Monday, March 31, 2008

Knitting Fun

I participated in Knit-a-gogo's Lace Retreat at the O Street Mansion Sunday and was it awesome.
First - the goodies. (Apologies, the camera is currently in a safe place - so, use your imagination). We got bags with the yarn - Neighborhood Fiber Company's Watershed yarn - a seacell/merino blend that is amazing. I chose the custom event color.
Stitch marker - a stitch marker from Storm Moon Knits.
Project Bag - a gorgeous reversible project bag - from Stuck in Illinois.
Needles - bamboo DPNS and 24" circulars.
Pattern - Parthenope

We gathered at the O Street mansion, which is, interestingly a mere block from my vet (or ist my cat's vet). It doesn't look like a fabulous place for brunch or dinner or tea or to stay from the outside, but it clearly is. I have been to some great brunches, but there were three rooms of food. It was great in that the separation meant there weren't crazy lines in any one section and that your brain didn't totally short out. Although I must confess I walked into the dessert room (room, two giant tables full of sugary stuff) and walked out with nothing but a promise that I would be back. (I was, I just neeeded more preparation.)
After gorging, most of us wandered the rooms a bit - the mansion is five adjacent townhouses and has secret passageways and other such interesting stuff. It is quite a trip. I loved the faux wood jacuzzi and now know what my bathroom will look like when I win the lottery.
Then the knitting. The pattern creates a huge square, which in the pattern picture has been folded over for a triangular wrap. While knitting has changed my view on triangular wraps, I still don't see a need for a lot of them in my wardrobe, so I like this idea of a big square. You start in the center with eight stitches and work out. I used two circulars (having brough extras in anticipation) in part because I am not a fan of the DPN (I know they have their uses) and also because I was worried about laddering, but as Knit-a-gogo herself (aka Danielle) pointed out, in this pattern the ladders would actually fall in such a way as to appear part of the pattern.
The pattern requires a lot of concentration through the first repeat, but then as you get through to a point where you are adding in repeats (it suggests going up to 19 per side) it does start to flow. The pattern is almost entirely a chart, although it probably would be a good first chart for someone. Danielle had drawn a square around the repeat for us, to make the isolation a lot easier, especially since the chart only gets you through two and expects you to work the rest out, so the square helped immensely.
Karida (of Neighborhood Fiber Company) was also there, and she assisted Danielle with knitting tips as well as a blocking demonstration. It was a great day - food and knitting. Yum.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Author Stalking: Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman was at Politics and Prose last night, so I went to see her and pick up the latest Tess Monaghan story. P&P records all author visits, so you can actually purchase a DVD of the actual event, rather than relying on the parts I found most interesting, but there you go.
Lippman asked how many folks had read the Tess stories compared to the stand-alones, the crowd was full of Tess fans, but a healthy percentage had also read the stand-alones. The preference was for Tess stories. I meant to clarify this with her during the signing, but forgot - I think it's there's a really simple reason for this. Lippman talked about how in the stand-alones she really uses up the characters - this is their one shot and we are getting there story out there, so after that, it takes a while before she is ready for that level of intensity again. So, the Tess books allow Lippman to recharge and yet still write because, as she pointed out, you can't totally use up your protagonist in a series. And I think the experience is similar for the reader. I read Every Secret Thing and was riveted, but I needed something light and airy to read after that. Whereas the Tess stories don't have the same emotional impact. They're still great, but you have the distance of viewing them through the eyes of someone you know is going to survive the book.
Anyhoo, Lippman talked about the irony of the fact that she had tried to set up clear boundaries between her personal life and professional life and then went and wrote a book about Tess going to assist on a television show being shot in Baltimore, which therefore was going to mean that every interview was going to mention her relationship with David Simon and that she saw the strange but ultimately thought it was a writer thing - to be unable to not use this information. Lippman did point out that while she certainly made use of her knowledge of how TV shows work, "The Wire" was a show about Baltimore made by people who know and love Baltimore, whereas the show in Another Thing to Fall takes place in Baltimore but is being made by people who don't know Baltimore. (It is also an intentionally silly premise).
Lippman also talked about the invisible people phenomenon, the state of journalism and some quick thoughts on solutions to crime in Baltimore. (Although she pointed out she has the advantage as a writer of being able to make up crimes that get solved, so you know.)
So, it was great fun to see Lippman in person. And I have a great book to read too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Awards (Well, Nominations)

So, the Golden Heart and RITA nominations are out today. I just want to put out a quick congratulations to Cindy Dees author of the fabulous Medusa series that I have slowly been hunting down. Apparently the panel agrees with me since she is nominated twice for Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure.

Thanks to Alison Kent who let us know to gather the news here.

ETA: The official results are now here.

Into the (Stylish) Ether

I recognize that I am a tiny (if loyal) portion of the "Project Runway" audience. But, nonetheless I offer my thoughts. If it was up to me...
*More designer background. Why is it that I know more about some of the eliminated designers than the finalists? I found out Christian was from Annapolis by reading an interview. Why was his family visit edited out? I like that stuff. I don't necessarily want road to the runway back - at that point there are simply so many designers (sorry, guys) but the home visits were strangely skewed.
*More model switching. I understand the value in giving the winner some sort of advantage. But the winner, is in most cases going to stick with the model they were using. So, let everyone else choose. Or let the models choose. (That rocked!) More opportunities so that people don't all end up with the first or second model they ever got.
*Keep up the great range of challenges. I find it sort of funny that so many got upset that menswear was hard (I don't doubt that it is) and yet few seem to complain about using food or recyclables. Depending on your post-shaw direction, it certainly seems much more likely you'd be called upon to do menswear.
*Reward those who do follow the constraints. Jack, the winner of the menswear challenge this year didn't have three pieces, as others did. Jillian used candy in the Hershey's challenge and yet lost to someone who used more fabric-like material. It's not just this season - last season in the first challenge, Keith won when used a sheet when other's used furniture or even coffee filters. I am certainly not saying reward bad design - but if the top three includes only one person who stayed with the intent of the challenge, it seems they should be rewarded for that.
*Do something about the reunion show. It's fun to see folks, it is mildly amusing to watch the clip cycles. But really, if you are going to barely let anyone answer the questions that get raised, it's just a waste of everyone's time.

Monday, March 24, 2008

More Asymmetricity

A recipient of an Assymmetrical Cable Hat mentioned she would love one in blue. Since it fit my mood and forced (forced, I tell you) me to go buy more yarn, I complied. Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton in the misnamed (in my opinion) blueberry color.
Asymmetrical Cables - Blue
Asymmetrical Cables - Blue 2

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hey, I'm better when it's book

So - sorry - yeah - um, Smart Bitches and Dear Author created a March Madness for books. And since I don't follow college sports (never having gone to a college with sports, lived in a big college sports town, and you know, those college kids turn over faster than pre-lockout hockey players) I have never participated in March Madness pool type things. I know you don't have to actually follow the sport to do that, and that people who don't often do better, but, no, I want to lose because no one could have predicted that upset not because I picked the prettier uniform.
Well, the first round is in and I'm at 70% (which makes me tied for 63rd place with a gazillion people, but still). How cool is that.

ETA: I am not unaware that I am already screwed by the results of the first round. I'm just enjoying that fact that I didn't totally suck.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I am Not Laughing

Because that would be mean. But a 28 year old, taking her driving test, crashed into the DMV building. Charges for reckless driving have been filed, although the local police stated that the judge may determine that the driving was more, shall we say, unskilled, than reckless.

Monday, March 17, 2008

February Yarn: Great Minds

So, I was shopping for a knitting bag online (I didn't have a red/pink one). And decided to pick up some yarn so got myself a Tilli Thomas Shawl kit. It was a chance to get a fun cobwebby pattern and to check out this silk/Seacell blend I keep hearing about.
Shawl Kit
And then I got my February Yarn - same yarn. The only thing that would have been funnier, is if I had gotten the same colorway.
 Voile de la Mer

Friday, March 14, 2008

Favorite Color Swap

Favorite Color Swap Questionnaire

1. What are your top three favorite colors?
Blue, green and purple.

2. What crafts do you really enjoy?
Knitting. (I have been know to do a little beading and such, but really, tight now - knitting).

3. What products do you really covet?
Oooh - I don't know. I'm sure there's stuff I don't know I need. And there's stuff that I probably have a lot of - like stitch markers and tape measures and yet, can usually never seem to find.
Ooh - or maybe a row counter bracelet. I'm not sure I would ever use it, but it's such a cool idea.

4. What other activities do you enjoy besides your favorite crafty things?
Reading, watching TV, drinking tea, and general hanging out.

5. Is there anything you collect?

6. What is your zodiac sign and/or Chinese zodiac symbol?
I am a Libra. And a water ox. I used to think the water ox didn't apply at all, but depending on the interpretations, yeah, there's some truth in there.

7.What are your favorite…

Light, simple ones - so vanilla/cucumber/apple type stuff.

…types of music and/or bands?
I listen to pop, rock, country, and musicals. Recent purchases include: Kenny Chesney, Bon Jovi, John Legend and the "Spring Awakening" soundtrack.

Well...there are quite a few of those, a sampling would likely include: Madeline L'Engle, Catherine Mann, Suzanne Brockmann, Jennifer Crusie, Nora Roberts, Karin Slaughter, Laura Lippman - I better stop now.

Well, I assume we mean in general not that I necessarily want in my apartment - but cats and dogs and fish are nice. I also like rhinos - not sure why - I just do.

…places to shop?
Well, in addition to yarn stores and book stores - Starbucks (what? they sell stuff), Target and Old Navy.

Spring - it's pretty but not hot. Hot has it's palce (as cold does too, I guess) but spring is all about excitement.

…yarn/fabric/paper/other craft supplies?
Yes! Oh - kinds - um, I tend towards chunkier yarns being very proud of the fact that i have never used a needle smaller than four (and I probably have more eights than anything else). I am also a fan of variegated yarns. As for fiber, I tend towards soft - whether thats cotton, or a blend or something else. I have made exceptions for Noro.

…candies or goodies?
Yes! Right, um, chocolate, gummy stuff, licorice, really, if it has sugar, you're on the right track.

8. Do you have any wish lists?

9. Are you allergic to anything?
Dust. (Nothing fibery or foodwise).

10. Do you have any pets? What are they?
One cat.

11. Please include anything else you would like your secret pal to know about you- anything that would be helpful in finding you little gifts that you will really enjoy. Also, if you have a Ravelry ID, please include it here.
RavelryID: RandomRanter

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh, Mount Pleasant, My Mount Pleasant

My heart goes out the the 200 some residents who have lost their home to fire. I am grateful that smoke inhalation seems to be the worst injury, although I realize that is small consolation when one is facing homelessness in a pricey city that tends to have low occupancy.
Hear Mount Pleasant has a pretty good list of the events, fundraisers and ways to help. And DCist has photos and linkage.

*Title stolen from the Tuscadero song.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Imagine the Fountain

So, I decided to make a hat with my stash yarn. And having some attempts that I am not ready to talk about yet with berets, I decided the Fountain hat was a good compromise - being beret-like, yet cloaer to hats I have successfully constructed (Interweave, Spring 2008, but the pattern is up on Knitting Daily).
I used the Three Irish Girls Adorn Sock yarn, which was perhaps not the best choice. The yarn is lovely, but the pattern would likely show better with a more subtle colorway. I love how it turned out, but certainly if I really wanted people to see the pattern, a different color would have done that better.
Fountain Hat 1
As you get to the top, it seem like it's going to be too poofy - like you are accidentally making a beret without any decreases, but it works out fine. It's a very nice hat design.
Fountain Hat 3

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So...That Happened

I had to go into the office today for a meeting. One my way home, I was walking down 16th Street and had one of those moments where you hear people talking, you know they are not talking to you, and the noise and whatever makes it take a while for the words to make sense in your head.
I heard someone moving fast approaching from behind and as I shifted to the side to widen the space beside me for fast moving person I heard a gentleman heading the other way ask, "Are you alright?"
A lady responded, "Yeah, I'm just naked." And shortly after fast moving person went by me and turned out to be a naked chick. She was in front of me the rest of my journey - alternately running and slowing (perhaps to catch her breath). I saw nothing but naked and I have to imagine this was not a venue for streaking or protest. It was cold enough in the shade that I had my coat zipped so it certainly wasn't - shall we say - the chosen attire for the weather.
There were quite a few people on the sidewalk - talking on cells, landscaping, waiting for the bus and there were definitely confused and lingering looks. Naked person kept going past my destination so I hope all worked out well.
As a person chatting out on their cell said, "I have never seen such a thing."
And, on a side note, I would like to point out that I got cat calls for wearing boots - and yet naked chick - not even a honk.
ETA: After pondering this on and off for much of the night, I have decided that naked chick must have lost a bet. It is the only explanation I can come up with in which a person, not a victim of a crime, would be wandering a busy but un-newsworthy street naked in the middle of the day. And since I will probably never know otherwise, it makes me happy to think this.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pay Me!

I am a tad cynical perhaps. But the kerfuffle a while back about paid blog comments both does and does not surprise me. (People are talking about it, among other places, here at Super Librarian, here at Dear Author, and here at Alison Kent's Blah Blog.) On the one hand, I am not surprised because publishing is a hard and whimsical business, like most arty fields. (Actually I think there's a lot of whimsy in corporate America too they are just better at dressing up the whimsy as other stuff.) And authors feel pressure to get the word out, to get the buzz, to get people talking. So getting people to spread the word to the online community - sure.
No, the part that surprises me is that they are paying. I am being a bit facetious, but I have participated in deals where I got a free book in exchange for talking about it online. Now of course they couldn't guarantee I would love it, and there was some self selection in my being in the places online where they talk about the kind of stuff I like. So, I guess it's easier to just pay people to talk about stuff than to offer a contest or give away too many free books when you need people to go buy your books so your numbers will look good.
And I imagine this is the end of the innocence for some people who had been taking at face value comment recommendations or Amazon or other online reviews. For me, I think it's like so many things, if it sounds like something you are interested in, then the reviews might tip you over the edge. If it doesn't speak to you, who cares what those fifty people say?

Friday, March 07, 2008

People Buy Fiction, too

Here's the part I don't understand. Okay - there is a lot I don't understand about the latest memoirs that turned out to be fake. But a lot of the why doesn't anybody fact check anymore stuff is being covered elsewhere. (Here, and here, for example.)
But, I may be missing something, but it seems to me that (despite what Steve Jobs may think) people buy books. Fiction books even. And since the story of the girl in foster care in LA or the girl in the woods during the Holocaust seem like they would be compelling stories - then, why?
I mean I get it that it is likely more fun to say, "All these crazy things happened to me," than to say, "All these crazy things happened in my head." But as far as long term writing, wouldn't you be better off claiming the fiction title?
I mean, sure, maybe you won't get on "Oprah" since they seem to focus on memoirs and stories written by, um, men. But I don't see a lot of rich memoirists, so I can't quite see what the perceived advantage is in not releasing these stories as fiction. If it's a good story, it's a good story.
So, despite my promises, I do end up circling back to the fact checking. Because some basic fact checking would have allowed these publishers (and editors and agents) to know up front it was fiction. And since, there seems to be a market for good fiction books, why not make use of that?
ETA: Apparently the advance is quite different because there is a belief on the publishing side that memoirs sell better. Which may be my answer right there. I don't mean to sound as if I know better than all the publishers out there (I don't), but there are fiction books that sell, and for long periods of time, with very little help from publicity sometimes. People are still reading Jane Austen. And the advance is a bit like the tax rebate - it's a loan unless you earn it out. I have to imagine if your book is discovered to be fake that affects your ability to earn it out, which means it doesn't matter that back then they thought you might make this much.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Reading the Tone

In college my linguistics professor talked about a study where participants were asked to write down what they heard in a recording. The recording was the work "seashell" played over and over. But the participants heard all sorts of words. (I recognize that there is a study bias in that the participants probably assumed they would not have been asked to write the same word down over and over, but still).
I was talking to an adult male who is reading the Stephanie Meyer books. He is an avid reader but has apparently not read a lot of books about females. I say this because on reading Twilight he apparently called a female relative to find out if this is how girls really think. (I have not yet finished it so we were unable to discuss specifics, but suffice it to say the answer is yes, this is how females think. Pretty much.)
So, now imagine a group of women in a car with a GPS system. I am sure the makers of this GPS system spent a long time coming up with a soothing voice and tone. But let me tell you, if we missed a turn and heard her (it was a female voice, I was hoping for something more of the Matthew McConaughey) say, "Recalculating" - well we heard many things. We heard patience with our failure to follow simple directions. We heard passive aggression. We heard annoyance. We heard frustration. We tried to talk back. (We did realize this was futile. We're female not stupid.) So yes, one voice, many interpretations.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Addictive, I Tell You

I am starting to understand why sock knitters find a great pattern and keep doing it. I seem to be developing a similar affliction with with hats. As breaks in between a fiddly lace shawl, or a sweater, there is fun in hats. And, with thick enough yarn I can finish one in and evening or two. Or a weekend retreat. Or waiting in an airport.
So, I present to you, the Amanda Hat in Blue.
This one was knit on eights with two Fibre Company yarns (yet another addiction) - Terra (Dark Woad - what is a woad anyway?*) and Organik (Dark Blue). The organik is not quite as snuggly as the Terra so I started with the Terra in the brim and then alternated throughout.
Blue Amanda Hat
And then, I was reading over at Gina's blog that someone made one with Patons SWS and I had an aha moment.
It turned out so cool. I am really having fun seeing how differently the yarns and the pattern combine.
SWS Amanda Hat

*Oh. That's a woad.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Who Reads Money Anyway?

I was thrilled when I read that all three proposed designs for the DC quarter (now that we finally get one) included the phrase, "Taxation Without Representation". Yes, I was aware that the mint frowned on political slogans, but as the lovely folks over at DC Vote pointed out, taxation without representation is a statement of fact for DC residents. Certainly there are people working to change that, but that is the reality that DC residents live under.
Well, the mint rejected all three proposals, on the basis of potential for controversy. I will refrain from harping on my feelings about how people in fact ought to find such disenfranchisement controversial and should perhaps, change that. And I also won't spend to long on that fact that most people would have assumed it referred to the American Revolution and not to any contemporary issues.
Well, the new proposals (two of which are essentially similar although with less controversial text) now suggest the DC motto of Justicia Omnibus (justice for all, which yes, similar idea but apparently fifty percent less controversial.)
The comments over on DCist are pretty funny, along with other suggestions for text and images that could be submitted. I never expected that a quarter would change my life, or anyone else's, which is why I find the whole ease of capitulation saddening. Perhaps it really isn't worth fighting the mint. And I recognize there is a tight deadline with all the waffling about letting us even have a quarter. Thank god Puerto Rico really wanted one, or we wouldn't even be able to have this discussion.
At least we have our health.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Dear Folks #15

Dear Folks,
If your smoke alarm goes off, I understand the desire to create an airflow to allow the smoke to dissipate. May I suggest that the better solution would be to open your windows, rather than your door. One of the joys of living in apartments is sharing some smells, but really, for things you don't even want to breathe, if you could do your best to send it outside - where there is more air for it to dissipate into - rather than into the hallway we all use, it would be much appreciated.
Trying to Breathe Here