Blog for Stephanie Bryant, a writer with too many hobbies and not enough time.

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Sweater Meat

This is the very first sweater that I ever knitted. I finished it on Friday afternoon. The pattern is called “Bombshell,” from Big Girl Knits and is very shapely. It’s a little awkward at the neckline, but for my first sweater, it’s pretty good. Actually, I think it’s pretty good for any sweater on a big girl, but especially for my first sweater.

The pattern is a top-down sweater with raglan sleeves. I added shaping in the bust area to accommodate my own personal amount of sweater meat. The book has information on how to do that, but the info is for bottom-up sweaters. I had a day of knitting and frogging when I realized I needed to turn the instructions upside down for a top-down sweater. I also made the arm holes a little too big, and they show my bra when I lift my arms. Since the neckline also shows my bra, I’m guessing that this sweater is a good one to wear with something very pretty underneath.

I probably need to mention that the yarn is Knit Picks Swish, in superwash merino wool (i.e., soft, but machine-washable), the color is “Frost,” though to my eye it’s more like “1980’s Turquoise.” I used 8 skeins of yarn and nearly ran out. I did not have enough yarn left over to knit even one more row on the neckline. I tend to be a yarn-economic knitter, but this sweater used more yarn than I expected it to. If you think you’ll do this pattern, buy a spare skein. It was also on sale, and of course by the time I realized I was running out of yarn, they were completely sold out of this color (can you imagine? Who besides me would buy that much of this color?)

I picked this color, by the way, because I wanted some blue in my wardrobe, and because it was on sale. I didn’t want to knit my first sweater and feel like I had to finish it because I’d otherwise be doing something bad to the yarn. This way, if I utterly hated it, I could burn it without remorse. The whole sweater cost less than $20 in materials.

The yarn, incidentally, pilled like crazy in the wash, and it did shrink a tiny bit. Everyone says superwash stretches, even this superwash yarn. Perhaps that’s true on the second wash, but on the first, it just kind of snugged up the stitches.

The next sweater I make will either be a more traditional cardigan that I adjust for Big Girl sizing, a pattern from Big Girl Knits, or possibly another Bombshell. In any case, the yarn will not be as garish.

March 2008: Book Reviews

#14:

I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I thought I would. First, the story is told in flashbacks– one chapter or scene in the “present” as John Adams is inaugurated as president, followed by a chapter set in the past, at the beginning of George Washington’s relationship with Martha. But it’s all tell, not enough show, and lots of passive writing. I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a love story or a history novel, but I felt it kind of failed at both. I usually like Clark’s stories, but this one just…. lacked teeth. [Read this as paperback.]

#15:

Speaking of teeth…. wow. The bloodshed factor in this novel must surely be only matched by the virtual bloodshed of fans furious at only getting half the story. I personally wouldn’t care, except that I suspect the next book, if it comes out in this century, will be disappointing, because Martin will now have to go back and tell the same timeline from different viewpoints. Hopefully, he will do better with that than other novelists who have tried. If anyone can do it, though, I think he can (or take eternity in trying!) [Read this on the Sony Reader, in Sony Reader format, as purchased from the Sony ebook store.]

#16:

The Reformed Rake, by Elizabeth Chater

Eep. I don’t really know what to do with a romance novel like this. The hero and heroine are attracted and happy from the outset, the author completely avoided writing the sex scenes, the little conflicts that come up are minor, they’re both perfectly matched by being utterly immature with each other… what’s to say about it? Oh, and there are external conflicts that magically crop up in the final chapter…. it was not a very good romance novel, to be honest. And, then…. well, it’s clear that this book wasn’t edited very well. Either there was a voice recognition error, or there was a global search and replace in the last phase of editing. Every instance of the phrase “of her” has been changed to “other.” So you have things like “he loved the soft gurgle other laughter” (yes, her laugh is described as a “gurgle,” which makes me hope she’s choking, but that’s neither here nor there….) Since this is published as an ebook, there is no excuse for the typo/error remaining after the first readers have read it and, hopefully, commented on the problem. Is it possible no one has mentioned it? The first “other” doesn’t show up until a few chapters in– I suppose it’s possible that no one else was able to get past the first three chapters. [Read on eBookwise ebook reader, in ebookwise format, as purchased from the Filament Book Club ebook store.]

#17:

Mmmm! Mounties and romance! And no really annoying clichés in the sex scenes! And yummy sex scenes! And love that develops over time, with conflict that’s both internal and external! All the things I love in a romance novel, with superior editing, to boot! I chose this one because it’s highly rated and also because, if I’m going to read about military men or law enforcement, I also want them to have a softer side– and The Surgeon is one of Bridges’ Mounties books, in which the hero is also the company doctor. I liked the draw of that, and found both the hero and the heroine interesting and loveable. [Read on the Amazon Kindle, in Kindle format, as purchased from Amazon.com’s Kindle store.]

Why am I mentioning the readers and formats? Mainly, I wonder if I like a book better if it’s on a particular device or not. Some formats are easier to read on some devices, and some devices are just harder to read in general. I want to know if that impacts how much I enjoy the book or not. This month, I happened to read DRM’ed books on each of their proprietary readers, which gives a decent baseline for comparison.

Ads: Coming Back to Steph’s Blog?

I received lots of very good and useful feedback to my previous question (about leaving LiveJournal and the impact it would have on you all), and I very much your opinions. I haven’t decided on if I will leave LJ or not– probably not, and especially not if I do the following. I would especially like to thank halfawake, for reminding me that, while I love my WordPress blog, it’s the community of friends at LiveJournal that keeps me on the site there.

Anyway:

I am thinking about bringing ads back to my blog. LiveJournal posts would be truncated to the first paragraph or so, and require you to click to the ad-sponsored post to read more. The RSS feed would have small text-only ads at the bottom of the page. I might even participate in pay-per-post, which is a “Sponsored review” scheme– in that case, the posts could not be cross-posted to LiveJournal, and opting out would be difficult, since the whole post would be an advertorial. They pay pretty well, though, which is why I’m considering it. Ads would probably not interrupt the flow of text, but they would surround the posts like an army around a besieged fortress.

Why, given my previously-expressed opinion of advertising in blogs (I hate them), would I deface my blog this way?

No, it is not the howling of the wolves at the gates. Or, rather, not at my gate.

It’s to raise money for charity.

See, I figure in the 9 months between April and the end of the year, I could possibly raise enough funds, through ads, fundraising drives, affiliates, and direct donations, to make a very generous donation at the end of the year to Childreach. All proceeds would go to the charity, all expenses would be donated by me. My pie-in-the-sky goal? $8,500, to build a school and furnish it.

I think we could do it, and if not, maybe aim for a more modest goal of drilling a well for clean drinking water. We could call it “The School that Blogs Built” or “Blogs Dig Deeper” or something witty like that.

But wait. There’s more.

Anyone willing to “sponsor-out” of the ads would have that option. A modest direct donation (probably $20) would result in receiving a subscriber login to my blog, with which you would be able to read the blog indefinitely for free (and yeah, I’d figure out something similar for an ad-free RSS feed and possibly a FO cross-post for people on LiveJournal– I’m not sure, but I have a week to figure it out). Anyone running a similar campaign with the same goal on their own blog would also get the ad-free sponsor login. LJ users would be able to participate by having a donation link (but apparently, not click-through ads or banner ads).

So. What do you think?

Would ads on Stephanie’s Blog, with truncated “read more” cross-posts on her LiveJournal, frustrate you enough that you would stop reading? Would you participate (assuming the ads didn’t suck, of course)? Would you consider direct donating to remove the ads? All these questions assume, of course, that the proceeds go to charity– I know attitudes are different if the ads/blog are simply for-profit.

Poor Alladin!

We switched Alladin to a commercial raw cat food diet just about a month ago, for weight loss (it worked– he’s lost a pound). Since Friday, he had been having litter box trouble– going often, and eventually, not getting much out. By the time I got him to a vet yesterday, his urethra was completely blocked with crystals, and needed the catheter surgery to remove it. But his bloodwork came back great. He’s been acting fine all along, but definitely seems better today. We still have to watch carefully this week, and give him a follow-up urinalysis in 2 weeks (when, of course, we plan to be out of Jacksonville). He also has an infection, which is uncommon with crystals/blockage.

The vet wants us to feed him the commercial anti-crystals food. Our research indicates that stress of any kind, including switching from one food to another, can trigger the crystals to form, and that raw food is usually the best diet for cats with this problem. We are probably going to go against doctor’s orders on this one and keep him on the raw food, and keep the case of prescription food in case we are wrong down the line. In all other ways, he is a healthier cat on the raw food– more energy, losing weight, and his already-soft coat has turned into silk.

Sigh. Anyway, that’s what’s going on with the cat. He is right now trying to figure out what kind of mischief he should get into while his breakfast defrosts.

Fun and Games

I’ve been playing a couple of games lately, some new, some old, and wanted to share a couple with you all:

Zombie Fluxx by Looney Labs is a variant on my favorite card game, Fluxx. It adds Zombies to the game, making it harder to win (in most cases, you cannot win with zombies). If you’ve been feeling like your Fluxx games have become a little stale (just a little), try this one out.

My ever-favorite Dino Dice. Dinosaurs. Dice. Some dice eat the other dinosaurs. What’s not to love?

Zombie in my Pocket . It’s a free solitaire game, and it’s still in beta, so the artwork is very stick figuresque. You download it, print it out on cardstock, cut it out, and play. It’s a bit like Mystery Mansion, if you remember that game from long-ago, in that it’s a tile-laying game.

The next download-and-play game I want to try, just in time for Easter, is Peep War, a game using marshmallow Peeps and jellybeans as game pieces. Tomorrow is Easter– print this one out today to play tomorrow! It is a 90-minute game, so probably not right for little kids (unless you want to introduce an optional “eat your opponent’s playing piece” rule).

Oh, and I found a travel-sized Carcassonne on eBay, which is on its way.

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