Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Goober!

Let's talk something positive, huh? This blog is starting to read like next I'm going to fake my own death or start asking donations so we can shoot Sekhmet's ashes into space. (Which would actually be cool. But let's be serious.)


The Goob started "real school" this fall.
Yes, that's an Angry Birds back pack. There's a matching lunch box.

She's thriving, but not learning shit. Apparently, that home-schooling thing everyone was worried about? She got a perfect score on her reading placement test and is pretty well sleeping through, phoning in assignments, and pulling down As.

This is EXACTLY what I did not want to happen. (It's what I did, and my study habits, by the time I got to a level where I needed them, were non-existent.) There's a parent-teacher conference November something, and we'll talk. The gifted student program doesn't 'start' until second grade, and the only thing I can see to truly challenge her is to move her into second grade now, and that seems pretty drastic to me.

Essentially, all the shit I worried about, with the school stuff? It's happening. GLORIOUS.

Yes, yes, I know, I get lots of talk about "enrich at home" and we do. But school should be more than being warehoused for seven hours. I still think she should be learning THERE.


Tonight we carved the pumpkin.
The Goober emptied out the goo, I drew on the pattern (that the Goob had picked out - Angry Birds were vetoed) and the husbeast did the hard work and did the cutting. He used a serrated combat knife. He is now wearing a Hello Kitty band-aid.


Fiber-wise, I've been parked on the couch, coughing, and knitting. I'm finishing up my third Wingspan, two going for Christmas gifts and one for me. I also did these for my niece, who had a kid at the beginning of October:
That's a Baby Surprise Jacket (of course), and a Swallowtail without the nupps. (I am not fucking with nupps at my stress level.) I knocked them both out in a week and a half. That's when I clued in that I may just be knitting so I don't kill people.

Anyway, the Swallowtail was knit with Madeline Tosh DK, and size six needles. That yarn is so gooshy, it was like knitting a marshmallow. But it is REALLY soft and warm, to the point I'm wondering if I want one.

Next thing after the Wingspan, I'm doing mittens based on the grille of that Duesenberg I saw back in September for my FIL. Then I have to figure out what on earth I'm making for my brother-in-law; he lives in the south, so most knitwear is unneeded. Maybe a scarf.


That's about all that's going on. Besides all the drama, we've been huddled down, sick. At one point all three of us were on antibiotics. The further plan, I think, is to just keep on keeping on.

I'm really damn ready for 2012 to be over.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

And then.

We found out yesterday that Sekhmet has gastrointestinal lymphoma. The vet gave her from two weeks to three months, but seemed to think we were closer to counting in weeks. I'm pretty much wrecked and crying a lot.

Operation Spoil Sekhmet is in effect, though. Tonight I'm roasting a chicken so she can have the gravy and juice.

I'm really ready for this year to be fucking over.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Right then.

So I've been dealing with drug-resistant pneumonia for the last month. With asthma for an extra dose of excitement. First I was out of it from the fever, and then the drugs. Good times. I'd just about shaken off the Prednisone side effects, and, well. My brother died today. It's probably gonna be a week or two before I start blogging again.

But, that's where I am. Just imagine me sitting on the couch, huffing on an inhaler. With the cat on me. Cranking out yards of garter stitch.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Oops. My bad.

This? It's not the "World of Tomorrow". I think that really is Stark Industries. Or maybe Disney World. (Reality. It's so boring. Why confine myself like that?) It was actually the "Parade of Progress". Which I'd have seen on the truck if I'd been more than half awake. There's a Wiki article about it, HERE. And, a picture of one of the "Futurliners", as they were called, opened up for display, to give you the gist:
You can see the light fixture raised up and everything. Poking around the Wiki page reveals that these suckers were designed by Harley Earl, so I'm sure they were intended to hark back to the roaring twenties, just like they look.

Sunday, September 02, 2012


(Website for the museum HERE, if you want factual detail on where I was this weekend.)

Two years ago, the husbeast and his father took a weekend and bopped off to Auburn, Indiana, to visit a classic car festival. It centers around the cars that were manufactured there between 1900 and 1937, Auburns, Cords, and Deusenbergs. This left me mildly to greatly enraged, because I'd grown up on Duesenbergs with my dad, and I really wanted to see where they'd been made. Apparently I made enough of a scene that the hub and his dad planned another trip, almost entirely centered around showing me the festival.

That's what we did. We dropped the Goob with my MIL, and the husbeast and my FIL and I all took off for Indiana in the husbeast's new Cadillac.

It may seem strange for me to be interested in cars (though I'm fascinated by mechanics and technology, so maybe not). But, really, I explain it like this: It's Art Deco on wheels.
Even the building is Deco - it's the original show room they had attached to the factory.
I got earrings based on the detailing on the light fixtures.

Inspiration abounded. Because really, as knitters, when you see this, what do you think?
Doesn't this say "twisted stitch pattern" to you? I've got something in mind for Christmas, I think.

All the owners do a parade sort of thing, the local marching band marches, they drive, it's fun. The ones who put on period costume I really appreciated. Toward the end of the parade, there was a couple in costume, driving a car covered in wonderfully hand made signs saying "GET OUT AND VOTE", managing to be timely and stay in spirit at the same time. On the back of there car was another sign, "TEDDY ROOSEVELT FOR PRESIDENT". Another had a pro-Herbert Hoover sign on his. (Was anyone really ever pro Hoover, back in the day? I thought he was one of the most hated presidents in history. Maybe it was meant as a joke to the five people there who knew enough about history to get it?) Sadly, by the time the 'get out and vote' car showed up, my phone battery was dead from taking pictures. But I did yell "BULL MOOSE PARTY!" and the driver laughed, so that's something.

Another fun thing, especially from the art/design and history perspective, was a truck they had at the museum for the weekend:
Back in the fifties, General Motors built twelve of these. They are very specialized trucks. They were taken on a tour of the country, doing a presentation called "The World of Tomorrow". (For the geeks of the world, I'm 110% sure this is what the Stark Expo of comic and movie fame was based on.) The trucks are enormous, and had stalks of lights that rose out of the roof for night time visitors. The sides opened up and they discussed technology and progress and how awesome General Motors was. Being me, though? What really blew my mind? The styling. See the really obvious Art Deco detail, with the silver band around the bottom, the solid cream color, the rounded edges? SORTA LIKE THIS?
IT WAS RETRO WHEN IT WAS BUILT. Meant to hark back to the roaring twenties, after the war, remind people of the fun of peace time. Retro. Seventy years ago. Seventy. Years. Old. Retro. (Oh, and incidentally? One of those trucks sold at auction a couple years ago for four million smackeroos.)

After that, we headed out to a car auction, where they were selling cool cars of all ages and nationalities. We wandered around, ate chocolate ice cream, and saw all sorts of things we said we should mortgage my FIL's house to buy.

Look! It's Mister The King!
(200 Geek Bonus Points if you get the joke.)

Then we went to a bar for a drink.

Even the regular buildings are cool in Auburn.

Now I'm home, and my feet hurt, and the cat's mad at me.

Best thing of the whole weekend? I toured two - TWO - museums and didn't have to say "QUIT TOUCHING THAT!" once.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

So that happened.

The first week of August, I went over to the school to transfer the Goob in from the program she'd been doing on line last year. They said the school secretary was on vacation and to go back the next week. (Like no one else is qualified to handle a kid's paper work? I wonder about many things having to do with the school administration here.) Second week, there I was, filling out paper work and providing all sorts of ridiculous documentation and it was all mostly good, and then the secretary mentioned that school started for the kids on August 23.


I'd stupidly assumed it started near Labor Day (first weekend in September), because, well, they always do. And, in my defense, a lot of schools around here aren't going back until today, or even next week. IT IS NOT MY FAULT.

This revelation led to me running around like a lunatic for two weeks, because the Goob, as always, had timed a growth spurt to something important, and none of her clothes fit. Literally. None. We've outfitted her from the skin out. Shirts, pants, sweaters, raincoats, shoes, socks, outlet malls, malls, Target, Target again, mall again, Target AGAIN.

We did get her sent off successfully on the 23rd, wearing clothes that fit. I only sort of lost her once. (I met the wrong bus; oops.) I still owe the district a couple pieces of paper, including something that needs notarized (seriously?) and I keep getting more documents to fill out; I think they've got my contact info in ten thousand different places now. I'm tempted to just have it tattooed to the Goob's forehead.

The Goob has taken to it like a duck to water, even though she inevitably caught a germ the first day and is a big old puddle of snot. I've been sitting on the back porch, all surrealed out, wondering what in fuck and when having a kid is going to feel normal. (Yes, surreal is a verb in my world. Don't argue with me.)

The only person not loving it is Sekhmet. She's been drooping around the house, all sad and pathetic, during the day. Because she misses her bald kitten.

Now I get to go write a letter regarding the summer reading program. You know, the one the Goob wasn't enrolled in because she wasn't IN THE SCHOOL until three weeks ago. I got a very strongly worded, all-capital-letters note about it last night. I'm sure I can compose something suitably... polite.

Oh, and they asked me to join the PTO. ...the fuck?

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Sekhmet, you fucker.

(Good news! I'm starting to think in blog posts!)

This is the couch we owned when we adopted Sekhmet:
See how it's all sagging and drooping, like there's been a cat laying on the back of that couch for seven years?

Yeah. So when we got the new living room furniture last year, we both agreed that the one place the cat was NOT allowed to be was, yes, on the back of the couches.

So where does she want to be?
Sekhmet, you fucker.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012


Just when I thought I was getting the hang of managing these damn migraines, I walked down the laundry aisle at Target, and all the chemicals nailed me in the face.

I'm on the back porch now, in humidity (it helps my sinuses), having taken an Imitrex. I'm about to take another. (Doc says I can. No OD today, thanks.) But before I start slurring my speech, I wanted to blog.

Not sure what about, but I want to start blogging again, daily. I know, going from a month off to daily blogging is unlikely to happen, but I want to work toward it. Probably at the speed of dark, but we all need goals. This one isn't even in the top ten of the craziest ideas I've set myself around here. (I still can't believe I knit a Bohus sweater on sock needles in three months. Can anyone? That was some crazy shit, right there.)

While laying on the couch in my have-a-migraine, Victorian maiden swoon, I started brooding a bit on everything. Like why I'm suddenly stalled after years of dealing with crap. I've concluded I'm not taking to civilian life very well.

Which is just hilarious on the face of it, because I've been a hippy peacenik since day one, regularly told off officers, and spent the hub's last five years hating an entire base so well that my blood pressure was 180/200. And no, I don't really miss the military. (I miss some of the guys. There are some nice folks in the military, usually at enlisted levels.) But I got used to treating everything as temporary. We'd be gone again soon, so there was no point to... well, fill in the blanks. Get a decent car, spend money on the house, have a kid, get a pet, buy anything larger than a bread box.

So... I need to get over that. No idea how, really, but reminding myself that we're here to stay, as needed, is helping. I think.


Several friends have been encouraging me to start doing a thing they're calling "Shit You Missed on Twitter". I hadn't done it because it felt an awful lot like cut and paste to me, but today there was an exchange that had me hooting and laughing out loud, so you're stuck with it.

It all started with a shout-out because a friend of the family has kittens who need a home. (Which has turned into a whole other bundle of annoyance, but I attempt not to digress.) That was when the commentary started. (Names shortened to protect the guilty.)

@Deb: @SamuraiKnitter WHERE did you get kittens??

@Zen: @Deb @SamuraiKnitter Sekhmet must have been getting a little hey-hey?

@Terby: @Deb @SamuraiKnitter I just figured Goob was creating them from test tubes in your basement.

@SamuraiKnitter: @Terby @Deb @Zen I'm sure if the Goob manufactured cats, they would glow in the dark. Purple.

@Terby: @Deb @Zen @SamuraiKnitter No glitter? I'm disappointed.

@Zen: @Deb @Terby @SamuraiKnitter They would also talk and fly.

So. When the rumors start, yes, I'm selling glow-in the dark purple glitter kittens that talk and fly. One per customer. While supplies last.

Monday, July 30, 2012

That was longer than expected.

Right. Sorry about that.

At the end of June, I decided to "celebrate" the finishing of the Goober's school work by getting to the bottom of my migraines. They'd been gradually getting worse, then in May the noticeable auras (read: hallucinations) shifted, which was kind of worrisome.

The past month has been spent seeing doctors and getting brain scans and arguing with insurance companies.

And spinning, to keep my hands busy so I don't kill people. (Pics of that soonly.)

Short version, I've doubled my daily drug intake (vast annoyance), and am able to take Imitrex again because one of the new drugs is for blood pressure and now my brain won't pop. Probably. The neuro told me the odds are about ten billion to one in my favor, that the aura shift is caused by hormone level changes rather than anything major like a brain tumor. And while I haven't seen the analysis yet, I did get hold of the actual images of my brain scan, and nothing major is leaping out at me from it.

Not that I know how to read a brain scan, but nothing in there looks like any x-ray or ultrasound I've ever seen of tumors.

My brain is funky. I think we knew that.

Oh - and it looks like the left side of my brain is bigger than the right. I need to send the images off to a buddy of mine who is a neuroscientist for confirmation, but I'm sure every person in the world is shocked by that news.


The husbeast's new thing is, he's getting rid of the ancient and much-beloved Suburban (because it really, truly, isn't reliable any more) and replacing it with a "big pimp limo" I think is the current term he's using. While I'm NEVER going to be thrilled about debt (I quite liked not having a car loan to pay), I've gotta say, I do like the new vehicle.

Now, if no one buys it out from under us while the bank does the paper work, we should be good.


The Goob is "in the dog house". Her term. My term is "lucky to be alive after repeatedly pissing me off".

Both my phone charging cords have had to be repaired because she CHEWED ON THE PLUGS. Her Nintendo DS is in the shop as I type, getting a new charging socket put in because she'd leave it plugged in and knock the whole thing around and beat on it and jerk it. So what did I get today? I caught her with the plug for the Kindle Fire IN HER MOUTH. It wasn't horribly chewed, but IT WAS IN HER MOUTH.

No electronics. Indefinitely. Until I'm done being angry. No TV, no music, no Wii, no Fire, no computer, no nothin'. (And it occurs to me that this kid is seriously geeked out, but I'm good with that.) But, summer break, with no electronics. One of us may yet kill the other. I'm not sure how a fight will go.



Last week, my MIL called me. She had on her Serious Voice, and started talking about overstepping boundaries, and other ominous things. Things I usually only hear after some major brouhaha in the family. So I sit down, brace myself, and ask "What happened?"

What answer do I get???

"I bought crochet hooks at the yarn store today."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book review, and some other stuff.

Recently I purchased a copy of "Fleegle Spins Supported", by Susan Glinert Stevens, the woman who runs Fleegles Blog. (She's a wild woman. Latest blog post? It's about spinning grizzly bear fur. No, I'm not joking.)

Fleegle has made a lot of jokes about this being THE BEST SUPPORTED SPINNING BOOK! because it's actually the ONLY supported spinning book that anyone knows of. That said, I think even if there were others, it would hold up very favorably in comparison. She spends a lot of time on different types of fiber, the ways it can be prepared, the different ways to spin it, all relevant to any kind of spinner.

Really, the whole book was worth the money to me, when she gave the suggestion to use tweezers to pull nepps out of spinning fiber. I've been doing that since, and it definitely makes life easier.

Another thing I really REALLY liked about the book? It came to me in the mail like this:
It's a four gig USB thumb drive, with the name of the book printed on it. (That's a nice touch. Now I know for sure which thumb drive it is, no matter what.) All you do is plug it into your computer, and if it has Adobe on it - it should - you just click away on whatever file you want to look at. There is a PDF of the book text with active links, so you can click on through to all sorts of web sites and information. There is another PDF of the book without active links, which for my computer is easier to scroll through for skimming. Then, there are videos. Lots of them. For right and left hand. Those also cover types of fiber, ways it is prepared, all the good stuff.

Really, very much worth the $30 I paid for the book.

Yes, I do intend to try supported spindling. You can do it sitting down, and it's the best way to spin cobweb-weight lace yarns, which I want to make. I've got some silk and angora sitting here for a two-ply Orenburg style yarn, but I want more yardage from it than I can get on my wheel.

So. Excellent book. Excellent blog. Youse guys may want to check it out.


The other thing is my circular needle storage. I could have sworn I blogged this before, but I mentioned it yesterday and several people thought it was brilliant, so here you go. You know those heavy plastic multi-pocket file folders they sell? I think this one was meant for checks:
Good gourd, grainy picture. And I took it with my camera, not my phone!

Anyway, I use each of the pockets inside to hold coiled up circular needles:
Each pocket has a certain size. You can see I labeled the tabs with the needle sizes: Some have since fallen off (I've used this holder for about five years now) and I'm pondering the best way to make the labels permanent.

For double-checking purposes, I've even got a needle gauge in the front pocket, along with the really small needles like 0000.
The needles do still tangle a little bit, within each pocket. But it's nowhere near the rat's nest my circular needles used to be. It's nice and compact, easy to grab and rifle through, and the cover even keeps the dust off.

This is NOT my original idea. I saw it somewhere on line. Damn if I remember now, but don't give me credit for this one. It's not mine.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Happy Solstice.

Yes, I know, I know. There's always some astronomical leeway and sometimes it's yesterday and sometimes it's tomorrow. But the Celts usually had a three-day leeway for their holidays (often turning them into three day parties), so years ago, I decided, hell with it, it's the 21st. So, happy solstice.

I usually celebrate the day by doing things I hope will continue through the coming year. Like for prosperity I'll bake something and give it away. This year's solstice is about GETTING SHIT DONE. All the stuff that's sat around while I changed drugs, had migraines, drooled into the couch, and whatever the hell. I'm trying especially to wrap up old business and start new.

Which means GETTING BACK TO THE KAL sweater. Once I get done with the clerical end of all the crap today, I'm going to pull it out and knit like the wind.

I'm also wrapping up the Goob's schooling, hopefully for once and for all. I've cleaned up a bit (GASP!) and I've made a damn doctor's appointment*.

Finishing up this lace spinning today would put a cherry on it. It's possible; there is actual visible shrinkage in the plying ball now. The first THREE DAYS, I plyed off it with no visible change in size, and it was starting to freak me out quite a lot. But finally, it's shrinking. Woohoo!

Then I start more laceweight. I should really try to decide on what. I'm thinking whatever's on the top of the pile. (I cleaned the living room while the Goob was on vacation and "accidentally" found AN ENTIRE POUND of fiber I'd forgotten I'd bought. Whoops. Time to spin like the wind.)


To totally change the subject, we've got a couple of lawyers showing their asses in a big way, this week.

The one you've PROBABLY heard about was the letter from the US Olympic Committee to Ravelry (found HERE), complaining that the Ravelympics " disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work." There are some other gems, but you get the idea.

Having spoken to many lawyers about the First Amendment, the Internet, and Free Speech, well, yes, this is a bunch of bullshit. But the USOC has really deep pockets and is known to litigate the holy fuck out of all kinds of innocent bystanders for using the name Olympic, including companies in the Olympic Range of the Pacific Northwest who've been around longer than the USOC has. It doesn't stop them from being assholes.

If my opinion counts for anything, I think we should change the name of the games, simply to keep Ravelry out of the fire. The Ravelympics weren't their idea in the first place; Rav is just the site that hosts it. To drag them into the legalities would be cruel in the extreme and cost them a fortune.

However, the Ravelympics are an international thing, and the USOC isn't. I saw we keep using the name everywhere BUT Ravelry and let them know they can go fuck themselves. I know Twitter has exploded with this, and the @USOlympic official feed has been slammed with angry knitters in varying degrees of rudeness telling them what they can do with their "disrespectful" thoughts. (I happened to use the term "FUCK YOU" but I'm sure that doesn't shock a single one of you.

ETA: The USOC has issued a statement which is even more offensive than the original, if that's possible. They DON'T apologize, and then they mooch hand-knits like they're doing us a favor. Text available HERE. Try not to let your blood boil.

The other legal clusterfuck I've been watching? The Oatmeal vs. Charles Carreon, egomaniac lawyer. (I would normally link to Carreon's website about now, but it is the most offensive puddle of shit I've seen on the 'net in a long time, so fuck that. I refuse to contaminate my blog with even the name of it.) Heck, I'll let the Oatmeal explain it, HERE. There've been quite a lot of really good commentaries, as it has unfolded, the best being over at Pope Hat. His latest update can be found, HERE. Read the comments. The comments are extremely educational and interesting and not at all pissy like you find on most major sites. This is going to continue to unfold in German Operatic fashion, but I will say here, officially and for all time, that anyone who sues the American Cancer Society and the American Wildlife Federation, over a cartoon SOMEONE ELSE drew of a woman trying to seduce a bear, is a flaming douchebag. Flaming. Douchebag. Charles Carreon, yes, I mean YOU ARE A DOUCHEBAG. And no, The Oatmeal is not inciting me to say jack shit. Suing charities = automatic douchebag status. ASK THE INTERNET.


That's about where things stand here. Getting crap done, watching lawyers be asshats (like that's new) and slugging back tea.

Oh, and I just tried to clean up my videos folder and accidentally deleted everything, so, you know, business as fucking usual.

Maybe later I'll dance under the moon. It IS the solstice, after all. I bet the Goob would join in.

*For those keeping up on the migraine/seizure/WTF saga: I saw my GP this week and asked to see a specialist. He poked around his records, and then informed me that my chronic pain doctor IS A NEUROLOGIST. (I thought she was an anesthesiologist.) I didn't need a referral, and I should see the specialist I already had, instead of trying to drag in another. Mostly I feel stupid, but the appointment was made and I see her Monday.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Geek-out Monday.

Maybe I'll try a regular weekly thing for a while, see how that works.

This is what I've been reading about, looking into, watching, and, well, geeking out on.


The new thing, sorta, is electronic textiles. I've been looking into conductive ribbons and sewing threads, and LED lights you can sew on like beads, that actually work. (You have to sew in a battery holder, and an optional switch, too.) The only reason I haven't gone absolutely wild, is because I can't decide what to do first.

The Goob's halloween costume this year will be fun, though, I guarantee.

You can drool over the stock HERE, like I've been doing.

Also? Conductive fiber? That I could spin? SO TEMPTING. Just to say I did it.


Girl Genius has introduced wasp-hunting weasels, and they're adorable, and I'm trying to figure out how to knit one. Not for the Goob. For me. And I know a trilobite tattoo would be over the top and I'd regret it in ten years, but I really want one.


The Tour de Fleece is going to start on June 30! (How did it get to be June? Seriously?) This year I'm joining the sprinters, who are spinning lace. That seems the best way to stretch the Fiber Optic fiber I  got into as much yardage as possible.

We've got plans for the 4th of July, lots of them, for three or four days. I intend to take my spinning wheel. What's the hell of having pink hair if I can't be eccentric?


The GOP is still blocking jobs bills, ones that are meant to fix infrastructure while getting people working. I've ranted about this before, so I'll try not to get started again. But I don't wanna hear anything about "small government" as an excuse after the GOP has spent all year passing anti-abortion bills. It's not small government to regulate my body, and they should quit using it as an excuse to block things they think will make the president look good.


I'm still playing WAY too much Plants vs. Zombies. And there are new levels of Angry Birds Space AND Angry Birds Seasons, so it's a miracle I got anything at all done today.


I am reading "Cannabis, a History" by Martin Booth. It is exactly that. A fascinating, unbiased look at marijuana and hemp (medical/recreational and industrial) through the ages. All plant freaks would really enjoy it. I've been saving up a blog post for weed, and maybe when I finish this book, I'll actually do it.


The merino/silk/cashmere blend is finally spun, as in the singles are done. I started plying it together two nights ago, and it is taking FOREVER. I hope that means lots of yardage, because I'd like to knit a lace scarf or shawl with it. But right now, it's just ply ply ply.

Haven't had to cut myself loose with the ply ball, so I think I've got it.

Friday, June 15, 2012


First, thank you, everyone who offered sympathy and yarn, after yesterday's post. I really appreciate the offer, but I'm going to sit back and enjoy the extra space for a while.

Those of you who offered half-finished projects REALLY made me laugh.


I've had some questions about the knit-along. I DO need to finish it, so I'm going to get that going again, though I'm still knitting at the speed of dark. Sorry for this awful delay. If it's any comfort, uh, it's been awful? Really.


There was a question in the spinning wheel post, about treadling with one foot on a two-treadle wheel. Yes, it's possible, and in the short term, no, it's not going to hurt anything. But I do think if you do it long enough, any wheel is going to develop stresses it wasn't meant to, and start acting funky. That may take a while, though; just depends. (Factors include wheel type, age, type of wood, type of connectors, type of cam, etc etc etc.)


The Goober comes home Sunday, we think. The grandparents were kinda vague, and we don't like to get all detail-obsessed, considering it's summer and a vacation and everything. We've been getting periodic photos; I think the Goob's in a bathing suit in at least half of them. She's having the time of her life, and I expect her to sleep a couple days next week when she gets home.

Then I want to take her to Kennywood, just the two of us, as a reward for finishing all her school stuff.


If anyone remembers the missing ball winder, it turned up. Contrary to internet rumor, it was NOT found with Jimmy Hoffa. It was in a box. In the basement. In The Pit. Which is where I always thought it was, really.

Now I have a ball winder for each floor. Whooee. Living large now.


I have put the lace-spinning whorl on my wheel and am practicing up for the Tour de Fleece.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Learn from our horror. Please.

Putting any kind of textile-art anything in storage is a REALLY SUPER BAD IDEA.

While the hub and I were moving around with the military (we estimate we moved something like eighteen times), we learned a few things. For today's discussion, the big lesson was that STORAGE COMPANIES LIE. (Moving companies, and packers, are a different thing. Many of them are okay. Especially if you babysit them.)

They'll tell you that they're storing your stuff in climate-controlled areas. Lie. They'll tell you that you'll have your own, specific little hidey hole for your stuff, and it won't be stuffed in a warehouse jumbled with a zillion other people's things. Lie.

One of the reasons that unpacking my stuff has taken so long (two years and counting), is because every time I open a box, I find some fresh new hell, and I want to drive to South Carolina and bust some heads. Literally. If I had one of these people before me when I see this stuff, I really would slug them in the face.

This blog post is brought to you by Tuesday's unpacking gig, which filled our trash can with stuff that was okay when it went INTO storage. This last round? I threw out at least a hundred yards of fabric, and most of what was left of my knitting supplies that had survived the carpet beetles. Plus every half-knit sweater I ever worked on. Mostly, the big issue was, it was full of bugs. Of all kinds. Not just carpet beetles. Something had bored holes through the cotton fabrics, too. I'd just gone through EVERYTHING, before it went into storage, because of the carpet beetles, if you'll remember. So I know it was fine. KNOW.

If it was in climate control, I'll eat it.

This is on top of how, when I got my washer and dryer back, they were covered with dirt splashed up by rain storms. When my kitchen table went OUT of my house, the top was wrapped in three layers of corrugated cardboard and loads of tape. When it came back IN, it was bare, with a moving blanket thrown over it, and covered in scratches. (My table was custom ordered from Indonesia. This is not something I can just up and replace if I feel like it.) My refrigerator had molds inside it, in advanced forms I had never seen before, outside of a textbook. (And I had to wear a respirator to clean it out, because at least one of them made me sick.)

If you complain, or file a claim? You're hallucinating the dirt splashes on the appliances, or they got there after the appliances left their place. The refrigerator is your fault for not cleaning it out right (never mind a closed fridge should be anaerobic and if left shut for a year would AT LEAST grow something different than molds - or, you know, not grow anything at all). The bugs must have been in the textiles when they came into the facility. Not their fault. They blamed the table on the movers. Never mind what I saw with my own eyes.

In our case? We got fucked over by a storage company in N Charleston, South Carolina. If we can figure out if they're still in business, I really WILL publish the name and leave scathing reviews all over the internet.

In your case? Vet the place first. Do a tour. You'll see right away if they're scumbag fuckers or not. If they are cocksuckers who throw other people's property around, punch them in the face a couple times, for me.

I hope your property fares better than ours did.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

And then, silence.

The Goob has gone to the beach with her grandparents this week. Last week was a blur of finishing up school work and buying clothes - kid had another growth spurt without warning me first and had TWO pairs of shorts that still fit. And the shoes. And pajamas. And dresses. And beach coverups.

And she's now at an age where she's got an OPINION on clothes. May all the gods help us. At one point she told me a shirt "didn't fit her image" and a random stranger in the store about fell over, laughing.

But, we got her packed, and hugged, and gone, and I have a week to myself.

There were all these glorious plans I had, about unpacking The Pit (remember that? Still a mess) and painting the kitchen. All I've done is sleep over twelve hours a night and wallow on the back porch.

Yesterday afternoon the husbeast and I went to the movies (he saw Snow White and the Huntsman, I saw the Avengers again). Remember that weird coulda-been-a-seizure balance issue I had last time I went to the movies? Well, it was just a migraine aura. I know this, 'cause yesterday I got the regular migraine. Whee!

Yes, yes, I've got doctor's appointments, thank you.


So far, when I haven't been asleep or squinting through a migraine, I've been schpinningk.
The merino/cashmere/silk is finished. I couldn't remember whether I could fit four ounces of fiber onto one of the Kiwi bobbins: Apparently, the answer is yes.

I'm going for a two-ply lace weight with this stuff, and want to keep every possible inch of single. I'm going to wind it off the bobbin into a ball (with my regular ball winder, nothing arcane) and ply from both ends. It's been several years since I did that little trick; I'm hoping I won't have to cut myself loose.


Now, for some gory spinning detail. Some of you may want to look away. That's all right.

A friend of mine is buying her first spinning wheel, and we got into 'single' vs. 'double' and hit some confusion. Which is understandable, because until I read a book on the mechanics of spinning wheels (may the gods help me), I didn't quite get it either. Herewith, I will explain. (All photos not otherwise credited are from the Woolery web site. They are awesome and I always shop with them for big hunks of fiber equipment, including my loom, my wheel, and my swift.)

There are actually TWO things on a wheel to which the single/double term applies. The first, most obvious, and the one most people think, has to do with the treadles. And it DOES apply:

Single treadle:
Double treadle:
I used identical models (Lendrum Original) so you could really get it. This is about whether you use one foot or two to make the whole thing go. I suggest the double. It's more efficient. (Unless, of course, there's a reason you can't treadle with both feet, then obviously go with the single.

Then, there's the other one. The one most people don't understand, don't think of, or don't get: Single or double DRIVE. This is about how the force is transferred from the actual spinning wheel to the bobbin and flyer. Both the bobbin AND the flyer have to spin, to make yarn. And they have to spin at varying rates. "Drive" is determined by the drive band and what it does.

SINGLE DRIVE: This is what I have, on my Ashford Kiwi:
See the drive band, that is wrapped around the wheel? It goes up and wraps around a whorl, attached to the flyer. That's all it does. Wheel to whorl/flyer and back to wheel. It makes a SINGLE LOOP. You treadle, it turns the wheel, which turns the flyer. Bobbin tension is done by other means. The Kiwi uses "Scotch Tension" which I took a (bad) picture of, here:
See the drive band on the left? In the center is a spring, and a piece of string (in my case, fishing line, 'cause it's durable and I'm cool with new tech; traditionally it was a bit of cotton string or a hunk of yarn) goes up and over the bobbin to the other side, to a little knob. You tighten the knob, it tightens the string, and the bobbin is harder to make turn. Bobbin tension results in 'take up', or how hard the wheel pulls the fiber out of your hands.

There are several other types of bobbin tension for single drive wheels, which I'm not getting into because I don't understand them like I understand my own. But for single drive, the drive band from the wheel only controls the flyer. Bobbin tension is done by other means.

DOUBLE DRIVE: This is the older, more traditional spinning wheel setup.

The drive band drives the flyer AND tensions the bobbin. It goes in TWO loops, from wheel to flyer, back to wheel, around again, to the bobbin, and back to the wheel. A buddy of mine, KnitWit, took a photo for  me, and you can get the gist of how it works. (You'll have to click for this one, kids.) ETA: But wait! She changed the privacy settings for me! (Thanks again, M!)
There's not much more for me to add to this one, because again, it's not one I use, so I don't have a solid working knowledge of it. It is said that double drives are better for lace spinning, because the 'takeup' is more controlled and can be dialed down to something more gentle than anything a single drive can do. (Takeup can litterally pull yarn apart as you spin it, if it's too strong.) They can have reputations as being more fussy, as well, but I am skeptical of that. Most people I know who complain about the fussiness of double drives have antique wheels and I am betting the fuss comes from it just being old. No one I know who has a modern double drive has every commented on any difficulties.

So there's your schpinningk babble for the day. I promise there isn't a test later.

I should go work on shoveling out The Pit now. It's trash night, and it'd be handy to send a couple bags of crap out, with it. But what I really wanna do is take a nap.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Der spchinningk.

Mit der leetle roundieround.

I've begun setting aside a certain time of day (Goob's bed time) to spin. Because if I don't, I'll never do any and that's just sad. Since it became an event in my own little head, I began announcing it on Twitter. But, you know, "Yay spinning!" is so boring. Instead I began announcing it properly, like so:


This is entirely Dieter's fault.

Yes, I've watched too much Saturday Night Live. But it strikes me as oddly appropriate, since the entire blog and my on line knitting persona are named after Samurai Hotel. (People think I'm Samurai Knitter because I think I'm awesome. Um. No. It's because I act like John Belushi in those skits, when my knitting doesn't go right.)

Well, after a few nights of "Und nao I schpin", that got very boring. So I started doing more, including having conversations about spinning. All in very bad fake German*.

Today, I was muttering about der predraften nonsensen mit der katen floofder. There was a great deal of katzen flooder, and I started shouting for a flammenwerfer. But it struck me. Katen floofder is the perfect name for the crap I'm picking out of my spinning.

From now on I think I'm going to be doing all my schpinningk in uber badhorriblen Deutch. Especially der katzen floofder bits.


*The smattering of German I've picked up over the years is from three sources: Mennonite kids I grew up with, music appreciation and theory, and der strikken patterns. To say my vocabulary and accent are unusual is a major understatement.

Sunday, June 03, 2012


Been a fucked up week at House O Samurai. Migraines, and asthma, and a rampaging kid (smart and bored, look out), and... and.

And it should be unlawful for young people to die. Ugh.

BUT! Happy stuff!

Last weekend, my MIL and I went to the Great Lakes Fiber Show. It's in Wooster Ohio, which isn't too far from where the in-laws live. Since I brought my MIL over to the dark side, she's enjoyed all the fiberly arts. So I called her up and said HEY! FIBER SHOW! and she said "oh, I don't know... sheep..." and I said THEY HAVE A MARKET PLACE! WITH LOTS OF YARN! and she said "WHEE! LET'S GO!" so we did.

I think Great Lakes is the ideal size for a fiber fest. Big enough that there's a lot of wonderful selection, but small enough that you don't need a map, flare gun, and canteen to make it around. There were three show barns full of goodies (it was held at the county fairgrounds, so imagine the usual display barns there), and a nice open space between them that held a few more vendors and a very smart couple of kids making from-scratch lemonade as fast as they could.

I took cash, and promised the husbeast I would not exceed it unless I ran into some spinning wheel parts I've been looking for. (I didn't.) I think cash is the best way to go at these things - you don't have to worry whether someone can take credit cards, and the vendors will love you because the credit card company won't be taking a bite out of their profit.

The main reason I wanted to go was to see Fiber Optic in person. It was everything I dreamed and more. I bought a few things, then once we went through everything, I ran back and blew the rest of my budget on more fiber.
They do gradients.
And hard-to-do combinations. (Every time I try this combo, I get tangerine everything.)
And gradients with YAK in them.
And this last one? It was when I was back to spend the rest of my cash. I'm spinning some blue merino/silk/cashmere right now, and I'd already got the blue yak above. Plus I've got two other blue braids from a momentary mind break earlier this year. I didn't need any more blue fiber. But it kept catching my eye, every time I turned, and, oh, heck...
This stuff is impossible to photograph, but it is the most intense blue I've ever seen done with dyes. Ever. Loooove it.

I got a bunch of spin-ins like Angelina fiber:
..apparently I have maxed out my photographic space on Google. Anyway, shiny bits of fiber here.

And some silk, Bobyx top and some dyed hankies. I'd tried spinning silk when I first learned to spin, and it destroyed my hands. So I thought maybe I'd try it again. Or use the hankies to knit mittens or knucks.

Oh, and a cute little dish with a sheep and flowers on it to hold my tea spoon, 'cause it was cute and what the heck.

Now all I need to do is FINISH SPINNING WHAT I'M WORKING ON, so I can dig into this stuff. Or, maybe, I'll go for volume during the Tour de Fleece.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Start 'em early.

In this big old world, there's a lot of systems. And a lot of ways to rebel against them. I've tried many of them, though not all.

Back in the day, I had an anthropology professor float the idea that the TRUE rebels were the Ted Kazynskis and the Jefferey Dahmers. THOSE were the ones truly living outside society's rules. He had a point.

I had no desire to rebel quite so extremely.


Sometimes, be it school, or the legal system, or the government, sometimes, you've just got to let them know that you think something's bullshit. There's an art to it. To make the point, make it well, but do it in such a way that you don't completely fuck yourself over in the process.

Hence my letters to congresstwats and senatetwits.

And so, this brings me, inevitably, to raising the Goober.

I firmly believe that children need outlets. You can't expect them to behave ALL the time. So it's best to channel the misbehavior, than to let it spew forth randomly. She's allowed to go outside and throw things, and run around yelling, and we've even made up a nonsense name to call each other and everyone else (sillyhead). With public school easing up next fall, I'm working on teaching her how to deal with all THAT nonsense, as well.

Then, in her school work, a ridiculous project cropped up. A group of six year old kindergarteners were supposed to make up a "Presidential Action Plan" and write it down. It was meant as a writing assignment, so I figured, so long as she writes SOMETHING and turns it in, it's completed. So I wrote up a little thing, and had the Goobie copy it onto her paper.
Oh yeah. I'm totally ready to be That Mom.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Nothing owrks.

Was gonna fix that typo in the title, but I thought, no, that's really how it's gone around here.

I finished the yarn.
Can't decide whether I'm gifting it, or keeping it, or flinging it. It's spun really unevenly, and there are fuzzy bits where the plying went wrong or there was gunk in the single:
Not my best work. Not close.

But, screw it, it's done, at least. Now I think I'm going to get going on my annual winter socks that never got done last winter. I've got the raw material.
It's merino silk blend. And when spun right, the silk acts like nylon.


Not much else. We're slogging through school, and the annoyance of it. Had a major migraine hit, made doctor's appointment, am working toward seeing a neuro. (Plus there's that maybe-seizure maybe-migraine WTFery at the movies last week). Blah, blah, fuck, hell, poop.

Anyway. Some Goob funnies.

First, I had a pair of scissors out on the porch this morning. (Because there was a KNOT in the yarn I'm using to knit this color-gradient scarf, and cutting it out DESTROYED the color flow, so I am FURIOUS, because THE COLOR SHIFT WAS THE ONLY REASON I WAS WORKING WITH THIS CRAP YARN.) Ahem. Scissors. They're little-kid safety scissors, the blades maybe an inch and a half long. I keep them around to cut steeks and stuff like that. They were laying on the seat of the swing, next to where I was working. The Goob says "Can you please move those scissors so I don't sit on them and accidentally cut my butt off?"

You gotta love a request like that.

Then, I was making dinner, and she spotted a can of bread crumbs. She looked inside and said "Oh, chicken powder!"

Now I'm imagining instant chickens, just add water.

Bock bock, motherfucker.

Monday, May 14, 2012

...but is it ART?

(Still recovering from the movie. Is going to require a visit with doctors, and may turn into quite an annoyance. Or nothing at all. Still, the movie rocked. If I got fucked up, at least I got fucked up watching an excellent movie.)

And so, inevitably, I come to "Art Yarn". I've been pondering this post for, oh, at least a year now, and still don't really know what to say. If you like, you can go read what I've said about art before, HERE. I've never quite gotten "art for art's sake" as a philosophy, applied to ANYTHING. In fact, I greatly prefer art that's useful, so I'm a huge fan of the decorative arts. Related, I'm never going to say a yarn or a textile or something made of fiber can't be art. Anything can be art if enough thought and effort and skill are applied to a project, and everything lines up just right, and the magic happens.

But that doesn't mean you can just call something art and I'm gonna believe it. (Please look at the Dada art movement if you want the foundation of my side of this argument. I get that they were trying to get people to look at things differently, and in that they succeeded, but Duchamp's "Fountain" is still a freaking urinal.)

The point of this blog post isn't to point and laugh. I'm using pictures of yarn (credited, of course) that is up for sale. I believe that when you put something up for sale, you offer it for critical examination, so for us to look at these yarns in such a way is fair. It's not like digging through someone's Ravelry page, finding their first spun yarn and sneering at it. And I'm not posting pictures of the really ridiculous stuff. You can hit Regretsy for that, or just search Etsy yourself.

So. Art yarn. Here's one I ran across last night that I thought legitimately fit the term:
This is called "Koi Pond" and can be found HERE. The spinner herself calls it a "Themed" yarn and I really think that's a better term - She tried to capture a koi pond during feeding time, and did quite a good job of it.

Themed yarns. I like that term. It covers a lot of relevant ground without going all "I'M AN ARTISTE!"

For instance:
This is "Vitreous Humor" from Insubourdiknit.

Or another of my favorites, "Clouds":
From Moonrover, HERE.

Is it art? Or just really cool themed yarn? I sincerely can't decide. The same goes for textured handspun. Is it "Art Yarn" or just nice, textured yarn?

I do think a lot of sellers are doing themselves a disservice by using the term "Art Yarn" because many people have begun to roll their eyes at the term.

I have a theory, or an analogy, or something, about yarns like this:
(From Pluckyfluff HERE.)

It's like freeform jazz. You can observe it, and you can appreciate the skill involved, but it's really more about the act of creation itself. It's a celebration of taking fluff and turning it into something else.

Maybe the celebration of Making Stuff is the basis of all art.

What's prompted all this thought is a set of books.

"Intertwined" by Lexi Boeger/Pluckyfluff:
And "Spin Art" by Jacey Boggs/Insubourdiknit:
Intertwined is an examination of the creative process, more than it's a spinning book. There is instruction in there, about technique, but it's mostly about inspired-by and upcyled-that.

Spin Art is one of the best technical spinning books I've ever seen. It's up there with Judith MacKenzie and Abby Franquemont. Really. There is physics and science in there, and a great deal of tech and detail, all presented in a way that's a thousand times more accessible than The Aldon Amos Book of Spinning. Seriously. Jacey explains the potential problems of twist in thick-and-thin yarns with two diagrams and a couple sentences that make way more sense than Amos' full page on the subject. I've already improved my regular spinning just reading the book.

Conclusion? I still don't know if it's art. But some of it's pretty cool, and the textured yarn techniques are interesting.

At least it's not a urinal.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Spinning fluff.

I'm spinning, and blogging, early today. Later I'm going to see the Avengers and expect to spend two days drooling into a pillow while my nervous system tries to recover. This is why I see maybe one movie a year in theaters. But for the Avengers, I'm willing to drool a bit. (Thanks to RDJ, I will probably drool DURING the movie, too, but for a different reason.)

Okay, fluff. When I say fluff, I mean the usually short-staple, very small micron count fibers that float all over and get stuck to everything when you try to spin them. It doesn't entirely have to do with staple or micron count, though. Wool, for instance, usually doesn't fluff and float, because of its molecular charge and the scales on the surface of the fibers that work much like microscopic velcro.

No, fluff is the stuff you accidentally trail through the house, stick to your husband's Navy uniforms (that was amusing - for me, not him), get in your eyes, your mouth and nose. In my experience, they include nylon, bamboo and carbon fiber, silk, some camelids and angoras. In the case of the protein fibers, it can depend on how they're processed, too. Alpaca top, for instance, has been smoothed, combed, and steamed or ironed flat. Flat on a single-fiber level. With no crimp to help the fibers hold on to each other, you're back to fluff, and finding it in the cat's eyes.

Currently I'm battling the nylon in the top I'm spinning. Here's how I'm mostly winning.

Weapon one:
A lint roller. Don't know how common these are outside the US, but here you can get them nearly everywhere, even the grocery store (in the pet aisle, usually). It's essentially a wide strip of sticky tape, wound up on itself with the sticky side out. Roll it over yourself, and it picks up lint, cat hair, and, woohoo, fluff. I keep one on my spinning table, and when I'm done spinning, before I move at all, I go over myself AND THE CHAIR to pick up the fluff before I track it all over the house. Make it automatic; before you get up for anything short of the house being on fire, de-fluff yourself. On bad days, I even roller my hands and hair.

For all the little knotty bits and snarls you pull off the fiber as you spin, there are two, no, three options. One, you can stick them on the lint roller. Two, you can stick them to your clothes and roller them up with the rest of the fluff. Or, you can have an auxiliary spot to stick the gunk. Wool works best. Currently, I'm using a Crazy Zauberball, because it was there.

You can see a little string of pink fluff sitting on top of it. No, that's not a marble, there. It's a quartz sphere. I can't be the only one with a crystal ball on my spinning table, can I? That's also paper medical tape in the green thing - handy for wrapping around sore fingers so you can spin anyway.

A related issue is fluff in the eyes. My greatest trick, that I'm passing on to you: NEVER SPIN WHITE OR BEIGE FLUFF. Ever. Once it's in your eye, you can't find the damn stuff. Colored fibers usually show against your eyeball and are much easier to pick out. It also pays to cultivate your eye doctor; many are willing to take you in between appointments and pick out fibers you can't get. Knit them a scarf for Christmas, they'll be your slave. (The one time I resorted to the optometrist, he didn't even charge me.)

Most of this stuff can be applied to knitting, as well. For instance, when I pick blobs of unspun lint out of the yarn I'm knitting, I stick it to the arm of the couch. Once I'm up and moving later, it's very easy to grab the lint roller and run it over the couch a couple times. It might even dislodge a few cat hairs, as a bonus.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

And then, silence.

Or perhaps crankiness. And a shitload of rain.

There's a blog post in the works for sometime this week, an international knitting knews kind of thing. But there's more research to be done, and at the moment I'm whacked out on Benadryl from all the freaking allergens and general crap.

And so, I ramble.

Today the Goob's schoolwork vaguely discussed the moon landings and the concept of astronomy and the study of it. Which made me snort, because the kid and I have been reading her astronomy book for a week or so now, with details on the Hubble Space Telescope and the Large Megallanic Cloud and all sorts of DETAIL.

Next year I want to try "real school" for the Goobie. I figure, before I can REALLY say whether it's working or not, we need to try it. Sort of a comparison study. We've done guided home schooling, now we're going to try school schooling. If that doesn't work, I may try completely-off-the-grid schooling, meaning I make up the curricula myself. But, the kid soaks up information like a sponge, and is already ahead of the game in science and reading and social studies. The real issue is where she'll thrive. We'll figure it out, yet.


It looks like maybe I'm going to the Great Lakes Fiber Show at the end of May. Traditionally, every time I try to go to some kind of fiber frolic, something horrible happens like having to replace the hot water heater or the engine in the husbeast's truck, or I've had a month long migraine, or something. Very tentative. But I mentioned it to my mother-in-law, and she wants to go.

The discussion was rather amusing. I sent her the link and gave her the date and asked if she was game. She was sort of like "well, I don't know... it's like a county fair? animals and stuff?" I said (paraphrasing this roughly) "There's a market place." My MIL paused. "There's YARN?" she asked. "Yes. And spinning fiber, and many other good things." That was all it took. MIL was in.

With luck, we will both make it, and will be there Saturday morning and early afternoon. We hope.

Unless the heat pump/AC unit in the house goes out.

Knock on some wood, people.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Continued adventures!

Such as they are.

Lately I've had a major case of Blog Choke. People tell me my blog is fun and they like it, and the more I hear it, the more I feel like I should be doing Important Writing. So I try to come up with earth-shattering topics, and stall at the six-hours-of-research phase. Glub.

A couple weeks ago, I went through and read random blog posts I've done, and, as YOU know, I blog about all kinds of stuff, from Important to nothing to WTF?? It seemed to work. My brain is random enough, I guess.


The bloody damned rocks. Remember the goddamn rocks?
The goat fucking, shitball rocks?

They're mostly still there. Fuckers.

I thought I'd be able to pick up the rocks around the edges (kinda did that), then use the landscaping fabric underneath to haul it all out in a clump. BUT NO. THE DAMNED FABRIC IS ROTTEN. I get up enough of an edge to get hold of, lift, and THE FUCKER TEARS OFF.


So we're down to raking them into shovels and lifting them out that way. Which will only take THE REST OF THE FUCKING SUMMER.

Fuck it, we're gonna rip out another of the beds that DOESN'T contain rocks, so we can actually plant some damned broccoli before September.

At any rate, in the midst of my mutterings and rantings, I was thinking about wheelbarrows and other assorted bits of equipment I could use to haul the damned rocks, after I got them out of the flower bed. It all came down to memories of my mother gardening. Instead of a wheelbarrow, she used my wagon. It was one of those nice, sturdy sixties-built wagons, of heavy steel. She hauled peat moss, plants, weeds, you name it, all over the yard with that thing. As often as not, when I'd climb in it to play, there'd be dirt in there from Mom hauling stuff around.

I mentioned this to the husbeast, and we wound up at the farm supply store soon after.

Yes, we're so far out in the boonies we have a farm supply.
It reminds me of where I grew up; I can speak this language. Other than some mild culture shock, it's quite fun.

After some poking around, the husbeast and I found a little wagon-type dealie in the back of the store. Bearings on the wheels, squishy air-filled tires, a plastic waterproof bin with a really slick dump feature. You can even take the handle off and hitch it to a tractor - which we already have.
Mom would approve.

To christen it, I need to haul the Goober around in it.

Saturday, May 05, 2012


Because the hub turned on a show about it tonight, and metal is an ongoing interest of mine. And because you probably have aluminum knitting needles and/or crochet hooks. So it's nearly kinda-sorta relevant.

Aluminum is the third most common element on our planet. Unfortunately, it is VERY reactive, likes to combine with other things, and is almost impossible to find in pure form. For that reason, even though it is EVERYWHERE, aluminum was, for many years, more expensive than gold or platinum. No, seriously.

Because of the reactivity, and the rarity of pure aluminum, the history is really weird.

Alum - aluminum mixed with potassium and sulfur - goes way back in our history. It was used medicinally, and as a mordant for dyeing fibers and fabrics. Still is. It's used in pickling, in preserving, all kinds of stuff. But because of all the crazy molecules it likes to form, it wasn't until the 1820s that aluminum was identified as its own little atom.

Not long after, they realized there was aluminum in bauxite:
But it wasn't until the 1880s that someone figured out a way for it to be extracted from bauxite in any useful way. So for that sixty-ish year period, aluminum was a big fucking deal.

The Washington Monument is capped with it:
Because, really, when you're building giant phallic symbols to celebrate how awesome your nation is, what else do you put on the top, but the most expensive thing you can think of? At the time, it was the largest piece of aluminum ever cast. (Given the hub's background in industry, looking at that now, I find it completely hilarious. I'd love to see their reaction to a giant hunk of milled aircraft aluminum.)

In 1886, the Hall–Héroult process was invented. It pretty much revolutionized industry methods and products. For all people like to go on about steam engines and electricity, without cheap aluminum, the world as we know it today would not exist.

In 1888, the world's first aluminum plant was opened, right here in Pittsburgh. They couldn't refine it fast enough - no matter how much they made, the world wanted more to use. And luckily for us, since it's so common, we've been able to continue refining it with no end in sight.

Not just industry. Limeys? You know this statue?

The Anteros statue in Picadilly Circus was cast from, yes, aluminum. One of the first known statues of its kind, made in 1893. Since we can just refine more, we won't have to melt it down for beer cans, like the Romans did to their statuary.

So, next time you're knitting with aluminum needles? Show them a little respect. And wish it was 1850, so you could sell them and go on a round-the-world tour with the proceeds.

Friday, May 04, 2012


Or rather, kid books.

About, oh, six weeks ago, I bought this:
It's a book about the periodic table of the elements. It's from the Basher Scicence Series of books, and aimed for, oh, eight year olds? Thereabouts.

It was intended for me. I'm still working at teaching myself chemistry, and thought maybe a children's book would lay out the periodic table in a way that, finally, made sense to me.

No luck.

I think I'm going to start treating the periodic table as a sort of map - a picture of stuff, so to speak, rather than an actual chart put into sensible grids. It's the damned electron shells. I keep trying to UNDERSTAND them, and really, I've learned from algebra, I need to give up on understanding and just memorize the damn stuff.


But then a fun thing happened. The Goober got hold of the book. And since it had illustrations and cartoons in it, she decided it was HER book, and insisted I read it to her. For a couple weeks, every night we would take a group/column from the periodic table and read about them. I have no idea how much of it she really understood, but I feel we're probably one step closer to a particle accelerator in the basement.

With all this in mind, I got a couple other Basher science books and let the kid pick which one she wanted to read, first.
We've run through the planets, the space probes and rovers, the Oort Cloud and the Kupier Belt. Now we're on to stars - types and formations and constellations. She's loving every minute of it. With all the books in the series, we're probably set on bedtime reading material until Christmas.

I feel like I'm dealing with a miniature version of my own brain. Which is both very cool, and kind of intimidating.