Monthly Archives: November 2016

The What I learned this week: 20161120 – 20161126

A palm plant in a shower.

Triff-Ed the oversized potted palm is hiding in the shower while we take up the carpet in the room he usually lives in.

  1. Love is not compatability. It sucks when you discover this. It sucks more when you watch two people you care deeply about come to this conclusion.
  2. Sometimes finishing a project is a let down, even if the project was successful.
  3. Sometimes the lesson is that you still have more to learn.

The Thing About Zombies

What would Black Friday be without zombies?

Fast zombies, slow zombies, voodoo zombies, plague zombies, cordyceps fungus zombies, radioactive and inexplicably rising from the grave zombies? It doesn’t matter. The thing about zombies that is most important to remember is that they’re relentless in the pursuit of their only goal: Feed.

Copyright: memoangeles / 123RF Stock Photo

Ah, the hordes of Black Friday shoppers out looking for deals.

It doesn’t matter if they’re the shambling, apparently mindless masses of the original classic Night of the Living Dead, the fast, corporate created, T-Virus infested mutating  zombies of Resident Evil, or the sinister, talking zombies of Return of the Living Dead. You can’t reason with them. You can’t trust them. They want to eat you (or sometimes just your brains) and they will stop at nothing to do it. It’s kill or be killed with this type of zombie.

It’s a powerful metaphor for shortsighted self-interest, especially consumerist self-interest.

Sometimes there’s something in the zombie that’s still reachable. The zombies in Shawn of the Dead still maintain some level of basic personality. Shawn’s dad calms from a feeding frenzy when he manages to turn off the blaring music in his beloved Jag. Shawn’s Mom appears docile until someone threatens Shawn (her little Pickle.) These zombies eventually become something like tamed (though not really domesticated.) A few precautions taken, and they’re back at work in the service industry.

The movie Fido takes that one step farther. Zombies have control collars and mow the lawn. The next door neighbor keeps his zombi-fied wife at home and reminds her not to bite. Children are taught to shoot in elementary school. Don’t shoot zombies in the chest. Headshots are the very best.

That situation is unusual in the genre. For the most part, zombies kill. Humans die horribly at their hands. Everyone will eventually either be a zombie or be zombie food. There’s no real hope of escape.

I love the zombies that can articulate their inhumanity the best. Why do you eat people? Not people. Brains. It’s the only thing that stops the pain of being dead and it doesn’t matter who it hurts so long as the zombie in question gets what it needs. It’s consumerism as drug addict if you will.

I know you’re in there, Tina. I can smell your brains, Zombie Freddie tells his hiding girlfriend. If you loved me, you’d let me eat your brains.

Some zombies try to control their urges. Julie is very picky about whose brains she’s willing to eat in Return of the Living Dead 3 – to the point of self-mutilation to try to keep her urge to feed in check. Ultimately, she and her infected boyfriend climb into the crematorium rather than lose the battle against their urge to feed.

In the I, Zombie TV show aren’t all ravaging, mindless, eaters. A good number of them are just trying to hide and stay alive. Some go so far as to destroy zombies that have gone mindless, even if it’s for their own selfish reasons. Blaine is literally creating the market for his “gourmet brains on demand” catering service (read: high-class drug dealer), but he’s very careful not to let it go too far. After all, if a bite infects, and someone escapes, the zombie plague could wipe out the entire food source, and worse, bring the government crashing down on his criminal enterprise.

Conversely, the main character, Liv, is trying to do some good and make some sense out of this seemingly senseless and potentially self-destructive urge to eat brains. She gets brains from seemingly ethical sources (morgue autopsies) and tries to find justice for the murder victims that ultimately keep her alive and thinking. There’s a balance at play. How can she stay alive (undead?) and find a cure.

In Warm Bodies, the balance is between feeling and unfeeling, connection and disconnection. Zombies are disconnected from the people around them. They’re seeking some way to fill the void left by the absence of other people in their lives and this urge to fill the void is what fuels the need to eat the flesh of the living, especially the brains.

The book highlights this theme, spending much more time on Zombie culture and society than the movie did. R and M share brains when they find them, passing them around like a joint. In the book, when R keeps the brain of Julie’s boyfriend for himself (basically bogarting it so he can savor all the feelings of connection to her), it’s a violation of the friendship between R & M. Completely disconnecting turns you into one of the boney zombies that the other zombies fear and avoid, so far gone there’s no hope. Only reconnecting to other people can cure the zombie condition.

Maybe that’s why I turn off my electronics and avoid the malls on Black Friday. The roommate and I did some work around the house. We did have to go out to pick up some things we needed for the house projects. We kept it to a quick jaunt to the hardware store to get just what we needed and returned home immediately after.

No hordes of zombie shoppers for us.

We did have to move the triffid (Triff-Ed, the overly large potted palm) from its usual location while we ripped up the carpet in that bedroom. Ed needed repotting badly. Luckily, the root bound mass in his old pot was the worst monster we saw today.

The Politics I said I didn’t want to talk about

(Skip now if you’re not interested. The crafting and love of horror and sci-fi will be back before the end of the week.)

The word ‘politics’ is derived from the word ‘poly’, meaning ‘many’, and the word ‘ticks’, meaning ‘blood sucking parasites’. – Larry Hardiman

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

Desmond Tutu

I swore never to be silent whenever wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.

Elie Wiesel

As much as I would like to refrain from all political discussion, that makes me part of the problem. If I’m going to be part of the solution, I need to be willing to discuss political things with people who are willing to talk about them.

That said, I don’t know enough about all the political issues facing this country and I have come to recognize that live in a bubble. That’s a sad statement for a descendant of a revolutionary war veteran. I aim to fix it.

Part of the reason my blog has been quiet has been me giving myself a crash course in the President-Elect’s political stance and reading about the people who supported his White House bid. There has been a lot of reading to do and a lot of fact checking to go with that reading. The political Pants-On-Fire meter has been pretty high all around, not just on the President-elect’s side of the street.

There is no moral high ground, as much as I would like there to be a moral high ground. Say what you will about the President-elect and the company he keeps, it’s his business dealings and the number of lawsuits and investigations he’s involved in. Maybe Bernie Sanders, who was the reason I caucused as a Democrat this year. I really liked his track record and the way he seems to fight against Big Money and for The Common Person.

As part of stepping out of my comfort zone and owning my need to participate more fully in the political discussions going on around me, I need to state for the record that I consider myself a political moderate and an Independent.  (It says that last piece right on my voter registration card.)

I’m a social progressive: I want to make sure that everyone in the United States of America has a fair chance for everyone to succeed, no matter race, creed, social status, sexual orientation, gender or gender expression, religion, or any other thing that someone might throw out that could be used to try to divide the people of this country.

I am a fiscal conservative: I’m not against taxes. I like roads and public safety and a basic level of education for people as much as the next person and I’m glad to do my part. Probably more than some. I know that there’s only so much money and other resources available, so we need to spend in the most efficient way possible.

I was raised in a working class family living in a middle class neighborhood my parents could barely afford because they wanted to give us a better chance at a good education. I grew up seeing hard-working people and believing that an honest day’s work deserved an honest day’s pay – that work was dignity and there was no shame in putting on your work jeans and getting your hands dirty.

I read a story on NPR last week where one of the people interviewed said that the Democratic party should stop putting social issues at the forefront of the party. To me jobs and the economy are social issues. They’re tied to basic human dignity, which everyone in the United States deserves to have.

It’s really hard to have empathy and compassion for another person when you’re struggling to meet your own needs yourself. I can understand that.

This combination is why I consider myself a moderate. I’m always trying to find the middle ground. Balancing these two things is difficult in the first place.

It’s even more difficult with the political pendulum swinging to the far left and the far right with no one willing to meet in the middle, which is where I stand. It feels like I’m standing alone in the bottom of a well, shouting to both sides to try to find common ground.

It’s not a comfortable place to be. It makes it very tempting to want to keep my head down, lest the swinging pendulum take off my head like an Edgar Allan Poe story. I’m not liberal enough for the liberals and I’m certainly not conservative enough for the conservatives (though I’m sure they’ll be thrilled to know that I put “learning more about my second amendment rights” on my to-do list for the next year.)

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be concerned about the President-elect’s plans. I am terrified of what the next four years could bring if everything the media is saying turns out to be true.

Putting aside all the terrible, extremely quotable sound bites and the discord surrounding the president-elect and his twitter account (and I find them appalling both in and out of context), but is it just distracting another issue: he’s never held any public office before and now he’s in the highest office in the land. (There’s a well thought out post on the topic here.)

When I first saw that Donald Trump was running, before the first horrible sound bites started appearing, a president with no experience in a public office sounded like a recipe for disaster to me, which is why I didn’t vote for him. The other things? Icing on the cake? Additional proof that he wasn’t ready for the highest office in the land.

Or maybe we’ve elected this century’s version of P. T. Barnum and he’s brought the sideshow to the Oval Office. P. T. Barnum was brilliant. I wouldn’t want him for president, either. Look at this distraction over here. Pay no attention to what I’m doing behind the scenes.

Is it really just coincidence that the Vice-President elect went to Hamilton (where there was bound to be some kind of scene) just as the news was hitting that the President-elect was settling his Trump University Lawsuit ? I have no proof, but I have my doubts, obviously.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I still need to learn more about all of this. I need to step out of my comfort zone and make more people with more viewpoints part of my life. Not just politically. In all of my life.

Edited to add: I was also extremely uncomfortable with the number of lawsuits and investigations against Hillary Clinton. I realized I hadn’t said that explicitly in the above.

Good Night, Edward R Morrow, wherever you are

​The news isn’t trustworthy anymore. Every agenda needs to be understood. I want plain facts news. I want the heirs to Edward R Morrow, Walter Cronkite, and Dan Rather bringing me news that’s plain facts and aimed at finding the truth.

Every story needs to be verified and fact checked. Every agenda needs to be understood. From biased reporting to outright inventing stories, there’s so much junk out there that every person needs to be their own fact checker.

If the news I’m reading comes with a descriptor, like Christian News or Liberal News, or Libertarian News, it’s just someone shilling their agenda. I’m sorry if that hurts anyone’s feelings, but I’m only interested in unbiased reporting (as much as anyone can be truly unbiased) and the truth. (or give me a plain explanation of your agenda, so I can find a source biased against you to try to find the middle ground.)

My Facebook feed is dominated with alleged news stories proclaiming the righteousness of this side or that one. I’m drowning like drowning in a sea of tainted news and the problem isn’t new.

Oscar Wilde said in his essay “The Soul of Man under Socialism

Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism. In America the president reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for ever and ever.

The rest of the essay is Wilde talking about why he thinks about socialism is a bad idea. You can read that for yourself. What I found interesting was that even in 1891, when Oscar Wilde was writing, the press (and bias within the press) was a problem. He said “The tyrany it proposes to exercise over people’s private lives is quote extraordinary.” 

How much more of a problem is it now? Not only does no one really have any privacy, but journalism seems to have slipped backwards in time, looking for headlines to sell the papers more than looking for integrity in reporting and finding the truth. Some news sources go so far as to invent stories if nothing suitable to the viewpoint they’re peddling exists. 

Biased news and outright faked news fill our newsfeeds, shaping our perceptions of the world. It’s one thing to have your view changed by a better and more informed understanding of the facts of a situation. It’s another to have your view poisoned by someone else’s bias. Sadly, the world we live in is trying to do just that: buying and selling us for pennies a click.

The news isn’t trustworthy anymore. Was it ever really? Good Night, Edward R Morrow, wherever you are. I wish you and your kind would come back and restore integrity to journalism. Until then, I’ll be checking every so-called fact I read and scouring my news for bias.

What I learned this week: 20161113 – 20161119

Okay, some of this stuff I learned last week and the week before, but I didn’t have enough coherent thoughts around them to process them.

  1. Holy carp! What happened to integrity in Journalism? So many thoughts hee
  2. I agreed with Glen Beck this week. That’s pretty much a sign of the apocalypse right there, right next to plague and famine. If you see a guy on a white horse, we’re pretty much doomed.
  3. I need to read more things and more different things than I’ve been reading. To quote Haruki Murakami, “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”
  4. I added It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis to my reading list, because I’m terribly afraid it just did. Yes, everyone is reading it now. It seems topical and I haven’t read any Sinclair Lewis before. I already have Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street in my Kindle reading queue from a conversation with some of my Minneapolis Knitting Friends.
  5. Yes, I’m terrified of what the next four years could bring if all the fear mongering in my Facebook news feed turns out to be true. I’m not going to protest or put on a safety pin, though, I’m getting back to my roots. I’m putting on my work jeans, rolling up my sleeves, and going to work. 

Fortune cookie wisdom: 20161118

from Instagram:

Worked late and was too tired to write a post for today’s blog. You know it’s bad when even your fortune cookie is too tired to give you a real fortune.

I managed to get another row done on my Color Therapy shawl, which is good because according to the National Weather Service even though we’re not likely to get snow this time around, cold and storms are blowing in. Time to batten down the hatches and get serious about the wool crafting.

I’m thinking fire in the fireplace and cocoa in my teacup, then knitting assuming I don’t fall asleep with my face in the marshmallows in my cup.

It was a good idea. What could possibly go wrong?

Two shades of chroma fingering and a simple chevron pattern. What could go wrong?

Quite a bit, actually. The way the colors blended together way too well, even though I was using two different colorways of KnitPicks Chroma Fingering (Mix Tape and Roller Skate, both sadly discontinued). They had some colors in common and some different colors to change it up. Mix Tape has grey and bright green as well as purple and red purple. Roller skate has purple and pink with a bright blue and a true green. The colors looked coordinating, but not matchy-matchy in the skein. When I started knitting, though, they were lining up was making it look less like the Missoni scarf I was hoping to emulate and more like just a blue, purple, and green striped scarf.

It was an idea that looked good on the surface. When it came to the actual implementation, it failed. It wasn’t a stunning failure. I could have kept going with it. Nothing was actually wrong with the scarf, perse. It just wasn’t what I was shooting for.

For a while I keep knitting, hoping it would get better. Eventually, though, I had to admit it just wasn’t working. There was no sense in knitting any farther when I wasn’t going to like the project. 

If I really believe Maxim 70 (and the Japanese Proverb that says Fall down 7 times, stand up 8) then there’s nothing wrong with admitting failure. It’s what you do after you fail that counts.

In this case, I ended up ripping it out and adding the two colors to my Color Therapy Bruinen, instead.

My lesson was “no really, swatch.” (the start of a scarf counts as a swatch in this case. Just saying.) Also, I normally trust self striping and color change yarns to do the work for me. In this case, it’s a case of “trust, but verify.” 

I’m doing much more planning and manipulating the colors. The pattern has a 7 row repeat. I had originally thought I’d just swap colorways at the end of a pattern repeat. That’s not always the most pleasing place to switch. Instead, I am switching between my different colorways at color coordinating spots instead of waiting until the end of a pattern repeat. That’s improving the harmony between the colorways.

Bruinen is a top down shawl, so my rows are getting longer as I go. I kind of just let things happen in the shorter rows toward the beginning. I’m being much more mindful of what colors are appearing across a row as my rows are getting longer. I had one and half skeins of (also discontinued) Prism and have started doubling the length of some of the color runs by splicing in an additional length of the color from the other skein.I may do something similar with the remaining Mix Tape and Roller Skate. 

Since each skein has several repeats of the full color run, I should be able to wind off some of the yarn to make longer runs of the colors for the remaining bits of the shawl. We’ll see how this works out.