Monday, March 29, 2010

Try, Try to Wrap the Mind Around This.

Just Because the Muslims are engaged in terrorist tactics (and they are) doesn't mean that Russia isn't a totalitarian thug regime. (Same holds true for France, by the way.)
T Minus Three Days and Counting until Poetry Month.

(From Last Year.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kind of Romaticized

But lovely account of low-frequency radio stations in London. Interesting that the internet hasn't completely stamped these out; we even still have a handful of them here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Well, so much for the vote. Guess will just have to keep up my conscientious objector status.

It's honestly too bad; a good bunch of us are here precisely because our ancestors moved away from third rate governments that didn't listen to the citizenry. What next?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

For What It's Worth.

Pavel jotted off a last minute note to our so-called representative the other night voicing all his unhappiness with the all but certain Yes-Vote that Capuano is going to make:

Count me as one more very disapproving constituent. Health care reforms, please, but NOT THESE REFORMS.

I may write you too late to influence your vote. I have just learned from here

http://www.boston.com/news/politics/politicalintelligence/2010/03/capuano_yes_on.html

that you intend to vote yes for the so-called health reform bill as passed by the Senate in December. Still, you should hear my opinion as one more sample of those you represent.

I am one of many who believe this bill is an opaque, bureaucracy-building monstrosity that does little to address the true causes of excessive costs for health care, while adding dangerously to the nation's future debt burdens, and failing to enlarge consumer choice.

I am strongly opposed to a national individual mandate, on pain of tax penalties -- a provision of very dubious constitutionality.

Will my middle-aged premiums then become greater without all the young people compelled to bear the costs shifted away from me?

Well firstly, that's only just. Young and healthy adults in early career with lower incomes, and looking to start their own families, shouldn't be discouraged by shifting more of their earnings to aging generations than they do already. We oldsters selfishly kill the golden goose when we deter the child-bearing generations with a regressive tax.

(And an effective tax it is, when we are compelled to purchase what we would otherwise not -- no matter whether the actual collector be a private insurer, or government. If the President makes such a provision a law, then he will have reneged on his pledge not to impose new taxes on low and middle earners. Quite simply, he will be a liar.)

And secondly, I say give me the choice to elect for less comprehensive, catastrophic coverage and just pay fee for service in routine care, analogously as I insure only for car collision repair and not for fluid fill-ups.

Is the mandate needed to make the future system work, if insurers are not to deny coverage on the basis of preexisting conditions? Well then, just drop that misguided crusade against the companies, however heartless that sounds! Insurers are not to be blamed for running real insurance businesses in a rational manner. If my uninsured house burns, I can't then demand that an insurer cover it retroactively for pennies. The insurance business would be impossible with such incentives. No, my earlier irresponsibility is my problem. I want to hear an unsentimental realist of a politician tell this unpopular but necessary message to the people.

Will I eat those words if I lose my job and my coverage with it? I can't pay COBRA premiums beyond a limited term, even if I'm willing and able to. I am prevented even from being "responsible," as I called it, even if I have means. Extraneous eventualities -- my changes of employment -- may compel me to terminate one policy and begin another, and become an undeserving victim of the precondition trap.

Well sir, there is the real unaddressed core of the "crisis."

Why should the continuation of my relationship with my insurer be conditional on anything but my continued premium payments and non-fraudulence in my claims? Why do so many of us accept it as normal that one's health insurance is non-portable after a job change? That makes no sense: we should no more buy health insurance than home insurance through employers, indirectly. But an irrational tax code makes employer-provided insurance advantageous over individually purchased insurance. Worse, the incentive to use these pre-tax dollars even for routine care (thus turning "insurance" into a health-maintenance subscription, making nonsense of the word), and resulting over-consumption, is what causes the spiral of premium inflation that we all complain about.

So end that tax advantage! (As presidential candidate McCain suggested.) Fix the incentives. Employees should get more direct, not imputed, pay in exchange for the responsibility to shop for their own health insurance and maintain it, and to become smart shoppers for routine care.

We need a true national free market in insurance policies. The authors of the Constitution were wise to know that barriers to trade among the states should not be imposed at the will of state governments -- which would have retarded economic development and impoverished all. What's good for tangible goods is no less good for a financial product like insurance. The federal government should use its authority to govern interstate commerce, to strike down the states' barriers to health insurance purchases.

We need consumers to be free to purchase as much or as little coverage as they choose. We need incentives for individually purchased insurance to become the norm. We need a wider market of many competing providers keeping each other "honest" -- and no insulting nonsense (thankfully off the table, but which certain House members would have put past us last year, if they could) about setting up a costly new governmental entity just to get us a single "competitor" with the very unfair advantage of subsidy. (Don't insult me a second time either with the promise that this entity would remain funded only by premiums collected. Political pressure would change that in no time.)

The alternative ideas for health care reform are out there. The President was downright wrong when he suggested that the opposition to the reform bill have no alternative ideas. Any insinuation that opponents to this bill's "reforms" are opponents of all reforms, satisfied with the status quo, is very dishonest.

These alternative ideas require strokes of the legislative pen to change regulations and alter incentives in the marketplace from the perverse ones existing now. What they do not require are costly new bureaucracies to direct transfers of wealth. They are easily explained and understood and could be embodied in a bill one hundredth of the size of the one that is now pending.

But I wait for that in vain in the present, deeply dishonest political and media climate, where a bloated and overreaching government, colluding with insurers that are really only too happy to add the advantage of forced consumers to that of competition barriers, is instead portrayed as the white knight slaying the big bad corporate dragons preying on the widows and orphans. Such a sham insults my intelligence.

Mr. Capuano, you had the opportunity to surprise me pleasantly, when you wavered on this bill. But if you get on that bandwagon after all, then you may not rely on my vote for your reelection.

The people of our state voted FOR obstruction of this bill in the special senate election. That was an explicit appeal in Senator Brown's campaign and in the slogans of supporters. They do not trust this bill. They want it scrapped and redrafted along fundamentally different lines. I hear it in casual conversation even in my eighth-district neighborhood. I heard it even today, from a government employee no less.

Do not delude yourself about this.


***

Pavel is much better with written words than I am; feel that he explained it best for the situation of an awful lot of 'average' folks.

I'm totally against the so called reform, as, being a 'consumer' (or should I say 'victim?') of the Massachusetts Jailbreak, (that the current President has considered as a national model) have my own set of problems that are more considerably and consistently costly, not to mention subject to Bureaucratic Incompetency than whenever I had to deal with a doctor's office or hospital directly.

(Have been too tired lately to detail my problems of not being able to afford COBRA for MA inflated rates, my problems with hack state a/r folks and the lack of customer service with, the fact that I live in one of the maybe three states that my alma mater's catastrophic coverage insurance plan doesn't cover for new gradutates, and the fact that, the minute I try to send off the application for Commonwealth Care's subsidized plan, I am forced to tick off a box allowing the State of MA full access to my medical records. Much, much easier, not to mention cheaper to pay the state income tax penalty and to visit and pay cash for a doctor like one did for the 'back alley abortionists' of yore.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Not Quite There Yet. Just the Same:



Spring, April, Poetry Month. So much to look forward to.
Sunshine's streaming in through the back windows; am multitasking my way through two knitting projects and a stack of way-overdue correspondence while listening to the Iceland Symphony Orchestra perform a favorite by Sibelius. Life does have its bright moments.

Oh, finished the Fascist interpretation of Second Century Rome last night. It ended on a note of longing for the a rebirth of Sparta; second best - the return of the Roman Republic. Really interesting. Anyway, put that aside and am now digging into the first volume of John Julius Norwich's look at Byzantium. Just about 20 pages in, see that it's going to be fun. Such a refreshing contrast to the actually pretty poorly written book I picked up as a (disappointing) Birthday present to myself a bit back.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Had noticed that, when I'm down, tend to isolate myself when the healthiest thing is probably to be reaching out.

Tried a bit at breaking the feedback loop I'm in and find that, actually, am feeling a bit better for having done so. Things aren't great, but they could certainly be a whole heck of a lot worse.
Ooh! Some folks sleep walk, others eat, I actually write while asleep.* See it as a sort of 'exquisite corpse' between the hand and the brain, and often I have a hard time trying to figure out what was filtering its way through the consciousness to the paper/keyboard/etc.

Anyway, a bit editing of the last post for clarification: Took a look at the sidebar links and noted that one friend was a bit unhappy for a couple reasons - lost a friend and sold an instrument.
Neither is catastrophic, but can be upsetting, I understand. Anyway, had a couple solutions to offer:

1.) On the lost friend, maybe not lost, just misplaced. As he's done a bit of song writing before, maybe should consider writing a song (or a poem - next month's Poetry month in the US; in the UK, I think poetry month falls in May.) about the experience. That or (and this is a bit radical) contact the friend and try to hash things out.

2.) Instrument-wise - that can be bought back or replaced. I recently lost some no longer published sheet music and some pretty valuable books in the recent bad weather. Am still kind of sick about this, but will get over it. If he played and I could afford the shipping, would gladly send him one of the two pianos in my life, as only need one and don't rightly what to do with the other.

Life has a way of throwing us for a loop sometimes. I'm in a couple serious pickles right now and am having a hard time seeing past the bad. I think, or at least hope that things will get better; that hope is kind of all that I have right now.

***


*Interestingly enough, when was a kid, used to talk a lot, too - apparently my brother and I could carry on entire conversations while asleep and have no recollection of what we talked about.

Monday, March 15, 2010

As I said earlier - Pi Day's kind of cute. It's at the Ides, though, when you have to be watching your back.
In Memoriam.

Traveling Blues

Here's that shawl that I was talking about earlier. Was so pleased at how it turned out that trudged out in the rain on Saturday morning to photograph it.

The fence was getting to be a bit long in the tooth. Was kind of funny, though, to see a pile of broken wooden slats in its place this morning. Lost most of the fence along the back and the side opposite to this bit of wood as well.

Was mentioning to Pavel that I thought it might be cheaper and prettier to replace the wood with shrubs: lilacs in the space pictured, as there're already two trees there; mountain laurels on the opposite side; across the back, due to drainage issues, pussy willows and/or forsythia. Of course, all's contingent on what we can find at the local Home Depot. (Wish us luck.)
Just because we absolutely had to get out of the house, decided to take a drive out to Concord today.

Alewife Brook II

This was Alewife Brook, between Somerville and Cambridge (just before the turn off to route 2). Was pretty darn swollen. When we got to that turn off to Route 2 (just before the Alewife T station), noted that Route 16 was closed due to flooding.

As we went further west, saw all sorts of high water street closures like this one near Concord Center:

Detour

Basement flooding and the loss of whatever fencing in the yard was still standing after the last northeaster (the one that one didn't hear much about due to the freak snows further south) aside, I guess we got off lucky.

(Am trying to keep a positive outlook on this, anyway. A good bit of my life is in the basement and am just not up to seeing just how much of it's gone. A vein in the temple started throbbing when I saw a couple pretty much irreplaceable partitions buckled, moldy and soaking. Will deal with it later. At least rain's going to stop tomorrow and we have a dehumidifier.)
Pattern Recognition.

(As have been saying for the past couple years, the above is the across the Atlantic version of the mess The Great Unwashed voted in here.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bless Peter Graves



For some of the funniest self-perpetuating one-liners ever. (May he rest in peace.)

***

(For those of you who loved him earlier than the above, one of my favorite versions of the theme from "Mission Impossible:")

Yes, so it's Pi Day. Cutesy and kind of geeky.

Tomorrow's the Big Day, as far as I'm concerned.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pattern Recognition.

Petite Spermatozoide

Noted a bit ago that this one looked an awful lot like something in those film strips we had to watch in Health Class back when they'd separate us into boy and girl groups for a few days each year.
Heavens.

Because we all know that folks in the chastiser's neck of the woods are such proponents of Free Trade.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Currently re purposing a beautiful spice-colored striped cowl neck that I found in my
"to do" pile so that it might serve a purpose. Looking at it and working it kind of hurts, but am soldiering on.
Interesting and Not Unexpected.

In fact, it makes perfect sense from a business standpoint.

I'm kind of curious about something, too, given that the last major delay I experienced was due to hasty implementation of poorly defined security regulations. Are airlines (and ultimately the passengers/their clients) to be penalized if the delay is directly related to government policy?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Interesting that the diacritical sometimes used over the n in Habanero (and which is almost always pronounced) - ñ - is actually a hyperforeignism. I did not know that. Is nice to learn something new every now and again.
Habaneros.

As a parting gift, got some of the much-coveted jelly from homegrown habaneros. (Actually, was an exchange - I sent along clementine). Normally save pepper jelly to have on crackers with cream or farmer cheese. Was told that this was good, especially if one was sensitive to hot peppers. In addition, one could brush it over chicken on the barbecue or to deglaze it in a fry pan.

Before anything else, though, we were to try it straight from the jar.

Pavel and I were drooling at the sweet, hot, vinegary scent on opening. *Boy,* was it hot, though. As a result, applied it very conservatively (only about a tablespoon for two chicken breasts). Could have used twice or thrice that, though, as the pepper flavor mellows out considerably on cooking. Caramelized beautifully, though. Served this with broccoli and jasmine rice.
Gratuitous Reference to Shadows On a Cave Wall:



Not a big fan of most of what I've seen by Bertolucci, but The Conformist is probably one of the most beautiful and sad films have seen. Trintignant's also one of the very few actors I've ever actually had a crush on.

which comes with a call to reread the the bit about the philosophers' drinking party. (My favorite. Of course, it's a popular subject among girls. Not so much the drinking part and the trash talk beforehand, though it is kind of entertaining here.)
Pho.

Am on a quarterly schedule with a lot of friends - not bad or good, just is so. Actually, I think that an awful lot of folks run on that sort of calendar due to life changes, etc. At holiday time, it gets worse. Family issues strike, even more so. Anyway, one of the brighter sparks in my life that'd been somewhat reduced to a distant glimmer, came back into the foreground lunchtime today*. Enjoyed the food, particularly enjoyed the company.

Generally, we opt for Asian food of some sort, so decided on the relatively new pho place around the block and down the street from me. Now, I like them; have found the basics that I like and that should be good to be perfectly fine**. He gets out a bit more than I do to such restaurants, so was curious about his take on things. Started off with the summer rolls and an order of tod mun***. Was first off charmed that the fish cakes were obviously made by hand, hot and fresh. The sauce was wonderfully perfumed with citronella and coriander. Could feel myself smiling automatically at the taste. Nothing to complain about on the summer rolls, either, save that we couldn't eat all of what they'd given us in order to save room for the soup.

My friend had the pho ga (chicken), while I had bo vien (beef with meatballs). I think he was happy with his; I know that I enjoyed mine. Heck, didn't even feel the need to spice it up with pepper paste or the sweet sauce. Just enjoyed it nature, with the fresh basil and sprouts. As we'd been debating pronunciation of the name, got the definitive answer from the waitress: [fə], just like the French feu****.

Lunch over, time to get back to life. Should get out more to see folks, to lunch in general. Glad that there's a pretty good so far Vietnamese place in the neighborhood. They're actually kind of few and far between north of the Charles.

***

* Am trying my darndest to not reference flickering shadows on a cave wall.

**Summer rolls, bun, Vietnamese crepe. The last is one of my favorite comfort foods, and I think theirs is particularly luscious.

***A serious favorite of mine, but always fraught with hazard. Have ordered this in much more expensive restaurants and have been served what seemed like fish sticks served with a dipping sauce.

****I've read that the pho comes from 'pot au feu.' Makes sense. Come to think of it, most of the soups I make tend to be less French soups than pots au feu; in fact, unless I make something specifically French like an Onion Soup or a veloute, we generally call it pot au feu.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Am nearly halfway done with the final lace chart on my Traveling Woman scarf. Cannot wait to get this thing off the needles. Honestly think the yarn's cursed (was originally for a pair of socks I'd intended for someone who isn't in my life anymore. Hate having stuff lying around like that.)
Am still on the Stendhal kick, by the way. Started the Chartreuse de Parme last night, as I was super insomniac and tired of Carcopino. So, kind did a switch from an English translation of a Frenchman's appreciation of Rome to the (somewhat polyglottal) version originale of another Frenchman's love of Milan. (Love Stendhal's writing, gosh darnit. Don't think I'd have liked him personally; do love what he had to say, though.)
As I'd mentioned earlier - had been reading a very interesting book on Ancient Rome by this fellow. The first couple chapters on the structure of the urbs as well as the distribution of domii to insulae (houses vs apartment buildings) and water rights was fascinating; it sort of gave lie to what I'd previously learned about these things in the past.

Where it gets *really* interesting, though, is when we break away from the urban planning study of the eminent Archaeologist and start to look at his interpretation of primary source materials to paint a picture of family life, education, religion, women's roles in society, etc. Even before learning of his placement in Vichy, had a Blink moment where images from Olympia were flashing behind the words. "Hmm, interesting," I thought. "Am learning an awful lot about the writer, too." Anyway, am about 1/2 way through, and am enjoying it on a number of levels.

This has kind of spurred me on to look again at works of the Progressives (the folks who, among other things, brought us the all-white, pro South view of Reconstruction among other things), some of the post-Progressives (like Hofstadter - love how he writes. He makes very clear his prejudices, and very entertainingly so. Will argue forever that The American Political Tradition is one of the best post WWII histories out there - take my praise with a huge grain of salt; I'm new to the History thing), as well as some of the older interpretations of the Middle Ages I'd read in the past life (namely Bedier, Huizinga - scored a copy of his Waning of the Middle Ages at a library sale recently for a quarter. Remembered loving that book as a kid.)

From there, it'd probably be good for me to check out a copy of Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States, if only to see how much I can pick up on him and what I think might be the modern equivalent to Fascist European interpretations of history. (Again, take this with a huge grain of salt; might be totally valid. Then again, fifty to 100 years from now, maybe there'll be another girl sitting reading her dollar copy of the book with the same bemusement that I feel lying in bed with Carcopino's Daily Life in Ancient Rome.)
Am feeling a fair bit better than yesterday, thank heavens. Doesn't make the need to deal with health insurance (up to now, have chosen to pay the penalty - under protest, of course - to the DOR; seems the least bad of the range of options afforded to me) any less necessary; just less driven by emergency concerns.

Kind of long for the days when one could go to a clinic in one of the big hospitals around, barter a bit, and come up with a payment plan. I did this a lot when I was younger and always was treated decently, both by the doctors and the financial staff.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

This is amazing.

Interesting to think about, too, that not too far away, regardless of the EU statutes, they'd likely be "suicides" during their period of "protective custody."
Have been feeling like garbage all day. I think and hope that it's just the old gut (I have IBS - sorry for the TMI) just stamping its feet and letting itself be known. If it's anything worse, I'm screwed, as I'm not insured.
Good Neighbors:

Ran into the husband of the neighbor I ran into on the walk home from the grocery store. Ended up talking for like 3/4 of an hour. When I saw him last, maybe before Thanksgiving last year, he'd told me that he was trying to lose weight for a physical for work. Well - he lost weight in spades. Told him that he *really* looked good and, brash sort as he is, I think he actually blushed. (eee!)

Exchanged gifts, too: had a book on trains for him from a book sale as well as some homemade jam. Got a shopping bag full of mason jars in return.
This is kind of interesting.

Found it as a sort of appendix/correction to a previous post talking about making popcorn with truffle oil. I clicked the product link and found two things that gave me the



feeling.

First, there's the highlighted brand. Now, nothing against them, but I see Roland products as total tight "budget gourmet" both here and in France. Generally, I'll buy their stuff if I find it at Job Lots or Monoprix, but I'm not going to go out of my way to order or pay boatloads of money. (Above is their American distribution address. For some reason, and I'm only going on gut instinct, I think they're Asian. Don't know.)

Second, the price (approx $7/bottle). That's about the price for a fair to middling bottle of *unflavored* olive oil here. Last time I was au marche in Versailles, I noted that...like...*real* truffles were going for nearly 1000 EE/kg, so just an olive-sized piece to soak would cost a fair bit more than the price of the two bottles for $13 listed here.

Ever since reading Allende's recipe for a truffle in olive oil decoction, I've wanted to try this. Can't do it right now, though, as even if I *could* get truffles in the States, I'd not be able to afford them. So, settled for the next best thing here - a small bottle of truffle *flavored* oil from a local Eye-talian shop. I had no illusions about it, given the price (slightly higher than the inexpensive Spanish stuff I normally buy), but it did the job. Not ashamed of that. But then again, I'm not marketing myself as a gourmet or anything. Am just someone who likes food and who cooks decently enough.

For what it's worth, the reason why I bought the oil was to make a treat for the housemate. He'd described frites drizzled in truffle oil and sprinkled with rosemary. Given my food restrictions right now, I came up with an actually really nice workaround:

Patates Douces aux "Truffes" et Romarin

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
4 T olive oil flavored with truffle (or not - just wanted to be foofy and nice for the housemate. Used Monini brand from Spoleto, IT, by the way.)
1+ T dried rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

1.) Preheat oven to 375 F.
2.) Wash, dry, cut out bad spots on the sweet potatoes. Slice thinly width-wise (like potato chips).
3.) Toss potatoes in olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper. Save a bit of oil to rub on a cookie sheet.
4.) Bake for roughly 15 minutes or so, turning over when necessary. Ultimately, you'd like them to be crusty on the outside and softish on the inside.

Pavel actually told me that, though it wasn't very truffly, it was honestly good and a keeper. I was happy because it's totally within the South Beach parameters.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Didn't much talk about what I have in mind for the upcoming year for myself, as, over the past couple years, have had plans scuttled pretty spectacularly. Anyway, have wanted to set the goals low, manageable and as little subject to the vagaries of those around me as possible.

First off, I want to finish the job of losing all the weight I set myself to do last November. Had started at about 195-ish lbs, and am currently at about 177 (yes, gained a few pounds since returning to the States in January.) The goal weight is between about 155-160 lbs; totally within reach. I just have to keep up the good eating as prescribed here.

Exercise has been difficult lately. Most mornings, I have enough trouble finding motivation enough to get out of bed. Have been managing a couple dozen push ups and stomach crunches every day, though, which I guess counts for something.

Handwork-wise, I mentioned wanting to knit one lace project a month already. In addition to that, would like to take one item out of the unfinished pile and finish it/repurpose it/salvage the yarn. Also, would like to confine my knitting to the yarn I've collected over time. There's a lot of it; it really needs to go.

Mentioned also learning to spin - that's been awfully fun, but have to watch out. If I spend too much time doing it, the shoulders and the back start to hurt and the fingers get blistered. Plus, I end up with more yarn to get rid of!

Didn't mention that I also want to teach myself to crochet this year. Funny, but I can manage hundreds of stitches on two or more needles, but just have never got the hang of *one* stitch at a time on *one* hook. Really want to learn to make granny squares, too. Love them.

Then, there's work. I've been seriously underemployed for some time - some of it due to choice, some of it a bit out of my control. Have a couple projects going on at home, but would like to find a few hours a week out of the house. I think it would have to be temporary work. Just something to get me out and build up the bank account a bit.

I took all the history classes at the local community college and really can't afford to go anywhere else right now, so am just trying to do a bit of directed reading. Was a huge fan of Stendhal in my other life, so have picked him up again. Have been trying to supplement that with readings on the Revolution in France, the oscillations between liberalism and absolutism there and in other parts of Europe, // developments in the United States, etc. What I'm taking home from all this is that, heavens, as crazy as things were on my side of the Atlantic, they seem positively straightforward compared to the jailbreak that Europe was at the time.

Am not much into what I guess is called Historiography, but have been reading other things as well and noting how stuff's been interpreted over time. Amazing what you can learn about academic fashions in pre-Vichy France from reading a monograph on Ancient Roman city planning...

My, am running on a bit, aren't I. (More later - am no where near done.)
Works In Progress.

Have been so wrapped up in spinning lately that I've kind of left knitting a bit by the wayside here (not project wise, though). Anyway, this is what's been en chantier the past couple weeks:

Sherbet Semaphore

This is my little 'sherbet semaphore.' Ordinarily I don't go for this kind of yarn (and really, I shouldn't be spending money on nonessentials right now), but it looked so cheerful on the gloomy day stopped into the store. The pattern is called Baktus, a clever little thing, and well-suited for "mindless" knitting. I only really work on this when am watching a movie or being read to.

Heart Mitten

One of an eventual matched pair for Monsieur Scoot's mom. The pattern's from an ancient Family Circle knitting magazine, and it's called "Dutch Girl." The seed stitch pattern, though, reminds me of Guernsey sweaters. In any event, I really don't like working on anything that needs a twin, and really, really don't the yarn. (The lady these are meant for is allergic to wool, so I'm using a cotton blend from Rowan yarns.) Can't wait to get these out of my "to do" pile.

The last thing I'm working on is installment #2 of my New Year's resolution to knit a lace scarf or shawl a month. Like with January's project, it's been fun to watch this grow and take wing on the needles. Am using up a good bit of sock yarn from my stash, too, in denim blue and fuchsia variegated. Don't have a picture of it yet, as it's still on the needles (yep, running behind already), but that'll be remedied over the next day or so.
Yesterday, got a phone call from an old neighbor, then ran into another on at the grocery store. Ran into a third on the walk back. Somehow I think that someone's trying to tell me something - like maybe I should stop being so miserable, get out some and see friends? (Don't know.)

Friday, March 05, 2010

Girl Cat had yet another appointment with the Loverly Man in the White Jacket today.
Was put under to have the teeth and gums looked at and taken care of. Cost a fortune, of course, and she's in a bit of pain, due to sutures. Apparently has the same genetic problem as Tony (re absorbtive lesions?) so we have to keep an eye out, of course.

Am so happy to have here home, recovering. Was scared to lose her.

***
Never meant to Fall In Love like this.
Once seen, cannot be unseen.
Vrijdagmuziek.

Een mooi(e) verzion vaan deze loverly, but oh, so decadent adaptation of nasty stuff:



Happy Friday and vrolijke (een beetje spaatelijk?) nieuwjaar! (snort)
Spin Another Yarn

Finally worked my way through all the old roving I had lying around. After washing and hanging the finished mess to dry, measured what I ended up with: have just short of 25 yards. What to do with it, now? Thought of dying it with old tea leaves; decided that if the color was good enough for the sheepje who gave it up, it was good enough for me.

Knit-wise? Hmm. this small quantity of bulky wool won't go terribly far. Maybe I can make a neck warmer or a pair of wrist cuffs. Maybe a pillow (though it'd be a small one). Or perhaps I could incorporate it into the hat I want to make myself before it gets too warm out.

Yarn!

Rough looking, but surprisingly soft.

It's not the prettiest stuff in the world, but am actually kind of darn proud. Someday am sure will spin finer stuff. For now, though, I'm happy to have picked up where I left off and to have made something useful.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Well - the coffee roasting experiment seemed to work out well. Took about 1/3 cup of the beans and put them in an aluminum pie plate one layer deep. Roasted them under the broiler for about two-three minutes on each side.

The roasted beans were only slightly darker than the original ones, but they were much oilier. Also, though the flavor of the coffee was milder than the Trader Joe's stuff, I noted that two cups of it didn't wasn't making me dizzy like the past couple days. Also, the kitchen smelled heavenly.

I might try roasting the stuff longer tomorrow morning; we'll see. Am glad, though, to have found a workaround, even though it is a bit of a pain in the rear. We have like a pound and a half of the city roast left, and it was getting to be painful to drink.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Dad posted
something kind of sweet last night.




Loved him in his tight leather pants phase; love him even more nowadays. (Words in English; Traduction a venir, bien sur!)
Spin a Yarn.

A number of years ago, I treated myself to a drop spindle, some wool and a spinning lesson. For all sorts of reasons (one major one being a back injury that the posture I assumed while spinning was aggravating), I stopped. Resolved this year to get back into 'the spin of things' so to speak.

Gorged myself on How To videos and actually sat down to read the two manuals I had on the subject. Ended up with this last night:

First Attempt

The twist is a lot looser and the resulting product is certainly bulkier than I'd like, but it's a start. I've got just short of 10 yards of it.

New Yarn

This is the second batch that I'm working on - still a lot of variation in thickness and still way bulkier than I'd like, but again, it's a start. Here, I started loosening up a bit. Stopped trying to control the twist and actually let myself feel the transformation of Potential to Kinetic up the strand to the fleece. Got a huge blister on the thumb doing this, but was worth it.

The most difficult part of things has been "drafting," or regulating the flow of fleece into the spin. This is going to take a lot of work. For the moment, I'm doing what's called "park and draft," where I spin the spindle, then stop it to conserve the energy until I need it. Then I move the spin up the thread as I need it. Have also been "pre drafting" or separating chunks of fiber into a more manageable thickness before spinning and wrapping it around my arm so that I don't have to worry about doing all this one-handed. It's clumsy and slow, but has been good for isolating the different movements my body needs to learn. Has also been cutting down on entanglements and my getting rapped by the spindle when I lose control of it.

Like with translating, Hanon and stomach crunches, am going to give myself a few minutes a day to build up strength. May not see the results for a bit, but then again, small bits do add up. Perhaps after a bit, as well, I'll be ruing not having the chunks and variations in my fine stuff, as a fine-spinning new friend tells me may happen.
Pavel and I are I guess what you'd call cheap coffee connoisseurs; more to the point, even if we both were employed full time, I don't think you'd find us paying $20-$30/lb for coffee when there's perfectly good stuff out there for considerably less than that.* Generally, except for the emergency runs to the bodega across the street for the least expensive Latin stuff (always good, though always ground), we get whole bean, so I guess we're not completely lost.

Anyway, our two favorites in this area are Trader Joe's and Eight O'Clock (with 8:00 winning out for a while when they had their frequent buyer program). Had been drinking a lot of the TJ's French Roast lately, as they sell that in a huge tub. It's nice, though a bit messy in the grinder due to its oiliness. Only just ran out of it a couple days ago, so Pavel went out and picked up a big, two pound bag of Eight O'Clock.

As I'm the first to get up in the morning, I'm the one who preps the first pot. Always use the same amount of coffee, so found it interesting when Pavel mentioned that stuff was tasting too weak. Myself, I noted that I was getting the jitters and actual head spins. Slow on the uptake that I can be sometimes, finally noted that we had the regular blend (which I can only assume is a city roast - meaning, the least cooked coffee out there - this imparts a mild flavor and burns off the least amount of caffeine. Kind of like Dunkin Donuts stuff as opposed to your normal cup of Starbucks). Since we have so much of it, I'm actually thinking of playing at roasting a bit of it as I'm not nuts about the caffeine and the housemate's not too thrilled with the flavor. We'll see what happens.

***

*One thing we do make a point of doing is avoiding anything "fair trade," as there doesn't appear to be much "fairness" about it if one takes Webster's definition. I know that there are other definitions at play, though. In any event, Bad Catholic that I am, I just see it as lefty indulgence-selling.
Yesterday was a glorious second day of March: sunshine, temperatures in the high 40s/low 50s, a not too chilly breeze rustling through the yew and pine branches. Thought it kind of funny that there were at least a couple juncoes out back feeding - especially since we'd not seen them in a while. (Snort), they knew what they were doing.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The cats have been in rare form today leading Pavel to wonder aloud about what's been causing them to be all Hobbesian -like. (Dunno, maybe the weather? I know that low pressure systems sometimes drive me to distraction.) Anyway, there have been so many fights and so many different gang-up configurations that we renamed everyone:

Brutish and Short.

The orange one is no longer Tony, but Brutish. Magnolia was christened Short.

Nasty.

What else could this one become, but Nasty?