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.

Hear More About It:

It Fooled Around And Snowed On Us

I know you folks up north have had enough snow to last you til the peanut butter season, but we don’t get it that often. So I wasn’t all that upset when I got up for a drink of water about 3 AM, looked out the window and saw this:

We got about 7 inches, which was a record snowfall for this date (stop laughing, Canada!). We don’t get all that much snow here (We are at the same latitude as Damascus in Syria.). We were lucky that it wasn’t cold enough for the roadways to ice all that much. It was wet snow, clumpy and clingy. Thank goodness I didn’t have to get out in it. We needed the moisture, though. We always do. We’ll take it any way we can get it.

This is the building where mother lives. I went to see her this afternoon to take her the Starbuck’s clear plastic covered tumbler I got her to help her drink more water. It holds 24 ounces. If she could just drink one of those a day, that would help her so much. Fortunately, there’s a way to get from hither to yon without going outside.

The activities director wants to start a group here for knitters and crocheters and embroiderers and hand quilters, etc. — There’s a signup sheet for folks to sign up and indicate their preference for day and time. The idea being to find a place and time where we can gather to ply our hobby of choice and sit and socialize with like-minded folks.

I magpied out again. Two more pieces from that Ukrainian artist who is now living in Poland. I’ve gotten quite a collection of fossil ammonite jewelry. They came today. A necklace and a pin. Her pieces have elements of Art Nouveau with their rhythmic, flowing lines and organic shapes. I do like them.

In the knitting news, in a word, hats. I’m just to the point where I’m ready for the top decreases on the green one. As much as I love the Red Heart Unforgettable yarn, it ‘s splitty to begin with, but on a US 6/4.0 mm needle, and doing cables, it’s been driving me nuts. The other hat is made from Lion Brand Re-Spun yarn (colorway Blush) that is spun from recycled polyester. It’s worsted weight on a US8/5.0 mm needle. It’s going pretty fast considering it has braided cables.

The Day The Music Died

I was saddened to learn that David Crosby passed away Thursday. He, along with cohorts Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, as the band Crosby, Stills, and Nash, made some of my favoritest music ever on one of my favoritest albums ever. Their first two albums have been a major part of the sound track of my life for over half a century (!). They constructed their harmony like the Incas constructed stonework — they fitted it together so tightly you couldn’t get even a knife blade between the voices. In 1968, Crosby and Stills were working on what would become “You Don’t Have to Cry.” They were asked to play it for Graham Nash. He asked them to play it again. When they played it for him a third time, he chimed in with another harmony line, and magic happened. CSN’s second live gig was at Woodstock. (My other most favoritest CSN song is this one.)

(The ïyêdëshîäm of Lîdâ have asked me to say that they also mourn David Crosby’s passing, but will forever cherish the music he gave them for their dance.)

I’m not at all sure why humans make music or what it is about our brains that gives us the urge to do so, but it is the one thing that all human cultures have in common — vocal music. I have a strong belief, though, that if you took away that urge, that need, we wouldn’t be human anymore.

In the knitting news, I’ve taken the second option on my pattern for Braided Cable Hat with Rolled Brim, and instead of alternating the braided cables with a panel of stockinette, I ‘m alternating them with a twisted cable. This is “Meadow” — one of the more subdued colorways of the Red Heart Unforgettable yarn, which doesn’t compete all that much with the stitch work. I may call it David’s Hat, because context.

The Resident Jungle In Flower

In 2021, when mom was in that “rehab facility,” dad’s niece, husband, daughter and new grand baby came to visit and brought her this lovely white “grocery store” orchid. After she moved to Carillon House (skilled nursing facility), I inherited custody of it. My windows face northwest (i.e., no direct sunlight) and are next to a deciduous tree that blocks a lot of the sunlight in summer, but lets in more light during the winter after its leaves have fallen.

I was rootling around in my own private jungle the other day and noticed what looks to me like a flower spike. It’s plant body is about three times the size it was when she got it, and it’s got aerial roots shooting all over the place. In its native tropical rain forest, the orchid absorbs water through its aerial roots, either directly from rain and/or indirectly from the high humidity in the air. I put a vase of water next to this one to help with the lack of ambient humidity (which is 31% at the moment). One of the roots found it and told its friends. (According to YouTube, it’s OK to let the orchid do this.) (The name “orchid” comes from the Greek word orkhisand was named by an ancient Greek botanist named Theophrastos, who thought the orchid’s roots resembled a part of the male anatomy.) (I should name it “Mr. Ball.” )

I use reverse osmosis water (“Oz water”) to water all my plants as our local water is hard as a rock from the Rocky Mountain erosion deposits this end of the flatlands is sitting on. We have good water, but it has lime and calcium like you wouldn’t believe. It builds up in the soil of potted plants and can kill them. Which is why I and my own private jungle drink Oz water.

The orchid lives beside the Italian Stone Pine, which I turn on a regular basis to try to get its limbs to grow straight — with interesting results. The pine was marketed as a Christmas tree you could plant after Christmas. I really don’t get enough light in this apartment for it, but we do the best we can with what we have. I put it there to catch the afternoon light. Orchids grow under a jungle canopy and can’t take direct sunlight, which is why it’s closest to the tree. I’ve added a Christmas cactus to the ensemble. I had one when I was going to tech school in California.

In the slightly less than the year that I had that one in California, it flourished. Really cheered up the place when it bloomed. I had to leave it behind because I couldn’t take it across state lines (agricultural quarantine) never mind taking it on an airplane. I’ve wanted one since, but never ran across one when I had a place to keep it and didn’t have cats who would probably try to eat it. I got it on sale just after Christmas at — you guessed it — the grocery store.

My peace lily is going nuts. It has five blooms on it. My bamboo plant is doing well also. I need to repot the Christmas cactus, the elephant ear philodendron and the Stone Pine, among the zillion other things I need to do and haven’t.

In the knitting news, I finished what I’m calling the Origami Tam with No-Sew Rolled Brim because the way I did the increases and decreases make it look like it’s folded. It’s made from Red Heart Unforgettable yarn in the colorway “Parrot.” Almost got the pattern written up. I’ve started two new hats, one is a new hexagonal design that will have braided cables and a rolled brim. The other one is this hat but in DK weight purple Patons Metallic yarn.

At left is the new hat I’m designing. It uses Judy’s Magic Cast-on which I think I like better than Turkish Cast-on to do the provisional cast on that will get rolled under and knitted together with the working stitches to roll the brim.

When I start the hat, I use two separate circular needles for Judy’s Magic Cast-on, the upper one for the working stitches, and the lower needle for the “provisional” stitches (see above). In the picture at left, the brim has been rolled under toward the inside of the hat. The lower left needle has the working stitches, and the upper left needle has the provisional stitches.

The right needle is the other end of the “working” needle. (It’s important to keep straight which end is which!) In the picture above, I have just slipped a stitch knitwise off the working needle and put it on the provisional needle in the orientation shown, being careful not to twist it. Then I knit it and the provisional stitch behind it together through the back loop. You continue doing this until you have no more stitches left on the provisional needle. Then you don’t need the provisional needle anymore.

These hats have all had a narrow brim, but you can use this technique to make a toboggan with a wide band of double thickness over the ears. You can use this technique to make a hat with color work around the bottom, and then roll the brim under to cover the floats.

This is more of that Red Heart Unforgettable yarn, which is acrylic and very splitty, but the colorways are beautiful. Forgot what colorway this one is as I can’t find the ball band. With the rolled brim actually knitted into the fabric of the hat instead of being rolled and sewn, there’s no chance of it coming unsewn.

Apart from the fact that its “splitty-ness” can make it a pain to work with, the fabric the Unforgettable yarn makes has a very soft hand, which makes it good for chemo hats. The yarn weight category of the Unforgettable yarn is 4:Medium, which includes Aran and worsted weight yarns, but this is more toward the DK side. Progress on both hats is to be reported as it is made. Stay tuned.

A Brief But Enlightening Sojourn

At about 10 o’clock Sunday morning, my phone rang. It was the nurse on mom’s unit at Carillon House. Mom was having nausea, vomiting and stomach pain and they’d called an ambulance. She was en route to University Medical Center (UMC) emergency room. So, I suited up and, since I am BTDT* status when it comes to hospital emergency rooms, I found and packed a small carry bag with a bottle of water, knitting and an extra purse pack of tissues, and scrambled the fighters.

As the grackle flies, UMC is only a hoot and a holler to the east of us. However, in order to go east, I had to first go south because streets. Evidently, they had called me right when the EMS folks got to her room because I beat her there by about 20 minutes (that’s counting the 10-minute hike from where I had to park, which was, thankfully, just east of the county line). I had about a 15 minute wait in the ER waiting room before they would let me back.

I have all the papers — the POA, the POA for health care, her insurance cards, and the sheet with her medical history and medication list. and I have no trouble hearing and understanding English Second Language speakers and women (who have higher pitched voices and “mumble”). (Her most profound hearing loss is in the higher frequencies, oddly enough.)

IMPORTANT ASIDE: I cannot stress too much how important it is to make a list of your medications and dosages, a list of all the operations you’ve had and (approximately) when you had them, and a list of all your medical conditions, keep it up to date and carry it ***PRINTED OUT ON A SHEET OF PAPER*** in your purse or wallet, ***NOT ON YOUR PHONE***!! If it’s in your phone, the doctors have no way to get it out where they can put it on your chart for all your treating medical professionals to have access to. If you have it on a sheet of paper, they can copy it and put it in your chart. Doing this could save your life. If you come to the emergency room, your treating medical people have no idea what medications you’re taking or what your medical conditions might be. They’re essentially flying blind. If you are unresponsive or badly hurt, obtaining a coherent medical history could be difficult to impossible. But if you have this sheet and your family member/spouse/friend know you carry it in your purse or wallet, they could save your life by letting this sheet speak for you when you can’t.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, which is already in progress. It was sneaking up on 11 o’clock before I made it back to where they had her. I got out all the cards and papers, and one of the admissions people, who was really on the ball, noticed that on my POA for health care, mom is DNR/DNI – she wants no cardiopulmonary resuscitation of any kind and she does not want to be intubated. Carillon House had her status as “full code,” meaning using any and all heroic measures to keep her alive at all costs, which is not what she wants. We also discussed the fact that my durable POA for health care does not cover “out of hospital” codes. It also does not cover if she codes while the EMS personnel are in the process of transferring her from her room at Carillon to the hospital. (I’ve also got to get with the Carillon House people and get her code status sorted out with them, too.) This helpful person got us the proper form, which I now have in my purse with the other papers, which has that covered. I will also put up a copy of it up on the wall in her room so EMS people can note it and honor it. So, that was one good thing that came out of this episode.

Naturally, we waited and waited for lab results, x-ray results, doctors — It’s why they’re called “patients.” Mom is a class M patient. (Think about it; it’ll come to you.) Her kidney function tests were out of whack (what a surprise NOT!), and her bilirubin (a liver enzyme) was 4 times what it should have been. They were most unhappy with her liver enzymes (and weren’t thrilled with her kidney functions either). She was very dehydrated, so they gave her two bags of fluids. They took her for an ultrasound of the liver, pancreas and gallbladder. Her white blood cell count indicated she had some kind of mild infection, so they hit her with the good stuff — Flagyl and Rocephin.

The upshot of it all was that the ultrasound showed mom had a gallbladder full of gallstones. There was concern that one was lodged in the duct that goes from the gallbladder to the intestine, which would explain her symptoms. This could be serious in a patient of any age, but especially at her age. (My 78-year-old paternal grandmother died because she had a lodged stone they didn’t know about and her gallbladder ruptured. The 98-year-old lady who used to live up the hall from me also required emergency gallbladder surgery and didn’t survive it.) There is an endoscopic procedure where they can use an endoscope to go down the throat, through the stomach, into the intestine and grab the stone from that end, but it obviously requires sedation, which is risky in a patient her age and with her lung function.

Ultimately, about 1 p.m., they decided to admit her for observation. She didn’t get up to a room until nearly 6 o’clock. The ER is on the west end of the hospital. The room she went to was on the east end of the hospital.

One of the ER nurses pushed her bed up there because transportation was too busy. She was going at a pretty fast clip, considering she was pushing this hospital bed with my mom in it. I tried to keep up with her but she left me in the dust! Fortunately, I knew where she was going.

However, her liver enzymes gradually trended back to normal and her kidney functions normalized once they got her rehydrated. She may actually have passed a gallstone, which would explain her symptoms, especially her belly pain. It would also explain her periodic bouts of nausea and vomiting if she’s got a gallbladder full of gravel. (The liver makes digestive enzymes — bile — which is stored in the gallbladder. When you eat foods that contain fats, proteins and carbohydrates, bile is squeezed out of the gallbladder into the small intestines as part of the digestive process. If the liver can’t put bile in the gallbladder, it backs up into your blood and causes jaundice — you look “yellow.”)

The GI doctor decided that since her liver enzymes were coming back down to normal, no intervention was warranted, and she went back home to Carillon House Tuesday afternoon. The same song, third verse, is that she does not drink enough water. Period. Certainly not enough to keep her kidneys flushed out. As a result, her bowels are going to recover all the water they possibly can from her food to keep the kidneys functioning, which is why she’s frequently constipated. Drink water, folks. It’s your kidneys’ job to keep garbage flushed out of your blood. You can’t flush a toilet if there’s no water in the toilet tank.

In the knitting news, I realized that all the projects I’m working on right now are shawls, and big. Also in knitting group last week, one of the ladies mentioned knitting chemo hats. Chemo hats are small and almost as portable as socks. I’ve got a big bag of suitable (acrylic -because it’s hypoallergenic and machine washable) yarn to make chemo hats left over from my last attack.

I’m contemplating creating a Scots bonnet and there were some techniques I wanted to try out. The first one was using Judy’s Magic Cast-on instead of a provision cast on for a rolled hat brim. Worked like a charm, I’m happy to say. The secret is to use two circular needles, a 16-inch and a 24-inch, for the cast on. When you use this method, you don’t have to go back and pick up your provisional stitches. They’re already on the needle. Just make sure your 16-inch needle is the needle you start knitting with as that’s what you’ll use for the hat. Then, when you roll the brim (working stitches in back, provisional stitches in front), you can take the provisional stitch off knitwise, put it on the 16-inch needle and knit two together through the back loop (k2tog tbl) to secure the brim without having to go back and sew it. Then you just keep knitting on your hat.

If you orient the stitches right when you take them off the “keeper needle,” the join is “invisible.” I like to rib the inside part of the rolled brim to make it more elastic.

I started this hat Sunday night, and I’m on the decreases at the top now. I’ve got two more balls of yarn earmarked to try some other versions. I didn’t get a lot of sleep Sunday and Monday nights for one reason and another. I slept all Tuesday night and most of Wednesday though. I was just exhausted. I spent Wednesday evening watching YouTube with my feet up, taking it easy. I think YouTube does not consider you to be a a legitimate homesteading channel unless the guy has a beard and/or the lady has long hair . . . .

*BTDT — Been There, Done That

Closer To The Brink

I spent hours last night going round and round with the new computer. I connected some Bluetooth earbuds to it and tried to listen to SomaFM’s Drone Zone, a perennial favorite, and the sound volume fluxuated up and down, up and down. I jumped through hoop after hoop to no avail. In the process, I accidentally turned Bluetooth off on the new computer, which precipitated a bit of a crisis since both its keyboard and mouse were Bluetooth and I suddenly had no way to control the computer. So I had to resurrect the old intellimouse (which dongles) and get out the new Logitech keyboard which has a “war”* and plugs into a USB port so I could get into the computer and turn the Bluetooth back on. Lo, and behold, unpairing and uninstalling that rinky-dink mouse and keyboard fixed the sound issue. Expletives were not deleted.

On the crest of that wave of anger and frustration, I (finally!) plugged in the 7.5 TB Western Digital external drive that’s been sitting on the counter since October and started copying files to it. The music file on the 1 TB Seagate took over an hour to copy. It was a big file. I’ve copied graphics and photos, and am in the process of copying games which may or may not play on the new machine. The new hard drive is not big enough for all my stuff, so I’ll transfer it to one that is big enough and plug it in as an external drive. So there.

I’m glad I got the new keyboard out. The backspace on the old one is wonky. Crumbs are no doubt involved. I will replace it with the new one when I finally accomplish the changeover to the new computer that’s been nearly a year in the making. Anyway, I had to clear off mom’s rolly table and bring it round as there wasn’t room on the desk for two big keyboards. (One came with her room and she didn’t need this one anymore.) I was using her table as a staging area — a place to park my purse and put the things like mail I needed to take to her — she still gets some magazines that I collect and take to her.

The lady that helps mom bathe suggested that she get a certain kind of cream for a fundamental skin irritation and itchiness she’s been unable to get rid of. I’ve ordered her some. I’ll be interested to see what she says when I bring it to her. (It’ll also be interesting to see if I can resist the straight line . . .) Anyway, I hope it works for her. A skin irritation that itches is no fun, no matter where it is.

In the knitting news, I’ve swatched but I ain’t felted yet. I measure the swatch, shrink it, measure it again, then calculate the percentage of shrinkage. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. I hate doing percentages. If the swatch shrinks, say, 10%, then I make the hat 10% larger than it needs to be. It is essential that I know the percentage of shrinkage before I start as I’m going to try knitting one from the bottom up so I can use this band turning trick I know, but that means I have to know how many stitches to cast on. I’ll do the other one the “right” way, which is top down. The band turning trick involves a provisional cast on. It’s the same trick I use here. Mostly, though, I’ve been working on these two versions of Savannah Squares:

*”war” – Texan, wire.

Here We Go Again

That line from the Mary Chapin Carpenter song comes to mind: “And we dwell in possibilities on New Year’s Day.”

I got my new glasses Friday. I should have known better than to get round lenses, never mind that I like the way they look. The frames had come slightly loose and the lenses had turned in the frame. When I put them on, my center vision was fine, but when I tried to read, the bifocal part was not where it was supposed to be. They had to be adjusted. I had a pair of glasses with round lenses before, except they were lined bifocals and easy to readjust if the frames got loose and the lenses got cattywompus. I even got a little screw driver just to tighten the frame (still have it, as it happens). Worth the aggravation, though, not to have to fool with those stupid bifocal lines that drive me nuts.

Overall, though, I like them. They’re gold frames and very slender, light, and unobtrusive. They also have the little “feet” on the nose piece instead of resting directly on your nose. I got the special lightweight lenses and I noticed the difference right away. Lighter frames and lighter lenses. The bridge of my nose is much happier. I’m about 20/450 in my right eye (What chart?), and Coke bottle bottoms are hard to come by anymore. I also got the nonglare coating and the kind that turn dark in the sun. (For what I paid for the little darlings, they ought to sing opera, too.) I have yet to get a pair of glasses that fully corrects my astigmatism, though. I still see a slight double image on print when I try to read with both eyes — which is why I read with my right eye and without my glasses. I’m about 20/45 in my left eye, and between the two of them, I can see perfectly well to do everything but drive. I can read street signs at a fair distance again, though, which is a big plus.

I’m going to try to get a handiwork group started — open to knitters, crocheters, tatters, embroiderers, hand quilters, etc. I’ll have to put a flyer up in the elevators and by the mailboxes in both buildings to gauge the interest, and to see when and where people want to meet. In the meantime, there’s still a knitting group going at the library that has been infiltrated by crocheters and my friend KC has been urging me to attend.

This was my Christmas present from me to me. They’re copper wire around fossil ammonite shells. Found them on Etsy. The cool thing is that I can wear the earrings with both necklaces. I need to get a copper chain for the one necklace as the gold chain doesn’t match. Yes, I have stoppers for the earrings. Better yet, I got the lot on sale almost 50% off. I’m such a magpie. The necklace on the left is by a Ukrainian artist, Lena Sinelnik. I’ve bought several of her beautiful pieces.

In the knitting news, I finally got around to winding the yarn I got for the Scots bonnets and am in the process of swatching. They’re Aran weight, 100% wool yarns and the pattern calls for US 7 (4.5 mm) needles. Since the bonnets are made from the center out and top down, I’ll have to start them on double pointed needles. However, I’ve got to knit the swatch, measure it, felt it, then remeasure it so I can calculate the percentage of shrinkage and calculate how “too big” to make it. Stay tuned.

I follow a comic called XKCD, which is a collection of “one off” cartoons by Randall Munroe which have to do with various STEM and computer-related topics. I found this one particularly hilarious. Of course, in order to “get” it, you do have to know what a Lagrange point is . . .

Teetering On The Brink of Christmas

It got down to 3 F/-16 C last night, for crying out loud!

We have this thing where if the front desk needs to get the word out about something, they text us. We got a text yesterday afternoon to dribble our faucets all night to keep the pipes from freezing. The one bedroom apartments here are set up with European style en suites which has the sink in the bedroom proper, and the toilet and shower in a separate “water closet.” So I got to listen to my sink dribble all night.

We are mercifully free of snow. (We got a flake or two yesterday for flinching.) I guess after dumping so much snow everywhere else, this storm must have run out before it got to us. As much as I hate what it’s doing to the rest of the country, I can’t help breathing a sigh of relief that we didn’t get any snow out of it. Our high today is 36 F/2.2 C. Officially colder than a wedge.

I spent the morning in bed knitting and watching videos until I heard a cheese sandwich calling my name. Sharp cheddar on toast with BACON! zotted in the microwave long enough to melt the cheese. And a big pot of Twining’s Christmas Tea served piping hot with vanilla almond milk in. Yes, Ma’m!

It’s hitting the spot as I type. The perfect combination of goo and crunch.

Thought I’d get a little meta.

They’ll serve Xmas dinner starting at 11: 00 tomorrow. I’ll get mine to go and take it over to Carillon House and eat with mom. She’ll open her Xmas present. (She’s getting me new glasses this year, which I need.) We’ll be quietly jolly, and then I’ll come back home. It’s not as sad as it sounds, at least on my part. I’ve never been a big fan of the hustle, bustle and jollity anyway, and even Mom’s getting kinda party pooped, which is not surprising. She has reached the point where doing anything requires so much time, energy and equipment that it’s exhausting.

Several people have called and texted me that they called her to wish her Merry Christmas and that she really had difficulty hearing them on her phone. Her hearing has been gradually deteriorating for a long time now, and she can’t get her phone loud enough anymore for her to hear it, especially the higher pitched women’s voices. But she adamantly refuses to get a new phone because she doesn’t want to have to learn how to operate it. Her phone has Bluetooth capability, but she refuses to spend the money for new hearing aids that have Bluetooth capability. She got some new hearing aids a couple of years ago that were very expensive, but she was unhappy with all the futzing and trips to the hearing aid place to get them adjusted, and she went back to wearing her old ones because she said they worked better for her. Change is hard (and confusing). She has a land line in her room, but then if she used that, she’d have to look up phone numbers on her cell phone and dial them . . . In the meantime, she’s becoming more and more isolated from her friends and relations, and I don’t know what the answer is.

That loud slurping noise you heard just now was me putting lotion on my hands. Again. It’s been so dry here, and the heating just makes it worse. Since that last bendamustine treatment I had such a bad reaction to this last round of chemo, I’ve had trouble with dry cracked skin on the outside edges of my index fingers and the tips of my thumbs. Knitting doesn’t help. I also have assorted dry patches on my forehead and cheeks. I have a tendency to dry skin anyway, and the bendamustine really did a number on my skin.

Friday, when I went out, I wore my red knitted hat with the selburoses on it to keep my ears and head warm. The humidity was 21% and when I got home, I pulled off my hat to predictable results — the Dandelion Clock Do. It’s one of the hats with the rolled brim, the inside of which is ribbed.

I want to make another one in black and white with the Death Flake motif — Boomer Goth — but living where I do, I wonder if it would be considered in poor taste . . . .

In the knitting news, I’ve been working on these two projects mostly. The one on the left is the Malabrigo Sock version of the Savannah Squares scarf/shawl. I haven’t put the pattern for the right one up yet, but it’s dead simple. One row repeat. (It’s also the visual equivalent of this.) Both are ideal for TV knitting.

I really need to start working on the Scots bonnet that you knit and then felt. I have two different types of 100% wool yarn. I may use the black Savage Hart Farm yarn first. I want an historic 17th century pattern, though. I’ll have to swatch and felt the swatch to gauge the shrinkage. I may also get some Plötulopi yarn (Icelandic unspun yarn) and try one out of that as it felts really well. I have a feeling I’ll end up writing a pattern for it. Stay tuned.

It Ain’t The Gin

Because of our ongoing drought conditions, cotton production here in the flatlands is way down — like from an average of between 28,000-35,000 bales to between 3,000 to 5,000 bales (A bale is 480 lbs/218 kg of ginned raw cotton, and contains enough cotton to make 200 pairs of Jeans, 250 single bed sheets or 1200 T shirts). So, what’s ripping my sinuses a new one can’t be the cotton stripping and ginning (which throws all kinds of herbicide and defoliant laced organic matter and soil into the atmosphere).

Odds are it’s juniper. We have a lot of Ashe Juniper (Juniperus ashei) here and southeast of us, as well as some Oneseed juniper (Juniperus monosperma) and Pinchot’s juniper or red berry cedar (Juniperus pinchotii). Winter/spring is not a good time of year because of a thing called “cedar fever” — which is like “hay fever” except caused by cedar and juniper pollen. We’ve recently had some rain, and that’s evidently set off another round of it, and it has been reading my sinuses the Riot Act.

It also gives me what I call “sniper sneezes” — Like you’re innocently and unsuspectingly going about your daily life, unaware that a sneeze sniper has you in the crosshairs. Then BANG! you’re hit with this massive sneeze without warning. Usually, with a sneeze, you get that inhale bit at the start, which is like cocking the thing and dropping a round into the chamber, so you have something to sneeze with (which is the whole point of the exercise). Not with a sniper sneeze. Your sneezer goes off whether there’s a round in the chamber or not, you gasp reflexively and that immediately sets off a second sneeze. I have actually banged my head on stuff . . . .

So, Walkers Shortbread makes Christmas shapes! — which go down just as easily and deliciously as their regular ones, especially with a pot of Twinings’ Christmas Tea, which is a nice black tea with cinnamon and clove spices. No, I did not eat the whole box of cookies at one sitting. I only ate half the box. I am exercising self discipline. Sorta. But actually, I’m not really into cookies in general (except shortbread and soft sugar cookies with icing), or cake (unless it’s got buttercream icing and squirty icing shapes), or pies (except mincemeat, cherry or pumpkin). Cheese cake, though. And ice cream. Those are my Achilles heels. (One on each foot. Fair is fair.)

I have to confess I’m not all that into chocolate, either. (Yes, I am a heretic and have betrayed my sex. Deal with it.) Rolos and Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate raspberry squares are the only chocolate I eat consistently, but I can take it or leave it.

I ran across this the other day and it’s brilliant. This is what the autism spectrum actually looks like. We all have all the traits, just in different amounts. I have a lot of a couple traits but don’t have much of most of the other traits, which means I can “pass” for neurotypical.

Speaking of which, the Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year holiday season is an exhausting time of year for me. Parties, family get-togethers, dinners. I’m expected to mingle in crowds of people, do lots of group stuff and socialize. Crowds make me very claustrophobic; the babble noise of a bunch of people in a room is overwhelming; I don’t like to be touched, let alone get unsolicited hugs; and I am schmooze-impaired. For those of us on the spectrum, socializing is a “fake it till you make it situation,” except we can never make it. We’re the cat among the cows. All the cows instinctively understand how to be cows. We cats have to play it by ear. All the time. We never get to see the sheet music. Ever.

There’s going to be a party tomorrow from 4:oo-6:00 p.m. I’ll attend. There will be food involved. Since I’m not on chemo anymore, a glass of wine to make the spirit bright might be in order.

I saw a Twitter quote the other day that made me guffaw: “What do I want for Christmas? I want what every girl wants for Christmas: Death to the patriarchy and pockets in all my clothes.” Amen! Me, too.

I have a pair of fleece-lined snuggly house shoes but I can’t put them on without having to bend down and straighten out the back of the heel. I found myself opting to walk on cold floors in bare feet rather than take the time to do that. So I got me some house shoes I can just step into on those occasions when I can’t sleep through the night without a potty break. Eliminating life’s little annoyances one at a time.

In the knitting news, I have one bootie finished, one bootie that just needs the little green edging, and about 17 rows and sleeve edging left on the dress skirt. Gauge is 10 rows to the inch. Skirt is 9 inches long + 9 rows of seed stitch. Going to try to get it finished, blocked and in the mail by Monday. Good thing the relative humidity is 38% and it’s merino wool sock yarn.

C. S. Harris has a new Sebastian St. Cyr novel coming out in April, 2023. Oh, joy! Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have a new Liaden novel coming out in July, 2023.

Have you seen that Kraft mayo commercial that says there’s no such thing as too much mayo? I agree in principle, but not in brand. (Hellmann‘s mayo. Please.)

No such thing as too much tomato either. I make Christmas BLT’s — no L. (Think about it. It’ll come to you.) Just a slice of toast, mayo, tomato slices, four or five slices of bacon, tomato slices, mayo and a slice of toast. You will notice paper towel diapers on both sandwiches. Necessary. After one sandwich, the paper towel is too soggy to use again. Serious, if soggy, nums.

Woke up from a dream the other morning with the sad knowledge that Honduras is closed to me now. Sigh.

As The Seasons Turn

We’ve finally had a freeze, although not much of one. Just a few degrees below freezing. Today’s high was 57 F/13.3 C, and our low is going to be 31 F/-0.5 C, but those will be the highest temps for the next nine days. We’ll have lows as low as 22 F/-5.5 C, and our highs will be around 50 F/10 C. It’ll be blustery tomorrow, but partly cloudy to sunny for the rest of the week. Finally beginning to feel like the seasons are turning.

We had to play the clock game last weekend. I wish they’d leave the durn clocks alone. I have to get a stepladder to reach my chiming clock (on top of the hutch), and that sucker is heavy. I still have one wall clock that isn’t atomic (self resetting– I will replace it this year with one that is), and I still have to reset my alarm clocks. (Yes, I have two. One goes off at 9 PM when it’s time for my evening meds, and the other one goes off at 9 AM when its time for my morning meds. The other alarm is for use when I have to get up some other time besides 9 AM.)

I have seasonal allergies. All four seasons. I have a different set of allergies for each season. Right now, I’m suffering from the fall set as they are stripping and ginning cotton again, which kicks off at about half past September and goes until they finish ginning this year’s crop, usually after December. Usually what I get for Christmas is a month or two of relief from the fall allergies before the spring ones kick in.

I had an attack of housework today. Took out the trash, stripped and changed my bed linens, washed dishes, picked up a little. The first load of wash (sheets and towels) is in the dryer at the moment and the second load of wash (clothes) is in the washer. Timing is key. The washer takes an hour. The dryer takes two. I can’t start the second load of wash until the dryer is halfway done drying the first load. There are two washers and two dryers in the communal laundry room for this floor, but one of the dryers doesn’t very well, so we get the kitchen timer out.

I banged the inside of my leg against a table the other day (why, yes, I am a droit). That left leg has a tendency to swell anyway as it’s the one I’ve had three surgeries on, the last one being to replace that knee. Couple that with the blood thinner I’m taking and I got a nasty bruise that wants to swell. I’ve been keeping it elevated as much as I can. We’ve gone from black and blue to Technicolor now, but I’ve still got quite a knot there. (I do have a full set of toes on that foot, but they’re covered up by the sheet.)

In the knitting news, I’ve picked up a really old WIP. When I first started knitting again, it was discount store worsted weight acrylic yarn on US 7 and 8 (4.5 mm and 5.0 mm) plastic needles. Then, when I taught myself continental style knitting, it was Takumi bamboo needles and acrylic yarn. Then I graduated to natural fibers and “snob yarn” — cottons and merino wools and leveled up to ChiaoGoo stainless steel needles — fingering and DK yarn on smaller needles. This WIP is from when I was still using worsted weight acrylic yarn (mostly because that was all I could afford). I’ve gotten used to natural fibers and smaller weight yarn, and this worsted acrylic yarn feels odd. I may rework this pattern in natural fibers and smaller weight yarn now that I’ve got the pattern worked out, but I want to finish this version because I like the color.

This pattern uses a Turkish cast on and starts with that top cable band. But, instead of working both sides of the cast on, you only work one side of it until your work is long enough that you can pick up stitches along one edge of it to start the center cable band. Then you start working the top band from both ends and fill in the garter stitch middle bits. It’s really quite a simple pattern once you have it started. Anyway, I’ve pulled it out and put it in the rotation.

Otto and Victoria © Brian Kesinger