Tuesday, June 06, 2023

the afternoon's work

 I ran home around 3:30 pm to haul the brush to the curb. I had hoped to cut a bunch more, but it was very humid/oppressive (we have poor air quality - high ozone, and there are some fires in Texas we're dealing with smoke from ) and I started having breathing difficulty so I just cut a few more things in the side yard and trimmed around the yaupon hollies before going in.

It's a big pile but not quite as tall as I am. It's about half the brush I need to cut in the yard.

The city is supposed to come and pick it up tomorrow, I called last week to get on the list. They only pick up this kind of waste once a month, which makes it difficult. You can haul stuff to the dump yourself but you have to pay by weight; this is free as long as you get on the list.


And another finished thing. This is Amanda Berry's "Great White Shark" pattern. The main body yarn is (if I remember correctly) a Hometown USA yarn (Lion Brand) and the belly and mouth are some random scraps I had up at my mom's

There are funny derpy little teeth (that you sew on at the end) that are made with what are essentially picots. I think I overstuffed the mouth and his mouth kind of gapes.

I named him Bruno.

Monday, June 05, 2023

First day down

 * I made it through the first day of summer advanced biostats. I mostly did review, since one person indicated it had been close to five years since their last biostats class. It was two hours of mostly me talking, and working to remember things (I'm sure I forgot a few things but they have assigned readings that they are supposed to then write up, so they'll get whatever I missed). 

* I'm also telling myself it doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be like what I'd be teaching Ph.D. students at an R1 school, because our students probably have less stats background anyway, and as long as I give them the basics of the advanced general linear models, and maybe talk a bit about Monte Carlo analysis and similar, it will be good enough. 

Sometimes if I stress out about covering the material "perfectly" or being "super rigorous," it actually works against me because I'm working at a harder/more obscure level than the students are comfortable with.

* Tomorrow I am going to work until early afternoon but then I have to come home to haul the brush I have cut to the curb. I'd like to do more cutting but I feel like getting the stuff that's already cut to the curb is most urgent, and if I run out of energy once I've done that, it's enough. 

* And it is hard, because we're seeing "moderate" (a step above "poor") air quality - still air, and also, we're having smoke infiltrate down from the wildfires in Canada. Our particulate matter readings are fairly high and that's often the thing that bothers my asthma. 

*My eyes are also burning a little from the particulates.

* I worked a bit more on the "John-Boy" socks - I really like the colors in these. I'm almost up to the heel flap on the first sock. 

* But yeah, I'm tired and headachy tonight. I think it's more the stress about starting the class than the bad air. I hope the fall semester is calm - it will be four classes I've taught before (except the environmental policy and law one ALWAYS needs updating, as new court cases are decided or legislation changes or, as I will have to do this year with the East Liverpol derailment, a new case study the students should know about). But spring semester was stressful with systematic botany and now is stressful with advanced stats.

Sunday, June 04, 2023

starting new quilt

 I cut the "succulent" print material today for the quilt. This is one from the book "Simply Retro" by Camille Roskelley. It's going to be a block sometimes called Jacob's Ladder which looks like this. The one I'm doing is strip pieced, so you basically cut a lot of squares for the four patch part and some big squares to sew and then subcut into half-triangle squares (to save bias edges). This is supposed to require less fabric than the old fashioned "use templates, trace, and cut" and also is faster and less hard on your hands (a rotary cutter is easier to use than sewing shears. Not safer - you can cut yourself very badly on it - but if you have ANY arthritis at all sewing shears get painful after a while in a way a rotary cutter does not)


Unfortunately , there was either an error in the pattern (the amount of fabric required), the quilt shop undercut (unlikely; this is a well established one), or the fabric shrunk more in the wash than I anticipated, because once I cut everything I was short the print fabric for two of the 3 1/2"  strips that would be needed. 

So, first, I did a little calculation - sometimes these have you cut more than you need. Nope, the BEST outcome would be I'd have 108 of the 3 1/2" squares, and I need 120.

Then I thought - well, they show the original quilt with one "mistake block" (or "focus block" - a different color than the rest of the quilt) or a "humility block - there's an old legend, probably apocryphal, that Amish/Southern Black/rural Appalachian/insert your favorite legendary quilter group here quilters put in one block turned around, or with the fabrics in the "wrong" place, as a recognition that only God can make perfect things. 

And I went and looked at my fabric on the shelves, but I didn't immediately see anything that felt right - I have lots of things in the right color scheme, but this is a photorealistic print and most of the prints I have are cartoony or stylized, and I thought it would detract from the overall impact of the quilt.

Then I looked at the pattern again. It works up to 12" blocks, and the original is an arrangement of 5 x 6 blocks - so, what, 60" by 72"? If I made only 25 blocks and did a 5 x 5 array, that would still be 60" by 60" - certainly big enough to be usable and often these days I use a quilt only across the foot of the bed (warm climate). And anyway: I really make these to MAKE them, not so much as "oh I need lots of warm bedding" so having a slightly smaller than intended quilt is no problem, and I think that's the best solution because trying to find a coordinating fabric would feel wrong, and this was a fabric bought on closeout, so I know I couldn't get more of it, even if I drove down to the shop where I bought it tomorrow (And I can't: I have stats tomorrow). Also making it a little smaller means if I make a mistake in the sub-cutting it won't be a major problem; I will have more fabric than needed. 

But I put any additional cutting on hold for now; it took a bit of thought to figure out that solution and I admit I was briefly annoyed looking at the narrow sliver of fabric I had left after cutting the ninth 3 1/2" strip.

Friday, June 02, 2023

Friday evening things

 * National spelling bee time. A lot being made of the wining word - Psammophile (a species that lives in sand - "phile" is derived from philos, loving, and Psamm has to do with sand (from Greek, if I remember correctly).

I knew the word and could have likely spelled it right. Yes, there are soils described as psamments so that's familiar, but I actually knew the word root from having read "Five Children and It" (E. Nesbit) years and years ago - the "It" of the title was the Psammead, a "sand fairy" that the five children (siblings, if I remember rightly) find. It's kind of....it's sort of like a genie, but it does monkey-paw wishes. In the old illustrations of the book it looks something like a monkey, but with eyes on stalks like a snail.

I was in the spelling bee when I was in seventh and eighth grade. Made it through the first (citywide?) round in eighth grade but went down early in the regionals, partly because of nerves. Being good at spelling - like a lot of things I was good at in school, it's proved fairly useless as an adult. (Especially given spell checkers). Though I guess the kid who won got $50,000 dollars. 

Still, I wish some of the dumb little things I was good at had some actual value. There was a supposed online vocabulary-size test people on Twitter were taking, and it claimed I was in the top 0.01 % of English speakers for breadth of vocabulary. (I don't think it was a long enough or complex enough test to give a fair assessment, but I do know I have a large vocabulary). But more and more, in our culture, it boils down to: how much money do you have or can make, how attractive are you, what kind of entertainment or sports talent do you have? and that's about it.

* I drove out to the farm store today - there is a small farm here that grows a variety of vegetables and also has cattle and pigs. No beef for sale; I had forgotten the seasonal nature of such things (they don't butcher until later in the summer, when the steers are large enough) but I did get some frozen pork chops. I also got some green beans. With vegetables, it's difficult: there are  a lot I cannot eat because of my allergies (summer squash, which give me bad indigestion) and there are some that aren't really doable for a single person (heads of cabbage unless you are willing to eat cabbage every meal for a week). They had purple kohlrabi, which looked intriguing, but the couple times in the past I've tried kohlrabi, I didn't care for it.

But it is nice to be able to get just outside of town (without driving the whole hour's round trip, over interstates with annoying construction going on, which I'd have to do to go to Sherman) and to maybe have a chance at something different/better than what the groceries have

*  I also got hanging baskets (a callibrachoa and a lantana) and a porch-pot of petunias today. I hope the difficult neighbors aren't in to plant theft. I know some folks in other towns have had issues where they have had people steal either flowers or whole entire plants. Okay, I get if people are genuinely hungry and maybe filch a few vegetables from a neighbor's garden (though if I had a garden and knew that was the case, some would show up on their porch with a note saying "I'm getting more than I can use, I want to share them so they don't go bad"). But it does bother me when people do stuff like steal flowerpots - to me, it feels a bit the same as vandalism - destroying something someone tried to do to make the world a little nicer place.

I also need to cut a lot more brush but by the time I got home (morning reviewing stats; afternoon running errands) it was really hot and I was tired and didn't feel like it. Maybe if it's not storming tomorrow...

Thursday, June 01, 2023

And some socks

 I finished a (long term; I think I started these at Christmas?) socks over break

It's a KFI gradient yarn, I forget the exact name of the yarn line but this color way is called Green Bay. (I remember it because there's a Green Bay, Wisconsin, which was actually the nearest "big city big enough to have specialist doctors" for my UP relatives in Rapid River. 

They're just the standard 64 stitch socks I do, they do have an eye-of-partridge heel which looks nice but requires slightly more concentration than the slipped stitch heel that I typically do. 

I also started a new pair but am not very far:

This is the Knit Picks "Static" in the colorway called John-Boy. I really like the colors in this; I don't think I've seen this color combination in any other yarns I've worked with. The main color is a chestnut brown with almost hints of pink, the "static" section is sort of a sepia tone (like the "old photographs" in the opening credits of The Waltons), and then the colorful section is an unusual combination of colors - almost like a faded plaid workshirt. 

Again, I'm doing these as simple socks; not sure yet if I'll do the heel flap in any way unusual or if it'll just be a slipped-stitch (which gives a ribbed look but also helps it last longer because it's a thicker, denser fabric)


I've been doing some research reading up at work. I was getting tired of reading about soil litter bags (the last paper on that topic I read was an intensive review of the changes in litter chemistry, especially carbon compounds, which is not what I am planning on doing) so I switched over to some historical papers. I read one about Arthur Cronquist - the systematist - and his impact. And that he was at New York Botanical Garden, and that made me think of Rob, my TA from Systematic Botany back in the late 80s - that's where he wound up, I'm not sure if he's still active or not. And then I thought of Dr. Wagner.

And I thought: I wonder if he would have been proud of me for taking on Systematic Botany here, and teaching it even though I'm far from an expert, and if I taught it in a way he could be proud of.

And I admit, it made me a little sad.

One thing I admit I crave is to feel like people whose opinion I value are proud of me. One of the most meaningful things (and one of the things that made me put my forehead down on the back of the pew in front of me and cry) at my dad's memorial service was that he had written a letter a few months before his death to be read, and the minister read it, and in it he commented he was proud of both my brother and me, and what we'd done with our lives. 

My family is not outwardly demonstrative and that's often how deep and important things are communicated - obliquely, or in letters, or something like that.

And yes, I know: I should be internally motivated. I should be able to look at what I've done and be proud of myself for me. And perhaps more than that, I should be proud of who I am, that I strive to be compassionate and hardworking and honest and all that stuff, rather than worrying about what I've *done.*

But it's hard. I wonder sometimes if it's harder for me than for some because I had a lot of fairly critical teachers growing up, who could see the 2% of a project that wasn't perfect and point it out while not commenting on the 98% that was fine. Or if it was years of classmates and peers who were all too happy to tear down anything in me they saw as a weak spot.

And yes, there's very much a strain in American culture that sees a "smart kid" or even just a "nerdy kid"* and goes "That person needs to be taken down a peg" and so they proceed to criticize or find flaws.

(*And yes, I was a little pedant at times as a kid; that's often a flaw in kids who spend too much time around adults rather than other kids - that was me - or who read books perhaps a bit "older" than what other kids read. And I was considered "borderline gifted" in school but a lot of days now I wonder if that was just because I was polite to the teachers and kind of a little swot who read a lot. I certainly don't seem to be capable of the leaps of logic the truly gifted have.....)

But at any rate, it made me sad, not just because of the wondering, but because of the realization of how many people are gone out of my life now that I might look to to see if they're proud of me. 

I went home after that and I did spend about an hour (until my legs were shaky and it was hard to breathe from the allergens and humidity) and cut back the holly bushes and some of the weeds around the foundation and I felt a little better after that.

But yeah, the summer Black Dog is starting up - I am sure it's related to being almost totally alone most days with no interactions, and it's hard to figure out how to GET interactions; the friends I have here in town (mostly people from church) are not people I'm comfortable texting and going "I'm lonesome, do you have time to do something?" partly because I've positioned myself so much in the past as The Big Strong One and it's hard to step away from that. 

I don't know. Maybe physical work will help and certainly my yard needs a lot of it - and I can do only an hour at the most at a time, because I do not tolerate heat well any more.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Book over break

 I didn't finish "Wives and Daughters" because I got sucked in by another book I carried along with me. I had seen a reference somewhere (maybe, once again, Tor.com) to T. Kingfisher's "Summer in Orcus" and wanted to read it, and had ordered a copy from Bookshop a while back.

I started it on the train going up, finished it on the train coming back. 

It's - I guess I'd call it YA fantasy, but like a lot of YA books, it's complex and well-written and holds an adult's interest. And it has some....you might say lessons? Or things that make you think in the book.

It was written back in 2016, I guess at that time Kingfisher (A pen name of the author Ursula Vernon) was writing a number of modified fairytales. She also apparently posted it online as a serialized form, and it was later collected into a book. This story perhaps runs closest to the Narnia books, or takes the general theme of "a slightly mismatched group of characters go on a picaresque adventure across a strange land, and they have to fix a big problem"

Most of the characters in Orcus are non-human; Summer is the token human transported there from Earth. She's sent there by Baba Yaga, who shows up (in her chicken-legged house) in the alley behind Summer's house.

Summer has a problem - her mother has obviously suffered some trauma and is deeply anxious (or she always was). Summer is not allowed to do things normal kids do, and she also often winds up having to mother her own mother - telling her things will be all right, listening to her worry, that sort of thing. Ironically that will be the "gift" that Summer brings to the ultimate solution of the problem - her ability to listen and say comforting things.

Her first companion is a weasel (nameless, though by the end she is calling him Weasel), provided by Baba Yaga. In the tradition of books like this, Weasel can talk, and he provides companionship and slightly-tart commentary on things.

Later, she meets up with Sir Reginald Almondgrove, a hoopoe who is basically Bertie Wooster (with a bit of Albert Campion thrown in to make him more heroic) in bird form. He travels with his valet-flock who help him (they cannot speak and apparently have "flock mind" where they are not exactly individuals; when one is killed they do stop to bury him but seem not to grieve deeply, and he is replaced by another). 

And then there's Glorious. Glorious is a wolf by day and a cottage by night. He is a were-house (which leads to a clever bit of wordplay in the novel). But this also solves the issue of "how do characters travel across a sometimes-hostile landscape where there are essentially no inns and they don't have a tent. And yes, Glorious not only permits, but seems to welcome them sleeping inside his cottage form. 

Later, they are joined by two heroic geese. who are basically guards in the bird lands.

One thing about this story - which sets it apart from the more traditional stories like the Narnia ones, there's a recognition that being in a fight for your life - a fight where you have to kill other creatures (even if they are not really human, and one is pretty badly corrupted, and they are going to kill you first) still alters you and changes you and scars you. Another difference is that there are untrustworthy characters that don't telegraph that at first and it does feel like a betrayal when you find out that that character was NOT good. 

But there are "good" characters, who are unambiguously so - most or all of the birds, and Glorous and the Weasel and it turns out that one character was not as bad as they were portrayed as being. 

The "problem" the little band must solve is that there's a darkness at the heart of Orcus - beautiful things are being killed and destroyed, and there's fear that everything will become corrupted if the darkness is not stopped. This part is perhaps less-developed, the backstory of "how it got to be this way" but there's good to have some mystery there (it's wrapped up in The Dogs, and it's actually not clear at the end if The Dogs are as good as they were thought to be).

There's also a stained-glass window with a winking saint who informs Summer 

1. Don't worry about things you cannot fix

2. Antelope women are not to be trusted

3. You cannot change essential nature with magic

The second one is specific to the book - I have never met an actual antelope woman, not sure I'd know one if I saw her. But that first instruction - well, I've been trying to do that for a long time and I'm not there yet. And the third, if by "magic" you mean "the magic of friendship" or caring about someone or something, well, yeah, that's kind of true also, I think. 

So Summer takes that knowledge with her, and also, as I said, her experience in being a comforter and basically parent to her depressed and anxious mother, and manages to use them against the darkness in the world.

Oh, there's a pretty epic battle two thirds of the way through. I had to stop midway through reading it and I admit I shed a few tears for a particular character but yes, the idea that (a) in a real battle, not everyone gets out alive, and (b) it's going to change you in ways you might not fully realize. 

And at the end, the door is left open. Summer gets to go back home (and the Weasel goes with her), but unlike Narnia (where the kids eventually age out of it, and the memory fades), Baba Yaga promises her she can go back. (I suppose that's a good reward for saving a whole darn world from destruction; I hope Summer's next trip is just fun and niceness...)

As I said, this is a YA novel, or seems to be intended to be so - no actual cursing, no reference to "romance" other than in passing about how the birds fall in love but aren't monogamous (most birds aren't - and in the novel like here there are a few species that do mate for life). There's some violence, though, and I think sensitive under-12s might find it a little heavy in places. (Heck, I found it heavy in a couple places). 

Maybe, also, reading it with the eyes of an adult - where I often feel like I'm called on to "mother" other people without really getting that myself, and seeing what looks like a rot at the heart of the world, and having experienced betrayals where I trusted someone who wasn't trustworthy - made the story more affecting. (I often find that - I didn't feel the claustrophobic crushing sense of being trapped underground when I first read The Hobbit at 8 or 9, but re-reading it in my 30s - well, I felt that.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Old and new

 No luck finding my plush Garfield at home; as I said, I half-remember donating it to a rummage sale at our church shortly before we moved to Illinois, so that might be what became of him.

It's OK, I have the little one I ordered from Etsy now. And I'm glad I did.

But I also found this in a box of odds and ends in the room that was mine when I was in grad school:

Little stacking "acrobat" Garfields. (Funny; Garfield was known for AVOIDING physical activity). I am pretty sure these were a premium item in those "fruit snacks" that kind of straddled the line between candy and a "healthy" snack. I think there was a Garfield brand of them at one point? Anyway, they were a "prize" in a box of something and somehow I managed to grab three of them (despite my younger brother having been a big Garf fan when he was a kid - maybe these were late enough he didn't care as much any more? Whereas I have never lost my love of this kind of little plastic tat that comes free in boxes - I miss cereal box prizes). 

I did, however, in the cedar box that I thought I had Garfield in, find my old Pink Panther. Which I thought I had not kept, because he had gotten pretty worn.

Here he is new, when I got him in 1977 or 78:

He smelled musty despite having been stored away where mice couldn't get at him (ironically, that's how I lost the two stuffed mice shown there), so I decided - well, I didn't know he still even existed before I found him, it was worth the risk of washing him, if he didn't survive it wouldn't be a horrific loss because I didn't think he even existed still.

I tied him up in a clean pillowcase to protect him, and washed him, gentle cycle, in a load with a couple of not-too-dirty (just used for blocking knit items or drying my hair) towels. And then ran him through the dryer once (in the pillowcase and on low heat) and then hung him by his tail to dry the rest of the way.

"I survived, babies!" 

(Yes, there is another version of that, using a rougher b-word, but I don't think Pink Panther would speak like that if he spoke. I imagine him as sounding Rat Pack cool, maybe a little like Sammy Davis, Jr., and "babies" would be in keeping).

I won't swear to it but I think his color is brighter after the wash and he is fluffier now. I'm pleased how well the washing worked - I was afraid the foam-chunk stuffing in part of his body would disintegrate, but it did not. So I carried him back with me. (In that photo, he's sitting on a big chair at my mom's; that's one of those woven/jacquard blanket things featuring the Cubs that my brother and his family gave to my dad a number of years back, and my mom keeps it on a chair where he liked to sit.)

Monday, May 29, 2023

On my way


I really would have liked to have stayed longer; I think I was kind of burnt out after spring semester and it was good to just do fewer things for a change.

But summer classes start Monday and I need to be there for advanced biostatistics, and I do need to get a research project into gear.

I might get bored if I stayed much longer but I admit I could have done with 3 more days…

Friday, May 26, 2023

Still on break

 For a few more days.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Another crafty thought

 One thing I realized, thinking about those "Woodstock Craftsman's Manuals" and similar craft books of the 70s -one of the interesting things about them is that you get the sense that the knowledge the people write about is something they think might be "lost," or something where cultural transmission has been broken. And so, they are trying to introduce a new generation of young people - these would be, I guess, the younger Baby Boomers - to it.

And I wonder: was the knowledge at risk of being "lost," or were there just subsets of the population who didn't use it or didn't think highly of it? I know in the 60s and 70s my mom crocheted and sewed - I've SEEN the dresses she made herself (Stylish in the sense of of someone who dresses slightly conservatively for their time, but attractive and well made - there's one green cocktail dress she made herself that, oh, I wish I had been small enough to fit into when I was a teen because it was SO COOL. I'm not sure what became of it but she MIGHT have donated it to some school's theater department). She also crocheted and knitted. So the knowledge was there. But then again: my mom is Silent Generation, and the kid of a couple so old I don't think they were naming generations back there (Grandma was born in 1897, and Grandpa in 1880). And they were rural working-class people, in an era where making stuff at home was vastly cheaper than buying it ready-made (no Chinese or Vietnamese sweatshops back then - though I guess sweatshops existed, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire was in 1911). So she learned all those skills. 

And she passed them on to me. I was that kid who, up until a shockingly late age (pre teen, really) wanted to do what her mom was doing - she was easily able to press me into service in helping clean house as a kid, because I *liked* dusting and running the vacuum. I think it was because it seemed "grown up" to me? Or maybe it was doing something that was useful?

So I learned how to crochet, and then when I was to be trusted with sewing shears and needles, to handsew and embroider. (In fact - she showed me how to transfer some of my drawings to tissue paper, which we then pinned to cloth, and I embroidered the designs over the tissue, which was then carefully torn away). And later, to knit, and eventually, to run a sewing machine. 

When my paternal grandmother passed away in 1982, I inherited her machine (which had previously been my mom's- it was a Singer from the late 50s or early 60s, a good workhorse machine). I sewed some of my own clothes in highschool. (I later acquired a portable Kenmore, the machine I use now, by bartering with a friend of the family - she wanted two big teddy bears for her young grandsons, I liked making teddy bears and had a pattern that was the size she wanted, so she offered a swap). 

But all of this, I learned it through cultural transmission - my mom did all those things, a lot of her friends did all those things. (She also taught my brother to sew and I think at one time he knew how to crochet. The sewing on the grounds of "of course men also have clothes that need to be mended and they may not have a wife or girlfriend who wants to do it for them" and that makes sense to me - everyone should learn all the necessary little tasks like that regardless of gender. Ability is maybe a different issue - my brother could not make a quilt top, but he can put a button back on or repair minor tears. And similarly, our dad taught us basic plumbing - though knowing how to change the washer in a faucet is pretty much an obsolete piece of knowledge now - and how to change our own oil and how to change a tire). We also learned to cook, and to bake (which are different skill sets! You have to be more precise in baking; with cooking you can improvise and much of the time it works out even without precise measurements). And to me, growing up, this was all expected: you learned these skills from the older adults in your life. (Just like how my mom taught me how to print when I wanted to learn to write my name when I was like five, just like how she taught me long division the summer before I got it in school).

I guess, though, maybe there WAS  a break in the transmission. Maybe people who lived in more urbanized areas didn't "do" as much for themselves. Or people who were wealthier and could do things like hire out clothing repair or alterations - or had access to places that did that. (I don't know, for example, if there's a place here that does clothing repair; I just do my own mending). Or maybe mothers who HATED doing those things and didn't want their daughters saddled with it (Heh, an early version of the "lib meetings" that I alluded to in the earlier post?) didn't bother to teach them - and ironically, some of those girls grew up and realized they wanted to learn those things as a form of artistic expression  (or to save money, or to "seize the means of production" as I see some of the more radical makers claiming) 

But anyway. I can't quite imagine books like these being written today; for one thing, the internet - even with Google search pretty much borked by SEO - offers you the possibility to find either videos, or written descriptions, or pictorials of many techniques. Or you can order books from many of the online booksellers. Or arrange to travel to take classes (and I BET there are some teachers who do Zoom classes, now). 

But, as I said, the Woodstock Craftsmans Manuals are an interesting window into how things maybe once were - or at least how a subset of the Me Generation thought they were.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Closer to done

 I finished the main knitting on the Big Mexiko best today and laid it out to block 

Incidentally, this is the yarn label: 

I know I bought this yarn a long time ago: I am not sure Schoeller and Stahl still exist as a company. I *think* this was an Elann purchase (I miss Elann, especially the days when they did close outs and you never knew what treasures they might have).

I found the yarn again when cleaning out for the renovations last summer and put it aside to make something with. In the end I decided I had enough for a vest and found a simple pattern. I still need to see it up and knit on the arm and button bands, and get buttons for it (maybe tomorrow; I figure getting buttons first will give me more motivation to do the bands)

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Some summer memories (III)

 I mentioned having bought (used, and sometimes as ex-library copies) books I remembered loving as a child. These are the craft or craft-adjacent books:

The Making Things book (the faded one in the middle) and the Handmade Toys and Games one I've had for years. I think I got Making Things at the Ann Arbor Public Library's used book sale back in the late 80s - it's a very 70s book with various crafts (mostly from discards) and games in it:


Some of them are just the simple games and toys (like how to make a paper "helicopter") that are good things to know in case you need to entertain a group of kids on short notice. There's also some magnificent ideas for fancy shaped breads in it.

And I LOVED Handmade Toys and Games as a kid. It's not a pattern book or a guide book, it's rather an inspiration book with photos of things people - both artists, ordinary folks, and kids - have made:

This may have been my first inspiration to want to learn to crochet, and to crochet my own toys. (That's a cat that was made by an 8 or 9 year old girl). I remember getting this out of the library like every summer from the time I was maybe 6 or 7. And about 15 years ago I realized I could probably find my own used copy and I ordered one from Alibris or somewhere.

I also remember Woodstock Manual #2 from my childhood. I didn't really understand all the hippie references (they are VERY MUCH books of their time) but they were fun and inspiring and my first attempts at patchwork were inspired by Woodstock Manual #2 (Oddly enough, the library didn't have #1, but many years later I found a used copy).

The great things about these is there's very minimal prescriptiveness - unlike some craft books now where, for example, they direct you to get a PARTICULAR yarn for a pattern* but rather they tell you HOW to do the thing, and then suggest sources of material - and in the patchwork section, of course used fabric is suggested and a hint of how it could inspire memories for the future ("This is grandma's jeans that she wore at her lib meetings, sister's workshirt she wore in the Chicago riots, Great-grandfather's best meditation toga....")

Anyway, it was very inspirational and I'm glad I have my own copy.

(*though yes, some authors are better than that and they give a description where they will list the yarn used, but then also the properties you'd want in a yarn if you were substituting - like "a worsted weight with about 12 WPI, and a smooth surface so your stitch pattern will show")

Creative Soft Toys is more recent. I "found" the book again courtesy of Something Under the Bed. I remembered a book of elaborate embroidered toys I used to look at from the library when I was a kid, but I knew it wasn't the Winsome Douglass one (which Dover reprinted). But I found it again thanks to that website! And found an affordable used copy, too:

There are some interesting things in there - including bejeweled beetles. I've just never had the time or motivation yet to make anything out of it but next time I get a good supply of the real wool felt I might.

Also a more-recent purchase, I think from Abe Books, was this:

Doll's House Furniture Book, which was mostly aimed at building with thin wood (which I never did, because I had not the tools) and also had the pattern for a pin-jointed wood family. BUT ALSO had a huge list of accessories you could make - many of which did not require a jigsaw or similar specialized tools, and that's why I liked it. It was 1/12" scale, which was the standard scale for 1970s era dollhouses. (Barbie houses are something like 1/6", I think, and there's a new 1/24" scale that don't generally have dolls but are just small display pieces. My Moominhouse might be close to 1/24"....)

And then finally, the newest one:

I bought this through Amazon. I don't know if it's a reprint (it seems not to have been updated) or if it was merely old stock but this book is a wild mix of stuff, from a recipe for corn dogs to how to tell ghost stories to making fake scrimshaw (using plastic laundry-detergent bottles). It's very reminiscent of my childhood; I remember my mom making the corn dogs for my brother and me occasionally as a treat, and I think we made the popcorn balls once...

I say it's not been updated; there's some terminology (e.g., "Indian" instead of "Native American" or "First Nations") that some folks might not like....there's also a lot of fortune-telling stuff that I suppose some might find uncomfortable, I don't know. But it does remind me of childhood summers and trying out some of the things in the book. There is a little bit of an American History focus, but not very deep or detailed.

But yes, all these books remind me of the long summer days spent either making stuff, or, the rainy summer days spent lying on the sofa and looking at books and thinking about making stuff....

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Some critter pictures

 Real critters, not the stuffed toy ones I usually feature:

The groundhog that lives under my mom’s deck. He’s kind of her nemesis because he eats the garden. He’s hard to drive away though

There’s also a pair of mallards she puts corn down for. They often sit like this, I presume it’s a way to rest while maximizing the chances of seeing any predators.

Some summer memories (II)

 I mentioned in the earlier post about how one of the things I remember about childhood/tween summers was having more time to do stuff like go to the little downtown where I lived.

Well, also I had more spending money. We got *very* small allowances as kids (my parents were frugal, they were raised in a different era - when a quarter was a lot of spending money for a kid - and I think they also wanted us to be careful about how we spent*). But in the summer I could do extra chores to earn more money - I mowed the lawn from like age 10 or 11 and also did things like weeding the garden. So I accumulated a bit more cash.

(*Joke was on them, ultimately: I spend my disposable income on a lot of silly stuff as an adult, I think in part because I couldn't as a kid)

Anyway, what did I spend the money on? Some went to books - there was the Learned Owl, and also the local public library would do used book sales, as I remember, weekly, and this was a wealthier town and also had a share of academic people so there were all kinds of interesting things that showed up there (The omnibus copy - I think it was an Everyman's Library edition? - of Jane Austen's works that I still have came from there). And some did go to candy or ice cream (though more often than not, if we went to Saywell's, my mom would buy a cone for my brother and one for me). 

But also, I spent a lot of it on small toys. When I was a tween, that was the era of Garfield and the Smurfs and the various small figurines that competed with the Smurfs and also Strawberry Shortcake and her ilk. There was a shop called "Land of Make Believe" that opened when I was like 10 or 11 (and lasted, apparently, until fairly recently, but now it's gone) and I remember going down there to buy Smurfs (hard to find initially, until the fad became less fad-dy, and the popular kids moved on to the next thing) and Mrs. Grossman's Stickers (they had the big display of them) and I think that's where, after what seemed like months of saving up, I bought my Garfield plush. And Snoopy was still a thing, of course; Snoopy was eternal. (I had a lot of the books - first, I read the old, 60s-era compilations that apparently had been my mom's when she was in grad school, and then later, I got some of the newer compilations - for a while, I was going down to Akron once a week with my dad to have plantar's warts treated, and the treatments were painful, so as a reward for being Brave about it, he'd buy me a Snoopy book from the newsstand at the medical center every time, until I had all the compilations they offered). And I remember all those things. Oh, Disney was out there, too, but they were kind of in a fallow period then - I don't even really remember any big Disney animated movies after The Rescuers until I was in college. And Looney Tunes was out there, too, but there wasn't much merchandise. But I do remember Smurfs, they were big, and also Garfield. And the Muppets. I think I had all the plush/puppet versions of the Muppet Show characters that Fisher-Price made. I think I even had a book of the short-lived comic strip featuring them.

And like I said before, those were the Good Things. I was not at all sure about teenagerhood and eventual adulthood when I was like 10 and 11; but the things of late childhood were good and nice. Even if my childhood wasn't always good and nice - given the way I was treated at school. (Then again: that was also why summers were good: I could mostly avoid the kids who bullied me).

 I also had a dollhouse (actually several: a childhood one for mice, a more adult-styled one with an Edwardian-era family, and even a tiny one I built out of a box for another toy mouse that I called Guinevere) and I worked on those - there were some books on making dollhouse things at the public library and I checked those out. (I should do a post later on the books I bought as an adult, used, that were ones I remembered checking out of the library as a kid - there are several). 

I was not good at being a teen; sometimes I think I am not very good at being an adult. But as I remember, at least during those summers, when I was making doll clothes for my Miss Piggy or making dollhouse accessories or playing with my Smurfs, I was pretty good at being a kid.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Some summer memories (I)

 Back a couple weeks ago, when I was giving an exam, the lawnmowers were up at the campus. I could hear them faintly even with the classroom door closed. It's funny how random things make you remember; the sound of mowing machines working across a large swath of lawn (we are some distance from the rest of campus and there's a lot of lawn space between them and us) and it made me think of the playing fields at my various grade schools, and the last days of school, and often, those last few days, they'd be out to mow for the first time in the year.

(Also, when I was a kid, school ended later than my university does - we were still going into early June). 

But now I think of those playing fields. At some of the schools, there were houses all around them (and the lucky kids who lived there: they could walk to school, and I am pretty sure when school wasn't in session no one stopped the kids from going and playing on the playground. In these now, more-litigious times, I bet that's no longer allowed.

The fields, though - this was where soccer met, and t-ball (my brother did both when he was small, and soccer when he was not so small) and field hockey.

I had one brief, disastrous season of field hockey. My parents thought I needed more exercise and told me I needed to do a sport, so I chose field hockey, thinking, maybe, all girls, maybe they'd be nicer? In retrospect, I probably should have gone out for the mixed-team soccer: there were a few boys in the program that were kind of my friends, or at the very least, didn't torment me. But from field hockey I remember being excluded and that sort of nasty laughter and the girls "testing" my shinguards for me by whacking them with their sticks. 

I was not much one for team sports. I did kind of like the pick-up games of kickball we sometimes played in gym or at recess (or: a few times, towards the end of the year, the teacher would take us out at the end of the day to play as an extra recess). I know there's a joke that kickball is baseball for kids they don't trust with bats, though really, at my school, I think it was baseball/softball for kids where no one really had developed the skills to pitch well...

But I remember the smell of those big, newly mown fields. And I remember sitting on some early summer evenings in a lawn chair while my brother played t-ball (oh, team sports were a lot more sedate then; I only remember parents cheering on kids for either doing well, or sometimes when they were having a tough time, and not the fights with refs you hear about now) or going out on Saturdays when he played soccer. 

And I remember that summer expectation - those last few days of school. Even though I *liked* school and enjoyed learning, I also liked being off for summer - I had happy expectations when I was small of doing the summer reading program at the library, or having time to play, or getting together with some of the kids on the street and roaming all over the neighborhood, walking down to the creek to catch frogs (we never caught any; they were too fast) and just generally doing more or less what I wanted. 

And I remember the trips to do things - the weekly (sometimes twice a week) trips to the library for books, and the occasional trip to The Attic (for penny candy, or sometimes a small toy), or Saywell's to get an ice cream cone...

Sunday, May 14, 2023

And stuck, waiting

 Made the long drive to the Mineola station this afternoon. I knew when I left the train was late. It’s now 2 1/2 hours late. Hasn’t made it to Dallas just yet. At least I am here. 

The drive down wasn’t fun; I went through heavy rain most of the way. At one point I had to slow down to 40 mph (in a zone that is normally 70) because I couldn’t see far enough ahead anti just had to aim between what I could see of the center line and the edge line. 

Hopefully I can still get dinner on the train; if not I will see if a can buy something from the cafe car. If not THAT, I Jaya tiny snack (a couple boxes of raisins and a sweet potato purée pouch) so I can at least take my evening medicine without messing up my stomach. But it is tiresome sitting here knowing it’s arrival is dependent totally on things I cannot influence…

The view from where I am waiting as one of the freights that doubtless delayed my train comes through 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Getting the yarn

 I stayed home today, partly to do some prep for traveling. I did the laundry I needed to and put away the stuff I wasn't planning on taking. I have a couple - uh, unmentionables - that need to finish drying before they go in the suitcase, but my t-shirts and trousers and socks and a dress for church are all in there, and the birthday gifts for my mom, and the various patterns I printed off

And I also wound the yarn I needed to wind off. And there was a last-minute substitution for one of the yarns....

The three yarns on the right are for socks - the more purple one is a self-striping (String Theory Colorworks) that also has a little sparkle in it (sort of a tinsel worked into the yarn). The one at the very top is the Static I mentioned before - I can't quite visualize how the color pattern will work out on it, so I'll see. The other is a very pale yellow for a lace sock pattern called Sweet Woodruff. 

The "replacement" yarn is for a shawl from Janina Kallio called Fern Fronds (That's her website - some people have problems with the design of Ravelry now, apparently it's not friendly do certain neurological issues). I have made several of her shawl patterns; I like them. My original plan was to use a very bright pink I had bought at JoAnn's for the shawl, but then I saw the marled KFI yarn - it's about 900 yards there in the two balls, that's what the pattern calls for. I had bought that yarn at the last trip to Stitches N Stuff and had bought it for a small shawl (with no pattern in mind) but I realized that I liked that yarn better for this pattern, and it's also colors that will go with more clothes that I wear than the bright pink would. 

I also picked out a couple books. I will keep reading on "Wives and Daughters," which is really good (I had no idea what an enjoyable writer Gaskill was) but I also have a nice copy of Howard Pyle's "Robin Hood" that I wanted to start, and The Woman who Smashed Codes, which is about cryptgraphy (I started it a long time ago but stalled out partway through - I think it was about the time my dad died and I just couldn't read ANYTHING more complex than mystery novels for a while).

I do need to run over to school tomorrow and retrieve my advanced stats book, and the little hardbound notebook I'm keeping reading notes in, and my pencil case, because I need to work on that when I'm up there.

(But also: if it's not pouring tomorrow I should try to mow the lawn again)

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Thursday afternoon things

 * Yesterday I spent several hours prepping the summer class, and it was Elders/Board meeting, so I didn't have a lot of bandwidth for much else.

* I am slowly working toward getting ready for my two-week trip in a few days. I will have a *couple* embargoed posts (more if I get inspiration tomorrow/Saturday to write more) but I may also try to just post an occasional "from the road" post with a photo and minimal text (it is hard typing on my phone and I make a lot of errors). 

* I think I am going to try to finish the "Big Mexiko" vest - this is just a simple cardigan vest, knit of an old, old Stahl brand yarn I bought at least 15 years ago on closeout. I found the yarn last summer when clearing out my yarn closet and realized I still liked it, and that I had enough for a vest. I got a start on it last semester while invigilating and then, like many other projects, tucked it away and kind of forgot about it. (I have a big problem these days with "out of sight, out of mind"). I found it again recently - the back and one front are done, and part of the second front. Once that's finished, it's just sewing up, knitting on bands, and adding buttons - and I'm thinking maybe I could make a trip out to the "nice" JoAnn's in my mom's town for buttons. (There's a big new one that opened like a year and a half ago, in an old Toys R Us)

* I also have a bunch of socks planned. I want to wind off the "John-Boy" Static yarn for simple socks, and I have a striping yarn with glitter in it and a pattern that should work with a striping yarn. And I am FINALLY going to start (or so i think) the Whistledown socks I've had yarn wound off for for over a year. And I might wind off yarn for the Off-Kilter scarf - I bought some nice West Yorkshire Spinners' yarn a couple trips ago to the yarn shop for it, and dug it out again. 

*I really do have a huge stash and if I can force myself this summer I should look *critically* at it again and deaccession a bunch of yarn. I don't know if I'll just post a photo with a "hey if you want this and can pay postage, it's yours" or if I see if the Goodwill will take it (they seemed eager to take a bunch of wool-ease, but then that's a pretty standard yarn and one lots of folks like for afghans) or if I hunt around a bit and see if there's a program like some I've heard, where women's prisons have yarn available for people to learn to crochet and stuff to pass the time and feel some sense of accomplishment. I know I have more than I will use up but the problem is a lot of it is small lots - not a sweater's worth or anything like that. 

*Tonight, unless the weather AGAIN gets bad, is the AAUW "last meeting of the year" - we are going to the local mom and pop Italian place (it's always a meal out, well, except for '20 and '21, when we were on hiatus - I think in 2021 we had a meeting on lawn chairs in someone's drive, but no food, that was JUST after the vaccines rolled out). 

Man, though. It's been a wild - well, really, 20+ years. I was just thinking the other day how I lived through September 11, I literally saw the towers falling on tv, and I remember all the craziness after that, I remember buying extra bottled water and dry/canned food and filling my car's tank (waiting in a long line and paying inflated prices) because we literally didn't know what was going to happen next, and another Gulf War, and getting to see the first African-American president of the US, and then the pandemic....and the fact that about this time in 2020 they were still saying things like "we've never made a vaccine for a coronavirus and even if we can make a vaccine it will be something like five years" and me sitting there in my house wondering how on earth I'd manage to survive without much human contact for at least five years....And even outside that time frame, I've seen the Oklahoma City bombing, and lived through the end of the Cold War, and watched the Berlin Wall come down on tv, and saw the after effects of the big 1989 earthquake (I was GOING to watch the World Series on tv, but saw the news of it right after it happened instead) and the explosions of not one but two space shuttles....So many things. So much stuff. It's exhausting to think about and you'd think I'd have gained more perspective but I haven't. (I remember my mom telling me shortly after 9/11 about having lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and how she thought the world was going to end *then,* and so she was less discombobulated by 9/11).

Oh, and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which yeah, that was my "holy crap the world's going to come to an end" of last year (and admittedly, a couple points this year. Though today it looks - hopefully? - like it might be over soon, that Ukraine is pushing back hard and maybe Russia will be driven to a negotiations table and eventually driven out of Ukraine? I hope.)

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

A day out

 I hadn't been up to Chickasaw for quite a while, today was the last rain-free day before I leave town to visit my mom, they were supposed to be turning off water on part of campus for some work....So I decided to take the day and go.

I need this periodically. To be out in nature, mostly alone, to be able to wander and look at whatever interests me. And I took a lot of pictures.

They had a couple new displays in the visitor's center, or the "critters" were out and active this time:

There's a whole honeybee colony in a Plexiglas-fronted box. I'm sure the drape is to keep the bees from being disturbed when there aren't visitors, but it also might help protect the bee phobic. 

The tree frog was visible:

This is a gray tree frog (A fat one). It looks reddish because of the infrared light to keep it warm.

The tortoise (ornamented box turtle? I think?) was also active:

I saw one "out in the wild" (walking across a trail) much later:

There are also some displays about the geology and hydrology of the area. I photographed this because it made me chuckle:

The syntax on that last sentence is odd but I think they mean that some of the water passes through rock layers without soluble minerals that would flavor/scent the water.

I also photographed this from a trail sign because I liked it

The main feature here for me really are the springs and streams. It is just nice to hear flowing water some times; I don't get the chance to right where I live.

That last one is Antelope Springs, the "natural" of the two springs within a fairly short walk (~1 mile round trip) of the visitor's center. 




And this is Buffalo Springs, which has a brickworks around it (that I think was built by the CCC)

I also saw lots of wildflowers:

I stopped at the visitor's center on my way back, bought some postcards and a fancy fridge magnet to go with my mom's present. Asked the ranger on duty if she could show me on a map where the bison had been moved to - I'd heard on the news they'd been moved (temporarily, I guess) to a new enclosure (I think there's some restoration work going on in their regular one).

She did, and warned me that it was kind of a long walk, and "after noon there's not much shade left, be sure you have a hat and water."

I went and got lunch - as it turned out the first place I wanted to try was closed for a function, so I tried some little Italian place. It was fine but very slow - there was only one waitress on duty and she had to do EVERYTHING. I was patient and polite - it's not her fault - but I admit I would have liked things to have moved a little faster.

Also, I was very full of pasta after that and almost skipped the bison because I didn't fancy feeling sick to my stomach after a long walk. But I took a break and went to the Spice and Tea company that's in the ground floor of the fancy hotel/casino there, and to the little Chickasaw (tribal) Visitor Center and looked at their artwork and found a birthday card for my mom there in their gift shop. 

And.....yes, something for me. 

 Dangit, Moon Moon. (I think her - she looks more like a female wolf to me - name is Moonie or maybe Luna). Of course Moon Moon was one of the Old Memes from the Good Old Times. And yeah, yeah, we don't have wolves here now if we ever did in the past few hundred years but she was cute and the little tilt of the head and cock of the ear (both different from the other two on offer) make her seem distinctive to me.

Then I went up to Bromide Hill. This is perhaps my favorite place in the whole park, and today I was lucky - I was the only one up there so it was quiet (though weirdly, you can hear things from the campground down below:


There is also a tiny trail - you almost wonder if it's really a trail people are meant to go on - through a dry prairie. Lots of flowers here, including firewheel (Gaillardia):

Finally, I decided I did feel up to going to try to see the bison. (I am smart enough not to approach, even if they weren't behind a 10' fence with four rows of barbed wire at the top). 

It was a long walk. The trail is Veteran's Trail, near Pavilion Springs, and it ends at a lake - I hoped I wouldn't have to go that far, and I thought the ranger said it was less than halfway down the trail. So I set off. She was right about less shade, and it was kind of humid today. I told myself if I started feeling BAD I would turn around, bison or no bison, I didn't want to have to call the rangers for help. 

I was just about to give up - I saw a pen but it seemed empty (I think it was just the back side of their old area, actually), but then a little bit further down I saw newer poles and wire and what looked like a disassembled cattle chute (they had moved the bison not much more than a month ago) so I kept walking and, yes, success: there was a small group (not sure if it's all of them) close enough to the fence that I could photograph them from the trail using the zoom function:

You can see the big bull in the second and third photos, and in the fourth, one of the cows was cuffing up the soil (you can see the dust cloud) so I guess she had a fresher/cooler spot to lie down?

I stood and watched them for a while, and then the bull looked directly at me and snorted so (even though he was behind a fence) I figured it was a good time for me to leave. 

On the walk back is when I saw the tortoise. And also a scarlet winecup:

I also stopped to look at Pavilion Springs. (I did not drink. Some people do. The water is *probably* safe but I am also prone enough to weird little stomach issues that I did not want to risk it)

 they have analyses (not sure how long ago they were done) of the waters in many of the springs

And then - home.