August 31, 2006

(Blow)Hard Time

A quick disclaimer before I say anything else - I've never watched Thirty Days, and I only watched about ten minutes of last night's episode. But if I can't spout unfounded opinions, what the hell is a blog for?

So the season finale was the dramatic prison episode - Morgan Spurlock goes Inside (you have to say it in your head with a capital 'I', possibly followed by a reverberating door-slamming sound effect). I learned a lot in those ten minutes:

1. Apparently, prison is boring.

2. Watching men in prison, without the prospect of Oz's full-frontal nudity, is definitely boring. Though I've gotta give Spurlock credit for being willing to show his ass on national television purely to edify the American public.

3. I have a ridiculous sense that having watched Oz means I understand life in prison. Like I was totally there, in the Big House.

4. Some states don't have a parole system. So in Virginia, working an unpaid 15-hour day in the kitchen is considered a privilege because the time you work counts towards reducing your sentence.

5. That means every day Morgan Spurlock worked in that prison kitchen is another day an inmate will have to serve time.

6. I think that makes him a bit of an asshole.

August 28, 2006

Learning it the hard way

In a transparent attempt to hide my total lack of sock or legwarmer knitting progress, today's theme is lessons learned in hat knitting (clockwise from top left).

Pink pom-pom – my first finished object
Yarn/Pattern: Cascade 128 yarn, generic hat pattern

Lesson 1: If you’ve bunged up drawing together the last few stitches at the top of your hat, a gigantic pink pom-pom on top will cover the hole, but it will be kinda fugly.

Lesson 2: Your head really is just as freakishly large as you always thought it was. Even your knitting class teacher will be surprised by its enormity when you knit the size large hat and the thing practically shrieks in protest when pulled over your head.

Lesson 3: you are an excruciatingly tight knitter. Chilling the f*ck out will make decreasing much, much easier.

Purple seed-stitch brim – my second finished object
Yarn/Pattern: Cascade 128 yarn, same basic hat pattern

Lesson 1: you really hate knitting ribbing, but dig doing seed stitch, which you feel looks silly but is way less boring to knit. This preference will only grow stronger in the intervening year and will be the source of fierce resentment when looking at sock, hat and sweater patterns.

Lesson 2: if you feel like your hat will be too small, you’re probably right. You realize that measuring your project could probably help but wait 6 months to shell out $1.99 for a proper measuring tape.

Turquoise ribbed brim
Yarn/pattern: Cascade 128, same basic hat pattern

Lesson learned: this knitting thing is clearly going to be a problem. You’ve been knitting for all of a month and are already completely obsessed.

Pink ribbed brim
Yarn/pattern: Lamb’s Pride Bulky, hat pattern from The Yarn Girls’ Guide

This was knit flat, then mattress stitched at the seam and made me realize that the top of my hats didn't need to be lame. Instead, I could have awesome, perfectly smooth and spherical tops with lovely spiraling decreases. The thick yarn made the seam kind of clunky, but still a fun pattern to try out.

Pink variegated roll brim
Malabrigos yarn, modified generic hat pattern

I really didn’t like the puckery effect of the basic “knit-two-together around” decrease on my previous hats. So I combined the graduated decreases from the Yarn Girls’ hat with my generic hat pattern. So. Much. Better. I was really proud of my brilliant new pattern until I realized I had recreated the same generic pattern everyone else was already using.

Purple conehead
Yarn/pattern: Cascade 128, pattern of (ahem) my own invention

Huh, if you keep doing a graduated decrease, you really do get a pointy top. This is perfectly logical, but I totally didn’t believe my knitting advisor/coworker when she told me this. I keep it as a cautionary tale about heeding other more knowledgable knitters' advice.

Green fair-isle
Patons Merino, old pattern loaned from knitterly coworker

In my first multi-color knit, I discover I love, love, love this colorwork thing so much that I knit the hat twice in a row in different colors. I also learned (after finishing this hat and countless others) that my lame-looking ribbing problem can be completely fixed by doing the ribbing on smaller needles. As was recommended in the pattern.

Nubbly orange roll-brim
Some Patagonia cotton yarn, modified generic hat pattern

Lesson learned: your friend that is allergic to wool is pretty much SOL in the hat department because you hate knitting with unstretchy yarn. Hate it. And yet, you buy more of this yarn in a different colorway (with no intention of really knitting anything with it) because the colors are so fabulous and because you are a fickle, fickle friend.

Tonight's goal is to make a reasonable amount of progress on the sexually ambiguous sock foot. Otherwise, I'll be reduced to "garter stitch scarf lessons" for tomorrow's post.

August 27, 2006

Good tidings to you and your knitterly kin

Today’s Times brought thrilling news: it seems the legging is back. I realize that designers have been planning their fall collections far longer than I have been agitating for the sensible and easy-to-knit legging, but I can’t help but feel that my voice has been heard. The fall collections are overrun with slouchy leggings, hefty cable knits and layered sweater/wristwarmer/glove combinations. My legwarmer crusade now seems prescient – I’m fashion-forward instead of unutterably uncool.

So in the spirit of fall, behold the “Super Easy Legwarmers” from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. This is actually my second legging. The first was completed to my own specifications (blithely ignoring the yarn, gauge and stitch count recommendations in the original pattern), then frogged after I tried it on for the thousandth time and finally admitted it really was way too small. It did actually fit over my leg, but the ribbing was painfully stretched and I’m pretty sure if I left it on for any length of time, I would get little ribby indents in my calves. And possibly swollen ankles.

The original legging yarn (Berroco Ultra Alpaca) has been reborn into my adored sexually ambiguous socks, and legging two is being reknit with the correct yarn (Cascade 220, sans the pricey mohair the pattern recommends doubling it with – I upped the stitch count a bit to compensate). Initial fittings suggest the pattern wasn’t so much a general guideline as it was completely and totally right.

I'm going to be so damn stylin' when these bad boys are done.

August 25, 2006

Now with added douche!

In high school, I had a nemesis. We were both dorky honors-type students, in the same dorky clubs and on the same dorky teams, and usually competing for the same dorky awards. My nemesis had a few advantages, namely being a much better writer (publishing a number of short stories starting at sixteen) and smoking way more weed (placing him several notches above me in my hippie town’s weed-based social hierarchy).

Despite all that, we were friends, and sometimes more than friends. After high school we lost touch, though I kept up with his achievements through the tabs-keeping miracle that is Google (understanding full well that this makes me a petty, envious person): a successful college career followed by law school honors, and then litigation work for a prominent firm. Then suddenly, his name started popping up in some surprisingly conservative places – David Horowitz’s FrontPage, Fox News, the Washington Times. I didn’t understand how my flamingly liberal sometime-nemesis could have changed into such a right-wing nutjob.

And now I have my answer. He's publishing a memoir in February, detailing the year he converted to Islam. And he didn’t convert to just any Islam – he chose the Wahhabist branch, one of the most rigid and radical interpretations of Islam, and one whose followers are frequently linked to acts of terrorism. Since then, he’s apparently had a change of heart, left the faith and become a full-time counterterrorism consultant (though one whose input is solicited exclusively by right-wing media).

I’m both intrigued and appalled. I wonder how the guy I knew could go to such extremes. And I wonder about the veracity of his account: it’s almost too good a story that a liberal secular Jew was “seduced” by extremist Islam, then saw the light and became an anti-Islamic hard-liner. It seems so calculated, this cashing in on his college experimentation with Islam. There’s a whiff of douche-baggery about the whole thing. And yet, the intrigue – do I read it? What will he say about his pre-conversion life, the life I knew and was a (tangential) part of? Is it possible that he has something interesting to say, or will it be an enraging anti-liberal, anti-Islam rant?

As a good librarian-in-training, I suppose the answer is to keep an open mind and read the damn thing. Plus, if he gets really famous from it, I can always say "I knew that guy in high school, and let me tell you..."

August 24, 2006


Almost ready to turn the second heel...

August 22, 2006

Elephantitis of my what?

Last night I was flipping channels, looking for mindless TV I could knit socks to, and noticed WE was showing the Breakfast Club. I expected some editing for content (it being WE and, you know, lame), but it seems that WE's (supposedly) strong, independent adult female audience had to be protected from the phrase "elephantitis of the nuts". The nice people at WE dubbed in "elephantitis of the butt" instead. That way their viewers wouldn't have to hear about anything icky, like testicles.

Apparently WE viewers can cope with the Breakfast Club's child abuse, bullying, divorce, etc. And even grossly deformed butts. But the word "nuts" would be too much gritty reality for those delicate flowers of womanhood.

I could go on (incessantly) about WE, but there's important knitting news. It's official - I'm done being second sock syndrome's bitch. I'm mid-way through the second sock leg and damn proud of myself for finally, finally knitting two socks in a row out of the same yarn.

Though when I proudly displayed the first sock to the boyfriend, he said "hm, kinda girly." The same sock displayed to a knitterly coworker today elicited "hm, it's kinda manly." The pattern is theoretically unisex, with a 2x2 rib cuff and plain stockinette leg and foot. Nothing fancy or lacy. The yarn is a wonderful soft fuzzy alpaca, slightly variegated in exactly the colors of pea soup, and I love it with a fiery passion.

So in the absence of actual knitted-on genitals, what makes this sock manly or girly?