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.