Archive for March, 2011

A Twitter Murder

March 30, 2011

We all know by now that I love murder mysteries.  Reading a book is no longer a simple experience – there are paper-and-ink books, e-books, audio-books, and probably a few other options available to choose from… And on another plane, today’s social networks are constantly evolving and provide us with many new and unexpected forums and experiences.  Tonight there will be a new experiment on Twitter, in an attempt to show both its power and its potential.

Austin Lugar is a telecommunications major at Ball State University in Indiana, and for a Pop Culture class project he’s writing an entire murder mystery on Twitter.   It will happen tonight starting at about 7:00 p.m. EST and will last for about three hours.

From his blog:

Seven characters are going to a mansion for a dinner party when—what do you know—a murder takes place. Along with the host of the party, his surly butler, and the determined detective the crime will (probably) be solved.

There are two ways to watch all of the comedic action. Keep track of the hashtag #popclue. All of the tweets will have that tag.

Or you can follow all 10 characters which you can find at these links:

Another way to keep track of the story is to follow the list featuring all of these characters:

This will be an entertaining experiment in telling a story with a new platform. There will be plenty of jokes and clues through the duration. The more people follow along the more fun it will be. So if you think this sounds good, please tell your friends to follow.

I’m fascinated to see how this will work.  Problem is, it’s entirely the wrong hour for me to be online, tweeting, or indeed, awake.   So I may well have to just follow either the hashtag or the list, then peruse it all later when I have time.  I kinda hate to miss out on all the fun, but it does seem that sleep is necessary for me to function.

I wonder what editors and publishers will think of this story format?  Or other authors?  Or for that matter, readers…


Big Brother

March 28, 2011

No, not the reality TV show.  The original Orwellian concept.

Is it weird that I do a fingerprint scan to get my sandwich in the morning?  Or my lunch in the afternoon, for that matter?

It’s pretty simple.  The meals we eat at work are deducted from our salary, so they need a record of when we eat in the dining room.  It’s a subsidized standard price.  I have a choice of swiping a magnetic card, or punching in my code and scanning my fingerprint to get a ticket, which I then turn over to the food people.    I usually leave the card locked in my desk drawer or my bag (which is also locked away) so I don’t have to carry it around and possibly lose it somewhere.  I don’t always have pockets.  And I’m already carrying my phone.  Which leaves the finger, which luckily is always with me.

It’s the same procedure for clocking in and out at the beginning and the end of the day, but then I’m usually carrying my things so I have the card with me,  and I’ll use it sometimes because it is faster than the scan.  Depends on the day, and how rushed I am. Or if I have a cut or a bruise on that finger.  Or if my hands are cold, which at times confuses the scanner.

I’m so used to it that I don’t even think about it.   Then this week I was chatting with a new employee on the way to lunch, and when we reached the dining room he was startled and obviously unsettled about the fingerprint thing.  Which got me wondering about exactly how invasive this is.  Or not. Technocratic, definitely.

I remember working in a store in the 1970s where we had to list two IDs and take a thumbprint on the back of every check from a customer.  No machinery, just an ink thumbprint.  Most complied, a few complained.  But I haven’t encountered that in a store in decades.  (Surveillance cameras, yes.  Thumbprints, no.)  Of course, few people today write checks, plastic is so much easier.  And now in many cases we don’t even need the plastic, most smartphones have an app that scans/uploads the barcodes of our cards and they can then be scanned directly from our phone screens at the checkout.  Less to carry.  And kinda cool.

But maybe a little bit scary.

Is using our fingerprints simply a safe method of identification, or an invasion of privacy?  And given that we live in a world where we balance privacy vs. security, where do we draw the line?



March 27, 2011

March has been a bad month for blogging.  And I really don’t know why.  I’ve been busy.  Lots of things happening, swaps and SnB and family and friends and knitting.  But I’ve been so busy, especially at work, that I just haven’t been blogging.  And I feel it.

The inspiration just hasn’t come.  I feel like I have nothing pithy to say.  Or if I do I don’t get around to putting pithy into words.  (Now that I’ve totally mangled the language I feel so much better…)

I need to take myself in hand and get back into the groove.  Even if it’s a few sentences, or a photo.  Because I miss the daily – or almost daily – exercise of writing.  Along with my daily dose of knitting, and reading, I need the writing.   My basic vitamins for emotional health!

So onward.  Must do better.




Let Them Talk

March 23, 2011

Actor (and musician) Hugh Laurie has a debut album coming out in May!  Called “Let Them Talk,”  it features Laurie on piano and vocals playing his favourite music, New Orleans blues.

He explains it all on the album website:

I was not born in Alabama in the 1890s. You may as well know this now. I’ve never eaten grits, cropped a share, or ridden a boxcar. No gypsy woman said anything to my mother when I was born and there’s no hellhound on my trail, as far as I can judge. Let this record show that I am a white, middle-class Englishman, openly trespassing on the music and myth of the American south.

If that weren’t bad enough, I’m also an actor: one of those pampered ninnies who hasn’t bought a loaf of bread in a decade and can’t find his way through an airport without a babysitter. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that I’ve got some Chinese characters tattooed on my arse. Or elbow. Same thing.

Worst of all, I’ve broken a cardinal rule of art, music, and career paths: actors are supposed to act, and musicians are supposed to music. That’s how it works. You don’t buy fish from a dentist, or ask a plumber for financial advice, so why listen to an actor’s music?

The answer is – there is no answer. If you care about provenance and genealogy, then you should try elsewhere, because I have nothing in your size.

He goes on to tell the story of how he began his musical career at the age of 5, and other relevant details that led him to finally producing an album.

You can pre-0rder it now, just the CD, or a limited edition version that includes a book and 3 bonus tracks.  A great gift for music lovers and/or House fans!  I shall drop some broad hints at home about possible gifts for Pesach…

The friend’s grandbaby for whom I knit the teddy bear blanket and the washcloths was born last night!   So hopefully we will travel to Tel Aviv very soon to present the wee babe (and her parents, of course) with her presents.    A happy occasion.

The scarves for the nieces are progressing nicely, I’m alternating knitting them, so they’re about at the same place, which is about 2/3 done.  I occasionally even manage a few rows of the criss cross scarf for me too.

The beast was being photogenic the other evening, and agreed to pose.

Good kitteh.

Spring has sprung…

March 21, 2011

Spring has spring, the grass has riz,

I wonder where the birdie iz…


Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.  ~Virgil A. Kraft

Spring is a heart full of hope and a shoe full of rain.  ~ Unknown

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.  ~Mark Twain

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.  ~Nadine Stair

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!”  ~Robin Williams


Happy  Spring!

Bundles and Burrows and Bricks

March 16, 2011

The Bundle:

My swap package from Irene in Michigan has arrived!  The theme she chose for me was “Tea Party”.

There are nine very different kinds of tea there, from flavoured black to flowering teas, plus a new package of tea filters (which I use a lot for loose teas).  As well as the teas, there’s a package of Jelly Belly jellybeans to munch, some lovely body cream, a keychain sock blocker with a pattern for a teeny sock, some beautiful Michigan landmark bookmarks (for my bookmark collection!), a postcard from Michigan, and two skeins of the loveliest KP Gloss yarn in fingering weight, enough for a new shawl.  I do love the Gloss – Merino and silk.  This is the “dusk” colour.

And just to make me drool, a new KnitPicks catalogue so I know just what to ask friends to send (since KP does not ship here).   Besides the yarn – which is great – I have my eye on blocking wires, a ball winder, a swift…  although it will all have to wait a bit.

The Burrows:

OK, Harry Potter fans.  Something y’all may like.  The Burrow’s Studio Store has a poster series of HP Condensed Visual Plots, one for each book.  Here’s the first, for example:


They also have a comic about the adventures of The Burrow Studio at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, called “Here at Hogwarts”.  I can’t tell you what that’s like, since I haven’t read it.   (And if you’re interested, there’s Star Wars and Buffy stuff too.)   Brilliant.

The Brick:

I guess regular bricks don’t make nice doorstops.  Not pretty enough.  And LEGO blocks aren’t nearly heavy enough.  So Instructables user lizzyastro knitted a LEGO cover for a brick, using bottle caps to form the knobs.  (Follow the link for the pattern.)

I really really like how she thinks.     😉

Let’s see…what else can I add with a B?     Oh.     Bai for now.     😀

100 years

March 8, 2011

It’s the global centenary of International Women’s Day.  One hundred years of struggle, many rights have been gained, but there’s still a long long way to go.

When I was the  coordinator of the local feminist center, people would ask me what the difference was between other women’s organizations, many of whom provide a variety of services for women, and a “feminist” organization.  I would answer that many groups say “This is the status of women today.  The situation is bad.  Here are tools to cope with it and survive.”  But a feminist organization says This is the status of women today.  The situation is bad.  Here are tools to change it.”

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be coping and surviving.  It means we have to change the situation so that we no longer need all those tools and energy just to cope.  If there’s a boulder on the path that women are tripping over and getting hurt in the process, it is not enough to sit and wait beside the path with a  box of bandaids.  We’ve got to join forces together to get the damn boulder out of there.  Without leaving any more dangers in the path.  (And still make sure there are bandaids available.)

What’s the boulder?  To quote singer/songwriter/activist Annie Lennox, in her article  Feminism shouldn’t be an F-word published today:

The statistics are sobering. Across the globe, gender-based violence causes more deaths and disabilities among women of child-bearing age than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Even in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, it’s safer to be a soldier than a woman. Women do two-thirds of the world’s work for a paltry 10 percent of the world’s income and own just 1 percent of the means of production.

And more:

From Milwaukee to Malawi, women are being short-changed on life chances. From India to Illinois, women face violence just for being female. Of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide, the vast majority are female. For many, just getting an education is a real struggle, major decisions such as who to marry and when to have children are made for them by others, and without economic independence or a say in their own future the chances of women escaping the poverty trap are virtually non-existent.

Despite the fact that women are the majority in the world’s population, this is still constantly seen as a “minority” issue.  Even in so-called progressive societies.

During the many years I worked at battered women’s shelters and rape crisis centers, we spent long hours trying to educate and change attitudes in the public.  Often, in between emergencies,  we would simply grab a folding table and some boxes of printed material, find a central location on a busy street or a crowded mall, and talk to people.    I lost count of the times men would shrug and say “Oh, that’s a women’s problem,” and keep walking.    (When I would ask those men if that’s what they’re willing to tell their daughters, many paused and came back to listen.  Asking about their wives or sisters, or even their mothers, usually didn’t work however.  Just sayin’.)

The problem belongs to all of us.  It affects men just as much as it affects women.  Yet women are the ones who are pushing to change it.

The global theme this year for IWD is:

Equal access to education, training and science and technology:

Pathway to decent work for women

Some links:

In Glasgow, Scotland, a collective of feminist artists have organised a wonderful event:  Loop – 100 Events for The 100th International Women’s Day.    A lot of knitting has gone into this event!

The best source of information is the IWD website, which lists resources and over 2000 events around the world.  For an hour or more this morning, it was impossible to access the website, as it was under a massive hacker attack to prevent users from reaching this  global hub of the day’s activites.  It was countered,  and then a second attack hit.  According to the website, the situation is being monitored closely.

We’re even being attacked virtually.

At work today all the women received a gift.  The card states that this is in recognition of our status and contribution as women who successfully balance a family and a career.  The gift itself was purchased from an organization for women that provides aid and education to women in distress.  And what did we get?

A collection of cosmetics.   And I don’t think they even realize the marvelous irony.

Now, there’s some really nice stuff there, hand and foot cream, body butter, other goodies.  All things to take care of and pamper ourselves.  Which I’m all in favour of.  But I’m a feminist from the 70s.  When we looked at cosmetics’ role as supporting the second-class status of women, making us mere sex-objects who must waste time with cosmetics, or insecure about how we look and desperate to find ways to cover up any “imperfections.”   Not to mention that I seriously doubt a company would give a gift of soaps and creams to men in the company, men usually receive some gadget or pen or disk-on-key, or something else connected with work.  With the not-so-subtle message that for men, what they do is important, and for women, how we look and/or feel is important.

Maybe I’m over-reacting?  I do appreciate the gesture and recognition.  And it’s more useful than giving us flowers.

At least it’s for a good cause.

And that bag looks perfect for a knitting project bag.

Life is rich with contradictions.

Kidlet called as she was walking to her first class, to wish me a “happy holiday”.    She knows that this is one day I would never overlook.  It totally gave me a boost.  Despite all the teenage turmoil, and rebellion, there are some things I know I’ve taught her right.

Celebrate women today by thinking about what we’ve achieved.  And what we still have to do.  Together.

For today’s lesson…History? Geography?

March 5, 2011

Colin Gregory Palmer Grey – better known as C.G.P. Grey – is an American time management coach & public speaker living in London.   He writes a blog in which he investigates all sorts of historical and geographical and national and other data, such as how many Americans have a passport, per capita by state, and the occasional weird creatures he encounters. 

I first found the blog through a tweet by Stephen Fry, who posted a link to this fascinating lesson on the differences between England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom.    An absolute must see!

All clear now?  Ready for the test?  If you need a cheat sheet, Grey sells this diagram as a poster on the blog.

He’s now working on a similar history of the US.   The partial diagram he has already done is worth checking out.

This should be interesting…

And a good time was had by all

March 3, 2011

Great SnB last night.  Everyone who was around was there, and we were just a bit noisier than usual.

Sanna returned after a much-longer-than-anticipated visit to Finland.  Marina arrived from the snows of Toronto, and Courtney flew in from Crete.

Tama demonstrated her favourite skill of sticking out her tongue…

Lots of laughter and food and gifts (and a great deal of knitting, of course).   I got some olive oil soap from Greece (note the purple ribbon), and some fantastic cat buttons!

Courtney and Sanna both have new babies, and I was finally able to give them their gifts – sets of cotton baby washcloths, from one of my favourite designers, Kris at KrisKnits.


Fun and quick to knit!

(Pay no attention to the  “feature” on the bottle cloth, it was corrected in the next set.)

I’m almost finished with another set, for a friend’s first grandbaby due this month.

And it must be mentioned that for the first time, I was able to give someone else a ride home!  Ha!  Although I think I’m going to miss the chats riding home with Roberta.  😦

Good people, good times…  Just what the doctor ordered.


Of beeks and boors…I mean books and beers

March 1, 2011

It’s March!  Already!  So fast…

My reading challenge is going well.  So far this year,  I read 10 books in January, and 6 books in February, and a new month is upon us.  Bit of  a difference….  But then, February was a short month, of course, and I was home sick for a week in January.  Let’s see how March goes!

Today is National Beer Day in Iceland.  It celebrates the end, in 1989, of a 75-year long beer prohibition.  If you wish to honour this day, try and find some Icelandic beer:  Icelandic beers include Viking Gylltur, a strong lager with a bitter taste, Viking Dimmur, Sterkur, Thule and Ice Bjor.    Take your pick!

And then tomorrow, on March 2nd, you can celebrate National Hangover Day.  Free aspirin.  (Just kidding.  No such day.   Although apparently it has been suggested.  And rejected.)

If you don’t want to drink beer today, you can still cook with it.  There is a website called that advocates having beer in some form at every meal, with lots of recipes.  Seems like a bit of overkill to me, but never mind.

I did find a recipe that intrigued me, a Basic Beer-Can Chicken Recipe, also called “Beer Butt Chicken.”   You can see why…

It may be very tasty, but I really don’t think I would serve it like this.  It just doesn’t whet my appetite a whit.   Just the opposite, in  fact.   Perhaps it’s better to cut it up on a platter?