Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Book of the Dead

I'm a big fan of Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series although I have not cared for some of her other work. This was the first time I've tried one of her books as an audiobook. I listened to it while knitting and spinning and bubble-bathing during the spring break. As usual, the book's plot was dependably intriguing. I am all set up to find out what happens to a character who has thus far been a major part of the series. I do, however, wonder how gripping the book would be for a new Cornwell reader who does not have a previous acquaintance with the characters. This particular novel did not stray into too much weirdness with some of the main characters, which has sometimes happened in the past. The voice reading the novel was also pleasing--always a big plus. If you are a Cornwell fan and have this one available for download, I would recommend it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday

Last night was a first-time experience for me at a Tenebrae service. Our new pastor led us in the celebration of the death of Christ. As I understand it, Tenebrae, the Latin word for "shadows," is a tradition dating from the eleventh century. The church was lit fairly dimly at the beginning of the service. The big wooden cross on the wall at the front was draped in black. On the altar was a fat white candle flanked by six small tapers on each side. We sang a congregational hymn at the beginning. The pastor and two or three liturgists read the story of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus. After each section of the reading one of the smaller candles was extinguished. When the story was finished with Christ being placed in the tomb, the big candle was carried out of the sanctuary, leaving everything dark. There was a crash. Then we sang "Were You There?" together and left in silence. It was very simple and very moving.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Knitting and Spinning Content at Last!

I really have been knitting and spinning along. I just haven't been making pictures, so here they are:

The start of a Kiri shawl from Knit Picks Shimmer:

Approximately 320 yds. of bulky handspun from gray roving from Sheep Shed Studios:

The background of both of these pictures is the Moderne blanket, which I'm still knitting on on race days.

I have also begun the Heartbeat Sweater from Just One More Row. For some reason the picture will not post here. After I get a little more done, I will try again.

Reading--I just finished Under the Lake by Stuart Woods. I've always rather enjoyed his books. I sometimes like to read by author, so I just printed off a chronological list of his books so that I can catch up on the ones that I have missed.

Alas, I have had to buy new tires and discovered that the tie rods (whatever those are) are going to have to be replaced on my car. There goes the yarn money again!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

And I didn't have a camera. . .

Today I wandered into a western antique show. There were few textiles, but then all the way at the back I came across a Native American section. On display was a perfectly gorgeous beaded vest. It was displayed on a dress form over a gray turtleneck. It was $4500. I'm not sure that I approve of someone actually wearing what the label said was an antique Sioux beaded vest, but I thought it was beautiful and immediately began to try to figure out how to knit one--even if I could do the beading, it would be very heavy and not practically wearable for my lifestyle.

Here's a sketch--I didn't even have a cell phone camera with me.

The stripes are not stripes. The beads were attached by having several strung on a thread and then going through the backing at regular intervals, forming sort of a horizontal ribbing texture. The "ribbing" was about 3/4" tall. The color of the entire vest was a bright turquoise. The designs were solid white, went across more than one row of the ribbing and had tiny details of a rust color. Around the front edges and the bottom was a white border about 3/4" wide. The "ribbing" did not extend into it.
I think it would be possible to knit the vest from a fairly firm fabric using reverse stockinette broken by a row of regular stockinette to approximate the texture of the original. I have a sock pattern in my files that has a leg done like that. White I-cord would probably work well for the edging. However, how could one do the design? Would intarsia work?

Friday, March 14, 2008

For Mr. R. . . .

For all of us who fondly remember Mr. Rogers, my early morning companion as a SAHM many years ago, Thursday, March 20, is Sweater Day. His program was a quiet respite after a frenzied hour of Sesame Street, and my young daughter was in love with, of all things, the trolley.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Another Book, Body Storage, and a New Project

I have just finished rereading Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Admittedly, it was for a class, and I've read it more times than I can count, but this time I did something a little different because we were using an audiotape. Sometimes listening while reading makes me slow down and pay attention to things in the reading that I have not noticed before. That was true this time as well. Hemingway's economy of dialogue and ability to convey meaning without elaborate diction and syntax choices are always impressive, but I tend to overlook the pinpoint accuracy of his descriptions. This time through, I truly experienced being "at sea" with Santiago.

I have also begun another of the knitting projects on my "to do" list for the year--the Kiri shawl from KnitPicks Shimmer in the Turquoise Splendor colorway. This appears to be really bright, but since my working wardrobe (which is pretty much the same as my church/social wardrobe) tends to consist of black skirts and black pants, enlivened with bright bursts of gray, navy blue, and an occasional all-brown outfit, I thought I should have something that "pops." (Thanks, HGTV). I finished the first chart last night. I think I started it 4 or 5 times, including the time I had to frog after being on the next-to-last pattern row. However, the experience was valuable because I am not good at reading lace, and now I at last get the pattern. Part of the problem was that I couldn't find my package of lifeline dental floss. I replaced it yesterday, using the gift card to Dollar General that I received from participating in a pandemic flu survey.

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a survey that I think was government sponsored but was carried out by the nearest medical school. I was interested because my mother was a survivor of the 1918 epidemic--she was a child at the time. Her older sister went into premature labor and lost her first baby--she was in the prime age group that was hit so hard. I had heard stories all my life about how tough it was, so I was curious. The teacher next door had been having students do a research project that involved showing a film about that epidemic, so we both went.

The experience was interesting. The purpose was to discover how much people in rural areas know about a pandemic. The questions were pretty much of the "What would you do if?" variety: What would you do if you were isolated in your home for three weeks because someone in your family has the disease? What would you do if you were isolated in your home for three weeks because no one in your family has the disease, but others do? How much difficulty would you have living without electric service for three weeks? Do you have a three week supply of food for your family? Do you have a three week supply of water? Would you attempt to leave the community and go to a city? (They were pretty clear that this was a BAD idea.) Are you aware of planning for a pandemic in your community? In your school system? And the real kicker--In case of a pandemic and a member of your family dying at home (They were also clear that medical services were pretty pointless.) with mortuary services unavailable, could you store the body safely until it could be disposed of properly? Fortunately, I am a reader of mystery stories. . . .

I now have double the supply of food that I had been keeping in my pantry. I hadn't been keeping too much since I no longer have a family at home. I also am keeping an eye on the stock of firewood, and I've checked into recommended ways to store water. I feel kind of stupid doing this. I have not, however, bought body bags.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

More Reading and Listening, Knitting and Spinning

I have been knitting and spinning. I simply have not made photographs because I'm still knitting the NASCAR blanket--lots of garter stitch there--and my spinning is a pound or so of gray roving from the Sheep Shed. It is working up rather nicely, and I will post a photo when it is all done. I'm planning to use it for an EZ Ribwarmer, with an I-cord edging from some red handspun that I have already done. I'm anxious to learn from EZ, and I just received the Ribwarmer DVD from Schoolhouse Press. I will confess, however, that I'm going to do something else first after finishing this blanket. I don't think I will be ready for more garter stitch immediately!

This week I spun, knitted, and did laundry to an audiobook download of Jonathan Kellerman's Gone. It was satisfyingly suspenseful and well-read. In listening, I particularly noticed the vividness of his descriptions of characters. Strangely, I had not paid much attention to that in my reading of his books, probably because I was more interested in the plot. It is interesting that reading a book and listening to a book are such different experiences with the text.

The book I read recently was Anne Tyler's Digging to America, a thought-provoking look at what it means to be American. The story concerns two families who adopt baby girls from Korea who happen to arrive on the same plane. One family is rather traditionally American (if there is such a thing); the other family is of Iranian descent. The rest of the story concerns what happens with the two families who form a relationship because of their daughters.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

At Least My Chads Weren't Hanging

Today was the Texas Primary, in case there is someone out there in the universe who doesn't know that already. All of this excitement has us somewhat flustered since our primary is so late that it is usually something of a nonevent. I rushed out to the polls on my conference period this morning--it's a small town after all.

I go into the polling place, choose the proper primary. There is no line. I show my ID to the person working the election--my high school home economics teacher--sign the list, and speak to the just-in-case Spanish translator sitting behind the desk. It seemed the thing to do since he is a student in my 7th period class. I pick up my paper ballot and head toward the table with the No. 2 pencils. The election judge stops me and asks if I want to use the machine--pointing to a large printer-like device sitting on a nearby table. I say fine and place my ballot back on the table. She tells me that I need to take the paper ballot with me. The process goes something like this: The voter feeds the paper ballot into the machine. A touch screen lights up and asks for a language preference. Then the voting begins with candidates appearing in lists by office. After touching a selection, the voter touches "next," and the screen changes. When all selections have been made, verification screens appear to confirm the choices. Finally, the voter touches "submit," and the machine starts making all kinds of mysterious mechanical noises for an extended period of time. At last the ballot comes back out the front of the machine. It appears that all the machine has done is fill in the circles so that I didn't have to fill them in with a pencil. It took much, much longer, but it was sort of fun.

I puzzled all day about the actual purpose of the machine. It didn't count or tally anything. It apparently didn't even record the vote because my ballot went into the same ballot box with the hand-bubbled ones. When 7th period started with my student election worker back in class, I asked what the purpose was. It turns out it was a machine for the handicapped. Even the visually handicapped could have used it with a voice feature, if I understood him correctly. Why I was asked to use it, I don't know. It's the sort of thing that makes you wonder if you look sick or something, like when people keep coming up to you at work and asking if you feel ok.