Thursday, December 27, 2007

You learn the most amazing things grading final exams

"In order for there to be a soul, a person has to die."

I always suspected having a soul was overrated.

Holiday Baggage

Thank god it comes but once a year: the mass hysteria commonly known as Christmas is finally over, leaving us with presents to exchange, belated holiday cards to send, and a tree to drag down four flights of stairs. I truly hate this time of year, and I truly loved last week's New Yorker cover:

Subtly evil Santa looming over inconsequential, sheep-esque shoppers. Stomp, Santa! Stomp!

A bright moment in an otherwise gloomy season came in the form of this lovely Christmas present from the in-laws, chosen by me after many torturous hours trolling around Zappos. From the outside, a seemingly normal and reasonably fashionable purse:

Inside, a secret inner sanctum perfect for stowing subway knitting!

I can hardly wait to fill the other two compartments with wads of used tissues.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Stalking the Clintons

Blizzard, lingering flu, and winding, unplowed New Hampshire roads: nothing kept us from making a seven-hour drive to Plymouth in order to see Bill Clinton in the pink, ex-presidential flesh. Crashing the New Hampshire pre-primary circus is a tradition of Todd's; in 2004 I was also sucked in, and this year two intrepid friends of ours managed to join us, wedging themselves into the very small back seat Todd's volkswagen (the back seat normally functions as trash can, to give you some sense of why, at the very least, we should call these friends intrepid).

At the entrance to the Bill event, I successfully lied to a secret service agent who, after a cursory paw though my bag, asked me if I was carrying anything sharp. No, nothing sharp.

Just the number five circular Addi needle I'm using to knit this basket-weave qiviut scarf. This is not the most fun knit in my rotation - it's laceweight and I have enough laceweight projects in my life right now because I'm still trying to finish what I started with the whole bridesmaid lace stole project, about which I can only say arrrrrrggggghhhhh. On the plus side, qiviut, aka muskox, is a fascinating fiber: freakishly lightweight, very soft, and extremely warm.

Also fascinating and extremely warm, though not at all lightweight or soft: Bill. On the road for Hillary, the ex-President gave a rousing and lengthy speech extolling the virtues of the lady Senator from New York. We did learn a few things about Hillary, though mostly I learned that all the well-worn observations about Bill are true: he's a great public speaker; he seems totally sincere; he's very smart; he cares about you. I whorishly pressed through the crowd after the speech in order to shake his hand, and in the process of moving to the front of the pack, as I watched him converse with all manner of 80th generation crank from New Hampshire, I could see that he had the rarest and most powerful type of charisma: the kind that comes from appearing to be completely in the moment and completely interested in what is being said. It is not about Bill at all, and this egoless engagement, purely enacted, is ridiculously attractive and powerful.

Hillary (with her daughter and mother in tow) did an event the following evening. Our senator impressed me, and the crowd seemed impressed, too. I did not make an effort to shake her hand, though in retrospect it might have been a good time to ask her why the voice mailbox at her office is always full whenever I call to protest whatever MoveOn tells me to.

Between Bill and Hillary, we stopped by an event for Republican candidate Ron Paul. This is a man who believes that all America's problems can be solved if we start using gold coins for our currency and cease government regulation of everything except women's uteruses. Is anyone surprised this man is from Texas?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Goose Must Die

The assassin is wearing Fetching, a freebie pattern from's summer 2006 edition, knit with one ball of Bouton d'Or's Ksar plus about 10 yards of leftovers from the Bouton d'Or Gretel beret project.

Fetching, finished last weekend, is currently the most popular pattern on Ravelry. We're nothing if not groundbreaking here at knitcrit, though in my defense I will say that my original pair of Fetching (knit long ago in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino) was lost in a careless moment in an airport shuttle in San Diego, soon after the driver nearly killed everyone on board by attempting to rectify a bad exit ramp choice by veering back from the ramp onto the highway. Somewhere in all that gratitude over still being alive, I forgot that my gloves were on my lap, and when I got out of the shuttle (trying very hard not to make eye contact with the driver because it's just so embarrassing to be almost killed in an airport shuttle), they fell on the ground and were lost forever in a climate where they're completely unnecessary.

The goose, made in a Chinese prison and liberated from a local claw machine by the man of the house, has been a source of great strife since he landed in our entirely too small apartment. I hate the goose; Todd loves the goose. I once hid the goose at the bottom of my laundry basket for two months and told Todd that I had given it to a small boy on the corner of 1o4th and Amsterdam. And the whole time Todd kept pestering me about the goose like it was his freakin daemon or something, and finally I just gave up and gave the stupid goose back to him.

And please note, wiseass friends reading this blog, that sometimes a goose is just a goose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Grading under the Influence

Some people - not me - might be bitter about coming down with the flu the day before finals end.

I, however, see this as a real opportunity. Perhaps this is the key to making sense of all those bad student papers. Maybe now all that incoherent prose will resolve itself into a coherent, conquerable whole. Like on Buffy, season 2 episode 18, where Buffy has to induce a high fever to see the evil monster that's killing children in their hospital beds.

Of course, bad undergraduate papers don't have anything in common with an evil, child-killing monster. I wouldn't want to imply that at all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Best Holiday Card Ever

Season's Greetings!

Never mind the child in the manger, Santa Claus, and/or getting the temple up and running again.

Kindly spit into that test tube we sent you and mail it back to us, dammit.

For the record, it's not that my saliva is all that special. When I was very young, my mother participated in a government-funded study of family life, race, and class, and the good people running the study have had enough grant proposal writing success to keep it alive. I am, it seems, part of a often-used data pool used to track changes across generations, and now they want to know if all this neurosis and charm is genetic.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's that time of the year again

And coupled with that time of the month, my friends, I think we can safely say that this is not the best week on record.

By that time of the year of course I mean the time of year when professors everywhere find themselves drowning in - or smothered beneath - or perhaps crushed by - papers written by underslept and overcaffeinated undergraduates. In addition to the despair arising from the sheer volume of work, there is the bonus despair arising from the revelation that many students have not been significantly influenced by all that their longsuffering professors have done to rescue them from their academic mediocrity. On the bright side, as this gem from one of my many, many, many Anthro 1001 student ethnographies attests, academic mediocrity is sometimes very funny:

"They all wear t-shirts that have La Bella's logo and the phone number for deliveries on the back of it, and caps in order to cover their hair for sanity purposes."

I should wear hats more often.

Hats like this one:

Gretel by Ysolda Teague, knit in the regular size with two balls of Bouton d'Or's Ksar in Encre. Because this is also a knitting blog.