Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas, one and all. This is a photo taken by Dave V. on the street just west of his house. It was snowing enough that day/evening to make attendance at the poshest party in my lifetime really slim. Fortunately, there were just enough people to supply 3-4 appetizers, 3-4 main dishes, and 3-4 deserts. It was a lovely night.

Because of all the co-pays getting my new shoulder, I chose to knit presents this year. I put them all into a bag and had everyone pick what they liked best from the bunch.

This is my daughter-in-law, Stephanie, wearing an Alpaca Glitter scarf. It is a simple k1p1 scarf of two different colors. Click the photo to embiggen to see the colors. It looks nice on her, don't you think?

This is Steph's brother, Paul, sort of wearing my favorite of the hats. It is Calm wool with Noro every two rows. I like the way the black sets off the color changes. Noro, for those of you who don't know, is hand-spun and hand dyed in Japan and lovely once it's been washed. Please, do NOT put this (or any of the other knits) into your washing machine. You will be very disappointed with the outcome...shrinkage and feltage.

This is Heather's mother (Steph's Grandmother) Gladys. She chose the richly colored Alpaca Boucle scarf. It is VERY soft. Hand wash, please. She looks so pretty in it.

And this is John, Gladys' hubby and Steph's Grandpa. He has the more pastel-colored Alpaca Boucle scarf. He looks down right dapper.

This is Richard, Steph's other brother. He chose the Shades-of-Green Malabrigo Wool scarf. Nice job modeling, Richard. (It's for your neck.)

Here's Heather with the Alpaca bulky hand-dyed scarf. I knit it on size 19 needles so that if she wants it could be worn as a shawl; a drafty shawl. It ended up being quite long.

Last, but not the least of the gifts I knitted that were chosen, is a slinky scarf of Malabrigo wool from Uruguay. It is a lace pattern that Ben thinks would be good on a model. Ben is a photographer who occasionally takes pictures of comely ladies.

Betty chose a reddish Malabrigo Scarf for herself. I have a couple more hats at home, one of which I'm definitely keeping for myself.

I'm really getting into this knitting thing. A friend asked how I found the time. Easy: compulsivity. I figure it takes 10-15 hours for a hat. Maybe twice that for a scarf. I'm not a fast knitter but I'm getting faster. I hope everyone enjoys their gifts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Thoughts while sitting at my computer

Sometimes, when I'm sitting at my computer cruising the web, I feel like I'm omniscient.

Function: adjective

Etymology: New Latin omniscient-, omnisciens, back-formation from Medieval Latin omniscientia
Date: circa 1604
1 : having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight
2 : possessed of universal or complete knowledge

It was always my dream that when I died and went to heaven, I'd be able to sit at a TV/Computer monitor and tune into different times and places to see what "really" happened. How did the Chicago fire "really" start? Was there anyone else involved in the Kennedy assassination?

At this point in time, we can google almost anything and anyone. We can use Google Earth to look at nearly the entire world. Some places in the world, we can even see things from "street level" and look at buildings and sometimes people.

We can look at what the weather is like anywhere, too.

News is almost instantaneous. Just 150 years ago, news was hard to come by. A hundred years ago, telegraphs made news more timely, but we still had to wait until it was printed. Radio brought the news into our living rooms. TV brought the news with pictures every evening. Now we have so many channels with news to choose from, all with a slightly different slant on the news, that it is increasingly difficult to know who to believe.

A few years ago a friend of mine came back to us with the very same information shared a week earlier by someone in our peer group, which my friend had pointedly ignored at the time. He now said it must be true because he had found it on the internet.

That scares me.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Christmas used to be fun

When I was a kid, there was all the hype, sparkle, and promise. When I was really little, my parents always had an open house on Christmas Eve. Charlie and Ruth and Eleanor and Hubert would come. They were cool people and nice to me. My Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Marvin would show up later in the evening after they'd visited with Dorothy's family.

Uncle Ted MacMichael (not really my uncle) came for several years. He was great. I don't even know if he had kids of his own. Anyway, he was a singer with the Merry Macs. Google them, if you want. I felt really special around him.

Mom would boil shrimp the day before and chill them with lemon juice. She had real sea shells, large clams of some sort, kind of cream/beige/pink in color and about 4 inches across. On Christmas Eve day she'd mix up a sauce recipe she got from Ricardo's in downtown Chicago back in the late '40s or '50s. I still have the original hand-written recipe Chef Ricardo wrote on the menu. Anyway, it was sort of like 1,000 island dressing. She'd put the shrimp in the shells, pour the dressing over them, and sprinkle garlic flavored bread crumbs on the tops. Everything would go under the broiler for a little while (I'm not giving away the entire recipe here) till the bread crumbs were brown and the shrimp were hot.

I don't remember if anyone else brought food. Mom would have pitted black olives (I still can't get enough of them) and creamed herring (yum).There was other stuff but these are the foods that stand out. Oh, and we'd have egg nog. I have Mom's egg nog bowl and cups. It was always yummy. I don't know if it came in a bottle or carton like it does today. I don't know if she made it herself. When I was really little, Mom was a great cook.

Things changed as I got older. Mom would drink more. Everyone would drink more. Charlie and Ruth moved to Florida. Eleanor and Hubert moved to California. Uncle Ted went to California, too, I think. The ones we could always count on were Aunt Dorothy and Uncle Marvin. And Debbie. She was/is five years younger and I. Or, the way I saw it, I was five years Older than she was.

I don't want to go into the details of why things stopped feeling magical at Christmas. It just did.

As an adult I grew to hate the fall. I'd spend hours in the garden over the summer making vegetables and flowers grow. In the fall, everything would die or grow dormant. Days would grow short...and cold. In the 1970s and '80s at least we'd get enough snow to "make the season bright" so to speak.

Now, I don't have a garden to die. Just a tomato plant and some ratty petunias on my balcony. On the bright side, my 35-year-old Christmas cactus has one flower on it. It's the first in a couple years. Its cold out and we have just enough snow to cover the grass. It gets dark early. It's cold out. I am glum. Sorry.

In the past several years I've turned into a hermit. More than four people is a crowd. I don't like crowds any more. I've decided not to go attend Christmas with the extended family this year. I have nothing against them. That's not it. I'm not sure what I want but being part of a crowd isn't it. And David won't be around. He's going to visit his mother in Arizona.

I don't have much money this year because of the extra costs involved with my new shoulder. But I have I've been knitting up a storm. I'd intended to start after my shoulder surgery in August on Christmas gifts but I couldn't really knit for a couple months. I'm way behind.

Enough whining. Back to my needles.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Three-Month Checkup

Thursday afternoon I had my three-month checkup and an X-ray of my new shoulder. The socket, being plastic, is next-to-impossible to see. But I could see enough to understand how delicate the prosthetic is and why I'm being told never to hammer, box, fall on or anything else to that arm that would have "impact." It could much-to-easily be dislodged.

The humerus has a bone build up just below the stem of it's prosthetic where the bone flexed a little too much. The bone is more flexible than the titanium stem so this is a normal event just after surgery. It's all healed but the bulge is pretty obvious.

I still don't have the strength or range of motion I want but after only 3 months I think I'm doing quite well.

Just in case you wanted to know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Noro Scarf

As Stephanie Pearl-McPhee said, it's all about the scarf. Actually, it's not the lovely softer version of Noro here. It's the plain old itchy 100% wool Noro. I wore it for a couple hours this evening and just can't wait to give it away.

Friday, November 14, 2008

She likes it!

I knitted this scarf for my cousin Debbie in Georgia. It is made of Noro sock yarn (I forget the colorway, sorry).

The pattern is basically:
Cast on in multiples of 5.
Knit a couple rows in garter stitch (knit each row).
k5, *yo, k2tog, k3*, across, k5
k5, purl to last five sts, k5
Each successive pair of rows, move the pattern over one stitch to the right.

If you have questions, let me know.

Debbie, I'm so glad you like it. You deserve it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wish List

I understand completely. Considering that my gifts to others will be somewhat meager this year due to the added expense of my shoulder surgery, it would be tacky to post a wish list for Christmas gifts for myself. But, what the heck, I'm going to do it anyway.

I figure, it would save my friends and loved ones money if they just purchase gift certificates at a couple of my favorite yarn sites. When added together, I can easily add to my stash. And gosh, you could conceivably get it back in a year or so in knitted form.

Of course, if you already have something purchased, that's OK, too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hoffman Halloween

This is the part of the Hoffman Marketing team...the part that has serious fun. On the left is Rita dressed as the Devil. Next to her is Toni, as the perfect counterpoint, an Angel. Third from the left is Angie as a gorgeous Cruella de Vil. Then comes Greg as Captain Azora. Andy is dressed as Martha Stewart in her gardening garb. And last, on the right is the resident "tai chi master."

Another look at Captain Azora.

Click on Angie to embiggen.
David says my camera's ISO setting is wrong so the flash overpowers the photo but not to use the flash creates grainy stuff. Oh well. Next year.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Barbershop Harmony Society

Last weekend (October 24 and 25, 2008) was the Fall Competition of the Land o' Lakes Division of the Barbershop Harmony Society. It was held at the Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wisconsin. Friday evening there were 17 quartets competing for the top 10 spots for the final competition Saturday evening. Saturday during the day 17 choruses competed for the district championship and the chance to travel to the International Competition this summer.

As usual, I went with Betty. She takes notes and I should. I didn't post this right away and wish I had because the details like names have faded. First Tony Hillerman passed away and I had to say something about it and then, because I sit at a computer all day every day, coming home to do more of that is, well, not appealing.

This first is of a chorus that did a great job in the costume and acting department as well as very good singing.

Our favorite, the Great Northern Union (GNU) won the contest with very high scores. I figured out how to turn off the lights that come on when I take photographs fairly late in the day, but I haven't yet figured out how to take good pictures on stage. The previous picture came out OK because they were closer to the front of the stage and multi-colored. The GNU were wearing black and so the white of their faces washed out. I could have zoomed in but wanted to show there were 70 men on stage.

The Midwest Vocal Express, Greendale, Wisconsin, gave the GNU a real "run for their money." They are known for their skits and this year was no exception. They were dressed as penguins and did a wonderful job.

This is the part of the skit where they were lamenting that having pizza delivered is just not a good idea.
What I want to know is why isn't the UPS guy covered with ice?

The quartet finals were also very close. There were 3 quartets I thought could have won. I'm glad I'm not a judge. Here's a photo of the judges. We were sitting in the second row because we registered at the spring contest.

I zoomed in on the GNU to show the twins. They don't look as much alike as they used to. They are the second and third from the right in front in this photo. One sings with the Happiness Emporium quartet and we think he's letting his hair show the gray so he'll fit it in the other three older fellows. He also weighs a bit more than his brother. At first I thought it was his brother who sang with the Happiness Emporium but that's because when I first heard that group, 12 or so years ago, he was thinner and didn't have gray hair. Betty set me straight on that one.

I put the yellow smiley face on this photo so as not to embarrass the singer. We thought maybe somebody should have told him about his hair and fixed it for him.

Considering this is barbershop music, you'd think there'd be more handlebar mustaches. Out of the 690 men on stage I counted 4 period-appropriate mustaches. I liked this fellow's.

The out-going quartet champions from 2007 were Vocality. They put on a great performance while the scores were being tallied.

When we weren't busy watching the stage, we knitted. It doesn't look like I accomplished much, but my stole is 20 inches wide. Betty went from the marker to the left up the ribbing of her sock.

At first, I thought going here would be a fun idea. But in the evening, there were many smokers hanging out on the sidewalk in front of the place and it stopped appealing to me.

Saturday night's restaurant was Victoria's. The food was plentiful and delicious. We each ordered a slab of ribeye steak and a platter of pasta. They have a list of maybe 20 different types of pasta you can choose from.
Here's Betty's:

This is my steak and seafood pasta.

Ordinarily you'd expect a couple cups of noodles but it was a platter of noodles. We brought half of it to put into the trunk of the car.
I only bought one skein of full-priced yarn. It is hand-dyed silk and yummy. I also scored some $3 skeins of feltable wool for ... something. I shopped the stores along College Ave and was really disappointed. There are tons of bars and empty storefronts and very few shops actually open, at least within walking distance of the hotel. The fall trip has more than once been Christmas shopping time. Oh well.

So, now I have to learn more about my camera. One thing it does if you use the flash is overpower the photo and wash it out. So I sometimes don't use it, as on the last few. As a result, they end up grainy. Gotta work on that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tony Hillerman

I need to interrupt my irregularly unscheduled blogging to remember one of my favorite authors. Tony Hillerman passed away Sunday, October 26, 2008. He wrote 18+ books. They were mystery stories for the most part, written in Navajo country. The "legendary" Leutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sargent Jim Chee were cops in the Navajo Tribal Police. Joe Leaphorn was a skeptic regarding the Navajo spiritual ways. Jim Chee was working to become a shaman.

I've read all but the last book, The Shape Shifter. One of the things I do when I go into a book store is wander to the mystery section to see if he has anything new. I didn't see this one the last time I was out. I'll really miss reading them and may just have to read them all over again.

Perhaps more movies will be made from these books. PBS produced Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, and A Thief of Time. Adam Beach played Jim Chee; Wes Studi made a perfect Joe Leaphorn.

Good journey, Tony Hillerman. You will be missed by many.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

k. d. lang

Wow! What a concert! It was worth every penny I paid for it, and I paid several. k. d. lang has a beautiful voice and a powerful set of lungs. She has great control over volume and sings well whether it's a quiet piece or she's belting the notes out there.

With apologies to Jeri Heiden, who took the photo, I couldn't help but steal it to put here.

My first impression when ms. lang strode onstage was, she's really put on a few pounds. But then, so have I. I soon forgot about it as she began to entertain us.

She had five great guys backing her up, a fellow from Brazil, a fellow she said was French, the drummer, base player, and someone she called the "man child" who was three years old when she cut her first album. Since there was no printed program, I don't remember any of their names. They were, however, outstanding. The base player would switch between upright acoustic base and electric. I love the upright base sound.

She sang three of my favorites from Ingenue which came out in, I think she said, 1994. It was my first exposure to k. d. lang and I love every song on that album. She did a very interesting "girl dance" when she sang Miss Chatelaine. It was quite comedic but I think that was intentional. She also sang A Kiss to Build a Dream On from the album she recorded with Tony Bennett.

I can't say enough good things about this concert. O'Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Kate's in St. Paul has great acoustics. We were smack in the center of the fifth row of the balcony. David and I had a great time.

Warning to my co-worker Duane: I'll be singing along to k. d. lang tomorrow at work and probably throughout the week. I'll try to sing softly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

This and that...

Sorry this photos is a little fuzzy. My cell phone doesn't take the best pictures and I left my real camera at home this week. This is a maple tree outside one of the buildings at Hoffman. I used to work on the second floor and in the fall you could watch the leaves turn from the conference room window.

When my microwave quit and exuded a decidedly acrid burnt-electronics smell, I thought I'd not be able to lift it much less put a new one in its place. I was wrong. I waited a couple more weeks and have now enough muscle power to do some lifting. This is my new GE 1.1 cubic foot nuker. I tested it. It works. Well, it makes water hot, anyway.

I decided to go to church this afternoon rather than tomorrow. Pastor Bob (Eagle Brook Church) has begun a new series on bible study and how important it is. It's called Awaken, but I guess you could tell that from the picture.

After church I went to Carbone's Ristorante in Circle Pines. I've driven past there many times but never stopped. I had shrimp alfredo and a yummy chocolate "tuxedo" cheesecake for dessert. I'd say it's worth going back again.

That's it for now.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chinatown Tai Chi Center

This is my tai chi instructor, Sifu Phyllis Calph, of Chinatown Tai Chi Center. I've been studying under her tutelage for over 15 years and see no reason to stop. She's a great teacher who holds herself to the principles of tai chi and is always encouraging to her students. (Click to embiggen the photos.)

This is our school. When the economy is down, so is membership in the school. I guess for some people, a martial art is a luxury. Not for me. This is a necessity. I've used Sifu Calph's school to treat my occasional bouts of depression. It has kept my joints lubricated so that my artificial shoulders can regain nearly total range of motion. I have friends here that I will have for many years to come.

Now all we need to do is get more students. This is a wonderful martial art. As with any other learning experience, we all get exactly what we put into it. It's not easy but it's definitely fun.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

LEAN Practices

Where I work I am often amazed by the company's "lean" practices. For instance, consider the one-hour meeting about LEAN Office Tools, which was nothing more than telling us, repeatedly, again, that we shouldn't do things the customer isn't willing to pay for. (I should have stayed at my desk and kept working, but I didn't know that was an option.)

Then there's the United Way 2-week blitz. Last week was the auction of many donated goods. I won two things, a bottle of wine from someone's wine collection and a gift for my son, so I'm not saying what it is.

Yesterday and today (the playoffs) and again on Friday (the finals) are the tug-of-war games. At Friday's event we can "bet" on which team wins. The money goes to United Way and the winning bet gets something like a day of extra vacation time.

Waiting for the games to start

Angie is the official videographer

More waiting

Muscles and art


Anyway, it gave me an excuse to get up from my computer and do something very un-work-like.

(Shhhh. Don't tell our customers.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Alpacas and Things

Photos from the fall Minnesota Alpaca Farm Tour 2008. I won't bore you with a lot of words, except: aren't they cute?

Bravo and Betty

This is a movie showing them moving around.
Listen for a moment over the wind noise and you can hear them humming.

At the Applebees in Lakeville (where the house sirloin steak was inedible for all the gristle so they didn't make me pay for it), we came out to this very brightly colored car. (I painted out the license plate so as not to embarrass the owners.)

Yup! That's duct tape!