Monkeys!

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I think I may be even later to the Monkey knitting bandwagon than I was to the Ishbel phenomenon. This pattern from Knitty has more projects than any other sock pattern on Ravelry, and for good reason. It’s an easy pattern that lends itself to the “just one more repeat” refrain, and, if you’re not careful, can keep you up past your bed time.  I started these as my travel project on Christmas using the lovely Knit Picks Stroll Tonal in the colorway “Make Believe” that Jake gave me as a gift. I ended up finishing the leg of the first sock that night though and finished the entire pair by mid-week. I think this might be the quickest pair of socks I’ve ever knit, and I’m looking forward to knitting the pattern again, perhaps trying the “No Purl” variation which is also popular on Ravelry.

The yarn was really nice to work with as well. I was worried that the color variation would be too much for the pattern. While it does obscure the lace a bit, I think this still works well, since it’s not a very complicated pattern.  I ended up with quite a bit of yarn leftover, which I’m not sure what to do with. The yardage seems pretty generous. Jake also gave me another skein of the same yarn in a variegated blue called “Lullaby” that I’m looking forward to knitting up, along with some of the striped Felici yarn that he also picked out. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of pairs of knitted socks for next winter!

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Feeling Handy

Unless I’m using a knitting needle and yarn, I’m not particularly handy. When I accidentally swiped the side of the garage when backing my car out last week, I thought for sure I’d have to pay someone to replace it for me. But I found a company that sells auto parts and provides videos showing how to install the parts. Here’s the video for installing a new side mirror for the Ford Taurus.

I ended up having to buy a ratchet set and a shorter screwdriver to actually follow the directions, but it worked! I’ve got a newly installed mirror and I can still use the adjustment thing (my car knowledge is limited, as you might guess) to move the mirror.

Fixed the Mirror

It was a little scary to pull the door panel off – it makes a terrible noise, but it all worked out OK in the end. I just wish I’d gotten a quote on how much this would have cost at the Ford place in town so I’d know how much money I saved.  I suppose that even if it wasn’t that much money, it’s pretty great to have the satisfaction of doing it myself.

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Circular Logic

Did you see the blog post this week by a Missouri mother whose son chose to dress up as Daphne from the Scooby-Doo series? While the kids at her son’s school seemed to have had no problem with the costume, three mothers at the school Halloween party expressed concern about other students mocking the boy that the author rightly interpreted as bullying.  After all, children who grow up bullying other children have to learn their attitudes somewhere. The blog has since garnered more than a million hits and thousands of comments. It was a big enough deal that CNN decided to air an interview with the mother and commentary from a clinical psychiatrist Jeff Gardere,who refers to himself as “America’s Psychologist” on his website*.

You have to love the logic from Dr. Gardere about the parents’ behavior:

  • That the other mothers’ reactions are “natural” even if they are not “right.” To me, natural implies that this is an inborn attitude that all people would share. Clearly this not true, if most of the other mothers and children did not react this way, or didn’t even think the event worthy of comment. Furthermore, labeling the bullying as a “natural reaction” legitimizes their behavior.
  • He then goes on to say that “it is the worst nightmare of the both the heterosexual and the gay couples to have to fathom that their child may be gay.” Seriously – that’s their worst nightmare? If that’s true, then that’s very messed up. If I was a parent, my worst nightmare would likely revolve around threats to my child’s safety or health, not their sexual orientation. Unless, of course, we lived in a place where the child was likely to be bullied or abused because of their orientation – an attitude fostered by those who claim that a negative reaction to a boy dressing as a girl for a Halloween is “natural.”

While Dr. Gardere is careful to say that dressing as Daphne does not mean that Sarah’s son is gay, he accuses her of “outing” her son on the blog, and claims this is a positive thing for other parents who are struggling with the realization that their child is gay.  Thankfully, Sarah points out that her son hasn’t given any indication that he’s gay or straight, since he’s only 5 years old, and in the blog post she mocks the idea that wearing such a costume will make her son gay by pointing out that no one worries that a child wearing a ninja costume will automatically become a ninja. He has, however, picked up on societal fears about males who have the temerity to dress in traditional female dress given his fear of entering the school and facing that the other students will laugh at him.

It’s really sad that this is such a big deal. Wearing the Daphne costume is only contentious because as a society we’re fond of policing gendered behavior and woe to those who don’t fit the norm, especially young boys. One can only hope that the mothers who objected to the costume will not pass on these attitudes to their children so that future generations might just be able to have a fun Halloween party without worrying that a boy wearing a girls’ outfit is gay. Let’s also hope that those who should know better will stop ignoring the bullying behavior by labeling it “natural,” and realize that it takes a societal influence to develop these attitudes.

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Now is the Time for Knitting Winter Accessories

Theoretically this is mostly a  knitting blog, but actual knitting content has been woefully lacking as of late. Said content has been missing largely due to my lack of knitting mojo and my inability to finish anything. But today, I have, believe it or not, two finished objects to share here on the blog!

The first is a Selbu Modern hat (on Ravelry). Of course, the hat is actually supposed to be a slouchy beret style hat, but somewhere, either in the cast-on or the increases just past the brim, I miscounted badly and ended up with only seven pattern repeats instead eight. Not being one of those knitters who is too concerned with actually following a pattern, I decided to just go with it and make a smaller hat.  The yarn is some Knit Picks Palette (gray) and Cascade Heritage sock yarn.

Selbu Modern from the Top

I probably should have then started decreasing earlier so that the hat was not so long, since it is almost in my eyes when I wear it, but I’m chalking that one up to experience. I do love the look of the blue and gray together and this was a great way to use up some old sock yarn. I’ve already started a new version with some self-striping sock yarn left over from my very first pair of socks. This time, I actually counted correctly and am hoping to get the slouchy style instead.

Selbu Modern

The second FO is a pair of fingerless mitts. The basis for the pattern is the Mock Cable Wristers (that link goes to Ravelry) from the book 60 Quick Knits: 20 Hats, 20 Scarves, and 20 Mittens in Cascade 220. I didn’t really like the purled background for the entire mitt, so I just put a few purl stitches on either side and knit the rest. I also changed the shaping for the thumb gusset since the original made the gusset balloon out awkwardly, and decided to mirror the cables.

Swirl Mitts

I love these mitts, but they’re already starting to look a little worse for the wear. I don’t think I’ve made anything in Cascade 220 that would receive this much wear, so I’m not sure if this is because of the yarn, or if I know them too loosely. Luckily they were a pretty easy knit.

It’s such a relief to finally finish knitting these things and have some new warm accessories for winter, which seems to be approaching far too rapidly for my comfort. Perhaps I needed those first cold days of fall to kick me into gear.  Along with the second Selbu Modern, I’m also knitting a wee hat and mitten set for a friend who is due to have a baby in the next couple weeks. I’m done with the hat and first mitten, but am finding the second to be rather fiddly and difficulty to finish, even though it’s a ridiculously basic pattern that doesn’t even include a thumb! I’m hoping to have it finished and in the mail this week though. Wish me luck!

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Never Let Me Go

This weekend, I saw the film version of Never Let Me Go at the Athena Cinema. The film is based on the book of the same title by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I read a few years ago and loved. It’s always dangerous to see the film version of a book you’ve really liked since every film adaptation must always leave out details from the book and rarely seems to match with the version of the story that we’ve had running through our heads when we read.  Fortunately, this turned out to be one of the rare cases where the movie does a good job capturing the essence of the book, even though it must leave out some of the detail.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the film, now may be a good time to stop reading since some of the power of the book comes from the slow realization of the future that the main characters will face.

The story is told by Kathy H. who we eventually learn is a “carer” who looks after her fellow clones as they go through the donation process by which they give up their organs to help the rest of the population live long and healthy lives. Eventually, the clones reach “completion,” usually after two or three donations. Amazingly, the clones have grown up to adulthood with the knowledge that this is their future and though they clearly understand that completion means that they will die, never seriously fight their fate.

The most amazing part of the movie is the restraint that the main actors (Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightly and Andrew Garfield) show in the face of this quiet horror.  We’re so used to movies where the main characters fight their way out of situations like this that it seems impossible that they would just accept their fate and carry on, living their short lives as best they can. In only one scene does one of the characters truly reveal his true despair. This restraint makes the one moment of unrestrained outrage even more powerful and moving. I find myself thinking of this movie often even though I know that it’s not real. It just seems so likely that it’s difficult to imagine such a future.  I highly recommend this movie and I’m hoping that it will receive its due in the awards season this year.

Trailer below:

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Knitting and Life Content Over Here

In an effort to differentiate my work/librarian life from my knitting life I’ve split my online blogs into two separate spaces.  The website http://jessinohio.com should now redirect to my library blog, but hopefully you’ve made it over here to my knitting (and general life) blog here at http://knit.jessinohio.com.  Sorry for all of the confusion.

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Watching Mad Men

I finally started watching Mad Men on DVD tonight. It’s one of those shows that everyone seems to rave about, and I’ve meant to Netflix it for ages, but never got around to it. I found out recently that my library has a copy of the first season and was able to check out the first two discs today.

So far, I’ve observed the following in the first three episodes: the men are incredibly sexist and not afraid to show it, everyone smoke constantly, and all of the characters are putting on a false front and will surely be heading for a fall and the implosion of their supposedly perfect world.

I’m sure there’s more to it than this given how popular the show is among my intelligent friends who are usually good judges of pop culture. But really, must the writers beat us over the head with the obvious stick?

If you’ve watched the show, can you tell me if it gets better? I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt comfortable critiquing a movie or TV show with the word nuance, but this show seriously seems to be lacking it.  I’m going to keep going though and hope that the story arcs the writers are setting up are not quite as obvious as they seem to be hinting.

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Modular Instruction

I attended the Georgia Conference on Information Literacy this past weekend in Savannah, Georgia.  Several people in my library have responded with quizzical looks when I mentioned attending this conference.  It is quite small, I think somewhere around 250 attendees, but it turned out to be one of the more productive conferences that I have attended since becoming a librarian.

One of the best sessions I attended was “Using Emerging Technologies to Teach Research: The Library/English Department Video Collaboration” by Thomas Peele of Boise State.  The librarians at Boise teach a one-credit information literacy research course that was not associated with another class like English or a course in the student’s major.  As most teaching librarians will tell you, this is a recipe for disaster.  So they began to offer the research course in conjunction with an English course and offered the library portion of the instruction through modules that the librarian and English instructor could use in the way that best fit the course.  The instruction modules are available as a LibGuide, and there is an accompanying instructor version that provides suggested activities for each module to go along with the video that teaches the content.

What I really like about this is its adaptability and ability to extend instruction beyond the English courses.  The videos are available for any instructor who is unable to bring their students to the library for a research session or would like to make sure that their students have a refresher in the likely event that they forget how to use a library resource.  Or, since the videos are just YouTube embeds, anyone using the library website could find the videos and use them at their point of need.  I think this may be what’s called “scalability,” but I’m not sure.

On our website, we have a video blog with videos that answer some of our most common questions, but we don’t use them very much in instruction or promote them to faculty as an additional resource for their students. From an instructional stand point, I think it would be valuable to sit down with all of the librarians and share the techniques that we have for teaching individual learning outcomes so that if I found myself in a situation where I needed a new idea for teaching catalog searching, for example.  I don’t think that having this sort of instruction available means that any librarian would have to use it, but I do think it would be a valuable resource.

What do you think? Does your library or school have any sort of modular instruction set up?

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Privatizing Libraries

I ran across this story on The New York Times tonight, about the library system in Santa Clarita, California.  This sort of thing always makes me nervous, but then I read these choice quotes from Frank Pezzanite the CEO of the company taking over the library system.

“There’s this American flag, apple pie thing about libraries…Somehow they have been put in the category of a sacred organization.”

and

“A lot of libraries are atrocious,” Mr. Pezzanite said. “Their policies are all about job security. That’s why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We’re not running our company that way. You come to us, you’re going to have to work.”

Does this sound like the kind of person who should have budgetary control over a public library to you?  He doesn’t even sound like someone who likes libraries.  I totally agree with him that libraries are like apple pie and scared to their communities.  Where else does the public, no matter what their income level, have equal access to anything, let alone access to information that is supposed to be the lifeblood of democracy.  Is that the kind of institution we want run by a profit-seeking company?

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Coach

This summer, my colleague and I conducted a library instruction session for the first year football players who need some academic time in their schedule to meet NCAA requirements (I think).  It’s usually a waste of time to teach library stuff to an undergraduate who isn’t actively working on a research assignment. Adding weariness from two-a-day practice into the mix just makes the whole thing miserable for all involved.  This was my first year to do this instruction, so I decided to put my football knowledge to work and do a short lecture on information evaluation, using all football examples.  Here’s the PowerPoint from my presentation:

The session went very well. The players humored us with the presentation and for the most part, participated in their scavenger hunt to find some sport-related library resources.  Their academic coach (not sure what it’s actually called) kept them in line when they started to get antsy, which is a huge help.  I wish we had that for all of our classes.

Because of this session (and probably because my colleagues have been doing this for years) we were invited to be the “guest coaches” for the first football game of the year.  This entailed a tour of the stadium and football offices on Friday and then dinner with the football team.  We actually sat a table with the head coach, a couple of the position coaches and a football player who answered our many questions about playing football at the college level.

The next day was the game, and we got an “all areas” pass that let us roam about the sidelines during the game and see it all from the ground level, which was really neat.  Here’s my best photo from the seats behind the end zone.

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It was a beautiful day in Ohio, but pretty chilly when the sun went down. We didn’t think to actually get a picture of ourselves until nearly the end of the game.

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The final part of the gig was attending the post-game press conference where we saw a couple of players and the head coach speak to the local media. The quarterback, who spent most of the last season injured, teared up a bit as he discussed what it was like to return to the field with his team. It was so genuine and a demonstration of just how the sport means to players, even if they wont be going pro at the end of their college careers.

Today a mini-helmet turned up at the library as our commemorative token for the game (along with the polo shirts that say “guest coach”).  I’m so glad that we got a chance to do this.  As my colleague said, we ask people to come to the library all the time, but don’t often meet them in their part of campus, and this was a great opportunity to get out of the library and meet some students and university staff whom we might otherwise not have spoken to.  I’m looking forward to seeing the helmet on the my desk in the years to come.

Commemorative helmet from guest coaching

Oh, yeah, and we won the game. There is a full photo set on Flickr.

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