Thursday, December 22, 2005

Off like a prom dress.

Sadly, I think this will be my last post for a least during the holidays. I got to Chicago on Monday, and technologically speaking, my parents are still living in 1985. (My mom's favorite workout video remains a Richard Simmons tape. Hey, why mess with a good thing, huh?)

So the only place I have internet access is at my brother's, and it's probably more than a little rude to arrive here and immediately squirrel myself away in a corner with his laptop to blog. Like I'm doing now.

So, I just wanted to wish everyone a wonderful holiday in the company of family and good friends! I'll miss you guys, and I'll be spending my precious internet time stalking your blogs, so don't disappoint!



Sunday, December 18, 2005

Giving a whole new meaning to the term "ghetto knitters."

Y'all have to check this out. Thanks to A Mingled Yarn for pointing it out!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Back in business.

You would think that I'd just found a new lover.

I pined away in its absence. I eagerly awaited the arrival of its newest incarnation. When it came to my door, I tore off its wrappings. I haven't been able to keep my hands off it since. I even insisted on a portrait of the two of us.

Yes, friends, the cell phone saga has now culminated in a happy conclusion. I waited all of Wednesday morning for the Fedex man, and when I bounded down the stairs, I'm sure he had no idea why I was so flipping happy. Maybe he thought there were illicit drugs stashed away in the package.

And in a way, my new toy does give me quite a buzz. Who knew I could be such a techno-geek? This Sony Ericsson is the nicest phone I've owned to date--it has a camera! That makes me so happy, I can't even tell you. Surf the net, check my email, text message people? Who cares! But having a camera at the ready to capture all kinds of random daily crap? Hooray!

I've been missing all of you as I wrapped up the last loose ends of the semester...I snuck peeks at my Bloglines, but didn't have much time to comment on anyone's blogs. Not that I've seen many new posts...but, what's that? Piece of *&*(&#$@! Bloglines hasn't been showing new posts?!!! Anyway, I was able to read enough to feed my addiction and keep my going, until today, when I am officially on vacation!

Which is a subjective term--"vacation" meaning I get to go to Chicago and try to keep on working on my dissertation prospectus, while I also attend to knitting my mom's flared smoke ring, which kinda fell by the wayside. It's too complicated for casual knitting, so I decided to take it home and spend good chunks of time working on it. It won't be a surprise for Christmas, then, but I also bought her a copy of Beyond the Sea, because she likes Bobby Darin, so that'll take care of the Santa Claus element.

My friends and I had our holiday farewell get-together, before we all scattered to the four winds. We had a holiday grab-bag-type of thing, and I ended up with this cool set of pirate playing cards, which come in a velvet pouch and with a lucky gold doubloon!

I learned to play poker last night (sort of)...and I love it! It was super fun, especially when you're betting with beans. As you can see, the wine made me reckless enough to bet away 10 beans at a time, but I did win one hand! Or round, or whatever it's called. Woo hoo! Momma needs a new pair of shoes!

(Yes, that is a little cheat sheet in the corner, helping me figure out what's better, a flush or a pair...don't laugh! I'm learning!)

Not a whole lot of knitting going on around here these days, but I did knock out this little cupcake hat for a friend's daughter:

In case you haven't been following the hatalong, this has been quite the hit! The pattern's at Chile con Yarne, and there's other adorable kids' hat patterns there, too. I knit it out of Caron Wintuk, which firmly reestablishes my ghetto knitter credibility after got on probee status with the Noro (Chris, you're a tough parole officer!). In the skein, the yarn feels soft, but I must say, that after knitting up enough of it, it acquired this....density. Like it would make a good potholder. Not very drapey, but for a first try at a kid's hat, where washability is paramount, I'd say it's a go.

And, as long as I had the camera out, I went ahead did the meme that's been going around, and took a picture of my knitting corner. I just bought this chair at the thrift store, and I love love love it!!! It's the perfect reading/knitting chair; my futon's fine for sitting and watching t.v., but it doesn't have the kind of back support that I need for my other two most beloved activities.

And, btw, because I'm sure you've noticed already, I went ahead and made some design changes. Laura's been getting so fancy with her banner that I decided I had to have something cooler than the boring old "Thataway Rose" Blogger template. I thought about knitting a scarf in the colors of the Mexican flag and using that as a graphic, but since that's not likely to happen anytime soon, I settled for this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

For all you lefty shoppers out there...

Great holiday gifts for the kiddies!

Just in time for "Bushmas," y'all.

Monday, December 12, 2005


I don't like to complain, y'all. I never have liked complainers. No matter what's wrong, no matter what my problems are, I remind myself that they are miniscule compared to what some people go through. I have clothes on my back, a roof over my head, and my health. Thank you, Lord.

But the things that I have gone through today, I feel they serve as a cautionary tale. Although I'll bet all y'all are much tougher and smarter than which case, the following will serve as a source of amusement.

You can also skip ahead to my FO at the end...really. I will totally understand.

My big problem lately has been my cell phone. Or lack of one. It stopped working on November 30. Innocently enough, I kept getting a message every time I dialed--"We are sorry. We do not recognize your number as an authorized user."

No problem, right? I turned it off and on again, thinking that I would pick up a new signal. Nope. I had to go to the airport to pick up my roommate, so I called Cingular from there.

Spent about half an hour on the phone with a very nice lady, and we tried different things, but she finally had to throw in the towel and told me that tech support would be looking into it and calling back in three to five business days. If they found the problem was with my phone, the nice lady said they could probably get me a free phone.

Yeah, I know. That's a LOT of days, especially if you're dependent on your cell. Luckily, I'm not, so I decided to wait to hear back, and was actually grateful for the break from that little tracking device. I only talk on the phone when absolutely necessary, and mostly use it to coordinate activities with my friends. But because my roommate and I are often attached at the hip, I knew I would still be kept in the loop.

Five days later, no call. I called them, and was told that they were still looking into it, and I would hear something back in about two days. Finally, I got a message on Saturday saying that the problem had been fixed.

Overjoyed, I got my phone, turned it off and on, dialed a number, and ....nothing. Grrr. I called Cingular tech support, and left a message. The next day, I got a chipper voice on my home voice mail, saying....that the problem had been fixed. Feeling doubtful, I tried my phone again. Can you guess what happened? I knew that you could!

Man, if y'all are still with me, I know you are my true and forever friend, because even I'm getting bored. But this helps me, to write it all down, because I fully intend to write a strongly worded letter. Ha! That'll show 'em!

Anyway, I called and talked to someone who asked me all the same questions the first lady did (did you turn it off and on? did you try it 10 miles away? blah blah blah?). She said I could have a new phone, but only through renewing my contract.

It is to laugh, que no? Renew my contract? After waiting almost two weeks for some kind of action?

I actually did not come to this realization until today, so yesterday I agreed to look at the phone models online, pick one out, and wait for her to call me this morning.

Which is stupid. I know. My roommate's mother pointed that out (not that I was stupid, but that she would not call me back). But I wanted to speak to the same person again, being very very tired of talking to a million different people and rehashing the saga for them each and every time.

No phone call today. I called and got another very nice lady, who agreed to put through my order. I was home free! Hahaha! Sucker...

Because my phone number is my old one from Chicago, somehow the system wasn't letting the very nice lady ship me a new phone in Texas. Exsqueeze me? Aren't computers supposed to make things easier?

Very Nice Lady #3 suggested that I go to a Cingular store, where I would be able to get my phone right away. Plus, she even suggested that they might have better prices there.

So off I go to the Cingular store, when really I should have been heading for work. Because I thought this would be it! I thought I was home free! Sucker...

Not only did the store NOT have better deals, but the new phone I wanted was NINETY dollars. (Although Very Nice Lady #1 promised a new phone, I was willing to spend a little to get a nicer phone, so the phone I now had my heart set on is a Sony Ericsson camera phone.)

It took all my energy to breathe, and to collect myself, and I sat down with a very nice salesman who heard my story, and said that there was nothing he could do for me. He couldn't match the online price, because he couldn't override his system. Sound familiar? What kind of crappy system is this?

I asked to speak to the manager, who came out (and bore a strong resemblance to Ann Richards, ex-governor of Texas, btw) and heard me out, and agreed that the only thing I could get done at the store was buy a phone. None of which were free. And none of which were cheap.

I was ready to quit, y'all. I have six months left on my contract, so I asked what the penalty was. $150. Not chump change.

God, it's such a racket!!! They have really built up their system so that you're pretty much shackled to their service, unless you're willing to bite the bullet and throw away $150. That's money I can't just throw away.

And if you're not willing to truly walk, you don't have much negotiating power, do you? At least I don't, because I suck at bluffing.

I walked out of the store, got in my car, and had a mini-meltdown. I was angry and frustrated, but even more angry at myself, for being so upset over a stupid cell phone. Which I don't even use that much!!!

I collected myself, drove home (instead of work, because I had to get this over with, it was do or die now), and got on the phone for, like, the 20th time. I didn't even bother to tell Very Nice Lady #4 the entire story. She took my order,and I told her that she might have a problem with the billing zip code not matching my service area, that she could ship the phone to my parents' house in Chicago. Well, she had just had this shipping problem with another customer, so she transferred me to another department (the Web default dept? Hmmm?).

Transferred again. Right. You would think that at this point, I would be drooling, eyes unfocused, chewing on my hair. But, my friends, suddenly, it was like the skies had opened, and angelic choirs began singing. Very Nice Lady #5 took my order. Not only did she take my order, she waived my Fedex shipping. Not only did she take my order and waive my shipping, but she was able to ship it to my house, here in Texas. Hallelujah!!! Gloria in excelsis deo!!!

I would now at this point utter, I am home free!!! But I won't, not until I have my new phone in my hot little hands.

What is the cautionary tale here, you might ask? (or, you might be asking, why did I just suffer through that boring-ass story?) (or, you might be asking, are you done yet? where's your knitting?)

1) Don't be fooled. No matter how nice a Very Nice Lady seems, their loyalty is to the dark side, and they will hem and haw and put you off and even insult you with their smiling voice.

2) Very Nice Phone Service Ladies do not call you back, even when they say they will. They're not your friends, and they're not your sisters, and they're not your mothers. They won't call you back.

3) The system ain't worth crap.

4) "There's nothing I can do"....that's a load of crap. They can, they just don't want to, or they don't want to put you in touch with someone who can.

I know what you're saying right now...."I would have threatened to take away my service!" Or, "I would have given them hell until they gave me a free phone and a year of free service!" That may be true, and I have no doubt you could have gotten all that.

But, y'all, I am the nonconfrontational type. I am of the "catching more bees with honey" school of dealing with people. And, I have been cursed wtih two years of retail work. I have waaaaaay too much empathy with people in service jobs. A little can be good--they're still human, and deserve to be treated as such. But that empathy makes it very hard to throw tantrums in order to get your own way. We used to hate those people. We used to say, sheesh, get a life, it's only a sweater. Is it worth all that stress on your heart?

Anyway, I finally got to work, and decided to go to the gym afterward, to work off all of that frustration. Since I hadn't brought my water bottle and towel, I didn't want to take the spinning class, so I went into the Hip Hop class.

Hello? A Hip Hop class to work off frustration? It's clear to my now that I have officially taken leave of my senses. I wonder if there's a pattern for a knitted straitjacket anywhere? Y'all let me know.

I consider myself to be a decent dancer. I don't have any formal training, but I can swing my hips and I learn new steps pretty quickly. I am a salsa and cumbia kind of dancer. But this hip hop business, all that jerky motion like you're having a seizure? Why is that considered dancing? (And yes, folks, I am in my 30s, not my 90s.)

Actually, I think I'm probably just 15 years too late for hip hop. The instructor (I'll call her JLo) had these moves where people were rolling around on their knees, and them jumping up and doing a body roll. I refused to get on my knees, just so I could make her choreography look good. (The nice thing about getting older, actually, is that you don't really care if you look cool or not. You just care about protecting your knees. You know you're going to need them later on.)

During a break, the girl next to me asked me how to do one of the moves. Are you kidding me? JLo had taught the whole dance from one place on the floor, so that those of us on the end couldn't see the moves where she had us turned to the left side of the room. I said I would ask JLo to move to our side so we could see her better.

I walked up to the front as JLo chatted with her super best friend buddy about God knows what. Excuse me? I asked politely. JLo and Super Best Friend kept chatting away. Hi? I was standing right there in front of them, but they couldn't be bothered to acknowledge me. Feeling awkward, I barged ahead and asked her to please move over to our side of the room because it was hard for me to see the moves, since I had to look over my shoulder and all when I was facing the side of the room. JLo looked at me with a sour look on her face, and said, yeah.

Why is that these dance classes at the gym are like high school redux? The kickboxing classes can be like this too, where the instructor has 2 or 3 of her super best friend buddies up in the front with her, and they're all doing the moves really well, because they all teach the same classes too, while the rest of us flail behind them, trying to see how the moves are done and not succeeding, because the JLos think that because their super best friend buddies are keeping up, then they must be doing enough to lead the class.

JLo came over to our side, we went through the routine again, and she asked me if that was better, stretching her lips in an approximation of a smile. Yes, thank you, I said, stretching my lips back.

Why didn't I complain? Well, masochistically enough, I love dance enough to actually have gotten some enjoyment out of that class, and because it's the only one, I would like to be able to go back. I don't want my locker to be trashed, or to get jumped after 9th, after the gym.

I came home, stuffed myself with delicious barbeque leftovers, and poured myself a glass of red wine. I'm feeling much better, thank you!

Lest you think I'm completely ungrateful and can't recognize the blessings in my life, here is a list of things that made this weekend special:

1) My roommate graduated! She got her Ph.D! She is a living example that it really is possible to get out of here with your sanity intact.

2) I finished the scarf I was working on for my SIL:

This took up 3 skeins of Noro Lotus (one more than I anticipated, but I think it was worth it), knit on size 13 needles in the traveling rib recipe I found in Last Minute Gifts' fingerless gloves pattern.

I love it so much! It's the perfect width to fit snugly around my neck, but because it's ribbed, it stretches to cover the chin if it's extra cold. I love the size and the texture of it, maybe just as much or more than the Noro itself.* Which is good news, because this means I can make it for myself, with a reasonable yarn substitute. Those tweedy bits are the silvery thread peeking through, which is pretty cool--it gives the scarf a glam rustic look, or a rustic glam look, whichever you like.

(Yes, that is a rogue loose end peeking out. I was too impatient to weave the ends in before taking the picture!)

* After the last post proclaiming myself a Ghetto Knitter, you may wonder I could rationalize the choice of yarn. Easy! It was on sale in the LYS clearance bin, of course! My ghetto status remains intact.

3) I caved and ordered Handknit Holidays today from Amazon. I was buying some books for school, and I only ordered it so that I could make the free Super Saver shipping. For reals!

I think this has to qualify as my longest post ever. If you haven't thrown the computer in disgust or fallen asleep, I know you are still my true and forever friend. Thank you for indulging me. Time for more vino!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Don't hate.

We've all been there...even if it was only for a brief second when we first picked up the sticks and string. Who didn't start out their adventures in knitting with Boye aluminum and a skein of Red Heart? (OK, well, some of us may have coddled ourselves from the very beginning--if this is you, you may as well stop reading now.)

Some of us still knit with trusty old Red Heart...some of us even embrace it, y'all. We are Ghetto Knitters, we've got mad knitting skillz, and if you do too, give a shout out, and take a button!

This button was inspired by Chris's oft-repeated comment about being a ghetto knitter (or, um, "socioeconomically disadvantaged," as she so delicately put it). (And in true ghetto fashion, I made the button in Microsoft Paint. You know, cuz it's free.) Since I visit Hobby Lobby with much more frequency than my LYS, I happily appropriated the term, although Chris has me on probee status for knitting with Mission Falls.

So, how do you spot a Ghetto Knitter? I'm glad you asked:

You Know You're a Ghetto Knitter If:

* Your fancy yarn comes from KnitPicks, or the clearance bin at the LYS.

* You don't understand why Plymouth Encore costs twice as much as Wool-Ease.

* You carry around your knitting in the plastic bag your yarn came in. Who's Jordana Paige?

* You block your shawls with thumbtacks and bamboo skewers (or some other half-ass, homemade method).

* You save those little charms that come with bottles of red wine to use as stitch markers.

* You thought Addis were a new kind of athletic footwear.

If you can identify with one or more of these statements, then you are a Ghetto Knitter! And if you are, you probably have a few items to add to the them in the comments!

Ghetto Knitters of the World, Unite! After all, it's easy to be a knitter when you've got Rowan Calmer to knit with. When all you've got is Red Heart and Lion Brand, but decide to knit anyway, well, that's true passion for the craft.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Winter Comes to Austin

As I sit here at my little library job, the announcement comes over the speaker that the University is closing at 2 pm due to inclement weather. This is the warning report from Yahoo Weather:




They are closing the entire University of Austin for freezing rain, y'all. This might either cause you to worry slightly or laugh your ass off, depending on which part of the country you're from.

I wish that at least I had a class scheduled that I'd get to miss! Sadly, I planned to get off of work at 2 anyway.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Gaugey gauge gauge. Poo on gauge. Or, why gauge is important, even though you're just knitting a lousy hat.

Yes, I know everyone knows this. I know this. It's in every single knitting book you buy--the author either strikes this conspiratorial tone, like, I know we all hate knitting swatches, but let's just do it for shits and giggles. The other approach: you can hear the crack of the whip as the author lays it down, in no uncertain terms, why you must always do a swatch because you'll be a BAD knitter if you don't and you'll never ever knit anything worthy of her patterns if you don't. She's all, don't even tell people you got that pattern from my book, you lazy knitter, if you're not on gauge.

I didn't work up a swatch for the Chameleon Hat. Silly, naive, gullible me. I had the exact yarn, and the exact needle size, the pattern called for, so wasn't it guaranteed to come out?

Huh. You all know the answer to that. Just because I have the same flour and chocolate chips that Mrs. Field's uses, does not mean that there aren't other variables that are going to make my cookies somewhat less appealing than Mrs. Field's cookies.

Pattern: Chameleon Hat, from Encyclopedia of Knitting
Yarn: Mission Falls 1824 Superwash Wool, color 21
Needles: size 8 Inox circular, size 8 Boye dpns

This is the hat I knit for my dad's Christmas gift. It is somewhat big on me (hence the aforementioned gauge rant), but there's a good chance that it will be OK on him. And, because there's so much brim to fold up, the hat is thick and weighty, and probably won't fly off at the first strong breeze, even though it's not exactly snug. This Mission Falls is a joy to work with. Which, of course, means that it's being discontinued. (Can we start a letter writing campaign? I've never written a letter to my congressperson, but YARN...well, that's something to get worked up over.)

(Speaking of politics, I feel a rant coming on. I'll save that for the end.)

The pattern is called Chameleon because there's supposedly four or five different ways to wear it. You can roll the brim, or you can fold it twice, or you can pull the brim down in the back to approximate a cloche. You can also wear it like this:

Here's a close-up of the diagonal stitch:

You will notice that the outfit I'm wearing is a tad incongruous, given the headwear. December 3, kids, and it was in the mid-80s today in Austin. Although, later this week, the forecasters promised, promised an Arctic blast. (I do not embellish--these were the weatherman's exact words.) It'll be in the 50s. Get out your snowsuits and your sleds!

Tonight, I started on another Christmas gift, for my SIL. I picked up two skeins of Noro Lotus on sale at the LYS the other day. Isn't it cool? It's got the signature color shifts, but it's also got a hollow core, which is threaded with multicolored rayon.

I think I have just enough for a scarf. I borrowed the rib pattern from the wrist warmers in Last Minute Knitted Gifts (an early holiday present, from me to me!). The rayon thread shows up in the knit like tweedy flecks.

We watched Mad Hot Ballroom tonight--it's my second time watching it, and my friends' first. The film made us laugh out loud, holler and cheer, and bite our knuckles as we waited for the judges' decision. What an awesome film! It's a documentary that follows two groups of New York City kids preparing for a citywide ballroom dance competition.

Some of these kids, who face all kinds of economic and social challenges, find self-esteem and acceptance through the dance program. The girls and boys have such charisma, and a few of them are, quite frankly, amazing dancers. It's wonderful to see the final competition--the parents' faces shine with pride as they watch their children literally growing into themselves onstage.

Lefty Political Rant:

My friends Veronica and Cristina and I were talking today about how our fearless leader has chosen the past week to make some remarks about border security. Regardless of how you feel about immigration, isn't it interesting that our president, who in the past took a decidedly laissez-faire approach to the whole thing, is seizing this particular moment to make a strong statement about this? When your poll numbers are low and you've got all kinds of headaches, ranging from White House leaks to DeLay's misbehavior to the New Orleans cleanup (or lack thereof), to that little mess in the Middle East...what's a better way to regain your country's confidence than to come out against illegal immigration, the one issue that almost everyone can agree on? Weird, because it wasn't a problem before; George is a businessman, after all, and knows what would happen to the economy without that cheap labor. Can anyone say...flip flop? Ha! Wonder what John Kerry's thinking.