14 June 2007

This post is not what it seems.

We returned from the cabin yesterday. I already miss it - and not just because the breeze off the lake made the mid-80-degrees days not just tolerable but actually quite pleasant. Our house is hot and sticky and even though we get periodic breezes through the upstairs open windows, it's still too hot and sticky to contemplate knitting anything with wool or spinning anything with any possibility of sticking to moisture in my hands (like the baby camel & silk tends to).

My Fiber Swap box arrived while we were out. It's quite lovely and has lots of fun things to play with - including samples of cotton and soy silk and flax which I'm unwontedly gleeful about (or will be once it's not a sauna in my house) - and I will take pictures and post in more breathlessness about it all soon, but in catching up on the headlines from the last several days, I came across an article stating that the number of persons living with HIV/AIDS in a county near us went up in 2006.

Which is a bit of an understatement; the number nearly tripled. (Which, in and of itself, is somewhat mitigated when you realize that the total number of persons living with HIV/AIDS is in the low 20's, but the rate of increase is still somewhat of a shock.) According to the article, a large portion of the increase is due to an "influx" (can 2-3 people really be considered an "influx"?) of people to the area who were already diagnosed - so it's not a three-fold increase in the incidence of HIV/AIDS infections, but rather an increase in the prevalence of persons living with HIV/AIDS in the region.

And then I read the comments to the article (if you do this, read from the bottom up as the newest comments are added to the top). And as is not all that uncommon when I venture into the comments, I was rather horrified at the ignorance and prejudice displayed therein. But that's not really my point either; rather, I was reminded by something someone mentioned in passing in one of the comments of a rant I've been wanting to write for a few weeks.

It sums up to this, in short: If you trust the security of your blood supply to self-disclosure of potential risk factors, you're negligently naive. (I warned you this post wasn't what it seemed.) While the FDA's policy of "self-deferral" to keep men who have sex with men (MSM) from contributing to the nation's blood supply *may* reduce the 1 in a million chance of someone contracting HIV from a blood transfusion (which is not insignificant given that there are, in an average year, about 20 million blood transfusions in the US), it relies on the self-identification of MSM as such.

And.. well.. even with the change in terminology and the targeting of MSM who do not identify as gay or bisexual in media campaigns, there is a relatively substantial population of men (apparently especially African American men) on the down low - substantial enough that they are believed to be the primary reason that the incidence of HIV/AIDS among heterosexual women has been on the rise. So.. knowing that, I fail to understand how a policy of self-deferral - which will undoubtedly succeed in keeping a large number of HIV-negative self-identifying MSM from attempting to give blood - is going to do anything to protect the blood supply from the uncounted (but believed to be large) population of MSM who don't identify as such.

It's a farce. Rather than admit that the blood supply is at risk of contamination, the FDA would rather reaffirm the stereotype that homosexual and bisexual men constitute the only population with significant enough risk of spreading HIV to warrant the prevention of their contribution to the blood supply - in defiance of the facts that the proportion of new female HIV cases has been steadily rising over the past decade and that 80% of new female HIV infections are transmitted through heterosexual sex. By playing on the fears of the uneducated public, the FDA is knowingly contributing to a false sense of security regarding the US blood supply.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating for the abolition of the maintenance of the US blood supply, or for more stringent restrictions as to who is deemed worthy of contributing; rather I'm arguing for an admission of the actual risk inherent in the system and an abolition of restrictions that are based on fear and prejudice.

08 June 2007

Travel Knits

Okay, so before I run away again (this time for vacation up to my parents cabin), I thought I'd post some finished objects and progress pictures from the things I was working on while I was traveling the last couple of weeks.

First up are the finished Lorna's Laces toe up socks in Bucks Bar:

I bound off the second one a little too tight, but since I'd already cut the thread and woven in the ends, I haven't decided yet if I'm going to try to go back and fix it or not. They come up almost to my knees as they are, though, so I could also just choose to fold them down or something. For some reason I'm really not in love with these socks, though, so I might also just hang onto them for a gift or donation. *shrug*

And there's the second washcloth I made from the Euroflax Linen. It ended up being a fraternal twin to the first because I wasn't paying as much attention to the pattern when I started knitting on it and made the first row of squares a couple rows too short and ended up having to improvise a bit to get it to come out the right size.

That's the toe of my first Sockapalooza sock. I'm actually almost to the heel turn on it now, but forgot to take a new progress picture this morning when I was out taking pictures with Gnorm.

And finally I brought the Foxfire Baby Camel and Tussah Silk with me so I could participate in the Spindler's Spin-in-Public day (first Friday of every month) at the airport in Minneapolis during my layover. I think I'm doing okay with it, but it isn't quite as even as I'd like and I think it might be underspun, but it could just be that it needs to be livened again. I still have more than half the original bag to spin and it's already quite a bit of yarn, so I'm hoping to get enough out of it to do as a two-ply that will end up about fingering weight for a shawl or scarf.

While we were in Kansas City, Cate and Sara invited me along to go to Cottage Fiber with them, which was well, well worth the trip. Cate got some pictures that I'm hoping she'll get a chance to post soon. It's a great, great little shop tucked in an out of the way studio space and it has undoubtedly the best selection of spinning fibers of any shop I've ever been to (which admittedly is not many, but even Cate and Sara were impressed and they've been to that most holy of fiber events - Rhinebeck!) and some really beautiful old wheels. I really can't recommend this shop enough - if you ever find yourself in Kansas City you really really need to check them out and pet all the gorgeousness yourself!

I managed to escape with only a very small stash enhancement (modeled below with Gnorm):

The ball of roving is about 2.5 ounces of cashgora in a really rich red/orange/copper colorway (Cate got the other half of the ball) and the little packet has 4-5 beautifully dyed silk hankies with some amazing copper accents. I've never spun silk from a hankie, but the owner of the shop (who's name I didn't get; terribly bad manners, especially since she opened her shop up special just for us!) gave me some quick instruction and I'm looking forward to getting it started. Maybe if I end up with enough of it I can ply some if it up with the Foxfire.. I realized after we left that I forgot to get some of the amazingly soft angora bunny roving she had, though, so I will have to call and see if she'll mail me some.

Oh, and my fiber swap pal - Elsje - got her package and appears to like it, so that makes me very happy! It was really hard not to hang on to all that fiber, but I'm glad she likes it. The fiber swap packages were all supposed to be sent off by the 5th, so I'm really hopeful that mine will show up today before we hit the road for the cabin!

In one last bit of mailing news, I'm shipping Gnorm off today to his next destination and all the goodies that I've picked out for my next pal are neatly tucked into his box awaiting delivery to the post office. If you missed what I got from Stephanie, I posted about it all over on the Knitting Gnome Swap blog a couple days ago. I really really love everything she sent - especially the tea which is really honestly truly my favorite and she had no way of knowing I even knew about Market Spice (I lived in Seattle for three years between college and grad school) - and I'm bringing the Yarn Pirate yarn with me to the cabin just in case I finish my Sockapalooza pal's socks so I can start right in on some lusciousness for me!

07 June 2007

Another quickie..

Gnorm arrived from Kirkland, WA while I was in Kansas City! I was afraid that would happen, but I think things will work out okay. I'll get a chance to take him around a bit today and tomorrow morning before packing him up and sending him off on his merry way again tomorrow afternoon.

I'll post pictures of my recently finished items, and a progress shot of my Sockapalooza pal's socks hopefully sometime this evening. I did some minor stash acquisition with Cate & Sara in Kansas City, though, and there's a photo of Gnorm checking it out in the post linked above. It's truly gorgeous and I'm contemplating looking for another lightweight spindle so I won't have to wind off the Firefox silk & baby camel to start the cashgora! And I also need to contact the shop owner and see if she'll send me some of the angora bunny fiber that I meant to grab, too.

Gotta run!

05 June 2007

Connected to: WestinLobby

Just a quick update before I dash off to facilitate two back-to-back sessions this morning: I'm better now, not that I wasn't before, but being here this week has reminded me not only that I *do* accomplish quite enough for a single person office, *and* that I know a lot more people in this field than I realize. Those are both reassuring salve to a crispy IR director!

In other news, conference knitting proceeds apace: the toe up socks are complete, as is the second linen washcloth (even if it is a fraternal twin to the first). I even cast on last night for my first Sockapalooza pal's sock! I'll try to snag some pictures between sessions today, but no promises! I am running off for a bit of a yarn crawl with Sara & Cate this evening, and that might just mean there will be no time left to post them today.

02 June 2007


So.. this is my third time at my professions annual forum. The first year, I was a sponge - I soaked up as much as I could because I was so firmly stuck in the "knowing what you don't know" spot that I just needed to learn as much as I could and hope that at least some of it stuck through the mind-stuffing. The second year, I was more targeted in what I sought out - I looked for sessions that were related to things I knew were on my professional horizon and I tried to make contacts with key people that I thought I could learn things from. This year.. I'm suffering from a touch of feeling alternately on top of my game and like the girl who thinks she's a big fish in a little pond, who is really just a little fish in the ocean. *sigh*

This is not a capability thing. And it's not really a knowledge thing. I think it's because I'm a single person office supporting an institution whose peers typically have several people filling my role. I really, really *want* to do all these things - I want to do an annual faculty salary study as a matter of routine (hell, I'd like to do *any* real study as a matter of routine); I want to be involved in the national level of debate and discussion about what's coming down the pike in terms of accreditation and accountability; I want to set up our new data warehouse so that I can drop a data mining application on top of it and run more in depth analysis that will aid my institution in planning for the future. I want to be a big office with the staff to do the things that I know an institution of this size should be doing.

And it's somewhat therapeutic to come here and know I'm not alone. I'm not the only one out there who wants to do more with less or who struggles with inadequate data for a task or who recognizes that IR can't be considered on the same level as scholarly research (because our research is used to make decisions and decisions have deadlines).

But it's also frustrating to see people be able to do those things that I want to do (and think our institution should be doing). It simultaneously makes me feel inferior and indignant. Inferior because I can't be the shining star who presents new and insightful data every year. Indignant because those who are in larger offices, who are "blessed" with the ability to do more in depth analysis, sometimes seem to judge those of us who can't as being less skilled or behind the times or at least not on the cutting (bleeding?) edge of our profession.

There's almost a snobbery to it (at least for some.. this is really not about the vast majority of my colleagues, but rather about those few who persist in a academician's bias toward "publish or perish" - a bias that's hard to shake even if you know it's inappropriate). And it's sometimes difficult not to feel inferior in the face of that; to feel like I should be staying up nights learning more about the intricacies of Markov Matrices or hierarchical linear modeling. It's hard at those times to remember that despite the limitations of my position, I am still contributing to the larger community and that I am a competent professional and that I have nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I have some small ability to shine a little light on those like me - those single person IR offices who, like Sisyphus, roll that damned boulder up the hill every single day only to wake up more behind than we were the day before. Because it's hard to think of yourself as anything and all that when you get run over by a boulder every night.

31 May 2007

I'm sorry.. I'd like to return this week..

.. it was too short. :/

Long weekends on both ends - one with nothing doing and the other to be spent traveling and attending workshops - sandwiched three straight days of 9-4 meetings this week. I think that's grounds for declaring it defective and demanding a new one.

There were some good things, though, I s'pose. Like the fact that my tablet is not completely hosed (the blue screen of death was caused by a corrupted wireless driver which has since been fixed and which has resulted in my wireless connection being significantly more stable). And the tomatoes and basil plants arrived this week (and will be planted tomorrow and left to the care of my husband until I return late Wednesday evening):

even if the basil is.. well.. dead:

(Yes, I'll be contacting the company to either get new plants or a refund.)

And I forgot to print the sock pattern for my Sockapalooza pal's socks (which isn't quite the end of the world since I still need to finish the second toe-up sock, but it will not last through an entire 5 day conference).

27 May 2007


Right then.. It's summer (I'm told most people consider Memorial Day weekend the "official" start of summer; for me (and I'd guess most of us in academia) it's the start of summer term, about a week after commencement) and that means it's time to read. Several weeks ago I posted about the books I wanted to read this summer. Some of you may recall that I finished Ghost Map shortly after that post, and Leaving Atlanta quickly followed. So that means Eat Pray Love was next, so without further ado..

I don't think I've intentionally been putting off writing about this one - I have legitimately been busy and traveling and then there was the small matter of my laptop deciding not to boot for a couple days - but I admit to still being a bit unsettled about it. The book is divided into 3 sections - Italy, India, and Indonesia - and is the author's (Elizabeth Gilbert) narrative of her recovery and rediscovery of herself throughout her year of travels. Ms. Gilbert's writing style is very engaging and the opening of the book was immediately gripping; I felt like she was writing from inside my head, which is a bit misleading - I'm not now nor have I ever been in the situation she describes, but I could viscerally identify with the emotion.

And I stayed more or less an emotional voyeur throughout Italy. In India, Richard from Texas jumped out of the pages, living and breathing. We all need a Richard from Texas. My lasting impression of India was that it went by so much faster than Italy. I never went back to actually figure out if there were fewer pages, or if it was just that because of the relative lack of "terrain" covered compared to Italy, it seemed so. But Indonesia.. Indonesia is where I started to emotionally disconnect with Ms. Gilbert. I still can't quite identify which part of Indonesia caused me to pull away - and I don't want to give too much away by listing the options for those who still want to read it - but there was definitely something distancing in Indonesia. And while I still enjoyed the book through to the end, it wasn't a book that left me wanting more.

Which I think is okay, and it rather nicely illustrates the point of the book - a journey to identify yourself. In the end, Ms. Gilbert found herself, and even though I can identify with where she started, and even several of the steps and stages she went through on her journey, in the end she arrived at herself and she and I - and everyone else - are on different paths to different destinations.

And that dovetails quite nicely into Yann Martel's The Life of Pi, which is about a journey of a different sort. Judy G. asked if I liked it; and I did. But not being Canadian means that I'm mostly unaware of the media lovefest surrounding Martel at the moment. Yes, the book was highly acclaimed in the US when it was first released, but that was some time ago and I think it's one of those flash-in-the-pan books for the fickle American readership - it was all the buzz for a few months and now it's available in most half-price book stores on clearance for a couple of bucks (which is, in fact, where I picked up my copy). Which is really neither here nor there, other than to explain that I probably tend toward contrarianism when it comes to the hot new author as well and typically end up working back around to that once-must-read a few years later and get to make my judgement about the story.

And, as I mentioned, I did like The Life of Pi. It was.. real enough without being too much of a stretch. As an allegory, it's subtle enough to skip over if you want to just plow through the story for the sake of a decently told story. And even though they mess with your head a bit at the end, I still liked it even though I'm not sure I'm going to bother to probe, even for my own edification, the depths of the allegory. *shrug*

I'm now about half way through Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (who is also the author of The Virgin Suicides), which I picked up in the Denver airport because I forgot to pack The Life of Pi. It was a book recommended by one of our campus librarians and one I'd glanced at a few times in the past year or so, but never bothered to pick up to read the synopsis. It's not about what I thought it would be, and I have to say that it's not really about (at least so far) what I thought it was after hearing it described. Middlesex is purportedly about the life of a modern hermaphrodite; so far, though, it's mostly about the family history of a modern hermaphrodite, starting with his Greek grandparents in their remote Turkish village and their flight from the burning of Smyrna to 1920's Detroit. It's an interesting story packed with a lot of issues in addition to the probable most obvious one - racial tension in both Turkey and Detroit; immigration; prohibition; guilt; religion - but written so that you don't get beaten over the head with any of them. Unfortunately, because it touches on so much, it can be a bit much for bedtime reading at times, but I won't hold that against it. *smile*

26 May 2007

Plans for the long weekend.

I've been traveling most of this week - Denver Sunday evening through late Tuesday and then Madison Wednesday and Thursday - and while it's been a productive and useful week, I'm very glad not to be traveling again this weekend (especially because I only get seven days at home before I'm off again to Kansas City for six!).

Sometime today I need to run into town to deliver some games to our Garden Gurus, the male half of which will be chaperoning a class of pre-teens on a trip to our nation's capital next week. They're taking the train and, knowing how hard it can be to keep preteens occupied for a long trip, MGG (Male Garden Guru) asked if we could loan them some of our board games. We've sort of collected quite a few, thanks in large part to some friends who have come to spend the last three New Year's Eves with us playing games, and this is just a sampling of what we're sending along for their trip:

Starting on the top left and going what will end up being more or less counter-clockwise: Phase 10, Peasantry, Queen's Necklace, Rook, Carcassonne: The Castle, Carcassonne (original with a couple expansions), Ticket to Ride, Tsuro, double 12 dominoes, the 1910 expansion for Ticket to Ride, and Monkeys!. I tried to pull a selection that would allow for some smaller groups (The Castle, Tsuro, and dominoes can be played with two people) as well as larger groups (Tsuro can go to 8, but most of the rest top out around 5 or 6). I'm contemplating sending Mystery of the Abbey, but I'm a bit worried it might just be a bit too complex for the average pre-teen. And while we have Settlers of Catan and two of the larger expansions, as well as the expansion for 5-6 players, I think it just has too many little pieces that could too easily get lost on a train (and technically, so does Ticket to Ride, but I can't resist sending game about trains along on a train trip!). Similarly, the Catan card game and Jambo (both two player games) are staying home (though I admit that the Catan card game is staying mostly because we just picked up the expansions from Pegasus Games while we were in Madison and haven't had a chance to play it ourselves yet; we also just got Guillotine, which is also staying here for the same reason.) Yes.. we like good games and our friends know it. *smile*

When I drop off the games, I've been invited to peruse the GG's garden for anything that I'd like to add to my own. I already know that I want to get some balloon flower from them, and hopefully some of the small Japanese irises. And some garlic chives (which I think Jack actually already got and just need to be planted). If the weather clears up tomorrow or Monday, I'll likely go plant the seeds for the vegetable garden (I don't want to plant them and then have a thunderstorm roll in right away for fear the seeds will flood out and all clump in one place).

I also plan to round out the packages for the summer swaps I'm doing. I sat down last Saturday before I left and ordered a bunch of stuff for my spoilees and was quite pleased that it all arrived by the time I got home:

I won't go into detail on what's all there just in case one of my spoilees happens to drop by and figure things out (and there are some things that were intentionally kept out of this picture because I was worried they'd be too easily identified by their intended recipients!), but I will say that it's going to be hard to let some of this stuff go! There are just a few finishing touches needed for each of them, and of course, I still need to knit my sockapalooza pal's socks, but I have a couple months for that still.

In the meantime, I finished the first of the toe up socks:

I didn't really use a pattern, but the yarn is Lorna's Laces in Buck's Bar and I just worked the leg until I ran out of yarn. As I realized how tall these were going to be, I added in some calf shaping, which I think turned out pretty well considering I made it up as I went along!

(Thank goodness for Blogger's new auto-save feature! I just accidentally clicked on a shortcut in my menu bar and thought I'd lost this entire post.. Whew!)

And as long as the weather stays chilly and storm-threatening, I snuck a skein of Louet Euroflax in Lilac in with the orders for my spoilees so I can snuggle in and watch a movie (we got both Babel and Pan's Labyrinth from Netflix while I was gone) while making a couple washcloths (modified from the hand towel pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting) for the upstairs bathroom.

I'm admittedly a bit torn because I'd really love to make hand towels for the new bathroom as well, but the Euroflax is a bit spendy. I've checked out KnitPicks new CotLin, though, and I think I could make a couple hand towels with the Linen colorway using the Royal Plum for accents that would work well and would come in around $7.50 per towel instead of the $20 it would be if I used Euroflax. And if they turn out well, I might just make some for gifts, too.. I know at least a couple folks who have done bathroom remodels lately!

Oh, and sometime soon I need to do a book post. I finished Eat, Pray, Love a few weeks ago, and since have also finished The Life of Pi and started Middlesex. And I picked up a couple new books while in Madison as well - Tayari Jones's The Untelling (you knew this one was coming, right?) and Gabriel Garcia Marques's One Hundred Years of Solitude. The stack on my bedside table doesn't seem to be getting smaller, but I couldn't be happier at having so much good literature to read!

18 May 2007


I might have mentioned here (or I might not have, I don't remember) that my knitting mojo lately has been mostly absent. I have a pair of toe-up socks that is sort of languishing, as is the Blue Willow cardigan, and mostly I'm okay with that. I've been busy doing other things and I know it will come back sooner or later.

In the meantime, though, last weekend I realized that the answer to my snapping lead lines on my tablet weaving loom was yet-another-fiber-hobby: my lucet. Lucet cord is what I use to lace my bodices, and goodness knows that if the cord can withstand the tension of that, it could certainly put up with my tablet weaving tension.

And it does. Quite nicely, in fact. Which means that I'm once again fiddling about with some tablet weaving. I need to do this more often so that I no more about what I'm doing wrong and how to fix it. For instance, at the moment, the lines in my chevrons are feathered, and I think that's because some of the cards are a quarter turn off, or because some of them are threaded backward (don't worry if this doesn't make sense.. it's okay), but I don't know enough yet to know whihttp://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=16435420ch and I don't have the patience to fiddle with it until I find the right answer. So I'm putting up with feathered chevrons, and really, I'm okay with that.

In the meantime, I panicked a few weeks ago when I realized I'd signed up for no fewer than 3 summer swaps. Fortunately, I'm a bit less panicked now (but I am still just a tiny bit worried that Gnorm or Gnuman will show up while I'm in Kansas City the first week of June!) and I think I even have the yarn for my Sockapalooza IV pal *and* the pattern picked out. I'm pretty excited about the pattern.. it'll be my first pair of Cookie A socks, I think, and I love that they're toe up so I can use all the yarn in each skein without worrying about running out.

Unfortunately, the swap I'm feeling the most out-to-sea about is the one that will happen first. I'll think I'll be okay, I just need to either find somewhere online that has a really good selection of dyed roving or a really good shop that has a good selection. I have what I'm looking for in mind, at least in terms of color, but I haven't managed to track down a supplier for what I'm looking for.