Blogsam and Jetsam

Flotsam is the part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the water. Jetsam is cargo or parts of a ship that are deliberately thrown overboard, as to lighten the ship in an emergency, and that subsequently either sinks or is washed ashore. This is my personal blog version of the above. Loot freely.

My Photo
Location: The Hinterlands, Upstate NY

I'm annoyed that the world is going crazier faster than it used to be. But it's interesting to watch.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Six Inches

That's how much water was in our basement yesterday.

The water is gone now, thanks to a private landscaper working in tandem with the fire department and our own usually good drainage system. We are trying to be grateful that we kept power and plumbing throughout. No HOT water till the furnace has been inspected which seems minor in comparison to much of the neighborhood.

We realize that we aren't as bad off as many, some even on our own
road, but that doesn't make the incredible loss any less devastating.
The basement was our Home For Wayward And Orphaned Computers and the death toll is high:

Three Unix machines
At least 4 TRS-80s including a Model 4 in pristine condition still in the boxes
An Exidy behemoth of metal
A TRS-80 16B
A Commodore PET we got at a real steal of a price
At least one OSI Challenger
An OSI C1P (that one
really hurts)
At least two Macintosh 512Ks
Several old IBM PCs and ATs
The software and manuals for all of the above.

We know it's "just stuff" but it still hurts, it really does. Those machines represent years of watching EBay; they don't come along just every day.

The Christmas Stuff was mostly wasted too; that's just as strong but completely different a pain.

I may not be blogging much for the next few days; I trust you'll understand. Here's some images:

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Technical Difficulties

My home computer was sick, got sicker and now won't open any file for me at all. I suspect that some stupid bit of badly written spyware got installed along with one of my Duckling's online games.
Anyhow, I have been thrown back to pre-Information Age living at home the same week that work has been just hell (and it's only TUESday) which is part of why you haven't heard more about the Mosaic Knitting (or anything else for that matter.)

The other part is that I haven't gotten much knitting done since Friday.

Watch this space...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Saturday Fun with English

Yes there will eventually be more on Mosaic Knitting but for now I thought I'd leave you with this. It isn't original with me (if you wrote it or know who did, drop me a line and I'll add credits) but I really liked it:

The English Language

Can you read these correctly the first time?

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mosaic Knitting 2.5

Well that whole violet and green thing didn't work out at all. First because there wasn't enough contrast between the two colors so that the pattern stayed unrecognizeable even after thirty rows and second because even on size U.S. 0 (zero) needles the gauge was too loose for clothing.

New plan: thicker yarn in slightly more contrasting colors. I'm considering a double strand of the Speed-Cro-Sheen (can you tell I prefer to wear cotton over wool?) perhaps in combination with my Cotton Twist.

Mosaic Knitting 2

So this is the "Magic Square" I'm trying... [the one in the lower right hand corner--I'd slap on an arrow if I knew how...]

...But it doesn't really look like much yet:

My thought is to make four coordinating squares from Speed-Cro-Sheen and sew them together for the front of a pullover. Then depending on how THAT part goes either do more squares or an allover design for the back and then think up some way to tackle the sleeves.

I tried violet with ecru yesterday and it was godawful loud and looked like a high-school sports team (our Rival Team, actually--Not Good) so I thought I'd try this combination. The idea was to have a violet pinwheel/fractal flower on a green background but now I'm not sure there will be enough contrast...or that I'm fond of the new combination either. I can't see the design yet at ALL but hope that will change over my lunch hour today.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

First Mosaic Knitting

I really like this technique. So well that I'm taking my knitting to the office today!

I think the garter-stitch version produces a superior fabric since the stitch definition is better and it doesn't curl so much.

I have visions of an eventual jacket...but since I know of an impending baby I may start with a blanket for practice.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Running Water...

...Should never be taken for granted. Let me share a story.

We live in The Hinterlands so we don't have "city water" but instead have a well and a septic system. What this means in practical terms is that the water comes from the tap smelling not of chlorine but of minerals, that every time the power goes out we also lose water (no electicity to run the well pump) and that any tap left running (or leaky toilet tank flap) will "dry up" the well because the pump won't be able to keep up with the demand.

Over the weekend we had a no-water scare and thought our well pump had become terminally ill. Fortunately it turned out to be a seldom-used outside hose spigot that had been inadvertently left on, but we were essentially without water from midday Sunday till early Tuesday morning. This was quite a hardship but was mitigated by our having stockpiled many plastic one-gallon jugs of water for potential power outages and our practice of buying distilled water for drinking. I did, however, learn some interesting things:

1) It takes not one but TWO gallons of water poured into the tank to properly make a toilet flush. This cuts one's stockpile in half immediately.

2) Not being able to wash one's hands at any time is a MAJOR negative lifestyle change.

3) Ditto not being able to wash off dishes, surfaces and children.

Those three statements encompass much more living than it appears at first glance and don't even address the issue of what to do about showers or laundry. It was a wretched day and a half.

The experience got me thinking about pre-plumbing days and how MUCH time and energy the original homesteaders of our land must have spent getting water from the creek into the house. After the immediate rush of gratitude for technology and after thinking "see, that's why I HATE camping" I also thought "but some modern people are still living like this, aren't they?"

Yes, indeed they are:
Today, after three years of occupation, there is no running water in Iraq aside from 2-3 hours a day of dirty and smelly liquid that sputters from the Iraqis’ small pumps, and raw sewage in the streets.**

Think about that for a moment. Then go get a glass of water, maybe put some ice in it and be quietly thankful for a few minutes. Clean running water should never be taken for granted.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

SPAM Poetry

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

When the internet hands you an inbox full of crap, write poetry.

REAL subject headers from actual computer junk mail, one per line:

1-1-06 to 3-10-06

Cut my angry rigging

Not breathe the Swensen

Argumentative contributory tam

See flowerpot in Franklin

Newly arisen springe for you 18 womps

Monongahela Tarrytown cantaloupe

Baggage transgressor

Fred and amygdaloid

Affectionate scurrilous with blurb

His effie stonecrop did?


3/13/06 to…5/11/06.

Better blueback opiate,

Scotty tropopause,

Mandarin orange brainwash,

Crush Stromberg myofibril,

Deirdre quadrilateral,

Having hallmark ascendant,

May anomaly complete,

Fledgling sauna.

Squalid brute. He is not reticent out of imbecility or mental weakness.



5/15/06 to 6/3/06

The plot is my own. But most of the scenes described I have witnessed.

Shyuote shrugged his shoulders. He had no inclination to reply.

Without dreadful it's envious.

Never dries up completely during the summer months.

It's cupric cowpox.

A man he has only heard about from his Mexican mother.

May the bread 's dollars analyze JAY.

Calvin corpora,

Luftwaffe inhabitant nomadic,

Blubber pathogen definitive.

Trashy Fiction

...Is what I'm all about today:

In just a very few minutes I'll be making a special twenty-five mile trek to the nearest big-chain bookstore just so I can have my copy the very DAY it comes out. I don't like any of her other stuff but I've known Steph Plum since my second child was born and she's a HOOT!

I plan not to be worth much the rest of the afternoon, either.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Little Knitting Too:

"Little" in both the "didn't do much of it" sense and the "fine gauge" sense...

The border (from a Nicky Epstein book) was done sideways and the body was picked up along one edge to be done in the a decade or two, at current rate of progress. Yarn is Coats & Clark Speed-Cro-Sheen.


...and After:

Friday, June 16, 2006

Random Friday Thoughts

1) I heard a radio advertisement last night for a funeral home. WHY?!

2) Speaking of marketing, why are pomegranates the New Thing alluvasudden? A year ago nobody but Persephone knew about them and now I can't get through a grocery aisle without knocking over a display of those glass bottles of juice.

3) I'll be painting instead of knitting this weekend. I'm trying not to mind.

4) Speaking of painting, why is it that no matter how carefully I place the blue tape I STILL manage to get paint on the baseboard somewhere?

5) Ann Coulter is horrible but also anorexic so I'm hoping she won't be with us much longer. No I'm not providing a link; google if you don't know what flavor of crazy she is.

6) "Google" as a verb has penetrated my lexicon faster than any other "new" word.

7) Unfortunately "different THAN" has penetrated the lexicons of all the televised talking heads.

8) I think we all are far too concerned about our possessions and our "stuff" yet I could easily sit right here in front of the keyboard and spend a thousand dollars on my own wish list of goodies.

9) On the other hand I could easily while away a couple of days just blogsurfing. "Blog" probably means "Gutenberg" in some alien language.

10) I've knit IN cars but here's someone who knit A car:

Isn't that wild?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I Only Have One...

...Iris, that is:

Probably appropriate that it's the only one since the hybrid is "Starship Enterprise" (Wayside Gardens:[no affiliation, etc.])

My Stash is Pathetic

Seriously, it is. I've seen stashes that take up entire ROOMS; mine fits in one waist-high basket along with several WIPs (Works In Progress.) Naturally none of it is anything I want to use, either--that's the way life is. Ten items in all:

1: 16 balls of Speed-Cro-Sheen cotton in various colors purchased when I learned it was going to be discontinued.

2: 3 balls of a thinner crochet cotton purchased when I was temporarily insane since there's no way I'll ever actually KNIT with something that fine.

3: 3 tiny balls of white cotton thread--all that's left from a couple of cones of weaving thread purchased in 1991 when I was _amazed_ to find a yarn shop in town.

4: 13 1-oz balls of vintage hot-pink Sirdar "Talisman," a fine wool that needs to be doubled up to get to anything reasonable. Purchased on EBay for good yardage-to-cost ratio.

5: 10 1-oz balls of vintage turquoise Lister yarn, same fine weight, same reason for purchase.

6: 5 or 6 1-oz balls of vintage olive green Calypso "Emu" wool, also very fine but with a much smoother finish.

7: 8 skeins of stone-gray Berrocco "Cotton Twist" purchased to make the red wave-y jacket from Jean Frost Jackets

but reassigned after I realized I'd NEVER finish the thing.

8: 2 big balls of a vaguely sportweight bright yellow felts-like-crazy wool that was the pig-in-a-poke EBay purchase that taught me not to buy unlabeled fiber.

9: Maybe 2 oz total of Red Heart baby yarn in a mix of white, yellow and lavender leftover from baby booties.

10: (saved the best for last) 92 yards of Lane Borgosesia "Cash Silk" in light brown. This is by far and away the best yarn I've ever had; it's even better than Noro's Cash Iroha of which I'm VERY fond.

See? Completely lame.

Gonna have to fix that one of these days.

Long Lost Sweater

Eldest Duckling cleaned out her locker and look what came home last night!

I hadn't seen it since sometime in early October. I hadn't said anything since it is, after all, HER sweater...but I'm very glad she didn't give it to a friend.

The Big Mojo sweater came home too:

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Surprise Book Came!

See! I like the tigers particularly:

...but all the animals are delightful.

Thank you HBF!

(I wonder where Pierce County Library is? The book used to belong to them.)

Monday, June 12, 2006


WorldWide Knit In Public Day (creation of Danielle Landes) was last Saturday, June 10.

I was visiting the MIL and didn't knit one stitch the entire weekend.

Had the following conversation with un-crafty non-knitter Husband-and-Best-Friend on the drive down Friday night:

Me [slowing down in front of the local yarn store]: Aw shoot...doesn't look like the knitting shop is doing anything for KIP day.

HBF: "Kip" day...?

Me: Tomorrow is WorldWide Knit in Public Day.

HBF: Oh YEAH! I heard about that [Sam turns head, surprised] and I got you a present. A knitting book by Lalla Ward.** I was hoping it would come before we left.


If this were a cartoon the next panel would show me completely surrounded by hearts and little popping bubbles and big ol' love waves. (They're still hanging around my shoulders now, three days later.) Knitting AND Dr. Who all because he thought of me....such a treasure of a companion have I!

**Lalla Ward (the Honourable Sarah Ward) (born 28 June 1951 in London) is an English actress and illustrator best known for playing the part of Romana in the BBC science fiction television series Doctor Who. She was the second actress to play Romana, a female Time Lord with the ability to regenerate. She was chosen to replace Mary Tamm in the part, after a guest appearance in another part in the Doctor Who story The Armageddon Factor in 1979.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Drove down to The Burbs over the weekend and discovered that the Frustrating New Sweater fits my MIL.


There's such balance in nature.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Thanks to the magic that is the Web I've been able to check out some people from my past including a few who left big tiretracks on my psyche.

I'm doing better than all of them.

Lou Reed was right:

So was that derm resident Al Knable who said that medicine was the biggest revenge of the nerds that ever existed.

Geek on.

The Beautiful Green Yarn

Finally spoke to me again: It wants to be a stuffed toy.

I first heard "bear" but have since heard "gulch pig" so I'm listening for other critters too.

My peonies...

Are going to be gorgeous this year.

If they ever bloom, that is.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


I completely adore the smell of this stuff. So much that I swiped some from a random curb yesterday to put in my own garden.

(Gill-over-the-ground, Hedgemaids)

Glechoma hederacea
• Family: Mint (Lamiaceae)
• Habitat: lawns, grassy areas, disturbed sites
• Height: 6-18 inches• Flower size: 1/2 inch long
• Flower color: purple
• Flowering time: April to July
• Origin: Europe

(I'm so pleased I figured out how to add photos! Perhaps I will evolve past Blog Stone Age with time...)

Christmas Lifts the Curse

I know, how can I be talking about Christmas when it's not even July yet?

Because I dug out my Holiday Sweater from the UFO (UnFinished Objects) pile and put some stitches in sequence that don't need to be ripped out. Not very MANY stitches since I've only done one round in the past two days...but the prognosis is guardedly hopeful.

During the phase of Cursed Knitting I DID learn and master a way to splice yarn which I like very much. I must pay tribute to The Boy Who Knits because he's the one who introduced it to me through my newsgroup: The Russian Join.

Here's the link:

When I had to frog (rip it, rip it...) out the Tychus Saucepan hat failure I eventually turned four or five smaller balls of Cotton Twist into one large one which was the ONLY pleasing part of that project. Thank you Kenny!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sam's First Gambling (very long)

I signed up to go to a Blood Banking meeting last year. It was being held at the Turningstone Casino and Resort in Verona, NY. A casino would be an entirely new experience which was most of the appeal. The rest was location: even at no more than six miles over the speed limit, it was exacty an hour from my door to theirs, so I found myself driving around the Turningstone Casino and Resort grounds before seven in the morning. Mixed first impression---the grounds were beautiful but the signage was terrible. (Yes, I was surprised to find myself thinking the word "signage.")

I circled the entire complex because there was an "Event Center Drop Off" and a "Bingo DropOff" and a "Bingo Buses Only" but no _Parking_. There was also no valet parking. No uniforms, no signs...not even a groundskeeper to ask. There was, however, a parking garage close to the "Event Center" so I entered without gate or sign or tickets or anything. Unusual but not entirely unheard-of: all parking is free in the (relatively near) city of Oneonta. The parking garage was worrisomely empty but I certainly didn’t mind snagging a spot on the ground floor right by the elevators.

I _did_ mind there being no signs inside the elevator/stair enclosure. Took the stairs till I found doors that looked fancier than the ones I'd come through. Found myself in a long hallway with a gift shop clearly just opening for the day since the two attendants were standing there discussing affairs at hand for a good minute while I stood there with my best curiously confused look. Once I got their attention I explained my meeting while showing them my brochure. I wasn't encouraged when neither of the women knew where I should be going. One called the main information number and after three separate transfers they got me directions to the hotel front desk. I noticed not just one but two ATM machines along the way.

Once at the hotel desk, things got nominally better---at least the obsequious young suit had heard of my conference and could direct me adequately. I had my bag held at the front desk before wandering off in search of the Event Center. The first part of the directions were, “walk between the waterfalls” and true to the suit’s word, there was a pair of two-story rocky surfaces down which water was cascading. The hotel atrium was really beautiful—they’d brought the outside inside in the form of lots of plantings surrounding the waterfalls. Pretty. Soothing. Nice vibe.

Passing between the waterfalls and around the fountain put me in a long corridor within sight of “The Gaming Floor." There wasn’t any “floor” to be found though—just row upon row upon row of video machines. Miles of them. Okay, not miles but in the doorway alone I saw five different back-to-back double rows of twenty machines each with similar rows literally as far as I could see. The place was deserted. I wasn’t brave enough to set foot on the purple carpet so I kept walking right across a beautiful mosaic of one-inch tiles in browns and greens.

Found my conference rooms just past the ones for the New York State Construction Materials Association and found my wonderful tech, E. She was in charge of the vendor booths and was trying to make all her sales reps happy with varying degrees of success. I wanted to leave immediately. I have big problems with salespeople, the hard sell, haggling and anything else related to the fine art of persuading people to part with their money. So much so that I wouldn’t use drug-rep pens in medical school and never accepted freebie anything when I was “that kind” of doctor. Think that one of the fringe benefits of being a pathologist is never having to deal with pharmaceutical reps again, too. But E is one of my best techs and this room was her baby so I promised to force myself to tour during the morning break.

After signing in and getting an official nametag (one of the signs of middle age is that you go from refusing to wear your badge to finding a certain security in so doing) I discovered the women’s room. Yes, “discovered.” There were things I’d never seen and things I’d never seen in that setting. In latter category: a sharps container right by the sink. For those of you not in healthcare, a “sharps container” is a well-labeled secure plastic box designed to be a safe way to dispose of needles, suture needles, scalpel blades and anything else that might potentially cause injury if you left it in the regular trash. They’re usually red or orange (sometimes beige) and you’ve probably seen them in your doctor’s office on the counter or hanging on the wall. This was the first time I’d ever seen one in a public restroom. I didn’t have much time to ponder whether they were catering to heroin addicts or diabetics though, because there was a complicated toilet with A Thing On It. The correct term is “Brill Sanitation Device” and I used “seat sleeve” later in email, but it was really a commode condom. The seat was narrow, perfectly U-shaped and encased entirely in a tube of plastic that was dispensed from one end of a box where the tank should be and collected in the other end of the box where the tank should be---all triggered by a motion sensor. Super high-tech, super sanitary and definitely the most interesting thing I’d seen thus far.

I wandered around, far too intimidated to actually step on that purple carpet even though "across the Gaming Floor" was the fastest way to check out the restaurants and shops. I took the long way around and found two more ATMs, bringing the total for the morning to four. I also found an impressive textile wall hanging made from layers of homemade paper and fabric and fringed remnants of other textiles matted and framed under glass: very abstract, very beautiful and very big---six feet by three feet. I could’ve stared at it for ages but I turned out to be on the landing leading to the casino security booths.

I decided halfway into the first lecture that the women’s room had been more interesting. The subject was supposed to be platelets but turned out to be too much immunology and biochemistry to follow. The second talk wasn’t much better and featured a slide in which “ingest” was spelled with a “j” so I was wondering what I’d gotten myself into by morning break.
Smoke, for one thing. By ten the entire hallway smelled of cigarettes and it was easy to see why: the Gaming Floor was starting to do business. A cheesy trumpet theme repeated itself every so often like bad movie-background music. There were lots of people in front of all those electronic slot machines and video poker machines. I still couldn’t see anything that looked like a "gaming table" but I saw people taking the slot machine experience damned seriously. They had their drinks and their ashtrays and their chairs set just SO...and a strange zoned-out look as they pushed the buttons.

True to my word, I forced myself into the vendors’ room and even made myself go talk to some salespeople. My kids will be the first to tell you that I did a LOUSY job of acquiring swag—I got the Red Cross T-shirt and a light-up pen but that was it. I couldn’t bring myself to get one of the “platelet pals---we’re planning a whole line of collectibles” or any of the blood-drop-shaped foam “stress relievers” or the casino-chip chocolates or the strange round plastic thing with a hidden blade that we first thought was for doing bleeding times but then decided was a tool to strip cellophane off CD boxes. I suck. I did, however, patiently listen to both the Ortho (our vendor) and Olympus (the competitor) reps tell me about their automatic blood type analyzers, both of which weren’t working thanks to bad serial cables.

I roamed the grounds and discovered four more ATM machines, bringing the total to eight. I also discovered that cigarettes seemed to be one of THE key staples at Turningstone Casino. The three "gift shops" were cigarette stores which only happened to also sell other merchandise. One store had what looked like an impressive selection of cigars, too, but knowing nothing about them I could’ve been awed by the tobacconist equivalent of McDonald’s.

Just when I thought I’d made a terrible mistake coming at all, I ran into three of my blood bank techs. Nothing like a little moral support when you need it and T had been every bit as impressed by the women’ room as I. Things got better when we discovered a doctor from one of our regional sites whom we all disliked—she did us the courtesy of coming over and gushing enthusiastically about the talk I’d just trashed as too technical and irrelevant not ninety seconds prior. Things stayed better during the rest of the morning session since the talks got less chemical and more practical.

Lunch was served buffet-style in the same vendors room – I noticed the Construction Materials Association had opted for individual boxed lunches instead. It was a decent spread. Started off with fruit and tossed salads, followed by a macaroni salad and a “Neptune Salad” that had recognizeable scallops and shrimp as well as crab (but which I avoided having learned the hard way about seafood salads on inland banquet lines. )I had “Fire and Ice” which turned out to be a loosely Italian cold salad of tomatoes, red peppers, artichoke hearts and fennel all in a spicy-hot oil-and-vinegar. The breadsticks were of good quality and WARM. The entrees included a baked ziti (Ziti is THE vegetarian entrée in these parts,) London Broil in a mushroom-based sauce and chicken “Capri” which was a light brownish herbed gravy. The vegetables were the usual hotel medley of zucchini, yellow squash broccoli and red peppers and were definitely on the crunchy side of al dente. There were plenty of dessert choices but after having tried everything except the seafood and pasta salads, I had no room at all.

In more ways than one, since I had yet to check in...which I did after lunch. Discovered that I was on the seventeenth of twenty-one floors and decided that was reasonable while thinking of F, who was the one who told me “the higher you rate, the higher your floor” ages ago in Tampa.

My room was the best thing that had happened so far that day. It was SMALL but it was so cozy-nice that I fell in love immediately. Two queen-sized beds with a built-in bedtable and wall-mounted reading lamps between them. HUGE framed mirror on the wall separating the bathroom. Other wall held dresser with room service menu and a strange built-in piece containing TV, mini-bar fridge and desk all in one. The couch was a wraparound thing with one arm and a back and very comfy. Wood was all cherry, carpeting was a ridged gray indoor-outdoor looking thing and the rest of the room was in greens and tans. An absolutely perfect hobbit-hole in every way...and the carafe for the coffeemaker was stainless steel which just charmed me no end. For once there was GOOD stuff on the walls too---closeup sepia photo of tiny pinecones, closeup sepia photo of a sycamore leaf still on the tree and a couple of leaf-design textiles in frames on a shelf over the desk. TWO high-speed internet ports, one on the bedside table and one on the desk. After discovering fried ravioli on the room-service menu, I decided I could live in that room permanently, no problem at all.

The bathroom was equally small but equally well-designed. No bathtub at all, just a shower with no curtain or door but a pane of incredibly thick glass separating it from the toilet while leaving a (wheelchair-wide, I belatedly realized) space to step in and out. The shower head was another new-to-me cool thing: it was actually two shower heads, each independently adjustable, on a U-shaped metal pulldown bar that was adjustable in its own right. I couldn’t wait to try it out. The entire bathroom, including the shower stall, was done in tile and stainless steel and looked both beautiful and indestructible. The little shelf with freebie toiletries was actually a wire rack—that too just tickled me no end for its simple practicality. After finding the ice machine just around the corner (bonus!) I felt MUCH better after I made a pot of tea and had the first caffeine of the day since getting up at five.

When I went down for the afternoon session, the casino was rolling at full tilt—thick smoke, tons of people, more noise, WAY more security suits of both genders and I thought I could see people standing around what looked like tables in the depths of the room somewhere. Still didn’t venture onto the gaming floor but I was definitely warming up to the idea on my way to the last two lectures of the day, which were nice and concrete and not off in the biochemical ether somewhere.

So finally it was time to go gamble. The three techs and I met up with one another, all of us Casino Virgins, and contemplated how to proceed. The girls had done a bit of scouting and hadn’t found any Elvis slot machines (a suggestion of a friend of mine; he said there are good Elvis clips just for breaking even) but had found a bank of Addams Family slots. I had passed by a kiosk of brochures of “Gaming Guides” and picked one up thinking it would be the instructions for ALL the gambling and was much surprised when it turned out to be the instruction for only TWO of the gazillion machines and STILL didn’t make any sense. We needed help so we went to one of the many cashier booths and asked a sweet redhead with braces how things worked.

How things worked was that you used a plastic card like an ATM card. You could either get an “Express Card” good for a single day or you could get a “Diamond Card” which was made for you alone and could be refilled and reused indefinitely. My techs opted for the Express Cards but I decided I needed a souvenir and got the Diamond Card, which didn’t take any longer to generate but had my full name on it. If we wanted to play any of the other games (she said this in a tone like it didn’t happen all that often) we bought chips at the table at the time of play.
Well, fine.

We discovered that some of the machines were 25 cents but that most were only 5 cents per game which we, being cheapskates, liked. Gameplay was easy—you pressed a button and images on the screen rotated just like the wheels of a slot machine then lined up in three separate rows across the screen. Took us a while to figure out that “1 line” “3 line” “5 line” and “7 line” meant how many rows of each game you played and I still don’t fully understand how you can play “7 line” when the screen only displays three, but apparently you can. It took us far less time to figure out that “1 bet” “3 bet” and “5 bet” meant how many of the initial increment you were betting on each line--a “3 line” “3 bet” choice meant I lost 45 cents on my very first gamble ever.

This was far less than thrilling but we were willing to give it the old college try so we wandered around to different machines, trying our luck here and there. I lost money at an Aztec-themed machine, a Unicorn-themed machine, a Frog-Prince machine and eventually at the Addams Family machine which we were disappointed to discover did not have any fun animations or graphics. Hell, NONE of the “some 2,000 multi-game machines” had any interesting graphics or music or animation---just those images. I managed to break even fairly often, won a dime here and there and even seventy-five cents once, but eventually I was down to the last thirty cents on my card. T had a bit of luck though--after about five minutes of play, she "won twenty frickin’ dollars!” That put her about eighteen dollars up for the evening since she was smart enough to pull out her card right then and there and keep it in her pocket the rest of the night.

Throughout our gaming experience we kept getting offered free drinks by girls in sleeveless tuxedo tops, shorts and high heels. These were virgin drinks but they looked like the real thing: all the cokes had maraschino cherries, the lemon-lime soda had been spruced up with grenadine syrup and swizzle sticks were in abundance. I rather liked the verisimilitude and kept my eye out for hip flasks, of which I saw two or three. Turningstone doesn’t care how much you bring with you or how open you are about it; they just won’t sell you any themselves. I thought about seeing if I could still do the maraschino cherry stem trick but decided it would be unseemly and probably make T blush so I passed. I should mention for the sake of research that I noticed Turningstone was definitely a Coca-Cola franchise with not a Pepsi product in sight.

We thought maybe there would be more excitement if we tried “real” games and I particularly wanted to try craps so we found the gaming tables in the middle of the room. Better still, we found that one of the craps tables was reserved for “instruction” from 6-7 and that we’d wandered in on the end of a session. I, having read Hoyle’s, could follow what the instructor was saying but still didn’t feel confident about the operation. Didn’t matter though because we were all four quite surprised to learn that the minimum bets for all the gaming tables including roulette were either 5 or 10 dollars. None of us, including me, had come prepared to spend that much on a single bet. We roamed up and down the tables watching for a while and I learned that craps was an almost exclusively male game. Each table also had a security suit sitting dead-center with both arms ON the table throughout the game--interesting. Blackjack was mostly male too. The poker tables were in a completely different room with a more cheery overall atmosphere but not woman one in sight, so we didn’t investigate closely. The roulette wheels looked easy and kind of fun, but not at five dollars a pop, so we decided to cash out and go to dinner.

Dinner COULD have included an authentic Brazilian steakhouse. The Turningstone is proud to maintain “Rodizio:the Churrascaria” as a “Traditional Brazilian Grill Experience” which gives whole new meaning to the concept “all you can eat.” My mother-in-law G has praised churrascaria for years as have all the other Brazilians I’ve known who have said that waiters circulate through the room with various huge hunks of roasted meats which are then carved onto your plate until you CAN'T eat any more. Beef, chicken, pork, lamb, organ meats and sausages of all kinds...if you can grill it, they serve it. They don’t even require you to be literate or vocal: each diner is given a stone that is green on one side and red on the other. As long as your stone is turned green-side-up they’ll keep serving you and won’t stop till your stone is red. This restaurant was one of the few things that had piqued my curiosity and I planned to eat there someday. Not Thursday all-you-can-eat Brazilian grill is just not Girl Food and my techs were definitely girls. The one meal choice on which they ALL agreed was that we _not_ try “that meat place."

Since we weren’t going to do the carnivore thing, we were left with four other choices. The Emerald was a twenty-four hour place right next to the gaming floor with Denny’s décor and strange big number boards on three of the four walls. The Trattoria was our initial choice; its outside menu featured the usual Italian fare including veal a million ways (okay, eight) and a sweet-potato ravioli dish that sang my name the moment I saw it. It must’ve sung lots of other names too since there was a half-hour wait. The techs still had to drive an hour home and it was past seven so we decided to try elsewhere. “Elsewhere” at first was the Forest Grill Steakhouse but it was also for big-time carnivores so we settled on the Peach Blossom.

The first thing I noticed about the Peach Blossom was that their hostesses wore floor-length cheongsams and the second thing I noticed was that we’d missed Ming Tsai’s demo show by a good two months. The menu contained all the Chinese and Thai standards but I had to opt for the name-dish of the house and got Peach-Blossom Chicken: “crispy deep fried chicken with assorted vegetables in our signature red curry sauce with peaches.” Poor choice. The peaches turned out to be canned clings arranged in a last-minute row and the chicken turned out to be dark meat but that was my own fault for not ordering a dish that clearly specified “sliced breast meat” as my techs had wisely done. The fried rice was excellent because it was rice with only a good sweet-salty soy and a few flecks of egg and not an excuse to unload the leftovers bin.

Dinner was quiet, partly because we were all tired and partly because it was still three employees eating with their boss. No, I’m not used to being “the boss” yet but it's getting easier. The fortune cookies came in cute little red paper bags with gold lettering I recognized as “money bags” from our preschool’s Chinese New Year celebration. They were tricolor dough which looked really cool but tasted really lousy. My fortune was “pay more heed to mother’s exhortations.” Yes we played the fortune cookie game but without much heart—-that too was probably because of the “boss” component.

After dinner and goodbyes I went back to the Gaming Floor hoping to be brave enough to try one of the craps tables since I had a couple of fives in my pocket with no other plans for them. Wandering through the casino I got the hairy eyeball from ALL the suits and that puzzled me for the longest time. I’m not the sort of person that security ever notices yet they were all looking me over really thoroughly then dismissing me without breaking stride. After about the fifth staredown, it finally clicked: I had something in my hands. I was still carrying the white folder of handouts from the blood bank lectures and that made me stand out in a casino since the average gambler is carrying a drink and maybe a cigarette, period. I ditched the folder and sure enough, no more staring.

I watched one of the craps tables for a good ten minutes while a skinny old lady in a yellow polyester sweater under blue hair rolled the dice. The action was so fast that even knowing the rules I couldn’t keep up with it and I definitely couldn’t figure out why there was a second pair of dice on the table. While I was watching, a big athletic guy bought a Ben Franklin’s worth of chips and also started betting but I couldn’t keep up with him either. I finally decided that the only way I was going to ever figure out gambling was to wait and do it with someone who knew how and liked it. On the way out I lost a few more nickels off my Diamond Card at the one bank of electronic slots that actually had cherries and lemons and bars like a “traditional” slot.

I just don’t get gambling at all. Maybe it’s me.

On the way back to my room I noticed a big rock-sculpture fountain outside the front doors. In addition to water it also had steam coming up through the rocks. This captivated me because I’d never thought of using steam as a design element. There was a tinge of rock-concert, but I liked it. Liked it very much, in fact. I still liked my room just fine too...even more since I had iced tea already waiting for me. The minibar consisted of a dorm-room fridge in the armoire under the TV and the young bald man behind the front desk had used his best Hospitality Voice to explain that if I opened it and consumed anything I would be charged but that if I “take all the stuff out to use it for your own stuff--since it’s a refrigerator?--you’ll get charged too.” Having read Augusten Burroughs I knew he meant business so I had resolved not even to look into the fridge. Bluebeard’s Wife was never going to be happy with that plan though, so of course I opened the door and took a peek (while holding my breath, just in case the maid put a hair on top of the drinks or something. ) It wasn’t exciting. Coffee-cup-sized cans of mixed nuts and teeny-weeny glass bottles of soda were all I saw.

Closed it back up again and took the longest shower I’d had in three months. I just LOVE hotel hot water; it’s endless and it’s always chlorinated. The shower was worth the wait, too: the arm went up and down, the heads independently swiveled and there were three different pressure settings for each head. I thought it was designed for short people till it “finally dawn to me” (G’s catchy malapropism) that it was designed for the elderly and/or handicapped. I realized then that the whole room was designed to be both handi-capable and impervious, both of which seem like good ideas for casinogoers.

While flipping through the television stations I found one that was nothing but that same light-up numbers board of which there were several in the Emerald Restaurant so I watched...and was ecstatic to learn that the game with which they were associated was called “Keno.” I had been puzzled by one of those very same numbers boards in a local steakhouse three years prior and hadn’t figured it out since. Well, fine, so the game was Keno, but I still didn’t know any more than I did except that it went from Game 615 to Game 618 while I lay there watching. Once I had a name I could ask Google when I got home though, so I switched to Comedy Central.

I didn’t have to wait till I got home. The only restaurant open at 7:30 on Friday morning was The Emerald and while I was waiting on my food I noticed that the center of the table had not just the salt, pepper and ketchup but crayons. I thought this was strange since the one thing I had NOT seen since arrival was anyone with a child, and I thought it was even stranger that all three crayons were black. Closer inspection revealed a whole pile of newsprint forms next to the crayons which, lo and behold, were printed with the same numbers in the same layout as the light-up boards on the walls. “Keno!” I thought to myself...but then stopped since I still didn’t know what Keno was.

The serious find on the table was the color glossy brochure entitled “How to Play Keno.” SCORE! I learned that Keno was twenty numbers between one and eighty drawn at random then lit up on the boards with the last number drawn left flashing so that you know the game is over. Your job as a gambler is to pick which twenty out of eighty numbers will be selected and there were sixteen pages worth of ways to do that with “Way Tickets” being one. I read about "four-way nine-spot tickets" and "28-way 8-spot tickets" and "120-way 10-spot tickets" which seemed to pick ALL the numbers. The history of the game was the most interesting part: Keno was originally created by Cheung Leung around 200 BC when the people of his city refused to finance his war fund and was so successful that not only was Cheung’s city saved but the game was used to generate revenue for the building of the Great Wall of China. Keno wasn't just gambling but ANCIENT gambling.

So finally I understood what THAT was all about and was sorely tempted to play. After all, there are twenty numbers being selected out of eighty and that’s one-fourth so the odds of your winning something are fairly high, right? Wrong. I looked at the payout column and learned that on a “mark 4 spots” ticket the two-dollar original bet pays out two dollars on two numbers, six dollars on three numbers and $230.00 if all four numbers are picked. So fine, you have to get all four of your numbers to win any decent money. Instead of looking at it as twenty numbers out of eighty, you have to now look at it as four numbers out of eighty though, which isn’t nearly as promising. Once upon a time I used to be able to do the math that calculates those odds and even got an A on the test--of course I can’t do the math NOW but I remembered enough to tell me in big block caps NOT WORTH IT.

I left the waitress a five-dollar tip instead.

The rest of the morning consisted of my realizing one of my blood bank icons wasn’t the paragon I’d made him out to be in my own head which was disappointing but illuminating. Heard his lecture plus a really great one from a surgeon-turned-blood-banker and then headed on home with firm plans to come back to “the Tower” someday soon.

To sum: Loved the hotel, hated the gambling, ambivalent about the food.

My Knitting is Cursed

Knitting is a Big Thing in my life. It's a hobby, it's led to new friendships, it's quietly spiritual...and for the past three months it's been completely cursed.

I haven’t had a project turn out worth a damn since MARCH. The last thing I finished that was any good at all was the DNA scarf out of good ol’ completely indestructible light blue Red Heart for my best friend from junior high.

Everything since has been crap.

First it was the Fabulous Green Yarn that broke my heart. This yarn is absolutely incredibly wonderful stuff that was a special gift since it was handspun by my Big Sister who moved to the tropics not long ago. Beautiful olive greens with little flecks of red in a soft wool full of good karma and sunshine packaged in its own woven-leaf box…I love this yarn as much as I love the sister who sent it. Trouble is that it won’t become anything for me. I swatched out a simple yet lovely woven pattern that showed the yarn to good advantage and planned to make a sweater. I could tell there wasn’t enough for my size so I decided the sweater should go to Youngest Duckling, who is six…but there wasn’t enough for her either. Got halfway through the back before I figured it out though, which meant yet more frogging—it’s a testament to the quality of the yarn that I can’t tell one ball has been knit up at least six separate times by now. Played with that yarn a whole ‘nother week waiting for it to speak to me again but it didn’t—not even to tell me whether it was okay to knit up with Something Else or whether it had to be stand-alone. I had really hoped for the latter so I could show off the yarn most of all…but I had no idea WHAT except for maybe a set of hats and my family already has more hats than they’ll ever wear including several coordinating sets. So fine, I know when the creative process is blocked and put it back in its box to rest.

Swatched around with various two-color ideas meant to eventually be a cardigan but all of those totally sucked from the starting gate. Nothing I could even stand to use as a hotpad.

I needed something new for spring so I thought I’d make another top-down raglan. I have one in Reynolds Cantata

that I wear just ALL the time so I thought I’d make another in some other kind of cotton. The “other kind” of cotton turned out to be a one-pound cone of Lily Sugar-n-Cream from Wal-Hell in an ombre with red and greens and yellows and beiges against a white background. I’m pretty sure it was called “pepper pot” and absolutely sure it’s been discontinued since I just searched Lily’s own website and didn’t find the color. I had some more of the same yarn in a coordinating shade of green with which I made the I-cord for the neck and was most excited to pick up stitches for the neck and start down. Thought I’d have a SWELL top just as it started to get hot enough to need one. I "borrowed" the stitch pattern after reading about it on my newsgroup: knit the right-side rows then K1, P1 the wrong-side rows to create a bit of textural interest. Discovered right away that you could either "stack" the K1 P1 rows or "stagger" the K1 P1 rows so I chose "stacking" to make a rib-like fabric with a strong vertical line. Things went pretty well till boredom set in just before the arm increases were done.

That was when I started playing with Tychus and got burned. Tychus is a wonderful hat pattern from

which I’d wanted to try as soon as I clicked on the link—the VERTICAL striping was most pleasing to me. So I printed out a pattern and sat down with my yarn and created disaster after disaster. First attempt was so big and baggy after only one wedge that I ripped out even before starting a second wedge. Changed needles and got a wedge that looked decent…but after two more I had the same saucepot effect and had to start over. The third time I went to still smaller needles and cut a few stitches out which worked well enough for me to keep going with the project. At the same time I learned that a co-worker had just been diagnosed with a BAD breast cancer so of course THAT was the chemo cap pattern I was going to use but I was going to do it in cotton because of the warm weather. Used the scaled-down pattern, single strand of cotton and thin needles and produced something that was wearable…but only barely. It was still Way Too Effing Big which was why my tech got it still damp one morning after frantically trying to shrink the thing in the dryer.

I should’ve known better right then and there but I had to make ANOTHER Tychus and get it “right” this time. Trouble was that I wanted to use more cotton. This time I used two strands of Berrocco’s Cotton Twist and THOUGHT I was making a wonderfully smooth and maybe even chic hat. Thought that right up to the binding off…when I discovered that COTTON had been a terrible mistake. Made the thing not only heavy but drape-y and way too big for anyone but the Abominable Snowman. So fine, live and learn about fiber content versus pattern…but I was starting to sense a trend.

Went back to the good ol’ raglan and worked patiently at it for another month. Finally got it done this past Sunday and was ALL excited to have a new top to wear to work on Monday. Was also all excited that I'd made Just Barely Enough Yarn work too and was feeling pretty smug about having bound off the sleeves in the contrast color without adding any length since I had been going for "cool summer top to wear to work." Everything was SWELL and I was feeling all happy….till I tried the thing on. It’s pretty enough but way too big and not at all flattering. Looks like one of my end-stage maternity tops

and instantly became the most disappointing knit I’ve ever had.

Color me frustrated. And forward me the names of your favorite exorcists.

On Smoking:

Preface: I don’t smoke and never really have. Tried to pick it up from friends in college but never really could get past the taste, the smell, the cost or the nasty jittery feeling no matter how great it was to have a built-in hand prop.

That said…

On the first of the month, everyone who works at My Hospital got this little reminder in our inboxes from our COO....
You may be tired of this message but there is one small month before [My Hospital] becomes a smoke free organization. This is, of course, going to be challenging but is the right thing to do. Your role is to support this in every way. If you have questions about your role, please contact your supervisor until you get a clear answer. I expect all staff members to be respectful of the property of [My Hospital] and it's [sic] neighbors and I expect you to follow the organization's expectation of being a no smoking environment. We are here to help those of you who wish to stop smoking as well. I trust your professionalism and your commitment to our new direction in this endeavor. Thank you in advance.

I know it's the Wave of the Future but I am STRONGLY against all of these "no smoking anywhere on campus" policies nevermind that we have cancer nurses bitching about how other more enlightened places were going totally smoke-free back in the _Seventies_ and nevermind that some places already require employees to sign forms agreeing that they will not smoke at all even once during their eight-hour work shift.
I think we as a nation are going to be VERY sorry for _endorsing_ intolerance to this degree.

I also think that we should NOT cut out one of the ways that even _strangers_ are GOOD to each other: I've never seen a smoker NOT share a cigarette with someone in need, even if it's their very last one. Hell, that transaction even crosses language barriers! We're gonna be sorry for that part too, wait and see.
I plan to be like the Victorians and simply fail to see any smoking that might or might not be happening on these grounds.

I suspect that one of the big underlying reasons for "smoke-free" is the hope that My Hospital will save on the cost of health insurance for its employees.

Additionally I find it disturbing that my COO can't use the proper form of "its" when she writes.

So yes I AM "tired of this message", nevermind your thanking me in advance.

Sam's Rules of Life

So...let's start at the beginning:


1. Never pass up an opportunity to eat, sleep, piss, shit or fuck because you never know when the next chance will come along.

2. Give love.

3. No good deed goes unpunished. (Give love anyway.)

4. Never trust a bleach blond

5. There’s room at the table for everyone.

6. Always keep a copy.

7. Never let the DM pay you in copper.

8. Never trust a cleric or a politician; they neither one earn an honest living.

9. Moderation is much harder than abstinence but also way more fun.

10. Forty is NOT thirty.