Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Not Quite There...

...but close.

I'm talking about US District Judge Sam Sparks, who struck down a key provision in Texas' new law requiring doctors to perform sonograms before abortions, ruling that the measure "violates the free speech rights of both doctors and patients."

Well. Almost good. He didn't strike down the provision ENTIRELY. So doctors apparently are still required to do the sonograms. However, Judge Sparks has determined that the doctors are not required to abide by the provision that they must describe the image to the patients and requiring the women to hear the descriptions.

OK, first off. That's barbaric. And please don't come back and tell me "abortion is barbaric." Having a baby you don't WANT is barbaric. Having to listen to a doctor describe the images on a sonongram while you're laying there waiting for the perfectly legal procedure to begin? It's like a doctor telling you the exact procedure he or she will perform to take out your appendix, which is swollen and ready to burst, and when it bursts, it will spill toxic juices into your core, and those juices will affect every single organ in your body, and the entire system will be slowly and painfully poisoned. And often, there's not much they can do about it once it's burst, in spite of all the medical advances. Sometimes, even in 2011, you still die of a burst appendix.

There's "informed consent" and then there's "deliberate cruelty" - and Texas has followed too many states into the "deliberate cruelty" area when they try to overturn Roe v. Wade, which is the law of the land.

While an unwanted pregnancy isn't toxic, the woman who makes the decision to have the abortion has already gone through enough grief. She has made a difficult decision and doesn't need to be badgered by a doctor, when said doctor is performing a perfectly legal medical procedure.

So, if I get Botox, is the doctor going to make me look at pictures of botched Botox jobs? Will the doctor describe in excruciating detail what could happen if he or she didn't do her job correctly?

If I have any other perfectly legal medical procedure, I am required to sign a waiver that indicates that I have been advised of everything that could go wrong. And I've had enough surgeries to know that being knocked out could cause problems; the surgery could be complicated; the surgery could affect other things such as (in the case of my hand surgeries) future mobility, etc. All of that I know.

But the Texas law, like those other state laws that have been coming quickly across the nation, seeks to do something else. It seeks to reduce women to second-class citizenship. It seeks to deprive us of control of our own bodies. It seeks to render us "permanently labeled" and the label resembles Hester Prynne's scarlet letter.

Sparks wrote that forcing doctors to discuss the sonograms "compels physicians to advance an ideological agenda with which they may not agree..." Well, happy day. Someone finally has figured out that not everyone sees the issue of abortion in the same way the right wing uber-nut jobs do.

It is a perfectly legal procedure. Period. It's the law of the land. And part of the Texas law that is the most distasteful (actually, ALL of it is distasteful)? In order to get out of having to listen to your doctor, you would sign a piece of paper saying your pregnancy was the result of rape or incest, or that the fetus had a "irreversible abnormality."

And this paper is part of your permanent medical record. Nice, huh? Let's just call any woman who desires a perfectly legal medical procedure a slut, a whore, or any other pejorative word that demeans her own ability to make decisions about her own body.

Of course Rick Perry is very mad. The state of Texas is appealing. Perry says that "every live lost to abortion is a tragedy." Ok, where's your solution? Where's your support for the woman, who may have a child who is irreversibly damaged? (It happens -- look at the conjoined twins in Chicago recently who were born to a 20-year-old single mother -- and who lived 18 months in a hospital, at a cost of millions of dollars.) What about the woman who's had a child and is unable to support it?

Under Perry's logic, that woman should just "pull herself up and make it work" because of course he HAS no solution. There's no strong plan out there by any of the right wing uber-nut jobs to help a woman once the "fetus" is a "baby."

After it's born, they want nothing to do with the woman who had a child out of the holy state of wedlock (if that's the case). And if she's had more children than she and her husband can support because they can't get or can't afford birth control? Well, that would be THEIR problem. Not the state's. The state which is gradually stripping women of all of their human rights. The state where, if Republicans have their way, you'd have no social support system. No food stamps; no welfare; no heating assistance (it does get cold in Texas); no housing subsidies.

This is the state with the governor who wanted to secede from the Union. If this is how he plans to run the country? Go ahead and secede. We don't want you here. And women certainly don't want you in the White House. Women with brains, that is.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

I Write About Knitting Because... the moment, it's easier than writing about politics and how screwed up this country is.

Scary Perry, Batty Bachmann, people going off on Obama for a vacation (he's taken less vacation than Shrub, by the way. Look it up.), and an economy where the rich WANT to pay more taxes and the Republicans think that "job creators" deserve tax breaks while people at poverty level "need to pay their fair share..."

That's why I'm writing about knitting. Sometimes, you need to bury your head in your stash and look at the fact that you are able to afford this hobby and you have the ability to create something beautiful with sticks and string.

Which is what I think I'm doing right now. I'm knitting another project, and this one has a reasonable chance of getting done in time for me to wear it in late summer! It's a pattern from Knit One Crochet Too called Tee for Two, pattern number 1652. If you can get your LYS to order it, please do! It's for "advanced beginners" and it's a lovely little tee shirt. Please order from your LYS so that they can stay in business and be your local yarn COMMUNITY. It's kind of like the bookstores. I love my online bookstore, and I have ordered yarn from a number of online retailers.

But I wouldn't give up my LYS for anything; even though she doesn't have the "vast and unlimited stock" of an online store, we have a community, and as a small-business owner in our larger community, she deserves our support.

Color 631, Lot 187
I'm doing it in the Ty Dy cotton. See here: it's called "Blueberry" and it's 100% cotton. The label says hand wash, but there are about 4 gals at the LYS who've made this and one does toss hers in the wash machine.

I figure that I have a gentle cycle, so even if I do that part, I can put it on a drying rack to dry.

You can see the luscious colors I've got here. The cotton has several colorways and this pattern takes advantage of the way the colors lay out.

One of the gals (the one who tosses hers in the wash) has altered this design to give her 3/4 length sleeves. I'm adding a few inches to the sleeve, but that's only because my office is always cold! You knit the front and back panels, then pick up stitches on either side and stitch the sides and sleeves. Seaming up the side and you're done.

Front panel
Here's a shot of the front panel; I have about 3 rows to finish it. You can see that the bottom has that big whack of pale blue on it. I'm thinking of breaking open another ball and starting the back panel with that same big swath of blue.

Yes, that's a little nit-picky. But when the rest of the world seems like it's going down the Big Crapper, it's nice to think that at least my knitting is something I can control!

Click on the photo to enlarge it; it rolls because it's all stockinette stitch, but once you pick up the stitches, you see the whole thing lay much nicer.

I was looking at the design, and it called for a cable cast on; well, I lengthened it. It's a cropped shirt, and there's NOTHING on my belly that needs to see the light of day, thank you!! So I added 2" to the bottom. That necessitated me using a long-tail cast on because it's more elastic than the cable cast on. So, as I was looking at the cable cast-on directions in my knitting reference book, I noted that the author said, "when I use long tail, I make my first row a purl row so that the cast-on edge lays flatter."

Well. Okey-dokey. I did that. And you know what? It doesn't curl nearly as bad as my stockinette hat did! Look at the bottom of that photo: it's darned-near flat!

Reading. Gotta love it! Had I not been dithering about that cast-on, I'd have missed that portion of the book and I probably would've been muttering about the "%&$* rolled edge" as I went on.

Of course, picking up and knitting the sides? That forces the front and back panels to lay flatter anyway, because the sides are knitted long-wise. The whole thing is very "painterly" and is a sweater that's easily 3-season-wear. And I can seriously think about making it in Ty Dy wool, or in a more autumnal colorway. Or even my favorite Cascade Ultra Pima Cotton - where I could use solids and take advantage of the texture of the yarn itself and that gorgeous sheen that this yarn has.

Please patronize your local yarn stores. Please knit. It's very calming. In a nerve-wracking environment, knitting is like mental yoga. It's something we can hang onto, it creates garments and useful things. And it keeps us centered.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Making of a Pillow...

I can't remember who I've told what, so I'll start from the beginning.

Unfortunately, our LYS owner (LYS = Local Yarn Store for the un-knitterly crowd) was diagnosed with a melanoma that had spread. She had originally sought treatment for what she was told was a sinus infection.

The sinus infection got so bad that she was losing feeling on her left side...never a good sign! So they rushed her to the ER with "the worst headache ever" and they found 2 brain tumors, plus a spot on her lung (she's a smoker).

The brain tumors were taken out and they're not really worrying about the spot on the lung now, because there were actually FOUR brain tumors, but two were quite small and they thought they could zap them with radiation.

That has not turned out to be the case. Soooooooooooo. To help her out, those of us in the LYS community at her shop have all been pitching in to do what we can. Some are working in the shop; others come in to provide a bathroom break for those manning the register, or to sit with folks and help newbies, etc.

And to honor our friend, we had the great idea to make a lap robe for her. She didn't want a full afghan. There were already 12 knitters for the squares, taken from a "Great American Afghan" book (I can't cite the source because I don't have the book). Anyway, some of us thought we'd make pillows. Just little 12" squares for her to use at chemo or at home when her neck ached or she needed back support.

Eggplant Cascade
We are all using Cascade 22o superwash wool. Here's what I started:

As you can see, it's 2 balls. The actual squares take 1 ball, but I figured for a pillow, you do need 2 sides! I'd rather have a knitted pillow than put a knitted piece in a fabric frame. My sewing skills aren't that fantastic.

We all mostly chose different colors and I think it'll be stunning when it's done. If I can get a picture of it, I'll post it later on.

My pillow is a simple one. Double moss stitch, one of my favorite 'basic' stitches because it's got lots of texture, makes an interesting swath of stitching and looks much more complex than it really is! It's a 4-row repeat and I got the pillow finished in about a month, which may be long, but hey - I work for a living!!

Double Moss Stitch
I started it on the semi-circular needles, but quickly switched to circulars, just to keep control of it. If you click on the picture, you can see that the stitches look as if they're going diagonally, and almost like mini-cables.

This was a very fast pattern, and I really like the eggplant color. She likes earthy tones, so this will fit right in.

I made an "envelope" - I decided at the point pictured here that I wasn't willing to struggle with sewing all 4 sides together, or having to figure out how to crochet it all. It blocked out beautifully and I did a 27" long piece of fabric.

I bought a 12" square pillow form from the local craft store; it's washable if needed, and of course the yarn is as well. I wrapped it with a 4 or 5" flap on it and then used a mattress stitch to close it.

Mattress Stitch to sew up sides
Not the knitting mattress stitch; the crewel work mattress stitch, otherwise known as a buttonhole stitch if you've ever done hand-sewn buttonholes. I have. Only because I couldn't ever figure out the buttonhole attachment on my sewing machine.

The mattress stitch in crewel and hand sewing resembles a backward "L" and you come up at the bottom, hold onto the thread, then stick the needle in at the top and catch the bottom of the L on the way down. It's complex - Google it, but I can tell you that once you get it, you really get a rhythym going and it's quite easy to master.

Clicking on the top picture will give you a good idea of the color of the yarn, too. I think that the pictures were a little dark, but that was depending on where I took them.

I just fluffed it up and didn't bother stitching down the flap - it's long enough and it won't come apart. Here's the completed pillow:   As you can see, the pillow form showed through a bit, but when you're looking at it without a flash attachment, it looks just fine.

If I wanted to be fancy, I could've made a pillow form cover out of purple fabric and THEN put the envelope over it. But that's a little more than I wanted to do. Besides, we want to give her the ensemble this week, and we all needed to get our act together!

Here's a final shot of the double moss stitch up close. If you have a chance, add this stitch to your arsenal. It's lovely and easy. And it's something that you can use for cuffs, a sweater band, a scarf -- just a great and great-looking utility stitch that can be used in many ways.

One thing I've learned from this: If you have someone who maybe doesn't want or need a shawl, a pillow is a great idea. Whether for someone seriously ill who may be having treatment or maybe even as a baby gift for a nursing mom: it's an idea somewhat out of the box, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Just a Small Question...

As Batty Bachmann gloats over her win in the Iowa Straw Poll (which poll, remember, gave us Pat Buchanan and other luminaries of the GOP)...

She blathers on and on (and on and on and on and on and on ...) about her expertise and "post graduate work" as a tax attorney and has a proposal to put America in a "globally competitive" position by lowering corporate taxes to an all-time low - "to help create jobs."

So, my question is this: Create jobs? OK. Tell me WHERE you plan to create those jobs?

Here in the US or overseas where corporations can pay less, pay no benefits, and better yet, PAY NO TAXES HERE?

If the jobs are not created HERE, our economy won't prosper. That's a bottom line you don't need a law degree (or postgraduate work...) to figure out.

Monday, August 01, 2011

IS it a good compromise...

...if everyone hates it?

Maybe. Whether or not it is, the Democrats have a rough row to hoe: they really need to knuckle down and get this message:

It's the jobs, stupid!!

NOTHING will fix this crisis until people are employed. Nothing. Period.

Here are some quotes you might want to think about:

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." --Abraham Lincoln

"It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit."  -- Harry S. Truman

Honest Abe, the Last Great Republican (actually, at this moment, Barry Goldwater is a flaming liberal in some Republicans' and Tea Partiers' eyes...) - had it right. The Republican party of today is being ruled (and/or ruined) by the Baggies. Either they're screwing us totally by their honest opinion that this country is in the toilet, or they're screwing us because of their monumental stupidity and willful ignorance.

Either way, the ultimate end of this equation is that we're screwed.

Obama has dropped his requirement that deficit reduction includes some revenue increases. Now, I'm no economist, and no math major, but I like to think I have common sense. And common sense tells you that if your expenses outpace your income, you're screwed.

If you don't include revenue increases -- the dreaded "T" word in the Baggies' vocabulary -- you won't be able to balance anything. And besides, the balanced budget has NOTHING to do with the budget deficit. Tossing in that constitutional amendment thing is insane. The budget is fundamentally unbalanced, and with our economic system, it always will be.

The President put Medicare on the table in order to avoid triggers. So.... the Baggies that are holding signs saying, "Get your government hands out of my Medicare" are screwed. But do you wonder if they realize that??

Even the Chicago Tribune, an admitedly right-wing newspaper, (honestly, if I didn't hate the Sun-Times as much, I'd switch to a paper with more left-leaning chops) is indicating that "...history shows ... enforcement mechanism don't always work." So. All this talk about a Super Congress pretty much gags me. The regular Congress can't get its act together. What makes anyone think that a "Super Congress" will get anything done?

Under this deal on the table, this special "bipartisan" (cough, gag, yark) panel will recommend steps to reduce the deficit. Any logjams by the panel or rejection of its recommendations by Congress will trigger a round of spending cuts.

Spending. Cuts. Again - here's the math. You have a family and your annual income is $100,000. So you have a budget. You have certain fixed expenses: mortgage, transport, utilities. Say that those expenses come to about $70,000. $100,000 - $70,000 = $30,000. Say you have kids you're putting through college, a vacation home, and credit cards. That amounts to $40,000. $30,000 - $40,000 = ($10,000). That's called a deficit. Say you could have "revenue" in the form of additional income from a renter that would equal $15,000 per year. ($10,000) + $15,000 = $5,000 --- you would GAIN $5,000 from that revenue increase.

Taxes. Increase the stinkin' taxes. Don't holler at me that we are "taxed enough already." Yes, what's left of the middle class is taxed enough already. But those folks making $250,000 or more? Not so much. But wait -- there's hope.

Look here:

And here:

There are actually people who feel that we should let the Bush tax credits expire. And those people are in the bracket that'd benefit from keeping those credits alive. And they say it's not fair. For the sake of the country. So who's more patriotic? The Baggies that don't get the concept that Medicare is a government program? And those who use the word "entitlement" as a swear word, who don't get the concept that yes, we are "entitled" to these things because we pay for them. Or these folks who do make more than I'll ever see in my lifetime, who say that the nation shouldn't get its funding from the most vulnerable.

Here's another thing: Those corporations who aren't paying any tax? (Yes, you read that correctly.) So if they're "tax-averse" since they have flocks of corporate tax lawyers combing the flawed tax codes for loopholes you could drive a herd of yaks through... Make a fee. This "head-count fee" is imposed for the benefits WE lose when THEY ship jobs overseas. The benefits of having the corporate deductions taken out of paychecks of US EMPLOYEES - those are the backbone of our economy. And it's logical: If you have a job, you spend money. If you don't have a job, you don't spend money because you don't have any.

Jeff Imelt, Obama's Jobs Czar (an irony of epic proportions) has just indicated that GE (the company he heads) will be shipping hundreds of jobs overseas. Nice job, Jeff. That gives me a nice warm fuzzy.

See the print above in red? IT'S THE JOBS, STUPID. We can't recover unless three things happen: we get jobs back here so we're able to spend money and start taxing more equitably.

Economists are also saying that the US figures debt incorrectly. The government bundles bondholder debt with intragovernmental debt. Bondholder debt is owed to outside bondholders: individuals, pension plans (!), foreign governments. Intragovernmental debt includes the obligations of the Treasury Department to some trust funds: basically what we owe ourselves. This is basically counting internal AND external debt in one lump, which is something that makes for fuzzy figuring. Public debt is the more important of the two: those outside bondholders hold 2/3 of the total US debt. Yep. TWO-THIRDS.

And one-third of the US debt is owed to our own citizens: IOUs to Social Security, Medicare, pension plans for federal workers and military personnel.

We won't be broke on August 3. Period. But this crisis in a tea pot does point out that there's a huge problem. It's only an "entitlement crisis" if we let it happen. Pay the IOUs to those most vulnerable --- it is our money, after all. We gave it to the US to hold in trust for when we needed it - when we are old and need the help the most.

Pay us back. Stop taking our money. Raise the taxes on those who can afford it, and the businesses who skip town without a conscience. That will help go a long way. It's not the sexiest solution but it does make sense.