Archive for April 2007

Apple Girl

April 30, 2007

Apple may have problems, but repair service ain’t one of them.

I packed up the computer for DHL on Wednesday. Apple had sent a box a month ago, after I called to tell them the thin plastic seal that surrounds the keyboard bed had cracked in one place. Part of it flaked off, so I could see down into the outer casing, right where the sleep light is on the right front side.

DHL came and got it on Wednesday. This morning at 9 am I got an e-mail saying Apple has received it, and providing a link where I can check my repair status.

At 10 am the page shows that the computer is undergoing diagnostics.

At 1:30 pm the page shows that the computer is being repaired.

At 3:15 pm the status is “Product return pending.”

If all goes well, I’ve have my computer back this week. Union, Trueheart, and Courtesy will be back up and running. And Toxophily* will return to all-craft, all the time.

Thanks, Steve Jobs!**

*Noel will be grateful, because he can’t check the site without humming “Tox-o-phily back again (danananananana-naa)/Doin’ a little East Coast swiiinng …”

**I have learned my lesson from the last couple of iBooks I’ve owned — AppleCare. The lack of stress over anything that might go wrong for three years is totally worth it.

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The world is so full of a number of things …

April 29, 2007

… and one of them is Diet Coke Plus.

  1. There was a little old lady handing out little sample cups of this supposedly healthy soda in the story today, so I drank a cup. Like Diet Coke but with a really sweet aftertaste — the aftertaste of store-brand diet soda. I drink far too much diet soda — it’s my default drink, the way I keep my out-of-control sweet tooth away from the cupcakes. Coke Zero is my tipple of choice when I can’t get fountain diet soda (Coke or Pepsi, both are awesome in fountain form). No plus for me.
  2. Speaking of sweet, the smooth bitterness of a 65% Cacao Reserve Hershey Bar has yet to dissipate from my mouth. Yet I am forced to report that Hershey’s, among other members of Chocolate Manufacturer’s Association, are petitioning the FDA to redefine the word chocolate. The new definition would allow products with no cacao content at all to be labeled “chocolate.” Their argument is that consumers don’t know that chocolate is made from cacao pods, so chocolate-like products made from vegetable oil and fats should be called “chocolate.” If consumers don’t know better, then Hershey’s isn’t going to tell them. Sacrilege! You know the difference between a chocolate Easter bunny and a “chocolicious” one when you’re unfortunately enough to get one of the latter in that basket from an oblivious or dollar-store-frequenting relative. Would you be happy if they both were allowed to be called “100% chocolate”? Not even a trusted brand name would be enough to keep you from going astray. Join the fight against this ridiculous bit of Big Business Orwellianism at The Candy Blog.
  3. I should have spent the weekend reading student writing in advance of exam week. But I got an e-mail that KnitPicks was having a sale on their luxury yarns, and I haven’t had the chance to work with anything really high-end yet in my short knitting career. I also haven’t started to assemble the dreaded “stash” — the bag full of yarn bought with no project in mind. And I’m not about to start now. So in order to justify buying the 100% alpaca yarn, I had to find a project in which to use it. I thought this might be the perfect time to get a knitted bag into my project queue. But which one? I spent most of my online time yesterday and today looking at every free bag pattern on the internet, trying to find one that I could use bulky yarn for, and that I liked. I settled on Sophie here, with Lopi as a backup. Bought two colors of Decadence, a couple of needles, and the Mason-Dixon knitting book — free shipping, and my next non-sock project is all set.
  4. I’m looking forward to my two exams this week, because neither are going to be tests — both are going to be parties. My criticism class is having breakfast on Tuesday, and each member of the class is going to read a favorite passage from one of our readings, followed by a favorite passage from their own writing for the course. Justin and I are going to give out awards to five students who did exemplary work. At the moment the sign of the award is a party lei, but I’m hoping to have badges made up for the winners to put on their blogs. My freshman class will be having lunch — potluck — and playing some kind of game together, the details of which I have not yet worked out. Both my groups had very successful semesters, and I learned a lot about the criticism class especially that I’ll apply when I teach it again.

New blog alert

April 28, 2007

No, not another new blog from me. This one comes to you courtesy of my forever-TA Justin Snook. He’s leaving his Xanga behind along with his legendary undergraduate career, and has launched 1 Eye At A Time at Blogspot. The concept comes from Han Shaogong’s novel of the Cultural Revolution A Dictionary of Maqiao, which is arranged in sections corresponding to words, their definitions and their connotations. I got so excited when Justin explained the idea to me that he made me a gift of the novel, which I can’t wait to read.

Justin and I have been together for three semesters as an instructional team. He’s a historian, I’m a theologian. He’s an atheist convert, I’m a resurgent believer. He’s organized, I’m a mess. He’s indifferent to the mass of popular culture, while I’m a voracious consumer of all media. That’s made us the perfect team to teach sophomores about Christianity, film, and writing criticism. The one semester I reluctantly allowed him to assist one of my colleagues, I had to team up with another professor to teach a class — that’s the only way I could replace him. I’m glad he came back to me, is all I can say — why anybody would after getting a taste of the greener grass, I can’t imagine.

In a couple of months I’m going to have the unutterable honor of presiding at his wedding to another former student, a brilliant woman and future doctor who is his perfect match. Justin hasn’t needed me as a teacher for a long time. He’s a mature scholar and a grounded human being. For some reason he chooses to let me continue to be involved in his life, and I’m so grateful — he’s given me more, I’m sure, than I’ve been able to give him.

We’ve had plenty of talks in recent months about what he’s going to do with his life. He was wavering between going for a teaching certificate and moving on to graduate school. I imagine that the life of academia is ultimately where he belongs, but I must admit that I cherish the thought of him teaching high school history. I picture those couple of oddball students in his classes every year who get totally turned on by Justin’s picture of what history can show them that they can’t see any other way. And I believe those kids will eventually show up in my classroom, if Justin stays in Arkansas to teach. And I want those kids — because they’ll be my teaching assistants in six or seven years.

If they’re anything like Justin, they’ll make my classes and my life better than I deserve. My colleague, my friend — thanks for all you’ve done for me.

April 27, 2007

Archer does vaudeville

During bathtime:

Archer: We’re all out of brownies.

Dad: Yep, that was the last one.

Archer: Let’s get some more! At the store!

Dad: We’ll see.

(pause, bathing)

Archer: Can I have chocolate chip and a brownie?

Dad: We’re out of brownies.

Archer: (gales of laughter)

It took Noel a second to realize what was so funny. Archer wanted him to participate in the Electric Company sweet roll gag (also available in a furry Grover, I believe, but no YouTube). And Noel walked right into it.

Trying to continue the gag, Archer said, “Can I have jellybeans and a brownie?” before remembering: “Ope — we’re out of jellybeans.” It only works if you combine one thing you have and one thing you don’t, you see, until the very end.

96 Tears

April 26, 2007

The A.V. Club caused a sensation today with its list of eighteen “Songs That Make The A.V. Club Cry.” It’s been up about 12 hours and has 241 comments. Everybody wants to contribute a list of songs that make them cry. (Only a few people want to pooh-pooh the whole idea, thankfully.)

Rather than putting my personal sob-fests in the comments, I thought I’d list them here. These are songs that I absolutely cannot hear without weeping. In most cases, merely thinking about them is enough to have me reaching for a tissue. In no particular order:

1. Josh Rouse, “Michigan” This is one that Noel contributed to the main list, but it’s also the one that comes instantly to mind for me in this category. In this quiet recitation of a letter written by a teenage runaway to his parents, backed only by an acoustic guitar, Rouse sings about playing cards with his Uncle Ray and passes along a message from Aunt Terry — “She wants you to know she wrote a song” — before suddenly, without warning, in the middle of a verse, bursting out with “Mom, I’m sorry, I was wrong.” After pleading with them to understand why he couldn’t stay in Wichita (“where everyone knows everything about me”), he closes quietly: “Just want to be happy, love, your son.”

2. Lambchop, “Theone” This trembly plea from Kurt Wagner to his wife — “Scary sights/are the things that haven’t happened, but just might/Don’t think it over too quickly” — has the fragility of unilateral certainty. Wagner is trying to convince her to feel as he does, but all he can offer is his own metaphors: “I am the state/You are the flag/You are the one.” By the end, he is out of words and can only leave it up to her: “There’s the phone/and here’s the number/You are the one.”

3. Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, “Coma Girl” In the joyful/hopeful category — songs that make me cry not because they are sad, but because their particular brand of happiness touches me deeply — is this unlikely evocation of youth culture in the 1950’s. The part that turns on the waterworks is just after the bridge, heading into the final, driving choruses: “Into action everybody sprang/And the radio was beating out/Doo-lang, doo-lang …” Something about that speaks to my belief in the transcendence of pop music, its ability to provide the perfect aspiration for our lives.

4. Bruce Springsteen, “Atlantic City” “Put your makeup on/Fix your hair up pretty/And meet me tonight in Atlantic City.” A million Springsteen songs make me cry — “Thunder Road,” “Meeting Across The River,” “Stolen Car,” “If I Should Fall Behind” — so this will have to stand in for all of them. Again, it’s the exhortation to someone over whom the speaker doesn’t have control. All he can do is try to persuade her — often of something he doesn’t himself fully believe.

5. Stephen Sondheim, “Move On” And this will stand for just about the whole cast album for Sunday in the Park With George. I’m a puddle throughout at least three songs from that show. “Finishing the Hat” (“Coming from the hat/Studying the hat/Entering the world of the hat/Reaching through the world of the hat/Like a window/Back to this one from that”) tries desperately to explain the effort to make art that partakes of that transcendence. And “Sunday” (“By the cool blue triangular water/on the soft green elliptical grass/as we pass through arrangements of shadow/toward the verticals of trees/Forever…”) posits complete achievement of that transcendence in a single painting. “Move On” is a perfect example of that patented Sondheim closing song that helps the characters accept what’s happened to them but gives them hope as well (“No One Is Alone” from Into The Woods, a song Noel plans to have played at his funeral, is perhaps the epitome of this genre). “Stop worrying if your vision is new/Let others make that decision — they usually do” is a line that goes through my mind frequently.

6. Todd Rundgren, “Initiation” I’ll close with two songs from my formative years that still strike the perfect note with me — a clear, clarion call to beauty and yearning and hope. This lengthy number grabs me when the ringing guitar solo takes over from the distorted sax, then hits the gut when it segues into the chorus: “When the bells ring out/And the fire burns within and without/Initiation …”

7. ELO, “Bluebird” And here it’s the sudden, hushed acoustic section leading up to the final chorus: “I see it all, rainbows in fall/I see her face upon my wall/But it’s only make believe/Fly away, bluebird fly away for me/To a place somewhere far across the sea …”

What songs make you cry?

The Heel Turns

April 25, 2007

Sock home stretch

Welcome, alien visitors!

While my regular blog, Union, Trueheart, and Courtesy, is down for repairs along with my trusty MacBook, this will become the vacation home for my daily blogging.

While ordinarily this is my craft blog, the daily blogging won’t be craft-related.

Except for this one. You see, I turned the heel.

Now this heel didn’t turn without incident. I forgot to slip at least one stitch on the flap selvedge, and this complicated picking up the gusset stitches after the turn. Once everything was joined back again in the round, I discovered for the first time that I had dropped a stitch on the top, and had to pull it back up over stitches that had been joined together on top of — so it’s pretty obviously a mistake. (I am gratified by the fact that at least 90% of my regular readers are now muttering “gusset? selvedge?”)

But the important thing is that the heel turned, the gusset decreased, and I am happily stockinetting away on the foot. My motto is: “My second miniature sample sock will be much better.” Hey, I’ve never even knit anything in the round before, never use dpns, never picked up a stitch, never did a short row on purpose. I think I’m doing pretty good.

Did I mention that I turned the heel?

OK, tomorrow it’s back to your regular scheduled theology, movies, kid anecdotes, and links to things I wrote elsewhere. Because there’s no way I’m getting to the toe by the time I blog tomorrow. Rest easy.

The S.S. Sock Sets Sail

April 17, 2007

sock outset Ready for new knitting challenges, I’ve embarked upon the holy grail — sock knitting. As you can see, I’ve managed to cast on, divide the stitches among four double-pointed needles, join, and complete two rows. Yes, the sock is tiny — it’s a miniature, a sample, a baby sock, a practice piece.

This is actually attempt #2 — I frogged the first one after accidentally skipping a needle on my way around on the third row. Hence the stopping just short of that point on this attempt.

Since I last posted here I’ve been knitting a scarf the long way, but I wasn’t in the mood for mindless knitting tonight — I wanted to do something that would engage my mind. I’ll get closer to the end of the scarf on Friday during the Derrida reading group, no doubt.

Have I abandoned tatting? By no means! I plan to complete the 25 motif challenge this summer, and I’m still hoping to make a foray into designing for the last few. But I’m loving the knitting. I see some ways to combine the two, possibly. I have so much to learn, and it’s a lot of fun to accomplish something new.