Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 8/30/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today for the last Unraveled Wednesday in August. Time flies when you're working on the Captain Ahab Hitchhiker and want to see the colors changing.

I'd like to be able to finish this by next week sometime and get started on my next Wollmeise roll, but we'll see. 

I finished a bunch of books last week. Some were three-star fill-in books that I read between holds (The Anomaly, The Firm, LT's Theory of Pets, and Open Throat). They were perfectly fine reads, but there were also a couple of five-star standouts. The first was Above Ground, a stellar book of poetry by Clint Smith that Kat recommended. I was not familiar with Clint Smith, but I'm grateful to have read this book. It's a remarkable collection of exceptional poems about birth, parenthood, dancing in the cereal aisle, odes to the electric baby swing, double stroller, and those first fifteen minutes after the kids are finally asleep. There are also poignant poems about civilians being killed by US military air strikes, New Orleans after the storm has passed, George Floyd, and Willie Francis, the first known person to survive an execution by electric chair, 1946. Clint Smith knows exactly what to say and how to say it.

"What is the difference between science
and a miracle other than discovering new
language for something we don't understand?"

The second standout was the current Read With Us book, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. I'll be honest, it was such a difficult book for me to read initially. We had chosen it for Read With Us so I felt I had to read it, but the overwhelming violence and carnage brought my reading to a halt at least three or four times. It wasn't gratuitous violence but rather necessary in a book about the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka in the 1980s. And along with the violence, this book also requires you to think and gain some sort of grasp of what was going on in Sri Lanka. Shehan Karunatilaka cleverly gives the reader an abbreviated shortcut to the factions and abbreviations in the form of a cheat sheet that Maali provided to clueless Western journalists, and I appreciate all the editing he and Sort of Books did over two years to make the book more accessible to Western readers.

Once I got past the initial blood, butchering, and bodies everywhere, I came to appreciate the world of the Afterlife that the author built. Narrated by a dead man in the second person, there are waiting rooms with endless queues, ghouls, ghosts, spirits, and worse in the In Between, and Maali Almeida has seven moons to finish any unfinished business so he can move on to The Light. It's a murder mystery, ghost story, political, and historical novel about evil and violence. It's also full of dark comedy and well worth reading.
"Evil is not what we should fear. Creatures with power acting in their own interest: that is what should make us shudder."

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 28, 2023


Places I knit this weekend:

In the car while I waited in the long, long line for our county's hazardous waste disposal. (My hazardous waste was 14 burned-out fluorescent four-foot-long bulbs.)

At Ryan's house while waiting for him to finish mowing and John to finish picking more beans. 

In my knitting chair in my living room after I was done blanching and freezing beans. 

In the gazebo in the park across from my house. In the interest of truthfulness, I didn't actually knit in the gazebo. Years ago there used to be chairs up there, but someone seems to have removed them. I did knit while seated on that bench you can see below next to the love crape myrtle, but left when the park became crowded with teenagers looking for Pokemon and a group of people singing hymns. 

It wasn't an especially exciting weekend, but Captain Ahab did get out to see a few sights. I hope your weekend was a good one!

Friday, August 25, 2023

Something New and Different

Long ago, Ryan advised me to try one new thing every once in a while. I did this for a while but gradually let it drop by the wayside. In checking back on the blog, I was surprised to find that this conversation with Ryan happened six years ago, and it was definitely time to try something new once again. John gave me the opportunity to get way out of my comfort zone last week and try something very new to me. 

Welcome to shooting sporting clays. We went to Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays in Coplay, PA. John has been here five or six times before with guys that he used to work with. He was anxious for Justin and I to go with him for his birthday. Justin was happy to go; I went along grudgingly, and Ryan wanted no part of it. But much to my surprise, it was interesting and I did have some fun. 

The object is to take your shotgun and shoot at clay targets at 17 different stations (these are called "houses"). It's all electronically controlled with a card that you put in at each station and then someone in your group pushes a button to release two clay targets. You have three chances to try this at each station. 

The clay targets are thrown (electronically with the push of a button) in lots of different ways. 

Some come from close by but fly high overhead away from you; others are nearby but end up rolling along the ground. (These are called "rabbits".) 

Some stations are wide open, like the one above, but others are more contained, as pictured below. 

The whole place has been built in an abandoned quarry, and they've kept some of the remains of buildings. There are also several stations over water. Both John and Justin liked those because you can get a better idea of where you've shot and adjust your aim on subsequent attempts.

John thought I needed to give this a try also, so I did pick up his shotgun on one of the first easy stations. It felt way too heavy and I couldn't even use the sight pin because the stock of his gun is made for a man and too long for a woman who is a good six inches shorter than he is. It didn't feel safe to me, so I ended up not shooting, but did enjoy keeping score. John asked and they do rent guns made with smaller stocks made for women, so maybe someday he'll talk me into going again and actually shooting with the right gun for me.

It does seem like a testosterone-fueled sport, and in the three hours we were there, I only saw one other woman. She was actually shooting and seemed to be enjoying herself. So maybe I will go with John again someday. Hopefully, this would be on a nice crisp fall day and not a sweltering, sweaty one, and with a gun that was made for a woman. Sporting clays could use a little more estrogen. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 8/23/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today, with two new projects. I cast on my second Hitch on the Move and knit just a couple of triangles to make sure that I still liked the yarn pairing. I do, and I have plenty of yarn so I'll be able to make this one large enough to make me happy.

I've been knitting a lot more on my Captain Ahab Hitchhiker and I think I can see a very slight shift in the shade of blue.

The yarn goes through blue while transitioning to shades of brown, so I keep on knitting to see what's coming next. 

I haven't finished any books this week other than Invisible Women which I wrote about on Monday. I blame all the beans, zucchini, cucumbers, chard, and tomatoes that have needed to be blanched, frozen, cooked, and processed into yet more tomato juice and pickles. I may be giving dill pickles to everyone on my list for Christmas this year. 

I am rereading The Firm in anticipation of a sequel (The Exchange) from John Grisham that will be released in mid-October. I used to enjoy John Grisham novels decades ago, and while this will probably be the only one I re-read, it's a good book to listen to while I happily knit with Captain Ahab. 

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 21, 2023

A Book Post

I'm not sure I read enough to make Monday book posts a semi-regular thing, but I've written about books that have been important to me in the past couple of weeks and I've got another one today. I don't remember how I stumbled across this book, but the title caught my eye, and I think the author writes about an important idea that we should all be aware of. But beware, this book might make you angry!

It's Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. 

The author's basic premise is that data is important in our world today, for everything from economic development to healthcare, education, safety, and public policy. We rely on numbers to make important decisions and distribute resources. But there is a big problem with this. Much of the data we have collected and pay attention to does not take gender into account. It treats men as the default and women as atypical, so bias and discrimination are built into our systems. Women can pay tremendous costs for this bias, in time, money, and often with their lives. It sounds slightly dramatic, and I can picture some of the males that I know rolling their eyes at this, but while I was reading the examples that the author presented, I found myself in complete agreement. 

Some things are simple, but I've often thought that my phone was too large to feel really comfortable in my hand, and I can't recall that I've ridden in any car where the seat belts fit correctly or comfortably. They were most likely built around male dimensions, just like crash-test dummies. The fact that the safety equipment in cars does not take into account that women are shorter and lighter contributes to the horrendous statistic that when a woman is involved in a car crash, she is 47 percent more likely to be seriously injured than a man and 17 percent more likely to die. I'm willing to bet that almost every woman has felt discounted by a male physician at some point in their lives, and possibly even had their symptoms diminished as just part of "being a woman." An important example is the real life-or-death consequences of a lack of medical research when it comes to the different symptoms of a heart attack in men and women. There are so many examples in the book that at times it can become overwhelming. 

Because there are so many instances in our daily lives of this gender bias, it can start to feel like some sort of conspiracy against women. I don't think that the author was intent on blaming males, but rather that many of the people that design products and do research have assumed that being human is the same as being male. She points out that most of us can not even imagine a problem until we or someone we care about experiences it. When she was pregnant, Sheryl Sandberg felt frustrated with how long she had to walk to and from the car park of the Google building. She brought her concerns to the Google co-founders and they were surprised that they had not seen this problem themselves, but neither had Sheryl before she was pregnant herself. 

It can also feel a bit depressing because there are no easy fixes for these problems. The author states that “The solution to the sex and gender data gap is clear: we have to close the female representation gap. When women are involved in decision-making, in research, in knowledge production, women do not get forgotten”.

So besides making me angry, overwhelmed, and slightly depressed, I'm still glad I read this book. It made me much more aware of the male-default world we are living in and how we all need a new perspective and more women involved in how we design the world.

Because I couldn't choose just one quote from the book, I'll leave you with three of them:

“One of the most important things to say about the gender data gap is that it is not generally malicious, or even deliberate. Quite the opposite. It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking. A double not thinking, even: men go without saying, and women don't get said at all. Because when we say human, on the whole, we mean man.”

“Whiteness and maleness are silent precisely because they do not need to be vocalized. Whiteness and maleness are implicit. They are unquestioned. They are the default. And this reality is inescapable for anyone whose identity does not go without saying, for anyone whose needs and perspective are routinely forgotten. For anyone who is used to jarring up against a world that has not been designed around them.”

“We need a revolution in the research and the practice of medicine, and we need it yesterday. We need to train doctors to listen to women, and to recognise that their inability to diagnose a woman may not be because she is lying or being hysterical: the problem may be the gender data gaps in their knowledge. It’s time to stop dismissing women, and start saving them.”

Thursday, August 17, 2023

A Gathering of Poetry: August 2023

Chris Judge, @adailycloud

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry. Today's poem is short and sweet and written for children. I came upon this while reading with my great-nephew and really liked it. He said this poem made him feel good and I agree. 

Every Day
by Nikita Gill

Everyday is not an opportunity
to improve yourself.

Some days are just there
for you to accept yourself
and look at the clouds.

This too is growth.
This too is rising.

Just existing is enough
on some days.

The flowers do it everyday
and make the world more beautiful
just by being here.

So do you. 

Rest today.
There is tomorrow. 


Gill, Nikita, "Every Day". These Are the Words. Macmillan Children's Books. 2022. 

You can read more about the poet here.


Thanks for reading and joining us for our monthly Gathering of Poetry. Be sure to visit Kym and Kat so you can gather more poetry and you can add your link below if you would like to share one of your favorite poems. The more the merrier!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 8/16/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today, with a happier tale than I had last week.

The Sparkly Hitch on the Move is done. I like it, but there are some things I will do differently when I knit my next one. I'm going to increase the size, a lot. This one is only 46" across the top, and I like shawls to be large enough that they don't slip off while I'm wearing them. Martina Behm provides instructions on how to increase the size by explaining what percentage of your yarn you can safely use and still have enough left to finish. I increased the size of this one by two "zigs and zags" and I'm glad I did. It would have been far too small for me if I hadn't done that. I think I successfully corrected my mistake after a bit of frustration because I can no longer tell where I made it. I'm also wondering about slipping the edge stitch to provide a nicer edge. All in all, it's not bad for my practice Hitch on the Move and I think I can improve my next one so I like it a bit more.

This week I read Tom Lake by Ann Patchett. Ann Patchett is a terrific storyteller who is at her best with Tom Lake. It's the story of Lara Nelson recounting her younger days as an actress to her three daughters who have returned home to the family's northern Michigan cherry farm due to the pandemic. To pass the long hours of harvesting sweet cherries, Emily, Maisie, and Nell have demanded that their mother recount her relationship with the celebrity movie star Peter Duke. A chance remark by their father Joe has led to this storytelling. "You know your mother used to date him," Joe told the girls after walking in at the end of a movie-viewing session. Patchett tells this story in dual timelines of past and present while leaving out a few private parts in the story that Lara tells her daughters. Details are revealed (or not) and the girls find out things about their mother that they did not know.

I very much enjoyed how distinctly the three daughters were drawn, each with her own personality and characteristics. My favorite character was father and husband Joe Nelson. He is woven into the storylines of Lara's past and the play Our Town and is also a quietly important figure in the present.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Meryl Streep, and when I started I wondered if her voice would overwhelm the story. I needn't have feared as I soon forgot about Meryl Streep the actress and listened to her as the voice of Lara.

The pain of the past is just one of many things that has to happen to make way for the beauty that follows and Tom Lake reminds us of that.

“There is no explaining this simple truth about life: you will forget much of it. The painful things you were certain you’d never be able to let go? Now you’re not entirely sure when they happened, while the thrilling parts, the heart-stopping joys, splintered and scattered and became something else. Memories are then replaced by different joys and larger sorrows, and unbelievably, those things get knocked aside as well, until one morning you’re picking cherries with your three grown daughters and your husband goes by on the Gator and you are positive that this is all you’ve ever wanted in the world.”

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 14, 2023


My weekend was a combination of heat, humidity, rain, thunderstorms, and even multiple tornado warnings at 2:00 am. None of those things were very welcome, but we did not have any actual tornadoes in the vicinity, so all I had to deal with was some interrupted sleep. 

But there were several good things in addition to the interrupted sleep. The first was a double rainbow after a quick downpour.

The other good thing was that I spent a lovely Saturday morning knitting and chatting away with Dee and Vera, and then we had a delicious lunch before returning to regular life. In fact, I had so much fun that no photos were taken, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Thanks for including me in your Saturday get-together, Dee and Vera! 

(Dee did take this fun photo of a kitty in the window of a tractor-trailer at Starbucks, and I like it so much, I stole it from her Instagram.)

I hope your week is off to a good start!

Friday, August 11, 2023

Museum of Me: August 2023

Hello and welcome to the Museum of Me. It's the second Friday in August and time for a new installment. This month we ask the important question: What foods do you eat now that you couldn’t have imagined eating as a child?

This becomes a bit easier to answer if I tell you that I was born in 1957 so I grew up eating typical foods of the late 1950s and 1960s. My mother was not a very inventive cook, so our usual meals included meatloaf, boiled hotdogs, spaghetti with Ragu, tuna noodle casserole, pizza from the Chef Boyardee pizza kit, fish (but only in the form of fish sticks), and an awful concoction of ground hamburger on French bread called Supper on a Bread Slice. The hamburger was sometimes not cooked very well but the French bread was burned and hard as a rock; my father loved this recipe but not my sister and I. Vegetables were often served with Cheez Whiz on top and bread was always Wonder Bread. 

Pillsbury brought out crescent rolls in a tube in 1965, and we entered a new, fancier era of food in our house. We thought that wrapping these around hotdogs was the epitome of fine dining. Imagine my surprise when I learned that these were called pigs in a blanket and had been prepared long before Pillsbury came out with crescent rolls in a can.

In The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson says that his family "did not eat cream cheese, sour cream, garlic, mayonnaise, onions, corned beef, pastrami, salami, or foreign food of any type, except French toast, and soups not blessed by Campbell’s and only a very few of those. All other foods of all types — curries, enchiladas, tofu, bagels, sushi, couscous, yogurt, kale, Parma ham, any cheese that was not a vivid bright yellow and shiny enough to see your reflection in — had either not yet been invented or was yet unknown to us." That was my family, too. 

When I was in high school, I had several friends who had been raised in crunchy granola families, and they introduced me to yogurt, tofu, whole wheat bread, and granola itself. I was surprised yet again to learn that broccoli could be eaten raw or steamed and did not have to have Cheez Whiz poured on it.  

So the answer to the original question about what foods I eat now that I couldn’t have imagined eating as a child is just about everything. My food horizons could only be expanded as I grew up and lived in different places. I have been introduced to spicy food and now regularly make tacos and enchiladas. We have a freezer full of venison, wild turkey, and fish. I always have yogurt in the refrigerator but no Cheez Whiz. I don't like kale but that's because it tastes like grass. I love pad thai and tikka masala. I don't always serve adventurous meals but that's because John hates spices and like plain meat, potatoes, and vegetables. I save my more adventurous eating for meals that I have with Ryan as I know that chorizo-stuffed pork loin is just going to be wasted on John. 

So how about you? I'd love to hear about your childhood meals and whether they've changed over the years. We'll be back on the second Friday of September with a brand-new installation. Thank you for visiting The Museum of Me!

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 8/9/23

I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today, with a tale of hubris and unraveling. I was approaching what I thought was the end of my Sparkly Match and Move when I failed to read the pattern correctly. I had nine stitches of the sparkly black yarn left and I somehow misinterpreted "Repeat Body Pattern II until no stitches in Color A remain" and I bound off. When the bind-off was wonky, I tried to fix it (to no avail) and finally realized that nine does not equal zero. So I undid the bind off, started to unravel, and then spent much of yesterday afternoon unraveling more. 

I'll hopefully get to a recognizable point in the pattern and then continue on from there, but after a frustrating afternoon, I thought it best to pause and pick it up again when I had some renewed patience.

Hubris enters into it because while I was binding off, I was busy imagining the photos I would need to take to show you the yarn and my cast on for my second Match and Move. The best laid plans ... might have to wait until next Wednesday. 

I did have a better week in reading and finished three books. Someone Else's Shoes and Small Mercies were very different books, but both were four stars for me. I also finished a pre-publication copy of Under the Storm, a Swedish mystery and coming-of-age novel. The story in this 3.5-star book develops slowly, leaving the reader plenty of time to mull over questions of guilt, innocence, and culpability. It was maybe just a bit too slow for me, but I appreciated that Carlsson has written a deeper and more thoughtful mystery than the usual.

What are you making and reading this week?

Monday, August 7, 2023

A Book Post

I liked devoting a post to a book that spoke to me last Monday, and I've got another one this week. 

American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

At the end of July I wrote a post about Justin's part in the Oppenheimer film and decided that while I will most likely see the film someday, I wanted to read the book that inspired the film first. 

American Prometheus is a big book about a complex and contradictory man. All I knew about Joseph Robert Oppenheimer before I read it was his name and involvement with the Manhattan Project, but there was much more to him and his career. Born into a well-off New York family in 1904, he majored in chemistry at Harvard but became interested in physics at Cambridge. He had his share of difficulties during these years but then returned to the US to teach at Berkeley and Caltech, and eventually became an inspiring leader at Los Alamos after being chosen by General Leslie Groves to head the scientific team that was building the atomic bomb.

This book is not all physics and bomb-building but includes plenty of personal details about Oppenheimer's habits and life. A few times, the book becomes a little dry and perhaps the authors shared a few too many details, but the depth does help the reader to understand Oppenheimer's complexity and complications. The subtitle "The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer" is an apt one because "Oppie's" later years were full of struggles. Walking home with Oppenheimer, Einstein said, "You know, when it’s once been given to a man to do something sensible, afterward life is a little strange." And it was. Oppenheimer became the longest-serving Director of The Institute for Advanced Study and scientific advisor for the Atomic Energy Commission but opposed building the even more powerful hydrogen bomb. Harry Truman called him "that crybaby scientist" and Lewis Strauss (chair of the AEC) had Oppenheimer's security clearance revoked. He died of throat cancer in 1967.

"He was, in fact, an immensely human figure, as talented as he was complex, at once brilliant and naïve, a passionate advocate for social justice and a tireless government adviser whose commitment to harnessing a runaway nuclear arms race earned him powerful bureaucratic enemies."

At over 1100 pages and some dense subject matter, the book was a bit of an undertaking. I listened to the audio version (available on hoopla) and it was 26.5 hours, but it was one of the better scientific biographies I've read. Oppenheimer was a complex and human character and I think it took a book of this length and depth to begin to accurately capture him. I almost always think that the book is better than the movie, and since I haven't seen the movie yet, I'm not sure that is the case here. But this book intrigued me enough to read more about him in the future. My BiL has recommended 109 East Palace, which covers Oppenheimer's time at Los Alamos, so that book is on my TBR list. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Unraveled Wednesday: 8/2/23

How did it get to be August already?! I don't want to wish my life away, but only four more Unraveled Wednesdays and it will be September (and hopefully cooler). I'm joining Kat and fellow Unravelers today to share some rewinding and soaking I finally remembered to do and a bit of progress on my Sparkly Hitch on the Move.

I had forgotten about the Wollmeise Roll that I unraveled and wound into a ball before we left to visit my SiL. But I wished I had two knitting projects and finally remembered that I had the yarn partly ready for my next project. Here are a few pictures of its progress from a knit Roll to a ready-to-knit ball of yarn: 

It's the one on the left, Captain Ahab

Captain Ahab unrolled and spread out

Captain Ahab wound around two kitchen chairs and tied. 

Captain Ahab is in for a bit of a soak

Captain Ahab drying outdoors

I'll be winding the yarn and casting on a new Hitchhiker later today, so I'll hopefully have a new project to share with you next week.

Meanwhile, the Sparkly Hitch on the Move continues apace. Here it is with lots of immature acorns that are dropping on the patio and keeping the squirrels busy. 

I read two books this week. This first, It. Goes. So. Fast. by Mary Louise Kelly, is a memoir about her highs and lows of trying to balance working as a journalist for NPR and being a parent to two sons. There are plenty of parental anecdotes as well as stories from her time with NPR. After this four-star book, I would gladly read another memoir from Kelly with more stories about NPR. 

Diagnosis by Lisa Sanders is a collection of essays that deal with some rarely seen diseases, many of which have stumped several doctors. Sanders has organized the chapters by symptoms (fever, headache, nausea, rash, etc.), eight of the most common problems that send patients to the doctor. I was struck by how often CT scans and MRIs are ordered, and how often antibiotics are prescribed solely in the hope that they will help improve the patients' symptoms. Some of the best essays are those where the diagnosing physician's thought process is shared, but many times the "aha" moment occurs during a consultation when another physician arrives at the diagnosis because s/he has seen it before. This was three stars for me. 

What are you making and reading this week?