Friday, May 30, 2008

Re-inventing the Wheel

This is probably something that every knitter but me knew already, but I just fixed the mistake I made on Tuesday--it has taken me three days to figure out something this simple (I shouldn't even be admitting it). I had dropped a bunch of stitches on my sock cuff, recovered all but one of them, and I just could not find that missing stitch. The more I struggled, the farther the run ran, if that makes sense.

A few minutes ago, I thought of turning the cuff inside out, and there was the dropped stitch! Just sitting there, waiting to be picked up. I got out my crochet hook, picked up the stitch, re-worked it and now I'm all set!

I realize that I could probably have asked another knitter for advice, but someone too dim-witted to think of looking at the inside of the cuff is also too dim-witted to ask for help...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bits and Pieces

#1 First Class?

My friend and her husband just returned from a seventeen-day vacation in Europe. They made their flight reservations just under a year in advance so that they could use points and get first-class seats. Lovely… On the flight over, when the airlines like you to pretend that it’s night and bedtime, my friend noticed that the man behind her was breathing weirdly. She looked back a few times, but his wife had her eyeshades on and was sleeping soundly. The man appeared to be sleeping also, but breathing noisily.

In the morning, as the plane was about to land, a member of the flight crew announced that all passengers needed to stay in their seats upon landing because a medical team needed to board the plane. The medical crew went to the man behind my friend, and determined that he was dead. His wife kept protesting, saying that he had been “fine just a little while ago.” Apparently not.

The crew whispered to each other but my friend could hear part of the discussion. “We need to get the passengers off the plane.” Everyone was allowed to leave.

I told my friend that at least her vacation could only have gone uphill from that point on. But really, wouldn’t you think that flight attendants in first class—and even in cattle class, for that matter--would at least NOTICE that one of their passengers was no longer among the living? Just a thought.

#2 I Hate to Dust.

I really, really do. I don’t like to do any cleaning, but dusting is my least favorite part of it. I suppose there are people who like to clean, people who really enjoy how wonderful everything looks when the cleaning is finished. Not me. I know that if I can see a big difference between the before and the after, way too much time has elapsed between the two.

I blame this attitude on my parents. My mother went back to work when I reached middle school and as a result, my sister and I were assigned cleaning the whole house on Saturdays. As we cleaned the house, and fought about who was to clean what, my brother got to do the fun stuff outdoors, where we longed to be, like mowing the lawn and raking leaves. #$%^& sexist upbringing!

So that’s why I hate to dust.

#3 Why I Shouldn’t Knit While I Am Being Assaulted by the Medical Profession.

Yesterday I had to get a cortisone shot in my knee, and as I hate having this done, I decided to take my latest OTN sock with me to distract me. I couldn’t knit while the Dr. was injecting my foot; I had to concentrate on not kicking him. There is lidocaine mixed in with the cortisone, but it arrives at the same time as the cortisone does and doesn’t really work anywhere near quickly enough. I did knit as I sat in the exam room after it was over, while the Dr. decided what to do with me next. Then I had to shove the knitting in my purse so that I could hobble down the hall to the room where I waited to make an appointment for an MRI. There was a boy about eight or nine years old there with his mother, and he whispered to her, asking what I was doing. She whispered back that it looked as if I was knitting a sock. His reply? “It’s going to take a really long time to get a sock that way.” Yes, it is, especially now that I have to frog a good bit of it.

Anyway, as I sat there trying not to think about the PAIN, I messed up big time. I came home and tried to sort the whole thing out, but I can’t. If my knee had been working well today, I would have gone to my LYS to get help, but that will have to wait. I should have taken a book, or better yet, just read the mind-numbing People magazine in the office. That’s what they are for, I guess.

#4 More on Plagiarism.

The Dean of Student Affairs at the school where I taught writing just e-mailed me to say that he caught a student plagiarizing her final paper. She failed the course, and when she called to complain about the F, he told her that plagiarism results in failing the course. She replied that it wasn’t her fault. She had asked a friend to write the paper, and the friend hadn’t told her that he had taken the whole thing from Wikipedia. Nice try! She missed the point that taking anyone else’s writing, whether it’s a friend’s or Wikipedia’s, is plagiarism. One of my students plagiarized from Wikipedia also, and I just don’t understand why they consider that to be a legitimate source in the first place!

#5 Why Young People Have Children

Older daughter has three children ages seven and under, and another on the way. She’s not crazy (yet); she and her husband just love kids. But she also has double ear infections and possibly a perforated ear drum. OUCH! But does she farm the kids out, ask her husband to watch them, or otherwise arrange time to recover? Nope. She just keeps going, plus doing the writing job she can do from home. If it were me, as an older parent (and there are lots of them out there---grandparents who have had to take over raising grandchildren, or people who have adopted later in life), I would be sending them out, poorly dressed, to trick-or-treat until someone took them in and fed them. Or I’d put them in foster care.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Adding Injury to Insult

A friend of mine says, any time that I complain about getting older, “Getting old is not all it’s cracked up to be.” Not that I’m old. I’m older-ish. But honestly, if you thought life was fair, wait till you’re older-ish. Things go wrong and it’s just not fair.

Your hair goes gray or white, unless you pay big bucks to return it to its original color. Your teeth are yellowish, unless you pay big bucks to whiten them. You haven’t any idea what to wear, since in your mind, you’re still in your thirties, but when you go to the Gap, Ann Taylor or J. Crew, everything is size 0 or 2, and you get the idea they REALLY don’t want you in there. (Order from the internet, please, where no-one sees you. You’re not our desired demographic.) So you decide you should shop at Talbots and Chicos, but your younger daughter says “Please don’t go there.” And once, when she was with you and all you did was walk toward the table that had holiday-themed sweaters on them, she said loudly, “Step away from the sweaters.” I wasn’t going to buy one; they were just in the path of what I was going to look at. Honest. I’m not that far gone yet.

Your older daughter, referring to some “older” people in the audience for a reading by David Sedaris, says that she worried that they would be offended, since they were “older” and all. I told her that they were just young people in older bodies. Sigh…

You have physical things go wrong, things that should only happen to OLD people, not to you. I have had inflammation of the bursa sacs in my shoulders and in my right knee. When I whined to my older daughter about it, she said, “Oh, bursitis.” No. Bursitis is what old people get. I have inflammation in the bursa sacs.

Since we’ve moved to Georgia, I’ve had surgery for plantar fasciitis (caused perhaps by too much tennis, not by aging! I played tennis three to five times a week for almost the whole eleven years I lived in Florida.) I’ve had surgery to remove a non-cancerous (thank goodness) thyroid. And I’ve had sinus surgery.

But now the worst insult of all! I have a knitting-related injury that may require surgery(according to the surgeon--big surprise). It’s just NOT FAIR. It’s knitting, not skiing, not running, not sky-diving or any kind of diving. KNITTING!!! I have apparently wrecked the joint at the base of my thumb and will eventually need (I am putting this off through the time-honored tactic of denial) surgery, to scrape out all the bad stuff and put in some substance to replace the damaged bone. Ick. And it requires recovery time and physical therapy and NO KNITTING for some period of time. So I knit conservatively, take ibuprofen, and ignore the problem. We’ll see how long this all works.

But for DOG’s sake, a knitting injury?!?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Which House Has the Crazy People In It?

My husband and I live in a neighborhood that has covenants and an architectural review committee. Anything a resident wants to do that will affect the appearance of his house or yard must be approved. I'm not necessarily a fan of this sort of control; it just happens to exist in most of the neighborhoods around here. Once when my realtor son-in-law was visiting, we were discussing the merits and disadvantages of having covenants and an ARC. He asked, "If everything looks the same, how do you know which house has the crazy people in it?" Good point.

When I was a child living in a small town outside of Syracuse, New York, my siblings, friends and I knew where the crazy person lived. He lived just a short distance from my house and we had to walk past his house (I don't know why, but we assumed it was a he) every day on our way to and from school, from grade school through high school. The house was around the corner from our house and part way down a hill. It was tucked back on the neglected lot, behind lots of overgrown weeds, trees and shrubs. There was a puddle just between the edge of the street and the beginning of the yard that belonged to the house. Legend had it that the small puddle was quicksand. In my memory, the puddle was ALWAYS there, no matter the time of year. It didn't freeze over in the winter, and it didn't evaporate in hot weather. None of us was ever brave enough, or to our minds, foolhardy enough, to step in it. We never saw the man who lived in the house. Ever. But at Christmas time each year, in a glass display case that was always on a post in front of the house, there appeared a creche. We never saw anyone put it there. We never saw anyone take it down after the Christmas season was over.

We concluded that whoever lived in that house must have been a crazy person. After all, what other sort of a person would have quicksand, and not do something about it? What other sort of a person could manage to never be seen by anyone, not even by our parents? And what other sort of a person would put a creche out for everyone to see, and yet never bother to meet the neighbors he presumably put the creche out for? We didn't trick or treat there, we didn't sell Girl Scout cookies there, and we didn't ask for any sort of school-related donations there. We didn't dare.

I haven't been back to my hometown in over thirty-five years, and I suppose that if the person who lived in that house was the age of my parents, he may not still be alive. I'll never know who he was, whether he really was a crazy person or just an incredibly shy person. But I think that as children, we preferred not to know. It was just so very scary, and just so very exciting, to have such a mystery in our lives. And we knew which house had the crazy person in it.
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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Obsessed with Socks

The knitting of them, that is. Years ago, many years ago, I tried to knit a pair. My mother-in-law knit them constantly, pair after pair, but only for her husband. I thought, "If she can do it, so can I." This thought happens once in a while and gets me in trouble. When I was in college, I spent ten months knitting a cable-knit Irish sweater out of lovely wool, because someone else was, and if she could.....

When I was in my twenties, I decided that I could wash said sweater. Yes, I could and I did. But then I couldn't wear it again. And neither could anyone else. It felted, really, really felted. That was a hard lesson to learn. I still have the sweater, and if I can bear to cut into it, I may make it into a bag--with lovely, brown leather handles I've seen at my local yarn shop.

But back to the socks. The pair that I started years ago because if my mother-in-law........I sent the OTN half-finished sock to her along with directions and the rest of the yarn. I don't know if she finished them or not. I'm sure she was not impressed with my lack of stick-to-it-ive-ness, but she was a nice mother-in-law and never said a word.

More recently, I've been going to a knit night at my LYS for over a year, and many of the women there knit socks (among many other amazing things) and I always said to them that I would NEVER knit socks. Nope. Not me. However, I am not a good enough knitter to go into a knit shop, see yarn I love, and know how much to buy to knit a sweater or whatever. I have to have a pattern with me. But one evening, Susan, who now works at the knit shop, told me that I could always buy sock yarn. A light bulb moment. And so I have--bought and bought and bought.

I just finished a pair knit from the new Noro sock yarn. There are some problems with this yarn, and some people just don't like it. After I came to the knot when I got to the bottom of a seven-inch cuff, I was among those swearing at Noro sock yarn. But I kept at it, through the thick and thin of the stuff, and the scratchy, stringiness of it, and finished the socks. I love them!

I'm now on the next pair, but not of Noro, just nice, ordinary, soft sock yarn. And I'm bored! I want to knit with Noro again. The colors are spectacular. But I have to finish the current pair, and I hope I don't get tired of knitting socks any time soon. I have so much sock yarn stash!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

If I Hadn't Been Sure Before

Last night was my last class. I've been teaching Academic Writing 121 as an adjunct instructor for a Florida-based Catholic University for about four years. My classes have been held at a military base in Georgia. I've enjoyed meeting so many military members--the classes are held on military bases throughout the southeast and our contract with the military makes the school a bit different from others. The military promises recruits that they can go to school at the DOD's expense, but doesn't tell them that they have to be college material. We aren't allowed to use SAT scores or any requirements other than that they can write a check for $35 that doesn't bounce. So we get students who, because of their intelligence level or because of poor preparation from previous schools, really don't belong in college. My course is one of the first ones they take, so I get quite a few below-par students. It's difficult to assign a failing grade to a student who has failed, but who has survived several tours in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Most of the military students are just ideal students, regardless of their ability levels. They are so grateful to be in college and for most of them, access to college is why they joined the military.
Then there are the students who only want the degree, not the education. They tend to be the poorer students, in terms of ability. They plagiarize, and they are really bad at it, which makes it easy to spot. Last night two students turned in plagiarized papers. One had done this previously in my class, and I had explained to him (when he protested and said that he had written the paper himself) that blue hyperlink text does not appear in normal writing. I also told him that the different types and sizes of fonts in his paper was a clue. He re-wrote the paper after changing the topic. It was off-topic and probably written by him since it was poorly written. I was concerned that all I had accomplished was teaching him how to plagiarize better, and that turned out to be what happened. The paper he turned in last night was clearly plagiarized, was off topic, and didn't make much sense. But the blue hyperlink text was gone. I was able to google a couple of sentences and find his source, from which he had copied text word for word. He fails the course.

The second student has been flying under the radar for the whole course. I wasn't suspicious of him at all until last week when he turned in his rough draft for a compare and contrast essay. There were no mistakes in it. I gave it back to him, and last night he turned in the final copy. I googled a few sentences from it, and up popped the source. This man is a polite, gentlemanly, forty-something student, and I am so disappointed in him. He fails the course also.

I had decided before this term started that I didn't want to teach for St. Leo anymore. The commute is over seventy miles roundtrip, and the security at the base is annoying. (If it made sense, that would be fine, but it's very erratic and nonsensical. It's outsourced and that may explain part of the problem.) Also, I am only allowed to teach the one course because my Masters is in education rather than in English. My undergraduate degree is in English, but that doesn't allow me to meet St. Leo's requirements. I'm tired of the course.

If I had had any second thoughts about my decision, getting the two plagiarized papers last night would have taken care of that. I asked the Dean of Student Affairs if I was a cop or a teacher. He thought for a moment, then answered, "As an English teacher, you're probably mostly a cop, because of the plagiarism issue."

No thanks. I'm done.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Joining the masses

I've been reading blogs for about a year or so, and could not come up with a reason to write one myself. But today, I read Barb Cooper's blog which was about why she writes, and she convinced me. I don't know if anyone will ever read this, which is ok, but I'll have fun writing it and putting ideas to paper. I teach writing, so I should practice what I preach!

Basically, this is just a place to write, when the spirit moves me. And by spirit, I mean the writing gods, no religious connections intended. My muse. If I have one.