Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Kafka, anyone?

That's what I keep thinking of. Kafka. I told Rick, and he said, "You feel like a giant cockroach getting smashed underfoot, eh?" I had to admit I was thinking of The Trial instead. Now I come to think of it, though, why did he go straight to cockroaches? Hmmm... Maybe it's time for a haircut or some new makeup...

In any case, all those long corridors, and reporting to different rooms only to be told that one is in the wrong room at the wrong time, these images have long sat in the back of my mind and they now resonate more than ever. Maybe I shouldn't have been an English and Comp Lit major at such an impressionable age...

Long story short: I went today. I filled out a questionnaire consisting of 140 questions (!!). (I should note here that the questionnaire was very badly constructed; one would never get such a thing past a Human Subjects Review Board. I thought about writing a disquisition on that subject, but figured that I had hopes of leaving the courtroom sometime while it was still light out and desisted. I may not have thought that through very well, though; such a commentary might have gotten me a peremptory challenge right off the bat.) I was told that since I answered the question about whether serving on an eleven-week trial would constitute a serious hardship in my life (the answer was a resounding YES with four subparts fully explicated in very tiny writing plus an offer of supporting documentation), I need to appear again tomorrow morning at 9:30, at which point the judge will decide whether I then need to come back for the next step. Dudes, if I didn't have small kids at home and weren't halfway through a semester, this all might be very interesting (although to be honest, this is going to be one disturbing trial), but I am, so it's not. Should the judge not be swayed by my pleas, he will bind me over to appear for voir dire. This has spiralled completely out of control.

So, let's talk about something else entirely. Look what I got a couple of weeks ago when we were at SeaPort Village!
Isn't it fabulous? It's a mobile/windchime. Those little bells are sheep bells from India, and each has a slightly different tone. It moves and makes happy little ringing sounds and I was completely charmed when I saw it and bought it right away. I just knew I couldn't walk away without it, and I'm really glad that I didn't. (I'm trying to learn to pay attention to that feeling; I don't get it often, and I have always regretted it in the past when I haven't listened to myself.)

So, if you can spare them, keep thinking jury-less thoughts at me. And I will keep knitting, and trying to remember that my real job is being a professor, not wandering through the tortured corridors of our legal system, or filling out ridiculous forms for both the courts and my bosses, or negotiating labor law as it relates to furloughs; it's hard to keep track of that some days.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

No good deed...

That's how I was feeling at 5:35 on Friday afternoon, as I walked out of the county courthouse. I'd appeared as per my jury duty call at 1:30 on a Friday afternoon, rather than writing in for a postponement. The call said (as these calls usually do) that most jurors serve 1-3 days, and I looked at my schedule and realized that I wasn't teaching Friday, or Monday, and I'm furloughed on Tuesday, and that I could, if absolutely necessary, cancel meetings on Wednesday. In that way, I could do my service without postponing or rescheduling. I should say right now that I actually (in that terribly idealistic way I have sometimes) really believe in doing things like jury duty, the same way I believe in defending freedom of speech, even when I think that people are saying really really stupid things, and in paying my taxes, even when I think the money is being spent on ridiculousnesses. It's the principle. And sometimes, principles are important, and worthy of defense, and worthy of some time and effort.

So, off I went, a pile of grading and a sock to knit in hand, prepared to either wait or be a juror in a short trial. (I should mention, by way of proof of my generally good attitude towards these things, that the last time I was called, I went and served as the forewoman of a jury for a three-day trial.) It turns out that they are looking for jurors for an eleven-week trial. And it turns out that, when looking for jurors for an eleven-week trial, there is something about seeing a juror form with the box for "government employee" checked that just charms them to pieces, because the government will pay its employees for the duration of their jury service, rather than just for the required five days, so that they can't claim financial hardship for serving on a long trial (code: LT). Note to self: do NOT check the "government employee" box on future jury forms.

They also say that there are five possible excuses for not serving on an LT (they use that code, not I). Those excuses include necessary care of others. So, I checked that box (quite truthfully) and said that I have an 11 and an 8 year old, who are out of school at 3 each day, except on Mondays when the 11-year-old is out at 1:45. And that I'm the picker-upper. This is true. And quite frankly, I think it's a lot to ask of any parent of young children that they serve on an 11-week trial. What if one of them got the flu? Or...? Another acceptable excuse is pre-paid, non-refundable travel. As in our trip to Cincinnati in October. But I didn't put that, because I kind of thought the first one trumped all, since it starts mattering this week, when I'm supposed to be picking them up from school. And I didn't put (because this is not considered a valid excuse) the fact that I'm teaching 117 students in classes for which there are no available substitute faculty (ask me how I know), in a semester when they were limited to registration for 13 units, in classes that are required for their graduation.

I have to appear again on Tuesday afternoon. Apparently once I appeared, I was bound to the court, and if I don't come back when they tell me to, they can and will put out a bench warrant for my arrest. Now, if I'd decided to be a laggard, and just sent in the dratted form requesting a postponement, I would not be in this predicament, and my need to be available to pick kids up after school would have been acceptable. But since I went to the court, they can now call me back in to question whether that excuse is a valid one. Rick is worrying (there's no way he can pick up kids every single day for eleven weeks), and my department chair is worrying (there are no adjunct faculty available to teach the classes I teach; we've tried to find some to teach extra sections, and they're just not out there), and I'm sick to my stomach. No good deed, indeed!

On the other hand, sometimes good deeds are worth their weight in gold. Today, Yarning For You hosted a Knit for the Cure, a good deed which deserves three cheers, and the girls and I all went, to be greeted by the statues out in front of the store, dressed up for the occasion.
They were all dressed up in the donations that have been received thus far (these will be auctioned off to raise funds for the Susan Komen foundation).
There were goodies laid out for snacking.
And good company for knitting with.
It got a lot more crowded by the end of the day. The girls had come so that Older Daughter could earn some of her required volunteer hours for school by helping out. They cleaned up the back/sale room by straightening out the bins of yarn, and rewinding yarn that had come out of shape.
Older Daughter also started a baby hat to donate to the auction; it's quite darling, and I'll be sure to share pictures when it's done. I started a pair of fingerless mitts with the rest of the Lime and Violet Intentions yarn that I used to knit socks last year for my friend who was doing the three-day walk. At the end of their volunteer time, the girls each got two balls of yarn from the sale room; apparently some good deeds do get the rewards they deserve. It was a wonderful day, with lots of good conversation and laughter, and it was exactly what I needed before starting a new week.

I also spent some time doing recovery knitting this weekend (as in: recovering from the last week). I'm making serious progress on the Urban Aran. Here's the completed back:
And one front half plus some of the second (the back is also in that picture, there on the right).
At this rate, I think I might have a shot at finishing this in time for our trip to Cincinnati after all. Assuming that I'm not a juror in an eleven-week trial. Can everyone please think non-jurist thoughts in my direction, please? Meanwhile, I'm going to go read Lord of the Rings to the girls; we've just caught back up with Sam and Frodo, and they're dying to hear what happens next.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's what day of the week again?

Thursday? How did that happen?

The funny thing is that yesterday I was utterly convinced for a while that I'd already made it through both of my teaching days for the week; it was a sad moment when I realized that I hadn't. I probably came to that conclusion because I had a very full teaching day on Tuesday, and then a very full day yesterday, with union meetings and student meetings and meetings with fellow faculty members and and and... (I won't even go into the email conversations.) Why are meetings so exhausting, I wonder?

Maybe because sometimes the conversations that happen in those meetings are so weird. For example, one of my appointments yesterday was with a student from my English grammar and syntax class (all I can say here is that it's much more fun than you think it is; trust me on this). She came in, all perky and hip and cute, and sat down in a chair in my office and told me, very wide-eyed, that she didn't understand anything at all. Nothing. Nada zip zilch. In fact, she understood so little that she didn't know what to ask. So (I've learned strategies for dealing with this over the years; it happens more than you'd think) I asked her to analyze a sentence in front of me so I could see where she was hanging up. Turns out she really did know nothing. Nada zip zilch. After four weeks of classes, she didn't know the first thing to do with a sentence. So she said to me, "I'll just be really honest here. I come to class and I'm there, you know? And then you start talking, and my brain just turns off! I don't know why, it just does. I mean, I'm sitting towards the front, so I only text a few times in class, with my mother..."

Seriously? I mean, seriously?

So I looked at her, very straight-faced, and I said, "I'll make a deal with you. I won't text in class if you won't text in class. How about that for a deal?"

That seems like a good deal, doesn't it? It just doesn't get fairer than that.

I'm going to believe that knitting will make it all better. Tonight there are new episodes of Bones and Fringe, and I intend to work on the Urban Aran through both of them. I'm almost done with the back, and if all goes according to plan I'll be able to finish that and cast on for the front(s) tonight. Now if only I could decide whether I'm doing them both at once (steeks! eeks!) or separately.

Tilly says, "Let's go for a walk instead."
"What? We just had a walk? Oh, well, if you're sure."

Monday, September 21, 2009


The gathering yesterday at my LYS in honor of Sandy was amazing. I thought I had it together until I walked in and saw everyone there, gathered because of Sandy and the life she lived, and then, of course, I started crying. It took a while before I didn't start up again every time someone gave me a hug hello, too.

The thing of it is, there are obviously a lot of people for whom Sandy's loss is going to be a bigger, deeper, blacker loss than it can be for me; people in whose lives she played many and multiplex roles, who will have fewer places to turn that don't immediately remind them of what they've lost. It got me to thinking about the holes we leave in people's lives when we're gone. And of whether I'll leave any holes, and what kind they will be, and what kind I want them to be, and what that means about how I should live now.

Because let's face it, we all know people who, when they are no longer in our lives for whatever reason, leave holes that are shaped like regret and, guilt-tinged though it may be, relief.

The holes Sandy leaves aren't like that. They're shaped like sorrow, of course, but also like laughter, and good memories, and a profound sense of gratitude for having known her, however much I did get to know her. And I'm pretty sure, looking at that gathering of people yesterday, people who were brought together only and because of their gladness to have known this woman of generous spirit, that I'm not the only one who feels that way. It's a form of grace, and I hope, with all of my heart, that she knew before she went that this was the shape of her life, and of the loss that we all feel.

I spent a not insignificant portion of my weekend knitting quietly and thinking about these things, the image of holes being particularly salient in the knitting of lace, and considering what this might mean for me and for that quiet list of resolutions I keep in the back of my head (don't we all?), and by which I try, in my better moments, to live my life. All that thinking and knitting had at least one concrete result: I finished the Unbloggable Project (do I hear a sigh of relief?). It turns out that it's actually a Partially Unbloggable Project, or a Project Unbloggable In Its Details, and that I can tell you (as if you hadn't guessed, predictable person that I am) that it's Anne's latest, the Dovecote shawl, and that I can show it to you in its preblocking lumpishness.
This was a sort of dual test-knit for me, as I was not only working through the pattern (which was great fun to knit, with fabulous results; more on that when blocking shots come out), but also trying out some yarn that Jeane deCoster, my garment fit teacher at the Institute, sells. She wanted to put this lovely yarn through its paces, and when you ask me to put yarn through its paces, I think of lace, natch (does anyone still say that, or has it gone the way of ymmv?). The yarn is a lovely two-ply Shetland, and Jeane is dyeing it up in gorgeous colors, which you can see on that link. It's a fingering weight yarn.
The lace it produces is, as I knew it would be, rustic and looks handspun, which was exactly the kind of comfort I wanted in this shawl; I am feeling in need of comfort lately. It's soft and fuzzy, and I think it's going to be fabulously warm, trapping air in all the fuzziness. Definitely a good pairing, even if one that's rather atypical for me.

With luck, next time, I'll have a more knitting-centric post, and one with some bloggable progress. Meanwhile, happy Monday; be well.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Bests and worsts

For a long time, we had a tradition at the dinner table of "bests and worsts"; each person would go around and share either the best thing of their day or the worst, then call on the next person, until we'd all said both our bests and worsts. The girls often started it off by asking, "Please can we do bests and worsts and can I be firsts?" We're trying to socialize them into a more free-flowing dinner-table conversation as they get older, but sometimes, bests and worsts is the only way to describe the way things are going.

For example, yesterday I was grading my first pile of papers from one of my classes. It's a paper on borrowings into English; the students had to go look in an unabridged dictionary (we have an online subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary, which I think is seriously one of the coolest books known to mankind), find ten words that had been borrowed into English, say what language each word was borrowed from, when it was borrowed, and then to speculate, reasonably (note: reasonably) on the possible reasons for the borrowing.

Best: One wonderful student, whom I've had in other classes, started her paper with the following quote, which I adore: "We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." -James D. Nicoll (Looking at the original quote, I see that she edited for brevity and propriety; you've got to love a good student.) If this doesn't express perfectly the attitude of English towards borrowing words from other languages, I don't know what does. (As an aside, it occurred to me when thinking about this that the attitude of English towards such borrowings lies in interesting juxtaposition to its attitude towards the existence of other languages in areas that it considers to be its turf; in such situations, English is more like a black widow -- it leaves dead and dying languages in its wake.)
Worst: The student who reported on a word borrowed in the 12th century CE, and then told me that the reason it was borrowed into English is because American settlers needed a word for that concept. Seriously? I mean, seriously? Do we see why I approach grading with more trepidation than joy?

Today I had to drive to Encinitas for a lunch meeting. It's a not-insignificant drive; depending on traffic, it can take anywhere from 25-45 minutes. I would have been more upset about having to make the trek but:

Best: We were meeting for lunch at Q'ero, which I absolutely adore. (I ate more than I should have.)
Best: I was meeting with colleagues I like, to talk about a topic near and dear to my heart (the linguistics program that one of those colleagues and I have worked very hard to build since coming here).
Really best: On the third Friday of every month, a group of spinners meet at Common Threads. For the last two years, I have had a standing meeting on the third Friday of every month. I have recently shed that obligation, so I was able to pack up the Lendrum (its first trip in the car since I came home from the institute) and spin for a couple of hours with some very nice women before heading to my lunch meeting.
Worst: (I know, after those bests up there, I can hear the swell of little bitty violins playing a pity song for me.) There was some absolutely gorgeous new fiber that had just come in to the store (that's not the worst). I'm on a fiber diet (that's the worst), so I didn't buy any. None. Zip, nada, zilch. I didn't even grope it very much, for fear that it would adhere to my fingers and come home with me anyway (especially the absolutely lovely merino/tencel blend, or the alpaca/merino blend, mmm...). Next time, right?
Also worst: I have a hideous head cold that developed on Wednesday afternoon when my nose suddenly started running like I had soaked my head in salt water. It isn't better, and my head feels stuffed with cotton and my face hurts. I'm not sure that I was very coherent in any of my conversations today. Ah, well.

I am home now. I am thinking that I might take a nap, even though I really want to knit on the Unbloggable Project (which is not, it turns out, quite as unbloggable as I'd thought; I might be able to show you a non-specific picture of it on Sunday). We'll see if I can stay upright and focused on charts long enough to get anything done. Before sitting down to knit, though, I came to check my email, which is where I saw the real worst. The kind that deserves capitals. The kind that probably should have been all that this post was about because it's big and real and serious, but at this moment, I'm only able to approach it sideways. I think I'm still trying to assimilate, and I know that this is something that will be on my mind a lot for the next while.

Sandy, one of the wonderful owners of my fabulous local yarn store, passed away last night. Her dear friend and co-owner, Debra, sent out an email to all of us, letting us know and inviting us to a celebration of Sandy's life this weekend. In the email, Debra said that Sandy started the store five years ago; that's about when I started going to it. I think you all know how much I love that store, and the women in it, who are all so supportive and helpful and funny. I don't know if I've talked a lot, though, about how central Sandy has been to that experience. She was always there, sitting on the flowered couch and knitting, or bantering with Debra, or helping someone to find the exact yarn they needed for a project (plus maybe another new project to go along with it). She wound yarn as if she were dancing the boogie. She always had a smile for everyone, even when I know she was hurting and tired, and she was always interested in what people were knitting and how their lives were going. She was kind to my daughters, and made me feel like they were as welcome as I was. I can't quite make myself face the idea that I can't hope any more to see her when I next go into the store.

It's too soon, and she was too young, and we're all going to miss her too much.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Continuing unbloggability

I am still in The Middle Place with all of my projects. I am glad to notice that I'm not the only one who goes through this stage in my projects; many of you seemed to recognize it from my description. In looking at the (active; note that I am not counting here the couple of long-term, mostly inactive projects OTN) projects that I have going, I think that I might have one too many. How does this happen? So, a quick progress report:

Urban Aran: This is currently sitting next to my evening knitting chair, as it is not something I can knit during meetings because of the cables. Progress has, momentarily, halted because the unbloggable project is also one that cannot be taken to meetings because of the attention it requires while knitting. But this will be the first one that gets some concerted attention once that's done, as I still have hopes of wearing it to Cincinnati at the end of October.

Elektra: Progress continues apace on this one, as it's great for knit night and for soccer. I'm about halfway through the second sleeve. I would be further, but I got to the bit with lots of color changes just as Older Daughter's soccer game got really exciting (they tied it up 1-1 in the last ten minutes of the game). The colors of this still delight my soul. I find it hard to put it down to knit on the more complex projects in the evening, as I can't wait to wear it.

Rick's socks: These have stalled. I need to spend a little bit of time today ripping back so I can turn the heel again. At that point, it will become good meeting knitting again. This is better for meetings than Elektra because it requires only one ball of yarn. I don't have too many meetings this week (mirabile!), but I do have one on Tuesday and I'd like to have it ready to go again by then. That should happen today. And it just occurred to me that we're going to a chamber concert this afternoon (half-price tickets courtesy of Older Daughter's affiliation with her school orchestra); must have the ripping done by then...

The unbloggable project: Moving right along. This has been my evening project of late, and I got to spend some time on it yesterday in my knitting chair on the back patio, once we were home from soccer and errand-running. It's temperate enough for the moment to make sitting outdoors with wool on the lap not a misery; I plan to do some more of that today (if I can get my chair back).

That's my back patio knitting chair. Here's my view:
It's a little less leafy now, and there are no purple jacaranda flowers on the ground (that picture was taken a while ago), but that's more or less what I get to see as I sit in my chair. I'm looking forward to it.

I also mentioned that we went to the tide pools at Point Loma last weekend while Rick's parents were visiting. The tide wasn't quite as low as it was the last time we went, so the tidepools weren't as good, but we did see an octopus, which we all agreed was well worth the drive all on its own.

Rick's dad and Younger Daughter gave the waves a stern talking-to when they got too close.
Rick's mom and the girls looked for crabs in the cracks in the cliff wall.
And we all scrambled our way into a cavern in the cliff face.
Older Daughter had a moment to herself.
While Younger Daughter explored.
I think it's time to start keeping an eye on the tide charts so we can find a really low tide to head down there again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Furlough day

Well, here I am. At home. Not teaching.

I don't think I much like it.

I think that if I had the kind of job where what I do can only be done in my office (and assuming that I could, as I am, handle the pay cut part of this), it would be easier to try to make myself see these furlough days as time off. To make myself really take them as a break and go to the beach or do something fun. But let's be honest. My job isn't and never has been the kind of job that it's easy to shut the door on. A lot of what I do (like much of my research) can only be done at times that aren't during the traditional work week, and I'm used to fitting the rest of what must be done into the interstices of a work week whose areas of intensity vary almost constantly. One week it's all meetings, all the time; the next it's all about grading. So it's hard to not work during furlough days, in no small part because I can't figure out what work not to do. None of what I do is the sort of thing of which I can say, I'll get this done but it'll take longer and be later. At fifteen weeks, there's a hard stop. I can't just not have my grading done by then because I've been on furlough.


So I knit. And knit and knit. Unfortunately, most of what I'm knitting has now entered into what I think of as The Middle Place. This is not The Waiting Place (that would be the place where you knit and knit and knit and nothing ever seems to happen, in fact whatever it is that you're knitting is getting actively shorter when you're not looking). No, this comes before that, right after you've cast on for a project and you've made a little bit of progress and that's all very exciting and photogenic and bloggable. But then you get to the spot where you're still enjoying the project, you don't have any urges whatsoever to stomp on it, or turn it into a bird's nest, or to send it, needles and all, to outer Mongolia to see if they might have more fun with it than you're having; no, you're still enjoying it just fine. But it's sort of like the stage that most of us hit somewhere in high school where we were all potential and no glory -- pimples and glasses and braces and greasy nose (it can't have been just me?) -- the year that you deliberately "lost" your yearbook so you'd never have to look at that picture of yourself again. That's The Middle Place. It's not a bad place to be, it's just not a place that you want to take pictures of to send to all of your friends.

That's where just about every one of my knitting projects is right now. Except the one that I cast on last night that I can't show you yet. Sorry.

Just when I thought that I'd have to send you away with nothing (since I'm hoping that something interesting will happen with my knitting before I have to show you pictures of it with a goofy hairdo and bad clothes), I realized that I'd never shown you any pictures at all of the plain ol' boring stockinette socks I'm knitting for Rick. Hooray for delinquent blogging!
There it is. You won't believe what I did, though. We all know how ginormously huge Rick's feet are, so I always worry that I won't make his socks long enough. However, in my attempts to avoid that particular pitfall, I overcorrected, and this sock is about 3/4 of an inch too long. How do I do these things? And why is it that the phrase "You can't win for trying" seems to be my mantra these days? (I have this in my office, a gift from a boss who totally gets that sometimes you've got to laugh to keep from crying; it seems appropriate these days. If you have a dark sense of humor, you should totally go check out that site.)
I'm trying something new with these socks. As you can see, Rick's feet are shaped funny (don't tell him I said so, but it's true). So I decided to knit these toe-up (to maximize yarn usage) and to change my increases from the toe a little bit. I increased about half the number of stitches that I needed to add in the usual way, adding four per row every other row. I then stopped increasing on one side of the foot, and only increased on the other, adding two stitches every other row. This shape much more closely matches the shape of Rick's feet. This isn't something I've needed to try with my socks, as I have very square feet, but I think it's going to make his socks that much more comfortable.

Next time there will be more deliquent blogging in the form of pictures from our trip last weekend to the tidepools at Point Loma. Meanwhile, keep knitting...

Edited to add: Looky here! Fun story with quotes from Betchen Barber (I still want to be her when I grow up). Of course the NPR reporter says something about string not being so humble as we thought it was. Whaddaya mean "we", dude?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Update, with pictures

Rick and his folks and the girls are all off to the farmer's market. What does this mean for me? A little window of knitting internet time. Heh.

Before I get to the knitting (and there are updates on two projects, but not the third; I keep forgetting to take pictures of those socks, drat it), a quick update on the work situation, under the heading of "adding insult to injury". I went in yesterday morning, knowing that it was a furlough day for administration and staff, but that classes were still being held. (As a side note, the administration was extremely cranky that faculty wouldn't just be good and take our furlough days every other Friday so that our schedules would match up with theirs -- an excellent example of an administration-centric view of things. Faculty pointed out, however, that some folks teach classes that meet once a week, on Fridays. Were they to take furlough on nine of those Fridays -- in a fifteen-week semester -- the integrity of the class might be compromised, no? The administration grudgingly admitted that this might be so.) I have not planned to take most of my furlough days on Fridays, thinking that since I have to be on campus for meetings two Fridays a month, it might make sense to have office hours every Friday. I'm going to have to rethink that plan.

I arrived to find my building locked down tight. I could get in, of course, but my students most definitely couldn't, unless I'm harboring a lock-picking master criminal in one of my classes. I was then informed by a maintenance worker that the ventilation was going to be off in the building for the day because (and I quote) "no-one is on campus today". Well, except for, oh say, students and faculty. Who, apparently, don't need air to work. I can only assume that the air was left on in the (hopefully unlocked) classroom buildings. But it's pretty clear that I'm not going to be able to work comfortably on admin/staff furlough days unless I and my fellow faculty members manage to convince someone that when we're on campus that means that there are, in fact, people on campus. One step at a time, right?

Meanwhile, I continue to knit. I got the replacement yarn for that light blue that was bothering me in the Elektra sweater, and I am happy happy happy. (See why I keep knitting? I'm so easy to please.) Here's what it looked like before:
Not awful, but not quite right. Here's what it looks like now:
Much better. The new yarn is a handpainted yarn, and the colors are like jewels. They tie everything together, imho, perfectly, and I get just a little bit giddy every time I knit a row. That's how I was feeling about all of the other colors, too, so I know that I've got the right one this time. (Also, I think it just makes that darker blue pop.)
I can now continue with this jacket, which is a good thing; since it's a garter stitch sort of thing, it's perfect for meetings and soccer games.

In other news, the other night I was looking at the Urban Aran cardigan (yup, that's what that lovely golden-greeny sweater is going to be when it grows up) in that admiring way that we sometimes do (you know I'm not the only one), only to discover that I'd miscrossed a cable. Three times. What's up with that? (There on the left. Don't pretend you can't see them to save my feelings; I know they're there.)
(Also, forgive the bad photos here. I finally found time to do this last night and knew that if I waited for better light conditions so I could photo-document the process more nicely, I'd never get this job done.)

So I knitted my way back to that panel, and dropped those ten stitches back down to the lowest of the miscrossed cables. This was the first time I've ever done this with cables; but I figured it couldn't be different in principle from doing it in non-cabled knitting, right?
The nice thing about doing this in wool is that the stitches didn't go running away far past the point that I wanted them to. They waited patiently for me to tease out each row and then sat nicely while I put them all on a needle. Tilly found the whole process fascinating.
(Rick's comment: "You're going to have a dog nose in that picture." Dude, do you think I missed that?)

After that, it was a matter of treating each ladder of yarn just like I would the working yarn in my knitting. I knitted up each ten-stitch row, one by one. (As an aside, this is one of those places where I find that being able to hold the yarn in my left hand -- I usually am a thrower of yarn rather than a picker -- is extremely useful. Somehow I can't seem to do this with the working yarn in my right hand.)
I do this with either dpns or circulars (circs in this case, as you can see; one size smaller than the ones I'm using to knit the piece, just so I have some wiggle room). Then I can work each row from the front side, and not have to worry about turning the work over and purling. With a pattern like this that's only worked on one side, that gives me a "resting" row of knit stitches to even out the tension a little bit as I work my way back up the piece, one ladder at a time. (I'm not sure how clear that is, as I'm trying not to blather on and on; I'm sort of assuming that you all know how to do all of this already and are thinking, yes, yes, get on with it already.)

At the end, I had this:
It needs a bit of finagling to make everything even and neat again, but blocking will take care of most of that, and I can always tease at the stitches a bit with a needle if necessary. (Actually, after I took that picture, I sort of pulled at it and poked it a bit, and the left side now mirrors the right almost exactly; blocking should take care of the rest easily.) The main point is that all of the cables are crossed in the right directions this time, and that I can now work on this again.

I need to start dividing up my knitting time more evenly between these projects, in fact, given when I'd like to be wearing each of them. My thought was that the aran might be nice for going to Ohio at the end of October, and that I'd like to have Elektra done by the end of November in case I end up going to present a paper at a conference that's happening then (the paper's been accepted; I just don't know if I can reasonably afford the trip right now). So I really ought to be working more on the Urban Aran than on Elektra.

So, that's the knitting update. In other news, it looks like today will be a beach day, and tomorrow is a get-together barbecue day, so our Labor Day weekend is starting to fill up. I hope you all get to enjoy yours, too!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just a quick one

I wanted to write a post with lots of pictures, since I have been knitting, but I have literally not been home enough this week to take any, and as Rick's parents arrive today to visit for the long weekend, I'm not sure when I'll have another chance to post.

It's been quite a week. Tuesday was my first day of classes, and for the first time since I was a rank and scared graduate student, I was not looking forward to meeting my students. The list of disasters and bad news I had to discuss with them felt endless. I had to cover furloughs, the state budget, the potential course-load increase, their fee increases, the fact that I wasn't taking any crashers above my class caps (for the first time, ever, I turned students away from my classes), the ways that they could contact their administrators and legislators to let them know what an impact all of this is having on their education. By the time we got to the swine flu, we were all a little bit giddy. I refused, categorically, to show them the disaster preparedness video our admin had prepared; I didn't think we were up for it. We all just about lost it when it occurred to us to wonder what will happen if the campus has to close again this year due to fires. All we need now is a flood. (I know, I know. I shouldn't laugh, but honestly, folks, sometimes you've gotta laugh to keep from crying.)

The part where I almost cried was when I spoke to each and every individual student whom I could not let into my classes. They all needed those classes. They are all working hard and trying to graduate in some reasonable period of time. And I had to look them all in the eyes and tell them that I couldn't make it happen. And all I could think was how much easier it is to make these kinds of budget decisions when you're sitting in an office somewhere, protected by layers of personnel, knowing that you will never ever have to actually look at a student who's working full-time to make her tuition and tell her that she can't have that fourth class that will make it possible for her to graduate in the spring, that she'll have to find a way to pay tuition for another semester. The despair among faculty during those first two days of class was palpable. And then I sat through a meeting yesterday in which our administrators spoke about how exciting the start of the school year is; there's a real disconnect there.

I also developed a nice case of poison oak on Tuesday. That gave me the giggles, too, because some days you just can't win for trying.

On the "good news" side of the ledger, after a very long saga involving lots of guilt on my part for causing trouble for people, I did finally replace that blue yarn in the Elektra sweater that I was stubbing my eyes on and have started with a new color that delights my eyes and my soul. I'm glad I waited, but I still feel guilty that I caused trouble (I don't like causing trouble for nice people). I also got to go to the first hour of knit night at Yarning For You last night, which was good for me (look! sane people! knitting!). And today I get to go talk about verbs and prototypes in my classes. That will be much better than talking about furloughs and tuition increases. And after tomorrow, there's a long weekend! Things are looking up.