Friday, December 21, 2012


On this longest night of the year, I would like to wish a joyous, bright, and peace-filled solstice to all of you and yours. 

And remember: the sun, it always comes around again.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Not about knitting

By now, I am guessing that we all know about the terrible and tragic events that took place yesterday in Newtown.  I imagine that I am not alone in being unable to stop thinking about the families devastated by the violence.  I imagine that I am not alone in wondering what we can do differently, as a nation, to ensure that we do not continue to see such horrific headlines - seven such in this year alone.

I am going to do something today that is somewhat atypical of me.  I tend to avoid black and white statements.  Not just here on the blog, where I know that I have readers with very different perspectives on the world than mine, readers whose perspectives inform their comments here and in the email messages we exchange in ways that I value and deeply appreciate.  But also in the rest of my life, where I tend to prefer the richness of layered shades of gray.  It is rare that I see an issue on which, no matter how much I turn it over in my head, I cannot find multiple ways to look at it, multiple ways of understanding.  Not today.  So I will come out and state what I am thinking.

Our nation's stance on gun control is reprehensible.

I know.  We're not supposed to talk about it right now.  We need to be respectful, and allow time to pass (Kai Ryssdal had something to say about that).  But past history suggests that even as I write this, the anti-gun-control lobby is swinging into action, ensuring that its core messages get out: guns don't kill people, people kill people; if we outlaw guns, only outlaws will own guns; the only way to stay safe is to arm the citizenry.

And that just ain't so.  Yes, it is people who pull the triggers on guns.  But let's be honest.  A gun makes it possible to kill more people, more efficiently, from a greater distance.  It makes it possible for a person torn by internal anguish or illness to externalize that pain in a maximally-destructive way.  A semi-automatic weapon makes it even easier.  And let's not even go into the recent spate of concealed-carry laws that have passed across the nation, or the five states that have now made it legal - please read this slowly and carefully and think about it - to carry permitted concealed weapons into K-12 schools. Given the ease with which one can obtain a permit for a concealed-carry weapon, that is nothing short of reprehensible.

And let's think carefully about the suggestion that the solution is for everyone to be armed.  Yesterday's victims were all under the age of 10. Should they have been armed?  Should their teachers have been carrying guns?  Should we all be prepared to respond at any moment should
a person assault us with deadly force?

Let me say clearly: that is not the kind of society in which I wish to live.  And I think that if people really thought about it, thought about what it would be like to walk down a street where people openly carried weapons of mass destruction (because a semi-automatic weapon is exactly that), on the alert and prepared to use them at any time, I can't be the only person whose heart cries out at the thought.  When we look at other nations whose citizenry carry and wield weapons against one another in such a casual way, we tsk and talk about their total disregard for human life, shake our heads at the barbarity and lack of civilization in those poor nations.  When we talk about doing it here, we say it is the exercise of our Second Amendment rights.  In spite of the total disregard for the initial clause of that amendment, which references the need for "a well regulated militia".  What we have here is, by no stretch of the imagination, a well regulated anything.  It is legalized terrorism.

I think that children should have the right to go to school, and to come home again in the afternoon.  And I want to say, out loud and firmly, that I believe with all of my heart that that right supersedes anyone's right to own semi-automatic weapons.  Period.  Under any circumstances.   I could go further, but to my very great dismay, that already seems to be a contentious statement.

We should be grief-stricken as a nation, yes.  Our hearts and minds should be with families who, today, are grappling with a reality that is everyone's worst nightmare.

But we should also be outraged.  We should be incandescent with it.  And we should shine that bright light on other paths, other futures, for us as a people.

Because if not now, when?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


OK, only three days off from my intended post.  I keep meaning to stick to posting on Sundays, but this last Sunday I spent getting a lot of pre-holiday shopping done (mostly the kinds of things that need to be made in advance or sent in advance), plus finding a pair of black slacks for an event that Older Daughter had to attend last night - can I just say that it's harder to find black slacks than you might think it should be at this time of the year?  (Can I also just say that it is perhaps time for Older Daughter to stop growing?  5'8"+ seems fairly reasonable to me, it's not like I'm asking her to stay at my 5'(ahemalmost)3", right?  Surely she could just take up coffee drinking like a normal teenager and we'll call it good?)

I've been postponing posting under the theory that it would be nice to have pictures of my finished and ongoing knitting, but I also realize that the chance of me and my camera and my knitting all ending up in the same place at the same time is pretty small right now, so I'm going with what I've got.  I did finish the second Wine Dark Sea sweater, so I'll try to get some pictures of that this weekend to post.  I also cast on for a pair of socks for Younger Daughter for Christmas, and I'm almost done with the first one.  They're just plain old socks, out of very colorful yarn (and, therefore, mismatched), just the way she likes them.  Holiday knitting this year will be minimal - socks for Younger Daughter, a hat (more on that in a moment) for Rick, and the beginnings of a sweater for Older Daughter (I got the yarn, and as she has not yet picked the pattern, I figure I'm not responsible for not having cast on yet, right?).

As to the hat, that will be knitted out of these two skeins of happy handspun.
Isn't that pretty?  That is spun from some gorgeous fiber, hand-dyed by Erica, who does amazing things with color (which you can't see well, in that washed-out photo, but more this weekend, I promise).  I liked the colors so much in this one that I didn't want the whole thing to turn out barber-poled - I wanted some of those colors to stay true, so I tried something I've never done before.  I spun the singles woolen, and then I chain-plied the whole thing.  I am delighted with the way it turned out.  This is probably the squishiest yarn I have ever spun - the skeins feel like marshmallows.  The colors will look very nice with Rick's eyes, so I offered to knit him a hat out of it.  He has requested something warm enough to ski in on cold days, so that's the plan.  The hat will need to be double-layered, but he suggested that he would be OK if the lining were knitted out of something else, in case there's not enough yardage.  I'll wind it up tonight and see what it looks like, but I really can't wait to cast on for this one.

Other than that, I've been spending as much time as possible outdoors.  A friend (who shall remain unnamed but not blameless) turned me on to Instagram, so I keep posting pictures of all the outdoor time I'm getting - something to do with my constant phone photos!  (If anyone else is on Instagram and doesn't mind a daily dose of outdoorness - or an every-other-daily-dose - I'm Knitting Linguist there, too.)
The ocean at La Jolla on Saturday had me dying to cast on for a sweater in the seafoam green yarn I got myself last summer.  Soon...soon...

But the most exciting event of the last little while was last night.  A few years ago, a dear friend of mine told me about an amazing program here in San Diego, called BEWiSE (Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering, I believe), whose goal is to get girls involved in science and technology earlier in life, so that they're comfortable pursuing careers in those fields later.  Older Daughter applied and got in, and since then, she has had opportunity after opportunity to participate in truly amazing workshops.  This August, the best one of all came along, and she applied and was accepted.  Fifteen girls are (get this) building a micro-lab which will go up to the International Space Station.  Inside that lab is an experiment that they have designed and implemented - the goal being to observe some phenomenon in micro-gravity.  There are only a handful of other schools doing this.  The girls decided to grow alum crystals to observe the effects of micro-gravity on the structure of the crystals, and they're working on their prototype lab right now (these labs are 2 x 2 x 4 inches).  It will be sent up to the ISS in March, and when it comes back down, they'll be able to examine the crystals under an electron microscope. 

Dudes.  She's designing and implementing an experiment that's going into SPACE.  For real.  Does it get cooler than that?

Apparently, it kind of does, because last night, the organizers of this project hosted a celebration event at UCSD's CALIT2, where not only did all sort of people who are heavily involved in advocating for science and technology education in the US come to speak, but there was a member of the astronaut corps, Dr. Yvonne Cagle, an amazing woman who spent 15 years as an MD before realizing that her dream was to be an astronaut, and then pursuing that dream.  That woman stood up in front of our girls and called them an inspiration.  I think it was a mutual admiration society, because you could see them light up when she stood up there - a woman who had gone before them, paving that road and making it a little clearer, a little easier to walk.

I don't even come close to having the words to say how thrilling it was, how proud I am of my daughter, and, when I saw those pictures of that astonishingly beautiful structure out there in space, built by people of often-warring nations, together, how much hope I have for humanity.