Thursday, December 21, 2006

Candy Canes and Pine Boughs

I've had a lot of jobs in my working life. I've been a cook, a record store clerk, and a marketing assistant. I've flipped burgers, juggled numbers on prune sales forecasts, and spent a few months entering data into a national breast implant registry. I'm currently a programmer, having mistakenly been hired by my company nine years ago for what I thought was an administrative assistant position. The human resources lady thought that was the job as well, and my boss was so happy that they'd actually let him hire someone, anyone, that he didn't bother correcting either of us. He'd wanted a junior programmer, and eventually I turned into one. It was the least I could do.

A few months prior to that lucky incident, I did some time in the Santa House at Broadway Plaza. I wore the tunic. I talked the little kids into the house and onto Santa's lap. When they were too paralyzed with fear and indecision to make it past the doorway, I'd kneel next to them and listen to their whispered, tearful wishes. "A Thomas the Tank Engine? You want me to go tell him instead? O.K., I'll be right back." Those kids, I could tell they wanted to walk up to him more than anything in the world, but there was that fear. No power on Earth was going force them one step closer. We'd see some of them in the doorway three or four times during a shift, standing their with their parents, staring into the cozy little shack, wide-eyed with huge teardrops dripping onto their shoes. You just knew that they'd walked the cold sidewalks of the outdoor mall for the past hour to work up the courage to walk in, but in that last moment it had all drained away. I remembered feeling like that when I was little, afraid and sick with longing at the same time. I didn't want any of them to walk away with that. "Santa says it's O.K., he'll talk to you himself next year. He says you're going to have a merry Christmas."

The little kids always thanked me through their hiccupping sighs. Some of them would smile while their mother or father took their picture with me in the doorway instead of with Santa on the artistically festive armchair. I got a lot of tiny hugs, which I enjoyed more than I've ever admitted. Having a bunch of three-year-olds in their adorable holiday jackets throw their little arms around me made me happy. I don't have children, and I don't want children of my own, but in those moments I felt like I understood why people do.

Of course, these impromptu hugs and candid snapshots meant no money for the Santa House, which got me into trouble with the lead Helper. "If they don't want to sit on Santa's lap, you don't have time to chitchat with them. You need to keep the line moving," she'd hiss in my ear. Sometimes I'd throw the three dollars into the register myself in an attempt to shut her up. This didn't please the hard old biddie, either. I don't know what drove her take the seasonal job at the Santa House, as she didn't seem to like Christmas or children, and she exuded no warmth whatsoever. She was happiest when she was arranging the bills in the register so that they all faced the same direction. She was like a reptile in a belted velvet tunic, a sleestack in a red Santa hat.

I didn't last the whole season in the House. I played the "my real job doesn't want me to moonlight" card and quit a few days before Christmas. Clearly, I was not cut out for fast-paced culture of ruthlessness and greed and that was the Santa House enterprise. Don't get me wrong. I understood that we weren't there entirely out of the goodness of our hearts, that Broadway Plaza Santa needs his cash, yo. Even so, I couldn't reconcile the business side with the human side. "Next year I'll find some charity that does the same thing and I'll volunteer!" And of course I never have.

But I still might do it someday, just to feel that spirit, that joy again. Who knows? Maybe I'd get to be in another Christmas parade. When that reindeer broke free and bolted for the crowd in front of Macy*s? That was holiday excitement, baby.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lucy Greyface

I love her great big face. That's all. Nothing bad, don't worry. She's fine. I just wanted to say it.

When I arrive home every evening after my ridiculous commute, I'm greeted by primal howl from the back yard, the sound I imagine a dog would make if it were being eviscerated by a puma, and that's my Lucy. The rough, ragged cry sounds as though it it being torn from her lungs. It's a horrible sound, and we don't know where she picked it up, but it seems to be an expression of her unbearable joy at being only seconds away from reuniting with us. I should record it. It's really something special.

When I open the patio door and that dense, wriggling mass of dog collides with my knees and starts licking the hem of my pants, I'm happy. It doesn't matter what mood I was in before. I can't tell you how many times I've walked in the house, muttering angrily to myself, really worked up about whatever it was, and had it melt away when I looked out the door and saw that big, goofy face staring up at me.

Good girl, Lou. Good dog.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's Christmas...It's Christmas Time. Yeah.

Knitty Blogstalk Christmas Questionnaire - all the cool kids are doin' it

NAME: Suzanne
1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Hot Chocolate, especially if it's Nestle's Rich Chocolate from the foil packet.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? He wraps them, oddly enough using the same paper my mom uses.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? It's a combination. Accountant Boy calls the house lights "Charlie Brown" lights, because they're the big ones, just like we had in my youth.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No.

5. When do you put your decorations up? We're in the middle of it this week. Some years it's early December, some years we don't do anything.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Brown-and-serve wheat rolls, the kind you get by the dozen at the supermarket. You can get them year-round, but I don't eat them before Thanksgiving or after Christmas.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: The Engineer and I snuck into my dad's closet and found our presents, and my parents caught us because we weren't sly. They said they were taking the gifts back, but 'Santa' ended up giving them to us anyway. It's a funny story. I'll tell it later, if I remember.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I think I always knew, and remember trying to pretend that I believed so my parents would still give me the gifts. I 'fessed up to knowing the truth when I was about five. That's what made the incident from item 7 even funnier. 'Santa' gave the gifts to us? Who did they think they were fooling?

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We used to be a Christmas morning family, but we're changing it up this year. We're opening gifts this Christmas Eve.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Cheesily, like a Vegas show.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Hate snow. The only thing worse than being cold is being cold and wet. Skiers, please don't tell me it's neither if you're dressed properly, because I know snow is frozen water, and your snow pants aren't going to change the laws of physics.

12. Can you ice skate? I've never tried.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? It's hard to pick a favorite, so no.

14. What's the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Family being together.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Persimmon cookies. My grandma used to make them, and now my mom does.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I dunno...we're pushing the magic Reset button on holiday traditions this year, because most of our old traditions involved weeping, drinking and stony silence. We're trying for something different this year, so we don't have any favorites at the moment.

17. What tops your tree? A velvet bow.

18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving, definitely.

19. What is your favorite Christmas Song? You asked for it. Go there and click on 'Christmas Song'. It's probably work-appropriate, but I wouldn't risk it. If I can only pick one, this is my favorite. 'Gabriel's Message' by Sting comes in a close second because it sounds so beautiful, but Gunther still edges him out. "Ding dong! It's a Christmas Song!"

20. Candy Canes... Yuck or Yum? Yum, but only during the season. I never think, "Hey, you know what'd be good? A candy cane!" in July.


Ever have one of those days where you're thinking about a thousand things at once, but not one of those things has anything to do with what you're supposed to be doing? That's my today. I feel so amped up that I can't focus on any one thought. Even if I were somewhere else, I'm not sure I'd get anything done that I want to do.

I feel like Lucy must feel when she first runs in to the house. "Yay, water! Wait, there's my bone! Oh, look! There's Suzanne! Buddy's food smells like DELICIOUS! Hey, look! There's the water dish again! I'd better run upstairs! What was I doing?! Running downstairs! Hi, Suzanne! Where'd my bone go? Yay! Water!"

The velvety beauty pictured above is the Taboo rose, another member of the Concord Umbrella Club. It shares the shady spot under the market umbrella with the Japanese maple. Unfortunately, it doesn't bloom in the shade. Even more unfortunately, when I give it enough sun to bloom, the blasting solar rays bounce up from the concrete and burn the flowers. Therefore, it's only able to bloom like this in November. That's O.K., though. If I get to see flowers like this one month out of twelve, it's worth it.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Why Adela's Yarns is My Kryptonite

Adela's Yarns isn't my favorite store in which to linger and shop. It's too bright and open for my taste, without cozy aisles to wander up and down, and there aren't walls of bins with balls of yarn to juggle in your arms as you browse. It's tucked into this awkward shopping center, where parking is treacherous. It's not even my most local yarn store. (That's Fashion Knit in Walnut Creek, a fine establishment, worthy of any business you want to throw at it. We'll get to them in a couple of weeks.)

In spite of these things, Adela's Yarns is my financial Kryptonite. It doesn't have a bin with random balls of yarn, because Toni keeps every yarn pretty much stocked up. There aren't too many odd balls rolling around to pick up, think twice about, then put back on the shelf. In fact, there aren't many balls at all. Most of the yarn in her store is hung in skeins from display racks. "Just because you only see the one skein, don't think there's not enough. I've got enough of (whatever you're holding) to make a sweater." I don't know how many times I've heard that, but she's never been wrong.

The "whatever you're holding" might be something from Schaefer Yarn. If you saw a color of Schaefer that you loved, but now you can't find it, you might be able to talk to Toni about it, and she'll call up the dyer at Schaefer and ask them to dye a special batch of it for you. She did that for me a couple of years ago. I bought the yarn for my knockoff Bourne Supremacy scarf there, too. When I figured out that I wanted a variegated yarn with those colors, I knew I'd find it at Adela's. She carries the largest stock of Schaefer in the United States.

Your yarn weakness might also be alpaca from Henry's Attic. I bought a skein of Tweedy Alpaca a couple of years ago, and then I thought, "Hey, what if that's not enough? I'd better buy more." I guess I must have thought that a few times, because now I have 2400 yards of the tweed and 660 yards of that chocolate brown. I'm trying to make something out of this batch, because I've sworn that I won't go back there and buy any of the other colors until I've made and worn a garment made from these two. She's got at least a couple of skeins of each colorway.

I was good. I hadn't been in there for more than a year. Then I discovered that Toni was selling Tilli Tomas, and it was my friend's birthday and she really wanted some, and I could go down there and get it that very day. When I walked in, I though, "That's cool. They put up mirrors to make the store look bigger. I wonder where that wall of Cascade 220 went...oh, wait. That's another room. The store's actually bigger now." I stepped past the big Colinette display and down into the new area, and, well, that was it. I was hooked back in.

Every color of Tilli silk and every variety of beaded yarn, hanging right in front of me. "We're a little low, because we just had a show. We're putting together a restocking order." The show might have been Stitches East. I know she packs up much of the store and hauls it down to San Jose for Stitches West every winter, so it wouldn't be a stretch of the imagination. I was too mesmerized to ask, though.

I went in to buy something for my friend, but now I'm the proud owner of enough of the yarn in the 'Ant' colorway to make another SKB. Dammit.

If you're in the area, stop on in and give Toni lots of your money. You won't be able to stop yourself.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Joy of Photography, Volume 2

This poor bastard. We bought this Japanese maple during our landscape extravaganza back in 2003. I don't know where we thought it would be planted, given that it regularly tops 100 degrees in Concord in the summer, with a UV index of 10. It's on the patio in a half barrel on wheels, so we can wheel it into the shade in the summer. For the first couple of years, none of the other trees in the yard were mature enough to cover it. We've had to put a market umbrella over it to shade it, and even that isn't enough on the hottest days. See the crispy little leaves near the bottom of the picture? Maybe next year we'll find a suitably shady place for it in the yard.

I like this picture's linear elements - the rigid umbrella frame behind the organic arches of the bark. I also really like the way the bright coral pops out from the cool tones of the canvas.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Simple Gets Complicated

You asked for it. Here's a modeled picture of the ol' SKB. I guess I was in a mood when I took this. What have I concluded after a couple of days of wearing it? I should have made it a good bit smaller, and I shoudn't have added that many rows between the neck shaping and the waist detail. And it's way too big at the armpits.You might not be able to tell from this shot, but the bottom of the waist detail sits just at the upper edge of the waist of my jeans. It gets caught there, and super-exaggerates my least favorite part of me, which I euphemistically call my protective kidney padding. You may know it by its common name, the 'spare tire'. The weight of the beads drags that section down a little more with every wear. If I were to do it again, I would have had the lace up higher, and I would start the hip shaping sooner. Overall, it's getting a little too slouchy. I might take the body apart and redo it, or experiment with creating seams by mattress stitching the sides.

I still like it, though. Don't get me wrong. I love the sleeves and the neckline, two elements that I was trying to show in this picture. Either that, or I was rebelling against Accountant Boy's repeated commands to drop my chin and look at him, look to the side, and look over his shoulder. "Look where? Well look at THESE, Avedon."

I'm a few inches into the the next version, which will be knit with all of these findings in mind. More on that later.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Joy of Photography, Volume 1

Chinese Tallow no. 1
This is our chinese tallow, also known as a candleberry tree. It was so thin for its height that it nearly broke in half during its first year. I looked out the back window on a windy April day and saw the whole thing bent over on the lawn. We staked it up. lashed twine around the split, and hoped for the best. It's made a remarkable comeback. There is still a faint knot in the trunk, but it's otherwise sturdy and growing straight and strong. This is the first year that it has really leafed out. When I looked around the corner at it a few weeks ago, I was amazed. The leaves ranged from chartreuse to claret, and the whole tree was glowing in the late afternoon sun.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who are you callin' "simple"?

It was Thanksgiving morning. What was I thankful for? I was thankful that I was almost finished with my Simple Knitted Bodice. All I needed to do was let it dry after wet blocking it.

Look at that lace inset. So pretty! I used far less beaded yarn that the pattern called for, because I could only get one skein of it from Sarah's Yarns, and I was afraid I would run out. I only used it for the knit rows of the purl ridges, and it was still pretty close. I think I had maybe three or four yards left.

I did smaller bells on the arms, and the neckline's higher than the one in the pattern. For the neck shaping, I increased every seventh row instead of every ninth. I don't want to have to wear a camisole under it. Even with the neckline starting out that much higher, it still stretched to the point where it's barely appropriate for work. That nice curve at the waist is almost gone as well, again because it stretched with wear. I knew silk would do this, and now I know how much smaller I have to make the next one in order to preserve more of the pre-wear size and shape.

It wasn't drying fast enough, so I tried putting it in the warming drawer. A few minutes later, it occured to me that one of the advertised features of the Dacor warming drawer is that it preserves the moisture in your food while keeping it warm. I pulled the damp, warm sweater out of the drawer and went back to drying it the old-fashioned way, with lots and lots of towels.

Anyway, it did get dry by the time we left for my relatives' house, and I wore it with pride. There are no pictures of me in it, because I am the designated photographer at these events.

I'll have more details on it later.


Still no picture of me wearing it, but I figure that'll happen later. Here are the fun facts:

Simple Knitted Bodice

- Started some time in mid-October, finished at 12:35 p.m. on Thanksgiving day.
- Tilli Tomas Pure and Simple in burnt olive - a little less than four skeins
- Tilli Tomas Rock Star in burnt olive - almost one skein, marked 130 yards. No idea how much it actually was, but probably nowhere near 130 yards.
- I cast on between a small and a medium (158 stitches).
- I was pretty careful about trying this on as I knit, and I just knit until it looked like it'd fit, so I don't have a guess about how big the upper part is. It's a small in circumference, but maybe more like a medium in length.
- By the time I got to the lace on the body, I was closest to the small, so I knit the lace and the rest of the body according to the small instructions.
- At some point, I learned how to do lifted increases, and now I don't like the look of simple M1 increases. The hip shaping is done with left-leaning and right-leaning lifted increases.
- The swatch grew like crazy after washing. It was about 6.5 stitches per inch pre-wash, 5 stitches per inch post-wash. I knit with this in mind.

What'd I learn? A few things.
- The Tilli yarn is fantastic. There are probably less expensive yarns, and more consumer friendly ones as well, but man is this stuff nice. I didn't feel too bad about this purchase, as it helped Sarah's Yarns clear out their remaining stock.
- Should have knit more of an extra small. If it wasn't silk, the small would have been fine. Even after the wash, it fit the way I wanted it to. It relaxed after a day of wear, and it's still a good size, but I would have liked for it to be more snug.
- As many before have noted, the pattern knits up larger than it seems. I think what's not clear in the instructions is that there should be negative ease, not just 'close fit'.
- Pay attention to the lines running between the yarnovers in the lace. Even if you can't really tell what's going on with the rest of the lace, you can tell if it's gone off by a stitch or two by looking at those lines. If they're straight, you're good. Do it after every lace row of the pattern, and un-knit if you find you've screwed up. It will be noticeable, even if you try to fix it a couple of rows later. Ask me how I know. Better yet, don't ask me how I know. Just trust me.

I love this pattern, and now that I've already gone through it once, I think I can knit another version that will be even better.

And maybe get a picture of myself wearing it.


Betcha can't guess what this is. Here's a hint. Rattle-rattle-rattle. Here's another hint. Ssssss... Here's another hint. It's a necklace made out of turquoise and baby rattlesnake vertebrae.

"Why, Suzanne? Why? Why has that necklace of baby rattlesnake bones been pinned to your cubicle wall, just under your calendar, for three years?" Well, I'll tell you. I don't know. I know where it came from, but not why I can't seem to get rid of it.

My friend, let's call her TechBarbie, received it as a gift. Her future father-in-law gave it to her for Christmas in 2003, and she accepted it graciously instead of doing what I would have done, namely laughing and handing it back. "It's pointy, Suzanne! It pokes me in the throat when I wear it. And it's kind of, um, strange. I can't throw it out, because it was a gift! What if he asks what happened to it? What do I do?"

Without a moment's hesitation, I replied, "Give it to me."

"You can't throw it out!"

"Who said anything about throwing it out. I want it. Tell your future father-in-law that I loved it even more than you did, and you didn't know how you could NOT give it to me. Every word of that is true. Problem solved."

I can't tell you why I wanted it, maybe just because sometimes I'm contrary. The fact that she found it so horrifying made it that much more appealing to me.

It was far too small to fit around my neck. Fortunately, for the necklace at least, I was going through an angry phase at work. Stuck in the same job for the fourth straight year, no glimmer of promotion-based hope on the horizon, I decided that the new year was going to be themed "The Death of Fun". I took down every bit of tchotchke from my desk and replaced it with somber, serious office supplies. No cartoons clipped out and taped to my monitor, no trade show toys to play with, and only one sober little photo of Accountant Boy next to my phone. For about one week, I could have shoved everything that mattered to me from my workspace into my purse and walked away. "No more fun. I bring no joy to this job, since it gives no joy to me." I dressed in grey and black every day.

The necklace played into that theme. "Hey, what's that?"

"Dead rattlesnake."

"Uh...why is it there?"

"To remind us that we are all bound for the grave. The flesh hanging on our bones is temporary and we will all disintegrate to dust. There is not point to levity. Can I help you with something?"

I couldn't keep that up forever, mostly because I think they would have had the security guard escort me to my car if I'd gone any further with my death soliloquies. Besides, as with my recent Scottsdale experience, at some point my own ridiculously bad attitude started amusing me, and the act of laughing at myself, to myself, shook me right out of the foul mood. The grave desk decor morphed into something more pirate-themed, because the skull-shaped pencil holder and planter worked with either motif. Job got better, manager got fired, new manager promoted me, clutter reappeared. Fun crept back. There might even be a Slinky around here somewhere.

The baby rattlesnake necklace is still here, though. It's been hanging in that spot for so long that nobody even asks about it anymore. Why can't I take it down and throw it in the trash? I kind of get the heebie-jeebies when I think about tossing it. We're moving to a new building in a month or so. I wonder if it'll have to move with me?

Now, this guy? I know why he's here. My best friend gave him to me. He probably cost about a buck fifty with Happy Meal purchase, but I think she had to go to a couple of places to find him, and she held onto him until she saw me again, which was probably quite a while, given how often I get down to my old hometown. He's my favorite Muppet, and she knows it. We're going on a quarter-century as friends, this year if I remember correctly, which I probably don't. She'd know if I asked her. That, dear readers, is friendship.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I know, I know...

So 'every other day' is turning into 'every five days'. I have a great excuse for at least yesterday, though. Last night, I saw a speck on my laptop screen. I tried to wipe it off with my finger, but it didn't move. My heart sank as I imagined that my screen was developing dead spots. I don't even know if that's a thing, screen dead spots. I started to wrap things up for the night, bummed out about my failing laptop. I looked at the spot again.

It moved.

"Ah, dude! Take a look at this!" I don't know when we started calling each other 'dude' as often as 'honey', but we each respond to both. "How the hell did that happen?"

"It looks like an ant."

"Yeah. Uh...what do I do about that?"

"This is going to sound crazy, but maybe we should put some sugar on the counter next to it. It'll smell the sugar and find its way out..."

"Good idea!"

" long as we don't make it worse. Hope we don't end up with a laptop full of ants."

Short story shorter, we didn't end up with more ants, and the spot is gone from my laptop screen. The gentler part of me hopes the ant made her way out and rejoined her colony. The more macabre part of me wonders how long it will take for an ant to decay completely inside my computer. If I opened it up a few months from now, would there be a tiny exoskeleton, would it just look like dust?

I'm maybe two inches away from finishing Simple Knitted Bodice. I don't know why I've been so reluctant to post any progress pictures of it. Every time I think to do it, I think, "I'll post when I have a few more inches done. I'll just knit a few more inches."

Today's going to be a good day. I have the week off, HBO's showing 'The Hunt for Red October' at least twice during the day, all the laundry is done, and I have leftover penne gorgonzola in the fridge. Winner!

--20 m inutes later--

Part of the reason I love 'Red October' is the cinematography. The colors are so lovely. My favorite part just played. There's a scene where Fred Thompson is talking to his XO, and he says, "Russians probably gonna find that sub 'fore we get near it, anyway," and he puts his thumb to his chin and looks off into the distance. His profile dissolves into an exterior of the submerged Red October, dark grey ship cutting through the dusky blue water, and I don't know why but I love that scene change.

Penne gorgonzola is as good for breakfast as it is for dinner.

--60 minutes later--

Cheesiest part of the movie, which is all decidedly cheesy anyway?

Mr. Thompson, XO of the USS Dallas: "C'mon Big D...flyyyyyyy!"

Aww, man, the movie's over. That's O.K., because it starts again on the HD channel in half an hour. Woohoo!

Buddy the Cat isn't in a settling mood today. He's chasing his toys around the kitchen, and attacking the rug at the back door. I only know because I can hear him. If I turn to look, he stops playing. His favorite toys are the faux-fur knot that he got from Civic Feline Clinic, and one of those little bottles with a sponge at the top for moistening envelopes. He loves that cheap little bottle.

I'm maybe four or five rows away from the bottom purl ridges on SKB.

This post is probably only interesting to me, but that's cool. I'm having a good lazy day, and I want to remember it, and my happy mood.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Scottsdale Princess

It will surprise and, I hope, delight you to know that the finance industry cares deeply about disaster preparedness. "What if a tornado whips through Indianapolis and the computer holding my bank account history gets swept out the window and broken into a thousand tiny pieces on the street, and I need to get to that information that day, but the employees are too busy picking glass out of each other's hair to answer my phone calls?" Chances are, your financial institution has a plan for just such an event. You might not know anything about it, but trust me, there's something in the works. I know. I work for a financial institution. Our building is sitting over an active faultline. We have a plan.

Point being, every few months we're required to exercise our plan. This means that a bunch of us get on a plane and fly to a secondary location and get everything up and running, to prove that we'd be able to do it in an actual emergency. I'm not sure how much more I'm supposed to say about the actual plan itself, and it's pretty boring anyway unless you're me or the disaster recovery coordinator, and it's not the point of this post. The point of this post is this.

ResortSuites Scottsdale can kiss my ass.

We all stay there, because maybe we get a good rate, or maybe it's our disaster recovery guy's habit to put us there. I didn't mind it in May, but this time? Oh, this time they've really pissed me off at every turn.

Speaking of 'turns', here's the microwave in the suite. ResortSuites is like an ExtendedStay America type of place. You could come in there and set your family up for a good long while. I think it might be bigger than our old apartment, and it has a full kitchen...sort of. Here's where the trouble started.

I came back to my room after two days of all work and no sleep. I just wanted something to eat, a cup of tea, a nice hot bath, a little television time, and a good night's sleep before getting on the plane the next day. My room smelled like smoke, like someone had been sitting in the kitchen and smoking for the past five years, and they'd passed away from starvation due to the shoddy service at the restaurant downstairs, and their vengeful ghost was now living in the air vents, still smoking. To be clear, I'm not usually bothered by smoke. I'm not one of those passive-aggressive, (cough-cough) "Someone must be smoking nearby!" half-whisperers. But this wasn't your ordinary "this must have been a smoking room at one point" smell. It was like the gaming floor of Circus-Circus in there.

"Ah, well. Too much trouble to complain now. I'll just reheat my food and sit in front of the open door while I eat it."

Here's the thing. See how there are buttons and dials on that Reagan-era microwave? I couldn't make the damned things work. The buttons made a satisfying clunking sound when pressed, but they didn't seem to do anything else. "Time?" Clunk. "O.K., temp?" Clunk. "Start. Light's on, thing's making noise. Good." But after five minutes, the water in my teacup was still cold. "The hell?" So I tried to turn up the temperature, but the dial spun freely under my hand. I pulled off the nob and made the adjustments I needed by turning the stem. At this point, I'd been in the kitchen for ten minutes. The Ghost Smoker had forced secondhand smoke from about twenty cigarettes into my face and hair.

"Take the picture already, toots! I'm dyin' in here!" -- Belligero

I finally got the water to boil for tea, and reheated a leftover turkey sandwich on the electric range. I'm not used to electric ranges, and this one hadn't been used since the fall of the Soviet Union, so now the kitchen smelled like cigarettes, the first time you run a heater in the winter, and burnt bread. I ate quickly, trying to minimize my time in the kitchen and looking forward to taking a bath in the least smoky room in the suite. I watched a few minutes of 'The Rundown' on my laptop, choked down the dry, slightly blackened sandwich, and headed back to check on the bath situation.

I'd brought bath oil with me, even going to the trouble of decanting two ounces of it into a travel-sized bottle and putting it in the stinking TSA-required Ziploc bag of appropriate size. I was proud that I'd thought ahead. I was looking forward to a hot, aromatic soak.

What you might not be able to see in this picture is that the top of that stopper says "PUSH". I pushed. Stopper popped back up. I tried again, stopper popped back up. "I know that's the shower valve, but maybe if I pull it out..." Three seconds of spray from the showerhead pummeled me before I could push the shower valve closed. It's a thing I do, unintentionally spraying myself in the face. "Huh. Maybe there needs to be water in the tub for the seal to stick." Ran water until it covered the stopper and my hand. The stopper stuck for a few seconds. I took my hand away and clapped gleefully to myself. I'll point out again that I was a little overwrought due to lack of sleep and inhaling the smoke of a dozen phantom Salems. When the stopper popped back up again, I lost it. "You SON of a BITCH!" I shouted. "You STAY DOWN, GODDAMMIT!" I violently pushed the stopper down several more times, but didn't get a better result. My hair fell in my face as I dropped my head in defeat. Smoky, damp hair.

I took a shower, and as I stood under the spray, the humor of it all finally hit me. One phrase ran through my head. "This place is bullshit." I don't know how it happens, but at some point during an interlude like this one, I hit the point where that phrase makes me laugh uncontrollably to myself. Maybe I was just exhausted. "Bullshit!"

Out of the shower and staring into the mirror, the whites of my eyes bright pink from the air in the room, "...and why is the sink not set straight into the countertop? Bullshit!"
"The light switch is cockeyed, too! Who built this place, cactus-drunk hobos?" No, I don't know what I meant by that. I chuckled as I repeated it to myself anyway. "Cactus-drunk hobos."

Maybe you can't see it in that picture, but trust me. That switch is tilting about five degrees to the right. The sink is set about four degrees off to the left. It's not square with the wall. We notice those kinds of things. We're a contractor's nightmare. I called Accountant Boy to tell him my tale of woe.

"...and the light switch, too!"

"Honey, maybe you should take a hot shower..."

"I tried that, but THIS PLACE IS BULLSHIT!"


"No, because stupid Arizona is on stupid BULLSHIT MOUNTAIN TIME, so there's nothing on except the news, and I don't care about a broken traffic light in F%*KING TEMPE! And the TV set's too small to watch from the bed, but I can't leave this room to turn on the bigger one because the rest of the place smells like my uncle's old bathrobe."

"Make yourself a cup of tea, then."

"I can't, because I used the last of my bottled water on the last cup, and the tap water tastes like it came out of our aquarium and was filtered through three layers of the foot end of my pantyhose."

"...well, maybe you could..."

"Put Buddy on the phone. He'll understand. Besides, I want to tell him about the quail I saw in the parking lot."

"I'm going to go now. You can tell him about the birds tomorrow."

"Wait! Did I tell you about the running water in the next room that wakes me up every morning at 3:12???"

"'Night, sweetie..."

"Don't hang up! If you hang up, then I'll only have the ants in the sink to keep me company!"


I won't even go into the bed situation, because there's no way to describe how uncomfortable the beds are. Some of our team ended up sleeping on the little couches in the front rooms of their suites, but that wasn't an option for me, because of the risk of disease from the air quality out there.

"Thanks for telling us about those things, and we'll certainly get someone up there to fix them for the next guests."

How nice for the next guests.

"That's surprising, because this is a non-smoking resort..."

Oh, yeah? Someone should tell the Entity living in room 3037, then. He didn't get the memo.

No real apology, not discount on the bill, no nothing. They suck.

Kiss my ass, ResortSuites Scottsdale. Next time, I'm going to leave my company-provided suite empty and I'm going to spend my own goddamn money and stay next door at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. That'll show you. That'll show you but good, you bastards!

You know, maybe I still need to catch up on that sleep...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


This is just like school, you know? I used to spend weeks agonizing about writing term papers, then spend maybe a day actually writing them. The longer I go without writing something, the more averse I become to it. I should make a sign that reads "I'll have that for you tomorrow", and wear it around my neck all day at work, so that I'd buckle down and do the disaster test writeups I promised everyone would be done by yesterday morning. And then I should take a picture of myself wearing the sign, post it here, and then maybe that would force me, shame me into finally updating my beloved little blog. But then I'd have to upload the picture, and there are so many other things I want to put here instead.

Upcoming, in no particular order --

--"Cooking with Stupid II: Midnight Plumber" - "It smells like onion." "I swear in the name of all that is holy, I did not put an onion in there." "Smells like you're lying."

--"Why ResortSuites Scottsdale Can Kiss My Ass: An Illustrated Treatise"

--"I Love You, I Hate You" - update on the not-so-Simple Knitted Bodice

--"Belligero's Introduction" - Aspiring Crazy Cat Lady has met him, but he's been pretty quiet otherwise, on account've he's got no fingers, so he can't type. This one's on me, Clown. Mea culpa.

--"Adela's Yarns" in Castro Valley - beautiful, extensive stocklist and friendly service, or financial homewrecker? I've got a strong opinion, and a heavy bundle of something hidden in my trunk that Accountant Boy must never, never see. They expanded the store. Resistance is futile.

--Blogstalk Assignment - "something that caught you off guard this week." I should be able to come up with something good here.

That list should keep me going for a few days, and hey, you might get some actual knitting content out of it. I'm going to try to blog at least once every other day for the next couple of weeks, because I'm trying to see if keeping myself on task will help keep me out of my annual winter fugue. We'll see how that goes.

For now, I leave you with Lucy, doing her impression of Buddy, doing his impression of Lucy, doing her impression of a tipped cow. What you can't see in this picture is that I'm standing just to the left of the sofa, where Buddy is perched on the arm like a malevolent, furry gargoyle. She's doing her best to keep her eyes on me and hold that pose, knowing that she's about to be attacked. He did jump on her immediately after I took the picture. She's a real trooper, that Lucy.

I was playing, the Woman. It was all in good spirits. If I'd meant to harm her, there would have been more clawing. -- Buddy the Cat

Sometimes, Buddy and I play 'Savannah' and I get to be the wildebeest and he gets to be the lion! It's fun! -- Lucy the Dog

Yes, you see? The lummox agrees with me. Fun. Survival of the fittest is fun. -- BtC

And that's why I shouldn't leave them alone in the house with the National Geographic channel on the television to keep them company.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Past

The back of this picture says that it was taken in 1978. Really? 1978?
I guess it makes sense. The pepper tree replaced a couple of liquid amber trees in the front yard when I was in 2nd grade, so yeah, that's about right. It just seemed like we were younger. I'll confess, I have no idea how old kids are by looking at them. Tell me your little boy's twelve, but he's really seven? I won't know the difference. I wouldn't have guessed that my brother, hereafter known as The Engineer, was ten years old in this picture.
We didn't have a whole lot of money when we were growing up. My parents did a fantastic job of hiding this from us. We always thought that they were holding back on buying us new toys or fancy costumes because they were trying to make us appreciate what we already had, or be more creative. It worked. By the time I was eight, when this picture was taken, I wouldn't have even thought about getting a costume at the store. You make your costume out of what you have around. That's just how it was done.
So I give you these costumes -- The Engineer becomes a vampire for the price of false teeth, a cape my mom probably made, and some face paint. I become a hobo clown with a thrift store blazer and tie, some fabric remnants, a cheap hat and a plastic flower. I won't count face paint toward the total cost, because obviously The Engineer and I shared it. I'm also not counting the red paint, because that was an old tube of my mom's lipstick.
I remember loving this costume, and having a grand time trick-or-treating that year. I don't remember being sorry that I didn't get the princess costume from the store.
Bravo, Mom. Bravo.
Oh, yeah. Note that the bowler doesn't go any further down on my head than that. My voluminous hair, and yes it's my own hair and not a clown wig, held the hat in place. Even as a child? Great big head.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Man, I wish it were still summer. It's going to be 85 degrees today, but nature isn't fooled. Nature knows that it's late October. The light's too thin for anything to keep growing. The dayflowers have died back to the ground. The canna behind the gargoyle is withering. This summer was too long and too hot, but I miss it just the same.

I've made progress on the Simple Knitted Bodice, but I don't have pictures yet. I'm making it more form-fitting than any of the completed ones I've seen. I've been trying it on as I go, making subtle changes to the fit, measuring every other garment I own against it, trying to keep in mind the growth potential of silk. I may be the first knitter to make this thing too small. I'll have pictures of it up tonight.

The next episode of "Cooking With Stupid" is coming. It only gets stupider.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Finger

Cooking with Stupid
The secret ingredient is Terror!

I don't know if you've been in many car wrecks, and more specifically, if you've been the cause of most of them. I have, due to poor depth perception and a late-blooming ability to compensate for it, rammed the front of my car into the back of another car at least four separate times in my driving life. I've hit an El Camino, the back of a Chevy van, and the bumper of my aunt's mother-in-law's Cadillac. There were others, but they're kind of a blur. Today, if you look in your rearview mirror and see a silver Volkswagen stopped a good fifty yards behind you, and you turn to shout "You know you could move up a car length or five, dipshit...", well, hello friend! That's me back there. Compensating.

The thing about those car wrecks is that there was a moment, very brief, where it was obvious that there wasn't a way to avoid them. A moment where the inevitability of the situation became perfectly clear. "Huh. Well, O.K. Here we go." I wasn't panicky or scared. I was just there, calm in that moment, watching, waiting for the impact.

I thought about that reaction the other day while I was working in the kitchen, trying to slice through a sweet potato with my chef's knife. The sweet potato wasn't cooperating with me, and it rocked under the knife, slipping toward the sink. I reached out to stop it from falling down the disposer, wrapping my hand around both the vegetable and the knife. I knew what I'd done before my fingers had finished curling into the grasp, but too late to pull them away. "Huh. Well, O.K." Three of my fingers started to sting. I put the knife and the potato, still fused together, on the counter and looked at my hand. As implausible as it seemed, nothing was bleeding. Maybe I'd just brushed the fingers without actually slicing into them. A second later, a thin, pink line appeared on my middle finger, and a second after that, blood.

I ran my finger under water for a couple of seconds, tried to see how deep the cut was, but at that point it was bleeding freely. "What am I supposed to do about this, again? Direct pressure for ten minutes? But then how am I going to finish dinner?" I needed to keep working, so I concluded that a really tight Bandaid would work just as well as me sitting there with a Kleenex pressed against my finger.

Really tight Bandaid in place, I went back into the kitchen to continue making soup, red pepper with sweet potato. At this point, I was irrationally angry with the root vegetable. "F*&king unsliceable sweet potato. F*&king bruisy tips of the f*&king unsliceable sweet potato. Down the disposer with you!" I pressed the disposer button and heard the satisfying growl of the blades as they chopped the potato ends. I threw in the section surrounding the knife as well, in case it had residual bits of my finger on it. "Ha HA! Screw you, tuber!" As I watched, water backed up out of the disposer and into the sink. It did not drain back down.

I may be foolhardy in the kitchen, but there's one thing I don't ever mess around with, and that's a plugged in garbage disposer. I reached under the sink and unplugged it. I have no problem whatsoever messing around with an unplugged disposer. My left hand out of contention because of the cut, I shoved my uninjured right hand directly into the watery disposer barrel and felt around for any obstructions. I couldn't feel anything in there except the grinding blades and a half gallon of starchy water.

"Maybe it just needs to run for a few seconds more", I thought. I don't know why I thought this. If there's nothing in there to pulverize, why would it need to run? Anyway, I plugged it back in, stared down into the black maw, and pressed the button. Bits of sweet potato shot up in a fountain of starchy water, covering the counter, the floor, and my face. "Good thing I'm wearing this Bandaid. I'd hate to get whatever was in the water in that cut." That was the first thing I thought, not that I'd just covered my kitchen with makeshift paste, or that I'd somehow clogged the plumbing, or that I still hadn't made much progress on dinner. I picked the tiny pieces of sweet potato out of my hair and paused for a moment, thinking about my next move.

"Oh, that's right. Dinner. I should finish the soup before I do much else." Here's why I thought that. If I could get the soup on the stove, I could put the lid on the stock pot and then I wouldn't have to worry about fallout from another eruption from the roiling Kitchenaid caldera. I know myself, which is how I knew that I wouldn't be able to stop myself from trying to run the disposer again, even though it didn't work the last time I tried it. There would be splatter.

The thing that makes red pepper soup especially good is the addition of a couple of hot peppers, usually red jalapenos, which are easy to seed with a little spoon. But Safeway didn't have red jalapenos that day. They didn't have much at all in the way of spicy peppers. I happened to have a couple of pepper plants in the back yard, but their tags had long since been broken and blown away. "At least they're red. I guess about six of these equals one jalapeno. They're probably not that hot."

But these peppers are tiny, and have to be seeded by hand instead of with a spoon. Apparently, while sloshing around in the disposer, I made tiny slashes all over my right hand. Moments into cutting and seeding the peppers, my skin started to burn...

Read the second half of our exciting story, "Cooking with Stupid: Blender of the Damned", later this week.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Why Accountant Boy Loves Me

Ahhh. That's better. I don't look like any of these gals in real life, either. At least they're all women. Wait, what? Oh, yeah. Sorry about that, Billy. I guess it's that pretty, pouty mouth of yours.

Why I Love Accountant Boy, Part 2

Holy crap, dude! I look like Helmut Schmidt and Val Kilmer's love child, but Accountant Boy looks like these guys? Sure, there is Moby in there as the outlier, but there's nothing wrong with him that a juicy Fatburger and fries wouldn't fix.

See, ladies? There's always hope. If a guy who looks like Sean Bean can marry a dame who looks like Sigrid Undset, anything's possible.


See what happens when you frown?

I'd love it it there was any reason to assume that I actually looked like Polly Walker, but let's be honest here, folks. I'm Helmut Schmidt reborn. Wait, what? He's not dead? O.K., maybe not, then. Oh, and I know that I read and hated 'Kristin Lavransdatter', but I don't remember a thing about it, so sorry Sigrid. You're not lighting my fire, either. I'm ignoring Barrymore and Wahlberg, and we're not going to talk about that shrieking banshee Morissette. I guess it's a toss-up between Lee Young-ae and Val Kilmer, and although I haven't seen any of her movies, I have to give the advantage to Lee because I have to assume she hasn't appeared both perpetually sweaty and bloated in every film she's made since 1994, and she's a woman. We'll get past that whole Korean/Basque-Scottish thing.

Anyway, point taken. Frowning bad.

Monday, October 16, 2006


Suzanne and Suzanne: A Conversation

Suzanne1: "Suzanne? Don't you want to show off your pretty, new sweater to the bloggy world?"

Suzanne2: "No."

S1: "You worked really hard on it, and it turned out so well. Don't you want people to see? It might be fun..."

S2 wrinkles lower lip and stares at S1.

S1: "Well, what about the Tilly Thomas yarn, and the couple of inches of progress you've made on the SKB? You could tell the story of how you had to stop knitting for a week because you almost cut off your fingertip."

S2 pouts.

S1: "You had all sorts of funny things to say when you left work. Everybody likes your stories. Why don't you tell everyone about your weekend?"

S2: "No."

S1: "You could do one of your blog stalk assignments. You're behind, but it's not too late to catch up."

S2 walks into next room and sits down in front of television.

S1: "Maybe you could go to the gym? You like the gym, remember?"

S2 scans the channels, finds 'Die Hard' on Starz.

S1: "Okay, then. Maybe tomorrow."

When I was a little girl, I was a phenomenal sulker, and incredibly stubborn. When I was four, maybe five years old, my mother told me to go clean the floor of my room, which was almost always covered with so many toys and books that it wasn't navigable. "Why don't you go straighten up your room?" I stared up at her. "Don't you want your room to be clean?" Stared some more. "Go clean your room." Continued to stare. I couldn't have been more than three feet tall, but I tilted my head back and glared at her as best as I could. It went on for several minutes, but I'm sure that both of us felt like it was hours. "Now!"

I finally broke her, I guess, because she reached down and smacked me on the thigh. It wasn't a hard slap, just sharp enough to not be mistaken for a light push in the direction of the messy room. It was the first time she had ever struck me, and the only time. I turned on my heel and marched into my room, closing the door behind me. When she came in to tell me that dinner was ready, five hours later, I was sitting in a tiny clearing on the floor, having not touched a single item around me except to push it aside to make room for myself. Night had fallen, but I wasn't tall enough to reach the light switch without the aid of my trusty rubber kitchen spatula, and I didn't have the spatula with me when I stomped away from her, so I was sitting on the cold linoleum in the dark. I would have stayed there all night just to prove my point.

I'm not sure what my point was, maybe that I wouldn't relent, even if relenting was the right choice, the choice that would make me happy. I would have been happy to have my room clean, to be able to find all of my books, to not be sitting in the dark in a room that I was convinced was haunted by shadowy creatures that crept in through the crawl space in my closet floor. I would have been happy if I'd just taken her up on her suggestion. I don't know why I didn't do that.

The problem is that now that I'm an adult, I have those same conversations with myself. Why haven't I been keeping up with the blogging? Why am I not going to the gym? Why am I spending days avoiding tasks at work that would take me five minutes to complete, that would make me so happy if they were finished?

"Why don't you..."

"...because you want me to."

Here's a little clearer picture of the sweater above. It's Licorice Whip from BlueAlvarez. I had a great time knitting it for a while, then I got tired of knitting with the Rowan Cotton Rope, and then I had a horrible time knitting it. I went through 14 balls of Cotton Rope, which I think amounts to about 900 yards. It was going to be the XXS, but I made it a little broader. It measures out to be more like the XS. After seeing KnottyGnome's version, I thought I'd like mine to be a little bit cropped. I'm glad I did that.

This was a fun knit, and I'd like to do it again, but next time in wool, or at least a springier yarn. Those cross-stitches are a bitch in aran cotton.

Oh, and in that first picture, it's not the sweater that's making me frown. I'm just in that mood. The sweater is really comfortable, and I've worn it on three of the four days since completing it. I do, however, wish I'd taken a second to pull the hem down so it didn't bunch up at my armpits.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

In the Other Library

What can you learn about someone by looking at their DVD collection? Many things. In this entire collection, there are probably a handful of straight-up dramas -- 'Das Boot', Lars von Trier's 'Medea', 'Shadow of the Vampire', and, um, oh let's call the 'I,Claudius' set a drama. Everything else is either action, sci fi, comedy, or so bad that it should have its own category. Allysa Milano "art" film, I'm looking at you. Asia Argento film about vampires running a dog-fighting ring? Don't think you can hide behind the 'Star Wars' trilogy, sweetheart. I see you back there.
So what do you learn about us by looking? We don't bring a lot of drama home. We're goofy. We don't have children. We have questionable taste. Here is your proof from 'Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter". "We're running short on skin. We'll need to harvest more lesbians." Need more? How about the unrated DVD of "Shark Attack 3: Megalodon"? "What, are you afraid a shark might swim up and bite your culo?" I don't know how 'Flash Gordon' ended up with these two.
Here are a couple of good ones. 'Cemetery Man (Dellamorte, Dellamore)' is a great little film staring a young Rupert Everett as a groundskeeper in a northern Italian cemetary that is anything but quiet. It's got love, it's got death. It's got love after death, maybe some necrophilial love depending on your perspective. It's got zombies. It's got a problematic relationship between a reanimated, decapitated head and the simpleton who loves her. And then the ending gets weird. The art direction is gorgeous. This is the region 2 DVD, so it only plays on one machine in our house, but it's now available for region 1 players. I highly recommend it, if you're not offended by zombie lovin'.

Dr. No's in there to give some balance. I love Dr. No, and I'll watch it every time it's on AMC. I bought the DVD so I wouldn't have to wait for their bi-monthly "All Bond, All Day" month to roll back around in order to see it.

These are some of the all-time favorites. I can watch 'Riddick', 'The Rundown' and 'Club Dread' on continuous loop and never get tired of them. There was a point this spring when they were all on the movie channels at the same time, and I never had to get off the couch. I called in sick one day because I saw that I could flip between the east and west coast feeds and see all three of them from morning until bedtime. They're my knitting movies. The first hour of 'The Transporter' gets to be a part of that club, too. I like watching him drive, fight and banter with the French detective, but the movie loses me after his house blows up.

My favorite? I'd have a hard time picking just one. When I took the pictures, 'High Plains Drifter' lept out at me.

My friend has strict criteria for movies. "Does it have a shark? Do things blow up? Does anyone get eaten alive by some fantastical creature? No? Then I'm not interested." I'm happy to say that about half of our DVD collection meets her standards.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Fridge Festival

Sometimes I do things that make me laugh to myself, at myself. Every Friday at noon, we get an e-mail from the office services group. "Please clean your items out of the refrigerator by 5:00 on Saturday or it will be thrown away." Every Friday at 3:00, I think to myself, "Dammit! I brought in all of those healthy snacks on Monday, and I forgot about all of them! I'd better get to the eatin' before it's too late!" I run for the kitchen and pull out everything I've stowed in the fridge for the past week. I find it silly to bring food in at the beginning of the week, only to turn around and haul it home at the end. If it's here, it's going to be eaten here, no matter what sickening Friday afternoon food combinations have to happen as a result.

The upshot of this is that I just drank an exceptionally cold can of V8 juice in under a minute. Half a can into it, mid-gulp, I caught sight of my reflection in the side of the metal paper towel dispenser. My distorted image shook its head at me and gave me a tight little smile, like the one in the picture above. I think it would have laughed, had its soft palatte not been frozen by the ice-cold river of pureed tomato and kale.

I'm currently staring at a peach yogurt, a banana and a 12oz bottle of Powerade, and I've got about 20 minutes to figure out how to choke all of that down before I leave. At least none of it is staring back at me. Which is more than I can say for the trout.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


I was helping my friend rearrange her garage this weekend. By 'helping' I mean 'sitting on a bistro chair, watching her work'. She did a bang-up job, and I'd like to think that my moral support played a role. Anyway, while she was working in the dark recesses of the storage space, I knit the cowl of my Adrienne Vittadini sweater.

"Hey, cool dress form."

[From the back of the garage] "Do you guys remember giving us a shitload of grass seed?"

"What? No, not grass. Dress! I said 'cool DRESS form'."

"Yeah, and I'm holding a bucket of GRASS seed full of mouse droppings."

"Not something we'd do, giving you an open bucket of grain to put in your unused garage. We're not stupid, you know..."

The look I got? Oh, the look I got for that one. Because of course what was hanging at the end of that sentence, unsaid but certainly understood, was "...and if it wasn't us and it wasn't you, and we both know it wasn't here when you moved in, my money's on your husband doing it, which makes the months of him blaming you for the rodent problem because you left a single package of Cup-O-Noodle and a bag of Tootsie Pops out here really, REALLY funny."

"...but hey, when I'm done with my sweater can i borrow your dummy so that i can take pictures, because i think it's my size?"

She retreated back into the garage with her bucket of whole-grain mouse crap.

So, the details of the pullover. This is the Camille cowl shell from Adrienne Vittadini 27. I knit the small, and I didn't make any adjustments. I used eight whole balls and about three feet of the ninth to bind off the cowl. If I'd unraveled the swatch, I wouldn't have needed to use the ninth ball. The body was knit on birch needles, and the cowl was knit in the round on Addi Turbos. It took a little over a week to do, and I knit most of it while watching the first season of 'The Wire'.

The Camille yarn was easy to work with once I got the hang of pulling the slubbies through the stitches, but hard to seam. I should have seamed with a matching, smooth yarn. I knew once it was put together that I'd never be able to get it apart again, so I plunged forward and hoped for the best. Weaving in ends? I knew it wouldn't matter if I did it invisibly, because the yarn's so knobby that you wouldn't be able to tell. I put the tails through the eye of the needle, pulled through a few random stitches, tied knots, you name it. I'm sure it's not pretty, but then again, I'm not sure that even I can see where I did it, so it doesn't matter.

Oh, and the dress form isn't exactly my size. Its waist is about five inches smaller than mine, so the shell looks better on it than it does on me. Why? Because every night I make the split-second decision to drive home and knit instead of going to the gym. Dummy.

Monday, September 18, 2006

In The Library

I've got a confession to make. Batty, and all other librarians and bibliophiles, turn away. I'm not a good keeper of books. I have a lot of them, and almost all of them are boxed up in my attic. Those that are still out around the house aren't treated all that well. They're dusty, they've slipped into odd angles so that they're no longer stable on the shelves, they're stacked up on the floor. I love them all like a kid loves a teddy bear, but not like a librarian would love them. They take some damage.

Realizing that we're going to live in this house for many years, probably decades, and that there aren't places for bookshelves, I boxed up most of the books a while back. Only my favorites, the art books and the few forgotten volumes are still out.

The books above are the forgotten ones. There's a book about Rembrandt's studio practice, and a tiny copy of The Book of Kells. There's a book about Tulare that I found, improbably enough, at a yard sale a couple of streets over from my house in Concord. 'A View From The Witch's Cave' is a collection of Basque folklore. Art books that are either too big or too heavy to pack, a book about pirates, and a coffeetable book about Quantas Airlines. There's also a book on the history of Tulare, written by my high school math teacher, Mr. Dummermuth. The 'Mexico' book was used as a textbook in one of my first classes in Santa Barbara. It weighs about twelve pounds. I had to carry it to class. And these are my favorites. I don't read the books in the first two pictures. I've read these eight books over and over. These are, from left to right, the 'His Dark Materials' series, 'Go Down, Moses' by Faulkner, 'The Crying of Lot 49' by Pynchon, 'Bloodsucking Fiends', 'The Maltese Falcon', and 'Metamorphoses'. Favorite book number nine, 'Stormy Weather' by Carl Hiassen, is on loan to my mom. If I only had those nine books to read, I'd be happy.

That's it, except for cookbooks and the knitting library. I'd like to say that I have an extensive and beautiful library on display in my house, but that's not how it turned out. I'm more than a little jealous of those of you with built-ins. Ah, well. At least I don't have to dust all of those shelves.

Buddy Loves Rocky

Wait a moment, the Woman! That is not at all what I wanted you to say in the title. I want it to read "Gilded Cage of Fury: The Buddy the Cat Story". There should be a picture of me killing something, or eating something I've killed, or perhaps taking down the dog as though she were an undersized Cape buffalo. The tone is all wrong. Correct it immediately.

Yeah, but guy? You love The Rock. Just admit it. Look at the smile on your face.

I fell asleep reading, the Woman. I don't publicly embarrass you when you're caught off guard...

...caught off guard loving Rocky Maivia, son of Rocky Johnson, grandson of High Chief Peter Maivia...

You seem to know a lot about this, the Woman. Methinks you doth protest too much.

So I'm a fan. I had WWF figurines on my wedding cake. I know things about wrestling. This isn't about me. It's about you and your forbidden love for The People's Champion.

It's about your lack of appreciation for my innate elegance and suaveness. Your jealousy has made you mad.

Oh. Right. Nice lip mole, Scratchy.

The Woman! Stop this instant! I demand that you put up a picture of me that shows my charm and grace.

How about this one?

Please, for the love of God, stop.

Why? Are you afraid your secret boyfriend The Rock is going to see it? You luuuuuuuvv him. You know who else you love? You love Accountant Boy.

Yes, that's a given. He feeds me and he plays koosh-ball-on-a-wire with me. Good man, Accountant Boy...

...and you love Lucy...

I don't love her. I certainly don't miss her when she's not in the house. I don't meow at the door until you let her in because I miss her. I miss HUNTING her. Completely different. And this is an old picture. And I don't love her.

Rumor has it that you might, on occasion, even love me.

I do love you, the Woman. Let's not argue on this further. Why don't we forget the whole incident, yes? You won't post this entry, will you? It would be terribly embarrassing if other writers saw it. I'm trying to shop 'Gilded Cage' to publishing houses, and reputation...

Oh, Buddy. Your secrets are safe with me.