Saturday, January 31, 2009

Metro Journal: Last Day!

I guess most people with the option would have driven on their last day at a job, but I had been carrying my belongings home a little at a time, so I didn't need to worry about carrying a big box of stuff on the bus. And, honestly, I was going to kind of miss the ride.

There was no one else at the 780 stop, which was odd. The bus pretty empty, too. I don't know what was going on. Maybe everyone was playing hookey from work.
I don't feel like work today
Hell, I won't go
-Kristin Hersh, "Houdini Blues"
That's what I had gotten to saying, or wanting to say, just about every day. Well, I had to go, as it was my last day!

I got off at Vine and the DASH was there, waiting on the driver's break. He was on the cell phone. He was still on the cell phone when we left. It was a handset, too. Then he pulled over after he turned onto Gower. I was trying to figure out if I should be grateful that maybe he was going to try to finish his conversation without killing us, or annoyed that he was still on the phone and we were not moving. Then he opened the door and a breathless woman ran on. He had stopped to wait a minute for her. Well, ok. He hung up the phone and we started moving again.

Vine Station
Vine Station Ceiling
Unwind, a great yarn store in Burbank, has their big annual sale on Super Bowl weekend. I took the DASH, which I saw coming down Melrose a minute after I stepped out to freedom, to the Vine Red Line Station. As I was walking to the stairs to go down to the station, I thought I heard someone say my name. I turned around and a man I am sure I had never seen before was talking to me while walking off in the opposite direction. "You're beautiful!" Normally I probably would have resorted to my standard half-smile-and-nod, but I was in an excessively good mood because I was, well, free! I smiled and said, "Thank you," then went down the stairs.

The station is decorated with film-related stuff. I waited a few minutes for the northbound train. Damn, that train is quick! At the North Hollywood Station, the end of the line, there was a crowd trying to get on the escalator, so I walked up the stairs. All 6 flights or so. But what the hell did I care? I was free! It took me a few minutes scratching my head at the map, trying to figure out the huge U-shaped bus bay, but I found the right spot, and after a few minutes I caught a BurbankBus to Hollywood Way and Magnolia. I got off, then proceeded to walk two blocks in the wrong direction. I always come driving up Hollywood Way, so I got a little... confused. But I didn't care, because I was free!

Oh, that back room of yarn made me giddy. Well, maybe some of it was the wine I had now had 3 hours ago, and the fact that I was, well, free!
The Back Room
I had a fairly strict shopping list, as I was now unemployed, so this would be my last major yarn purchase for quite a while.1 I had brought two large fabric shopping bags, and I didn't even fill them, I swear! Except I walked out around 5:05, which means I had probably just missed the 183. It stops at Hollywood Way and Magnolia and stops within a few blocks of my home, but it only runs every hour.2 But what did I care? I was... well, you know.

There's a Porto's Bakery at the corner across from the stop. I had never actually been at one, although I'd been at a couple parties where people had brought their cakes. I decided to get a pastry or something (I was going to have dinner with friends later) and a tea and sit and read until the next bus. The pastry line was really long, but, you know, the whole not caring thing. I saw someone picking up a cake with madeleine cookies on top and a little chocolate sign saying "Super Bowl" over the cookies. Um, ok.

I went out about 10 minutes before the bus was to come, because I couldn't afford to miss it. As it was, it would get me there with just enough time to throw Brad'n'Sarahliz's belated Xmas gifts3 in a fake gift bag and drive to the dinner. (No, I wasn't going to take the bus 10 miles to the east side of Pasadena. Get over it.) The bus was more or less on time. I had never ridden it west of the Glendale Galleria, and hadn't really looked up the route. After the Media Center, it went through what was probably a couple miles of small, residential streets, with lots of stop signs, before it got to San Fernando Road in Glendale. And I got home in plenty of time.

1 Don't worry; I have enough yarn to last, um, a really long time.
2 It doesn't even bother going east of the Burbank Media Center on weekends, which sucks, because it would be great for weekend trips to places like, you know, the yarn store.
3 Magnetic Katamari Damacy, from a free pattern by Amy Shimel.

Whiteboard Jungle: Last Day!

escape I think I was pretty much in a daze all day. It sort of seemed normal for awhile. I got nagged by DBAs, I cursed a stupid user interface, Dan stopped in the door and said, "You're still here?" (he's been saying that for months), and Chang1 was cursing at something.

We ended up in a mob for lunch. I was ordered to go with the mail group by Chang. "See all the people who are going to miss you?" "I don't even know that guy over there. He's a vendor." Turns out 2 of the other 9 people didn't know I was leaving until the lunch. You know, you count on Dan to exercise his normal rumor-spreading duties and this time he just dropped the ball.

Chang flipped me the bird while we were waiting for them to rearrange tables. "This is all your fault!" I managed to get Julie to sit between us as a buffer, but then he kept making me do the power-fist around her.

I had a glass of wine at lunch, and as I rarely drink, that just increased the bizarre quality of the day. Joe asked me if I had driven to work. "Nope, took the bus." In Hollywood, a glass of wine, even with low tolerance for alcohol, means a good chance you're probably still one of the more sober people on the bus.

They apparently "lost" our order ticket, so we were there an hour before the food came out. People who came in after would get their food. "Hey, that guy has my burger!" "Those look like my quesadillas!" Thanks to Ryan for paying my (50% off because we waited so long) lunch. But we didn't see the Raleigh hummingbird2, so I didn't get to say goodbye.

Because lunch ran so late, I had to hurry a little to finish shutting down the computer and saying goodbye to people. Dan had seriously dropped the ball. I felt a little bad when I ended up breaking the news to people by saying goodbye. I also felt a little bad because as I was saying goodbye to people I would truly miss, I had that "I'm about to be free!" smile plastered on my face.

The (totally unnecessary) goodbye presents, in addition to my free lunches:
  • Joe & Bob: A jacket from the Studio Store. Fortunately the company logo is on the back, so I won't have to worry about looking down and being constantly reminded! Thanks guys!
  • Chandra: A very nice pen. I promise I will not let the couch eat it. Thanks so much.
  • Dan: A World of Warcraft 2-week trial DVD-ROM. Um, thanks, Dan...

Final shot of the whiteboard that started it all:
Bob warned me that it may not outlast me long. I told him I have the pictures.

I finished up the 5th floor, went down to the 4th to say bye to Hansen, and then went to my exit interview with HR. I don't know why I bothered once again detailing why I was unhappy enough to leave, because you figure if they really cared enough to fix things, they would have done it before I left, as I'd tried to bring it to people's attention before. But done is done. Except I had left the paperwork on my desk in my cubicle, so I had to go back for it. "Um, no, I didn't change my mind. Sorry!" I was lucky that it was still there. The vultures usually descend as soon as you're out the door, picking out things they want and leaving the rest in disarray. Actually, Dan had already done that in the morning, before I had even left.

I was finally out the gate around 3:10. A huge weight had been lifted3, and it wasn't just that I wasn't carrying a laptop in my backpack anymore.

But I really will miss you guys...

1 I'm not sure there's any way to describe Chang other than "undiagnosed Tourette's." Well, there's also "one-person hostile workplace."
2 Bob: "Why does the hummingbird hum? Because it doesn't know the words."
3 I woke up this morning with a huge weight on me again. What the hell? Oh, it was Spoon.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Knittin' Crap: A Sweater's Story

lilycardi I stayed up a little too late last night finishing this cardigan. Yes, it was about 2½ years since I actually started it. No, it was not at all a complicated pattern, although all those seed stitch borders were pretty torturous. (Seed stitch is Evil.)

I first saw the yarn, Noro Lily Multi, at the beginning on March 2006. I had met my parents at Dulles Airport for my grandmother's 85th birthday. She lived in Richmond with my aunt, but first we spent a day in DC, getting a tour of the Capitol from my cousin, a fire safety engineer there. Afterwards, my father went to the National Air & Space Museum and my mother and I, well, found a yarn store. We took a cab a mile or so from the Mall to a place called Stitch DC. I actually only got two skeins of the Lily at the time because I didn't know what to do with it, and I was actually a yarn-knitting neophyte, not thinking in sweater terms.

We decided to walk back to the museum to meet my father. As we stepped out of the yarn store, my mother told me my father was going to have surgery in a month because he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Personally, I think dropping that kind of bomb in the nation's capital is a form of emotional terrorism, but none of the dozen or so different police forces seemed to notice.

They had caught that cancer early, but my father had all kinds of complications from the surgery itself. A pulmonary embolism led to use of anticoagulants, which led to internal bleeding and multiple infections. He was in the hospital for months and had multiple surgeries for the bleeding. But I never believed he wouldn't make it, even when my usually stoic and optimistic mother panicked. I don't know if it was denial or what, but it was what it was. And he did make it.

Meanwhile, I had found a sweater pattern I liked, a simple one, and ordered more of the same yarn. I was happily knitting away, and had finished the back, the two front pieces, and a sleeve when... no more yarn. I was, after all, inexperienced at choosing my own yarn for a pattern and had underestimated. It was by now about a year, I think, since I had bought the original two skeins. I went to order more and... it had been discontinued by the manufacturer.1 They were out. Uh, what?

I finally found someone selling a few leftover skeins on ebay (yay, ebay to the rescue!), but I had set the sweater aside and started other things. It took me probably another year to get back to it. And then I had to knit those two interminable seed stitch plackets...

lily-side But around that time, my father had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. They only found it at the beginning of June when a brain tumor had altered his behavior.2 And I knew this time that he wouldn't make it. I just knew, because of the bad health he'd been in in the last few years, which had also sapped him emotionally (I cannot understate the severity of his phobia of hospitals, and after being stuck in one for almost half a year, I can't blame him all that much). I couldn't tell either of my parents, though, because I didn't want him to think I had no faith, and I knew my mother didn't want to believe it. I wasn't going to try to break her hope. I don't know if I should have or not, but I did what I thought was best.

Of course, he didn't make it this time. The survival rates once lung cancer has spread that much are grim. We just didn't expect to lose him in three months.

So, I finished the sweater last night. In a convoluted way, it will always remind me of my father.

1 Too bad. I really like working with it. I managed to get sweater-quantity of another colorway at closeout price.
2 They managed to remove the first brain tumor (yes, there was a second one found later), which was right against the skull in front. When I saw my father in the hospital right after, he said they used a jackhammer to get it out. Yup, that was my father, all right. And as stubborn as he was, they would have needed some serious power tools to get through his thick skull.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Whiteboard Jungle: Hansen's Own Label

At my farewell lunch, Hansen noted that he'd searched for his name in my blog "and it came up all over the place!" So, to make it easier for him, I added a "hansen" label to posts where he gets mentioned. I'll even post the label feed for it to make it easier for him!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pandora's Box: The Legend of Rocket Butt

Pandora starred in a very short-lived series of comics published exclusively (and I was assured by the editors, reluctantly), in The California Tech.

Here's the story of Rocket Butt. Legible transcript follows. Reading it may or may not improve the experience.
Rocket Butt
  • You know, I think cats are always negatively represented in the media. It makes me mad. Take comic books for example.
  • There are no feline superheroes. There's Underdog, Mighty Mouse, but no Supercat. The only popular feline image is of Catwoman, and she's a thief.
  • Well, I'm going to stand up for my rights! I'll become the first feline superhero! Well, that's enough standing.
  • But what kind of super powers do I have? Well, I'm cute... I'm very intelligent...
  • Whoops. Excuse me. I had beans for dinner. How embarassing. Oh, no! They're about to light the frosh bonfire! AAH!
  • Whoa! Good thing this tree broke my fall.
  • Wait. This gives me an idea. I can be Rocket Butt, fueled by environmentally safe methane.
  • But "Rocket Butt" isn't a very flattering name. I'll call myself Awesome Kitty Powered by Environmentally Safe Rocket Butt (tm). Awesome Kitty for short.
  • But back to my mission. I'll fight the glom across the hall. If I can't get to my room one more time... Geez.
  • I'll protect the Dabney way of life!
  • Well, if you'll excuse me now, I have to go make my Spandex costume. Oops. Excuse me.
Cartoon Pandora lives on in my illusion scarf:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pandora's Litter Box: 3 Reasons Today Is Special!

Happy Fuzzyversary!
  • It's my birthday.
  • It's my 17th anniversary with Pandora, give or take a couple days. (I don't remember the exact day, and I'm just hoping Pandora doesn't, either.)
  • I managed to take four1 whole pictures of me and Pandora without her even trying to kill me. You can see she was definitely thinking about it, though...
fuzzyversary Maybe if Heather shows up, she can retell the story of how Pandora first popped into Heather'n'Dave's as a filthy, but already managerial, kitten.

1Two of those pictures are never going to see the light of day, I promise you. Yeah, um, Pandora's hair looks bad in them. Or her eyes were closed. Or something.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Other: Story du Jour

My mother has a nose that has clearly been broken. My father liked to say that she had been kicked in the face while milking a cow (she did actually grow up on a working farm), but she'd always reply with her slightly annoyed, "Uh-huh."

Here's the real story. My grandmother would send my mother and her sisters to summer camp every year. My Aunt Mary is only about 16 months older than my mother, so they were about the same size and had the same coloring. One year my mother fell off the top bunk onto the concrete floor of the cabin, which was how she actually broke her nose. The camp counselor drove her home. When my grandmother opened the door, she looked at this kid with an extremely swollen face and asked, "Well, which one is it?"

Other: My Neighbor Totoro

I finally got to watch the film My Neighbor Totoro last night. (Thanks to Jeanne for loaning it to me.) It was the 2005 Disney dub with the Fanning sisters (used in an unobtrusive rather than obnoxiously cute manner) as sisters Satsuki and Mei.1

What I liked about it:
  • Kyuuuuuuuto!
  • Sweet but not cloyingly so2
  • Didn't go into a whole voice-over prologue. ("Mei and Satsuki were little girls whose mother was sick and had been in a hospital a long time. They moved with their father to an old, empty farmhouse out in the country, so when their mother came home, she would have healthy air..." etc.)3
What I didn't like:
  • Not enough Totoro action!

1 Fox and Troma Films had earlier had American rights and had released their dubbed version in 1993. After their license lapsed, Disney grabbed it and made their own dubbed version.
2 If it had been made in America, it almost certainly would have been tooth-decayingly sentimental.
3 If it had been made in America, it almost certainly would have had a least-common-denominator narration.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Other: More Natalie Dee

natalie dee

And I totally need this t-shirt:

Natalie Dee

Although probably not a good idea if I'm actually on a date. Like there's much risk of that.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Metro Journal: Jan 23 Uphill Both Ways In The Rain

It was raining this morning, for real. I had a dentist appointment about half a mile off from my regular route, so I walked (uphill) to my regular stop and got on the first bus that came, one of the Locals. It didn't matter; they all stopped about the same place, and the time difference waiting who-knows-how-long for a 780 would have gotten lost in the short distance. Actually, we did get passed by the 780 about two blocks from where I was going to get off, but we caught up to it waiting to make the left turn right before the stop. There's a Glendale Beeline that goes straight up to the dentist's office, but it doesn't run but every 20-25 minutes, and rain throws all bus schedules out the window, so I started walking, uphill, in the rain. (I did bring an umbrella, because, well, I plan ahead. And I need to keep my backpack overfull.)

After the dentist went scrape scrape, grind grind, vroom vroom, I went outside, didn't see a Beeline, and started walking back toward Broadway, still in the rain, still uphill. Well, maybe not. But as I had taken a Local this morning, I had to walk further to get to a 780 stop. Of course, a 780 went by when I was still 2 blocks from the stop.

A young man got to the stop a couple minutes after I did and asked if these buses would take him to Hollywood and Highland. I told him the 780 would. He said he was from New York, so he was used to the subway. I gave him a quick run-down of public transportation in the Los Angeles area, because, well, that's what I do. He hadn't known there was any kind of light rail. He asked how hard it would be to get back to LAX. "Um, well, it would be several buses." I told him to take a shuttle. Right before the 780 finally came, he asked where he should get off. "Oh, this one will take you right there," I assured him, and that as long as he left before 8PM, he could take the same bus straight back.

Once again, the bus was pretty full. I ended up taking a seat near the back and pulled out the book I had just started reading. The man I had sat down next to asked if it was fiction or non-fiction. I told him fiction, and he said he seemed to end up reading mostly non-fiction now, like Obama's book. I told him about the Gertrude Bell biography I had just finished, and we walked about Iraq, the election, the inauguration (he had almost gone but had to cancel at the last minute, with regrets). He's the editor of the on-line paper The Scoop LA, which covers mainly entertainment, although he had added a commentary page for current events.

We both got off on Western, but he went for the Red Line, and I went for the southbound buses. A 207 was already sitting at the corner... and sitting, and sitting... It was in one of the ancient buses which, instead of a ramp that just flips out for wheelchair access1, has an elevator-type contraption to carry the chair up the steps. This contraption appeared to be stuck in the "outside the door" position. No one was on the elevator, but it appeared that it could not retract completely. The bus was full of people, and they should have been able to get out the back door, but it was closed and no one was making a move for it. A 757 showed up about a minute after I got there, and I would have expected the driver to open the back door for people to switch buses, but that didn't happen. Oh, well.

I walked from the Melrose stop, in the rain, uphill. Well, ok, it's pretty level.

Although it rained pretty steadily most of the day, it had finally stopped when I left. I went out front to wait for the DASH. Another frequent rider was there and said he'd been waiting about 5 minutes, so I stopped to wait. A southbound-DASH went by about 10 minutes later. "That's not good." The other one2 apparently had just been going south right before I came out. I said, "Um, I think I'll just walk to Western."3

The northbound DASH got to the Western/Melrose corner right as I did, but I decided to take my chances waiting for a bus there. I ended up only having to wait about 2 minutes for a 757. It wasn't very crowded, but there was a man standing in front of the middle door and texting on his cell phone.4 After the one person behind me had gotten on, the driver closed the doors, but then reopened the exit. The man didn't look up from his phone until she had closed the doors again and started pulling away. "This was my stop."

Ok, if you want the driver to pay attention to you so you have any chance of getting them to get the door open and let you off before they've pulled away from the curb completely, you need to give it some volume, use some force, and keep it simple. I can bellow a pretty good "Back door!" myself. This guy needed serious practice.

He walked up to the driver, still looking at his cell phone screen, and said some things I couldn't totally make out. The driver had a much more commanding voice, and told him she had opened the door for him twice. I heard him say that she must have seen there were people still running for the bus and she should have stopped for them.5 She told him that she was 30 minutes off from Wilshire. Wilshire is about 1½ miles south on Western. Even if she had been exaggerating by 200%, that was still butt-slow, and I realized then that we were still moving really, really slowly. Traffic really was awful. She told him he had already wasted her time and everyone's on the bus. Yes, still fiddling with the cell phone, he apologized and sat down.6

For the second night this week, I tried to take a picture of St John's Urge. Technically, it's an urgent care center, but the lights for all the letters after the "Urge" part have been out since I can remember seeing it, over a year. Tonight's picture is a little better than the first one, but even that took a lot of amateur tinkering in the GIMP.

I had to wait a fair bit for the 780, which was semi-crowded, but I got on, got a seat near the back, and spaced out.

1 I'm not sure how it is managed construction-wise, but on the newer buses, the doors and at least the first section of seats are right about curb-level. The old, old Metro Locals have 3 actual steps to walk up, and I've been behind many a slow person who had difficulty maneuvering them for one reason or another.
2 They run in pairs, one going north and one south, in theory.
3 In the rain, uphill... ok, neither.
4 The 757 uses those accordion buses, which actually have 2 "rear" exit doors because they are so long.
5 Seriously, if every driver waited until every person running for their bus got on, most buses would never leave their first stop.
6 It's not entirely clear to me, but he seems to have annoyed her long before the stop where I got on.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Metro Journal: Jan 22 Do I Look Like A Subterranean Rodent?

It had rained heavily early in the morning, so the roads were wet, traffic was slow, and the 780 was as full as I've seen it at that time, with just about every seat taken the whole way.

I got off at Vine with about 10 minutes until the next DASH. It was no longer raining, but those stones they use for the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalks are incredibly slick when went. A woman whose garb screamed "tourist," wearing cheap plastic flip-flops, made the mistake of walking on the sloped wheelchair access at the Argyle crosswalk instead of stepping off the perpendicular curb, and I saw the horror cross her face as she narrowly avoided a buttplant.

A man came up and asked me if the DASH stopped at the studio lot. I said yes. He asked if I was in The Industry. I figured it was more or less true, so I said yes.
Man: You're a PA, aren't you?
Me: Um, actually, I work in IT.
I didn't add that I was escaping in just over a week.

"PA" is short for "Production Assistant," but it automatically gets translated to "gopher" or maybe "low-wage wannabe-mogul" or just "slave" in my head. Most of them are just out of school. I am not sure if the comment was about my age, my pink backpack, or some look of vacuous ambition on my face, but the DASH came, I got on, and we were off.

There was a 20-something man already on the bus, talking on his cell phone. His nasal singsong whine made me think "narcissistic moron" right off the bat, and the quality of his insights quickly proved me right.
And there was this girl but I think she's a lesbian but she seemed to be with this other girl who was just totally not her type.
You're not sure she's a lesbian (what made you think so, she wasn't interested in you, maybe?) but you know what her lesbian "type" is? Butthead!

The DASH came about 5 seconds after I walked out. Shirley was already at the stop and said she had been there 20 minutes. Ouch. I just missed the 780 at Vine, but only had to wait about 10 minutes for another one. Meanwhile, a small white pickup had stalled in the right-hand lane on Hollywood right in front of the stop, so cars that had been behind it were going around via the bus lane. I couldn't see anyone still in the pickup and the driver hadn't made any attempt to, oh, I don't know, get the thing out of the traffic lane. It would have been trivial to push it onto Argyle from there.

Other: Gertrude Bell

Some quotations:
I propose to assume... that the welfare and prosperity of Iraq is not incompatible with the welfare and prosperity of any other portion of the world. I assume therefore as an axiom that if, in disposing of the question of the future administration of Iraq, we allow ourselves to be influenced by any other consideration whatsoever other than the well being of the country itself and its people we shall be guilty of a shameless act of deliberate dishonesty rendered the more heinous and comtemptible by our reiterated declarations of disinterested solicitude for the peoples concerned.
Any administration must bring to the task... singular integrity and diligence, combined with a just comprehension of the conflicting claims of different classes of the population. It must also command the confidence of the people so as to secure the co-operation of public opinion, without which so complex a tangle count not be unravelled.
Those words were written by Gertrude Bell almost 90 years ago, when she was one of the key players in the British administration to build a cohesive and what was supposed to be an eventually independent nation in Iraq. They established a somewhat-democratically elected government under the non-Iraqi Faisal bin Hussein, son of the Sharif of Mecca. Faisal was elected king of Iraq in 1921 by the forming nation's various tribes -- with the strong urging of the British, Bell in particular, who was charmed by Faisal's bearing, intelligence, and even-handedness. The new nation had its first elections in 1924, and the British could take a slightly less active role in the country's affairs.1

Bell, whose extensive travels in the area earlier in her life had stemmed directly from her amateur archaeological and anthropological interests, was appointed by Faisal as the nation's first Director of Antiquities and she founded the national museum and formulated laws to stem the thriving black market export of the nation's artifacts. Her health was already failing, though, after years of heavy smoking, ceaseless hard and difficult work ("You may rely upon one thing — I'll never engage in creating kings again; it's too great a strain"), and of living in her beloved Iraq, whose climate had nonetheless ravaged her body.

Bell had never married. The great love of her life had been a British officer. In a different age he would almost certainly have divorced his difficult and ill-matched wife for Bell, but they didn't live in that age, and he died at Gallipoli.

She visited her beloved family in Britain one last time in 1925, but years of loss of loved ones and of difficult choices had left her depressed, and she was frail and tired and had possibly been diagnosed on that visit with a terminal lung ailment, perhaps cancer. Her maid found her dead of a sleeping pill overdose on July 12, 1926, a few days before her 58th birthday. She was buried in Baghdad at a state funeral, and her parents received a flood of condolences from people who had worked with her over the years, known her personally, or admired her from afar, including Winston Churchill, King George V, and of course, King Faisal.

Even late in life, she remained "a social hand grenade." At a small party with a young British official and his new wife, she loudly remarked, in the hearing of everyone there, "Why will promising young Englishmen marry such fools of women?"

Supposedly, her singular historical and cultural insights have become required reading at the Pentagon2, but you'd have to wonder and wish that they'd read them before 2003 instead of after.

However, even if you're not in charge of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, Bell was by any standards remarkable, and Georgina Howell's biography Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations, while clearly rather biased by Howell's unapologetic admirations, offers a vibrant portrait of the king-maker.

1 Britain granted full independence, with some caveats, in 1932, but invaded the country in 1941 to ensure the continuing supply of oil for its war engine.
2 This article, published in 2004 in the online journal Strategic Insights by the U.S. Navy's Center for Contemporary Conflict, compares the nation-building of the British 90 years ago with America's today.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Whiteboard Jungle: Hansen Sr Responds To View-Fixing Allegations

As I reported yesterday, Hansen Jr's picture became my most-viewed picture on flickr. When I pointed this out to Hansen, he denied any point-fixing on his part.
Hansen: hey that is not true - I did not visit him everyday to pump up the numbers
Karen: every other day?
Hansen: I did realize that you were counting
Karen: flickr counts
Hansen: now that I know --- he he he
Hansen: I should pump up the numbers even higher
Karen: you realize I'm going to post this chat on my blog
Hansen: what!
Karen: I'll take that as your permission
[uh... I'm pretty sure this next line was garbled]
Hansen: not
Karen: I'll change your name... to protect, um, yeah
Hansen: actually murloc is more popular
Hansen: it has a combine 59 votes
Hansen: combined
Karen: well, I figure people looking at the murloc check out multiple views,
Karen: so there's overlap
Hansen: so Jr is not that popular after all
Karen: but the miser's purse has been up for months and is linked on a crochet website
Hansen: oh really
Hansen: wow
Karen: and Hansen Jr has been there a month
Karen: and he was up to 47 this morning
Hansen: Well that is great for Jr - I am glad people like him
Hansen: what the numbers don't accrue?
Karen: no, that was a screen shot
Karen: you can't link to the count
Karen: and I think I can only see it anyway
Hansen: oh
Hansen: that's cool
Karen: top 10:
Karen: meerkat-profile 47 0 0
miserpurse 44 1 2
murloc-side 31 0 1
murloc-front 28 0 0
smackdown3 24 0 0
murloc-top 18 0 0
gaugebook1 14 1 0
komon2 11 0 0
komon1 11 0 0
miseropen 11 1 0
Hansen: wow murloc does take top honors with 70 views and miserpurse a combined 55
Karen: like I said, there's probably overlap, one person looking at multiple views
Karen: knitting and crochet people are obsessive that way
Hansen: yeah but I think that still counts and it is pretty cool
Karen: plus now I'm getting World of Warcraft people
Hansen: really?
Hansen: looks like your site is going to be popular
Karen: someone left a comment about it
Hansen: you may want to crochet some for WoW characters
Karen: whereas knitters/crocheters will usually leave a comment on the knitting site
Karen: [name deleted] says:
I LOVE YOUR MURLOC !!!! MMmmmmrrrrllllll WoW ftw
Hansen: ha ha
Karen: most of the people on the knitting site who faved it seem to also be WOW people, too
Karen: they're a strange lot
Hansen: ha ha

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Whiteboard Jungle: Hansen Jr Is Mr Popular!

I was checking my flickr photo stats, and the picture of Hansen Jr has become my all-time most-viewed picture!
I have no idea what that means, but it seems so wrong. Actually, maybe it means Hansen Sr is visiting him once a day, trying to pump up the numbers.

Other: My Catbus Lolcat

I saw this picture on and knew it needed Totorozation.
funny pictures
moar funny pictures

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Pandora's Litter Box: Catnip Yarn?

spvsh6 I finished knitting a shawl tonight and pinned it down, folded in half lengthwise1 on an old sheet on the floor to steam block2 it. I slowly passed the hot iron over (but not on) the whole thing, made sure the steam had passed through to the bottom layer, and then went to put away needles I had used.

When I looked back, Spoon
spvshawl1 spvsh3
was rolling his chubby belly

spvsh4 spvsh5
all over my new shawl.

I swear the yarn label said nothing about catnip content.

Scale reference (standard 36" yardstick):
spvsh7 spvsh8

I'm not sure if I should feel pro-actively clever or if I was getting my just desserts, but I had just groomed Spoon with a snazzy new thingie which actually worked out a lot of fur, so he didn't have much left loose to shed on my new shawl! Maybe that's why he had to stick at it so long!

chevshawl1 Once again, Spoon ruined the light level on the pictures, making the shawl look much darker than it is. For reference, this photograph shows the actual colors better.

1 The shawl is approximately 73" x 21" (185cm x 53cm).
2 Blocking is process of "setting" your knitted or crocheted fabric to the shape and dimensions you want (or as close as possible, if you get way off gauge like I sometimes do). The specifics of the process vary by fiber used, but generally you dampen it and pin it into the shape you want, although not necessarily in that order. I pinned this shawl down while dry and steamed it with an iron.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Metro Journal: Jan 15 It's Your Fault

I had horrible timing this morning, so I decided to catch a Beeline that intersected the 780 at Central and Colorado. I've usually had bad luck with this bus, but I didn't feel like walking another ¼ mile to my regular stop since I was pretty sure I would just miss the next 780 there and have to wait.

Yeah, big mistake.

The Beeline was about 5 minutes late. Whatever. But a woman got on at the same stop I did and then remained in front of the yellow line talking to the driver about something. I couldn't make most of it out, but she kept pointing at the meter and he got out a notepad and we were already sitting there a couple minutes when their voices got a little more strident.
Woman: You're stupid!
Driver: It's not my fault!
Woman: Yes, it is your fault!
And so on.

Finally he told her she needed to sit down, but she just stood there saying she was going to get off "right down there." Finally she moved close enough to the yellow line that the driver just gave up. He stopped at the next stop, assuming as I had that "right down there" meant "the next stop." Well, no, she wanted to get off at the next stop, or something. She did sit down and didn't end up getting off until several stops later, but of course as she was going out the front door, she had to say a few more things to the driver. I was getting really close to telling her to call the damned customer service line, because she was wasting the time of everyone on the bus.

We finally made it to the stop a block away from the 780 stop, but as I was starting down the block, I saw the 780 go by. "Fuck!" If that woman had shut her yap, I would have totally made it.

wheellock The next 780 did come about 15 minutes later, but not until someone had tried to convert me to something. But the whole thing had thrown off my schedule that I got to work half an hour after I would have if the woman hadn't bitched forever about transfers or something. I was not happy. Window Kitty wasn't even in his window when I walked by, but that bike wheel was still locked to that signpost!

I walked out and just missed the DASH, which actually seemed to come at a weird time. I started walking to Western.

bobsfriend One of the interior decorating shops has this weird robot in the front window. If we're coming back in the shuttle from lunch, we always wave at it because it's Bob's buddy. The other day, Bob was excited because the red light on its head was turned on for the first time! Wow!

A block before I hit Western I saw another DASH waiting to make the left. This one was closer to the right schedule, so the last one must have been really messed up. I decided a bird in the hand is better than waiting across the street for another bus (plus the 780s are usually less crowded at the Vine stop than the Western stop, so I'm more likely to get a window seat) so I just got on the DASH.

Of course, this brought me right back to work. Two young dumbasses got on there. One of them proceeded to thrill me with his cultural literacy and astonishing articulation.
Have you ever heard of that movie 1984? I don't, like, know when it was written, but it was written, like, way before 1984 and it was, like, supposed to be what it was like in, like, 1984.
To think I almost missed that.

rmt As I've mentioned previously, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of my comfort movies. As Ricardo Montalban had died yesterday and the theater named for him is on Vine halfway between Sunset and Hollywood, last night I had gotten off the DASH one stop early to try to walk by and take a picture. Um, not for myself, of course. However, because they're building that ungodly WHollywood thing, the sidewalk across the street from the theater was closed, so I couldn't get a proper angle. I did find Clara Bow's star along the way, but that's irrelevant. Tonight, I stayed on the bus, but because we had to stop almost right in front of the theater, I tried to take a picture. You can't make out the letters spelling out the memoriam, though. Oh, well.

The driver was trying to make the right turn onto Hollywood right as the light was changing, and some dumbass was trying to make a left turn into the same (right) lane, making it impossible for the bus to make its wide turn until the dumbass driver did, except he was stopped waiting for the bus. The bus driver started flailing at him to move, then shouted, "Fuck!" Then immediately apologized to us all (me, the two poster children for expository speaking, and some guy all the way in the back with his headphones on). I told her that it was ok, because that's why I didn't drive. She replied, "Some people are just... Lord help me!"

And then a 780 came a minute after I got off the DASH! Wheee!!!

Knittin' Crap: WIP ADD*

ps1If you've ever bothered to scroll all the way down my sidebar, you'll see that I have a lot of projects in various stages of completion. (This doesn't even count the number I have queued but haven't started.) Believe it or not, I normally really do make at least a little progress on each of them every month. I just need, um, lots of variety. And I have a weird system for choosing when which project gets started, which I won't describe here, or probably anywhere.1 For over a month, though, I was going overtime on all the Xmas presents I was making.2 I didn't finish them all: my mother got a half-finished sweater that is now close to being finished3 I've finished two others4 but still need to get them to the recipients. In addition to my mother's sweater, I still have to finish one more small gift. I should be able to get those both done this 3-day weekend.5

bwbag Anyway, I have finally been able to start working my own stuff into the mix again. In the past week, in addition to the penguin scarf, I finished an experimental bag (left) that had been sitting around waiting for the lining to get sewn in6. And, for the first time in over 6 months, I managed to get a sweater done!
A couple other WIPs are pretty close to completion, too. I'm going to shrink that list! So I can start more stuff!

* Works In Progress Attention-Deficit Disorder
1 The method probably qualifies for its own TLA.7
2 I never made the conscious "I will make all my Christmas presents this year as some kind of anti-commercial, economic, or nostalgic statement." I just saw a lot of patterns that made me think, "Oh, so-and-so would like that."
3 I'm sewing the seams. I hate sewing seams.
4 The penguin scarf is one of them. Don't tell Colleen!
5 Because I have no life.
6 Sewing is not my strong point. At least if you expect the seams to be straight... -ish
7 Three-Letter Acronym

Monday, January 12, 2009

Metro Journal: Beaten To The Punch

Crosswalk Rage I decided to google for "crosswalk rage" to see if anyone had picked up on my meme yet, but I was disappointed to discover that the term has been in use for at least a few years. This article would be a nice cautionary tale for asshole drivers.

Police said the victim was driving on Jewell Street near Garnet Street about 1:40 a.m. when he honked his horn at a pedestrian in the roadway. The pedestrian then assaulted the driver, who was taken to a hospital with severe head trauma.
I was the first one to come up with a logo for it, though. Nyah.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Other: So, When IS It Safe To Go Back In The Water?

My mother says the small fry is still growing...
Mom: I wonder when it's safe to take him out of the cage.
Me: Probably when he's too big to fit in his mother's mouth.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Knittin' Crap: Gurgle Yummy Yarn Gurrrgle

I was sitting on the couch, picking up stitches along the front edge of my Vogue Cardigan from Hell1. No one enjoys picking up stitches. For one thing, it's never a 1:1 ratio of stitches, so you have to do some math to figure out how to space the stitches.2 Now, normally I'm very good at math, but no matter how many times I do the math when calculating picking up stitches, I always get it wrong and have to rip back the entire row and start again, usually more than once. That means that I end up with a bunch of ripped out yarn, which usually ends up hanging over the edge of the couch and getting on to the floor...

That's where Spoon comes in. I was sitting there, redoing the pick up row for, oh, the third or fourth time, when I felt a tug. Mr Chubby Butt was trying to disembowel my yarn. I shooed him off3 and went back to work.

chewed Awhile later, I reached a, um, wet spot. Ok, whatever. I looked to see how much he had slobbered on, and then I came to this chewed-off end. I had finally picked up the row with the right number of stitches and was in the middle of purling the stitches of the picked up row front & back, which is a pain, and I was staring at this slobbery yarn end thinking, "There is no way in hell I am going to rip out this half row."4

Spoon, looking sooo innocent afterward
... and plotting his next assault

This cardigan is cursed, I swear it.

1A horribly written pattern. I was so pissed off that I swore to beat it. Or finish it.
2Considerate and well-written patterns will usually do this math for you. However, see footnote 1.
3Actually, I think I yelled, "Cat!" I think they know by now that I only say the word at that volume and with that enunciation when I'm displeased, which means they ignore me anyway. "Oh, yeah, she must be pissed at that other cat."
4It's usually considered best practice only to start a new end of yarn at the beginning of a row in knitting, rather than joining in yarn in the middle of the row. I can probably get away with it better as this row abuts a picked-up edge anyway, which will make it easier to sew the ends back in.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Knittin' Crap: More Totoro Trivia!

chibitotoro According to this "Totoro Encyclopedia," the Ō Totoro (large Totoro) is at least 3 meters tall, Chu (apparently translates to medium, is this correct?) Totoro is about 60cm, and the Chibi (small?) Totoro is 20cm. And can turn invisible. I should have saved the time I spent making Steve the Chibi Totoro and given him an invisible one. Well, ok, maybe not.

(BTW, after I had sewn the chibi's bottom closed and put on the feet, I realized he was way too skinny. I had to open the bottom back up and do some reverse liposuction. (Lipoinflation?))

And I totally love this bit of trivia on the page:
The Cat Bus originates from the Japanese belief that if a cat grows old enough it gains magical shape-changing powers and is called a "bake neko". The Cat Bus is a bake neko that saw a bus and decided to become one.
By the way, just do not google for "bake neko." My co-irker Dan has managed to fool me into doing so twice, yes, twice.

Whiteboard Jungle: Escape from the Whiteboard Jungle!

I decided that while I was waiting for the straw that would inevitably break the camel's back, the camel was already lying dead on the ground and starting to decompose. So, I turned in my letter of resignation the week before Christmas, but offered to stay until the end of January to document and finish up some projects. After that, it's "Screw you guys, I'm going home... for good!"

You can count down with me with the widget in the sidebar!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Metro Journal: Jan 7 How Much Is That Kitty In The Window?

This morning yet another driver waiting not-so-patiently to make a right turn on red was trying to roll into the crosswalk even though there were already people in the crosswalk right in front of him. Then he looked over and there was a police car parallel to him in the left turn lane. He stopped rolling. Dumbass.

I was waiting for the 780. The first bus to go by was a 180. Then, about 5 minutes later, another orange Local was coming, and it also looked like the number in the headsign was 180, but they just don't come that often. I looked again and it was a 780.

Me: You're in a stealth bus today!
Driver: Yeah, I'm in disguise!

I walked from Western again and made sure to check the storefront which had the kitty in it the other day. Sure enough, there he was, catching the morning sunlight. This time he posed for me, rolling around and stretching.


I walked out of work late enough that I wasn't sure about the bus likelihood, but the DASH came 10 seconds later! When we got to Hollywood & Vine, I only had to wait about 5 minutes for a 780! Wheee!

Metro Journal: People Pooper Scoopers

I was cleaning out my camera phone and came across this picture from almost 1½ years ago, when I was still investigating alternate bus options for work. The sign was posted in the front yard of a house on a residential street about a block from work. Just parse it by prefixing "Dogs" to each line...


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Metro Journal: Crosswalk Rage

Apparently I'm not the only pedestrian who experiences road rage at the absolute lack of respectful safety shown to pedestrians by drivers. I posted about it on Ravelry in the "I Knit So I Do Not Kill People" forum and other people have similar feelings. As "road rage" generally refers to excessively aggressive driving, I think we need a pedestrian equivalent: Crosswalk Rage.


Crosswalk Rage

Metro Journal: Jan 5 Window Kitty

wk-small With no sign of a bus, I walked from Western this morning. That bicycle wheel is still locked to that sign. That must be some awesome lock. Usually the wheels are the first thing to go.

There are a lot of little antique, furniture, and/or internal finishing shops along Melrose. Something caught my eye in one window front. It was a kitty! He (I think marmalades are always supposed to be male) opened one eye half-way at me, then went back to basking in the sun.

I didn't have a very eventful ride home, not having to wait more than a few minutes for any one bus. There were 3 police cars stopped in front of a gas station on my last walk home, though. The police were all standing around one car, but I couldn't see what was going on.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Pandora's Litter Box: Blanket Hint

In case you need a hint for the question on this post:

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Other: Le Petit Totoro

Here are pics of the Totoro scenes Steve painted on his son's walls: The corner totoro Caden's room! Here's the totoro after the new windows are up...
Unfortunately, they had to put in new soundproof windows (they live a couple miles from an airport), so a little bit got covered.