Saturday, April 24, 2010

Jane: Totally useless

So you're wondering "Jane, when are you going to stop writing editorials and start writing about totally useless items again?"


Here's one I made recently, a Sherbet Kitten--pattern from Crochet Me's website. (Their free patterns are mostly ones readers have posted.)

I like this pattern because it uses sport-weight yarn and a D hook. I had some baby yarn which I used here. Lightweight yarn means the stitches are very fine and the kitten is very small!

This one's even smaller:
It's going to be part of a key chain for my ballet teacher, Suki, who always has the nicest purses and shoes, and always has her hands nicely manicured, etc. She is a very classy person.

The pattern for this one is from Positively Crochet, one of my favorite pattern books. I should buy it--I get it out periodically from the library. I'm working on another project from the book, something useFUL for a change, and I'll post a photo when I'm done.
This one isn't really totally useless--it's a bookmark. Still, it seems very indulgent to crochet with crochet thread (leftover from my Grandmother's stash) and a steel hook. It's so decorative and goes so slowly. But it was really fun to make, and I finished it in about an hour and a half.

I got that pattern--Ginko Leaf Bookmark--from The Crochet Dude. He's got some nice and unusual patterns--including ones for bowls crocheted from scrap fabric strips. Haven't tried that one.

Glad I have some crochet projects. It's the end of the term and I need a way to chill out at the end of the day. I've been reading a bit, but when I read student work all day, I need a break. And now it's gotten rainy, so fiddling around in the yard won't be an option for a few days.

The rain brought down lots of . . . debris. . . from the trees last night--spent maple blossoms and tiny maple helicopters. The patio and driveway were completely covered this morning. I went out with a snow shovel and shoveled up several bushels full of tree debris!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jane: Outrage

I've been trying to understand some of the outrage I've heard about political issues recently. As a person who teaches rhetoric, it's of academic interest to me. And as a friend of many people who feel outraged about recent political issues, I'm curious.

And I think I also might have some insights--based on my own experience and my discussions with Bruce--about what makes people so outraged.

1. It sucks to lose. The very first time I voted in a presidential election was in 1980. I found myself on the liberal side of most issues, so I voted for Carter, even though I wasn't crazy about him. But my candidate lost! I don't care how good a sport someone is, it is much better to win to lose, so I was feeling bummed.

Bruce pointed out this morning that lots of people who are outraged about political policies these days were on the losing side in the last big election. They lost! And it sucks to lose. So even if they're usually good sports, they're mad.

2. Outrage is exhilarating. OK. I know this from experience . . . there's nothing like a good rant and some serious outrage to get one's blood flowing! Especially if you feel like you are totally justified in being mad--I mean, you just lost, and someone who does not have your views won!

There's something fun and exciting about outrage. Those radio personalities--Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh and that liberal one whose name I can't remember--they know this! They are constantly saying that they are entertainment. It's entertaining and exhilarating to be outraged!

Robbie used to be the king of outrage. When he was little and he got hurt, instead of crying, he'd get mad, and often would hit or otherwise abuse me . . . because he fell down or whatever. I totally did not understand this at first. Then I realized: when you feel down and you've lost and you're hurt, it's way more "empowering" to feel outraged and mad than to feel sad. And if you can find someone to blame, well that's even better.

3. It seems like it'll be a disaster. You can convict me on this one, too. Remember after Reagan was elected and there were all these people predicting nuclear apocalypse and the end of a civil society? Well, if you were the "winner" in that contest, maybe you don't! But I heard a lot of that, and as a gullible and tender 18-year-old, I fell for it. I was sure that Reagan was going to make horrible choices that would completely doom my country.

You know what? It wasn't a disaster. Bruce could probably fill you in on the policies of the Reagan era that were and weren't complete disasters. But really, we are still alive. Some things got worse from Reagan, and some got better.

So I wondered if these insights could help outraged people settle down a bit--if they're getting a bit weary of outrage. Bruce and I--as people who've been on losing sides before--were talking about some things this morning that might actually bring some hope to the outraged people out there.

1. It's a democracy. Keep in mind that even though there's a majority of people in government who stand for something completely different from what you believe, there are still a whole bunch of people who stand for something you do believe. It's not like Obama is a king--or a Marxist. Remember that Reagan wasn't a king either--or a fascist!

Reagan couldn't be as completely Reaganesque as he acted during his campaign because there were still liberals around. So the policies passed during his administration couldn't be as extreme as those outraged people predicted they would be.

2. You do have power. Some of the outraged people are acting like they are victims, being completely run over by the winners. But it's not true: if there are as many outraged folks as the outraged folks seem to want everyone to believe, there must be plenty of opposition everywhere to those policies they hate. Conservatives in congress and elsewhere can make your voice heard.

Sometimes it won't help, and you'll lose again. I've been there: remember that vote about going to Iraq for a war to get rid of WMDs? And to cut taxes so there wasn't really a way to pay for the war? I was on the losing side there, and it's been a small disaster in diplomacy and the economy. I mean, isn't that debt figure something that people are outraged about? It's been there a while. Obama didn't create it.

But it's not like my views aren't represented. They are! And changes are being made because of it. I'm not a victim here, especially when I do things like write to my congresspeople.

3. Sometimes the winners have OK ideas. This may be way too hard to admit when you're feeling sore from losing. But as Bruce pointed out to me this morning, it's not like Obama's or Reagan's ideas are/were TOTALLY insane. They were honest attempts to solve problems in our society.

Reagan's hard stance on Communism may have had some effect on the fall of the Iron Curtain. Ouch, it's hard to admit that. And Obama's policies on health care may have some effect on the skyrocketing cost of health care and its availability to citizens.

I'm not sure anyone who's outraged would even like to hear about these points. Again, outrage is just so fun! Hey, I've been there; I know! But rhetorically--and democratically--toning things down a bit, looking at things rationally, seeking common ground, and admitting that there are different ways to solve problems might be, in the end, a more satisfying way to live.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jane: Weed Walk?

The wildflower walk this weekend turned into a weed walk! Eli and I went over to Indian Creek Nature Center, and found lots of weeds to pull.
Here's a close-up of the plant we were pulling out by the handfuls: Garlic Mustard. It was growing in great abundance over at the Nature Center. Luckily, there were wildflowers, too.
There used to be almost as much Dame's Rocket as there's Garlic Mustard now. This picture doesn't quite catch the right color of the blossoms, which are more purple-y. There were violets everywhere, too, as you can see here.
This mystery plant with the tiny white flowers turns out to be Cut-leaved Toothwort, from the Mustard family. I'd never seen it before, and I was able to look it up and identify it by the marijuana-like leaves.
Eli loved this old tree with the root drying out.

Red trilliums, also known as wake robins, were blooming here and there.
I'm not completely sure about this one, but it seems to be blue flax. (Growing next to, guess what, garlic mustard.) My book says it blooms May-July, which means if this is it, it's blooming quite early.
There were lots of yellow violets, too.
Throughout the hike, Eli was able to weed out this huge pile of garlic mustard! Maybe the smell caused him to make that silly face.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jane: a conundrum

I don't usually post political stuff, but I read an article that Bruce posted on Facebook and it made me think. I sense that a lot of people are really concerned about the intersection between the economy and the government, and that's why the Tea Party is growing. People get agitated about government spending, perhaps because they are worried about spending in their own homes?

If only we could just find that "waste" in government spending and cut it, things would be so much easier. But the supporters who were interviewed couldn't seem to describe what it is . . . I found these last few paragraphs from the article (from the NY Times) about a poll of Tea Party supporters interesting.

When talking about the Tea Party movement, the largest number of respondents said that the movement’s goal should be reducing the size of government, more than cutting the budget deficit or lowering taxes.

And nearly three-quarters of those who favor smaller government said they would prefer it even if it meant spending on domestic programs would be cut.

But in follow-up interviews, Tea Party supporters said they did not want to cut Medicare or Social Security — the biggest domestic programs, suggesting instead a focus on “waste.”

Some defended being on Social Security while fighting big government by saying that since they had paid into the system, they deserved the benefits.

Others could not explain the contradiction.

“That’s a conundrum, isn’t it?” asked Jodine White, 62, of Rocklin, Calif. “I don’t know what to say. Maybe I don’t want smaller government. I guess I want smaller government and my Social Security.” She added, “I didn’t look at it from the perspective of losing things I need. I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Jane: Musical Boys at City Contest

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Jane: Spring Wildflowers

I was going to call this post "pants on the hillside," but I thought it might be too obscure. . . .
But maybe not. We went for a walk at Pallisades-Kepler State Park and found lots of Dutchman's Breeches--pants--on the hillsides!

I love these amusing, whimsically-named flowers! They're one of the earliest spring ephemerals, and I often miss seeing them. Today, they were all over, up and down the hillsides.

They're from the dicentra family, like bleeding hearts. You can see the resemblance. And the resemblance to pantaloons!
We saw other flowers, too, including just a few bloodroots. It's early for them. There will be more later.
There were a few hepatica left, but most were almost done blooming.
I think my favorite part about these flowers is the patterned, lobed leaves. Some of the ones we saw had almost purple leaves.

There were a few wild oats (yes, their real name) to add a touch of yellow.
And there were spring beauties (lots!)

and rue anemone,
Here some with some wild ginger, which is looking like it just came up.
Rue anemone looks really similar to spring beauties except for the leaves. In case you're wondering, rue anemone have columbine-like leaves, while spring beauty leaves are long and grass-like.

I hope to go wildflowering again later this month to see if I can spot trilliums, more bloodroots, wild ginger flowers, and mayapples.

Thanks to Robbie and Bruce, who accompanied me on today's walk, and put up with me stopping frequently for photos!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jane: Crocheted Vest for Bill

When I saw the pattern for this vest in Interweave's Crochet magazine, I knew I had to make it for my brother!

It may be hard to tell from the picture, but it's crocheted, in front loop/back loop single crocheted rows from side to side, which makes that lovely, heavy ribbed fabric. I learned how to sew a zipper into a crocheted item with this pattern, too, which was cool.
Here's Bill in the vest--and he got it exactly right: I imagined him wearing it on chilly days when he goes on fishing expeditions. The wool has lanolin in it, so should keep him dry when it's rainy. And besides, it is fisherman's wool :-)

I love making things for Bill. He's a hand-crafter himself--a woodworker--so he truly appreciates hand-made items, knowing what goes into making things. I've been the happy recipient of some of his hand work, like this beautiful plant stand, and the little triangle box that has a cool hinged lid.

The other reason I wanted to make this for him was a conversation we had a LONG time ago--he probably doesn't even remember it. I was showing him some knitted item I'd made--maybe one of those fisherman-look berets I made back in the mid '80's. And he innocently asked me "Could you make me one of those fisherman knit sweaters?" I remember replying, "No way--I'm not that good!" which was true, but his interest got me thinking that I'd like to get good enough to make him one someday.

This isn't exactly a fisherman's knit sweater--more of a fisherman's crochet vest, but I'm pleased I was finally able to get good enough to make it for him!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jane: Easter Dinner

Here's our Easter dinner table. Note Grandma's crocheted table cloth. The boys figured out there are 320 medallions in it!

Here's our menu, with recipes.

Appleton spiral sliced ham (Appleton hams are very good--get them at Aldi)
Corn Casserole
Asparagus with lime and garlic
rye bread
lime chiffon pie

Corn Casserole (here it is, Gabi!)
1 can corn
1 can cream-style corn
2 Tbsp. melted butter
8 oz. sour cream
1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
2 eggs

Mix thoroughly. Pour into 8x10 glass pan or casserole dish. Bake 50 minutes at 350.

Asparagus with lime/garlic (got this idea from the Thai restaurant at Cedar/Lee)
Slice one large garlic clove into 2 Tbsp. lime juice. Steam asparagus. Pour marinade over and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes before serving.

Lime Chiffon Pie
Mix together 8 oz. can sweetened condensed milk and 6 oz. can thawed limeade concentrate. Add 2 drops green food coloring (optional). Fold in 8 oz. Cool whip. Pile into graham cracker crust. Serves 8. (Cut slices small: it's very sweet!)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Jane: happy easter!

Happy Easter from all of us:

The ushers

and the musicians!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Jane: Jesus Christ Superstar

I've been participating in a discussion on Facebook about this album. It all started when Andy posted some lyrics from the show as his status:
Sanhedrin: "What then to do about this Jesus Mania? How do we deal with the 'Carpenter King'? How do we handle a man who is bigger than John was when John did has baptism thing?" Caiaphas: "Fools! You have no perception! The stakes we are gambling are frighteningly high. We must crush him completely! So like John before him, this Jesus must die."I replied with more lyrics, but I noticed that several commenters didn't seem to get the allusion!

Here's what I posted as my status:
Andy's post reminded me to pull out my Jesus Christ Superstar double album today for my Good Friday listening. I'll be singing those songs to myself today until needle hits vinyl.
Once I got home and needle hit vinyl, my boys listened a bit. "It's disturbing," said Eli, after we listened to the song where Jesus cleanses the temple ("MY house should be a house of prayer/but you have made it a den of thieves. . ." )

Yeah, I guess it is a bit disturbing. Holy week is pretty disturbing, really. That frightening time in Jerusalem, watching someone you love going from palms and Hosannas to a horrifying death. When I was younger I was deeply into participating in Holy week--disturbing is something young adults like, I guess--or at least I did.

The music is also disturbing--some of it is screaming guitar/singer 70's music which is at least a bit alienating, or at least I think that's what it was trying to achieve.

I got Superstar when I was maybe Eli's age, 13 or so. My parents had gotten "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" for me for Christmas one year and I loved it. I have that entire libretto in my head, too, just like Superstar.
Later that year, maybe during lent?, someone brought the album "Jesus Christ Superstar" to our public library and played the music in the community room. I'm not sure why--maybe a debut in our hometown? Someone had a cart with one of those old record players on it, and there were chairs with some people listening. Now that I look back on it, it seems rather odd!

When I went in the room, "What's the Buzz?" was playing--a cheerful and catchy tune--followed by "It seems to me a strange thing, mystifying," which set up the tension--and I was hooked!

I asked my parents if they would buy me the album. It was a long time before they did, and when they bought it for me (a birthday, Christmas?) it came with a caveat. My dad wanted me to know that they weren't particularly keen on the theology of the musical (Jesus as a pawn, Judas as a tragic hero) and the way it ended (crucifixion, not Easter). I think my dad said something like "If you listen to this, you have to listen to the St. Matthew Passion, too." I probably said "OK, OK!" like Robbie does to me sometimes.

Like many of my grew-up-in-the-70s friends, I basically had that album set memorized. I have a strong high school memory of me, Lori Heitland, and Craig . . . the baritone player from our marching band, singing through it from beginning to end one day in a hallway near the band room.

So I listened to it today. It's still a powerful piece--some of the lyrics are just so subtle and moving. But, dad, I want you to know that the St. Matthew Passion is on the docket for tomorrow.