Monday, March 29, 2010

R is for Racism

One day, during Basic Training, we had to learn the low crawl. The DS's took us out to this enormous sandpit and we had to low crawl across it. All Day. Wanna learn?

Get on the floor, use your elbows to drag your body across the room. That's pretty much it. Nothin' to it, right? Yea, we thought so too. Keep your ass down and your face in the dirt, otherwise it may be shot off.

So we spent the whole day in that 30 yard long sandpit, getting yelled at and stepped on. If an ass was too high, the DS would push that bum down with their booted foot. Same for your head. Apparently, you don't need to see where you're going when you low crawl, you just go. And quickly! I got my head stepped on a lot that day. I kept trying to peek ahead to see where I was going and to see how much more of that interminably long sandpit I had left to navigate. The DS would step on my Kevlar helmet and shove my face into the sand.

Like Shock Treatment, my friend had warned me in advance of this lovely day so I didn't get mad or upset like I normally would if someone was continually stepping on me. I just told myself stupid jokes (in my head) and went to a happy place, right? I spent most of the day laughing my ass off at the absurdity of it all. Especially the repetitiveness of the exercise. I had to traverse that 30 yards of sand about 8 times that day. I was too exhausted to get angry!

When the day was done, they picked 4 of us to rake the pit. And by rake, they meant a soldier at each corner of a big chunk of chain-link fence and dragging it across the pit. Well, not each corner, that wouldn't work, two in front (Erica and Amy) and two another three feet down the sides (me and Schneider).

We're dragging this hulking piece of hot, scratchy metal across the pit. We're laughing and grumbling and generally trying to get it done so we can go eat. We are marvelling at our outstanding luck at being chosen for this detail since it means we'll get to eat our dinner at a slower pace then usually allowed in BT.

Then, out of the blue, Schneider says, "Erica, you must be used to this sort of thing, what with your people working in the cotton fields and all." Erica is black. Amy, Schneider and I are very white. Three of us froze dead in our tracks. I remember Schneider had her head down and kept trying to drag the fence, not even realizing the rest of us were staring at her in horror. Well, not the rest of us. Not Erica. She froze, dropped her head for a minute, then she straightened her back and let go of the fence. Amy and I were sure she was going to beat the shit out of Schneider. Erica was one of the most hardcore women I ever met in the Army and she never took shit from anyone.

She didn't beat Schneider. She didn't even leave the pit. She squared her shoulders and without a word picked up and started pulling the fence again.

Later that evening, Amy and I were consoling her. It's the only time I ever saw Erica even remotely upset during the whole 8 weeks of our BT. She was crying and she told us, "I thought this would be the one place I could get away from that shit." She told Amy and I not to say anything but I think y'all know me better then that.

Amy and I went together to the DS's and told them what had happened. There were 3 DS's per platoon, 4 platoons in our company and everyone of them except DS Ski are black. We only told our platoon's lead DS, DS McCoy. We knew she'd know what to do. And boy did she!

Erica was a great soldier. She was where she needed to be, doin' what she was supposed to do and a natural leader. Her only flaw as a soldier were her boots. They were a train wreck. She never shined them well and they always looked "ate up".

The DS's gave Schneider the job of shining Erica's boots every day until graduation. They also gave her the "shit-shift" of fire-watch every night. Fire-watch is a duty of having to stay awake for a few hours so that if a fire breaks out in the barracks, you can wake everyone and save the day. It's a rotating duty and the worst shift to get is the 12a-2a shift. We normally wouldn't get to fall into bed until 10p and we usually had to get up around 4a so 12-2 is brutal; you're just getting to sleep and you have to get up and do the shift, then you're just getting to sleep again and you have to get up to start your day. Shit-shift for Schneider for the rest of BT. Served her right!

Despite growing up in Redneck, CA (Clovis, CA, next to Fresno), I had never really encountered blatant racism like that. After what happened to Erica, I was talking to my Battle Buddy about it. (We are all assigned Battle Buddies in BT. It's the person in the bunk next to/above/below yours and you are responsible for each other.) My Battle Buddy is the one that used to fix my hair. She was 24 (I was 21) and she had two little boys at home with her husband. She joined the military to learn a skill and make a better life for her family. She was born and raised in the deep South.

She told me she'd never even touched a Black person until she shook her recruiters hand two months earlier! I asked her what she thought about all this and here's what she said...
My parents raised me to think that all Blacks were nothing but a bunch of stupid, lazy, criminals. Since being here I've realized that my parents are idiots. Everyone is the same! Some people are stupid, lazy, criminals and some people are smart hard-working heroes, but none of it has anything to do with the color of their skin.

I loved her!

Now here's a Tim Minchin video all about prejudice...

Still astounded by Schneider's thoughtless stupidity, Ruth!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Q is for Queer

I'm going to talk about Gays in the military. Before I start, I'm fully aware that "queer" isn't politically correct, thank you - no need to comment or email about it. I also say that some things are "lame" or "retarded". We'll address political correctness another day....

This woman I know named... let's say Emily, believes that being gay is a choice. I met Emily at the LYS and I love her! She's funny and kind and has a gaggle of kids that she homeschools (4 or 5 of 'em!) which is much braver then anything I've ever done. She's fairly religious and I'm not. We talk about things but there's lots of things we don't talk about because we have very fundamentally opposing views and none of it's really relevant to knitting so we just don't discuss, right?

She thinks being gay is a choice, in fact she knows it to be true just as I know for a fact that it's not true.

One day at the shop, we were talking about gays in the military; it was a subject brought up by another person at the shop. One of the points that came up was regarding security clearance. Emily said, "They usually aren't eligible for a high security clearance because if they get that clearance then go gay, they lose their clearance and get kicked out of the military."

I had to laugh and said, "Yea, you gotta hate when they go gettin' all gay on you!" We all had a laugh and Emily blushed a bit and made her real point which was that if a person is in the military and they come out of the closet, they get kicked out then the military loses time and tons of money having to train someone else to take their place. Which is true and a really good point!

She also brought up the valid point that if someone decides they don't want to deploy to Iraq or something, they can "come out of the closet" and just get out of the military. That's true but I had to add that it wasn't that easy and that it wasn't exactly an honorable discharge so I don't think that happens too often. She conceded that it was, in fact, rare.

Another person asked how the military knew since Emily said they don't give that kind of high clearance to gays. I said that they couldn't know for sure but that more often then not, in the MOS's (military jobs) that didn't involve the field pretty much everyone knows who the gay soldiers are. I also said that in my short (5 year) experience in the Army, nobody really cared as long as you were a good soldier.

At Ft. Huachuca, where I spent my last 2 years in, I worked at the hospital. I was on the Women's Meddac Softball team and out of 15 women, I was one of 2 and 1/2 that were straight. (Evelyn was Bi. Her theory was, "Why limit yourself?" Why indeed, Ev, why indeed.) Nobody in the hospital cared. At all.

If you were a fuck-up, it could be one of many reasons they can kick you out. It's pretty damn hard to prove though. They essentially have to have an eye-witness, written or photographic proof. Or a confession.

When I was in Basic Training, a girl came out of the closet. Her stupid bunkmate was snooping through B's things and found a letter that B had written to her girlfriend. Her bunkmate took the letter to the DS. The DS told the bunkmate to mind her own damn business and made her do a bunch of push-ups for going through someone else's things. B wanted out. She hated Basic Training and we were all sitting around talking about it and she starts crying and saying that she should just go "confess" so she could get out. We smacked her upside the head and reminded her that the real Army wouldn't be like Basic Training, we were only 2 weeks from graduating BT, and it would be a dishonorable discharge!! We talked her out of it but a bunch of the other women in the platoon had a real problem with her being gay. I said that was the most retarded thing I'd ever heard, "Y'all had no problem with her yesterday when she was bustin' her ass with the rest of us. What's different today? She's the exact same person."

I think the whole "don't ask, don't tell" bullshit was one of the biggest presidential copouts in American history. It was a political move to appease both sides without really appeasing either. It looks as though it may be overturned soon and that gays can be as open as they'd like in the military.

It's such a non-issue though! It's not like gays are going to be making out at work any more then hetero's do. It's all so stupid.

I know in the bulk of the "real" military where it's all guys and a lot of them are homophobic, it would be difficult but if everyone can just see that these are the same people they were yesterday when no one "knew" about their private lives.... know what I'm sayin'?

I asked my friend Phil what he thought about it all. I asked if he knew of any gay SEALS, he laughed and said no. Then he said that statistically, there had to be some but he never knew of any. I also laughed and agreed that with the guys he worked with, they'd have to be pretty deeply closeted.

He also brought up that the military was voluntary and for someone to come into this institution knowing the rules and then cry foul because their rights are being trod upon was ludicrous. I fully agree with that as well. He also reminded me that when you sign up for the military you sign a binding contract that, essentially, makes you government property and also that very clearly states you have to do as you are told. For now, they are telling people to keep it in the closet. I agree with that point as well. It's not like a person stumbles into the military with their eyes shut. The recruiters are very thorough when going over every single piece of paperwork you need to sign.

I want "don't ask, don't tell" to be overturned but for now it's not and as it stands you have to stay in the closet. Everyone knows that. For someone to come into this voluntarily and then try to make waves is someone who is just asking for trouble. They aren't Rosa Parks and the military is not like the rest of the real world. The military won't let you go to court to try and change things, the military will just kick you out. If that same person really wants to make a difference, they need to work from the outside in, changing legislation.

It puts me in mind of conscientious objectors. That's a group that makes me roll my eyes in disgust. The sole purpose of the military is to be called to duty when there's war. For a person to join the military for college money then when they get called up they are suddenly a conscientious objector? Come on! Fine. You don't have to go. But you do have to pay back all that money.

I think when I rule the world, things will be very different, Ruth!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

P is for Protective

I've had two incidents recently where I've had to stick up for my boys. It sucks. I can't understand why people don't pay attention to what their own children are doing.

In their karate class, the boys share the Sensais with about 25 other kids. The Sensais (a man and wife and their two teenage sons) say that this karate class is the fastest growing class at the Rec center. They can't split the classes or change anything until May when the new class catalog comes out. My point being, they are a bit overwhelmed and they don't see everything.

But they know about this one kid (let's call him F). F canNOT keep himself to himself. If he's near someone, he's touching them - and not nicely. If he's standing next to them, he's stepping on their feet with his feet, if he's behind them he's touching the back of their head with his fist. Constantly. It's weird. About the third class for my boys, he was messing with T like this, then the kids had to line up at the edge of the mat for some type of drill and I saw F straight out shove T and almost knock him down. I wanted to come off the bench and take care of it but I decided to let it go for now and talk to the kid later. The Sensais catch F... sometimes. When they do, they tell him to keep his hands to himself or they make him do push-ups. The whole time I watch this kid be such a little shit to other kids, I wonder, "Where the hell are his parents and why the hell do the other parents not say anything to him when he's messing with their kids??"

The next class, I told T that if F keeps messing with him to "use his words" and tell F to stop touching him. The minute F saw T, he made a beeline for him and started messing with him - this is before class even started. T used his words and it only made F pick on him more. I told T if F didn't stop, he had my permission to pop the kid but T isn't aggressive and would never do that. So I stepped in.

I walked up to F (who's still picking on T) and said, "Hey, F, listen up." Then I called D2 over and continued, "This one's mine and this one's mine. You don't touch them, do you understand me? You keep your hands and feet to yourself. In fact, you don't even stand near them. I want at least two other students between you and them at all times. Got it? You keep away from them all together unless specifically directed otherwise by the Sensais. Am I clear?" He nodded his head yes and looked a bit scared for which I almost felt bad. I also talked to the Sensais after class and they talked to F and made him stay away from my guys.

When the Sensais were talking about people testing for their gold belts (for which F was eligible), I saw the main Sensai take F aside and tell him he wasn't ready yet and that they would let him know when he was eligible. He's actually been pretty well-contained since that little chat and I hope he continues to improve.

He's the only kid in the class whose parent just dumps him off. And the worst is that the guy doesn't even leave the building! I see them before class and the man is on his computer or on his blackberry completely ignoring F. Same after class. It makes me sad for that kid. He's obviously so starved for attention or even just basic human contact that he acts like a little jerk!

The other incident happened last month. It was an especially cold and blustery day and when I went to pick up the boys from school, I saw X, a kid in our neighborhood and his older brother B. B is about 15 and X is in 2nd grade but looks like a 4th grader. They were going to walk home so I offered them a ride. We've had problems with X in the past (he's hit T in the head twice! Once on purpose and the second, which probably was an accident but was with an aluminum baseball bat) so I don't really let the boys play with him much. But, like I said, it was freezing and we were all going to the same place so...

Anyway, B opted to walk back home and X got in the car with us. As we are driving home, T tells me that the week before, B pointed a BB gun at him! WTF??? I stayed calm and asked him to repeat what he just said. He repeated it and then X said, "Yea, he did that but he was just playing." Oh HELL no!

I drove the boys home and when we got in the house, I sat the boys down and tried to re-educate them about what happens when they see a gun at someone else's house (or when the are playing outside). They are to come straight home if it's walking distance and if it's not, they are to call me and I'll come get them.

Later that evening, I went over to X and B's house. Their stepdad answered the door and I told him I needed to talk to B and if he wanted to be a witness, that was fine. Here's what I told B...

"T told me that last week you pointed a BB gun at him. Don't try denying it because D2 and X corroborated it. Look, I grew up with guns and I have no problem with guns or with people having them. What I have a huge problem with is how people treat guns. X said you were just playing and I know it's just a BB gun but the thing is, a gun is not a toy. It's never a toy and if you ever point a gun at my kids again, you are going to have a huge problem. I'm going to call the cops on you and if they don't do anything about it, I will."

His stepdad didn't do much. He rebuked the kid for being stupid and they went back into their house. But again, I don't expect much to change for these kids. The first week we lived here, X came over at 9p at night knocking on our door to see if the boys could come out and play. Really? Jeez, kid, why are you out that late?? On a school night no less. They are both out at all hours and seem to have no real supervision. And again, it just makes me sad.

I've always felt that there are no bad dogs, just lazy irresponsible owners. The same goes for kids, only multiply times 100.

Feeling like the mean Mother Bear, Ruth!

Friday, March 12, 2010

O is for Owls

The project I chose for the Ravelympics/Knitting Olympics....
the wildly popular Owls sweater by Kate Davies. I actually finished an entire sweater in 17 days! Splee! It's not near perfect, the yarn's a bit busy, it makes me look a bit like a linebacker and, apparently, I'm not nearly as short as I think I am.

And. I. LOVE it!!

I wanted to make it with some Malabrigo Worsted I bought last year off someone's Rav destash. It's the Charrua colorway which is pretty busy for a sweater but I had an idea to tone it down a bit. I also used this great equation from Ann Budd for the Knitting Math needed to convert the sweater gauge from Bulky to Worsted.

I like the look of a busy yarn edged with a solid color so I got a skein (or two) of Malabrigo Worsted in Thistle color (which, I was assured, was the blue used in Charrua and my sources were correct!).

I cast on with the Thistle, did one row, switched to Charrua; did this for the body and the sleeves. I also learned that if a sweater has long sleeves, I like to do them first and get them out of the way. I did that with this sweater and it made sweater knitting much better for me! I did the sleeves two-at-a-time Magic Loop. I also planned on using the Thistle for the owls section and the BO's and I love how it came out.

I took measurements of my arms and the length that I wanted the sweater but everything came up about 3" short!

Anyway, here it is....

Back shot...

Here's a close-up of the Owls. You can also see where my short rows went horribly wrong...

There's 30 owls! In the original pattern, you're supposed to put buttons on the owls "eyes". I don't think I will. I'm going to put eyes on one or two in the front, right owls (brooch-like). I think if someone has sixty buttons on one piece of clothing they should be teaching preschool or something.

In any case, I'm going to do some serious frogging with this sweater. The waist shaping is in the exact right spot so I'm going to cut off the lower ribbing, add 3" to the body, do the ribbing, BO with Thistle. I was going to do the same with the sleeves but I really need to go back and fix those crazy short-rows. Also, I did gauge adjustment for everything except the underarm grafting bit so the underarms are right up in my armpits and it's a bit uncomfortable and I know that with wearing, it'll felt there and I don't want that! So I'm going to rip all the way down to the yoke and separate the sleeves again, then I'm going to add 3 or 4" to the sleeve length and redo the whole yoke bit. Eep! Not sure when this will happen, maybe this summer.

Now for Dave's sweater...

Back shot...

The flash makes it look lighter then it actually is. It's a lovely deep charcoal color with dark red stripes. It's a sweater from Debbie Stoller's Son of a Bitch book (the actual name of the sweater escapes me at the moment). It's a really easy knit but mind-numbingly boring stockinette in the round FOREVER!

The yarn is a dream! It's Alpaca With a Twist's Baby Alpaca Jumbo Hank. Soooooo soft. Felts instantly so I've already instructed Dave many times to let me take care of washing it. Took me forever to finish it because I'd get bored and throw it in the corner for a few months at a time. I gave it strict instructions to think on it's boringness and become more interesting but it never listened. Stupid sweater.

Two FO's and now I'm at a loss as to what to knit next. That's a first for me! Lots of ideas, just getting a bunch of small stuff out of the way first.

Sweaters ahoy, Ruth!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

N is for Narcolepsy

When I was stationed in Germany, there was an X-ray Tech in my unit who had Narcolepsy. I never saw him fall asleep and didn't know anything about it until almost a year after I met him! We were all sitting around drinking on a Saturday night and he was talking about how they had to keep messing with the dosage of his meds. If they gave him too much it would mess with his liver and if they didn't give him enough, he'd fall asleep all the time.

Then the other guys we worked with all started in with the Narcolepsy jokes. They also would tease him about how it must be rough being able to fall asleep anytime, anywhere.

I've had so much insomnia since we moved to Colorado that I sometimes wish for Narcolepsy. Then I wince, realizing I just wished for a chronic illness. Stupid!

When I wander about the house, sleepless, I tend to go downstairs and watch TV or get the laptop and tool around the internet. Sadly, that's pretty much how I spend my days as well. At least I'm working out 4 or 5 days a week now and hoping that counteracts all my inactivity. Initially, the workouts were making me sleep like a baby! But even that's not working anymore.

I don't sleep because of stress and there's not much that's going to help my stress levels anytime soon. Don't worry about me, though, I seem to have entirely too much fun on my sleepless nights to be truly worried about it! I knit, watch movies, play poker online - all kinds of useless stuff!

The knitting is mostly what's keeping me sane. I've finished quite a lot of stuff this year! I finished my Olympic Sweater, Dave's Sweater, some dishcloths and towels for our kitchen, some bed socks. Just yesterday I finished the second of a fantastic pair of socks! I can't show them to you as they are a super-secret surprise for someone and I'll show y'all when they are given.

Do any of you have sleepless nights? Any tips on getting to sleep?

Knitting in my sleep(less), Ruth!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

M is for Music

I haven't done a Meme in quite awhile and I'm sure y'all miss them so here's one to make-up for not posting them all the time. hah!

Actually, this meme is kind of cool and I totally ripped it off of Joshilyn Jackson's blog. It's all about what you did last year. I should've put this up in January but I kind of forgot about it. I put in a couple of videos and at the end is a lovely picture for those of you who make it through the whole post (or those that skip to the end).


1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before?
I went to Portland, Oregon for the Sock Summit. I've only ever driven through Oregon before and it's so beautiful it makes me want to pack immediately! I've never spent any real time there and I can't wait to go back!

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? No and no. This year marks the first time in a very long time that I haven't made New Year's Resolutions.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, but my good friend Donna is due this April!

5. What countries did you visit?
Stayed in the US last year.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
A way to make money from knitting!

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
August when I was at the Sock Summit. Can't remember the exact dates, how sad is that?

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making 5,000 Stitch Savers in two months. I knew I could do it and I did! My back hates me but I did it.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Not selling 5,000 Stitch Savers. sigh.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope! Yay!

11. What was the best thing you bought?
These really great sweats. They look like yoga pants but they are nice thick fleece-on-the-inside sweats and I love them.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My boys. They had to move away from their school and their friends and they were little champs. They are the best little guys in the whole world! They still get along famously with each other and they still do great in school. I loves them.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Pick a reality show. Any of them. When will America's obsession with rewarding whomever acts like the biggest douchebag end?

14. Where did most of your money go?
Sock Summit. Or just yarn in general.

15. What do you get really, really, really excited about?
Whenever T or D2 get in the van after school and say, "I have a surprise for you in my backpack!" So far these surprises have all been good ones; no dead mice or anything. I love surprises!

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?
Anything by Green Day since we saw them in concert last August.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Reading. I've nearly stopped reading altogether compared to how much I normally read. It's because I'm always too tired and stressed out to try to concentrate on a book. I used to always read right before I went to sleep. Now I just want to go to sleep!

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Favorite show that started brand-new in 2009? Castle. The Mentalist is good, too.

24. Do you hate any people now that you didn't hate this time last year?
I think I hate the same people I hated this time last year.

25. What was the best book you read?
I re-read The Hobbit last year and it's just as amazing and wonderful as it was when I read it in the 6th grade. I also really liked Shutter Island.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
For me, one of the best bands that have come out in the past ten years is System of a Down. My favorite song from them is Toxicity. Here's the original video....

Dave showed me this woman who is PHENOMENAL! Also (and this is for BeckyKnits) she does all her own scores. It's especially cool, for me anyway, because System of a Down is one of my favorite groups. Enjoy...

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Being able to sleep soundly and regularly.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?
Just the Basics. I've always been a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of girl. With really great shoes.

33. What kept you sane?
My family. Without them, I would have been in a rubber room long ago. And yarn. Yarn always helps.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Shaun White. He's so pretty! BUT, he's only 23 so I wouldn't want to mess with him as he's way too young for me. I would, however, love to brush that gorgeous red hair of his. For about an hour. That's not creepy, right? (I've always been a sucker for a redhead!)
Here he is on Letterman talking about his wipeout during the X-Games...

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Probably the whole health care thing. We've spent way too much money on health insurance and, knock on wood, we are all really healthy and never use it. It seems like it should be more affordable to people like us that are self-employed. It also disgusts me to hear that people are losing their homes because of medical bills. In a country as modern as America, that should never happen.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Anna Zilboorg. I only spoke with her very briefly at the Sock Summit. Twice. And both times she made me think and made me laugh at the same time. I'd love to take her to lunch!

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.
Facebook can be useful for more then just playing Scrabble. I had two people that I hadn't heard from in over ten years find me and that's just cool.

39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
You've got a mortgage on my body and a lien on my soul.
End of Meme

Now for the other bit of luck that came my way recently. I forgot to put this in my last post but here it is. A few days before Valentine's Day, Dave and I were kicking around the house when the doorbell rang. It was the guy from the Water Dept. sent to change out our water meter. Great. Then about two minutes later the doorbell rang again. It was the box of padded envelopes I bought off ebay - the ones I use to mail my Stitch Savers. yay. Then about 5 minutes later the doorbell rang again! This time a UPS guy hands Dave a big box from Dave looks at me suspiciously and hands me the box. I said, "Did you get me flowers?! Yay!" He said, "No. I didn't. hmph."

I look at the address on the box. It's our address but someone else's name! So I go upstairs, find the companies phone # on their website and call them to tell them there's been a mistake. The woman I spoke to was very sweet and, also, sadly, very surprised that I called to tell them about it. It makes me sad because it never occured to me that someone wouldn't call and tell them about it! Anyway, she said it was my lucky day and that I could keep them!

Here's what was in the box (only, picture them fresher and standing upright - I took this pic a few days after we got them)....

A glass vase and some tulips! Tulips are my second favorite flower and this was a lovely bit of luck!

Wishing I could play the piano, Ruth!

P.S. What happened to #4 you ask? There wasn't one!