Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Teaching Dad a Lesson.

Yesterday, I called Jennifer and my mother in order to force them to talk me into purchasing a new iPod, something I had already decided to do.

The reason I had to call, aside from my deeply rooted psychological problems, was that I am still not used to having any money at all. I am used to being completely, utterly destitute, and still, every time I notice that I have more than three dollars in my checking account (enough to keep it open), I am surprised and pleased.

And disbelieving.

I mean, who would pay me? Who would hire me? It doesn't make any sense.

But here we are.

After both Jennifer and Mom failed to tell me what I'd wanted them to tell me, which was, "Go buy the iPod, Laura. Just do it," I was forced to push down my self-doubt (which is currently boring a whole through my stomach lining) and stride proudly into Walmart.

Okay, so I scampered. And avoided eye contact. But I did go into Walmart.

Since I have left behind my Green Phase and entered into my Purple Phase, I got the purple one, and now have over twice as much space for music as I did before. And a nifty camera.

I feel special.

Since I have done this, I have no doubt that Apple will release a brand new version of the iPod early next week, just as they did the last time I got one. Such is life.

I mention this to give background, just as I must add that my wool arrived from Simply Socks yesterday. This was a happy thing. Two happy things.

I went home. Dad was still at whatever board meeting happens on Tuesday nights. I can't keep track of these meetings, as they are many, so I just imagine him sitting in a room drinking coffee, which is likely the case anyway.

But when I went home, I was a dutiful daughter, and I chose to set up Dad's iPod instead of mine, and to wait to touch my new fancy wool.

This was difficult.

I had everything under control until Dad came home. He wasn't supposed to come home before ten. He never comes home until ten. It isn't an option for him.

He comes home, looks tired and angry, then goes to sleep. That's the pattern.

What I didn't know was that Tuesday nights had become Spanish class nights, making his arrival at home far earlier than the norm. His mood, however, remained unchanged. This was because he was freaking out about bombing a lab test, something I did often and with pleasure. See, when I was taking Spanish, the lab tests were just a fun way for you to find out how much you sucked. Then you'd find a way to suck less. It was a precursor to the actual test, which you paid attention to. The actual test mattered. The lab test? It was a way for you to answer questions without bothering to remember where the accent marks went. That's what lab tests are for.

Unfortunately, Dad has a different teacher than I did, and from what I can tell, along with changing what textbook the class uses, he made it so that the lab tests mattered. See, if that had been the case when I was still taking Spanish, I wouldn't have skipped all the labs.

Yeah, I had a thing about skipping Spanish lab. It was related to my hatred of sitting in the Lounge, waiting for Spanish lab after choir and band were both over and everyone had gone to their dorms. I didn't have a dorm. Plus, the commuters who stuck around had already gone home. So, I was lonely. And hungry. So I went home. Mostly. Pretty much all the time.

Poor Dad! His Spanish test-score weighed heavily upon him, so he was kind of preoccupied when I told him I'd set his iPod up already.

In order for this image to fully take shape, you should know that I fully and completely had decided to slay six tween-age girls who were loudly laughing and shoving furniture around in the lobby of the library. I didn't. I sent them home. But then, the child that everyone in Wabash hates came in through the door with other children that people don't really like too much either. The former hopped up on the stool we use to sit on since we don't have shelves high enough for us to need to use it to reach high things. Then the child pretended to be surfing (snowboarding?). Then he did a little dance.

It was a good thing that I wasn't the only adult in the children's area just then, because I would have flayed this child so quickly, his age-mates wouldn't have been able to run fast enough to avoid seeing the carnage.

I watch too much Buffy.

When I got home and started playing IT Girl, I decided it wouldn't hurt for me to wind a hank of yarn into a ball. This is Malabrigo Sock, folks. This is like the heroin of yarns. It is the best sock yarn I have ever played with, because there is enough of it for tallish socks with fancy cables and twisted stitches, it is a pretty color, there is no pooling (which is when your varying colors end up not varying at all, leaving you with a big giant blue splotch on one toe or something), and it is also nice to knit with. Oh, and cheaper than two hanks of Koigu KPPPM, which is always a bonus.

What you should know about Malabrigo Sock: It might be just me, but every time I wind this, I end up having to untangle it in some way. It is annoying, and no method seems to make it not tangle. I am also not the only one with this issue, ask Kathy at the Shuttle shop.

What you should know about me: I don't have a swift or a ball winder.

A swift is a device that holds your yarn out. It looks like this. When you have a hank of yarn, it is a giant loop which is then twisted, folded, and allowed to twist around itself. It looks like this. That's actual Malabrigo, so you can see it looking pretty. When winding it, you must untwist it, stretch out the giant loop, snip the threads that tie it in a loop-shape, then find the ends and wind it into a ball.

The swift holds it in its loop for you, eliminating the need for a friendly relative or innocent stranger or even the clueless friend who is gullible enough to be drafted into service. This is why having a fellow knitter in your house is a good thing, you hold their giant yarn loops while they wind them, and they hold yours.

If you have a swift, it is also good to have a ball winder. A ball winder is not so useful without a swift, in my limited experience. This is because if you start wildly turning the little ball winder handle, you aren't keeping any tension, and it tends to become a very freaky, loose ball. It then tangles unpleasantly.

Are all the non-knitters with me? I hope so.

Now, I don't have a swift, nor do I have a ball winder, because if I bought them both it would add up to over a hundred dollars, which is money I would far rather spend on yarn. That's a sweater, and a nice one. I'd rather spend my yarn budget on that.

I also have never had enough yarn in my "stash" to warrant the purchase of a swift and ball winder. This was due to the aforementioned poverty. My stash, at its height, was one extra ball of sock yarn. Those were good times, when there was extra. Usually I just had the one. Then, when I was out, I would use the remnants left behind from various socks to make baby booties, which I would randomly give away at church.

Now I have started getting actual yarn, putting it in bags and bins, but I am nowhere near the level of some people, such as the newly blogging knitwear designer goddess Ann Budd. Take a look at her stash. As you can imagine, yarn companies send her yarn hoping she'll use it to design and they will get a plug. So I'm betting she doesn't buy it all. But Ann isn't where her friend Bonnie is. Did you see all her yarn? That's insane. That's a legendary stash. I wouldn't know what to do with all that. I would have a nervous breakdown. Imagine the fear, the terror of moths you'd have, the phobia of carpet beetles. Rachael can tell you. She understands.

Since I have no swift and no ball winder, I knew I'd be sitting still for a while with the iPod thing and that it was a good opportunity to hand-wind. So I did. I sat and sat and sat, winding the Malabrigo. I did this alone, a feat accomplished by using my knees held at an odd angle to keep the yarn loop stretched enough that it didn't tangle. At least, it didn't tangle until the last 50 yards. The last 50 yards are the most annoying, I find, as that is when you've relaxed enough that you aren't actively preventing the tangling from happening.

This project took a long time. During the midst of it, Dad arrived home, depressed due to Spanish Test issues, and he wanted to sulk. However, when he saw me setting up his iPod, he wanted to learn about it, and he tried.

I was, at that moment, in no mood to teach. I'd put a few CDs of his on it already, he informed me he was sick of those and didn't want them on the iPod. I took them off. Then he was worried that one podcast would eat up all his space. I told him no. I got him the Celtic music podcasts I'd burned for him before, but he kept saying, "Don't I want to have other artists?" and "Have I used up all my money yet?"

No, I replied, because 1. those podcasts are released by this Irish cultural group that holds jam sessions and puts different artists on their podcasts each week and 2. that podcast was totally free. Free Celtic music, which should have been Dad's favorite thing. Except he was tired.

"How do I download music?"

You just did.

"How does it get on the computer?"

It downloads.

"What do I do to put it on my iPod?"

You plug the iPod in.

"How do I charge it?"

You plug the iPod in.

"How do I know what's on it?"

You plug the iPod in.

"What if I get new music?"

You plug the iPod in.

At this point, due to my strategic yarn-winding knee alignment, my posterior was completely numb. As were my legs. And toes. Also, there was alarming amounts of pain shooting up from my sacrum, a happy little bone in your lower back that attaches to your hip bones on either sides, your lumbar vertebrae, and your coccyx. I could no longer feel my coccyx. If it is even still there. When you fall down as much as I do, you begin to wonder if you've ground your coccyx to dust. It could happen.

I then began to subtly tell Dad that I couldn't teach him to use iTunes that evening.

"You're so tired, Dad," I told him. "Why don't I just put what we've got on your iPod, then show you how to use it. That way you can learn to play music on it, and later on I'll show you how to download new stuff."

"Wait, now, how do you do that again?"

I had just synced the iPod.

"This," I said, "Is something I'll show you later."

"I'm kind of tired," he replied. "I'm upset about my test."

"I know," I told him. "That's why I'll show you later."

"What do I have on there? Can you delete songs?"

"You can tomorrow," I explained. "When I teach you how. But you won't want to. Just uncheck it, and it won't be on your iPod anymore."


That was a loaded answer. That was, "Gee, Lor, I don't understand at all, but since you're telling me, it has to be true. However, I will continue to ask you this question repeatedly, eventually forcing you to write me a list of what to do with the iPod and what not to do, which you will fold carefully and put in a desk drawer, then you will ask me the same questions again and again, until I take out the list and shove it back across the table at you, with badly concealed rage."

"We should do it Thursday," he said. "I can learn iPod Thursday."

"You can learn iTunes," I said. "You already learned your iPod. It's in your hand."


"I need to teach you tomorrow," I said finally. "Or Thursday. I don't care. But my legs have gone totally numb, I'm in pain, and I can't let you touch the keyboard because I'm holding yarn that will tangle if I move, and you can't get to the keyboard from there."

"Can I take your yarn?" Paul asked kindly, from across the room.

"It will just tangle, at this point," I told him. "I'm on the last 50 yards."

"Right," he said. "Let me know next time."

I have a good brother.

"Thursday," Dad said. "We'll do it Thursday."

"Good," I told him. He left, right after I shoved the iPod at him. I finished winding my yarn. I set up my new iPod, and I spent the rest of the night getting new music for it, like stuff they've played during figure skating that I didn't have before, in arrangements that I like. Or think I'll like, since 30 seconds isn't a long enough time to judge a 10+ minute concerto.

Thursday. Thursday I will sit with Dad for three or more hours, long after he should have gone to sleep, showing him how to do one thing 10 to 20 times. Then, I will do it again on another day.

It will be just like the time that he called me at work, asking me how to copy and paste something into an e-mail.

"Leave the e-mail open," I said, "Then use your mouse to highlight the part of the website you want to copy, then go through Edit, Copy, then go back to the e-mail and hit paste."


This conversation lasted over 20 minutes. I kept trying to convince him that it would work, but I eventually discovered that he had not only closed the e-mail window, he hadn't even bothered to save it first, resulting in a blind rage on his end of the phone and my getting hung up on, not for the first time, by my own father.

That's cold, man. Real cold.

At that point, judging from the copy/paste incident and my earlier attempts at teaching him to make a slideshow on PowerPoint, I resolved that my years as a computer skills teacher would be at an end. But it wasn't and it won't be. I can never escape. This is because Paul refuses to ever, ever help Dad with a computer due to the screaming matches that would almost certainly result. Also, Dad now knows that I know how to do all these things. He also believes quite firmly that pressing the wrong button on a computer will cause it to crash and to be unfixable, meaning that he should never try anything without the presence of an expert.

He thinks I am an expert.

I solve problems by pressing random buttons until something good happens. Or by asking Rachael. She knows. She's been taught important things by various people over the years, and she remembers them. She's smart that way.

I just keep hitting "Undo" and then, if it doesn't work, I restart the computer. That helps, sometimes. Or I cry, and then try it again, which usually works.

I wonder what would happen if I never taught Dad his iPod...would he ever use it? If it wouldn't end up being tragic for Mom (who got him the iPod Shuffle as a Christmas present), I would check and see...but I want Mom happy. So I'll teach him.

I'll teach him good...

*See translation.


  1. The fact that your brother would, out of the goodness of his heart, offer to help you with yarn proves to me that he certainly is a good brother, or an alien. I'm gonna go with alien because I don't know if I'm idealistic enough to believe a sibling can be that kind while living in the same house as their other sibling. Really, the stories involving wrestling, throwing punches, and drawing blood should not yet be over.

    Oh, and you have a good father as well. The proof is in the following, "I'm kind of tired," he replied. "I'm upset about my test."

    I can imagine your dad saying this, and I feel sorry for him. I never attended labs either...

  2. I do have a great brother, but I also think he might be an alien. He can hold out his fingers in this weird way that makes his hand look just like ET, or one of those aliens on The X-Files. Alien or not, he is an awesome brother, if only because he knows he doesn't need to make me bleed or bruise, I'll take care of that myself the next time I fall down the basement stairs.

    Dad is a good father, too. And he does come across in a sort of sweet, puppy-dog way when he's disappointed about his academic performance.