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.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Sekhmet, you fucker.

It's been a while since one of these, hasn't it? I'm sure it is the cat's fault.

Do you know what season it is? If you ask Sekhmet, she will tell you it is Cold Toe Season. There is only one solution to cold toes; lay on your hoomin's lap. (In principle, I am in favor.)
She hops on my lap, paces around, and stands for long minutes between me and the computer that is usually on my lap. Then she wiggles around. And wiggles. And wiggles. Then she shoves her face in my boobs (usually amusing unless the cold, wet nose lands in my cleavage). Heavy sigh, happy cat. For a minute. Then more wiggling. Eventually she arranges herself so she's laying lengthwise along my lap, shoving my computer away from me as she goes. MY ARMS AREN'T LONG ENOUGH TO REACH THE KEYBOARD by the time she's finally comfy.

If I move her? She bites my feet.


Sunday, November 06, 2011

I went a little nuts.

You know how picky I am about colors? (As well as being interested in how they're recreated.) You know how I've said my local yarn store, Natural Stitches, carries the ENTIRE Cascade 220 product line, and STILL sometimes doesn't have the color I want? (I consider this my failing, not theirs.)You know how I have, in the past, dyed my own yarn and spinning fiber to get EXACTLY what I wanted?

Right. Well. I suppose this was just a matter of time.

About twenty years ago, I bought this light blue nail polish. It was the PERFECT light blue color. But it had one problem. It didn't cover for shit. Five layers of nail polish seemed a little extreme to me. Occasionally I would pull it out, be sad that it was so pretty but didn't really work right, and put it away again.

Last week in some fugue state, I fixed it. Well, no, I didn't fix it.
I had a bottle of white nail polish sitting here. Far and away, the most common pigment for white anything these days is titanium dioxide, the stuff used in Liquid Paper to make it cover everything in one coat. (It is also put in skim milk to make it look white rather than blue. Enjoy.) White nail polish? Consider it acetone-based Liquid Paper. For nails. I KNEW it would cover. I even read the label to double check. Yes. Full of titanium dioxide.

So I poured in blue nail polish until it was the color I wanted. Viola. My light blue nail polish, with actual coverage.

I've been wearing it for three days and can't decide if this means I'm really bloody clever or have finally lost my mind. You be the judge. I'll be gloating over my nail polish.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

...but I blogged!

Been busy all day, so I didn't have time to research anything interesting. Potential topics: drugs, plant anatomy, and colonial history. I'll try to settle on one tonight and do some poking around online for tomorrow.

This morning was the Goober's last swimming class for a while, and after that I met a blog friend in person finally (more on that later), and we visited. We also got totally lost in Pigsbird, but that gave us more time to chat. (When you cross the river seven times in an hour, you know something ain't right. Or was it eight times?) Nice afternoon. Then I came home and played Wii with my kid. And I didn't have to cook today. Damn. It was almost like a vacation.


Yesterday, I finally finished the spinning I've had on my wheel for six months, at least:
There's 500 yards of it (a bit more, actually), so I don't feel totally stupid for taking so long at it. I've no idea what I'm going to do with it.

But, now that I'm done, I've started the annual socks. Every winter (since we moved north), I've spun and knit myself a pair of socks. Last year, it was these:
Pictures! 001
This year, I've got some merino/silk blend dyed in blues from sky blue to dark indigo, mostly a medium blue. If the pattern works for the second time, I'll write 'em up for everyone.


Thanks to everyone who commented on the home schooling. It helped, a lot. You know how it is; you hear enough negative stuff and no matter how much you thought through your decision, you start thinking "crap, am I sure...?" I am reaffirmed.

To celebrate I got the Goob a book on minerals, so we can work on understanding how rocks can bend light. And a Mythbusters book because, hey, it was there, and so was I, and it teaches science with explosions.

And I got a copy of Vogue Knitting. 

Friday, November 04, 2011

And so, the Goob.

(Because we ALL need me to take a break from the news for a while.)

For those of you just tuning in, I've got a six year old daughter who is known on the internet as either "my kid" or "the Goober". The Goober nickname goes all the way back to when I was pregnant and had my first ultrasound at, what, six, eight weeks? At the time, the fetus was the size of a peanut, and resembled one quite a lot. In the southern US (where we were living at the time), an old folk name for peanuts is goobers, so there you have it. Until we found out gender and figured out a name, the fetus was "the Goober" and it just stuck. "Goobie" is a possibly even more humiliating term I use.
These days, the kid has made it known that "Goober" is not her favorite thing, so I've also been calling her "Boo", after the little girl in the movie "Monsters, Inc." She'll stay "the Goober" here until she figures out I'm using the nickname on the internet and has a fit, I guess.
Oh, speaking of the internet? She's figured it out. She watches kid's shows on TV and they say "Go to our web site at ____ and play games!" and she bugs me to use my computer. In the last week, all but one of the really annoying scenes we've had around here have been about her and my computer. (The school issued her a computer, yes. But she needs to be supervised -casually- on the internet, and it's just more convenient to use mine.) And she REALLY doesn't need to be on the internet for more than two hours at a time.

As you can see, she's just thriving away. The photos above are from yesterday. I tried to take her photo, and she yelled "NO!" and ran off, laughing. So I chased her around the house, clicking blurry, bad photos until the camera died. The happiness when she was a baby? Still there. And thank all the gods for that.

We've been doing swimming classes, all summer and into fall. We're in the boonies and don't have a local Y - they're held at the local high school.
Her last class, for now, is tomorrow. We've got this great community recreation center, and they send out quarterly fliers full of classes for kids and adults; the new one is due any day. We'll sign her up for more swimming, karate, and anything else that looks fun, and it'll all start up again after Christmas.

School? We're still doing PA Cyber. It's... interesting. She's at or above where she's supposed to be in math and reading. Writing? Her writing sucks, but she knows how to do it. I'm trying to remember how good my handwriting was at six, and I doubt it was very neat. So, that's fine. She's REALLY interested in science and figuring stuff out. Remember the vikings and rocks post? She found the Iceland Spar while I was in the shower. Burst into the bathroom with it in her hand, demanding to know what it was. I explained. (While in the shower.) I told her she could look at it, if she was VERY careful not to drop it. She raced back out. Eventually I got out of the shower, and what do I find going on in the kitchen?
She was shining a flashlight through it, and was drawing lines on the paper to follow how the light 'bent' as it shone through.
Apparently I'm raising the reincarnation of Issac Newton, without the mercury fumes and related loopiness.

Personally? I hate home schooling. Hate it. I'd love to put her on a bus and have a few hours to myself every day. But I've gotta ask myself - would she have a chance to do stuff like the flashlight and rock, in a classroom? With an adult working one-on-one with her, answering her questions? The local school district has children her age in classrooms that are 35-40 kids per room. I can't see that working well for her. So I'm stuck. Really, it's pissing me off. People in the public school system shit on me because I'm home schooling. Other home schoolers (not all, but the ones I've managed to find locally) shit on me because PA Cyber is considered public school by parents. But if I want to transfer her into public school soon (and holy shit, do I), I need to be following the state curricula so I can say with confidence she's able to go into whatever grade. I'm pretty well stuck.

I'll keep on muddling through the sucky parts, and really enjoying the good stuff. Which, really, is what all parents do, isn't it?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Getting political.


---ETA: Apparently, while I was writing this, the Senate moved to kill not one, but TWO infrastructure jobs bills. S.1769 basically failed to move on to the next step, due to a whole lot of apathy when the Senate voted. Info here.  I haven't been able to find a break down on exactly who voted in what direction. Fuck it. Never mind. Skip the whole damn post. I'm going to write hate letters to my reps.---

Actually, I've always BEEN political, but I kept it off the internet while the hub was active duty because when your husband's in the Navy, calling the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces a flapping twat over the internet is unwise. (But, hey. Bush Jr? Flapping twat is the nicest thing I called him.)

I shall try to remain moderate for all of you, because nothing's more tedious than listening to some extremist rant, and we're all entitled to our own opinions, anyway. But I'm pissed. Have I mentioned I'm pissed?

A short bit of lead-in, for perspective, and because I'm a history geek and today's current events are tomorrow's history, so for crying out loud, get the details right. And because not all of you are from the US (if you're not, and you're still reading, thank you) and don't know this stuff. And because not all of you had the great government teacher I did.

When the president introduces a bill (potential law or appropriation of funds to start a project, declare war*, like that) the Senate (two per state) and the Representatives (determined by population, one per smaller region) vote on what they call a "Cloture Motion" or just Cloture. Think of it like closure. Do they vote yes, and axe the thing dead on the spot, or do they vote no, and discuss it further?

Our economy, like everyone else's, is in the toilet right now. Our president (who I'm rather indifferent about) has been trying to pass bills that would create new jobs. HIS JOB, wouldn't you say? Looking after the citizenry? We're at a stage where unemployment has only been worse, once. Chart here. The country needs jobs.

The president, being a smart guy, figured out one thing that would work would be to put people to work fixing infrastructure (roads, bridges, like that), which is in a pretty sorry state because we spend significantly less than the rest of the world on keeping our country paved and safe. Chart here. (Interesting editorial drawing on that chart, by the way.) This is a tried-and-true plan. It's one of the major ways FDR put people to work during the Great Depression (and where a lot of our really awesome stone bridges come from); top economists NOW are suggesting it. The president put it together with a lot of other, similar ideas for job creation, and introduced the bill.

So what did the Senate do?

Yup. Killed it. It's dead in the water. You can see how your senators voted here.

It was trimmed down and broken into pieces, and the infrastructure portion was re-introduced and is currently under consideration for a motion to proceed. It is bill number S.1769, if you wanna do your own searches on it. (Here's a good summary.) Basically, they're deciding whether to kill it. Since they're proposing to pay for this project by a .7% tax on people whose income is over a million dollars, I bet it get shot down, just like the last time. It's looking REALLY close. Got an opinion on this? I hope you do. Track down your senators and tell them how you feel about it.

You guys who aren't stuck here? Technically it's not your problem, and you're not their jurisdiction, so to speak, but I bet they'd take notice if enough outraged e-mails from outside the country showed up in their in box. If you want, you can e-mail my senator who voted against the last version of the bill, Pat Toomey. I intend to; as always, you're welcome to join in the fun.

There you have it. My radical agenda. Jobs for people and maybe a few fixed bridges. ('Cause the husbeast? The industrial inspector? He'll tell you, the bridges in this country are FRIGHTENING.) I hope you won't all hate me for wanting some millionaires to pony up a few bucks to make it happen.

And just to warn you... I consider myself a conservative because I think the Constitution should be followed strictly (including using the provisions for amending it). But the GOP wouldn't have me as a gift. I think "government by the people, for the people" is a mandate for public health care, among other things.

Yesterday's general strike in Oakland? Except for the vandalism? Awesome.

I am not a pinko commie. I'm a democratic socialist. Also, my dad was in the UAW. I've been blue collar all my life. So. Y'know. Oh, hell, just call me Pinko.


*Included for the folks who wouldn't know how the system works here: Yes, Congress has to vote (in favor, obviously) in order to declare war. That's why Iraq is a war and Afghanistan isn't. Afghanistan is a "police action". Total bullshit? You betcha.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Vikings, and navigation. And rocks.

This was supposed to be a post about the culture shock of living in the boonies of Pennsylvania. But then this showed up in my RSS feeds this morning, and, hell, there's always time later to discuss how weirded out I am to be living in an area where people steal bridges.

Right. So, the vikings. Great seafarers, discovered and settled Iceland and Greenland, poked around in N America before most of Europe knew it existed. All very cool. But there's one thing that most people don't think about. Okay, there's more than one, but there's one that's the real biggie. How did they figure out where they were going?

Being vikings and all, a great deal of their sailing activity was done in or near the Arctic Circle. Which means they did most of their traveling (all they could, I'm sure) in summer. Summer, when, in the Arctic, the sun never goes down. How are you supposed to navigate by the stars, in the Land of the Midnight Sun?

I first encountered this question when I had a job selling crystals and jewelry at a job in Waikiki, years ago. Being me, I was geeking out, researching the history of crystals, and ran into the problem, which historians and tech people have been puzzling over for centuries.

There are references in the Sagas about "A stone with which one could see where the sun was in Heaven." There are mentions of "sun stones" in church inventories, descriptions of gifts (a horse and a sun stone), and other discussions. They were definitely a well-known and valuable (obviously) thing.


Everyone who knew anything about the situation (rocks, navigation, and history) figured it was probably some kind of feldspar - crystals which, due to their crystalline structure, would polarize light. Moonstone, rainbow moonstone, spectralite, and Labradorite are some of the names used for semi-precious stones used in jewelery that have the effect to some degree or other, hence the pretty reflective qualities of them. (Rainbow moonstones are my personal favorite, for jewelry purposes.) Still, there's a shitload of feldspars out there, and no one was quite sure what in hell the vikings were using.

My choice was always iolite, which I'm not sure is technically a feldspar, now that I think of it, though it has similar diffraction behavior. (I use gem terms for rocks, because I learned about them at a jewelry store rather than in a geology class.) There are clear forms of iolite in a gray-blue that, cut properly, would work exactly like a polarized eyeglass. Check it:
See how it refracts light, and makes the stone look like it's different colors, from different angles? Using one of these would be like finding the sun in the clouds, wearing polarized sunglasses. Which I've done. It would work. The nearest source of iolite for the vikings would have been Cornwall, in the UK. Or Connecticut in N America - but how would they have made it to N America to find the stones, if they hadn't had them first? This is a logistical problem, obviously.

But it appears I was wrong. (SHOCK!)

They discovered an "Icelandic Spar" on a shipwreck that went down in 1592. It so happens that, because they're so freaking common, they're really easy to get hold of, and I actually own one. (What? I'm a geek!) Here it is.
You can see, by the way the light's reflecting off it, that it's got some odd refractive index, and I wasn't even trying. You can also see that it breaks along planes in the crystal structure, which would make shaping it for sunglasses purpose really easy. Probably the deciding feature is, it's so common in Iceland that I've heard people could simply pick them up off the ground at one point. It's been confirmed by scientists who know this stuff that yes, it would work to find the sun on cloudy or bright days.

Solar navigation. With rocks. I love history.

PS: I sold a metric assload of iolite and calcite jewelry to sailors, with this information. Geeks, unite!

ETA: An article from Discover News, with a great photo. Thanks to @sharkgrl for the info!