Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Today's Dose of Spam-Ku

Oh, the spam catcher has snared some goodies for me today! Try this one on:

Is believe no manicurist skulduggery
as play your occidental
It think in acrostic anyhow

(How do they come up with this stuff?)

Do take do manual mistrial
yes moraine while chill keep
And stand he purplish

(wasn't that a verse from some psychedelic song from the '60s?)

Of believe by modulate accord
do worry be domed myth
was know in premiere

Sox and Violins!

Sorry -- I couldn't wait to use that headline. First... the Sox!

Yes, you saw that right: I've started knitting my very first sock cuff from a ginormous ball of Opal sock yarn. Another couple of inches and I should be ready for the heel!

I signed up at the last minute for a sock knitting class at Bumble Bee Quiltworks, one of the local yarn shops. The class takes place not too long after our rally class on Sunday mornings, so I have to play Race Against Time (and Sunday drivers) to make it from the rally class in York to home, let the dogs into the house, then burn rubber backing out of the driveway to get up to Waterboro in time. It will be sooooo worth it, though. Knitting socks has been a goal of mine for a while now (regular readers of this blog are no doubt heartily tired of hearing me say, "I really should start to knit socks one of these days...").

The class is small but congenial, and all 6 of us are dog people as well as knitters. I've even had the good luck to meet a Border Collie trainer who is considering giving classes again soon. There's no telling what I wouldn't give to be able to do herding training with my dogs without having to drive several hours! You can be sure that I want this woman to be my new best friend, and that I'll continue to keep in touch with her after the class is done.

Thanks to our fabulous instructor, Jeannie the Soxy Lady (hey, don't blame me. It's on her vanity plate.), I have discovered the existence of 12-inch size 2 circular needles! Although I've overcome any lingering fears of using multiple double-pointed needles, the fact that I can use a circular of the correct size ensures that I'm about to become a veritable sock-knitting machine.

Next week: we turn the heel. Oooooooooh...

And then there are the violins. One violin, actually -- Greg is having his solo violin piece Hardanger premiered in Boston next week. Of course we're going down for the concert. Hardanger could be one of my favorite pieces of Greg's; it's sweet and haunting and very Scandinavian. It was written for "regular" violin, but in a manner meant to recall Hardanger violins with their sympathetic strings. If you've seen the movie "Fargo," you've heard a Hardanger violin being played -- that's the haunting violin sound you hear in all the snow scenes at the beginning of the movie. The violinist who is premiering the piece absolutely loves it, since it gives her plenty of chances to do Paganini-style theatrics.

One more knitting-related thing, though it also has to do with dog rescue:

I have discovered what might be the world's coolest knitting bag.

This is actually a canvas bucket made from recycled boat sails. It's deep enough to hold multiple sock-knitting projects and related notions, and it has pockets all around its circumference. These buckets are made by Safe Haven, a rescue group for Newfoundland dogs up in midcoast Maine. People use them for grooming tools, gardening, and gazillions of other things, but I swear to you, this bucket's true calling is to hold knit stuff. Really -- you need one, and it's all for a very good cause. Email Alexander right now from the site and tell him how many you need for all the knitters you know! After all, Christmas is coming...

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Sunday, November 27, 2005


If your email program has a spam-catcher, you've probably dug through it to retrieve any legitimate emails that might have become trapped with all of the waste. Perhaps you've noticed the subject lines of some of the bogus emails -- not just the ones proclaiming the best prices on all-natural Viagra substitutes and Rolex watches, but also the ones with the long strings of poetic, but nonsensical, words. Those subject lines were designed to circumvent any email filters you might have set up to trash emails entitled "Viagra" and "Rolex."

Anyway, there's a curiously poetic nature to some of those nonsense email subjects. If you combine some of them together, you can produce... spam-ku!

Here's a gem from this morning's captured spams:

burglary cretaceous
of fall no distant flashgun
professional fullback

It doesn't make any sense, but it sure sounds pretty. I even received one that rhymed today:

Loose your shirt, To say them hurt

Yeah, I'll say.

Monday, November 21, 2005

FO Alerts and Stealth Holidays

So riddle me this: How is it that the stores can start trumpeting Christmas all over the place starting just after Labor Day, and still the holidays can sneak up on you and smack you over the head before you realize what's happened? It happens every year, and it's happened again. By the time this weekend rolls around, people should be whipped into a major-league, frothing-at-the-mouth frenzy to Get Out There and Buy Stuff.

Not that I play that game much at all. Since the advent of online shopping, I haven't had to play chicken in a shopping-mall parking lot with a pack of kamikaze SUVs. My Christmas shopping takes place over a nice, steamy cup of coffee, in the peace and privacy of my home office. No squalling children, no Muzak, no one to try spraying me with perfume that always smells like Black Flag. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.

My brother and sister-in-law always put on the full Martha Stewart treatment at their house, since it's easier for them to invite everyone in than it would be to pack the twins, the 180-pound puppy, and all the requisite gear into the car to go someplace. Greg and I have to day-trip to Massachusetts, since it wouldn't be fair to truck the dogs all the way down there and make them sit in the car the whole time. It will be fun enough -- we'll eat well, Greg will play the piano, and my niece and nephew are a riot. I'm happiest about having Friday to recover from it all, though.

More FO Sightings

Those skeins of Andes just refuse to run out! I knitted Jody a felted bag from the stuff, made a hat from the leftovers, finished that, and am now working on a scarf to match the hat. I'm adding a hat of Nashua Handknits' Painted Forest to Jody's knitwear CARE package.

Amazing, the stuff you can find in your stash without really trying. I unearthed a gorgeous pair of mega-skeins of Cherry Tree Hill's loop mohair yarn while looking for something else, and promptly forgot about the something else. The colors are so lovely they make your mouth water -- shades of fall foliage, plus purples. Even though I have some training as a painter, I still consider myself somewhat color-impaired, so it still impresses the heck out of me when a dyer puts colors together and creates something amazing. The mohair is in the process of becoming a simple-but-stunning triangular shawl with really long fringes. These days I don't go too many places where one could wear a long fringed shawl, but I'll make some up.

The felted bag factory goes on and on. I've completed that one in the gold-and-green Andes for Jody and another one in Pine Shadows Lamb's Pride for Libby. Kathy's bag is now on the needles; it's in Charcoal Heather Lamb's Pride. If I can get away without making anyone else any promises, the only two I have left to make are the tote in Cascade 220 and Kureyon for Susannah and one for myself in Tahiti Teal or Amethyst Lamb's Pride.

I promise to post photos after the bags go through the wash cycle and the needlefelting stage. It seems like a lot of time and effort just to make myself some "artist's canvas" to put needlefelted designs on, but that's part of the fun. The needlefelting goes so quickly, though, that it's done by the time you really start getting into it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Beardie Bounce!

This past weekend, the boys and I took Greg to his very first Beardie Bounce, compliments of the Minuteman Bearded Collie Club.

Guess who got to play Santa Claus:

Greg's never had the chance to see about 20 Beardies all running around together, coats flowing, exhibiting the world-famous Beardie Bounce. After an afternoon with Beardies of all ages and colors, I daresay he came home even more smitten with the breed than he was when he went.

Seamus continues to do magnificently in Rally-O class. Judy, our wonderful instructor, says that if I can break some of my bad handling habits (tight leashes being the worst), we could enter Novice right out of class and do well. Because rally events fill up so quickly, she encouraged all of us in class to start looking for events in late winter and to sign up for them as soon as they open.

It turns out that I have to enter in Novice B, which doesn't make me happy. I co-owned a dog with a CD once (dear sweet Cadence, the original Mister Handsome), so even though I didn't put the CD on him, I still have to enter in B as though I had. GREAT. I'm a pass-fail kind of student in a class full of kids who want to get good grades.

Still, we'll be ready when that moment arrives. Seamus's AKC registration came back this week, so he now is a legal citizen of AKC events.

Friday, November 04, 2005

CGC? CBNB (Close But No Biscuit)

Ahhhh, we came so close to getting the CGC yesterday that it's almost painful. Seamus did magnificently on the first nine tests, and Dale will be as surprised as Greg was to hear that Seamus did not do his usual "rummy, rummy" brand of sliming on the tester. He was happy and wiggly, but he kept his tongue to himself. He was polite but not wacky with the demo dog, a sweet yellow Lab named Becky. He didn't lose his cool in the "crowd," even though one of the people was blowing a whistle. He focused so well on me during the "leave it" exercise that he hardly noticed the nice squeaky toy the tester tried to offer him. He even aced the sit-stay and the down-stay, his weakest points in obedience.

The last test in the series is the "supervised separation." In that test, the handler leaves the dog with the tester and goes out of sight of the dog for three minutes. During that period, the dog is not supposed to whine, bark, lunge, howl, or show obvious signs of distress.

Poor Seamus did his best. When I returned to the testing area after my three minutes were up, the tester handed his leash back to me and said sadly, "He was reallllly stressed." He'd managed to make it without me for about a minute before he started squeaking. The tester then signed the form and checked off the "Did Not Pass" box on the front, though she obviously regretted having to do so. She handed it to me and we departed for home empty-handed.

Well, not really empty-handed. Around my herding buddies, I keep repeating a phrase that has helped me keep perspective when I blow it in the herding arena: "You never come away with nothing. You either get a leg, or you get a lesson." Guess this time we got a lesson.

I can't lie and say I'm not a little bit disappointed that we didn't get the CGC yesterday, especially since Seamus did so well in nine out of ten tests. Considering he and I haven't been together as a team all that long, he really did great. That tenth one is something that time and a little training can help.

Duncan was nine when he got his CGC, though he did get it on the first try. Charlie didn't get his; he was a 9-month-old puppy at the time, and he couldn't resist jumping up and kissing the tester. He wouldn't pass now, but for a different reason: he's a little too sound-sensitive after having had Lyme to be calm during the "crowd scene."

We'll try again when Seamus is a little older and more settled. In the meantime, we can focus on the activities that require us to work as a team. There are no long separations in rally-o or novice obedience. Of course, we still need to work on those sit-stays and down-stays.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Here's the birthday boy, all groomed up for his big day. Posted by Picasa

Seamus's Big Three Birthday

Seamus has only been in our household for six months, but it feels as though he has always been here. Already I'm having a hard time remembering back to the days when we didn't have a living black-and-white fur rug in the bathroom, or when I didn't get awakened every morning by a pair of Beardie eyes drilling psychic holes into the back of my neck, or when I could sit and knit without a 50-pound lap dog trying to help. Happy birthday, little guy!

Our evening celebration will take place away from home tonight. We have obedience class, so we'll meet up with Dale and Tucker and carpool to class. It remains to be seen whether he'll whoop it up or concentrate on his work. Last week he almost paid a visit to the pretty white German Shepherd instead of coming to me during the recall, but then he remembered that the German Shepherd didn't have liver treats.

Tomorrow we're off to Manchester to All Dogs Gym to take the CGC test -- wish us luck! If he doesn't jump up on the tester or decide she's "rummy, rummy," he should do pretty well. He can easily perform all of the other exercises when he chooses to. Gail Fisher, who owns the Gym, used to have a Beardie named Mayday, and the two of them did pretty well in agility competition. She now has a new Beardie, and maybe we'll get to meet him-or-her tomorrow.

Little Bitty FO Report

I've whipped up a couple of roll-brim hats for Jody, and will be sending them off for her to try. Hopefully one or both of them will be the perfect hat(s) she's been seeking.

Thanks for my friend TiVo, I've been recording and watching a couple of the knitting shows on the DIY Network. DIY is pretty much public-access cable with commercials, and the knitting shows are a bit on the silly side, but I've managed to glean a few teeny bits of wisdom from them. I finally got to see what an ssk looks like when it's being done, and I got to watch someone turn the heel on a sock! (You have to remember that although I took a class to learn the basic knits and purls, most of what I know about knitting comes from books or the Internet. Sometimes you just have to be shown how to do something in order to see what it's supposed to look like.)

Maybe the best part of watching these shows is the realization that they're not for me; the projects they make are almost always beginner-level projects like scarves and shrugs, which means that -- could it be true? -- I'm no longer a beginner knitter! Somewhere along the line, I passed the initiation without even knowing it. Imagine that!

I did make an attempt to start a sock last night, but the size 2 needles felt like toothpicks to me after a year-plus on the big needles, and my stitches weren't at all neat. I pulled the cuff out and will start again with slightly bigger needles for my first attempt. The socks on the knitting show were made on size 7 dpns. Sure, the finished articles won't wear as well as socks knit with finer yarn on finer needles, but I just want to get the basic concepts down first. After that, I'll migrate to the small needles and get used to them. It might be a while before I'm up to knitting those little sock earrings, though.

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