Saturday, December 31, 2005

Good Riddance to 2005

Good Riddance to 2005!

I heard a term from Amy Tan's new book "Saving Fish From Drowning".  Insufficient excess is when you do/give/eat/use/have too much, but it still isn't enough.

2005 Stocks Stocks went down for the first time since 2002.  I lost money (housing stocks), but there were some winners too (Google).  The image on the left is the Wall Street Journal's graph of the stock markets in 2005. (Click for larger image.)

The people in the US are suffering from an obesity problem.  The term "fat American" is true (me included).  There are lots of reasons... we drive instead of walk, park as close to the front door as possible, watch too much TV, hire gardeners, eat too much fast food, etc., etc.  Concerned citizens are attempting to fix the problem by taking fast food machines out of schools and putting nutrition information on hamburgers and fries.  I believe the fix to the problem lies within each of us, not in passing ordinances.

I heard a statistic that said almost 70% of our college students graduate without being able to read at a college level.  Here's a quote from an article in the 12/26/2005 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "It's appalling; it's really astounding," said Michael Gorman,
president of the American Library Association and a librarian at
California State University at Fresno. "Only 31 percent of college
graduates can read a complex book and extrapolate from it. That's not
saying much for the remainder."
  More people are graduating, but many of them don't have the skills they need.

So there's your "health, wealthy, and wise".

Let's not even talk about our nation's leaders and the mess they are making here and in the rest of the world.

So, yes, I say good riddance to 2005, and in 2006 I plan to do my part to stop the insufficient excesses we are suffering from, at least in the health (less food) and wisdom (less TV) categories.

LYS in Oakland?

When I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, there was a commercial on the radio which imprinted the phrase "Farms in Berkeley?" in my memory.  You have to say it with emphasis on the "Farms" and the question is asked in an incredulous voice.  (Berkeley is not a farming community.)

When I think of yarn shops, Oakland doesn't pop into my head.  "Great yarn shops in Oakland?"  But the January '06 Sunset magazine talks about a "New north Oakland", and says there is a cool shop at 5010 Telegraph Ave called Article Pract.  The name is a spoonerism for practical art (if you don't worry about the '' vs. '...cle').

It looks like she has a good selection of yarns and classes.  I don't know how their prices compare, but I'm assuming local yarn shops will charge more for yarns than an online discount seller... all that free advice isn't really free.  It sounds like a nice environment to hang out in, even has an outside patio.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Rumor Has It

We have run out of really great films, and now we are seeing the good films.

Movie Poster Today we saw Rumor Has It (B+).  You can click on the photo to see Roger Ebert's review (he gave it 3 stars).

It's the story of the 3rd generation of women growing up in the family that inspired the story for "The Graduate" in the 1960s.  Shirley McClain is fun as the inspiration for the original Mrs. Robinson, and Jennifer Aniston plays Sara, her granddaughter.  Mark Ruffalo, a real sweetie, plays Sara's fiance.

It's a romantic comedy.  It has a happy ending.  Jennifer Aniston is very likable, even when she's playing a commitment-phobic head case.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Wow, December has been the movie month!  Too bad all the good movies are released just before the end of the year.  I think they do it so the movies will be fresh in the Academy Awards voters' little minds.  We have yet to see Capote or Brokeback Mountain.  Sigh... maybe in the early part of 2006 those two movies will arrive in our little farming-slash-university town. 

NY Times Movie Review Today we saw Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (A).  Click on the movie poster picture to see the NY Times review.  The NYTimes says, "Childhood ends for the young wizard with the zigzag scar in the latest addition to the Potter saga...."

Thank goodness we don't have to watch another quidich game, but Harry does get to ride on his souped up broom.  Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) does most of the daring do on his own while Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) are more cheerleaders than adventuring partners.  The rest of the cast is, as always, quite good.

Our three heroes are a definitely into puberty now, with associated teenage discomfort.  This term at Hogwart's there is an international wizard competition.  Each of the wizards, of which Harry is one, must pass three tests and the one to reach the final goal first wins.  Of course the evil Lord Voldemort causes all kinds of trouble.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Movie PosterWe went to see "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (A+).  The NY Times doesn't review it; however, Roger Ebert does.

We went to the Pageant Theatre in Chico, and they surprised us with a short Christmas cartoon as a gift, "Penguin Christmas Caper", which was really cute.

The Wallace & Gromit movie was lots of fun, and all the old kids laughed just as loudly as the young kids :-O  It's full of visual and verbal puns in the funny British style.  Wallace and Gromit have a humane pest control service called "Anti Pesto" (nudge, nudge).

Yes, Gromit knits for a bit in this one.  He waits in the car on a dark night and knits to keep his fear away, needles clicking.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas(Santa's on his way!)

The Mantle

Merry Christmas
(Santa's on his way!)

Wishing us all Peace on Earth and Good Will to All Peoples.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Movie PosterToday's movie was Syriana (another A+).  Most reviewers are recommending it, and I have to agree.  It's good, even if I had to plug my ears and close my eyes during a torture scene (rated R for violence).

It's written and directed by Stephen Gaghan who was also responsible for Traffic, another very good film.  Traffic was about the "war on drugs".  Syriana is about many things - terrorism, Big Oil, US involvement in the Mideast.  The NY Times calls it a geopolitical thriller, which it is.  It is the simultaneous telling of 5 stories so you have to pay attention, but it's worth it.

The acting by George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, Amanda Peet, William Hurt, Christopher Plummer, Alexander Siddig, and Shahid Ahmed (huge cast) is superb.

The inspiration for the movie came from a book by Robert Baer: See No Evil.

Letters to the Editor

This letter to the editor was in the December 22, 2005, Chico Enterprise Record:

Library book inappropriate

My friend told me she took her 9-year-old daughter and one of her
daughter's friends to the public library for a "wholesome" afternoon
outing. This is the public library supported by taxpayers' dollars.

My friend's
daughter checked out several books from the children's section. My
friend later heard some giggling coming from her daughter's bedroom and
went to see what they were laughing at. One of the books her daughter
had contained very graphic information on the birds and bees along with
information about condoms and the use of them. Who would think one
would need to monitor books in the children's section of the public

When public schools, libraries and other government entities took
it upon themselves to decide when, where, and how much information our
children need regarding sex instead of the parents, where this
responsibility rightfully falls, the return for society was
skyrocketing illegitimate birth rates, sexually transmitted diseases,
at-will abortions, welfare abuse, and on, and on ...

Raising children does not "take a village," it takes parents
who are diligent, responsible, involved, and consistent. Schools need
to stick to academics, and the libraries should provide books to
children that are appropriate.

�Victoria K. Coots, Oroville

I hardly know where to start.  A book about the "birds and bees" is appropriate.  If parents don't feel comfortable talking about sex with their children, then the kids will get the information someplace, and the library is a good place to start - much better than learning from a sexual predator or a boy or girlfriend, much better than turning into a teen parent because you didn't know the facts, much better than having to decide whether or not to have an abortion before you are mature enough to make the decision (assuming the friend's child would have been given a choice).  A book found in the Juvenile section of a library is appropriate for ages less than 12.

I looked in the Butte County Library Catalog, and the only book checked
out on the subject is "It's a girl thing : how to stay healthy, safe,
and in charge" / by Mavis Jukes ; illustrations by Debbie Tilley (1996).  Info
about the book can be found at  The description says the book is appropriate for ages 10 to 14; however the "Product Details" say the book is appropriate for ages 9 to 12.

There are several other books in the Juvenile section about Sex education.

And, if the "friend" is concerned about what his or her children are reading, then he or she should monitor the books they check out from the library.  It's the parent's responsibility to know what their children are doing.

I say BRAVO TO THE LIBRARY for making information available!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Winter Solstice

The word for the day is quotidian, which is an adjective meaning everyday, commonplace.  And that's what this Winter Solstice day is.

Winter Solstice view Here's the view out of my loft window.  It's cold and rainy.  There are no leaves on the trees.  It makes me want to stay inside and knit or read (or play with the computer).  It doesn't get any more quotidian Winter than this in Chico.

I checked on the tub of bulbs and there are no daffodils poking through.  The roses are beginning their winter doldrums.

I want sunshine!  Okay, we need the rain.  California always needs the rain.  Before this string of rain storms blew into town Dave, the weatherman, was saying we are a little over 2 inches shy of normal.  Phooey!

So what is the good news?  The rain gutters are clean :-)

Have a good solstice day!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Walk the Line

Walk The LineWe went to see the Johnny Cash & June Carter story - Walk the Line (A+).  Juaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon (!) do a great job.  The acting is great, even from Ms. Witherspoon, and they both did their own singing.  The only time you hear the voices of Cash and Carter is in the closing credits song.

Johnny Cash's life story isn't pretty until he finally marries June Carter.  He lives a very self-destructive life until she steps in to help him recover from addiction to pills, and then life begins to turn around for him.

I didn't realize that he was on road tours with Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley in the 1950s.

I liked this love story better than Pride and Prejudice.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Head gear

I finished Bill's headband.  It was really, really easy:  Do a provisional cast on, knit 'til ears are covered, do a purl row for folding, knit same length again (minus one row), do second purl row, knit one row and then remove provisional cast on and kitchener stitch the beginning with the end.  It makes a nice double thick and warm head band.

Double Thick Headband

AAA And now Leslie's tam is being blocked.  I took the instructions from my favorite book about tams, Knitted Tams, by Mary Rowe.  This book was published in 1989, but it's still good - heads haven't changed shape very much.  I did a basic tam with a tubular cast on, instructions all written out very clearly in the book.  Easy.

I had a couple of balls of Debbie Bliss "cashmerino aran" yarn (55% Merino wool, 33% Microfibre, 12% Cashmere - 50G balls) in a light gray.  It's easy to work with and feels great, very soft.  I did a gauge swatch using US 9 needles, but ended up doing the tam on size US 8s, because I wanted a little tighter feel.

Here are two pictures of the tam, one of the top and one of the brim.  It's blocking on a dinner plate.  It took me less than a day.  Tams are really fast.  I'm assuming the intended recipient will be happy, but I am going to put a note in that says if she doesn't like it, then please pass it on to somebody who will.

tamTam brim

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Maggi MacPhee (1931 - 2005)

Maggi MacPhee

My dear friend, Maggi MacPhee, passed away December 13th.  I'll miss her. 

That should be enough to say, but just in case you are reading this, Maggi, I'll go on just a bit.

Thanks for your daily notes.  I'll have to get used to hearing you in my head instead of reading you on the screen.

You were the reason I started this weblog.  I thought I could keep you entertained with pictures.  You are my biggest cheer leader.  I think nobody else reads this drivel, and if they do perhaps they just don't care enough to comment with the same kindness that you did.  You were a real friend to me. 

Yes, a friend... how long has it been?  We met in the early 1970s, so I guess we've known each other for about 30 years.  When I met you you were one of the most frightening people in my department at IBM.  Your temper was legendary.  As the years went by I figured out your temper was mostly bluster.  Still, you did not suffer fools quietly :-)  When you started at IBM, you were often the only woman doing your job.  Women math majors who chose a career over babies were rare in the 1950s!

I've known you through your close family passing away, a husband passing away, pets passing, ... and now you passing.  Surely you will be inside the pearly gates by now, running with the animals, visiting with your father and sister, maybe an old lover or two..., but the biggest thrill must be taking big, giant, deep breaths, in and out, and feeling no pain.

PS: This was posted in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, December 16, 2005

Margaret MacPhee

Margaret Maggi S MacPhee, age 74, of Aptos, passed away Tuesday December 13, 2005. Born August 6, 1931 in Muskegon, MI to the late Dora Moon and Archer Sampson. Maggi graduated from Occidental College and built a successful career as a computer analyst.

Maggi was a long time resident of the Santa Cruz area and had been a member of the local welcome group, and The Ladies Who Lunch group. She was also active in the local PC club and spent time serving on the Board of Directors.

Maggi was a lover of animals and in her life had several horses, dogs, cats and birds as part of her family.

Preceded in death by her husband, William MacPhee, and her sister, Janet Sampson Barone. Survived by her step daughter Marcelle MacPhee Krause of California, nieces, Missy Barone of Moreno Valley, CA, Patti Barone of Canton, OH, and Karen Barone of Richmond, VA, and brother-in-law, Robert Barone of Canton, OH.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, December 20, 2005 at 11 a.m. at Benito and Azzaro Pacific Gardens Chapel with Rev. Richard Bowman officiating.  Friends may call Monday, December 19 from 4 p.m until 8 p.m.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Good Night And Good Luck

Strathairn and Murrow

We went to see Good Night and Good Luck (A+) today.  It was really, really good.  In the movie David Strathairn (left in picture) plays Edward R. Murrow (on the right) in the 1950s.  It is shot in black and white and looks absolutely real.  The Murrow character makes speeches I wish our politicians had the courage to make today.  The movie addresses the use of Fear by politicians.  The movie is talking about Murrow's fight with McCarthy in the '50s, but the Murrow speeches could be said today and apply just as well.

Go See It.

Here is the NY Times review.

Friday, December 9, 2005

Jack's Holiday Balls

Jack's Balls I decided I had to have one of those Jack In The Box antenna balls.  Jack has a box just around the corner, so out we went for lunch at a fast food place for the second time in one week -- went to In and Out Burgers on Tuesday(?).

I got to the counter and determined that I had to order a "Large Combo Meal" in order to secure my prize.  I settled on the Spicy Chicken meal #4... and chose the Snowman with the Top Hat for my antenna.

The antenna got the better deal!  My fries were soggy; there was mayo dripping out of the spicy chicken; and the drink was at least one quart of carbonated stuff not resembling my favorite beverage.

If you ever have a choice between In and Out Burgers or Jack In the Box, then by all means go to In and Out Burgers.  Better yet, chose neither and find a fresh salad instead.

Thursday, December 8, 2005


NY Times Review Today we went to see Rent, a musical based on the opera La Boheme (A-).  You can click on the picture to see the NY Times Review.

There were moments when I was moved to tears.  Dying of AIDS is pretty sad, and of course the most lovable character is the one who dies (great part for Wilson Jermaine Heredia as the cross dressing Angel).  There were also moments when I was ready to nod off.  The NY Times gave it an affectionate lukewarm review ("Mr. Larson's creation belongs with "Hair" and "Fame"
in the pantheon of immortal musicals with one-word titles celebrating
the self-dramatizing, unembarrassable and resilient spirit of youth.

It's about young people in the early 1990s in NY City.  They are living a bohemian life.  There is a very close knit group of friends and the musical is about them.

Musically, Tracie Thoms is a real find.  She can flat out sing!  The entire cast was marvelous.  The only song I felt like I had to have was "Seasons of Love", which features Ms. Thoms.  I've already downloaded it from iTunes :-)

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Seaman's Scarf

I finally finished the Seaman's Scarf.  I guess it's good enough to give to my manly cousin as a gift, along with a matching headband, but I won't knit with it again.  The yarn is too bulky.  I prefer something a little finer.  The pattern was written out in a previous post.

Seaman's Scarf

The yarn is Nashua Handknits "Creative Focus Chunky".  It's 75% Wool and 25% Alpaca, and knits up at 3 sts to the inch on US 10.5 needles.  The picture shows the scarf still a little damp after washing.  I was distressed to see some blue color in the wash and rinse water, so I guess there is some dye left in the yarn after processing.  It wasn't expensive yarn ($7.99 US per skein at my local yarn shop).  I guess you get what you pay for.

As you can see from the picture below, the yarn is fuzzy and just a little prickly.

A Lazy Knitter

Just like tennis, follow through is important in knitting.

I dream of projects that will probably never be knit... sweaters from vogue, thrumbed mittens (mittens with fleece woven in for warmth), head band for my manly cousin, capelet for around the house... and the list goes on.

I was reading Kim Salazar's blog this morning wherein she is thinking about her next Christmas present project.  When I read her blog I just know she will follow through with the design and completion of the flip-top mittens she is contemplating.

That's the difference between a productive knitter and a knitter like me - a lazy knitter.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Bidwell Overpasses & Decorating for Christmas

Hwy 99 Overpass in Bidwell Park Hwy 99 Overpass in Bidwell Park Hwy 99 Overpass in Bidwell Park

The Hwy 99 overpasses have been decorated with pictures painted by local artists.  I think the idea is to discourage graffiti.  There are three pictures, and if you like you can click on the thumbnails above to see a larger image.

It was really cold this morning - so cold there was frost on the leaves.  The forecast was for a low of 31F - just below freezing.  Brrr!  So, once again we bundled up for our walk, which was pretty darned short this morning.

The Living Room Then it was time to decorate the house.  Here's the living room, taken from the dining room.  We got a 25' bough to hang, hoping the real cedar would provide some natural seasonal smells.  The tree is artificial and of course has no smell.  Having an artificial tree is the only way to put a tree up this early without causing a fire hazard from a dried up fir tree.

We put some fir branches on the mantel and on top of the book case too.  In case all those natural pieces of tree don't provide a nice smell, we have a spray can of smell which isn't too bad.

Bob Hilger

Bob Hilger ObitBob Hilger passed away last month.  I worked with him for a long time in Menlo Park, CA, at IBM.  He was a really, really good guy and we had several long lunches at the Winery.  I haven't spoken to him in ages, but still... it is sad when an old friend passes.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Shopping in Downtown Chico

3rd St.

I went downtown to do some shopping in Chico today.  The heavy duty Christmas decorations are not up in the streets yet.  3rd street is shown above.  But... Made In Chico, which is a store carrying only locally made items, has all their Christmas things ready.  They have almonds and walnuts, walnut oil, olives and olive oil, books, hand crafted holiday decorations, hand woven or knitted items, iron garden signs, jewelry, soap and more.  The amazing thing is that they fit it all into a pretty small store!

Made In Chico

And now for the bad news:  We were only there for a 35 minutes, but put enough change in the meter for two hours... wasted almost 75 cents.  I hope the next person or two parking in that spot appreciate the gift!

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Yarn Preferences & Scarf Pattern

I'm old fashioned.  I don't like the new eyelash yarns or the faux fur crap.  I'm not a big fan of bulky yarns.  In fact my favorite yarns are sock yarns, fingering weight (called "Super Fine, 1" in the current lingo).  Lace weight (too fine to have a weight name) is nice too.  DK weight ("Fine", 2) is okay too.

I recently bought some Chunky weight ("Bulky", 5) weight to make a hat, but it wasn't bulky enough, so I've decided to make a scarf with it instead.  It's kind of a Seaman's Scarf, and so far it's not that much fun to work.  Here's the Untested pattern.  A picture and more notes are in a subsequent post.

Update (10/20/2006): My memory is iffy, but I'm almost certain I had about 200 yards of this Creative Focus Chunky yarn.

CO 30 sts.

Pattern Stitch.
Row 1: K3, P3.
Row 2: P3, K3.

Repeat Rows 1 & 2 for 14 inches, ending with the completion of a Row 2.

Ribbing Row 1: K all sts. (right side row)
Ribbing Row 2: P3, K1, P2, K1, P3, K2, P1, K1, P2, K1, P1, K2, P3, K1, P2, K1, P3 (wrong side row)
Ribbing Row 3: K3, P1, K2, P1, K3, P2, K1, P1, K2, P1, K1, P2, K3, P1, K2, P1, K3 (right side row, purl the purls and knit the knits)

Repeat Ribbing Rows 2 and 3 for 12 - 14 inches, ending with a completed Row 2.  Repeat Ribbing Row 1.

Beginning with a Row 2, work pattern stitch for 14 inches (Thanks 'pfirsch' for the correction!).

Cast off.


Here is the chart, abbreviated.  ("|" = Knit on right side.  "-" = Purl on right side)

---|||---|||---|||---|||---|||  (Pattern Row 1)

|||---|||---|||---|||---|||---  (Pattern Row 2) (Repeat 2&1, 14")

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||  (Ribbing Row 1)

|||-||-|||--|-||-|--|||-||-|||  (Ribbing Row 2&3)

|||-||-|||--|-||-|--|||-||-|||  (Ribbing Row 2&3) (Rep 12-14")

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||  (Ribbing Row 1)

|||---|||---|||---|||---|||---  (Pattern Row 2)

---|||---|||---|||---|||---|||  (Pattern Row 1) (Rep 1 & 2 for 14")