There are lots of things my Mom did intentionally, to model proper behavior for my sister and I. Share! Be nice! Eat your cheesecake parallel to the crust! I’m not sure either of the following two things were intentionally done on her part as examples for my sister and I, but they sure stuck.

When I was in seventh grade, my Mom got my sister and I a puppy. A tiny, squirming too-smart-for-her-own-good mutt who knew when it was a friend coming up the walk, effectively blocked a 250-lb repairman from coming near anyone in the family despite her less-than-imposing 7-lb weight and instantly became one of the family. Turns out D.J. was the model by which I now judge all dogs (and to be brutally honest, people), but it was a difficult adjustment to learn how to take care of her, to integrate her daily needs into our lives when we were just kids who wanted to go play.

Right about the same time, my Mom brought home a “laptop.” A huge, hulk of a machine that weighed as much as I did, had a tiny 7″ orange-type screen and a detachable keyboard that formed part of the hard outer-shell case. It ran DOS and made sad little beeping noises when you accidentally typed “D:\” instead of “C:\” at the > prompt. She used it to create really complicated documents, muttering the whole time about “reveal codes” and how she always had to fix other people’s stupid formatting mistakes. But it had Q-Bert and that made putting up with her muttering and carting its bulk up and down the stairs to my room worthwhile. Turns out that big, giant hulk of a machine was the model by which I now judge technology. And–let’s also be brutally honest here–some people (especially the ones who make sad little beeping noises when you make tiny mistakes. Sadly, these people tend not to pass the dog-yardstick test or come with the redeeming Q-Bert install).

Thankfully, the model the dog provided and the model the computer provided serve very different purposes. I know now that dogs and people often live up to the admittedly-high D.J. yardstick, but computers will forever outpace my ability to measure them. And I learned that we add things to our lives because, even if they complicate life in some unpredictable ways, our lives get better. Easier. Faster. More rewarding.

I am who I am–a geek with a willingness to accept that things can’t stay the same forever and a great longing for both fountain pens and bleeding-edge technology–because my Mom brought home the dog and then the computer. Because Mom always questioned her environment and looked for the right thing to change. She got the fantastic dog who added so much responsibility and joy to our lives. She used reveal-codes when most people just selected text and pressed the “bold” key regardless of what might happen.

That means Mom has the longest-running geek-grrl influence in my life, making her my Ada Lovelace Day/Women in Technology/Let’s Honor The World’s First Programmer role model, whether or not that’s what she intended. Instead of hanging back and staying in the typesetting field with which she was so familiar, she taught herself how to code and now runs Web sites. She is–and she will kill me for saying this–nearing retirement age, but instead of coasting and doing stuff that makes her comfortable, she pushes boundaries, tests herself. She’s learned HTML, CSS, and basic scripting in 2 different languages, all in the last 2 or 3 years, and mostly on her own, and that list doesn’t include all the things she’s taught herself beyond the scope of that 2-3 year timeline.

Still, the most important thing I learned from her about technology is even more fundamental: she never uses technology solely for the sake of using technology, and she never sticks old methods solely for the sake of comfort. It’s easy to do both. Newspaper closures all over the country suggest how difficult it can be to break free of an old model, in much the same way that every failed new-new-thing product demonstrates how stupid it can be to do something bleeding-edge solely for the sake of doing something new.

What I learned from my mom is that wisdom applied to technology is the real key. Changes in paradigm that use technology can, when they’re done right and for the right reasons, make life better. Easier. Faster. More rewarding.

And let’s not forget: more fun….

There is no knitting. There is no writing. Not that both aren’t being done, just not documented pictorially. There has, however, been crafting. The crafting itself was undertaken weeks ago, but the fruits of the crafting have only recently come to, um… To fruition.

Behold, Lime-cello! There’s limoncello and grapefruit-cello where that came from too. Because I goofed and didn’t share the process with my sister when I was in PDX, I’m sharing it here for posterity’s sake.

Citrus-cello in 10 steps or less (two of which include taste-testing)

  1. Buy the highest-proof everclear you can find, and split the bottle in half into two carefully-sterilized 750 ml bottles with cork or plastic stoppers, not screw-on caps (vodka or scotch bottles run through the dishwasher work nicely for this purpose).
  2. Add a little more than a cup of citrus zest to each bottle (somewhere around 7 large limes or lemons, or three large grapefruit). For the best flavor, find citrus with extremely colorful peels; the color equates to lovely citrusy flavor. Because I use two bottles for extraction, it’s easy to do two different flavors of citrus-cello with a single bottle of everclear.
  3. Let the mix sit for two weeks, shaking the bottle occasionally to redistribute the zest for maximum extraction of goodness.
  4. From here on out, treat each bottle separately if you’ve done two different flavors. Strain the citrus extraction into a good glass pitcher with metric measuring marks, and toss the now-crunchy mostly-white zest. Note how much everclear/citrus mixture you’ve got.
  5. Grab two new 750 ml bottles, or re-sterilize the two you used during the extraction process. Pour the strained everclear/citrus into one of these bottles.
  6. Mix up some simple syrup: 2 parts sugar to one part filtered water, heat until combined, usually just after boiling. (I actually do this in the microwave. Carefully.) Refrigerate until cool.
  7. Test your sugar preferences. In a shot glass, measure 1 part everclear/citrus mixture and 1 part simple syrup. Put it in the freezer and let it chill. Taste. If it’s too sweet, add filtered water until you have a citrus-cello you can happily drink, keeping track of the approximate proportions of added water. If it’s not sweet enough, add more simple syrup.
  8. Using your personal preferences as a guide, pour the right amount of simple syrup into the bottle already containing your citrus/everclear mixture. Shake to combine.
  9. Place in the freezer, and enjoy when chilled.

Because your final product will be somewhere in the 90-proof arena, your citrus-cello probably won’t turn into slush when it’s frozen but will instead remain a lovely syrupy consistency perfect for drizzling over vanilla gelato.

It’s been a while since I felt the kind of displacement that comes from spending a few weeks on someone else’s floor and hunting down guest Internet connections in a city that’s theoretically home. In what I’m finding is a fairly regular alignment of the stages of various things in different parts of my life, the BrewFest vacation, my computer projects, my knitting projects and my academic projects are all simultaneously in conjunction, contributing equally to this odd feeling of disjointedness. It’s both encouraging and a little unsettling, since displacement comes from change and change is usually a varying combination of fun and scary.

For a long time when I went back to Portland, I slept in the house that had been home since before I was a self-supporting life-form. The last several years, of course, the sleeping quarters were my own and when I flew somewhere, coming home really was exactly that. This trip came at the transition point, where the new city wasn’t quite home in the real sense of the word but the old city didn’t have quite the familiarity it once had. Even though the old haunts are still there and the things newly discovered just before our departure a year ago are still making their imprints on the psyches of the people who walk by everyday, the simple act of scanning for an open public wi-fi network brings with it a certain amount of other-worldliness.

As much as we all long for excitement and the thrill of the undiscovered, there is something to be said for predictability. I just never figured that Bloomington would be the latter and Portland the former…. My knitting group has a lot do to with that.

The knitting itself, however…. I’m working on a new sock design, which is unusual for me. I knit a lot of socks and I futz with sock designs all the time, but I rarely think about designing socks for publication, much less designing a cables-and-lace pattern from scratch. Still, a new heel turn method (yes, more teasers) deserves a completely new pattern. And this is what it looks like right now:

With help from my knitting group (Thanks, Huan-Hua and Nicole!), I have a substantial part of the charting done on an exciting and very knittable sock pattern. In a desperate effort to get the damn thing done quickly, I’ve set it up as my Ravelympics project.

Out of the desperate effort to get a sock pattern done also comes a desperate need to redesign my pattern stylesheet, and that’s where the current computer project comes in: a complete reinstall. Again.

Thanks to Adobe’s shoddy programming and inability to mandate the use of case-sensitive code, I’ve had to reinstall my OS for the second time in six weeks. Fool me once, etc., etc., etc.

In any case, the reinstall prompted a rethinking of my computer set up, and boy, has it changed. Unfamiliar computer surroundings apparently translate to real-world unease. Weird. Though I do have to admit, as I was transitioning my Time Machine backups from one hard drive to a bigger external hard drive, that I was perversely disappointed by the fact that my old backups were only 50K short of 2 million trashed files. Two million! (Ah ah aaah! Maybe I should change my nickname to The Count?)

Of course, before the knitting starts, and before the sock design really gets underway, we have the academic projects to tackle. I use the royal we because first-person discussion is much harder here. I have a total of four paragraphs in 8,000 words that are dragging down an otherwise fantastic project, and once I solve the problems in those four paragraphs, my life will take on a very different shape. These are the key paragraphs; they define the framework of a Big Project, set out the methodology for what I want to do for the next few years, and I can’t fix them because I can’t quite justify the building of mental research walls yet. I don’t want to have a focus because I like futzing with a wide variety of things, but I can’t move on to the next stage of Big Project until I focus on this one and just get it the hell done.

On the other hand, the socks are coming along nicely.

The Oregon Brewers Festival is usually unpredictable, owing to the flammable combination of copious amounts of beer, an even greater assortment of people and the heat of an Oregon summer afternoon.

This year, BrewFest exceeded even my expectations–which are admittedly high–thanks to the sprightly combination of knitters and the open vibes inspired by Portland’s friendly atmosphere. (Or the beer. I’m not sure which.)

As one should do when one’s entertainment is only made possible thanks to those in the service industry, one must also give credit where credit is due. OBF always has cheerful, knowledgeable staff working the pitchers, and this year was no exception. They even got a standing ovation from the crowd of beer connoisseurs!

In addition to ogling the sock-tastic projects conspicuously and proudly displayed by fellow Ravelers triners and lavandarknits, we also spotted the elusive Blogger (image rotated for her own protection) hard at work on her July Skif-A-Long project. A brave choice, I might add, given the fact that the many-stranded goodness required by a Skif project also means a penchant for tangling the likes of which one might only see when…. Well, when The Blogger tries to brush her hair in the morning….

Standouts included Dragon’s Milk (sweet, malty goodness), Coffee Bender (what coffee would taste like if it were alcoholic), the new heel-turn technique I worked on, a dark head-turner called Quilter’s Irish Death, and a lovely Foggy Goggle belgian that you either loved or hated. I even managed to document the heel-turn technique in one of the pages of the low-tech BrewFest blog we’ve taken to keeping as a group.

More on that later….