Tuesday, May 25, 2010


It feels like it's been a long week already. Does anyone else ever have that happen? It really seems like today should be Wednesday, and I'm simultaneously relieved (there's so much to do!), and horrified (how could I have done so much and still have it only be Tuesday?!) to find that it's not. Ah, well.

We met yesterday morning with the superintendent of Older Daughter's school to talk about the cancellation of something like 90% of the music program. I have generally noticed that in situations like this, administrators fall into one of two categories.

(Beware: Huge overgeneralization incoming.)

In both categories, administrators say that they have to make hard choices because of the state budget situation. This I accept as truth, knowing what I do about California's budget, and about the persistent refusal of her citizenry to fund the things they say they want. (Obviously, they've never read Heinlein; all I have to say is: TANSTAAFL.*) Administrators also invariably say that they hate to have to make the cuts they're making. I'm willing to accept that as truth, too, but I have noticed over the years a major dichotomy in possible administrator reactions to having one of their constituents suggest alternatives to proposed cuts.

Some administrators seem really happy to know that a) the stakeholders in their enterprise care enough to come to them with ideas, and b) that someone's come up with some other option that prevents quite the same degree of cut-devastation. Those administrators respond to suggestions with lots of information about how to make those suggestions work, or, if they won't, a good reason why not, and an open conversation about what might work instead. Those administrators seem truly to regret having to cut things that are working, and truly happy to find alternatives.

There are other administrative types, though, who respond to stakeholder suggestions as threats to their authority. Those types respond defensively as an automatic reaction, and use tactics like obfuscation, aggression, and allocation of blame to railroad the conversation. They don't share information, but they say that they already have. It's hard to be convinced under those circumstances that they really do regret the cuts, but they certainly feel defensive about them.

I'll leave you to guess with which type I was dealing on Monday morning. Looking at the positives, we did, in the end, come away with some information, and better yet, I came away with the good feeling that I'm not the only parent who cares, and that we parents will be working together to see what we can do with the information that we do have, and to obtain more information when possible. Our strength is great because our cause is just, right?

Because yesterday was one of those days (that's how it started, and it didn't get much better), this morning I took myself off for a long hike with Tilly. We spent nearly an hour on the trail, and I came home feeling much refreshed, and grateful for the chance to be outside, grateful for the lovely cool weather (60 degrees and a marine layer), grateful for the crew of volunteers who have been working faithfully to restore the native plants to the open space where I hike, grateful for the blooming sage that makes my dog smell wonderful for days after a hike, grateful to my dog for her cheerful willingness to walk up hill and down, thinking not about tomorrow or yesterday, but about the now. She's a good nudge toward mindfulness.

And once I was home, I found that Henley Redux, which I finished last night and blocked, was almost dry, and ready to have its buttons sewn on. I also discovered that it's almost exactly the color of my beloved jacarandas which are, even now, busily (as Rick puts it) jacarandizing.
Our jacaranda is always a bit late to the party; by next week at this time, it will be a mass of purple blossoms. For now, it's just hinting at the beauty to come, while all around our neighborhood, trees are entering their blooming phase.

And the sweater? Here it is (a bit washed out in this light, but trust me, the purple is very much like those blooms above).
I'll get better pictures, including some modelling shots, but for now, it really goes with all of the springtime purple blooms, not just the jacaranda.
The sweater turned out beautifully (if I do say so myself); I'm happy with the seams, and I think I did an even better job on the button-band than I did with the first henley (which is also blocking right now, so it'll be pretty and clean for me to take with me to the Great Lakes Fiber Show this weekend -- more on that next time).
And it fits very nicely. I was worried it was going to be too tight, but if anything, I think I blocked it width-wise a bit more aggressively than it might have needed (I'll remember that next time). And it's a good thing that I finished it when I did, because I took a nasty spill on my hike this morning, and landed hard on the ball of the palm of my hand (I'll spare you the pictures); I'm not sure how knitting is going to feel - typing isn't all that pleasant, actually.

So, to recap, this is the Henley with a Twist, from Knitspot, knit in Knitting Notions Merino Bamboo, colorway Dusk. This time I knitted the size small (last time, it was the medium), and used size three and four needles. I also fiddled a bit with the pattern to knit it in the round, since I knew I wasn't going to have the time or inclination to deal with much in the way of seaming at the end. It worked out really well. I'm actually wearing it now -- I put it on as soon as it dried, and I don't think I'll be taking it off any time soon. Here's a quick preview:
Maybe Anne will get some good shots of it this weekend when I see her, on her home turf this time, because as of Friday morning, I'm off to Ohio! See you on the flip side.

*TANSTAAFL: There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


How is it Tuesday already? Tuesday of this week, I mean; it would make sense if it were Tuesday of last week.

Admittedly, it's been a crazy week. Last week started with the orchestra festival I wrote about, then Older Daughter had hours of dress rehearsals on Monday afternoon and Tuesday evening, then on Wednesday, she had an orchestra performance, followed immediately by Younger Daughter's Spring Concert (we had 30 minutes to get from one to the other), in which Older Daughter had a part to play as well as an alumna of the school. Then on Friday, Older Daughter had another concert. Saturday, Younger Daughter danced at a local elementary school for their cultural festival, and Older Daughter had soccer.


And then, after watching Older Daughter's orchestra (and the choir, directed by the same amazing woman) take a prize in the festival, and after listening to both groups perform on Friday night, and perform really, really well (let's be honest here, a beginning string orchestra can sound like they're torturing small furry woodland creatures, but these guys have worked hard, and they were playing some fabulous music and playing it well, and the choir sang the most astonishing range of chorales, in Latin, even, plus Leonard Cohen), and after hearing the announcements of where some of the participating seniors are going to college next year (including Carnegie Mellon), the school announced that they're cancelling the middle school choir program, and shutting down orchestra altogether.

So the fight is on.

I really don't have the energy for this right now, but I also am not going to let this one go without trying my damnedest to change this decision. We'll see what happens in the next week or so, and whether all of the parents and students can rally enough support to convince the superintendent to basically give the director the one extra class she needs during the day in order to be able to afford to run the after school program more or less for free. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I'm also feeling very overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, I did have one lovely and relaxing day last week, when I met up with Anne and Kim and Beckie in La Jolla.
We had lunch at the wonderful Brockton Villa, looking out over the La Jolla Cove, where the seals lie in the sun (that's what those fuzzy brown slugs on the rocks are).
Then we went shopping at our favorite little jewelry store. The best part, though, was being with good friends, and laughing, and visiting, and watching the reactions of other tourists to Anne's impromptu sock modelling shoot, using the ever-willing Kim and her gorgeous legs (Beckie's gorgeous legs had been on display the day before; I missed it, but you can visit Anne's blog and see just how much fun that was, too).

Here's Kim, preparing herself for her modelling stint:
The shoot:
You can only imagine the looks we were getting. Beckie and I spent some of the time looking in the tidepools, where we found all kinds of goodies, including anemones, my favorite. No pictures, though; I'm always too busy looking to think of it. It was hard to leave at the end of the day, but I was consoled by the fact that I'll be seeing Anne and Beckie (and my lovely SIL!) at the Great Lakes Fiber Festival in less than two weeks.

In the meantime, I am knitting, I promise! I got about four inches into the first of a new pair of socks Rick while sitting through Younger Daughter's spring concert before discovering that they were too big (how does one make socks too big for a man with size 13 feet? I ask you), and having to rip back again. I think I've got them right now, and I worked on them again during Saturday's soccer game. I'm using Sanguine Gryphon Bugga in the most gorgeous shade of dark blue, and can I just tell you that this yarn seems to be all it's cracked up to be? I'm loving it. I'm also finished with the body of the Henley Redux, and am now working my way up the first sleeve. Once the sleeves are done, I just need to sew them in and put on the collar and button band and away I go. I have high hopes.

In the meantime, I'll just keep on trucking...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The countdown starts

It's finals week. All of my finals are papers this semester; I have one pile in my hands, and two more coming in tomorrow by the end of the day. Three piles to grade, plus grade calculations to do. (We shall not speak of the letters of recommendations that must be written, not to mention the 36 panels and 58 abstracts that I need to have read and ranked by next week when grades also happen to be due. That would be overkill, and perhaps depressing.)

So I don't have much interesting to report. I will say that the first papers I have read from my field methods class are looking very good. Their final assignment was to put together a small grammatical sketch of Bengali based on the data gathered in class, plus a mini-dictionary, and some of them have done a very nice job of it, if I do say so myself. It's exciting, and I'll be sure to show a few to my friend (the language consultant) when I see her tomorrow. On the knitting side of that experience, I gave my friend (the language consultant) Damson last week at a meeting; in a nice display of synchronicity, she was wearing a lovely deep fuchia shirt which perfectly complemented the deep fuchias of the shawl. She put Damson right on, and it looked like we'd planned it. She also said that it solved a problem that she hadn't quite articulated to herself, which is the problem of the cold spot on the back of one's neck, particularly in over-air-conditioned rooms. I informed her that a knit night friend of mine calls that her "hump", which is exactly what it is: the hump at the base of one's neck that gets cold. Little shawlets are perfect for hump-warming.

And there's a sentence I bet you never thought you'd read. Behold the creative function of human language!

Because of the many end-of-year meetings which I have been attending of late (five hours on Friday, when I was on furlough, another nearly five hours today, nearly three more tomorrow), plus grading, I have very little to share (hence the dearth of blogging), although I have been knitting, and Henley Redux progresses apace. So, in no particular order, some thoughts:

Saturday was busy. Older Daughter and I got up very early to be at her school by 7:00 in the morning so we could go to an adjudicated music festival in which her string orchestra was performing. It was an unexpectedly pleasant 4+ hours, her orchestra got reasonable rankings from the adjudicators, plus useful comments, and I got lots of knitting done on Henley Redux.

We went to our first professional soccer game ever on Saturday night, in LA. Rick drove, I knit (very nice). Chivas lost, alas.

Sunday was a lovely day. I'd dithered and dithered about what I wanted to do; I even dithered out loud to Older Daughter for some time, then asked her what she thought, whereupon she said, "I think that your brain must be an interesting place to be." I desisted with regard to the dithering.

But on Sunday morning, I got to drink coffee in a mug. While sitting in a chair. Rather than drinking it in my to-go mug while sitting in the car. It was delightful.

The girls did the laundry. Which was very nice.

But which meant that the happy spring green socks became felted.


I got two new knitting books: Anna Zilboorg's Magnificent Mittens and Socks, and Alice Starmore's Fair Isle Knitting. Happy day.

I will leave you with two jokes that the girls shared with me. The first one is from Younger Daughter, who got it from someone at school. It goes like this:
Two muffins are sitting in an oven. The first muffin turns to the second muffin and says, "Boy, it's hot in here." The second muffin says, "Look! A talking muffin!"

I don't know why, but that one just tickles me.

The second one comes from Older Daughter, who made it up herself:
Q: What does a musical chicken say?
A: Bach.

And with that, I will leave you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The early bird

Sings at 3:30 am. Apparently.

We have a bird (this happens every year) who seems to think that 3:30 in the morning is an excellent time to exercise the vocal apparatus. Loudly. And with great vim and vigor. This bird has an endless supply of musical motifs; I don't think I've ever heard him repeat himself. He sings each motif precisely three times (although the last repetition often ends a note or two earlier than the prior two) before moving on to the next. (Can you tell I've spent a lot of time analyzing this bird's singing style? Have I mentioned that the time I spend thinking about this is time that I could spend being asleep?) It's a virtuoso performance.

And one that I would probably appreciate more if the sun were up.

Anyone know what kind of bird this might be? I haven't seen what he looks like. (Because, as I believe I have mentioned, it's DARK when he's singing.) It's probably just as well, because if I had a description, I'd be sorely tempted to hire a sniper. And I'm not a violent person. As things stand, we have informed the cats that our standing moratorium on the slaying and ingestion of birds might be lifted in this one instance. I know. I'm not a nice person when I'm sleep-deprived.

In other news, I have cast on for the second henley, and am now about 5-6 inches up the body. I'm knitting the body and sleeves in the round this time, so it's going more slowly, but when it's done, there will be only a minimum of seaming to do. The fabric that this yarn is making is absolutely stunning, and I'm just pleased as punch with it.

I have also decided that I need to buckle down and frog the Great Linen Tent Debacle of last summer. Remember this?
It has not gotten any more flattering with age (its age or mine, come to think of it). I took it to knit night last night, figuring that I would fortify myself with good company while frogging, only to realize that I've completely forgotten which way I knitted it, so I haven't the faintest clue where to begin frogging. I need to dig those notes up so I can get the job done. I have ideas for that yarn, which is really quite nice; I just need to get it from a knitted state back into little balls.

Meanwhile, classes are finished, and I am now entering the part of the semester that consists of grading, and of attending really painful meetings to address all of the things that should have been taken care of during the semester but were not, and which now must be dealt with before the summer begins. However, I also have two of my favorite classes to look forward to in the fall, and many of the students I loved this semester have signed up for the upper-division one, which is a nice way to end the semester, knowing that when I come back in the fall, it will be to a room full of friendly faces.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Knit happens

In fact, I actually have a completed project to show off today! Of course, I also appear to have fallen down, and am swatching for yet another new project, but I figure as long as I maintain some kind of balance between the casting on and the casting off, I'm doing pretty well.

First, the finished project. I cast off for the happy spring green socks on Friday night, and I'm pleased as can be with the results.
I'm trying to decide whether I should be a good mom and hand these over to Older Daughter, who I think would like them very much (and whom they would fit), or keep them for myself. I'll dither for a few days, I think.
They are very happy, aren't they? These are the third installment of the Vintage Purls summer sock club. I really love her sock yarn, it's a great base, and the colors are rich and lovely. I'll definitely be casting on for the second installment sooner rather than later; I just need to decide whether to knit those as two color socks (with the colors switched for each sock), which is really fun, or to alternate the colors on each row, which makes for an amazingly deep and saturated color over the whole pair. I think I'll dither pleasurably over that for a little while longer.
Those little cables just charm me to pieces.

I almost wound up and cast on for a pair of socks for Rick; it's definitely his turn (and then Younger Daughter's), and I have a lovely skein of dark blue Bugga sitting in my yarn bowl, waiting. But, as I mentioned, I've fallen down the rabbit hole again and am planning to knit another of Anne's henleys. She just released the pattern, and in looking at the pictures of her sweater, I was reminded of how very much I love the colorway that she knit it up in. So I decided that I needed one of my own, as a summery sweater, you know. She very kindly said that she wouldn't mind at all if I had a matching sweater, so off I went to the Knitting Notions website to order the yarn, whereupon I noticed that Catherine has the same colorway in a gorgeous merino/bamboo blend. And that in turn reminded me that I've been thinking that a bamboo blend would make a wonderful summer sweater, given the weather around here.

I wrote to Anne, asking for advice, and she immediately dove into her stash and swatched the merino/bamboo to see how it would turn out. She wrote a really interesting post about the process here, in case you want to check it out (it's down towards the bottom). The result was lovely, so I ordered the yarn. It came yesterday, and this morning I sat down and swatched it up.
The top one is drying now, but the color of the bottom one is pretty true.
I think it's going to work beautifully. I'm planning to knit this one size smaller than my last version, for something that I hope will be lighter and airier and more summery; a sweater I can wear over a light t-shirt with shorts or jeans. I'm guessing I'll be casting on tonight.

Meanwhile, yesterday was a pretty busy day. Older Daughter once again had a very early soccer game. We were sitting on the sidelines by 7:30 in the morning, clutching our cups of coffee and trying to pry our eyes open. We then raced home to let her shower and change, and then took her to school for Stakeholder's Day, at which, she thought, she'd have to both play violin and staff a booth dressed as a medieval doctor (part of a project she just completed). It turns out that things weren't nearly so well organized as we'd thought, and that she was therefore the only member of her class team to come for the booth (and therefore the booth wasn't happening), and she was also the only member of orchestra to come to play (there were a few choir folks who were there). I pushed as much as I thought fair (given that I wouldn't have played by myself under those circumstances) to get her to play her violin, but she really was having none of that, so she ended up doing none of the things she'd thought she needed to. I hope they plan better next year.

Then she headed off for a sleepover with a friend, while I took Tilly to the vet. The poor pup had gotten grabbed by something on our walk on Friday. We noticed that she had a huge red splotch on her tummy on Friday night when she rolled over and we found a tick in her tummy there (a tick which, judging from its size, she'd picked up last weekend when she wasn't bitten by a rattlesnake). But she's been bitten by ticks before and never ended up with a huge red spot like that. And we remembered that she'd acted really oddly at one point on our walk running around trying to rub her tummy and paws in the mud -- at the time, we thought it was either red ants or burrs, and picked all the burrs we could see out of her, after which she seemed to feel better. But now we're wondering if it was something else, because when we got up on Saturday morning, the red had more than doubled in size. (Fair warning, incoming bruise picture.) So I took her to the vet, who said it looked like she'd been grabbed by something that gave her a really good pinch. She's on antibiotics just in case it was a bite, and she's in no distress (even on Friday night I could palpate the spot with no trouble), so we're pretty sure she's going to be fine. But poor baby, look at her tummy!
All of that was cherry red on Saturday morning, hence our concern.

And once that was done, Younger Daughter and I took ourselves off to our local Renaissance Faire, where she had shaved ice, and we listened to the Baudy Juggler, and we poked around and had fun, and ended by getting hennaed. She very much wanted a henna butterfly, which I allowed her to get on her upper arm where it won't show under her school uniform. I was wearing sleeves that wouldn't let me get to my upper arm for hennaeing, but Younger Daughter really really wanted me to join in her fun, so I decided in for a penny in for a pound, and went for one around my wrist.
It's the last week of classes, after all, and can't I claim that this somehow relates to our work with Bengali this semester? I do believe that I can (at least, that's what Younger Daughter claimed; clever child). And so I will.