Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Flood Cometh


I heard my brother's voice from inside my room, where I sat playing Lego Harry Potter, Years 5-7. (Yes, I play Lego Harry Potter. It is HARRY POTTER. If they made a Doctor Who game, I would play that, too.)

"Oh no."

This was when I stood up, because when some one in my house is frozen in shock, as my brother clearly was, it can mean only two things: 1. There is a spider or insect that rivals the size of Shelob from The Lord of the Rings or 2. Some vital part of the house has broken / fallen off / caved in / risen up to challenge its master for control.

Paul was in the bathroom, standing, holding a bathroom mat in his hands as water streamed down from the mat onto the floor, which, upon closer inspection, was flooded.



Paul was standing in the middle of a puddle which had encompassed the bathroom floor. The mats were surrounded, quickly becoming saturated, although they weren't too bad off--YET. Through a stroke of luck, the mat Paul was holding had acted as something of a levee, and the flood hadn't reached the hall carpet. But it was only a matter of time. I went for towels.

When I returned, Paul explained what he'd discovered.

Apparently, the bathroom sink, which has been slow to drain of late, had been left running by one of our parents. As the drain could not accept all the water, the sink slowly filled and overflowed, flooding first the counter, then the ground, where it pooled. And when I say "pooled," I mean, "Get me some floaties; I'll race you to the high dive."

Paul and I soaked up the water while Dad watched, because it is more fun to watch than help. Also because the bathroom is too small for three people to stand inside at once. But I think he would say he helped in a "supervisory" capacity, standing in the hall in his pajamas, waiting for us to finish cleaning so he could use the restroom.

As I wiped up the water from the floor, it hit me.

We could be dead.

Paul and I could have died the second we walked into that bathroom. THE VERY SECOND.

See, when things break in our house, they BREAK. At first, we thought the light bulb in the bathroom had burnt out. But then we realized that the problem was actually the light switch, which had lost some kind of vital connection inside, something electrical.

Since none of us are electricians, and we ought to avoid being trusted with power cables in general, even tiny ones, we solved the problem in our favorite way: We ignored it.

We took out the light bulb from the bathroom fixture, and we resolved to call someone for help. Then we got a lamp from a table somewhere, and plugged it in to the bathroom outlet, which is on the wall above the counter where  the sink lives.

The sink which had flooded.

As I examined the counter again, I saw that the water had pooled all around the sink, but had somehow avoided the lamp entirely. It was like the lamp was an island and the water was the sea. Water had not touched the lamp or the power cord. It was completely dry.

So Paul and I got to live.

Friday, January 25, 2013

In the Pizza Hut Parking Lot

Once upon a time, I bought a car. It was a lovely car, with power windows and locks and cupholders and cruise control and not just one side mirror but TWO. This car was perfect in every conceivable way, except for one little problem...

The keys did not work in the doors.

Now, because of those power locks and the little button on my keychain that unlocked the doors magically from many feet away, the uncooperative locks were not such a big problem. Nonetheless, I dutifully sprayed WD-40 into each lock and onto my key, and I managed to get the passenger side working. For about a week.

Finally, after months of fruitless attempts, I gave up.

This was stupid in a legendary way.

About once a year I do something so moronic, it fills my idiot-quota for months, if not a whole year. This Stooopid Move was slow to come to fruition, but over time, it grew and blossomed into what I have decided to call A Big Stooopid.

I had gone in to Pizza Hut because they have yummy cheese to dip breadsticks into, and also they have an enthusiastic heating system.

When I was done eating, I paid and went to the parking lot, pressed the unlock button, and nothing happened. Convinced that the battery in the unlock button dealie had died, I pulled out the second set of keys I keep around for this purpose and tried them.

Nothing happened.

And then I leaned in and saw the plastic knob that controls my lights, and saw that it was cranked into the "on" position. Also I saw that I was screwed.

Knowing how unlikely it was, I still tried the key in all the locks. Not only would the key not work, it also wouldn't even go IN to two of the locks. But it slid into the passenger door, and that was a good thing. Except that it would not turn. That was a bad thing.

Fortunately, I was within walking distance from the local hardware store, so while I called work to let them know I was stranded momentarily, I walked over, and went on a hunt for lock oils of various sorts. I called Dad and asked him what I needed, and he said to use de-icer. But as my lock was  not frozen by cold...I was skeptical. The hardware man said to use graphite, so he gave me a tube of graphite powder. He told me the tube had a narrow enough opening, it would fit inside the keyhole.

It did not fit into the keyhole.

Picture, if you will, me, my hands beet red from the cold, shivering and stress-crying* while I squeeze out graphite dust onto my car key and watch as wind whips the graphite off onto my jacket and pants before I can manage to put the key into the lock.

This went on for twenty minutes.

Eventually I just jammed the lock de-icer in the keyhole and gave that a whirl, because anything was better than the graphite.

And, like magic, the de-icer worked on the first try. Whether this was because the de-icer also functions as a lubricant or whether what worked was actually the graphite dust, I don't know. Nor do I really care. I had managed to get the door open, so I jumped inside and out of the cold and turned off my lights. Not that it made any difference, as my battery was already about as dead as a battery can get. But hey, it couldn't hurt, right?

Of course, this was only half the battle, as I still had to get into my trunk, retrieve my jumper cables, then find someone to rescue me my allowing me to borrow their engine.

Because my car's trunk button operates by using the battery, I could not get into my trunk by any normal means. My car's designers, however, had thought of this, and they offered a handy method for accessing the trunk by way of the passenger seats. I pulled on the seats and crawled on my belly into my trunk to grab the jumper cables. Then I recruited a guy from Pizza Hut to save me. I had even unwittingly parked next to him when I'd arrived at the restaurant to eat, so all he had to do was inch forward slightly so the cables would reach.

And then I drove back to work, locked my car again (this time with one set of keys in the ignition as the car ran, recharging the battery and the other set in my coat pocket along with de-icer and more graphite dust), and went back inside the library to wash off the graphite dust (I was covered in it) and go back to my regularly scheduled shelving.

Mom says I should join something called Triple-A (Or is it AAA?) so that the next time I have a moment of tremendous stupidity, I can call someone to save me. But I doubt that anything less than a miracle could save me from stuff like this. Also I am getting this battery checked, because 30 minutes does not seem like long enough to COMPLETELY drain a battery. Or maybe fate drained my battery because having a dead battery led to this comedic gem. Only Auto Zone will know.

* When I get stressed, angry, frustrated, worried, or feel any emotion greater than indifference, I cry. Also I cry when I feel any lack of control. Which means I cry whenever anything goes wrong. Then I feel like I am a big wimp, because I am crying at the drop of a hat instead of dealing with my problem like an adult, and then I cry harder because I suck. It's a problem.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Accidentally Even

For the record:

Sunday night, when I was knitting, the time came for a BUTTONBAND.

Now, oddly enough, I enjoy picking up stitches. Especially when the designer says something like, "Pick up three stitches every four rows" instead of "Pick up 72 stitches." I like the ratio thing, because I can lengthen the body of my sweater as much as I need to (i.e. Quite a lot) and it has no effect on the pattern instructions.

Ratios, however, mean that you get told to "Make X buttonholes, evenly spaced."

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Math.

I really hate evenly spacing buttonholes. Or decreases. But mostly I hate evenly spacing buttonholes. I try to math it every time, but it never seems to work for me. Maybe it's figuring out how many stitches to leave at the top and bottom of the button band before adding buttonholes. Maybe it's remembering not to count the buttonhole stitches while I divide my stitches equally. Maybe it's just my usual lack of mathematical acumen. Whatever it is, I have to frog buttonbands a LOT. Way more than I'd consider to be normal or healthy...Some of you may even remember this meltdown resulting from my buttonhole-spacing-related psychological problem.

Photo and sweater by MissMessie
It would be nice if I could manage acceptable buttonholes with some level of consistency, but I can't. Other knitters seem to manage just fine. But not me.

If you don't knit or haven't been initiated into sweater-knitting yet, here is a miserable summary of the thinking process for buttonhole placement, using my newly-completed sweater as an example (even though it is a bad example, because something happened with this sweater that has never happened for me before in my knitting-life. I evenly spaced these buttonholes correctly on the FIRST TRY.):

I just finished knitting the adorable sweater Antler, designed by Tin Can Knits. Here is the Ravelry link.

First, you have to decide how many stitches your buttonholes are going to take. So for this buttonhole, I used three stitches for each buttonhole. And I made five buttonholes. So 15 stitches were buttonhole stitches.

Then you have to subtract your buttonhole stitches from your button band stitches, and then you know how many stitches are left over, non-buttonhole stitches. I started with 61 stitches, took away 15, and ended up with 46.

Those 46 stitches have to be divided up between buttonholes. And while it would be easy to just say, "TIME FOR DIVISION NOW," you can't just do that. Because if you just divide them, you end up with some uneven-ness. See, you need a certain smallish number of stitches at the top and bottom of your button band so the collar and bottom of your sweater doesn't look stupid as heck.

So I left three stitches at the top and three at the bottom, because two would have been too few stitches and would have pulled and four would have made the top of the buttonband droopy. This is not an exact science. At least, if it is, I don't know any exact way to think about it. I just stare at my sweater and guess where the top and bottom buttons should go.

If you know a better way to go about placing buttonholes, I'd like to know.

So that accounted for another six stitches, which was something. that left me with 40.

And this was where the magic happened...

Five buttons.

Four spaces between buttons.

40 stitches.

(And then the math just happened in my brain the way my elementary school teachers always hoped it would.)

There would be ten stitches between buttonholes.

It was like magic. I don't know how it happened. Usually I have to rip and re-knit the buttonhole row six or seven times! Sometimes I end up leaving the sweater in a project bag for months while I ignore the problem! But this time, no!

This time my sweater was MAGIC and the buttonholes actually evenly spaced THEMSELVES.

Either that, or my subconscious is better at math and placing buttonholes evenly than I am.

Do any of you have an equation for buttonhole placement that works? Button-related advice in general? Clearly, I could use all the help I can get.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In Which Mom Learns How a Vacuum Cleaner Works

I have a lot of yarn. And sadly, the vast majority of it is remnants, little bits and half-skeins of yarn with no purpose.


You can't just get rid of yarn that is WOOL. And you can't THROW AWAY WOOL. That is a CARDINAL SIN. Seriously. If you pitch acrylic, people frown at you and chastise you for wasting plastic yarn. But if you throw wool away, the ACTUAL POPE comes to YOUR HOUSE and he looks at you all condescendingly and gives you your ONE WAY TICKET TO HELL.*

So I have two big canvas collapsible boxes in my closet. And they are packed so full, the scraps of yarn is piled so high, it doesn't even fit inside the boxes anymore, and it falls down on my head every time I open my closet door or move something. It is a bad situation.

Naturally, I have ignored the problem for many months. Really, I have ignored the problem for years. But tonight, I was wandering through Walmart in search of a flash drive, and I saw storage bags. Not just any bags, they are actually, seriously named MAGIC BAGS.

See, they close. They seal with a double zipper. And they are airtight, and waterproof. And then you take the hose from your vacuum cleaner, and you hold it up to this valve, and you fire up the vacuum, and it pulls all of the air out of the bag so it becomes flat, like a pancake made of storage bag and stuff. Your stuff goes inside the bag all giant, and then it becomes TINY and SKINNY. And then you can put it away and you save all sorts of space!

Needless to say, I bought the magic bags. Because you can't turn down magic.

I arrived home triumphant. I displayed my tiny little flash drive. And then I told Mom about the magic.

"You put your stuff inside, and you close them, and then your stuff is TINY," I explained.

"How?" Mom asked.

"You use your vacuum cleaner. It takes out the air."

Mom looked at me blankly.

"The hose attachment," I clarified. "You put the hose attachment up against this one-way valve in the bag. And then the bag is all tiny."

Mom still looked confused. "But vacuums only go one way," she countered.

And all became clear.

"Mom, vacuums suck."

Mom kept staring.

"See, your vacuum hose sucks out the air. They don't blow, they SUCK."

And realization dawned. And I started laughing hysterically.

"Mom, vacuums suck," I continued. "This conversation blows."

Dad was laughing now, and Mom was beet red and also laughing.

"I thought the hose was like the leaf blower," she laughed. "And I thought, why is she putting dirt into her wool?"

"Leaf blowers blow," I laughed. "It's in the name. Vacuums pull air into them by sucking it and dirt and things into their canisters."

At this point, I was trying to use the words "suck" and "blow" as many times as possible. Dad seemed unable to breathe.

"Don't blog this," Mom begged. "Please don't blog this!"

"Would you prefer me to Tweet it?" I asked. "Or tell Rachael at knit night and Jennifer whenever I see her next?"

(Frankly, I am still laughing. I may never stop.)

*Not being Catholic, I don't know if the Pope does this, but he should.