Then, now, and points in between

Are you looking for me? I am here! I am Turkish Delight man!

The above quote? True story. Five years ago (and how it can possibly be so long is beyond me) I was part of a study abroad group leaving Ephesus. I wish I had the means to return. It was a truly magical trip.


Celsus Library, Ephesus

The Celsus Library photo is one of my favorites. Such a beautiful building it must have been, back in its heyday.

But back to the present. Or rather, the more recent past.

My hands are warmer now.

Colorful woolly wrist warmers: nice in the cold.

I’ve been steadily knitting and crocheting for the House Cup. In January I knit a pair of wrist warmers (among other fun items). They’re really very lovely, and I wore them every day for quite a while – sometimes with mittens when it was extra cold. (We’ve had a very cold, snowy winter. Not that we should be surprised by such things in Iowa, but still.)

I also participated in the Ravelympics again this year. I knit another pair of socks, and a fun mustachioed cowl, which I sent off to a friend. I’m pretty proud of the socks, which are Beatrix by Monkey Toes. I just don’t have quite the right pair of shoes to wear them with – the design is all along the back, as you can see here.

These would be great for clogs...

Beatrix socks for the Ravelympics.

I’m really happy with them; I knit them toe up, so they fit smashingly. I like being able to try them on as I go.

And the present: I’m knitting on Glimfeather, which is a phenomenally huge shawl. I think I’m about 1/3 through, and I’m pretty sure it’s madness to expect to get it completed by month’s end. But if I continue, knitting at a rate of roughly 5 rows a day, I think I’ll make it. (Five rows sounds like a pittance, but the cabled sides take around 20 minutes each and will only get longer. I think the wrong side rows are 15 minutes or so. That’s a solid couple of hours a day just on this project.) I’m also working on two other shawls, which are much, much smaller. One’s about 40% completed and the other is, well yet to be cast on.

Hopefully my fingers won’t fall off. But I’ve got my iPod queued up with a lot of great music, podcasts and audio books, so it’s not like I’m just knitting. Filling the brain with knowledge, too. Cheers to that!


Persephone’s downfall

I went grocery shopping this evening with my mom, before we picked up pizza (at which point we had a verysmall snowball fight with the cashier because he’s a family friend). As we walked through the produce section, the pomegranates caught my eye, and I recalled a post at Tokyo Terrace earlier this month featuring pomegranate seeds in a cocktail. While I’ve put myself on vocally healthy things – nixing any alcoholic content – until after tomorrow’s cantata performance (gulp!) I thought I could tackle a pom. When we got back I did a quick Google check for the best way to seed a pomegranate, and found some very helpful videos on YouTube. Behold!


Pomegranates: surprisingly easy to seed.

The long and short of it is this: Cut off the stem end and the end opposite, providing you with a flat surface. Score the sides in quarters. Get a bowl of water large enough for your hands and the pomegranate, and take the quarters apart, removing the seeds. The seeds will sink, the fleshy membrane will float, and life is good. Skim the top to get rid of the membrane, then strain the water away. So easy, and I didn’t cut myself, which is always a bonus.

A glass of cranberry ginger ale and cran-raspberry juice with a small handful of pom seeds is so refreshing. The carbonation from the ginger ale will cause the seeds to float, which is a nice visual treat. How Persephone only ate six seeds is beyond me.

The House Cup has been going very well; I’ve just finished my fourth term in Ravenclaw. Our Quidditch team, Rosetta Stone, ended up taking seventh place out of 25 teams, which is darn awesome. We had fun making hats and such for the Shriners Burn Center in Boston, and one teammate spun some lovely yarn in team colors (sand and lapis lazuli).

Nachaq cowl

Hiding Mr Voldy – in style!

One of my favorite assignments from last month was for Defense Against the Dark Arts. “This month, we’ll be exploring Quirinus Quirrell. Please reflect on how you would react and compensate if Voldemort were grafted onto the back of your head.” (Isn’t that a fantastic assignment?) I knit a lace cowl, Nachaq. It comes up over the head, too. I’m a fan of the pattern, though it seemed to take forever to knit. I think that’s just because it was in laceweight.

I also got my best friend bandbabe to join the House Cup, which should be fun. She’s been crocheting up a storm – she’s gotten quite a few things done already. She’s also been on Ravelry for less than a month and she’s so addicted. I’ve created a monster.

We had a blizzard this week – there’s now a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground. We got 16 inches of snow between Tuesday and Wednesday, and then the temperatures were frigid. (One night the wind chill was forecast to be 25-30 below!) Winter is no fun. I don’t know why on earth I still live in Iowa. I don’t really like snow. It looks nice at first, but then it gets slushy and gross, turns grey with road grime, and makes me fall down because I am not very graceful. Yuck.

That’s all I can muster for now – I’ll catch ya on the flip side!

The Magicians and other ramblings

I’ve been attempting this 52 books in 52 weeks thing. Thus far, I’m not sure where I stand. I’ve lost track a little bit, though I’m updating my Goodreads list as I write this post. The most recent book I’ve finished (aside from re-reading non-Twilight vampirevampyre drivel) is The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

I was very hesitant about this book. It was compelling to listen to (audiobooks are my friend when I knit), but I found myself frustrated with the protagonist, Quentin Coldwater. I find myself agreeing with Leila over at Bookshelves of Doom:

My major personal difficulty with the book boiled down to this: Quentin Coldwater is not very likable. He’s selfish and apathetic, never happy with what he has, even when what he has is exactly what he originally thought he wanted. He’s the personification of the-grass-is-always-greener. I never doubted him as a character — he seemed very real to me — but I didn’t like him. But I’m not sure if I was supposedto like him. If this was a book about Magic in the Real World, it stands to reason that the hero wouldn’t just not be heroic — he wouldn’t be a hero. And, ultimately, I didn’t see him as one. He was just a protagonist. Which, really, made sense.

As I said on my Goodreads review of the book, Quentin frustrated me. I found myself frequently wanting to reach through my iPod and shake him. It wasn’t a horrible book – there were parts I certainly enjoyed, and I gave it three stars on Goodreads. The parallels between Fillory and Narnia kind of hurt my head. In the end, I’m still not certain whether I enjoyed it or not.

Otherwise, I’ve been knitting for the House Cup. This weekend I participated in the International Date Line challenge representing my Quidditch team, Team Rosetta Stone.

Three hats in two days isnt so bad.

Three hats in two days isn't so bad.

The task was to use 200 yards of yarn crafting something for the charity your Quidditch team had chosen. We’re doing hats for a cancer center. That smallest hat used about 70 yards of yarn, I’m guessing. Of my two competitors, one was knitting on an illusion baby blanket (with stars!) and the other was designing a cabled earflap hat. I’ve just seen both of them, and they are fantastic. (Especially that hat. I’m definitely going to donate money for the pattern!)

I also turned in my Herbology assignment today: the Spiderweb Tam. (The homework was to identify garden pests and helpers.) I wanted to keep naughty little Billywigs away from a bouquet of flowers I got from a friend for making sure her house wasn’t burning down. (Long story.)

Channeling spiders for this months Herbology assignment.

Channeling spiders for this month's Herbology assignment.

I’m very happy with it, although at the largest point the stitch count was a whopping 216. Yikes!

That’s all I’ve got for today.

Banned Books Week

I was catching up on my feeds last night and saw on Bookshelves of Doom that it’s Banned Books Week. I spent the next little bit searching for a comprehensive list, which was rather difficult to find until I decided to search for a banned books meme, which you’ll find below. Here are the most commonly challenged books in the US (according to Wikipedia), and here’s a list of the most challenged books in 2008, from the American Library Association. (I’ve read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and I really like it.)

At one point I saw Lysistrata by Aristophanes listed, though it may have only been banned in Greece by the government. I had a copy of Four Plays by Aristophanes on my bookshelf, to I got it out. I have to say, Lysistrata is absolutely hilarious. I actually laughed out loud a couple of times, of what I had the chance to read last night. The translations are by William Arrowsmith, Richmond Lattimore and Douglass Parker. One of the characters, Lampito, is a Spartan woman. According to the notes, “Athenians regarded Spartans as formidably old-fashioned bumpkins”; the translator attempted to convey that in her lines.

Lampito: Hit’s right onsettlin’ fer gals to sleep all lonely-like, withouten no humpin’. But I’m on your shide. We shore need Peace, too.
Lysistrata: You’re a darling — the only woman here worthy of the name!
Kleonike: Well, just suppose we did, as much as possible, abstain from … what you said, you know — not that we would — could something like that bring Peace any sooner?
Lysistrata: Certainly. Here’s how it works: We’ll paint, powder, and pluck ourselves to the last detail, and stay inside, and wear those filmy tunics that set off everything we have — and then slink up to the men. They’ll snap to attention, go absolutely mad to love us — but we won’t let them. We’ll Abstain. I imagine they’ll conclude a treaty rather quickly.
Lampito: (Nodding.) Menelaos he tuck one squint at Helen’s bubbies all nekkid, and plumb throwed up. (Pause for thought.) Throwed up his sword.

That last line was surely my favorite; Lampito’s a riot to read. I could just hug the translator for this. I’ll be finishing Lysistrata to celebrate Banned Books Week, then perhaps I’ll take a look at Boccaccio’s Decameron. I might just dig out Brave New World again, because it’s been a while since I’ve read it.

This list of 110 banned books was taken from aeirol on livejournal. In bold are the ones I’ve read, italics are partially read. Those waiting in the wings are marked **. A lot of books are not on this list, like the Harry Potter series (which I love). I didn’t add any on, though there are plenty of banned and challenged books I’d like to have a look at, if I haven’t read them. (And I haven’t read many of them, though you can see a bunch are on my list.)

1. The Bible
2. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
4. The Koran
5. Arabian Nights
6. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
7. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
8. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer **
9. Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
10. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

11. Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli **
12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
13. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
14. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
15. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens **
16. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
17. Dracula by Bram Stoker
18. Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
19. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
20. Essays by Michel de Montaigne

21. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck **
22. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon **
23. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
24. Origin of Species by Charles Darwin **
25. Ulysses by James Joyce **
26. Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio **
27. Animal Farm by George Orwell **
28. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
29. Candide by Voltaire **
30. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

31. Analects by Confucius
32. Dubliners by James Joyce
33. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
34. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
35. Red and the Black by Stendhal
36. Capital by Karl Marx
37. Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
38. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
39. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
40. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

41. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
42. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
43. Jungle by Upton Sinclair
44. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
45. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx **
46. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
47. Diary by Samuel Pepys
48. Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
49. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
50. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury **

51. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
52. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
53. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
54. Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
55. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (I borrowed this from a friend in college, and just couldn’t get into it.)
56. Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
57. Color Purple by Alice Walker
58. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
59. Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
60. Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

61. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
62. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
63. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
64. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison **
65. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
66. Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
67. Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
68. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
69. The Talmud
70. Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau

71. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson **
72. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
73. American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
74. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler **
75. Separate Peace by John Knowles
76. Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
77. Red Pony by John Steinbeck
78. Popol Vuh
79. Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
80. Satyricon by Petronius **

81. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl **
82. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov **
83. Black Boy by Richard Wright
84. Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
85. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
86. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
87. Metaphysics by Aristotle
88. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
89. Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
90. Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

91. Power and the Glory by Graham Greene **
92. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
93. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
94. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
95. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
96. Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
97. General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
98. Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood **
99. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
100. Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess **

101. Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
102. Émile Jean by Jacques Rousseau
103. Nana by Émile Zola
104. Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
105. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
106. Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
107. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein **
108. Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
109. Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
110. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes **

The fuzzy little caterpillar

Note: I wrote this post Friday afternoon, and had meant to post it in the evening once I had a chance to get my picture from phone to computer. No dice. First chance I’ve had is today, which means you get to do a little time travel. Set your clock back to Friday afternoon around 3, and read on.

I am up too late; the constellations are different than when I’m usually out. And I’m a nerd for noticing.

That’s what my tweet was at about 3 this morning; I’d gone outside at a little after 2:30 and thought, Holy crap! Is that Orion rising?! (I usually notice the Summer Triangle and Cassiopeia most prominently in the sky at this time of year.) And then I listened to about an hour’s worth of podcasts after that before I managed to fall asleep. One of them had a little astronomy segment that mentioned — you guessed it — Orion. And so I felt it was fine, almost that it should have happened that way.

I woke up this morning shortly after 9, having been nearly trampled to death by one of the cats. She was hungry, and had gone probably a whopping 30 minutes without something in the food dish, because I remember feeding them before I went to bed. Cats.

After cleaning out a cupboard and doing a little catbox maintenance, I decided to head to the City Park. On a whim, I took the turn to drive up to Clark Tower, a three-story stone structure built in 1926. (Thank you, Google and Wikipedia. I’m not good with my county history.) I sat on a large rock and pulled out pen and paper (a purple Liquid Espresso pen and one of the pocket size Moleskine cahiers that I always carry around), intending to sketch a little, which I haven’t done in a very long time. I’d just started — the curve of the railing was the only thing on my paper at the moment — when I felt a little tickle on my leg.

I looked down before I tried to brush whatever it was off, and saw a fuzzy, pale grey caterpillar with funny little black tufts at either end. I tried flicking the cuff of my shorts, hoping to unseat the little bugger, but it only held on tighter and crawled to where I couldn’t see it. I stood up to be able to see it again and, after much persuasion, got it on the end of my pen, and stared it in what I thought were its eyes.

Having been attempting to identify a large, green caterpillar* the other day, I didn’t want to touch it, because I’d read plenty about stinging caterpillars. After a moment, I let it crawl onto the tree that was behind the rock, and it bolted up the trunk. (Seriously, it was very fast for such a little guy.) I did a quick (and very rough) sketch of it before it escaped, and took a couple of blurry pictures with my phone.

This crawly critter really tickles when its trying to crawl up your pants.

This crawly critter really tickles when it's trying to crawl up your pants.

When I left the park, I decided to get my Google on and figure out what that fuzzy little guy was. One of the first links I clicked on was not encouraging: Morningjoy ended up with a swollen hand after accidentally touching a fuzzy caterpillar, one not too unlike my own. I knew it wasn’t quite right and continued my search until I came across Halysidota tessellaris on BugGuide. (After What’s That Bug, BugGuide is my go-to insect identification site.) Halysidota tessellaris is better known as the banded tussock moth; if you look at the Wikipedia entry, you’ll see the pretty colors on the thorax and the tessellation-like pattern on the wings. I looked at a couple of other sites, and was inconclusive as to whether this was a stinging caterpillar (though I hear the rule “if it’s fuzzy, it stings” is correct most of the time). I haven’t noticed any red marks or swelling, so I think this one’s safe.

* I think it was either some sort of sphinx or swallowtail.

Books and yarn are my friends

Again I am remiss in posting. And I had such good intentions! Case in point: I’ve started a new book challenge for myself, called 52 books in 52 weeks. I had hoped to post about each book as I finish, though as you can see, that hasn’t happened. I started on August 9. My initial inspiration comes from Sassenach, whose posts I’ve been catching when she updates on Plurk.

I added a widget-y thing in the sidebar to show my bookshelf on GoodReads, where I’m keeping track. I’m actually ahead right now, which is something. I almost feel as though I shouldn’t include re-reads, but there are some books I really love to read: the entire Harry Potter series, anything Neil Gaiman, and The Hot Zone by Richard Preston (which I got hooked on in high school, and I don’t know why. It’s a fascinating book about ebola).

The morning light hit this lovely spider web on my porch just right.

The morning light hit this lovely spider web just right.

As far as knitting goes, the House Cup on Ravelry has opened for the fall term, which means I’ve been working on lots of assignments. I finished my first assignment, “something to keep someone warm” for Potions, two days ago. It’s a test knit of a pattern that should be coming out in the next week or two, called Witch Warmers. The full pattern includes armwarmers, legwarmers and a neckwarmer, the latter of which I submitted for class. I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

Otherwise, I’ve just gotten my hair cut today by a fantastic stylist. I walked in the door, and Dewey said, “I know exactly what you need.” And he did, and it’s an excellent cut. It’s not shaggy any more, it has shape, and it’s a bit on the sassy side. I was in such a good mood after that I bought new shoes at Chez Target next door: a pair of Mossimo Odell flats. (I only wish they’d had the bronze in my size, but it’s difficult to find size 11 for women sometimes.)

Good times.

Take to the road

I took a road trip with a friend last week to the Twin Cities. The goal? A concert. Not just any concert: Tori Amos. It pretty much rocked my face off. To make matters even more exciting, it was my cohort’s birthday, so of course we had to go see Tori. No matter it was the middle of the week; Wednesdays, it turns out, are the best days for adventures and road trips.

When my cohort and I first arrived in the Cities, we decided to wander the sculpture garden at Walker. Aside from the giant cherry on a spoon (ahem, “Spoonbridge and Cherry”), and the wacky iron and bronze sculptures outdoors, there’s also a humongous glass fish inside the Cowles Conservatory. It’s pretty amazing, and it had been awhile since I got to wander the sculpture garden, so it was a nice pre-concert diversion.

Spoonbridge and Cherry is a traditional sight-seeing spot when you visit Minneapolis.

Spoonbridge and Cherry is a traditional sight-seeing spot when you visit Minneapolis.

The concert itself: brilliant. I failed to take a camera, but Opal in the rough over on Flickr got some very nice photos: the traditional Oh, I’m just playing two different pianos on opposite sides, no big deal shot, and a lovely, classic Tori face. The concert was at the State Theater on Hennepin. Our seats were pretty kick-ass: row Q, on the far right, is pretty much perfect for a performer who tends to favor her Bösendorfer (the one she’s playing in the second link). And with my new specs, I could actually see Tori’s face and not just a haze of wonderful music. It was phenomenal. As my cohort said, “Best. Birthday. Ever!”

Afterward, we zig-zagged (with much more zig than necessary) our way back to her brother’s pad in a suburb east of St. Paul, where we crashed for the night. Or at least that was the intention; in actuality, there was talking and wine and sleeping very small amounts. We met up with a Luther chum of mine (whom I refer to in my head as HoJo, but is not, in fact, a hotel chain [which first I learned of back when I read the Babysitter’s Club series; I always thought it was an ice cream shop or something]) for breakfast at a coffee shop where he said he’s spent a lot of time studying. (Delicious food, and they had Reed’s Ginger Brew, which is my favorite ginger ale.) I might mention here that I successfully drove to meet with HoJo, and managed to get both my cohort and I back on the road to central Iowa in once piece. (First time driving in the Twin Cities, that. I’ve been there a few times of course, but I tend to occupy the passenger seat.)

It was a beautiful couple of days, and a pretty perfect road trip.

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