Friday, August 31, 2007

Blog Day 2007



I am very grateful for all the wonderful bloggers who spend so much of their time writing about stitching and their life. Google Reader lets me keep up with almost everyone. So when I heard about Blog Day that celebrates bloggers, I had to join in. It works like this:

BlogDay posting instructions:
  1. Find 5 new Blogs that you find interesting
  2. Notify the 5 bloggers that you are recommending them as part of BlogDay 2007
  3. Write a short description of the Blogs and place a link to the recommended Blogs
  4. Post the BlogDay Post (on August 31st) and
  5. Add the BlogDay tag using this link:
    http://technorati.com/tag/BlogDay2007 and a link to the BlogDay web site at http://www.blogday.org/.

Celebrate!

  1. First I have to mention Lisa Lam at U-Handbag. I have never made a handbag, but I have certainly thought about making one. And here is all the information you would need (and lots of inspirations) to make some really great ones. I am going to have to get out my home dec fabric and Timtex and make me a handbag!
  2. I just started reading this blog, Independent Needlework News, but I looks like it will be useful and fun.
  3. I read a lot of science fiction novels, but not many science fiction blogs. My husband is very fond of Neil Gaiman's Live Journal, but I prefer John Scalzi's blog, Whatever, even if it is currently offline due to technical difficulties.
  4. I have to mention at least one tech blog, so I pick Engadget. Yes, it is commercial and yes, lots of people read it everyday, but there is no where else that you will find articles about robot cats and USB Hello Kitty fans.
  5. Since we are supposed to mention blogs different than the ones we read every day, I give you Overheard Lines. Maybe it is because of my familiarity with San Francisco, but I find this charmingly funny.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NOT Your Local Fabric Store

Besides a bad needlework stash habit, I also have a very strong stash jones for cloth. Before I left for Japan I spent some time on the web trying to find out where to buy needlework supplies and fabric. The more I looked for needlework, the less I found. A couple of websites mentioned only European and American patterns. If I wanted to buy Dimension patterns, I can more easily get them in the States! The needlework section in a local department store was only knitting. When we were in a bookstore on Monday, I did find the section on needlework, but it was pretty simplistic. Some hand embroidery patterns for simple flowers and animals and some very small cross stitch patterns. I ended up buying a Japanese sewing (with patterns!) magazine instead.

But I had some luck finding information on fabric. There is a section of Tokyo, called Nippori Textile Town, that supposedly had lots of fabric stores. So while my husband went to explore the Tokyo Museum of Photography, I got on the train to Nippori. The journey itself was quick. The map at the station told me which side of the station to exit, but once on the street -- no more signs! OK, I can explore a bit. Unfortunately it was still abysmally hot and muggy. I was dripping in sweat in no time flat. Luckily I came upon a sign, one I couldn't read, but it seemed indicate something special about the next street. I told myself I would walk a block and see if I could find any fabric stores. I started to see them. Most of them were small, just big enough for the proprietor and maybe one customer. When I found a slightly larger one, I entered, just to get out of the heat if nothing else. I could tell the proprietor didn't want me to drip on his fabric, but I did see several the interested me. Still I had read about a fabulous store called Tomato that was large and had huge bargains. I walked another couple of blocks and there it was!

Tomato is known for a huge selection of 100 Yen (about 87 US cents) per meter fabric. And there it was, hundred of rolls of delicious fabric. And at that price I bought some, too! Luckily you don't need to know any Japanese to read the prices and order several meters. Just bring the fabric to the cutting tables and hold up enough fingers. There didn't seem to be any markings on their meter sticks. I think they only sold fabric by the meter. I don't think I could convey a quarter yard anyway. My three 100 Yen fabrics are the blue fabric with spirals, the red/orange spirals, and the blue/green flowers on navy. The grey leopard print is actually an ultrasuede that was three times the price, 300 Yen ($2.59) per meter. Considering that ultrasuede usually goes for $50 per yard, I feel this was a real bargain. The last pice of fabric came from their regular store.

Moving on from the discount store, I stopped in the button, trim, and notions store. They were supposed to have a good selection of buttons, but the selection at Britex in San Francisco is bigger and the buttons in France are more unique. I did see some DMC thread there, at 87 yen (75 cents) per skein. At that price I suppose cross stitch isn't very popular. We are certainly spoiled by all the sales at JoAnne's and Michael's for 20 or 25 cent DMC.

I started at the top of the five stories of regular fabric. When I got off the elevator I knew I was in quilter's heaven. Every sort of Japanese and American fabric was available there, plus thousands of "fat quarters". I have so much quilting fabric that is simply sitting in bins that I wasn't tempted to buy any there, but I was tempted by the next section -- purse findings. They had handles and straps and rings and magnetic closures. I have never seen the variety as I saw there. But once again, without a specific project in mind, I just passed it by. I may regret that. The fourth floor was children's and Japanese fabric. Here were all the pastel sherbet prints with flowers and branches. I really thought I should buy some here, but there simply wasn't anything that caught my eye. Some of the hand dyed fabric was 5000 yen per meter. Beautiful, but not beautiful enough. It was the third floor that I really loved. This was the high end fashion fabric; lace, brocades, silk, satins, and chiffons. Until now everything that I had seen in Japan was elegant and understated. But someone with really bad taste must be buying the hot pink gold brocade fabric. I really wanted some printed silk, but all I could find in silk was Dupioni, which I have. There may have been other silks, but without being able to read the Japanese signs, I just had to guess. What I did find on this floor, however, was a wonderful sueded cotton in brown and tan, the last fabric in the picture. The second floor was knits, including some mre 100 yen per meter fabrics, but I was tired and hungry. I headed back to the train station, but couldn't find place that I trusted to eat.

Since it was early afternoon, I decided to try a store that had been recommended for crafts, Tokyu Hands. The one in Shinjuku seemed the best and it was a 20 minute train ride away. I could sit down and get cooler in the airconditioned train. Shinjuku is one of Tokyo's largest shopping areas. I even found a restaurant with some English on the menu, so I finally had lunch. Shinjuku is packed with stores, but I found Tokyu Hands easily enough in the Takashima department store. Tokyu Hands is described as a cross between Michael's and Home Depot. Yes, they have a floor full of Black and Decker tools, and one with lumber and do it yourself items. The crafts section is on the seventh floor and they do cover lots of crafts, as long as you aren't looking for anything too specialized. There was a two foot shelving area of Fimo clay, a foot long area of clock hands and mechanisms, a foot of kaleidescope findings, three feet of sewing notions, and a small chest of DMC threads (105 yen per skein). No kits, no fabric, no needlepoint canvas, no needlepoint wool. I was disappointed by not surprised. So I headed back to the hotel.

I will be sad to leave Tokyo, and our great hotel. We are finally finding our way around. But this afternoon we head off to Yokohama for Worldcon. We should have good time.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Culture

Cathy from It Will Be Funny Tomorrow posted a poll on how people live in different countries (or different states). Since we have lived in Hawaii for over ten years, I'd like to try answering her questions. Now I wasn't born in Hawaii, so I may have a different perspective than someone truly local, but these are my impressions.

Culture Questions

What is (roughly) your daily schedule? What time does work begin? What time does it end? How about meal times? Does your country go in for the afternoon rest time?
My daily schedule is quite different than others because I do not work and am a night owl. I can stay up quite late (2 am) and get up late (9 am to 10am), but the people who work in Hawaii have a very different schedule. Several things to consider when thinking about Hawaii: first, Hawaii is very close to the equator. That means that the length of the day only varies by barely an hour from the longest day to the shortest day. There is almost no twilight or dusk. The sun sets quickly. On June 21, 2007, it started to get light at 5:21 am, the sun rose at 5:46 am, set at 7:10 pm, and by 7:35 pm it was DARK. On December 21, 2007 it will get light by 6:34 am, the sun will rise at 6:58 am, the sun will set at 5:50 pm, and by 6:14 pm it will be dark. Secondly, there is no daylight savings time in Hawaii, so Hawaii is six hours behind East Coast Daylight Savings Time (summer) and five hours behind East Coast Standard Time (winter). People who have to interact with the mainland (especially stock brokers who follow the markets) get up EARLY. Even a lot of businesses are open at 7 am and could close as early as 3 pm or 4 pm. This includes many government offices. So most people here get up early and go to bed early. On Maui another consideration is the impact of tourists. There are only about 140,000 residents on Maui and over 17 million tourists. Many of the tourists are still on mainland time, so many of the activities start at dawn (or earlier, 3 am for hotel pickup for the downhill bike ride on Haleakala.)

Another consideration is the makeup of the Hawaiian population. Only 26.8% of the population is Caucasian as opposed to 80.2% of the mainland population. Asians make up 41.5% of the population (and almost all of the politicians) with around 9% Polynesians. 20.1% of the population are of mixed races (only 1.5% on the mainland.) This means that what people eat here is rice based and includes food from many different cultures (sometimes all on one plate!) Meals are roughly the same as the mainland. If people eat breakfast they might stop by MacDonald's or Zippy's and get some Spam and rice and eggs. Lunch could be from 11 am (if they start early) to noon and will probably be a "plate lunch", two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and a meat like Kalbi (Korean spareribs), Teri Chicken, or Fish. Beef Stew over rice is also popular. Dinner again is possibly as early as 5 pm. On weekends many Hawaiians gather in large family groups and have a BBQ in a local park. Most all of the local parks are on a beach and include plenty of grills and concrete picnic tables.

Few Hawaiians nap unless they were up early surfing and plan to go out drinking later that night.

What is the predominate language spoken in your country? Are many people bi-lingual?
Hawaiians are Americans (which sometimes people from the mainland forget) and speak English. Some people learn Hawaiian, but if they learn a foreign language it will probably be Japanese (unless they already speak that at home). People, especially those on Oahu, who interact with tourists need some Japanese. There is also a lot of local lingo and a particular cadence to Hawaiian speech.

What sports are popular in your country?
Outdoor sports are the most popular in the islands; surfing, snorkeling, scuba, sailing, windsurfing, and hiking are loved by many Hawaiians. College sports (especially UH football) is popular (and some players go on to play in the NFL) and many Hawaiians have a favorite NFL team from the mainland. Baseball is popular. Some Hawaiian Little League teams go to the mainland for the Little League World Series every year. Kids in school play a lot of soccer. UH has a basketball team, but basketball is not very popular.

Are there supermarkets where you live?
There are Safeways in Maui, also Star Markets, and Foodlands. All food is expensive because almost all of it is imported. Even milk and eggs are cheaper to import than to produce locally. Still there are bunches of Farmer's Markets (a very nice one in the largest shopping mall) and everyone knows someone who gives away papayas or mangoes from the tree in their yard.

Who are the real-life heros in your country?
This is hard for me to say. Politicians can have a long, long life in Hawaii and are probably more well respected here than in many parts of the mainland. Native Hawaiians look back to the ancient Hawaiian chieftains. Christians look back on the missionaries who first settled here. Developers praise visionaries who developed large resort complexes and brought in millions of tourists.

Is there a day you celebrate your country? What is the celebration like?
There are several uniquely Hawaiian holidays. First, because of the large Asian population, firecrackers are sold on major American holidays, like the Fourth of July and New Year's Day. I used to see people filling up shopping carts with thousands of strings of firecrackers and hear people lighting them off all over the island. Now people who wish to set off firecrackers must get a $25 permit and are limited to 5,000 firecrackers per permit. Sushi is the universal food that is always served on New Year's Day. Supermarkets sell huge platters of sushi just before the new year. There are plenty of county fairs and small festivals for food, music, and film throughout the islands. Maui just had the Maui Onion Festival.

The first week in April is the Merrie Monarch Festival. It celebrates the art of Hula. Groups practice for months and much of the event is broadcast on local television. The third Friday in August is Statehood Day (formerly Admission Day, when Hawaii became a recognized state of the union rather than just a territory). Government offices are closed, but little else happens after several years of protests by Native Hawaiians. The Aloha Festival in September and October also celebrate Hawaiian culture with dance, music, canoe races and the crowning of a King and Queen.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lighthouse Revisited

This is where I left the Lighthouse before I flew to Japan. Yes, I worked on it for a couple of days and in the end I decided to bring it with me after all. I had it packed to work on during the plane trip, but instead I watched three movies (Catch & Release, Breach, Premonition) and slept. I found the pattern for this here, though I did not download the PDF. I just printed out the picture and am stitching from that.

Narita Airport turned out to be not as complex as I had imagined. I picked up our prearranged cell phone from Gphone (few American cell phones work on Japanese systems), exchanged our prepaid Japan Rail vouchers for real passes, and got reservations on the next express train to Tokyo. The most exciting thing was meeting some friends of ours, Scott and Jane from Lexington, KY, at the Gphone booth. We often run into other convention members before Worldcon as many of us spend a few days sightseeing before or after the convention. We checked into our hotel, changed and went out to find something to eat.

If you have not traveled to a country that does not use a Roman character set, you have no idea how hard it is to figure out what you are looking at. You may not know that "poisson" means fish in French, but when you find out what it means and see it again, you have a better chance of remembering it than something that just looks like a bunch of lines and crosses. Japan does have a lot of English (Romanji) signs, but the local restaurants have menus totally in Japanese. After wandering around Nihonbashi for a while we gave up and ate in the hotel. It was good, but not the Japanese experience we were looking for. Before the meal was over we were falling asleep at the table. This was the first night we were able to sleep for eight hours in days.

The next morning we headed out to explore the Ginza. James said he didn't want to shop, but he was the one that bought chopsticks and ceramics. The street is closed on the weekends and they set out chairs and umbrellas. These were wonderful places to rest when the incredible heat started bearing down on us. We did find a traditional Japanese restaurant with a menu in English and ordered two Bento Boxes.

And here is where we learned how "westernized" the Japanese food in the States really is. The miso soup (very good), the tsukimono, and the tempura were about the same as I had had before, but other than the "California roll" and grilled salmon in the sushi basket, everything else was very strange. There was a giant snail that I gave to my husband and a sweet egg yolk wrapped in clear gelatin that he also ate. The "dessert" was a very sweet gelatin in purple shaped like a flower. I am not fond of jello, so odd shaped and flavored gelatins are not very appealing to me, though I did like the pickled bamboo shoot and I did eat something very chewy that looked like it had been fried in a coating of sweet rice.

Food got even stranger when James decided to get dinner from the Mitsukoshi Food Garden. This is an entire floor of a large department store filled with individual stalls selling food items. Here you can only guess, "animal", "vegetable", or "mineral". Yes, that thing with eyes and scales is a fish, but there were a lot of panko coated fried things and lumps in sauce and odd bread products. I bought some goyza that I got to sample first. Then we bought some bread things, one of them a long stick filled with walnuts and cheddar cheese. Even though I hesitated to eat much of what I saw, it was all very, very beautiful.

Today, having conquered the Tokyo subway system, we are heading out to the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art and the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

One Letter to Go...

I suppose I could have done the Z on this sampler, but instead I wanted to start the lighthouse. Now comes the trickier parts. The lighthouse sits on some rocks and is bordered by a line of ocean. I have been letting the variegated threads fall where they may, but now I want the rocks to be gray and the water to be blue. I'll have to do some stopping and starting. But I might actually get this done before I leave. Now, just the question of what to take to Japan.

The meal at Bouchon last night was memorable! Not only was the food exquisite but the service (waiter, wine steward, maitre d', buspeople) was exceptional. We never pass up the absinthe production -- liquor poured over flaming sugar. James had oysters and french onion soup to start and I had the foie gras in duck consommé. I ordered trout almandine (with delicious harcourt verte) and James had the special sea bass. But it was the desserts that really made this special. I had the Bouchon "brownies", cylinders of crispy dark chocolate cake on a pool of Valhrona sauce with decadent homemade deeply vanilla ice cream. James had three marvelous cheeses with honey, pinor noir grapes, and toasted walnut bread. That was certainly enough, but all of a sudden the waiter produced three more desserts for our anniversary - coffee pot du creme, lemon tarte, and cherry ice cream and mousse in a chocolate shell! We couldn't finish it all, but we did finish the wonderful bottle of Austrian wine and the muscat dessert wine. We will certainly be back again this year (though without the extra desserts.)

On another note, my passport arrived last Thursday. This is a relief! I guess I have to go to Japan now. I don't like the design near as well as the old passport design. Also, instead of saying that it was issued in Honolulu, it just says that it was issued by the Department of State. James' passport was issued in London.

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Q is for Quilting

I have only made one quilt in my life, a baby quilt for my nephew's new daughter. But I have had a subscription to Quilter's Newsletter Magazine for over ten years. I have probably 100 yards of quilting fabric in my stash. I have visited over a dozen quilt shows both local and international. I know I want to start some larger quilts, but it seems as if I will never have the time. Just getting out my fabrics and deciding on a pattern would take more time than I have in my few days in Nevada each time we come here. I want to make a commitment to make a quilt next year. Then besides using my stitching stash, I will also start using my fabric stash. I hope I can do this.

R is for Retail Therapy

I thought about using R for Remodeling, but there is not much remodeling (or building) in my foreseeable future. We need to sell some houses first and run a convention.

I am not a shopaholic. I can go through a store without buying anything. In fact, I don't spend much time shopping in person at all. I have too many other things to do. But I do enjoy shopping. Every long trip is an excuse to buy some new clothes. I meant to do some clothes shopping yesterday, but we have postponed that until tomorrow. We have been buying things for the cottage we want to sell furnished. That has been a lot of fun. Actually a lot of my shopping has been done right here at the computer. I spend a lot of time on Amazon.com (can't run out of books), Penzey's Spices, Land's End (I wear a lot of tshirts), and, of course, online needlework shops. In fact, I recently got a package from Victoria Clayton of her random samples that includes a lovely bright orange, just what I need when I restart the Tiny Pumpkin Trio.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Seven Letters to Go...

I have not worked on this much in the last four days. I did a bit of the T on the flight from Maui to the mainland, but mostly watched the movie (The Hoax with Richard Gere, quite good) and read. I did the R and S today. I will probably work on a couple of more letters tonight as tomorrow we will be out shopping and going out to dinner at Bouchon for our Anniversary. I'd like to get this done before we leave for Japan, but there is still so much else to do before we leave that I don't know if I will have the time.

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P is for Programming

Programming has been a part of my life for a long time. I learned a dozen or more software languages in college (FORTRAN, SNOBOL, LISP, etc.) and the language that the rest of the world used (COBOL) during my first job. Although I moved on to higher level software programs (like database interfaces and markup languages), the knowledge of basic programming has helped me to understand why computers do what they do. Even though I don't program per se, I do use programs like Apple Script and FileMaker that use programming like concepts (If...then...else).

However there is another meaning of this word that now dominates my life -- programming convention schedules. Programming is seen as an arcane skill by many people who go to conventions, but if you have a good database and a good memory, it is actually a lot of fun. First you get to invite a bunch of really cool people to attend your convention. If you are lucky, a third of them will come. (Cool people are often busy.) Then you start thinking about panel topics that are topical, useful, fun, or serious issues. As people start accepting your invitations, some topics will become obvious. If Larry Niven is a guest, I will probably have a panel on extended lives or creating aliens. If Esther Friesner is a guest, there has to be a panel on Chicks in Chainmail or humorous science fiction or Tikis. Bob Eggleston as a guest calls for a Godzilla panel. Beginning writing panels are always well attended, as are panels on the latest astronomical findings or Mars. My favorite panel at the last convention was a panel on Girl Geeks. We all brought our favorite geek toys. If you run out of ideas for panels, you can always look at other convention program books for their ideas. Once you have a list of panels and a group of panelists for each panel, all you have to do is schedule each panel in a room at a certain time (given the constraints that guests arrive at the convention at different times and have other commitments besides programming). That is like a creating a four dimensional crossword puzzle. But luckily we have sophisticated databases that can tell us when we have put two panels in the same room at the same time or have scheduled the same person at the same time on two different panels. It all takes just a little bit longer than you think it will. Then you let all the guests know their schedules, publish a version of it on your website and in the program book and sit back and enjoy your convention. (Did I leave out all the difficult bits where a PITA guest shows up and wants to be put on a panel you deliberately left them off of? Maybe saying No to them can also be enjoyable.) Once you learn these skills, you get to do it all over again for the next convention. But where else can you create a panel with four bestselling writers (Williams, Card, Foster, and Brooks) talking about their work habits that both the panelists and the audience really loves? Believe me, it is fun.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stitching Blogger's Question of the Week

Today’s SBQ was suggested by Jennifer and is:

How did you get started stitching? Was there a person that inspired you?

Like many of you, I come from a long line of stitching women. My mother's mother was a professional seamstress and in the '60s known for stitching couture Barbie clothes (including feathered pillbox hats). My mother sewed many of her own clothes and taught me to sew on a Singer footpedal machine. My mother later went on to design and stitch needlepoint. I know I stitched when I was younger. I remember working on some stamped pieces like pillowcases and placemats, but none of them are still around. The first piece I remember needlepointing is the Dimensions kit hanging on the wall of stitching at my mother-in-law's house. I became more serious about stitching in the '70s in New Zealand, when I worked on a still unfinished needlepoint pillow. I worked 100 hour weeks, raised and showed pedigree cats in the '80s and '90s, so not much stitching was done then. I don't even remember when I started to cross stitch. It might have been this lady bug piece or it could have been these Christmas ornaments on plastic canvas. I don't know when I bought all the stash I have (or when I am going to finish it all). But I do know that this blog has helped me greatly on continuing to stitch (and continuing to buy stash).

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N is for Needlework

It is appropriate that this letter is in this posting. Since I have this blog and I just finished recounting the history of my needlework, it is pretty obvious that I am serious about needlework. I have also been to a CATS stitching festival in Santa Clara, California, taken several classes on stitching, and visited the needlework section of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London -- a fascinating place, go if you can!

O is for Ocean

It might seem odd that we live in Nevada when it is so far from the ocean, but I have lived near large bodies of water most of my life. I was born in Illinois next to Lake Michigan and lived in lakeside communities while I was growing up, including going to Northwestern University and walking along the lakeside almost every day. When we moved west we lived in Eugene, Oregon, but we went to the coast almost every weekend. My husband was starting his photography career then, and liked nothing better than shooting rocks and driftwood. I brought a book and read with a promise of a dinner at our favorite restaurant, the Windward Inn. In New Zealand we lived on the top of an old house on a hill and had vistas of the Hauraki Gulf and the Tasman Sea. When we first moved to California we lived inland, but when we bought our first house it was in Half Moon Bay and our second in Moss Beach. Even our house in Burlingame had a great view of the San Francisco Bay. Our houses in Maui have all had great ocean views. As for Nevada, does a huge pool count?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Brought to You by the Letters L and M

Just two letters today while the installer connected our television cable to our home theater. Yes, we have achieved television, something that many of you can get with a mere antennae. Well, Hawaii is full of mountains, so it is cable or satellite dish. We also achieved pots for the sealing wax palms, rugs, barstools, carpeting, and ordered a mailbox. Only half the list, but quite a full day none the less.

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M is for Movies

When I started classes at Northwestern University, I also needed to take a few classes outside the Engineering College. I tried a section in theater, but I was outclassed by the actors who would someday go on to star in movies and on stage. I took a few English classes (once telling a professor of Greek that Homer was a terrible storyteller.) But I found a home in the film department. My parents had spent a lot of time going to art house theaters and watching European films by Renoir, Truffaut, and Bergman. The head of the film department at Northwestern was a fan of American movies. I took classes on The Western, Film Noir, Political Films, basically any film class I could find time for. I also volunteered to run the 35mm projectors for the Film Society and learned to watch for the reel change cues and switch projectors at the proper moment, surely a lost talent today. I took a class from Roger Ebert on the films of Russ Meyer. I bought a Super 8 camera and didn't finish a terrible movie that I was working on for a class. I was immersed in movies. As I got more involved in my career, I spent less time watching movies, but I was still aware of the influential movies of the time. I really came back to watching movies often when I found a store in California that rented laser disks. We still have a Pioneer 4 sided laser disk player (that we never use anymore) and a hundred or so laser disks. I never saw the point in buying VHS tapes that might only last five years until the magnetic particles fell off the tape, but we did start buying DVDs. In 2001 we discovered Netflix, where I have rated 1500+ movies. I am still an eclectic movie viewer. I like some big budget blockbusters (Independence Day, Twister, and Lord of the Rings), but not most of the comic book based ones (Superman, Spiderman, and Batman) or those by Michael Bay (Pearl Harbor). I have some favorite indie directors (Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, the Coen brothers) and dislike some favored directors (Spielberg and Lucas). We watched Howl's Moving Castle and 300 this week. When we get back to Nevada we have The Last King of Scotland and The Fountain waiting for us.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

No Stitching Pictures

On a glorious day with blue skies and the blue ocean beckoning, what was I doing? Ironing. We bought some new bedding to spruce up the house we are trying to sell. Of course, right out of the packaging it is wrinkled, so a-ironing I went. We also assembled a dining room table and chairs. We have an appointment with another Realtor at 9 am tomorrow morning. I told him we want to price this house aggressively low and get it sold. After meeting with the Realtor, we need to do a million errands -- carpeting for one room, pots for some palm trees, a mailbox, some closet organizers, rugs, small tables, a bedroom set, and hopefully, the home theater installer will hook up our cable television. It's almost always this chaotic the day before we leave for the mainland. We will be back in September with another long list of things to do. Maybe somewhere on it we will put snorkeling.

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L is for Libraries

I learned to read by borrowing books from libraries. I was always haunting the science fiction section looking for the latest releases. One of the difficult things about living in New Zealand was that libraries cost money! It was 10 cents per day to rent a book, when I was spending no more than a dollar a day for lunch. The next time you visit a free library, thank Andrew Carnegie. Although I no longer rely on public libraries for most of my reading material, I do have a Las Vegas library card. When we were having monthly meetings in the main library, I always got some books to read. Now I have my own libraries, shelved by topic and author's last name. I even have databases for my books, though I don't keep track of them via the Dewey decimal system, which my husband used to do when he was younger.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

And So It Goes...

I did most of the letters while waiting for the cable television guys. They were supposed to be here at between 8 am and noon. The furniture delivery guys showed up at 8:45 am. The cable guys showed up at 12:30 pm and were here until almost 3 pm. I'd like to say that after a year of working on this we finally had cable television, but we don't. They did finally hook up the house to the junction box down at street level, but when they tried for a signal in the media room, there was no signal. There was a signal in the computer room (but no television there). Monday night the media room equipment installer should be by to see why the coax cable from the outside to the inside is carrying no signal. Well, we leave for the mainland on Tuesday anyway, so we will have television when we return in September. I am patient because we still have an incredible home theater for DVDs. I'm going to watch 300 tonight.

The trip to Oahu yesterday was fine, but very, very long. We were exhausted when we came back and still tired when we got up this morning. Do I have a passport? Well, yes...and no. So I called the US Passport Agency and got an appointment (and an all important reservation number) for Friday at noon. We were there well before noon to check in. In a rather large-ish room there were three security guards, dozens of empty chairs, and a lone clerk behind bullet proof glass. One guard asked if I had an appointment and when I said I did, gave me a slip (A00019) for waiting in line (what line?) Almost immediately a mechanical voice calls out, "Now serving Customer A00019 at Counter 3". I walked over to the clerk and handed her my passport reservation number, my flight reservations, my lost passport form, my new passport form, my expired passport, and two passport photos from Costco. After paying her $157 for a new passport, she informed me that my passport would be ready on Tuesday at 2 pm. Mmmmm, Tuesday we will be in the air back to the mainland. OK, she is going to mail it to Nevada in a Priority envelope and it SHOULD be there by Friday, August 17. I am not going to worry about it. I suppose I have another shot in San Francisco just before we are supposed to leave for Japan.

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J is for James

my beloved husband of 34 years. We were married six weeks after we met. During most of our "engagement" he was working in Florida and I was working in Chicago. This was possible because the company that employed me had a WATS line, basically free long distance anywhere in the US. I could use the line in the evenings when I was babysitting the computers and changing out the huge removable platter disks. We talked for several hours every evening. I was taking a summer class from Northwestern University and got an "A" in marketing writing about buying my wedding dress. Our honeymoon was in Montreal. Ask me about the hotel sometime. We got married because we were going to take a freighter to Africa in his VW van and drive from Timbuktu to Morocco. Unfortunately this was during a severe drought in northwest Africa and we decided it was a bit dangerous to go. Although we skipped this trip, we drove that van thousands of miles across the US and have spent a lot of our life together traveling. We lived in New Zealand so that he could get a Master in South Pacific Archeology. We moved to California so that I could work in Silicon Valley. I had jobs in international divisions, so I spent a lot on time overseas for work. When he could, James traveled with me. When I quit working, we found ourselves spending most of our time together, even if it is just being in the same room working on two different computers. I am eternally grateful to have such a funny, smart, artistic, well read, lovable man to share my life with.

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K is for Kitchen Design

Yes, I care about kitchens and cooking. I no longer have The Perfect Kitchen (see pictures here). I had to leave it behind in California when we moved, but I am planning on building at least two more, one here in Maui in a couple of years and one in The Perfect House in Nevada. What makes the perfect kitchen? Functionality!!! You should be able to put groceries down near the refrigerator. You should have pullouts on every lower shelf so nothing gets hidden in a back corner. You should have a pantry. You should have dish storage near the dishwasher so that you are not traveling half way across the house to put things away. You should have a sink deep enough to wash large pots in. A double sink is even better. You should have a faucet with a pullout spray. Your sink should be close to the stove for filling pots full of water. You should have counters that can take putting a hot pan on them and they should be close to the stove and oven. You should have flooring that can withstand the occasional dropped plate or pot. You should have somewhere to sit while chopping. You should have convenient place with paper and pen to keep a grocery list. You should have a place close at hand for a few cookbooks. Your kitchen should not be so big that you spend all of your time walking around rather than cooking. You should think about you and your family's cooking habits for long enough to organize your most used things close at hand. Most of this doesn't have to be expensive, but it does take thought and care.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Waiting is Productive

I got this much done waiting for a contractor at our old house today. I was at the house at 6:00 am. They were supposed to be there by 11:00 am. They got there at 2:30 pm, which is pretty excellent for contractors on Maui. I might have gotten more done if I hadn't fallen asleep on the sofa just before they came.

No stitching or blogging tomorrow. We are going to Oahu for the day, mostly to get me a replacement passport. I lost mine somewhere in the house in Nevada. I tried to get one more than a month ago, but in typical Catch-22 government style, you can apply for one, but it will take six to nine weeks (no guarantees) with expedited service (costs more). Or you can wait until fourteen days before you travel and get one from a Passport Agency. I tried to get one when we were in San Francisco, but it was longer than 14 days to our flight to Japan. Sigh. I'll get one tomorrow. We will also look for more "stuff" for the cottage and eat at one of of favorite restaurants in the whole world, Alan Wong's.

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I is for Internet

I have been using the Internet since 1978 when I worked for Tymshare, who owned Tymnet, the first international packet switched network. I had a Texas Instruments Silent 700 acoustical coupled (you put a phone handset in a pair of rubber seals communicating at 300 baud) portable terminal. My husband used it (and SGL a precursor to HTML) to write his first Masters thesis which he printed out on a IBM Diablo printer. I could access files across the net and poked around Usenet, but didn't really have a private email address until I moved to Oracle. I was somewhat active on Usenet in the 1980s and also had a Compuserve address, long before there was anything like AOL. I tried out Mosaic while it was still in beta and remember my friend Laurie's web page. She had a picture of the Pittsburgh Pirates mascot! Pictures, what a concept! My husband, a photographer, got a three letter domain name and posted his first website in 1998. Since I work on World Science Fiction conventions, which are staffed by over 500 volunteers from around the world, I spend a lot of time in email and working on websites. Although I have been on Live Journal for a couple of years, I just started my first blog in February. I have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, and Jaiku, though I don't IM much. I guess I am just from another generation. :-)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Strangely Enough

instead of working on a WIP, I started a new project. I started a new project over one on 32 count fabric using a single thread choice for the entire project. I might have mentioned that blackwork (and redwork) and other single thread color projects are not my favorites. But at least this project is small and the thread is a variegated thread from Weeks Dye Works.

How did I choose this project? Well, like many of you I have collected a few freebie patterns. Probably fewer than many of you, but I do have some. However, I have never stitched a single freebie. I thought it was about time. After working on the brown pumpkin I needed a project that could provide some "instant" gratification. There is something about finishing a letter that just makes you think, "DONE!"

Another reason for picking this pattern was to use up some discontinued Weeks Dye Works colors. When I added all my Weeks Dye Works colors into the database, I noticed that there were some new colors and some discontinued colors. Of all the discontinued colors there were three of them that I really liked. So I went online and ordered them while stores still had them in stock. That still left a dozen or more colors that I didn't like enough to stock up on, but I didn't dislike enough to throw away. What to do? Find a pattern that would use a discontinued color! (In this case WDW 2116, Blue Fescue, a mixed blue and gray.) So I started this single color freebie sampler.

This is a pretty small sampler with a lighthouse in the lower left hand corner and no backstitching. :-) I should be able to finish this before I leave for Japan.

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H is for Hawaii

We first saw Hawaii in 1977. We were on our way to New Zealand, stopping by as many Pacific islands as we could. We actually were on Oahu for only twelve hours. We arrived early in the morning, rented a car, and drove around the island to the North Shore and back again to the airport before heading off to American Samoa. We were both impressed with the many colored blue ocean waters, the air, the smell of the flowering vegetation, and the steep, green mountains. We took a couple of vacations back to Oahu in the 1980s, then a trip to Kauai and one to the Big Island, but when we hit Maui, I was forever hooked. Not only did you have all the great things that I loved about Oahu, but you also could look out to four islands on the horizon. In the '80s and 90s my husband suggested vacations in Mexico or Europe and my reply was always,"After we take one more trip to Maui." Our only problem was that I could not find a hotel of condo that I really liked staying in. So in 1995, my husband suggested that we look at buying a vacation home on Maui. I gave myself a week and looked at dozens of condos and one house. We bought the house and were perfectly happy in it for several years until someone built a house across the street from us and partially blocked our ocean view. We looked for land to build on in Maui, but there were so many restrictions that we finally bought some ocean front property on Oahu. Unfortunately our eclectic building style was a little too radical for the Honolulu Department of Building Permits and they denied us a building permit. Now there was a little more agricultural land for sale on Maui and we ended up here, on a palm farm around 500 feet above sea level looking straight out to Lanai. It is heavenly.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

No Stitching Today

Instead I bring you this picture taken of the sunset over Lanai yesterday evening. We spent today shopping "over the Pali" (on the other side of the island in Kahalui). We are trying to sell a cottage in Lahaina and have decided that it would sell faster if it were totally furnished. It is a very small house, so we need to buy smaller scaled furniture. Today we bought a sofa and recliner (very, very comfortable) for the living room and a dining table and chairs. We are still stymied about what to put in the second bedroom. It's too small for a queen or even a full sized bed. We might try a sofa bed, but we are worried about getting through the hall. The third bedroom will be for a television and desk, but again don't know how we will fit furniture through the hallway. We can fit a queen sized bed in the master bedroom, but need a very small (and very low) headboard.

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G is for Georging

Four years ago my husband brought me a dollar bill with some markings on it. It asked to "Track this bill on www.wheresgeorge.com". James always thinks I need a hobby, so he gave the bill to me and told me to enter it on the Where's George website. It didn't come from very far away, just Cupertino, CA, but I was intrigued by the entire idea of finding out where money came from. I handwrote www.wheresgeorge.com on all the bills in both our wallets and waited for someone else to enter them in. That first bill we found was hit again in Lexington, KY, when we were there visiting family, then nothing happened for over a month, so I decided to buy a stamp rather than trying to handwrite on all the bills we were spending. The next hit (a notification that someone found the bill and entered it into Where's George) came in just seven days later. After that hits started to come in at a regular basis. We have gotten at least one hit (one bill entered by someone else) per day for over the past two years. We enter, mark, and spend 15 to 20 bills per day and average six or seven hits per day. Our bills have been found in all fifty states and 23 foreign countries. This is a map of where our bills have been found. Will I continue to do this for another four years? Probably not. It takes time to enter and mark all our money. We used to buy everything with marked cash, but lately have been using credit cards again, especially for large purchases.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Pumpkin Finished

I decided to finish this pumpkin, even if I did not finish stitching the entire pattern. I don't think the profound difference in the stitched sample to the photograph was a matter of old threads, though I know that some DMC colors have changed. I don't think it was a matter of the colors looking different from one scan to another (if it was then there would not be such a pronounced difference between shades of the pumpkin stem and the pumpkin body). I think it was simply a misapplication of color names. Medium Pumpkin sounds orange, but it is really BROWN. You can see how brown it is on the DMC pages. Whatever threads they used for the model, they did not specify the same threads on the chart.

I still like the chart. I'd like to start it over using evenweave fabric. Linen is both too variable in thread diameter and too rough. I have all sorts of little threads poking though from the fabric. And this time I will chose threads by the COLORS and not by the numbers or names. Meanwhile I need to make this pumpkin up into something. It could be a tin box lid (I am addicted to Altoids and have dozens of boxes around the house). Or it could be a scissors fob. Getting some beautiful orange beads could make it a lovely fob. Meanwhile on to other projects.

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E is for Eckankar

a spiritual path that I have traveled for many years.

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F is for Food

Yes, I admit it. I am a Foodie. The 700 cookbooks should have given you a clue. I love food magazines, FoodTV (hooray for Alton Brown, scientific AND a great cook!), Harold McGee, food history, and high end restaurants. I have eaten in most of the best restaurants in San Francisco, Paris, Las Vegas, and Hawaii. And I publish restaurant reviews on Yelp.com. I used to answer food related questions on AskJeeves and still do occasionally on Live Journal. I love foie gras, sushi, molecular gastronomy, and pinot noir. I love most any food except coconut (allergic) and coffee. Do I weigh 300 pounds? No, I could have, but over the last two years I have been steadily losing weight (around 60 pounds so far) by drastically reducing the amount of food that I eat. I still eat butter and cream and steak. I just don't eat much of it. And strangely enough, after cooking for so many years, I rarely cook from recipes anymore (except for baking). Almost everything I cook, I just add this and that until it is delicious.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

It's Official!

I hate this pattern. I was very worried when I started stitching the "Medium Pumpkin" (DMC 920). It seemed almost the same shade as the "Dark Brown" (DMC 938) of the pumpkin ribs. Well, I thought, when I get to the center parts "Light Pumpkin" (DMC 326) maybe this will start looking more like a pumpkin. Nope, this looks like a brown blob. You can hardly tell the pumpkin from the stem.

I thought it would look like THIS! See, nice and orange with slightly brown ribbing. First I wondered if it was a translation problem. The chart is listed for Anchor thread, but there is a conversion for DMC. But on checking other Anchor to DMC charts, I see that the threads specified for Anchor match those from DMC exactly. So no matter what thread you stitch with you get a brown blob and not a pumpkin. Phooey. I'm not sure what to do with it. I could just keep going or I could completely start over with totally different threads and fabric. I can't do anything about it here, so I will probably go back to another project tomorrow.

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D is for Databases

OK, this is not a very ordinary word. But it is a word that has defined my life. When I first started studying Computer Science, I learned several programming languages as most CS students do. But I was lucky enough to have several interesting jobs where we had to track huge amounts of data. A simple file will not do when you have several million records. You need software to keep track of all these records and find them quickly when you want a particular record. When I worked at Lane Country in Eugene, Oregon, they had a lot of money from timber taxes and bought IBM's largest computers to keep track of every inch of road in the county, and this is not a small county. In New Zealand I worked for the Department of Health tracking everything from employees to buildings to the first comprehensive complete patient records for an entire country. When I moved back to the United States, I worked for Tymshare and did customer support and training for several different database products. Which finally led me to my last job at Oracle Corporation, now the largest database software vendor in the world.

Even after I left Oracle, I kept up my database knowledge, this time on personal computers rather than large mainframes supporting hundreds of users. Whenever a club needed to keep a membership list, I whipped up a database for it. I even wrote a database to take cat show entries and produce catalogs and judging sheets. Today, I have a thread/fabric/pattern database, a database for my cookbooks, one for my science fiction books, one for producing program items and panels for conventions, and one for our foundation. If I ever need to keep track of more than ten items, I will probably create a database for it.


Friday, August 3, 2007

An Itty, Bitty Bit of Stitching

I only got a small bit of stitching done this morning. We went out this afternoon to do some errands, but ended up in a two hour traffic jam. Unfortunately this is rather common when the only road in and out of your town is thirty miles of twisty coastal road. Still if I stitch every day, I will get this finished. Hopefully finished this month.

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C is for Conventions

I suppose most stitchers will pick cross stitch for C, but conventions are such a huge part of our life, that it is always the first C word that comes to mind. I've known about science fiction conventions for a long, long time. Their schedules were published in the science fiction magazines and reviews of the wonderful folk who came to them were also listed. I do like to have books autographed, so I knew that one day I would try one out. I finally saw a listing for a local SF convention in November, 1983, in San Jose, California. Since we were living in Cupertino, just fifteen minutes away, we signed up for membership for the very first Baycon. We both had such a great time, that not only did we sign up for the next Baycon (moved permanently to Memorial Day weekend), but we also got a hotel room there so that we would not waste time commuting back and forth. Attending conventions led to volunteering, then led to going to SF conventions in other cities (our first World Science Fiction Convention was in Anaheim in 1984) and other countries (England, Scotland, Australia and Japan). Many of our friends run science fiction conventions and both my husband and I have been Division Managers and Chairmen.

But science fiction conventions are not our only conventions. I used to man booths at conventions like NCC and Comdex (both now defunct) for various software companies I worked for. We have been to Paris Photo and the Association of International Photography Art Dealers [AIPAD] in New York City. We now go to CES (the Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in January and MacWorld in San Francisco in January. My husband goes to Tiki Oasis and the American Association of Museums. Our calendar is pretty well dominated by conventions, from small ones in San Diego to huge ones like Worldcon in August/September. We even go to SMOFcon, the convention for convention runners every December.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

More Pumpkin

I stitched a bit more than this, but isn't this the perfect pumpkin just the way it is? I actually quit stitching yesterday because the thread I was stitching with developed a horrific knot. Do you try to unknot your threads or do you just cut the thread and start again cleanly? Most of my knots come out with just a tug at the right place, but this knot was determined to be stubborn. Just before I was ready to give up and cut the knot out, it gave up and straightened out.

Here is where I stopped today. I really can't stitch this without bright sunshine. The last few stitches were put in as the sun was going down. Even though I don't think I will ever stitch another over one on linen (the threads are too variable), I do like stitching this pattern. Maybe it is just the colors, all browns and oranges. Though there aren't any colors I don't like stitching as long as there is a variety. I'll have to look for some more pumpkin patterns when I get back to Nevada.

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B is for Books

When I decided to start this meme, I worried that I wouldn't find le mot juste (just the right word). I even thought I would have to start a list in advance, but as I was thinking about A yesterday and B this morning, I knew I had just the right word in front of me.

I have always loved books. My friend Mark calls us abibliophobic, afraid to be caught without a book. I started reading by the time I was four years old. My mother was reading out loud to me from the complete set of Oz books by Frank Baum. My grandfather had bought them all for my mother as they were published by Macmillan Books, the company that he worked for. My mother didn't have time to read to me ten hours a day, so I started sounding words out and reading them to myself. I had a library card by the time I was six, but my mother had to check books out for me from the "adult" section. When I was nine I discovered science fiction. My first SF book was Heinlein's Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, which actually has a female protagonist. I didn't know how rare that was. My future career in computer science was even influenced by Asimov's stories of Susan Calvin, positronic brain engineer.

My library now is still mostly science fiction, many of them signed by my favorite authors. But I also have over 700 cookbooks. I started collecting them when I was traveling for business. I didn't want to bring home just some dusty trinket from all my travels, so I started buying a cookbooks from every country I visited. After I stopped working, I thought that I might collect every Hawaiian cookbook ever published. I have about 150, but have stopped trying to collect them all. Most of them were bought on Ebay, which also led me to buy books on California cookery, Southern regional cookbooks, and finally food history. I no longer collect cookbooks, but I do read food history now and then. I also have a lot of travel books and mysteries and books about Silicon Valley, not to mention dozens of computer manuals and books. For what I am reading now you can always check my LibraryThing list at the bottom of the right hand column.


Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Half a Pumpkin

I guess I still have Project Spectrum on my mind. I'd really like to finish a piece for August / September. Yes, I started the pumpkin piece. It is appropriately called "Tiny, Itty, Bitty Pumpkin Trio" from Twisted Threads in Madeira, Ohio. This is the only stitched pumpkin. The other two are pieces of felt that are attached over stitching. I guess I am getting prepared for Postcard from Paradise. I didn't look carefully at the chart before I bought it. This piece is over one on 32 count linen. I am ONLY stitching this during bright daylight! Postcards is specified for 40 count evenweave over one. At least that will make it easy to travel with (even if it will be hard to stitch). As I was stitching this I had to keep reminding myself that this was OVER ONE. I see linen and I start counting over two.

Although working with only one thread mean less twisting, the stitches do have a tendency to want to go UNDER the warp rather than over it. The finished picture shows that entire piece as half the size of the beautiful frame they have it in. I hope I can find a frame similar to the one in the picture. This piece calls out to be framed.

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I love reading a blog called Stitch Bitch. She pointed to another blog called Bella Dia who is posting a "sampler" of words in her life. You start with A and post a word (and explanation). This is supposed to last from today until August 27. I might not get to all the letters because we will be in Japan starting on August 24, but I will try it out and see how it goes.

A is for Abyssinian

I almost used August as my A word, since we were married in August, but I have to say that Abyssinian cats were such a huge part of my ordinary life that A belongs to them. I first fell in love with Abyssinian cats in 1983 when I went to a cat show in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco to buy a pedigreed cat. I'd had moggies (shelter cats) for my entire life, but the last shelter cat we had bit our apartment manager and we had to put him to sleep. I wanted a pet with a bit more predictable disposition. I'd only seen pictures of most pedigreed cats and I wasn't sure if I wanted a Russian Blue, a Somali, or maybe a Balinese, but once I saw an Aby in person, it was love at first sight. The only issue was that the cat I wanted was destined to be a show cat. My husband thought that I "needed a hobby", so we bought Scarlett and I showed her and bred her. A beautiful red Abyssinian kitten, Valentina, from our second litter became a Regional winner (12th best cat in CFA's Northwest Region) and we bred and showed Abyssinians, Birmans, Tonkinese, and other breeds for twelve years. We still have three "leftover" ruddy Abys (pictures here) , but I would really like to have another red female someday.