Saturday, November 22, 2014

Try, Trying, Tried

Has anyone read A Clockwork Orange? Because I tried to start reading it last night and couldn't get past page one. Rassoodocks, mesto, skorry, veshches, moloko, vellocet, synthemesc, drencrom, mozg, peet... Seriously? I get made up words, especially when you have a dystopian or post-apocolyptic or in-some-way-massively-different world to create but your readers also have to understand a little bit about what you are trying to say.

I tried reading page one three times and even tried out page two before I realized I couldn't as I was completely distracted by the words I didn't understand.

Does it get better or should I just give up now?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book 13: What Just Happened Here?

It's been established that I like weird books. And apparently when it comes to Japanese fiction, I like violent books. (I'm not really sure why I keep reading Japanese fiction where people are killed. Maybe that's just a lot of the Japanese fiction that gets translated into English?)
Basically people who love horror movies are people with boring lives. They want to be stimulated, and they need to reassure themselves, because when a really scary movie is over, you’re reassured to see that you’re still alive and the world still exists as it did before.
Earlier this year, I read a book by Ryu Murakami that started with a random murder and ended with the firebombing of a Tokyo suburb. It was weird and oddly entrancing, so I decided to read something else by him. I picked In the Miso Soup.

I'm not really sure if I can explain this book. Basically, a Japanese tour guide is hired to show an American around the seedy side of Tokyo's nightlife. The American ends up being a serial killer.
“He’s checking out a Print Club booth.”
“A what?”
“You know, that machine that takes photos of you and then prints them out on cute little stickers. I don’t think he knows how it works. He’s watching a group of girls posing for a picture.”
“I think you’re probably all right, then, Kenji. I can’t imagine a murderer making Print Club photos of himself.”
I’m not sure why, but that seemed to make sense.
It's a horrifically violent book. Do not read while eating. Most of it isn't gory, but there is one (long) scene that... You know, I have a strong stomach but I'm glad I didn't hit that part while I was eating lunch. For some reason, it was particularly gruesome.
Frank sighed as though bored and cut off his other ear as well. It fell to the floor soundlessly, like a slice of fishcake or something, and lay there among the loose strands of hair and cigarette ashes.
And that doesn't even get into the really icky parts. (Let's not discuss a man's face begin set on fire.) One disadvantage of particularly evocative writing style, I suppose?

But even before the real violence sets in, it's just such a weird book. There's something about the writing style I supposed - it really sucked me in even though I'm pretty sure I had a shocked-to-horrified expression on my face while reading 90% of this book.

On a larger scale, it touches on the issues of loneliness, the disconnect of younger generations (compared to post-WW2 folks; this isn't a teenagers-are-the-bane-of-our-society type book), cultural differences, who's to blame for society's issues... It's not exactly the most flattering towards Americans, but then it isn't exactly a glowing review of the Japanese either. Murakami is critical of everyone, apparently.
What’s good about Americans, if I can generalize a little, is that they have a kind of openhearted innocence. And what’s not so good is that they can’t imagine any world outside the States, or any value system different from their own. The Japanese have a similar defect, but Americans are even worse about trying to force others to do whatever they themselves believe to be right.
So yeah, this all probably really says nothing concrete about this book, but it's just weird. Did I like it? Yes, in a horrifying sort of way. The underlying issues were really interesting to think on and the actual plot was engaging in a rubbernecking-at-a-horrible-car-accident kind of way. I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone because if someone actually read it, they might think I had massive mental problems, but yeah, really fascinating read. I'm definitely going to have to read more Ryu Murakami books. Once I recover from this one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Things Have [Not] Happened

Okay, so I've fallen a bit off of the face of the earth the past few weeks. Mostly, I was sick. I ended up with a cold which I thought I got over really quickly until it came back a couple of days later. But now I'm finally over it and have been since this weekend. So yay!

Of course, two weeks being sick, you'd think I'd at least have some new knitting to share but not so much. I was so miserably sick that I didn't even have the oomph to knit. Now that I'm feeling better, though, I've started on pair number 29 for the year.

Dan Sock

This one is a pair for Dan, the lucky duck. I just started it last night and got in a good chunk of knitting it so I've gotten quite far. Of course, I haven't even started on the second sock yet so I have quite a ways to go. And hopefully these socks will be at least occasionally interrupted by my next project - a sweater for me! I've got to swatch and do a lot of math for that one though, so I've been putting it off because I'm lazy.

In other news, it actually snowed here a few nights ago. Just a light dusting, but still. Crazy. Especially in November! Shoot, we just turned our heat on about two weeks ago. But it turned cold quickly - one week after turning the heat on, we had to put the heated mattress pad on the bed. (Best. Thing. Ever. Seriously. Electric blanket fan? Get an electric mattress pad. It's so much better. I can wear my non-winter pajamas to bed comfortably even though we let the house get in the 60s at night.)

This week so far has been a catch up week. My house is still a mess (two weeks of not cleaning, bleck) but laundry is all caught up (in one day! My new washer/dryer set is fantastic and HOLDS SO MUCH) and now I'm working on getting actual food stocked in the fridge instead of just the ingredients for food. At some point, I'm going to make some applesauce, too, as we have a ton of apples. Gotta do something with them.

If the weather stays this cold all winter, I fully plan to knit and hibernate. Who knows how many pair of socks I'll get up to before the year is done!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

More Socks!

Pair number 21 for the year! This time, they are even taller - with calf shaping and everything!

Tall Socks
Tall Socks

The calf shaping was based on a template I made of my leg measurements. Because I am that ridiculous. It worked great thought! Perfectly fitted knee-highs!

Up next? Socks for Dan and a sweater for me!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Book 12

I just finished my twelfth book for this year, The Eye of Zoltar by Jasper Fforde. Normally, I devour Fforde books, but not this one, at least not at first. That was totally my fault though, not the book's.
If you think fourteen is too young to be driving, think again. The Kingdom of Snodd grants driving licences on the basis of responsibility, not age, something that can frustrate forty-something blokes no end when they fail their responsibility test for the umpteenth time.
Lately, I've just been rather fidgety - I feel like I'm so close to normalcy (or my new approximation of it) but I keep getting little setbacks. So I'm just constantly feeling a bit distracted, like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. It makes it hard to sit down and focus on something like a book with plot.
...we stopped for a moment to stretch our legs, change drivers and make a short devotion at the shrine dedicated to the once popular but now little known St Aosbczkcs, the patron saint of fading relevance.
I don't enjoy this YA series from Fforde as much as his other stories, but I still do like it quite a bit. The humor is just as random and satirical as his adult fiction (there has to be another way to phrase that... it's not "adult" like an adult movie, just not YA), but it's not quite as smart. (Or else it is too smart and over my head so far that I don't even know I'm missing something. Always a possibility.)
Ralph said he’d not come either, as he had a peculiar allergy to ‘anything without legs, such as cats.’
‘Cats have legs,’ said the Princess.
‘They do, don’t they?’ agreed Ralph in a confused manner, but declined to join us anyway.
Once I finally forced myself to focus, I read this in about two days. And now I have to wait until next year for the next one to come out!
‘But listen,’ I said as the sandwiches arrived, ‘you don’t know the first thing about ironing. Hardly anyone does. The Guild of Master Ironers keep that secret arcane knowledge well guarded.’
Normally I detest cliffhanger books (which this sort of is). I've stopped reading an author I enjoyed just because of a cliffhanger book ending. It's a big hate. But I don't have a problem with how Fforde does his. The main plot story lines from the book are all nicely tied up and then, right before the end, something new is introduced. (Yes, there was foreshadowing, but it wasn't what the book was about so I didn't care that it wasn't unresolved). So even though there's a big issue hanging out there, it just means you know what you'll be getting in the next book - the current book doesn't feel unfinished. It's that unfinished, that-book-was-pointless feeling that I hate.

Though I also really don't like finally getting into something and then finishing it and begin left at a loss. Fforde needs to publish another book. I need something fun to read!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Part One Done!

I mentioned it before, but last week I finished my qiviut cowl. Now, celebrate! Because it is all blocked so it is officially finished!

Qiviut Cowl

I thought I had tons more to go because I had tons more yarn, but turns out it was very close to the length I wanted, so my one week sock-less knitting finished this puppy off. It was even blocking one day before my self-imposed deadline. Win all over the place!

Of course, I was sick last week (head cold) so I just let the cowl lay on my blocking mat well after it was dry, but I'm feeling better so I took (crappy) pictures and it is now officially done!

Qiviut Cowl

Since I do have a lot of yarn left, I have plans to make a matching hat. I have to do math for that first, though, so I'm working on socks right now. Here's a glimpse of my current project.

Pattern Markers

So yeah, gonna finish these socks, probably make some more socks and maybe a sweater, then I will work on the matching hat.

Yay for completed project-that-isn't-socks!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Embargo Over!

It is time for socks!

Socks In Training

Or at least things that will be socks after twenty five hours or so of work.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Smartest Thing I've (Accidentally) Done

My one week sock-knitting hiatus has been successful! I mean, I haven't actually made it a week yet, but that's not what I mean. The main purpose of denying myself sock knitting was to work on my qiviut cowl. And guess what? It's blocking right now! Yay!

Last night was the most challenging part of the whole project: grafting the two sides together. I've grafted stockinette before, but never lace. So yeah, I was ridiculously worked up about it. So I put in a lifeline in both sides before grafting. The purpose was to be able to easily pick the stitches back up if (and when) the grafting went horribly wrong. But the end result was that, once the sides had been grafted together, the grafted row was perfectly highlighted so it was super cake to go back and straighten up the tension. Unintentionally brilliant.

Grafted Cowl

So now my cowl is all finished and blocking and I have enough leftover yarn to make a matching hat (which will require some math so I'll get started on it later). And since my cowl is all done, I can lift the sock knitting embargo! Tomorrow, I'm going to ball some yarn! Whoo!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Day 3: Weakness

Well, I haven't caved yet on my one-week-with-no-sock-knitting plan, but I skirted the line a bit today. I pulled out some sock yarn that I want to knit with next and went through my yarn cabinet to select matching yarn for contrasting heels. That's not against the letter of the law, but perhaps it's against the spirit.

Dan says I won't make it a week... and he's probably right.

On the plus side, I'm getting slow but steady progress on my cowl. I think I'm close to finishing it but I'll end up having so much yarn leftover that I think I'm going to make a matching hat.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

This Is Harder Than I Thought

Since finishing my last pair of socks, I told myself that I really needed to work on my cowl for a bit. So I resolved not to do anything sock-knitting related for one week and focus on my cowl.

Today is Day 2 and I'm already sad I don't have socks to work on.

Apparently socks are my ultimate comfort knitting. So on days like today that I feel a bit under the weather, I crave socks.

I'm hoping by confessing to my resolution in a public location, I will have the strength to stick to it.

We shall see!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Visitor

I had almost forgotten since it's been kind of busy lately, but last week I ran in to an interesting visitor: a walking stick.

Walking Stick
Walking Stick
Walking Stick

Pretty wacky little thing, isn't it? He was remarkably patient with my picture taking, though at one point when I got a little close, I'm pretty sure he waved his little antenna in warning that he was going to eat me.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Most Fabulous Socks Ever

I just finished another pair of socks! I'm probably more in love with these socks than any other pair I've finished, which is saying quite a lot! But I can't help it - they are fabulous!

Socks!

The stitch pattern I used was a neat little kind of fluctuating rib/basket stitch that really managed to keep my attention - five rows of 4/2 and five rows of 2/4 separated by a round of knit. A few times I almost missed the round of knit but otherwise, something about this was just really engaging for me. I had to pay enough attention to know when it was time to switch between two different rib sections but at the same time, five repeating rounds was long enough that I didn't have to give huge, massive attention. The perfect combination of interesting enough not to be boring but not so interesting I couldn't watch something distracting on TV.

Not only were these fun to knit, I love how they turned out. The yarn is that pink confetti birthday cake yarn I've mentioned before and the colors are just completely fabulous. And the crazy vibrant colors just worked so well with the pattern. LOVE IT. And since they were turning out so wonderfully, I wanted to use ever bit of yarn I could. Therefore, these are about four inches taller than my typical socks. To keep them from getting too tight as they moved up my leg, I switched to a larger needle size about half way up the leg and it worked great. And I ended up with about two yards of yarn left, so I'd say mission accomplished!

And for those of you following along at home, these are number 20 for the year!

Next up? Well, I really need to work on my lace cowl. It's been languishing in my knitting bowl. Poor cowl. Hopefully I can get some work on it done before I am distracted once again by socks.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Drive-By Update

Just to close out an issue I mentioned a couple of weeks ago: earlier this week Emmett went back to the vet for a check up and he was given an official clean bill of health. No more UTI for the Emmett!

On the same trip, we also took Happy in for her annual exam and shots and we got more good news for her. All of her blood work looks good and her renal values are holding steady, which means her chronic kidney issues are being well-managed.

Good news all around!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

New Toys!

Last weekend, my lovely new washer and dryer were delivered!

New Shiny

I've been spending some quality laundry time getting to know them and ultimately, they are fabulous. I'm still getting to know the dryer a bit (my old dryer was so particular that I'm having to unlearn all the little tricks I've come up with to get the clothes to come out happy) but I'm kind of floored at the washer. It has really brought home how horrid my last one was. Everything is now feeling so clean!

And, in more good news, I've learned how to felt in a front loader! Lots of knitters will tell you it isn't possible, but it so is, proven by the fact that Dan now has slippers that fit him!

Felted!

I'm very pleased by this whole thing. I mean, no one wants to have a major appliance break, but it was ultimately a great chance to get new and shiny lovelies since Dan and I are really too cheap to go out and buy something so expensive when we have a working version at home. So yay for new appliances!

Now if I can just convince the oven to break...