Monday, June 28, 2010

The Point at Which “Marketing” Begins to Sound Like a Dirty Word

I recently stumbled across this product marketed by a Dutch Company. Woolfiller is marketed as a green way to patch and repair sweaters. What it is, is a kit containing needle felting tools and a few ounces of several colors of dyed wool.

It got me thinking.

  • The odds of someone owning an actual wool sweater in the United States is pretty small - unless they are, or are loved by, a fiber-loving knitter. Would a felting patch work in a sweater of a man-made fiber? Dunno.
  • The odds that any of their colored wool bits would blend seamlessly with the color of the sweater in question, is even more negligible.
  • While different color patches could look cool, the odds that a non-artsy person could create a look that appeared purposeful and attractive is highly improbable.
  • The odds that someone who didn’t have the money to buy a new sweater would spring for this kit rather than go to a thrift store for a replacement, is like a billion to one at best.
  • The odds that an artistically-minded fiber person doesn’t already own needle felting supplies and bits of wool—or at least heard of this method—is inconceivable.

Here’s the YouTube marketing video if you want a better idea of what I’m talking about.

I may be way over-thinking this.
Blue Ribbon Pet Devotion

I love this story on the BBC web site about Oscar the cat and his team of surgeons and engineers who gave him mechanoid rear feet after his were amputated in an agricultural accident.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lessons Learned This Weekend

1) Even if Mother Nature does not provide a much-needed breeze, there’s no law that says we can’t make our own.

2) No matter where we live, we’ll always uncover a sidewalk buried on the property somewhere.

Fall-out from Feline Behavior Modification

A few months ago we realized that we needed to make some adjustments in the household. The incentive for this was the health of Eclair,

who was not drinking enough liquids due to stress arising from her overactive imagination and theatrics, which triggers a strong predator/prey response in one of our males (Nacho),

which feeds her imagination and theatrics, which triggers his strong predator/prey response...

It’s a vicious cycle. This resulted in bladder stones, which are at best painful, and at worst fatal. What I’m saying is that we did not make the decision for the adjustment lightly. We needed to reduce her stress level, and the best way to do this was to set aside a room that was hers and hers alone to sleep at night. Solid rest makes her braver, which makes her less target-like, which makes her braver, which makes her less target-like... Another cycle, but this time one that works in our favor.

But this change didn’t only affect Eclair. It also effected Caper, who is an insecure wool-sucking clingy, jealous, passive-aggressive male cat. He’s also protective, funny, and extremely loving and devoted, but that insecurity is what is getting us into trouble. Because he’s now banned from the bedroom at night.

This is actually a great thing for me, because his clingy wool-sucking nature would kick in full gear overnight, resulting in little rest and lots of scolding in the wee hours. But now that he’s intentionally shunned from the bedroom, he’s started finding ways to get back at me.

First it was just the quiet but persistent battle over my office chair. (Documented here).

And that was bad enough. But the other morning while watching the early morning news with Nacho on my lap, I heard the unmistakable sound of a pin hitting the floor. At which point I glanced across the room to see Caper hovering over it. I immediately retrieved the pin and put my magnetic pin cushion that was in my craft room out of reach. But that apparently wasn’t the end of that.

Caper seems to have gone back to my craft room and methodically removed every pin out of the pattern pieces/fabric I had been preparing to cut out.

And if that weren’t annoying enough, he placed them all (about a half dozen - seriously) in the cats’ dry food bowl.

This is no ordinary run-of-the-mill temper tantrum. This is a cat with a grudge the size of Uma Thurman’s in a Kill Bill movie.

So quickly has this cat forgotten about the round-the-clock care we gave him during the months that his broken leg mended (not to mention that we chose to fix it rather than put him down—a decision that quite a few people view with disbelief if not horror).

Immediate and definitive steps had to be taken. But cats operate at a completely different emotional and reasoning level than humans. Any attempt to apply human behavior modification techniques are laughable ineffective, and can actually make matters much worse. That means scolding and ignoring are totally out.

Thus, we are having to do the completely counter-intuitive step of “rewarding” him with private experiences at random times when he is being good.

So much for my backlog of office work. Somehow, someway, I need to carve out an hour out of my day to work or read somewhere that he rarely gets to bond with me. And this somewhere needs to have a door that can be closed to keep all the other cats out.

If he gets regularly rewarded with a positive experience that the other cats don’t receive, it elevates his stature in the eyes of the other cats, therefore bolstering his self-esteem and giving him confidence in his position as alpha male.

Shared experiences can be in my craft room (supervised, only), or in our office library. Work possibilities for me include all things crafty, as well as reading. Actual work, errands, gardening, cooking, etc. are completely out.

Michael has also gotten involved, and is letting Caper explore the sacred office wing for brief periods.

Will this be successful? We shall see. I can only say that after three days of testing, that his eyes are more brighter and bigger as we terminate the experience, he is more relaxed the rest of the day, and more tolerant of the other male.

With cats, even the smallest change to their environment and our behavior can have a huge benefit to their health and behavior. But it can also have the opposite effect.

That’s the adventure of cat ownership.

And maybe it’s not so terrible to be forced to continue forward with non-mobile sewing projects, etc. It’s for the cat, right?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Socks for Sis II

My eldest sister and I had our usual conversation the other day. “Thanks for the gifty, blah blah blah. What would you like, blah blah blah?” Astonishingly she said “socks”. Specifically socks made from the same delicious fiber I used for her mis-matched socks last year.

I guess I’m off to the LYS. grumph...

Due to her nearly phobic reaction to all animal fibers, I am limited to choosing colors within the Panda Cotton line. I assume a Panda Silk would also work, but if I would never consider making silk socks for myself, I darn well aren’t going to make silk socks for someone else. Not unless they are footing the bill. (Get it? “Footing”?)

Apparently last year’s mis-matched socks disturbed a great many people, so this year she asked for matching. Still, I wanted to mix things up a bit while still giving her socks that appeal to her color sense. Which isn’t my own. This turned out to be a challenge. So what’s her color sense?

She has severe adverse reactions to any print that in any way suggests paisley. Paisley knitting patterns are rare, sure. But striking a paisley chord extends to just about any kind of pattern. I’ve witnessed this in quilting fabric. And yet...

She loves loves loves wearing figured socks. Figured socks are those with shamrocks, or people, or flowers, or really just about anything that can be found in the children’s hosiery department of the local WalMart. I know this because I washed all her clothes following her house fire. An unbelievable number of figured socks. Socks, it can be said, it where she lets her freak flag fly.

Bright, bold, bouncy... all are #1 choices in her sockdom.

As a comparison, I like to wear wool socks in earthy colors with simple textures.

I put on my brightest bouncy mindset and looked over the supply of Panda Cotton at the LYS. I was limited in the range of solids. They had some kick-ass variegated in a range of rich colors, but few solids to use for the complimentary ribbing and toe. So I ultimately decided on Pea Pod for the main sock body, and Yellow for its companion. The pattern will be the Waterfall Rib in the Six-stitch pattern chapter of Sensation Knitted Socks.

I dunno. At least since I know that this is something she likes (soft knitted socks by me) I can keep my eyes peeled when we travel to other knitting shops. Three skeins = 1 pair. The math is easier than embracing her color scheme.

In other news, I did something today that I never ever do: I sampled free food at the grocery store. I bet the last time I did this was over a decade or two ago. But I was overcome by curiosity.

The store (Dillon’s) had a small display of raclette cookers at their deli, along side which they had set out a sample tray. I had the opportunity to eat raclette in Switzerland a few years ago, so I know what traditional raclette is all about. Raclette is a special type of melted cheese served over potatoes, pearl onions, gherkins, or dried meat. Sorta like fondue, but not. Here’s a wiki page on raclette if you’re curious. I was curious what Dillon’s deli department would make of raclette, so I tried a small sample.

It appeared to be a bit of ham with melted cheese over the top, and that wasn’t too far off.

But then I took a bite...

...and it turned out to be a slice of cold ham, topped with a small cube of mild cheese, smothered—smothered—in horseradish sauce. It was one of the most disgusting things I have ever eaten. If I had spotted the trashcan sooner, I would have spit it out like a scene from Hell’s Kitchen. As it was, I had that horrible taste in my mouth for hours afterward.

I’m guessing they aren’t going to sell many raclette cookers with that as the model of success.

More ginormous landscaping projects are on the near horizon. More near than far because we need to buy a butt load of plants to border the thing we are building. And I have approximately two-to-three weeks to safely finish it before my favorite local landscape store closes for the season. I hope it is only for the season, at least, and not permanently. Howard Pines is having a tough year due to all the road construction projects that have effectively cut them off from their main customer base. So to all my local pepes, please remember Howard Pines when thinking about land and landscape projects. We bought three stunning passion flowers today on a whim. I can’t wait to get back to purchase the items we actually “need.”

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Probable Cause of my Half-Assed Work of Late

There’s only room for half an ass on my chair.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Morning After

Wow! Yesterday afternoon we had one heck of a storm! It didn’t rise to Nashville standards, but the flooding event was still stunning. About 2.5" of rain fell within a 45-minute period of time.

This was, by far, the most severe rain we’ve experienced in our new home. (There were widespread reports of car rescues) So it was fascinating to watch the natural water mechanics of our terrain at work—and delightful to know that previous owners have done a kick-ass job of berming and furrowing our lawn in the best possible way to keep water away from the house.

At one point we had three streams running through our lawn. In fact, there was a torrent running along the back property line. The force of the water completely obliterated a dry stream bed the neighbors had constructed to deal with water run-off, resulting in the neighbors hunting under our cedar threes this morning looking for their missing rocks.

And I’m proud to say that our new-but-butt-ugly temporary-ish extended sump pump drain also got the full workout, and it excelled on all levels. I’m afraid to think what the lawn would have looked like had we not extended it before the storm.

To illustrate the severity of the storm, here’s a slightly-after photo followed by a photo taken in the same spot the next morning.

(after the rain stopped)

(twelve hours later)

These were taken across the street and only a few houses down. The creek that this was heading toward was mighty angry. I would hate to think what our basement(s) would have looked like had previous owners not gone to extraordinary measures to prevent disaster.

I may have (and will continue to) deride the previous owners/renovators as “doobie-smoking hippies,” but at least one of them had their head on straight when it really mattered.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Map Questing

I ran across a link to a Forbes article on 2008 migration patterns. Since 2008 was the year we moved—in other words, we are a part of this map—I found the patterns to be particularly interesting.

The colors of the lines indicate whether the migration was in-bound or out-bound. Red means people were moving away. Black means more people were moving to.

I spent quite a bit of time clicking around the map.

Like Hawaii, for example. Such an island paradise, yet it appears that more people are leaving than arriving. And island to island, where they move to is vastly different. Some islands’ migrants land all over the United States, while others stick with a few counties in lower California, coastal areas of the northwest, and Chicago.

Click Suffolk County, New York, and the network of hits heavy on the eastern seaboard, plus smaller pockets in the west.

Then Kentucky. The vast majority of the migration patterns are only one or two counties over. This story repeats in many counties in the rural southeast.

Now Wayne County, Michigan. The population fled across the United States and to every other county in Michigan. I see the thumbprint of the automotive industry downturn very clearly here.

On the reverse side, Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas and Manhattan had definite in-bound populations. Why them? What industries or rosy economic outlook compelled people to relocate to those cities?

The map was created based on IRS data, which I cannot locate on the IRS site. So I won’t begin to address the validity of the information here, or if I have interpreted the graphical representation correctly. And even though I’m technically a part of this map, there were some problems with the graphical display that prevents me from seeing the “me”. Still, I cannot stop pondering the pattern, and wondering what greater meaning it reveals about living and working in our country.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


Everyone can use a little cuteness from time to time.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Crafting Down, and Über Intriguing

I seem to be in a crafting funk of late. My leisure chair is surrounded by multiple knitting and crochet projects, yet whenever I consider picking them up, my hands so “no way”. They need a break. I need a break. Apparently.

Maybe it’s a true funk.

Maybe it’s that all my favorite shows are airing their season finales, which means that things are way too exciting to try to watch and keep track of yo’s. (Did you see the next-to-last episode of “Breaking Bad”? Wow!)

That’s okay. It gives me time to find news stories such as this, about a lost WWII battlefield in New Guinea that has been left intact since the last soldier died or was evacuated. According to the story, the local villagers have known about the battle site remains for all these decades and avoid it when hunting. Why has no one from these villages let others know of its location? And how many other battlefields remain unclaimed?

The helmets rusting on bamboo spikes is a sobering reminder of the reality of war. Every war.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Three Semi-Related Things

Five hours and four trips to the hardware store later, the septic drain is now successfully emptying into the street rather than the middle of our lawn (aka swamp).

Did you know robins sneeze? I know. I hadn’t either. And yet...

Several of our neighbors—the ones who we’ve good naturedly invited us to “help” with our yard projects in the past—have started taking the long way to and from their homes, rather than driving past our house when the wheelbarrow and shovels are out. Of course that’s probably just a coincidence!
Metamorphosis: a Poem without Words

Friday, June 04, 2010

News that Made Me Smile

It’s been kind of tough morning. Before six a.m. (yes, that’s A.m.) I had to lecture two service providers about the basics of good customer service.

One was customer service representative who “took ownership” of my customer support email from last Friday (a week ago), but only now got around to responding to it because my question involved a new service their company advertised on their web site (which I had a question about) but he hadn’t heard a thing about it at the time he received my email and is only now being trained in how to use it.
(Two thoughts: why are they advertising it as a service to their customers before they have let their staff in on it; and if that particular customer service representative didn’t know what I was talking about, why did he take “ownership” of it in the first place rather than passing it along to a supervisor?)

The second was a security service technician who came to my home to do a simple repair yesterday, and this morning I woke up to find my kitchen trashcan beeping because he had thrown my old smoke detector in my household trash without disabling it first. (It didn’t help that I have a history with this tech, and he nearly lost that service provider a 2-year contract last year because of his ineptness.) Really. Kitchen trash beeping is no way to start the day. And due to the infrequent and short nature of the beep, it took me several coffee fill-ups before I found its source.

So finding this OddBox video on the BBC America web site this morning was exactly what I needed. You’ll want to watch it for the knitted boob story at the end, but I want to know what happens to the wool in those tantalizing large wool-stuffed burlap sacks in the wool sack race. Hmmm?

I have a tough-but-joyful weekend planned. The tough side will be excavating for a sump pump drain extension that will actually carry our sump pump water to the street rather than ending in an enormous-and-growing hole in the middle of the yard. The joyful side is that it is rhubarb season. Time to stock up at the farmer’s market to make simple syrup that will be the foundation for tequila-splashed rhubarb sodas this summer. We are entering the 90s phase of summer, so measures must be taken. Just sayin’.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Proof of Knitting

Just a quick blog post to prove up that I have been doing actual knitting.

Progress is slow on Sam’s Victory Garden curtains, but pleasurable as I have been marathoning Season 3 of Big Love. Lots more to go on the curtain, but no more DVDs. How sad.
Forging Beyond the Line of Maternal Freak-Out: on the Topic of Bulbs

Last fall I made the time and effort to plant a nice variety of bulbs. I had crocuses, and some narcissus (daffodils), and about eight varieties of tulips. Growing up we always had narcissus and crocuses, but tulips were noticeably absent. No accident. My mother is anti-tulip.

She’s not against the actual flower, mind you. Just the work involved. So much work to plant every fall that must be repeated again the next fall because hybridized tulips have such a short lifespan. Whereas narcissus come up year after year after year. Work one fall = results ten years out.

One year at my former house I planted a beautiful stand of red tulips against a painted picket fence. This area was highly visible to traffic on the one-way street along our property, and the results were appreciated by thousands of commuters. That ended after we had to transplant some bushes into that very spot, and no other logical spot for tulips presented itself. So that was the end of that.

And I agree that tulips are loads more work than narcissus, but jeez louise, they come in so many more shapes, colors and varieties than I can get in narcissus. Leaving tulips out of the planting plan is selling my spring garden short.

I’m already out in left field when it comes to my maternal roots for taking the time to plant tulips. So imagine her reaction when I told her what I was doing with those same bulbs this spring: I’m digging them up and saving them. Really, that’s just crazy talk.

I found this tip off a link page for the Tulip Time Festival, under Tips for Growing Bulbs. It says that overcrowding can be a problem, so after the foliage has died back, dig up and separate the bulbs. Then replant.

As you can see in the above photo, there are lots of baby bulbs here. And I found slugs and other pests moving in on the bulbs, so removing them wasn’t a bad idea. Each variety is in its own labeled paper sack, and heading to the garage for storage over the summer.

I guess this puts me in stratosphere of weird when it comes to landscape care. But I’m pretty sure that for her, I was there already. For lots of other reasons.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If there is a Bread in Heaven,

it’s bound to be this:

This is my spent grain bread, using whole wheat flour in addition to malted barley from my most recent batch of Double IPA.

Since it’s probably an easy mistake for non-brewers to make, to assume that this bread is alcoholic. It is not, nor were those grains ever near anything alcoholic. Here’s a very simplified version of the brewing process:

Crushed grains are steeped in hot water, then the water is drained off and reserved, and the grains are rinsed with more hot water. (At this point the grains have done their job and are normally discarded. However this time I saved back several containers for my future bread baking plan.)

The hot steeping and rinsing water (called wort - pronounced WERT) is set to boil for usually 60 minutes. Flavorings such as hops or other herbs are added at the beginning and end of the boil.

At the end of the boil, the wort is cooled as quickly as possible to around 70°.

It is transferred to another container, often a fermentation bucket, and specialized brewer’s yeast is added. A sanitized airlock is added to keep the fermentation in a closed, hygienic environment, and the bucket is stored away from direct light in a temperature controlled location. During this time the yeast is eating the sugars from the grain, which in turn is creating alcohol.

At the end of fermentation (7-14 days usually) the beer is ready for bottling or kegging.

If kegs are used, the beer is simply transferred to the kegs in such a way as to leave as much of the dead yeast and sediment behind. This process is called racking. Carbonation happens when the kegs are hooked up to CO2.

If they are bottled, then priming sugar must be added to the beer. This is added to a bottling bucket and mixed with the beer during the racking process. Remaining yeast gobble up the new sugars, creating a carbonated beer.

Back to the bread. This may be one of my all-time best loaves ever baked. The bread is moist, mildly sweet, and earthy. I’m so glad I have more spent grain saved, because a month is too long to wait to bake another loaf!