1994: The Second of Four Elephants

This was an eventful year, but not in a way that is easy or fair to talk about. But I may have a story to tell even though I can hear the heavy footsteps of elephants in the distance. (Stephanie, if I cross any lines, let me know and I’ll edit judiciously. [If you’re not sure if your code name is Stephanie, you’re not Stephanie.])

Early in the year, I was preparing to be married for the second time. My fiancé and I attended several preparatory sessions together, conducted by a minister who seemed proper enough. At the end of one of the sessions, though, he cautioned us not to publicize his current profession too much: he’d formerly been a police detective, and some of the criminals he’d put on the inside might now be on the outside…and looking to settle a score. Whether or not that was true (why would a minister lie?), he certainly had our attention after that small request.

The church in which we were to be married held a lot of memories for me and for my family. My father’s parents, both of whom had passed away before I was 11 years old, had been two of the founding members of the church and had overseen its physical construction in the 1960s. My grandma, who gave piano lessons from her home, had played piano or organ or both for the church services. My own parents had been married in the same church.

This was the church where I attended nursery school and Sunday school, where we played Old Testament charades and learned about the power of a mustard seed, where I learned the names of the books of the Bible, and where my brother and I drew pictures in the programs when we were old enough to sit in the sanctuary with the adults but still too young to pay proper attention to the sermons. Even after we moved away to the country, we returned to this church for Christmas Eve services for many years; I learned suspense from holding my lit candle with a trembling hand while singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in the dark, only a tired paper circle protecting my hand from the melting wax.

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It was a church where everything was positive but predictable. My father, on the rare occasions when he didn’t go to church, might look at his watch at twenty minutes past the hour and state that he knew what hymn they were singing. It was a friendly, comforting church, with the same families in the same pews week after week singing the same old familiar hymns. Yes, the minister who served for decades did eventually retire and was replaced (though not without some initial discomfort). Yes, the church did revise its hymnal to become more global and inclusive (though not without some initial discomfort and some hoarding of copies of the previous edition).

At Christmastime, this church was in its glory. Gradually, over the Advent season, poinsettias appeared on the steps to the altar, then spread across the full width of the steps, then seemed to explode in a lush profusion that filled the entire altar. Combined with a profusion of candles, the effect was stunning — and it happened every year without fail. It was the most beautiful place I could imagine to be married, whether or not my husband-to-be and I believed strictly in everything that the church believed. It was a special place, and that was where we were going to be married.

Christmas came, and the church was packed with poinsettias and candles and song. January came, and the wedding date drew nearer. My fiancé’s family drove in from out of state to meet with mine, rehearse the wedding, break bread, and have what was, frankly, the loudest congenial conversation ever held in my parents’ house. To be clear, no one was angry; it was just…loud.

The wedding day arrived, and I sat in a room by myself waiting for my cue. It was a small wedding, just for immediately family, but still there were protocols. I waited alone in a nondescript room I had never noticed before, never having had a reason to notice. My brother, my parents, and my future in-laws were elsewhere when there was a knock on the door. It was the minister.

“Can I come in? I need to tell you something.”

As time slowed, he haltingly told me that the Decoration Committee had come to the church early in the morning and removed every poinsettia from the altar.

“They assumed that you would want to bring your own flowers.”

His words hung in the air. What could I say? That I couldn’t afford to buy enough flowers to make the church prettier or more special than it looked at Christmas? That the poinsettias were one of the main reasons we’d chosen the church? That — why would a whole committee do such a thing without even asking first?

“You’d better see what it looks like before you go out there.”

The former detective led me out into the sanctuary to view the naked, starkly plain altar. He was right — the whole front of the church was stripped bare. Just two weeks after Christmas, everything was gone.

Somehow I incorporated the new image of the church. I waited in my little room, then came out on cue and was married. It was still beautiful.


Knitwise, I have now created two Baby Trekkie Washcloths and am ready to make two more — just try to stop me! They’re easy and quick, which are the main things they have going for them. I certainly don’t need to make more washcloths.

Last weekend I did unearth a large unfinished project that hadn’t seen the light of day in a year. It’s a Season 18 Doctor Who Scarf. This project is another dead-ender in that I originally began it eight years ago with yarn that has since ceased production. And it’s Lion Brand Yarn, too. You have to pick something pretty darned unpopular if Lion Brand decides to quit cranking it out. The project calls for bulky chenille acrylic yarn in orange, wine, and purple, and I’m quite certain that I don’t have enough of the orange yarn to finish the project. Nor, in the last eight years of casual searching, have I seen any available (meaning, I haven’t happened to notice any skeins of it at the thrift store). The plan is to pick up the Scarf periodically and plug away at it until I run out of orange, then (A) find more orange or (B) put it away again until I find more orange.

In the meantime, I have this little cycling event coming up this weekend. I’m training, planning, and packing. I’m also crossing my fingers that a few more donations will come in before Saturday and put me at or above the minimum I’m trying to raise. Thanks to you who have already donated. I’ll do my best and maybe even take some trip knitting with me. Hey, how about a washcloth?

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Published in: on July 16, 2018 at 10:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

1988: All Greek to Me

At the start of my senior year at Miami University, Republican presidential candidate George Bush made a campaign stop on campus. If you’ve never been in the path of a presidential appearance or even a candidate-for-president appearance, let me assure you that this is a Big Deal. The preparations must have been weeks if not months in the making.

I was not generally a political person at this point, though I generally learned toward the Democrats. However, when I was the editor of our high school paper I had interviewed State Representative Mike DeWine, a Republican, when he visited and gave a speech. He seemed like a sensible person, and over the years it was the memory of that interview that reminded me to vote for the better candidate rather than just for the familiar party. I voted regularly, though as a temporary resident of Oxford I chose to vote in my home district by absentee ballot rather than cast votes for local candidates, and on local issues, with whom (or which) I was unfamiliar.

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When I saw how the lines were being drawn in advance of the visit, with the rich fraternity boys aligned with the College Republicans, I decided to wander over to a meeting of the College Democrats and see what they had going on. It turns out that they had some advance news of the level of security there would be for the speech. If you looked like a Democrat or in any way in opposition to Bush, you would be separated and kept far back of the main spectator area. Well, that hardly sounded fair. After all, we just wanted to listen like everybody else. But wait — they had a scheme that might get some of us close enough to see and hear the dignitaries.

The scheme was to make some smallish political posters, roll them up, and smuggle them past the checkpoint up our pants legs. It sounded about as likely as hiding under the bed to escape the detection of professional thieves, but it just might work. And against all odds, it did! I found myself up near the front, behind a row of the most muscled college students I had ever seen, next to a couple of equally incredulous fellow Democrats, all of us with posters stuffed up our pants. (Sure enough, those who had been caught were escorted far behind the crowd to where they could barely hear the speech.) But I had made it though the screening. Now I just needed to wait for Bush to appear, take out my little poster, and wave it around. I wasn’t trying to start a riot or make trouble; honestly, I was really hoping for Bush to unveil his economic plan at this point on his campaign trail.

The warmup act came on, and I was dismayed at the hateful rhetoric and ethnic slurs that were made in order to whip the crowd into a patriotic frenzy. “I went to college too,” said one speaker, “but I didn’t need to take GREEEEEEEK.’ The crowd roared at this insult to Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis (and possibly at the thought of easing the university’s foreign language requirement), missing the irony that most of the college students supporting Bush seemed to belong to fraternities and sororities. The rest of the speech was more of the same, and I grew disappointed and disillusioned as I waited through it. Surely Bush himself would take a higher ground than this, and we would get to hear about his plans for the country rather than just attacks on his opponent.

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Bush in Troy, Ohio, in 1988.

Senator Bush came out, and so did our little posters for 70something Democratic senatorial candidate Howard Metzenbaum. We cheered and screamed and waved our posters, attracting the attention of the row of frat boys ahead of us. They took our posters, tore them up, and knocked us to the ground. I was furious but wasn’t really hurt. Senator Bush didn’t take a much higher ground than the other speakers, and after a few minutes of campaign clichés he was off the stage and escorted away by Secret Service, having convinced me of nothing. (His next stop was a meeting with the university’s Board of Regents, with whom he discussed his economic plan.)

After the main event broke up, there was a small counter-rally by the most liberal of the faculty members. Students who recognized their professors in the group gathered around and joined in for a while, briefly re-energized. Then that rally, too, broke up and we headed back to our dorms.

Postscript: Democratic candidates Mike Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen lost the election in November to George Bush and Dan Quayle, a poor speller from Indiana (Google “potatoe” if you don’t believe me) and no Jack Kennedy, helped along by the unfortunate image of self-admitted policy wonk Dukakis riding in a tank, looking like a geeky little boy playing Army. (Oh, and Howard Metzenbaum won!) The 1988 election was regrettable in many ways, but compared to recent events it seems bland and filled with naivete. Maybe it’s a good thing we can’t look too far into the future; we might stop walking forward at all.


Knitwise, I swear to all that is holy that I have just a few more rows to go on the Eternal Grey Shawl. I would have a better guess at this if my digital kitchen scale would cooperate, but all it does now is turn on and display which mode it is in (g/oz). The batteries are new, so something else is clearly wrong with it that I’m unable to fix. Every time I sit down to knit, I do two rows. I may be able to knit two more rows and then bind off tomorrow night. If it turns out that I had enough yarn to knit one more row, the extra yarn can go sleep with the fishes, the mermaids, and/or Jimmy Hoffa. I will be DONE.

So, let’s vote on my next project!

(A) Finish the Scrabble Blanket already!
(B) Pick a WIP, any WIP.
(C) Knit whatever you want as long as it’s not grey.
(D) You said you could crochet. Were you lying?
(E) Knit an elegant and impractical shawl in luxury yarn!
(F) Knit Nakia’s Shawl from Black Panther.
(G) ________________________________________________

Be honest, now. This is for science.

Published in: on June 4, 2018 at 9:56 pm  Comments (2)  

1987: The Macintosh era

In the spring of 1986, in the midst of the end-of-year confusion and grief, a minor miracle occurred. Miami required all its freshmen to live on campus, but on-campus housing after that was secured through a lottery system. I had been assigned a disturbingly high lottery number, and since most of the on-campus women’s housing was held by sororities (of which I was not a member), it wasn’t looking good for me. There was a separate lottery held for the very few available spots in the honors dorm, but I was sick the night of the lottery and I did not attend. Wonder of wonders, word soon reached me that someone had drawn a number on my behalf, and I had a space now saved for me in Bishop Hall until I graduated. Did I want to accept? Yes, a thousand times yes!

Bishop Hall

Bishop Hall, home of the Honors Program.

My new roommate, MaryAnn, was an upperclassman who was already living in Bishop; she already had friends there, she was engaged to a soldier stationed in Missouri, and she was incredibly talented within her program of study but fought a valiant battle to succeed in her liberal education courses. She was a great storyteller and knew how to tell just enough to build the drama. At the end of our year as roommates, she secured a single room for herself, which was perfect for the studio work she would need to do her senior year. I lost track of her after that, but I’m sure that she’s an immensely successful interior designer somewhere. Here’s to you, MaryAnn!

My new roommate for my junior year was Becca, a sophomore paper science and engineering major from Kentucky. Though our classes didn’t overlap and we didn’t do much together socially (mostly because I never went anywhere except to author lectures and poetry readings), we worked out well as roommates and shared the same room for two years.

During my freshman year I was introduced to the brand-name, honest-to-goodness IBM PC. I spent untallied hours in several computer labs across campus writing, rewriting, and reformatting my papers in PC-Write. By today’s standards the program was a horror show. Every change seemed to create more changes, and something as simple as changing the left margin became a programming chore as you revised and resaved the RULER.DEF file before starting the program and creating the file that would be your paper. You never knew what the paper would actually look like until you printed it out, then you had to make edits and do it all over again. I was spending many hours more than I needed on my papers, just on the formatting.

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In fall 1987 I took a class on Environmental Geology; it didn’t exactly have a lab session, but there was a software program the instructor wanted us to use for a certain type of simulation. For this work we went to a different computer lab — a small room in Upham Hall that had about half a dozen Macintoshes, probably Pluses, ready and waiting for us.

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Every function on the Mac was startlingly easy to perform. It worked just the way I thought it should work. I clicked and dragged my way through the unit on fault lines and was soon spending time in the lab when I didn’t need to. I befriended the lab assistant, who made me a copy of a newly released word processor called Microsoft Word 3.0.

“How would you, say, change the left margin in an open file?” I asked one day.
“Just drag this triangle over,” he said. That was it for me!

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In October there was a Macintosh open house at the student center. Macs back then weren’t terribly powerful or, to be honest, affordable, but the Shriver Center Bookstore was an authorized Apple reseller and they wanted to drum up some business. They had my full attention, and within a year I had a Macintosh: my boyfriend’s mother worked for the University and we were able to use her discount and take out a loan on a Macintosh SE with a massive-at-the-time 47 MB hard drive sitting in one of the floppy disk slots.

For Becca’s sake — she and her classwork were IBM-compatible all the way — I picked out a keyboard (the DataDesk 101) that simulated an IBM PC extended keyboard. If she wanted to use my cute little computer she could just type away without worrying about those odd “apple” and “cloverleaf” keys that didn’t correspond to the IBM keyboard in any obvious way.

At a later point, I added a modem to the setup. (I still have it, but it’s in the basement, which is a Dark and Scary Place that may be inhabited by other species, so I’m not planning to get up and retrieve it at this very minute.) It was a whizbang 1200 baud modem, which meant that it downloaded text faster than my reading speed, which was somewhere between 300 and 450 baud. The downside was that it worked, as modems do, through the phone lines. For those of you readers substantially younger than I am, this meant that the modem connected to the phone line in place of the phone. If you received an incoming call during your “online time” you were disconnected. (This is why you wanted unlimited online access rather than a plan which charged you by the minute. This is also why my generation invented TTFN and LOL and ROTFL — we were saving time, and time is money!)

The primary reason that I had a modem at all was because of the Miami University Bulletin Board System, or MUBBS. This was the cyber-hub of Miami’s geek community a decade before anyone besides William Gibson was using the term “cyber” in front of any other word. At the MUBBS in-person meetings I was often the only female, which I enjoyed. We had online handles, we created and moderated discussion forums, and eventually we created and managed social events such as hackathons. I remained a member of this community through my time in graduate school, but am now in contact with only two of its members. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out that in the interim, they’ve set up a secret and invisible Facebook group that you wouldn’t know about until you hacked your way into it? That’s just the kind of thing they’d do.

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Miss you, Steve.


Knitwise, it’s now escalated to a slogalong on the grey shawl. I promised my knitting groups that I would knit on the shawl while I watched the qualifying and race sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix, but that didn’t happen. I was too busy coming up with elegant hors d’ouvres and shopping for champagne splits to concentrate on pedestrian occupations such as KNITTING. (Also, the race was rather exciting.) I do want to reiterate that I kept my promise not to knit on any other project until the Boring Grey Shawl was complete, so there’s a gold star for me. Just in case I can get some credit for completing non-knitting items, I would like to mention that over the Memorial Day weekend I put the winter coats away, cleaned up my kitchen, started training for a 15-mile bike ride, and made asparagus soup AND roasted asparagus. So there.

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My asparagus, James’s stoneware, Dad’s table.

What’s on your needles? I hope to report some progress or even a finished object in the next post. We’ll see how it goes. This Friday I will be chaperoning a group of eighth graders on their class trip to the Wisconsin Dells, and I might need more recovery time than I think.

Published in: on May 28, 2018 at 10:45 pm  Comments (2)  

1985: Back to the Future

Monday, May 14

This post will be written and published whenever possible this week; tonight I am finally going to see Avengers: Infinity War! Shh! No spoilers!


Monday, May 21

Why did Back to the Future seem to mean so much to my generation? The action took place in the year I graduated from high school, but several months later. We graduated a month before it was even released, so seeing it in the theater wasn’t even a bonding experience for the Class of ’85.

Perhaps it was its celebration of the 1980s and the Reagan Years, even as it subtly mocked them. Perhaps it was the DeLorean — an older classmate’s father owned one, and it seemed like the coolest, most exotic ride in the world. Perhaps it was Michael J. Fox, fresh from “Family Ties,” which was set in Columbus (okay, probably Grandview or Bexley). Perhaps it was Huey Lewis, whose 1984 “Sports” album (okay, tape cassette) went platinum seven times over and was a huge album in a year of huge albums (the soundtracks to Purple Rain and Footloose immediately come to mind).

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“I’m sorry, boys, but you’re just too darn loud.”

Perhaps it was just that Back to the Future (BTTF) was a very, very good movie. It was well written, it was funny, and it was tremendously appealing. It wasn’t the first time-travel story enjoyed by a mass market — my own mother was addicted to “Quantum Leap,” and certainly two versions of “The Twilight Zone” had prepared us for time jumps — but it was the best.

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“Great Scott!”

This still doesn’t explain my own devotion to the movie and, eventually, the whole franchise. I own more copies of the trilogy than I should admit, I own a car charger that mimics the flux capacitor, and I can’t turn away from a showing of any of the movies.

Fluxing

“Flux capacitor… fluxing…”

In the fall of 1985 I went off to my future, to college at Miami University. I had a new home, new teachers, new classes, new responsibilities, and a roommate. In my freshman dorm I was surrounded by girls — young women — from everywhere else (but mostly Cleveland). They brought their favorite music with them, and instead of Barry Manilow and Amy Grant I was hearing Genesis, UB40, Sting, and more.

In my first semester I struggled with calculus that I could perform but not understand, struggled to connect with a roommate who had goals and values so different from mine, and struggled with the weight of a course that compelled us to wrestle with the moral implications of the Holocaust. I also found new friends, new foods, new books, new places to watch people, and new places to be alone. I dated a young man who didn’t understand me at all, but before I broke up with him we saw several movies for a buck or two at the student center. Without someone to go “out” with, I might never have gotten out at all.

Gradually I expanded my circle of friends, took different classes than I thought I would, tried on a minor and dropped it, and came to find all my geeks in the small but extremely nerdy online bulletin board community of MUBBS. And on one school break, I got a ride home (or was it back to Miami?) from the guy whose father owned the DeLorean. The fall of 1985 was only the beginning.


Knitwise, I’m plugging along on the gray shawl whenever I remember that I really should pick it up because it’s not going to knit itself. ONE SKEIN OF YARN TO GO. I also purchased a new shawl pattern, with some stash yarn in mind. Never mind that I don’t know exactly where this particular stash yarn is, nor do I need a shawl, and neveryoumind that I’m not allowed to put another needle to another yarn until the BORING GRAY SHAWL is all done. Because what’s worse than knitting on a boring gray shawl? QUITTING.


Regarding Avengers: Infinity War, I’m not worried. I’ve seen movies before, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sweetheart

Recently I’ve been trying many new things, but mostly to slow down, take my time, think about what I’m going to do before I do it, and notice (without judging) how I feel. And while these things are valuable to try to do, it’s not on every day that I’m able to do them. My days seem to swing back and forth between “take your time and find your path, my child” and #notenoughhoursintheDAY. When you have three and a half minutes to be somewhere in ten minutes and you can’t find the car keys which are ALWAYS in the same place but today they’re NOT, and someone just realized you really meant to get in the car NOW (and he is, frankly, pretty pissed off about it), and someone ELSE for some reason can’t find their SHOES even though they were WEARING them when they got HOME half an hour ago and HOW could you lose your SHOES in thirty minutes when WE HAVE SOMEWHERE WE NEED TO GO, there isn’t the luxury of sufficient time for mature reflection and dispassionate self-analysis.

Shall we play a game?

Shall we play a game?

Some days you have to have a different method for figuring out how you’re doing. A good day — no, a great day — is like being at DEFCON 5, or Threat Level Green. That’s the day when I drift around the house, ruminating on my good fortune at being able to breathe freely, make my own decisions, and generally appreciate my relative autonomy. That’s the day when I react to good things by muttering “sweetheart” as I go about my business.

Now, I realize that muttering “sweetheart” to an almost empty house makes no sense. I’m not addressing myself or the dog. I don’t have a sweetheart unless you count the memory of having had one, many years ago. And that really just doesn’t count.

I think I say it — almost autonomically — because I feel happy. Comfortable. Settled. Cuddly. Peaceful. Forgiving. All the things you feel when you’re with your sweetheart and all’s right with the world.

A strange game....

A strange game….

Now, that being said, a more difficult day — a DEFCON 3, Threat Level Yellow Day — doesn’t get the same utterance. That’s the day when I feel I’m moving against the flow, swimming upstream, and generally working at cross purposes with the universe.  That’s the day when the word “asshole” spills from my lips. It’s not a “Fish Called Wanda”-level “ASSSSSHOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLE!” bellowing, just a kind of muted growl at seemingly constant low-level frustrations.

For a long time, I thought that these were the only levels I had. And then came a DEFCON 1 kind of day. Threat Level RED. An “I can’t go back to bed, so you’d better get out of my way” kind of day.

WWIII

…the only way to win is not to play.

I don’t remember who or what set me off, or how it ever got resolved. All I remember now is that I was channelling the language of an extremely dissatisfied sailor. Whatever I was wandering around muttering, it probably sounded like “!@#$%ing @#$%s!!!!!!”

I like the “sweetheart” days much better. Pretending I’m not alone. Pretending someone understands completely. Pretending that everything, the way it is right now, is just fine and will never change. Oh, sweetheart, that’s just the way I like it.

Published in: on October 1, 2014 at 11:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Once upon a time, a Canadian knitter known as the Yarn Harlot created the Knitting Olympics. It was a forum for knitters from anywhere to set themselves a lofty knitting-related challenge, and a place to celebrate when they met it during the span of the Winter Games. And it was good.

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Years later, Ravelry came along, and Rav-folk created the Ravelympics to coincide with the Summer Games. There were serious teams and silly teams, and themed Ravatars, and virtual medals, and events. And it was still good, even when the Yarn Harlot let go of the Knitting Olympics to let Rav-folk do their thing for the Winter Games as well.

Ravelympics 2008

Rose’s Wrist Warmers

2010knittingolympics2

(Then the United States Olympic Committee came along in 2012 with a cease-and-desist order for Ravelry, and thus the Ravellenic Games were born. Or renamed. Or whatever. And it was still good, though yarnies were resentful at the outside interference.)

Ravellenic2012

This year things are a little bit different. This year, the Winter Games are in Sochi, which is swirling more with politics than with snowflakes. The Rav-folk tried to create a Ravellenic Games that didn’t include free speech about the various political situations. I was absent from Ravelry at the time, and only heard about TEH DRAMAZ secondhand, but let’s just say…that didn’t quite work. A couple sets of moderators later, though, and a version of the Ravellenic Games is ready to light that torch.


Brush up on your Catalan….


How the fangirls wish it could have gone in 2012….

Usually, I look forward to each Olympic Games. And playing along with the knitting home version was a lot of fun. It’s easy to putter along and make the things you’ve always made, with the yarn you’ve always used, and following the pattern you know so well you don’t look at it any more. It’s different for someone to say, By God, I’m going to make a cardigan in two weeks. And it’s amazing to do it. But with this year’s Games being so highly politicized, I wasn’t sure what to do. Supporting the Games and its sponsors, and even just knitting along at home, while so many athletes were made vulnerable to the whims of the State, seemed wrong. Executing a personal boycott of the Games punished myself and disrespected the athletes who were representing their countries. I kept waiting for Russia to have a sudden awakening — as if one morning they would just apologize, say a hundred Hail Marys, and sprinkle forgiveness around like fairy dust. It wasn’t happening. So I didn’t really prepare anything.

SochiScarf

In the last couple of weeks, though, my plan came together. (“Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?”) I looked through my stash and found a single skein of Peace Fleece. I searched Ravelry and my pattern library to find the right project for it. And then I took the skein from whence I’d purchased it a couple of years ago, pressed some friends to help me color-coordinate it with a few more skeins of Peace Fleece, and all of a sudden I had everything ready in a project bag.

Then just last week, Cephalopod Yarns, a yarn company I had heard of but never purchased from, made their own statement with a Sochi Pride colorway. I had to have it. It was beautiful yarn, and statement-making. (They also made a colorway named Gallifrey, and a skein of that fell in my shopping cart as well. Oops.) Both colorways are now out of stock, but they do have two skeins left of something named Sontar, and six skeins left of Pompeii. (I love these people. They are hopeless geeks, and unashamed. Read their FAQ.)

SochiPride

So. The deal is that I get to cast on for my project during the Opening Ceremonies, and must finish it before the end of the Closing Ceremonies. What could possibly go wrong?

While you all speculate on that, enjoy this article on defunct Olympic sporting events.

Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Mellow Yellow

Recently I welcomed home a dozen or so knitting projects that had taken kind of an extended vacation at a friend’s house. You know that feeling you get when you pick up a half-read book and must scan through it to see what you’ve read, to guess how far you got before the bookmark fell out? Try looking at something you started making, and realizing that not only do you not know when you started it, but also have no idea what it was going to be, where the pattern is, or what convinced you to venture down this path in the first place.

Some projects, of course, I recognized right away. I didn’t even have to open my Apple-store string pack to know that there was a Season 18 Doctor Who scarf in progress inside, on now-out-of-production Lion Brand Chenille Thick & Quick of Purple, Wine, and Terracotta. (I’m still looking for three more skeins of Terracotta or I can’t ever finish this scarf. Does anyone have some?)

Other projects never got past their yarn (and sometimes pattern) being stuffed into a project bag. Those got quickly sorted out and the yarn returned to stash.

A few projects, barely started, had lost their fire. I gave each one a moment of silence, pulled out and stored their needles, then frogged the project (pulled out all the stitches and rewound the yarn ball) and returned its components to stash.

Most of the projects that were well underway seemed to be worth finishing at some point, so they went back into a mesh pop-up laundry basket I had purchased specifically for WIP (work-in-progress) storage. Yes, TARDIS cowl-redesigned-into-lace-scarf, I will finish you someday.

But Brandy, between chuckles at me, was knitting on something and I wanted to knit something too. None of my current projects seemed to fit the bill — Drunken Octopus Sweater and Cozy Slippers were both at the seaming stage and I wanted to knit and talk, not seam new things in poor light in the evening. So I looked over my prodigal projects and found Citron.

A little slice o' lemon.

A little slice o’ lemon.

Citron is a semicircular shawl pattern that came out in the winter of 2009. It’s a distinctive pattern and actually quite simple to make, but it is done with laceweight yarn. Working on it is pretty much like knitting with slightly thick sewing thread. And there are hundreds of stitches on your needle, so you need a long circular needle, preferably with very pointy metal tips so you don’t split your yarn. I have bought some quantities of laceweight over the years, but Citron is the only project I’ve ever used any with.

But first, what row was I on when I stopped?

Check your pattern notes.

The pattern isn’t in the project bag.

Well… check your pattern binders, the shawl volume.

The pattern isn’t in there.

Well… check your Ravelry library.

I got out a laptop and checked. Well, it’s technically in my Ravelry library, but since it’s a pattern from an online source, it’s not a separate PDF.

Well… check the knitting pattern folder on your laptop.

Lots of shawl patterns there, but not Citron.

Well… print it out again from the Knitty site.

I tried, but the laptop was so old and slow it never managed to load Knitty.

Fine then, use the big computer and print it out from that one.

So I did. Now I had the pattern in hand (and soon in a sheet protector). From my Ravelry project file I saw that I’d made it to (or through) Row Six of Section Three. (“You kept notes?” said Brandy. “Good girl!”)

And as quick as that, I was back knitting on a five-year-old pattern that my notes said I hadn’t touched since the fall of 2011. I’m now at the end of Section Three. There are two more sections knit in the same way, then a ruffled edging that is not really my thing but is most definitely the pattern’s thing, and I shall knit it as specified. The joke is that I’m halfway done now, and if you measure by project segments (done with three, three more to go) you could come to that conclusion. But since the middle of each section adds 23 more stitches (twice), the row I’m on has me at 177 stitches and increasing to 348, and the ruffled edging produces 540 stitches that I then must knit in stockinette for 11 more rows before binding off… there’s a lot of knitting left and I’m nowhere near halfway done in terms of time or stitches.

But I’m knitting on it again and I shall finish it. If I didn’t think so, I wouldn’t have bought fresh Peace Fleece yarn for a project to knit during the Winter Olympics at Sochi.

What will it be? Not socks.

What will it be? Not socks.

Week Thirty-Eight: How I Met the Doctor

Recently, Facebook was trying to enhance the quality of its content by finding out every movie, TV show, and book I have enjoyed over the past <<cough cough>> years of my life. The exercise in cyber-feedback progressed from ‘mildly invasive’ to ‘there IS such a thing as a stupid question’ when I came across this screen (click on the image to make it come up, bigger, on its own page):

SeenThis

Have I watched this? Have I WATCHED this? Seriously, how does Mark Zuckerberg not personally know whether or not I have watched this?

I can tell you exactly when and why I started watched New Who. My ex husband said, “Oh look, they’re starting up ‘Doctor Who’ again. Didn’t you used to watch that? Christopher Eccleston is going to be playing The Doctor. You know, the guy who was in ‘Shallow Grave’ with Ewan McGregor.” We watched the series reboot on BBC America and LOVED Eccleston’s Doctor. His leftover rage, his manic energy… perfect! Then, at the end of the season, he regenerated into David Tennant. I was so upset I stopped watching for a year. (If you know me through Ravelry, you’ll know I eventually got over this.)

These days I’m not only all caught up, but I’m re-watching all of New Who with my teenage son. We are almost done with Tennant’s first season (yes, I will have a carton of tissues ready for “Doomsday”) but will swing right into Martha’s year and beyond.

What I can’t tell you is how I met the Doctor in the first place. Ironically, that meeting has been lost to time.

I do know that I’d met him — Tom Baker’s Doctor, the only one most Americans knew back then — by the fall of 1985 when I went off to college. My winter coat was a long black wool coat which I usually wore unbuttoned, accompanied by some sort of ridiculously long scarf. (No, I didn’t have a hat.) And with me I took my beloved 1940s Underwood manual typewriter AND an electronic Smith-Corona typewriter that I probably received after my high school graduation. It was a grey slab of a thing, all angles and no warmth. (I have no idea where it is now, or what might have happened to it over the years. It probably ran away from home after I got my first Macintosh in 1988.)

I named it K9.

How did I know?

Editing with K9 in 1987.

Editing with K9 in 1987.

I did have a little black and white television in my bedroom. There must have been an awesome sale at Sun TV, because all my friends had identical black and white TVs that year. I was allowed to watch it as long as my grades didn’t suffer. (ha!) I watched “Cosmos” on it, and British shows aired by PBS. I remember watching someone’s performance of “The Importance of Being Ernest.” I remember watching “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” But I don’t remember seeing The Doctor there, and they probably would have shown Doctor Who on midnight Saturday night anyway. I never stayed up that late (I think I watched a grand total of TWO episodes of “Saturday Night Live” during my high school years, and making it to the ball-drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve was a big deal).

I suspect that I met the Doctor via…comic books. I personally remember buying only copies of Daredevil, the Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man (otherwise known as PPTSS). But my BROTHER, now there’s a guy who knew how to accumulate comic books, and I read everything he had as soon as he was done with it. I suspect that somehow, somewhere, the Doctor and K9 snuck into the house in comic book form amidst copies of The Unknown Soldier, Marvel What-If, Sgt. Rock, The X-Men, G.I. Combat (“featuring The Haunted Tank!”), and Warlord.

Ah, Warlord. An Air Force pilot loses his way near the North Pole and flies to not Russia but the primitive inner-Earth land of Skartaris.... ahem.

Ah, Warlord. An Air Force pilot loses his way near the North Pole and flies to not Russia but the primitive inner-Earth land of Skartaris…. ahem.

But, I was talking about the Doctor. Somehow I found him, and somehow I just thought he was cool. And many many years later, when I was learning how to knit, the first item I made was a ridiculously long scarf that I called my “fake Doctor Who scarf.” I didn’t look to see if there was a specific scarf to copy, certain colors, or any type of pattern at all. To me it was Plato’s scarf. I knew it had to be very long, and have lots of colors and fringe, and that was all. Ta-daah!

Not the Doctor's.

Not the Doctor’s.

(Later, of course, I found out there was a pattern. There were very specific colors, and stitch counts, and row counts. So far I’ve made four and have a fifth one on the needles.)

That's better.

That’s better.

Judging from the comic books my eyes devoured, I liked adventure, history, and good winning over evil. The big coat, the crazy scarf, and the tin dog just made it even more fun.

Week Thirty-Four: Disconnected

Over the past two weeks, my kids and I started to notice that our Internet connection was slowing down. Not everything was affected equally, but YouTube videos took an insane amount of time to load, and we gradually stopped trying to watch them. (Since a majority of The Teen’s waking hours are spent watching videos of other people playing Minecraft, this was a big deal for him.)

One night a friend sent me a YouTube link on Facebook and was saddened when I reported that, in essence, life was too short to permit its viewing. He then sent me a link to a speed-test site, which revealed that while my upload speeds were in the common parlance “slow,” download speeds were better described as “glacial.”

Image-001-735206

Maybe we can blame this on Scrat, too.

Now, water always wins, and glacial actions are powerful over time, but this is OUR INTERNET we were talking about, and we needed to see our STUFF. I kept promising myself I’d turn the router off before I went to bed some night and turn it on again in the morning, and everything would be fine. But I kept forgetting. By the time I woke up each morning, the kids were already at the computer and would not be prised off.

So, Sunday night after all the kidlets were in bed and presumably sleeping, I called our Internet provider. I figured it was a simple matter of walking through a modem reset, usually accomplished by following the instructions dictated by an automated voice, and then we’d be back to normal. However, to one of the simple questions I gave an answer that punted me to an Actual Person.

Uh-oh.

The phone tech, in the nicest possible American Southern drawl, asked me to connect a laptop (do you have a laptop? Baby do I have laptops!) directly to the cable modem, bypassing the router. She started running speed tests on her end while I started my laptop, shut it down, and started it again when I was asked to (oops). After a few minutes of my waiting for the aged iBook to launch Firefox (during which time I completely forgot that I simply can’t access the home wireless network while I’m using the landline, which I was [oops]), I heard her say, “Oh. Y’all don’t have to try to get the Internet. Ah can see a BIG problem from here. We’ll send a technician to your house as soon as possible.”

Good luck, Fred.

Good luck, Fred.

To her, “as soon as possible” means Tuesday morning between 8 and 10am.

I thanked her, hung up, and put everything back to the way it had been before… or I at least tried. I reset everything, and ran diagnostics twice, but I couldn’t connect to the Internet.

Uh-oh.

If my home wireless network can’t connect to the Internet, my Kindle and my smartphone are going to have serious problems. Remember, I live on a former dairy farm in the middle of Seriouslyrural, Wisconsin. We do not so much have, how are you saying, The Signal.

I can probably make a phone call if I go outside and sit in the car. But until Tuesday morning, I can’t do Facebook. The Teen can’t watch walkthrough videos. The younger three can’t go online to create their own video games on the new gamebuilder site they just got accounts on. I can’t report half my email as spam. I can’t go on WebMD to find out that tweak in my left shoulder is some kind of ligament tumor. I can’t go to allrecipes.com and plug in the amounts of fresh peaches, pears, and plums I have on the kitchen table and find recipes to use them up ASAP. I can’t search unlv.edu to see if that’s where my mathematician-friend Craig will be teaching this fall. I can’t log on to Amazon.com and one-click order that  Cuisinart ice cream maker with which I can start trying out all those Jeni’s ice cream recipes.

We are DISCONNECTED.

I will make it clear that we are not Amish. We do have iTunes, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. And we do have the Wii, the brand-new-to-us GameCube, the PS2, the PS1, and the Sega Genesis. We have the iPad mini, the Kindle Fire, the old Kindles, the GameBoys, and the DS units. We have cable television and dozens of DVDs.

amishbikers

Frankly, I’m going to spend my disconnected time in the kitchen. (I do have those peaches, plums, and pears to make something of before the fruit flies consume us all.) When I’m not in the kitchen, I have knitting to work on, and a TARDIS bookcase to paint up in primer. My children may be the anti-Amish, but I do have my Mennonite tendencies on which to fall back in times of crisis such as these.

But the children! Think of the children! Will they remember how to ride their bicycles? How to keep journals? How to draw and paint? How to help Mom make chocolate–peanut butter fudge, poach pears, and make homemade pizza? How to read books? How to play in the park? How to read their library books before they’re due?

Right now, very early Monday morning, that amber light is still flashing on the AirPort, and I’m…concerned.

Blink on, blink off.

Blink on, blink off.

In the words of Peter Gabriel, “Dear god…what have I done?”

Published in: on August 22, 2013 at 10:00 am  Comments (3)