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In Which...

Rantings, Squeeings, and Various Verbose Ramblings

Testing, testing...
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::creeps onto her Livejournal blog::

::looks around::

Um, hey there.

Been a while.

Apparently when I don't have internet at home I get things done besides blogging. Like reading books, and talking on the phone, and cooking, and...

...spinning. Lots of spinning.

I have been spinning like a madwoman er, spinster?

Instead of trying to do a real blog post, I shall just show you pretty. Is that ok?

That's a wool blend on my Ashford Kiwi. It will hopefully be part of a handspun colorwork sweater some day. We'll see.

Here I was playing "pack as much yarn as possible on the bobbin."

That's 4 oz. of undyed Bluefaced Leicester, spun (v. inexperiencedly, hence the thick & thin) long-draw from the fold.

I've also been playing with my spindles. Around Memorial Day, I asked friends on Twitter what I should spin. They said I should go for "the blue fiber" which is a gorgeous roving (merino w/silk & mohair) that fades from gold to green to deep blue. It's sooo pretty, and so fun to spin!

Meanwhile, Jodi Meadows convinced me to sign up for Butterfly Girl Designs' Spindle & Fiber club. The first batt & spindle arrived last week, and I am in love! The spindle whorl is Italian resin, and the batt is merino, bamboo, and firestar. Shiny!

I have to be a bit careful with this spindle, because it starts to backspin *quickly.* Also, the way the shaft narrows to the tip means it's a bit easier to start it going with a finger flick than a thigh roll. But I love it muchly!

So that's what I've been up to, fiber wise!

You Wish Your To-Do List Looked Like This
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A few weeks ago, two elementary-aged girls came into the place where I work. When they left, I discovered that one of them had dropped her to-do list. It's such a wonderful to-do list that I thought I should share it with you.

To-do List

In case you can't read it well, it says:

      To Do List
      read 5 min
      read 5 min                         
      Play with sis
      Puppet play
      ride bike
      Play with friends 
      Make a movie
      Make a book
      Look up Butterflies

Don't you wish your to-do list looked like this?

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
                                                                                              James 1:2-4 (NIV)

            This is one of the verses that lived with me in those last few months of completing ThesisMonster. I’ve never particularly liked James. There are many books in the Bible that I love and to which I turn when I need something to speak directly to my heart. James is not one of those books. Rather, it seems to be there to remind me that God’s personality is far more complex than my own, and His church contains people whose personalities are radically different from mine. This verse, however, was one of my companions this spring.

I never expected my DMA to take as long as it did, and while I was joyful over finally coming to the end of a long task, I also felt deep disappointment over the task having taken so many years of my life. Writing a DMA thesis surely felt like a trial of some kind, and if that was so, it fit in with James’ instruction. His insistence on “considering it pure joy” was hard to put in to practice, but his phrase “trials of many kinds” was comforting.

I didn’t really make the connection between “consider it pure joy” and “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” until nearly the end of the semester. As I looked back on the process of writing my thesis and all the angst and frustration that had accompanied it, I didn’t really feel that I had grown in the process as a person. As a writer, yes. As a researcher, certainly. But as a Christ-follower? Not so much.

Except for one thing. The one thing I knew I had gained was perseverance. I’d learned how to stick something out and see it to completion, even when much of the difficulty of completing the task lay in my own negative thoughts & habits. I’d learned that it is possible to fail day after day and still succeed in the end.

I’m 100% positive that perseverance has not finished its work in my life, and that I am still far from being “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” But I am deeply encouraged that at least in one major trial in my life, the result of the trial has been perseverance.

Now to consider the next trial pure joy…

In Which Wool Takes Over the World
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So I went to a yarn shop this weekend. I bought yarn. (Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight, Hollyday colorway.)

I found Mountain Colors, and took some home with me. (4 oz. Targhee top.)

I took this home, too. (4 oz. Colonial.)

And then there was the merino/silk blend that sang my name. (2 oz. meron/silk.)

Then, while I was trying out spinning wheels, I happened to try a bit of charcoal black shetland.

(That tie is a few yards of my first wheel-spun yarn ever.) A friend who was visiting the yarn shop with me very generously bought 12 oz. of this shetland for me. I repaid her by shoving a spindle and super-soft polwarth roving in her hands, and teaching her how to park & draft spindle-spin. Muahaha and all that.

Oh, and if I weren't spoiled enough by my friends, I received this from another friend earlier in the week:

Pardon me, but I think I need to go spin something now.

In Which There is Lots of Spinning
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I may have avoided posting to my blog in the past month or so, but I've been very active on the spinning front.

Firstly, I finished spinning up my first hand-dyed merino top. (From fangrrl Fiber Arts on Etsy.)

Because this was my first experience with combed top, I unintentionally spun a Very Dense Yarn. It's 180 yds and 3.6 oz of sport-weight yarn. For those of you who may not work with yarn every day, a 3.6 oz skein of wool sport-weight yarn in a yarn store would run about 300 to 330 yards. Hey, at least this will be warm! I'm planning on making this into a garter-striped triangular shawl with some CVM fiber I have yet to spin. (CVM=California Variegated Mutant... a type of sheep that sounds more like a sci-fi futuristic take-over-the-world vegetable than a sheep.)

I also spun the last ounce of the Piperi blend (Piperi=name of the colorway), spun an ounce of undyed Cheviot, and plied them together:

163 yards of approximately fingering-weight yarn. This is less criminally dense... 2 oz. of machine-made fingering weight usually runs about 200 yards. Actually, I'm pretty proud of the yardage I got with this skein. I have *no clue* what I'm going to make with this. I'm planning on knitting a hat out of the other Piperi I spun & plied against itself. I know I'll have leftovers from that project, so I may find something to knit with the leftovers and this skein. Nothing for next to the skin... Cheviot isn't particularly soft.

In addition to spinning, I have also been acquiring fiber. (Stop that. I see you're judging me. Go look at your own stash of yarn, and then we'll talk.) I bought this hand-dyed braid of combed Pollworth top:

This is an 8 oz. braid, and I'm planning on spinning it in two sections. One I intend to spin as a two-ply, barber-pole style, and the other I intend to chain-ply, in order to keep the color changes distinct. I had originally intended to spin this on one of my spindles, but I may actually wait until I have a wheel and spin this on the wheel instead.

I also bought 4 oz of merino top from Ashland Bay. I love, love, love the colors in this fiber.

Oh, also, a very good friend gave me a batt by Abby Franquemont. It's a deep charcoal color that is hard to photograph, but it is *so* lovely. (50% merino, 30% camel, 20% tencel) I thought I was going to wait several months before spinning this, but I just bought a gorgeous new spindle, so I may be spinning this much sooner. Supposedly spinning good fiber trains your hands, so there's no particular reason to save this beauty for years.

And speaking of my new spindle, here's a picture. It's the one on the left, with the white Romney on it. It's a Lady Barbara by Greensleeves spindles. I can't remember the wood or the weight right off-hand, but she's a beautiful spindle and spins like a dream.

The other spindle is my Barebones, and you can see I've already started to spin up the Ashland Bay merino. That merino will probably end up as a two-ply lace yarn. (Lace as in loosely plyed for use in lace knitting, not necessarily lace-weight thickness. I *may* manage to spin it thin enough to achieve a lace-weight yarn, but I'm not holding my breath.)

Hopefully that was enough entertainment and pretty for the day :) Now maybe I should toddle off and play violin or something.

In Which Dr. Violinknitter Rambles
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[Insert obligatory paragraph of apology for blog-abandonment here. There must be a hundred thousand "I'm sorry I abandoned my blog!" posts on the internet. You can read one of those. I'm not going to add to the clutter.]

I am now officially Dr. Violinknitter. I'm all gradiduated and everything. (Yes, I said "gradiduated." When you've gone through as much school as I have, "graduated" simply isn't a big enough word to describe the accomplishment.) I've spent the past month or so playing for assorted concerts and gigs, planning a graduation party, *having* a graduation party, then having unexpected family stuff, and now—finally!—getting to recover a bit.

Random side note: The past six months or so, I'd noticed that I no longer wanted to cook or bake. I've always loved cooking and baking, and I couldn't figure out why I didn't want to do it anymore. Since I deposited my thesis for the final time, I have baked & cooked all kinds of things: spicy pulled pork, stromboli, cookies, lemon bars, cheesecake, biscuits, enchiladas, etc. Apparently ThesisMonster had been eating my cooking mojo. Silly ThesisMonster. I have baked beans in the slow cooker as I type, and I'm seriously considering making an Amish Friendship Bread starter this afternoon.

Can I say just how much I really love not having to worry about ThesisMonster anymore? I have been saying "no" to so many things for the past several years because I needed to say "yes" to ThesisMonster. Now I finally get to say "yes" to other things. These past six weeks, I was able to say "yes" to three different performance opportunities that I wouldn't have agreed to if I were still trying to write a thesis. I've also continued to learn to spin, and I'm hoping to take my first lesson on a spinning wheel sometime in the next two or three weeks. Oh, and I signed up for NetFlix. It is a very, very, very, very good thing that I said "no" to NetFlix for so many years. There's no way I could have finished grad school with a NetFlix subscription. Seriously.

This next year will be filled with job-searching type stuff. I have enough employment where I am right now to make ends meet, which I was grateful for this past year, because I didn't have to attempt thesis-writing and job searching at the same time. But now is the season of updating resumes and creating CVs and all that fun stuff. I thankfully now have the time and brain-space to *do* that. Having employment here also allows me to have a post-graduation adjustment year, so I can get used to *not* being in school anymore without having to simultaneously move to a completely new location. (Finding a job in my field could require me moving anywhere, and there is slim chance of New Home being anywhere I've lived before.)

Anyway, that's all the news I have for now. I'll start to post regular food & book & yarn & other chatter more regularly now. (Hey, look! I get to say "yes!" to my blog, now that ThesisMonster is done!) Maybe I should post spinning pictures in my next post... hmm....

Dr. Violinknitter exits stage left, plotting as she goes

Interpreting Tolkien
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...or "What Passes for Entertainment with an Almost-Doctor-of-Musical-Arts Person."

I posted this comment on Facebook yesterday:

"'I don't know half of you half as well as I should like, and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.' Umpteenth time reading through LOTR, and I still don't know if that's a compliment or a put-down."

The quote, of course, is from Bilbo Baggins' speech at his birthday party. I received many responses, most claiming that the comment is a put-down. But of whom? This quote is open to interpretation.

Shall I demonstrate with Venn diagrams? (None of these are to scale. Come on. I'm neither an art major nor a scientist.)

(I never claimed to have good handwriting.)

This is option one. Bilbo wishes he knew half of his guests better. Definitely a compliment. He likes a smaller portion less than they deserve. This is also a compliment. There are some hobbits who fit into neither group. They can take umbrage if they so desire, but Bilbo hasn't actually said anything positive or negative about them.

Option two: the second group Bilbo mentions is entirely subsumed under the first group Bilbo mentions. In this case, Bilbo should like many of his friends much more than he now does. Definitely a compliment. Bilbo neglects addressing 50% of his audience, who can take offense or not as they choose.

Option three is to me the most likely. In this scenario, Bilbo would like to know 50% of his friends better, and a portion of those friends Bilbo doesn't like as much as they deserve to be liked. There is also a portion of Bilbo's dinner guests which he neither likes as well as they deserve, nor does he wish to know them better. (Snooty Bilbo.) The other dinner guests are not directly addressed.

After much study, I believe that in all three scenarios Bilbo's words do indeed work out to a compliment. Any put-down is implied rather than stated, and is most likely aimed at the leftover hobbits whom Bilbo does not address.

While we're on the subject of Lord of the Rings, here's another quote, this one from the scene between Gandalf & Bilbo when Gandalf tries to convince Bilbo to leave the one ring for Frodo, as Bilbo originally intended.

"I don't know what has come over you, Gandalf," [Bilbo] said.... "It's mine, isn't it? I found it, and Gollum would have killed me, if I hadn't kept it. I'm not a thief, whatever he said."

"I have never called you one," Gandalf answered.

Wait... what??? Gandalf only spends the ENTIRE STORY OF THE HOBBIT calling Bilbo a burglar. For crying out loud, he HIRED Bilbo to be a burglar! Are we splitting hairs between "burglar" and "thief"?!?!?

(I can't be the first person to notice this, but it's honestly the first time I noticed it.)

Gratuitous picture of merino on a spindle. I'm sorry. I have *no* idea how the picture found its way onto my blog. I'll try to make sure it never happens again.

On First Looking Into Augustine's Confessions
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My bible study group has been going through an in-depth series on salvation. This past week, the emphasis was on union with Christ, and the teacher happened to quote St. Augustine. The quote reminded me of my first encounter with Augustine, and I thought you all might like the story.

When I was studying for my bachelor's degree, I once had the opportunity to take a world lit course. (Ancient to 1750 or some such... I can't remember for sure.) It was taught by a genius of an old professor who loved his subject... and couldn't interest undergrads to save his life. Fortunately, I loved literature anyway, and was happy just reading the assignments, even if the lectures made me want to tear out my hair in frustration.

We started with the Epic of Gilgamesh, and proceeded to Homer and Virgil, and Greek plays. I loved it all. I've always loved stories  and getting glimpses of other cultures, and ancient literature provides both. As a class, we spent weeks visiting strange places & peoples.

Then the professor assigned excerpts from Augustine's Confessions.

What have I to say to Thee, God, save that I know not where I came from, when I came into this life-in-death—or should I call it death-in-life? I do not know. I only know that the gifts Your mercy had provided sustained me from the first moment....

It was as if I had been walking down an alley in a country on the other side of the globe from the United States, entered a door, and suddenly found myself in my family's home. As I listened in on Augustine as he prayed his memories of his life back to God, I heard the voice of a brother speaking to a God I knew, with an intimacy and warmth I'd heard in the voices of other brothers and sisters speaking to our Father.

Nothing could be more pitiful than a pitiable creature who does not see to pity himself, and weeps for the death that Dido suffered through love of Aeneas and not for the death he suffers himself through not loving You, O God, Light of my heart, Bread of my soul, Power wedded to my mind and the depths of my thought.

I don't think I had understood much, or thought much about, the Church Universal or the communion of the saints before that time. I knew that supposedly theologically those of us who trust in Christ are united with the believers who have gone before us, who are now in the presence of God Himself. But it was the first time I had ever experienced that union myself: had encountered a saint and found a family member.

My dad has a more pugilistic relationship with Augustine, or rather with Augustine's legacy. He bemoans some of the repercussions from Augustinian theology that have caused problems in the church from that day to this. (Cough cough.... "sex is bad".... cough cough.) (And other problems, too.) But I have always been grateful to Augustine because of my first encounter with him: for the passion of his delight in God that breathes through every sentence of the Confessions, for the joyful wielding of his intellect in pursuit of God, and for the openness with which he shared his story with his brothers & sisters in Christ.

For what is like to your Word, Our Lord, who abides in Himself forever, yet grows not old and makes all things new!

All quotations from The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, 6th edition. Translation by F. J. Sheed.

The Afternoon Tea Test
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I've finally figured out something about my reading preferences that I hadn't known: I like to read stories about people (or persons of the non-human variety) whom I would like to know in real life. I don't like to read stories about not-good people doing not-good things.

It's The Afternoon Tea Test: would I like to have afternoon tea with this character? (Or second breakfast, or silflay, or whatever works for that particular character.) If the answer is "no," I probably will hate the book, no matter what the book's other redeeming characteristics might be.

This is part of the reason I adore Robin McKinley's PEGASUS: I love Sylvi's whole entire family. They're all people I would love to know in real life. Having wonderful characters doesn't mean there's no conflict in the book.... there's plenty of conflict. But at least the people dealing with the conflict are people I actually *like*. (There are other reasons I adore PEGASUS, including McKinley's fantastic world-building, but that's beside the point of this post.)

It's also why THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG *nearly* worked for me (until the Horrible No-Good Very Bad Ending of Cop-Out Shame). I liked both Paloma and Renèe, even if both characters were a bit on the self-absorbed side.

On the downside, this is why I barely get into some books before abandoning them entirely, usually with Strong Words. (Of the non-cursing variety. Having a voluminous vocabulary comes in handy at times like these.) I'm beginning to realize that this is one of the main reasons I don't read a lot of literary fiction. Genre fiction tends, on the whole, to have more sympathetic characters than literary fiction does. Of course, there are plenty of sympathetic characters in literary fiction, but I'm much more likely to accidentally pick up a book with unlikeable characters doing unlikeable things in lit fiction, so I stay away. (I also avoid certain types of noir-influenced detective books. I love mystery novels, and it's ok for the detective to angst a bit—hello, Adam Dalgliesh—but I really do want the worst part of the book to be the murder, not the detective's drunken non-relationship with his ex-wife.)

What characters would you like to have afternoon tea with? What characters would you absolutely *NOT* want to have tea with, and do you still love their stories?

In Which I Begin to Spin
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Thesis Monster has been handed around to all my committee members, so they can read it before my defense. Whee! Thesis Monster is not quite done yet, but he's done with everything I need to do before other people comment on him. Oh, and he prefers to be called ThesisDragon now.

Meanwhile, since ThesisDragon is launched into the world (kind of), I'm learning to spin!

Here is my very first attempt:

Here is the considerably more full spindle:

That yarny stuff is called a singles (I think... maybe "single?" I'm new at all this stuff.) Once my spindle was kind of full, I wound the singles into a ball, and filled the spindle again. Then I wound off and had two balls of singles.

After winding both balls into a single ball, holding the strands doubled, I was able to ply the two together into a single thing of yarn.

I kind of ran out of room on my spindle. Maybe I should have wound more tightly.

After skeining, washing, & drying, I ended up with 33 yards of bulky yarn.

See??? I'm so excited. I already know what I'm going to make with it (there isn't enough to make something by itself... I'll have to combine it with other yarns), but I won't do anything with it for a while, because I want it to simply be yarn for a bit.

Oh, yeah. And I might have started another project on my spindle.


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