Monday, February 28, 2011

What Teachers Make...

I'm stealing that title from the YouTube video that I hope comes through here.

So, with all the unrest in Wisconsin and after a totally unsatisfying conversation with my brother, I found this guy's name in a Chicago Tribune column so I figured I'd look him up.
Awesome. As you listen to the for or against discussions about teachers; as you listen to people who mouth the words: Education is Important while they take their veto-pens to the education budgets...listen to what Taylor Mali has to say about what teachers offer. And then use the brain you were given to determine for yourself if they're 'overpaid babysitters' or the important influence on our childrens' lives that we hope for.
Look, I realize that unions can be corrupt. Oh, by the way - so can corporations. And what people don't want to look at is the HISTORY. Unions gave us things back in "the day." And right now, corporations want to take that away.
Why did Exxon Mobil pay NO TAXES last year, after record earnings?
Governments are run by taxes. But by giving massive tax breaks to those individuals and corporations who can actually afford to pay them, the government then has to go to the next step: taxing those of us in the rapidly decreasing middle. The "Middle Class" is the only thing in America that's shrinking, that's for sure! Our waistlines, gas prices, food prices and collective blood pressure are all rising.
So, ok, even if this measure in Wisconsin passes, what else bugs me? Well, the WAY it's being passed. It's not being "passed," it's being rammed. And if it was a Democrat who'd have been doing the ramming, you can bet your last dime that the (R) bloviators would be screaming from the heights of every skyscraper and radio wave, "The Democrats are DICTATORS."
So what is cutting off debate? What is cutting out the right to negotiate? What is "offering to talk then tying them in their chairs"? None of those behaviors are "small-d-democratic." They're BIG-D-DICTATORISH. Governors don't have the power - or they shouldn't have it - to cut off debate. Debate on an issue is ingrained on our national soul. We have the right to debate. We don't elect dictators; we supposedly elect people who'll listen to us.
Right now, I don't feel very listened-to. I feel fearful for my kids. And it looks like a lot of other folks feel that way too.
Watch the video. You'll be blown away - and you'll see why teachers are our most important resource.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

As Wisconsin Goes???

I've been following the Wisconsin story these past few days, and I am just amazed. Scott Walker seems intent upon stripping unions of any power. The Democrats, known as "The Wisconsin 14," have fled the state to prevent a final vote on this, and Walker is sending out state troopers to see if he can fish at least one of 'em back.

I think that he's not getting it. He's telling a faux-Koch -- the radio prankster who managed to get him to admit that he pretty much will not negotiate and that he's going to bust the unions - that his plan all along has been to cripple the unions. He actually said he "thought about" bringing in outside agitators. He also said that he'd talked with other lawmakers about this. Sorry, but this is union busting, a textbook plan to bust a union. He's not willing to negotiate. It's his way or the highway. They elected him (and I'm not sure why) as GOVERNOR, and not God. From the faux-Koch interview, it clearly seems like Walker has a plan - nay, a plot. It's much more subversive than a "plan" because he's wanting to rip out the bedrock of Wisconsin and the entire Rust Belt. I hope to heaven that someone acts on that phone call.

And he also said, which I find incomprehensible given the recent coverage, that "[all the protestors] were from out of state and the people of Wisconsin were getting tired of all the disruption." Really? He thinks they're all on his side? The teachers protesting; the state employees protesting; the average WI citizens protesting? They don't look like they like his idea much at all.

The talking heads on Fox are calling for violence. But if you've seen the coverage so far, the demonstrations are bringing out the best in people; they've been peaceful. Loud, yes. But that's the point, seeing as the governor can't quite hear what they're saying since he's decided that the decision is his alone. The talking heads, if they have you in their snare, turned a Gallup poll on its head. The recent poll said that 63% of Americans were behind the Wisconsin union members. But blatantly in Fox News' reports, they say, "A full 63% of Americans do not support the unions in Wisconsin." Really? I know how to read a pie chart. And it didn't look like that to me. I've got lots of education and I can tell when there's a majority opinion about something. And Gallup isn't exactly new at this. But there you have it. Spin this enough and up is down. The sky is sideways. Inside is outside.

Use your brains, people! Unions brought you regulations that have made your lives easier: the 5-day work week; vacations; basic workplace standards that keep workers safe. And you know what else they did? Unions brought you worker standards. Yes, worker standards are those things that tell you that when you hire a plumber, he or she has knowledge of the trade; he or she has been trained as an apprentice; he or she has put time into learning the trade. And he or she won't screw up your plumbing! What's that worth to you? It's worth plenty to me, since one son is in the trades, and I'd kind of like to see him in a safe environment when he's working. And I'd like him to make a living wage and be able to not work in a sweatshop.

In full disclosure, my dad and grandpa were in the union. My father-in-law was a union man as well. My youngest son is thisclose to being a teacher (will graduate in May) and I have friends who are teachers who are also in a union. My mother was  part of the union when she worked, and her very tiny pension comes from that membership.

So I think that Walker isn't getting the message. He's not seeing the Democrat walk-out for what it is. They're making the point that the government, which is supposedly for the people, is not listening - at least in Wisconsin AND in Indiana now - to what the people want. And someone ought to remind Walker that he's not supposed to use the State Troopers to fish back the Democrats. The State Troopers can't be used in "labor disputes" nor in "political issues." This is so clearly a political issue - it's all Kabuki theatre in Wisconsin, and he is, in my opinion, violating the trust of the citizens of Wisconsin. He's sending Troopers out to get the Dems, but there are people who need the resources of the Troopers - to solve crimes and help them. Don't you think? Let them do their jobs, and keep them out of your farcical political games.

The thing is this: teachers do not make $100,000+ a year. When you see this figure, you just see lots of zeros. What you don't see is that the basic salary of a teacher is about $50,ooo and the benefits are tacked on. Just like my salary: I make about $44,000 a year, but since I work at a university, I do get a tuition benefit. On paper, if you just look at the bottom line, I make about $68,000. But if you take out that tuition benefit, my actual salary is much less.

At that, that $50,000 is not a lot of money when you think of what a teacher does. As my kids were growing up, we often found that teachers supplemented their salaries by coaching teams, and they often had to provide basic classroom supplies out of their own pockets. My son has 2 interviews scheduled. His base salary will be in the range of $30,000 per year. That's less than the 2009 median income, according to the US Census. Check out the data at the following site: and see for yourself. The 2009 median income for a male wage-earner is $47,127.

The more education he gets, the better that salary will be. I paid for his BA. He's on his own for his MA and beyond. And let me tell you, the cost per credit hour for a Master's degree can be $700+ and each class is 3 credit hours. So let's just estimate: you're looking at $2,100 per class. There are 39 hours required for a basic Master's program. So, $2,100 x 39 = $81,900. For a degree. He's not going to get that for free. He's got to pay for that.

And while paying for that, he's got to work. Teaching kids.

I'm listening to a radio program, and one of the Wisconsin Democrats is speaking. He's saying that the protestors are mothers and fathers, teachers, social workers, working people. Those Democrats who've walked out - they're paying for their expenses out of their own pockets. And Walker says that he's going to hold their paychecks.

If Walker succeeds in busting the union here, it'll flow outward through the entire Rust Belt. It's not always about balancing the budget. He's not willing to discuss any of this with the Democrats. No negotiations. If he balances the budget, it doesn't mean that he must bust the union. It's just that busting the unions is a Republican agenda item. Unions traditionally support Democrats.

So how best to turn the 2012 elections? Cut off the best source of funding to the Democrats: the union folks.

The thing is, I think (and I'm praying) that this will fly back into Walker's face like bacon grease out of a hot pan. Unions built this country. Yes, there are corrupt unions. Like there aren't corrupt businesses funding the Republicans?? Please. The unions haven't asked for bail-outs, and as a matter of fact, the teachers in WI had already given back pay concessions and other concessions in the form of some of their benefits.

But Walker won't budge. It's his way: bust it up. No other way.

This should scare the rest of us in the Rust Belt. And it should make us mad. We can't contribute to the expenses of the Wisconsin 14. But we can participate in local solidarity events. We can donate to the campaign funds of the Wisconsin 14. We can write letters and make our own voices heard. I'm not in a union. But my father's union benefits provided medical, vision and dental care for 4 kids. My father's union benefits provided us decent wages for him, because at the time I was growing up, my mother worked as a school secretary for $1.75 per hour. Yeah, a buck-seventy-five. And no benefits. The union membership in her case didn't come till later, when she went to work for a community college and some administrative positions were covered under the teachers' union.

But you know what we really need? Someone in DC to come out and call this what it is. Obama or Biden must speak up, quickly. I absolutely realize that the right wing nut jobs on Fox or other stations will have a field day with that. But good grief: the man is President (or Vice President as the case may be) and Biden especially - he has campaigned on the fact that he was a "Regular Joe." So, Joe. Come on out to the Midwest. You've been a New England resident; our winter's not over, but it's not something that should freak you out.

I'm issuing an invitation: come out and support the people who got you elected. Before it's too late. I'm tellin' ya: 2012 is right around the corner. Come out now, while you're needed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

You Can Tell it Was a Full Moon...

Me and my Bear
 Hi Everyone!! This is Tippi, your intrepid canine reporter. So I need to tell you about my training class last Sunday, but I need some help with the words.

What's a "revolt"??? My Mom said that was what was happening. Shallot's dad was laughing for a while, till Shallot apparently did this "revolt" thing too, but Bobbie, our trainer, had the last laugh when Mom mentioned that last Friday, the full moon was hanging low in the sky, like a "Harvest Moon" --- whatever that is!

Anyway.... I really was happy to get to class. I like class. We went to class and I was in a hurry to get inside to see who was there. It wasn't as crazy as last week's class, but there were plenty of people to sniff, corners to try to peek under and tons of food bits all around. Heaven!!

We got off on the wrong foot when I tried to pull Mom across the parking lot and through the doors - because there was a human lady there with a big blue wheeled thing - she was in MY way. But my mom snapped my martingale and said, "Tippi - you'd think you've never been here!" The other human lady just laughed.

The first part of the class, Shallot's dad and my mom helped Bobbie with some paperwork to become a CGC evaluator. She is a GREAT trainer but mom said she "needs work" on her writing. So, we had such FUN! Bobbie shut the training room door and Shallot and I got to play off-leash for a while. But that just meant our class ran a little later. See, Bobbie wants to become an Evaluator but mom says she's a Procrastinator. Her dog Leo actually passed the test but has to be re-tested because Bobbie didn't send in his paperwork!

Anyhow. Bobbie is doing a lot of work to make sure that Shallot and I pass our CGC exams. She would like us to be her first "graduating" class, and maybe Quinn, too, if we take her to be "refreshed." Dad says she needs "refreshing."

We did the loose-leash walking. We did meet-and-greet. We did the grooming thing. We did weaving through a crowd. Mom got hollered at because her hand was below the paper clip! I have to tell you that one.

My mom tends to keep me on a short leash. Not because I'm a bad dog! No sirreeeeeee. But because sometimes at PetSmart, other dogs don't have manners or their owners think it's "cute" when they come bashing out of a lane and lunge at us. I don't think it's "cute" and I've had to do my Big Bad Elkhound act more than once!

So Bobbie doesn't like mom to keep my leash tight, but she understands. So. For class, Bobbie put a paperclip on my nice hemp leash (courtesy of Fun Time Dog Shop at in a lovely pink color) and mom's hand isn't allowed to go past it.

So we did Loose Leash through a crowd AGAIN. This time, mom did ok.

Then we did the U-turn, and right and left turns. That was fun, and I did good. We had to do it twice because Shallot did have a problem, but it wasn't her fault. When we had our free-playing, she did get into the water. She's got a bladder the size of a flea, and she had a few accidents. So we took a break while Bobbie mopped up and Shallot went outside.

Then. Oh my. We did the "long-down-come-when-called" thing. I was not cooperative. I understand what they wanted me to do. I just didn't feel like it, thank you very much. Mom took FOREVER to get me to sit/stay. And every time she turned her back, I got up. We kept at it; I thought Bobbie was going to move on to Shallot, but she got really stern with me and said, "Sit. Stay." She's got a deeper voice than mom's (and she's got a pretty deep one!) and FINALLY I did it. I did cheat a bit and started my "come" before mom actually said come. I think we took a long, long, LONG time to do that. I was just not going to cooperate.

So then it was Shallot's turn. Mom and Shallot's dad think we planned it, but we really didn't (much). Shallot had a hard time staying. But then, she really did stay and when her daddy called, she just cocked her head at him and sat there. And sat there. So my mommy tried. She just sat there. Bobbie was laughing and that was when Shallot finally came; and then Mom mentioned the full moon.

Now everyone understood. At least the humans think that was why we did it. I just wanted to see if I'd still get treats. Bobbie did say "no cookies for Tippi" after it took 4 tries to get a sit/stay out of me. Drat.

Me and my favorite bone
It's our last class next week. Bobbie wants us to come back after that to help her with a dog in Intermediate. Is that therapy work? She said the other dog needs to be "socialized" and that we could help! I love to help! Maybe it means more treats. I have noticed the treats are getting smaller. Something to do with my vet saying "Tippi needs to lose about 8 lbs." I'm starving already! As I'm sure you can tell by this picture.

So as we were leaving, Shallot needed to piddle once more, right outside the PetSmart door. And this guy with this really funny-looking dog came up. My mom said, "Oh, a Bedlington!" and the guy was very impressed that my mom knew what it was. It looked like a sheep to me. Her name is Vera and she was nice. We got to say hello. The man asked my mom if I was a "Siberian" dog. Well, with all due respect to my Siberian Husky elder sister, NO! My mom told him I was a Norwegian Elkhound and he then said he thought his brother had one. Well, believe me, if his brother did have an Elkhound, he'd remember!

Till next week! Please go visit Fun Time Dog Shop - all the proceeds go to rescues like me and Quinn. They also help other breed rescues, so you can pick from what's on the list. Shallot and I really like the organic treats and I love my leash. Until next time!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Do You Want to Go Back or Go Forward?

See, I'm having a problem. I'm having a problem with the budget discussions. On both sides, actually.

I don't want to see the heating program cut; and I don't want the block grant program cut. I don't like that the social services programs are being cut.

And I don't like what I see from the Republican side either - driving us to the brink of disaster with their push to privatize Social Security and slash Medicare and Medicaid.

Frankly, I'd be perfectly happy to see the public arts programs cut for now. Nobody has ever died because of lack of art. But the nearly-50-million uninsured Americans? They're not looking too good lately.

The retirees? Social Security isn't the budget-buster. It's solvent. Really. Look it up. Why do you want to rob from the seniors, who've paid their dues, to give it to corporations and the military? The uber-rich will gain from this, not the people like my mother and my mother-in-law.

Balanced budget? Yep, we do need that. But here's the thing. It's really, REALLY basic math.

The uber-rich and the corporations slide because they're getting massive --- and I mean massive tax breaks. Last year, ExxonMobil paid NO taxes. But they had one of their greatest earnings years ever. The loopholes were so big that you could've driven an oil tanker through them, but given Exxon's history, I would want to know who's driving that particular vehicle!

Do you want to slash programs that cut jobs, but then give rewards to corporations for them to outsource those jobs? That's what's happening. And Obama just gave a plum position in his administration to a well-known outsourcer-extraordinaire. Lovely.

Obama really needs to do what he said he was going to do: Stand up for the people who got him into office. He's playing with fire when playing with the Republicans who want two things: To show that the black guy in the White House will fail; and to take ultimate control to toss us all under the bus. Any of us who are middle-class? We're Republican toast. Our retirements are at stake. What do you want to do when you retire? I'm not talking "retiring to a vineyard in Napa." I'm talking "affordable retirement where I don't have to worry about buying food versus paying other bills." That's pretty basic. That's why I'm working; that's why my Hubby is working. To have a pay-off at the end of our working lives where we can relax and not have to be greeters at the local Big Box when we're 80. If we can get that job...

Do I know the answer? Well, I have an idea, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who's looking at the same thing. It's just that I have no power. I have the power of the pen - which isn't what it used to be, quite frankly, and I have the power of my vote. I think. Not so sure about that lately, since my President has morphed into something I'm not sure I like.

Here's my take. Tax the rich at an equitable level. No, don't ask them what's equitable, because they like the huge slice of the pie they already have. An equitable level as determined mathematically through a review of what everyone makes. Average that number and then determine an appropriate tax rate for those whose incomes are over a certain number. I don't know the number. I just know that if I'm making $250,000+, I can be sure that I'll pay way less than someone making $100,000 or less. Because I'll have someone who knows where to stash that income to make it look like I'm making less than that $250,000. Come on, you can afford it, particularly if your income is quite far past that $250,000 number.

And corporations. They are not people. They do not deserve the same rights as a person. A corporation is not a sentient being, and thus does not have the same Constitutional right. It can change overnight into something else. I will always be a human. No changing here, except I'll get older. A corporation can change into another corporation; can divest itself of assets to appear to be something it isn't; can merge or acquire different businesses to change its assets and give better benefits to their stockholders. I can't do that as a human. I can marry, but that doesn't mean that I can change my basic being. Which is what can happen with a corporation.

So don't give them the same rights as a person. And hold them accountable to the cities and states in which they do business. Don't give them tax breaks to send jobs away from Americans. And don't tell me there are cheaper workers overseas. I get the whole "global corporate environment" thing, but when I see jobs going overseas, I don't see the same reciprocity... The countries who are taking those jobs aren't exactly supporting America. They're supporting their families, true. But since America has pretty much ceased making anything anyone wants to buy - the overseas workers are incapable of supporting us in any meaningful way. This is a one-way street, and we're in the headlights of the oncoming traffic.

In the last 10 years, we have lost over 50,000 factories in the US. Millions of jobs. And it's harder and harder to find products manufactured here. But again, we're also giving people who WANT to build and manufacture here a load of crap - we're not allowing them to do it easily. If you read Bloomberg Business Week you can see stories about manufacturers who are apologizing for having to go to China or another country because the US has made it virtually unprofitable to set up a factory here. A solar-battery manufacturer wanted to build a plant in the Carolinas. But by the time he got through the red tape and other hoops and chutes and ladders -- it was cheaper to go to China. He would like to come to America - at some point. And he's disappointed that he wasn't able to start a factory here. To give a US-made, relevant product to the American consumer and to provide sustainable jobs to American citizens.

What are we headed toward? I'm not sure and I'm frightened. I think we need a counter-revolution of the Liberal kind. The Conservatives are determined to flush the middle class and lower class down into the sewer, all to enrich their cronies. I don't like the idea of being flushed.

I hope you agree.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Strict Constructionalism Until It's Not Convenient...

So a recent report from Fox News shows that Republicans involved in the upcoming Iowa Caucus do have some pressing things on their mind for the 2012 election.

Let's see. We're at war. In two places. Our economy is growing slowly, but our undergraduates are still having trouble finding jobs. Real estate markets are moving - not sure in which direction - at a snail's pace, with more homeowners "under water" than there really should be, given the fact that the government bailed out those financial institutions. Who are holding on to the bail-out funds to give their own execs a bonus, or increase their bottom lines for the benefit of their stockholders.

That's a good start, right?

Nope. They're worried because President Barack Obama is "hiding the truth" that he's really not a Christian, in spite of more assertions than there would be if the guy was white...Let's call it what it is, folks. And that -- oh my.... He's MUSLIM. Except for the fact that he's not.

So, most of those folks consider themselves "strict constructionalists" of the US Constitution. Therefore, using logic (and it won't hurt, I promise), they should be pretty clear about Article Six and its obvious meaning.

Article VI of the  United States Constitution: (only the 3rd paragraph is relevant here, so I'll skip all that extra typing)

The Senators and Representatives, before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Can you read that, or shall I break it down? Oh, heck. I'll break it down. It's more fun.

Senators, legislators and any public elected official, including the judiciary, must take an oath to support the Constituiton. They do that, albeit they don't have a standard oath, as that was deemed a "test" and thus a violation. So, Congress may include "so help me God," but an individual may choose not to say the words. If you were to require the person to say them, that's a religious test.

The current oath is: I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreigh and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. (So help me God.)

Kennedy  had to deal with the whole "religious test" thing because people were worried that "Rome would be running the country." John Kerry actually put this issue to rest in his own campaign, by saying (I'm paraphrasing) basicially, "I was elected by many people of many beliefs. My own beliefs are my own. I was elected to do the will of the people, and that doesn't mean just the Catholic people. It means all the people in my district."

The religious test issue was brought up again in the 110th United States Congress, when Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the US Congress (Minnesota's 5th Congressional District) said he was going to use a Qu'ran for his swearing in. Funny thing - he used the Qu'ran that was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Remember him??

The US Congress does not officially swear anyone in using any holy book. It's an en mass swearing in, and any other ceremonies using a holy book are strictly private.

So. We're back at President Obama. The guy has affirmed - multiple times - that he's a Christian. He's proven that he was born here. Don't go there, he was born here. Ask the Governor of Hawaii - he was there. And if you remember, he was sworn in using Abraham Lincoln's bible. Remember him? The greatest Republican president ever, some say.

There is no religious test. Obama doesn't have to prove, to anyone, any further, that he's a Christian. Because according to our own Constitution, he can be a Druid, a Wiccan or an atheist.

Our country was not founded as a Christian nation.

Behaving "as a Christian" is seen as behaving with good will toward all. Those folks in Iowa are somehow not focusing on the greater good. They're not focusing on the millions in our own country who go to bed hungry, or have no home, or have no job. They're not focusing on the 47 million + who are uninsured. They're not focusing on the country's incredibly enormous debt, and how that'll affect our children's children's children.

They're focusing on a non-issue fanned into flame by a non-news station.

I guess they've got nothing better to look at in Iowa. The 2012 election cycle is going to be interesting. The strict constructionalists are only "strict" when it serves them; otherwise, it seems they're perfectly content to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Unaware that the baby they're tossing out, our Constitution, is the one that belongs to all of us. Not just to them.

Friday, February 11, 2011

First Socks Are Done... And More!

OK, now I can post on the simple knit mitts, because I have given them (early) to my friend for her birthday.

Because of the bitter temps (yesterday I awoke to find that we had the dubious distinction of being the coldest spot in the Chicago -29), my friend, "S," was freezing. She owns her own company, and in order to watch the pennies, due to the crummy economy, she keeps the heat as low as she can get. Of course, that means that she's not going to be comfortable.

Simple Mitts
Here they are: Done in a lovely denim-and-fleck yarn. "S" loves when I knit stuff for her because I'm a yarn snob - her term, and I guess she's right.

This is Cleckheaton Country Silk 8-Ply. It's distributed by Plymouth, made in Australia. It's DK-weight, and this particular yarn is 50% merino and 50% silk, so I included the ball-band so that "S" would know how to take care of them.

Her husband says she's barely taken them off!

You can look up the info on - which is a phenomenal site that has info on all kinds of yarn, by name, manufacturer, fiber content, weight... all the goodies we need to know about.

Anyway, I was a little worried they wouldn't fit, but there's enough stretch in them. I did use a Lion Brand Yarn pattern, but I modified it: I knit the first 4 rows, then did stockinette stitch till I was within 1" of the top, then knit the last 3 rows. The original pattern had them knitted all the way, and I just thought that didn't do anything for the yarn. Additionally, I brought the needles down a few sizes. I did double the yarn; and I have enough to make myself a pair with only a single strand of yarn, which I might do. You seam these up the side, so you leave a hole about one inch wide for the thumb. You can scrunch them down or pull them up a bit. They're ambidexterous - you can use either mitt on either hand.

Hubby took the picture because I couldn't get a good angle. And as you can see, I will probably have to give up my dream of being a hand model... Oh, the despair....

Now, drumroll here. The first pair of socks is finished! I am wearing them today, and I have the following shot. Please pardon the winter-white...those are my legs! As you can see, one foot is visibly smaller than the other, so I guess that the "goof" I did actually worked out.

My First Socks
These are done in Plymouth's Encore, DK weight, and they're 75% wool, 25% acrylic. This colorway is a lovely autumn shade. I'm working on the next pair -- I'm told that you should make at least 3 pairs in quick succession, so that you get the hang of it.

The next pair is the same yarn, but in a dark brown. I've just turned the heel flap on those, and I'm hoping I did it right!

So, the goof. I measured the first sock against my foot. And maybe it's not really a goof, but just the way it is. The second sock is slightly smaller than the first. I measured that differently, apparently. But it doesn't matter. My right foot is larger than my left, so I have, in my opinion, a "custom" pair of socks.

OK, so first, as my LYS owner says, "you're not a machine - you knit differently." Could be that, after the first sock, I'm a little more comfortable, and not freaking out. Second, I did try the first sock on, so there's a bit of stretch.

So the "first" one is actually the one on my right foot. Don't you love how those colors swirl around on the instep? They're different patterns, but the same yarn. I can't wait to wear these with my Birkenstocks. I don't care if it's not a proper fashion statement!

The yarn label says it can be washed, but also can be hand-washed. I will probably hand-wash these, and just drape them on a rack. I don't have sock-blockers; this pattern didn't require that. Maybe that's something I have to consider yet, but I'm not a "super-sock-knitter" yet.

Maybe for the next pair, I'll experiment with the heel - seed stitch or maybe ribbed? This could be fun!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Snowpalooza - Day Two - Groundhog Day

Wowza. Shades of 1979, since I was only a little tyke in 1967...

River laying in it with Tippi watching for squirrels
Here are the dogs:  You'll see they're acting just like they ought to -- crazy.

We have drifts like you wouldn't believe. Or maybe you would if you were in Syracuse, NY!

I'm having a struggle with Hubby.... "Don't worry about me, I grew up in this weather!" Yes, dear you did. But you're in Illinois now, we've had a LOT of mild winters, and you're FIFTY!!! The news folks are saying that literally 5 minutes is all you need at a time. It's heart-attack snow.

The boys are shoveling and trying to get Kid #1's car out of the way of the snow plows, but we can't have him put it in the alley, because the alley isn't plowed, and his car is a crummy little Ford. Not knocking Fords, because we all have them, but this one is a bit of a beater.

Snowpalooza in the alley...
So this is the alley.  Note the snow shovel for perspective, the big drift BEHIND the shovel, and what's left, on the left, of my neighbor's "tarp/shed."

I was seriously thinking of getting one of those structures, but after seeing this, not so much!

We're all shut down. Three counties have officially shut the roads down, and the major highways are shut down unless you're driving something with a siren on it. The on/off ramps are treacherous, the county roads, mostly rural, are banked over, and about the time the plow comes through, Mother Nature rearranges herself. In sheer defiance of our puny human efforts.

My mother says that the cops are stopping people, and if you're not a municipal employee having to be somewhere or a health care professional, you're told sternly to get your butt back home.

The drifts are up past my knees. I'm 5' 4" - so figure that out. Our alley is just totally shut down, so even our futile efforts to clear our cars out was a joke. Our crazy neighbor actually tied his lawn swing to his back porch! Talk about a lazy jerk!

Tippi's Snow Face
Here are another few of the dogs, with their "snow faces" on. They're loving this!  This shot of Tippi is of her standing, chest-deep, in a drift at the back end of the kennel.

We'll have to see how they react when "dog park" time comes, because that's closed, too!

Hubby has already told our elderly neighbor that his butt would be kicked clear till spring if he even THINKS about shoveling himself out. The Kids are going to do that, just to make sure that if his kids need to get to him, they can.

Quinn's Snow Face
We do have a "snow angel" and we can't figure out who he is. There's someone who plows at least part of the alley. No, we're not planning on going anywhere, but it's nice to know that if something happens to our electricity, ComEd can get to the power lines. Ours are still up on poles, and while we didn't lose power, we did have a few "fritz" moments last night.

It will be beautiful when the sun comes out. And I'm hoping that maybe later we can get out on the snow shoes. At least in the yard, because I'm not driving anywhere!

Another of my favorite shots is one of our arborvitaes. I've gently knocked the snow off them. You can do that as long as you don't shake too hard - the branches are brittle, and they will break.  I didn't take a long-range picture, but I did do this up-close shot. The trees are remarkably sturdy; they bent but didn't break under the power of the gusts and the weight of the snow.

Branch of arborvitae

The shot is of the side branch, as it's loaded with snow. You can see the delicacy of the green parts and how pretty the snow looks, even though it's putting a pretty hefty strain on the branches.

We're definitely inside and just chillin' for the day. Hubby works, but he's a telecommuter, so they don't have a chance to have a real "day off."

I'm in my office, with Tippi settled in on her beach towel behind me. I'm working on the second sock, I've got a lovely cup of Wild Blueberry tea, courtesy of Kid #1's girlfriend, and in a few minutes, I'll be disrupting Miss Tippi, who's taken to following me around like my little grey shadow. Yesterday, she was up in my lap (which was quite a load!) watching the snow outside. Don't know if she'll jump up there today, but she'll stick with me through some guitar practice and some chores I have to do back here in the office making it look less like a dumping ground and maybe a little more like my peaceful space. Ha. I have a serious case of "The Stacks" in this place, and unless I magically grow more storage, "peaceful space" is but a dream for the time being.

It's a good day to brew up some tea, look outside and just settle in.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Take a Look!!!

Wooooooooooooo Hoooooooooooooooooooo!!! Sock number ONE is FINISHED! DONE! Completed!!!

I'm so inordinately excited that I can just hear the Seasoned Sock Sisters saying, "Oh yeah - wait till she tries it on REAL sock yarn! She'll get Second Sock Syndrome in no time!!"

Well, maybe. Right now, I'm thinking that we're snowed in for 2 days, everything's closed, and I have the yarn for one more sock. After that, I'll have to see if I have either some wool superwash in worsted or bust into the 100% wool....

Sock #1
Here's the first picture:  I really like how the colors lay out. And I did the Kitchener Stitch all by myself!

I'd forgotten that I purchased one of the "Visual" books, this one Teach Yourself Visually: Sock Knitting by Laura Chau, who's had patterns in Knitty, had help from our favorite Yarn Harlot, and is a teacher at a shop in Toronto called Lettuce Knit. She can be found on her website and blog at if you want to look her up.

The book is what I used for Kitchener since I didn't want to knit in front of my computer. The directions, since I'd already looked at were pretty straightforward. My only screw-up was that instead of having 12 sts at the end, I had 10. Probably because I kept decreasing in the foot till I had 34 sts instead of the 36 it called for. Oh well. Winging it worked.

The top view

And here's another shot of the sock on-foot, as it were.  I love the way the colors swirl on the instep, though in a clog, nobody will see that, and I'm sorry - I don't do those "jelly clogs" so you can see your sock. Those just look nasty - I'd rather wear my Birkenstocks or just take off my clog if someone wants to see the pattern!

Actually, that toe kinda fits my foot!

So we're on a Snowpalooza here south of Chicago. The wind is howling, but no where near where it's supposed to get. Right now, the temps are about 21*F with wind-chill of 3* (sorry, my "degree symbol" won't work) and the wind is blowing about 27 mph. It may get up to 50 mph in gusts and we may have "Thunder Snow" - a relatively rare phenomenon where it thunders like a traditional T-storm, but it dumps BUCKETS of snow - like 4" per hour - while that's all going on. We've had brief rumbles before but nothing like what they were calling for.

I have 2 days off, the kids have 2 days off. Hubby has to work... He works from home anyway, so as long as we have power, he's working.

The dogs have already been to the park. We've already done one shovel-swoop to get the worst of the drifts, but will probably only do the back part of the yard for now, since we're not going anywhere.

Let It Snow!
Here's a shot out the front door, showing what's left of my Dusty Miller, and you can see some of the snow blowing around. I can hear the chorus of snow blowers starting now, as people filter out of their houses. I'm making a bet with Hubby that the lunkhead next door will not move his humongous truck out of the way of the snow plows. This is a small town - the snow plow drivers get really irritated, and aren't above plowing you in! The city will ticket if he's dumb enough to leave his truck out in the narrow street. We do have an alley-access driveway space. You'd think a big old Dodge truck would have enough ommpfh to get into the back alley, since Kid #2's Ford Focus makes the journey easily!

Just heard a few loud whomps from the tarp in the kennel, so I'm now wondering whether the tarp will stay on the kennel! It's all fastened with elastic bungees, so there shouldn't be a problem. And our lovely neighbor's big trees are on one side as a semi-wind break. Hubby over-engineers, so I know logically it will...but to quote Bette Davis, "Fasten your seat belts; it's gonna be a bumpy night."