Some Stones Unturned

Knitting, Biking and Some Sober Second Thoughts

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

How I Came Around on eBooks

In the past week, I have heard two authors, Maurice Sendak and Jonathan Franzen, come out against eBooks, with Franzen suggesting “serious readers” prefer paper. Both authors commented that they couldn’t imagine a future where eBooks were popular, but they supposed it didn’t matter because they would be dead. I don’t want to respond too much to their comments specifically. Sendak didn’t give much explanation for his reasoning and Franzen seems to have confused eBooks with eBooks sold by a particular vendor that maintains access to your copy after you buy it (or license it or whatever is technically legally happening with that transaction), which is not a problem with the medium itself but rather with that particular vendor’s implementation of it. Taking a stand against propietary formats that lack permanence is great, but different from being against eBooks as a whole.

I have noticed that anti-eBook sentiment is common, however. A friend of mine got a hard copy book for Christmas and launched into an unprovoked rant against eBooks and how physical books were so much better. The same seemed to be true in the comments following Sendak’s interview. “Right on,” people said. “I love paper books and have not ever read an eBook, nor will I.”

Wait, what? If you have never read an eBook, how do you know it’s a terrible experience? I get that eReaders are expensive, so it’s not like it’s something you just pick up at the corner store on the off-chance that it may be for you (If you have tried an eReader and it wasn’t for you, fair enough). I actually consider the expense and barrier to buying them the biggest argument against eBooks if we’re setting things up as a paper vs electrons choice. Affordable $4 paperbacks or near-infinite selection at the local library for anyone with proper identification are one of the greatest things about paper books. Anyone can access them; not so for eReaders.

I get that people love paper books. I have been there. I still am there in many situations. But to try to extrapolate from that to what it is like to read on an eReader without actually having read on an eReader and pass judgement on people who choose to read that way seems…unfair? Over-controlling? Really lacking in perspective? So I thought I would share my experience becoming a reader of eBooks as a reminder to people to stay open-minded. There is enough snobbery around books and their content without criticising readers who choose a different format as well. Read more…


In which I try to avoid being the last person on the planet to read The Hunger Games

This post contains spoilers for the first book in the Hunger Games trilogy.

I have been hearing about The Hunger Games for quite some time, but when I saw the movie trailer1, I mentioned how good it looked to a good friend and that I had bought the book on sale over Christmas and not cracked it open yet. She pretty much said “Read it. Read it now,” which is not something she does too often. So I pushed it to the top of the list, in spite of the fact that I have just finished the also-dystopian Wool 4 (which I’ll probably discuss after I’ve read the last one) and have been watching a bit of darker sci-fi TV stuff. Why I think this will help with the winter blahs I don’t know.

I really enjoyed it, found it a real page-turner (finished in about a day). I will probably wait a little while before picking up the remaining books in the series, both to try and read something a little lighter and for reasons I’ll talk about later. For those of you who have checked out the last post-apocalyptic novel post, you might be interested to know that there is no knitting in this novel. There is, however, one attempted drowning of a cat that, yes, is meant to tell us about the desperate world in which these people exist and the calculating  and compassionate natures of two different characters (previously, on cats and dystopias. I’ve seriously got to start cataloguing these). There are a few other subjects dealt with in slightly more detail, however. Read more…

5 Suggestions for Roasted Broccoli

Roasted broccoli

Okay, so I lied about no more food pictures

I’m worried that I might have some sort of vitamin deficiency. I have had roasted broccoli 5 of the last 5 days (that is 2.5 full heads of broccoli). I actually stopped at the grocery store on the way home last night just to buy another head of broccoli I wanted it so bad.

Btw, if you have been steaming or boiling or microwaving your broccoli, you have been wasting your life, jsyk, fyi. Roast it. Roast it and don’t ever look back.

These are the days I’m glad I’m single because if I were sharing dinners with someone and had to try to convince them that we should have roasted broccoli every day, I feel like that might not go over so well. Actually, maybe that’s more explanation than fortunate coincidence?

Anyway, if you are new to the world of roast broccoli, I would like to share with you some of my accumulated knowledge (lucky you):

  1. Basically every ingredient in the above recipe is optional except the olive oil. Often I go with just olive oil and lemon juice or just oil and parmesan (and it is the store-bought powdery kind, but shhhh don’t tell). Actually maybe the olive oil is optional. I’ve never tried it without. I imagine it would be pretty hard to get off the pan.
  2. Parmesan, mozzarella or cheddar work for cheese options. Possibly others. I haven’t gotten too adventurous there yet. Ooooh, I am contemplating Monterey Jack and thinking yes. Perhaps time for another broccoli/cheese grocery store run.
  3. I have never tried the pine nuts in this, but I have occasionally smushed up some bran flakes in the last step as a substitute. It sounds weird, I know, but they don’t really taste like bran. They just add some extra crunch.
  4. If, as I hear occasionally happens, you find you want more than just broccoli for dinner, perhaps even another food group, there are the usual options of rice or pasta, but I’ve become fond of couscous. I was ignorant until a year or so ago when my sister opened my eyes. Here is how it works: you buy a box at the grocery store; bring the correct amount of water to a boil and dump the couscous in; take it off the burner and wait five minutes. Now you have couscous! So ridiculously simple.
  5. If you too are single, go ahead and roast the whole head of broccoli anyway (uh, that is to say, the sliced up florets from an entire head. Don’t just shove the thing in your oven whole). That plus a cup of couscous, cooked up, gives you dinner and 2-3 lunches for the week.

And that ends this week’s installment in my Broccoli Deliciousness Awareness campaign. Thanks for your time.

Skew socks: What was I thinking?

I’ve gone astray askew. I’m so weak. I started a new pair of socks even though I’m not even done the Rock Island shawl border.

I started them because I needed something to photoshop into the apocalypse picture. I couldn’t use the things I already had on the needles because they weren’t bright enough. I wanted a smoking crater with bright pink yarn being knit in front of it. I had bright pink yarn lying around. So I cast on. But I didn’t want to look like I had just cast on so I could take the picture (even though that is totally what I was doing). So I decided to start a pair of socks and I have a little bit of an obsession with this Skew pattern.

I’ve knit it before and it’s addictive. You think you’ll just cast on and then you figure that the first part of the toe is not very long, so you’ll just finish that section. And you finish that and decide that the mid-toe’s not very long either so you’ll just finish that section and once you get to the foot, well, that’s pretty straightforward repeats and before you know it, you’re halfway up the foot. More than that because it’s knit on the diagonal, so the far part of the foot is nearly to the start of the heel gusset. You only have to knit a couple of inches straight. And that was how I ended up with half a sock knitted that looked like this.  Are you ready?  No, you can’t possibly be.




Skew socks

There is no ready.

What was I thinking?

  1. Firstly, let’s just say it: I should really be focussing on the shawl. Yes, I need something simpler to knit when I’m on the phone or don’t have the attention for the pattern, but I already have a felted bag project I’m working on. I am still working on the shawl, but I can feel the socks calling.
  2. This colour. I can’t…I think it’s even slightly muted in this photo. I bought this yarn because I wanted something bright. I am normally a pretty straightforward blue and grey kinda girl, but I sometimes like to have a little fun with the socks because, well, who’s going to know? So I bought this yarn thinking it would lead to some madcap fun (assuming a knitter’s definition of “fun” here). I started a pair of cuff down socks with it previously, but they weren’t working. I thought that maybe it was just the combination of the pattern, which was ripply, with the Jacquard, which was bright and patterned, but it’s pretty clearly the yarn itself. It’s just too much even in simple diagonal stripes.
  3. I’m actually getting slightly larger gauge than normal and I think they might be a bit big.

Is any of this stopping me? No it is not. I am just keepin’ on keepin’ on. Rationalizations:

  1. I’m still working on the shawl.  Really, I am.  Just slower. I knew I was going to knit Skew again at some point and why not now?
  2. The colour of the yarn isn’t going to change. Given that, socks are clearly the way to go with it. I suppose I could try to knit some colourwork in combination with a plainer yarn to dilute it down or something, but I’m not sure that would help. Worst case scenario, they will make a glorious pair of springtime/Easter socks, all yellow and pink and periwinkle.
  3. They’ll fit. I can totally make them fit. I’ll make the foot a little short to compensate for the extra width and then do extra decreases on the gusset to make the leg tighter. It’ll be fine; have I ever been wrong before (hint: yes)?

Rock Island shawl update: Still on the border

Rock Island Border

Slow Going

When I read the comments of people complaining about the 71 pattern repeats on the border for Rock Island, I sort of rolled my eyes and mumbled to myself about people not having enough patience these days. Sure, 71 repeats is a lot, but it’s only 8 rows long and ~12 stitches wide, so it should just fly by. I breezed through the first 25 repeats or so, feeling pretty smug. But now sitting around 40 I have to admit that I may have been a bit quick to judge.

I’ve also started to hit the paranoia stage. It looks like a huge amount of border and I’m only just over halfway done. I swatched (for once!), so I should be okay. That’s what I keep telling myself. The 41 repeats are 50 inches, which works out to 86.5 inches for all 71 repeats. Now, assuming my Pythagorean theorem is sound (always risky), I get 2x2=(86.5/2)2, where x is the height or half the wingspan and I’ve assumed each half of the shawl is an isosceles triangle (I have a physics background. You’re lucky I didn’t assume it was circular).

So our final solution for x is…30.6 inches. Or ~71 inch wingspan. That actually doesn’t seem so crazy all calculated out. But it is unblocked. All indications are that blocking will big this thing up like 150% at least. But looking at the border, it appears to mostly be scrunched height-wise. Pulling it out, I get can get as little as 42 inches long, or a 51 inch wingspan pre-blocking. Totally reasonable. Should I rip this out assuming I don’t know how to measure and possibly save myself some heartache later, or should I just have faith in the swatch?

Gaaaaaah. Okay. I am going to have a little faith. I basically knew this was the answer already. I’m not pulling out 40 repeats based on the fact it looks monstrous. I should have lots of yarn, so worst case scenario: I end up with a 9 foot wide shawl, right?

Knitting through the Apocalypse


Imagine you come across an isolated car, undriveable due to gas shortage, and you yourself have nothing but time because there are no jobs or anything and whatever yarn you can find is basically fair game. What about this situation does not scream yarnbombing?

You know how sometimes you’re reading along in that post-apocalyptic novel and you find yourself thinking “This is a pretty good description of the rapid rise and extreme control of a political/religious organization in the power vaccum left after that plague/nuclear/environmental disaster, but there should really be more knitting.”  Yeah, me too.

It’s not that post-apocalyptic novels are completely devoid of knitting, but in my experience, the main focus often falls elsewhere.  And this is a bit strange.  Partly because, if industrial manufacturing is severely limited, people who craft cozy things should be an extremely valuable resources.  But mainly, of course, because in the bleakest of times one turns to comforting, meditative things one loves, like knitting.

Preferably knitting in fuzzy mohair or bright colours.

Crater and Knitting

If yellow and pink socks can't save us, we must ask if this is still a world worth living in.

A brief summary, from a knitting perspective, of some of the post-apocalyptic stories I have read:

  1. Earth Abides: the struggle of a small group of people to preserve information when they can barely survive day-to-day.  At first I thought there was no knitting in this book; a big part of the story is that very few people have useful skills in the new world in which they find themselves and, not only that, they generally don’t have much desire to learn them.  However, Google books tells me there is a mention of Ish spending a night reading by the fire while Em knits beside him.  Whether she does this for comfort or practical reasons, I can’t recall.
  2. A Canticle for Leibowitz: also the struggle to preserve information, this time headed up by some future version of a Catholic monastery.  No knitting that I can recall, although it’s been ages since I read it and the book must be at my parents’ place since I can’t turn it up at home.
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale: weird political organization that claims to be religious creates a class system based around women’s reproductive ability1.  This book has several knitting scenes, perhaps unsurprising since Atwood herself is a knitter.  But weirdly the knitting is not done by any likeable characters; rather it’s used as a creepy way for the privileged to pretend to show how compassionate and supportive they are of the lower classes.  And at one point knitting is used for violence.
  4. Y: The Last Man: the decay of political organizations altogether and descent into anarchy, although the whole women’s rights business sort of becomes a moot point.  Enjoyably, Agent 355 knits and this seems to be the only example where it’s explicitly stated that the character knits because they find the action relaxing or comforting (“to keep [her] hands busy”).  She says her grandmother taught her.  She also notes that needles can be used as weapons in a pinch.  Note: I’m only a few volumes into this, so I could be a bit off here.

(Mistakes?  Other examples?  Help me out fellow nerds sci-fi fans.)

So, on balance, there’s actually a fair bit of knitting going on as the world ends2, but if this still isn’t enough for you, GOOD NEWS.  Writer and friend-of-fibre-enthusiasts Hugh Howey has put out a series of short stories/novellas with a knitting theme called Wool.  The first book does not contain any knitting references, but the second one has a main character who knits:

This was her favorite part, casting on.  She liked beginnings.  The first row.  Out of nothing came something.

I’m only just starting the third one3 and it seems like there will be less actual knitting in this one, but each book’s title is related to some part of the knitting process and the atmosphere of the book is sort of metaphorically related to that knitting action I guess.

He also answers questions while knitting at a S&B.

So, yes.  Wool.  Knitting sci-fi-type people should check it out.  You never know when disaster could strike.  Grab your needles and be prepared.

Jayne Hat

Men come and go, but knitted Jayne hats abide

1. Noted without further comment: the wiki page, imdb page and SparkNotes page all have higher Google rankings than the Amazon link to the actual book. Return to post

2. Aside: two of the most memorable scenes from the above novels (hopefully this isn’t too spoiler-y.  I won’t say which ones), involve really disturbing descriptions of people killing cats and how that’s symbolic of what desperation brings out in humanity.  Is this a thing, that in really bleak futures we will spend a great deal of time thinking about cats?  Wait, is Cat’s Cradle literally about cats?  No, don’t tell me.  I will get to it eventually.  Maybe it just says more about me that those are the scenes that have stuck with me all these years. Return to post

3. I thought I heard somewhere that the series was only available on Kindle, but I seem to see a paperback on Amazon.  Anyway, if you have the Kindle app on something, which can include your computer if you don’t mind reading off a laptop/desktop, the first couple of books are pretty short and only 99 cents each, which is a decent way to find out if that’ll work for you. Return to post

Via: First heard about the series on Metafilter, which has more details about it being self-published and how it’s risen in popularity, which is also a pretty interesting story.

Crêpes: Great Food or the Greatest Food?

I swear I'm not going to be one of those people who takes picture of every meal, but just this once...


Even if all you have is an egg, milk and flour, no need to go to the grocery store.

One batch does savoury and sweet: main course and dessert.

Can make even spinach taste good.


The first one always comes out either burnt or undercooked.

So I’m torn.

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