Block party

July 29, 2006 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I somehow managed to finish both the front and the back of the Pistachio Aran and block them. At the same time. Side by side. I watched Lorien block something the other night, and she was soooo precise. Every movement was painstaking, every pin was deliberately placed. That is approximately the antithesis of my approach. I didn’t even bother to pin it in some places cause the wool stretched and held so well. I can’t tell if this casual approach (to everything) is my downfall (my creations are never perfect) or my saving grace (what’s the point in obsessing?).


This is going to be a loooooong sweater. I do have a loooooong torso and have eternal difficulties finding tank tops that fit (thank you, American Apparel, for cutting your tanks long. I love you). However, I might have overdone it on the length. The length of the body, excluding the armscye, is 18 inches long. My torso is not (thank God) 18 inches long from my underarm. This may be more of a tunic than a sweater. I’m counting on some of the length being shortened when I sew it together and put it on, but as I don’t have large breasts this may be wishful thinking. We’ll just have to see.

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I’m no longer afraid of dyeing

July 29, 2006 at 5:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Dyeing yarn and wool is something that I’ve wanted to get into for a while. I tried Kool-Aid dyeing but was never that into the sickly colors. A couple of months ago, I went to G & S Dye here in Toronto, and bought their acid dye kit. For 30 bucks, you get the three primary colors and black, soap, and citric acid to set the dye.

Not a bad deal! Plus, the guy who was working there when I stopped in was ultra helpful and knowledgeable.

Because I’d done some dyeing before (Kool-Aid) and hadn’t been too thrilled with the results, I wanted to read up on dyeing yarn before I started. I consulted Deb Menz’s Color in Spinning, which has a wealth of information on color theory, and Lynne Vogel’s Twisted Sisters Sock Workbook, an indispensable resource for dyeing rovings. I have some roving and a pound cone of white yarn I got a while ago with the idea of dyeing it, but as this was my maiden voyage (and because I want to have a “dyeing day” later this week), I started with some sale yarn I got at Knit-O-Matic. I had two skeins of 50 grams each.

I put those in a water bath to soak while I set up my workspace.

My workspace pretty much consisted of the deck. I don’t exactly have the most professional set-up here. (We are not going to discuss the windiness of Toronto, nor are we going to talk about how pissed off I was when a freshly mixed bowl of green dye upturned all over the aforementioned books. Let’s just say that there was a lot of profanity.)

Anyway, after the yarns had soaked and the wind had messed up my books, I was ready to begin dyeing. I laid down plastic wrap on a drop cloth and secured it with masking tape, then laid the wet skeins on the plastic. I had mixed up four colors of dye; two purples and two greens. There was a light and a dark purple, and a forest-y green and a light, kind of kelly green. I hadn’t decided on a particular effect (stripes, etc.), so I just started painting. Eventually, I figured that if I stuck to the two most abundant colors (one green and one purple), I could use the other two as accents. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture before I wrapped up the plastic, but here’s what it sort of looks like:

And here they are after steaming:


Now, I just have to wait for it to cool (which will take forever) and then I can wash, rinse, and dry it!

I love him

July 28, 2006 at 11:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Seriously, John Krasinski (if you guys don’t know who he is, you need to get your heads out of your asses) is the cutest thing since Jimmy Fallon, like, five years ago. I watch The Office for many, many reasons and I am not above admitting that Krasinski’s character, Jim, is one of the major ones. He’s sexy, he’s funny, he’s smart. He plays hilarious practical jokes on Dwight. He mocks Michael without Michael knowing it. He’s insightful but not tediously so, he’s sensitive but shit, he’s no wimpster (well, maybe a little). His crush on Pam is so fucking sweet, I could die. Seriously, that kiss at the end of last season was so heartfelt and passionate and… I totally need to get a life. (Anyway, it reminded me of when I was about 13 and watched 90210 religiously, and I’d get butterflies in my stomach when Brenda and Dylan patched up whatever fight they were having. It was SO exciting. That’s how that kiss made me feel.) Let’s not think about the fact that it’s Friday night when I’m posting this. Whatever. I worked all week, people. I’m tired, I’m cranky and, let’s face it, it’s too damn hot to care about anything.

Serving the public

July 28, 2006 at 6:40 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I love blogs. The more specific, the better. (Let’s not consider the implications of the fact that, while I love blogs that deal with specific subject matter, my own blog is decidedly un-specific.) Obviously, I love knitting blogs and celebrity gossip blogs and, of course, my friends’ blogs.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that I also love library blogs. A couple of them are in my links section, but here’s one that I discovered recently: Happyville Library. The writing is great–few grammatical and spelling errors, clear sentences, and a sense of timing and humor. The writer, Happy Villain, chronicles her 13 years of experiences serving the public at a library somewhere outside of Chicago, and she does so with wit and insight. Usually, she details her encounters with the public, who are one hell of a bunch.

I cannot fathom the amount of patience it must take to deal with people like this, day in and day out, over and over and over again. I have worked in customer service. I have seen people at their best and at their worst. I have seen myself at my public-serving best and, unfortunately, my worst. (I can’t tell you how many fantasies I’ve had about ripping certain problem customer’s heads off and shoving them down their throats.) Clearly, I do not have one-tenth of the patience and self-preservation instinct that Happy Villain has, and I’m thinking about entering a field that is all about serving these people? Am I sure that this is the right career choice?

When confronted with frustrated, angry people whose goal is, it seems, to berate and insult me, I would surely not be able to sit there and calmly reiterate the rules and policies of my workplace. (However, as my workplaces have always erred on the side of the customer, I would imagine that working in a place that actually has some unbreakable policies would help me in serving the public; it’s pretty annoying to be told that “we never, EVER give people a cash or credit card refund for their purchase,” when in practice, this policy has a P.S.: “we never, EVER give people a cash or credit card refund for their purchase, except when they bitch and moan at us or when the store owner happens to be in the room.” Oh, how I love non-existent policies. Rules exist for a reason, people.)

I understand that blog readers have to take what they read with a grain of salt–obviously, one of the purposes of having a blog is to be able to vent, in writing, about all of the irritating bits of the day that cannot be discussed at work. I’m sure that Happy Villain has a lot of wonderful patrons who make her career worthwhile. I’m just putting myself in her shoes, and I don’t know if I can honestly say that one evil patron wouldn’t ruin my entire day. I’m an introvert by nature; being around other people just wears me out, no matter how positive the interaction, and to repeatedly encounter confrontational, aggressive people makes me want to change my name to Tenzing Tasha, shave my head, and live in a Tibetan cave.

Welcoming another spinner to the fold…

July 26, 2006 at 5:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

From: Lorien
To: Tasha
Subject: RE:
Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2006 20:43:21 +0000

Hello Tasha,
You should check out the wonderful,
plied yarn hanging in the bathroom. Yes, that’s right, I plied my
yarn today and have winded, washed, and hung it up. FOR SHIZZLE
DUDE!!! I am SO pleased with myself. Making yarn is just the coolest
thing. I want to spin more right now! Except that I’m not going to.
I think I need to eat some food and then need to leave. I wonder
what I shall make with my tiny bit of yarn. There really isn’t very
much of it. I shall make something special. hahaha.

I hope work’s not too boring. See you later!

Love, Lorien

___________________________________________________

From: Tasha
To: Lorien
Subject: RE: RE:

Dude,

I am SO proud of you! Spinning is seriously like crack–once you start it’s really, really hard to stop! If you’re anything like me, once you start spinning with colors it’s even worse… Why would you clean your room when you COULD watch the blue fade into the green fade into the purple fade into the red… Why would you call home or cook dinner when you COULD *start* plying those full bobbins, just to see if two-ply or three-ply is the way to go with this yarn?

I have to warn you, though, that as I was introduced to one of the Rules of Spinning by my spinning teacher, so am I going to introduce you: you MUST make something out of your first handspun yarn. In my case, I had spun this very thick, practically ropy gray yarn, and I hated it (you know how I feel about colors versus neutrals). I also had a minor mishap while washing it in my friend’s washing machine, and the result was thick, ropy, felted gray yarn. I saved what I could of it, and ended up knitting a hat. This was right around my graduation from college, and my parents were visiting. We were in Washington State in May, at Mt. St. Helens, and it was HOT. My dad, he of the bald head, likes to wear hats, even wool hats, when he will be exposing the dome to the sun. My father totally stepped up to the plate and wore my ugly, handspun felted gray WOOL hat on our stifling, hot, sticky walk. Parental love (or fear of sunburn) is something else, huh?

Happy spinning,
Tasha

Fat Day

July 26, 2006 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Skinny girls can SO have fat days. It’s more a state of being than a physical condition, but I still choose to refer to it as Fat Day^.

Let’s discuss the symptoms of Fat Day:

*I don’t have much of a sweet tooth; however, at work yesterday, I had numerous pieces of coffee cake instead of the applesauce I brought with me

*Last night, I ate nachos, spinach dip, and guacamole for dinner, with tiramisu for dessert

*I stopped at Second Cup for an iced chai this morning, and spent the rest of my walk to work muttering under my breath about how “if I wanted a watery, milky chai, I would’ve gone to Starbucks”

*My music of choice today is Elliott Smith, whose most uplifting lyrics are “I may not seem quite right/But I’m not fucked, not quite”; and who I always listen to when I want to hear menacing songs about alcoholism, as told from the perspective of the bottle itself (“Drink up with me now/Forget all about/The pressure of days/Do what I say/And I’ll make you okay/And drive them away/The images stuck in your head”)

*When I woke up this morning and looked at my knitting, I wanted to cry. I KNOW I’m not a perfectionist but I wish my knitting was. Why does it have to be wonky and crooked and awful? Why can’t I be good at anything?

^ Fat Day may also be known as DMS (During Menstruation Syndrome), when I have my period and therefore hate myself and my life and am inclined to eat massive quantities of both salty and sweet things because, to my hormone-addled brain, they cancel each other out and so it’s like I didn’t eat anything at all and can therefore indulge in even more chips/dip/ice cream/cookies. I am SO GLAD I’m on the Pill. What the hell did women do before hormone regulation? Oh, right. They were accused of being hysterical.

Blisters

July 25, 2006 at 12:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I am an avid shoe-lover. I don’t have the high-heel-wearing ability of Carrie Bradshaw, nor her budget, so I don’t exactly parade around town in Manolos. However, I looooove shoes. I was also cursed with flat feet and no money, the result of which equals a lot of cheap shoes bought from Payless. The shoes get worn a couple of times, and then sit at the back of my closet where I stuff them after one too many blisters, unable to look at them without wincing at the memory of pain.

I am so goddamn sick of blisters and cuts and general foot pain. My feet need a break! I walk all over the place, at least 40 minutes a day, and I can’t physically afford to keep destroying my feet by wearing poorly constructed unsupportive shoes. Like an good-for-nothing boyfriend, these shoes let me down and hurt me.

At the risk of being branded a walking fashion faux pas, I have decided to invest in some extremely comfortable, very supportive, yet sartorially reviled, shoes: Enter the Danskos. I figure that with a little persistence and a willingness to spend a bit of money, I can find a pair of decently attractive, relatively comfortable Danskos that will not force me into early cute-shoe-retirement.

Radical eating

July 24, 2006 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I try to be a fairly aware consumer. “Try” is the operative word in that sentence. When I remember, I bring a canvas bag to the grocery store. I generally don’t get much take out. Lorien and I recycle and compost religiously. I check the labels of clothing before I buy it. However, sometimes it’s just easier to buy cheap, non-North American made clothing or whatever that is almost undoubtedly the product of unfair labor conditions. That is one thing I hate about myself: I figure that if I’m going to talk the talk, I better be able to walk the walk. I’d say, half the time, the walk just ain’t there.

After I finished reading Waiting for the Macaws (and I have to say, that book was incredible and informative, a rare but delightful combination), I started thinking more about the consumption choices that I make, both food- and other-wise.

Of particular interest to me was Glavin’s point about the extinction of so many different species of edibles. Since farming became big business in the first half of the twentieth century, the loss of diversity just among the most common foods that we eat is absolutely stunning. Factor in practices of companies such as Monsanto (the proud parents of “Terminator” seeds–they have been genetically engineered to not propagate, a Frankensteinian phenomenon [I think I just coined a phrase] if I’ve ever heard one), and we have on our hands a gastronomic disaster. The word of the day is “homogeneity”–we expect to find the same food in every supermarket from Toronto to Texas. We have grown accustomed to the luxury of having decision-making eliminated from shopping, cooking, and eating, and we are willing to sacrifice both flavor and diversity to sustain this, which the market then reflects back at us, and so on and so forth. Why would farmers grow 12 varieties of corn if one will suffice?

Except that sometimes, consumers demand choice, and not just of candy bars and frozen pizzas. There is a reason that places like Whole Foods exist. Sure, part of it is the ultra-nice atmosphere, and it certainly makes you feel high-class to shop there, but I can’t help but think that part of it is the diversity of the produce and the availability of organic and non-genetically modified food. I used to work at an upscale grocery store in Portland, and while I can’t say it was my favorite job, it was certainly an educational experience. There, I tasted real parmesan cheese from Parma, and a multitude of different beers from the Pacific Northwest and around the world. At the co-op by my friend Eric’s house, I came across 20 different local apple varieties one October. At my going-away party, I served a berry cordial that I’d made from berries I had picked. The point is, with a little time and a little money, it is possible to be more connected with what you eat. I know that organic food is expensive, and it is time-consuming to research different varieties of tomatoes or squash or whatever, but I have to think that it’s worth it. No one is expected to eat organic all the time, but picking up some local cherries or peaches a couple of times a week isn’t that hard. Buying heirloom tomatoes instead of hothouse ones just requires putting something different into the cart at the grocery store. Eating apples in November and blueberries in July instead of year-round is a very simple, conscious decision.

So, lately, I’ve been trying to patronize the local organic/natural food store by my house. I bought heirloom tomatoes instead of hothouse ones (and I’m saving the seeds–but don’t tell Monsanto!). I use the basil from my “garden” (seven containers of either over- or under-watered plants on the deck). I’m going to stop buying shoes from Payless. I’m going to continue knitting and spinning, cause at least that way I know that the only person harmed in the making of the product was me, and I’m ok with that. I don’t know if I’ll start dressing in head-to-toe hemp or if I’ll become a fruitatarian (I think they only eat things that have fallen to the ground–that nature has “given” them). But I do resolve to think a little bit harder about what I buy and where it came from.

Talking Barbie: “Math is hard!”

July 23, 2006 at 11:08 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Math bad. Words good. If I could summarize my academic career in four words, those two sentences would about do it. I have never been mathematically adept. I still count on my fingers. I cannot for the life of me multiply two two-digit numbers in my head. Unless they are squares. I know my squares up to 13, but that’s about it.

My father, the Ph.D-holding microbiologist who teaches calculus to grad students, has never been able to figure out how, with both of his two children, neither of them managed to get even a fraction (ha!) of his math skills. My brother is spectacularly bad–he’s taken college algebra at least three time, in community college no less, and has yet to pass it. (I’m pretty sure that it’s statistically impossible for someone to fail a class multiple times at a community college: they hold your hand throughout the entire process. I have to give my brother props for beating that particular system.)

Anyway, the point is that I can relate to talking Barbie, who will forever be remembered for doing a disservice to a generation of young girls when she said, “Math is hard!”

Along with my math deficiency, I am also not a very orderly person. When I was growing up, my mother often and, I like to think, fondly, referred to my room as a “disaster area.” When I was a teenager, there were weeks when it was so messy that you couldn’t see the floor. Fortunately for the roommates I’ve had over the years, I’d pretty much outgrown that by the time I went away to college. However, I’m still not a tidy person. Never have been, never will be. I don’t pay attention to detail, despite what I say in job interviews, my desk is constantly cluttered, and I am fully capable of leaving the house with less-than-perfect hair. No one’s gonna accuse me of being a perfectionist–at least, not with a straight face.

So, with my dynamite combination of math deficiency and tidiness anemia, why am I so drawn to geometric shapes? I love their orderliness, their clean lines and repetition. I love the angles and the planes and the patterns. M. C. Escher was always one of my favorite artists–I could, and often did, get lost in his precise forms and regimented evolutions. Similarly, I was drawn to Mason-Dixon Knitting because it glorifies the simplicity and beauty of straight lines and patterns. Recommended in the book is a website called Woolly Thoughts, which is devoted to mathematical knitting. Their creations, particularly their afghans, are amazing, and they are all based on different mathematical principles.
For example, this one:

is squares within squares within squares.

None of the principles upon which the afghans are based mean anything to me, of course, but the results are absolutely stunning and really show the versatility of color and geometry. All of the blankets are knitted using garter stitch, so there is no fancy footwork. I’ve been knitting for, let’s see, over five years. I am so sick of garments that don’t fit, and knitting a parade of endless socks and hats just does not appeal to me. Perhaps mathematical afghans are my calling?

115344155118719595

July 20, 2006 at 8:25 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Having rehashed last night’s date with a couple of my grad school friends and a couple of my online friends (God, when did I turn into such an internet dork? Damn you, high speed wireless internet!), and having discussed the issue of physical attraction to someone, I have a few ruminations to share.

I think, generally speaking, that men are more visual than women—sexually, men prefer watching pornographic movies and looking at girlie magazines, while women prefer erotic literature and/or their own imaginations. I think that this manifests itself in our dating preferences, too. I know girls who will “date down” in terms of looks, but not many guys. Maybe women are programmed to be less superficial when it comes to a mate? We are obviously concerned with our own appearances; we wear makeup and spend hours on our hair and clothes yet, time after time, when women are asked what they look for in a partner, these are the two things that top the list: sense of humor and intelligence. Not a sexy body, or beautiful hair, or perfect skin, but the ability to make us laugh and the capacity for decent conversation.

Sometimes, you meet someone with whom you have an instant physical and sexual connection. It doesn’t come from flirting or playing games or putting on beer goggles; in other words, you don’t have to try for that connection. I’ve had this happen to me twice in my life. Both times, these experiences occurred at work. The first was in Portland, and I always refer to the guy as The One That Got Away. He was (is) gorgeous and smart and funny, and our interests and senses of humor gelled perfectly. We became friends the first time we met and I have never, ever had such a crush on someone. I think I understood then why it’s called a crush. It reduced me, physically and mentally, to a child, and I was humbled under its weight. I blushed when he walked by. My knees went weak when I saw him or thought about him. And I was friends with this guy, and expected to act normal around him. Nothing physical ever happened with us; let me rephrase that: nothing sexual ever happened between us. (Which, I remember thinking at the time, might have been a good thing, as I probably would have imploded if we’d so much as kissed.) We cuddled a bit a couple of times after a night of drinking, but that was all. Eventually, he got another job and moved on and out of my life, despite my willingness to stay in touch.

The second time was in Miami, again with a guy I worked with. The first time I saw him, I was instantly and irrevocably attracted to him. Everyone else who worked with him didn’t get it: he was lazy, they said, and never wanted to help out when things were busy. I didn’t care; I was drawn to him like a magnet to metal. I did end up dating that guy, but he turned out to be pretty self-absorbed, and we didn’t even last four months.

What I took from those two “relationships,” if they can be called that, is that it is completely possible for two people to have combustible chemical attraction to each other. It is also completely possible for that combustible attraction to not mean a damn thing when it comes to meaningful, worthwhile relationships. I’m glad that I met those guys, particularly TOTGA, because there’s nothing more fun than having a crush on someone at work, and because they reminded me that physical attraction shouldn’t be overlooked. I’m not saying that it’s impossible for physical attraction to evolve into something more stable and concrete, I’m just saying that it’s never happened to me.

That brings me to the other kind of attraction, the mental one. Just as two people can have an incredible and undeniable physical attraction to each other, so can two people have a magnetic mental connection. The kind where your senses of humor match up so perfectly that, even though you may be used to people finding you too crass or too cynical and you want to tone yourself down so that you stop getting funny looks, you are finally excited to be crass and cynical and sarcastic, because there is someone with whom you can share it. The kind where you can talk for hours and hours and hours, and you’re not even talking about Major Issues. The kind where you want to pick the other person’s brain because it’s such interesting, unusual territory.

Can this kind of attraction turn sexual? I am going to say that it can. Case in point: another workplace, another guy (yes, there is a pattern). I remember, the first time I met him, immediately judging him on his physical appearance, as I am wont to do, and finding him lacking. We became friends, though, and I was immediately comfortable around him. I felt like I could tell him anything, get his advice on anything, and not only would he listen to me and counsel me, but he would also not judge me. I began to look forward to seeing him at work and eventually, I realized that I had a sort of mini-crush on him. (The only reason that it was mini and not full-fledged is that he was married.) Still, though, he’s nothing to look at, but God, behind that physical exterior, there lurks one of the kindest, gentlest, most interesting and sexy souls, and I would have hated to have never seen that.

I am infinitely guilty of judging people on their appearances; I think most people are. But when it comes down to it, none of us can help how we look. Yeah, there are basic things we can do: we can keep ourselves clean and neat, we can exercise and eat well, and we can wear clothes that fit us properly. However, no matter what, short of having plastic surgery we cannot change the basic shape we were born with. Unfortunately, beautiful people tend to be perceived as being nicer than less-attractive people, and strangers are more willing to help those who are considered attractive than those who are not. As children we are taught to not judge books by their cover; that beauty is in the eye of the beholder; that beauties can and do fall in love with beasts. Is this realistic? Can we expect ourselves and others to put aside the power of the visual, to hang up our beauty hang-ups and allow someone’s sense of humor and intelligence and personality to draw us in? I’m not sure. All I know is that the most meaningful relationship of my life was with someone who was no one’s idea of beautiful. I got to know him over the course of several months and eventually decided—or realized, or whatever—that I liked him. We dated for 3 ½ years and lived together for two of those years. None of my other relationships, regardless of whether they were with people traditionally considered more attractive than him, lasted as long or meant as much.

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