Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Craft In America -- PBS series

Starting tonight, PBS will show a three part series about Craft in America

I'm really looking forward to it because I love to make things with my hands, be it through gardening, pottery, knitting, and quilting, though quilting's on the back burner for some time now. I have a quilt top that I'm hand piecing. I call it my five year project and no matter what year it is, I think of it as year 2. Which means I have 3 more years in which to finish the project. Gotta love those movable deadlines.

It's summer and so begins art festival season. Over the Memorial Day weekend, Husband and I went to the Decatur Arts Festival and picked up three pieces: a metal fish, a woodblock print, and a painting. We had a great time.

This coming weekend is the Virginia-Highland festival and we'll be there too. My favorite local yarn shop, Knitch, is in Vi-Hi, so I may have to stop in.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Someone need a hat?

Well, the beret is a little too big for me. I've got 2 inches of brim done and started increasing and then found out it's too big. I thought about frogging it, but had 3 more skeins of the Manos on it's way, so put it aside for now.

The good news is that my big box o' Manos yarn should be on my doorstep tonight. I could go home and continue the never ending yard work. The front of our house is obscured by overgrown azaleas and holly bushes. Husband and I have cut them down to about 6 inches tall. This is called renewing. The roots are still there, so new growth will come back in a few weeks.

But in the meantime, I look like I lost a fight with several cats. Hauling away the holly branches is tricky business and I have scratches all over my arms and legs.

But tonight, I will sit on the back patio in the 80 degree heat, knit wool hats, and read Brother One's original fiction. The funny part is he based the main character on the little girl in that phone commercial who texts her BFF Jill too much.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dress Shopping

Yesterday I went dress shopping and one place I went was Ann Taylor. I had seen this dress on their website. This is what it looks like on the model.

This is what it looks like on me:

Hm. Somehow not the same. I did not get it.
A sad end to what has been a rather stressful couple of days.

To make myself feel better, I started knitting a beret with Manos del Uruguay in the Bramble colorway.

You can't really tell, but there are reds, burgundies, greys, light greens, and white/cream in it. Really lovely. I'm ribbing in the round right now and it doesn't look like much so no picture.

Yes, it's practically summer here in Atlanta, but it's such great yarn. It doesn't make up for the major disappointment I had earlier this week, but it did make me feel a bit better. Even if a major undertaking falls apart, and I have visual proof that fashion designers hate women who are not tall and skinny, I can still make things that are beautiful and useful.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kosovo Independence, Pat Buchanan, and Roger Waters

Just as I am writing for work about a Kosovo roundtable I attended, NPR is doing a 2 part series on Kosovo independence. Here's the link. and the article is pasted at the bottom of this post.

If Kosovo becomes independent, some of the Serbian towns are thinking of seceding from Kosovo to join Serbia . Can you imagine if all the Chinatowns in the US decided to secede and join China ? or Los Angeles and San Antonio wanted to secede and join Mexico ?

As I reflected on the Belgrade trip, I contrasted what we heard there, with the xenophobia we hear in the immigration debate in the US . In both countries, the conservatives are fearful of the change in society because they see their dominance, power and personal economic and mental comfort zone slipping away. And so they talk about the "good old days." In Serbia , the good old days were 500 years ago, in the US they're 50 years ago.

Yesterday Pat Buchanan and Sean Hannity were talking about how 50 years ago everyone ate the same food, watched the same shows, wore the same clothes and everything was fine. Now people want multiculturalism and they celebrate different holidays like Cinco de Mayo! (Pat, Pat, Pat, don't get all riled up. The only reason people celebrate Cinco de Mayo is so they can get drink, like St. Patrick's Day. And Americans used to hate the Irish too.) Hannity wasn't even alive 50 years ago, but thinks it was better then.

Well, these two white guys miss the "good old days" because it was good for them (no offense to the white guys reading this. I love you white guys. I even married one.) but not so much for the rest of us.

And as a child of immigrants, I can tell you that acculturation and assimilation does happen, and it takes time, generally the process of raising the second generation. The immigrant generation know that life will be hard for themselves, especially if they don't speak English. They know that. And people want to learn English, there's a waiting list for English classes.

They do it because they know life will be better for their children, the second generation, who do become fully Americanized, complete with bad eating habits, lower educational achievement, and propensity to talk back. Or was that just me?

Given that the US has a history of absorbing new peoples and new cultures, albeit painfully, it boggles my mind that the Balkans want to just keep splitting and splitting and splitting and yet Serbia wants to join the EU, a supranational organization.

And finally, last night I went to see the Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd) concert. If you know anything about him, you know that he was heavily heavily influenced by WWII and is very anti-war. In concert, he played "The Wall" while showing pictures of the Berlin Wall, the razor wires surrounding refugee camps, the US-Mexico wall, etc. And he flew out a big pink pig, from the "Animals" album cover, with slogans such as Impeach Bush Now, All Religions Divide Us, Habeas Corpus Matters, Torture is Wrong, and the Amnesty International logo. He got boos and cheers. Great, great show.


Pressure Mounts on Kosovo Independence
by Emily Harris
Morning Edition, May 22, 2007 ¡¤ This is the first piece in a two-part series.

The final chapter soon may be written in the bloody Balkan wars that ripped apart Yugoslavia in the 1990s and re-wrote the map of southern Europe .
The United Nations Security Council is discussing a proposal to set the province of Kosovo clearly on the path to independence from Serbia .
The United States strongly backs an independent Kosovo, insisting that is the only way to bring stability to the region. But Russia , also a key player in the process, adamantly insists Kosovo stay a part of Serbia .
Kosovo's Prime Minister Agim Ceku is not ruling out simply declaring independence, but only if the European Union and the United States agree to recognize and support the new country.
Western officials say they don't want the U.N. process to stall to the point Kosovo would declare independence.
Meanwhile, Kosovo Albanians have already started working on a constitution. No ethnic Serbs are involved in the process, but members of the ethnic Albanian political parties that are a part of the process say it's very informal.
American and European politicians say anything short of independence could lead to violence, as the frustrated Albanians in Kosovo are determined to be free from Belgrade .
Q&A: The State of Kosovo, May 18, 2007 ¡¤ The United Nations Security Council is discussing a proposal to set the province of Kosovo clearly on the path to independence from Serbia . Here's some background on the situation:
Where is Kosovo?
Kosovo is in southern Europe . It is a landlocked area a bit smaller than Connecticut ¡ª north of Macedonia , east of Albania , south of Serbia , and west of Bulgaria . It's at nearly the same latitude as the "ankle" of Italy .
What is Kosovo's legal status?
Kosovo is technically still a part of Serbia , which was the dominant republic in the former Yugoslavia . But since 1999, Kosovo has been run by a U.N. mission and protected by NATO troops. When Yugoslavia existed as a country, Kosovo was ¡ª for part of that time ¡ª an autonomous area within Serbia . The U.N. Security Council is currently considering a new resolution that would lead to Kosovo becoming an independent country.
What led to the current situation?
In 1999, NATO bombed Serbia in order to stop what the organization called a "campaign of terror" against ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, carried out by the then Yugoslav military and irregular Serb paramilitary groups. At the end of the bombing, the Security Council approved Resolution 1244, which gave a U.N. mission the responsibility to administer Kosovo, while developing elements of a local provisional government, until a final political solution could be arranged for Kosovo.
The antagonism between Serbs and Albanians has roots that date back to the Middle Ages. These tensions have flared into violence in varying degrees since then, including in the years just prior to the 1999 bombing.
Why has it not been resolved until now?
There was no deadline to resolve Kosovo's legal status in the Security Council resolution that set up the U.N.-run government there. Several issues have come up in the past that delayed it. There were doubts that the provisional local government was ready, for various reasons, to take on the responsibility of governing ¡ª particularly in terms of ensuring the rights of Serbs in Kosovo. (A "multi-ethnic" Kosovo has been the stated aim of the United Nations and the other key group involved in Kosovo's fate ¨C the so-called "Contact Group," which is made up of the United States , United Kingdom , Germany , France , Italy and Russia .)
Now the United States and many European nations are pushing hard for the United Nations to spell out Kosovo's future by the end of June. The countries back a proposal, put together by a U.N.-appointed envoy, which would lead to Kosovo's independence. Russia is resisting this option, which is making a resolution more difficult than Western diplomats had anticipated.
What is the proposal for Kosovo that is backed by the United States ?
It's called the Ahtisaari plan. The plan is named after the U.N. special envoy Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland , who attempted for more than a year to negotiate a settlement between the Serbian government and the Kosovo provisional government. The two sides have opposite end goals: Kosovo refuses to be in any way a part of Serbia again, and Serbia refuses to accept Kosovo as an independent country. Ahtisaari put together his own recommendations, which have become the basis for the proposal in front of the Security Council now.
The Ahtisaari plan sets up local authorities in Kosovo to take on significantly more power and responsibility than they have under the U.N. mission. European Union oversight would replace that of the United Nations and would be less sweeping. Ahtisaari's proposal would allow Kosovo its own security force, flag and the right to apply for membership in international organizations. It doesn't use the word "independence" in referring to Kosovo's future, but does builds in a review of the situation. It is, however, expected that "supervised" independence would be followed fairly rapidly by full independence for Kosovo.
What parts of the proposal does Russia object to and why?
Russia's major public objection is that the United Nations doesn't have the right to carve up sovereign states and warns this will set a bad precedent. Moscow refers frequently to U.N .Security Council resolution 1244, which mentions the U.N. "commitment" to the "sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Yugoslavia . In addition, Moscow backs Serbia in saying that Serbs in Kosovo have not, and cannot be, adequately protected, and says further talks should be held between Serbia and Kosovo.
The United States and the Kosovo government reject the idea of more talks, and the U.N. envoy says the possibilities for discussion are exhausted. The United States also argues Kosovo is a unique case and should not be seen as setting a precedent for other independent minded or "breakaway" regions around the world. The situation in Kosovo is being watched closely by people elsewhere around the world who have been seeking their own states, including the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Basques in Spain . A number of such conflicts directly involve Russia , including in Chechnya , Transdniestr, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Why is this important to the United States ?
The United States got involved militarily against the Serbs in Kosovo in 1999 after sitting out similarly horrible wars in Bosnia and Croatia . The U.S.-led NATO bombardment set the stage for U.N. governance of Kosovo ¡ª and for the current question of its future status. In the U.S. view, the only possible path to stability in the Balkans region is for Kosovo to become independent
What are the chances of more violence in this area?
It is unclear. U.S. officials are openly warning of an increased potential for violence if Kosovo's status is not resolved soon. Ethnic Albanians are impatient for independence and, if it is delayed, it's possible that fringe elements, perhaps former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, could take out their frustrations either on the U.N. government there ¡ª there have been some attacks on U.N. cars recently ¡ª or perhaps on Serbs. Some Albanian politicians in Kosovo disagree, arguing that more violence would only hurt Kosovo's efforts at winning independence, so violence would only be orchestrated by people or groups which would prefer Kosovo not become independent. Serbs, meanwhile, say they fear "show-who's-boss" attacks if Kosovo is set on a path toward independence, or being targeted if the independence plan is delayed.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Politics of Eurovision

I am just now writing about the Serbian part of my European trip and the fact that Serbia won this contest and that the other countries of the former Yugoslavia voted for Serbia, despite the ethnic cleansing campaign by the Serbs, compels me to post this.

The Politics of Eurovision
By DUNCAN J. WATTS Published: May 22, 2007Oxford, England

ONE of the unexpected pleasures of spending a sabbatical in Britain has been the chance to watch the Eurovision Song Contest, held the Saturday before last in Helsinki. For those not familiar with this quirkiest of European traditions (which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary), the contest involves 42 “European” countries — Israel and Turkey are included, for example — each of which submits a song to be sung by a band of that nationality.

The rules governing the contest are a little strange, and so is the singing, which appears to emphasize camp over more conventional notions of quality. Britain’s entrant, Scooch, put on a saucy, flight-attendant-inspired act that would have made Abba (the 1974 winner) proud, while Verka Serduchka, a Ukrainian drag queen, came out looking like a silver-foil version of Mrs. Doubtfire. The Greeks, meanwhile, were doing their best Ricky Martin, Belarus looked fresh out of a James Bond trailer and Hungary apparently had ditched the whole Euro thing and opted for what sounded suspiciously like country.

In short, it’s a great show, but the best part is the voting, which is done “American Idol”-style via text messaging. Anyone can vote as many times as he likes, the one restriction being that he can’t vote for his own country. The votes are tallied nationally, and breathless representatives call in the results to Helsinki, allocating 12 points to their country’s top choice, 10 to second place, 8 to third, and so on down to 1 point for 10th.

Now, I don’t know much about contemporary music, but as they say, I know what I like. And watching the 24 acts in the final (a preliminary round removes the other 18), I felt Sweden and Britain were clear standouts, given the silliness of the whole thing. I also had the overwhelming feeling that the Serbian entry, a turgid ballad called “Molitva,” or “Prayer,” didn’t stand a chance.

So imagine my surprise when Serbia not only won, but crushed the opposition, beating second-place Ukraine (yes, the drag queen) by 268 points to 235. Britain, with a paltry 19 points, narrowly edged out Ireland to avoid last place; and Sweden scraped together a meager 51 points, coming in 18th out of 24. What was going on? Two words that were shouted across the British dailies the next day: “Bloc Voting.”

I had heard about this practice, of course, whereby geographical and cultural neighbors tend to vote for each other, and nobody votes for Britain (well, except for Malta). But it was startling to see just how flagrant it was. The Scandinavians all voted for one another; Lithuania gave 10 points to Latvia (whose entry, bizarrely, sang in Italian); former Warsaw Pact countries voted for Russia; and almost nobody voted for Britain (surprisingly, Ireland did — and, of course, Malta).

But Serbia was the overwhelming beneficiary of the system, receiving the top score of 12 points from every other member of the former Yugoslavia — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovenia — suggesting that memories of war and ethnic cleansing can be set aside with surprising ease when it comes to the serious business of winning a singing contest. It’s hard to say whether the 60 points that the former Yugoslavia effectively gave to itself altered the final result, but an enterprising Irishman suggested that if all the Irish counties were allowed to secede, they would be unstoppable.

Does it matter? Probably not. It’s just a game, after all, and the outrageous bias in the voting is as entertaining as the songs themselves. But it does offer an unexpected glimpse of how ordinary Europeans perceive one another. More than anything, it seems, blood is thicker than water, and not just in the Balkans. That Germany gave 12 points to Turkey, for example, probably reflects the large number of Turks living in Germany more than it does a German predilection for scantily clad dancers (of which there were plenty of choices).

But it was also obvious how little love Eastern Europe feels for the West. Although the “big four” — Britain, France, Germany and Spain (Italy does not participate) — basically pay for the contest, none of them made it into the top 16; and Turkey, which you might have expected to be playing nice, given its pending European Union membership application, awarded not a single point to any big four or Scandinavian nation.

This pointed rejection of Western Europe might even be seen as a poignant metaphor for contemporary Europe as a whole. The large, industrialized nations magnanimously invite their poorer but more numerous eastern cousins to join their party, and offer to pay the bill, only to discover themselves locked out in the garden while their new friends complain about the quality of the liquor and the arrogance of the hosts.

The hosts, meanwhile, can’t get along either — the big four collectively awarded one another a grand total of just 12 points. So although it was more than a little odd that the countries that actually tried to help in Bosnia are substantially less popular there than the country that instigated ethnic cleansing, it was equally odd that the Balkans, of all places, was effectively handing the western countries a lesson in cooperation.

The annual chance to score yourself in the eyes of your fellow Europeans might not be a bad thing, however: the Serbs and their neighbors are now going through an outpouring of pride and brotherly love. It’s hard not to think that’s somehow more useful than crowning the successor to Abba. Last week in Britain, meanwhile, for all the cries of foul play, there was a hint of — I wouldn’t say soul-searching — but perhaps head-scratching over what might be done to reverse the tide of resentment from traditional allies and newly minted European states alike. If nothing else, that seems like a good conversation to start.

Now, apparently, NBC has the rights to bring a version of Eurovision to the United States, with all 50 states competing. I hope they do it, but only if they keep the same voting system. It may not tell us much about the music we produce or like; but in a patchwork quilt of a country, with red versus blue states, North versus South, East Coast versus West Coast, the Midwest versus everyone — and who-knows-what going on in Texas — it may tell us a lot about what we really think of one another.

Duncan J. Watts is a professor of sociology at Columbia.

Monday, May 21, 2007


This weekend I was inspired to photograph my current projects:

Sister's Bicolor Cables cardigan, from Interweave Knits, in Cascade 220, not the recommended yarn.
The body is knit from the bottom up, in one piece up to the underarm. Then I finished the back.

Here are the sleeves. You can see that they are almost done, and then I decide to count the stitches and find that one has 10 more stitches on the needle than the other. I knit them both at the same time, from opposite ends of the same ball of yarn, precisely to make sure they match. And yet they don't. Another weekend of letting them sit.

This baby blanket is almost done, but here's a picture anyway. The yarn is Cascade Sierra in navy, light blue, pink, and white. The yarn in held double and that's how I got the tweedy look. Size J crochet hook. General pattern is 2 rows of double crochet of the solid colors and 4 rows of the mixed colors. There will be 2 rows of white on the sides to finish.

Husband's afghan: Cascade 220 in black and medium blue, held double, size 10 US needle. There will be alternating strips of black and blue, with a black border. Very similar to the baby blanket pattern, no? Very easy to make? Yes.

Here's a close up of each strip, knit in basket weave stitch. Each block of the basket weave is 5 stitches wide and 6 rows tall.
Last WIP, another baby blanket. Center is Mountain Colors Barefoot in Mystic Lake colorway, double crocheted. Don't remember what hook I used, but may be size F. It was started last year to be a scarf but now it will be a blanket. The other yarn shows is Knit Picks Essential Solid in burgundy, navy, and dark green. Currently log cabining one inch of the burgundy in garter stitch. When that's done, I'll switch back to double crochet. Much faster that way.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Argosy scarf, from

one skein Malabrigo Yarn, worsted weight, "Pollen" colorway, size 8US needles (5mm).

Love this scarf. My favorite yarn, my favorite weight, my favorite needle size, gorgeous color (not my favorite color, which would be red).

I made this for my March European trip. Most of my clothes were black or dark red and the weather would be grey. So this yellow, with it's lemon and orange-y gradations would be my pop of color. I made a pill box hat to match with another skein, and in Rome, bought a yellow umbrella. It was fun walking in the rain at the NATO headquarters with my yellow.

Friday, May 18, 2007

World Wide Knit in Public Day

Ah, Friday. Almost the weekend and no meetings today. So that means I can catch up on my blogging! I mean my work blog.

In March I went on a fellowship trip throughout Europe, using work time. There's a board meeting coming up Sunday. Therefore, I must finish typing up my notes from the trip and post it on the blog for the board of directors to read (if they want to). Hopefully, at the end, this typing and thinking and reflecting will result in Lessons Learned for me to report to the board. Because in my line of work, there are always a Lessons Learned section in any written report.

However, on the way into work, I almost snorted up my coffee onto my white pants because I was listening to Lime and Violet's latest podcast. If you have not heard them, you must click on their link to the right and sign up right now. They are hilarious and make my commute much easier to bear. Not my commute is all that bad, usually.

This weekend will be my last pottery class until the fall because the place I go for classes doesn't offer adult evening classes in summer. Something about school being out and kids needing classes. Yes, but their classes are in the day. We adults, who pay the taxes for the county facility and pay the kids classes costs, would still like our classes in the evening. I am not seeing how offering day classes prohibits offering evening classes. Every summer, I compose a letter to the county about this, and I never send it. But this year I will.

So until pottery classes start again in the fall, I'll join one of the s 'n' b s in the Atlanta area. There are plenty, to choose from. And then by the time World Wide Knit in Public Day comes on June 9, I'll know people to go with.

In Atlanta, it will be held at the IKEA cafe starting at 11am. So come out and represent!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Push to achieve tied to suicide in Asian-American women

From Again, I've highlighted the parts that I think are most important. This article so totally spoke to me, even down to the living in Houston part and women wanting surgery to look more European.

Certainly, I felt the pressures, the isolation, and the self-hate described in this article, but not to this extent. I thought I was beyond it, but as I re-read the article and write this post, my gut tells me it's a recovery process that I'm still working on.

And lastly, is it just coincidence that this came out during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

Push to achieve tied to suicide in Asian-American women

POSTED: 11:59 a.m. EDT, May 16, 2007

Story Highlights
• Suicide second-leading cause of death for Asian-American women 15-24
• Highest suicide rate among women of any race, ethnicity for that age group
• Experts cite "model minority" expectations, family pressures as factors

MORE ON CNN TV: Elizabeth Cohen examines depression in Asian-American women and the cultural stigma against getting help, on "Paula Zahn Now," 8 p.m. ET

by Elizabeth CohenCNN

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- One evening in 1990, Eliza Noh hung up the phone with her sister. Disturbed about the conversation, Noh immediately started writing a letter to her sister, a college student who was often depressed. "I told her I supported her, and I encouraged her," Noh says.

But her sister never read the letter. By the time it arrived, she'd killed herself.
Moved by that tragedy, Noh has spent much of her professional life studying depression and suicide among Asian-American women. An assistant professor of Asian-American studies at California State University at Fullerton, Noh has read the sobering statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services: Asian-American women ages 15-24 have the highest suicide rate of women in any race or ethnic group in that age group. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Asian-American women in that age range.

Depression starts even younger than age 15. Noh says one study has shown that as young as the fifth grade, Asian-American girls have the highest rate of depression so severe they've contemplated suicide.

As Noh and others have searched for the reasons, a complex answer has emerged.

First and foremost, they say "model minority" pressure -- the pressure some Asian-American families put on children to be high achievers at school and professionally -- helps explain the problem.

"In my study, the model minority pressure is a huge factor," says Noh, who studied 41 Asian-American women who'd attempted or contemplated suicide. "Sometimes it's very overt -- parents say, 'You must choose this major or this type of job' or 'You should not bring home As and Bs, only As," she says. "And girls have to be the perfect mother and daughter and wife as well."

Family pressure often affects girls more than boys, according to Dr. Dung Ngo, a psychologist at Baylor University in Texas. "When I go talk to high school students and ask them if they experience pressure, the majority who raised their hands were the girls," he said.

Asian-American parents, he says, are stricter with girls than with boys. "The cultural expectations are that Asian women don't have that kind of freedom to hang out, to go out with friends, to do the kinds of things most teenagers growing up want to do."

And in Asian cultures, he added, you don't question parents. "The line of communication in Asian culture one way. It's communicated from the parents downward," he says. "If you can't express your anger, it turns to helplessness. It turns inward into depression for girls. For boys it's more likely to turn outwards into rebellious behavior and behavioral problems like drinking and fighting."

But Noh says pressure from within the family doesn't completely explain the shocking suicide statistics for young women like her sister.

She says American culture has adopted the myth that Asians are smarter and harder-working than other minorities.

"It's become a U.S.-based ideology, popular from the 1960s onward, that Asian-Americans are smarter, and should be doing well whether at school or work."

Noh added that simply being a minority can also lead to depression.

"My sister had a really low self-image. She thought of herself as ugly," she says. "We grew up in Houston in the '70s and '80s, and at that time in school there were very few Asian faces. The standard of beauty she wanted to emulate was white women." In college, Noh's sister had plastic surgery to make her eyes and nose appear more European-looking.

Heredity, Noh says, also plays a role. She says in her study, many of the suicidal women had mothers who were also suicidal. She says perhaps it's genetic -- some biochemical marker handed down from mother to daughter -- or perhaps it's the daughter observing the mother's behavior. "It makes sense. You model yourself after the parent of the same gender."

As varied as the causes of depression, Noh says she saw just as many approaches to overcoming it.

While some women in her study did seek help through counseling and prescription drugs, most of her subjects were ambivalent or even negative about counseling. "They felt the counselor couldn't understand their situation. They said it would have helped if the counselor were another Asian-American woman."

These women found help through their religious faith, herbs, acupuncture, or becoming involved in groups that help other Asian women.

"It shows the resourcefulness of these women," she says. "They had really diverse healing strategies."

Elizabeth Cohen is a CNN Medical News correspondent. Senior producer Jennifer Pifer and associate producer Sabriya Rice contributed to this report.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Stash busting

This weekend I was not up for any heavy brain activity, such as comparing the knitting instructions for my sister's sweater to the sleeves themselves and then trying to figure out where I went wrong.

That's the problem with knitting -- every single stitch is your responsibility and there's no one to blame but you. In gardening, the plants grow on their own and sun, rain, soil composition, bugs, rabbits, voles, etc. all introduce elements of unpreditability. In pottery, the clay tells me what it wants to be, and then the glazes and kiln firings (done by other people), make each visit to the pottery studio a surprise. In gardening and pottery, things change without you making it happen.

Not so with knitting. Sweaters don't make themselves while you're gone and all mistakes are your own. Wouldn't it be great to have Mrs. Weasley's magical knitting needles, that knit on their own? We would be able to use up our yarn stash so much faster.

Speaking of stash-busting, I started 2 baby blankets this weekend and have decided to use up as much of my yarn as possible making baby blankets. You never know when a friend will announce a pregnancy and wouldn't it be nice to have something ready to give? This would be especially helpful when long-distance friends tell you with only weeks to go.

So this is what I'm working on:
1. I found a double crocheted 12 inch square of Mountain Colors Barefoot yarn in the Mystic Lake colorway that I made some time ago and one ball each of Knit Picks Essential Solid in burgundy, navy, and dark green. Clearly I was going to make something with this, so it will now be a baby blanket. It's sock weight yarn, so it'll take forever to finish. However, it's also thin and small, so it's my portable project.
2. Using Cascade Sierra in navy, light blue, pink, and white, held double, and crocheting stripes with a size J hook. I tried knitting, but Sierra is 80% cotton, 20% merino wool and 0% stretchable. So my first try, knitting, resulted in aching arms and elbows. Knitting is supposed to be fun, not painful. Now, I'm trying to use up the yarn as quickly as possible, just to get rid of it. What I do like is that holding one strand of navy, and one strand of either the light blue or pink results in a very pretty tweed effect. Will post pictures soon.

On the back burner: Husband's afghan and Sister's sweater, both in Cascade 220.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Gah! Sleeve mistake

I'm knitting this sweater for my sister:

It's Bicolor Cables from Interweave Knits. She wants it brown and pink instead of brown and green.
I'm working on both sleeves at once, from the cuff up and am shaping the sleeve caps. And just found out that one sleeve is at least 10 stitches wider at this point than the other.
So, it's going to go in the knitting basket for a while and may be when I pull it out this weekend, the stitches will have evened out by themselves.
Here's hoping that magical thinking works

Friday, May 4, 2007

Growing gap

As a sociologist and social activist, this really got to me. I've highlighted in blue what I think are the most relevent parts.

The Divisions That Tighten the Purse Strings

Studies suggest that America’s diversity goes a long way toward explaining why government spending on social welfare programs is much lower than in Europe.

By EDUARDO PORTER, New York Times, April 29, 2007

MANY Americans are skeptical about government spending on social programs, and they cite a litany of familiar reasons: big government programs aren’t effective, they are vulnerable to waste and abuse, and they run counter to the libertarian, self-reliant spirit of the nation’s founders.

But a growing body of research suggests that America’s antipathy toward big government has another, less-often-acknowledged underpinning: the nation’s racial and ethnic diversity.
Recent studies by economists and other social scientists have found that this mix tends to undermine support for government spending on “public goods” of all types, whether health care, roads or welfare programs for the disadvantaged.

Some of these studies suggest that America’s rich diversity — not only ethnic and racial but also religious and linguistic — goes a long way toward explaining why government spending on social welfare programs is much lower than it is in the more homogeneous nations of Europe. Other studies have found that within the United States, local support for various types of public spending falls as diversity rises.

Racial divisions and ethnic divisions reduce incentives for people to be generous to others through social welfare,” said Alberto Alesina, a professor of economics at Harvard. “This is very unfortunate. But as social scientists, we can’t close our eyes to something we don’t like.”
In America, government spending on social transfers — everything from food stamps and unemployment insurance to health care and pensions — is about a third less than it is in Italy, France or Belgium, when expressed as a share of the economy, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And it is about half the level of Sweden’s. Moreover, Americans pay less in taxes than the citizens of nearly every other wealthy nation in the O.E.C.D.

In their 2004 book, “Fighting Poverty in the U.S. and Europe,” Mr. Alesina and Edward Glaeser, another Harvard economist, applied statistical regression techniques to correlate data on government spending with data on racial, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity in Western Europe and the United States. The professors concluded that about half the gap between Europe and the United States in public spending on social programs could be explained by America’s more varied racial and ethnic mix. (They said that much of the rest resulted from stronger left-wing parties in Europe.)

As William Julius Wilson suggested in his 1996 book, “When Work Disappears: the World of the New Urban Poor,” many white Americans turned against spending on welfare during the 1970s because they thought that it mostly served blacks. “White taxpayers saw themselves as being forced, through taxes, to pay for medical and legal services that many of them could not afford for their own families,” Mr. Wilson wrote.

In the relative homogeneity of Sweden, by contrast, most taxpayers are confident that social spending programs will be directed to people much like themselves.

This doesn’t mean Americans are stingy. In fact, they contribute much more than Europeans to charity, selecting who they want to help. “It’s not that Americans are bad guys,” Mr. Glaeser said. “They just want to target it.”

But in drawing on a wide range of data like population surveys and patterns of municipal spending, researchers have found ample evidence of how ethnic and racial diversity has undermined support for spending on social welfare in the United States.

In a study in 2001, Erzo F. P. Luttmer, an associate professor at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, reported that the percentage of people who say they support welfare spending decreases as the share of local recipients from their own racial group falls. His report was based on data from the General Social Survey, a social-attitudes poll conducted across the United States nearly every year since 1972.

In another study, published in 1996, James Poterba, a professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that public spending on education falls as the percentage of elderly people in a given area rises. The reduction, he found, “is particularly large when the elderly residents and the school-age population are from different racial groups.”

In a 1997 study, Mr. Alesina, along with Reza Baqir, an economist at the International Monetary Fund, and William Easterly, an economics professor at New York University, looked at the relationship between social spending and ethnic diversity in 2,700 cities, counties and metropolitan areas across the United States.

They found that in more diverse cities and counties, the share of local government spending on public goods — in this case, roads, sewage treatment, trash clearance and education — was generally lower than it was in more homogeneous localities. “Our results are consistent with the idea that white majorities vote to reduce the supply of productive public goods as the share of blacks and other minorities increases,” they wrote.

Of course, there are some exceptions to the pattern. New York and California, for instance, are among the most highly taxed and most diverse states, although there is evidence that racial and ethnic tensions have whittled away at support for public spending. In California, to cite just one example, Proposition 187, barring illegal immigrants from access to public services, passed in 1994 on the support of 63 percent of whites, despite the opposition of four of every five Latinos.
New York’s history also has examples of ethnic tensions.

But New York City, in a way, is a special case: so diverse that no single ethnic or racial majority controls the public purse. “There is no cleavage between an Anglo majority and some poor minority,” Mr. Glaeser said. “In New York, everybody is a minority.”

New York City’s experience, in fact, underscores that diversity does not automatically lead to hostility among ethnic groups or toward government spending as a whole. From public education to intermarriage to the many institutions in civil society promoting mutual understanding, there are countervailing forces acting to overcome ethnic, religious or linguistic cleavages.

Ethnic diversity doesn’t inevitably reduce spending on public goods. Rather, spending tends to fall when elected officials choose to run and govern on platforms that heighten racial and ethnic divisions. Over the long term, governments usually find it in their interest to bridge the centrifugal forces of diversity rather than to exploit them, if only to promote stability.

STILL, there is little reason to believe that the racial, ethnic, religious and linguistic antagonisms that have eroded support for social welfare programs in the United States are likely to abate any time soon. Indeed, the arrival of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants a year from Latin America seems to be sapping support for public welfare.

Last year, laws were enacted in Arizona, Colorado, Rhode Island and Hawaii barring illegal immigrants from access to some government programs. This month, the State Senate in Oklahoma overwhelmingly passed legislation that would bar illegal immigrants from receiving public benefits.

And these restrictive attitudes can easily turn against spending on domestic programs as a whole. Representative Tom Tancredo, a Colorado Republican running for president on an anti-immigration platform, says that Americans pay too much in taxes and that the Internal Revenue Service should be abolished. His candidacy may not prosper, but the issues on which he is running are likely to be around for some time.

Mr. Alesina certainly expects further conflicts. “One can expect public support for public goods to erode further,” he said. “Public spending in law and order might not go down. What would go down is spending on redistribution.”

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

In honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day...

I have cut down the 9 pine trees in my yard. Now I have only 2 dogwood trees and lots of overgrown holly and azalea shrubs.

We took them down because they sway alarmingly during storms. Every year some tree comes down and takes out power lines. Thankfully, they haven't taken out any houses or cars, but I'm not waiting for that to happen.

The pine needles that fall from them also suppress grass growth and now half our lawn is just dirt. Attractive. Husband wants to tear everything up and put down sod and maybe a sprinkler system.

This Saturday morning, a landscape designer will come out to give us a plan. If we're going to redo the front yard, we're going to redo it right.