Saturday, December 31, 2011

To a new year.

I'm sure no one has missed the fact that it's been a rough year around here at House O Samurai. (For me. The rest of the family is chugging along in great good health and style.) We finally, FINALLY have finished the six month process of switching my main pain medication (FOUR MONTHS to wean off, two months to start the new one) and I really do feel like a new person. In the last week, I've accomplished more than the last six months. Boxes unpacked, things done. I'm CLEANING.

So that's it for my new year. START OVER. Start adapting this house to ME. Get the store room in the basement set up for ME. Plus the usual eat better and get off my ass stuff.

I really, REALLY feel like this is a new start, it just coincidentally starts at the new year. I'll take the symbolism and run with it.


In need of more zombie knitting, since I cast off the Half-A-Washcloth Shawl, I started another.
This is leftover Samurai Knitter yarn, from my old (defunct) Etsy shop. 880 yards of lace weight merino yarn in color "Primrose". It's a light yellow with pink flung over it in random flecks. The pink blends in some places to peach, and in other spots is nearly fluorescent pink. Awesomeness.


For Christmas, I got the Goob a sweatshirt. She loves it and wants the whole world to see it.
It's the T-Rex hoodie from Think Geek. (They also have a Raptor.) Rawr.

They also come in adult sizes.


A happy, healthy new year to all.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review!

Reading the Forested Landscape, by Tom Wessels
This is one I can't really tie in to the fiber stuff. I'm usually pretty good at that, dragging all subjects back to knitting and spinning. This one? I'm at a loss. There's some stuff in there about sheep, but it's about grazing and deforestation, not, you know, using the wool for stuff.

Anyway. The book.

Do you like trees? Forests? Woods? Do you wish you knew more about what went on there, in terms of how old the growth is, whether the land had been used before, like that? This is YOUR BOOK. Holy crap, it's amazing. The author is like the Sherlock Holmes of trees. (I don't know if his bio says that. It should.) Thanks to him, I am seeing the land around me in a whole new way. Fence rows. Pasture trees. Crop field vs. hay field vs. pasture. Beavers. (No, really.) ALL THIS COOL STUFF.

Wanna know what a field was used for? If it's old, look at the stone fence nearby. Only regular plowing (for crop fields) works small stones to the surface. So a crop field's stone wall will have little stones in it. A hay field or a pasture would only contain the larger rocks pulled out of the soil to level the field. IS THIS COOL OR WHAT? Sherlock Holmes stuff, people!

You should see me, riding around in cars these days. I kinda hang out the window. The place where I grew up? ALL sorts of logging about a hundred years ago. The field down the hill, with the farm house in it, has been cleared land for at least a couple hundred years. (You can tell by the way the giant trees on the property have grown.) I spotted a tree struck by lightning, on the turnpike.

If you like trees? You want this. Seriously. Even the husbeast has found the info I've relayed interesting, and he considers trees annoying things he has to mow around. SHERLOCK. HOLMES.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The hits!

From Christmas. 'Cause we had a great holiday. (So great I've been sleeping like DAMN.)

We spent two days in Ohio with the in-laws, visiting with hub's bro, SIL, and kids. I gave one of the kids a Glow Dome from Crayola. They're pretty cool; it's a clear dome with little LEDs along the edges, that make whatever you color into the globe, glow.
The Goob and her eldest cousin bickered, bitched, and fought over it like siblings. Then we came home and I gave the Goob one of her very own. There was much shouting and dancing.

Then there is the Spot It! card game. I really wanna tell youse with kids about this one, because it is amazing.
It's one of those rare games you can explain in a minute or less, and it's as fun for adults and children. Each person gets a card, then they try to be the fist to match things from your card, to the central card being flipped over. We played two rounds in about five minutes, before dinner tonight. I think the Goobie laughed the whole time Also, affordable for birthday gifts and stuff. Whee!

For me, the husbeast got the entire Girl Genius book collection. I was psyched.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you already know. But, when we did this last move, my ball winder disappeared. Still know exactly where my swift is, but no idea on the winder. So for the last year and a half, two years, every time I had to wind a ball of yarn BY HAND, I'd Tweet "Anyone seen my ball winder?" So guess what I got for Christmas? I'd post a pic, but it's a plain old blue and white Royal ball winder. I've already used it.

Hubby also got me a set of Signature needles, but accidentally ordered the wrong size. They're in the mail for a return, but I'm still saying YAYAYAYAYAY! I think I'm gonna love them. (Size 1 DPNs, 7" long, for socks.)

Oh, and I have a new lap desk.
Ha, kidding. It's a really old lap desk.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Free shawl pattern!

A free shawl pattern, for Christmas. For those bloggers who've hung in this year through the chaos.

It's very simple. In fact, here's the pattern right here:



Cast on five stitches. Knit back.
*Slip one, knit one, yarn over, knit to end.*
Repeat the directions between the asterisks above.
When you're nearly out of yarn, cast off loosely.

This specific shawl uses two Crazy Zauberballs and measures approximately four feet across the top edge. It was knit on size five needles.


There ya go. I've got Scribus fired up and am putting this in a (likely one page) PDF file, so I can upload it to Ravelry.

For those wondering, here's the washcloth pattern:


CO 5 sts. K back.
Sl1, K1, YO, K to end.
Repeat, working until you've used up half your yarn. Then,
SL1, K1, YO, K2tog, K to last 5 sts, K2tog, K to end.
Repeat until you're down to 5 sts, bind off.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

That time of year.

For three years now, the Goober has gone to Ohio near Christmas, gotten gussied up, and gone to a Christmas party with her grandma. Today was the day, this year.
She picked out the dress. We walked into the store, and she saw it and said "OOOO! Purple SEQUINS." I said we needed to find a dress with sleeves. Being a good kid, she didn't argue. But we poked around and none of the other dresses worked. (What is it with no sleeves this year?!?) So, since nothing else worked better... what the hell. We got the dress she liked. (Life is short. You're only six once. Purple sequins are required.)

Then we rounded it out with tights covered in little hearts, and these:
I would so totally wear a pair of these. I posted the picture to Twitter the other day with the caption "GLITTER SHOES!" and everyone said they weren't sure whose feet would be in the shoes.

They have Hello Kitty charms on them, too.

Maybe I can get some Chucky T's and paint them with glitter.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Marsh Mallows

See, now about 1/4 of you are laughing, and the other 3/4 are going "whaaaaat?"

Yes. That, above, is a marsh mallow. They are native to northern Africa, but it's been naturalized just about everywhere. All the way back to the ancient Egyptians, it was used medicinally. The roots produce this goo ('mucilage') that soothes sore throats and helps acidic upset stomach. Some folk used it on their skin, like a moisturizing lotion. They're also grown all over as an ornamental; see how pretty they are? They're related to hollyhocks, hibiscus, and even (distantly) chocolate.

Back in the day (a couple-three hundred years ago), French confectioners used the goo in the roots to make what we know as proto marchmallows-the-candy. They'd whip the goo, add sugar, and other flavorings like rosewater.

These days, since marsh mallows aren't easy to farm, we imitate htem instead with egg whites instead of root goo.

Hmmm. Homemade marshmallows for Christmas, instead of some of the cookies. Yeah. I can do that.

Monday, December 05, 2011


Well, I spent last night and today fooling around and I can still knit. I mean, knit for more than ten minutes at a time.

It's got to be very small gauge; small and light. I assume that's because it's lighter in weight and the actual motions themselves are smaller. Even Cascade 220 is too heavy at this point. But sock yarn is working.

With luck I'll get drugged up next week so I can finish this KAL before you guys start sending me felted wool and broken knitting needles in the mail.

This also means the Christmas knitting is dead in the water. Luckily it was just a couple felted bags; I can work around that. But this will be the first year with NO knitted gifts in a long time.

Maybe if I drug up successfully I can knit a hat or two.

Keep your fingers crossed for Toradol. It would make a great Christmas gift.


I keep forgetting to mention... remember the deer?

Up the road, we've got an archer. He's got a little range set up in a field; most of the year, he uses one of those modified hay bale targets. But for the month or so leading up to deer hunting season, he uses a deer target. It's an actual fake deer, stuffed with something to make it shootable.

About a month ago, the deer target got the attention of a real deer. Real deer gored the hell out of the target, tore it up, and probably peed on the pieces.

These are the same deer that like to lay around in my back yard.

Lately I'm worrying less about the freaking bear in the area.

Sunday, December 04, 2011


And sad. And kind of worried.
This is how far I've gotten on my annual winter socks from scratch. I haven't knit anything.

I really can't make a fist with my hand. Given a minute or so, I can carefully assemble my fingers in a ball, but it takes concentration and care. Not what you'd call a fist.

We're still screwing with my medication, but I'm starting to worry if it never gets fixed.

Yesterday, I went and bought this:
Iridescent tinsel. Even it's not enough to get me spinning. (Though, if at all possible, I am spinning this into lace weight and knitting SOMETHING crazy with it.)

How about something happier? Yes. Let's do happier.

We got the Christmas tree put up. The Goob did most of it. It's her thing.
She's been sick (the sore-throat-and-sniffles deal, nothing major), which just adds to the whole event.

First thing when the tree went up, the Goob asked "Are we going to use my star?" Years ago, when she was maybe two, the Christmas tree topper got broken. I don't even remember what it was. I had the Goober color some paper with crayons and a glitter pen, then rigged up a star with tape and cardboard.
It has survived to top the tree another year. The Goobie gets a big charge out of it, so I'm trying to figure out a way to laminate it, or something, to keep it indefinitely. But for now, it's safe at the top of the tree.

Maybe I'll drug up and see if I can knit. Or spin. Or bake. Or something. Painting my nails as my only creative outlet just isn't cutting it. (Pain doc appointment next week.)

Thursday, December 01, 2011


I've been thinking about it since I wrote yesterday's blog post. People turned to me for advice on writing their senators and representatives, for looking up congressional info, and... I knew the answers. Before this, I'd never really seen my penchant for writing snarly letters to elected officials as a protest, but you know, it is. In my mind, a protest involves picket lines and chanting and possibly mild violence of the 'throw a few punches' type. But then, my dad was a member of the UAW (United Auto Workers union), so I suppose it's not shocking that image was in my mind.

Writing seemed more civilized to me, and I don't know what I thought of it as. But it's a protest as surely as waving a sign at city hall.

See, this is all Ralph Regula's fault.

He was my congressman, where I grew up. We had a great government teacher at my high school, and she and Ralph would organize government orientations, for lack of a better word. I've actually met the guy; he retired in 2009 after 18 terms in the House. While I didn't agree with everything he ever did, he was an old-school politician who actually acted like a public servant.

With all that, then, it didn't seem odd at all to me, to write a letter or call his office when there was something I was unhappy about going on in office.

Then I married the husbeast and moved to Virginia, just in time for the Ollie North vs. Chuck Robb senate race. You remember Ollie North, the "I was just following orders" dude from the Iran-Contra hearings? Him, running against Chuck Robb, who was almost a cartoon of a corrupt southern politician. I spent about a year writing nasty letters to both Robb's offices and North's campaign offices. I don't remember if I refused to vote, or if I voted and wrote in Kermit the Frog. (I do a lot of both.)

Then on to Hawaii, and again, letters fired off to relevant people. I actually got into a face-to-face confrontation with one of the congressmen while I was there. Do not rag on the enlisted military in my presence, I will chew your face off.

Well, you get the idea. Apparently I've been protesting with the pen rather than the picket sign all this time and it just never occurred to me.

So, it's time to protest some more.

The bill discussed in yesterday's post? S.1867? It passed in the senate today, a vote of 97-3. There's a petition to impeach every senator who voted in favor of it. You can sign it, here. (The internet makes all this with-a-pen protesting much easier and faster.) While I don't think they will impeach the entire senate, I DO think that thousands of signatures on that WILL get their attention. It's a small thing. It's an easy thing. If you're outraged, go sign it.

I hope the president vetoes this thing or I'm going to be writing in Kermit the Frog again next year.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knitters, mobilize!

This is going to be another post about government. I don't really think of it as politics per se, because I don't think it's really about a controversial subject. At least, I wouldn't think so. It's more like my first amendment blog post was, a call to protest the loss of our civil liberties. You can think whatever you like - I'm trying to SUPPORT that. As I've said before, personal freedoms are what made this country great. They're the best part of us. We need to defend them.

"The 2012 Defense Authorization Bill" is before the senate this week. (Overseas folk: We each have two senators allegedly representing us, decided by state.) It is bill number S.1867, if you want to look it up yourself. The problem is, they've thrown in some INSANE additions, including, AND I QUOTE, "Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force." Got that? What this boils down to is, the military can pick you up and hold you in 'detention' for as long as they like, without need for evidence, warrants, trial, or any other common legality normally used when arresting someone for a crime.

As far as I can tell - not a constitutional lawyer, but I read a lot - this violates the laws of habeas corpus, covered in the Constitution, "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it." Instead of pushing through revisions to the amendments (which we have processes in place to do), they're making an end run and trying to declare the US a war zone, which would then essentially give them martial law. You thought the Patriot Act was bad? Ha. That's like kindergarten compared to the potential mess this bill would cause. 

They're speaking of America as 'part of the battlefield'. IF (I'm not sure it's in the bill) they do this by declaring the United States a war zone, they could deploy US troops within the United States, against American Citizens. Again, I am not sure that is provided for in the bill explicitly (probably not), but to read senators' comments, this is a step in that direction. (This is discussed in the ACLU article, link directly below.) 

You can read the bill here, and you can read the ACLU's thoughts on the subject, here.

This? This is really fucking bad. I don't care if you're liberal, conservative, GOP or DEM, young or old. This is a massive shit on the Constitution and all it stands for. You should be against this. This could directly impact you and how you live your life.

So, this senator, Mark Udall from Colorado, decided hey, this would create a police state, and that's really not cool. He introduced an amendment to the bill, striking out the parts about making the country an English-speaking version of the Soviet Union. Yesterday, the senate voted on the amendment. It was voted down, 61 against the amendment, 37 in favor.

A friend of mine summed this up with "They're trying to declare American citizens the enemy." I replied, "At this point, we kind of are." Because I'm sure as hell not in favor of this bullshit.

Here is the list of the 61 senators who'd like to make it possible to lock people up without a warrant or legal reason and 'detain' people like they're doing in GITMO, except in the US:

Lamar Alexander [R, TN]
Kelly Ayotte [R, NH]
John Barrasso [R, WY]
Roy Blunt [R, MO]
John Boozman [R, AR]
Scott Brown [R, MA]
Richard Burr [R, NC]
Robert Casey [D, PA]
Saxby Chambliss [R, GA]
Daniel Coats [R, IN]
Thomas Coburn [R, OK]
Thad Cochran [R, MS]
Susan Collins [R, ME]
Kent Conrad [D, ND]
Bob Corker [R, TN]
John Cornyn [R, TX]
Michael Crapo [R, ID]
Jim DeMint [R, SC]
Michael Enzi [R, WY]
Lindsey Graham [R, SC]
Charles Grassley [R, IA]
Kay Hagan [D, NC]
Orrin Hatch [R, UT]
Dean Heller [R, NV]
John Hoeven [R, ND]
Kay Hutchison [R, TX]
James Inhofe [R, OK]
Daniel Inouye [D, HI]
John Isakson [R, GA]
Mike Johanns [R, NE]
Ron Johnson [R, WI]
Herbert Kohl [D, WI]
Jon Kyl [R, AZ]
Mary Landrieu [D, LA]
Mike Lee [R, UT]
Carl Levin [D, MI]
Joseph Lieberman [I, CT]
Richard Lugar [R, IN]
Joe Manchin [D, WV]
John McCain [R, AZ]
Claire McCaskill [D, MO]
Mitch McConnell [R, KY]
Robert Menéndez [D, NJ]
Jerry Moran [R, KS]
Ben Nelson [D, NE]
Robert Portman [R, OH]
Mark Pryor [D, AR]
John Reed [D, RI]
James Risch [R, ID]
Pat Roberts [R, KS]
Marco Rubio [R, FL]
Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Jeanne Shaheen [D, NH]
Richard Shelby [R, AL]
Olympia Snowe [R, ME]
Debbie Ann Stabenow [D, MI]
John Thune [R, SD]
Patrick Toomey [R, PA]
David Vitter [R, LA]
Sheldon Whitehouse [D, RI]
Roger Wicker [R, MS]

I have taken the title of "Senator" off all these names. I do not use titles when addressing people for whom I have utterly no respect. Holdover from the military years. Anyone wanting my respect has to earn it. (Otherwise I call people by their last name only. It's considered quite rude in circles where titles are usually used.)

See how every one of those names is a link? It goes directly to the contact page for each senator's personal web site, to make it as easy as possible to leave them a message. It doesn't have to be elaborate - in fact, I'm convinced the longer it is, the lower the odds it will be read. Just leave a message, saying you're appalled by the bill (S.1867, if you want to throw that in so it sounds like you're paying attention - this vote was on the amendment to it). I intend to tell my senators that due to this vote, I'll never vote for them again, for anything. Including dog catcher. A short message will get the job done. There's likely an aide or intern scrolling through e-messages, but if we send enough, the aide will report that they got 50-whatever e-mails that day, pissed about their vote on the bill amendment. It's numbers we need here, not long, eloquent messages. I spent hours putting all these links up, to make it as convenient as possible for everyone. So if you feel strongly about this issue, please, click, fill out the forms, hit send. It won't take long at all and we've GOT to make ourselves heard BEFORE we lose the civil liberty to do that, too. 

It's interesting to cruise so many senate web sites at once. They all are about honoring veterans. Not one mentions wanting to wipe their ass with the constitution. It's also startling, how the vast majority is old white guys. It's horrific. They don't come close to representing the country racially, religiously, in any way. They sure as hell do not represent me, nor do they look like they have any intention of trying.

While you're at it, message the president, and tell him you're worried about this and you really hope he plans to veto it, if it lands on his desk. (He has said he will, but let's still ask. Can't hurt.) There's a petition to sign, as well, if you're so inclined, here.

For youse guys overseas, well. Many argue that 'foreigners' don't have a right to any input on our government. But the rest of the world watches, and takes their cues from US policy, a lot of the time. Recently, the Egyptian government justified crackdowns on protests in Tarhir Square by pointing out that the US government had done the same thing with the Occupy movement. It's a small world. Everyone's watching. I'd e-mail the president, if I were overseas and concerned.

This... this makes me alternately angry and sad. There's no way a bill like this should ever have gotten this far. I am disgusted with my government. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

And then, nothing happened!

I've been under the weather for the last two days and have nothing really to blog about, but damn it, I said I'd blog every day, so here I am. Hi. Or something. I guess I'll just do a topic jumble.

Someone asked me today where the VK review was. It's still in my head. Honestly, I've been bored with them for years and would have quit doing them around 2009, but they keep pissing me off, one way or another. Eventually, on a day I'm feeling particularly grumpy, I'll do the one I've got laying here now. But mostly, I can sum it up easily enough in one word: "Feh."

Several friends have been asking me to review other knitting magazines. Partly because it might make me seem less biased, but mostly 'cause they just wanna laugh their butts off, I suspect. I'm sure I could do more of the same I do with VK, namely discuss how the piece has been photographed and who it would look good on. But really, I don't feel like I NEED to review any other knitting magazines, because all of them deliver on their claims. Decent patterns, reasonable errata notification, the probability that if you follow the pattern you'll get something that looks like the picture. But, we'll see.


The Goob crashed and burned today. The whole side of her face is bruised, and her glasses are bent all to hell and one of the lenses popped out. She's a pretty cautious kid (you know those adrenaline junkie kids who want to jump off the roof? Not mine) so this was the most serious spill we'd had in a while.

She fell over the arm of the couch, face-first into the legs of a really sturdy table. At first it was funny; all I could see from where I was sitting was butt and legs in the air. Then she started crying, I got up, and, well. It's a miracle she didn't break her arm. In fact, I let her get herself up, because I was unsure what she'd hurt and what she hadn't. So far, no complaints from her about her arm, just her face.

Next time she needs to get up OFF the couch and walk AROUND it to pick up the damn Buzz Lightyear on the floor.

Right now she's wearing her old glasses. I REALLY need to order her a couple sets, with the most obnoxious frames I can find, for Christmas. She seems fascinated by the rhinestones in my glasses. Heehee.


There have been many questions about my fingernails, on line and off, the last two days. So, what the hell.
The RIDICULOUS glitter is a brand called KleanColor, in a shade called "Afternoon Picnic". It goes on like a layer of asphalt and removes with about the same level of trouble, but it looks pretty cool while it's on. Under it is a pretty run-of-the-mill blue creme I got at the drug store.

Speaking of nail polish, several folks mentioned that I may want to watch it, with my migraines. I appreciate the thought. Actually, it's my asthma that can get set off by the polish fumes. My migraines are a symptom of this stupid chronic pain thing I've got going, and aggravated by a past skull fracture (really), my hormone cycle, and the weather. I've never noticed any chemical exposure setting off a migraine, but you guys are right -- chemical exposure IS a common trigger for some folks.


Right now I'm reading "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". Having been an English major, back at the dawn of time, I'm rather surly about Great Literature and so I sneer quite a lot at critically acclaimed novels. But, the trailer for the upcoming movie intrigued me, and I happened to have a copy that my SIL gave me last year, so I pulled it out. It's good. I like it. I won't go into annoying raptures on the state of modern literature (because that stuff pisses me off), but it's good. There's a really dense plot, which I can enjoy if the characters are interesting, and these are. The prose is pretty spare, but I don't know if that's because it's a translation; probably a little bit of both the translating an the original form. At any rate, if you're looking for a good mystery to read, you could do a lot worse.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pain Meds Part Two

Because I forgot something, and there was a good question.

First, what I forgot.

Pain patches. They come in two versions I know of, narcotic and NSAID. The narcotic patches work simply as an alternative dosing method - the drug soaks in through your skin rather than your stomach. This is especially wonderful for people with stomach problems, or people who are not really coherent enough to swallow. (Tranquilizers are available in drop form, used under the tongue; same result.)

NSAID patches are a REALLY new thing. There is only one I know of, the Flector patch. It happens I use them. They're about three by five inches, with a synthetic felt on one side and an adhesive goo on the other. The goo contains Diclofenac Epolamine, an anti-inflammatory. You stick it on your body where it hurts, and the drug soaks in there, in the isolated area, rather than soaking through your whole body from the pill form. (They were given to me because I've trashed my stomach, taking NSAIDs for fifteen years.) They are AMAZING. The only drawback is, it works on only a single isolated spot rather than the whole body, but if you've got pain in a single area, boy howdy is it AWESOME.

Related, is Voltaren Gel. Rather than the goo being on a patch, it's in a tube like toothpaste. Spread it anywhere, within reason (there are doses). The drug is Diclofenac Sodium, very closely related to the patch.

No one seems to know about these two, the Flector patch and the Voltaren gel. I wish I knew why; I once saw a back specialist who handed out samples to nearly every patient he had (and followed up with prescriptions if it worked) and he seemed to have the right idea. They're particularly good for osteo arthritis, which pretty much everyone over forty has. So please, please ask your doctors about them. They're wonderful and as safe as pain drugs get.


The other thing was the question. Someone asked about marijuana.

I've been saving marijuana for a plant post, once I read this very cool book I've got on it. But for now, I'll try to sum it up without going all Plant Freak.

In a nutshell? Nothing works like THC (the active ingredient in weed) but THC. No other known plant contains it. No one has ever been able to replicate it. It's one of those "mother nature specials" that's far too complicated for us to re-create, or even fully understand, right now.

But how THC works for pain is really interesting. It seems to inhibit the memory part of the brain, the part that sort of strings your experiences together into a coherent whole? It slows that down or shuts it off (depending on your dose). So instead of being ground down with fifteen years of pain, you have one single instant of ow. The single instant is quite easy to shrug off, without all the baggage. (Another example - I may have once been driving stoned. I knew what road I was on, I knew where I'd come from, I knew where I was going. But I couldn't put together the passing landmarks in a way that told me where I was on that road.)

No other drug I know of works in this way. Which is why THC should be legalized. It's cruel not to, with no other alternative to offer.

A word on marijuana safety. Smoking it is really not good. Smoke will eventually cause emphysema, COPD, and other lung problems. Not cool. Look into vaporizing it, or eat it. I've got some lovely brownie recipes.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pain Drugs

Subtitled "things to talk to your doctor about".

With the aging population, and the possibility of injury... well, I don't think enough attention is paid to pain control in the US. In fact, the state of pain control, and the approach to it, is a disgrace. Which is a rant for another day. So, we'll just get started with what I've learned in the last fifteen years.

First, a note. There is "acute" pain, which is pain from an obvious source, like an injury. Then there's "chronic" pain, which is long term and the source is either unidentifiable, unfixable, or both. For practical purposes, docs consider the first month after an injury acute pain, and anything after that chronic pain. I'm not sure it's accurate, in fact, I'm sure it's NOT, but that's how it's treated in the US.

So let's talk drugs! This is by drug family or group of similarly-acting meds.

NARCOTICS: Yeah, we'll just get that one out of the way first. They work great for acute pain, but suck for chronic pain. That's not to say they shouldn't or can't be used for chronic pain, but there are other, better meds that can be tried, first. Taking narcotics, regularly, over a long period of time, can screw up your brain chemistry and affect your pain perception, actually sensitizing you and making things hurt worse. When docs say long-term narcotics aren't a great idea? That's not the DEA talking. I've read the studies, because I thought the same thing. No. They're really not a good long-term choice. Yeah, they also cause physical dependence, but it's no different than getting headaches when you quit caffeine cold-turkey. Taking some, even taking a lot, isn't going to result in you turning tricks for more. On a personal level, I hate them. They've got oodles of weird side effects, of the minor but really annoying variety, and then having to wean off the damn things when I take too many is just more annoyance on top of it. But the next time I break a bone? I WANT SOME.

NSAIDs: An abbreviation for "non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs". Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and a host of others are all in this family of drugs. I think of them as the opposite of narcotics: Instead of being good for acute pain, these are better for long term. In fact, depending on the cause of your acute pain, the blood-thinning qualities of NSAIDs can fuck you up - you're not allowed to take them after surgery, for instance. Long term is kind of fraught, too. These have the potential to cause a LOT of damage, if you take enough. Liver and kidney damage, increased risk of stroke, respiratory (asthma) troubles, you name it. Drinking and taking NSAIDs is particularly bad, and a good way to blow out you liver and make it fall out and go squish on the floor. But... when they work? Best thing ever. My favorite drug of all time is Toradol, an NSAID. It's very strong, so it's potentially dangerous, but my gods, it's awesome to be able to take a pill and have the pain go away with no weirdass side effects or loopiness or anything. Just wonderful, pain-free glory. Seriously; my 'normal' behavior after Toradol is to sit around smiling. Blissfully. For about two days.

The rest of these are generally only used for chronic pain.

CNS MUFFLERS: I'm not sure if these have a technical group name... probably, but damn if I know it. Gabapentin/Neurontin and Lyrica are two drugs given for, well, originally nerve pain. But then someone had the realization that ALL pain has to do with nerves, and they've lately been giving them out more and more for other type of pain. They work by muffling the nervous system, reducing the signals sent. Obviously this is a good thing when you're in pain, but the drugs aren't selective about what signals they muffle; there were a couple months during our move, when I was on lots of Lyrica, that I couldn't feel my feet. Which is kinda scary when going down stairs, especially with a long-standing injury that'd probably be aggravated by falling. These have a lot of other strange side effects, due to their direct effect on the nervous system: 'brain fog', numb spots, tingles, strange tastes, visual disturbance that's not QUITE a hallucination.

SSRI and SNRI ANTIDEPRESSANTS: These, obviously, mess with the ol' brain chemistry. The part of the brain that controls mood is the same part of the body that controls pain. Someone got the bright idea of trying to boost pain tolerance with anti-depressants. They kind of work. You still feel the pain, but it's easier to shake off. It also can lead to weird moods (not all of them 'up'), euphoria, and everything else you'd expect from fucking around with your brain chemistry. These drugs are also known for causing weight gain, which is a bigger problem than it first sounds like; if you've got leg or back pain bad enough to take regular drugs for it, the last thing you need is weight to make it hurt worse.

TRANQUILIZERS: These make more sense than you'd first think. They've got lots of effects. They can work as a muscle relaxant. They can quiet damaged nerves. They can help with anxiety that's a pretty obvious result when you're in constant pain. Problem is, a lot of them cause wicked-bad physical dependency, so a lot of care has to be taken to match the proper med to the proper use.

MUSCLE RELAXANTS: For orthopedic problems in particular, these can be wonderful. As with tranquilizers, though, some can cause physical dependency. Flexeril, which is a really popular one these days, DOESN'T cause dependency, which is why doctors love it so.

On the topic of physical dependency; don't let it stop you trying a medication. Yeah, quitting them again is annoying, but it's just a matter of weaning off and maybe feeling like crap for a while. A week of mild nausea is worth it, for three months (or years, or whatever) of feeling better. Quitting caffeine or cigarettes is worse than any of these meds if you wean off them first.

Steroids are another option for some types of pain. I don't have much experience with them. I've got NO experience with them for pain - I took them for asthma once or twice. They DEFINITELY have side effects and need weaning to get off them, but they can be worth it. I liked how I could breathe when I took them. I like that.

I'm not covering other things, like nerve blocks and steroid shots and like that. They can be amazing, but they're a whole other level of pain control. And this was never meant as a diagnosing guide, just a list of things to try, if you haven't before, and are in pain. Good luck.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Food History

Specifically, family history.

I give you Exhibit A:
The family "Corn Casserole" recipe, from my mom's side of the family. Looking at it, I'm not sure if it's my mother's writing, my grandmother's, or possibly my aunt's. (All their writing looks similar.)

When my mother died, I got all her recipe boxes. It was about five years before I could bear to open them. When I did, I found that all the recipes, everything, were in alphabetical order. Even in the box of "recipes to try". I stood in my kitchen and cried, because it was so totally Mom. Who the hell alphabetizes their recipes, within each little category? No one by my ADHD, organization fanatic mother. (Yes, I inherited/learned the skill. No, I do not use it much.)

Anyway. The recipe. It's in MY recipe box, now, because I've used it once before. I pulled it out today to gather up the ingredients for tomorrow, REALLY looked at it, and burst out "#@#%*!! Mom, it doesn't even have salt and pepper!"

That's the other thing about that branch of the family.

They're German (big shock in this area), and came into the country through Cleveland, back in the huge immigration waves, around 1910. They were peasants, and cooked that way. No spices, no garlic, rarely onions. Anything beyond salt and pepper was exotic. Wait, no, my mother did make me cinnamon toast. Her coffee cake had walnuts and cinnamon-sugar in it. That's it. My grandmother was a hell of a cook, but there wasn't seasoning in ANYTHING.

My brother learned to cook in the Marines, from a member of his team who was a Cajun. I learned to cook from my grandmothers, but proceeded to watch cooking shows a whole lot. Plus a very good friend of mine is of Italian heritage and (rightly) believes that roasted garlic is the food of the gods. I remember my brother and I cooking dinner once, in my mom's kitchen. She stood and marveled as my brother and I threw in spices, garlic, and other stuff. She could never get over how my brother and I cooked. Roasted garlic chicken (stuff chicken with heads of garlic; roast) blew her mind.

Tomorrow's family corn casserole? I'm adding a jalapeno.
Sauteed in bacon grease.


In another food related moment, today the husbeast went out to run some errands. One of them was to pick up some medication for me. He came home and handed me a bag containing drugs and Nutty Bars.

Because that's how we roll.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

...I got nothin'.

Right. Blogging every day. HI!

Maybe there's something interesting in my photos. Let's have a look.

I could blog about food, but which one? And will my readers kill me for a blog post on wheat?

Still spinning the blue stuff...

Re-reading a silly romance novel from 2002...

I could blog the tree book, but I wanna read it first.

Oh. The Goober's new thing is HELPING. She scrubbed out the sink for ten minutes this morning, and nearly killed my new dish brush in the garbage disposal. (Far better the brush than her fingers.) I want to ask her what's WRONG with her, wanting to CLEAN, but that would warp her little mind, so I just let her. It's great that she helps, really, it's just weird.


Still got nothin'.

Well, there's always tomorrow. Usually.

Monday, November 21, 2011


This one's for all of you who ask me "How do you KNOW that?"

My answer is, I read a lot. But since you really don't want to spend twenty years reading books, I thought I'd mention a book I ran across, that would give you a jump on Knitting Knowledge:

The Knitter's Life List, by Gwen W. Steege.

This is a fun book, full of short articles in themed chapters. Chapters are things like yarn, sweaters, socks, know-how. Then in the chapter, you'll find well-known people who are experts or top designers, information about different types, history, like that.

My discussion, a while back, about Fair Isle vs. Stranded Color? There's a whole section in the Sweaters chapter on different types; folk, and "Twentieth Century Classics". Other chapters have similar info. So imagine that blog post I did, except a whole chapter of it.

Really, it's like if you took the introductory information from every knitting pattern book printed in the last fifty years, assembled it into an easy to deal with format, and published it. This is that book. One of the great things is, it doesn't ignore the internet. Most knitting books these days stay away from networking because it's such a huge, bottomless well, but this one does a good job, both in the actual text, and in the Appendix. The Appendix is full of URLs to fiber festivals, designers, and free patterns mentioned in the text.

There are also a lot of "Meet _____" pages with short profiles of knitters and spinners. So you can get a handle on at least the well-known folks.

I'm not sure if there are any patterns in the book. I haven't seen any. Have you ever wished for a book ABOUT knitting? Here you go.

Something for your Christmas lists. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

This is America, damn it.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
                                                 -Evelyn Beatrice Hall

Yeah, we're having that discussion, because apparently we need to. Plus, I'm pissed as hell.

This country was founded in 1776 by a bunch of beatniks, rebels, and it could be said "dirty hippies" on a platform of defiance and granola-hugging personal freedom philosophies. Even the Founding Fathers called it "the Great Experiment", because it had never been done before and they were making it up as they went along. But make no mistake: They knew what they wanted, and clarified it quite well in the Constitution. Since I'm still angry, let's just quote the relevant bit, shall we?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

See that? Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to peaceably goddamn assemble. It doesn't say 'when or where convenient', or 'so long as the police and billionaire mayors approve'. IT JUST SAYS SO.

My own personal slap in the face by the First Amendment came when I was in my early twenties and ran into rabid anti-abortion protestors for the first time. Up until then, it was all just academic; yeah, yeah, freedom, blah blah. But then, here in front of me, were these rabid assholes who I really wanted to smack in the head. (Long story for another day.) I mean, REALLY wanted to smack in the head. But they had the freedom to be there. Once I thought it through for, oh, thirty seconds, I realized that we couldn't go locking them up or shutting them down on the basis of agreement, because that'd be the start of a long, slippery slope to a police state. So I indulged in flipping them off whenever I saw them (hey, I get freedom of speech, too), and that was it. Welcome to a free country.

By the time the Tea Party got going, I'd encountered so many ideas and opinions I disagreed with, over the years, it didn't even occur to me to wish for them to be shut up. This is America. Let it rip. One of the things I love best about this country is the great stew of ideas and opinions, and my own right to walk away if I'm dealing with someone too fanatical to be reasoned (or argued) with. Tea Party, check. Have a lovely time. Don't wait on me to join you.

And this brings us to the Occupy movement. Yeah, I'm in sympathy with them, but that's beside the point for this blog post. That's not what really scares me. (And pisses me off.)

What's really got me worried, and what should really scare the shit out of you too, is the response from the government.

Occupy's message is hitting a lot of very powerful people in the wallet, and in the last month, I think sheer numbers is starting to really worry them. Not to mention the 650,000 accounts closed at the "Big Four" banks and switched to credit unions. (Figures on this are very hard to find; but many credit unions are reporting a 100% increase in business since "Bank Transfer Day", November 5.) The response has been, well, Biblical.

Homeland Security coordinated with 18 cities to evict Occupy protests. Does that worry you? That an anti-terrorist organization is being used to shut off peaceful protests? It should. It really should. Unless you sincerely think Occupy is being run by terrorists. Which means the precedent has been set; the next time a group of people protest, nation-wide, Homeland Security might help evict those, too.

The police brutality has been off the charts. In the last week, cops at Berkley pepper-sprayed kids sitting peacefully on the ground. Cops in New York, well, the last two months have been a long string of police brutality in New York, but, let's see: they slammed a Supreme Court justice (who was there as a legal observer, not a protestor) into a wall; and, well, here's a summary, from the Guardian (UK), to give you an idea how the rest of the world is seeing this. Over on the Left Coast? Well, cops in Seattle pepper-sprayed an 84 year old woman (that's classy). Convince me a tiny 84 year old woman poses a threat, unless she's got a gun. Oakland... well, Oakland's always had a bit of a problem, in the form of a we-they view of the police. The last two months have done nothing to help it, with not one, but TWO military veterans being put in the hospital by police: Scott Olson was shot in the head with a tear gas canister; the cops helpfully threw flash-bang grenades at the people who tried to help him. Then Kayvan Sabehgi was beaten so badly he had a lacerated spleen, then left in a cell overnight before finally being treated for injury and taken to the hospital. Oakland claims they are investigating the injuries, but when the ACLU asked to see the progress of the investigation under the Freedom of Information Act, the city told them to buzz off.

I could go on. It's continuing now. You say you haven't heard any of this? Or almost none of it? Yeah. That's the other thing. The cops have been trying to block the press, everywhere, at every turn. News helicopters are ordered away from camps before clear-outs; the clear-outs happen at night under cover of darkness; cops ignore press passes and other credentials and toss reporters in jail. So even on the internet, detailed information is hard to find. (If you're interested, log on to Twitter and do a search for #OWS. You'll be amazed at the information that never seems to get to the 'outside world'.) Human rights groups are worried, because they understand without freedom of the press to keep people honest, this will only get worse. See all the articles I've linked to? How they're mostly from fringe and/or online only news outlets? That's because the major ones are mostly ignoring this. THIS SHOULD SCARE YOU.

And if all of this didn't suck enough, banks are paying big bucks to work behind the scenes to discredit the Occupy movement because "...Republicans will no longer defend Wall Street companies.” Just chew on that whole thought process a minute. By the way? That document linked to in this paragraph? Short of violence, that is the single, most chilling thing I have ever seen on the internet. Ever.

Now, do you agree with the Occupy movement? Doesn't matter. Really. You're welcome to hate them all you like. But even allowing for that, you should be damn worried over how our constitutional rights are getting shit on. No one is holding these cops accountable: One cop who randomly pepper-sprayed a peaceful protestor lost ten days of vacation. That's it. As far as I know, he's the only one who has been disciplined at all, even with videos of police brutality plastered all over the internet. Cops have been hiding their badges and refusing to give their names, so all those videos? The official word is, the cops in them can't be identified. Scared yet?

No, if you're not a protestor (I'm not), it's not really your problem. Yet. But if this continues, do you think Occupy will be the only unpopular opinion to be shut down? If the powers that be can do this, what will stop them from shutting down other protests? Eventually, they will shut down one of yours. This is America. We protest like we go to baseball games and eat apple pie.

At least, we used to.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


For those who are new here, I'm really into food history. I wind up doing quite a few posts about food, and since I'm stalled on blog topics, I thought I'd cover some Thanksgiving foods. I've already done Brussels sprouts, corn, and the spice rack.

I almost didn't do this, because I thought "oh, cranberries are pretty boring". But then I remembered that not everyone has spent the last couple decades reading food books and taking classes, so... I hope you find it interesting.

There are four different species of cranberry, including Vaccinium oxycoccus, the Northern Cranberry from Eurasia, and V. macrocarpon, the cranberry everyone eats. It's native to the New England area of North America and grows up into eastern Canada and down as far south as the Carolinas, in high-altitude areas that are kind of chilly.

There are two ways to harvest cranberries. The Bog/Wet Pick method is the one we're familiar with, if you're one who pays attention to such things. (Cranberries grow in dry, chilly areas; they don't actually grow in water. The water is part of the harvest method.)
Fields are created with sandy beds and dikes around them. When the fruit is ripe, the area is flooded with water. Cranberries have little air pockets in them (sort of like tomatoes, but open, rather than full of seeds and goo), so they float. The bushes are swished around with giant rakes, and then the berries are sucked up in a giant wet vac. Due to the moisture, they don't keep for crap, so they're immediately juiced, jellied, or frozen.

Dry Pick is just about what it sounds like; people pick the damn things by hand, which would have to suck because they grow low to the ground. These berries keep much better, and account for the less than 5% of the worldwide cranberry harvest that's actually sold fresh. I imagine it's sold mostly in New England, because no one else would know what to do with them.
Nutritionally, chemically, cranberries are pretty awesome. Lots of vitamin C and fiber, trace minerals, and 'phyto chemicals'. Phyto chemicals are assorted plant chemicals that aid the body in some way. A hundred years ago it'd be called a tonic instead.

Cranberries contain goodies that aid circulation; it thins the blood a tad, and sort of de-grease your digestive tract. It's got tannins that fight tooth decay. And, its most well-known property, it does fight or inhibit urinary tract infections.

There's just one drawback. (Isn't there always?) Raw cranberry is so sour and bitter, it'll turn your head inside out. So lots of sugar needs to be added, or the juice needs to be blended with other, sweeter things.

The fiber in cranberries is the soluble type, and one of them is pectin. Pectin is the thing that makes fruits turn into jelly. The cranberry jelly at Thanksgiving? It does that all by itself.

Historically, there's not much. Native Americans put it in their pemmican, for flavor and nutrients, I imagine. Plus the pectin/goo factor. First recipe for cranberry sauce, 1663, from the pilgrims.

I'll do what I can to find some more interesting Thanksgiving foods for the next week.


Oh, and found while poking around for cranberry information: Traditional Dyes of the Scottish Highlands. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Whine, bitch, moan.

Still migraine weather here, so I'm still, well, all fucked up. And I've got tendonitis in my shoulders from playing Rabbids (this mostly amuses me). And, well, fuck it.

Some photos off my phone, since I have nothing much to blog about and migraines are pretty fuckin' boring.

Oh, and I did a George Jetson, pulled the chip out of my phone, and plugged it into my net book. That always makes me boggle. It's like something my BFF and I played at, with Legos, when we were kids. Seriously. We made pretend flip phones, in about 1975 when the idea of having one that actually WORKED was a figment. It never occurred to us to pretend a camera with video capabilities. That was TOO crazy.

And here I am, living in the future.

Babbling. Right. Photos.

Finished a Baby Surprise Jacket. It's done with Cascade 220 hand-dye superwash whatever. Took about a skein and a half. Super cute. Feel like someone hit my knuckles with a hammer.

We were out over the weekend and got a meal at Wendy's. The hub got a salad and picked the cherry tomatoes off it. The Goober saw them and thought they were grapes. This is the face that resulted when she ate one.

In conjunction with the new Muppet movie, OPI has come out with a collection of eight Muppet-themed colors of nail polish. This is "Meep Meep Meep", purchased entirely because I am a huge Beaker fan. You can get them at salons in JC Penney stores. Enjoy.

We're working on writing. A lot. I hates it, Precious.

I put Sekhmet on a diet, and she's lost at least a pound. You can totally tell, can't you?

The Goob likes to get up super early in the morning, nest like this, and watch cartoons. It's mostly cute, until she flings the stuff everywhere and I trip over it.

Still spinning this, when it doesn't feel like my fingers are being ripped out.

Now I get to go exercise (using a Wii Fit Plus, awesome rig) and swear at my shoulders a bit. Then maybe I'll try to get something done. Cheers.

Monday, November 14, 2011


It's been YEARS since I added to my series of blog posts on dyes and colors (links in the side bar). So, it's a fine time to do it.

White, as a color name in English, goes back through Old English and eventually traces to several older Scandinavian languages that mean 'bright' or 'shiny'. There's a really interesting listing of idioms using the term white, and when and how they came about, here.

The oldest form of white paint or pigment would have been chalk, and related soft, white ores. It's available pretty much world wide, often on the surface, so it's not what you'd call hard to find.
Flint, which was used for tools before the invention of metallurgy, is often found in a chalky matrix, so there you go. Two for one; tools and pigment. (Interesting, if useless, note: The Iceland Spar from the viking navigation post? It's essentially a crystalline form of chalk.) They'd have been mixed with clay or oil at first, then other carriers later on. Tempera paints in the middle ages were made with a mineral pigment (chalk) and eggs as the carrier/glue to hold it to whatever surface it was painted on. Chalk, however, has drawbacks; it's not REALLY white, it can mix really badly - or not at all - with other pigments, and it can flake or rub off easily. But, for all it's drawbacks, we STILL use it, in 2011, on slate or synthetic chalk boards. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

But, oil darkens chalk, and it's not white any more. So when oil painting was developed, sometime around the 1400s, they had to find something else.

The 'something else' turned out to be "white lead", or lead carbonate. Powdered lead, what could possibly go wrong? It was beloved by many artists because it was so opaque - you could paint it over other colors, and it would cover them. It could also be mixed with other colors and make THOSE opaque. It had a couple problems, though. The toxicity was one, but I don't think that's why it was abandoned. Compared to other paints they were using - cadmium yellow, orange, red and green; cobalt blue; arsenic based yellow and oranges - really, lead white was relatively stable in comparison. No, I think lead white fell out of use because it turns BLACK when exposed to sulfur. And guess what the coal fuel of the Industrial Revolution belched into the air in amazing amounts? Yup. Sulfur. You wind up with cave paintings originally painted with lead white, that have sadly gone black on us.
For a few decades painters dabbled with Zinc White, but it was expensive (four times the cost of white lead, by some accounts), it dried too slowly, and it was transparent, making it useless as a true replacement for white lead. It was introduced as a watercolor ("Chinese White") but it never really caught on, otherwise. Well, no, wait. It did. The white goo that mountain climbers and lifeguards paint their noses with, to avoid sunburn? That's known to them as "zinc oxide", or our friend Zinc White.
What finally took the place of white lead is the pigment we still use: Titanium dioxide. It's the white in Liquid Paper. It's in your nail polish. It's in the paint on your walls and on your cars. Even the colored paints have titanium dioxide added to make it opaque. It occurs naturally, and it is 'mined' out of swamps and riverbeds by a complicated sifting process that sort of slurps out the dirt, removes the titanium dioxide from it, and replaces the gunk right back in the river where they started; kind of neat.

And this brings us to textiles.

For much of history, truly white clothing/fabric didn't exist. They could hunt albino animals, and did. They could color leather with chalk, and they did. Later, after animals and plants were domesticated, they could breed for white in both animal and plant fibers - and did. But as everyone knows, there's no such thing as true, 'bright' white in nature. For that, you need bleach.

Linens were originally washed with lye-based soaps and left out in the sun to whiten. Wool and animal fibers, well, they bred the animals to be as white as possible, and that was about it. In the 1700s, with industrial chemistry gearing up, people began 'bleaching' (read, 'damaging all to hell, but whitening') finished textiles with SULFURIC ACID. That didn't work out so well for the long term (good gourd), and finally, in the 1780s, chlorine bleach was invented - the stuff we know as 'bleach' today. But even with bleach, that's not the end of it.

What we, today, think of as a white textile - let's say a white tee shirt - is the end result of some wild and crazy processes. First the cotton was bred, over thousands of years, to be as white as possible. Then, as part of processing, it is bleached as white as it's possible to get it, without (overly) damaging the fiber. Then, it is in fact dyed. The class of dyes used are called "optical whiteners" and are there to reflect back as much of the visible light spectrum as possible. Have you ever noticed how your white clothes will often glow under black light? That's why - the optical whitener is bouncing back all the light possible.
Oddly, it's true, bright white that is the hardest 'color' to achieve in modern textiles.

Oh, and one last thing - white LED lights? They aren't true white, in that they don't produce ALL colored light wavelengths. They're really an optical illusion; they produce yellow and blue wavelengths and trick the eye into 'seeing' white. So don't expect colors to look right under them.
Didn't know white was quite so complicated, did you?

PS: Traditional knitting NEVER uses true white yarn. Because it didn't exist. The closest they got was undyed, 'natural' yarns. And there's no way in hell any house wife worth a damn would send her family out in light clothes, because she didn't have the detergents it takes to get them clean again. There's a reason real fishermen's sweaters were dyed nearly black with indigo.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


(Yeah, yeah, VK review... what?)

Vindolanda is one of those things where, if you're into history and/or archeology, you go "Oh, yeah. Very cool." and if you're not, you've never heard of it. So now, you can hear about it. Then you can sound all smart the next time the subject of the Roman Empire comes up in dinner conversation. (Okay, we don't usually talk about it either, but work with me here.)

Vindolanda is the name of what was once an auxiliary fort and garrison that housed soldiers staffing Hadrian's Wall. What makes it super interesting is, the entire site is being excavated. Usually, due to really lousy budgets, archeologists will dig a trench through a site, document what they find, guess at what else is there, and close it up again. Not Vindolanda. The site was purchased in the 1930s by an archeologist, Eric Birley, and it remains in the family, and they continue to excavate. They're on their third generation and still digging away. I remember watching a TV show about Vindolanda a while ago, and one of the Birley family was talking about it. He said he can always tell when they get to the Roman levels of the dig by the smell. Someone asked him what the Romans smelled like. He said old laundry. Can you imagine what it was like, to grow up on a Roman dig site? It probably seemed totally normal for them. TOTALLY NORMALLY COOL.

In the 1970s, a Trust was founded to continue funding, and they occasionally get additional cash from the Heritage Trust and the British Museum, and probably a lot of other places. Vindolanda is unique, for many reasons, and very well known in archeology. Everyone wants to keep it going, well funded and protected.

What makes it unique? Well, for starters, these:
The Vindolanda Tablets. In short, wooden post cards, written by people living at the fort. Not just inventory lists and administration records, but personal letters, written by the wives and mothers. Gossip, invitation to a birthday party, and a letter from a mom nagging her son to write more have all turned up. They expect to find more, and are working at translating all they've found so far. History types consider this find one of the most remarkable and valuable ever, in the British Isles. (Gold is all well and good, but this stuff is invaluable for historians trying to figure out what in hell went on two thousand years ago.) Thanks to these documents, they've got a really detailed chronology of the fort that was only guessed at before. There is evidence of letters being sent to and from other forts, York, and London, but nothing has been found at the other sites. Probably because they haven't been extensively excavated; these turned up about FORTY YEARS into the dig.

Due to some quirk of the soil composition, and the depth at which thins are buried, things that normally rot into nothing have survived. Like wooden post cards. And leather shoes. And, well, all kinds of stuff.

Then, a new wrinkle. (One that's relatively new, and I actually hadn't known about until I researched this blog post.) In 2010, they found a body. Not, you know, a formally buried body in a grave yard, but the body of a girl, tied up and buried under the floor of the barracks. For obvious reasons, they think she was murdered. Think about that a minute. They've been methodically excavating this site for 80-odd years, and it wasn't until 2010 that they found the girl's body. Which makes me (and everyone else) wonder what all has been missed in other archeological sites, where they've only had the time and funding to run a few trenches.

Less war. More archeology. That's what I say. We could have excavated the entire planet down to the bed rock for what the nuclear arms race cost.

Until that happy day, YAY HISTORY!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

What's the process?

I've had a migraine for a week, and am kind of cranky, so bear with me on this.

The new Vogue Knitting is in my hands, and I'm flipping through it, getting a feel, to do the review. Right. Situation normal. But then I see this... hat.
How does something like this get designed and put into an allegedly high fashion magazine? What's the thought process?

I know from talking to (and being ranted at) that VK dictates quite a lot to designers. Like, nearly everything in some cases, from the sounds of it. In this case, the designer is Deborah Newton, who has been working as a knitwear designer for decades, and written a kickass book on the subject. How is it that someone as excellent as Newton winds up with this hat?

Newton submits a proposal for a hat. I can't imagine it was this hat, so VK says "no, it's not fucked up enough, put random flaps on there blah blah blah". Newton figures, what the hell, it's a pay check and she likes to eat, so she makes it. They get it in the mail and... what? Did they really think this was awesome? Was it "Perfect, just what we asked for" or was it "Oh shit, what do we do with this"?

Then, whatever the response was, they hand it off to the stylist who has it photographed in the most stupid, awkward way possible. "Yes, yes, let's put it on the model's head so the button and flap stick straight up off her forehead. THAT WILL LOOK SUPER SOPHISTICATED."

Do they do this shit on PURPOSE? Do they seriously think this is fashion?

I know to push the envelope on style there are going to be hits and misses, but this is out of the ballpark. I'm just sitting here going "HUH?" 

(Again, please note this isn't really about the designer, who wanted to earn a pay check. I'm wondering why VK dictates this stuff. Even if Newton randomly did turn in something weird - which I can't imagine, given her long history - VK was not required to publish it. So they must think it's acceptable... HUH?)

I don't get it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Tomorrow is Nigel Tufnel day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Setting a bad example.

So, you know how you're not supposed to do anything for hours at a time? Especially when you're creaky and have a fucked up nervous system and arthritis in most of your joints?

Um. Hmmm. Yeah.
I feel kind of bad even mentioning this, because, hmmm.

I've got this friend. We will call her W. She is married to an IT dude we will call Moo. He sees and hears about all the really cool games and stuff, and it winds up passed on to me. Remember Plants Vs. Zombies? I know some of you still haven't forgiven me for that one. That was their fault. Well, a while back I got another game recommendation from W and Moo. I knew better, but I went out and bought it, anyway. I stood in the store, with the game in my hand, thinking "this is gonna turn into a time suck of epic proportion". Then I bought it.

Raving Rabbids Party Collection. For Wii. It's three games on one disc. It comes on every gaming platform known to man, but on the Wii you can pretend it's exercise. (Actually, if you ask my arms, I'm pretty sure it really IS exercise.)Today I played the Raving Rabbids TV Party for. Um. -cough- Three hours. Okay, four, but I took a break after hour one, so it's only the three hours straight, after that, that count.

I can't really feel my fingers, and my shoulders are a disaster, but I spent the day shooting zombie chickens with a plunger gun. And dancing to bad 80s music. And... uh, skiing down a mountain on an upside down cow. There were some explosions and flying through space and a gunnery sergeant in there, somewhere. It's kind of a blur.

Yeah, you wouldn't like this game. Really. Think no more about it.

I'm gonna go stick pain patches all over myself and pray to Keith Richards to make the drugs work better.


And another thing. The Goob drew a zombie.
This is the best zombie ever.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Principles of Knitting

Yes, THAT book. The original.
The Principles of Knitting, by June Hemmons Hyatt, published 1988.
I bought it in 1989, when I'd been knitting about a year, because I could see the value in such a thing. Plus I'd been using the copy out of my local library and really wanted it. I paid full price - $29.95. (That was the year I worked at Citibanc and lived on my own, and with no one to stop me, I spent 37% of my income on books. My mother did my taxes that year and about keeled over when she sorted my receipts.)

No one has blogged this book, that I've seen on the internet. Probably because it's been out of print so long and it's so hard to find. An updated and expanded second edition has been in the works for at least three years. I've planned to buy a copy for my mother-in-law as a Christmas gift every year, and every year, they push back the publication again. Amazon was taking pre-orders at the end of this summer, before news broke that they were pushing back the publication date AGAIN, to February 2012. We hope. So, in the mean time, here's what they're building on. It'll give you an idea why this book is kind of mythical.

It's laid out in double columns, with fairly small text, to cram in as much information as possible. There's two-color printing (black for text with a dark aqua as accent color), with black and white photos and hand-drawn diagrams as needed.

The table of contents:
For youse who can't read it off the picture (I understand; my eyes suck these days) as always, my comments in parenthesis:

Part One - Working the Stitches (continental vs. other types; stitch mount; decreases and increases)
1. Learning to Knit and Purl
2. The Stitches
3. Decreases and Increases
4. Decorative Increases and Decreases

Part Two - Constructing a Fabric
5. Circular and Flat Knitting
6. Casting On (about ten methods)
7. Casting Off (ditto)
8. Selvedges (why, how, different types, what they're good for)
9. Contouring the Fabric
10. Picking Up Stitches
11. Hems, Facings, and Folds (why, what they're good for, many methods)
12. Openings
13. Double Knit

Part Three - Decorative Techniques
14. Working with Color
15. Inlay (more data than you can imagine)
16. Decorative Needlework
17. Beads and Sequins (multiple methods)

Part Four - Working a Project
18. Materials and Tools
19. Starting and Carrying Out a Project
20. Finishing Techniques (brain melt)
21. Cleaning and Dressing a Knitted Garment
22. Fulled/Felted Knits

Part Five - Reading and Designing Patterns
23. Reading Written Garment and Stitch Patterns
24. Stitch Gauge (brain melt)
25. Calculations used in Pattern Making and Alterations (DUDE.)
26. Stitch and Color Pattern Charts (now very pedestrian; at the time, huge news)
27. Schematic Drawings and Garment Pattern Charts

Oh, and in case you're wondering how she crammed that much info into one book? Here's how:
That page count isn't including the glossary and index.

"Meticulous" is the word I'd use, if I could only have one to describe the book. When I first got it, 20-odd years ago, I thought the amount of detail was crazy and I'd never use it. Twenty years later? I've referred to all of it, at one time or another. Nowadays, there are other books that rival or surpass this one, on narrow topics - for instance, "The Knitter's Book of Yarn" by Clara Parks is, dare I say it, better and more comprehensive than the "Materials and Tools" section of Principles, where yarn and fiber types are covered. But as an all-in-one, with all layers of needed information in one place? Nothing's ever come close to this book, that I've ever seen, before or since.

If you took "The Knitter's Book of Yarn", "Knitting in the Old Way", "Knitting Lace", "Knitting Without Tears", a couple books on fit by Lily Chin and Wendy Bernard, and had all of those jumbled together by a master knitter who then explained everything with diagrams? That's about what "Principles of Knitting" is.

With luck, the second edition will be out in February. Or by next Christmas. Or the one after that. Until then, you can talk to your local librarian about Inter-Library Loan and have them lay hands on it for you. Unfortunately, you'll have to give that one back.