Thursday, July 30, 2009

Situation Normal; All Fucked Up.

We have arrived in Ohio safely.

The drugged packing... well, I don't know if it went well, but it went, and we got everything loaded up. The drive to Ohio was yesterday and took sixteen hours; we arrived at one AM. Horrible weather, horrible drivers (I called 911 and reported someone to the Highway Patrol from my cell phone; first time in my life I ever did that).

Today, in some crazed fugue state, the husbeast, my father-in-law, and I unloaded the U-Haul. That also went. Not sure if it went well, but nothing's obviously broken, the spinning wheel is working, and I know where my underwear is. I'll call it good enough.

The Goober is sick, I imagine from getting super run down during this move (no naps, late bed times, iffy eating schedules, you name it). So she's full of baby Motrin and asleep in her bed (we brought it with us) clutching Scabbers the stuffed rat.

I think all is well. Pretty sure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quote for the day.

(This blog post brought to you courtesy of the guy cleaning our carpet; I can't do anything else 'til he's done.)

ME, looking at scale in doctor's office: Okay, that's just ridiculous.

NURSE: Good ridiculous, or bad ridiculous?

ME: I've been eating cake for stress management, and lost three pounds in the last two weeks.

NURSE: Huh. I'll have to try that.


Am home from what I thought was a followup with my neuro guy, the one who did the cortisone shot a week and a half ago? His idea of followup was more cortisone. Apparently there are three or four nerves exiting the spine, that control the hand. So he did the ones today, that he didn't do last week. We located the problem nerve, because when he got it, I felt it the whole way down my arm. I mentioned I could feel that, and he wrote it down in my medical records and told me to start with that one, if there's a next time for cortisone shots. I think in a week or two I'm gonna feel great, but at the moment, even the happy floaty drugs aren't fixing the fact that I've got the rest of the house to pack by tomorrow morning.

Drugged packing. This'll be interesting.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The things you learn, when they do you no good.

The last couple days as it's become obvious we're moving, what with moving vans in the drive and all, we've had some neighbors stop by. Not a bunch. But they've stopped and said we were great neighbors and they'd miss us. We've heard variations on this before; when we were out at Halloween or the Fourth of July or other obvious neighborhood days, people would tell us we were great neighbors.

Now the husbeast and I always wondered what kind of assholes lived here before. Because we're not much in the neighbor department. I wave at people, or smile, or say hi when I see them out. I knit on the porch. The Goob plays in the yard. The husbeast mows the lawn too early on weekends and runs loud power tools at all hours.

Tonight the husbeast found out why we were great neighbors.

The couple who owned the house before us, well, they were fond of domestic disturbances. REALLY fond. Like, if you were a county sheriff for more than a week, you knew where this house was. The neighbors complained, the cops came, nothing happened. Repeat. Then, one night a bullet was fired from this house and went through the front door of a neighbor's house. And the Sheriff was told that if THEY didn't get rid of the people living here, the neighbors would. And away they went.

Right then. We've been great neighbors. Glad everyone was so happy with us.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

The insurance thing.

I had a few questions from my Beloved Readers, about my knitting bag and taking photos of it for insurance purposes.

First, for those of you saying your stuff is spread out over a whole room: mine was spread over TWO rooms. But since I had to gather it up for the move anyway, I figured I might as well put it in one place. Once it was all in the bag (there's actually a second box full of double-points that isn't in the photo), I kind of stood back and thought "even for twenty years' knitting, that's pretty nuts." Thankfully the husbeast has a garage full of tools and so cannot say a word about my pile of needles and stuff. I need a couple looms and three or four more spinning wheels, and maybe a herd of sheep, before he's allowed to complain about money spent or space taken up. The one good thing about his gearhead hobby.

The 'photos for insurance purposes' weren't interpreted in quite the way I meant them. See, we have renters' insurance. We triple-checked, and it turns out it's more like property insurance; our stuff is covered by the policy, even when we aren't renting somewhere to put it. So if something disappears or is broken in this move it's covered - both by our insurance and by the moving company, in the case of the stuff the movers are taking. I was imagining the bag disappearing, and filing a claim: Bag - $20. Contents - $500+. They would want an inventory, and I would provide it to the best of my ability, and that normally would take care of it. But "I lost a bag full of five hundred dollars' worth of knitting needles, pay up" sounds a bit insane, even to a knitter. So I took the photos. The photos themselves don't count for a whole hell of a lot - digital photos are way too easy to mess with. But I figured it would give them some idea what I was talking about, while they looked at the inventory/cost list and choked.

For others moving, worrying about keeping their gear safe, I suggest doing what I'm doing - pack it all into one bag or box. Then don't let it out of your sight. Getting renter's insurance, or some kind of property insurance, is a good idea, too. But for anything of real value, move it yourself and keep a close eye. (This is how we wound up moving half a ton - literally - of our own stuff, even with professional movers hired to move it all. I'm really tired of irreplaceable things disappearing.)

Oh. People wanted to know where I got the Japanese thread snips. Shirokiya. I think the Honolulu store, but maybe the Pearl City one. Best. Stores. Ever.


The husbeast, Goober, and I have the weekend off. The three-day pack out was scheduled for Thursday, Friday, and Monday (if fuckhead the wonder monkey over at PSD had not lost our paperwork, we'd have had more choices for scheduling and NEVER gone for a pack out over a weekend - it just adds to the nightmare). We were expecting to spend the weekend with nothing but a bed, a refrigerator, and whatever we're moving ourselves. But we lucked out. The movers ran out of space on their truck, and we've got most of our furniture here. Chairs! A couch! Such luxury!

Unfortunately they packed the entire kitchen. I'm down to plastic plates and cutlery and my grandmother's cast-iron skillet (the Magic Grilled Cheese Pan - it is a family legend that I intend to leave to my nephew in my will; obviously not something to trust the movers with). The husbeast bought a pot to make pasta in today, so it's a lot like camping, with air conditioning.

Nothing but good times ahead.

Friday, July 24, 2009

From the center of chaos.

PSD finally - sort of - got their heads out of their collective ass and got the move straightened out. Half. We still haven't gotten our moving allowance; so far we're paying for all of this out of pocket. We were told Tuesday afternoon that the movers would arrive Thursday morning at nine AM.

They did.

The crew has been great. They were a little put out when they got here because things were, well, chaotic as all hell, but we've straightened things out and they were a little horrified when they found out about the less than 48 hours' notice. So they're packing us up again today, and come back Monday for the major bits like the fridge and the bed.

We get to spend a weekend in a house with two laptops, a bed, a refrigerator, and a spinning wheel. Nothing but good times ahead.

Yesterday the Goober found this whole thing fascinating, and 'played packing'. She got a few pieces of packing paper from the movers and spent the afternoon rolling up her toys in it. Today she's had it to the eyebrows, wants it over, and is racing around the house like a bee in a bottle.

And Sekhmet. That evil fucker. You know where my badass cat is? The one who foiled a burglary, who beats up dogs, who bites the hand that feeds her?

Hiding in the bathtub.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A sort of meme thingie.

I found myself taking photos of my main knitting bag last night, for insurance purposes. (You'll understand when you look at the photos.) For the move, I decided to consolidate all my knitting equipment in one spot, so I started putting it all in the bag my sister-in-law gave me last year for Christmas. Eventually I had to overflow into a box for the double-points (only the smaller double-points are in this bag). Otherwise, everything fit.

Keep in mind when you look at these pictures, I've been knitting for twenty years. I didn't accumulate this stuff overnight. I couldn't have afforded it.

Check out the flying trilobite pin. Definitely my favorite part.

The blue binder in the center contains my circulars:

In one of the small tabbed pockets can be found these:

A folding multi-tool, Japanese thread snips, and a Spyderco folding knife. I fear this little handful of stuff may say as much about my personality as anything else I've ever put together.

I started to figure the replacement value of this bag, but my head started spinning and I got dizzy, so I quit and took these photos instead.

So, the meme? Take a photo of your knitting bag and post it!


When I went to download these photos, I found about forty more photos on the camera than I had expected.

I can't possibly imagine how that happened.

Sekhmet, you fucker.

Try to pack, turn around, and what do you get?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dependence vs. addiction vs. legality.

Yeah, I'm gonna say it. Don't know why since everyone reading is already in the loop on this, but I'll say it anyway. And there are some interesting facts and statistics to drag in that I don't think everyone's aware of.

ETA: A friend of mine who specializes in this stuff has e-mailed me some comments, so I'm gonna throw them in, in a few places. They obviously know more about this than I do.

So. The definitions, just to be tiresome. I've got a slightly different view than the legal and medical worlds, but it all comes out to about the same thing.

Dependence is when some chemical - we'll call them all drugs, though society doesn't always call them that - has some affect on the body that results in unpleasant responses when the chemical is then cut off. Most often these reactions and responses happen in the brain, but not entirely. To use an obvious example, when you take an opioid (one of the many alkaloids from our friend the opium poppy, or related synthetics), your brain chemistry adjusts to having that in your system. Then when you quit taking the opioid, your brain has to adjust again. That's all withdrawal really is - symptoms of your body adjusting to not having a chemical in it. A perfectly normal physical response. And while the degree of dependence and withdrawal will vary by person, the fact of it is proven and everyone gets some form of it.

Addiction is when you steal your grandmother's wedding ring and sell it for drug money. Or rather, it is a BEHAVIOR, a CHOICE, if you will, that is prompted by chemicals. Dependence is inevitable. It is a physical reaction. Addiction is not. It is a choice. I know, I know, some bleeding hearts out there will claim that addicts can't help what they do. I say that's bullshit. They choose to do it. Now, do they need help? Yes. Should they GET help? Absolutely. Do they deserve sympathy? Maybe, sometimes, maybe. But ultimately, all of us behave the way we choose and we all need to take responsibility for it. (Sorry. This is a major hot-button topic with me. I'll get a grip.) Anyway. On a personal level, I define addiction not so much by withdrawal symptoms or heavy use, but by what a person will do to get a hit. Those people who lick toads for a hallucination? I see that as a bit more of a problem than someone who puffs a joint handed to them at a party. Licking a toad seems a bit more extreme to me. A college kid who smokes marijuana and has a 4.0 grade average while doing a master's in organic chemistry? I don't see that as a problem. No matter what they're doing, they're meeting their responsibilities in life, and very well at that.

ETA: According to my friend, addiction is medically defined as "Addiction: A chronic, relapsing disease characterized by compulsive drug-seeking and abuse and by long-lasting chemical changes in the brain." (Their emphasis.) And also pointed out "Yeah, there's a choice component to it, but the compulsive use of drugs jacks up those areas of the brain that control choice. It's a chicken/egg issue. You probably have a susceptibility before you become addicted, and it just makes things worse. " I agree. We're discussing major brain chemistry shifts, and so there is some compulsive behavior involved. That's why I'm saying these people do need and deserve help, and sometimes sympathy. Those people who really fight it, who struggle against it, and slip up, yes, sympathy is needed (Robert Downey Junior is leaping to the front of my mind, here). But so many others seem to revel in it, and I do think in too many cases, there's more choice and less brain chemistry involved. (I would like to add, I've watched this stuff close up, with members of my family. Some I've supported through some really shitty times. Others I've cut out of my life entirely. As with so much else, it's all about degrees.)

Now, with the above, some of you may be thinking "that means people can get addicted to anything, working with that definition". Sure does. Those people out there who go bankrupt because they can't stop buying stuff? I see that as a form of addiction as surely as the people who go bankrupt buying cocaine. And they are just as surely in need of treatment.

ETA: My friend says "I take issue with the addiction to stuff concept, like shopping or fiber or gambling or sex. That's an issue of people who like to do it a lot, and like the rush they get, and have poor impulse control."

So, obviously, in my view, physical dependence isn't that big a deal. It's a damned annoyance, certainly; I'm cutting back on some medication right now and it's making me miserable. (Hence the blog post.) Does this make me an addict? Of course not. I took them for a medical condition and actually have more in the cupboard; I don't need any more right now so I'm not taking them. See where/how the behavior factors in?

Here's the really fucking annoying part. In the United States, and most other countries I'm aware of, drugs - medical drugs AND recreational ones - are allegedly made illegal or controlled due to physical dependence. If a drug causes physical dependence, SO THEY CLAIM, then the drug is a controlled substance if medical, and illegal if recreational. Sounds reasonable, even intelligent, and if those rules were actually FOLLOWED in any real way, I'd say it was a workable system. But really? That little guideline above is used when convenient and ignored otherwise. Let's have some examples, shall we?

-Caffeine. Ever quit caffeine cold turkey? Sucks ass, doesn't it? Blinding headaches, nausea, mood alteration, you name it. Major brain chemistry wonkiness. Yet you can buy the stuff ANYWHERE. Grocery stores, shops, hell, WE SELL IT OUT OF VENDING MACHINES! Caffeine is an absolutely CLASSIC example of physical dependence, and here's the government claiming anything that causes physical dependence should be controlled. Usually with a big pot of coffee in the offices of the idiots making the anti-drug proclamations.

-Booze. Okay, ethyl alcohol. Didn't know it caused physical dependence? Well, it does. Hangovers are partly withdrawal symptoms. (They're also partly your body simply processing the stuff.) But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the folks who drink a lot of booze, for a prolonged amount of time, suddenly going cold turkey. THE DEATH RATE IS AS HIGH AS THIRTY-FIVE PERCENT. That's right, alcohol withdrawal can KILL YOU. And unlike caffeine, narcotics, and a lot of other chemicals, booze has no (or almost no) medical use when used internally. Meaning it is legal entirely for recreational purposes.

-Chocolate. Yes, I hate to ruin it, but for many researchers, chocolate is fascinating because we act like addicts for it (sometimes - how many of us blow our diets by eating chocolate?), yet no one can find any sign of physical dependency caused by it. Meaning it completely disproves everything the DEA tells us about physical dependency and addiction. I read an entire book about this once, and it actually ruined my desire for chocolate. For about 24 hours. See what I mean?

-Marijuana. No matter how much the DEA would wish otherwise, marijuana doesn't cause physical dependency. Researchers have looked for years and haven't found any sign of it. People quit smoking weed all the time and while they often wish they could have some (mild addiction?), they don't go through any physical reaction from not having it. Additionally, because it is inhaled, it is almost impossible to overdose on; you fall asleep before hitting anything like a physical limit for it. Some researchers, a few years back, searched all the ER records in the US looking for one case of marijuana overdose, and were unable to find one.

So. You read this stuff, and you wonder, what in hell is REALLY going on, with how we decide what's illegal and what's not. The unpopular truth is, it has nothing to do with addiction, dependence, or anything remotely scientific. It's social. Booze and caffeine have been popular in the west and used for time out of mind. They're 'approved' drugs, and therefore legal. Marijuana is 'foreign' (from the Middle East, originally), and - at least in the beginning - misunderstood, and therefore illegal. Fucked up as all get-out, and more and more researchers are beginning to point that out to the lawmakers. I think the next decade or two are going to be really interesting in terms of drug laws.

ETA: Friend adds "Researchers get that most people don't get addicted to many of the drugs - some have higher addiction potential than others. Like heroin. That's bad stuff, and recovery is terrible. For serious addicts, the issue is really the relapse thing. They can quit - just not for very long. It's not a lot of people who have this problem compared to the number of recreational users, but once you're addicted, relapse rates are depressing..." Very true. And I suspect that if researchers and scientists made the laws, things would be WAY different. (And for the record, heroin is on my list of drugs I think should remain illegal, for exactly those reasons.)

If marijuana gets legalized? I will bet you it will be the idea of tax revenue that will motivate it. Not science or reason.

For those of you who haven't seen them, there is an excellent series of documentaries called "Hooked: Illegal Drugs and How They Got That Way", originally made for the History Channel in 2000. The episodes can be found on YouTube. Part one of the episode on marijuana can be found here. The other episodes can be found in the sidebar.

These documentaries will be required watching for the Goober, once she's old enough to understand them. You all may have noticed I'm more about education and good decision-making than rules.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Profanity-ridden post the second.

Still no pack-out date, moving money, or anything else from the assholes at PSD. When the husbeast went over this morning they - again - had no idea who he was or what he was doing there. The only person in the place who admits to recognizing him is the receptionist, who keeps thanking him for not biting her head off (imagine how pleasant HER job must be). There is talk among the fuckheads of a packout date on Thursday or Friday, meaning some asshole movers will decide they don't want to come back Monday and try to pack my house in two days. The last time this happened half my property was destroyed and the rest was jumbled into boxes like someone picked up the house, turned it on its side, and shook the contents into a shipping container.

If it happens again, people will suffer. And it will not be me. I am not in a good mood and would love to have a target to take it out on. Fuckheads.

In other, related, the-military-is-a-clusterfuck news, Tricare is still refusing to pay for my anti-inflammatories and THEY didn't know who I was when I called, either. And as usual they're passing the buck and saying they don't know why the policy was issued and the rules put in place and I could talk to a supervisor who has no more authority to fix the problem than the stupid fuck on the phone and everything is always everyone else's fault. Fucking corporations. I got the number my doctor is supposed to call, left it on the doctor's answering machine, and now I get to sit here and take goddamn narcotics because they won't pay for the anti-inflammatories. When I get stomach cramps from narcotic withdrawal, I want to shit in a bag and sent it to the cuntheads over at Tricare. Maybe then they'll realize they're fucking with people's lives.

And I have a chin zit. That REALLY pisses me off.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Topic jumble.

With a faint possibility of cyanogenic glycosides later. (Turns out sweet almonds do not contain amygdalin, just bitter almonds. Huh.)

Anyway. Yesterday, went to the doctor, got a spinal shot sort of thing of cortisone. It's not supposed to kick in for 24 to 72 hours, but I had a nice twelve hours from the OTHER medications they gave me to numb the area and keep me calm. From what I remember of the one other time I took steroids, we'll know when it kicks in because I'll start baking four-layer cakes and eating them. Won't that be fun?


Am still spinning on the "Spice Cake" that may wind up getting named "Amber". I had a pair of amber earrings on my desk, made of alternating chips of yellow and brown amber, and I realized the colors were nearly identical to the two plies of the laceweight I'm spinning right now. I love real-life inspiration. Live on it, really. So the new laceweight is looking like amber to me.

The knitting is coming along. Cameo is looking like a sweater, and the fit seems perfect. Which worries me (when was the last time I knit something perfect?) but I'll keep on keeping on, and we'll see. It also looks like I'll have JUST enough yarn.


The Goober is still taking photos.

She would rip through a twelve pack of batteries a day if we let her.


We're edging out of denial and avoidance on the move and starting to box things up. More, we're making lists of what is getting taken to the dump or sold or given away. We definitely have too much stuff.

But for now, I think I'm gonna go back to spinning.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Profanity-ridden post the first.

...remember, some of you ASKED me to blog the move. The rest of you may wanna skip this one.

The husbeast went by PSD (Personnel Support Detachment, or Pinheaded Shitforbrains Dickheads, depending on your viewpoint) this morning to check on the status of our move.

We don't have one.

Some motherfucking shithead moron asshole lost our paperwork - or more likely, never filed it in the first place - and so we have NOTHING. No schedule, no movers coming, no trucks, no packers. For contrast, on the last two moves (to and from Hawaii), we had pack-out dates scheduled months ahead. In the case of our move TO Hawaii, it was my first 'international' move (Hawaii is considered overseas due to distance, even though it's obviously still part of the US) and I was paranoid and had our pack-out date scheduled SIX MONTHS IN ADVANCE. This time? WE ARE A WEEK AWAY AND THANKS TO FUCKHEAD THE WONDER MONKEY IN PSD WE STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IN THE BLUE HOLY HELL IS GOING ON.

We have a pretty cool landlord who would let us stay through August, if it comes down to it. But if we do that, we'll have to pay out over a thousand dollars in another month's rent, not to mention utilities and all that. WHICH I WILL THEN TAKE OUT OF THE HIDE OF WHOEVER AT PSD IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS GOAT FUCKING RODEO.

PSD claims they will have this straightened out by Monday. Considering that as of last week they had me living in Honolulu (we had to fix that so they'd pay to move me and my stuff from South Carolina to Ohio), considering this is already the second time we've filed our move paperwork and the second time it's been lost, I have very little faith.

The husbeast goes back Monday to deal with this. He plans to be "Mr. Not Nice Guy" as he puts it. I told him if that doesn't work, tell them he's sending in his wife.

Someone get me a slice of cake and a martini.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

And then, photography.

I've been looking up information on cyanogenic glycosides found in Rosaceae species and almost wrote a blog post on it, but I'm afraid people will come after me with pitchforks and torches if I seriously start in on the organic chem, so... another topic from left field!

A couple days ago, we were looking around for ways to keep the Goober entertained. It's so hot here we can't take her outside for very long unless we're spraying water on her. So, anyway, I grabbed the backup digital camera, gave it to the kid, and turned her loose. (This is the camera that I threw across the yard into a tree while falling down the porch steps last summer, if any long-term readers remember that fun-filled extravaganza.) She wandered around the house taking photos. We found out that this camera will take between 150 and 200 flash photos before the batteries give out. Once the batteries are dead, she's done for the day.

So here you go, photography from the Goober (for those of you on Facebook and Twitter, these photos are mostly different than the ones I put up there; I included the teddy bears again 'cause it's just so damn cute). She did all the framing and focus and posing and setup and everything. All I did was hand her the camera and show her how to turn it on and 'poosh da button'.

Monday, July 13, 2009


(More Plant Freak News, by request. Still knitting, still spinning, still in denial about move. Blah blah.)

Stevia is the new big-deal ooh-ah in industrial agriculture. It is a sweetener; not quite artificial, but not quite sugar either. Cargill is marketing it under the name "Truvia" and that's probably the state most of us have encountered it in (except for you wild people growing it).

Stevia is a shrubby little group of plants in the Aster family, meaning they are related not only to asters, but sunflowers, safflower, lettuce, artichokes, and, well, asters are one of the largest families of flowering plants, so there's a hell of a lot of them. Stevia in particular is native to central America, and has been used as a sweetener, medicine, and food, by the people in the area for time out of mind. It has been known in the west/European-settled world since 1899.

I was told in hort class that one of the things that really slowed the industrialization and widespread use of Stevia was the domestication of it. Supposedly, the plant is very sensitive to daily light cycles and won't grow well in areas with markedly different cycles. However, I can't find any mention of that quirk on the internet in articles I'm looking at, and all my botany books are in boxes in Ohio, so take it as you will.

The big, huge, raging controversy over Stevia is the same one that rages around all the 'artificial' sweeteners: safety. Rather, whether the sugar lobbyists are having the other sweeteners declared unsafe to cover their own asses. Stevia has been used for over thirty years in Japan with no ill effect, yet in 1985 (at that point Japan had been using it for fourteen years), the FDA declared it unsafe in the US. This prompted people to accuse the FDA of taking sugar industry money, and the snarling went back and forth until in 2008 they 'reviewed' the studies and decided that, no, Stevia was safe, after all.

Which makes a person wonder if the government cares more about our safety or corporate dollars, but that's a rant for another post.


The sweetness in Stevia is due to a glycoside called, originally enough, "Steviol glycoside". (Those silly chemists. When will they name something 'Fred'?) Glycosides are a big group of organic molecules that break down into a sugar and something else. For instance, cyanogenic glycosides break down into sugar and cyanide (these are the toxic chemicals in unroasted almonds and apple seeds and peach pits and the like). Get it? The steviol glycoside breaks down into glucose (the sugar) and steviol (the something else). Everyone is arguing over the safety of the steviol. I'll ease back on the chemistry, but steviol is a member of ANOTHER group of chemicals named diterpenes which are not the healthiest things in the world (diterpenes are the chemicals in coffee that make doctors tell you to cut back on it).

On the other hand, Stevia doesn't trigger the insulin whiplash that regular cane sugar does, is low-carb, and may help reduce blood pressure. So, as with so many things, I suspect the good and bad mostly balance each other out, and you should do that tiresome old grown-up thing and exercise moderation with the stuff, just like you would with 'real' sugar.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. Or a perfect sweetener.

For those who were asking, Stevia is heat-stable, meaning you can bake with it. And it doesn't ferment; I assume yeasts can't break down the glycosides to get at the sugar, and they just sit there.

On a personal note, I've used Truvia to sweeten my morning tea (my mother-in-law uses it and I just finished drinking a big whack of it while staying at her house in Ohio) and it's kinda weird. There are mentions of it in the literature. Since there has to be a chemical reaction to break down the glycoside, the actual taste of the sweetness is kind of delayed. When I use it in my tea, I swallow the tea and THEN get a zing of 'sweet' in my mouth. Not unpleasant, but kinda strange. I'm thinking I need to try this stuff in cookies and see what happens. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I really like knitting.

Yes! Finally! A blog post about knitting! Please do try not to swoon.

So, back in the ancient past when I was in high school, my friends and I had this phrase, copped from Homer Simpson ("I really like beer"). We occasionally applied it to beer, yes, but it was just as often applied to the other really obvious pleasures in life, "I really like cookies" "I really like broken in Levis". You get the idea.

Today, I really like knitting.

This is "Cameo" from Wendy Bernard.

Well, the start of it. I'm tweaking it a bit - we all know how that goes - but the knitting itself is chugging along smoothly. I've got to hand it to Wendy. She can write the hell out of a pattern. I've tweaked and mooshed and short-rowed this pattern, but she wrote it so clearly that it's STILL coming together beautifully. And because it's top down, I tried it on today to figure out where that all-important length is: the underside of my boobs, where I am starting the ribbing in the hopes the fabric will suck in and show off what waist I've got. No way I'd be able to do that knitting bottom up. I'd stress and measure twenty times and count and re-count and still get it wrong. This way? I know I got it. No stress. Just happy, lovely, endless knitting.

I started the ribbing today, dug in with a bunch of episodes of Eureka, and got this much done.

I'm in total denial about this move. Every morning I get up and think "I need to start sorting things, and making lists..." and then I spend the day knitting or spinning. The move will be hell, but it's great for my productivity.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


The pound of wool has been spun up, to a little less than 1200 yards of woolly goodness.

That's actually not the ENTIRE pound; there's one skein left waiting to be washed. But it's plied and wound on the niddy-noddy, so the spinning is done. (Roxie, sorry I didn't get a photo of the spun yarn back inside the container that held that huge wad of wool at the start of this adventure; the container is in Ohio, full of more wool, carbon fiber, and llama. But it takes up roughly one fifth the volume the roving did.)

So what did I learn? I can't get enough yardage out of a pound of wool to make a sweater. At least not at three-ply sock weight. I'm thinking two-ply lace weight might do it. So that's the plan for the Bells Fiber. After I practice another year or ten at spinning lace weight singles until they're perfectly smooth. I also learned I can spin a pound of wool in about a month, which blows me away.

I celebrated by immediately starting something else.

This will be the Spice Cake lace weight. The other ply is going to be a spicy-colored tweed. I'm going to see how much yardage I can get out of HALF a pound, this time. It'll be interesting to see how much time it takes.

ETA: Yes, this new spinning project will, eventually, be up for sale on the Etsy shop. It's more merino.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Poppies, opium and other.

(Still got nothing to blog, you're all stuck with another topic out of left field. Enjoy!)

As a once and future botany student and an all-around plant freak, the USES of plants - usually broken down into industrial, medical, and food - have always fascinated me. In particular the 'weird' plants, the ones with unusual qualities, have interested me. This blog post was almost about Stevia, but we're going back to one of the original plants that got me curious about botany in the first place.

Meet the opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. Also known as the garden poppy, common poppy, and a whole buncha other names in other languages.

When I was a kid, my parents had a bird feeder in the back dining room window. They filled it with mixed bird seed, and so every spring we would have plants grow from seeds dropped by the birds. Sunflowers and poppies were the two biggies. Usually my mother weeded out the sunflowers and let the poppies stay, although once in a while she would get a wild hair and let the sunflowers grow and they'd eventually block out the light in the dining room and we'd sit and eat dinner while watching birds duke it out over the sunflower seeds.

Anyway, when I got a little older, I remember looking at those poppies and wondering if they were, you know, REAL poppies. That made DRUGS. (This was before I understood how truly common 'drug' plants are - little did I know they were all over the place.) So I looked them up. I think poppies were the first plant I ever looked up.

It's entirely possible the poppies in Mom's flower beds were opium poppies. It's entirely possible the poppies in your flower beds are, too. They grow as weeds, 'wayside plants', in a great deal of the world, particularly Europe and Asia. And while it is possible to cultivate them for opium production in any temperate climate, the reality is that you'd need acres of them - and a good bit of cheap labor - to make any kind of money at it.

Opium poppies are native to central asia, near as we can tell. They were known to a lot of ancient civilizations - even in the middle east, we've got Sumerian pots (those wacky Sumerians) with pictures of opium poppies on them, that are about five thousand years old. (I'd love to know if they've tried to analyze what was in those pots.) They were likely domesticated very early - we don't know how early, but usually if there's no date, that means REALLY early. Of course they are still grown all through central asia, in some places for food, in some places for medical use, and in some places for sale as illegal drugs.

There is a lot of misinformation flying around about how illegal drugs fund terrorism, but in the case of illegal opium, it really is likely funding terrorism. It is the cash crop of the Taliban in Afghanistan, among other groups.

So to make opium, first, you grow yourself a couple hundred acres of poppies. (From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, I bet that's really beautiful.) Wait until they flower. Pull off the petals (or wait until they drop), and make a slice into the bulb of the flower head. Latex (gummy sap) will ooze out and dry, like this:

Go along every day and scrape off the dried latex and put it in a little jar; either re-cut the flower head, or make sure the current cut is still oozing. Move on to the next flower. (These flowers grow knee to waist high, so imagine doing this all day, bent over.) The latex is then refined by various chemical methods to separate out different chemicals.

I've always been pretty dismissive of the idea of major opium cultivation in the US: no one is willing to do the work involved. Much easier to cook meth. Young kids today. No work ethic. Ha.

Poppy latex is said to contain between forty and a hundred and twenty different alkaloids, including opium, morphine, codeine, and thebaine. (Alkaloids are a class of chemicals that are very reactive in the body; other alkaloids include nicotene, caffeine, cocaine, ephedrine, LSD, and THC, though those aren't in poppies. A very interesting group of chemicals.) What the DEA doesn't want you to know is, these alkaloids are found in ALL poppies, not just opium poppies - it's just that opium poppies contain the most, and are therefore the best choice for mass production.

As for opium and addiction, well. I'm not advocating the use of illegal drugs, but the alkaloids found in poppies are not only the most ancient (that we know of) painkillers in the world, but they are still the best we've ever found. Even in this modern age of engineered drugs, we fall back on our old friend the opium poppy for major pain control. Yes, it does cause physical dependence, but that's not the big deal it's made out to be. Many drugs cause physical dependence, including western society's most favorite legalized drug - caffeine. I won't get on my soap box today about dependence vs. addiction, but I'm tired of drugs being called bad or good on the basis of physical dependence. Particularly since the person talking probably had a cup of tea or coffee that morning.

On a sentimental note, there is a followup to my story of looking up poppies as a kid. About twenty years later, while studying botany in Hawaii, I was walking to class one day and noticed this plant, growing up out of a bed of weeds. It had the distinctive silver-green pointy foliage of poppies, and the flowers, while white, sure looked familiar. It was right outside the door of my horticulture professor's classroom, so I ducked in the door, pointed, and said, "Is that a POPPY?" She grinned and nodded and explained that not only was it a poppy, it was a Hawaiian poppy, pua kala. Somehow we'd had a fairly rare (really rare on Oahu, where we were) native Hawaiian plant pop up, right outside our horticulture classroom.

I like to think the poppies that my mother grew sent a relative to say hello. But I'm sentimental over plants.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The light at the end of the tunnel!

And it isn't oncoming traffic.

I am fucking thrilled to report that this is all that's left of the Purple Trainwreck:

About one bobbin's worth. I'm hoping to have it knocked out by the end of the week and then start on something not purple. (Two-ply lace weight I've tentatively named "Spice Cake", but we have to see what it looks like plied. It might be "Chai Tea" or possibly "Cinnamon Toast".) After that, I'm not sure what I'm spinning. Perhaps I will crawl off into a corner and knit two traditional Norwegian sweaters, considering I've got them 'due' at Christmas and I meant to have one knit by now.


In other news, I was the victim of a bad haircut at the end of last week. I had it colored at the same time (like the color), so I had to wait a while to let the color 'set' before I washed it and saw what the damage really was. It's bad. "A little shorter" somehow translated into the hairdresser going Edward Scissorhands on me and lopping off five-inch lengths of the top layer of my hair. Now I don't know about you, but 'a little shorter' doesn't equal five inches in my universe. I've been bitching about this for days over on Twitter, and there were demands for photos, so, well, here you go.

The only one who will fully appreciate the horror is Terby, who has seen me fairly regularly in real life and knows I usually wear it shoulder length and fairly sleek. NOT in the Billy Idol meets Rod Stewart chrysanthemum cut circa 1986. I've got too many cowlicks to be wearing it this short. One nap and it stands on end.

I'd cut it into a mohawk, but it'd just take that much longer to grow out.

And I'm not sure what another color, say pink, on top of the recent color job would do. But the cut is probably eighties enough.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Back from the dead.

Or Ohio. Whichever.

I wish I could say that I was away from my blog for a week because I was on a Caribbean island surrounded by a male stripper convention, raking in millions of dollars a day because I'd found a way to lose ten pounds an hour while eating chocolate. But, really, it's just more of the same shit around here with the medication. I've lost my ability to concentrate, which means no knitting to report, which means not a whole hell of a lot to blog about. Especially since I was in Ohio without my spinning wheel, which means no spinning to report, either. Tomorrow I call the doc to see about a nerve block. Won't that be fun.

Anyway, in the mean time, as chaos reigns, I will try to keep doing my usual out-of-left-field topics. And I'll try blogging the move, if I can; the shrieking and profanity should be entertaining as all hell. Especially if I'm drugged up, into the bargain.


The last week... well, I already said no spinning or knitting to report.

We drove to Ohio in this getup:

It took nearly fourteen hours on the road. At one point we were getting seven miles to the gallon (three kilometers per liter, ish?). Yes. A lovely time was had by all. The Goober thinks this about days spent in the car:

I've gotta say, I agree.

Once in Ohio, the Goober spent the week hanging with her grandparents.

The husbeast spent it changing vehicles to Ohio registration and other errands. I think I spent it staring at the walls. I'm not quite sure. I know I helped make a lemon meringue pie in there somewhere.

And then back home again, where I guess I've been asleep the last couple days. Or something. I'm pretty sure the Goober's getting away with stuff, 'cause she looks like this a lot:

Oh yeah, baby, getting ready for a move is gonna be a good time.