Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Exciting Yarn Purchase!

I recently made a trip to my favorite yarn store in anticipation of starting my first projects from Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel.

First, I bought Plymouth Encore Chunky for the Spicy Fitted V-Neck Tee:

And for the Short Sleeved Cardigan with Ribbing I bought the recommended Cascade 128:

I looked forward to Fitted Knits for a very long time, and it does not disappoint.
I especially love this book for a couple of reasons:
1. It is all sweaters. No scarves, socks, cozies, or other filler. Just wonderful yummy sweaters.
2. There are fewer items I dislike in this book than in any other. Pretty much every knitting book has a few things that make me ask "why?!" but this one, not so much.

Ironically, these were two of the patterns that I didn't like at all when I first looked at the book, and they're still not my favorites. I'm baffled by the idea of a garment that is both short-sleeved and made of wool. Presumably, if it's cold enough to wear wool - bulky wool, mind you - isn't it cold enough for long sleeves? I actually tried finding cotton for the Spice V-neck, but bulky cotton is hard to come by and I was looking for a pretty specific color range. Plymouth Encore is around 75% acrylic but it is still pretty warm, so I bought an extra skein in case I decide to lengthen the sleeves. There is also the possibility of wearing a long-sleeve shirt under the sweater. I meant to buy extra yarn for the cardigan as well, but had such a difficult time choosing a color that in the end I forgot all about buying an extra skein.

I've admired Stefanie Japel's patterns for a long time, but most of them have been sweaters that look fantastic on her but would look horrible on me. (I just can't pull off bobbles, Stefanie.) Fitted Knits contains many sweaters that I think would look great on me and other non-model types. It's well worth the purchase price. Granted, I got it for my birthday so it was free, but if anyone out there is thinking of buying it, you have my wholehearted endorsement.

I plan to cast on for one of these projects as soon as I finish my rop-down raglan. I'm almost done!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Review of 23 Library 2.0 Things

You may remember from my first post that I began this blog as part of an online learning program called 23 Learning 2.0 Things. This program, which should not have taken me this long to complete, was designed for staff at this library but shared online for anyone who wanted to participate. (Though the rest of us didn't win mp3 players for completing the program - drat!)
Helen Blowers did a fantastic job of putting the program together and recording podcasts for each module. Really, I can't imagine how much work it was to put this together. With the exception of a shudder-inducing grammatical error on Thing #18 ("Web-based Apps: There Not Just for Desktops") it is very professional and very organized. The topic of social networking sites was noticeably absent and with all of the hullabaloo about MySpace, particularly in the library world, I'm flabbergasted that it wasn't included.

A few of the things weren't new to me which I suppose is a sign that I'm not a complete Luddite and that is always good to know. I've been using Bloglines for a while, I've downloaded audiobooks from Netlibrary (and experienced the frustration of not being able to listen to them on my mp3 player of choice, but I digress), and I've watched videos on You Tube. I'd clicked links to photos on Flickr but never spent time looking around the site, and I use Wikipedia frequently but hadn't looked at other wikis.

I had never seen the online productivity tools like Zoho Writer and Google Docs. They are a great idea, though I'm not certain I'll necessarily use them. But I probably should, as having an online space for documents certainly seems better than constantly emailing them to myself.

A few of the things, though I was glad to learn about them, mystified me. I couldn't figure out the point of Technorati. I dutifully signed up and added my blog and then thought - now what? What am I supposed to do? You can use the site to find blogs on particular subjects, but Google works very well too. I'm probably missing something, but if I can't figure it out from exploring the site for 10 or 15 minutes it's not worth my time. Similarly, Rollyo isn't particularly useful. Basically you create your own search engine by choosing which sites you want it to search. For example, I could make a knitting search that will only search my favorite knitting sites. This would make sense if you want to repeatedly do a search on a specific set of sites, and I'm sure someone out there finds it useful, but not me. I had heard a lot about LibraryThing but hadn't ever used it. It was really very fun, for about ten minutes, and now I'm not sure I'll ever even look at it again. It's just one more thing to increase the strain on the username and password-remembering part of my brain.

Do you ever feel like you have too much stuff, and just want to leave all the books and yarn and animals and forks behind and go live in a yurt? Well, I do and signing up for all of these accounts made me feel similarly burdened and yurt-deprived. While I think it's important to be aware of new things on the web, most of the things in the program are incredibly specific and therefore not particularly useful in my everyday life. If I were to ever attempt to keep up with it all, it would surely be at the expense of other hobbies such as, say, showering or eating dinner.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

How long does it take YOU to listen to an audiobook?

Finally I have finished listening to A Dangerous Mourning by Anne Perry, no thanks to Apple or DRM law or whatever is responsible for the fact that I cannot listen to this audiobook on my iPod. This means I have to listen on my laptop which doesn't have decent speakers so I really have to be sitting right next to it. I've gotten a lot of knitting done, but it wouldn't have taken me nearly as long to get through the book if I could have listened while walking to and from work like I originally planned.

I actually looked into some ways to convert the files so they could be played on my iPod, but the fact that my library's eAudiobook collection is so crappy isn't really putting the needed fire under my butt to get going on this. Recently I discovered that the Boston Public Library has a much better collection, so this may be the motivation I need. Incidentally - because I do generally like to be on the good side of the law - I looked into purchasing eAudiobooks from iTunes. Guess how much they cost? Right around $25 each. Isn't that just the craziest thing you ever heard? So I may buy a program like this one to copy audiobooks into a DRM-free version that can be played on my iPod, since they claim it isn't actually illegal, but instead takes advantage of loopholes. I'm all about loopholes.

I enjoyed the book quite a bit, though I'm not a great judge of mysteries since I don't read many of them. A Dangerous Mourning was the second in a series, the first of which I read for my book group. These are not like the few other mysteries I've read - they're neither cozy nor humorous. In fact, in this book Perry actually allowed an innocent man to be sent to the gallows before the real culprits were caught. That just pains me. (And is one of many reasons why capital punishment is wrong. There, I said it.) I've really enjoyed both books in the series so far. The characters are complex and developed enough to be believable, and there's a great sense of history as well.

I must admit that I was drawn to Anne Perry for reasons I am loathe to admit. I'd like to say that it's because I heard she was a great author, but no...it's because she was convicted of murder herself. The movie Heavenly Creatures is kind of an embellished version of the story but you can read all the relevant documents from the case at the Christchurch City Libraries website (and I have - all of them). It's really fascinating. The only reason that she was not executed is because she was only 15 at the time of the crime, and then she went on to become a very talented author. I think her life and her success represents another argument against the death penalty. But it's bizarre that she chose murder mysteries to write about, isn't it?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Knitting progress, or lack thereof

Top-down raglan - ripped and re-started. I finished the body and then started one of the sleeves. I got about 3/4 done and tried it on to find that it looked like a big ol' batwing. In case you are unfamiliar with knitting top down, the general method is that you start at the neck and increase as you go so you get a larger and larger circle. When you put it on and it meets under your armpits, then you are ready to separate the sleeves from the body. However, I was trying to be smart and leave a little bit of ease under the arms so the armpits wouldn't be too tight. Well, mission accomplished, because I could have easily fit both arms into each armpit! So I chalked it up to a learning experience, and spent an entire episode of the L Word frogging my way back to the pre-armpit area and starting over. It's ok. It's my first ever top-down sweater and I didn't expect it to go perfectly. I've found with knitting that I learn my lessons slowly.

What is up with the weird bulging at the sides? you may ask. That would be my inability to plan waist-shaping. I actually forgot about waist-shaping and suddenly thought "Shit! I should be decreasing. I'll just start now..." which clearly did not work out to my advantage. Again, learning lessons.

Despite the setbacks, I still think this pattern-less top down method is really really easy. I'm just remedial when it comes to judging whether or not something fits. I have the same problem with clothing from a store - which is already made, mind you - so there is no surprise that trying to decide whether or not a partially made sweater will fit has proven so difficult for me.

Blythe coat - abandoned, at least for now.

I made one before, for a swap, and although I knew at the time that I was going to eventually make one for myself, I apparently didn't write down the needed modifications. Or, knowing me, I did write them down and put them somewhere that I wouldn't lose them, which is a sure way to never see them again. I didn't even realize it until I had finished both front pieces and attached them to the back. At that point I couldn't even bother ripping out.

So just like last time I started again, modifying so that it would come out the correct length, with the waist shaping in the right place, and again I didn't write down what I did. Now that it is time to make the front panels I don't know where to make the decreases/increases so the panels will match the back. I can probably wing it, but don't feel up to it right now.

In addition to problems with actually knitting the item, my printout of the pattern keeps mysteriously jumping out of my knitting basket and appearing with bite-sized chunks ripped out of it. I can't prove it's the rabbit, but I'm pretty certain that my cat does not eat paper. (In fact, his recent specialty is eating plants and then throwing up in inconvenient places, like on our white upholstered bench from IKEA). I'm led to believe that perhaps the practice of 24/7 free ranging for the rabbit isn't the best idea, but she is the charge of my lovely boyfriend who treats her like a princess and gives her whatever she wants. Far be it from me to come between a man and his bunny-love.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


A review of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Although this book was published a couple of years ago, I put off reading it because the reviews seemed mixed and if I was going to commit myself to a 647-page book I wanted to be sure. Recently this title appeared on some librarians' lists of "best of" or "kept me up all night" books so I was newly inspired to give it a try.

A 16-year-old girl finds a mysterious book in her father's study. Before he has a chance to tell her the entire story behind the book he disappears, and she realizes he may be in danger and decides to try and find him. Within this story is her father's own story about the mysterious book, and his research and consequent search for Dracula's tomb, and for his graduate adviser who has mysteriously and suddenly disappeared. As if that's not enough, within this story is a third story - of his adviser and his previous, similar search for Dracula.

Usually I'm impatient with books containing a story-within-a-story and there were times that I had to stop and think about which story I was reading at that moment. But given that this was actually three stories nested within each other, I think Kostova did a pretty good job of keeping the storylines separate despite a few moments of confusion on my part.

However, there were a couple of contrived situations that I found a bit disappointing. For example, Helen escaped from Dracula because he thought she died when she jumped off a cliff. Don't vampires usually have some supernatural sense that makes them attuned to whether someone is dead or not? If not, wouldn't he check? Since he had been after her for so long, I would think he'd be interested enough not to assume anything. Otherwise he was a pretty intelligent guy, what with achieving immortality and all, so this didn't really ring true. But these were minor flaws in an otherwise well-told story.

More literary than Ann Rice's Vampire series (which I loved when I was a teenager), The Historian gave me the same sense of satisfaction for it's historical, supernatural, librarian-riddled creepiness. The ending was a little anti-climactic, but that may just be because I had other books waiting for me and was in a hurry to finish. It was a long freaking book. Although the vampires in this book weren't as sexy as Rice's vampires, that lent an added feeling of horror to the story. Personally, I wouldn't have minded being caught by Lestat, but Kostova's undead were scary and creepy and unappealing, as they should be.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Death of Dewey? I don't think so.

In case you missed it, the Maricopa County Library District in AZ is opening a new branch in which the books will not be classified by Dewey Decimal, but instead will use a bookstore model of organization by BISAC Subject Headings. Inevitably, this has caused much uproar and gnashing of teeth and proclamations of the death of Dewey.

Information seems to be lacking on some of the specifics about how this new scheme will be implemented, but nonetheless I already have a few thoughts:

1) They say the library will be organized by subject instead of by Dewey, when in fact Dewey is already organized by subject, so that seems like faulty logic. Dewey is more specific though. When you have an entire aisle of books on World War II it's a good thing to have a more specific location than "somewhere in that aisle." Which bring me to...

2) One of the most satisfying parts of being a librarian is the ability to find out exactly where a book is shelved and walk directly to it and hand it triumphantly to the eager patron. I don't want to do what bookstore staff people do - point you to the general section and just let you go wander aimlessly among the shelves hoping the book will leap out at you as you pass by it.

3) Patrons aren't stupid and Dewey isn't that difficult. Middle school teachers could spend about ten minutes explaining library basics to their classes before assigning that first research paper and it would go a long way towards lifelong enlightenment.

4) None of the articles have mentioned whether this library will use spine labels, but I would think they'd have to if they want to be able to reshelve anything without looking it up in the catalog. A Dewey number would fit on a spine label much better than, say, the words "behavioral psychology" or "linguistics, vocational guidance."

5) One reason cited for this decision is "Dewey doesn't facilitate browsing." Really? Since it is organized by subject, it's easy to point a patron to the section they are looking for - or better yet, put up signs so they can find it themselves - and they can certainly browse. This argument doesn't make sense to me, so I'm convinced I must be missing something here.

6) It's not the end of Dewey Decimal. It's one library. In fact, it's one small branch of a library. It will only start to catch on if it works well and people like it, in which case there is nothing to worry about, is there?

All of this being said, I think there's a lot we can learn from bookstores. I'm a big fan of the library cafe, for example, and fantasize about it frequently while at work. (I also spend a great deal of time fantasizing about a coffee shop in my neighborhood, so this seems to be a recurring theme in my life.) I'm also a proponent of displays, as I think book covers are infinitely more appealing than the spines and patron response suggests that I am not alone in this. I like the idea of libraries as social spaces with added value like author readings and classes, and I do think we should generously stock our shelves with popular materials regardless of their literary merit, or lack thereof. And as unpopular as this idea would be in my library, I think it should be ok to bring in your coffee.

Jeannette Woodward's book, Creating the Customer-Driven Library, is based on these bookstore-inspired principles of marketing and revitalizing your library, and I plan to read it as soon as my library buys a copy. For now, I remain unconvinced that eliminating the Dewey Decimal system will help achieve that goal.