Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Temporal Displacement

Happy spring time to all! I hope the weather and the holidays are treating you well, whether you are celebrating the season or just enjoying the return of daylight. Depending, of course, on your hemispheric persuasion; those in the southern parts of the globe will be on their way to a cooler season.
This week, we have had the ten-day Easter break that includes the upcoming Monday; a nice quiet week for us with lots of sleeping late for the boys and a couple of family gatherings. We celebrated the birthday of my nephew Emil on Thursday with a delicious brunch and lovely weather.

For Victor, the break may well turn out to be longer than usual: the negotiations for work hours and pay and work conditions in general for the teachers keep breaking down, and a lock-out was announced quite a while ago. Unless something radical happens, it is to begin on 1st April, keeping all primary and middle school teachers away from work – and all children away from school. This, of course, has a huge impact on everybody, not only teachers, parents, and children, but also anybody employing parents who suddenly need to look after their children during school hours.
I wrote a while ago about the conclusions of the negotiations for high school teachers, which were not favourable for either teachers or students; this may turn out along the same lines, though I sincerely hope not.

And today, we are all jet-lagged, I am at least, having set the clocks forward for the Daylight Saving Time. I find this immensely annoying; there may very well have been a time, when the saving of daylight hours was important – but the world works differently now, and the need for daylight for manual labour has decreased dramatically. At the same time, the period in which the clocks do not tell the right time has increased to seven months per year, from the last weekend in March till the last weekend in October.
The effect of this temporal displacement is not the same as when you travel. Going to a different place in a different time zone changes the environment and your routines as well as the time; you are in a liminal state, and all bets are off. With the changing of the clocks, you are supposed to believe that the time of day is another than it was yesterday, even though the light is the same, and everything else around you is the same.
This disturbance wears off in a day or two, I know, but today, I am annoyed. Or rather, continually confused.
So, let’s get to something a bit more pleasant:

The Knitting:
Now I can finally show you the birthday jumper for Emil: a hood down hoodie, with a henley opening and cables running from the top of the hood right down over the body and sleeves. I made it in lovely soft angora silk tweed from BC Garn, with a bit of nylon to make it sturdier, in a light fingering weight on 2.5 mm needles. So it will be warm, but not too bulky and stuffy for the little guy.
He got to try it on for his afternoon nap and after:

The little birthday boy - and cousin Thomas in the background

For the time being, I prefer having two projects running at a time: one ‘interesting’, with cables or lace or something like that; and one simpler, like a stocking stitch jumper, for TV knitting or while being social. So, I had the cabled birthday jumper and my striped driftwood cardigan; and when the birthday jumper was done, I immediately cast on for a pair of socks – for me, this time. My driftwood is ongoing, now striping down the body.

Remember I got this lovely yarn for my birthday? A skein of Mary Queen of Socks from Superknits in the colourway Feel (not Come Back to Me Colour TV, as I thought I had figured out), a gorgeous tealy turquoise. And so soft: it is MCN, merino, cashmere and nylon.
Almost right away, I found a sock pattern I liked. This is the Water Cycle Socks, a free Ravelry download – always loving those! – and I have been looking forward to knitting them. Not only because I am selfish and love to knit for ME, but also because the last four pairs of socks I’ve knitted were man-sized, and it is so much quicker to knit for my little feet. I have already nearly finished the first sock after a couple of evenings spent on re-watching film trilogies: Back to the Future and Jurassic Park. All of these films are so well known that I can easily handle a bit of lace sock knitting while keeping up with the running and screaming. Not to be disparaging; the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) just popped into my head.
The colour of the yarn suggests to me a tropical sea, maybe the Caribbean, with white-beached islands, palms, sunshine ... and so, the water theme of the pattern fits perfectly: there are waves above the toes and on the heel, raindrops up the instep and front of the leg, and billowing steam or clouds on the back of the leg.

The pattern is well written and easy to follow; the charts are even placed logically on the pages, so that Chart C and D used for the front and back of the leg are on the same page and easily fit on a screen, as well – I haven’t printed the pattern and keep it in a PDF window on my laptop.

As for books – well, I haven’t been reading much this week, what with the boys being around and family dos and all. And the watching of films.
I did go to Audible to buy the second book in James P. Blaylock’s Narbondo series, Homunculus; but so far, I’ve only listened to 22 minutes of it.

On Chop Bard, to which I am a new listener, I devoured Ehren Ziegler’s comments on Romeo & Juliet. This podcast works differently than CraftLit, in that you do not get the whole text read aloud, only salient bits and pieces; so you will want to have the play within reach. I did that, listening and reading – and discussing the play with my boys.
Thomas recently watched the Baz Luhrmann film adaptation (which Ehren Ziegler does not approve of, for many valid reasons) for school, and while in London, they attended a workshop at the Globe with a real live actor, working on how to express various characters through movements and modes of speech. Thomas got to be Tybalt ...
Anyway, after I had listened through the whole story and re-told it to Victor, who didn’t know it beforehand, only as the common concept: two young lovers die; we watched the Baz Luhrmann film together. I critiqued, and we had another good talk.
And then I got to thinking about Rosaline and her side of the story. You know Rosaline, the girl Romeo is moping about when we first meet him; Juliet’s cousin. No? Well, she never appears in the play. But she is there in the storyline, not least as the reason why Romeo and his pals even go to the party at the Capulet house where, of course, he meets Juliet. Rosaline is the catalyst for the whole sequence of events that unfold during those four days in July.
Anyway, if you are into Shakespeare, Chop Bard is great; Ehren really knows his stuff. And he’s on Ravelry.

I’ve just started listening to the Jane Eyre episodes of CraftLit; this is interesting, as I have never read the book or watched any film adaptations of it. I know the title, of course, but only as a title in some vague connection with the Brontë name – one of those books by those sisters ... So now that I have listened to Wuthering Heights by Emily, I will listen to Jane Eyre by Charlotte, both published in 1847 – and all of Heather Ordover’s comments and annotations on biography, Yorkshire, history, &c. And the discussions on Ravelry, too. I know I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it again: if you like books, if you think there are books you ought to read, but never have: go to CraftLit. You will have great works of literature read aloud to you and all the tricky bits explained, all the background filled in. And you can skip the crafty talk, if you want, by going to the JustTheBooks feed.

The opening chapter of Jane Eyre describes how the 10-year old, orphaned Jane lives with her aunt and cousins in her late uncle’s home; how she is mistreated and bullied by her 14-year old cousin, a big fat boy who behaves horribly towards animals and his little cousin and nevertheless is his mother’s darling. The aunt defends her son’s interests (!) to the point where she refuses the tutor’s attempts to improve his diet by cutting down on cakes and sweetmeats, because denying the boy any pleasure is unthinkable. Of course, Jane gets the blame for any alteration between the children and is, apparently frequently, told that she is ungrateful for this useless life she leads at the mercy and generosity of her relatives.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Yes, Charlotte Brontë obviously read Harry Potter. Or maybe it’s the other way round, I’m not sure ...

So, it seems that the film 300 is going to have a sequel, mystifyingly titled 300: Rise of an Empire. I cannot fathom which empire that is supposed to be, nor who or what 300 are referred to.
Apparently, they want to continue the story of the Persian Wars in 480-479 BCE. OK, there is a lot of story to tell, and the trick of throwing Herodotus’ text up in the air and see what lands can be repeated many a time. No Frank Miller this time around, though. But Xerxes is still supposed to be the guy who thinks he is – or maybe is? – a god.

Here’s how it goes according to Herodotus: after the battle at Thermopylai in northern Hellas, where Xerxes was delayed for all of a week in his progress due to the 5 or 6,000 Greek troops assembled there – who dwindled to the famous 300, when the odds became obvious – the Persians continued southward, heading for the really important city states. Athens worked hard to rally the others and present a united front against the invaders, with varying success. Themistocles, who seems to be the lead figure in the new film, recommended building a battle fleet after a prophecy from the then Pythia in Delphi had spoken of a ‘wooden wall’ to protect the Athenians from being wiped out when the Persians destroyed the city. Which they did. After much debate, the battle fleet was, in fact, built, and a naval battle ensued in the strait between Athens and Salamis. The fleet of Persian and allied ships was much larger than the Greek one, of course – but the Persians were landlocked, brilliant horsemen, but no sailors. As soon as things heated up a bit, they panicked, crashed their ships, jumped overboard and all that. So this time, Xerxes suffered a crushing defeat; and in the battle at Plataiai in the following year – alluded to at the end of 300 – the Greeks beat him again, and he dropped the invasion. Overtly, at any rate.

So again: which empire are we talking about? Stretching things somewhat, not least the term ‘empire’, it might possibly be Athens and the subsequent Ionic alliance, in which Athens played an increasingly dominant role during the following decades. Meh. Not convinced. And the ‘300’ part is plain silly.

According to IMdB, the Spartan king Leonidas is not in the film because Gerard Butler didn’t want to do it. Huh?? Leonidas died, people! That’s the whole point of the 300: Spartans do not leave a fight. Either they kill everybody else, and the fight no longer exists, or they die trying. Which they did in this case.

I will probably watch this film when it comes out, just to see what hash they make of the history. The naval battle could be spectacular, if it is done well.

Aside from the Hollywood mangling of history and stories in general, there is the rather disturbing aspect of the way the Persians are presented in this / these film(s): subhuman, grotesque, fantastical. Now, a lot of the bizarre paraphernalia, including Xerxes’ looks and presumed divinity – which is utterly a-historic – derives from the comic book phase of this story-telling, Frank Miller’s version of it. For a skilled reader, this presents no problem: it is quite obvious what is realistic and what isn’t. But there could be a sneaking subtext here: Persians a.k.a. Iranians are the Enemy, they are inherently evil and deserve to be wiped out, because they are a constant threat to our Civilisation and Democracy and the Free World.
This is, of course, what Herodotus says, but he has very good reasons for it: in 480 BCE, the fledgling proto-democracy in Athens was under a very real threat from a huge empire that had spread over the whole Middle East and intended to spread westwards, too. If the Hellenic city states led by Athens had not defeated the Persians when they did, the whole of Hellas would have been subjected to Persian rule. And Rome would not have been capable of stopping them back then, either. So, in the 5th century, Persia really was a threat to what was the beginning of democracy and free thought.
That is not the situation today, though; and the parallel is dangerous. I can well understand those Greeks who take offense at American movie-makers and money-makers abusing their history for their own ends.

Well, then, I will get off my soap box now and enjoy the remainder of today’s sunshine.
Keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Is Here!

Or is it? 
Technically, yes: the vernal equinox has been and gone, leaving days that are longer than the nights. The weather, however, refuses to conform to this stereotype and insists on it being winter still.
I mentioned last week that the weather people were predicting a snowstorm on Tuesday; so I went out into the icy winds on Monday to stock up on groceries, in case we were to be buried in snow, and Thomas hoped for a snow day. Tuesday morning dawned quiet and clear: the snowstorm was cancelled – or, at least, only the Eastern parts of this country got any snow. Quite a lot, actually, in some places. But here, all was peaceful; and during the day, I discovered that the pleasures of staying in all day were more anticipatory than actual; so I went out anyway.
I had been relieved that the snowstorm was to be on Tuesday, since I had a meeting in Aarhus, about an hour’s drive away, on Wednesday, and the roads should be cleared by then. Anyway, we had a bit of snow during Tuesday afternoon and evening, like a feeble attempt at real winter weather. On Wednesday morning, we got up to – snow. Great big flurries of snow pelting down, covering everything, snow ploughs on the roads and drivers slowing to a crawl for fear of skidding, even though the roads weren’t that bad. Typical, right? And it kept coming down all through Wednesday and Thursday. And some on Friday. So maybe the snowstorm wasn’t cancelled after all, but only delayed.
Snow in the garden after the cat has been playing
The cat, as always, has been loving it, jumping about and throwing snowballs at himself.

The soundtrack for this post should be Tom Lehrer’s joyful song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park, extolling the delights of springtime pastimes with your sweetheart. A caveat: don’t listen to this song in the company of someone who takes a literal view of things. No, actually, come to think of it, do play it for them and use the occasion to teach them about satire.

The Apple of the Week:
In the ancient calendars, the Spring Equinox, when the Sun moves into the sphere of the Ram, was the time of the New Year. It makes a lot of sense: this is the time of nature waking up from its winter sleep, blossoming and greening; the birds are nesting and mating, lambs are born, and all that. So in an agricultural setting, spring is the beginning of the year.
This is also why in horoscope overviews, the Aries horoscope comes first: the period of the Ram begins at or around the vernal equinox, and the ancient Babylonians who invented western astrology also celebrated the New Year at this point.

You may remember from a previous post (in January 2013) that in the Roman calendar, the first month is March, named after the god of war and fertility, Mars; and at first, the calendar had only ten months, ending with December (decem meaning ten in Latin). The winter period had no name: it was a dead period. And even when the remaining two months were invented, so to speak, and named, and the official calendar had the year begin in January with the inauguration of the new civil servants, the rural and agricultural celebration of the New Year still took place in March.

This is also reflected in the Greek myth of the grain goddess Demeter and her daughter: the young girl, Kore (which means just that: young girl), was out and about, and Hades, the god of the Underworld, fell in love with her and snatched her. Demeter searched in vain for her lost child; and while she grieved, she did not function: nothing would grow. This, of course, could not go on, and the other gods called on Zeus to do something about it. He discovered that it was Hades who had the girl, and demanded that he give her back. Unfortunately, Kore had eaten nine pomegranate seeds from the Underworld, and thus she could never again be wholly free of this realm. So a compromise had to be made: for eight months of the year, Kore is above ground and with her mother, but she has to spend four months as Persefone, queen of the Underworld; and during those months, nothing grows while Demeter misses her daughter.
This is an aetiological myth explaining the seasons.

Astronomers have gone through the text of the Odyssey, interpreting mentions of stars and phases of the moon, to determine that Odysseus returned home to his Ithaka around this time, the first new moon after the spring equinox. That cannot be coincidental; of course, it is the right time to start the sailing season, when the winter storms have abated, and thus the right time for him to leave the island of Kalypso, where he had been imprisoned for seven years, and sail on towards home. But his homecoming also marks a new beginning for those at home: his wife who waited for him for twenty years, and his son who never knew him.

Another story of a new beginning is that of the deliverance from Egypt of the children of Israel, celebrated as Pesach; and as a branching out from that, the Christian Easter that will be taking place next week. When I say ‘branching out’, I mean that the crucifixion of Jesus happened in Jerusalem when he, being a good Jewish boy, travelled there to celebrate Pesach at the Temple.
Both of these stories symbolise new beginnings, new light and hope for the world – or for selected people, at least.

The word Easter is in itself a variant of Ostara or Eostre, a Germanic goddess for light, spring and fertility, who is celebrated in modern pagan and Wiccan circles (so to speak) at the equinox.

So, Happy Springtime to all, whether you celebrate Pesach, Easter, Ostara, No Rooz or the beginning of the gardening season – once the snows clear, that is :o)

The Knitting:

I am, unsurprisingly, still working on the birthday jumper for my nephew Emil who will be 2 years old next week. It is coming along nicely; even though I realised that I had made a stupid mistake and had to frog the ribbing at the bottom to lengthen the body, and then re-knit the ribbing. But I can still finish it by Tuesday, gods willing, so it can be washed and dried by Thursday morning.

And for the simple or take-along knitting, I have my denim cotton & bamboo Summer driftwood jumper to go to. This one is coming along, too: it is a marvellously quick knit in the worsted weight yarn on 4 mm needles, and somehow, stripes always make a project seem faster. I am even understanding the shoulder and sleeve construction this time around, as opposed to just following orders and seeing what came out of it, as I did with the Juniper jumper (which I am wearing as I write, and knit, and read, and everything, actually).
Which means, of course, that I am planning to use this construction for my own purposes at some point down the road ...

So, all is well on the knitting front.

As for books, I am, of course, still very much into the audio books with all this knitting going on. Since my iPod went and died on me several months ago, I have podcasts on my phone (alas, not a smart phone) in mp3 format, and books from Audible on my laptop. So the podcasts, including CraftLit and the subscriber books, I can listen to on the go, in the kitchen, pretty much anywhere; but for the regular books I need to be by or at least near the computer. Which means that I have several audio books running in parallel.

On CraftLit, I finished Gulliver’s Travels and decided to listen to the subscriber goodies before heading into the current book, Jane Eyre, to postpone the moment when I will actually have to wait for the next episode to come out.
So, I downloaded The Canterville Ghost, Wuthering Heights, and Cool for Cats into my phone. The first two, the classics, come with Heather’s comments like in a regular podcast episode, while the third one is a straight-up, modern audio book. Written and read by Andrew Ordover, Cool for Cats is a detective novel, a first person narrative of the life and troubles of PI Jordan Greenblatt.

I had already read both of the ‘old’ stories and was particularly interested in getting the comments on Wuthering Heights, as Heather mentioned quite passionate reactions to it in the Ravelry group; I had to wonder what I missed when I read it – as a young teenager, maybe, or even earlier. This time, having been married and seen some more of life and of literature, I understood a lot more and had to shudder and marvel at the personalities and relationships that Emily Brontë managed to describe. This is a very gripping and troubling tale of passion and woe, and the sins of the parents visited on the children.

Having listened to Ehren Ziegler as both Doctor Seward in Dracula and Gulliver in – yeah, well, you know where – I just have to go check out his own podcast, Chop Bard, in which he does Shakespeare. I have read some Shakespeare, though not in school, as back in my day classicists did not do English after the first year (of the gymnasium). Weird, that, but never mind: I have read plays, I have watched movies, I have been to several performances at The Globe.
And soon, I will listen to Romeo & Juliet. Because I am beginning at the beginning with this podcast, as well; back in 2008, I think. More on that later, when I have actually listened to something.

Meanwhile, on the computer, I am still listening to The Vampire Archives, a huge collection of vampire stories, about 60 hours long – and some normal-sized books in between. Some of these vampire stories are rather lame, to be honest, compared to Dracula, while others have more bite to them (yes, I had to go there).

And Victor handed me a Stephen King novel, when Rick Riordan’s Mark of Athena gave out; so now I’m reading Dead Zone. This is one of those typical Stephen King books that just grab you: I was planning to make a start on it Friday evening, and suddenly I was on page 192. So it goes. I can’t knit while reading it, as it’s a paperback and I don’t want to murder the spine; but that may be a good thing. I seem to have a tennis elbow or mouse elbow or knitting elbow – or whatever; it is somewhat sore and could probably do with a rest.

Anyway, that’s about it for this week. The sun is shining and making everything into a brilliant winter wonder land; and I have to go and find the Easter ornaments before it is time to go to knitting group this afternoon.

So: keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Does this look like spring to you?

This is in many ways an interesting week. To start with the weather – always a good topic, right? – we are having winter and snow and freezing winds. And it is not over yet; the weather people are forecasting a proper snowstorm on Tuesday. It seems the winter does not want to let go.

Maybe because of this weather, Victor has a nasty cold again; which is tremendously annoying (not to me, to him), as this week his whole year have been ‘bridge-building’, visiting the places of their next level of education. They do that in both 8th and 9th grade to help them choose the right place to spend the next three years; and Victor had chosen to spend three days at a gymnasium and, because he had to choose something else as well, two days at a tech school. So, Monday and Tuesday, he went to tech school, making boiled sweets and being told how versatile and innovative and destined to become rich inventors the students are – and Tuesday afternoon he came home and curled up on the sofa, sniffling. No more days of school for fun.

The snow gave me some extra work, too: my parents have gone off to Egypt, traipsing around the pyramids, sailing on the Nile, and leaving their pavement-clearing to us. So, watching the snowflakes pelting down all Tuesday evening, I could envision the miles of pavement – they have a bungalow on a corner – that were waiting to be swept on Wednesday morning. The boys were at school (not Victor, of course, but he wasn’t one to send out into the snow that day, and if he had been, he would have been at school), and so the job fell to me.
Have I ever mentioned that I hate snow?

The Apple Pie of the Week:
Having more or less recovered from the snow day (heh), I geared up for Pi Day, the 14th of March, or, as the Americans put it, 3.14. I had decided to make a pi pie, just for the fun of it; I haven’t done this sort of thing before, but there’s a first time for everything, right?
Since I joined Ravelry in December 2011 and a few months later started reading and posting in the fora (forums), I have been exposed to a lot of geeky silliness and have owned up to my own tendencies in that field. Knitting a TARDIS, making a TARDIS birthday cake, and now a pi pie – it’s all good fun, and nobody gets hurt.
So, I made an apple pie from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook and adorned it with a π:

Oh, and by the way, 14th March is Albert Einstein’s birthday. That is just great.

The day following Pi Day is, of course, the Ides of March.
The Roman calendar of old operated with three basic dates in a month: Kalendae, the 1st, Nonae, the 7th or 9th, and Idus, the 13th or 15th; depending on whether the month was a short or a long one. Whenever they had to name a specific date, they counted backwards from the following fixed date, unless the day happened to be one of them. It has always seemed confusing to me, this counting backwards; my birthday, for instance, being the 20th February, would be ‘the tenth day before the Kalends of March’, as both days are included in the counting.

Anyway, the Ides of March is famous for being the day on which Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BCE.
By this time, Caesar had amassed to his person a host of titles and immense power, military, political, and religious. There were rumours that he wanted to be king – Rex being in the language of the Roman Republic a dirty and dangerous word ever since 509 BCE, when the last of the Etruscan kings was deposed and the Republic formed. The leader of this uprising was one Lucius Junius Brutus, a hard-core Republican who even had his own sons executed for disloyalty to the new regime.
So, not surprisingly, a group of senators formed with the intent to get rid of Caesar and save the Republic, save Rome, from this new tyrant. Sixty senators joined, including the young Marcus Junius Brutus, descendant of the ancient family of Junii and for a long time the son in law to be of Caesar himself. That went out the window when Caesar’s daughter, Julia, fell in love with the imperator Pompey, Caesar’s old friend and ally. Julia died in childbirth, though, and the bond between Caesar and Pompey crumbled, leading them to rivalry and ultimately civil war.
Down through the 50’s and 40’s BCE this unrest went on, until Caesar had all the power to himself; he was Imperator, leader of the army (or part of it, at least), he was Pontifex Maximus, the highest priest for Jupiter, the highest god; and he was Dictator, holding ultimate rule. The office of Dictator was a temporary emergency measure employed in a time of crisis and thus to be laid down when the crisis was dissolved; but the Senate voted Caesar Dictator for life to have him hold the reins and ensure peace. And then they regretted it, and the memory of the kings of old surfaced. And some of them felt compelled to kill Caesar. Obviously, they wanted young Brutus to be a part of the conspiracy: the symbolic value in his name and lineage was incomparable.
The story goes that Caesar was warned by his Etruscan priest, a haruspex, not to go to the Senate on that day – hence the ‘Beware the Ides of March!’ – but went anyway and was stabbed 23 times by the senatorial conspirators who thought they were saving Rome from a tyrant. Maybe they were; maybe they ran scared and murdered the man who was in reality saving Rome from chaos.

In Colleen McCullough’s book series Masters of Rome, we get a very positive view of Caesar and his aims: he was a pleasant and hard-working young man, immensely ambitious, of course, but extremely capable and ultimately the right person to bring order to the chaos of the late Republic. He felt genuinely sorry for Brutus for having his heart broken, and tried to help the young man as best he could. The conspirators pushed Brutus into joining – because of his name – but he never really wanted to be there and afterwards suffered terribly from the guilt of the deed. And nobody had really considered who would be taking over from Caesar: who was going to fulfil all the roles that they had resented him for fulfilling?
Well, there may be a point: what immediately ensued from the killing were 13 years of civil war, while Caesarians pursued conspirators, and his supposed heirs fought over the legitimacy of their respective claims to power.

Jonathan Swift lets the eponymous hero of his famous work, Gulliver, visit – among several others – a land of sorcerers and necromancers who enable him to chat to illustrious persons from Antiquity. Caesar and Brutus appear, Caesar claiming that all the works of his life were of less value than Brutus’ act in taking that life. Gulliver, in general, is much opposed to kings and tyrants.

So, Caesar may have been a tyrant – tyrannos, incidentally, is the Greek word equivalent to the Latin rex – but he did have merits.

To end on a more light-hearted note: we all know Caesar’s last words, the ‘Et tu, Brute’ expressing (maybe) betrayal and disappointment in his young almost-son in law. Now, the historian Suetonius in his account of the event gives the words in Greek: ‘kai su, teknon’ which means, literally, ‘you too, child’. This makes sense, of course, in Caesar’s addressing Brutus.
But: the vernacular meaning of kai su is ... fuck you. How’s that for last words?
This interpretation is supported, I think, by the fact that only a couple of the 23 stab wounds had any real depth: most of them were hesitation cuts without much strength or conviction behind them. Surrounded by a cluster of knife-wielding would-be assassins, Caesar was still the strongest man in the room.

The Knitting:
I am working diligently on the Birthday jumper for Emil. That’s it. This is all the knitting news for this week.

Oh, alright, I do have some more for you: on Wednesday, when I came home exhausted and cold and aching from snow-clearing and grocery shopping, and the old bursitis in my right shoulder had re-asserted itself, I had no energy for the intricacies of designing and cable pattern knitting. I needed to do something simple and something for me.
So I started swatching for another driftwood, this time a summer cardigan in cotton and bamboo. And worsted weight yarn. Yes, I am actually knitting a pattern in the called-for yarn weight; who would have thought that?
I have been more or less living in my Juniper since I finished it, so there is basis for trying this pattern again.
I am using Rowan Denim and 100% bamboo from Netto; so this time, I will have the stripes.
My gauge is slightly tighter than the recommended one, and I preferred the look and feel of the fabric on 4 mm needles rather than the 4.5 mm that were getting me the right gauge; so I am going by the numbers for a size S this time, hoping that it won’t be too big.

I am finding that for the time being, I am most happy with two active projects: one simple and one more challenging; sometimes I have had more projects going, particularly before Christmas, and maybe that’s why I don’t need to have several projects lying around, vying for attention. Two is fine. And so, I got a stripe or two done this afternoon, when my parents came round for coffee and a chat about Egypt (them), London (Thomas), school (Victor), work training (Andreas); and I got to whine about my shoulder. Just a bit, though.

All this jumper knitting goes well, as I may have mentioned, with audio books. I just finished listening to Gulliver’s Travels on CraftLit; and from Audible, I have a contemporary-fantasy book. This is the first book in the Narbondo series by James Blaylock, written back in the 1980’s: The Digging Leviathan. Imagine, if you will, a Jules Verne-type story set in a parallel 1960’s universe, where telepathic mermen swim and evil doctors preside over sanatoriums.
The juxtaposition of 18th century science fiction and modern-day fantasy coupled with science fiction is quite ... interesting.
Oh, and my current paper book is The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan. So, to offset the sci-fi, I have demigods and mythological monsters in a modern setting. No problem.

In other knitting news, I have finally acquired What Would Madame Defarge Knit?, a book of patterns based on literary characters. If you are a CraftLit listener, you know what I am talking about; otherwise: the book has over 20 patterns by various designers, all inspired by characters from classic literature.
We have, of course, Madame Defarge’s stole, the one with the coded list on it; Wilhelmina’s – or Mina’s – shawl to protect her from Dracula; the White Wool, a scarf for Captain Ahab; and many others. The patterns are accompanied by line drawings instead of the usual glossy colour photos – which only means, of course, that you can go to Ravelry and find colour photos of not only the designer’s prototype, but of all the projects made from that pattern. Quite nifty.

The next book, What (else) Would Madame Defarge Knit?, will be coming out this April, and I have pre-ordered it from Cooperative Press. Who, not unimportantly, actually pay their designers according to the number of books that are sold. And that, I think, is nice.

There are more books in the series coming out; I am planning to submit a design for Defarge Does Sherlock; which means, of course, that I will have to re-read all the Sherlock Holmes stories to find inspiration.
Life is hard.
Luckily, we have books.

And on that happy note, I will leave you for this week; the wind is picking up outside, whooshing through the tree tops, gearing up to make a blizzard on Tuesday.
I hope you have a great week – keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Baby, it's cold outside

Easterly winds are blowing the Siberian winter cold down over us; so even though the sunshine, when it’s there, makes it look like spring is close by, it is bloody cold. I went out around noon to hang new feed balls for the birdies in the naked branches on the lilac standing beside the terrace – the same lilac that provides a lovely, dappled shade on warm summer days – and my fingers were numb after a minute. Good thing, then, that I could hurry back inside with a clear conscience: the critters are taken care of; and I made myself some hot coffee in my huge Starbucks Scotland mug.

So, this week is a bit different: on Tuesday, Thomas, my 17-year old, and his class went off to London for a week. Not that I’m jealous, though I haven’t been there in almost three years ...
Anyway, I drove him and a couple of girls to the airport in Aalborg, about an hour’s drive. That was fun, having a pair of giggling teenage girls in the backseat; with three boys, I don’t get that a lot. Now, you may wonder why we brought girls along; wouldn’t it be more obvious to choose boys, some of Thomas’ friends? Well, he happens to be the only boy in the class.
This is the extreme end, or nearly, of a common phenomenon in a Danish gymnasium class: the ones orientated more towards language and literature consist mostly of girls, and the science classes have about half and half. In my class way back in the days of the dinosaurs, there were four boys to about twenty girls, the usual ratio.
And Thomas’ class did start out that way; and then one boy dropped out, one moved away, and one decided, when they had to make their final choice of study field halfway through their first year, that he preferred the sociology line and thus changed classes. Then Thomas had to choose if he, too, wanted to change his original choice and follow the other guy, or stay with the languages and the girls. There was also the matter of the Latin teacher, an old hag elderly lady to be endured for another year; several people actually opted out of Latin because of her.
In the end, he stuck to his guns, again choosing the ‘super-linguistic’ field comprising English, Spanish, German, and Latin.
Oh, and by the way: the school hired a new Latin teacher, a young man. I’ll bet some girls regretted changing ...

So, now he’s away in London, going to the Globe Theatre, Tate Modern, walking the streets and probably visiting some of the South Kensington museums, as they are staying right around the corner from them ... I was looking into the possibilities of stowing away in his suitcase, but it didn’t pan out. Of course, with a female English teacher and so many girls in the class, their schedule includes both the Portobello Road and the Petticoat Lane markets; and they were advised to not bring any more than necessary for the trip over.
Well, I have been known to do that, too – though I preferred to give the kids a morning off to go or not go to markets, as they found best, rather than scheduling a visit.
It’s not all fun and games, though: as they are travelling with English and History, they have been studying immigrants in London, particularly from Bangladesh; so they are going to Banglatown to see for themselves. And to Westminster, maybe even the Parliament; the Royal Observatory in Greenwich merits a half-day trip, as well.
They will be landing in Aalborg around midnight tonight – and yes, they have the Monday off.

The Knitting:
Ravelry celebrated 3,000,000 members this week – on Friday, 8th March at around 9:30 p.m. GMT+1.
It seems not very long ago that the 2 million mark was reached, on 29th February 2012; even though I was new to the site at that point and hadn’t even started reading or posting anything. So, 2 million people signed up in the first five years, and a million more in just 13 months. That is pretty amazing.
Ravelry itself is pretty amazing, as I’m sure you know – and if for some reason you don’t, get over there and have a look! Five people are running a huge site, free of charge, with databases of patterns and yarns, discussion fora (though they call them forums), groups for just about anything you can think of. And Ravelers are such nice people, friendly and helpful and skilled and ... you can see why this is my go-to site for anything related to knitting, including the social part. Why be on facebook? (I know there are reasons to be on facebook, I just haven’t found one compelling enough to actually do something about it.)

The Interminable Killer Socks of Doom, aka the Blues Riffs socks, are done! – I was right about the second sock being much quicker than the first, primarily, of course, because I didn’t have to unpick and re-knit four times; but also because I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and so prompted myself to move faster and get them done with.
The only hiccup occurred when one of my dpns broke: it snapped right in the middle of a row, and of course it was the one in my right hand with two dozen stitches on it. And it was one of my new KnitPro cubics! So these socks have a lot to answer for by now.
But Victor loves them, and that is all that really matters, after all. Seriously.

In case you haven’t read my lamentations over these socks, these are the facts: the pattern is Riff Socks by Lise Brackbill, from Knitty Deep Fall 2010. I made them in Bumbo sock yarn bought at a local supermarket (føtex), a nice enough, inexpensive workhorse yarn that comes in both solid and multi-coloured colour ways. I made the XL size for Victor’s size EU 45 feet (UK and US 11); but I left out the final gusset increases and did the size L for the heel – after I had made the size XL heel and undone it because it was way too big.

I have officially started working on the next birthday sweater for my nephew, Emil, who will be 2 years old at the end of this month. That is all the information I am putting out for now: when it is finished and given, I will post pictures and details here and on Ravelry; and the pattern will be written up, thoroughly checked, and put out, too.

In all this, my Juniper jumper has not been entirely forgotten: on Friday, I had less than 40 rows left on the second sleeve, and then there were just the plackets, neckband and the final finishing (as if finishing could be anything other than final) to do. So, a bit of TV knitting over the weekend should do the trick; and I started on Downton Abbey. I know, I am late to the party ... what can I say? Mostly, I feel like I have dozens of books waiting for me, and they are prioritised.
Anyway, three episodes saw the rest of the knitting done, and the finishing was accompanied by vampire stories on Saturday. A while ago, Victor bought The Vampire Archives on Audible, an over 60-hour long collection of – well, stories about vampires. So I am set up for a while with those; I may break it up, though, to not be overwhelmed. Audible has broken the book up into eight parts for download reasons; I could listen to one part each week and alternate with other stuff.
Back to the jumper: I did the plackets and neckband in ribbing instead of stocking stitch, because I prefer the look, and I’m not really keen on the rolling edges that you get with stocking stitch. I can see that my shoulder increases are a bit tight; I will have to remember to loosen them up next time around (yes, I am planning at least one more driftwood).
And I found some buttons that I bought on a school trip to Paris back in my teaching days in 2006; they look good with the yarn and go well with the theme of the jumper, as the yarn itself, Rowanspun DK, was bought on sale at Liberty’s in London in 2005, when I was there with my sister. So there you have it – or rather, I do; but you can, too: an easy to knit, laid-back comfy jumper that has cost me nothing (I know the last bit isn’t exactly true, but it feels like it).

And after that, I will try the monogamous knitting thing, until the birthday sweater is done – or until I break down and grab something different. Monogamy usually isn’t my thing. I’ll keep you posted on that.

I may find, though, that I need some TV knitting, and the birthday sweater is too – shall we say, interesting – for that; so I have dug out a half-finished Hitchhiker scarf to be prepared for that eventuality.
You may remember that I started this Hitchhiker back in the autumn as a Christmas present for my mum and then put it aside when she requested something different. Well, after I had dyed the yarn and started knitting the other shawlette, a Cassandra, she commented favourably on my Hitchhiker; without knowing, of course, about the one in progress. So I decided that she is still getting this blue beaded one, for her birthday. Which isn’t till June, but there is no harm in having it done.
And it will count towards my 2013 goal of finishing or frogging old UFOs: I had seven of the buggers left over from 2012, either hibernating or just snoozing; and so far, I have actually managed to get rid of two of them.

The geekery of the week is Doctor Who-related: I was listening to CraftLit, episode 249 containing chapter 2 of Gulliver’s Travels – and an interview with Kate Atherley about, among other interesting stuff, her pattern in Knitty Spring 2012. This Knitty Surprise pattern is the Bigger On The Inside shawl featuring both a Time Vortex and a row of TARDISes ... and what was I wearing? My very own BOTI, the one I made for the Ravellenic Games 2012. And it’s not like I live in it: most days I have around my neck the above mentioned Hitchhiker, and sometimes the BOTI, when I feel like it or the colours I’m wearing call more for accessories in blue rather than rainbow.

That’s not all, though: the girls of Knit 1 Geek 2 reminded us all once again that this is the year of The Doctor’s 50th birthday, so to speak, and is anybody knitting The Scarf? Well, yes: when at some point the snowstorms let up and spring really arrives, I will be getting back out to my well ventilated dye studio to mix up the seven colours for it, and then I can get into the miles of garter stitch that make up this iconic scarf.
Victor and I have been watching Revenge of the Cybermen this afternoon, giving me ample opportunity to study the length and colours of it.

Speaking of CraftLit, I managed to subscribe (on the third attempt) and thus gain access to the Premium content; so far The Canterville Ghost and Wuthering Heights – and Cool For Cats by Andrew Ordover (the husband of Heather) at a discount. So now I have three more audio books sitting in my phone and waiting to be listened to at some point. I may save them for when I finally catch up with CraftLit; I am used to making a playlist per book and devouring the whole thing without having to wait for the next chapter, so that will be tough. On the other hand, it will be nice to get the newsy bits when they are actually new.

That’s the chat for this week – I will return to the vampires and the birthday sweater.
I hope you have had and will have a good one; and as ever: keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Marchin' along

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! I hope you have had a great week; my week has whooshed by and now all of a sudden, it is Sunday again.
The sun is shining and actually warming everything; it feels like spring is around the corner – and my laundry is drying outside and not in the dryer! That I have been waiting for; the clothes become so much nicer and fresher, and I much prefer using the wind and sun rather than electricity.
Now that the big stuff is dealt with (lol), let’s get on to today’s business: we have a bit of literary history – no, don’t go away, it is quite interesting – and, of course, the knitting talk.

The Apple of the Week:

I am currently working with Jason and the Argonautika; hence the tale from last week, and hence this week’s offering, as well. ‘My’ version of the epos is the Hellenistic one, written by the scholarly poet Apollonius of Rhodes, who worked at the great Library in Alexandria in the 3rd century BCE.
The story of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece is ancient, at least as old as the other big compendium of sailors’ yarns that we know of, the Odyssey. And like the stories in the Odyssey – and the Iliad, for that matter – this story was told orally, by professional story tellers, for centuries before ever being written down. In fact, the Greeks had no alphabet with which to write their stories until about the middle of the 8th century BCE; and the war with Troy depicted in the Iliad took place around 1200 BCE. Quite a gap, in which the story can unfold and be embellished.

To recap: the Iliad tells of a war in which a band of Greek kings and noblemen (and their soldiers, who are incidental to the story, if not the battle) lay siege to and finally, after ten years, conquer the city of Troy, situated by the Hellespont in modern-day Turkey. This is an epic tale of battle and loss, of the horrors of war to the civilian population and to the warriors themselves; there are good guys as well as bad guys on both sides of the conflict. And tragic love stories.
After the war, the Greek kings sail back to their homelands and their families; the Odyssey tells of Odysseus, whose voyage back to Ithaka ends up taking ten years – on top of the ten years he spent at Troy. So this story is of a boy trying to become a man without ever having known his illustrious father: Odysseus’ son who was newborn when he went away. And a wife who is deemed a widow and pressed to remarry. And a man who just wants to go home instead of spending eternity with a sexy goddess. For the fun of it, we get a bunch of tall tales about sea monsters and man-eating giants and whatnot; everything there to explain how Odysseus managed to lose the 600 men he had with him when he left Troy.
The Argonautika is the story of a boy who goes out to slay the dragon, win the treasure and the princess, and return home a man. And we get the sailors’ yarns as well: some of the same places are visited by both Jason and Odysseus. This story takes place about a generation before the war at Troy: the fathers of several of the heroes we know from the Iliad, are part of the crew on the Argo; among them Peleus, the father of Akhilles.

All of these stories were well-known to the Greeks, both audience, story tellers, writers, playwrights, and eventually readers. Parts of stories and back stories were utilised when the theatre was invented in the 6th and 5th centuries BCE; these tragedies worked much as modern day film versions of fairy tales: everybody knows the story and how it ends, and so the interesting part is how it is going to be told this time, what spin will be put on it.
And so, when Apollonius gets his hands on the story in the 3rd century BCE, he knows that his readers will know it well: everybody knows the Homeric epics and the tragedies and the other poems, including those that have since been lost. Everybody knows what happens after the events of the quest; when Medea is being all girly and weepy, it is supposed to creep you out, because you know that later, she will murder her own children to get back at Jason for dumping her.
It’s like with the Star Wars films: when Obi-Wan Kenobi casually says to Anakin ‘You’re going to be the death of me’ in film no. 2, Attack of the Clones, it works because everybody has known for decades that Anakin as Darth Vader will actually kill Obi-Wan in film no. 4, A New Hope.

So, Apollonius can put his own spin on a classic heroic tale, adapting it to the modern tastes. And Hellenistic tastes were surprisingly modern: this version of Jason is reluctant to be a straight-up hero and a leader, he is regularly assailed by doubts and fears, he prefers to charm and persuade and to use his sex appeal to further his cause.
Added to that, it is clear that the voyage and the quest is the result of a group effort rather than of one man directing his minions. Odysseus is without doubt the leader of his men, the one who thinks and comes up with solutions – and the only one who survives.

That approach doesn’t work anymore in the Hellenistic world: the Homeric heroes are all upper class, Bronze Age noblemen, and the common soldiers are largely ignored or at least unnamed. The 6th and 5th century tragedies performed in the young democracy of Athens feature kings and noblemen from ancient stories, much like our fairy tales; but the morale of the tragedies affects everybody, and they often deal with dilemmas faced by ordinary citizens, such as the conflict between loyalty to the state and loyalty to the family or, if you wish, clan.
In the time of Apollonius, people are no longer participants in the rule of a city state, a polis, they are subjects under a king who may be quite distant, both geographically and socially; and so, the ability to cooperate and function in a group is stressed. Jason could never have gone it alone; he relies on the skills and support of his crew – who even, at the outset, did not look to him as leader. They chose Herakles, the mighty hero, who politely declined the honour and effectively made the others accept Jason for the job.
So it goes.

The Knitting:

I feel like the Blues Riffs socks should be renamed the Forever Socks – or maybe, in keeping with the music theme, The End Socks after the (ironically) interminable song by The Doors.
It has taken me more than a month to complete the first sock, frogging or rather tinking back in three places: on the foot below the gusset, the entire heel, and a bit on the leg. And that was after I re-knit the toe on smaller needles to get my stitch gauge right.
Going through the project gallery for this pattern, the Riff Socks by Lise Brackbill, on Ravelry, I found that I am not the only one with problems here: many comments include phrases like ‘the heel is huge’, ‘turned out too big’, ‘had to rip back / pull out / frog’. So, apparently, the designer’s gauge, particularly the row gauge, is tighter than most knitters’. Something to be aware of: the row gauge is quite important with these socks.
Anyway, on Thursday I cast off the first sock and tried it on Victor’s foot – and it fits perfectly! Oh, the relief and joy. He didn’t want to take it off again. And it is a very handsome sock – which of course is why I am knitting them in the first place – the diamonds formed by the twisted stitches running up the sock are elegant, and the X on the back of the heel seems to hug his Achilles tendon (and it does need a bit of TLC right now: he just took up running).

Having been plugging along on the same three projects for what feels like weeks and weeks, I really need to finish something. And to start something new: I am getting fed up with my projects page on Ravelry looking the same every time I open it – which I do daily, as if it may have magically changed since yesterday ... like the new brilliant feature, the Patterns Highlights page with all the new stuff that you may enjoy. I love this – in the same way that I love a box of chocolates: sweet, sweet temptation combined with a severe test of my abilities to prioritise and restrain myself.

So I decided to focus on the Splendid Striped Cowl by the lovely Martine of the iMake podcast and get it off the needles. It is a good take-along knit: it takes next to no concentration and is quick to stuff back in the bag, sitting as it is on just a circular needle (not like a handful of dpns that need to be organised and secured), so a couple of waiting rooms and a couple of episodes of The Wire later, the knitting part was done. Unpicking the provisional cast-on, grafting the ends of the strip, and weaving in yarn ends got done in between other stuff. And voila! a lovely, warm cowl.

Of course, the weather is beginning to resemble spring right now; a lot of it is due to the light returning, which I always really feel around my birthday. This doesn’t mean, though, that it’s not still cold outside, and it may well stay cold for another month. So, woolly knits are still quite relevant to my quality of life.

After getting the Splendid Cowl out of the way (this is sounding like I don’t like the cowl, but I do!), I could return to the sleeve of the Juniper jumper (try saying – or typing – that ten times fast!), that was sitting around moping and feeling neglected.
A guitar café concert on Thursday evening got the sleeve moving along – and reminded me that I had been working on the body of that same jumper during the Wayne Siegel concert exactly two weeks previously. Yikes.
Tip of the Day: do not leave unfinished projects lying around for weeks, if you want to feel like you are accomplishing something.
Having nearly finished the first sleeve, I realised something that I should probably have thought of earlier: as I am working with a sport weight or light DK yarn (the Rowanspun DK) on a pattern that is written for a worsted weight, my row gauge obviously does not match the presumed gauge. So, my intervals between decreases down the sleeve (12 rounds, as stated) are smaller than they are supposed to be. I tried the jumper on at once – and luckily, it was okay. The sleeve fits nicely; it is a bit snug, but then, I find floppy sleeves annoying and impractical, so all is well on that front.
And I am now working on the second sleeve ... the end is in sight.

My Pomona, the pattern for which is now up on Ravelry.
Not surprisingly, I have a gazillion projects that I want to cast on, both winter stuff and summer stuff; this time of year it becomes really difficult to decide what to knit. The sunshine calls for lacy cotton or bamboo cardigans; the temperature says socks and that hat I was contemplating. Maybe I could do one of each in parallel ... hmm, that’s an idea. We’ll see.

So, that’s it for this week – I am going out for a walk in the lovely sunshine :o)
I hope you have a wonderful week, be it spring-like or not in your region. Keep happy, keep healthy, keep crafting!