Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Minnesota Nice, Home Nicer

Well, actually, this photo was taken in Wisconsin...

Sue, Dale, and the rest of my blog buddies have probably despaired long ago of regular updates from me. I know, guys, I know. The thing is, you have to sit in one place long enough to be able to write anything. That hasn't exactly described my summer to date.

Today is Labor Day, and I've already done my labor for the day. BCCME held a Board meeting over at the Panera Bread in Biddeford. I swilled coffee and scribbled notes. That's the extent of today's effort, thankyouverymuch. The weather is lovely, Greg's practicing piano, I'm drinking wine, and the pups are eagerly awaiting the time when we fire up the grill. Business as usual tomorrow, but today is ours.

So Whatcha Been Up To?

My other blog details Dinah's and my adventures in Canada with our partners-in-crime Val and Traveler. Quick summary: We went, we saw, we kicked butt, we drove a long way, and we replaced the radiator in my car.

Although I hadn't planned it to happen that way, I spent about 12 hours at home between the last trip and the next one. This gave me just barely enough time to drop the bag with the dirty laundry, pick up the one with the clean laundry, and boogie to the airport to catch the plane to Minneapolis. I was still fairly pie-eyed from the long drive back from Gananoque by the time I left again.

I'm not the superstitious type, but if I had been thinking clearly, I might have realized that the bag I'd packed for Minneapolis was none other than the Notorious Lose-Me Bag. This freakin' bag has been cursed since the day I bought it in the Target in Omaha, Nebraska to carry home a bunch of stuff I'd accumulated while at the 2005 BCCA National. It got lost on that flight home, and has managed -- I kid you not -- to get sucked into the Bermuda Triangle on every single flight it's taken since. This is the bag that took the vacation to London while I went to Vancouver Island last year. It hasn't been lost in about a year, but that correlates directly with the number of times I've taken it on a plane in the past twelve months (zero).

Anyway, it was only while I stood in line at the bag check counter in Portland that I realized that I'd packed The Notorious Lose-Me Bag and was about to send it on another glorious round-the-world vacation. I mentally budgeted funds for the extra clothing and supplies I'd need while it visited Shanghai, or Auckland, or someplace I wasn't going.

To my shock, the bag actually followed me to Minneapolis, through a stop in Baltimore and a plane change in Atlanta. If I were a betting person, I would have put money on it going AWOL in Atlanta.

I visited Minnesota to help out with some 2009 BCCA National business. The show chair and a couple of the other chairs would be visiting the club president during that week, so I planned to be there at the same time (I'm the official Web monkey for the show). It only occurred to me later that I'd really have to beat it home from Canada in order to get out there in time.

We had a blast in Minnesota. We visited the host hotel, herding venue, auction/40th-anniversary banquet venue, and agility venue for the show. We pored over the various suggested fundraisers and the show trophies, designed the souvenir logo coffee mug, and had ourselves a fun and creative time. We even found time to hang out at a local brewpub downtown and enjoy the evening. We dropped by a dog show just in time to see Best of Breed in Beardies and browsed all the vendors there. We even had a fabulous chicken dinner with Jane and Sandy, who own Dinah's handsome blue half-brother Widget (Breaksea Boddy's Brew).

Cindy, the show chair, and I had planned things so we'd leave for home on the same day. Her plane left in the morning and mine in the afternoon, so I figured I could amuse myself in the airport for a few hours in the usual fashion: drinking coffee, knitting socks, and buying tacky tourist postcards to send to everybody. Sadly, MSP Airport is deeply lacking in tacky tourist stuff, and I was forced to buy actual nice postcards. They didn't even have a single crummy postcard of the statue of Mary Tyler Moore. Really, where's the fun in that?!

While I was browsing the sparse offerings in the postcard department, Murphy's Law was busy working its usual airline magic. On the day I planned to fly home, Hurricane Fay faded to a tropical storm and poured rain on the whole Southeast. Hurricane Gustav became a hurricane and bore down on Cuba. The FAA suffered a massive system failure that had the greatest effect on the two airports I'd be traveling through: Atlanta and then Baltimore. Oh, and did I mention I'd already checked the Notorious Lose-Me Bag?

The scheduled departure time for our flight was delayed, and delayed again. I did the math and realized that even if we settled on an actual departure time, there was no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I would make the only evening flight from Baltimore to Portland that day. I took my place in line to discuss my options with the airline staff at the gate.

The airline rep explained to me that I had two options at that point: stay another night in Minneapolis, or get as far as Baltimore and stay there. Either way, I'd be a guest of the airline and could set things up for the very first flights out the next morning. Even if the weather and system issues forced me to miss the first flight out, at least I'd have a couple more schedules to choose from before having to miss the last flight home. I decided to opt for Minneapolis, and called my friends to let them know. The airline rep called baggage and asked them to locate my bag and bring it out to the carousel, and then she promised to meet me at the ticket counter with a hotel voucher after I retrieved my bag.

Obediently, I toddled off to the baggage carousel. I waited, and waited, and waited. No bag. No people with bags. Nobody with my bag.

After some time had passed, I met the airline rep at the ticket counter. She handed me the voucher for the hotel and the hotel's phone number. She also looked up my baggage claim check, and verified that since I'd checked my bag in early, it had been shipped off home on an earlier flight. It didn't occur to me then to ask why I couldn't have been shipped off on the same flight. At least she was readily able to verify that it was indeed in Portland, Maine -- not Portland, Oregon or Oporto, Portugal. I could pick it up when I deplaned the next day.

So there I was, with only the very casual clothes on my sweaty carcass and my single carry-on bag (containing my laptop and my knitting), headed for the Park Plaza Hotel. I didn't exactly feel appropriate for the occasion. The hotel staff, used to taking in airline orphans, provided me with a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a miniature Lady Speed Stick in addition to the usual hotel-room toiletries. I showered, took dinner to my room, and managed to feel as normal as one can without clean clothes. I knitted a sock and watched the tube, and enjoyed the high-speed broadband. Life was almost good.

The next day, I made it home without incident. I knew I'd touched down on my own Mainiac soil again the moment I heard someone else greet a relative with "Welcome to Pawtland, deah!". My bag was waiting for me exactly where it was supposed to be. If it visited any other cities on its trip home, it wasn't saying.

It's a Sock! No, It's a Milestone!

Hard to believe, but I actually finished the second of Jody's Yankee Knitter socks on this trip! They're lovely -- Jawoll yarn in autumnal-colored stripes which she'll just love -- and of course, I only remembered to take a photo of them after they'd already been shipped off in the mail.

I thought I'd never finish that pair of socks. I tore out and re-knitted the heel twice on Sock #2, and then I messed up once more and ripped it all the way back to the initial slipknot. I was positive I'd have to send one sock and one ball of yarn with a little note attached saying, "Sorry. Just wind this around your other foot."

Those suckers are done and now living the good life in their new home, and I've even made a couple of inches' worth of progress on their successors: another Yankee Knitter pair in red Happy Feet yarn with terrific, subtle color variations in the red. At least for now, Happy Feet is my current favorite sock yarn. (That's because I can't quite bring myself to buy some of the Opal Harry Potter yarn while I still own 60-odd balls and skeins of various brands of sock yarn. I want it badly, though. Badly.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Return of the Man

Greg came home from NYC last night after four days of rehearsals and the recording session for the Sax Quartet. I was mistaken in reporting that the recording session was taking place in a studio; instead, they set up the session in a room halfway up the tower in Riverside Church in NYC, and enjoyed the acoustics in that space. Greg said that the room reminded him of a mediaeval banquet hall.

Recording for the first three movements went so well that everyone was thrilled to bits. They had almost decided to cancel the fourth movement, but after some discussion, the quartet still wanted to record it. They've made some suggestions to Greg for emendations that would make the work more possible for humans to play (as in more places to breathe, for example). Greg will get those done and they'll set up at the church again for the fourth movement after that. In the meantime, the recording engineer will get to work on production editing.

Greg will also do some of the editing on his three movements and on Lukas Foss's piece, just to help spread the work around and get everything done more quickly. The New Hudsons actually recorded Lukas's piece in his New York apartment.

This probably means another delay in the actual issuing of the CD and iTunes tracks and such, but the end result will be much better and will make everyone involved much happier. Richard (who owns Capstone Records) thinks that maybe he and Greg can sell the ACA on maybe helping with the costs, publicity, or other aspects of the recording because four out of the five composers are ACA members.

We shall see. In the meantime, everyone feels great about this recording. Who knows whether the works on it will find their way into standard repertoire for sax quartet someday?

Knitting For Its Own Sake

Okay, I admit it. I've flunked Fangrrl 101. I am just not destined to be a member of the "fan culture" surrounding knitting.

Not that I didn't try. I've read the knitblogs, commented on a few, and even went so far as to set up an account on Ravelry. (Most of my friends on Ravelry, as it turns out, are fellow dog people whom I discovered are also knitters because they ended up on Ravelry, too.) I just never quite got to the point of squealing with delight every time any popular knitblogger sneezed -- or worse, blogged about one of their kids sneezing. I don't read crappy, formulaic knitting-oriented mysteries or giggly, self-referential stories and essays about knitting. Unless there's an actual pattern or technique or something I myself can produce from a book about knitting, that book is well-nigh useless to me. I prefer dogs to cats, coffee to tea, and just about anything else to folk music (except country and rap).

Probably most of the people I know who knit don't fit the expected demographic, either. If you like all that stuff, then go and enjoy with my blessing. Really. I just don't think I'm going to be able to join you. I did try, though.

Anyway, none of the fangrrl culture (or my failing at it) has anything to do with the simple, tactile pleasure of just sitting down and knitting something. I've been enjoying the heck out of the last few inches of Jody's second sock, and might even (the gods willing) have the entire pair ready for Terry to take home with him after the herding clinic in October. I just Like to Knit Socks. Fan culture has nothing to do with it. I have a sweater that's been about 3/4 done for a year at least, but I just really like socks. Sweaters are work. Socks are pleasure. I like to buy sweaters. I love to knit socks.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A Little O'This, A Little O'That

Another shot of Dinah Moe on the agility course at York Days.

Ahhhh, Sunday mornings. I've always enjoyed being able to kick back on Sunday mornings and just take my own sweet time. Back in the olden days, I'd spend my time over the Sunday paper and a pot of coffee, either here or out at some little breakfast place in the area. These days, we no longer get a Sunday paper and I have rally-roo classes on Sundays during the season while Greg works at church... but on Sundays like these when absolutely nothing else is going on, it's just nice to stretch, pour another hot cuppa, and soak in the quiet.

In a little while, I'll need to dive into the small but important pile of Corresponding Secretary tasks on my desk: sending out welcome letters and packets to the new BCCA members and shipping off brochures and applications to people who have requested them.

Although I've only held the office for a short while now, I can already understand the idea that the Corresponding Secretary's work is never done. Around the first of the month, reports are due to the Board and the newsletter editor, and invariably there's a trickle of last-minute requests on the last day of the preceding month and on the first day. Since deadlines are my life, this makes me a little crazy -- but it happens with every professional deadline I've ever faced, too. Just a fact of life...

For the First Time in Ages....

Knitting news! I never did find another ball of that Gigli ribbon yarn, but I have some in another color. I'll probably have to cheat and add some of the new color on each end, then make it look as though I planned it.

Maybe I just needed a little vacation from knitting... I don't know. Anyway, the desire to knit socks has suddenly returned. Before my hair appointment yesterday, I popped into the Yarn Sellar just to say hello and have a look around. The friendly knitter who works there on weekends (and whose name I've spaced completely!) knits sock models for the shop and is as much of a sock-o-maniac as I am. She helped me adopt a pair of skeins of red Happy Feet yarn and some more Brittany Birch shorties (which now come 6 to a pack instead of 5 -- woohoo!).

I'm trying to finish up Jody's second Trekking sock before her husband comes out here for a sheep-herding clinic in October. Considering I've had these on the needles for over a year and it really only takes me a couple of weeks to make a pair of socks, what are the chances I'll be done by the time he's ready to fly home??

Of course, something has to give in one place for there to be time in another. I've spent minimal time in Second Life this week, which might explain why I've been able to get so many other things done.

Work That's Actually Play

I finished one Web site last week, for the Vacationland Dog Club. Eventually a club member will take this over, but I'm making the updates at the moment. FYI, for my POC friends and other local dog-club readers: the 2008 edition of Meet the Breeds is taking place in Scarborough in September, as part of Responsible Dog Ownership Day festivities happening around Maine. Here's the announcement. I'll be doing the CGC testing there.

I have three other sites in the works, one of which is a paying gig. One's a barter gig for a friend, and the other one's the site for the 2009 BCCA National Specialty. I've had that site in the work pipeline for a while now. The joy of working with CSS and XHTML is that you can code up the content even when you still can't visualize how you want the final result to look. That helps me feel productive even though I'm having trouble making up my mind.

Because I'm a visual thinker, I still have a little bit of a mental disconnect between the CSS coding and what I want the finished site to look like. It helps to have Dreamweaver so I can continually check my progress, but I'd be blind and lost without it. I understand the code well enough. I just haven't reached the stage where I can see the code's results in my mind.

Could use some more paying gigs these days. I'll just have to make time to go looking for them.