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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Bodies - Hell with Rest, Let's go with Motion.
Well, I'm not necessarily down with Rachael's 100-mile challenge (snow 'round these parts gets poorly plowed or shoveled, leading to crap road conditions and we don't own a treadmill), but I've had enough with the sludgy, pudgy feeling. Also, there are all these clothes that occupy my closet that appear to belong to a Me I once would have considered a bit stocky. I would now consider that Me to be lithe and lissome. I'm tired of feeling this way.

With that in mind, I have returned to my beloved balance ball, which wobbled and bobbled me into the shape I sported the day I got married (two dress sizes smaller than I currently am now). Good old Suzanne Deason - she has the face of Kim Cattrall, the voice of a childhood piano teacher, and the muscular strength of a Marine.

My goal? Do Something every day. Doesn't matter what that Something is: balance ball, yoga, walking (in clement weather) - Something. To quote my mom, "Move your body across the Earth."

Even if it is in wibbly, wobbly circles.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Snow on a Sunday - What a Waste

Portrait of happy snow-dog with tennis ball

Mac loves snow

Don't let the regal posture fool  you

Friday, February 23, 2007

Calls and Misdemeanors
My friend Terry has been getting strange calls from some organization called "The Loan Department," offering him dubious home loans. Some of these are coming through on his cell, and when he inquires more about the organization, they get huffy and hang up on him.

I know these scammers are working from some random list, but I have to say the idea of Terry as an easy mark for this sort of fraud is pretty funny. That's the thing about these sorts of incidents: they are absurd on their face, but the more details that get added, and the more you know about the participants, somehow the more bizarre they often get. The demands of instant communication mean that politeness gets twisted into obligation in a moment, as total strangers thrust themselves upon you and insist that their needs are dealt with this very instant.

His narration of these events brought back an almost-forgotten episode I had once with a cell phone provided by an employer. I had been on the road all day, and it rang just as I was getting home - number unknown, but I had just started working for the organization and wasn't sure who it might be. I answered it and a querulous, female voice responded to my greeting with, "Hello?"

Oh, dear. Let's try again, "Hello, who is this please?"

"Are you one of my grandchildren?"

"No, ma'am. Who is this?"

"Who are you?"

I took a brief pause to soak in the unreality of it all, and grasp at the shreds of rationality I might have after a long, tedious day, too much of it spent in the car. Clearly this woman was old, confused, and it was incumbent upon me to muster up what little patience I could, no matter how tired I was, even as I stood laden with my briefcase and other detritus on my front porch, unable to enter my house without inadvertently dropping the call (our house is where cell phone signals go to die).

"Ma'am, you called me. My name is Jill. I am not one of your grandchildren. Can I help you somehow?"

Suddenly, a torrent of abuse flooded out of this woman. She had some sort of grievance with someone who had apparently been calling her and I, her misdialee, was literally on the hook for it. Patience, tolerance, pity for the old and confused, all was at an end. I was not the author of her discontents, and I was not going to be held accountable for them. I suppose you could say I have a poor track record with elderly, confused people who get me at random on the telephone. I am not proud to say that I hung up on her mid-flow, but I wasn't sure what else to do.

What are we to do with people who are suddenly there in whatever capacity, on the phone, in person, via e-mail, or via a comment on a website? What are our obligations to strangers (barring fraudsters like the ones Terry is coping with)? I really don't have a good answer. Simple rules of conduct may apply to the gross outline of a basic, hypothetical situation (basic politeness, golden rule, etc.), but what about the details of an actual situation? With so many ways to contact a person, what are our obligations as the ones contacted? Where accessibility and privacy clash, who wins?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Worthy of Emulation
I have a holiday today, and while I won't exactly be doing this:

Worthy of Emulation

I'll sure be enjoying my domesticity.

Somebody Call Cute Overload. STAT.
I know CO only showcases fuzzy animals, but are these not cute? So cute, in fact, that they are worthy of overloaded cuteness*?

Tiny socks!

I made those weensy green socks for Marietta out of leftover sock yarn. Well, more to the point, I made them for Max. We tried them on Max,** as best we could:

Tiny socks - trying them on baby Max

They fit, right?

*I'm not sure I have ever, or will ever again, make anything so entirely cute. That's probably for the best. I have a reputation to maintain. Though I have to say, the power of teh cute is pretty overwhelming. I showed the first one to a flight attendant on a recent flight, and I swear, her uterus burst into flames from teh cute.
**Or, as I like to call him, The Impending Max.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sometimes You Learn the Most Wonderful Things
An Ethiopian colleague came by my office yesterday and said, "Do you know what 'Jill' means in Amharic?"

"Do I want to know?" I asked, fearing vulgarities having to do with body parts.

"Maybe not," she said, her eyes twinkling. My fears added excretion to the list and I wondered how bad this game might get.

"Okay, better lay it on me."

"It means silly or goofy." I sighed with relief and told her I actually quite liked that. Later in the day, I called my mom and told her my East African secret.

"I never knew that," she said.

"Well, it apparently also means girl in Old English or one of its root languages," I said.

"Goofy girl."


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Man, Can that Cat Play.
Yeah, you've probably already seen this, but Nora the piano-playing cat is a groovy tunesmith.

Like many beginners, she needs some work on her left hand (er, paw). She's also got a crazy, Hendrix-meets-Jerry-Lee-Lewis physical style that either complements or confounds her definite avant-garde musical sensibilities (reasonable minds can differ on this one, I am sure). Having played that Bach air that she riffs over at the end, I can say I prefer the cat version (no discourtesy to the student, who did a fine job - I've just heard "Minuet in G" a few too many times in my life. I am sure my mother feels the same).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Also, dawdling, dragging, and dozy. Perhaps other words beginning in the letter d.

The last couple of weeks have seen me dabbling in those dreaded d's. I'm not sure why I'm feeling so run-down, but so it is. I think I just need a bit of a holiday (and President's Day is coming, so I just have to hang on for another week and a bit). It's an odd sort of run-down, since it comes with a side of manic - at odd intervals I get punchy and goofy and feel a random surge of energy before I drift back down into dreary drowsiness.

Possibly I should just label this feeling "reaction to sudden cold weather" and leave it at that (I'm not sure why giving reasons for things like this helps me, but so it is). I am glad the cold weather is here - cold is how winter should be, after all, unless one lives further south than we do. I don't mind bundling up, and any excuse for knitwear is a good one as far as I am concerned. However, the sudden cold snap brought with it air so dry that each night I go to bed with yet another finger wrapped in a neosporin-laden band-aid to keep cracks at bay (unattractive, yet painful!). I drink copious amounts of water and I slather lotion, yet I know from experience that this is the season where I will be itchy and crackly and feel like someone has kiln-dried me on the wrong setting, leaving cracks and fissures.

To battle the dreary dismals, I give you one of my favorite Eddie Izzard bits (NSFW - language!), and remind you: never put jam on a magnet, never suck all the juice out of a vampire, and never, ever throw your granny in a bag.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, they say. Specifically, a little knowledge of knitting terminology. I gave my friend Maria a few skeins of Manos del Uruguay and some felted bag patterns as a birthday present this year, and her husband Pat became fascinated with the concept of twisted string on sticks and the performance of this activity. He learned to be aware of a look of intense concentration as fingers flit across a needle, ticking off groups of stitches. Counting. He learned not speak to her when she is counting. His physicist's mind puzzled over the yin and yang of knit and purl. He was intrigued by the topology of the French Market bag, and he was enthralled by the felting process, having seen a shapeless, floppy sack leave the living room and come back a damp, thick, tight, fuzzy basket in almost no time flat.

Then, as Maria began her next project (a sweater for him) and as I sat with her to give tech support, and as we laughed and knit, he asked of everything in my WIP bag, "Is that going to be felted? Is this? What about this?" only to receive a simple negative to each curious question. When he asked if his own sweater was to be felted, the impassioned cry of, "NO!" from both of us could be heard in the next county.

It's enough to give a knitter hives, this insistence that this new piece of information be applied to every situation. It's the knitter's version of the old truism, "To a person with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

In my home, John has recently seen the wonders that blocking can accomplish: taking lumpy, shapeless, blobby lace and replacing it with a floaty, airy scarf, or transforming an odd-looking garment into a finished, fitted sweater. Yesterday I finished a pair of socks for John, out of wonderful Wool in the Woods' "CW Ewe" superwash* merino (found only at The Mannings - another reason to return there, as if I needed one). As I handed them to him, straight off the needles (and straight off the airplane they were finished on), he asked, "did you block them?"

"No, honey - socks don't really need blocking."**

"Yes, they do," he intoned, the way a child does when they're making up some new Rule of the Universe, pulling a concept straight out of their ass and asserting it to be true by the power of their mind and will, "Everything needs a good blocking."

I am doomed.

*No not even feltable, Pat, so don't ask.
**At least, they don't in my world. Your mileage may vary and all that.