Thursday, February 22, 2018

It Took a Year

It was almost exactly a year ago, in fact, when the cowl I was knitting in Andreality's (Ravelry name) birthday Malabrigo got suddenly and unceremoniously pushed aside for some new, shiny projects:

I had to make these: 
A plain sock pattern over 32 stitches on size 2 needles.

And then there was this:
The Welcome Home Baby Blanket from Lace One-Skein Wonders.

And of course that:
Elijah by Ysolda Teague.
Because when a new niece is about to launch herself into your life, there's a lot of knitting to do!

But the niece knitting is caught up for a moment and when I was sick last week and felt too dull to read, I got to poking around and found that Malabrigo cowl.  
That Nice Stitch cowl.
The photo doesn't do the Malabrigo justice, but it's
winter and I don't own a lightbox. Sorry.
It really only took the month of February. February 2017 and 2018, but still. I'm calling it February. 

And since I was sick for six days and the cowl only needed a couple of inches, I had time to finish up the socks I was planning to wear for St. Patrick's Day. In 2017. 
Geek Socks from
Such a fun way to use self-striping yarn! 

I'm finally healthy and off the couch, but I feel like I'm on a roll with the UFOs, so I went rummaging again and came up with some yarn barf that's been rolling around in a project bag since 2013. 

I hope in a couple of weeks that hot mess will be a Hey Teach cardigan. Wish me luck! 

Friday, January 26, 2018

And the Best Books I Read This Year (2017)

Yup, that's all this blog is now: annual reviews of the books I liked the best. Sorry I haven't been posting, promise to do better, blah, blah, blah, nobody cares.

So let's get to it. Based on the "would I re-read it" premise, the list is pretty small, so stay tuned for some honorable mentions at the end.

Aiken, Joan. 1963. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.
Last year I was entranced by The People in the Castle, and this year I read and loved several of Aiken's children's books. Somehow I missed these books when I was the "right" age, and that is a bit of a tragedy; the spirit of adventure embodied in Aiken's stories would've done my childhood good. I'll go beyond saying I "would" re-read it to promise that I will re-read it with my niece when she's old enough.

Chambers, Becky. 2014. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. 
I don't seek out much sci-fi and actually picked this up thinking it was something else. What a serendipitous mistake! The story, full of space adventures and imaginative tech, is entirely character driven and addresses intense themes of belonging. And it's well written and just a lot of fun. As soon as I finished Long Way, I immediately read the sequel, A Closed and Common Orbit, which follows characters who were tangential to the first story. I've already placed my library request for the third in the trilogy, Record of a Spaceborn Few, which is scheduled to be released in July 2018.

Dickey, Colin. 2016. Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places.
Dickey approaches American history and culture through our most famous hauntings. He manages to debunk many of our favorite ghost stories but still creep me out anyway!

And that's it. Those are the three books I read in 2017 that I would willingly re-read if suddenly new books ceased to appear.

Here are the honorable mentions I really enjoyed but that don't make the re-read list. Oddly for me, these are all nonfiction. What? Nonfic? No, yes, really. 

Waldman, Ayelet. 2017. A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. 
The drug war is dumb and prevents people from accessing help that could change their lives.

Winter, W. Chris. 2017. The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It. 
I have a secret weakness for self-help books, and sleep is something I have worried about a lot in my eternal quest to become bigger, stronger, faster without having to do anything boring or dumb like exercise or eat well or change my lifestyle in any way. The Sleep Solution gets into the nitty-gritty of how sleep works, but does so in accessible language. The book changed my perception of sleep and I actually became more satisfied with my sleep the very week I finished it. (On a slightly bizarre note, on GoodReads I mildly criticized the author's habit of inserting jokes as footnotes, thereby interrupting himself over and over and over for no good reason. The author responded personally to defend his choice, which was . . . odd. You'd think an internationally known sleep doctor would have better things to do with his time than stalk GoodReads reviews.)

Yang, Kao Kalia. 2008. The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir. 
The Latehomecomer was the 2017 Big Read selection for the Wichita Public Library. Many of my co-workers didn't love this book as much as I did. I was particularly struck by the fact that Yang and I are close to the same age. While I was running around the playground at OK Elementary, she was running around a refugee camp. Our grandmothers even died within a month of each other. So I felt a particular interest in and affection for Yang's well-told story.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Best Books I Read This Year

This has really been a banner year for good books. Am I getting better at choosing? Are my tastes expanding? Probably yes.

To choose these books, I went through all my 2016 GoodReads reviews asking myself if I would re-read that book. I don’t re-read very often, but, in the unlikely event that authors stopped writing new books and I got caught up on all the books ever published and had literally nothing else to read, these are the books I would happily read again. These are also the books I try to push on friends and library patrons whenever possible. (Seriously. I sent a woman home with Ghost Summer just last week. I’ll consider it a personal affront if she doesn’t enjoy it.) They’re listed in alphabetical order by author; no ranking is implied. I read the books this year, but most of them were not published in 2016.

Aiken, Joan. 2016. The People in the Castle.
Aiken died in 2004 before I had ever even heard of her. Luckily for me, her daughter repackaged and republished some of her short stories as The People in the Castle, which got written up on some blog or website or other, and I had a chance to discover her unique, beautiful fairy tales. I’m looking forward to working through her immense bibliography.

Due, Tananarive. 2015. Ghost Summer.
Ghosts stories, people! GOOD ghost stories! And monster stories and human stories and human-monster stories. If you like your literature with a side of creepy, dive in.

Jackson, Shirley. 1962. We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Shirley Jackson. That is all I have to say. Oh, except for: Thanks, Milton, for reminding me I had been meaning to read this.

Kingsolver, Barbara. 2009. The Lacuna.
Reading about Stalinist Russia and the American anti-Communist hysteria of the 1950s at this particular political moment was grounding. Recalling these eras in history has reminded me that nothing we are going through now is new; there have always been people who tried to enforce one particular way of being American. Pluralism is a luxury we are frequently not allowed to enjoy. And Kingsolver is always good.

Mandel, Emily St. John. 2014. Station Eleven.
I dig stories about how people cope with the end of “civilization.” This one is particularly good.

Yapa, Sunil. 2016. Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.
Tells the story of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle from the perspective of the protestors, the officers, and a diplomat.

Honorable Mention
I particularly enjoyed these, but they’re not “re-readable.”

Bradbury, Ray. 1953. Fahrenheit 451.
Butler, Octavia. 1979. Kindred.
Hernandez, Carlos. 2016. The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria.
Hugo, Victor. 1862. Les Miserables.
Nguyen, Viet Thanh. 2015. The Sympathizer.
West, Lindy. 2016. Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

What It's Like to "Own" a Dog

You’re supposed to get up at the same time every day, and that’s where dogs come in, because if you get up at 6:15 five days a week, she’s pretty much going to insist that you get up at that time on days off, too. And then refuse to go out because the neighbors’ sprinklers are running and the noise is too scary. So you have to put on pants and put her in her harness and take her out front. You think you’ll just take her in the front yard and she’ll do her business and you can come back in, but nowhere in the front yard meets her demanding pee spot specifications, so you end up walking up the street and finally, three houses up, she squats. Okay. You can turn around and go home now. Except now she thinks you’re on a walk and doesn’t want to go home. There are things to smell in the next block, dammit! So when you try to turn back, she plants her little feet and, in an astounding abrogation of the laws of physics, turns her stocky little fifteen-pound body into a hundred-pound boulder. When you pull on the leash, she tries to bite it. You could pick her up. But.
            So. You decide screw it, claw the sleep crust out of your eyes, and start walking, wondering if the neighbors saw you lose a war of wills to an adorable floof ball. “I didn’t bring a poop bag,” you tell her. “We weren’t supposed to leave the yard. So don’t poop.” And you walk, thinking about how good it is that you have a dog who forces you to exercise and isn’t this what you wanted in the first place when you decided to adopt dogs? A reason to force you out of the house? So this is good, right? Right?
            And then she poops.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Wichita, Take a Look

I saw something today that everyone in Wichita needs to take a look at. I volunteered for the river cleanup this morning and somehow ended up under the Seneca Street bridge next to the Indian Center, where people have lived.

 I and a friend, along with other volunteers, spent 2 hours filling five garbage bags. It took so long  because we had to spend time deciding whether everything we touched was garbage or someone's belonging. Empty cigarette packs: trash. Plastic dishes: leave them. Clothes: wearable or shredded? I folded four or five tee shirts and left them on a rock next to a stack of waterlogged but still readable paperbacks (a Nora Roberts, a James Patterson, Angels and Demons by Dan Brown, and a book about the Titanic). We dug a heavy winter coat out of the bank that looked like it was in good condition, but was so waterlogged and muddy that it would've needed professional drycleaning to be wearable again. We decided to throw it away. I've spent the rest of the day thinking up scenarios that could explain the presence of a plastic dollhouse, none of them good.

All the while, we had to negotiate the boulders and rubble that cover the bank. No one is meant to walk down there, and it isn't safe. Boulders shift as you step on them. Falling on the sharp rock would mean bruises at a minimum, if not broken bones. G's foot slipped between two rocks, and there was a scary moment when I thought she had turned her ankle and we were going to have to figure out how to get us both out of there without hurting ourselves worse. There is no place where someone could stretch out comfortably to truly rest.

The rubble does serve a purpose, though. It's been stacked into small walls so each person has a semi-private area. There were four or five little "apartments" with a communal bonfire area close to the river. Clothes, particularly denim, and styrofoam along with driftwood seem to have been the main sources of fuel. There were empty Ramen packages; I hope it wasn't cooked in river water.

This is the bridge north of the Indian Center where Seneca turns into Greenway. Beautiful Riverside homes are right across the river. The Art Museum is just up the street. We have all driven along here and walked the bike paths to the Keeper of the Plains about a half-mile or so away. Of course I had heard that people lived under Wichita's bridges, but I hadn't seen it. I didn't really know what that meant.

I'm not asking you to volunteer or give money or even change your ideological or political opinions. I'm not trying to guilt you, I swear. I just want you to look, to know that this is Wichita, too.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sockghan Square 4

Vacation is looming, and I wanted to do a square based on Knitty's Inlay before I leave because this is not a road trip square.

The twisted stitch technique isn't difficult (it's similar to cabling, except instead of reversing the order of the stitches and then knitting them, you knit the stitches out of order), but it's not a "Hey, look at that!" kind of project. Car passenger knitting has to allow for lots of knitting without looking. I don't want to come home and find that my clearest memories are of yarn! So this is a no-go for actual trip knitting, but I was dying to see how it would come out as a square.

The sock pattern has a plain knit round that works as a purl row in the flat version, so it works just fine, but I'm not in love with how I spaced the pattern itself into the square. I'd like to do another one with a little more attention to fitting the pattern into the square less awkwardly. This will probably involve working it out at sometime that is not after 10pm. This is no more suited for bedtime planning than it is road trip knitting.

We leave in a few days. In the next post I hope to have a whole stack of squares to show off! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sockghan Square 3

The easiest square yet is based on Hermione's Everyday Socks by Erica Lueder.

Other than purling the plain knit rounds, no modifications were necessary for this extra-simple pattern, which only requires the ability to count to four. Cast on 38 (32-stitch pattern plus 3-stitch border), knit three rows of garter, knit pattern until it seemed like the right size, knit three more rows of garter, boom.

This Sockghan thing is going so well that I don't really have anything to worry about here. So I've moved on to obsessing about something else.

Which books should I take?!