Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Praise ... and a Quibble

When's the last time someone trusted someone else in the retail world? Never, you say? Well, almost.

The current economic climate (Cloudy days ahead, chance of continuing flooding, run for your life!) has made all of us a little cynical about each other, I suppose. And, let's face it--it's not that easy to make a living. We have to take every opportunity.

So I'm always happy when I can support a designer or a supplier in the yarn business. No, really--it's not that I need or want more yarn or patterns, I'm just trying to do my part to keep the economy going. (Hush, now! Don't be cynical! It's not becoming!)

Anyway, last week I saw that one designer for whom I have the utmost respect is giving up publishing her quarterly newsletter. Part of the explanation seems to be that digital downloads--and particularly Ravelry downloads--are costing her money because of copyright infringement.  Sad, but definitely part of the digital publishing world these days. It's affecting every single medium from newspapers to hard-cover books.

On the same day, I saw a pattern on Ravelry from another designer that piqued my interest. Went to the website and found Janet Scanlon. Yes, Janet who designed the My Constant Companion felted bag we all made ten years or so ago.

I saw two felted bags that got my attention--quick there's a new one there now! Why didn't I see it before?-and clicked order. I got a message that told me to email her and she'd send it. And bill me later. What? Is she crazy?

I emailed her and ordered. She responded immediately, apologizing that she'd have to charge me postage. Uh, yeah ... of course. Again, crazy?

Two days later the patterns arrived. With an invoice. Shipping was ... uh, exact postage. Crazy? Each page of the pattern comes in its own vinyl protector, with the pages stapled, so you can knit from the pattern without taking it out of its protector to turn the pages. Amazing!

So--praise. Janet is a woman who still believes in people. (And, yes, I put the check in the mail already! Did you have to ask?) She advertises a product, sends it on trust, and it's just what she promised and you wanted. Amazing in this world of mistrust and thievery.

But, and here comes the quibble, she prints her patterns on that same blue paper that Fiber Trends used to use. Do they still? I don't think so. People stopped buying them because they were too hard to read and I think FT has now gone to a different color.

Why the blue, somewhere between turquoise and cobalt? I've always heard it's to keep people from making copies or scanning the patterns into their computers. BUT for me, it's a problem. My eyesight has always been sort of dicey and these days it seems to be worsening every day. I am struggling to read these patterns. I can read them but I have to be in a very bright room--definitely not my bedroom where I usually knit. Not enough contrast for these eyes.

Bottom line: Go to the website and buy her patterns. (Check out Mercury, the messenger bag! Oh, my!) Knit one of them. But just among ourselves, Janet, I'd rather have paid you upfront and gotten the pattern on a lighter piece of paper that I could read.

Monday, September 28, 2009

They're Even Mean to Crazy Aunt Purl!

Do you read "Crazy Aunt Purl"? Well, why not? She's certifiably nuts in a good way. Oops! Shouldn't have said "nuts." It could get someone angry.

Anyway, I was going to write something here about what other bloggers and op-ed writers are calling "the decline of civility" or "why can't we just all get along? or "is everyone here crazy?" You know what I mean--people screaming at the president in public and cursing each other out in the parking lot over a space near the mall entrance,  or ... well, you get the idea. 

Now, I'll admit I was one of the first to criticize our former president, The Shrub. But I did it quietly and in private and if I'd been introduced to him in person I'd have shaken his hand firmly and politely and said "nice to meet you, Mr. President," and I wouldn't even have muttered under my breath until he was out of earshot.

Because that's how we were raised. Let's face it--we all want to say things sometimes that we DO NOT SAY because that's not the way we roll. We were raised better than that. (Thanks, Mom!) We might say "that poor fellow is one toenail short of a pedicure" behind our boss's back, but, in front of the guy, we pull up our big girl panties and do what he says. Then we report him to Human Resources if appropriate. (That was a heck of a mixed metaphor but you get the message.)

I guess it's a combination of the immediacy and the anonymity of the internet that  have made us all think we can say absolutely anything to anyone and it'll be okay. (And people--when you're not on the internet, you really don't have an excuse!)  People who would never say something mean to someone's face think nothing of saying it on a blog. Is it because we know the person we're insulting is probably too far away to hit us? Maybe.

Back to Crazy Aunt Purl. Check out her September 24 post. The offending comments have been removed but I think we can all guess what they contained. She wrote a pretty innocuous but interesting posting about pot roast and added a comment about a potluck the next day and needing a peanut recipe. And bam, bam, shazaam, she's suddenly the Anti-Christ, trying to kill off all the peanut-allergic folks in the audience.

This whole peanut thing is odd anyway. One day peanuts are mild, inoffensive little critters growing in the Deep South, best known for Jimmy Carter raising them. Now they're in the same category as Ebola and Angry Aliens From Space, just out there trying to kill people.

Okay, I get it. Some people are allergic to peanuts. Children in kindergarten should not be fed peanuts because they're too little to protect themselves. Grownups should make sure they read labels and ask about potluck recipes if it's possible a peanut was involved. I'm not downplaying the danger.

But ... and this is important ... we all have stuff we shouldn't be eating for one reason or another. You can't eat a peanut because your throat might close up. Coconut makes me gag and I shouldn't eat ice cream because lactose at night gives me acid reflux, not to mention bigger hips. But at the end of day ... it's my problem, and yours.  I'm definitely not going to blame Crazy Aunt Purl if someone brings ice cream to the party.  

And I am going to try her pot roast recipe.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

No Excitement Here Folks!

No excitement here. The flood waters have receded, things are high and dry at Casa Pug, and we can move on.

Not that there weren't a few exciting days, in a relative sort of a way. I mean, I was a little concerned when I saw the pugs lining up two by two to go out the door in the mornings. And it's never a good thing to see Mr. Pug hanging from the rooftop in a monsoon, trying to find out what's causing water to pour out of the fireplace. But aside from some minor inconveniences, we were among the very lucky folks of my particular part of Sunny Georgia who got through the floods relatively unscathed.

Last weekend was rather ... er ... damp. Mr. Pug and I went to Tucker, GA to see a koi show. Now, for those of you who may be map-challenged, Tucker is approximately on the other side of the galaxy from Casa Pug, but the koi show is a once-a-year sort of a thing, we wanted to check out what's new in the koi world (not much as it turns out), and who knew we'd be traveling through water up to our eyebrows?

By the way, two things: First, to clarify, Tucker is on the other side of Anything, not just CP. It's one of those places that you don't know is there if you don't need to go there. And second, we didn't even buy a new koi. It turns out that a 500-year flood is not the ideal time to introduce a new, rather pricey, fish to your pond, especially if you're the sort of fish-owners who have lost most of their fish in the last year to inexperience and algae bloom, whatever that might be.

Anyway, rain on Saturday. Rain on Sunday. On Monday when I left for work, Mr. Pug was hanging off the aforementioned gutter checking out the aforementioned leak. The ride to work that day took approximately, oh, about six hours because Atlanta drivers still think they can drive 75 MPH through standing water. That afternoon when I left the office (or tried to, anyway), the little creek on the south side of the property was flooded to the top of the banks. Gazebo halfway under water. Water up to the little bridge. Roiling water. Uh, oh.

Turns out that someone had broken into my car while it was parked in the office parking lot.  (Well, actually, it was Mr. Pug's car -- yikes! Now he REALLY thinks I'm bad luck when I drive his car!)

Now, mind you, it had been monsooning all day--who goes out to commit a crime in a monsoon? Apparently it's not unknown.  When we looked at the video of the parking lot the next day, I could see a blurry image of a black car backing in next to my car, staying there for about two and a half minutes, and then driving out, apparently with my GPS system, Little Nuvi.  

(Little Nuvi has become a part of our family in the two years we've had her. In fact, she's the least dysfunctional member of  the family. She takes us everywhere and apparently has made us very lazy mapreaders while she was at it. She's the only thing that GOT us to Tucker in the first place, for instance--without her, we're never finding our way back. Also, when the police start closing ALL of the streets in your county, and the surrounding counties, it's almost impossible to find your way home without Little Nuvi. Nuvi -- I miss you!)

By the way, from Mr. Pug's point of view, the biggest deal is that they broke the driver side lock. I thought he was overreacting until I learned that I would be paying the deductible to fix the dratted thing.

Anyway, the scariest thing for me, once I'd called the cops and been told to wait--this might take a while, we're kinda busy right now, and no, we can't do this by phone, and no, tomorrow won't do--was that I couldn't find The Sock. Wait! The jerks took my knitting? Put up the umbrella, get out into the pouring rain, rump hanging out under the umbrella, and find that sock!  

Whew! It turned out that they'd emptied three knitting bags onto the floor apparently looking for cocaine or oxycontin or hundred dollar bills or cool CDs, but hadn't taken anything except Little Nuvi. 

What? You don't have three knitting bags in your car? Each full of uncompleted projects? Whatever!

Good news: I had knitting to work on while I waited ... and waited ... and waited ... for the cops. (They never did come; at the two-hour point I went home, figuring the sirens and flashing lights up on the main drag meant there were some bigger issues to deal with.)

Bad news: Apparently my knitting isn't good enough for Atlanta crooks. That's kind of insulting. On the other hand, maybe a partially knit sock isn't that appealing and they'll come back when both socks are finished.

It's something to look forward to. In the mean, here's The Sock--Zauberball from Only Ewe and Cotton Too. Have I mentioned that I'm crazy in love with the way the colors change? If only the sock could help me find my way back to Tucker, I'd be fine.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Pug-jama Sunday

Well, I had high hopes for accomplishment when I got up this morning--maybe some errands, maybe a trip to one of my favorite places, Only Ewe and Cotton Too, where they knit all Sunday afternoon, maybe ....

Nah! Football season starts today! Well, that's not quite accurate ... actually NFL season started on Thursday night but I fell asleep early into the game (Steelers 13, Titans 10). So, for me, it starts today.

I'm an odd duck here in the South, and especially in Georgia. (Hush! I don't want to hear from you about how many things make me odd--let's just talk about sports for a minute!)

Back to duckdom. I've been a pro football fan since 1979, when I realized that my new husband was going to spend every single Sunday, plus Monday night, watching pro football. (That was before the days of Sunday night football and Thursday night football and Direct TV NFL Ticket. No TIVO! Oh, my! We were terribly limited in those days but somehow we persevered.)

Anyway, I began watching with him and was immediately hooked. Pretty soon I was reading books about plays and strategies (so as not to annoy the husband by asking dumb questions). That led to helping my friend Tom plot his betting strategies for the following week. Now I'm not a betting woman but Tom, who was a realtor in the same office as me, was. (A betting man, that is, not a woman.) And every Tuesday morning he and I would pore over the point spreads for the upcoming week in The Washington Post. Then on the following Monday or Tuesday, Tom would share the glory (no money, just glory) if he won and we'd weep if he didn't.

Then I scored the use of Redskins season tickets from another realtor in the office, and we were off and running. I can't tell you how many times I pulled on foul weather gear and multiple layers of sweaters and scarves and gloves to sit in the stadium and watch my beloved Redskins over the next few years. Lots of beer and peanuts and stadium hot dogs. The 'Skins were in their glory years, so we were well rewarded--Joe Gibbs was leading my boys to victory most Sundays!

Back to today and Georgia. Husband is long gone, in more ways than one, and I'm here in Georgia with Mr. Pug. He's just as big a fan as I am and we catch as many games on TV as we can. Of course, we had an NFL player in the family for a few years and that made it even more interesting. I'm still a major Panthers fan in honor of all the terrific Panthers games I got to attend--including the Super Bowl one year.

But here in Georgia, and it seems the rest of the South too, pro football isn't the thing at all. These southerners love their college teams, which makes sense to me if you actually WENT to the college but makes NO sense if you didn't. Auburn? Alabama? Why?

Anyway, the Atlanta area is about evenly divided between University of Georgia and Georgia Tech fans. For me, interesting but not compelling ... what does any of that have to do with me? I lean toward UGA because they have cuter mascots. Bulldogs are almost as cute as pugs, but ... nah! Never mind!

And even that pales beside the passion for high school football. Again, if you don't have a kid playing on the team, who cares? Not for me. Not interested. At all. None. Zero. Zip. All high school football means to me is that on Friday night I have to plan my trip home to avoid being caught in traffic jams of those folks who do care.

So here's my game plan for today:

-- 1 pm - Falcons vs Dolphins (always root for the home team is my rule)
-- 4 pm - Redskins (Yay! Go Team!) vs. someone--can't remember. Does it matter? Oh, yeah .... it's the Giants. Big division rivalry. I actually can't stand Eli Manning, or any of the Manning boys, so even more reason to root for my beloved Burgundy and Gold.
-- 8 pm - Bears vs Packers. Okay, this is classic football. In the old days, meaning 50 years ago, the score would have been something like 7 to 6 and there would have been snow involved. Today, with Brett Favre gone and the Bears quarterback being some guy you never heard of, no great loss if I sleep through this one, but I'll give it a try. Because it's all about the game, right? It really doesn't matter who's playing!

So, Pug-Jama Sunday. There's absolutely no point in even getting dressed for this day. I'll be hanging out in my PJs and snuggling a pug or two in front of the TV all day. (Thank goodness we have a very private back yard so I won't scare the neighbors if I go outside to feed the fish!) Maybe I'll make a big pot of soup to graze on. And while I watch, I'll knit. I just need to sew up Baby Surprise and add buttons. And I've always got a couple of socks on the needles. So I've got plenty to keep me working. Maybe wind some wool? (I might even get a few loads of wash done, but that's strictly bonus round material.)

Oh, those things at the top? Yeah, they're the finished Trekking socks. What I really loved about knitting with that yarn was that they were truly oddly dyed--there were shades of brown that turned up late in the second sock, way toward the end of the ball, that had never been seen before. Normally, the dye process repeats itself every so often, so that if you're one of those people who require that your socks match, you can fiddle with things and get that matching pair. That wouldn't work with these Trekking babies.

Luckily for me, I don't care about matching socks. After all, who but me will ever know? It's like wearing underwear with holes to work--unless you have a job that's a whole lot more interesting than mine, or you end up having your clothes cut off you in the ER, no one will ever know.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Pressure Mounting

Remember those three babies? The ones due in late September, October, and December? Well, October was born this morning!

So, the pressure's on. So, two problems:

First, the BSJ for a girl (being red and pink and such) is going to be very small. This baby is smallish, so that's a good thing. But how big will she be by the time she can wear a wool sweater?

Second, this is the mother that says her child will have no contact with any animals for the first year of her life. So, does that mean that an object from a house with ... er, pugs ... will be unacceptable?

Or is it just smarter to send an antiseptic gift card?

(And pugs don't know they're animals ... so, do they even count?)

Anyway, and more to the point, my sister Debbie's a grandma for the first time! Woo hoo! Little Isabelle Christine will have the best grandma ever!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Stalking, but in a good way

I had the most thought-provoking conversation the other night with one of the newer members of the Noble Knitters group.

She's a new mother (well, new for the third time) and a relatively new knitter and she was looking interestedly at the red Baby Surprise Jacket I was knitting away on. Then she realized that Debra is also making a BSJ. And that Laurie just finished one. And that we were all talking about having made one or planning the next one. Then I told her that there's a group of Ravelry knitters dedicated to this pattern.

And she thought that was ... creepy. Like we were all stalking the same pattern in a sort of weird way.

And it cracked me up. Because right now on the internet, hundreds of knitters are knitting Baby Surprise Jackets and talking about it. And the latest Yarn Forward magazine had a picture of it in an article about Elizabeth Zimmermann. (Or really, about Meg, her daughter, but how could you tell her story without talking about the Baby Surprise?)

I guess it's just as well that she didn't see this picture of a bunch of BSJ's made by the St. Louis Knitting Guild!

In fact, what's darned amazing about the whole thing is that we're all making a bizarre little blob of a pile of knitted fabric that somehow--magically--turns into a little cardigan, designed 40+ years ago when EZ was becoming a grandmother for the first time.

She published that pattern in a newsletter and later in a book and her daughter still sells it on what appears to be a many-times xeroxed piece of paper for about $3 and ... grandmothers are still knitting it.

Creepy? Maybe, but I prefer to think of it as homage.

The first real knitting book I ever owned was Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. She's the one who taught me how to make a yarnover the right way. I had been taught to knit by my grandmother, but she was quite old at the time and really only taught me to form the knit and purl stitches. I went out (at about age 11) and bought a pattern at Woolworth's and a skein of Red Heart yarn and knit a sweater. Over the years, I continued to knit ... alone ... and probably made a lot of mistakes that an experienced knitter would have corrected immediately.

That's what Maggie did for me--she helped me figure out what was going wrong and how I could fix it. (It killed me to move to Atlanta and realize that Maggie had been an early member of the Atlanta Knitting Guild before she moved to California--I was THAT close to knowing Maggie Righetti!)

I'm pretty sure the reason I'm still knitting 40 years later is Maggie--she gave me the confidence to make mistakes and correct them and learn from them.

And that's what EZ has done for many, many knitters. She's been dead for several years and we're still knitting her patterns. The darn thing is written almost incomprehensibly, so there are Wikis and websites and Excel spreadsheets (was Excel even a gleam in Bill Gates' eye when EZ was knitting the BSJ?) and YouTube videos dedicated to interpreting this pattern, not to mention all the blogs where someone's made one in stockinette or in stripes or out of recycled trash bags or gum wrappers, for all I know.

And we're still making them. Stalking, if you will. At least I am--one almost done and two more to go, this round. (I seem to be stuck on the buttonhole row--I am paralyzed, worrying about whether it's going to fall on the correct side or not. I should probably do the EZ thing--knit one on each side and close up the offending one later. That would at least get me off the starting block.)