Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's in a Name (II) Challenge

So I have no real idea what I'll read for this one, but I can't not do Annie's new challenge. I'll add ideas here as they come to me. For now, though, the categories are


Time of Day

Body Part

Medical Condition
My Stroke of Insight (Jill Bolte Taylor)
The Thing about Life Is that One Day You'll Be Dead (David Shields)

The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (Sue Monk Kidd)

The Foreign Correspondent (Alan Furst)
The Zookeeper's Wife (Diane Ackerman)

Adventures in Amigurumi

Last spring I played around a bit with amigurumi, which Wikipedia defines as"the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures. Amigurumi are typically cute animals (such as bears, rabbits, cats, dogs, etc.), but can include inanimate objects endowed with anthropomorphic features. Amigurumi can be either knitted or crocheted. In recent years crocheted amigurumi are more popular and more commonly seen." I started with squid, one for a fellow kendo student and one for older son Don, and then moved on to corgis, one for older son and one for younger son and his girlfriend. While I was making the corgis, younger son put in his request for an amigurumi hybrid with the head of a corgi, the body of a prawn, and the tentacles and whips of a squid. Younger son being younger son, he also asked that the squid tentacles and whips be detachable. I did the parts for the corgi head then, back in the spring, but only now got around to making the other components and assembling the creature. Is it too cute for words, an abomination, or just "possibly one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen" (I think this was how younger son said his girlfriend described it)? You be the judge.

Corgi Head:

Prawn Body:

Squid Tentacles and Whips:


The Quilts of Summer (2008)

Another summer, another black belt test (well, almost--the test itself wasn't until October), another batch of quilts. This year, Don tested for his first dan black belt in Myo Sim karate. He asked for quilts for his four principal karate instructors, one of whom also got a quilt last summer as a kendo instructor. I started these around July 1, and finished the last one on October 16. That was about as close as I wanted to cut it since the test was October 18.

The first quilt I started (though not the first one I finished) was"Books and Blocks." I did the front--the Blocks of the title--using a nifty technique for starting with 12 squares of fabric and ending up with 12 squares that each have nine different fabrics in them. You basically make one cut in the stack of fabrics, move the top piece from one pile to the bottom, then sew the two stacks together. Make another cut perpendicular to the first one, move two pieces from the top of one stack to the bottom, and sew the pieces together. Make another cut parallel to the first one, and move four pieces from the top of one stack to the bottom. Sew. Make a final cut, move seven pieces, and sew. Voila! It's a really quick way to make a real fun quilt top. And if you remember "Shooting Star" from last year, some of the fabrics are, indeed, the same. I planned "Books and Blocks" to use up some of the kanji fabric left over from "Shooting Star."

The Books part of the title came from the back of the quilt. The recipients were a married couple, both of whom are third dan black belts in karate. The husband works at the UVa library and supposedly has a personal book collection that rivals or even exceeds Don's. As a result, Don asked that I make the back of the quilt look like a bookcase. He also asked that the books be different sizes and that, as on our bookcases around the house, the larger books go on the bottom shelf. I had used book fabric in another quilt three years ago; fortunately, it hadn't gone out of print, so I was able to get it easily. For the shelves, I used a woody fabric. Because I had to quilt this one fairly quickly, the back has a couple of puckers that I'm not proud of, but it was leave them in or give the quilt late. I didn't have time to take out the quilting, repin the layers, and start over.

The other three quilts all follow the same theme as last year's "Another View of Mt. Fuji" in that all the fabrics on the front are Japanese, and the center panel is a Japanese scene. Two of these went to karate master instructors, and the third went to someone who tested for his master rank at the same time Don tested for his black belt. I showed Don various Japanese panels I could get, and he chose three for me to use.

"Cranes above the Water" went to a master instructor whose day job is superintendent of a school division near Richmond. The title of the quilt was inspired by the Beatles song "Uncle Albert" and its refrain of "hands across the water, hands across the sky." This particular karate master has an incredible music library and will occasionally have us move in karate or kendo stances to music. Giving the quilt a musical name just seemed to fit. The quilting in the borders simply echoes the outline of the picture panel. For the picture, I quilted in details on the waves, the sun, and the cranes. I also quilted in some curves in the blue around the picture.

Cranes also were the focus of the picture panel in "Cranes of a Feather," named because I see similarities in Don's personality and the personality of the master instructor to whom this quilt went. While Don admitted to liking this name, he also said he was a little afraid that the master getting this quilt might think it presumptuous to link them together. I told Don that if the master said something to that effect to refer him to me, since I chose the title. As with "Cranes above the Water," I quilted the borders to echo the picture panel and then quilted in a fair amount of detail on the picture itself.

The final quilt, "Clouded Dragon," put its recipient in a very select group of teachers (he's the fourth) for whom I have made two quilts. He received "Symmelaritries" last year, so "Clouded Dragon" was actually of the "and now for something totally different" variety. I quilted this one last, so I had the luxury of being a little more relaxed about how much time I could take. As a result, quilting in the detail was a bit more relaxing than on the others. Or maybe it was that the big dragon gave me more room in which to play around with the quilting details compared with the tiny cranes on the others. I don't know how well the detail will show up in the close-up, but I hope that at least some of it shows.

With these quilts presented, I'm busily sorting batik strips I cut years ago to make a graduation quilt for one of my heart children (these are the friends of my kids who have taken to calling me "mom" and whom I would gladly take in if the need ever arose). I also have another Japanese panel I might make into a quilted wall hanging for someone. So many projects (I didn't even touch on the knitting ones here), so little time, but then that's what keeps life interesting.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Banned Books Week Just a Bit Late

Debi had this one posted the other day, piggybacking on Nymeth, and it looked worth repeating. What follows is the American Library Association's list of the most frequently challenged books of 1990-2000. The ones in bold are the ones I've read at some point in my life. I will admit that some of these I read so long ago I would be hard-pressed to tell you why someone would want to ban them. If you really pay attention to detail, you might notice that none of the Stephen King books are in bold. I'll take your word for it that he's a decent writer; I've just never warmed up to what I've heard about his books or the movies made from them.

#1 Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
#2 Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
#3 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#4 The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#5 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#6 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#7 Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling

#8 Forever by Judy Blume
#9 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#10 Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
#11 Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
#12 My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
#13 The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
#14 The Giver by Lois Lowry

#15 It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
#16 Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
#17 A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
#18 The Color Purple by Alice Walker
#19 Sex by Madonna
#20 Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
#21 The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
#22 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
#23 Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
#24 Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
#25 In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
#26 The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
#27 The Witches by Roald Dahl
#28 The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
#29 Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
#30 The Goats by Brock Cole
#31 Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
#32 Blubber by Judy Blume
#33 Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
#34 Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
#35 We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
#36 Final Exit by Derek Humphry
#37 The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
#38 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

#39 The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#40 What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
#41 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#42 Beloved by Toni Morrison
#43 The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

#44 The Pigman by Paul Zindel
#45 Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
#46 Deenie by Judy Blume
#47 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
#48 Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
#49 The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
#50 Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
#51 A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
#52 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

#53 Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
#54 Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
#55 Cujo by Stephen King
#56 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#57 The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
#58 Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
#59 Ordinary People by Judith Guest
#60 American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
#61 What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
#62 Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
#63 Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
#64 Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
#65 Fade by Robert Cormier
#66 Guess What? by Mem Fox
#67 The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
#68 The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
#69 Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#70 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#71 Native Son by Richard Wright

#72 Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
#73 Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
#74 Jack by A.M. Homes
#75 Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
#76 Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
#77 Carrie by Stephen King
#78 Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
#79 On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
#80 Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
#81 Family Secrets by Norma Klein
#82 Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
#83 The Dead Zone by Stephen King
#84 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#85 Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

#86 Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
#87 Private Parts by Howard Stern
#88 Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
#89 Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
#90 Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

#91 Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
#92 Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
#93 Sex Education by Jenny Davis
#94 The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
#95 Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
#96 How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
#97 View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
#98 The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
#99 The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
#100 Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Monday, October 6, 2008

National Book Festival

I wasn't going to post this until after Christmas (you'll see why if you read on), but Debi has made it sound as if I can. Elder son asked way back in the summer if someone would take him to the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, on September 27. Neil Gaiman was on the program, and elder son really wanted to hear him speak even if it meant getting there super-early to stand in line and wait. At the time younger son agreed to handle the driving. (Younger son is 18 and has a driver's license; elder son is 20 and has a learner's permit.)

Fast forward to the week before the National Book Festival, and younger son decided he'd rather go to the Vegetarian Festival here in Charlottesville than the Book Festival in DC. Not wanting to see older son heartbroken, I agreed to take him. I will be honest here and say up front that at the time I had never read a word by Neil Gaiman. I'd been meaning to, after hearing both sons extol Neil's writing, and after reading several of Debi's reviews. I did get Neverwhere (the local Barnes and Noble was out of American Gods and start to read it Tuesday of that week, but that was as far as I'd gotten. When Don and I were talking on Tuesday night about our upcoming adventure on Saturday, I mentioned that I could get a book signed, too. He suggested that I could get one signed for Annie, so I shot a quick e-mail to Debi and asked whether I could do that--was there a Neil Gaiman book that she and Rich would like to give Annie for Christmas that I could take up and get inscribed? She replied the next day that they would love to give Annie a copy of Coraline, so I picked that up Wednesday night.

Saturday morning, older son and I left the house at 7:00, drove to Vienna, where we hopped on the Metro. We were on the Mall at about 10:00. Neil was speaking from 11:45 to 12:15 and signing from 1:00 to 3:00. As we approached the area where the Book Festival was, we could see a line that may have been a quarter of a mile long waiting to pass though a medical detector, bag search, and other security. We started to get a bit nervous about spending the day in the security line. Luckily, a chat with someone in the line revealed that this was the line to get into the children's tent, where Laura and Jenna Bush were speaking and signing. Neil was going to be in the teens and childrens tent, and we could walk through the children's tent security line and straight into that tent. We got seats in the back, and listened to the end of the first talk, by Judith Viorst. When people left after her talk, we grabbed two seats in the front row, and sat through two more talks by people we'd never heard of but who were still somewhat interesting. It also gave me the chance to see what kind of photo ops I might have with the 10X zoom lens on my digital camera. The picture here is of the speaker who preceded Neil, Joseph Bruchac.

By the time Neil came on, the tent was packed to the gills. He told some great stories including that The Graveyard Book is one of the few books for which he can say very definitively how he got the idea. He also told about the two books inspired by his children (Wolves in the Wall, and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish). He read part of The Graveyard Book and answered some questions. Very, very entertaining and, yes, for those of you who might be wondering, very, very pleasant to gaze at and listen to. As you can see in the photos, he was dressed in his usual black jeans, black t-shirt, and black leather jacket. He was also wearing black leather shoes that I almost took a photo of but didn't. They looked somewhat clunky, but comfortable, like the sort of shoes I like. They also looked as if they might add an inch to his height, though I have no idea if that was the intent.

After the talk ended, older son and I hustled to the book sale tent and scored three copies of The Graveyard Book. It actually wasn't released until the following Tuesday (September 30), but the publisher had agreed to let copies be sold in conjunction with Neil's appearance at the Festival. I don't know how many copies they had on sale, but they sold out while we were standing in line to pay for ours. Of course, we saw a couple of people with six or more copies in their arms, but perhaps they were buying for friends who were holding places in the signing line.

As for the signing line, that's where we hustled to from the book sale tent. We arrived there at 12:45 and were directed to the end of a line. We were thinking that we weren't all that far back in line which was good. About that time, though, we realized that the line to our right was also a Neil Gaiman line as was the line to its right. It turned out that we were in the fifth Neil Gaiman line. We were initially told that he would sign three things for each person. Fine, we decided. I could get Coraline signed for Annie, one copy of The Graveyard Book signed for Debi, and another signed for me. Older son could get Sandman signed for himself, American Gods signed for younger son, and another book signed for a teenaged friend of mine who goes to the College of William and Mary. Not too much later, as the seventh line was filling up, they announced that it would be one item per person. (Oh, yeah, I didn't mention that Neil had a broken finger on his right hand, the middle finger, in one of those funky metal braces.) I decided then and there that my one item would be Coraline for Annie. Much as I would have liked to have something signed by Neil Gaiman (I had been reading The Graveyard Book in line and was greatly enjoying it), I knew that it would be even more special for Annie to have something.

So we stood. We sat. Don lay down and slept for a while. I read half of The Graveyard Book before it started to drizzle. We stood up. Drizzle changed to rain. Rain changed to hard rain at an angle. We waited, by this time watching lines two and three move forward. At 3:00, they stopped letting people get in line and announced that Neil would be staying until at least 5:00; they later announced that he would stay until everyone in line by 3:00 had been seen. We watched line four move. Eventually, line five started to move. By this time it had stopped raining, and there was a rainbow that put the pot of gold in, of all places, the U.S. Capitol. I found this somewhat appropriate given that this was the weekend right after the first attempt at a Wall Street bailout had failed.

Finally, four hours after we got in line, we got up to the signing table. Neil was joking and thanking people for waiting for him in the rain. I handed over Coraline, with a card inside saying "Annie" (we had been directed to do this so that he didn't have to ask how to spell the name). I told him, though, that I wasn't Annie, so please don't write something like "thanks for waiting." He asked who Annie was, and I told him she was my cousin. He commented that she must be pretty special if I was having the book signed for her and not myself. I said that she certainly was special, that she had used National Novel Writing Month last year to write a 50,000 word novel at the age of 10. "She IS very special then," he said as he drew ... a mouse ... and autographed it.

Then Don got his book signed, and we headed back down the mall to the Metro station. We took the Metro back to Vienna, hopped in the car. After picking up food to eat on the way home (we hadn't eaten since breakfast in the car on the way up), we got home around 8:30. It was a very long day, but a great time. It was also a long day for Neil. According to his blog, at about 5:00 he took his pen and just moved down the line signing a book for everyone. The National Book Festival estimated that he signed for 1,400 people. Wow!

As for why this wasn't supposed to be published until after Christmas, well, as Debi put it, she and Rich "caved" and gave Annie her book early. I can't say I blame them. I probably would have given it early, too.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Six Random Things about Myself

Annie tagged me for this one, so here goes. First off, the rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. (Done!)

2. Post the rules on your blog. (Being done!)

3. Write six random things about yourself. (See below.)

4. Tag sixish people at the end of your post. (I'll try, but Annie already tagged several that I would have, and since I'm not as into the whole blogging world as some people are, my contacts are limited.)

5. Let each person know he or she has been tagged. (See 4. above.)

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up. (Okey-dokey.)

Now for the six random things about me.

1. I have won a couple of things in the Style Invitational humor contest run by The Washington Post. In fact, one of my entries was put on the list of the 10 best entries of all time about the time the Invitational changed editors from the Czar to the Empress. That one was an item for an underachiever's list of midlife goals: Win the respect and admiration of my dog. I won a pen for that one. I also won a t-shirt for a sonnet I wrote about Osama bin Laden, and bumper stickers for another underachiever's goal (End hunger in my aquarium.) and a statement in which each word starting with the letters spelling out the name of someone to whom the statement related. In the event that explanation doesn't make sense, here's my entry: "Gore elected! Oh really! Gore elected! Wait! Bring us Supreme help." More recently, I won a refrigerator magnet by coming up with a new and different definition for the word "alabaster," which I won't repeat here for fear I might offend someone.

2. I am deaf in my right ear. It's happened over the course of the last ten years, and the docs can't find a cause. They've ruled out the potentially nasty things such as a tumor as well as some of the not-so-nasty things such as genetics. I'm learning to cope with it. I have a single ear bud for my iPod (who would have thought they made such things!) and have learned to turn my body to localize sound. It's hard to echo-locate with only one working ear.

3. My feet are too wide for most women's dress shoes, which is fine with me. I hate heels and refuse to wear them. My dress shoes are Earth shoe MaryJanes (see blog photo).

4. I am not assertive enough, or so I have been told. I'm the person that the group usually doesn't consult when choosing a restaurant, movie, etc., because the view tends to be that I'll be flexible and go along with anything. Go too many times without asserting yourself, and look what it gets you. You're no longer asked for your opinion.

5. I am a disappointed Hillary supporter who most emphatically does NOT (did I write that loudly enough) support Sarah Palin. I bring this up because my boss was teasing me about this earlier. I've told my dear (and Canadian) husband that should the McCain-Palin ticket win, he will be encouraged to look for a new job in the Great White North.

6. While not as much of a loner as one of my sons, I am much more a loner than a social person. Read Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto, and you'll understand me better.

And since I'm somewhat of a loner, I shall now struggle with which six people to tag. I can think of more than six people whose blogs I read, but remember that whole not being assertive thing? I figure they might not like being tagged because I don't think I've ever seen some of them respond to any sort of meme going around. Seriously. It's sort of like the chain letters I court disaster with by breaking the chain. So I'm just gonna piggyback on Annie's tagging of Debi and Rich and think that maybe someone I know who has a blog will read this and decide to post their own random things. If they do, I hope they let me know.