Off the needles and away we go

I spent this week reading and thinking and problem-solving, so it was a good week. Problems were solved, keys were loaned, tasks were crossed off, services were attended, books were purchased, research articles were read, and, in general, Stuff was Done.

Let me tell you about the books I purchased. Our university library keeps a cart out of books for sale, and they are $1 each. Except for the end-of-the-month sale, when each item is 25 cents after the 25th of the month until the first of the next month. Last week I discovered a two-volume set called Writers on Writing. I’ll have to take my own photo of the books at some point, because it’s apparently quite common to title a book “Writers on Writing.” The books I have are not the ones associated with the New York Times or the Bread Loaf Conference. They are what they are.

This is a genre to which I am addicted. Show me a book of writers talking about their writing processes, or (be still my heart) photographed in their writing-spaces, and I’m likely to rip it from your arms. (At least, I will want to. If I don’t grab it from your arms I may drool on it just a little.) I don’t know if this has something to do with Imposter Syndrome, where I’m looking for the rules of Real Writers so I can follow them, or if it serves as a wormhole into the Fellowship of Authors, to which I would be delighted to feel that I truly belonged. I have several such books on my shelves, no matter the reason, and now — at work — I have two more. Even better: the first volume has 31 interviews with writers about their processes, and the second volume has 23. That gives me 54 interviews for 50 cents, and you can’t beat the price.

It got even better when I realized that I didn’t even have to copy what these authors have done. I can still go my own way and travel my own path to writerly productiveness. But I get to see how they did it, too — for less than a penny a writer.


Knitwise, I finished the knitting on the pink project! I have several ends to weave in, then I will need to wash and “block” the whole piece. That’s probably going to require that I clear off my dining room table, put in both of the leaves, put together the blocking pieces (interlocking foam mats), cover them with towels, and spread the piece across them, pinning it down with dozens of T-pins.

Or… I could do the washing and blocking at my mother’s house. She already has a long table or two. And then I can take the finished piece upstairs and “install” it on her bed.

This is sounding like a better and better plan.

When I started the final stint of knitting during the Singapore Grand Prix this afternoon, there were 44 stitches between the 3-stitch borders. Even with taking several what the heck just happened and omigosh he went straight into the wall breaks during the race, the knitting itself went very quickly. I was binding off while the winners were still on the podium.

“no dyelot,” my @$$

Of course there was a small element of Yarn Chicken involved in the bind-off. I was very happy that I had enough yarn to make it to the end without having to graft from another skein. Is it cheating at Yarn Chicken if you do have another full skein — or two — of the yarn you need?

8g actually goes a long way.

So, it’s time to put something else onto the needles. Should I start something simple, start something elaborate, or dig through the works-in-progress to complete something that has been languishing? Goodness knows there are many such projects tucked into drawers and bins. But there are also many lovely hand-dyed skeins of laceweight wool just begging to be turned into shawls. What to do, what to do?

Wait, this isn’t Sunday night?

Last night before bed I wrote a short reflection on the occasion of having missed my self-imposed every-Sunday-night deadline for publishing a blog post. In that reflection, I was filled with self-compassion. But in the back of my mind I was wondering, How many Sunday nights in a row have I actually posted?

Of course, it isn’t that simple. The time zone that determines whether my posts were published on Sunday night or very very early on Monday morning isn’t one that I live in. I live in Central US time, the same time zone as Chicago, and if my post isn’t published until after 10 pm my time, it usually gets credited as a Monday post. So there’s not actually a good way to check on my broken streak without taking that into account the publication times of each individual post.

Technically, though, I’m still publishing once a week. And right now I have neither the time nor the ‘spoons’ to embark on such a quest that will return so little of value to me. (If anyone else wants to take it on, though, do let me know the answer!)

This week I’m immersed in the Days of Awe, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when it’s time to take stock of your life and your self, atone for whatever might require atonement, and set a slightly different course for the next twelve months. When I’m not busy reading for that, I’m busy reading for the graduate course and, occasionally, reading for — gasp! — pleasure. That’s been a lot of working and reading combined with the necessary driving and the bare minimum of sleep. By the end of last week that included worrying about a sick kiddo (COVID-negative) and then worrying about my sniffling, sneezing self. Today was planned as a personal day so that I could attend services in person; it became a sick day on which I attended services via Zoom and then took a nap. That will make tomorrow a long day indeed, as I will be on campus for about 12 hours before driving home in the dark.

One of the components of the graduate school program involves setting myself up on social media with a more professional profile, and in the last couple of weeks I dusted off my LinkedIn profile (seriously, in my profile picture I had short hair and was wearing my Robert Kubica BMW shirt from 2008). Considering I am scheduled to complete the MSE in Fall 2025 if everything goes perfectly, I’m a bit reluctant to list a Bachelor’s degree that I received in 1989. If I’m getting more views with the new profile, so be it.

I don’t actually have a profile at Academia.edu, but apparently I did set up an account at some point. My interactions with Academia.edu usually follow this pattern:

  1. They email me to ask if I’m the author of an impossibly technical medical publication.
  2. I click “no,” which takes me to their website.
  3. They ask why it isn’t me, and I click on their button labeled “I am a non-publishing author.”
  4. They ask me which name I publish under.
  5. I leave the website, delete their email, and shake my head.

Yesterday I had better luck at ResearchGate. I was following the trail of publications that referenced each other, and finally the site invited me to set up a free account, which I did. The first step was to review a seemingly endless listing of publications and indicate whether or not I was the author. Oddly enough, an article appeared that I had actually written. In 1993.


Knitwise, I finally figured out that if I am using the large monitor of my iMac for reading articles, I can knit at the same time. I’ve gotten a lot of work done on the pink project, which now has just 72 stitches in its center section. That does mean I’ll have about 72 more rows to knit, but each one will be a stitch shorter than the one before. At the end, it’ll fly by.

I may decide to take some time to weave in the ends before I finish the knitting part. The project is so long that it’s awkward to handle, and the ends are getting tangled up with everything else.

Last week I dug through my stash to prepare some donations of yarn, patterns, and supplies to a student group. In the course of that search I uncovered a small project I began several years ago, at the start of my Jewish journey. I’m not sure why I left the square unfinished when I was so close to the end, but it’s finished now.

My thought at the time was to knit a square for each symbol that had a special significance for me. I hope that I wrote down somewhere which symbols I thought were the most important. I’m sure that they’d be different now! Anyway, this one is off the needles.

WordPress is telling me that I’m not authorized to post as “this user” and that my drafts aren’t updating. So let’s see what happens. I may need to start all over again.

Keep calm and pink on

The reading I’m doing for my first graduate school course is taking me back to my first semester as an undergraduate at Miami University. I was certainly not the first person from my high school to enroll there, but I still had a sense that I was on a more rarely traveled path. (Not attending [not-yet-THE] Ohio State University can make you feel that way.)

At the time, I thought I knew what college was all about. Now, [AHEM] years later, I’m still finding out what college is all about, how it is something different for each student, and when it’s not a best path at all.

In many ways, I attended Miami because I had imprinted on the campus in the summer after eighth grade, when I attended a weeklong summer camp there. And I imprinted on Miami like a duckling to Konrad Lorenz because it just looked like College.

I mean, take a look! This drone view is recent, and many of these structures are new or have been rebuilt since my time there, but honestly. To me it’s the most beautiful place.

Where I lived, 1986-1989.

Did I feel that I belonged there? Well, the campus officials told us that we did. We had the test scores and the potential to succeed there. Each incoming class had higher ACT scores than the one before, don’t’cha know. But in my first semester I certainly saw classmates who suffered from not fitting in, from feeling so alone and so different from the other students that they just could not continue. They felt that they had no friends, no one to relate to. Being told that they belonged there was not enough for them.

I had classmates from high school who also attended Miami, but truthfully, I didn’t see them very often. A few of them I didn’t see at all between our high school graduation and our first high school reunion. I wasn’t leaning on that network to feel that I fit in.

For me it was enough that I was there, I had 128 credits to take, and I was expected to finish in four years. Which I did. I made a few good decisions as well as some astoundingly bad decisions along the way, some of which affected the course of the rest of my life. I made them almost all on my own, which probably wasn’t the best-case scenario.

I suppose now that I fit in, in just enough ways to stay. Over time I noticed that I was different from the “model” Miami student — whatever that meant and whoever that really was — and by then I had ceased to care about it that much. Is that success or just a tiny drop of maturity?


I have made a bit of progress on the pink project, and now that I’m in the Decrease Zone the pressure is definitely off. I pick up the project when I can, knit when I feel like it. Every row will now be shorter than the one before, and I’m not counting them.

It’s a good thing that I’m not counting them, or I might become discouraged. There are certainly many, many rows left to go before I sleep, and then so many ends to weave in. But eventually it will be done and given away, and I’ll need to turn my attention to other projects:

the Shetland Cowl (Leroy’s cowl)

the pretty giftknit (stalled since sometime in January)

or maybe even…

Let’s not get all hasty and such. What project gets your vote?

Published in: on September 18, 2022 at 9:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

Decreasing responsibilities

This weekend was the 2022 Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival, held ten miles away from my house, in Jefferson. The first year I attended it (2008), I started organizing a little get-together on Saturday night of the Festival that came to be called “Unwind.” With a little (okay, a LOT) of help from my friends, I kept this event going for nine years. I would have liked to have done it for ten years, but the venue rented the space without telling me in the tenth year, and I let it go. (It was for a wedding, so I didn’t want to be the *sshole.)

Facebook has spent all weekend sending me reminders of Unwind, from the first, cobbled-together event held at Fireman’s Park in Rome to the more recent events. Those were good times, and I’m glad that I pulled that kind of thing together so many times. I made a lot of good friends and — more importantly — created a social space in which crafters could meet, eat, relax, and have fun.

Door prizes, some of them (2008)

On Saturday morning I did some grocery shopping at the store just on the other side of the fairgrounds, then took the Highway 26 bypass to Johnson Creek to shop at Penzeys before heading home. From the bypass you get a great view of the County Fair Park, where the Festival is held. The camping area was full, and the parking lot was filling up. And in a small field between the fairgrounds and the bypass, I spotted a small herd of sheep that was being driven and guided, incrementally, by a diligent and well-trained little black dog.

The good times don’t last forever, so it’s important to make the memories when you can — to take that leap of faith and see what can happen.

Door prizes (2010)

I didn’t attend the Festival this year, but I knew people who couldn’t wait to be there to take classes, to shop, and to wander around amongst all of the wooly and sheepy fun with their friends. In the weeks that led up to the Festival, I started to receive requests to join a Facebook group that I had set up several years ago to help me plan Unwind. After telling the first few people that my group was no longer active, then trying to steer them to the valid and official group, I finally made my group private and hidden. That door is closed now. I do hope that everyone who was looking for information on the Festival found what they were looking for, made their way to the site, and had a wonderful time.


One of the door prizes offered at that first Unwind event was an umbrella skein winder built by my father. A woodworker in Stevens Point had published patterns for the winder and for a couple of styles of spinning wheel, and while I was living in Point I bought copies of the patterns from his daughter. My father didn’t try to make a spinning wheel, but he was intrigued by the construction method of the skein winder.

He made two of them. One I kept, and one I gave away 14 years ago. I don’t know if I wrote down who the fortunate recipient was, but I hope they still have it and use it. My father signed it and glued a 2008 US penny to the piece that clamps on to the table (see my penny in the photo below). Fun fact for the owner: Dad held together the wooden slats with sections of plastic-coated cotton that he cut too short. Try twist ties instead!

This afternoon I used my winder to turn the skeins of the Laurenspun Shetland wool (thank you, Leroy!) into paired cakes so I can get closer to starting the cowl project in the fall.

Note twist ties.

Why would I want to start another project when I’m not done with the pink project yet? Well, that’s a good question. I’m not sure that my answer will make sense, but I seem to have gotten closer to finishing it than I had previously thought.

Last weekend while I was watching the Dutch Grand Prix I knitted 16 more rows. Sixteen out of thirty-seven, not bad — one more race and I could get a lot closer. I kept track of the rows on a little index card, and then eventually lost the index card between last weekend and this Saturday. No worries: I kept knitting and counted the rows in my head. Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty. Twenty out of thirty-seven.

So there I was with seventeen rows left to do during Monza — thirty-seven minus twenty, right? — but for some reason I decided to check the work before I started watching the recording, to see how far I really had to go before starting the decrease rows.

Huh. Ready to decrease!

So… I’m now at the decrease point. I can’t explain it, but there I am. And then I promptly put the work aside, as the race was likely to be too exciting to serve as TV knitting when I actually had to pay a tiny bit of attention to the knitting (the pattern will now change to “K2, K2tog, YO, K2tog, K to the end” until I get to approximately 10 stitches on the needles).

“No dyelots,” they said….

It’s time for the home stretch on the pink project, and I can only hope that the color differences in the yarn will magically fade when the project has been finished, washed, and dried. (The cats who will be sleeping on it probably won’t care.) I can’t say that I am looking forward to weaving in all of the ends that I have been craftily keeping out of the shot for these many months, but I must do what must be done.

Pre-schooled

It’s finally time to head back to school. SecondSon is back for a second year of college, and Youngest will start his junior year of high school on Tuesday. (He should have gone back last Friday, but he’d been exposed to someone who came down with COVID, so it seemed wise to let him stay home for a couple more days before hopping on a school bus and spending the days with hundreds of people. He seems to be feeling fine.) The other two kiddos are hard at work in the School of Life; one is making pizzas and the other is taking apart lawnmowers.

Of course, Tuesday will also be the first day of classes on the campus where I work to support about 45 college instructors, and it will be the first day of my first class in the graduate program.

To prepare for this auspicious day, I spent the weekend overpreparing for the program. I made progress in a recent book on demographic projections and their relationship to future college enrollment, and I read the entire Manga Guide to Statistics so that I could start becoming familiar with the formulae and terminology. (I have two more cartoon guides to statistics checked out from the campus library, so this should start to sink in fairly soon. When it does, I can move on to the text-based classic Statistics Without Tears.) I watched a 40-minute video about the 175-hour practicum I’m not scheduled to take until Summer 2024.

I also recalled a visit to Office Depot earlier this summer, in which a particularly enthusiastic employee showed me where their project planners were stocked, admitted that the selection wasn’t that great, and then encouraged me to design my own planner pages and have them printed and bound at the store.

This morning I started working out a design, and after a bit of fiddling I was able to come up with something that I liked. I designed a two-page spread for each day, where I could block out my time for grad school tasks, leave a space for recording important reminders or due dates, list the text I was reading and my notes on it, sketch out ideas, and list the steps I had taken towards planning my future practicum course. Then, thinking back to my days of working at a copy shop, I sketched out a thumbnail layout for assembling the “book.” Title page, blank page, start of two-page spreads, double-sided page section (and the number of double-sided pages in the middle), end of two-page spreads, blank page at the end.

The fun part was explaining this setup to the copy clerk. But after a while he was finally able to visualize it. You could just see the light bulb go on above his head. Eldest and I shopped around for a bit, and by the time I returned to the front of the store I had an idea.

“I hope it’s not too late,” I said, “but maybe you could copy the title page onto a sheet of bright green paper that would match my textbook.” (I had, in fact, brought the textbook along as a visual aid, hoping that the binding could be done in that color [it couldn’t].)

It took him a while to work out what I was saying, but then the light came on again and he picked out a paper that would work.

The deadline to put the planner together would have to be Monday, as classes started on Tuesday and it would be Saturday before I’d be able to swing by and pick it up. So the clerk took down my cell phone number, and Eldest and I headed towards home. As we drove west I realized that we hadn’t talked about whether or not the planner would have plastic covers. (If you’re of the generation that bought Kinko’s packets for college courses, you’ll realize that plastic covers would not necessarily be the default.) So I fussed about this a little bit.

After we were home for an hour or so, my cell phone vibrated at me. Office Depot was calling.

“Would it be a good idea,” the clerk asked, “to make the last blank page of the planner be the same green as the title page?”

“That’s a great idea!” I said. (A lightbulb may have turned on over my own head.) “Thank you for thinking of it. That will look really good.” Then I paused. “After I left, I realized that we didn’t talk about whether or not the planner would have a plastic cover.”

“Oh, yes, of course it will,” he responded. “And your order should be ready to pick up tomorrow.”

Only one more day to overprepare: what else shall I do? Oh yes. Clean the bathroom, every inch of it. I just can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to it.


Knitwise, I’m right on track with the pink project. Is this because I took the project out and knitted a row every night as I had proposed to do? Oh no oh no oh no. (If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I must say that you can’t have possibly imagined that I would actually do such a thing.)

But I did knit eight rows earlier today while I was watching the Dutch Grand Prix. It was an exciting race and my gauge probably got a bit tighter than usual in the last couple of rows. No worries — next week’s race is at Monza, and there shouldn’t be any drama there. #Eyeroll

2021. Top: Verstappen; bottom: Hamilton.

And just as soon as the dining room table is empty, I will have room to set up my umbrella skein winder and my ball winder, and then I can turn those skeins of handspun Shetland wool into little cakes that will be knitted up into the Lauren-approved™ simple cowl as my fall project. Yep, just as soon as that. Yep, really really soon. I promise.

Talking of Michelangelo

It’s been a summer of change, with several work-friends in the process of coming and going. Not all of the changes were expected, but of course I hope that all the arrivals and departures have put each person in a better place to live the next stage of their life. Onward and onward, further up and further in! It’s all good. We’ll catch up on Facebook or LinkedIn or Academia.edu someday.

One of the new members of my department noticed a sonic screwdriver in my office, and another one spotted the TARDIS magnet on my car. I’ve been fielding questions ever since about my various geeky interests, which is a different experience for me. (My current acquaintances already know all about my geekery.) I suspect that I will become much less interesting when the semester begins and there are 100-125 students for each of them to get to know.

One of the people who left the campus last year has returned this year. Welcome back, Lori! (When do you want to get together to knit?)

And of course there will be hundreds of new students on campus soon, trying to find their classrooms and their professors and the department offices. May each of them be on their way to a better place.


Knitwise, I used my Formula One viewing time to regain the momentum on the pink project. During August the series takes three weeks off and calls it the “summer break.” Everyone has to take a vacation and the teams aren’t allowed to develop the technology on the cars. For my part, I tried to use some of the summer break to view (and delete from my DVR) the early practice sessions that I hadn’t been able to watch on the race weekends.

The pink project is great for TV knitting since it’s a one-row wonder. It is getting a bit long, however, and when I have to turn the work it becomes a major effort.

Going into this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix I thought that if I knitted on it during every session I would surely get it to the decrease point. I did try. After the end of the race I folded the work at my halfway marker, and counted. I should have about 34 more rows (17 ridges) to knit before I start the decreases.

Maybe I shouldn’t have counted. Now I know that if I knitted one row a day for a whole month, I still wouldn’t be at the decrease point.

That shouldn’t matter because my goal is to finish the whole project before Thanksgiving. On the other hand that will entail knitting 34 more rows, knitting the second decrease section, binding off, weaving in all of the ends, washing the work, and drying the work. (Because it’s acrylic, I won’t be blocking it.) So all that is going to take a while.

One row a day, and everything will be okay….

Published in: on August 28, 2022 at 9:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Defining perfection

Eldest and I recently had a conversation about which movies we thought were the closest to perfect. I think that by perfect we mean that the movie came as close as possible to doing exactly what it was trying to do.

We’ve all seen movies that bogged down, lost their way, got the details embarrassingly wrong, or gave up and went for the cheap laughter or easy tears. And we’ve all see some very very good movies that are well done — but we would hesitate to call them perfect.

What puts a movie into the category of perfect? Here are the five films we favored, in alphabetical order.

Apollo 13

A real-life deadline plot doesn’t always become a good or great movie, let alone a perfect one. (Titanic, anyone?) Ron Howard does an excellent job of building the tension in the Apollo module, at Houston ground control, and within the homes of the astronauts. He also knows just how — and just how much — to break that tension. And when. Every detail is important. We have seen this movie countless times, and every time we happen to see it on TV we absolutely must stop what we’re doing and watch it to the end. Yes, we know exactly how it ends. We know it’s a movie and we know that everything is going to be fine. Nevertheless, we get caught up in the story that’s being told and we worry about the characters. Are they going to make it home this time?

Breaking Away

Once again, we have a script based on [some amount of] reality and the very tangible, tactile details of life in a small college town. All of the emotions are strong and painful: feeling left out, feeling left behind, feeling misunderstood, feeling disregarded. There’s a turf war fought at the quarry and at the campus bowling alley. Bicycle tuneups. Riding hard in the rain. Stonecutting. There is tension and disconnection and frustration and confusion. There is trust and betrayal. There are impossible dreams. All of it is filmed with respect. By the time the story is over, even the villains are cheering for the heroes. The one cringeworthy line uttered by the frat jock is almost forgotten when you hear Barbara Barrie’s brief soliloquy about her passport. Midwest families rarely say exactly what they mean, but they usually find a way to show it.

CODA

I stumbled into this movie in a theater purely by accident, and I have recommended it to everyone I know ever since. I do not want to spoil one bit of it for you, but the film contains several complex and emotionally weighty subplots and handles all of them with skill, compassion, respect, and unexpected humor. It could easily have fallen into cliché or caricature, but it never does. When you think you know what will happen, you are wrong. As in Breaking Away, you are given the chance to see and feel every character’s perspective. It feels so honest that it is hard to believe that this screenplay was adapted from anything else — but there you are. Go find a way to see it.

The Blues Brothers

With The Blues Brothers, I’m not even sure where to start. This movie has been a favorite of my family for decades. For years we watched the version shown by AMC and eventually discovered the director’s cut. We watched it like some people watch Rocky Horror Picture Show, and were on the verge of putting costumes together to perform our own rhythm and blues revue. It’s a musical and a blues homage and a fantasy and the best movie ever made about a Catholic school fundraiser. It introduced my family to so many musical legends. I don’t think that anyone could argue that it is technically perfect, but it tells its own fantastical, crazy story so well that it’s quite possible that we quote from it every day (or on an average of every day). Do you see the light? Do you have the Miss Piggy? You want out of this parking lot? Hit it.

Ocean’s Eleven

It would be almost impossible to make a perfect heist movie — but this film, or possibly the 2003 version of The Italian Job — might come the closest. Every character gets his moment of seriousness, his moment of comedy, and his moment of crisis. Each character is necessary. The tension builds and builds and builds, then dissolves into utter relaxation during the performance of the fountains at the Bellagio. The postscript calmly lets us know that the story isn’t over: there will be consequences. Eventually. (If you’re not convinced that this movie is perfect, you could compare it to its sequel, Ocean’s Twelve, which fell irritatingly short of the goal in so, so many ways.)

What do you think? If these films fall short of perfection for you, tell me how and where. What are your five perfect films? How do you define perfection?


Knitwise, I’m pleased to be able to tell you that I’m almost on the verge of knitting again. Am I picking up the Pink Project? No! Am I finishing the mystery project with the silk yarn the color of Easter eggs? No! Am I finishing that pair of socks I have on the double-points? [What pair of socks? you ask. I don’t remember any pair of socks.] No! The project with the blue silk? No!

Yesterday afternoon I started sorting through the piles of boxes that sit outside my bedroom closet. I’d like to have easier access to the folding closet doors, and I had lost track of exactly what items were piled up there. The work went on into the evening, and finally I had cleared enough room that I could walk into the small anteroom and not knock anything over on my way to the closet doors. I also put my clothes back into chromatic order and removed any empty clothes hangers.

This meant, of course, that the items that had been piled up in the anteroom were now piled up in my bedroom proper, and at some point I would have to sort through them to see what I could put away or dispose of. That point was this afternoon.

In the course of going through those items I found a Ziploc bag stuffed with four skeins of handspun yarn created by my long-distance friend (and cyber-hermana) Lauren.

When I opened up Messenger to ask her about the yarn’s origin, I saw that our last conversation had been in 2018. At that time she wanted to know my work mailing address so she could send me some of her yarn stash before she and her husband repatriated to Mexico. A few days later several densely packed boxes of yarn, needles, and other supplies showed up, making her own path a little lighter. Over the next few years I did my best to rehome the yarn that she sent to me, but I set aside her handspun for my own future projects. Today, when I found these four skeins, I finally wanted to start a project with them.

Those are Shetland wool, she texted back almost immediately, adding that the sheep’s name was Leroy.

I’m thinking cowl, I replied, and she agreed.

After I weighed the yarn and Lauren estimated its yardage, I searched Ravelry for cowl patterns and sent her links to three of them. We agreed on the merits of the simplest pattern, which I downloaded and printed out. I found the specified needles and added them to the project bag, then (eventually) found where I had put my skein winder. Ironically, it was out of sight because it was now blocked by a tall stack of boxes and bins that had previously blocked the access to my closet.

ANYWAY I now have a simple but satisfying project that I can start at the beginning of the school year, when the campus knitters will be back and we’ll be joined by one or two more folks who want to learn how to knit. Life is good.

Published in: on August 21, 2022 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Learning to write

This week I’ve been doing a lot of writing: journal entries, drafts of song lyrics, and many, many emails. Apparently this is my creative time of year for composing poems and songs, because Facebook Memories have been spitting back draft after draft from ten years ago just so I can take another look. (Where was I going? Was there a melody? Is this worth reading? Why did I share this with other human beings?)

My current theory is that it’s better to keep doing something as much as possible than to wait for the perfect time to do it perfectly.

Oh wait! Here’s an index card on my writing desk with an apt quote:

“One learns to do something by doing that which one is learning to do.” — Aristotle

Yeah, let’s go with that. I’m doing the writing, and by doing writing I am learning to do writing better. (Do better writing? Be a better writer? Maybe I should start over.)

But I think that I am doing writing better. It used to be, that when it was time for me to write my weekly blog post, I would have to chase everyone away and shut out all external input before I could sit down and write. Go away for a few hours, I am writing my blog post!

Gradually I became able to tolerate a limited amount of interruption. That’s really interesting what you’re telling me about Minecraft/Pokémon/the Internet, but I have to finish writing my blog post now.

Now I sit down when I have something I don’t want to forget to put in the blog post, and I start a draft. I get back to it when it gets close to the publication target, and I’m usually able to wrap it up before 11 pm Eastern time [not tonight, Zurg. Not tonight] and get the final post shared on my Facebook page. Ding!

I’m writing when I have time to write and when I need to write, not having to wait until all conditions are absolutely perfect. I can get started, I can write, I can edit, I can publish. I’m working on it.


Knitwise, my various projects are beginning to accumulate a fine layer of dust. I suppose that’s to be expected when I have been giving my attention to so many other activities, including doing my job, working my non-paying side hustle, keeping up with my reading, trying to remember to do yoga, getting enough sleep, and actually doing housework once in a while (I hope you were sitting down for that one).

In the past week I’ve added to this list Singing Carpenters Songs at the Top of My Lungs While Driving. It’s a vocal challenge for me, amuses the oncoming drivers, and might be keeping the wildlife off the road. So yay! It’s safer and more fun for everyone involved, especially on rainy days or Mondays when I might otherwise be feeling somewhat down. Right now I have a song for you and I’m feeling on top of the world.

Technical Difficulties

Today I finally ordered the adapter I needed to connect my new headphones to my 1970s era electronic keyboard. I had some errands to do anyway, so I ordered the adapter from Best Buy, picked it up on my way home, and set everything up and now it’s perfect.

Don’t believe me?

Okay, here’s what actually happened.


I picked up my iPhone and looked for the Best Buy app. It had been so long since I used it, that it had migrated to the Cloud.

I clicked on the app to download it, and after a few seconds of activity I got a message that said, “app could not be downloaded.”

I sighed, then clicked on the app again. This time it downloaded.

I clicked on the app to open it, and got a message saying that I could not log in.

I clicked on Account, offered my thumbprint to the Home button, and opened my account.

I searched for the adapter, put it in my cart, and confirmed that it was available at the nearest Best Buy.

When I got to Payment I noticed that the primary payment form was my old credit card that was about to expire, so I added my new credit card information and verified that it was set up as the new default payment method.

I received a message saying that there was conflicting payment information on my account, so I verified that the new card was the default payment method and that the old card was not.

The old card still displayed as the default payment method, and I could not find a way to delete the old card from my account.

I hit the back arrow and changed my payment method to PayPal. A message popped up offering to send a one-time code to my phone, but I opted to log in to PayPal with my email address and password.

(Note that I originally set up my PayPal account in 2007, when I had a different last name. When I was divorced in 2013 I tried to change my name on my account but was told that I would have to submit legal documents proving my name change to their satisfaction. Not wanting to send “them” any portion of my divorce decree, I have left the account un-updated due to sheer stubbornness.)

I logged in to PayPal, authorized the payment, and was returned to Best Buy to confirm the purchase, which now displayed my married name as the name of the purchaser.

I was also informed that I would need to show an ID in order to claim my purchase.

Whatever. Onward!

Several hours later I was finally able to run my errands, and I realized that I had to stop by a different Best Buy to pick up some ink jet cartridges. While I was checking out I asked the clerk about my difficulties with updating my payment information in the Best Buy app. Did the app require some time to process the change in my default payment information, I asked, or shouldn’t that happen pretty much right away?

The clerk replied that it should be able to accept the new information right away, but perhaps it needed more time.

I got back on the road and eventually got to the Best Buy that was holding the headphone adapter for me to pick up.

I got in line, picked up my iPhone, and found the email that confirmed that my order was ready for pickup in the store. I clicked on I’m Here And In Line. That took me to a new screen where I clicked on I’m In Line. By then I was at the front of the line.

The clerk scanned the barcode in my email, then looked through the shelves of large items for my headphone adapter. Then he came back to his computer, checked the order again, went to the small baskets, and found my adapter. (One entire side of the box was covered with a sticker that displayed my old married name.)

While I was checking out I asked this clerk about my difficulties with updating my payment information in the Best Buy app. Did the app require some time to process the change in my default payment information, I asked, or shouldn’t that happen pretty much right away?

The clerk replied that it should be able to accept the new information right away, but perhaps it needed more time.

He didn’t ask for any ID.

I put the adapter in my purse, did the rest of my errands, and went home.

After dinner I decided to get out the adapter, plug the headphones in, and see how the keyboard worked.

Nothing happened.

I looked on the floor and saw that the power cord of the keyboard did not reach far enough to get to an outlet.

I went to the TV room, found a power strip that was not being used, and brought it back to the library.

(Now, the library used to serve as my doorless bedroom, and the paucity of outlets was a difficulty at the time. But now that I had my bed in another room, I didn’t remember exactly where the outlets were.)

The library is illuminated by a table lamp that sits on a medium-height bookcase by the south wall, and by a floor lamp that is plugged into an outlet on the north wall that is behind one of four tall bookcases.

I tried to reach between the two center bookcases to see exactly where the outlet was, but my hand and arms weren’t skinny enough.

I texted Eldest for his assistance, and we verified that he wasn’t skinny enough, either. I would have to completely unload the bookcase and pull it further away from the wall in order to access the outlet.

Well, it took a while. There were heavy books all across the top of the bookcase, which turned out to be the only shelf that was not double-stacked with books related to geometry, computer science, and various upper-level fields of mathematics (combinatorics, anyone?).

So I removed approximately ten shelves of books and other items (a SOMA cube! an abacus!) and laid then out on the library floor. Every couple of shelves, I would try to move the bookcase, but it wasn’t going anywhere until it was completely empty. I discovered this to be true when I tore a facing piece right off.

At that point I decided that I would just turn the bookcase perpendicular to the wall, which would have the dual benefits of giving free access to the wall outlet and hiding, as much as possible, the damage I had done to the bookcase.

At this point I was also trapped behind the empty bookcase and a side table that was piled high with stray books, so I didn’t have the leverage to move the bookcase.

I texted Eldest, and reorganized the Media and Humor sections in Bookcase 1 while I waited for him to arrive from upstairs.

Eldest came downstairs and decided that he should, could, and would replace the trim strip on the bookcase, so he went upstairs to get a screwdriver.

It didn’t work, so he went upstairs for another screwdriver, taking one of the screws with him.

Eldest returned and replaced the trim strip.

From between the end table and the stereo cabinet I directed him to put the books back on the shelves in the proper order, and then was able to clamber over the end table and replace the books on the top few shelves.

Somewhere around this time, my mother texted me to ask how I was doing. I’m not sure that my response made much sense to her.

While I now had access to the bottom shelves of Bookcase 3, which had been directly behind the Big Green Chair, which I had had to move out of the way to gain access to Bookcase 2, I moved some of the double-stacked books (I was now in Literature and Medical Non-Fiction) to the lower shelves for greater stability (and to double-check my holdings on Bookcase 3).

I moved the floor lamp to the new niche between the perpendicular Bookcase 2 and the unmoved Bookcase 3.

I plugged in the electronic keyboard to the power strip.

I retrieved the new headphones from my computer and plugged them into the keyboard.

I turned on the keyboard and pressed a few keys, and the sound was very faint.

The keyboard has no volume control, which was probably why its output was previously channeled through a small boombox. I turned off the keyboard.


Knitwise, I haven’t completed a stitch since halfway through the Hungarian Grand Prix. But one of the new members of my department has expressed an interest in learning to knit, so perhaps I will just give her all of my knitting needles, yarn, and projects in process.

Leveling Up

This week was full of forward progress, but most of it wasn’t mine. I did finish reading Bird by Bird and I kept on track with my other reading (except for the James Joyce short stories; I’ll get back to you, Mr. Joyce).

My friend Mary and I started a 30-day yoga series and we’ve been keeping even with each other — which means that neither of us moves forward before the other one has caught up. Sometimes one of us just can’t fit the yoga in, which means that the other person has time to catch up or rest. But as of this evening we’ve finished more than one-third of the program. Being gently accountable to each other seems to help.

I also received my official acceptance into the graduate program to which I applied, and I’ve already met (virtually) with my academic advisor. With the course rotation at hand she was able to plan out each course I would take in each session, until I should complete the program in — get this — fall of 2025.

But the biggest progress of all was made by MiddleSon, who moved out this weekend. Today, in fact. He’s snagged himself a full-time job with a former employer (rhymes with Meatza Butt) and he may train to become a store manager. To make that work he’s moved in with his father, whose house is within walking distance of the store if it should come to that. In addition to this, he is considering when to attend technical school (after “making bank” for a while). It’s a huge step forward, and I’m so proud of him. I wouldn’t have been capable of such a thing at 18 years old.

Of course my heart hurts a little, but it’s the nature of children to grow into adults and take their own steps, make their own plans, and become independent of their parents. The way I think of it, he needed me for 18 years and has 100-percented this level. It’s time for him to jump into the next world and experience all that it has to offer, good and bad. He knows that he’s always welcome in my house.


Knitwise, I accomplished a few rows on the pink project during this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Our house favorite, George Russell, had his first career pole position so I was knitting to settle my nerves after everyone made it safely through the first several laps. George drove well and eventually had a podium finish — well done, lad!

Last week I met a new member of my department, and she let me know that she has wanted to learn to knit. “Don’t buy any knitting supplies,” I told her. “We got this. And have you heard about the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival?”

Forward, forward, forward.