Monday, March 31, 2008

Sense and Sensibility

Watched Part One on Masterpiece last night. I'm enjoying it so far but can't help but compare it against the movie with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman, and directed by Ang Lee.

Is it just me or does the guy playing Edward Ferrars look and act like Hugh Grant? And I feel bad for the guy playing Col. Brandon because he'll always be compared to Alan Rickman.

What I do like is that there is more backstory given and shown. And Sir John Middleton is played by Mark Williams, who played Mr. Weasley.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pictures of disaster

A few weeks ago, a tornado ripped through downtown Atlanta. The week after, I had to go to the Westin hotel, which lost many of it's windows. It's a very tall, round building and the entire exterior is glass windows.

Despite all this damage, no one was hurt. There were injuries and, sadly,deaths reported elsewhere in the city and the metro area, but at this hotel, none. There was a rumor that the building shifted a few feet off it's foundation but that's not true. It sway with the wind, as designed.

Here you can see the cables for the elevators and the hotel curtains exposed.
We got some desperately needed rain, but I'm sure those who live in buildings missing roofs, windows, and walls, really wish it would have stayed warm and dry, not cold and rainy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

HALT: Words of Wisdom

I don't have the best memory in the world, but there is one thing I retained from some motivational speaker a long time ago.

She said, when you're making a decision, you should remember this acronym: HALT.

That is, do not make a decision if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.

Yesterday, I was both Hungry and Tired and made a decision that wasn't the best thought out, but not the end of the world.

I have one more grant proposal to do, and it's due April 1. So I e-mailed my self the proposal. Which is written in Office 2007, which I don't have on my home computer.

At least I had printed out some things (so much for the paperless office) and did bring those home with me. I'll make those edits on paper then type them up on Monday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Closing a door can open possibilities

I just had a brain flash at work. I realized I could close my office door. I am an accessible boss but that doesn't mean I have to be accessible to everyone all the time.

Now, instead of reacting to them whenever they come in asking for this, that, or whatever, I will have the peace and space to concentrate that I need to finish the 2 grant proposals that need to get out the door today. These are 2 proposals that support significant portions, if not all, of the staff's salaries. You'd think that they would understand that but open door means open access.

So I have put a sign on my door that says:
On Deadline
Do not disturb
unless this is a pressing matter or
you have information relevant to the grant proposals due today.
I will be available from 1pm to 2pm to answer questions, sign documents etc.
Thank you.

Somedays I have some really good ideas.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Ah, Spring, time for wool -- Part II

That's what I get for speaking too soon. A cold snap has come through and little snowflakes even fell from the sky.

Today I pulled back out my wool sweaters and put the Thinsulate lining back in my coat.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Pushing Buttons -- That's What Family Is For

Last Wednesday, I get home after 7pm and it's Angry Hour in my kitchen.

Husband and his mother are in the kitchen, having some drinks. Earlier that day, Mother-in-Law arrived and Husband took her to Harry's Farmer's Market/Whole Foods.

MIL was outraged at the prices and can't understand why people would pay so much when it's not hard to make your own sausage or French cheese or whatever. Yes, well, Husband and I don't shop there regularly but do like to pick up stuff for special occasions, like when his mother comes to visit.

Well, she allowed that her town of Madison has a Whole Foods, but on the west side, where it belongs with all the yuppies, and not on the east side where she lives.

Oh, and here's where the button pushing began. Husband said, you don't live on the east side, you live in the center (Madison is an isthmus, meaning a strip of land squashed in between 2 lakes, so there's a definite east side and west side, with the state capitol right in the middle of the isthmus).

MIL: No, I don't, I live on the east side!
Husband: I was born and raised in that town and I know that I grew up in the center, not on the east side. -- Husband wisely had the kitchen island between him and his mother. He knows which buttons to push, and where to be when he does it.
MIL: No, I've lived there longer than you, so f*** you!

Ah, family.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

High stress time

Like most jobs, my job has cycles of high activity/high stress, and low activity/low stress. Guess where I am now? Yes, the high stress part. I have 4 grant proposals coming up, which of course means budgetting and seeing in black and white the gap between income and expenses. And not a good gap.

And yesterday my mother in law came into town for a visit.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ah, Spring, time for wool

It's pretty much spring here in Atlanta. The Bradford pear trees are abloom in white and we've turned off the heat and opened the windows. Yesterday I even changed out of jeans and sweater into a cotton dress.
And the grass needs mowing. Guess what I'll be doing today? Even now, I can hear a neighbor mowing.

Because it's warming up, I have some pictures of wool knitting:

Here's a progress picture of the top-down, raglan cardigan,
Which will be the the Long Coat with Chevron Lace from Fitted Knits.
My portable knitting, a shawl using wool and mohair. Simple stockingnette stitch on big needles. Great for watching hockey games (keeps your lap warm) or listening to lectures.

Also, pictures of the mitered squares of Malabrigo, inspired by Hazy Corners quilt by Kaffe Fassett and Liza Prior Lucy.
I had not planned on making a clown quilt!

In February, when at the High Museum of Art, I picked up a book, a retrospective of works by Sean Scully, titled "Sean Scully: Twenty Years, 1976 to 1995." I will repurpose my Malabrigo to make an afghan inspired by his works such as:

"Enough" 1981 oil on canvas. I could totally use all those Malabrigo colors, along with some black and white, without it looking so clownish. The actual knitting construction will take some figuring out. I'm going to start with the Log Cabin instructions from Mason-Dixon Knitting for the center block of blue/black and yellow/grey. The red/white and orange/black will have to be knit separately then sewn on. The tan/black, not sure. I could modify it to make the orange/black longer to end on the left flush with the center blocks, and make the tan/black easier to make. The orange/tan at the top would be picked up along the top of the other pieces and knit on."Ukbar" 1993-94, oil on canvas:
I particularly like this one, "10.2.93" 1993 watercolor on paper. I'm thinking of doing this slightly reversing the colors. That is, instead of having the black and white horizontal stripes, doing it in some combo of yellow, white, and orange. And making the yellow and black vertical stripes in blues, white (?), and purple, given that I have so much of the purple and blue Malabrigo. Then add a strip of green and black (?) horizontal stripes along the bottom, or maybe along the left edge, to echo the central block. I don't know, but I feel really drawn to this piece.

"White Robe" 1990 oil on canvas. Another example of interesting construction
"2.24.82" 1982 oil on paper. Such simplicity."Heart of Darkness" 1982 oil on canvas. I like how the black and white stripes and the red and black stripes don't quite line up, creating a bit of tension.
The book is full of inspiration.

48 Bottles of Beer in the Pantry,

48 bottles of beer, take one out, pass it around...

Actually not yet.

Last night Husband and I spent 2 hours bottling our first batch of homebrew beer. It's not a difficult process. The hardest thing was trying to keep all the equipment sanitary, because any contaminant would ruin the whole 5 gallon batch.

It took a lot of water to wash 48 beer bottles and I kept thinking that we're in a drought situation, couldn't I save the water for something?

We were concerned the caustic cleaning agent we were using would harm the plants, otherwise I would use it for watering. As it was, it just went down the drain.

In the end, we got 45 and 3/4ths bottles filled, capped, and stored in the pantry. We would have had 46 bottles, but Husband did a little sampling along the way.

The beer has to sit for 2 weeks for it to be carbonated and drinkable, and 5 weeks for it to be optimum. Husband plans on sampling each week, just to see how it goes.

Close calls

Over the weekend, a tornado hit downtown Atlanta, blowing out windows of the CNN Center, various highrises, and tearing roofs off residences. A few people were killed and lots of property damage.

Brother Two called, wanting to see if we were alright, which we were. Some of the condos Husband and I have been looking at were narrowly missed and the night before the tornado hit, Husband and I were downtown at a Thrashers hockey game.

We've been that lucky before. On Sept 10, 2001, we flew out of Boston's Logan airport, on our way home from a wedding in Maine. Needless to say, the bride and groom didn't get to go on their honeymoon to Jamaica on Sept 11, 2001.

Then yesterday a construction crane in near the United Nations buildings in Manhattan fell, cutting through buildings and killing some people. I knew that Brother Two worked near the UN complex so it was my turn to call him to see if he was okay. He was, and said he didn't know the accident happened until evening.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Beer update -- First time mistake?

Two people have asked me for a beer update, so here it is.

This is the first time we're making beer, and not sure if we're doing it right, but we're forging ahead anyway. .

On February 14, I got equipment and ingredients to make beer. First up, a Dortmunder beer. This was Husband's birthday present.

On February 21, while my parents were still here, we boiled up the wort and put it in the bucket with the yeast, for the first step. We didn't see much bubbles coming up but let it sit for a while anyway.

On February 26 I got 48 bottles from Winecraft and they said that I should transfer the beer from the bucket to a glass carboy, to let the sediment settle some more. When clear, then I should siphon from the carboy into the bottling bucket with the sugar, then let it sit about 21 days and finally bottle up the beer.

Sometime the week of Feb 26, before we went to Miami at the end of February, I transferred the beer from the bucket to a glass carboy and it's been sitting there for a few weeks now.

I think this weekend we'll move it back from the carboy to the bottling bucket with the sugar and see how it goes.

We're not sure if we're doing this right because we haven't seen much bubbling and carbonation throughout the process. I think at one point we could have added more yeast to make it happen, but we didn't.

But it's the first time we're making beer, and mistakes are bound to happen. Worst case scenario, it's totally flat and undrinkable for humans. Therefore we would pour it out into the compost heap, which would probably love it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Talk it out

Okay, I didn't really talk it out, but e-mailed Best Friend and immediately felt better.

First, I got it off my chest. Second, I was able to identify the issues. Third, I articulated a solution, a plan, and a timeline for resolution by the end of the year. Now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and know when I would reach it.

This plan and timeline depends on a lot of factors I can't really control, but at least I have a plan. So much better than having various half-formed feelings floating around my head.

The yarn shopping and starting a bulky-knit sweater helps too. Something concrete and immediate that I could start now, while I work on the longer term things.

By the way, the Spring 2008 Knitty and Magknits are up and I've printed out Jaden from Knitty already.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Why knitting makes me happy

Things in my life on more than one front are stressing me out and in those times, art comes to the rescue. Making things with my hands takes my mind off of things and in the end, there is something tangible to show for it.

The stress isn't awful, no one's going to hospital, jail, war, morgue, or being deported, but I've been in a funk lately.

I am taking pottery class, which normally calms me right down. But I am always late. Class is Monday night and Monday nights I usually work late. I should say that every day I usually am the last to leave at 6pm and sometimes later. But Mondays because it's the first day of the week, I always seem to be slow to start again and so feel like I have to stay later.

Pottery class starts at 6:30pm, I have a 50 minute commute home, then I have to change and go to class. So actually, having a class, another thing I have to do according to someone else's schedule is not as enjoyable as it usually is.

Knitting, on the other hand, is something I can do on my own schedule and pretty much at anytime. I have a portable project (mohair shawl, based loosely on the Scribble Lace scarves from Mason-Dixon Knitting and other places) I keep in my purse. At an International Women's Day lecture yesterday, I sat in the back, knitting. And I wasn't the only one. The one other knitter in the room sat with me working on a baby sweater. And when I spoke with one of the speakers later, I asked if she could see me knitting and she said no.

I also have various other works in progress that I have to do at home because of the size or stage of fiddly finishing.

But I've been itching to start a new project. So yesterday, between International Women's Day events (including a very tasty lunch at an Indian restaurant), I went to the Needle Nook and bought some yarn. A lot of yarn. Two sweaters' worth.

First I bought six skeins each of green Malabrigo in worsted weight merino: three in Verdes and three in Saphire Green (their spelling):

Not sure what I'll make with it, but I'm thinking a striped cardigan, alternating between the solid-ish Saphire Green (top skein) and the kettle-dyed Verdes (bottom skein).

They also had silky merino, half silk half merino, like the name says. Lovely but not as much yardage. And for a sweater's worth, the yards per dollar ratio is important.

I also got 8 skeins of Lamb's Pride Bulky in the Ocean Waves colorway. It looks green here, despite being photographed under florescent lights on a white counter top. It's really a bright turquoise. I've linked to Yarnzilla's site so you can see the true color. At least you can see the varigation effect. Here it is swatched:

In preparation for making the Long Coat with Chevron Lace border, from Fitted Knits by Stephanie Japel. Basically it's a long cardigan, v-neck with a lace border all the way around. It goes down to the knees but I'm not going to make it that long.

Today I swatched. Yarn calls for a size 10.5 US needle, giving 12 stitches = 4 inches. The pattern calls for a size 13 needle, giving 10 sts = 4 inches. The top swatch is with size 11 needles giving 12.5 sts = 4 inches. I tried using size 13 (bottom swatch) but the gauge didn't changing much. So I'm using size 11 needle and using the medium size instructions instead of small, and hoping that it works out.

The good thing is that the cardigan is a raglan sweater knitted from the top down. So I can try it on as I go and customize as necessary. I may never make anything other than top-down raglans ever again.

Tonight I did the first 15 rows while watching My Neighbor Totoro -- not one of my favorites from Hayao Miyazaki. That would be Spirited Away. Husband isn't a big fan of Miyazaki because all his films' protagonists are preteen girls who face some sort of challenge, with elements of fantasy and strange creatures. He thinks they're all the same. It's like saying all war movies are the same, or all westerns are all the same. They all follow a template, but the interest comes in the variations on a theme.

It's like complaining that all blankets are the same, when we know there are infinite variations to be found within that form. Look at the world of quilting.

Anyway, now I have a project I can look forward to coming home to and can go to bed happy.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sad day for the Packers

Brett Favre has announced his retirement from the Green Bay Packers. Wisconsin is now awash in tears.

I share a birthday (and almost a birth year) with Brett. One year for my birthday, I got a bouquet of roses from Husband. The note said "Brett Favre's one year older too."

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Went Miami, and did nothing but eat, drink, and walk

This weekend, Husband and I went to South Beach, which is the southern tip of Miami Beach. South Beach has all the pastel Art Deco buildings, like these:

Yes, they like the neon and flash in South Beach.

But this is the first notable building we saw in South Beach

Made me think of this post by Crazy Aunt Purl about the Liquor Bank

View from the hotel:
Nice, eh? Everyday, we spent a significant amount of time on that beach, soaking up the sun.

Husband and I talked to Father-in-Law in Wisconsin while lying out there. He said there was 2 feet of snow on the ground, that it hasn't stopped snowing since December. Made me enjoy the sun and sand even more.

After checking in, we went to Joe's Stone Crab for lunch. Cutting through an alley, we saw some white ibises and pigeons scavenging from the trash. When they saw us coming, they starting scooting away.

The rest of the trip was basically about walking up and down Ocean Drive or the beach. Really, we explored very, very little of South Beach. But that's okay. The purpose of the trip was, well, there was no real purpose, other than to enjoy ourselves.

And so we did, doing a lot of this

Not pictured: the various margaritas and mojitos we enjoyed, nor the food. Mmmmm, great cerviches and Italian. Also not pictured: the scantily clad beautiful people (hence the South Beach Diet), the other tourists, and the locals who lived there before the gentrification set in.

We made sure to get tables right on Ocean Drive so we could enjoy all the high end cars cruising up and down. By high end, I mean Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Rolls Royces, and other cars Husband assured me were worth more than our house.

Here's one:

Don't know what it is, but it's expensive.

Our last night there, we saw LLCoolJ walking into Lario's, a restaurant partly owned by Gloria Estefan. I didn't see LL, but Husband did. He caused quite a stir (LL, not Husband). There was a black SUV with tinted windows and a security guy out there.

Somewhere in here is LL getting into the SUV:

As I was trying to take pictures of LL, the waiter for the table next to us (jokingly) thought I was trying to get a picture of him. So he and one of the guys at the table next to us agreed to pose for a picture: