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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Current To-Read List

from oldest to most recently added:

Anthea Boylston: Blood Red Roses: The Archaeology of a Mass Grave...
Paul Williams: The Unexpected Way
Paul Clemens: Made In Detroit
Jennifer Apodaca: Ninja Soccer Mom
Yukio Mishima works
Christel Nari: Sacred Choices
Douglas Harper: Changing Works: Visions of a Lost Agriculture
Richard Russo: Nobody's Fool, Straight Man
Jodi Varon: Drawing to an Inside Straight
Stewart O'Nan: The Good Wife
Antonia Juhasz: The Bush Agenda: Invading...
Cecil Beaton diaries
Barbara Kingsolver essays
Amy Tan's new novel
Margaret Atwood's new novel Oryx & Crake
Victor D. Lavalle: The Ecstatic
Greg David Roberts: Shantram
Hruki Murakami: Hard Boiled Wonderland, Kafka on the Beach
Anita Diamont: The Red Tent
Jo-Ann Mepson: The Owl and Moon Cafe
Leslie Marmon Silko: Almanac of the Dead
Neil Gaimen/Terry Pratchett: Good Omens
Daniel Gilbert: Stumbling on Happiness
Jim Grimsley novels
The rest of Alison Lurie's work
George Takei: To the Stars
Helen Fielding: Bridget Jones Diary

To Consider:

I've played a lot of Command & Conquer: Generals and until I knew what I was doing I got my American ass kicked by the GLA a few times. Yes, even with the Air Force general. They can win.

Life doesn't have a restart option.

In the words of Tim Gunn, "I'm concerned."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Literary Meme

As you-all know I'm not a big meme fan but how could I pass up one about BOOKS?!? Thanks to CrankyProf for being the blogger whose post got me involved.

By definition, reading the list constitutes "tagging"-- paste it into your own blog and change accordingly.

I've shown you mine, you show me yours... if you play please leave a note in the comments so I know to go looking at your site.

Look at the list of books below.
* Bold the ones you’ve read
* Italicize the ones you want to read
* Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)--but I did see the movie a couple times.
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) Great book. Really fine.
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) -- although I've almost read this book often, I always found something slightly more appealing.
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) I know it was popular for a while but not my thing.
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) AND all five of the original sequels.
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) It's got its moments but I tend to agree with Officer Barbrady.
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb) I remember when this was popular and I had planned to read it then decided "nope, not my thing."
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) Not because I think I'll like it but because too many other people have asked me "have you read this yet?"
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel) Tried to read it--gave up. My mother and grandmother both liked the whole set; that may have something to do with it.
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) Well, okay, I've read PARTS of it.
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) Ditto.
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) but I do want to read her essays.
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) I had to google this to see what it was and now that I have it's high on the to-read list---I bet I would've gone just apeshit for this series when I was a teen.
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) I expected more.
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger) Another one I've nearly read a lot.
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) Tried and failed.
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy) Made a valiant effort and got maybe a third to halfway through. As Heinlein says, whatever purpose Russian fiction serves it isn't entertainment.
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) I know it's a literary hole I need to fill someday.
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares) Eldest has read this one and seemed to like it.
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) LOVED this when I first read it as a late teen.
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) Another tried-and-failed.
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) Not to be confused with My Secret Garden which I've read numerous times.
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) I have LOVED this book for...oh...three decades now.
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) My daughter is reading this one for a class.
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch) Another one I've nearly read a lot...may eventually get to it one day but not yet.
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Special Bonus Round: List the three books at the top of your CURRENT reading and the one most recently finished:

1) Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (Julie Powell) I'm halfway through this one
2) The Last Resort (Alison Lurie)
3) Self-made Man (Norah Vincent)

MRF: Foreign Affairs (Alison Lurie)

My "To Read List" is getting pretty long; it will have to become a post of its own some time.

Another Scarf

I was so fond of this pattern I knit another for Eldest:

Here's a better shot:

It's Paton's Melody which our dimestore sells for $5.89 (US) per skein. I used two skeins.

There was also shopping and a metric fuckload of laundry.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Photographic Friday

Not only has Eldest Duckling learned how to crochet in the round but she also takes a good photograph:

It snowed again...and drifted, which made this morning's sidewalk cleanoff more challenging. That's what I get for saying in writing that I liked shoveling snow, right? Well at least our apple orchard is pretty:

But my favorite new thing is the whale my autistic brother-in-law made for me at his day program:

Here's another much lousier photograph since I'm just so tickled by it:

Must be living life right, y'know?

Happy weekending---practice tolerance, y'all.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Good Sentiment

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

What, you didn't think The Little Atheist could appreciate prayer? Why not? It's a great message for living with the other humans on the planet whether there's a creator deity or not. I must admit I'm not as crazy about the second verse because of the "Master" and the eternal life bit at the end, but it's still a good idea too:
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi - 13th century
Wish the Executive Branch of my government felt more like that. Whole lotta other people too, now that I think on it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Idle Musings on a Tuesday

The media are doing a good job of keeping our minds off Iraq: every discussion I overheard in public this past weekend was either about Britney's bald head or the father of Anna's bald baby. Why either one of those is "news" is beyond me.

Yesterday afternoon I had some unexpected free time so I dug out the gold car depicted in the photographs. Also made a nostalgic seafood (okay, fake seafood) pasta that HBF and I used to enjoy pre-children...and remembered why I never make it any more when all the Ducklings picked their way around the sauce.

Am I the only one who's noticed that oil and natural gas have had a lot of accidents recently? The media aren't giving it much coverage but the fourth paragraph of this article, the eighth paragraph of this article and these two articles do make one wonder. I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist but I've begun to wonder if vandalism might be involved.

I've also begun to wonder just why it is that we suddenly have a "readiness" initiative in our country so pervasive that even my first grader came home with a list of things that we're supposed to have/keep on hand in case of flu pandemic or other disaster.

Don't get me wrong; I think it's great advice and do in fact keep extra water, fuel and provisions so we could survive off-grid and out-of-touch for the requisite week or two with only our wind-up radio and shake-up flashlight for tech...I just ponder "why now?"

I think it's great they made a Play-Doh cologne but I sure don't want to hang out with anyone who thinks it's arousing.

Good ol' Jersey. I'm glad two of my children were born there.

When I was a kid I thought all adults just automatically had a good work ethic. You may laugh freely.

I'm still trying to figure out how freaking Salmonella of all bugs got into the peanut butter in the first place. Peanut butter is heated during processing so all the options are rather nasty to consider. Never did like ConAgra though.

Practice tolerance y'all....

Monday, February 19, 2007

Obligatory Snow Pictures

First from inside the house...that window is about ten inches off the outside ground level.

Then from outside the house--that car was clean and had been driven the day before the snow started falling.

It's still going to be a while before it gets driven again, I think.

Yes, all of that fell in one day.

This last one is just to show how high up the basketball goal Snow Mountain has grown--the Ducklings have started major excavations on the inner parts.

And now, after mentioning that it was minus-six this morning but is supposed to be near forty later this week, I will refrain from further weather talk.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Scarf in the Snow

From close-up (with that cute little splash of flakey snow)

Through the middle distance...

To far away. "Far away" in this context meaning "so that you can see the rest of the front porch to the left and the sidewalk trench to the right."

Fruit of my "on-call" labor--perhaps not quite as glorious as curing CHF but easier and more cuddly.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Who Are These People?

This is a somewhat better view of that statue I mentioned a few days ago.

The bottom is felted and solid--if there are engravings I can't feel them through the felt. It feels like plaster or possibly ceramic.

Obviously I dug out the Big Green Box, made it home to a plowed driveway and cleared enough snow to be functional. At age forty it's nice to know I still have it in me.

I'm also well aware that many had to bunk down in far less accomodating digs than I had and hereby cease all bitching about the blizzard. I'm amazed at how matter-of-factly we all just dug tunnels and went about our affairs of daily living. Snow stopped at midnight and by noon today things were more or less routine again.

Oooh-aaah photos to follow--only a few, promise.

Maybe another statue picture with better lighting too; just did "Preview" and it sucks. Mea culpa.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ohgawd A WEATHER Post...

...Yeah, well, I'll try to keep the weather itself to a minimum and concentrate instead on how the blizzard has affected me.

I'm spending the night in the hospital as a PATHOLOGIST dammit!

That's how the weather has affected me.

Getting TO the hospital this morning wasn't so bad but getting home FROM the hospital was another matter entirely. As in "not happening."

At about two-thirty this afternoon the announcement went out that the roads were becoming even more unsafe so anyone who was going to attempt to make a break for it should try.

Struggled down to the parking lot only to discover that my van was a white drift sitting in the middle of THIGH-high snow. You'd think that would be enough to turn me away but no...there was a shovel sticking out of a snowdrift nearby so I thought "well, if I can shovel the van out then I can probably get home since they are plowing the lot even as I stand here."

Waded through more mid-thigh snow to get to the shovel, waded back to the van and started trying to dig out...when I realized the hard way that my Aleve had worn off and that I was shoveling even more snow than I had at 6:30 this morning. Also that it was coming down hard and fast onto my shoulders. Really hard and really fast--faster than I've ever seen snow fall before.

Still, stubborn is about three of my problems so I kept at it--till my cellphone started ringing in my pocket. Turned out to be HBF telling me "don't even bother. There ISN'T an Our Road any more." He then went on to say "remember the split-rail fence out front? Gone. The mailbox? Gone. You're staying at The Hospital tonight, dear! Go back in and call me from your office."

Yeah, well, I kinda knew that all along but at least wanted to try to sleep in my own bed tonight. Once I had taken a break to answer my cellphone and started looking around I realized how completely ridiculous it would have been for me to try to drive anywhere in a front-wheel-drive Big Green Box anyhow and felt more than a little foolish for just not trusting my gut and sticking with my original "forget it--stay put!" plan.

Four-wheel drive vehicles were spinning their wheels as I hiked back up the hill and I managed to work up a sweat just walking through the plowed areas which still had a good four inches of snow since it was (and still is) coming down so fast that the plows can't keep up. Which explains why one hadn't been down Our Road since early in the morning.

So here I am, back at my desk hanging out till it's time to pick up a cot, bedding, linen and toiletries. Learned they are no longer plowing any of the local streets which makes sense---it must be all the plows can do just to keep up with the major thoroughfares, one of which Our Road clearly isn't.

Fortunately I've got not just one but two good books and some knitting. I also have a pair of scrubs and a floppy T-shirt here at the office and can always sneak off to the morgue shower late tonight or in the morning. I'm now thinking I'll wait till daylight tomorrow and re-assess the car situation with plans to dig out and go home as soon as feasible since staying all day tomorrow also is a bit much.

But...I'm way too old for in-house call!

Oh and here's a picture Eldest sent me from about four this afternoon taken through one of our kitchen windows--that's our back deck and the railing is the usual waist-high-on-a-tall-person height.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Miscellany Again

I might have a career mismatch:

The medical specialty for you is.... Cardiology

Cardiology is the best of all specialties. As a cardiologist, you'll be sure to profit from the sharp increase in obesity. You'll open at clinic across the street from a McDonalds and retire a billionaire.

To find out what specialty best fits your unique personality, go to:

What Medical Specialty Is For You?

I took the quiz again and got this:

The medical specialty for you is.... Ophthalmology

Ophthalmology is the best of all specialties. As an ophthalmologist, you will be unable to spell the name of the field you went into. You will loudly assert the difference between your field and optometry, but eventually, you will be making too much money to care.

Tried changing most everything and got this:

The medical specialty for you is.... OB/GYN

OB/GYN is the best of all specialties. As an OB/GYN, you have chosen one of the most noble fields in medicine. You will work longer hours than a surgeon, but without the high pay. But you will still do it because you have a passion for the field. And after you rush to the hospital at 3 in the morning for the third night in a row to deliver a baby, the parents will turn around and sue you if there were any unforeseeable complications, which is why your insurance rates are so ridiculously high. Come to think of it, OB/GYN?? What were you thinking?

And then this:

The medical specialty for you is.... Surgery

Surgery is the best of all specialties. As a surgeon, you will work hard and be paid well for your efforts. Now that all your cutthroat behavior is finally paying off, you will obtain extreme satisfaction from opening up peoples' bodies and thereby saving their lives. Every once in a while, you'll accidentally sew up the body with your wristwatch inside, but no one will be the wiser.

And then freakin' ophthalmology again. Clearly I am the strangest pathologist ever. It is a specialty option in that quiz; I just can't make it happen.

See I told you all I was an artist at heart just a few days ago.

Meanwhile, it's All About The Weather here--we're set to get our first really big snow (8-12" tonight; 13-20" by tomorrow afternoon) and the whole region is battening down its collective hatches. On a personal level I managed to get out of my two early-morning conferences tomorrow.

Don't get me started on Anna Nicole Smith, just don't. To me the media circus is just more of Anything But Iraq and it's wearing damned thin.

A dear friend of mine made me aware of a good author: Alison Lurie. Big body of work too, which is just like Christmas and a birthday all at the same time.

There was knitting of course---I discovered that I really like this scarf pattern not just because it turns an otherwise-boring rectangle into something yielding progress satisfaction but also because it really DOES bring out the best in varigated yarns. Unfortunately in that process I also discovered that the yarns I had chosen for the triangles sucked dirty cat ass. So I ripped it all out before any eviden---I mean "progress pictures" could be taken. I'll probably try again with the cool yarn my daughter gave me for helping her get her Epic Mount a while back--it's fuschia and black and will be the perfect thing for an aunt-to-be that I happen to know...provided I have enough. We shall see.

Gotta go do the pre-storm errands...practice tolerance, y'all.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Lest you think I'm a completely self-centered only child of an only child (which I am) I present you with some recent knitting for others.

This first item was a birthday gift for my BFH this year. She and I often bemoan the fact that once the children become independenly mobile one loses all property I made her a Place To Keep Her Stuff:

The green bottom part is the very last bit of some lovely wool my Sister handspun for me and the top part is one strand of some fairly coarse unknown-origin stash wool and one strand of Berroco "Cotton Twist." The lining used to be Eldest Duckling's favorite pair of jeans till she outgrew them AND blew out the knees.

The flowers are all from one of Nicky Epstein's books and the good lighting was happy providence.

These are my BIL's "Pagliacci" slippers which didn't show up in a previous post.

They're from the early pages of the 2007 Knitting Pattern a Day calendar and are made from Lion "Jiffy" or "Thick and Quick" or whatever the stuff is called these days. You know, that ropey acrylic found in dimestores everywhere.

He's abandoned all other footwear in favor of those slippers. I'm wondering how long the soles will last.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Me Me Me

It's a slow day at the office so I thought I'd share some random personal information in the style of "six strange things" or "one hundred things about me" or similar blog posts.

I can't stand hot beverages. Soup either--have to wait for it to be more or less lukewarm before it's at all enjoyable to me.

My first movie-star crush object was Gene Wilder. Not in this movie but this one. I'm still pretty fond of the guy. (My second was Robin Williams and my third was Harold Ramis. I also hid for years the fact that I secretly liked David Lee Roth.)

I can't belch.

I sang in a church choir for ten years.

I take children's chewable vitamins. Not just because the kids wouldn't but also because they don't give me indigestion like the adult ones do as soon as the coating dissolves.

If money had played no part in the decision I would have become an artist.

I consider it a very high compliment that dogs and babies universally like me.

I much prefer being driven over doing the driving.

I have a lot of protein issues: can't stand most fish, any organ meat, oysters, mussels, uncured pork products, chicken with the skin or bones still on, fatty meats or strong cheeses. All that started well before pathology...but the career choice definitely accentuated the tendency. Youngest Duckling is the same way but even more so. Go figure.

I can speak German (but not nearly as well as I could twenty years ago.)

I find tattoos a fascinating art form but have yet to see even one episode of Miami Ink. No I don't have any of my own.

I can't stand opera although I like Gilbert and Sullivan just fine. The first opera I attended was La Boheme (in English) and I survived the first half by flirting outrageously with the handsome blond to my right. At intermission the girlfriend on my left informed me he was not only gay but in a committed relationship so I had to actually watch the second half. Thought I was going to die.

I genuinely like shoveling snow.

I was born with an odd small dimple in the right side of my neck. Had to grow up and go to medical school to discover it was a branchial cleft sinus.

I've never been to a foreign country. Yes I plan to change that fact.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Steeking Re-Post

From my end it looks like the pictures posted this time. Here's the original in its entirety:

Steeking: the deliberate cutting of knitted fabric to create openings.

Also something that, like sex, is quite intimidating to interested parties who've never actually tried it, which is what I was till recently.

Oh I hadn't planned it that way--I had planned to have a Holiday Vest for this winter and finished knitting a big colorful cylinder in early November. Moved on with plans to use the vest as a "dry run" for the whole steeking concept before doing it on Something Fancy like the Wintergarden sweater.


My "holiday vest" sat on top of my sewing machine through all of November, all of Advent, all of Christmastide and some of Ordinary Time too. I had already decided that it was my practice piece for both two-color work and steeking and had therefore given myself permission to totally screw it up and make a very brightly decorated cat-bed. Didn't care one little bit if I made a pile of yarn spaghetti, either.

So it wasn't the whole "fear" thing holding me back...but I wasn't sure what was holding me back. I belatedly realized that it was the sewing-machine that was the rate-limiting step: no good place or time to set the thing up and actually do the stitching. Coincidentally right after I made that discovery my knitting newsgroup started up a steeking conversation which made the whole process sound very do-able.

On the night of the new moon I said "fuck that sewing shit entirely," grabbed a pair of scissors and just whacked through the thing. Guess what?

Nothing bad happened.

This is what happened:

Here's a closeup of the star pattern:

Oh sure, the yarn was very slippery (holiday acrylic with that plastic gilt thread and stash cotton) and wanted to unravel for a stitch or two at the cut edges but it wasn't anything major and was easily hidden in a rolled edge, which is what I did to secure the undersides.

Whacked through the underarms and just rolled those too...see?

I was all about "git 'er DONE!" when I picked up the scissors and I'm glad of it.

However in the future I would definitely plan my facings and cutting better since the inside of this piece has a very cobbled-together look:

The front edges are also rather thicker than I'd like but for my First Steeking it was overall a pretty good experience...better than my First Sex was.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Afghan Update

As soon as I had a "half-diamond" done I pinned some squares together to see how it might eventually look:

If any of you know who the two people in that statue are, please leave a comment or email me--we inherited it from HBF's grandparents and I like it but would like it more if I knew something about it.

Here's a closer look:

That's actually the second "half-diamond" I made. The first time I followed the directions in the pattern and cast on only 30 stitches...then wondered why I ended up with something barely big enough to wipe one's nose. Thought about it a while and realized that even though the location of the two decreases every other row had changed from paired-in-the-center to at-each-edge, the total number of decreases needed to be the same to get the stripes to line up. The second time I cast on 60 same as for the squares and it came out just fine.

Yes you mathematical purists I realized that to make it fit perfectly I didn't really want four rows of plain in between the garter ridges since the diamonds were on a quasi-hypotenuse---but I also decided I didn't want to mess with having only three rows of plain between the ridges and that the squares could just stretch to fit. (There is that swell sewing word "ease" after all.) Worst outcome is that I'll have a bit of a scallop to the edges since the squares will want to pull back...and I'm okay with that.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dancing with Moms

Up here in the Hinterlands, an annual event is the "Seventh and Eighth Grade Cotillion" which is a formal dance privately sponsored by the Cotillion Committee in the ballroom of our fancy hotel in May.

The signup sheet came home with Eldest Duckling a couple weeks ago so we learned that it was not just a dance but also a whole spring extracurricular activity: eight weeks of Monday-night ballroom dance lessons in the middle school gym were a prerequisite to attend. The lessons required skirts for the girls and ties for the boys, cost $65.00 and were taught by the committee members, many of whose names I recognized as my colleagues and all of whom had been doing this event for Just Ever. We also learned that the dance was always limited to equal numbers of boys and girls with no more than fifty of each. Should less than fifty boys participate or more girls than boys wish to participate there were contingency plans: after giving the eighth-grade girls priority the seventh-grade girls' names would be put in a hat and drawn at random till girls were equal to the number of boys in attendance. Any girl whose name was not drawn would get her check returned.

Archaic? Absolutely. Provincial? Youbetcha. Sexist? Yeah, probably.

I told Eldest she was getting signed up whether she liked it or not and in the very same breath told Middle Duckling (now nine) "and when it's your turn you bet your ass you're going too!"

Why? Because not knowing how to dance is a serious social handicap and a little dress-up etiquette never hurt anyone either. Even if you're the most alternative person in the county, the "traditional" social graces are useful knowledge...and knowledge is power.

Eldest thought it sounded "sort of fun I guess" and was bribed with the promise of a "real" gown meaning one in a small size from the misses department instead of a big size from the girls department. I wrote a check and we waited to see what would happen.

What happened is that Monday of this week Eldest came home and said "Guess what? I didn't get picked for the cotillion." I said "Oh gee, that's too bad. I guess we'll be getting our check back eventually" and we moved on with our evening. Later I asked "so who else isn't going?" and got five or six names rattled off to me. Didn't think another thing of it and neither did Eldest, who seemed happier not to be going after all.

Yesterday afternoon there was a message on the answering machine from...oh let's just call her "Mrs. Mom." She had identified herself by name and as "the mother of FemaleClassmate" and asked that I call her to "discuss the cotillion." I thought she was going to tell me how my check was being sent back.

I got the hint that might not be the case when the woman on the other end of the telephone started off with "I want you to know that fairness is a really big thing for me. Whatever it is in life if we're doing it for one person it has to be fair to everyone." She told me that her daughter didn't get selected for the cotillion so she was "contacting the other two mothers to let them know what's been going on so far."

I got comfortable; it sounded like I was in for a long ride.

Mrs. Mom asked "do you know all the girls who didn't get picked?" I said that no, I didn't, but I'd heard there were at least four or five. Even tossed out a couple of the names Eldest had given me Monday night.

Nope, turns out that a big plank in Mrs. Mom's platform was that "only three girls didn't get picked" and she thought it was just awful "that we work so hard on building up self-esteem and now we're telling them they can't ballroom dance with their friends."

It's a good thing I did inpatient psych; I got skilled at letting people keep talking and Mrs.Mom definitely wanted to talk. She told me that she had been so upset when she heard this news that she contacted one of the members of the Cotillion Committee to complain and get her kid in. She had been told a polite version of "too bad" which included that the dance had always been done that way, keeping an equal number of boys to girls was important, there had never been any previous complaints, it was all spelled out on the signup sheet and was completely optional in any case.

That wasn't good enough for Mrs. Mom who said she'd checked the occupancy limits for both the gym where the lessons were being held (510) and the ballroom (180.) Used those as a springboard for her argument that it's wrong to limit the class to just 50 of each if more girls wanted to attend.

I then heard a five-minute riff on how the committee members' children all "got an automatic in" which I knew couldn't be entirely true because some of those committee members' children have kids of their own. Got to hear a whole lot about how "it's only three girls; they ought to be able to fix this! Just make it work!" and yes she said "make it work" exactly like Tim Gunn.

I learned that Mrs. Mom had gone from the committee member straight to the Superintendent of Schools to complain bitterly about how unfair the selection process was. Her best argument was "you let all the boys go and only some of the girls go but what if one boy has a sports injury in the spring and breaks his leg and can't dance? You don't tell one of the girls who took the lessons that now she can't go, do you?"

Unfortunately the argument that she liked best was all about self-esteem. If I heard once I heard at least a dozen times that "it's so hard to build up self-esteem at this age and we do all these other things to try to build girls' self-esteem that it's just so wrong to tell these girls they can't dance with their friends."

I was doing okay with everything till she said "these girls were so upset when they found out they weren't going that at least two of them were in the guidance counselor's office in tears crying...and one of them was your daughter."

Excuse me?

I had been quietly tolerating her rant in part to see what she wanted from me and in part because I didn't want to piss off the crazy person with my phone number (and probably address) but this was a bit much. I said "If that's true it's news to me!" and she said "well that's what I was told." I replied "Eldest certainly didn't seem a bit upset at the time but I'll ask her about it. I suppose she could have been playing it cool because her brother and sister were right there."

Right back to the self-esteem argument again and how "it's not like cheerleading tryouts or a sports meet where you can explain to your child that if they work harder and do better they can make the cut next time -- this is unfair because it's so arbitrary." She also said "it's not just the dance itself but it's the whole spring of lessons. Every Monday all the kids are going to be talking about the lesson that night and every Tuesday morning they'll be talking about how much fun they had and if my daughter's grades go down because she's upset over that then I think it's the school's issue."

Mrs. Mom was bitter because the Superintendent of Schools hadn't "done anything for me except tell me to contact Committee Chairwoman." I got to hear a repeat of how unsatisfactory Mrs. Mom's encounter with the first Committee Member had been before finally being told that the windup of the story was "Committee Chairwoman said she'd email the other members and see what they could do."

Then she asked for "your feedback" and said she "really thought the three mothers should work together on this."

My feedback went like this: "Well I wish you the best of luck with your enterprise, and some of your points are well-taken. Of course learning ballroom dance is a good thing which is why we signed up in the first place but frankly we just accepted that the cotillion was an archaic sort of small-town thing and that it was just done this way. [interruption by Mrs. Mom to push her platform and encourage my endorsement] I'll certainly talk to Eldest Duckling about this and if she is upset that's one thing but the flip side of that coin is 'Oh gawd Mom, PLEASE don't make a big fuss and embarrass me!' "

That actually got Mrs. Mom to shut up for more than five seconds and I thought maybe we were done...but no, she just went right back to explaining how they "need to fix this" and how unfair it was that "these girls can't dance with their friends." For about the fourth time I thought to myself "yeah, and 'their friends' is who they are going to be dancing with if you make sure there are more girls than boys" but I kept mum long enough to get the crazywoman off the telephone.

After shaking my head for a while I found Eldest Duckling and told her the story. Turned out that some of the half-dozen names she'd mentioned on Monday night included kids who hadn't signed up in the first place so we determined that the "only three" part of Mrs. Mom's story was probably true. However it was most emphatically not true that Eldest had been upset: she was outraged that someone had accused her of crying in school.

Not only was she not upset but if Mrs. Mom did get the three girls invited to the cotillion, Eldest Duckling absolutely didn't want to go---"Gawd like the only reason I'm there is because somebody's Mommy had a big stinkin' FIT? No thank you!"

She did, however, ask if she could have the sixty-five bucks.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Headband for Eldest

Knit out of CottonEase using one of the patterns in this book.
I'm particularly fond of the I-cord edging which is done by slipping the first three stitches of every row. Hadn't ever done that before and found it elegantly simple.

Hormonal Serendipity:

Three parts sour cream

Two parts Nance Corn Relish

1/2 part hoisin sauce

Stir well, serve with ridged potato chips.
Or seafood.
Or a spoon.