Friday, March 31, 2006

The, I mean, the iPod, has spoken.

Like the Magic 8 Ball, but better. A meme from Bill.

Instructions: Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING.

These are from my iPod Shuffle, possibly the stupidest consumer purchase I've ever made. Hello?! Hardly any memory and I can't pick the songs I want to play? Oh, yes, I will pay you $100 for that! Anyway, point being that the music selection is on the limited side (which is why you see certain artists crop up more than once).

How does the world see you?
"One Step Closer," U2

Will I have a happy life?
"Don't Lie," Black Eyed Peas

What do my friends really think of me?
"Starry Eyed Surprise," Paul Oakenfold

What do people secretly think of me?
"Standing," Patti Griffin

How can I be happy?
"Useless Desires," Patti Griffin

What should I do with my life?
"Gold Digger," Kanye West

Will I ever have children?
"Dum Diddley," Black Eyed Peas

What is some good advice for me?
"Love and Peace or Else," U2

How will I be remembered?
"You're Not From Texas," Lyle Lovett

What is my signature dancing song?
"Can't Let Go," Lucinda Williams

What do I think my current theme song is?
"Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," Lauryn Hill (covering Frankie Valli)

What does everyone else think my current theme song is?
"Mine Again," Mariah Carey

What song will play at my funeral?
"Like That," Black Eyed Peas

What type of men/women do you like?
"Come Rain or Come Shine," Don Henley (covering Frank Sinatra)

What is my day going to be like?
"Brighter Than Sunshine," Aqualung

I'm tagging Jennifer, Marisa, Gigi, and anyone else who wants to play!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Corpus Christi.

My roommate and I were still recovering from our New York trip, when we got the sad news that our advisor's wife lost her fight with cancer last Friday. We piled into a friend's car and drove down to Corpus Christi yesterday for the memorial service, and for the funeral this morning. I didn't know her very well, but it was clear from the memories people shared that she was a very special woman.

If any of you are in Texas, you know that the weather's been stormy this week. The rain lashed against our windshield as we drove into Corpus yesterday, but even with the thick gray clouds, we were still excited to see the ocean and to smell the water in the air. Today, as we waited in church for the mass to begin, the stained glass windows brightened gradually as the sun finally came out. It was entirely fitting that L. should be laid to rest on a beautiful morning like this, after the storms subsided.

On the way back, we decided to skirt the main highways and take some less-traveled backroads. More storms seemed to be moving in. We saw some indescribably beautiful countryside--wide horizons, thunderclouds in the distance, and farms lining the roads. Something about the quality of the storm's light made the green of the mesquite trees preternaturally bright. I looked down at the sock I was knitting. The colors in my Hill Country sock yarn were exactly like those in the passing landscape.

Luckily, we avoided today's storm by staying on the back roads (some friends of ours were not so lucky and drove through pounding rain on I35). By the time we made it home, the sun was out again and we saw bluebonnets by the side of the road. I finished a sock, and started another. More details on my trials and tribulations with this sock pattern in an upcoming post.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Under construction.

It's been pointed out to me that my template layers have been acting all wonky (thanks, Claire! I don't to be the cause of your early onset blindness!). I knew that this was happening ever since I snazzed up the banner, but since it wasn't misbehaving on my own PC, I stuck my head in the sand and pretended that it was only happening on my roommate's Mac.

Well, that turned out not to be the case. I tinkered with the template last night and couldn't figure out what was wrong, so I switched over to this one. I think there's a few kinks I'd like to work out, but overall, I'm pleased. It's a lot brighter, don't you think? And easier to read. :-)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

New York State of Mind.

What happens when you spend three full days in New York City, walking, eating, and sightseeing nonstop? Well, you end up needing a vacation from your vacation, for one thing! I wanted to post the day I got back (Friday), but instead collapsed on my bed and fell into a deep sleep for most of the afternoon. Then I wanted to post over the weekend, but unfortunately the utter chaos of my bedroom demanded my full attention, and then yesterday was the first day back after spring break...and, well, you get the picture!

Finally, tonight I was settling in to write a long overdue post, and I got a comment from Claire demanding to know everything about the trip. Claire, you and I, we must be on the same psychic wavelength! What's your sign, girl?

Jennifer and I had the best time in New York over spring break! Be sure to check out her blog for a blow-by-blow travel diary.

We were on planes and in airports for most of Monday, spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday wearing our tennies out all over town, and caught an 8 am flight back to Austin on Friday.

I mentioned in my last post that I used to live in New York; I spent seven years working at a nonprofit and in publishing before I was ready to leave for personal and professional reasons (read, freshly divorced and tired of being broke and on the low end of the publishing totem pole, I desperately needed a change!). But I'll always love the city, and would even think about moving back if offered a highly lucrative position (which will never happen because academics don't exactly rake in the dough). I can still visit, though, and have my fill of the excitement and the culture before getting tired of the dirt and the noise.

Jennifer, on the other hand, had never been, so I was doubly excited to be her tour guide and experience NYC through fresh eyes. There was a lot of Sex and the City/When Harry Met Sally narration going on (there's the arch where Sally dropped Harry off! There's the church where Samantha hit on that priest!).

We made a list of all possible things we might want to do while we were there, then narrowed it down to a manageable schedule, with a good mix of must-see touristy activities and plain old walking around. The only item on our schedule that was set in stone was attending a broadcast of The View!

Like a big geek, I have been watching this show ever since it first aired (what, like 8, 9 years ago? Sheesh.). I love Meredith Viera, and I love to hate Elisabeth Hasselbeck, aka Spawn of the Devil from Hell. It's great that they sit her between Joy and Star for maximum smackdown potential. It's interesting to see, though, that her knee-jerk, extreme right wing blathering has tapered off recently in tandem with Dubya's numbers. She doesn't defend him quite as staunchly anymore, hee hee.

Anyway, the day we were there, political Hot Topics were kept to a minimum, thus saving me the trouble of leaping over the railing to wrestle the Devil Spawn to the ground. We got to see Barbara Walters, too (yay!), who had been off for a couple of weeks. I was really impressed by everyone's generosity; while the "ladies" were hashing out hot topics during the first commercial break, Barbara turned to the audience and let us know that they were still working on the hot topics, but would come out to talk to us during the next commercial break.

And they did, circulating throughout the audience and making chitchat and taking pictures. Meredith smiled and chatted with some people in the front, asking them how long they were in town and had they been to any shows. I imagine that she must have this exact conversation every day, over and over, but she managed to do it with grace and a smile on her face.

We got to see Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden plugging their new I Dream of Jeannie DVD (which we all got a copy of, natch), the guy from the HBO show Autopsy showing grisly murder scene pix, and two sets of couples who'd met each other through an online personals website for animal lovers.

Jennifer and I desperately wanted to be the pair who announce before the commercial break, "Hi! We're Jennifer and Olga from Austin, Texas! Stay tuned for "Animal Attraction" when The View returns!"

See? Wouldn't we have been great? But they picked a couple of girls from Dallas (Dallas! can you believe it? we were sooo close!) Chuh.

We did the Statue of Liberty tour, of course, and rode the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, but most memorable were the unplanned, unexpected things. Like rushing through the subway station at Grand Central and stopping to watch a troupe of breakdancers (who were so unbelievable that we forgot to get a picture of them, we were that entranced).

Or having breakfast at a Colombian bakery in Jackson Heights and feeling as though we were trapped in some crazy comedy sketch.

Picture this:

Jennifer and I, on the recommendation of our lovely hostess, go into this bakery planning on buying some Colombian rolls and pastries for breakfast, but become totally distracted by the breakfast deal they have--eggs, potatoes, ham, a roll, and coffee, all for 3.75. We both get the special and sit down at a tiny table against the wall (the entire place is no more than maybe ten or fifteen paces wide).

Most of the tables are occupied with a diverse crowd. One of the women behind the counter brings us our breakfast, and as we eat, I notice a man wearing a tall fur Russian hat looking in the window, wild-eyed. He comes in, dragging on a leash a little dog in a red jacket.

A friend of his comes in and they take a table, and then he strides over to the counter, looks over the selection, and demands, "Don't you have any oatmeal?" The women shake their heads, and then he comes over and behind my shoulder, inspects our breakfasts, and strides back to his friend. "I had the chicken and potatoes here last time."

He directs his loud, aggressive voice back to the counter. "Don't you remember, I had the chicken?" Again, the women meet his questions with polite, but firm, nos. He settles on a sandwich, and sits down with his friend and his dog at his feet.

Now, since I had my back turned to him this entire time, I have to let Jennifer, who eyewitnessed the rest of this scene, narrate the rest.

The man begins to munch on his sandwich, and one of the women approaches with a small piece of bread on a plate. Mid-bite, he turns to her and says, "Forko?" motioning with his hand toward the plate.

The woman hesitates for a moment, and he says to her, "Can I have el forko please?" He gesticulates more emphatically, emulating a fork to his plate. She quickly retreats and returns with a FORK. He used said "forko" to cut the piece of bread into small pieces for his dog, who awaited his breakfast eagerly at the man's feet.

Witnessing this scene in disbelief, I recount, very quietly, to Olga, "That man just asked for a FORKO."

Once the look of shock faded from Olga's face, she burst into uncontrollable laughter. I continued to enjoy my breakfast with my forko while Olga was dissolved into giggles.

Just a few feet away, the man turned to look at our table and asked his friend, "I wonder what she's laughing about?"

But Olga could not stop laughing!

I admit that I could not take my eyes off of this man--he was SUCH a spectacle with his big hair and red-jacketed dog at his feet. Once the dog finished his breakfast, he stood on his hind legs and began to beg.

The man, still eating his sandwich, picked up the dog and sat him on his lap. When the man would set his sandwich down on the plate, the dog would nip at it, taking small bites. The man, deep in conversation with his companion, was absent-mindedly feeding the dog pieces of his sandwich while eating from the other end. As if that weren't enough, when the man finished his sandwich, the dog started to lick his forko. It was not disposable!!!

Fully grossed out, I implored Olga. "Let's get out of here."

We walked out of the panaderia, shaking out heads.

Olga turns to me and says, "I have got to blog about this."

Y'all, I have to confess, just reading this sent me into fits of laughter again. It was just...sublimely ridiculous. [Update: Just so you know, this guy was NOT Russian, despite the hat. He looked (and sounded) pretty American. After I posted this I began to realize that it might sound like I was chalking up all that craziness to cultural and language differences. Nuh uh.]

Anyway. I know you would take my knitting credentials away if I didn't manage to go to any yarn stores! I had three listed on the back of a receipt: School Products, Seaport Yarn, and Purl. Whelp, it turned out that we found ourselves in Soho on Tuesday after the Liberty tour, so Purl it was.

I'd lost my little scrap of paper, though, so I called information and got Purl on the line. A soft-spoken male voice answered, and we figured out that I was only a block away from the store.

Having been suitably awed by the success of Last Minute Knitted Gifts, I expected to find a huge Soho gallery space full of glitzy yarn. Well, it's nothing like that. Not huge, not even middling sized. It is, probably, smaller than many Park Avenue socialites' shoe closets.

But, nevertheless, utterly charming. We stood outside while I hesitated, reluctant to go into such a tiny space where we would no doubt be hovered over (because when I shop, I vant to be left alone, darling). The call of the yarn got the best of me, of course, and we ventured in. There was a large table heaped with books in the center, and several customers were bent over the patterns, trying to make some decisions.

I was immediately drawn to a display by the window, where skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Yarn hung from little clotheslines. A sign said that these colorways had been specially made for Purl, so...of course I had to get some! I picked out a pretty china blue and white, and took them to the register. Jennifer, whose photographic vision has been proven to be spot on before, asked me if I wanted a picture with all the yarn. A bit sheepish (pun not intentional!), I agreed, deciding that it was probably obvious that we were tourists, anyway.

The young sales clerk asked if we were from out of town. I laughed. "What gave it away?" We got to chatting and it turns out that Brian just moved to New York from Chicago! We compared notes on our old neighborhoods, and I left feeling just the tiniest bit envious that he still had the whole adventure of New York in front of him.

It wasn't the last I would see of him, however. Remembering the clearance basket of 40% off Helen's Laces, and finding ourselves in Soho again on Thursday, well, I just had to go back! So here are my mementos from Purl:

I have to say, my heart went out to that saleswoman who wound that ball of lace yarn for me.

Every time I wanted to buy a souvenir, I would ask myself, would I rather have this, or yarn? Do I even have to tell you what the answer to that question was? (BTW, the souvenir mugs at the View, which I really wanted, were FIFTEEN DOLLARS!)

There was a time when I would have come away with shopping bags full of new clothes and shoes. (Who am I kidding? That happened to me over Christmas break.) But I was wonderfully self-restrained this time. I bought a cute picture frame at the Empire State Building, but otherwise spent my money on the yarn, and food. Oh! And these beads:

We were walking up Fifth Avenue after the Empire State Building, when we passed a store called, simply, the Bead Store. I must have had a longing look on my face, because Jennifer asked me if I wanted to go in. Y'all, it was simply amazing. The walls were lined with every kind of bead you can imagine. Colorful wooden beads hung a few feet away from strings of big, fist-sized chunks of turquoise.

I could easily have blown my entire student loan in that place, but finally managed to pick out the red millefiore beads and the two pendants. I know I said I would make a pink dress for Project Spectrum, but realistically, seeing as how March is more than halfway over, a red necklace may have to suffice!

I managed to get some sock knitting done on the plane ride there and back (actually, I had lots of time during the three-hour layover in Atlanta on Monday!). So here's what I have so far on my Sockapaloooza socks:

These are the Rib and Cable pattern from the IK Fall 2005. I love the little cables! I'm just a bit worried about the fit; I picked this one because I thought that the ribs would be quite forgiving. But the finished size in the magazine says that the ankle circumference is 7.5 inches, while my sockpal's is 8.5". Hmmm. Should I worry? I tried it on over my arm, and it seems to fit OK (even where my arm measures about 9" around).

I started turning the heel and am holding my breath to see how it turns out; the yarnovers are going to leave little holes, says the pattern. Hopefully they won't be too obvious? Or will look like part of the design?

Amazingly enough for me, I think I may be done with these socks with time to spare before the deadline. And speaking of deadline knitting, look which one's come and gone!

I trucked along on Jennifer's shrug and made pretty good progress, but it was nowhere near done in time for the wedding last weekend (March 11). Seeing as how the temps reached into the 90s in San Antonio that day, I don't think the shrug was much missed.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Start spreading the news...

I'm leaving today. Have a good week, everyone!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Seeing red.

Those of you signed up for Project Spectrum are well aware that the colors for March are red and pink. Luckily for me, red is my most favorite color of all time. Pink, being closely related to red, is also a color I like, but red has my heart.

I haven't blogged yet about my Project Spectrum project, simply because I've been trying to get photos of all my favorite red things (both inside and outside my home). It turns out Margene was reading my mind, because she's devised a meme to this effect, sort of (she only asks you to find red stuff in your home).

My treasured Rufino Tamayo poster of "Sandias," bought in Mexico City when I was probably about 20, and carted with me to every place I've lived in. The glass broke in the frame after one of the moves, and left scratches on the paper, but ultimately I prefer it this way (I think the scratches give it character and the absence of glass makes it much easier to move).

The best little toy store in the world. Right here in Austin! Fun for kids AND grown-ups!

My red corduroy jacket.

One of a set of chairs I bought from Ikea. I painted it myself, not realizing until later that they actually offered this chair in red. So what! I loved painting them, and even thought about having a painting party and having friends come over and paint designs on them and then I'd have a memento of each of them, forever. As you can see, that never happened. But I like the blue cushion (also Ikea) with the red, don't you?

Also, at the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Library at the University of Texas, where I eke out my living, there is an exhibition mounted of George O. Jackson's photographs of Mexican community festivals in the 1990s. The colors are just amazing in this collection, entitled Embrujo Mexicano. I would have uploaded a few here, but worried about copyright, I just decided to direct you here. The ones that use red vividly are Cuaresma 2000, Danzando en el Fuego 1996, and Bailando antes de la Iglesia 1994.

So, drunk with my recent sewing success, I've decided to give this a shot as my Project Spectrum project:

I remembered that I bought this fabric on clearance, and it just happens to fit in perfectly with the color theme this month.

I won't be posting for a while, in all likelihood, because Jennifer and I are...drumroll please...going to New York next week! For spring break! I can't wait; I lived there for most of my twenties and am dying for a visit. I just want to walk, and walk, and have a hot dog, and walk some more. In between, we'll check out the new MOMA, and visit Lady Liberty, and attend a taping of The View. If Elizabeth Hasselbeck even breathes Dubya's name, I plan to heckle her. Loudly.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

50% pure evil.

You Are 50% Evil

You are evil, but you haven't yet mastered the dark side.
Fear not though - you are on your way to world domination.
How Evil Are You?

I am the perfect balance between unadulterated badness and Pollyanna goodness. Which is perfect, because no one will suspect my plot for world domination until IT'S TOO LATE.

Mwah ha ha ha!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Skirt season.

Please visit the Sew? I Knit! blog to see my latest creation.

Sewing is such a heady experience. You can spend two weeks knitting something, and have it be utterly lovely, but spending an afternoon or two and whipping out a skirt...woot! Instant gratification!

I'll never give up my knitting, though, so never fear. There's no substitute for the tactile pleasure of the yarn and the needles. Plus, sewing just about killed my back! My roommate joked that I wouldn't last an hour in a sweatshop. No kidding! Those men and women (and sometimes children) have my utter respect.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Odds and ends.

I'm sneaking in a post here when I'm really supposed to be doing my reading, but...

First of all, you have all probably heard about the news that's come out about Bush having been fully warned about the possibility of the levees breaching before Katrina ever hit. If not, you can read about it here.

All I have to say is, why is anyone surprised? Are we really surprised that the current president would lie about this with the full force of the Katrina devastation staring him in the face? And it would seem that Michael Brown, former head of FEMA, so recently crucified on national television, played a role in informing the president of the potential for disaster.

Maybe I'm just incredibly cynical, but I really think that watching "24" has prepared me for this eventuality. (I am only halfway kidding, here.) Watch this show, and you will be fully convinced that the public only gets about 1/50th of what goes on behind the scenes. The president is willing to sacrifice a mall full of innocent victims to nerve gas in order to try to nab the terrorists? The central terrorist unit uses not-so-kosher interrogation techniques with impunity? Que que? Not in this country, nope, wouldn't happen here. More and more, I'm thinking, yeah, of course it happens here, and not just with the current administration.

OK, if you're still with me and are secure in the knowledge that I'm not sitting in the corner chewing on a corner of my t-shirt....on to the knitting!

I've been complaining to Laura that I'm not thrilled with the latest issue of Interweave Knits. Not to say that there aren't some lovely things in this issue, but here are my beefs. TWO pairs of fingerless mitts? Come, on. A felted tote that's the exact same tote Leigh Radford published in these here pages a few issues ago (except, oh, this time there's intarsia!). And a KNITTED FANNY PACK? For the love of God! That's four patterns taking up space that could be devoted to new, original, interesting projects.

That's about enough with the complaining (except, OMG, someone give featured knitwear designer Robin Melanson a comb, please). I won't knit the bobbly short sleeve sweater on the cover because it would make me look like a linebacker, but I do love the two camisoles, and will probably think about knitting one of them soon (after all the deadline madness has passed).

As for my project update, I am now working on my roommate's shrug for the upcoming wedding, and am not convinced that I'm going to meet THAT particular deadline. Knitting away furiously, I warned her that there might be a chance that this would happen (pointing out, too, that she might not even need it because it's been in the 70s and 80s over the past few days).

Well, my mom offered me her green sweater while I was in California, she says. It wasn't the perfect color green, but it was nice. And I turned it down because I told her I had TOTAL confidence in your knitting skills. Oh, yeah, mom, Olga will definitely finish that shrug.

OK. Knit, knit, knit. Why am I even blogging? I should be knitting. But I had to tell you all for my ghetto knittaz out there, that the final choice for this project was Caron Simply Soft, bought at Hobby Lobby. The reason was partly because the color matched the green ribbon on her dress almost perfectly. But also? Pretty green cotton On Line yarn at the LYS was $12.99 a skein. Making total cost of this project come to just shy of $70.

Aw, hell naw! Plus, I'm starting to not like cotton for close fitting knitted items, cause it'll just get all saggy. The Caron, on the other hand, will have a nice memory, I think, and it has such a lovely sheen. It may pill eventually, but I don't think Jennifer will be wearing this shrug every day.

Anyway, progress pictures in the next post.