Sunday, July 31, 2011

That's unfortunate.

Apologies for the lack of regular updates here lately. The quest for internet at the new house has taken (yet another) turn for the mildly annoying. Here's the timeline:

Thursday, July 21st: Matt closed on the new house and contacted Charter to switch his account to it. They said they'd be out on Monday (July 25th). I was somewhat annoyed by this, as I felt Matt should have contacted them sooner so we could 100% move that weekend (since he needs the internet to do his job, he can't just go without for a few days).

Monday, July 25th: Charter doesn't show, and informs Matt that they'll be arriving on Thursday, July 28th.

Thursday, July 28th: Charter finally makes their appearance, only to leave fifteen minutes later because the house isn't wired for cable, and they'd have to physically transport the cable wire from the street behind us via the power lines-- which are apparently too overgrown for them to mess with. They advise us to call the power company to clear them. Matt called the power company, and they agreed to come by and assess the situation, but were noncommittal as to whether they'd clear it at all and, if so, how long it would take.

Friday, July 29th: Charter shuts off the internet at the old/current house, claiming that it had been connected at the new one. This is clearly not the case (see above). Matt called their customer service line and demanded that they turn it back on, but since it was late in the evening, they said it was impossible and to call back the following day.

Saturday, July 30th: Matt calls Charter back, and they again claim that they are unable to reconnect the internet (even though they said they could the previous day). He then told them to cancel his account, and called AT&T as soon as he got off the phone. They'll be arriving at the new house to install DSL on Tuesday.

Whether or not we'll be able to move then remains to be seen. We're supposed to go to Charlotte with Matt's parents to visit some of their relatives (and go to Ikea!) that day, and it's unclear as to how long that'll take. Either way, unless I hang out on the driveway, where it is quite sunny and very hot, I won't have consistent internet access until Tuesday.

Moral(s) of the story:

1. Charter sucks.
2. So do cable monopolies and states/municipalities that allow them, as that enables the shit-tastic and incompetent service we received.
3. When moving, it is a good idea to ask the previous occupants if the house is wired for services you'd like to receive and make arrangements for getting them prior to the last minute.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

I'd heard good things about The Mockingbirds, and decided to check it out when I randomly came across it at the library. I'm very glad I did; it made for excellent reading.

The story opens to find Alex in an unfamiliar bedroom in the dormitories of her boarding school, Themis. As the room spins around her while she's collecting her clothing, her eyes light upon two ripped-open, empty condom wrappers. From that moment on, her world is upended. In the ensuing weeks, she pieces together what happened that night through conversations with friends who witnessed some of it and flashbacks that appear out of nowhere. She comes to realize that she's been raped by a popular water polo player. Rather than go to the school or the police (out of a fear that it would disrupt her life even more), Alex enlists the aid of the Mockingbirds, a secret society that administers justice to wronged students.

Overall, I was very impressed by this book. Date rape is a tough subject for a writer to address in the first place, but especially within the context of a Young Adult novel. Whitney handles the subject very well; Alex's experiences are not only realistic, she's a very sympathetic character. Whitney also does an excellent job addressing false notions about date rape (mainly, that sleeping with unconscious people is okay and/or that silence equals consent) while promoting the idea of affirmative consent. All of the characters are very well-rendered and believable, and the writing is excellent.

I wish this had been around when I was in high school. As it is, I think it should be included in curricula everywhere. 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Which I Get Lucky

Behold: my new desk. I found it at Goodwill a few days ago, and decided to buy it yesterday. I'm pretty excited about it; I'd originally budgeted a pretty substantial amount of money for a new desk, and this one only cost $20. It'll need some work, though (story of my life, these days). It was painted without having been primed, so I'm going to have to sand it down to the original wood so that I can re-paint it. There are also some dings and rough edges that need to be smoothed out. I also need a chair, so I'll be hitting the unfinished furniture stores for one soon.

I'm undecided as to what color I'll wind up painting it, though. I'm in the process of talking Matt into allowing me to paint the wood paneling on the walls white. He's balking at the idea (for no apparent reason), whereas I think it's kind of necessary: the paneling is stained, unevenly faded, and, in combination with the dark brick of the fireplace, makes the room look small and dark. I'd need to sand and refinish it anyway to make it look good, and I'd rather just paint it. If I'm successful, the desk will probably wind up being light blue. If not, I guess I'll paint it white again.

The pictures on top are prints I bought at Woolworth Walk to put on the walls. One of the artists there, Sarah Faulkner, works with colors that align very nicely with those I'm planning on using in the room (white, gray, light blue, and red). There are a few other artists whose work I also admired, so I foresee a few more trips over there in the future.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: Bad Girls Don't Die by Katie Alender

I wanted to like this book. I really, really did. It had a fairly interesting premise, after all: two teenaged sisters are stalked by a ghostly former inhabitant of their house (I'm a sucker for stories about haunted houses. My favorite book is House of Leaves, after all). While it was mostly well-written, it fell flat in a number of places. Cliches and hackneyed plot devices (and characters!) abounded, and character development was minimal and often nonsensical. In addition to that, Alender is juggling so many (unnecessary) sub-plots that the narrative often felt disjointed and underdeveloped. In other words, it was a pretty great idea that was very poorly-executed. In order for this book to have worked, it would have needed at least another hundred or two pages of exposition.

Needless to say, it was pretty obvious that the author primarily writes for television series: this book has all the hallmarks of teen-oriented movies on the Lifetime channel. It's a shame, because the book had a lot of potential.

Blah. 2 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Behold: Organization!

Or something like it. The room that will become my office has two walls of built-in bookshelves. One is floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, the other is 40% cabinet on the bottom, and then the bookshelves on top extend up to the ceiling.

I was originally planning on using the cabinet space for fabric storage and putting the yarn in glass jars and vases to be scattered around the shelves. I'd seen other knitters go that route, and it had a pretty neat effect. I ultimately decided against it, though, as the types of colors I use don't stand out against the medium brown, wooden walls (which I may or may not be painting, but that's neither here nor there at the moment). There's also the issue of stash: I'm trying to get rid of it, and using yarn as a decoration instead of, you know, knitting with it, isn't really conducive to that.

Instead, I measured the inside of the cabinet, went to Target, and picked up some storage bins that would fit. PSA: if any of you are thinking about doing some organizing, now is a good time to hit the stores for supplies. School's about to start, and I've found the kits they sell for college dormitories to be remarkably versatile. I returned home with my Sterilites, and got to sorting.

As it turns out, I have less yarn than I originally thought; only three tub's worth instead of four. The two tubs on the left have yarn I haven't used yet. The top tub contains lightweight yarn (lace, fingering,  and sport weights), while the bottom tub holds heavier weights (dk, worsted, aran, and bulky). The tub on the top right holds yarn that has been knitted, either works in progress or half-completed projects that need to be frogged, or unraveled, and knitted into something else. The tub on the bottom right holds my sewing machine, notions, and patterns. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough space in the cabinet for my fabric, so my fabric tub went into the closet where I keep my winter jackets and knitted accessories. I'll post a photo of that some other time. I'm hoping that once I get my yarn stash down to a reasonable size, I'll be able to transfer the fabric to that space.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book Review: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

I have something of a love/hate relationship with film noir. Love the gritty aesthetic, fast pace, and plot twists, hate the sexism. Naturally, this relationship extends to the detective novels, many of which were published by Dashiell Hammett, that said films are based on. Last week, I decided to give The Maltese Falcon a try, as I'd heard so many good things about it. My reaction? Typical. I found it mostly enjoyable, especially since it was such a fast read, but just couldn't get past all the sexism. Meh. 2 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I'm glad someone's enjoying the moving process...

The new happening place to be at the old house: a giant rubbermaid full of blankets.

All said and done, we've made a good amount of progress on the moving front. Or, I have. All of my stuff except for a few loads of laundry, the clothes I need for work, a book, a knitting project, and my bathroom stuff is there. I've also moved everything but my sewing machine, television, and a few sets of clothes out of my dad's house. The impressive part is that pretty much all of it is unpacked and ready to go. All that's left is clearing out this house and emptying my storage unit.

Matt, on the other hand, will probably be fishing things out of boxes for weeks, if not months. The same likely applies to his friends.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

An Assortment of Moving Observations

  • When I said the new house's air conditioning system was inadequate, I may have made the understatement of the year. At 10 PM last night, it was still at 77 F. 
  • The house is largely populated by giant, indigenous dust bunnies. They're everywhere!
  • The previous occupants also left us a half-eaten carton of peach ice cream. I'm not sure if I want it, though...
  • The downside of floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves: I can't reach the top three shelves.
  • Another downside of having enough space for all of my books: Matt read my high school yearbooks. EMBARRASSING. 
  • At 9:27 AM on Moving Day, everyone but me (who was five minutes away from leaving for work) was asleep. If it affected me, I'd have remarked upon their poor choice of sleeping in and putting off moving until the hottest part of the day, but since I was going to be in the air-conditioning then (I had to work a double), I smirked as I contemplated them hauling furniture up two flights of stairs into the new place.
  • I returned home at 10:30 PM on Moving Day, and all the furniture was still here. That explained a lot, but I still wish I could be smug. 
  • If you are what you eat, I expect my transformation into a giant pizza to happen any moment now .
  • Schrodinger's Move: We can't 100% move until Charter shows up with internet (Matt works in IT, and has to have internet available at the house), and there's no telling when that will happen. You don't know if the van is a cable van until it drives by...
  • Wow, I have a lot of yarn.
  • And fabric.
  • I need a new desk. 
  • My feet hurt.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Book Review: Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin

I stumbled across Searching for Whitopia while browsing the 300s section of the library a few weeks ago (yes, I seriously do this, and will continue to until the library's database starts using's recommendation algorithm). I thought it would be a really interesting companion to Loewen's Sundown Towns, which I read a few months ago and reviewed here. While Loewen focused on the history and development of sundown towns and their evolution into monoethnic enclaves, Benjamin decided to live in these enclaves (along with visiting several others) and write about his experiences and treatments. Benjamin, you see, is black, and a big part of his project involved gauging the reactions of the denizens of these towns to his presence in their lives.

While living in Whitopias, Benjamin experiences a number of rituals associated with all-white, small town living, including numerous games of golf along with the attendance of occasional xenophobic city council meetings (in which locals decry the presence of Mexicans anywhere north of the border) and a memorable visit to the local white supremacist compound (seriously). Interspersing his narrative of his experiences in Whitopias with research he's conducted on them, Benjamin deftly explores the dimensions of modern racism intrinsic to housing and educational segregation. Ultimately, he makes a compelling argument that all-white towns and exurbs are not a good idea, agreeing with Loewen on a number of points (which I discussed in the other review). Unlike Loewen, though, who tends to be a tad over simplistic, Benjamin successfully captures the nuances of modern race relations-- apparently, white supremacists are nice. Who knew?

An excellent, thought-provoking read. 5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This may take a while.

Updates are probably going to be sort of sporadic for the next week or two while we move. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011



+ My dad is still blood negative. Yay!
+ I got all of my errands done yesterday.
+ I only have two more shifts at my first job until my educational hiatus begins.
+ School starts a month from Friday.
+ Matt is closing on the new house tomorrow.
+ I'm getting to see my sister soon.
+ Amy will be visiting again soon.
+ I have adorable kitties.


- I did not get all of my knitting or book reviews done. Not enough hours in the day...
- Despite over a year's worth of yarn dieting, I have yet to make even a dent in my yarn stash.
- I need new shoes. My feet hurt all the time.
- I'm going to have to drive to Bristol twice to retrieve all of my stuff from my storage unit.
- My bangs grow out too fast and I never have time to get them trimmed.
- I am very daunted by all the stuff the new house will need.
- We're supposed to move into the new place on Saturday, and nobody has started packing. Not. Good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book Review: Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons

I initially debated reading this book. Having been on both the receiving and giving end of mean girl behavior in middle and high school (respectively), I wasn't sure that it could offer any insight past, "Wow, it really sucked that the girls I'd been friends with since kindergarten decided that being smart was un-cool in fifth grade and were so mean to me in sixth grade that I had to change schools," and "God, I was such a bitch in high school-- but at least no one messed with me." Most books about mean girls are long on wallowing and hand-wringing but short on cogent, logical explanations of why that behavior happens as well as how it can be mitigated or prevented in the future.

Needless to say, I was very pleasantly surprised by Odd Girl Out. Simmons not only discusses what it's like to be on the receiving end of female aggression, but also discusses what makes girls behave aggressively, portraying bullies in a fair but sympathetic light. Over and over, Simmons points out that it's possible to be both a victim and an aggressor, explaining the complicated dynamics that rule friendships between young girls. Her nuanced take on the issues involved is quite enlightening, as are the pages and pages of material she pulled from hundreds of hours of interviews with young girls and their families. In a particularly illuminating chapter ("She's All That"), she details an instance of aggression in which the "bully" member of a clique becomes shunned and tormented by her "victims," ultimately suffering a psychological and social breakdown.

Ultimately, Simmons makes a compelling argument that childhood female aggression, manifested in passive-aggressive behaviors like passing notes, mean looks, pointed exclusions, and rumor-spreading are the direct results of girls not being taught to express their anger productively. When "being nice" at all costs is hammered into someone's head over and over and over throughout their childhood, they become unable to articulate and cope with anger they may feel at a friend or acquaintance. Rather than setting a dispute immediately, girls allow their anger to fester, and seek out ways to hurt those who wronged them that won't interfere with their "nice girl" identity. The solution is therefore simple: abandon the ethics of niceness and teach girls to handle conflict productively. Easier said than done, no doubt, but Simmons makes a number of excellent, concrete recommendations to this end that have the potential to be quite successful.

Definitely worth reading. 4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Obligatory Mea Culpa Entry

Apologies for the late updates for the last week and a half. I (stupidly) volunteered to work an extra shift, which led to me having zero days off for close to two weeks. Needless to say, I was completely beat by day eight and had no energy left for anything other than knitting, watching Grey's Anatomy on netflix, and the posting the occasional one-liner on google+.

Sadly, it's looking like the next two weeks aren't going to be much better. Matt's closing on the new house this Thursday (three days! omg!), and intends on moving over the course of this weekend. Since he waited 'til the last minute to select the moving date, I will be unable to help him because I have to work doubles on Friday and Saturday, and by the time my Sunday brunch shift is over, he'll be done. I am completely, 100% okay with this. I hate moving, and getting out of the lion's share of it makes me positively giddy. All I have to do is throw my stuff in boxes and unpack them once they arrive. True, I'll have to haul some stuff down from Bristol and transport my stuff that's in the closet (and my dad's garage), but I'll worry about that later.

Tomorrow is my day off, and I don't have to work until one on Wednesday. I'm pretty excited, but I have a crazy amount of stuff to do since all of my errands have fallen by the wayside over the last few weeks:

  • Go to the gym twice.
  • Go to the library, return books, and pay a fine (apologies to those of you who had to wait for The Psychopath Test and Packing For Mars).
  • Go to dad's house, pick up mail.
  • Go to Earth Fare, buy shampoo and wine.
  • Go to Yarn Shop, acquire stitch markers and darning needles.
  • Go to the bank, deposit serving earnings and meager paycheck.
  • Write SEVEN (omg) book reviews. I'm so pitifully behind. 
  • Finish my Juneberry shawl, block it, and post an FO entry about it.
  • Finish my sample fingerless gloves, post a tutorial and an FO entry about it.
  • Work on an assortment of knitting projects.
Yeah, that's a lot. Sigh. I foresee the exhaustion continuing well into the next two weeks...which is when school starts. Being an adult sucks!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Current Book Docket, Once More (with Feeling!)

Here's what's in the to-read pile at the moment:

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Dream of Ding Village by Yan Lianke
The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard
Boys Will be Boys by Myriam Miedzian
Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
Be Different by John Elder Robison
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review: Moby Duck by Donovan Hohn

Moby Duck was yet another new books section impulse pick-- I liked the idea of reading about bath toys bobbing their way across the ocean. That, apparently, was Hohn's motivation to begin his journey (a student of his wrote a short essay on a shipment of bath toys that had plunged into the Pacific Ocean during a storm. The toys wound up scattered across the North American continent). His search for the rubber ducky, beaver, frog, and turtle ultimately took him across several bodies of water and a number of countries over the course of several years. I'm not generally a fan of stunt memoirs, but I do enjoy ones like this that intelligently discuss pressing issues. While Hohn's search for the Floatee toys was the reason behind his search, much of the narrative was devoted to discussing the scientific ramifications of his journey: water currents, ocean pollution, sea storms' power to topple supersized cargo ships, and the melting of the polar ice caps. Through Hohn's eyes, the reader learns a great deal about all of these things, and more.

Funny, well-written, and thought-provoking. 4 out of 5 stars.

Friday, July 15, 2011

FO: Pithy Hat

I've been slowly but surely working through my yarn stash for over a year now, and while it's been slow going due to a giant decrease in the amount of free time I have, I finally feel like I've started to make a dent in it. Small projects like this help a lot; for whatever reason, back when I first started knitting, I bought tons of random, 100-200 yard balls of worsted and dk weight yarn. It's enough yarn for a hat or mittens, but not much else. Here lately, I've been going through ravelry and finding cute hats to make. This is the first in that series.
Pattern: Pithy Hat by Little Turtle Knits
Yarn: Zara Merino Extrafine
Needle: US #4 and US #8
Finished Size:  Head-shaped and slouchy.
Notes: If I make this again, I'll need to go down a few needle sizes for the ribbing. It's a hair too loose. Also, the degree of slouch is largely determined by how aggressively the hat is blocked. I only lightly blocked it, but it could have definitely been made large-slouchier if I'd stretched it more.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Scarf-in-Progress

And it's sideways! The pattern, "Ruffle Scarf," comes from Knit So Fine. I'm using some Paton's Kroy Sock in Regency Grey and some black Malabrigo lace. So far, so good, but I get the feeling this one's going to take a while, especially the ruffle. 1,000+ stitches...

I'll try not to think about it until I'm there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: The Two-Income Trap by Elizabeth Warren and Amelia Warren Tyagi

I've had a number of people recommend The Two-Income Trap to me over the past few years. Even though it's technically a little bit dated (it was published in 2003), I nevertheless found it quite relevant. The authors' thesis is simple: that families relying upon two incomes to meet fixed expenses are at a much higher risk of financial collapse than those that rely on only one. It makes perfect sense: if I have a job making, say, $50,000 a year while Matt parents the kitties and then lose said job, Matt would theoretically be able to get a job and help out with expenses until I get a comparable job (or, worst-case scenario, we both have to work crappy jobs but would still be able to pay the bills). However, if he and I are both employed and are spending all of our combined income on fixed expenses and one of us loses our jobs, we'd be boned pretty quickly. And that's exactly what's happening to a number of families.

It's something of a novel concept, and the authors devote quite a bit of time to explaining how they came by the evidence that led to their conclusions. They also spend a few chapters debunking myths about overspending, credit card debt, and other forms of financial irresponsibility that too many believe are the cause of families' financial ruin. Ironically, families who live off one income and fritter away the other are more financially stable than those who spend both incomes "responsibly" (provided that the two incomes are roughly equivalent, of course), because if the person making the "living" income loses their job, the one making the "fritter away" income could start paying the bills, as opposed to bills going unpaid. What really leads to families getting in over their heads, as it turns out, is America's screwed up way of funding public schools.

No, seriously.

The better a school district is, as a general rule, the more expensive housing in said district will be. This phenomenon also exists within school districts, as parents jockey for houses that are zoned for more desirable schools, driving the prices of said houses higher and higher. This, in turn, funnels more money into the school/school district in question, making it even more attractive, which, again, drives up housing prices in the area. It's a huge vicious cycle. High prices combined with unethical and predatory lending practices (I find it so crazy this book was published before the bubble burst; it's eerily prescient on the subject) can have devastating effects on families when they fall on hard times. Warren and Tayagi go into great detail in their discussion of the role that unethical corporate practices play in families falling into financial ruin.

Thought-provoking. 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

BAND: July Prompt

Over at Sophisticated Dorkiness, Kim asks:

Like fiction, nonfiction isn’t a monolithic term. Just like there are sub-genres or types of fiction (literary, women’s, mystery, thriller, horror, the list goes on), nonfiction has many varieties too. There’s creative nonfiction, essay, travelogue, self-help, biography, memoir, and more. With so many types of nonfiction (as well as topics covered), there are nonfiction options for everyone. With that in mind, this month’s question is a simple one:

What is one of your favorite types of nonfiction to read? OR What is one of your favorite nonfiction topics to read about?

I read a pretty wide variety of non-fiction. When I visit the library or bookstore (and I'm not after a specific title), I always start by skimming the new arrivals in non-fiction to see if there's anything that looks interesting. After that, I make my way to the social science section in the bookstore, or the 300s shelves at the library (300 = social sciences in the Dewey Decimal system). I know that saying "My favorite type of non-fiction is in the 300s section in the library" is a little overly broad, but there it is. 

I'm a sociologist at heart, despite my BA in English literature and my soon-to-be Master's in Social Work. This means I like my non-fiction to come with a side of critical thinking, socio-cultural analysis and critique, and, most importantly, address some pressing issue. This is why most of the non-fiction books I find myself enjoying are of a feminist or anti-racist bent (or both). I like for my reading to be at least semi-productive some of the time, and I think that learning about those things will ultimately make me a more positive contributor to society. 

When I'm looking to read something a little less serious, though, I either go for stunt memoirs (like Kim described in her entry) or random, quirky histories of everyday things. These satisfy my desire to learn about other people and eventually make millions on Jeopardy!, respectively, and I don't feel like I'm wasting time when I read them because I've learned something new.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Something I'm excited about:

BAND, or the Blogger's Alliance of Non-Fiction Devotees, has launched. I'm really looking forward to participating in the project. As you've all probably noticed, I read a lot of non-fiction (current split is about 60-40 in favor of it), and have occasionally wondered at the lack of a unified presence of non-fiction readers in the reading blogosphere. It seems that most interaction points (Top 10 lists, blog hops, and other memes) are geared towards fiction readers, and I've always found that sort of unfortunate. Here's to that changing!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Book Review: Poplorica by Martin J. Smith and Patrick J. Kiger

I admit it: I'm a random history junkie. I'm obsessed with books like Poplorica that detail random, strange aspects of history and their relationship to modern life. This, of course, is how I intend on winning big on Jeopardy (well, that and memorizing atlases). Poprlorica is American-centric, analyzing the evolution of random bits of American pop culture and detailing their histories and long-range effects. Everything from super absorbent diapers to TV dinners to pro wrestling is covered in a detailed and highly informative yet easy to understand manner. Also, it was funny.

5 out of 5 stars, but it's hard to say if any of the rest of you would like it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Why Google+ is better than twitter AND facebook.

So, I've joined up with Google+ as of three days ago ( if you'd like to be friends), and I'm really very impressed and pleased with it. Here's why I like it:

  1. Circles! Twitter has lists, but you can't filter your tweets by list. You can go either 100% public or 100% request to add, but can't do a mix of public and private content. Facebook isn't much better; while you can filter your content, the process is really difficult and clunky. Google+ circles make it easy to share some things publicly, semi-publicly, and relatively privately.
  2. Speaking of privately, Google+'s privacy settings are easy to navigate and customize. I know a lot of people have been kvetching about the private profile option disappearing, but you can lock down so much of your info that all random people will be able to see is your name and photo. Either way, it's better than facebook, where you have to opt out of everyone and their mother knowing what your underwear looks like. (Hello Kitty.)
  3. The mobile android app is one of the best I've ever used.
  4. There are no character limits in posts (or, if there are, it's a lot of characters). This is important when you're as long-winded as I am. 
  5. No obnoxious ads, particularly those trying to sell me on wedding stuff (as a long-standing member of Team Elope, that's a no) and OMGZ BABIES (as a long-standing member of Team I Don't Want to Be a Single Mom, that's a hail naw). Sure, I'll get creepily relevant yarn ads, but I'm okay with that. At least yarn isn't demeaning.
So far, anyway. Looking forward to deactivating my facebook account once more people make the switch.

Friday, July 8, 2011

FO: Idiot-Proof Sideways Scarf #3

Finally finished, which means I can post the pattern to Ravelry! Yay hooray!

Pattern: Idiot-Proof Sideways Scarf
Yarn: Zauberball Sock
Needle: US #7
Finished Size:  72" x 15" 
Notes: I like the colors on this one a LOT better, so I'm definitely keeping it for myself. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Book Review: Making Our Democracy Work by Stephen Breyer

As a member of several groups whose civil rights live and die by the Supreme Court, I often find myself paying more attention to it than the average person, so it makes sense that I snagged Making Our Democracy Work when I saw it on the new books shelf at the library. While Breyer isn't my favorite Justice (that honor goes to Justice Ginsburg*), I've nevertheless been a fan of a number of his decisions and rulings, and thought that his book would be an interesting read.

For the most part, it was, though I personally didn't find it particularly enlightening. That's not because Breyer is a bad writer or Making Our Democracy Work was uninformative; it was simply because I had already covered the material before in my high school and university coursework. I imagine, though, that it would be very compelling to someone who was unfamiliar with the evolution of the Supreme Court and the different judicial philosophies of its Justices who also wanted to learn a bit about its history and the specifics of some modern decisions. As such, I'd recommend it to anyone who didn't study American public policy, political science, history, or law who has an interest in the subject. Breyer writes very clearly, using language that most can comprehend (though his prose is often a bit on the dry side, but I guess that's to be expected). Breyer does an excellent job discussing the evolving role of the Court in American political life as well as detailing the reasoning behind the decisions he's been a part of.

Overall, I give it 4 out of 5 stars, even though I didn't have much use for it.

*I am sure you're all very surprised to learn that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Perhaps that wasn't such a good idea.

As of two weeks ago, I am working two jobs, which means being at work six days a week. It wasn't something I particularly wanted to do, but given the student residency bureaucracy's ongoing refusal to grant me in-state status and the overall state of my finances, it's become necessary. So far, it hasn't been that bad, but what little free time I possess has pretty much dwindled down to one day a week and a few hours here and there. Unfortunately, that means that I have to accomplish 75% of my weekly chores, errands, and Other Things That Need Doing on that one day, so I don't get a lot of rest or downtime.

Today, for example, I spent several hours reorganizing my Picasa photos for google+ (If you want to add me, I'm here:, working on some general blog housekeeping, going to the bank, visiting the gym, checking some books out of the library, and cooking dinner (after cleaning the kitchen, a rant which I'll spare you all for the moment). Sadly, I didn't get a chance to pick up my mail at my dad's house. I guess that'll have to wait 'til Friday.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Gigantic Undertakings

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by my current reading material. I've been bogged down in Vanity Fair (which I'm reading for the Victorian Lit challenge) since April. It's not that I'm not enjoying it, it's that it's such an everlasting slog, it's not even funny. I get it, Thackeray. You're funny. Let's move on, shall we? I'll probably finish it eventually, but I'm so burned out I can't even turn my nook on.

Beyond that, I'm having a difficult time getting going on The Second Sex, the Classic Feminist Lit challenge book for July, and it's over seven hundred pages! I really need to get cracking on that if I'm to finish it by the end of the month (also, it's a library book). It's also going to be something of a slog; the English translation is so densely-worded.  I'm already having a hard time focusing. Not fun.

Hopefully, I'll get some reading done on my day off tomorrow. I also have a gigantic backlog of book reviews to write and some online-presence housekeeping to take care of (I just got google+, so I need to organize my picasa albums, and my goodreads page is so sadly neglected). This whole working six days a week thing is really killing my ability to do this whole "blogging every day" thing. Oof.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Review: Flight by Sherman Alexie

Flight is the second Sherman Alexie novel I've read this year, and I'm probably going to read several more. I've found that I really enjoy his writing style. Flight, the story of Zits, a sixteen-year-old half-Indian in foster care, is no exception. Zits is in a rough spot: he's been in and out of foster care and juvenile detention centers for most of his life. Since his Indian father never claimed him, he wasn't protected by ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act, which would have required him to be placed within a racially appropriate foster family) and bounces from home to institution to kiddie jail and back again.

Everything changes when he meets Justice, a white kid, in a temporary holding cell. They move in together, and over a period of months, Justice convinces Zits to take his revenge on society by shooting up a bank. During the shooting, Zits gets shot in the head. Instead of dying, though, he is rocketed backwards in time, experiencing life as both and Indian and a white person at various times in the Old West. all throughout, he struggles to reconcile his identity as a doubly-alienated, green-eyed Indian. Alexie's gift for characterization shines throughout the novel, and the philosophical implications of Zits' journey are thought-provoking.

Great, but I wish it was longer (a lot of parts felt pretty rushed) and the historical flashbacks were more fleshed out. 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Idiot-Proof Sideways Scarf!

I came up with this pattern while I was perusing ravelry on a quest to find a scarf that was suited to self-striping fingering weight yarn. The only ones I could find were knitted from top to bottom, meaning that the colors appeared in thick blocks rather than the thin lines I was envisioning. I decided to write my own pattern for a side to side scarf, and went through my giant stack of stitch guides. This is the result.

There are two sizes. The smaller measures 60 x 15 inches, and the larger [in brackets] measures [72 x 15 inches].


One skein Knitpicks Chroma Fingering [396 yards], (One skein Zauberball Sock [462 yards])
*note: If you'd like to make the larger scarf with Chroma, you'll need a second ball.
Size US #7 needle
Optional: blocking wires, pins, and wool wash.


3 stitches per inch. I strongly recommend making and blocking a gauge swatch for this project. If you don't, you could wind up with a scarf that's nine feet wide and six inches thick (okay, that's extreme, but if you want the proportions to be right, making a swatch and doing the math is necessary).


Cast on 180 [220] stitches using a stretchy (I like long-tail) cast-on. Knit set-up rows. Work pattern rows 14 times. Work ending row. Bind off loosely (I prefer the sewn bind-off). Wash with wool wash and wet block using wires.

Set-Up Rows:
Row 1: k across
Row 2: p across

Row 1: k3, [k2tog, yo] to last three stitches, k3.
Row 2: p across
Row 3: k3, [yo, k2tog] to last three stitches, k3
Row 4: p across
Row 5: p across
Row 6: k across

Ending Row:
Row 1: p across

Saturday, July 2, 2011

One down, one to go!

My second try at the Love Bytes mittens is halfway done! So far, I like them a lot better than the first installment; the yarn is far less fuzzy, the green pops more, and I'm getting better at fair isle-- though you can still see where it's a little bit bunchy. That should come out with a good blocking, though.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Review: Ah-Choo! The Uncommon Life of the Common Cold by Jennifer Ackerman

I picked up a copy of Ah-Choo! at the library, a last-minute beach pick (you can see how far my book review backlog is; I've been back for over a month now). File it under: I really like to read books about diseases.

The title is pretty self-explanatory: this book is about colds: what they are, how they spread, and how they're treated. Ackerman deftly explains scientific concepts in layman's terms, offering easy-to-understand synopses of the latest research on the subject and dispelling a number of popular myths. I already knew that antibiotics, herbal supplements and remedies, and over-the-counter cold medications don't work, along with the fact that being outside in the cold won't make you sick, but it's good to have solid proof backing that up.

I did find the information concerning the spread of colds to be pretty enlightening, though, and the methodologies scientists use to determine that are fascinating. Also of use is the appendix, which contains an alphabetized list of cold treatments and up-to-date information on their relative efficacy. Also included are drink and chicken soup recipes, which would be great if I didn't dislike both hot alcoholic beverages and chicken with a passion. All in all, an informative, worthwhile read.

4 out of 5 stars.