Monday, July 31, 2006

Live, from New York...

It's Monday afternoon! What an idyllic afternoon, lying in a hammock under the maple tree in Aunt Cathie's backyard, sipping lemon water and knitting a strawberry hat...

Lovely weekend with the family, lots of food, conversation, and we even managed to orchestrate a group photo although Vince had to be called back from a bike ride (we introverts all need our breaks - hence my afternoon in the hammock). The highlight of the festivities has been the six little ones, the next generation - Dillon Bordges (5), Madison Phelps (4), Sophia Bechtold (3), Kamryn Bordges (3), Solana Kane (almost 2), and Brody Phelps (1.5). At one point Vince took them all for a ride in a big red wagon, followed by a trailing mob of mom/grandma/aunt paparazzi with digital cameras. It was pretty hilarious.

(clockwise from lower left: Madison, Brody, Kamryn, Solana, Sophia. Not pictured: Dillon. Heidi says: "it's about time the girls outnumbered the boys in this family!")

Monday, July 24, 2006

Feeling Twitchy

I cast off the second alpaca sock Sunday night and did not cast on a new project - big mistake. A day without a sock in progress is a day with Twitchy at the helm. All the calm and peace of mind from Sunday afternoon's hike in the woods vanished in a whirl of Monday - Twitchy is definitely at it with gusto, scrabbling at thought-nuts in my head, such as "Furniture for Ithaca?" "Don't disappoint Rajan!" "Worry about all of your family members - incessantly" and "next knitting project - now!"

Find the happy place... find the happy place... speaking of the hike in the woods, that was a very happy place! So very very green, and a clear stream of water trickling through the rocks, pooling under flowering bushes (mt. laurel? I don't know, it sounds poetic though!). It was utterly lovely. We climbed up to a rocky ledge looking out over the valley and ate sweet wild blueberries growing thickly there. Just heavenly! Sorry I don't have pictures - we left the phones at home.

Link to Happiness Quiz

Friday, July 21, 2006

(near-)instant gratification

I am utterly charmed by the apple hat - copied shamelessly from Tara, of course. This is my new yarn obsession... look for more fruits and veg to come! They knit up unbelievably quickly and are just too cute. Farmers' Market, here we come!

I stumbled across a fun-ish link somewhere in the blogosphere, the How Happy Are You? quiz. It's not terribly scientific, but kind of interesting. The questions definitely suggest that happiness is a chosen attitude, rather than something determined by genetics, context, etc. Terry would probably say that is comes from a Modernization perspective (if you are unhappy, it's your fault, and you need to change your values/attitudes/beliefs/actions). It is just fascinating how we try to measure things that are not really measurable in a scientific way. According to this quiz,

You Are 60% Happy
You're definitely a happy person, even though you have your down moments.You tend to get the most out of life, though there's always some more happiness to be squeezed.

How Happy Are You?

Comments, anyone? (Oh - if you click on the link, just scroll down past the "Know anyone pregnant?" box.)

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

First Syllabus of the Year

I just got an e-mail with my first syllabus from Cornell - the Anthropology pro-seminar that everyone takes. Here's a sample grab:

"By refracting social theory through its own social life and intellectual history, I hope for something more than conceptual clarification. Methodologically, by profaning the claim of theory to transcend context, I hope that we (students and instructors alike) will develop a more unsettled and healthy relationship to anthropological professionalism and expertise.

"As befits a program of radical professionalization...students should read as much as possible and then feel anxious for not having read everything" [ok, I've got that part down pat]...

Then follows a list of nineteen (19) texts. For one class. Plus another 15 essays on reserve at Uris. We are encouraged to start reading as soon as possible. I just dropped $400 at Powell's Books. While I wait for the books to get here, though, I suppose I ought to see if I can check the first ones due out of the JMU library...

It's exhilerating, and frightening - I will soon learn to speak like... that... hopefully without giggling or rolling my eyes too much. Seriously - "profaning the claim"? Yeah, I agree, on principle, but this use of language will take some getting used to.

It's just another language. Like knitting.

Home again...

Home is a tricky thing for MKs - if I were a computer and pushed the "home" button, I wonder where that would take me? Where is the beginning of the line? When we moved to Harrisonburg I looked around and decided that this would make a good home base - a place always to return to - much to Terry's chagrin! He's truly a global nomad, always with the itchy feet. Growing up Anita and I always had a home base - either the Wycliffe center (see link on sidebar) or the Phelps farm in Chaffee. The Wycliffe center in Yarinacocha has closed, and while the farm is still there, Grandma is not (although there is a cousins reunion in the works for the end of this month!), and that changes everything. Harrisonburg is nice and rural, with a critical mass of Latin American influence so I can maintain my sense of connection. It's not the same as living in Latin America, but an approximation... it takes effort to keep the connection here.

It was wonderful to sleep in my own bad last night :-) It's hotter here than in Costa Rica, though. We had a great weekend before returning, hanging out with Ruben and Lina Maria's church at a weekend retreat of sorts (very casual), and climbing Mt. Poas volcano with Fiorella.
It was misty and cool at the top, I was chilly in a heavy sweater and shorts. The volcano is part of a National Park, so all around the cone was a tangled wet cloud forest full of little birds and tourists.

Good progress was made on the socks - although just for kicks (ha ha) I tried on the finished one last night, and it fit my size 9 1/2 foot perfectly... although it was supposed to be for my abuelita's size 6 foot! Oops... well, I can certainly put these to good use in Ithaca this winter! Meanwhile, I'll just have to start another pair for my grandma - darn! (well... not yet!)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hi from Costa Rica

We are here:

The sock is thrilled! Although the 100% alpaca with cables is looking a bit large for my granny, it nonetheless serves as doodle-prevention during meetings and conversation-starter during breaks.

We had an uneventful if sleep-deprived trip, and are housed in a lovely "Apart-Hotel," which means basically a hotel in which your room consists of a little apartment complete with kitchen. I am eating all the tropical fruit I can get my hands on.

Yesterday Terry faciliated a very fruitful workshop during which a team of very smart Habitat for Humanity workers analyzed the transcripts of 17 open-ended interviews on the topic of "what sustains Habitat volunteers?" We're talking about governance volunteers, not the ones who come from the US for a week of hefting hammers with Jimmy Carter. We had some very interesting conversations about "protagonismo comunitario," which as I understand it is Habitat's new initiative to foment community ownership of development projects... a hot-button topic to me as I turn out to be something of an ideological purist when it comes to grassroots development...

Lovely people here, and strong representation from Peru! Lina Maria Obando and husband Ruben had us over for a delicious meal; Peru was all over their house: the quena music CD, the art on the walls, even the earthenware dishes and fish soup... not to mention the chakana pendant around her neck!

Today we have a little bit of down time, Thursday we resume analysis with the research team here, and Friday Terry will doing a workshop on social service vs. social change organizations. Saturday we'll probably join Lina Maria and Ruben on a church outing to the country, and Sunday maybe the beach! Monday we return to the US.

Being here certainly whets my appetite to live in Latin America again. It feels like home.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Walking and Socking

What an incredibly lovely day yesterday - clear and sunny and cool. I spent far too many hours in a windowless cubicle wedged between a computer screen and a telephone, conducting an archaeological dig into desk drawers that I've been chucking paper into for two years. Unearthed a few interesting finds, but mostly scrap paper. Walking home was balm for the soul.

I had NPR on at work (WEMC), and on Talk of the Nation they were discussing research about why human health is enhanced by the influence of nature - "nature" meaning the usual Romanticized concept (trees, flowers, grass), in opposition to what is "artificial" - manufactured. One thing they said was that in our everyday lives we are surrounded by stimuli that demand our focused attention: the phone ringing, cars going by, even the stacks of paper on the desks. This constant demand exhausts a certain part of the brain. But trees, grass, and flowers do not - in fact, the stimuli of nature renew and refresh that part of the brain, because these natural sights and sounds and smells demand nothing of us. Basically, researchers are identifying the specific ways that our neorology responds to these different kinds of stiumuli. One study showed that the presence of trees, grass, and green spaces in urban areas had a direct correlation to reduced levels of violence, especially violence against women and children.

I really ought to try to find the sources of these findings - but the upshot was that after I head the broadcast, I walked home (knitting) and lay on the grass in the backyard watching the bees burrow their snouts into the bachelor's buttons, and listened to the wind in our (dying) pin oak tree, thinking happy thoughts. Bliss...!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Leedle Sock

This was a total vanity project - it fits my thumb, but it's not a thumb-sock - it's for a little exercise at work where we each have to contribute something that represents an aspect of our personality or self. So of course I had to knit a tiny sock. Size 0 dpns, self-striping yarn - it took about an hour to make. Warning: technical writing ahead!

Here I try my hand at writing a pattern: CO 18 st. (6 on each needle). Join in the round, being careful not to twist. K1 P1 rib for 2 rounds. Continue in stockinette stitch for 10 rounds. Divide stitches on needles as follows: 9, 5, 4. Make heel: *Turn and P9. Turn, and K1 Slip1. Repeat from * once. P4, P2tog, P1, turn. Slip 1, K1, K2tog, K1, turn. Slip 1, P3, P2tog, P1, turn. Slip 1, K2, K2tog, K1. Continuing in the round, PU 3 st. along side of heel flap, K9, PU 3 more st. on other side of heel flap, K3 (this leaves half of heel stitches on one needle, half on the next. Maintain this division as you redistribute stitches). Redistribute stitches as follows: 7 instep stitches on needle 2, gusset and half heel on each of other two needles (1 and 3, respective to instep needle). K 1 round even. Needle 1: K to last 2 st, K2tog. Needle 2: K 7. Needle 3: SKP, K to end. Slip 1 stitch each from needles 1 and 3 onto needle 2 (4, 9, 5). Continue in Stockinette stitch for 10 rounds more. * Next round: K to last 2 st on needle 1: K2tog. Needle 2: SKP, k to last 2 st, k2tog. Needle 3: SKP, K to end. Repeat from * once. 10 st. rem. Graft toe shut using kitchener st. Weave in ends.

Wow - I think I could write patterns! What a thrill :-) Since I design my own sweaters half the time... ! The point, of course, is really to impress people - but suddenly I'm envisioning a knitting legacy for any future heirs that might appear. That would be pretty cool.