Making Myself

Friday, March 11th, 2011


About a quarter to midnight last night (PST), I heard about the earthquake in Japan. I was horrified and worried—although I lost contact with her several years ago, I had a Japanese penpal who lived in Tokyo. I still have a snapshot of her and her husband. I wondered if they were okay.

And then, a minute or so later, the word “tsunami” penetrated my consciousness, and I got a lot more worried. I live in Oregon, which is a coastal state. I live inland about 60 miles or so, and I wasn’t worried for myself, but my best friend and her family live on the Coast. Right on the Coast. Minutes from the beach. I started scouring the internet for information.

All I could find was that the tsunami was expected to hit Oregon between 7:00 and 7:30ish this morning. I couldn’t find much information on the expected severity.

I finally went to bed about 3:30, and then I got up at 6:30 so I could find out what was happening. There wasn’t much else I could do. (For the record, I did try to get in touch with my friend directly, but I couldn’t get hold of her.) So I sat in front of my computer for about three hours, keeping an eye on the news from Japan and other areas affected by the tsunami, and also keeping a very careful watch on a coastal webcam. The only webcam I could find that (a.) was running and (b.) showed water—instead of, for instance, streets—is a bit south of where my friend lives, and it shows an inlet rather than full-horizon ocean, but it at least gave me some idea of what the water levels were like over there.

Around 9:00 or so, my friend got in touch with me. They were on high alert, and cities on both sides of her had already been evacuated as a precaution. The area she lives in was safe from flooding, although not from the danger of being isolated by high waters, potentially trapping the people left in the dry zones. That was a worst-case scenario, though, and the general expectation was that things—at least in my friend’s community and surrounding areas—were going to be fine.

It’s after ten p.m. as I write this. Unless there’s been some late-breaking complication since I last talked to her this afternoon, my friend and her family are fine and were never even in any real danger.

But I’ve been thinking all day how odd it is that an earthquake in Japan can make me fear for the safety of my best friend and her little girls in a small town on the Oregon Coast. We toss around the word “globalization” a lot, and generally we’re talking about technology, but natural disasters create their own kind of globalizing effect. I know it’s not a profound or original thought, and I don’t have anything profound or original to add to it, either, but it’s what’s been in the back of my mind since midnight.

Ayumi, I hope you and your husband and your families and friends are okay.

Friday, March 4th, 2011


Filed under: painfully meta,Woohoo, I FAILED! — Kate Vinée @ 3:22 am

So, uh, I missed two weeks of posting. So much for Post A Week, eh?

I actually have a real reason, though: my hard drive died. Like, all the way died. (When I took it in for repairs, the tech guy ran a diagnostic machine of some sort to check how much function the hard drive retained; when I checked in with him afterward, he kept saying, “It’s at zero percent!” He seemed impressed by its thoroughness.)

It took a week to get the hard drive replaced and I spent another week trying to get programs reinstalled and backed-up files reloaded, as well as trying to get caught up on the week’s backlog of Stuff I was Supposed to be Doing, but here I am again–mostly finished with all of that.

Additionally, there’s been cool stuff going on, or at least stuff that I think is cool, and I’ll post about that too. This is but a mini-post. A PSA, if you will.

tl;dr: My computer, it asplode. I have therefore failed to post every week, but I will pick up where I left off and soldier on.


ETA: Take note, please, of what I wrote in this very blog on February 4th:

I’ve had an account there [at Distributed Proofreaders] for years, but I’m still only a P1 proofer (less than 300 pages proofed) because every time I start to get into the swing of things my computer dies. I’ve started proofing again—and crossing my fingers and knocking on wood and throwing salt over my shoulder, etc., in the hope that my computer won’t suddenly explode—and am now nearing the 300-pages mark, drawing ever closer to P2.

Ten days later: boom. I managed to cross the 300-pages line first, though.

Friday, February 11th, 2011

We’re in Your Pants, Decreasing Your WorldSuck

Filed under: Nerdfighters — Kate Vinée @ 8:51 pm

Once upon a time, long ago in the days of yore—i.e., 2007—a community arose, and that community called itself Nerdfighteria. Nerdfighteria was a beautiful and wondrous place, but Nerdfighters needed a meeting hall. The need grew until a man named Hank Green took up the challenge. He built the meeting hall, and he named it “My Pants”. (John: “That is still the best joke Hank has ever made.”)

Nerdfighters met in My Pants for some time, but eventually Nerdfighteria outgrew My Pants and moved to the Ning, and My Pants fell into disrepair.

The Ning has been Nerdfighteria’s community center for years, but it is somewhat large and rambling; it’s not terribly well-designed, and it can be hard for citizens to find what they’re looking for. Moreover, it’s often intimidating or confusing to new members of the community. The Powers That Be felt that there was room for a new meeting hall to supplement the Ning, and thus they erected—

Your Pants.

Praise be, we can still make all our old jokes.

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Love List

Another love list! I know, so unutterably exciting. But you know what? I like love lists.

  • Knitting projects.
  • Distributed Proofreaders. I really like DP. It’s an organization of volunteers who put together e-books for Project Gutenberg. I’ve had an account there for years, but I’m still only a P1 proofer (less than 300 pages proofed) because every time I start to get into the swing of things my computer dies. I’ve started proofing again—and crossing my fingers and knocking on wood and throwing salt over my shoulder, etc., in the hope that my computer won’t suddenly explode—and am now nearing the 300-pages mark, drawing ever closer to P2.

    Distributed Proofreaders is a very nerdy but highly interesting thing to be a part of; I’ve proofed pages on all kinds of books I’d never heard of, many of which were genuinely fascinating, funny, or well-written. I’ve no idea how many books I’ve contributed to, but there’s something pleasing about knowing I’ve helped make books available for other people to read and have helped preserve, in e-book form, old books that might not make it otherwise, and it’s enjoyable to be a part of a community dedicated to those things.

    Plus, I just like proofing. I am that nerdy.

  • Blanket forts.
  • Downton Abbey. (Episodes available online for a limited time at the PBS Masterpiece site.) I love Bates so very much. The second season won’t be out till next year, and this ensaddens me. (Shh. It’s totally a word.)
  • Breaking out of my shell, or at least making a little crack in it. I’ve been weirdly sociable the last couple of weeks, for me.

    I’ve posted comments on people’s blog entries instead of just lurking, I’ve e-mailed a silly “happy blogiversary” MS Paint drawing to somebody I don’t know very well instead of just laughing about it myself and then deleting it, I’ve tweeted links to people I thought would be interested in them instead of worrying about making a nuisance of myself. And to my surprise, people responded positively. In one case, my comment was mentioned a few days later in a new blog entry, and someone else commented about it in a way that made my day. My MS Paint card was tweeted about and then posted on the blog, and other commenters seemed to find it amusing as well (and I felt hugely gratified to have provided some amusement for that group of people, whom I like so much and whose community has given me a lot). A link I sent was retweeted by the recipient and then retweeted by several other people.

    It’s not OH MY GOD PEOPLE PAID ATTENTION TO ME. It’s that I tried to contribute something that I thought might be valuable or interesting, and apparently I managed to succeed. The main reason I have such a hard time talking to people or delurking online is that I’m always terribly afraid I’m making a nuisance of myself. I made a real effort over the last couple of weeks to say something when I had something to say, and—in a startling departure from the norm—I seem to have said things that were interesting. It’s a nice little start, at least.

Friday, January 28th, 2011

One sock down! One to go, if I ever stop philosophizing about knitting.

I have missed knitting. I love to knit, and other than frantically scrabbling my way through the last few inches of an eleventh-hour Christmas gift, I haven’t done it much lately. Yarn is expensive. But I had some leftover sock yarn that hadn’t been allocated to anything in particular, and my fingers got itchy the other day, so I started a pair of yoga socks [Ravelry link; off-Rav link].

I cast on the first sock four days ago, and—knitting mostly while I was hanging out, watching TV with my friend Bryan in the evenings—I’ve just finished it. Here it is (please excuse the bad lighting):

yoga sock

I realize that it doesn’t have a heel or a toe. Yoga socks are heelless and toeless so your feet don’t slip while you’re doing a practice.

When I don’t knit for a while, I get used to being without it, and then when I come back to it there’s always this weird rush of wellbeing that floods me: “Ah, this is why I knit. I remember now.”

It’s a strange hobby, there’s no getting round that. You start out with a long piece of string and two (or five) sticks and you pull loops through loops until you’ve made something. Many of the things we knit are available ready-made in stores, often much more inexpensively than we can make them, if considerably less customized; even setting that aside, it is, when considered in the abstract, a pretty weird thing to do. Loops through loops through loops, hundreds or thousands or millions of times.

And yet, it is so comforting, so soothing, and so satisfying.

I’ll grant you, it’s not soothing when you’ve just ripped out an in-progress sock heel for the third time because you’ve miscounted your short rows, or when you try on half a sweater and realize that it won’t actually fit you. But when you’re upset or sad or tired, curling up with a ball of yarn and a pair of sticks and pulling loops through loops can have a calming, meditative effect. Even if you’re happy and having a fantastic day and don’t need an emotional crutch, there’s a kind of creative enjoyment that comes out of watching a project grow from your needles. It’s almost like magic (which may be why the term “muggle” has become a common way to refer to non-knitters).

Lots of other people have already talked about the joys of knitting, and many of them have done it much better than I could. I can already feel myself getting uncomfortable writing about something that means so much to me. I can feel that I haven’t done a very good job so far and I’m beginning to feel awkward.

So, one baldly-stated list, no flourishes and no attempts to dress it up. Here are some things knitting has done for me:

  • It’s given me confidence that I didn’t have before. Not a lot, clearly, but it’s made me realize that I have useful skills, knitting-related and otherwise. I feel more competent, and more comfortable with that competence.
  • It’s made me more fearless about trying things; I’m self-taught, and much of teaching yourself to knit involves arming yourself with some knowledge and then just throwing yourself at a project and seeing if you can figure out how it works. Everything in knitting is simpler and less scary than it looks, and it turns out that a lot of things in life are like this as well.
  • It’s given me something to hang on to when I needed it. I’ve knit my way through a lot of stress and sadness and hurt. I have a vivid memory of being in a particularly unpleasant confrontational situation and realizing suddenly that I was holding my small square of knitting up in front of me as I worked, like a shield, or like a defensive weapon. I know it must sound strange, but knitting made me feel grounded and focused and, emotionally at least, safer.
  • It’s given me a lot of joy and satisfaction. I’ve knit my way through good times as well as bad. I’ve also knit my way through hours that otherwise would’ve been spent being bored, like sitting in a dentist’s waiting room, or running my family’s booth at our local farmer’s market, or waiting for a friend to turn up. I took my knitting with me to the hospital when my best friend was in labor with her first baby. I’ve knit things for myself, things for friends, things for family members, and there’s hours and hours and thousands upon thousands of stitches’ worth of love and thought in those projects.
  • Also, it’s given me stuff. I have this giant scarf, this amazing bright-red scarf that I love to a ridiculous degree. I made it. That’s pretty awesome. Not just the scarf, or the stuff, but the pride in having made something that I genuinely feel good about.

So, that’s it. That’s my impromptu blog post about the awesomeness of knitting. When I opened up the “New Post” window, I just planned to put up a picture of my sock, and this is what happened. As usual, I feel awkward about hitting “Publish”—because I always do, which is the whole reason I started this blog in the first place—but I’m going to do it anyway. And then I will go, because I have a hank of yarn to go wind into a ball.

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Obligatory Birthday Post

I turned 31 recently.

I haven’t got anything particularly profound to say about it; I didn’t have any sort of age-related existential crises, nor did I have a giant party. It went, to be honest, pretty much exactly like the other 365 days of my year.

I had dinner at my parents’ house. I came home, fed my pets, made tea, probably did something on the internet, and then at nine o’clock my friend Bryan showed up. He’d presented me with two DVDs the day before, and we sat in my living room with a pot of tea and watched one of them. I got a phone call from Amanda, my best friend since forever, later that night. Then, as usual, I couldn’t sleep and ended up sitting up all night goofing around online and playing my ukulele. That was the day, and as I say, it was pretty standard.

I started writing a post in which I was going to discuss the gifts I got and what those gifts said about me, but it was incredibly uninteresting and mind-numbingly self-absorbed, so I binned it in favor of writing a post about the actual cool thing about this birthday.

My birthday is January 11th, so the date this year was 1/11/11 (or 11/1/11, depending on where you’re from). People are fond of dates like that, and Twitter was full of mentions of it all day. The only interesting one I saw, though, was from the Feminine Miss Geek (@femmissgeek), who commented on the fact that 11111 is 31 in binary. She found it mildly noteworthy because she’ll be turning 31 this year, but I found it HUGELY entertaining since I, conveniently, was turning 31 that day. (I said so when I @-replied her to thank her for sharing this tidbit of awesomeness, whereupon she tweeted back, “Happy 11111th Birthday!”)

My little nerd heart grew three sizes that day, I’m pretty sure. I don’t think my parents or Bryan, whom I excitedly told about it, were particularly impressed, but that kind of geeky factoid makes my day even when it doesn’t directly have anything to do with me at all. Plus it had the added bonus of making me feel as if I’d somehow earned bonus Nerdfighter points.

DFTBA, everybody. I hope everyone finds something on their birthday that fills them with such pure glee.

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Love List

Filed under: all the cool kids have insomnia,love lists — Kate Vinée @ 6:34 am

It’s a quarter after six in the morning, and I haven’t slept yet. It’s been that kind of a week. I’m tired and frustrated and feeling a little bit put upon, so in the interest of raising my spirits, I’m typing up a quick love list.

  • Tea. I realize this is a constant on my love lists, but it’s a constant for a reason.
  • The stuff I got for my birthday. (My birthday was this Tuesday. I turned 31. I suppose I should write an entry about it at some point.)
  • Reading. I actually sat down this weekend and just read. Just sat in one spot and read for hours. I feel like I never get to do that anymore, and it was awesome.
  • The Beatles. No comment needed.
  • Writing a letter, on real paper, with a real pen. Double plus good if there is a dip pen involved.
  • This.

Weirdly, I do feel a little better. I suspect it is the combined powers of tea and the Elder Gods of Haberdashery.

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

Ten Days of DailyBooth

I signed up for DailyBooth and posted my first picture(s) on New Year’s Eve. The following is a not-particularly-well-organized exploration of my thoughts on the subject so far.

Putting the “Daily” in “DailyBooth”

Benjamin Cook, who has been systematically working his way through various social media sites (Three Little Words, FormSpring, etc.), opened up a DailyBooth this morning and tweeted this:

to which someone called @rantsbyrichard replied,

I realize this, and in fact realized it well before I ever opened up my own Booth, but I’ve been posting a picture every day nonetheless.

The problem here is that boredom has already set in. By January 4th I was already in that “Oh GOD, do I really have to think of something to Booth today? Ugh” headspace. The problem, as I see it, is twofold: (1.) I am not sufficiently egomaniacal to enjoy taking photographs of my own face every day. In fact, I find it phenomenally tedious. (2.) My photography is limited by the fact that I don’t have a real camera; I only have a webcam, which means I can’t go outside to take pictures or even move around much.

I’ve been compensating the last three days by taking pictures of, in order: a message written on my hand in Sharpie; my lap desk, dip pens, and ink, in preparation for letter writing; and, today, my hands (and, in the background, my face) covered in gesso and paint. This is better than photographing my face every day, but it’s really just desperate shuffling round for a subject; I haven’t figured out yet how to make DailyBooth work for me.

The obvious solution, I suppose, is to stop taking a picture every day and only post when I have something interesting to post, but that’s not what I want. If I only Booth when I feel I have something “good enough”, I won’t Booth at all. Boothing every day, imposing that artificial deadline on myself, is, for me, a bit like PostAWeek2011; it’s giving myself a timeline, making myself accountable for creating content.

I don’t have a plan in place yet. Unless I come up with a better idea, I’m just going to keep trying different things until something starts to work, or until I start to get a feel for the direction I want to head in. That’s generally how things happen for me on creative projects anyway.

…But is it art?

I realize that with this non-plan of just doing something every day, I’m bound to post a lot of crap and a lot of mediocrity. I’m kind of okay with that. I mean, I’d rather post good stuff, obviously, but sometimes, as Maureen Johnson has said, you must DARE TO SUCK. Apart from any other consideration, I’m neither an experienced photographer—even an amateur one—nor particularly good at visual art, and it will undoubtedly be a while before I get past “suck” to “sortofkindof suck”, much less to “awesome”. I can accept that.

Other Observations about DailyBooth

So far nobody is following me, which means that I don’t have to worry about disappointing anybody with my Booths of Suck, which is rather nice. There is a certain freedom in obscurity.

Most of the comments I’ve had on my posts to date are either trolls (my favorite was the person who told me I looked “like the thing at the bottom of the well” in The Ring) or f4f spammers.

On the other hand, there are certainly little pockets of community all over DailyBooth, and I suspect that those are very enjoyable. I had a very nice time watching Boothers play Hangman in the comments thread of Corey Lambert’s post a couple of days ago, though I was too shy to join in myself.

Which brings me to another point.

Whatever Possessed Me to Join DailyBooth in the First Place?

There were several things that I found interesting or compelling about DailyBooth. As mentioned, I’m useless with a camera, but I’d like to be better, and the idea of this sort of photo site felt rather attractive. Also, several people that I follow in other places on the internet also have DailyBooth accounts—which is how I found DailyBooth in the first place—and occasionally I thought I’d like to be able to reply on their Booth threads. And as I say, there are little pockets of community all over DailyBooth, and those seemed like fun; I’m a bit too shy to try to leap straight into them, and I’m not very going at joining in, but it is certainly easier to follow along when I have a DailyBooth of my own.

That idea of the DailyBooth community, or even of just being able to comment on a thread here and there, is quite an important one. I don’t really make New Year’s resolutions, but I did decide a while ago that I was going to try to interact more this year. It’s hard for me, for a lot of reasons that I will probably go into in another post some time, to interact with people a lot IRL, and therefore the internet, which is full of people, becomes a good choice.

However, as I may have mentioned once or twice already today, I am shy and uncomfortable “pushing” my way into a group. (I put that in quotes because although it might not seem pushy to other people, it feels that way to me.) It’s terribly difficult for me to interact with other people unless I make the conscious decision to do it and keep reminding myself about it.

It’s not just about actually going out and making contact myself, either. It’s really hard for me to put pieces of myself out in public for other people to see, as well. DailyBooth—and this blog—are both a real effort on my part, because even though nobody’s looking at my DailyBooth account or reading this blog, they could be. It’s discomfiting for me, and I’m trying to work on that.

So the DailyBooth stays, and I keep posting stuff on it, even if it sucks. Same goes for the blog. Sorry about the avalanche of crap, Nonexistent Hypothetical Readers.

(What does it say about me that I feel the need to apologize to people who don’t exist? You see, this is why I need to work on my personal interaction skills.)

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Perfect timing.

After signing up for PostAWeek yesterday and expressing my concern that I’d end up with a blog full of nothing but Love Lists, I am amused to find that today’s prompt is “Share something that makes you smile.”

Fine, I just will then! A quick-and-dirty Love List for today.

Things that are Awesome:

  • The Edinburgh Zoo Penguin Cam, which continues to delight me.
  • Eddplant’s Confidence Tricks album, which I received for Christmas and which apparently has some sort of “JosieAndThePussycatsIsTheBestBandEver”-type subliminal message in it, because I cannot turn it off. (I feel like I’m mentioning Ed a lot in recent posts. It’s unintentional, but I suppose I’ve been listening to him a lot lately, so it comes out here.)
  • Yoga. This afternoon I did a yoga practice for the first time in a few weeks, and it was so nice to come back to it. Even the ultra-easy practice I chose today.
  • Tea. Tea is the best thing.
  • Also the internet. Internet, I love you.

UPDATED TO ADD another Thing that is Awesome:

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer got married (again). I am ridiculously happy for them, because they are so obviously happy together. I love it when people are so radiantly happy to be with one another.

Here’s a link to the Kyle Cassidy photo album (pdf) of their first, non-legal, “performance-art” wedding on Neil’s birthday.


Filed under: painfully meta — Kate Vinée @ 12:21 am

Because I am clearly and irretrievably insane, I am signing up for PostAWeek2011. God help me.

I realize it would be more exciting and interesting if I were signing up for PostADay instead, but I know perfectly well there’s no way I’ll make a blog post every day, and I don’t really want to. I already write in my paper journal every day. I’ve also just started a DailyBooth account, and although I don’t have any plans to really kill myself trying to post a picture every single day, my hope is to Booth as close to every day as is practicable. So I have no intention of signing up for PostADay, but I thought PostAWeek would be both within my powers and pleasingly challenging.

If what I end up with at the end is fifty-two weeks of nothing but Love List posts, I apologize in advance.

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