Techno-slave

Lately I’ve been a slave to my MP3 player. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time learning about how to best use it’s features and load it up with podcasts. I spent about 2 hours Sunday night searching Podcast Alley for stuff I wanted to listen to people talk about: knitting, gardening, dogs, environmental stuff, etc. OMG, there’s a podcast for nearly everything!

Of course, now that I have the ability to pick and choose exactly what I want to hear, I’ve also started to load it up with music. I never saw that coming, and now I’m thinking I should have purchased a player with a larger capacity.

I feel like I’ve finally bridged the MP3 geek gap and can move on. But, I’m now starting to feel a the urge to dabble in podcasting coming on. Help me. I must stop!

On the knitting front, I’ve been creating and not just destroying. I finished a hat for Mark.
Mark's hat

I’ve been promising him this hat since Christmas and finally got it finished. Hurray! Who knew a hat could be so difficult? I frogged and re-started this hat about 3 times before the final version.

And look at thissilk scarf in progress I’m making a cute little decorative scarf for myself out of this luscious yarn I picked up at Nina during her sale a few weeks ago. The yarn is Art Yarns Regal Silk, a 100% hand painted silk yarn. The color is noted as #130, but I can’t seem to find that color on the site. Maybe this is an older colorway.

I love the softness and sheen of this yarn. It was an indulgance, but I’m worth it, right? I’m knitting it up in a simple lace pattern that will hopefull pop a bit more when I block it. Hmm….I’ve never blocked 100% silk before…hmmm…the label says dry clean only…hmmm…I’ll figure this out.

Jamie seems to like the yarn, too.Jamie with silk yarnMmmm…it does seem good enough to eat!

March Madness

No, this has nothing to do with NCAA basketball, so if that’s what you’re expecting just move along. Although this phrase has traditionally been used for the basketball play-offs that happen at this time of year, seeing as it’s being used in car commercials and even craft advertisements (I’m sure I saw an email from JoAnn.com about some sale titled March Madness) then I can use it for a non-sports related purpose, too.

Incidentally when I exclaimed to Mark on Friday night that I was sick of hearing “March Madness this and March Madness that” he revealed that he hadn’t a clue as to what March Madness means. Really. He thought that since spring starts in March, it has something to do with ancient Celtic spring rituals or something. (You know, it’s really nice when your husband of 8+ years can still make you laugh.)

So, I feel I have permission to just take the term and run with it. March Madness has manifested itself in me this way:

Sock yarn hanging

That is what is left of the sock I was so diligently working on here. Yes, I frogged it completely because it just wasn’t working out. This was my first toe up sock and while I learned quite a bit, wearing a “learning experience” isn’t always pleasant.Sock before frogging Above is the sock before I ripped it out. (Notice the fortifying glass of red wine at hand?) The foot part looks weirdly skinny and elongated, doesn’t it? I’m not sure exactly why. I was using size 0 Addi Turbos on the sole and size 1 Addi Turbos on the instep so that could have contributed to the shaping issue, but I’ve done that before on a top down sock and not had it work out so deformed.

I had to make the foot very long so there was less straining of the stitches at the short row heel turn, so I think that may be the main reason the foot is so oddly shaped. Regardless of all these efforts, I decided there was still too much straining of the stitches at the heel, and that sock was a bit too snug. I’ve already re-started the pattern. This time, I’m sticking with size 1 (2.5 mm) Addis for both the sole and the instep.

While I was at it, I also decided to do something about the Katrina Rib sweater that has been languishing for the past 2 months.Katrina Rib sweater
Following the pattern instructions diligently will result in a cap sleeve, but I had decided to make 3/4 sleeves. Except, after trying it on several times and realizing how it over-emphasises my ample bosom, I’ve decided instead to do this with it:Frogged yarn Yep, I ripped that baby out.

I seem to be really inspired by destruction right now. (I’ve also contemplated frogging a sweater I made for Mark last year that is not quite right somehow.) Perhaps Melpomene is my current muse?

While I was ripping out the sweater, though, the thought “I am Kali the Destroyer” just kept running through my head. I think this tendency towards controlled destruction is an indication of spring. Very soon, I will be out in my garden, cutting back last year’s dead growth that I left standing through the winter. I’ll turn over soil and the winter cover crop of rye in my veggie bed and plant cool season veggies (peas, greens, beets, etc.)

Maybe Mark was on to something after all with his comments about March Madness…hmm…

Happy Spring!

You drive me crazy!

I’m really trying to be a good blogger and post. Honestly. Blogger has just been driving me nuts for the past two days. It won’t let me upload any photos. I get that little dialog screen that show photos are uploading, and then all action just stops. That’s as far as I get! GRRRRR!!!

About books

I’ve been enjoying a lazy Saturday morning of laying in bed dozing, followed by sipping a cup of tea and browsing the blogs. On Erica‘s blog I came across the following meme and thought I’d give it a whirl.

Meme instructions: Look at the list of books below. Bold the ones you’ve read, italicize the ones you might read, cross out the ones you won’t, underline the ones on your book shelf, and place parentheses around the ones you’ve never even heard of.

The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy – Douglas Adams
The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
(His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – J. K. Rowling
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Animal Farm: A Fairy Story – George Orwell
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkien
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
1984 – George Orwell
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – J. K. Rowling
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
(The Secret History – Donna Tartt)
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis
Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides
(Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell)
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Atonement – Ian McEwan
(The Shadow Of The Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Dune – Frank Herbert

Part of the reason I was interested in this meme is because it’s about reading books, something that until recently was a very important part of my daily life. Ever since I learned to read (at 4 or 5, I think), I spent time every day reading for pleasure. (My mom is fond of telling the story of how I received special recognition from my first grade teacher for reading more books than any other student she’d instructed.) As I’ve noticed the pile of books on my nightstand growing, however, I realize that I’m not reading every day anymore.

I think part of the reason I’m not reading as much is that I’ve quit smoking. I used to sit and read and smoke every night. Every time I wanted a cigarette, I’d pick up my book and take it with me outside or to the smoking area in our house (the basement). I’d bring my book to bed with me and read before I went to sleep. Now, I’m not smoking so I’m not reading every evening. I’m usually half asleep already when I get into bed, and I’m also reading very little during my commute, and instead spend the time knitting.

I’ve been getting more interested in audio books lately since I would be able to enjoy a book while doing something else like knitting or housework. While I’ll miss the tactile sensations of handling a real book, I’m thinking the audio book option will allow me to enjoy the story, which is the most important aspect of reading. So, Audible.com, here I come!

Yesterday’s soundtrack

Do you ever ask yourself hypothetical questions like this one: if there was a soundtrack for my day today, what would it be? I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s thought of this. I mean, what are all those IPod commercials featuring people with dancing shadows and stuff about if not this exact sort of question? (This question with an advertising angle, of course.)

I had a very long day yesterday involving a business trip to Nashville. It was one of those fly in-meet-fly out business trips, but it got complicated by the severe weather we had across the entire middle region of the U.S. (Nashville can get some really nasty weather. Yesterday there were 70 mph wind gusts blowing the sheets of rain horizontally; I was glad to be sitting inside a cozy airport and not on a plane at that time.)

As you can imagine, the gate — heck the entire airport — was pretty chaotic for a couple hours. I think all flights in and out of the airport had ceased for at least 20 minutes while the violent winds and rain were sweeping through. There had been people from 4 separate flights at this one gate, all anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get the heck out of Nashville and begin or complete their journeys.

I was well-prepared for delays, though. In my spacious knitting/business bag, I had two small knitting projects (a sock and a hat), a book, and my MP3 player (in addition to my laptop and notebook for work, of course). While I was sitting at the gate patiently waiting with many others, I experienced a couple “soundtrack moments.”

By 8:30 PM, there were only about 30 of us left sitting at the gate awaiting our plane from Chicago which would land, off-load passengers, and then load us up and return to Chicago. That’s what we passengers and the gate agent urgently wanted to happen, at least.

I was knitting away on the sock and was listening to the randomly shuffled “Mellow” music playlist on my MP3 player. The plane from Chicago landed, people were walking off the jetway into the gate area, and “Everybody Knows” by Leonard Cohen starts playing. (“Everybody knows that the boat is leaking; Everybody knows the captain lied; Everybody got this broken feeling; Like their father or their dog just died“) Not a good sign. Sure enough, the gate agent announces a few minutes later that we won’t be boarding right away.

About 40 minutes later, I’m still knitting away on the sock and listening to my Mellow music playlist. Another Leonard Cohen song comes on, “Hallelujah.” Partly through the song, I have to pause the player as the gate agent announces that we can begin boarding the plane. And there I am, walking down the jetway with “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah” echoing through my earphones and my head.

Classic soundtrack moments, no? If I was editing the movie of my day, those songs were totally perfect.

I got a lot of knitting done on the sock, too.

Little Shell Rib SockFiona is kindly modeling the sock today. (Maybe I should submit this to Stuff on My Cat.com.) I think about 4 inches of that sock were done yesterday while I was on a plane or waiting at the gate for a plane. (Knitting really helps me with travel angst. I actually kind of look forward to business travel now because I know I’ll get a good chunk of uninterrupted knitting time.)

This is my first toe-up sock. I’m using two patterns as references for this sock: Wendy Johnson’s Generic To-up Sock Pattern and the Little Shell Rib stitch from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks (page 41). The yarn is Knit Picks Dancing and I think the color is Square Dance. I’ve had this sock yarn for many months and just haven’t gotten around to using it until now.

Here’s an extreme close up of the sock pattern.Little Shell Rib close up(I was having some fun with the zoom on the camera, wasn’t I?)

Hey, it’s getting spring like outside! Heads up: garden season is starting soon!

Taking care of business

I feel there are a few loose ends that I need to wrap up, and maybe a few newer threads to dangle out there.

First order of business: should I claim a medal from the Knitting Olympics? The fact that I haven’t yet posted a medal is not because I have any issues with Franklin’s wonderful design, unlike some people. (I’m thinking J in Kansas must have a bunch of relatives in Crystal Lake, IL. What is with these people? Sometimes I feel like we’re living in an alternate universe.)

I haven’t posted a medal due to ethical concerns. If I refer back to the original rules, then the fact that I did not completely finish my project within the 10 days allotted means that I don’t qualify for one. However, Stephanie’s closing post on the Olympics notes a special thanks to those of us who did not finish.

So…do I qualify for a medal? What do you think?

Since I’m such an honest and upstanding person I will admit that I still have not completly finished the gloves. I ripped out one of the fingers at Stitch n’ Bitch the other night and re-knit it because it was too long. I have ends to weave in and holes to close up, but I’m hoping to have time to do that while visiting with my friend Adrienne tomorrow.

Second order of business: I finally joined the rest of you who live in the 21st Century and purchased an MP3 player. No, I did NOT purchase an IPod. I don’t have anything against IPods, it’s just that I approached this decision in a very business-like manner and none of the IPod devices fit my needs as well as the one I did purchase, the Creative MuVo2 FM.

I wanted an MP3 player mainly so I could listen to FM radio (in the mornings I really like to listen to public radio) and podcasts during my commute. IPods do not come with FM radio, although some of them will work with an add-on FM receiver. I didn’t want to have to bother with additional hardware.

For these main purposes, my Creative Muvo works just great. It did take me a while to figure out the best way to add files to the device (there’s an easy way and a ridiculously easy way, but each has pros and cons), but now that I have that down everything is working smoothly for me.

(I had a bit of a shock around the whole music-purchasing process, however. I didn’t realize that EVERY site I went to would require me to download some sort of software in order to purchase music. In other words, there is no standard. OK, I figured there were at least 2 standards: one for Macs and one for Windows. That’s typical. But I didn’t expect to find out that there were no standards at all for Windows. How shocking. All I wanted to do was pay my 99 cents and get a song. Who knew it would turn out to be a quest for determining which music store would add the least intrusive piece of software to my company-issued laptop.)

Now I’m starting to get caught up in my podcast listening. (I know it’s possible to listen without an MP3 player, but don’t like dragging the laptop around the house with me to listen; it’s so much easier to pop in my headphones and be able to walk around.) Getting caught up has it’s downside, though. I’m afraid I’ll run out of good podcasts to listen to (especially knitting podcasts).

Besides Knit Cast and Cast On, what are other recommended podcasts? What makes them good?

I know that there are a few people out there that have checked out this blog. If you’re still checking, leave me a comment with some suggestions and feedback, OK?