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Friday, December 14, 2007

Starting a Group on Ravelry

Starting a group on Ravelry doesn't sound all that intimidating, does it? But in truth, I've never been a group-starter. Rabble-rouser, organizer, synergy source, enthusiastic supporter, even ad-hoc or temporary leader, all these, I've been. But I've never just started a group and said, "come join."

I know, I know. It's about time then, isn't it? And I'm already caught up in the details. What to use for a banner? How irreverant to be at the start? Best give them some idea of what I'm like; wouldn't want to shock anyone who came looking for "Mary Ingells" and found someone a bit more like "Anne Sullivan" than they were expecting. I'm just not the reverant sort when it comes to blindness. [grin] But I don't want to drive away any new blinks or 'tweeners who are still shaky about the whole thing. Hmmmmm. This makes choosing a name a bit of a challange, too.

If I put "blind" in the title, will the folks with Macular Degeneration or other Vision Impairments similar to mine not consider themselves eligible? Many people resist the word "blind" on so many levels. "Blind Webs"? "Tinking in the Dark" ? I myself no longer really like the word "Low Vision" as a social term. It's perfectly fine as a legal or diagnostic term, but wishy-washy, hesitant, or temporizing to me for social use. VI sounds like we're in a sci-fi movie. Hmmmm. Do crips or deaf people on the web have these difficulties too? Well, perhaps I should just use the word "Blind" in the title, since it's my favorite. Clear cut -- unlike actual vision loss most of the time -- descriptive, and short. It's amazing how political a simple word choice can become. [sigh]

"Blind Webs" it will be. A group for knitters, spinners, and crocheters with vision impairments of all sorts and their friends. Ever wonder what to get a blind knitter for Christmas? Wonder where to find patterns in an alternate format? Trying to find a good way to mark your decreases or increases without having hundreds of bits of string hanging from the piece you're knitting? Someone here has probably run into the same problem. "It's highly unlikely that you are the first person in history ever to have this difficulty!" So spoke My Mother the Oracle in the year 1992, modern era.

Hmm. Now. How to drum up business. I've got one other knitter interested already. Ah -- a discussion of web braille on the audiobook group? THAT would be a good place to start! Hm, hm, hmmmmmm. Now I need to go find a cool picture of a spider web for the banner!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nothing Like a New Gang!

Well, the CoMo lunchtime group from Ravelry met at the Rendezvous Coffeehouse this afternoon, and, I must say, signs indicate that a good time was had by all!

Nothing like a new gang of knitting gals to liven up a blog. More soon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What Woman from Outlander?

Which woman from the Outlander series are you?

You are Jenny Fraser Murray. You are a strong, motherly figure; loving and practical. You are good at being in charge of large groups of people of all ages. Your home is your castle and your family is the most important thing to you. You are also a good friend.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

Yep. Re-reading this series again -- and knitting -- AND spending too much time on Ravelry!

Friday, July 06, 2007

First Toe Up Sock!

I did it! I finished my first pair of toe-up socks, simple crew socks following the instructions in Priscilla A. Gibson-Roberts’ Simple Socks Plain and Fancy. I used Opal sock yarn in a self-striping pattern. As a learning experience, I say it was a complete success. I learned how to do short rows using the yarn-over method. I much prefer short row toes to the ssk/k2tog toes I’ve done in the past. It’s much easier to make them gradual to fit my square feet! I’m looking forward to trying some lace patterned toe-up socks I’ve had on hold for some time now. This was too much fun! Gibson-Roberts explains the principles extremely well. The whole hour-glass shaping element is clever and makes for interesting heels as well.
As for the Provincial Waistcoat, I’ve been trying to get a good picture of the buttons for more than a week, and finally realized that my best chance to get the detailed carving on the buttons was to scan the sweater. This also worked. [grin] Would have saved myself considerable trouble if I’d thought of it sooner! However, the current file is too large for blogger to load. [sigh] Great detail, and the price for it. I still need to wash and block this piece, and then it will be done, not to be worn until fall.

The Daphne top and the Bobble Blue top have both been on hold, so it’s time to choose one to go on with. Maybe both, at that! [laughing]. The Daphne top will include a great deal of mindless knitting, so perhaps that might be a good relief to all the complex cable and rib elements of the Bobble Blue. I don't know how likely is that I'll finish both in time to wear this summer, but perhaps one will be ready in time. I think I'd prefer the Bobble Blue top -- actually done in an orchid wool-cotton from Brown Sheep -- since I've the skirt to match it ready and waiting. From what I can tell, they will make a lovely outfit, and it's a color that doesn't fill my closet at the moment.

On the other hand, I’m also interested in catching up with the latest KAL I’ve joined. It’s the Monthly Dishcloth KAL, and I’m having fun figuring out what the pattern will make, since we only get so many lines of knitting a day. It will be a fun way to supplement my own kitchen, as well as add to the stack for the church bazaar. I’m also able to copy and paste the instructions into a work document, and listen to them on my Bookport MP3 player / document reader. This might make these projects an even more interesting option for travel knitting while I’m riding the buses.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Books, Books, Books, Books, & more Books!

Booking Through Thursday

School days, Golden Rule days…. June 21, 2007

Since school is out for the summer (in most places, at least), here’s a school-themed question for the week:
1. Do you have any old school books? Did you keep yours from college? Old textbooks from garage sales? Old workbooks from classes gone by?
2. How about your old notes, exams, papers? Do you save them? Or have they long since gone to the great Locker-in-the-sky?

As an English major, I think I kept almost all the books and novels I acquired as an undergrad, and definitely all those I acquired for my Master’s and for my doctorate so far. The only real drawback is that moving is a MAJOR undertaking! [laughing] I think I was up to nine or ten milk-crates of books that came with me to undergrad each year – just the essentials, mind. Nothing extra or unneeded – at least not to my way of thinking!

I ditched the books on the hard science and the one Calculus class I took [shudder], but I kept many of the business and accounting books. Both came in handy as I helped a small living history museum I was working for set up a double entry book keeping system and begin to make use of standard business reports for financial matters.

The most interesting thing about that school schedule of acquiring books is this: I STILL get an almost uncontrollable urge to buy stacks of books, paper, pens, etc., each August or September. At this point, I’m doing independent research, and don’t need such things, but there you have it. [grin] Each fall, I start to haunt the stationery aisles in stores and to roam the discount book stacks at local stores to fulfill these cravings. I’m sure there’s a twelve-step program out there for this somewhere, but for now, I remain unrepentant. Ah – check back with me after my next move!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Writing Delayed, Knitting Advanced

A quick review will show you that I’ve not made my regular posts in the last week and a half or so. Allergies escalated into more serious troubles, and I’m happy to admit that I vanquished the demon spores – ah – pollen with modern chemistry and a large quantity of salt water. A summer cold and subsequent breathing problems left me with little inclination to write, and much time to knit while I protected my lungs and tried to avoid adding insult to injury. The fact that I was willing to start tossing bones and waving feathers if it would let me take a deep breath was beside the point. I DID NOT actually start chanting in public. And those scraps are Kleenex, not the remnants of voodoo dolls. Seriously. Honest. Oh, crap. I’d have done almost anything to be allowed a full breath. Let’s not talk about it, okay? Summer colds are a rotten way to spend time, but it did give me a chance to get a large quantity of knitting done. [grin] Yes, yes, most things seem to push me in that direction, don’t they? Perhaps this is something I should be concerned about? Nah.

As I was hanging out, listening to The Historian, I managed to get a huge chunk of knitting done on the Provincial Waistcoat.
So. In the next couple of days, I’ll be catching up on half-written posts and back dating them to keep with the line-up. I’ll also be getting pictures of the almost-complete Provincial Waistcoat. It’s all over but the buttons and blocking! It’s a wonderful piece, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

hardback cover of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: a dark cover with scrolled lettering

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, 2005, is a lovely read, by the way. Long -- something you know I love -- and a solid addition to the Dracula legends. Great mystery, fun revelations, stunning array of countries represented, a natural for book nerds. I hope she writes another soon! You can find it on Amazon, of course, at, though by now, the paperback is also out, and libraries all over the world have added it to their sections on Dracula.

I’m in dire need of the inspiration to pick up another project. There are plenty to hand, as you know, but I need some motivation. I’ll probably start on a pair of socks, just because I need something in that line to keep my hands busy. Hmmm. I’m also going to Stitches today, one of the local yarn shops, and perhaps the Noro Silk Garden there will inspire me. I haven’t been to a yarn shop in months, and I’ve missed the atmosphere and the lovely yarn to pet!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Do I WHAT?! Peek?

Dessert First

Booking Through Thursday
1. Do you cheat and peek ahead at the end of your books? Or do you resolutely read in sequence, as the author intended?
2. And, if you don’t peek, do you ever feel tempted?

Well, this week’s Booking Through Thursday requires something of an admission. The answer is: “Not any more!” I have been known to cheat and jump to the end of a book, to peak ahead when I was just about to have kitten’s trying to figure out how something would be resolved or IF it would be resolved. Ahem. That was before I knew that ALL romance novels end the same way. [laughing] It had never occurred to me that the hero and heroine HAD to get together in those novels. Not until I was part way through high school! I just couldn’t stand the suspense when it came to love stories.

Mysteries are a genre I’ve only gotten into as an adult, and I’ve not tried jumping ahead in one of those – ‘twould ruin the fun of the genre. Tempted? Oh YES! Sometimes it’s a physical challenge to keep from peeking. I have to put the book down and walk away. But the mysteries aren’t always like the romances, so I don’t always want to know if a character I like is going to be one of the casualties!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Waistcoats and Wacky Dogs

Kala, a red and white husky sittng on the stairs, laughingWhat a week! Kala is home, making everything in life a little more amusing. [grin] She arrived last weekend with some friends who stayed to party for a couple of days before heading back home. Five large dogs and two cats at my place, and what a party it was! Kala and Sally are getting along famously, with good manners and much romping and chasing. Kala, a red and white husky, in profile I tried to get pictures of the romping and chasing, but ended up with multi-colored blurs. So still shots will have to do!

In knitting, many good things have been happening. I’ve finally gotten some pictures to show. The finished lilac Wildefoot socks are comfy and lovely. I’m tickled with both the yarn and the pattern.Sensational Knitted Socks is turning out to be a wonderful resource and an excellent investment. These are knit in the six-stitch repeat "waterfall rib" pattern.
Lilac knee socks on feet to display cabled eyelot pattern My first pair of socks from this book (and my second!) were knit in the four-stitch repeat, "Elongated Corded Rib." I haven’t decided on the next pattern I’ll try, but the red Wildefoot will undoubtedly be turned into something from this pattern book. I'm looking eagerly at the cabled patterns at the moment! I’ve also got several skeins of KP’s Telemark waiting to be used, so it may turn into my first pair of colorwork socks; this book has some interesting patterns in colorwork I haven’t given much thought to yet. More investigating to do! But at the current rate, I'll have worked my way through my summer sock yarns and be back to worsted weight winter socks long before August! I'm finding the patterns and the quick finishes very satisfying.

The work on the Provincial Waistcoat continues. I’m having to rip back to about the point these pictures were taken, losing about an inch or so, because I was thinking “sets” of rows, rather than rows and knit happily along without continuing the decreases for the neckline!
red-orange provincial waistcoat showing about 11 inches of workI’m currently still doing the increases in the back of the bodice while starting the neckline decreases. I think the low neckline is the only reason I considered this vest, as I usually stick to sweaters or jackets alone. But between the neckline and the stitch designs, I was hooked! This Classic Elite yarn is working up beautifully, and I’m very happy with the weight and feel of the piece. I'm hoping to have it finished in the next week so I can move on to my orchid "Bobble Blue" sweater from last summer. This cooler weather we are having would be perfect for it!
red-orange provincal waistcoat showing detailing; cable and crossed stitch sections

Other adventures this past week include my first “Booking Through Thursday” entry, and managing to blister my hands so badly while mowing the yard that I couldn’t use my blind cane for several days – which means I’ve been home entirely too long! Cutting the law is not a normal activity for me, but I wanted to burn off some excess energy, and, well, using the old-fashioned push mower is just plain fun! The blades whirl and send grass clippings flying – I think it’s the similarity to the “popcorn walker” toy that I had as a kid that charms me so much. That toy doubled as a lawn mower, a sweeper, a car, all sorts of things! Anyway, the satisfaction of watching the tall grasses disappear was hypnotizing, and a recent rain had pulled most of the pollen out of the air – so that wasn’t a concern. However, I will be letting the boy next door resume his duties in law care as soon as his school year is over – I’m too much of a wimp to keep this up! And yes, I have heard of work gloves, but you have to be expecting to do “real” work in order to plan ahead and have them in the house! [grin] I’ll be picking some up at the mall tomorrow, just in case.
Red-orange, partially knitted provincial waistcoat and lilac knee socks

Monday, June 04, 2007

Oh god -- WHAT day is it? Monday? Again?

Dalmatian Lancelot with his face buried in the corner of the couchHere too soon, yet another Monday. More Coffee is Definitely Required!

Seriously, it's a gorgeous day here. With the temperature down in the '60's last night, I could sleep with all the windows open, and it's as yet (at 10:00 a.m.) only up to 68, so the day has much promise! Of course, my second cup of coffee, and the fact that, finally, I got pictures of knitting taken yesterday help with that outlook, to be sure. More on the knitting later today, but here is my poetry for Monday.

I've been making my way through The Complete Poems of D. H. Lawrence, 1885–1930, Penguin Classics edition, 1993. Lawrence is yet another of the relatively few 20th Century authors I read regularly. His blunt address of life, death, sex, and the power of the internal life of people ties him to another poet I enjoy, John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 1647-1680. But more of him next week.

While many of Lawrence's poems are designed to shock an startle people, here is a selection I found very apt to a knitting blog.
This is from the collection Pansies:


Whatever man makes and makes it live
lives because of the life put into it
A yard of India muslin is alive with Hindu life.
And a Navajo woman, weaving her rug in the pattern of her dream
must run the pattern out in a little break at the hem
so that her soul can come out, back to her.

But in the odd pattern, like snake-marks on the sand it leaves its trail.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Alternate Texts

Paper or plastic?

May 30, 2007 Booking Through Thursday

  • Do you read e-Books?
  • If so, how? On your computer, or a PDA?
  • Or are you a paper purist? Why?

Now this is an interesting question with which to begin my Booking Through Thursday entries!

While I try to focus on using audiobooks now, ebooks have been a great alternate format for me since 2001 when I first found some Adobe Acrobat Reader ebooks. Adobe Acrobat had a “read aloud” function at that point, which helped me greatly.

In 2002 I found MicrosoftReader ebooks and also discovered the free version of the Overdrive Readerworks program for turning electronic texts into MicrosoftReader ebooks. Microsoft now has an add-in for Word which also allows you to make your own books quickly and easily. This can be a great way to store and use class notes for future use and study. These programs have improved dramatically over the years. MicrosoftReader has a text-to-speech function and now has many features that allow you to take notes, write in the margins, add bookmarks, and highlight text while you read. You can also view and search your annotations or markups from the annotations list, rather than flipping through the pages to find the bits you thought were important.

I also make use of the ebooks available through my public library which has a subscription to NetLibrary. This is a MARVERLOUS resource for those of us who have a hard time returning books to the library on time! The book checks ITSELF back into the library at the end of two weeks, so you never have to worry about it! Now how cool is THAT!

These ebooks are compatible with my screen reader software, JAWS, and also allow you to add your own notes which are saved on the system, even after the book is “returned” to the library. Additionally, my public library also has down-loadable eAudiobooks through NetLibrary which play on a variety of media players like Windows Media Player or Winamp and which also check themselves back in after two weeks.

With the progressive loss of my functional vision, I’ve been forced to go looking for alternate text formats. In the last two years, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind have provided me with the equipment and software to make my own electronic texts efficiently and at need. I do this by using a high speed scanner and the educational software program Kurzweil 1000. With practice, I can now scan a two hundred fifty page book in about 45 minutes. Kurzweil has some additional features which make it an excellent tool for anyone who needs or wants to work in electronic format. It allows me to skim books, reading only the first sentences of paragraphs, take notes, and add hyperlinks between sections of a book, so I can jump to related sections. This feature is somewhat like writing “see page 67 for another example” in the margins of a print book.

Several organizations have been creating online e-texts for many years now. Project Gutenberg has been around for decades provide plain “vanilla” texts, that is, electronic versions of texts in plain text or ASCII 2 format that any computer can display in any word processing program, even low-tech programs like notepad or very old programs. They are also expanding their collections to offer audio version of texts in Mp3 format; some are electronic audio like the ones I can make at home with the program TextAloud Mp3 and my AT&T Natural Voices. You can try a demo of these voices at the following page: which is part of their research section. The demo at the Natural Voices homepage is currently down.

I’ve gathered a number of other sources for electronic texts, which I’ll include in a list of links in the sidebar sometime in the next few days. I’ll mention two of the free ones here. First, the Free E-Text Center at the University of Virginia provides more than 2,100 books in MicrosoftReader format, Palm format, or HTML. Many include the illustrations from the older versions of books or from the original classics such as A Christmas Carrol by Charles Dickens or Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. This was one of the first electronic libraries using ebook formats for the general public.

My other favorite source for electronic texts is the Online Books Page at the University of Pennsylvania. These books are all in HTML format, but convert easily to MicrosoftReader format with the free add-in. Aspects of this Library that I really enjoy are the “Celebration of Women Writers Project,” the “Banned Books Online” project, and their “Award Winners” project. They also have an extensive listing of free periodicals available on the web, many of which are strictly historical archives, like The Gentleman’s Magazine 1731 – 1907 or The Galaxy which was an entertainment magazine from the mid-19th century which was eventually absorbed by Atlantic Monthly. People looking for free books should check the Microsoft site from time to time; one year, Microsoft gave away two books per month as a way to promote the use of MicrosoftReader – it was a great way to collect some very interesting books!

One source to purchase ebooks that I have found very reliable and quite reasonable in price is Fictionwise offers membership discounts, newsletters, rebates, and of course, free and continuing storage of your books, should your hard drive crash or your download disappear in any other type of traumatic event, such as an over-enthusiastic spasm of the delete key [grin]. Books from Fictionwise come in MicrosoftReader, Palm, and Acrobat formats. They also have “multi-format” books which any computer can access without proprietary software. The majority of books (including the large sci-fi and fantasy collection) are current titles. If you are considering the purchase of any book that might be in the public domain, check the free sites first. It will be cheap at Fictionwise, less than $10, but if you can download it for free for a little effort – it will be worth it!

Originally, I read my ebooks on my Jordana PDA, which allowed me to magnify the font to a comfortable level and which remains the most portable format I have for electronic books. Now that I’m working on a laptop, I use it for most purposes, including reading ebooks, since it allows me to access more formats from the single device and use the complete programs. The MicrosoftReader for the PDA will not accept the text-to-speech add-in, so I can’t have the PDA read aloud. This is very frustrating, and from time to time, I e-mail Mircosoft to hassle them about it, but so far, I haven’t gotten a response!

My personal collection of electronic texts is increasing rapidly with the use of the high speed scanner. For those concerned with copyright issues, I can give you a bit of information. Most of the free online libraries are working from versions of books which have aged into the public domain. The public library service through NetLibrary has current novels and non-fiction books as well as classics, but this is a service the library pays to access, and the authors are paid just as when the library obtains a paper copy or audio copy of a book to lend. Because I am copying library books for my personal use only and need to scan them into an alternate text to access them, my personal collection does not violate copyright law, so long as I don’t distribute the books to others.

Both Acrobat and Microsoft and other developers such as Franklin have been working on systems for allowing people to “loan” e-books to each other which would involve denying you access to the copy while someone else uses it, but none of the systems I’ve seen can be described as user-friendly. They are all clunky and often full of bugs by all reports, so I’ve not gotten into sharing my ebooks yet.

My house is still filled with actual paper books that I can lend out to others. While I’ve greatly reduced my purchase of paper books, it hasn’t been eliminated. Some books I want for their maps and other materials which do not appear in audio versions or which don’t show to advantage on the screen. Others are gifts or items I’ve acquired as part of my collection of older books. I particularly love to collect the “pocket books” which made up a significant part of my grandmother’s library and are still handy to carry about. The age of the book adds to my pleasure in reading, as do many of the illustrations, and they make it worth my while to hassle with a magnifier. I love the connection with my grandmother and the history involved in collecting old books, and I’ve never shaken my love of the dusty, dry smell that comes from the leaves and collects in the back sections of the nearby university library [smile].

My “inner librarian” died a quick death when I first discovered the wonders of taking notes in the margins of books in college. She wasn’t very reliable anyway, since most of my books from childhood include broken off corners, fudgesicle smears, and other indignities [grin].

As an educator myself, I encourage students to do “active reading” which involves a variety of ways of interacting with a text as you read, including note taking, highlighting, underlining, outlining on paper or in the margins, making use of paperclips, sticky notes or sticky flags, and, most especially, re-reading and THINKING about important passages whenever they are studying a text, rather than just reading for recreation. These activities appall many people raised in the strict traditions of not damaging books and not cracking the spines, but they can be a seriously important method of assisting readers in engaging with a text. Something seems to happen in the brain to help “set” the information, so it doesn’t just wash through like much of the reading we do for pleasure.

I still find the connections made as I imprint my presence on a book by writing in the margins personally satisfying in a mystical way. Something about the visceral input from feeling the pen connect with and even break some of the paper fibers as I write makes the experience far more real and vivid than typing notes into a computer. Yet, I also realize that electronic texts allow others to engage in these activities without involving themselves in the depredations of book-damaging. And the electronic texts also allow me to continue in my chosen profession teaching English literature and composition. They are a marvelous addition to our resources, yet still I hope they never completely take over publishing.

Update: After reading a number of other entries in this Booking Through Thursday series, I wanted to let people know an important aspect of reading on the screen -- small or large. My low vision specialist let me know about this when I went to him with massive headaches. Scrolling to read can give people motion sickness as well as eyestrain of various sorts. Use the next page or page down functions to help alleviate this, and work to figure out the font size and brightness levels that suit you best. Pick the lowest brightness level you find comfortable, and the largest font size you find comfortable to enable you to read for longer periods of time! Enjoy! .

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Vamping and Revamping

With a title like this one, I hope the new layout and extra features live up to expectations!

If you've been here before, you'll notice many changes in both the layout and the sidebar content. Spring is a good time for a new color scheme, and I've found that I really like the updated features Blogger is offering. [grin] I'll be labeling new posts, and adding accessibility features like "skip to main content" links and "skip to sidebar" links over the next few days.

The content is changing a bit, as I've expanded the sidebar content to include more of my interests. In addition to the "Poetry Mondays," I'll be taking part in "Booking Through Thursday" and other planned features as I come across them. I'll be doing a bit of writing about disability studies and activism, as well as increasing the "fiber content" by checking in on a more regular basis and by getting more pictures up!

Of the new features, I particularly like the ease with which I could copy feeds and html or active content from other sites from the old template into the new template modules if I chose. The plain "Add HTML" unit made some of this much easier than it might have been. I'm all for cut and splice when it comes to coding, even if I have to take off for it when grading papers! Adjusting some of the "wrapper" features and sizes within the template html code was also very straight forward. If you are willing to code by hand, you can still "tweak" many things quite easily this way.

The new "list" modules for regular lists and lists of links will undoubtedly prove very worthwhile in the long run -- UNLESS I decide to divide a list into two separate ones -- that would require deleting items from the original list, a task the module makes VERY easy, and then starting over and having to input each item one-by-one into a new list, no cross over or divide functions available. For the moment, though, some careful planning should keep this from being much of a problem.

Here's where the "vamping" comes in. No, I'm not adding modern Gothic elements to the blog -- it wouldn't suit the earth-tones I've chosen for the color scheme [smile]. But I did spend much of the afternoon "revamping" the site, so now I'm just filling in with chatter where I'd love to be posting pictures of finished knitting projects! I coded for too long and lost the light I'd need for good pictures. Those will have to wait until tomorrow.

First on the list to discuss are the socks I made from the lilac Wildefoot yarn. This superwash merino is wonderfully soft, and I managed to get a full knee sock out of each skein -- a good deal for adult socks! While my next pair -- from some red Wildefoot -- will be shorter socks for summer, this lilac pair will serve for spring and fall, as well as winter. It's a nice heavy fingering weight, and just great for someone like me who likes worsted weight socks in the winter, and cushy socks overall. The Wildefoot makes a nice compromise for summer and compares very well with the Opal sock yarns.

In other news, I wish I was able to spin. [of course!] Each summer, as the husky and the shepherd start to shed, and I spend hour after hour with the undercoat rake, pacifying the pooches with Pounce chicken treats while I comb out all the fluff, I wonder about those who have spun dog fur into yarn. I wouldn't dream of making a garment of it -- what if it got wet? The risks of smelling like a half-drowned dog are just too much for me! [laughing] But their fur is so soft that I often wish I could do something else with the "product" of all these hours of dog grooming. And if you check out the pictures in the flicker badge, you'll see what lovely colors I would get! The husky, Kala, is a red and white husky, and her undercoat is a creamy white. The shepherd, Sally, has a jet black top coat, but the undercoat that she sheds is a soft faun color fading into a rich gold at times.

This, I think, is just one of the side effects of being a fiber addict. A person just naturally starts contemplating what type of fiber, project, and technique to try whenever confronted with material with a spinning potential. I will resist, however. I will resist. When I start to spin with a spindle, I want to pick something I might like to wear in some way!

Meet My Daemon

I think it was the music I couldn't resist. I've seen these entries on other blogs and been tickled with them.

Help Refine My Daemon!
Click on the link above to help me refine my daemon or take a test to find your own.

Update: It seems you cannot comment on my daemon; it had reached its final form from the get-go. I must have been very consistant or decisive in my answers -- that or the program was only set to allow so many daemons to morph! [grin]

Monday, May 28, 2007

Another Trial

For some reason, my daemon doesn't let people comment on its accuracy. Here's another try:

Poetry on Mondays

Monday again already, and I've not gotten any other posts put up until today. Slacking. [grin] Several friends of mine are going through difficult times right now, and questioning decisions and events. It made me think of another of my favorite poems, one of the few from the Twentieth Century.

This is a long poem, and a bit complicated. It speaks of doubt and desire, of hopes and of the gnawing questions that arise from them. Self-judgement, social acceptance, aging, and daring. It never ceases to bring new thoughts and questions to my mind, and to bring a bit of comfort with the knowledge that others must question, too.

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). Prufrock and Other Observations. 1917.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,

The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
. . . . .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
. . . . .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

You can find this and other poems by Eliot at

Monday, May 21, 2007

Poetry On Mondays

I have been admiring blogging trends like "Booking It Through Thursdays" and "Poetry Fridays" but have realized that MONDAYS are the days that need a jump start in my world. A day of organization and planning, of catching up on the work I let slide over the weekend, and of determining what my week will be. To that end, I've decided to do my "poetry bits" on Mondays for my own pleasure, and hopefully that of others! It certainly adds to the inspiration for both knitting and writing -- not half bad for an idea swiped from elsewhere and adapted to my own self. [grin]

I'll start as many might expect, with an extract from Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage:

The morn is up again, the dewy morn
With breath all incense, and with cheek all bloom,
Laughing the clouds away with playful scorn,
And living as if earth contain'd no tomb --
And glowing into day: we may resume
The march of our existence: and thus I,
Still on thy shores, fair Leman! may find room
And food for meditation, nor pass by
Much, that may give us pause, if pondered fittingly.

--Byron Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 3.98

Sunday, May 06, 2007

What Accent do I have?

Now in all honesty, this answer to this question is a matter of what I'm doing at the time. General conversation -- the answer to this quiz is correct. This is also the dialect I use for teaching. However -- get me flirting, and I'll add in a drawl that's REALLY from southern Indiana. I think this quiz thinks of central Indiana as "southern" since it's not the accent from around Chicago. Real southern Indiana is about like that from Kentucky or farther south. Deep south. Words get extra syllables. Vowels get MUCH longer. The twang gets more distinct, etc.

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The West
The Inland North
North Central
The South
The Northeast">What American accent do you have?">Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Having moved to REAL southern Indiana from Central Indiana when I was ten or so, I can tell you the difference. After two weeks in my new school I came home and announced: "You can't get on me for talkin' laike this now, 'cause everybody down here taulks like this." My parents were SO pleased!

When I went to college in Central Indiana at 18, one of the first questions I was asked by a dorm resident was: "Are you from the South?" meaning -- Deep South. [laughing] Also, this grouping doesn't take into account the difference between rural speech and urban speech, the suburbs or the city. When you travel on more dirt and gravel than asphalt, your rate of speech and pronunciation change. The most interesting variation I heard came from a Bostonian who had lived in Southern Indiana for more than a decade. What a combination!

Years in community and educational theatre and a bit of life taught me to match my speech to those I'm talking to in a way that will promote the best communication. It can make a difference! Are you familiar or unfamiliar, a neighbor or an outlander? Us or them?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Rebellions and Revived Interests

After a small rebellion against working last week while I was not feeling quite the thing, I have returned to the life of the fully grown. It’s amazing how young and cranky you can get while running a low-grade fever. [sigh] I have managed to get a small chunk of knitting done on the Provincial Waistcoat attempt two. This is going well, as I no longer have to concentrate much to keep the pattern.

I managed to felt yet another pair of socks last week – okay – it was three pair, but hell. Who knew that the “soak” cycle would include enough agitation to felt the silly things? A fresh dunking and some sock blockers should return these slackers to their duty. A tip from another site about using plastic coated hangers to form sock blockers has proven to be VERY useful. I’ll post pictures in a bit. [grin]

I’ve done a couple more baby caps, and I’ve been making up blindfolds to match various outfits. With summer coming, I’ve got to have protection from the sun!

Ah well, coffee is finished. Time to get on with the day. Oh yes! Last Friday, I planted seeds for Pansies in an hanging basket whose occupant had died from benign neglect. So basket and seeds are on the shelf in the laundry room, warm and dark and waiting to germinate. I’m hoping this works! I’ve got some marigold seeds to plant as well. I’d like a colorful porch again this year, now that the nasty weather should be over!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Better Answer!

Just had to see what the other options for favorite movie kiss were. And I must admit, I'm quirky enough to prefer this one!

Your Famous Movie Kiss is from The Princess Bride

"This is true love - you think this happens every day?"

What famous Movie Kiss am I?

I couldn't resist this one.

Your Famous Movie Kiss is from Gone With The Wind
"Great balls of fire. Don't bother me anymore, and don't call me sugar."

Monday, April 09, 2007

Starting Again

Starting again describes many activities at present. I'm re-starting the Provincial Waistcoat -- the area below the waist shaping was too long. I'm re-starting the work I was doing on my paper after a lovely week-long hiatus investing all sorts of personal possibilities. I'm restarting my blog for studying for my Comprehensive Exams, and I'm restarting a regular correspondence with my 7 year old nephew. We both like to get real mail!

More soon including pictures!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Morning Rituals

Awakened by a rumbling cat and a delicate dog lick on my left cheek, it has been a good day so far. Coffee first, -- okay, like most mammals, I find the bathroom first, but that’s hardly glamorous, now is it? -- then a good twenty minutes outside in the cool morning sunlight as the dogs tromp around the yard and be dogs. (See what I mean? All mammals look for the bathroom first thing in the morning!) Inside, more coffee, time writing on the computer, a few phone calls to arrange transport for the next couple of days, and the open acknowledgement that I’m going to have to load the dishwasher before the day gets too much older.

I’ve started working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way again. This program is an interesting way to go about staying in the present and nurturing your own life – whether you engage in creative hobbies or not – as long as you don’t become militant with it. I got the hang of the “morning pages” pretty quick, but granting myself and actually KEEPING my “artist play dates” has been a bit of a challenge. I’ve plenty of things to play with, but finding ways to interact with creative outlets with the enthusiasm I had as a child proved to be a bit more difficult.

Well, Saturday, I think I found the key to my creative freedom. I bought myself a brand new box of 64 Crayola crayons! Do you remember the way a fresh box of crayons smells? The easy glide of the newly molded wax?

The amazing names for all those rich colors? Well, some of the names have changed – I can’t find “Burnt Umber” or “Raw Umber” – and I love the chestnut, mahogany, and other new names in the 64-pack. But now I may need to save my pennies for one of the even BIGGER boxes! Anyone else remember when the 64-pack with its own sharpener was the be all and end all? Do YOU have your own box of crayons? This can be a very relaxing exercise.

A bunch of sites offer free coloring pages now. You can find a list and some evaluations of the sites here at Home School Kid Lit. My favorite so far is the list to the government site. They have a collection of coloring pages of wild flowers, complete with Latin names and color instructions for accurate descriptions. I'm fascinated!

I have a friend who used to credit her crayons with having gotten her through her PhD exams and classes! Repetitive, soothing, with low stress and multiple sensory stimuli – isn’t this a great rationalization for doing something childish? The colors remind me of why I love walking into yarn shops. All the colors, all the textures, even the slightly industrial smells of the dyes and the sharp tang of wool and other animal fiber.

In addition to coloring this week, I finally made a decision and started back to work on some big projects.
I chose to work on the orchid cable top from the cover of the last Spring IK. But a trip to Eunny’s webpage had me digging through my stash for the yarn to make this lovely bit of early spring apparel. Late March and early April usually go back to being wet and damp and miserable here, so if I get it done quickly, I may get to wear it this year. If not, it will be wonderful for fall and winter.

Digging into my back issues of IK brought back many patterns and projects that re-struck my fancy. That “oohh – yeah!” moment was happening so often, I quit saying it out loud. I also spent some time trying to figure out how to free up the cash to pick up the little things I’d like – I need to purchase the Hidcote Garden Shawl pattern. I’d LOVE to try a set of the new Addi lace needles, and I’m still avid about acquiring a copy of Nature Knits. I’d have gotten it through JoAnn’s with my discount coupons, but now I don’t get the fliers and when I HAD the fliers, I didn’t have the cash. [sigh] I’ll need to wait until my stars are aligned.

I’ve also gotten started on the baby hats I’m doing for the local hospital. The yarn they chose is rough and not the greatest color, but I’m following the rules!

My second set of socks from Sensational Knitted Socks is whirling along. I like the “denim” colored Paton’s Merino Classic Wool and doing the second set of socks makes it much easier to enjoy the pattern. I dug out some lighter sock yarns to get started on knitting socks for summer. And I’ll have to decide what to do with the three skeins of dark blue KP Gloss that I have. I’d planned socks, but there’s enough there for thigh-highs if I want to get adventurous [grin].

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Adrift! -- Knitting Priorities

Reorganization is in order. It IS spring after all. Yes, yes. Spring for me usually involves much cursing of green plants and snuffling, shutting windows, grabbing at Kleenex, swallowing of allergy concoctions, etc. All that is still happening. Some forces of nature cannot be changed -- and "The Blooming of the Trees" has most certainly begun.

HOWEVER, I have a bigger problem. (stop laughing!) Having finished "the big sweater" AND having managed to get in a couple of wearings before the weather got too warm -- what to knit now?

Materials are not a problem. Projects are not a problem. Priorities and prospects -- THESE are the problems. The second red sock is keeping me busy for the moment -- but a crisis is immanent. I'm going to have to make a decision.

Items on the Needles

1. The orchid bobble-free "Bobble Blue" sweater from the cover of IK last spring. I finally managed to get the back completed all the way to the collar shaping with the pattern correct in all its parts. This took ALL SUMMER! I was frustrated and set it aside. I was new to cables, much less complex cable designs. It's lovely, and I'd like to get it finished to wear this summer. I've even found a skirt that matches!

2. The charcoal gray wool shawl from Folk Shawls. I've a significant chunk done, but now I wonder if I want to use the cream for this shawl, and use this lovely dark gray for a wool sweater -- maybe a cardigan with a shawl collar? A fitted pullover with a shawl collar? I've plenty of the cream for the shawl, and I'm more likely to wear the gray as a sweater than the cream. Hmmmm.

3. The long fiddled with Frog Tree cotton-silk camel-coloured leaf shawl (trailing vines I think, from Walker's Second Treasury) for which I plan to make the dangling leaves from Epstein's Knitting On the Edge in multiple fall colors. This is lovely to work with -- and seems to go on forever! It's been on the needles for two years now. [frown]

Projects on My Mind

4. Two or three summer/spring tops from Elizabeth Lavold's "Spring Breezes".

5. The bright orange Mandarin Petite cotton cable tank.

6. The Yoga mat bag from Inspired Cable Knits.

7. My purple alpaca sweater that "bloomed." Another IK pattern. This one is the Wear Everywhere sweater I think -- something like that. Anyway, a twisted rib pattern. Interesting and soothing to knit. AND it's the alpaca!

8. My tea cozy from the Noro. Lovely colours in that stuff!

Ah, the list could be endless. Now that I'm actually knitting from my stash -- I'm having a hard time picking and choosing. I'll start another pair of socks, of course. Gotta have socks going. But I'm taking votes on the others. Any ideas?

Oh -- my Hidcote Garden Shawl -- planned and the yarn chosen, but not yet started. There's another for the possibilities pile!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Knitting and Thinking – Much Accomplished!

Well, I FINALLY found the usb cord for the camera, so I can catch up on the knitting adventures of the last six or seven weeks. I’ve been taking a class four afternoons a week from 3- 7p.m., so I’ve had large blocks of time in which to knit to keep myself busy and focused.

To begin, I’ll review a few things. The blue baby surprise jacket for my two year old niece turned out very well. I love the flecked buttons that match the Sindar yarn.

Both the class in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and the knitting have been very profitable. It feels like a very long time since January. [grin]

The second baby surprise is for a new baby – born in January – to friends and is made of KP’s Shine in apricot and cream.

The little guy should look great in this – and I couldn’t resist the bumble bee buttons!

The stars will look pretty fine on the flip side, too. I love the colors, the yarn has become a favorite, and the whole experience of making this was just great. I really love making a second "something" since the second time around, I already understand the pattern! This jacket needs some finishing work, but should be completed shortly.

This red sock is done in Paton’s Merino Classic Wool. I’m really enjoying the patterns in “Sensational Knitted Socks.”

This is an eyelot pattern called "Elongated Corded Rib." Not only is this my first sock with a stitch pattern, but it’s my first attempt at the heel recommended in the book with the rows of garter stitch before the turn. I love the feel of this heel and will be giving it more use in the future!

I also completed a set of socks in “Victorian Violet” Highland Wool from and “Daffodil” Wool of the Andes from

They are wearing well – but in the wash, so no pictures yet! The yellow stripe on the foot makes me think of the crocuses my mother loves at Easter! I used the charts from “A Knitters Handy Book of Patterns” to make this pair in plain stockinet stitch with the more traditional heal turn described in that book. The two different yarns have worn and washed well together – no awkward looking differences between them.

Next is my favorite. I’ll try to get a picture of the sweater “on” this afternoon, but here it is!

Green Raglan Sweater

Knit in the round, this is a short-sleeved V-neck sweater in 2-1 rib with a moss-stitch collar. The yarn is a dark pine green llama-wool 50-50% blend from Classic Elite. I got this yarn several years ago on sale for less than half price at a local shop. I’ve enough in black and in cream for similar sweaters – I just need to plan the variations I want and get started.

The whole sweater is knit in the round with raglan sleeves. My chief “innovations” occurred at the neckline. I did several rows reducing one stitch on each side of the V, then several decreasing two stitches slip one, ssk, slip stitch over or slip one, k2tog, slip stitch over. This gave me a nicely curved “sweetheart” neckline.

As I approached the top of the sweater, I stopped decreasing before getting all the way down to the sleeves. This gave me two small “corners” sticking out from the rounded head opening before the V started. I accented and extended these corners into a soft collar that can be pinned into a “key-hole” neckline or left open to stand slightly or drape flat in a wide open neckline particularly useful in warmer weather.

The weather here in MidMO cooperated and dropped from the high seventies yesterday to the fifties today, so I’ll get to wear my sweater to my last class tonight. Since I started the sweater in the class, my mates have watched the whole progression and are interested in the results!

Now that the camera is transferring pictures again, I’ll get caught up on pups and cats soon too. All are well, though the Dalmatian is grumpy about all my time spent away from home. He’s getting used to the change however, and is much more interested in playing fetch now that the warmer weather has arrived!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Which Austen Heroine -- a new quiz

Well, a trip to Birdsong's page guided me to this quiz. An interesting result, and perhaps quite accurate in its way. But I wonder how much of the result is related to the fact that I just finished reading this novel last week!

I am Anne Elliot!

Take the Quiz here!

Though I must admit to prefering this photo!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Of Cats and Contests

Siamese with a Banana on her Head
I must admit to a highly suspect interest in discovering what others will do to their cats. As a child, I delighted in sneaking up on the dignified male cat the neighborhood had named "Taffy" while he was trying to get a drink out of the commode. I was not a wicked child. I didn't give him a swirly or anything. I just waited until he was pawing at the water to discover exactly where it was -- and then I'd nudge him in!

I figured this was a fair return for having my toes attacked while I was asleep! Taffy always managed to recover his dignity in short order. And he continued to attack feet whenever he was given the chance.

I only tried stuffing ONE cat into baby doll clothes. My grandmother's tabby, Mischief, was a grumpy thing. She managed to withhold the worst of her retribution who it came to the clothes, but when I tried to make her ride around in my red wagon while dressed as a doll -- well, that was her limit. Scratches and tears ensued. Since she returned to my Grandmother's house soon thereafter, we never really recovered from the quarrel.

I admire cats; I really do. I've a fuzzy black and white Oscar sitting behind my computer screen at the moment. He's only been subject to a couple of indignities. Tape on his feet was one. But he usually gets into enough trouble on his own. The time he tried to jump out at Lancelot the Dalmatian while Lance was charging after a basketball was a good example. Oscar jumped out standing on his hind feet, front paws spread and claws extended in a ferocious display -- and the Dalmatian ran right over him, completely unable to stop in time to respect the display.

The fact that Lance managed to stop while standing on top of the cat did not improve Oscar's response, but it had me gasping and rolling on the floor with laughter.

This latest contest from the folks at "Stuff on My Cat" is an excellent example of the human-cat interaction.
Cats with helmets. Everything from the banana-bearing beauty above to the winner, a lovely kitten sporting a cabbage!
The cat's expression says it all! The creativity of the other contestants is varied and entertaining. And the patience of the felines is amazing! I see no wounded hands, missing fingers, or other evidence of mayhem resulting from these photo sessions. The cats seem to understand this as part of what must be suffered in the company of their particular humans.

They may be planning some spectacular midnight raids in retribution -- but the long-suffering looks seem to indicate a real understanding of the juvenile nature of humans. Indeed, Oscar's ability to be so charmingly juvenile himself tickles my fancy again and again. He will do amazing things in pursuit of a feather on a string, and has no pride at all when it comes to belly-rubs. He is stunningly patient with Sally the Shepherd as she persists in trying to herd him around the house. They have developed "safe zones" and some type of communication that let's each know when the other means business. They seem to possess a clear comprehension of their own form of "knock it off!" and rarely do more than irritate each other in their fun.

He's not done anything yet worthy of an entry into "Stuff on My Cat," but I'll keep the camera ready -- one never knows when he'll shed his dignity and ham it up for a photo shoot!

Oscar and Lancelot

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Gift of a Snowman

The Gift of a Snow Man wearing a Christmas Scarf

Snow Man Detail

Monday, January 15, 2007

Comedic Interludes

With “Christmas in Kansas” coming out in installments, regular postings must take the form of interludes or – heaven help us, a word from the sponsors. With Missouri buried in ice, perhaps the Morton salt jingle and a small girl in a yellow raincoat should come to mind. What I have instead is an extremely indignant Dalmatian and a very cautious shepherd!

Sir Lancelot is, as I’ve noted elsewhere, a very *male* dog. This is an utterly charming aspect of his personality, since I happen to enjoy character traits I associate with men. It can also make for some rather hilarious moments and metaphors, and this week of ice is no exception!

In general, Lance enjoys charging out into the back yard, bellowing his announcement of his presence and superiority at full gallop until he reaches a favorite spot of fence and lifts his leg. Those of you with male dogs probably know that this leg lifting is not a physical necessity, since a male dog who just *really* needs to go will arch his back and empty his bladder like a puppy. The leg-lifting his an adult marking behavior, and as they age, male dogs engage in it as it suits their mood and circumstances. As a side note, I’ve known two female dogs who lifted their legs – my grandmother’s extremely spoiled and much loved retriever-beagle mix and my husky , who is currently trying out a new home in Kansas herself, would both squat and then lift one foot mid-process. An interesting behavior, but not something I’ve ever heard thoroughly explained.

Anyway, back to the present and Sir Lancelot’s current battles.

My corner of Missouri received about a quarter of an inch of sleet and snow Friday, and subsequent rains and a bit of snowfall have done nothing to thin the coating of frozen, glassy whiteness. It looks like snow from a distance. But the stuff is so solid, I’ve been tempted to get my skates out and try using them in the back yard!

Saturday, Lancelot went charging out onto this sheet of ice, heartily engaged in his early-morning bellow. He immediately lost control, landed on his rump, and careened into the chain-link fence. Not to be deterred, he scrambled to his feet and located his favorite spot along the boundary of the yard.

Another physics lesson took control. He made repeated and determined attempts to maintain his leg-lift despite the fact that every time he started to go, his opposite front foot would start to slide out away from him.

He began to growl at the ice. He became more determined, more manly, and less interested in physics. He tried lifting his leg away from the fence, growling the whole while, and slowly sinking as each foot slid in a separate direction. The growls became indignant, and then morphed into a gurgle as he completely lost control and ended up belly down in a puddle of pee on the ice. He wasn’t happy about the bath that followed either!

Bubbles just seemed to be adding insult to indignity in his estimation.

In the hope of preventing further incidents – and avoiding additional dog-baths -- I tried taking the dogs out the front door rather than out the walk-out basement to the back yard. To my surprise, Sally the shepherd trotted to the top of the hill in the side yard, and as her paws started to slip, she tucked her back legs under her, and slid down the hill. She seemed someone chagrined, but maintained a certain aplomb, and glided to a spot part way down, long before she ran out of retractable leash-line. She investigated the lower side yard, took care of business, and used her heavy shoulders and badger-claws to hop her way back up the hill, grinning and thoroughly pleased with herself at this new game.

After this incident, she has avoided the top of the hill, and has been moving briskly about on the ice in careful, measured steps, staying well-centered and just going with the flow if a leg slides out from under her.

[sigh] Lance, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. His first couple of trips out the front, he stayed away from the hill, continued to growl at the ice and earned himself approximately one bath or thorough wipe-down for every three trips outside.
For those of you unfamiliar with non-Disney Dalmatians, the males have large, well muscled chests, lungs designed to let them keep up with trotting horses, and dainty feet that aren’t much wider than their legs. Pretty, but totally useless for scrambling in the ice and snow. No snowshoe effect here. They are trotters, not mountain goats and they certainly can’t qualify as all-terrain canines.

I had glanced back inside the house to check on the whereabouts of Oscar the cat when Lancelot discovered the top of the hill. In an instant, he disappeared around the corner of the house; I heard an aggravated grunt, felt a tug on the leash as he ducked his head and let the collar slide over his ears, and he was gone, his spotted form starting to spin as he melted into the gloom of the side-yard.

Hurrying while on ice is not something I’d recommend to anyone. I kicked off my slippers, so my socks would give me some purchase on the ice. By the time I managed to get far enough out into the yard to see the dog, he’d already encountered the gate to the back yard, had taken care of business in the comfortable angle created where the bottom of the hill met the fence, and was trying to pick his way back up the hill. Five minutes later, he was still trying, an earnest and determined look on his face every time he looked up at me. He’d tried coming up the middle, picking his way along next to the wall of our unit, and clambering along the rocks at the side of the next unit. With each attempt, he gained ground, finding a way past the points where he’d started his slide back down into the gloom. His determination was – well—dogged. And his earnest looks were heart-warming. He was not upset or frightened, just absolutely set on returning to my side. He would find a way. Each glance seemed to be telling me to wait. He would get to me.

I didn’t wait. After five or six minutes, I went scrambling back into the house, and Sally and I charged to the rescue, slipping and sliding our way out the back door and over to the gate. After another couple of minutes banging at the latch to get it open, I was able to welcome Lance back into the relatively flat confines of the backyard. He made a bee-line for the basement door. Once inside, he shook himself thoroughly, flapping his ears and lashing his tail like a whip. He climbed the steps to the living room at a steady pace, never glancing back. At twelve years old, this pace is much slower than it once was, and I was a bit worried that he’d strained something in his battle with the hill. He sniffed a ball and a bad cuz on his way to the water dish, then made for his usual spot on the couch. After clambering up to his spot and trompling around on the cushions in that mysterious dog-ritual left over from the ancient past, he plopped his rump onto the afghan and raised his head. On his face was the most delighted grin I’d seen there in some time.

He had battled the elements and had returned with his hide and his pride intact. Despite the slide down the hill, he had taken care of business, acquitted himself in a manly fashion, and had returned to my side and the comforts of the couch without requiring a bath. He was a happy man, um, dog, and he settled himself against me for a long winter’s nap!