Wednesday, June 25, 2008

She Knits Other Stuff Too!

I wouldn't want you to think I was a one-note wonder, trapped in Sock Hell for all my days. I recently had a serious outbreak of Baby Surprise Jackets, too! I am most blessed to have a Family I Can Knit For, who keep conveniently supplying me with new victims, I mean recipients for my art:

Paul in BSJ
Note to self: Even for a newborn, when you knit this pattern in sock yarn it comes out pretty small.

Baby Surprise Jacket Cropped
Patons SWS in Natural Berry, Natural Moss and Natural Geranium. Gorgeous yarn!

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Work in progress - I hope to finish it by next weekend. Should be no problem (famous last words.) Patons Shetland Chunky - again, a really nice yarn - in Earthy Brown, Taupe, and Winter Moon (variegated).
Hey! It matches my sofa eerily well!

Pattern can be obtained from Schoolhouse Press:
and it was printed in several of Elizabeth Zimmermann's books too: "Knitting Workshop" and "The Opinionated Knitter" at least; they're still in print, or you may have luck at your local library (try Interlibrary Loan if necessary.) People have told me they have trouble finding good sweater patterns for little boys - there are no end of cute ones for girls - and I'm here to tell you that this sweater works just as well for either, depending on the yarn you pick!

Speaking of photographing your own feet

In my house, this is the kind of thing that happens:

Knitter peacefully tries to take a picture of her feet, with her first real socks (as opposed to slipper socks) on them:
(Patons Kroy Socks, Tutti Frutti Jacquard, 2.75 mm needles - way too big! I know better now, basic ribbed sock, in case anybody cares)


She becomes the victim of a driveby-slobbering! Thanks, Stormy!

Sock Knitting Update

Just to tie off the loose ends, before I go into travelogue mode: the fates of the three First Socks mentioned back in April:

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I can't be the first person to note how photographing your own feet is a pain in the patoot, can I?

Almost Finished
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These were my personal challenge-to-myself to knit a pair of socks on DPNs. They were also my plane knitting for the China trip: I figured that even tired TSA agents were unlikely to construe my 5", 2.25 mm bamboo toothpicks as a "weapon" and confiscate them. All I have left is grafting the last toe (and no, I'm not a miracle knitter - the first sock was complete before we left on our trip.)

And because I had only one sock left and the world would end if I ran out of knitting on the trip, the backup project:
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Online Supersocke Tropic, color 928 I think - I lost the ballband - on almost-as-nonthreatening bamboo 2 mm/24" circs. (Tell me you don't pack extra projects! I don't even feel guilty about the extra extra skein I tucked in for extreme emergencies, like suddenly becoming able to knit a sock a week, on vacation, while touring in a bus 8 hours a day!)

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The Monkey sock? Hated how it looked. (It actually looked OK on the needles, it just looked horrawful with the lace pattern all stretched out on my leg.) Hated knitting on it. Frogged it. Love the yarn. Pattern is nifty. Not together. Maybe in some huskier, less contrasty yarn someday.

Where is China?! Why isn't she blogging?

I'm in the process of going through the 2,347 photos (actual count) that Dad and I took while we were in China! You wouldn't want China blogging without photos, would you?

Friday, June 20, 2008

China Day 21: The Horror, The Horror

I planned. I was careful. I carefully rationed my reading material on this trip, and made sure I saved a book for the flight home. In fact, I started the flight with about 1.33 books since I wasn't completely through with the second-to-last one.

I finished that book, reading in a leisurely manner, and scrabbled in my case for the last book.

That was when I realized it. I was on a plane, with no reachable source of reading matter for the next thirteen hours or so, with a book that was Book Three in a trilogy and I hadn't read Books One and Two.

It was almost too much for me. In a desperate grab for diversion I read the back of Dad's ramen noodle snack packet. I watched two of the in-flight movies (29 Dresses and Horton Hears a Who) on the 13" TV hanging from the ceiling twelve rows ahead, but Jumper and Fool's Gold defeated even my ability to endure. I'm not even going to talk about the six episodes of Hannah Montana they put on in there somewhere; I'm trying to convince myself they were a sensory-deprivation nightmare. Fortunately my iPod batteries lasted an unexpectedly long time; I love modern technology.

Somehow I survived. When we reached O'Hare, only fifteen minutes behind schedule, we waved goodbye to the eight other travelers from our tour group (once our luggage had arrived at the baggage claim, having apparently walked there on its own). We staggered out to the gate and felt joy! My sister in law Kristen was there and took us right home, where she fed us and let us show off souvenirs and tell stories until we fell asleep on the sofa in mid-story. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

Home from Hong Kong

I'm writing from a terminal in the Hong Kong airport, which I am allowed to use because I bought a mocha smoothie for $50 HK (about $7 US) from the My Nosh Cafe. Watch this space for further developments! The details of Dad's and my trip to China will soon begin to appear; just give me a little time to go through the 2000+ photographs!

China Day 21: I'll Fly Away

We had the late call for breakfast, since our bus doesn't depart till 8:30. On the other hand, our plane doesn't depart till 12:45, so there will be some waiting around involved today.

Fred drove with the early group, while Frankie shepherded us lategoers to the airport. The day was gloriously sunny, and we drove past some of the nicest views of Hong Kong we've had. Too bad: Dad packed the camera in his carry-on, which was in the boot of the bus.

We passed a vast container-shipping facility with enormous cranes and equipment; Frankie says Hong Kong is #2 behind Singapore in container shipping volume and they were #1 until only two years ago. They can turn a ship around in ten hours flat.

Frankie was pretty funny today. He told us he'd been to the horse races yesterday and I asked if his horse won. He answered, "Do you see me working today?" So I guess not. He also told us the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan was in port today with six thousand sex-starved sailors on board. They are expected to spend approximately $50 million Hong Kong in the three days they are in port.

We got to the airport and began running the familiar airport maze. Dad, as usual, was wearing something with the Michigan State emblem on it - I think it was his ball cap. In the line for boarding passes, who should we meet but another Spartan! We were going up and down those snaking lines, but when we met in the middle the guys would chat. Michigan State is truly global.

We got to the gate with two hours to spare. This airport had my favorite thing ever: past the security gates they had stands of dozens and dozens of miniature baggage carts like those shopping carts you use when you're planning to carry the groceries home by hand and don't want to buy too much. They were just the right size for your carry-on luggage, and this was my first airport experience on this whole trip where I didn't end up with a crick in my shoulder and a permanent slant to the right from carrying my weighty carry-on!

Things being how they were, I thought it prudent to position myself nearby the restroom but the gate wasn't crowded so we staked out good seats. Dad has good reason to be thankful for his cast-iron digestion! Fortunately the Hong Kong Happy Rooms have been very happy indeed: all Western style and immaculately clean.

We took turns wandering around the airport taking pictures. Dad likes planes, so I hereby give you some:
My contributions to the photo record are more about my sense of humor - rickshaw as baggage cart? planter?
and this store
got me giggling, being as how they sell everything including sandwiches, luggage, ties, underwear and candy.

Dad gave me a few bucks and I located a mocha smoothie at the "My Nosh Cafe". My purchase earned me half an hour of internet time so I checked my email and posted the only realtime blog entry of this trip, plus adding about ten China-related films to my Netflix queue. Then it was time to board our plane (which Dad photographed)
and take off!

We swung out over the ocean - beautiful! -


and headed for Chicago, fourteen and a half hours from here.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

China Day 20: Conspiracy Theory

I forgot to mention something interesting from Dad's day: they got approached by members of the Falun Gong, which is either a persecuted minority religion or a subversive anti-government conspiracy group depending on who you talk to. There's no disputing that China has outlawed them.

I don't know how long they talked to Dad and the gang, but they gave them newspapers detailing their side of the story. Dad said Frankie told them it was OK to take the papers if they wanted to, but not to try to take them to the airport or "you might be staying in Hong Kong longer than you would like to." Well, to me, that's the kind of thing I treat as a challenge.
If you want to read the articles, click them bigger. Nobody tried to see what was on my camera card!

China Day 20: Where the Water Went

During the afternoon there was an interlude where we didn't have running water in the hotel. (And that was a bit dicey, let me tell you!) We found out why:
They seem to be doing some work on the mains today.

In the few minutes we were outside dusk fell and the street lights turned on in the nightly glittery, Times-Square-like display
While we were out photographing this, I saw the greatest restaurant ad:
I don't know why, but this just tickles me. I also saw the Holy Grail:
Too bad my stomach doesn't feel better!

China Day 20: Farewell Banquet

Our last activity as a full group was the farewell banquet, Western style since Fred figured correctly we would be "homesick for home flavor" by this time. I managed to get out of bed and attend, and the food was delicious though I didn't stress things by eating too much. I wasn't the only one affected by whatever this was: it turns out there was a lot of Immodium in use the last two days. I still blame the river boat.

Everyone ran around taking pictures of cheerful tablefuls of people
and hugging each other. Dinner finished up with a highly artistic tiramisu:
and while we ate it, Fred gave a little speech
telling us that "Fred's Family" did what he expected: came together, loved each other, and listened to his suggestions. I really have to hand it to him, he did a great job. This has been a really good trip!

I have now discovered the secret to successful bargaining: don't want what you're buying. After dinner Dad and I wandered around the hotel and ended up in the gift shop. I never got around to buying a set of chopsticks for myself now that I can use them competently, so I was looking at a few sets. I found one I liked, but the shop owner priced them at $268 Hong Kong - $34 American - way too much. I kept trying to put them down and say I didn't want them, and she kept dropping the price. I ended up buying them for half the starting price. Hopefully that was a good deal!

China Day 20: What Dad Did

Dad went adventuring alone today once he was convinced that I would really prefer to stay in bed rather than jaunting off on the optional tour to Kowloon and the New Territories, and that I didn't mind if he had fun on his own. (Well, he wasn't really alone, he was with the group. But he didn't have me.) This is what they did:

In Eastern Kowloon, they stopped first at the Bird Market. Birds may be popular pets in the States, but the ones here lead a much more active lifestyle. Like in Xi'an, people here regularly bring their caged birds out for an airing and a day in the parks:
I like that this little fella has decorative porcelain water and food dishes.

Next, they walked through the flower market, where bundle after bundle of cut blossoms waited for someone to take them home:

The third stop - and I'm very sorry I missed it - was the Wong Tai Sin Temple.
This is a Taoist Temple, and I'm bummed to have missed it because of my beloved Judge Dee novels, in particular The Haunted Monastery, whose titular monastery is Taoist.
The temple courtyard was filled with petitioners burning incense
as well as with tourists (fire safety was well in hand)
but the true purpose for many was the practice of Kau Cim, which according to what I've read is a combination between petitionary prayer and divination. You can read about it from the horse's mouth (click for bigger)
but herethe essentials: The worshiper shakes a container of 100 numbered bamboo sticks
and whichever one falls out is their number. They then exchange the stick for a slip of paper with that number which contains a saying relevant to their problem and take it to one of the soothsayers for help interpreting it.
The soothsayers inhabit these little booths inside the temple:
Different soothsayers might interpret the same saying differently, depending on the person's problem or on their own philosophy, or (I suppose) their skill level. Frankie asked that people not visit the fortune tellers lightly: these people take their work seriously and don't need tourists looking for someone to tell them they're going to meet a tall, dark, handsome man. Or something.

By this time it was noonish, so next stop: food! Since Hong Kong is conveniently situated in the middle of the ocean, of course they dined at a seafood restaurant. The restaurant was so close to the ocean it was practically in the water:
Note the glorious weather, by the way, after yesterday's fog! There was also a nice view of fishing boats and sampans much like Aberdeen:
Once they got into the restaurant they found the food was absolutely fresh, in the sense of "still alive". You could stroll along and pick your victims and the restaurant guy in the wellies would collect it for you:
A couple of the more adventurous of us had a close encounter with the Creature from the Lagoon: the largest lobster I've ever seen.
He looks tasty.

After the convivial meal
Dad returned to the hotel to see how his poor baby was doing. I woke up, said "Some better", turned over and went back to sleep.

I am posting this now, but I might have to edit it if Dad comes up with any new or better stories for me. I reserve that right!