Paste it in the head!

Spinster

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Weekend Review

Last night my roommate and I hosted a wine tasting. We invited friends and told them each to bring a bottle of wine*, and put the bottles in brown bags so that they couldn't be identified. We tried each wine and discussed our impressions and opinions of each. That part was hilarious--none of us is a wine afficionado, so the comments were more, "Oh yeah, I like this one cause it's...um...well, it's sweeter than the one before," than, "This wine has a smooth, velvety texture with notes of vanilla, blackberry, and pear," or whatever.

I'm sure we violated a few rules of wine tasting. First of all, we actually drank the wine. So at the beginning we were trying to be all scientific about it but then as we were drinking our samples we just got drunk. And then the secrets came out. Among other things, I remember discussing parental sex, boyfriends' porn, and "best erotic passage in a novel." Oh well. If you can't get personal and embarrassing with your friends, who can you get personal and embarrassing with?


*Most of the people just brought a bottle of wine, as in one single bottle. I would like to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to Alli, who brought not only a bottle of wine, but also a bottle of blackberry port AND a bottle of whisky. Her reasoning? She was worried that there wouldn't be enough to drink. You have to love friends like that!

Friday, January 27, 2006

This damn green wool

This green wool is being a total pain. When I was in upstate New York for American Thanksgiving, my aunt and I went to a small shop that sold wool, and she picked some out for me to spin for her. I should have known by the price that maybe it wasn't the best quality.

It has little bits of stuff in it, little pieces of nature, and also small balls of uncombed fibers and it certainly doesn't make for the smoothest spinning experience. I really wanted to make it "perfect" for my aunt cause I think she rocks and I don't want to give her gross-looking yarn. But, alas. However, having imperfections in the wool makes me a lot less anal about trying to make the yarn even and smooth, so I guess it's a bit freeing.

No. It's still pretty annoying.

Anyway... It's so hard to find time to do the things that I really love to do. I have lots of schoolwork plus I have a job so my free time is limited. And I have these hobbies and interests that I haven't done in so long--I have several sewing projects in mind and I've barely finished cutting out the pattern pieces for one, let alone even thought about the others. I also do photography and I haven't been able to get to the campus darkroom since last semester. I do ok with finding time for reading and knitting and spinning, but just barely. Plus there are times when I just want to veg and watch tv and do nothing.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This morning when I woke up, this is what the windows in my apartment looked like:


I love it when I wake up in the morning and see Jack Frost patterns on the windows with that shade of blue behind them. They can only mean one thing--sun. It might be damn cold outside, but at least it's sunny and blue and beautiful. And it was, all day it was gorgeous.

What's the deal with The OC?
I have a tendency to get way too caught up in prime-time soaps. I LOVED 90210, I had a thing for Melrose Place, I even watched Models, Inc. (a Melrose spin-off, if I remember correctly), and The Heights, not to mention Party of Five. Even at the tender age of 12, I loved the trashiness of those shows, I loved being able to escape into the intellectual void that is Southern California. Possibly because I don't read romance novels or thrillers, I allow myself the guilty pleasure of bad television.

So of course I watch The OC. I rented the complete first season and it was hot! Sex and scandals, and that's how I like my primetime. Now, I have to ask: What's the deal with The OC? Where did the sex go? Summer and Seth, Ryan and Marissa, Sandy and Kiersten, I'm talking to you. You're all attractive people in Southern California. Start doin' it already! Are we really going to have to leave it to Marissa's 15-year-old sister to provide us with the sex and scandals?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Dear Canada...

So, in the past few days I have been both disappointed by Canada and extremely impressed with Canada. Before moving here for grad school, I didn't have much of an opinion of the country; it has always been our friendly-but-not-that-exciting neighbor to the north to me. As most Americans do, I had preconceived notions about Canada--it is by and large a very cold country that delights in winter sports such as hockey and curling. (An aside here--I am pretty sure that Americans almost unanimously do not understand the appeal of curling. To us, it looks like pushing big discs around ice with brooms, something that, while it might be an amusing way of passing the time in the eternal winter of The Great White North, does not have one-tenth of the popularity and speed of hockey. We understand hockey. We understand the fights and the strikes and we almost--almost--take hockey seriously as a sport. You have to understand, it's just not football.)

Anyway. Clearly, Americans have ideas about Canada that may or may not be true. One thing that I was pretty much promised when I told people I would be living in Toronto for grad school is this: You will freeze to death during the hellish, unbearable 9 months that Canada considers winter. I was promised -20 degrees C on a good day.

Canada, I'm Disappointed
So, Canada. I've been waiting. I didn't say anything in November when you threw a bit of snow at me (I figured that I shouldn't start complaining about the cold until at least my third blizzard). I didn't say anything in December when you threw a bit more snow at me. I didn't say anything when I got back from winter break and found--well, not much. So, where the hell is it? Where is the winter that I was promised? I know you can do better than this. I mean, if all I wanted was some rain and overcast skies and some wimpy sleety slush, I would've stayed in Portland.

(I almost didn't want to write this for fear of that whole "be careful what you wish for" phenomenon, but seriously. This weather? It's pathetic.)

Elections Canada--I'm impressed!
Ok. Here's the thing. The last two elections in the US have been closer to three-ring circus performances than decorous acts of good citizenship. I mean, how hard is it to elect a president? First of all, the campaign season seems to last approximately 2 years (I'm not freakin' kidding). Toward the end of the last campaign season, I would say that 80 % of the ads on television were political in nature--and they were veering toward the unintelligible and trippy (does anyone remember the wolves in the forest with the glowing eyes and the accusations of either being the total pussy that the wolves were hunting or being the conscience-free predator himself? Yeah, all I can remember are those damn eyes; I have no idea if the ads were for or against Bush.). And people take it all veeery personally--if you were for Kerry, it was virtually inconceivable that you could even speak the same language as the Bush supporters, and vice versa. And then on elections day. Oh man! First of all, in Miami people were encouraged to vote early (and often! No, totally just kidding.) because of the supposed 7-hour waits on voting day. Like it was a bread line in Russia or something. And tallying up the votes--of course that couldn't be done on election day.

So compare that with the scene here on Monday. First of all, I know that the campaign season this time was artificially short, but somehow the election managed to not dominate everything. Well, except the Globe and Mail. But I didn't see like five million ads on tv. And maybe since I'm not Canadian, it didn't seem to me like the Liberals/Conservatives/NDP camps were so divided that they literally could not speak to one another. On election day, my roommate voted, and she reported that the entire process--listen up, America--took twenty minutes. That's right. From start to finish. And! Even though this country has more time zones than the US, somehow they managed to coordinate it so that not only were all of the votes tallied, but that an actual prime-minister-designate was called on the same day of the election. Yeah, yeah, Canada has millions fewer voters than the US, blah blah blah, but somehow, I suspect that even if Canada had the population of the United States, it would still figure out how to make the voting process take only a single day, instead of the four-days-to-two-months window of opportunity that we give our elections.

From this American to Canada--bravo!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Random thoughts

So on Friday I had my first pilates class. I am not normally the workout type, but lately I've been going to the gym, and at the beginning of this semester I got the brilliant idea to try pilates and yoga. I took yoga once in college and HATED it. It was 2 hours on Thursday night and I couldn't stand it. However, I am hoping that I have gained some patience and wisdom in the intervening years and am ready to embrace it. Anyway, in my pilates class we focused mostly on breathing and doing very basic ab stretches, and I was surprised by how hard it was to just breathe. I mean, obviously breathing is something I take for granted since I don't even need to tell my body to do it, but it was hard to breathe in the pilates way and to do exercises, sort of like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time. So we'll see how it goes.

My roommate has started knitting and for Christmas she was making her mom a shawl/stole using this really soft handspun wool. She finished it today and was blocking it when I got home from work and I got to see the magic! "Magic" in my world isn't the Harry Potter variety, it's the steaming-and-thereby-setting-a-piece-of-knitting variety. Anyway, it was really cool. The girl has been knitting for like five minutes and she's already doing lace.

The first picture shows the color better than the second, and the second picture shows the pattern.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Best book ever!

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman, is easily one of the most interesting books I have read in a long time. Fadiman chronicles the life of Lia Lee, a girl born in California to Hmong refugees, who began to exhibit signs of epilepsy when she was three months old. Lia's parents believe that epilepsy is a condition caused by a spirit who, essentially, stole Lia's soul. Her doctors are faced with the immense task of trying to halt Lia's seizures, which are frequent and severe, all the while dealing with a family that speaks no English and does not believe in administering Western medicine to their daughter--or anyone else--on a continuous and possibly life-long basis. Fadiman intersperses Lia's story with history of the Hmong people, which is fascinating. Driven out of virtually every land they inhabited, the Hmong people began settling in the United States after being recruited by the US to fight in Laos during the time of the Vietnam Conflict.

The Spirit Catches You was so interesting in part because of the author's readiness to deal with the cultural issues that exist in countries like the US and, I would imagine, Canada. I'm from Miami, as I've said, and Miami is a largely Hispanic city (over 50 % of the population is Latin, with whites and African-Americans bringing up the rear as minorities). I am white and I don't speak Spanish--and I've always found it difficult to live in a city that I consider to be my own (I was born and raised there) but that almost requires me to speak Spanish and align myself with a culture to which I don't naturally have much of a connection. So it was kind of weird to read The Spirit Catches You and be able to feel empathy for Lia and her family, who were obviously utterly bewildered and scared, and also to be able to understand the position of the American doctors, who couldn't understand why the Lees weren't able to conform to the Western standards that the doctors felt would save the Lees' daughter. It's hard to interact with people whose values and belief systems are so different from your own.

Anyway. I don't know if I'm explaining this well at all, so suffice it to say that the book was excellent, I loved it and couldn't put it down.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This is why it's called Spinster



This is my spinning wheel, a single-treadle Ashford Joy (note: I did not name it "Joy," that is the name it came with, and I'm not really in the habit of naming things other than people and pets, so the wheel didn't get nicknamed "Spinny" or anything.).

Bear with me: this post contains spinning information/pictures. Mainly at the request of my friend Alli, cause I would never intentionally bore anyone to tears. (Not that spinning is boring.)

Anyway, Alli asked how the process of spinning works, and how the wool gets from unspun to spun.
The various fibers--and you can spin pretty much anything, including dog hair--come in different forms. Cotton, for example, being a huge pain in the ass to spin, comes in what is known as a "cloud," a puffball of extremely short fibers that are difficult and made my spinning experience unpleasant until I decided that, until someone forces a gun to my head and tells me to spin, this is a hobby and no one can make me spin anything I don't want to spin. Including, but not limited to, cotton.

Wool is generally pretty pleasant to spin with, especially when someone else has done the work of cleaning and generally preparing the fiber (dyeing, carding, etc). Here is a photo of some unspun wool:















In order to get it from the "roving" to the finished product, you must do what is called "drafting" before you begin spinning. Drafting is the process of gently pulling apart the fibers--not so much that they separate completely, but so that some air is allowed between them and you have a manageable piece of wool. Then you spin! You can spin as thick or as thin as you wish, depending on your experience, the desired product, and your wheel. My wheel, because it is a folding wheel, doesn't have the range of some, but it gets the job done.

Next, unless you wish to work with "singles" (unplied yarn), you must ply! And oh how plying can be exciting. No, seriously. Sometimes it's boring, or slow, but sometimes it's really cool--you get to see what the yarn will look like. With most things, there is more than one way to do this. I have shown examples of two. The first involves filling two bobbins full of singles and spinning the singles together onto a third bobbin. In this example, it has produced a multi-colored yarn:














Another option is to Navajo ply, which is the process of spinning one bobbin onto itself using a funny little method that confused the crap out of me the first time I did it. Basically, without going into lots of detail and without drawing pictures, the end result is that the colors are plied on top of themselves in one continuous stream:







Anyway, I've probably confused everyone--the one person who is still reading this, that is--but it's not that difficult once you actually do it. Although, the first wool that I spun was hideous--big thick coarse grey stuff that, when I attempted to wash it, I ended up inadvertently felting it and it became big thick coarse grey dreadlocks. U-G-L-Y.


PS--I just got an email from my friend Kristen, who said that she recently began knitting again after many years of non-knitterdom. She said that when she was knitting before, when we were in college, she made an ugly garter stitch scarf. If it's the scarf I'm thinking of, the one for Drake, it was NOT ugly. It was garter stitch, yes, and therefore simple, but it was really cool. It's what inspired me to start knitting--I thought it was the coolest thing that someone could take two sticks and some string and end up with a recognizable item, something that someone could wear, and that was handmade by another. Is there anything better than that?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Books and pictures

So, I just finished reading Katherine Neville's The Eight. I know that the book is fairly old--well, it's not current, anyway--so it might seem weird that someone would be discussing it now. It was recommended to me by a co-worker at Books and Books whose book opinion I trust. Apparently, this book is supposed to be The Da Vinci Code-esque, but I thought it was much more intelligent than Da Vinci, which I didn't like much. I read so many books, and so few of them are actually good (chick lit, anyone?)--though this may have something to do with the amount of contemporary literature that I read, which hasn't been around long enough to have stood the test of time. I have to say, though, that I enjoyed reading The Eight, and would definitely recommend it for anyone who likes mysteries or chess or history.

I took my knitting to school today and I find that working on it during class helps me pay attention. Since I don't need to look at it while I knit, I can watch the prof. Here is a photo of the socks I'm working on for my dad for Christmas(!)














And here is a picture of some purple wool that I spun. I've been spinning for a couple of years now, though I don't do it as often as I knit. I loooooved spinning this wool. I got it at this cool store in San Francisco, and I think I did a pretty good job keeping it smooth and even.















I wonder if anyone else at FIS spins? I rarely meet people my age who do, though there are plenty of knitters out there and spinning is obviously a natural extension of knitting. Spinning is fun! You should try it!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

How big is your footprint?

I read an article in the Globe and Mail today about the Gulf Stream weakening due to global warming, and about the climatic changes that are beginning to take place around the world. I remembered having taken an online quiz at one point about my ecological footprint, and I revisited the site. Now, I consider myself to have a fairly low-impact lifestyle--I don't own a car anymore, I walk just about everywhere or I take public transportation, I don't eat a lot of meat, I recycle. Apparently, though, according to myfootprint.org, if everyone lived the way I do, we would need 4.3 Earths to support that lifestyle. Obviously, this quiz doesn't taken into account every aspect of my lifestyle, and I still consider it to be low-impact--but maybe low-impact in comparison with the way other North Americans (particularly Americans) live.
Anyway, just a thought!

Friday, January 13, 2006

I try my hand at uploading photos...

Here are some pictures from my winter break in Miami, FL, which is where I am originally from.


This photo was taken at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, FL. George and I were amused at the giant purple... another word for construction! Anyway, the artist who created this piece is Dale Chihuly, a glass sculptor, and his work is amazing:





Thursday, January 12, 2006

First post!

I am creating this blog for an IT class at the University of Toronto, though I have been interested in starting one for a while now. I enjoy writing and I read others' blogs, so it was only natural that I wanted my own. I do have time constraints though...