Saturday, May 31, 2008

I'll be darned, it worked

You may recall that I recently had a little meltdown about dealing with voice mail "customer service". Laura suggested that using an irate tone of voice when responding was rumored to speed up access to an actual person. Today I needed to call UPS for information about how to arrange for package pick up. I didn't really mind "speaking into the phone" to select different options, but I reached a point where none of the options offered fit. So I worked up my sternest voice and said "You know, I would really like it if I could speak to a real person." (I didn't even swear, honest.) And darned if I didn't get connected to an operator almost instantly. Woo hoo!


I should have been clearer in my last post that we do not currently have a snail problem - that was back in Northern California. Interestingly, those snails were not native, but had been introduced (on purpose) about the same time as the vineyards. On purpose for food. Sort of like dandelions. Oddly enough, I don't really care for eating those, either Even more oddly, I do like nettles. When picked young and well cooked, they are nicer than spinach (and I'm a spinach fan ).

But we do have slugs, so I may just have to haul out the beer.


Somewhere between Thursday and today, summer arrived. It isn't that the temperature is much different. Something about the way the foliage on the trees has filled out, and the greens are deeper. Something about how the wind passes over the grass getting tall in the hayfields.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Good Golly

Miz Molly has "challenged" me to a meme. Challenge accepted *G*

Here are the rules:Rules:* Answer at least three of the questions. Yes, I know a few look time-consuming and there are several of them. That's why I only ask for three. See? I'm nice!* Post them and the rules on your blog, and please link back to me here. Pretty please?* Comment here telling me and the rest of our little party where you're at and link to yourself.That's all!* Oh yeah, don't forget to tag others!

What's the last book you read that you thought was really super, inspiring, you'd recommend it to most anyone?

Umm, that's a hard one. But I do find myself frequently recommending The Secret Life of Bees.

What food totally grosses you out, you'd never be able to touch it? Ew. Gag. *hurl*

I ate snails once in my youth and liked them (yum, garlic butter), but that was before we lived with a yard totally infested by them. Thousands of snails. We hand picked them (well Mr S did because I was all "ewwwww!") I tried diotomaceous earth, copper barriers, even poison that made them foam up and dissolve - too gross to repeat. Nothing stopped them. They just just kept coming. Silently. Relentlessly. Waving their little eyestalk things. Leaving their slimy trails.... I figure I can make garlic butter and dip something else in it.

Did you ever watch a scary movie that frightened you so much you were afraid of the dark afterward? I mean like you're lying in bed trying to sleep, but you have to pee, but you're scared to get up. It doesn't have to be recently; could be when you were a kid. So what movie was it?

Ok, I am so totally a wimp that I don't watch them.

Is there a song that makes you dance every time you hear it? Would you tap you feet and sing along to it in public?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T Actually, just thinking about it makes me want to get up and dance. Please pause while I go put it on the CD player......

Tattoos: yes or no? Do you have any? Tell us! Do you think they're gross? TELL US!

None personally, although occasionally I have yearnings. If I ever came up with the perfect design idea I might just go for it. Don't think they're gross (heck they are practically mainstream these days), but I'll have to admit I still stare at an arm or leg completely covered.

When's the last time you laughed so hard your ribs ached and/or you nearly peed yourself? What made you do it?

I know it was someone's blog post, I just can't remember which.

Draw or doodle a picture of your pet(s) and post it if possible. Nothing fancy, don't be shy!

Hey look! Trying to draw in Paint is like using an Etch-A-Sketch! Anyway, that's Baxter.

Go through a stack or box of your old music. Stuff that you may not have heard in years. Pick one and tell us about it. Is it as good (or as bad) as you remember?

The Joan Baez Ballad Book holds up pretty darn well (and that goes waaaaaay back).

Do you still sleep with a stuffed animal? We won't laugh!

Only if you consider a stoutish, immovable feline "stuffed".

Ok, I'll tag CatBookMom, mouseyblog and Tyrannasaurus Bets. If any of you eschew memes you're off the hook.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is it Monday Already?

No, wait, it's Tuesday.... long weekends do that to me. Add the fact that even though it was Memorial Day, we still have a week before it's June, and I am thoroughly confused.

Besides being Memorial Day this was also Graduation Weekend, which around here is almost a bigger deal. The graduation ceremony was Friday evening. Often I don't attend (though as a teacher, Mr S. is pretty faithful), but this year my friend Gretchen's twins were graduating - two of the nicest kids you will ever meet.

All of my pictures came out badly, but those are the twins leading the recessional (Molly was valedictorian).

The rest of the weekend was pretty much taken up with graduation parties. Almost every senior has a party, with a buffet and a display of pictures and awards/activities, and a table for gifts. The kids pretty much make the rounds. Adults are by invitation, but lots of invitations go out. Some people rent halls, some have them at home, some rent tents, or use a machine shed. As a teacher, Mr S gets lots of invitations, and we realized a few years back that it is impossible to get to all of them, but we hit quite a few. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful, and we had some pretty drives through the country, had the opportunity to run into folks we hadn't seen in awhile and generally enjoyed the sense of community good fellowship.

Now it's back to work. My goal for the week is to get the triangle scarf pattern into final format. I asked CatBookMom to take a look at the first draft, and, as I expected, her comments were very helpful. A big "Thank You"!

OK, Cindy, buckle down....................

Friday, May 23, 2008

Take Two

So.... I've re-blocked the edge. I dampened it and shaped it, and then threw in a shot of steam for good measure. Seemed to work like a charm. The top edge, she is flat. Looks nice this way, too, if I do say so myself.

Note to Ms. Bee: I will bring it to Last Saturday Knitting on the 31st. Note to everyone else: if you aren't reading Ms Bee, you are missing some seriously funny blogging.


Until Grace mentioned it in a comment, I had completely forgotten that the 20th was "my day" on the 2008 Pattern a Day calendar. There's my little "Dazed and Confused" scarf in all it's zig-zaggy glory.

The pattern is also available as a stand alone download at Ravelry (not free, but very thrifty).


Big thanks to Bets for the sock book shout out, made my day, especially from a woman whose taste in fine china and ability to handle firearms I admire in equal measure (and no, I'm not being sarcastic). And, oh yeah, she's a pretty awesome knitter/designer.


It occurs to me that in the postscript to my phone company rant I used the term "working stiffs" and that it is just possible someone might misconstrue this as derogatory. So I want to make it clear: in my mind the "working stiffs" of the world are the ones who do the real work, on the front lines, don't usually get to have input on decisions even if they know more than "upper management" about the nitty-gritty of the job, do get the flack when there's a problem and more often than not aren't paid nearly what they deserve. Blue, white or pink collar, I take my hats off to them all. I've been a working stiff as often as not in my highly checkered career, and I'm proud of it.


Well, that ended up being a pretty rambly post. Guess I'll just hush up now.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Take One

OK, here's the version with a rolled edge at the top. First observation: as knit it's more of a scarf than a shawl, though it could easily be worked to any size with more yarn and more repeats.

For myself, I like the look and would wear it with the edge as it is. There's an informality about it that suits my general style. But in the interest of comparison I'm going to see if re-blocking can prevent the roll. Stay tuned for updates.

One Ringy Dingy

Major rant here. Anyone remember Ernestine, Lily Tomlin's character on the old Saturday Night Live? Well, she looks like a model of customer service from where I'm sitting.

I've been trying to reach TDS Telecom for the last two days. This is our phone company and our DSL Internet Service Provider. The Internet connection has sucked for the last two days - either nonexistent or slower than dial up.

At first, I just wanted to check whether this was a problem with our computer/personal account, or whether it was a system problem. So I tried three different "customer service" numbers, and every time ended up in an endless voice mail loop - when I could get through at all, given that several times I just got a busy signal. This is the Phone Company. How can they not have enough lines available to even put me on that stupid voice mail?

At some point, the recording did suggest that I try "power cycling", which I had already done, several times, and then suggested that if I had further questions I should check their website. Just one question here: How the hell can I check their website if the problem is not being able to connect with the Internet?

I finally reached a person by going through the loop and pushing the buttons that connected me to the option that said I wanted to make a payment. I figured if any line was going to pick up, that would be it. The operator was patient with my impatience and transferred me to the same endless voicemail loop I had been in before.

So I thought I would call the "local" office. This is 30 miles away, but it is a real building with real people in it. At least it was a year or so ago when I had to return a defective modem for exchange. I looked it up in the phone book. Local prefix on the number, looked promising. Called the number and, ended up in the same voicemail.

So in a last desperate attempt, I called directory assistance, and told them I wanted a number for the local office that would connect me with a living breathing person, not a recording. I got a different number with a local prefix.

I dialed this number. I did not dial "1". I did not dial the area code. The phone rang, then a recording came on telling me that to call this number I did not need to dial 1 or the area code, please try again.



Well things seem to be up and running again. Turns out a major cable was cut near Chicago, which screwed things up royally all over and wasn't TDS's fault. I'm sure that they were all going crazy trying to deal with it, and I have a great deal of sympathy for all the poor working stiffs on the front lines. But, I would have been a lot happier (and would have tied up their phone lines a lot less) if they had just put a recorded message up front on that help line explaining the situation. One call - I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, "Oh, OK, bummer, I guess I'll just have to wait." And I would have. The thing that sent me ballistic was the apparent impossibility of getting any information whatsoever about what was going on. So even with sympathy for the difficulty of this particular situation, I still think they need to work on their customer service plan, starting with "What is the most effective way of keeping our customers informed in the case of a major outage?" Oh, and I still don't get the logic of telling someone whose internet connection isn't working to "check the website for more information." But I dunno, maybe that's just me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rolling Along?

Uh oh.
I did finish the triangle scarf/shawl. Laid it out to block yesterday. Checked on it this morning and....

the top edge is rolling. I was afraid this might happen, because the garter based section is really narrow. The swatch didn't do this, but the swatch 1) was in a different yarn, same weight but different structure - two ply instead of four, less twist and 2) it was much smaller and 3) though I'm not the first to mention it, swatches lie.

Now to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I object to the look of the roll. In fact, I kind of like it. This is not a particularly formal looking lace. The question is, would other knitters look at it and think "I don't like that pattern because edges are not 'supposed' to roll"? Or can I just point it out as a design feature?

Another oddity, it's only rolling along half the length. Did I just inadvertently mash that roll into place when I put a towel on top of it for the night (to keep the cats off)? This was not pinned out, just stretched to shape and left to dry. I often block this way, and can give my theoretical reasons backed by a competent authority - maybe I will someday

But for now, what to do, what to do? I could try to re-block it flat (maybe with steam). Or I could spritz that flat part with water and nudge it into a roll, too.. Or I could rip back and work a wider edging. But design wise I don't particularly want a wider edging on that side.

I believe it was E.B. White who advised that if you aren't sure of the pronunciation of a word, you should speak it loudly and confidently, because you might just fool everyone else.

I think my first approach will be "spritz and roll". I'll keep you posted.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Variegated Yarn and Knitted Lace

They don't always work well together, but in this case I'm very happy with the results. The pattern stitch and the colorway are playing nicely.

The pattern stitch has very simple lines. In this yarn it comes across almost more as a textured openwork than lace. The Shepherd Sport has really good stitch definition, which means that the " sl1, k2tog, psso" decreases read almost like little cables.

I'm working the triangle from the bottom point upwards to avoid the "spine" that forms at the center when working from the top down. (I don't object to this construction, myself; it just wasn't the look I was after here). In some colorways this would result in strong horizontal color lines fighting with the vertical lines of the pattern stitch. But I don't think that's a problem here for three reasons: 1) the length of any one color is relatively short, 2) all of the colors are quite similar in in tone and saturation and 3) it's an analogous color scheme (though it ranges from a very greenish blue through a very reddish violet). No single color stands out too strongly; they all blend well visually.

Looks like this should be finished by Monday, which in a way is too bad. This is one of those projects where I've been enjoying the process as much as the anticipation of the finished object.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wednesday Miscellaneous

Two of my favorite things in the world are blue & white china and tulips. So you can imagine that I like this card a lot.

Of course, I love the giver an awful lot, too.


I'm not really a "faerie" kind of person, but I'm very fond of the classic stories. And I'm especially partial to the wonderful fairy tale illustrations produced in the early part of the twentieth century. I'm not even sure how I stumbled on SurLaLune. I do know I stayed up way too late looking at pictures.


I'm pretty sure I swallowed my temporary crown. It was in place when I went to Woman's Club on Monday night. It was gone when I went to bed. Note: it had already come off once as a result of foolishly biting into something I shouldn't have, and I had jammed it back in place. So it wasn't very secure. But I'm startled that I didn't notice it going down. Fortunately, my appointment to have the permanent one installed was already scheduled for Friday. I'll just tough it out until then.


Thanks to Mr S's a) TV schedule awareness b) passionate love of all things British and c) special admiration of Judi Dench, we caught the first installments of "Cranford" on Masterpiece Theater. Wonderful production! Fan of Victorian literature though I am, I had never read Mrs. Gaskell, though I had vaguely heard of her. Now I'm going to have to go look for the book.


It was a tease to only show the inside of the sock cuff; but I'm sending the pattern proposal off to a publisher for consideration, and I didn't want to give away too much detail. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Goings On

Believe it or not, I really have been knitting.

At the bottom you see some initial swatches, at the top the beginning of the actual project. This is the item I was knitting "straight from the swift." It will be a large triangle scarf/small shoulder shawl depending on how far the yarn goes. I've finished one skein and have one to go. It's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the "Tahoe" colorway.

I've also started a sock. The cuff will be turned down when worn, so what you are looking at is the back of the pattern stitch. The ribbing will be hidden by the cuff. It's just there on the theory that it will help the cuff fit more snugly. This is also LLSS in "Sherbet"

I've had a certain amount of interference while working on it.

The sweater is one I did not make, though people always ask if I did. It came from St Vinnie's, never worn. There were several, which made me think some business had donated excess inventory. It cost much less than the yarn to make it would have, or even the roving to spin the yarn, so how could I pass it up?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hooray! (hooray, hooray, hooray)

My new Verilux floor lamp just arrived.

I've been waiting impatiently for ever so long....well, not so long really, I ordered on Saturday and they shipped on Monday. But waiting impatiently all the same.

Notice active fiber crafting featured on inside package. Promising, promising. So let's see how hard it is to put together.

Unpacking was a bit of a puzzle. It was, well, compactly and intricately packed. Instructions say "save all packaging to use in case of return." Yeah, right. Even with the helpful diagram, I can guarantee there is no way I would ever get it back into the original box.

I was so excited by the prospect of trying out the fully assembled object, that I forgot to take more pictures of the process. But it was pretty darn easy, "Line up screw holes" being the trickiest bit. (I leave it to your varied imaginations to make what you will of that - Leslie, I am thinking of you.)

Fiat Lux! I love it , I love it, I love it. I can see tiny stitches. I can see true colors. And it even has a handy, dandy cute little "utility tray".

I think I'll start saving up for the portable table model.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Every time I try

to untangle a particularly nasty yarn mess, I think of Alexander the Great. Cutting the Gordian Knot was such a cop out. Unless it was cobweb weight. In a slightly fuzzy wool that wants to stick to itself. In that case, he was completely justified.


This bunch wasn't difficult, though it took a lot of winding (there are at least that many more in another bag). More scraps, but I don't think I'll be using them for hats. They are acrylic, and not suitable for afghans for Afghans or Dulaan. It's possible I might come across another organization that's looking for acrylic hats, but I have more than enough wool scraps to keep me busy for a long time. So these will be "used up" in another way. I'll send them to school with Mr S. The teachers are always glad to get craft supplies. They'll be put to good use.

My new set up.

Can you see the yarn running directly from the swift to the knitting in progress? This makes the knitting totally non-portable, but that's OK. I wasn't planning to take it anywhere. And it means that the swift is pretty much tied up until I finish, but that's OK, too. I'm not planning on needing it until I get this project finished. I just didn't feel like doing any more winding today.