Monday, February 25

Oooh, Shiny!

I gots new toys. Well one is new but it works with the other toy so nicely it's practically like having two. And they're interactive, and I get to channel my inner child and say "whee!" while I crank it. Wanna see?

This is my yarn ball winder, which is not my newest toy, but still pretty neat. It allows me to wind up loose yarn into center pull skeins ... no more tangles! Now when I have a half-used skein, I can wind it up, nice and neat, and save for future use.

And here is a picture of my brand new yarn swift. Isn't it cool? Oh, come on, you know it is. And what, you might ask, does a yarn swift do? Well, I can take a long hank of yarn - which is yarn that is not wound into a ball or skein - and fit it around the extensions,
attach a loose end to the yarn baller, and then start cranking on the baller. With each wobbly revolution it pulls yarn from the swift, which in turn spins as the yarn hank unwinds. That's where the "whee!" factor comes into it: I can make this baby hum!

And thus another nice, neat skein of yarn is wound, ready for use or for storage in a compact, tangle free little package.

Admit it; it's really cool, isn't it? Feel free to come by any time and I'll let you play with it too. But you'll have to bring your own yarn because I used up all my loose stuff playing last night.

Wednesday, February 13

The Revolution That Isn't

There was an article today in the Washington Post about an invention called the Book Ripper. Apparently if you have lots of money and nothing else to do with your time, you can buy this device and use it to copy your home library into a digital format. Pointing to the Napster hullaballoo of a few years ago, the author of the article questioned whether the publishing industry was worried about wide-spread pirating. The answer from the publishing industry is: not so much.

And really, why should they? There is a market for digital book readers, but that market is fairly small. Although publishing has been offering books in digital format for years, readers have been fairly slow to jump on the bandwagon. The reasons are many. In the past reading a book digitally has meant dealing with eletronic scrolling, awkward font sizes, screen glare and so on. But the electronics industry keeps trying. recently joined in with its much ballyhooed Kindle which it markets as (and I kid you not) a "New Wireless Reading Device." Um, not exactly a new idea. I think they call those things BOOKS.

And therein lies the reason that the publishing industry is not worried about pirating. Books might not have whiz-bang gimicry to entice techno-geeks, but that's about all they lack. Think about it. The Kindle measures 7.5" x 5.3", or roughly the size of a paperback novel. So it's not going to win over readers based on size. It's supposed to weigh only 10.3 ounces. I don't have a scale handy for my latest read, but I feel fairly confident that the weight of the average paperback is comparable. Unlike an electronic reader of any kind, a book doesn't require batteries or a power adapter. You don't need to tinker with a scroll setting because you turn the pages when you're ready. And most books are remarkably sturdy, even the paperback versions. I have quite a collection of my own and they've held up through several rereads over more than 20 years ... heck some are probably twice that old. How long, you have to wonder, will that nifty $400 electronic thingie last you?

When you really think about it, the only upside of digital readers is that they can hold the contents of several books. Perhaps helpful for academics and researchers; but personally I'm usually only reading one book at any given moment. I may be in the middle of several books, but I usually keep them where I am mostly likely to reading them: the paperback in my totebag for reading on the subway, a hardback next to the livingroom chair, and something of a nonfiction nature at my bedside. The nice thing is, they stay right where I need them. That's another downside to e-readers that I can see: you would have to cart the thing around with you from room to room; you can't leave it at the bedside when you leave for work in the morning or you won't have anything to read on the subway.

And just try to use that button covered plastic thingie to even up table legs, or press flowers. I bet you can't tuck a photo or recipe inside for safekeeping, either.

Monday, February 11

And the answer is ...

You aren't cheating, are you? I hope you at least tried to answer the questions before heading over here.

  1. Scope, CMS, and Jen-T (although I don't know if Jen says "aboot." CMS does, although she denies it.)

  2. Pittsburgh (And she left it in favor of Men In Kilts, can you imagine?)

  3. Carpeting (which has never been satisfactorily explained)

  4. Mary (it sounds just like her, doesn't it?)

  5. Canada (they were supposed to have dinner with Scope and CMS)

  6. Elizabeth Bishop (I've got nothing on this one)

  7. A hole in the wall (Actually, the advice wasn't so much re the hole as what she should hide behind it. And I don't think she's ever said.)

  8. University of California, Santa Cruz (and the mascot is a banana slug ... you have to wonder about the message that sends)

  9. CMS (there should be some kind of medal for that, don't you think?)

  10. Twinkle Toes (now that I think about, I believe the nickname was thrust upon her rather than chosen.

  11. Lee Child (That was CC's doing. By all accounts he was a good sport about it. Could be he's fan experiences even more bizarre than that.)

  12. The Moles (Tal, Tal, come back Tal!)

  13. the dip (Probably she didn't mean BCB. Probably.)

  14. Regis (nobody ever explained that one to me, either)

  15. Speen (it even sounds evil, doesn't it?)

So how did you do?

Wednesday, February 6

It's That Time Again

Yesterday was Super Tuesday *shudder*. From now until November rational conversation with rational people will be impossible. I work in the Nation's Capital and the entire region is caught up in a political fever and this town is insanely political at the best of times. At least this election, for the first time in my own voting memory, is a true contest. It will still be nuts around here, but at least interesting.

One of things that makes me craziest about politics is the whole notion of party politics. One guy is supposed to be better than the other because of the color campaign button he wears? Oh puleeze. The whole idea of voting a straight party ticket, or of backing a candidate solely because of the party he represents makes no sense at all. In the first place, no one political party can hold all the answers to every issue. There are things that need dealt with conservatively, and things which would benefit from a more open minded (dare I say liberal?) approach. Sometimes we need to lean a little more to the left, and sometimes a little more to the right. In truth, most things need dealt with from somewhere in the middle.

In the second place, how can you judge a leader by nothing more than his party affiliation? Isn't the individual more important? What does it matter what his party stands for if he's incapable of standing up for anything, abuses the power of the office, can't think for himself? Doesn't the ability to govern conscientiously matter more than whether someone's tie is blue, red, or polka dot?

And last on my list, but certainly not least, are the voters suffering from tunnel vision regarding one issue or another. It's great to believe in something and to be involved, but to focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others is just ignorant. The candidate with a history favorable to your pet cause can still be a lousy leader; and the candidate opposing your particular issue might still govern more wisely than the other guy. People need to get their heads out of their posterior regions and look at the whole picture. Saving a tree is good. Saving it only to have the entire forest around it burn down is pretty damn pointless.

Tuesday, February 5


I'm still crocheting. What with the holidays and just trying to keep on top of day to day stuff I was having trouble finding blocks of time, but the need and desire were there. I did work on some pillows, just simple 14inch throw pillows. Picked up the pillow forms a while back, and bought tons of yarn. But even though this was a fairly small project it was a while before I could block out time for working on it. I made some mistakes with the first one because I tried to be creative instead of just following the pattern. Bad McB. The second turned out much better. I'll try to remember to post pics later.

Another project that I started, but had to take a break from, is a scarf to go with Mare's hat which Jenny Crusie made and which I won in a contest she, Eileen Dreyer and Anne Stuart were running to promote their collaborative novel The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes. Here's the hat ... Isn't it gorgeous? So of course I decided that I needed a scarf to go with it. I emailed Jenny Crusie, asking what yarns she had used and she very graciously replied with brands and weights and colors which I was able to order. Got the yarns and started on the scarf and it was coming along quite nicely until I goofed. I thought I could just unravel my goof but it got tricky because of the kind of yarn. It's beautiful stuff, incredibly soft and perfect for a warm winter scarf; but it's a two-ply yarn, partly ribbon-like and partly similar to fun fur. Anyway it became very tangled up and I decided I neeeded to put it aside before I ruined the whole thing with my frustrated attempts. I'll come back to it when I'm in a better frame of mind for it.

Along the way I've been reading this great book I picked up at a local yarn store. The book, Couture Crochet Workshop by Lily Chen, has some wonderful tips and tricks for making homemade fit and look like made-to-order designer fashions. It also includes some wonderful patterns and charts that are very inspiring. I'm not sure I'm quite ready to tackle them but I want to, very much. So I've got some incentive to keep practicing, keep improving.

And in the meantime I've switched over to working on this cropped jacket in hopes of having it ready for spring. Don't tell the Moda Dea people, but I'm using their pattern with somebody else's yarn. Specifically a fabulous pima cotton/merino wool blend called Cascade Sierra in a gorgeous fusia. I did a swatch (something I learned in the above mentioned book) to check the yarn's fingering (how smoothly it works up) and drape. The book advised putting the swatch to the test so I balled it up and stuck it in my jeans pocket for an afternoon, steamed it, let it dry, soaked it and let it dry again. The idea being to find out how well the yarn will hold up in an actual garment. If it stretches too easy, pills up (you know how some sweaters will do?) or develops other problems, better to know before you've spent all those hours on a project. It seems to have passed the test so I dived right in.

This pattern is rated at intermediate skill level. Intermediate means that they give you some of the instructions, but not all of them; they leave out bits here and there for you to figure out on your own. It's a lot like working a sudoku puzzle in that respect. And like a sudoku puzzle, you don't know if you are doing it right until you get a ways in and it all starts going wrong. Huh. But I think I've got that part figured out now.