One smoking-hot car
Thursday April 18th 2019, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Chocolate happened. And the test of Richard’s latest Rube Goldberg: to hold it at this level warmth, then down, then up, then hold for tempering it. It’s currently at 30C, with the molds on a cookie sheet with wires running under it. For our control group we have the extras that didn’t fit on it.

Meantime, the treasure of the day. Cute little car, I said. (Wondering at that odd bit at the top.)

He looked it over. “It’s a cigarette lighter–see?” (Flick. Not that anything came out.)

Okay, *that* was ironic. An intricately detailed toy car for a Detroit radio station’s call name given, I presume, to the chairman of the FCC, a small token that didn’t violate Federal guidelines. (Or maybe Richard’s Grampa bought it. Can’t ask him now.)

It is certainly a historical reference to the fact that most adults smoked when we Baby Boomers were growing up; the cigarette companies provided free smokes to American soldiers, oh so patriotically, so as to snag the Greatest Generation market; they were so much a part of the culture of the day that one of my favorite Halloween candies was candy cigarettes, so little kids could mimic their parents, box and all.

Which my mother found to be an outrageous product and made us give them to her to throw away–so one year I hid mine. I guess you could say I sneaked a smoke in the woods behind the house with Mary Lou next door. (I can just see my parents reading this and going, Ooooh. Mary Lou. That explains it. That kid…)

So. Not only was GrampaH a commissioner of the FCC at one point in his life, he was also the one who got hauled before Congress and grilled mercilessly for saying the law says the airwaves are to be used for the public interest; the Surgeon General has just come out with the (first) official statement that smoking is bad for your health; ergo, the law says smoking ads should not be allowed on the air.

They painted him as corrupt but he had every receipt for every expense he’d ever submitted going all the way back to when he’d helped establish the Federal Radio Commission before TVs existed. His wife sat in the room to cheer him silently on and knitted herself a herringbone coat which she would proudly tell me about when she was 97. They grilled him for days, the southern tobacco-growing-state Senators in particular.

Awhile later they went, he’s right, and passed a law specifically taking smoking ads off the air.

And so here we are, all these decades later, with a little toy car. From a radio station. In Detroit. GrampaH had owned the little roadster, and he was a Mormon. Did he offer it to people who wanted to light up? Would not having an ash tray in a high official’s office have been rude?

Who knows?

We had no idea the thing existed.

But I gotta tell you, the provenance of this one (it’s sitting on what it says is its owners manual) is nonpsychodegradeable.



Notre Dame
Monday April 15th 2019, 10:15 pm
Filed under: Family,History

We talked to the kid whose birthday is today.

Who once did a semester abroad in Paris.

Who stayed in an apartment on the Left Bank.

Who got to see Notre Dame every day.

Who told us, before we saw the latest of today’s news releases, that more had been saved from the fire than they had quite dared to hope.



History on a small scale
Thursday February 07th 2019, 11:15 pm
Filed under: History

I stumbled across an article online that was clearly plagiarized from the original–and they watered it down, which was worse. I went looking. I know people who were there then.

This is the original story. A charismatic young high school history teacher here, trying to answer the question of one of his students in 1967 as to how the Germans could possibly have fallen for what Hitler did, improvised a real-life experiment that spiraled way out of hand to where he and the kids found themselves in a full-blown enforced fascist state–and not just his kids: students were skipping classes at the other two high schools in town to join in.

It was so horrifically successful that Jim Jones, who would later perpetrate the Jonestown massacre where 909 people died, tried to get him to tell him how he’d pulled it off.

And no, that teacher did not keep his job.



It’s for sale
Monday February 04th 2019, 11:37 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,LYS

About ten years ago I was having a conversation online with Tina Newton of Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The knitters here may remember the story told by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee of the yarn dyer whose Sock Yarn of the Month Club got yanked without warning after 9/11 by its bank as being clearly a source of funding terrorists, because the idea that people would sign up to buy yarn! To knit…SOCKS!! was just too outlandish for comprehension. And so without asking the customers if they’d been cheated by her site nor letting her know that they were supposedly on to her, her bank abruptly yanked all funds paid for that club out of her account and refunded everybody so as to stop her diabolical plans in their tracks.

None of her customers had asked to be refunded. She certainly hadn’t planned for that to happen to her company’s finances.

Yeah that was fun.

Anyway, so that’s how I heard of Blue Moon, and at one point she had a colorway named Rock Creek. My husband grew up a block away from Rock Creek near the Maryland/DC line. So out of sheer curiosity I asked if there were any connection to the one there.

Tina laughed that there must be a Rock Creek in every state of the Union–but, yes.

Wait, so…

We ended up putting down the computers and talking on the phone. Turns out she and I had grown up a mile, maybe a mile and a half away from each other and almost certainly knew people in common and definitely places.

And about dead center between our homes and familiar to all was the old Magruder’s blacksmith shop, built by a man who died in 1751. (The real estate listing got the built date very wrong.) The family home was a much larger house up the hill. It was this tiny one where his slaves lived, climbing a ladder to the loft above for a bedroom, a sober reminder of the past. If you scroll down on the county’s historical register page about it, you can see where the road to the right used to be that they wanted to tear down that house for so they could widen it.

The outcry was such that they rerouted the road past the back of the property instead and dead-ended the original going up the hill from the house. (You scroll down to the very bottom of that link and you see the spot where my mom turning right at the bottom of the photo got hit head-on by a school bus that had lost its brakes and gone over the center to try to avoid cars waiting for the light. Mom was fine.)

Someone from my high school is into historical structures and posted those links on Facebook.

And I wanted to go, Mom! Dad! This says that place has a basement! I think that thrilled me to read because it meant the poor souls who had no choice but to live there a very long time ago had more space to themselves than I ever knew, and I’m grateful for that.

But all my life I’ve wanted to see the inside of that house. Now’s my chance. Just a plane ride away, right?


Edited to add, one of my friends back home found a video showing the inside!



Potty like there’s no tomorrow
Thursday January 17th 2019, 11:20 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

And on a completely random note, I have a question: did any of you grow up with a Pittsburgh Potty? I didn’t even know there was a name for such a thing, much less that anybody else had one. The house I grew up in had one and it was the weirdest thing. How could you have that and not a sink for washing your hands afterwards? Did the builder’s mother know they got away with that? I think each of us kids clandestinely used it at least once just to prove it really worked (I remember asking Mom first if it did, but I didn’t tell her why I was asking. BYOTP.)

It was inside a built-in bomb shelter in the basement, and I always figured it was part of that particular Cold War trend. Since there were no walls around it, just that big empty room with cinder block walls built into the hillside and always cold in there, it was a good place for storing food and Mom and Dad put shelving in front of the thing and cans and jars to give it everything but a door behind there.

That room had its own part-walled-off hallway to get in, a faint attempt at a maze, to help protect you from, I dunno, nuclear fallout?

Here’s the link to what I’m talking about.

The potty part, anyway. There was actually a reason for them. Who knew?



How the song came to be
Wednesday December 19th 2018, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Family,History

Via my cousin, who writes music in New York City for Broadway.

The lovely Christmas song “Do you hear what I hear?” was written in the middle of and as an answer to, of all things, the Cold War. “The tail as big as a kite” refers to a nuclear missile as well as the heavenly star in the song’s appeal to the people everywhere for peace.

The Atlantic has the story.



Saving
Tuesday December 18th 2018, 10:36 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Life

Tom Perriello is a good man. The mother could see that in his face in her moment of desperation, he could see how loved that child was when she approached him–ie, no, this wasn’t child trafficking, and wow what a story.

The Washington Post doesn’t say why the mother couldn’t fly home too right then. But in that moment that US citizen had to get her five-year-old daughter out of Sierra Leone. Fifteen years later, due to yet another chance meet-up, the woman found the man who had saved her daughter.

My old high school friend Katherine is in Sierra Leone now, working hard at providing schooling and medical care to girls there. I worry for her safety as she worries for theirs. She found that some were leaving classes because they could not afford food–so she’s got a fundraiser to pay for their lunches, here, if you’re interested. She takes zero overhead.

If you do or don’t I’ll never know and the amount doesn’t matter: every stitch in the sweater keeps it together. And a dollar goes a lot farther there.

How often do we get a chance to directly help girls in Africa who could not otherwise stay in school?



Being particlecular
Friday November 16th 2018, 11:31 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Life

We hit AQI 202, officially Very Unhealthy and purple on the map tonight.

It was about the time of that last big fire down south that he ordered it on a whim: he’s an engineer, he likes to measure things, to quantify. Turn the unknown into a known.

With the Camp Fire burning away, yesterday he remembered he had this thing. He almost apologized to me as he said it had cost about $45; it was a bit more than his usual little toy.

Hey. I’m a yarn enthusiast. Enjoy!

And so he took it to work today.

The construction people working on the building had been leaving the doors propped open: he showed the effects. This AQI reading here, this one here, this one here.

Wow.

Word got around, and people were asking him to read the particulate levels in their offices, too.

One colleague’s office was well above 100 and his boss was not happy.

The HVAC guy said yeah the filters are loading up and we’re having to order new ones.

The cafeteria! The official AQI scale is 0-500 and the machine stops at 500. 500. Could be anything above that. Now they know.

Yonder guy with the meter happened to be emailing the specifics as he went.

I’m wondering what percentage of those co-workers ordered their own meters on the spot.



The AQI is supposed to be worse tomorrow
Thursday November 15th 2018, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Family,History,Knitting a Gift,Life,LYS

Malabrigo Mecha is my favorite for making a quick, warm, densely knit, beautiful hat out of, and my two brothers and the two local daughters of one of those brothers each ended up with one last weekend.

Which (thinking of the relatives we got to see while we were at the reunion) was just the start. But I was out of that yarn again other than a bag of ten dedicated to becoming an afghan.

There is only one local store that sells it and hey, twist my arm, so I headed out today towards Cottage Yarns.

North or south, whichever way you looked getting onto the freeway the instinct for self-preservation did not want to go there: if there’s that much smoke there could be a fire just beyond, and since the wind can pick up embers and toss them twenty miles down the road (but we’re two hundred from Paradise) maybe I should have checked the latest report first?

Stop it, I told the stupid little fear. Just go. You know it’s okay.

All the cars looked like a variant of spring fever: coated in fire pollen.

The air quality index in South San Francisco was even worse than ours at 211; we were at 179. I was told later that San Jose was nine times worse than Beijing today.

The door to the shop was open only just enough to let people know they could come in.

I talked to Kathryn a moment, being in no hurry to go back out into that, and she told me they’d had a sale last weekend and she’d figured it would be a bust because who would want to come out into the smoke.

What had happened instead is that people had shown up, lots of people: since officially nobody’s supposed to be outside they were buying yarn to have something new and happy to do inside and to create something good in the face of the firestorm, so much so that it turned out to be her best sale event ever. People came together before spending their time separated, and it was clear it meant a lot to her.

I headed home the longer way, through the hills rather than the heavier traffic of the valley floor.

There’s that stretched-out bridge with the reservoir below and the Flintstone House off to the left. The vivid orange beamed like a lighthouse against the smokey storm but to the right, you could not tell that there was water below. At 1:45 pm. It was that bad.

One of my nieces had requested an undyed white hat. If I get it done fast enough it’ll still be that color when she gets it. I think I’ll stay home tomorrow and knit.



Handknit warmth for the survivors and bereaved
Monday October 29th 2018, 11:00 pm
Filed under: History,Knit,Life

A yarn store not far from the Tree of Life synagogue that was attacked is collecting squares to be made into afghans, with a deadline of December 1st and a request that you not weave the ends in (I imagine they want to use them for sewing the squares together in yarns that match.) Note that there are three synagogues that meet in the same building and all were affected.

Yarns By Design got permission from Nickie Epstein to share her Tree of Life pattern and posted it here.

I’m hoping I can find enough people in my area for us to finish at least one afghan in full.

I’ll let the shop tell the details of what they want. I’d love to hear any other ideas on designs.

Pattern: any and all designs and skill-levels are welcome
eg. Stars of David, trees, hearts, doves, plain, etc

Size: 9” horizontally by 8.5” vertically with a 5 row seed stitch edging
Yarn: Dk or sport weight (3 on the standard scale), super wash wool or other washable fibers only. Please make sure your yarn won’t felt!
Gauge: 6 stitches/in stockinette
Needle size: 5-7, or whatever you need to get gauge
Style: knit or crochet

All samples can be dropped off at the YBD boutique by December 1st, or mailed to us at:

Yarns By Design
622 Allegheny River Blvd
Oakmont PA 15139



For Pittsburgh
Sunday October 28th 2018, 9:43 pm
Filed under: History,Life

I wanted to say something yesterday but it was just too close. People I love knew people who were in the synagogue (link to their stories) where so many lives were taken and so many were hurt.

Here in our local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we have two wards that share the same building, switching off morning vs afternoon meeting times. We’re in the afternoon time slot this year.

Seats in the classrooms are set up by the morning crew for both wards to use and then put away by the afternoon one so that vacuuming can happen.

But there are not normally plastic chairs on the stand in the chapel. And they most especially are not left there for the second ward to deal with if there are–I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. It was startling to have a random set of them facing the audience that no one was using and that there seemed to be no reason nor plan for, at least as far as we were concerned.

And yet.

I have no idea if someone realized that this is what they were doing, and no mention was made of it.

But there they were, off to the side of the rise from where the choir sings and the speakers speak, some stacked, some single: somebody’s subconscious had apparently insisted they remain there.

Eleven empty chairs set before the congregation.

There could have been more below the table for the wounded, including the police who had tried to protect, but those eleven were the ones seen.

Eleven empty seats in that house of worship facing us, silently asking us throughout the meeting what we will do now, what we must do, so that someday there might be no more chairs emptied by hate.

Love and kindness, one simple human interaction at a time. We must.



Congressional hearing
Thursday September 27th 2018, 10:39 pm
Filed under: Friends,History,Knitting a Gift,Life

I promised myself I would use the time to knit. With the time zone difference and our morning schedule, I missed some of Dr. Ford’s testimony but what I saw was riveting and heartbreaking and as real as it gets.

Kavanaugh‘s Yale roommate said he was mean when he was drunk. Today we got to see the guy sober–and I wouldn’t want to be around him when he’s anything worse. Self-righteous, highly partisan, self-pitying, loud, angry, bombastic, rude, steamrollering, and over the top: this is the kind of man that women stay as far away from as they can.

Judy’s cowl is almost done.

I can’t change what the Senate might do tomorrow, but I can make a difference to one woman with it.



Slow down, take your time, do it right
Monday September 24th 2018, 11:21 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

My folks aren’t on Facebook so I’m going to put the statement from Mormon Women for Ethical Government here so they can see it, too:

 

“Given the seriousness of the allegations levied against Judge Kavanaugh, we call upon the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to immediately suspend the confirmation proceedings until a thorough independent investigation can be conducted.

We very specifically urge the four members of the committee who share our faith as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–Senator Hatch, Senator Lee, Senator Flake, and Senator Crapo–to ensure that these charges be taken seriously and that every attempt be made to ascertain the truth of the situation. Our mutual faith teaches that any sexual abuse or assault in any context is contemptible and worthy of the most severe condemnation.

If these accusations are proved false, an investigation will prevent harm to the court’s legitimacy. If they are true, then Judge Kavanaugh must not be confirmed.

As we have stated previously, sexual assault must not be normalized or condoned in any way or by anyone, especially those charged with political leadership. We boldly condemn any attempts to justify such inexcusable and reprehensible behavior and demand that our elected leaders set a morally sound example.

# # #

Mormon Women for Ethical Government (MWEG) is a nonpartisan group of over 6,000 women dedicated to the ideals of decency, honor, accountability, transparency, and justice in governing. MWEG is not formally affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We do, however, fully sustain the leaders and doctrines of the Church.”



While trees grow quietly
Friday September 21st 2018, 10:48 pm
Filed under: History,Mango tree,Politics

Thank you for the notes and comments. To my great relief, today was, cold? What cold?

New mango leaves and inflorescence–today they have stalks. This is new.

Meantime, I’ve been riveted by updates on Christine Blasey Ford’s case.

There is no statute of limitations for felony sexual assault in Maryland. Montgomery County’s chief of police just tweeted that all he needs is for her to file a criminal complaint and he’s prepared to investigate.

That would mean that Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge could be put under oath by the county, at a time when the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee are doing everything they can to stave that off and rush a vote before any truth squeezes out.

Go MoCo! (I grew up in that county.)



The sounds of their voices
Thursday September 06th 2018, 10:59 pm
Filed under: History,Politics

I picked up a cowl project that had been abandoned early on in the push to get the baby blanket done and sat down to watch the Kavanaugh hearings, a little yesterday, more so, today.

When he said he grew up “around here,” with drugs and gangs and so he professed empathy for gun violence victims, I went, wait…what? Turns out he grew up in Bethesda. So did I. Let me tell you, no, he did not grow up in a violent neighborhood, not by a very long, well, shot, and there are no bad neighborhoods in my hometown. Gary Hart, one-time presidential contender, lived in the neighborhood. So did Neil Armstrong for two years. Frank Lloyd Wright’s grandson, in a house his grandfather had designed for his dad. Stephen Colbert’s family was across the street and in the house next to that, (a little later) Steve Rosenberg, Ronald Reagan’s cancer surgeon, whose kids I used to babysit on Friday nights. I’m name-dropping shamelessly to make a point: the house my folks built way out in the woods in the middle of, at the time, nowhere, turned out to be a town where you wanted to live if you could.

But here’s where it got interesting: the split screen was gone by the late afternoon and one could only hear the Senators now. The camera did not pan to them. So I don’t know who it was, although I’m guessing Richard Blumenthal? But after all the speechifying and talking at Kavanaugh, here was the quiet, calm voice of what sounded like a father figure of a man talking *to* him.

About what it was like to stand in Sandy Hook Elementary. To see the pictures. To see what such a weapon does to a child’s body, and why there is no place for it in a civil society. To grieve those first-graders who would never get to grow up, to stand in that place with and for their parents. The speaker understood Kavanaugh’s idealistic take on the Second Amendment, but there was this real life side of things, too, and real consequences to people, people who mean everything to other people.

He spoke with the respect that he clearly hoped Kavanaugh would grab onto and live up to from this moment on.

It was a moment of clarity offered amidst the bombast. I was impressed.

Kavanaugh, for his part, after nearly three days of being challenged and judged, clearly had not expected this. The issue, yes. Presented in a way that could not be argued against because it was offered with understanding of his point of view at the same time, no.

That’s when he used his hometown as his “so I get it, I know,” which, I’m sorry, was so far out in left field that one could only shake one’s head.

His questioner gently continued along the same lines.

At the end, Sen. Grassley puffed about how great a man sat before us and how much he had satisfied the inquiries of these last two (he later said three–maybe someone slipped him a note) days.

With the camera only on Kavanaugh, there it was: his eyes darted hard to the side and back when Grassley called him a good man. His jaw twitched and his face clenched when told he was a great judge. It was clear: he didn’t believe it.

Whether that was imposter syndrome or the tell of an actual imposter, I guess we’ll have to find out one way or another. But he did not look comfortable in his own skin in that moment when the praises were the most effusive.

Only when–Blumenthal?–treated him with not fawning but actual respect even in disagreement, that, his body language and voice responded to in kind. It was the only time I’ve seen it in him.