Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hats (Okay Just One)

So, several of us were sent to the land of cold and snow for work training. (Really it's very pretty here, I'm not complaining even though it is a long time to be living out of a suitcase).
So, I offered to make hats. I did it person by person. I sent specific choices (about five.) So far I made three. The first and third were Coronet. (I have given all to their rightful owners, I forgot to snap pictures but will try to get in action shots.)
The first Coronet I made with Cascade Quattro, and in trying to adjust for my big head compare to other's normal heads, i made it a bit short, so I will likely get it back for adjustments.
(The second hat was asymmetric cables again, same yarn - just in green.)
The second Coronet (third overall for those of you counting along) was made with Patagonia Cotton. I had brought with me a pink and a blue/purple but was soooo sure I had enough pink. Hee. I forgot that the yardage on Cascade Quattro has way more yarns per skein. So, it became clear that I was in denial. So, I pulled the blue/purple into play and went back and added some on the bottom so it didn't just look like the top didn't match or something.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Even With the Warning

...this still made me cry. I had a post about diversity queued up, but let's just bask in this right now.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bready Stuff

My next choice for travel knitting was the Leavened Bread pattern, also from Fall Interweave. We won't talk about how long it took me to realize the pattern name was a play on the fact that it utilizes brioche stitch. I immediately imagined it in Manos, so off I went for the Manos find this great purple/pink colorway (see, I can break out of the ocean color family). I also bought a skein of solid pink which I may throw in at the sleeves.
The pattern referred you elsewhere for the stitch instructions so I asked Mr. Google and found one that worked for me. But I love the yarn and I like the way it looks with this pattern. I also decided to knit it in the round, but put a little rib on each side just to put in a smidge of stability. (I'm not sure how sound that theory really is, but, it's working for me.)
Leavened Raglan

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Books: Son of the Morning

I won Son of the Morning by Linda Howard over here from the lovely Zeek. And I have to say it was a wonderful surprise. I have been burned by novels with medieval Scots folks. (I know just enough that I cannot watch "Braveheart", the commercials make me cringe. I'm thrilled that it makes all these people happy, but I had to study and diagram that battle a gazillion times. I wrote more than one paper on it. The details are now fading but I am not yet in a place where I can let go and just enjoy it.) So, since part of this story is about Niall, a medieval Scots, I likely would have avoided it. But mail it to my door, and well.
Now this book is a perfect example of why back cover copy annoys me. Yes, most of the things it tells you you can figure out if you have read a book or two, but it is still in violation of my personal rule about giving anything away (even if you know it will likely happen) that happens after the first third of the book.
So - this is what I would tell you. Grace St. John is an ancient manuscripts scholar in Minneapolis who is happily married to an archaeologist. While translating documents about the Knights of the Templar, a killer decides that the information documents contain secrets they have been searching for and that she must die. On the run, Grace must find out what information the documents contain, and discovers she has a strange a connection to Black Niall, a knight from medieval Scotland, who is mentioned in the documents.
Now, I had several concerns. First, my vaguer by the minute Scottish history was not offended by anything here. I'm sure someone better versed may be able to find something, but I was happy. Second, knowing that Linda Howard tends to write romances (although this book is marked clearly as fiction, and would fit in happily in the mystery section also) I wasn't so surehow I was going to feel should some time crossing love connection show up. I am completely happy with how everything was handled. And third, bookish scholar on the run, I was cringing in anticipation with all the silly running away mistakes. But, Grace, while certainly not perfect, was smart and actually applied her smarts to her running away strategy. Sure, she happened upon some streetwise with a heart of gold folks but there was never a situation where she was only saved because of someone else's intervention. I was impressed.
So, the back cover copy. Don't look if you wish to remain truly spoiler free (I know BCC isn't considered spoilery, but I think this one kind of is.) (Stolen from here.)

New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard captivates readers in the deeply romantic tale of a contemporary woman who unravels an extraordinary mystery from the past . . . by living it.

A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic treasure. But as soon as she deciphers the legend of the Knights of the Templar -- long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power -- Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force. Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar's secret for all eternity. But to find him -- and to save herself -- she must go back in time . . . to fourteenth-century Scotland . . . and to Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. . . .

So, here it is again with me totally taking it apart. (Again, stop reading if you don't want to be spoiled.)
New York Times bestselling author Linda Howard captivates readers in the deeply romantic* tale of a contemporary woman who unravels an extraordinary mystery from the past . . . by living it**.

A scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts, Grace St. John never imagined that a cache of old documents she discovered was the missing link to a lost Celtic** treasure. But as soon as****
before she deciphers the legend of the Knights of the Templar -- long fabled to hold the key to unlimited power -- Grace becomes the target of a ruthless killer bent on abusing the coveted force. Determined to stop him, Grace needs the help of a warrior bound by duty to uphold the Templar's secret for all eternity. But to find him -- and to save herself -- she must go back in time . . . to fourteenth-century Scotland . . . and to Black Niall, a fierce man of dark fury and raw, unbridled desire. . . .

*This book is marked as Fiction
**Giving away too much
***It's a Knights of Templar treasure. The knights were not Celtic. Just because this one guy is Scots doesn't change the origin of the treasure. Yes, I am nitpicking.
****Disagree with the timeline.
Now, I agree this is not the worst BCC ever. And I realize that some people like a little bit of a roadmap as to where the story is going. And I get that it's really easy for me to pick apart the work of other people. But, these issues highlight why I stopped reading back cover copy. I want enough information to figure out if this is my kind of story, but I don't want you to spoil all the twists. Sure, and reasonably intelligent reader can figure out if there are two main characters in a story, they are going to meet up even if they are separated by a couple of centuries. But, if it doesn't happen - or even occur to either of the characters until two-thirds of the way in, don't talk about it on the back.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Bumpy Stuff

So, when my job told me they were sending me to a two week training (after the cat) I thought - I need yarn. Fortunately I happened upon and yarn sale just as I had unearthed Fall Interweave from it's clever hiding place. Working on the theory that I needed a range of products, I thought the Cobblestone Pullover, in addition to just looking cool, looked like something I could possibly do during training without fear of total horrendousness.
I went with Cascade 220 - in a heatheres green and a regular green. (I also picked up a skein of Green Pastaza, which may get in there, we shall see.
Here's what it looked like a few days ago.
Coobblestone Pullover
I have been putting some waist shaping in there, but I am kind of making that up as I go. So far, so good.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Books: Firefly Lane

So, I received an Advanced Reader's Edition of Kristin Hannah's Firefly Lane through Library Thing. (Yes, they not only help me track my books, they help me get more.)
I was already familiar with Kristin Hannah's work so was expecting a touching and heartwarming story. Oh my. I started this story late Tuesday night. By Wednesday I was so entrenched I was a little bitter that I had knit night and dinner plans. And work. I finished it today at lunch. (I actually do not recommend reading this story at lunch, particularly the end if you are going to have to, you know, talk to people coherently afterward.) Loved it.
Firefly Lane is the story of two best friends who live on Firefly Lane. (Interestingly the ARC cover, which seems to match the cover Amazon has, had a pretty jar and fireflies. There are two females in the distance. I love the cover and and I guess the fireflies could be stars since the girls talk about the irony of living on a lane named after a bug they've never seen.)
Tully and Kate become friends when Tully and her mom move across the street. The book follows their lives for about thirty years. And I almost don't want to tell you any more because I want you to discover it for yourself. The friends have their falling outs with each other and with others in their lives but mostly this is a story about relationships. Long terms ones - the ones you're stuck with, like moms and daughters, and the ones you make, like friends and lovers.
The ARC's back cover copy says:
Firefly Lane is the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It's about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, it's about the one person who really, truly loves you and has the power to hurt you and heal you.
Only my nitpickiest self can find anything wrong with that description. I would add that you end the book with the desire to call your mom and hug your best friend. (If I had a daughter I'd probably make her read the book or something.) Anyway, I loved it.
Firefly Lane goes on sale February 5, 2008.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Asymmetric Hat

I was in a hat mood, yet trying to branch out a bit. I had picked up some of the Lino Brand Organic Cotton, in this chocolatey color. (I think officially it's called bark.)
And I pulled this cabley pattern out of One Skein - Asymmetric Cables. I made some on the fly adjustments since I was using a smaller yarn and all that, and I decided to forgo the pom-pon. But it is very cute and very soft. (If I do say so...)
Asymmetric Cable Hat

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Stash Club

I was toying with joining a certain sock club this year but was stuck on the fact that while the idea of a pretty skein of yarn and a pattern showing up once a month in my mailbox was endlessly appealing, I don't knit socks. Sure I knit things with sock yarn. I'm working on something now, in fact. And I could use the sock patterns for fingerless gloves or hats or other things. But for the cost - did it make sense? So, I decided to err on the side of financial caution.
And then I got an email from Stitch DC - they were starting a Stash Club*. See, sometimes financial caution has its rewards! (And for those of you suggesting the reward should be saving money, yeah, well, that's one approach.)
The idea behind the Stitch DC Stash Club is to focus on yarns from smaller producers that Stitch DC normally wouldn't carry due to limited ordering. For 2008 I get a skein and a pattern each month. There's also a Ravelry group and plans for gatherings (for those of us who are local) to chat and possibly even trade yarn.
So, I got my first packet in the mail last week.
Stash Club
Two skeins of Tilli Thomas in navy, one of Aspen (merino) and one of Mogul (beaded merino. The pattern is for ruffled finger-less gloves, which look great although I think I may use the yarn for a scarf - a beaded scarf really appeals to me right now.
We shall see, right now I just love looking at the yarn.
*The Stash Club filled up quickly, I was lucky to get in. However, it was open to anyone on the Stitch DC email list, and I'm guessing it will open up again next year. So, my sharing is not meant entirely as bragging.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Certainly many activities that we do have inherent within them a selection bias. It is not unusual to find chai drinkers at Starbucks, readers at the bookstore, knitters at knitting group. But sometimes within these group you find more overlapping circles. My swap buddy for the Football along swap (where it was to be expected that we would both be football watching knitters) turned out to also be Unitarian Universalist and teaching the Our Whole Lives course, which I taught two years ago (admittedly she is teaching middle schoolers and I worked with senior high kids).
I was reminded of this at Starbucks this weekend. This particular Starbucks is not my normal Starbucks. It is near my church and in a strip mall with a grocery store, drug store and bank branch but is otherwise outside of my normal range. So, while I have been there several times, it is not quite my normal haunt. And yet I have several times had such great conversations with strangers there.
Yesterday was that kind of day. I snagged a cushy chair and settled in with my tea and my book. Someone had given me a copy of Jennifer Crusie's Strange Bedpersons - it's one of her Harlequins and I think I may have read it before, but long enough ago that I was able to enjoy (possibly anew) all those details and funny bits.
I hit one such funny bit and giggled attracting the attention of the lady in the other cushy chair who laughed and said it was so nice to see people laughing at their books. So, I told her a bit about the book, and we just kept talking. We talked about books, about writing, about social justice. She was reading This I Believe which I've been meaning to pick up a copy of, we discovered that she works in religious education at a progressive synagogue which she compared to being similar to Unitarians and I mentioned that I worked with youth at a UU church. It was an amazing conversation and we both left thrilled that happenstance had created this synergy. We were even drinking the same drink.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Purpose of Acknowledgments

I am one of those readers who read the story, the copyright page, the dedication, the author bio, the acknowledgments, the foreword and the afterward. My spoiler phobia prevents me, in most cases from reading the preview of the next book (unless it's already out on shelves) and I usually save the Back cover copy or jacket copy until after I finished.
Now, as far as I am aware, there are not actual requirements for acknowledging people or other sources used in the creation of fiction. But people do it. Perhaps some authors don't want people to know how much of the story was inspired by real stuff, don't want to lift the veil and ruin that magic. I had a history professor who always read my bibliography first. The reason was, he knew, based on what I had cited what information I should have (which, admittedly, was a double edged sword).
But, in light of the Ian McEwan issue with Atonement and now the Cassie Edwards issue (covered extensively over at Smart Bitches) it seems that the difference between Kaavya Viswanathan's passage lifting and Ian McEwen's was that he acknowledged the source material and used non-fiction as source material rather than borrowing more fun paragraphs from fictional works.
That seems a razor thin line, but sure. It is pointed out that authors are always borrowing story ideas, and while that makes sense to me, it seems to me a very different thing to borrow the idea of a story about star crossed lovers, than to borrow a paragraph. And certainly I have heard people state that there are some actions that are routine enough that many authors would sound similar describing them and it's not plagiarism - it's just life.
So, at this point Edwards is saying she used source material in her research for historical and cultural setting, and because novels do not typically require a works consulted list, she did not specifically acknowledge these works but meant no disrespect. Her publisher apparently agrees. And I see her point. I see McEwen's point. But I'm not really buying that it's okay to borrow a paragraph from a work of non-fiction but not fiction. And while certainly age or status are no excuse it seems that Viswanathan was skewered for something McEwen and Edwards are being defended for.
I am thrilled that authors are researching the settings and I recognize that if I write about someone baking dough and look at a dough recipe to make sure I haven't left out anything stupid, my description will sound a lot like the recipe I'm using. But if I just plop the recipe in, even if the recipe isn't copyrighted, it would seem I still owe some sort of disclosure. If the publishing world deems that an acknowledgment is enough, then great. But that seems to me the very least I can do.

ETA: Author Barbara Caridad Ferrer has weighed in and said some great stuff.

And Now For Some Good News

HGTV has selected Anacostia as the winner for the "Change the World, Start at Home" project. Anacostia is one of those areas of DC that often gets maligned as a whole despite it's having some really great parts. So, congrats to Anacostia and to those who will directly benefit from having some prettier stuff to look at. (Baltimore, New Orleans and Denver are all going to get some pretty.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Books: Hunter's Salvation

So, Hunter's Salvation by Shiloh Walker was another of my prize books from PBR. And it didn't work for me. I technically made it to the end, but there was a serious amount of skimming. Now - first a caveat. I have not read any of the rest of the series. I think that a great series will stand up to that and I can point you to several series where I dove in in the middle and felt the immediate need to hunt down the rest, but I concede I might have liked it better with that background.
Okay, so this is the story of Vax who is an empathic witch who used to be a Hunter (think paranormal police) until he gave it up a while back to go live on his ranch. Jess is a telekinetic reporter who is investigating a series of brutal rape murders that seem to have a little extra going on. She starts poking around a club the victims had frequented and gets to close to something, so her sister is kidnapped, raped, and murdered as a warning. Of course, instead, Jess quits her job so she can stalk them full time. So, Vax wakes up with a serious compulsion to head to a club where he find Jess just about to get into some big trouble.
So, the club has some evil people that are trying to do evil things. And really, blase is kind of how I feel about this plot. I liked each of the main characters and I could see how there were things that made them fit with each other but here's the thing. I didn't really care. There were all these characters that showed up (clearly from other books) and generally, they were there to figure out what the reader already knows. So, watching them discuss it wasn't interesting to me since I didn't have a history with them.
I'm having trouble coming up with specifics about why this book didn't work for me and the best I can come up with was it never made me care. Yes there were folks trying to experiment on people with special powers and gosh that's really terrible and someone should stop that and oh look, they are really evil, so evil they keep having sex with people and raping people - and for whatever reason, I never got to the point where I cared. Usually it's because the evil is so superficially drawn, but I don't think that was it this time, it was clear why - I actually felt we spent a bit too much time with the evil so maybe the issue was that we spent all this time with the evil people and all we really learned was that - they are evil. And when the good guys all gathered to discuss it - what did we learn - there are evil people planning to do bad things. Oh wait - I knew that!
I began to wonder, as I read, if maybe this is an "Empire Strikes Back" kind of thing. When I first saw "Empire" I thought it was such a gyp, that I was glad I hadn't seen it in theaters on original release where I would have had to wait so long until the next installment. But my friend and I went to see it when they re-released it in theaters and we both came away in awe. Time, maturity, better understanding of story-crafting - whatever it was, we were suddenly able to see all the threads and stuff contained within. However, there was not enough in this to convince to to read the rest of the series and find out.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Different Hat

I had a skein of the Fibre Company Terra yarn (yes, I am addicted) in Sorrel and it didn't quite match the other colors I had snapped up so I decided it was going to become a hat. Some searching on Ravelry led me to the Amanda Hat and I was sold. (Or not, since the pattern is free.)
Amanda Hat
Since I was using one skein, which in this case was 100 yards and since I have a big head I made some minor alterations. I added a few stitches at the beginning, and compensated by shrinking the overall height of the hat doing a little less pattern stitch and fewer garter stitch rows before decreasing. The end result is lovely. It is a great pattern that was a fairly quick knit - a rice krispies treat of knits if you will - looking like you slaved for hours and yet - not so much. (I mean yes it was a few hours, but we're talking a knit scale of time here.)
If you follow the link, there is actually a designer sponsored KAL and contest going on now.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dear Folks #14

Dear Folks,
I appreciate that you wish for me to appear happier. But really, if you don't know me, it is quite a risk to suggest to me that it can't be that bad or to order me to smile. I imagine it makes you feel as though you are spreading good cheer to tell me to be happy. And while I recognize happiness is often a choice, you - since you don't know me and are not making any attempt to get to know me - just know that at this moment I appear unhappy. There are a number of legitimate reasons ranging from large to small that I might not be smiling, and none of them are improved upon by people telling me to cheer up. (I really think "cheer up" is a bit like "calm down" it hardly ever works on the people who really need to hear it, in fact you risk sending them farther in the other direction.) So, I am sorry that you did not see me in a moment of outward happiness. But, your words, however well meaning, are not helping.
Just Let Me Keep Walking and I'll be Out of Your Sight

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cocoa Swap Questionnaire

1. What is your favorite way to drink cocoa? Prepared with milk? Water? from home made recipe or store bought?, In a tea cup, or big mug?
Well I do love cocoa with milk but generally am too lazy to do that (I have no idea why, actually, it doesn't take longer to heat up milk). Store bought.

2. Marshmallows or whipped cream?
Marshmallows. (Whipped cream is nice too.)

1. What is your favorite type of yarn? In what colors?
It changes constantly but I tend towards thicker yarns in soft fibers and cool colors. I knit on size 8s a lot, although not exclusively.

2. Do you knit or crochet (or both)?
Knit. I know how to crochet, but not very well.

3. What are your favorite type of needles, would you like to try something new?
I use wood and plastic a lot. I found metal was too hard on my hands. I also use circulars almost exclusively.

4. Do you have a healthy supply of notions?
Theoretically yes. However my stitch markers seem to disappear a lot. Maybe I need to check the couch.

5. What one thing do you keep thinking you need to buy for your knitting habit (outside of yarn)?
Wow. I don't know. I'm sure there's stuff I need but can't come up with anything.

6. What is your favorite 'quick knit/crochet' pattern (quick gratification)
Currently it is Yarn Harlot's unoriginal hat.

1. What is your favorite thing to do in the Winter?
Curl up with a good book or a good knit.

2. What is your favorite animal?

3. Do you get the 'winter blahs'?
Oh yeah. I'm not very nice for a while. But we're past the solstice so it's getting better.

4. What is your favorite way to beat the blahs?
Sugar helps.

5. What is the thing you are most looking forward to this spring?
Sunshine. For long periods. Going outside.

6. What are your favorite treat?
I go through phases - but cookies, candy, sugar.

7. What is your favorite board game?
Trivial pursuit.

8. Do you have any children (furry or human)?
Well, I have a cat.

9. Do you have any allergies or special considerations you partner should know about?
No, I'm good.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Books: Pieces of My Sister's Life

Elizabeth Joy Arnold's Pieces of My Sister's Life was a great book. I think it is sometimes hard to read a book about childhood friends (twin girls and the boy next door) particularly when it is told in first person since you the reader know that your narrator is understandably biased. But it worked well here. There were moments where I read with one eye closed, if you will, because I was dreading the inevitable climactic betrayals. (This is good, I couldn't stop reading, I was just afraid of what would happen.) I also have to say, although I will be a bit vague, it doesn't end in a neatly packaged way, which, again, I liked, because all the neatly packaged ways were going to irritate me.
So, loved it. But, I have to nitpick a bit. (I know.) I understand the challenges when writing a story that takes place over years, especially when technology changes so fast. But - if you are going to put 2007 all over parts of your book (to distinguish from the parts that take place earlier) - then I get to assume that this book takes place now. Therefore, if you wanted to make a phone call that you didn't want the people you were staying with to know about or for them to accidentally pick up the return call, you would use your cell phone. And a twelve year old in 2007 would not have a walkman. Not just because it is old technology, but because there is no place for a twelve year old to find music to play on the Walkman because no one sells tapes any more. And if they live in a special place where stores sell tapes instead of CDs and cell phones don't work - then you have to explain that.
So, other than the technological anachronisms (which really are a teeny portion of the story), it was a great story.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Books: 2007 Reading Stats

This is one of those things that is probably much more interesting to me than anyone else, but oh well. Just because, I tracked which books I read this year on a monthly basis.
Total Books Read: 159*
Banner Month for Reading was March where I plowed through 20 books. (I was commuting by public transportation that month.) October and November I only made it through 8 (or my list making fell apart - we shall see).
I read 82 different authors which I think was pretty well-rounded of me.
The author I read the most in 2007 was Catherine Mann - 14 - helped immensely by the fact that I discovered her in 2006 and she has an extensive backlist that I am still working through. She also had five new releases in 2007, three of which I got to.
99 of the books were part if a series, confirming that I adore series.

*I counted re-reads if I re-read the whole thing from start to finish rather than skipping to the good bits. Anthologies I counted as one book.
**I counted authors rather than pen names.
***Series were counted is the book had characters that will or have appeared in other books. So, Vicki Lewis Thompson's Nerd books I did not count as a series since the titles and themes are similar but the characters are not, at least in the ones I've read. I counted it regardless of my intent to read any of the related books.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Taxi Talk

I had a snippet of a discussion with someone about how the culture of the DC area is such that people take taxis infrequently and typically in specific circumstances so don't have the etiquette of queuing up or leaving space between yourself and the next person trying to hail a cab. I usually have a backup plan that involves public transportation. And then there is the zones in DC (which I like even though I tend not to need a cab the times of day it would really work for me) and the meters in Maryland and the rules and laws that govern border crossing.
So, last evening (or this morning, if you will) I understood that the other folks standing about Bethesda Metro (metro now closed) were not being deliberately rude (in most cases) as they jumped forward for cabs. I also, having made the trip from Friendship Heights to home (admittedly a bit closer) had a sense of what the ride should cost. I had no idea I would need that information.
So, when I finally managed to get into a cab without anyone else piling their six friends into it (I wasn't against sharing, but really) I told the cab driver the address, and honestly when he rolled his eyes and said, "DC, again? I am so tired of going to DC," - I should have gotten out. I don't mean to be overly dramatic I got home safely and that was the important part. But really. So, he suggested taking East West to 16th, I agreed that would work but apparently he thought maybe Military would be better and I said I was farther down then Military (I was having trouble deciding if he was trying to get the best route or figure out where I lived or what.) So then he tells me, "Thirty five dollars." I responded that no way, last time the ride had been ten (yes, a marginally shorter distance but hey, if we're going to bargain...) So then, he says it couldn't be ten and he doesn't know where to go because I won't tell him. I responded that at this point my concern was the cost because there was no way I was paying thirty five dollars (did I look drunk?) and if that's what he wanted we needed to stop.
So then, the cab driver tells me he will turn on the meter (hey, there's an idea) but I need to remember to add a dollar because he had not turned it on before and he will do it just to show me that there is no way it could be ten dollars. And so, he was very pleased with himself when the meter hit ten. Total cost (including the dollar if we assume he was correct and we had really gone over half a mile when he turned it on) $16. So, not ten. But closer to ten than thirty five. So, forgive me for hoping that the speed cameras on Military and Sixteenth might have caught him since he had it up to eighty trying to get me out of his cab.
Happy New Year. Hope everyone is safe and well.