Tuesday, December 13, 2011

end of semester, end of year

The semester is over and the grading is FINALLY done - I'll miss one class terribly and have kind of already forgotten about the other two. This is the first semester where I've really felt strange and sad about the distance I feel from most of my students. I guess I should say that exceptional or otherwise lovely students make an impression on me and I am quite invested in them and their learning progress, but for most students - and especially the "do I have to bring the reading to class?" type students in my 1001-level introduction course - I no longer feel the burning need to be the after-school-special heroic educator who Makes A Difference in their lives. Which is not to say that I am not doing my best - I am - but at the same time I am no longer spending the entire subway ride home obsessing over what I should have done differently to Better Reach Them. I have a child, a husband, and the desire to occasionally connect with friends and/or do some reading or writing in my "area of expertise." This leave limited resources available for going into teaching overtime.

Let's see - in other news, I'm on a search committee for a new hire in our department and I have to say that I have been pretty stunned and saddened by the extent to which identity politics seem to have shaped the attitudes of my committee members. Good lord. Probably I shouldn't say too much here, but it's depressing. We had almost 400 applicants for the position.

I had a book launch on December 9th. I was dreading it primarily because I was sure no one would come, but as it turns out the (small) room was full and several of my dear teachers as well as the colleagues I like the most showed up, so that was cheery. On the whole, I guess the talk I gave went well, which is to say I do not look back on it and feel full of regret.

Knitting content: the Maile sweater I made for a friend's dumpling-adorable little girl has finally been gifted, and therefore can be posted here:

Gah. SO cute.

I no longer have the capacity to note yarn type or needle size or much of anything other than I knit this in a worsted and it came out in the 3-6 month range, which was pretty much what I had hoped for. I had it on about 15 dpns to deal with the sleeve construction, but after about four rows the sweater had advanced far enough beyond the armpits to work on a circular again, so even with that pain in the neck, it was a pretty simple and satisfying knit with great results.

I've been thinking a lot about archiving - there's no shortage of digital mediums available to make me feel bad about not recording these early years of my life with db, and I have at least done a great job keeping an organized and well-edited photo series of her (and her parents) over on Flickr. What feels most attractive to me lately, though, is keeping a simple, handwritten diary. I think - because of my job - I associate the keyboard with a standard and type of writing that keeps me from using this blog as a record of db's early years, but a simple paper notebook might feel like a place I can write whatever comes to mind - and I could keep up with images over on flickr. Which is not to say that knitcrit is closing up shop - I love this blog even if I don't have much time for it of late. I just think there might be something to writing simply on paper. Let's see what happens.

And there you have it - the last post before the new year!

ETA: One of knitcrit's elite group of readers who also happens to live with her just read the above post and yelled "No knitcrit! Don't go!" Knitcrit would like to reiterate that she isn't going anywhere - and she even aspires to more than six posts and three knitting projects in 2012 since that is the year that she gets tenure. Oh yeah, baby.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Of posting and preschools

I have been thinking about what keeps me from updating this blog. There are the usual answers: too much work, exhaustion, perfectionism, laziness. But I also think it's because I named it knitcrit and despite meditations to the contrary, I have it in my head that posts should include some knitting content.

If I had time, I would knit a sweater for a New Zealand penguin.

So, there's some knitting content! Moving on.

Oh - wait - more knitting content: I went to Rhinebeck this year, and I am sorry to say that IMHO (as they say) it is a tad overrated. All those idyllic photos over on Ravelry are a little misleading. Yeah, there's a lot of yarn and it's kind of fun to move through the crowd knowing who the knitting stars are and the names for the many knit-especially-for-Rhinebeck sweaters, scarves and hats, but in the end, it's supposed to be about the fiber, and I guess since I live in NYC, it's not too hard to get my hands on a wide range of yarn, and that makes the stuff on offer at Rhinebeck underwhelming. As Todd observed, Rhinebeck is really all about the fleece. He's right, I think - there were some serious piles of seriously beautiful wool for sale. And actually, there was a pretty high entertainment value in seeing how interested Todd got in the fleece rating system. Maybe all the estrogen in the home is finally getting to him.

And of course it is is always fun to see sheep, alpacas, and llamas. Db loved the angora rabbits, and we all loved watching the sheep competition. Real suspense and drama there, let me tell you. And I clearly suck at sheep evaluation, as all of my favorites were eliminated almost right off the bat.

Possibly the main reason I found the whole thing a tad overrated was simply because we went there with db and it took two hours to get there and over three to get home thanks to a huge traffic jam in Sleepy Hollow caused by some annual Halloween festival that shut down the center of town. So it was five hours of driving, three of it with a toddler who had not napped at all. That's enough to dim the glow of even the cutest alpaca.

Let's see. Other reasons for failure to post have to do with awareness of audience and fear of writing something prosaic and lame. Since the trip to India but maybe even before that, writing has not seemed natural to me. This is a big deal. For years I prided myself on writing, wrote reams for fun, liked to think that my writing was humorous and smart, loved the process of putting my thoughts in words. Maybe it was the book. That's a pretty good narrative, eh? The book killed my passion for writing! Does that happen?

And yes, I am certainly busy, but no more busy than a lot of friends who still manage to maintain humorous, wise, inspiring, informative, and/or entertaining blogs.

There is also the fear that even though I don't use my name other easily google-able information, some terrible ex-boyfriend or current student will find this blog. The thought of that is enough to make me step away from the keyboard.

And something has happened with my laptop's fan so that most of the time when I sit down to write, I'm serenaded by a raspy whirring noise that gets louder and quieter at random intervals but never goes away. Plans are afoot to replace the laptop, but it's slow going and in the meantime every minute I don't have to spend feeling like I'm typing directly behind a jet engine, the better.

Plus, since having db, my capacity for ironic commentary has taken a serious nosedive. Knitcrit has nothing to critique. Db is so...um...perfect. I love her to distraction. Often all I feel capable of doing is posting a bunch of photos of her without comment, because what can one say, really? She's just so awesome. Except of course when she isn't - but when I've had it with her, I am much more interested in watching something from Netflix than exorcising demons through the production of cathartic prose. Plus I think sitting around assisting in the construction of block towers and reading Dr. DeSoto a billion times in a row has done a lot to take away any edge I might have once had.

We started the preschool application process. It's not quite as bad as Nursery University would have you believe, but that's probably because we're not applying to any of the really exclusive preschools - like the one run by Barnard, for example, which had a website so backwards and full of hoops that we gave up on it pretty early on, only to learn later this year that it's the chosen preschool for Sarah Jessica Parker's progeny, which explains a lot.

No, for us it's just the normal Upper West Side preschool process, which means we've applied to five - or is it six? - schools. FYI: you are "supposed to" apply to at least 10. Because what if you don't get in to your first six choices?

Application fees to date: $400. Oh, yes. We went to our first parent orientation and as I sat there listening to the (relatively speaking) likable director of the preschool discussing how they are not like other preschools because they really do believe in a play-based curriculum I couldn't help but feel panicked and annoyed at the same time. Panicked because in many ways this preschool is my first choice because it gives the most time for the tuition dollars and annoyed because all the parents there were doing their absolute best to exude a "we're not like all those crazy Manhattan parents" vibe when in fact I know that if it came right down to it, they would climb over the cold, lifeless body of my daughter if it lay between them and admission to, say, PS 9 or Trinity.

We could, of course, leave Manhattan. Though of course since we had to move this summer and spent about $4,000 to do so, that might not be the best choice right now. Plus I haven't really driven a car since 1995. And I don't know how to operate a gas pump. And being in the cavernous emptiness of the suburbs makes me feel like the rapture has happened and I didn't make the cut or I have somehow, perhaps owing to some genetic quirk, managed to survive the detonation of a neutron bomb. And db loves going to our local sushi restaurant so much.

Maybe everything will work out and db will get in to one of the preschools. Or maybe my mother is right and we shouldn't be sending her to preschool until she's four. As she said to me on the phone the other day, "You didn't go to preschool!" I think the implication there was I turned out fine, which is I think the closest my mother has ever come to voluntarily complimenting me.

So that's a positive note to end on. Post!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Archie goes to India

Classes started before Labor Day - one of the less charming things about my school - and after five or six or however may years it has been at this point, I sort of feel like things are under control. Which of course prompts simultaneous feelings of guilt and boredom, because I apparently somehow still don't know how do be a normal adult.

Some good friends recently had their second child - a boy - and I managed to finish an Archie Vest for him the day before he left (with mom, dad, and big brother) for nine months in India. It gets cold in northern India and stunningly loud vests are a special part of the Indian male's wardrobe - a yarn seemingly made entirely of sparkly plastic plastic "fiber" was especially popular last winter. I thought Archie evoked these subcontinental masterpieces while still managing to be wearable.

My swatch was knit to gauge but goodness gracious, blocking increased the size significantly - I knit it for 6 months and I'd say it's an 18 month size now.

I knit it in the round until the armpits and added the buttons at the shoulder because folks on Ravelry noted that the neck opening was quite small. I think I used Artyarns superwash sock yarn, but honestly I don't remember and in the rush to finish it labels were misplaced. Oh well. I loved knitting it but I'm not doing anything in such a small gauge again until after I get tenure.

A particularly - exceptionally, actually - gifted employee at M & J Trimmings helped me find the buttons. I think they are perfect.

Let's see. I've wanted to use this blog as a place to record charming moments with db. She's two now, and generally incredibly fun.

Todd and I agreed that today she woke up from her nap it seemed that her language abilities had taken another leap.

For the first time, db used "I love" without prompting - it was quite sweet to see, even though the recipient was her toy giraffe, who she hugged as she made her declaration.

When classes started and she saw that I was leaving for the day, db grabbed one of her Hindi-English books and requested that I read it, referring to it by the Hindi title rather than the English one. She normally requests these books using the English title, so the clever girl had strategized that if she requested the Hindi version, Mama would not leave since Dada can't read Hindi.

And so much more! But I am tired from a long day of teaching - obviously, given the not overly polished prose - and must sleep.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Moving on, in, up

Cousin Liz had a girl a few weeks ago, and after I finished turning in grades for the Worst Semester Ever and Todd and I signed a lease for a new place that we found through the Worst Real Estate Agent Ever, I got to work. It's a six month size and wow, a tiny sweater in Malabrigo worsted superwash flies off the needles. Malabrigo's superwash is amazing - I kind of don't believe it's a superwash.

The pattern is a Ravelry freebee called Striped Smock Top. Clearly the designer focuses her creativity on pattern writing rather than naming. Donna at the yarn store rightfully talked me into buying the yellow yarn.

It still needs a button. The orange and red were leftovers from two aviator caps that I knit for friends who just had twin girls. We visited them last weekend and I don't know what was more exhausting - the simple thought of twins or keeping db calm for the last hour of the car ride back to the city. To be fair, db is remarkably easy for an almost two-year-old: she flips through mountains of books, "reading" them out loud; imagination play with toys and stuffed animals can go on for a very long time. Even saint-like hopefully genius children have their limits, though, and db's carseat maximum is about two hours. Not bad for a city kid who is so unaccustomed to cars that she now thinks that they exist solely to go to the beach, since all five car trips we've taken since arriving back in the states have been to the ocean or homes with pools or by rivers.

And I say "hopefully genius" because without a scholarship or a high score on the so-called "gifted and talented" exam, her mom and dad really are going to have to move to New Jersey.

Speaking of maxing out carseat time, one of the beach trips was to visit a friend in Montauk. In theory this was a good idea; in practice the heavens opened the moment we arrived. We sort of managed to get to the beach in between storm fronts, but it was so cold db wore her rashguard over pants and a shirt and we had to keep her from getting hypothermia splashing around in the surf. And then on the drive home we hit rush hour traffic going into NYC and the fried clams I ate immediately prior to departure began to disagree with me violently and the only thing that seemed to keep db calm was a recording of sweet old songs that Woody Guthrie composed for his children. I think we listened to the album at least 15 times in a row. Every time I thought I couldn't take it anymore I would ask myself if another round of "I want my milk and I want it now" was better than the cries of an understandably sick of the car toddler and of course we all know the answer to that question.

On the brighter side, I am kind of excited about our new apartment. It has a dishwasher and a third bedroom that we'll be using as a home office. If I think about it, the fact that these two features make me happy suggests that I have finally developed a terminal case of adulthood.

But on the brightest of the bright sides, my editor wrote to me today saying my book is in. My. book. is. in. It's on Amazon! Look at it. Tenure incarnate. Eight years later, my book:

And for the record, that lady on the cover is not dead. She just looks dead. Read the book to find out more.

Friday, May 13, 2011

She's alive!

This happens with blogs. The long hiatus, often followed by a lengthy (or mercifully brief) explanatory confession to the blog gods, complete with reasons for absence and oaths/promises/best laid plans to never, never, never let things go for so long again.

Basically, we got back from India and ended up hospitalized for food poisoning. Thanks very much, Continental Airlines. Five months in India without so much as a single funky day in the bathroom, and then some suspect overcooked eggs at 35,000 feet and eight hours later, after the drama of trying to find our prearranged car at the airport and a totally illegal and terrifying ride on the Jersey Turnpike with db on my lap, we got home and had about an hour before the uncontrollable barfing began. And then uncontrollable diarrhea. It was kind of like labor after the castor oil kicked in. But maybe worse because in this case there was an actual baby requiring care and after a few hours of this insanity, we were both unable to stand upright.

We called Todd's parents, who had actually come over to see us but left because I was so sick. I got sick about two hours before Todd, so I didn't know that they had left because I was retching in the bathroom. I don't really understand why their thought process was more along the lines of "daughter in law is desperately ill after 18 hour nonstop flight with one and a half year old. Must leave" rather than "daughter in law is desperately ill after 18 hour nonstop flight with one and a half year old and therefore likely could use some help." Actually, I do understand. It has a lot to do with the Chiropractic Lifestyle (tm) worldview, or as I like to call it, the church of the holy spine. Illness is in your head. Ignore it. It will go away. And if it doesn't and you die, you won't be around to call attention to the fundamental insanity and lack of humanity inherent in such a worldview.

So we called them for help, twice, and they basically said stop whining, have some tea and get a better attitude about the dry heaving. In fact, you are not really dry heaving. So we called my mom, who while crazy in her own way, definitely understands that both parents being unable to stand up is a Situation, and she immediately got in the car and drove down to the city to take care of db.

While waiting for the upstate cavalry to arrive, we were lucky enough to get some help from Laura, our pre-India babysitter. It was Laura who took me to the ER and later, after Todd passed out on the way to the bathroom, it was Laura who called the ambulance that brought him to the ER. Why hadn't Todd sought help sooner? Well, it would seem that while you can check out of the Church of the Holy Spine, you can never leave. Practically speaking, this means that you will keep saying you are fine (in between dry heaves or crawls to the bathroom) until you wake up strapped to a stretcher.

Todd and I got to share the same room in the ER, side by side on his and hers drips. It was lovely. Depending on the kind of person you are, the ER room in an NYC hospital will either destroy or restore your faith in humanity.

Anyway, we were eventually discharged and we spent the next two weeks trying to get over jetlag (so much harder with jetlagged toddler), unpack, and get ready for what turned out to be the worst semester I've ever had not counting my first year of teaching, which is in a class by itself, or perhaps a class shared only by acute food poisoning after an 18-hour flight with a toddler.

Basically, 120 students is too many. Prior to this semester, I never had more than 60. So a smart professor would have maybe done away with some of the writing assignments. But that would not be me. As a result, I have been hopelesly behind since January, and until the spring semester ends this Wednesday, I do not anticipate catching up.

Plus - post for another time - the new owner of our building has been systematically not renewing leases in order to convert livable nice two bedroom apartments into illegal four bedroom apartment shares (8 x 10 bedrooms, anyone?), so in March we got our not unexpected letter saying get out at the end of May. I negotiated a slightly later move out date, but the stress of teaching plus page proofs plus having to move AGAIN caused hives and insomnia and general shittiness beyond my ability to convey in a single humble blog post.

On the bright side, db is now night weaned and sleeping in her own room.

So there hasn't been much spare time here, and much of my non-work time has been spent watching 30 Rock, The Wire, The Amazing Race, and (oh, the shame) Outsourced. Joss Whedon, save me! I did actually knit a Tiny Tea Leaves for db out of some brown Blue Sky Alpaca that I bought a long time ago and perhaps I will post pictures another day, now that I am apparently blogging again.

And yes, about the blog. It occurred to me recently that because I am busy, I have no record of my days other than iphone videos and photos and that most of the reason I haven't posted in so long was that this was supposed to be a knitting blog. Well, f*ck that. I could, I suppose, set up a "personal" blog and use it as a venue for long, photoless, humorless posts about My Life, but why have two blogs when one is more than I can handle?

Plus, there are about six friends' babies due this summer, so chances are pretty good there will be some knitting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Staying warm

Am I sorry to see 2010 go? I'm not sure. It's been a kick watching db become a little person, and my book, the product of so many years of work, is all over but the page proofs. Then again, these two very wonderful things also took a very serious piece out of my backside, and being in Delhi has been laughably, absurdly hard.

Knitting is happening again, amazingly. I saw Camilla on a blog and fell in sweater love for the first time in a long while, and as it happens I brought the silk/alpaca that was originally purchased for db's baby blanket with me. Held double, it makes gauge for the pattern, and about 1/3 of the way through the torso, I'm feeling very pleased with it. It's a fast knit, and with any luck, I'll be able to wear it home on the airplane.

I’m knitting it on 7 circulars that I managed to track down here in Delhi. I can't find the photo that I took of the receipt, but I wouldn't lie about something as serious as knitting needle prices. Everything else in Delhi may be ridiculously, infuriatingly overpriced, but I paid a whopping 58 rupees (TOTAL) for 5 pairs of circular needles. At 44 rupees to the US dollar, I think we can forgive them for not feeling quite as good as Addis.

It's freezing here in Delhi - not technically freezing, but close enough. In order to beat the cold, people burn coal in these little stoves that are generally made out of clay-lined metal buckets. A recent and all too rare foray into the world of field work resulted in one ball-busting grandma potter teaching me exactly how these small ovens are made. Here's a photo of us with our work.

I love that someone in Delhi will eventually purchase my little stove. Also, I would like to note that (1) the clay mixture we were using was 1/3 cow dung and (2) that the ball-busting grandma is so nicknamed because she spent much of the afternoon explaining to me that while it takes me a year of classroom instruction to teach my students anything, in less than 30 minutes she successfully taught me how to make a heating stove out of a bucket, some wires, and a big pile of clay.

The city is filled with simply amazing knitwear, much of which seems to have been extruded from the bowels of some large, hairy acrylic monster. On the bright side, a fair amount of baby knits are still done by hand, often with spectacular results. People here can be a little touchy about having their kids photographed (and maybe that’s true in America, too – I wouldn’t really know), but a few proud Indian knitters let me document their work. Some particularly sparkly store bought stuff is also included.

Also awesome: the handknit vest.

This is a typical specimen. Indian men are obviously very comfortable in their masculinity.