Showing posts from 2011

Year in Review Part Two: My yo-yo year

It’s been up and down, but I’m happy to say that 2011 finished with a sharp up-snap, and the yo-yo is in hand, ready to go for another year.

On the work front, my agency faced possible defunding that would have put our continued existence into question. In the end, the funder has budgeted flat funding for us in 2012, not even cutting the amount they give us. Yes, there was wild dancing on desktops when that news was announced. Well, maybe not dancing, but morale is up, up, up and everybody is sleeping much better at night. Helping on the morale front is that we have a new boss, and this time it’s a promotion from within of a well-liked and respected colleague. We have problems galore - oops, I’m supposed to call those nasty pimples “challenges” - but we ended the year stronger, not weaker.

My job is changing for the better as well. I applied for a couple of positions in the course of the year. One would have taken me out of the agency, and another would have kept me in the agency, but …

Simple, satisfying sock knitting

I am relearning why it is very satisfying to knit a basic sock. Round and round in knit stitch means that the sock grows at the knitterly version of breakneck speed.

I am knitting this without any pattern other than the recipe I carry in my head. This is also very, very satisfying.

I dyed the yarn by painting a sock blank, which consists of 2 strands of sock yarn knit loosely into a rectangle. Once dry, I wound the blank into 2 balls of sock yarn. These should knit into 2 identical socks.

Bonus: the dye did not penetrate completely in the peach sections, resulting in a speckled-with-white effect that is quite nice, and something found in some very pricey sock yarns *ahem Opal ahem*.

Year in Review Part One: My husband moves on (but not from me)

Late last year I blogged about what was very good news in our household: the passage of a bill creating the North Country Power Authority (NCPA).

The story of this project has become the stuff of novels since then, and there is probably not going to be an ending where the hero strides into the sunset, basking in the glory of a quest achieved. If there is such an ending, my husband is very unlikely to be that hero.

The complexities of human behavior are so much a part of the story that I am putting aside the urges to label causes, cast blame, point fingers. We’ll stick with irony and bemusement, and lift a glass to the prospect of a new year swept clean of the obsession of trying to save a project.

A brief synopsis:

We start with the successful passage of the bill enabling the NCPA. There was a team of people who worked to accomplish this, and there was a plan. The NY State legislature would not have enabled a dream; they passed the legislation because it looked like the new entity had a …

Back off the road again

I’m home again after three days of traveling. I’ll be taking off for more travels Saturday morning, but that won’t be for work. That will be to visit people I love, and R. will be driving, and I’ll be knitting Christmas presents. My head is sorting out all kinds of new information. I’ve taken another step towards adding exciting new duties to my job. Both ongoing and new work associates seem quite confident that I will do just fine. My karma with the universe seems to be solid. At the beginning of two four-hour long drives in the dark, I filled my pink McGill travel mug with coffee, and both times the cashier told me the coffee was free, and to drive safely. I did. Now to pay the bills, so that I can enjoy the vacation that starts Saturday morning.

Voting Day

I love filling in the bubble next to the name of my husband on the paper ballot. He’s running unopposed, but it’s still a little thrill to vote for him. I was the only person today to ask to see my ballot on the scanning machine before pushing the button that cast my vote. Second happy moment: seeing his name on the ballot scanner.

Dazed and Amazed

We saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones in concert tonight, and it was an amazing experience.  On the way home, R. called the music profound. I found myself in tears at one point. Organized chaos with a strong sense of melody, and an elegant light show. Sound levels were quite good as well. These guys want to hear for a long time, and they want their audiences to hear as well. There was one sung song, “Sunset Road”, and R. said the simple lyrics expressed perfectly how he feels these days. I bought 2 CDs - the Flecktones’ newest, “Rocket Science”, and Victor Wooten’s “A Show of Hands”. We didn’t play them on the way home. We haven’t played any music of any kind since we left the concert hall. It wouldn’t be respectful. There’s lots of time tomorrow for music.

Happy birthday to me.

I'm 60 years old today. An epic age. A dividing line birthday. As my stepmom said, "wow, that's a big one".

It's been a week that feels appropriate as a lead-up to a big birthday. My husband is battling a nasty staph infection in his arm, the kind of ailment that would lead to dire consequences if we didn't have powerful antibiotics. I got a big award at work, the Director's Award for being the employee who most exemplifies the spirit and ideals of the agency. A sense that I have accomplished some worthwhile work, a sense of the fragility of it all, and the shifting sands that lie ahead for R. and me.

I was good to myself today and went for a walk. The world was beautiful today, chilly and austere in the slightly dimmed sunshine of a lowering sun. As I walked, I thought that perhaps New Year's Day isn't the best day to make resolutions. Maybe birthdays are better, especially an epic one that signals a new phase of my life.

So I have made a few res…

Thinking about Steve

I'm sad to learn of Steve Jobs' untimely death. Thanks, Steve, for the unexpected beauties; I could always count on you to strive for the elegance that makes my heart sing. You made the computer truly personal - my favorite computer sits in the palm of my hand, and responds to my touch. My condolences from afar to his beloved family.

I join yet another social network.

I seem to be addicted to social networks. Let’s list them all:

The one I’m blogging on right here and now.

Is the list long enough to make you worried about me? I will say that I am not very active on some of these. I spend time lurking, however, on all of them. As a wise person said, time is the only part of your life that is finite, so it is possible that this list represents a woeful leaking away of life energy.

I just joined a new social network that might actually be GOOD for me: Fitocracy.

It’s been closely guarded in beta, but they are starting to loosen up their invitations and are leting the riff-raff in.

The purpose of the site is to keep track of your workouts. As you accumulate exercise time, you level up. As you level up - well, I’m a lowly level 3 right now, so future rewards are yet to be revealed. Gamers love the site. I’m very good at logging knitting projects on Ravelry, and I think I’ll be very good at logging exercise on Fitocracy.

As a…

Knocking a few words together again

All at once some voices in my blogroll that have been silent are posting. Believe it or not, I’ve been working up a head of steam to start fitting words together again myself. It must be something in the air.

It’s been a trying year so far. Projects and plans and spirits have unraveled. There’s less walking around money in the wallet, and there are possible unfavorable financial changes floating in the atmosphere just as I am coming close to retirement.

I’m not going to talk about any of it in greater detail than that. My decision that I cannot, that I will not talk about these matters openly has pretty effectively zipped my mouth shut for months.

My response has been to become a sponge. My Google Reader overfloweth with other people’s tasty tidbits. It’s getting a bit boring, though. I’ve also come to realize that the act of writing has had positive effects on my life in the past. My period of most active blogging came when I was working on my master’s degree and working full time. Acti…

Knitting Blog: This one's for me

Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) aren’t big events for R. and me. It’s a good year when we manage to get out the cards on time so that they will arrive before the date. We do pick up the phone and call. There’s no tradition of gift giving, however, to teach our daughter that anything special is expected beyond the card and the call.

Imagine my surprise that A. sometimes gives us something on those cultural high holy days. She gave R. a pair of gorgeous gold-edged hostas. She gave me bleeding hearts.

This year, she gave me this:

Dyed by her in complex shades of blue, brown and red on a base of luxurious baby alpaca, silk, and cashmere. She also gave me a pattern to go with the yarn: Trousseau by Carol Feller.

This project was almost instant gratification for a knit object, especially since I am not the fastest knitter around. I did the gauge swatch on Mother’s Day, and cast on the shawl itself on May 29th. It was blocked and on my shoulders on July 8th, 5 weeks and 5 days in the making.

The …

Knitting Blog: Maia

Right now I am putting Elizabeth Zimmerman’s motto to good use:"Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises."

There is even a finished object to show for it. Maia - a shawl designed by Rosemary Hill, and knitted by me in Moonlight and Laughter’s yarn.

The original shawl is designed to be a small shoulderette, but my version was to be a gift, and I wanted to make a longer, more versatile shawl. Easy to adapt the pattern - just add more yarn than specified. I used nearly all of two skeins of a fingering weight merino/bamboo blend. The yarn was handpainted and it was highly likely that small color differences would create a visual join if I knit all of one skein then added the other, so I knit first two rows from one skein then two rows from the other. The end result was perfect - no pooling of colors, and no noticeable change from one skein to the other.

Pictures, please!

In the knitting. I think this picture captures the lovely interplay of colors in the yarn pretty well…

News of the day

It’s small. It’s benign. It can be seen on a 2002 MRI so I’ve been living with it for quite a while with no problems. It’s growing - slowly. It can be treated with radiosurgery. It’s my decision and there is no urgency. I plan on talking with my trusted family doctor before deciding anything.We also swung by Minuet on our way home, and it smells like we are going to win this year’s war against mildew.
All in all, a day with more good news than bad.

A Week in Tweets

For those of us who are addicted to social media, there are Facebook people and there are Twitter people. While I enjoy keeping up with friends and family on Facebook, I’m much more likely to encounter something new and exciting on Twitter. It’s easier to follow a diverse group of people there than on Facebook, where linkages are based on more traditional relationships.

I also post updates more often on Twitter than on Facebook. I’m less self-censoring there.

I’ve had quite a week, and I thought I would tell the story of it through my Twitter posts, with some editorial amplification. Here goes:

May 8: I’m traveling to Rochacha to see my mom & my doctor. OMG spring is finally here in NNY & it’s gorgeous.
        Note: Excellent music on satellite radio makes the mood even better.

May 8: I retweeted a post by Christopher Hayes of The Nation magazine: Great Mother’s Day column from @KathaPollitt :

May 9: Just had an MRI of my head. It’s a minimalist concert! My fa…

Around and around she goes, work edition

Work keeps spinning around and around. Anyone who pays attention to the news must surely realize that the times do not favor small non-profit agencies that use government funds to deliver services to youth, small farmers, and low income families. Right now we are dealing with a mid-year rescission of funds to a program that used to look rock solid. Today we got news that what looks to me like an accounting error made elsewhere, possibly a long time ago, may turn that rescission from a 40% cut to a 50% cut.

For those in the accounting world, I’ll just say that it looks like we’ve been operating on an accrual basis while the department that cuts us the reimbursement checks has been working on a cash basis. And then there is the question of what basis the department that cuts the check to the department works on, and how arcane its reimbursement rules are. And then there is the question of what basis the department that cuts the check to the department that cuts the check to the departme…

Around and around she goes, fiber edition

It’s been a while since I’ve taken pixel to “paper”. So much has happened recently, and little has happened at all.

Life is quieter right now.

One reason for this is a little less money sloshing about and waiting for transformation. My husband’s work has suddenly changed from projects with periodic largeish payoffs to ongoing, steady work with relatively modest paychecks. We also had a larger than usual tax bill due to both some projects coming to fruition and to the loss of our one dependent exemption. We lost the higher ed tax credit as well. This is what happens when your kid becomes a grad student with a stipend that she can live on, and is one of those really good changes that helps you smile a little as you write a check to the US Treasury.

And work - well, it makes my head spin. Meat for a separate post. My work hasn’t changed that much, though, because my agency has regularly had financial ups and downs in the decade I’ve worked there.

I’ve been knitting away and have added a few …

Ideas that Resonate: "Social Animal" by David Brooks

A twitter link posted by Jad Abumrad of WNYC’s Radiolab steered me in the direction of this article in The New Yorker by David Brooks: “Social Animal”.

Strands from this article keep floating into my thoughts. It resonates with me because it aligns well with my viewpoint on how humans work. I’m shaped by the work of B. F. Skinner, and anyone who has read his work knows that that statement curls around on itself in a satisfying way. In the smallest of nutshells, I believe that we are who we are not only because of who we are at birth, but also because of the environments we grow up in, study in, work in, live in.

I am one of the last people who would have any interest in the ideas of Ayn Rand. I do not believe that we are individuals who can stand free of connection or culture. I’m with John Donne:

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine; if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, …

I have become a polygamist

Recently, Susie of the blog Knitting Knoobie asked the question: are you monogamous?

Once upon a time I was monogamous. I worked on one knitting project at a time. As a project got close to the finishing point, I would get the itch to start another, and begin my research, lining up pattern and yarn. I might even cast on, and knit a few rows. The new project, however, would then be pushed aside, not to be touched until I had completed the knitting in progress.

As my stash of both patterns and yarn has become lusher and more full of possibility, I no longer keep to this virtuous and efficient pattern. I have become a knitting multi-tasker. Actually, Susie’s characterization of monogamous v. polygamous is more accurate, because no matter how many projects you have going, you can only actively knit on one at a time.

I spent most of 2010 with 3 projects on the needles. Currently I have 4 active projects:

socks for myself. The pattern is Cookie A’s pattern Wedge, and the yarn is a fine, hand-p…

Knitting Blog: The best sweater I have ever knit (so far)

2010 was a bellwether year in the life of this family: our daughter is officially a full-fledged adult. I wanted to celebrate this with a gift from my heart, and offered to knit her a sweater. The offer was for a classic, sophisticated design that could conceivably look good for decades, and there was no doubt which sweater pattern I would use. I would knit Veronik Avery’s Military Jacket, which is one of the designs in her book Knitting Classic Style.

A project like this deserves, nay, demands excellent quality yarn. I chose to knit it in the yarn specified in the pattern: Cascade Yarn’s Ecological Wool. A. chose a rich, soft brown spun from natural, undyed wool. The yarn is two ply and very light and lofty. It was a great choice. The finished jacket is simultaneously firm and soft. It’s a sweater that will keep you warm on a cold day, yet be surprisingly comfortable in weather that is cool rather than cold. The yarn is first class, but the project cost was very reasonable because I w…