Archive for July, 2006

Knitting update, in which I confess my folly.

Knitting, like other crafts, has benchmark projects. You start with a scarf, and next you try a hat, and then maybe you do handbag or a wrap, and afterwards a shrug. Somewhere in there, you make the break from garter and stockinette to ribbing; you might even sneak in a cable or two. The point is that there’s a hierarchy here, and one simply Does Not Mess With That Shit.

But I did. I did! I admit it. I got cocky. I decided to skip the next rung of the ladder, and move directly on to lace.

I now see the error of my ways.

Not that I’ll be abandoning my Baltic Sea Stole – I’m far too stubborn for that. No, I’ll keep struggling with it, cursing its parents and unborn children unto the ninth generation as I rip it back to the border for the umpteenth time.

Chastened, I have decided to obey the scala kniturae. I am now diligently working on socks.

  • Little Pink Sock
    First, my practice sock (toe-up):
    littlepinksock1.jpg
    I bound off just a couple of rows after turning the heel. I was bored. Sue me.
    littlepinksock2.jpg
    This sock has since become a cat toy.
  • Sincere Attempt Sock
    pawmodel.jpg
    This sock, modeled here by Gawain, is a top-down, four-stitch repeat with an elongated corded rib, from Sensational Knitted Socks. I love this book, by the way.
    fixingtension.jpg
    Gawain was also kind enough to fix my tension.
  • Fishnets (originally typed as “fishnest”)
    Okay, so they’re not exactly socks.
    fishnet.jpg
    Modeled by the ever-patient Arthur.
    fishnetmodel.jpg

Further bulletins as events – or socks – warrant.

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You may be a criminal if . . .

. . . You help your sister get an abortion without telling your parents.

  • Obvious fact #1: Young people should be safe with their parents.
  • Obvious fact #2: Young people are not always safe with their parents.
  • Obvious fact #3: Whether or not a young woman is, in fact, safe with her parents, she may not trust them enough to tell them that she wants to have an abortion.
  • Obvious fact #4: If a young woman trusts her parents enough to tell them that she wants to have an abortion, she will tell them.
  • Obvious fact #5: If a young woman does not trust her parents enough to tell them that she wants to have an abortion, she is left with two options: Have a child she does not want while living with parents she does not trust, or obtain an abortion without her parents’ knowledge and consent.
  • Obvious fact #6: The second option requires that, if the young woman lives in a state with parental consent laws, she must travel across state lines.

Meet the disingenuously titled Child Custody Protection Act. Read it. It’s short.

Now, in the transcript of the 2004 Judiciary Committee hearing on this bill, Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama claims that this legislation “is not about abortion. It is about the custody rights of parents.” Yet he goes on to cite the Mann Act (also charmingly known as the White Slave Traffic Act), which originally prohibited the transport of women across state lines for prostitution (and other “immoral purposes”), as well as Federal criminal statutes prohibiting the transport of stolen vehicles across state lines. Both of which are illegal. Which abortion isn’t. Yet.

Further evidence that this law is, in fact, about abortion, may be seen in the decision to insert it immediately after Title 18, Section 117 of the U.S. Code – which is the Mann Act, as amended in the ’70s. This Section has been updated, and is currently entitled TRANSPORTATION FOR ILLEGAL SEXUAL ACTIVITY AND RELATED CRIMES. The Child Custody Protection Act is now Section 117a.

And just in case you weren’t yet completely cynical about the true motives of our noble political representatives, the Senate rejected a proposed amendment to the bill by New Jersey Senators Lautenberg and Menendez, which would have created teen pregnancy prevention programs which taught contraceptive methods in addition to abstinence. Because, y’know, that would encourage twelve-year-olds to fuck horses. Or something.

Oh – and it completely violates federalism in ways best explained by this ACLU memo.

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Petition, shmetition.

Conversation with our attorney service this morning:

“Hi, this is Uccellina, from Lawyer and Me. I have a Petition to file in Pasadena.”

“Hi Uccellina, how are you?”

“Fine, thanks, how are you?”

“Giiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrl, I am so sick! I had an allergic reaction to some medication, and I woke up this morning covered in hives. I look like a damn bird.”

“Oh. Wow, that’s terrible. Well, I need to file this Petition -”

“I know it’s terrible! And when I called the pharmacy, the bitch got an attitude with me! So I called the corporate headquarters, and they called her, and she got an attitude with them. So corporate called me back, and they were like, I’m so sorry, we believe you, I’m sorry.

“Well, I hope they give you lots of antihistamines for free. So the Petition – ”

“Oh, girl, they’re giving it all to me for free. Plus pain medication. I’m on so much pain medication right now, it’s like, I’m here but I’m not here. You know?”

Aha.

“Well, be careful when you’re driving.”

“I will. I figure I won’t take any after three. Okay, well, you have a nice day.”

And she hung up.

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Literary Tuesday

Soylent Green is Corn! The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by
Michael Pollan

When my parents came to visit in May, it was clear that my stepfather
had Gotten Religion. “You have to read The Omnivore’s
Dilemma,” he gushed. “It has completely changed the way I eat.”

I reluctantly promised, dreading what I might find inside its pages.
You see, I’d already completely changed the way I ate. Several times.
When I was twelve, I followed my best friend into vegetarianism,
promptly fell off the wagon, and rededicated myself a year later. At
twenty-two, just out of the hospital and feeling woozy, I began to eat
meat again. Over the next several years I dove into Atkins, lapsed
into South Beach, abandoned all hope (and gained twenty-five pounds)
with McDonalds and Burger King, de-toxed (and lost twenty-five pounds)
with Whole Foods, and eventually settled into a comfortable routine I
liked to call “Not Worrying About It.” So it was with some
trepidation that I began to read.

My anxiety was well-founded. Pollan’s book traces the history of four
meals, which he calls in turn Industrial, Organic Industrial,
Grass-Fed, and The Perfect Meal. In each section, he delicately
weaves together the story of the development of modern North American
gustatory culture with his personal adventures in consumption. The
resulting picture isn’t pretty.

We are, asserts a biologist quoted in the first chapter, “corn chips
with legs.” From soda (high fructose corn syrup) to hamburgers (cattle are corn
fed, which leads to all kinds of problems) to fresh cucumbers
(corn-derived wax), Zea Mays is everywhere. The most highly
subsidized crop in the United States, an industry invested in
producing cheap, well-preserved foods would be foolish not to
use it wherever possible. The result? Pollan’s Industrial Meal, from
McDonalds, is revealed by a mass spectrometer to be made mostly of
corn – in fact, the menu item which contains the least amount
of corn is the French fry, at 23%.

The rest of the book is no more heartening. To eat well, it turns
out, is both a complicated and an expensive proposition. Whole Foods,
that paragon of Health and Nature, is revealed to be a
less-than-perfect compromise between what is good for the individual
and what is good for the planet. While foods found there may not
contain pesticides, they may well have traveled over 500 miles via
fossil-fuel-guzzling, smoke-belching vehicles in order to rest,
deceptively pristine, in a rustic-looking crate.

Pollan devotes his longest single chapter to this phenomenon, which he
terms “Big Organic.” This chapter, in fact, was my only sticking
point in the book. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of
Four Meals
, would seem, from the table of contents, to contain
only three. Its subdivisions are: Industrial/Corn,
Pastoral/Grass, and Personal/The Forest. The Big
Organic chapter reads as if it had been written after the rest of the
book, when Pollan realized that the tense marriage between Organic and
Industry would not fit neatly into any of the three sections. Thus, it
has been squeezed into the second section. Nor does the culminating
description of the Organic Industrial meal rate its own chapter, as do
the other meals, but rather is only briefly described before an
agonized debate over the ethics of Big Organic, summed up with the pat
sentence, “Oh well, at least we didn’t eat it in the car.”*

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I have once again changed the
way I eat, though not completely. I still shop at Whole
Foods, though I make a more concerted effort to buy local produce and
meat whenever possible. I don’t eat less processed food, but then I
ate very little before reading the book. I have not eaten red meat,
nor will I again in the foreseeable future, unless I am certain that
it is grass-fed. The biggest boon I have received from this book is
my increased awareness of the route my dinner has taken to reach my
table, and for that I am grateful to Michael Pollan. My husband may
not share my gratitude, however, as he is heartily sick of my new
mantra: “Did you know there’s corn in that, too?”

*Lest I seem overly critical, the subject of this chapter is immense,
and truly requires its own book. I hope Pollan writes that book; I
look forward to reading it.

Research Assistant
My Research Assistant

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Mercury is my least favorite of the gods.

Dear Readers, we have no air conditioning. This is but one of the pitfalls of rent-stabilization in Puzzletown; our rent is relatively low (though still exorbitant), but Management does everything it can to jack it up to market rates. They offered to install central air last year . . . with the condition that they would consequently raise our rent by $100/month. For $1200/year, I think I’ll suffer for a month or two, thanks.

Oh, but there are times when I regret my penny-pinching ways, and this weekend was one of those times. We spent each day strategically moving from air-conditioned space to air-conditioned space. On Saturday, Husband basked in the coolth at The Knitter’s Studio as I fingered each and every skein of Lorna’s Laces sock yarn, less because I needed sock yarn and more because I was afraid I might actually die if I went back outside.

From there we went to Barnes and Noble. Unfortunately, the entire city of Los Angeles was there as well; it was therefore a mite crowded. “Where are the chairs?” I asked a salesperson. “You used to have comfy chairs.”

“The new manager decided people were sitting all day and not buying anything, so they took the chairs away,” she shrugged.

I looked around at the eleventy-hundred people sprawled in the aisles, sitting with their backs against bookshelves, snoring underneath the windows. Clearly, the strategy was working brilliantly.

Next, we studiously peered at price tags in the furniture department of Crate and Barrel, faking serious consideration as an employee eyed us suspiciously, only to flop backwards with a sigh onto the display bed as soon as she turned away.

I rolled over to face Husband. “You know what we need.”

He nodded, frowning slightly. “Ice cream.”

“Yup.”

The day progressed in such manner, culminating with a movie. Sunday was a pretty fair imitation of Saturday. Despite our good intentions and a To-Do list that covered three Post-It Notes, nothing useful got done.

And just because I am beloved by the universe and all deities, this morning we were graced by the ethereal melody of the jackhammer at seven a.m.

All of the above is by way of saying, if any of y’all have a timeshare in the Arctic that you’re not currently using, I’ll be more than happy to take it off your hands.

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WTFriday

Last night, after knitting (which Husband refers to as “your Hen Party”, which makes me snicker), I went to Barnes and Noble with Miss Kendra. We met up with Husband there, who was working on his crossword in the coffee-and-cookies area.

“Oh, look!” said I, almost pointing but then remembering at the very last second how rude that is, “It’s that guy!”

“What guy?” Miss Kendra looked around.

I pointed. (So much for manners.)

I’d seen this guy a few days earlier, sitting in the same chair. He is tall and fat, and in his early-to-mid-fifties. He wears a hat. Last week it was a cowboy hat; last night, a fedora. His hands move all the time, as if he were fingering a guitar, or kneading dough. Every so often, he sighs and grunts. He enjoys eating cake.

“He’s been talking to himself,” Husband cautioned.

Right on cue, the man turned to the empty chair next him. “Well, you know what the t’ain’t is, doncha?” Everyone in the room raised their heads slightly. He continued earnestly, “It’s the part that ain’t quite her pussy, and it ain’t quite her asshole.”

The chair did not respond, but several people edged away in fear.

The one-sided discussion of the t’ain’t continued, and so we decided it was time to depart. As we walked away, a man (who had, under the t’ain’t onslaught, abandoned his calculus) called after us, “Nurture your children, ladies!”

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Alert the press!

I would like you all to know that we, here at A Bird’s Nest, have come up with the solution to the Israel/Lebanon/Syria/Iran(/U.S./Britain/insert nation here) conflict.

Actually, to be strictly truthful, we have overheard the solution. It was Grandma Secretary who came up with it. And, you know, thank god for her trenchant political analysis, because without it, we could be in some serious trouble.

  • Step 1. Sterilize them.
  • Step 2. Give them Mexico.
  • Step 3. Peace!

Now, I’m not quite clear on who “them” is, in this particular case. I’m guessing it’s the Palestinians, because Grandma Secretary is nothing if not Modern, and sterilizing Jews is just so 1939.

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