Monday, February 26, 2007

They might come true for you tomorrow

These are my third-ever knitted socks, a man's size 11, finished late for L's birthday. (You've seen the second-ever ones. The first are still being reworked... they may show up one day.)

It's Heirloom Jigsaw self-striping sock wool, knitted toe-up starting with Wendy's figure eight toe again. The first time I cast on, the toe was looking far too pointy, so I ripped after several rows, and started again with 12 pairs of stitches instead of eight.

This time I tried the heel from the Sherman sock. This is very similar to a short row heel but you (mostly) don't have to wrap the stitches. I liked it, since I haven't quite got the hang of picking up the wraps properly. The instructions are slightly more complex though.

I'm really happy with the way this stuff stripes. In those multiple shades of grey, I think it's kind of a sophisticated-funky look. The knitted fabric felt a bit stiff - though not scratchy - but it softened quite a bit after a trip through the washing machine. The wool/nylon blend feels like it will be hard-wearing, if a bit less soft than some other sock wools.

If I did these again (and at least two other blokes close to me wear this size, so you never know) I would start the ribbing (K2P1 in this case) a bit sooner. But, overall I'm pretty happy with the results of just working it out as I went along.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oui! Je parle Français, un peu

Yesterday I finally got around to seeing the marvellous exhibition, Egyptian Antiquities from the Louvre, at the National Gallery. Because it finishes very soon, I was afraid I had left it a bit late and would face horrific crowds, but it turned out to be okay, plenty of people but certainly enough room to move.

My knowledge about the ancient Egyptians was really pretty hazy, and I found this exhibition fascinating and informative. There was lots of information to read, which I always love to see, with introductions to each room, and specific stories/detail relating to many of the items. Now that I think about it, it was more of a museum show than an art show, though I don't think there is a hard and fast line between the two.

Highlights included a mummified cat, a stone sarcophagus, painted wooden mummy cases, a papyrus Book of the Dead spanning three walls of a big room, and several amazingly detailed bronze sculptures. I especially loved two ornate spoons (one pictured above).

As a bonus, since the show is entirely from the Louvre, all the descriptions of the items were written in French as well as English. So I made a point of reading all of them, noting a few new words and phrases, and called it a study session as well. Très bon.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Anything to give their lives some meaning, in the evening

It's strange how personal history can fail to match up with the recorded version.

The other night one of the articles I read on the radio was about Port Arthur. The article noted that staff decidedly prefer not to talk about the 1996 massacre or answer questions from tourists. Visitors may be directed to a memorial at the site of the cafe where many of the shootings occurred, but the staff make a firm point of their decision not to discuss it. This is not only because many find it painful, some having lost family and friends, but also because the gunman sought infamy, likely inspired by earlier similar events such as the Dunblane massacre. Not talking about it is an act of rebellion against his desires.

The (fair warning: it's long, detailed and of course horrible, also needs editing)Wikipedia page lead me to a couple of interesting sources. A TV program transcript indicates that his jailers have much the same aim, trying to reduce his feeling of self-importance by not allowing him access to information about himself and how he is perceived. I can't find the other article I wanted to link to - the link from the Wikipedia page seems to have broken - but it expanded on the idea cited there that "the saturation media coverage provides both instruction and perverse incentives for dysfunctional individuals to imitate previous crimes."

What shocked me when I read this article was that I had no idea that it had happened on my birthday. This thought distracted me as I was reading live on radio and I struggled to reign it in when I realised my thoughts were heading down this new track as I continued to read out the article.... sometimes you can get away with this, but it's a pretty good way to stuff up.

In my own personal version of history, I remember my 21st as not a particularly great birthday. I did have a party (would have been the day before, Saturday) but wasn't sure what was so special about 21. I guess I may not have heard about the massacre til at least the next day (Monday), so it't not that suprising that I didn't connect it with my birthday.

The other odd thing is that I have visited Port Arthur. During a family holiday a few of us went down at night-time for the ghost tour (which was really fun). In my personal history, I definitely visited there BEFORE the massacre ever happened. If it was AFTER, I am sure I would remember being conscious of it and looking out for things like the memorial. I've been thinking for years that I was there before the massacre. But it turns out that that family trip was in 2000. Huh.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Sound of the drums beatin' in my heart

All afternoon yesterday we knew that a storm was coming. Mia can always feel it in the atmosphere and she was clingy all day. Every step I took she was right with me, and then she started tucking herself into 'safe' places like under the bathroom sink while I was washing my hands, under the desk while I sat at the computer, under my feet while I sat on the couch.

The storm started late in the afternoon and I thought it would surely be over pretty quickly. But each time the thunder seemed to recede, it would only build up again.

I've always tried to act conspicuously normal during thunder because I didn't want the dogs to be overly scared. Mia always has been a bit funny about it and she seems to be getting worse. Last night I delayed my plans to go out by about two hours because I was reluctant to leave until the thunder and lightning was done. Rain by itself is not a big problem, they can just stay under cover on the back porch, but they really don't like thunder and lightning.

At one stage I tried to leave when I mistakenly thought it was over. That debacle involved chunks of cheese to bribe them outside, and then Mia determinedly crawling onto my lap as I crouched down to give her the rawhide chewy stick they always get when we leave. Elvis had happily enough taken his, but Mia would not be bought off. Disarmed, I sat on the top step with Mimi shivering and shaking in my arms, wondering if I would ever be able to leave, and then the phone rang - it was K wondering where the hell I was. We went back inside for a while longer and I finally ended up going out about nine. Mia was still pretty unhappy about it, but they both settled on the blanket with their chewy sticks.

We got home after midnight. The dogs were hyper, but that's not unusal. Pretty soon there was a knock at the front door. It was the lady from next door, in her pajamas.

"Your dogs have been barking for the last two hours straight, right under our bedroom window", she said, looking annoyed but also quite apologetic.

She confirmed that this had never happened before. Their dog hadn't been outside - Elvis and Mia do sometimes bark at that fence, but usually because of the young feisty puppy on the other side. She said that at one point she had gone out to look over the fence, worried that something was wrong with them, and that she thought might have actually scared them and fired them up further. I mentioned that they were probably upset by the storm, that I had actually stayed home earlier to wait it out, and she agreed that the storm was 'pretty full-on'.

Of course I was shocked, and I apologised, asking her to let us know if it ever happens again. No one has ever complained about Elvis and Mia before. In the past I've asked our other neighbours if the dogs bark much when we are out, and they said they mostly just lie waiting near the gate or on the steps.

As much as I felt bad for our poor neighbours, I also felt bad about the dogs being so out of sorts. Were they just barking at a cat, or the invisible storm demons? I think I should have just stayed home for the night. I really hope that when we can have a dog door (in our own place) that will make enough difference - that even though they are scared they will feel better if they can hunker down inside the house. Of course I avoid leaving them alone in a storm whenever possible, but we can't always be here.

This morning I woke early and dozed, slipping in and out of stressy dreams. First, that the neighbour had come back about 7am, and told us that at 5am Elvis had barked (knocked?) at their door and they had let him in. Something about this didn't sound right to me and I pondered it in my dream. I asked her how he could get to either her front or back door, when he can't usually get out of our yard? In my dream I didn't think to point out that both dogs were safe inside our house at 5am anyway.

I think I woke and realised this had been a dream. But then I snoozed again, and in another dream I went out to the back yard and there was a great big hole in the fence, which the dogs must somehow have made in their frenzy the night before. Aha! So that was how Elvis got over to their place!

I half-woke again, and I was concerned that I really should call out and tell K not to let the dogs out because there was a big hole in the fence. Then I realised this had been a dream. Still, when I dozed again, I dreamed about mending the fence, only it wasn't the wood paling fence now, it was wire and I could patch the hole by bending and twisting pieces of wire across the gap.

It was not the most restful night, nor Sunday morning sleep-in.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Things can get a little strange

This was part of Mum's Christmas present, wrapped up unfinished, the way I almost always give necklaces - gotta get the length right. This time it wasn't simply the length but the whole thing I was unsure about. I'd been thinking for ages about coming up with a felted pendant, though the actual execution was quite fast. I handed it over as a "here's this odd thing I made, I think it's probably too wacky to actually wear" kind of present. With three grown-up daughters, Mum really shouldn't have to relive the days of wearing weird or poorly chosen jewellery just because "my daughter gave it to me".

It's a simple crocheted circle, felted and then embroidered with a couple of meandering lines. The leaf is turquoise, a great find at a gemstone/jewellery shop called Mineshaft. I thought it would be fun to show her my experiment but then I could rebuild it with the leaf in a more simple arrangement with other turquoise-y beads. But (the suspense is killing you, I KNOW), Mum really liked it. And it's not like I think she was crazy for liking it. I was just really glad that she liked it AND thought it would work for her.