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I managed to finish up the Koolhaas hat yesterday afternoon while watching You Tubed episodes of Supernanny. Or maybe it was Nanny 911, I’m not really sure. Whatever the program, it went well with my latest Mindless Knitting project, while still providing some semblance of amusement.

I’m afraid this may be the last finished object I have to show for a while – or at least, the last FO cranked out at a rather rapid pace. School begins again on Tuesday, and I’ll have quite a bit of studying to do during the short (five week) summer semesters – especially considering my absence due to the wedding in Germany mid-July. I’ve written to all of my professors explaining my circumstances, and have received positive response from one and nothing from the other two. Fuhh. I may have to re-configure my schedule in order to minimize GPA damage.

Hats are quick to knit! Delightfully quick! I hadn’t made one in ages, and now I think that everyone may be receiving them for Christmas this year. That’s do-able, right? After all, I’m almost done with the 19-repeat Swallowtail shawl I’ve been working on for my step daughter’s Christmas present… Does it really matter that the original intended year of completion was 2009?

I know that technically it isn’t summer yet, but since the temperatures have already reached the low 90s here (not to mention the fact that I’ve worn white shoes) I think it’s safe to say that summer has reached Texas. And, since everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, right now we’re having one hell of a storm. We’re talking about a shaking apartment with thunder and lightening shattering the skies less than a second apart, and torrential downpours that have made even this brave Seattleite frightened of venturing outdoors*. So, I’ve spent the morning knitting. I’m up to the Lily of the Valley border on the Swallowtail Shawl, and am almost done with the latest Mindless Baby Knitting project. Next up I’ll tackle Jared Flood’s Koolhas hat (for coffee shop knitting) and this Rauma pattern for more intricate knitting.

This sudden summer storm also has me smitten with Lucy of Attic 24, who makes me desperate to begin crocheting brightly-colored afghans and run off in the Volvo with a vintage trailer in tow**. Summer dreaming, folks. It’s that time of the year again. I’ve got another two weeks of school-free bliss, to be followed by 15 hours of 4.0 GPA maintenance before diving into a fall of math and science. Is it naive to think that some finished knitting projects, a clean house, cheap afghan yarn, and a road trip will help?

*For the record, I’m not scared of driving in the rain. I’m scared of Texans driving in the rain.

**Someone is snorting at the idea of attaching a trailer hitch and a camper to my station wagon. Someone should know by now that snorting only makes me more determined, no matter how ridiculous the idea. Hmph!

This week was pretty productive. Rewarding myself for a very full week of term-paper submissions and final-tests-before-finals, I signed up for a private spinning lesson and wound up at one of our local yarn shops — Yarnivore — on Thursday afternoon. Talk about enlightening! Granted, I haven’t been spinning since we landed in Texas, but prior to our move I always spun with the wacky short-draw technique that I’d somewhat impatiently picked up from books and You Tube clips — not bad, but not exactly sophisticated or controlled, either. Check out the improvements thanks to class — the yarn you see closer to center is the bulkier, less exacting product, while the yarn around the edge of the hank is the result of a few minutes’ practice using a supported long draw! So exciting.

The pea-green experiment in control will go to my dear and always gracious friend Susanna, who, despite being World’s Next Greatest Knitter, is always kind enough to find both beauty in and use for my less-than-perfect fiber experiments. Meanwhile, encouraged by the success of the supported long draw (from the fold, no less) I began spinning some Ashford merino that’s been around for a while:

In scholastic news, on Friday a letter from school arrived in the mail. I assumed that it was just another survey or notification of increased tuition and opened it with no small amount of disdain. Turns out I’ve won a small scholarship from the writing department for a Freshman Composition essay that my professor encouraged me to submit. Since my tuition is already covered under the GI Bill and any extra payment is credited to my account, the award allowed me to finance a trip to my high school best friend’s wedding that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford. So, I’ll be in Germany for a very, very brief period of time this June. I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it down to Frankfurt during what amounts to a four-day-weekend, but we’ll see. I can’t wait!

Oh! And speaking of excited, The Husbeast and I went for a motorcycle ride yesterday up to the Triumph dealership, where I promptly fell in love with a Bonneville. While it’s not something in the budget any time soon (I’m saving all of my tip money for a piano!), seeing such a beautiful bike reinforced my zeal for riding — pretty darn cool.

This morning, my delightful, lively, and always totally off-topic Freshman Composition class got on the subject of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) testing that apparently takes place in K-12 schools every year. (We had been reading about the Declaration of Independence, which led to mention of Thomas Jefferson, and in turn brought up the terrific Texas Board of Education’s recent idea to avoid any exploration of Jefferson’s philosophies or purported philandering.) Anyway. While I do remember taking a few standardized tests as a kid – especially in elementary school – the Texas version of making sure that learning is not occurring, at least according to my classmates, is to focus almost entirely on testing.

This single-minded focus is allegedly so intense that schools encourage their educators and students to wear “motivational” TAKS tee-shirts during testing season. Since the only education-oriented motivational shirt I’ve ever seen is one that a guy named Adam craftily spray-painted for an AP European History exam back in 1999 or 2000, I had a hard time believing that mass-market, test-oriented clothing existed. However, my trusty friend Google confirmed this, providing me with multiple TAKS-related clothing sites, including this one, which has the above gem for sale. Your’s for the asking? Are you fucking kidding me? I might be willing to dismiss the your’s as a placeholder for “‘s for the asking” were it not for the fact that said placeholder already exists on the design.Dear Texas, please shut up. Sincerely, history.

Some of my classmates hate Blue Books because hand-writing essays in a digital age, without the advantage of red squiggly lines to point out obvious spelling errors, puts them at a distinct disadvantage. Others say that they dislike being unable to go back and edit a completed essay without prodigious application of an old-fashioned eraser. Personally, my only real objection to Blue Books is the fact that I have to pay for them. Well over $2,000 in fees alone per semester doesn’t seem to get a student very much these days. I don’t think I’ve gotten $10.00 worth of International Globalization Experience so far this term, and certainly not $83.00 worth of undergraduate advising, unless you could the lady who was kind enough to direct my to the bookstore. Where I bought my Blue Books, which are not covered under the $5.00 writing program fee – the writing program being the course for which I need the Blue Books. I wonder what that $5.00 goes to.

I won’t be back at school until March 22nd, which seems eons away. Bliss! Plenty of time to study and read and write, without trekking downtown only to be told that x lecture is cancelled due to the rain. I can hardly say that I’m pleased with my education at Big State School at this point, last-minute cancellations for unsatisfactory reasons being the least of my concerns. The break in classes is a welcome opportunity to sit back, focus on learning without distraction, and maybe even start that essay needed as part of my transfer application to Little Private School. (That being said, I also find occasion to remind myself on a regular basis not to be such a pompous ass when it comes to criticizing the school environment.)

But anyway. It’s spring break. Like, whatever, dude. Following classes this morning, in celebration of temporary freedom from Scantron oppression, I went to the local big box store to purchase more printer paper, having promised a fellow non-trad classmate (who is so non-traditional that he doesn’t even have a computer) that I’d print and share my notes with him. In addition to the paper, I returned home with this:

Well, with pretty much everything but Rory-cat, who was waiting at the apartment. As this household’s Chief Plant Inspector, he felt the need to get involved as soon as I tore the cover off my nifty peat seed starter kit. Buying plants always feels like a little bit of a luxury to me, but since I had to give up all of my houseplants upon moving back to the States last summer and having never acquired a full family of replacements, today (almostspring!) seemed like a good occasion for a little splurge. As I was waltzing up and down the aisle of seeds, confronted with the impossibility of growing squash on my steep apartment stairs but nevertheless feeling slightly adventurous, I had visions of homegrown tomatoes and chili peppers blended into an exquisite salsa, sustaining us beautifully through the Texas summer. Soon thereafter, with the heat in mind, it also occurred to me that it’s really sad there is no such thing as a margarita plant. Then I saw them. Cactus seeds.

Mixed variety cactus seeds! Contents include: Saguaro, Hedgehog, Fishook Barrel, Dollar Prickly Pear, Desert Prickly Pear, Christmas Cholla, Cane Cholla, Santa Rita Prickly Pear, and Cardo’n. Seriously. How could you not pick up a pack of cactus seeds when your potential future plants include things like Fishook Barrel? The seed packet informs me that there are anywhere from 7 to 56 days until the seeds germinate. I can’t freaking wait. I’ll update again in a week, because it’s so damn exciting that I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to know whether or not the Cardo’n will show any signs of life, and I know you must be, too. I’ll also update with pictures from the 52.5 project, which was the entire point of this little corner of interwebs in the first place. Oh! And there’s sewing to show! And knitting to model! Wow!

*Technically, vernal equinox this year isn’t until March 20th, so the majority of our time off school is actually winter break. Like, whatever, dude.

Here’s a little bit more about me: I couldn’t remember who the Governor of Texas is today. I’m not a Texan, I haven’t lived here very long, and I really don’t care much about Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison or Kinky Crazyman. Sorry.  Inconveniently, I forgot this key piece of information this morning during an extra credit quiz in my Texas Politics and History course. I’m pretty sure that the excuse “I’m not from Texas, I just moved here, and I’ve spent the past three years living overseas” isn’t going to cut it, either, so I didn’t say anything. And now, after throwing me an especially scathing look, I’m pretty sure the professor thinks I’m a moron. Ironically, she gave out the extra credit quiz because an online extra credit assignment that was to be available from the 11th through the 15th was only up until the 13th, and the majority of the class, thinking they had more time, didn’t do it. Guess who finished it on the 13th?

After a leisurely early morning of coffee and several Settlers games with The Husbeast, I set to work tidying up my office in anticipation of a new semester’s worth of work. While I love having a neat and organized space, I am a cluttered person by nature and have to remain constantly vigilant against mess lest stacks of books and craft supplies take up permanent residence on every available surface. Today, while concentrating on rehoming the vagrant toy triceratops that’s been roosting on top of one of my bookshelves, I glanced up to admire the antique Romanian rug that serves as a beloved wall hanging. And the thought hit me: the funny lettering below the date (1929) isn’t some indecipherable alphabet. It’s Arabic. This would be a totally acceptable lightbulb moment for someone who isn’t trained in Classical Arabic, but that someone would most definitely not be me. The script spells Su’ad, a common female name. And, while my density is astounding, I remain pleased at my new discovery.

In other surprising news, I received a phone call from a local coffee shop owner, requesting a job interview. This was in response to a “resume” I sent in a few weeks ago, which went something like this: I’m from Seattle, and I value a good cup of coffee. Let me know if you’re interested. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I don’t have high expectations, since apparently pink hair can be a bit intimidating, as I’ve recently discovered. Or maybe it’s my awesome glasses.

Finally, this afternoon, while on a mission to obtain two of life’s most essential commodities (coffee and cat litter), I stopped by a well-liked local antique shop in hopes of scoring an old camera. No such luck, but in the midst of debating whether or not I should pick up a set of postcards, got yet another surprise phone call. It was the VA office from My Big State School, informing me that my name hadn’t made it to the “hold list” (a list for veterans using their GI Bill benefits, allowing us to stay enrolled in courses despite the school not having received money from the VA) and that I would have to immediately apply for emergency tuition assistance or face being dropped from all classes, which more or less means being kicked out of university and having to apply all over again. Awesome. But never fear. My threatening hair and overbearing glasses were enough to fix the problem telephonically* and my name has magically appeared on the list.

All in an honest day’s work, my friends. All in an honest day’s work.

* It could also have been the part where I growled something along the lines of “Your mistakes are not my fucking problem and you best fix them before you’re out a fucking job” – I’m not really mean, I swear, but I didn’t wear a uniform for six years so some milquetoast admin jerk could screw me over on tuition.