Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The weather outside is...

...still abysmally not good. Oh, sure, it isn't -36 F with windchill, and going to the grocery store isn't an expedition requiring acute survival skills as it is in Nunam Iqua, Alaska, but it is still down to freezing or below at night, and far too sunny and warm (60s and sometimes 70s) during the day, making for another year of drought and requiring even more drastic water conservation measures than the last two years. I expect we'll see more mosquitoes as, with the winter season still upon us, people are not dumping out standing water (I won't even mention all the scummy mosquito larvae-infested pools littering the cityscape as foreclosed homes sit empty and untended) and a boon for the ticks and their larvae, increasing the amount of tickborne disease as well.

Oh, quite the happy camper I am! Okay, out with the grump, in Mike!

Still on the cold weather theme, I pulled out some older photos and took a few new ones.

Here he is modeling the cotton scarf I made for Robin, fisherwoman and writer for Western Outdoor News. She currently spends most of her time in Baja, writing about the local sportfishing, so she doesn't actually need the kind of clothing we need up here during the winters (her usual daytime garb is tank top and shorts grrrrr...), so I knit her this scarf for those "cold" mornings fishing in the surf.

I hate hats. Well, more precisely, I hate wearing hats. Nonetheless, I do bow to common sense and wear one when it gets really really really cold. For me. Here's the one I knit in Fiamma Stampato, using my friend Juliette's small hat pattern. The hat really isn't as small as it looks here - I folded it up a bit to fit on Mike.

Speaking of Juliette, here is a remarkable example of true friendship. Juliette has been knitting for 45+ years, and owned a local yarn shop for 10 years until she retired a year or so ago. Juliette's color preferences are vivid greens (from chartreuse to deep forest), oranges, reds, yellows, and purples, and prefers them several or all together in one garment. Juliette knows my favorite color is black, and so, over the course of a year, she knit me a black blanket, using two strands of black cotton.

If you're not a knitter, you don't know that black is difficult to knit in general, unless you have a very bright work light. If you're not a knitter, you don't know how heavy a blanket knit out of one strand of worsted weight cotton is, let alone one knit with two strands held together. So, an all-black blanket for someone whose brain, eyes and hands are happiest when knitting bright, vivid colors was a labor of the most heart-felt kind.

Before I knew she knit a blanket for me, in our conversations, she had mentioned knitting a cotton blanket, and the sewing in of all those ends. Sewing/Weaving in ends is not a favorite activity for either of us, because of the various musculo-skele-tendonal problems we both have in our hands and fingers. Cotton, being slipprier than wool or acrylic, requires some stabbing through the strands to anchor the ends (two ends for each ball of yarn, of which there were 18 or so in this blanket) so they don't pop out and unravel during use or washing.

It wasn't until I offered to work on some of the ends for her that she confessed that a) the blanket was all black, and b) that it was for me! So, now I have the blanket and all the ends to weave in! Here's a close up of the pattern, an interesting sort of basketweave or brick pattern:

As for HRG (His Royal Grumpiness), he is finally becoming resigned to my bedroom being off limits for, well, bed. He figured out last year that he was no longer allowed to sleep in my bed since he got rather too possessive of it, so he took to sleeping under the bed. During the summer and early fall heat waves, that was fine. During nights cold enough to hang meat in the house? Not. Testing the waters, he still tries to go in the bedroom every afternoon, but I head him off at the pass. Or, once I tire of doing that 10 times or so in the span of an hour, I close the door. I have to close the door when I leave before his usual mid-fternoon perambulation time, else he'll go in there and plant himself right smack in the middle of the bed UNDER the bed, requiring maximum amount of effort from me to get him the heck out from under there.

You shouldn't think the poor boy has only a plank or something to sleep on. Nooooo. Along with his towel-over-heating pads-over-throwrug, he also has a variety of pillows and fleece blankets for covering. Here are two of his four pillows, one of which is actually a folded up blanket that used to cover a much smaller Mike. The socks (knee-his I made in the Jaywalk pattern) are now used to put between his chin and the metal window sill, when he falls asleep at night with his chin there.

Nonetheless, I know this is where he dreams of sleeping: back in his bed...


I thought I'd take some just-Mike photos, and found him sprawled on my old body pillow. I gave it to him a couple of years ago, the very first time I went away for a couple of days, thinking the smell of me might help reduce his stress level. Well, I think what actually reduced his stress level was having his friend Martha come over a couple of times a day, to bathe him, feed him, pet him, and bring him nasturtiums to munch on. I take comfort in the fact that he does use my, er, his pillow. (Note: while it looks really dark outside of the direct sun coming in the window, it wasn't really that dark in there when I took the photo.)

Here's a bug, or tortoise, eye view of Mike. For those who haven't seen the photos in my Spring doth creep... blog last April, here's what it looks like to be one of my tortoises when Mike's around:

And, today's close-up:

Does this make my nose look big?

And back, sort of, to the HRG. While I was taking the photos, Mike was just fine. As soon as I stopped and lowered the camera, he charged towards me and started bobbing, and even gave me an open mouth threat. For those not conversant in iguana, that can be roughly translated to "Get out of my space or I shall draw blood!"* So I quickly raised the camera and switched it to video...and of course he immediately stopped bobbing and just stood there, posing. Brat.

* An astonishing number of people think iguanas (and all non-venomous snakes, for that matter) don't have teeth. They do. I have a lovely photo at my Iguana site's Green Iguana Teeth page, in which you can clearly see their teeth. Cyclura iguanas like Mike are similarly well endowed. Mike has bitten me a couple of times, just in the past 2 years (August 2007, October 2008 - warning: graphic photos), thanks to the onset of his annual breeding seasons and adolescent stubbornness. Ah, the joys of living with large, intelligent, pheromone-sensitive lizards!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Someone Woke Up on the Wrong Side of the New Year

And we know who, don't we? Yes, Mr. Mike crankily head bobbed me the moment I walked into his room on 1 Jan. He has been ticked off at me most of the winter, due to my usual winter habit of withholding the sun from him and making the skies all gray and low. He didn't care that The Mommy was also cranky, back in December, when his heater malfunctioned and I had to go buy him a new one.

He's been a happy camper most of the last week or so, since we've been having unseasonably warm temperatures, even breaking a record for a daytime high. We've been in the 60s and 70s most of the past week or so, including a summery 76F. Nights are still chill, down into the low 30s, so there's still plenty of heat augmentation going on in the lizard room.

Both my Bartonella and Borrelia are in flare, as long-undiagnosed (and hence untreated tickborne infections are wont to do) and have been since late summer last year, with symptoms getting increasingly worse. I haven't felt like reading, which for me is a major red flag that something is seriously wrong. Even audio books are difficult to impossible to listen to, with even favorite authors being uninteresting to listen to. The last time I was like this was when the infections flared big time in 1991-1992; the time before that was when I first got bitten, and was bedridden for 8 weeks. No interest in reading was how my parents knew I was really sick and what raised the red flag for them, since I have been devouring books at an unnatural pace (or so it seems in a world where fewer people seem to read books) since I was 7 years old.

Along with all that brain fog comes the pain and range of motion impairments caused by both the infections. Bartonella seems to particularly love my right shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers, resulting in being unable to knit socks or anything else with fingering weight yarn. Even dk and sport weight yarns (slightly wider in diameter than fingering, for you non-knitting types) have become difficult to knit with any preciseness and evenness, so I had to set aside the last pair of soldier socks I was working on because the quality was not what it must be for the kind of wear that our men and women in the service of necessity impose on them.

I've been pulling worsted weight yarns from my stash and knit a couple of scarves and arm warmers and, to help keep my right wrist and hand more comfortable, some therapeutic wrist warmers.

I bought the last 6 skeins of Tahki New Tweed at a sale several years ago, 3 skeins of blue and 3 of green. I knit some of these warmers with both colors. They are for wearing while I am out of the house, as they are a lovely mix of merino wool and silk. (Ifinished this one last night and haven't woven in the ends yet.)

as opposed to the acrylic and wool, and wool and acrylic blend ones I make to wear at home, since they tend to get some hard wear when in contact with lizards and get pretty thrashed from being worn in bed with all the flannel bedding.

Old remnant yarn pulled from my stash:

And some Wool-ease yarn left over from the Fibonacci project:

One feature of this round of brain fog is that I seem to be unable to knit anything but the diagonal eyelet pattern for scarves (as the blue Vanna yarn one immediately below), and the mock cable pattern for the arm warmers and wrist warmers.

No matter how many other patterns I try, I end up ripping everything out. It would be quite frustrating if there was something I had to knit, and for my attitude in general about 'frogging' (derived from 'rip it', meaning to unravel the yarn and wind it back into the ball): I long ago started referring to the ripping back (sometimes completely unraveling the piece and starting all over again) as zen knitting. I knit to knit, not to get a finished product.

For example, this diagonal scarf and mock cable arm warmers. I'd actually bought this yarn (KnitPick's Swish Bulky) to make a shrug to wear at home, but I wasn't getting the gauge despite, yes indeed, casting on and knitting several inchs of 25-30" wide fabric before frogging it all and trying again on different sized needles. I finally gave up and decided to make a scarf and warmers out of it.

The scarf was cast on, knitted for several inches, even more than one skin at one point, before being ripped out and started over and over again, in many different patterns. I actually completed an 8 ft. scarf in a sort of modified old shale (AKA, feather and fan) pattern, wore it a few times, and decided it really wasn't what I had envisioned (didn't lay right, didn't look right), and so I ripped it all out. Deciding not to fight the inevitable, I started over again, using the diagonal eyelet pattern, and the scarf worked up like a dream. Lesson: never argue with yarn and force it to be what it does nto want to be.

And then there is the ripping done by someone else. In this case, Ginger, Sidney's adopted bratty mouthy (red dobie) sister. (Karen reminds me that I found Ginger online at a dobie rescue, and so partially if not damn near fully responsible for all the problems the sweet girl causes. I apparently was not sufficiently upset when Ginger ate the heel and part of the foot out of the very first sock Karen was learning to knit. So, on New Year's eve, Ginger started eating one of my favorite thick, merino wool wrist warmers:

The back view:

The palm view:

And, no, I cannot make a replacement because the yarn isn't available anymore, so I will have to make a whole new pair. And since the economy has tanked my already meager discretionary funds, there will be no more new yarn purchased in quite some time. From here on out, it is strictly knitting from my yarn stash.

Speaking of forcing yarn into what it doesn't want to be... Here is some lovely yarn Phyllis gifted me several years ago, purchased on her trip to Nova Scotia where she visited Knatolee, another (wacked out) friend of ours. I wound up a hank of it and tried various things, but it just didd't want to be that. So it sat in my yarn room until a couple of weeks ago when, still wanting another shawl to wear at home, I pulled it out and started playing with it. Here is what I got:

On New Year's Eve, I went to Karen's to work on some computer stuff and to quietly see in the new year. While working on the stuff, we also also sacrificed a bottle (or, uhm, two) of holiday cheer to see us through the drudgery of figuring out alien blogware. This may explain the laughter in the background of the following videos, taken of Ginger getting introduced to and trying to eat the Red Dot.

Ginger & The Laser Light, Part 1 (Wherein Ginger meets the Red Dot)

Part 2 (Wherein Ginger gets better at getting the Red Dot so we up the game)

Part 3 (Wherein Sidney gets frustrated and cranky)

About the tape around Ginger's head: She cut her ear somehow, and kept flinging blood around. After a trip to the emergency vet at 4AM, Karen and Ginger were not even out of the vet clinic's reception area before Ginger had flung off the bandaging they had applied, making their reception area look like the crime scene at Karen's house, with high velocity spatter all over the walls, ceiling, furnishings, and floor. They found the only way to keep the ear from flapping around and breaking open the stitched-up laceration was to just tape it to her head. The tape is now gone and the ear well on its way to being all healed.

And, finally, the end of the page. Here's a quick shot of Mike, who was staring at Ginger's handy (er, toothy) work on my black arm warmer when I was shooting the photo.

A quick note on the Red Dot... I found an inexpensive laser light sold as a pet toy rather than as a presentation pointer. I bought it for the latter, and it's been quite useful. NYE was the first time I tried it as it was intended as, despite the illustration on the package, Mike was not in the least bit interested. The product is called Laser Chase (marketed by PetSport, Pittsburg, Calif.), and was $4.99 plus tax. As with all laser lights, they should not be stared out or aimed at the eye.