Saturday, March 8, 2014


I finally proved something I suspected this week. I have been puzzled why on some days when the temperature outside is cold (or very cold) the first floor of the office is comfortable and on other days when the outside temperature is more seasonable, there is a definite chill on the first floor. I’d noticed that the days when it feels chilly are days when it is raining or rain is expected. A print out of data from the National Weather Service for the most recent three days, supported that the higher the dew point the more we feel a chill in the office. I suspect that the cause is in the way the building was constructed.

Stash busting continues alongside finishing wips. I am finishing a pair of fingerless convertible mittens in Artful Yarns Old Western; I’ve completed the matching beret. I just need to knit the thumbs on the BonBons2 fingerless mitts. Lastly, I have a pair of Brewster socks in Knit Picks Essential sock yarn in the Eggplant Kettle Hand Dyed colorway. Then it is on to the grey socks. I am behind on my goal of knitting 1k yards per month.
Toupie went down for his afternoon nap about an hour ago.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Random Thoughts and Poor Customer Service

Late last week the weather turned miraculously and unseasonably warm. As the snow finally began to melt from pavements and curbs--where it was heaped in frozen hillocks making crossing the road a challenge—I discovered the joy of wearing shoes again. Since mid-January boots were the order of the day either to negotiate the frozen precipitation or for warmth.

Shopping for light bulbs isn’t simple any more. There’s halogen, LED, spotlights, CFL bulbs that last for 9 years providing x wattage but using x amount of electricity…good grief. TMI, I just needed x wattage in a plain old light bulb that doesn’t cost the bleeding earth. So off to Amazon I went.

On my to-do list since last year has been the task to set up a corporate account with Southwest Airlines. Southwest doesn’t list its flight inventory in the usual airline databases. Booking a flight means entering traveler information for each flight and fiddling either with paper or .pdf files if flights need to be cancelled or changed. Naturally, I had a few questions about how their corporate program operated.

A little history is in order. Southwest was the first budget/low-cost airline I’d flown. It was in 1986 or 87. I was used to full-service airlines, which in those days included meals, drinks and treats served by cabin staff. It was an early morning flight to Albuquerque. Breakfast consisted of a blueberry muffin and coffee, tea, and juice. I asked the cabin attendant for another blueberry muffin and was sharply informed that it was one muffin to a customer. I looked at the cart full of muffins and then at the cabin attendant and replied, “Well I won’t be flying this airline again.” And I didn’t until 2012.

After two days, one email, two dozen phone calls, and two voice mails, I finally got a returned call yesterday evening. Before the call, I had decided, that if I didn’t have a voice mail or return call this morning, I was going to complain on Twitter. The corporate accounts person was very nice, very apologetic—more than a little relieved that his call avoided my going to Twitter—and I finally got the information I need to proceed.

I subscribed to Vogue Knitting magazine in December or January and am supposed to receive a login to download an electronic copy of the mag to my tablet. Well it’s February and the spring issue is out and I don’t have a login and haven’t received a response to my email of Thursday last requesting one. So, now that Southwest is taken care of I’ll be chasing up Vogue and maybe this week they’ll be able to respond in the 48 hour time guarantee as stated on their website.

On the 14th of February I ordered a mobile WiFi device. I was promised an email when the product shipped. Called last week. They were expecting a shipment of the devices by the end of the week and I should have an email with shipping details by Monday or Tuesday. Called yesterday, and the shipment is due next week and I’m on the priority list. Well a simple query to the database for all orders not filled, merged with an email apologizing for the inconvenience and a statement of when shipment is expected and I suspect I, along with countless others, would be happy campers.

I started the BonBons Mitts last Friday using Harrisville New England Shetland. I just need to knit the thumbs. 

Toupie sat out his food coma this morning on the dresser. He’s just never happy when he sees the camera:


But the prospect of a catnip marinated toy:


Friday, February 21, 2014

Last week a good friend died. She was a rare jewel in so many ways. Her smile was a beam of equanimity, warmth, and joy. She always spoke of her family and her husband with love and respect; not that there weren’t times of annoyance or disagreement but the love and respect always shone through. She was a very pious Christian but so human and humble with and about her faith. She would laugh with you about you but laughed best at herself. She wasn’t rich or powerful in position, but her absence over the months of her illness and now her death has left an empty space in the lives of her family and the hundreds all over the world who knew her that only memories can fill. And despite my sadness that she is no longer here, I am comforted by so many memories and touched by how often we laughed, even at the serious. What more can be said of a life well lived, than her husband’s words: If you want to remember Ernie, be like her.

Knitting from stash continues. I have a pair of legwarmers on the needles, though I fear it will be too warm to wear them when finished. The Gold Socks are done. I realized on the second sock that I neglected to put in the ribbing on the foot. I didn’t want to frog and reknit. I am seeing the need for a yarn scale to give me some idea of how much yarn I have remaining at the end of a project. I suspect I have about half the skein of this yarn.


Toupie wasn’t interested in this morning’s sock photo session.

He curled up on the crocheted rug awaiting a more exciting activity: like following me to the kitchen to watch as I made my second cup of coffee.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Snow, Knitting, and Toupie

Between the southerly dips of Arctic air and the march of Nor’easters, this winter is leaving us buffeted between waves of frigid temperatures and snow and freezing rain. Phil’s prediction was surplus to requirements: We didn’t need a extricated rodent to tell us that we were in for another six weeks of winter. 

Acclimatization comes surprisingly quickly. People were walking around in light jackets and sweaters the day after last week’s big snow. Temperatures were in the mid-thirties. Indeed, at the bus stop on Friday morning, I thought I could have worn my fingerless gloves and been quite comfortable.

It is perfect weather for knitted goods. My Nomads Hat keeps my head quite toasty. Scrolling through saved patterns, I found the Simpliworsted Gansey Mittens & Neck Warmer by Geoff Hunnicutt for Skacel. I used Cascade Eco+ in Lavendar Heather colorway on size 8 dpns to create a very tight fabric. This was a quick knit. Next time I knit this pattern, I will make the cuffs longer.




I managed to capture post breakfast photos of Toupie this morning. He demolished a can of food formulated for indoor cats overnight, so I expected he wouldn’t have been as hungry this morning. Wrong! He settled down to the bowl and finished half of the this morning’s can. After mounting the bookcase for a session of face washing, the food coma set in:
That is until he discovered he was being photographed:

I listened to Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thurbon. If I had unlimited resources and unlimited time, this is the journey I would take. It is rather dispiriting to think that war and political unrest makes such trip almost impossible these days, but on the other hand, hasn’t it always been so. What makes the Silk Road so intriguing is its endurance despite the constant transformations from migrations, ecological changes, war, the rise and fall of polities. Travelogues are not something I find enjoyable, but as always, it is the writing that draws one in. Here the Shadow of the Silk Road succeeds. 

I also finished listening to The Jewel in the Crown, the first book of the Raj Quartet by Paul Scott. I had read the quartet in the 80’s and 90’s. It struck me on listening how such disparate characters are clearly drawn and through the narration of these characters; the plot is moved forward despite the fractured narration. What particularly impressed me was how well he captured how much of the Indian’s time, thought, and effort was spent in dissecting, analyzing and developing strategies to deal with the British. Not just in the political arena, but in negotiating the minutiae of everyday life. I understood the criticism of a younger Indian relayed by one of the narrators that too much time and effort was spent by Congresswallahs under the Raj on politics when that time and effort should have been spent on learning how things worked or on building the practical competencies to run the economic and social engines of the nation that emerged after independence. In short, those in the independence movement let the British determine how power would be negotiated when real power is self-sufficiency and that means having the local/indigenous competency to manage the social and economic infrastructure.  

This resonated with me because I see as a lesson to be learned for all peoples who lack access to institutional or political power. That the primary focus is on gaining access to political power is on that power—elections, policies, etc., not on developing competency that puts people in the position to be the locomotives of implementation. Once the political access is gained, the engines underlying infrastructure--that is the real bulwark of power—never changes or changes much more slowly because the focus on competency comes after the focus on political power.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Clown, The Devil and the House Detective and Don’t Forget the Nun with Red Nail Polish

This is a random post about random things with some knitting thrown in.

I’ve decided that 2014 is the year of my stash. Reacquainting myself with what I have—not just by looking at what I’ve logged on Ravelry—and knitting or crocheting it. As well as finishing or frogging any wips. My goals for the year is to knit or crochet 10K yards; that works out to a minimum of 833 yards worked a month.

I am one of the 70+ million affected by the Target credit breach. It’s been an interesting experience not pulling out the card for every purchase. One is constrained to spend only what is in pocket at the moment and I have found that I purchase more of what I need than what I want. In that sense, it has been a sobering look at how I spend. The frustration is that the card-issuing industry and merchants, especially the big-box stores, haven’t been more proactive in instituting the more secure chip cards and in making their own systems more secure. This being the second year—last year it was the Knit Picks breach—that I’ve been at risk from a data breach, I will definitely be more of a cash-only shopper going forward. Here is an interesting article on the situation.

In reading yarn reviews on Ravelry, one often encounters complaints about knots in skeins—the more expensive the yarn the more strident the complaints. I suppose I’ve been lucky, but I haven’t encountered the problem until lately. There were about 5 knots (places where the yarn is joined by knotting) in the 1.5 skeins of the Harrisville yarn used for my latest cowl. It was surprised by not annoyed. The Harrisville Shetland Tweed is a lovely rustic yarn. A little hard on the hands when knitting but I was able to offset that with generous applications of Lavishea and Aloe Vesta. Yes, there was veggie matter; but what do expect in a rustic yarn. What I must enjoy about yarns like the Harrisville Shetland Tweed is that once soaked, blocked and dried, the stitches relax, the yarn blooms nicely and softens and the result is a wonderful fabric. This yarn was perfect for the Cowls pattern, which is one of my favorites.

Speaking of finishing wips, I finally finished the Nomad Hat and Scarf started in 2011. Why so long? Well the yarn got scattered (disorganized stashing) and as I was finishing it, I realized I hated the yarn. I also realized that I prefer scarves to cowls, so I didn’t knit the scarf to the full length called for in the pattern. The hat is wonderfully warm and matches my purple coat. I’m thinking of knitting this again, probably in Cascade Eco.

Currently on the needles is Harvest Moon by Florencemary. I’m using the Sirritogv 2ply, which I think is the wrong yarn because it doesn’t show the pattern very well. But it will be wonderfully warm when finished.

Toupie has become quite spoiled as the office was closed between Christmas and New Year’s and then I was home last week for the Kagyu Monlam. It has been bitterly cold most of the last two weeks and remains so. He spends most of his time nestled on the ottoman or lounging on the top of the bookcase…when he isn’t pestering me for treats or for a frantic game of rolling one of his toys across the floor.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013 Best and Worst

It was the best of times
  • Finding physio therapist that is really effective with a fun staff
  • Taking two classes with the amazing and talented Shirley Paden
  • Spending a wonderful day with Nicky
  • Providing the reception for those taking Refuge and Bodhisattva vows
  • Denise’s birthday party
  • Visiting San Antonio and my best mate
  • Putting a care package together for a found kitty
  • Toupie: mad, bad, and totally cute
As always, friendship: that in the midst of all that life throws at us; it is the people in your life that make it bearable

It was the worst of times
  • My right shoulder
  • The cat bite that ended in a day at the hospital

Best Knitting Books of 2013
  • Knit to Flatter by Amy Herzog
  • Shetland Lace Knitting by Liz Lovick

Best Audiobook Listens of 2013
  • Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition
  • The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the American Dust Bowl


The Goldilocks Dilemma or Size Matters

I have now changed the size 1 needles used to knit the Diagonal Rib Socks by Ann Budd. When knitting plain vanilla socks for myself, casting on 56 to 60 stitches usually works for me. 56 stitches in sock or fingering weight wool fit comfortably on the 4” Knit Picks wood dpns. Knitting with sport or dk weight wool where I am generally using 48 to 52 stitches works well on the ChiaoGoo or Knitter’s Pride Karbonz 6” dpns. I found myself struggling in the past 24 hours to find a length that works. Finally, last night I switched to the 5” no-name bamboo needles and the 65 stitches fit comfortably, enabling me finally to pick up some speed in working the pattern.

I ran into the same problem when knitting Little Things by Veera Välimäki. Started on size 2 KP nickel, ripped and switched to size four ChiaoGoo Bamboo; ripped and switched to size 5 ChiaoGoo Bamboo and finally got a looser but still firm fabric and my knitting speed returned to normal.

I am so far happy with both projects. For the Diagonal Rib Socks, I am using Light Brown Hare’s Jackalope in the Kitten 2 colorway. I chose the pattern, first because my 2014 goal is knitting socks with stitch patterns and colorwork; and second because I suspected, and it has proved true, that the stitch pattern would prevent noticeable pooling. The yarn is soft and not splitty without that cotton candy squishiness that sometimes happens with superwash Merino and the stitch definition is good. Light Brown Hare also sells nice stitch markers.

For Little Things, I am using Black Welsh Mountain yarn that I bought from Countrybyrd on Ravelry. A nice rustic yarn that is a little hard on the fingernails, but which blooms and softens nicely after soaking.