Monday, August 29, 2005

Vacation Pictures: Devil's Lake SP, south-central WI

Better late than never, here are a couple pictures from our trip last week.

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Here we all are, in our 18 foot canoe. Owen is paddling in front, Colin is next and then me. Scott took the picture from the back.

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A view looking down the length of the lake.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Counting down to Sept.1!

I'll start with the obligatory knitting content. Here's a picture of my current plain ole boring sock.

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I bought a bunch of this yarn last year in a clearance basket at my favorite local yarn shop. I've been making socks from it as my no-brainer projects ever since. I love to wear handknit wool socks and they are easier to store and justify than endless sweaters.

Today I hit the local Goodwill. I was looking for sweaters to recycle and bought about 6. But I also found this:
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Not bad for $1.99! It isn't the Coach bag of my dreams, as it is too small, but still, I couldn't leave it there.

I'm not posting pictures of the six sweaters I plan to recycle yet, but they will make wonderful yarn: lambswool & angora, silk & angora, etc. Next-to-the-skin soft. Now, why I go to such lengths to get yarn is another story. I'm congenitally cheap. And when people whine that they have to use the most inexpensive acrylic because they are poor, I feel a need to prove that a person CAN knit with natural fibers for less than the cost of a sweater's worth of Red Heart. It takes a little more time and determination, but not that much. My local Goodwill charges $3.99 for sweaters: not dirt cheap, but they have a good selection. The St. Vincent's in the area often have lower prices. Additionally, they run a place called Diggers Outlet, at which clothing is sold by the pound. Because I am large, I have to be resourceful if I want a sweater's worth of yarn, looking at the men's XXL options, buying two smaller sweaters that can be combined, or other creative solutions.

We're experiencing a lot of four-year old posturing around here lately. Colin has been a real tyrant! We had intermittent tantrums throughout the day, right through dinner. He's discovered the power in hating lately and loves to yell, "I hate you!" or "I hate (whatever)!" On our camping trip, he tore up a small plastic garbage bag that had Smokey Bear on it and proclaimed, "I hate Smokey Bear!" I had to laugh. Like, what did Smokey ever do to Colin?? He's going to be starting a new preschool program next week and has a lot of anxiety about that. This is the same school we tried to put him in when he was 2, and I ended up taking him out right away because I could see he wasn't ready. Now, he's been to preschool before and will be back in the same speech preschool class later in the fall. That one only meets in 6 week cycles, and Colin is in cycle 2. He will have a number of classmates from last year. I felt that he needed something a little more continuous this year and enrolled him at the Y for afternoons, 3 days a week. I'm hoping that after his first 6 week cycle of speech therapy class, he will be ready to drop that for now.

Anyhow, both boys are a bit nutty in this last countdown week before the school year starts. And when the boys are nutty, you can bet that some of that is taking a toll on the mother.

My little knitting group (I say that like I own it or something) met today. It was very small; just Leslie, Terri, and me, which was perfect. Two hours flew by before I realized what was up. I could have sat there knitting all day, but there were groceries to be bought, battles to referee, laundry to be done, etc. etc.

I still need to finish moving my stuff down to the basement. This, so we can clear all toys from the living room and prepare for the big porch project to go forward. We signed for our home equity loan on Thursday and I went to the builder's Thursday afternoon to take a final look at the plans and approve some fixtures and sign the building contract. Wednesday morning the design team hands off to the construction team, and away we go!

Scott loaded all the vacation pics to his computer then cleared the camera. I'll see if I can find some good ones to post so Zib can see where I was!

BTW, I haven't picked anyone for that timeline Meme yet. Let's see: Fathom, Wendy at Knit and Tonic, Entrelac, and Terby. That's four.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Owen asked me to post a link to his panoramic view of Devil's Lake. Just a warning for those of you with dial-up internet access: you need to be patient! Owen's Panorama

I will get some other photos off the camera later tonight, but have a bunch of other stuff to tend to first.

The Me Meme

10 years ago: My son Owen was a baby and I was in the painful process of extracting myself from the bookstore I had founded and owned for 10 years. It was a hot miserable summer.

5 years ago: I was anticipating Owen beginning kindergarten, had started a fairly complex Fair Isle sweater from an Alice Starmore chart, and was thinking about maybe having another baby.

1 year ago: I was counting down to the start of school, knitting the original Lucky Pullover from Peace Fleece, and trying to think of design ideas that would be good enough to submit to Knitty. Also made sketches and wrote a pattern for a lacy women's top with bust and waist darts, which I never actually knit.

Yesterday: I was camping at Devil's Lake State Park with my guys. Pictures to follow soon.

5 snacks: brie cheese, carrot sticks, caramel corn, Empire apples from the Cornell Orchards in season, coffee. (Is coffee a snack? It is to me.)

5 songs i know all the words to: Some obscure folk songs that no one else knows, a bunch of kids songs that everyone knows, all the god-awful top ten hits of 1973 (embarrassingly true). Not exactly 5 songs, but it gives you an idea.

5 things I would do with 100million: travel a little more, buy a remote cabin on a cold northern lake, generously support public radio, provide financial security for my loved ones, become a minor-league philanthropist.

5 places to run away to: Venice, Italy; Madeline Island in the Apostle Islands, Lake Superior; Iceland; Alaska; a nearby motel with my husband, leaving the kids at home.

5 things I would never wear: Spiky stilletto heels, bikini bathing suit, mini skirt, midriff-revealing tops, low-slung pants, and thong underwear. OK, that's six things. There are probably more, but they continue this theme.

5 favorite tv shows: These days I don't watch TV. In the past, I've enjoyed the Mystery series on PBS, and The Red Green Show.

5 biggest joys : When a knitting design really works; being left alone to play with fiber; when my kids are kind without me prompting; floating in a canoe on a still lake; talking with my mom on the phone (or better yet, getting to spend time with my mom).

5 favorite toys: my computer, my LK150 knitting machine, digital camera, boom box in my workspace, a good technical pen.

I'm not sure who to tag next: I'll think it over and post some names soon. If you want to do this meme, consider yourself tagged.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

We're off camping until Thursday, but I hope to sneak in a little knitting while we're there. I'll bring the big stealth project, of course, but also some socks. Basic socks are my favorite camping project: easy to stop and start, small, long stretches of uncomplicated knitting. I'm not a multi-tasker: I can't even K1, Slip1 for a heel correctly while I chat. But I can K2, P2 just about any time.

We found out Friday that the builders can work us into their schedule really soon, so we should have the porch under way before we know it! Yahoo! Last night I was too excited to sleep, so today I'm tired.

Of course, this means a lot more work in a hurry for us. We need to clear out the corner where the door will go. And finish moving any plants we need to relocate. I'm imagining a wonderful butterfly garden running along our porch and sitting there watching the show!

Friday, August 19, 2005

tornado update

When I wrote last night's post, I didn't realize that things had gotten pretty serious about 10 miles south of here. Read the details here. It's pretty scary when big devastation happens close to home. And surreal the way a tornado can level one neighborhood and leave another completely intact.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Tornados all around

We spent the evening in our basement, a nice little ritual we seem to perform at least once a year. I always kind of hope for some exciting weather, but not too exciting. A lot of the smaller towns and cities around Madison had tornados or funnel clouds, but it seems that we were spared. In the middle of the warning, Colin suddenly realized that Snip (current favorite Beanie Baby) was out on the climber! Crisis. Brave Mom was dispatched to retrieve the soggy little kitty, who then got a trip through the dryer. I took the digital camera out with me, hoping to see some worthy clouds, but it was pretty boring.

For those who are still following the Yellowjacket Saga, the dry ice did nothing. Scott thinks they had a wonderful, deep sleep and awoke refreshed, ready to guard their nest with renewed vigor. Tonight, he's out there arranging a hose with which to pump in hot soapy water. After this, we capitulate and go to the pyrethrins. Talk about your IPM program. At this point, we just don't want the nest to release 50 new queens into our yard for next season.

We did get a reservation to go camping at Devil's Lake, starting Sunday. I'm hoping the crowds will all be off back-to-school shopping or something. Although, there really haven't been many people there on my day trips recently. It's hard to believe, but we haven't had our canoe in the water once this summer. Crazy summer. Scott got all his share of the Big Project done, which means he's free to take off for a few days. After the tornado threat blows through tonight and tomorrow, it should be gorgeous weather for early next week.

After we get back from camping, we really will be in the countdown for starting school. I can hardly wait!

Our other big news, the big screen porch, is moving along. We decided to go with a design and build firm, definitely not "low bidders" but people I feel really listen to and understand me when I describe what I want. And they return calls. And keep us informed. Tomorrow, we go to their office to see some preliminary sketches, from which we will choose one. Then a detailed plan is created and a tighter range of cost estimate based on that presented. Then we get the rest of the money from the bank (gotta love home equity) and they build. We've been wanting a big screen porch almost since we bought this house and it's hard to believe it will really happen.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Since I'm the last person to discover any cool thing, I just found Rose-Kim Knits. This blog has been running quite a while and it's good. Thursdays are reserved for a feature called "What the Hell?". You can imagine what she digs up for that! If you haven't poked your head in over there, do it.

My new work in progress is coming along swimmingly. I'm so happy with it! But, this evening I was zipping along and looked down and about 4" back, 4 circular inches, on 230 stitches/round, I saw four offending stitches in color B that ought to have been color A. Must have spaced out there. they are not all in a row, but every 4th stitch in one area is wrong. Owen says just to duplicate stitch over, because he can't imagine ripping back 5520 stitches. And that's a pretty good solution. I might ladder down to the errors and reknit them properly, but am leaning toward duplicate stitch. I wish I could show you all pictures, but as I'm planning to submit this one to Knitty for winter, it'll have to be a stealth project for now.

We finally had a break in our humidity. We went to Devil's Lake and had absolute resort weather. The water there is very clear. Not too cold for old moms like me to get wet. Not too crowded. We're hoping to get a few days camping before school starts. The weekends are booked solid, but maybe Scott can get his part of the Big Project done and out of his hands for a while, so we can take some weekdays. The boys played nicely. Owen has a new mask and snorkel and would have spent 4 more hours there if he could have. Not bad for $6 clearance at Shopko. I think Devil's Lake is the only one in Wisconsin with no algae.

The yellowjacket update:
They ate holes through the black plastic and were coming and going at their pleasure. Scott tried making a trap with a piece of meat hanging over some soapy water in a bucket. Only two fatalities. Then he made some traps with soapy koolaid (not just for dyeing yarn: did you know you can drink that stuff?) and soda bottles. No success. But he also put a chunk of watermelon in a cake pan with soapy water. There is no more room for dead yellowjackets! I'm sure there are still a lot more in the nest, but I hope that a fresh trap will take in another couple hundred. If we keep this up for several days, we might deplete the nest enough think about removal. Don't leave dead wood in your yard folks! Another idea Scott read on the internet, but that we haven't yet tried: put chunks of dry ice on the log above the nest. As it evaporates, the CO2 will sink into the holes in the nest and asphyxiate the bees. This one appeals to me as the secondary measure, after we reduce the colony size.

I'll try to start another knitting project soon which will be public. Pictures liven up a blog. And I've had several posts in a row with none!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Being "Nice" and the Internet

There’s been some discussion on the web lately about so-called “negativity” in criticism and reviews on blogs and in forums. First of all, let me say that I was always a big fan of Miss Manners’ column when it ran in my local newspaper. A person can never go wrong by striving to be polite. Does this make a person humorless? Does it mean I need to put up with being mistreated? I don’t think so. Miss Manners used to say, “You can’t fight rudeness with rudeness.” I agree. I like civility. I’m trying to instill it in my children.

That said, I don’t think every honest critic is rude. I happen to think a certain amount of satire and irony is a good thing. I am not someone who suffers fools gladly. I don’t mind helping people, but I like to see that people have tried to help themselves.

Some of my personal history: I learned to knit as a child and came back to it in my late 20s. From then on, nearly everything I learned, I taught myself from books or magazines. I am somewhat short-tempered with what I consider “stupid” questions, by which I mean, any question that a few minutes research could have answered. I’m not going to be ageist and assume that this is a trait only for the young. Some people seem to need a lot of hand-holding. I, however, am not a hand-holder. (Except on young children when crossing streets or in parking lots.) Because I have figured out every advanced knitting skill that I have learned on my own, people who won’t try to learn mystify me.

Who is a fair target for public scrutiny? The blogsters of You Knit What? have a statement I agree with. Professional, published designs and their designers are fair game. If you got paid to make something I consider ugly, more power to you. But by becoming professional, you expose yourself to be judged by professional criteria. If people think it’s ugly, they’re going to let you know. If they don’t tell you, they will vote with their wallets.

Let’s back up to the Summer Issue of Knitty. A number of bloggers reviewed it with a broad stroke, proclaiming, “It sucks.” End of story. As someone who had two designs in that issue, I had braced myself for negative reviews. When you put work forth, as a professional, into the public realm, you have to be ready to hear that some folks won’t like it. I find it most helpful when they explain why they don’t like it, but I understand that no self-appointed blogging critic has any obligation to satisfy my preferences. In fact, I was somewhat indifferent to the blanket “It sucks” criticisms for a few reasons. First, no one singled out my designs from the pack to slam. In fact, a few critics almost admitted that they were almost ok. Second, neither pattern was one in which I had a great emotional investment. Both were projects I was making for other reasons and they happened to be done when the issue was taking submissions, so I wrote them up. In both cases, I took the time to look through the Knitty archives and make certain that they didn’t look too much like something previously published therein. In the big picture of knitting they were not original concepts. In both cases I was more a pattern writer than designer. Third, I wasn’t too impressed with a number of the choices myself. I don’t know what the rejected submissions looked like, but there were a few inclusions that I would only have included under extreme duress. No, I’m not going to name them and no, I’m not going to go into detail about why. That’s another essay for another day.

Moving on, there’s the recent flap concerning a certain knit designer who is known for pushing the boundaries of the craft. Some of her more vocal critics posted comments on her blog. They did not mince words. They were not kind. They were not softening the blow. And they did not stick to a critique of the designs. It got personal. I have the feeling that I missed a chapter in that book, but the archives of the blog in question are not currently available. Some people have said that attacking the designer’s character on her own blog was too harsh. I am not this designer’s biggest fan. A lot of her work does not appeal to me. Much of it seems contrived or gimmicky. Fine. A lot of other people do like her work and make and buy her patterns. While my personal code of ethics would allow me to post an honest review on my own blog, or if I had access, in a print source, I would not feel right going to her blog to slam her work or character. But what if the earlier chapters of this story involved a retaliatory shot fired by the designer? I don’t know if they did or not: I just don’t believe that the blog commenters now being vilified would pick this fight out of thin air.

Another bone of contention for some is the amount of obscenity one blog-writer uses. I try not to punctuate my sentences with those words because I don’t believe they enhance my writing. Do I care if someone else uses them? Not one bit. As she says, if you don’t like it, don’t read it. There are times I feel her writing would be improved by a little cleaning up, but it isn’t my place to tell her. She doesn’t pop in on my blog to point out my sentence fragments and or other editorial offenses.

There is a pack-like behavior on the internet that I find fascinating and disturbing. One person passes a critical judgment on a blog or in a forum and another responds. Soon, each has an army of defenders leaping forward to reassure each principal that she was right and the other person is a bitch (or worse). Then volleys of emails are lobbed en masse at people who unsuspectingly stepped into the fray. A lot of that is right out of junior high school. The adults rise above and hope the young’uns grow out of it soon. It’s like a bar fight. People start craning their necks to see what’s up and get swept away with their emotions. Next thing you know, all sorts of otherwise level-headed folks are weighing in and adding to the hostilities. Which leads us to this truism: the Internet is truly anarchy. Good thing it’s virtual anarchy, because the bodies would be piling up by now! There is no authority saying that you can’t print that here. In the information age, anyone with a speck of computer literacy can start a blog and find a public. It’s a wild and wooly world. At the end of the day, each of us must live with our own self.

Each of you will do what you want. No amount of admonishing you all to, “Behave! Be Nice” will help. It doesn’t stop my kids when I’m towering over them with my most dagger-filled angry mom eyes. I don’t think I want the Internet to be overflowing with niceness. But I’ll use a military analogy and suggest that we try to aim our verbal grenades at the other willing combatants and be mindful to avoid the civilian bystanders. Some poor misled teen doesn’t deserve as full a measure of my scorn for her fun fur cell phone cozy as does an internationally acclaimed designer foisting one more poncho on the world. The teen may yet grow out of it!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Peaceful Monday Update

Owen will be spending his mornings at Lego Mindstorms Robotics camp for the next 2 weeks, so that makes everything much more peaceful on the homefront. Colin is playing with the girl from next door, so I am blissfully allowed to think a complete thought, get involved with a project, or even, (gasp!) do some badly needed housework. Yep. Everything at our house has gotten so thoroughly YUCKY that it is less stressful to clean it than to keep living with it.

Last night I sent Scott out back to light the grill, because I am grill challenged. I am a master at campfires, even in the rain, but I cannot light a grill. Go figure. Scott had Colin tagging along and noticed something dart under a rotting railroad tie that has been gracing our backyard for a number of years. Without thinking things through, he reached down and lifted the rotting wood to see what it was. It was a yellowjacket nest. They were not happy to have a big human shaking their home and swarmed. Scott got stung right away and he and Colin came running into the kitchen, both carrying on irrationally. Unfortunately, they brought some yellowjackets in with them, which took a few minutes for us to figure out. Colin had one on his shirt and was stung by it. Scott had one in his hair. While we were calming everyone down, applying ice and topical Benedryl, Colin started screaming all over again. One had stung his toe. Poor kid. The hornets continued to swarm angrily out by the grill and we needed a dinner plan. Meanwhile, Colin was suggesting that we should move away from this house Right Away! and come back tomorrow with a truck for our stuff. Now we're in a bit of a bind, because (as many of you know) I'm not one to see pesticides as the first choice solution to this problem. The fact is, that this nest has probably been there all summer and we only had a problem now because a certain Adult Male in the household decided to disturb the nest. Still, I agree that it would be good to persuade the hornets to relocate. We have some extra large, extra heavy duty black garbage bags and I suggested to Scott that we could put one over the nest and that the solar gain would kill the beasts. So, that's the first thing we're trying. Scott got the bag in place last night. It needs a few more weights to keep it snug against the log. My next approach would involve many layers of protective clothing and repeatedly disturbing the nest. I hope it doesn't come to that!

On the knitting front, I have a new Work In Progress with which I am very pleased. It's from the Jo Sharp DK, in Mulberry, and Knit One, Crochet Too Parfait in a putty color. I'm using charts from Anatolian Knitting Designs, which would be one of my Desert Island Knitting Books. I"m not sure if I'll post pictures along the way, as I'm thinking of a Winter Knitty submission. They have had very few patterns that make extensive use of Fair Isle colorwork, and I think this would stand a good chance of being accepted. The thing is, I'm so happy with the way that it's looking I really want to post pictures and gloat. Mutter mutter. I can always do a picture later if I change my mind.

I finished reading Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven last night. It was really interesting reading. The cover blurbs make it sound like the book is mostly concerned with one murder case. In fact, most of the book involves recounting the history of the Mormon church and its splinter fundamentalist offshoots, and thereby making the case that in view of this history, the crime in question is not that atypical an event. My father always had an historian's interest in Mormonism and I visited Nauvoo with him when I was a teenager. Krakauer's research for this book involved extensive reading and distilling of previously published histories as well as interviews with practicing and apostate Mormons. As far as I could tell, no new research went into the telling of the history, but he does an excellent job with presenting the history as drawn from previous texts. He makes extensive uses of source material in describing the crime and the aftermath and in presenting a picture of life as it is currently lived in the fundamentalist enclaves. I'd put this on my highly recommended list.

And that's the news from my life.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Another online quiz...

You are elegant, withdrawn, and brilliant.
Your mind is a weapon, able to solve any puzzle.
You are also great at poking holes in arguments and common beliefs.

For you, comfort and calm are very important.
You tend to thrive on your own and shrug off most affection.
You prefer to protect your emotions and stay strong.

I find these things infinitely amusing. Don't ask me why; I don't have a clue. Maybe because they always manage to have a kernel of truth in the results, like horoscopes in the newspaper. Keep it sufficiently general and anyone can see something of oneself in it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

3 pictures

First off, two progress pictures from the basement reshuffle.
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This one shows the Wall of Yarn, which is 2 feet deep, about 7 feet high, and 8 feet wide. Most of these boxes are packed pretty tightly. Yep, I have a problem. I am powerless over yarn.

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These are my two knitting machines, side by side, under the overhead light. I hope to make better use of them in the coming months.

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This is a swatch of an idea. I think I'll try again in smaller needles, as this is a little filmy for what I have in mind.

Now, I'm off to Devil's Lake with boys. I hope the name of the lake does not inspire hellish behavior, like the day before yesterday when Colin clonked Owen on the head with a rock.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Just a quick check-in with a few updates. The big basement reshuffle is coming along. I ended up not painting the wall in question, mostly because I was tired and it was so damn hot and humid, I didn't want to open the house. And I didn't want to keep paint fumes in. I took some pictures last night and need to get them off the camera still. The storage shelves are in place and loaded with big bins and boxes of yarn. There is still more yarn than can fit, but my goal is to have no more than can fit on those shelves by about a year from now. After all, 112 cubic feet of yarn ought to be enough of a stash for anyone. I got Scott to help me move the knitting machines into place and they seem very happy. The electrician talked me down from a much more involved plan, to simply adding a couple well-placed outlets. What remains to be done: bringing the worktable that holds my sewing machine and serger down from the second floor, and sewing supplies; hanging spool rack, bulletin board, etc.; solving book storage issues. I hope to have an "after" pic by the end of the coming weekend.

I read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in two nights. No, I'm not going to post spoilers. If you're into reading these books, then this one is more of the same. I enjoy them. I know some people don't.

Must make time for the Krakauer next, before Monday evening. Having a deadline helps. Then back to working my way through Ian McEwan's novels.

Now that we are in August, I can really let myself look forward to the beginning of the school year. It won't be too much longer!