Unraveled Wednesday, 5/25/22.

Joining Kat and friends. Go see what the others are up to.

Knitting.

This yarn, Nashua Woolly Stripes, has been marinating in the stash since 2009. I kept an idea in the back of my mind that I would knit a child’s sweater with its 528 yards. But last week I happened on the French Market bag, upper right above. It requires 420 yards and is felted. Perfect! I plan to make it a little deeper than the pattern so I can use up all the yarn.

When I cast on it turned out to be rather more difficult than I expected. The directions say to knit the flat bottom in the round, starting from the center and working/increasing outward. Given that this yarn is single ply and not very tightly spun at that, I was having a great deal of trouble with the tiny center. After trying and frogging 3 or 4 times I happened to read a little further in the pattern and discovered that the designer also gives the knitter the option to knit the bottom flat. Just what I needed! After knitting the bottom rectangle (above lower right), the knitter picks up stitches around the edge of it and joins in the round. Great!

As I knitted, however, I found that I was un-plying the yarn, a Z twist. Long ago I began knitting a lopapeysa with Icelandic yarn and did the same thing — the yarn fell apart in my hands. I do not remember how I solved the problem then, but this time I found that if I wrap the yarn around the needle the *wrong* way, I am actually tightening the yarn twist. Doing it the *wrong* way, however, caused the yarn to over-twist more in the right direction. So I alternated rows — one *right* and one *wrong*. Or sometimes when I noticed the yarn was [un]twisting I changed in the middle of a row. I just had to remind myself to notice which way a stitch was sitting on the needle when I encountered it in the next row.

[digression] I taught myself how to knit out of a book in my teens. In my twenties I learned how to crochet and made several things. When I returned to knitting, I automatically wrapped the yarn the *wrong* way because that was the way I crocheted. That *wrong* way came to a screeching halt about 15 years ago when I was knitting my first pair of socks. At one point the instructions said to “knit through the back loop”, which was the way I had knit for years. I shook my head at the illogical way of patterns and continued on my merry, *wrong*, way. Eventually I was paging through through a learn-to-knit book and saw the author’s illustration of stitches on the needle. Ahha! It all became clear to me, and I resumed knitting the *right*way. (If you have ever done combination knitting as taught by Annie Modesitt (R.I.P., Annie) you know what I mean.) [/digression]

Reading.

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan. One of the blurbs on the cover of this book likens the author to Tana French, who is one of my favorite authors. The comparison is a bit of a stretch, I found, but generally accurate. The story is set in Ireland, mainly in Galway, and is both a police procedural and an amateur detective story. Occasionally I was scratching my head trying to decide if I had missed something because the plot made some jumps that baffled me. Turns out that after writing this book the author wrote two prequels; I need to read those. Anyway, it was a good read. 4★

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The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. I will be reading this one for a while. The subtitle describes it perfectly: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory. Quantum physics and string theory have long fascinated me, but I am not smart enough to grasp them in a technical sense. This book is written for people like me. It is still hard going; I cannot read too much at one time without suffering brain fatigue. I plan to read 10 – 20 pages each night, or until I cannot absorb any more. So far that is working quite well.

Back when Tom and Ray Magliocci were doing the weekly radio show Car Talk on NPR, they occasionally had Brian Greene on the show. Greene was an entertaining physicist, not a common combination. Anyhow, that is how I first heard of him. When (if?) I finish this book I have two more of his books on my shelf.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman. As much as I love Neil Gaiman as a person, I often have trouble loving his books. (But I did like The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere. Oh, and Good Omens. I guess I love his short books and find the long ones — like American Gods — just too difficult.) I didn’t love this book, although it was more that I really wanted to start on one of the other books I had just picked up from the library rather than read this one. But I persevered and finished this [short] book. He loves to write about Faerie and how it intersects with our world; that was the premise here. 4★

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Watching.

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Suits on Amazon Prime. I finished season one, on to season two. The plots are so… plotty. Convoluted. Surprising.

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Listening.

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Still listening to Pretty Things by Janelle Brown. It is good car listening — not deep, but an entertaining plot.

Posted in Unraveled Wednesdays | 2 Comments

Fiber Monday, 5/23/22.

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Saturday, 5/21/22; some amuse-bouche[s] for y’all.

Remember, click to embiggen.

Great news for new and prospective parents.

I need to share this from UpNorthNews, 5/20/22 issue:

It feels weird to state the obvious, but we don’t think anyone should be above the law. And yet, we now live in a world where insurrectionists, fake presidential electors, and rogue election investigators can just—in the words of a judge yesterday—run amok.

Legislators can rig political maps, get paid a full-time salary, and go sit at home for 10 months ˆ[It’s happened in WI. Twice]. A former president can simply walk away with boxes of classified documents. Politicians in judges’ robes can remove rights on a whim after 50 years. Good ideas can’t advance in the US Senate, even with 59 votes, because an arcane rule says you need 60.

It’s enough to make some people want to turn away—not participate in civic activity, not vote anymore.

Don’t let that happen to you—or to our country.

We want to take a moment to thank all you who are standing up for rules, norms, institutions, the Constitution, and democracy itself—whether it’s bringing legal action against fake electors, seeking protection of public records, passing dozens of local referendum measures for fair maps, standing up for public health and science, or running long-shot election campaigns in gerrymandered districts. The odds are long, but you don’t give up.

You are the best of America. And after another week of grueling headlines, we offer our gratitude as you get set to do the next good thing for our country. 

Hang in there, guys — vote for people with integrity next November!

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Furry Friday, 5/20/22.

Remember, if you cannot read the captions, click to embiggen.

Don’t mess with the curly-haired wooly Mangalitza.

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Rants of various sizes, 5/19/22.

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Unraveled Wednesday, 5/18/22.

Joining Kat and friends. Go see what the others are up to.

Knitting.

Still grooving on hats. Left, project page; right, project page.

Reading.

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The Arsonist’s City by Hala Alyan. Interesting story of a well-to-do family set in Syria and Lebanon during and after the war in the latter. Character-driven, which is my favorite kind of book. But it could have benefited from a good editor; I found to be very long, 4★

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The Deep, Deep Snow by Brian Freeman and The Ursulina by the same author. I am reviewing these two books together because Ursulina is a prequel to Deep. In the first, Freeman introduces us to Shelby Lake, a sheriff’s deputy in a northern county. She had been left as a newborn on the steps of the sheriff’s house; he raises her and eventually she goes to work for him. This first book was a decent mystery. If you like escapist mysteries, you will probably like it. The second book trundles along in traditional mystery fashion… until the last 25 or so pages. Then the plot twist is so earthshaking as to render it unbelievable, even if you had already swallowed some of the unlikely bits in the first 80% of the book. Snow 3★, but Ursulina barely rates 1★. This is kinda sad because I had enjoyed the author’s Jonathan Stride series.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I have tried to read this book before without success. However, my Monday night book club — which I haven’t attended since the pandemic began; the library director at the library where the group meets took few precautions against COVID spread — was reading it this month. I decided it was time to go back. Elder Son has recommended it multiple times, but this time I had the extra incentive of book club. I read it on my new-ish Kindle. It was okay, not a five-star read for me. It did foster a good discussion; we all found it was a struggle to read because the first 2/3 was so boring. 3★, but YMMV. If you read it as an anthropological study in fiction book form it might be more palatable.

The Investigator by John Sandford. Sandford is my very favorite mystery author. His characters are intelligent and they have intelligent banter. The first 10 or 15 books in his Prey series (series has 32 books) with Lucas Davenport have him as a Minneapolis homicide detective, so there is lots of banter among his team. Later he moves to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (MN’s state criminal police) but still uses many of the same characters. In the latest books he is a US Marshall, less banter because less team. Still really good, but not as good IMO as the earlier books.

Be that as it may, Investigator is the first book of a series starring Letty Davenport, Lucas’s adopted daughter. The character is written to be very much like Lucas — smart, willing to do what must be done without agonizing over it. She is an aide to a US senator but is bored with the job and planning to quit when he gives her a research assignment: find out who is stealing oil from various drilling companies in the Texas Permian Basin, and more importantly where is the money from sales of the purloined oil going. Funding terrorists? drug dealers? rich retirements? Her senator is chair of the Senate committee overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, so the terrorist angle is particularly worrisome to him. Letty is paired with a DHS investigator, and the two of them work with several police departments in Texas. Lots of banter among them. 4★

Listening.

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Pretty Things by Janelle Brown. A novel about a trio of grifters and a spoiled heiress, I would recommend that you read it rather listen. It is a novel of suspense. which I prefer printed on the page, but I didn’t realize that when I selected it for my monthly book. Plot is okay, but I am just getting to the part where the suspense begins. 3★

Posted in Unraveled Wednesdays | 5 Comments

Neither a rant nor an animal be, 5/17/22.

Remember, if the text is too small, you can click to embiggen.

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Dogs and how useless they are.

I was up late one night last week, and at 2am I heard noises on the deck. It sounded like something big was lumbering around and running into things and moving the table and chairs. I took a small flashlight and looked around (from the safety of the doorway) but couldn’t see anything.

A few minutes later I heard more noises. No exploring this time; I stayed put.

The scene today:

The hummingbird feeder was in pieces on the deck, and the suet feeder was MIA. The saucer under the thistle seed feeder was knocked off.

Smokey and I scratched our heads, trying to figure out what had invaded our deck. An especially large raccoon? Maybe, but we couldn’t see how a raccoon could have gotten to the suet and nectar feeders hung from the eaves. A bear could be tall enough to reach them, but we couldn’t figure out how a bear got onto the deck — the top of the stairs are blocked off to keep the dogs from going roundabout. We finally concluded that a bear had climbed the side of the deck and over the railing.

And where were our faithful watch dogs during these midnight raids? Our dogs who go ballistic if a leave falls in the neighbor’s yard?

They were sleeping soundly in the bedroom.

They are no longer our official watch dogs.

They have been demoted to blanket weights, foot warmers, and furry snugglers.

Posted in Animals | 4 Comments

Museum of Me, 5-15-22.

This is a new kind of post invented by Kym. I will give you some history of myself in these. This month it is about pets. Sadly, I have no photos of long-ago pets; I will use generic images.

My father was a mink rancher. One of the necessities of that occupation was having a dog that was trained to help catch any mink that had gotten out of its cage. The dog’s role was to circle around the animal and chase it back toward my dad.

We had two black cocker spaniels, Duke and Duchy. Duchy was Duke mothers. Even though they were working dogs, I was free to play with them any time I wanted. They were not allowed in the house, though.

When I was ten we moved from the ranch into the tiny village a couple miles away. We had always had cats, both inside cats and barn cats. Graystuff was a tortoise shell cat like the photo below, but gray instead of black.

Graystuff was always on my mom’s sh!tlist. She was supposedly an outside cat but periodically she would sneak into the house, usually to have a litter of kittens. We also had a white cat that was allowed inside (I cannot remember her name) (Mom preferred white cats) that was deaf. Apparently that was a common affliction among white cats. Whitey eventually was the victim of a poorly chosen napping spot — under the truck right behind the tire.

Our white cat had matching eyes, unlike this one.

In town I was allowed to pick a kitten from one of Graystuff’s litters. I picked a white tom and named him Toto. A few years later he got distemper and died. (Take a cat to the vet? Never. There was an endless supply of kittens, thanks to Graystuff, so none of the cats were irreplaceable.)

When I was a rising sophomore we moved to northern Minnesota, where my dad managed a large mink ranch. As usual there was a outside cat that loved to have kittens. None ever became my special cat; I loved and played with them all.

College dorm life did not allow pets. ::sob:: When I eventually moved into an apartment it was not long until I imported a cat from home, an orange tabby. Sadly, he (she? don’t remember) didn’t last long in the city, thanks to stray dogs, stray cars, and stray mean people. But a neighbor had a friend whose cat had recently had kittens, and I adopted Cactus, a handsome tuxedo cat.

Cactus didn’t have this much white, mainly just white feet and a little white bib.

I initially named her Abigail, but her feisty nature overwhelmed that name and she became Cactus. Besides just being combative, she had a nasty trink of leaping through the triangular opening of a person with one ankle on the other knee. She did that anytime anyone sat like that. I had to surrender her at the Humane Society after several years because I was moving into a really nice apartment with a couple friends, and the landlord turned out to be very firm on his No Pets policy.

After several pet-free years I moved with my boyfriend at the time into a different apartment that allowed pets. A friend had just found a stray mother cat with a brand-new litter under the steps of her building, and boyfriend and I adopted two gray tabby kittens, a male and a female. We named them Pius and Argyle, respectively, simply because we liked the sound of those words. Pius had been the runt of the litter, but grew to 15 pounds or so. Argyle was a more normal feline weight. Both kittens got sick at one point; Pius recovered with no apparent ill effects, but Argyle lost a lot of brain cells. When it got to the point after several years that she essentially lived in my closet, it was decided that her quality of life had degenerated significantly, and I surrendered her to the Humane Society. Pius, however, lived to something like 16. I had moved twice with him, gotten married, moved a couple more times, and had a baby. Somewhere is a photo of Elder Son in a walker scratching his head. At the ripe old age of 16, Pius developed diabetes, which we were unable to treat properly (full time jobs, new baby), and he gave his organs to the University of Minnesota vet school to be used in studying diabetes.

During the Pius years we adopted other cats: first was Sheba, solid gray, and named after a female fighter pilot on Battlestar Galactica. But Sheba developed the fatal habit of peeing not in the litter box. When my parent bought us new carpets for living and dining rooms, Sheba went back to the Humane Society. Smokey took her, and I told him Don’t come home with another cat! We were about to leave on a two-week vacation, and I thought it would be better to adopt another cat when we got home.

He listened to me as he always does and came home with a little tuxedo cat whom we name Daisy Bumble, after a character in a Monty Python sketch. Daisy was a good little cat, and we were once again a two-cat household.

Shortly after we moved to our second house, we adopted a third cat, Zoot, a Siamese cross we named for a character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. During the summer after we moved in, Smokey laid a cobblestone 2-strip driveway in the back yard to improve access to the tuck-under garage. Zoot supervised all his work and approved it as satisfactory. (The cobblestones were from an old street in Minneapolis being paved and were available free for pickup.)

However, we found that having 3 cats –Pius, Daisy Bumble, and Zoot, for those of you keeping track — meant a lot more commotion than 2 cats. I concluded that the commotion level corresponded to the number of potential interactions among the cats rather than the actual number of cats. All three cats got along most of the time, but when they didn’t all hell broke loose.

Zoot also lived to 16 and developed diabetes in her old age. At that point we were able to care for her, but she died not too long after her diagnosis. The boys and I were spending the summer at the cabin (where we now live), and they performed the burial ritual.

We had also acquired a dog during those years whom we named Bear and who was beloved of Elder Son.

Somewhere in there Daisy Bumble was mistreated by a neighbor and died of a herniated diaphragm, vet was not able to save her. Once we had moved back to Minneapolis the four of us — Younger Son was about 3 them — trekked to the Humane Society to pick out a kitten.

Meet Tabby, so named by Elder Son when he learned that she was, in fact, a tabby cat.

Tabby also lived to the ripe old age of 16 (are you sensing a trend here?) During her life we acclimated her to riding in the car. The secret is to start when the cat is still a kitten. The boys and I were spending every summer at the cabin by now, plus many weekend, and Tabby always came along. After the cabin become home she and Bear would ride along in the car every morning when I drove the boys to school. (If I drove them instead of have them take the school we could all sleep another hour. Easy choice.)

By the time the boys and I were spending the summer here in WI we had also started fostering litter of kittens from the Humane Society.

Posted in Museum of Me | 5 Comments

Furry Friday, 5/13/22.

How to end your cat’s habit of gravity testing.

Pest control.

Kittens and puppies meet for the first time.

I want to know what the cat did that required two — count ’em, TWO! — FBI agents to bring him to justice.
Posted in Furry Friday | 5 Comments