Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pistol-Packin' Mama

So on Sunday, Mr. Pug and I went to the local Koi emporium.

For the uninformed in the Fish World, Koi are not the type of fish that supply those much-needed Omega-3s. Nope, they’re more like “black gold, Texas Tea.” Some of these bad boys and girls are as big as a cat and cost a car payment. At a certain point, they’re more valuable than your grandmother’s silver tea service.

Here in the Pug household, our requirements are more modest. We have a pond the size of a sink on steroids and three smallish fish who are the survivors of our three seasons of fish-perimentation. That’s not a problem. And, at this point, we can’t afford any more actual fish  because all of our money goes to upgrading their environment.

We’ve put more money into this pond than BP’s put into the Louisiana wetlands—with about the same results.

Anyway, we went to the fish store, where I wandered among tanks of huge, hungry fish who bobbed to the surface whenever a humanoid figure approached, apparently thinking we would all carry Koi pellets with us. Each time I’d return to the “show room,” which apparently had been the tiny living room of a 50’s brick ranch-style house before it became Koi Central, Mr. Pug and the owner would be deep in conversation about pumps and money and power sources and money and filters and money. I would roll my eyes and inquire about some vital facet of fish-raising (“ooooh, look honey, they have puppies here in the back room!”) and the owner would drag the conversation back to money.

Finally, on my third pass through the Money Pit, I interrupted a deep discussion about valves and hoses and clamps and input and output (Mr. Pug: "so if I want to backwash the filter, I just turn this knob?” Owner: “He-ah-al no, man! That’s the input, not the output! Do you want to spray fish excrement all over yourself?”).

Okay, let’s interrupt here. Why would a 50-year-old man think the best way to advertise his no-doubt considerable experience and expertise in fish-raising and money-taking is to wear his old college sweatshirt? To me, a college sweatshirt on a middle-aged man just says “Hey, look at me! My best years are 30 years behind me!”

And don’t get me started on the guys with GED in their resume wearing the local college mascot. That’s just false advertising in my opinion.

Okay, back to fish guy. At this point I said, “so, cutting to the chase, how much is this new system going to cost?”

You would have thought I’d spit in his scuppernong wine. Both of them, for that matter: Mr. Pug wasn’t any happier with my question than Mr. Bulldawg. They exchanged “The Look,” and I saw where this was going.

“I’ll be in the car,” I said. And left to my knitting (Ulmus, in Malabrigo SockYarn, Indecita and Abril, if it matters, ).

When Mr. Pug returned to the driver’s seat, after filling the back of the car with 20+ feet of hose and several large boxes, and after spending approximately the equivalent of two months utility costs (think height of the summer with the AC going full blast 24/7), he was proud. He had acquired Tools. He was a Happy Camper.

I’d already decided I wouldn’t mention the cost—after all, it’s no worse than a smallish bag of yarn would cost.

“You know what he said about you?” Mr. Pug grinned.


“He asked how long we’d been married.”

“What’d you tell him?”

Now, mind you, if I’d had to answer that question, I’d have pulled out my pocket calendar and calculated “uh, about negative three weeks,” but he took the Guy Way Out.

“I told him we’d been together more than 24 years. Then he said you were 'some kinda pistol, ain't she?.' What a hoot!"

“Uh huh.”

Now you and I know that’s code for “can’t you control your woman?” A woman might have said, here in the South, “bless her heart,” and it would have meant the same thing. Basically, “sorry, man, that you have to deal with that.”

Not, Mr. Pug. He thought it was a compliment.

Bless his heart.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Technology Musings

On the way to work this morning I listened to the new John Sandford novel on CD. Last week it was Pat Conroy's South of Broad (highly recommended!!!!). So, for 43 miles and an hour and a half, my car tells me a story. Then at night, I repeat the process.

Last night I woke in the middle of the night and did some reading on yet a different novel, this time the new Jonathan Kellerman/Alex Delaware. This time I read on my Kindle. When I fell asleep, the Kindle turned itself off.

Frankly, it's been forever since I read a novel ... printed on paper. If I have time to read, which I mostly don't, I don't want to schlep around a big ole hardcover and even the paperbacks today weigh a pound or more. And if I'm awake, I'm probably knitting, so I need my hands free.

So the Kindle. (Thanks, Jake!)  Anyway, the Kindle is about the size of a paperback book but half the weight. Amazing, amazing! But it's a different life and requires some life-skills adjustment.

For one thing, your library exists in the ether. In this case, all my New Yorkers (or at least the ones I haven't read yet) are stacked up on my menu instead of next to the bed. So are the next four novels I'm determined to read. (Whoops! I just bought the new Karin Slaughter, so make that five!)

To get a new one, I go to the Kindle store (on the Kindle main menu) and hit the "buy" button. Then, once it's in the menu, a matter of seconds, I can move between all my reading material with the movement of one finger. And the darned thing even "dog-ears" my place in each book -- it knows what I've already read and haven't. Like I wish my IPOD worked but it usually doesn't.

And now when I want to turn a page -- and by the way, the "print" on the page can be adjusted by size depending on how my eyes feel on a given day -- I hit "next page" or "back."
So, will future generations only get their reading done electronically? Who knows? Will they miss the smell of a new book?

And those same generations -- will they know what the words "hang up" mean? After all, we don't hang up the phone any more -- many of us haven't had a telephone for years-- we end the call.

Now that vehicle ignitions are push-button, will our kids ever know the pleasure of putting their brand-new ignition key into their first new car and turning it -- the power of feeling that engine turn over under the power of your fingers? Or will turning that key become the equivalent of turning the crank on your Model A?

And what about phone exchanges? Do you remember when you could look at the first three numbers of a phone number -- no, not the area code, that's New School -- the three numbers after the parentheses and before the hyphen. Remember when those numbers told you something, like what part of town the caller lived in? No more.

So, here  we are -- the whole world is technological. Except for my knitting.

I just continue to wind yarn around my two sticks. Over and over, knit and purl. Around and around. Occasionally I knit two together, or slip a stitch. The most high-tech thing I do is use one long needle to Magic Loop.

If my grandmother could come back for a day she'd have no idea where to find a book or how to start a car, but darn it all, she could pick up my knitting and go to town. Knitting is one thing that's changing every day and at the same time hasn't changed at all since my grandmother learned to knit 100+ years ago or since men and women learned to knit fabric for warmth 2,000 years ago.

And as long as I can keep knitting, I don't really care how to turn on my car. It can just stay in the driveway.

Oh, the picture? That's Kerrigan and Emma, hanging out at the lake last week. Do you think they care about technology? Not hardly.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways!

There's a reason I'm the Poster Child For Failed Relationships. Well, two reasons.

First, I'm crappy at relationships. Love relationships, that is. The other kind (friends, children, siblings, business), I'm pretty okay at.

But love? Nah! I'm prone to the "got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you now" school of relating. My philosophy of marriage was probably formed by the favorite cartoon characters of my childhood (ca. 1958). About that time Albert the Alligator (in Pogo) quoted Rudyard Kipling :  "a woman is only a woman but a good cigar is a smoke."

(Years later I translated this for my friend Ruth and me into "husbands come and husbands go but you can never have too many dogs." It fit both of us way too well.)

Anyway, the second reason relationships never work is that I always choose the wrong man. Wait, that would be The Wrong Man. Capitalized, bolded, italicized, underlined and in a large font.

The Wrong Man

So, what does this have to do with 2010 and Mr. Pug? Glad you asked.

On Mother's Day, Mr. Pug gave me a really lovely card, the kind that's kind of soupy and soapy, covered with little violets and other delicate and beautiful flowers, and all the words in script. You know, the kind that you scan, skim, and put aside. Nice thoughts, kindly usually, but  frankly, Come On, Big Boy, Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

(Yes, there was a really nice place where he actually wrote some flowery and personal thoughts about having been together for a quarter of a century --- a quarter of a century? Is he kidding? No, really it's .... okay, 25 years together. I'll give him that one.)

But how do you know Your Man is really The Right Man?

Because he gets your septic tank pumped, without even being asked. Just because he thinks it will make you happy.

Okay! I'm convinced. He's the guy.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Putting My Dog Where My Mouth Is

Janice and Marguerite have commented about what types of clothing a dog could wear. Here's a photograph taken in 2007 of Lightning, wearing her  Cat Bordhi moebius.

Sadly, Lightning is no longer with us but the moebius lives on!

She has the quizzical look of someone who's tried to understand the construction of one of Cat's socks, doesn't she?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Ravelry: 10 Shawls in 2010 Group

I’m always highly suspicious when I see a “shawl” photographed on a 6-year-old child. It’s the equivalent of me photographing something around a pug’s neck. Highly annoying to the pug and not exactly the same as photographing a penny next to a clue at a crime scene for size relevance.

Yes, a pug’s neck is wrinkly and so is mine, but there the resemblance stops. And I don’t know what it’s supposed to tell me when you picture your shawl on someone 3 and a half feet tall and weighing 65 pounds.

Just a quibble, I suppose, but please refrain from using your cat or your infant grandson to model your knitted garments.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Lessons Learned at Stitches South

It's hard for me to believe that, one week ago today, we were watching the Knitter's folks close Stitches South up around us. Booths were being packed, security guards were ushering last-minute shoppers out the door, and knitters from around the country were stuffing their cars and suitcases full of yarn they didn't arrive with.

An event like Stitches or SAFF or Maryland Sheep and Wool (missing you guys today!) is something to be looked toward to all year, like a long fibery gestation period, where the final result is bags of yarn, not a squawling infant. (Some of the yarn in my stash is older than my grown children, but I digress.) We wait and wait, checking off the months and days until the big event and then .... push, pant, push again and ... It's Wool! It's Needles! (Now when is someone going to invent the foldup stroller for fiber, the one you pull out of your tote bag like a tiny umbrella, so we can push our skeins and balls around in front of us, proudly showing off the new purchases to all who pass by and reach down to pat our little yarnbabies?)

And, contrary to Mr. Pug's secret worries, Stitches South isn't simply an excuse to buy yarn. It's a Learning Experience, a Foray into the Knitting Community, an opportunity to Explore Trends in Fiber. The shopping is simply a side effect like ... well, like that condition that lasts more than four hours if you take a little blue pill. A side effect with benefits. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

As for the Learning Experience, I took three classes and, yes, I learned from the teachers but there's more to it than that. First, Stitches was an opportunity for me to assist at the registration desk and welcome participants to Atlanta. Plus, it's always a temptation to sign up for many more hours than you can actually hope to survive but, as an experienced knitting event-goer, I've learned that ugly lesson the hard way. At a certain point, major blood vessels in your brain start to explode like Dollar Store fireworks and the next thing you know, you can't remember your dog's name, much less that amazing technique to make knitted jewelry out of Chinese takeout boxes.

(As for that technique, first remove the little wire handle thingies, run the boxes through a cross-cut shredder, mix all the pieces together in a giant vat of llama saliva and spit splice the whole thing, then .... oh, never mind. This is probably why the Knitter's folks keep rejecting my emails!)

First I took a great class on entrelac from Gwen Bortner. I've taken entrelac classes before -- in fact, when I moved to Atlanta in 2001 I took a class at Cast On Cottage and actually made a lovely Noro vest that never, ever, even for one minute, fit me and now makes a fabulous wall hanging. But over the years, I haven't used the technique much and I wanted to take a class with Gwen and, there you have it! Anyway, very enjoyable class, a very skilled teacher, and a great, truly fabulous, handout. There's a slim chance that I might actually remember how to do it again, she was that good.

Then ... OMG! Jewelry with Betsy Hershberg. Let me say it again ... OMG! We made little knitted and beaded beads--that's not a typo--they were beads wrapped in beads and used as beads. I don't know what could be more fun than that! Now it also turns out that they're somewhat fiddly to make ... okay, they're a lot fiddly ... and I'm not so much a fiddly person. But you only need 9 for a necklace and I've already got 2, so ... it's SO do-able, if, say, I break my leg in three places tomorrow and have to sit in one place for weeks at a time surrounded by ribbon yarn, beads and DPNs. But completely do-able. But not if the docs give me good drugs. Then all bets are off.

But Betsy is wonderful--she's the person I want to be, sort of Hot Grandma with spiky hair and big funky jewelry and psychedelic readers. Definitely got a little of that '60s thing going! And I also learned that when you forget your DPNs, the person from Tennessee sitting next to you who loans you a set might be really fun and a friend for life. (Third eye, Lindy719!) We also learned that there's always one loud person in the group who thinks they should be teaching the class. Oh, well.

Finally, Jane Slicer-Smith. Okay, this was what I was there for. Yes, yarn, yes, camaraderie, but Knitting on the Barbie? Yeah, baby!

I missed the opening day ceremonies which everyone said were wonderful, but my class on Sunday morning was terrific. Not so much technique, but more like inspirational and design-oriented. We learned which designs will look really fabulous on you if you're 6' tall and thin as a rail and which ones will flatter you ... or me, for that matter, if you're tall and a little lumpy. Or a lot lumpy. Turns out her swing coats are designed for women like myself for whom the term "60s Hippie" doesn't just refer to our time in a VW bus spray-painted with peace signs. The swing style distracts from the "hippie" aspect and swirls around them.
But she also talked about changing needle sizes to create the swing look (or to widen or narrow a more traditional cabled area or such) and to create more strength at the top of the garment where it hangs from your shoulders. Who knew?

And I don't want to say I was inspired by Jane but check out the picture on the right--the first five squares of a Swagger vest from her book Swing, Swagger, Drape.

And just to keep you wondering, I'll tell you that once I finish this tier (28 squares), the whole thing gets turned upside down and then the next tier (the bodice) gets picked up from that bottom edge. Didn't I say she was amazing?