Friday, December 30, 2011

New Year Magic

Heather at My Demon Spirits is hosting a little contest. We're to write a holiday story. I prefer New Year's Eve to Christmas. And I got it in just under the wire, with a day to spare...

The knock at the door was an unwelcome distraction. The woman carefully laid the blanket she’d been knitting in her chair as she got up to answer. She opened the door to find a young boy, and he looked worried.

“Can you come? Now?” he asked.

The woman sighed. She didn’t have time for this. She left things until the last moment, and if she didn’t finish, there was no telling what would happen. She looked back at her chair. The knitting would have to wait.

“I’m on my way.”

Several hours later, the woman returned to her cottage. She was tired and hungry. Helping children into the world was exhausting work. She looked back at her chair. If she had no more distractions…

Back at work, the woman wove the spell. Every stitch a thought. Every row a prayer. Wishes and dreams. The new year was coming fast, and if she didn’t get the blanket done, there was no telling what troubles would materialize.

The woman’s eyes started to blur. She made a mistake. Instead of knitting two stitches between the start of the pattern work, she knit three. How many rows? She slowly unknit the stitches she just knit, looking for where she made the mistake. Found it.

How much time had she lost? She could make it up.

Another knock at the door. The woman thought seriously about ignoring it. The village knew she had important work to do, so they would not disturb her if they could help it. She laid her work on her chair and got up to get it.

A girl, barely a woman, stood there. Crying. The woman sighed, but she let the girl in. She offered the girl some tea. She took up her knitting and listened to the girl’s story, a story the girl felt merited this interruption. The girl needed a love potion. The woman didn’t like weaving this girl’s fears into her work, but that couldn’t be helped. She patted the girl’s hand and promised her things would get better, knowing that she could work some of it out in the blanket. Then the woman was alone again.

She checked the time. She checked her progress. A couple more rows, and it would have to be good enough.

She started the bind off procedure. She concentrated on tying up loose ends. What problems that had started that could be fixed. She bound off the last stitch and looked at the clock. She still had time.

The woman ran out the door and into the yard. She laid the blanket out flat on the ground. As the clock struck midnight, the woman chanted her wishes for the new year. When the last gong from the church bells struck, the blanket evaporated in a shimmery glitter.

The woman fell back. It was done.

The woman picked herself up off the ground and headed back into the house. It was time to get some sleep.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking for Questions

I like speculative fiction. An interesting world or a strange idea can capture my imagination and hold it captive for days. (Okay, sometimes years.) I suppose that's why I'm drawn to write it. (Or at least try to.)

Many times, it starts with a "what if?" Some of my "what ifs?" lead me to interesting stories. Sometimes, the thoughts are interesting, but they go nowhere.

Since it's been that kind of week, I'm offering one of my "what if?" thoughts. I'm not sure if I will turn this into any sort of story, but it's a thought I've been pondering for a couple weeks now. It's in two parts, and both parts have to be considered together:

Part 1: What if we are the only intelligent life in the universe (and I mean we Earthlings, not just we humans)? What if the universe is built around us?

Part 2: Now consider parallel universes. What if each individual universe is built around a different set of intelligent species? What if the search for extraterrestrial life in this universe is a useless endeavor? What if we find that we are alone here, but if we could get through to these other universes we might find all sorts of other creatures?

(Wow, it's harder than I thought to put this all into words!)

I'm not looking for answers. I'm trying to see where this thought takes me. And if I can construct a story from it, all the better.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Brightly Colored Magnets

I've got nothing interesting to say today, so I thought I'd share some pictures. Pictures of magnets. Why? Because I made them and I want to show them off.

I love this orange. The bead was originally white, but I dyed it using a popular drink mix. The orange flavor. The color really pops.


Using the same drink mix, this time the black cherry flavor, I got this color:


Unfortunately, that drink mix doesn't make any drinks that are blue or green, so to get those colors, I had to use food coloring:

And using the same food coloring, this time in pink:

This is what happens when I have some time on my hands. And nothing interesting to say.

Thoughts? Which color do you like best?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Week of the Sweater

Every year, I swear I won't do it again. And every year, I end up panicking in December. I've never cut it this close before, however.

I happened upon this really cute sweater pattern in Knitty. The youngest nephew is 18 months old. How long could it take me to knit him a sweater? He's small (sort of). I can do this in a week, right?

On Saturday the 17th I started. I figured that I'd better get the bulk of the knitting done over the weekend. I finished the back that Saturday, and I got about half the front done on Sunday. (The pockets took a little time which meant the front was going to take longer than the back.)

I believe I finished the front on Monday. Then I had Tuesday and Wednesday to complete the hood and "sew" the side seams. The hood took a bit of time as it was increased by two stitches every other row. I was anxious to finish it, because I knew the sleeves would be a bit of a challenge.

On Thursday the 22nd I started the first sleeve. The instructions were a bit...well, they could have been a bit more detailed. Plus, they used a short row technique I had never tried before. So, I picked up the stitches and jumped up every couple minutes to check the pictures on the computer.

I felt like I had the technique down. I changed colors and started the second stripe. I held the sleeve up to examine my handiwork...and the sleeve was hanging crooked.

I ripped out, then I went out to finish up my Christmas shopping. I did not, however, get my nephew anything. I was still confident I'd finish.

The first sleeve went a lot smoother the second time. I managed to finish up around midnight. On Friday I finished the second sleeve a lot quicker than the first. That's the good thing about sleeves. Once you've mastered one, you just have to repeat for the second.

Then all I had left for Christmas Eve was to finish the edging along the hood. That took less than a Christmas movie.

So, again I say never again. Never again will I leave the knitting until this late. (I'd better not. That nephew is only getting bigger.)

Oh, and here's how the thing turned out:

Jawa Sweater

I'm calling it a Jawa Sweater as that's how big the thing is on him. (I think my brother said that first.) At least it should last him for a while (I hope).

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Checking In

I should be knitting. My Christmas deadline is looming. I'm making decent progress (I might even finish in time), but I won't get done if I lollygag around online.

Before I go, I thought I'd repost this picture. A couple years back, a neighbor of my father was doing some remodeling. He did an interesting thing...

Our Neighbors outhouse while remodeling 2009

How are your Christmas preparations going? Are you down to the wire with gifts like me?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Song Request

Today the class was 8th grade pre-algebra. The assignment was too easy and too short. This meant that the students had some time on their hands.

About half way through 2nd period, a girl at the back of the room had a question for me: "Have you heard of 'Rolling in the Deep'?"

Me (cautiously, as I'm not sure where she's going with this): "Yes."

Girl: "Could you sing it for us?"

I have gotten some odd requests before, but never to sing a song. Since there were a dozen ways that this would have been a bad idea, not the least of which is that I'm not an accomplished singer, I told the girl no. Then she explained why she asked.

The girl told me that I look a bit like Adele.

This took me some time to process. And as I'm thinking about it now, I still don't get it. Our coloring is similar. I'm not thin. But other than that, I don't get it. I've got a couple decades on her.

But whatever.

The girl explained that she didn't mean it as an insult. I hadn't taken it as such. Apparently, my expression didn't convey that, for the girl was quick to follow up with how much she liked Adele.

I was still stuck on why some perceived resemblance meant that I could sing. Or would. In class.

The girl then changed the subject.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thread That Conducts Electricity?

I've been in freak out mode for the last couple days. Actually, I've been in freak out mode since last Friday, when my car failed its every-two-years smog check. (I know there's a word for that, but I'm not sure which one it is.) I took it in yesterday to get it looked at, and...

I don't want to go into it. Suffice it to say, it's taking longer and costing more than I had hoped.

I am going to focus on some nice things instead.

Currently, I am fascinated (obsessed) with a thing called conductive thread. I first heard of it while perusing the latest issue of Knitty. There's a pattern for a pair of gloves that will work with smartphone touchscreens. While the gloves are on.

I don't know why this fascinates me so. I don't even own a pair of gloves. (I do own a pair of fingerless gauntlets that I made several years ago, but I rarely if ever wear them.)

Conductive thread is thread that will conduct a small amount electricity. If you sew it into your gloves, you can use your smartphone while you're wearing your gloves. I so want to knit a pair of gloves using this. I don't know why. I'll never use them.

And finally, Heather at My Demon Spirits is having a little contest/blog hop. From her website:
I want to read your most original, scary or uplifting holiday story (I like both, so since this is my contest - I figure I'll make you write what I like to read!). Now, notice I didn't say "Christmas"; it can be ANY holiday you celebrate! It does NOT have to be a holiday that occurs in winter months. The entry can be no more than 500 words.
Full details here. You have until the end of the month/year to enter. Make sure to check it out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Lack of Planning

Last year I was on top of it. By this time I had all my Christmas knitting done. I had such high hopes for this year...

I don't know what happened. This year totally got away from me.

I've got what? Two weeks? It's not happening. I'm frantically trying to get my Christmas presents knit. I've got three different projects going right at this moment, and I might even finish them, but that leaves two nephews with nothing. Yet.

Then, last week I got an invite to my nephew's birthday party. And I panicked.

I thought I had a couple weeks. Detritus was inconveniently born on December 26th. I figured I had until Christmas to get something made for him.

Unfortunately, most people are on vacation right about that time, so if Detritus wanted his friends at his birthday party, it had to be scheduled early. Way early.

This wouldn't have been a major deal if I was on top of my gift knitting this year. What's that saying? Something about failing to plan and emergencies not counting for lack of planning. Anyway, it was my own fault, so I had to figure out something to get him, and fast. And then I saw this pattern...


...and I thought, "Perfect".

Two weeks to get my Christmas knitting done? Yeah, not panicking. Not panicking at all.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Random Links

I'm not feeling so hot. It's been positively wintry here. Well, wintry for us (the high today is...gulp...64 degrees). And my sinuses are protesting. I may just take the rest of the week off (from the Internet. I'm going to take as many subbing days as I can get. This is when the teachers get ill, too).

Yesterday I covered government as well as geography. (He teaches 9th graders and 12th graders. That's an interesting mix.) One thing he made his government students do (I'm not sure when) was to do the Political Compass test. I'd never seen this before, so I checked out the website on my own.

It's an interesting thing. I knew where I'd fall on the chart, and I was correct.

Also, I posted over here yesterday. If you're still looking for Christmas presents, these are some good ideas.

Where did you land on the Political Compass chart? I'm curious. And nosy. (If you're interested, I'll update with where I landed.)

Monday, December 5, 2011


AP Geography. They had a test. 52 questions. Multiple choice. As soon as the announcements were over they got started.

They had been working maybe five minutes when the door opened. Two girls popped in and announced that the annual canned food drive ends tomorrow.

Usually, when someone enters a classroom to make an announcement, they ask for permission and/or apologize for interrupting class. Most of the time it's no big deal as we're not doing much more than random book work. But this class was silent. These kids were taking a test. And no asking of permission or apology.

And the announcement that the canned food drive ends tomorrow? It was in the morning announcements.

A boy at the back of the room complained that he wasn't going to finish his test. I assured him that he still had plenty of time.

The class got right back to work.

The door opened again. Another girl. Same announcement.

The rest of the class joked that the boy would definitely not finish his test.

Geez. You'd think they'd coordinate. Seems kind of silly to go to each classroom twice.

(The boy did finish his test.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Nuke 'Em All

Geography class. I passed out current event magazines, and they had various assignments associated with it. For an article about the world's population hitting 7 billion, they were to write five sentences about what this means for our planet. (This is not the article, but it's as close to it as I could find online, and it's by the same publisher as their magazines.)

Much of the class ignored the assignment.

"We should nuke China."

A boy seated in the front row said this when he flipped to the article. How was that going to help anything? He explained: that would get rid of half the Earth's population.

Last I heard, China's population was one billion. One billion is not one-half of seven billion. I explained this. The boy insisted, saying that China's population was four billion.

(I also brought up the whole killing-people-is-wrong argument.)

The boy explained that Chinese officials don't take into account the population in the rural areas. They only count people in the cities. I pointed out that this difference wouldn't be three billion.

But, I was willing to concede that I don't know China's population for sure. I decided to consult the Internet. A quick search ("population of China") led me to a figure of 1.3 billion as of mid-2008. I showed the boy. Still dubious, he conceded the issue.

"So, we should nuke China and Russia... Russia is scary."

Again, I attempted the killing-people-is-wrong tack, but the boy soon found something else to talk about: Vladimir Putin's resemblance to Daniel Craig and Adam West. (There was an article on Russia in the magazine, too.)

The stuff they come up with!

Your turn: Give me a completely outrageous statement.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Hot Seat

Students ask me questions. Usually it's of the "do you have any kids?" variety. They ask me a couple such questions, and then they move on to whatever other things they have on their mind. But sometimes, the questioning continues.

It was 7th period at the continuation high school. Most of the class was working on their assignment. One boy started with the usual questions, but those didn't satisfy him.

I don't have to answer any of the questions. I know this. However, they're usually so innocuous that it doesn't bother me. They can know where I went to college. They can even know the name of my high school (most have never heard of it).

But then he got into some crazier questions.

He wanted to know my favorite beer. When I told him ("I don't drink"), he told me not to lie. Since I hadn't lied, I didn't have anything more to say. So the rest of the class tried to name what beer had to be my favorite. Several brands were tossed out. Since I don't know the difference, I was mostly amused by this activity.

Then he got to the question I always get but never know how to answer. What kind of music do I like?

Most people have an answer to this. I don't. I stopped paying attention to the music scene somewhere around 1994. I turn on the radio. Mostly in the car. I like some of it. But if you put me on the spot and asked me what song was on, I wouldn't be able to name it. I might be able to come up with a band name, but more likely I would have no idea who it was.

This answer is unacceptable. (How horrified would he be if I told him that most of the time I work in silence?) Unfortunately, I don't have another one.

In the end, he started talking about himself (which is what he wanted to do anyway). This is fine with me. I rarely have anything interesting to say.

Are there any questions that you can never answer to the questioner's satisfaction? What kind of music do you like? (I'm asking so I can sample it.)