Tuesday, September 27, 2011

W is for Win

I joined the So You Think You Can Dance group on Ravelry. They have a pool where you are randomly assigned 2 dancers (one male, one female) and whichever dancer wins, the others in your group have to send you gifts equaling $15-$20! Anyone can join (as long as you're willing to lose!) and the players are split into groups of ten, so whoever wins - the other nine have to send gifties.

Last season my male dancer came in second place. So close!

This season, my dancer won! Both my male and female dancers were solid and amazing. They were paired together from the start and they were super-stars! If you watched the show, I got Melanie and Marko. As good as Marko is, I knew a female was going to win and that it would be between Sasha and Melanie. I thought sure Sasha had it in the bag and I was going to get second place again but Melanie won!

In this Rav pool, if you win, you get to ask for what you'd like. I said I was going to make it really easy on everyone and I just wanted gift certificates to Webs. I want to make the Saffron Cables blanket and I have had my eye on the Amherst yarn to make it but it'll take 17 balls! I thought with these g.c.'s, it'd be plenty to get all that yarn!

I remembered I could find more information on that yarn at Rav so I went and read the reviews. There were ten reviews and eight were bad. The consensus seems to be that it after it's knit up, it pills on contact and who wants to handwash a big ass blanket anyway? I so enjoyed working with the Berroco Vintage Bulky that I thought a washable, snuggly blanket in un-bulky Vintage would be lovely!

I'm also getting some Madelintosh Bulky in the Tart colorway - 3 skeins. My friend Donna gave me two coats she has that she knows I've been in love with since she bought them a year ago. She's so cool! One of the coats is a really pretty green color and one is black; I think this Tart will make a lovely scarf or cowl to go with both coats. I always hear about MadTosh but have never actually tried it. This yarn is backordered so it'll be like getting another surprise package whenever it comes in!

I ordered 2 skeins of Lamb's Pride so I can take another shot at those bunny slippers. Wait.... I don't think I told you about those! I made these slippers and they haven't felted down enough to fit me. My friends say they will felt more but I haven't had time to test that theory. I was just going to make another pair for me and give these away. I'm still going to make another pair as a gift but it's going to be for the Monty Python swap on Rav that I'm in and I'm going to make them vicious bunny slippers!

I think I may be a bit nuts using nearly $120 worth of free yarn money to get such relatively mundane yarn (not the counting MadTosh, of course!) but I really can't think of any other stuff I want right now! Any suggestions? Any yarns from Webs that you just adore? (of course, by the time this posts, I will already have ordered my stuff - hah!)

All this talk of new yarn reminds me that my castonitis has been sort of nipped in the bud (see this year's letter T for links). Martine - the sweater I was going to make from French Girl Knits (love that book!) - is nipped because I don't hav the yarn to make it. I was going to use all this black Cascade 220 that I have but the guage is 20 sts instead of 16 and I really don't want to have to do that much math.

I have the yarn and almost the guage for Pioneer but I need to go up one needle size from US 5 to 6. I trot on over to my Knitpicks Options binder and I have ONE size six needle. SERiously?! I have looked everywhere to see if I can locate it. So far... I can't. So that one is on standstill.

That pretty much knocked the wind out of the startitis! I did cast on #77 and it's an easy pattern if you can read.... which, apparently.... I can't. I got to row 5 and skipped to row 8. Tink. Got to row 13 and at the END of the row my little lace section (a tiny 13 stitches!!) was missing a stitch - tink back 2 rows and try again. I've set it down. I've decided that this pattern will be my football pattern for this year. For the past few years, I've cast on a project during the opening kick to the first Husker game of the season. Usually it's socks, this year it's this cardigan. I like it and I want it to go faster but my gauge is nowhere near what the pattern calls for. I've been looking at others of these on Rav and I think it's going to be ok. I will know around row 40. If I have to rip the whole thing out again and start over, it's no big deal because it's my football project!

I'm also supposed to be in a KAL with some friends for these socks. I have 3 skeins of Mal Lace and short legs. They are toe up so I'm going to keep going until I run out and see where they land! Or at least I will when I can find that yarn. I've lost that, too. In my bedroom. My bedroom is like a hoarder's delight. It's got a track from the door, past my desk to my side of the bed.

Dave's side isn't much better. There's several reasons for this, laziness being at the top of the list, but when we get to the letter Y, we'll see the reason it's really gotten out of control. Stay tuned...

I have my between-quarters break from school from 9/26 - 10/3. My plan is to sleep in every day, work out every day, spend an hour cleaning the bedroom tornado I live in and if I finish that (should take 2 days), then I'll spend that hour cleaning out the garage. I'll then practice on my steno-writer until I have to go to work. Hopefully I'll find that damn US 6 needle!

Living in chaos but still feeling like a winner, Ruth!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

V is for Veteran

A few months ago, I had the privilege to meet and interview some veterans.

The National Association of Court Reporters in conjunction with the Library of Congress is making an effort to record as many personal stories from our military veterans as we can get.

We've missed our opportunity with the WWI vets. The last WWI vet died earlier this year and with him went our shot at those stories. Not a single story from WWI vet was officially recorded. We have very little time to get as many of the WWII vets as we can.

My school hosted a recording day. All the court reporters were ones with experience and the interviewers were students. All volunteered their time, unpaid, to make this day happen.

We had about ten veterans show up.

I was standing at the door when Eddie came in. Eddie is a WWII vet and he's so funny! He came in with his walker and his oxygen and sat down in the chairs by the door. His wife was with him as was his nurse. He looked at me and in his wheezy voice said, "I'm the guy." I smiled and said, "You're the guy?" He laughed and tapping his chest said, "I'm the guy. I'm the guy you want to talk to." Then he told me how he was one of the first off the boat at Normandy.

We led him down the hall and got him a seat. There was this entire formal opening ceremony with a high school ROTC colorguard, the singing of the National Anthem and everything! Then we split off to interview the vets.

My veteran was Philip W. He was an Air Force lifer who was Active Duty during the Korean and the Vietnam wars. I was given a sheaf of papers with questions to ask.... all about his parents/siblings/marriage and then we went on to his military life. Basic Training, AIT (where they teach you your job), and Active Duty service is asked about. (There was a surprising bent toward asking about any racism among the ranks which I thought was odd.)

Philip was adorable! He was a very snappy dresser and had the best smile! He told me all kinds of things and some of those things were very difficuly for him.

He has an enormous amount of survivor guilt. He was signing up for the Marines with his very best friend. The Marines had a waiting list of 2 months. After a month, Philip went down to the courthouse where the recruiters were to see how it was going. In the front vestibule to the building, was an Air Force recruiter who got Philip! He joined the Air Force (no waiting list!) and tried to talk his buddy into it, too, but his buddy decided to wait for the Marines. Philip didn't get shipped overseas during the Korean War but his best friend went right away and was in the first wave of infantry that got completely wiped out.

Philip was tearing up and I was trying hard not to join him. He said how he should've been there with his friend and he still, sixty years later, feels so guilty about that. It was heartbreaking.

The interview went on and one of the questions I had on my list was about pranks! Philip said he wasn't much of a prankster but he did put a ketchup soaked tampon on the pillow of a fellow soldier that had passed out one night. His face was beat red telling us about that!

He told about being in Vietnam, walking along the street and seeing a shoeshine boy blow himself up with three GI's sitting at the shoeshine booth. And he also told about how he was on the flight line the whole time (as a First Sgt.) and never went to the field. They would get about 25 mortar rounds a week lobbed at them on the flight line. One night, he heard the usual whistling sound of a mortar coming in but the actual BOOM was really muted. He went outside to see what happened to that bomb. It threaded a needle and landed inside the door of the barracks right next to his and blew up. He said it was all hands on deck trying to get people out of the rubble and save as many as they could. He said he saw a hand in the rubble and pulled on it - it was attached to an arm but nothing else. He told how this Colonel was taking pictures and not being much help. He shoved the Col. out of the way and told him to help or get the fuck out of the way. He almost got court-marshalled for that!

We talked about his life in the military and about his life after he got out. He talked about the VA and how the "shrink" there was helping him and he was finally starting to forgive himself for "abandoning" his childhood friend all those years ago.

We laughed and laughed with Philip! We cried a bit, too. He was such a great story teller! And, the best part for the court reporter, he spelled every name he mentioned, whether it was a person's name or names of the places he was stationed - brilliant!

This is an ongoing project. If you know a veteran, please let them know about it. If you are a veteran, please participate. If you are (or know) a court reporter, please volunteer your time for this wonderful event. You can make it a simple affair - no colorguard necessary - and the transcripts you make count towards your CEU's (you can do up to ten transcripts for a total CEU of 1).

It's an amazing experience. All the volunteers heard their vet say, " Wow. I've never told anyone this before." I was going to suggest that if you have a vet in your life, to sit down with a tape recorder (or whatever new-fangled equivalent you may have) and ask for their story. I don't know if that would work though. There's something about telling a stranger things that you would NEVER tell your family members (or even your friends, sometimes!). Definitely give it a shot though!

My name is now in the Library of Congress, Ruth!

U is for Unhappy

Last year, when I was volunteering in T's class, I was given a group of kids who needed help with their times tables. I was handed a stack of flash cards and we went in to the hallway to work on them. I asked the kids how they'd worked on them previously and they told me that the person helping them before would just go through card by card and they'd try to solve the problems.

I thought that sounded boring so came up with a few games on the spot. We had a lovely time learning the multiplication tables and whenever the kids would miss one, they had to do a trick. It was great fun and I saw some pretty cool tricks!

After three weeks, the teacher had me take an extra kid in the hall with us and he was happy about playing the games until we came to a # X 9 problem. This kid's name is... E. E is a doughy child who wears sweats to school every day and they aren't even the shiny sweats with the racing stripes along the side. They are the kind made out of sweatshirt material. With the elastic around the ankles. I've been to the family's house and they are far from poor.

Anyway, we come to this X 9 problem and E has trouble with those. The other kids were showing him the finger trick and I was telling him the other trick. (Saaaaay.... it's.... 6 X 9. 6 - 1 is 5, 5 + what = 9? 4. So.... 54.) He was getting upset, so I asked the other kids to go over the cards they had in their hands and I turned back to E. I said, "It's ok, E, No big deal. Let's take a deep breath and try again. Which trick do you prefer, the finger one or the number one?" He got all huffy and puffy and then said, in this really, whiny voice, "You're making me unhappy."

I was a bit taken aback and gently said, "No, E, I'm not making you anything, I'm just trying to show you the easy ways to remember these problems. Shall we try again? Now, the finger trick...." and in the middle of my sentence, he got up and walked away. He walked over to a one desk in the hallway and sat there pouting. I said to the other kids, "Um. I guess E needs a break. Who's turn is it?" and we went on playing.

The teacher came out a few minutes later and helped E sort things out and he rejoined us and was fine after that.

When it happened, I remember thinking, "Oh, E, honey, I bet at home you're neeevver unhappy." That poor kid's nails are down to nubbs and he seems nervous all the time. I know I'll get comments, as usual, as to the kid's mental state and who knows what goes on at home and blah, blah, blah. But the thing is, I bet if this kid had some direction and boundaries at home, he wouldn't be half so nervous and rude.

I've already ranted many times about how kids are over-indulged and they end up being soft and feeling entitled and act out accordingly. So we'll skip that today and I'll just have a little whine fest of my own.

Ever since that happened, whenever Dave and I are playfully getting on each other's nerves, we say that now, "You're making me unhappy."

These are things that are making me unhappy (and yes, I am also doughy and my nails are currently down to nervous nubbs):

How is 1.5 pages of paper that cites 2 internet sources acceptable, but my 5 pages with no sources but all solid material backed by my TEN years as a massage therapist not acceptable??

Facebook sucks. A friend pops up out of the blue and you have all these great conversations. The whole thing made me very wary at first because back in the day, things ended badly and I got my heart ripped out. But it seems things are different now. It seems we can laugh about those days and talk and heart-to-heart and be friends again. Then, after a long time, you get smacked in the gut with the fact that nothing's different and, sadly, it hurts just as much as it did Way Back When. (yea, I'm blaming Facebook for that. sigh.)

I don't get enough sleep. Still.

I don't get enough sleep, despite the fact that the job I work for is cutting hours for everyone due to low volume of business now. Tuesday I get off at 8p instead of 11p and Wednesdays, I'm off at 9:30p instead of 11p. You think this would be a bonus! But the lack of money due to losing roughly $200 a week in income is keeping me up still.

People in CO won't shut up about the earthquakes here. I get that they haven't had an earthquake here in 44 years so it's something of a novelty but, seriously! It happened, like, 2 weeks ago and it was only a 5.2. Growing up in California, we used 5.2's to stir our cocktails. Calm the fuck down, people.

I had this whole post written up about peeves I've had about swaps:

1. If you join a swap and then start talking about how strapped your funds are, I want to slap you. If you can't meet the minimum requirements, then don't join the swap. Simple, right?

2. Also, for the love of YARN, don't tell me you don't have access to "good" yarn. If you are online, joining a swap, you have access to ALL yarn. And if you don't want to pay shipping twice (once to you and then to send to swappee), then have the seller ship it directly to your swap partner. Equally simple.

3. I don't mind if you're late. Hell, half the time I'm late. Life gets in the way! But communicate!

That last one comes with a tale:

I was in the Alphabet swap in Rav. My swap partner was not only the moderator of the group, she was the founder of the group. It was a straight swap, so I send to her and she sends to me. I sent to her. She sent to me........... nothing. After a week, I emailed her and she was all "Life!" and I said, "np" and she said she'd send. 2 weeks later, still nothing. No communication from her unless I initiated and she kept telling me she'd send that day or whatever. After it was 6 weeks late, I said she could just paypal me the $20 I spent on the yarn I sent her and she could keep the rest of the goodies in the box as lovely parting gifts as I was giving up on the Alphabet swaps.

Another 2 weeks later, I forgot to leave that group so I went to take care of that. I saw that she'd ANGELED a really great package to someone else in that same swap! WTF??

I pm'd her again asking her what was up. She said that it was the package she'd made for me but since I'd been so nasty about it and clearly just wanted money, she gave it to someone else. I made it clear that I was polite and patient as I could be but somewhere around the 6 weeks mark, my patience for late packages turns into resignation that no package would be forthcoming. I pointed out that the communication was non-existent unless I initiated and also pointed out that she hadn't even paypal'd anything anyway. She paypal'd the money that day and that was the end of it.

She's making me unhappy.

I've been sick the last week. T has a dry, hacking cough for over a week now with no signs of letting up. D2 threw up at school yesterday - Dave had to pick him up and D2 threw up in Dave's truck (but at least into a bag), and threw up 6 more times at home (in a bucket). I was at school so I couldn't be home taking care of my little guy. That breaks my heart.

Good things:
Absentee Girl quit. Not good for her, obviously, as she owes about $6K with nothing to show for it and that sucks. But when you're absent so often that people start calling you Absentee Girl, you're going to have a tough time catching up to all the stuff you missed. Class has been kicking along much faster since her departure.

Theory II has one day this week and four days next week, then it's the break between quarters. After the break.... the real work starts! Speed tests and practice all the time. I can't wait! Yesterday, the teacher skimmed through the last 4 chapters of the book. There wasn't much in them that we hadn't already learned and so as of yesterday, I know about as much Phoenix Stenography Theory as I'll ever learn and I just have to practice it all to get the muscle memory and the speed.

That's all the good I can muster today.

I stapled my thumb in class and it's making me unhappy, Ruth!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

T is for Tackle

I've been knitting away at some small (socks) and some large (sweaters) projects that take forever so I needed a quick and dirty project that I could kick out and then WEAR.

I present Emmaline....

Back of it....

This was so fast and so easy! And the Berroco Vintage Chunky is a dream to work with. I made this sweater in about 3 weeks. The BO took another week. I haven't had a problem with too-tight BO's in years! I did the BO and couldn't pull it over my head. I pulled it out, backed out the last row and went from a US 11 to a US 15 for the last row and the BO. Too tight. Backed the BO out again.... oh, did I mention how much I HATE backing out a BO? I don't mind tinking but undoing a BO is a bitch.

I went up to a US 17 and re-did the BO. It was still a bit tight and I didn't want it to be tight! So, threw it in the corner and a few days later, backed it out again and used the US 17 and Jenny's Stretchy BO and ta-da! Perfection!

Still too warm to actually wear it, but it will be worn. Oh, it WILL be worn.

Someone needs to tackle me and pry the yarn and the needles out of my hands. The speedy success of Emmaline and the anticipation of cooler weather has caused a SEVERE case of startitis. We won't even go into the 15 things I currently have on needles (as usual) coughThreeSocksThreeSweatersAndWeWon'tEvenTalkAboutTheClosetOfNoReturncough. I have the strongest urge to CO three, no, four sweaters and three blankets!

I have the yarn (and the patterns) for all of them...

Hemlock Ring
Saffron Cables

I'm undecided about what yarn to use for the blankets. I have all this Ornaghi Filati Gong yarn; it's sport weight mercerized cotton. There's 18 skeins (142 yards each), in varying but coordinating colors, and I would love to use it in the concentric circles that is Girasole but I'm afraid that when it's finished, it will weigh a metric ton.

I have 12 skeins of burgundy Encore Worsted and I'm either going to double it and make the Hemlock Ring out of it (leaning toward this) or I'm going to use it for the Saffron Cables. I really like the Saffron Cables better but after the Never-ending Blanket, I'm wary of making a big blanket all in one piece again - so heavy and hard on the wrists! Also, with the Hemlock Ring, I discovered with a previous scarf, that I really love the way feather-and-fan looks but to make it is rather deadly boring!

What to do.....
Any suggestions? I'd especially like feedback on the whole mercerized cotton thing.

Speaking of tackling, college football starts today! Dave is so happy and adrenalized, he's been up since about 6am! I'm pretty happy, too! Not that I care that much about the Huskers, but when he's watching the games, I get quite a lot of knitting done.

That may be another reason for all this castonitis that I'm having. I know there's some lovely, long weekends ahead and I want everything I plan to make to be cast(ed?) on and ready to go. I think I'm going to re-implement my WIP Sunday rule (after I whip up a little something for a swap tomorrow) and try to clear some stuff off my needles.

Other nesting things are going on in my head as well. I'm still going round and round with Dave, trying to get him to let me use his shop office (mobile home with no bathroom but 4 rooms that have not much of anything in them since we moved the office stuff to our home office). I am consolidating the stuff in our one-car garage so I can move it to that office so I can get my yarn and other crap out of my friend's house. She's been generously storing it in her secret room and her crawl space for two years now and besides the fact that's so far above and beyond what should be expected from any friend.... I want my shit!

I want all my yarn at this house. I want all the garage stuff (which is waiting for that far-off someday when we can buy a house again) in the office-home. The garage stuff is mostly books and baseball cards and boxes of memorabilia from our lives. It's mostly books. I want my massage table and the Christmas stuff out of the garage. If I got rid of the 5 or 6 bins that are out there now, I could fit the 5 or six bins of my yarn in there! As to the stuff in my friend's crawl space, that can all go to the office-home, too.

I need a good organizer to tackle this mess for me! That's not even starting on the mess IN the house! Our house is a bio-hazard. More then usual. It's gotten so bad, it's even bothering me (and that's sayin' something). It's gotten so bad that I've actually lost a lovely project bag with a pair of socks (two-at-a-time with only the half the feet and toes left to go). Lost it. Disappeared somewhere in our house. Shameful.

Tackle me - I must be stopped, Ruth!