28 February 2007

New Toy

I stayed up for a long time after work today, waiting for the UPS guy to bring me a package. I bought a new lens for the new camera - a 50mm/f1.8 Nikkor autofocus. With a price tag of around $100, it's not as rugged a lens as the slightly faster 50mm/f1.4 Nikkor, but at $150 less, I could still break it and buy a new one and come out cheaper. And the combination of a wide maximum aperture and Nikon optics means I can still get photos like this:


or this:


with waning afternoon light and no flash. At full original size, they're not the clearest of photos, but they work well as snapshots, particularly considering they're of subjects who don't like to be still for any length of time.

With a bit of flash and a still subject, it does even better:


This is a hat I started yesterday in Berroco Pure Merino that I got on clearance from Webs. It's a basic 2 x 1 rib that turns into a cabled rib in the black. I'm making it for my cousin Brian, who will be shipping out to Afghanistan at the end of March. It should still be quite chilly there, so I figure the extra warmth will come in handy.

Needless to say, I'm worried about him going on this tour, particularly given the current state of affairs. For the first time in his 15 years in the Air Force (in a non-combat role as a mechanic), he'll be going on convoys that may be targets for attack - an eventuality that is likely enough that he's undergoing combat training at Ft. Bragg right now. This assignment is his choice, and I certainly respect that and mostly just want him to come home safely, but I can't help but wonder how different the situation there would be if we hadn't diverted so much effort and money to the unnecessary war in Iraq and had instead focused on finishing what we had started.

And because I can do little else to change the situation, I knit on and hope.

24 February 2007

One Year

Today is my first blogiversary. It hardly seems like it's been a whole year, but when I look back on it, there's been quite a lot crammed into the last 365 days. According to my archives, this is post #188, which means I've managed to come up with something to write on average slightly more than every other day. This means I either blather on a lot, or just maybe I've got enough to say to keep me blogging.

One of the things I've enjoyed the most over the past year is getting to know other knit bloggers out there and hearing from people who actually take the time to read this one. This is quite the community, and I continue to be amazed at what a wonderful group of people y'all are - generous, supportive, funny, and just plain decent. I could kvell for days.

Except that it's time for me to get ready for work. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone.

21 February 2007

A Couple Things

I imagine some of you have probably already seen this on Scout's blog. If not, then you need to read it. In this case, apparently, Justice was not only blind; it was profoundly retarded and in need of institutional care.

I Told

So over the last several months I've gotten a number of e-mails and calls and mailings from a US Air Force recruiter trying to get me to enlist as a Public Health officer. My grandfather and two uncles were in the USAF, and my cousin and my brother's ex-wife are currently enlisted, so it would probably be my choice of the armed services if I were to enlist. Except for one little problem.

I was on the Board of the Lesbian & Gay Veterinary Medical Association for 6 years and have been in their group photos in the Journal of the AVMA many, many times. You'd think that the FBI must have a file on me for such seditious activities (Hey, they're monitoring those crazy militant Quakers), or that the military would at least have a blacklist - after all, we're not that large a profession - but apparently not. So to clarify, I sent him the following e-mail:

You keep sending me recruiting materials, and I have a couple questions for you:

1) My partner is self-employed. If I were to enlist, would I be able to add him to my health care coverage?

2) We are planning on getting married in June of 2008. Would it be possible for us to have a military wedding on base, even though the marriage won't be recognized by the US government (We will be going to Canada for the legal marriage part, since they're rather a bit more forward-thinking)?

And just in case he's particularly thick, I attached a photo of David & myself. Had I been less tired, I might have thought of something more pithy to say, but I figured it should at least get the point across. Think he'll keep sending me things?

19 February 2007

Mmmmm, Spelty

For the last several months, David & I have belonged to a local food co-op, or buying club. This is not a co-op like most of you are probably familiar with, where there is a brick-and-mortar building and the general public can come and buy items. We're just one of a group of households that place an order together once a month and then meet up at one member's house when the delivery truck comes.

This has generally a good thing for us since, although our local supermarket actually has a reasonably good natural foods section, it allows us to buy a lot of the foods we eat regularly at lower prices than we get at the supermarket. The downside is that we often have to buy these foods by the case or in institutional size packages, which poses a bit of a challenge for a family of two in a tiny house. The current challenge is figuring out ways to use up a 25 pound bag of organic, whole grain spelt flour. These dinner rolls were a good start.


Tomorrow there will be a loaf of No Knead Bread.

Sweater Progress

I finally finished the first sleeve and attached it to the body!


Little milestones like this are so encouraging. It makes me feel like I might actually finish this and get to wear it before next winter. Maybe.

18 February 2007

Rested, Sort Of

I was up for 33 hours, so you'd think I'd need at least 11 or 12 hours' sleep. After 8 hours, though, my body decided it was time for me to get up. I guess it wants a Spa report, too.

I didn't see anyone I knew when I first got there, but it wasn't long before I spied Julianne Moore Cheryl and her new 'do,


who, of course, had her Seraphim shawl for all to see (a small piece of which is in that collage, but it's her baby to show off in all its glory). Peeking out from behind Cheryl in the photo is Carole, and behind Cheryl's hands is Laurie.


I was also very excited to see Debbie, who was there with Kellee and who will hopefully manage to swing by here on their way home today. Juno was also there, as were PumpkinMama, with her very cute and surprisingly quiet little pumpkin in tow, and Monica, whose lovely handspun shawl also made it into the collage. I know there were others, too, but adding lack of sleep on top of an already poor memory is a bad combination when it comes to accurate journalism.

I even had a couple people come up to me and tell me they read this little blog. Had I been more coherent, I'm sure I would have blushed. I even remember (I think) April's name, but I will just tell you now that the next time you see me you'll have to remind me all over again (or is that you sitting next to Laurie?). My brain, as usual, is hellbent on causing me embarassment.


One of the neatest things there was all the circular sock knitting machines. These machines are antiques from the early 20th century and can crank out socks like nobody's business. They basically make long tubes of stockinette, but they can do short row heels and toes. The owner of this machine had made about 4 pairs of socks during the course of the day, connecting them with lengths of waste yarn. All that needed to be done to finish them was to knit ribbing at the top by hand (some machines can even do the ribbing) and graft the short-rowed toes. It made me want one ( even more), but there's going to have to be some serious destashing and getting rid of other clutter before I can even consider it.


My haul from this event is quite modest. I really showed admirable restraint, as the vendors really had some nice items. The wensleydale is from Grafton Fibers and will hopefully someday be turned into something light and lacy. The skein of superwash/mohair is from Pogo & Marsha at Friends' Folly Farm and may turn into a hat for Dulaan. And the 'Favorite Mittens' book I bought from Betsy at Quiltessentials. I also stopped by on my way out to see Dave Paul of The Merlin tree, and he fixed me up with a fresh peg for the Scotch tension on my Hitchhiker, since the original one has shrunk down in the dry air and hasn't been gripping well lately.

I did actually do a bit of knitting in the midst of all the socializing. I got a bit more done on the sweater sleeve. Only about 15 more rounds to go and I'll be able to join it to the body and start the second one. I took the Hitchhiker but didn't do any spinning while I was there. Cheryl and I did try showing Kate, whom I had not met previously, how to spin, and Carole imparted a truly precious piece of advice she'd heard given once on drafting ("Pretend you're giving the fiber a hand job.").

That's pretty much all I have to report. Laritza asked about the woman in the sheep cardigan. I really don't know. She just happened to be there when I snapped the photo of the room. Something in the back of my brain tells me that I've seen that or a similar design somewhere before, but whether it's a handknit or commercially-produced I couldn't say. And then there's the matter of my unreliable brain. I would welcome comment from anyone who might know, though.

17 February 2007


I'm barely functional at this point, so a more thorough post will have to wait until I've actually slept, but I thought I'd offer up a couple visual impressions of Spa 2007.



16 February 2007

Accountability, Anyone?

Today brought this wire story from the AP asserting that Iran's elite Quds force is "enmeshed in Iraq". What really, really bothers me about this article is that it presents this - not incidentally the Bushies' latest talking point - as incontrovertible fact, then doesn't really offer anything to back it up. The article states that "[t]o make their case, U.S. military officials this week showed reporters in Baghdad pieces of EFP equipment, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades that they said were directly traceable to Iranian manufacture." The problem is that the writer left out the part where the officials admitted that the direct involvement of the Iranian government in this was not confirmed, but inferred.

Now, do I believe the Iranian government has some involvement in Iraq? Sure. They've got a strong interest in doing so, and it would be naïve to think that they'd stay out of it. What bothers me about the article is that it essentially fowards the Administration's accusation that Iran is directly engaged in a dirty war with us, with no attribution for the main assertions and no real critical analysis. Remember Colin Powell at the UN with his vial of white powder and photos of "mobile chemical weapons factories"? Have the media learned nothing in the past 4 years? How many times does the Bush team have to cry wolf before these reporters realize that they are the butt of his very worn and not-at-all-funny joke?

There's a very good article here about the media's unmitigated use of anonymous sources for such stories. The problem I have with the AP story is that for much of it, the reporter doesn't even quote Anonymous, which to my mind is even worse.

In a related story, country music singer Kenny Chesney asserts that he is not gay.

Take a Deep Breath

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, a little knitting update. Not surprisingly, I had a good bit of time on my hands at work last night, with absolutely nothing coming in for the entire first half of my 15 hour shift. And my hands were being cooperative, so I was able to get a fair bit done on the sweater sleeve, up to the end of the ball I was working with. I still have about another 4.5 inches to go to finish the sleeve, though, as I have longer-than-average arms.

And in case you've forgotten what the yarn I'm using for this looks like, here's a gratuitous bit of yarn porn:


15 February 2007

Test Photos

The new camera came, and I had to wait almost 24 hours until I got home and could play with it. Here are a few of the first test photos:

Sylvie, apparently trying to decide which personality she wants to be today


Inga, posing like the lady she is


Rosa, in one of her favorite spots


And The International Fashion Mogul in his natural habitat studio


14 February 2007

If I Were a Rich Man...

...I would probably buy one of these:

Hasselblad H3D 39Mp med. format DSLR, street price w/ 80mm lens approx. $32K

Since I am not a rich man, I opted for one of these, instead:

Nikon D80 10Mp DSLR, street price w/ 18-135mm zoom lens approx. $1200

I'd been wanting to upgrade my photographic capabilities for some time now, and since I've become David's de facto photographer, the little Olympus point n' shoot just wasn't really cutting it anymore. The Nikon will eat up whatever tax refund I'm getting, plus a bit more, I expect, but I had a 6-month-no-interest option and figured it would be a worthwhile use of funds in the long run. It's scheduled to arrive sometime during the day Wednesday, assuming that UPS doesn't get slowed down by...

...The Impending Storm.

We're supposed to get a hell of a Nor'easter here, and the snow has just started. By the time I'm supposed to be leaving the house for work, we're expected to be in the middle of blizzard conditions. Since driving 50 miles in a blizzard isn't exactly my idea of a fun time, not to mention pretty much insane, I'm actually leaving about 12 hours early, while it's still coming down fairly lightly. We have a tiny bedroom and a bed at the clinic, and a shower so I don't offend my coworkers. My bag of spare clothes is packed, and I'll cart along the Hitchhiker and a bit of knitting in case I don't get tons of people driving in through the heavy snow and freezing rain (You never know with these things, sometimes it seems to bring out the crazies).

Sleeve Progress

I finished the increases on the sweater sleeve last night, so only a few more inches to go before I can attach that one to the body and start sleeve #2. The hands are only allowing a little bit at a time, but I'm taking it easy and not pushing them and things are going okay, albeit slowly. If I pace myself well, I may yet get a chance to wear it before it's sweltering, but I'm still not going to lay money on that.

And if anyone reading this is going to Spa this weekend, keep an eye out for me. I'll be going after I get off work Saturday morning, so I'll be the really, really sleepy guy with lots of earrings.

Update: Dug In

Made it to work fine and before the roads got too bad, though the semis barreling past me on the turnpike and kicking up thick, billowing clouds of snow did make for some tense moments here and there.

Only 11 more hours until my shift begins.

12 February 2007

Two-and-a-half Pounds of Cute

There's been a bit of grimness around the clinic tonight, but rather than talk about that, I offer up this little bit of cuteness.

Goat 001

One of my overnight techs brought in one of her baby pygmy goats. I love goats; they make me smile. See? :-D

If you want to see the ugly side of cute, then look here.

10 February 2007

Pillow Talk & Bed Wetting

One of the hardest things about having an aging pet population is dealing with all the stuff they start doing as they age that they've never done before. Inga, one of our two going-on-18 kitties, developed kidney failure over the summer, and although clinically she's been doing well, it has taken some adjustment.

One of the things we've done is put her on a special diet to help slow progression of the disease, and that seems to have helped a great deal. To feed her food that's different from everyone else's, though, we have to put her in Rosa's cage. She's become very good at letting us know when she wants to eat, but she's a grazer, which means we have to let her in and out of the cage several times during the day.

The newest twist, which has only developed in the past couple weeks, is that she's occasionally peeing on Rosa's bedding. It seems to happen primarily at night, and usually after she's been in the cage for only a few minutes. My suspicion is that she's been napping, wants to eat, but also needs to pee. The weird thing is that she hasn't been crying to get out of the cage before she does this.

At any rate, I had bought Rosa a nice dog bed from L.L. Bean after S had dumped me and we were staying with friends before moving back to Maine. The problem with this not-inexpensive bed is that the inner pillow was not washable. WTF! So after Rosa had had a GI episode or two, I had covered the inner pillow with a large trash bag to keep it protected from accidents. Last week, though, Inga had managed to pee on the end that wasn't thoroughly covered and soaked the thing. Completely.

So today I zipped over to JoAnn Fabric and bought me some heavy denim twill and some polyester batting, got out my sewing machine, and threw together a quick and easy doggie mattress. I tufted the batting but didn't tuft it all the way through the mattress, which I'm hoping won't be a problem. If it is, though, I figure I can always rip the seam, restuff, and then tuft. Anyway, Rosa was quite excited about it all and followed me around as I wrapped the new mattress in plastic bag and put it in the cover. When it was in place, she made thorough inspection and arranged it just the way she wanted it.


And she declared it good.


And tonight, Inga put it to the test. And apparently, Rosa managed to pull back the plastic bag a bit when she was nest-making, because the mattress got soaked. So now it and the cover have gone through the wash and are in the dryer, hopefully none the worse for wear.

Baking Bread

The other night, I decided to use up a bit of flour and make some no-knead bread, a recipe I got from the NY Times, with many thanks to Ted, who directed me to it. I'm not going to write out the recipe here, because I'm not sure where that would fall with regards to copyright, but you can access it for free here (login required, but it's still free).

When I got this recipe, I didn't have anything suitable as a baking dish, so one of my early Christmas presents to myself was a lovely cast iron casserole, which I seasoned myself. I'm so happy with it, too, because it lets me make things like this:


Beautiful and yummy

Speaking of the Times

FiberQat mentioned in the comments an article from the NY Times about a shortage of large animal veterinarians. That article is still available here for free at this writing (login required), but I think they archive them after a week and you have to pay.

The funny thing about this is that Becky, the veterinarian featured in the article, is who I worked for when I first moved back to Maine, doing small animal and a bit of alpaca and goat work. She works very hard, and I have a lot of respect for her. It's not something I could do now, partly because of injuries I sustained working with cattle & horses. It's unfortunate in some respects that things didn't work out for me there, but I think that it was a situation that couldn't have possibly worked in the end. On the other hand, I make about 50% more working at the emergency clinic again, which definitely has its advantages.

Also, Tim Leary, one of the dairy farmers interviewed for the article, is the husband of our hospital manager. So when mention is made of the clinic where his wife works, that's my workplace. And it's very true that we couldn't help with his cow, aside from trying to provide a little advice on the phone (I was actually working the day the cow prolapsed). We're a small animal emergency clinic and simply not equipped to deal with cows.

Unfortunately, it's a complex problem. As more and more farms go out of the farming business, large animal veterinarians have to cover increasingly large territories in order to make ends meet, to the extent that it often becomes unprofitable. Couple that with the fact there is not adequate funding to provide the levels of both basic education and advanced training that are really needed, and it becomes a situation that's very hard to fix. This is the system that we rely on for safe food, so what do you think is going to happen when it's completely broken?


I actually did a bit last night. I got through ten rounds on the sweater sleeve, which is two increase rounds, without too much discomfort, but I'm taking it easy tonight so as not to push things. Only three more increase rounds to go, and then it's plain stockinette rounds until I reach the underarm. Then one more sleeve, then connect & do my raglan decreases, weave in the underarms, and I'll have me a nice comfy sweater to wear. Which means I'll probably get it done around August.

07 February 2007

Did You Feel It?

That preternatural rumbling? It all originated from this very house. I was trying to keep my eyes open and get a few things done before I collapsed in a post-work heap. Then it happened and David flew into the room. "Hurry! Where's your camera?" Forget all that Antichrist bullshit, folks, because this is the First Seal:


Sylvie - our angst-ridden middle child, the Eve Plumb of our little blended family, the one who cries and purrs and begs for attention, then runs away screaming and hissing and smacking whomever happens to be in her way - was not only lying next to Poqui of her own volition, she was touching him! And a little while later, when I went upstairs to sleep, I saw this:


Practically cuddling!

The End, my friends, is nigh.

Groundhogs Lie

Who's the smarty pants who thought it would be a good idea to leave weather prediction up to a rodent? Single digit temps are predicted tonight with sub-zero wind chills through the rest of the week. It's also so dry that it feels like someone's been sandpapering the inside of my nose, and it appears that the steroid spray I'm on for chronic sinusitis has gotten me a throat infection for my week off. Is all this making me cranky? Yes, it is.

Clarification & Promotion

David wanted me to be sure to tell everyone that the Alpaca with a Twist logo, which I showed in this post, was his work with the exception of the cartoony alpaca. That part he didn't like, but it's not his company and he was overruled.

I think there was something else he wanted me to write that I can't remember, but one thing that I did want to mention is that his company is participating in a drive to supply alpaca socks to US troops in Iraq, where nighttime temperatures are getting pretty chilly. More info and links are on his website here.

Oh yeah, I just remembered. We figured out that it was not, in fact, the Republican who was wearing David's items on The View. Joy Behar was wearing one of David's scarves.

06 February 2007

I Plum Fergot

I was originally going to call this post "Punxatawney Schmunxatawney", 'cause that groundhog appears to have been very much in error. It is cold, y'all, and supposed to remain so all week.

Anyway, about the fergettin' thing. KnitNZu asked last week about that online Norwegian radio. It's here. At the moment I'm enjoying their classical channel and looking forward to the end of my busy week in about 3 hours.

A Little Plug

Since nobody had apparently started one yet and since I had a little free time, I started a QueerKnits group on Flickr. So if you have a Flickr account and are so inclined, I'd love a little company in there.

Even a Blind Person Could Have Seen This Coming

Remember Ted Haggard? The megachurch evangelical leader who diddled with the male prostitute and did meth and then got caught? The guy the Jesus freaks wish (and pray) you'd forget? Apparently, Jesus fixed him.

All I've got to say is that his wife better plan on keeping him chained to her side if she expects him to stay "straight". They got queers in Missouri and Iowa, too, ya know. And meth, for that matter - about as much as in Colorado, according to federal data.

05 February 2007

Annual Maintenance

I had my annual physical last Monday and all was well. My weight loss is now officially recorded in my chart - 30 pounds since last year. I still have a few more to go to reach my target, but I'm quite pleased with my progress, holiday slide notwithstanding. I also had my lipid profile rechecked, since that was one of the catalysts for changing my diet in the first place. My total cholesterol came down from 212 to 157, my triglycerides from 288 to 101, and my LDL ("bad cholesterol") from 105 to 89. Good, good, and good. My HDL stayed the same, which means I could stand to exercise a bit more, but I'm very pleased overall and those numbers mean more to me than just losing the poundage does.

No knitting content today, as I'm still giving my hands a rest. Staying away from the needles really chafes, but it's necessary at the moment. Fortunately (at least in that respect), work has been crazy busy this past week, so there wouldn't have been very much down time there, anyway. I did sit down with my Hitchhiker the other night, though, for the first time in a couple months. Nothing particularly exciting or new to report - just spinning up a bit more Junior, which I still hope to turn into a sweater someday.

Since I haven't been able to knit, I've also been spending a bit of time looking at yarn cards. For the wedding next year, I've been thinking I'd like to knit myself a vest in traditional Fair Isle patterns. I'm particularly thinking about doing it in Shetland 2000, but I may also try to do something that incorporates accent colors to go with this tartan.

03 February 2007

A Verse or Three

Okay, I will admit to being unaware of the St. Brigid Day silent poetry reading. I'd like to say it's because I don't spend that much time online, but I'd be lying. Apparently I just don't spend THAT much time online, or at least not in the right places.

At any rate, I will here and now express my undying awe and appreciation for poets. It's obviously not an easy art, else we'd have far more Ogden Nashes and W.H. Audens and Edna St. Vincent Millays out there. And speaking of Ms. Millay (although I know that it is after midnight where I am, M-H quite astutely pointed out that it is still Feb. 2 somewhere), I'd like to open with a poem from an anthology that my grandmother gave me several years ago.

What Lips My Lips Have Kissed

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay

And now a rather more upbeat one from the same anthology:

The Passing Strange

Out of the earth to rest or range
Perpetual in perpetual change,
The unknown passing through the strange.

Water and saltness held together
To tread the dust and stand the weather,
And plough the field and stretch the tether,

To pass the wine-cup and be witty,
Water the sands and build the city,
Slaughter like devils and have pity,

Be red with rage and pale with lust,
Make beauty come, make peace, make trust,
Water and saltness mixed with dust;

Drive over earth, swim under sea,
Fly in the eagle’s secrecy,
Guess where the hidden comets be;

Know all the deathy seeds that still
Queen Helen’s beauty, Caesar’s will,
And slay them even as they kill;

Fashion an altar for a rood,
Defile a continent with blood,
And watch a brother starve for food:

Love like a madman, shaking, blind,
Till self is burnt into a kind
Possession of another mind;

Brood upon beauty, till the grace
Of beauty with the holy face
Brings peace into the bitter place;

Prove in the lifeless granites, scan
The stars for hope, for guide, for plan;
Live as a woman or a man;

Fasten to lover or to friend,
Until the heart break at the end:
The break of death that cannot mend;

Then to lie useless, helpless, still,
Down in the earth, in dark, to fill
The roots of grass or daffodil.

Down in the earth, in dark, alone,
A mockery of the ghost in bone,
The strangeness, passing the unknown.

Time will go by, that outlasts clocks,
Dawn in the thorps will rouse the cocks,
Sunset be glory on the rocks:

But it, the thing, will never heed
Even the rootling from the seed
Thrusting to suck it for its need.

Since moons decay and suns decline,
How else should end this life of mine?
Water and saltness are not wine.

But in the darkest hour of night,
When even the foxes peer for sight,
The byre-cock crows; he feels the light.

So, in this water mixed with dust,
The byre-cock spirit crows from trust
That death will change because it must;

For all things change, the darkness changes,
The wandering spirits change their ranges,
The corn is gathered to the granges.

The corn is sown again, it grows;
The stars burn out, the darkness goes;
The rhythms change, they do not close.

They change, and we, who pass like foam,
Like dust blown through the streets of Rome,
Change ever, too; we have no home,

Only a beauty, only a power,
Sad in the fruit, bright in the flower,
Endlessly erring for its hour,

But gathering, as we stray, a sense
Of Life, so lovely and intense,
It lingers when we wander hence,

That those who follow feel behind
Their backs, when all before is blind,
Our joy, a rampart to the mind.

- John Masefield

And finally, one of my own - a little Elvis haiku I wrote for Ann of Mason-Dixon Knitting:

black velvet painting
sequins on spandex sparkle
sex symbol always