A week of warm weather melted almost all the snow. But now it’s back below freezing. The puddles are just starting to freeze, beginning with little rings of frost on and around individual blades of grass.
We had two January thaws this year, one in December and one in February.
The December one was pleasant, and not very dangerous. We could enjoy a few days of mild weather without any risk of thinking that we didn’t have a full three months of winter ahead of us.
When you get your January thaw in February, though, you have to be careful. It’s easy to hope that you have seen the last of the winter weather. But that hope is a dangerous one—the sort that’s all too prone to be crushed under ice and snow and brutal cold.
Preferring to keep my hopes uncrushed, I’m trying to remember that it’s still a month until spring.
We keep our apartment cool, in the interest of minimizing our contributions to both resource depletion and global warming. Plus, Jackie likes to wear her woollies, which isn’t practical in a warm apartment. The only real downside is that, in a cool apartment, my hands get cold when I write. To address that problem, Jackie offered to knit me some fingerless gloves. (Click any of the pictures for a larger version.)
My first pair of fingerless gloves were knitted to my precise specifications. It’s made of fairly course yarn, which I figured would be fine for my purposes, and it has the fingers truncated almost completely, which I figured would make it easier to type.
Unfortunately, even just the row or two of knitting that formed the finger holes turned out make them a little uncomfortable for typing.
Since those weren’t quite satisfactory, I came up with a new design—fingerless gloves that not only had no fingers, they didn’t even have finger holes.
Jackie made these most lovingly. She not only spun yarn by hand, she spun it by hand while attending a science fiction convention (WorldCon in Toronto). The main color was hand dyed as well (with brazilwood). The yarn is wonderfully soft and fine. I got to pick the colors, and I picked these colors so that I could call them Rosebud Wristlets.
My Rosebud Wristlets were a complete success, and they’ve been my main fingerless glove for seven years (they were a Christmas present in 2003).
I liked them so well, I got Jackie to make a second pair that we gave to Kelly Link.
Not having fingers at all was great for leaving my fingers free for typing, but had a downside: My hands stayed warm, but my fingers sometimes got cold. So, I asked for yet another pair of fingerless gloves, this pair with fingers, but made from yarn so fine that it wouldn’t force my fingers uncomfortably far apart.
So, Jackie knit me this pair of fingerless gloves. Each glove finger extends out to the last knuckle of my finger. They’re made from machine-spun “fingering weight” yarn (perhaps called that because it’s the right weight to use when knitting glove fingers).
They’re wonderful. They’re not more wonderful than my Rosebud Wristlets, but they do keep my fingers warmer. So far I’ve been alternating between them, depending on whether just my hands are cold, or my fingers too.
For a while I’d imagined that I might design the ultimate fingerless glove, but it turns out, as usual, that the best tool for the job really depends not only on the precise details of what you’re trying to do, but also the precise circumstances under which you’re trying to do it.
I almost captured the posture in this picture—the snowman leaning back, face turned up, arms spread wide. He looks like there’s nothing in the world more interesting than the apartment building across the path.
A couple years back, Steven expressed an interest in a slug stuffy, seeing as how its his totemic animal and all. Jackie knitted him a slug for his birthday. (Here’s a picture of Steven admiring his slug.)
The additional slugs she knitted sold pretty well, so she decided to knit some more this year. The three middle slugs (Pumpkin Slug, Blueberry Slug, and Quarry Slug) will be available for purchase at the Spinners and Weavers Guild Annual Show and Sale, coming up Friday and Saturday this week. (The first and last slugs are our household slugs.)
I’ve always liked the Japanese woodcuts of this era, for much the same reason that I like poster art: I like the use of strong, simple images and the effective use of a limited color pallet. (I also rather like the particular shade of blue that they used.)
Besides the woodcuts, we also spent a chunk of time in an exhibit on drawings together with prints, etchings, and the like. Some were source drawings prepared for the engraver. Others were copies of etchings, drawn as studies. I find it interesting to think about the differences between poster art and woodcuts, versus etching, engravings, and so on—differences in intention, technology, result, etc.
We also walked a bit on the grounds. I particularly enjoyed the tow path along the canal behind the museum.
This was just our second visit to the museum, which is too bad—it’s a great museum. It’s more than 2 hours away, though, which makes for a rather long day. We enjoyed it enough that we’re thinking about getting a room in a hotel and making a 2-day trip of it. That would mean that we could spend a whole day (or two half-days) at the museum, instead of trying to cram everything into a few hours between two long drives.
I haven’t actually been writing at my desktop for the past couple of weeks. While Steve and Daniel were visiting, we were taking our laptops to the library and using one of their “study rooms” as an office.
According to some plaque I saw in Shades State Park a while back, the trees in the area that turned into the park cast such deep shade it was called “Shades of Death.” I thought this shot, taken in Pine Hills Nature Preserve, right next to Shade, captured a little something of just how dark the canopy makes the shaded areas, and how abrupt the transition is between light and dark.
It was tough to see Steve, Daniel, and Lucy off yesterday, after two weeks spent visiting, but it was nice to spend a couple hours hiking together at Pine Hills.
When I was looking for a house a few years ago, I only looked in Urbana. The main reason was that Champaign prohibits residents from keeping chickens, while Urbana allows it. As you can imagine, I was delighted to learn that the topic of legalizing chickens has come before the Champaign City Council.
I know a little about what it’s like to have chickens in the yard, from one summer when my parents got a flock of chicks and raised them up to fryer size. We didn’t keep them for eggs, but they were around for several months, and I was never bothered by noise, smell, or any of the other problems that backyard chickens are supposed to bring.
I’ve had eggs from free-range chickens—real free-range chickens, not the mockery of free-range allowed under USDA regulations. They’re not just better; they’re so much better as to not even be the same thing.
So, I’ve written to my city council representatives:
I was very pleased to see in the local paper that the topic of changing the law to allow Champaign residents to keep chickens has come before the council. I urge you to support this change.
One of the most important changes we need to make Champaign a more sustainable community is to stop viewing the household purely as a center of consumption: it needs to become a center of production as well. Allowing residents to raise chickens is a step in the right direction.
Many communities (including Urbana) allow residents to raise a modest number of chickens in their backyard. With a few sensible restrictions (no roosters, adequate space for each bird), there’s no reason that chickens can’t be kept in an ordinary backyard without adversely impacting neighbors.