Friday, February 26, 2010


You know what? There's a silver lining to the scaly red rosacea thing. When I get it to simmer down a bit, I feel really pretty. No effort. Just -- you know, yay!

The answer seems to be honey. I am using a squidgy mixture of honey and plain yogurt as a cleanser, and it seems to have calmed down the rosacea quite a lot in a mere 2 days.

New music to love

I got a Valentine's Day present from Circe Link, whose music I really love.

She let me download her beautiful new album, Vonnegut's Wife. And how could I pass up an album with a title like that?

It's amazing. It's its own thing, but allow me to make comparisons: if Poe made a new album according to aesthetics determined by Zepp, the Stones, David Bowie, and maybe a little Nirvana, you'd like it the same way.


I highly recommend.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do you like Bailey's?

Have you ever drunk Bailey's from a shoe? Do you want to go to a club where people wee on each other?

If you haven't watched the Old Gregg episode of Mighty Boosh, you might want to. You know, in a place where the word "mangina" and your roars of laughter won't get you in trouble.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Paging Dr. Spin...

Is there a spin-doctor in the house?

No, not THAT kind of spin-doctor. I need someone to heal my lousy spinning.

Because ... I purchased a drop spindle (next time I'll make one for about $3 worth of hardware and wood -- seriously, the technology is simple, it's a stick with a weight and a hook) and some wool top to spin. And I still stink at spinning, naturally enough.

But! Oh! I will learn. The deft gentleman who astonished us at Village Spinning & Weaving yesterday would have astonished us SO much more if we had tried it first. He made perfectly smooth, dainty fine yarn without even looking at it, while holding eye contact with me earnestly and telling me, "YouTube will be your friend for this."

I was browsing a book in his shop that really sang to me. I'll probably buy it later in life, but now was not the time -- I am still toddling about and making a happy mess. But hilariously enough, when I got home, bewildered myself by failing utterly at keeping the spin in the yarn I was trying to make, and decided I needed YouTube RIGHT NOW, I found (among some other excellent and less excellent instructional videos) the BEST video. And the author of the video IS the author of that book!!

This is what I understand so far:

1) the real tool is not the spindle. It's the twist. You put it into the leader yarn, and when you let it travel up into the wool you draft out of your fiber supply, it turns that wool magically into yarn. Yes.

2) the spindle is a tool to hold your yarn on to keep it under tension. Failure to keep it under tension is how I was boning the process. I seem to have picked up how to draft it tolerably well from the wonderful John Novak at Village Spinning & Weaving.

3) drafting wool requires equivalent amounts of delicacy and firmness. The first write-up I read went on and on about how you should hold the fiber supply "like a live bird -- not so hard as to crush it, but firmly enough that it doesn't get away." Since I spend a lot of time handling live (wild, biting, frantic) birds, I think that resonated with me. And while drafting wool,

4) never let the spin get into your raw materials, because it contaminates the purity and keeps it from drafting smoothly and forming yarn if it has already been spun.

Does this bring us back to the other kind of spin-doctor? Hee hee!

But quite seriously, and back to textiles, dammit: there is a zen to knitting that strongly resembles that of spinning (go figure). And here it is:

The needles are not the tools you use to knit: the tool is the working yarn. The needles only support the product and your manipulations of the working yarn.

Once you understand that, new stitches can't really confound you -- you know what you are watching, and will be able to suss out what it should look like and how to extract and correct your mistakes.

I think spinning is going to be the same -- satisfying, simple (not easy!), and filled with the kind of zen that means the process is not only the product but the tool as well, and all the physical tools you bring to the process are only accessories. The dance of Prakriti! The Sacred Chao!

And next time I go back to Village Spinning & Weaving, I will probably purchase three pounds of flax. (Because five tons of flax is an AWFUL lot.)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Laughing until I cry at this...

I'm sorry I'm spamming you with links... (oh God! Spam would be an improvement! LOL!) But this is truly, truly funny. Do click the links that inspire you and read the hilarious write-ups.

Wonderful, wonderful article

This Esquire article on Roger Ebert is touching, beautiful, and serene. I've been enjoying his recent writings and now am enchanted by his relationship with his wife, as well as his relationships with the world.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I have thumbs!

So I'm making this... from That Logan Chick's blog... because I liked her chart and the bottom-edge-up triangular scarf design and ESPECIALLY that it didn't have a great seam down the back as so many triangular lace scarves do. And I'm making it out of gorgeous blue/green/gold mohair blend yarn -- one laceweight strand of deep royal-ish blue, one laceweight strand of kelly green, and one laceweight braid of very soft metallic gold, all in one yarn. And I'm beading it with peacock-colored and gold foil-lined beads, as one does. Or that's the intention.

And I am trying to use the crochet hook method of hooking beads as you go, because I cannot be arsed to string them all in advance of knitting and manage them as I go. Besides, the finicky mohair really doesn't want that kind of roughing-up as I slide them to and fro. But I have problems.

1) The beads do not want to fit on even the teeny-tiny crochet hook I bought for the project. Bastards.

2) Even those beads that DO fit on the teeny-tiny crochet hook will not then fit over the crochet hook plus two thicknesses of yarn, as they would have to do.

3) It is late and I do not want to go to the craft store, 15 miles away, even if it is open, in the rain, for another crochet hook that also may not work and additionally may not be capable of hooking all three plies of my yarn.

So I am aggravated. But I am thinking to myself, "self, you are a higher mammal. You are, in fact, a great ape. A darn great ape. You have thumbs and a pretty good brain. Figure something out."

And I grabbed a little piece of copper wire and bent it into a small V. (I'd have photographed it, but it seems my ape-ly awesomeness has somehow stopped shy of me remembering how to use my macro function to take pictures of little things, dammit. It's an inch-long V of small-gauge copper wire. What can I say? Visualize it with all your might.) And I grabbed the loop with one arm of the "V" and then closed the arms together and threaded the bead onto it, slid it onto the loop, and slipped the loop onto my knitting needle again. And after I purled the stitch, I thought, "wow, that even helped me keep the front of my loop forward. That is a better tool than a crochet hook for the task, if I do say so myself."

Deja vu. Suddenly I was recalled back to our apartment in Peru, where I turned a fragile, somewhat longer copper V over in my fingers. "But how is this a sewing needle?" I asked my archaeologist husband. "It doesn't have an eye. The other needles have eyes. And it's too long."

"Well, the team thinks it may be a cloak pin."

"It can't support the weight of a cloak!"

He shrugged. "Maybe the eye broke off. But maybe not. It's flattened wire from end to end -- the other needles are pointed."

This humble artifact was found amid spun cotton, animal wool, human hair, and beads. Hunh. And, just like that, I was back in 2010, on my couch, thinking, "wow, I know what that thing was for. It was for fishing stitches out of weaving or knitting, either so beads could be strung on, or for other reasons."

So, I have thumbs, AND opinions. Woohoo!

In related news, golly, this shawl is going to be pretty. Dark! But pretty. This is a segment roughly 6" from bottom edge (the point) to the needles (connected by that weird looking cable). The finished shawl will be about five times that length and roughly 60" wingspan.

Software -- for writers!

After ribs and corn muffins and chips 'n guacamole and French macarons (no, not an eccentric potluckery at all), and knitting and The Shield, Troy (not Pathy Troy, Troy B) showed us an amazing piece of software tonight. I'm so excited I thought I would share it RIGHT NOW and not make anybody wait until, say, I forgot, or any of the other usual shenanigans.



This is the piece of software I have needed for a few years, since I actually started keeping a whole suite of Word files on my stories to keep plot, locations, characters, etc. straight whilst I wrote. And obviously I am not the only one who works this way.

Best part? Aside from it being awesome?

Yes. It's freeware.

Please go see yWriter by Simon Haynes of Spacejock Software. You will not be sorry.

And they accept donations, if you are moved to open your wallet for this remarkable piece of software.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

True Love

Pat was bitten by a really romantic bug this weekend for Valentine's Day, and wanted me to have everything my little heart desired. He knows how obsessed with knitting I am, and so, as a madly romantic gesture, he took me to several yarn stores and bought me a lot of luxe yarn and tried to buy me a lot of fancy-pants needles, too, before I freaked out and made him stop. So now I have some BEAUTIFUL alpaca/merino in a bluish gray with heatherings of green and violet, some BEAUTIFUL kid mohair blend (with some synthetics and metallics) in oceanic blues and greens and pale metallic gold, some BEAUTIFUL bulky baby alpaca in variegated natural tones which he is going to knit into a scarf for me (he is doing a test scarf in cheap bulky acrylic which I already love), and a gift certificate for some fancy-pants needles when I decide which ones will be most useful.


I have started knitting an exquisite lace scarf in the alpaca/merino (which is light worsted weight). It's heavier filament than the artist used for the original scarf but as I am also pretty much guaranteed to be heavier than the original, I figured it would be a nice "scale-up" to fit me. I am somehow getting too many stitches in the leaf -- I increase by two more stitches in Row 1 than make sense in Row 3, and tore my work out twice before just going with the flow and figuring out how to reduce it again. Either this is something I am not understanding in the pattern or something wrong with it, as I have very carefully followed the pattern and am still screwing it up. Here's the original. Go admire it and be nice to the brilliant artist, Sarah Sutherland at Parallax Knitting, because, oh my, she is wonderful.

Here is my scarf so far (spread out on my unmade bed.)

I took a crap picture of the yarn but photos don't do it justice so why upload pictures of balls of yarn? You'll have to trust me that it's heavenly.

Don't mind the mistake near the hem. That's my bad. I got enthusiastic with the yarn-overs and I can fix it.

Lovely, no? And how sweet to have a Valentine who's also a "yarn-abler." Yikes. Fluffy stuff will soon take over our house -- but I'll be snuggling in it, very happily.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yet another link...

Have I treated you to Big Fat Whale yet? The last two episodes (as of today) crack me up. A lot.

I am sick as a dog with some kinda cough and general crud. My skin has decided to get scalier and redder than ever, but I am fighting back with homemade face cream. And I am happily knitting, watching TV, and wearing warm socks, so it's all okay. :) Once I get some kimchi soup, I'm sure I'll be all better. It's my cure-all. Seriously, it's good!

Homemade face cream: I had made a very dense whipped body butter of shea and cocoa butter, apricot kernel and jojoba oils, Vitamin E oil, and pure aloe gel several weeks ago. I wanted it dense and superemollient to treat my cracking knuckles (winter dryness hits me hard once the heaters go on.) When I made that batch, I poured off half of it to let it harden and whipped the other half. The whipped half turned out great -- the other half crystallized and became grainy, and I knew I was going to have to rebatch it. So yesterday I rebatched part of the grainy part with a VERY large portion of aloe gel to make a more fluid lotion with some healing power for the face. It didn't seem like it would incorporate -- separating the waxy oils out of the gel like butter out of whipped cream -- until suddenly it did. I have a little portion of the softest, smoothest, thick, rich face cream ever.

It won't last long because the only preservative in it is Vitamin E, so this isn't a marketable recipe, but I will experiment to make one I can offer to the public sometime in the next month or two. Because this stuff is AWESOME. Although I am still red and scaly, it's so much better than it was just yesterday. Yay.

(For those who might not know why I'm red and scaly/blistered sometimes, it's rosacea -- not contagious, not unsanitary, not particularly gross, just a nuisance. When I damaged my skin badly with a tropical sunburn in Peru, I evidently set off a dormant congenital condition or something. If I get a cold, it goes plumb crazy. Like now.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What the hell?

Darpa funding for immortal organisms with a kill switch built in? Link thanks to Bill. Thanks, Bill!

Happy Valentine's Day?

I love reading Serious Eats, a terrific foodie blog. I also love reading -- often, in peeks from between my fingers, with my face screwed up in horror -- the recurrent feature "The Nasty Bits," featuring an exploration of all manner of appalling offal.

In case you're wondering what's in this article, well, it's beef penis. As I understand it, it's eaten for medicinal reasons more than culinary ones, so it was funny to see how someone reacted to it, culinarily.

Read from between your fingers, screwing up your face in horror.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Axecop and Unibaby!

A comic. For you. Written by a 5 year old, and illustrated by his adult brother. Brilliant.

I cannot recommend enough that you click "episodes" and read them all. And then -- and then DO go read "ask Axe-Cop," because that's where the comedy gold lives.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Shut them ALL down! [NSFW warning on links]

Hi all.

Following links from OTHER links from a friend's blog, I found... well, Star Wars burlesque. I should love this. But it's just horrible.

These links are NOT SAFE FOR WORK. And I promise you cannot unsee Jabba, as advertised.