Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Vagueries of Fashion

As the Neighborhood Eccentric, I get to overhear a lot of things, both literally and figuratively, that otherwise I might not be privy to. People tend to think I'm not paying attention, or think I'm not here, and so conversations go on and I get information that perhaps I should not have.

Which makes me think. (I know, always dangerous.)

And so, the question I have for you, based on these overheard snippets and without revealing the specifics of what they have been (to protect the innocent, or not so much), is this:

When did it become fashionable to be a follower? When did it become fashionable to not think, determine, and decide, but instead be told, directed, or led? When did tradition become a dirty word?

I see far too many people who take what is handed to them at face value, without considering the source (or the source's personal agenda), and certainly without looking any further. No one ever seems to check out the information that is spouted to them on the news. They just say to themselves or others, "Well, it was on the news, it must be true." Reputable sources? Hmmmm. Always take with a grain of salt, if not a whole salt mine. How to get them to be less sheep-like, less trusting?

When did critical thinking go out of fashion?

So, answer me that, dear readers. When, why, and how? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day in the USA

I walked down to my home town's annual ceremony at our small Veteran's Memorial today. I was very pleased to see how much this has grown as a destination for those in our town. When it first started, there were perhaps 30 people crowded around the small memorial wall and flag in one of the most picturesque locations in the park. Today, there were, by my estimate, at least 200 people there, of all ages. Little people, teens, adults, and seniors. All came to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for this country.

We have, among other things, the right to freedoms in the United States of America that are unheard of, or mere whispers of dreams, in other parts of the world. We have the right to worship as we want -- whether following Catholicism, another form of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or any one of hundreds of smaller religions including Athiesm (yes, it's a religion, so deal with it) without fear of government reprisal for our beliefs. I have the right to meander here and talk about all sorts of things. I can speak my mind. I can agree, or disagree, I can hold an opinion. I am ALLOWED to do that. And I can discuss, agree, or disagree with not only you, dear reader, but also with our government. I can walk down the street bare-headed with my face showing and not fear being stoned. Or my neighbors can wear full hijabs and, while they may risk the sidelong glances of those suspicious of their country of origin and in disagreement with the religious and social values that lead them to wear such garments, they, too, can generally do so without fear of violent reprisal.

Imagine living in a country where those things are not allowed. In China and Iran (for example), you can be jailed or executed for practicing the wrong religion. In Myanmar, to express disagreement with the government can lead to prison and trial, at the very best, as evidenced by the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi. And I can almost guarantee you that if I were to travel to the country of origin of my neighbors who go to the library in their full hijabs, I would likely be jailed myself for strolling around bareheaded in shorts and a t-shirt, as I do most summer days. Imagine that.

Memorial Day is not about praising war. It's about praising those who took up the fight so that we could have these freedoms, and did not come back from that fight. Whether we personally think there is ever a good reason to go to war is immaterial. Whether we think the current battles on-going in our world are justified is immaterial. Today, we honor those who have gone so that we can agree, disagree, pray or not, and lead our lives with dignity.

As I stood on the unusually chilly, gray day, I considered all of this. I remembered my father, who at 17 enlisted in the Navy and fought in the Second World War on the Pacific Front; and my uncle, who at 40 left his family to enlist in that same war on the European Front; and my mother's friend who went off to Korea and is still among the MIA; and my cousin, who could have avoided service entirely but instead left grad school to serve 2 tours in Viet Nam; and the young Marine I saw at the VA hospital a few months ago, who was recently back from Afghanistan, paralyzed from the neck down, and could not even speak, but whose smile said everything when I stopped to talk to him for a moment. As I stood there today, listening to Taps as played by the local high school's buglers, I thought of all this. And while I stood thinking, the sun came out, and lighted our Flag, the symbol of our freedoms, of our country, and of all those who have come before and who will come after, to fight for these things, to fight for all of us.

Thank you. All of you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The little things that keep us sane

I have several. It all depends on the situation, and the day.

Some days, it's music. I listen all day at work to WFMT, and some days, it's all that keeps me from swinging from the chandelier.

Some days, it's pretty yarn. I can always take a break and go look at The Loopy Ewe or some of my favorite indie sellers, like Numma Numma or Castle Fibers. If I've actually got some time, I love to go hang out and browse a little at my local yarn shop, String Theory Yarn Co. There's always something pretty there, not to mention people to talk to about yarn and pretty knitting and crochet.

Some days, it's the knitting or crochet itself. And it could be either, depending on what I'm trying to make. Pictures of my WIPs and FOs coming soon.

Some days, it's my pets. They are always there, and while they're usually looking for food, they always love me, no matter what. Even when they're mad at me.

Some days, it's something small. Like the bunny in the partking lot last night who was sitting so still I thought he was a rock. Or the wild flowers in my front lawn in the spring time.

And some days, it's my friends. Who take me as I am and pat me on the head when necessary.

So, do tell. What little things keep YOU sane on any given day? Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Rude people

Why is it that people think they can be inordinately and inappropriately rude to Customer Service reps? Better yet, why do they think it will actually get them anything?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It always comes in bunches

Cranky customers.

Phone calls.

Bad luck.

There never seems to be one instance of any of these things, but always a bunch that come either at EXACTLY the same time, or one right after the other. I just don't get that. Any thoughts on why?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bad luck? Or bad choices?

I have a co-worker. She's really a very nice, caring person. But everything she touches seems to go tremendously wrong. Repairs cost more than anticipated, or contractors run off with all her money and do nothing or leave work undone, or items purchased fall apart and fail dramatically. And it's not just once in a while, it seems like it's everything in her life that goes this way. I really do feel badly for her.

Sometimes, it looks as though it's just bad luck. She'll appear to do everything right: research, get several bids, talk to people and get recommendations, and she's always really excited. Then inevitably, something goes KAFLOOIE and she finds herself stuck in the midst of yet another mess with no sign of an easy way out.

At the same time, I can see how much of her predicament comes from the choices she makes in the first place. It stems from the people she chooses to hire, or from the items she deems necessary, or the way she deals with other people, and the advice she chooses to take or ignore.

So, here's my question for the day: do you know someone like this? Or someone who seems to have everything they touch turn to gold and go so far beyond expectations that it looks as though they can do no wrong? What do you think? Is it blind luck? Or is it a result of free will and the choices that the individual in question makes? Or is it something else entirely?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I sometimes wonder

Ever notice that people love to complain? They seem to complain about everything. And will complain to anyone who happens to be there, even if the complaint has nothing to do with that individual.

Yes, I guess I'm complaining about people complaining. Original, huh?

Sure, I agree, sometimes it's good to vent. Sometimes a complaint is warranted. But sometimes those complaints are way overboard, or directed at people who can not help you and really don't deserve the abuse dished their way. People are very quick to point out the negative, but rarely do they bring up the positive. There are all kinds of anecdotes and studies on how being positive is better for you than being negative. My Da swore by it. You have things that talk about that mystical power of positive thinking, such as this article. Then you have all kinds of information that indicates how positive attitudes can lower stress levels, something that we all could use in these difficult times. And there's even real medical evidence about the long-term health benefits.

And yet, somehow, people seem to find it easier to be negative. They complain about nothing and everything, and grumble and never smile and wonder why they have wrinkles and people aren't friendly towards them.

Here's my challenge to you for today:

FIND SOMETHING TO SING PRAISES ABOUT!! Now, you don't have to necessarily LITERALLY sing (some people might complain if you do, and that's sort of counter to my point), but say something happy. Say something positive. Say something bright. See if you can get smiles from the people around you.

Twenty-Five Reasons I Love Crochet

At the behest of Fearless Leader over on the Crochet Liberation Front blog, I shall post my 25 reasons:

  1. It makes pretty things quickly.
  2. It makes fun things quickly.
  3. There are always new things to be made out of the old. Like taking a pattern for a lace insert or edging and instead of using size 30 cotton, using DK weight yarn and making a beautiful scarf or wrap.
  4. It can not be replicated by machines and thus is always a hand-made work of art.
  5. It always looks complicated, even when it's not.
  6. You are not limited in options of what to work with. Anything will work.
  7. It is always amazing to those around you, especially if they don't know how to do it.
  8. It's easier to change colors mid-row than with knitting.
  9. You can work with REALLY FINE thread fairly easily.
  10. It helps you focus when you need to take your mind off something.
  11. It can turn the mundane into something spectacular.
  12. You can embellish the simplest thing quickly and easily.
  13. It makes the warmest afghans in the universe.
  14. You're truly part of an elite group if you can crochet. (Yes, that is a dare.)
  15. You can crochet anywhere. Though there are inappropriate times.
  16. I can finish something in half the time or less than it would take to knit the same item.
  17. Crochet does not look like knitting.
  18. Even after 40 years, there are occasionally patterns that I look at and think, "What the heck are they talking about?" Not that I can't do it in the end, but the challenge is still there.
  19. Crochet is never unhappy, and does not yell at you for stupid things.
  20. A beautiful finished object makes me REALLY happy. And it doesn't matter if it's my finished object, or someone else's. If it's someone else's, it's inspiration.
  21. Crochet is meditative and calming.
  22. The cat can "help" with yarn control (though it's better to keep the dog away).
  23. There is always something waiting to be made. Or invented. Or designed.
  24. It can be colorful and decorative or it can be practical. Whichever.
  25. Even those who claim to be un-creative can create something with a hook and something to use it on.
There! 25 reasons!

Did I miss anything?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Crochet book review

OK, let me tell you: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book.

It has all kinds of pretty things in it, that give you all kinds of happy ideas to dress up all kinds of mundane wares. I find the directions to be well-written, and I'm always happy with the results! (I've even worked one of the experienced patterns in the small hours of the morning while combating insomnia and have had a beautiful result. That in and of itself speaks highly of the directions!)

So, as soon as I finish my current project which involves embellishment from here, I will put up a picture.

And if you're looking to find it, it's widely available. I highly recommend it as a great addition to any crochet reference library.

Sometimes I wonder about boundaries

I take care of my mom. She's old. And ill. And she's my mom. She's also the epitome of what happens to children for whom everything is done, and who are never told no. At 81 years old, I've seen her hold her breath, cross her arms, glare, and stomp her foot if she didn't get her way. It's rather amusing.

But she's my mom. And mostly she's very entertaining and wonderful. I know that people don't understand the intricacies of this kind of elder care unless they're doing it themselves, so in response to most of the comments and suggestions, I just nod and smile.

Not long ago, though, I was a bit shocked when a neighbor informed me that "Most of the neighborhood thinks there's a special place in heaven for you. We don't know how you put up with your mom."


She's... MY MOM.

Granted, there are days where I wonder myself. But frankly, while I suspect that was somehow meant to be a compliment, it was out of line. Sure, I could use some help, but do these neighbors who wonder how I manage and who somehow find a way to criticize my mom for depending on me ever offer a hand?


Are there people who could make a statement like that and not be out of line? Sure. My cousin is on the allowed list (and has mentioned it once or twice, but she's known my mom all her life, and cared for her own mother, my mom's sister, so she has some background there), as are a few other relatives. My very close friends might say something along the lines of, "You need to get some help" and follow it with truly helpful suggestions on where that might come from. (If they were closer in proximity, they would actually give a hand themselves more often, but they're not.) But would they ever say anything that could be translated, "Boy, you really are something! Your mom is a PITA"?


I'm tellin' you, there are no boundaries, no more common courtesies in this country. Perhaps in the whole world. When things like that can be said and people don't realize how rude they are and how far they've overstepped, it's not a good sign.

I had a dream...

...that my boss handed me half a dozen checks today. All for me.

So, am I thinking I'm getting a raise, or that I'm getting let go?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Today's Random Question

Seen on the back of a bus:

"Is there more to life than this?"

Believe it or not, it was advertising some group that teaches a class on how to live life. Do people really need classes in that? Don't you just go on and do?

So, your thoughts? Is there? Do people really need a class on this? Do you?

Inquiring minds want to know.

I love presents

They generally really cheer me up. Big presents, little presents.... It's all good. And I generally REALLY love presents when Puppy and Kitty leave them for me.

This morning, I came downstairs to a really good present from Kitty.

He's a very GOOD Kitty in that he leaves me such presents in the middle of the living room rug rather than bringing them up to bed with him at 2:00 am. I would truly rather collect them in the morning.

Not that I'm thrilled such presents are there to be left. But I much prefer to collect Kitty's "Self Animating Toys" after they have been broken rather than to have a close encounter with one moving.

Good Kitty! Extra goodsoftfood for you!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why is the rum gone?

It was the question Captain Jack Sparrow asked. A question which, although it had an answer, didn't really, and wasn't meant to be answered. And there are so many variations on this kind of question. For instance:

  1. Why is it raining still/again? (Or not, as the case may be.)
  2. Why is my yard full of FAT robins this year? (Seriously. They're all at least 20% overweight.)
  3. Why are there not footie pajamas for grown ups? (Maybe not for summer, but around here in January, man, they'd be really useful.)
  4. Why does pizza usually taste better cold?
  5. Why is there not more knitting/crocheting/reading time in the day? (Or whatever your relaxing hobby of choice is. For me, I would give those three a resounding YES and add a few other hobbies in there for good measure.)
  6. Why does my lottery ticket never have the winning numbers?
  7. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
  8. Why do the fairies/elves/gnomes never come and clean my house for me?
See? Inquiring minds want to know....

Welcome to My World!

If you've found me, I'm thrilled to meet you. Pull up a seat and fasten your seat belt, it may be a very interesting ride.

What, you may ask, does a Neighborhood Eccentric ponder?

It could be anything. And it could change at any given moment. Without notice. In mid thought, even.

So, grab yourself a cup of whatever suits you, and settle in. It's about to get ... well .... Eccentric!