Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Holidays

I just wanted to post a little something to say that I hope everyone had a great holiday (whichever one you celebrate). Best wishes for the coming year!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two Cents

I recently finished a book that I think was called The Julie & Julia Project. (If I am incorrect about the title, anyone who knows is free to correct me.) It's about a woman who decides to cook her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She starts at one end of the book and goes to the other, cooking every recipe in it. No skips, no substitutions. And in a year, her goal was to finish the book.

My initial response as I started reading it was the same as my mother's when I told her what I was reading: "She'll be a pig!" I mean, really. French cuisine is to die for, but it's incredibly rich (that would be why it's so good). Cream, butter, eggs, cholesterol -- if it's fattening, chances are it's in French food. If I were to cook my way through one of Julia Child's cookbooks (not that I would, because I have neither the patience nor the time to try many of the recipes, but assuming I did), by the end of the project, I would have gained about twenty-five pounds.

But then I got to thinking. If eating so much French food makes you fat, how come there aren't a whole lot of des cochons running around France? I've been in France enough times to know that not everyone is fat, or even overweight. In fact, (now, granted, I don't know the exact statistic here), I would be willing to bet that there are proportionately less overweight people in France than there are over here on our side of the pond.

So what is it about the French? How come they're capable of eating (and cooking) all these decadent, sinfully good foods and still stay healthy? How is it they are able to refrain from turning into des cochons and we aren't?

Any thoughts?

Monday, November 19, 2007


Yeah, I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I've been working on my pictures blog lately, so there you go. You're probably all checking that one vigilantly anyway.

Anyway, I would like to say that after putting three pictures from my trip up here, only two people have responded to guess what any of them are, and one of them didn't guess -- she just said she knew where they were. So :P to her -- she's spoiling all the fun. But, Kathy e-mailed me and guessed that the one photograph was of the chapel next to Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. And she's right. It is a picture of Holyrood Abbey. King James V (among numerous other Scottish royalty) is buried there.

The other two photographs, by the way, were of Loch Ness (the foggy one) and Loch Lomond (the sunny one). I would highly advise going to all three locales.

Snaps for Kathy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Isn't Fall Wonderful

It's doing that weird natural phenomenon called raining right now, so I'm taking advantage of the event. The other day, a couple of us went down to Harrisonburg to the Green Valley Book Fair, and we saw some really glorious sights as we drove down through the Shenandoah Valley, with the fall foliage in its glory. At one point after passing a particularly glorious tree, I made the comment that one of the most beautiful things nature can give us is a maple tree in the fall.

Did you ever stop to notice these spectacular trees? Every year, they "bloom" into gorgeous colors, almost as if they're on fire. Whether they turn yellow or red, they're simply breathtaking to behold.


Thursday, October 18, 2007

And I'm Back

I just got home from a week's vacation in Scotland. It was truly a blast. (If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Britain, go. And preferably in the fall. It's definitely worth it.)

The thing that really amazed me was how incredibly rural the whole place was. Sure, Scotland has cities, and can be very built up in places; but for the most part, the land was so very undeveloped. Not empty or primitive in any way, but just incredibly bucolic and pastoral. There were places where you could go for miles and miles on end and not come across a town. Once you get away from the cities and out onto the moors, it's just amazing to see how much land there is. It was such a change from here in northern VA where it is all so built up and suburban. It was so great to get away from it all and just enjoy nature in its splendor.

Anyway, I took an amazing amount of pictures, and since the number is so great that I can't possibly e-mail them to you all, I am setting up a blog specifically for this trip so all of you can see them.

In the meantime, here is a preview of what will be on it. In fact, I'm going to make a game out of this :). Here is one of my photos:

And here is another:

And here is a third:

See if you can guess correctly what the photos are (they are from three different locations). I'll publicly recognize every person who can come up with the right answers. Have fun :)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Take the Time

You ever notice that whenever you ask someone how they are, they always say they're fine? And whenever anyone asks you how you are, you always say you're fine, even when you're not? One time someone asked me how I was doing, and, even though I had a horrific head cold, and I had had a really long day, and I just wanted to curl up in my bed and ignore the world for a day, I told this person I was doing just fine, thanks.

I was thinking about this earlier today, and the thought occurred to me that, even though we're taught at a relatively young age to be honest with others, we're all guilty of this lie at some point or another. We all say to someone that we're doing great, even when life has just handed us a huge batch of lemons. I think this comes from the fact that asking someong how he or she is has come to be second nature to us. It's kind of like saying Hi to someone. We ask this person how they are because it's been ingrained into us. Everyone else does it, so we do it too.

The other day, after a horribly rotten day at work, I went to choir practice, and two people came up to me and asked me how I was. Instead of the standard "Fine, thanks," I told them straight out that I had had a really bad day. Both of them immediately asked if there was anything they could do, and offered their support. I walked away thinking how wonderful it was to have friends who actually cared about how my day went.

My point (and I do have one, even though it sometimes takes a while to get around to it), is that I think we (and when I say "we," I mean society as a whole) need to get back to standard etiquette and not do things just out of instinct and habit. We need to take the time to listen to each other. If we ask people how they are, shouldn't we be genuinely interested in their answers? If you don't really care about what they have to say, then why in the world would you ask the question? No wonder we always say "Fine, thanks" whenever anyone asks us how we are.

So, let's all take the time to listen to others. If you aren't interested in how a person is feeling, or how his or her day went, don't ask. And if you do ask, take the time to listen to what he or she has to say. And if someone asks you the same question, be honest. Don't say you're feeling fine if you aren't. You don't have to go into all the details (I didn't with my friends at church), but if you aren't feeling well, say so. If you had a long day at work, mention that. A little bit of honesty and thoughtfulness can go a long way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pronouns and Apostrophes

Those of you who know me well know that I cannot stand grammar faux pas. Particularly those that break standard rules that SHOULD HAVE BEEN DRILLED INTO YOU IN GRADE SCHOOL!!!!! (If they weren't, there is something seriously lacking in your education.) This past week, I have come across three instances of the same mistake, and since they were all done by people who really should have known better (two of them were professional writers), it is time for a lecture.

Possessive pronouns DO NOT (do I need to repeat myself? DO NOT) have apostrophes. This is to differentiate them all from the contractions that these pronouns sometimes form with the verb "is." Possessive pronouns denote ownership of something and are sometimes used as adjectives that tell the reader who owns a particular item. No contraction. No apostrophe.

The big confusion on this is the word "Its." There are two words with these three letters in this order: "Its" and "It's." They are TWO DIFFERENT WORDS and have TWO DIFFERENT MEANINGS. Therefore, they are NOT interchangeable.

"Its" is a possessive pronoun, and is used to denote ownership: "That book has lost ITS cover." Here the word is being used to describe which cover has been lost.

"It's" is a contraction for "it is." It is a subject and verb together, as in: "It looks like IT'S going to rain today."

There's even a simple test to see which one you need: every time you are about to write down the word, say the sentence in your mind replacing the word with "it is" and see if it still makes sense. Let's continue with the above examples:

"That book has lost IT IS cover."
"It looks like IT IS going to rain today."

If the sentence makes sense, you need the apostrophe (IT'S). If it doesn't, you leave it out (ITS).

Does everyone see the difference?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Traffic Report

I live about ten miles from where I work, which gives me a little commute each day. When there isn't much traffic on the roads, it takes about 25 minutes to get to work. When there IS traffic (everyday it seems, now that school has started), it takes about 35-45 minutes to get to work each day. (Going home takes longer.) Luckily, I am able to carpool half the time, so that, at least, cuts down on my gas consumption.

Tuesday, L and I gave ourselves about 45 minutes to get to work. Plenty of time. About 2/3 of the way there, because we were making good time, we stopped for coffee. We were out in and out of the Starbucks in 5 minutes. We were about ten minutes from the library, and we had fifteen minutes until it opened. Still plenty of time. Until we ran into a huge bottleneck half a mile down the road, in which we sat for about ten minutes crawling along at a snail's pace, thus causing us to be a couple minutes late for work.

So, yesterday (that would be Wednesday), we decided to give ourselves a little more time and left for work 55 minutes before we needed to be there. A great idea. We made it about ten minutes down the road before we ran into another traffic jam. At first we figured that it was just a little road work, which has happened before, and that in a half a mile it would all open back up again.

But it didn't. Instead of opening back up, it got even tighter. It turns out there was a huge accident. We were detoured from a six-lane highway to a two-lane back road. For about forty minutes, we went absolutely nowhere. L was driving (she has a hybrid, thankfully), and when we looked at her energy consumption (one of the many cool things about a Prius is that you can do this), we realized that the car had not used any energy for about five minutes while we sat, completely still, on the road. Our fifteen minute grace period we had given ourselves disappeared, so that for the second time, we were late for work. This time, by about fifteen minutes. And to exacerbate the whole situation, we had two programs happening yesterday morning, made more complicated by the fact that three of us (another coworker comes from the same direction and got stuck in the same jam) were all late.

Life would be so much easier if we didn't have to go anywhere.

On the other hand, when you are spending 40 minutes sitting in a traffic jam, and someone else happens to be driving (please don't do this when YOU are driving), you can get about two inches of knitting done on when working with 115 stitches on size 7 needles.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tedium and Pointlessness

I've just recently finished knitting a sleevless dress shell out of this beautiful blue acryllic yarn. The finished product is absolutely beautiful. It's sparkly, it fits well, and it's in a color that looks good on me. I worked the whole thing in the round until I got to the armholes, so with the exception of the shoulders, there are no seams. My favorite kind of project.

I wore it for the first time the day after I finished it. It looked well, but I noticed that it didn't hang completely straight in the back around the armholes. The way the pattern had indicated to make a selvage here was causing the edging to roll in on itself slightly.

No problem, I thought to myself. This will all be fixed when I block it. This is where I began to realize that I didn't particularly enjoy the project as I had originally. It's acryllic, which means that it has to be wet-blocked, and it's hand-wash only. Still, I tell myself that it's no big deal. I wash the thing and lay it out carefully, pinning it with the exact dimensions I want it.

And there it lay all weekend, drying into place like it was supposed to. Finally on Monday evening, I unpinned it and looked at it. It looked great. It was the right size. I was even able to fix a little pucker in the stitches that had occurred when I picked up the stitches for the neck. I was pleased.

And then, I put it on. At first, I didn't realize anything was amiss. Until I was at work. And I realized that despite the fact that I had followed the pattern exactly the whole way, the bloomin selvage was STILL rolling in at the armholes, meaning that it STILL was not hanging straight in the back. Moreover, in my attempt to block the armholes correctly, I had inadvertently increased the sizes slightly, causing the back to hang even less straight than it had originally.

I am ticked. I am annoyed. I am ready to curse the knitting gods. I just wasted an entire weekend doing a step on this particular piece that I didn't even have to do, because it was done in all one piece, and it turned out to be a huge colossal waste of time.

I hate blocking.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Here's Your Sign

I'm amazed at the ineptitude of some people. Truly, utterly amazed. And I don't know why I should be, really. I mean, I've spent most of my adult life working as a public service employee. You would think I would be used to meeting incompetent people.

But this really takes the cake. The other night, I was watching tv, and during commercials, there were these ads for those REALLY, INCREDIBLE MADE-FOR-TV items that everyone ABSOLUTELY HAS TO HAVE in order to make their lives better. Like a portable electric can opener, or knives that can go through dry wall, or gloves that can peel potatoes.

Now, I realize it can be difficult (not to mention time-consuming) to peel potatoes well. But Saturday night, I saw an ad for a photo slicer. Basically, all it was was a small paper cutter with tinted plastic that allowed the user to see exactly where the cut was going to go. I realize this can be useful (assuming it actually works), but the people they showed using this tool were using it because they couldn't make the same cut with scissors.

How hard, exactly, can it be to cut a straight line with scissors? In the ad, the people were struggling to cut photographs so they could go into a frame. It's not like they had arthritis, and it's not like they were cutting plain ordinary paper without a design. They appeared to be pefectly capable people. Cutting a photograph. With straight lines. And if worse came to worse, they could always flip the photo over and use a ruler to draw a straight line on the back.

*sigh* As Jeff Foxworthy (or whoever the guy is) would say, "Here's your sign."

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Semantics, Schmemantics

Last night, I was sitting in a coffee shop, enjoying my caramel latte, and I happened to strike up a conversation with a woman sitting nearby, and we had a nice chat. I had brought with me a baby sweater I was in the process of making, and a journal in which I like to write my latest plot ideas, and had been working on both throughout the course of the evening. Halfway through my conversation with this woman, she, apparently noticing the sweater, asked me, "So, did your mother teach you how to crochet?"

The short answer to this question is, of course, yes. My mother did teach me how to crochet. I was five years old, and she thought it would be neat if I made a scarf for my sister.

However, since the project I was working on was knit, not crochet, I thought I might pause here in a moment of reflection and explain to all you non-woolly people out there the difference between the two. Be warned. It's about to get technical.

Crochet is made with a hook. If you are right-handed, you hold the hook in your right hand and the yarn in your left (don't ask me how you hold it if you're left-handed -- I don't know). You are only ever holding this one hook at a time. Ever. The basic crochet stich (some people call it a single crochet, others call it a double.) is based on something called chaining, and is made directly on top of the row of stitches, and creates a large, boxy-looking stitch. Think of building a wall with Legoes. You're placing one brick directly on top of another. When all you do, row after row, is this stitch, you produce thick, slightly wavy rows in the fabric. There is no casting-on in crochet. You simply chain the number of stitches you want, turn around, and work into the chain. When you're done, simply stop at the end of the row. There are two ways it is less complicated than knitting (I'm not going to say easier, because if I do, someone will call me on it). 1) Unless you are either making funky bobbles or working Tunisian style (neither of which I'm going to get into right now), there is only ever one stitch on your hook, making it marvelously easy to frog (ripping back in case of mistake). 2) Because there is usually only ever one stitch on the hook, there is no need ever to cast off. When you get to the end of a row and wish to finish, you can just stop.

Knit is made with needles . For back and forth knitting (I'm not going to get into working in a round), they come in pairs, and you're always holding two at a time -- your working needle and your holding needle. Most people hold their working needle in their right hand and the holder needle in their left. All the stitches in a row are on the needles, and the produced fabric hangs straight down from the needles as you work. The knit stitch is made from the side of the previous row. With Legoes, this time think of creating a staircase. Instead of placing the brick directly on top of the one below so that all six bumps are interlocking, place it so that only half the bumps are interlocking, and it looks more like shallow steps. The created stitch is short and vertical, and when you knit every row, you create horizontal ridges going across your fabric. When you're finished with a project, it's necessary to cast-off all your stitches (this can be a bit of a pain at times, and I'm not going to get into it here). The resulting fabric produces a slightly neater look than crochet, but frogging isn't nearly as easy, and can be downright irritatingly tedious at times.

I have probably now created more questions in your minds now regarding these two crafts, but at least now, I have given vent to my frustrations about this. Feel free to come to my Woolgathering class every other Wednesday afternoon if you wish to have a more hands-on lesson in the two techniques.

Monday, August 27, 2007

And now for something different

First off, an announcement: I am just about finished with the dratted pair of socks! I'm just about to begin the ribbing on the second sock! The heel has turned, the sock is fitting, everything is going beautifully. Wahoo!

And now for a review of the latest book I've read.

Over the weekend, I read the book First Light by Rebecca Stead. The book alternates between the view points of its two main characters -- Thea and Peter. Peter is the son of two scientists who have taken him to Greenland with them on an expedition to study Global Warming. Lately, Peter has begun to suffer from severe headaches, similar to the ones his mother has, and he has begun to see things that others do not. Thea is the last female in the First Line of ancestors who originally settled Gracehope, a community located underground in the middle of Greenland's ice cap. Lately the community has begun to outgrow the space where it is living. Thea is anxious about the possibility of exploring the surface above them to look for more space, and when she and her friend Mattias find a way up, they run into Peter, who is out exploring the area around his parents' camp. After Thea and Mattias return underground, Thea learns a disturbing secret about her mother that her family has kept from her throughout her life, but just as she discovers it, Peter arrives with his mother, who apparently is Thea's aunt who had been banished from Gracehope years before by Rowen, Thea's grandmother, who has refused to allow anyone to go to the surface out of fear of the persecution that drove community underground in the first place. After a climactic showdown between Rowen and Thea, the novel ends relatively happily. But the readers are left with the question of what the long-term effects of Global Warming are going to be on Gracehope, and how much time there is before the cap melts and the community falls into the ocean.

It was a captivating read. I finished the book around 12:30 at night because I simply couldn't wait until the next morning to find out what was going to happen next. There were enough twists and turns in the plotline to keep me interested, although the intelligence and technological adeptness of the Gracehope citizenry stretched my mind at times.

Anyone who has read and enjoyed Jeanne DuPrau's City of Ember, or Lois Lowry's Gathering Blue would enjoy this novel.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gauge (or Weird Inexplicable Math Phenomena)

A coworker of mine has asked me to teach her how to knit socks. I am thrilled with this request. I couldn't be happier. So, (because I can't possibly part with stuff from my own stash) I have bought her two skeins of microspun acryllic and a set of size 1 needles (for you people who are used to the Metric system, I think it's somewhere around 2 mm). But this means, of course, that I need to be making a set of socks at the same time. So, when I bought the microspun, I also bought two skeins of a cotton blend yarn that I could make in to socks for myself.

So I cast on the cotton and began my ribbing. All is going well. And after the inch and a half of ribbing, I begin my pattern. Then, after about three inches, I take a good look at what I've accomplished. And I realize that for some reason, even though I got gauge with this pattern (7.5 stitches/inch), this sock is not going to fit.

I decide to adjust my stitch count and needle size. I also decide to do something I've never done before -- knit the sock toe-up -- in an effort to get a better fit. I rip out my previous attempt (a thousand curses -- that pattern was beautiful), shrink the stitches from 60 to 56, go down a needle size, and begin a different pattern.

After about two inches, I realize that the bloomin' thing is still too big. I don't understand this. The gauge gods must be having a huge laugh at my expense. My ankle is 8 inches around. I'm knitting (now) at a gauge of 7 stitches to an inch. 56 stitches should be the perfect number. But it isn't.

So I rip it back (again), cursing the gauge gods as I go. At least at this point, I don't have to rip it back the whole way, just to where I started increasing for the toe, and try again at 48 stitches.

This time, it works. (Hallelujah!) I continue with my pattern up the foot to the heel. But here, another problem arises. I misjudge how much I need to knit before starting the heel (even though I'm basing everything on another sock) and start the heel way too early. As a result, I have to rip the stupid heel back twice before finally getting one that will fit me.

I am over the heel now and have begun working my way up the leg. And the sock is still fitting. *phew* Now that I have gotten the hang of this thing, I think perhaps I will knit all my socks starting with the toe ;)

But never for someone else. Never ever for someone other than me.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


The other week, I read in a blog that I have linked to on my site (see Yarn Harlot for more information) about someone who is capable of recruiting knitters like flies to honey. She has discovered a knitting project where you are only given a little bit of the pattern at a time, and was encouraging others to join the project as well. When I read the blog, I laughed out loud at S's (she would be the yarn harlot, not the person who had originally discovered the pattern) weak will to resist this person. The idea of becoming completely vulnerable to a pattern project like this seemed hysterical to me.

The wool gods, it seems, have a sense of humor. This morning, I came across the blog Socktopia. It is a project where the blogger (and all her fans) knit a socks for a month that are all based on a certain theme. Last month, the theme was Harry Potter, and the blogger provided three socks based off of the different novels (one was based off Nagini -- I'm not entire sure of the reasoning behind this). This month, the theme is Mystery sock. Every Monday, a new part of the pattern is given out, so that by the end of the month, the knitter would have finished the socks.

Socks. Socks are my absolute favorite thing in the world to knit. They go fast (I can usually do a pair in a week), they're portable (a sock on the needles fits into my purse quite nicely), they're small (which means you can knit them any time of the year and won't get hot), they're versatile (you can do pretty much anything you want in the design), they're cheap (even with high-quality wool, the cost of the yarn is relatively miniscule because they don't use much yarn), they're always needed (if made correctly, a sock is the only hand-knit item that is made to wear out), and they're conversation starters (people tend to be fascinated by the fact that I can knit them). I never need an excuse to knit socks. Never mind the fact that knitting on tiny needles aggravates my carpal tunnel, or that anyone can buy perfectly good socks at Wal-Mart for mere pennies. From the first hand-knit socks that I slid onto my feet, I was hooked. There is no way I will ever be able to stay away from this blog.

The blog's website is Anyone can join anytime. It was originally designed to go through the end of the year, but it's been extended through next year as well. And if you knit fast, you can go back and work on the old monthly projects also.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Last Book -- Spoiler Alert!

On Saturday afternoon, I stepped out of my apartment door and picked up the copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that I had preordered from Amazon and immediately started reading. It took me about 8 hours, and I finished a little bit after midnight. I know that I am going to have to reread it at some point, because I was so all fired up to get to the ending that I know that I skimmed over a lot of points. But all in all, I thought it was a really good read.

I would, however, like to respond to a few things that have been mentioned in someone else's blog regarding this book.

First of all, yes, I will admit that the epilogue is a little too cheesy. But guess what folks? That's how JKR intended it to be! She wrote that chapter way back in the early days when she was first writing Philosopher's Stone. And while she may have changed a few details along the way, it's the way she wanted the entire story to end. I agree that it's a little pat (and yes, I wanted to know a little bit more about a few of the characters), but I'm not going to gripe about it. It's the way she wanted it written.

Secondly, this person mentions (and I quote) "Where's Alan Rickman's big death scene? Does JKR want to deny him his Oscar?"

Ummm. Excuse me? His death scene? First of all, his character does get a death scene, and (in my own humble opninion) it's pretty cool too. Secondly, since when is it the responsibility of an author to determine how much screen time an actor receives? JKR wrote the book for which the movie will be based, not the other way around. It is not her job to change the way she originally intended the story to end just because we happen to like one of the actors that plays one of the major characters. Moreover, she has always maintained that HP came to her pretty much fully formed while she was riding the train one day, and that was way back in the early nineties. Over fifteen years ago! Back then, AR was the Sheriff of Nottingham, and JKR had no idea that HP was going to a successful story, let alone become the basis for seven major blockbusters. And the fact that she had written the epilogue at the very beginning leads me to believe that the way that she deals with this particular character in the book is the way she had always intended it. Besides, even if she did take the different actors and actresses into account when she finished the book, I personally liked the way she dealt with this character, because I think that it's the only way she could have dealt with him that we readers (let alone Harry) would have found believable. And if AR is half the actor I know him to be, he's going to pull off that scene REALLY, REALLY well.

(Let's just hope that the director is going to think so also.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

And Now, a Lesson in Math

So today, having slept in and dilly-dallied to the point where I didn't have time to pack my lunch, I had to go out to grab a bite to eat. So, at around 12:30, I trecked out into the heat to go to the nearby Subway two doors down. I ordered a sandwich combo and paid for my meal. As I started to walk away, I realized the woman hadn't given me my cup, so I asked for one.

Her: "Oh, that's for the combo."

Me: "Yes, that's what I ordered."

Her: "Oh. I guess I'm going to have to ring you up again."

(Now, personally, if this were me behind the counter, I would have just forked over a cup. I mean, it was my mistake, so I would be willing to pay for it, but I won't complain. I allow the woman behind the counter to ring me up again.)

Her: "Now, I charged you $5.53 for your sandwich and cookies, and the combo is...let's see....$6.60

Now, when she tells me this, I reach into my purse for my $1.07 to pay the difference.

Her (continued, pulling out an old receipt to do the math): Let me think here... I'll have to subtract it from this... (??) So, so that's....that's...that's...$1.10.

Now, I will admit, that I am not the world's greatest mathematician. I failed my high school trig exam (although I will contend to this day that it was because the teacher tested us on things he said wouldn't be on the test, and then accused us of not studying), and it takes me half a morning just to balance my checkbook, but this is pretty fundamental, even for the numerically challenged, like me. And while I will also admit that it was obvious that this woman behind the counter had a primary language other than English, I've never known numbers to change just because you don't speak the language your patron is speaking as fluently as she/he does. I mean, that's one of the beauties of math. Numbers don't change. 6 minus 5 is one. It has always been one, and it will always be one. 60 minus 53 is seven. It has always been seven, and it will always be seven. Therefor, 6.60 minus 5.53 is 1.07. It's really not that hard. It has always been that way, and it will always continue to be that way. And while I'm not one to begrudge anyone three cents, it's still three cents that I'd rather not part with (and besides, if she had been the one short, she would have demanded that I fork over the three pennies)

Me (slapping the extra $1.07 down on the counter): Actually, it's $1.07.

Her (a bewildered look on her face): It is? (a pause) I guess maybe it is....

Sigh. Some people. Incidentally, if you're interested in some additional math humor, please check out the link below.

Friday, July 13, 2007

New Books, Old Series

I am one of the few people on this planet who has not yet read any of the LOTR books. And I haven't seen any of the movies either, because, well, I tell myself that once I've read the books, I'll see the movies, but I don't want to see the movies before I've read the books. But at this point, I'm not sure when either one of them is going to happen.

People look at me strangely when I tell them this, but in all honesty, I really did try. When I was a senior in college (that was the year Return of the King was released in theatres), I sat down to read Fellowship of the Ring.

I read a couple chapters, and put it down. I just couldn't get into it. A few months later, I picked it up again and managed a few more chapters before setting it aside again. People tell me that I put it down just when it gets interesting, but I just haven't had any interest to pick it back up.

But at least I don't pretend that I know all there is to know about the trilogy. I dated this guy in college who contended that he was a big Harry Potter fan. And at first glance, I guess he was. He was familiar with many of the characters, believed that any book that got kids to read was fantastic, and found the charges against the books of witchcraft to be ridiculously ubsurd. He even gave me a book talking about religious symbolism in the books. That aside, at the time that we broke up, I don't know that he had once read a single one of the books. Everything he knew about the series, he knew from the movies.

Now, granted, at the time we were dating, The Order of the Phoenix was just about to come out, so the movies weren't that far behind the books. And I'm sure that, in the four plus years that have passed since we have gone our separate ways, he has probably read a few of the books. But still, really.

This is all prelude to my discovery this past weekend that there actually are human beings on this earth who have yet to read a few of the HP books. One of my coworkers has just begun reading the series with the intention of getting it read by the time the seventh book comes out. Hmmm.

BTW, does anyone have any cool ideas about what to do for a Harry Potter party for 8-12 year olds?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


When I was in high school, we were studying the concept of alcohol addiction in health class, and the teacher discussed the idea of an "enabler." An enabler, according to him, was someone who defended and/or protected the alcoholic, like making excuses for him/her, and in the process sometimes encouraged the person to drink more.

I have come to the conclusion that alcoholism is not the only addiction that has enablers. Two days ago, I was at church, and a friend of mine came up to me and said, "If the guy at the yarn shop calls me today, would you like to go this afternoon?"

Dangerous words to a compulsive knitter. I mean, really, my stash is already taking over the living room, and I have so many projects on the needles that I'll be knitting for the rest of my life. I don't need an excuse to go to a yarn shop, and when I do, I always end up spending far more than I ever have the money for. And yet, when she called me later that day, of course I went. I mean, really. It's a yarn shop.

So we went, and I spent far too much money, mainly because, in the process of looking for something I can knit for my father, S picked up this variegated blue wool, held it up to my face and said, "Since you're not looking for yourself, I won't tell you how good you look with it." She then preceded to pull me over to a nearby mirror and show me. It was the perfect color. I was hooked. I, who had planned on getting some soft alpaca for my dad's sweater, and two skeins of soy yarn to make into socks, listened to S, who said, "Your father can wait. Get this for yourself," forgot completely about the alpaca and picked up the blue wool. It is now on two needles at home, and is going to be made into a ribbed sweater.

S is my enabler. She feeds my addiction for all things woolly, and I, of course, am helpless to defend myself against her. And she will remain my friend for life.

Oh, and I got the two skeins of soy for the socks, too.

My Things

There's been some questions, and it's been a while since the 23 Things started, so I thought I should probably explain to people who haven't been following what exactly I'm talking about. At work, there's been the initiative to introduce new technologies to all of us. It's called Learning 2.0, and it has 23 steps ("Things") for people to do. The premise is that we would do each step, and then blog about it to show that we actually did it (creating a blog was actually one of the steps). I completed all 23 of them back in April, but I've decided that since I did a lot of them just to say I did them, I'm going to go back and do some of them over again. This way, I can get more experience with them, and know what it is that some of my patrons are talking about when they come up and start throwing weird technology words at me :) And plus, it's fun!

If you are interested in learning more about these various and sundry steps, you can check out the link below (hopefully it works. copying and pasting might be necessary)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A New Pattern

I bring in my knitting to work so I can work on it during my lunch break. The past two weeks, I finished two pairs of socks. Of course, I didn't use up all of my yarn, so I'm going to have to start another pair pretty soon. I just can't think of anything else that I can use with this particular yarn when I only have two skeins. But in the meantime, I've started with a sweater that will be a Christmas present to someone this year. (I'm only doing this because the needles required are larger and are not as horrendous for my carpal tunnel. The socks will return soon.)

Some of my coworkers think that the fact that I can string loops of yarn through other loops of yarn is just down right the coolest thing since sliced bread (although they would never think to ask me to teach them how to do it). The problem is that a few others also know how to knit (and are just as fiber-obsessed as I am, if not more so). One of them has given me a dilemma. She has this pattern for what she calls a "Probability Scarf." You take six different types of yarn, preferably in six different colors, and assign each one a number. Then, knit every row with a different color, rolling a die to find out which one you want to use. She says that this a great way to use up leftover yarn.

This is a problem for me. I had already thought that that was what socks were for. Now I have another way to use up my leftovers. Oh dear. Oh, the combinations I could come up with when doing a project like this...

Monday, July 02, 2007

A new thing whatever number this is... - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I chose this particular image, just because it looked homey and nice. While I'm not an overly huge coffee fan, I thought it creates a nice picture. And you can use your own imagination over what it's never too late for...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A New Thing 7

So, after I spent about twenty minutes trying to figure out how to create a trading card for myself (and it's a really bad picture of me, because it was a little small, so when it was uploaded into the trading card, the resolution got messed up), I was now confronted with the challenge of figuring out how to schedule things in the meeting room, and now I am confused again. *sigh* Blasted software applications.

This reminds me of a conversation I had once when I was in college. The guy I was dating at the time was (and I suppose he still is) really into computer science and software stuff. I, while not averse to new technology, still harbor a fondness for the not-so-cutting-edge. My parents had a typewriter that they were allowing me to use, and I was taking advantage of the opportunity. I can still remember David's response when I mentioned this to him: "Why on earth would you be using a typewriter? They're so archaic!"

I didn't mention to him that typewriters are healthier for you. Studies have shown that, because of the way they are forced to hold their hands as they type, people who type using manual typewriters are less likely to develop carpal tunnel than people who do not.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thing 6 Again

W O O Scrabble Letter L
G A T DSCN5659 E R I DSCN7054 G

Ah-hah! I think I have done it!

A New Thing 6

Wild Wineberries Drained
Originally uploaded by jjfbaltzell
I tried finding this picture with Flickr Color Pickr, but I've come to the conclusion that that particular tool is really just for browsing rather than looking for a specific image. In the meantime, I'm attempting to have some fun with Trip Planner in an effort to add the hundreds of pictures that I'm going to be taking on my vacation to Europe this fall. I also played around with Spell with Flickr, but wasn't able to figure out how to publish the images. If anyone else knows how, let me know. I'm confused.

But back to this picture. When I was a child, we had a large wineberry bush in our backyard. We also had a couple of black raspberry bushes, in other parts of our yard. I mentioned this at work yesterday (I don't remember what we had been discussing earlier)and received a myriad of blank stares. What in the world were wineberries? Were they a cousin to grapes? Did I possibly mean raspberries?

No, I insisted. Wineberries are a completely different berry than raspberries. They are the same approximate size and shape as black raspberries, but they're bright red and tarter in taste. Its foliage is also fuzzier (and therefore have less thorns) than the foliage of raspberries.

In the picture, the dark berries are black raspberries (I'm assuming. Since I don't know the person who posted this picture, I can't just call him/her up and ask.) The bright red ones, even though they may look like red raspberries, are wineberries.

Since I moved away from home, however, I have been hard pressed to find a good wineberry bush. Does anyone know where they might be found? What about any good recipes? It would be neat to bring something into work for all of my coworkers who have never heard of this delicious food.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In which I decide to go back and do a couple of the 23 things over again...

Peaceful meadow
Originally uploaded by santi_rf
Way back in April, I went for a drive, got completely and utterly lost in the Maryland countryside and ended up in Sharpsburg. (For those of you who are not big on American history, Sharpsburg is the site of a major Civil War battle also known as the Battle of Antietam.) Since I was there, I decided to take advantage of the National Park Service facilities and have a look around. At one point in the park, visitors have the opportunity to climb a tower that offers a nice view of the battlefield and the surrounding countryside. It was a relatively dreary spring day, the park was quiet, and it had been misting off and on all afternoon, so as I stood up in that tower and looked out at the history around me, I had the good fortune of being the only human within eyesight of the structure. Depending on where in the tower you happened to be standing, you could look out and see absolutely nothing that told you that anything of any historical significance ever took place. No houses, no stone monuments, no cannons. Just rolling hills and South Mountain.

Now, you're probably wondering what in the world this has to do with the above picture. Well, as I was looking out over misty Maryland countryside, I was able to hear the mooing of several bovine who were milling around in some nearby farmland. These bovine were not visible from the tower, but it was a really euphoric experience to stand there in the tower and listen to the gentle mooing sounds. In a time when suburban development and McMansions are sprawling all over the place (at least in my neck of the woods), speed limits are always ignored (even by me, I admit it), and it's virtually impossible to go anywhere and see pure, unadulterated countryside, it was an amazing experience just to be the only human around, standing there in the rain and listening to the cows. What an amazing natural high.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thing 23-- Wahoo!

I can honestly say that I enjoyed this discovery journey. There were, of course, some things I enjoyed doing more than others, and some things that I did not enjoy doing at all. But over all, I believe that it was an enjoyable experience.

When I started the different exercises, I began with every good and perfect intention of doing each step on time (which didn't happen) and learning from each one (which did). Later on through the experience, as the winter months progressed, even when I was getting squeezed with a variety of pressing engagements, I decided that, despite the fact that I thought the various steps were coming a little too quickly, I would press on, simply because I wanted the MP3 player at the end of it all.

I don't know how many of the things I learned I will keep up on later. Some I have continued to use on a regular basis, and some I have not. I think that will be the same for everyone, but I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience new technologies, regardless of how much I enjoyed them, or how much I plan on using them in the future. (At least now, I know what a lot of them are, and whether or not they're useful to me.)

There will never be an end to the acquisition of knowledge. We will all continue to learn new things and to pass on that knowledge to others (after all, isn't that part of what being a librarian is all about?). The day we cease to learn, we cease to live.

And so, in the immortal words of Winston Churchill, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. Let us press on, learning as much as we possibly can, and in doing so, live life to its possible fullest.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thing 22

I've never been an overly huge fan of audiobooks. If you want to look at a particular passage more closely, you have to rewind or go back to the previous section, and it's much more cumbersome than simply making your eyes scan up a few lines. And no matter how good of a reader the narrator is, for me, the dialogue always sounds better in my own mind.

That aside, like podcasts, I can understand why many people think they are superneat. Maybe after I get my MP3 player, I'll end up listening to them more. I did come across several books on NetLibrary that I wouldn't mind reading at some point.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Thing 21

Podcasts. Unless I absolutely have to (like for these exercises), I try not to listen to them. I prefer to read instead, because then I can focus in on what interests me, rather than listening to someone/something else. It's kind of like reading a book as opposed to listening to one. I'm the type of person who likes to focus on the actual plot, which I can't do if I'm listening to one, because I tend to zone out from time to time.

That aside, I realize that there are people out there who think they are the coolest thing since sliced bread, so I'll just let you all continue in your opinions.

I think I've managed to add the RSS feed of PALINET to my blog. I'm on their listserve and never pay any attention to it. Maybe now, I'll be more on track of it all (Ha, ha, ha...)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Thing 20

Well, here is the URL for the little blurp I watched. It provided some levity for the day. I didn't know they even had rabbit jumping shows.....

I'm not particularly fond of this tool. I watched a couple of little filmlets, and I don't really see the point. It's kind of like Funnies Home Videos. If I filmed myself or my family, why would I want to broadcast it on tv or post it on the Internet?

But the bunnies are pretty cute....

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Thing 19

I think that this could be a very useful step. I just picked one, Propsmart, and found a lot of things that can be really useful, particularly within a library. Propsmart is for real estate, which I picked because I enjoy looking at open houses and going through house plans. The cool thing about this site is that you can search by zip code or name of town, and then look for houses for sale and apartments for rent, and it will even show you on the map where each property is located. This could be very useful for people who are looking to move, whether they're new to an area, or are moving to a specific area. The only downside was that I didn't prefer how their filters were set up (when I'm looking for a house, I want to look at properties up to a certain price, not necessarily at a specific number -- but that's just me, others could be different).

Again, a very useful procrastination tool. Here is the link if anyone wishes to play...

Thing 18

Ok, THIS is way super cool. I love to write, and I'm always having various plotlines and stories floating around in my imagination. How come nobody told me about any of this before?

I can definitely see this as a major procastination tool, in addition to being loads of fun...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Thing 17

Ok, I am totally and completely lost. Is a wiki the same as a login account? And I didn't particularly like the directions for adding my blog to the list of favorites. It took me a while to figure that out as well.

Thing 16

Ok, this was a useful exercise. Despite my reservations about using Wikipedia (simply for the fact that it is a wiki, and therefor can be edited by anyone), some of these wikis are really cool. Right after I graduated from library school, I volunteered at a school for autistic children that couldn't afford a paid librarian. They had a room and some books, and that was about it. I could have used some of these websites then, particularly the ones that provide cataloging info!

Thing 13

Ok, I might be back on track here; I've finally sat down to do Thing 13...

I don't think I like I can see where it might be useful for doing research, but I don't know that I want other people to know what all I've tagged. If I want other people to know what I'm interested in, I'll tell them. I don't feel comfortable having the entire world seeing everything that I've tagged. I don't believe I'll be creating an account here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thing 15

A friend of mine from grad school recently sent me a goofy forward that shows a little video clip of a monk discovering the book for the first time. Apparently, he was used to reading from a scroll, and could not figure out how to read a book. This "fuss" about library 2.0 reminds me of that e-mail. Technology is always growing and changing. If we, as librarians, human beings, and members of society, wish to survive, we have to change with it. That change can be as simple as going from a scroll to a book, or it can be the more complex changes that we're seeing today. Either way, librarians have to change with the times and with the technologies, regardless of what those changes bring about. Library 2.0 is not a new. It's just a new way to describe an old idea.

Thing 14

Ok, I know I'm a little out of order here, but I haven't had much luck getting some time where I can do Thing 13, so I'm going to skip it for the time....

That aside, Thing 14. I don't see the point of this step. OF COURSE your results are going to be different if you search by different ways! If I rank ten of my copious books by author, the list is going to be completely different if I rank them by title, or if I rank them by how many times I've read them. So, it seems to me to be fairly obvious that if I look for a specific word in blog posts, the results are going to be different than if I look for that word in tags or blog directory.

And I'm getting pretty tired of reading about Anna Nicole Smith (she's making more waves now that she's dead than she ever did when she was alive) and Brittany Spears (can't we talk about Nationwide's Super Bowl commercials instead?).

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Thing 12

This is interesting, and another definite procrastination tool. I had a lot of fun looking up links for my searchroll, and I could go at this for quite some time. I've included the link below. Knitting is a passion for me, so it only made sense to make a roll for patterns.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Thing 11

Ahh, Library Thing.... I actually discovered this amazing resource some time ago when another student in grad school got me hooked on it. It is an amazing procrastination tool, and I go back to it on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I have yet to post very many of my books on it, so here is the link to my library, and in my coming spare time ;-), I will get around to putting in more titles

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

My Feeds

Wahoo! It only took me half the day, but I have finally figured out how to get my Feeds listed the way I wanted!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Thing 10

I had a lot of fun playing around with this step. I particularly enjoyed looking through all the different generators and seeing what I can do with them. I must admit I have absolutely no idea if the recipe I have here makes anything at all, but people are welcome to try it if they wish :-). It probably makes something similar to a popover; I just had fun coming up with something to put on the sign.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Thing 9

Ok, now that I have moved my feeds, I must now say that I am totally and completely lost. How do I embed the feeds of other blogs? Every time I've tried to add the feed of someone's blog onto my page, it always comes up "invalid URL". I'm confused.

That aside, after doing part of Thing 9 during Thing 8, I think I liked using Blogline's feed directory the best. It was orderly, neat, and to the point; and I didn't have to go through numerous hoops and windows to find the right feeds. I originally liked Syndic8, but I couldn't really find very many feeds that interested me.

Is anyone else as befuffled as I am?

Thing 8

Ok, I'm a little behind here, but here is the URL for my bloglines account.

And I wasn't able to get all my feeds into my blog, but the ones that are there, check at the bottom of the page. They should be there.

I don't think I particularly enjoyed this step....

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Thing 7

Ok, a post about technology, any technology. (Does that mean I can write about the wheel?)

Last spring, I was visiting my family over Easter, and my brother, who is a self-proclaimed computer nerd, said to me, "Librarians will always need computers, but computer people will not always need librarians."

I took this to mean that he was of the growing percentage of people who believe that everything is online nowadays, and if you can't find it there, then it really isn't worth finding. I refrained from getting into the inevitable debate that NOT EVERYTHING IS ON GOOGLE! (only about 10%, actually, according to a study done by OCLC). Instead, I patiently pointed out his error in a different manner: that a good librarian should be knowledgeable enough with his/her collections that he/she can still provide the best of service, even when there are no computers around. He was impressed, but I think he still believes that everything worth finding is online.

So, are we good librarians whose level of service is dependent on our knowledge of our collection rather than our computer-saavyness, or have we, like the rest of the developed world, become too dependent on technology?

Slow Down!

Could I just say that I think we're moving way too fast here? I like to think that, belonging to the generation that grew up with computers, I'm relatively up-to-speed with them; but I'm having trouble keeping up. And I know that if I'm having trouble, most of the people doing Learning 2.0 are as well. I think we need to have a better system regarding this, and we definitely need to slow down the postings.

Thing Six

I have played around with Flickr now for a couple of days, and I have come to the following conclusion: I don't see the point of it. Sure, there are a lot of pictures on this site, and it's great that people can share for free, but I have a digital camera. Why should I have to go through the hassle of registering and setting up a Flickr account when I can just upload my own photos from my own camera?

Ok, that aside, Thing 6: One of the tools I found interesting was TripperMap, or Flickr World Map ( It allows you to put a Flash-based map on your website or blog, then goes through Flickr to find information on the photos you have taken so it can plot them on the map. Another tool I really liked was ColrPickr ( I had a lot of fun browsing through the different colors and looking at the different pictures I found. *This is a marvelous procrastination tool, not to be taken lightly ;) *.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Thing 5

I tried uploading this photo from Flickr, and I couldn't get it to work right, so I've decided just to include the link: If anyone figures out how to upload directly from the Internet, let me know.

This picture reminds me of some of my undergrad days of yore. I majored in English literature, and in my classes on Restoration literature and drama, we learned that in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the theatre was THE place to go for gossip and entertainment. People went there not just to watch the show, but also to watch each other. In fact, Pepys includes in his journal a scene from when he went to the theatre and observed the conversation between two people nearby him. He doesn't mention the play much at all, but focuses on the people around him. Although you can't really see it in this view, this picture is of the seats across the theatre from the photographer (if you look closely at the left side of the picture, you can see a small glimpse of the stage). I don't know what was the reasoning behind the person taking this particular picture, but I have always believed that it's just as fun to watch people watching a show as it is to watch the show itself. Think about it: when we go to see live entertainment, don't we go just as much for the social aspect (getting out of the house, seeing other people) as we do for the entertainment aspect of the show itself?

Friday, January 05, 2007


Is Thing 5 up yet? I've noticed a couple of people have made comments about it, but I haven't seen any links to it....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More about 2.0

After about three days of puttering about, trying to find the database where we record our progress, I have finally figured it out. As several of my coworkers have already announced, it's a really clunky way of doing it. And then, once I actually got the DB up, and found my name, I accidently closed myself out, because I didn't realize how many windows were open. *sigh*

I hate MS Access

My Monthly Rant

I have come to the conclusion that the fashion trends have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Last week, I decided that I needed a few pick-me-ups in my wardrobe for me to wear in to work, and went out shopping. I went in at least ten different stores and only found two items to wear. Everything else I found was either hideously expensive, or for the corporate setting. There was practically nothing for people who work with the public (i.e. kids). I ended up going to a fabric store and buying several yards of material for me to sew my own clothes.

Maybe there is some hidden meaning in all of this. I mean, I know I'm one of those weird people who are short and curvy, but it's not like my body is so unusual that they simply don't make things in my size. Many of the business suits I saw would have fit me perfectly, so I know it isn't me. Maybe the message is trying to be that if people actually took the time to figure out exactly how much time, money, and effort went into making an article of clothing, we wouldn't be so materialistic about it all. I'm one of those few people in the world who actually can make her own clothing. I have recently come to the conclusion that since I'm perfectly capable of knitting, I shouldn't have to spend money on buying sweaters. Maybe this is the message I'm supposed to get out of my shopping experience. There are many women out there who have sewing machines and who sew, myself included. What's stopping us from making our own clothing, as opposed to getting other people to make them for us?