Friday, October 24, 2008

Jockeying for space

It looks like cozy togetherness, with Sam hugging Jacey.


In fact, it's Sam, spreading out of his bed again, and hogging the sofa.

Mind you, Jacey's been known to spill out of her bed recently:


Sam showed up, looking for sofa space, and Jacey growled at him, which is why he's in the floor.

Sometimes, though, when Jacey spills out of the bed and takes up extra space, it's like she's mocking Sam just to make a point...


...which Sam decides to ignore:


Tuesday, October 21, 2008


There's a fun greyhound picture here.

Last night's fever turned out to be nothing. I went back to work today...and survived.

I'm due back at work about 9 hours from now. Yippee... < /sarcasm>

Monday, October 20, 2008

My boss will never believe it.

I'm quite sure it's a coincidence that my vacation is over, I go back to work at 10 tomorrow morning...and I'm running a fever.

Togetherness (part 2).

In an effort to minimize the piling on shown here, I put the dogs' nest beds on the sofa. The dogs like the beds in cooler weather and, in theory, 1 dog = 1 bed.

DSC00848 DSC00847

That worked for a while. But once Sam warmed up, he started spreading out:


A package arrived from Crafts, Etc! today. (That's the on-line component of Hobby Lobby.) Free shipping for orders over $25. Woo-hoo! And with a color of crochet thread I hadn't seen in the stores...



Such a nice, cozy scene.

Unless, of course, your name is Jacey-Kasey, and you're the bottom dog in this pile.

But I don't think she objected too much. She stayed there for a couple of hours before she wiggled out from under Sam.

Today (Sunday) was the last official day of my vacation. Monday begins the new work week...but my days off this week will be Monday and Friday, so I don't have to go back until Tuesday. But sometime tomorrow I need to get things organized. I need to repack the whole case of blades, shears, etc., with the newly sharpened things I picked up last week.

In craft news, I started three projects during my vacation...and I haven't finished any of them. But I'm making progress on all of them. And I've won a some eBay auctions for old craft magazines.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Running around

Busy today.

  1. Pepboys for an oil change and to get a nail removed from a tire, and the tire patched. While I waited, I knit on my February Lady Sweater; it needs another 3 or 4 repeats before I do the garter stitch at the bottom...and then the sleeves.
  2. The veterinary ER to get copies of Sam's bills so I can file a claim with the insurance company. (I still need to go to his own vet to get a couple of more, I think. Maybe will do that Saturday morning...and take Jacey to get a current weight on her with their scales.)
  3. The library to pick up a book on hold: Now, Voyager. (Just glancing at it, I think it starts with the cruise where Charlotte Vale meets Jerry Durrance.)
  4. The county satellite office to vote: not. You can vote now if you go to the county's central location (someplace on Whitlock), but you can't vote at the other satellite offices until the week before the election. I'll try again, then.
  5. A Minute Clinic for a flu shot, and (surprise!) it was completely covered by the company health plan. (And, as always after a flu shot, I now have a sore throat. It's never the flu shot, when this happens; it's always allergies.)
  6. Costco--for lots of stuff: dog chews, chicken jerky for the dogs, sausage biscuits for me, a DVD of Meet Me in St Louis, three pairs (in one package) of magnifying specs for needlework. And lots of Diet Coke at a good price.

Tomorrow, I'm going up to my parents' place in the mountains. A cousin-in-law is in town for a friend's wedding, and she came in a day early so she could visit with my folks...and my sister and me if we could make it. So I'll drive up to see my parents for the first time in several weeks...and see Margo, too. I'll take some of my recent projects so Mother can see what I've been up to.

Vacation is nearly over, but I've seen next week's work schedule. I'm scheduled off for Monday and Friday, so I actually get to extend my vacation by one day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A break

No training today. I had errands to run.

In yesterday's training, Sam tried a new approach. I wanted him to down, and he was balking. I put my hand with the treats down on the ground, palm down, so the treats were under my fingers. Sam kept sniffing at my hand, trying to get around the fingers somehow so he could get the treat. Finally, he reached out with his paw and raked at my hand to move it out of the way, hoping that would leave the treat behind.


Son, it'd be much easier if you'd just down when I tell you to.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Lessons Learned

We had another training session this morning.

Lesson 1. Sam's not 100% sure which is sit and which is down. Actually, I think he does know, but he doesn't like sit, so if you're trying to get him to hold a sit, it won't happen; he'll collapse into his nice-looking down. We need to work on this.


Lesson 2. Jacey will happily give you her version of sit. And she's ambi-sit-erous.

DSC00800 DSC00802

Lesson 3. The dog trainer has learned to take out only one mat and move it from dog to dog as needed. I'd like the waiting dog to stay on his or her toes, drool, and look interested.

DSC00808 DSC00807 DSC00806 DSC00798 DSC00801

In other news: the striped Clapotis is going well. I've done two of the drops:


* * *

In the afternoon session, I concentrated on down with Jacey. I thought if I could get her to do a good down--like Sam's pictured above--I might be able to work backwards to a decent sit.

No such luck. Jacey doesn't do down the way Sam does...the way Oreo did, the way every greyhound I've ever seen has done. She lies down on one hip; her back half is on its side before her front half hits the ground. I tried Jen's method: I sat on a low stool and held the treat down low, under my legs. She gave me an exasperated look ("Mom, you're making me do a lot of work for this treat"), and then settled herself down on her side.

I've never seen her do down in the usual Sphinx pose. I'd wonder if she had some sort of injury, except that I've seen her do a lovely, perfectly balanced sit without prompting since I've had her. Also, she does her wonky sits on either hip, and she's not indicating that there's any pain either way.

Hmm...maybe I need to try to find a hill and see if that'll change her approach.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And then there was Plan B...

The white Clapotis is getting pretty wide (and I hadn't finished the increases in Section 2), and I'm starting to wonder if there's enough yarn for a decent length. I think there may not be...unless I rip back some of what I've worked. I don't have a good scale at home (I have a lame postal scale; there's a request for a good gram-scale on my birthday/Christmas wish list), but I think what I've done so far has used too much of the yarn to leave enough for a decent-sized middle section. And, the more I look at the "drape" of what I've done, the less happy I am with it. That lovely yarn deserves better.

After I finished bathing dogs at the SEGA kennel, I stopped by JoAnn's to return something I'd bought...and I wound up buying more yarn.


This is a bulky, fuzzy, and very pretty self-striping acrylic yarn. And it's making a lovely Clapotis.


On size 7 needles, this is working up into a nice, smooth, evenly stitched Clapotis, and it's striping very nicely. I'll work with this one, I think, and frog the white Clapotis. I can try again with the white yarn once I get a scale and can measure out the right proportions (and I'll use smaller needles). The general guideline says that a Clapotis uses 20% of its yarn in Sections 1 & 2, 20% in Sections 4 & 5, and 60% in Section 3. I think I'm at close to 25% of the white yarn in the incomplete Sections 1 & 2, and without a good scale I'd have a hard time trying to figure the amount of yarn to reserve for Sections 4 & 5. There's less of a problem figuring how much to reserve on the striped Clapotis, since I can estimate how much yarn to reserve based on the color repeats in the yarn, rather than trying to get an accurate weight.

Bathed some lovely dogs at the kennel, including the drop-dead gorgeous 3-year-old littermates Seco Twix and Seco Reeses.* Sam and Jacey went nuts when I got home and they got a whiff of greyhound all over my pants. They know when I've been around greyhounds instead of Labs or Goldens or Cockers.

*Reeses and Twix are part of a five-dog litter that included Seco Almond Joy, Seco Hershey, and Seco Mr Goodbar. The big boy, Reeses (he raced at 80 pounds), was a lackluster racer (23 races, twice finished first); sister Twix was better (37 races, six first-place finishes). Almond Joy, Hershey, and Mr Goodbar were much worse. All five candy-bar kids were red fawn dogs, and the two now in SEGA's hands are stunningly beautiful, and very calm, well-behaved dogs.

A Clapotis

Friday evening, I started making a Clapotis with lovely Kraemer Silk and Sterling Silver yarn on size 5 needles. (The original pattern calls for worsted weight yarn on size 7s. Kraemer is a fingering weight yarn: 63% superwash merino, 20% silk, 15% nylon and 2% silver fibers--machine wash, dry flat.) (Oh, the February Lady Sweater is going well. It's just getting a bit heavy to work on constantly, so it's resting...and so are my wrists.)


I dropped a few stitches out of the middle of a row at one point. (I put my knitting down midrow, and some of the stitches had slipped off when I picked it back up.) The drop happened at the point where you "K1 twisted, sm, K1, K1 twisted" and the stitches had pulled loose for a couple of rows. I couldn't figure out how to retwist the stitches, so I pulled the whole thing off the needles, intending to frog a few rows, then pick everything back up.

Big mistake. Once you pull the yarn off the needles, your markers no longer are in place. And if you can't read your knitting well enough to judge twisted stitches, then you are in trouble when it comes to figuring out where you are, which stitches need to be twisted, and which stitches desperately need not to be twisted. (This is a pattern where, eventually, you'll deliberately drop a stitch and let it ravel back down, leaving a long crossbar.)

Well, the pattern is easy, so I ripped the whole thing Friday night and started over again on Saturday. This time, I've got markers, I've purled the K1 stitches (where you'll drop stitches, eventually, but it's easier to read "K1 twisted, sm, P1, K1 twisted"), and I've used lifelines. It's a sort of belt-and-suspenders approach--only I've got belt, suspenders, and, um, duct tape.

By the end of Saturday--with some lazy knitting and a couple of dog training sessions--I was almost completely through the first two sections of the scarf (stole? shawl? something long and rectangle-ish?). It's going well, and I really do like the pattern (enough to do it again and again--obviously).

But I kept thinking it looked too loose. Part of the uneven appearance is that the twisted stitches make a different appearance in your work. But still, I was thinking I could frog all of Saturday's work on size 5s and start over on the smaller size 4s. I got up this morning, though, and looked on Ravelry again. Rather than hunt through 8,053 Clapotis projects, searching for ones in Kraemer, I decided to search through 145 projects in Kraemer, looking for Clapotis projects or other projects with nice stretches of stockinette to see what size needles people used. I found a couple of very nice Clapotis projects that were made with size 7 needles (and only a single skein of yarn--I'm feeling better about my having "only" two skeins). And I found another beautiful piece that used 6s.

I'll stick with the 5s. And if I hate it at the end, I'll frog it and reknit with 4s or something.

It's much longer than this, now. This was just a couple of repeats into Section 2 of the pattern. By Saturday night, I'd finished 5 of the 6 repeats in Section 2.

Triple protection: markers, purled stitches, and a lifeline.

In a little bit, I'm heading to SEGA's kennels for a bit more busman's holiday: I'm helping to bathe new arrivals. I've put on work clothes; these work pants may be made of nasty nylon, but they dry super-fast.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Jacey is catching on.

No training sessions yesterday. I was gone running errands for much of the day. But we've had two sessions today.

First session, Jacey realized that click = treat. She would turn to me, mouth open, when she heard the click. For touch-the-cup, I stacked the deck a bit. When I give her a treat, she inevitably checks the ground after her treat to look for crumbs. I put the cup right under her nose, so that when she checked the ground, she'd bump the cup with her nose. Click!

By the afternoon session, she was realizing that the white plastic cup was important. She got all excited when I brought it out. (Sam jumped in the air when he saw it.)

By the end of today's session, both dogs were responding the same way to the white cup. They'd touch it with their noses. I'd click. They'd move toward me for treats. They'd get a treat. Then I'd stand with my treat-hand firmly clenched behind my back; just stand there. Sometimes the dog would move around behind me and sniff at my hand. Finally, without any cues from me, the dog would go back over to the cup and nose it again.

Bingo! Both dogs have gone from click = treat to cup = click = treat. Next up--for Jacey: learning that touching the cup isn't the only way to earn that click.

Meanwhile, I've got to find something else to use for treats. The Pet Botanics I've been using contains wheat. It isn't much, so I wasn't worried; but in the evening, after training, Sam's gas is pretty awful. Both dogs will work for plain kibble, so I might just go with that for a while. (I firmly suspect either dog would eat styrofoam peanuts if he/she thought the other dog was eating them.) If kibble's attraction starts to pall, I'll go back to nice, smelly, turkey franks (Oreo always adored those). But training with kibble would be much easier for me--much less messy, and I've always got some on hand.

P.S. I've also realized I need to take mats outside for the dogs when we start working on sit and down. Sam has already made it clear that he doesn't like sitting on concrete. Neither dog is likely to sit/down and hold it if it's uncomfortable.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jacey training...

I had intended to work on training Jacey while I'm on vacation. I've done nothing about it before today, however. Today, though, we had two sessions. (We're in the front of the condo, with Sam hooked to a post in the carport and Jacey hooked to the dog anchor. Each can see the other, but can't interfere with the other's training. While I work with one, the other stands there, drooling.)

I'm clicker-training using techniques I learned in a class with Jen Bachelor when I trained Oreo. Sam got the benefits of Oreo's training, because he was here when I practiced at home with her. Happily, he came to me knowing sit and down from fostering with Paul and Sientay; but he learned the game of touch-the-cup* (a "trick" that gets a dog used to the idea of offering good behavior in order to get a click and treat) and excels at it, even all these years later.

Jacey doesn't yet understand what the click means. That's okay; she'll catch on to that soon.

She's offering behavior to get a treat--that part she understands. Only she's offering the most godawful sit** (rolled all the way over on her hip) when we're playing touch the cup (because she's not sure what I want). I hate to not reward her for offering the behavior, but I hate to click to reward her for (a) wrong behavior and (b) awful form.

What's funny is that, now and then, during pauses on walks, she'll do the most beautiful sit. I've always praised her when she's done it, but it doesn't happen often.

And when I try to teach sit by holding her leash and moving the treat over her head, she follows the treat as far back as she can turn her head, then loses focus on the treat and starts looking around.

Lack of food motivation is never this girl's problem. She's been known to push me out of the way so she can get to the kitchen before I do, even though she knows there's nothing for her to eat until I get there.

I've posted questions on Jen's blog. I'd love to take Jacey to classes, but my work schedule never matches up with Jen's class schedule.

Saturday, at Greyfest:


*In touch-the-cup, you reward the dog for nose-touching a cup on the ground. The idea is that the dog learns that she can make the trainer click--learns that the clicks aren't random, but are generated by the dog's own behavior. Sam understands: he whirls around to touch the cup before he's finished swallowing the last treat you gave him. Once, today, when I was having trouble getting treats out of my pocket, he'd touch the cup, turn back to me, turn back to the cup and touch it again, back to me, back to the cup and really nudge it hard--as if the cup was doing something wrong and letting him down. ;)

**The awful sit she's offering is what she gives me in her crate when I tell her to settle before I'll open the door and let her out.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Some progress...

It's called the February Lady Sweater, and it's coming along:

February Lady Sweater_DSC00768

The color's just a bit darker than that photo, and the yarn is very soft.

Yesterday I hauled blades and shears and clippers off to be repaired. It's expensive, but necessary--and tax deductible. I also went to a famous Atlanta-area LYS; I bought a couple of circular needles there, but I wasn't just bowled over by anything fibery.

I'm collecting lots of junk mail and other recyclable stuff. Friday is the Cobb County Library sale, and it's in the same neighborhood as the county's recycling facility, so I'll kill a couple of stones with one trip--buy new books and dump recycling. And the grocery store on the way home, afterwards.

And lots more knitting. And maybe a trip to the Kennesaw LYS.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

And in economic news, today...

I got an emailed alert from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Dow dips below 200

Stocks dipped below 200 points in quiet trading today as investors appeared to adopt a wait-and-see approach to the range of options the Federal Reserve has laid out to inject the sluggish credit markets with a dose of much-needed confidence.

The only on-line way I could see to reach them quickly was to use their "news tips" email address, so I emailed them a message with the following subject line: "News tip: AJC causes stock crash and panic"

In my message, I pointed out to them that there's a difference between dropping 200 points and dipping below 200 points. (Basically, there's a more than 7,000-point difference.) I suggested they might want to correct their message. Soon.

Honestly. If they're going to mail you "news alerts," they could make an effort to get them right.

We now return you to your regular programming...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Happy Gotcha Day!

Six years ago today, I took Sam home with me to be the bane of Oreo's existence.



...and now.

Happy Gotcha Day, Sam!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

More knittin' stuff...

(Yeah, three posts in one day. But I'm catching up on stuff I haven't had time to post about.)

I finished my grown-up's Baby Surprise Jacket.

Grown-up's BSJ_DSC00731

That is the most color-accurate photo I've gotten. This is the texture of the yarn--which is Lion Brand Homespun:


Homespun is an acrylic yarn (Were you paying attention to the previous post?), so this is fine over a shirt with sleeves, but it's not going to be comfortable on bare arms. That's fine.

I'm also starting the February Lady Sweater. It's another wear-over-something sweater, and I'm knitting it in an acrylic yarn.

Bernat Satin Wine Heather

The sweater has lacy panels, and since this is an acrylic yarn, I'll need to kill the acrylic to make the lace panels open up properly and stay open without repeated blocking. Here's a good use for that technique.

And I placed an order for yarn from KnitPicks last Sunday, and the yarn arrived Thursday.

There's this:

Knitpicks Laceweight_DSC00752

That's merino wool in a laceweight--880 yards. And this:

Knitpicks Shadow Laceweight in Oregon Coast Heather_DSC00756

That's merino laceweight--Oregon Coast Heather--1320 yards. And this:

Knitpicks Shadow Laceweight in Midnight Heather_DSC00760

That's merino laceweight--Midnight Heather--2200 yards.

I'm planning to knit some lacy shawls from all this yarn. I might wind up donating the shawls to SEGA to sell at the silent auction--while I take a tax write-off for the yarn. I get to have the fun of the knitting, and recoup the expense of the yarn. Yay!

When I kill 'em, they stay killed.

When you stitch something with a natural fiber like cotton or wool, you block it when you've finished, to make the piece assume the proper size and shape. Usually, this involves washing the piece (usually by hand), squeezing out the extra water, and laying the piece out at the right size and shape, often by pinning the piece. (It's what I've done to doilies.) You let the piece dry, and you're done...until you wash the piece again. Any time you wash the piece in its long life, you probably will have to block again. (An exception is something like a sweater that might not need special shaping. But doilies, or lace--yep, you have to re-block.)

But man-made fibers are a whole different game. Acrylics don't block well. You can wash, pin, let dry, unpin, and just watch the whole silly thing curl up or go back to its original shape and size.

But there's a procedure called "killing the acrylic."* You wash your project, pin it out nicely (so far, like regular blocking)...and then you steam the livin' daylights out of it. You have to be careful not to touch the yarn with the hot iron (there's a difference between killing the acrylic and cremating it), since acrylic will melt under that much heat. (It's why they don't make potholders out of acrylic yarn.) But you can put a damp towel over your piece while you iron, or you can just hold the iron over the piece and shoot steam jets at it. Then you let the piece dry again before you unpin it.

People who have done this to acrylic yarn say that the yarn becomes softer and has a nicer drape, and that it holds its blocked shape--permanently. (The good news is that you only block once. The bad news is that you only block once. You'd better get it right. And don't, for cryin' out loud, wash an acrylic item in superhot water and dry on a high dryer heat.)

So--does nylon count as an acrylic? "Acrylic" is such a generic name. Are there some acrylics that killing doesn't work with?

I once bought some nylon crochet thread. (The thread used for doilies usually is 100% cotton.) In fact, I've bought a few spools of it, but I'd never used the nylon for a doily. But in the interest of scientific research, I thought I'd see if killing the acrylic works for nylon.

So I crocheted a doily. I had a variegated thread in bright colors, so I chose a pattern than didn't have lots of textured stitches on top of other stitches (that doesn't show well in variegated thread). The nylon thread is a bit thinner than conventional doily thread, I think, and my doily came out a bit smaller than the size specified:


At this point, the unblocked doily measured about 12 inches; the pattern specified 16 inches. So I washed it and pinned it out. Stretched out for blocking, it was about 13.5 inches--still smaller than the pattern specs. I steamed it some while it was pinned. I let it dry overnight while pinned.


After it dried, I steamed it--with my Rowenta Steam 'n Press iron, which has a protective piece you can put on the bottom of the iron to make sure the baseplate doesn't touch the fiber. I let that sit overnight to dry. I took it off the blocking board and let it sit. The doily drew up some after it was unpinned, and went back to 12 inches unless I stretched it again. So, figure it really wants to be 12 inches.

Rowenta Steam 'n Press DSC00722

Then I rewashed the doily and just tossed it on the blocking board, spread it out by hand, and made sure none of the picots were bent out of shape. I let it dry overnight, and it stayed nicely round, picots flat, and 12 inches.


Fiesta Close-up

It's not going to take special efforts to block it, so it looks like I've successfully killed the nylon. It's nice to know this is going to be possible on future doilies; I've just got to compensate for the size issues since this thread is finer.

*The joke goes like this: An inexperienced knitter asks "What's 'killing the acrylic'?" and the smart-ass knitter answers, "Red Heart." This is a knitter's in-joke; Red Heart Super Saver yarn is sort of the fast food of yarn. It's reasonably inexpensive, comes in some pretty colors, but is uncomfortable to wear (hot and it feels rough) and doesn't block at all. But it does wear well--machine wash and dry--making it a very good yarn for afghans.

Vacation: 1st of 16

My vacation started today. I'm off work through 19 October. (Two discretionary days and two weeks of vacation.)

I spent the day doing nail trims and cleaning ears at Greyfest, the local rescue group's annual festival. I did about $310 in business: that's about 20 dogs for nails and ears, and another 16 for nails only.

I think I'm getting old. Nail trims on greyhounds involve getting down to ground level to do the back nails on both feet (lift the feet backwards, as if you are shoeing a horse); while you're on the ground, shift over to do the front foot on that same side. Then, stand up, move around to the other side of the dog, and get back to ground level to do the other front foot. And stand up again.

Greyhounds aren't sturdy enough dogs to haul you up from the ground: that was about 36 dogs times down-on-the-ground twice per dog, and I had to haul myself back to my feet every time.

One woman suggested I should get a stool I could push against to stand up. I said I'd prefer a strapping young man to haul me to my feet. I'll have to see what I can negotiate for next year.

Sam and Jacey went, too, and now are sleeping off their day of barking, whining, jumping, and barking some more. I have some freelance proofreading to do tonight for a client.

Day 1 of the vacation has been very much a busman's holiday.

Day 2 features a condo association board meeting. (Be still, my heart.)

Now, Voyager is on TCM tonight. Tomorrow is Anna Karenina, The Spiral Staircase, Romeo and Juliet, and The King and I. Think I'm going to give my condo proxy to someone else so I can stay home and knit...and watch movies.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Hat Trick

The 2009 calendar for SEGA will feature photos of greyhounds in hats. I didn't get any pictures taken by the deadline, but I decided to try for something today--post-deadline.

It's a big hat. And a windy day.

Sam says, "Howdy, pardner!" (*Who turned off the lights?*)

I posted these pictures on my Live Journal blog, and a friend there commented that Jacey looks like she's wondering why her "bowl" is empty.

My favorite "hat trick":


Making progress

The two baby-sized BSJs are finished. They're worked in Lion Brand Cotton-Ease on size 7 needles. They'll fit 18-month-old babies (19" chest):



The grown-up sized BSJ is nearly finished. (It's just been too warm to hold a lapful of yarn.)


I've started a doily in variegated nylon thread. I'm planning to try to "kill the nylon" after I finish the doily, to see if that activity makes a permanently-blocked doily. I'll document my results. I've worked 24 of the 29 rounds. This picture is just through the first 10 or so rounds.


Believe it or not, the thread is even brighter than it shows in the photograph. And it's shiny, too. (Ooooo, shiny!)

I ordered some DPNs from Knitpicks and some laceweight yarn. The DPNs were a set on sale (sizes 0-3, for socks) and a set of #5s I need for another project. I ordered 880 yards of laceweight merino yarn in white; 3 skeins (440 yards each) of Knitpicks Shadow, Oregon Coast Heather (greys, greens, and light tans); and 5 skeins (440 yards each) of Knitpicks Shadow, Midnight Heather (dark blue). That was just enough to put me over $50 to get free shipping.

I found gas today, at the 8th station I checked. This means I have enough to get me safely through the weekend.