I was afraid it had been a month

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

but, thankfully, it hasn't been! I've got no pictures for you, but I have a good reason: I've been spending lots of time both looking for a job (and not knitting much) and spending time with the boyfriend. Didn't know I had one? Well, he's a newish addition to my life, but a welcome one! We like geeky things, he's super smart (and handsome) and he even went to a fiber festival with me and we petted the bunnies. I have started a new vest, Cambridge, from Rowan Classic Alpaca. Obviously I am not going to use their expensive-ass alpaca, pretty as it is... no, I am using a squooshy extra-fine merino I picked up from Elann (link to actual yarn included, until it sells out.) I love it, but it's a tiny bit stringy; a small price to pay for stretchy, bouncy, the-perfect-color (an academic golden olive), merino. For whatever reason my gauge is way off with it, so instead of using 6s, I'm using 3s. I even used a 2 for the ribbing. Clearly, this yarn is not dk, but the fabric is great and soft. I'm knitting it as a Christmas gift for my mom (because I'm a masochist, who loves having her hard work felted). Since I'm not an idiot, I showed her the pattern and color first and got a thumbs up.

Anyway, for the next couple days I am holed up in the bf's apartment, eating all of his fruit roll-ups and going to job interviews. So, no pictures, sorry! (Also, I cut all my hair off. It's really cute! I promise I'll show you soon!)

What is meditation like?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I finished my cashsoft 4 ply vest tonight, excepting the buttons (the ones I bought are too large. Damn!) But, since I'll have no camera til the weekend, I thought I'd tell you a little about what the experience of meditating regularly has been to me. I know from the outside meditation came seem really foreign, or pretentious even. For the first month, I felt silly. I still practice in privacy, though I'll have to get over it eventually, especially if I ever want to go on a retreat or live with someone again!

The closest experience I had in my pre-buddhism days was when I went swimming with a big raft in the ocean near Myrtle Beach, SC with my grandparents. I was 7 or 8, if I remember correctly. My grandfather was an ex-marine, and always trying to toughen me up. So, to scare me out of holding my nose when I swim, he flipped the raft on top of me, thinking I'd swim out from under it. I was so overwhelmed, it was completely dark and I didn't have any breath left in me. While I don't doubt it was my brain's reaction to the lack of oxygen and the paralyzing fear, I had the strangest peaceful feeling. Everything I associated with as my hands, my feet, my hair... suddenly none of it seemed attached to the part of me that was in the water. That stuff seemed to dissolve, leaving behind just the purified elements, floating comfortably in the dark, content. A minute later my grandfather dragged me up to the beach where I threw up a lot of really salty, disgusting water and my grandmother gave my grandfather the worst tongue lashing I have ever heard.

Now when I meditate the feeling is often the same. It's not that I imagine fields of flowers or world peace... instead of forcing a connection, I force a disconnection with my body, with the ground and the temperature and my surroundings. I went out tonight it was in the 40s - pretty cool. But for some reason I felt compelled out the door in bare feet and I have to admit that at first, it sucked. The concrete dug into the skin on my legs, my shoulders and back were taut with cold, and all I could think of was "Just go inside. Are you crazy? It's past midnight. You're sitting outside in the dark, it's cold, just go to bed." But, I continued to sit and dispel thought after thought, layers of the old and new slipping off. After a while the cold passed, my ankles didn't ache, my back relaxed somewhat... and I felt that same feeling that I had back then. Of being surrounded by things that couldn't touch me.

Whenever I read about people like Thích Quảng Đức, I begin to understand how you could withstand such a thing. While he is a great hero to many still, I wouldn't advise self-immolation as a form of protest. The most amazing aspect, though, is that he sat without making a sound, while burning. I have no desire to meet such an end, but I really admire what must have been a devoted practice of many years to be able to detach so well from something so overwhelming (or at least enough to not scream bloody murder.)

If you've ever thought about meditating, try it. Al you have to do is sit. That's it! Just sit, and in time, let your surroundings fall away. Don't acknowledge them or they'll come rushing back. As a friend who had a tattoo told me, "it didn't hurt because I had been practicing right before... but as soon as I thought, 'hey, this doesn't hurt,' I felt it and it hurt!" The human mind is an amazing thing.

For Your Consideration:

Friday, October 05, 2007

I've been thinking for a while now about making the blog bilingual. Not necessarily because I am just inundated with foreign readers, but because my own language skills need to be maintained, and my knitting vocabulary is pretty pathetic! I've been looking into ways to make it easy for users to change language, without making English viewers read double posts. Some bloggers have varying answers to this - the most popular is being able to choose your language from a pull-down bar or tab and have the entire page convert. My computer skills just aren't up to that, though, so I'd like your opinions. Would it be really annoying to have a French language version of a blog post in with the English (my guess is yes, but y'all might be more forgiving) or should I make a twin blog with its own URL - i.r. happyhandpainter-fr.blogspot.com or similar? I just worry that maintaining links, comments, etc for two separate blogs might discourage me from posting regularly.

If you have an opinion (that isn't completely rude and left anonymously, LOL) let me know in the comments or via e-mail.

Here's a fun bit that I learned recently though - you know that awkward silence in conversation that sometimes occur? In French, it's un ange est passe, literally "an angel is passing." You'd use it like this: Quand j'ai mentionné que j'etais enceinte, un ange est passe. - "When I mentioned I was expecting (pregnant), an awkward silence fell." I'm not expecting, of course! But I thought it was funny, and another step towards talking like a 'real' person. :)

ETA: Here is a link to a bilingual blog discussing the "Ten Commandments" of bilingual blogging. Some of these just aren't possible, but I thought it would be interesting reading for anyone else considering such a venture.

Bloggers' Day for Burma

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

You'll find this blog "silent" today (intentionally) to join the protest not only the lack of information freedom, but the overall feeling of terror and helplessness in Burma. At one point some friends had a contact there that was collecting money to help feed the monks (since they are refusing food or alms from military families), but that person has since disappeared and has yet to resurface. The worst is feared, considering the number of unreported deaths that have been occuring there.

It is utterly shameful and depraved for a group to seek out and destroy the lives of those who oppose war peacefully. If you've ever thought that pacifism wasn't powerful, then perhaps you can explain to me why so many lives are being taken away because of it! If you have the stomach for it, look here to see some photos of what is really going on there. The photos are graphic, but so is death and that doesn't go away because we close our eyes.

Rather than feeling guilty or helpless, try to turn your mind towards peaceful and lovingkindess towards those close AND far away, even your enemies. Express your thanks that the place you live in is comparatively safe. Even if tears can't save lives, they can at least mourn what is lost and affirm that there is heartbreak, loss, and terror - not just a story on the news. This blog will return to normal tomorrow, but Burma (and Darfur, and and and...) won't.

ETA: For those who haven't bothered to read but feel necessary to criticize, there is no feasible way to donate money to the monks in Burma at this time. Any packages or $ sent will be redirected to the Junta, which will cause more hurt, not relief. I wish this weren't the case, and you can be assured that if the opportunity to help presents itself, I (and many others) will.

Christmas Spread - October

Originally uploaded by The Prolific Knitter
Here's where I am on the Christmas knitting. Three scarves, three pairs of socks, and a hat/fetching set. I have at least one more scarf, one pair of fetching, one pair of socks, and a hat left to go. Whether I get there or not is immaterial; I refuse to stress. Gift cards are your friends if you don't get far enough down your list of people deserving on knitting love.

For the last couple years, I've been working on this principle - if you don't get a gift this year (and you deserve one, obviously) you'll get one next year or the next. People who got knitted gifts the year before are moved to the bottom, and work their way back up. I knit for gifts all year round, mostly because you can only wear so many small woollen goods! Another good thing? With the exception of the green scarf on the left (which I'll give you a closeup of here in a second) all of these are from stash. :D

I've been doing well on the stash front. I have no real desire to buy yarn. There are lots of things that I have yarn for and want to knit, so that helps. It doesn't mean I don't want bag upon bag of DK-weight extra fine merino which seems to be flooding ebay and the internet stores right now. I'm sure I'll break... eventually. But not now! My savings is actually going up, little by little! Yay!

Here's the aforementioned finished green scarf:


It's the scarf I knit for my friend Tyson, until reality stepped in and pointed out that Los Angeles does not require an alpaca scarf. So, it's being repurposed and sent to Vancouver instead, and I'll knit something more useful for him! The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Pea Soup Mix, easily the prettiest green I have ever seen. Berroco in general has stepped it up when it comes to yarn AND patterns since Norah went on board with them. Go Norah!

I've been away.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Originally uploaded by The Prolific Knitter
Not really, I just haven't had access to a camera and I find posts without pictures to be sort of... dull.

I'd like to introduce you to Otta Owl. She'll be going to live with my niece for her third birthday, accompanied by a copy of Owl Babies. Isn't she cute, with her fetching scarf? The pattern is from And So To Bed by Lucinda Guy. (Note that I didn't buy my copy from Laughing Hens, but they're a great resource for seeing all the pattern pictures and requirements!) Otta was fun to knit, but a pain in the ass to seam and complete. The pattern called for 14 separate pieces, which seemed excessive to me so I knit everything in the round except her wings (which I seamed with fabric):


I thought it gave Otta a charmingly handmade look, and I got to work on my sewing ever so slightly. (Newsflash: it still sucks! *grin*)

Here's a shot of her round little body from the back, showcasing her cute tail:


I like her, but I won't be making another one. If you decide to make an Otto or Otta for yourself, I would suggest the following: knit the body in the round, along with her ears. Sew on felt or fabric eyes, rather than do the annoying colorwork. Sew a flat fabric bottom with perhaps a beanbag or something in the bottom. This otta is more like a pillow than a stuffie!

I've been rolling right along on the Christmas gifts, having finished a broken rib scarf (which I didn't bother photographing, it's very plain.) out of stash, and cast on for a stole/washcloth out of some Great Adirondack Handspun Cotton:


Yep, the color is really that bright. I say stole/washcloth because I'm doubting as to whether or not the ball of yarn I have will complete a full stole. It may end up a scarf. Who knows? The color is absolutely perfect for the recipient, so I know she'll love it regardless of what it becomes!