Monday, November 26, 2007

Ravelry and RSS feeds

I don't speak much code, and the little code that I do know is stuff that I tripped over accident. So, after about 20 minutes of looking at other blogs' page source information, I managed to piece together an RSS feed for Better Than Yarn.

I think this is pretty cool, only because I did this on my own, and then asked Mike to take a look at it to see if it looked right. Ok, it does! But.

On Ravelry, apparently Blogdrive's RSS feed is too slow to be picked up. This is a major drag. At this point, I'm not really sure what my options are, other than moving my blog elsewhere- and the only real hesitation there is that I'm not certain that I'll be able to just migrate over all the old blog posts. I really don't want to cut-and-paste four hundred individual posts.

So, I turn to you, my readers. Any ideas? Solutions?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Wet Dog Never Smelled So Good

We try to bathe the dogs at least once a month to keep them from smelling too dog-adelic. Playing at the park with other dogs doesn't help, but the once a month regimen seems to work well for everyone. Especially Niki, who loves to be toweled off.

Dog Bath Day takes two people, one to be in the tub enclosure and wash the dog (me), and one to feed treats. We do a lot of treat-based positive behavior reinforcement, and it works. For this reason, the dogs love going to the vet, getting bathed, and having their teeth brushed.

Niki, our Alpha dog, gets bathed first. He'll hop into the tub (on command), and let us bathe him for 15-20 minutes before getting restless.

Once he's out (and gently toweled), Elphie gets help into the tub (she doesn't like to jump onto slippery surfaces). She's a smaller dog with significantly less fur, so it takes much less time to get her clean.

When we're done, they smell like Tea Tree Oil and look like this:

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Birthday Insanity

November 22nd, Thanksgiving:

For Thanksgiving we went to the Plumed Horse. It's a terrific restaurant- it had a very classic feel before, now it's got a hip-per feel to it. Though I'm not a fan of "hip", the food and wine are still excellent. We had their Thanksgiving tasting menu (with the wine pairings), and it was all mind-blowingly amazing.

After dinner, we dropped Mom off at home, and headed over to the in-laws. The plan was, have some dessert, exchange names, go home.

At every in-law gathering, my SIL starts a conversation about eating brains, predominance of elderly and white child molesters, or some other random or "unsavory" topic. I feel that she does this to bait me into talking about it (which I try to do in an intelligent and academic way), and then does the teenage girl "Oh-my-God-you're-such-a-freak!" thing.

On Thanksgiving, one of the kids accidentally slipped and called her "Uncle", so she starts going on about gender reassignment. She started in about how "simple" it would be to become "Uncle".

A little knowledge can be dangerous, and I pointed out that from what I understood "M to F reassignment is usually more successful than F to M."

"M to F? F to M?" SIL asked.

"Male to Female. Female to Male," I said, and tried to leave it at that.

At this point, the discussion turned to how exactly one would construct a penis. Despite the small amount of knowledge I have, I refrained from sharing, refusing to be baited.

In my family of origin, this would be fairly common dinner conversation, without the insensitivity, in a genuine exchange of knowledge, regardless of the "appropriateness" of the dinner conversation.

After dinner, we headed home, and discussed the insanity of the sales going on the next day. Andrew mentioned that the Gilroy Outlets were starting their sales at midnight. Banana Republic was having 40% off of the whole store. Forty percent is enough for me to consider going just about anywhere.

Friday, November 23rd

Despite my plans to get up at 5 AM to be at Purlescence for the Pajama Jam Jammy sale at 6 AM, I agreed to go to the Outlets at midnight. So, at midnight, we get in the car, and drive. Around 1 AM, we are in Gilroy, stopped on 101. Not just stopped. Parked.

"It must be an accident. This can't be shopping traffic," Andrew said.

He turned on the radio. No accident.

"I'm sorry, if this is the traffic, I don't have the balls to do this," I tell Andrew, "Let's go home."

As we exited the Southbound freeway, and went over the ramp to get back North, I looked over, and for five solid miles, all you could see was bumper-to-bumper brake lights. I shuddered as we drove home.

We arrived home at 2 AM, I brushed my teeth, put on my pajamas, and fell into bed at 2:30.

5 AM: Alarm goes off. I call Cynthia to remind her that we're going, at her request. I wake Mom up. Curl up in bed for 15 more minutes to snuggle with Andrew and the dogs. (Snuggling the dogs is required, upsetting the routine is bad.)

5:30 AM: Brush teeth. Notice that my Thanksgiving makeup (applied less than 12 hours before) still looks fresh. Add nude lipstick. Wish for a swift and sudden death, since I am so tired the world is spinning. Regret all "good" ideas.

5:45 AM: Whine at Mom to get moving. Dither. Wonder if I can get out of the brunch plans I may have made before the "good" idea to go to the Gilroy sales.

6:00 AM: Start driving.

6:13 AM: Get a call from Cynthia, asking where we are. For once, we are late, and she is waiting for us. Mom and I laugh.

6:15 AM: Arrive at Purlescence. People are chipper. I collect the handful of items that I want to purchase, pay, and sit in a chair, trying to stay awake and not barf from exhaustion.

8:30 AM: Everyone finishes their purchases, and decide that they want to go to brunch. I agree.

8:45 AM: Get to Stacks, get on their ridiculous "list". Wait and complain. I secretly decide that Stacks is the devil, and I'm never going back. And their coffee sucks.

9:00 AM: Get seated. Eat. Let the Minions know that I'm planning to veg and eat cupcakes (in honor of the birthday), and they're welcome to join me.

We spent the rest of the day, spinning, knitting, vegging out, and Mom made me Devil cupcakes (at my request) based on a picture I found in Flickr.

[Photo by freakgirl, used with her permission.]

Cute, huh?
I'll post pictures of the haul from the sale later.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Day Off

It's my birthday.
There will be shopping, coffee, and excessive TV watching.
Party on.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two-ply, or not two-ply?

For my birthday and Christmas gifts, Andrew is giving me 21 bumps of Crown Mountain Superwash merino roving. If you've been reading the blog this last year, you've seen bump after bump turn into yarn, and eventually socks. When the new colors went up, I used every last ounce of resistance that I had, and when the Minions ordered theirs, I did not order a single bump.

Two days later, while I was driving home, I was listening to Lime and Violet, and they were talking about doing a co-op order. The Minions had placed an order large enough to get halfway there- mine would get us to about 80% of the total. I got on the phone with Klaus IMMEDIATELY, and got working on what we needed to do to qualify for the co-op pricing.

I'll say right now that I think he's much more accommodating than I would be (in his shoes). I made it easy for him, and placed one giant order, had him ship everything to my house (or headquarters for the local wool cartel), did some math, entered it in a spreadsheet, sent e-mails, and played wool fairy. Playing wool fairy was the best part.

Getting back to the topic at hand, at some point this last year, my two-ply became too thin to (realistically) knit socks with, so I transitioned over to 3-ply. 3-ply yarns are rounder and look more like "real" yarn. It made the color transitions much more subtle, which is different (not good or bad, necessarily), and I think that the 3-ply socks are wearing a little better.

My last bump of Crown Mountain (Wild Thing) turned into a light fingering weight. That's three plies of the wool and one ply of silk. I have shown myself that I can spin very fine yarn. The sick thing is that I LIKE it. It looks even real-ER than just 3-ply.

I've been spinning the Twist and Shout at that same, very fine weight on the Victoria, and I started a sweater spinning project on the Schacht.

(One ply of the Twist and Shout)

(This is the roving for the sweater.)

By force of whorl and will, I think the yarn for that sweater will be a light worsted weight 3-ply.

Here's the question: Now that I have better control of how my yarn comes out, should I spin it a little thicker and 2-ply it, do a slightly lighter 3-ply, or continue on with my current insanity?

I worry that if I change what I'm doing, I'll look back on the yarn and be annoyed that I didn't do the other two options, because CLEARLY those were better ideas. I have AMAZING powers of hindsight. With the generous 8.5 ounces, I could do both. It just requires a little more math.

You know how I love the math. There may also be an Excel spreadsheet, for added nerd points.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Holidays and “It”

I'm not one of those nice knitters who knits for everyone. "Nice" isn't really a word I would use to describe myself, but that's a whole different story.

I went to Purlescence for movie night, and Tony read one of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's short bits from The Yarn Harlot- "It", and I realized, that in the last seven years, I have NEVER been defeated by "It".

Maybe, it's because one year, where I thought I would knit for The Boyfriend's whole family, my mother sat down with me, and pointed out that I was killing myself over something that wouldn't matter to them. Fair enough. This whittled down the list from six knitted items, down to two. Baking is faster than knitting- and more appreciated by the non-knitters.

The first Christmas that Andrew and I were together, I was so in love (in lurve, even) with him, that I knit him a sweater. I knit him a sweater in Silky Wool on size US 3 and US 5 needles. I hunted down the missing color on the internet, and got it from an online yarn shop that was closing it's doors at the end of that week.

I finished it two days before Christmas. Ends woven in, and everything, so that he could wear it to the holiday stuff we were doing. I also didn't knit on it in front of him, which was a challenge. But I did it.

Since then, the only other Feat of Insanity was when I decided that in the two months between Stitches West and Andrew's birthday, I would knit him SIX pairs of size 12 men's socks. With colorwork. Clearly, I needed to up my meds. Those got finished, too- even though I wove in the ends right before I got to the restaurant for the birthday celebration.

For Christmas, I have usually only knitted my father a hat, to match whatever running suit Mom and Sam bought for him. This year, he asked for two. (Pictures to be posted when they're taken.) I'm also working on a Top Secret Project for _____ with _____. ______ totally kicked my butt on her half, so I have to catch up, or risk utter shame and a wicked asskicking from both _______ and _______. I bought the tools for success, so I should be able to get on that, but spinning has my heart for now. And possibly my liver and kidneys as well. But the holidays are coming, and I committed to doing this like two months ago. (My half is half done, so we're 75% there, minus the finishing.)

So, my Christmas knitting is limited to two hats, and ½ of the Top Secret Project.

Not bad for having more than 25 days to finish, right?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Black Sock Project

Andrew and I have been together for a little over six years. In this time, we've both gone through some significant life changes. (Duh.) While we were folding a long-overdue load of handknit socks, I asked Andrew to pull out his favorites.

From time to time, I like to try and gauge his tastes for future purchases (yarn, clothing, whatever), and I noticed that some of his former favorites are in the "giveaway" pile. I've been purging my handknit socks, which entails giving away 20-30 pairs of my handknit socks to make room for the new socks that I've finished. For whatever reason, I just don't love these socks anymore. Giving away unloved socks doesn't' phase me in the slightest.

Recently, Andrew asked me to knit him some black socks to wear to work. In 2002, his favorite socks were made out of the Mannings "Wool in the Woods" C.W. Ewe, his tastes are now running towards Trekking, Regia, and Meilenweit Jacquard. Thus began the Black Sock Project; all of the socks that I knit for him (for the time being) will be black-ish, until I've knit all of the black(ish) yarn that I've bought for him.

Want some examples? Here you go:

I think that the funniest part of the conversation was where he was surprised that the socks had lasted six years- and his tastes had changed before the socks wore out.

If you want to see the progress of the Black Sock Project, you can see it on my Ravelry page. For now, I'll be plugging away at alternative black socks for Andrew- and Day-Glo socks for me.

You know, to keep the universe balanced. I'm all about the balance.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The land in which customer service is king

I'll be honest with you- if I'm treated poorly in a store, I won't go back. Having learned the valuable lesson about financial independence at the ripe old age of six, I have always believed in the power of the consumer. [This lesson was courtesy of Auntie Wolf, which I'll likely post soon.] Good customer service always warrants praise; bad customer service warrants the dreaded word-of-mouth anecdotal kiss-of-death.

I shop at stores where I am treated well, and I buy products that are of the quality that their pricing dictates. I won't post pictures of yarn from companies that do not stand behind their products. If I have noticed a problem with their yarn, and they have not dealt with it to my satisfaction (knots, deceptive labeling, etc), they won't get any promotion here. I'm not so petty as to rip down posts where I had previously mentioned them, but I also won't give information that will help support what I consider to be bad business practices. I hold myself to certain standards of integrity, and as a reader, you are entitled to the fruits of my experience.

So, here is how I go about dealing with a product problem:

Step 1: Notice the problem.

Step 2: Call the LYS that I bought it at. If I ordered it directly from the company, call them. Politely address the issue.

I'm going to emphasize the politeness. Nobody likes dealing with a raging knitter. Take deep breaths, and remember that these are generally nice people who like knitting, knitters, and what they're doing. The nasty people are the exceptions, not the rule.

Try to laugh about the mishap, while still gently impressing the importance of the problem.

Step 2a: Call the company directly, if possible. Repeat schpiel from the LYS discussion, let them know that you've talked to the LYS.

Step 3: Work out a solution.

Step 4: Knit happily ever after.

So, for your reading (and shopping) pleasure, here is my most recent customer service experience with Claudia's Handpaints.

Phase 1: The Issue

The yarn: Claudia's Fingering weight merino- Ink, dyelot 004.

The project: Andrew socks, men's size 12. [For those playing the home game, that's 7" of cuff and 12" of foot.] One pair of many in the "Black Sock Project".

Ink socks, Take 1:

I cast on, and plowed through the first 6" of cuff. Knot. Okay, knots aren't cool, but one, I can deal with. Knit another 1/2". Four knots in less than ten yards. Uncool.

Go to Purlescence, show the Purl Girls. I fork over the cuff (7" at this point), and they happily hand over a new ball, and apologize for the inconvenience. Awesome.

Ink socks, Take 2:

Cast on. Plow through cuff, heel, instep. Go see Dan in Real Life. In the theater, knit 8" of foot. Knot. Sigh, consider the [7 + 8] 15 inches of sock knitted, plus the lost 7 inches [Home Game: 22" of menĂ¢€™s sock knitted so far], and decide to continue. Hit 7 total knots before the end of the foot, most of them, in the toe. Sigh, and complain at Andrew.

Phase 2: The Solution

Call Purlescence, show them the frequency of the knots (marked with stitch markers), laugh at the horror. E-mail Claudia.

At this point, I'm a little miffed. I weigh how much yarn I have left on the ball (5g), and talk to Andrew about using something different for the toes, because I'm not comfortable with so many knots being in the toe box of his shoes. What's the one thing I like less than knitting black socks? Darning black socks that Andrew has grown attached to.

I got a lovely phone call from one of Claudia's elves (whose name slips my mind at this moment), where we talked about what had happened, and how to resolve it. At the end of the call, everyone was happy, and I had a preview of what Purlescence is getting in the mail next week. (Bwa ha!) I also have the distinct pleasure of knowing that Claudia (& Co) really do care about putting forward quality products

Now, so do you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Life, Love, and Film

Or, a review of Dan in Real Life

When my wallet turned up, and we were tossing the newly-cancelled credit cards, Andrew and I realized that we had at least 20 free movie passes between the two of us. I had an AMC gift card that I got as a Christmas gift in 2005. I think between then and now, we used it once. I also have a discount move pass to my favorite independent theater, which was a Christmas gift in 2006, but we recharged recently.

I don't normally go to movies for a few reasons:

(1) Expensive. I think it's unreal to pay $15 to see a movie when you can buy it on DVD for the same price and watch it alone. I work during the day, and frankly, I'm inconvenienced by having to schedule my life around matinee pricing.

(Matinee pricing, in my opinion, is one of those things that keeps the rich wealthy. I have a whole spiel about the rich getting more for their money.)

(2) Other people. If I go to a movie, I don't want to hear you talking on your cell phone. I don't want to smell you. I especially don't want you kicking my chair, or chewing your popcorn loudly.

(3) Other people's children. I like well-behaved children, but you only notice the ill-behaved ones in public. You know why? Because well-behaved children don't scream at inappropriate times to get Mom's attention. So, if I notice your kids in the theater, you're going on my list.

In any case, Andrew asked me out on a date, and we made plans to see the first showing on Sunday of "Dan in Real Life". I would like to say that I think Steve Carell is a red-hot smokin' fox. I loved him in "Little Miss Sunshine" and he has that same genuine, heart wrenching earnestness in "Dan in Real Life". I don't normally like movies like this, but I found it to be honest, heartfelt, and incredibly moving. You could say I liked this movie.

It wasn't a sobfest- quite the opposite, actually. There were scenes where I laughed so hard that I had tears streaming down my face. My favorite scene has to be where Dane Cook and Norbert Leo Butz are singing about Ruthie "Pigface" Draper. See it here:

When I saw Norbert Leo Butz's name in the credits at the beginning, I was THRILLED. I love him. There were loads of other terrific people in the movie, but the most important thing (for me) was that we left feeling good.

Oh, it's worth mentioning that my other movie choice was Saw IV. We'll see that next week.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Dog Days of Fall

I call this "Elphie with Evil Ears"

So, Niki's colitis has resolved. But. Thursday night, after I got home from knitting, I noticed that Niki was coughing a little. Around 11 PM, it got worse. *Cough, cough, gag, wet sound*. No barf. Repeat every 5-10 minutes. To add insult to Niki's injury, we trained him to throw up outside on the patio (smart, right?), which meant that he didn't get any sleep because he was still amped up from running outside.

When he tried to get comfortable to try and sleep, it was almost funny. He was so frustrated that he would go and "fluff" one of the dog beds, and growl under his breath at it, decide that it just wouldn't do and move to the other dog bed. (We have two dogs, so we have two dog beds.) It would have been funny if he wasn't so tired and uncomfortable.

At 11:30, I took our Dog Book of Doom (the Home Veterinary book) to try and figure out how to alleviate his discomfort.
I checked his throat to see if something was stuck, and nothing was. I called the Emergency Vet. "Hi, I brought my dog in on Sunday, and he's coughing. I can't see anything in his throat, and he just sounds terrible. Should I bring him in?" I ask. "No, he probably picked up kennel cough here on Sunday," she replies. "But they're vaccinated for that," I say. "It's a different strain. Just take them to your regular vet in the morning." So, six hours (and fifteen minutes of sleep) later, we went to the vet, and the dogs got industrial strength cough syrup and antibiotics.

Sleep is bliss.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What once was lost, now is found...

This morning was a coup. Not only did I leave the house in time to get my ribs put back where they belong (ahem, spinning hunched over to the side is pretty bad for you), but two other terrific things happened.

I found an elusive tube of lipstick. I've been looking for it for almost a month. It was in the very bottom of the purse.



[Props to Mom.]

On Monday, when it first decided to try a day in the life of sitting on the chair, Andrew was digging in my purse, after Mom and I had given it (ahem) several thorough cavity searches.

"If you find my wallet in there, I won't buy yarn for a year," I said, confident that it wouldn't be found.

For some reason, he was very motivated to find my wallet in my purse. He may have even tried willing it to appear.

I can't imagine why.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Root of All Evil

That's right, you heard it here first! Coming in October 2547:
Hellraiser XXVI, The Root of All Evil
Sometimes, turnips just go bad.
[I won two prizes in the Turnip carving contest at work, which were 4 movie tickets. That's like $7000, last I checked.]

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Never a dull moment

First, Niki is doing much better. Our vet is the BEST, and answered all of my neurotic, web-search induced worries. If you live in the Santa Clara/San Jose/Campbell/Los Gatos area, ping me and I'll send you her info.

Niki has colitis, which is much less serious in dogs than in people. Phew. The antibiotics are working wonders, and once this course is done, his colitis will be gone.

Monday, after I returned the rental van, my wallet diappeared. Poof! Gone. Fortunately, nothing irreplaceable was in there (except for some cash, but still, not a huge amount), and so far, nobody has tried to charge anything.

The drag is that I have to get my driver's license replaced. The credit cards are easier. So are the library cards, my Barefoot coffee card, Costco card, and the other stuff I use once every million years.

Upside? I'm going to the DMV first thing in the morning, with my hair done, makeup ON, and ready to be photographed.

In more topical (and fun) news, you can bet I've been spinning. I finished plying and set the Wild Thing:

Here is my next sock-spinning project- it's Crown Mountain's "Twist and Shout". I'm spinning it on the Victoria:

This last one is "Berry Patch" from Angora Cottage. I'm spinning it on the Schacht for a sweater:

Monday, November 5, 2007

Every day a little doo…

[WARNING: This blog post is about dog health. If you're squeamish, skip this post.]

Sunday was a hard day. I got up on the early side, and Linda and I started to make brunch plans. Niki was running around, being his normal self, and I caught a glimpse of something in his butt fur.

I took a closer look, and it was blood. I woke Andrew, called the emergency vet, and collected a sample of bloody diarrhea from the backyard. I checked Elphie, but she was all clear, so off we went to the emergency vet.

The emergency vet is not a good place to be, ever, and that's really frightening. Especially when you're holding a bag of bloody dog poop.

Niki was really good with the vet, who suggested that the bleeding may have been caused by stress, or trying too hard to poop. You know, straining. We were sent home with instructions to keep an eye on him and bring him back if he got worse. We felt much better.

This whole time, Niki is his usual self. No fatigue, no change in behavior, NOTHING. That was the most unnerving thing.

An hour later, there was significantly more blood. Back we went to the emergency vet, where they ran a bunch of tests on his poop and his blood. The first good news that they rushed to tell us was that there was no problem with his coagulation (woo!). Next, the vet came out and gave us a list of what could be the cause of the bleeding.

The list included:

-Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (possibly caused by bacteria)
-A parasite

She also mentioned that the bacteria could have come from pig's ears, and the top two could be caused and/or aggrivated by stress.

Strangely enough, the treatment for all three was antibiotics. We've already seen an improvement in how much blood there is in his stool, and it also appears to be firming up.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Quarter Of A Century

On Saturday, we celebrated my 25th birthday Minion-style: we went on a ROAD TRIP! After a fair amount of haggling and wrangling, we ended up with a Christian Youth Group style van (seats 13) for a song. (The best part about renting this van was seeing people's faces when I was driving it. I look about 14 without makeup, and here I was, commandeering a land yacht.)

See how comfy everyone is? They had to be- to get to Sacramento, it's a 2 ½ hour drive each way.

You might wonder why we would choose Sacramento- I would, too. Franklin Habit was there doing a shoot for his 1000 Knitters project. How cool is that?! The Minions were all good sports, and the ride up and back went as smoothly as anything could. (Well, it could have been a smoother ride. Colleen may have caught some air after we hit some of the bumps on the freeway.)

We got to Sacramento around noon, found the building where the shoot was scheduled at and went and had lunch at a terrific Mexican restaurant. Not only was the food great, but you could order ceviche by the POUND. I did. It was glorious. Then, by some act of evil Minionage, this happened.

Sombreros. Singing. Startling. When I find out who did this, there will be a proportionate response.

We went to the shoot, and Franklin charmed each and every one of us. I didn't know that most of the Minions don't like to be photographed, but evidently, he managed to immediately put everyone at ease. As always, we have a shot of the Minions with Franklin, and Franklin with my sock.

I have to admit, I was completely uncool. I was so star-struck that my brain just froze. Franklin asked what the yarn was, and my brain went BLANK. I stammered. I don't STAMMER!

I looked at the yarn, and I started talking. "She has a 'C' name… She does that wonderful silk…"

Finally, Mom saved me with "Claudia?"

"Yes! Claudia!"

Ok, I can remember where, when, and how much I paid for yarn. I can usually tell you the yardage from memory. I may not know what today's date is, but I KNOW my yarn!

All-in-all, it was a pretty terrific 25th birthday celebration.

[Here is a shot Rachel got of me during the 1000 Knitters shoot:]