Sunday, February 27, 2011

Quick single

I have loads of things to blog. But for the moment, just posting this photo.

Square on the bottom, 22 sts, 44 rows, Peace Fleece 3.75mm needles, knitted while at Textiles in Focus yesterday.

Square on the top, 22 sts, 44 rows, Peace Fleece 3.75mm needles, knitted while listening to England's World Cup innings against India this afternoon...

I ought to be picking up stitches for a neckband. Don't dare though, in case of strangulation... This might be a good time to spin some laceweight...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

2011 books, #11-15

Another clutch of books - I'm reading a lot more this year, I think due to the Kindle - so much easier to read and knit on the train!

I shall wear midnight, by Terry Pratchett [audiobook]. Read by Stephen Briggs. Oxford: ISIS, 2010.

The fourth and last of the Tiffany Aching series; Tiffany's enemy this time is the Cunning Man, a creature who takes over human bodies to pursue witches. Meanwhile Roland, Tiffany's former beau, is marrying another girl. The Nac Mac Feegles add their usual comic interest, and as ever Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg provide a source of wisdom and weirdness. A very good finale to the series.

Executive power, by Vince Flynn. New York: Pocket, 2004.

The next in the Mitch Rapp series, set in the Middle East and among the upper echelons of the CIA. One of the things I like about Flynn is that the narration shifts ever so slightly depending on the point of view of the character being described; so while you're reading the Israeli's point of view you understand it entirely; and then you move to a Palestinian character with an opposite opinion and that's perfectly comprehensible too. However, there's still a sense that the US actually understands what's going on and knows best, which is less attractive. This thriller rattles along, albeit somewhat shapelessly. My only real criticism of it is that he's turning Anna Reilly, Mitch's wife, into a bit of a shrew, which is a shame.

Defending evil, by Charles Shea. Kindle edition.

Travis Knight and his partner Ray are up-and-coming lawyers in Atlanta, Georgia; and none too scrupulous about the clients they take on. When they take on the case of a former schoolfriend, and famous quarterback, accused of murdering his wife, they find out very quickly that the man is guilty. Then the threats begin... This is tightly written and plotted, and has a twist about two-thirds of the way through which is surprising but not entirely unexpected.

It's your time you're wasting: a teacher's tales of classroom hell, by Frank Chalk. [S.l.]: Monday Books, 2011. Kindle edition.

The title says it all; this is a collection of blog posts about life in what Alastair Campbell once described as "bog-standard comprehensives". The author is the same age as me, and seems to have gone to a similar (quite good) comprehensive school. Some of the anecdotes here are hilarious, some are just sad, and some made me quite fearful about the future. Throughout, though, there's a battered sense of compassion for the kids, whether they're there to learn or not.

The hanging shed, by Gordon Ferris. [S.l.]: Corvus, 2011. Kindle edition.

Douglas Brodie has drifted since being demobbed in 1945; he's making a desultory effort to be a freelance crime reporter in London, having left the police to join the Army in 1939. Out of the blue he receives a phone call from a former schoolfriend, Hugh Donovan, who has been condemned to death for raping and murdering a young boy. Brodie returns to his native Glasgow at Donovan's request. All the evidence points to Donovan's guilt, but he's convinced he's innocent, and Brodie reluctantly starts to dig into the case with the help of Donovan's barrister Sam Campbell. This book is as interesting for the period details - it has some elements of John Buchan or Dornford Yates, but written with today's frankness of gruesome details. I've downloaded another couple of Ferris's books on the basis of this.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bit of progress...

This week's progress has been socks, and more socks...

First the Hederas. Done! Possibly aided by a couple of Journeys from Hell this week...

And then the Monkeys.

This yarn is a reminder of an extremely nice day, and so I'm very glad it's behaving nicely with this stitch-count and pattern No guarantee it's not going to go berserk on the gussets in this sock - it would suit a sock without such things better, but the legs will be lovely...

I'm working on the Big Black Sweater this weekend...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Crushed by the wheels....

For the first time ever (when it's not two weeks before Christmas with a stupidly overambitious list of projects in front of me, anyway) I'm feeling ever so slightly oppressed by my knitting.

I think I know why - on the 1st February I was working on 4 knitalong projects, and this situation obviously doesn't agree with me. One of those proejcts is finished, but I think the recipient calls in here every now and then, and one of the other non-KAL things I finished needs blocking...

In addition, I have finishitupitis. The Yarn Harlot recently blogged this and I realised that was exactly what it was. Normally, not a problem.

It might be having 6 WIPs on the go just after Christmas. It might have been starting KALs when actually, I still had a Christmas present to finish until about a fortnight ago! It might be something else entirely. Such as setting off from home and the temperature being 20C below what it's going to be in the office 2 hours later, and not having enough cardis. Whatever it is, it's sending me into paroxysms of indecision.

Everything I'm working on is, as far as I remember, enjoyable. Everything I'm working on is currently for me. (Maybe that's an additional problem; those usually end up at the bottom of the heap. It's fairly striking that everything I've finished since Christmas has been for other people...)

So I thought I might just blog them, and then blog progress on them, and maybe feel better about them...

WIP the first: Hedera
Started because: knitalong on Ravelry
Yarn: Legolas, dyed by Wibbo as a Christmas present.
Needles: 2.5mm KnitPro Harmonies
Reason I'm enjoying these: Lovely simple lace pattern, beautiful colour in the yarn (also, gift yarn which means I get to keep the result).
Oppressive because of the whole KAL ethos - there are always some people who will finish this project on day 1 - normally this is no problem. I'm sometimes one of those people. This time, not so much...
Progress: about 35% on this photo, but progress has been made since.
Theoretical deadline: end of February for the whole competitive KAL thing.

WIP the second: Monkey
Started because: knitalong on Ravelry
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, in colour Franklin's Panopticon.
Needles: 2.25mm; combination of 3 Colonial Rosewood needles and one KnitPro Harmony to make up the set.
Reason I'm enjoying this: The yarn was a gift from Franklin (so I get to keep the finished object); I am very intrigued as to how it will knit up; I'm using my favourite needles.
Oppressive because: see WIP the first...
Progress: well, there you see it....
Theoretical deadline: end of March for the whole competitive KAL thing.

WIP the third: Lanthir Lamath scarf/hood [Ravelry link]
Started because: Ann Kingstone knitalong on Ravelry
Yarn: Bergère de France Baltic, in Tourmente
Needles: 5mm Addi Turbos
Reason I'm enjoying this: Nearly every stage has had something challenging in it - Ann is a superb technician as well as a really interesting designer.
Oppressive because: the KAL thing, but also I'm not getting the short rows neat enough at the top of the hood. Hence the rather odd photo - normally I'd take a picture at the end of the row. So I'll have to go back and study the directions. It's probably unfair to label this oppressive given that it's just technically challenging and that's always a good thing!
Progress: about 52%, unless I rip back to the turning point, in which case 50%
Theoretical deadline: end of February to keep up; and it'd be nice to wear it this winter.

WIP the fourth: Botanical Lace cardi
Started because: Need for work cardis...
Yarn: Combination of Cherry Tree Hill Laceweight in Forest Fire and Artesano Alpaca 4-ply, colourway unknown at the moment but basically aubergine.
Needles: 4mm Addi lace.
Reason I'm enjoying this: You know, I can't remember; it's so long since I knitted on it. But I do love the colours. The laceweight was almost impossible to knit into lace on its own so I took a leaf out of blogless Jackie's book and combined it with something else.
Oppressive because: it's still not finished, and I still need a cardi. And I can't find the pattern, which has the modifications I made scribbled on it...
Progress: about 60% - the body is done and one sleeve is started...
Theoretical deadline: well, none really; but I'd still like to wear it this winter!

WIP the fifth: Alpaka Tunic
Started because: liked the pattern...
Yarn: Rowan All Seasons Cotton - I think the colour is called Paprika. It's more orange and less pink than the photo.
Needles: 4.5mm KnitPro Spectra.
Reason I'm enjoying this: Uhm. Again, it's been too long. But I still want the finished object...
Oppressive because: Actually, this one isn't. It could be worn at any time of the year...
Progress: about 15%; one tiny sleeve and about a third of the front done.
Theoretical deadline: n/a really

WIP the sixth: Asteria cardi [Ravelry link]
Started because: NEEDED a cardi!
Yarn: Debbie Stoller Full 'o' Sheep, in black.
Needles: 5.5mm Addi Turbos
Reason I'm enjoying this: The way this pattern is written is really interesting - there's a chart for which decreases kick in when, and it's exactly the sort of guide I'd write myself if things started getting too complicated (it's set-in sleeves, knitted in the round from the bottom up, so you've potentially got underarm, sleeve, neck and back neck decreases going at the same time).
Oppressive because: it's too damned heavy to take anywhere, but I don't have enough knitting time to do it at home...
Progress: 75% in yarn terms, probably 40% in effort terms
Theoretical deadline: NOW!

So, there you go. Not sure what I'm hoping to achieve by this...

Anyway, if there's a lesson to be learned from this post, it's that things don't get knitted if you don't knit on them. I'm off to crank out another few rows on Asteria, and hope the people with control of the window in our office don't open it too far in the next couple of weeks...

And if you're either too old, or too young, or too cool, or too wise to know where the post title came from, I offer you this hilariously typical example of kulcher from my teenage years. Isn't it strange that the songs you actually like have completely escaped you, while this sort of thing burns itself into your head forever?...

Friday, February 04, 2011

2011 books, #6-10

One of these days I'll post something other than book reviews. Today I'm off work (woke up feeling really flu-ey) so this may be the day! But first - book reviews.

Trick of the dark, by Val McDermid. London: Little, Brown, 2010.

This is a very good book. It dots around between different points in time while never making that fact irritating (and never having to make you work too hard); the narrator is interesting and sympathetic but complex; there are some really well-drawn characters. The book-within-a-book adds a great degree of depth to the story. However, without spoiling, I found the eventual dénouement a bit of a disappointment - there's too much of an Agatha Christie-style deus ex machina about it. Having said that, maybe I wasn't paying sufficient attention and maybe clues were strewn which I'd missed. I'd still recommend it as a genuinely good read though - McDermid really knows her stuff.

The barred window, by Andrew Taylor. Bath: BBC; North Kingstown, R. I. :Audiobooks America, 2008.

Another very strange and slightly scary novel by Andrew Taylor. The pleasure of listening to this was somewhat marred by disk 6 (of 10) being just about unplayable - does make a bit of a difference to a suspense thriller, really! As with many of Taylor's, it's quite difficult to work out what's happening when, and whether we're in the present or the past. Facts creep up on you gradually, and when the full picture's shown it isn't the one you imagined at all. Definitely recommended (although not worth bothering to get the Cambridgeshire public libraries' set - I'm intending to return it with a label pointing out the faulty disk...)

The hour I first believed, by Wally Lamb. London: Harper, 2009.

A book group book, and quite a substantial one at 600+ pages, this was a seriously good read, and not something I'd have heard of otherwise. Caelum Quirk and his wife move to Colorado to save their marriage, end end up working at Columbine High School. The 1999 shootings there send their lives into even more chaos, and they return to Connecticut. This is a big, shapeless, wide-ranging book which shows the flip-side of the American dream; characters are thrown around like flotsam in their own lives, the lives and dark histories of Caelum's family over nearly 200 years are examined, and although ultimately there's a hint of redemption in the title, and a flicker of it towards the end of the book, the soundtrack to this one would probably be made up of Springsteen's episodic meanderings in "Nebraska" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad", rather than the dark relentlessness of "Darkness on the Edge of Town".

Kill&cure, by Stephen Davison. Kindle edition.

This is a gripping story, centring around gene research for cancer and the lengths to which companies will go to preserve their secrets while trying to gain those of others. Ultimately it's satisfying, but while the first couple of chapters are meant to be fast action and deliberately drop you into the middle of the plot, the effect is more chaos and confusion. My other quibble was with the quality of the proofreading - missing words, and the odd tell-tale signs that the book had been OCRed and then not really re-read properly. Having said that, this was either a free or a £1 book by an author whose work I'll be looking out for in the future.

The burning wire, by Jeffery Deaver. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2010.

A Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs book, and well up to the standard of the first couple. This is a superb rollercoaster chase through New York, in pursuit of a criminal intent on using the electrical grid system to kill, seemingly indiscriminately. There are all the standard Deaver techniques - nothing's what it seems, terrifying scenes melt into anticlimax while the real action is happening elsewhere and so on. But there are some new twists - people who look like classic redshirts, something Deaver's used often before, turn out not to be so, and seemingly random incidents turn out to be connected. The final twist in the tale, another chapter in Rhyme's battle with his own body, is signalled out so far ahead that it might be visible from space, but that's OK.