Friday, November 7, 2008

The Quilt Files, Episode 5

Well, I promised last time I would present the first quilting project I ever started; it also happens to be the one I most recently finished. And here it is, what I call my Sea-and-Sky Log Cabin:

You may wonder why it took me so long to finish this quilt; I figure it took between six and seven years from start to finish. The top isn't very complicated at all, which is why I chose it for my first project. It's a simple log cabin with a large central square that's surrounded by three "logs." There are extra borders between the squares, yes, but those aren't very hard at all. (Unless you measure them short before you start sewing, or put them on backwards and have to pick the seam out ... but I didn't make any of those mistakes. At least not with this quilt.) No, what took so long was the quilting. I decided to quilt this piece by hand, since I thought doing it by machine on such a big piece (queen size) might be too ambitious for my first project. I stitched in the ditch for the squares, and stitched diagonals in the big borders. As you can imagine, this is a pretty time-consuming task, and something difficult to do during the summer. Who wants a big heavy quilt sitting on their lap while they're stitching it? I sure didn't. So I put it away during summers, and occasionally remembered it during the winters, and finally finished it this fall. You can't really see all the quilting from the front, but on the back you can see it to its best advantage.

I'm pretty pleased with how this quilt turned out. I think it's beautiful, although I'm not sure where I'm going to display it. In the meantime, it will hang on my quilt rack in my sewing room, although Callie has her own opinion about the proper use of quilts, as you can see in the photo. Cats don't care about the details. Forget the fabric selection and quilting technique; if it's soft and comfy, it's a success!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Word Nerd Sez: F is for ...


I have to admit, I only discovered this word a couple of weeks ago. I was reading an article in Newsweek on the government response to the financial crisis that has been rocking the markets over the past two months. The actual quote was this:

"Fellow citizens," Bush fumfered Friday, "we can solve this crisis—and we will." Unfortunately, his reassurances seem about as calming as the scene from "Airplane" in which the flight attendant urges everyone to remain calm while all hell breaks loose.
I was immediately intrigued. I mean, Newsweek is pretty mainstream, with a fairly clear style; it's not like it's a journal written for an academic audience. And yet they used a word I didn't know ... and I'm not used to finding words I don't know in a mainstream magazine, especially not ones only six letters long. I immediately had to stop reading and go to the dictionary. And this is what I found:

Fumfer: Yiddish word meaning to "mumble", most often used to mean to be evasive; can also mean to putter aimlessly or to waste time.
Wow. What a great word. Sometimes people really do mumble with the intention of being unclear, and now I know the exact word for it. Not only is it a more exact word, it's fun to say. In general, I like the feeling of many Yiddish words. Dreck, glitch, klutz, putz, schlep, schmaltz, schmooze, shtick, spiel, tchotchke, tuckus—the hard, clipped sounds of these words seem to give them extra emphasis. And it's always fun to season your vocabulary with words that have origins other than the more common French, Latin, and German.

We often borrow words from other languages that give us more exactitude than English; if you're a word nerd like me, you'd probably enjoy Adam Jacot de Boinod's The Meaning of Tingo, which is an exploration of these kinds of words that we haven't yet borrowed. If you want to know all those Eskimo words for snow, or the dozens of Somali words that describe camels, this is a fun read. Now, I've fumfered long enough in this post, so I should get back to work.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't just vote—Think!

Well, voting day is finally here, for which my sanity is profoundly grateful. (You know you're hearing way too many political ads when you start having dreams about not being able to escape political ads.) And I've done my civic duty and gone out and voted. I feel virtuous about it, because not only did I go vote, but I spent time studying my ballot before I went in.

Doing a little research is important. Sure, by now most people should have an idea of who they're voting for at the top of the ticket, and it's not hard to "Vote only for 18" when there are 18 judges on the ballot, but what about all those lesser-known races? Local supervisors and university regents and circuit court judges and township library trustees? (Library trustees!! Very important, I need the library for my work!)

The internet is a great tool. If you go to the website of your local newspaper, they'll have a list of their endorsements. You can read what they say about each candidate; they often have articles about the candidates as well, with interviews. Often they have voter guides with responses from the candidates themselves. If they don't, you can always search the League of Women Voters website for their candidate questionnaires.

But what about that all-important library trustee race? The LWV didn't have a questionnaire for them, nor did the big city newspaper. Well, I had to do a little more research. First, I googled "Canton township library trustee" and discovered that four of the eight candidates were incumbents. I think they've been doing a good job, so that made it easy to pick them. There were four other candidates for the two remaining positions, so I needed to do a little more digging. I added one of the candidate's names to my google search, and discovered that two of the four had actually attended a library board meeting in the past six months. Those same two also responded to the hometown newspaper's questionnaire, while the other two didn't bother. I read what they said to make sure they weren't nutcases, and voila! Last two picks made.

I consider the hour or so I spend doing this research a wise investment; and hopefully it pays off. May your time in the voting booth pay off as well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Photo of the Week--10/27/08

While we lived in London from 1998 to 2002, we had plenty of opportunities to travel around the British Isles—a weekend here, a weekend there, and we covered several regions of the country. During a trip to the West Midlands (which border Wales), we saw many lovely castles, manors, and even a set of Roman ruins. This is a view of the gatehouse of Goodrich Castle, in Herefordshire not far from the Welsh border. It dates to Norman times, and was built sometime in the late 11th or early 12th centuries. I like this picture not only for the sense of scale, but because it proves I will climb almost anything to get a good shot.