Saturday, March 28, 2009

Swaps Update

So this whole knit swap thing on Ravelry is turning out to be fun. I'm in three, which seems like I went a little overboard, but I have such an ... er ... abundant stash that it's easy to do without too much money insanity.

Yesterday Mr. Pug said "explain again ... what's with the packages coming in?" I explained it was a yarn swap and he said, "good ... you could probably send out hundreds of packages of yarn and it wouldn't make a dent." He was a little chagrined to learn that for every package that goes out, one comes in. He suddenly realized it wasn't going to mean that the yarn room would miraculously clear out, which was obviously his dream. Oh, well.

Anyway, I seem to be technologically challenged when it comes to posting photos on the Ravelry forums. I've followed the directions and it just doesn't work for me. So, I'm posting here as an alternative.

First, the Sock It To Me Swap. This is a three-swap deal and Mr. Pug's dream probably will come true on this one. My original upstream partner seems to have dropped out so the first package due dates came and went -- no partner, no package in. In the meantime, I sent out my second package last week, including socks knit for my partner, the lovely Catnurse. They're made from Classic Elite Alpaca Sock and have a tiny faux cable on each side of the foot.

It's really hard to knit socks for someone you've never met. I don't even knit for my daughters because they mostly think knitting is kind of a dumb but harmless hobby for me but they aren't interested in knitted anythings. But someone you've never even seen? Interesting. Then you throw in some things that, based on getting to know them through emails and stalking them on Ravelry and their blogs (if any), you think they'll like.

So it's even more amazing that Pink-n-Sparkly jumped in to be an "angel" and send me a package. She doesn't know me at all, we haven't emailed, and ... well, how would you know what to send? Let's just say she did great.

Lots of little goodies plus a skein of Lion Brand Sock Ease, which I haven't tried before. Thanks, Michelle!

Second, the Sock Yarn From Your Stash Swap. Well, I got stash ... I qualify. My package went off last week to Woolyjooly and I hope she'll like what I chose for her. And my package from Breeknitter came this weekend:

Isn't it pretty? A cake of sock yarn I've never seen before called Tricot Treat (that's the one on the left) and a skein (wound into two cakes) of Malabrigo Sock in the Botticelli colorway. That Botticelli looks like the red in a Renaissance-era stained glass window, with light coming through it. Plus, there's coffee and chocolate and some wonderful scent beads.

There's one package due out to Catnurse and then my final (for now) swap: The Dragonfly in Amber swap from the Outlander forum. I'm still pulling that one together so no hints for now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Communications Conundrum

When I was a little girl, one of my grandmothers lived in California, 3000 miles from me. Most of my communication with her was in the form of letters--thank you notes, mostly, since we certainly didn't have a friendly, chatty relationship. And she was a lady of unbending formality, at least with me. And my mother was obsessive. So, sitting down to write a letter to her was something to be dreaded and gotten through.

I can still remember using a lined piece of paper behind my plain white linen stationery--no Holly Hobby notecards for this occasion, no pencil. Fountain pen only, cursive as soon as I could manage it. Each line had to be straight, no erasures or strikeouts, no sentences improperly punctuated. If I had to write it six times for it to be perfect, that was the way it was. 

Those experiences follow us through life and I'm afraid it has colored my use of the formal note--I have to force myself to send the notes I owe in life, not because I'm not appreciative of the person I'm addressing but because I dread the criticism for the format.

Contrast this with the messages I get from my grands. A recent text from one of the boys began "yo, dude."  A thank you might come in the form of a quick hug as the kid runs off to play a game, or a phone call or a text message. Now that's communication. I get the message--he likes me, and is comfortable communicating with me. My grandmother is probably whirling in her grave. With her white gloves and hat firmly in place.

But my communication style is also molded by my working and school experience. I'm a master of the formal research paper or the technical manual or the article to be published. I'm great at editing other people's writing to ensure proper grammar, punctuation, consistency of style and footnotes. In fact, I mentally edit billboards as I drive the highways, checking for wrongly placed apostrophes or improper use of the plural.

So this whole world of social networking is confusing to me, and a difficult road to maneuver.

I've been on the message boards for some 15 or 20 years now, almost since the beginning.  (And, no, I didn't meet Al Gore there.) I've adapted my writing style in those forums to be less formal, more chatty, while at the same time trying to avoid those email boo-boos that come from the accidental insult. (I'm not very good at using emoticons but am fond of the occasional "he he" to indicate that my caustic comment is intended to be humorous, not a visceral insult to someone's ancestry.)

I'm on three major networking venues, one professional (LinkedIn), and two strictly social (Ravelry and Facebook).  (Thank God, my own sensibilities have so far prevented me from the indignities of a MySpace page.) LinkedIn, being a professional networking site, continues to be a little formal because we are, let's face it, looking at each other as potential workmates or employees. 

On Ravelry, there's an edginess with a sense of humor. Because we all have knitting, or at least fiber, in common, we tend to mostly cut each other some slack, and the listowners are fairly strict about keeping negativity to a dull roar. Even so, sometimes it feels a little like middle school, where someone is shunned in the cafeteria because she wore the wrong clothes to school.

But Facebook is new, uncharted territory to me. First off, if there are any controls at all, I'm not aware of them. Second, the people on it are ... well, they're not classifiable. They're my children, my children's friends, my friends, the people I went to high school with (and by the way, I didn't like you then, why am I talking to you now?), my coworkers, neighbors, and people I don't know at all but who somehow are linked to some of the folks listed above. Probably the guy who sold me my vacuum cleaner is there if I look for him.  We're all linked by ... something. And third, the content is ... well, it's anything at all.

Some of the information on it is interesting and vital--my nephew and niece-in-law are having a baby! my former neighbor child is running for public office! another former neighbor child's own child has been accepted to his college of choice! That's all good stuff and I love it. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with people you don't see often and never would hear about otherwise. No wonder folks in the old west felt so isolated, when the pony express might take weeks or months to get a message out. Now it's over the net in a nano-second. 

But still I'm struggling with my communication style. Here's a simulated, but typical exchange for me:

Other Person (OP): Wow! Ms B! Yur hear! Its gud 2 see u! Wot up?

Me:  Yes, thank you for expressing such kind words on the occasion of the launching of my personification on Facebook. Your felicitations are kindly regarded and extremely welcome.

OP: Wot?

It makes me feel like Jane Austen listening to rap.

I've obviously still got some work ahead of me, but I'm on it. Bear with me, please, dude.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back to Business

Life has gotten in the way of knitting--what's that about? I'm constantly amazed by the incredible productivity of some of the knitters I know. They stand up at guild meetings and show off afghans and sweaters and lacy shawls and sometimes just garter stitch scarves. But at least they finished something!

Which puts them ahead of me. For some reason, I'm on a backwards spiral. I can't seem to finish anything.

Why? Well, let's see. There was Brandon's 14th birthday last week. I went to Charlotte to hang out with him. That's a picture of him the first time he and I went to the Atlanta aquarium. He's the grandchild who's probably most like me--and I'm sure he wouldn't be happy to hear those words! But he's the one with my sense of humor. Hopefully that can be used for good, not evil. My sense of humor usually gets me into trouble.

Then there was Cole's 16th birthday, two weeks ago, also in Charlotte. Again, a great opportunity to hang out with him and the other grands. One of the things I did was watch Cole play in a flag football game at the arena and while we were doing that, Emma and Kerrigan got to skate at the rink.

The two purple-shirted girls are mine--Kerrigan in the middle, Emma on the end. The other girl is a friend. K and E are wearing their Charlotte Roller Girl shirts, or more exactly, daughter Jen's Charlotte Roller Girl shirt. (Should I be scared that I've got a daughter who calls herself Dolce Killbanna? Or that I have a daughter who could fit into those tee-shirts? Does that make me Mama Killbanna?)

And then there's Bluto ... I just needed an excuse to show another picture of him.

But the bottom line is ... I did actually finish two pairs of socks. Here are my StormMoonKnits socks (that's the name of the yarn--the pattern is just my own toe-up, ribbed sock). The others I can't show you yet--they're on their way to my swap partner, Catnurse.

Don't they remind you a little of Pippi Longstocking? Now if only I could get my hair into two pigtails, I suppose I could try out for the Roller Derby. That would be a video worth buying!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Once There Were Three

Bluto -- February 9, 1997 - March 16, 2009

Our Bluto Baby left us today. He was 12 years old and he was originally Haley and Brandon's puppy. Somehow he and the family (well, my son-in-law if you want to get precise) had a personality disconnect and he came to live with us, with his half-sister Lightning and half-brother Bert. So, there were three black pugs in the Pug household and it seemed that we would go on together forever. Then Bertie left us in 2001.

Bluto's the one in the middle. Bert is on the left--he always wore a red collar, Bluto's was always blue, and Lightning's was purple. To most people they were so similar as to be identical -- to us they had completely individual looks and personalities. Cole could tell them apart at the age of three or four by touching their coats, even in the dark. I can remember him--mostly asleep in my bed but not quite--reaching a tiny hand out and ruffling black fur and saying "Hey, Bertie." And he would be right. They were each very different to us.

Bluto did have ... a unique personality. At some point he had a run-in with a shower door and the shower door won. The result was a piece missing from his tongue. It never impeded his ability to express his feelings, especially when there was a piece of chicken treat involved. In fact, in the last two or three years he developed an especially annoying habit of howling when he thought he'd been left alone. Okay, okay ... we're all entitled to a little fear of abandonment once in a while ... cut the guy some slack!

That howling ... oh, my god, it was awful. It sounded like your worst werewolf nightmare, and when he got started he could usually get Lightning to join in. After Lightning went, he was a soloist usually. But when he began to howl, you could hear glass breaking all over the neighborhood!

That howling ... well, it created a major crisis in the Pug family at one point. Mr. Pug and I drove to Arizona to see Deirdre and Bob and we took the fawn girls. We had in mind leaving Lulu out there for a romantic interlude that never took place -- one of those arranged marriages that went wrong.  Lulu was left at the altar. Anyway, we left the older guys, Bluto and Lightning, with someone whose name we'll spare to save the guilty -- okay, okay, it was Mr. Pug's daughter. Anyway, about the third day of our trip, we got the call every dog parent dreads.

"We couldn't stand the howling another day. We've put them in the kennel." 

"Kennel? What do you mean kennel? They've never been in a kennel in their lives!"

"Well, they're in one now. Here's the number to call if you want to check on them."

I frantically dialed the number to inquire after my wronged babies. "Oh, don't worry at all --they're just fine, Mrs. Pug."

And they were. When we returned from Arizona -- no, I didn't get on the next plane but it wasn't very many days later -- they were in a double crate at the kennel, snuggled up against each other, snoring. 

"Did he howl?" I asked the kennel assistant, checking Bluto and Lightning for hidden signs of neglect or abuse.

"No," he said. "Does he usually?"

We heard one last howl this morning. Casa Pug sure is quiet tonight.