January 31, 2007

Back in the saddle

Internet access? Check.

Photo software? Check.

Two warm feet?


Not quite yet...

January 27, 2007

Technical difficulties

So I have a new laptop. It's so cute and tiny that I talk to it like a puppy (I actually said "who's a good boy" - out loud - at one point on Friday), yet it has way more processing power and shiny doodads than my old laptop. And it doesn't make that horrible whheeeeennnnnng sound my old laptop did when I ask it to do anything complicated. I'm a little bit infatuated with it.

That said, as crappy as it was, my old laptop did have one distinct advantage: I could transfer and edit my photos and I could access the internet from home. In short, it was blog-ready. I can still transfer pictures, but I can't fuss with them at all, which is killing me.

Eventually, I'll be able to do all the things I want to do with my new laptop. I just need to reinstall a bunch of stuff, including my photo and modem software.

However, said installation has been totally cock-blocked by not having a CD drive. I ask you, what kind of laptop doesn't have a CD drive???

So minimal pictures until I convince my office help desk to loan me a CD drive. And no internet access at home. So not much reading of blogs. Hopefully, this will be resolved by Monday, but there's so much to talk about - going to my first stitch 'n bitch, the subway knitter drama, seeing a Clapotis in real life, finishing a sock in less than a week.... But I really need to get the hell out of the office. Right. Now.

And I bet meanwhile you all are knitting really awesome things and making each other laugh and just being your wise, funny wonderful selves.

I miss you.

January 20, 2007

My pretty

On an entire week-long trip, I knit half an inch of ribbing. Since I got back, I've knit this:


Plain stockinette stitch in the round seems to be exactly what my travel-addled brain can handle. But the subtle self-striping and fabulous colors make potentially boring knitting into something thrilling. I can't wait to see what the next color will look like, so I've been knitting at a (for me) furious pace.

The Meilenweit MegaBoots Stretch yarn has an interesting construction: it looks like two different-colored threads are plied around a core of an elasticy synthetic. The variegation is achieved by slowly changing the color of one of the threads over a long length. And the elastic gives the yarn an extra bit of stretch.

You can see the construction pretty well here.


The glee with which I've attacked this new sock got me thinking. Some may remember my arbitrary two-different-socks-at-a-time maximum rule. Clearly, I've abandoned that rule. And I kind of felt bad about that.

But then I think: I was so excited about this yarn that I just spent half an hour on my back porch taking pictures in frigid wintry conditions, completely unself-consciously wearing bright turquoise fleece snowman pyjamas and a peacoat. So really, if something gives me this much joy, why wouldn't I work on it instead of a project I really should finish or ought to work on?

I'm doing this for fun. I'm not even knitting gifts, so all of these rules and strange feelings of guilt for not finishing projects are entirely self-imposed.

So no more self-imposed guilt. I knit because I love to knit. I knit because I love the feeling of wool and the many wonderful colors it comes in. And I'm knitting this sock because life is too short for projects that don't make you forget you have neighbors that might think it odd to be taking pictures of yarn in your pyjamas.

January 19, 2007

No trip knitting, but I do show my face below

One of the benefits of traveling for work is the business class ticket that goes with it. You get to use the short lines and the fancy lounge, and they actually feed you quite well. I fly coach when I fly on my own, but I don’t think that’s immediately obvious just by looking at me. Though the airline people seemed to think differently, as I was asked not once, not twice, but three times if I was in the right line when trying to go through business class check-in for my last trip.

Things went rather better at the airport this time - I sailed through checkin and security, except for two friskings so thorough I felt like I should have a cigarette and a sandwich afterwards. Or at least insisted that the security guard buy me a drink. Then there was the surprise “one carry-on bag if you’re connecting through Heathrow” rule which meant I had to consolidate the contents of my gigantic purse and laptop bag into the significantly smaller laptop bag. All excess was shoved into my already strained wheelie suitcase. Thus, no plane knitting for me. This is all the knitting I managed to accomplish on the entire trip:


That's not entirely true. I did knit a proper gauge swatch during the trip (a full 4 x 4 inches), which is amazing for me. Then I frogged and started on the sock with a vague/hopeful guess at the right number of stitches on the flight home. Further knitting was interrupted by a pressing need to watch Without a Trace reruns and to sleep for long stretches with my mouth hanging open.

In any case, I was travelling with Dave, a friend and coworker, on the way to Munich. When we arrived, it was 6:30 Sunday morning by my body clock and I’d slept for about three hours. I was pretty sure I was sleep-deprived to the point of hallucinating when I saw a gigantic Easter Island-type head going around the baggage claim. The thing was probably twenty feet tall and surrounded by hundreds of Middle Eastern nationals in checkered headscarves and loose white pants. I’m not sure if the head was theirs, but clearly, we were not in Boston anymore.

My first meeting wasn't until Monday afternoon, so Dave and I had a chance to wander around the city on Sunday afternoon. I had heard the Le Meridien hotel chain often opens hotels in ever-so-slightly seedy neighborhoods on the verge of gentrifying. I don't know if that's true of Munich, but there was an awful lot of this around the hotel:


Yes, that's me and no, we didn't go in. Incidentally, Dave calls this picture "blackmail." I call it "hilarious".

Overall, the Germans do appear to have a much more tolerant attitude towards sexuality than we do. One of our German coworkers told us they recently revised their prostitution laws because they were concerned prostitutes weren't receiving social security credit for their illegally-earned wages. So, prostitution is now a legitimate source of income for pension purposes, though pimping remains illegal.

A few blocks past SexyLand, things changed for the grander:


And grander yet:


This is their Town Hall. Boston residents will understand the inadequacy I felt when I thought about our own Government Center.

We also found the ice skating rink, which is a post-holiday leftover from their apparently quite charming Christmas market. The skating rink had its own charms, not the last of which was this:


Damn, those Germans make a mean sausage. Plus, there was gluwein, aka hot, spicy mulled wine with extra liquor added to take the edge off a cold night. It doesn’t get much better than spicy sausage and gluwein.

Unless you’re having your spicy sausage and gluwein overlooking this:


They have these polar bear-shaped skating sled/crutch things for new skaters. I’m told stacked packing crates often serve the same purpose here. I grew up in Arizona, so I'm not qualified to weigh in on the sled/crutch vs. packing crate issue.

I am, however, more than qualified to weigh in on the German bathroom issue. I'm a fairly good traveller. I adapt well to different circumstances and different configurations for basic necesseties. Except the damn German bathrooms. The first surprise was the on/off toilet concept, where you press the bottom part of a large button to start flushing, then are supposed to press the top part of the button to stop in flushing. That's just too much responsibility for me, and frankly, I expected more of a people legendary engineering prowess. They should be able to engineer toilets that stop flushing on their own.

The second was the hotel shower. There were two shower heads: One was a standard shower head, the other, one of those flexible hose-type heads. You could pull a lever to change from using one to the other. The regular shower head was positioned in such a way that you absolutely could not start using it unless you were already in the shower, with the doors closed - otherwise it would soak the entire bathroom (ask me how I know this).

This switchover would be fine, except that no matter how long you leave the hose part running, the regular shower head water comes out icy cold. On Sunday afternoon, this meant a face full of icy water, with the bonus that the massage shower head was set to what I can only describe as the "punishing" level. All traces of jet lag evaporated immediately, but I can't say I recommend this approach.

Then there was the bathroom in the office that I managed to get myself into, but couldn't figure out for the longest time how to get back out of. And the restaurant bathroom that was so cold your pee actually steamed. The Germans seem to be made of much heartier stuff than I am.

A non-bathroom case in point: this elevator at my company's Munich office. Dave's picture with commentary sums it up nicely, I think:

There was more - long days of meetings, and long nights of drinking and eating huge amounts of meat. There were disturbing South Park episodes dubbed in German.

And you could smoke everywhere. Between the drinking and the eating and the lack of sleep and the constant smoking, I'm pretty sure I need to undergo some sort of ritual purification for the next week. Or year. But first, I think I'll unpack and have a little lie-down.

Many thanks to Dave for being such a good travel companion, for always laughing when we saw the word "ausfahrt", and for being a non-blogger and documenting the trip hugely more thoroughly than I did

January 13, 2007

What do these things have in common?

Well, they'll all be spending almost a week in Munich with me. I'm going for work, but the best part is, I don’t even have to present anything. I just have to look presentable, listen attentively and ask good questions every now and then. After which I will be wined and dined and then go stay in a nice hotel.

There may be something to the whole “golden handcuffs” thing, now that I think about it. I don’t think many librarians get to go on trips like this. Above and beyond the fact that I probably shouldn’t get used to things like this, there are any number of reasons why sending someone like me on a fancy business trip might not be the best idea in the world.

First of all, while reviewing the prototype of the new system we’re all meeting about, I cracked up when I noticed one of the fake names in a list was Frank Sass. Things didn’t get any more professional when I tried to explain to my boss that Frank Sass is almost as funny a name as Mike Hunt.

Plus, while I was doing my fake dry cleaning in a last-minute panic Friday night, I found that not only had I Dryelled a cute corduroy jacket, fetching top and lightweight sweater but also had “cleaned” three plastic tropical drink doodads – a mermaid, a camel and a donkey. Which had apparently been in my jacket pocket since the boyfriend’s birthday in November, unnoticed. I guess it could have been worse. They could have clattered out of my pocket while I was actually IN my meetings.

Trip knitting has been carefully selected to entertain during a lengthy layover in London but not to cause upset if it’s snatched at security. Meilenweit Mega Boots Stretch sock yarn from the stash. Basic sock pattern. Size 1 and 2 needles – not sure which size the yarn will take, but I’m using bamboo ones to increase the chances of making it through security.

I won’t be blogging while I’m gone, but I’m sure I’ll have at least a few good stories to tell upon my return.

January 7, 2007

Where art imitates life, literally

The boyfriend is taking an improv class and apparently one of tonight's assignments was to do an impression of someone he knew coming home from work.

He chose me (aaawww), and this is his impression of my typical evening at home:

- Open door
- Complain about work
- Open beer
- Start knitting
- Take phone call from boyfriend. Inform boyfriend I am knitting. And that I can't go out with him because it's ladies' night.
- End phone call. Go back to knitting.
- Go to computer. Start typing.
- Take another call from boyfriend. Inform boyfriend that no, I'm not knitting. Now I'm blogging about knitting.

Sigh. It's only funny 'cause it's true.

He also mentioned one of the women in his class is a newbie knitter (we're everywhere), and that she was impressed that I can make socks and, as he described it, "really gigantic baby cardigans." Then he redeemed himself by recommending my blog (yay boyfriend!).

So Mystery Improv Class Knitter, if you're out there and if you're really starting to knit gloves, you can absolutely, positively, most definitely knit socks. I promise.

And seriously, if I can knit socks, anyone can.


I think it was Cara that said she had New Year's "intentions" and that one of her intentions was to eat better and exercise more, not because she was particularly concerned about her appearance but because she wanted to be nice to herself and take good care of her body.

I've been thinking about that a lot. I have any number of bad habits - smoking, not exercising, a deep and abiding love of bacon, drinking rather more beer than I should, etc. I often chastise myself at this time of the year because this year should be the year that I eat virtuous home-cooked meals, get eight hours of sleep a night, exercise four times a week, etc. In short, I should become a completely different person. Immediately.

At the risk of sounding like a huge hippie, I don't feel like this comes from a very good place. That kind of resolve comes from a very self-critical, unhappy place - like I need to make these changes RIGHT NOW because otherwise I'm a bad, lazy, self-indulgent person.

I think change will happen more organically and more lastingly if it comes from a place of loving and valuing oneself and wanting to do things that make you feel happy and healthy and strong. In that spirit, I think this year's theme will simply be learning to be nice to myself. How to be nice to yourself will obviously vary from person to person.

For me, that might entail:

- Alotting more time for knitting. I love knitting. Why on earth wouldn't I spend more time knitting?

- Cooking more meals at home. I work a more-than-full-time job, plus I'm going to school part-time, so at the end of the day, I usually don't want to cook myself something nice. However, when I do, I'm always happy I did it. I will try to remember how good that feels, and I will recognize that some nights are just takeout nights. That's how it's gonna be.

- Reading more, and writing more about what I've read. For my Young Adult Literature class, we had to keep a reading journal of the fifteen novels we chose to read, and I loved the way that pushed me to read alertly and think clearly and critically about what I was reading. If I want to be a librarian, being able to write articulately and persuasively about books is a damn good skill to have.

- Quitting smoking. Not today, not tomorrow, but for the first time since I started smoking (a truly shocking number of years ago), I've been thinking I don't want to do this anymore. I'm getting towards ready.

- Being more involved in the knitting community, both "in real life" and in the blogosphere. There's a Stitch 'n Bitch starting up, hopefully next week, in my neighborhood on Wednesday nights. I plan to join.

I may not be able to do all of it, but that's why these are intentions, not resolutions. And who can't get behind an intention to be nice to yourself?

January 6, 2007

Giving the WIPS a whuppin'

First, thanks for the nice New Year's wishes! I can't wait to see what you all are working on and writing about in the New Year.

Now, as promised, the WIP round-up...

WIP 1 - Lonely socks without friends.


From bottom: the Sunshine Yarns Jaywalker, stalled due to fears of yarn shortage and the unavoidable truth that the damn thing is too small for me. The Experimental sock - currently suffering from Single Sock Syndrome. And the Koolaid yarn, desperately wanting to be a sock instead of a gauge swatch, but not allowed to fulfill its potential due to arbitrary rule that two different socks-in-progress is enough.

WIP 2 - We Call Them Pirates hat.


Destined for the frog pile, as it really should be knit with a much finer yarn and I need the needles.

WIP 3 - Bamboo Baby cardigan from One Skein Wonders.


Also destined for the frog pile. I decided that I would adjust the pattern to increase it from newborn-size to three month-old size. This seemed like a good idea despite the fact that I 1) know nothing about babies and their sizes; 2) am terrible at math and 3) have no grasp of spacial relations and had no idea how the pattern I was knitting would turn into a cardigan front, so wasn't really sure where I should fudge the measurements.

I finished the front, but it's on the misshapen side. I'll reknit it with a better idea of how and where to fudge. And I'll make it smaller. Right now, despite my lack of experience with babies, the fact that the boyfriend has started referring to it as "the brontosaurus cardigan" means it's probably not baby size.

WIP 4 - Double Secret Gift Knitting.

No pictures, some progress. The pattern is proving to be both challenging and sneaky. But the recipient is worth it.

WIPs not pictured - simple 2 x 2 rib scarf in a gorgeous wine-colored wool/mohair blend from Mountain Yarns. I thought the sexiness of the yarn would compensate for my loathing of knitting 2 x 2 ribbing. Turns out, not so much. Its sexiness resists all attempts at photographing, as the mohair creates a bizarre glowing white halo effect that obscures its true lusciousness. Also, there's a barely-started fruit hat. Both destined for frogging.

That's a lot of WIPs. And unfortunately, some of the stash yarn has been agitating for attention...


Far from being sobered by the number of WIPS, since I'm planning on frogging most of them (except the socks), I feel completely justified in starting something new.

But what might the new knit be...?? Which of these lovely yarns will be the lucky winner?

January 5, 2007

An open letter

To the middle-aged woman that kindly offered me her seat on the crowded train this morning:

As you are no doubt aware, common courtesy dictates you offer someone else your seat in exactly three situations:

1. The other person is significantly older than you are. Especially if they're over sixty and rather frail.

When you are, let's say fifty, and the other person is just freshly thirty, this reason does not apply.

2. The other person is disabled, injured or otherwise clearly would have difficulty standing.

If the other person is in good health and not visibly disabled, this reason also does not apply.

By process of elimination, I can only assume that you offered your seat because you thought....

3. The other person is pregnant.

If you happen to look down and see a baby emerging from her nether regions at exactly that moment, then AND ONLY THEN, is it acceptable to imply that someone is pregnant.

I can only assume you meant the offer kindly. I do not think your intention was to make the recipient of your offer spend the entire day asking everyone if they think she looks pregnant. I understand that your look of shock and mumbled apology when a certain librarian-in-training gasped and said "No-WHY?" meant you saw the error of your ways. Your apology, though slightly devalued by continuing to cast dubious glances at said librarian-in-training's torso, is accepted.

On the condition that you never, ever do it, ever again.


P.S. Work has soundly kicked my ass this past week, and I've barely been knitting at all. In an effort to be more organized, tomorrow's post will contain a works-in-progress round-up (preview: works in progress - many; actual progress - very little).

January 1, 2007

Year-end round-up

I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions, as I find I never manage to keep them. And then I use my failure at keeping them as an excuse to feel bad about myself. So my new tradition for the past few years is compiling a list of things I did in the past year that made me happy.

It’s amazing how many happy things there are, once you start making a list of them. It’s even nicer if you’ve been doing this on a weekly or monthly basis, which in my better weeks I manage to do. It doesn’t have to be anything big – some weeks it’s little things like “did all the handwash” or (more fun) “tried intarsia.”

It’s also really nice to look back on prior years’ lists and see what I was doing with myself back then. So, without further ado, I present the 2006 list of “Things I did this year that made me happy.”

1. Traveled

I went to Tucson (visiting family), Austin (college friend’s wedding) , Berkeley (best friend’s 30th birthday), and Paris (The Paris part was for work. And not as glamorous as it may sound, as I basically traveled for a day and a half to have a day and a half of meetings. Although I did eat a crepe, see the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame and the Louvre and any number of other beautiful places. And I smoked and drank coffee while being roundly ignored by snooty Parisian waiters at an outdoor cafe, and I was yelled at by my taxi driver for not speaking French. So I guess I did have many of the essential Parisian experiences all in one whirlwind afternoon. Plus, in one of my favorite all-time travel experiences, I saw an ambulance pull up to the curb at the airport and was startled to see that both the ambulance driver and the paramedic in the passenger seat were smoking cigarettes out the window -WHILE THEY WERE DRIVING THE AMBULANCE. It was so gross it kind of made me love the French for more than just their delicious stinky cheeses).

2. Knit my first pairs of socks.

3. Designed my first sock.

4. Knit my first lace project (Branching Out, from Knitty)

5. Started blogging in earnest.

6. Took the weensiest little baby steps towards joining the knitblog community – went to the KnitOut and actually wore a blogger name tag, started delurking to post comments on other people’s blogs, and (most ballsily), submitted a post to Yarnival.

7. Imagine my surprise when not only did my post make it into Yarnival, but I got more hits in two days than I had gotten in the previous two months combined. Such is the enviable power of Cara at JanuaryOne.

8. Got ten credits closer to finishing my library science degree, with good grades (though the Technology for Information Professionals professor that gave me a mathematically impossible A- will be on my shitlist until the end of my days)

9. Turned thirty with a minimum of fuss, weeping over lost opportunities, or bewailing the supposed end of my youth (or the end of my twenties, whatever).

10. Worked damn hard on having a (mostly) functional, bordering-on-grown-up romantic relationship, which involved talking about issues as they come up (as opposed to just seething resentfully) and sharing feelings (instead of pretending they don’t exist or, if their existence must be acknowledged due to, say, visible weeping, refusing to discuss them).

11. Read forty+ books.

Hope your year was a good one, and best wishes for the upcoming year.