Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Imaginary

Yet again I find myself prefacing a blog entry with "I don't usually use this as a place to rant and rave, but...", and I think it's definitely justified this time. Over the weekend, as some of you may be aware, Cingular completed its metamorphosis from Cingular to another arm of the multi-tantacled AT&T conglomerate; they've been advertising this change for about a month, but over the weekend, the network got a big ol' tweaking that resulted in a not-very-comfortable transition--at least, for me. On Friday, I began noticing an unusually high number of dropped or failed calls--all the calls I made on Friday were either dropped or failed to go through, with the exception of a call to a cell phone in NC. By Saturday, I could make calls to cell and landline phones without them failing or falling through the cracks in the ether, but the people I was trying to reach couldn't hear a word I said, which led to a lot of "Hello? Hello! HELLO?!" from both sides. On Sunday, the people I called could either hear crackling static with the occasional word here and there, or nothing at all. On Sunday evening, Mom--who gets to use my cell for making long distance calls--was convinced it was a problem with the phone, and told me I ought to look at getting a new one. Monday, I didn't even try making any calls, but I was so fed up I called Cingular to demand an explanation; I was told the system was updating, and had been updating since Saturday, and that the updates had originally been anticipated to end much earlier... even though they were still going on, and could I please either call back in at least two hours or the following day. Grrrr.
Which brings me to the main part of the rant: My physical address appears not to exist, which apparently means I don't either. This must really leave the folks at the local utilities scratching their heads, because we get water, electricity, telephone service, and DSL, and none of them have ever questioned the validity of our physical address. We also order things from Amazon, and from a number of other online retailers (YARN!) without any trouble. These purchase are handled and shipped by the United States Postal Service, which, as if the employees don't have enough to deal with, is now responsible--according to the twit at Cingular--for verifying people's physical addresses. I asked one of our local postal employees if this was true. She said not, and told me it falls to the county's emergency services to make sure people's physical addresses are properly recorded and verified, and that, since we do not get mail delivered to the house, it was unnecessary for the USPS to be involved. You have no idea how many times I've had to try to explain this to people in the past four days! So, yesterday, I called the county. It turns out the number on our house is wrong, but the nice lady at the County Assessor's Office has now fixed our records and verified our address for us. Which means, theoretically, I can now give the idiots at Cingular the correct house number.
I tried a couple experiments today with this in mind. First, I went on Amazon--which has NEVER had any trouble sending us anything, either by USPS or by UPS--and filled out all the appropriate forms as though I were signing a new contract with a cell service provider. And I was promptly told that my physical address was invalid! How very strange. I then went to the website of a cell service provider and filled out all the same forms. And the same thing happened. Which leads me to believe that the system is extremely flawed, and that it needs to be fixed. I can't imagine that in the whole of this sleepy little town, where almost all the inhabitants have an extra organ known as the cell phone, no one has a valid physical address, or that every single customer of a wide array of service providers all get their cell phones shipped to their places of employ instead of their post office boxes. Bearing this in mind, if the mail all goes to PO boxes, then why is one's billing address required to be a street address? And WHY is Cingular outsourcing its customer service to Canada? I don't believe the Canadian emergency services use 911 addresses--or, indeed, 911--to find their way around, so it stands to reason that the little cucumber I spoke to would have no idea what the answer to "So, you want the 911 address, then?" would be.
So, yes, like George, I am a figment of someone's diseased imagination, and do not exist at my own cell phone number. Nor, apparently, do I exist at my own physical address. It's so hard being imaginary!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Dye Therapy

This weekend has been utterly crappy; not even macaroni and cheese makes it any different. Nor do pickles. This means that serious measures are called for, i.e. dye therapy. One of my friends came over today to help me with it, and by the time she left, both of us were covered with various shades of blue, yellow, purple, and red. Most of it comes out in the wash, though, and the end results were nice. It's Barb's opinion that two of the three batches we did look like multicolored sprinkles in vanilla ice cream, especially when the colors begin to run. The third looks like lemon curd smeared with blackberry jam. The yellow/purple one is on the Morrit sheep's wool I got at MDSWF this year; the other two are done with the Brown Sheep Yarn Co. roving I got from the Sheep Shed Studio. The darker red/black on white reminds me a little bit of some type of jasper. These guys will look interesting when they're spun, I think.
While she was here, someone called her cell phone and asked to speak to George. Apparently this has been happening for the past couple of weeks, and she's gotten something like fifteen or twenty of these phone calls for this George, whoever he is. She answered the phone and said, "You guys have called me fifteen times looking for George. There is NO GEORGE HERE!" Five minutes later, the person called back and she handed her phone to me. I answered it and said, "There is no George at this number. George is a figment of your diseased imagination. He doesn't exist!" The person still hasn't called back yet. Yay, me! Points for rudeness!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Fair Isle and Immortality

Bill Moyers is bloody brilliant. He should be immortal.

Okay. Today saw another setback with the knitting, but at the same time, there was progress. My student is making enormous strides with her knitting. She's mastered the basics and is now working on a simple triangular shawl with yarnover increases at the edges; next week I'll get her started on a two needle hat and see how it goes. After that, I'm confident she'll be able to progress on her own--with books and patterns to keep her company, of course.
My own new project came to a crashing halt, though, because Dad just now mailed me the measurements for his cardigan. It took him an entire month to do so, during which time I lost patience and got started without them. The picture in my WIPS list is of the back piece of the cardigan before it was about six inches long and, obviously, before I ripped it all out. Yup. I frogged the whole thing and wound the yarn back up. It was painful to do, but I don't think it would have been easy or comfortable for someone with a 47 inch chest to fit into a sweater that's been knit for a 42 inch chest. So, it got frogged, every blasted stitch.
Chart's attached; feel free to make use of it. Once I finish the cardigan, I'll post the pattern and pictures.

Oh. A semi-funny thing happened at the store this afternoon. This store only has one bathroom now, which is the men's room (with urinal and all that, and no stalls), because the women's bathroom is out of order. I went in and thought I'd locked the door, and just when I got ready to stand up, some guy opens the door and starts to come in. I screamed, he shut the door, and when I left the bathroom, I made a beeline for the opposite end of the store. It was extremely embarrassing. I remarked--jokingly!--later on that it might not have been so bad if he'd been at least a little appealing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


There are just some days when you want comfort food. Maybe there isn't a reason, but you want comfort food. For me, today was one of those days, and macaroni and cheese was the comfort food of choice. I've never made it from scratch before, but I'm pleased with the results; they were, well, comforting. I'm really not sure what it was about today that made it a comfort food day--do you really need a reason for macaroni and cheese?--but since I felt like cooking, this was the result. I don't think I'll ever do the boxed macaroni thing ever again....

A Respectable Bechamel (macaroni and cheese):
1 lb penne pasta (or whatever noodles you prefer)
3 cups soy milk (or dairy milk, if you prefer)
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
1 small onion, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp pepper
9 oz grated cheddar cheese (or whatever cheese you like)
2 oz grated parmesan cheese (fresh adds a bit of kick to it)
1 cup cracker or bread crumbs

Cook and drain the pasta and set it aside while you work on the sauce--it's okay if it's cool when you get around to throwing the noodles into the pot; I used the same pot to make the sauce as I did the noodles, just to save a little cleaning up. Start preheating the oven to 375 degrees.
Melt the butter over medium heat and throw in the onions. Stir it around for a minute or two, just until the onions soften a little bit; add the flour gradually and stir it in. Keep stirring until the flour turns a light golden color, then start gradually adding the milk while you're stirring, thus getting rid of any big lumps of cooked flour. Let the milk mixture cook for 6 to 8 minutes at slow boil, then add about 2/3 of the cheddar and a little bit of the parmesan. Keep stirring while the sauce thickens; add salt and pepper. Continue stirring the sauce over medium-high heat--it'll thicken up some more, so that it coats the back of the spoon--for 6 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the pasta; stir until the pasta is evenly coated with sauce.
Butter (or use cooking spray) the bottom and sides of a 9x13 baking pan and pour the pasta and sauce into it. Mix the remaining cheese with the cracker crumbs and sprinkle over the top of the pasta before you put it in the oven. Bake at 375 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until bubbly.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I've been spinning for about a year now, but I'm by no means an expert. This whole "setting the twist" thing really boggles the mind! The first batch of the plied Zanzibar came out perfect, but the second batch felted in the washing machine; I'm not really sure what I did differently, either. Fortunately there was enough in the first batch that I could still knit something with, like a hat or scarf, but it's disappointing all the same. Mom's suggestion is that I felt it the rest of the way and cut one side open to make a scarf out of it.
Now that I'm finished with the Zanzibar, I've started working on the merino/tussah roving (see Wheelies) and finding out that it's much more difficult to work with than I thought it'd be. Up to now, I've only worked with wool, which is probably--just guessing here--better for beginners because it's easier to control. This stuff is really soft and slippery, so when I'm drafting, I have to fight the pull of the wheel while I'm trying to pull just the right amount of fiber, so the yarn's thickness keeps changing as I go along. And this is with the brake band almost completely relaxed! I'm going to keep muddling on, of course, and see what happens. I still have another four ounces to work with, so hopefully by the time I get through the first bunch of roving, I'll have gotten better at it. There's always something new to learn, and always a new challenge.
Next on my list, once I finish the second Spartan, is to get a better handle on knitting cardigans. I--silly little me!--decided to knit a cardigan for my father as a belated Father's Day gift. Naturally, the one time I called and would have preferred to speak to his SO, HE answered the phone. And--silly me!--I told him what I was planning to do. Well--argh!--he, being the gracious soul that he is, immediately put a bunch of conditions on it, like what weight the yarn should be. It now occurs to me that, while he's seen me work on socks, he still has no freakin' clue what's involved. Bearing this in mind, I ignored his requirements and, while I'm using an approximate color to the one he requested (the shop I bought it from didn't have a true, dark navy blue), I'm using worsted weight yarn. If he wants a cardie in sock weight yarn, he can bloody well knit it himself! Okay.. maybe I'm being nasty about it, but as usual, I started out to do something nice for him, and he once again proved that he doesn't necessarily deserve it, and probably won't appreciate it. Last summer I finished a pair of socks for him, and he immediately concluded they wouldn't fit under sneakers, even though I pointed out that I was able to wear sport-weight socks under my own sneakers... and even worsted weight socks fit comfortably under my sneakers. So, ask me why I'm knitting him a cardie? Dunno.. glutton for punishment, I guess. So far, I've started the back panel
Also on my list is Christie's birthday present. Her birthday was in later June, so I got creative with PrintShop and put together a gift certificate for something Harry Potter-ish from Madame Malkin's Robes for All Occasions. She, bless her, asked for a scarf in Slytherin colors. I have some of the yarn squirrelled away, so hopefully it'll be done before... October. Ideally I'd finish it before the new movie comes out, but July is just too hot for wool, especially in the city.