Friday, May 4, 2012

Letting go (or not)

So here's a thing about me. I like to understand what's happened to me. Even if I didn't understand it at the time, I will pull it out and turn it over in my head until I reach what I think is an adequate understanding of what went wrong. Then I take from it whatever I can, and I let the hurt, the pain, the sadness go.

 There are a few things that have happened in my life that I don't understand. Almost none of them are recent, although whether this is because I'm older and understand things better or because I've got a better class of people around me, I couldn't tell you. I am *terrified* that these things will happen again, because I don't understand why they happened in the first place.

The rest of this post is extremely TL;DR-type introspection. Jump at your own risk.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Outraged Letters of Varying Importance

Today is clearly "outraged letters" day.

For the important things, I have written to President Obama regarding his office's contemptible views on DOMA. I know it probably won't help, but I just had to express my shock and betrayal that someone who was so assiduously courting the gay and ally vote during the election would issue this kind of statement.

In the silly things...

I wrote to Columbia Tri-Star Marketing about why I won't be seeing District 9 in theaters. This letter was more sarcastic than outraged -- I sent them a thank-you note for saving me from spending $11 on their movie. And not just my $11, but that of everyone I know and can reach. If they think we're not their demographic, fine. I'll spend the money on something or someone else. It's not like they're trying to turn a profit here or anything.

I also wrote to Fox about the ten hours of intro stuff to the current season of So You Think You Can Dance. I like the show -- it requires a certain amount of actual talent and skill to get onto the show, and it's focussed on performance rather than on internal psychodrama. But sitting through five pre-show shows to get to the selection of the final contestants is beyond the pale. So I wrote them to tell them so.

It feels good to be writing indignant letters again. I don't expect them to accomplish much, really, but I have said something about the things in the world that are upsetting me. (Yeah, okay, the SYTYCD one isn't really that big of a deal, but it was incredibly annoying, and as long as I'm writing letters...)

Later today, we're going to go to a BBQ at a friend's house, where I will work on my travel project and smoke too many cigarettes and eat home-made pulled pork. Perhaps this will soothe my outrage.

Monday, June 8, 2009

REVIEW: Dance Flick

This movie was dreadful. "I almost walked out" levels of bad.

Look, I love a good dance movie, but they do really all have the same plot -- upper-middle-class white girl wants to dance but can't for some reason, meets non-white/poor (or both) boy who teaches her how to express herself through dancing different from anything she's ever learned, she accomplishes something she never thought she could using these new skills, and then leaves. Boy will not appear in the sequel in any way.

This is a set-up ripe for lampooning, and given that DF was made by the same people who did "Scary Movie," which was apparently a treat for horror fans, I had high hopes of them bringing the funny.

If the writers had watched any dance movie other than "Save the Last Dance," they'd have had better luck. The movie was entirely a remake of STLD, with bits of other things thrown in (almost all of which were much funnier than the main plot-line/satire). Pieces of it were *very* funny, but there wasn't really a whole lot of dancing (although what little existed was fun to watch). Unfortunately, a great deal of the humor is in race jokes, some of which are funny (mostly because they ring of truth) but a large number of which just made me uncomfortable, and all of which became boring after they'd been beaten into the ground, resurrected, re-flogged to death, and then presented as warmed-over leftovers five minutes later.

I'm having a hard time unpacking the bits that made me unhappy because they weren't funny, because they were racial humor (and I have privilege I need to examine there), because they weren't true to the style of the movies they were parodying, or just because they presented the kids in the movie as shiftless, futureless losers who chase "respect" at the cost of anything that might make their lives better. (Which is so not the message of any of the original movies, and isn't really even suggested by them, as far as I can tell, so it's not even like it's a funny reversal of a "dance can get you anywhere, stay in school, don't do drugs" message.)

So yeah... Not enough dancing, too much uncomfortable and overblown humor. Save your money and go see Star Trek instead.

Edited to add later: I see I left out my rant about the terrible ten minute "your mom is dead and it's all your fault" "ballet" sequence. That's probably just as well. It was every bit as bad as you think it was.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

RANT: Fault vs. Responsibility

When I was in high school, my dad forbade me to use the phrase "it's not my fault." I always thought this was deeply unfair, because, really, sometimes it's not my fault -- it's the weather, or traffic, or the fridge shutting down in the middle of the night.

Eventually I figured out that when I said "it's not my fault," my dad was hearing (with justice at least some of the time) "it's not my responsibility." Sadly, these are two different, and in some ways equally useful, concepts.

In any given problem, there are two things to consider: why did it happen, and what are you going to do about it? "It's not my fault" covers the "why," at least in part; "it's not my reponsibility" is an answer to the question of handling things. Often, they have nothing to do with each other. People often cause problems they aren't responsible for fixing (e.g., I broke a tech set-up at BayCon this last weekend, which was totally my fault, but we needed someone else to fix it), and slightly less often fix problems they aren't responsible for.

I think the problem is that people often use "it's not my fault" for "I'm not going to do anything about this," and there's a loss of meaning there. People ought to own up to the things they've done, even if they can't or won't deal with the results, if for no other reason than so that other people know what's going on -- if you caused the problem, you probably know more about it than anyone else!

Taking responsibility for things you didn't cause can be very hard -- there's an assumption that if you're fixing it, you broke it -- but I think it's a mark of maturity to be able to just pick up the pieces and keep going, even if you didn't screw it up in the first place. If we only ever took responsibility for fixing things we had personally broken, then there wouldn't be any response to natural disasters, or tech screwups, or any number of other things. People who are trying to avoid blame wind up sounding like they're trying to avoid work, and some things wind up being no one's problem because they're too big to assume blame for.

I find this very frustrating.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

WIP: Sleepy Monkey Blanket

My boyfriend's mother loves monkeys. I like to knit. The Sleepy Monkey Blanket is clearly the natural confluence of these things.

I've only knit about a third of the front half, using Knitpicks' Wool of the Andes instead of the recommended Valley Yarns colors, because I'm new to colorwork and didn't want to shell out a whole lot of money on yarn for a project I might or might not ever want to finish, especially since a lot of them are in colors or amounts that I can't really use for anything else.

OMG, it works. So freakin' cool -- you knit away, following the pattern, and poof! Monkeys!

Boyfriend and I had a very funny conversation about this, though -- he kept trying to figure out what his mother would do with it, and I didn't really have a great answer. Finally, he says "well, I suppose the dogs could sleep on it?" I couldn't even really get mad -- he so clearly didn't understand how much work this was going to be, not just in terms of the knitting but in terms of learning new skills (colorwork! steeking! sewing bits together! adding borders! eek!). I do wonder how I'm going to impress upon his mother that this is not a dog blanket.

On the other hand... I am making it for her, it is made of scratchy wool -- maybe it'd be a lovely dog blanket, and it is, after all, her right to do whatever she likes with a gift. I'm just not sure how I'd react to the idea of something I put that much work into getting muddy and things. (Also? So not superwash. It'll felt the first time the dogs get really wet.)

The pattern is great, though -- the charts are really clear, even on my black-and-white printer, and the author's enthusiasm for steeking has convinced me that maybe I should give it a try and it won't be the End of All Knitting(tm). I've always liked the idea of the Twist Collective, but I've been so spoiled by the free pattern search on Ravelry that it really takes a lot to make me actually want to pay for a pattern, much less actually do so. This was totally worth it, and I'd recommend it for anyone who's willing to put in the work and can figure out what to do with it. (If you do, please let me know!)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Review: _In the Forest of Hands and Teeth_ by Carrie Ryan

I borrowed this book from Seanan, who handed it to me with a comment that it was more my sort of thing than hers. This was a rather curious comment, since it's a zombie novel and I'm not a horror kind of girl, but I think she was probably right.

Please don't get me wrong, I liked this book. It's just... a bit problematic in ways that make me want to poke at the holes to see if I can make a pattern out of them.

Forthwith, the cover text. After that, all is spoilers.

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village—the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.

When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

SPOILERS AHOY (This is a newish book, which is why I'm making a Thing about it.)

This is such a promising concept, and very YA-genre appropriate -- our Young Heroine discovers that what she's been taught is perhaps not quite the truth, plus zombies. The writing is marvelously atmospheric, with our Village of (possibly) lone survivors, surrounded at all times by a seething mass of zombies, protected only by chain-link fences and platforms in the trees they can retreat to if the fences are breached.

The book opens with Mary's mother succumbing to madness after losing her husband and going too close to the fences, where she is bitten by an Unconsecrated (zombie). (Please don't ask how you can bite someone through a chain-link fence, we're just not going to go there.) It turns out that the Village has an odd custom where if you are infected, you can choose to be put out into the Forest of Hands and Teeth instead of being decapitated after you die. The Village even has a set-up to deal with this eventuality -- a pen they let you die and Return in, with a gate that can be lifted from outside by a rope. Mary's mother chooses this, and Mary spends some time trying to find her mother in the mass of zombies around the village.

I liked this part of the book -- the poignancy of knowing that her mother chose death and zombiehood on the slim hope of hanging on to enough of her identity to find Mary's father and reunite with him resonates well.

Her brother, blaming her for not being there to keep her mother away from the fence (and then for letting her choose to become Unconsecrated rather than be killed), turns her away, at which point she is taken in by the Sisterhood, the religious order that runs the Village. This is where the real problems with the book start. There's very little background given about how or why the Sisterhood came to run the Village, complete with iron-bound ritual and secret tunnels. This makes the world feel a little hollow, especially when they're shown to be fanatics who will turn people over to the Unconsecrated (or at least threaten to) rather than allow questioning of their doctrine. The Cathedral where the Sisterhood lives is described in fairly close detail, and little tid-bits of the rites and rituals are nicely inserted into the ongoing conversations and events.

The real problem is that there's no background -- somehow this structure feels precarious (perhaps because of the rigidity with which it's enforced), but we're also meant to feel a great weight of ages to all of this. I know it's a first-person narrative, and those always tend to have unreliable narrators and big chunks in the available knowledge, but I think the focus isn't quite tight enough, in some odd way, to justify the complete information vacuum. Even when we're given scraps and pieces of information, it's only ever just enough to tantalize rather than really inform.

It's not really the "around the corner" problem (where it feels like if you went around the corner from the main character, there would only be an unformed void), but it's a similar kind of thing, I think.

The book continues through the inevitable steps of the Hero's Journey -- the destruction of "home," the need to set out on a voyage, the currently en-vogue love triangle (although no sex or anything even close to sex, really), und so weiter. It's all very nicely done, the characters feel more-or-less fully realized, the atmosphere stays tense (even if the story does lag at points). The book is very dark, though. I'm not sure I would give it to a younger teenager -- it's pretty bloody, violent in places (as zombie novels tend to be), and has themes of parental death, miscarriage, and some really nasty politics. It didn't quite give me nightmares, but I could see it doing so for someone with less experience with creepiness.

Really, my big problem with this book is the timing of the whole thing -- inside the Village, it feels like things have been the way they are for generation upon generation. Mary's mother tells her stories about the semi-mythical ocean, and proves its existence with a picture of her many-times-great-grandmother at the seaside. The books Mary finds hidden in the Cathedral that reveal that the Sisterhood are experimenting on the relationship between people and Unconsecrated are crumbling and old.

And yet, when Mary and the remnants of her Village (conveniently made up of the person she's been betrothed to, his brother who she's in love with, her best friend who's betrothed to the brother but loves Mary's intended instead, and Mary's brother and his wife, who turns out to be infected and has to be beheaded a few days into their journey) find another Village at the end of a series of paths made of chain link and gates, there are photos and newspapers that can still be read and carried around without crumbling away into dust. Newspaper simply doesn't last that long, and there are other clues that could be put together to imply a Return with Mary's parents' lifetimes (or even within Mary's, really -- that oh-so-convenient unspecified event that wiped out much of her generation in infancy could have been the Return, especially with the ongoing presence of Unconsecrated infants that feels sort of Thematically Important).

Other things that could really use explanation are how all of this elaborate anti-zombie infrastructure got built, if the virus (and it's explicitly stated to be a virus) swept over the entire world that quickly? It's not just one big stone building, but the Village and its anti-zombie platforms, the chain-link fence that encircles the whole thing (and how do they repair it after breaches??), and a network of paths that lead from one outpost Village to another (or at least, it's strongly implied that there are more than just the two that we see on-screen).

The book also ends rather abruptly. The object of the quest is reached, and it turns out that if the people who lived by the seaside had only had as much faith in their myths as Mary did in hers, everyone left would have survived, instead of being left on the endless chain-link paths that have dead-ends all over the place. (And why do those dead ends exist? Were there structures there once? If you were building a huge anti-zombie set of paths through your all-encompassing forest, would you put dead ends in it?)

All of that being said, I'm not sorry I read it. Mary's voice is strong and consistent, and the world is very interesting (if it were less so, I'd be less frustrated at the lack of information!). This book could easily have been half-again as long without really doing it any damage, unless you want to make the argument that the ignorance is part of the atmosphere. It's a supportable argument, really, but I just wound up feeling like I'd been left with bookus interruptus.

I borrowed this, and will probably not be hunting a copy for myself, although I would buy a second-hand one if it were priced reasonably. I recommend this book for people who enjoy atmosphere and character interaction and don't find it necessary to poke at the whys and wherefores of a world too much.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tons of Knitting, but no Talking

I've been hibernating from, well, most of my life recently. I've been doing plenty of knitting, but I haven't been talking about it much. Some of it didn't even make it into Ravelry before I gave it away.

100_0178 I finished the big Alpaca scarf, but the person I was going to send it do died. I had made her a very large alpaca Kiri (I think it was a Kiri, it was definitely some kind of leaf lace) and she loved it so much that I thought she might like something smaller to wear all the time. I didn't manage to finish it in time. (Although I suppose that's unfair to me, given how unexpected it was.) I was thinking of sending it to her daughter, but it blocked out a *lot* shorter than I thought it would, so I'm not sure it's a useable size for a full-size person.

100_0182I've also been doing some baby knitting -- my boss is pregnant, and doesn't apparently have anyone to knit for her, so I've been trying to make things. Unfortunately, I'm not so good at cranking out things to order and it's been slow going. I guess I'm just not cut out to knit to order, even when it's my *own* order. I've got about half a baby hat, but since the main body of it is knit in reverse stockinette on size 1 DPNs, it may be a while. It's a good thing I don't believe in giving baby presents before the baby is born!

To soothe my soul, I finally started my red Frost Flowers and Leaves, but I have no photo of that. It's gotten off the DPNs to the Magic Loop stage, but it still looks like a crumpled red ball of ramen. The color is gorgeous, though. I'm really pleased.

Since Seanan has to go to San Jose today and Himself is out of town, I restarted Shedir to have something relatively portable to take with me. It's currently on size 2 needles, so we'll see if that makes it small enough. I sort of refuse to put Calmer on size one needles, that's just... silly. Besides, my size one DPNs are in the baby hat. I suppose I could get a small diameter size one circ from KnitPicks and use that if I really have to, but since I'm staring down the face of some really expensive dental work, I'm not sure it's worth spending the money when I can just wait for the DPNs to be available.

So that's pretty much the state of my knitting. I'm sorry I've been so quiet recently. I shall try to be less neglectful.

Monday, April 21, 2008

12 Steps of Lace Knitting

I wrote this for a Yahoo group I'm on (the fabulous MMarioKnits), and I thought I'd share, since the people over there seemed to like it so much. Real knitting content coming, oh, sometime soon. I'm stuck in "finishing a Kinzel shawl" hell, as you can probably tell by some of the below.

1. Find pattern.
2. Sigh over yarn.
3. Pick yarn.
(Note that in steps 1 - 3, yarn and pattern are interchangeable, and that these steps can be performed in any order.)
4. Locate a needle that looks like it might be right.
5. Start project, in a fit of confidence, declaring that the gauge swatch didn't *specify* stockinette, so you might as well just start.
5a. Rip it out and find a different needle. Repeat 5 and 5a as necessary. (Note that step 5a is optional, but if performed, must be followed by another step 5.)
6. Knit like a fiend.
7. Try not to swear too loudly at whatever it is about the pattern that makes you want to -- this tends to distract you from counting and scare the locals.
8. Remember that neither alcohol nor chocolate can save you from the background pattern.
9. Get close enough to the end to start looking at other projects and thinking they'd be more fun, as they don't take hours to finish one row.
10. Add an edging. Alternatively, don't add an edging and bind off.
11. Block like mad.
12. Feel terribly proud of yourself... And then try to figure out what to do with the thing!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Radio Silence

Wow, it really has been a while, hasn't it?

Part of this is that I've been depressed, but another part is that I've been busier knitting than I have writing about it. You see, I got involved in a design project, and it ate my entire knitting life for a while. (I suspect it will again when I get back to it.)

I'm attempting to design a traditional (i.e., bottom-up) Faroese shawl in sea-and-land motifs. Unfortunately, this means that the first line is "cast on 427" and every time I mess up, I have to rip the entire thing and start over. The good thing is that I bought a cone of green laceweight from Webs a while ago and I've got so much of it that when I really mess up I just throw the entire thing in the garbage and start fresh, without feeling too guilty about it. (Actually, being in Berkeley, I put it in the "organics recycling" trash, which reduces the guilt even further.)

No photos, because right now it just kind of looks like, well, a blob of green cotton that might or might not have a "Print O' the Wave" pattern forming. (It's the decreasing that's getting to me -- I picked out the patterns and all of them work but this one, assuming I've gotten my shaping decreases right.)

Other knitting... Well, my older (step)brother had a baby around Christmas, and I'm going to her naming ceremony next weekend. (It's like a christening, except they're Jewish. Same idea, though -- welcome to the community, meet everyone, get presents, etc.) So I've been knocking out baby things like there's no tomorrow -- I made a Mason-Dixon baby kimono out of some white acrylic I had lying around (amazingly cute), and a set of bibs out of the kitchen cotton I've been making my washcloths out of. (Handwash only does not sound like a good choice for the mother of a newborn!) I'm also making a set of matching burp clothes, just 'cause, and I've been spending hours and hours on Ravelry looking at patterns and trying to figure out what I can do with the yarn I already have. I don't know his wife very well, so I can't tell what her reaction would be to a nursing shawl or anything like that, although I still feel that I should make something for her as well as for the baby.

Everything else is pretty much stalled. I did some knitting on the alpaca North Star scarf (which is rapidly turning into the alpaca North Star stole, give how enormous it is), and I've been rather grimly knitting away on the Kinzel Daffodil thing. I need to remember that endless acres of "k/p into next stitch; k2tog" while very pretty is really fussy and boring. Sigh.

I keep going into Lacis, which isn't very good for either my determined yarn diet or my straightened wallet -- I've thusfar managed to resist *both* the $60 lace book full of beautiful patterns that I don't like very much in the book (although I love the ones other people have made) and the Yarn Place Grace laceweight, even if it does come in a really gorgeous saturated purple. Stash knitting is good for you, right? (Maybe things I buy for the baby don't count? I've already had to buy buttons and ribbon...)

I'm debating giving the baby the Baby Surprise Jacket. Yes, yes, it's a Baby Surprise Jacket after all, but it's also made of Cascade 220, which is gonna be a pain to wash. I'll have to ponder (and in my pondering, put on the buttons I bought a while ago, which are ridiculously cute). It's not like coats need all that much washing anyway, is it? Of course, I've only got a week to think about it and to figure out which side of things the buttons go on for girls. I think the buttons go on the right and the buttonholes on the left.

So yes. Baby knitting and ridiculous design projects. How are you?

Sunday, January 6, 2008


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.