Friday, February 29, 2008

“Me Time” Wind Down

Thank you for everyone’s suggestions regarding the possible whereabouts of the firearm. I can guarantee it is not stashed in food canisters because the only food in the house was for the cats. That is both one of the symptoms and causes of the dementia, I’m afraid. Don’t think anyone looked in the toilet tank, so that will be done this morning before Tutti goes home. (And since we haven’t found bullets or anything else to indicate the presence of the gun, we have to consider that the main source of that information - who suffers from a more advanced stage of Alzheimer’s - may be mistaken.) It appears Tutti will be going home this afternoon. I’ll know more about that later today.

My main concern about this situation is not the health and welfare of Tutti, although I am not uncaring about this either. It is for another loved one.

You see, it is my observation that among the many types of addiction in the world (food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.) is a lesser known addiction to self-sacrifice.

Self-sacrifice is a good thing. Self-sacrifice is part of what pulls humanity together and allows this society to function. But everything in moderation.

I have witnessed this person’s self-sacrificing nature for decades. I witnessed it when she was a comparatively young and vital 50-something, and saw the incredible toll it took on her physically and emotionally. When that reason for self-sacrifice was over, then this loved one almost immediately threw herself into other self-sacrificing projects.

I see Tutti as another self-sacrificing opportunity. Now in her 70s, this loved one is already babysitting two of her rambunctious, poorly behaved great-grandchildren, and has been - 5 days a week - for about eight years. She is barely holding it together, and her health is suffering as is the health of her husband. So to tack on daily visits to Tutti’s house, bringing human food and cat food (which Tutti can afford by loved one cannot), is going to take an even greater toll on her.

And as I’ve said, Tutti is not a relative. I’m not even sure that it is accurate to see she is related by marriage. She is the sister-in-law of a relative. She hasn’t even been a friend of the family. She’s not an unkind person, but the relationship is pretty distant. And Tutti has enough money socked away to ensure she is well cared for in a proper facility that is trained to care for dementia patients.

That probably makes me seem pretty heartless. And I know that no one can help an addict. In the end it is the addict who has to help him or herself. But perhaps, just perhaps, I can say the right words at the right time that will encourage the loved one not to shoulder this particular burden. Thankfully, it appears I might be making some headway. (It is the cumulative cost in gas that seems to have hit home.)

Okay, back to “me time.”

On Wednesday, Nacho killed the Mouse-on-a-stick toy. I had not thought this possible, but he finally loved it to death. The toy’s official name is Cat Catcher by the geniuses at Go Cat in Michigan. Those guys simply cannot make a bad toy. The Da-Bird feather wand toy has also been a huge success in my household. That particular wand has a tuft of feathers at the end of a string. Sure, others have that as well. But Da-Bird’s feather tuft is attached with fishing line hardware which allows the feathers to rotate as it is pulled through the air, yet not twist the string. It makes the cats crazy, and is as close as I’m willing to come to giving them the excitement of being buzzed by a low-flying bird. As for the Mouse-on-a-stick, fortunately when I bought the toy (Ann Arbor, Michigan, fall 2007) I also bought a refill. Guess I need to keep my eyes peeled for another.

I’ve also started setting up a project of immense and overwhelming scope. I’m still in set-up phase and I’m not revealing until set-up is completed, so you’ll have to be satisfied with a photo hint. Of course, anyone paying attention at knit group last week already knows...

But while I was setting this up, I found this:

No, I have zero memory of how these came my way. They are antique lace bobbins, btw.

Thursday I finished my painting project and it is back in Michael’s court.

And I got to a very important landmark on my bi-color cables cardigan. I have finally finished the bust increases. Four more inches to go (approximately four cable crosses therefore approximately 16 rows total) and I arrive at the underarms.

Why is this a magically wonderful thing, you ask? Because up to this point the sweater is worked as one piece. Not knit in the round (because it is a cardigan) but knit in one piece. And there are special stitches and techniques all over this thing. Special edge stitches. Special decreases. Special increases. Cable crosses every four rows - specifically intarsia cable crosses. Princess seams. Button loops every 3". Three balls of yarn on the go all the time. It is a heck of a lot to manage. Now that I am done with increases I only have to worry about edge stitches, intarsia cable crosses, princess seams, button loops, and three balls of DK weight yarn. And once I hit the underarms? Then I get to put the front panels on stitch holders and only work the back. That means one ball of yarn, princess seams, and decreases. When I return to the front panels the amount of stuff to monitor will kick up a notch or two, but still will be nowhere near where it has been.

I’m happy. Blissed out, even.

Yes, I see that I didn’t do my first bust increases correctly, and I spotted that only a few rows above where it happened. But I decided to be lazy now and close them up with a bit of yarn through the back, later.

(Fingers crossed that this thing fits, and that I don’t look like a giant blueberry wearing it.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tutti-Frutti Tuesday

How on earth can I search through a demented woman’s home looking for her firearm(s) and not say that’s a sufficiently important part of my day to call that its anchor point or theme? I don’t think it can be done.

Unfortunately we could not find it. Looked high and low. Searched under the mattress, in the dishwasher, in all her drawers and boxes... if it is there then she has done an exceptional job of hiding it. Gotta give her props for that!

I’m to the point where I’m actually thinking if it is a small enough weapon that she has it stashed... in her... er... snatch. I refuse to look there. So no gun, but look what I did find hidden within the folds of a blanket:


And I say goodbye to “me time” lunch. It was yummy, but the croissant was definitely looking a bit tired by the end.

Edited to Add: Okay, my theory about Tutti-Frutti having storing her gun in her, er, personal holster, has officially been shot down. So to speak. She has had an MRI while she’s been at the hospital. Knowing what MRIs do to metal, I am certain that the gun would have been discovered. Certainly as soon as it would have popped out of her cavity and magnetically attached itself to the machine. So I officially don’t know where her gun is. I’m totally out of ideas. Who could have imagined this day would have ever come???

Monday, February 25, 2008

Themeless Sunday followed by Law Enforcement Monday

Oh, I had a theme for Sunday. It was supposed to be Rug-making Sunday. But I could not make myself sit down and work on the rug. I was working, just not on it. So let’s consider Sunday a bit of a bust in the theme day plan.

Part of Sunday was spent at the relative-by marriage’s home, scooping her litter pans. I am pleased to say that getting down those stairs was not a big deal at all, and much more preferable than installing a freaking handrail so my mother could do it. As for the handgun-at-the-hospital issue, the staff did a search and didn’t find one, so thankfully she seems to have left it at home.

I continued on my painting effort that day as well. Lots of fumes. This time I mixed it up and painted some topcoat and some primer.

Knitted a little on bi-color cables.

Took a couple short naps.

Read a chapter in my Unix book.

Watched part 3 of Pride & Prejudice on PBS.

Had a homeless person scare the crap out of me when I went to the Post Office to pick up the previous day’s mail.

Oh, and iChatted with DH in the morning.

Not too bad a day even if it was themeless.

Monday I had grand plans. But first I needed to take care of some ID theft business because the bank in question finally mailed a copy of the credit card application that was used to fraudulently open the account. I cannot tell you how surreal that turned out to be. It’s one thing to know intellectually that this was done, but to actually see the application and see my husband’s social security number on some stranger’s application - well that’s a whole tuther ball of wax.*

*that got me wondering, where the heck does that expression, “the whole ball of wax” come from? It’s either a good question for A Way with Words, or Hot for Words. I can’t decide.

Anyway, so first on the list Monday was making photocopies of pertinent documents, and delivering them to our financial advisers, our attorney, and the police department. The first three stops took almost no time. Photocopies? Done. Financial advisers? Done. Attorney? Done. It was the last stop that was the surprise, and a delightful one at that. I (gasp) finally met the police sergeant in charge of financial crimes. And not only that, after we spoke briefly in the lobby and he discovered how much information I had about the crime, the suspect, and potential other victims, he took me into the back to his personal financial crimes cubical where we spoke for OVER AN HOUR! Several officers came by to speak with him, but he ignored the heck out of them and was completely riveted to our case. Oh, he can’t personally do anything about the suspect because the suspect resides in a different jurisdiction, but he is interested enough that made a bunch of photocopies of my papers, found a police contact in the correct jurisdiction, and he’s going to send everything along with his narration and my summary and timeline of events to that officer tomorrow morning. (He also joked about me filling the open assistant position.) I got home from the police station around noon and scarfed down a quick lunch before diving into my summary email. I wrote that up initially in Word, and it was over 8 pages. Then I copied and pasted that into an email that I sent to my sergeant. That dude (meaning the email) wooshed off at 2:47. Considering I had been organizing these papers then running errands, etc. starting at 8:30, I think that qualifies as the anchor point for my day.

Found out today that relative-by-marriage won’t be released from the hospital until Friday, but she says that we can move the litter pans into the kitchen so my mother can take care of those visits by herself. Other than a brief stop there tomorrow morning to scoop and move the pans, that should release me from scooping-duty-for-nutty-relative-by-marriage for the foreseeable future.

And the icing on the cake as for as Monday goes: Medium is returning to television TONIGHT!!!

Edited to add: Medium as it turns out, icing on the icing on the cake because my attorney just emailed me a big fat compliment regarding the case we’ve prepared. It even said the suspect “certainly messed with the wrong people”. heeeeeee heeee heeeee.

And, turns out that tomorrow’s litter scooping visit has now evolved into a “turn the house upside down looking for firearms” visit along with my mother and a family friend. It...just...keeps...getting...better! According to the hospital, the relative-by-marriage has her lucid moments, and her confused moments, and her down-right-mean moments. This is not the kind of individual who can safely own a weapon. Just sayin’. And I may be the only person that can prevent the family friend from taking the 20-year-old cat to be euthanized. I mean, she’s old and frail, but euthanasia would only be as a convenience to the family friend and not necessarily in the best interest of either the cat or the nutty relative-by-marriage.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Spinning Saturday

Today was the much-anticipated spinning class at my LYS. It was an all day affair, beginning at 10 and ending at 4:30 with a one hour break for lunch.

How did it go, you ask? Horrible!

Oh, the teacher was wonderful. The equipment was divine (I had a Schacht wheel). The fiber was delightful. It was my spinning that was horrible.

I know my learning style enough to know that I was going to need to practice to get the muscles to learn. But that class was simply not a good practice situation. If I were home on a wheel of my own, I would have stopped hundreds of times, undid what I had done, and started fresh. As it was, I felt the pressure of needing to get two bobbin’s worth of singles spun so that we could ply and make a skein before the class was over.

I had a severe over-twisting problem, and I repeatedly pulled too much fiber out, then let the twist “get ahead of me.” The instructor was extremely patient, yet I began to sense that even she was getting tired of me by the end. I mean, even the Pope has his limits, right?

But I had this blech-y skein completed by the end.

Bought a fascinating book on the history of bananas during my lunch break (trust me, if you had heard the interview on Fresh Air you would think it was fascinating too), and after class laid in a few supplies for the alliteration theme I have planned for Wednesday. (Sorry, no hints.)

And even managed to make it to the last half of knit group.

Unfortunately, the phone was ringing off the hook when I walked in the door at home. It appears a wrench has been thrown into the “me time” works, and I’m on family duty for the foreseeable future. I am expected to either install a handrail for some basement steps myself*, or go with my mother when she checks on a relative’s cats for the next week while said relative (by marriage) is in the hospital being tested for Alzheimer’s. Those two things are directly related because this relative (by marriage) does not have a railing on her basement steps, but she keeps her litter pans down there. She could get released as early as Wednesday, so it was my suggestion that I just accompany my mother on her cat sitting rounds rather than spend X hours trying to figure out how to install a handrail onto a basement wall. But who knows. By the sounds of it, this woman is nuttier than a jar of Skippy peanut butter, and fruitier than an Australian bat. It wouldn’t surprise me if she is never released.

The first visit will be tomorrow. Should be fun. Not.

Did I mention this is a relative by marriage? As in the sister of the wife of a relative. And as for why that sister or that relative isn’t stepping up, they don’t live here, and the wife has a long history of hating this sister so much so that she hasn’t spoken to her in over a decade. The wife didn’t even come home to bury their mother. There are no heroines here, trust me.

Oh, and apparently this relative (by marriage) is never without a handgun, and in fact may have taken it with her to the hospital. (They asked if she had any weapons while she was being admitted and she said “yes, a gun. ha ha ha” so they probably thought she was kidding.) This potential handgun issue (because it is just a guess that she took it with her) has been brought to the attention of another relative who works at said-hospital so she could bring it to the attention of the proper person, so no worries. It’s being handled. But like I said: should be fun.

At least “me week” won’t be a snooze. That was my greatest concern, you know.

*Yes, besides being the family geek, I’m apparently the family handyman. I’m nothing if not versatile.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fume-y Friday

“Me time” continues with today’s theme: fumes.

Part of the pre-sale work we are doing on our home is finishing the build on a shelving unit along the staircase. Michael finished the carpentry a few weeks ago, and nearly finished caulking before he left the country. (Yes honey, I saw that the caulking hadn’t been finished but if I had stopped to fix then it totally would have ruined the alliteration theme I had planned for today and priorities are priorities) So today I dug out our rare and ancient interior oil-based primer and laid down a coat. Paint fumes.

And followed that up with a few hours at the laundromat, washing our flannel funk comforter, knitting on my Red Cross serviceman’s sock, and inhaling detergent fumes.

And returned home to the much more delightful fumes of homemead turkey noodle soup simmering in the crock pot. Dinner fumes. Mmmmmm.

Throw Away Thursday

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have decided to shake “me time” up a bit by theming each day. Not everything I do in that day will be connected to that theme, but it will definitely be the anchor point.

Since yesterday was doomed to be worthless (early morning rise followed by almost four hours of white knuckle “I’m about to die” driving), I kept Thursday’s theme (Throw Away Thursday) pretty simple. I cleaned out the refrigerator. Moldy cheese, leftovers I don’t recall ever making... you know. It’s all that stuff that accidentally gets crammed into the back and forgotten. (No pictures. Who wants to see a trash can of old food?) This happily made room for all the goodies I bought at the store later in the day.

I promise to be slightly more exciting as “me time” continues.

In other news, there is a nasty bug going around. I have heard that this year’s flu shot isn’t effective for the current favorite strains so maybe that’s part of it. I have a niece who works at a local hospital. I week ago she told the family that there were no more hospital beds in Topeka, Kansas City, or any of the other regional hospitals. According to her, the nearest bed was in Wichita a full three hours away. Now she tells us that even the Wichita hospitals are currently full. No fun. I have managed to avoid the worst of it, but I am still dealing with a lingering cough from a mild bout with the flu last week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

And “Me Time” Commences.... NOW

Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. I busied myself by planning the coming week. Friday, Day 1 of “Me Week” would be a total write-off. I knew that, because we were going to have to leave the house around 3:30 a.m. to get to the airport in time for the flight, which meant getting up no later than 2:30 a.m. Yes, by the time I was to arrive home, I knew I would be tired and worthless. There is no recovering from those hours even with a nap or two. So I decided that Thursday I would lay in my supplies for “me time” including and especially groceries, etc.

Wednesday at 1:37 p.m. the phone rang. It was Michael. He had double-checked his flight information and discovered that he his flight was not Friday. It was THURSDAY! At that point all “me time” prep went on hold, and the priority became to get his client work finished, personal business tidied, find his passport... You get the idea. Panic!

Let’s pause while Michael panics so we can enjoy the peregrine falcon sighting. This baby spent Wednesday afternoon looking for lunch from his perch in my pussy willow.

Somehow we managed to pull it off, but wouldn’t you know that a winter storm had moved in overnight, making this the most hair-raising drive to and from the airport that I ever recall. And I’m including the time I was right behind an F-4 tornado, so that’s saying something.

When we left the house a little after 3 a.m., it was starting to rain. The roads themselves were not terrible, but in the 14ยบ air, that rain instantly froze on the windshield. Wipers weren’t helping, and neither was the defroster. We had both on full-blast. Several times we had to pull onto the shoulder to allow the defroster to do its job, then we were back on the road. On good days, the trip from driveway to terminal is 1 hour. This trip took 1 1/2.

I brought my laptop to the airport to make use of the free wi-fi and check radar. I could see an enormous storm cell around the Wichita area, and it was headed our way. It was now a little after 5 a.m. - still a long ways to sunup. So I debated: drive home in the dark and continuing light freezing rain/snow conditions that we drove to the airport in, or linger at the airport until sunrise but risk getting caught in more severe weather conditions. I took a chance and started for home immediately.

While I do not regret my decision (based on how bad that cell turned out to be and how quickly it reached the highway I was driving), that was a white knuckle drive. Commuter traffic had begun so not only was I struggling with an icing windshield, but also the complication of headlights reflecting off of said ice. And the snow was even scarier. It was light and blowing, spreading tendrils of white across the road. It was a sufficient amount to do a magical job of camouflaging the stripes on the pavement, but not for other cars to imprint with their tire treads. There was one point when I was rounding a curve on a three-lane stretch and had several cars trailing behind, that I totally lost track of the lanes. That was on a north-south stretch of I-435, and at times I had to drop my speed to as low as 35 mph. Fortunately the east-west turnpike was in much better shape and much less curvy, therefore much less scary. I took that at 50 mph. (The speed limit is 70.) I got home 2 hours later.

This is what the city looked like as I arrived:

But I’m home, managed a multi-hour nap, and have laid in my supplies for the coming week.

One of the things I love about “me time” is that I get a chance to reinvent my life. This time around I have decided that I will be the kind of person who lunches on sliced apples and croissants, and drinks her morning orange juice out of a stem glass. I have also decided to theme each day. More details on that to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Somewhere between week 2 and week 5 of “The Worst Pothole Season in My Living Memory,” a long-lost realization shook its way to the surface: I never heard that dreaded “pothole” word growing up. Oh, it’s not that we never encountered tire-eating, spine-jarring holes in the pavement commonly called a pothole. But we didn’t call it that. It was a chuckhole.

I like that word. Chuckhole. It rolls around nicely in the mouth. Chuckhole.

Potholes are smooth pits carved out of native stone by water - slowly and over centuries.

Hit a chuckhole with the car and the effect is similar to getting chucked under the chin - the jaw rattles and a grimace forms on the lips. Chuckhole. I have decided to make it a personal mission to encourage others to use it.


My right front tire has hit this one twice a day for the last two weeks.

Got caught behind a chuckhole repair crew on a two lane road this morning. This two-truck caravan rolled slowly up the street until the lead truck found a patch to repair. Then the trucks turned on their overhead caution lights, parked, and the drivers bailed out to direct traffic while the rest of the crew tried to cram fresh asphalt into the cracks. As I passed, it was all I could do not to roll down the window and holler “CHUCKHOLE” at the crew.

But I didn’t. I’m pretty sure they would have thought I’d called them a different type of “-hole.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Say Cheese!

Part 1 of this post is yet-another media rant, part 2 is a wish about the new house, and part 3 shines the harsh light of reality on the fact that travel season is beginning.

Part 1
My in-laws went to extra effort to record a special on the Travel Channel about Banff (the DH’s upcoming destination), and then get the tape to us despite their various infirmities. So tonight was tape night. I have come to the conclusion that any program narrated by David Michael Gee is going to be crap (say cheese!). I recognize his voice because he narrates a ton of Travel Channel programs. He speaks with the same cadence as someone talking to an advanced Alzheimer’s patient, or perhaps a two-year-old child. The writing (which is not his) is slightly below average anyway, so his narration style only serves to accentuate the worst of the bad writing.

Mr. Gee shouldn’t feel too bad, however. I have a similar reaction to every show Alan Thicke narrates, too.

Part 2
The floors in my next home will have a level floors. The floors in my next home will have level floors. The floors in my next home will have level floors.
Perhaps then a single washcloth won’t send my washing machine into unbalanced hell every 10 seconds.

Part 3
I’ve said yes to my first trip of 2008. One of the stops will be an elephant sanctuary. Yee HAAA!

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Overnight a massive storm system moved in, dumping 1 3/4" of rain, which was then topped by 3" of snow. Temps hovered around the freezing mark, so the snow was super-wet and very packable. Also, extremely dangerous.

We attempted to make a run to the grocery store, but driving 10-15 mph down a smooth road and making no attempt to accelerate, change lanes, or decelerate, all of a sudden the car went left and headed to the curb across oncoming lanes of traffic. Fortunately there was very little traffic on the streets and none oncoming, but there was a period when time slowed to a near standstill as we headed uncontrollably toward the curb and its adjacent retaining wall that I was pretty sure me-week would be spent visiting body shops. By the time we stopped (just short of the curb), and got the car moving again with traffic (instead of stopped horizontally blocking traffic) we decided the shopping could be postponed a few more hours. We at least made it to the Post Office where I picked up my long-awaited contracts. Temps continued to rise, and by a little after noon, this is what our sidewalks looked like:

Majorly disgusting!

As good a day as yesterday was, it wasn’t without its blemishes. The women who were teaching the session in my classroom in the time slot before mine lingered past time, and continued to chit chat with their attendees. They knew I was next. In fact, I entered when their session should have been over and as I took a position at the front of the room where the class leader sits I actually said “I’m the next session.” They kept talking....and talking...and repeating how there was so much to discuss on this subject that they could speak for a whole day. In the meantime, a new friend (John) entered and clearly intended on being there for my session. I kept trying to find an opening to interrupt them and encourage them to take their discussion elsewhere. John kept making eye contact with me like “would these people leave already?!” They finally took a breath and I turned to John (by this time 1 minute into my time slot) and said “John, are you here for my session?” and he smiled and said “yes” and that was the ejector button I had been looking for. Some people are so selfish.

Earlier we had lunched across the table from one of those teachers and her friend. Today Michael filled me in on some details I had not heard: the friend confessed that she had zero interest in podcasting but she came because she was complaining to her friend (the teacher) that she had absolutely nothing to do on Saturday, so the friend invited her along. Good God! I don’t ever recall being so bored and without interests that I would tag along to a conference just to get out of the house.

I rang my mother when we got back into town (because the storm had just hit) so she would know we had made it safe and sound. Then I was treated with a full-on La Cucaracha on all the buttons she so carefully installed as I was growing up. I have become pretty skilled at ignoring her button dances and to not let them bother me long term, but it can sometimes be hard not to try to “correct” her. I mean, there is no point. All it would do is add fuel to the fire.

And let’s face it: She’s of an age when croaking could come tomorrow or in five years. Every conversation might be our last. At least when they are phone conversations I can eye-roll to my heart’s content.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Only Five Days to Me Time

And I haven’t formulated a plan of attack. What the heck have been doing? Oh, I know. Panic-writing an article for an assignment that is “due mid-February” but for which no contract has yet arrived. I’ve been promised that I’ll be paid, and supposedly it was mailed last Tuesday, but I figure it’s been plenty-o-time for it to cross two measly state lines. Might have been delivered today, but I was out of town all day. Won’t know for certain until tomorrow. At least the article is 98% complete, and hasn’t turned out badly. Might even be pretty good. That means the editor will hate it.

I took Saturday off to participate in Podcamp Midwest. The setting was perfect, and I met some really wonderful people. When I travel on press trips I often meet wonderful people, but this is quite different. On my press trips, these wonderful people are either public relations people who want to use me to meet their professional needs, or fellow journalists/competition who want something from me. In other words, they are nice at the dinner table, but the niceness ends when they can no longer use me to their advantage.

Not so with podcamp, and not so with knit group (which is a lot of why I like both.)

Made it home just as the rain began to fall fast and furious. Tomorrow they are forecasting snow—possibly 5".

Me time... Let’s see... Spinning. Definitely spinning... Programming (just bought two more super-geek books)... Writing... Knitting... Rug Hooking...

Honey, can you extend your business trip another week or so?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On the Topic of Intelligence

I recently listened to a fascinating interview with James Flynn on BBC4’s Start the Week on the topic of intelligence in the 20th century. According to his research, each generation of the 20th century has increased in intelligence over the last.

From what I understand, IQ tests were not developed until the early part of the 20th century. And typically these test subjects had a great deal of difficulty answering reasoning questions that we answer today with ease. For example, when asked what a dog and a rabbit have in common, the subject would skip the obvious “they are both mammals” response and go straight down the “I use my dog to hunt rabbits” road.

Or when asked about white bears in the arctic, the subject would stick with brown bears because the subject had never seen a white bear nor been to the arctic nor knew anyone who had. They had experience only with brown bears.

This is a rough approximation of his Flynn’s discussion because it was Sunday, and I was busy, well, stripping as I mentioned in the previous post.

If I understood Flynn’s point correctly, it wasn’t that people were not as smart back then, but that a different type of intelligence was nurtured. Certainly as a rule the school system stressed rote memorization, and I personally would lose any contest on classical history if pitted against my great great aunt, but that is not the type of knowledge that is important today. Learning how to learn is essential. Knowing how to reason is essential.

I have seen this shift with my elders, though at the time I surmised that most if not all of us reach a point where our brains lose their elasticity. And maybe it still does. Like we are able to relearn how to learn up to a certain point, and then either age or attrition through lack of exercise causes us to lose that ability.

I have one relative (in her late 60s or early 70s) who cannot understand how to work phones. She is under the baffling impression that if you are making a call from a land line, then you have to call a land line. If you are making a call from a cell then you have to call another cell. If you receive a call on your land line then it must be from another land line; and if you receive a call on your cell then it must be from another cell. (She will also call a cell phone because she “doesn’t want to bother you at work” even though she is calling during business hours and yes, you are at work. But somehow making the call to the cell phone changes reality.)

I have another relative (early 80s) who insists that you (or we since we are in the house-hunting mode this year) absolutely must buy the most expensive house you can possibly afford and that that is the only way to advance economically. In fact, it is that mindset that is why so many houses are in foreclosure today. And if all your wealth is tied up in your home, how will you survive retirement? We live longer, few people earn pensions, and let’s face it, Social Security is nothing we can count on.

It’s not that either of these relatives are dummies, but that the old rules no longer apply, and they haven’t chosen to do the hard work to keep their brains elastic.

I guess this is why I face my fears and knit hard things (though I will complain and possibly curse a bit under my breath), or, when faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of teaching myself MySQL, I respond by looking at my books, asking questions of the right people, and pushing until that light goes on in my head.

Pardon me. This diversion has been fun, but it’s time for my next lesson in Learning Unix for Mac OS X.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I Strip on Sunday, and my Fabulous New $1.99 Knitting Bag

I decided to advance progress on the rug by not working on it at all. That is, I didn’t do any of the locker hook action and instead devoted about 5 hours of my Sunday to cutting all my fabric into the strips I’ll need to make the rug. Almost made it, too, but had to finish my last two yards today. It was a lot of fabric. See?

There’s enough wool dust in the air to create a sheep.

Saturday was a fantastic day. Had to miss my knit group because I had a podcaster meetup in Kansas City, so I’m a bit disappointed about that, but the day made up for it. First, it was magically warm and sunny. I think it even reached the low 50s. Second, we had a list of stops to make in KC so it was fun-ville from early afternoon on. My mother asked me to buy some smoked salt (like what I had bought for myself in Ann Arbor) and I knew of what should have been a great spice store in Shawnee Mission. I’ll pause here for just a moment to explain that Kansas City is comprised of Kansas City Kansas, Kansas City Missouri, Lenexa, Overland Park, Shawnee Mission... there are dozens of small cities that comprise the Kansas City Metro. So when I say we spent the day in Kansas City I mean we spent it in the Kansas City Metro. Okay, back to the spice store. We went to Penzeys, which by all rights should have had it, but not only did they not, but the store staff thought I should go to a barbecue store to buy it. Uh... no. The salt is smoked, but you don’t use it to smoke. It turned out okay that Penzey’s fell through, because their packaging looks cheap, and this smoked salt is destined as a present for an uncle. A stop at a Wild Oats later that afternoon won us the perfect package anyway, which included alder smoked salt, Hawaiian... and two other kinds.

Picked up four more yards of wool at 40% off. Love, love, love Hancock’s in Kansas City. The store is HUGE!

Found a bonanza of research materials for a super-secret business project I am starting.

Learned that I’ll be presenting at a conference next weekend.

And had a great beer and burger at my podcast meetup.

I mean, could the day have been any better?

And on Friday I found a great knitting bag at Home Depot:

It’s lightweight, has two rigid sides and two expandable, a roomy interior, handles, and a locking top. Plus, it was only $1.99!

Eclair is still recovering from surgery. Fortunately the test results showed it was just a severe and rare allergic reaction. The troubling round cells hadn’t become malignant yet, and now there are gone so we have less to worry about in the future.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Excerpts from an Actual Craft-y Conversation in my Home

Me: (gesturing to the blond albatross aka locker hook rug standing on end in one corner of the room) It is taking me about three days to complete three lines of rug across its entire length.

Him: So that’s one line a day. How long is it going to take you?

Me: Well that’s the thing. I haven’t calculated it. I’m kind of afraid to.

Him: When do you want to finish it?

Me: You read my blog. I’ll be starting a second rug at the end of March, so ideally I’d like to only work on one rug at a time.

Him: I’ll calculate it, but I won’t tell you if it’s not good news.

I watched him carefully counting the grid to approximately the halfway point along its width.

Him: (said quickly and without making eye contact) You don’t want to know.

And then he left the room.

When he returned I asked, “That bad, huh?”

Him: You couldn’t get it done unless there were four or five of you.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Super-Duper Tuesday

At this point you are likely aware that yesterday was Super Tuesday, which means it was caucus day here in Kansas.

At heart I am an independent, and I mean that sincerely—not like a lot of people I know who feign an open mind but somehow miraculously always vote along party lines. (Sort of like my in-laws who continually say they want to buy a Honda but always end up with a GM because in the end they are enticed by the cash balance on their GM credit card.) But independents don’t get to voice an opinion until the main election. Since the only party that caucused in Kansas yesterday was the Democratic party, it should be pretty clear how I am registered now, but I have been a registered Republican at other points in my life. So that out of the way, let me tell you about the caucus.

There were only a handful of caucus locations for our city. Doors opened at 6, and you had to be in line by 7 to participate. We arrived at our location about 6:30. It was raining, and had been raining all day. Parking was miserable. It was held at a middle school and the school only had parking for staff and faculty, because middle school students aren’t yet driving age. That meant the narrow residential streets were packed with cars for blocks around. Drivers, desperate to find a spot, were parking illegally. I even spied one driver accidentally tap the bumper of another vehicle trying to squeeze into a non-spot. Once parked, the line of humanity entering the building stretched to the curb and beyond. Clearly, people were excited.

Once everyone was inside and the caucus began, the body count was 901, and that didn’t include observers or media. Couldn’t swear to it, but I’m pretty sure that exceeded room capacity. Hello, Fire Marshall?

I found chair in the middle of the room, so this photo doesn’t fully reflect how many people were there. There was lots of people behind me, and tons standing along the sides. The room had the energy of a rally. Once the initial count was in (total voters in the room), we heard short speeches from representatives of four candidates: Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Kucinich. Our governor, Kathleen Sebelius, spoke on behalf of Obama. You can kinda see her flash of gray hair on stage. (Michael swears that she touched his elbows at one point trying to squeeze through the crowd.) Then we divided into groups based on our preferences and the sub-groups counted. Each group had to have at least 15% of the total voters in order to remain. That knocked out Edwards and Kucinich. Voters were given an opportunity to realign, and then we stood for our final count.

(Gov. Sebelius is on the right end of the stage. I’ve put a circle around her to help you pick her out.)

There were lots of media-type folks there. If you want to read more about my particular caucus location, it was written up in the newspaper.

Throughout it all I worked on my serviceman’s sock, which considering it is a World War Red Cross pattern for making socks for our troops overseas, this sock held all kinds of symbolic meaning. Too bad no one asked me about it.

The sheer mass of humanity inside that auditorium made the counts go slow, so the caucus wasn’t over until close to 9. By the time we left the rain had shifted to snow. And look what we woke to this morning:

There’s a sidewalk underneath there. Trust me. The official amount of snowfall is 7.3".

That makes it the snowiest winter since 1993.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Miss Eclair and her Harry Potter Scar

The mass over Eclair’s eye has not reduced since she had her steroid shot, so yesterday I took her to the vet for a re-evaluation. The vet wanted to take the mass off as soon as possible because the skin in that area has very little elasticity, and the bigger it gets the more difficult it will be. And if it turns out to be malignant, then it is even more important that it be removed ASAP. Since I didn’t know we were going to have surgery, I hadn’t prepped her. She had full access to food all night, which is a no-no pre-surgically speaking, of course. Fortunately (?) she had had a yack fest earlier that morning so she emptied out her stomach for me.

Later in the day, this is what we brought home:

She didn’t handle the Elizabethan collar at all well. When we let her out of her carrier, she ran and bounced off anything and everything (bed side rails, door jambs, pieces of furniture) like the house was a giant pin ball machine. It is her pride that is injured more than anything, and it looks like she will spend today hiding in a bookcase. She has refused water and food. We took the collar off, which is a risk, but stress can ultimately be more harmful than damage to her surgical area, so it is a risk we must take. In the meantime, the mass is being sent to a specialist for evaluation. We should know more in a few weeks.

A winter storm is moving through our area today, and tonight we participate in our first caucus. Definitely a steaming cup of Bailey’s coffee in our future.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Strollin’ Down the Y2K Memory Lane, and a Check of my January Goals

Remember Y2K? Remember when the world was going to be thrown into turmoil because computers had only been programmed with the last two digits of the year so when the clocks ticked from 11:59 p.m. 12/31/99 to 12:00 1/1/00 (or was it 12:00 p.m. 12/31/99 to 12:01 1/1/00? I forget.) the world would be thrown into utter darkness and despair?

Well, coinciding with the cry for emergency stock-ups for Y2K, I was going through a thrifty save-by-buying-in-bulk phase. Since we have no garage for storing dry goods, flats of soup and water ended up in the basement. In the far end of the basement. Where it is darkest, and creepiest, and well, quickly cut-off by the ever-growing pile of lumber bits, empty plant pots, tools, and cans of paint. (I know. You’re picturing a rectangular-shaped basement and wondering how cut-off that shelving unit could possibly be. Shrink the basement down because it only goes under 1/2 the house. Add a staircase in one corner, and a large chimney and boiler in the center with a wall connecting the chimney to the long wall behind the stairs. In other words, a U. Now imagine the basement as low-ceilinged, the walls limestone skimmed with disintegrating concrete, and the floor joists above thick with cobwebs. The foot of the stairs is at one end of the U; the water is at the other. Like I said: Cut-off.)

Now that we are preparing to move, it is essential that I take a fresh look at all corners of the house and ask myself if I really want to move X, Y, or Z. If not, it either needs to be thrown out, or put in the next multi-family garage sale (slated for late March, 2008). The cut-off corners of the basement are virgin territory for toss-potential. I mean, if I haven’t needed the box of miscellaneous cleaning supplies I emptied from our Hoosier cabinet three years ago, then I probably am not going to want to pack it along to the new house, right? Or maybe I do need some of that stuff and I should actually use it up rather than buying a new bottle. Win-win.

Look at what else I found:

Yep. Y2K water. That was for when the water department computers were going to suffer a breakdown and cause the water treatment facility to stop working, thereby leaving the entire city without potable water. Worked out to be a 1 1/2 flats worth of water. We were running out at the office, so this gem of a discovery just saved me about 10 bucks.

Oh, the soups were used up or tossed already. I may be cheap, but not that cheap.

Now for my January goals.
Finish 1 serviceman’s socks. This project was sorely behind (it rode around in my purse, but I didn’t have many opp’s to work on it) and then I picked it up one morning last week and realized that somehow I had increased 1 stitch. So I had to frog back about 1 1/2". At that point even the secondary goal of reaching the heel turn was laughably impossible. Still need to tidy up the stitches on the needles and resume work from the screw-up point.

Finish left front of V-neck cardi. Done.

Reach arms of bi-color cables. Uh... no. As of this morning (2/3/8) I have finally finished the cable chart up to the bust increase point, but that is only because my gauge is slightly off so I had to take an entire chart repeat off or my sweater would have been the wrong length. I’ve looked ahead to the bust increase instructions, and it appears to be row after row of nightmare. Perhaps I should make “finish bust increases” my February goal and leave it at that.

Complete 1st chart of shawl. Hahahahaha . To be fair, the weather has been lousy, so taking into account my other requirements, there’s only been 1 2-hour period when I could have worked on it. But I wasn’t in the mood.

Complete Sea Feral purse. Uh... once again, no. I have no excuses for this one. Well, I have one, outlined below.

Practice spiral crochet on waste yarn. Didn’t happen.

Finish shield quilt. Done!

Finish bobbin lace domino frame. Done, and the pillow has been put away!

Before I beat myself up too much about my undone goals, I need to remind myself that there is one project I started that wasn’t on my goal list at all. And that’s the Tesserae Rug. Considering that this project is massive, and while easy in technique, is unwieldy and so extensive will likely take half a year to complete, I actually did pretty well. I know from the outset that there is no way to fast track this particular project because it is back breaking work (thankfully it is not altogether joyless since Miss Eclair has discovered its play virtues - see photo below), but I’m going to need to find a way to make this move along a wee bit quicker. Like actually working on it for at least a few minutes per day. Maybe even 15 minutes minimum per day.

Because as Jules pointed out in her comment, my mother who was inquiring about how I was making this rug was actually hinting that she wanted one. I figured that out both with because of Jules’ comment and because I could not picture my mother making one herself. I suppose her hint would have been more obvious to me on another day, but at the time I seemed to be in a self-preservation mode. Anyway, Mother’s Day is a few months away, so that seems like the optimum time for such gift-giving. I decided to make it sort of a family project, so I’ve called all my siblings and asked them to donate an old sheet, or old cotton shirts, etc. that I could use to make her rug. Their deadline is the multi-family garage sale at the end of March. That means that if I don’t get our rug finished first, I’ll have two rugs going at the same time. Not good.

Also, because of the massive size of this project, and the fact that I’m using my sewing machine table as a cutting surface for the bazillion or so strips of fabric used in its construction, the herringbone quilt is on hold until both rugs 1 and 2 are done.

I think one project at a time for the household is sufficient. The rug is household. The quilt is household. The crochet bowls are household.

And a last word: I am glad that today is Superbowl Sunday, and not because of the reasons you probably guess. Because times like these are when marketers like WalMart really let their sexism flag fly. Have you seen those ads where the women are in the kitchen wrapping their fingers in tape like football players, prepping the party refreshments? Like a guy is unable to open a damn bag of Doritos himself? Or she might not want to plop herself in front of the game, too? Pu-lease!