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.