Monday, January 31, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

"If it's too hard, I'm not doing it"

With one row of border to go on the afghan that I've been working on off and on (mostly off) for the last six months, I encountered the words "single crochet from left to right"

WHAT?! That's backwards.
That's not how it's done, what does it even do?
Answer: it creates a really cool ripple pattern, spirally.
As I'm sitting here wrapped up in the finished product, I've just realized it's a double helix. You know, like DNA. Because my yarn obsession doesn't make me dorky enough, I had to throw in that example.

I am really proud of this blanket, though. It's my first afghan, and it is proof that I can finish something of ginormous proportions. It might just take half a year.
I'm definitely going to take a break from the epic crochet projects (see picture of tablecloth in earlier post, if you're wondering why) but eventually I'd like to make a complimentary afghan. Same pattern, warm colors, and this one for me so I stop stealing Ben's.
Really, I've spent more time under the thing than he has, and it is his Christmas present.

PS- I swear to god this wallpaper is the same paper Oscar Wilde was talking about. His last words were, and I quote, "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Onion

I can't watch the State of the Union (or as Ben says, onion) silently. I can't do it.

But! This is not about the State of the Onion address, because I missed most of it while we were at a panel discussion and then while I was making ravioli when we got home because I was starving.

Today's actual topic is the panel discussion that Ben and I went to on men of color, primarily African American men, in education.

Nothing astoundingly profound was said, mostly stuff that we all already know, but I thought I'd reiterate some of the things that I agree with here.

- It takes a village.
Of course it does. Mostly, their point (and btw, the panel consisted of the Superintendent of Phila, a teacher, a principal, etc) was that if everybody cared for other kids as much as they care for their own, we could convince these kids that school is important. A kid that has one person that cares about their education will be more successful than one that has no one.

- Early childhood education
The super really stressed this, and for the most part I think she's right. If we're letting children leave third grade without basic reading and math skills, they will not succeed. It's nearly impossible to bridge the achievement gap after third grade, and you get 20 year old seniors that are for all intents and purposes illiterate. Fact: children learn the most at a young age.
Why not utilize this information.

I'd like to add that we need administrators who won't push kids through to push papers. If they're failing, fail them.

I missed this because I was counting crochet stitches on my hat, but Ben said that the principal of the charter school was subtly all about getting rid of "the system."
He was in charge of his charter school, and he took responsibility for getting to know the kids, and making sure that they were provided with a well rounded education, which included ARTS, as well as sports, and academics, and just generally making sure that his kids were turning into good people, without answering to the school district of Philadelphia.

Amen. I vote get rid of that system, because clearly, it doesn't work.
We need more TRULY ALTERNATIVE schools. Montessori schools, etc.

And finally, most importantly, the super quoted a sign that hangs on a teacher's door.

"If they can't learn the way I teach, I will teach the way they learn."

Yes, you will. Because that's your job as a teacher.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I finally got around to this book. It was on the list for awhile because it got so popular so fast, and that was also the reason that I never made a huge effort to read it. I was curious why it took off the way it did, but I was also a little wary of it because some other things that have rocketed to the top of the bestseller list have been absolute crap.

This is not the case with this book.

At book club, where we discussed the book before I had finished it, someone else who hadn't read it yet asked why it was so popular.

In my opinion, for two reasons.
1) It has a little bit of everything, which makes it appealing to a lot of people.
2) It's an exceptionally well plotted mystery.

For example, it's dark, it's thrilling, there's some gore, lots of casual sex which I'm sure appeals to all the men. I mean really, what man doesn't want to have the relationships that Mikael has? He sleeps with EVERYONE and yet NOBODY seems to mind. Genius ploy to acquire male readers.
At the same time, there's loads of girl power to attract the women. The women Mikael sleeps with are using him just as much as he's using them, which is kind of a refreshing change. And then there's Lisbeth Salander, who is quite frankly, awesome.

As for part two of my two reasons, it's rare to encounter a mystery that I can't solve. This one is incredibly well plotted- the pace is steady, and it's long, but it's all necessary (except maybe the financial world jargon at the beginning. If I was his editor I'd have made him make that part shorter) But really, I'd have only cut the thing by maybe 50 pages. The red herrings for me were clearly red herrings, but they don't point you in the direction of the actual clues. The only other writers I can think of that do this well are Mary Higgins Clark and Arturo Perez-Reverte.

If you like a good mystery, go read them. And this book. The blurbs on the cover are right- it's thrilling. I found myself reading so fast that I wasn't giving proper thought to whodunit, and subsequently, I couldn't solve it. I'm not sure that I'd have been able to solve it even if I was thinking about it. Larsson gives you so much information that you can't know what's relevant until he tells you.

Oh, and there's lots of James Bond type stuff, too. Disguises, gadgets, hacking, the usual.

I need the next two books in the trilogy. I recommend having them close by when you're done with this one.

Go forth and read.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Patterns from the Past

I'm on a yarn kick, as you can tell. I mean, I'm always on a yarn kick, that's why it's an addiction, but on the blog I've been talking about yarn a lot. So here's today's post/picture.

It's a sweater that I've been working on for over a year. And I haven't picked it up in almost a year. I'd like to finish it though. After the gazillion other projects that I have lined up.

Oh, well. It will get done eventually.

Friday, January 21, 2011

video crack

Actually, this has nothing to do with QuickDraw.

It does have to do with my current song addiction.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Beware the Free Patterns

They are free for a reason- most likely because they haven't been tested.

Or it could be because they're just crap.
As I'm sure you can tell, I'm a little annoyed. I've been working on a scarf for a few weeks now (off and on, mostly at knitting group, because it's much more portable than the afghan that I'm almost finished with). But I decided that I was going to finish it today just so I can feel like I've accomplished something.

Well, that didn't happen.

Why? You may ask.

Because I ran out of yarn. The pattern said that it required 200 yards of yarn. I had a ball of 197 yards. I cut out six inches of the middle section of the pattern for two reasons:
1) Because I had slightly less yarn than required.
2) Because I'm short and I didn't need a scarf long enough for a tall person.

And yet, with three rows to go, I have run out of yarn.
This makes me incredibly frustrated. Now I will have to go back and attempt to find the same yarn in the same color, and it will not be on sale I'm sure, just to finish three fucking rows of this scarf.

I repeat: I am ANNOYED.
And slightly drunk, so forgive any typos that might turn up.

Today's lesson comes in two parts
1) Buy more yarn than you supposedly need...
2)...because you can never trust a free pattern

Here's hoping for a snow day tomorrow. Wear your pajamas inside out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Curtain up!

Today was supposed to be the beginning of my Phila in Photos segment of the blog, wherein I wander aimlessly around the city taking pictures. Okay, not aimlessly. I wander in search of a job while carrying a camera would be more accurate. I'm hoping that the weather will be cooperative tomorrow, because I'd like to hike up to Loop and beg, I mean inquire, about a job.

So while today's picture isn't really the city of Philadelphia, it is our bathroom, which is located in Philadelphia.

The bathroom came with mini-blinds, which had to come down when we put up plastic in the windows for the winter. Neither of us was sorry to see them go. So I tried the crochet curtain thing, and I hated them.

The sewing machine and I have a long-standing armed truce. Either of us could blow up at the other at any moment. Thankfully, that didn't really happen. There was some swearing, but there was no throwing things, so I'd call that success.

And now we have actual curtains, instead of a sheet.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Hot Cocoa, You Tube and Ravelry

And now, for another episode of...

Things I Should Be Doing (But I'm Not)

So I should really be organizing my CDs for the trip back tomorrow.
The laundry is in the process of doing itself. I love how that works. Stick it in, do something else for half an hour, come back and it's done! Magical.

Finally, I should be working on my pitch for my novel because the Amazon Breakthrough Award submission time is fast approaching. I need to edit and write a pitch that is better than at least 4,000 other pitches in order to get into the next round.
You know something? It's MAD hard.
As is editing your own work.
Thus, I am not doing it. Do we see how this cycle works?

And now that I have blogged and crossed another thing off of my things I can do instead of what I need to list...I'm going to go make a cd or something.

This episode of Things I Should Be Doing (But I'm Not) brought to you by:
Hot cocoa, you tube and ravelry.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

You Call Yourself an English Major!?

Last night I was puttering around the Guardian as I sometimes do, and I decided to test myself with their 2010 Literary Quiz. The competition is long over, but if you would like to feel as stupid as I did, you can test yourself HERE.

Before you click, be warned, I got one question right. They are STUPID hard.

The answers, if you care, can be found HERE.

And because I am very very nice (and because I felt like a terrible English Major after this, as I'm sure you do too, even if you're not an English major) I compiled a list of most, if not all, of the books that one would have to read to ace this quiz.

That list, after the picture. THIS was another article of interest that I found in the last few days. Books as art? Can your kindle do that? Didn't think so. And while I much prefer the look of my own bookshelf, with books in their own covers, and I cringe a little at the superficialness of some of these people, there were a couple in the article who were actually interested in reading their books too.

Speaking of reading. On to the list that I have assembled for you (and me. Mostly me. I'm just nice enough to share certain things with you) Note: Some of the answers were authors, so just their names are on the list, not specific works.

Moby Dick- Herman Melville
Our Man in Havana- Graham Greene
These Demented Lands- Alan Warner
Pale Fire- Nabokov
Harmonium- Wallace Stevens
Memories of West Street and Lepke- Robert Lowell
Gaius Cornelius Gallus
Robert Browning
Sohrab and Rustum- Matthew Arnold
Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes- Robert Louis Stevenson
Henry James
George Crabbe
The Constant Nymph- Margaret Kennedy
Un Hiver a Majorque- George Sand
Ivanov- Chekov
Heartbreak House- George Bernard Shaw
The Designated Mourner- Wallace Shawn
Marnie- Winston Graham
Topaz- Leon Uris
Frenzy- Arthur La Bern
Family Plot- Victor Canning
Tess of the D'Urbervilles- Thomas Hardy
Ulysses- James Joyce
The Castafiore Emerald- Herge
The Sound and the Fury- William Faulkner
Agamemnon- Aeschylus
Roseanna- Peter Wahloo and Maj Sjowall
Jump!- Jilly Cooper
One Day- David Nicholls
Mrs Dalloway- Virginia Woolf
Herland - Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Heart of a Dog- Bulgakov
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Milan Kundera
Vanity Fair- Thackeray
Bleak House- Dickens
The Biographer's Tale- A.S. Byatt
Goodbye to Berlin- Christopher Isherwood
The Wind in the Willows- Kenneth Grahame
The Black Prince - Iris Murdoch
New Grub Street - George Gissing
A Dance to the Music of Time- Anthony Powell
We Think the World of You- J.R. Ackerly
The Phantom Tollbooth - Norton Juster
Jane Eyre- Charlotte Bronte
Under the Net- Iris Murdoch
Blindness- Jose Saramego

That should keep you busy for awhile. I plan on reading them all (except the poetry. No interest in poetry) at some point. If you find flaws in the list, blame the fact that I was watching The Maiden Heist while I wrote them down. And if you need a break from all that reading, watch The Maiden Heist- it's a funny movie.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Twain Turns in his Grave

Or perhaps he laughs. Actually, I'm quite sure he is laughing, in that bemused yet bitter cynic kind of way.

This article is simply too ridiculous to ignore.

NewSouth Books has taken it upon themselves to fix The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by replacing all 219 instances of the word 'nigger' with the word 'slave.' Because, you know, that word is so much better.

Clearly, these people have no idea what makes Twain such a good writer. It's not that word, it's the language itself. It's the dialect that is flawless. It's the characters that are created completely, not just to the point where they don't offend anybody. It's the satire.

Think about this: who is Huck's best friend, the only person that he can stand to be around for any length of time?

Twain isn't using the word to offend, to belittle, or to promote enslavement. He was an abolitionist! If you're going to teach Huck Finn, two things should happen.
1) You ought to understand it yourself before you go "teaching" others.
2) You also should be teaching the whole book.
Explain the context, explain the dialect that Twain uses, and how that word was common as cotton. Look beyond it, and explore the relationship between Huck and Jim, and contemplate the ideas that Twain was actually presenting.

I think we've become much too PC lately, walking on eggshells, altering classics so we don't run the risk of offending someone. God forbid.
Now, I'm not saying you should go around using this word, of course you shouldn't, our language has evolved past it, I'm just saying taking it out of a great work from the past is idiotic.

Pretending the Civil War didn't happen won't change the fact that it did.
Did I mention that they're also replacing "injun" with the spelled correctly "Indian?"
I'm sure the first nations are all applauding their effort.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Surprise, Surprise!

That title can be taken sarcastically when directed at the top ten bestselling books since the inception of Nielsen ratings in 1998. However, when skimming down the other 90 spots on the list that you can find on the Guardian, I was legitimately, and pleasantly, surprised.

Books I was surprised by, and why you should read them:

15- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
I love this book. It's a murder mystery/YA from the point of view of a boy with Autism. Haddon's characterization is spot on. I've heard people say "my brother with Autism is nothing like this, it's completely inaccurate."
It's not. I've dealt with a variety of kids with the disorder, and it's called a broad spectrum because it IS. And I know kids like Christopher. It's brilliant.

43- The Interpretation of Murder - Jed Rubenfeld
I love Freud. Stick him in a murder mystery, and it's great.

49- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - John Boyne
I can't tell you what it's about, that would ruin it. Profoundly beautiful, profoundly heartbreaking. Just read it.

54- The Very Hungry Caterpillar - Eric Carle
If you have not read this, you have not yet begun to live. Your life is meaningless.

92- The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak
We've already discussed this.

Two for the way back up the list- White Teeth by Zadie Smith and Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. I haven't read either of these, but I have read On Beauty by Zadie Smith, and I loved it, you should add it to the list. And I have read Teacher Man by Mr. McCourt. Also get yourself a copy of this. He's wonderful.

There you go. More for the list.
You're welcome.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Mummers Parade 2011

Happy New Year!

As I mentioned in my last post, I am now settled into Philadelphia. The only thing I'm lacking is a job, which is stressful, but hopefully that issue will be resolved shortly.

On to the Mummers Parade!

This thing is a long standing tradition in Philly, dating back to pretty much all of the first settlers, according to Wikipedia. Each of them, from Swedes to English to George Washington, contributed in some way to what is now the current Mummers Parade, where these clubs parade up Broad Street in very elaborate costumes, and perform in an effort to win cash prizes for their group.