Do the Twist
Sunday August 19th 2018, 9:57 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Spinning

I laughed out loud when I read it: it was like the Smithsonian guide all over again.

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged this before but I’m not finding it, so here goes.

We were in DC visiting family back when the kids were growing up and took them to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Where I noted that they had a walking wheel and a jacquard loom but no gossip wheels, no treadle wheels at all for that matter, no knowledge of what distaffs were used for, just a complete lack of information on what a part of our history those all played in colonial America.

The book “No Idle Hands” relates the story of Old Ma Rinker during the Revolutionary War. Her family owned a tavern the British thought was loyal to the Crown, so their officers would gather there to discuss strategy. The word would be passed on to her in a note, she would wind a ball of yarn around it, then take her flax up the hill for the day to lay it out to rett, waiting for George Washington’s soldiers to ride on by below while she sat and knitted. She would toss the ball of yarn down to them (not the one she was knitting from) and helped save the day at Valley Forge. (Where other women delivering supplies nearly got shot at because as they rode in on their horses, their petticoats showed. And petticoats were always dyed red in those days. Redcoats! The British! Shuddup, Fred, it’s me, Irma.)

A distaff is what you attach to your spinning wheel to hold the retted flax while you turn it into linen yarn.

So here we are at the museum, and a man walks by holding what looked like a small glass aquarium. Inside was white fluff and–chaff?–and some kind of mechanical something and a handle. He told us that it was Eli Whitney’s actual cotton gin; did we want to try it?

I would never in a million years have pictured it as being something that small. Tractor sized, or rather horse-pulling-sized, but look at that!

I asked him, May I?

Sure!

I picked up some of the ginned cotton and began to draw it: hold the wad in the left hand, pull slowly, steadily but firmly with the right hand, twisting as the left lets a little out and a little more and a little more, twist, twist, twist. Voila! A single-spun yarn! Not very long, but hey. (Hope that doesn’t wreck your exhibit, sorry, as I handed it back to him.)

The docent was dumbfounded. “How did you do that?! I’ve been trying to do that for years!”

You can’t just twist, I told him, then it just untwists back to the way it was. You have to draw and twist both. Pressure with the twisting.

You ply going one way, spin another strand going the same way when you’re done, then ply them together twisting the other way to create a balanced yarn that hangs flat so the fabric you make from it doesn’t skew sideways.

(With an unspoken, Hey, buddy, you want more info for your exhibit? Call me.)

So. Someone got an Ig Noble prize for figuring out why dry spaghetti noodles always break the characteristic way they do and someone else was intrigued and wanted to know: is it actually possible, then, to break dry spaghetti into two equal halves?

And the answer turned out to be yes.

But you have to twist it just so as the pressure is applied for it to work.



This one, yes, that one, pass
Tuesday August 07th 2018, 10:47 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I finished Red Notice and I wanted to start right back at page one again. Read it, if you get a chance. Make the chance. This one’s important.

John McCain of all people made me cry, in a good way. He’d been there. He knew. He did something about it.

“What are you going to read next?” I was asked this evening.

And so a shorter book that had been on my to-do list is also finished.

Well, huh.

For the author’s sake I am not going to name it here. Let’s just say it definitely suffered by the comparison and some books make me glad I like to knit.



Change of fortune
Monday August 06th 2018, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Before he died, my uncle, the late Senator Bob Bennett of Utah, told all his kids to read, “Red Notice,” by Bill Browder.

Which one of them happened to mention on Facebook the other day in memory of her dad.

I picked it up today and I finally made myself put it down just now with a third to go because there simply is no more time in the day.

The man can definitely write. And Uncle Bob was right: everybody should definitely read this.



I have to speak up. I must. We must.
Wednesday June 20th 2018, 10:31 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Politics

Today was a Holly day, and it was so good to get to see her again. We live so close and so far: it can take several hours, depending on the traffic.

She had just enough time for a visit while her husband was at a meeting in town.

We found ourselves as mothers drawn again and again to the subject of the cruelty going on at our borders to children–babies, even–and their families, the damage the trauma is doing to their developing brains.

Our laws spell out how one can apply for asylum when one is in fear for one’s life. The approved crossing points for doing so have been closed, people have been directed to cross elsewhere and when they have complied with that order have been arrested as criminals.

Our President lies when he says others did this before him; they did not. They held families together, and even his own administration did too until this May. He lies when he says only Congress can change the law because there is no law saying they must do this, and in fact the administration is violating our laws as well as all human decency and compassion. They actually forbid the workers from hugging and comforting a crying child.

But the sad-funny part about it was Trump’s trying to blame Obama for it. What he’s saying then is that even out of office Obama has more power than Trump does right now and that Trump is too weak to do anything about it.

Actually, there’s a great deal of truth to that but not of a type Trump could ever fathom.

Yes he did sign an executive order this afternoon: but watch what he does, not what he says. The unmentioned fine print was that after 20 days families can still be torn apart. They will process children and adults at different rates. Deport the parents. Keep the kids. Already we have one woman who was released from custody–and they say they cannot tell her where her seven-year-old son is.  Who DOES this to people?!

We are better than this, we must be better than this, we must demand better than this. Every Republican Senator has the option to caucus with the Democrats on the issue, and all we need is one, just one, one with a conscience, and we could get a law passed right now forbidding these human rights violations and dare Trump to veto it. The man is a bully and bullies cave when you stand up to them.

And if you don’t–they only bully harder.

Tomorrow I may show off some knitting or some such. But for now I will leave you with this:

From the Kenyan-born Somali poet Warsan Shire:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

 



Go. Do this right now.
Wednesday April 18th 2018, 6:15 pm
Filed under: History,LYS

Did you use Turbo Tax? Go check right now to see if you got confirmation that your returns have been received by the state and feds. You have till midnight tonight.

I had a particular yarn errand in mind and found myself heading to Cottage Yarns today (So. Much. Malabrigo there!), where Kathryn’s husband and daughter were minding the shop. As they were winding my wool I found myself mentioning to him the phone call that had dragged on and on and on and had had us falling into bed at long last at 1 a.m.

He was suddenly very concerned. We compared notes. Had he gotten any confirmation of having filed? He didn’t think so. I told him we had only gotten confirmation from Turbo Tax that I’d paid the $25 to have the state return e-filed.

Yeah, I got that, he said. But he was suddenly pretty sure that that’s all he’d gotten, too.

I told him that it had bugged me till I’d finally decided I had to find out. The tech person we finally got connected to was overwhelmed, tired, and was chasing down every idea she could think of.

I saved him from the endless circular screens followed by nearly two hours on the phone that we’d had to go through to make sure we were doing the right thing. And it is this: check every email address and text message. Did you get those confirmations from the state and feds? No? Go submit those returns again. Right now. A known computer glitch somewhere between Turbo Tax and the IRS is why the deadline was extended to tonight, and clearly we tripped over it.

I have to admit it was highly gratifying to find that I was not the only one. I’d been told by them that I must just have missed clicking that submit button, when I knew I hadn’t. I’d seen that page before that congratulated me for being done.

He knew he’d done his right, too.

We got our confirmations today. But there is still no sign that we ever did it the first time.

I am so very glad that today I felt that it was imperative that I buy that particular shade of red Russ said his wife loves that I didn’t have in my stash–and that I felt I had to go to buy it from them.

Many happy returns of the day to all.



The soap opera
Monday April 16th 2018, 10:40 pm
Filed under: History,Life,Politics,Wildlife

Winter cold, rain, hail, the now-daily appearance of a Cooper’s hawk impatient with young to feed (clearly), and an earthquake–3.9, just enough to be entertaining if you even feel it (I didn’t.)

And the disclosure in court over Trump’s lawyer’s lawyer’s objections that Trump’s lawyer of late had but three clients: Trump, Trump’s fellow rich friend who likewise had a woman he allegedly wanted paid off and silenced, and (drumroll) Sean Hannity of Fox News. Meaning any time Hannity has gone off on Mueller’s investigation it could well because of what Mueller might find in the files now seized from Cohen on Hannity.

I bet he’s finding the ground a bit shaky over there.



YouTube today
Tuesday April 03rd 2018, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life,Politics

She was going out to dinner near the airport with her best friend, who was then going to drop her off for her flight.

She glanced at her phone as we started out. Great, there’s been a shooting.

In San Bruno.

We were headed to San Bruno.

On some level, it just didn’t sink in; it just made no sense.

She read on. The shooter was already known to be dead; we didn’t think we were going to be too close to the scene anyway.

But after I got home I found out a friend had marked himself as Safe on Facebook (Oh is that where your new job is) and another had said that she was pinging her co-workers, hoping to hear that they were okay. She later deleted the post: no sense in letting the crazies know where she worked.

These are the times we’ve been allowing ourselves to live in and creating for our children to inherit.

Meantime, another friend had a small fender-bender near there and a witness waited with her for the police to come–and for friendly chat to pass the time he asked her, Did you hear about YouTube? When she said no, he (with expletives) said that they deserved it because they were threatening our Second Amendment rights.

Wait. YouTube said they would no longer allow videos that made them a party to gun sales. They didn’t say you couldn’t sell, they didn’t say you couldn’t speak, they didn’t outlaw your guns, they’re not the government nor are they a public utility nor are they censoring speech, they simply said that on the platform that they own and pay people to manage, on the machines and electricity bills that they pay for, these were some of the rules for participating.

Anybody can still make their own video and host it on their own server.

This man actually thought it was okay to wish a death sentence on innocent people out loud to a total stranger–and he assumed she would agree with him!–for YouTube’s unwillingness to be a party to what they felt was promoting gun violence. This afternoon that issue was forced into their very workplace and I imagine their decision gained both clarity and a deep-seated sense of righteousness.

If people like him think that they’re a majority, then clearly that would suggest he could strike it rich with his own startup: video hosting for people who think like him. Literally nothing right now is stopping him. Venture capitalists in Silicon Valley constantly chase the next big money-maker, go make your pitch to them.

You see? That First Amendment: and it came first for a reason.

But it does not include the right to force someone else to pay to issue your speech for you.



So he got to look forward to making her happy, too
Sunday March 25th 2018, 10:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knitting a Gift,Lupus

My thanks to all those who participated in the March for our Lives yesterday–I would have given anything to join in. But lupus. And sun.

But wow those kids! They are the courage and the conscience of the nation.

Knitting stuff: my friend Karen’s son told me his wife was home with a cold. You should have seen his face light up when I gave him the butter-yellow cowl to take to her–and then the matching hat for their baby on the way. The joy and the love for both of them and the anticipation… I came away feeling how fortunate they were to have each other. That baby is going to grow up in a happy home.



Flintstones
Monday March 19th 2018, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

I remember the day years ago when we drove Dad to Carmel to see his old Army buddy for the first time since I’d been about three. We held back at the driveway to let Dad walk on ahead of us.

The man saw our car and quickly came out the door to greet us.

I got to see the moment when the two men laid eyes on each other, a mixture of recognition that was delayed just that one slight millisecond–and the unspoken sudden shock at each other’s aging and thus their own in their joy as they threw their arms around each other. It had been so long.

Dad’s buddy’s career was as a producer of the Hanna Barbara cartoons.

So maybe that’s a small part of why I so like this place: it reminds me of Dad’s friend.

Someone has finally bought the Flintstone house. Someone with the money and the will to preserve it and the hillside it’s built into, someone who walked in the door and fell in love at first sight, someone with a keen sense of whimsy.

Someone who’s added fifteen-foot dinosaurs, cartoon mushroom sculptures and Fred himself, with more to come. Because she can, and why not?

I’ve seen it at a distance driving by and had wondered, and those pictures are a treat.

I love that the original architect got to see his masterpiece being loved all over again.



Passing the baton
Thursday March 15th 2018, 10:41 pm
Filed under: History,Knitting a Gift,Politics

The first of the two skeins of Debbie Bliss Rialto in butter is done. The knitting is dense, the yarnovers are few so as not to give baby fingers much to snag and pull on, and I could almost stop here. Nah, it needs that second one, I don’t get off that easy.

Meantime, I didn’t say yesterday because I was still trying to process the experience into words: around ten a.m. Wednesday, I happened to be driving past a school that’s on the main drag and it looked like the entire student body was out there on the sidewalk protesting.

I gave them a huge smile and thumbs-up from the other side of the road and they all cheered and waved their homemade signs. It felt very much like a celebration of the right of the people peaceably to assemble to petition the government. Their civics and history teachers aced this.

I remembered the day my mom was driving me from near DC to Baltimore for the Maryland State Piano Competition when the March on Washington to protest the Vietnam War had been the day before. There were hikers with backpacks along the freeway, where pedestrians were never supposed to be, and every now and then they would turn and hold up a cardboard sign at the oncoming traffic naming the city or town they eventually hoped to get back to. Some of them had a very long way to go.

Hitchhiking was common in those days and on that hour’s drive and back I saw no sign of any cops hassling those kids: they had come together to change history for the better for all of us by demanding their voices be heard–and they succeeded.

Those just older in my generation didn’t want to shoot at other people’s kids in Vietnam. Our kids want the shootings of kids and others here to stop. They are in the right, and they are making themselves heard.

Right here and all across the country. I am so very proud of them all.



Yes you
Thursday February 01st 2018, 10:07 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History

A story I got to hear my dad tell last week.

When Reed Smoot arrived in DC from the then-new state of Utah, his fellow Senators challenged him and refused to seat or have anything to do with him. And not only was he ostracized for being a Mormon, his wife was shunned, too, and she found herself very, very lonely in their new town.

Note that my grandmother’s book tells of how, in the early 1950’s when she was the new Senator’s wife from that state, her husband being a freshman, she was expected to put on white gloves, a hat, and go from home to home in order of seniority of each of the other Senatorial wives bringing her calling card. One was to comply with longstanding tradition. My Western-raised grandmother found it all very strangely Victorian.

The Smoots arrived nearly fifty years earlier. I imagine there were no such getting-to-know-yous–Mrs. Smoot’s presence was not wanted.

My parents as newlyweds attended the same ward (Mormon congregation) in DC as the Smoots’ son.

And this is what he told Dad:

The President was throwing a party at the White House, and when the President threw a party, the protocol was that no one was to leave before he did.

He knew full well what was going on.

(I should let Dad tell this, and correct me if I got any details wrong, Dad.)

When the time was fully spent, Teddy Roosevelt announced that it was time for him to head upstairs to bed. He then turned to her and her alone and pronounced, “Good night, Mrs. Smoot!” Then away from the crowd and was gone.

And that act of acknowledgement and kindness changed everything for her.



Space X last month
Tuesday January 09th 2018, 11:28 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

I promised you guys and then forgot to post it after we got home–here’s Richard’s best picture of Elon Musk’s Space X. We were heading into a restaurant in La Jolla, 300 miles south of where this took off from, at the time we looked up to see why everybody else on the sidewalk was staring up into the sky. There was much speculation about what on earth that thing could be, till someone successfully Googled it.

Doesn’t it look like a fish that swallowed a fish?

Looks like you can embiggen the photo this time–scroll to the right. The bigger picture gives you a better sense of just how enormous this was in the sky to us.



Bags
Tuesday December 26th 2017, 11:51 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

And we are home. So much to tell. This isn’t one of Richard’s shots of Elon Musk’s Space X launch, it’s the one I took several minutes later. We were 300 miles south of where it took off and it still took up a huge chunk of the sky (this was the small part).

We said goodbye to our son John at the airport as we went our separate ways tonight. Same airline, different gates, our baggage checked in by different agents.

Arriving home, my smaller bag (thankfully mostly empty) was AWOL. He called just a few minutes ago to say that while he was waiting and waiting and waiting for his big bag (just like we had just done), lo and behold, mine, with our tag and name and airport on it, had shown up instead and he’d recognized it. Had his shown up first of course he would have been long gone.

He needs his a lot more than I needed mine. We’re holding out hope–hey, it worked for the two of us; meantime, that’s one $50 Southwest voucher for us when we retrieve ours at the airport when it gets in instead of making them deliver it.

The most surprising moment of the trip happened at church: I saw an old friend who with his family (a few years younger than ours) had moved out of our ward probably twenty years ago.

I knew that his wife had been very ill of late. I knew she had been in a coma for some time with her survival by no means certain–but I had heard nothing since and I didn’t quite know how to ask.

I asked how she was–and he, beaming, motioned, She’s right here!

Oh. My. Goodness!!!

Hale and hearty and enjoying a family reunion, just like we were. I tell you. That was one great moment.

Of many.



Senator Jones
Tuesday December 12th 2017, 11:35 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

Alabama voted for Democrat Doug Jones, a good and decent man, over the demented, angry child molester.

I really thought they would, but I’m still trying to take in the reality that they actually did it. They did it! They gave themselves a future to be proud of! (As one person aptly put it after looking over the vote totals, African-Americans, especially African-American women there, saved the white population from its worst self.)

I get to open more presents tomorrow, but that was already the best one.



We are family
Wednesday November 08th 2017, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Family,Friends,History,Life

Two moments from the weekend:

At the 65th anniversary party. Was it the cane? My hearing impairment? Or her own age? She would later tell me her childhood memories of LA going black at night after Pearl Harbor–no street lights, no headlights, no house lights near windows, just a total darkness that was new and strange.

She had to ask me twice, even though I actually did hear it the first time–it’s just that it was so unexpected that I had no idea how to respond and I didn’t want to be rude by bursting out laughing.

Again: “Are you Frances’s younger sister?”

(Frances IS the younger sister.) “No, I’m her fourth child.” Alright, then! And the conversation moved cheerfully on, no harm done.

Thing the second. When we stopped by my uncle’s house, we surprised him by coming, even if for just ten minutes or so pre-airport–he didn’t know we were in town–and he surprised us with two bound copies of some essays he’d had printed. He needed a little help figuring out again just what the connection was to his late friends but he knew there was one.

He had been the mission secretary to our daughter-in-law’s great-grandfather. This guy, in the man’s youth. And then he was in the Army with Conway, the man’s son.

There were memories in those pages and he’d wanted his late friend Conway’s kids to have a copy and there we were. Probably the best Christmas present we could possibly pass along to them–not that we’ll wait that long. Uncle Wally is 94 and he’ll want to hear back.

Just let me finish fighting off this bug. It’s down to simple cold status today.