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.

11 May 2007

Let's round out the week with some righteous indignation..

This is why gay and lesbian couples should be afforded the same legal marital rights as heterosexual couples.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Minneapolis woman should have visitation rights with the two children she and her now-estranged lesbian partner adopted when they were still a couple.

Nancy SooHoo had faced losing all contact with the 11- and 6-year-old girls, whom she said still call her "mommy," and her attorney said the court's decision is good news for gay parents who have struggled for legal parental rights.

SooHoo and Marilyn Johnson had been a couple for almost two decades when they adopted the infant girls from China in 1997 and 2001, but Johnson became the sole legal guardian because the Chinese government wouldn't allow gay couples to adopt.

When the couple split in 2004, Johnson was left as the only legal parent of both girls.
Yes, Ms. SooHoo will still get to see her kids. No, even though she and Ms. Johnson adopted the children together after having been "a couple" for "two decades", a legal technicality means Ms. SooHoo doesn't actually get joint custody. She's not, in the eyes of the courts or the law, their mother.

Yes, divorce is ugly, even moreso when there are children involved. But even though the divorce rate is reportedly down from a peak in the early-80's, it still seems to be that around 40% of first-time (need I even state that these are only heterosexual?) marriages end in divorce. The courts would never think to consider one of the adults in those families not legally a parent to their children, even if the children had been adopted. Not one, not ever.

Because marriage and civil union is not legal for most of the country, there are no similar statistics for gay and lesbian families, but the law of averages being what it is, my guess is that it's about the same. It might even be lower because of the strength of will and determination it takes in many areas of the country to declare yourself married to someone of the same sex - arguably you'd think about jumping into a gay or lesbian marriage maybe a little harder than it seems some heterosexual couples think about it - but again, no statistics, so all we can do is speculate. (I won't even really go off on the whole "if it were recognized, we could actually track things like this and make decisions based on *gasp* actual data" line..)

10 May 2007

With a little help...

.. from my friends and family (all pictures are clickable thumbnails; click them to load a bigger version):

The yard is, effectively, complete now. We picked up the last two bushes (wine & roses weigela) from a local nursery and planted them Monday. We did the bulk of the mulch on.. um.. Tuesday? I think, and put in the accent bits - the shepherd's crook with the bird feeder and hanging basket of johnny-jump-ups (okay, okay, I know they're really violas), the plant stand with three gerber daisys, and the fire-pit-turned-bird-bath*. I think I strung the twine for the morning glories to climb on Tuesday too.. might have been a different day, though. Now things just need to grow.

The raised beds are now about half full of dirt, with a few more barrow-fulls to get added to each one.

I'm a little concerned that the dirt won't be deep enough in some spots (we threw in some brick edgers that were lying around in the yard unused to try to help with drainage in the beds, but that may have been a mistake because the soil over them is a bit thin now), but it's fixable, so it's not a deal-breaker. The last of the dirt will hopefully get moved tomorrow - I had to stop Tuesday when I couldn't lift the shovel anymore and my right elbow has been decidely cranky since then from the overuse and abuse; since there's no real rush, I took a few days off from shoveling to let it rest and heal up a bit. I'll likely start getting the seeds and plants planted next week - the tomatoes and other live plants from Burpee are expected to arrive on the 15th (except the Walla Walla sweet onions, which are already here).

The crowning glory of the week, though, is the bathroom. Here is the finished tile floor:

And this is what it looked like yesterday:

It's gorgeous. It represents a fair amount of sweat equity - mostly my dad's, but there's also enough of mine in there for me not to feel *too* guilty - but oh, boy, has it been worth it. We finished the last of the trim & got the heating vent in today, so here it is, more or less finished:

We still need to pick up a linen shelf/cabinet for the near corner, and we're looking for a corner medicine cabinet, but will likely have to built that to spec. The window - which until now was effectively blocked by the &#$%(@#*@& plywood that they used to back the &#*%&@#$) shower - needs another coat of polyuerethane and a blind, but I'll gladly get that installed as a final farewell to the ugliness that used to be there (as seen below):

And I realized yesterday as we were hanging the washcloth ring and the hand towel rack that I really rather desperately need some new washcloths! Up to now, all my bathrooms have been a variation on hunter green, so most of my towels and washcloths are darker colors that just don't look right in the new bathroom. They're also all at least 4.5 years old - the newest having been wedding gifts - so it's definitely time! I might have to hunt around for some linen yarn to make a few..

*The fire-pit was thrown by the woman I got my pottery wheel from, out of raku clay, and bisqued; she was moving to Florida and couldn't take it with her and asked if I could test it out for her. Unfortunately, we can't have an uncovered fire in our yard, and the piece is too large for us to pack safely when we go to events, so it's never been tested. However, lining it with a large plant tray and putting some leftover tile bits under and in the tray makes it a more or less effective bird bath. *shrug*

07 May 2007


We've had a busy - and at times back breaking - weekend here in our little corner of Minnesota. Dad is here again this week, so we're working on finishing up the garden preparations as well as getting the bathroom finished. The weather held out - cloudy and not too hot - for the weekend, so we worked mostly on the garden prep.

All four of the raised beds are finished now, and three of them are lined with weed stop around the sides (the fourth will get lined sometime today):

But the biggest change by far is the front yard. I didn't think to take a before picture, but image that the front yard was entirely covered with a variety of different weeds - dandelion, thistle, creeping Charlie, etc. - and was patchy and looked.. tired. Now it looks like this:

It's quite a transformation. It involved cutting the "sod" off the "lawn" - which is far more back breaking than it seems like it should be - tilling the soil under the removed sod, raking it all out even and removing the roots and twigs and other debris, and then laying the weed block, planting and mulching. We obviously didn't get enough mulch, so that's on the list to get more of today, but even as it is it's a *huge* improvement. It will take the plants a few years to really spread out the way we want them, but at this point, the hard work is pretty much complete.

We had a couple near neighbors keeping a close eye on us as we worked this weekend:

Ms. Robin and Ms. Mourning Dove have both nested in the big unknown bush by our front walk. They both seem quite content to let us work around them as long as we don't do anything to threaten their nests. They are, at the moment, the only reason that unknown bush is still standing; it's far too overgrown for the spot it's in and we are planning to remove it and replace it with a mock orange, but the birds beat us to action this spring.

When we first moved into this house, Adam (one of my Garden Guru(tm)s) noticed this small little blue flower that popped up along the side of the house behind the big ugly bushes (which we removed last summer). It was just one lone little flower, though there was another that appeared in the side garden on the other side of the house, too. Yesterday as we were (well, really, as he was) digging through the dirt in that spot to try to remove all the fiddlehead ferns that have invaded, he found it again and dug it up to save. This morning, I found the other one and took a quick picture of it before replanting it by it's friend, along with some Columbine that was also rescued:

I'll bring the picture of the unknown little bulb - which looks like a small, black onion with just itty bitty little roots - up to the Extension office to see if they can help us identify what it is so we can maybe get some more.

Today we're grouting the bathroom tile (we cut and laid the rest of the tile on Saturday) with hopes to be able to reset the toilet by sometime this evening. We also need to run get more mulch and the other two bushes for the front yard, and maybe also the sugar maple for the boulevard. Tomorrow will likely be split between putting dirt (50/50 compost & black dirt, being delivered at 9 a.m.) in the raised beds and getting vegetable seeds started, and getting the vanity in upstairs. I have a feeling Jack and dad will work on the vanity and I'll be out in the garden, at least as long as the weather holds. We also need to get the trim up in the bathroom round the door and window, which will hopefully happen Wednesday, assuming the vanity goes in smoothly.

05 May 2007

Not dead.. just busy.

I figured I'd post to let folks know - especially the folks who've recently pulled my name in one of the three swaps I managed to sign myself up for (really - I can't wait to do them, just not this week) - that I'm not dead, nor have I fallen into a deep dark pit where there's nothing to eat but worms and the occasional squirrel I managed to hit with one of my four remaining (precious) rocks. Work was a bit over the top this past week and this coming week I'm spending working at home - finishing the bathroom and the garden stuff - before running away for the weekend to Fargo (no, that part's not a joke).

To those who have gotten my name - thank you all! I've received all your emails and I promise to fill out questionnaires and respond to any and all questions you might have about my preferences as soon as I can. But first, I really, really need to run off and jot a couple quick emails to those that *I* get to spoil and surprise lest they feel unloved!

30 April 2007

Things to do in Denver (when you're *not* dead)

Just a quick note - I'll be in Denver for just a couple days in mid-May, arriving on a Sunday afternoon and departing Tuesday afternoon. I'm staying at the Hotel Teatro and should be settled in by about 4 Sunday afternoon. I'm looking for something to do Sunday evening - a good place to eat, a knitting shop that will be open, a must-see museum/attraction/play, a quiet spot to sit and have a cuppa and dessert, whatever - preferably within walking or easy public transit distance from the hotel. There's also the possibility (assuming the hotel will let me stash my bags there after check-out) that I'll have three or so hours Tuesday afternoon before I have to leave for the airport, so ideas for that time slot are also welcome.

And while I'm at it, I'll be in Kansas City in early June and Long Beach, CA in mid-July, so suggestions for not-to-be-missed places for those are welcome, too. The stay in Kansas City is several days and will include several free evenings, so multiple options there are especially welcome.

29 April 2007

Not so much..

Hrm. The plants are all in pots, but the front yard still needs to be cleared. It appears that we either need to wait until next weekend when dad gets here with the truck to get a powered sod cutter, or rent a non-powered one - which I'm told is a lot more work; my dad actually said that he'd opt to dig it by hand instead of use a non-powered sod cutter - sometime this week. We don't want to just rototill the sod into the dirt because the "lawn" is actually mostly weeds and we don't want to give them a head start to disrupt the new plants. Cutting out the sod won't completely eliminate the weeds, but it will at least make it less likely that they'll come through right away (and yes, we're putting down some gardening fabric to block them further as well).

Also, just because I'm not sure I've clarified, we're clearing the sod out because we're just replanting the front yard; the raised beds are actually in the side yard where we took out all the bushes last year. We have been warned not to try to plant in the soil where the bushes were because those type of bushes apparently turn the soil very acidic. So the solution is to build the raised beds, which will allow us to plant over that spot and give me room for a veggie garden.

On that subject, the rock plan for the beds just isn't going to work. It's (a) a bit pricey, and (b) too much work. Essentially, we'd be getting four loads of different materials and paying for delivery for that would be exorbitant; the alternative is to pick it up ourselves, which would require no less than 8 round trips in my dad's pick up. Since the suppliers is about 20 miles from our house, that's.. well.. more than I'm willing to pay and/or drive.

So, Plan B will be to put the sod we cut from the front yard (great suggestion, Cathy!) into the bottom of the beds to take up some space and feed the worms and then fill the rest with a mixture of black dirt, compost and sand. The supplier we've found will mix the black dirt & compost for us and deliver it - we'll be getting 6 yards total (and can I tell you how long it took me to figure out just exactly how much a "yard" is?) - and then we'll mix in some bags of sand here to "taste". Since we'll be finishing building the rest of the beds next Saturday or Sunday, I'm planning to have the dirt delivered Monday or Tuesday. Of course, at the moment the long term forecast shows rain next Saturday through Tuesday, so that plan might change..

Which really, would be okay as long as we can control when the delivery of dirt comes, because we also need to finish the bathroom floor. I started laying tile this weekend and have about half of it finished. I need to pick up more tile cement stuff tomorrow so we can lay the remaining two full-tile rows this week. Dad will help cut the tiles around the door and along the one wall that needs 3/4 tiles, which is also where we'll need to cut tiles to go around the toilet. Once the floor is in, we'll move the vanity out of the dining room (finally!) and install it, and put the toilet back (I can't wait.. I've so missed having a toilet upstairs in the middle of the night). We'll still need to do the trim around the room - which will likely mean we'll have to disconnect the sink to pull the vanity back out - but we're pr'bly going to wait on that for now because we haven't decided what kind of trim we want in there yet.

In other news (back to gardening), our neighbor from across the street came over to pick up some raspberry bushes this afternoon. We still have a fair number of them, but I'd say she took about half of what was out there, which is sort of nice. I'm re-thinking the plan of keeping any - they're just a bit too much maintenance for something we don't really use. In any case, the rest will get dug up the end of next week for delivery to folks up in the Cities who want them and/or transplant to the back of the fence. Then we'll RoundUp over that spot to try to kill any remaining raspberries and re-seed the spot with grass in a couple weeks.

27 April 2007

Not quite what I expected..

My much anticipated package from Spring Hill Nursery was waiting for me last night when we got home. It was.. small. smaller than I thought it should be with several live plants inside, including one that was destined to be a bush.. It was, I'd say, about 12"x24"x6". Hrm.

And it was very light. Hrm, again.

Now, before we go any farther, let me reiterate that this is the first time I've *ever* ordered anything alive to be delivered, so this whole process has been somewhat of a mystery. For instance, it took the plants *a week* to arrive, which had me in fits because I was positive that they'd be dead by the time they arrived.

Most of my fears were unwarranted, as it turns out. The plants arrived, as near as I can tell, alive:

The first photo on the left is the Weigela. Let's pause for a moment and remember that the picture in the catalog looks like.. well.. a full grown, rather large, bush. so I was .. surprised to find such a tiny little sprig in the tiny little container marked "weigela".

But at least it was in a container! As I was unpacking, it was easy to identify the phlox (the photo on the right), and the weigela. The evergreen vinca, the foxglove, and the sea holly, however, were *sealed* in plastic bags. Yes, there was also a bit of dirt in there with them, but they were *sealed* plastic bags. Um.. huh?

So I panicked. And I called My Garden Gurus(tm). And they assured me that while also thought the bags were a little odd (they asked if I'd ordered "bare root" plants.. I told them I had no idea), that they were sure the plants would be okay. They suggested that it might be a wee bit too early to plant them outside still, but that I could tuck everything away into pots with some potting soil for now and it would all be okay.

Which I did (except for the foxglove which is still in it's wee little bag because I ran out of potting soil and need to get more today), and I watered everything and left it inside on the kitchen table to get used to.. well.. light again. Tomorrow I'll put them outside in the shade on the porch to start acclimating them to outdoors, and maybe Sunday or Monday, they'll actually get a little bit of real, direct sunlight.

In the meantime, I need to get the yard where they're supposed to go prepared. Which means I need to rent a sod cutter and cut the sod out this weekend and then till up the dirt underneath it. Then I need to lay down the garden cloth (any suggestions for what to do about the areas where we're planning to plant annuals? do I just leave the garden cloth off those parts, or will we cut it out later?). We'll actually plant everything next weekend, but I'm hoping to get the prep work done this weekend. Then again, I'm also planning to tile the bathroom floor this weekend, so we'll see how much actually gets done!

23 April 2007

Light of day..

The paint's dry and it's daylight, so I was able to get some better shots of the paint in the bathroom:

But in much more exciting news.. It's HERE!

The box with my Breed Swap fleece and research arrived today! There are samples of 27 different types of fleece (apparently some were shipped to the coordinator, but never arrived) and research on 32 breeds of sheep. The fleece samples include an ounce of prepared fiber, a clean lock, and about a yard of 2-ply yarn. The research was all bound up in a 3-ring binder in plastic page protectors. On the right hand page of each is an attached plastic envelope for the lock and yarn samples (I already have mine sorted and put in the book .. yes, I'm a geek, I know) and room for our own notes as we spin each of the 1-ounce samples. The coordinator did a really excellent job in compiling all our research and formatting the books; I'm sure she had a fair amount of editing to do since I know that the research I sent her was originally much longer than what she was able to include (see above re: geek)! I'm really excited to really get to know each of these fleeces, it was about all I could do not to end each of the sentences above with an exclamation point!

Oh, and Cathy (sorry, I don't have a link or an email so I'm answering here!) asked why we were putting rock and sand in the bottom of the garden boxes. I'm doing it because it was recommended by my Expert Gardening Consultant(tm) (aka, good friend who used to do landscaping professionally). The beds are about 16 inches deep and we were discussing getting in a load of dirt to fill them when EGC mentioned that if I wanted them to really last and have really good drainage, I could do layers like that. Apparently, the rock helps the drainage and the sand keeps the good soil from working out as fast. Since I am sort of stuck on the idea that if you're going to do something, it's worth it to pay a little extra to make sure it will last, so I'm going to call some landscaping places to price options. If it's not something like twice as expensive to do the layers, we'll do that.

22 April 2007

What a difference a coat of paint makes!

Mom and dad came to visit this weekend and, as is usually the case when there are projects to be worked on, we .. well, worked on projects! Namely, we got the bathroom walls sanded, did the last coat of drywall mud, sanded again, and painted; brought some yard debris to the green dump; and did some gardening prep.

Here are some in progress shots of the bathroom.. first (because really, the sanding and drywall mud is sort of.. boring.. unlike.. watching.. paint.. dry..) the primer:

Dad predicted, and was correct, that once we got the walls all one color the room would look markedly improved; it also looked a good deal larger. Next, the first coat of the lavender paint (I don't remember the exact name), which is still a bit wet in these pictures:

Just a little bit ago, we finished the second coat (and therefore also still a bit wet):

I noticed the pictures sort of washed out the lavender, so I tried to get a shot that would show it a bit better. Not sure if it worked, though.. For what it's worth, if you click through to Photobucket for any of the pictures, the color of my default Photobucket pages is about the right color.

In addition to running some yard debris to the green dump, we brought the debris from the demolition of the bathroom to the dump, which meant we got our sitting area on the front porch back:

The wooden boxes on the front of the porch contain some of the composted soil we got from the green dump and some morning glory seeds. I also started some peppers - jalapeno's, Anaheim's, and a rainbow mix - but they're not terribly exciting yet. What is exciting is that we built the first of what will eventually be four 8'x8' raised garden beds:

When dad comes back in early May, we'll finish building the rest of the garden beds and fill them (at the moment the plan is to get a delivery from a landscaping supply place and do a layer of river rock, a layer of sand, a layer of composted soil, and a layer of black dirt mixed with peet) and plant the front yard (right in front of the porch; the plants for that should arrive this week). In the meantime, next weekend we'll be tiling the bathroom floor.

And since you asked.. um.. no.. I haven't really been knitting much lately. *shrug*

18 April 2007

My head is full to bursting..

I have so much to say right now.. I hope I can do even half of it justice.

First, I received the following via email today:

DEAR /t,

Thank you again for shopping at Spring Hill Nursery. The items listed below have been shipped and are on their way to you.

SHIPMENT SUMMARY--------------------------------------------------
Ship Date: 04/18/2007
Items Shipped:

Qty Item Item
Shipped Number Description
------- ------- ------------------------------
Whee! And sh!t! at the same time. I'm not ready to plant the front yard yet! It *SNOWED* last week?! HOW can I possibly be ready to dig my fingers into that (cold! wet!) dirt and trust that it will nurture tender young roots?! (Fortunately, I have a gardening consultant who is much more reliable than Francisco who told me that I just needed to keep the little plants' dirt moist and cover them at night if I'm going to leave them outside until I'm ready to plant them in a week or so. Whew!)

Second, which chronologically should have been first, I finished reading Leaving Atlanta last night. It is a wonderfully written, very engaging and true-to-life telling of a terrible time narrated through the voices of 5th-graders. It left me wanting to know more about that time in our country's history, wanting to know why this was the first I'd heard of a series of African American child kidnappings and murders that occured during my lifetime (1979-1981). It left me.. conflicted. Not because of any lack of attention paid to the events portrayed between it's covers, but because it ended before the end.

I think..?

It didn't finish the story - we don't know what happened to any of the major characters (save one), we don't know whether they ever caught the person(s?) responsible for the kidnappings and murders.. the story simply ends. In the middle. Of their lives, and their (broader) deaths.

And I've chewed over why this bugs me in the back of my head all day. I really can't say that I think it's any failing on the part of the author, nor of her skill in crafting a story - in fact I found the story gripping and engaging and had to force myself to put it down to go to sleep several times. Rather I think it's an internal compulsion within myself to have things end.. neatly. Which is in stark contrast to.. well, reality. Things *don't* end neatly. (The obvious example is the 33 lives abruptly ended amidst terror and panic and confusion on Monday.) Ends are rarely tied up in a neat little package (except, of course, in knitting.. which leads me to wonder about why it is a craft that tends to bring me such comfort, but that's for another time). There is rarely (never?) An Answer(tm).

This echoed itself in my world rather strongly today. I'm on a team of faculty, staff, and students working to complete an 18-month process of inquiry and examination into the equity of outcomes for students of color at my university. We are working on completing the draft of the fifth (and next to last) piece of what will become our final report - the only remaining piece is the conclusion - and today we had a spirited and useful discussion centering on two sources of data that appear to present conflicting evidence. Both sources are based on relatively small samples of students - and therefore neither can be considered conclusive or definitive. There is, objectively, no reason to favor one source over the other. But subjectively, one source seems to fly in the face of the personal experiences of several members of the team. We, as a team, are struggling to present these data in a way that won't muddy the already cloudy water surrounding "diversity" on our campus. We all want there to be a single, definitive story, An Answer(tm) that announces itself loud and clear in bright shining neon, a solution that is based on solid fact, not interpretation or reconciliation of conflicting data sources. A solution that fits with our experiences and that tells the story we think is Real(tm).

As a statistician and a social scientist, I know that such clarity never exists in the study of human society. I *know* that there is never a single story, that there is at most a common thread woven into a myriad of individual tapestries. We each bring to common experiences our own set of lenses and filters that shape our perceptions and remembrances of them. Just as the three narrators in Leaving Atlanta brought their own life's knowledge to the common experience of what is now referred to as "the Atlanta child murders".

I believe that any good book will not just tell a story, but leave the reader with something to mentally chew on. Tayari Jones has achieved that end in Leaving Atlanta, at least for me, but I doubt it's the meal she expected to be leaving her readers with. I haven't explored all the courses or sampled the myriad flavors, but I expect that this will be a meal I'll not soon forget, even if I find it difficult to digest initially.

17 April 2007

A day in the life..

I sat down at my desk for the first time today at noon. Jiggling my mouse didn't wake up the system because, well, it hadn't been turned on yet. It was a little odd.

This morning I woke up and got ready for my day. Ten minutes before our usual Tuesday departure time, my husband informed me we were driving in separately today, which made me suddenly ten minutes late. I scrambled to get everything in my gym bag - including a pair of black pants and a black top because I have a Samulnori performance tonight and need to wear concert attire - grabbed a frozen entree for lunch and rushed out the door, almost forgetting to lock it on my way out.

Our car has been in the shop the past several days while they fixed a more or less minor electrical problem (covered by the warranty). However in fixing the electrical problem, they apparently managed to reset the car's clock, which meant that as I was not-speeding-but-going-as-fast-as-allowed-otherwise my way into campus, I had no idea what time it really was. When you're trying to make up a ten minute loss, that's kind of important.

I didn't really want to listen to NPR this morning. I didn't want to have to process how my minor inconvenience interrupting my morning trip to campus was still within the realm of normal, whereas for thousands of students, faculty, staff, parents, friends, community members, and loved ones in and around the Virginia Tech campus, normalcy had simply ceased. I didn't want to think about the as-yet-unknown names and faces of those whose lives were senselessly and prematurely ended for as-yet-unknown reasons. I didn't want to wonder what such a tragedy might be like on my campus, or to think about the terror of enduring such a nightmare.

But without a functioning clock in the car, the best I could do was tune in and hope to let it fade into the background.

I made it to my spin class with mere seconds to spare - long enough to grab a sweat towel and adjust my bike - and tried to race harder and faster, to leave behind the uncertainty, the unanswered questions, the fears and most of all the grief. The irony of a spin class is that even when you're sprinting, your wheels just sit there and spin.

I was late to a meeting of administrators and just missed our new Chancellor address concerns about the security of our own campus and the need for us to revisit our emergency plan in light of yesterday's events. Discussions about upcoming projects - a major enrollment growth plan, the implementation of PeopleSoft Campus Solutions to begin over the summer, the administrative transition as our Provost leaves for another position - quickly moved in, prodding us all into our own present, our own routines, our own familiar.

A quick cup of coffee with a colleague and then a jaunt with my drum over to the fine arts building for dress rehearsal, where I didn't stop to realize that the 20 students in the recital hall would only have been 2/3rds of those lost.

And now, in my office for the first time today, the enormity is starting to permeate. Our offices are quiet, but still our routines continue, as they must, both for society's continued functioning as for our own well-being.

It's times like these when my athiesm becomes most pronounced. I would love to have a pat but heartfelt response - something like "God(dess) be with them" or "My prayers are for them" - but they don't fit for me and I dislike using such phrases without meaning. I can't possibly imagine what yesterday, today, or the coming tomorrows were and will be like for those in and around Virginia Tech, but I do sincerely hope they find comfort in each other and/or their faith as they mourn and grieve and, eventually, begin to heal.

11 April 2007

April showers..


10 April 2007

Almost Random Wednesday

In no particular order..

I finished Ghost Map tonight. I have to say that the historical bits were getting a little tiring toward the end, but he caught my interest and attention again in the last two chapters. Quite a bit to think about with on that front, especially in terms of the environmental impact of cities per capita. It brought me back around to thinking about trying to pick up an undergrad course in Epidemiology so that I can go back at some point for a Masters in Public Health.

It caught my attention as I started Leaving Atlanta that the Acknowledgements in Ghost Map are at the end, but in Leaving Atlanta they're at the beginning. I may be a bit off in this, but I usually read the author's acknowledgements which is why I noticed this. The names aren't ever anyone I know, but I feel somehow that reading them is important. I guess it's somehow related to the idea that we all, no matter what endeavors we undertake, owe acknowledgement for love and laughter and support and assistance to those around us but it seems we rarely remember how important all of it is until we get to the end of something.. or.. well, maybe the beginning of something.

Today was Bad Politics(tm) day at work. Nothing that I was directly involved with, but it seemed that lots of folks around me were caught up in some sort of bad juju. Here's hoping that tomorrow will be better.

I've started working on the Blue Willow Cardigan again and have (finally) divided for the front and back. This means that for the first time since I started knitting this one, I was able to stretch it all out and realize just how long the rows for that first 12 inches were:

It's too long for a single picture and I wasn't feeling quite motivated enough to try to figure out how to graft the two pictures together. *shrug* The ruler is there for scale, but also in a (mostly vain) attempt to unroll the bottom edge. Here's a slightly more detailed shot of just the back:

This is also the first opportunity I've had to more or less wrap the body around me to see if it's going to fit - I've been plagued with sweaters that end up .. off. The raglan I made a couple years ago has sleeves just a touch too short; Rogue is slightly too small; and my Fair Isle 101 is slightly too loose, especially around the neck, etc. This one will have a 3 inch Fair Isle border added all around the front edge and the bottom, and I think that once that's in place, this one will fit well enough. I may not be able to button it, but in truth I so rarely button cardigans that I doubt it will matter.

I'm in meetings at work for the next three days pretty much solid. Tomorrow I have some reprieve in the late afternoon, but Thursday and Friday are booked straight through with back-to-back demos of several of the PeopleSoft functional unit components for their student information system. I'm .. cautiously optimistic at the moment that the living hell we'll endure over the next 2-ish years during conversion and initial implementation will be worth it in the end. At least, I am most of the time.

We have not done any additional work in the upstairs bathroom. I alternate between feeling guilty about this and knowing that our lives our busy and the bathroom can wait. I feel quite a bit more guilty about the dust, which just accentuates the fact that I haven't vacuumed in.. longer than I care to admit. Maybe tomorrow.