Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Snow and other four-letter words

It's said that the Eskimos (more properly, the Inuit) have over 200 words to describe snow. I have at least a dozen myself, and none of them are fit for a family blog.

Mother Nature is messing with our heads. After the snowstorm this past weekend, we've had a few more snow showers, and another snowstorm today. I tell you, I can not leave for New Orleans soon enough! The weather forecast says it'll rain there for most of the weekend, but no matter. It'll be 70 degrees, and we won't have to shovel anything.

We leave tomorrow morning, and will be there until the morning of the 31st (unless another frickin' snowstorm comes through and strands us someplace). I'll try to sneak into an Internet cafe every so often to update my blog, but no promises. I might be too busy catching beads and snarfing down gumbo.

Thanks to the last snowstorm, we ended up celebrating my birthday on Monday. Since it was the actual day anyway, we didn't consider it a big loss... but there's only so much you can do on a "school night" in January anyway. We went to Grissini, an absolutely wonderful Italian restaurant in Kennebunk Lower Village, and we basked next to the fireplace while practically swooning with delight over the dinner. We might just have found our new favorite restaurant.

News flash: I said it was snowing outside again, right? I swear I just saw a big, plump robin sitting right outside my window in the pine tree. Either it was a red-breasted illusion and I'm a terrible bird-watcher, or someone out there is really, really mad at the weather forecasters right about now.

Poor Greg has been valiantly trying to attend his classes this week, but Mother Nature's had an opinion about that, too. He was supposed to met with Lukas Foss (his composition professor this semester) on Monday, but the weekend's snowstorm made sure that Lukas couldn't get a shuttle flight out of NYC to Logan for class. The class was then rescheduled till today, and BU has just cancelled the remainder of today's classes. Since we'll be returning from New Orleans next Monday, this means that the earliest Greg and Lukas will meet will be February 7... unless the weather intervenes yet again.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

60 shopping days till the vernal equinox!

We're in the midst of our first respectably-sized snowstorm of the year. Last night it qualified as a blizzard, with huge gusts of wind that howled around the corners of the house all night long, and upwards of two feet of snow to greet us this morning.

Even Charlie, the Abominable Snowdog, appeared surprised by the sheer volume of snow. When Greg ventured outside to look for the Sunday paper this morning, Charlie followed him out the front door. He stepped off the front step to the ground, and looked about as surprised as a dog could look when the snow came up almost to his chin, and he was unable to lift his leg. He has since recovered from that shock, however, and is busy tunneling through the snowdrifts in the backyard.

The timing of this storm isn't exactly the best, since Greg and I were hoping to combat cabin fever by heading out to Portsmouth or Portland for my birthday meal and a museum visit. Needless to say, we've opted to leave the streets to the plow trucks and the maniacs. I believe I'll take my friend Pam's advice and spend the day knitting.

As long as the weather holds on the days we leave for New Orleans and when we return, I promise not to complain. Much.

Hey, everybody: Go to Pam's blog and email her to update it! She is an amazing, awe-inspiring knitter and quilter (having done both since before she could walk, I think) and has two handsome blue Beardie boys.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Catch-up and Cabin Fever

Cheesy spam subject line of the day:

If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn?

(Perhaps the clue lies in the accompanying Viagra ad? I think Steven Wright should press those spammers for royalties.)

It's been a busy week, and I consider myself lucky to have finished even one thing despite the continual interruptions. It seemed as though everybody needed to have something from me this week, and that I could only provide that document if I laid down another one (also due this week) and gave that one my full attention instead. Unfortunately, the blog suffered. After a week of writing reams of stuff to satisfy everybody else, I ran completely out of both time and words.

I couldn't talk about the inauguration even if I'd had the words. Unspeakable. Literally. I gladly accept sympathy notes from all my Canadian blogger-buddies, on behalf of the rest of us.

Sharon at Knitknacks is as tired of winter in Michigan as I am of winter in Maine. With another snowstorm on the way (I've lost count of the number of days it's snowed in the last couple of weeks, but too damn many), I've just about started counting the minutes until we leave for New Orleans. The locals in NOLA will not be happy if the temperatures only get up into the 50s, but anything's better than -7 F (-14 C) with more snow on the way... except for Pirate's -31 F (-35 C) up in Alberta. Here's hoping that Pirate's too busy playing her shiny new grand piano to notice the weather!

Since my birthday is next Monday (standard work day for me, first day of the semester for Greg), we're hoping to celebrate this weekend instead. I'm not sure what the plan is yet, if any -- another snowstorm may put things on hold. All I really want is to not have to cook my own dinner, and if we don't have to dine out at one of the two halfway decent restaurants in Sanford, so much the better. I really like the sesame chicken from Golden Palace, but if I see it just one more time this month, my head is going to start spinning around and I'll spit pea soup at people.

(I've been sooo virtuous, but I broke down yesterday. I ordered a box of See's chocolates from California for myself for my birthday. I haven't had chocolates since I can remember when.)

The lack of inspiration that Sharon reports has hit here, too. I'm a pretty decent chef in my own right, but we've been eating more take-out in the past week or two than we have... well, ever. I s'pose I shouldn't feel guilty about feeding Greg hot dogs, baked beans, and brown bread, spaghetti, and such. He loves the stuff and is easy to please... but I'm capable of so much more when I have the desire to cook. Maybe a long weekend in Cajun/Creole heaven will fix the problem.

Freakin' Sweet

May 1 is the official start of the new season of "Family Guy."

Thanks, Misanthrope, for the pointer to B2's commentary on censorship and "Family Guy." Personally, I think that Fox is censoring the wrong buttheads on their network.

Fifteen Minutes a Day

I swear that's all the time I've had to myself lately: 15 minutes. It doesn't ordinarily take me a week to knit myself a 2" wide boa scarf to wear to New Orleans, but it's taken me that long to finish the Skacel Peacock scarf I started.

The red bag now has its strap and awaits its hot, soapy bath. If we're to be stuck indoors again this weekend, then I'll make some time to felt it. That'll take about 15 minutes, give or take a couple.

The fuchsia felted bag -- my very first foray into felting -- finally arrived in LA and has received rave reviews from my college classmate. She's using it as a cell phone bag.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Spam and other deceptions

My ISP has a reasonably intelligent but extremely effective spam blocking service. Very rarely does a junk message get through, but I do have to log in to the blocker's Web site to make sure that everything that's been trapped in there belongs there. Occasionally, it snags a legitimate email, so I have to scan the list of email addresses and subjects to free any messages that should have come through.

This process gives me a chance to read the subject lines of some of the junk messages that got snagged. Most are fairly boring -- buy a Rolex watch or a Paris Hilton video, you've won the Ugandan national lottery, we have Viagra and Cialis for you... you get the idea. I have to hand it to the spammers who exhibit at least some creativity. Yesterday, I received a message with the following subject line:

There's a frog in my bidet!

Not that I'm any more likely to buy (or even read) anything from these bogus buggers, but at least their subject lines are mildly entertaining.

True story: In the job before my current work incarnation, I worked with a guy who hailed from Austin, Minnesota (home of Hormel, makers of Spam). He used to go back to Minnesota to visit his family at Christmastime, and would bring us all back goodies from the Hormel gift shop (Spam T-shirts, boxer shorts, earrings, Christmas ornaments...). One year when he went back home, one of the staff people at Hormel found out that he was a UNIX sysadmin who knew something about the Internet. She asked him, "Could you please get the Internet to stop calling junk email 'Spam'?" Some things are beyond even the power of the UNIX wizards...

We wuz robbed!

Fox Television gave false hope to all of us "Family Guy" fans today. They had publicized a new season of the show (revived from cancellation) starting today, but instead of showing the new episodes, they're showing re-runs of older ones. Come to find out, they won't be showing any of the new episodes until May. Not that the old ones aren't still hysterically funny, but that's a pretty sleazy marketing tactic. Fox did its best to bury the series the first time around by showing it at random times, until people couldn't find it any more and gave up. I wonder how many people are going to sit faithfully in front of the tube from now until May.


The turquoise Fancy Fur scarf is done, and will head to LA eventually. I had nothing to wear to Mardi Gras, so I picked up a couple of balls of Skacel Peacock in a yellow-lavender-green-blue combination. It's as close to the standard Mardi Gras color scheme (yellow, purple, green) as I could get in one yarn.

I've also finished the red bag, though I haven't felted it yet. I need to finish the i-cord strap and attach it, and then the thing's ready for felting. I wanted to do a couple of the felted tote bags from the Fiber Trends pattern, but my local yarn shop was out of both of the shades of Lamb's Pride Bulky that I wanted. I left a request with them, and will start on the Booga Bag next instead.


Poor old Doogie has been having some trouble getting up on his own. More often than not these days, I have to lift him to his feet. He can still occasionally struggle to his feet under his own power, but he requires more rescuing now. I worry that he'll continue to weaken and might not be able to stand on his own someday soon, but he's still holding on.

Friday, January 14, 2005

"Spamalot" and the Return of Elvis

One of my college classmates lives and works in LA, and sends me emails about some of the funnier things going on in the world of entertainment. Today, she mentioned that the musical "Spamalot" was opening in NYC on February 14, and that its pre-Broadway run in Chicago was extremely well received. (Go see the site. It's hysterical!) Best of all, David Hyde Pierce and Tim Curry are in the cast.

Maybe it's because I belong to a community chorus and sing far too many tired medleys of moldy show tunes at Pops concerts, but I just wince whenever I hear about some other tired, wretched, old musical re-opening on Broadway. Sure as anything, if the old cliche ends up selling enough tickets, we'll have to sing a medley of its most memorable, miserable melodies at a bazillion Pops concerts that year.

This is one musical that won't make me wince -- as a Python fan of many years' standing, I might actually have to go see it, if the show ever makes its way to Boston. There's also something particularly satisfying about the idea of our chorus having to sing "We are the knights of Camelot/We eat ham and jam and Spam a lot..." instead of having to dust off "Cats" or "Les Mis" yet again.

Hunka Hunka Birthday Fun

My birthday isn't until the 24th, but the aforementioned college friend is early for everything. Last night I received my birthday package, and it contained a set of fetching Elvis fridge magnets, plus a "Viva Las Vegas" T-shirt that would make Drainy positively chartreuse with envy, if she weren't headed to Vegas to buy her own. The Cult of Elvis goes on!

And Oh Yeah, Knitting

I haven't made a lot of progress on the knitting front this week. I've started a lot of stuff, but haven't had much time to myself to get much farther along than that. This weekend is a long weekend due to the Monday holiday, so maybe I can make a little headway before the work week drags me back again. I finished the Sirdar Wow! scarf and actually like it very much -- it weighs a ton in garter stitch, and will be mighty cozy. It's on its way to LA right now, along with the pink felted purse.

The same friend bought a few balls of turquoise Fancy Fur, and I'm nearly done with another scarf for her. It's fun stuff.

I've also started another small purse for felting, this one in red Lamb's Pride worsted. This time, I'm going to use one of Val's buttons as a closure. I'm just not sure yet whether it'll be a Beardie or a sheep button. Maybe I'll photograph them both with the finished bag and let you folks decide.

One More Thing!

Today is Piano Day at Pirate's house. Congratulations, Pirate! I wouldn't blame you if you spent more time playing than blogging for a while.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Keeping Up with the Knitting Joneses

Like a lot of other knitbloggers, I have my roster of favorite knitblogs to read. Some appear in my blogroll, some are syndicated through My Yahoo! or Bloglines, and some I try to catch up with occasionally, when I have time left after reading all the other ones and (heaven forfend) updating my own blog.

Ah, the things my fellow knitters have been getting up to! Knit-alongs! Sock exchanges! The Clapotis scarf from Knitty! Knit Kersti for me! Sometimes it makes me feel like the littlest kid on the block, the one who always wants to go out and play with all the bigger kids because their games always look so much cooler than mine... only I'm not big enough yet to keep up with them. Some days I'm lucky to get a couple of rows into another fuzzy garter-stitch scarf; I knit so many of them because I can do them in the semi-darkness in front of the tube, in the hour or so a day that I don't have to do something else.

It makes me want to take a knit vacation someplace quiet, someplace where I have the time and the peace to think about doing fancier stuff - and to concentrate on what I'm doing. There's a poor half-frogged afghan lying around here that's a tangled testament to why I should never knit when the Red Sox are winning.

Old Dog Blog

Doogie's like an old car that's been driven hundreds of thousands of miles. Parts of him may fail along the way, but the old guy just keeps on going. His hearing has turned selective, and his night vision is no longer very good. He often needs help getting to his feet, and he doesn't always make it outside when he needs to go. All the same, he's still a happy, contented, sweet old dog who always wants to be in the middle of whatever's going on.

There have been times when I catch myself watching him intently to make sure he's still breathing, and I wonder how many ticks are left in that gallant, failing old heart of his. Does he ever miss the dog he used to be? Does he ever miss getting into trouble, overturning the trashcans and making Houdini-like escapes through the backyard fence? The Doogie of yesteryear never would have missed an opportunity to put the cat through her paces. These days, she steps over him if he's lying in the path between her bed and the litterbox.

During the 3 AM lift-him-up-and-let-him-out shift, I sometimes wonder what he thinks of his quality of life. I worry that he senses that I can't bear to part with him, and so he sticks around and fights his way through another day, another week, because I want him to. I am sure that he doesn't want to leave yet, though -- I can see it in his sweet old gray face. His brother Duncan knew when it was time, and I hope Doogie will tell me honestly when the day comes (too soon) when he feels it's his turn.

When that day comes, he'll pad over the Rainbow Bridge to join Duncan and Cadence and Merlin and all the others who have gone before him. I hope that as a last act of pure Doogie defiance, that he'll knock over a couple of trashcans along the way.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Welcome to Maine, where the snow falls and the flakes drive in it

If you have an email account, then doubtless you receive at least half a dozen jokes every day, forwarded by other friends, relatives, acquaintances, mailing lists, friends of friends, or total strangers. There is one classic piece that makes its way around at this time every year. It's the one that starts out, "Dear Diary, We've just moved to Maine, and the snow is sooo lovely and romantic." Each successive diary entry describes more snow, and grows more agitated at the sight of the white stuff, until the diarist finally cracks and is forced to move south for mental health reasons.

The circumstances aren't as extreme in this household, but the novelty sure has worn off the sight of snow. It was pretty in November and expected at Christmastime, but we can do without it for the rest of the season now, thankyouverymuch.

Okay, I've been living in the freakin' Arctic all my life, so the white stuff is never unexpected (except in May). However, I don't ski, and my favorite winter sport is crossing off the days until Opening Day at Fenway. I want my roads back, so I can drive to the gym, the yarn shop, and the grocery store without the fear of being smashed flat by some crazed I-think-I'm-immortal-in-this-huge-gas-guzzling-hunk-of-iron bugger in an SUV.

(Mind you, I don't speak for Charlie or for Greg. Those two lunatics like nothing better than to go romping in the snow. More power to them, and more cocoa for me.)

Great Moments in Kitsch History

Today is Elvis's 70th birthday (and David Bowie's 50-something-th). It makes you wonder how well preserved the old hound dog would be if he'd lived. We'll probably mark the occasion with another ceremonial viewing of "Bubba-Ho-Tep." It's only appropriate. (Last year, my company's cafeteria served fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches to mark the occasion. No one can say how many were sold.)

I'm just old enough to think of anything before the Beatles as the Jurassic Era -- I never much cared for any of the popular music coming out of the '50s, and it was old, dusty stuff long before I started buying rock records. Still, who couldn't love the Cult of Elvis as it appears in pop culture today? The amount of Elvis kitsch available today is mind-bogglingly funny -- almost as funny as the folks who buy it.

Many birthdays ago (mine is at the end of January), some friends of mine bought me a velvet Elvis as a gag gift. We roared ourselves hoarse over the thing. It passed through many incarnations since then: first as a decoration for the inside of my closet, then as a gag gift for some friends in Vermont, then as an archery target in upstate New York, then as a featured item in a fund-raising auction (arrows still protruding) back in Vermont. I believe that the velvet Elvis still lives somewhere in the Northeast Kingdom, and that some day when I'm looking the other way, it'll reappear on my doorstep, with or without arrows.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Snow business like snow business

Well, it's my fault. Another Beardie buddy in Chicago and I were emailing back and forth yesterday, and she was bemoaning the fact that Chicago hadn't had any decent snow to speak of. Just for chuckles, I emailed a third friend in Omaha to ask her whether she could divert any of the Omaha storm toward Chicago. (Our friend in Omaha was a weather officer in the Air Force before she retired. I thought I was being funny.)

Sometimes you do get what you ask for, and more. Now Chicago's getting snowed on, and as a bonus, so are we. We have about 4" already, and Charlie couldn't be happier. He comes in only long enough for the previous layer of snow to thaw off his coat before barking to be let back outside. That dog was a husky in a previous life, or maybe a polar bear.


At least this sort of weather makes a fine backdrop and inspiration for knitting. My first act was to acquire three skeins of Kureyon for a Booga Bag. I've also started another small felted bag from Felted Knits in red Lamb's Pride to show off Val's buttons (she sent me two sheep and two Beardies -- photos will follow as I use each one).

My college classmate in LA sent me four balls of grape-purple Sirdar Wow!, so I'm making her a scarf with the stuff. A lot of knitters have warned about chenille yarn's tendency to worm, but thus far I've been very gentle and very lucky with this stuff, and it hasn't misbehaved yet. It isn't really chenille so much as it is velveteen, so I worry more about crushing the pile.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Persephone (a.k.a. StonerKat) wants to warn all you kittens out there about the dangers of too much catnip. Wow, maaaaaan. Posted by Hello

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Case of the Disappearing Vacation -- it's still a mystery!

Yow -- how can it be back-to-work Monday already?! The last time I checked, I had all that lovely vacation time laid out for knitting and reading and taking it easy. How did it manage to disappear while I wasn't looking?

I could really get used to this not-working-and-still-getting-paid stuff. (Note to self: Win Powerball this year.) Thanks to the generous vacation policy at my company, I now get 4 weeks of vacation after 7 years' worth of service, but entry-level newbies in Australia get that much to start. What's wrong with this picture?

Getting back into the old routine wasn't all that bad, except for the part where my alarm clock went off while still showing the hours in single numbers. After the morning infusion of coffee (Sumatran, half-and-half, no sugar, really really big cup), I remembered my passwords and got started. This is how it's going to be until our next company shutdown during the first week of July, so I have plenty of time to get used to being back.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Not that the news is all that bad in the leisure department. We're going to Mardi Gras at the end of January! The actual date of Fat Tuesday is February 8, but we always go on the weekend of the Mystic Krewe of Barkus parade and then get the heck out of town before the real tourists arrive. We attend other parades and catch beads and drink our fill of Hurricanes and coffee with chicory, but Barkus is always the real reason we go. Well, that and getting out of the cold for a long weekend.

This trip has traditionally been a "girls only" junket for my friend Jody and me, but I just didn't have the heart to tell Greg that he couldn't go... so we're all going. He should have a great time just jamming with other musicians and visiting all of the usual French Quarter haunts. As long as he doesn't interfere with Jody's and my shopping time (particularly the time we spend in The Quarter Stitch, a wonderful knitting/needlepoint emporium right off Jackson Square), things should be just great.

Ahhh, New Orleans. I just love New Orleans. I would probably settle for a long weekend in almost any Southern city after a few months of Maine winter, but New Orleans deserves its reputation as a terminally charming, fun, sybaritic city with a definite rough edge. Jody and I vacation together every other year (they have a farm, so the chance of our taking a couples vacation is pretty slim -- it will be lambing time then), and we keep saying, "Maybe we should go someplace else for a change." As vacation time gets nearer, though, we always decide to go back to New Orleans. The lure of the Cafe du Monde is just too strong.

Stuff Breeds in Captivity

The Reorganization Bug bit me yesterday. Every once in a while I am compelled to tear into something and restore order, and yesterday I sacrificed precious knitting time to reorganize my stash. Let's just say that no newbie knitter should have that much yarn. It's all carefully organized now, though, and I could pretty much find anything at a moment's notice. I even dug up the frog pond!

The results were indeed worth it. I found several skeins of Lamb's Pride that were just crying out to be felted, plus some more skeins of alpaca from a local alpaca farm that could also make nice felting yarn.

Update on the Concert for the Tsunami Victims

The people organizing the concert have decided to hold it on January 30 in Kennebunk. Unfortunately, I will be far too busy breakfasting on beignets to be able to attend. The chorus will sing the German Requiem and a couple of spirituals by Alice Parker. I had a duet in one of those spirituals, and I'll miss singing that part again.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Just one more day of vacation

At the beginning, my vacation week stretched out in front of me all the way to infinity. Sure, there'd be the usual necessary interruptions for the holidays, but there in that week loomed huge chunks of free time for me, me, me!

That was theory. This is practice.

Not that I haven't managed to complete at least some of the items on my to-do list from the day after Christmas. I did complete and photograph the felted purse, finish my sister's scarf, and hang out in Portland on Thursday (well, not exactly "hang." Greg and I visited the Portland Museum of Art and the art gallery at the University of New England's Westbrook campus). I skimmed Vogue Knitting from cover to cover, and am looking for a nice big chunk of time to devote to actual reading. Likewise, I did start pricing DVD recorders when a few showed up in the Best Buy sale flyer yesterday.

About the one thing I didn't do is frog my "World Series" afghan. This afghan doesn't really have anything to do with baseball, except that I started it during the World Series and got so excited during the games that I made a bazillion mistakes. Ah, well... that will get redone at some point between now and opening day at Fenway.

Greg and I change the water in the hot tub every three months, give or take a few days. Usually, the end-of-December change is particularly difficult because the weather's brutally cold, and the water has to keep flowing quickly enough so it doesn't freeze upon exiting the hose. Today is an uncharacteristically warm day for January in Maine: it's almost 50 degrees out, and for a while the sun room (where the hot tub lives) was warmer with the door open than the rest of the house was. Once the tub is full again, we won't have to hassle with this process until April Fool's Day.

The rest of today will probably pass uneventfully. Everywhere I look around the house, there's some task that needs doing or some surface that needs cleaning. I need to stop blogging for the moment and pay attention to some of those, and by evening I'll feel like a real Spartan for having gotten some work done.

More later? We shall see. I'd rather be knitting than scrubbing, but it's time to do something.