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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dumb Little Random Observation
I took my car to the dealer yesterday for routine maintenance, leaving it there and taking their handy-dandy shuttle to the office. All day I felt like I had forgotten something, then would realize it was that my car wasn't in the parking lot.

I mentioned this to my friend/colleague Chris, who pointed to his empty wrist, where his wristwatch should have been, and said, "I know exactly how you feel."

For some reason, this incredibly apt (to me) analogy helped an awful lot. I stopped feeling like I had forgotten something and decided it was way better to have the car in the shop than to have forgotten my wristwatch. Of course, had I forgotten my wristwatch and taken the car to the shop and was therefore unable to drive home to get the wristwatch? Let's just not even go there. It's horrifying to contemplate how addicted to some objects I am.

Oh - I Forgot to Tell You.
I got to go see the Lascivious Biddies a few weeks ago. There's a small, mean, childish bit of me that might like to chant, "I saw The Biddies and you DIDN'T!!!" except that I am not that mean, really. And for all I know, you've seen them live as well, so you might know how much fun they are live. If you don't know how fun they are, well. Go to their tour page and see if they're coming to your town soon (no, really - I'll wait).

Okay. If you're not going to get to see them sometime soon, I can highly recommend their album "Get Lucky." It doesn't quite encompass the sheer funnitude that these girls have (how can four kickass women - outstanding musicians all, in a rainbow of satin cocktail dresses, playing clever tunes that they have penned and witty covers - possibly have less than extreme funnitude?), but it should serve to get you good and hooked until they do play your town. In our case, they opened for Christine Lavin. Most of the room* was clearly there for Christine, and they gave the Biddies a bit of a lukewarm reception at the beginning. Pros in party frocks, the Biddies proceeded to cheerfully win hearts and minds with their own songs like "Betty," "Intellectual," and "Wichita," but absolutely brought down the house with novel twists on cover tunes: "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and... wait for it... a slow, sexy version of Hendrix' "Fire" (billed as, "Jimi Hendrix as channeled by Peggy Lee"). Since we were two who actually came more for the opening act than for the headliner (who was good, don't get me wrong), John and I were proud of our girls and the way they won over the crowd with such aplomb.

My only (minor) regret is that they didn't play "Neighbor" (for listeners of Cast-On, it's the lead-in tune for the "Today's Sweater" segment and it always makes me a bit teary because of my odd association with my mom and Fred Rogers). But that's okay. Maybe next time. Because I'll be there, baby. And maybe I'll wear my party frock, too.

*The Birchmere, Alexandria, VA - a venue with high respect for artists that gets great acts, but I had my own impression (that the person manning their mixing board needs a swift knock upside the head) reinforced by a professional in the biz recently. It was reassuring for my confidence in my ear, but not for my respect for The Birchmere's sound person.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Excuse Me, Sir - Your Straw Man is Showing...
A partial response to "The Anxiety of the Atheists."

Or: "An argument against me following random Google web-bits."

One of the surest ways to bring a certain type of dinner party to a halt is to speak piously about God. Earnest reference to sinners, apostates or blasphemers, or to the promise of salvation offered in evangelical churches, is likely to produce the same effect.

Errr...  Yes.  Those who "speak piously about God" or make "earnest reference to sinners, etc." at a dinner party are generally (at best) crashing bores or (at worst) insulting their guests, hosts, or fellow dinner guests.  Because if you're speaking of a deep personal conviction, it is just that - personal - and will necessarily exclude anyone who is not, well, you (and dinner party conversation is, when last I checked, intended to be inclusive), and if you're hoping to exalt your own faith above others' you are being appallingly rude by indicating that your fellow diners are not of the elect and should either convert or be damned to eternal hellfire.*
Among the cosmopolites who live in secular enclaves, religion is automatically associated with darkness, superstition, irrationality and an antique or pre- modern cast of mind. It has long been assumed that religion is opposed to science, reason and human progress; and the death of gods is simply taken for granted as a deeply ingrained Darwinian article of faith.

Okay, firstly: where the hell are these mythical "secular enclaves"?  Even the Sodom of NYC is thick with places of worship.   

Secondly: I don't know what sort of straw men he's been smoking, but has he perhaps heard of the many learned scientists during the great ID debates of just a few years ago who lamented the false notion that science and a sense of religious wonder could not coexist in the same person?  That perhaps religion and science are two different and disparate disciplines and the idea of science as "religion" is about as meaningful as a deep and abiding conviction that the Holy Books of Jane Austen should replace all false gods in Jane's sight, amen?**

Why, then, are the enlightened so conspicuously up in arms these days, reiterating every possible argument against the existence of God? Why are they indulging in books - Daniel Dennett's "Breaking the Spell," Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation," and Richard Dawkins's "God Delusion" - in which authors lampoon religion under the banner of a crusading atheism?

Up in arms?  I haven't noticed a secular militia camping out on my doorstep lately.  So atheists are writing books about atheism?  Is that the sin?  Or is it that they dare address the notion of atheism to America?   And "indulging" in books?  Oh, my - what condescension.  What did these authors do to piss this guy off (aside from "indulging" in books)?  It's as if they dared to bring a certain type of dinner party in the Christian Heartland to a halt by expressing their earnest belief in the absence of a deity...

It was here that the author was too bored by this and too disgusted by the generally devolved state of the NYT Editorial page from whence this piece of dreck first came, and went off to knit something, muttering something barely distinguishable about "preaching" and "choirs" and "[expletive deleted] idiots."

* We shan't even get into the notion of actively using one's host's dinner table (or even one's own) as a necessary adjunct to create a captive audience for one's prosletyzing, the better to convert the natives. The notion is just too horrifying.

** A church that I am, in fact, a high priestess of. Don't piss me off. Her complete works make for effective smiting.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Odds and Sods
Sorry it's been so long.

A couple of people noted that they would like to hear the London travelogue. It was mostly work - arrived on Tuesday in the morning, meetings, blahblah, off to bed (strange to turn on the tv in the late evening when I was getting ready for bed and listening to the Beeb's take on the US midterm elections), then more meetings blahblah on Wednesday. Then a rapid-fire two or so hours of down time before I had to take off for Heathrow, so I stashed my suitcases with the valet, asked the concierge for a Tube Map, and bolted for Oxford Circus to do a lightning round of Christmas shopping. A few slapdash impressions:

- It's strange how taking the Tube takes me back to my days as a college student in London.

- Oxford Circus is well-named and makes Fifth Avenue's hordes look like a small, well-mannered group of schoolchildren marching in tidy lines.

- I had forgotten how oddly tucked back Liberty is and couldn't believe I had a hard time finding it.

- If I thought listening to the Beeb opine on the US elections on the 7th was odd, seeing this on the Evening Standard stalls was even weirder:

November 8, from a London Newsstand

I bought just about as much stuff as I thought my not-quite-full suitcase could handle and went back to the hotel for a re-shuffling of my things and a dash for Paddington. Then the long flight, and subsequent issues with JFK and American Airlines.

I seem to recall some more mental notes that may or may not have included lyrical descriptions. Unfortunately (fortunately?), if they ever really existed, they're gone now. To paraphrase someone I read recently, the brain is a remarkable organ, but it makes for a lousy white board.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Our Ancestors Could Have Picked a Sunnier Place to Live
I promise I'll write up the end of last week's travelogue soon (if anyone is really interested), but in the interim, enjoy the Helsinki Complaints Choir:

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Heard at Our House, Volume X of Y
Watching a rare commercial (in this case, for a nasal spray).

John: "Why is the bee Spanish?"

Me: "I have no idea, but I have often wondered."

Also, à propos of nothing - a show of hands: who else wants to smack that "Doctor" who founded eHarmony?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Travelogue, Part 1
So there I was at Stitches in the early afternoon, realizing I had missed my class because of my unaccountable dumbassery in thinking it was in the afternoon. Therefore, no review of the third class at Stitches that I paid for but unfortunately was unable to attend (still need to see if I can contact the instructor and ask if there was a handout so all might not be completely lost). My bags were packed and waiting in the car for me, so I headed down to National Airport for my flight.

At National, I was introduced to Dolores (no, not that Dolores - though this one was also from Chicago). Dolores was one of those people you sit next to in an airport - could be anybody who wouldn't necessarily create an impression (I suppose most of us fall into this category when sitting in departure lounges). In this case, a retired 2nd-grade teacher. A few remarks were passed as we waited (she liked the color of my new Fleece Artist socks - a medley of greens ranging from new leaf to mature grass. Stop me before I start to go on about Fleece Artist sock yarn, because I think I have a new favorite). As we exchanged these desultory remarks, a sense of a personality emerged. Strong-willed, intelligent, yet somehow easygoing, with a humorous twinkle in the eye. Dolores, I mean - I can't speak for the impression I make (never having met me for the first time), but it did seem like there was a bit of an affinity.

Upon arrival at LaGuardia, there was one of those taxi lines that is about twelve miles long, with no cabs in sight. I sighed a resigned sigh and joined the queue. A few minutes later, Dolores stood at my elbow (I'm not really exaggerating - she was about five feet tall - one of those people that makes me feel like I just take up way too many vertical feet) and asked if we were going to the same part of the city. I told her where I was going, and noted that no matter what, we could drop me off, I could pay off the taxi there, and she could take the cab to her final destination. She liked this arrangement, and we started to talk in earnest, having one of those conversations where you start chatting with someone and it goes straight from "hello" to the personalities of second-graders, the art of visiting family (which she was doing in NY), and the works of Frank Lloyd Wright (I mentioned having been to Oak Park and Taliesen West - turned out she had been a docent at Oak Park). It was one of those conversations that was not so much a first conversation, but a conversation you have with someone you've known for some time.

We were so engrossed in chat that the doorman at my hotel pulled her bag as well as mine, naturally assuming we were together (which, thankfully, we realized before I got out and the cab hared off to the upper West Side). Then Dolores then passed out of my life as easily as she entered it. A very good companion, Dolores. I hope she travels the rest of her way in comfort and safety.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Stitches Roundup - Yee Haw.
Where was I?

No - really. Where was I? Or, to be more correct, where have I been?

To start with, a Stitches review: Stitches was... pretty fun. In many ways it made me look forward to Maryland Sheep & Wool more than anything else. I didn't go as crazy as I expected to go in the market (which was a Very Good Thing Indeed), but on day one I did get to purchase:

- Yarn for my Arianne cardi in a lovely grey-blue (at Webs - okay, I get the Webs thing now, at least a little. It's their new "Valley Yarns" house brand - inexpensive & nice. I was unable to keep myself from swatching and casting on on Saturday)
- Buttons for same (that didn't break the bank - there are some hella expensive buttons at Stitches)
- A knitting bag that doesn't make me want to curse (a messenger bag from Namaste - in cranberry)
- Some Black Bunny laceweight from Carol who was manning the Rosie's booth with humor and aplomb. The laceweight that spoke to me was in a color I jokingly said could be called "Jill" - sort of light beiges and peaches which could be used by a small critter as camouflage when standing in front of me, as I am very light beige and peach (somebody give this girl some color - STAT!).

Classes on Friday were, on the whole, good. My first class' teacher (who shall not be named for reasons which will become evident soon) was quite good in the delivery of information. I learned the basics of the subject. This is a very good thing, as said subject contained quite a bit of math and could have been confusing to my sometimes soft and tender head. However, she was most definitely (and consistently and moreover constantly) flogging her books with a sort of camp archness that was intended to be funny and cute, but was irritating after the third repetition and downright enervating by the fortieth. I had actually intended to buy her latest book, but now... not so much.

My second class' teacher's name I can broadcast to the hills, for I have nothing but great things to say about her. Fiona Ellis is a delight - she taught a class in unlocking design creativity using images, sketches on graph paper, and then "sketches" on the needles. Interesting and very freeing. Lauren and I took this one together and found it fascinating how different people took their design cues in such varied and interesting directions. Fiona was a supportive and charismatic teacher - she has clear (and, to my eye, appealing) design choices in her own work, but she managed to use careful inquiry to ensure that her design aesthetic was kept out of the equation when she helped a student get past a creative obstacle.

On Sunday? Well, on Sunday I was a dumbass. For some reason, I had it in my head that my class was in the afternoon. It wasn't. Ergo, I'm a dumbass. I did go back to the market and pick up a batt of Grafton Fibers corriedale in a shade family that is reminiscent of an orange creamsicle or a delicate sunset and spent some time with the formidable Galina of Skaska Designs and dipped more than a toe into this whole lace thing, so not a complete loss.

A few words about Lauren - what a great partner in crime for an expedition like this. Her sense of humor is droll, her patience is strong in the face of me wandering off, and best of all - she gets sensory overload at about the same time I do. She was a strong and steady help when I was doing my usual, "Oh my god - it's a whole sweater. Is this a good enough color for a whole sweater?" conundrum at the Webs booth, and she was appreciative rather than annoyed when I pointed out Canadian yarn everywhere in an attempt to aid her search for Sea Silk (hey - I can spot the Fleece Artist logo at 20 paces. It's a skill, I guess). She also took me to a local Mexican watering hole for delicious margaritas and food where we were met by her husband Matt, who finally assuaged my curiosity about the whole Burning Man thing (they went this year).

And no, sadly, we were not able to locate Sea Silk in all of Stitches. It is, apparently, the current Cabbage Patch doll of the yarn world.

Up next: Across the Pond in a Silver Tube -- or -- Why I Went to London and Back in 48 Hours. Also (possibly) photos.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Monday through Wednesday, hours spent on an airplane: 16.5

Wednesday morning through early Thursday, hours spent awake: approximately 20

Number of knitting needles they will let you take on a carry-on out of Heathrow: 0

Number of pages of Michael Palin: Diaries 1969-1979 - The Python Years* read: 338

Hours spent rolling slowly through the "Tour de JFK" on a transatlantic airliner: 1

Number of stressed-out travelers on said airliner with tight connection to DCA: approximately 8

Miles run with very heavy carry-on (non-wheelie) across JFK: 1 (or so)

Number of irritated TSA employees who were about to close the last security station in Terminal 9, unaware that the flight from JFK to DCA had been delayed: 3

Delay of flight after said run: 2 hours

Bags of mine currently held in quaint "time share" arrangement with American Airlines: 1

Number of other irritated passengers unable to believe American Airlines** cannot manage to get bags from International Terminal to Terminal 9 during 2 hour delay: approximately 7

In bed this morning at: 2:45

* Bad Amazon review is not my experience. Finding it fascinating.
** Warning: obnoxious music

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Not So Usual For Me...
... A quiz:

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
North Central
The Northeast
The Inland North
The South
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

There's a First Time for Everything
Hey all - I'll be at Stitches East tomorrow and Sunday. You will probably recognize me by a combination of any of these things:

- Height (tall-ish)
- Strawberry-blonde-ish hair (lots of it)
- Sensory overload (I hate shopping malls - I'm wondering how I'll do at a convention center full of excited knitters)
- Lauren may or may not be nearby in any one of the following states:
- hanging out with me, having a good time
- looking annoyed that she is saddled with someone who can't choose a *&^$@ knitting bag, fer chrissakes (if this happens, please hand me something to eat - I'm usually decisive, except when suffering from low blood-sugar.)
- wandering off in the middle distance ("oooh! Sea Silk!")

If any one of my 24 or so regular readers might be there and you see some combination of the above, please say "hi" - if it's me, I'll be delighted. If it's not me, well - I can't vouch for the outcome of that interchange.