Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A snowy long weekend

As you may know, California's drought appears decidedly to be on hiatus.  Read: we've been getting some serious precipitation. 

Here's a funny thing about that.  I love rain.  I love cold, wet winters.  (Among other things, cold wet winters means snow in the mountains - we'll get to that soon.)  But since getting a horse, I have become decidedly less enamored of rain.  Rain means no turn-outs and no lunging.  And no turn-outs and no lunging means a fresh and frisky horse.  Which means I don't ride.  It's interesting how adding a new activity to my life has completely changed my outlook on weather.
(I got a new camera, about which I am tremendously excited.  Among other things, it is much smaller and lighter than our old good digital camera, with better resolution.  And I can take close-ups again!  Say hi, Disco.)

Our local flora and fauna, however, feel no such ambivalence towards the rain.  Everything around here is bursting out with whatever growth it can muster. 

 Even some of my favorite old trees are looking happier with their feet wet.

Of course, all this rain also means snow!  Rick has been watching the snow reports at Mammoth like a hawk.  When the base got to 15 feet, he started giggling like a child on Christmas eve.  So, for the long weekend, it was pretty obvious where we were going to go.  We got out of town on Thursday afternoon and beat the storm to Mammoth.  Which was a good thing, because by the time we got down the mountain after skiing on Friday, it was hard to find the car.
Glad we didn't drive through all that snow to get there!  The skiing did get a bit hairy here and there, when the mountain was enveloped in clouds and whiteout conditions...
(That's Rick and Younger Daughter, just upslope of me.)  And the top of the mountain didn't open all weekend long - I think it's the first time ever that we've been there and not been able to ski the whole mountain.  When the sun peeked through the clouds, though, the view down into the valley was stunning.
And there was always some Mammoth Brew Co goodness at the end of the day to take away the aches and pains.
The knitting got some run time, too.
(If you look closely, you'll see that's a Bohus reproduction Wild Apple on my head - toasty warm and good-looking to boot!  Those Swedes know a thing or two about keeping warm in the winter.  And what you can't see is that my handspun, handknit cowl is tucked into my coat, keeping my chin and neck toasty warm even in the worst of the wind on the chairlift.)

On the way home, we were treated to stunning views of the eastern Sierra
And the western White Mountains peeking through the clearing storm.
I didn't neglect my knitting, either, although pictures will have to wait for next time.  I finished a hat for Younger Daughter (Ysolda Teague's Snapdragon Tam), and on the drive home, I cast on for my Oa, which I am very excited about.

And I think that's enough for now!  What did you all do for the long weekend?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A few projects on and off the needles

One nice thing about a long holiday break (which has been over for a while now, but still), coupled with no longer being chair of my department (the email load dropped off almost instantaneously with me handing the chairship over in the fall - I can't tell you what a relief that was), is that I finally had time to get excited about knitting again.

It's not that I haven't been knitting all along - last fall, in fact, I knitted a sweater for each my girls, and then one for my niece for Christmas.  It's more that I wasn't engaged in the joy and fun of thinking about new projects, weighing the options, looking at yarn; and I definitely wasn't anywhere close to thinking about playing around with designing anything.  One thing I know about myself is that I absolutely loathe last-minute pressure; I hate being late.  So, as chair, I realized pretty quickly that the only way to be ready for the inevitable late-notice, oh-my-gosh-oops-we-forgot-to-tell-you-this-is-due-tomorrow stuff, was to be veryvery on top of everything else, so that I'd have room for the last-minute things when they arrived on my plate.  I got into the habit of keeping an ongoing list of big-ticket items (the kinds of things that I know I need some serious time to get through: curriculum, meeting agendas, personnel reviews, etc etc), and the smaller things that I could knock off in five minutes here, ten minutes there (email, email, email).  Which meant that any time I had five or ten minutes, I was trying to get through those things so that I'd have longer chunks of time for the bigger stuff, and at the end of a day of getting through all of that, I really just wanted to read something mindless or knit something mindless or go to bed.  The nice thing about that strategy is that I did get enough sleep every night (no last-minute all-nighters to get something done), and I did get to walk my dog on a trail almost every day, and I had dinner with my family, and I spent time with my horse.  So, it wasn't the worst survival strategy in the world.

But what I almost never had was several unscheduled hours with nothing planned, and no to-do list that I felt strongly about getting to (to avoid emergencies later down the road).  And another thing that I seem to be learning about myself is that I need that kind of time - that kind of I could almost be bored here so what could I do that's interesting kind of time - to feel that there's enough space to poke at a new and exciting project, or a new craft, or a new instrument.  I'll also admit that things like Facebook, the New York Times crossword puzzle, solitaire, and Instagram all make it really easy to fritter away the smaller chunks of time that could become bigger pieces for sinking (in the sense of slipping into a lovely warm bath) into the creative.  As I write this, it occurs to me that I need to use time the way I did as chair - except, instead of getting the little work done in small chunks of time so I could create big chunks of time for the hard projects, I need to stop spending my small chunks of free time on little relaxingish things, so that I can create for myself the space, and spaciousness, to settle into a creating place.  Something to mull over.

The fall didn't really give me room for that - the chair transition and a few other things got in the way. But knowing that I had a sabbatical this spring, once I finished teaching an online intersession class (my first fully online class, and one of the "other things" whose preparation was on my mind during the fall), I was able to take a few weeks to not-work, and to start to get my legs back under me.

I knitted cowls for me and the girls:
That's me and Older Daughter; Younger Daughter has one, too.  These are all knitted out of Baah Sequoia, a super-chunky and super-soft and lofty yarn dyed by a friend and local dyer.  I have discovered recently the pleasure of cowls, in that they never fall off, and you don't have to deal with ends flying about or not staying put.  Of course, there is also great pleasure in a lovely neck-warming small shawl, so I knitted one of those, too (and used it, in progress, as a header shot for an article that was just published on knitting and food in socialization).
The yarn for this is a lovely little skein I picked up from the Yarnover Truck during the Vista Fiber Festival.
I don't have any pictures of me wearing it yet; I'll have to get some.  I'm surprised I've managed to hang on to this one - a lot of people have threatened to steal it.  The yarn is Apple Tree Knits Plush Gradient, and the pattern is Imagine When.

I also (finally) finished Rick's winter socks:
These are just a plain pair of socks, knitted out of Candy Skein Delicious Fingering, in the Sour Apple colorway.  My only complaint about this particular skein of this yarn (which I've used before and love) is that it stained my fingers blue-green every time I worked on these socks.  They are therefore due a good soaking before Rick actually wears them out and about, lest they turn his feet and shoes irreparably green.

One funny thing about these is the heel, which I knitted in my usual eye-of-partridge stitch.  (I knit these from the toe up, with a heel flap on the bottom of the foot.)  On one sock, the eye-of-partridge turned out beautifully visible.  On the other, not.  I can't figure out what the difference is between the two - same needles, same stitch, same everything, different outcome.  It's weird.

And for my birthday, I treated myself to a sweater that I've been admiring: Evelyn.  This was a fun and easy knit, and the yarn is soft and plush; I'm a bit worried that it's looking a titch fuzzy already, so we'll see whether this turns out to be something I can wear constantly (which I'd hoped - it's good-looking AND cuddly, which is a winning combination, in my book), or whether I need to be more careful of it. 
This was a fun knit, for the most part.  The cable up there at the top of the back felt a bit fussy (mostly because that much cabling in that small of a space tends to lead to tight stitches when I knit), but boy does it look nice:
The sleeves are more of the same, but narrower...
As is the button band.  (A snap will eventually go in there at the top.)
The only part of this whole sweater that kind of annoys me is the collar, which would not lie flat for love or money.
I have since tacked it down.  (That'll teach it to be contrary.)

There are a few other small things I could post, but I think I'll save them for another day.  I'm wrapping one of them up today (I hope), and, if all goes well, the yarn for my next sweater will arrive in the mail.  (Arrive, yarn, dang it!)  If not, Younger Daughter has mentioned that she'd like another hat, so perhaps that'll go OTN instead.

And that's all the knitting news that's fit to report.  What are you all working on?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

She was warned

Well, I didn't think I'd be posting again quite so soon.  And I'd intended my next post to be a round-up of recent knitting projects that I've completed, and a foretaste of things to come.  (True story: a package just came and I was so sure it was yarn for my next project - I bounded out the door, all excited...  And the nice man handed over a package of wine from a club we belong to.  My face fell.  I don't think that's the reaction he was expecting at all.)

But, time and tide - and crazy doings in the world of politics - wait for no woman.  So, I told you fair warning and here it is: linguistic analysis and feminism incoming...

Today's NYT coverage of the silencing of Elizabeth Warren on the floor of the Senate included, in the front page article blurb online, the following quote from Mitch McConnell*:

"She was warned.  Nevertheless, she persisted."

I have to be honest.  Reading that gave me cold chills.

The more complete quote was:
"She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted."

This appears to me (and judging by the articles, tweets, email messages, and Facebook posts going around, I'm by no means alone here) to encompass the history of women in a nutshell, with only the consequences left unstated:  So we silenced her.

I've been mulling this over ever since (while simultaneously plotting with friends to make a t-shirt out of it; if that's your gig, stay tuned), and three things in particular strike me.  They are all linked to one another, and difficult to disentangle, but here goes.

First, and perhaps most simply, what I think resonates for so many women (and the reason why the trending hashtag here is #shepersisted) is that concept of persistence.  Persistence is what we do.  Think of the persistence it takes to do all the "women's work" that, changing times notwithstanding, is called that because it still typically does fall on women: diapers, dishes, laundry, changing sheets/towels/toilet paper, cleaning, child care, parent care - the list goes on and on.  Each of these tasks is one which must be done, but which doesn't stay done; if there's one thing we know, it's that clean dishes don't stay clean, and neither do diapers (alas). It takes a certain degree of dogged determination to hang on to the bigger picture and keep slogging through the daily round, sometimes. 

As knitters, we know this one particularly well.  Nothing but persistence lies between us and an FO we can use or gift, and be proud of.  It's persistence that makes us rip out that miscrossed cable (12 rows back) and fix it.  Persistence is what got countless pink pussyhats knitted in time for the Women's March in January (more discussion of this is bound to be forthcoming; I was fascinated). 

But that persistence can also encode something darker.  What is it that we are persistent in the face of?  Sometimes, as above, it's drudgery or repetitiveness.  But women deploy their persistence in other circumstances.  In the face of demeaning comments, or of being ignored; harrassment, assault, rape; a culture which attempts to deny women the right to determine what happens to their bodies in so many ways - and which calls it locker room talk, even when the talk becomes action.  Women persist as they earn less than men for doing the same work, and they persist in the face of men telling them that wage inequality just isn't a thing.  We persist patiently in the face of (sometimes endless) mansplaining.  (And, as a linguist, can I just tell you how much I love that word - talk about encoding a fabulous and real linguistic construct!)  When we are afraid, whether for our bodies or our sanity, we persist.  We persist in the face of warnings that our presence and behavior are unacceptable, and will have potentially very frightening consequences for us.

There is something even more insidious in those three little sentences, though, something that strikes me in particular as a linguist.  They are encoded in the same kind of language one might use to describe imposing a punishment or consequences for a naughty child.  "I warned her.  I explained why.  She didn't listen, so now she has to face the consequences."  In my gender and language class, I have my students read an article (West and Zimmerman 1983, for those who might be interested) that looks at interruptions - defined (simplifying here a little) as a turn in the conversation that is inserted into someone else's turn, and (this is important) which is disruptive to the conversation (by, for example, changing the subject, or taking the floor over before the first speaker is finished).  The authors first look at adult interruptions of children (contrary to popular belief, adults interrupt children far more often than children interrupt adults).  These interruptions most frequently take place at points in the conversation when children's behavior is deemed problematic by adults, and are used to try to redirect that behavior in order to bring it into line with expectations. 

And here's where things get interesting.  Looking at adult same-sex and cross-sex dyadic (two-person) conversations, it is clear (and this, by the way, shows up in study after study after study) that men interrupt women far more than women interrupt men, or than men interrupt men, or than women interrupt women.  And, moreover, their patterns of interruptions are remarkably congruent with adult interruptions of children.  In other words, men interrupt women at points in the conversation when they deem women's actions or words or thoughts to be problematic, in order to redirect them to fit expectations more closely.  "She was given an explanation" fits right into this; it suggests a speaker with superior knowledge and understanding of how one should behave, someone with the authority and power to require conformity.  (It's also very patronizing.)  This is just one of the many ways in which women are (and have historically been) treated as less than full adults. 

To my mind, this is what those three sentences encode.  We gave her a chance to behave like an adult (as defined by us) and then we interrupted her to force her into line.  The "she was warned" is deeply troubling.  Women who have been "warned", historically, have paid serious and often lethal prices for continuing to persist after that warning.  (I also find the distancing created by the use of the passive voice disturbing - who's the agent here?)  Linguists talk about the concept of "intertextuality" - the idea that a given text is understood at least in part through its link to similar texts produced elsewhere and elsewhen.  This text ("we warned her") is understood, consciously or unconsciously, as located in the context of all those past threats and their consequences.  It means that even though no-one will be burning Warren at the stake (but all those chants, directed at Clinton, of "jail her" and their intertextual links to "burn her" last fall were unmistakable and also resonate here), the chilling warmth of those historical flames is present.

"She was warned.  She was given an explanation.  Nevertheless, she persisted."

Taken all together, the degree of misogyny encoded here is quite remarkable.

ETA:  Male Democratic Senators were allowed to read all or part (depending on the Senator) of Coretta Scott King's letter, including the part that Senator Warren was rebuked for (http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/318515-sanders-dems-read-coretta-scott-kings-letter-after-warren-silenced).  As I said, it's not about party - it's about gender.

*I am focusing here, as a feminist and a linguist, on this text as spoken by a man to a woman in this context.  I could, but won't, also go into why I think the rule that McConnell cited is inappropriately applied here: while the rule states that Senators should avoid accusing other Senators of behavior unbecoming to a Senator (an attempt, I assume, to help stop Senators from engaging in ad hominem attacks on one another instead of debating the merits of legislation; not a bad idea in that context), it seems to me that in this context, Mr. Sessions is being evaluated as a candidate for Attorney General, rather than as the proposer of a bill.  Regardless of political leaning, the misogyny in this message seems like something that should trouble women...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

(tap tap) Is this thing still on?

It has been much longer than I intended, since I last posted.  Far too long, in fact.  So long, that I wonder if there's anyone still out there in the world of knitting blogs?  (hi!)

I have missed writing.  I have missed hearing from others who are out there, making things and writing as well. 

In fact, as I look back, I have come to realize just how limited my time and energy for creativity has been the last few years.  I was just sorting through my photos and putting them all into dated albums (something I usually do month by month, but I was a year or so behind), and for about four or five months last year, there were no photos at all.  Seriously?  No photos?  It's not like it's hard to haul out an iphone and take a picture, right?  Looking at Ravelry, there is a similar gap - until recently, my last posted project was from spring 2014.  ??  (I should say, it's not so much because I wasn't knitting, at least a little, in there - but I wasn't keeping track, and it hasn't - mostly - been anything too exciting.)

Basically, I fell off a bit of a creativity cliff in there.

It's not like life wasn't continuing.  I finished a four-year term as the chair of my department this past fall (2012-2016); I'm pretty sure that that's where the vast majority of my creativity went - into holding meetings and writing memos and staying on top of email and and and...  (My knitting time also went that way - when you're running a meeting, it's much harder to knit, I find!)  I learned a lot during those four years (I'm sure at some point I'll write about some of those lessons), but I'm glad it's over; I also lost a lot of things during that time (and I'm sure I'll write about that, too). 

Older Daughter went off to college on the East Coast. (She's actually in her sophomore year, which says something about how long it's been.)  She loves it (although she says her intention is to return to California after)(pleasepleaseplease). She even gets to ride for her school team.
Younger Daughter is a sophomore in high school. 

And, we added someone new to our family two years ago (say hi, Disco!):
I'm going to keep this first post brief - there will be more to come.  I've been thinking a lot about what I want to be writing right now.  I value and appreciate the chance to share and think about and challenge myself in my knitting - and for the feedback and friendships that have developed here around craft.  I also, though, have been engaged with and thinking much about the current political situation, and about some of the issues that have been called into the forefront of many people's thinking because of that political situation - some of them issues that I've thought about and discussed for a long time in my classrooms (I do teach gender and language, after all), and others that I am learning about as we go.  I'm guessing that some of that is going to appear here, too.  And, finally, I've been dealing with some changes (mental, emotional, and physical) that come with midlife - that's got me thinking as well!  I'll try to give a head's up when a post is going to veer more towards the political/personal, so that anyone who might be reading can give those a miss, if wanted.

Meanwhile, give a shout-out if you're still here!  If you're new, say hi, too.  And if you have a blog or website, or something to recommend, please share.  I'm starting to branch out from knitting and yarn crafts to other things (cooking!  maybe even politics!), so please feel free to share those, too.

I'll be back soon.