Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mar in Wonderland

Not much time to blog, sorry to say. I'm extraordinarily busy at work, and half the time I feel woozy from the drugs. So...I'm taking a respite from Open Mic Thursday because A) I haven't had time for a topic and B) I'm writing all day long in preparation for my Tampa trip.

This weekend, I hope I have a few minutes to take some pictures and write about my Knitting for Dummies. Because that's about all I've been doing. Stoopid scarves that I'll give to someone.

When the fog lifts, I'll have something more pithy to say. But right now, I'm more pits than pithy.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Legacy with Legs

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks--William Shakespeare

Tomorrow I will cook the last Thanksgiving dinner in my long career of providing holiday meals. I'm a bit wistful and yet a bit glad that next year, I can go off to my sister's or wherever and chow down.

In any case, I'm sure thankful that I have four days off, in which I will move stuff, go listen to some great live music on Saturday night in Bethlehem, PA, perhaps get a tad of knitting and spinning done, and in general take it a little easier.

Feeling good, gang. That's the word up. My thanks tomorrow go to my dear friends who have been there for me the past few weeks. You know who you are. And you know how much I love you. And Swing Time is back in full force.

Gone and Never Forgotten
Reading the NY Times online the other day, in between doing training and writing, I saw that Mary Walker Phillips had died. To quote the Times's obituary:

What Miss Phillips did, starting in the early 1960s, was to liberate knitting from the yoke of the sweater. Where traditional knitters were classical artists, faithfully reproducing a score, Miss Phillips knit jazz. In her hands, knitting became a free-form, improvisational art, with no rules, no patterns and no utilitarian end in sight.

Phillips's Creative Knitting was one of the first knitting books I ever owned. And although I do not treat my knitting as art, in many ways, she was a greater influence on me than Elizabeth Zimmermann, to whom I came rather late in my knitting studies, around 1982.

Through Phillips's work, I understood the freedom in my fingers, far more than I did by reading Zimmermann. Her other knitting book, Knitting Counterpanes, is a wonderful resource. I'm sorry that she was not more prolific in her writing.

Back when I worked in NYC and went regularly to the Strand bookstore to cull it for knitting books, I remember asking a clerk why there seemed to be a lack of them. I found out that Mary Walker Phillips lived on Horatio St. and was in the Strand all the time buying up all the knitting books. I couldn't beat her out on the books, damn it. But I was really blown away that she went to the Strand too.

Another great knitter gone, leaving a wonderful legacy.

Last Saturday
I thought I would have time to write about my get-together with Joe and James on Sunday but I ended up feeling unmotivated to write. Probably the medication but nonetheless, I just couldn't seem to sit down at the computer.

Joe did a fine job chronicling our day, though. And I will put up pictures of James's gifts to me. Including the possum fur giftie. They are quite extraordinary. As is James. What a sweetheart he is! And such fun to be with. We had a wonderful time and I wish he lived closer. And I do wish Mary-Helen had been with us as well. Don't worry, M-H. He had nothing but nice things to say about you.

I love my Aussie and Kiwi knitting friends. Someday, I'd like to get down there and inflict myself on them.

Open Mic Thursday
Yeah, I know it's Thanksgiving, and I hope to hell you're enjoying the day and not reading my blog. However, if you are, thanks.

The topic from last week certainly brought out some strong opinions, with which I did not disagree. The photography was disappointing, at best. The garments, while not ugly, didn't excite me. And I am at least happy to see shaping returning to where it should be.

I don't care one way or the other about the layout. I'm only interested in clear pictures of the designs. Where those pictures live doesn't make me no never mind.

Over the course of the past few years, due primarily to the mediocrity of the knitting magazines, I have tended to either turn to books or my own creativity for my projects. I would rather invest in a knitting book by a favored designer, which may yield a number of projects, than depend on magazines to pique my interest.

So, tell me.

From what source do you get your knitting projects? Magazines, books, or your idea-jammed brain?

Celeste's Campanula is the only magazine-published design that I've done in quite some time.

I Promise
There will be more pictures and stuff this long weekend, probably Sunday night. I got a copy of Kristin's book in the mail and it's hot. Plus I've finally finished that last sleeve to Lavold's Estrid from Book #9, so I'll be doing some finishing this weekend, time permitting. I always think I'm going to get more done than I do, but I swear there will be some time set aside just for that. Because for me, finishing something is rare and handy.

Happy Thanksgiving, ya turkeys. Eat heavy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Speak when you're angry, and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret--Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Boy, I do love a good knockdown, drag-out fight, especially if I'm an innocent bystander. We had a doozy at work yesterday. The CFO and VP of Sales, both of whom should have behaved themselves, screaming at each other over an expense report. Stupid.

I thought about offering them some pharmaceuticals. And then thought better of it. I am peaceable. Usually.

Open Mic Thursday
Not much time tonight to write. I'm in the middle of writing a pile of stuff at work, plus another article for IK, on Ravelry this time. I'm glad you all enjoyed my stuff. I probably had a better time writing the articles than you did reading them.

This past week, there's been a lot of perhaps not-so-trash talk about this issue of Interweave Knits. The new layout and the photography, to be precise.

So I ask you to lay your thoughts out on the table.

What did you think of the Winter issue of Interweave Knits?

Leave my articles out of it. I appreciate your thoughts but I'd be interested in hearing what you have to say about the rest of the issue.

Obligatory Knitting Shit
Still working on that damned sleeve. Finagle's Law of Dynamic Negatives says this: The last sleeve is always endless.

This is a truism. I'm managing to knit a little on the train but seem to fall asleep with needles in hand. This morning, a nice woman had to shake me when we got to Hoboken.

Which is why this is a short entry. Sunday I'll have lots to write about, since Joe and I are taking the Kiwi Terrifico of Fibre Alive fame, James, around to local yarn shops on Saturday. Lots of pictures and maybe even some of my work, although a slowly growing sleeve is a stone bore. I'm really looking forward to meeting James. Joe I already know all too well, my gay brother.

I gotta get to bed earlier, so that's it for tonight. But there's a rare and handy four-day weekend coming up. Moving will take first place. And extra sleep.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mmmmm, Psychotropic Drugs. Just Like M&Ms

Best Quote I Heard All Day
Some may never live, but the crazy never die.--Hunter S. Thompson

Here's another one lost to the perils of manic depression. God, I miss the Duke. But you'll be glad to know that I'm back, medicated, and feeling much, much better.

Seroquel is my lifesaver. With a soupcon of Lamictal. Well, perhaps a tad more than just a soupcon.

Thank you all so much for caring so much. The email I've received, from friends and readers alike, and the wonderful comments you wrote jump-started my morale.

You know, of course, that I'm a stubborn bitch and that I won't rest until I get what I need. I didn't. Damn the system and full speed ahead. That said, I've reinstituted, regurgitated, and generally resurrected Swing Time, the blog I wrote specifically about my manic depression. It's got some good links that I've collected and a far better place to write about my disorder than here.

I stopped writing Swing Time more than a year ago, in part because I thought perhaps it wasn't healthy to write about my disorder and also because I abhor pity parties. I was wrong. First, my writing style does not tolerate my feeling sorry for myself. Second, I think it does help others of my ilk to read about what I do, to talk about disorder management, and to pass on information that I churn up from the depths of wherever.

Seems to me that there are a lot of bipolars who read this blog. Well, get your butt over to Swing Time and let's tawk. And leave this blog for the fiber shit.

I finally got my copy of Winter IK. I'm not going to say much about the issue other than to say thanks to all who wrote me about my articles. Needless to say, they edited "Brackets" to the extent where a lot of good stuff was left out. Oh well. I'm not complaining. I'm OK with the editing.

I always give credit where credit is due. And honestly, Brackets is not my invention. It's Neal's. When I first met Neal, he wrote me this absolutely cracked email, written in part by Brackets. Neal's Brackets. [Why do I ALWAYS have to explain everything to everybody in here. I need a raise...or at least better billing...Brackets, what kind of name is that?...MOVE ON!!!..."]

That's Nealie's Brackets talking. So Neal, you're the best, for being my muse and for being my friend. And for being there for me last week when I wasn't exactly too well put together. [Oh Jesus fucking Christ, willya just stick to knitting, ya lazy skank. Enough with the thank-yous. Why don't you fucking start thanking your mother since this is disintergrating into an Oscar circle-jerk?]

Now, that's the Brackets you didn't read in IK. [And obviously, the medication didn't take the edge off, did it?]

Obligatory Knitting Shit
So in the spirit of my newly anointed and medicated self, I actually got some knitting done this weekend, despite moving more stuff up to E'burg. Remember this?

Well, I finally got off my ass and started the last sleeve. Because I really want it finished. It's a pretty sweater and it was about to grow mold in my knitting basket, along with a couple of other projects like the Magenta Diamonds shawl, and several unfinished pairs of socks. And I did finish one bobbin of the Las Vegas Brights silk and started the second.

Perhaps Seroquel should be renamed UFOquel.

So, that said, I will leave you now for my Ikea chair and TV, where I can watch rare and handy crap while I actually get something done.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Due to Circumstances Beyond My Control

No Open Mic Thursday this week. Why? Because I'm tired, stressed out, and dysphoric. Hence the story below, which yesterday and today still makes me hot under the collar.

As many of you know, I am bipolar. A well-managed, functional bipolar, to be sure, and one who's always on the lookout for those situational and seasonal triggers that can cause me to feel lousy and need medication adjustment.

Sunday, after running around like an idiot, I realized when I finally got to E'burg with my carload of boxes that my mood swings were spiking fast and furious. As it's known in the psych biz, rapid cycling. Always a big red flag for me. Neal, the world's perfect new next-door neighbor, grabbed me and fed me some of his famous spaghetti because for some reason, I hadn't been thinking about eating. And had managed to drop 8 pounds in a week. Another red flag.

Time to get a checkup from the neck up. And lo! My former doctor is no longer with the clinic, retired. Shit. And I can't get another doctor for at least three weeks. So Monday, I call the insurance company's behavioral services, figuring that I'll walk the party line.

Aetna was surprisingly helpful. They offered to find me a new doctor and suggested that, in the meanwhile, I go to the ER and they'll evaluate me and get me fixed up with a med change or increase, whatever is best.

Sounded like a good idea to me. So I leave work, go to my local ER, explain to the triage nurse exactly why I was there and what the insurance company told me to expect. Fine. She puts me in a treatment room. And there I sit. For two hours, which was briefly alleviated by the comic-relief appearance of a Filipino nurse who ordered me into a hospital gown. She didn't quite realize who she was ordering. A dysphoric, very cranky, bipolar woman, who basically told her to take the gown and shove it where the sun don't shine.

Finally, a woman from the psych ward appears. "Oh, no, we don't prescribe medication here, we only admit and you're not sick enough for that." Gee, so you're telling me that I got to sit here for more than two hours and you won't help me? Right. And here I thought I was being "proactive" in managing my disorder. So, if I had taken the blood pressure cuff, wrapped it around my neck, and pumped it up, they would have given me some drugs?

I was upset. And Mary, the psych ward lady, gave me two phone numbers to call the next day, one for the local behavioral center and the other for a crisis intervention center. "One of these will help you with your meds right away," she says. OK, now three hours gone and still nothing, so I decide it's time to leave the hospital and go home. I was in tears, completely frustrated.

But wait. There's more. Now, the ER head nurse comes in and says, "Oh no, you can't leave. You told the triage nurse that you were agitated and you wanted to hurt someone, so you can't be discharged."

What the fuck? Discharged? I didn't know I had been admitted. I stared at her and I knew that if I blew my stack, they'd probably commit me. Or worse. So I took a deep breath and said, "No, that's not at all true. Yes, I don't feel well but no, I would never harm anyone." (And Brackets, the little voice in my head, said, "But we'll gladly make an exception in your case.")

Fortunately, Mary turned to the nurse and said, "Oh, that's ridiculous. This woman only came in to see if we could help her with some medication. I gave her some contact numbers and she's going home." So the ER nurse, giving me the evil eye, said, "Fine, Mary. YOU can take responsibility for her." And left, her skull unsullied by my fist.

Out the door I went, disgusted by the state of mental health care in this country. I suppose if you want to get immediate help, you'd better wait until you're a raging homicidal and suicidal maniac. Let yourself stew until all of your juices are at boiling point and then the only solution is to admit you to the hospital, thus making the whole episode even pricier than it needed to be. I ask you, who's making bucks from this? Not hard to guess.

As it all turned out, I have an appointment tomorrow morning for a med review at the crisis intervention center with their shrink, and have an appointment with a new doctor at the end of the month. Two days later, granted. But I was able to hang in there, persevere, and ultimately get the treatment I needed, albeit not when I needed it. I made the calls. I got nothing from Aetna, at least so far. I thanked Mary profusely, because she cared enough to help me. The only one.

The one thing that I've decided is that it's important for me to increase my mental health advocacy. It's time to become an activist. And I will because with the Parity Act languishing in Congress, which, if passed, would put mental illness on an insurance par with physical illness, it's time for those of us who suffer from mental disorders to put our money where our proverbial mouths are.

I want the care I need. Without a runaround, without having to go to a psychiatrist who will not take insurance because the insurance companies do not want to cover it. Bipolar disorder is a chemical imbalance, as best as we know now. Here's a sobering statistic: As many as 1 out of every three people with bipolar disorder try to kill themselves. It can be deadly.

So let's make care and medication immediately available to those of us who are willing to seek it in order to manage our disorders and live a happy, productive life. I don't think that's asking a lot.

And now I'm going to bed and get some sleep, a critical component of feeling well.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Last to Know, Of Course

Best Quote I Heard All Day
There must be a magnificent disregard of your reader, for if he cannot follow you, there is nothing you can do about it--Dorothy Parker

And I do magnificently disregard my readers. Because I write for me. Always. I do not pander to the great unwarshed.

You know, of course, that subscribers are starting to receive their copies of the Winter Interweave Knits.

Unfortunately, that is not true of this writer. Ah, me. I have not yet seen this issue, wherein I have two articles, the interview with Kristin Nicholas, and the endpaper, Ravelings. I suppose if I were a subscriber, I would have done.

There was some very minor editing done on the interview, which I saw and approved. Didn't affect it much and frankly, once you write something and submit it, it ceases to belong to you anyway. However, I don't know if the Ravelings, originally submitted as "Brackets", was ever edited. I never received any edited copy. I sure hope it wasn't, too much.

My one sadness is that the person who inspired me to write "Brackets" has not yet read it. I hope they will.

But my mother is very proud of me. Even when you're 57, having your mom tell you that means a lot.

You May Have Noticed
Or not. But I have started using titles for the blog. Why? Well, because evidently Ravelry needs a title in order to present a screenshot of your blog on your page.

We'll see how long I last with this.

The Latest Blog Superstar and Greasy Kid Stuff
Ya know, Liz kills me. Whenever I put up her picture on the blog, she somehow thinks she's received her 15 minutes of fame. Um, not hardly likely. But few of you have ever seen a picture of my other grandchild, Ian, aka Birthday Present.

It's been said that Ian and I share the same impish eyes and smile. We almost share the same birthday. Ian was born on April 26, I on April 25. If his mother's labor hadn't been so gawd-awful long, he would have come a bit sooner.

Ian's with us this weekend. He's my favorite 10-year-old, bar none. Although I must admit, I don't get the fascination with Transformers. But Ian loves my spinning wheel, thinks it's very cool machinery.

I'm waiting for him to transform it.

Rhetorical question: Why do all toys seem to be two mints in one these days? Car into robot, robot into flowerpot, eggbeater into megamonster. Whatever happened to yo-yos, kites, toy trains, et al? I know. I'm an old fart, even though I'm a technogeek.

And don't get me going on safety considerations for playtime. I managed to make my way through childhood, riding a bike sans helmet, rollerskating like a dervish (without kneepads), walking across the jungle gym with no protective padding beneath me, without ever cracking my skull open or breaking a damned thing.

Of course, I did often get grass cuts, which I allowed to bleed down my leg, for maximum shock effect when presented to my mother. It was worth the blood drip to see her practically faint.

More Spinning Shit
Back by semi-popular demand. This is all I've been able to do the past few days. No knitting at all. I do like this Las Vegas Brights silk. It will be interesting once plyed.

I'm now finished the yellow bit, into the orange, and then it's back to the blue and the sequence starts all over again.

I will probably begin spinning the other roving at a different spot in the color sequence so that I get a blend of colors when plyed.

Re: Ravelery groups, I did join some spinning groups that I've found very worthwhile, Schacht Spinners and Spin Tech, along with the generic Spinning group. There's been interesting discussion about Scotch tension versus double drive tension, which is better.

The Joy is Scotch tension only; however, the Schacht Matchless can be set up as DD or ST. For this silk, I decided to fuck around with Scotch tension because I rarely use it on the Matchless. I rather like it, actually, although in spinning this silk, very little tension is needed, as is with merino.

The one thing that many newbie spinners don't realize is that once you set up for one tension or the other, you can't switch mid-bobbin. You've got to see it all the way through to the end.

I'm fast becoming a Scotch tension convert, though. I have always liked it on the Joy. No reason not to like it on the Matchless. It's true--you can control the tension much better than with a double-drive tension setup. And besides, setting up a single driveband is a lot easier than a double.

Enough of this. I've got a busy day tomorrow, a brunch at Stix-n-Stitches down in Montclair, a whirlwind visit with Mammy, and then up to E'burg with another load. This is the 4th time I've moved since Jimmy died in 2002. I'm sick of it. It's very unrare and extraordinarily unhandy. And I've been finding that I've been missing him very much lately. Despite my "new normal."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Best Quote I Heard All Day

If you be sick, your own thoughts will make you sick--Ben Jonson
Based on the rash of infested groups that have sprung up on Ravelry, I'd say that there are a lot of sick knitters out there. A plethora of disease-filled needle 'hos, if you will.

Knit 1, Wheeze Too--perfect for those of you with respiratory ailments who want to share your sputum with other infected and affected souls.

Knitting With Pain. Yep, chronic pain sufferers.

Thyroid Yarnies. Self-explanatory.

Neuro-Diversity. OCD, ADD, and any other neuro-abbreviation.

These are real Ravelry groups, gang. Along with other excitingly contagious groups such as Crunchy Christian Crafters, *fiber faeries* (whose tag says: "fiber makers who believe in faeries note: joining will save faerie lives! "), Busdriver's That Knits (yes, busdrivers who knit in Norway) and a bunch more.
Fortunately, there are worthwhile groups to join, that eschew this nonsense. I rather fancy Porn-knitographers, myself. Those who write erotica, knit, and sometimes do both at the same time. I practice what I preach.

Many groups have few members. I understand people's need for support if they are dealing with an illness. However, I have found that if you are needy, you will tend not to manage your disease or disorder but look for tea and sympathy. Looking for information and direction is fine. So find a group solely dedicated to your problem and leave knitting out of it.

But let's be glad that Jess and Casey have opened up the forums for these people who seem to need to add yet another attachment or malady to their knitting talk. At least we don't need to read this crap on the lists. And in actuality, I've pretty much given up reading the lists anyway.
These groups do affirm my believe in the species KnitDweeb, how-some-ever.
Some knitting lists have started groups on the Ravelry Forum. I find that quite interesting as a social dynamic.
So I guess you can see where this will lead. Yes, to...
Open Mic Thursday
A bifurcated topic this week. Because, as we all know, I'm rather bifurcated myself.
1) Do you think that the Ravelry groups portend the demise of knitting mailing lists as we've known them?

2) What disease/disorder/malady would you like to see represented on the Ravelry Forum? Use your imagination.

If this ain't grist for your mill, it sure is for mine. By the way, ask Carol about her group. It has to do with kielbasi. And Koigu. Together. A greasy, merino-y combination. Ravelry, if nothing else, is an equal opportunity community. Me, I'm all for big sausages. Fuck the Koigu. Really, you don't want to know about this group.
Yes, I Still Do Fiber Shit
So this week, I managed to get some spinning done. Finally finished plying all of the Black Bunny Fiber alpaca that Carol gave me for my last birthday. A pleasure to spin.

Not satisfied with that, I started spinning some silk roving that I bought at Rhinebeck last year, suitably called "Las Vegas Brights."

I do love bright colors. Like a magpie. And I have two lengths of this roving, 2 ounces each. Enough for a scarf or something. Silk is one of my very favorite fibers to spin.

I'm liking this single a lot. I started with the blue and segued into the hot pink.

And a day or so ago, I was reading Carol's complaint that she couldn't seem to spin thinner.

Ted gave Carol some very good advice: Stop worrying about how thin you're spinning and be more concerned about consistent drafting.

Well, here's the key. As Mabel Ross always said, "Measure and count." You must consistently enter the same amount of fiber into the twist, while you treadle evenly, with the same number of wheel rotations for every length of fiber introduced into the twist.
It's all a matter of that, plus knowing how much twist the fiber needs. Combining treadling speed with whorl size and tension to get the grist you want takes some experience. And that's where sampling comes in.
A new spinner should sample, sample, sample. Until all of the aforementioned actions become instinctive and the desired thickness of yarn is achieved. This is not something that can be taught, in my opinion. It must be felt. Brain connects to hands, and you're in.
As Ted says, it's actually harder for an experienced spinner who has produced thin singles to spin heavier weight singles. However, if you have the feel for how much fiber you need to introduce for the weight you want, you can do it.
Just remember the first time you held knitting needles and tried to make a stitch. Awkward. Klutzy. And then, brain engaged hands and you had it. Same thing here. (Of course, I was only 8 when I learned to knit but I remember the brain-hands marriage as clear as day.)
And now, it's time to return to the rare and handy wheel because that silk is calling me before I go to bed. And then there's the boxes of stash lined up in my dining room, ready to go to E'burg. So I've kept out what I need and the rest goes over the Gap on Saturday. (And yes, this is being published prior to 12 midnight, as is my habit.)