Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Allow Me to Introduce... the Deco Sock(s)

I know there are a lot of pictures, but Mr. T isn't here to take pictures for me, so I put in as many of my bad ones as I could to help you see the sock better. The motif runs up the outside of the foot and leg. Each side mirrors each other, as does each sock. Pictures do not do this sock justice at all. I finally broke down and invested in Knit Visualizer, which was great fun to use. I've used other design software in the past, including Sweater Wizard and Stitch and Motif Maker, but Knit Visualizer definitely has S&MM beat. I entered one side of the pattern, copied, pasted, hit "mirror horizontal," and I was done! It was easy to use, and I like how it includes a stitch legend with each pattern. Now that it has color, it's going to be a real staple of mine. I'm incredibly pleased with how the pattern turned out. It was fun to knit, too. When Mr. T is around for more than 5 minutes, I'll have him take better pictures, so you can see the stitch detail more clearly.

Just What is an I Master, Anyway?

There are three boys named Will on our street -- big Will, who's in 7th grade, Will (formerly little Will), who's in first grade with Jr. Jr., and little Will, who's about 3. Big Will told Sr. Jr. a joke yesterday, which Sr. Jr. decided to repeat at the dinner table. The aim of the joke is to get the jokee to say, "I master bait." Given Sr. Jr.'s disgust at some of the "boy talk" he's been hearing from his friends, I was surprised that he would repeat this joke 1) at the dinner table; and b) in front of his younger brother. I told him that the joke was not appropriate, and he looked at me and said, "What's an I Master? Why is it inappropriate?" Now, Sr. Jr. is 10 1/2 and in 5th grade. We've had "the talk" with him and he's had Family Life at school. I looked at him really closely to see if he was just yanking my chain, but he really didn't seem to get why the joke was inappropriate dinner table conversation. Later, I asked him if he knew what masturbation was, and he said he didn't! (How did we miss that in our talks?) I explained it to him, briefly, and his response was "Eeeeeeew, yuck."

I told him that I fully expected that I'd have to knock on his bedroom door every time it was closed when he was a teenager :)

Hillary Clinton Needs To STHU

I've been watching as Hillary Clinton really ratchets up her attacks on Barack Obama. All she's doing is repelling this voter. How about you? She seems desperate, calculating, and clinical. And Obama's refusal to get down to her level makes him seem more gentlemanly and statesman-like, in my opinion. Obama's criticisms of her health care plan are nothing new. In fact, I asked the very same question in this here little ole blog, long ago. How do you mandate health care coverage without providing for some sort of penalty for people who fail to comply? How can you justify penalizing people who are forced to choose between food and rent and health insurance?Unless you're doing an outright national health care plan, in which every American citizen is automatically enrolled, you're going to run into trouble. If there's no penalty for not complying with something, it's no longer mandatory. It's a question I have yet to hear her answer, even when asked about it directly in a debate. For her to come out crying "Shame" right before primaries she's got to win to stay in the race just makes me roll my eyes. I don't know what effect it's having on voters in Ohio and Texas, but polls have her once-formidable lead in those states shrinking fast.

I talked to my neighbor the Hillary campaign worker yesterday morning. She had lots of stories to tell, which I will not repeat because I didn't ask her permission. However, she was dead certain that Hillary would end up with the nomination. "Oh, she'll win it," she said, "but it will be bloody."
There really seems to be a disconnect between Hillary's campaign and reality right now. Do they honestly think they have a chance of winning the nomination? Obviously, they do. Is it really a possibility? Of course it is, but the question is how likely a possibility? What would have to be done to achieve that goal? Can she win the nomination, but only by hurting herself and the Democratic party? Does she want to win the nomination so badly that she'd sacrifice the general election?

There was an article mirroring my thoughts this morning in the Washington Post. Two of Clinton's high level campaign staffers, including Ickes, met with reporters at the Post to discuss the issues. The reporter noted that either the campaign was in deep denial, or was disastrously, and dangerously attempting to win at all costs.

Personally, I don't know how much of a chance Hillary has to pull this out. I never thought I'd have anything much nice to say about Mitt Romney, but his recognition that it was time to pull out of the race with honor, to elevate party over person, was the right thing to do for the Republicans, even if many of them did not agree at the time.

I know there are people out there reading this from Texas (in addition to Kippi) and Ohio. I'd love to hear what you have to say. What are you and the people around you feeling about the Clinton/Obama race at this point?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sneak Peek

This is a sneak peek at the sock pattern that I've been working on. I'm really pleased with how it's working out. I hope to have the first sock finished today, and the second one started by tomorrow. Of course, life could get in the way. The sock is knit toe-up out of Dream in Color's Smooshy yarn, one of my favorite sock yarns.

I haven't forgotten about the Bleeding Hearts Stole. It's just required a little more concentration than I can muster on days when my kids are around all day, especially when there's been an ice storm and school is cancelled and everyone's stuck in the house.

Otherwise, this is just a quickie post, because there's lots to do before the weekend ends!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Update Report, Plus a Dose of Stupidity

Knitting time has been scarce here, for a number of reasons, none of them happy. I'm spending all too much time helping out other people... and I'm not complaining because it's any kind of burden on me, but because there are altogether too many people having bad things happen to them right now.

I have been working a bit on the Bleeding Hearts Stole, which is going nicely, but slowly. The main motif calls for patterning on both sides, so there's no nice resting purl rows. This isn't really a problem because the pattern is so geometrical that it's easy enough to follow without getting confused, except that you have to remember that on one side you end the motif with one kind of decrease and on the other side you end with it's opposite, which keeps it from being truly mindless. Here's a progress shot:

And here's a close-up:

It's hard to photograph this yarn, but it's really nice in person. It brings out my latent inner Goth ;) I'm knitting this on size 4 needles, as called for in the pattern, because I think the yarn, yardage-wise, is about the same as that used in the original pattern. However, it seems a bit thick. I wonder if I should be using 5's instead? Maybe it will block out...

I'm also working on a sock pattern for my Smooshy socks. I started working on it on the bit of sock that I had already started, then I realized that I had to rip it out and restart it to really get the pattern to pop. If it works out the way I envision it, it will be really nice. Hopefully I'll have some good progress to show you in the next day or two. We're due for another ice storm tomorrow that I suspect will close the schools, so I don't know how much knitting I'll get done.

Now for the Stupid Human Trick confession. The other night I ran into a friend at a meeting at school. She mentioned that she was going in for a lumpectomy today. Her doctor had found a lump in her breast that turned out to be 4 cm and tested at a Stage 3 after the biopsy. She expected to find out more by Monday, after the pathology report came back. I offered to take her son, A., after school today in case things got busy at the hospital and no one would be around to get him after school. She said that she had told A. that she was going in for a minor procedure, but that he didn't know the exact nature of what was going on. At this point, several other friends came over and she repeated all the information for them, too.

So I called her partner today to repeat my offer to take A., and to see if they needed any meals, and to let her know that I would always be willing to help out if it should turn out that C. needed chemo or radiation. "Oh," said M., "she told me that the biopsy came back negative, but they just wanted to get it out of her anyway." Ack! C. told a bunch of us about the Stage 3 diagnosis, and also that she hadn't told her son, but she didn't mention that she hadn't told her partner! What a terrible way to find out! I felt awful.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Tale of Two Toes

Warning -- If you do not want to see a completed STR January Sock Club sock, stop reading.

I finished both of my sock club socks, finally. The original pattern calls for a star toe, which looks quite nice with the flame pattern of the main sock. However, it bunches up a little on me, which would be uncomfortable in most of my shoes. So I knit the second sock with a regular toe, and you can see the difference (if you look closely), here:

The sock on the right has the star toe, and you can see the bunching toward the outside of my foot, especially compared to the sock on the left. I will be ripping and reknitting the star toe, however aesthetically pleasing it may be. If I had to do these socks over again, I'd also knit the heel on fewer stitches and make it a little shallower. I feel like there's an extra little point of fabric at my heel that could annoy me later. Otherwise, this was a nice pattern to knit -- easy enough to be fairly mindless, but with enough interest not to be boring. I think it would translate really nicely to a plainer yarn, where the undulations of the pattern would be more visible.

I've also been swatching for the Flutter Sleeve cardigan, for which I may cast on tonight, if I don't get pulled in by the Bleeding Hearts Stole. I did not get much knitting done this weekend, unfortunately, so I don't have a good progress picture of the stole.

Today the kids are home for the President's Day holiday, so, of course, not much knitting is getting done. Fortunately, after all the ice and slush of last week, it was 70 degrees here at lunchtime today. The boys were out in tee shirts and shorts, playing football and basketball with a rotating bunch of neighborhood boys. It's starting to rain now, and a cold front is coming through, so I guess we're back to winter :(

A Knitter's Magazine Question - An Opinionated Rant

Knitter's Magazine under the current editorial team is, in my opinion, drek. Most of the designs are hideous, knit with violently colored yarns, with a misguided attempt to be "fashion-forward" without regard to what normal people would actually wear. Out of curiousity, I sometimes go to the "vote on the cover" section of their annoying website. I've noticed that, in most cases, the editors pick a cover that does not win a majority of the votes. Does this mean that they don't pay attention to what people like? The contents of the magazine often bear that out. They have three sweaters up for vote for the Spring cover -- two headache-inducing variegated knits, and "Wasabi and Ginger," a pretty little cardigan with lace detailing using two colors. I'm betting that Wasabi and Ginger will win the voting, but not end up on the cover.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lace on Parade! Plus Bonus Weird Kid Story!

It's finally sunny out, so I could get some pictures of lace out in the wild:

It's Miss Lambert's shawl, off the needles and out in real life.

I also have lace in captivity:

The Bleeding Hearts Stole, complete through the border charts and the transition chart, and into the main body chart. At this point, there's lace patterning on both sides (knitted lace? lace knitting? I can never remember which), so it's a little slower to knit, but the pattern is so geometrical that it's easy to get into the rhythm of things. I'm still enjoying both the yarn and the pattern.

When I was a kid, I remember handing out Valentines to everyone in my class, but I don't remember having big in-class parties planned by and heavily attended by parents. In fact, after about first grade, I don't remember parents coming to anything at school aside from conferences and official school concerts, plays, etc. I thought about this phenomenon this week, when I realized that it was the room parents who had planned Jr. Jr.'s class Valentine's party, and not the teacher. Same for the Halloween party and the end-of-the-year Holiday party as well. I wonder if she thinks it's a big pain that interrupts her teaching time? I'll have to ask her next week at conference time.

Anyway, at these parent-planned parties, "crafts" and games (waste) eat up a large amount of time. One activity the kids had to do at this week's party was make a Valentine. Red and pink paper were handed out, along with the requisite doilies, stickers, ribbons, etc. All the kids dutifully made Valentine's, mostly for their moms, some for their dads, and one intrepid boy made one for one of the girls in the class.

My kid? He made a Valentine for his ear. "Dear ear," it said, "you are the best ear ever." When I asked him why he made one for his ear (didn't the other one get jealous?), as opposed to, say, his mother, he said, "What?? My ear never gets any mail!"

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

"February is Nature's Way of Saying 'I Hate You!'"

Ice, ice, baby. Clearly, I posted my happy place pictures and tempted Nature to get back at me. Bitch.

I finished the first repeat of the border chart for the Bleeding Hearts shawl:

I like how it's turning out so far. The yarn is Laci, from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, in the Corbie colorway. According to my calculations, it has more yardage per pound than the yarn used in the original shawl, but this feels like a pretty heavy laceweight to me. It's soft, cushy, and warm, so will make a nice comfy shawl. This shawl is knit from both ends inward and then grafted in the middle, which leaves a line up the back, but allows for the directionality of the lace on both ends to match. The border transitions into the main chart, so you really can't knit it all in one direction and just tack on the border. We'll see how it looks. I'm not too worried.

Interesting results in the Potomac primary, huh? It was a sweep for Obama and for McCain, but it was a closer race for McCain. What the Republicans should really worry about is the fact that nearly twice as many Democrats and Republicans voted in the Virginia primary -- could be a bad omen for the general election.

Sorry to post and run, but it's time for me to slip and slide my way down to the bus stop...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Potomac Primary Day -- Rain, Sleet, Flu & Assorted Other Miseries

It's cold and rainy here today. I had to go pick Sr. Jr. up from school, and the rain froze to my windshield as soon as it came down, making it very difficult to see. Don't worry, he's not running a fever, just coughing and being dramatic. When I was in the school office waiting for him to get his stuff together, two other kids from his class were being picked up, too. It's just that kind of day.

Voted in the morning, and the lines were pretty long. There was no Clinton campaign person outside, although there was an Obama rep and a McCain rep. Both Mr. T. and I wondered if that meant she was writing off the Potomac Primary, where Obama is thought to be leading, to focus on upcoming big-delegate states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and commenter Kippi's Texas. Can't wait until the polls close to see what happens. Sr. Jr.'s school is also a polling place, and the ladies in the office report that turnout there was pretty thick, too.

I cast on for the Bleeding Hearts shawl and got all of six rows done before the school called me to pick up Sr. Jr. I've also gotten word that a good friend S's mother is very ill, too. S's mom has been ill for a while, in and out of the hospital with something in her lungs (not cancer), so to hear that she's very ill must mean it's quite serious. I left a message, but I imagine she's with her mom. She's also gotten some bad news recently about her son, who has a rare genetic condition, so the poor thing has had quite a rough time lately.

Because it's so grey and depressing here, I thought I'd share some pictures of a fantastic summer vacation. The pictures above are from our August 2006 trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We all loved Jackson Hole, and especially hiking in the Tetons. The first picture is of some Bison we saw along one of the roads. There were probably a thousand Bison milling around, blocking the road, wallowing in the dirt, feeding their babies, and mock fighting. It was an impressive sight. I could only imagine what that area was like hundreds of years ago, before humankind came along and almost wiped out so much of the wildlife. The kids decided Bison should really have been called "Beefalo."

The second picture shows the early morning view off our condo patio. The pink sunrise against the mountains was hypnotizing. I could stand there all day watching the path of the sun across the mountains.

The final picture is Taggart Lake up in the Tetons. This was a great hike with sensational views. One day, we saw a mother and baby moose off in the distance, and just stood there watching them for about a half an hour. The lake is so clear and crisp you can see bottom a good way out. I could probably post another 50 stunning pictures from that trip, this is supposed to be a knitting blog, eh?

If the sickness situation in the house allows, I'll post Bleeding Heart progress pictures tomorrow.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Miss Lambert Done, on to the next

Miss Lambert's shawl is done and blocking. Here's a shot of the edging:

Here's a shot of the body:

Here's a close-up:

And finally, because photo loading is going soooo slowly today, a shot of the corner:

I like how this turned out so far. We'll see what happens when I pull the pins and the wires out. The yarn is 100% alpaca, which doesn't hold a nice, crisp block like a blend does, so I blocked it pretty hard to try to compensate. The whole shawl is 5 feet long, which is a bit shorter than I prefer. The whole thing was a pleasure to knit: just complicated enough to hold my interest, but easy enough to be kind of mindless at the same time. I'm not sure my corners are as perfect as I could get them, but I'm pleased nonetheless.

So, what now? Luckily, the new Interweave Knits arrived last week (Friday?) to provide inspiration. I thought the Winter Issue was pretty boring, to be truthful. Spring, however, was wonderful. There are a number of designs in this issue that I really like a lot. A couple seem a bit on the young side, but can be adapted a bit for a more (ahem) mature woman. The "Flutter Sleeve Cardigan" is going on my to-knit list as soon as I can find a yarn in stash that will work for it. It's a very flattering design, and looks to be a good mindless knit, too. The "Mirabella Cardigan" is also very pretty, but a bit on the fussy side for me. Same with the "Sylph Cardigan." This is the one that seems a bit young, but would be great with some adjustments. The "Auburn Camp Shirt" is another great basic that looks like a fun knit. The "Printed Silk Cardigan" is stunning, but I'm afraid I'd never wear it. If I worked in a chilly office, I'd have much more use for these kinds of sweaters, but otherwise, the heat and humidity of a DC summer preclude them.

The design that's going on my needles right away is Anne Hanson's gorgeous "Bleeding Hearts Shawl." This shawl has just the right balance of design elements for me. While I think that extremely complicated shawls are beautiful, I tend to be attracted to and to wear simpler designs. The BHS, with its main panel, simple outer design, and pretty edging, is complex without being too complicated for me. I'm going to use my Blue Moon Fiber Arts Laci in the Corbie colorway for this. (I did get the replacement skein of the Rook-y colorway did finally get here, but was still not exactly what I'd hoped. It was better than the other skein, but I think that the more tonal nature of the Corbie colorway will work best for this shawl.)

I'll need a simple knit to balance out the shawl, so I will cast on for one of those doilies, as well as, perhaps, the Flutter Sleeve cardigan (when I find the yarn.)

On the political front, I am still undecided. I change my mind from hour to hour, practically. So far the candidates are running pretty even, but Saturday's Obama sweep might change the delegate count. I am frightened of the prospect of a convention in which the superdelegates, and not the primary voters, control the outcome. Clinton, it seems, has more superdelegates than Obama. Could this lead to a situation where Obama gets more of the popular vote, but the nomination goes to Clinton? I HOPE NOT. I hope that we learned from 2000 that legitimacy and the popular vote go hand in hand. Even if most Dems would be happy with either candidate as nominee, resentment can build quickly. The last thing the Dems need is to shoot themselves in the foot by anointing a candidate who didn't win the popular vote. If I were a candidate in the position to win in that manner, I would direct the superdelegates to vote for the candidate with the popular vote, but perhaps that's yet another reason why I don't go into politics.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday -- Late Edition

There's not too much knitting to talk about today. Poor Mr. T. is home today with a bad case of the flu. The kids and I all had our flu shots, but he did not. He was supposed to go to NY today for a meeting, and then from NY to California for a preliminary injunction hearing, both of which he is going to miss. He's seriously sick to even contemplate missing those, pobrecito.

I'm working away diligently on the edging for Miss Lambert's shawl, having gone up one long end, around the corner, across the top, around the next corner, and about halfway down the opposite long side. I'm not finding it tedious at all. It's an easy edging pattern -- 12 rows long, not too many stitches wide, and memorized quickly. I feel like I make quick progress, which is good on a shawl that will be 5 feet by 19 inches. If I have to knit something that's 13 feet 2 inches long, I'd better enjoy it! It looks so pretty that I stop to admire it often. If I keep at it at my current pace, I might just get this finished by early next week.

I finished sock #1 of the STR January club pack, but I don't think I can show a picture of it yet under club rules. The sock was an easy and quick knit, but I don't love it. It's a tad big, but wearable, but I don't like the star toe. It bunches up a bit on the top of my foot. If I weren't so lazy, I'd rip it back and use a plain toe, but I am, indeed, that lazy.

I also haven't gotten too far on the Smooshy socks. They've been on the bottom of my knitting list lately, but since Sr. Jr. has a long physical therapy appointment today, they'll grow a bit. Here's a pic of the toe so far, and I think you can see the ravishing beauty of the color:

How's that for some hot sock on sock action?

So, how did we all do in our Super Tuesday bets? On the Republican side, I wasn't too surprised that McCain did so well. I had a feeling that Huckabee would do well in the states he did do well in, but I didn't think he'd win them. On the Democratic side, I'm not at all surprised that things weren't settled. Both Clinton and Obama are very attractive candidates with very similar policy positions. We'd do well with either one of them. I think for a lot of people it really does come down to personality and vision of what our next Presidency will look like philosophically. On the Republican side, there are some distinct and important policy differences between the candidates, which says something about the state of the Republican party post-Bush.

Did you see that Ann Coulter said that she'd be supporting Clinton if McCain turned out the be the Republican nominee? Don't you want to know how Clinton reacted to that?

Yesterday's primary results do make things more difficult for me. I've never been this undecided at this stage in an election season and been in a position where my vote would make any difference. Now, the DC-MD-VA primaries next week could well play a big role in determining the nominee. I honestly don't know what I'll do next week. CNN reported a lot of people did not know until they got into the voting booths yesterday who they would vote for, and I may face the same dilemma next week. I'm attracted to Obama's message of change, hope, and unity, but I'm skeptical of his experience. He hasn't even completed a single Senate term. I've heard people mention that they were inspired by his speeches, but were turned off that he didn't answer questions, whereas Clinton spends a lot of time answering questions and directly engaging with voters. As for Clinton, I admire her strength, perseverance, and experience. She's smart and capable, but does she really have the temperament to rise above the partisanship that will inevitably pour forth if she's elected?

I'm avoiding talking to my neighbors, who are big Clinton supporters and work on her campaign. I know exactly what they'd tell me if I asked them how they'd convince me to vote for her. I know exactly what Obama supporters would say, too. I just have to decide.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Turning a Corner; or How to Beat a Metaphor to Death

(I know this is a crappy picture. It was a quick, Sunday morning photo shoot, and unblocked lace...)

Anyway, if I were some Famous BloggerTM, I would use this post to wax poetic about the act of turning corners. I would, perhaps, mention the election, analogizing the long trek up the side of the shawl as the primaries, and how we as a nation are poised to turn the corner on seven horrible years of an administration that we'd like to forget, but whose damage, unfortunately, we must now try to repair. I'd say that turning that corner is like looking to the future, which we'd all like to do at this point.

I could even mention that yesterday was Groundhog Day, the point at which winter turns the corner and we start heading toward spring. Everyone's heartily sick of winter now, right?

I could talk about my oldest son, who's finishing up elementary school this year. He's certainly poised to turn the corner from little boy to big guy -- entering middle school, starting puberty, becoming more independent. This is certainly a transition year for him. Friendships are realigning along different fault lines, as kids try to decide who they're going to be. It's not been an easy year for him, poor guy, and I hope the corner turned into middle school brings him into new focus.

But then I'd remember that after this corner is another corner, which would take me.... back in the opposite direction. What would that mean? And then there are more corners, and we're working round in a circle. A circle, hmmmm. Circle, cycle, circadian...

So, as we look forward to change in politics, will we head back where we were? Politics is cyclical, after all. We've swung to one extreme, and now it's time to turn back.

And we all know that the seasons are cyclical as well. We look forward to the turn toward spring, when all that growth and beauty wakes us from our winter's discontents. Then summer comes, hot and sticky, with the dreaded mosquitoes and the endless Washington heat, and we look forward once again to turning that corner to fall. Fall! Crisp air, pretty leaves, school starting again, the mad dash from Halloween until New Year's, when we'll start longing for spring again.

And that, my friends, is how we beat a metaphor to death.