27 February 2006

Nietzsche Goes to Off-Track Camp

For some reason, Thing 1 always chooses to begin theological discussions while we are in the car. So the other day, as were on our way somewhere, she pipes up with, "Mom? Is God real? And is He really invisible?"

"Well," I replied, "Lots of people think so."

"But the other kids at off-track camp* said that God is dead!"

*We have year round schools here; the grade schoolers are on track for 3 months and then off for 1. Thing 1 has been attending a city-run off-track camp during February.

When Life Interferes with Hobbies

I haven't had much time to knit lately. First there was our trip, and then there was all the work waiting for me when I got back from the trip. There was also the beginning of the semester. And then this weekend, hubby decided to paint our bedroom and bathroom. This is a good thing, as these rooms were previously decorated in Builder's Cheap White Flecked with Dried Dog Drool. The bedroom is now a glorious Cornflower with American Anthem trim, and the bathroom will soon be Laurel Mist (who makes these names up??). But his painting meant I spent the entire weekend on Child Entertainment Duty, a task made worse by the rainy weather that has descended upon us. So, not much knitting.

I did take the camera in this weekend to get it fixed. They said it would cost $200, so nevermind. For exactly $201, I have ordered a new one that's half the size of the broken one, and has more and better features. It does seem a shame to just toss the old one, but I haven't yet though of a creative use for a camera with a busted lens mechanism.

22 February 2006

Tube Maps

I love London's Underground system. It's fast, it's clean, it's convenient, and it's a snap to navigate. Many of the stations have pleasingly amusing names (how can you not enjoy getting on a train whose final stop is "Cockfosters"?); the Central line alone stops in Barkingside, Fairlop, and Chigwell. The conductors tell you to mind the gap and there are Cadbury's vending machines in most stations. There's something quaintly anachronistic about the stations. The official Tube website has a quirky little online poll on Tube etiquette. And, like most public transport, it offers excellent peoplewatching opportunities.

Sure, it has its quirks. The routes from train to the way out and between lines at a single station are often labyrinthine. The lift was broken at Earl's Court on the day I had to drag myself and my suitcase back Heathrow (but, thankfully, not the day I arrived, when I would have had to drag my suitcase UP those stairs). The 7-day transport card I'd ordered ahead of time and had shipped to me in California was demagnetized, and also some outmoded form, and nobody I asked at 5 different stations could fix it or replace it, so I spent a week having to be specially let through gates by (mostly cheerful) transport employees. My husband's card, ordered at the same time, worked fine.

Still, if it's not my very favorite public transport system, it's certainly in the top 3.

And this site has a bunch of creative variations on the Tube map, including my favorite, the Musical Map.

20 February 2006

Sites for the Inner Voyeur

I think we all have a bit of an inner voyeur or eavesdropper, and here are some sites to satisfy those urges: Post Secret, Overheard in New York, and Overheard in the Office.

18 February 2006

Great Day

This morning I left the Things in the able hands of their father and I made the 100 mile drive to Santa Clara. It was a great morning for it. The Diablos were rich emerald green, spotted with cows and an occasional tree in full flower, and sprinkled with snow at the very tippy tops. My destination? Stitches West.

I arrived just after the market opened and had to get in a long line, even though I had pre-bought my ticket. However, the line moved very quickly and soon I was inside. I spent over 4 hours (and who knows how many dollars) inside. If my camera weren't broken, I'd post a picture of my haul. But it'll just have to suffice to say I came away with hand-painted angora and cashmere, banana fiber (!) rayon in lollipop colors, a big skein of Socks that Rock, and some dyed roving for needle felting. Of course, much, much more caught my eye as I was there, but because I already have a closetfull of yarn, I tried to keep myself under control.

My only real complaint about the market was that at times the crowds were so overwhelming that it was hard to browse. For example, Habu Textiles had a booth, and I would really have liked to take my time and examine some of their intriguing fibers, but I couldn't even get near them.

On my way home the sunlight was that particular ethereal color it gets when the sun has to peek between rain clouds. As I crossed over the Altamont the air was actually clear enough for me to see across the entire valley, all the way to the snowy Sierras. The radio was playing some of my favorite songs, there was nobody else in the car to complain when I sang along, and I didn't even mind when I got stuck in traffic, as usual, in Tracy.

16 February 2006


Some more random comments from our trip:

1. Stonehenge is really cool. You can't get right up to the rocks, and it was pretty crowded even on a cold February day, but it's still cool.

2. London sort of reminds me of New York, but cleaner and with politer people. You hardly every hear Londoners honk, and they will stop to let pedestrians cross the road. Within a block of the Earl's Court Tube station, which was near our hotel, I met a well-dressed middle-aged gentleman who offered to carry my suitcase up a flight of stairs, and then wished us a good trip; another well-dressed middle-aged man who saw us reading a menu in a restaurant window, and stopped to give us a bunch of (good!) tips on where to eat; and a sweet waitress at a Chinese restaurant who asked us all about California and gave us all sorts of suggestions on what to visit in London, which Tube stops to use, and where to avoid pickpockets.

3. It horrifies me that I could have legally driven a car in London. It would probably take me years of being a menace on the road to get used to driving on the left.

4. If a particular ritual was silly 500 years ago, it isn't any less silly now.

5. Despite the weather, February is the perfect time to visit London. We walked right into watch the Houses of Commons and Lords without queuing at all, and practically had the Tower of London to ourselves.

15 February 2006

Egg Questions

Okay, here's something that's been bugging me for a week and a half now. I noticed that all the grocery stores in London stock their eggs on shelving, and not in refrigerated cases. Every grocery store I have ever been in in the US sells the eggs refrigerated. So here's what I want to know: (1) Is it safe to store eggs at room temp? (2) If so, why do stores in the US bother to refrigerate? (3) If not, why aren't the British dropping dead in droves? (4) What explains this strange difference in grocery customs? (5) How do grocers in other countries store eggs?

I know in the grand scheme of things these questions are hardly of vital import, but they're bugging me, and I'd love to have some answers.

14 February 2006

Back in the USA

I didn't have time to blog while I was gone. And I didn't get to do any yarn shopping, although we saw lots and lots of sheep. The afternoon we wen to the V&A, they had the floor with the textiles closed off for some reason, but I did see some very old knitted items at the Museum of London (which is definitely worth a visit in any case).

To the right is the ceiling of the Grand Court in the British Museum. By the way, the British Museum has very hard floors. Ask my camera. And that is why there are no pictures here of Stonehenge, which we visited after.

Here is Genuine British Dish Soap. I'm not sure why I took a picture of this; I guess to show even dish soap can be a little exotic when you're abroad.

And now it's time for my Ode to Clapotis. We lucked out in that it was clear almost the whole week we were in London (actually, they're having a drought). But it was also quite cold, especially to those of us who are acclimated to California. I wore my clapotis every day, and it was wonderful. It was warm, soft, and snuggly against my neck. No scratchiness at all. And unlike some scarves, it did not tend to shift around or tighten up around my neck; it just stayed put like a nice little thing. It wasn't too bulky to stuff under my coat. If I lived in a colder climate I would knit clapotis in every color I could.

Here is my clapotis visiting the Tate Modern:

And finally, when we were at the Museum of London we saw a painting from the late 19th century that depicts the members of a theatre company. And look what was front and center in the painting:

According to the caption, the Saint is "Mr Smith's dog."

05 February 2006

Off to England

My clapotis and I (and hubby, too) are off to London in the morning. Theoretically, I will have internet access there, but frankly, blogging will probably not be my first priority.I still haven't decided whether to take a knitting project with me. I'm trying (with mixed success) to pack very light.