Archive for May, 2008

Summer Reading

(Yes, I am at the Big Read, but through the magic of the internet, I can post this previously written entry in hopes of giving you something fun to play with while I keep mucking through writing placement tests.)

Late May in the academic year feels a bit like nearing a crest on a roller-coaster: an unnerving mix of desperate battling against inertia to move those last few inches upwards and growing exhilaration at the inevitability of the plunge down the other side. One of my pre-plunge rituals involves combing the internet for new (some new as in recently published, others just new to me) mystery novels, then requesting a baker’s dozen or so of them from the public library so they’ll be waiting for me the minute classes end. In case any of you share my tastes in summer reading, i thought I’d share some of this year’s requests. All of these books are by authors I’ve never read, so I can’t promise you that they’ll be good; I can only assure you that they looked interesting. Feel free to follow the links. And do let me know if you’ve read any of these books/authors and have opinions you’d like to share.

The Illuminator/Brenda Vantrease
The Sepent’s Tale/ Ariana Franklin
Silent in the Grave/Deanna Raybourn
What Angels Fear/C. S. Harris
The Anatomy of Deception/Lawrence Goldstone
Napoleon’s Pyramids/William Dietrich
The Book of Air and Shadows/Michael Gruber
The Apostate’s Tale/Margaret Frazer
Interred with Their Bones/Jennifer Carrell

P.S. This year I am still requesting that the books be delivered to the main library downtown, but once Melissa’s moved into her new Santa Cruz home (oh, how I love the ring of those words), she’ll be just half a block from one of the branch libraries, so I’ll be able to start picking things up there. Whee!

May 30 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Big Read, Big Feed

It’s that magical (so to speak) time of the year again when several hundred writing instructors for the various UC campuses meet in Berkeley to devote a long weekend to scoring writing placement exams for next fall’s entering class. We’ll be reading 19,000+ exams, each of them twice and a good number of them three times (those with divergent or borderline scores all get an extra looking at). It comes out to something like 85 exams per day per reader.

I had a brief fantasy of going with Melissa to see Beowulf: A Thousand Years of Baggage one evening after the read, but I came to my senses before I bought the tickets and remembered that by 5:00 on any given day during the big read I’m pretty much brain dead. (I bring my radio so I can listen to the ballgame in the evenings, but generally don’t even last for all of that.) I am still hoping we will get to a performance before it closes—I am all for combinations of epic story-telling and mockery of academic excesses.

If any aspect of the read is truly magic, it’s the food service—though white magic or black is certainly an open question. Every time one turns around big trays full of croissants, cookies, scones, or brownies are popping up, beckoning one in with their promises of tongue-pleasing yumminess and sugar-fueled energy bursts. Of course these delights are soon followed by a cannonball-in-the-gut leadenness and post-sugar-high coma—but just try remembering that when confronted by trays full of baked goods. (We are all the product of millions of years of evolutionary tinkering during most of which “grab the pastry!” was an excellent survival strategy. Sadly, our genome is hundreds of years behind the times on that score, still urging us to binge at every opportunity like monkeys eking out an existence on a drought-ridden African savannah.) I have been muttering, “I’ll just have a piece of fruit” to myself over and over again all week in preparation.

I have resurrected my second Ruffles and Ridges shawl as my big read knitting project. It’s ideal: lots of long, long rows of mostly K or P, with a gradual decrease in length, so that I have some hopes of feeling that I’m picking up steam right around the time I hit the exam-read “wall” on Saturday afternoon. I have not yet decided what I’ll be bringing as a back-up project—perhaps some of my yummy Stitches West yarn and the Impressionist Cowl pattern from FiddleLee. On the other hand, I could always knit it in—you knew I’d be saying this—malabrigo.

May 28 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Tuesday Mewsday: Cats at Work

We’ve often written about how helpful our cats are. They take their household duties seriously, and none more so than Damian. Living in an artist’s live/work loft has given him many opportunities to offer his input and assistance.

When he was a wee lad, his main duty was to do a close-up inspection of paintings in progress. He did this by running full speed across the floor, leaping onto the easel, and scaling the painting until he ended up perched on top of the canvas. He was always quick to point out the newly-formed scratches and claw-holes that he found. Now that he has grown into his full 20-pound glory I try to discourage this type of inspection, but with his rigorous work ethic he is not easily dissuaded.

Enter the new scratching post! I found this pristine deluxe perch at a yard sale –a steal at $5!– and happened to put it near my painting area. Damian loves it, and it lets him examine my canvases at close range, and, best yet, even while lying down.
Damian on the job

He still gets excited about his work:
Damian gets excited

And often offers unique perspectives in his critiques:
Damian says it looks better this way

Maggie helps too. Her forte is wood-carving. She’s working on reshaping this stepstool:
Maggie helps

Wildfires in Santa Cruz
On a more serious note, you may have heard of the wildfires in the hills above Santa Cruz. Town Cats, a no-kill shelter, is taking donations to help the Taj Meow Animal Sanctuary, which was completely destroyed in the blaze. Please click here if you can help.

[Another guest post by Melissa]

May 27 2008 | Cats and Tuesday Mewsday | 3 Comments »

Fun, Fun, Fun

I’ve been meeting with students in conference today, surfing knitting sites in the two- and three-minute gaps between appointments. Somewhere along the way I stumbled across the Craft Magazine blog, which features many interesting knitting tid-bits. (The first link takes you to the blog; the second takes you to a distillation that features only knitting entries.)

Every time I find it on a magazine stand, I’m drawn to Craft, but the cover price is a bit high (allow me to note that it is printed on high-quality paper and lovely to look at), and I’ve always wound up putting it back on the rack. They’ve provided me with so much fun today on their blog that I expect I’ll feel obligated to buy a copy the next time I come across one.

The projects featured all reflect a playful cool/funky aesthetic: knit shoes (high-tops or ankle-boot pumps), animiguri (I think that’s the term), international cat hats, and who-knew-we-needed-them knitted accessories to make our e-lives (is that a word?) easier.

I realize that, in directing others to this site, I’m probably doing terrible things for workplace productivity and U.S. economic output, but at least we can have fun while the markets crash down around us. (I may never be able to own a home, but that won’t stop me from attempting a knitted gas mask of my very own!)

May 21 2008 | Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

What’s in a Name

I adopted Sparky as part of a pair—two brothers I named Spartacus and Woodrow. Without meaning to slight Woody, I have to admit that early on Sparky was by far the more handsome of the two (though Woody did begin to blossom into a fine specimen of Tom-dom as the months passed). To balance things out, I decided I’d better give Sparky a “homely” middle name, and I chose Eugene (pronounced in the Russian way, you-GAIN-ee).

Now that Sparky’s older and broader in the beam and Woody has left us for fields of celestial catnip, a “homely” name doesn’t seem necessary—or even appropriate. My first thought was Gaylord, which was almost right. Almost, but not quite. Then it dawned on me: Gladstone.

Behold: Spartacus Gladstone Keeper. It suits him don’t you think?
Sparky on the fence

May 20 2008 | Cats and Tuesday Mewsday | 1 Comment »

A Lovely Weekend

Thank you all for your kind thoughts about our upcoming marriage—Melissa and I are as happy as a couple of puppies (I suppose I should make that kittens). We’ve found a great space for Melissa in Santa Cruz, so our cats can continue their separate lives while we will get the benefits of sharing day-to-day life. We are so looking forward to having dinners together on weeknights and being able to talk over our days as we cook and eat.

We can’t give you a wedding date yet. The California Supreme Court ruling goes into effect in 30 days and the state must develop appropriate procedures and forms during that time, but it may take a short while beyond the 30 days to actually implement the new procedures. I had a lovely chat with the Santa Cruz County Clerk on Friday, who was quite pleased with the ruling and who assured me that her office would be extending its hours as needed once the ruling goes into effect to ensure that everyone who wants to get married will be able to do so as quickly as possible. Melissa and I will be visiting her family on the east coast in late June and hope to be married by then so we can celebrate with them. If you’re interested in the details of the ruling or want updates on its implementation, you can check out the County Clerk’s web site.

We know that our status as a married couple will be a bit precarious in the legal sense, with an amendment to the State Constitution barring gay marriage on the November ballot, but we feel deeply, deeply blessed to have this opportunity in the present moment. We will be working hard, along with many others, to maintain California’s current equal protection guarantees and to prevent an explicit denial of rights from becoming part of our state’s most important document.

On the one hand, we are caught up in the importance of this historical moment. On the other, ordinary life keeps moving along. I spent much of the weekend marking student papers, but have also gotten about three-quarters of the way through a Cozy in Cables toddler vest (pattern by Stitches of Violet), that will eventually be making its way to Afghanistan, along with the Waffles for Brunch sweater. I’m using more of my bargain Lamb’s Pride Bulky, this time in avocado green. Like Waffles, it’s a fun, fast knit, with enough going on to keep one interested. I love imagining these pieces at their final destination, giving warm embraces to children I’ll never meet.

May 19 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

An Honest Woman

Hooray for the California Supreme Court! Who knows what the November elections will bring, but Melissa and I will be married by then—and even taking that away can’t take that away.

May 17 2008 | Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

Books!

One of the slightly wicked pleasures of my life is joining book clubs. Not that joining book clubs is wicked, but that I join up and reel in lots of great books for cheap with the new-member deal, knowing all along that I’ll be quitting as soon as I’ve made the one required additional purchase. And after I quit? Six months later, I’ll get an offer from the same club in the mail again and the whole cycle repeats itself.

The internet has added a new level of opportunity for acquisition-happy bibliophiles like me. Now that they operate on-line as well as via the mails, book clubs will toss out occasional special offers to get you to visit them on the web. I little over a week ago, I got an offer from Crafter’s Choice for one-time unlimited books at half off. Well, even with shipping added afterward, you pretty much can’t beat that offer.

So…
Knit and Purl

Lace and Eyelets

Best of Interweave Knits

Knitting Nature

… for $52—I am in heaven!

May 14 2008 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

Tuesday Mewsday: Can You…

… touch your nose with your tongue? Penny can!
Penny in the tree

May 13 2008 | Cats and Tuesday Mewsday | 3 Comments »

Waffles!

Here’s my version of the Waffles for Brunch Sweater by Jean at Needles, Notes, and News.
Blue waffle sweater
I have not blocked it, so the ribbing pulls things in, but it will stretch out nicely and make a very cozy outer layer for a child. I knit mine from exactly three skeins of Lamb’s Pride Bulky from Little Knits. This was a fast, satisfying knit with no seaming-up afterwards. The shoulder seams get taken care of in a three-needle bind-off, the sleeves are picked up around the arm openings, and the collar is worked off of “live” body stitches. All that’s left after knitting the last stitch is weaving in a minimal number of ends.

Since Jean wrote this as a charity pattern, I’m planning on passing my mine along—probably to Afghans for Afghans, as they specifically request animal-fiber knits and because I feel some uncomfortable personal responsibility for all those pre-9/11 years when my government funded the Taliban, thus helping to deprive a generation of women of basic literacy and personal freedoms. (How I hate the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend politics! All too often the enemy of my enemy is just a big thug taking advantage of my fears to pursue his own unsavory goals.)

As I’d mentioned earlier, one lovely by-product of this knit is that I now have a template for designing my own toddler-sized pullovers. I’ll keep the darling yoke and collar, but have lots of fun playing with other stitches for the body. I’d like to replace one right- and one left-hand column of ribs with a cable for a sort of suspenders look. Then I can substitute a broader, more elaborate textured stitch panel for the three center ribs. My fingers are itching to get started.

May 12 2008 | Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

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