Halloween Eve

I managed to cope with the frustration of sewing needing doing and a machine that had come apart.  I did a bit of internet research and Monday afternoon, (I had a nice long lie-in), I let my fingers do the walking.  The first place I called knew exactly what my problem was — I described the situation, he asked the pertinent question, “A Brother machine you got at Walmart?” — spot on.  (An outfit I worked for about 10 years ago gave out bonuses in Walmart gift cards.  I collected a few and got this little machine at my friendly neighborhood Walmart.  It’s a nothing fancy, general purpose machine with a limited fancy stitch capability, but it’s been equal to any task I’ve thrown at it so far — up til Sunday, that is.)  Less than an hour and $23 bucks later ($13 bucks to fix the machine while I waited, $9 bucks for two packets of needles), and I’m a happy camper. The place I took it  was a ‘mom and pop’ business. The wife owns a fabric and quilting shop, the husband has a work room in the back and repairs all makes and models of sewing machines — (Now and again, we humans get this marriage thing brilliantly right.)  My quilting blog friends would have gone nuts in that place.  Her shop had a veritable rainbow of fabric all arranged by colors, every sewing and quilting doodad and gizmo you could think of and fifteen more that would never have occurred to you, and the walls were festooned with some of the most fabulous, amazing, gorgeous quits.  I may go back again and take a camera.  There was some serious quilting on display in that store.  I’m talking ‘works of art’ here.

Well, October zipped by and here it is Halloween eve.  Sandy has already played the east coast a dirty trick which was no treat.  Bad enough to have been hit with a hurricane, but to have to cope with all the flooding and damage, and the cold winter weather on top of it is like kicking somebody when they’re down.  My thoughts and prayers go out to all the wet, cold people who had their lives and property trashed by Sandy.

This next seems apropos for Halloween.  This is not Procol Harum‘s famous song, but it’s one I like all the same.  Also, it’s obviously not the original soundtrack for this vintage B&W cartoon.


It was downright cold this morning.  Not only were all the kitties on the bed, all of them were either on or adjacent to me.  As I was sitting at my computer reading blogs and what-not, I noticed my legs and feet were feeling chilly, and decided to break out the sewing machine so I could resew the seams in my “office” lap robe so that I could use it, and eventually wash it.  I got the machine set up and plugged in, wound a new bobbin of the off-white quilting thread I planned to use, as the ordinary sewing thread originally used was pretty much disintegrating and the quilting thread is a sturdier, more durable thread.

I had gotten all the quilting seams sewed one way, and had started sewing a seam in between the edge and the first seam, intending to sew seams in between the original seams each way to turn each square into four smaller squares so the quilt batting will be less likely to ball up in the wash.  Then, all of a sudden, KLUNK! — my sewing machine broke! — Well, it didn’t actually break.  It came apart.  The metal gizwidget that holds the needle onto the shaft came off.  There is a screw that holds it on, but the screw has no head — I don’t think the head broke off, actually.  I think it’s just an odd kind of screw that has a conical depression instead of a head.   I can see how the pieces go back together, and I could fix it myself, except I have no tool that I could use to manipulate the screw.  Bother!  Now I’ve got to call around tomorrow and see who can fix it (and more importantly, how much it will cost!).  So, until I can get the sewing machine fixed, that project is stymied good and proper.

In the meantime, because it’s durn chilly in my office,  I’m using the lap robe even though it needs washing.  Just a while ago, a certain black kitteh nosed his way under the end of the lap robe and crawled up in between my feet.  He is now in snooze mode, curled up between my knees — and I have warm knees.  We have entered the snuggle season.

Officially Cold Here

Last night, I bit the bullet and changed over from the air conditioner to the heater, and this morning, I awoke to “first use heater stink” — the “burnt dust” smell that indicated that it got cold enough in the house last night (below 68F/20C) for the heater to come on.  It’s gas heat, and the burner hasn’t ‘burned’ since I turned the heat off early last spring, so the “burnt dust” smell is literally that.  After the heater does three or four “burns,” the smell dissipates.

At 10:30 in the morning, it was 38F/3C outside according to my weather widget, which is “nippy.”  Technically, it did freeze last night but not very hard.  In a while, I’m going to make a double batch of biscuits and get a loaf of bread going in the bread machine, but I’ll have to soften some butter first as I intend to do a loaf of white.  I’ll cut it up in a little dish and set it on top of the stove.  The biscuits bake in a 450F/232C oven and that should be plenty warm enough that I can start the bread once I’ve gotten the biscuits in the oven.  While I’m at it, I’ll get my stainless steel carafe down and make some hot tea.

It was actually cold enough this morning that a short-sleeve tee shirt was not enough, and I put a long-sleeve tee on underneath it.  I have been wearing “footie” socks (the kind that don’t show when you wear them with athletic shoes) for the last couple of days, but this morning, my thoughts turned to the “sock feet” I made in December of 2010 that turned out so well.  They are quite warm and comfortable.  (I cut out two “soles” from a piece of (cowhide) leather, punched holes around the edges and sewed them with yarn onto a pair of socks I knitted out of heavy sport yarn.  The idea is that when I wear the socks out, I’ll just take the leather soles off, knit another pair of socks and sew the soles to them.  I prefer “toe up” style socks because there’s no seam across the toe so this next pair, I’m going to try doing the toes by the Turkish method, instead of this funky decrease/increase method I’ve been using that is so tricky to get to look right, and use a different method to turn the heel.)

While searching for a video that showed the heel method that I want to try, I ran across this site, Confessions of a Knitaholic, which shows how to knit two socks at the same time on a single round needle! — using either the toe up or top down methods.  This I’ve got to try! What a great way to make the little baby booties I make that are actually little socks with a ribbed cuff that has a crocheted top.  I think I already have the kind of needle I need. . . .   She has a bunch of other videos — a whole indexed list of them! — which I’ll have to explore.  Now that I think on it, since I can access the internet through my Kindle Fire, and since the cover has a little prop to hold it upright . . .

Roses In October

Abruptly, and probably because of some rain we’d had and mild temperatures in the 80’s F/27+C during the day and 50’s F/ 10’s C at night, my roses burst into bloom.   Bloomage started early last week.  These pictures were taken this past Tuesday.

 My yellow rosebush in the front was all over beautiful blooms that were only a little bug gnawed.  And my red Walmart heritage rose was going nuts.  The weather was very mild, and occasionally thunderstormy, and we’d had a fair amount of rain, which was very welcome.   We even had one day with a high of 90F/32C, and my air conditioner even kicked on a time or two.  I still haven’t changed over to the heater yet.

My JFK roses (white for remembrance) in the back yard were blooming as well.

There were red ones, . . .

yellow ones, and pink ones.

My folks have been friends with a couple who  have owned several movie theaters/cinemas. For a number of years they owned a “4-plex” (four screens) that was barely two blocks from my folks’ house, but a couple of years ago, they sold it to the Christian school next door (on Mars), it was torn down and an elementary/primary school built in its place. Their grandson owns a drive-in theater and their daughter manages another theater.  They recently went into partnership to build a 16-screen theater which had it’s grand opening last night.  (They are the elderly woman and man on the left in the above photo).  They sent my mom an invitation to attend, and she took me along as a guest.

Allow me to digress:  In Texas, each county decides by general election whether or not they want to permit the sale of alcoholic beverages within that county.  If the county votes to be “dry,” then alcohol cannot be sold within the county limits, even if a city within that county wants to allow it.  However, if the county is “wet,” then it is up to each city or town within the county to decide whether or not they want to sell alcohol within their municipal jurisdiction.  When my parents first moved here, my county was “wet” but my town was “dry” — no alcohol of any kind could be sold within the city limits, period.  The city law was changed shortly after that to allow the sale of liquor by the drink, which is to say, alcohol could be sold a drink at a time in a restaurant or bar, but it had to be consumed on the premises.  Alcohol packaged for “take-away” (i.e., in unopened bottles) had to be bought at “package stores” located outside the city limits.  That was the status quo for almost 40 years.  However, about two years ago, voter petitioned the city to allow the sale of “packaged” beer and wine within the city limits.  An election was held, and the “wets” won.  As a result, I can now buy beer and wine at Walmart, some supermarkets, or at package stores like the one conveniently located just blocks from my home.   However, if I want “hard” liquor (whiskey, gin, vodka, etc.), I still have to go outside the city limits to buy it.

The big deal about this new Premier Cinema multiplex that opened last night is that it has both a restaurant and a bar within the theater building — which makes it unique as it is the only theater in town that sells alcohol on premises.  It’s quite an operation.  There are several rows of  “D-Box” seats for each “screen” and there is also an IMAX screen.  Up until this theater was opened, there was no D-Box equipped theater in town and only one other IMAX equipped theater.  The Premier Cinema has the usual concession stand selling popcorn, candy bars and soft drinks, but it also sells ice cream and Starbuck’s products.  In addition there is also a bar serving beer and wine,  and a restaurant located upstairs.  At the grand opening, there was an open bar (drinks were “on the house” — i.e., free) and snacks were served — small slices of pulled pork sandwiches, little pesto bruschettas, and paninis.  Another difference — traditionally, ticket sellers are located within a glassed in booth, but in this theater, they sit out in the open behind a counter (on the right in the above photo)  The “invitation only” part of the grand opening started at 5 p.m.  After the ribbon cutting ceremony, the general public was allowed in, and everyone was given a free ticket to one of the movies that were being shown that evening at 7:30 pm.  My mom and I elected to see Hugo in 3-D.  It was an enjoyable movie, but I think I would have liked it better if it had not been in 3-D as in this format only the foreground images were sharp, and the background tended to be blurry.  Also, I’m not that impressed with 3-D.

We’ve had a cold front come through and since late Tuesday, the weather has cooled off significantly with daytime temperatures in the 50’s F/10’s C.  Last night’s low was 31F/1C.  Right now it’s 28F/-2C, so tonight is the first freeze for this autumn.  It’s supposed to warm up and be back into the 70’s F/20’s C by Sunday with lows back up into the 40’s F/4-6 C.  I’ll probably switch over from air conditioning to heating tomorrow, although I doubt if it will come on much if at all unless the weather gets colder, as I have my heater thermostat set at 70.

The leaves have started turning, and some trees have already started losing leaves.  I suspect after tonight’s light freeze, that process will accelerate.  Already the Canada geese have started to arrive.  There were about 30 in the playa lake by my folks’ house, and over 50 at the big playa lake down the street from my house.  I still have ceiling fans on to keep the air moving, but once the heater starts coming on with any regularity, I’ll turn them off.  I really need to get my sewing machine out and fix my “office” lap rug so I can toss it in the washer.  I have a feeling I may be needing it soon.

Pretty soon, I need to get my office sorted out and get rid of my humongous computer desk.  I don’t really need it any more.  It’s one of those assemble it yourself things that I can break into pieces and haul the pieces out to the dumpster, and just keep the part that has two file drawers and keep the keyboard tray and the hardware that goes with it.  I can fit the keyboard tray to the bottom of the little desk on rollers I plan to “downsize” to.  I’ve been taking measurements and plotting things out.  The way I want to configure the furniture, I’ll have room to bring the other red recliner in and set up an area where I can read and do knitting and crochet, with my credenza to one side and the little rolling computer table to put my Kindle, my Squeezebox, and a little desk lamp on (or the crochet or knitting pattern I’m using).   I need to empty out my roll-top desk, get it cleaned up and put an advertisement in the paper to sell it.  I’m not using it and it’s just taking up space.  Once I get the other red recliner moved in from the living room, I’ll move furniture in there to a different configuration.  I’ve got some artwork by Rima Staines that I want to frame and put up in my office, too, but I’ve got to empty out some frames to do that.  One of these days soon. . .

Download a Free Neil Gaiman Story From Audible.com

For all you fans of Neil Gaiman, or scary stories, or storytelling as an art form, or books in general, or whatever, go here right now (or here if you are in the UK) and download this free story by Neil Gaiman from Audible.com. For every download, Audible will contribute to Donors Choose charity in the US, and BookTrust in the UK, both worthy causes.  (If you have an Amazon account, you can sign in through it and have it download to your Kindle).  If you’ve never heard Neil Gaiman tell a story, you’re in for a treat.  If you have heard him, then you’ll want to hear this one, too.

This is a limited time offer! It’s only good until Halloween!

Tea With Shostakovich Drunk From A Glass

Tahiti Trot, Op. 16, is Dmitri Shostakovich‘s 1927 orchestration of “Tea for Two” from the musical No, No, Nanette by Vincent Youmans.  Shostakovich wrote it in response to a challenge from conductor Nikolai Malko.  After the two listened to the song on record at Malko’s house, Malko bet 100 roubles that Shostakovich could not completely re-orchestrate the song from memory in under an hour. Shostakovich took him up on the bet and won, completing the orchestration in around 45 minutes.*

One of the more delightful nose thumbings I’ve run across, n’est–ce pas?

Another incredible thing I stumbled across.  The music is Philip Glass‘ “The Kiss”  from the soundtrack to the film “The Hours” — the video is incredible.

East Meets West

A little musical interlude for a Sunday.  The following two videos came to me via Wrat’s Tumblr blog, “Conservatorium.” I found this blog when I ran across a drawing from it on another Tumblr blog I follow, followed the link to see more of where it came from, and ended up following that blog as well.  It is fascinating to me how things intersect other things on the internet, and how you can skate across the world on these intersections and arrive at the most fascinating places.

Wrat has this to say about the piece of music and its two different interpretations. “‘The Moon Reflected on the Erquan (Second Spring)’ has become a classic piece of folk music beloved across China. Its melody is instantly recognizable, for the ringing, sorrowful erhu that is its centerpiece. Though the song takes an incredibly romantic name, its melodic lines more truly reflect the grief and sadness of its composer, [Ah Bing,] a victim of war, illness and destitution.”

Here’s a string arrangement of the same piece, Moon Reflected on the Erquan(Second Spring), transcribed for an orchestra with western instruments.

Wrat’s Tumblr blog features single drawings and sequences of drawings involving a violinist/virtuoso and a cellist/composer.  Wrat freely admits to not being a musician and to not being able to play the musical instruments featured in the drawings, but confesses to a love of music and a love of drawing — two points where our tastes intersect, what attracts me to the blog.

drawing © 2012 Wrat

I do not know Wrat’s gender, nationality,  age, or anything else other than Wrat is fluent in English, likes to draw, draws well, likes classical music, and is inspired to draw by the music.

drawing © 2012 Wrat

Yet we connect at these two points — drawing and music (actually, three points — drawing, music and yaoi* — but then, tastes differ, so we’ll just stick to drawing and music for now.)   Wrat’s drawings interest me not just because they are well-drawn, but because they show insight, hint at personalities, imply life histories, suggest relationships.  They are not just life drawings, but drawings of life. Wrat often provides links to the pieces of music that inspired the drawings, so that you can listen to the music and relate the music to the drawing. But the inspiration from the music is always in the context of the two characters’ interactions.

drawing © 2012 Wrat

Eh, make that four points of intersection . . .drawing, music, yaoi and cats. . .

*If you do decide to check out Conservatorium, be forewarned.  Although they are drawn tastefully, some of the content and the relationship it depicts are not to everyone’s tastes.

Things and Stuff

Woke up a little after 5 a.m. this morning which, seeing as how I went to bed at 5 p.m. yesterday, is not so surprising.  I’ve been trying to get my sleep/wake cycle back in sync with the night/dayt cycle.  I think maybe I was born on the wrong side of the world.  Left to my own devices, I’d be a night WOL.  But since the world is mostly on day shift. . .   Goofed around on my computer for a while, reading email, and the blogs and webcomics I follow.  Then about 8 o’clock, I made a double recipe of biscuits.  Either I’ve got to start making smaller loaves of bread or remember to put it in the refrigerator. I went to cut a slice off the stub of the loaf I made Saturday, and it had started to mold.

Another find made while looking for something else.  For all you “Star Trek:  The Next Generation” fans, here’s the role that made Brent Spiner (Data) a household name. (He and I were both born in Houston, TX.)

Night Court” was one of the wittier shows of its time.   Harry Anderson’s character, Judge Stone, was a rabid Mel Tormé fan.

Modern Art

What is this?

Is it an abstract painting?  I got it from a painter’s blog.  It’s an interesting image, isn’t it.  Very geometric with its clean and minimalist line and sphere.   Actually, it’s a photograph.  What do you think it might be a photograph of?  With the shading on the spherical object, it might be a picture of the moon, but oddly backlit.  “Moon” would be a good guess.  It is a moon, but not “the” moon — Saturn’s moons Rhea.  The horizontal line is Saturn’s ring system viewed edge on, and the hazy background is Saturn itself. The photograph was taken by NASA’s Cassini-Huygens robotic spacecraft.

Here’s some more “abstract art” by Cassini-Huygens:

Saturn’s Moon Dione
The Shadow of Saturn’s Rings
Storms on Saturn

– Saturn’s moon Mimus

Dione in Saturn’s Ring Shadow

– Titan

The Surface of Titan
The Lakes of Titan
Light Waves

A little experiment in how what we expect to see influences our perceptions.  What do you think the last one is a photo of?