Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Worst University Ever

I am not much one for hanging around YouTube. First of all, it is a time suck. Second of all, there are things on YouTube that are just wrong. I do go on YouTube occasionally to watch music videos.

One of my work friends had mentioned Telephone by Lady Gaga. I had no idea what she was talking about as my only reference for Lady Gaga is Eric Cartman on Southpark singing Poker Face. So to watch the music video I went to YouTube. Lady Gaga is theatre of the absurd who dethrones Madonna as the diva of the innuendo and sexually charged video, so don't go to YouTube watch the video and get all, "OMG I can't believe Kimberly told me to watch this. My eyes! My mind's eye! I'm going to puke." and ruin your computer board from all the barf.

But I digress....

When I was looking up the video, I noticed that some of our troops stationed overseas had made their own music videos for their favorite Lady Gaga songs. I watched a few of these videos and thought about how the troops needed to blow off a little steam.

Then I thought about my days at the university. We had fun dancing to Madonna, playing in garage bands, and doing roughly the same thing, but all pre YouTube (Thank you Jeazuz! Nobody needs to see that today). We would dress up and do spoofs, copy the latest fashions of our rock idols, actors, etc. It was us, in a war zone.

Now, I don't know about many of you, but when I was looking at universities this was not my criteria: Come roast in our plywood dorms with limited air conditioning and uncomfortable beds while suffering in the dusty heat from boredom alternating with heart thumping danger. Come enjoy our fitness program with motivation provided by live gun fire and explosions while wearing 100 pounds of protective equipment to tone those thighs and tighten those abs. Learn how to write fiction telling your parents how you are doing okay and how things are fine, so your parents don't worry.

I thought about how many of the guys, smiling and dancing in the videos would come home to Dover, Delaware with no fanfare and no public witness in a black body bag. Most of us would not even think about it because although we have been fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq longer than any other war, we have indulged ourselves in that we refuse to watch news of the war on t.v. because it is too depressing.

I am just as guilty. I used to go on nytimes.com every morning to see the list of the dead and offer a silent moment for their families. I don't even remember when I stopped. I didn't even realize until I sat down to write this post that most of the websites I relied on to provide this information no longer have it posted on the home page.

We are creating a new group of alumni of the university of war. They will receive no diploma and we won't attend their graduation.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Stupid Failure of a $10 Piece of Rubber

Fewer things destroy my will to live faster than heat and humidity. I have never been a Southern flower who thrives in the heat wearing a white, cotton shift, fanning herself in a rocking chair on the veranda drinking iced tea. No. My people must have been Nordic people who melted if the thermometer sped past 90 and whose lungs could not distill oxygen out of air with more than 30% humidity. There is a reason Leif Ericson found Greenland and Labrador instead of South Beach.

I have been just this side of miserable even with the air conditioning because you can only cool the air so much. Hubby decided to put a remote display thermometer in the attic. It hit 140 the other day, so he turned on the attic fan to cool it down to under 100. When I walked under it on my way to the bathroom, it was like walking under a blast furnace.

In addition to the whole hotter than Hades in a hot day in hell issue, we have also had some of those problems related to home ownership. First the electric lawn mower died from natural causes. I always thought it would die from electricity loss due to cord amputation, but I was wrong. After using my mad knitting dexterity skills to reassemble the switch assembly, the mower still didn’t spring to life. We have yet to bury the thing, but it is dead. I stopped at Lowes on my way to work one morning and wrestled a new lawn mower into the trunk of the car. Hubby really likes this lawn mower. He claims it is better and quieter – although how would he know he looks like a giant bug with his noise cancelling head phones on.

Then the hot tub has been acting up a little bit – although it has been so hot the thought of sitting outside in the heat in a tub of hot water is less than thrilling. We need to get new filters for that.

Then there was the “mild” flooding of the basement and Man Cave that happened when I was getting ready for this week’s knit night.

On the one hand I feel grateful that we did not have the problems a lot of other people did when the monsoon hit on Tuesday. On the other hand, it was tres annoying that the water got in the basement because the flashing (a $10 piece of equipment) under the basement door did not do its job (a $100 worth of annoyance).

We have dried it out to the best of our ability. Memo to self – do not expect a wet dry vac to actually suck up enough water out of a carpet to make it dry. Wet dry vac only means you can use it vacuum up Cheerios spilled out of the box or Cheerios and milk from a bowl. Now we have the whole got to rent the carpet cleaner thing to treat the carpets with some vinegar and cleaning solution or do we just rip up the carpet drama to endure this weekend. Yeah!

Through all of this, there is the added bonus of the heat and humidity that makes everything so much more pleasant because one’s clothes are sweat drenched and one’s temper is on a vacation. Yeah right.

To keep my sanity, I have been reading books and working on a cotton baby blanket for one of the women at work. So far it seems to be working, but that could change at any moment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Greetings from Tropical In Cincinnati

It is monsoon season in Cincinnati. I have a hard time believing it myself until I venture outside and my brain boils inside my skull while my lungs protest that they have not yet devolved into gills. I quit knitting on a baby blanket for a friend of mine and a shawl because even with the a/c they were too hot. There are plenty of smaller projects to occupy my hands. Besides it is never too early to start the Christmas socks.

I have also been reading quite a bit lately. Usually, I keep two to three books going at once in a couple of different genres to keep the brain working. I finished Sweater Quest by Adrienne Martini a couple of days ago.

Sweater Quest is the account of one knitter's Everest project. I won't generalize and say that all knitters have that one impossible project that calls to them like no other. Signora Maritini's Everest project was an Alice Starmore design called Mary Tudor.

For those who don't know about Alice Starmore designs, here is a brief over view. Alice Starmore is a knitter and designer from the Hebrides. She is best known for her Fair Isle knitting designs. Madame Starmore created Fair Isle designs of heartbreaking beauty because Madame Starmore has a genius for color. With only two colors in any given row, Alice Starmore creates sweaters with such intricate motifs and combinations that at first it seems impossible. This alone would be a credit to knitting genius, but Madame Starmore did not stop there. She went on to design Ganseys and Aran sweaters that were just as intricate as her colorwork. I have several of her books in my collection and read them often.

To knit an Alice Starmore design is to put your expertise to the test in such a way that other knitter's know you have been to the dojo of knitting and caught the fly with the chopsticks.

For a year, Adrienne Martini lives with her project. I can sympathize with her obsession with a knitting Everest. For me it is a Shetland shawl. I have the kit. I look at it at least once a month. I think about winding the yarn at least once a month. I don't doubt my knitting mojo or my knitting chops. Yet, the yarn and pattern languish in their plastic bag taunting me.

Several years ago, I went to see the IMAX movie Everest. Let's just say that any match flame of an idea I had that I might one day climb the real Everest were blown out in the first five minutes. When I saw the crazy people with oxygen tanks using telescoping painting ladders to cross crevasses so deep you weren't quite sure you wouldn't fall to the center of the earth, I got a little sick. Let's face it, insanity, oxygen deprivation and severe illegal drug intoxication are the only combination that would even allow me to entertain the possibility of putting a foot on the ladder.

My Shetland shawl is nothing so terrorizing or deleterious to my life expectancy. I knit lace all the time. I knit shawls all the time. A Shetland shawl is nothing but the combination of the two. So, why don't I do it.

I think part of the answer lies in the fact that once you have climbed Mt. Everest, how do you beat that? Seriously? Is there another, higher peak? Is there another way you can show your badassness to the climbing community? No. You just climb the same mountain in stupider ways, like with no oxygen, or faster, or naked. Are you going to be just as interested in climbing Mt Hood or Mt Kilamanjaro? Will you just hang up your climbing gear and think bleh when someone talks about an expedition to climb in the Alps?

Knitting can be a bit like that. Knitting can also be like the trail to California during the Western Expansion of the United States. It is said, and I believe it, that the ruts where the wagons traveled along the trail got so deep from use, that later expeditions traveled in ruts as deep as the hub of the wagon wheels. While ruts help you know where the trail is and guide you on the way. When they are deep, you cannot turn, and you cannot get off a trail that is going over a cliff.

For a while now I have been in a knitting holding pattern. It has been something soothing that I have turned to during a big move, months of grief and a sense missing people I love who live so far away. In the space of not having to think about how I am working the needles, my mind has had the chance to process and to reach a point of acceptance and health.

Although it is hot. Although it is steamy. Although all Shetland shawls are knit with wool, perhaps now is the time. If is too terrible, I can always set it on fire, bury the ashes and claim that the yarn was homesick for the Shetland Islands so it caught a flight and moved in with a family of sheep who claim to know its parents.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tru Blood is Back Baby!!!

Reader Warning Advisory: Some of the following content may be a bit more descriptive than what some gentle readers are accustomed to reading from me and might not be appropriate for younger readers. If you continue reading and feel offended or shocked that something like that could come out of my brain down to the blog, I accept no responsibility. You have been duly advised.

I have read vamp lit since I was 10 or 11. While my classmates were deciding what to wear to 6th grade graduation, I was memorizing the methods to kill the undead in case of an attack. I specialized in Vamps, Weres, and exorcisms. If zombies attacked, well I was going to be SOL and have my brains eaten. You have to go with what you know, and with my parents' line of work, I felt confidenct I could do battle with SOB's from hell and demon spawn. You have to go with your strenghts and mine lay in holy water, stakes, crosses and holy writ. Chain saws and sawed off shotguns just weren't my style.

I started with the Queen of All Vamp Lit - Anne Rice's Interview With a Vampire. I must have read it 10 times before I got out of high school. I read other vamp lit, and believe me when I tell you it has progressed 1000 times since the '80's. The Reagan Era wasn't kind to the undead. People were too caught up in greed, being yuppies, and getting a head - not protecting themselves from vamps, wolves in people clothing and slime spewing demons. I was one of the few that when the day came and the nighstalkers came to take over humankind, I would be ready to protect me and mine.

Of course my parents looked at this with equal parts horror and humor. Guess you really don't want to belittle a child who is practicing to stake things. Might not work out too well. But I digress....

A few years ago I discovered the Sookie Stackhouse series. Most people who know me know that I generally go for something a bit more cerebral. I am more a Pulitizer or Booker Prize winner kind of gal. Still, filled with a bit of ennui and the need for something not quite as turgid as all I that, I picked up the first in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I read through them all without coming up for air.

Then came the news that I dreaded. HBO was going to make a series from the books.

I am not a purist. Books can be made into film. What is bothersome is that a great story told on the page often times gets hacked to bits on the screen. What is even more bothersome is that a great story told on the page in a series that is still active can be ruined by its audio-visual adaptation.

This happened with Interview with a Vampire. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise as vampires was so ludicrious. I mean, come on. The person in charge of casting could have made a blockbuster had they only picked up the phone and called me. After I stopped laughing at their choices, I could have recommended some actors with a tad more schadenfeude. Being a vamp isn't just about sucking people's blood and looking good while doing it. Unfortunately, I have been unable to read Interview with a Vampire since. Each time I have tried, I have hippie blond dye job Pitt (With the same hippie blonde dye job, Pitt was most excellent in Legends of the Fall. Read the novella, then watch the movie to get a stunning example of what can happen to the written word reinterpreted on screen. The casting was superb and the narrative straight from the novella.) and Scientology crazy faced Cruise in my mind. (No, I will not apologize about linking scientology and crazy. I have my reasons.) Good book ruined by Hollywood.

So, two seasons ago when Tru Blood, the HBO adaptation of the Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series aired, I was prepared to be underwhelmed to disappointment. Then I saw the premiere episode. OMG!! It was bloody fraking awesome. I sat staring at the end credits upset that I had to wait an entire workweek and a Saturday before the next episode. That pain was nothing compared to waiting for a new season to start.

Last night was the premiere episode of season three. I rarely say this about a television series, because if I like a series two things happens - it will get cancelled after three shows or they will "tweak it" (a Hollywood euphemism for FUBAR) until it sucks and then cancel it, but season three looks like it is going to be more incredibly awesome than seasons one or two. All I have to say is that Allen Ball knows how to write good television.

Some of the lines were so brilliant I am going to start using them in everyday conversation. Lines like, "less conscience more cojones", "I don't have time for your lesbian weirdness" (that one is going to be a little more difficult to include in my daily conversation), there are a couple of others, but some readers might not appreciate them as much as I do, because my inner child is a 14 year old boy.

So for the next few Sunday evenings from 9 - 10 pm don't call me. You can text me, but only if you are also watching Tru Blood and want to share the experience. Oh, and trust me, the only knitting I will be doing is one very plain, gianormous sock because I am so team Eric. Sometimes it the vampire hunter who gets staked.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

It Only Took A Month...

I survived my mom’s hysterectomy and have managed a full recovery.

For those of you who believe that the sentence should have read, “my mom survived her hysterectomy”, you have obviously never been around someone who has had a hysterectomy.

People who actually have a hysterectomy receive awesome, mind altering substances in the hospital. Then they are released with enough pain medication to down a great, blue whale on crack. Those who are taking care of them are given nothing, not even an aspirin to alleviate the back pain from sitting in the hospital issue Torquemada chairs in the surgery waiting area.

I have come to the conclusion that it was a good thing that my mom decided not to smoke pot in her younger years, as she would be the one in the circle who giggled incessantly and made pronouncements like, “You know what? The sky is blue! Blue!” It would have been a waste of good pot…. and brain cells. Seeing my mom high was the highlight of my day. I needed the comic relief.

I sat in the “recliner” chair knitting on a sock while my mom faded in and out of lala land. I watched Law and Order: Criminal Intent or SVU or the original most of the day.

Memo to hospital administrators – You should be forced to sit in the chairs you buy for the patients and families that visit your hospital for at least three hours before buying them.

If you have 15 permutations of ESPN, you should have at least 5 channels for people who would rather go without pain medication than be subjected to sports television.

If you have a cafeteria, it should not close at 1:30p.m.

Most of all, you should drop the farce that a hospital is a pleasant place to be because you have muted colors and some hotel art on the walls. What makes or breaks a hospital experience is where you sit your butt. Personally, I could care less if the walls are painted crap brown with art courtesy of Mary Sister Elephant’s kindergarten class if the chair I am sitting in doesn’t make me wish I were numb from the head down.

P.S. It sends a mixed message to read the hospital’s mission statement promising quality care for one's loved one while sitting in a chair that makes one plot stealing the hammer from the maintenance dude's belt so that one can hit one's self in the head to make one's back stop hurting.

But I digress....

I had plans of all the wonderful things I would manage while taking care of my mom. I had intended to at least get a pair of socks or two finished before the first annual KY Sheep and Fiber Festival. (I want to apologize publicly to the friends I met in Lexington after a week at Chez Prep and Surgery Recovery. I was crazy, tired and suffering from brain dead personality disorder. Yellow Springs, OH should be better.) I had miscalculated how much work goes into caring for someone who has had surgery when you don't want to feed them fast food and protein bars.

I did make a few bizarre discoveries. Discovery number one: If you put a teaspoon of Benefiber in a 24 ounce smoothie, it will congeal to the consistency of caulking in less than five minutes. The serving size is two teaspoons in 8 ounces of water. Discovery number two: My mom's nurse friends enjoy getting entirely too much information. It would have been easier if I had put up the Mom's Vajayjay facebook page like I threatened to do. Discovery number three: Mom's Vajayjay should be a theoretical body part. No, seriously. Discovery number four: Sexism is alive an well and I managed to make it back to my parents' house with both size 10 Birkenstocks intact. I am withholding details to keep me from shooting fire out of my eyes.

Still, I read a few books; got a frightening look into the future, no Ouiji Board, crytal ball or scrying bowl required; scored some great fiber, a sweet drop spindle and great time with friends, and made it home in one piece to sleep in my own bed. At least it wasn't a family reunion or a Griswold Vacation. Now that would have taken a least six weeks and a six pack of micro brew to process.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If You Buy A Man A House

I am sitting at my desk, sitting in my hot pink, office chair, enjoying the latest Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the sounds of the neighborhood. This is no small luxury.

On our last trip to the Homeowners Place of Penance, I saw a small, electric weed whacker. I bought it for Hubby as that was the last bit of lawn care equipment we lacked. I sat down to write the next day only to be greeted by the buzz of a man at work in the back yard. It was maddening. Just when I thought it was over, it started up again.

I kind of felt sorry for the weeds as I watched from the second story window as Hubby the Weed Scourge wielded the Whacker of Weedy Woe. I was also glad I had not chosen to plant any flowers in the back, as HWS wields the WWW in a whacking frenzy possibly whacking friend and foe.

The house has become this living thing with wants and needs of its own. Part of these wants and needs are fueled by Hubby. Before, it was just me with my fiber needs. Now Hubby hasn't seen a home improvement project he doesn't want to consider.

It all started with the electric mower that he bought for a song on Craig's List. He has a routine about mowing the yard, which I do appreciate since I thought he would never do it of his own volition.

The mower was followed by the acquisition - again from Craig's List - of these giant plastic barrels he was planning on turning into rain barrels. They are still in the back yard, just plain old barrels. Any rain that gets inside is incidental to the fact they are in the back yard and barrels.

He did take a hands on class on rain barrels, so we do have one functional rain barrel. This rain barrel feeds the drip waterer for the tomato plants. There is the promise of tomatoes as the plants are growing and have blooms. I am looking forward to that.

Then there was the Return from Texas Trip Surprise Holes in the Wall. Surprise! It was supposed to be speakers but I couldn't get the cable run like I thought I could.

Next was the huge investment sitting the basement waiting to deprive me of a hot shower. I have finally talked Hubby into reality world by getting him to accept the difference between technical and practical knowledge. You have technical knowledge when you read books and watch videos about installing a tankless hot water heater. You only get the practical knowledge after you have helped a professional or some other person who has hands on experience install a tankless hot water heater. All my prayers have been answered as the universe has sent us a plumber.

I will admit to cringing more than a little when I hear the words, "I've been thinking; You know what would be cool; I saw this thing on DIY tv the other day". I have to practice centering and calming breathing before saying "No. And are you nuts?"

It isn't as if I am not complicit in all of this. I did put some herbs in the front after ripping out the day lilies. I am allergic. Plus, I have this insane belief that big, grassy plants are the domestic breeding ground for black mamba and reticulated pythons escaped from the local pet store. I also got a hibiscus and some rose bushes. The knowledge that this year is the floral building year and that I will have to wait until next year to benefit from all this year's labor is tough at times, but at least there will be fresh basil and tomatoes.

Still, when I am sitting at my desk next to a row of windows that let in the light and a brillant view of blue sky and our neighbors' back yards I don't regret buying the house or the Whacker of Weedy Woe. When I am sitting in the hot tub in the evening looking up at the stars and hearing the sounds of the neighborhood at rest, I don't regret buying the house. When I am sitting in my front room knitting in good, natural light, I don't regret buying the house. When I hear the sound of the electric mower or the whacker, I am not quite sure.

Monday, May 24, 2010

How You Know That the Company Screwed the Pooch

Generally, I am not an early adopter of technology. I have the mistaken impression that when I get a piece of technology that when I turn it on, it should work as expected. My expectations are not that it will make me rich, fly, a superhero, or the Queen of Sheba. No. My expectations are that that said piece of technology will function as advertised. If it is an MP3 player, I should be able to turn it on and hear my music. If it is a laptop, I should be able to turn it on, check my e-mail, write, or play Majong or Spider Solitaire. If it is an e-reader you should be able to read your books on it.

Additionally, when you are given that little message to update your device's software and you do so, your device should still work.

My expectations are so simple as to be complicated. When I updated the software on my e-reader, it was a complete and utter disaster. I would not have been so upset had it not been for the fact that I was prompted to update my device a mere two days prior to the release of the final book in the Steig Larsson trilogy. The final book that has been available in Europe for months (bastards). The final book that I have thought about once a day until I forced myself out of denial and realized that May 25th would not come any sooner just so I could get the book (damn it). Now, due to my e-reader failure, I would be forced to buy it in a bookstore. Not that I really care about that part, mind you, it is just so inconvenient when you are dying for a book. I mean, you have to get in a car and everything. What a pain in the butt.

Also, if you know me well, you also know that a bookstore for me is like going into some kind of Nirvana. I barely make it out of there with only two books in my hands, much less just the one I went in to buy.

But I digress....

So, I send an e-mail to manufacturer of said e-reader, explaining to them that now their software won't even say as much as "Hello, now go screw yourself" to my computer. I also explain, lest they think I am totally incompetent that I have done everything according to Nerd Hubby's protocol and things aren't working any better. I get standard "We'll get back to you within 24 hours" response. Lo and behold later in the day I get a response. I am giddy. I get on my machine and follow the instructions. Nothing. Now at this point I am getting a bit peeved. I can't possibly be the only person this is happening to, or can I?

I do what no human wants to do. I do what no human will do if they have any other option. I do what no sane human who wants to maintain their sanity will do. I called the 1-866 number. Yes. I. Did.

After my call bounced around the globe and landed in Bulgaria (Just for sake of argument. The gentleman who finally answered my call didn't sound Sub-Continent Indian, and my ability to differentiate between the Balkan accents is rather limited.)

Then I heard the phrase that is a signal to anyone calling a help line that the company screwed up and have annoyed many millions of their customers ... "We are receiving a higher than expected call volume. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received."

That one phrase told me I was not alone in the universe. That one phrase told me that I was not too incompetent to press the download and install upgrade buttons on my computer. That one phrase told me that some nameless, faceless person had probably had their worst week ever at work because they screwed up a simple upgrade. I did not feel sorry for them. No, I did not.

So, little dude on the phone fixed my problem. Today I was able to get my book.

I didn't start reading it, yet, because I had lunch with my mother-in-law. If I started it, I would have been willing to feign the worst case of diarrhea in the Western hemisphere to stay home and read it. I would have said, "I don't mind going, but with this explosive diarrhea I might not make it without having an accident in the car." She would have understood and I would have accumulated some bad daughter-in-law karma. I have accumulated enough bad karma that I am afraid to have children as they will all have colic, reflux, and bad gas.