Friday, October 30, 2009

Knitting Saves Lives (Other People's)

I once, somewhat jokingly, presented a formula that went something like this:
Yarn (and knitting) makes me happy. And (to borrow from "Legally Blonde") happy people don't kill people. So really the ruse and stupid people I encounter are being saved because I sniffed a little wool (or cashmere, or cotton, or silk, or bamboo...).
And the Yarn Harlot recently(ish) asked a very good question:
How do non-knitters handle stress? I mean, I know they must do something, since it's not like I see them all weeping on the bus all the time, but when everything in their lives is all messed up, what is the thread of sanity and sameness that runs through it and keeps them from being a lunatic? Does knitting attract people who need something to moderate stress more than others? Do you think that you use knitting to moderate your behaviour, and in this spirit of this shirt (I knit so I don't kill people) do you think your behaviour would be different if you didn't?
Now I have made it to this point in my life without killing people (as far as I know) and I was not knitting the whole time, but I absolutely turn to knitting when I am stressed. I keep a project by my work computer both to while away the time while a large document is opening or to keep me from surfing the web during conference calls but also for those moments when people are ticking me off. So, it's also helping keep me employed.
I don't know if knitter are stressed or stressed people are knitters any more than I know if impatient people are knitters or knitters are impatient, but it does make me wonder about the non-knitters. Perhaps they should teach people to knit in prison.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

7 Things: The Amy Johnson Issue

A small moment in Judith Krantz's Til We Meet Again mentioned Amy Johnson. Intrigued I looked her up, and a few years later a new biography on her came out which I immediately purchased. I didn't finish it until a few years later where I brought it on a long trip, but I find it strange that Amelia Earhart seems to get all the press when their two stories are so eerily similar. And yet I find (personally) Amy Johnson more interesting. So, I present 7 Things: The Amy Johnson issue.
1. Amy married a fellow pilot Jim Mollison. She had set flying records prior to their meeting, and together they set several more.
2. Amy also broke one of her husband's records.
3. Planes at that time had relatively small fuel tanks and there were limited places to refuel, so pilots carried extra fuel cans on board with them. Amy and her husband ended up crash landing in Bridgeport, CT after running out of fuel during a flight from Wales to the US and, after recuperating, were thrown a ticker tape parade.
4. A song was written about Amy's flight to Australia. Another song was written about her years later in the 1970's.
5. Amy and her husband divorced and she reverted to her maiden name.
6. In 1940 the ATA was formed to assist the transport of newly built aircraft to the airbases, using pilots that could not fly combat, such as women. (The Women's Army Air Corps performed similar duties in the US.) Amy joined, and on a mission, went off course and bailed out of her plane. She was never found.
7. In the late 1990's a man came forward claiming that Amy's plane was shot down after failing to provide the correct code of the day and that they were told not to reveal this.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


We had our final Discovery class last week. (Lani will be offering the classes again in January,keep an eye out if you're interested.)
I have listened to several author's talk about opening scenes. How the first time you write it, it's just practice. Especially if you (like me) are a pantser (compared to a plotter). There are all sorts of things one wants to accomplish in an opening scene and you can't properly figure all that out until you know what your whole book is. (I hear tell that even the plotters are often surprised at the twists that happen. Which is why (although this might change (hey, have you noticed I'm getting really parenthetical here?)) I think plotting is like swatching, it makes you feel better but often as not it doesn't really reflect the finished product.)
Now of course, you might say, well, just skip it. And you could. But it usually helps to have some sort of placeholder in there even if the gazillionth time you tweak it it ends up looking nothing like how it started.
Lani, who is also a knitter, explained that your first crack at the opening scene is like a provisional cast on. You need something to anchor all the stuff after, but you're going to come back and do something cool with it later. This is just the waste yarn.
I loved this. It's made that extra click in my brain.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dear Folks #24

Dear DC area folks,
I have just ordered a pair of boots. I expect this will result in a return to balmy weather as soon as they arrive. You're welcome.
Can you have too many boots?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Really Big Hat

The September club yarn from Three Irish girls was Springvale Bulky (soon to be available in non-club colorways). Since I love bulky yarn and found Springvale super soft and yummy, I couldn't see how this couldn't work out great. I decided to make the Ysolda Teague's Icing Swirl Hat. The yarn is a little bigger than the pattern calls for, but since it's supposed to be a slouchy hat anyway I just went with it. (I did throw in an extra decrease or two at the end, but that's really about it.
It's quite huge if you try to pick it up.
Hat 1
But, it looks fine if you just let it slouch.
Hat 2

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Cowl Thingy

I worked much of this cowl while at the all congregation retreat on the shore. Folks would ask what I was knitting and I would answer, "A cowl" which mostly resulted in puzzled looks. This led to myself (and others, mostly knitters) to try and explain what a cowl was. We came up with:
A turtleneck with no body
A scarf that's attached to itself
A hood with no top.
None of us came up with neckwarmer.
Oh well. Here it is. This amazing yarn that I got in the yarn ball swap is soft and lanolin-y. I wanted cables to show of the nubby texture and subtle color.
Cabled Cowl 6

Cabled Cowl 3

Monday, October 05, 2009

7 Things: Banned Books Oops!

Yeah, so I totally missed banned books week. But really, the idea's a good one regardless of when you celebrate (um, yeah, that's my story here, I'm trying to lengthen the celebration), so here we go.
1. The number of books challenged or banned in US libraries each year is 500, which I think is plenty since most of these books are pretty innocuous (yes, in my opinion, but we'll get to that) and since many librarians are asked not to reports any challenges received, so as with many things, this is simply the reported number.
2.And Tango Makes Three remains the most challenged. It is a true story about penguins, but since the adult penguins are both male, some people seem to think it is pro-homosexual. In my opinion, it is pro-family since the penguins are raising a child together, and it is not clear if the penguins ever had sexual feelings toward one another. I also feel fairly certain that the book, which I have not read, offers no detail about the penguins' sex lives. But anyhoo.
3. The thing about these challenges and bans is that I understand any parent's choice to have their child not read a book. But these bans or challenges are saying that no child that walks into that library or school should have access to this book and that bothers me.
4. Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy as a group ranks number two this year. Mr. Pullman is suitably pleased. I have only read the first and while I understand that the church hierarchy that is depicted is, well, not very nice, I think that it could lead to some fascinating discussions. (I actually think that about all these books.) I also think that it is interesting that, as far as I am aware, no one ever tries to ban books about evil governments arguing that people might not understand that it is fiction.
5. Lest you think that all of these challenges occur at the elementary level, in one school a challenge was brought concerning eleventh graders who were assigned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The reason given was the racist language used in the book. I read Huck Finn as a fourth grader on my own, and again as a tenth grader and had no problem understanding the context of the language. We discussed it further as a class, including the idea that the story contains an arc as Huck gets to know Jim as a person. (The school did reinstate the book for the eleventh graders.)
6. Religion and sex remain the most common reasons that challenges are brought. I can't decide if that reflects our culture in some way, or if book challenges are one of the things where parents still feel they have some power. In the end I read books about sex and didn't go out and have some just because I had read about it. Again, I am biased as a trained sex educator, but I think parents often don't with to talk to their kids about sex and also hope they never hear about it anywhere else, which simply isn't realistic.
7. Pat Conroy's Beach Music and Prince of Tides were both challenged as books used in an eleventh grade class due to graphic content. I have read both and, first, I am so jealous, I would have enjoyed reading those so much more than Wuthering Heights. Second, yes, sexual and even disturbing things happen in these books. They are messy, they are about flawed people and really, I think they are less disturbing than say, well, Wuthering Heights.
Plus, Romeo and Juliet is about two teenagers who have a secret relationship they keep from their parents. Of course, they die in the end.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Thoughts on Series

In reading Evil at Heart I started to wonder what are the things that make a series with a multi-arc book work, and where is the point where the reader gives in.
I may be spoiled by romantic suspense where if the killer isn't caught at least something clear is resolved, and I felt Evil at Heart answered some questions, but I did ponder how many books I would be willing to wait to see something of this nature resolved. (I have, in contrast, been burned by series where one thematic element appeared to be dragged ever further, and there were whole books where nothing much happened. That is clearly not the case here. But I pondered.)
In contrast, I have enjoyed Rachel Vincent's were-cat series (note, in contrast because I have not sat to ponder how long I would wait for stuff to get wrapped up, the enjoyment part is not the contrast for me). Some readers have suggested that some of the books end on cliffhanger's as the bits are thrown out for the next book. So far (Vincent has suggested that there is one that ends on a cliffhanger coming) these have not bothered me. It helps that I follow Vincent's blog and knew it was part of a series, and know about how many books are left.
It can be comparable to television also, where the over arching mystery can drag on, but individual episodes may focus on smaller issues in order to provide some temporary distraction. Now, I am not picking on Chelsea Cain. I have certainly read books that did things that to me were egregious such as ending on a question. (I have seen that twice and in both cases I refused to read anything else by that person.)
Cain has said that to her, the book's focus is the relationship that develops between Archie (the leader, at least initially, of the task force, who later becomes a victim himself, although an alive one) and Gretchen (the killer). In that sense it is a bit different from a traditional serial killer novel in that, now at least, the killer is known not just to the audience but to the characters. This allows Cain to focus on things like the relationship between the cop and criminal, look at media portrayal and many other things, not the least of which is the idea that Gretchen has been dubbed the beauty killer becaase she is pretty.
So, in that sense the book provides exactly what it sets out to provide.