Paste it in the head!

Spinster

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Block party

I somehow managed to finish both the front and the back of the Pistachio Aran and block them. At the same time. Side by side. I watched Lorien block something the other night, and she was soooo precise. Every movement was painstaking, every pin was deliberately placed. That is approximately the antithesis of my approach. I didn't even bother to pin it in some places cause the wool stretched and held so well. I can't tell if this casual approach (to everything) is my downfall (my creations are never perfect) or my saving grace (what's the point in obsessing?).




This is going to be a loooooong sweater. I do have a loooooong torso and have eternal difficulties finding tank tops that fit (thank you, American Apparel, for cutting your tanks long. I love you). However, I might have overdone it on the length. The length of the body, excluding the armscye, is 18 inches long. My torso is not (thank God) 18 inches long from my underarm. This may be more of a tunic than a sweater. I'm counting on some of the length being shortened when I sew it together and put it on, but as I don't have large breasts this may be wishful thinking. We'll just have to see.

I'm no longer afraid of dyeing

Dyeing yarn and wool is something that I've wanted to get into for a while. I tried Kool-Aid dyeing but was never that into the sickly colors. A couple of months ago, I went to G & S Dye here in Toronto, and bought their acid dye kit. For 30 bucks, you get the three primary colors and black, soap, and citric acid to set the dye.





Not a bad deal! Plus, the guy who was working there when I stopped in was ultra helpful and knowledgeable.

Because I'd done some dyeing before (Kool-Aid) and hadn't been too thrilled with the results, I wanted to read up on dyeing yarn before I started. I consulted Deb Menz's Color in Spinning, which has a wealth of information on color theory, and Lynne Vogel's Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, an indispensable resource for dyeing rovings. I have some roving and a pound cone of white yarn I got a while ago with the idea of dyeing it, but as this was my maiden voyage (and because I want to have a "dyeing day" later this week), I started with some sale yarn I got at Knit-O-Matic. I had two skeins of 50 grams each.

I put those in a water bath to soak while I set up my workspace.


My workspace pretty much consisted of the deck. I don't exactly have the most professional set-up here. (We are not going to discuss the windiness of Toronto, nor are we going to talk about how pissed off I was when a freshly mixed bowl of green dye upturned all over the aforementioned books. Let's just say that there was a lot of profanity.)

Anyway, after the yarns had soaked and the wind had messed up my books, I was ready to begin dyeing. I laid down plastic wrap on a drop cloth and secured it with masking tape, then laid the wet skeins on the plastic. I had mixed up four colors of dye; two purples and two greens. There was a light and a dark purple, and a forest-y green and a light, kind of kelly green. I hadn't decided on a particular effect (stripes, etc.), so I just started painting. Eventually, I figured that if I stuck to the two most abundant colors (one green and one purple), I could use the other two as accents. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped up the plastic, but here's what it sort of looks like:



And here they are after steaming:




Now, I just have to wait for it to cool (which will take forever) and then I can wash, rinse, and dry it!

Friday, July 28, 2006

I love him

Seriously, John Krasinski (if you guys don't know who he is, you need to get your heads out of your asses) is the cutest thing since Jimmy Fallon, like, five years ago. I watch The Office for many, many reasons and I am not above admitting that Krasinski's character, Jim, is one of the major ones. He's sexy, he's funny, he's smart. He plays hilarious practical jokes on Dwight. He mocks Michael without Michael knowing it. He's insightful but not tediously so, he's sensitive but shit, he's no wimpster (well, maybe a little). His crush on Pam is so fucking sweet, I could die. Seriously, that kiss at the end of last season was so heartfelt and passionate and... I totally need to get a life. (Anyway, it reminded me of when I was about 13 and watched 90210 religiously, and I'd get butterflies in my stomach when Brenda and Dylan patched up whatever fight they were having. It was SO exciting. That's how that kiss made me feel.) Let's not think about the fact that it's Friday night when I'm posting this. Whatever. I worked all week, people. I'm tired, I'm cranky and, let's face it, it's too damn hot to care about anything.

Serving the public

I love blogs. The more specific, the better. (Let's not consider the implications of the fact that, while I love blogs that deal with specific subject matter, my own blog is decidedly un-specific.) Obviously, I love knitting blogs and celebrity gossip blogs and, of course, my friends' blogs.

Lately, I've come to realize that I also love library blogs. A couple of them are in my links section, but here's one that I discovered recently: Happyville Library. The writing is great--few grammatical and spelling errors, clear sentences, and a sense of timing and humor. The writer, Happy Villain, chronicles her 13 years of experiences serving the public at a library somewhere outside of Chicago, and she does so with wit and insight. Usually, she details her encounters with the public, who are one hell of a bunch.

I cannot fathom the amount of patience it must take to deal with people like this, day in and day out, over and over and over again. I have worked in customer service. I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I have seen myself at my public-serving best and, unfortunately, my worst. (I can't tell you how many fantasies I've had about ripping certain problem customer's heads off and shoving them down their throats.) Clearly, I do not have one-tenth of the patience and self-preservation instinct that Happy Villain has, and I'm thinking about entering a field that is all about serving these people? Am I sure that this is the right career choice?

When confronted with frustrated, angry people whose goal is, it seems, to berate and insult me, I would surely not be able to sit there and calmly reiterate the rules and policies of my workplace. (However, as my workplaces have always erred on the side of the customer, I would imagine that working in a place that actually has some unbreakable policies would help me in serving the public; it's pretty annoying to be told that "we never, EVER give people a cash or credit card refund for their purchase," when in practice, this policy has a P.S.: "we never, EVER give people a cash or credit card refund for their purchase, except when they bitch and moan at us or when the store owner happens to be in the room." Oh, how I love non-existent policies. Rules exist for a reason, people.)

I understand that blog readers have to take what they read with a grain of salt--obviously, one of the purposes of having a blog is to be able to vent, in writing, about all of the irritating bits of the day that cannot be discussed at work. I'm sure that Happy Villain has a lot of wonderful patrons who make her career worthwhile. I'm just putting myself in her shoes, and I don't know if I can honestly say that one evil patron wouldn't ruin my entire day. I'm an introvert by nature; being around other people just wears me out, no matter how positive the interaction, and to repeatedly encounter confrontational, aggressive people makes me want to change my name to Tenzing Tasha, shave my head, and live in a Tibetan cave.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Welcoming another spinner to the fold...

From: Lorien
To: Tasha
Subject: RE:
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 20:43:21 +0000

Hello Tasha,
You should check out the wonderful,
plied yarn hanging in the bathroom. Yes, that's right, I plied my
yarn today and have winded, washed, and hung it up. FOR SHIZZLE
DUDE!!! I am SO pleased with myself. Making yarn is just the coolest
thing. I want to spin more right now! Except that I'm not going to.
I think I need to eat some food and then need to leave. I wonder
what I shall make with my tiny bit of yarn. There really isn't very
much of it. I shall make something special. hahaha.

I hope work's not too boring. See you later!

Love, Lorien





___________________________________________________

From: Tasha
To: Lorien
Subject: RE: RE:

Dude,

I am SO proud of you! Spinning is seriously like crack--once you start it's really, really hard to stop! If you're anything like me, once you start spinning with colors it's even worse... Why would you clean your room when you COULD watch the blue fade into the green fade into the purple fade into the red... Why would you call home or cook dinner when you COULD *start* plying those full bobbins, just to see if two-ply or three-ply is the way to go with this yarn?

I have to warn you, though, that as I was introduced to one of the Rules of Spinning by my spinning teacher, so am I going to introduce you: you MUST make something out of your first handspun yarn. In my case, I had spun this very thick, practically ropy gray yarn, and I hated it (you know how I feel about colors versus neutrals). I also had a minor mishap while washing it in my friend's washing machine, and the result was thick, ropy, felted gray yarn. I saved what I could of it, and ended up knitting a hat. This was right around my graduation from college, and my parents were visiting. We were in Washington State in May, at Mt. St. Helens, and it was HOT. My dad, he of the bald head, likes to wear hats, even wool hats, when he will be exposing the dome to the sun. My father totally stepped up to the plate and wore my ugly, handspun felted gray WOOL hat on our stifling, hot, sticky walk. Parental love (or fear of sunburn) is something else, huh?

Happy spinning,
Tasha

Fat Day

Skinny girls can SO have fat days. It's more a state of being than a physical condition, but I still choose to refer to it as Fat Day^.

Let's discuss the symptoms of Fat Day:

*I don't have much of a sweet tooth; however, at work yesterday, I had numerous pieces of coffee cake instead of the applesauce I brought with me

*Last night, I ate nachos, spinach dip, and guacamole for dinner, with tiramisu for dessert

*I stopped at Second Cup for an iced chai this morning, and spent the rest of my walk to work muttering under my breath about how "if I wanted a watery, milky chai, I would've gone to Starbucks"

*My music of choice today is Elliott Smith, whose most uplifting lyrics are "I may not seem quite right/But I'm not fucked, not quite"; and who I always listen to when I want to hear menacing songs about alcoholism, as told from the perspective of the bottle itself ("Drink up with me now/Forget all about/The pressure of days/Do what I say/And I'll make you okay/And drive them away/The images stuck in your head")

*When I woke up this morning and looked at my knitting, I wanted to cry. I KNOW I'm not a perfectionist but I wish my knitting was. Why does it have to be wonky and crooked and awful? Why can't I be good at anything?


^ Fat Day may also be known as DMS (During Menstruation Syndrome), when I have my period and therefore hate myself and my life and am inclined to eat massive quantities of both salty and sweet things because, to my hormone-addled brain, they cancel each other out and so it's like I didn't eat anything at all and can therefore indulge in even more chips/dip/ice cream/cookies. I am SO GLAD I'm on the Pill. What the hell did women do before hormone regulation? Oh, right. They were accused of being hysterical.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blisters

I am an avid shoe-lover. I don't have the high-heel-wearing ability of Carrie Bradshaw, nor her budget, so I don't exactly parade around town in Manolos. However, I looooove shoes. I was also cursed with flat feet and no money, the result of which equals a lot of cheap shoes bought from Payless. The shoes get worn a couple of times, and then sit at the back of my closet where I stuff them after one too many blisters, unable to look at them without wincing at the memory of pain.

I am so goddamn sick of blisters and cuts and general foot pain. My feet need a break! I walk all over the place, at least 40 minutes a day, and I can't physically afford to keep destroying my feet by wearing poorly constructed unsupportive shoes. Like an good-for-nothing boyfriend, these shoes let me down and hurt me.

At the risk of being branded a walking fashion faux pas, I have decided to invest in some extremely comfortable, very supportive, yet sartorially reviled, shoes: Enter the Danskos. I figure that with a little persistence and a willingness to spend a bit of money, I can find a pair of decently attractive, relatively comfortable Danskos that will not force me into early cute-shoe-retirement.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Radical eating

I try to be a fairly aware consumer. "Try" is the operative word in that sentence. When I remember, I bring a canvas bag to the grocery store. I generally don't get much take out. Lorien and I recycle and compost religiously. I check the labels of clothing before I buy it. However, sometimes it's just easier to buy cheap, non-North American made clothing or whatever that is almost undoubtedly the product of unfair labor conditions. That is one thing I hate about myself: I figure that if I'm going to talk the talk, I better be able to walk the walk. I'd say, half the time, the walk just ain't there.

After I finished reading Waiting for the Macaws (and I have to say, that book was incredible and informative, a rare but delightful combination), I started thinking more about the consumption choices that I make, both food- and other-wise.

Of particular interest to me was Glavin's point about the extinction of so many different species of edibles. Since farming became big business in the first half of the twentieth century, the loss of diversity just among the most common foods that we eat is absolutely stunning. Factor in practices of companies such as Monsanto (the proud parents of "Terminator" seeds--they have been genetically engineered to not propagate, a Frankensteinian phenomenon [I think I just coined a phrase] if I've ever heard one), and we have on our hands a gastronomic disaster. The word of the day is "homogeneity"--we expect to find the same food in every supermarket from Toronto to Texas. We have grown accustomed to the luxury of having decision-making eliminated from shopping, cooking, and eating, and we are willing to sacrifice both flavor and diversity to sustain this, which the market then reflects back at us, and so on and so forth. Why would farmers grow 12 varieties of corn if one will suffice?

Except that sometimes, consumers demand choice, and not just of candy bars and frozen pizzas. There is a reason that places like Whole Foods exist. Sure, part of it is the ultra-nice atmosphere, and it certainly makes you feel high-class to shop there, but I can't help but think that part of it is the diversity of the produce and the availability of organic and non-genetically modified food. I used to work at an upscale grocery store in Portland, and while I can't say it was my favorite job, it was certainly an educational experience. There, I tasted real parmesan cheese from Parma, and a multitude of different beers from the Pacific Northwest and around the world. At the co-op by my friend Eric's house, I came across 20 different local apple varieties one October. At my going-away party, I served a berry cordial that I'd made from berries I had picked. The point is, with a little time and a little money, it is possible to be more connected with what you eat. I know that organic food is expensive, and it is time-consuming to research different varieties of tomatoes or squash or whatever, but I have to think that it's worth it. No one is expected to eat organic all the time, but picking up some local cherries or peaches a couple of times a week isn't that hard. Buying heirloom tomatoes instead of hothouse ones just requires putting something different into the cart at the grocery store. Eating apples in November and blueberries in July instead of year-round is a very simple, conscious decision.

So, lately, I've been trying to patronize the local organic/natural food store by my house. I bought heirloom tomatoes instead of hothouse ones (and I'm saving the seeds--but don't tell Monsanto!). I use the basil from my "garden" (seven containers of either over- or under-watered plants on the deck). I'm going to stop buying shoes from Payless. I'm going to continue knitting and spinning, cause at least that way I know that the only person harmed in the making of the product was me, and I'm ok with that. I don't know if I'll start dressing in head-to-toe hemp or if I'll become a fruitatarian (I think they only eat things that have fallen to the ground--that nature has "given" them). But I do resolve to think a little bit harder about what I buy and where it came from.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Talking Barbie: "Math is hard!"

Math bad. Words good. If I could summarize my academic career in four words, those two sentences would about do it. I have never been mathematically adept. I still count on my fingers. I cannot for the life of me multiply two two-digit numbers in my head. Unless they are squares. I know my squares up to 13, but that's about it.

My father, the Ph.D-holding microbiologist who teaches calculus to grad students, has never been able to figure out how, with both of his two children, neither of them managed to get even a fraction (ha!) of his math skills. My brother is spectacularly bad--he's taken college algebra at least three time, in community college no less, and has yet to pass it. (I'm pretty sure that it's statistically impossible for someone to fail a class multiple times at a community college: they hold your hand throughout the entire process. I have to give my brother props for beating that particular system.)

Anyway, the point is that I can relate to talking Barbie, who will forever be remembered for doing a disservice to a generation of young girls when she said, "Math is hard!"

Along with my math deficiency, I am also not a very orderly person. When I was growing up, my mother often and, I like to think, fondly, referred to my room as a "disaster area." When I was a teenager, there were weeks when it was so messy that you couldn't see the floor. Fortunately for the roommates I've had over the years, I'd pretty much outgrown that by the time I went away to college. However, I'm still not a tidy person. Never have been, never will be. I don't pay attention to detail, despite what I say in job interviews, my desk is constantly cluttered, and I am fully capable of leaving the house with less-than-perfect hair. No one's gonna accuse me of being a perfectionist--at least, not with a straight face.

So, with my dynamite combination of math deficiency and tidiness anemia, why am I so drawn to geometric shapes? I love their orderliness, their clean lines and repetition. I love the angles and the planes and the patterns. M. C. Escher was always one of my favorite artists--I could, and often did, get lost in his precise forms and regimented evolutions. Similarly, I was drawn to Mason-Dixon Knitting because it glorifies the simplicity and beauty of straight lines and patterns. Recommended in the book is a website called Woolly Thoughts, which is devoted to mathematical knitting. Their creations, particularly their afghans, are amazing, and they are all based on different mathematical principles.
For example, this one:

is squares within squares within squares.

None of the principles upon which the afghans are based mean anything to me, of course, but the results are absolutely stunning and really show the versatility of color and geometry. All of the blankets are knitted using garter stitch, so there is no fancy footwork. I've been knitting for, let's see, over five years. I am so sick of garments that don't fit, and knitting a parade of endless socks and hats just does not appeal to me. Perhaps mathematical afghans are my calling?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Having rehashed last night’s date with a couple of my grad school friends and a couple of my online friends (God, when did I turn into such an internet dork? Damn you, high speed wireless internet!), and having discussed the issue of physical attraction to someone, I have a few ruminations to share.

I think, generally speaking, that men are more visual than women—sexually, men prefer watching pornographic movies and looking at girlie magazines, while women prefer erotic literature and/or their own imaginations. I think that this manifests itself in our dating preferences, too. I know girls who will “date down” in terms of looks, but not many guys. Maybe women are programmed to be less superficial when it comes to a mate? We are obviously concerned with our own appearances; we wear makeup and spend hours on our hair and clothes yet, time after time, when women are asked what they look for in a partner, these are the two things that top the list: sense of humor and intelligence. Not a sexy body, or beautiful hair, or perfect skin, but the ability to make us laugh and the capacity for decent conversation.

Sometimes, you meet someone with whom you have an instant physical and sexual connection. It doesn’t come from flirting or playing games or putting on beer goggles; in other words, you don’t have to try for that connection. I’ve had this happen to me twice in my life. Both times, these experiences occurred at work. The first was in Portland, and I always refer to the guy as The One That Got Away. He was (is) gorgeous and smart and funny, and our interests and senses of humor gelled perfectly. We became friends the first time we met and I have never, ever had such a crush on someone. I think I understood then why it’s called a crush. It reduced me, physically and mentally, to a child, and I was humbled under its weight. I blushed when he walked by. My knees went weak when I saw him or thought about him. And I was friends with this guy, and expected to act normal around him. Nothing physical ever happened with us; let me rephrase that: nothing sexual ever happened between us. (Which, I remember thinking at the time, might have been a good thing, as I probably would have imploded if we’d so much as kissed.) We cuddled a bit a couple of times after a night of drinking, but that was all. Eventually, he got another job and moved on and out of my life, despite my willingness to stay in touch.

The second time was in Miami, again with a guy I worked with. The first time I saw him, I was instantly and irrevocably attracted to him. Everyone else who worked with him didn’t get it: he was lazy, they said, and never wanted to help out when things were busy. I didn’t care; I was drawn to him like a magnet to metal. I did end up dating that guy, but he turned out to be pretty self-absorbed, and we didn’t even last four months.

What I took from those two “relationships,” if they can be called that, is that it is completely possible for two people to have combustible chemical attraction to each other. It is also completely possible for that combustible attraction to not mean a damn thing when it comes to meaningful, worthwhile relationships. I’m glad that I met those guys, particularly TOTGA, because there’s nothing more fun than having a crush on someone at work, and because they reminded me that physical attraction shouldn’t be overlooked. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for physical attraction to evolve into something more stable and concrete, I’m just saying that it’s never happened to me.

That brings me to the other kind of attraction, the mental one. Just as two people can have an incredible and undeniable physical attraction to each other, so can two people have a magnetic mental connection. The kind where your senses of humor match up so perfectly that, even though you may be used to people finding you too crass or too cynical and you want to tone yourself down so that you stop getting funny looks, you are finally excited to be crass and cynical and sarcastic, because there is someone with whom you can share it. The kind where you can talk for hours and hours and hours, and you’re not even talking about Major Issues. The kind where you want to pick the other person’s brain because it’s such interesting, unusual territory.

Can this kind of attraction turn sexual? I am going to say that it can. Case in point: another workplace, another guy (yes, there is a pattern). I remember, the first time I met him, immediately judging him on his physical appearance, as I am wont to do, and finding him lacking. We became friends, though, and I was immediately comfortable around him. I felt like I could tell him anything, get his advice on anything, and not only would he listen to me and counsel me, but he would also not judge me. I began to look forward to seeing him at work and eventually, I realized that I had a sort of mini-crush on him. (The only reason that it was mini and not full-fledged is that he was married.) Still, though, he’s nothing to look at, but God, behind that physical exterior, there lurks one of the kindest, gentlest, most interesting and sexy souls, and I would have hated to have never seen that.

I am infinitely guilty of judging people on their appearances; I think most people are. But when it comes down to it, none of us can help how we look. Yeah, there are basic things we can do: we can keep ourselves clean and neat, we can exercise and eat well, and we can wear clothes that fit us properly. However, no matter what, short of having plastic surgery we cannot change the basic shape we were born with. Unfortunately, beautiful people tend to be perceived as being nicer than less-attractive people, and strangers are more willing to help those who are considered attractive than those who are not. As children we are taught to not judge books by their cover; that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; that beauties can and do fall in love with beasts. Is this realistic? Can we expect ourselves and others to put aside the power of the visual, to hang up our beauty hang-ups and allow someone’s sense of humor and intelligence and personality to draw us in? I’m not sure. All I know is that the most meaningful relationship of my life was with someone who was no one’s idea of beautiful. I got to know him over the course of several months and eventually decided—or realized, or whatever—that I liked him. We dated for 3 ½ years and lived together for two of those years. None of my other relationships, regardless of whether they were with people traditionally considered more attractive than him, lasted as long or meant as much.

Lave

My roommate and I get along really, really well. To the point that when she's not home, I feel lonely. Most of the time. Sometimes, I love having our apartment to myself cause then I get to do things like walk around naked outside of my room while getting ready in the morning. But I digress.

So, Lorien has this boyfriend, Dave, who is a pretty decent guy, even though he's been known to answer to the name "Bitch." Lorien and Dave--maybe I should just call them Dorien, or Lave--spend A LOT of time together. Like, if she's not sleeping at his house, he's sleeping at our apartment.

Lorien also works evenings/nights and I work days, so she's usually getting home from work when I'm getting ready for bed. She had the past two days off, so she stayed at Dave's, and tonight, Lave will be at my place. Can I maybe, possibly, see my roommate sans boyfriend? Just, like, a couple of times a week?

Date update!

I met my date at the Art Gallery of Ontario last night. There's an Andy Warhol exhibit up that my friend Stephanie had invited me to see, so I immediately third-wheeled her by inviting my Lavalife date, who (whom?) we shall refer to as Java. (That's the first initial of his first name + Lava - L = Java. I'm clever.)

I was worried that I wouldn't recognize him, and as I was standing outside of the museum at 8, I was scrutinizing every single person in the immediate vicinity. However, when he walked up, I recognized him immediately. He was wearing jeans and a t-shirt and black shoes. I wore a white skirt and a black tank top and my hair was down. And blow-dried! I have to say that I didn't find him that attractive physically, but the conversation flowed SO well.

We walked through the exhibit and had the option of getting the audio tour listening thingy, but Java said that since I'd already seen the show I could be the tour guide. (An aside: why do people always choose the audio guide? I understand it if you're alone, but if you're with a date or friends, wouldn't you like to actually TALK to them about the art?) I don't know very much about Andy Warhol, but in a history of photography class that I took a couple of years ago, we studied a few of his pieces, so I did have a little bit to say. Warhol's art is definitely not something you would take a child or the elderly to see--his silkscreens involve car accidents, and his videos include guys making out on the couch and blowjobs.

We breezed through the museum in about half an hour, and while I'm glad I saw the exhibit, it was kind of hard to talk to Java because the gallery was dead silent, as everyone had the audio thing glued to their ears. I felt like I was screaming in a library when I commented on anything.

After Warhol, we walked around the neighborhood, trying to find Baldwin Street. Eventually, we asked a guy on the street for directions and found the place. We went to a little Mexican restaurant called Margarita's, which was rumored to serve excellent drinks. Wonder of wonders, there was a spot on the patio, so we grabbed it. We ordered margaritas and guacamole (I haven't eaten breakfast and I'm making myself hungry right now) and settled in for a few hours of conversation.

The conversation flowed sooooooo well. Java asked me a bunch of questions about myself; we talked about my program, and movies, and dating. We seem to have a similar sense of humor and like the same kinds of movies. I told him lots of stories about my family and he told me a bit about his.

At the end of the night, we were both taking the subway--and now that I think about it, while I was taking the northbound one and assumed that Java was too, he was actually taking the southbound line, but because I assumed we were riding the train together, he got on the subway car with me. D'oh!--and he got off at my stop. We gave each other a kiss on the cheek and he asked if I'd like to go out with him again, and I said yes.

Post-date wrap-up:
Not bad for a first date. Excellent conversation, felt very comfortable with him. Not sure I am/will be sexually attracted to him, but still, not a bad start at all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Slouching toward adulthood

In my entire life, since my first kiss at the age of 12, I have not had a sober first kiss or a sober first date. With anyone. Ever. I've always used alcohol as a social lubricant; after a few drinks, I become more relaxed, funnier, and more flirtatious. However, recent events that shall not be discussed on this blog have brought it to my attention that perhaps getting sloppy the first time I meet someone isn't the way to go. This was confirmed by my therapist, who pointed out that my friends don't have to be drunk in order to enjoy my company, nor I theirs. That's true, but I honestly cannot imagine a world in which I go on a first date without drinking.

I have a date tonight with a guy I met on Lavalife. We've been emailing back and forth for a couple of weeks, and so far so good. I'm not content to email or IM forever, though, so I suggested that we meet. We're going to go to the Andy Warhol exhibit at the AGO and then out for drinks.

This guy is 32, a bit older than me, and I'm a little worried about coming across as very young. There's not much I can do about my current place in life, but I figure that acting like a teenager is something I can curb. With that in mind, I present you my goals for tonight's date:
1. Do not get drunk.
2. Do not remove any articles of clothing except shoes.
3. Try not to say "like" every other word
4. Try not to swear as much as I usually do

If I can do those four things, I'll be fine.

Wish me luck

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bitching about stitching

I went to a stitch n bitch at a local yarn store tonight with Lorien and Stephanie. Lorien and I were late, as usual, much to Stephanie's dismay. She was about to leave when we finally showed up.

The three of us sat around the table with maybe 7 or 8 other women of a range of ages. Two women brought their kids. I don't mind children as long as they're reasonably well-behaved; more often, it's the parents or child-loving adults (usually women) that I have problems with. This time, the parents were fine.

However, the conversation turned to one of the kids' experience at Build-a-Bear. For those of you not in the know, Build-a-Bear is this horrendous store that allows you to "make" your own teddy bear or cat or other cloyingly cute stuffed animal, and is usually stuffed to the gills with giddy, screaming children (girls, almost every one) and worse, single women who have some kind of weird obsession with teddy bears. But it's not as if you are sewing the clothes for the bear, or whatever. You pick these clothes from a bin. The outfits are all insipid. Like, who wants a teddy bear that looks like a schoolgirl? I suppose, if a child wants a teddy bear that looks like a schoolgirl, that's fine, since children are supposed to have bad taste in everything. But adult women? Clearly single adult women? Clearly single adult women whose behavior will ensure that they are forever single? The whole place smacks of desperation and I avoid Build-a-Bear the way I avoid Toys-R-Us.

Anyway, this one woman was chattering on and on about how she just loves Build-a-Bear and awwww isn't it so cute that the little girl made a cat named Kelly or Kissy or some other stupid name that begins with a K. Ugh. I seriously can't stand grown women who talk to children like that. The girl must have been four, clearly old enough to have a conversation with someone that goes beyond awwww and aren't you adorable.

After about half an hour, Lorien and Stephanie and I hightailed it out of there and went to Trinity Bellwoods Park, where we had our own little knitting circle on the grass. So much better.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I heart Rob Brezsny

I wouldn't call myself a superstitious person, but I LOVE reading my horoscope. Rob Brezsny, of Free Will Astrology, does the best horoscopes. They're great: random, funny, poignant. Sometimes I read them all and choose the one I like the most.

To give you a sample, here's his horoscope for my sign, Taurus, for the week of July 12:

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Surveys show that two out of every ten people have bought stuff they found out about through e-mail spam. While you're no doubt too sophisticated to be among that number, you might want to open your mind a bit to the possibility. That's because the astrological omens suggest you may soon receive useful information and out-of-the-blue inspiration from sources you've ignored in the past–even chattering gossipers and questionable teachers and TV news shows. Don't be too sure you already know where your juiciest clues will be coming from.


This week, though, I'm going to have to go with Capricorn:

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): You: difficult to push around, more hungry for intimacy than you let on, smarter than 85 percent of the people you know. Me: provider of friendly shocks, fond of playing a didgeridoo in the rain at dusk and dawn, outrageously tolerant of other people's eccentricities. So is there any hope of a relationship between us? Well of course there is. We're having a relationship right now, aren't we? Maybe it's not the exact kind of connection you'd like to have with me, but you've got to admit there's value in it. Now please apply that lesson to your thinking about all your close alliances: Love them for what they are, and don't criticize them for what they're not.

Love him, love him, love him.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

I am 25 going on 70. This weekend, all I did was knit. And spin. I did go to a friend's house last night, but by 10:30 and after two beers, I was tired and ready to go home. The streetcar and the Spadina subway station were filled with people my age, all dressed up for a night out, which clearly had not yet begun when I was making my way home. I was in bed by midnight. Sometimes, I feel really lame for these lazy weekends. I was pretty busy last weekend which I suppose makes up for this one, but still.

Anyway, I finished spinning half of a batt of Corriedale today. I didn't ply it cause I want to knit a scarf using a twisted single, as shown in the Spring 2006 Spin-Off.
Here's the yarn on my niddy noddy:


Yeah, I have a PVC niddy noddy. Sorry that it's not burnished wood or whatever, but for a couple of bucks at the hardware store, this one suits me just fine.

Here's a sort-of close-up of the yarn. I wanted to show off the colors but my camera battery died before I could take a billion pictures. (So I could have just changed batteries, as I was home, but I didn't. Oh well.)

I'm going! I'm going!

The only fiber festival I have ever attended was a small one outside of Portland, Oregon. I lived there for five years and never even made it to Black Sheep.

No longer will I ignore the fiber opportunities that stare me in the face, however! I am going to Rhinebeck!

I live in Toronto, which is a hop skip and a jump to New York State, in which Rhinebeck resides. Throw in a couple of friends, a rental car, and a cheap hotel (reserved this morning, thank you very much), and you have yourself a fiberlicious weekend in October to look forward to!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Steal this book

As soon as I read a review of Terry Glavin's Waiting for the Macaws in the Globe and Mail, I knew I was going to read this book.

I believe wholeheartedly--and fervently--that environmental destruction is one of our most violent and senseless crimes. Every day, species disappear from our planet, not as a result of some freak cosmic event--a meteor collision, for example--but because of our actions. Our selfish, avoidable actions.

Glavin illustrates the disappearance of species after species by isolating different animals--a tiger, a whale--that have inextricable ties to human cultures, and whose extinction has enormous ramifications for the world at large. In doing so, he reinforces the oft-forgotten truth that, no matter how hard we try to separate ourselves from nature, to elevate ourselves to a guilt- and consequence-free position above our actions, we are still inhabitants of planet Earth. Every species we hunt and villify and poach out of existence; every unique human culture we strip of its language and customs and, ultimately, dignity; every single time we support politicians whose environmental and humanitarian policies set us back instead of moving us ahead; every wasted opportunity to teach children to have respect for all life forms--each and every one of these willfully ignorant and destructive actions will come back to hurt us, tenfold.

They will hurt the mammals and birds and fish and insects and plants, sure, and they will hurt the poor and land-dependent first, but eventually, they will hurt us, too.

That's what gets to me the most--it's not enough to realize that our actions hurt others; we have to realize that, in the end, we are hurting ourselves, in order for us to stop. Stop killing, stop mining, stop raping, stop overfishing, stop being heartless.

I'm going to step down off my soapbox long enough to say that Glavin is actually making me reconsider vegetarianism. It takes a lot to make me do that.

Now, get your hands on this book. Beg, borrow, steal: I don't care how, just get it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

WTF?

Ok, so I have a confession to make. I'm trying online dating. I know, I know, it's lame. And I swore I'd never do it, but after hearing from a coworker that she met her fiancee online, I signed up for it.

[Here's where I explain how LL works. Signing up is free, as is sending and receiving "smiles," which basically just let people know that something about them has caught your eye. If you want to make IM or e-mail contact with that person, however, you have to buy credits.]

LL seems to attract mainly gym-bound yuppies. Now, I'm not exactly looking for someone who's obese and unemployed, but I'm just not a gym rat. I walk, I eat well, that's enough for me. I hate running and just don't care enough to do sit ups or lift weights or whatever. Additionally, while I'd like to meet someone who has a decent job that they enjoy, salaries don't matter to me. I don't need or even want to date someone who's so concerned with his career that he has no time for me.

So, while LL may not be the perfect place for me to meet my kind of guy, I really don't have the time or money to hang out at emo shows or the architecture and design faculty or whatever. Plus, having to guess someone's sexual orientation annoys me, as I don't really like barking up the wrong tree.

I have definitely received plenty of smiles from people I have no attraction to and no interest in, but for the most part,they seem harmless and decent enough. It's a simple issue of compatibility.

Today, though, I received a smile from this gem.
First, he writes, "Anyone who needs things like foundation and other touch-ups to look really good must realize the irony in someone drooling over their "looks". It is a fact that in the animal kingdom the males are naturally more beautiful than the females. So by connecting the dots it must seem obvious the implications of that and therefore, who should be pining for who?"

It gets better.

Here's this:
"Personally, I take pride in my "chauvinistic" abilities to see all this stuff. Even more so when someone gets upset over it and gets their beliefs handed to them in pieces."

Next, he commiserates with those who really get it, those who have seen and understood the need to "go with the flow," and counsels these kindred spirits to not let it get them down: "Let the haters hate."

This is my favorite part, however:
"If you've ever had that feeling of "missing out" and never want to go through that again, then we might have something to talk about..."

And here's the clincher:
"PS. Since I don't have any credits you will have to message me."

Uh huh. Yeah, I'll get right on that, you fabulous catch of a man.

Overheard in the office

Hilarious. Just try it.

Book review: Mason-Dixon Knitting

My friend Stephanie's mom is a Book Junkie. Seriously. Barnes & Noble should offer the woman stock in their company, cause I'm pretty sure she's the main customer keeping them afloat. Stephanie's mom is also a knitter. Stephanie recently learned to knit and, lucky for her, she has a very generous knitting mother who loves to encourage Stephanie's reading and knitting habits by sending her books. I, as Stephanie's friend, benefit enormously by being able to borrow the newest fiction, non-fiction and now, knitting, books, without having to plunk down a red cent for them. (Can I just tell you how many times I played with the commas in the previous sentence and I'm still not sure I got them right? A lot. A lot of times)

Anyway, I pride myself on the size and quality of my knitting book collection. Sure, it's not complete, but as a voracious and very speedy reader who almost never actually purchases books cause let's face it, when you can start and finish a 200-page book in a day, what's the point of paying for them when you can bum them from friends or the library, my knitting book collection is pretty decent. I've got your Stitch n Bitch, your Knitting Without Tears, your Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, your Color in Spinning, your Knitters Book of Finishing Techniques and so on and so forth.

I do try to be selective about which books make it into my library. I will NEVER buy a book that features primarily fun fur patterns, for example. There are TONS of knitting books out there; the canon is growing exponentially, and as a result, one must certainly be a little discerning if she wants to have time and money left over to buy yarn and actually knit something.


Which brings me to Mason-Dixon Knitting. At first glance, it's nothing too special--most of the patterns are of the sort where you look at them and go, "Well, I could've thought of that!" They make good use of everyone's stand-by, garter stitch, and the yarns that the Kay and Ann use aren't of the $50-for-100-yards variety.

However, as I was going through the book a second time, I was struck by how enamored of knitting the authors are, and how well that comes through in the book:

Ann, on learning to knit: "The agony of knitting beat the daily grind of my job at a publishing house in Manhattan. Knitting was the perfect antidote to a job filled with the endless piles of manuscripts that would never be published yet had to be read, or at least stared at, by me. Knitting was nonverbal. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. The problems of knitting were solvable: the worst thing that could happen was that I had to rip something out. Mistakes would disappear, just like that. I would complete something" (page 16).

And in the end, or in the beginning, isn't that why we learned to knit? It gave us something to do with our hands, something that was repetitive and fun, something that relieved stress and allowed us to revel in something non-work related. I think that, too often, I forget that moment when I first learned to knit and I finally got it. When I stopped having to look at my little American School of Needlework pamphlet to remember to pop the stitch off the needle; when I loosened up enough to be able to complete two rows of knitting without wanting to cry from frustration; when I mastered a simple k1, p1 rib. What happened to that feeling of pure joy?

In Mason-Dixon Knitting, Ann and Kay have figured out that we are not all perfectionists; that we have lives and jobs and--some of us--kids, all of which means that we have limited hours in which to knit; and that blemish-free knitting is impressive, but my God, a wobbly row here and a clashing color there is not the end of the world.

So thanks, Ann and Kay, for reminding me that knitting isn't a job or a chore, and handknit items do not have to look perfect or be perfect to be beautiful and well-received.

Finally something to show for myself

I wet-blocked the Hot Lava cardigan, my first wet blocking experience. I've used steam in the past but wanted to try something new. Of course, the days I chose to do this were the soggiest days we've had in a while. Because my apartment isn't air conditioned, this summer I've been leaving my windows open and using a fan, but with the rain this week EVERYTHING felt damp--my sheets, my towels, my clothes. I laid the cardigan out on a towel and pinned it in place. Eventually, after a full day of waiting for it to dry, I trained my fan on the cardigan while I was away at work.

After three days, here's the result:

It's such a silly-looking thing when it's not being worn; it looks like the knitted version of some strange deep sea jellyfish. (P.S.: I swear to God, the little string you see on the bottom left corner is NOT a loose end. I wove in the ends with nary a straggler. Swear.)

Here's a close-up of the color:


And here, for comparison, are two photos of roughly the same spot on the cardigan, the top one taken before blocking and the bottom one taken after


Manos del Uruguay might not illustrate it as well as some other, smoother yarns, but blocking certainly does make a difference. It smooths out the stitches and generally tames the finished piece.

Finally, the pathetic amount of spinning I've done in, like, two months:


A couple of days ago, I decided that I should devote at least 45 minutes a day to either knitting or spinning in order to get through my stash. My stash isn't that big, compared with others', but relative to the amount of time I work on reducing it, it's pretty hefty. I did spin the other night, much to my own surprise. And last night I spent two hours at Toronto's Knit Cafe, a delightfully warm and welcoming little store on Queen West. So I guess I'm sort of keeping my promise to myself, but I definitely need to devote more time to the old spinning wheel. God I'm like 90 years old.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Turns out Canada is not the U.S.' Red-headed Stepchild

Before I moved to Toronto, the things I knew about Canada could maybe fit on the head of a pin (a very small pin):

a) The prime minister was Paul Martin (how tightly my brain held onto this information can be illustrated by the fact that I first typed "John Martin," then stared at the name for a good minute, wondering why it didn't sound quite right)

b) Canada is very cold

c) Canadians say "eh" (true) and "hoose" (not true)

I wouldn't say that I know a whole lot more now. Canadian history wasn't exactly the primary focus of the American educational system and I'm not enough of a history buff to wade through wars and political manuevers on my own. However, armchair travelling is one of my favorite activities, and I particularly enjoy social histories, mainly because they don't require me to remember lots of facts.

I picked up Will Ferguson's Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw, a collection of essays exploring Canada's past and present, moving from the west coast to the east coast. Ferguson is one of those writers who, presumably, has little patience for timelines and dates and can empathize with the reader whose ability to retain information about both is weak (me). He's Bill Bryson-esque (another of my favorites), though maybe a bit rougher around the edges.

Ferguson captures a Canada I would venture to guess that even most Canadians aren't familiar with. These are the smaller stories, set not in Vancouver or Toronto or Montreal, but in Victoria and Dresden and Fort Vermilion. Ferguson's account of seeing polar bears in their natural habitat, dancing under a sky pulsing with the surreal colors of the aurora borealis, is unforgettable. It's not all bears and fur traders, though; it's also Canada's role in the Underground Railroad, and the more interesting (and poignant) ironies of the Quebec separatist movement.

I'm not finished with the book yet, but I can already say that my list of Things I Know About Canada is a bit longer:

a) The prime minister was Paul Martin and is now Stephen Harper

b) Canada is very cold

c) Canadians say "eh" but not "hoose"

d) Canada had something to do with the Underground Railroad

e) There are ironies--interesting and poignant--surrounding the Quebec separatist movement

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Could it be?

An almost-finished object?



The Hot Lava Cardigan is making its way toward completion. I finished knitting it last night. Now "all" that remains is weaving in ends, blocking, and sewing on buttons.

These buttons:

They're a little cheesy but I think they'll do.

Here are some photos of me wearing the cardigan, and I plan on posting more when I finish it for real.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Metropolitan

I always thought it would be an excellent idea to market a new line of clothing to young urbanites. As this demographic is focused on being edgy and cool, I thought they would appreciate this new piece, crafted from the finest materials only found in the world’s great cities. Think New York, London, and Tokyo.

Now, I know that you’re saying to yourself, “Fool, this has been done a million times before! Look at Urban Outfitters. Look at American Apparel. The yuppie market has been cornered, my friend. Try again.”

Not so, however.

My idea is brilliant and original—

A cape, stitched from rat fur (the newest in haute couture) and trimmed in pigeon feathers and squirrel tails.

Who’s buying it?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Connections

I wasn't going to write about this on my blog, but after talking to a couple of friends today, I decided that it would be nice to put what I'm feeling into words.

A couple of weeks ago, I met a very nice guy at a bar. Usually, I don't meet people at bars (or I end up drunkenly hitting on whoever is standing next to me); either way, I generally don't put much stock in using drinking establishments as a place to collect dates. However, things happen as they will, and I'm not one to complain when they do.

So, I met this guy and we went out on a few dates. Immediately, I was attracted to his open-mindedness, his impeccable manners, his conscientiousness and regard for the people and the world around him, and damn, he was a good kisser to boot. He is an actual adult--he knows what he wants to do with his life and is doing it. He called when he said he would call and seemed to genuinely want to spend time with me. I have dated enough guys to know that this is rare. Even though I consider myself to be a relatively attractive and interesting person, worthy of spending time with, I cannot tell you how many times I've been disappointed when something that I thought would work out, hoped would work out, didn't. With this guy, I didn't feel the need to play games, or stress about whether or not he was playing games--I knew that I didn't and he wasn't.

Last Wednesday was Dave's birthday and myself and a group of friends went out to celebrate. We were sitting around a table, having drinks, when the guy turned to me and started asking me about my degree and what kind of jobs/careers it will lead to. Somehow, the conversation turned to his career. He's in marketing and loves it. He is business oriented and would like to one day be CEO of a company. This may sound insane, but those things set off major alarm bells. I'm not what one would call ambitious. Sure, I want a career and if I happen to make a decent living, great. However, I am not at all interested in making my career my life. I am not at all interested in becoming wealthy. When I expressed those views on Wednesday night, the guy told me that he would really like to know what it feels like to drop tons of cash on a car, and if he has his job and squash (the game, not the gourd), then life is good.

That killed me.

Manners? Check. Attractive? Check. Intelligent? Check. Awesome kisser? Check. Interested in me? Check.

But oh God, despite him having all of those lovely qualities, I cannot be with someone who values material objects that highly, and I can't be with someone who doesn't put people first. I am sure that I'm prejudiced against rich people and prejudices are bad blah blah blah, but growing up in a wealthy suburb, I saw the bad side of wealth too many times to desire it for my own life. I firmly believe that, as long as your quality of life is comfortable and decent, your passions and the people in your life should be your priorities.

And that sucks. SUCKS. I wish that I could ignore the drive, the desire for the stereotypical status symbol, and just be content that I met someone who is wonderful in so many ways, but I can't.

So, what makes a connection? It used to be enough, in high school, to go out with someone cause you thought they were cute. I always thought it would get easier as I got older, as I figured out more about who I am and what I want, but it's so much harder cause now fewer and fewer people fit into my self-determined standards. Sometimes I can't believe that anyone, anywhere, ever meets someone they connect with, let alone dates that person, let alone falls in love with and marries that person. So many ingredients have to be right for that particular recipe to come together; leave one out, or try to substitute it for something similar, and you have on your hands a disaster in the making.

I guess the only thing to do is to know yourself--really know yourself, know who you are and what you want, what you'll compromise on and what you won't--and just trust that, while there are so many people who will come this close, there is no point in forcing something that isn't meant to be.

I can't think of a clever title

Sometimes when I post on this blog, I try hard to think of a good title. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Today I gave it about five seconds and then said, to hell with it. You can't be clever all the time.

Anyway, the new issue of Knitty is up and I'm disappointed once again. Why is the entire issue nothing but socks and hats, two things I rarely knit? I am firmly entrenched in sweater land and have no desire to knit socks (no one ever sees them) or hats (I look like a 12-year-old in them). I understand that summer is not the time for sweaters, but at least throw me a tank top.
And angel wings do not count.
Sigh. God, I was so going to leave it at that, but why be shy? Angel wings? Are. You. Freakin. Kidding?? Why, just because it can be knit, do people assume that it should? The designer is obviously a creative young woman and I guess that if she wants to knit angel wings there's nothing stopping her, but I would love to see her put her talents toward something that doesn't scream "church bazaar."

And, I'm back.

Despite a lack of decent patterns, I discovered that all is not lost at Knitty. I jumped over to the articles section of the magazine. Lo and behold, I found a treasure trove of information. Knitty may not be taking as much of an, ahem, editorial role in pattern selection as perhaps they should be, but they sure are doing something right with their featured articles. I learned about new ways of binding off and cool knitting podcasts, found some good resources on color theory as it pertains to knitting and finally, got all revved up to go to fiber festivals this fall.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy birthdays, countries!

Happy belated birthday, Canada (July 1)
Happy early birthday, United States (July 4)

To celebrate the Canada Day long weekend, Lorien, Dave, and I drove up to Lorien's mother's cottage near Ottawa.



Ostensibly, we were there to paint the cottage, and we did, but I definitely didn't go out of my love for painting. I have been away from Toronto twice since school ended, and both times were good, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’ve done a lot of relaxing this summer. It seems like there’s always something to do—obviously, there’s work, but there’s also social events, like birthday parties and just general bar nights, and naturally, there are tons of errands to run. So I came up here this weekend to paint, drink beer, hang out with my friends, and knit. I was going to bring my spinning wheel, but Lorien pointed out that with the knitting, painting, movie-watching, and sheep farm-visiting, I perhaps had enough activities for the weekend.

Yesterday, Saturday, Lorien, Dave, and I visited a farm called Windblest. Lorien had been there in May when she and her mother were here opening the cottage; she bought some wool for spinning and her mom bought sheepskins and a couple of blankets. We arrived unannounced and the woman who takes care of the wooly part of the operation was very gracious, even though we interrupted her while she was trying to paint her porch. We were greeted by a very friendly border collie, Seamus, who nosed crotches and humped legs all around. Ahh, canine love.

While Dave stayed outside with the dog, Lorien and I were invited into the fiber room. There were bags of raw fleece and processed fleece, and hand-knitted hats adorned the walls. There was a cupboard with hand-dyed skeins of yarn that we poked through and I ended up buying these three skeins (I'm thinking felted pillow).



I made excellent progress on my Hot Lava Cardigan and I'll try to post pictures soon. For now though, here are some more pictures of the weekend.






P.S. I was supposed to appear at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building in Miami for jury duty at 8:00 am on Monday (today). I so tried to get out of jury duty: I called them to tell them that I wouldn’t be appearing on Monday, and tried to explain that I might be going back to Miami sometime in December but had no idea when and would have to return to school almost immediately; unfortunately, the woman I spoke to was quite positive that no matter how short my break was, I would certainly be accommodated as a juror. Normally being accommodated is quite nice; however, in this case I would have no problem with being told that I would just not be eligible to sit on a jury or even be part of a jury pool. How is that since I turned 18, I've been summoned for jury duty three times? I'm pretty sure I'm not a desirable juror--maybe I just need to appear once and spout off some totally random and radical opinions. That might get my name off the "summon often" list.