An observation

From time to time I contact my elected officials to let them know my opinion on certain issues. Usually this takes place via a website or e-mail, and often I am asked to select a category for my communication as well as provide additional information about myself.

One of my U.S. senators, Bob Casey, requests a salutation. The default selection in the drop-down menu is a blank.

The other of my U.S. senators, Pat Toomey, also requests a salutation. The default selection in the drop-down menu is “Mr.”

What do you make of that?


Being a girl

This reddit post has been making the rounds over the past few days, but it’s so awesome that I have to post it anyway, in case you haven’t seen it before now.

My 8 year old daughter’s unexpected response to a writing assignment about being female…


Life Update

Wishing: For a sundial like this one to put in my yard.

Laughing: About this video on YouTube, which features one joke from every MST3K episode. My recent discovery of this is well-timed: just a few weeks ago I met Joel at an MST3K event and got to shake his hand.


Reflecting: On the hidden costs of chocolate.

Being delighted: By the fact that not only was my daughter thrilled with the new socks I just finished knitting for her, but she was so pleased that she wore them right away. Even though it was 95 degrees outside. Now that’s gratifying!

Watching: Or trying to watch, at least, My Dinner with Andre. It’s famous and there are a gazillion cultural references to it, so I figured I ought to (finally!) watch the thing. I got about forty-five minutes into it and had to turn it off. I recognize that it was innovative for its time, and the premise could still make for a good movie today. But the conversation itself was so mind-numbingly dull that I just couldn’t bear it.

Reading: Nation, by Terry Pratchett. It took me a little while to get into this book–most likely because my subconscious kept expecting Discworld fare–but once that happened I was hooked. The premise is somewhat grim, and the overall tone is decidedly lacking in the humor of his other works. But his usual themes are present: questions about religion and rationality, criticisms of social class, clever wordsmithery.

I hate the ending, though. Long before it arrived its inevitability was apparent, and I found myself reading the last chapters while hoping Pratchett would enable the protagonists find a way to escape the destinies that seem to be laid out before them. No such luck, I’m afraid. The ending is bittersweet and leaves me feeling punched in the gut…but honestly, I can’t imagine how else the book could have ended without ruining it. So for all that I do hate the ending, at the same time I think it’s appropriate.


A discovery

You know how they say that printer toner is the most expensive fluid on the planet? An ounce of it costs more than gasoline or pretty much anything else you can think of. But a few days ago I discovered something even pricier.

In order to combat an allergy-induced, contact-lens-wearing-exacerbated infection in my eyes (I’ve been walking around with itchy and mostly red eyes for the past few weeks), my optometrist prescribed some combination steroid/antibiotic eyedrops for me. A 5ml bottle of this stuff costs $125. And that’s with insurance.


A few more words

Thanks, everyone, for your kind words about Doug (posted here and sent to me privately). I do appreciate it.

It’s interesting to see the public remembrances of him that are appearing everywhere. The crossword-puzzle folks have been especially prolific in that regard. (Not really a surprise there: they are numerous and love words, and Doug was a pillar of that community. His friend Will Shortz (NPR’s Puzzle Master) wrote this tribute on the New York Times. Doug was a longtime resident of the Philadelphia area and passionate about early American history. It makes sense, then, that the Philadelphia Inquirer and remember him, too.

I knew about his love of crossword puzzles and his interest in history. But there were other aspects of him that don’t appear in those writeups: the time he offered to lend me money from his own pocket so I could make my rent payment when our dot-com startup funding dried up and the staff went without paychecks for months (as one of the company founders, he had put his own paycheck on hold even earlier, to keep money around for everyone else as long as possible). The times we disagreed about webpage layouts (I sought editorial consistency, whereas he often resorted to “we can’t do that in HTML”). And the time he stole Stephen Sondheim’s copy of the New York Times.

Lots of good stories and memories to hold on to.




Difficult times

Yesterday I did one of those things that truly sucks to do but at the same time is truly important to do: I went to visit a dying friend. Doug was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer about half a year ago, underwent (unsuccessful) treatment over the winter, and last week moved to a hospice home.

I was there for about an hour, and it was simultaneously lovely and heartbreaking to see him. His body was clearly failing him and he was in much pain, and though he didn’t talk much his eyes twinkled occasionally as it was clear he was hearing and enjoying the conversation around him. Doug and I had worked at the same dot-com startup (which he co-founded) a little over a decade ago, and I remember him most for his intellectual curiosity, his love of words (he wrote crossword puzzles for The New York Times), and his love of theater, especially Stephen Sondheim. In fact, Doug was responsible for my proper introduction to that music. One day at work he was horrified to discover that I didn’t know much about Sondheim and set out to rectify that immediately: we spent the next hour listening to Pacific Overtures in his office. The last time (before yesterday) that I saw Doug in person, in fact, was in the spring of 2003, when he organized a group of people to see a professional production of Pacific Overtures at the Arden theater in Philadelphia.

I left the hospice yesterday with a heavy heart, fairly certain I would not see him again. And feeling a bit sad and bewildered by the randomness with which these sorts of things happen to people. Over dinner last night I explained to my seven-year-old daughter that I had gone to visit a friend who was dying and told her about him. “Is he a nice person?” she asked. “Oh yes, very nice,” I told her.

This afternoon the message went out: Doug is gone. I read the post and started crying, and my daughter started crying too when I told her what happened. “Why are you crying?” I asked, since she’d never met him. “Because he was a nice man and I miss him,” she replied.

You know what? He was a nice man. And a lot of people will miss him.


Today is a special occasion

May the Fourth be with you!


Is technology making us lonely?

“Within this world of instant and absolute communication, unbounded by limits of time or space, we suffer from unprecedented alienation. We have never been more detached from one another, or lonelier. In a world consumed by ever more novel modes of socializing, we have less and less actual society. We live in an accelerating contradiction: the more connected we become, the lonelier we are. We were promised a global village; instead we inhabit the drab cul-de-sacs and endless freeways of a vast suburb of information.”

What do you think?


My current project

This is the Cloisonné Jacket from the fall 2010 issue of Interweave Knits. I’m actually knitting it in the yarn called for in the pattern, Berocco’s Ultra Alpaca, and so far it’s going all right.

I had consulted with a friend about how to convert this knit-flat pattern into one knit in the round and had worked out all the fiddly details. But once I started the two-color section, I didn’t like the bulk created by carrying both colors through the middle part (which would later be cut, folded under, and sewed down). Figuring that the pattern was written flat for a reason, I decided to follow it as written.

(via Bits and Pieces)

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