30 January 2006


I came home today to not just one lovely (expected) package, but a second beautiful (and totally unexpected) package! Mamacate has surprised me with a Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) and sent me more of the gorgeous Shetland wool fleece she sent me to learn to spin with:

Isn't it beautiful!! I'm so excited. *bounce*


Okay, so the other package is exciting too as it contained the Merino Style yarn for my Fair Isle 101 for the Knitting Olympics (10 days! Swatching before then is okay, so sometime soon I'll swatch the colorwork pattern to see how it goes.):

The brown in the lower right corner will the main sweater color and the rest are more earthy-toned versions of the colors recommended in the chart and pattern. I think I'll really like the sweater once it's finished; we'll know for sure in a month!

I also decided that rather than buy more cheapy cotton socks to replace the ones I have that are wearing/worn out, I'm going to endeavor to make enough to wear knit ones all the time. So I got three 100 g skeins of Sinfonia cotton yarn to make socks with:

I'll need to find a pattern that has enough stretch and give to make the cotton not too tight, but still not too slouchy. Since these will be everyday socks and the yarn is variegated, I'm thinking a plain 2x2 rib with the rib running all the way down the foot will work nicely.

At the moment, though, it's gotta wait until I get the shawl finished. I have seven repeats finished and ten days left, so that means I have to do at least one repeat a day. That shouldn't be too hard. I'll knit through the State of the Union tomorrow, so that should be good for at least a full repeat, provided I don't make too many frustration-mistakes.

Oh, and as promised, a (slightly blurry) picture of the finished ladybug sweater:

Right then.. so what do I start on first..!? *bounce*

29 January 2006

Immer wieder

Baby sweater finished and well received. I ended up not finding any suitable Mickey buttons and the letter block beads my mom had picked up didn't quite work. So I ended up using ladybug buttons instead. It was very cute and I took a picture and will post it at some point later this week. My aunt mentioned that my cousin had a little sweater just like it, but with a hood, when he was 2 or 3 that she found in going through his baby box the night before, so the new baby will have mine plus the one from his dad when s/he gets bigger. Kinda neat.

I ended up ripping out the Adamas shawl four times Friday night because I kept losing the pattern and making mistakes and trying to fix them and getting even more messed up. So for the first time (of, you know, the whole twice that I've done large lace patterns *smile*) I learned the value of lifelines. And, of course, as soon as I start using one, I end up knowing the pattern well enough that I finally don't need it - I find mistakes (usually missed yarn overs) in the purl row and fix them immediately rather than stumbling across them in the next right-side row. In any case, I'm now finished with six repeats. There are sixteen total and each repeat adds two squares, so progress will likely slow down a bit, at least in terms of how many repeats I finish in a couple days. But I have until 2/10 to finish it, and then I focus on the Knitting Olympics and Fair Isle 101. (My yarn should be here tomorrow. *squee*!)

I was up at mom and dad's for the shower and in this morning's paper there were some really good coupons for one of the grocery stores that we don't have down here - a bunch of buy one, get one free deals on ham and pork and ground sausage. I stopped on my way out of town and got about $150 worth of pork products (two full Cure 81 hams, two half Cure 81 hams, two Hormel marinated pork loins (lemon garlic & mesquite barbecue), and a couplethree pounds of ground sausage), some pizzas (also on sale - 6 for $10), a roast and some steaks for $85. Not a bad haul.

26 January 2006

Button, button, whose got the button..?

The Mickey Haiku is finished, at least the knitting part.

It still needs buttons and my quest for Mickey buttons has so far been fruitless. Between my mom and my sister and me, we hit stores in at least 3 cities all to no avail. My sister mentioned that there's a pack of buttons (mostly pastels) usually available in scrapbook areas, but there's only one red button per pack and each pack is $2. While I'm not opposed to paying $10 for nice buttons, that's a bit more than I'd hoped to spend on buttons that I'm not sure will really hold up to, you know, actual use.

At this point, I have two options that I can see:
A) Use largish yellow/gold buttons like Mickey has on his shorts. I'm not fond of this idea. I don't really want the poor kid to *look* like Mickey Mouse; I'm just trying to stay with the theme his/her mom's picked out for the nursery.
II) Rib out the button band and re-knit it with six button holes, thus enabling me to use the letter buttons my mom got that spell M-I-C-K-E-Y. I like this option better, and since this is a Haiku and therefore knit side-to-side with the button band last, ripping it out wouldn't be too onerous. But it's still not ideal, so I'm still waffling.

In other news, though, said sister has competition this weekend for her school's one-act play (she's the director) so won't be at the aforementioned shower. Which means I can continue to work on her shawl there and continue to put off deciding what to do with the lovely wool I got last week. So far, even though I seem incapable of making it through a full pattern repeat without forgetting at least one yarn-over, it looks good when you stretch it out:

It's the Adamas shawl pattern from KnitPicks in the Lost Lake colorway of Shadow The pattern is a bit more fussy than I remember Birch being, but then that could be selective memory. It does seem to be settling in now that I'm into the second body repeat, so it must have figured some way to break into my lizard brain at any rate.

And in preparation for the Knitting Olympics, I ordered the yarn for my Fair Isle 101 pullover. And, relatively true to form for me, I didn't get anything I'd been considering. *grin* I decided not to risk KnitPicks Palette being scratchy and ordered Merino Style instead - which, unlike Palette is a dead match for gauge (at least, it should be.. we'll see if it is when I knit up the swatch). Which, of course, required some fussing with the colors since Merino Style doesn't have shades of grey (literally; there's only one shade of grey). So I changed the base color of the sweater to Cinnamon and will be using Hollyberry, Dusk, Moss, Butternut, Nutmeg, and Honey. It's a more earth-toney palette but I think I'll like it better than the primary color palette in the original pattern.

And as if that weren't enough, I also ordered two skeins of Gossamer in the Blue Jeans colorway to make another shawl for my administrative assistant, who's been coveting my Birch since she first saw it. It won't get started until March, though, but that should be just in time for spring.

24 January 2006

Decisions, decisions..

The baby sweater is progressing. The nursery is a Mickey Mouse theme, so I used Mickey colors (red and black) for the little sweater (pattern is Haiku with Lion Brand MicroSpun yarn because it's the only thing I could find in true red and black that was still somewhat soft and machine washable). Here's a shot of where it was yesterday, before I seamed the shoulders or started the sleeves:

I'm now almost done with one of the sleeves. But I'm having trouble finding buttons - I didn't think it would be all the difficult to find little Mickey buttons, but they've been elusive so far. My mom's checking a couple stores up by her, but if she doesn't find them, I'm sort of stuck as far as what to use instead. I'd also still like to make it more identifiably Mickey if I can't find the buttons, so I'm trying to decide if I want to try to get one of those (stiff and scratchy) patch things to attach. I'm loathe to do that to the little sweater, though.

Once the little sweater is finished, I need to start working on my sister's shawl. I was planning to bring something to knit while at the shower (I am not usually a big shower-goer so having something else to focus on while there will be necessary), but since my sister will be there I can't very well work on her shawl. Last week I splurged, though, and picked up a skein of Mountain Colors Bearfoot (60% superwash wool/25% mohair/15% nylon; 350 yards) in rosehip:

(The color is really somewhere between these too; the first is a bit too orangey and the second is too bright.)

I'm trying to decide what to make with it. Socks are an obvious option and I'm contemplating trying out the recently popular Jaywalker pattern with it. But it's rather luscious and honestly the most expensive yarn I've ever bought for something for me ($20/skein), so I'm thinking it wants to be something more showy than socks.

So, in response to the governor's decree that all state buildings will be set at an ambient air temperature of 68 degrees in the winter, and knowing that my office is usually at least a degree or two colder than the ambient air temperature of the building, I'm also comtemplating a scarf of some type that I can keep in my office and wrap around me when it's chilly. I don't think I want a full shawl as I tend to wear sweaters already and I think it would look funny.

I'm stuck on a suitable scarf pattern though - it's not lace weight yarn and I'm not sure I want something *really* lacy, but something a little elegant would be nice. I have a few days to pick something, and I do have a backup project (the ribbed tank in Noru Lily is still only about half finished in my knitting bag), but it would be nice to get the scarf bit done while it'd still be useful.

23 January 2006

Berry cordials, brewing (& vintning), books and biking!

B turned out a bit easier than I expected. There are *lots* of things that start with B that are Good Things(tm), such as..

Berry cordials! The top one is aging - it's a raspberry cordial that got started sometime this fall (I did finally find my B&V journal after the move, so I will start keeping better track of these things again!) and bottled a month or so ago. It will need to age for another 6 months or so and then we'll see how it turned out.

The bottom one is still steeping - at the moment it's just blueberries in vodka, but in a couple weeks it will get sugar added and start aging into blueberry cordial.

As I'm pretty new to cordials, I'm starting out with very small batches - just a bottle each. It can get expensive fast to do larger batches as the liquid base is one of various clear, non-distinct alcohols (vodka, white brandy, etc.)

And while we're on the topic, I might as well throw in the rest of the brewing set up. This isn't all of it (noticeably missing are the two large (one 5-gallon and one 7-gallon)glass carboys and the bottling bucket, along with all the (at the moment empty) bottles), but it's the interesting stuff at the moment.

The two gallon carboys on the top shelf are an apple-raspberry mead that was started in August and has been racked once off the sediment. The funny looking bits at the bottom are actually glass marbles, which work marvelously to take up extra air-space in small carboys when oxidation of wine or mead is a concern.

The front gallon carboy on the second shelf is a pineapple wine that was started at the same time as the mead, but hasn't been racked. I made it with juice concentrate rather than actual fruit, so there's *very* little sediment. Rather than stir it all up by racking it, I've decided to let is sit as is until I bottle it (which should pr'bly happen soon).

The back gallon carboy that you can't see very well is a blackberry wine that was started sometime earlier in the summer - July maybe? - and has been racked once (in August). It's also in need of bottling. The wines should ideally bottle age at least a year, but as these have both sat in carboys a couple months longer than usual, I may age them less than that.

I'm also still doing small batches of the wines as I'm pretty new to them; I expect to get somewhere between 4-5 bottles of mead/wine per 1-gallon batch. When I do beer, on the other hand (which I still do from kits for the most part), I do at least 5 gallon batches and usually end up with somewhere between 22 and 28 22-ounce bottles. I have enough bottles to have 2 complete batches at any given time.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me - books are fairly central in my life. I love books, as does Jack, so between the two of us we manage to go through quite a number of them. Between hobbies and academic/professional interests (the first picture, though most of my knitting books and all my stats books are missing as they have homes elsewhere) and personal favorites (though, again, several recent reads are missing as they tend to still live on the bedside table), you get a fairly decent picture of the types of things I read.

..and finally, because there's still the hope of a chance that I will compete in my very first sprint-triathlon late this coming summer, my bike (a Novara Randonee commuter bike, currently set up in the living room on the trainer (a Cycleops Mag, for those interested). I've been a slug lately, though, so it's not been getting as much use as it should. But I have managed to be more active this month so far than I was for most of the fall, so there's still hope!

21 January 2006

A is for a bit late..

A couple folks whose blogs I read are doing the ABC-along and in reading their posts I've decided it's a significantly nifty idea that I want to do it too. So, as I'm getting started a little late..

A is for a bit late. If I stretch this a little, it also counts for the sweater I'd intended to have finished by Christmas for my husband, which wasn't finished until sometime a couple weeks after Christmas.

And also for my getting started on the gift for my cousin-in-law's baby shower next week, and my sister's birthday gift, which I need to finish before the Knitting Olympics begin.

A is also for advocacy, which I'm getting back into in a sort of different facet than my past advocacy work. As a board member for Houston County Women's Resources, I'm not doing the type of direct-client-contact type work that I've done in the past (and, in fact, am prohibited from doing so with HCWR as long as I'm on the board to avoid potential conflict of interest). But I'm involved in helping to ensure that the agency stays financially viable and able to continue their work on behalf of women in the county.

HCWR is different from other agencies I've had experience with. The largest difference is the location - agencies I've worked with in the past have all been in more or less large cities that have been imbedded in larger networks of agencies that are to some extent co-dependent and cooperative. The work I did with the agency I was involved with was just one part of a larger system - a necessary part, but still just a part.

Houston County
is a largely rural area - there are only 5 incorporated cities in the entire county, two of which I drive through on my way home from work and a third I live in. The terrain in between the towns is mostly farm land and the towns average about 12-15 miles from each other. La Crescent is actually the largest, population-wise (around 5,000 people), but it's not much bigger than my town - which has a population of just under 3,000 people; the next to largest towns are both under 1,500 people. That's a radically different scenario for social service work than anything I've ever been involved with.

For one, there's a lot of difference in resource availability - both for the agency and for clients, who may not have transportation to get to resources or help. In the larger cities, while law enforcement may not always have been actively supportive, they were never directly hostile either. Here, there's a lot more apathy on behalf of law enforcement when it comes to quick response to orders of protection, which are sometimes a victims of domestic violence's only means of security.

The community at large is similarly apathetic - and in the past has been openly antagonistic to initiatives undertaken by the agency. Specifically, several years ago the agency began a transitional housing program for homeless victims of domestic abuse. It's not a relocation program, but instead designed to help local women and their children learn to survive on their own. Many of the land owners in the areas where the transitional housing facility was established were rather vociferously opposed to having "those people" in their neighborhood, attending school with their children. That's a level of open bigotry and hatred I've never confronted face-to-face, and I'm hoping that the community as a whole has evolved since then, but also have to be aware to tread with caution with my new neighbors.

We had our first board meeting for 2006 on Thursday, which included officer elections. I was decidedly ambivalent about whether I was ready to take on an officer position - on the one hand, I have several years of domestic violence advocacy experience and am a trained social worker, but on the other, I'm in completely foreign territory when it comes to the specifics of this agency and their clients. The board is relatively small - seven of us, I think, two of whom appear to be less-then-regularly-active (one has just gotten a new job in California and plans to "commute".. not sure what that means exactly) - and with four officer positions, that means that over half the board is expected to take on a position of leadership. I feel a little guilty that I "dodged" an officer position at the meeting Thursday, but I think that in the end it is the right decision for me for now.

I did volunteer to chair the Housing committee - which is the committee of the board that deals most directly with the transitional housing program - as the main housing facilities are in the town we live in and I feel I can be more active with the staff in those facilities than others who live 20 or 30 miles away. I'm also a member of the Budget & Finance and Fundraising committees, which I feel a little more comfortable with given my past training and experience and knowledge of non-profit budgeting and fundraising.

16 January 2006


Stephanie has posted a challenge. And I've accepted. Starting February 10, I will be making the Fair Isle 101 Pullover from the Winter 2005 Interweave Knits (bottom of the page) and the challenge says I am supposed to finish it by February 26.

So I have a couple weeks to order yarn. And at the moment, I'm leaning toward Elann's Peruvian Collection Highland Silk, but I'm a little unsure of the green. I also like their Quechua, but would have to pretty much reconfigure the colors. Another option is KnitPicks Palette, but I'm worried about it being scratchy. Or Nature Spun Sport. I'm also pondering Cotton Fine, but I'm worried about it not having enough ease for the Fair Isle. Of course, I could just use Dale of Norway Heilo, which is the recommended yarn (assuming I could find all the correct colors somewhere).

Which would leave me the option of getting one of the others to (finally) make Rogue.

I have ten days until Jack's tuition reimbursement check comes in, so there's some time to ponder. In the meantime, progress on the ribbed tank for me (from Noro Lily) is going well. I need to start the shawl for my sister for her birthday (which, just for the record, is February 29), too, so that will likely take up the time between now and the 10th.

In other areas, the skewer for my trainer arrived Saturday and I've ridden for short amounts of time the last couple days to get my backside used to the saddle again. I also did the first Stott matwork DVD again this afternoon and went for a long-ish walk with Jack and Jali, so I'm feeling pretty good on the whole get more active front. Now if I could just figure out how to knit while I bike..

13 January 2006

Draft 1, finished!

Thankfully, the aforementioned grant proposal is short and relatively quick to throw together, so the first draft is now finished and out for comments. Whew!

To return to a topic from a few days ago, I'm about a quarter of the way into A Million Little Pieces which really is about rather severely broken people (as the title suggests). It's very good and captivating, but I have to put it down after every thirty or forty pages.. I was talking to someone who'd already finished it yesterday who mentioned that they just flew through it. I think the difference is that I can put faces on some of those characters; they're not abstractions. I know people who could easily be the people in this book. Not well, but I know (or knew them) well enough that it's a touch too close to the bone to poke at for very long at a time. And, well, we just won't talk about the whole bit about the dentist.. *shudder*

But the lovely soft gorgeous CashSoft socks are almost finished. I have half the foot left on the second one and it should get finished tonight. Whee! Warm soft socks as a reward for crunching out something on short notice! Then all I'll have on needles is the tank I'm making for me out of the cotton/silk stuff. I was trying to entertain the idea of making a Mickey Mouse baby blanket for my cousin-in-law, but I have had absolutely no luck finding an intarsia Mickey silhouette, so she may just get a little sweater with Mickey buttons or something. We'll see how motivated I get this weekend as the shower is next weekend.

12 January 2006

Bits and pieces.

First off, who can tell me more about this? Like, can I find it here and how unreasonably priced is it and (most importantly) is it any good..?

Second, for those who want to learn or those who might want to learn (and mostly for me so that I have it recorded somewhere so that I know how to find it again when *I* want to learn) Eunny has been doing an absolutely amazing photo tutorial on the different methods of steeking. Tomorrow is crocheted steeks!

Third, this little tidbit has somehow managed to skate along just under my radar for a bit. Gah! GAH! Just.. gah!

Fourth, I have to run away now and write a grant proposal that I found out about yesterday and is due at midnight on the 15th. Gotta love that!

10 January 2006

Note to Self: Buy stock in bubble wrap.

It seems so far that 2006 may end up needing to be the Year of Brokeness(tm). Or maybe it's just this week, or even the whole month.

Yesterday I managed to somehow break a query that was working Just Fine(tm) last week. This normally wouldn't be too much of a concern; given the quirks of our database, things break on ocassion, usually because you made a join where there shouldn't be one and sent the server off on a neat little cyclical query that it just keeps chugging away at until you realize that it shouldn't take 10 minutes to pull a list of courses for last term. The usual answer is to rebuild it and don't do the stupid thing you did last time.

But this time it's not something I did that broke it. Or at least, not something I know I did. Because I didn't change anything in the part of the query that broke. And the error it spit back at me was a server-side error that I really shouldn't be able to cause at all (or so said our database guru). So I can't fix it, but it's still broken.

Which sucks because it's a query I need to do to get out a series of standard reports to several departments. Granted, I only need to send the reports once a year, but that time is fast approaching.

People also seem to be breaking with unusual frequency lately. Some of this is more or less typical post-holiday, post-first-term, more or less temporary breakage. Some of it, more of it than is comfortable, is breakage that's been coming for a long, long time. Breakage of the all-the-King's-horses-and-all-the-King's-men-can't-put-you-back-together-again-
some-of-the-more-important-bits-back-sort-of-where-they-belong kind. And not your average run-of-the-mill depression, but things bordering on psychotic breaks. A word to the wise: psychotic breaks are neither as dramatic as they seem on television nor are they ever fixed in half an hour.

Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for mental states in which the components of rational thought and perception are severely impaired. Persons experiencing a psychosis may experience hallucinations, hold delusional beliefs (e.g. paranoid delusions), demonstrate personality changes and exhibit disorganized thinking (see thought disorder). This is often accompanied by lack of insight into the unusual or bizarre nature of such behavior, difficulties with social interaction and impairments in carrying out the activities of daily living. A psychotic episode is often described as involving a "loss of contact with reality". (from Wikipedia)

Let me point out a few key phrases here that might help: "components of rational thought and perception are severely impaired"; "lack of insight into the unusual or bizarre nature of such behavior, difficulties with social interaction and impairments in carrying out the activities of daily living"; "loss of contact with reality". Know someone like this? I mean, really, not just the odd or eccentric neighbor with too many fiber hobbies? My suggestion is to *not* try to play their therapist on TV but instead to gentle suggest they seek professional mental health care. You can even give them contact info for the National Mental Health Association, where they can get referral information for a local therapist. Even if they're broke financially, they can still get help.

And as if that weren't all enough, one of my favorite little plates, one I made awhile back that was coffee saucer sized and had some fun slipwork overglazed blue, went smashyalltopieces on the kitchen floor. (And we're hoping that the chunk of butter-coated-pottery my lovely little black pig snatched up before we could stop her won't cause any further breakages.. like in her intestinal tract.) This has been a trend lately for my pottery. It seems that pieces I've tried to fire break more often than I'd like or that pieces I really like and have had for awhile chip or crack or just shatter. And me still without really viable pottery studio access.

08 January 2006


Yea, pictures! All are clickable thumbnails.

So this wasn't finished this weekend, but I did take pictures of it all together in one spot finally.

This is the fleece that mamacate sent me with my beautiful drop spindle. It was gorgeous to work with and now that I've spun some with other fleece I realize really just how much it helped to have a hand prepared fleece. The fibers weren't packed too tight to pull them out in drafting easily, the wool was soft and beautiful to spin. I'm a little surprised that all that fluffy fleece only resulting in a comparatively little bit of yarn. Gives a whole new appreciation for how much wool is required to really make a sweater..!

This one shows the little snippet of merino from Carol. It's beautiful, but it was slippery and as I was spinning it after most of the fleece from mamacate, the spindle was a bit heavy for it. I think starting with it from an empty spindle would make it easier to work with.

And now, onto a new fiber art! As I mentioned awhile back, my mother-in-law gave me an old rigid heddle loom at Christmas. I decided pretty much immediately that I wanted to use it to weave my first hand spun yarn (see above). Which meant I had to learn to warp it and then actually go through the motions and get it started. I sat down this afternoon and read the little instruction sheets and cut my warp strands and threaded the heddle and tied all the little knots and now it looks like I have Yet Another Fiber Hobby(tm).

I've only done a few passes, but I've already learned some things I'll do differently next time. For instance, the holes in the heddle are rather small, so to get the warp yarn threaded I had to use a needle, which was too large to fit through one of the holes in the heddle (note the periodic gaps, which became a planned design element after I discovered the first, and possibly only, one). That added some time to the set up.

And now that I've started weaving, I wish it would pack more tightly, which is pr'bly due to my history with the tightness of most tablet weaving. I think that if I used thinner warp threads it would pack more tightly and also show off the weft yarn a bit better. I wanted a contrast, but the red really drowns out the subtle color shifts in the brown.

But, for a first project, it's more than acceptable. *smile*

And lest you think I've been neglecting my knitting, rest assured that I did some of that this weekend, too. Most notably, I finished Jack's sweater.

I did not, as it turns out need any of the extra skeins, but I'm glad I had them as it was darned close. The yarn is Cascade Cotton Rich and produced a rather heavy fabric, but it's what he wanted, so it's all okay. If I did it over, I'd do the neck differently as it is rather large.

..and because usually knitters post pictures of their feline companions with their knitting, here's an obligatory picture of my little black pig who snuck in and curled up on the sweater while I was out on the porch taking pictures of my yarn in the natural light. She's a comfort creature and given a choice will curl up on any piece of clothing one of us has worn and discarded in a convenient place. I guess even though Jack hasn't worn the sweater yet, it smells enough like me from being knit that it meets her criteria.

My hopefully-next finished object will be the second of this sock. It's the Cashsoft from Kim's stash and it's absolutely divine and soft and lovely and I can't wait to wear them. The pattern is a study in screw-ups-come-design-feature. I also cast on with the Noro Lily I got recently in a trade for a ribbed tank, but that's likely to take a little longer than the second sock to finish.

Things I want to get done in the next couple months include Rogue (finally!) and a couple of the projects in the Winter Interweave Knits, namely the Fair Isle 101 sweater and the socks. There were a couple other projects that piqued my curiousity, but I can't recall them off the top of my head and am too lazy to dig out the magazine. The Fair Isle 101 sweater will be the precursor to the Blackberry Ridge sweater kit I got for my birthday/Christmas, so that will likely follow in time to wear it next fall.

I also managed to get my bike trainer set up (though I'm missing the rear axle and can't seem to track down anyone who sells replacement parts; hopefully the manufacturer will email me back tomorrow) and do the first matwork workout from the Stott Pilates series. I need to learn not to use my neck and remember to engage my powerhouse all the time, but it was a good start.

07 January 2006

Will work for fleece


Having finished spinning the fleece mamacate sent me and the electric blue that Pixel gave me some time ago to practice with, and the white (also from Pix), and having started the grey (yup, this is from Pix, too), that leaves me with the grey, the grey-brown (you're getting the trend here, yes?), and the brown left. Not a full fleece of any of it, but enough to do a smidge and give me my fix.

I'm going to need more fleece. I had a little snatch of mohair from Carol that was absolutely soft and smooth and a little slippery, but dyed a gorgeous blue-green, so I might try to figure out where she got it. But at this point, I think I'm sufficiently hooked to ask for recommendations for fleece suppliers. So if you have any, drop a comment.

I'm mildly entertaining the idea of trying to spin enough yarn at some point to make a sweater. Of course, I have to learn to ply to do that I think, but it's January, so that means I've got a whole 12 months in this year to make that happen. *smile*

In the meantime, tomorrow, the rigid heddle loom will get warped. I'm trying to decide if I should warp it with some crochet cotton stuff I have so that I don't have to worry about too-thin or under-spun bits breaking. I don't think the warp shows much in traditional weaving (I'm used to tablet weaving, where the warp is usually the *only* thing that shows), so I don't think it will matter and it will likely give the finished piece a bit more structural integrity. *ponder*

Now it's time to do my stretches and go finish Eragon.

06 January 2006

Wine-ing the winos

A friend sent me a link to a story on CNN on a study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal entiled "Shelter-based managed alcohol administrion to chronically homeless people addicted to alcohol". From the abstract:

Background: People who are homeless and chronically alcoholic have increased health problems, use of emergency services and police contact, with a low likelihood of rehabilitation. Harm reduction is a policy to decrease the adverse consequences of substance use without requiring abstinence. The shelter-based Managed Alcohol Project (MAP) was created to deliver health care to homeless adults with alcoholism and to minimize harm; its effect upon consumption of alcohol and use of crisis services is described as proof of principle.

My friend commented that it was likely to be controversial. My response was that so is methadone treatment, but I know first hand* that for some people methadone is an effective means of breaking a narcotic addiction. Like the Managed Alcohol Project, methadone works as a control on an addiction and most (possibly all, but I try not to back myself into corners) methadone treatment centers are based on a harm reduction philosophy. But I'm digressing..

Or maybe not. See, methadone has long been established as an effective treatment for opiate addiction, but despite a 30-year history of rigorous testing, it remains controversial because many people see it as simply the substitution of one drug for another. And while that's technically true, the purpose of substituting methadone for, say, heroin is that methadone eliminates the opiate high and reduces the effects of chemical withdrawl. Additionally, the production of methadone is controlled (there may be a black market for it, but I can't imagine why when heroin and cocaine would likely be cheaper and methadone, for those in approved programs, is actually legal and, well, doesn't produce the effects for which most users take opiates) so those using it have to report somewhere - usually a social service agency - on a daily basis to get their dose. This means they have to walk through the door, which also means they can receive other types of social service assistance while they're trying to break their drug addiction.

The MAP study follows this model fairly closely, except that it focuses on chronic alcoholism in a homeless population instead of opiate addicts. But it's still based on the idea of having to come in and get your dose, and oh, while you're here, let's find out if we can help you with anything else, like that cough that might become pneumonia otherwise, or your insulin shot, or even just let you thaw your fingers and take a nap in the heat for a little while.

So great! Proof of concept, all good.

But MAP gave alcoholics alcohol. Oops.

It would never fly in America. (Okay, so maybe *never* is too strong.. but not likely ever in my lifetime.) First, it's anathema to the War on Drugs(tm) to facilitate an addict getting their drug of choice. Methadone escapes this criticism because it doesn't result in the opiate high, so you're not giving an addict the thing that got her addicted to begin with. In a country with a still-not-controlled HIV pandemic spread in no small part through contaminated needles, we can't even get safe needle exchange programs established, and that's not even giving addicts their drugs, just a safe(r) way to use them so they don't contract a fatal disease. There's no way the moralists in Washington would ever agree to give alcoholics alcohol just because it might save their lives.

Second, that whole shelter-based idea.. yeah. As much as we American talk the talk - the idea of homeless shelters is great and necessary and of course people need shelters to help them get back on their feet - we don't really walk the walk - as long as they're not in *my* neighborhood because *those* people are dirty/criminals/depraved/deserve to be homeless/(and let's not forget the ones no one ever admits to) minority/foreigners. And then there's the whole too-much-demand issue in the shelters that do exist. You know, the one that results in shelters kicking people out after 30 days and tells them not to come back for a month. There's also that fear issue - the one that says that male children over the age of 12 can't go with their mothers to many domestic violence shelters. Oh, and there are also those little rules about how you can't stay at the shelter during the day - because you know, you should be out getting a job so you can afford to pay rent and for food and, don't forget, childcare for your three children so you can .. keep a job.. uh, yeah. When was the last time you spent consecutive 12 hour days outside with three kids and no money (so no stopping in at a cafe to sit down for a few minutes over a cup of cocoa) in the northern United States in January..?

There is a possibility, though, that the spectres of hospital crowding and increased demand on emergency departments by uninsured patients unable to access preventative care, might win a few votes over. But in order for the savings from reduced medical visits to really have an impact, a much more comprehensive social service delivery mechanism needs to be created and integrated with our health care system. And that - guess what - costs money. Not a huge amount, but enough that in the era of increasing dependency on insurance payments, hospitals are unlikely to take the risk that the dollar spent will result in a six bits saved.

So, while I applaud the research team for braving the courts of public opinion (and ignore for the moment that they're in Canada, with state-run health care, which has a whole different modus operandi), I can't help but let the inner cynic rage a bit on the pointlessness of it all.

(I'll spare you all, at least for the moment, my rant about how broken the American health care system is and how exceedingly large the holes in the so-called "safety net" are. Herds-of-elephants large. Really. Herds.)

*Before anyone gets carried away, let me explain *how* I know this first hand. My AM is in Social Service Administration (a longer and somewhat fancier name for "social work") and my first year internship was with the Chicago office of the United States Probation Office. My mentor was an amazing woman who worked exclusively with dual diagnosis** offenders. As part of my internship, I worked with a small handful of her offenders, including two who had heroin addictions. For one of them, methadone worked - he was able to stick to the schedule and go through the drill to come clean throughout the course of his probation. For another, it didn't. She often wasn't able to get transportation to the clinic to get her doses, which was the first step in a spiral that resulted in her continued violation of the terms of her probation as she sought out heroin to satisfy her cravings instead. Methadone is not for every addict, but for those with sufficient resources and support, it can work.

**Dual diagnosis means that the person has both a mental health diagnosis and a substance abuse history.

05 January 2006

Occam's Razor

Gah! Just Gah! Data access on our campus is somewhat of a sticky question. It's not that we don't want people to be able to get into data they need and create their own reports, it's that our database is truly not relational or normalized in *any* way. It has.. personality. *charming smile* It's a mainframe database originally coded in COBOL that got wrapped up in enough SQL and bubble gum to dump into an Oracle database structure some four or five years ago.

But even though it's in a relational database structure, it's *not* relational. There are no common primary keys. There are no automatic joins between tables. Some tables that should be able to talk to each other, can't. Fields can be named identically in different tables and mean entirely different things, and fields that are named entirely differently in different tables might contain the same data. Codes that might have meant one thing ten years ago have been co-opted and used to mean different things now, often without documentation (or consistency, but that's a data-entry problem, not a data-structure problem). To add to the confusion, it's an operational database designed to support operational business functions, not a datamart or datawarehouse designed to support analytical functions.

This is no secret. I was warned when I interviewed that the database was only so loosely speaking. I've been here slightly over a year and I'm only just scratching the surface of learning the quirks and ins-and-outs of our database. And I work *daily* with our data and our database, which ought to say something about the level of complexity we're dealing with.

So when people on campus want to get direct query access to our database so they don't have to go through one of the gatekeepers, it causes all kinds of hullaballoo. Trust me, I'd *love* to be able to set up access for common requesters of data and teach them to fetch their own data. It would save me quite a bit of time and make them happier to not have to wait (even though the average wait time on a routine data request tends to be less than 48 hours, but that's an issue for another day). But given the complexity of our data structure, it's not feasible.

The support required to train them on even the basics would be beyond our current training capacity, to say nothing of trying to support them on more complex queries, which they'd inevitably want to dive into right away. And trying to explain to people that while they might be getting *an* answer, because of the intricacies of our database it may not the *right* answer just results in unnecessary confusion and an even larger expenditure of time to untangle, compounded exponentially if they've gone crying to the four winds that they've got *the* answer.

(Data use, in general, is also something that the majority of campus could use some education on. For instance, when a form asks for the number of first-time, first-degree seeking new freshmen for a given year, the answer will *never* be over 7,000 for our campus. Never.)

So the answer when someone - even someone who could otherwise legitimately have data access - requests carte blanche data access is almost invariably "no". Which usually results in a backlash of conspiracy theories about how the administration is hiding large pools of money (it's all always about money, isn't it?) and they won't let people access the data because someone will find them out. *sigh*

This has been my week. Happy New Year..?

(Two work-related posts in as many days, with no new knitting/spinner/fiber content in either. Sorry about that!)

04 January 2006

Lunch Special

I crunch numbers. It's what I *do*. I'm sometimes, ocassionally, asked for my opinion on what the numbers mean in a certain context. In those cases, I'm careful to couch my answer in neutral terms (unless I'm asked specifically not to, in which case I'm careful to couch my answers so that it's clear I'm looking from just one of many potential points of view). See, that way, I get to try to stay *out* of the campus political turmoil that seems to pervade everything, everywhere.

There are other folks like me on campus who do similarly non-decision-making, but decision-support type things. And when one of us gets sucked into said political turmoil, we tend to turn to each other for sympathy/support/advice/etc.

So today, I didn't get lunch (at least not yet and it's ten to three, so it's not looking likely at the moment) because one of my similarly situated counterparts got sucked into a nasty little vortex of campus politics and needed a sympathetic ear (and at times a tissue or two). I'm all about being the sympathetic ear - it's not like it happens often and she would (and has) done it for me. And it sucks. She's been put in the middle of something that has absolutely nothing to do with her, but because the people who should have done the right thing didn't, she's the one left with half-truths and puzzle pieces to try to figure out where to go next. Sucks.

But now I'm hungry. And I didn't get any knitting done like I wanted to (I finished the first sleeve last night on Jack's sweater and got three or four inches done on the second one and wanted to take advantage of the momentum). And did I mention I'm hungry?

I should have known today would be like this from the moment the tire went flat this morning. *sigh* I think I'll wander out and see if I can find a reasonably nutritious snack to bridge the gap until dinner.

03 January 2006

No photos yet.

Right then.. I've been lax and haven't taken photos of everything I finished for the holiday knitting, namely the tank I made my sister that I really liked (and fit!) that I'm going to be making another of for me. I also never posted my first little ball o' yarn. And since I finished spinning the fleece mamacate sent me over the weekend, I've decided to wait until I get the rest wound into a center-pull ball to post pictures. So you'll just have to be patient a little longer.

But, I finished spinning the fleece mamacate sent me and am starting to figure out how to warp the rigid heddle loom so I can make something woven with it. Two new adventures in fiber rolled up in one project! In the meantime, I'm planning to try to play again with the fleecy bits Pixel gave me awhile back and see if they're as easy to spin as the fleece.

I'm still almost finished with the first sleeve on Jack's sweater. Wasn't in the mood to knit much this weekend, which is pr'bly just a reaction from the last push to get the holiday knitting finished and a sense that I really ought to get both looms warped, oh and there's another bobbin lace project more or less hanging on the edges that I wouldn't mind getting started. I did full his FuzzyFeet, though, so sometime in the next couple days I'll put the little soles on them and he'll have cozy feet.

I didn't take any extra days off this holiday and I'm starting to contemplate whether I want to take a day off more or less at random just to do some project work. I might just decide to devote MLK, Jr. day to projects instead, since I get that off and we appear not to have solid plans that weekend.

Have been wondering whether I want to join some of the various "rings" out there - specifically the one for academics who knit and maybe one of the other more general fibery ones. I'd like the exposure in terms of getting more feedback on my work from those more skilled and knowledgeable than me, but am also a little concerned that I don't do enough to warrant steady reading from a larger audience. Then again it seems that some of those are so large that it's not really an exposure thing so much as an extra bit to throw up in the sidebar. *shrug* If anyone has thoughts on the pros/cons of this, drop a comment.