Monday, January 31, 2011

The Post That Time Forgot

I wrote this post several weeks ago, but waited for pictures to post it. So, I have added responses to my earlier thoughts on the subject, which will look like this. The parts I wrote ages ago will look like this.

I think I will never be finished with these mittens. I am.

Obligatory Mitten Picture.

I purchased the pattern and yarn months ago, right after I finished my Strawberry Mittens. I decided that now I had conquered color work, I could have a color work project hanging around for the days when one ball of yarn wasn't enough. Yeah, I have those days. Don't you?

I worked the cuff. Then I started stranding, then I frogged it. My problem was simple. I was using double pointed needles, and the ladders were horrific. Never mind. I was used to them now. No need to switch to a long circular. I started the chart again, and promptly frogged again--too tight. Such is my curse. In attempting to make the ladders between needles disappear, I had prevented my floats from floating. Oops.

I began again. This time, the color work looked great. Then I tried it on. HUGE. It looked like I'd grabbed a mitten designed for a much-larger man. I could have fit three hands in that one mitten. I frogged it. Then I wound the yarn back up all neat and nice, rammed it into a zip lock bag, then threw it back in with the rest of the stash. It's a wonder the stash didn't swallow the mitten yarn whole. It ate a sweater once. I only just found that sweater again. Am I working on it? Not anymore.

That was months ago. And it's cold now. Cold enough that knitting a pair of mittens starts to look mighty good. Really? Is that what I thought? Yeah. I started knitting the mittens again because I was sick and wanted to feel like I was accomplishing something other than blowing my nose repeatedly.

I began again. I had my lovely Blue Sky Alpacas ebony needles, size two, and my yarn and my chart spread out before me. I started knitting. What I failed to mention here is that I would knit one round of the mittens, than a few on Olive, then back to the mittens. I was sick. And indecisive.

Then, later that day, I tried on the mitten, resisted yelling something profane regarding the lineage of sheep from which the yarn originated, then frogged it. There may have been tears.

You see, when you knit something, realize there's a Big Change you need to make, then frog your project before putting it away, it's easy to think you can just follow the pattern and you'll be fine. You forget that you have freakish E.T. hands with long, skinny fingers, or that the width of your palm is roughly the same as your wrist. In short, you forget that you are a human sideshow attraction. I have nothing to add to this.

I frogged again. I dragged out my size one needles, and I started again. My size one needles were bent in a half-moon shape. It was like knitting with the letter "U."

I could sit here beating myself down, thinking I am a terrible knitter and that the knitwear gods have cursed me. Instead, I am going to do what my countrymen here in the U.S.A. do best. I am going to blame someone else.

I would never have picked up these mittens again if not for Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. That's right--I blame the Yarn Harlot. She made me cast on for this project again with her Startitis post. She made me choose to knit this SpillyJane pattern I had sitting next to its required yarn in a zip lock bag. She made it impossible to resist the call of fair isle, when I saw the lovely floats she displayed in this post. Clearly, I would never have picked up another project without her interference. I'd be finished with Olive right now, or finished with the rapidly dwindling supply of yarn for Olive and praying there would be more yarn in a similar dye lot at Knitting Off Broadway so I could actually finish. It's Stephanie's fault I have been stabbed repeatedly by these accursed bamboo needles, size one, that have been overused, bent into curves, and sharpened enough that they could double for torture devices. Oh, I did mention those needles. They really are sharp, too.

If not for the Yarn Harlot, I would be free. Yeah, whatever Laura. If not for Stephanie, you'd just have started knitting something else. And you'd be begging Twitter to do math for you again, since you refused to take remedial Algebra.*

Another Obligatory Mitten Picture

One Last Obligatory Mitten Picture

Visit the mittens on Ravelry!

Pattern: Polska by SpillyJane
Yarn: Knitpicks Palette in Cream, Marine Heather, Autumn Heather, and Verdant Heather
Needles: Size one double points

*Yes, I did just mock myself in the third person. No, I don't see any problem with that.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

There came a time, before the sermon but after Joys and Concerns and some singing, when all the children had to leave their pews and walk all the way to the front of the sanctuary, sit on the ground, and listen to someone tell us a story.

I was never a normal child.

Even at eight, I knew the reason these stories were told was not to entertain the children. If the church had been looking to entertain us, they would have had half as much talking and twice as many video games. No, we were brought up for a story so the adults could stare at us, note how cute we were in our Sunday dresses and slacks, and then watch us listen to the story while feeling as if something was being accomplished, because we were good little boys and girls and not heathens destined to roll and boil in Hell for all eternity.

Knowing the grown-ups and their secrets, I attempted to create various ruses to escape the children's story. I would dart out to use the restroom moments before the story was to begin. In the bathroom, which was new, spacious, and very bright, I would make faces in the mirror, wash my hands very carefully, try to make my hair look like Brandi's always did (less flat, more blonde), and then slowly sneak back out to join my family in their pew when the story was finished.

Maybe it was my utter lack of stealth that made my parents get wise. They stopped letting me leave the pew and started forcing me to walk up, sit down, and listen.

But I wasn't going to take that. I hated the stories, mostly because they were boring, but also because they involved strange old people I didn't know or trust, the kind of old people that smell like powder and wore shoulder pads. I never trusted shoulder pads. Shoulder pads are made of lies.

The next Sunday, I developed a severe stomach ache, right before the story was set to begin. I clutched my stomach, folded myself in half, and stared at the ground.

"It hurts!" I whispered to my mother. She stared at my father.

"Are you going to be sick?" He asked me.

"I don't know..." I said. I had not mastered the skill I knew some children had, of vomiting on command.

"When I was a little boy," Dad began. "One Sunday my stomach hurt. It hurt so bad, I asked to stay home from church. My parents told me that, unless I threw up, I was going to church. I did throw up. And do you know what happened?"

"What?" I asked.

"My parents took me to church anyway, because there was nothing left for me to throw up. My stomach was empty," Dad said.

Now, I may have been eight, but I knew Dad was calling my bluff. A compromise was reached. I could sit in the pew this Sunday, but next Sunday, I had to go up front with Paul. It was my job, my parents told me, to make sure Paul sat still and listened.

Stupid Paul.

He was ruining my escape plans. Thanks to him, the next Sunday came and I had to cart myself up front with all the other children. I was sure most of them were four or five years younger than I was. Next to them, I looked freakishly old. It was like if my friend Bryan's much-older brother Tim had gone up with us. He was in high school, I thought. He had to be about to get married. And that was what people saw when they looked at me, a bizarre woman-child who would at any moment start drooling from the corner of my mouth, rocking back and forth, and soiling myself.

I flopped down on the rough carpet and stared at my shoes.

That day, I was wearing a pair of shiny black mary janes with my scratchiest lace-edged socks. My mother had planned this in order to ensure the greatest level of discomfort. One of the shoes was buckled wrong.

I slowly undid the buckle and stared at the shiny black strap. Then I undid the other buckle.

At that moment, something clicked in my brain. Both the straps were the same. Both the buckles were the same. What was there to stop a person from fastening one strap to the opposite shoe's buckle?

Naturally, I did just that. I was amazed to see that it actually worked. You really could buckle your shoes together! I quickly buckled the other strap on the opposite shoe.

Now my feet were strapped together, my ankles crossed, and I had done something I was sure no other child had ever thought to do. I was a genius. This was the best discovery I had made in my life.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder.

Yes. You know what was happening, right? You've figured it out. I regret to say my child-self was still utterly clueless.

When I looked up, all the other children were gone. I saw my brother's shoe as he walked around the pew and headed down the aisle. They had left me behind, and now, to put it delicately, I was screwed.

My feet still securely buckled together, I tried to stand up. I fell down. Untwisting my ankles, I tried again. But now there was no slack between my feet.

I inched one foot forward, the other forward, one, then the other. But I was moving so slowly! I tried to go faster, but again, I fell.

Now the congregation was starting to notice. I reddened. They couldn't see my feet; they had no idea what I was doing. They just thought I was being silly. They couldn't see how difficult this was.

I was only inches from where I had begun and already precious time was running out. The organ music had begun. Soon the pastor would appear, and I knew that if I was still stuck up there when the sermon started or even still hobbling to my seat when the pastor started talking, Hell would open right up inside the church and it would swallow me whole.


Terror growing within me, I did the only thing I could do. I started hopping.

Like a rabbit, I sprang high in the air and came back down, jumping as far as I could as I raced back to my seat. Now the whole congregation was laughing, loudly. But they didn't understand. My mortal soul was up for grabs, and the only way I could keep myself from cavities and adult situations was to get back to my seat before my lace-swathed ankle ended up in the rough grasp of Satan.

I fell, I got back up, still I hopped. When I finally reached my seat, my mother had gone pale, my father looked as if he might explode.

"I'm sorry," I said desperately. "I was stuck!"

Then they noticed my shoes.

For the next six months, the shoe story was all my parents could talk about to everyone they knew. They told my grandparents, my cousins, my aunt and uncle, our neighbors and friends. My mother particularly enjoyed telling it.

Finally, when I heard my mother recounting the story to my grandmother for the second time, I burst into tears.

Through my tortured wails, I begged her to stop.

"Towa mamo omy lyyy!" I cried. "Iwa vogeee!" This meant, "It was the worst moment of my life! I want to forget it!"

Mom, of course, understood every word.

And I never had to go up and listen to the children's story ever again.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chaotic Implosion Day

After the Pooping Man, a person would think my day couldn't get any more exciting?
I present to you my evening:
  • A 30 minute detour around the town as I tried to get past the train stopped on the railroad tracks behind the library.
  • Dad in the emergency room with chest pains, first at our tiny local hospital, then at the much-larger Parkview hospital. No heart attack (or so we've been told), just an inflamed liver and / or GALLBLADDER.
  • I missed Criminal Minds.
And you thought inexplicable turds on the library carpet were as wild as life could get.

The Mark on the Library Floor

A Note for the Squeamish: What follows is a story of horrific horrificness. Those with weak stomachs are advised to go back to yesterday's post and watch the Alan Rickman video again, or Google "cute kitten pictures" and stare at them until I write another, less disgusting post.

Someone asked me for a book, and it was upstairs, so I went upstairs to the shelf where the book lives. On the way, I noticed an odor, but I kept walking because I work in a public library in a building that was constructed over a hundred years ago, and that means smells.

But when I rounded the corner on my way to the shelf, I encountered the source of the smell. Footprints marred the otherwise immaculate carpet. Yellowey, brownish orange footprints. Someone had tracked what I imagined to be dog crap through the library.

There are lots of dogs in the world, and lots of feet. It's only understandable that human feet will meet dog waste at some point in history, especially when dogs and humans spend so much time around each other. So, dog poo on feet. Sadly, in this instance, the foot had not noticed the transition between Foot and Dog Poo Foot. That happens. It's unpleasant, but it happens.

"Oh," I said as I discovered the footprints. "Someone tracked dog poo..." I pointed.

"Ugh!" said our director. "Ewww!"

I agreed. He emerged from behind the circulation desk. We stared. I grabbed the book and went downstairs as the director followed.

I handed the book to the patron who had wanted it. This was the priority: The patron I was helping. The director grabbed a key to the server room to grab various solvents to clean the mess. One of my coworkers joined him, leaving me to help the patron in the Children's Room. This meant I could not leave the Children's Room, which I thought was awfully lucky.

Cleaners obtained, my coworker and the director went upstairs. I watched the scene, which to me, seemed more akin to a prison movie execution sequence than just two people walking up a flight of stairs.

Time passed.

Suddenly, my coworker was back, asking for air freshening sprays. I handed her all we had. She vanished.

Time passed.

Now I was beginning to worry. Had the mess been so much bigger than what I'd originally seen? Was it so deeply embedded in the carpet that the two could not be separated, forcing us to change our name to That Library that Always Smells Like Dog Poo?

My coworker returned. She looked at me. "That wasn't dog," she said darkly. It was too smelly to be mud, I thought. Too smelly, and too not-mud-colored. Certainly it was feces. It had to be feces. Cow? Too yellow. Sick cow? Maybe.

"That was human," my coworker said.


"No," I said.

"Somebody couldn't make it to the restroom," she said.

"Weren't they wearing pants?!" I asked.

"It fell out their pant leg," she replied. "He went into the restroom, came out, and tried to get on the computer."

Now, if I had accidentally had a bowel movement inside a public building, and the results of the bowel movement were such that said movement was liberated from my pants, I would flee. If I chose to flee into a restroom, I would never leave. They would have to remove the door from its hinges and arrest me. Otherwise I would just stay right where I was, so my face would never be associated with my leavings.

This guy? Not so much. He just cleaned up a bit (not his shoes) and went over to the computers and checked Facebook. They found him by following his tracks

The carpet is clean now. The building now smells like evergreen lemons, because those were the two scents of Oust they sprayed upstairs. The man was asked to leave. But the question remains: What would cause a person to care so little about soiling themselves in public that they'd sit down and check Facebook moments after a warm, yellowey brownish orange friend rolled down their pant leg and hit the carpet?

And that leads us to our question of the day. What would his status update be?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just when I Think Life Can't Get Any Better

Look what I found! To say that I love this video would be a gross understatement.

Now I want to go home and watch Sense and Sensibility. Because...Alan Rickman! And Imelda Staunton! And Geraldine McEwan (the best Miss Marple ever)! I am a happy girl.

Monday, January 24, 2011

You spin me right round, baby, right round...

I sat down in Culver's, tore the wrapper off of my straw and started eating. This is a routine for me, because Culver's has soup, and I like soup. I go, get soup, sit, eat soup, and read. When I finish my soup, I knit.

Today was slightly different. And, since my life is so dredged with routine that any small deviation is enough to amuse and astound me, I thought I would share.

Bent over my Kindle, opening and closing my left eye in an attempt to force it to focus on the print in front of me (I have an eye appointment this Friday, my prescription has changed), the text suddenly jumped. Stupid eye, I thought. Could you at least try to see? Do you need to make letters swirl around in such a--

But it wasn't just the book. Indeed, the entire world was spinning like a centrifuge, leaving me to cling to the edge of the table as I resisted the forces pushing me back against the wall of the booth. Why were the businessmen behind me still talking about various pregnancies? They must have noticed this!

Of course, they didn't. Because, I realized, like most things, the spinning was only in my head. The real world went on unaffected as I--

Well, at that moment, I nearly became one with my soup bowl. I won't say I fainted. I didn't. But I came darn close.

I had a final mouthful of soup. Then I dumped the contents of my tray in the trash and drove over to Kroger, where I bought excessive quantities of Sudafed. I took some. Then I took Ibuprofen, because it's an anti-inflammatory, so I was betting it would reduce the swelling that might be what was causing my vertigo. Because that, my friends, was vertigo. I recognize it from back when I was in high school, when I volunteered in chem lab, melting glass with my friend Sabrina in order to spell the word "chemistry" with those little pipette things. We hung the letters up on the wall, and when I stood on the chair to secure one of the letters, Sabrina had to rescue me before I fell backward to my glass-infused death.

Why can't I get sick like a normal person? It seems that when one part of me breaks down, the rest of me goes with it.

The drug cocktail may be working, I don't know. What I do know, is that if this turns out to be caused by the same swelling in my ears that I supposedly treated two weeks ago with a course of antibiotics, I will be greatly displeased.

Until then, if you walk into a room to find me huddled on the ground, clinging to the carpet with claw-like fingers, know that it is because I am breaking down worse than my now-deceased 1991 Honda Civic.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

And Now, A Story from Laura's Dad

This is a snapshot from my evening. Dialogue was reproduced as accurately as possible in the minutes following the exchange. Nothing has been exaggerated or fabricated. Let us begin.

Dad walked into my room, mere moments ago.

"Paul," he called to my brother. "Put that on pause and come out here. I have to tell you a story."

"I can't," it was Paul's standard reply. "I'm in a group." So Paul and his WOW group slew various enemies, and Dad's story began.

"It was about a half hour before the funeral, and I was in my suit. I was sitting in my office, in my black chair. And Phil was in the doorway. And I raised my coffee mug to my lips, and Phil is my witness," he said.

It is my experience that all good stories start with someone claiming that another person is their witness. Stories that need witnesses are good, good stories.

"Suddenly, the handle just fell off of my coffee mug. The front fell off too. My coffee mug just broke in half, in the middle, and all the coffee fell out and landed on my lap!"

I was skeptical. "What kind of mug was this?"

"My regular coffee mug! The one I've used for years! The IBM mug!"

"But was it a travel mug?" I asked. "Was it that one with the cheap plastic loop hugging a metal cup?"

"It was my regular, ceramic mug. And the handle fell off and the front fell off and it dumped the coffee in my lap!* So I jumped up, and when I looked down, there was a puddle of coffee on the chair where I'd been sitting. And it soaked through my pants in the front and in the back. My pants and my underwear!"

Only my father. Dad spills things when he's tired. He's tired a lot. And he hates spilling. He hates it so much, he often roars like a lion, and Mom usually rushes him out of the room and cleans it up so he won't throw things. Ladies and gentleman, my father.

"So, Jean comes in, and she told me to put on my baptismal pants, so I ran up and changed. And they took my suit coat and pants and threw them in the dryer at Nancy's house. I had to sit on paper toweling, because the coffee was soaking through and making my jeans wet too. I'm out there meeting the family, in jeans and this shirt and tie! When my clothes were dry, Nancy brought them back, and I preached the entire sermon in damp underwear!"

Reeking, I might add, of coffee.

"The moral of this story," I told him. "Is to always keep a change of underwear in the office. No matter how kinky it might look if someone else finds it."


*To clarify: Without striking the mug on anything, it broke into three pieces. The front, the back, and the handle all divided, and the contents of the mug landed right on Dad's lap. He had, of course, just poured the coffee, so the mug was full. And likely, very hot.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Life is Boring

I am so bored. Bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored bored. Bored.

I am knitting a boring sweater. I am out of Doctor Who episodes, unless I want to watch the ones made in the 1960s, 1970s, or heck, even the 1980s (I don't--those Doctors aren't David Tennant or Matt Smith or Christopher Eccleston. Mostly, it's just that they aren't David Tennant). It is dark at five every night. I wake up in the dark, I go to work in the dark, I drive home in the dark, and it is still dark when I go to sleep. There is no sun. It's a myth.

I'm out of books to read.

There is snow.

Really, what am I supposed to tell you about my life? How can I blog when I am so boring, I put myself to sleep! I am so bored every day, that I decided to take a break from knitting and wind yarn--I wound 3,995 yards of wool (and alpaca and silk) into center-pull balls. Now I have piles of yarn, a sore elbow, and boredom to show for my efforts.

Do any of you have lives? Do you go places? If so, please tell me about it in the comments so I can live vicariously through you. That beats watching reruns any day.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Peculiarity

Since our family was able (finally) to upgrade to DSL from dial-up about a year ago, I have been slowly absorbed by the world of YouTube.

It wasn't that I'd never enjoyed watching a tiny puppy howl or a car sliding on ice before, it was just impossible to see more than one video a night. If that. So I only watched videos when I was at school, and even then, the video had better be good, if I was spending that much time waiting for it to load. Campus internet wasn't the best. But now that videos can load in several seconds, I have been enjoying things I never could before, like watching Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot) knit. She knits incredibly fast! I have also finally been able to catch up with the Vlogbrothers. It has been FUN.

While watching John and Hank, I began to watch other channels from awesome Nerdfighters, and when my fellow WGCC members (Bailey, Kelly, and Kenzie) started a channel, I subscribed to it, too.

But this isn't about the videos. Although, I could easily compile a Best-Of-YouTube list for you. This is about the bookshelves.

I have noticed that many of the YouTubers I enjoy the most film their videos in front of packed bookshelves. And while they're talking, my eyes slowly drift over...and I read titles. As many as I can, as fast as I can. Luckily for me, Bailey and Kelly have posted actual photographs of their respective "favorites" bookshelves, so I can read what I've missed from each of their collections. John and Hank haven't done that. Yet. But no worries. I have started pausing videos to get a better look at John and Hank's bookshelves. And then I go to the Kindle store...and I think you can guess where it goes from there.

Does anyone else do this? Am I the biggest freak of nature ever?

(That question might be rhetorical...)

At any rate, my current read is All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, referenced by John in this video*:

The library had All the King's Men. I have it now.

*Henry is adorable. And yes, John can absolutely write sentences like that. That is why you won a Printz award, John!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Rant--Averted

Today I sat down to write a long and scathing post about the daft idiot who so blatantly misunderstood Mark Twain's novel Huckleberry Finn that he decided to rewrite it*. Thankfully, I discovered that my friend and the other half of the Magic Hoodie Literary Society, Bailey, had beaten me to it! Not only had she covered each and every point I'd planned to, she also managed to do it without calling the lineage of Alan Gribben into question, calling him a fascist, or burning his image in effigy. I'm not saying that's what I was planning to do, but we all know it was.

Not only was Bailey's commentary on the situation excellent in every respect, she also managed to write it while on a very tight graduate school application deadline.

This is a huge achievement!

I am super-proud of her, and I hope you will all enjoy reading her blog as much as I did. At the very least, I hope you'll better understand why I think Gribben and his kinfolk, not to mention his publishing house, should be walled off a la The Cask of Amontillado.

Read Bailey's take on the situation!

*What makes this all the worse is that Gribben is, in fact, a Twain scholar. Meaning, he specializes in studying the work of Mark Twain. This means that 1. he should know better and 2. he doesn't.