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!"

"...as 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.