The Bog of Lost Scholars

July 29, 2015

Recent Reading: None of the Above

Filed under: The Castiron Reading Journal — castiron @ 12:59 am

I. V. Gregorio, None of the Above. A high school girl’s identity is shaken when she learns that she has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. And then one of her friends outs her, and things get complicated…. It’s a very interesting and readable book with a hopeful ending, and for someone who’s never thought beyond the idea that male is male and female is female and there’s no ambiguity or gray areas, it’s a good fictional introduction to intersex conditions.

June 27, 2015

A Note on Marriage

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 7:26 pm

My husband and I have been married for several years. Both of us divorced previous spouses, and as far as I know, neither of our previous spouses committed sexual infidelities while married to us.

According to Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11-12, this means that the marriage between my husband and me is an immoral relationship. So it is entirely reasonable to question whether by Christian standards we are actually married in the eyes of God. And we can certainly expect that some churches would have refused to solemnize our marriage, or would be unwilling to admit us as members now unless we repented of our marriage and separated.

There is absolutely no doubt, however, that we are married in the eyes of the law. The State of Texas placed no impediments towards our legal union, despite our union being wrong according to the words of Christ himself. No matter where we live in the United States, we are considered legally married.

Congratulations to all the couples who may now enjoy the same rights and responsibilities of legal marriage that my husband and I do, and may expect to have these rights and responsibilities recognized under the law no matter where in the United States they live.

January 4, 2014

What I Learned from a Crappy Book

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society,The Castiron Reading Journal — castiron @ 1:57 am

I like to read self-improvement books — books on decluttering, organization, motivation, time management, and general ideas on how to accomplish more and better things. A few weeks ago I checked out one of these books from the local library; today I returned it unfinished.

To be polite, it did not work for me. To be blunt, it was not even a heap of steaming crap, because a heap of steaming crap could have been composted into a useful and fertile idea. The book took a vague central concept — let’s call it flocculation, to be completely meaningless — and then spent half the book talking about how flocculating would make your life better and make you accomplish awesome stuff; it ignored the fact that there are millions of people who have flocculated and still failed catastrophically. It berated certain segments of society for discouraging people from flocculating, and then gave as a counterexample a friend of the author’s who flocculated while a member of that segment and became extremely financially successful; er, why didn’t the friend use the power of flocculation to change that segment of society, then? And by the time I realized I was in peril of violating my morals re: library books and the wallbanging thereof and closed the book, the book *still* hadn’t really defined flocculating or given any evidence that flocculating actually does anything. I suppose there’s a 0.004% chance that the book got better towards the end, but as I was over halfway through at that point, I decided I didn’t need to read more.

I did, however, get one useful personal guideline:

Any book talking about how you can improve yourself so that you can accomplish great things, but that uses “lose weight” as one of the examples of what you can do with this willpower and strength, is a complete crock.

There are a bunch of things I want to accomplish with my life — write novels, make cool crafts, help good books find their readers, trace my genealogy for myself and my distant cousins, rear my children well, nurture my marriage, dance, learn new skills, gain in-depth knowledge about many different topics, travel, etc. “Lose weight” isn’t on the list any more than “breathe” or “shower regularly” is. (It’s not even on the personal maintenance list, though “eat in the way that’s healthy for my body” and “get enough exercise” are.)

Really, this book is talking about how you should start flocculating because you’ll be able to change the world through political activism or entrepeneurial daring or artistic accomplishments, and then in its list of things you can accomplish by flocculating it includes “lose weight”? (And not even a list that included, say, “get off drugs” or “stop smoking” — “lose weight” is supposed to be an accomplishment like reducing crime in your neighborhood or directing a society-changing film or raising a million dollars for medical research.) Those things don’t even belong on the same spectrum, and this makes it clear that this book isn’t really about how to make the world better; it’s about how to gain the author a fawning crowd and some money.

September 26, 2013

Late 2013 Craft Update

Filed under: Crafts — castiron @ 3:57 am

So, 1.75 years after my last post, here’s an update on my craft status.

Knitting and crocheting: Progressing well. I still have far too much yarn and too many UFOs, but I finished 40 projects in 2012 and have finished 18 so far in 2013 (not bad given circumstances). I’m trying to focus more on one or two projects at a time, while still sometimes working on others.

Spinning: I’ve spun 20 more skeins of yarn since I last posted — most very short, granted, but a few in the 200-300 yard range. I got an inexpensive wheel. And, big surprise, I have far too many spins-in-progress on my spindles.

Cross-stitch: At some point I’ll admit that I’m not really a cross-stitcher anymore (probably when I finally get middle-aged vision difficulties). I’ve finished one or two ornaments and occasionally worked on other projects, but no significant work.

December 27, 2011

2011 Craft Goal Update

Filed under: Crafts — castiron @ 1:11 pm

While it’s not quite the end of the year, it’s close enough for me to check in and see how I did on my 2011 craft goals.

1. Finish all the projects started before 2011 (except for sweaters/vests and Heere Be Dragone) in 2011. I made a good dent in this, finishing the following:

  • Blue Curacao Shawl
  • CTH Peacock Socks
  • Hobby Horse
  • Katika
  • Garden Gate Socks
  • Bear Rug
  • Copper Penny Socks
  • Spot Check Socks

Still unfinished, and not likely to be done in the next five days:

  • Linen Bag
  • Loud Escher Socks
  • Shall We Dance Doily
  • Medallion Travel Bag
  • Microsock

2. Finish at least two sweaters/vests that I started before 2011 in 2011. Done; I finished the Oblique cardigan and the Flutter Cardigan.

3. Successfully complete the 52 Projects in 52 Weeks challenge in June and sign up for another year of it. I did successfully complete it, but I decided not to sign up for another round. I want to focus on finishing my existing projects, not on a goal that encourages me to start a bunch of small easy-to-finish projects instead.

4. Start at least ten projects with stash I’ve had for more than two years.
Done; Cast-on Mania did help with that!

5. When I buy new yarn, start the project it’s intended for within a month of purchase.
Ha. Not even close. Definitely a sign that I have too many projects in progress, if I can’t start a project I’ve specifically bought yarn for.

6. Make at least ten projects from patterns that have no Ravelry pattern photo (i.e. my Needlecraft for Today patterns), and take a good picture that can be used as the pattern photo.
I finished nine. Some others are in progress but won’t be done by the end of the year.

7. Start a blanket to use up sock yarn scraps.
Done.

8. Start at least one project from my stash of wool that’s stored in the freezer.
Done.

9. Weave some towels from the gazillion cones of cotton yarn I’ve bought.
Still haven’t finished warping the loom after a year and a half. I’ve resolved that by 1 January, I have to either warp it or rip it out.

10. Go through the bins of yarn I got with my loom, and log everything I want to keep in my Ravelry stash.
Not completed, but I’ve made a start, and I also got rid of a bunch I knew I didn’t want.

11. Knit five pairs of plain socks.
Done! Also knit three pairs of patterned socks.

12. Use all the remaining yarn from the Loopy Ewe orders that made me a Loopy Groupie.
Not done, but I made progress; I’m down to six skeins.

13. Knit all the kid sweaters that I’ve bought yarn for (one in progress, three unstarted).
Didn’t happen.

14. Reduce my knitting/crochet yarn stash so that it fits on my allotted yarn shelves (or at least is out of the closets).
Not even close.

15. Start working regularly on all the cross-stitch and sewing projects.
Nope.

Still, overall I’m satisfied with what I actually did accomplish in 2011. I finished 42 knit and crochet projects: four sweaters, six scarves, ten pairs of socks, three hats, nine dishcloths, a pillow, a shawl, five ornaments, a stuffed toy, a rug, and a bag. And I still might manage to finish a cross-stitch ornament before the year’s end. There’s a lot of stash for me to use, but I am actually producing a bunch of finished projects.

October 22, 2011

Morning Pages Revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — castiron @ 6:09 pm

Back around 2000, I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and decided to try the exercises she recommended for clearing creative blocks, particularly the morning pages — three pages of stream-of-consciousness longhand writing, first thing in the morning.

As far as helping me write went, it was a dismal failure. When I started doing morning pages, I was still writing, just not as much or as easily as I had in the past. After several weeks of morning pages, my writing had dried up almost completely, and it stayed dried up for years; some years, the only writing I managed was 1500 words for a Yuletide Exchange fanfic.

In retrospect, there were two reasons for this.

First was the reason that should have made me veto this practice: early mornings were my only reliable writing time. Instead of getting up and working on my stories for an hour, I got up and wrote morning pages, with the result that I wasn’t doing my real writing at all. By the time I gave up on morning pages, I was out of the habit of working on stories, and after a while I no longer had a regular time for writing.

Second, when you do a stream-of-consciousness writing exercise at a time when a lot of things bother you about your life, those things will tend to show up in the writing. I have occasionally joked that morning pages killed my first marriage; that’s not actually true, but over time the morning pages made it impossible for me to ignore the problems we were having. Awareness of the problems led to more time and energy spent, first on trying to resolve them and later on ending the marriage — which also left less time and energy for writing.

In short, morning pages were a bad idea for me.

So why on earth, you might ask, have I started doing them again?

Because circumstances change. Because I have a pile of blank books I want to actually use. Because this time, I actually wanted to do them. My writing time is in the evening now, so morning pages don’t interfere with that. I’m using them differently now; I’m still writing about random things on my mind, but I’m also using the morning pages to noodle story ideas and to write really stupid stuff that won’t go in the real story. (Surprise — sometimes I look back at it and find that actually, it’s not that stupid and a revised version does belong in the real story.)

And this time, they seem to be working.

Since starting morning pages, I’ve written three stories totalling 33K words. Not a novel, granted, and unpublishable because it’s fanfic, but this is the most writing I’ve completed since 2000.

I don’t know whether this is a temporary upsurge or a long-term change. I don’t know whether I’ll be able to transfer the developing writing habits to original fiction. But I’m delighted to have these characters and scenes coming out of my head and onto the page again.

July 3, 2011

Craft Goal Progress

Filed under: Crafts — castiron @ 11:41 am

Now that the year’s half over, time to check in on my craft progress.

1. Finish all the projects started before 2011 (except for sweaters/vests and Heere Be Dragone) in 2011. I’m making pretty good progress on this. I’ve finished the following:

  • Blue Curacao Shawl
  • CTH Peacock Socks
  • Hobby Horse
  • Katika
  • Garden Gate Socks
  • Bear Rug
  • Copper Penny Socks
  • Spot Check Socks

Still remaining to do:

  • Linen Bag
  • Loud Escher Socks
  • Shall We Dance Doily
  • Medallion Travel Bag
  • Microsock

I’m not sure I’ll get all these done; the Linen Bag, in particular, is very slow. But if I can get at least one or two of these done, I’ll be satisfied.

2. Finish at least two sweaters/vests that I started before 2011 in 2011. Half done; I finished the Oblique cardigan earlier this year. So far I’m on track to finish at least one more by the end of the year, especially if I can focus on one.

3. Successfully complete the 52 Projects in 52 Weeks challenge in June and sign up for another year of it. I did successfully complete it, but I’ve decided I’m not going to sign up for another round. I want to focus on finishing my existing projects, not on a goal that encourages me to start a bunch of small easy-to-finish projects instead.

4. Start at least ten projects with stash I’ve had for more than two years.
I’ve almost met this goal; I’ve started nine projects with stash bought or received before 1 January 2009. (Thank you, Cast-On Mania.) If one counts old scraps, then I’ve met the goal, but I’m limiting this to unused stash.

5. When I buy new yarn, start the project it’s intended for within a month of purchase.
Failing miserably, but I’m not surprised. It’s a further sign that I have too much stash and too many projects going.

6. Make at least ten projects from patterns that have no Ravelry pattern photo (i.e. my Needlecraft for Today patterns), and take a good picture that can be used as the pattern photo.
Eight done; four in progress.

7. Start a blanket to use up sock yarn scraps.
Done.

8. Start at least one project from my stash of wool that’s stored in the freezer.
One sweater started, though I haven’t gotten very far with it.

9. Weave some towels from the gazillion cones of cotton yarn I’ve bought.
If I ever finish warping the loom…..

10. Go through the bins of yarn I got with my loom, and log everything I want to keep in my Ravelry stash.
Not completed, but I’ve made a start, and I also got rid of a bunch I knew I didn’t want.

11. Knit five pairs of plain socks.
Three done, one close to done, and two likely to be finished by the end of the year.

12. Use all the remaining yarn from the Loopy Ewe orders that made me a Loopy Groupie.
Ha! Though I’ve actually made a little progress on this; there’s only seven skeins left to use. I don’t expect to meet this goal this year, but I might get several items started, at least.

13. Knit all the kid sweaters that I’ve bought yarn for (one in progress, three unstarted).
Not yet, and probably not happening, but I hope to at least finish the in-progress one.

14. Reduce my knitting/crochet yarn stash so that it fits on my allotted yarn shelves (or at least is out of the closets).
Ha! Not yet.

15. Start working regularly on all the cross-stitch and sewing projects.
Not yet.

Overall I’m happy with my progress. I’ve started a lot of projects that have lingered in the queue, and finished a bunch as well. Participating in Cast-on Mania did throw off my finishing progress, but at least it got other stash into use.

June 16, 2011

Reading The Wealth of Nations

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society,The Castiron Reading Journal — castiron @ 6:54 pm

For several months now I’ve been working my way through Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; I’m not quite a quarter of the way through.

Why read The Wealth of Nations? It’s a foundational document of Western economics; it was hugely influential when it was published in 1776, but all I knew about it was the idea of the “invisible hand”.

And there’s a reason most people today haven’t read it. It’s long, and it’s often tedious. (Smith was well aware of the latter; early in the book, he says, “I am always willing to run some hazard of being tedious, in order to be sure that I am perspicuous.”) If my goal was a greater understanding of economics, I’d be better off reading some shorter and more modern works.

But the book has little rewards that make it worth the slog. So many of Smith’s examples still make sense 250 years later and resonate with situations in the modern world. And it’s a huge pleasure to see what makes Smith himself tick — when his tone has been even and rational for a hundred pages, and then suddenly he’s discussing legal restrictions on workers’ ability to switch jobs, the shift in tone jumps off the page. You’re in no doubt that he considers it appallingly WRONG.

At the rate I’m going, it’ll probably be 2014 by time I finish reading the book, and it’s worth the trouble. (And this is a perfect book for reading on an iPod Touch. It’s dense reading, and the tiny screen gives about the right amount of text for me to process in one chew.)

May 20, 2011

Competition

Filed under: People, Culture, and Society — castiron @ 9:01 pm

On various articles discussing the problems of education, and in discussions among my own relatives, I keep hearing the opinion “They’ve taken all the competition out of education, and that’s a bad thing. We keep protecting kids from losing, and then when they get to the real world they can’t cope, because some people are better than others, and you shouldn’t get a position or accolade just because you happen to show up.” Which I’m generally in agreement with, but then their solution is to rank kids and not worry about someone who loses; that kid just needs the incentive of losing to make them work harder.

And I’m not convinced they’re right.

Or rather, I think it’ll work fine for some kids, and will be an utter disaster for others.

When I was in school, I played clarinet. I was very good, but I figured out early on that I wasn’t nearly as good as a couple of the other students. According to the “let them fail” crowd, this should have given me incentive to practice my butt off and try to beat them. Instead, I decided that there was no way I was ever going to be as good as them — let alone good enough to actually pursue a career in clarinet — so I shouldn’t even try to be.

Oh, I still practiced; I liked the music and wanted to do a good job. But in retrospect, because I knew there was a level I wasn’t going to reach (and I still think that assessment was correct), I didn’t try to be as good as I could get.

The attitude of “I can’t be the best at this, so I’m not going to even try” is a dangerous one, and one that a competitive environment can encourage. Have some competition with others, certainly, as a reality check for where everyone’s skills lie. But the most important competition shouldn’t be with the fellow student who’s a genius in this area, or with the student who’s hopeless at it. It should be with yourself.

Are you better at this skill, this task, this technique than you were last week? Are you doing as good a job as you can reasonably do (or, if it’s something that’s actually worth it, as good a job as you can possibly do)? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you may never reach the highest levels, but you’re a lot more likely to reach the “good enough for my daily life and my community” levels. I don’t have to be good enough to play for the New York Philharmonic in order to be good enough to play for fun with my friends.

April 19, 2011

Spinning

Filed under: Crafts — castiron @ 11:50 pm

Spinning was on my list of things-to-learn-someday, but given an autistic child with an obsession for shredding fluff and a full plate of crafts I’m already interested in, I figured I wasn’t going to learn it until at least 2020.

Then I got a drop spindle for Christmas 2010.

I’ve now been spinning for almost four months. I’ve made ten skeins of yarn, ranging from 17 to 180 yards, and have five more in progress. So far I’ve mostly spun two-ply yarns, though I’ve done one n-plyed sample, and I’m considering doing a four-ply cabled yarn from one top if the singles are compatible.

Spinning is addictive; I really enjoy playing with the fiber and watching it turn into singles. I’m still a beginner; I’m not yet to the point where I can decide that this top should be made into this kind of yarn and actually get the results I want. But that actually makes it easier for me to just spin and see what I get.

I’m not getting nearly as much knitting done as I did before I learned to spin — it’s just as easy if not easier to pick up the spindle as it is to pick up a sock or sleeve — and at some point I want to start using the yarn I made, but for now, I’m enjoying the learning process.

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