Monday, August 29, 2011

Your brain on knitting?

There's news all over the fiber blogiverse that knitting and crochet are top-notch brain-building activities. But this is taking, "Knitting makes good brains" just a wee bit more literally:

Yay, geek knitting makes me happy! Found this on If Style Could Kill -- the earrings themselves are for sale on Etsy from yourorgangrider.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

FO: Sgt. Pepper's Vaguely Steampunk Vest

At least that's what I'm calling it. The pattern is Arlberg by Martin Storey for Rowan designs (in Rowan Classic Alpine #29), knit in RYC Cashsoft merino/microfiber, cashmere blend, with pewter Celtic knot buttons:

Still needs a little blocking to make that armhole ribbing lie flatter, but otherwise it's a lovely, squooshy, warm vest for this winter.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

HuffPo Blogger Says Knitting and Gardening are For Girly Weaklings!

Sensational enough? You'd think that the blogosphere would have caught on to the fact that you don't diss women with pointy sticks and sharp tools without having to duck and run for cover, but this blogger on HuffPo apparently hasn't got that message yet. Now, normally I stay away from the "comments" section on news sites and such, but this time have a look as knitters around the world eviscerate the author after the Yarn Harlot (one of those specifically held up as an example of "::scoff!:: Girly! Weak! Un-feminist!" tweeted about the article, followed soon by gardeners as the women of Garden Rant picked up on the brou-ha-ha.

Memo to Peggy, author of this atrocity: The women you picked on are NOT women you want to anger.

The author's main point seems to be that feminism has lost its edge. Women aren't "tough." They're blogging about gardening, cupcakes, knitting, and cats, all weak and girly subjects. What they should be into are manly things like shooting guns and hotwiring cars and practicing survival skills being executives and stuff.

Hel-LO, knitter with a Ph.D. here. Knitter who is a college biology professor. Knitter who could survive a helluva lot better with my spinning, knitting, gardening, canning, wild plant foraging, and food drying skills than this cupcake will if the best she can do is hotwire cars and break into bomb shelters. You ever see the remains of Cold-war era supplies that still linger in some bomb shelters? Ew.

What cheeses me off most about this article is this: Author, did you really mean to say that traditional women's pursuits are baaad, and the only worthwhile things a woman can do are traditional men's pursuits? So to be a feminist, one must try to be like a stereotypical man? What a narrow, limiting, outdated idea of feminism that is! While there are many flavors of feminism, my take on the whole subject is that feminism, in addition to advocating for social justice and basic human rights, is about rejecting the command of "Conform!" Telling women that they must give up one set of activities and take up another is just another command to "Conform!" Not feminist. Not pro-women. Entirely misogynist if it says, "What women like is bad."

So, joining bloggers across the blogosphere, allow me to roll up my sleeves, don the lab coat, sharpen my scalpel, and dissect this mess.

What happened to our hard-won bad-assery? All those years of being suffragettes, bra-burners, free love artists, corporate queen bees, supermoms and women-who-wanted-and-got-it all? ...Maybe "having it all" was a silly fantasy that ultimately made women feel exhausted and inferior. Maybe we just wanted to sit on our asses and knit and eat cupcakes in our Hello Kitty jammies.
 Wait, wait, wait... putting suffragettes in the same barrel with free love artists and bra-burners? Honey, get your history straight. Suffragettes were brave, bold women to be sure. I admire them and honor their memory by voting every chance I get. Bra-burners, however, are nearly a myth. I remember the late 60s/early 70s, and believe me, there weren't people running around burning bras, which has nothing to do with social justice or freedom of choice. It was one sensational news photo of one incident that got iconized. Free love? Societies for free love started in the swingin' Victorian era, and while it was entwined with feminism, it did not define all that feminism is. As for "having it all," having all what? This assumes our only choices are "corporate queen bees, supermoms and women-who-wanted-and-got-it-all" and "sit on our asses, knit, and eat cupcakes." Succeed in everything, or give up. No, no, NO. This is NOT all there is to the choices that the feminist movement has given us.

And now that so many women have seemingly retreated from our reign of awesomeness to immerse themselves in the feminine past-times of yesteryear, it does indeed appear that we've lost sight of what it means to be a badass, strong, tough woman. 
HahahahahahahHAHAHAHAHhahaha! Oh, dear, oh, dear. While the author does throw out this sop:

Not that our pioneering foremothers were not bad-ass... have you seen Meek's Cutoff?

she goes on assuming throughout the rest of the essay that gardening and knitting are frivolous girly pursuits, not the utterly necessary survival skills of yesteryear. It was all those badass women who spun, knitted, wove, sewed, gardened, preserved, kept chickens, milked the cows, and all that other girly stuff that kept the family alive, warm and fed.

From there she gets into the meat -- or meat-like texturized soy protein substance -- of her argument:

Maybe being called "tough" makes some women uncomfortable (sorta like being called a "bitch," right?). Well, too bad! There are tough times ahead, and we need to be tough bitches to face them. Growing vegetables is useful; but so is learning how to shoot a gun, hot-wire a car, and manipulate our way into a bomb shelter.
In the post-apocalyptic world, if ever we face one, you know who's gonna survive the best? Not the "tough" people hotwiring cars in some urban alley. That's only going to last until the gas runs out. The best survivors will be the Amish who can -- you guessed it -- spin, knit, sew, raise chickens, grow crops, milk cows... you get the idea. As for tough -- listen, cupcake, succeeding as an Amish farmer, or any kind of farmer, is not a job for sissies. I'm guessing the author hasn't spent much time in the country.

Remember our tough gal role models? They were strong, sexy, and took no crap. They wore leather and sang rock and roll. Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Grace Jones, Courtney Love. They kicked ass in the movies: Sigourney Weaver in Alien, Sally Field in Norma Rae, Meryl Streep in Silkwood, Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. (See, what's cool is, those last two films were based on real women.) They battled monsters on TV: Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Those are your "tough gal" role models? Good Lord. Are you six? Rock stars and actresses playing (mostly) fictional characters? Here are a few of mine: Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Cochran, Amelia Earhart, Jane Austen, Abigail Scott Duniway, Maria Mitchell, Rosalind Franklin, Jane Goodall, Barbara McClintock, Rachel Carson, Ada Lovelace... I could go on, but you get the idea. These are women who did things in an era when women weren't supposed to do things. They followed their interests even when their interests were things that women weren't suppose to even be capable of. They kept on going even when life slapped them in the face. Some fought for women's rights, some spoke out for social justice, some made world-changing scientific discoveries. Hotwiring a car? Cute parlor trick. Winning the Nobel Prize? That's bad-ass. (ETA: I heard an interview with Joan Jett once. As she was doing housecleaning with the radio on, on her hands and knees scrubbing the toilet, one of her songs came on the radio and the announcer said, "And that was Joan Jett. ::leer:: Wonder what she's doing now?" And Ms. Jett thought, "Sonny, if you only knew...")
And really, glamor has limited practical value; do you want to be left behind when the revolution comes, back to the wall, crippled by your stilettos? Hell, no; you want to be on the run with a sackful of penicillin, Kruggerands and organic chocolate bars.
No, you don't. Glamor might not be much use, but neither will cosplaying your favorite TV show characters be of much use when "the revolution" -- whatever that might turn out to be -- comes. Sounds like the author been watching to much post-apocalyptic drama on TV.

In fact, all of the other "badass" women the author offers up as role models are characters in various television dramas. Here's a memo, author: those shows are fiction. Dressing up as a vampire and pretending to be capable of keeping " the peace with an iron hand and a heart of chrome"is all adorable I'm sure, but the tough women who are really holding things together right now are the everyday women who work inside or outside the home, juggle family needs with working lives, balance the household budget, write books, publish academic papers, take the kids to soccer practice, go camping with the Scouts, and, yes, knit, keep cats, and eat a few cupcakes now and then. That's real life, kiddo. Welcome to the real world, where the real heroines dwell.

By the way, who is this author, who snubs those who like knitting, cats, and... cupcakes? Hello, Peg Aloi! I see what you're doing there!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Last Gasp of Summer - Knitting, Pirates, Books, and Fish

Poor hubby has to go back to sch... sch... er, S-word next week. Mine starts up in a few weeks. With one week between the end of the summer classes I was teaching and his return to the working world, we were able to squeeze in a little bit of vacation time.

Spent doing what? Whatever we wanted, really, and for me that meant knitting on my Clarissa cardigan while looking out on a beautiful ocean view:

The view here is from Room 12 of the adorable Inn at Arch Rock in Depoe Bay, Oregon, looking out on the outer bay where we've been told that the Gray Whales frolic in August. However, they were shy beasties this August. I saw one spouting waaaaay off shore the whole time I was there. Apparently they were all here in July. Isn't that always how it is? Kind of like when you go fishing, and the guys at the bait shop say, "Boy, you should have been here last week, the fish were biting right and left, but this week, they're all hiding." Every time I go to Depoe Bay, it's always, "There were 500 hundred whales all dancing the cha-cha and juggling squid yesterday, but today, nothing. Ya shoulda been here yesterday." As for why I specify Room 12 -- we couldn't get one room for all three nights that we wanted, so we were in a ground floor room for the first two nights and moved to a somewhat more expensive upstairs room for the third night. Since the upstairs room also came with a gas fireplace and was a little bit nicer (and more private), we might go with that if we have the chance to stay there again.

We did manage to get out and about to do other things than knit, of course. We drove down to Newport to visit our favorite bookstore, the Canyon Way Bookstore. With the stagnant economy and with people buying fiction in alternate forms (like ebooks and audiobooks), their business has dropped a lot in the past few years, so they're a bit smaller than they used to be. But they've still got all kinds of wonderful treasures to discover. It's a browser's bookstore. They also have a great restaurant, where we had lunch out on the patio, after we did our bit to boost their income by buying a stack of books:

From there we walked down the hill to stroll around Newport's bayfront. The bay bridge is in the background. It's an interesting district, where the industrial fish processing plants are mixed with tourist shops that have grown up around them, and where you can buy fresh fish and crabs straight off of the docks.

On the other side of the bridge is a touristy little pirate-themed shopping place:

That's where you go to find Yarn for All Seasons:

Inside the shop is a delicious assortment of luxury yarns, as well as old standbys like Cascade brand.

I came away with two skeins of self-patterning sock yarn -- Opal and Trekking -- and I splurged on a skein of pure silk from Blue Ridge Yarn that came with a simple scarf pattern to show off the gorgeous colors and shimmer. (That bottle? Complimentary cream sherry that came with our room at the Inn!)

The next day we hit the science geek highlights. First the Oregon Coast Aquarium, with its tanks full of fish like these seahorses:

The famous tank of Moon Jellies:

Deep sea wildlife:

Adorable Tufted Puffins:

And the Passages of the Deep exhibit, where you walk through a glass tunnel that goes through the giant tanks, and where everyone converges on the shark tank. This ray gave quite a show, swimming at us and over the top of the tunnel:

Practically next door is the Hatfield Marine Science Center, a research station that is part of Oregon State University, where their Visitors Center has been educating people about coastal ecology and marine science for many decades:

Exhibits include fish tanks, interactive science displays, and displays showing current research at the Hatfield center.

On our way out of Depoe Bay, we popped into Ainslee's for salt water taffy (we like to stop either there or at Read's in Lincoln City to get fresh made-on-the-premises taffy, rather than shops that stock taffy bought by the case from who-knows-where). We spotted this fellow atop the memorial, who was a little less shy and a little more observable than the whales.

"Well? Ya got popcorn or not?"


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