1981: Summer Camp of the Nerds

The summer of 1981 brought great relief. I had survived the eighth grade and would be going to high school in the fall. (Considering that our middle school and high school buildings were positioned about 30 yards apart, this was not so much of a big deal.) I had made it through two years of marching band and was attending summer band practice. (There was this thing called “band camp” coming up in August, but that probably wasn’t going to be a life-changer.)

My big deal was that I was going to spend one week in July at Miami University, in a summer camp emphasizing science and math. Not only was it a camp about science and math, but it was pretentiously and embarrassingly titled the “Summer Institute for Tomorrow’s Leaders.” Nice job, Miami. Apparently I had been considered nerdy enough to attend this camp the previous summer, but my parents hadn’t gotten my application in before the spots filled up — grossly underestimating the number of extremely nerdy seventh and eighth graders in the nation’s heartland. I was waitlisted for the following year, and off I went to Oxford, Ohio.


Our drive of one hundred miles went due southwest along I-71, wound through Lebanon, south of Middleton, and north of Hamilton, and then ended at the top of a steep hill where State Route 73 would have run straight into a forested campus if there hadn’t been a stoplight. We were in Oxford. The sky was sky blue, the grass was grass green, and every building was made of weathered dark red brick crawling with real ivy, with cream Georgian columns out front. The campus screamed COLLEGE in 72-point bold type, and I imprinted on it like a newborn duckling on Konrad Lorenz.


We stayed in the dorms, and my roommate for the week was a girly girl named Kelly. She had come equipped for the week with a curling iron, a metric ton of makeup, and cute clothes. If I had missed some memo that summer reminding me to be girly while I studied science, it was to be the first of many. In my jeans and sneakers I happily ran around all over campus with the boys while we caught moths, saw early LOGO programming on the Apple II, played 20 Questions on the DEC VAX in the lab in Kreger Hall, and worked out solutions to math problems of our own devising.


For example, a bunch of us made it to Culler Hall to watch a Foucault pendulum in action. A sign next to the pendulum noted how long it took the bob to swing once out and back. The same idea came to each of us simultaneously: how many times would the pendulum swing in one year? We took out pens, papers, and calculators and calculated furiously. We were astonished to find that each of us had arrived at a different answer. This led not to arguments, but to a longer conversation about our different assumptions and methods. I was in nerd heaven. And when I was with the boys, it didn’t matter that I was a girl – all that mattered was getting the right answer or asking the right question. With the girls, it seemed to matter how girly you were. I knew I wouldn’t ever win that contest, so I ignored as much of girl culture as I could afford to.

However, I did temporarily align with the girls when it came to deciding who was the cutest boy at the camp. I don’t remember his name now, but he was medium height with blue eyes and curly golden brown hair. The entire girls’ wing of the dorm was swooning over Mr. Cute & Curly, but by Wednesday I noticed that his roommate got less attention even though he was friendly, tall, and slender. I can’t tell you how it happened, but by the time my parents came to pick me up at camp’s end I had found a hand to hold as I navigated the campus. I think my parents were as surprised as I was when I introduced them to gangly, dark-haired Scott and took his picture on the front steps of Minnich Hall. Even though I never saw him again, it was a confidence booster. Thanks, Scott.


Four years later, when it was time to apply for college admission, no college ever measured up to the memories I had of Miami. No other school had a chance at capturing my heart. When I did attend Miami, my new experiences overlapped my old paths: in the lecture room where I had heard about moth selection and elementary statistics, I took a night class on American literature. In the Bishop Woods where I had captured insects, I later darted from computer lab to geology class in a spring rain. In the computer lab where we had played text games on the mainframe, I later had the chance to alpha-test a new computer called a NeXT. And in Bachelor Hall, where our group had composed a song, I later worked at my first student job, took English and math courses, survived creative writing workshops, and — much later — shared an office with my future husband as I prepared to begin graduate school and teach my own English class. But I’m getting far ahead of myself, and the future wasn’t going to be as simple as a well-crafted ambiguous sentence can make it appear.

Knitwise… I have spent quite a bit of time reorganizing my patterns and stash over the last week. I started and finished the blue-green rectangle that I described in my previous post, and went looking for yarn to complement it. When I went stash-diving for blue fun-fur yarn for a friend, I found the unfinished projects about which time had truly forgotten. Felted loafers, two steps from being done? I pulled them out to re-prioritize them. Red, white, and blue cotton yarn? I’ll re-home it. And I found several would-be project bags filled with some high-class skeins of laceweight. In some cases I can almost remember the patterns I meant to use to knit them up. These are bags of hope, of ambition, of misplaced yet admirable levels of confidence. When I can start them, I will.

Meanwhile I have cast on for a simple triangle shawl made of fuzzy grey-and-white yarn, with a eyelet rows three stitches in from each edge. I use the easiest pattern in the world, which works just as well for a small cotton dishcloth as it does for a king-sized blanket, and it will allow me to knit on with confidence and hope through all crises.


My Secret Shame


Awww…. isn’t he cute?

Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow Live!

Even Now

One Voice


Here Comes the Night

Oh, Julie!

Manilow (RCA)

Because It’s Christmas

Ultimate Manilow

The Greatest Songs of the Fifties

The Greatest Songs of the Sixties

15 Minutes


And here are some pictures from last night’s concert in Chicago, at the Chicago Theater. One bucket-list item, checked off!


The text above is from a draft post I started writing just over three years ago. I did have a ticket to see Barry at the Chicago Theater, but he ended up cancelling the show when his recovery after some surgery was coming along more slowly than he had anticipated. I didn’t know the show was cancelled until I was already in Chicago to see him, and it turned out that quite a few strings were attached to my ticket and my attendance. I did enjoy my walking tour of downtown Chicago and my dinner at a Top Chef alumni restaurant, which I did blog about (see From the Bucket to the Sprout), but overall the weekend was rather emotionally tumultuous. Enough said about that — it’s in the past and it can’t be changed.

A couple of months ago I was browsing Facebook when Barry made the announcement that he would be touring in 2015, for the last time. It was time for me to get another ticket. And I did. I’m going to get to see and hear him live this Tuesday night in Milwaukee, and all I have to do is figure out how to get there myself and where to park the car and have dinner.

I don’t always wait 35 years to see someone in concert. But when I do, I’m over the moon.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

This might be one of the three kindest Barry Manilow memes on the Internet.

Published in: on February 22, 2015 at 6:49 pm  Comments (4)  

What happens at Knit Night….

…stays at Knit Night, of course.

But the short version of last night is that we had a perfect storm of Wisconsin knitbloggers (ElizabethSABLE, Jaaladay, Dale-Harriett, Cathy-Cate, and more), a knitting ‘zine distribution (knitcircus #3), knitting tattoos (thanks Cathy-Cate!), delicious drinks, awesome projects, and a newbie who lent who lent structure to our evening. I wish I’d been wearing a wire so I could provide a transcript, but there was a lot that was Not Safe For Work, Not Safe For Children, or generally Not Suitable For Public Sharing. But all hilarious. If I get the chance to recall some of the evening, I’ll try to. We were a wild and naughty bunch hiding in the back room.

I handed out Ravelry badges and left 20 copies of the Second Sock Worksheet at the Sow’s Ear for distribution to whoever would like to help test them out. I also worked on my alpaca shawl exclusively and didn’t even take the Adipose project out of the bag. (Ironically, DH was at home watching most of the Doctor Who episode that included the Adipose; I still haven’t seen it.)

I’m still catching up with my Doctor Who viewing, but I don’t know how I’ll manage to see any of Series 4 before the finale on August 1. Series three, I should wrap up tomorrow night. Then I have less than a week to clean, plan, and pack for a multistate trip that will include a family reunion, two family mini-get-togethers, as at least two Ravelry meetups. If I can do some online viewing of Series 4, it means I won’t be sleeping. Just like now! But I really want to be aligned with the rest of Who-ville.

No other projects are getting attention now that I’m more than 80 percent done with the alpaca shawl (I’m conveniently ignoring the time it will take to make a crocheted  or I-cord edging, since I don’t know how long it will take). I need to mail at least one FO, and make arrangements to send out items for a swap so I can get the rest of my Doctor Who Scarf yarn. And I could probably finish the rest of my Ravenclaw mitten if I wanted to.

I haven’t even thought about my travel-and-trip knitting. Does anyone have suggestions for what WIPs I should take along? A week after I get back, the Ravelympics begin, and I’ll have a lot of simple knitting on my plate, taking my full attention. Then it will be time to really, really, plan that festival Afterparty.

Yikes, I’d better get busy! I didn’t know I was so far behind…..

Dear Robert Redford,

I just wanted to thank you for the part you played in my wonderful dream last night.

Wait — it’s not the part you think it is! While I’m sure that women dream about you all the time, this dream was different. Trust me.

Last night I dreamed I was attending my high school reunion. For the record, the place in the dream was not my high school, nor were the people in my dream anyone I knew from high school. It was just one of those dream situations. (I haven’t been to any reunion since 1990, either, but as we’ve already established, that seems to be beside the point.)

At any rate, through an elaborate sequence of events I can no longer remember, your mother presented me with box after box of… sweaters.

They were her own hand knitting, these piles of fine-gauge pullovers and cardigans. There were solid colors, intarsia, everything under the rainbow. I was amazed and delighted as I lifted one sweater after another out of the boxes, and honored by her gift. She seemed very happy to give them to me, too. (Had she and I met before, in a previous and unremembered dream?) Oh, and her short golden hair was just gorgeous.

I moved a few of the boxes of sweaters to my car, vowing to come back for the rest of them later. The rest of the dream has now vanished from memory.

Alas, by the light of day my van is sadly empty. But please give my best regards to your lovely mother and my deepest appreciation of her handiwork. Even if they were only the stuff of dreams, it was wonderful to see them and to have been able to run those smooth, even stitches through my hands.

Give her a hug for me, Mr. Redford.

Love, Beth

P.S. I think my mother would like to say hi to you, too — though I suspect that if she dreams about you, it doesn’t involve your mother’s knitting.

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 9:19 am  Comments (5)  

Status report

Okay, everyone, get out your scorecards.

First, mark Big Tom at 50th percentile on everything measurable at the doctor’s office yesterday. One year ago this kid wasn’t *on* the growth chart. He was hospitalized for being underweight, for goodness’ sake. Now he’s smack dab in the middle of the chart. In fact, the doc wants to see him in six months to make sure he isn’t going screaming past the chart to the obese side of it. Hardly likely, but I appreciate the optimism.

For eldest son… tonight is the scout den party. End of the year for Bears/next year’s Webelos. Hmm, what will I take to knit?

My daughter decided yesterday that she didn’t need to go to school any more. She came home from school perfectly fine, no complaints, but in the late afternoon she was sobbing and screaming, “I don’t want to go to school any more! I already know my numbers and my letters and my colors. I ALREADY KNOW EVERYTHING!!!!!”

That leaves the other half of the Wonder Twins, about whom there is nothing to report except that he wants to go to school and does not want to use the toilet. Love and Logic, Love and Logic…….

As for me? Welll…….

I messed up my impossibly easy knitting (noticed this during the Turkish GP and set it aside in disgust), but I have tinked back, fixed the problem, and knitted past it.

I am two repeats into my first lace project. I was given a PDF for a lace cotton washcloth. I bought two balls of pale blue Plymouth Yarns Shire Silk, and cast it on to size 15 needles. I have a bright red lifeline in it, which I am moving up for each repeat. I didn’t work another repeat last night because I was too busy watching David Tennant.

I also cast on for a bias square to use up my Debbie Bliss Denim Cotton Aran yarn. I have two skeins of it in black and white, and while I was thrilled to buy it when I did (Debbie Bliss! Wow!), I didn’t have any plans for it that worked out. So I’m going to buy it when I find it on sale, knit six-inch squares out of it, and make an afghan someday-eventually.

A couple of days ago I decided to make a scarf out of some leftover acrylic yarn, using a pattern I found in a book. If I can get pictures to load, it might make for a fun guessing game to see if anyone can Name That Pattern.

Haven’t touched Tyrone. Haven’t cast on for the second Panda Cotton sock. Haven’t picked up the Irish Hiking Scarf. Haven’t done anything with the Hufflepuff-colored leftovers from the beret projects — should I make a scarf or a pair of mittens?

Oh yes, and last night I think I became one of the new editors of knitcircus, a new knitting ‘zine that is produced and distributed in Madison, Wisconsin. (Thanks Jaala!) No pay, but it should be a fun and creative enterprise. Right now it’s an all-color, handbound print publication, but the future may hold an online version that everyone can access.

And today I fixed the DVD/VCR combo! Thanks, Tom, for clogging the works with a Ritz mini cracker sandwich. Because we already replaced it with a DVD player, now we can pitch the old VCR which works fine but whose remote control has gone to the Great Beyond.

I never got to the spindling I wanted to do on Mother’s Day, but as soon as I can find my wool leader, I’ll put it in a good place and I’ll be ready next time. Who knows, maybe I’ll start running that llama fiber through the hackle again. Or start washing fleeces.


For days I’ve been planning to take pictures of the snowdrift we have between the house and the garage. The changing winds resculpt it every day, and it does give the feeling of being lost at sea. The most important thing it does is block, over and over, the little sidewalk that goes from the porch to the cars. It’s happened so frequently that we’ve given up on it, and make our way through the snow via the “shortcut” we shovel from the base of the porch’s ramp directly to the driveway.

Late yesterday afternoon I glanced out the window and saw a dark figure leaping towards the house. It was my husband in his black suede jacket, nimbly bounding over/through the drift after toiling for many frigid minutes to repair the blower in his car. (Alas, the fix was merely temporary.)

The driveway has an underlayment of thick transparent ice; the field below us is covered with snow that looks like gentle waves lapping up at the edge of a lake, frozen in mid-lap.

Inside it’s still warm and wooly, and now is when I’m wishing I had started some really comfy adult-sized sweaters a few months ago. No such luck.

Here’s what’s on the needles:

1. Irish Hiking Scarf, in doomed yarn (long story), waiting for more doomed yarn, ultimate fate unknown
2. Kelp Forest Scarf, three repeats in, probably replacing the IHS as the Currach Club raffle item
3. Second Jacquard sock, waiting for the rest of the yarn
4. Packer Hat, waiting for me to pick up stitches and knit the brim
5. mystery giftknit for my IT guy

Yes…for those of you with detailed scorecards, I decided to frog the cute little Knit One Purl Two cap. When I experimented with the crown decreases I just didn’t like how it looked. Since it wasn’t sized to fit anyone in this household (as far as I could tell) I just frogged the thing, releasing some perfectly good Plymouth Galway in navy blue back into the yarnstream.

Other than knitting on Scarf One and Scarf Two, I’ve been watching Doctor Who, reading old Doctor Who paperbacks, watching Last Restaurant Standing, laughing my head off at Top Gear, and witnessing the probable decline in fortune of Robert Irvine, the hunkiest chef on television. (I’d still go out drinking with Bobby Flay, but come on!) It seems he may have, along with his commanding presence, a tendency to exaggerate his experiences. I’ve read Kitchen Confidential and I think part of Irvine’s actions may stem from cuisine culture, and the, um, cojones it takes to get ahead. And everything may have just taken on more steam than he wanted to give it. Just my own theory. Sigh.

Tonight we watched Dinner: Impossible with some trepidation (though the show was as good as always), and noticed with relief/amusement that the intro had changed. No longer does the voiceover claim he cooked for presidents, queens, and kings — there’s just a vague reference to “culinary challenges” and a new video treatment.

Blogland, Wisconsin, is all aquiver with the news that we’ll have two rockstar knitter visits in two months: Franklin Habit (AKA Panopticon) at Yellow Dog Knitting in Eau Claire in March, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (AKA The Yarn Harlot) at Borders in Madison in late April. I’ll be out of state for Franklin’s visit (though Dale-Harriet has already scheduled her appointment), but you couldn’t keep me away from seeing and hearing the Harlot. Though, once I’m there, I’ll most likely be hiding in the shadows from paralyzing shyness. At events like this I usually end up running from the featured speaker and chumming it up with the staff. Somebody slap me!

Time to knit something. Anything.

Published in: on February 20, 2008 at 11:26 pm  Comments (5)  

Panicking, I mean packing

Doctor’s appointment? Check. Tommy’s OK and gaining weight again.

Kennel? Check.

Last-minute grocery shopping? Check, plus the fall issue of Interweave Knits. Though, the 8 year old called me on it — “What knitting project did you finish?” I told him I didn’t have time to look at it today anyway.

Now: pack the bags, wash the dishes, bake the cookies, put away the extra clothes, clean the house for the showing, and I think that’s it. Oh yeah, put the kids in the van.

Last night: rewound a skein of BSJ wool, but didn’t cast on. Realized this morning I should have cast on. Worked on a wee tiny giftknit. Knitted on Tyrone. Watched the last Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston. Maybe it was because Tom was awake and crying then and I couldn’t hear every word, but I was left disappointed and sort of forlorn. So I popped in the next Remington Steele episode, which turned out to have curious and strong parallels to a time in my life I don’t really want to rehash. (Lots of good eye candy, though. I even rewatched a scene. Whew!)

I had to sit quietly and finish the wee giftknit to get myself to where I could sleep. Life is curious.

Back to our regularly scheduled panic. Where is a HHGTTG when you need one? 🙂

Irish Fest free promo: Get in free on Sunday by going to the Mass and bringing a canned good donation. After Mass (including singing by the Irish Fest Mass Choir [name may be mangled, sorry], of which my MIL is a member) you are free to go to the rest of Irish Fest. Have a Harp. Buy a harp. Dance to harp music.

Have a good ol’ Irish time and I’ll see you by the curraghs. Bring your knitting. (I was going to write “represent!” in Irish Gaelic but upon a cursory inspection of the Gaelic tongue, I will leave that to the scholars.)

Setting things right

Now I feel like I’m on the right track with projects again.

Tyrone: Cast on to the new needles (in a flash of good karma, the brand of needle I chose happened to be 50 percent off in an unadvertised sale) and I’m on the third row of ribbing. The Cascade is really nice to work with, but since I’m still in a section of yarn that’s been used for two gauge swatches and rewound, it’s a little splitty. I’ll bet the un-knitted section is just fine, and the color is grand.

BSJ: I frogged what I had, re-skeined onto the table legs from the cake, tied up the skein, and gave both skeins a lavender baby shampoo bath, rinse, and spin in the washing machine. (By the way, why is there agitation in the “soak” cycle? I nearly had a stroke as I rushed to turn off the washing machine.) The skeins hung up overnight to fully dry, but they’re still a bit damp. I want them to be perfectly dry before I wind them up. And start again.

Irish Hiking Scarf: Ready to pop into the Racing Knitting bag for work on the weekend.

I also have acquired a sort of commission piece, in which I’m going to try to knit a replacement for a Packer fan’s long-lost favorite hat. It’s going to involve searching for the right yarn, finding or creating a workable pattern, and stranded colorwork. I hope I can get it done before the end of the season. 🙂 Look for updates as I work on solving this puzzle.

Irish Fest promo: The music is the main attraction for many. Today’s link goes to a band named Enter the Haggis. Seriously, how neat a band name is that? I don’t think I have heard them before, but I plan to listen this year. Personal connection: at our wedding reception, one of the dishes served was chicken breast stuffed with haggis. It got lots of compliments, especially from people who would have been appalled if they’d known what was in it. Did I mention we were married on St. Patrick’s Day? I probably should have.

What else is there? Oh yes, Doctor Who. With only three episodes remaining of the Ninth Doctor’s season, last night I watched two of them, grudgingly leaving the exciting conclusion for tonight. When, I just realized, it will have to wait until after Top Chef.

Will Howie finally get kicked off the show for being sullen, mean, and uncommunicative? Will Hung finally cook tasty food? Will Casey take another dip in the hot tub? The whole world is watching.

Published in: on August 15, 2007 at 9:54 am  Comments (2)  

Gee your yarn smells terrific!

Whew! I finally got a gauge I liked for the Tyrone sweater — 5 sts/in. Unfortunately (you guessed it) I don’t have the needle length I need to cast on. Size 6 strikes again. So the morning errands today will include a Herrschners run, as well as a quick stop somewhere else to get some nice-smelling gentle soap for wool washing. (I wonder if they still make Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific?)

70s/80s Flashback!!

When you use / Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific / shampoo / boys say Gee, your hair smells terrific / to you

What a great ad campaign, huh? And we each bought a bottle, didn’t we? Tell the truth!

[Edit: you can buy some here! Who would have thought! No, I didn’t buy any. I found a bottle of Johnson’s baby shampoo with natural lavender and chamomile and thought, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”]

Back to knitting. After getting gauge for Tyrone without the proper needle, and realizing I didn’t have the soap I wanted to wash the BSJ wool, I went to plan RS and watched the first episode from Season Two of Remington Steele.

Exit Murphy and Bernice, enter Doris Roberts and a new opening. There was no marking anywhere on the DVD indicating that this would be a 90 minute special. Or was it two hours? Everyone was gorgeous, the adventure took place in Acapulco (with some grainy video that must have been file footage from the Acapulco Tourism Board), but the whole plot was terribly complicated and I got tired. (I know, I know.)

Slept through a riotous wind and lightning storm, and here we are.

Today’s Milwaukee Irish Fest link is to the Trinity Irish Dancers. You can’t go to Irish Fest without seeing a performance, a warmup, or just a flood of dresses and ringlets running to their next stage. The first time Colleen saw them she climbed on the picnic table and started dancing along. (Both my oldest think they can do Irish dancing. It’s a hoot and a half.) I don’t even try to dance… but my heart is dancing inside whenever I hear Irish music.

Published in: on August 14, 2007 at 9:11 am  Comments (2)  

Happy happy bind-off dance

I got it done! Well, sort of. Last night I finished the baby blanket and wove in the ends while watching Top Chef (can’t we ever send Toxic Howie home?) and the last two episodes of Season One of Remington Steele.

Woot! I just love binding off. I love the neat line it gives to the end of the project. I wish my cast-on line looked the same. As soon as I was done with the blankie I was thinking, what if I had done a provisional cast-on, then taken it out, picked up the stitches, and done a bind-off on the cast-on edge too?

Today’s the day to buy some exercise-mat squares to make an inexpensive blocking surface, give the blankie a gentle bath, and block it out. Right now it’s about 34 by 27 inches. We’ll see what happens when I gently stretch it flat.

Today’s also the day to try to optimize some blog pix so I can post a picture of the thing before I have to wrap it up and give it away. I am so sick of having no pictures on this blog. I keep taking them, but there’s nowhere for them to go.

I wanted to wind wool for two BSJ’s, but got flummoxed reading EZ’s “pattern.” It’s another one of those trust things, I guess. Although, lots of people have already knit this project and lived to tell the tale. I hope it goes better for me than the Moccasin Sock, though I finally looked carefully at the photographs and understood what the heel was really supposed to look like.

Yesterday I also e-mailed to officially join the IHS KAL, and e-mailed to have Backyardiknits listed on the KAL directory. No replies yet, so we’ll see what happens.

Have an FO kind of day — can’t keep this glee to myself!

Published in: on August 9, 2007 at 8:04 am  Comments (4)