Tuesday, February 28, 2006

if you are not busy a week from Saturday

there is a very small fiber event at Canterbury Shaker Village. I will be there, as will Sarah, of course, and who knows who else? I don't think there will be vendors. At the rate things are going, they're going to have to glue the fleece right back onto those sheep; today it was about 3 degrees F (that's TOO COLD in Celsius) when I woke up.

Sometime in April -- we'll say the 22nd -- Doug and I and the cats would like to have a Fiber Day, with food and perhaps a dye pot or so outside. Because we think it might be warm then. Easter is the 16th. There could be Easter-Egg-Dye Dyebaths. We can chat about the upcoming NH Sheep and Wool. Please think about whether you might come, and I will send anyone directions. Concord is about one and a half hours north of Boston. Henniker is sort of outside Concord, but not on the way to or from anywhere but Keene. The hot tub may be fixed by then, but that would be for people only, not for fiber.

In other news: Boring Anglo Girl makes Tamales! Angla? Anyway, they were easier than I thought and delicious.

I started with the recipe on mexgrocer.com and cut it in half. Most unusually I happened to have some actual chicken broth, made with garlic, onions, and GINGER!! (lots of it) from last week to mix with the masa harina.-- It is most unfortunate, but I think maybe the zest of the broth actually made a difference in the finished product. I usually just use water when things call for broth. I suppose that's why they make Bouillon-- and most of a rotisseried chicken. I had carved the chicken and I put most of the meat (for longer than necessary) in the Cuisinart with half an onion and a half a bunch of parsley, incidentally inventing the world's best chip-dip.

I did not have corn husks. I think asking us to buy corn husks in a package is a perfectly accurate insult to the Anglo cook*. I used parchment paper. I plopped masa onto the parchment paper, smoothed it out with a spoonful of salsa, and plopped chicken mixture onto that. Then I attempted to roll them, with too thick a layer of masa and too much chicken, not very envelopingly, but got them covered with parchment paper, and then I steamed them in my Chinese steamer for about 35 minutes. Heaven. All I need is the strange orange oily sauce, which I imagine is achiote. Mail-order achiote is on its way. I blame Rick Bayless for a lot of this, but the tamales were my fault entirely.

*You know how many Americans it takes to go ice-fishing? One to cut the hole and fifteen to push the boat in.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

They want to know why we blog

The Washington Post is asking why people blog. It's an interesting enough article, wondering whether blogging as an activity has peaked and among whom.

Here's what I sent them:
Blogging seems to be the natural successor to the yahoogroups and email lists I was on a few years ago. When blogs came along, several of the most interesting writers to SheepThrills (a list for spinners and knitters) more or less with drew their energies from the group. Whether this made a bigger ecological niche for yammerers and outright jerks or whether it was simply a time that more mouth with less brain began signing up to lists, the lists I had been devoted to, derived support from, learned neat stuff on and participated in gossip (the friendly kind) with lost their savor. Bloglines made it much easier to keep up with the people I liked once I didn't have to click on a long list of links to see who had updated.

That's more about why I read blogs than why I write one, but the two are connected. You can participate in the discussions that break out on 'comments' pages without a blog of your own, but you need your own page to get support and insightful comments for your projects, to show pictures of projects, parties, patterns, piles of booty from fiber shows (and historic snowfalls, good sunsets, cats, links to the Washington Post, recipes, charity projects like Dulaan). Having my own blog encourages me to pay attention to the projects I actually finish; I think many crafters lose sight of what they really have done, and see mostly what they wish they had finished or that they had never started. I also know, from the friendly notes I get in 'comments' or as email, and above all from the rare face-to-face meetings with other bloggers and readers, that people are out there cheering for me. The details of knitting and spinning and dyeing are esoteric enough that it really matters to get support and enthusiasm from one's peers (and superiors). Watching a new project sweep through the blog community (The Birch Shawl, the Jaywalker Socks) would amuse an epidemiologist; getting to see them expressed in Claudia's orange, or Theresa's blue, gives me a fresh look at the possibilities.

I wish more of my non-knitting friends blogged, and that my kids at college would write more in their LiveJournals (to which I am privileged to have access. God knows what they are doing on other lists). Blogging is less personal than a phone call, but it's more convenient for me and probably for them. If people I know well write even obliquely of trouble in their lives, I can call them or write them off-list. At the very least, checking someone's page can be more frequent and detailed than a Christmas card, even if it's only the same level of communication. My LiveJournal is more private than my Blogspot publication, and I say sourer, truer things on it. I don't give it out to very many people

Finally, I write a small blog about the New Hampshire State Conservation and Rescue Archaeology Program, a non-profit, quasi-autonomous governmental organization. In the summer, during the field school, I send some version of diary to various audiences by email. The SCRAP blog is potentially seen by strangers, so I restrain myself, trim the diary, and ask permission of the state archaeologist (who runs the program and the digs) before I post anything that might be more sensational than accurate. I hope it allows some of our occasional volunteers to keep in touch with the community, and that it allows some of the rest of the interested public to get a look at what we do.

Blogging is an expression of the Web as Back Fence rather than Infobahn; it enlarges my community.


An article in the Washington Post about the wonderful possibilities available to chocolate lovers in Turin...oh, my.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Not much, you?

Next year, I will go to Spa. Next year, I shall recognize the telltale signs and realize Spa is happening far enough in advance to make reservations, or at least arrangements. I have a fiber-event-shaped hole in my soul.

There have been woodpecker calls around the edges of my yard that I have thought might be pileated woodpecker, and distant, unconfirmable sightings of birds retreating steadily the closer I get to the binoculars. This morning,there was something bigger than a nuthatch out the bathroom window, and I grabbed the binoculars just as it flew around the house and settled in decent sight off to the east. The Pileated Woodpecker is a very fine bird. Mine was apparently a female (no red in the moustache) and looked healthier than the one in the picture. They are about the size of crows.

I need to knit, too. Lack of dedication.

Does any of you have a PDA? Preferably not a Palm? because I have EarlyAdopted my way into a place with no one who knows much who will explain to me what I got when I fell foolishly for the lure of a Plastic Pal Who's Fun To Be With. I didn't think it was that early an adoption. It may just have been a stupid purchase.

We had a power failure last week. My clock radio, which may or may not be an alarm clock, too, is hard to set. I keep forgetting how. So it has been wrong since I moved her. In one the rare BENIGN jokes of fate, when the power it returned, the clock was in two minutes of being right. I should not get used to this.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Photographic interlude

I haven't taken any pictures lately worth looking at, so I bring you one from south of the border.

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My mom took this during the Fairly Serious Snowfall last week. It's the Christian Science Mother Church, pretty much across the street from her.

No excuse

I slept plenty. No excuse to go take a nap, except as a symbolic protest: when I woke up at 7 (that, also, is unfair) it was 1.5 degrees F. With a wind fit to take your hair off, except that it had already been removed on Friday.

It was warm enough to rain, then, quite warm, when I went to work. Then it rained very hard, the wind came, it turned even blacker, it poured, the wind came again, and it was sunny and thirty or so. The wind in the parking lot blew the door open a few times. Just as I was getting ready to leave, the power blinked and my computer turned off, causing me to lose the moderately accurate note I was composing to tell my boss all I had got done that day. It was strange having a power failure, even a short one, in full sunlight.

So I went to the mall to get some stitch markers to give Sarah in return for the ones I had been lent last week, and the power had been off there, too. I did a little shopping and went home, full of eagerness to Pay Bills and get Things done,

only to find, despite the brilliant sunlight (and impressive winds) that the only power in Henniker were the usual supernatural forces and primal motives like 'food' and 'tea.' Which I had to make tea on the ( fortunately gas) stove, instead of with the electric kettle, and I could not microwave it once it got cold. Everyone had warned me the power was off several times a year in rural New Hampshire, but the first year I was here the electrcity was uninterrupted. We had a blackout of a couple of hours sometime last summer, but this was the first one that was really long enough to be incovenient and I was inadequately prepared.

The woodstove still worked, so it was pleasantly warm; there was pressure in the water system for several hours and I had some bottled water. Doug also brought a few gallons how from work. But I was out of radio batteries, so the comfortable (despite what they usually have to say) voices of All Things Considered were not there to keep me company, and I only had about a pint of spare lamp oil. Mostly I use the railroad lanterns for reading in the hot tub at night (and by nightfall, the hot tub was down several degrees to 'warm'). The high number of flashlights had the usual proportion of dead batteries.

Doug I and found the lamp oil and ate leftovers and I managed to knit by lanternlight. My parents in Boston had heard there were over 100,00 people without power in New Hampshire; the next morning, when we did find batteries, NPR was saying only about 30,000 were still out. This included us. We called to cancel a proposed day dyeing wool with Sarah as the water had finally petered out. She invited us to Canterbury, where they had power, so after a trip to the hardware store we went there and enjoyed her company and that of her cats (and her shower). Around four, Doug called his phone and the machine answered, so we knew there would be electricity when we got home. This was fairly late, since Sarah and we decided to have dinner in Concord and a Pretty Wild Time. By then the air temperature was way down (the air-speed was still up) and they were saying that 40,00 people were without power. We have the use of light and computer and microwave again, and I think we are more than slightly lucky.

This afternoon they are saying only 10,000 people are still out of power; their freezer goods must be suffering by now, and I feel for them and the crews who are trying to fix wires in the bitter cold and still noticeable wind.

I think I will have to rip off the neck and do it again on smaller needles, but the sweater is looking better, sewn together, and I have started one sleeve.

(NB -- We decided that it might be an idea to change the water in the hot tub, since we had lost all the warm already. So far we have emptied, scrubbed the edges with bicarb, and refilled it. The water here, ever since I got the pump replaced last summer, has tended toward a very faint clayey sediment, which in quantities of 350 looks like hell; and the pump has frozen. Doug is out there playing the hairdryer upon the power panel innards, since he worships the hot tub, and I am helping by muttering dull curses.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Apparent progress

I will not discuss how many times I redid the neck-edges of the pink sweater. I am SO hoping the answer will equal "Enough" because, you know, you get tired of it.

Besides, it probably isn't all that well done. But the gap for my head is centered and big enough (between years of therapy and pink-sweater-enforced humility you wouldn't think it would need to be so big, would you?)and on top, so I am happy.

As it happens, the part of the sweater previously referred to as 'the front,' living proof that I was on some kind of drugs three years ago when I made it, demonstrably unable to count successfully and repeatedly to five--I am not happy either about some of the cable weirdnesses, even if I accept my chirality difficulties -- the side with the well-darned hole -- will now be known as 'the back.' I think this is a nice by-product. People can stare at my back as much as they like.

So maybe I will get around to the sleeves before the Olympic flame is extinguished. Google has been putting out some very pretty graphics on its homepage masthead; I particularly like the luge on a day or so ago.

My TV reception is what it is, so I have been watching Buffy first season DVDs while I knit. Nine years ago, no one had a cell phone and the Internet was different... I wonder if anyone will believe it in 20 years.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Not dead yet

We here only got, at best, five inches on Sunday, which was pretty if you like that sort of thing. I usually do, but I was fighting with the cables. Mena the cat found the snow so stifling to her creativity that she killed a roll of paper towels.

Today, my parents came by my work at 2. They were up from Massachusetts on a buying-things-free-of-sales-tax spree. It was good to see them and have the company. Valentine's Day is second only to Christmas for providing unattainable icons that might make a cynical, embittered person grouchy, particularly an unpaired one.

I did, however, laugh while reading the Manolo's heartfelt warning to men.

We went out for a late lunch. Hardly anything is open in Concord for late lunches, except pizzeriae or subshops, neither of which do it for my family. We ate at the Barley House.

We visited the Cool Moose Candy Shop, to which my parents are devoted ever since I sent them Fruit Slices last week. That it also sells decent tea and ice cream and fudge won them over even further. There were young women behind the counter dipping strawberries into chocolate. I may have to return there tomorrow and check into those more closely (I'd just finished lunch and was more interested in the tea. I know. Maybe I'm ill).

Finally I dragged them to the Elegant Ewe, to look at the colors of possible future Christmas socks. My father has grown into a person who wants Brightly Colored Socks; I may have mentioned this before Christmas? My idea of Bright Enough is embodied in Mountain Colors line. He wants something more punchy, or at least lighter in tone. He was combining some of wishy-washier Baby Ulls, tedious pastels.

I was thinking I was not a loving daughter. Also only the Knitting Angels know how many stitches Baby Ull is to the inch. I like a nice worsted if I am making a Size 13.

My mother helped by pointing at various flag and confetti and rayon-hell novelty yarns and suggesting I make socks out of those.

It went fine until my father announced a) that something was olive drab (pretty much the Limeade on this page, and b), that something else (along the lines of the Seafoam or the Pine Shadows) was blue, and all pretence of civility went completely down the tubes and Kelly had to hide behind the counter. Color perception has been a touchy issue in my family ever since I can remember.

I just got the needles I needed and no yarn at all. Such restraint.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Olympics: Different augggggggghs for different folks

I am still fighting being caught up in Olympic Fever. But I had no option to knit on my other projects because I cleverly left them at work.

So I met Sarah at the bookstore Friday and we knitted a bit. This meant that I got all the stitches for the back of the pink sweater onto needles, and borrowed a bunch of Sarah's stitchmarkers (which she will be lucky to see again). We knitted for awhile, and I noticed one of the cables had a backwards loop, which was not that big a deal. I went home, where I have lots of needles (none, apparently, the right size circular for doing the sleeves, but whatever) and fixed that.

I knit a bit more yesterday (and while it was brilliant and sunny, Mena and I went for a walk) and then this morning I laid the sweater-back onto the Template Sweater and it was big enough. I did some shaping for the neck and got it cast off. Picked up the front, started to pick up the stitches (these was a chunk of cast-off, but it came out easily enough and if the sweater is going to be Really Wide it may as well be Really Long) when I noticed.....

There was a hole way down on the right corner. I don't like to think m-ths, as EZ spelled it, but something had chewed through three strands of yarn and a little on the very edge. It could well have been a c-t, instead; we have some delinquent behavior from time to time. There was a reversed cable fairly high on the right so I fixed that, not nearly as featly as I had the other one. I started to drop four stitches down to the hole. It took a long time, and I was only about a third of the way down, when I realized I had been dropping a perfectly healthy cable. Cursed a lot.

I repaired the dropped stitches. It took even longer. I noticed there was a reversed cable right up near the top on the left (hey, I started this three years ago and even though I am Perfect now, of course, I was still improving then and right and left were not installed when they built my brain). I got that cable mostly fixed, and although it went more quickly, it looked like -- well, not good. Really, obviously not good. I ripped back the top three inches of the front. Pow. Wham. No more holes. Never mind the work I did reversing the cables.

The hole toward the bottom was still there. Ripping/dropping down to it was not looking good. I stitched around it twice with dental floss and began unravelling until the damage was clear, and semi-spliced new pieces of yarn onto the ragged ends and semi-grafted the stitches and even though it isn't cabled there it looks better than I really dared hope. Pulling out the dental floss was almost enough fun to make up for the rest. Except that I better not find any more evidence of anything that looks like m-ths, which I regard with as much disgust and shame as I would a nasty venereal disease.

I needed a break.

So I read a book. Lest you think I only read improving non-fiction, I should recommend Katherine Kerr's Deverrynovels, and Holly Lisle and definitely Kage Baker.
Those are only the ones I'm not ashamed to admit, unlike these.

I have been reading too much, yes.

Can I spin for a while?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Olympic Fever

well, not really. But I am putting the Team NH button up and I have this sweater I began New Year's of 2004.

Last Saturday it was about 48 F - sweater weather. Now it's 7F. Igloo weather, only we have no snow cover and I am concerned about my perennials.

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These "Icicle" violas have bloomed ever since I planted them, in August of 2004. That is snow in the foreground.

And the frog in the wetland behind my house whose croak I taped on my camera. I think it was a woodfrog, who freeze solid and thaw without apparent harm.

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Deer tracks, unless these were among the many moose tracks. There were open places in the swamp, perhaps where the springs are.

So now it's cold.

Sarah declared herself an Olympian; I am going to cheer and work on the pink sweater. It is based on a pattern by Manos that I think I have lost: lots of 4 stitch cables with five seed stitches on either side of each cable. I doubt, at this time, that I shall ever get involve with seed stitch again, certainly not to for the acres involved in a sweater (not one of your Size 10 sweaters, either) But it looks so nice... I did, at one time, have a sleeve done. From the cuff up, like the pattern asked. This was not a good idea. Sleeves go down, right? You pick up the stitches and you have control over where it decreases and how long it'll be. This sweater needs about another four inches on each of the front and the back, and two sleeves. I may or may not have enough yarn, depending on what's in the Green Mountain Spinnery bag*--I know I bought some, but is that what I am using now?

(*along, I admit, with the getting-starteds for the Stained Glass Sweater. This will probably be buried with with me, unknit, and if it's Hell, that's all the yarn I'll have; Purgatory, I imagine I will get more if I can make the sweater as far as I can Without Any Mistakes (say 5,00 years), and of course there are yarn shops in heaven.

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With good light and lots of comfortable chairs.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Something different to worry about

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If you were beginning to feel you had a handle on the diffulties and dangers of modern life, here's something new (and not too alarming).

On a more personal note (ho, ho), they installed memory in my computer at work for the second time, and so far it hasn't let me down. My boss is off his crutches. I have almost caught up from most of the things in which I or my predecessor was behind. Sooner or later I'll be able to make some kind of reasoned remark as to whether I like my new job.

If you are looking for a really excellent piece of non-fiction, try 1491. it is NOT the same as 1421, which I will not dignify with a link. 1491 is not just about the New World the year before Columbus arrived; it's about the whole settlement and cultivation and population of the Americas before their encounter with the rest of the world. It was written by a journalist, not an archaeologist, which my archaeology boss says sadly is probably why it's so easy to read. The author is frank about the disputes among the scholars (actually, he plays them down, because he doesn't want to sound like the NY Daily News) but presents the results of recent research -- lots of it-- and changes my whole idea about how quiet it was here. Really really good. Paperback due in October.

Friday, February 03, 2006

My heart swelled

and I knew the answer to the NPR's The World Geoquiz! our Harlot is a radio star, and she didn't say 'arse' even once.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Welcome Fore-Spring! (Bloggers (silent) poetry reading)

I am awfully happy to see people celebrating Groundhog Day (wild sex -- I mean, sex in the wild-- woodchucks make one social call of the year and they find it worth waking up for-- meets Puritans who don't trust Mary)->Candlemas (Catholics who like candles and a good festival and know it has something to do with Herself and growing light, also it's cold and making candles is a warm task)->Imbolc (halfway between the solstice and the equinox; the goddess is growing up and the sun has DEFINITELY made a turn; let's all eat something yellow and round, like pancakes or saffron flavored crossed-buns). A good astronomical holiday -- you don't have to believe in anything, except I suppose Flat-Earthers might have some problems. And I think Brigid would like poetry, which can't be much more difficult than forging iron.
I got it from Cassie and the Harlot.

So here's a poem. I have some theories what he might be talking about, but it's an excellent piece of advice for anyone:

Leap Before You Look

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savior-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

-- W. H. Auden