January 20, 2009

Not to crap on the parade, but...

[Normally I try to respond to the last comments before my next post, but this is an important occasion. And also, I've been "celebrating"...]

So I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Just getting that out of the way.

Not because I was such a rabid supporter (in fact, I always joke that Bill Clinton was our "Best Republican President Ever!"), but at primary time I honestly thought both Clinton and Obama were equally qualified to lead the nation. And, when it came down to actually deciding, when presented with two equally qualified candidates, I voted for the woman.

Because I have to say, voting for a woman gave me a teary-eyed moment of pride, like I keep seeing in the Obama coverage, right there in the Brookline Devotion School gymnasium. If, heaven forbid, I ever have children, I realized I could tell my daughters - without bullshitting them - that anyone could grow up to be President of the United States.

So I am not belittling the momentousness of electing an African-American president, I'm really not.

And I do love me some Obama. God, I'm so excited to have a charismatic speaker and writer and intellectual for president, after years of hostility to science and intellectual curiosity, not to mention the mangling of the English language...that was a damned pretty inauguration speech. I'm a sucker for well-turned phrases about hope and sacrifice and the common good, and extolling what right-minded people can accomplish if we just work together. Also, don't ever tell, but the song "Simple Gifts" is one of my favorite things in the entire world. Shut up.

That said, I'm not sure I get the Obama thing. Yes, for liberals, after eight brutal years of seeing everything we believed in at best ignored or quietly overturned, and, at worst, demonized, we have a president who is reasonably aligned with our ideals. A president who values communication and humility and accountability over bloviating, moral rectitude, and a towering sense of macho entitlement. A president whose policy propositions are not actually, well, destructive.

But, but, but...for so many people, Obama is so much more than an elitist liberal policy wonk's wet dream. There's something about him that is fundamentally different from other presidents (besides the, um, obvious difference). Something that inspires and engages previously apathetic and hopeless people. Something that makes people believe.

I keep hearing things like "I can believe in my country again" or "I have hope for the first time" or "I'm not ashamed to be an American anymore." And I am so incredibly happy that Obama is inspiring that kind of hope in people, because - compared to many other nations - we have a damned apathetic populace, in terms of political participation.

But I just don't get it. I never really lost hope in America in the first place. And I was never ashamed of my country. Misguided, stupid, and embarrassing though the last eight years may have been, I never lost a sense that America was fundamentally okay. Or would be, eventually. This country is far from perfect, and I really did feel like most of my fundamental values were under assault by a horribly misguided administration for the last eight years. But that administration wasn't America, to me. My country was deeply flawed, but I knew it would get better. And I would do my part to bitch and moan and fight and vote to make it better. Because part of loving your country is realizing that it can always do better, and it's your job as a citizen to hold it to that standard.

So, as much as I love finally hearing a president speaking inspiring words that are actually aligned with my political ideals, and as much as I recognize that this is, in fact, an amazing moment in American history and politics... what really matters is what he does with it, no?

This nation seems to be unprecedentedly optimistic, enthusiastic and excited about what our president and what we, as Americans, can do.

So what is it that you hope for in the next 4-8 years? What important things do you want to see us accomplish? Regardless of your politics, what would you do with this outpouring of "Yes we can?"

January 18, 2009

On letting go

I have trouble admitting something's not working. I will make an entire enormous hat, microscopic sock or wing-like sleeve without admitting anything is wrong.

Or a gigantic mitt intended for someone with tiny, tiny hands.


Mitt, loosely based on the Super Mittens from Weekend Knitting, but made fingerless, and with a cable slapped on the top of the hand. This mitt is actually the perfect size. For me and my extremely long-fingered man hands.

I'm not completely unaware that my knits are turning out wrong. There's usually that creeping sense of "Hey, this doesn't look quite right..." But I usually block that out with some mature variation on LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU or "But I've already put so much effort into it..."

I realize that continuing to put time and effort into a project you know isn't working, just so you don't have to admit it's not working, is, uh, retarded. But there you go.

I would like to do less of that. Both in my knitting and the rest of my life. First up - I've lived in New England for over a decade. And I've never liked it here. There's nothing wrong with Boston, but it has never felt like home. And it never will. And lord do I hate winter, in a visceral, completely irrational way.

I have finally, finally decided to move back west. At the end of the month, I will be leaving my low-key publishing job for a short-term and far-from-low-key gig with a Big Corporation. Big Corporation will be paying me enough to completely finance a summertime move to San Francisco.

Where I will live happily ever after with BFF Quinn and Kelley and year-round farmer's markets and good Mexican food and ice-free sidewalks...

So in the spirit of letting go of things that just aren't right, I should probably reknit the damn mitt...


If the resized mitt (pictured right) is too small, I'd really appreciate it if the recipient never, ever mentioned it and instead just crammed her hands uncomfortably into it, like one of Cinderella's evil stepsisters trying to squeeze into the glass slipper. My desire to get things right only goes so far.

And since I'm told mitts traditionally come in pairs...


I like to think this set loudly and proudly announces to the entire (knitting) world that A KNITTER LOVES ME. It's like a secret handshake.

That leaves only one more Christmas knit to finish. I'm shooting for mid-February.

Because that's the kind of awesome friend I am.

January 16, 2009

I'm "famous"

Or just really anal about punctuation.

January 10, 2009

On balance

60 hours since my last cigarette. Two and a half days. That may not seem like a long time, but it's the longest I've gone without smoking in something like fourteen years. And I was pretty sure I'd be that disgusting old lady smoking through her stoma. So I'm impressed with me.

I started taking Chantix a week before I quit, which works by binding to the nicotine receptors in your brain or something equally creepy. This means you don't get the same pleasure from smoking as you normally do, since the feeble Chantix chemicals are suddenly doing the work that delightful, delightful nicotine used to do. When you do quit smoking, the feeble Chantix chemicals continue - ahem - stimulating your nicotine receptors, so you don't completely freak out at the sudden absence of your drug of choice.

Or at least I think that's how it works. My psychopharmacology skills are rusty. Or non-existent. Whatever.

I, of course, decided to spend my last week smoking trying to recapture the original joy of smoking by smoking MORE. I think I missed my true calling as a meth addict or crack whore, with that kind of attitude.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Chantix does have some side effects, most notably insomnia coupled with extraordinarily vivid dreams. Not nightmares or anything, just dreams so real I'm not sure I was dreaming at all. And what have I dreamed about? Updating Excel spreadsheets. A scheduling conflict with weekend plans. My subsconscious is incredibly lame. Why couldn't I dream about yarn? Or Han Solo? Or smoking, for that matter?

The other thing I've found really helpful is eating. Constantly. I really can't recommend this approach enough. Unfortunately, I've been kind of cock-blocked on my "eat constantly" master plan by a bit of oral surgery that reduced my food options to yogurt, mashed potatoes, pureed soups and the like. And once I got over the excitement of eating nothing but mashed potatoes for dinner (I do love me some mashed potatoes after all), this got really boring really fast.

Therein lay an important lesson for me. If I really think about it, I like food a lot more than I like smoking. And if I go back to smoking, I'm pretty much guaranteed to have another unpleasant medical procedure like this recent one. Likely a much worse procedure, in fact, that would likewise compromise my ability to eat, for much longer than the three or four days I'm chafing at right now.

So Reason Number 4,012 that I will not start smoking again: I'm choosing food instead.

I'm choosing a lifetime of eating crusty bread, hard cheese, pickles and broccoli. And jalapenos. And my beloved bacon. Crispy panini and toast with butter and honey. And vinegar and tabasco and salsa and lemon juice. Clover sprouts. Stuffed grape leaves. Chili cheese dogs. Pho. Thin-crust pizza. Chocolate-peanut butter ice cream. Nicoise olives. Falafel. Soba noodles. Steak bombs. Frites. Fresh corn and tomatoes and peaches... and fried chicken and ribs and collard greens.

And, and, and, and, and...

Who needs smoking when you've got all that?

Is it just me?

So I laid out my socks to admire the freshly turned heels and noticed something...funny...


It's not just me, right?


January 1, 2009

Year-end navel-gazing

2008 was not a great year. TB and I broke up in January. Eventually we reconnected as friends, and we’re much happier that way, but it was a pretty crappy couple of months there. Then there was the appendix thing, and some other unpleasant health stuff. One of my closest friends moved away in September, and I miss her stupidly. The fact that she moved near BFF Quinn just makes it all the more depressing. I made a spectacularly bad decision that really hurt another friend. My family is, well, my family and has behaved accordingly. Knitting has been infrequent, as has blogging and other writing.

So, not my best year ever.

But it wasn’t all bad. These were the best parts of 2008:

1. I traveled – to Arizona, Maine, the Cape, the Vineyard, Rhinebeck and California. I also went to MA Sheep and Wool and WEBS. And brought home exciting new yarn from most of those trips.

2. I dated – for the first time in my entire life. I tend to fall immediately into long-term relationships, so this whole dating thing has been, um, interesting? Instructive? I’ve met a few really nice guys – smart, funny, etc. – that I dated for a few months. But nothing has clicked so far. No complaints. I've had a lot of fun, and I’m sure the geeky foodie of my dreams is out there somewhere.

3. Finishing library school. I tend to trivialize the librarian training by saying snotty things like “It’s just library school,” but it is an accomplishment nevertheless. I have a master’s degree, and I did it all while working full time. In the end, I even got all A's. Except for one A-, in TECHNOLOGY FOR INFORMATION PROFESSIONALS. Which, since I'm a systems analyst, is hilarious.

4. Reading a lot of good books. High points included Tigana (thanks Kristy for the recommendation!), The Debt to Pleasure (a dark, funny, immensely erudite novel about food and murder), Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House, and Ruth Reichl’s food memoirs. There was also a lot of ridiculous trash, which I used to be kind of embarrassed about. But I’ve decided that I will read what I want to read, regardless of its literary merits. Bring on the paranormal romance!

5. Joining a CSA. Despite my complaints about the greens, this was a wonderful experience. I’ve never eaten so well in my life, and I cooked and ate things I never would have touched otherwise. I still don’t like beets, but I will eat and even enjoy eggplant and winter squash now.

6. Learning stuff – I took a hand-dyeing class, tried spinning, baked bread, and started getting into graphic novels.

7. Deciding to quit smoking. I took my first quit smoking pill today and am on track to quit January 8.

I look forward to re-engaging with knitting and the knitblog community, writing more, cooking and eating good food, and spending more time with friends and loved ones in 2009.

Happy New Year!

Year-end knits

The last FO of the year was officially finished at 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve. And here it is...


The Yarn Harlot's Unoriginal Hat, size 10.5 needles, Crystal Palace Icelandic Print. I cast on 70 stitches instead of 56 (one extra repeat of the cable pattern), since my yarn wasn't quite as super-bulky as the recommended yarn.

Incidentally, this yarn has been in the stash for years. Further proof that stash yarn isn't unused or wasted, it's just waiting for the perfect project.

This was such a fun pattern - clearly written, tidily charted, and cute as hell. I hope the recipient likes it as much as I do. It's too small for me, otherwise I'd be seriously rethinking giving it away. Because that's the kind of holiday spirit we have in my house.

I alternated knitting the hat with knitting my two current sock obsessions.


On the left are Manly Socks by Knit*Six, in Regia 4-ply. So wooly. So manly. On the right, Artichoke Socks by Megan Humphrey, in ShibuiKnits Sock. Both colors are darker in real life - the Regia is a deep green, slightly heathered with brown, and the Shibui yarn is a rich dark purple.

I've complained before about how much I loathe knitting ribbing. Yet both these socks are essentially ribbed. The Manly socks are a 3x3 rib, with a 3 row repeat, only one row of which is not monotonous 3x3 ribbing. The Artichoke socks have two panels of these pretty leaves, separated by columns of - yep - 2x2 ribbing. And I LOVE knitting both these socks.

Now that I think about it, the hat was basically 4x3 rib, with a couple of fun twisty cable rows for interest.

So clearly I am easily distracted from the tedium of ribbing. Throw in a slip stitch row every three rows, a yarn over here and there, or some cables, and I will knit ribbing until my hands hurt and I am starving. Case in point, I had so much fun knitting yesterday that I forgot to *eat.* Anything. Until almost 9 p.m.

Given how much I adore food, that's saying something.

Hope all of you had an equally enjoyable New Year's Eve!