ran around the house should be relaxing. Ha! (Insert bitter laugh here.)

And a final bit of good news: today we got tickets to go see "Spamalot" in December! I've wanted to see this for a long time, so it will make a nice kick-off to the holiday season.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Hodgepodge

Mondays are always a hodgepodge. I go to the supermarket, I do laundry, I attempt to clean something around the house. In between, I knit a few rows. Today I knit two whole rows on Autumn Rose:

As you can see, I'm recharting the sweater as I go. My chart is much easier than the one in the book. I'm so familiar with the pattern by now that recharting doesn't take that long. The bottom of the sweater is curling quite a bit. It bugs me, and I hope it blocks out.

I started a new sock, the Milkmaid's Stocking, from New Pathways for Sock Knitters. I'm using Sundara Sock Yarn, in Bark over Cedar. The color is so rich and beautiful, and my pitiful camera skills can't even begin to capture it, but here's the bitty toe:

The final picture I have is of a skein of the new Raven Series from the Socks that Rock people. This color is Corbie. I also have a skein of the laceweight in Corvid and some of the Sheep to Shoe (fiber that you can spin into sock yarn) in Thraven, but those will not photograph well at all.

Mmmmmm, pretty, no?

Off to cook dinner...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Equestrian Blazer and the Miracle (?) of Blocking

The Equestrian Blazer is done, I think. I finally sewed on the button and completed the last little seams. It looks pretty good on me, although there's a bit of extra fabric in the bust/underarm area. The pattern is from the Fall or Winter '06 Interweave Knits mag. I don't have it in front of me, so I'm not sure which. I knit two sweaters from that issue, and the one before it has the Swallowtail shawl that I want to knit, so it was a good season for IK that year.

I was skeptical that the sweater would turn out, and not require a complete reknitting of the collar edging. The pattern calls for you to pick up one stitch per row all the way around the collar. Typically, you don't pick up stitches on a vertical axis in a one-to-one ratio, because knit stitches are fatter than they are tall. A stockinette square generally has more rows than stitches, leading to gauge figures like "6 stitches and 8 rows per 4 inches." I was worried that by picking up stitches in a one-to-one ratio, I'd get a puckery collar edging. And my fears seemed to be realized, as you can see from this picture:

I decided to block it and see if that helped, rather than jumping ahead and ripping the edging out to redo it. Notice the bottom of the sweater, where the one-to-one ratio works, because you're picking up stitch-to-stitch, not stitch-to-row. After washing, I was still skeptical:

Would this work out? Would our heroine have to rip and reknit, or could she live happily ever after, with a wearable sweater? Let's see what blocking accomplished.

Looks ok. I still wasn't sure about the collar edging, but it did block out much better than I'd hoped. And, for the final test: wearing it.

Not bad. I still feel like the collar edging is a little wonky, but I can live with it. I think it's still something that can be solved with better blocking. Ripping and reknitting wouldn't really accomplish too much.

And because you've all (well, all one of you) been so patient with this post, I reward you with a goofy kitty picture:

Have a good night!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ah, Brothers...

I was hoping to have a detailed post about my finished Equestrian Jacket, complete with pictures of the miracles of blocking, but alas the miracles of drying haven't yet materialized, so I haven't been able to put the finishing touches on the sweater.

So instead, I will regale you with a story about brotherly interaction that should make all one of you smile. Jr. Jr. has this big pirate ship that he's been playing with lately. I can't remember whether he got it for a birthday, or Chrismukkah, or Chanumas, or what. The ship has a little anchor attached to it by a length of string about 1 1/2 feet long. As Jr. Jr. was playing with the ship, Sr. Jr. sat on the anchor, and then began to play with it, clearly in a way that would interfere with Jr. Jr.'s enjoyment of the rest of the apparatus. "Give it back to me!" I hear. "You weren't playing with it!" comes next. Ad nauseum. Finally, I call the boys into the study to try to determine what's going on. Jr. Jr. explains that Sr. Jr. has taken the anchor and won't give it back. Sr. Jr. explains that Jr. Jr. wasn't playing with it, so he had every right to take it any play with it.

"But isn't it attached to what he was playing with?" I ask.

"Yeah, but he wasn't playing with it!" was the response. *Sigh*

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I Am a Selfish, Cold-Hearted Bitch

... well, according to my father. This is exactly what he calls me, not a case where I infer it from his more ambiguous words. And then he wonders why there's "estrangement" in our relationship. He never could quite understand why I moved far from home, as soon as I could. We regularly have these interludes where he dumps all this shit on me, refuses to listen to me, and then gives me the old, "Nothing you can say will change anything. I'm done with this discussion." And THEN, he expects me to smile nice, be a good daughter, and let him play grandpa to my kids. So, what do I do? Part of me wants to take revenge on him, the way he has on me. Not allow him to see us. Do other things that would upset him. Part of me says that it has nothing to do with revenge, but is simply a matter of not allowing myself to be subject to that kind of vitriol and abuse. My husband, who so often is emotionally clueless (hi, honey!), is nonetheless right on target when it comes to this situation. He reminds me that being vengeful only perpetuates the hard feelings and forces me to act like my father is acting. He says that my father will never change, and I should accept that. In the end, I'm sure that several months will go by, then my father and I will tentatively email each other as if nothing has happened, and go back to the same strained, cordial relationship we've had for the past several years. But my heart gets more and more hardened each time. I'm sick of the stress-related skin conditions, too.

Sorry for the vent.

Last night, Jr. Jr. was at a sleepover party at a friend's house (six 6 year old boys, oy), so S. and I took Sr. Jr. out for a big guy night on the town. We had dinner at a restaurant without crayons! Sr. Jr. had the salmon entree, which he loved. After dinner, we went to see "Fred Claus." We wanted to find a movie that wasn't a little kid movie, but was still appropriate for a 10 year old boy. There wasn't anything else out there, so "Fred Claus" it was. The movie had an incredible cast -- Miranda Richardson, Paul Giamatti, Kathy Bates, Kevin Spacey -- but it was a piece of cynical commercial claptrap, complete with cute orphaned black kid who gets a puppy from Santa in the end. I swear there were scenes in which I could practically see the actors thinking, "Just get the paycheck, just get the paycheck." Sr. Jr. enjoyed it.

I have no pictures today, but there has been a small measure of knitting progress. I finished the Spiraling Coriolis socks, so now all I have to do is figure out which sock I want to knit next. As frustrating as the New Pathways book is, the socks in it are beautiful. I've wound up some Sundara sock yarn ( in bark over cedar, a gorgeous dark green color. I tried to get a good picture of it, but the light was bad and the house was messy, so nothing looked quite right.

I finished the collar edging on the Equestrian Jacket. The directions call for picking up one stitch for every row all the way around, which I did, but it flares a little. I tried it on, and it may be something that I can block out, so I'll finish the rest of the edging and block it before I resort to ripping it out.

I also finished the ribbing on my Autumn Rose, so now I can start the body patterns. I think I need to rechart it again, as I did for the sleeves, which I discussed in an earlier post.

Ravelry is dangerous! Looking in people's queues makes me want to start a million different projects...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Blog Only a Husband Could Love

So far I think I only have one reader :) Hi, honey! (Interesting typo: I originally typed in "So fat I think I only have one reader." On the Internet, no one knows you're a dog. Ba dum dum.)

Jr. Jr. had a dentist appointment this morning, so of course I took along my nearly-finished Coriolos sock to work on while he was being tortured, I mean worked on. When I pulled it out, the woman across from me, who was accompanying her very elderly mother, began to reminisce about how she had knit socks years ago, when she was in school, but she hadn't since then. At that point, another woman arrived to wait for her appointment, saw me, and said, "I brought mine, too, but it's crochet." She was working on a cute little bag in a nice light blue cotton. See, honey, I'm not the only nutty fiber person around.

Here's Gabby modeling my in-progress Autumn Rose. Yes, she's sitting in a plush Scooby Doo chair and not the lovingly hand knit and fulled kitty bed. And yes, I've only got one (1) row done so far. It took quite a while for that first row, because I wanted to be absolutely sure I wasn't going to twist that first row. I didn't, and now I should be able to sail away. Hey, maybe tomorrow I'll be able to do two rows! A girl can only dream.

PS Virginia is getting bluer and bluer!

Monday, November 5, 2007

My Grandfather's Story

My paternal grandparents were born in Hungary. Actually, they lived in a corner of Hungary that changed hands often in nationalistic skirmishes, so every few years, my grandfather had to learn a new language in school. Listening to my grandparents and their various sisters- and brothers-in law was always interesting. There was always a little competition about whose "willage" was the best ("My willage had a river." "Well my willage had two rivers." "My willage had a train station." "Ooooooh." Game over.).

My great-grandfather managed to put away enough money to come to the United States, and then, slowly, he'd send for his children. When he'd saved enough money to bring over my grandfather, he told my grandfather to go to the port and pay for a boat ride to the U.S. Not surprisingly, given that this was, shall we say, not entirely legal, my grandfather's money was stolen and he couldn't do anything about it. Someone took pity on him and allowed him to stow away in the hold of a boat. That he did, and endured the Atlantic crossing without food or water.

When he arrived in New York, he ended up being kidnapped by the Jewish Mafia (as Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up.") The JM thought they'd use my grandfather to extort money from his father. My great-grandfather, however, refused to pay a dime. "Do with my son what you will," he said. So my grandfather was held captive, but was allowed to sit in a storefront window every now and then so my great-grandfather could walk by and see that he was still alive. Still, he refused to pay ransom for his son.

Eventually, the Jewish Mafia guys realized that they were never going to get any money out of my great-grandfather, so they let my grandfather go. He was taken in by a wealthy New York department store family (I can't remember whether it was the Bambergers or the Mays). They wanted him to marry their daughter, but he refused. He married my grandmother instead, which never made sense to me, given that she was a complete shrew.

He and my grandmother opened a dry cleaning and tailoring store, and slowly worked to bring over all their brothers and sisters, and whoever else needed it. This was, of course, in the 1930's and 1940's, when Jews were desperately trying to get out of Europe as fast as they could. One of my great aunts didn't make it out before the Holocaust started, and spent time in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. That's a story for another day.

The moral of this story? I could've been an heiress!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Best Laid Plans

Alas, all the big plans I had for this weekend went awry. On Saturday, we had Senior Junior's birthday party (at Ultrazone, the place for boy birthday parties, natch), and Junior Junior popped a fever. Now when he gets a fever, he gets a high fever that knocks him out completely. Motrin doesn't touch it. It can get kind of scary, because he still seems so young. Senior Junior just doesn't get sick that way. Hubster and Sr. Jr. were supposed to take Jr. Jr. to their bike race on Sunday, leaving me with many hours of uninterrupted time to myself. Sigh.

I did, however, manage to complete the sleeves of my Autumn Rose. (Why can't I get the pictures to post where I want them to? If you know, please tell me in the comments). I started the sleeves using the recommended US 2 needles, but was getting too many stitches/inch, so I switched to US 3s. I completely redid the chart in color using Stitch & Motif maker, because the chart in the book drove me nuts. The fact that the entire chart was in black and white wasn't what compelled me to do this, it was the fact that the white squares represented the dark yarns and the dark squares represented the light yarns. That was just too much to keep straight. After all that, I still used the wrong color in the central stripe in the very first motif on the very first sleeve, so I had to rip and redo. I'm glad I started with the sleeves, because I got these mistakes out of my system on a much smaller piece of knitting. Hopefully, when I start the body, I will have internalized the pattern well enough that there shouldn't be too many problems.

Oh, I think I've got the picture thing! On the other knitting front, I'm closing in on the end of the Spiraling Coriolis socks. I've turned the heel and am about halfway up the leg on the second sock

I like these socks, but I can't stand the way Cat Bordhi writes. I find it very twee and a bit condescending. I also can't stand having to flip to nine different places in the book just to knit one pattern. The patterns, nonetheless, are genius, and I'll put up with the frustrations to learn the new techniques.
I had planned to use my free time today to knit the edging onto the Equestrian Blazer and sew on the button. I want to wear this sweater!
I'm already looking ahead to what next -- which sock pattern will come next? Recently, I've finished (or nearly finished) two sweaters, the Equestrian Blazer and the Nantucket Jacket, and Autumn Rose will roll once I cast on for the body. I'm thinking about a scarf, maybe a small Flower Basket scarf. Or a shawl... the Swallowtail shawl has been calling my name. Any suggestions?

Friday, November 2, 2007


I tried to start a blog before, but didn't stick to it. This time I will try to keep it up, if only because it's a good place to document my knitting progress and let off some steam occasionally. An intro -- I'm Loren, a 40ish (well, just turned 40) former attorney living right outside Washington, DC. My husband still practices, with a focus on communications and wireless networking issues. In my lawyerly life, I prosecuted deceptive advertising cases, and did work on children's Internet privacy issues. I quit working when my oldest (the senior junior) was three and I was pregnant with my youngest (the junior junior). I sometimes miss having conversations about grown-up things, unrelated to my children or my husband, but mostly I love being home. Senior junior is ten years old now, and he'll enter middle school next year. I can already see that my being around during these years will be important for him.

I've been knitting for nearly 20 years now. It's a common story: my mother taught me to knit as a child. Even as a teenager, I loved to knit, but my mother's skills were limited to casting on, knitting, and purling, so she couldn't help me move much beyond giant stockinette rectangles. I picked it up again after college when my roomate started working on a sweater. After that, I never looked back. I found Maggie Righetti, Principles of Knitting, and Rowan, and taught myself all I needed to know.

Right now I'm working on Eunny Jang's Autumn Rose, the Coriolis Socks from Cat Bordhi's New Pathways in Sock Knitting book, and just have to knit the edging and sew on a button to finish the Equestrian Blazer from the Winter '07 Interweave Knits. In the next post, photos and comments on Autumn Rose.