Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon
Mr. Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Monday, February 28, 2011

Critical thinking

This topic has been stewing in my head for some time. You may recall me last week talking about how I got flamed on Facebook and how that was not cool. What got me the flaming was in challenging other people's criticisms.

When I went to university, I was trained to be a critical thinker. This means being able to see more than one side of the story, for when you write a literary essay, you must argue your point and be able to defend it. When considering how to do this, you must also consider other points that could be used against your arguement. Being good and articulate at arguing your point, as in being persuasive, is what makes a good literary essay.  I also studied for the LSAT a few times (Law School Assessment Test) and quite a large portion of that test is critical thinking.

This skill has served me well in my later education, because when I encountered things like tall claims or strong opinions, I could challenge them by questioning the underlying assumptions. If I challenge someone's opinion, it doesn't mean I think they are wrong, per se, just that I wonder what led them to the conclusion they have come to. Strong opinions, in my view, are often borne from a lack of information, or an unquestioning belief that the source of that information is correct and well-founded. For example, my sister's husband believes that such-and-such a truck is the best truck, and so-and-so makes the best farming equipment. Do they really? Is there empirical evidence to prove that?

This is where being a scientist can get me into trouble. See, people with strongly held views like this have accepted their belief as fact, something that I was trained out of in my education. When you challenge them, they get mad, they may even see your challenging as a personal attack.

This is the point where I try really hard not to look down my nose at someone with less education than me for not having the cognitive ability to understand that others might have a different opinion. I get really irritated when someone is uber-critical of a given topic for no real reason, it seems, other than wanting to spread some venom around. Maybe there is a culture of this on Facebook that I just don't understand and wasn't formerly exposed to. Somebody posted a photo of something and proceeded to tear apart the thing the photo was of. I thought the subject of the photo was rather interesting, and I could appreciate it from an artistic perspective, but my opinion was absolutely silenced when a dozen people seemed to jump on the critical bandwagon to bitch about the thing in the picture. I couldn't believe it. Why would you spend so much energy on negativity?

It's one thing to have strong opinions, but if you assume that your opinions are the right ones and everyone else is wrong, my bullshit filter flings itself into action and I lose respect for what you say. I know I'm not perfect, but I do try to reconcile an issue when an inconsistency in my thinking is pointed out to me. I have often felt compelled to do the same for others, since I feel I have benefited so much from it, but I just know my observations would be met with hostility and give up before even trying.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

being sick, being busy

Bleh.

I stayed home sick from work on Monday & Tuesday last week, and went back to discover that there were no casuals called in to take over for me in my absence. Maybe there are no casuals? That means there was four days of work piled up for me to spend the rest of the week catching up on. I was busy. It was fun. I really enjoy my new job. :-)

In other news, I spoke to my father recently. It's unlikely he will ever read this so I'll give you a nutshell version of what's happening. Some time in January he was admitted to the hospital after coughing up blood (this is what he told my sister's husband) and spent four days on IV. No further detail. Some of you may recall me telling you about the spot on his lung that the MRI found a year ago, and a few other lung associated problems which he was calling 'asthma' first (um, asthma wouldn't show up as a spot - it's either cancer or TB) and then an infection. He contracted pneumonia in the fall and took a long time to get over it. When I said something to him about 'at your age it takes a long time...' he really didn't want to talk about the whole aging thing. That was interesting, I didn't know he had end-of-life issues but there you have it. Meanwhile, all this time he's been waiting for his mail-order bride to come from the Ukraine. He spent a month in Europe (well, Ukraine and Russia) last summer searching for the Right Woman and ended up with Tamara, 31, with a 7-year-old daughter. (Note that I am almost 37 and my sister is 34, so our new 'stepmother' would be younger than us. Ew.) Well first he had to wait until she finished her schooling. She is an accountant, a nurse and a dental assistant. (Yeah right). Her schooling finished and she was supposed to be here in October. Then there was a problem with her ex, he didn't want her to take their daughter out of the country. This is starting to sound fishy. Then, most recently, she was about to board the plane when the government official decided she was a 'risk of flight'.

See, here's how I have it figured. They (the organized crime that deals in human trafficking and scams like this) hook a naive guy like my dad into believing that he will soon no longer be lonely, that he will soon have his new wife. Then they string him along according to a formula to get him to keep sending money. He hasn't told me he is sending money but I have no doubt he is. He lives on a disability pension by the way, so who knows where this money is coming from. At any rate, he still believes this woman is coming to be his wife.

I'll believe it when I see it. If she does show up she will have to learn English in a hurry, and soon understand that my dad really just wants someone to clean his house and look after him as his health fails. Ain't that love?

Okay I'm a bit cynical about the whole thing. It's just a bit surreal to know that your father is trying to get a mail-order bride from a poor country. It's hard to have respect for someone who does that.

Dan's youngest sister is at present in Europe studying German in Germany for a year. She has two months off just now, so her parents are there with her and they are touring around western Europe. All I can think about is all the gorgeous European yarn shops they aren't going into. Well, and the cafes. OMG can you imagine the coffee? And the shopping. I would love to go clothes shopping in Europe.

I'm almost at the 20 pounds of weight loss mark. Twenty pounds! How can that even be? I can't even imagine myself with 19 more pounds on me. Well, I've been able to dig out some of the clothes I haven't worn in a while to discover that they fit again. I am retiring some jeans and pants, will wear them only if I have work at the fish job. Today I put on a top that my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday last year, one I haven't been able to wear because it didn't fit. I wore it all day for the first time! It's very powerful and motivating, being able to get into smaller clothes like this. I wonder why I have never attempted weight loss before. It seems to be easy, but I owe it really to a number of things:
1) the LoseIt! app for my iPhone, which keeps track of everything for me
2) the free Nordic Track elliptical trainer I found on Freecycle (which Dan repaired and I use almost daily)
3) Dan, for being mindful of my need to weigh/measure everything I eat so I can log it
4) my compulsion to lose the weight I've been carrying since all my big surgeries a few years ago before my skin loses its elasticity so that I'm not left with 'wings'.

Last week I think I mentioned we zipped out to Courtenay to pick a new laptop for me, since I killed my other one. (me=sad) I'm still getting used to this one, it's smaller but lighter, is quicker in some ways but not as powerful. I haven't been spending much time on it because I've been knitting like a madwoman. I always knit like a madwoman, don't I? Well, I'm working on Cookie A sock #3 and I've put about 10 hours into it since Friday morning. Here it is: 


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cookie A socks #1 & #2

As I might have mentioned once or twice, Cookie A is coming to Tofino in April to lead us in a retreat, and I am endeavouring to knit as many of her socks as I can between now and then. I was home sick from work on Monday & Tuesday, and was able to finish two of the socks I was working on. Here they are: 













Eunice is green, Cauchy is in browns. Their partners will be knit in April, after the retreat.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The week that kicked my butt

Hi friends,

Another brief update for you. The hard drive on my beloved HP laptop was failing, then I hammered the nail on the coffin when I tripped over the cord and it came crashing to the floor last week, shattering the tablet touch screen. Dan salvaged what he could, was able to recover most of my data, but because I use my computer so much we had to find me a new computer to use fast.

Yesterday we drove out to Courtenay to get Camilla, the little white Samsung netbook I am writing on now. I don' know why I have named her Camilla, I'm not in the habit of naming my electronic toys, but there you are. Some guy listed it on Craigslist for $120 and the thing is not even six months old. We were happy to take a trip out of town to get it! The keyboard will take some getting used to. The shift key and apostrophe are in different places, so I'm backspacing a lot to get this text out.

We popped over to Comox, since I'll be picking my sister & niece up from the airport there in April. Lovely little town, so many deer!

Somewhere during the day I started feeling sick, which is not at all surprising since Dan has been sick for much of the last week. I haven't been sick since June, was rather smug that I had sucessfully avoided being sick twice while my dear husband suffered. That's what I get for kissing him before the contagious period ends.

This means I had to call in sick today, and will be staying home tomorrow too. It's always a bit nerve-wracking calling in sick when you are new to a job. But I work in a hospital, and really, you don't want the person who cleans the instruments and handles the supplies and drugs to go into work sick, do you?

 I'm writing to you from my bed and I think I'll soon be going back to sleep. Cold medicine is taking hold, you see, and I need to chase sleep. But there you are, the reason I have been, as they say, dead on the air. (Though not if you follow me on Twitter, since I have the Twitter app for my phone). Also, if you are friends with me on Facebook, I got flamed last week and am having a Time Out from Facebook. I find I get much more respect and positive communication with Twitter. You know what they say: Facebook is for friends who are more like strangers and Twitter is for strangers who are more like friends.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

a wee update on life

O dear. I had such big plans for multiple posts including photos that I was going to get done this weekend.... and then I decided I was going to finish three large-ish knitting projects all in one day, then pull out my entire yarn stash and decide what to give away the next. All good things.

I have a new sense of motivation. I have made some decisions lately regarding my knitting and yarn habits.
1) I will endeavor to have no more yarn than I can reasonably knit in the space of a year
2) I will finish or frog all my WIPs in a timely fashion.
3) I will not acquire yarn for the sake of acquiring yarn - I must have a project in mind when shopping for yarn.
4) In preparation for the Cookie A Sock Retreat in Tofino in April, I am planning to knit half of a pair of seven of her sock patterns. There is seven weeks until the retreat and I figure I can bang out a sock a week, my sock mojo is back! After the retreat I'll go and knit the partners to all the socks. The first socks of each pair will go on display at the yarn shop, so Ellie can show people Cookie A's designs as well as show off what the yarns she carries look like when they're knit up. I am already one chart repeat into Eunice, a pattern from her book Sock Innovation, which I received for Christmas. I'm using Gaia's Colours yarn for this first sock, and have enough of GC yarn in different colours for three more pairs of socks. I have lined up the yarns with the patterns I intend to knit them into. We'll see how it goes!

5) After reducing my stash to less than a full Rubbermaid bin, I might do this same thing with my fabric stash as well. I'm not much of a seamstress and have three fabrics & patterns for garments I wanted to make a year ago or more, despite having received a sewing machine for Christmas 2009, and I just don't use it enough. I know I need more practice but I think I need to bite off smaller pieces and work on simpler projects. Most of the fabric in my stash is stuff I'm not really interested in working with. If Dan wants to keep it, he is welcome to, but I will soon abdicate responsibility for managing that stash too.
6) In the spirit of de-stashing and clutter-busting, I expect to feel a lot lighter, and potentially mobile. All of my music is already in electronic format (and, truth be told, I listen to podcasts way more than I listen to music anyway), so we are considering buying a Kindle when we have a bit of extra money. While we love the feel of books, it is far more practical for us to have an e-reader. Only about 10% of our book collection is currently on display, and the rest of it is in boxes in the crawl space for lack of bookshelves.

It feels like a bit of a watershed moment for me. If I can slough off those things that I have large collections of, then I think I will feel a lot better about myself. I am also sloughing off a lot of weight physically.

Since starting this program eight weeks ago, I have lost 15 pounds. I am, as of today, at the point where my favourite jeans are loose on me and I might have to dig up my less-than-heavy jeans. I don't quite fit into my thin beige cords that I bought in Korea (that's my litmus test), but I'm getting close. Once my weight comes down ten or more pounds, I will have quite a bit of clothing I won't wear anymore too. I will once again be able to fit into lots of the pretty things I wore six or more years ago. Living where I live, it's totally acceptable to go around town in sweatpants or pajamas (not that I would ever do that), so if I don't manage to replace my wardrobe with Thin Clothes promptly, it's not a big deal. I wear a uniform to work (scrubs!) so that's not an issue either. But I will have to consider a clothing budget at some point. I'm really looking forward to that.

Next weekend we have some house guests coming, and I think that will be the beginning of the season of visitors of all the people who said they would come up here 'in the spring'. This is a good opportunity to give the house a thorough spring cleaning, much welcomed by the above mentioned clutter busting. I'm realizing I don't need all the stuff I have; it does not define me. Less stuff means less stuff to clean, organize, manage. It will be easier to clean up the house and get ready for house guests and I'll feel more in control of my life again.

On a final note, the expression 'when it rains, it pours' once again applies. Today I was offered another job, evenings and weekends. If it wasn't for the unpredictability of the hours, I might consider it. But I need to know that I'd be off by 9 so I can get home and get to bed because I have to be up at six the next morning and I know this job doesn't offer that kind of regularity. (I bet she would let me knit at work though!) No, for now, what I have is good. I'm two weeks into my current job and I'm settling into my routine.

In short, life is good.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

iPhone update fail



Every so often, there is an update to my iTunes program. iTunes is where all my music, podcast, and iPhone apps are stored. Apparently during a rather large update in November, I was mucking around on my computer doing other things not realizing this was A Problem, and as a result, I've had this error message show up on my screen extremely often ever since. Sometimes the phone would be laying there and this error message would pop up. Sometimes I would go to use the phone of my iPhone and this error message would come up. It's frustrating as hell and you'd think after  more than two months they would have fixed this. Simon Pegg, a comedy actor from the UK, told all his Twitter followers that he was having this fixed (since he has an iPhone too) for the rest of us, but it still hasn't happened yet. It's irritating to say the least. Dan's phone didn't suffer this fate - apparently something like 10-20% of iPhones got hit with this particular problem after this update.

I love my iPhone, don't get me wrong. It has become my main source of communication, entertainment, organization, and social media. When my computer Blue Screened the other day, I still had access to the Internet. I just wish I didn't have to deal with this message anymore.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Numerologically speaking

Another quick post, because I was thinking about this as I was driving home from work today.

I started my job a week ago today. It's all been very exciting, but I haven't been able to access the computers at work because I didn't have a password set up for my email account. I couldn't be granted access to this until I had an employee number. The request for my employee number was made the day my boss decided to hire me, since this process can take a long time. Lo and behold! Today I got my employee number! I won't tell you what it is, but I can tell you that all the numbers add up and reduce to eleven.

Eleven

Numerologically speaking, eleven is a great number.   If it were five, I would know that I wouldn't be in this job very long. I forget where I learned about five (and it escapes me now, in searching for it), but any time I've lived in a place that reduced to five, I haven't lived there long. Or was it seven? At any rate, I'm happy with elven.

Now I'm no expert in these matters, so I won't begin to explain how it all works. It just does, for me at least. Go ahead, find out for yourself!


This week: on/off the needles/hook

I'm going to cheat and only put one thing. That's because I finished one thing, and I am so close to finishing another thing. Here it is:

Did I tell you? I joined up with this Yahoo! group for a dishcloth KAL (knit-a-long) and you get ten lines of a pattern each day. This is the first one I've done though I've been a member for a few months now. Anyway, I figure I can work on ten rows of a dishcloth every day. I'll have a lovely collection of dishcloths before too long! Each set only takes about 20 minutes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

trespassers will be shot

In the United States, you can post a sign that says No Trespassing Posted. This means the resident has registered their No Trespassing, and anyone who may be found trespassing can be shot. The resident has the legal right to open fire against anyone they see trespassing.

Now this may seem like a bad idea for some, heck, even downright unfriendly, but just now, moments ago, I felt my wrath surge and wondered how to combat unwanted visitors on your doorstep.

Just now, Jehovah's Witnesses came to our door.

I don't know why, but nothing inspires more rage in me than that particular religious group peddling the Bible and the Watchtower. I get mad because they come pretending to be friendly, but they have an agenda. They come armed to talk about controversial topics, catching the resident unawares. They have some secret way of mapping out all the new residents and be sure to visit them. Have you ever noticed that most Kingdom Halls have no windows? Why is that? Why do they take such a staunch position about their faith - knowing full well that most of the world is against them and have even been persecuted throughout history.

Today it was an elderly woman and a middle-aged man. I couldn't understand half of what the woman was saying, her accent was so thick. But they wanted to talk to me about the 'growing interest in vampires and witchcraft and things like that'. My response was "so your assumption then is that 'vampires and witchcraft and things like that' are bad?" To which they pulled out Deuteronomy.

FFS

I was on a caffeine buzz and the calories from breakfast had not yet registered, so I was a bit shaky to begin with. When Dan saw them approaching he told me it was my turn to deal with them. Then they want to talk about the Occult, a subject I happen to know a lot about. I wanted them to define for me what Occult meant, because my understanding of it and theirs I'm sure are vastly different. They couldn't answer (ha!), and quoted something from the Watchtower.

I was really shaking at this point, was about to launch into a tirade about how the words of the Bible have been translated so many times that the original meaning has been lost, that using a literal translation (as they are wont to do) is basically useless; that the Bible is just a book of stories with no physical evidence of what really happened; and what about the Dead Sea Scrolls? They claim that this thing or that thing is bad when they really don't have an understanding of what these Bad Things really are - and aren't interested in expanding their understanding. They talk about animal and human sacrifice (which happened thousands of years ago, how is this even relevant now?) and for some reason the Bible will save us.

Okay, I may have offended some of my readers at this point. Very sorry if that's the case. But here it is: I am a scientist; I have, in fact, studied rather a lot of the Bible. I have a literature degree, after all, and much of English literature is based on or refers to the Bible. I also identified as a Witch for ten years, which included very intense study of not only Witchcraft and Paganism, but I am also very well versed in all the world's major religions. I have studied anthropology and sociology and was one application away from applying to do a Master's of Divinity. I am no religious dummy.

I am acutely aware of hypocrisy. Honestly I think that historically, the groups who most fervently believe the word of the Bible are the ones most guilty of causing harm. This is true to any religious fundamentalism and that is what concerns me. Followers of a major religion can fall into the trap of letting those with titles or positions do all the thinking for them. This is a major problem, as I see it, because it is giving up one's free will. It's abdicating responsibility for thinking, for owning the consequences of one's actions. How much violence and suffering has been perpetuated in the name of God?

Dan was about to step in and soothe the situation, he could see how mad I was getting and was surprised that I didn't take a round out of these two people. He later apologized, owning that that was the worst possible topic for them to bring on me, the worst possible person they could have brought it up with. Even though I don't identify as Pagan anymore, I am still protective of Paganism. 

I know this will possibly be an inflammatory post. I admit I am writing in a reactionary mood. This does not mean I am irrational though, everything I have said here I have thought before.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

still knitting, just without evidence

I wanted to assure any of you who might have been worried that I am still knitting. I'm finding that with working a new job, I'm quite pooped by the time I get home and the last thing I want to do is turn on my computer. I have been knitting though.

1) back in December I joined a Yahoo! group for a Dishcloth KAL. I figured I could manage that... ten lines of a pattern come out every day for about five days. This happens at the beginning of the month and again at mid-month. I figured I've been getting these notices, I might as well start knitting the darn dishcloth. I need more, I have plenty of yarn for it, and it seems like an easy brain-free way to go.

What I'm finding interesting is just how many brand new knitters are joining this group, knit a few dishcloths, and then think they can start selling them. It's shocking, really. There are several thousand people in this group, and LOTS of them post their photos to the group when they are done. I guess we all knit for different reasons.

2) I turned the heel today on sock #2 for Dan. I started this sock, O, in October? and am finally getting around to finishing. I cast on this second sock last Friday, so I figure at this rate I'll definitely have it done by Valentine's day.

3) I have done a bit more work on the Candy Poncho as well. I'm almost done the last ball of pink, will knit my way through a one more ball of red, then cast off. I want to wear it on Valentine's Day!

4) working on a test piece for a new designer. Cannot comment any further.

5) Have not been working on anything else. Feel pretty good about plowing through my current WIPs and looking forward to having all three of these projects off the needles in the next week or so. Then I can focus on my other WIPs:

- BMW socks (just above heel of first sock on a toe-up construction)
- pink & white stranded mitten (first one completed)
- a cotton tank top I started two summers ago
- Brother Amos Hellfire Lace socks in Malabrigo. Gotta get them done.

And THEN I will let myself work on my Cookie A socks.

I came to a decision about my yarn habit the other day. I'm not calling it a Yarn Diet, but I will not let myself buy any more yarn until the yarn I have has a specific project earmarked for it and they are knit. I'm going to give a lot of my stash away - including the mountain of recently acquired free yarn. There are tons of knitters around here that would be happy to pick over my free yarn, and as soon as I get that organized, I'll put up signs around town (after my immediate circle of friends has a look, of course). I just don't want to have to manage my stash. I feel guilty for the amount of yarn I have. How did this happen? I had such a tiny stash a year ago...

See, then we moved to this area and met someone who was just opening up a yarn shop, see and she had so many good things! I was powerless... Then the other day I opened up a rubbermaid bin and found yarn I had bought from her early on and forgotten about. That's when I knew I had a problem.

Therefore I am resolved. 2011 is my Serious Destashing Year. Now that I'm working almost full time, I will have less time to knit, but perhaps I'll get more streamlined with my crafting.