08 July 2010

Oh, No, Not Another Kindle

OK, I admit it. I bought the latest version of the Kindle, the higher-contrast graphite DX. My excuse is that I dropped my original DX and now it hangs up and has to be restarted every few days. Some of the real reasons are that the dark gray version is very attractive and that I like the higher contrast of the new display. That this version will work internationally isn't really a reason because I don't plan to travel outside the US.

I managed to drop my Kindle 2 and kill the display screen while it was still under warranty. I bought a two-year extended warranty when I made the leap into e-bookery. By the time I bought the DX I was familiar enough with the Kindle to think that I didn't need to buy another warranty. Of course, I waited to drop the DX until about two weeks after the one-year standard warranty expired. Oh, well.

I finished my first pair of real socks a few days ago and I'm going to send them to my sister-in-law early next week. Photos will appear here once she's received them. I'm going to ask her to be relentlessly critical of them, particularly of how they fit. I'll be asking her to go against her nature but it's really for her own good. If she doesn't give me feedback she may be in for a lifetime of badly fitting socks. It seems to take me about a week to turn out a pair of socks, knitting them two at a time, so this isn't an idle threat.

My husband claims I've bought every sock pattern book that Amazon sells, but I really haven't. I don't particularly care for either intarsia or Fair Isle color work, so I haven't bought any sock pattern books that only have such socks. I have bought a bunch of sock yarn from Knit Picks. They reliably sell good yarn, often with luxury fibers like alpaca, at very reasonable prices. I also picked up some cotton and wool Regia sock yarn from Elann.com. I have resolved to buy no more yarn, not even an inch, until I've knitted up all the sock yarn I've got right now.

21 June 2010

Coming Out of the Knitting Closet

I have finally come out of the knitting closet. I have knitted socks. OK, only four and they were the little practice socks knitted from worsted weight per Melissa Morgan-Oakes' two books[1], but they're still socks. The books are spiral-bound and lead the new sock knitter though knitting the practice socks step by step, with really good photographs. I used the books in the order printed, starting with classic cuff-down socks and then going on to toe-up socks. I'm still not sure which I like the best, but I know these two books are what led me astray. Photos will follow, but my little socks are still packed away from the yearly spring move back to the High Desert.

This afternoon I started an actual pair of socks. They seem to go really quickly. I'm not quite sure who I'm knitting them for, yet. The pattern is from one of Wendy Johnson's toe-up socks books[2], which are the other two sock knitting books dear to my heart. I've bought some others and will probably add more favorites, but right now it's just Melissa and Wendy.

I have a variety of fingering weight yarn in my stash, because it works well for lace shawls. I think some of it is going to be redirected into socks. I pretty much wear flip-flops year round, so I'm not going to be knitting socks for myself. Fortunately for SoCal me, I have friends and family in South Dakota, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

As a side note, I dropped my Kindle 2 from a height of ca. 30 inches onto a tile floor, flat on its face, and pretty much killed it. Fortunately, I'd bought it a supplementary warranty (it's about 18 months old), so the replacement was free. Still, I was really glad I had the Kindle DX to pick up the slack until I got everything set back up.

[1] Melissa Morgan-Oakes' two books are 2-at-a-Time Socks: Revealed Inside. . . The Secret of Knitting Two at Once on One Circular Needle Works for any Sock Pattern! (2007) and Toe-Up 2-at-a-Time Socks (2010).

[2] Wendy D. Johnson's two sock books are Socks from the Toe Up: Essential Techniques and Patterns from Wendy Knit and Toe-Up Socks for Every Body: Adventurous Lace, Cables, and Colorwork from Wendy Knits.

05 March 2010

Another Ductless Air Conditioner

We liked the ductless air conditioner we installed in the family room in the Lancaster house so well that we installed one in the room my husband uses. We're planning on living here year-around, so being able to keep that room cool is important.

The house itself is fairly well heated and cooled, with two five-ton units. (The casita has its own three-ton system.) However, the system that cools his room also cools the walk-in closet, master bath, and master bedroom, before heading across the house to the furthest room, his. It's just never quite cool enough or warm enough, although we've done all sorts of fiddling around with the vents. So we gave up and put the ductless system in.

In addition, we're putting in a photovoltaic system, to generate electricity. What I hope will happen is that using our own electricity will cut our electric bills dramatically. What I worry will happen is that having our own electricity will sustain us after an earthquake or other problem. The system we're putting is, with batteries, should be enough to keep the house livable, although some areas may not be as comfortable as we'd like after a catastrophe. There's some magic thinking going on here, too, with my hoping that being so well-prepared will actually stave off the quake.

I've spent my entire life in California hearing that the Big One is coming just any day now and am I ready? Yes, I'm ready. Bottled water, extra kibble, medical supplies, flashlights and radios and batteries. All these decades of being ready and nothing. Perhaps the readiness is preventing what I'm ready for.

Or maybe the deep layers of rock will do what they do when they do it and it's pure coincidence that it hasn't happened yet. Somehow, this feels more likely. I can't really believe my regularly renewing my bottle water supplies has any affect on the fault line.

18 February 2010

Weather Guilt

My husband and I were watching the local weather last night and I mentioned that I hadn't really said much about our nice weather (we've had a week of beautiful clear days with highs in the low 80s). I really feel kind of guilty having such nice weather when so much of the country is getting so much snow. I don't think anyone who is snowed in needs to hear about how nice it is here. Our low temperatures have been higher than a lot of the country's high temperatures.

Our string of nice days is coming to an end, though. There's a big storm coming in off the Pacific and the leading edge showed up about noon here. The high was 79°, at about 1300, and the temperature started dropping as the first high, thin layer of cloud moved in. The sky is still blue, but it's kind of milky, not the intense blue we've had. It might actually rain tonight, although probably not much, and will be cloudy and, again, possibly rainy tomorrow. The storm is centered on Northern California and we're just getting the southern edge. It's very likely that the rain won't make it over the mountains; this is a desert because that's what usually happens.

There's a fair amount of snow on the mountains. I look out my kitchen window and see palm trees in front of the snow-capped San Jacinto mountains. I have to go out into the front yard to see San Gorgonio. I was admiring it when I went for the mail.

My spell-checker is not familiar with California place names. The names, taken from the Spanish ecclesiastical calendar and mostly saints' names, all have red underlines. The red underlines really catch the eye. I have to check the names to be sure I've spelled them right and then add them in.

06 January 2010

Back in the Low Desert

We came back down to Palm Desert on the 9th of December. It had really started getting cold in Lancaster, so I was definitely ready to bail out of there. It's mostly been in the mid- to high-70s here and I even wear shorts on the sunny days.

We skipped last winter, so it had been about fifteen months since we'd been here. The house stayed cleaner than I expected, except for the bug bodies in the bathrooms (I don't know how they get into the house and the casita, maybe from the attic through light fixtures or something). I got Merry Maids in on a panic basis on the fourteenth and they went through the whole house. My cousin came in on the sixteenth and her family came in on the weekend and the general tidiness of the house fell apart, with gifts to be wrapped and pieces of crystal and candles and holiday food and gift wrap and ribbon and stuff everywhere.

There were some problems, though. I had a gallon bottle of bleach sitting on the counter in the laundry room spring a leak and trickle out into rather pretty bleach stalactites on the counter and the wooden cabinets, with corresponding stalagmites on the tile floor. The counter is that synthetic marble stuff and the bleach etched a set of concentric rings into it, matching the bottom of the plastic bottle. The bleach also penetrated the finish on the cabinets in a couple of places, damaging the wood. It's been cleaned up and I'm ignoring the damage right now. I think I'll have to replace the entire counter, which is about six feet long, with a sink cutout, as well as one cabinet panel.

The other thing that happened because we were gone for so long was that the pump in the washing machine dried out. As a result, when I washed the first load in it, the plastic pump overheated and I melted itself into junk. This happened the evening of the third day we were back, a Friday, and I was able to schedule a repairman for Tuesday. He took one look at the puddle, centered at the front of the washer, and diagnosed the problem. Apparently, this is a fairly common problem for snowbirds.

I had had to have my Lancaster washer repaired this summer and I took the opportunity both times to ask the repairmen about front-loading washers. They both told me that front-loaders had a very high repair rate and that the repairs were very expensive. This confirms some of the stories I've heard from friends and neighbors with front-loaders. I think I'll stick with top-loaders. I know they use more water, but I have the ultra-large size and, as a result, don't wash that many loads, so I don't really feel that I'm putting the entire balance of nature into decline.

Our family visit was wonderful and the Christmas Eve dinner was absolutely perfect. Well, we forgot to make and serve the green salad, but we had enough food on the table that we didn't notice this until we were cleaning up the kitchen. It was wonderful to see my uncle and his daughter and her husband (their son and his wife, who live in Seattle, couldn't join us because they were insanely busy closing escrow on their first house and scrambling to get out of their apartment; plus, they're expecting a baby this spring).

Our visitors left the day after Christmas, much to Gordo's dismay. He had really enjoyed having six people in the house, particularly the two kids who made over him constantly. His sojourn at this house had started badly when he fell into the waterfall and strained his shoulder. He was put on crate rest for about a week, getting out just as the kids arrived. He really misses them.

I think this is enough of a data dump for now. I'll be back fairly soon to tell the tale of my reading Cryptonomicon, a book by Neal Stephenson, and to show off my latest shawl, a knit-along (KAL) project.