Oh, November

You know why Canadians have Thanksgiving in October? Because surely no one can be expected to summon up much gratitude in late November. Black Friday is surely more aptly named. It’s dark and grey and not yet Christmas, whatever the mall may want you to believe. I’ve been meaning to show y’all my new and improved no longer strangley sweater but naturally there’s no light ever and I can’t get a shot that’s not full of November Gloom and Woe.

Instead I took this shot of my new sweater in progress with some Hudson Bay stripes to liven things up.

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Racing stripes and cables make everything better! Even dark November evenings.

Pattern is Loden, which is not difficult as such but requires attention every. single. round. We’ll see how long I can keep that up.

Wishing y’all a dark and sombre Black Friday tomorrow. (Maybe I could get a deal on one of those sunshine replacement lights?)

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My Real Children

Have I ever told y’all how I love Jo Walton? In a non-creepy way, of course, where I swoon over her books, not where I skulk around outside her house with binoculars. These are for, um, birdwatching.

Anyway, I’ve been busy reading My Real Children and swooning. I don’t know how to talk about the plot without without making it sound kind of out there, but part of my Jo Walton love is how she can make a WTF-sounding premise work. So we have Patricia who has two lives; one where she marries a guy who sucks and is an unhappy housewife and one where she is a lesbian who writes travel books and owns a house in Italy. It kind of seems like the moral is going to be “Don’t marry that guy” but of course it’s not that simple. Because in the Woeful Bad Marriage universe the wold is mostly doing okay. But in the Happy Lesbian Italy universe things are going badly wrong in the background. Like, nuclear bombs kind of wrong.

I love, love, love when the world seems bigger than what the story strictly requires and I love here how so many things are clearly happening off-stage that get passing mention. I was almost trying to shush the characters to listen to the news. What moon base? Nuclear strikes where? When? President Kennedy what now? Shush guys, this is important.

The premise also appeals to the indecisive part of me that always wonders about my alternate lives where maybe I majored in Geology or moved to New York or took up archery or something. One life just doesn’t seem enough sometimes.

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Front Burnered

I generally have some kind of back burner knitting going on, something I can pick up without doing a whole lot of thinking and counting. Vanilla socks, a plain sleeve, something like that. Thanksgiving weekend came with a long train ride and nothing on the back burner so I started a yoke sweater the night before, instead of packing or whatever normal people do.

It cruised along in the background, on the bus, in front of the TV, until last weekend when I was seized by the desire to actually finish the thing.

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Success! That’s a bit of the yoke? Pretty, no?

Alas, I may have gotten a little carried away and bound off really. freaking. tightly. So tonight I’ll be ripping out the neck and building my character. (Is it still character building if I drink while doing it? I’m, uh, asking for a friend.)

Impending new sweater! Stay tuned!

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The Cure for Dreaming

The other day I stepped into a coffee shop and pulled out my latest library book, The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters, with the intention of reading a couple of chapters and being on my way. Then it completely sucked me in. Was I going to do errands or something? Nah, I’ll just keep reading.

It starts off at a hypnotist show in 1900 Oregon where Olivia is celebrating her birthday after being pelted with eggs at a suffragist rally. (Incidentally, I realize egging is A Thing but I don’t get it. So wasteful. Think of all the omelets and angel food cakes they could have made with those eggs instead.) Word about the suffragist portion of the evening gets back to her father, who is a perfect example of why old timey dentists are scary. (I need to stop procrastinating about making a dentist appointment. At least my dentist doesn’t use leeches.)

Anyway, the father decides it would be a genius idea to hire the hypnotist to “cure” his “rebellious” daughter. (Pro-tip: if you need to hypnotize people into agreeing with you it’s probably time to rethink your argument. Also, you are deeply creepy.)

While it seems a bit unsporting to nitpick a book after such an awesome coffee shop date, I did find myself wishing it was a little less black and white about suffragist = awesome and anti-suffragist = evil. It’s pretty hard to sympathize with someone who opposes votes for women, but I’m willing to cut a bit of slack for people in the olden days who might be misguided. Otherwise there would just be so much evil floating around, considering there was controversy about this. That can’t be right surely?

On a brighter note, it kind of has me wanting to get my bike out again. Maybe that’s what I’ll do instead of calling the dentist.

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The Demon in the Freezer

Y’all! How have you been? I’ve been off gallivanting. I meant to take a bunch of fabulous pictures to show you, dutifully packed my camera, then … never used it once. Um, how about we say I was busy doing top secret spy stuff? Sounds plausible, yes?

Anyway, while I was out being photographically negligent, I was also reading The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston in keeping with the spirit of Halloween. It’s about smallpox with a side of anthrax, not the supernatural kind of demons but I think perhaps infectious diseases get some bonus marks on the scary front on account of being indisputably real.

If I have occasion to think of smallpox, I generally think of it as an old-timey thing like slide rules or ladies’ evening gloves. I seem to recall a couple of conversations where I brought it up a a hazard of time travel since we have fuck all immunity nowadays. (Are time travellers ever quarantined? I can’t believe science fiction has overlooked this, but I can’t think of an example offhand.) I hadn’t really thought what a stellar accomplishment eradicating smallpox was but it absolutely is.

Then I had to answer Ebola screening questions to get back into the country. Scary stuff, indeed. (While I’m not personally worried about catching Ebola, it’s worrisome nevertheless.)

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I Never Learn

So, I was knitting away the other day, feeling these nagging doubts about my armhole decreases. It’ll work itself out, I told myself, It’ll be fine.

Yeah, it’s not fine.

Pro Tip: When you spend a lot of time convincing yourself you don’t have to rip back, it’s probably time to set your teeth and rip. Or at least stop knitting while you think it over.

On the bright side, here are some goldy, tweedy cables that can stay:

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Mistakes aside, I love fall knitting.

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Innumeracy

I once had a numbersy customer service job dealing with people trying to find/download various types of data. And nothing would set my teeth on edge quite like hearing some variation on “Tee hee! Math/computers are too hard for me!”

The idea that math or computers or whatever requires some special innate talent is baffling to me. You know why they have classes on this stuff? Because it’s stuff people can learn! Sure we’re not all destined to become great mathematicians but I’m pretty sure most people who put in a good effort can learn the basics of most things, barring some sort of learning disability.

Seriously, Client, your biggest stumbling block isn’t the inherent difficulty of downloading a file or calculating an average – it’s your belief that those are some kind of arcane arts requiring talents you don’t possess. Did you try the instructions I gave you? Do you think I took all those screenshots for the good of my health? Don’t just wring your hands about it, tell me the part that isn’t working. If you can send me all those emails about how The Internet Is Just Too Complicated, you can click on some of the links I sent you. Really. I believe in you! I just, um, need to pour myself a stiff drink now.

Which is the long way to say Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences by John Allen Paulos gave me some flashbacks. It’s basically the same kind of rant above but book length and with more examples. You know, the public is shockingly ignorant about math. And yet it’s not so hard. Education is letting a lot of people down. It spoke to me, obviously, but I have to wonder how many people who dislike numbers would read a book about … numbers. And I have to say some of the things he says about innumerates are a bit on the mean side. But in fairness, some of the things I have said about some clients are also a bit on the mean side. Although not in print

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