BOOKS: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

The Wind in the Willows is one of those classics that I’d never gotten around to reading until recently, even though it has all these attributes of the kinds of books I studied for my undergraduate major. I didn’t even really know that much about it, except for the fact that Disney made a cartoon of it, and that there’s an associated ride at Disneyland where you can go to and then escape from Hell in a cute motorcar buggy.

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Filter them for yourself

Stop this day and night with me, and you shall possess the origin of all poems;
You shall possess the good of the earth and sun—(there are millions of suns left;)
You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the spectres in books:
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things from me:
You shall listen to all sides, and filter them for yourself.

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

TV REVIEW: Danger 5

“Swiss blood—it’s made of money. I think it counteracts Hitler’s magic, undoes the Nazi virus.”

Danger 5 is the TV show I want to make new acquaintances watch as a litmus test for how well we’re going to get along.

It’s not hard to explain or describe, but it’s the type of absurdism that will divide people into distinct groups very quickly. You will perhaps look at the Nazi-mind-controlled dinosaurs, or the Aryan Master Race magic hookers, or the two-star colonel with a gigantic eagle’s head and say, with a slightly confused sneer, What the hell is this crap? and maybe sometimes I will send you a polite Christmas card.

If, however, your response to it is a mixture of disbelief and sheer overwhelming glee at the fact that someone did this, and did it well, then we are blood family bound for eternity and that can never be undone. This show understands me at a level I can’t quite articulate, except that it makes me happy because it deliberately works to fulfill everything I’ve ever wanted in a TV show.

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WRITING: Alice, crafts, and SHAG on the walls

What do you display on the walls of your home — photos, posters, artwork, nothing? How do you choose what to display? What mood are you trying to create?

Wall decorations have to be something I want to look at or that I have a personal connection to—cottage art or something for the sake of filling a space isn’t really my thing. It has to be interesting, and I’m more intrigued by people who decorate with a distinctive style than those who want a space to look traditionally correct, or like something out of a magazine.

I like anything related to Alice in Wonderland, so I go for interesting and unique prints, some from independent artists like Gemma Roman’s up above, others from official Disney artists. I also have a few Alice-themed puzzles that I’ve glued together. There’s a craft store nearby that’s selling huge (like, five foot tall) fake flowers—roses and daisies on these gigantic stalks—and it’s tempting to buy them up and make my own oversized singing garden.

Finished craft projects always get a spot on the wall—cross-stitch hooplahs, paint by numbers. I make lots of them, and am trying to build a style around the notion of excess. I have a librarian friend who’s well known for collecting formal artwork, oil paintings and such, and he’s covered every possible inch of bare wall space with his collection. It’s an entirely different method of collecting, and given how many pieces of embroidery I keep working, I’m thinking I’ll copy his display methods.

My ideal decorating style would be anything tiki-inspired or related to SHAG.

Actually, just let me live inside a SHAG piece and I’ll be set.

Moody colors and clean lines are always fun, and I can’t say I’m averse to macrame planters hanging from the ceiling. He has kind of a Mary Blair/commercial 60’s artwork feel with modern vector effects. I think it’s a hard left turn from the antiques I grew up around, to have a garish statement style anchored to a particular era or theme.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Wall to Wall.”

LIBRARIES: Privacy leakage

Gross title, right? And privacy talk is everywhere and so ubiquitous that sometimes it can be difficult to pick through all the scary helpless noise and actually find something worth paying attention to.

Barbara Fister over at Inside Higher Ed has an eye-opening column about how libraries love to advocate for privacy (they don’t keep records of patron checkouts), but in practice, it’s a little more complicated and unsettling:

But guess what? Libraries are terrible at privacy! We put Google Analytics on our websites. We add buttons for social media platforms that feed information to third parties like woah. We don’t ask vendors why our catalogs don’t use end-to-end encryption. We get ebooks riddled with digital rights management and are shocked, shocked when it turns out Adobe is reading over our patrons’ shoulders (and sending unencrypted information about them and their reading habits over the Internet – oopsie!) Adobe is encrypting, now, but they’re still reading over your shoulder.

She has some good anti-tracking browser plugins and interesting links on the subject—I’d be interested to see a demo of Wireshark in action!

WRITING: Quarter, 1996, age 11.

Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?

The first coin I pulled was a nickel from 1964, so let’s have a good, firm chuckle about me not being alive and move on to this quarter I managed to find that was made in 1996.

Pictured: not the actual quarter I found.

I always have to think hard about what grade I was in school for each year, because through some trick of chance birth dates, they line up—first grade in 1991, second in 92. It’s easy to remember until I suddenly can’t think of whether I was entering those grades, or going out of them.

In the spring of 1996, I was leaving language immersion elementary school, where I had been with the same 23 kids for 6 years. I had been an exchange student to San Luis Potosi, Mexico, the fall before, and had my 11th birthday miles and miles from home, a pool party with my host family and a Hello Kitty birthday cake with white frosting peaks. There was such a big deal made of our leaving 5th grade, I think mostly because we were all like siblings to each other, in the best and worst ways. We filled out questionnaires about ourselves, snapshots of our likes and dislikes at that age, and some PTA parent or another had them bound together like a unique class-only yearbook. I still have mine—filled with revisions to my original answers that I spent the summer carefully writing and scratching out, unsure what my favorite song was but pretty confident that it got frequent rotation on the local oldies station.

Transition to middle school was a different game—surrounded by a whole universe of new people who hadn’t learned the names of human bones in Spanish. I remember taking other language classes by a quarter system (hey!) which meant the course was broken down into half-semester increments. I took French and German and liked them both for different reasons. I met Zannah, who sat behind me and was quiet and funny, and is living in New Zealand now. I met Judd, who had a disposable fountain pen, and somehow that changed my life. A girl with hair pulled back so tight I thought she must have had a permanent headache tried to bully me, threatening to jump me at my locker for some reason I don’t remember now, and I don’t think she lasted more than a year at that school.

There were good things and bad things, and I don’t like the number 1996 as much as I liked 1995, with its paradoxical evenness, but 1996 was alright.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Buffalo Nickel.”

CRAFTING: Limerock blanket

Now that I’ve graduated and am searching for a job, part of staying busy involves catching up on projects that had fallen by the wayside or been shoved into a drawer. I’m good at starting things, let’s say. I should never have to leave the house, I’ve got so much to finish.

A couple of years ago, I was fascinated by a chevron baby blanket pattern featured on PurlBee—the colors drifted into each other in a really neat, modern way and I ordered up 7 hanks of Blue Sky Alpacas Cotton: Lemongrass, Lemonade, Bone, Tulip, Drift, Sleet, and Graphite. Actually working with the pattern just didn’t do anything for me, though, and it all sat in a bag until about three days ago, when I brought it out again and went looking for a more pointy chevron effect, as the PurlBee version just kind of dipped here and there.

Previous attempt: muddled. Every removable stitch marker I own is on there. Blankets shouldn’t require the planning and restructuring levels of a unilateral trade agreement.

Lo and behold, Espace Tricot’s Chevron Baby Blanket. Lovely! Pointy! Done deal. I’m using 10.5 needles, and CO 129—that puts 4 garter stitches at the beginning and end of each row, and I did 4 rows of garter stitches, all to prevent rolling.

For some reason, the start was cursed. It took me five or six (rage) froggings before the pattern seemed to stick in my brain, and I have been forcing myself to count the stitches in each RS wave section to guard against disaster, but last night I moved on to the second color in the bag, and after so many do-overs, it felt notable. Victory.

To calculate how much yarn I was going to need to complete a full set (both a RS and a WS), I pulled my working yarn through a yardage counter, and then measured again when I got toward the end. Here’s my counter and the scrap I was left with.

Yardage counter and Blue Sky Lemongrass leftovers.
Yardage counter and Blue Sky Lemongrass leftovers.

On to Lemonade!

CRAFTING: Pretty Little Cities

2014 was my year of crafting; I hadn’t worked on cross-stitching in a long time and was completely taken by Jodi Rice’s designs on Etsy. She’s a fan of Mary Blair and takes clear inspiration from the Small World ride at Disneyland. The patterns are hard to resist for their distinct color palettes, but I think what makes them so fun to work on is their modularity. They’re structured by sections or pieces, so you can work on this building or that bit of flower and feel like you’ve made good progress.

I love them all, but I’m especially a fan of the tiny backstitching on the Statue of Liberty’s crown.