Wednesday, December 5, 2007

remember how it all began, the apple and the fall of man

"The Golden Compass" comes out this Friday, and I am looking forward to this with perhaps-excessive anticipation - my excuse being that this Friday also marks the beginning of a whole entire weekend off. ("Atonement" also opens this Friday, and I think I'm planning on spending a large and mindless chunk of Saturday at a movie theater somewhere.) I've been perusing the reviews - which have been, sadly, mixed - and I discovered this interview with Philip Pullman: contains some spoilers for the books but is an insightful discussion of the religious aspects of the His Dark Materials trilogy. Pullman is one of those authors (along with Kingsolver, Cunningham and Butler) who consistently articulates something very similar to my own views and convictions with much more precision and eloquence than I can manage, and I was particularly struck by this passage, which explicates exactly some of my own frustrations with my natal religion:

What on earth gives Christians to right to assume that love and self-sacrifice have to be called Christian virtues? They are virtues, full stop. If there is an exclusively religious sin (not exclusively Christian, but certainly clearly visible among some Christians) it is the claim that all virtue belongs to their sect, all vice to others. It is so clearly wrong, so clearly stupid, so clearly counter-productive, that it leads the unbiased observer to assume that you're not allowed in the religious club unless you leave your intelligence at the door.

But the whole (lengthy) interview is great: conducted via email with the film reviewer for Christianity Today. Equally intriguing, for me, is reading the interviewer's questions, which are, necessarily, from a pointedly Christian and dogmatically religious perspective. (Also amusing is how Philip Pullman seems to live under a bit of a rock.)

I'm post-call and will be going to bed just about as soon as I'm done with dinner, but I'll be catching up on emails and phone calls to everyone this weekend. (And, Ellen, I'll definitely be taking photos of my new finished objects when I'm home during daylight hours, but if you're still looking for some holiday knitting inspiration, the new issue of Knitty is up today! Also, I've been making a few of these, which are just too fun and completely jump-started my holiday knitting motivation.)

Monday, December 3, 2007

I want to wreck my stockings in some juke box dive

(Or, you know, be able to stay awake past 10 pm. That would be fun, too.)

There's something about cold rainy days that make me want to cook comfort food and listen to Joni Mitchell albums. Luckily, the weather is completely awful here (just cold enough that it's not quite snowing, but not really raining either) and I got out just after 5 today, so.... there's cornbread and muffins in the oven, and chili simmering on the stove. (If you're reading this and haven't had dinner yet, feel free to stop by around 8:30.) I really do enjoy this first part of winter, when snuggling up with a sweater and tea is not yet necessary to maintain my circulation and so it's just cozily comfortable.

Internal medicine has been tremendously fun, if time-consuming (see above re: my usual bedtime these days) and I'll be sorry to leave it behind and switch to surgery next week. I haven't quite figured out how to blog about my patients without violating HIPAA about six million ways, but I haven't had any crazy cases yet, so it really hasn't been an issue. I did hear today that we have the city's first influenza case in house now - 'tis the season.

I actually got some knitting accomplished over Thanksgiving - the shrug is finished (Karen, remind me to return your needles - thanks!) and I've finished 5 of the 7 repeats of Ben's scarf, so we're making progress. Photos pending.

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I will not be afraid of women

(Dar Williams may be the most quotable songwriter on the planet.)

I am post-call and have not yet browsed all of this - or even most of it - but check out this collection of thoughts and opinions: "Feminism is not your expectation." Thought-provoking and interesting.

Because I love academics being totally geeky and calling it work: No, I'm not telling you what it's about.

It's hailing here. Profusely. How likely is it, do you think, that tomorrow's admissions are all elderly ladies who slipped and fell and have been hanging out in the ED all night? I hope not very likely. We'll see, I guess. (Also, I've apparently forgotten how to compose the future past tense. Did I completely mess that up back there? And is that even what it's called? Sarah, help me out.)

That's really it, I think. New yarn was recently purchased in a fit of optimism, fueled by the realization that, Oh, crap, it's not that far till Christmas. I really haven't done anything interesting lately, except work through the weekend and think about metabolic acidosis and morbid obesity.

How are you?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

poets that we never find time to know

[I think I'll be titling posts with song lyrics from now on, because of all the things that drive me crazy, coming up with subject lines and titles are one of the things that get me there the fastest.]

So this week has consisted mostly of me falling into bed at 11 o'clock and hauling myself out of it at 5:30 am, with lots of internal medicine in between. Which I'm enjoying far more than I expected to, actually - I'm not the biggest fan of the inpatient setting, but I'm learning exponentially more on this service that I have on any other, my team is great, and I have a ton of autonomy. For example, I wrote my first prescriptions this week! Like, on a prescription pad and everything. I wrote scripts at Metro occasionally, but they had the electronic prescription system, which is vastly superior and less error-prone, etc, and I totally appreciate that. But the prescription pad thing is kind of fun. It's almost like I'm a real doctor. :)

So the actually interesting part of my week, though, was our society dinner at my dean's house on Friday. She invited Dr. Joseph Foley to come and speak, who, sadly, does not have a Wikipedia entry, but he's an internist and neurologist who first described asterixis in 1949. He's in his 90s now, but he's still pretty involved in teaching and community activism. He spoke about his early training in Boston in the 30s and 40s, and his time as a medic in WWII. It was a really interesting evening, and his talk sparked some great conversation afterwards.

A few of us were discussing the existence of the "physician-scholar" - you know, those people (often neurologists, it seems) who are incredible clinicians and also experts in Roman architecture or something totally esoteric, and we were wondering if those kind of physicians are perhaps a casualty to the modern face of medicine. Because none of us seem to have much time to even fully study what we're supposed to be learning, much less pursue an avocational interest in something non-medically-oriented. Or do we find the time for that sort of thing later, once we're attendings or have our own practices? (I'm not sure knitting counts, if only because I usually knit while I'm doing something else.)

Anyway. I think part of these musings stem from the shock to the system that is the transition from research to clinical medicine. I managed to forget how intensely time-consuming this whole thing is. What I do appreciate, though, and what I'm not sure I ever heard before I started clerkships, is that the hours really don't seem that bad when you're there. The wards are always (or usually) incredibly busy, and you've got enough coffee and epinephrine to get you through a 16 hour day without much difficulty. It's only once I'm home, I find, that I'll get hit with it - on my way to the shower or something, I'll find myself kind of looking around the apartment and thinking, Oh, yeah, I live here. That's right. It's this bizarre sensation, when you're conscious for less than an hour a day in your own home, how it starts to feel ... less real. I remember this from when I started on OB, and I think I'll be getting more accustomed to the schedule as time goes by, but this first week has been a bit of a readjustment.

But sleep deprivation and dissociation aside, it's actually been really great getting back to clinical medicine again. I was worried that I would have totally lost those skills after research block, but I can still do a decent physical exam and get an assessment and plan together, so that's reassuring. Hopefully I will have some interesting clinical stories to share soon, but so far it's just been heart failure and renal failure and ... heart failure and renal failure. I think internal medicine will be what it takes to get me back to the gym.


(P.S. - I totally turned on iTunes just now, solely because my widget was showing that the last song I listened to was John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" over and over. I'm not sure I fully appreciated the fact that I'd be publicly airing my guilty-pleasure music when I stuck that feature on the blog.)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Back into the fray

So this research thing is coming to an end, and I'm starting my internal medicine clerkship at UH on Monday. I'm hoping to post occasionally, if only to get my own thoughts in order regarding this medicine thing, but if there's radio silence for a while here, that's the reason.

Ben was out playing poker with some colleagues last night, and I had a rather delightful evening at home - I curled up in bed, watched the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring (and disc one of The Two Towers - shhh) and knit like crazy. I'm now almost halfway through Henry, and it's definitely looking scarf-like, which is gratifying. I had hoped to finish this before, well, now, but at least I finally feel like I'm making progress. (I really need to get my act together and dig out the camera.)

Last weekend was so much fun with Ben's parents - we had a big dinner party on Saturday, which I utterly failed to photograph - but it was really a great time. Everyone brought just amazing food, and my maiden attempt at chicken cacciatore was pretty successful. (I had a lot of help from my grandmother via telephone, but it worked out all right.) And it was really lovely to get to spend some time with Ben's parents. Lola and I did not make it to a yarn shop, though, so she'll have to come visit again.

That's really about it here, I think - this past week has consisted mostly of frantically getting my research manuscript together. It ended up cohering into something I'm fairly proud of (although I totally need a sexier title, as "Associations Among Patient Demographic Characteristics and Cancer Care Practices in the Early Treatment Phase of Advanced Cancer" is pretty yawn-inducing), and we'll be shopping it around to a few journals in January, probably. It's nothing ground-breaking, and will probably end up in some journal with a fifteen-word title, but it's nice to have something completed.

Oh! Ben and I going to Table 45 tonight, as a last-date-before-I'm-living-at-the-hospital sort of thing. I'll report back - the menu looks amazing, and it's been getting pretty good reviews in the Cleveland press, so hopefully we're in for some deliciousness tonight.

Edited to add: Also, I'm not sure if anyone I know in real life is doing it, but I'm sending well-wishes out into the ether for everyone doing NaNoWriMo - every November I think I'll try it, but each year I am just not brave enough. Maybe next year.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Update, Short Form

Okay, so I've totally given up hope that I will write about all the things I've been up to lately, so I'm going to blog in outline form and call it a day.

- Knitting: working on Henry (and I do mean working.... I think the scarf will be great, but it seriously stresses me out to knit it), made some fingerless mitts with the alpaca yarn that Sarah gave me in August, started this shrug in a purple silk/wool blend. No pictures yet, but the mitts just need their ends woven in, and the shrug is 2/3 finished, so I just may wait and photograph them when they're all done. (I think this new-found obsession with things on size 10 needles is directly related to the fact that I'm knitting a scarf on size 2s.) The unbloggable knitting project has stalled in favor of these, but I'm going to try and get back to it soon-ish. (Christmas knitting? What Christmas knitting?)

- Ben and I were able to go home two weeks ago, which was wonderful - highlights were seeing both sets of parents and my youngest sister, spending time with friends, and finding my wedding dress! All around a great weekend. (Also, I found and acquired dried kiwifruit at a grocery store in Manhattan, which was not a highlight so much as a weird thing I'd never seen before. They're much better fresh, for what it's worth.)

- We also went to Regina Spektor's concert at the Hammerstein, which was fabulous. Go to her site and check out her music videos - she is just as adorable and talented in person. (And she is seriously talented: she's a one-woman show, and there were multiple points at which she was simultaneously singing, playing piano with one hand, drum pad with the other, and stomping on the stage for added percussion. It was like watching someone live inside their music.)

- Research is winding up, which means I am frantically writing two manuscripts simultaneously while endlessly hassling our statistician. I'm sure he's having just as much fun as I am. (EndNote, by the way? Rocks my world. Once it works properly.)

- Ben's parents are visiting this weekend, which is why I have given up hope of really updating the blog this weekend. (A trade I am delighted to make, by the way.) They came in last night, and I'm really looking forward to spending time with them and getting to play tourist at home. (We've already had one culinary adventure, and it's shaping up to be an action-packed weekend.)

- I made pumpkin pie this morning. While wearing a sweater. It really must be fall.

- Also, I really don't have time to do this. I really don't. But I want to - I think it would really interesting to explore the evolution of the concept of a "hospital" historically: start with Islamic medicine c. what, like, 400 AD and the spread of "hospitals" throughout the world. (Because, seriously, there are a lot of ways in which hospitals are structurally and ideologically bad for the administration of health care (and a number of ways in which they do work, of course) but it would be interesting to see how we got to this structure.) Or take a look at the relationship between religion and medicine (ancient temples of healing, hospitals run by religous orders, faith healing, etc) thoughout history. But somehow I don't think I'll be able to crib something together during my surgery rotation. Alas.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Geekery. For real.

Okay, so I haven't posted in forever, and this really isn't what I meant to post next, BUT I couldn't bear to deprive all six readers of the totally awesome thing I found: Free Rice. I'm not sure how much it really helps the developing world, but it's a vocabulary game where they give you a word, you pick the synonym/definition, and if you're right, you get a harder word; wrong, you get an easier one. (Apparently, since the [really very tiny] ads refresh each time you submit a choice, the sponsors are using the ad revenue to donate rice to the UN. I have my doubts about the efficacy of this, but: vocabulary game!)

There are 50 levels, and each word you get wrong drops you down a level; each three or so words right bumps you up. It's completely addicting (I may have spent an hour on this site last night), and the thing is, it's hard, and I'm usually not too shabby in the vocab department. So far, I've topped out at level 48, but hopefully I'll get to level 50 soon - I'm very curious as to what will be there, because I've already run into a lot of words I've never even heard of. Anyway, go play! It's fun, I swear.

(I totally warned you this was geeky.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jes's Pick-Me-Up Dishtowel

My friend Jes has recently moved down to Mississippi to earn her Ph.D. in chemistry (because she's awesome like that), but is finding the move kind of tough. So I decided to knit her something bright and cheery and also, you know, useful in 95 degree weather. Unsurprisingly, the fine women at Mason-Dixon Knitting came through.

Two ballband dishcloths, and a dishtowel based on the Nine-Patch Dishcloth that Kay Gardiner designed. I modified the pattern in order to make it large enough to use as a dishtowel, and thought I'd post the pattern (such as it is) here, in case anyone is interested.

Yarn: Lily Sugar'n Cream Super Size Solid in White (C1), Hot Pink (C2) and Green (C3). [Each 4 oz (113 g) ball has something like 200 yards; I used one ball each to knit the dishtowel and two ballband dishcloths, and have enough left over for probably another ballband.]

Needles: 4.5 mm/ US 7

Pattern Notes: (Based on Kay Gardiner's Nine-Patch Dishcloth)

There are a LOT of ends to weave in here, what with all the color changes and the striped miters. As someone who hates weaving in ends, I advise you to do it as you go along - not only will the dangly bits of yarn not be driving you crazy, you also won't have to feel like an idiot when you sit down to do two hours of finishing on a dishtowel. (I'm not kidding. Weave in as you go.)

You will be knitting in intarsia for part of the time, and so you may want to divide your C3 ball into two balls. I will admit that I just knit from the other end of the ball, but you may be less slovenly.

Also, I have specified to pick up all sts on the RS, which gives you a kind of patchwork effect exclusively on the WS, like so:

If you want to distribute this effect to both sides, just pick up some squares on the WS.


With C1, cast on 16 sts. K 32 rows (16 garter ridges). *Break yarn, join C2 and k 32 rows. Break yarn, join C1 and K 32 rows. Repeat from * once: you will have a strip of knitting with five blocks of color. Bind off.

With C3, on RS of work, pick up and K 16 sts along one C2 block. (You can easily pick up sts at each garter ridge, and so your squares of color will match pretty well.) Leave C3 yarn dangling, and joining C2, pick up and K 16 sts along the center block in C1. Leave C2 yarn dangling, and with second ball of C3, pick up and K 16 sts along the second C2 block.

Now you have three color blocks that you will be working simultaneously. Just knit across all sts, changing colors at the edge of each block. (This is the intarsia bit, and it's really not hard - just make sure you twist the yarns around each other, bringing the second color up from behind the first, so there's no gap between sts. I found this very difficult to imagine, but simple to do once I had the knitting in front of me. Check out this link for an illustration, but if that seems confusing, just start knitting - what you need to do quickly becomes apparent.)

K 32 rows/16 garter ridges along all three color blocks. Bind off in color pattern, against twisting the yarns in the bind off row as you have done for the color blocks. Repeat for the other side.

(Now we'll work the mitered corners, basically as described for the Nine-Patch Dishcloth, except that I picked up the miters on the RS, and we're striping three colors.)

In one corner, using C2 with the RS of work facing, pick up and K 16 sts along one side of the corner, 1 st in the corner itself (the center st), and 16 sts along the other side of the corner. (If you want to place a marker, do so before the center st, but I found the marker more cumbersome than helpful.) On WS, K to center st, purl center st, and K across to end.

Row 1 (RS): Letting C2 dangle, join C3 and K to 2 sts before center st, SSK, K center st, K2 tog, K to end of row.

Row 2 (WS): K to center st, P center st, K to end of row.

Letting C3 dangle, join C1 and knit Rows 1 and 2.

Continue in patt (working miter stripes in C2, C3, C1), stranding yarn up the side of the work, until 3 sts remain. On the next row, slip 1 purlwise, K2tog, PSSO. Fasten off the remaining stitch.

Repeat for the other 3 corners.

Weave in ends and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On Repeat

Today has consisted mostly of working on my manuscript and, when that stalls, messing around with my iTunes playlists. (There's a reason I haven't posted in a week.) But - sometime in the past few days I have rediscovered Sarah Harmer, which has been delightful. I've listened to Basement Apartment, oh, at least five or six times today, and so wanted to share a link to the music video on YouTube. The perfect song for a kind of cloudy, kind of boring Tuesday. (Although I have to say that the fake leather pants really threw me.)

[Edited to add: Also, for anyone who watched this week's episode of House and is obsessive like me was wondering about the Alanis Morissette song, I did some internet sleuthing: Not As We.]

There's really no new knitting news - I'm slogging along on Henry, which is turning out nicely but is more than a little tedious. 400-plus sts per row! In tiny dark yarn I can't see while watching TV! On the other hand, the pattern really is very easy - you get into a slip 2, knit/purl 2 rhythm pretty quickly. I do enjoy the first four or so rows of each repeat, as the jumbled-looking mess resolves itself into chevron stripes, but there's only so much joy to be had there. (Joy that is counterbalanced, incidentally, by my irrational conviction that it really is a jumbled-looking mess, even though this has played out a couple times now without catastrophe.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Because updating the book log feels like work today...

A meme! One that combines easy blog content with my love of LibraryThing, which is wild and passionate and knows no bounds.

What follows is a list of the top 150 titles marked "Unread" on LibraryThing, with the number of books so marked in parentheses. I have made bold things I've read, italicized the ones I've started but didn't finish, and colored red the ones I couldn't stand and green the ones I loved. Feel free to play, too!

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (149)
Anna Karenina (132)
Crime and punishment (121)
Catch-22 (117)
One hundred years of solitude (115)
Wuthering Heights (110)
Life of Pi : a novel (94)
The name of the rose (91)
Don Quixote (91)
Moby Dick (86)
Ulysses (84)
Madame Bovary (83)
The Odyssey (83)
Pride and prejudice (83)
Jane Eyre (80)
A tale of two cities (80)
The brothers Karamazov (80)
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies (79)
War and peace (78)
Vanity fair (74)
The time traveler's wife (73)
The Iliad (73)
Emma (73)
The Blind Assassin (73)
The kite runner (71)
Mrs. Dalloway (70)
Great expectations (70)
American gods : a novel (68)
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius (67)
Atlas shrugged (67)
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books (66)
Memoirs of a Geisha (66)
Middlesex (66)
Quicksilver (66)
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West … (65)
The Canterbury tales (64)
The historian : a novel (63)
A portrait of the artist as a young man (63)
Love in the time of cholera (62)
Brave new world (61)
The Fountainhead (61)
Foucault's pendulum (61)
Middlemarch (61)
Frankenstein (59)
The Count of Monte Cristo (59)
Dracula (59)
A clockwork orange (59)
Anansi boys : a novel (58)
The once and future king (57)
The grapes of wrath (57)
The poisonwood Bible : a novel (57)
1984 (57)
Angels & demons (56)
The inferno (56)
The satanic verses (55)
Sense and sensibility (55)
The picture of Dorian Gray (55)
Mansfield Park (55)
One flew over the cuckoo's nest (54)
To the lighthouse (54)
Tess of the D'Urbervilles (54)
Oliver Twist (54)
Gulliver's travels (53)
Les misérables (53)
The corrections (53)
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay : a novel (52)
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (52)
Dune (51)
The prince (51)
The sound and the fury (51)
Angela's ashes : a memoir (51)
The god of small things (51)
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present (51)
Cryptonomicon (50)
Neverwhere (50)
A confederacy of dunces (50)
A short history of nearly everything (50)
Dubliners (50)
The unbearable lightness of being (49)
Beloved : a novel (49)
Slaughterhouse-five (49)
The scarlet letter (48)
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Pu… (48)
The mists of Avalon (47)
Oryx and Crake : a novel (47)
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed (47)
Cloud atlas : a novel (47)
The confusion (46)
Lolita (46)
Persuasion (46)
Northanger abbey (46)
The catcher in the rye (46)
On the road (46)
The hunchback of Notre Dame (45)
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of… (45)
Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance : an inquiry into … (45)
The Aeneid (45)
Watership Down (44)
Gravity's rainbow (44)
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its … (44)
White teeth (44)
Treasure Island (44)
David Copperfield (44)
The three musketeers (44)
Cold mountain (43)
Robinson Crusoe (43)
The bell jar (43)
The secret life of bees (43)
Beowulf : a new verse translation (43)
The plague (43)
The Master and Margarita (43)
Atonement : a novel (42)
The handmaid's tale (42)
Lady Chatterley's lover (41)
Underworld (41)
Little Women (41)
A brief history of time : from the big bang to black holes (41)
Stardust (41)
Jude the obscure (41)
The chronicles of Narnia (40)
Possession : a romance (40)
Fast food nation : the dark side of the all-American meal (40)
Never let me go (40)
The trial (40)
Kafka on the shore (40)
Bleak House (40)
Sons and lovers (40)
Alias Grace (39)
The Arabian nights (39)
Baudolino (39)
Confessions (39)
The great Gatsby (39)
To kill a mockingbird (39)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Gla… (39)
The alchemist (39)
Candide, or, Optimism (39)
Snow falling on cedars (39)
Midnight in the garden of good and evil : a Savannah story (39)
Midnight's children (39)
White Oleander (39)
A passage to India (39)
The elegant universe : superstrings, hidden dimensions, and … (39)
The house of the seven gables (39)
The lovely bones : a novel (38)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (38)

I've missed a number of classics, apparently. And also a lot of Austen, which is unsurprising, I suppose, because I don't particularly like Austen, but now I'm wondering on what, exactly, I based that opinion, because Jane Eyre wasn't so bad. I think it may have been Pride and Prejudice, although it was so long ago I don't even really remember why I disliked it. Hmm. I'm surprised at how few books are on this list that I couldn't stand, but I had forgot how vehemently I despised The Catcher in the Rye. I wonder if I'd appreciate it more on re-read - I think I was just too close to Holden's age (and, in attitude and life-view, Holden's polar opposite) to connect to the book at all when I read it. I think his angst would annoy me less now. It would certainly feel less... threatening, I think. There are a number of books on this list which I love and I hope the LibraryThingers who haven't read them intend to do so.

(By the way, my username on LibraryThing is my first initial and last name - for those of you who know it - in case you'd like to book-stalk me. I will say that I haven't gotten around to entering all my non-fiction yet, so my catalogue is skewed towards the fiction side of things. Someday.)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thousands of words, thousands of yards....

This past week has been pleasantly busy - I have about a thousand words of my research project manuscript (and another thousand words for the IRB), I've been working on several knitting projects and I had some quality reading time. I'll update my book log later this week, probably, but I did want to get some new knitting pictures up here!

So, after much talking about it, I purchased some yarn for Henry and cast on!

The yarn is Aussi Sock in Oak Moss (complete with cute koala picture!) from Susan Yarn up on South Taylor. I've knitted 6 rows of the pattern, plus the cast-on. (Which I loved, by the way, and will totally use again when the time is right. It makes a little picot edge with no sewing required - there is no bad there.) I've already picked out the waste yarn, because it was annoying me endlessly, and a word of advice for anyone knitting this: use a waste yarn that doesn't split. Like, at all. Ever. There was some cursing involved in picking it out.

The abandoned sock re-discovered last week has been proceeding apace - I finished it off and have a few inches of its mate. You'll notice the heel is kind of weirdly puckered - this was, apparently, one of the socks I knit before I learned how to properly pick up the gusset stitches, which may be why I left it to comtemplate its flaws in solitude. My tension is also completely off from Sock #1 to Sock #2 but I'm just going to roll with it. If I never wear them, at least I'm getting back in the sock-knitting mood after never wanting to knit a sock again after the Medrith's Little Lace episode. (A 20 row chart! What was I thinking?)

I also had a very exciting yarn find today, but I'm going to wait until I can photograph it properly before I post about it. I will say this: there were $15 spent, and I am now in possession of a couple thousand more yards of fingering weight wool than I was this morning.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Seafoam Stitch scarf

It's done! I finished the last few rows and added the fringe while at the Stitch-n-Bitch yesterday at Phoenix Coffee, up on Lee. This was my first time at the SnB, and Karen and I went together - we has a lovely time and met several really amazing and welcoming knitters and crocheters. It was a fun afternoon, and I hope to join them again.

Here's the requisite finished object photo. (Thanks, Ben, for the photography!) I was too lazy to change into scarf-appropriate clothing, so just imagine it's actually cool enough to be wearing it.

Pattern: Modified from the stitch described in this post, the scarf was 37 sts wide. I wrapped the yarn once, twice and thrice to get the stitch pattern - as written above, I found the stitch too loopy.

Yarn: Debbie Bliss Pure Silk, in bright pink (I used about 2.5 skeins)

Needles: 6 mm/size 10 straight bamboo

This yarn is deliciously soft, and I can't wait to wear this for real -I think it will be a great fall and spring scarf for those days when it's just cool enough to warrant something snuggly.

Next up will be Henry for Ben, and a return to another unbloggable project. Oh! And while photographing my stash yarns for Ravelry (which I still can't quite believe I did), I came across a stalled sock from ... first year, maybe? It's plain stockinette in a blue-and-gray self-striping yarn from Elann, and although I don't quite remember the pattern I was using, I can probably just wing its mate. I brought it along yesterday and knit two or so inches between the SnB and movie night at Karen and Brandon's. I'm remembering again why I like no-fuss sock knitting.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Back Home

Ben and I had a lovely mini-vacation yesterday! His company had purchased a block of tickets to the Indians vs the A's last night, and so we joined his coworkers for dinner and drinks before the game down at Jacob's Field. (We won! Go Tribe! ....and I've officially been living in Cleveland for a long time.) After the game, we headed over to The Corner Alley, which is this great combination of restaurant, martini bar and bowling alley. We'd been once before, and it works unexpectedly well - they've built the place such that there's really almost no noise from the lanes, and the dining area is visually separated from the bar-and-bowling area, and it's just a lot of fun. (And for the record - their creme brulee martini? Totally worth the drive downtown.) I haven't really been down to East Fourth much, and I was pleasantly surprised - the street is closed to car traffic between Euclid and Prospect and it has this almost European feel:

(Photo taken from - I managed to forget my camera last night.)

I had somehow missed the fact that The Corner Alley, the House of Blues, Lola and Flannery's (all places I've visited and enjoyed) are all right on the same little pedestrian street here.

The reason this excursion became a mini-vacation, though, was that we didn't have to schelp back to the east side at 1 am, but stayed at the Hyatt downtown (which is right across the street from the Corner Alley). Ben's boss has been singing the praises of Priceline, and we scored a room at this lovely hotel for $35! Click this link to see the hotel lobby - the first floor is all shops and restaurants, and the hotel itself is very quaint and 1920's looking on the outside (the doors to the rooms had letter slots! Soldered shut now, but still) yet the rooms themselves are modern and very nicely done.

We had a lovely time, and I was completely charmed by Cleveland's downtown - we joke about the Rust Belt, and there is some truth in that, but downtown is really revitalizing itself. We had dinner, watched the game, went out for drinks and then back to our hotel, all happening within half a mile of each other. And though there were definitely people around - last night's game was sold out - the crowds were still manageable, unlike what a similar evening would have been like in New York, for example. And the hotel room cost $35! Which still blows my mind. Anyway, we had a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the opportunity to play the tourist at home.

In knitting news, I am determined to finish the silk scarf this weekend - all that fringe makes me want to cry, but I will be brave, because it will be pretty. I've decided to nix the beading - I think I'd probably just end up smacking myself in the face with it, and really, that's no fun for anyone. And I'm on the hunt for some suitably drab dark gray sock yarn with which to knit Henry - I promised Ben a scarf last April, and, well, it's getting to be that time of year. The idea of a 452 stitch 24 row repeat terrifies me a little, but the pattern does seem to be one of those that seems way more complicated written down than it will actually be to knit. We'll see how it goes.

Edited to add: It seems I have unfairly slandered my beloved - once he saw a forest green yarn held against his gray coat, Ben decided to go for a little more color in his winter wardrobe. Which thrills me, because the mere thought of knitting an entire scarf in fingering weight dark gray yarn made my eyes hurt. So - thanks, Ben! (And sorry about the drab thing.) We'll be buying yarn tomorrow....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Made Like Bread

You know, I really can't remember the last time I was able to read so much for pleasure... maybe during high school? This research block thing is suiting me just fine.

The Lathe of Heaven (Ursula K. Le Guin, 1971) This novella deals with George Orr, a man whose dreams become reality, changing both past and present. I enjoyed it - the premise was unique and I found the novel intriguing. I actually read this a few weeks ago, and while I thought this was an interesting read, I don't know that it made much of an lasting impression on me, overall. A solid novella, but not one to which I'll be returning. (Of course, having been written over 30 years ago, the elements that now seem a bit trite could certainly have been ground-breaking; I'm not terribly familiar with the history of SF.) Oh, but! I almost forgot: this is the origin of a quotation I've known for years, without ever knowing the source, and which is even more poignant in context: "They said nothing of any importance. They washed up the dishes and went to bed. In bed, they made love. Love doesn't just sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new." (p. 153) I had heard the last line quoted, but I particularly enjoyed the juxtaposition of this declaration with the simple descriptors of any night at home with a partner.

Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross, 1996) I had read this sometime during late middle school/early high, and was pleased to run across it again. According to her back-of-the-book bio, Cross isn't originally a novelist, and it shows in the often predictable subplots. However, the main story is remarkable. Written as historical fiction but clearly well-researched, the basis of the book is the legend of Pope Joan: a woman who, sometime in the mid 800s, became Pope and reigned for two years. In her afterword, Cross provides evidence for the historical basis of the legend, which she believes to be true. The novel itself suffers from some idolization of the main character, reminding me a bit of Jean Auel's Ayla. (Joan is a master scholar, a priest, a physician, and singlehandedly responsible for re-introducing reason and logic to Rome. Et cetera.) But overall, the story is great and well-told, and if the point that Women Can Do Anything is a bit belabored, I'm kind of okay with that. I remember feeling the same way when I read this circa age 14 - I could see that this novel was written with a purpose and agenda in mind, but it was still an excellent story and an agenda I could get behind. Additionally, Cross has clearly done her research regarding quotidian life in 800s Europe, and while I am no expert on such things, there was nothing that rang false, and I thought she did a great job of putting you in that place and time with detail that was relevant and never seemed forced or gratuitous.

The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien, 1990). I had read Going After Cacciato in high school and always meant to look this up, so when it turned up of Barnes and Noble's sale table, I snagged a copy. I sailed through this, and probably read it too fast for proper appreciation, but I will definitely be re-reading. It is, at first glance, a collection of short stories written about the Vietnam war, but I think it is best described in's review: a "sly, almost hallucinatory book that is neither memoir nor novel nor collection of short stories but rather an artful combination of all three." There's an almost ... drunken feeling to the book, the consequence of an unreliable narrator who freely admits to his unreliability and, indeed, revels in it. Favorites among the group were "How to Write a True War Story," "Style," and "The Things They Carried." But the following passage, from "Stockings," caught my attention: not an original simile, perhaps, but I really enjoyed O'Brien's descriptive economy of speech, and since I seem to be quoting today:

"Henry Dobbins was a good man, and a superb soldier, but sophistication was not his strong suit. The ironies went beyond him. In many ways he was like America itself, big and strong, full of good intentions, a roll of fat jiggling at his belly, slow of foot but always plodding along, always there when you needed him, a believer in the virtues of simplicity and directness and hard labor. Like his country, too, Dobbins was drawn toward sentimentality" (p117).

Traveling Light (Katrina Kittle, 2000). I read this book first during my sophomore year of college, I think, or possibly the spring of freshman year - my roommate Rachel, a native of a Dayton suburb, recommended it to me since the author is essentially from her hometown. After reading The Kindness of Strangers, I picked it up again. The novel is about Summer, a young woman who has moved back home to care for her brother Todd, who is dying of AIDS. On re-read, I actually didn't like Summer all that much - her existential angst is a bit less appealing now than when I was 19 - but all the characters are exquisitely drawn. It's another heart-wrencher, but this one is much less bleak than The Kindness of Strangers, and overall, it's a wonderfully crafted first novel. I enjoy Kittle's works, I think, because her artistry is not in her prose, but in her characters, who feel incredibly immediate and real. Her language is good and doesn't get in the way of her story at all, but ... I don't find myself quoting bits of her novels but rather thinking about her characters. And that maybe sounds like a criticism, but isn't - I enjoy that she can people her novels so effectively with layered and nuanced individuals; no character, no matter how peripheral, seems wasted or one-dimensional. She's an excellent story-teller, and I think this novel is a great example of that ability.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My other expensive and time consuming hobby

The unbloggable knitting proceeds - although I really need to get back to my seafoam stitch scarf and finish it up, as it's getting cool enough here to start wearing it. Since I've started knitting, I definitely appreciate the charms of cooler weather more!

Since I have no pretty knitting pictures to post, I'll share a recipe for my roasted red pepper cream sauce instead. I know Lola was asking after this, so: free to a good home. I meant to take pictures when we made this pasta over the weekend, and failed to do so. But this sauce ends up being a delightful bright orange color, and it looks great with some chopped parsley sprinkled over. It's not entirely my creation - my roommate Jane, when I studied abroad, made her family recipe a few times, and I loved it. This version is what I've cobbled together from my memories of her recipe, plus the addition of garlic and some spiciness. Now that I think about it, I don't think she bothered with a roux, either, and just blended all the cream with the peppers, but if you're using milk rather than cream, the roux helps to thicken the sauce nicely.

Roasted Red Pepper Cream Sauce

1 medium yellow onion, roughly diced
3 red bell peppers, roasted with skins, seeds, etc removed* (or 1 12 oz jar of same)
3 cloves garlic, roughly minced
1/2 - 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on your heat tolerance)
3/4 c milk or cream, divided (I've used 1% milk just fine here)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
Parmesan cheese, black pepper, salt, to taste
1/2 c chopped parsley leaves (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan; saute onion, garlic, red pepper flakes and black pepper until onions are softened and translucent. Roughly chop the peppers and add to onions, heating through. Place mixture in blender, add approximately 1/4 c milk/cream and blend until a smooth puree is achieved. Reserve in blender.

In the saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add flour and cook the resulting roux, stirring continuously, for 2-3 minutes. Slowly add the remaining milk/cream in several-tablespoon increments, stirring well and allowing the sauce to thicken.

Once all the milk/cream is incorporated, add the onion-pepper mixture back to the saucepan, stirring well to combine and heating through. Season to taste with additional black pepper, salt and/or Parmesan cheese.

Toss over 1 lb dried pasta, cooked, and garnish with chopped parsley (or, in our house, more Parmesan cheese).

*To roast bell peppers, I usually core and seed the peppers, slicing them top-to-bottom into thirds or quarters. Line a baking sheet with foil, place the peppers skin side up, and stick under a preheated broiler for 6 to 10 minutes, until the skins are completely blackened. Fold the foil tightly around the peppers and let them sit for 15 or so minutes, to steam the skins off, then peel them when they're cool enough to handle. I particularly love this method because a) I don't have to hunt around for a paper bag, b) I don't have to turn the peppers around constantly while in the oven and c) the baking sheet doesn't get covered in sticky pepper juices. I am all about the easy clean-up. Those of you lucky enough to live with gas appliances get to just scorch them on the stovetop, but this is a pretty good method for those of us with electric ranges.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hmm. Thursday Odds and Ends

(I'm obviously going to need work on coming up with titles to these things.)

I've been sick the last few days (nothing like an upper respiratory infection to get you in the mood for fall!), so I haven't really done anything exciting or blog-worthy. I was feeling crappy enough that I didn't really want to read or knit. This may have been due to the fact, however, that the current book is Tolkien's The Silmarillion and no knitting is more tedious to me than the back half of a scarf.

However, I do have a cool link to share! Denise McClune wrote today about the concepts of "kind," "nice," and "good" and the differences among them. Interesting stuff. I was reminded while reading that I do want to look up Stephen Post's new book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People. Stephen was a co-lecturer for the bioethics class I took freshman year, and the faculty member of our weekly Science of Clinical Practice class during the first two years of med school. His research is primarily on altruism, which is just a cool topic to be studying, and his descriptions of the book sounded interesting.

I do have a few knitting projects percolating that, unfortunately, will be un-bloggable, as they are gifts for people who might potentially be reading this. (And now all eight of you think you're getting knitted goodies. Um. Maybe? Leave a request in the comments :) ) Photos may be published when the gifts are given, though, just to prove I haven't been a slacker.

Well, I think that's all that's happened recently - I'm going to go back to work and try to make up for coughing my way through working hours earlier this week.

Edited to add: Ooh! I'm a culinary genius! Well, not really, but I just made a very yummy lunch out of leftovers that I'd like to make on purpose sometime. I had made stuffed acorn squash last night, and had leftover stuffing kicking around (rice, quinoa and bulgur wheat with diced onions, eggplant, apple and a ton of spices) that I mixed into this afternoon's Campbell's Select butternut squash soup. The soup was not great on its own (more salt than squash, I think), but with the stuffing mixed in, the saltiness was somewhat tempered and soup became nice and sludgy. Or, err, hearty, I guess. Like a stew. Anyway, it turned out to be pretty tasty, and I'd like to try this grain-and-squash soup concept again, so I figured I'd jot it down here so I might actually remember it.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Got my invitation to Ravelry today! I don't have a ton of time to play today, but I set up my profile and linked my Flickr account - my user name is theraveledskein over there, too. Happy knitting!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

"Heaven ain't close in a place like this"

The Killers' concert was indeed delightful - their energy kind of lagged toward the middle third of the set, but the first and last 6 songs or so were phenomenal. I think part of the slowness at mid-show was that the songs from Sam's Town just aren't as high-energy as Hot Fuss and there was some dissonance involved with mixing more ballad-type music with straight-up, drums-and-bass rock. I thought, too, that the front end of the show was pretty heavily weighted with their radio singles, and that the crowd kind of got what they were looking for a little too early. But despite the pacing issues, the concert was a lot of fun, and I'm glad we were able to go.

Tonight Ben and I are going over to Karen and Brandon's for a potluck - Karen's parents are in town, so that will be fun. I'm in the process of making eggplant roll-ups, but while my eggplant slices are cooling, I thought I'd update my book log.

Measuring Time (Helon Habila, 2007). This novel is set in modern-day Nigeria, and is the story of two twin boys living in a largish village, Keti, some distance from Lagos. LaMamo becomes a professional soldier and Mamo, who ends up being the main character, becomes a historian and writer. I enjoyed this immensely - Habila's writing is spare and his words carefully chosen. Now that I've been thinking about pacing above, I realized that the pacing of this novel worked well for me - the chapters are all each only a few pages long, and the tone is well-suited to the story he's telling.

I took a course in Nigerian literature in undergrad, but we focused there on the immediately post-colonial era, and the native fables and folkstories that predated contact with European cultures. It was particularly interesting for me, then, to see a portrait of Nigeria today, reading about the problems with the current government structure and the quotidian experiences of village life. I was used to reading stories set within the traditional family and village structure of Igbo society, and so it was interesting to see how European and Christian influences have changed that society. The first example, of course, was that the twin boys were permitted to survive infancy, and the familial structures in the village seemed to be modeled more on the Christian practice of one wife per husband versus the traditional compound style with several wives in each family. But even beyond my interest in Nigerian literature, the characters were well-crafted and engaging, and I thought the story was interesting.

The Kindness of Strangers (Katrina Kittle, 2005). This book ... basically kicked the crap out of me. I started it yesterday night, and literally could not put it down until I had finished. It's a novel about incestuous sexual abuse, and it's very raw, emotionally. It's told from varying 3rd person limited POV, and it's ... powerful. I've read Kittle's other two novels, and she has this overwhelming talent for putting you right there with a character, which is a heart-wrenching experience when that character is an eleven-year-old boy whose parents have been sexually abusing him for years. And it's not heart-wrenching in an Oprah's book club, tear-jerker bestseller sort of way, but as if you're actually there watching this horrifying situation come to light. It resolves not happily, necessarily, but as well as it could, and the whole novel just feels so incredibly real. I feel about this book as I feel about the movie Traffic, maybe - I can't say I enjoyed reading it, because there's nothing enjoyable about the story she's telling - but I am incredibly glad I read it. It makes you feel exactly what it must be like to be in the middle of a tragedy, right down to the overwhelming anger you'd feel towards nosy Carlotta in the bakery and the it's not true, this can't be happening to me feeling of having something like this unfold right next door. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who could stand to read it, but I think you have to be ready to have your feet kicked out from under you. This is a novel I'm going to be thinking about for years.

Clay's Ark (Octavia Butler, 1984). This - I'll have to read again, I think. I liked it, but I kind of blew through it to see how the plot turned out. Part of the problem was that I knew that this novel was part of the Patternist series, but I hadn't known that it was more of an offshoot than a continuation - I kept waiting for the characters I knew to appear, and didn't realize until about halfway through that this was going to be an entirely separate novel from the preceeding ones. I really don't have any concrete thoughts on this yet, so I will definitely be re-reading, but I think I might wait a little while to do so.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Odds and Ends

I've deviated a bit from the knitting news in the last few posts, mostly because there's nothing that exciting going on. The Seafoam Stitch scarf proceeds, and I've almost finished the second skein - I think I'll knit 2.5 skeins worth, and then add a substantial fringe to it. (Ben and I are rewatching Season 4 of the West Wing, and this has been very good for my knitting productivity.) I'm contemplating mixing fibers on the fringe - maybe adding some silk embroidery floss (not divided) in different shades of pink, or perhaps some beads, but we'll see how ambitious I get.

An idea for a shrug has been percolating for a while, and I think I'm getting close. I liked the construction technique Iris used in her Jellyfish pattern, but knitting it all in one direction like that would drive me crazy, I think. (The pattern on the sleeves wouldn't be symmetric.) So I was thinking of knitting something similar: cast the back on, increase at each end, divide for the bits at the top, then pick up each sleeve from each edge and knit from there. It would still avoid most of the seaming, and the sleeves would match better. I want to use the 50/50 silk/merino blend I bought at the LYS sale a few months ago, but I'm not sure if my 3 balls of worsted weight could be stretched into a shrug. I'm thinking lace on size 12 needles or something.

Oh! Here's a cool news story: a seventh-grade schoolteacher takes pictures in space. For some reason, this really got me thinking about the whole Web 2.0 cultural revolution, which has made it so ordinary for ordinary people to do extraordinary things, like write an encyclopedia or, you know, publish a blog. It still blows my mind sometimes, how incredibly interconnected our knowledge base is becoming. Even with something as admittedly low-tech as knitting: people have been doing this for thousands of years, but now, instead of having to apprentice myself to a knitting guild master, I can read a bunch of blogs and instructions that generous people have shared and teach myself. Of course, launching a weather balloon and taking photographs isn't quite the same thing, but I think the ambition to do so is rooted in the same gestalt that's been building over the last decade: it's no longer exclusively the fashion houses and the publishing companies and the aerospace engineering firms that are setting the trends and furthering the accomplishments of science, it's us. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It's a pretty amazing societal change, and I'm glad I've gotten to be around to watch it start.

On a less navel-gazing note, Ben and I are off to the Killers' concert this evening, downtown at the Wolstein Center. I'm looking forward to seeing them perform. I'll also probably do another book log post this weekend. (I made the mistake of starting The Kindness of Strangers last night at 11:30, and I couldn't sleep fall asleep until I finished it. At, oh, about 4:30 this morning.) But I think my pizza dough is ready to be punched down and shaped, so... that's it for now.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

International Blog Against Racism Week

I was recently talking about IBARW with Sarah (it happened in the first half of August), and discovered it was mainly a LiveJournal thing, not an across-the-blogosphere event. So, mostly for Sarah, but also for my own reference, the LJ community is here and the account with all the links and posts tagged is here. To be entirely honest, I had thought initially that the premise was naive at best and kind of stupid at worst - how do you blog against racism? But it ended up being an incredibly interesting event, with a number of practical discussions on, first, how to notice racism (the more subtle instances, obviously, that someone possessing white privilege may not even recognize as racism per se), and second, how to retrain one's thought patterns and implicit assumptions. The event organizers also complied a wonderful (and huge) list of references and resources, which I have been slowly perusing. I have not studied race and racism in any serious way, and it's very possible that there was nothing new said, but it was certainly a teachable moment, raising one's awareness thing for me.

A cool offshoot of this event was the formation of the community, Writers of Color 50 Book Challenge, wherein members are attempting to read 50 books over the next year by writers of color. I haven't joined, because there is no way in hell I'll be able to read any 50 books over the next year, but I thought it was an interesting idea, and I've been skimming the reviews.

It is startling, once I stopped to think about it, how deep the divide is between "white" literature and that written for a non-white audience. At Borders (and at the public library), there's the "Literature" sections and then the "African-American Literature" section, the "Gay and Lesbian Literature" section, etc. That division may be good and useful - highlighting the existence of such works, and displaying them prominently - but it also reinforces the implicit assumption that "Literature" is written by white heterosexuals, and everything else needs a qualifier. The other effect, which I've noticed before, is that I'll tend to drive by the "African-American Literature" section because I feel both that a) it's somehow not "for me" and b) that I "don't belong". I've definitely gotten some sidelong looks from fellow shoppers when I do stop by the African-American Literature bookshelf, and it's ... uncomfortable. I've been thinking about this entertainment divide every time I go to the Severance movie theater, where the trailers are all for completely different movies than the ones I see at Shaker or Cedar-Lee theaters, both of which serve a more predominantly white audience, but it's more recently that I've been pondering that same division in written entertainment as well. (Also, see this entry in Overheard in NY.)

At any rate, I thought the most useful part of IBARW was that I actually starting thinking about these issues, which is a step in the right direction. Like I said, I really have zero training in the "-isms," and so it was a good starting point, just becoming more aware of my own implicit assumptions, etc.

Book Log

I've been seeing these around, and since I've actually had enough free time to read more than 3/4 of a novel lately, I thought I'd jot down some notes on the books I've been reading recently. I'm completely out of practice with actual literary criticism, so this will be more my thoughts and reflections than anything else. This list comprises what I've read over, hmm, the last 3 weeks or so. I may do this weekly, if I can manage to read enough in a week to make it worth it. Maybe biweekly.

Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert Heinlein, 1961). I actually pulled this out again a few weeks ago in order to tipsily quote things out of it at Karen. (Er, sorry about that, hon.) But I ended up re-reading it again in its entirety. This is one of my "go-to" books, that I read over and over, and I was shocked to realized I hadn't read it since starting medical school. (In high school and college, this probably got read every 6 months or so.) It's not a good book, in the sense that the plot is carefully constructed or that the characters are well-depicted, or even internally consistent, and it's horribly sexist and homophobic in places but... it's one of the best meditations on the human condition - and what it means to be human - that I've ever across. Thoughts and phrases from this book just stay with me, in the way that poetry or quotations from religious texts do; they have that quality of simplicity that signifies something different every time you come across it. Some of these are one-off lines ("Obscurity is the refuge of incompetence" "'Love' is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own" "Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition; they're almost incompatible") and some are longer paragraphs that manage to express exactly my own personal philosophy on a number of topics. It's an incredibly thought-provoking novel, and I find something new in it every time I read it; I'm glad I was prompted to pick it up again.

Bee Season (Myla Goldberg, 2000). This was... weird. I found it engaging and difficult to put down, but I'm not sure the author was saying anything I particularly needed to hear. I found the characters one-dimensional, even at the times they were clearly supposed to be Very Deep and Troubled, and... I don't know. I didn't not like it, but I'm not sure that Goldberg achieved her purpose - whatever it may have been. (The overall plot, without giving too much away, is that the younger, less gifted daughter discovers a real talent for spelling. The development of this talent brings to the forefront the background level of intrafamilial conflict, and the family members react to this in a number of ... fairly bizarre ways that I didn't quite feel were reasonable developments.) Hmm. I think I enjoyed this book more when I was actually reading it, but I don't think it holds up very well to reflection. Not one I'd re-read.

Mind of My Mind (Octavia Bulter, 1977). This was very good. I inhaled this book in one 3-hour sitting, and I'm continually amazed by the tight spareness of Bulter's writing. This was actually a first read for me (I was just talking with Sarah about how I've been rationing Butler's works, especially now that she's passed away, because I enjoy knowing that there's more of her work out there), and it's set, hmm, probably a hundred years or so after Wild Seed, which I had read a number of times previously. I thought the plot was engaging - twisty but believable, as is Bulter's style - and I ended up liking the characters. I'm interested to see how this fits within the rest of the Patternist series. I did think this novel was very plot-driven, and lacked the more meditative, reflective side of Bulter's later works. Told mostly in dialogue, and from a cycling limited 3rd person POV, Mind of My Mind was interesting, but I wouldn't say it was ground-breaking, and certainly didn't have the cultural and societal insight and commentary that draws me, again and again, to the Parable novels. I'm curious to see if my thoughts on this novel change once I've read Clay's Ark and Patternmaster.

The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year (Ed. Jonathan Strahan, 2007). I was thrilled to see a story by Connie Willis in this collection ("D.A."), which ended up being good but certainly not my favorite of the bunch. Neil Gaiman's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" I had already read here, and I enjoyed it more on re-read, but I'm not sure it deserves the buzz it's been generating.

I thought Cory Doctorow's "I, Row-Boat" was phenomenal, and I need to look up his novels. (The main character is a sentient rowboat, who tends to human "shells" - bodies that are available for tourists to download their consciousness into, in order to vacation in the tropics - and he's an Asimovist, following this religion the AIs have made, founded upon Isaac Asimov's famous Three Laws. How can you not love that?*)

Similarly, Ellen Klages' "In the House of Seven Librarians" was marvelous - a story told as a fable about "a young girl raised by feral librarians" (cited from the editor's preface to the story). Feral librarians! I worried that the story would not live up to such an intro, but, to my glee, it did.

Walter Jon Williams' "Incarnation Day" is another story from this collection that has stuck with me, also - now that I think about it - with the downloadable consciousnesses, but told from a very different viewpoint: that of a young girl with a penchant for the works of Samuel Johnson, who was conceived as a computer program and who becomes a legal person only when she is accorded the use of a body. This story became a insightful discussion about what confers "humanity," and it possessed an engaging plot and excellently crafted characters. Another one whose novels I'll be tracking down.

I'd say the anthology as a whole was good, and definitely a worthwhile read. From what I could tell, it was organized semi-thematically, which I didn't love, as it seemed after a while that you would read the same story three time in a row, only interpreted in different ways. There were 24 stories in all, clocking in at just under 500 pages; I can't speak to whether these were truly the "best" short stories of the year, since I haven't been reading more recently published SF at all, but they were consistently good and occasionally superlative.

To Say Nothing of the Dog (Connie Willis, 1998). This was another re-read. I scored a copy of this book at the Raleigh-Durham airport, from the used bookshop whose very existence delighted me to no end. This is a cute little jaunt of a novel, the premise of which is a quest to locate, using time travel, the bishop's bird stump (it's this ... thing, that no one can describe except in terms of its ugliness), in order to properly store the Coventry Cathedral, which had been destroyed during WWII. Combining SF and historical fiction, this novel is just fun - it's hilariously funny and a Romance in the classic sense of the word.


I'm almost positive I'm forgetting a few here, beyond the knitting books that I haven't included, and there are a few novels that I've almost finished, but I think that's it for now. The most bizarre thing about writing this post? I actually knew the copyright dates for almost every work before I looked it up. I didn't realize that was information I actually stored about books.


*In the interest of full disclosure, I find it necessary to say that my junior year research thesis for AP English was on Asimov's Foundation series. I ... may be a bit of geek, and I'm definitely a geek for Asimov's SF. Just sayin'.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Fun over the holiday weekend

The weather here in Cleveland has just been absolutely perfect over this past weekend.... I've found myself going for hour-long walks just to be outside. Ben has been in New York this weekend visiting friends, so I've been rattling around the apartment on my own, but I have managed to have fun. :)

Saturday we went raspberry picking at this great little farm, which was a ton of fun. Karen, being much more on top of things, remembered to bring her camera, so you can check out our massive haul of raspberries and other fun photos of the day here. (Thanks, Karen!) I still have about a quart and a half of berries in the fridge, which will have to be either frozen or turned into something else very soon. I'm actually not that fond of raspberry jam, unfortunately, so... there may be pie in our future.

In knitting news, the scarf grew tremendously last night after I got home from the bar and watched Battlestar Galactica until 2 am. (....what?)

The way this stitch stretches, I think I'm only going to need two skeins, which makes me regret not knitting it wider. Sigh. At least I will definitely be able to add a fringe. However, I think I will eventually buy a cone of silk yarn from Colourmart and make myself a full-size wrap in this stitch. (I'm envisioning something similar to Nereides, but knit with a laceweight mohair yarn held together with the silk. I think I would just want to pet it constantly.) It's not quite mindless knitting, since I have to look at it when I'm dropping the yarnovers, but it's simple, it's knitting up super fast, and I do like how this stitch stretches prettily both vertically and horizontally.

And, oh, I almost forgot! A picture of my birthday presents in action:

I am so unbelievably delighted with how wonderfully this whole ball-winder and swift setup works. I want to wind up all the yarn I own into little yarn cakes, but then I know I will inevitably lose ball-bands and then I will end up with a mess of prettily wound yarn about which I know nothing. So. I will wind yarn as I go, but oh, I'm having lots of fun.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Project

So I've figured out a use for the impetuously-purchased Debbie Bliss Pure Silk DK weight yarn (it's pink! bright pink!) I acquired a few months ago. (Having limited knitting time and even more limited financial resources available for yarn, I have only just recently started buying yarn without a specific purpose/pattern in mind. By how much fun this experience turned out to be, I think it may become a problem.)

I'm making it into a seafoam stitch scarf, modeled after this version, except with 1, 2 and 3 yarnovers, instead of 2, 3 and 4, which was just far too...loopy. I'm making it 37 stitches across, which is working out to be about 9 or so inches wide. (Needles are 6 mm/US10 bamboo straights, to which I'm returning after a period of circular/dpn monogamy.) I'm hoping this will be wide enough that I can wear it kind-of, sort-of as a stole, and not too bulky to wear as a normal scarf. I'm not in love with it yet, but it's growing on me as I knit it longer and the stitch pattern evens itself out. It's about 10 inches long so far, and I don't think I'm quite halfway through the first of the 3 skeins, so... it appears that I may have enough yarn to knit a decent-length scarf, and (possibly) enough to add some sort of fringe.

I'll add a photo when I'm feeling inspired to hunt down the camera and camera cable.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Cables and Lace Cardigan

It's finally finished! I started knitting this last year (July 2006, maybe?) and completely stalled when it became clear that the sweater would not be as cute as I had hoped. For one thing, I knit it a size too big, I turned out to be not-so-competent at crochet, and the drop sleeves are not terribly flattering, but... hey, it's done. It will be warm to wear around the house this winter.

Pattern: Cables and Lace Cardigan, size for 41 inch chest (I'm not sure why I imagined this would be a great fit for my 37 inch chest....)

Needles: Clover US7 bamboo circular (I think... it was a while ago)

Here's a close-up of the stitch pattern, which I really do think is pretty, with the added benefit of being simple to memorize.

So now that I've finished these backlogged projects, I'll have to start something new! I have some gorgeously indulgent silk yarns waiting in the stash... I think a scarf and/or a shrug may be next in the queue.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Birthday celebrations

Well, I'm back in Cleveland, having spent a really wonderful week visiting the family. Ben picked me up at the airport yesterday, and when we arrived home, I had this waiting for me:

Which was just so sweet of Ben. (The boxes contained a a new pair of headphones, a yarn swift and a ball winder, about all of which I am very excited. I am currently having to resist winding every ball and hank of yarn in the house, while dancing around with my suddenly fabulous-sounding mp3 player, in the hopes that I will get something productive accomplished today.) Thank you, Ben!

Since I was visiting my family for my actual birthday, this year I had an indulgent number of birthday celebrations: dinner and drinks last week with friends in Cleveland, an evening out with my family on my birthday proper, and a lovely visit to Blossom yesterday evening.

Karen and Brandon joined us:

(Here's a picture of Ben and me:)

And here's a photo of our picnic, before we made a sizeable dent in it:

Needless to say, we had a great time: good company, good food, good music. The Canadian Brass were playing, who are a brass quintet with a sense of humor. It was a delightful end to a great vacation.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Well, it's (almost) official - Ben and I will be getting married on April 25, 2009 at Saint Clements in Portland, CT! I went back for a second visit today with my parents and Katherine, and we still loved it, so we've got our date picked out and our contract in the works. One decision down, approximately 18,000 to go.... :)

The rest of the week has been lovely as well - we came back home to CT on Thursday night (there was no clamming, unfortunately, as it was really too cold to be wading around). I was able to visit twice with the fabulous Sarah, who is far too kind to me and gave me both books and yarn! (I'm still trying to decide what the 160 yards or so of Plymouth Alpaca Baby Grande wants to be when it grows up, but in the meantime it is very nice to pet.) And now I have a fantastic collection of new reading ahead of me, including The Invisible Sex and The Kindness of Strangers. Thanks, Sarah!

In knitting news, I have 3 buttons sewn onto the cardigan - only 4 to go! I'm hoping to finish that tonight, but it's slow going - I've apparently learned carelessness dealing solely with knitting and tapestry needles for so long, and I keep stabbing myself with the sewing needle, as the buttonholes are too small to be sewn with yarn. But I'm going to try forging ahead this evening, and hopefully I will be posting a finished object photo tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vacation (the knit-free edition)

So I'm in Rhode Island this week, having a wonderful time at the beach. Since my sisters came up Sunday night, the weather has been pretty crummy, but we stuck it out this afternoon and put in our time down by the water. My dad engineered a shelter from the wind:

We had to find non-tanning alternatives for beach entertainment:

Although not quite as warm as tanning, Scrabble did turn out to be fun. That's my sister Jen on the right, then me, my mom, and my sister Katherine.

We weren't the only ones on the beach, but I do think the seagulls outnumbered the humans:

We warmed up after the beach with a lobster dinner:

All in all, it's been a lovely week so far, even with the sub-par weather. We've had good food, good company and I've gotten a lot of knitting and more than my usual share of reading done. (Aside from the wedding planning magazines that seem to spontantously multiply around me, I've been reading Three Cups of Tea, which reminds me very strongly of Mountains Beyond Mountains both in content and style, and an anthology of last year's best sci-fi and fantasy short stories, which have been stunning. I think I'll have a few novels to look up by the time I'm finished.)

Overall, a completely relaxing vacation, and it's only Wednesday! On the agenda tomorrow is clamming with my dad at low tide, which will be fun - hopefully I'll have some photos of clams for tomorrow's dinner!

Medrith's Little Lace

Vacation with the family in Rhode Island has been lovely, if a little cold. I had hoped to make this vacation the Week of the Finished Objects, and so far I've been doing all right with that goal: the cardigan is shrunk, seamed and buttons purchased, and the socks are finished! That's me knitting the socks over the weekend, back when there was still sun around.

And here's a photo of the finished socks:

Pattern: Medrith's Little Lace, in A Gathering of Lace

Yarn: KnitPicks Essential, in Black

Needles: KnitPicks double pointed, size 3.00 mm/US 2

No modifications that I can remember. These socks were fun, but took forever to get through - I think I started these back in March. I've realized that, in order to knit socks in any sort of efficient way, I need a pattern simple enough to memorize.

Socks are, for me, is the knitting cotton-candy equivalent. The socks should be fun, portable knitting that can go anywhere and be worked on without thinking about it too much. I liked how these turned out, but I don't think I'll ever make them again - the 20 row repeat made them feel like work.

Anyway, I'll be updating soon (possibly tonight) with photos from our beach excursion today, complete with sweatshirts, a windbreak, and a Scrabble game. It was a determined sort of day.

My sister Jen and I were totally swimming. The water was really warmer than the air.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Saturday Market Bag

The blog's first finished object!

Pattern: Saturday Market Bag

Yarn: KnitPicks CotLin in Key Lime, Linen and Desert Turquoise, about 3/4 skein each for the first two colors and less than 1/4 skein of the turquoise

Needles: 8 mm/size 11 KnitPicks Options (used throughout)

Modifications: 9 repeats of the lace pattern, instead of the 6 repeats written; 10 sts for the strap instead of the 6 written, used needle size as above.

This was, I think, the quickest thing I've ever knit - I cast on as soon as the yarn arrived, and something like 2 days later, found myself weaving in ends. I had made this bag already, but had played fast and loose with gauge, and it turned out a bit too large, but I think this set of modifications worked perfectly! The pattern is easily memorized, and I'm very pleased with the yarn, as well - the linen softens beautifully as you knit, and the bag is stretchy but keeps its shape well once it's emptied. I think friends and family might be getting these for Christmas....

In other news, the pieces for my Cables and Lace cardigan are in the dryer as I type this. Hopefully I can seam that together this evening, and finally be done with this sweater - I cast it on last summer, and the pieces languished in the closet for months until I learned how to crochet and could make the button bands. Better late than never, right?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

So I've got knit and purl down...

Being a newly minted knitter, I thought I would put together an initiation post of sorts, a guide to making the transition from "Okay, so knit is when I stick the needle in back and for purl, it's in the front" to "So, I'm knitting this sweater, but I'm changing it to 3/4 sleeves and a v-neck instead of crew and I stuck in some short-row shaping, and, oh, I also added a little lace around the hem." I found it a bit daunting, once I'd knit scarves for everyone I knew, to branch out into less rectilinear shapes. Or, you know, anything that required me to read a pattern.

Pattern reading was, for me, actually the biggest hurdle. I could gather that "k" and "p" stood for "knit" and "purl" but after that, I floundered. The pattern would say "inc" and I would think, okay, but how do I increase? How do I decrease? What, for the love of wool, is a yarnover?

I learned how to knit in 2004, knit furiously for eight months and then stopped completely. I was bored with scarves, I didn't know how to make anything else, and every time I tried to read a pattern, it ended in frustration. I finally met a woman who took the time to explain these transitory mysteries of knitting to me, and I've been gaily altering my way through patterns ever since. So here, after that long-winded introduction, is my primer on learning to read a pattern, explanations of knitting terminology and links to various sites that I found helpful when just beginning this whole knitting business.

For the sake of your scroll bar, I've broken this post into several, so just click on the links below to take you to the post with that topic.

--> Please note that these posts are under construction and so some links don't yet exist - once I've wrestled this into some kind of shape, I'll remove this disclaimer.



Yarn! (A Guide thereof)

Please do let me know if anything here is unclear, wrong, should be cut/expanded/whatever. I'd like to make this as helpful as possible, and I always welcome constructive criticism.

Techniques (So I've got knit and purl, cont'd)


I realized this post was a bit too ambitious when it took me ... a long time to write even the finishing section. So I've linked to some really good, comprehensive websites that have excellently written and illustrated articles on techniques for just about anything. Following this is my own take on, and links to specific articles, regarding finishing techniques.

Learn How to Knit : This is a really phenomenal site, based in the UK, that explains the basics of knitting better than I ever could. This is the site I wish I had known about when I was starting. Also explains the basics of crochet, which is useful for the knitter as a finishing technique. This online knitting magazine has tons of great, free patterns, but it also has a number of technique articles. The archive, unfortunately, lists out only patterns, but you can retrieve an article from Google pretty easily, if you know it's there. But if you haven't come across Knitty yet, I'd recommend browsing each back issue directly - there's a treasure trove of information in the articles, and they are uniformly well-written and well-illustrated.

The Knitting Room: This is a corner of KnitPicks' site. Though they are primarily a yarn company, KnitPicks has been branching out into technique instructions, both in their catalogues and online. They've actually done a phenomenal job with this, and The Knitting Room is becoming my go-to site when I need to brush up on a technique.

I think the most frustrating part for me, learning to read a pattern and branch out into more complicated knitting, was the finishing instructions. Many techniques are actually explicitly spelled out in a pattern, but not finishing techniques. A typical sweater pattern can go on for pages, and then, once you're left with sweater bits, merely states: "Weave in ends, block pieces to size, and sew seams." Sounds simple, but how? Here I've assembled some good online articles about all these techniques.

"Weave in ends."
Here I will refer you to KnitPicks' article on this subject, which illustrates how to do this better than I could. They begin by saying there is no one way to weave in ends, which is true, but there are definitely wrong ways. A perfect example of this is my first sweater :).

"Block work to size."
Blocking is, in essence, getting your work wet and slightly stretching it, then pinning it down and letting it dry. Knitty has a good article on blocking. I find blocking kind of tedious, but it really does help and is, in some cases (like lace), indispensible to the final character of your knitting. For a good article on "Why suffer the pain of blocking?", see the Yarn Harlot's entry entitled "Be the Pin".

"Sew seams."
This injuction drove me crazy as a beginning knitter. After a few attempts at just, um, randomly threading yarn between pieces, I realized there had to a good way to do this. There is. It's called mattress (or ladder) stitch, and it's actually kind of magical how well it works. has a good article on mattress stitch, as does Learn2Knit (scroll down).

"Graft or Kitchener stitch together."
True confessions: I actually kind of love grafting. This may be because I first learned how to graft here. This site is an amazing sock-knitting tutorial, and my first pair of socks, knit sitting in front of my laptop, following along with Terri Lee's instructions, were the most polished piece of knitting I had ever constructed at that (very early) point in my knitting career. The link is to page 6 of the tutorial, where she explains Kitchener stitch, but do read the rest - I would never have tried sock knitting without this website. All the reference sites listed above have good articles on grafting as well, but this is my favorite.

If you prefer a hard copy reference guide to knitting techniques, the following are books I've found useful. There are many, many books out there and I haven't read anywhere near to all of them, but these were helpful for me.

Vogue Knitting: A solid, all-around reference book for everything from knit and purl to designing your own sweater. I hope to own this one day, but am now just checking it out unreasonably often from the libary.

Finishing Techniques for Hand Knitters: Just what the title says. I don't love the tone of this book - it's a little condescending - but the techniques are useful and well-explained.