Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Meanwhile ...

3,978 Miles Southeast

of Dutch Harbor...

Captain Dave, Deck Boss Dez and the crew of the Brown Plaid Couch are tuning up all available weather channels and practicing our foul-weather skills by eating microwave popcorn and sitting anxiously in front of the TV, watching "Deadliest Catch" and flipping to the Weather Channel on commercial breaks to see if a giant, pulsating, red blob has appeared in the Gulf of Mexico in the last 17 minutes.

Greetings, tourists, and welcome to the opening of hurricane season.

"Deadliest Catch" is serious business at our house. Even the cats watch it. Crazy Aunt Purl is much, much better at taking pictures of her TV than I am, but here's a shot of Jigsaw, our tortoiseshell who is the Deckhand in Charge of Cats, watching Captain Phil, who is her favorite crab captain. Jigsaw really digs Captain Phil and the whole crew of the Cornelia Marie.

I mean, sure, we are Southerners, so not only can we fish -- we can sit and watch other people fish on TV. Especially if they are fishing in 50-foot seas.

If you are a Southerner, watching "Deadliest Catch" is like pre-season training for dangerous weather. We watch it faithfully, breathlessly waiting to see who will be in peril, and if they will survive. And we are not taking this lightly -- we know it's for real.

"Deadliest Catch" isn't a contrived "reality" show where you plonk a bunch of accountants and supermodels on an island full of tiki torches, and watch them have childish ego altercations. It's a real-reality reality show. People sometimes die. But most of the time they do not, and disaster is narrowly averted, and we get to watch all this from the safety and comfort of the deck of the Brown Plaid Couch, where we have fortified ourselves against the weather with cats, diet soda, yarn and Fritos.

As the summer approaches, and hurricane season starts leering at us, we start to get bragadocious and competitive about the weather on the show, which is another Southern proclivity:

"I bet the weather can't really be that bad up there on the Bering Sea. I mean, it's damn cold, sure, and high seas ... but it's not like Captain Sig pulls up one day in the Northwestern and Dutch Harbor is gone."

"Yeah, if they had a real storm surge, Dutch Harbor would be toast. It's right there, smack on the ocean. It's only a little bump of an island. The weather just looks worse because it's cold, and the boats are on open water. Maybe they have 40-foot seas today, but it's not Katrina."

Even if you aren't a local, you can easily distinguish between Cajuns and other Southerners who are debating whether or not the weather in the Bering Sea is worse than a hurricane.

The Cajuns are the ones taking bets.

I'd be upset if opilio crab season overlapped too much with the critical part of hurricane season, because then I'd have to move the little-bitty bedroom TV into the living room, so I could put it next to the big TV, and watch the Weather Channel obsessively and track every rainstorm in the Northern Hemisphere from now till Thanksgiving, without missing out on any action in the Bering Sea. I wouldn't be able to leave the house for fear of missing something.

It's a Southern thing. Folks in Hawaii and Bermuda share this OCD thing about weather, too.

We are helplessly obsessed with bad weather. Our weather, other people's weather in North America, the weather in Ireland .... it doesn't matter. We will watch any bad weather. Especially bad weather involving boats. We can sit there and watch a 47-foot wave smack down on the Time Bandit and holler, "DAMN DID YOU SEE THAT!" without even getting wet or having to pump anything out.

"Deadliest Catch" gives you the refreshing option of watching other people deal with weather that can kill you and, most of the time, they come out of it alive. It's encouraging for those of us in Hurricane Alley. If Captain Sig can get through it without losing any of his brothers, if the crew of the Time Bandit can pluck a guy out of the surging, freezing ocean with his hat and glasses still on ... well, maybe some of that good, lucky mojo will rub off on us, as long as we stay tuned.

I was somewhat disquieted last week when a reporter on some news channel announced that a recent survey of Florida residents revealed that a majority of them didn't feel that they would be in serious danger of experiencing a hurricane this year and that they also hadn't made any preparations for hurricane season. This alarming news inspired the governor of Florida to give retailers the chance to have a no-tax sale this month on hurricane supplies, hoping that the prospect of big savings would inspire common sense in Floridians.

Frankly? I was speechless. How short is your memory, Florida? The 2004 season, remember?

Possible explanations for la-de-da Florida attitude:

1. Surveyors failed to interview actual Floridians, and questioned contestants for Girls Gone Wild and frat boys on spring break from New Jersey instead.

2. Demographics: high percentage of extremely elderly Floridians, many of whom pass away each year and are promptly replaced by brand-new retirees from Minnesota and Idaho who have yet to experience a hurricane. Minnesota retirees think they can handle anything after 65 years of blizzards. Idaho retirees think they are sufficiently well-armed to scare off storms.

3. Televisions blown away in 2004 Florida hurricane season hadn't been replaced in time for residents to follow coverage of Katrina and Rita destroying Mississippi and Louisiana in 2005 season.

4. Crack is cheap in Florida.

5. Surveyors interviewed people in line at Disneyworld, who will be long gone before the first hurricane hits.

Now knitters are generally sensible people, and no doubt have already made plans for their families, pets and yarn stashes should the need to evacuate occur.

But for the rest of Florida? Hello? Reality calling. Get your head out of the sand. You know what you need. Go get it. Get stuff for your pets, too, and get 'em outta there of you need to.

Hurricane Season Checklist for Southern Knitters:

If you live in the South, on the Atlantic coast or in Hawaii, you need something to keep you from chewing your nails down to the bone during hurricane season, so I highly recommend sorting your knitting out in advance so you know what to knit and when to knit it.

I took advantage of the past few weekends to do some housecleaning and to sort out some yarn and needles for the upcoming season of weather-watching.

I find it convenient to break my hurricane-season knitting down into categories, just like the storms themselves:

Tropical Depression Knitting: No big deal -- while you are knitting on your current project, just click onto the Weather Channel once in awhile to see if it has intensified.

Named-Storm Knitting: This is what we used to call a "tropical storm." But in recent years, weathercasters have started to use the term, "named storm," probably because they are hoping people will take it more seriously than "Tropical Storm," which sounds like a big pink drink with an umbrella in it.

Actually, it is a big pink drink with an umbrella in it. But I digress.

A named storm out on open water means that it's definitely time to start watching the damned thing at least once an hour -- it's starting to get its act together, and it's clearly up to no good. You can still follow knitting charts or patterns if you like, because tropical storm monitoring doesn't require diligent attention. You can check on the thing once in a while, see how far it's moved, and ponder its potential to grow and thrive in the sizzling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. At this point it's probably a good idea to have all your scissors and other notions in the same room with the TV so you don't have to get up and run after them, but you can still refer to the pattern, measure swatches, or follow a lace chart without losing track of any important meteorological developments.

Category One Knitting: Okay, now the damn thing is actually a hurricane, so "keeping an eye on it" needs to be replaced with "concern," provided the thing is 72 hours or more away from landfall. As this point you can work on most basic Aran, lace or Fair Isle patterns, but it's not a good time to cast on for a Kaffe Fassett chart.

Category Two Knitting: "Concern" becomes "serious worry." You will now be spending a great deal of time in front of the TV, so you will need a large project in a familiar pattern. While you can still manage a pattern with a few cables or a little openwork, you do need something you can knit more or less on autopilot. If you're on your fifteenth Wonderful Wallaby, or you've knitted the Charlotte's Web shawl six times already, this is a good time to cast on another one.

Category Three Knitting: Socks. Specifically, the sock pattern you can knit in your sleep. Stocking caps are okay, too. You need something which allows you to watch TV without looking at your knitting very often, and also you need a small enough project to carry to and from the kitchen, where you are cooking and eating every fresh or frozen thing in the refrigerator so it doesn't spoil when the power goes off. You also need to be able to stick your knitting in your pocket so you can keep an eye on the guys, who are hanging around the barbeque grill, making sure all the frozen meat gets cooked and eaten before the power goes out. They need the protien for strength, and beer for motivation, so they can put the patio furniture in the swimming pool, and fill up the garage with bicycles, garbage cans, bird feeders and other small things which might become airborne.

Category Four Knitting: By this time you are watching TV in exactly the same way that you would watch a live king cobra cruising around on your living room floor. You can't move, and you can't take your eyes off it. Garter stitch only, or stockinette in the round. At this point you are not sleeping. Garter stitch is good for keeping your fingers awake, which improves blood flow to the eyes, so you can watch the weathercaster point urgently at the giant, throbbing, howling red amoeba which is about to engulf Houston, Oahu, Savannah, New Orleans or Miami. At this point your car should be packed with your family's supplies, your pets and their supplies, and a month's worth of knitting.

Category Five Knitting: If you live in a state within 300 miles of the projected landfall area, you can relax a little, because at this point you are in your car and on your way to Idaho, to replace the foolhardy retirees who moved to Mississippi last year. In fact, you can even knit if you are the driver, because northbound traffic is at a dead standstill due to the seven million other people also fleeing the general Gulf Coast area. Knitting while waiting for traffic to move helps squash the nagging concern that you will die in your car because you have only managed to get 3.7 miles outside of the New Orleans city limits in the past three hours.


If you're feeling kinda smug because you live in Tennessee or Iowa, think again.

Even if you aren't directly in the strike zone, the same knitting categories apply if you have friends and relatives who may be evacuating to your house for the duration of the storm. If your relatives hail from New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf Coast, you may want to peruse your stash for spare yarn and needles.

They will need something to do for the next six months.

So It's that time of year. Relocate the spinning wheel to the living room, move a big plastic tub full of knitting supplies next to the couch.

Me? I've learned one thing from Deadliest Catch. If I am ever in peril in the wake of a storm, and my life is depending on somebody? I don't want FEMA coming to rescue me.

I want the crew of the Time Bandit.


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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Smoke. Sheep. Spinning ...

and Non Sequitur Sunday,


So ... where was I? This past week has been so off-kilter at my office, I've lost track of myself.

Catching up... here's the intermediate result of some Kool-Aid dyeing I did last Sunday evening ...

Intermediate, because all of the reddish yarns are singles, space-dyed and waiting to be plied. I'm saving the details on these for when I post about the finished yarn.

And last Sunday afternoon? I was taking a shower, after doing some morning chores. And I was all slathered up with soap and shampoo and our own special, local, Deep South Industrial Strength Sweat Remover TM ...

and I smelled smoke. And I'm not talking that smoke?

I mean, smoke like Crazy Horse's Bureau of Tribal Communications had moved into the bathroom.

So I jumped out of the shower all soapy and wet, and threw on my bathrobe, and went tearing around the house in search of disaster. Nothing.

I pulled down the attic stairs and stuck my head up there. Nothing.

So I figured I had time to rinse off, and get into some real clothes, and then investigate further. The whole time I was running around the house trying to put my jeans on while hopping on alternate legs, I smelled smoke that I couldn't see.

Quite distressing.

So I went outside.

The sun machine was on. It was 96 degrees. Humidty on the "sauna" setting.

And I discovered that our neighbors were not only firing up the barbeque on two grills, but they'd lit a nice romantic fire in their patio chiminea. See?

And their mood-enhancing hotspot is located about ... oh, 20 feet or so from our central air return.

I tried to imagine the conversation: "Honey, I don't think it's quite hot enough out here ... let's light a nice romantic fire in the chiminea, eh?"


But you can't really blame people for not knowing how to act. After all, if you have been watching the news over the past few days, you already know that news reporters don't know how to prioritize things. Sure, we have Very Important Events going on in Washington, but at the precise moment when a Major Public Official is in front of cameras and is about to go into detail about matters of Extreme Newsworthiness and Possible Corruption in High Places .... things the public may take into consideration when it comes time to vote again .... things that actually matter ...

CNN cuts him off midsentence so they can cut to an Urgent, Developing Situation in which the World's Most Rich and Famous Floozie is being stuffed, weeping and disheveled, into a sheriff's car.


So of course people don't know how to act. If you don't know what's actually important in the world, how can you possibly know when it's the right time of year to light a nice, snuggly fire?

So I went back inside.

Meanwhile, back inside the Asylum, although we are annoyed that rich and famous floozies can get special legal privileges and a temporary repreive from jail by whining, crying and refusing to eat (how anyone could distinguish a celebrity hunger strike from compulsive dieting remains to be explained) ... the Management of the Asylum is not actually interested in famous floozies.

The Management of the Asylum is interested in this package of fantastic yarn and a generous sample of real Ouessant fleece (!) which arrived from Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns:

The yarn is "Midwinter," which I'd ordered from Jo's Ebay store. But the Ouessant was a surprise. It was even marked "Lagniappe," Louisiana-style.

Of course anything arriving from Ireland is best displayed on the emerald green fleece throw, I think. Here's the Ouessant fleece by itself:

This is a good, true-to-color shot of the wool. Doesn't it look like a cup of espresso? The Ouessant will sit in an airtight container for awhile, where it will pupate, and decide what it wants to be. There is deifnitely enough for a pair of socks or a hat. I can't tell you how delighted I am to receive this. A fleece sample from a rare breed is always a treat, and there is nothing like sinking your nose into a lanolin-rich wad of wool from a nice, clean, well-kept sheep.

I feel compelled to note that the Ouessant -- just in case you're not up on your sheep breeds, although you have likely deduced this from the name -- is not an Irish breed. It's a sample from the Ouessant fleece that Jo picked up from her visit to Renee in Brittany last month. See Jo's May 21 post for photos of the actual sheep, and for more information about Renee. Use the link to Celtic Memory Yarns, above.

This particular sheep is named "Muguet," or "Lily of the Valley." I love having wool from a sheep with a name.

This Sunday, I'm a little out of sorts. It's Father's Day in the US, but my Dad is no longer around to knit socks for. So I entered a pattern for sandal socks in the Father's Day contest at Knitivity.

Apparently, I was the only knitter to enter the contest. I'm hoping that's only because everyone's been too hot to knit, and not because you haven't been buying Ray's wonderful yarn. It's soft, gorgeous stuff, wonderful to work with and even in our blistering Southern heat, you can still make socks.

Which I did. Here's a photo, which I took rather carelessly, with the sock not pulled up all the way, or even neatly, on the foot of my patient sock-model, because I was hurrying to beat the deadline for the contest.

Yarn: "Poolside" from Knitivity. For the pattern, go to Knitivity, and buy some of Ray's luscious yarn to make the socks with. The pattern for my Mini-Cable Sandal Socks is posted over there. Knit some for your Dad.

Meanwhile, I have another design deadline, for a worthy cause. Which shall be revealed, all in good time.

And one more thing:

Random Sunday cat picture.

Off to spin.


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Friday, June 08, 2007

Voodoo Shawl Update:
Maui Style

Lisa Louie guest-blogs today from Maui, and gives us an update on the Voodoo Shawl's progress. Lisa is test-knitting the pattern before it is offered for sale. The protoptype Voodoo Shawl will be auctioned off soon to benefit an American Buddhist monastery, in memory of designer Lily Chin's mother and sister. If you're a new reader; I designed the pattern and knit the first half of the shawl for this fundraiser, then mailed it to Lisa for completion. For more information about the fundraiser (and earlier photos of the shawl in progress) go to my 4-27-07 post in the archves: "Listen, do you want to know a secret?" --Mambocat

Lisa writes:

Tarnation. Damnation. Ripnation. These words don’t seem to have much in common, and in fact, I made the last word up. But, at least to me they seem to have something in common: me and the shawl for Lily’s family. Tarnation because it’s been quite………… vexing in some regards. Damnation, because that’s probably the least offensive of some of the words I’ve used about it recently, and ripnation, because it seems I’ve been visiting the nation of ripping. As in ripping out rows of knitting. Also known as “tinking” or unknitting stitch by stitch.

I am making progress, however, but have been troubled by a couple of areas requiring extra attention. First problem was the dreaded “color stacking” or “color pooling” problem. This occurs when the individual colors of your variegated yarn start collecting themselves into unsightly blobs on your knitting instead of flowing into graceful and attractive bits of color disbursed throughout your work. This is a simple problem to fix. Once you notice it. It took me a few more rows than I care to admit to before I noticed the problem and ripped back. This, as you may have guessed, lead to the second word of the series: damnation. Some language, which I will not sully this blog with, ensued.

After I fixed the problem, I kept going, and found myself making good progress. I also made a serious boo boo and placed a series of YOs (yarn overs) in the wrong places. Oops. Yes, it was obvious. Yes, it needed to come out (sob, sob) and yes, there was both tarnation at myself for screwing up something so simple, and again, more language politely covered by the word damnation. This time it was about 10 rows that had to be removed. Ouch.

At this point, I can safely report that I am over both roadblocks and find myself rapidly approaching the end of the second skein of yarn. Total yarn usage on this shawl will be about 2 ½ skeins worth of knitting, so significant progress is being made. (Yarn: Blue Moon, Socks That Rock.)

I have come to the conclusion that this shawl seems to have its own agenda and time frame. I was hoping to have it done and for sale by Mother’s Day, but that is obviously not the case. It will be done when it is ready, and not before.

Often when I am knitting, I play a music or concert DVD. My soundtrack for this project seems to be Concert for New York, which is a collaborative effort of many, many famous musicians (think Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi and more) to honor and support the firefighters, police and medical personnel of New York after 9/11. I’m not sure if this is a fluke, but it seems to be appropriate for this shawl to be “born” to a soundtrack created after a tragedy of unprecedented horror which affected New York, and the world. The shawl is, after all, created to honor Lily Chin’s mother and sister and their losses and the hole they presumably left in Lily’s, a native New Yorker, life. At some level, the inspiration and message of the concert and the shawl are the same: Hope, healing and comfort after a terrible loss. Honor those who are here no longer. Comfort and support yourself and go forward. Or, maybe the shawl just likes rock and roll.

Either way, it’s on its way to being done, and just so you know, it right now is about 400 stitches wide, and growing at the rate of 4 stitches every two rows. It’s going to be awesome.

--Lisa Louie

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Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: