Friday, September 30, 2005

Everything Old Is New Again

Book Cover: Traditional Scandinavian Knitting

I got a new knitting book--the first one in a year. (I've been showing great restraint, always reminding myself that I don't play with all the toys I have already.) Sheila McGregor's Traditional Scandinavian Knitting (1984) was long out of print, but it's back, and quite reasonably priced (in contrast to most of the new books aimed at today's many novice knitters). Here's the blurb from the back:

An expert on traditional Scandinavian knitting explains the distinctive craft's origins, its various types, and techniques, in this classic guide. Sheila McGregor's in-depth treatment ranges from the regional styles of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to those of the North Atlantic Islands of Faeroe and Iceland. Vibrant patterns for an array of garments include: Jerseys; gloves and mittens; stockings; and caps. Illustrated with 191 black-and-white and 19 color pictures, this volume is well known and prized among longtime practitioners of the craft. Its return to print will delight a new generation of knitting enthusiasts.

Book Cover: Traditional Fair Isle Knitting

My copy of McGregor's The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting is the original British version, and I've had it since the early eighties. I sold my Alice Starmore books on eBay last year--they turned out to be just so much eye candy as far as I'm concerned. This is the book that I turn to every time I knit color work of any kind, and I've spent hours pouring over the photos and patterns. I'm giving my new book the same treatment. Hey, look! Eleven ways to decrease for the top of a cap, on page 156. Let's try 'em all! Stocking heel turnings I've never seen before. Twined knitting! Z-twist yarn!

Monday, September 26, 2005

John D. MacDonald: My Ft. Lauderdale Vacation

Book Cover: Lonely Silver Rain

When I was putting together the list of Web pages for Tony Hillerman a while back, I also found a few for another favorite genre author, John D. MacDonald. When I feel the need for a long mental vacation, I get out my 21 Travis McGee novels and visit him and Meyer in Ft. Lauderdale, 1960's style. This was especially theraputic when I was waiting for my committee to read my dissertation. Here are some Internet resources I found interesting.

  • Authors and Creators: John D. MacDonald. It mentions that he also wrote as John Wade Farrel, Robert Henry, John Lane, Scott O'Hara, Peter Reed, and Henry Reiser. (1916-1986). This page focuses mainly on Travis McGee trivia.
  • John D. MacDonald Bibliography. When I was trying to accumulate all the Travis McGee books, I had a hard time finding a list. I found one here, along with many other MacDonald novels. I haven't read more than six of them, but I enjoyed them all. The writing is engaging, he draws characters and situations economically but effectively, and the plots are solid, complex, and satisfying.
  • The John D. MacDonald Homepage. "Here you will find some information on John D. MacDonald, a list of titles, the 1996 Conference Review, and the JDM Bibliophile. The JDM Bibliophile was the oldest continuously- published magazine in the United States devoted to a single crime fiction author. It was first published in the mid-Sixties by Len and June Moffat. It has ceased publication."
  • The Travis McGee Series. A well-done fan page.

Here's the list of Travis McGee novels I once struggled so hard to accumulate.

  1. The Deep Blue Good-By (1964)
  2. Nightmare in Pink (1964)
  3. A Purple Place for Dying (1964)
  4. Quick Red Fox (1964)
  5. A Deadly Shade of Gold (1965)
  6. Bright Orange for the Shroud (1965)
  7. Darker Than Amber (1966)
  8. One Fearful Yellow Eye (1966)
  9. Pale Gray for Guilt (1968)
  10. The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper (1968)
  11. The Long Lavender Look (1970)
  12. A Tan and Sandy Silence (1971)
  13. Dress Her in Indigo (1971)
  14. The Scarlet Ruse (1973)
  15. The Turquoise Lament (1973)
  16. The Dreadful Lemon Sky (1975)
  17. The Empty Copper Sea (1978)
  18. The Green Ripper (1979)
  19. Free Fall in Crimson (1981)
  20. Cinnamon Skin (1982)
  21. Lonely Silver Rain (1984)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Boring, Self-Concious Post About Blogging

When I started this web log, I resolved to post every other day, to not natter on endlessly and self-referentially about the blogging process, and to always include some little nugget of "content" that would inform or amuse. It wasn't long before I failed on all counts. I had three seven-day work-weeks in a row, and soon fell behind in my posting. When I had a little leisure to devote to the web log, I began to tweak the Blogger templates instead of posting. This was educational, but not very blog worthy. (I was surprised how inefficient, how wasteful of bandwidth the templates are. I should write my own. If only I hadn't spent so many hours playing with them already!) Oh, I also got approved for the Knitting Blogger Webring. Go ahead, push my button!

Over at Hoarded Ordinaries, Lorianne has kindly provided a link to her teaching web log. I really enjoyed following this last school year. I fantasized about having an able and willing group of students working at that level. Whenever I snag a capable writing student, I have to tell him or her, "Go take the GED exam!" I'm currently working with a young lady with several barriers to self-expression. I think she has lots of potential, but all communication is a physical struggle for her. My focus is finding technological solutions for her. I can't help but envy Lorianne a little bit.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Caterpillars in the Garden

Labor Day was a good day for caterpillars. I found a couple of these sphingids ignoring the tomatoes and potatoes and chowing down on a solanaceous weed. These fellows grow up to be sphinx moths, sometimes called hummingbird moths because they resemble hummingbirds in size, shape, and behavior. I'm not a big lepidopteran fan, but I always enjoy these big moths.

Addendum: As an insect taxonomist, I'm always reluctant to slap a specific epithet on an insect if I haven't checked the key characters. I'm reasonably certain that these critters were tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta), but I didn't grab them and check the keys. I confess I also failed to identify the host plant by examining floral characteristics. The worms ate that part of the homework, so I can't tell you if they were on nightshade, or on some Physalis species. I am a lazy naturalist. I am overcome with guilt.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


red cabled hat

You might expect from the title that this post will be about Linux, but it is actually just another finished hat picture. Knit of an interesting chunky Navajo-plied wool yarn, it is currently on consignment at the Appalachian by Design shop at the Greenbrier Resort. (See my September 2 post.) I know the cable-theme is getting a bit repetitious; I'm a little tired of it too, but it is a great way to use some of my odds and ends of strange yarns. I don't need to swatch these hats; I simply start from the top, a la Barbara Walker, increase every other round until the top measures between five and six inches across, then stop increasing and start knitting a pattern that will draw up, yet be stretchy. Ribs work well, and so do cables. Ever since I applied to join the Knitting Blog Webring, I feel the need to keep a knitting entry prominent on the lead page. I'm not sure what effect this has on people browsing for something about Pocahontas County. That is where I do my knitting, but does it have broader significance? Maybe something about the history of knitting in Pocahontas County. Don't laugh. I have data.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Arachne in the Garden

Garden spider on goldenrod

On Labor Day, I rested from my canning labors long enough to check the garden for more tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. What I found there was more faunal than floral. It was a good day for spiders and caterpillars. This beauty was hunting on a patch of goldenrod, so I had to get my camera. I believe she qualifies as both as a nature photo and as a fiber artist in her own right.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tony Hillerman: A Sense of Place

It's been a few weeks since I read a book, but the last one I read was Tony Hillerman's The Sinister Pig. I have been a fan since Jack Shaefer's son Carl recommended him, back in the early 1980's. Hillerman has an amazing command of his format, and he gives you a vivid sense of his people and places with a few apt phrases. I don't read a lot of genre fiction these days, but Hillerman never fails to please. There are several interesting Internet sites with lists of books, sample chapters, and essays by and about Hillerman.

Friday, September 09, 2005

He Gets NO Spam!

I've been enjoying the This Week In Tech podcasts since they began in the spring. Living on top of Droop Mountain, I don't have many opportunities to go hang out with the sys admin's on the loading dock anymore, and Leo Laporte, Patrick Norton and John C. Dvorak fill this void in my life. Dvorak recommends the program thus:

"If you like listening to five blowhards and a weenie ramble on and on about cool stuff in the news, then this is the hour long weekly show for you. The fact is the five blowhards are knowlegeable, even the weenie. (He knows who is he is)."
Is he fun, or what? And he gets no spam.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Some Open Source Accessibility Resources

I've been on an Internet fact-finding mission, looking for anything that could make computer use easier for people with limited mobility and motor control. Of course, I always like to find open source and freely available solutions if possible. Here are some promising things I've found so far.

  • Dasher "Dasher is an information-efficient text-entry interface, driven by natural continuous pointing gestures. Dasher is a competitive text-entry system wherever a full-size keyboard cannot be used." It's available for Windows and Linux. Debian's "apt-get" apt-got it for me, and it's also on the Ubuntu live CD, so my student and I can try it out on her computer easily.
  • Linux Accessibility Resource Site"A summary of the work of the Linux Accessibility community. Currently edited by David Bolter and hosted by the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre (ATRC)" Every resource I've checked out from this list has been a good one.
  • GOK is an open source on-screen keyboard. "The gok project aims to enable users to control their computer without having to rely on a standard keyboard or mouse. Many individuals must control the computer using alternative input methods. Using innovative dynamic keyboard strategies, and leveraging gnome 2's built-in accessibility framework, the gok will make control more efficient and enable use of the gnome 2 desktop. With the right hardware support and the gok individuals will have full access to applications that support the AT SPI, and therefore, full access to the functionality these applications provide." This is also apt-get-able, and I've been experimenting with it, too.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Variety Through Dyeing

In hat-knitting mode, I've been using up a small stash of Chelsea Silk (65% silk, 35% wool) in a sort of natural heathery brown-blue-red. Because I didn't want to have three or four identical hats (my slogan is "Unique handknits") I tried dyeing one of them. I used a quarter teaspoon of pink Jaquard Acid dye, enough water to float the hat, and a quarter cup white vinegar. I cooked it all day in my second-string crock-pot (reserved for fiber dying), and I'm pleased with the results. Unfortunately, I have no better idea what to call this color than I had for the original undyed hat. Mauve?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Appalachian by Design

The store I was minding last weekend is called Appalachian by Design. Their stock-in-trade is knitwear made by rural women at home in Greenbrier County and assembled in Lewisburg. They make quality cotton knit baby clothes and women's woolen knit suits and separates. They don't sell over the Internet yet, but they list stores that carry their products.

The boutique at the Greenbrier is starting to sell some handknitting products, and while I was there, they asked me to knit this Debby Ware kit so they could have an in-store model. In my 40-year knitting history, this is the first thing I ever made from a kit. For most of my life I've been a knitter on a budget, and kits are more expensive than yarn and patterns bought at close-out time. Nowadays, I usually make up my own patterns, so I'm even less likely to buy a kit. However, if you're interested in my opinion, this pattern had interesting design features, enough yarn to make a second hat (in case you've got twins), and good, easy-to-read directions. It was an enjoyable project, but not a conversion experience for me.

Cupcake Beanie Kit by Debby Ware, cover photo