Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

I left a few calls with a client about delivering a project due Tuesday afternoon. It turned out that he was in DC with his daughter. He didn't want her to miss the most important day of her life — the inauguration of our first African American president. What a good father he is.

I think back at some landmark days in my childhood: Nixon stopped on Guam en route to China, my parents took us to the airport to wave; Pope John Paul II, the first pope to travel world-wide tour in over a century, made a pit-stop on Guam — I waved from under the large sign that read "Welcome Pope" that was made entirely in bamboo letters; The Grass Roots reunited and held a concert at the local Greyhound tracks while en route to Japan. I didn't go, I was never a big fan... oh, there's so much more but I digress.

Eric and I went to watch the event on the widescreen TV at the diner, we watched our world change over burgers and soup. Barack Obama gave a compelling speech about change and responsibility, most of it being a 20 minute dis to the Bush administration and their policies. The road ahead of us is dirty and needs much repair. One has to wonder how America got duped into a war that no one needed. How was one man allowed to drive a once prosperous country into a black hole of financial devastation. One must also wonder why some people still defend the Bush administration to this day.

I left as Yale professor Elizabeth Alexander took to the podium to read her poem. I walked down Flatbush to join Stephanie, Ellen had opened Freddy's up early just for this day. Stephanie made an apple pie and an apple tart, Ellen set the back room up with water dogs and buns with all the fixin's. When I got through the door Adrianne was flicking the bird at Dick Cheney shouting "Keep rolling buddy!" Why was Cheney in a wheel chair? For pity? The news reported that he had hurt his back while moving — man oh man, that must have been one large shredding pile. Steph handed me a beer.

Freddy's had a small crowd, but more people walked in. Most in the crowd were emotional, ranging from angry to ecstatic. Marlene kept blowing her nose. A few were stoic, stopping in only for a beer after the late-late shift. The capital was packed with over a million people in sub-freezing weather. At one point Barack and Michele left the motorcade to walk in the streets freely, possibly for their last time — their daughters, Malia and Sasha, waved from the limo. Michele Obama's ensemble seemed to be a forced conversation among the media. Amidst the celebration a very senior Senator Robert Byrd and veteran Senator Ted Kennedy both collapsed — it was debated if they had collided into each other.

I relate to Obama as the can-do man from humble means. I hope he inspires a generation to pick up that ball to do well despite the odds. When I think of the Bush administration, I'm reminded of a lost generation... 20-somethings that carry nothing more than a burdened sense of entitlement into the workplace, 30-somethings still living off their parents, people duped into living in terror, GITMO, credit-rich-cash-poor living, bank mortgage deregulations, the rich getting richer while the poor get poorer... didn't we all learn anything from the crash of 2000? Enron? Corporate Greed? Anyone? We have become a Titanic douche bag nation of consumers. Better get some real skills and drop the attitude kids, there will be no more handouts from this day forward.

As Bush boarded Air Force One for the last time everyone in the bar cheered. On the TV the crowd also cheered and waved him a final goodbye — or was it a good riddance. Roger lead everyone with a few choruses of "Sha na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye" as some of the bar patrons hissed and boo-ed. Can Obama untangle the mess left behind by the last administration? It's like a golf ball that's exploded into a pile of string. At the last election Roger lead the crowd with "Oh Canada" reminding us that we might me all moving there soon.

Someone once said to me that it would be cool if our president smoked pot. I said "He does and look where are now." I was corrected, Bush is an alcoholic on anti-depressants... my bad. Will America ever regain the respect it's lost from other countries? Actually, the entire world is laughing at us at this point, even Canada.

After 8 years of an administration that broke our economy and our spirits, can we wholly recover? I look for signs of hope, but after 8 years under a disastrous Bush administration it's like looking for your belongings in a mudslide.

The "Bush Count-down Clock" at Prospect Perk finally expired. I expected it to either explode or shoot candy and streamers — instead, the LCD screen simply read zero. I don't know what to expect but I finally feel relieved, as if a cold rain-soaked overcoat were lifted from my shoulders. In the coming months I'll wait for hope to return. If someone asks me where I was on inauguration day, I'll say I was watching history with friends over a beer.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Knit PH at Freddy's: January 18 '09

I got through the door and Bleu, the bartender said "You're fans are waiting in the backroom." — snowy evening never deters an avid knitter. A woman spoke loudly with her hand over her free ear. "Yeah, I'm at a bar called Freddy's... that's right we're drinking... and knitting..." she laughed. Three new faces looked up from the corner booth, Maggie, Charlotte, and Cheryl. I introduced myself and set up the swift and winder. Emily walked in, beer in hand. She said hello and took out the mate to a fingerless mitten.

Tracey is so close to done with her red scarf. Patty brought her scarf and sat next to Sara and Moriah. Marina sat next to me, she brought out another beautiful neck warmer. Zack is also new to our group, he showed off one well crafted blue sock. I think this is his second pair. He showed us a clever technique for socks, he uses two short circular needles instead of using the magic loop or a set of DPNs. I'm still working on the new blue hooded scarf. I'm using Berroco Peruvia. "So where do you buy your yarn?" Emily asked. There are lot of alternatives to one's LYS. I get my yarn at Stitch Therapy (where I teach basic knitting), or School Products in Manhattan. I've purchase yarn Knit Picks with mixed results. Eliza said she bought from some ones Ravelry stash to match a yarn on a project when she ran short. Some people have purchased yarn on eBay with good results.

Marina highly recommends Knit Picks Harmony circular needles kits. The needles are inter-changeable, and the you can expand the length by adding more cables. They're made from layered colors of laminate wood and they feel very warm in your hands, but I prefer nickel-plated Addi Tubos. Emily and Moriah got up to wind some hanks of yarn saying that she was trying to work through her stash but "sale yarn... I shouldn't have, but..." I think we're all a bit weary that we might become a craft hoarders. I should buy a smaller swift, every now and then we get one of those home-spun smaller hanks that don't fit onto the large swift.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Knit PH at Perk: January 13, 2009

Brrrrrr! 12° on a Saturday morning, more coffee please. I stopped into Prospect Perk after running my errands and sat next to Matt and Stacey. Matt asked if I've ever made a baklava. Stacey corrected him "No Matt, you mean Balaclava, not that Greek filo pastry." Matt broke out the iPhone and Wiki-ed "Hmm, Crimean War... Battle of Balaclava, you're right." I added that the raglan is another Crimean War invention attributed to Commander FitzRoy Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan. The ingenuity of the mitered shoulder made dressing easier for Lord Raglan after literally losing his right arm at Waterloo. Stacey joked "So did Commander Tube-Sock lose a foot? Who buys those stupid things anyway?" I pulled the cuff of my pants lower to my shoe — 4 pairs to a pack— how can you go wrong? "The Charge of the Light Brigade" — a horribly planned war, but a great movie.

We had a full house at Prospect Perk this past Tuesday evening : regulars + guests - cancellations - a few no shows + walk-ins = a total of 12 people. Although the news warned of "Storm 2009" it was a mild 38°. Tomo and I arranged the tables and chairs into one sitting area and the rest of our group poured in. Kudos to Marci, her work is in a juried craft exhibit at Phoenix Gallery, she showed us the catalog. Lisa showed off the new knitting bag that Jose gave her for Christmas. You can park a car in this thing! Sara was working on something sweater-ish made from yarn that she spun herself. She's in good company since have a few spinners in Knit PH — Lisa G., Tomo, Eliza B., Alexandra to name a few. And the advise flowed freely. Apparently it's more difficult to spin a consistent medium-weight yarn.

I sat next to Alysia to show her my version of the invisible rib cast-on when I heard a little thumb on the window behind me. A little girl with glasses pressed her face against the window, she waved and pointed at the group. I shrugged my shoulders and waved her to come in. The door flew open, she ran in with her mother following behind her saying "Don't bother them!" Lisa said it was OK, so she skipped around the group, braids bouncing, asking each of us what we were making. Mittens, sweaters, hats, scarves , socks — she was so excited. Lisa told her we meet here Perk every second Tuesday evening if she wanted to sit with us. Her mother reminded her that she's supposed to be studying for an exam, and as they left she said wants to knit a coat.

The excitement of a child — it's like a fresh coat of paint in a well-worn room. Knit PH might have it's youngest member yet. I eventually settled in the corner table next to Tracey as more people arrived to knit. She's nearing the end of her scarf, I'm still relsolving pattern issues on another hooded scarf.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Summer Lovin'

The gray days of winter are here, a storm is allegedly heading this way from Boston. It's 34° outside, windy and cold. Spent Christmas trees blow around and gather around SUVs, a sign that our holiday season has come to an end. The news reports that unemployment continues to rise in the US and Gaza is under siege. Is this time of the season called the Epiphany or the Rapture? I re-fired a meal from some left overs — grilled chicken and pasta along with choriso and black beans... and a bag of Fritos™ — Fritos are awesome corn magic. It wasn't bad... but it wasn't BBQ. I shut of the TV and turn my thoughts to summer.

On a positive note I got some props on for the Guayabera I designed for the Knit.1 Summer 2007 Issue. Also known as the Cuban Men's Shirt, it's embedded in most Caribbean cultures — Puerto Rican, Dominican, Mexican. I used Louet Sales "Euroflax", a worsted-weight linen yarn. Here are some of the FOs I found on Ravelry.

Citrus orange and mustard bring out the flavor in any ham, and as you can see Andee's brother is hamming it up for this photo. I think the hat completes the picture. Andee is from Austin TX, she made this for her brother — she originally made this shirt for her husband but she used a smaller gauge and a sport-weight yarn. Her brother got lucky this time around. She started a new shirt for her husband, but this time using larger needles and worsted-weight yarn. I advised her to make a few swatch tests to get the right gauge before she starts.

Ginger, champagne, and mustard — doesn't that sound like high-dollar dressing? These are the colors Carol used to dress up her husband. Carol is from Herndon VA. This shirt would be great on the golf course on a hot muggy day. Linen is a tricky material, it's made from rotted flax fibers, which can be rough and stiff. Euroflax is wet-spun and double-boiled, making it soft to the touch, but still very strong.

Kari from Hollywood FL made this for her father in French blue, willow, and white — an easy fit for easy living. Euroflax is machine wash-n'-dryable, but I'd still hand-wash this shirt. Machine drying on low makes it softer and gets most of the wrinkles out if you hand it right away. But I think it looks much better when it's pressed and ironed.

Go Tigers! I like this Guayabera worn with the baseball-T underneath — although he's has never played for the Detroit Tigers, this Guayabera looks very "Sammy Sosa." Kate from River Forest IL made this for her Sam. She used Gedifra "Korella", a linen/acrylic blend. Brown, green, and natural look very down-to-earth. It has a much softer and casual drape than 100% linen, which tends to wrinkle more than other fibers.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Der Teufelkind Steckt Im Detail

"Le bon Dieu est dans le detail" (God is in the details) is attributed to noted French writer Gustave Flaubert, but made popular by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe... then we 'Mericanized it and from it's mangled remains was borne the American idiom "The devil is in the details." I've come to know this phrase to mean: Mind the smaller things to avoid serious consequences to the whole.

Before I made Deike's Quenya Travel Cap, I worked out details by making this devilishly clever diminutive version for her nephew, Jop. This hat called is Das Kleine Teufelkind. Making a smaller version before-hand is a good way to resolve architecture and pattern issues.

Before I write anything I make 6" X 6" pattern swatches to figure out density and estimate yardage. Most importantly I wash and block them to get the true gauge. The results are often dramatically different, especially with wool blends — cable work settles properly, ribs and moss flatten out, weight and drape become more apparent. Because the left and right sides are mirrored, they are written as separate patterns. I tried a few ways to use the same formula for both sides but the results were always wonky — off by a row or two or awkwardly cabled from the wrong side.

Aesthetics aside, algorithms are a part knit pattern design. An algorithm is a sequence of finite instructions in a plan. Over the summer my friend Jeremy, a neurobiologist, was over to help me carry the large softball mascots down to the field (Freddy's V. O'Connor's softball). He asked about the "algorithms" that I had taped to my wall.

Jeremy charts the brain waves of mice behavior, I chart variations of knit patterns. He commented on the similarities. Much like knitting, algorithm sequences also include colloquium and idiom as shorthand (such as p2tog, k1tbl, [k1, p3] X3, rep. from *...etc.) — anyhow, Jer and I discussed this while walking to the park wearing the mascot heads, scaring children and dogs along the way. There is a Kleine Teufelkind in each of us, zer teuflisch nicht war?

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's Day 2009

I'm making an egg salad sandwich, good hang-over food. I'm often asked what people from Guam do for New Years. I often respond "We kill and eat the weaker ones." But my New Year's day is usually less provocative, it mostly involves removing lots of cat hair from my pea coat, getting rid of old clothes, and looking for missing gloves.

On Thursday, I helped Stephanie get the apartment ready for their annual New Year's Day party complete with champagne fountain — which means securing and child-proofing the apartment. We spent New Year's Eve at a friend's party but closed out Freddy's after leaving O'Connor's. I had to borrow a T-shirt from Dave, my clothes still smelled like the smoking section of the Narita airport circa 1975. We re-arranged the rooms and put the food in the oven, by 3:00 the usual suspects showed up and the cats went into hiding.

Some people brought beer, other's brought a dish, a few brought their children. Donna brought Sammy, he's grown quite a bit. Brad brought Magdalena, who loves magnets. Ross and Jen brought little Tim, who took a liking to the cat toys, especially the mouse. Our Brooklyn holiday traditions include making vegetarian versions of meat dishes, but this year we had more flavor added to our new year.

Virpi shared a Finnish tradition — Uudenvuodenaatto Suomi, predicting your future by casting tin. Over the stove she placed a miniature tin horseshoe into a ladle. I melted it until it completely liquefied and poured it into a bowl of cold water. As it cooled it took an irregular shape. With a keen eye and judicious interpretation, this glob of tin will predict events of my new year.

The shapes that were pulled from the water were fascinating. We all compared our results. They foretell good luck, good health, wealth, and happiness. But they also predict sorrow, misfortune and malady, especially if your tin casting breaks into smaller pieces. Stephanie's looked like crown... or a clown. I contemplated mine over a beer until I saw a team of cherubs dancing in a spiral. Later I thought it looked more like a cat rolling in wrapping paper. It's was 7:30 and the apartment was now packed to the walls. I moved the smoking section into Steph's room by the window.

Your Inner Hobo
We were running low on plastic cups so I came up with a game: Secret Hobo Cup. It's based on the "stripper name" game, except you use a child hood malady plus the name of your elementary school. For example, in the secret hobo world my name is Rubella St. Anthony. Josh's was Pox Pembroke, Megan's was Strep Throat Hayes, Matt's was Strep Throat Osgood...etc. You then write your secret hobo name on your cup with a Sharpee so you can identify it through the evening.

Your Fired!
"Out of the way! Hot pot!" Deike brought out the Feuerzange, a German tradition. A cone of sugar is soaked in bourbon and lit. It sits on a long metal tong over a bowl of a hot mulled red wine. It's served immediately after the zucher hut has completely ge-melted. The blue flame was beautiful and the room smelled sweet with oranges and cloves. This is a great treat for the those stepping out of the 20° weather. If only cough syrup tasted this good.

By around 8:30 more straggler from the last party stumbled in. Dave's new Steinway Spinet proved to be a hit with everyone, he inherited it from his aunt Sorietta this year, along with a few other pieces of furniture. Even I got a chance to play a bit. Tabby requested Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" but after the first verse we realized no one really knew all the words. Not even the Canadians! But 12:30 seemed to come quickly and people bundled up to step out into the cold. After all Friday is just another working day.