Thoughts on a Thursday Afternoon

So, it’s about 3:30, I’ve just finished a leisurely lunch (roast beef with onions and celery, skins-and-all mashed potatoes, and mixed veg of string beans and carrots)(num!). I’m sitting at the computer(s). I have one of the puzzles I made on Jigsaw Planet up on the left screen (photograph of a frilled jelly (Chiarella centripetalis) against a navy blue background)(!). On the right screen, I have YouTube on the Firefox browser and WordPress on the Google browser.

I have a bowl of knitting — a swirly hat. Dead simple knitting. (Evenly divide the total number of stitches into sections and make them swirl one direction or the other by putting a k2tog on one edge of the section and a yarn over at the other. The panel “swirls” toward whichever side the yarn over is on. Crown decreases with a k3tog instead of a k2tog.

If you want a tight swirl, you do the k2tog, yo thing every row. If you want a looser swirl, you alternate the k2tog, yo thing with a row of knit stitches.) (I am loosely swirling.)

I’m pleasantly full of a good lunch, sitting and knitting, and listening to Mozart piano sonatas, as you do, and that little rocking octaves in the baseline thing Wulfi does catches my attention, and it occurs to me that Mozart (and Beethoven) does that little trick a lot. And then it occurs to me that both composers were writing at that time at the end of the 18th century when the pianoforte is gradually taking over from the harpsichord (because brass instruments, but that’s another tangent). The instrument had not yet evolved into its final form and composers hadn’t had enough time yet to fully explore the instrument’s capabilities and modify their performance techniques to exploit them. And I realize that this little rocking octaves thing (the thumb on one note and the little finger on the same note but an octave lower, alternating quickly between the two notes eight or ten times by quickly rocking the hand from side to side) is a harpsichord technique (ditto the rapid repeated striking of the same bass chord or notes) that’s been carried over to the pianoforte.

The name of that game is sostenuto. String instruments (violin, viola, cello, etc.) played with a bow can sustain (hold) a note from one end of the bow to the other. A wind instrument (clarinet, flute, oboe, bassoon, etc.) can hold a note until the player runs out of breath. But the harpsichord is a plucked string instrument. You press a key, you get a note, and that’s it. The sound isn’t all that loud to begin with and it dies out rapidly. And that rocking octave thing, and the repeated striking of the same note/chord are workarounds to get a sustained note/chord you can set the tweedly-tweedly bits against.

But here’s the thing. It’s called a “pianoforte”because in the language of music, which is Italian BTW, piano means “quiet”and forte means “loud” — which gives you an important clue about the main difference between the pianoforte and the harpsichord. You can’t get any volume to speak of out of a harpsichord. It’s mechanics. No matter how hard you hit the keys, pling is all you get. (Most harpsichords have two separate keyboards and two separate sets of strings, and a way to “slave” one keyboard to the other to double the volume.) You put a harpsichord together with more than a dozen string and wind instrument (even using both keyboards) and the other instruments will flat drown it out.

The pianoforte, however, plays notes by having a hammer hit a string, and there is a direct correlation between how hard you press the key and how hard the hammer hits the string. This is the first time there’s been a (portable) keyboard instrument with dynamics — the ability to vary the volume of the notes played for dynamic effect. Strings have that ability. So do wind instruments. But not until the pianoforte do you have a keyboard instrument that can hold its own against an orchestra. (I’m not counting the pipe organ, because it’s not something Herr Gottbucks is going to get for the 18th century version of the family rec room so they can have the neighbors over for a fun evening of sight reading trio sonatas.)(Yes, they actually did that.)

So, Mozart and Beethoven are transitional composers, and a lot of their music for the pianoforte has holdover techniques from the harpsichord. As you progress through the sonatas chronologically, you can hear how Mozart is coming to terms with this new instrument and beginning to exploit its dynamics. Beethoven comes along somewhat later (he idolized Mozart and wanted to become his student, but somehow that didn’t happen), still using those rocking octaves and repeated notes, but using them to add an emotional undercurrent to his music.

There’s a neologism in Lewis Carroll‘s poem “Jabberwocky” (the poem features in his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) that to my mind perfectly captures Beethoven: “frumious” it’s a portmanteau word that combines “fuming” and “furious.” Mozart is agile, elegant, a tad effete, and a bit of a show-off. Beethoven is one intense dude; we’re talking major league Sturm und Drang here. His music clearly has an emotional undercurrent, and the level of that emotion is turned up to 11. Mozart happens at the culmination of that orgy of cerebration that was the Enlightenment. Beethoven gets in at the ground floor of that emo-fest that is the Romantic Movement. Listen to the entire Moonlight Sonata, not just the played-to-death first movement, but the whole thing. That second movement is ne plus emo. I like Beethoven, but only in small doses.

But in the closing chapters of this Thursday afternoon, Mozart and I are sitting quietly, knitting a hat, (working my jigsaw to give my hands a break). And seriously considering getting up and making a pot of tea. And maybe some toast.

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Oct-over and Hallo-went

One more day left in October. I’ve got running around to do tomorrow. Gotta do a Walmart run (TP, paper towels) and vote early.

My poor old Logitech M600 Touch Mouse has become decidedly arthritic and unwilling to scroll. I’ve had it for like six years and the poor thing’s just plain wore out. I love it because it doesn’t have a scroll wheel (that’s the part that invariably wears out first on my mice). You just stroked with your finger in whichever direction you wanted to scroll and I really liked it. But I can’t get them any more (because I love them, naturally they quit making them. . . are you listening, Logitech!). So I decided to live dangerously and get a vertical mouse. I’ve only had it a day and I’m still getting the hang of it, but I think I like it.

The typical mouse has the hand lie flat on it, which twists the bones in the forearm, with the added potential of resting the flat of the wrist on the edge of a desk — not good!. The vertical orientation of the hand with this mouse is kinder on the carpal tunnel by having the hand in a vertical orientation, with the weight of the hand on the outside edge.

The one thing I don’t like about it is that you can’t pick the mouse up easily. I’ve got this huge monitor (22-inch diagonal) and if I have to get the mouse pointer from one portion of the screen way over to another, I can’t hop the mouse as easily — move it over a couple of inches, pick it up, move it back, put it down and keep moving it in the same direction. This “hopping” maneuver minimizes how much you have to move your whole arm to get the mouse pointer from hither to yon, especially useful if your mouse pad isn’t very big. With the vertical mouse, I have to take my fingers off the control surfaces to pick up the mouse. Oh, well. I’ll cope.

I follow this YouTube channel called “The Last Homely House” run by a lady named Kate who lives in the north of England. She got the name of her channel from J. R. R. Tolkien’s books. She’s an older woman whose parents are both gone, her children are grown and married, and she has a grandchild. She likes quilting (English paper piecing in particular), sewing, knitting, cooking, gardening, and cats. She promotes local crafts, and craftspeople in what she offers on her channel and in her shop. Watching her videos is like visiting a friend for a cuppa and a natter — over 78 thousand other people feel the same way I do and have subscribed to her channel. Quite a long lime green sofa.

She has roped her daughter-in-law Anna into helping her with the photography, and with her shop and the various activities. (Anna’s husband John is a woodworker who has made several items for her shop.)

It’s getting to be “need a new calendar time,” and she put one together (Anna’s photos) so I ordered one. She’s also into jigsaws and had put out a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle. They sold out before I could get one but I caught it on the second go-round. They came Saturday. There are a lot of jigsaw enthusiasts here, and I thought I’d contribute this one to the cause (after I worked it myself!).

This is a good place to plug the website “Jigsaw Planet” which is a free website that allows you to set up a free account, upload whatever photographs or graphics (.pdf, .jpg) you want and make them into jigsaw puzzles. You can also work other people’s puzzles. I’ve made a ton of puzzles — I like artwork (Anne Bachelier‘s paintings, for example) and photographs. I make 200 piece puzzles because I have a nice big monitor to work them on. I love working jigsaws, especially while listening to some nice music. The nice thing about working puzzles on Jigsaw Planet is you get puzzles for free and you can’t lose any of the pieces!

In the knitting news, I’m going to try knitting something that has to be felted — a Scots Bonnet! (or tam or beret, or whatever . . . ) I’ve already got the yarn — 100% wool. Enough for two bonnets.

I’ll have to swatch so I’ll know how much this yarn shrinks and take that into account. (Ah, yes. Adventures in math . . .) You knit the thing too big, “felt” it by washing it in hot soapy water, and it shrinks down until it fits. Or that’s the plan at any rate. You’re supposed to block it by putting a plate in it. Stay tuned.

Here is the natural habitat of the indigenous knitter. I got that little hexagonal table when they had the estate sale of the lady up the hall who I regret not being able to have gotten to know better. Notice the bowls. I have one of those LED pole lamps that remind me of the saucer ray guns from the 1953 version of the film “War of the Worlds” with Gene Barry, but it puts out great adjustable-level light for knitting. Out of frame at left is a reader’s table with a bowl of knitting notions and a Kindle Fire with internet radio apps for music purposes.

Venice Classical Radio is a big favorite, as is Soma FM.

Here’s a little trick. When you’re knitting a scarf or some other long flat piece that’s getting long enough to be a pain, roll it up and “pin” it with a large stitch holder. Makes it much easier to turn your work without that great flapping length hanging off your needle getting all twisted up in your lap.

It’s gotten cold enough in my bedroom that the heater has come on. (Thermostat is set at low of 68 F/20 C) Hot tea drinking weather has returned. I’m having a “two-bagger” in my stainless steel commute mug — a bag of Twining’s Irish Breakfast and a bag of Stash Tea’s Moroccan Mint. Scrummie.

Going Around in Cycles

My next cycle of chemo starts next Wednesday (at 8:40 ye gods, o’clock in the morning, no less). So, between now and then, I have to wash clothes, go to the grocery store and probably Wal-Mart to lay in supplies. I would also like to go to knitting group Tuesday, but I’m playing it by ear. I have no energy, and all I want to do is sleep.

A downside to living here at Carillon is that I am living under the tyranny of other people’s schedules, which I wasn’t so much at my previous digs in the duplex. Meals here are served during a specific time period, and if you don’t do what you need to do to get your food (have it delivered, go down and get it or sit in the dining room and eat it) during that time period, then you’re on your own. You have a food allowance that comes out every month whether you use it or not (easily one, but maybe two meals a day if you work it right). Also, starting April 1st, there will be a $3 delivery charge for having someone bring it up to you.

I got spoiled living on my own. I was used to eating when my body told me to. Here, lunch is 11:00 to 1:00, which is too early. Supper is 4:30-6:00, which works better for me. But until they can fully staff both dining rooms, my ability to go downstairs to get supper in our dining room here will stop when the remodel of Windsong’s dining facility is finished. (Windsong is a separate building a long city block away.) Once Windsong’s dining facility is up and running again, lunch will be served here where I am, but dinner will be served over there. There have already been one or two days when I can barely make it to the refrigerator and back, never mind walk the length of two football fields (there and back) out of doors. I can already tell I’m not bouncing all the way back to normal between cycles, and that’s going to get incrementally worse with each cycle as the toxicity of the chemo drugs wears me down.

I had a care plan meeting about mom yesterday, and I asked about a bill I got for tablet prednisone that she was given in February (first I’d heard about it until I got the bill for it). I know she’s on prednisolone eye drops because of her corneal transplants and she did call last month to ask me the name of her eye doctor, so that’s what I thought it was for until I saw it was tablets. According to the social worker, they were giving it to her because of gout (?!?!?!). I am well aware of her medical condition and she has never been diagnosed with gout before. Turns out the doctor she has now saw her last month and they did lab tests and her uric acid levels were very high (upper limit was 2 something and her levels were 8 something). Apparently, according to her new doctor, hyperuricemia equals gout, and somehow the (now healed) pressure sore she had on her heel was supposed to have been due to gout (it wasn’t) and that’s why they gave her a short course of prednisone. Have they done any more lab test to see if her uric acid levels have come down? No. . . .

This is concerning, not because she now has the questionable diagnosis of “gout,” but because of the event back last July that precipitated this whole chain of events, when CK and I went to her house and found her unconscious and unarousable on the bed. She was dehydrated because she hadn’t been drinking enough water and had gone into kidney failure. Granted, her kidneys are nearly 98 years old, but it doesn’t help that she doesn’t drink nearly enough water because she doesn’t want to have to get up and go to the bathroom. But having to hoist herself up out of her beloved lift chair and walk maybe 10 feet to go potty is eminently preferable to having dialysis catheters surgically implanted in a vein and artery, and being taken in the wheelchair van to a dialysis center three times a week to spend three or four hours lying flat on the bed getting dialysis because you’ve gone into chronic kidney failure. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper, too. Also, there is a form of delirium that is caused by the buildup of toxins in the body as the result of kidney failure. I saw that in the hospital last July. It’s damn scary, if you’ll pardon my Anglo-Saxon. She was so out of it they had to use soft restraints on her and put a security camera on her to keep her from trying to get out of bed, pull her lines off, take her gown off and wander around. Worsening kidney function can also induce or worsen dementia. Granted, she’s nearly 98, her body is wearing out, and some decline in function is to be expected, but she’s also my mother, and I’d just as soon neither of us have to go through another hospitalization like that again, thank you very much.

In the knitting news, ongoing projects are still ongoing.

The hexagon blanket is still hexed. I’ve frogged it yet again and backed off to cogitate on it. I think I may have it sussed now, so will try again. (Attempt #4?) (A few of my collection of knitting bowls.)(There’s at least one by every chair.)

This video, ya’ll. This video is entirely too cool! It has a quiet, solo piano sound track. It’s also 10 hours long, so you could play this on your big screen TV, turn the sound off, and it’d be like having an aquarium. I think I’m going to go get it on my 55-inch TV, turn the sound off and listen to Soma FM’s Drone Zone on my Kindle Fire tablet, and knit. Sit. Breathe. Knit.

Ah, Well

They’ve started up the Library knitting group again. Now that the COVID situation has improved, the Library ladies asked M, the woman that originally started the group, and who was “moderating” it when I started going, to start it back up again. In the months before COVID, M’s husband’s health had deteriorated to the point where he could not be left alone, it was hard for her to find sitters for him and she didn’t like driving at night, which was when the group was meeting. Somebody offered to take it over, but it petered out after M left, and then COVID hit. M’s husband passed last year during lock-down.

The newly reconstituted group is still meeting on Tuesdays, but at 1 pm, which solves the problem of M not driving at night. Several of the former regulars are no longer with us, including my friend LB who passed from breast cancer, but KC and I went this past Tues. Apart from KC, M and me, all the rest were newbies of varying degrees of skill level. Of course, I just started a new cycle of chemotherapy today, which makes my future attendance somewhat problematic. I did go this past Tuesday though, and it was good.

After I left knitting group, I went and got my hair cut, got a simple manicure and my toenails cut. A little judiciously applied self care (that’ll be $$, thank you very much). (The past three times, I’ve gotten this young manicurist. She looks around 18-20, and she always has the coolest tee-shirts. She’s pierced in several places and wears wire-wrapped crystal jewelry. )

I had the hair stylist give me what is, in effect, a buzz cut. If all my hair is going to fall out anyway, I don’t want to be pulling handfuls of it out of brushes and shower drains, or wake up and find I’ve shed all over my pillow. What you might call a preemptive strike. (Those black things behind my ears are the Bluetooth headphones to my computer.)(Bless you, Ericsson Mobile!)

(I’ve got a pair for my phone, too, as well as two internet radio apps and a Napster app on my phone. And whatever music is playing on my phone will play on my car radio. Oh, rapture!)

Wednesday I slept in, then puttered and cleaned, changed my bed, took a shower, and washed/dried two loads, one of clothes and one of sheets and towels. I still haven’t unboxed my new computer. Possibly tomorrow, possibly Saturday. Soon, though. Still working out the logistics in my head of getting hither to yon.

I went to JACC at 9:40 a.m. Thursday morning and didn’t leave until 3:30 p.m. I had labs at 9:40 and met with my oncologist at 11:00. I’m taking the COP chemotherapy regimen. I started chemo at 12:30 with Decadron and half a liter of normal saline (and a nice little nap), followed by the cyclophosphamide (the C), followed by the Oncovin (the O) and something else I didn’t catch. After I saw my doc, the nurse called in a prescription for tablet prednisone (the P) I was supposed to take after the infusions, but they didn’t call it in until around noon. (If I’d known, I’d have suggested they call it in Wednesday so I could have already had it on hand, but, oh, well.) Mirabile dictu! They had it waiting for me when I went to the VA at almost 4 o’clock to get it. That was such a relief. I went home by way of Sonic and had a bacon cheeseburger, tots and fries to celebrate the fact that I was sloshing full of cytotoxic chemicals. . .

Tomorrow I go at 11 am to get the stuff that keeps my white blood cell count from cratering. It’s administered as an injection. In 2018, they were giving me Neulasta (pegfilgrastim), but I haven’t been able to get an ear on what they were telling me I’m getting this time. I’m going to make a point of getting the infusion nurse to show me it written down so I can read it.

As I mentioned, I have two internet radio apps and a Napster app on my phone, and those Bluetooth headphones (which I’m not very fond of as the left one doesn’t like to stay in my ear. It’s a pain to have to hunt it when it falls out and goes skittering across the floor). (I may get another set of Comiso ones for my phone. They play longer on a charge, they’re more comfortable to wear, and that little (removable) hook over my ear keeps them from falling off.)(I can use the phone set I have now with my Fire tablet — I’m not worried if the left earbud falls out in the bed!)

Today, I used the internet radio app on my phone to get Soma FM’s Drone Zone channel, which is just about my most favoritest of their channels. That was what I was listening to when I left the apartment, and all during my visit. (So soothing!) It provided just enough sound masking that I could take my little nap during the infusion, while still being able to hear someone talk to me — although my earphones provided a little moment of surreality when the people over at Carillon House returned my call about my mom’s care plan. When I get a phone call, I don’t have to lunge for my phone and juggle it trying to answer the call. The ringer overrides what I’m listening to, and all I have to do to answer is touch the right earbud and talk (they have have built in mikes). I was chatting with the infusion nurse who was hanging IV bags when the lady at Carillon House called, and it took her a moment to realize that my seeming non sequitur was me talking on the phone. That’s a downside to those Bluetooth earbuds — if you don’t have wires coming from your ears, and aren’t holding a phone in front of your face, it kinda makes you look like you are talking to yourself.

In the knitting news, I’ve discovered three mistakes on the 9-pinwheel hat, many, many rows ago and didn’t catch them until now. Rather than frog back to the earliest mistake, I’m fixing them one by one. Wrestling the octopus. It will be tedious, but I broke out the DPNs, which makes it easier though no less tedious to fix. ($%#^@#!)

It’s usually much easier to just frog back the section where you made your mistake and rework just that bit than it is to frog the whole thing back to the mistake — unless you’ve messed up so badly there’s just too much to fix. (The law of diminishing returns applies to knitting, too.) I would have had to frog the whole thing back almost two and a half inches to fix three small mistakes — not worth it. Because my mistake here involved adding a stitch that shouldn’t be there, I’m going to have to take a tapestry needle and redistribute the slack backwards and forward on each row so it’s much less noticeable. (It’ll just look like a small area of uneven tension. Blocking it will also help.) You can fix your mistake on the needles you are using on the project, but having a set of DPNs that are the same size as your working needles makes it much easier and faster. Nuts. Make that four mistakes. (&*^%$#@@!@#$!)

After I all I went through in 2018 after my first round of chemotherapy, I decided to treat myself.

I found the lovely pendant below left on Etsy. The stone is Labradorite wrapped in silver. The seller lived in the Ukraine, and was putting herself through college making jewelry. The longer I wore it, the more I loved it, so I went back to her shop and got the necklace on the right in 2019. I wonder about how “Kedikekik” is and if she’s safe.

Our Reprieve Is Over

I’m afraid our mild, low-80’s (26+ C) summer days are over. Today’s high was 95 F (35 C) and tomorrow’s high is supposed to be 101 F (38.3 C). It has been “cool” and rainy for most of May, with thunderbangers in the evening and nights, which put the humidity up in the 70-80% range (Do I hear sniggering from points southeast?!). Today the humidity was a more reasonable 26%. The 10-day forecast is for hot, more hot and ye gods! My electricity bills are going to be higher than giraffe’s ears until fall. Again.

On a more positive note, I have finally convinced Suddenlink to cancel my cable TV service and just give me internet and phone service without charging me an arm and both legs for it. (It only took me three phone calls and the better part of an hour!) I’ve got a 55-inch flat screen smart TV that I never watch because there’s nothing on cable TV anymore but junk, brainless sitcoms and drivel unless you pay through the nose for the premium packages. The networks are not putting anything worth watching on their cable channels. (Duh!) They put all the good stuff on their streaming services. (They don’t want to deal with the cable providers either!) Now that I’ve gotten a sizable chunk taken off my bill, I can subscribe to a streaming service or three and get just what I want when I want it.

I’m taking Mom to see the orthopedist tomorrow. I hope to goodness he can do something for her. I’m afraid he’s going to tell her she needs a hip replacement and I’m afraid if he tells her that, she’s just going to give up. (The Queen Mum had her hip replaced at 95 and lived to be 101. I’m just saying.) I keep trying to convince her she needs a more substantial recliner. The one she has is such a struggle for her to get out of because (a) the seat is so low, and (b) the arms are basically two giant pillows. I’m afraid that chair is a big part of the problem. I’ve been trying for months to get her to get a new chair. What she really needs is a lift chair, but getting her to agree to that will be an uphill battle. If the orthopedist gives her a prescription for it, though, maybe she’ll agree to it then, especially since Medicare would cover it.

I committed tuna salad last night. Made it with mini-elbow pasta in. I’ve got a 1.75 quart Pyrex bowl with a plastic cover that I use for that, except when I make it, I use two cans of tuna . . . and by the time I get all the ingredients in the bowl, it’s hard to stir without sloshing. Last night, though, I must have gotten a little carried away because I had to get one of my big mixing bowls down to mix it all up in and make two sandwiches before I could get it to fit into the Pyrex bowl. The obvious solution is to get a bigger Pyrex bowl. On its way.

I went to my own orthopedist today for my two year checkup! The x-rays of my replaced knee look great. I was told to go forth and walk a lot. There was this lovely tuna salad sandwich in the refrigerator waiting for me when I got home. Noms! I make them, wrap them in plastic wrap and leave them in the fridge for 8 or 12 hours. I like them best when they’re good and cold. I have a roll of Saran wrap I’ve literally had for years. The only thing I ever use it for is tuna salad sandwiches.

In the knitting news, I’ve been hopping from project to project. The Waves on a Wine Dark Sea shawl colors are getting interesting. I’m using self-striping sock yarn, which typically has very short color repeats because socks. The shawl is wide enough now that I’m just getting streaks of color. I like it.

Also chugging right along on the Latticia shawl. it’s in a wool sock yarn. Although it’s a solid color yarn, there are streaks of lighter and darker shades in it. The color doesn’t show very well here. It’s the blue of very faded blue jeans. The shawl and its bowl are currently by my computer. Here directly, I’m going to knit on it a while and listen to internet radio or maybe watch a couple YouTube videos.

The Latticia Venezia shawl is also coming along. I made myself sit down and figure out the spacing of the 3 lace panels across the width. The panel of garter stitches between the lace panels is 66 inches wide. The increase is only one stitch every other row to a max width of 270 stitches, so it’s going to be nice and long.

I was sitting and knitting on the WWS shawl last week during one of those above-mentioned thunderstorms when there was this terrific clap of thunder, like about half a ton of TNT had gone off in my back yard. I was so startled by it I was knitting in mid-air for about 1.0525 seconds. I’m afraid I said something very unladylike on the way down, though . . .

I need to go on a tear again, sort through my stuff and get rid of a bunch of it, especially all the clothes I never wear. I’d like to do a garage sale and at least get some $ out of it, but I’m tempted to just pile the lot of it into the trunk of my car and schlep it to the Goodwill truck that’s parked in Market Street’s parking lot more often than not, and just get rid of it. I also need to sort out my yarn stash. I think it’s about to reach critical mess. Well, like the man says, if wishes were horses, we’d be knee deep in it.

Getting On The Stick

It has been brought to my attention that I have not blogged in a while and that I had better get on the stick. Ç’est la.

Part of the reason for the radio silence has been my mom. She’s got a major hitch in her “get-along.” She already has pronounced age-related kyphosis, which indicates some collapse of the vertebral arch, and now she seems to have developed some leftward scoliosis in her lower back just above her hip — or at least, that’s what I get from what the PA at her doctor’s office was saying. I haven’t seen the x-ray. She also has some arthritis of the left hip, which is not surprising in a 96-year-old woman who has been active until about two weeks ago when all this hit.

It’s similar to an episode she had in 2016, with the same symptoms, but at that time, a methylprednisolone dosepack sorted it out and relieved her pain. This time, her pain was so severe, I took her to one of these emergency care places where they did the (AP and lateral) x-rays of her lower back and said she had the scoliosis, and that was what was causing her pain. They gave her acetaminophen/codeine (Tylenol No. 3) and a steroid shot, neither of which fazed her pain. She went back to her doc, who sent her for hip x-rays, and gave her hydrocodone, which helps with the pain, but which sends her to LaLa land. She also had another methylprednisolone dosepack over the weekend, but this time to no avail. She’s been using the walker I used after my knee surgery that I got a folding tray for, which she likes, but it’s not suitable for use outside the house because it’s only got wheels on the front. I’ve ordered her one with four wheels and a seat that has a bag underneath it where she can put her purse. It folds up so it will fit in the back seat of the car. It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow. Her doctor is also referring her to an orthopedist who specializes in backs and hips. I think her pain is either from from osteoarthritis of her hip, or she’s having sciatica, or a combination of both.

Needless to say, this is a very concerning turn of events. The longer Mom can stay up and active, the better off she is. Nothing wears you down like chronic pain and the depression it brings with it. We have been so lucky that her health has been good and that she has been able to be active as long as she has been. Unfortunately, the prolonged COVID quarantine cut her activity level way down and has not done her any good. I suspect that this prolonged period of inactivity (sitting in a chair that is basically one giant pillow) is a significant contributing factor. Although she did get outside and walk up and down the block (weather permitting) and/or walked about in the house, she was unable to attend any of the social functions that are such a large and very important part of her life, and the social isolation has also been a significant contributing factor. (She’s such a social butterfly!) Bless her heart — she outlived all the friends she’s had for years and years, made a new, younger set of friends, and now has already started outliving them, too!

To change topics sans segue, in July of 2018, my hair (what there was left of it after chemotherapy) was about 2 inches long all over my head.

My BFF (who now lives NW of Houston) wanted to know what my hair looks like now, almost three years later, which is why I took this. There’s still some blonde left but I’m afraid that over the years, I’ve become Hiyo, Sliver, away! I’ve still got a good little bit of natural curl, but my hair is so fine that the weight of it is enough to pull most of the curl out.

This being fan season (although it’s 80 F/26.6 C in the hall by the thermostat, it’s 82 F/27.7 C according to the thermometer on the wall by my desk), the fan I have blowing on my computer desk tends to pick out the new “replacement” hairs up around my face that haven’t grown long enough to be caught by my barrette and blow-tickles them against my forehead in a very irritating way. This provoked a dive into stash which produced some Paton Grace (1.75 oz/50 g, 3:Light) mercerized cotton yarn. I modified the 9-bladed pinwheel shawl pattern to make a top-down beanie on US 3 (3.25 mm) needles.

I’ll write the hat pattern up and put it in my knitting patterns blog. I’m about half an inch from starting the hatband. The nine “blades” are formed with a yarn over at the edge which increases the diameter by 9 stitches every other row. Once the blade gets to 16 stitches wide, I “froze” the increases by adding a knit-two-together (k2tog) after the yarn over. That gives a diameter of 24 inches which the 1 x 1 rib cinches in nicely. (I have a 22-inch head.)

I dived deeper into stash and found some odd balls of Classic Elite Yarns “Gigi” (85% cotton, 10% silk, 5% stretch polyester, 142 yds/50 g) which I’m using the same pattern, but on US1 (2.25 mm) needles. I’ve got three balls in three different colors: A lavender purple, a medium grey and a silver/white which I’ve started it with.

Since it’s a top-down beanie, you have to start it on double pointed needles (DPNs), but once it gets to where it’s nearly too big for the DPNs, you can switch it over to 16-inch circulars. In other knitting news,

Progress on the “Waves on a Wine Dark Sea” shawl — the inside curve edge and the outside edge.

I’m liking how the “stripes” are turning out — sorry the picture is so dark.

Because I am of the female ilk, I’m allowed to change my mind without notice. About a week and a half ago, I decided the Huyri shawl (at left), while interesting, was not sparking joy so I frogged that sucker and wrote another triangular shawl pattern that had a bit more pizazz to it.

The new shawl pattern, while keeping the garter stitch “wings” and open-work edging of the Huyri shawl, has a lattice lace insert down the middle which sparks much joy.

This is the new shawl pattern I’m calling “Latticia” because of the lattice lace panel in the center. It’s a bit more complicated and consequently more interesting. The increases are knit front and back stitches (kfb) just at the edge of the garter stitch “wings.” I was watching a video of a lady blocking a shawl with a lace edging on it and instead of pinning out the edges of the shawl with humpty gazillion T-pins, she had these metal rods which she looped through the edge of the lace. Yep. Got some. They’ll come in handy for this shawl — which requires more attention than I’d realized.

Forgot I was doing garter stitch and purled part of a row on one “wing”and didn’t catch it until about 8 rows later! — Oops! But I only frogged the stitches I messed up back to where I messed them up, got a DPN and reworked them. All fixed!

I also tried one of these little gizmos. They have a spindle on a little turn-table affair which spins on ball bearings and is supposed to allow your cake to unwind smoothly, but the yarn kept slipping up off the side of the cake and hanging up around the spindle, and I kept having to lean over and give the spindle a turn to “un-hang” it. I found it happened too frequently and it became too annoying, so I sent it back.

I’ve tried center-pulling from cakes, but ran into the same problem as I have with those tools-of-the-devil pull skeins — skein implosion resulting in yarn barf. I’ve decided putting a cake in a bowl and pulling from outside-in is as good as it gets with cakes, and that has become the preferred method. The bowl allows the cake to spin if it needs to and keeps it from rolling away.

I got a bigger bowl just to see if bigger is better. It is for the bigger cakes. Let’s face it. I like my pretty bowls, and I have enough variety of sizes that I have something for every project.

I’ve been listening to Soma FM’s “Illinois Street Lounge” channel while I blog. They just played “Sunshine Superman” by Donovan, as sung by Mel Tormé which has given me a cramp in my frontal lobe, and I’m just about cha-cha-cha‘d (and blogged) out. A judicious application of Venice Classical Radio ought to do the trick. So, as the Liadens say, until soon!

Turkey and Other Cold Cuts

(Did I mention I hate the new WordPress block(head) editor? If it’s supposed to make using WordPress easier, it’s a spectacular failure. It’s harder to do everything than it used to be.)

It has been a rough week. Tuesday morning I was watching YouTube and knitting, and about 11 o’clock, my internet went down. The thing is, when my internet goes down, so does my VOIP land line, and my cable TV. After multiple calls to Suddenlink on my cellphone, I was told there was an outage in my area, and that it should be back up by morning. Come morning, no internet. We tried this and we rebooted that and we poked things with paperclips, and no joy. A technician was scheduled. He would be out Thursday morning. In the meantime, my only connection with the outside world was my cell phone, I had been without internet for going on 24 hours. I could not stream music, watch TV or connect to any of the usual suspects on the internet. If I had not already dowloaded a book to my Kindle, I couldn’t get to it to read it.

The Suddenlink technician was scheduled to come between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 a.m., which meant I had to get up at 7:30 to give me time to shower and otherwise accoutre myself like a respectable human bean. He called at 10:45 to say he was on his way. (From Midland, as it happens, which is 120 miles south of us.)(He’s trying to find an apartment in town. I don’t blame him. Heck of a commute.) We went through the spiel. He connected his little gizmo, and the line was deader than the proverbial door nail. There had, in truth, been an outage in my area, but it was fixed now so something else was going on. He went out to the alley to check the “war” and, lo, and behold, the “war” had been pulled completely loose from the pole. Some tall truck had evidently driven down the alley and snagged it. He not only reconnected it but replaced the “tap” which had been gnawed by squirrels, and was probably to blame for the intermittent loss of connection that has been driving me crazy for months. He also moved the tap higher up the pole which took up some of the slack in the line to the house.

Just like you don’t realize how much you depend on electricity, you don’t realize how much you depend on internet until you don’t have it. I’d think, well, I could do this — but no I couldn’t. No internet access. I’m telling you. I was about to the point of hunting out that CD player I’ve stuck up in the closet somewhere and playing one of the CD’s I have stockpiled. Unfortunately, I cannot afford a cell phone plan with unlimited data, or I could have streamed music over my phone. (I wonder if I ought to look into getting one of those solar phone charger gizmos?)

Having a Ball

Now that I have my knitting mojo back, I’ve noticed that I’ve fallen behind in my reading (my average so far this year is 42 books for the year to date). If I could learn to read while I knit — or would it be knit while I read? — but I haven’t mastered that particular trick yet. I’m a pretty single-minded reader. My eyes attach to the first word at beginning of the page and pretty much suck in the text like a vacuum pump, release at the end of the page, and reattach to the first word at the top of the next page without me having to think about it. If it’s a really good book, I can start the first page, suddenly run out of story, look up and discover that it’s hours later.

I’ve been a good citizen and stimulated the economy on the three occasions that the government has encouraged me to do so. (I have been blessedly fortunate to be in a situation where COVID had no effect on my income.) Several of my purchases have been what is known in the parlance as “snob yarn” — i.e., any yarn not purchased at a large retail chain (Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Joanne’s, etc.), that is either not acrylic or not “washcloth cotton,” and is typically produced by small, independent, typically female-owned small

businesses or cooperatives that typically knowtheir wool producers by name because they’ve raised them from lambs. I’m including Malabrigo, Berroco, and Schachenmeyr in this category because even though they are large companies, their yarns are all made from natural fibers, and they don’t sell any other retail merchandise besides yarn and the accoutrements you need to make things out of it.

Late in 2019, I was finally able to allocate funds to acquire a swift and a ball winder because I had earlier acquired the Malabrigo 100% Merino sock yarn that would become the Sweet Irene shawl. I had five hanks of it. Hanks are harder to wind into balls than those pull skeins (which are tools of the Devil!) that most acrylic yarn comes in. That’s where a “ball” winder comes in.

These don’t wind yarn into balls, incidentally; they wind yarn into what are called “cakes.” (see left.) I’ve been caking my yarn purchases here lately. I was able to score some Berroco “Modern Cotton” yarn in both worsted and DK weight on sale through Yarnspirations. I scored some Ragg-Time yarn from The Green Mountain Spinnery, which is what my Infinity wrap is being knitted from. And I’ve picked up a couple of skeins here , here, and there on sale. All of this yarn is in hanks.

While I have been merrily winding yarn, I have been considering. I had decided that instead of Kitchnering my infinity wrap together into one big circle that I would have to wrestle myself into, I would close it with buttons. Wooden buttons. But — how many buttons? and which color buttons? I’m thinking three dark ones, because five looks too busy. I started the infinity wrap with a provisional cast on, thinking I would Kitchner it, but I could just as easily pick up those stitches and do a button band.

So now I have all this beautiful new yarn, and I can’t stand it. I’ve dropped everything to work on a pattern for a wide-winged triangular shawl with a knitted on edging that can be crossed over the chest and tied behind, and there’s this Mohonk yarn in the colorway “wet bluestone” that’s been begging me to become this thing. . .

I have also been listening a lot to Venice Classic Radio, an internet radio station based in Venice, Italy (oddly enough), which I can listen to through Winamp on my PC, an internet radio app on my Fire tablet, and an internet radio app on my iPhone. If you like European classical music from the 18th and 19th century, this is the radio station for you.

More Thinky Thoughts

“There is much I don’t understand . . . Much the world does not understand. But we should not be afraid.  How else will we discover the answers?”

An uplifting quote from a graphic novel I’m reading*.  Thinky thoughts with lovely artwork = Win/win.

I went to rehab Monday (treadmill 30 min, recumbent bike 20 min), stopped briefly at my mom’s house to lend moral support for the plumbing disaster that thankfully didn’t materialize, shopped all over Wal-Mart, shopped all over Market Street to get the things Wal-Mart didn’t have, schlepped it all home and put 95% of it away.  I managed to muster the energy to eat something, crawled into bed about 9 p.m., crashed, burned, and slept through most of Tuesday.

Baked three small potatoes the other night.  Wash the potato with a brush, dry it with a cloth, smear the skin liberally with olive oil and bake at 360º for 1 hour.  When you bake them in the oven with the olive oil, the skins become so soft you can eat the whole tater.  I bake them three at a time because energy efficiency. The oil baked into the skins seals in the goodness and allows them to be refrigerated for up to a week without losing their moist, flaky texture.  I like to slice them open and lay them out in a soup bowl, throw all kinds of toppings (finely chopped meat, drained vegetables, butter, maybe a little Ranch dressing, or whatever else is handy) on them, top with sprinkle cheese and nuke in the microwave.  I just finished hoovering one up moments ago, in fact.  Serious noms.

Monday the 21st is my last session of cardiac rehab before Xmas, with two more sessions left in this annus horribilis.  I’ve got three more Julekuler to knit before Monday (little tokens of appreciation for the cardiac rehab therapists).  Won’t be hard.  Snuggle into my knitting knook, deploy a lap robe, conjure up a little music, a little yarn, a little time . . .  A pleasant interlude to stoke up on some serious Christmas spirit.

Next week, I get to mom-clean** the house and orchestrate a Christmas dinner for two.  As I have mentioned on several occasions previously, my threshold for critical mess*** is a good deal higher than that of other members of my immediate family, and roundtoits have been a little thin on the ground of late.  But now I have Bluetooth earbuds, and there is Psychedlik.com with 24/7 psytrance music.  Yowsa.  I find I can get busy better when there is appropriate music to get out and push. . .

Next week (Tuesday, in fact), I also get the long awaited crown seated which marks the final installment of the dental implant process that has been a work in progress for lo, these many moons.  I’ll have seven molars again, just in time for Christmas Dinner!  Oh, frabjous day.

I really, really need to haul the fold-up banquet table out from under my bed, get out my blocking squares and T-pins, the steam iron, an extension cord, a couple bath towels, a tea towel, and my spray bottle and block some shawls.   These two are among the three made from acrylic yarn that I need to kill.  Whether I will or not remains to be seen.  As I mentioned, roundtoits have been rather thin on the ground of late.

Got my name in print.  Thursday, I received my hardback copy of Trader’s Leap by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, in which my name appears in the forward as one of the Mighty Tyop Hunters, as I helped proofread the E-ARC**** for oopsies, fingerfumbles, and say, what?’s — which I would have done anyway for no other reason than to express my gratitude for the many years of Liaden Universe reading pleasure I’ve gotten from the books of this literary dynamic duo. They are among the few authors whose books I keep in dead tree editions for post-apocalyptic rereading because, unlike ebooks, they require neither electricity nor technology to operate.   Space opera at its finest.

Two weeks left in 2020.  Thirty two days left before we get that dumpster fire out of the Oval Office.  There is a vaccine!  The VA will be getting and giving the Moderna flavor of it.  I may have to drive to Amarillo to get it, but I will be able to get it.  I continue to hope against Hope that the light we are glimpsing faintly at the end of this long, dark tunnel is not another train.

*Caveat: The one this quote came from is for the open-minded reader.

**Clean enough for you is not necessarily clean enough for your mom.  Still, a house ought to be mom-cleaned at least once a year. The only clean cleaner than mom-clean is feng shui clean, which happens in the week before Chinese New Year.

*** critical mess -- the point at which your inability to stand the mess any longer sets off a chain-reaction of house cleaning. 

****E-ARC - Advanced Reader's Copies are nowadays sent out as ebooks.

Thinky Thoughts and Bowls

“The great secret that all old people share,” wrote Doris Lessing, “is that you really don’t change in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.”

I love that quote.  It’s spot on.

I paired the Bluetooth earbuds with my iPhone and I’ve been listening to the Suburbs of Goa channel of the SomaFM internet radio station all evening.  (SomaFM has so much music in one place! I love it so much!)  Energized by the music, I folded unmentionables and other assorted laundry, put the dressing in the oven to cook, read blogs at the computer, worked a puzzle at Jigsaw Planet, all with my iPhone on charge in the bedroom and me wandering all over the house with music in my ears.  No dangling earbud wires to catch on stuff, no need to make sure I have a pocket or pouch to carry my phone.  Joy electric.  I have a set of cordless infrared headphones for the TV, but infrared is line of sight only, and the moment you get out of sight, you get an earful of white noise.   As inexpensive as these Bluetooth earbuds are, maybe Santa will bring me a pair for the TV for Crimmers.

Sunday night’s supper was the end of the chili casserole.  Good to the last elbow.  Monday, I went to the cabinet to get a bowl for some cereal and guess what.  The cupboard was bare.  Fortunately, the dishwasher wasn’t, and had finished its cycle some hours ago.

 

 

 

 

 

Now I’ve started in on the cornbread dressing, chicken breast meat, and cranberry sauce that are standing in for the “leftovers” I didn’t get to have because we ate Thanksgiving dinner at friends’.  I’m having them now.   So good.

Speaking of bowls, I have bowls of knitting scattered all over the house . . . Guess that means I have my knitting mojo back.

Two bowls by the computer.

A second iPouch with earbud pocket in progress and a bowl of yarn for Christmas balls (Julekuler).

The large rectangular shawl in the big basket with the reader’s shrug stalled at the start of the lower sleeve decreases.