May 29, 2009


There's been a lot of mail suggesting that Tina and I could have done things better on Tuesday. We're looking into it. Our IT company has launched an investigation, we've got people sorting it... we'll see. We're more than open to constructive criticism, and it's all getting cleaned up. More details below.

But first.. I want to show you something. Look at this. This is the sign-up sheet for STITCHES, right after the sock summit. Now we're bigger - class wise, than Stitches. Scroll through that for a moment. Notice anything? We did. Something we've been noticing for a while. They aren't sold out. Neither is TNNA. The classes at Rhinebeck and Maryland don't always sell out either, and all of these are really big, really well established organizations (or corporations) that have done this a lot, and have nice big reputations. This was our first time out, and with the economy the way it is, we were worried about making it as big as we did. I mean, if those guys aren't sold out, and we make ours bigger... It was a risk - and a pretty arrogant one. (We relied on the power of the sock.)

There were 12 000 people on the "interested" list for Sock Summit. We pointed that out to anyone who would listen, and they all told us that you can expect about 10% of your mailing list to respond. "Ha" we thought. They don't know knitters, and so instead of expecting that 10%, which would have been about 1200, we expected four times that. About 5000.

For months now, Tina and I have been being treated like we're incredibly arrogant and awful human beings for preparing for that. Our friends, families, colleagues and associates have been acting like we smoked some pretty huge SS09 dope. When you rent a conference centre, you have to put down a down payment. It costs a lot of money. We did it anyway. We watched the news about the crashing economy and people losing their jobs and nobody spending any money and we were really, really scared about losing everything on this gamble, but we did it anyway. We believed. We're running an event with more spaces for students than anyone else.

Registration time loomed, and we got a server that people thought was a stupid waste of money. We got it anyway. We primed it to get way, way, way more hits than anyone thought was reasonable. "Thousands of people are going to try" we told them, and we didn't let it go. We made them believe - or at least do it anyway. There's a rumour out there that our IT company let us down... and I don't think so. We built a huge server and a pretty good system and we tested the snot out of it. All things considered, they handled the crash really well, because what happened to our server was so insane that when we saw the raw data we couldn't handle ourselves.

On Tuesday the 26th, at 10amPDT our server got upwards of THIRTY THOUSAND SIMULTANEOUS CONNECTIONS. That is, just to be clear... 30 000.

I am sorry for what happened next, which is that the server slowed to a crawl, then seized helplessly, then had to be rebooted several times (which was hard to do while it was still receiving that load) and some registrations were arsed as a result. When it was finally rebooted and working well (the techs had to break about 19 rules to get it "wide open") a lot of classes reappeared and we had a round two that was a lot better. Mostly, the problems we have now are due to people reacting to the server behaving badly. There are people that the server just didn't let complete the classes, but the people caught in a registration at the time (which was everyone- thousands and thousands) sort of freaked out. (I would have. We're not blaming anyone. When that stuff starts happening you start problem solving.) They used the back button (which was a no-no and gave some people extra classes) they registered twice because they weren't sure if the first one went through, and if we told you the number of mistakes (from rushing and frustration) in peoples registrations, you wouldn't believe it. Names, addresses, emails... lots of typos, and these create extra problems all their own.


This means we aren't going to be putting up the page where you can search for your registration, because it isn't a "for sure" way of telling what's going on. When we were testing it we had a lot of trouble, and realized that if we put it up, what's going to happen is that people are going to search, not find themselves, figure they aren't there and freak out. Meanwhile, they are there, they just have a typo or glitch. We've decided to make sure that everything is accurate by doing it all MANUALLY, ourselves. That means that if you have trouble, you should write to us on the Contact us page with as many details as you can, and we'll sort it. If you already wrote us, we're on it. The first refunds went out today, and we have all our staff working only on this, and we hired more staff, and the IT company is lending us staff. It should go fast, but please be patient. We'll sort everybody out as best we can, as quickly as we can. The good news about duplicates is that there may be some open slots coming up on the website. Haunt the place, you might get lucky yet.

Now. A final word. We are very sorry if you are disappointed that the server crash made things more complicated for you. We feel your pain, we assure you. It was our server, we accept responsibility for its behaviour and at our own expense, we will fix all of it's mistakes. (Great. Just what we needed. Another teenager.) I assure you however, that even with the server working perfectly (and we're hearing from IT types that they aren't sure if you can have any server perform well under that strain) 30 000 connections competing for (about) 4000 spots within 5 minutes meant that no matter what, there were going to be a lot of disappointed people. Servers that work perfectly don't make more spots appear.

In exchange for doing our level best, putting down the cash to start this up and sweating blood to make it happen, including getting a bigger, better tested server than anyone said we needed.... Tina and I have had some really, really terrible mail. I'm not going to go into details, I'm just going to let you know that we've both cried more in the last few days that we ever have. We agree childbirth is better, and we're both no-drug/homebirthers. This email isn't just disappointed. It's hateful, some of it is threatening, and we are asking nicely for it to stop. We want to hear from you. We will solve all of the problems to the best of our ability, but from now on, if we get an email that is overtly threatening, cruel, deliberately mean or wholly abusive, it will get moved to the bottom of the pile. This is not as punishment, it is because our staff (who are our friends) can no longer bear to read it, and we don't want to make them. Tina and I will do all of those ourselves.

We'd like you to remember, before you email... that your problem is that you didn't get into a knitting conference. It is actually not like Tina and I napalmed a village of orphan babies and then ate their puppies and it is up to you to exact revenge.

Some quick answers.

-No. We can't make it bigger. It's the biggest ever, it's really big, and there isn't more room at the Conference Centre, and we actually don't have a responsibility to make sure everyone can fit. A knitting conference for tens of thousands of knitters isn't a reasonable thing to ask of us. I couldn't get tickets for the last Prince concert even though it was really important to me and I was really, really looking forward to it. I have worked through my pain, and I did it without emailing the man and saying nasty things or implying that he should be better to me.

-No. We can't get the bigger ballroom at the Art Museum. It's is booked, and has been since we tried to book it before.

- No. We can't put more students in all the classes. Class size is dictated by the teachers. That's industry standard, and if the classes were any bigger you would just be sad that the classes were so big you couldn't learn in them.

- No. We can't get Barbara Walker to do some extra lectures. She's almost 80, and a retired and extraordinarily well respected matriarch of our community. We won't be exhausting her.

- No. we don't agree that we are horrible people because you didn't get what you wanted.
We are very, very sorry you are disappointed. We are even sorrier about the server crash, because it made what we now understand was inevitable - a lot of disappointed knitters, a lot of disappointed knitters who think that if the server hadn't crashed it would have worked out for them. The server slowed down for all of you. It crashed for all of you. Nobody got an advantage and we're heartbroken that you're sad. Write to us. We're helping everyone as best as we can. Really. While we don't think we're horrible, we know that this feels horrible, and we want to make as many people happy as we can.

It is a very good thing my friends, that we love knitters the way we do, because a few thousand bad skeins are sorely testing our patience. For every one of you who wrote to us with sympathy and intelligence (and there are way more of you than the other).. Thank you. We appreciate your patience, we are very sorry, we're working really fast, and we're getting it fixed - but demand outstripped supply way more than we could have realistically predicted. It's like the tickle-me-Elmo of knitting conventions, and you couldn't have surprised us more.
Thank you for the compliment. We'll earn it.

Now, if you don't mind, I'm putting this topic down long enough to go do a book event in Plano, Texas (I had Austin last night, what a gas) and tomorrow I'll tell you all about it. Austin kept up it's reputation for weird.

Posted by Stephanie at 6:18 PM

May 26, 2009

Settling Dust

Just a quickie, because we're still hard at work here. We're really tired, but we're going to keep going. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. For everyone who experienced a glitch, and everyone who didn't. Thank you. We're doing our best to sort out some of the remaining troubles. We know that some people who used the "back" button on their browsers ended up with double classes (See? We told you the back button was bad) and we know that a few other people are wondering if they are registered or not because their email didn't arrive. We know that even a few more of you registered twice because you panicked, which we totally get. We'd like to ask you to do three things for now.

1. Stop. Relax as much as you can. The classes are mostly sold out now, (For real) Things might open up as we resolve the few problems above, but mostly, we believe that the way things look now are the way things are. We know there are problems, we are working on solutions for everyone, and we'll post as soon as we have simple ways to sort them. Our IT guy is busting himself creating a page for you to log in and check what you got and make sure you're all right. We're still working.

2. Please wait until that page goes up to send us a complaint. Could be you don't really have a problem yet, and sending us "Contact us" mail about it now only means that we're not going to be able to tell who really has a problem and who got solved by the check page. Let's do that first, and then we'll deal with every single person as fast as we can. We didn't sleep last night, we're not sleeping tonight - we haven't even had a meal yet today. Promise. You are, and have been our priority for more than 36 hours.

3. IF YOU DID NOT GET A CONFIRMATION EMAIL, GO CHECK YOUR SPAM FILTERS. Look around. See if it's there. Many of you are confirmed, but had the email bounce back to us. This could be because your email security rejected us, because it's caught in the spam filter or, and I hate to say this but we can already tell there are quite a few of them... people who spelled their email addresses wrong, because they were rushing.

If you think maybe you spelled your email wrong, don't panic. The check system will let you find your registration, correct your email and get the confirmation mailed to you again.

I repeat. Do not panic. I know that this has been really hairy. (Trust me, we know. Oh - boy do we know.) We're very sorry for any anxiety or upset the server overload is causing you. Our apologies.

Posted by Stephanie at 7:33 PM


Keep trying to register. It is not all sold out.. The classes looked like they were full because the server was overwhelmed. It's not now. Keep checking back.

(Please spread the word. I don't want people giving up and being sad when there's no need now.)

Posted by Stephanie at 2:20 PM

We know

It's 10:05 PDT. We know. The traffic just crashed the server.

For (*&^%$#@'s sake. You would think that if you stay up all night testing something you could trust it.
Please stand by,

We're really sorry. We're upset too. We can't tell you how much we were assured this server was big enough. (Apparently there's a problem with "traffic handling" )There's a lot of geeks working really fast.

Again, Sorry. If it makes you feel better, we're in hell.

Edited to Add: This should be moving better, and we have our guy on speakerphone, and he keeps saying "Wow. This is amazing. Wow. This is incredible." Then he makes this weird little laugh and babbles, and laughs again. He's even got a nervous giggle. When he does that, then we all laugh sort of hysterically.

I think we're back on track.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:09 PM

May 25, 2009

The Up Side

Unless you've done it, I don't think that I can adequately describe to you what it is like to fly with a head cold. I had two flights yesterday, Toronto to Vancouver, then Vancouver to Portland, and right at the beginning of the first flight, when the air pressure rendered me really painfully deaf in both ears - and it stayed that way until about seven hours after I landed... I started to try and think of what it was like and how I would explain it. All descriptions failed me. It was awful. Horrendous. Anyone who's ever flown with a sealed bag of chips and watched it puff up as you gained altitude.. or anyone who's watched their sealed half-drunk bottle of water caved in on itself as you landed now has a pretty good idea of the impact of pressure on stuff. Now imagine that your head is full of stuff, and that the sealed containers are your sinuses and ears and let your imagination go wild. Enough said. It's a painful and unattractive interval that I'm trying to leave behind me. In fact, the only good thing about the flight yesterday, was that it was hours of knitting time, and when I wasn't trying to sleep (I was high as a kite on decongestants) I did knit. Just enough to finish a pretty pair of socks, and that was totally the only up side.


These are the very, very pretty Niagara socks from The Eclectic Sole, knit in C*eye*ber Fiber sock yarn in "Maybelle". I only made one modification, which was to change the heel to my standard one. (I'm a little stuck in my ways.)


Sock pictures courtesy of Tina, which is awesome, because my camera is still broken and also it is very hard to take pictures of your own feet. Tina and I are holed up in a hotel, doing the final testing on the registration system for Sock Summit, since registration goes live tomorrow morning at 10am PDT. We're trying hard to stay focused, when we're really pretty scared. It's really hard to have your fate rest in the hands of a computer server and a whack of code. We've tried to think of everything. We've impressed upon the tech people involved that there are more knitters than they think (no matter what they think) but when push comes to shove it's still a server that you're relying on, not something reliable or loyal - like a person. It's a new server. It's a big server. It's a well tested server and we are tormenting it in lots of ways to make sure it works well tomorrow, but... well. Tomorrow is tomorrow, and servers are servers, and that's really stressful. A little while ago when there was a wee glitch, I actually started compiling a small pile of items that I thought the server would like (a pair of handknit socks, a USB key, a data cd...) that I could burn in a small sacrificial fire to try and appease it. (It didn't come to that, but I was willing to take it that far.) It doesn't help at all that the only things two knitters can do if a server glitches is sit around trying not to say really unforgivably terrible things to the tech people, while alternately hysterically laughing and wondering if that numbness in their right arms is stress or an actual heart attack.

Cross your needles for us.. will ya? We've made such a good plan.

(ps. My cold is much better today.)

Posted by Stephanie at 7:39 PM

May 22, 2009

Rest day

My suitcase finally showed up last night, which was very good news. I wasn't particularly bummed about losing the clothes, but there's some really good knitting/yarn/fibre stuff in there that would have broken my heart to lose. I was going to show you all that, plus everything that I knit while I was away, but I woke up this morning with a miserable cold (Flying and travel. Does it every time) and I fly again on Sunday, so I'm taking a part of a day off. I'm making tea, I'm using what little energy I have to have to do a few Sock Summit things with Tina (did you hear? Registration is Tuesday and I got up all of the homework and materials lists on the individual classes) and then, then I think I am going to do the only reasonable thing for a sick knitter to do.


Garter stitch. Plain good garter stitch, in simple good wool.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:26 PM

May 21, 2009

Things I like about Alabama

(I suppose including all of Alabama in this isn't really fair, since I've only seen a little tiny bit of it, but oh well. It's really probably all this pretty. )

1. Live Oaks.


I know, I know. Everybody who lives near me is saying "live oak? What are our plain old oaks then? Dead Oaks?", but it turns out that they are called Live Oaks because they don't lose their leaves in the winter. (Or what passes for a winter here.) They are the most graceful and beautiful thing. I love them.

2. The Alabama coast.


I know, I know. Everybody who lives near me is saying "Alabama has a coast?" and it sure does. You just really have to squint at the map to see it. There's one little bit there on the left that runs down to the water and Mobile Bay, and that's where I was. It's lovely. Very lovely.

3. There are rocking chairs and swinging chairs all over the place, exactly like everyone expects you to sit down.


4. It is warm. I understand that this is a regular occurrence.

5. It is very bright and pretty and green and there are lots of flowers. (I have had it explained to me that this is the case - unbelievably, for much of the year. Even February. For all us Canadians who are just about to come up to their safe planting date, know that in Mobile, Alabama it is FEBRUARY 27TH. I can't even think of it.)


5. Pelicans. (I have no picture, but they are cool. I think one of them has been following me.)

6. Spanish moss. (It isn't dead. That's the colour of it.) It drips from trees everywhere here.


7. The concept and largely successful execution of "Dress shorts".

8. Knitters, and Page and Palette bookstore.

(click to embiggen)


This was a really nice gathering. It moved along at a bit of a breakneck speed because the shop closed at 8:00, but we made absolutely the most of it. This is Dianne R - who brought me a fantastic Mississippi washcloth, and who has fallen victim to my camera viewfinder issue and appears here really far left.


Meet Susan and her first sock, and Amanda and the Mardi Gras yarn that she dyed for me, because she convinced me that Mobile Alabama is the oldest Mardi Gras celebration.

Click to embiggen


This is Martha, who put a lovely review of my book on Amazon a long time ago (I have read it many times and have always felt that Martha is on my side.)


Finally - this is Ann Marie, and when it was her turn to have me sign her book, she held out a personalized pencil so I could see how to spell it.


This alone would have been the cutest thing ever, except that Ann Marie went on to explain that when she was in the third grade, her mother (clearly overexcited for a moment) ordered five hundred (yup. 500) personalized pencils. Ann Marie (and her family, friends, colleagues, associates, acquaintances) have all been using the little Ann Marie pencils for years... with no end in sight. She's in Nursing school now, and still entirely beset by Ann Marie pencils. I love that. I don't know why, but I love it. It speaks to a maternal affection that I can't quite describe, but adore. 500 pencils with your name on it. That's love.

There's much more to love about Alabama, I'm sure, but I wasn't there long enough to get a handle on it. I'm writing this from a plane- winging my way back home to Toronto, looking forward to getting there. I missed Victoria Day while I was gone, and I missed everyone a lot this go 'round. I can't wait to get there.

I'll miss my pelican though.

(PS. I think I am taking some pretty awesome pictures, broken screen considered.)

(PPS. Landed last night, after a delay in Mobile and a really quick plane change in Atlanta, and discovered that I have no baggage. Thanks Mercury.)

Posted by Stephanie at 8:34 AM

May 19, 2009

Thanks a lot Mercury

The other day, after I had such a time with the airline, and my camera broke... I got a comment from Heidi who said:

As an astrologer, I feel the need to point out: Mercury is retrograde. THAT'S what you can blame the whole mess on. (Okay, maybe the airline is run by people with brains the size of walnuts, but besides that.) Anyway, it's not unusual during a Mercury retrograde period to have challenges with travel, communication, and technical hoo-hah.

Well, that certainly could explain a lot. Although, have you noticed that really, doesn't it seem like Mercury is in retrograde a lot? Every time something happens to me like this someone says it's Mercury, and really, I love the way that Heidi says "challenges" instead of "problems bigger than the stash of knitting book writer" - but I am really starting to hate Mercury and it's stupid retrograde. (In looking to see when Mercury might come out of retrograde, I learned that this may especially annoy me because I am a Gemini. I am particularly annoyed, so there might be something to all this.) So far my challenges have included: The doomed first flight, the broken camera, a delayed flight (in an airport with a bar but no bank machine, Mercury, thy name is airport) and then a late arrival to my hotel and a bit of a scramble to the event at Fox Tale Books in Woodstock, just outside of Atlanta. That means that I've had trouble with travel, and technical hoo-hah (as Heidi so aptly puts it) but I seem to be unscathed in the communication department, which is awesome. I was wondering when that one might lower its boom on me, while I was charging around getting ready, trying to find some clothes that were reasonable and a way to beat my hair down into submission, when a loud argument burst out in the hotel room next to mine.

I'm unclear on many of the details- despite the volume, but it would seem that a man named Jason and his female companion were experiencing communication difficulties on my behalf. Apparently Jason "doesn't understand" a whole lot of things, and his female companion has "had it" (although this did not prevent her from trying to communicate with Jason further.) The entire argument culminated, seconds before I left for the event, with the lady (and I use that term loosely) screaming at the top of her lungs, that Jason needed to "choose between me and Jesus!" I left smiling, thinking... essentially... "Good luck with that Jason."

I headed down to the waiting cab, thinking that I had now seen trouble with travel, trouble with technology and trouble with communication and feeling that certainly, Mercury was done with me. I had an hour to get to an event 20 minutes away, my cabbie was a charming guy, Jason was taking the Mercury thing on for me, and all was well in the world. I took out my knitting and had a little chuckle, because really, it was starting to be funny. I mean, c'mon - at some point you just have to have a wee giggle when you're being a ball in the billiard game of life. I knit on my sock, feeling like the curse was lifted, until 40 minutes later, when it occurred to me that it was odd that I was getting a LOT of knitting done


(Sorry. Camera still broken. Bad picture of the Niagara sock from the Eclectic Sole, and C*eye*ber Fiber sock yarn.)

and then it further occurred to me that it was also it was also a little odd that I was still in the car 40 minutes after the beginning of a 20 minute ride. Turns out that dude is lost. Totally lost. We call the bookstore and find out that not only are we lost, we are another 20 minutes away from the event ,and that means that I'm going to be late, and I tried hard to stay calm, but I hate being late, and I really hate hating cabbies, on account of they're only human, and it's probably not the cabbies fault anyway... I mean, Mercury is in retrograde for him too and it's gotta especially suck to have travel "challenges" if all your days are travel. I knit more, I took deep breaths, I remembered that this tour is just like this, and that fighting it will only make it last longer, and I arrived at the event 5 minutes late. The FoxTale people and The Whole Nine Yarns people were kind enough to pretend that they didn't care at all (aren't they sweet?) and I used the loo, shuffled paper for a minute, and walked out to see some of Georgia's finest knitters.


See? They don't even look angry about the lateness. (I'm hoping that Mercury made some of them late too - so maybe they didn't even notice.) I kinneared the nice lady explaining about kinnearing


I met them up close, I saw their first socks and took remarkably good pictures, considering the screwed up screen

(Click to embiggen)


(my apologies for not having names... that communication thing may have finally caught up with me and I took leave of my senses and thought - get this that I would remember their names without writing them down. What was I thinking? I crack me up.) I even put knitting needles in the hands of a baby...


Who didn't even wake up for the occasion. (I think it might have meant more to her mother and I. Babies care nothing for tradition.)


I saw the great Whole Nine Yarns yarn car and I enjoyed a nice dinner with some lovely knitters before they drove me back to the hotel. I was thinking then, that it had all gone so well that maybe the curse on this was lifted. That maybe it was all over, because really, there's only so long Mercury can mess with you before you're just done, when on the way back to the hotel...

We got lost. I apologized to them. Clearly, these poor knitters were just caught in the crossfire between me and Mercury. They kept saying "It's not your fault, don't be silly... we got bad directions" but these are competent knitters. There's no way someone who can run a yarn shop and knit the shawl she was wearing would have gotten lost if it weren't my fault, so I'm not letting her take the heat. It's me. I know it.

I left there reluctantly, partly because both the bookstore and the yarn shop had been so lovely to me, and partly because I was worried about what Mercury had planned for me next. I limped off to the airport, and lo and behold
all that's happened to me is that I got even more knitting time. No trouble with the airplane, no trouble with the airport, no trouble getting to the hotel.

I think the curse is lifted, but don't you think Jason probably took one for the team?
Today I'm in Fairhope Alabama, going to speak/sign tonight at what's reportedly a lovely independent bookstore here, Page & Palette. Thanks to Jason, I bet it's going to go great. I wonder what he chose?

Posted by Stephanie at 12:49 PM

May 16, 2009

Roll with the punches

Greetings from the Melbourne, Florida airport, where I am waiting for a flight. (It would seem my name is fine today, and the only issue now is that the flight is delayed. I am under a curse, but am working hard not to care.)

I would seem, little butterflies, that I was entirely premature with the "broken camera" statement. It turns out that the camera itself works just fine - it is the the screen, and only the screen that is broken, and the screen really is broken. As you can see, the only display the camera gives me is this one:


(I took that picture just now with my computer camera.) See that? White screen, with black blotches and tiny black, red and blue lines. (I bet you can't see those, but they are there. Clearly, very, very broken. Now, since this camera doesn't have a viewfinder, just a screen, this means that I really can't see what I'm taking pictures of, and this really, really upset me until I realized that the camera is still taking pictures. It's taking them perfectly. I just don't know what they look like until I download them on the computer and look at them. I discovered this while talking with Rachel H on the phone at the airport yesterday, and she cheered me right up by pointing out that this is now a perfect camera for Kinnearing. The minute she said it, I realized she was right. This is now entirely a Kinnear Camera. If the purpose of Kinnearing is to take a picture of someone without looking so that they don't notice, then this is now perfect, because now it is impossible to look. I could be taking a picture of anything! It could be out of focus, it might not have the subject in it, it could be crooked, I mean, it's totally a crap shoot now. I can keep taking pictures, but there is nothing in it but the element of surprise. Now, I sort of like surprises.. so this is what I did. I kept taking pictures anyway. I took pictures of Joe's sister Kelly when she came to visit me yesterday at the time of the great airport waiting (she works at the airport):


I took pictures of the sweater in the bathroom - because heck. Maybe they would work out...


but they didn't. Fortunately for me, I didn't know that they didn't work out until just now, which means that I went boldly forth taking pictures between then and now, and didn't give it another thought. There was nothing I could do, so I did nothing. I arrived in Vero Beach last night at 2:30am and fell into the bed without getting undressed. In the 13 seconds of consiousness I had before I was asleep, I thought I heard the sea... so this morning when I got up, I went over to the window and looked out, and this is what I saw:


(See that? I kinneared the ocean. Worked great.) I took a bath, I packed my stuff back up, I drank a quick cup of coffee, checked email, pulled out my notes for where to go and what to do, and realized that I had an extra 15 minutes to spare, so I walked to the sea.


What a beautiful place... and hot and sunny (really hot, really sunny) and I rolled up my pants and walked along the beach until my 9 remaining minutes were up, then went back inside, grabbed my suitcase and went off to speak at Vero Beach Books for 11:00, with my jeans soaked with seawater from the knees down. (I like to think that people understood. It was the ocean.)


I tried to take a sock picture with the knitters there, but it turns out that didn't go as well -


since I only got some of them in. (Sorry. The sock looks bad too.) Then I took a picture of Tracy and Sarah:


(That one went really well, didn't it?)

and I totally kinneared Lisa and her first socks (one of which is a ladies large, and the other child sized)


but I only got the socks and her lovely daughter in the picture. Sorry Tracy. If it's any consolation, the parts of your body that I got in that picture look really great.

In any event, I'm going to be making lemonade of of lemons. The kinnear camera is on the road. Next stop,
Foxtale Books.

Posted by Stephanie at 4:39 PM

May 15, 2009

In which I try not to complain

I really believe that you get more of what you pay attention to. This has been my theory for some time now, and it has proved true with toddlers, teenagers, money and yarn. In keeping with this theory, I try not to complain, or focus on the crappy things that happen to everybody. It's just crap, and it does happen to everybody, and complaining about it really only makes things crappier and makes sure that you spread it to more people.
Generally speaking, I am proud of my ability to do this, and think that it serves me well.

That said... HOLY ÎÏ©∑´®†Á¨ˆØ!!!! THIS HAS BEEN A CRAPPY DAY.

I am still in Toronto. (If you are in Florida, don't freak out. I have a flight. Everything is cool now.) I have been at the airport for approximately seven hours, and I have a couple to go. It all began innocently enough, when I sidled up to the check in counter of an Airline-Whom-I-Shall-Not-Name-Because-I-Am-Too-Angry-To-Give-Them-The-Google-Hits, and started to check in. The lady at the counter tried to check me in using my name, and then told me I wasn't booked on the flight to Florida.
I gave her my confirmation number.
She found my reservation, asked for my passport, took it, and frowned. Here's where it gets weird. Apparently the computer (or someone) of the AWISNNBIATATGTTGH had an issue with my hyphenated last name, and it handled it by splitting my name into two parts, and assigning Pearl as my middle name, and McPhee as my last name, and thus creating a situation where the name on the ticket did not match the name on my passport and created a situation so grave that I could not be allowed on a plane.

Now, this has happened to me before. It's a peril of the hyphen, and a burden I have learned to bear. Whenever this has happened in the past, the person at the desk says "Oh my goodness. It's obvious what happened there. Silly hyphen problems. I can see all of your names are there, so off you go." This is always what happens. I fly a lot, and this is ALWAYS what happens. This morning though, this morning it meant that I couldn't get onto a flight to Florida, not unless the name on the ticket was changed. I asked her to check with her supervisor, her supervisor confirmed that I was hosed, and that I was absolutely going nowhere unless my name was corrected.

That seems frustrating, but simple, if my name is wrong on the ticket, please change it.
AWISNNBIATATGTTGH says I can't change it. It is a security risk to allow people to change the names on their tickets.

I smile. I reassure the nice lady. I point out that I don't want to change the name, not really. Really, I just want to move my names. All my names are there. They are even in the right order. I don't want to change my name, I just want to shuffle Pearl from my middle name there -- over there to the next box, next to McPhee. Simple, yes?

No. That's a name change. They can't change it. I cant change it. Only the agent who booked it can change it.
I call Andrews McMeel (who are the agent who booked it and also eight flavours of awesome through the whole thing) and tell them what's happening. They check the original booking, and find that while they provided my name correctly, and yay, verily, it is even correct on their receipt, something has shifted in the AWISNNBIATATGTTGH computer. We agree that this is crazy pie, but that it sounds simple to fix.
They call AWISNNBIATATGTTGH and point out that all of my names appear on the ticket. (This, it turns out is sheer folly, since I had already tried the superweapon of logic on AWISNNBIATATGTTGH, and they were undefeated.) AWISNNBIATATGTTGH replies that it does not matter, since my last name on the ticket is McPhee, and McPhee is not my last name. (On this, we all agree.)

For my part, while they are on the phone with the lady from AWISNNBIATATGTTGH, I pull out various pieces of ID with my name on it, and brandish the sword of calmness and information. It is fruitless.

Kathy from Andrews McMeel eventually figures this out too, after a very, very noble attempt to be sensible in the face of it all, and she finally snaps, and tells the AWISNNBIATATGTTGH lady (who is now on the phone with AWISNNBIATATGTTGH head office and Kathy, one phone to each ear) to forget it. The name is wrong. It does not matter why or how it is wrong, the degree of wrongness doesn't matter. We get that we can't change it. (The reasons for this are unclear, but the name now cannot be changed. Possibly because there are about 14 seconds until the flight closes. Who knows.) Kathy tells them to forget the ticket. That ticket is dead to us. We don't know any McPhee lady and we don't want to. We wipe the slate clean and say that we would like to buy a ticket to Florida please... a whole new ticket. A ticket that has nothing to do with the other ticket, and the lady from AWISNNBIATATGTTGH smiles a little, because she has won on the name thing, and then she says:

"Sorry. There are no seats available on that flight. "

It is at this point that my recollection becomes a little hazy, mostly because I broke rule number one, which is that you get more of what you pay attention to, and because I broke rule number two at the same time, which is "the antidote for crazy is calm". I wig out. I try to explain that I know that they have a seat on that flight, because I HAVE A TICKET. Sure, it has some McPhee lady's name on it, but just the same, we know that there is a spot on that flight because...we re-iterate... WE HAVE A TICKET. Please, we beg, because really, the flight to Florida is going to leave and I am not going to make it and I am starting to really lose it a little.... Please. Cancel this crazy McPhee lady's ticket. That will free up one space, and then you will have a space to sell to me. See? Easy. Totally easy, super easy. I try calm logic (despite the fact that AWISNNBIATATGTTGH is clearly immune) and I try not to look like the frustrated totally strung out lady who's been arguing about her last name and waiting in various lines and on hold and for someone at AWISNNBIATATGTTGH to use the higher functions of their brains for 85 minutes, and I smile.

The lady at AWISNNBIATATGTTGH does not smile. the lady at AWISNNBIATATGTTGH says that this is not how it works. That the flight is oversold. That means that there are people at the gate waiting to get a spot, and that the minute that she releases the McPhee ticket, it will be issued to one of those people, because... wool help us all...

Those people have been waiting and hoping to get a ticket.

It is at this point that I walked away. I walked away, and Kathy and I had a quick chat, and I called my sister in law who works for Air Canada, and I said "Kelly, get me the hell to Florida" and Kelly texted me everything I needed to know, and I took that info to a really awesome lady at the AC counter who sold me a ticket and helped me sort it, and Kathy switched up all the ground transportation and hotel and stuff, and I went and sat in a corner of the airport and had a little rest, and I really started to feel better. I remembered that all's well that ends well, and that you get more of what you pay attention to, and Kelly called and said that she'd come into work a little early and have coffee with me, and I worked a little bit, and then I decided that maybe I would feel better if I washed my face and freshened up, and I went to the loo.

While I was in there, congratulating myself for my formidable ability to let go and move on, I thought, you know what I should do? I should take a couple of pictures of my new sweater for the blog, and I took out my iphone, and tried a couple in the bathroom mirror and they were pretty crappy, so I got out my proper camera to take a better one... and

My camera is broken. The screen on the back is totally arsed. Finished... Totalled. I didn't drop it, I didn't bump it, it was working last night... All I can figure is that at some point in the day I got angry enough to psychically damage electronics. I'm still trying to figure out how to blame AWISNNBIATATGTTGH for it. I'm leaving 10 hours late for a book tour with a broken camera, and I love that camera, and it's expensive to replace, and I've had it.

Philosophy or not, it's a crappy day. I quit. I am not going to try and do anything except drink beer, go to another country and knit for the rest of the day. If you see me, don't make eye contact.

(Edited later to add: Sorry guys. I'm getting absolutely spammed to death on this entry so I've had to close comments. I'll try opening them later. Rat bastards. The irony of it all.)

Posted by Stephanie at 7:09 PM

May 13, 2009

Just a little game I play

I am starting to think that I write these to-do lists because I am deliberately attempting to lower my own self-esteem by coming up short every day. I mean, what in wool's name provokes me to make them so unreasonable. Tomorrow I'm going to make one that has things on it like:

1. Drink coffee
2. Go to the bathroom at least once.
3. Eat.
4. Feel like I don't know what I'm doing when it comes to parenting teenagers.
5. Ignore ring in bathtub, claiming that I have no idea what could cause such a thing, and claiming ignorance of solution.
6. Knit.
7. Ignore ringing phone because I am dealing with whatever the last ringing phone set me on.
8. Convince self that I am wearing same tee-shirt three days in a row not because I am trying to save laundry time, but because it is my "look".
9. Order pizza.
10. Look at some yarn.

That list wouldn't get me any closer to a finished Sock Summit, a finished book or putting my arse out the door for a little book tour, but at least I would get the satisfaction of actually crossing things off. Can you imagine. Eat. DONE. Look at yarn. DONE. Ignore phone. DONE. By the end of the day I would be rocking it out. Feeling like a million bucks. I could get that list done, my friends, and that night when I lay in bed thinking about it, I would be a winner.
I wouldn't have to think about the fact that I can't show you my new sweater because I couldn't find a bra this morning before all the photographers left. I wouldn't have to show you this shawl that I was sure would be finished...


Miralda, from Knitted Lace of Estonia, going well but still not DONE.


and I wouldn't have to be two days away from walking out the door with a list that never changes from day to day. Doesn't matter what I do, same number of things on it. No sir. Tomorrow I'm putting "chastise the cat" and "think about having some juice" on the list...because I'm a winner, darn it, and some things just need to be done.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:40 PM

May 11, 2009

Efficient Intent

I mean for many things to go well this week. (Stop that laughing. I have things go well all the time. Especially if they are not knitting.) I'm starting another busy time, and I'm making a little list of things to be done before I start my sprints again. (Man. I just got a little nauseous there.)

1. Finish the sweater so that I have something new and knitty to wear in Florida and Alabama this weekend.


(This is actually done, but the sweater is damp and finishing blocking and until it's blocked it doesn't count as finished because I can't wear it. Still, the odds that it will dry before Friday are fairly good, assuming that Toronto gives it up with it's impression of a city with a monsoon season. )

2. Work hard on ignoring the fact that while it is still really sweater weather here, I'm pretty sure that Florida and Alabama are past wool at this stage. I am wearing the new sweater. It is my plan. I have even imagined a little thing in my head where I think "shall I bring my coat to Florida and Alabama?" and the voice in my head answers and says "No, I'm sure it's spring there. Just bring the sweater."

3. Post details of tour on this page because people are saying that they can't see the new schedule on the tour page. (It's really there. Try clearing your cache and looking again. I promise that it's not possible for me to post it for some people and not for others. It is there.) In the meantime, while (like me) you have to find out what a cache is and how to clear it, here it is:

May 16 - Vero Beach, FLA. 11-1, Vero Beach Books, "Coffee with Stephanie", Vero Beach Books Center, 2145 Indian River Blvd, Vero Beach, FL 32960

May 17 - Atlanta 1:00 p.m. FoxTale Books. Event location: Cherokee Recreation and Parks Agency (CRPA) 7545 Main Street, Bldg. 200, Woodstock, GA 30188. (A $15 ticket includes admission to the event as well as $10 in coupons redeemable at FoxTale Book Shoppe and The Whole Nine Yards, a yarn store next to the bookstore.)

May 19 - Fairhope, AL. 6:00- 8:00pm, Page & Palette 32 South Section Street. Fairhope, AL 36532

May 28 - Austin, TX. 7 pm, BookPeople, 603 North Lamar Blvd. Austin, Texas 78703

May 29 - Dallas, TX. 7:30 pm, Legacy Books, 7300 Dallas Parkway, Suite A120. Plano, TX 75024

June 4-6 - Saskatchewan, Canada, 2008 Saskatchewan Stitches Conference. May 30 to June 7, 2009

St. Peter’s Abbey , Muenster, For information, call 1-800-344-6024.
I'll be giving a lecture Saturday, June 6 at 7:30 p.m. Cost: $15.00 (no charge for conference participants)
and teaching classes.

4. Since I am going to Florida and Alabama (and then Texas) which all seem to me to be the sorts of places where it will be warm, I need to find the time to bring my summer clothes up from the basement. I may need them. (And the sweater.)

5. I need to go get my hair cut. I am not particularly vain about how I look (or I suppose I would own a lipstick) but when I see pictures of myself after events like this I am always crushed that I couldn't be bothered to even get a hair cut. I am going to try harder this time. (I am still not wearing lipstick though. I have to draw the line somewhere. I have a suspicion that this may make me the only woman in Dallas not wearing lipstick, but I can live with the shame - and I may be wrong about that anyway. All I know about Dallas I learned from the show.)

6. I have to figure out what to knit on the plane.
Yesterday I finished the first plain sock in Luxury,


and today the ribbing is done on the second one and obviously I need to be prepared for a new project on the plane. Maybe the shawl....

7. Oh, wait. I turned my attention to the shawl when I finished the sweater, so it might be done by Friday too.
Crap. Okay. I'll think on this.

8. Clean this place up so that Joe stands a chance while I'm gone. There should at least be a nod to spring cleaning. At this point I believe that the nod may be emptying the trash in the bathroom. C'est la vie.

9. Get my bike fixed because my left brake grabs if I use it, and since I do not for a second, believe that I am the sort of person who can remember not to use her left brake, I smell disaster looming.

10. Clear up the garden, since in-between jaunts I'll have just a little time to slam the beast into the ground.

I think that's it. Is that it? I don't know if that's it. The week feels overwhelming and suddenly I feel badly for having allowed the family to take me to the movies yesterday, even though I had a nice time.... Wanna guess what we saw?


Now. To quote EZ...


Posted by Stephanie at 12:12 PM

May 7, 2009

That Magic Moment

I know that this is going to be another one of those times that a non-knitter reads the blog and shakes their head sadly that I could even be capable of this sort of incomprehensible thought, but I'm just going to let fly with it.

I am just at the most exciting moment with this sweater.


Cabled cardigan (#19) - that's a Ravelry link, from Vogue Fall 2006, knit out of Cascade Ecological wool.

Some people like the beginning, of a sweater. They like choosing their yarns, checking the pattern, the cool feeling of having the whole thing stretch before them... the sparkly new beginning when a whole project is filled with possibility. It makes them feel full of hope.

Some people like the middle, doing the real work. They are process knitters, and they love the meat and potatoes of churning out the body of the knitting. It makes them feel accomplished and competent to watch it all happen.

Some people, they like having the finished thing. They don't like the other parts as much, for them the fun body of the work also has worry and indecision. Their knitting is about making something, and the majority of their happiness and fulfillment happens when they have made it.

Me, I like this part, I've knit the two fronts, the back, the two sleeves and I've picked up all the stitches around the fronts and back for the great big collar. I am almost done, and almost done is my favourite way to be. Right now, I've had the pleasure of choosing the possibilities, the satisfaction of watching the work grow, and the fulfillment of having the end in sight...

but I haven't actually finished, tried it on, and found out what the *&^%$# is wrong with it.

See? Right now, that sweater is perfect. I love this part.

Posted by Stephanie at 2:00 AM

May 5, 2009

Appliance Wars V.29

Sometime in the last week the dishwasher, which had been limping along with intermittent doses of "percussive maintenance" ( which here may be defined as Joe alternately shaking and kicking the thing) entirely gave up and quit with even the pretence of draining. Joe and I cursed, swore, brandished a screwdriver at it, looked at 87 websites on dishwasher repair (again) and finally declared that we were going to have to hire a repair guy. Then we looked at our bank account and washed dishes by hand until the reek coming from the appliance in question at least brought home that we were going to have to have it looked at - and before it spawned a new life form.

This morning I picked an appliance guy out of the book based on the fact that he was in my neighbourhood, and awaited his arrival with bated breath. Joe and I had several conversations about "how far we would go", which, as anyone who owns an appliance knows, is sort of the mechanical version of a DNR order. Plan in force, we waited.

At 4:00 sharp, the repair guy turned up. (The fact that he arrived exactly when he said he would was incredible) and he came into the kitchen and started to look at the dishwasher, and I was suddenly so overcome with anxiety about the whole thing that I had to go sit in my office, which is off of the kitchen so wasn't really as far away as would have helped, but at least meant that I wasn't hovering over this poor guy. I sat at my desk and pretended to work and thought things like "Oh man. Oh seriously. Oh let this come in under our DNR price because there is no way another new appliance is coming in here for quite a while. Please, fates that govern appliance well being. I'm sorry for what I said about the fridge. I still miss Sir Washie. The trim around the basement door has never been re-installed and the chunk of drywall that we removed is still in the hall. Please, don't do this. There is no way to know what will happen to my sanity, my doorframes and my marriage if I need another appliance. Spare me the indignity of crying in front of this man...." and because I was a little worn down by the neck thing... I really did worry about crying in front of him. (I'm a McPhee. We don't cry in front of appliance people. We cry in the bathtub where no-one can see us.) I sat there, knitting a little and hoping a lot, and then I heard it.

He sighed, and I went nuts. Sighing, sighing was bad. Sighing was terrible. Then he left for More Tools, and I thought - that's it. That's the appliance equivalent of the crashcart careening down the hall of the hospital and the way you can tell that your dishwasher is about to go the way of the guy in the red shirt standing near Captain Kirk - and I got a little dizzy and to make myself feel better I started imagining the worst thing. Dude is going to call me in there, and he's going to tell me that the repair is more than our DNR price. A lot more. Enough more that we can't kid ourselves, and then just like Joe and I agreed, I'm going to ask him to drain it so that it stops being a reeking fetid pool of dishslag, pay him his $45 service fee, and wish him well. Then, and only then, I will lie down under the dining room table and weep softly until it's time to use the really nice lavender dish soap I bought, at which point I will meditate on the loveliness of doing dishes by hand and being connected to the real work of things, and feel grateful that I am even lucky enough to have dishes to wash and running water to wash them in. Yes. That is The Plan, and just as I am feeling recovered, and I have properly imagined myself taking the whole thing really well, he calls me into the kitchen, and I smooth my hair, and take a deep breath... and I go.

When I get there, he shows me this:


(Pen for scale) This is the small collection of articles that were together, completely immobilizing the "hose valve" and not allowing the dishwasher to drain. Collectively, they are: a small piece of string (maybe yarn, I deny everything) a small chunk of a cabletie (Joe denies everything) a hunk of pistachio shell and and a chip out of a coffee cup. (Nice little window into our lives, isn't it?) He disassembled the dishwasher, freed up the valve and handed me a bill. Now, I was worried, on account of a repair guy just called me into the kitchen and told me that my dishwasher was fixed without giving me an estimate first, and that could mean that I'm going to be selling a lot of stash to get out of this one, and the world goes a little dark around the edges, and I say "What do I owe you?" and he looks at me and he says (Get this. This is the incredible part.)

"Well, let's see. The service call is $45 - so what do you say we call it $65?"

I stared at him. An appliance repair guy who's speaking to me in numbers with two digits? Sixty Five? I look at him and try and figure out if he means 65 thousand, or 65 hundred, and then it hits me.

He's fixed my dishwasher for $65. That doesn't happen. It just doesn't. I've been a grown-up for a while, and I know it's never happened to me, and I tell you what, I don't think it happened to my friends either, because the minute that guy left I phoned up Rachel H and I said "DUDE IT WAS $65" and Rachel said "What? To take it away? To talk about it? To take off his shoes? What?" and I had to tell her about eight times that it was $65 to fix the dishwasher... as in, he came to the house. He fixed the dishwasher, and I gave him $65, total, as in Not A Downpayment. and Rachel H couldn't get over it either. I mean really. It's like... crazy talk. It's like... a contractor who shows up every day, then comes in ahead of budget and on time.. or... a woman who goes to the doctor and gets told that she's actually not 37 weeks pregnant, she's 40 weeks pregnant and it's over. We dream of these things, we imagine them, but they don't really happen to people.

This is how urban legends get started. I mean, a dishwasher repair for $65 DOLLARS. Please. I almost checked myself on Snopes before I called Joe. Think of it. This is the sort of thing your friends tell you when you're worried about your appliances. Things like "No, no... It doesn't have to be that bad. I knew a guy who knew this lady, I think she was a knitter or something, I dunno, but she totally called a repair guy and it was $65 bucks" and then everybody feels better, even though we all know it's a lie, just like the lady who really actually did get money from Bill Gates for sending around a chain letter, or the thing about gum staying in your stomach for seven years if you swallow it.

Except this one is true. $65. Dudes.

(PS. My neck is a little better. Thanks for all the advice. Cold, massage, ibuprofen, and resting helped a lot.)

Posted by Stephanie at 1:19 PM

May 4, 2009


Yesterday I had a wee pain in my neck. Just an odd little thing that felt like I should stretch it out or rub it a little, and I spent the whole of yesterday doing just that. This morning, I woke up and discovered that not only can I not turn my head to the left (which is not really a big deal, I mean, I can get around that) but that the ache in my neck is now searing pain that goes from behind my right ear all the way down to under my right shoulder blade. This I could live with (I have teenagers, there is no physical pain that can defeat me) but for interest and excitement, this pain is ornamented with random and bizarre spasms in which some of the muscles in my neck attempt to insert the bottom of my right shoulder blade into the canal of my right ear, which, as you can well imagine, is functionally impossible, and painful to attempt.

I tried working. I tried typing. I tried housework. (I tried working and typing with the phone clamped between my left shoulder and ear and when I regained consciousness I realized that I had likely discovered the potential cause of the injury.) The only thing that doesn't seem to anger that set of muscles into spasms that make a macrame plant hanger looks like a straight line... is...


Knitting. All of a sudden, I have decided that as much as this hurts? The neck thing may have an upside.

Posted by Stephanie at 1:26 PM

May 1, 2009

It meant nothing to me

Dear Knitting;

I have a terrible confession to make, or, I guess what I mean is that I think you're going to think it was terrible, but it really wasn't. I figure I should tell you because you're probably going to find out anyway. The truth is, I've had an affair. No - nix that. Not an affair. I had... an experience. An... interval. An episode. Maybe I was drinking. I don't remember - and no matter what anyone says, I didn't plan it. I was minding my own business at knit night (and see? That's the first sign that it wasn't my fault. KNIT night. You don't expect to be blindsided there) when Denny gave me a loom. (See that too? It's not like I went looking for it. I was sitting there, minding my own business and whammo. This Schacht Cricket loom jumps on my lap and ... wait! It's Beth's fault ! She's the one who sent the loom with Denny to give to me and the two of them planned it and I... I was just sitting there.

Now, I might have stood a chance, but the thing was just so... ready. It was already assembled, its bobbins were full - for crying out loud... it was warped already. It sat there, just so simple, so straightforward, and I fell down. I thought it was going to be innocent. I thought we were just going to hang out, you know? I thought that it was really ok. You know, I thought that it didn't matter if I just talked to some other yarncraft. I'm in the yarn industry, you know? I was just going to hang out a bit, see what this weaving thing was all about. I threw the shuttle a few times, and...

The next thing I knew, we were at home together, and I was weaving and weaving. The shuttle went back and forth and I beat every row with the heddle and, heaven help me, when I ran out of yarn I went and got more and....


and I ripped back that huge sock and wound the yarn on the bobbin and...


I made a scarf.


It was the loom's fault. It's just so easy, and ... fast.. and it uses up a lot of yarn quickly... really quickly - I mean, I used up that whole ball of sock yarn in a couple of hours and Knitting, you have to admit it, you and I have never been able to get it together for a "quickie".

I'm not saying that's wrong, I mean, there are other things that we have, things that are more important than speed. We have intimacy, and history and ... well, I'm not going to pretend that there haven't been problems. It was hard for me to get over that time that you thought it would be funny to mess up the hat the night before Christmas, but hell. Every craft makes mistakes and I don't hold it against you. I mean, I love you Knitting, and we've been though a lot together. I just want you to know that the thing with the loom didn't mean anything to me baby... nothing.



(Ps, even though I said I was over it, I was really upset about the gauge thing on the sock. I thought you should know. )

Posted by Stephanie at 2:55 PM