Archive for the 'Time out of mind' Category

The eagle flies on Friday

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

Minnie is becoming a little more maximal:
It won’t be long before I’ll have beads. And then! Look out!

Moving on, a number of people have asked if I will write up the pattern for “Time Out of Mind.”


I have decided, in the interests of time and out of respect for Fiona Ellis—who originally combined these cables in one of her designs, doncha know?—to go about half-way on that request and give you something that is less like a pattern and more like a recipe. Be forewarned that this will require some rejiggering on your part; I’ll suggest ways to alter the pattern to make it a different size.

The existing “Time Out of Mind” was knitted to fit a 36″ bust, so the instructions will start from that foundation. To alter it, you can add or subtract stitches in between the cables or along the sides. Or you could simply add more cables. Keep in mind that it will look best if you have an odd number of cables, such that the middle cable is one of the larger, double-circle cables.

My sweater had seven cables on the back and seven on the front. It is a simple drop-shoulder shape, so the construction is very basic. I knit the body and the sleeves in the round and did a three-needle bind-off at the shoulder, so “Time” is my amazing seamless sweater. And I really, really liked it that way.

The charts come from Fiona Ellis’s Inspired Cable Knits and are part of a pattern she calls “Ripples in Time.” Out of respect for her design work and for copyright law, I will not reproduce those here. The book is lovely. You won’t regret owning it.

I started out by falling in love with the cable combination she used, then I bought a boatload of worsted weight Malabrigo in color Scarlet, one skein in color Velvet Grapes, and Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, another book you won’t regret owning.

If you want to do this from scratch, just get a yarn you like, swatch it over the pattern, get the gauge, find the sweater style you like from Ann Budd’s book, and then follow her instructions for how many stitches to cast on, etc. That’s really what I did, although it took a little extra math because my gauge on a 32″ U.S. size 7 Addi Natura circular needle was 5.7 stitches to the inch, not a neat 5 or 6.

Here’s what I did, more or less:

Cast on 228 stitches in CC (Velvet Grapes) on a U.S. size 7 32″ circular needle. Join, being careful not to twist. Place markers at the beginning of the row and after the 114th stitch to mark the front and back of the sweater.

Change to MC (Scarlet) and knit 2 rows in seed stitch.

P 1 at the beginning and end of every pattern row on both the back and the front (leaving 112 stitches over which to distribute the cables; each of the 7 cable panels is 16 stitches).

Following the charts, knit cable panels until work measures 13.5 inches. Divide the front and back for the armholes. Knit the back straight until armhole measures 9 inches. On right side, knit 19 stitches in cable pattern and place these stitches on waste yarn. Bind off 14 stitches. Knit the middle 48 stitches in cable pattern and place these on waste yarn. Bind off 14 stitches. Knit the final 19 stitches in pattern and place them on waste yarn.


Now knit the front straight in pattern until it measures 7 inches. Now I must admit that what I did for the neck shaping is somewhat sketchy, but it was more or less this: knit 33 stitches in patttern on right side of work; place the remaining stiches on waste yarn.

At neck edge, bind off 2 stitches on even rows 4 through 12, bind off 1 stitch on even rows 14 through 20. Knit even with back. Place remaining stitches (19) on waste yarn.

Knit and then place middle 48 stitches on waste yarn for front neck. Work left neck shaping to mirror right.

Using a three-needle bind off, “seam” the shoulders.

Starting at the center of the underarm, pick up 96 stitches evenly around the armhole for each sleeve on a 16″ U.S. size 7 circular needle. Place markers for center 16 stitches; these are for the one large center cable that runs down each sleeve. The other stitches are purled (reverse stockinette). Place another marker to mark the beginning of your row; this marker should be in the center of the underarm.

Working cable according to chart and the rest of the sleeve in reverse stockinette, decrease 2 stitches on either side of the marker every 6 rows, 6 times (to row 36), then decrease 2 stitches every 4 rows starting with row 40 and ending with row 112. (Change to two circulars or to double pointed needles when you have decresed to a point that this becomes necessary.) Continue in cable pattern and reverse stockinette through row 118. Knit two rows in seed stitch and bind off in CC.

Now back to the neck. Pick up 22 stitches along the bound off edge on the right side, pick up and knit the 48 front neck stitches from the waste yarn keeping the cable patttern continuous, pick up 22 stitches on the bound off edge on the left side, pick up and knit the 48 stitches at the back neck keeping the cable pattern continuous.

I worked the neck on a 24″ U.S. size 7 circ. needle. The picked up stitches were worked in a K1, P1 ribbing. Work 11 rows, continuing the cable panels and continuing the ribbing on the sides. On rows 7, 9, and 11, decrease 4 stitches total by purling 2 tog in the reverse stockinette between the cables (2 decreases in front; 2 decreases in back). At the end of row 11, you will have decreased 12 stitches total from the neck. I found that it worked best to decrease right at the edge of the cable, where it was less obvious. I also varied where I did the decreases, again so it was less obvious.

Knit 1 row in seed stitch. Bind off in CC.

Pop sweater on over your head and live your life! No seams, no blocking, no nothing! You are ready to go!

As I said, this is more a recipe than it is an exact set of instructions, but I think it can be easily varied to create a range of sizes, especially since the sweater is relatively loose-fitting and the cables tend to make it hug your body.

Good luck! May Time look good on you.

The end of time

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

While I was confined by illness to my home, I spent most of my time blowing my nose daintily into a lace handkerchief, cursing the Three Fates (not to mention the the Nine Tastes, the Five Spices, the Four Tops, and the Seven Deadly Sins…only to arrive at last at the conclusion that I temporarily hated everybody), and swilling DayQuil like a sailor on leave, but I also managed to come to the end of time:

It was far less apocalyptic than one might have imagined.

For those who are interested, the specs:
1) Just over six skeins of Malabrigo (worsted weight) in color Scarlet. So in other words, seven skeins. Those two amounts being equivalent when you get down to brass tacks. Right. So. Moving on.

2) One skein Malabrigo in color Velvet Grapes. As the contrast color, Velvet Grapes was perfect. And I’ve got a lot of it left.

3) Pattern: My own, with heavy assists from Fiona Ellis and Ann Budd. My most heartfelt thanks, ladies! Couldn’t have done it without you!

4) Needles: US size 7 32″ circular and 16″ circular Addi Natura. Renewed my love of bamboo knitting needles, my collection of which had fallen into benign desuetude.

5) A couple of episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, the entire first season of The Muppet Show, a disappointing viewing of the remarkably dull and shallow Marie Antoinette, and several hours of fine conversation.

Et voilà! Time Out of Mind.

And lo, when the sweater was finished, she began to feel better and therefore far less surly and she went forth into the world, singing and dancing and telling all who would listen of her virtual resurrection!

Fortunately, this recovery occurred in time to spend most of a day with the lovely and witty Em, the kind and talented Marc, their youngest daughter, and her tartufo:
This last-minute save did not entirely make up for missing out on much of the weekend, but it made me a whale of a lot happier than not seeing them at all.

Naturally, Miss A. was part of the proceedings:
What does a girl have to do to get a drink around here?

Alex kept a watchful eye over our smallest diner and her tartufo:
Hey, kid, you gonna eat that?

At some point shortly after this photo was snapped, Alex announced, with a note of alarm in his voice, “We have lost one-quarter of the tartufo! We have lost one-quarter of the tartufo!”

After a frantic search, the AWOL tartufo quarter was discovered wedged into a crack in the banquette, melting inexorably into a sticky, lubricious puddle between the two segments. It was unclear how this could ever be cleaned up.

Unless the restauranteur owns dogs.

And on that note, our dinner and our day out came to an end. Marc, Em, and the girls set off on their long car trip home and Alex and I—unused to the vigorous physicality and relentless inquisitiveness of small children—lapsed immediately into a coma.

We can only hope, for the sake of Marc and Em’s sanity, that the girls, buckled into their car seats and stuffed with carbohydrates, followed suit shortly thereafter.

At the present time

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Time has one complete sleeve and about a fifth of a second:

I knocked off Sleeve Numero Uno while I was at Woolcott with my knitting peeps, which was fortunate for my general morale, actually, because my co-worker, the lovely Kat, quite emphatically encouraged me to pick up the stitches for the second sleeve immediately after finishing the first.

Admittedly her vaguely hectoring tone may have had something to do with the fact that as I held the sweater up and admired my work on the newly-completed first sleeve, I said, “Hey, do you guys know anybody about my size who only has one arm? Specifically only a right arm?”

Here’s how Time looks (well, if you can forgive the glare and the indifferent lighting) when worn:
Not photographically ideal, I know, but this is what happens when I’m home alone.

So Time has a sleeve and—I deeply regret to report—I have a cold. Naturally, I blame my landlord, the source of all that is cold, evil, and snot-ridden in this world.

I am never a good patient, but the timing of this ailment is particularly bitter because my friend Emily is in town with her tinies, Miss A. and Miss A.’s little sister, and I’d like to be touring the greater Boston area with them instead of drinking lemon tea at home and slugging DayQuil every six hours. There has been some griping and railing against the fates. Ahem.

Alex reminded me this morning that I am “trying” when I am sick because I get into a black humor and lose perspective and even sometimes claim, in spite of massive and irrefutable evidence to the contrary, that no one loves me and that I have no friends.

I didn’t appreciate his perceptivity in this regard.

Point being, I’m going to keep this post short, seeing as I am bound to be the most “trying” and dismal sort of company you could possibly keep, even on the internets. To make up for my general surliness, I would like to compensate you with a link to the delightful film short, Maddie’s First Banana.

The director, who also happens to be Maddie’s mother, gets an amazing range of emotional response from her actress, don’t you think?

In the neck of time

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Chez Les Eskimaux, the furnace is roaring away comfortingly,
and Shelley and Zeno are luxuriating wantonly in the warmth (note how the animals have literally unfurled from their body-heat-preservative tucks and have arrayed themselves in a curiously symmetrical formation around Alex…one almost suspects that they are planning something untoward…). Meanwhile, Alex and I have finally had the courage to strip off the top two of the four layers of clothing we had become accustomed to wearing in the house.

When you’ve spent nearly a week dressed like Anne Frank going into hiding, you don’t want to de-layer too quickly. You can get the bends.

It’s true. You could look it up.

If you will bear with me this evening, I would like to backtrack a bit and say a few words about how “Time Out of Mind” went from having the Neckline of Doom:

to having a Neckline that Rocks:

As Polarbears (sadly blogless) astutely noted last week, the problem was largely too many stitches, but since I was ripping that sucker out anyway, I decided to make a couple of other modifications that I think made the whole neck element work better.

I ripped the Neckline of Doom out while I was with my knitting friends at Woolcott, mainly because if I have to frog, frogging in public lessens the incidence of cursing, weeping, howling, and making dramatic claims that I later must disavow (e.g., “I hate knitting and I never want to knit again,” and “F*ck this ribbing and the horse it rode in on”).

That sad task accomplished, I set about to build a superior neck, much like the biotechnicians on The Six Million Dollar Man in the 1970s: “We CAN rebuild him. We HAVE the technology…”

This time, I picked up twelve fewer stitches on either side of the neck. Like so:

and like so:

Since the stitches for the cable panels were live to create continuity, those were moved back from waste yarn onto the 24″ circular needle I used for the neck. I knitted seven rows in the established pattern, then continuing in that pattern, I decreased four stitches (purls) between the cable panels on rows eight, ten, and twelve—ultimately losing 12 stitches total, six in front and six in back. Those stitches were decreased at the edge of the cable panels so that they would be less noticeable.

I did row thirteen in seed stitch to lessen the roll and rumple of the bound off edge where the cables were, and then I bound off in the contrasting color.

In the final analysis, I got a much neater bound-off edge and a much cleaner-looking neckline. With a total of thirty-six fewer stitches! I also learned a valuable lesson about necks.

Less is more.
From my perspective as a feline, the same could be said about dogs.

90% efficiency, 100% satisfaction

Monday, February 12th, 2007

After five days of living in an igloo, we were amazed and delighted when our new furnace groaned to life around 4 p.m. yesterday. Its maiden voyage was a rough one, requiring the little-furnace-that-could to raise the temperature from a frigid 48 degrees (yes, that’s where it kind of permanently settled…which means it could have been worse, of course…although had you tried to tell me that on Friday I probably would have hung up on you) to a toasty 68 degrees.

You will never meet anyone so grateful to be in a home where the temperature is in the sixties. Comparatively speaking, I feel like I am on the isle of Oahu, basking in the sunshine on Waikiki and enjoying the “spirit of aloha.”

Pardon me for a moment while I summon Alex to fix me a Mai Tai with a miniature umbrella…

In practice, we were at the hotel for much of the past five days, but because of the animals’ needs and because we were unable to relocate all of our possessions, we were unable to completely abandon the house.
We all found this extremely inconvenient, except perhaps for Shelley, who enjoyed all the walking back and forth between the house and the hotel. And the subsequent sack-outs on the sofa in our suite.

A few tasty details from the furnace debacle:
1. The Paleozoic furnace was operating, we learned from our friendly Keyspan furnace professional, at a whopping 50% efficiency.

2. He also told us that there is a special place in hell for criminally neglectful sumbitches landlords who care so little about their property and their tenants that they fail to replace Paleozoic furnances operating at 50% efficiency.

3. When we asked him if there was a particular reason why the Paleozoic furnace died at that particular moment, he said, “Yeah, the same reason that that 114-year-old woman in Connecticut died a few weeks ago. She was old.

4. The new furnace operates at over 90% efficiency. 90% efficiency, 100% satisfaction Chez Les Eskimaux!

5. It is warmer in this house than it ever has been. And I mean ever. This furnace just flat out has more juice. Go, little furnace! Do your stuff!

So I suppose that in the final analysis, this short-term cloud is bound to have a long-term silver lining. And yet…I still hope my landlord rots in hell.

Meanwhile, I took Wanda’s advice for getting out of the knitting doldrums and started a sock project:
Regia 4-Ply in red, black, and white. Faux-cable pattern over 60 stitches on US #1 needles. And highly portable.

And “Time” has not been out of mind. The lovely fit I spoke of formerly:
I have not yet ceased to be amazed that I got this part right!

How the sleeve is shaping up:
Upon consultation with my pals Kat and Kerry, it was decided that one central cable would be the most flattering sleeve solution.

And finally, a shot in which you can sort of see how the neck fits:
A woman with two-thirds of a sweater and central heating is a very happy woman indeed.

And last, but not least, many thanks to all who offered their support, commiseration, and warm thoughts during the Great Furnace Debacle of 2007.

From the refrigerator into the freezer…

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

Once again, I have good news and I have bad news.

The good news is that I retooled the neck of “Time” and now it is perfect. You may, however, be wondering why there is no accompanying picture. Well, then. Shall we proceed to the bad news?

The bad news is that our furnace died an unceremonious death sometime during the night of February 6th. We woke up on Wednesday morning to discover that it was 48 degrees in the house.

It has remained 48 degrees in the house ever since.

Our lying, cheapskate, craphound landlord has made arrangements to have an entirely new furnace put in, but that will take a couple of days (!!%$#@^&). Of course, he might have thought of this twenty years ago, when the furnace was only forty years old rather than sixty years old, and he might have thought of this during the summer. What I’m telling you here is that this crisis was inevitable and that a certain neglectful sumbitch just didn’t care enough to avert it.

Speaking of that same sumbitch, do you know that he actually had the audacity to tell me just yesterday that the furnace was “only 10 years old”? Like I don’t have eyes.

Meanwhile, I am staying in a hotel and charging it to him. That, I must say, has lit rather a fire under his lazy wazoo, but that’s the only heat that we’re getting around here because there’s only so fast you can get an entirely new furnace installed in the dead of winter. As it turns out.

Until there is heat, there will be no new sweater pictures, I’m afraid. The camera has gone on strike due to unacceptable working conditions.
Shelley Bales, in warmer times. File photo.

Really love your peaches

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that I finished the body of “Time Out of Mind”:
Doncha think I make rawther a handsome vest? And truth be known, I fit my maker quite perfectly…except for one small detail…

The bad news is that the neck looks terrible, rumply and amateurish:
Bwah, ha, ha, ha, ha! You think you can design sweaters, fool? You will be punished for your hubris, and I will lay my vengeance upon you! And you will know my name is The Knitting Goddess!

I have to rip it out and rethink it completely, but I may knit the sleeves first, just to avoid feeling downcast about running in place. I am at a bit of a low-ebb with knitting, I’m afraid. I don’t have decent portable project going and Time is getting to be a very big boy for his age, even putting aside for the moment that his neck is kicking me to the curb.

Meanwhile, in defiance of traditional graduate student lore and angst, the only thing that went right for me today was dissertation writing. The rest of the day was characterized by mercilessly low temperatures,
If I stay in a tight tuck, I may be able to preserve some of my body heat and survive until someone comes to rescue me. Someone with a warmer house.

surly cashiers, and burned dinner rolls. The latter mishap was especially bitter because I was so looking forward to having a roll with my broiled fish, steamed broccoli, and multivitamins, and to have that hope literally carbonized at the last minute, even though it was my own inattention that sealed those rolls’ fate… The agony!

You have no idea how fixated you can become on the idea of a dinner roll when you can only eat thirty-nine things and one of them is “oleomargarine.” (If you are new to the blog, you can get the back-story here.)

If my Berkeley professor was here, he’d ask, “So what’s the lesson?” Based on today’s events, I think the lesson would have to be: spend more time on your dissertation. Although come to think of it, the lesson might also be: hire a cook.

In the plus column, we ordered our wedding rings! They look approximately like this:
We are now deciding what to have engraved on the inside.

We’ve also been in the process of gathering addresses for the invitation list, which is a larger task than you might think, in this age of electronic communication. We have many friends with whom we never exchange real letters, so we don’t keep street addresses for them. But it has been an excuse to get in touch with some friends I contact infrequently.

Today, for instance, I e-mailed a friend of mine who always signs her e-mails with her initial and a line from a song, the cheesier the better, e.g.:

Love, M. “Really love your peaches…”

Upon which the recipient might reply with the signature:

XOXO, E. “…Wanna shake your tree.”

Other strong candidates for lyrics of this sort might include:

More than a woman, more than a woman to me…

I wanna put on my, my, my, my, my boogie shoes…

Goodbye Michelle, it’s hard to die, when all the birds are singing in the sky…

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!

It’s more than a feeling…more than a feeling…when I hear that old song they used to play…

Even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey…

And you! You light up my life! You give me hope! To carry on!

Baby, what a big surprise…right before my very eyes…whoa ho, oh, oh, oh…

But now circling back to the subject of those wedding band engravings, what do you think about, “Really love your peaches”?

Me? I think it’s class, pure class.

Good fences

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Truth be known, I loathe Robert Frost. Something there is that does not love a dour, ungenerous New England poet.
Quite. I must say, among the American poets, I prefer Whitman. His lanky, muscular line provides the perfect accompaniment to gnawing the end off of a cow femur.

Nonetheless, I keep thinking of his mean-spirited “Mending Wall,” in which the narrator’s beleagured neighbor, the one who keeps saying, “Good fences make good neighbors,” is immortalized forever as the schlemiel who just keeps thoughtlessly mending the stone wall every spring and saying the same unexamined thing over and over because he thinks it’s clever.

As opposed to the narrator, who questions what the point of the wall is, but likewise keeps mending the stone wall every spring.
My question to you is, who’s the bigger jerk?

But lately I’ve started to think that I too am an old-stone savage. For a year and a half, we lived on the first floor of our three-story house without neighbors on the second floor. The house was very cold in the winter and there were drug dealers living on the third floor, yes, but it was very quiet. The drug dealers only popped around a couple of times a week and they pretty much sidled into the house, dropped things off, picked things up, and headed out to points unknown where there was a little cash-o-la to be made in illegal commodities. I liked to think of them as “young entrepreneurs.”

We were just one big, happy, dysfunctional, criminally-inclined family.

Until the people on the second floor moved in. One month later, the drug dealers cleared out, apparently having come to regard the space as “no longer suitable to their business needs” now that there was someone immediately downstairs to monitor their comings and goings.

A mere two months later, Zeno and the rest of the Mad Dog household were plunged into mourning for our oil-dripping, petrochemically-hazardous derelict truck, which “the new people” had insisted, through an enraging combination of uncontestable and coolly rational arguments, on having towed away.

You can see as well as I where this is going.

First they came for the drug dealers,
but I did not speak up because I was not a drug dealer.
Then they came for the derelict truck,
but I did not speak up because I was not a derelict truck…

The awful part about all this is that they are perfectly nice people. They love my dog, they are civilized, they don’t throw loud parties, they only cook aromatic foods about once a week, and they have politically-correct bumper stickers on their cars indicating their love of the Goddess and vegetable-oil-powered vehicles and their hatred of George Bush and U.S. imperialism.

And yet, I hate it when I’m trying to go to sleep and I can hear them walking around upstairs, which they seem to do at all hours of the day and night. Can you imagine? People thinking that it is “okay” to walk around their own apartment? I mean, how inconsiderate can you get?

Yeah, I know this is my problem.

But I swear their cat wears combat boots. Thud, thud, thud, thud, meow!

The lastest development is that our neighbors have proposed having tea together to “chat about the house.” Something there is that doesn’t love a chat. (Something there is that doesn’t love le chat, either, but that’s another matter altogether.)

I think perhaps in response I will send a note saying, “Good fences make good neighbors,” and leave it at that.

Progress on “Time Out of Mind”:
I realize this is a bit like watching the grass grow. Humor me, will you?

The front proceeds…

A time for congratulations

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

My lovely friend Tope passed her big, bad oral exam this afternoon and is now, except for a couple of technicalities, “All But Disseration.” (She too is an historian of science.)

Join me in congratulating her on this feat, will you? Just to put this in perspective, we’re talking here about six months of preparation, a list of 250 books, three to five professors, and one graduate student on the hot seat.

Let’s just say that under the best of circumstances, this is a daunting situation.

But in this case, a minor, diabolical SNAFU was added to the mix: Tope had been telling us for weeks that her exam was at 2 p.m. on January 31st. So she was in a teaching assistants’ meeting just slightly after noon when the department administrator burst in, interrupted, and said, “Tope, your oral exam was supposed to start at noon.”

Excusing herself, no doubt first to regurgitate her lunch, Tope hurried off, late to her own exam. Nasser later reported that Tope had turned “ashen,” and Alex added that, “really, she did not look well at all.”

Nonetheless, she turned in an excellent performance. In spite of starting out under circumstances that rival your most horrifying academic nightmares. Impressive, very impressive indeed.

In fact, the only person I know with a more nightmarish story about orals was a guy in my program who received a phone call at home the night before his exam—a call that interrupted his busy evening of panicking, retching, and wringing his hands—to inform him that his exam would be cancelled because one of his professors had died. His immediate response, which he would later deeply regret, was, “How could he do this to me?!?”

Tope was good enough to stop by the yarn store after her exam to give us the good news and have a look at “Time Out of Mind.”
sweater back.png
Time may or may not be on my side, but here is Time’s backside.

sweater front.png
The front, in progress.

A couple of technical things to note about the sweater: if you do a similar sweater in Malabrigo, do make sure that you alternate balls of yarn as you knit.

Malabrigo, with their spurious “dye lots,” tries to deceive you into thinking that if you buy skeins that are all in one dye lot, you will have uniform skeins. Do not fall for this trick. I have eight skeins from the same dye lot, yet two of them are no more like the others than a didgeridoo is like a bull moose. They have to be intermingled.

This is in no way a criticism of this yarn, which I love. Just a word of advice.

Secondly, I plan to surprise you with the neckline. Many thanks to all of those who offered their wisdom on this question a while back! Soon, all will be revealed…

High (fiber) times

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Well, here we are, friends, at the end of what can only be described as a crap-tastic week Chez Mad Dog!

The NSF grant proposal, as you know, has not ceased to kick me relentlessly in the arse, an arse-kicking that I thought would be over last night at the absolute latest, but which has instead continued into today and promises to persist for at least three or four more hours tomorrow!

Like any beating, it’s bound to feel good when it quits!

Any attempt to describe the mind-numbing agony of absurd detail that this proposal demands would, I’m sure, be futile. Our powers are only so great. But here’s a little taste: among its various insults to your discretion and intelligence, the proposal has a section in which you are called upon to speak of yourself in the THIRD PERSON.

As in, “Ellen Bales will carry out vital research that will not only excite your senses and tickle your fancy, but will also end the war in Iraq and bring food to those who hunger, water to those who thirst. Because frankly, that’s the kind of person Ellen Bales is. People not only love Ellen Bales, they envy her!”

I’m the Bob Dole of the academy. The shame is so great that I may have to start wearing a disguise.

Meanwhile, the condition of the Bales-Wellerstein homestead has continued to deteriorate and no one has had a decent meal around here for about two weeks.

“Time” was the one bright spot in an otherwise dark and cold week:
Here you can see where I split the sweater for the arm holes.

The glorious back.

How it would look if you were an ant.

But speaking of food, I faced one further, and possibly even more grave, insult this week. Unbeknownst to you, but, um, knownst to me—and how!—I have for some time been having troubles with my guts. Trouble with your guts is a bad kind of trouble, because we all know perfectly well that if you go to your doctor and tell her that you are having gut troubles, she will offer to “help” you by running a camera up your backside and into your guts and seeing what she can see.

A procedure that she will cavalierly describe as, “no big deal.”

Because to her, you see, it is “no big deal.” If that camera were rooting around in her guts, the “deal” would be much, much bigger. Much.

As proof that this week—bad though it was—could have been even worse, I was not subjected to the little camera. I was, however, diagnosed with mild “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” and placed on a special diet.

This, dear friends, is the era of diagnosis. Thirty or forty years ago, we would have just said, “Well, you know how Grandma got so there were so many things that didn’t agree with her. I reckon I’m gettin’ to be like Grandma.” Today, we have “IBS” and drugs and special diets.

We also have this:
I got a little confused when Dr. F. told me I needed more fiber in my diet. So I purchased the Benefiber and a few extra balls of yarn.

So in addition to my Benefiber—mmm, mmm!—I can also have (and I shall start at the top of the list, adding commentary as I go):

1. Water and ginger ale, although the pamphlet hastens to add that, “Many types of flavored, non-carbonated water are now available!” I suppose one is meant to exclaim, “Well, then, Skimpole, you see, things aren’t so bad after all! We are to have YET ANOTHER beverage choice!”

2. White or (are you ready for this?) brown rice.

3. Broiled fish.

4. Broiled, skinless chicken.

5. Broiled, skinless turkey.

6. Soft-boiled eggs. There is no explanation offered for the exclusion of hard-boiled eggs, but I suspect conspiracy.

7. (At this point in the list, many of those who have been placed on the special diet are already weeping quietly in the corner, but they ain’t seen nothin’ yet.) Number Seven is…a baked potato without the skin! And then, in a powerful example of kicking the dieter while she is already hungry and deprived, “DO NOT EAT FRIED POTATOES!” (Emphasis original.)

Well, fine, then. Take your crappy old French fries and stick ’em where the little camera goes. I got me a case of ginger ale and I’m ready to par-tay!

8. Toast. Right.

9. Cheerios without milk. Talk about taking the “cheer” out of Cheerios.

10. Oyster crackers. But you ain’t getting no chowder with that.

As the diet goes on in this deflating and bland vein, you find yourself kind of slumping in your chair, only to be redeemed by Number Thirty-Two:

Graham crackers!

By the time you get to Number Thirty-Two, graham crackers sound like chocolate torte. You are so grateful! Graham crackers! I get to eat graham crackers!

But there are more special treats in store for baby! Number Thirty-Three?

Fruit cocktail!

Returning to its Scrooge-like abstemiousness, the diet ends a few items later with a dispiriting pair of approved “foods”:

39. Small amounts of oleomargarine. (Really, now, who uses the word “oleomargarine” any more?)

40. Multivitamins.

Now, I am no nutritionist, but last I checked, a multivitamin is not a food. Buzz. I’m sorry. Number Forty is disqualified from the foods list.

Whaddya say we replace it with pulled pork?