We were entertained one night this week by this fellow. Smokey spotted him while he (Smokey, not the raccoon) was watching the evening news.
Mr. Raccoon had been bathing himself while nestled in the crotch of the tree, but when I came out onto the deck to photograph him he decided he needed to come down.
How does a raccoon come down from a tree? Very carefully.
* * * * *
Andrew found out that he could increase his loan for med school enough to cover a new computer. His old one, a $795 Averatec laptop from Sam's Club, had barely made it through four years of college. This time he wanted a good one. 250GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, screen the size of a soccer field -- he got what he wanted.
He set it up with the dual boot option so he could also run Windows, which is necessary to play several of his video games. $9.27 to a Guatemalan street vendor scored him this:
which is Windows XP Professional en español. That $9.27 also got him MS Office 97, Windows Vista, and a blank-looking CD that the vendor called el crack and which is supposed to keep Vista working after 30 days. He will only use the XP. Piracy is apparently alive and well.
* * * * *
On a more legitimate note:
I cast on this sock Tuesday evening and knit barely an inch that night. On Wednesday I took it with me to the finance committee meeting and knit most of the leg. I have since turned the heel, knit the foot, and I'm currently decreasing for the toe (which is red; these are fun socks). I'll finish it this afternoon.
Now the kicker: I'm actually knitting these on US #0 needles.
I know, I said that life was too short to knit on zeros. This yarn (Online something or other) is what inspired me. I don't remember exactly where I got it but I'm pretty sure I must have won it because I don't remember buying it. It has been sitting next to my desk since early last winter. (Sitting there because I was too lazy to put it away in the sock yarn box at the bottom of my Tower o' Rubbermaid.) I would look at it and try to figure out how best to knit socks from it fast. My plans were to double-strand it with black. Or turquoise. Or white. Or all three, in stripes.
But last weekend I found myself thinking about knitting it on zeros and adding contrasting heels and toes and cuff. Smokey laughed at me when I said I was excited to try it.
But excitement makes the knitting go faster. I have never knit a sock this fast, ever. Given the ridiculous weather we are having (40 degrees at the moment), it is possible I may be able to wear them before true spring gets here.
#1 son is returning from his Chiapan adventure today. w00t! It will be good to have him home for a few weeks until he heads off to NYC to start med school in June. Gotta go. I washed all his bedding but it is still in the laundry room. TTFN!
Yes, that is ice in the background. Hardy buggers, these loons.
There was a small flock of Canada geese swimming around here and resting on the ice on Tuesday and Wednesday, but on Thursday morning these two showed up and the geese were outta here. The loons refuse to share the lake with any other aquatic birds, especially Canada geese.
Loons are one of the oldest animals around; they haven't changed much in the past 60 million years. They are fantastic swimmers and divers, and apparently pretty good long-distance fliers, too, since they winter on the Gulf coast and summer from northern WI to northern Canada. They float very low in the water -- these two must be skinny from the migration because they are floating much higher than I am used to seeing. The loon's body is heavy and its legs are set way back, so far back they cannot walk. If one should mistakenly alight on land, it is pretty much doomed; they can neither take off from land nor walk to the water. Unless they are very close, and it is a clear shot downhill; then they slide down to the water on their breast. They build their nests on floating bogs or on islands and slide down to the water. (Query: how do they get to the nest in the first place if they can't walk; I don't know. Lisa? Anybody?) It is quite a sight to see them take off from water -- it takes fifty to a hundred yards for one to go from the first wing flap to being actually airborne. If a loon lands in a body of water that is too small, it cannot take off again.
Amazing, really, that the species has survived so long.
* The spring peepers woke up today. Smokey said he listened for them yesterday, and they weren't peeping. But tonight, as we drove to the barbecue place in the next town north, we heard them. And stopped to roll down our windows and listen. Such a glorious sound. Ahhhhh.It was nice of them to wait to come out of hibernation until I truly had a day off.
* Monday was my last day at work. I left at 5:05, stopped at Best Buy to compare cameras, and headed for the Great North. Home by 9pm, in bed by 10. Ahhhhh. Life is good.
* Tuesday was the all-day organizational meeting of the new county board, of which I am 1/23rd. Good meeting, got acquainted with some of the supervisors whom I didn't know, and got myself elected to the finance committee, which was what I wanted. I won't be writing much, if at all, about the board here. It is not appropriate. But I'm thinking I might start a second blog for that topic; time will tell.
* I did knit during the meeting, although not all the time. The project of choice was a sock, but, less than optimally, I was at the turning of the heel. It is a short-row heel, which I have never managed to pull off correctly before, so why I thought I could do it while in a meeting that demanded some attention is a mystery for the universe. I knit half the heel, frogged it, knit it halfway again, frogged it, tried one more time. It wasn't too bad that time so I kept going. After finishing it and knitting a few more rows I inspected it at the end of the meeting and decided that I shall frog it one last time and reknit it, this time when there are absolutely no distractions. And it shall be perfecto. It is a gift for another, after all.
* Wednesday, my first real day off: got up at 8:30, made coffee, caught up (sort of) on e-mail and online stuff, then got sleepy again. Back to bed for a... six-hour nap! I hope to cut back on the nap time a little tomorrow.
* I just flipped a hornet off my hand. Where did he come from? No idea, but he ain't gonna live to see the sunrise.
* My house is a total disaster. Every horizontal surface, including most of the floors, is covered with stuff, and there is a suspicious odor of dog and/or cat *accident*. Must attack all of that, one area at a time.
* The Mason-Dixon dog blanket (scroll down for a photo) is suddenly three-quarters done. How did that happen? I never knit on it for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time, and not very often at that. Oh, yeah, now I remember: we knitters are taking over the world, one stitch at a time.
Lest you think we accountants do nothing but crunch numbers and whine about it, let me show you a few candid shots I took this year.
What's going on here?
Every night about 8:30 it becomes problematic to walk anywhere on the outer perimeter hallway because of Jim's and Chris's nightly putting contest.
Too much snow on the ground in March to play outdoors, but our carpet is green. That's close enough for these two. They putt all the way around the office, then up and down the center hall. Every night. 8:30. If they ever start practicing their chip shots I'm outta here.
One Sunday afternoon they lured Pat into their game.
Knowing the first two, I suspect the newcomer got fleeced. They are killers, those two.
Actually, we are all competitive, albeit in some unexpected ways.
The fingers fly. The youngsters use Excel on their computers with the 10-key attachment...
while a couple of the experienced hands rely on their faithful ol' 10-keys.
I hate entering numbers with decimal points. Who cares about the pennies? They just slow me down. Unbeknownst to the youngsters, though, we old folks know that we can set our ten-key to insert the decimal point without that extra keystroke. In the words of the poet: Old age and treachery beat youth and skill every time.
Youth and advanced technology prevailed here, though. That's the winner (of a $50 gift card!) in the white sweater and ponytail.
Meanwhile, the nightly drama of the putting contest continues. Er...
WTF? Where are they?
And Bill takes it home. Baby needs gets new shoes.
* * * * *
Today is my last day and I am floating a couple inches above the floor. I love what I do, and I love being done.
* * * * *
If anyone is counting, yeah, I skipped G. I'll try to catch up later. TTFN, folks!
I've been thinking about what I do at work in terms of something La Harlot said the other night, and I thought I'd share it with you. Just in case you have always wondered exactly what it is that I do.
Preparing 1040s is not terribly difficult. They are remarkably similar -- W-2 wages, some interest, some dividends, some stock sales, a few K-1s (reporting their share of the income and expenses from a partnership), maybe a pension or some stock options, deduct some real estate taxes and mortgage interest and contributions, add up how much they have already paid in withholding and/or quarterly estimate payments, and wham!bam!thankyoumam! it's done. Of course, those are the easy-peasey ones; entrepeneurs tend to have much more complicated returns. Expatriates' and really rich people's returns have their own quirks, as do those of the children of the latter.
I have done my share of all of those this year (except the expatriates; we have a whole department that does nothing but those), plus the odd trust return and a handful of gift tax returns. My big headache, though, has been the returns for thirty-plus investment partnerships. The money manager sends us a massive Excel spreadsheet for each partnership with all the information for that partnership and its partners, anywhere from twenty to over three hundred partners per partnership. We import that data into our tax software, tie up a few loose ends, and it's done.
Except of course it isn't quite that easy. The spreadsheet doesn't add across and down because of rounding errors, which we have to find and adjust. The spreadsheet is not in the correct format to import so we have to manipulate it. Some of the columns have to be combined, some have to be split, some have to be created, yada yada. And then, just to make it more fun, every so often we run across something that doesn't make sense, we ask the client about it, and they end up giving us a whole new set of spreadsheets. Rinse and repeat. How many times can they screw it up? Every time, apparently.
Okay, here's the knitting analogy. (You were waiting for that, right? Right.)
It's like knitting a huge lace stole from a series of charts. Cast on 320 stitches, follow the first chart, then the second, and so forth. Except that the charts are written in Tagalog and you have to translate them into English before you can begin. (Yeah, I know that the big advantage of a chart is that it is NOT language dependent; work with here, 'kay?) You get them translated and start knitting. Along the way you discover that whoever wrote the chart was not exactly paying attention, and there are a number of random errors, which you have to catch and correct before you can proceed. If you miss one, you will find it a few [hundred] rows later and have to frog back to correct it, so you pay very close attention, so close that your brow furrows and your shoulders hunch and your lower back feels like the roots of a pot-bound cactus.
But you persevere and knit all the way to the end of the first chart... whereupon you are told that that was the wrong chart and you have to start over.
The new chart, instead of being written in Tagalog, in which you are now a bit of an expert, is written in Xhosa with footnotes in Urdu, and besides, now you are behind schedule and thus have to work even faster/harder/smarter to catch up. Knit, knit, knit, from 8:30am until 10pm, with a couple breaks for coffee and quick meals and to run to the printer and the bathroom and maybe to whip out a 1040-- , er, a scarf, or two; go home, come back tomorrow, and do it again. Endlessly. Because the charts and stoles, they just keep a-comin'.
Meanwhile, there are literally hundreds of other knitters waiting for you to finish these stoles. Unlike a real knitted piece, when finished your stole will be magically broken apart into hundreds of tiny pieces that will then become parts of other knitters' stoles. They cannot knit their stoles until yours is done and blocked and dried and checked for dropped stitches and missed yarn-overs. All those other knitters are trying to be polite and not bother you, but you can feel the pressure of their impatience. Once in while one will ask, "How's it going? Are you getting close?" and you bite off their tiny head because you Just. Can't. Help. It.
And that's why I may not be blogging much for awhile. The jailers tell me there is no internet access in the cells reserved for homicide suspects, and besides, it's really hard to type when wearing a straight jacket...
I knew that The Yarnery was bringing Stephanie Pearl-McPhee to St. Paul on her current book tour, but I had completely forgotten about it, even as I was reading La Harlot's blog posts this week about the tour and her appearances in Charlotte and Lexington and New York. When her visit to our neighboring city to the east was announced back in January or so, I took one look at the date -- April 10, five days before Tax Day -- and knew there was no way I could contemplate going. So I forgot all about it.
Until I read Cursing Mama's blog post yesterday. And then read Jeanne's comment that she was planning to go, even though she didn't have a ticket -- she was counting on the weather to prevent some folks from showing up. (In case you don't have an RSS feed on Twin Cities weather, we are currently under a winter storm warning, with accumulations of s**w of up to 12" possible/likely. Sheesh. It's April. Anyway.)
I read all that at about 2:30 pm. At 4 pm I thought about it again. At 5 pm I surveyed my desk and decided I had about two hours of work left, which wasn't critical and could wait until Friday morning. So I left work. At 5 pm.
Wait, let me repeat that: I left work at 5 pm.
I have not left work that early since... ever. Even if I were done at 5, which I never am, I wouldn't leave then because I would end up sitting in traffic.
So I got my car and drove out of the ramp.
My plan to zoom over to St. Paul hit a couple glitches right away. Sorry, no photo of the ambulance that almost t-boned me. Oops.
The line of cars to get onto I-94 heading to St. Paul, above, was 4 or 5 blocks long, without even considering the lineup on the quarter-mile-long entrance ramp. Hmmmm.
I didn't live in the city of Minneapolis for 32 years without learning a thing or three about getting from Point A to Point B (even if Point B is in St Paul), so I plotted myself a course that did not involve the freeway and headed out.
Will she make it by 6, when the doors open?
There was still some significant traffic to deal with on the Franklin Avenue bridge.
From my vantage on on my bridge I could see the I-94 bridge, where the traffic wasn't moving very well. It's the left to right traffic, below, that is heading towards La Harlot; it wasn't as bad as the right to left traffic, but it wasn't good, either.
Once I got across the river, though, it was clear sailing, er, driving. Long ago I lived near downtown St. Paul for part of one year and biked to the University of Minnesota every day for summer school classes. I got to know the East River Road very well. That knowledge served me well last night.
Yes, I made it in plenty of time. Best of all, I ran into Cursing Mama, who had an extra ticket because her friend who had planned to go had decided that weather was too bad to drive *all the way from Hudson.* Thanks, Keri, for not coming! Thanks, O Profane Mother, for the ticket!
I had a sock OTN in my purse -- emergency knitting, the words of La Harlot. But it is destined for someone else and I didn't have her foot measurements with me so I just tried it on myself and decided it was time to start the short-row heel. Of which I have not done one for about 2 years, and it never worked very well when I did it, and I didn't have any instructions with me, so I just winged it. If it ain't right, I'll frog it; but at least I had something to do while I waited.
Do I have lots of photos of La Harlot and all the knitters and the gorgeous knitwear that I saw? No, because I forgot my camera in the car. (Duh.)You'll have to check out others' blogs to see it all. But I was there, clapping and singing "Oh , Canada" right with them.
And laughing along with The Yarnery Family Singers ("Argyles and fair isles and warm woolen mittens...", to the tune of "My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music; "Steph-aaaaaaah-nnnie, Steph-aaaaaaahh-nnnie..." to the tune of "Eidelweiss", ditto). Here are some videos courtesy of Shelley Kang that I found on YouTube:
Stephanie P-M confessed to having brought the nasty weather with her. This was the scene this morning:
Seen at the boat landing on Big Butternut Lake on election day, perhaps because it was recently hauled off the lake after being used as an ice-fishing house all winter. No comment.
* * * * *
I managed to capture this photo one morning on the way to work. Notice the advertisement on the back of the black van, then notice the kind of van it is. You may need to click to embiggen so you can read it clearly.
* * * * *
The following are not chuckles, but rather things to make you smile: sweaters observed at Yellow Dog Knits in Eau Claire when I was there for Franklin's 1,000 Knitters photo shoot.
Luscious cables (I love cables. Must knit cables)...
and fantastic (intarsia?) stripes (I love stripes. Must knit tweedy stripes.):
Well, it's official. Here are the election results from the county website:
That's me in the upper right corner. I'm happy it's official but very sad that my friend and mentor, Jeff, (next one to the left) was defeated. I just found out yesterday about the write-in campaign against him, which was launched/registered last Friday. Damn. But there is always 2010.
It was a beautiful day for a drive north to my little village to vote. All that snow yesterday was slowly melting under the bright sun. I voted, then went out to lunch (the best pulled pork sandwich I may ever have eaten) with Smokey before heading back to the office.
Here's what it's like in a rural election. The election judges:
I was offered coffee and cookies after voting.
I spotted knitting the wild...
being done by another election judge:
This is Mary, whom I know through a now-defunct book group. She is knitting Packer and Vikings mittens to sell at the Relay for Life in June. Tragically, she is knitting these mittens from acrylic. They may be cute and washable and Packer-y/Viking-y but they ain't gonna be very warm.
(I am pretty sure that is not a hand-knit sweater she is wearing. Although the more I look at the photo the more admiring I am of it; it looks very warm and cozy and pretty, all at the same time.)
I also found out yesterday that the all-day organizational meeting for the new Board is... April 15. Sheesh, I'm going to have to miss all the fire drills and hijinks that happen here in the office that day. Probably miss the party, too. Oh, well, such is the burden of power ;-)
Those were my papers registering to run for a seat on the 23-member Board of Supervisors in Polk County, Wisconsin. Today is election day for all local non-partisan (hah!) local offices in Wisconsin. I am taking a half day off work to go vote for myself. So that I will have at least one vote in my column.
Smokey has made himself a Minnesota resident so that our Minneapolis house can be legitimately homesteaded and we save a few bucks on the property taxes. Andrew is in the jungles of Chiapas and can't even file an absentee ballot because he is out of range of the postal service. Matthew is living and working in Minneapolis and has declared his intent to be a Minnesota resident. Good for them; Smokey and Matthew can vote for Al Franken for Senate in November. My only regret about not living in Minnesota any more is that I can't vote for Al.
But I have this horrible dread, rooted in a junior-high fear of rejection and isolation and embarrassment, that the election results will come out and no one will have voted for me. Even though I know at least ten people who will because they are personal friends. So I am driving 150 miles round trip and taking a half day away from the Form 1040s just to assuage my fears. It is not necessary to be fully grown up and rational to hold public office. Just look at our elected representatives in Washington.
I am unopposed for this seat, as far as I know. It is possible someone has registered as a write-in candidate in the week and a half since I last spoke with the county clerk. However, I am operating on the assumption that, come Wednesday, I will be the supervisor-elect from District 6 of Polk County.
Since there was no compelling need to campaign, I didn't. The reason I decided to run was because no one else had registered to run when there were only two weeks left until the January 2 deadline. A couple people already on the Board and whom I respect had been nagging urging me for several years to run, and this was clearly the time. But I did think that, since I am a relative newcomer to the area, I should introduce myself to the voters. It seemed disrespectful not to. (When I voiced this reasoning to the county clerk, she was speechless. She finally said, "It's been a long, long time since I have heard that kind of thing expressed here." Can you see why I felt that I should run?*)
I wrote a flyer, stuck in a couple pictures of myself, and printed them out (after a few glitches), and distributed them with address stickers to a few friends who had volunteered to help.
Thank FSM for good friends. Where would we be without them?
My pal Colleen, the county librarian, and her friend Alan helped me fold and address and stamp several hundred. Here is Alan, hard at work. Colleen was busy at the copier so she missed the photo op.
The big question in my mind, though, is not whether the county should build that new highway department equipment facility or how we can provide needed services without taxing people out of their homes or how we can deal with the fact that, although we are officially a rural county, we must compete with the Twin Cities for talent in terms of salaries and benefits. No, the real question in my mind, is this: can I knit during the Board meetings?