Thursday, September 24, 2009

Favorites Week Goes Political

In honor of Banned Book Week (September 26−October 3, 2009), I give you my favorite Banned Books:
Banned 006

Other Banned or Challenged Favorites include:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Mind you, not all these were actually banned, but they've at least been challenged somewhere.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Linkadink Continues

Tonight, I'm going over to Dad's to help him study for his biology exam.

Dad is taking very good advantage of Kent State University's policy that community members over a certain age can audit KSU classes for free as long as the professor says OK. Last year he studied Geology and this year it's Physics (Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe) and Biology (Biological Diversity). The Seven Ideas class is no problem what with his physics degree and all, but the bio course is a majors course and they're throwing a lot of unfamiliar vocab at him. He's doing very well, but it always helps to study with someone!

Your treat for today wins in the following category: All-Time Best Commercial for an Australian Beer. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not a lot to say...

I don't seem to have much to say this week. This is because:

1. The Diagonal Lace socks are slowly growing, but they look about the same as before,

2. The Classic Stripes Cardigan is slowly growing, with both sleeves done, but now I'm on the body and the rounds are reeeeeallllly looooooong, and

3. A lot of my time has been taken up by a Super Secret Project (not knitting, for once) for my Dad's birthday. Naturally, since he reads this blog occasionally, I can't post about it yet!

Since I have no good knitting to give you, I will do the best I can. This week has just been declared "Favorites Week". Here is the winner in the category Favorite LOLdog with a Wool Tie-in. Click through to view the entire photo (serves me right for picking a blog template with narrow columns...)

funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

Hope you enjoy the linkorama!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bloggin' from the DX

Coming to you live from the fourth annual Dessert Extravaganza at the Stow-Munroe Falls Public Library!

Every year, our Library Foundation sponsors an event known as the Dessert Extravaganza, or DX for short. It's their big annual fundraiser, and it is a gala event by any standards.

Right now I'm sitting behind the desk watching the crowds of attendees swirling around. There are two areas of concentration: the dessert tables and the silent auction tables.

For the auction, we get donations of gift baskets, fitness memberships, tandem bicycles and a diamond necklace (this year's necklace is a beautiful pink tourmaline surrounded by small diamonds, set in silver? platinum?) among many other things and people use their ticket numbers as bid numbers for the auction. These things are donated by businesses, mostly, but also some private individuals.

As for the desserts, we had about seventeen local restaurants participate this year, bringing sample size servings of ice cream, tiramisu, cupcakes, French Toast cookies (Thank you, Susie Biscotti!) and (YUM!) chocolate bread pudding from Moe's. (I got freed from my duties as a ticket seller long enough to make a pass through the fields of bounty and nibbled on many yummy objects, though not as many as I would like (but probably more than I should).

My boss seems to have won the bidding the tray of cookies from Susie Biscotti - I'm jealous, but I have a feeling she'll share. And she picked up a book because she needs more of those.

I'll try to add a couple of photos to this post over the next day or so,
(ETA: Here's one!)
but that will have to wait until they go up on the library's Flickr page. Final bidding is about to commence: Must go!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Missionary of Zenni Optical

I recently developed a need for prescription eyewear. Now that's not surprising at my age of forty-mumble, but it was a concern to me given that I'm watching my pennies like so many these days. I was very concerned with the potential cost of glasses since the eye doctor recommended lineless bifocals and I know they are expen$ive!

After my eye exam, I did some research (like a good little librarian) and came up with this article from the Chicago Tribune a couple of years ago. It mentioned that good prices could be had from online glasses vendors when time wasn't an issue, and it mentioned one vendor in particular, Zenni Optical. I decided to give them a try.

Let me tell you, I am now the Missionary of Zenni Optical. I could not be happier with my glasses.

I dug out my prescription from the eye doctor and tried to interpret it. On the Zenni Optical site they have a nice page telling you how to take your basic prescription and calculate the correct lenses to order for various specialized types of glasses. Naturally I set up an Excel spreadsheet to do the math for me! Since their base price for a pair of single-vision lenses is a whopping eight dollars, I decided to go hog wild. I ordered:

A pair of single vision reading glasses and a pair of single vision computer glasses, both with the same half-rim frame, eight bucks each:
Frames 1
I color coded them so I can tell them apart: the readers are green and the computer glasses are pink.

I decided to get the bifocals too. According to the website, the lineless kind are sometimes not that great when your overall prescription is weak (my eyes aren't all that bad). It turns out that often the "useful" part of the lens is pretty small and you spend all day tilting your head around to get the good bit in front of whatever you're trying to look at. I decided to try conventional lined bifocals. And anyhow those are about $12 cheaper. With the leftover money I splurged on some fancier frames:
Frames 2
Even with the frame upgrade, that pair only ran me $46.

Just for yuks, I added a pair of prescription sunglasses (distance prescription only) with some $8 purple frames. The sunglass tint added all of $4.95. So I got four pairs of prescription eyeglasses, including bifocals and sunglasses, for... wait for it...

$80.85. Including shipping. From somewhere in the Far East where they are made. (Which, to be fair, took about three weeks. If you need your glasses in a more timely fashion, this is not your store.)

One caveat. Make sure you have the eye doc write down your pupillary distance or you'll end up like me. I didn't know to request this, and my eye doc's office says they don't measure it. That's why I found myself staring past a friend's head while she held a ruler across the bridge of my nose! She apparently did a good job, since my glasses aren't giving me headaches.

Now, I wouldn't presume to tell anyone what kind of decisions to make with their own personal eyeballs. I only note that everyone I tell this story to winces, sucks air through their teeth, and tells me how much they spent on whatever glasses they themselves are wearing at the time. And those numbers are remarkably different!

Edited to add: Click here to download a Zenni calculator in Excel. Made by me; all errors mine; use at your own risk!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Annual Pilgrimage

Today I performed a quasi-religious observance which has great significance to my family: the annual pilgrimage to Michigan State University to attend a fall football game. Since everybody but me in my immediate family is a green-blooded Spartan [heck, Mom and Dad were married in the college chapel 50 years ago last month], MSU holds a central place among us. For years, Mom and Dad met up every year with some of their classmates to attend a game, and my MSU-grad brother started joining them at some point. The year before Mom died, they invited me to join the party and since then I've really enjoyed continuing the tradition.

Dad and I started off Friday and drove up to the Cleveland Airport where my brother flew in at 8 AM. We picked him up and drove off toward East Lansing, talking eighteen to the dozen the whole way.

These weekends have a set program, and the first part is to spend an afternoon wandering around the MSU campus. We met up with some of John's friends on Friday evening for dinner nearby, and then retired early. (Well, at least Dad and I did.)

Game Day is the real heart of the weekend. We always stay at Kellog Center, the hotel affiliated with the business school on campus, so the day commenced with breakfast at the State Room restaurant in the hotel, where we were joined by two dear family friends, Gail and Ken. Gail was one of Mom's bridesmaids!

Today's game started at noon, so soon after breakfast we began moseying over to Spartan Stadium.
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The scenic walk used to pass by a large more-or-less vacant field; this year a new baseball stadium
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had popped up there like a mushroom.

Our first stop inside the stadium is always the Varsity Club:
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Dad is a proud member,
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and he loves being able to get his guests in there. (They used to stamp our hands when he brought us in, but after last year - we were here the week they had the hurricane, and our stamps simply washed off - now they strap hospital-style bracelets on those persons who are authorized to enter.) The club consists of a large room
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with an enormous big-screen TV (to watch the game in case of inclement weather) and many photos of past varsity lettermen and women. I found one particular photo: (click for bigger!)
IMG_3356 006 sharp
and a nice gentleman offered to take our picture in front of it:
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Then it was time to clamber up to our seats. We were in the nosebleed region, up in the corner of one end zone, but at least we weren't in the truly dizzying upper deck. We had a splendid view of the field, and almost immediately the pregame band show began. Central Michigan brought their band, who marched and played for awhile, and then the Spartan Marching Band took the field!
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They were preceded by flag bearers carrying flags for all (riddle me this) eleven Big 10 teams and the highly flexible drum major:
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Here they're playing the Fight Song, of course! Next, the student section wrapped its arms around each other's shoulders and swayed as the Alma Mater, "Shadows" was played,
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and then Sparty ran onto the field and commenced to mugging and riling up the fans!
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Note the burly flag bearers behind him waving five-yard square M, S or U flags! I bet those guys pray for light winds.

You know, even though I didn't go here, I get into all this traditional nostalgia.

The game itself finally commenced (they had a good crowd today!)
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wherein downs were touched, goals were kicked, passes were completed (or sometimes not), fumbles were recovered (or sometimes not) and smiles were smiled.
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Before we knew it, it was halftime and the band came back out
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to perform much fancy marching, this time accompanied by flag girls! They even did a combined number, "Swing, Swing, Swing", with the CMU band:
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It was terrific, and things only got better as my favorite part of halftime arrived.
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Zeke the Frisbee Dog was as game as any half, quarter or full back, and if not as wide as the human receivers, he had at least as good a pass completion rate!

As the third quarter began, I took some time to enjoy interesting sights adjacent to the field rather than on it, including the TV camera on an enormous dolly
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and the lovely view of Beaumont Tower beyond the edge of the stadium
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This fella is as much a campus icon as the tower:
IMG_3395 crop
I've seen him at every single home game I've attended (and even, if I remember correctly, some of the away games as well). John and I spent some time wondering if the green dye he paints on his skin has had a permanent effect - is he green on Mondays? - and we think there's documentary fodder in unofficial mascots like this guy.

The game was close, but MSU was ahead with eight seconds to go:
IMG_3402 034 crop
Unfortunately, due to a combination of penalties (Tchah!) and some wildcard plays on the part of CMU, the Spartans snatched defeat from the jaws of victory five seconds later:
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Even so, we had a great afternoon, and the weather was idyllic (as if, John observed, in apology for last year.)

After a marvelous dinner at the State Room, John went to hang out with some more of his friends at a local establishment selling adult beverages. Dad and I retired to our hotel room, he to watch two football games simultaneously (Minnesota vs the Air Force Academy and Ohio State vs USC) and I to write this post!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Biker Chick

I had a lovely treat the Friday before Labor Day weekend: I got to see my cousin Sandy and her husband Jack. They live on the far side of Chicago, and we don't get out there too often - especially now that my brother's moved out of the state.

Luckily, Sandy's brother and sister still live in western New York. This means that every so often they pass this way on one end or other of a trip, and sometimes they have time to stop and visit with us.

This time they were traveling by road. Specifically, they were on their Harley!
They actually each own one, but this trip they shared, with Sandy riding pillion. They have the look right, didn't they?

We all went out to breakfast and had a great time talking up a storm - it took forever to eat because our mouths were so busy doing other things - and then headed back to Dad's for more chatting until they had to pack up and leave. They were on the homeward leg of their trip and needed to be in Illinois by the end of the day. As they loaded up the saddlebags on the motorcycle I plucked up my courage and asked for a ride. As all enthusiasts, Jack was glad to comply!
I borrowed Sandy's helmet and off we went, making a big loop of five miles or so and returning to Dad's house ten or fifteen minutes later, triumphant:
I had a blast, though I'm not saving up for my own yet or anything. Sadly, a few minutes later they headed on their way (though they stopped off quickly at my place to meet Buster.) Hopefully it won't be five years before the next time I see them!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oh, to heck with it!

Alternative Titles: Diana Goes Over the Brink or Yarn Binge.

Yarn diet my eye.

Around the middle of last week, I realized I needed to pick up a couple of insurance skeins of the Knitpicks lace yarns I bought last spring. I was planning some largeish shawls and I didn't want to run out.

I placed a small order after midnight Wednesday night. When I got up Thursday morning, I discovered that Knitpicks had declared a lace yarn sale. Naturally I called them to get the discount applied to my order from seven hours previously (I couldn't change the order because they were already packing it for shipping! Those folks must really need their warehouse space back). Then I realized I needed to get one or two extra skeins. Then...I can't really remember. All I know is that I found myself sprawled on the sofa with my laptop on my lap, my credit card clutched in my hand, and a vaguely dirty feeling.

Barely 48 hours later, the yarn was here. I unpacked it and fondled it. Then I decided to play!

I hauled out all my lace yarn and made a color wheel out on the porch. (Note: this does not even include the lace yarn that's being knit into my Classic Lines Cardigan, nor the two shawls (turquoise and red-brown) that are already on the needles.) Voila:
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As I calculate it, I have enough yarn there for sixteen shawls. That's a lotta shawls! The new ones are Knitpicks Alpaca Cloud in Cha Cha Heather (the orange one at eleven o'clock) and Dill Heather (the dark green at around eight). I bought a few more skeins in colors I had already so I didn't have to worry about having enough yarn for various projects. [What I will end up with, I can already predict, is some kind of Frankenshawl made out of multiple orphan skeins. Or maybe a lot of small scarves, fichus and/or headbands.]

It amuses me to analyze my color preferences. I note strong concentrations in:

Pink (a kettle-dyed wool, a strongly variegated alpaca/silk blend, and a coral pink wool) augmented by Red (that hand-dyed wool from last month)
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Green (a light yellow green kettle-dyed wool, a bright yellow green mohair/silk blend, a dull, brownish yellow green mohair/silk blend and a dark yellow green alpaca. Apparently the only greens I like are yellow greens.)
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Blue (deep turquoise wool, heathered blue wool, and variegated blue alpaca/silk)
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and, inexplicably, three separate shawls' worth of red-brown yarn
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not counting the Icarus shawl. That's four red-brown shawls! What was I thinking?!

Yellow is entirely absent, and purple is represented only by a grayish-lavender alpaca and a strongly variegated alpaca/silk that adulturates the purple with tons of turquoise and fuchsia.

What does all this mean?

1. 1970s appliance colors still rule!

2. I don't really pay much attention to the actual clothing in my wardrobe when planning these little projects.

3. I think I knit a lot faster than I actually knit!

I was enjoying my new purchases, but I convinced myself that this was just an aberration. That I had had a little binge, like eating a whole pint of Haagen-Dasz in one sitting, but that I could pick myself up and get back on the wagon. But the Universe held up a mirror to me, revealing the truth about my character: a box came for me in the mail today. It contained my latest from Sundara: Toasted Orange Over Pistachio sock yarn which I utterly adore.
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Maybe it's time to accept myself for who I am?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fireworks in My Backyard

So there I was, peacefully cooking myself a quesadilla for dinner and watching Dr. Who on DVD. (You mean you don't eat dinner at 9:15 PM? You mean you don't lose two hours down a black hole every time you sit down at your computer "just for a second" to check your email or Facebook or something after getting home from work?) Anyway, there I was, when...


Outside, about half a mile from my driveway, the City of Stow was putting on a Labor Day fireworks display! It caught me by surprise, since I'm not really very good at keeping up with the local news.

I moved my frying pan off the burner, turned off the stove, went to the garage door, fell over Buster who was most uncharacteristically trying to go out the door from behind which those booming noises were coming, put Buster's leash on him, went out to the garage, fell over Buster's leash, since he decided that his previous desire to go out with me was dangerously unwise, put Buster back in the house, went out alone and watched some fireworks, remembered my camera has a fireworks setting, ran back in to get it, fell over Buster who was hovering by the garage door, ran outside and watched the rest of the show while trying to take some pictures. Buster appears to have spent the remainder of his time behind the sofa.

My wee camera did its best, though I really need a tripod for this sort of thing. The display was really gorgeous, with lots of shimmery ones, lots of big crysanthemums, and lots of those packed shaped charges that are so fashionable just now. Thanks, Stow!

The Scent of Melancholy

There's a smell in the air that always spells Autumn to me. I have no idea what it is, and nobody I've described it to can make anything of my description.

I always notice it around the time of year the kids go back to school. It's a dry, dusty smell that catches in the back of my throat. I don't think it has anything to do with furnaces, because they're not turned on yet. (Heck, a lot of places are still running the AC, though this has been a delightfully cool summer in my neck of the woods.) It can't have anything to do with fall leaves, either - those have their own distinctive odor that's all tied in with the sound they make when you crunch your way through them, and anyways at this point they're still on the trees.

When I smell this smell, I find myself remembering things. I smelled that smell the day I picked up the field mouse in the schoolyard in fourth grade or so, and it bit me (naturally.) Dad's still mad that the school never called him and Mom to tell them their daughter got bitten by a wild animal. I picked it up in the first place because I loved all furry things so much that I had no sense whatsoever; I'm much happier now as a dog owner, but Mom's asthma forbade that in my youth.

I smelled it the day my folks left me at Wooster for my freshman year of college - I distinctly remember catching a whiff on the stairs to the basement laundry room. The smell used to be so strongly associated with that leavetaking, going-back-to-college time that I would get teary with homesickness whenever I smelled it - I'm a little teary now, remembering, though the effect isn't strong any longer.

Maybe it has something to do with the cold nights and warm days. Maybe it's the smell of the soil in its last rush of fertility, before the harvest and the fallow winter. I wonder why this smell affects me this way, especially given that autumn is my absolute favorite season, but I can only think of it as the scent of melancholy.

image by hirekatsu at stock.xchng