Monday, June 24, 2013

St. Anastasia, Really?

As I passed the large icon of my patron saint yesterday in church, the thought flashed into my mind, "She wished her husband dead."

Yes, it's true, she did.  She was married to an abusive man in pagan Rome, and she prayed he would either become a Christian or else die.  (He died.). 

Now when saints pray this way, they man it for the other's good, that he may rack up no further sins.  But you know, she was human, and I'm not sure I can believe that when he died, she was not glad for her own sake, as well, at the deliverance.  St. Anastasia, after whom I am named!

It's worth noting that there are more ways to abuse someone than physical, there are more was to betray a spouse than sexual, and there are more was to kill than bodily. 

FOR KNITTERS ONLY, Two Easy Experiments

I call this, "Network".  It's the one every new knitter tries from curiosity.  

*K2tog., YO*, end k1.

That's it. Same every row and the work thus looks exactly the same front and back.  That makes it good for items, like scarves, that will be seen front and back.

This is sport weight yarn.  I started with US size 7 needles (4.5 mm).  Should have used a size smaller, or else used heavier yarn, for the solid effect I was trying for.  Mena made it with extra bulky yarn and large needles, and it looked better than this.

So that's the bottom few rows.  By time we get up to the green pins, I have changed to a US size 10.5 (6.5 mm) needle.  And then at the top, I intended to use 13s (9 mm) but afterward discovered that one of them had been a 15 (10mm).  Very different effect.

This is Broomstick Lace.  The fabric is similar, but not identical, on the other side.

It's easy in a way and not so easy in another way.  You need a multiple of 5 sts plus edging.  

Row one:  K, wrapping yarn around needle 3 times in each stitch.

Row two:  *Slip 5 sts. from left needle, letting all YOs drop.  K these 5 sts. together, leave them on LH needle, then (YO, knit the same 5 sts. together again) twice, for a total of 5 newly-made sts.  Repeat to end of row.

That's is.  Simple!  The slightly tricky part is getting those five stitches to look right.  You may have to pull and tug to get them properly positioned.

Just for fun, I put two rows of garter st. before the last repeat, since patterns I've seen have them.  Not sure they add anything.

This pattern, I think, looks better in fingering or sock yarn, but I can only guess what size needle.  I might try a swatch with a 7 and go from there.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Knitting Tips and Tricks

I have been browsing the Internet for knitting hints, and here are my favorites, so far.

Use a yarn bra or old sock or stocking end to hold skeins of yarn.  Prevents twisting and tangling.  Alternative method:  Use the little bags that cherry tomatoes come in. Just cut off the top label and you have a yarn bra that is very flexible and does not snag your yarn.

To make sure you have enough yarn to complete the second sock or other half, use a kitchen or postage scale.  Weigh the finished and then the remaining yarn.

To be sure you have enough yarn to complete a second row, before knitting the first row, place a loose knot half way down the yarn. If you do not have to undo the knot to complete the first row you have enough yarn to complete another row.  Alternative method:  When coming to the end of a ball of wool and you are not sure if it will knit another row stretch out stitches on your pin and if your wool will stretch over four times you have enough for another row.  (In my own experiene, three and a half times is enough.)

I decided to make an excel spreadsheet with all the yarn I owned.  Now when I want to start a project, I go to my "stash" document to see what I own and had forgotten!

Rather than spending money on Woolite which actually attracts dirt after you use it, use dollar store baby shampoo. It leaves no residue and gets wool very clean.

After you've finished your handywork, go back with the same yarn and do a row of single crochet around the buttonhole. This will make the hole so much stronger, and it looks so much more professional!

I just recently found an awesome knit/crochet pattern book that I think every knitter just starting out should have. It's called, "One-Skein Wonders." Many a time have I ended up with just one (sometimes a half) a skein of yarn and just didn't know what to do with it. This book has some really nifty ideas. Enjoy!

I do a lot of Charity Knitting. With the balls of wool left over I knit hand warmers for the elderly. Cast on 38sts - 1st Row. K2.P2 - 2nd row P2.K2 repeat for 7 inches. Cast off. Sew up side leaving enough room for the thumb. Uses up my small balls of wool and the oldies don't care about the rainbow colors as long as their hands are warm. I know I am old too.

When knitting the cuff of a sweater use one size smaller than the pattern asks for and you will get a nice neat fitting cuff. 

These row counters that you slide on to your knitting needle can move if you hold your needle under your arm.  I thread mine through a length of wool and hang it round my neck.  This is within easy reach and the rows never get moved accidentally.

I use a yarn needle to thread one of those small row counters that's meant to go on a needle onto the tail from my cast-on instead. That way the counter isn't weighing down one needle making it feel "off balance".

if you want to know how much yarn to use for a long-tail cast-on, wrap your yarn around the needle 10 times and release, hold yarn out and measure that same amount again for every 10 sts you plan to cast on, plus some extra for leaving a tail.

A nice, stretchy bind-off:  knit the first st. then K2tog, pull the first st knit over the k2tog st, then k2tog, pull the one sts left over the k2tog st, cont in this manner till all sts have been bound off.

Use a lace faggot chain to cast on lace & never worry about a too tight cast on. (Lace Faggot Chain in Mary Thomas's Pattern Book, page 157.) Cast on 2 sts. All rows: yo, p2tog. Slip your needle through the yo loops, attach yarn & you're good to go. A plus with this method is there are loops on both sides so you can knit in 2 directions or with some contortions proceed to knit in the round. It forms a wonderfully holey center. 

When using ring markers I slip knot a 3 or 4 inch tail of sewing thread to the marker. If the marker falls off it just stays in place and it's easy to drop off to complete a stitch and then replace the marker. If you have to tink or frog the tail keeps the marker in the right place. 

My favorite tip is to use a thin 'widish' piece of ribbon for my lifeline. It has the advantage of not leaving untidy remnants unmatching fiber; it is slick and can be removed easily; and best of all, it will fold in half within the stitches and form a nice pocket in which to easily slip the needle if you do need to rip back a portion of your project. 

For a handy cable holder, keep a darning needle tied to the end of your cast-on tail and use the needle to hold your cable stitches.


One Thought

I meant to post this a couple of weeks ago but with all the turmoil here, forgot.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Finesse, My Dear Girl, What You Need is Finesse

Last time we were at the hospital for x-rays, we met a woman there who took quite an obvious shine to Demetrios, and who wrote down our phone number  Two days ago, she rang, and Demetrios announced he was going to meet her at a coffee shop nearby.

"Am I invited?' I asked.

'Well, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you were to come along..."

"That's okay," I said.  "I wasn't invited, i won't come.  Just be aware it's not politics she's primarily interested in."

"You don't mean..."

"Yes, I do mean.  It's you and don't look so shocked."

"How do you know?"  He is so incredibly naive.

"A woman always knows these things.  And by the way, how would you feel if I had recently met a man who wanted to see me again, and I went out with him for coffee some evening?  It's just not really kosher, you see.  Inappropriate and all that."

"Come with me, then."

"No, thank you.  I don't fancy an hour of her company.  You go, and when you get home, tell me if I'm wrong."

"Okay, then.  What do you want to do about supper?"

"To have it with you, quite soon."

He was back in 45 minutes.

"She wanted to take me to meet a politician," he said.  "And we are invited to her house some time."



I said nothing, only smiled and nodded.  She's a faster worker than I thought.  Other women who  have been attracted to my husband have had enough subtlety not to scare him off right away.

Long Live Freedom!

It is now my sad undertaking to relate to you the events of this week which have plunged Greece back into crisis mode.

The government announced at 6:00 Tuesday evening that as of midnight it was going to shut down all the the state media:  television, radio, and their Internet streaming.  That is a little like shutting down NPR and PBS in America, except that here in Greece, it amounts to a major chunk of the media instead of just one among many.  A more apt comparison would be the British government shutting down the BBC and all its affiliates.  Included here are the National Symphony and the Conservatory of Music and the channel that was the equivalent of C-SPAN, on which you would watch the debates in Parliament.  (Now we have no idea what that body may be up to.)  Also, for reasons unknown, the student union shut down in the university in Athens, and I think, but cannot yet confirm, here in Thessaloniki's university, too.

The news anchors began putting out pleas for the public to gather at the broadcasting station and prevent the closure.  Police were sent in, not regular police who are public servants, but private thugs working for the government officials.    

Just before eleven, we went into another room to discuss whether we ought to go downtown or not.  By 11:15, when we turned the TV back on, the signal for those stations had gone dead.  So, as it was too late to try to prevent the deed, and in view of  my still lame foot and the fact it was raining, we stayed home.  Hundreds did gather, though,  here in Thessaloniki, and thousands in Athens.  They are still there and the crowds are growing.  So far, they are peaceful.

We have a few junk channels left, home shopping channels and soap opera channels and Nickelodeon and cartoons.  The BBC is gone and so is Deutsche Welle, both of which were operating here under contract with the Greek government.  (And both of which had programming in English, so there were a few things on television I could enjoy.)

The government claims this is for cost-cutting, and every news report you may read will tell you the same.  It's a lie.  How can we know?  Because had the objective been merely to trim the budget, per the demands of the EU, the way to do it would have been simply to cut the funding, not to send in the special police to evict the staff and lock the building.  Had it been merely a cost-cutting measure, the politic thing to do would have been for the government to say, in effect, "We're so sorry.  We entirely sympathize with you the public.  We hated doing this, but it was unavoidable."  Instead, we are hearing invective against the public TV and radio from the Prime Minster and other officials such as has rarely if ever been heard in Greece before, betraying that something more and something bigger is at stake.  We do not know what, but here is a quote from the Prime Minister:

"Greece had become a true Jurassic Park, a unique country in the world that saw the survival of dinosaurs with antiquated ideological obsessions that have become extinct everywhere else," Samaras said.

So the issue is an ideological one.  You can bet the so-called ideology of the ruling elite has strictly to do with the enhancement and protection of their own wealth.  And such quaint ideas as freedom of the press are the dinosaurs to which he refers - freedom, period, actually, or national sovereignty.  That crude, outdated, blood-soaked thing called "nationhood" must be wiped out.  (It's not just here in Greece.  I know from watching the BBC and Deutsche Welle that the Germans are being told anything distinctly German is bad, and the English are being told anything distinctly English is bad.)

"The sinful ERT," said Mr. Samaras in a hateful tone, "is finished."  ERT is (H)ellenic Radio Television.  A strange thing to say of an arm of your own government, because who is to blame if ERT is "sinful"?  Yes, it was a state-run outfit, and yes, there were too many people doing too little; that's how government organizations run; you reward your family and friends with cushy jobs.  Yes, these channels had a definite pro-government slant, so not everybody is sad to see them close.  The Golden Dawn party shrugs its collective shoulders and says to the ERT, you never gave us any coverage or access anyway (Golden Dawn got the same treatment as presidential candidate Ron Paul in America.) so what is there for us to say now?  But not merely to stop funding, but to shut off the signal and seize the premises, suddenly, in the middle of the night, with private police and contemptuous rhetoric?  It smacks too, too much of a coup, which some people in fact are calling it.  These were not all my favorite channels, but they did still (apparently) believe in freedom, including freedom of the press, and that is the point.

The crowds are still protesting.  The nationwide general strike (general meaning all the unions) is in its second day.  

The European Broadcasting Union, in defiance of the Greek government, has sent a van here to Thessaloniki and set up a pirate signal, using the car parking lot at the broadcast building.  So subscribers can still get the outlawed channels.  And everyone, apparently, can get the Internet version, unless or until Google decides to censor it as it censors news in China and in the US and UK drastically curtails items about the unrest going on right now in Turkey. 

The European Union itself has said very little, except by way of vague support for the government, in spite of the fact that this deed is against EU Law.

The Geek Government says it will re-instate the ERT as a leaner organization by the end of the summer.  I personally doubt they will, but if and when they do, then we shall know what was really afoot.  We shall see who owns and who controls the Greek media and what "ideology" these media will espouse.  I suspect that, beside the obvious  attempt to gain more control over the people, all this is also another part of the looting of this country that has been going on for some years now.  

Welcome to the Brave New World.  Welcome to the New World Order.  Welcome to the EU.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Catching Up

I've been neglecting my blog, not so much for lack of things to say as for not supposing them to be very interesting.  In a way, life has been pretty boring, with my broken foot limiting what I can do, but in some small ways, life is still full of interest, even though I spend it mostly in one small room.  There is still the life going on all around me.  I can hear Lorraine's broom as she sweeps the pavement outside her shop, and smell people's midday meals cooking all morning, and see the sky and the treetops and women on balconies hanging out their laundry.  There is a parade of street vendors, crying their wares, fruits and vegetables and flowers.  (This is something I never saw here in previous years, probably a sign of the hard times.)  We buy from them sometimes; it is the only remaining alternative to supporting the big, multinational grocery chains. There are buskers (street musicians) singing and playing accordion, usually.  There are the gypsies coming around to haul off your junk for repair and resale, or just for parts.  And there are the birds, come to eat the food we put out for them every day.  

Lately a pair of pigeons has found its way to our balcony.  They usually come when all the other birds have had their fill and gone elsewhere.  This morning they came right along with everybody else.  The doves sent out their champion against them, but the pigeons won the battle and a place at the table.  Now they are all eating together in peace.  We do not put out anything for the crows, but they, too, are very active in our vicinity.  

I do get out.  I go see Lorraine and chat with her for an hour here and there, in between customers.  She is fortunate enough to have a good number.  I noticed recently that she buys her things from - guess where? - those big, international grocery chains.  I go to the Drunken Duck now and then mainly to use their wi-fi and avoid using the cellular data card I pay for, and I drink a tall glass filled half-and-half with cherry juice and banana juice.  Yum!  Demetrios takes me out two or three evenings a week, to some coffee shop or cafe, usually by the sea.  Last night we went out with Leonidas and Ianna.  

Thursday we met with the friends for that theological discussion they began last year; more on that in another post.  I really prefer just being with our friends, because then we are doing the theology instead of discussing it.

My splint came off two weeks ago, and I graduated to using both feet, but still walking behind my rolling chair or else using crutches.  Yesterday I was able to shower standing up, for the first time in 8 weeks.  Sweet!  And I began walking unaided (except by Demetrios' arm) outside the house, although indoors, I still use the "walker" wherever it is not inconvenient.  But the nice thing is, I can abandon it briefly when it IS inconvenient.    Getting there!

Christos is still in very poor shape and the cause of it does not appear.  At one point it seemed to be hypoglycemia, but blood sugar tests show his sugar to be in fact a wee bit high.  He is up to a full dose now of his anti-depressant, and it does seem to have helped his sleep and his attitude some, but his overwhelming exhaustion continues unabated.  He does not walk more than 10-20 paces before sitting down.

So we still are not sure when we will be able to go to England.  Demetrios is not yet perfectly at ease on whether or  not Christos can survive on his own.