Sunday, April 26, 2009

Birthdays, Technology, and Progress?

I have been rather reflective lately, perhaps because I've just had one of those "0" birthdays. Certain questions have come up:

KINDLE

I recently got my first look and feel of a Kindle 2. I missed Kindle 1 entirely. It was so neat and so tempting. We live a considerable distance from a book store, if you don't count the paperback rack at the grocery store. I could get all those books instantly! However, it doesn't look conducive to reading in the bathtub. I know you can zip it into a plastic bag, but now that I'm old enough to require my trifocals for reading in the tub, I have trouble enough keeping them from steaming up. I am not sure that I can manage the additional layer of plastic blur.

In addition, there's the cost. The initial cost, while high, would be worth it perhaps, but I really don't need another item with an upkeep cost. A Kindle is useless if you don't pay for things to put into it. I already have utility bills, satellite tv (a luxury, but we live where all television access must be paid for one way or another), and utility bills. Admittedly, if I buy paperbacks, I have travelled to get there, but not exclusively for that purpose. I also trade paperbacks in a circle with some other local ladies, and then they end up in the used book shop that makes money for our local public library. And that library lets me check out any book in their collection for free! It is 4 blocks from my home. If they don't have the book I want, they can get it for me on loan. I have trouble visualizing their providing Kindle service anytime soon.

AUDIO BOOKS

I have discovered that audio books are a joy. I can listen when doing mindless tasks or when doing relaxing knitting, and they make life much more pleasant. My daughter gave me an adapter for my birthday that lets me attach my MP3 player (refurbished, from Woot.com) to the tape player in my car so that I can listen without headphones while driving. Very nice! I can download from my home computer to my MP3 from a free service provided by my public library. I also have one credit a month from Audible.com. I do buy some of Audible's cheaper promotions for authors that I particularly like. I have noticed that Barnes & Noble.com is also selling MP3 downloads of audiobooks. I will probably not use theirs except for the free ones and the less expensive ones, of which they have quite a collection, when they have a coupon available. I've been very outspoken in support of the free service from the public library, and I hope that increased circulation will support the availability of more titles to listen to.

KNITTING

I find that I enjoy handknitting, while I found my brief experiment with machine knitting to be most unenjoyable. That's a personal preference. The pickup-for-a-minute-or-two aspect of knitting by hand and its portability both appeal to me. I like the feel of the yarn going through my fingers. I feel much the same way about hand v. machine embroidery. However, I enjoy sewing on a computerized machine, and I prefer my spinning wheel to spindling. I must admit, though, that some of the spinning preference may be due to the fact that I am a rather uncoordinated person, and I always feel somewhat awkward using a spindle, rather than graceful as in some of the videos I've seen.

Tonight, I'm forsaking my audiobook to open the first volume of the Twilight series--the boxed set was another birthday gift. Now I'll be able to gush over Edward with my students. That is, if I can remember how to work the device:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRBIVRwvUeE

Reminder--book reviews can be accessed through my Shelfari shelf in the sidebar.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Little Irony

Today our school celebrated Earth Day in a rather quiet fashion--lights off in the hallways and classrooms, wearing green, generally being "aware." Our One-Act Play, a big contest event in Texas, is performing in competition tomorrow at Regionals with The Garden of Live Flowers, a play about the life and death of Rachel Carson. My Advanced Placement class, which includes a number of cast members, looked up from their work and out the open window to see the groundsperson thoroughly spraying herbicide over the entire courtyard. Bad timing.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garter Stitch

I have been busy since the last post, but I've been jumping from one thing to another.


On the knitting front, I've begun another Moderne Blanket, this time for my grandson who will be having a birthday in May. Because of the deadline, I'm working on this project exclusively, with the exception of the dishcloth I have on needles in the car. I bought the Sapphire Vanna's Choice last weekend, but the rest of the yarn is from those boxes I sorted last week. I do like the combination of the four colors together.




While waiting to go out of town for the blue yarn, I also managed a few more color strips on the Log Cabin Blanket that I'm knitting for the Victory Junction Camp. Even though there is a deadline, it is not so pressing as the birthday gift.


What else have I been doing? Well, last week was the end of a grading period, so I had grading to finish and grades to post. It is also a busy, tense time of the year, when feelings are easily hurt and everyone's tempers are rather short--not a good combination. I wasn't directly involved in anything, but I did try to smooth some feathers and pour oil on troubled waters. (I tried to work in a third metaphor, but I didn't make it.)


This week, I've begun studying for that other certification test I need to take--I'm scheduled for May 8. Some of it is boringly technical, dealing with flow charts and procedures. Some of it is sociological and cultural, and I'm making use of a minor I have for the first time in a long time. Other parts of it deal with linguistics, something I haven't studied in a long while. This may be a really interesting experience.


I also had a birthday. No, I'm not saying which one, but it was one of the ones that ends in 0. It also marked the point at which my pension reached 100%--not 100% of my salary, just of the allowed amount without any deduction for early retirement. I'm not planning to quit right now--certainly I wouldn't be taking the above test if I were--but there's a certain freedom and lightheartedness in knowing that I can if I want to. DH and I went out for Chinese on the day before my birthday, and on the day itself I took a couple of naps, something I almost never do. For some reason, I was just very relaxed and content. It was, of course, also Easter. My son's family came over and hid eggs in the house for the little ones to find. That was fun to watch.


I've also posted some new book reviews on the Shelfari shelf in the sidebar.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Weekend Privilege

I do indeed miss having a family at home and underfoot, but this past weekend I had a terrible cold that hit me at work on Friday. I must admit that coming home, getting comfortable, and not having to take care of anyone else was a great relief. I spent the entire weekend trying not to contaminate my DH (therefore, I didn't cook). I knitted on my Moderne Blanket for my granddaughter because garter stitch was the limit of my abilities. Saturday went something like this--vacuum corner of living room, put stuff back, sit down in exhaustion in recliner, knit, fall asleep for an hour, get up and do it all over again. I actually got an amazing amount done, but I was only able to sleep in short snatches at night as well. I was still pretty groggy when I came to school yesterday morning, but I was much better by noon. Today I'm fine. I think part of the recovery process was being able to relax totally.


Not only did I recover, but I finished the blanket last night:



I made some changes to the Moderne pattern from Mason-Dixon. First of all, I knitted on size 8 needles with Vanna's Choice yarn. This makes a somewhat looser blanket, but it is also more drapey, which is what I wanted. I did not make the bottom intarsia blocks as long as the original pattern because I was trying to make a more child-sized project. This is a cuddle-up-and-read-a-book afghan for a little girl who has one of those Pottery Barn Anywhere Chairs in her room as a reading spot. I'm all for encouraging the idea of curling up with a good book. The other change was that I slipped the first stitch as if to purl on each row. That makes the back of my project look better, I think, and it certainly made the I-cord faster and easier and more even.


Now I'm ready to start the similar afghan for my grandson. His needs to be finished by May 22. After I sorted stash the other day, I discovered some yarn in the colorway that I have planned, but even with all that stash, I need to buy two more colors to add to it. I could knit something else, but I can't give up the project that I have in my imagination.


Before I start on a blanket, however, I am going to have to make some changes to the neckline edging of at least two of the Jane Austen dresses. The necklines are much too loose and floppy. I wondered when I noticed that the edging stitch count was very close to the total number of stitches around the neck. I'm going to remove the existing edging and knitm skipping some stitches and make the edging somewhat wider as well. I think the skirt weight pulling down on the rather soft yarn has made a difference also.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Economic Stimulus

DH and I were brought up by Depression-Era parents, so our first impulse with bonus checks and unexpected windfalls is to put the money into savings. I understand, however, that right now the stimulus amounts we are about to start receiving in our paychecks must be spent if the money is to have an effect on the economy. For some families, I realize that even that small amount can be a real windfall--the amount from both parents' checks may very well pay the electric bill or something. Because my DH is self-employed, he will not see a difference in take-home pay; the only immediate change will be in my once-a-month check. I have decided to spend it on things that will make a difference for my quality of life in some way. Of course, the easy way would be to buy yarn, but I've decided to give some real thought to spending this money responsibly yet meaningfully. A friend told me a long time ago that he had read in a book that many of the things that cause us stress every day are the little repetitive irritations that we can do something about rather than the big things that are out of our control. I've decided to work on some of those. I am also aware that we don't actually get the money until next month when the new withholding charts go into effect, but I'm practicing this month. So here we go:





Yes, that is a new laundry hamper/basket--with wheels. How does this enrich my life? For one thing, I was looking at one of my baskets a couple of weeks ago and remembering how my children used to play zoo with it. One child would be the outside admirer, and the other would be inside the "cage"--the upside-down basket. Those children are now 28 & 25. Enough said.


Furthermore, I now have a bathroom with one of those very narrow doors. Trying to carry a basket out is a chore because my elbows stick out too far. I have been carrying the basket to the door, setting it on the floor, stepping outside the room, turning around, pulling the basket toward me, and picking it up again. DUMB! I even tried one of those Rubbermaid ones that sort of fold like a purse on the top and can be carried in one hand. That one required contortions to get out that door. This new hamper is exactly the right width to go through the door, has wheels and a handle, and can be pushed ahead of me or pulled behind. Some reviews I read about the wheeled baskets say that they are not sturdy to roll to the apartment laundry building or down the street to the laundry. I'm only going down the hall and across the kitchen to the laundry room. Surely the wheels will be sturdy enough for that.



Just for fun, I'm putting a list in the sidebar of my blog detailing what I'm buying each month with my stimulus money. If I understand correctly, it should amount to $13 every two weeks. Is that a correct figure? I would have $26 a month?

Mastercard would not use this one, but . . . . .

A porcelain, plain-vanilla toilet--$150

A plastic stool for reaching the faucet for handwashing--$5.95

Sitting on the toilet with a barely-2-year-old sitting beside you, looking at the star appliques on the bathroom window valance, and singing a "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" duet--priceless