Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

We don't need no

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket!

I hope you have had a good week; mine has been somewhat active, so on top of all the activities of last weekend, this one is being rather quiet. The snow is gently falling outside, and we are all settled in with our quiet pursuits.
I am going to bake for today’s afternoon coffee: homemade Fastelavnsboller, which are cream-filled sweet rolls or Danish pastry, traditional for Shrovetide. Mine will be rolls rather than Danish, with a marzipan filling. And, by the way: in Danish, ‘Danish’ is not called ‘Danish’, but ‘Vienna bread’. Such are the ways of the world.

This week, I rant about conditions for teachers, and as always give you an update on my knitting.

The Apple of the Week:
Recently, our lovely politicians seem to have it out for teachers on all levels of school, both the folkeskole (something like primary and lower secondary), years 0-9, and the gymnasium (upper secondary / high school), years 10-12.
The common consent is claimed to be that teachers do not work enough, what with only 16 or 18 or 20 hours of ‘real’ work a week (and not even proper hours: most schools still have lessons of only 45 minutes) and ridiculously long holidays.

Someone has even calculated that teachers at a gymnasium work 9 hours a week. Yes, nine.
How do you come up with that number?
There are several phases: first, you count all of the academic staff, including the headmaster, the administrators, the counsellors, the guy (or gal) who manages the library, all of whom are traditionally trained as teachers, but who obviously do not all teach full time, and add up their number of teaching hours.
Next, you divide that number by (1) the number of above mentioned people and by (2) 46: the number of weeks in the year minus the 6 weeks of vacation that everybody in the workforce is entitled to. Note that the break weeks, in which no students are at school, are included in the number of supposed teaching weeks, as is the exam period.
Finally, you set teaching hours to equal work hours, ignoring planning, preparation, evaluation, meetings, marking of papers and performances, &c.
And voila: you have proved that teachers work much less than everybody else.

Anyone who has ever tried teaching will instantly know, of course, how preposterous this is. I am continually amazed – and angry – that it can be put forth again and again, that reporters and politicians can get away with so blatant a lie. Who would demand that actors are only paid for the time they are on stage or in front of a camera? Or musicians? They are not, as it is sometimes claimed, paid a vast amount of money for a couple of hours’ concert; they are paid a pittance for the vast number of hours of practice they put in before the concert.
Or the politicians themselves? Would they want to be paid only for the time they actually speak in the House?

I am reminded of a tale I heard recently, about the Emperor of China:
The Emperor was a great collector of art, particularly images of horses. He had jade horses, gold horses, wooden horses, and horses made of porcelain. One day, he heard of an artist, the most talented maker of charcoal drawings in the known world. ‘He must draw me a horse!’ the Emperor said to himself; and he sent an envoy to speak to the artist.
The envoy rode out to find the artist, who lived far away from the city, up in the mountains, in a little cabin. And back he came, with the answer that the Emperor could have his drawing in six months, and it would cost him 10,000 gold pieces. ‘No problem,’ said the Emperor; he had plenty of gold.
Time went by, and when the six months were almost gone, the Emperor became impatient for his drawing. So he ordered up his retinue and set off, out of the city, far out into the mountains, to seek out the artist in his little cabin.
The Emperor entered into the cabin, looking about him, but seeing no drawing. ‘I have come for the drawing you promised me,’ he said to the artist.
‘All right,’ said the artist; and he took a piece of charcoal from the fireplace and with a few quick strokes drew a horse. It was a magnificent beast, with a flying mane, a spark in the eyes, ready to leap right off the paper and gallop away. ‘You can leave the 10,000 gold pieces over there,’ said the artist and turned to carry on what he had been doing when the Emperor walked in.
The Emperor admired the drawing of the horse; but still, he was puzzled and somewhat annoyed. Why had he had to wait for six months? And pay 10,000 gold pieces for a drawing that took less than a minute to do?
‘Oh,’ said the artist casually. ‘You can have those too, if you want.’ He pointed to a huge pile of paper lying on top of the wood stack.  ‘Those are the 9,999 less than perfect attempts to draw a horse.’

The negotiations for work and wages in the gymnasiums have been finalised now, resulting in more pay, it seems, and more teaching. For those who are not fired, that is: with the same number of students and lessons, and each teacher having to take on more, many schools will have to either fire or not hire teachers.
The secretary for finance, Bjarne Corydon, is pleased and calls this a ‘solid’ and ‘responsible’ result; read: he has managed to save some money and at the same time bully the teachers. And he is supposed to be a Social Democrat.

The real results will be seen when either even more teachers snap under the strain of a job that already has a high frequency of stress, or the quality of the education that the students get sinks to a new low, if everybody insists on working the hours instead of the task.

I can only be glad that my teaching days are over, and that I haven’t exerted myself to try to get back into it after a stress-related depression that has left me with lingering remains of social phobia. It would have been a slap in the face to start up again in these circumstances.

And that will have to do as an ending on a happy note; it is somewhat difficult to be optimistic about the future of education the way things are going.

Knitting is much more pleasant: you can always make the knitting do what you want and get decent results out of that; nobody ambushes your efforts or tries to denigrate them (apart, maybe, from USOC last summer, but never mind about them).

And then there’s the cat to cheer me up – he just decided to take a walk on the wild side:

The Knitting:

Last Sunday, I discovered that the lovely Martine of iMake podcast fame has put up a free cowl pattern, the Splendid Striped Cowl. This is an easy, striped cowl in stocking stitch, knitted on the bias and grafted into a big loop.
And as I was going to a school function Wednesday evening, I needed something simple yet not boring to bring along.
The function was the presentation of 8th grade projects, which Victor has been working on for several weeks together with a partner, who unfortunately fell ill last week, when all the writing had to be done. So Victor wrote it by himself – and presented it by himself, all alone on stage with his PowerPoint presentation. He would have preferred his guitar. But he did well; the umbrella subject was ‘On the Way ...’, and these two had chosen bio ethics: On the way to the perfect human, looking both at gene modification and mechanical prostethics. Other groups tackled youth culture, education, recycling, multiculturalism, global economics, &c.

Anyway, this entailed 1½ hours of watching & listening, so I did the provisional cast-on at home to have the fiddly bit done and then simply knitted stripes with in- and decreases on the RS rows. A fun knit; not at all demanding, but the stripes and the shaping add knitting interest – and I look forward to the warmth it will give to my neck.

An added bonus was that I finally got round to frogging a couple of items that I knitted nearly 2½ years ago and practically never wore: my Wayfarer wrap, from Rowan Magazine 48, and a little shoulder warmer of my own invention. The Wayfarer is big and chunky and romantic – but ultimately unpractical in a climate that is mostly wet and / or windy or too cold to not wear a proper coat. Besides, even the small size was too large and kept slipping down over one shoulder. So, much as I liked this thing and enjoyed knitting it, it has been languishing by the frog pond for a while. The shoulder warmer suffered from comparable, though different failures: too chunky and impractical.
And now they are frogged and ready to be reborn as this lovely cowl and ... something else. I know what I want to knit, but I don’t want to mention it before I actually get to it, so watch this space :o)

The anklet bed socks are done, and now that they have dried out after their soak to get the extra dye out, I can try them on and take pictures. The dye surplus is all my own doing; the yarn is dyed with a healthy amount of logwood to get the deep colour, and it does tend to crock. So my fingers were purple for a while there; I still have a faint trace of it across my left index finger, where the yarn runs over.

My driftwood jumper, named Juniper on Ravelry, because the colour of the yarn reminds me of juniper bushes on the heath, is coming along nicely. I have done all the increases around the shoulder part, and right now I am just working back & forth in stocking stitch below the armholes, waiting to join to work in the round below the opening. So far, so good.

And the Blues Riffs socks for Victor, the first of them anyway, is moving towards the heel; the gusset is rather elongated, with increases on every 3rd round instead of the usual every 2nd round. I say ‘usual’: that could only reveal how little experience I have with sock knitting. I may have to report back on that issue in about 20 sock patterns’ time.
Anyway, now the riff pattern is showing itself on the instep and looking very neat.
And the KnitPro cubic dpns ... I promise, they are not paying me for this (although maybe they should, lol): they are lovely. Pointy and not bendy like 2 mm bamboo needles. They are not all that long, mind you, so I have to watch the stitches a bit now that I have a lot of them going all at once; but that is just a phase, when I get to the heel, it will sort itself out.

Let’s see, is there any other knitting news?
Oh, I found the yarn for my nephew’s birthday sweater; in my stash – which doesn’t mean, of course, that I don’t want to spend on him, only that I have already done it. And I am contemplating a pattern. His birthday is 28th March, so there’s no rush, but it does help to have a starting point. Now I have to ask my sister for his measurements; he will only be 2, but as his dad is two metres tall, this little guy is tall, too – as is his sister. So usually, one can go with the age-appropriate measurements in width and add a bit lengthwise.
This project I will get back to in a while: no pics before the big day to not spoil anything, but it will be mentioned here.

And I am almost ready to release a pattern in my Ravelry shop, The Apple Basket. I have some patterns there already, some free, some for sale, and I am working my way through the design notes I have sitting around to eventually get everything put out there in both English and Danish. The one I am writing up now is Pomona, a lacy summer cardigan that I made a couple of years ago; my task is to go through the pattern and clarify all the notes-to-self instructions, so that they are accessible to others. And, of course, make sure that everything makes sense and that there are not any errors.

That’s it for this week – I will be back next week with a report on how we survived the winter break that is just beginning :o)
Stay happy, stay healthy, and keep crafting!

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