Tuesday, January 31, 2006

it's getting hot in here... so take off all your penguins

You know, it's hard to get psyched about knitting a sweater in January when it's 50 degrees and sunny outside. There are tulips - TULIPS! - coming up outside my office building. Now, I like nice weather as much as the next person, but I'm a little concerned about the melting polar ice caps and everything.

The news this week on global warming has been very, very bad. Apparently 2005 was the hottest year on record (yes, even hotter than 2004). The polar ice caps are melting faster than scientists had predicted, meaning that tropical island nations are going to disappear faster than we had once thought. The penguins and the polar bears are getting aggravated, and I really can't blame them.

It's hard enough to know that I'm one of the greedy first-world energy abusers driving around all the time causing this mess, and that my government could care less about public policy to DO anything about it. But it's such a dang slap in the face to see one of my fellow Americans motor past me in a Hummer (on the way to the gym, where they will pedal a stationary bicycle and walk on a treadmill). Or really any other big car, it's just that the Hummer seems to be the most graphic (and sickening) symbol of our blatant disregard for the rest of humanity.

I think I want to run away to France and join the Dégonflées. They're the nutty wonderful activists who let the air out of the tires of big SUV's. Here's a quick quote from a London Times article:
The continental groups compete to see who can let down the most tyres in a night. In December 14 Belgians deflated the tyres of 137 off-roaders...

A spokesman for a Paris group, who calls himself Sub-Adjutant Marrant (Joker), argues that drivers of 4x4s do not care that their vehicles emit disproportionate amounts of carbon dioxide, and that politicians are scared of the car lobby. “We emphasise the comic, the burlesque side,” he said. “It would be hard to take us to court. We don’t slash tyres; we deflate them. Air doesn’t cost anything.”

The worry-wart Brits raise legitimate concerns about people needing their cars in an emergency and finding them with the tires (or tyres) flat. But what a paltry little worry, when we're frying the whole damn planet, starting with penguins! It's fun to hate on SUV's, but really, we ought to be letting the air out of all our own tires. Not our bikes, though! Penguins love your bike.

I want to get all fired up about the Alito confirmation today, because I think that flushing sound I just heard were my reproductive rights going down the toilet... or was it the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? But instead I'm feeling a little too deflated about the Big Picture to focus on any one evil weasel and his ascension to the Supreme Court.

I don't get why nutty fundamentalists threaten heathens with perishing in the eternal lake of fire when we're creating it for ourselves right here on planet earth. We've got it all here, folks - both the eternal paradise and the eternal hellfires - whatever we choose to do with it - right on our little earth. So excuse me please, I'm off to gather me rosebuds while I may, which I guess is in the middle of winter now.

Monday, January 30, 2006

my violin wails for you

this is not me. this is joshua bell, hottie violinist numero uno.

Oh, Sew Fast / Sew Easy! How wrong we have been, to bristle at your harassment, when in truth it is you, YOU who are the victims!

Please peruse the inspiration of my lament, a press release from SFSE, addressed to "members of the sewing, knitting and crochet community," (that's us, y'all!). Marketing director Gregory Garvin (some of you may remember him better by his alias, Marketing Toady), has bemoaned the shoddy treatment his employers are receiving at the hands of angry wimmin with sticks, just because they tried to have all our online forums shut down. [Update: the letter has been removed from the SFSE website. Thanks to the Geeky Knitter for preserving screenshots. Read here.]

How misunderstood! How victimized!

The new strategy: divide and conquer.

The real villain here is not the Evil Seamstress Overlords! It's Debbie Stoller, (a.k.a. "Miss Stole-It" in Evil Seamstress Overlord lingo - I think they must be trolling our blogs for funny ideas), who un-feministly "steals" our ideas for her rip-off books! Geez, when I submitted that profile of my knitting group to Debbie, I had no idea that she'd exploit us so shamelessly by printing our picture in her book and letting us describe ourselves in our own words. The nerve!

So, new story, everyone is mean to them, Debbie Stoller is a big fat liar and idea-stealer who unfairly victimizes knitting groups, and everyone is welcome at Evil Seamstress Overlord Web Forums as long as we don't say anything mean about anybody, because it's wrong to be mean. And by the way, here's a cease and desist order for your blog.

Okay, that last part hasn't happened yet, but I'm waiting. Meanwhile, if you just can't hate enough on Sew Fast Sew Sleazy, check out the great new Stitch & Bitch timeline over at Free to Stitch, Free to Bitch, and more legal analysis of the trademark question (plus some gossip) over at the Girl from Auntie.

And finally, the "4 Things" meme. Saun always hips me to the internet bandwagons. And I always jump.

Four jobs in my life (these are all more interesting than my current job, which I love):
1. Guard of beach chairs in Margate, NJ (on average I read one whole book every day at this job)
2. Karaoke DJ at a crappy boardwalk karaoke stand
3. Tutor/babysitter to insanely bratty Austrian child, Ingrid (this is a story I must one day share).
4. Cheerleader/cowgirl/beer party hostess for Coors European marketing strategy

Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. A Room With a View (believe me, I have)
2. Playtime (Jacques Tati)
3. ....
4. (I don't like watching movies over and over).

Four places I have lived:
1. Charlottesville, VA
2. Vienna, Austria
3. Carrboro, NC
4. Pomona, NJ

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Budapest, Hungary
2. Paris, France (oh la la!)
3. Acadia National Park, Maine (just last fall)
4. Zion National Park, Utah

Four websites I visit daily:
1. Environmental Health News
2. Bloglines
3. NC Conservation Network blog
4. Flickr

Four of my favorite foods:
1. Hot Thai curries with tofu
2. Malai Kofta
3. The sampler platter at Neomonde
4. Is tea "food"? If so, then a big pot of Darjeeling with lots of milk and a little sugar.

Four places I'd rather be right now:
1. On my couch knitting and listening to archived episodes of This American Life with Simon in my lap
2. Hiking in the Shining Rock wilderness area with HWWLLB
3. Value Village with Miss Bugheart
4. Protesting outside Sew Fast / Sew Sleazy's NYC headquarters

Tag, you're it: Bugheart, Angelia, Jenn, and Kristy (this is my frail attempt to get Kristy to post something again soon). What's yer four things?

Friday, January 27, 2006

get into happy feet

For those of you who might not yet be sock-knitting zealots, let me put it to you straight: sock knitting is about the most satisfying knitting project in the universe. Here's why:

  • Price. Even the most luxurious pair of socks is a relatively cheap project. On the low end, you've got my green self-striping socks here, made from KnitPicks Parade. Project total cost: $4.98. On the high end, maybe some breathtaking hand-painted merino action from Claudia Handpainted - you're spending about $22. Now, when you think about most of your knitting projects, even $22 seems pretty reasonable, dontcha think? (Try not to think about the fact that it's $22 for a pair of socks - think $22 for a great knitting project, and kabam! very reasonable).
  • Luxury. Who wouldn't be tickled by wearing a pair of perfectly-fitted socks, hand-knit with care from lovely natural fibers? Think about socks these days: even the cool looking ones are just lycra with Hello Kitty on them. The bad ones? Ugly white Hanes Their Way. A hand-knit sock is a rare luxury - and pretty dang snazzy-looking, too.
  • Portability. This is a tiny little project! Just stick it in your purse and whip it out whenever you have to wait in line at the Post Office or the DMV. You don't even have to remember to bring a project if you're going someplace like that. I know of some sock-knitting fools who keep a pair of socks-in-progress in their purse the way some people keep breath mints.
  • Sex! Well, not sex really, but... if you use the Magic Loop technique, then you get to use Addi masTurbos. And even if you're still with that sweet but frumpy bamboo, the DPN's shape themselves into a configuration that looks like some kind of wicked ninja weapon - very intimidating. Could be helpful at the DMV.
Friends, that's my weekend advice to you. Go spend 5 bucks and learn to knit some socks! You'll thank me for it, I promise.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

roarin' leos

Simon's a Leo. I'm a Leo. And for whatever reason, it seems like just about everyone* who reads this blog is a Leo, too. Or, as someone at Stitch & Bitch pointed out, maybe it's just that only the Leos leave comments. I don't know which - all you Leos can leave a comment and tell me what you think.

We know this because this is the kind of vital information that Blogger collects about people. Whenever you click over to someone's profile, the first thing you see is their astrological sign. What's the deal, Blogger? Are they selling star charts on the side? Are they keeping statistics on which signs leave the most comments? Which lurk the longest without revealing themselves?

At any rate, it seems like any time some cute new person leaves a comment and I go investigating to see who they are, they are a Leo. Is this a personality trait, or just how the stars align on this particular location?

Knitting-related update: My green striped socks love the magic loop. I'm a little worried that my warm, stable relationship with bamboo knitting needles is being displaced by a passionate affair with some hot Addi Turbos. They're sexy and metallic, expensive and a little bit dangerous... and I can't stop knitting with them. I brought them to work today and I'm having a hard time concentrating on writing a grant proposal with those slinky Addi Turbos sitting just inside my bag, begging to be picked up and stroked - uh, knitted with. (cough).

*Everyone, meaning, everyone who isn't reading out of friendship-related compulsion. I know y'all aren't Leos - if you were one of our giant egos would have rolled over and crushed someone to death by now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

little pink ribbon

I think we need to make this ribbon green.

According to a new study released this week by the Breast Cancer Fund and Breast Cancer Action, half of all breast cancer cases are caused by environmental exposures. A large-scale survey of recent breast cancer research revealed that only about half of cases can be explained by things like genetic susceptibility or lifestyle risk factors. The rest are a mystery.

Except they're not. Despite the chemical industry's vociferous statements to the contrary, numerous environmental contaminants have been linked to increased breast cancer risk.

From a story in today's Oakland Tribune:

"You just can't blame it on lifestyle factors, like when you have children, or if you have children," said Nancy Evans, health science consultant for the Breast Cancer Fund and the report's principle author. "Half the cases are not explained by genetics or the so-called `known risk factors.' There's something else going on."

Environmental risk factors include exposure to things like pesticides, plasticizers, and radiation from - of all things - early mammograms.

This year, over 200,000 women in the US will be diagnosed with breast cancer - one out of seven women will be diagnosed in her lifetime. That's triple the rate of breast cancer in the 1960's. Only one in ten cases of breast cancer occur in women with a genetic predisposition for the disease.

I applaud all the walks for the cure, rides for the cure, knits for the cure, and the noble efforts of cancer researchers. But it's high time this country gets serious about going green for prevention.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

historical fiction

I am more than a little annoyed at the Evil Seamstress Overlords (as you might have noticed). But before I start bashing on them, I thought I'd hip you to the great new website set up by angry wimmin with pointy sticks, freetostitchfreetobitch.org, where you can read all about the evil company that shafted us, get cute graphics & buttons for your website and learn about friendly independent retailers of crafting supplies. So click on over there, I don't mind. The rest of this post is just a rant anyway.

So here's what I'm ranting about. It's this little bit of historical fiction from the Evil Seamstress Overlord website, under the heading, "Recent change to the Stitch & Bitch Cafe":
Stitch & Bitch started before 1997 when students of Sew Fast Sew Easy, Inc. gathered together for Friday Evenings of sewing, knitting and crochet fun. It was an idea of Elissa Meyrich the creative director of Sew Fast Sew Easy, Inc. In 1998, it became the Stitch & Bitch Café forum and linked to the website Sew Fast Sew Easy, Inc.

Stitch & Bitch Café is a brand name under Sew Fast Sew Easy, Inc and has been trademarked since 2001. No other usage of Stitch & Bitch ever occurred before the first Friday evening gatherings at Sew Fast Sew Easy [emphasis added] in it's first location 147 West 57th Street and Stitch and Bitch Café was one of the first online forums of its kind. We at Sew Fast Sew Easy decided it was time to convert our original trademarked online board into a forum. We also continue to hold our Stitch & Bitch nights at our current address 237 West 35th Street . Those nights are announced to our students and customers.

People, PLEASE?!? Who do they think they're fooling? Wimmin have been using the term "stitch and bitch" a loooong time. Even if their little creation story has any basis in actual events, the "no other usage" statement is pure fantasy!

Okay, here's my own factual example: last year I read Barbara Kingsolver's 1990 classic, Animal Dreams. I love this book, by the way. Anyhow, one of the big crises in the book is resolved by the Stitch & Bitch Club (yes, that's what she calls it), who use their crafting skills to save the town from a huge polluter. I partly loved this book for the stitchnbitchers. Check it for yourself, I'm sure it's available at your local library. That's just one example of how the Evil Seamstress Overlords are fallaciously claiming to have invented an important piece of women's history - and I'm sure that Barbara Kingsolver didn't invent the term, either. Someone should ask her where she first heard it.

So what's in a name? It's not just about sewing and crocheting and having fun, all right? The Evil Seamstress Overlords totally miss the "bitch" part of the story. In Kingsolver's book, the Stitch & Bitch Club use their cute little crafts club to promote their native art and raise money for a legal fund to kick a big corporate polluter out of their town. At our very own Stitch & Bitch group, we have hatched revolutionary activist ideas like the Keys of Resistance, and held fashion show fundraisers to get more women elected to public office. That's the BITCH part!

At Evil Seamstress Overlord headquarters, Stitch & Bitch is just a cute name to promote their products and services. But out here in the real world of women's networking and skill-sharing, we use it to create a space for new ideas and projects - not knitting projects, but smashing injustice projects. Knitting is just the excuse to get together. In many cultures sewing, knitting or crafting is a clever cover for women's gatherings that would otherwise be forbidden.

Another example: a colleague told me about a project she had worked on with the Latina community in East Los Angeles in the 1970s. Domestic violence was (is still?) a large problem in that community, compounded by a very macho, patriarchal culture and taboos against talking about the issue. She wanted to get women together to talk about it, so that they could start to seek help and quit getting beat up, but their husbands wouldn't let them go out to meetings. So they started a sewing circle. The idea was to get together and sew Quinceañera dresses to raise money for themselves. That was no problem for the husbands - they gladly let their women go out to sew together and raise money. But what do you think they talked about in the sewing circle? They bitched and bitched about getting beaten by their men, and they started to do something about it. They didn't call themselves "Stitch & Bitch," but they sure did do that, in the full sense of the term.

So that's why I'm so ticked about these greedy fools co-opting the name. If you needed me to explain. Now I guess I ought to quit bitching and start a revolution. Or at least design some bumper stickers.

Monday, January 23, 2006

horror, magic and bandwagons

Here's the horror-inducing picture I promised: the wallpaper in our dining room. Miss Bugheart is right, it clashes with everything in my house - even the cats.

aaaaahhhhhh! i hope there are no small children reading today.

So you can probably see why I'd give my left big toe to take this stuff down. I swear, my portable compact steamer has nothing to do with the way it's peeling off the wall. I swear!

I had a great weekend knitting myself some socks with the Magic Loop technique (dreamy!) and scheming with fellow stitchnbitchers about evil things to do to Sew Crass/Sew Sleazy. Next I must learn this two-at-a-time sock thing. One set of directions I have is for two-at-a-time, toe-up. I don't think I want to do toe-up. I like ankle-down (or calf-down, as the case may be) and I'm afraid that if I reverse them then the water will start spiraling the wrong way down the sink and I'll have to move to Australia (which is what I said I was going to do after the 2004 elections anyway).

So... I've given a lot of thought to the knitting olympics... it was a struggle mainly over whether I really wanted to rush through a challenging project in just 16 days. Why F*** up a good project by rushing? And then JenLa persuaded me further with this great button:

really makes you want to warm the bench, doesn't it?? if i could just find that hat...

Despite the fact that the alternative is a hideous red, white & blue Team USA button, I think I can't reist the challenge. Plus I just can't help jumping on the bandwagon.

So I've chosen a kid's sweater, Wendy's Girlfriend Swing Coat Sweater, to which I'm going to add some openwork on the sleeves and bottom hemline. Not impossible, but a real challenge for a somewhat pokey ADD-knitter and perfectionist like me to knock out in 16 days. Better start gauge-swatching! The casting-on ceremonies are only twelve days away!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

free to bitch

The harassment madness continues.

When we last left our crusading knitters, they were frantically calling their pro-bono lawyers and spending hours on dial-up connections to prevent their listservs and websites from being deleted by the Evil Seamstress Overlords in New York City due to baseless claims of "copyright infringment."

The plot thickens.

The same Marketing Toady who thought harassing Stitchnbitchers all over the US would corner the knitting market for her Evil Seamstress Overlord employers has set up rival forums for Stitch & Bitch groups on the Evil Seamstress Overlord website. Yesterday, calling themselves Stitch & Bitch on Yahoo was copyright infringement. Today, callling themselves Stitch & Bitch on Evil Seamstress Overlord website would be.... most welcome! Come on in! Bring your credit cards! Have you seen our new Stitch & Bitch branded items for sale??? (BOYCOTT, people! BOYCOTT!)

Marketing Toady herself has graciously posted a welcome message for each and every Stitch & Bitch group she complained about to Yahoo, asking, "Anybody interested in meeting up?"

And when existing Stitch & Bitchers reply with posts such as, "Helloooo, didn't you send us a cease and desist order just last week!?!" what do you imagine happens to them? Several of them had their comments deleted & were banned from the forums (according to personal testimony from several Stitch & Bitch group leaders. My comment hasn't been deleted yet - I can only assume that Ms. Toady goes home early on Fridays).

The good news is, outraged Stitch & Bitchers can at least wear their sentiments on their sleeves (or coffee mugs, or thongs...) because some enterprising knitters set up a Free to Stitch / Free to Bitch shop on Cafepress to build up a war chest. Look out, Evil Seamstress Overlords - the knitters are angry. Very angry. And they have pointy sticks.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

go team!

Should I sign up for the 2006 Knitting Olympics?? Stephanie of Yarn Harlot has announced the games, to commence with the opening of the 2006 Winter Olympics and end when the Olympic flame is extinguished 16 days later, at which time participants' "challenging" projects must be complete.

I could use the motivation, after taxing my little fingers so strenuously for Xmas gift completion and the Stitch & Bitch fashion show. Then again, considering that it took me most of last year to make my mom's cardigan, the 16-day window probably is a bit narrow for me and my ADD knitting... I'm gladly accepting advice on this one.

On the home front... check out Jackie! She's part of the family! She is paling around with Simon, meeting us at the front door when we get home from work, meowing maniacally for food, purring, and in real need of a weight management plan! We are so proud of our little wastrel. She hardly looks like the same feral cat who came crawling home three months ago, and wore a kitty sock made of Cascade Fixation on her little mangled leg while it healed. I'm getting all misty...

The reason I'm posting this now is that out of the blue, our AWOL landlady Flakette, erstwhile owner of Jackie, has resurfaced, living just ten miles away! What the...? Um, what happened to your life in New England? Why didn't you tell us you were moving and give us your new phone number? Where the hell have you been the last four months??!!?? All these and other questions remain to be answered, but she is alive and well and doesn't want us to rip down the peeling wallpaper in the dining room, though we are desperate. I'll spackle! I'll paint! I'll take over the care of your beloved pet cat! Just please PLEASE let me take down this hideous wallpaper!

(I do realize that I must now post a picture of said wallpaper. You may gag - consider yourself warned.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

hellooooo, nurse!

Greetings from happy pal central! Yesterday I got a wonderful package in the mail from my Secret Pal, who is awesome! S/he sent me some wonderful heather gray sock yarn (Swiss sock yarn that is so legit it comes with extra reinforcement thread in the package) and TWO bars of organic dark chocolate! Bliss!

Thank you Secret Pal!

I am looking forward to making some stylish fancy socks with the yarn. It will be a new challenge for me to do some interesting stitch pattern with the socks, since I usually knit pretty basic desgins with self-striping yarn - now I get to work with fancy textures, too. I was thinking of something fancy from the Vintage Socks book.

It will be a good diversion, because I'm mired in a design project right now that's got me a bit stymied. I bought this beautiful Kathmandu aran yarn back in October when we were visiting Maine, and had a very specific, neck-down raglan sweater with deep ribbing at the waise & 3/4 sleeves in mind for it. But when I started knitting up a swatch, the yarn started screaming, cardigan! I want to be a cardigan!

So I'm starting from scratch on this one. The handle is nice, but a little bit tweedier than what I had imagined, so I'm looking to do something more tailored and jacket-like, but with some pretty detailing. Not too fussy, just some nice shaping and maybe ONE decorative detail. But this is not my forte. I'm much better with wild bright funky kids' sweaters. Making this one for myself - something that I will actually want to wear - is going to be a challenge.

On the lighter side of distracting projects, Saun is the greatest and has posted step-by-step instructions on how to make a needle case. HOORAY! My DPN's are out of control - I think I may be spending this weekend in front of the sewing machine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

the amazing adventures of baby tigers

I finished this $2 scarf over the weekend, in between racing through chapters of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (which is the best book I've read in a loooong time), and you know what? There's a reason that yarn gets marked down to $1 a ball.

This thing reminds me of a latch hook of a tiger that I made in 1978. Same exact color scheme.

But thanks to my brilliant New Year's Resolutions, I have to wear it. So I wore it all day yesterday, and I wore it to work today. Yesterday I even wore it to the yarn store to be pitied by the highly-skilled knitters working there. Everyone studiously avoided asking about its provenance.

But it's better than it could have been. I seriously started making a pom-pom fringe for this thing. I was imagining adorable kitschy mini-poms dangling happily from each end of the scarf, bouncing along with the rhythm of my day.

Pom-poms, as you may already know, are NO FUN to make. The smaller, the worser. Plus this yarn just pulls apart and frays itself into oblivion at the slightest provocation, so pomming was not working out well. The poms looked like tiny little squashed latch-hook baby tigers on leashes. Needless to say, the pom-pom fringe is history, replaced by a respectable tassle fringe, which caught on the velcro of my laptop bag this morning and caused a minor fashion disaster.

But what I really wanted to tell you is, Michael Chabon is a genius, Kavalier is the best book ever, and I am VERY depressed today that I've finished reading it and can't go on any more amazing adventures with Rosa, Joe and Sammy. I guess I'll have to go back to knitting. *sigh*

Monday, January 16, 2006

an extremist for justice

"I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

"We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights.

"A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.

"Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks, before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman empire.

"I'm grateful to God that, through the Negro church, the dimension of nonviolence entered our struggle.

"Was not Jesus an extremist for love -- "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice -- "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ -- "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist -- "Here I stand; I can do none other so help me God." Was not John Bunyan an extremist -- "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist -- "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." So the question is not whether we will be extremist but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice--or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill, three men were crucified. We must not forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thusly fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.

"There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," and had to obey God rather than man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.

"We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

"One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters they were in reality standing up for the best in the American dream and the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, and thusly, carrying our whole nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in the formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence."

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "Letter from Birmingham Jail," April 1963

Resources on the Web:
The King Center
Southern Poverty Law Center
JFK Library

Thursday, January 12, 2006

can't we just stitch and bitch in peace?

Those harassment-happy seamstresses at Sew Fast / Sew Easy are at it again. They must have a lot of extra money lying around to spend on lawyers.

Today dozens of listserv moderators from local Stitch & Bitch groups received a not-so-friendly email from Yahoo! informing us that we need to change our the names of our Yahoo! Groups listservs or get shut down. Sew Fast / Sew Easy, a sewing store & school in New York City, filed a complaint with Yahoo! claiming copyright infringement.

Okay, changing the listserv names is not a huge big deal, as Debbie Stoller mentioned in her really kind letter about this issue (unlike SnB Raleigh, she has a lawyer). It's not like they're asking us to change the names of our actual knitting groups (Knit and Kvetch? Purl and Patter?).

But what is a big deal is that Sew Fast / Sew Easy has been harassing knitters over the "Stitch & Bitch" name for over a year now. WHY? Because they have copyrighted the name "Stitch and Bitch Café" for the chatroom on their website, and they want to brand as many of their products with their Stitch & Bitch logo as they can.

Earlier this year they forced our comrades at Stitch & Bitch Chicago to take the "Stitch & Bitch" name off the T-shirts and handbags they were selling at CafePress.com.

Now they've forced dozens of local SnB groups to monkey with our listserv names. Legally, their claim is probably baseless, but Yahoo! would rather not find out in court, so here we are.

Do I have to mention that if you're not already boycotting Sew Fast / Sew Easy and badmouthing them to your friends, it's time to start…?

According to Debbie Stoller and her lawyers:
"Unfortunately, there is no immediate recourse with Yahoo other than to make the change at this time. They require this as soon as anybody makes any kind of claim--they do not evaluate the merits of the claim."
So it looks like we have to go ahead and comply with this nonsense, but please don't think that's because Sew Fast/Sew Easy's claim of copyright infringement has any merit. I think they are bullies with no right to harass us. And their pink website is fug-ugly, too.

In case you'd like to drop a line to Sew Fast / Sew Easy to say hello or let them know what you think of their harassing knitting groups, their email is info@sewfastseweasy.com.


Well, it's been a week - let's take a quick peek at which of my New Year's resolutions have already bitten the dust:

  • Go to yoga at least once a week. Hm... I don't think I've been to yoga since writing the list, so... I'd call that one officially violated.

  • Wear something I knit once in a while. What qualifies as "once in a while"? I really am knitting a scarf for myself right now... it's just that the ultra-discounted $1 a ball yarn isn't knitting up so hot... it kind of looks like a muppet in distress. I swear I'll wear it at least once. Okay, still valid.

  • Practice violin at least three times per week. This one is so violated.

  • Here's the one I'm really abusing: Eschew plastic. This should be so easy! I hate plastic! And yet... I have already broken this one so many times I can't even say. Well, at least I haven't bought any plastic knitting needles (as if!)

  • Buy less crap. This one I really have been sticking to all week. Of course, it hasn't been that hard since I spent all my discretionary cash + some more for this pay cycle on repairs to the car, so it's not like I've really had the option.
As for the other "in process" resolutions, well, I guess they're coming along. We'll have to wait til December 31 to get a final reckoning on those. So, final tally: 3 out of 9 resolutions have already been infracted upon. Hey - that means 70% are still in play! All right!

Maybe I should go buy some crap to celebrate...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

sp7 questionnaire

I am very very excited about having and being a Secret Pal, and I know you're all dying to read my questionnaire responses. Uh... right. Please just come back tomorrow when I write something potentially interesting. Apologies to all of you, and to my new Secret Pal: Hi! I love you! Yay!

1. Are you a yarn snob (do you prefer higher quality and/or natural fibers)? Do you avoid Red Heart and Lion Brand?

Yarn snob, beer snob, snobby-snob, you name it.

2. Do you spin? Crochet?

I'd love to learn to spin! No, I don't crochet, except to sometimes make an edge or a seam, or an unidentified fiber blob.

3. What do you use to store your needles/hooks in?

A train case, a vase, my knitting bag, purse, grocery bag, laptop case...

4. How long have you been knitting? Would you consider your skill level to be beginner, intermediate or advanced?

Hm... about 5 years, and approximately intermediate.

5. Do you have an Amazon or other online wish list?

I have one at Alibris, but I don't update it too often.

6. What's your favorite scent? (for candles, bath products etc.)

Please, for the love of God, no smells. Bath and Body Works = smelly headache hell on earth. Perfume is air pollution, people. Take pity.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth? Favorite candy?

Deep, dark chocolate. Mmmmmmmmm.

8. What other crafts or Do-It-Yourself things do you like to do?

I like to make trash into "art," and I like to make jewelry, especially using old broken costume jewelry pieces.

9. What kind of music do you like? Can your computer/stereo play MP3s? (if your buddy wants to make you a CD)

Yes, my computer will play MP3's. I love creakety-scratchety world music from anyplace, anytime. The harder to understand, the better! Other loves: Bollywood, Bhangra, early jazz (1920's-30's), gypsy jazz, early rock/R&B (1950's), Billie Holiday, Bela Bartok, most anything recorded by Yo Yo Ma, Howlin Wolf or Ella Fitzgerald, queer punk, girl punk, or any other non-whiteboy punk, old school hip-hop, Appalachian folk, Texas swing... should I keep going?

10. What's your favorite color? Or--do you have a color family/season/palette you prefer? Any colors you just can't stand?

I tend to gravitate towards a summer palette, and yet... all my clothes are black. I like red the best of all colors.

11. What is your family situation? Do you have any pets?

Living in sin with one man and two cats. Yow!

12. Do you wear scarves, hats, mittens or ponchos?

Yes, yes, yes and um, I haven't tried it, but I'm scared.

13. What is/are your favorite yarn/s to knit with?

Lately I am really into merino wool, alone or blended with friends, and also alpaca. I love to felt with Cascade 220, and to make socks with insanely bright self-striping yarns. I also like to make sweaters and hats for babies and little kids, especially from organic cotton.

14. What fibers do you absolutely *not* like?

Mohair. Oh, the beautiful itch of death!

15. What is/are your current knitting obsession/s?

I don't feel terribly obsessed right now. I am on the hunt for the perfect sweater design/pattern for a sweater I want to make for myself from some yummy silk road aran tweed.

16. What is/are your favorite item/s to knit?

Toddler-sized sweaters in super-bright colors, funky socks, and earthy-colored vests for my man HWWLLB.

17. What are you knitting right now?

Well, I'm trying to finish up HWWLLB's Xmas present, which was a sweater vest, and I'm fiddling around with an amber-colored fashion scarf for me, maybe with a pom-pom fringe.

18. Do you like to receive handmade gifts?


19. Do you prefer straight or circular needles?


20. Bamboo, aluminum, plastic?

Bamboo, or Addi Turbo...

21. Do you own a yarn winder and/or swift?


22. How did you learn to knit?

My friend Miss Bugheart forced me to learn because she wanted a knitting buddy. She'd make me cast on until I cried, make me knit endless rows of garter, then stockinette, then seed stitch, barking orders to go twenty more rows... at the time I wanted to strangulate her, but now I want to squeeze and kiss her. Either way, she really should watch out.

23. How old is your oldest UFO?

I don't want to talk about it, it will make me cry.

24. What is your favorite animated character or a favorite animal/bird?

I don't have any characters that I like, though Miss Bugheart keeps trying to turn me on to Sanrio/San-X/Miffy type creatures, and because of that people think I like Hello Kitty & friends and are always giving me little erasers and coin purses and other such items. I actually like the tiny coin purses better than the Japanse characters. As animals go, I like them all, but I'm really partial to my two cats, and wild things like woodpeckers, leopard frogs, brook trout and any kind of bug.

25. What is your favorite holiday?


26. Is there anything that you collect?

No! I only throw away other people's collections.

27. What knitting magazine subscriptions do you have?

Interweave Knits.

28. Any books, yarns, needles or patterns out there you are dying to get your hands on?

Uh... you'll have to download the 500-page PDF file from the server...

29. Are there any new techniques you'd like to learn?

I'd love to learn dyeing next. And then spinning. And then alpaca husbandry.

30. Are you a sock knitter? What are your foot measurements?

Yes, I love knitting socks! I wear size 8 shoes.

31. When is your birthday? (mm/dd)

July 25. I'm a Leo - mrrow!

Well, it's been a lot of fun to have a reason to go on and on and on all about myself and my various picky tastes. If you're actually still reading this, leave a comment and answer any/all of the above questions about yourself, then I won't feel so greedy.

st. george and the book club

I confronted a demon last night.

Demon, thy name is Book Club Anxiety.

Last night was my turn to host the Book Club, at my not-up-to-neighborhood-standards house. Last time it was my turn I chickened out and held it at the coffee shop. But I'm older and wiser now, and like most of us, every year I care less what people think.

So, I had them all over, the neighborhood book club women, and as usual we had snacks and wine and cake, and talked (a little) about the book, and it was all very pleasant and made me want to read even more books. Hooray!

Did they know that the vacuum bag exploded in the living room 30 minutes before they arrived? No, they did not.

Did anyone comment on our "quaint" peeling wallpaper in the dining room? No one did.

Did the cats decide to reject the new litter-box sharing arrangement during the course of the evening and take a dump on the couch? Thankfully, no.

Did they like the insanely chocolate dessert that HWWLLB baked for us? They surely did.

Success! I may even have qualified for an honorable mention in the pages of Southern Living Magazine (for the uninitiated, SL is like Martha Stewart Living, only with more lard and doilies. In our neighborhood they practice a somewhat off-beat, but faithful, rendition).

The only remaining evidence of a lovely evening are the wine glasses in my drying rack.

How incredibly ironic that the book we were discussing, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, is all about appearances (hence the title). It was not a hit. Housekeeping is definitely a writer's book (not that I really know what that means) rather than a book club book. But the writing! Oh! My! God! Spectacular. Robinson has a new book out called Gilead that I'm really looking forward to reading.

I also wonder whether the 'keeping up appearances' theme either hit a little too close to home with some of our Southern Living neighbors, or just went right over their heads.

I really hope this doesn't come off sounding mean (and I'm biting my nails in anticipation of Kristy's comments, because she is the amazing mistress of our book club and the reason I love it). I really do like and respect these women. Some I don't know very well, but I know their perfectly manicured lawns and paintakingly-chosen Victorian paint colors, and those give me the hives. But hey, I force them to read icy cold literature that bites at their values (a totally unintended turn of events, I swear!), and they respond with grace and invite me to their beautiful homes for snacks and wine and cake and the next discussion. The wine, oh, thank you God for wine.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

no mo norweger ringel

Just when I thought I was in the Ringel.

You may recall that back before Xmas in my sock-knitting frenzy I started a cute little pair of self-striping socks using the Strapaz Norweger Ringel yarn from Austria (it's made by Steinbach Wolle). You may also recall that I bought the single (yes, single - oh, the humanity!) ball of yarn 1/2 price at a store many many miles from my home. Oh, woe.

Surprise, I ran out of yarn with just inches to go on the second toe. Blast! So I scrounged and phoned and googled and eBayed looking for another sweet deal on the elusive second ball of yarn, but to no avail. Paying full price + shipping was not on my to-do list for that 2 inches of toe.

So what a thrill, to be passing through this town many miles from mine on Sunday, to find that the yarn store where I first bought that solitary ball was open! Open, at 5:45 PM on a Sunday in North Carolina! Nothing is open at 5:45 PM on a Sunday in North Carolina, except for the K & W Cafeteria (and the line is unbelievable).

And then disaster struck. This particular yarn store, you see, is not really a yarn store but a quilt store that carries yarn. Normally this is a wonderful thing, because HWWLLB quilts, so we can spend many happy hours browsing and spending our rent money on fabric and yarn, gleefully indulging our own sick shopping compulsions and justifying them by revelling in the fact that the other person is about to dump just as much money! Wheeee! Except that this particular shop never had the best yarn selection, so it was hard to go as hog-wild as I would have liked.

Double except, for some reason which I still can't explain, every time I went there the yarn was half price. Hence the impulse one-ball-of-sock-yarn buying. I should have bought ten.

Okay, I'm getting to the point now. They didn't have my sock yarn. Jeezoo, they didn't have anything, because they're getting out of the yarn business. What they did have was marked down to an amazing $1 a ball, but it was mostly frizzy novelty yarns that make me want to sneeze just looking at them. It was tough, but I scrounged up a purchase (2 balls of Linie 139 Cicada for a fashion scarf for me, and 6 balls of something cotton I can't remember right now and had never heard for, for a kid's sweater). But alas, no Norweger Ringel.

This is now a quest. I solemnly swear that I will not buy a full-price ball + shipping, because somewhere in my travels, whether at some out-of-the-way yarn shop in East Jesus, NC, or in the bottom of a sympathetic stitch & bitcher's yarn stash, I am going to find that yarn. And I am not going to pay full price.

Friday, January 06, 2006

the list

After much pondering and inspiration from y'all and consultation with my therapist/barista at Tony's Cafe, I have prepared a draft list of New Year's resolutions. Notice: all resolutions are subject to change without notice.

  • Stop thinking that my job is the most important thing there is.
  • Go to yoga at least once a week.
  • Stop being so G-darn bossy, especially to Sis and HWWLLB.
  • Wear something I knit once in a while (I have become the butt of jokes at Stitch & Bitch. They just don't get it. I don't feel the need to wear the things I make - I recently learned the term "process knitter" to describe this very phenomenon. But I will do it - to avoid further mockery).
  • Practice violin at least three times per week.
  • Look up new vocabulary words once in a while.
  • Become a kick-ass fundraiser! Raise twice as much money as last year!
  • Spend more time enjoying the wonderful people I get to meet through work.
saving the world
  • Eschew plastic. No more plastic take-out containers, no more toxic Nalgene bottles, no more plastic bags from the grocery store. I have around 100 canvas bags and I'm darn well going to use them.
  • Buy less crap. Crap includes: new clothes, anything from Target (even things with amazing ylang-ylang nano elf technology), and especially things that I justify purchasing by thinking about how the item will make my life better. Crap does not include: yarn, pricey Japanese-made knitting tools, or things purchased at thrift stores (it's my list and I'll write my own definitions, thank you).
If you're still working on your resolutions, the NC Conservation Network suggests some good ones you can file under the "saving the world" heading.

I feel so free.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


I like these internet games. File this one under "cultivate more imaginary friends."

Thanks to Saun for hipping me to the JenLa ugly avatar meme. Oh, it's nasty, people! What's really scary is that my fugly avatar looks just like me. Don't forget to click over to JenLa and look at all the horrrrrific avatars that people have made. This reminds me of the sloganator from back in '04.

Yahoo! Avatars

imaginary friends

I do have real friends, I do - not just imaginary virtual bloggy friends who have never heard of me!

Tuesday night it was wonderful to get to see some folks who live far away (like aaaall the way in Chapel Hill), and really far away (like Germany). I know Chapel Hill is only 35 miles from here, but that disgusting highway in between makes it feel like traveling into another dimension. It's exhausting! Now Germany - sheesh, I can't even imagine how tiring it would be to drive all the way over there.

But that's no excuse for not making time for friends who live in another dimension. I'm sorry, universe! (ooh, do I feel a resolution coming on?!)

Anyhow, Badass April was home from Germany for the holidays, and the Chapel Hill Stitch-n-Bitchers had organized a special edition knit-nite just for her. She wasn't knitting anything, but no penalties were levied for the infraction. I managed to do a couple of rows on HWWLLB's vest, but most of the evening was spent catching up with old pals and gorging myself on the addictively delicious cheese that our host, Mike, had provided. I think I ate about half a pound of that extra-sharp cheddar. Here are some tiny little pictures of the people who hadn't put away their knitting and gone home by the time I remembered I had the camera with me:

none of these people are imaginary.

The more I think about it, maybe the online imaginary friend thing isn't so abnormal - at least, not for me. As a kid I had an imaginary friend named Bubba who lived behind the refridgerator. One day I must have decided that he had a pet puppy, and started sticking little bowls from my doll house back there (full of imaginary Puppy Chow, I guess). I had to use the broom handle to push them back far enough.

When my mom asked me what I was doing, I told her I was feeding Bubba's puppy. "Who's Bubba?" she wanted to know. I remember that question kind of astounded me - how could she not know who Bubba was? He was my best friend! Bubba was a way better friend than that little junior crackhead Steven next door who beat the pulp out of me every time we played together. Bubba was nice. He was going to be president one day.

In case you were wondering about my real-not-imaginary friends at home, when we returned from the other dimension Tuesday night, Jackie and Simon touched noses, and there was no hissing, swatting or running away. Just a pleasant sniff and then back to the usual pretending-the-other-one-isn't-there. Very healthy. Simon has discovered the joy of sleeping under a blanket. This way, he can get hair on both sides. He looks so sweet and peaceful when he's sleeping. He's dreaming about biting his friends on their toes.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

improve brain function

Um... still no resolutions here. How bout you? Everyone else seems much more on the stick than I am in this regard.

Rustle the Leaf
has a new year's resolution.

Crazy Aunt Purl has like 100 of them, because she is an over-acheiving super-resolver.

(Side note: Have you noticed how I am a tad bit obsessed with the Aunt Purl? I admit trying to hide it from you all, because it's perhaps a teeny bit stalker-ish, but every day I just can't wait to see what she's up to. It hasn't risen to the level of my cousin Essie's X-Files obsession - she gets depressed after finishing watching a season on DVD and thinks of Scully as one of her closest friends - but still, I think it's a bit pathetic when HWWLLB asks me how my day was and I tell him it was okay but I'm kind of sad because Aunt Purl was slobber-crying and ruminating about her ex, or that it was the greatest day ever because Aunt Purl posted step-by-step photo instructions on how to knit drop-stitch rows along with hilarious pictures of her cats. Okay, maybe I write about her as if she were my real friend who just happens to live faraway but calls every day to fill me in on everything she's doing, but to my mind, that's waaay healthier than Essie's Scully thing, because Aunt Purl is a real live person, whereas Scully is an entirely fictional character. Also, Aunt Purl doesn't do Calvin Klein ads, so I don't have pin-ups on my screensaver. I'd never do anything that obsessive. Sheesh!)

So... back to the resolutions. Ahem.

I think I want one of my resolutions to have something to do with the Washington Post Style Invitational, but I'm not sure yet how to work that one in. Maybe under improve brain function? Or subscribe to real newspaper (as opposed to the glorified advertising circular we get now)? How about stop blog-stalking girl in L.A.? Or maybe just stop writing about it. I clearly have a ways to go here, people. And the truth is out there.

Monday, January 02, 2006

leftover collards

It's lunchtime and I'm munching on the leftover New Year's dinner. The black-eyed peas seem to be staring at me expectantly. Maybe even reproachfully. What are you going to do to better yourself this year? they are asking me. What meaningful steps will you take to reduce your huge giant first-world ecological footprint, or to be healthier, or to make your friends and loved ones happier, or to alleviate poverty and suffering in the world? or in Raleigh?

These peas are really turning the screws on me. I'm glad that collards and cornbread don't have eyes.

the mild and unassuming collard (notice no eyes).

To be brief, I have no New Year's resolutions yet. Do you? I'm always curious about this tradition - I realize that most people probably break their resolutions in a matter of weeks, but I think that the intention and the self-reflection of simply making the resolution is a very good thing for most of us (om shanti, y'all).

So I'm thinking about it. Get back to me in a week or so. And tell me what your resolutions are - I am dying to know!

You can tell that the last week has been crazy because I haven't bothered to sit down and write about it yet. The Holiday Week Off Work started out so restfully that it couldn't have held for too long. To start with, HWWLLB and I are both suffering from malingering colds that refuse to budge. We made the 8+ hour drive to Extended Family HQ on Tuesday, and between the drive and staying up til 4 am watching X-Files with my cousin, I managed to finish the socks for my Granny Tea, just in time to take her to lunch the next day.

But lunch never happened, because just after we picked her up, as we were in the driveway at my other grandma (Granny Pea)'s house, picking her up for our date, Granny Tea had a stroke. Oh man. It was so scary. We called the ambulance and everyone went to the hospital where we were met by every relative within 50 miles, and spent a terrifying afternoon with the emergency docs, and then they put her in a helicopter and flew her off to a bigger, better hospital in Philadelphia, where she is now recovering.

So, to make the dramatic part of the story short, Granny Tea is recovering fine and is expected to get her speech and motor coordination back completely with some therapy. She is already doing much, much better. When we visited her in Philly two days after the stroke, she was vivacious and even talkative, though she is having trouble coming up with some of the words she wants to use, and that's very frustrating for her. The socks are coming in handy, since the shoddy little footies they give you in the hospital slip right off. Every time someone new came into the room she'd point out her new socks and tell them that her granddaughter had made them. Yes! I'm so glad I didn't make her a beret - er, I mean a PatrioTam.

So it was a short and chaotic visit, staying up late with my night-owl cousin and her husband, who drink coffee at 12 am and are magically able to sleep in broad daylight, then getting up early and driving all over the place to pow-wow with relatives. Then the long drive back (on which I knitted myself a new winter hat).

I know I'm supposed to be finishing HWWLLB's sweater, but I really needed a hat, and I found this merino blend that perfectly matches my winter coat and, and... and I am a pathetic yarn whore with no self-control. I think admitting that makes it slightly better.

So we are fagged out, man. Dog tired. I need a lot more tea and a massage to face the rest of the afternoon at work. At least I don't have those reproachful peas staring at me anymore, because I ate them all. Maybe that's my first New Year's resolution: Eat all critics.