Friday, September 30, 2005

"Rule of Four" my ass!

Small Boy is miserable. He's teething - again! The "rule of four" is that, in general, babies cut four new teeth every four months. They generally come in matched pairs - first the bottom two in the middle, then their upper gum mates. Then the next two up top, then their lower gum mates. Okay. So much for the general. In the particular Small Boy got his first two teeth the weekend of August 15. Then between Sept 2 and Sept 12 he got FOUR on top, and now he's getting two MORE on top. It's not fair, he doesn't deserve this. He's trying to put on a brave face, but he's just miserable.


Saturday, September 24, 2005

(Non-)impulse buying

When I work with textiles, I'm driven by texture even more than color. When I decided to make a baby blanket for the Small We-Didn't-Want-to-Know-Until-Birth, I decided on a rainbow design to match the nursery, and because a rainbow blanket would be perfect for either a boy or a girl. I sketched out a design, looked around at different yarns, and did initial calculations on how much yarn I would need. When I went to actually buy the rainbow colored yarns, I just happened to see this yarn

and I knew I had to work with it. I didn't know what or how, but I just had to have that yarn. I went home, did some drafts, recalculated my warp and weft needs, and wound up making this baby blanket instead. (Just behind Small Boy's head you can see the rainbow that I originally thought I would be echoing.)

I recently made a baby blanket for a friend who just had a daughter. Knowing that, I decided to indulge in gender-stereotyped pinks. I thought I could do something in which the color bled from very light to very dark, but I think in this blanket

the transition is a bit more abrupt than I had hoped for. Instead of a bleeding effect, I very clearly have quadrants. I went ahead with this project without making a sample, so the ways in which the colors would interact was a bit of a surprise. It's not what I envisioned, particularly the top left quadrant, but I think it's nice nonetheless. (It's also not completely done. I need to finish the edges, cut off the loom waste, and wash and press it. But it's done enough for you to get the idea.)

When I was buying the yarn for that baby blanket, I stumbled across this yarn

and, as you can imagine, I knew I had to have it. It's not as nubby as the yarn for Small Boy's blanket, but it does have some dimension to it. In this case it was really the glowing fall colors that pulled me in. They remind me of New England.

It's hard to impulse buy as a weaver; the mathematical calculations for warp and weft needs are precise. If you buy too much, that's not so bad I guess - just leftover material you have to figure out how to put into some future project. If you don't buy enough, however, you could run into trouble when you go back for more. What if they're out? Maybe the store can order more, but different dye lots of the same color are sometimes different. Not always; when they are it's often not enough to make a difference, but sometimes it might. At the very least your project is stalled while you wait for the order to come in. It's also possible that you might not be able to order more - if it was a limited run or if you're at the end of a season and yarn weights and colors are changing. If you can't come up with the additional yarn you need to finish your project, you really have to scramble to figure out how to save it. I'm sure a Master Weaver (there's a test you take to earn this title) could figure something out, perhaps even relish the challenge; I am a beginning weaver and changing boats in mid-stream in this fashion is certainly beyond my abilities at this point.

So I scurried home and pondered what to make. Something for myself this time. A throw; something to toss over my shoulders when curled up reading on the couch or drape over my shoulders at the beginning of yoga class. I leafed through my books of design and drafting, did some warp and weft calculations and went back to the store to buy the yarn. Three days after first seeing the yarn, one of my colors was gone and would have to be ordered. (See? This is why I don't impulse buy yarn. What if I had bought it on the spot, but then after doing the math realized I needed more? And I would almost certainly have needed more.)

But you know what happened, of course. While I was buying that yarn, I saw this yarn,

and of course I decided I had to have it. I knew it would be for a baby blanket - you can't touch the picture but this stuff is as soft as kittens. But I needed to figure out the dimensions to do the math before I bought it. Off home I went, out came my project notebook and the calculator, and back to the store I went to pick up eight rolls. And that's just the weft!

I've got my eye on a third yarn, but have managed to restrain myself so far. The two projects I've got planned will take up more than enough time as it is.

But it's such a soft yarn, in gender-neutral colors, and I've got this pregnant friend...

Friday, September 23, 2005

Starting solids


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Is your Haushaltvorrat in order?

When I wrote this post, I wasn't kidding. Something wicked this way comes. If you're not worried about a bird flu pandemic, you're not reading Phantom Scribbler or Effect Measure (Effect Measure is newly added to my links, for now under "The Political"), and you're sleeping better at night than I am.

If you're interested in seeing what the Swiss government advises you to have as 14 days worth of emergency rations (multiply this several times over for bird flu rations), go here for the German, here for the French, here for an English language pdf, and here for the Italian, but the link to the pdf file seems to be missing. (Dare I even joke that given the bad blood between Bernese and Luganese, that might not have been an oversight?)

UPDATE: I fixed the "Something wicked..." link, which comes via Phantom Scribbler.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sign of the times

Autumn officially has come to Switzerland. I know this because the gelato stands are gone and the heisse Maroni (roasted chestnut) stands have arrived. This all happens very dramatically on the same day. Never have I seen gelato stands gradually close one by one as the days grow cooler, and never have I seen heisse Maroni stands appearing like stars in the night sky, slowly one after another as the days grow darker. Instead, the Powers That Be determine that from this day forth, there shall be no gelato; there shall be heisse Maroni. The gelato stands vanish and all the heisse Maroni stands arrive. And presto! It's autumn.

And it won't be spring again until the day the Maroni return from whence they came.

UPDATE: Hey, it's Wednesday the 21st and I saw a gelato stand today! What gives?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The tower of babble

The Small Boy we put to bed Friday night was a man of few words. Think the Outlaw Josey Wales, only two feet tall and wearing diapers. Oh, he was certainly vocal, just not particularly verbal. He was good for a "Mmmmmmmm" and an "Aaaaaaooooooo" and if was really in the mood for it a "Hehheh." The Small Boy who woke up Saturday morning was like - I don't know. Is there any movie character I could possibly name that could save this metaphore? The Billy Crystal character in City Slickers? He was always chattering on the trail, right? Or Sister Sara in Two Mules for Sister Sara? At least that's still a Clint Eastwood movie. Oh forget it. It'll never work. Anyway, Small Boy woke up Saturday morning with a lot on his mind and a hankering to say it. "Ahbabababababa," he said to R. "Gababbaahbabagaboah," he said to the water bottle. "Ahbababababmmmmmababa," he said to nobody in particular. "Bababbadadada," he said to me. He babbled in bed with us. He babbled on the playmat. He babbled in the stroller. He babbled in the toy department. He babbled at the coffee house. He babbled in the lift.

He's clearly been saving up seven months worth of thoughts and observations and some time in the wee hours between Friday night and Saturday morning decided it was time to share.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A river runs through it

Re-reading my essay, it's clear that I don't just need to tweak it, I need to cannibalize it. When I wrote it, I thought that I was writing about my father, about the choices he made and about the choices that he couldn't make. I thought I was writing about how my father lacked the freedom to follow his heart out to the headwaters of the Madison River - about how the things of life (my brother and myself, to name just two, and my father's deep belief that his number one job was to send us to college) made such a choice too risky, but also, if I were to be honest, about how he lacked the courage and the imagination to really dare to find out if it would have been possible. I thought I was writing about how my father lived out his life many miles from the place his heart called home.

I sort of did that.

But I also wrote a lot about all the summers of my childhood, summers spent bathed in the light of my father's long love affair with the great trout streams of the American West. About how I have inherited that love. About how the waters of those rivers - the Yellowstone, the Big Lost, the Big Wood but above all the Madison, God's most perfect river - are in my blood.

I was packing too much into one essay, and as a result I did justice to neither theme. And for right now, it's the second essay that I want to write. Because the other night, I was watching my son sleep, and my son looks so much like my father. And I realized that those rivers are in my son's blood too. They are his legacy, a gift from the grandfather he will never know. One day I will take my son to the headwaters of the Madison River, and I will say to him "Your grandfather was a fisherman. He fished this river until this river was in his blood. This river is in your blood. This river is your birthright." And my son will roll river rocks in his hands, the way I did as a child, and although he will never meet the man, he will grow up bathed in the light of my father's long love affair with the waters of the American West. And in that way he will come to know my father, who he resembles so strongly. And the circle of generations will be closed.

And that's the essay I need to write. Because I need so badly to believe it can be that way.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

Breaking the silence

Just long enough to ask, Can you say greatness?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Light blogging ahead

I probably won't be posting much this week. I'm revising an essay that I haven't looked at in months. I often have to do that. It's my worst trait as a writer - I fall in love with the shape of certain phrases, the way they feel in my mouth, warm and sweet like a peach pit, and I can't, or won't, recognize that however muscial a certain phrase might be it doesn't serve the larger work and it has to go. Until my ardor has cooled I can't bring myself to make the necessary cuts. So this piece has been settling in a filing cabinet and now I can read it with the distance I need to be ruthless with the editing pen. There's a lot in there that is good. There's a lot in there that drags down the good parts. Time to clear out the deadwood.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Is it just me...

...or does anybody else find Ophelia to be a particularly odd, perhaps even creepy, choice of names for a hurricane?


Sometimes I love the efficiency of German. Often I look at a German sentance and see a train wreck, but there are some brilliant individual German words. I once read that the English language has more than twice as many words as German (don't ask me where, if I even still have that book it's in a moving box), but now and then I come across a German word for which there is no English equivalent. Wippen is one of those words.

When a child is learning to crawl, there is a progression that nearly all children all around the world follow. At first a baby laying on his stomach can't lift his head. Then suddenly, she can. Slowly she develops the strength to lift more and more of her torso off the floor, resting on her forearms and for all the world resembling a lizard on a hot rock. Then he starts to airplain - arms and legs off the floor, rocking on his stomach. Then comes the grub phase - babies inchworming their way across the floor, sometimes resembling a tiny Marine dragging his body through the mub on his elbows. Then, suddenly, at long last, his chest and pelvis are both off the floor at the same time and there he is on his hands and knees. At first she doesn't make any forward progress - most babies spend several days in this stage, balancing on their hands and knees and rocking back and forth. Wippen. That's right. There is one verb in German that means "stand on your hands and knees and rock back and forth without making any forward progress," and it's wippen.

And it's Small Boy's latest trick.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

At a loss

Like Sandra, I've had a hard time blogging since Katrina. Words of sympathy and solidarity seem hollow, especially coming from so far away, and words of anger...well, they're building up in my head, believe me, but I'll save them for another time. Others are on the case, and doing a better job of it than I would anyway. But the best thing I've heard was Harry Shearer's September 4th edition of LeShow - a tribute to New Orleans, to its music and food and culture and history and spirit. I think people are only beginning to realize what it means to lose New Orleans.

UPDATE: As long as you're giving your RealPlayer/Media/MP3/whatever it is you use a workout, listen to this, too - and it's just 3 and a half minutes, unlike the hour long Harry Shearer (which is worth it if you have the time). Link via my topography.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Back in the day

Every now and then, I like to check in on my former life.