Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I had a job interview at an insurance company once and the lady said, "Where do you see yourself in five years?" and I said, "Celebrating the fifth-year anniversary of you asking me this question."--Mitch Hedberg

Today is the 5th anniversary of this blog. Not of The Knitting Curmudgeon, which was a web entity that existed from 1998 until 2000 and then left the ether for a couple of years.

I never even thought about how long I would write this blog.

Going back to July 2002, who actually inspired me to start a blog? Dangerous Chunky. I know, most of you won't remember that blog. But I do. I don't even remember how I found it or how I discovered Blogger. But in the haze that was my mind that summer, I did.

Here it is, as it looked that August, a week after I began writing it.

Dark and dreary, as indeed I was at that time, although I don't think it shows particularly in the writing. I hadn't yet found my voice but I actually had four comments on August 2. Amazing. I'm sure three of them were from Loopy.

I wish I could see those comments now but at the time, I was using another commenting service, which shortly thereafter bit the dust, forcing me to switch to Haloscan.

In the five years that I have written this blog, I have made many friends. And a few enemies, who can bite me. I've had the opportunity to do one of the things I love to do the most--write. I have a readership that I respect. With the exception of a few trolls here and there.

There are two things that I've done pretty consistently throughout my life. Knit and write. Both at the age of 8. Which do I do better? I couldn't say.

Talking to Ted this past Sunday, I said to him, "I see the blog moving on, past pure snarkiness, and becoming more of a vehicle that contributes to the knowledge base." That's not to say that I'll stop being a skank. That ain't happening.

What it does mean is that I'd rather stimulate people, help them get their fiber acts together by being whatever inspiration I can be (and I dunno, that probably isn't all that), and continue to add what I can in the way of free assistance here. Perhaps it will be reinventing the wheel but some things have to be said over and over.

A complete diet of snarkiness becomes a one-trick pony. It's the snarkiness interwoven with solid content that makes me happy, as a writer.

I have been working on a special anniversary project but alas, work keeps getting in the way. Suffice it to say that it will be an interactive learning tool, the first of a few.

And no, it's not going to teach you how to make a fucking slip knot. Or how to knit. Fuck that shit.

Now, the question for you all to ponder: When did I first start using "rare and handy" as an endline and where did it come from? No prizes. Just wanna see who's on the ball. And is rare and handy.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Screw Open Mic Thursday.

Kristin's comment made me realize that although you all think you know me through my writing, you don't.

Not at all. In fact, many of my closest friends don't know me as well as they think they do. Because I seldom talk about my life experiences, other than what has pertained to knitting.

So here's something you can read. I have never talked about this, never written about this part of my life, although I've referred to it briefly. It had an enormous influence on me. I metamorphosed from a child to an adult during this time.

Lenny’s Story

This is a tale that I very seldom tell, partly because it was so long ago. But those years are still with me, as if it were just a few weeks ago, such was the profundity of the experience.

From 1973 until 1982, I worked as a psychiatric technician at the largest county mental institution in the country, with a patient population of almost 3,000. I was not quite 23 when I took the job, the only work I could find that would allow me to be with my children during the day while my husband worked.

I had lived a charmed childhood, with no family financial problems, everything I could want, loving and supportive parents, in a large house in an expensive town in New Jersey. Little had touched that life until my father died at 43. Two years later, I married because I was pregnant with my daughter Jenn. I was 18. All of a sudden, there was no money, no expensive clothes, no more fun times going to rock concerts, just hard work.

Working at the hospital was a real eye-opener for this spoiled brat. Built in the 1870s, it was a Dickensian maze of crumbling brick buildings with iron-barred windows, shrieking patients, and sometimes cruel employees, located in a 700-acre tract of lush parkland. Death, by suicide, from natural causes, and perhaps from other means, was a daily occurrence. I had never seen a dead body until I started on the med/surg ward, 3-11 shift.

By the time I transferred to the maximum security, I had prepared many souls for their final trip to the morgue. Death and suffering. We did what we could to help our patients with little kindnesses, whenever we had the chance. I would come home every night at midnight, exhausted but with a sense that I had done something good. Even if it were snitching an extra banana from the kitchen for one of my patients.

In the maximum security ward, Ward 35, which housed some 40 women, highly psychotic, often homicidal, I still found much in the way of humanity. No matter how off the wall the women were, they appreciated small things—an extra cigarette, more coffee, a birthday party. We tried our best because the county gave them little in the way of extras. And when I had to float off to Ward 39 because I was junior on the ward, the other employees shook their heads and said, “Well, Robbie, watch your back.”

Ward 39 was the place where those men and boys who had low intelligence and were also deemed psychotic were dumped. Yes, dumped. No Recreation therapy for them, no arts and crafts, no therapy of any kind. They were fed, clothed, and kept clean. The staff was amazing. They cared for these patients as if they were their own family. And far from being forgotten, many of the patients’ families came to visit every weekend.

When I was floated to Ward 39, it was generally to “special” a young man named Lenny. Lenny’s intelligence could not be measured but it was thought that he was mentally about the same age as a 6-month-old baby. Except that he was my age, 23.

Lenny was always in a straitjacket, for his own safety and that of the other patients. While this seems cruel, it was necessary. For Lenny was blind because he had pulled out both his eyes. And almost strangled another patient, as well as attacking staff.

At first, I was afraid of Lenny, knowing that he had enormous strength and could be difficult. Often, he would howl and rage, and could not be comforted. He had his own room, a cold, bare chamber with a white iron crib, in which he was housed. I would feed him, as he sat in a lotus position. I’d talk to him, sing to him, make noise. That seemed to quiet him sometimes. And sometimes not. When I sang, he would make noises and bang his feet on the mattress. Whether he enjoyed my singing, I would never know. But I figured it entertained me as well as him.

As time went on, I got to know Lenny’s moods and I stopped being afraid, although I respected his unpredictability. And I think he got to know me, too, at least the sound of my voice. I would usually work with him twice a week, when his regularly assigned staff member was off. After dinner, if I could find one of the guys to help me, we’d lift Lenny out of bed and put him in a wheelchair out in the dayroom. That was the sum total of Lenny’s change of scenery.

Finally, I asked the head nurse if we could maybe get Lenny out of the wheelchair and sit him on the floor. She said, “Sure, as long as you watch him carefully.” So out Lenny went, onto the floor with me. He’d sit there, rocking, but not yelling, quiet as a mouse. No one had ever heard Lenny say a word.

One day, while Lenny and I were sitting on the dayroom floor, I found a small toy car, a Big Wheels, I think, in my uniform pocket, probably one of Jenn’s toys that I had absentmindedly picked up from the floor on my way out to work. Lenny was sitting about 3 feet from me, rocking as usual.

“Hey, Lenny! Look what I’ve got!” I put the toy car on the floor and ran it towards him. He stopped rocking. I picked up the car again and revved it up so it would go further. Like I did with my kids, without thinking, I said, “One, two, three, GO!” And let the car scuttle across the floor.

I kept doing this for at least a half hour, mostly to entertain myself. Dopey? Sure. But it seemed to keep Lenny quiet.

It was getting close to bedtime. One more run and I’d put the car back in my pocket. “One, two, three…”
And Lenny said, “GO!”

Did he say that? I was stunned. Could it be? Did Lenny speak? I got one of the other staff and repeated the sequence. Once again, Lenny said, “GO!”

From then on, that was Lenny’s game. We’d chant “One, two, three” and Lenny would shout “GO!” His parents, who had never heard him speak, brought us toy cars. Every day, it was Lenny’s therapy to get down on the floor with one of the staff and play the Lenny Game.

Lenny never learned to say another word. He was still on Ward 39, playing the Lenny Game, when I left the hospital and went on to a career in publishing, my career in nursing finished due to a bad back. I could no longer lift heavy laundry bags, turn patients, or lift mattresses onto beds.

I will never forget Lenny. Ever. Of all my patients, he was the one I loved the best.
Best Quote I Heard All Day
I mistrust total competence. I've always felt life is a series of small disasters we try to get through.--Michael Palin

This week meant two days without hot water due to a retarded furnace.

A small disaster is taking a cold shower, not to alleviate any yearnings but because you are beginning to stink.

This will be a post of short spurts, mostly because I’ve been writing nonstop and I’m a bit weary and out of words. Nonetheless, I’ve been working on the Magenta Diamonds shawl at a steady pace (often during conference calls, of which there has been four too many since Monday). I’ve had some thoughts on lace but I’ll save them for the weekend when I’m more lucid.

It grows like Topsy. I’ll put up a picture this weekend.

The Cotton Glace for Jenn’s Campanula showed up Monday but I’m going to finish this shawl first. I’m about halfway through and don’t want to drop it now.

I’m also behind in my spinning but that will be remedied this weekend, possibly. If I’m not busy with social stuff. The weekends keep filling up, which is a good thing. Won't talk about the loom or my spindles, all of which are growing plant life or hair. Or something.

The reason I did not insert the link to Royal Yarn, Joe, is because I don't want to be directly responsible for leading someone there. Google is everyone's friend.

Open Mic Thursday
OK, so we’ve had socks, shawls, mitts, ponchos, lingerie, fugly dog sweaters, and other stuff making the rounds for a while now. Along with lace, which seems to have taken off, as intarsia did back when. The bulky knits seem to have run their course, although they’ll be back in about 10 years, along with the excess of glitz. Shaped garments seem to be overtaking shapeless schmattehs. Here’s your chance to be a knitting prognosticator.

What do you see as the next trend in knitting?

I have no particular thoughts on this. However, your thoughts are welcome, if written wisely and intelligently.

The BW Charting Project
It occurred to me that there may be some copyright issues at play here. I have some of the charting finished but I am hesitant about publishing them because I am not sure of where I would stand. I would not charge for access to the charts but that may not matter. So I’ll leave that to the legal minds who read this blog. You all can comment and let me know what you think.

Faux Borat
I did enjoy the guy in the yellow thong running along with the Tour de France participants. Nice touch.

Not a fan of Harry Potter, particularly. I read the first book, saw the first movie on DVD, and promptly forgot about the whole thing. My sister, Harry Potter fiend, is attending Friday’s Border event to pick up her copy. Not me.

However, this past Sunday, alone and on the loose, I decided to go to the movies by myself to see either "Ratatouille" or "Sicko". Until she called me on my cell while I was out shopping and offered to buy me a ticket to the new HP movie so that I could go with her, my nephew Alex, and my brother-in-law Jim. Hell, why not?

I actually enjoyed the movie, although it does behoove you to have read the books, I think. But there’s a plethora of knitwear in the movie, which I’m afraid will prompt yet more HP knitting.

I read extensively but I prefer to leave those reviews to others. There's always a book at hand, generally history or a good mystery. One of these days I'll set up a separate LibraryThing for my other books.

IK Felt and Piecework
I'm looking forward to seeing this new special by Interweave. Felting or fulling, depending upon how you do it, can look either very interesting or like something you made in Girl Scouts. There's a preview of the magazine on Interweave's site; however, the pictures really didn't tell me much. So I'll check it out in Borders.

I've said this before and I'll repeat it: Piecework is a fine, interesting magazine, one that I've read faithfully since its launch back in the '90s. Yes, there's Nancy Bush as the contributing knitting editor, if all you care about is knitting. But for those of us who are interested in the history of needlework, be it quilts made from flour sacks, Russian shawls, tatting, or Renaissance costuming, there is always something worthwhile reading.

Boom Boom
Watching the coverage tonight of the explosion in NYC, one thing came to me immediately. It happened right where I worked as a consultant at CIBC two years ago. Yet another reason why I will not work in New York again, the hideous commute nothwithstanding. I enjoy visiting the city for fun and yarn, buttons, and other ephemera, but about six hours is my max tolerance. Noise, people, bullshit. Not rare and handy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity--John Adams

Even in the godless, sin-ridden house wherein I live, Jesus can appear to a child eating Hawaiian Feast pizza from Domino's.

Yes, Liz has found Jesus. He appeared to her on her Chinet plate the other day.

You can clearly distinguish the beard, the long hair, and the beatific gaze. Liz immediately wept great tears of joy, smudging her mascara.

"Oh, Gram!" she cried. "I so want to put this up on eBay so I can make a million dollars and thus pay for my tuition to art school. Do you think Jesus would be OK with that?"

As I ate the crust she left behind, as she always does, I patted her on the head and said, "My child, you are blessed with artistic talent. So yeah, flog it and see what you can get."

But somehow, Jesus On The Chinet ended up tossed away, like some trash. However, it was suggested that perhaps the Virgin Mary might appear on Mommy's pepperoni slice.

Dominus vobiscum. Et tu, eBay.

In Lieu Of
Any other knitted item, since I have not yet received my Cotton Glace for Jenn's Camp Anula (story to follow), I managed to get a significant amount of work done on the Magenta Diamonds shawl.

Serious peanut-eating time. I can't put the damned thing down. Once blocked, I think it will be quite nice against my black uniform.

Interesting that I seem to drift towards diamond motifs. Note the chair fabric. So what does this mean, in the scheme of life? Not fucking much. Except that I like symmetry, I suppose.

I would imagine this will be done in the next week or so. Even Mammy admired it today, while we were knitting at the lake.

I was looking at a couple of other Sharon Miller patterns that I own, the Edwardian Lace Wrap, the Wisteria shawl, and the Lavender Garden shawl. While I knit Jenn's jacket, I'll finish up the Magenta Diamonds and perhaps start one of these. I really like working with Kidsilk Haze, which is used for the Edwardian and Lavender Garden designs. I realized too, that in the last entry, I didn't give the link for the Blue Diamonds shawl. So now you have it.

Crap Online Yarn Sites
OK, so I ordered Jenn's Cotton Glace two weeks ago. Received an e-mail confirmation of my order and then...nothing. No shipping confirmation as of last Tuesday. So I e-mailed the customer service department, requesting the shipping status. No response.

Fine. By Friday morning, I was pissed. So I called the 866 Customer Service number. Got voice mail. Left a rather stringent yet polite message that they should contact me immediately regarding my order and its status.

No response by noon. I searched and found the parent company, with a non-tollfree number for customer service and called that. Voice mail again. This time, I left a very strident message.

No response. At 4 p.m., I canceled the order via my credit card company and re-ordered from another place. I got a shipping confirmation within an hour, that my order would be shipped that afternoon via USPS. I should have the yarn by Tuesday at the latest.

So, shall I out the lousy company? Yes, I shall. Because they fucking deserve it.

It's Royal Yarns. I gave them more than a decent shot. Clearly they don't understand good customer service. As they say, if one person has a bad customer service experience, they will tell at least 9 other people.

Unless that person has a blog with a good readership. In that case, you're fucked.

Caveat emptor.

Fibrefest North
You all had better hurry up because rooms are getting snatched up fast. Ted has done a magnificent job organizing this event, I must say. He has just added a trip to the Lindenhof Wool Mill.

[Ed. note: The link to Fibrefest North does not seem to work. So go to Ted's blog and try it from there. You'll find it in his sidebar.]

I have a feeling that this weekend is going go damned fast. Check out the list of who's attending. Carol will be there with lots of BBF yarn and I'm sure other vendors will show up as well.

On the Loose
The kids left yesterday for the Outer Banks of North Carolina, so I'm alone, with my sole company Cleo, Buddy, Buster, Boo, and Blueberry the Bunny, who belongs to Jenn and is residing happily down in the basement, away from the Fabulous Four.

Lord knows what kind of egregiously wanton behavior I could display. The animals won't snitch. And the prospects are quite rare and handy. But I ain't talkin'. Yet.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day

I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society, except that which makes the road safer, the beer stronger, the old men and women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer—Brendan Behan

Haven’t really had much in the way of writin’ words in my brain this week. It happens. Perhaps I need to look into Behan’s approach. As he said, “Actually, I’m a drinker with writing problems.”

I’d rather write nothing than just toss up three lines or so. Perhaps it’s time for a blog vacation. Although I do need to do Part Deux of Finishing.

The few days I had off last week were spent mostly in the water, along with some knitting, a social event that included unbelievably good seafood cakes sans filler, and otherwise torpid behavior.

Blue Diamonds
Waiting for the Cotton Glace for Jenn’s Campanula made me itchy. Socks on the needles but no interest. Finished a piece for a surprise gift for a friend. And then I remembered: I have a bunch of Sharon Miller’s patterns and some Kidsilk Haze for one of them, Blue Diamonds.

Except that this is Magenta Diamonds. No blue. So here’s the start of it. As of this writing, I now have six motifs across.

Despite this appearing to be a fairly simple design, this is not for a beginning lace enthusiast. For one thing, you must have a solid handle on lace stitch formation when using a mohair blend such as Kidsilk. The self-edging is 16 rows, the diamond motif 14, so you need to keep careful track of where you are.

And because you work three of the edging points first before picking up along their edge to start the body, there’s a bit of fadoodling to start. If you look closely, you can see a slightly heavier ridge at the beginning of the body that is the picked-up edge.

As with all of Sharon’s directions, this one is wonderfully notated. However, for those of you who absolutely won’t or can’t use charts, you’re shit out of luck, even though she does give you the first 14 rows of the shawl body written out. You still need the chart, trust me.

Open Mic Thursday
I had another topic already written up but while I was working on the Magenta Diamonds tonight, half-listening to the TV, I thought of another one I liked a bit better.

It seems to me that the men who have meant anything to me in my life had their own passion for a particular interest. Indeed, if they have passion for an interest, they generally had passion for me too. Passion being what it is. It's the mutual understanding of each other's interest that I have found particularly important in a relationship.

Let's face it--one of the first things a guy notices about me, other than my tits and perhaps my winning smile, is that I am passionate about what I do, be it writing or fiberwork. If he has his own passionate interests, then he generally gets me. So here we go with this week's topic:

How important is it for you to have a significant other who has passion for their own interests?

And please, let it not be a justification for spending more money on yarn, eh?

Upcoming Events
I keep thinking about Fibrefest North, where I’ll be doing some impromptu finishing and spinning clinics, Rhinebeck and, yes, possibly Stitches East.

Graylagran posed this question in the Comments (note that I didn’t edit it):

let's say, that stitches east was just a few miles down the road from you (and you had hours of freetime, and lots of money burning a hole in your pocket) ... would yo go to the market (inspite of how you feel about the xrx "design team")?

Sure I’d go to the Market. What has that got to do with the XRX Design Team? OK, so I put $7 in the X-men’s pocket. I bought the Spring issue of Knitter’s, so I gave them some bucks for that too.

The reason I have not gone to SE the past two years is because I had no interest in going to Baltimore at that time and because I really felt more like spending money at Rhinebeck. The Market had gotten to be a bit stale, in my opinion. Tons of shops with booths selling the same crap. However, it is an excellent place to look at books you haven’t seen, and there are a few vendors who have wonderful wares.

So this year, I may in fact take a jaunt down I95 to B’more. I can do it in a day and if I want to stay overnight, I can find somewhere away from Inner Harbor.

Of course, in order not to be recognized, I may have to wear some fugly sweater and carry that damned Shaun hot-water bottle holder that my sister gave me for my birthday. That way, I’ll be most rare and handy in my incognito attire.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day
I base my fashion on what doesn't itch--Gilda Radner

Fashion. Who the fuck cares? If it looks good on you, it's right.

Besides, I still maintain that black always looks right on anyone for any occasion. Which is why I own a lot of black garments. I can go from work to a mortuary viewing to a party without a second thought as to my garb.

However, knitting with black yarn can be a total nightmare. Try knitting a black lace shawl.

Camp Anula
Tell me that I'm not still such a mommy that I could ever turn down my dear eldest daughter's request for a Campanula of her own. Jenn acts as model for the finished garment.

As you can see, I eschewed the I-cord ties for one simple crocheted chain threaded through the neckline eyelets and polished off with two small clay beads on each end. No ties on the sleeves for me; however, Jenn would like them. So I forthwith ordered more Cotton Glace, color Damson, per her request. For her own. She doesn't get mine.

So it's Camp Anula for me this summer, evidently. I really don't mind making another. It was a pleasure to knit.

Another Masterpiece
I've been cooking quite a bit lately, especially for the annual Roberts's Family Barbecue, held last Sunday poolside. Homemade strawberry shortcake, among other delicacies, made by yrs. truly Mamoo.

So fucking Betty Crocker I am. And I have now shed my ego entirely by publishing a picture of myself in my black (of course) bathing suit, no makeup, with freshly baked shortcakes in hand, ready for the vultures down on the deck. So, does this look good or what?

As I said to Loopy, I'm almost ready for the South Beach diet. Almost. But who can turn down fresh strawberries and shortcake? Damn.

Le Tour de Fleece
Katherine's doing her Tour de Fleece again this year and this time, I decided to sign up. Why? As you know, I don't generally do these things but it's an impetus to get some Chasing Rainbows bombyx top spun. Silk is always good. Besides, I enjoy the Tour de France. Along with curling, baseball, tennis, and other suchlike sports. So if you're interested, hit the Tour de Fleece button on the sidebar and sign up. I have 4 oz. of this silk to spin starting July 7th and ending the 29th.

Whether I get it done remains to be seen.

Happy 4th?
I hope the Amurricans among us have enjoyed their 4th. It poured rain here in Jersey for most of the day, so I played catch-up on indoor activities.

The 4th was also dampened by the pardoning of Scooter Libby. Disgusting. If you watch Keith Olbermann at all, Keith gave an impassioned commentary that sums up precisely what I hope every American understands and feels. You can view it here. It is well worth watching Keith rather than just reading it.

If the neocons start screaming about patriotism, they need look no further than Keith. In my mind, he is a patriot. Now we need to take what he says and demand the resignation of the Cheney/Bush regime. All of us. That's the right we won in our fight for independence and one that we should never forget we have to use. If we love our country, let's get rid of these miserable fucks by raising our voices. That's patriotism. It's past time to save this country.

Open Mic Thursday
In the spirit of freedom and saying what the fuck you think, any time and anywhere, here's this week's topic, as suggested by a reader:

Are people influenced not to make something they previously liked if it's snarked on a fairly popular blog? Or the opposite--did they make something everyone was making, and then it sat around in their closet unworn?

So, write your pithy remarks. As far as I'm concerned, I make what I want and don't give a shit who likes it or not, as long as I do. And I've never been one to join knitting bandwagons. So that's my take on the question.

Other News
I will be doing an interview with a very well-known designer to be published next winter in a major magazine. That's all I can say right now. But I'm very happy to have the opportunity to do writing of which I can be proud, rather than just technical writing.

I have been an editor and writer of many topics throughout my career, knitting being one, antiques, collectibles, payroll, insurance, valves, web-based applications, and other arcane items being others. I even managed to get an article on Flow Blue porcelain on the cover of a magazine once. That was probably the zenith for me.

However, those who know me well know that I am ill-suited for anything else. You wouldn't want me to be your waitress for the evening, that's for sure. I can't quite see myself as selling you Avon, either.

So with that, I leave you all to attack le matière du semaine. Yeah, I was a French major for my brief sojourn at Wilson College in the fine city of Chambersburg, PA. Who knew? Rather than lean on the talents I had using my native tongue, I decided to study a not-so-rare but handy foreign language. That and Latin. Absum!