Tuesday, 26 May 2009

A ramble that is hopefully at least vaguely coherent

Today, I have nothing to say. I expect that it is refreshing for you that I am admitting this at the beginning of the post so that you don't have to wade through to the end only to come to the same conclusion.

I managed to get in twenty minutes of organ practice this lunchtime. It was crap. The organ on campus has a broken note at the moment, which really doesn't help things, but I think that it was my own despondency which was the big issue. So much for my happy weekend! Having said that, work did seem to go quickly today, and I was extra helpful to several of my bosses who were having a technologically inept day. I did all sorts of wonderful things with teaching Excel (in one case) and Ctrl + Alt + Del (in the other two - killed two birds with one stone, although there was a bit of an incident with an unrestrained Del and an Inbox). Ah, the joys of having knowledge.

Now I am in that living room I showed you the other day. Imagine it without the piles of felt; they are upstairs. Don't bother imagining the dark blue martial arts kit bag that is there instead, though, nor the spirit level and the drill which will shortly be helping the key rack and the new kitchen shelf to become attached to their permanent homes. Woo hoo - additional storage options! Does this mean that the house will finally become tidy? Does that sound at all likely? No, it does not. But some of the crap will live at an ever so slightly higher altitude, which will clear a small amount of space down below.

Oh, and in breaking getting rid of crap news, I gave away my old plate set today. It was sad to see it go. They guy made me feel a little guilty that I have so much crap I don't need in the kitchen; he is furnishing an eco house and therefore looking for pretty much everything. I gave him a rolling pin, but he didn't want my coffee table, nor did he want my letter rack. I didn't ask, but I expect that he didn't want any of my old clothes, either. He probably wanted my casserole dish and 40-piece non-matching cutlery "set", with more forks than anything else, which is perfect for parties as it is cheap, environmentally friendly, and I am not going to do anything I might regret if a fork goes missing (lose a fork from my main cutlery set, and there's no knowing what I'll do. Probably send you to Liverpool to acquire a replacement. As I am not convinced they still make my beloved cutlery set, this could be quite an expedition). But I should probably have given it to the guy - at least then I wouldn't have to store it. Having said that, I'm keeping the caddy it lives in; it may as well be full. So perhaps I am justified in not giving my spare cutlery away. You'll thank me for it when you come round for a party and you get to use it. Or perhaps it will be the main set that is being used, and you will start to develop mild feelings of paranoia. You might notice HWSNBN looking at you funny if you use one of the teaspoons in your tea, even though that rule no longer applies now that we have a dishwasher. I prefer not to tell people when one of my weird little rules ceases to apply; they might get complacent. Or perhaps letting them know that it no longer applies would be admitting that it was a silly rule in the first place (which, incidentally, it was not - tea stains do not come off stainless steel without either scrubbing or a dishwasher, and the scrubbing was not going to happen).

On that note, having acquainted you with a little of my unjustifiable weirdness and cemented my unsuitability to be around other people in your mind, I shall take my leave. I shall make a cup of tea. The teaspoon rule does not apply to me, because I extract the tea bag with my fingers. It hurts more when I have a cut.

Monday, 25 May 2009

In which I digress

It has been a restful day today. It's a Bank Holiday today, and so I didn't have to go to work. I feel as though, after today, I am ready to start doing lots of useful things around the house. Alas, tomorrow I shall be back at work and so this tidying will not happen. I have done pretty much all of the washing in the washing basket, though, which is a start. Now all I have to do is dry the stuff - the drying racks are full and there is another load waiting to be extracted from the machine. That is, of course, assuming nobody has taken advantage of the open utility room door (to dissipate the yucky smell which appears to come from the washing machine) and stolen my clean washing and bicycle (UPDATE: they didn't). I think that they won't have been aware of the door's openness, and so will have missed out on this excellent opportunity. Poor things - the washing is almost smelling nice nowadays. It's amazing what a wash at "90 degrees"* with some spirit vinegar will do.

I also made a case out of felt. this case is to hold the anthem book I am borrowing from the Motherchurch, which is not getting on well with the button on the front of my organ music file.** When I started to make it, it looked as though it would be a snug fit. Apparently I have anti-felt - rather than shrinking, as felt is wont to do, this has expanded. My lovely little carry case has therefore gone the way of pretty much all of my fabric creations to date - it is too big. How frustrating. If only stabbing it further would help.*** I would put a photo up, except that I am not sure how to from flickr (could be something to do with re-sizing), and I left my camera at the parents' house. See - the excuses keep coming. This excuse lasts nearly three weeks, I reckon. I also gave HWSNBN's spare camera to the parents on Friday, and would not be so disrespectful as to use HWSNBN's own camera.

I have decided to make a case to carry my chisels, out of felt. I shall use Herdwick wool, as it is hardwearing and cheap. It would be a shame to use pretty wool when I can use manly, local wool, of the sort they used to use to make foundations for roads. Herdwicks are my favourite sheep.****

And now HWSNBN is demanding that I should go to bed. Early bedtimes are the way forward, apparently. I shall endeavour to acquiesce.

*I don't think that it has ever got up to temperature. I suspect it probably managed about 40 on that particular cycle. Come to think of it, I wonder why I don't wash more things at "90 degrees". I should check that one out! Perhaps the element is broken. I mean, I am only speculating that the water ever gets warmer than it is when it comes out of the tap. For all I know, it could stay cold the entire time. Oh, the joys of inadequate washing machines (although rumour has it that this one will tumble dry, also. This is likely to remain untested - the tumble dryer which lives on top of it has been demonstrated to tumble dry. But I don't like to put my clothes in it; only sheets and towels. This is partly to save electricity, and partly in case the tumble dryer goes mad and eats them all. Having said that, I will now go and put the clothes from the washing machine into the tumble dryer on cool for 20 minutes. That should help to ease the strain on the drying racks, insofar as what I put on them will be a bit less wet...)

**The anthem book is not getting on well with the button. The Motherchurch has not complained about it at all.

***Yes, I needle-felted it. Yes, it took approximately a whole day. No, it did not turn out how I anticipated. Do you have a problem with that?

****What's your favourite sort of sheep?

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Living room, May 2009

I said that I would show you some photos of the house when it was tidy. It has been suggested that perhaps I do a lot of work around the house, and I wanted to set the record straight about how effective my efforts actually are. To be fair, the living room normally doesn't have all of the felt paraphenalia, lying around, nor do I habitually keep wood on my settee. The bright green stool (back left, inverted) lives elsewhere and may return there soon, also.

I think that a case could be made for the necessity of doing the felting that needs to be done on the table (but it's so unfair! Wet felting is so haaaard!) and then getting the stuff put away in my room. Which I will show you another day (there's a load of drying out in there at the moment; I'll put that away first. You could be in for a long wait).

If you click on the photo itself, you should be taken through to flickr, and will be able to see the tags on the photo. I reckon that they are worth looking at; if I didn't, I wouldn't have bothered putting them in in the first place. You might not think that they are worth looking at, though, and that's OK. It probably demonstrates your more mature outlook on life, or something else similarly deep and meaningful.

Less opti, more static

As you may have guessed from the utter pointlessness (and sparseness) of my posts recently, there is not a right lot going on in Abi-land. I mean, obviously I am having a great time fashioning small objects out of sheep hair, and my organ playing is slowly but surely improving. I am also getting better at standing on one leg and waving the other one around. My house is finally at a stage where one can get into all of the rooms (although HWSNBN's room remains a challenge - I am itching to re-organise it*), and that is very satisfying. I did lose a night's sleep on the project, but it was worth it to be able to enter and leave rooms at will, without any climbing involved.

What I really want to be doing is starting a career in organ building, but the progress that I am making is painfully slow, to say the least. Some uncharitable people might even say that I am making no progress at all at the moment. They would probably be accurate.

It is so frustrating being in this situation. I expended a lot of energy for a prolonged period of time to move on from where I am, and it came to nothing. Now I don't seem to have enough motivation to do anything constructive. It's a bit of a vicious circle, really: no optimism = no motivation = no movement = no optimism, etc. Well, there is some optimism, and a tiny bit of motivation, but not enough, really.

I sent an e-mail off to another organ builder firm requesting some work experience a few days ago. I am not really in a position to gain much work experience, as I work full-time and organ builders only work during weekdays, during which time I tend to be at work, funnily enough. I do have some holiday left, though, so if this guy replies to my e-mail in the affirmative, I might finally start to feel that I am getting somewhere again. This should lead to improved blogging, which is the important thing.

And yes, I am aware that my "oh no! I can't get started on my perfect job!" complaint is a wonderful complaint to have. I am truly grateful to have such excellent problems. It's just that excellent problems are still frustrating ones, and losing the motivation to improve my situation annoys me an enormous amount.

Now I shall stop complaining for a bit, and hope that the quality of my blogging magically improves. Good luck to me!

*Re-organise? Where did that come from? I don't think that it has been organised since we moved in here. Perhaps organise would be a better word. Re-arrange might work...

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Some felt flowers

Yesterday evening I had a cold. I have a cold today, for that matter. Being a charitable sort of person, I decided not to spread it around my martial arts group (especially as two of them work at the hospital - way to let the viruses roam around the community!), and so spent the evening at home. I made flowers out of felt.

I have come to a couple of conclusions. I don't think that I will ever be able to make felt flowers quickly, and should probably just aim to be efficient. I am also not keen on wet felting - you don't get to see the progress you are making, and it takes a lot of effort. I shall try unsuccessfully to see whether wet felting will occur in the dishwasher, and then look at different ways of making needle felting work for me, I think.

Yesterday, I made a cherry blossom and started to make a lily. The cherry blossom is OK - it needs a bit of tidying up. I don't know how good the lily is, as I have only felted half of its petals; I imagine that it will be OK.

Having expected to have a really enjoyable evening doing practically nothing, I actually felt a bit bored. Very frustrating! Perhaps it is because (as evidenced by my recent blog entries) I am a bit boring. I think that perhaps I ought to schedule a few more commitments so that I can miss more things and thus enjoy my free time more. OK, so I was missing martial arts, but I think that perhaps I believed in my excuse a bit too much.

Photos of the felting to follow, assuming I manage to post them. Please do not hold your breath!

Also, more interesting posts to follow. Again, holding of breath would not be advisable.

Friday, 15 May 2009

A rose for Rose

I am experimenting with putting pictures onto the blog. I have been failing miserably so far, but am determined to make it work! This is the first attempt...

It was my friend Rose's birthday last Sunday. As she seems to like handmade things, I was considering giving her some of my new "sandalwood" soap, but was hit by some actual inspiration. As you may already have guessed, I decided to make her a rose out of felt. You can see the result. Hopefully.

A few things have struck me. Firstly, I need to incorporate the wire which supports the stem into the flower itself early in the construction stage. It was a pain in the backside trying to conceal the end of the wire after I had made it, and even after I'd had a really good try, distorting the centre of the rose in the process, it still wasn't quite right and made itself another hole. Building the rose around the end of the wire would have meant I could have got the end felted securely beforehand, and I could have built the flower round it quite easily. I might even have managed to make it look like the centre of a rose...

The other thing that strikes me is that I really need to do some work on my posting of photographs. I could do with finding a background which is better than my dirty old settee (yes, the cover could do with a wash. Why do you ask?). Given the state my house is in at the moment, I don't imagine that it will be easy to find much free space, but I should at least work on getting a good (clean) white background to put on the settee.

The final thing which has struck me is that I need to re-size my photographs before I put them on flickr - perhaps if they were smaller I would be able to make them display on other webpages, and would not use up quite so much of my monthly allowance. Not that this is likely to be a problem, of course, judging by my efforts so far.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Felt flowers

This evening I have a bit of free time! Hooray. I mean, it's not entirely free as I have to get the house a bit tidier so that we can fit in a few friends staying overnight on Saturday for HWSNBN's birthday, but I will have a bit of space to sit and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer while creating flowers out of felt. I am going to have a go at making pretty ones which I can sell on Etsy. I don't yet know whether or not I have this capability, and probably won't be too disappointed if I do not, but I figure that it's worth a go.

I recently made a rose for Rose, and it turned out quite well in my humble opinion. The stem took forever, and was not entirely anatomically correct (leaves don't appear to go on the stem on which the flower grows; they seem to prefer stems coming off that stem. Also, its internals were made of wire and wool; real stem internals have tubes for moving water and nutrients around. I am less concerned about the second inaccuracy than the first); next time I may well end up with a shorter stem. Perhaps I will also make hair clips and hairbands. Even brooches may be an option.

My current project is a viola. As in the flower, not the musical instrument. It is a tiny bit more hefty than I originally planned - I was thinking that a viola was about the same size as a pansy (which it is not - violas are tiny), and I think that I had an exaggerated petal size in my head when I planned the first petal. I am going to have to consider future flowers more carefully! The rose was a good size (about what I was aiming for - perhaps a tiny bit on the little size, but not significantly so), but the viola is a leviathan of a thing.

I have also resolved to put some photographs up. To this end, I shall keep a usb cable in the living room to facilitate the transfer of images. We shall see how effective this resolve turns out to be.

Have a great evening (or whatever it is that you are about to have)!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

A little bit of nothing, and not very much

Oh, the tyranny of the blank screen. I am waiting for an e-mail to come in so that I can reply to it, and am trying to do something productive with my time. Here's a list of things that writing this blog post is more productive than:
  • Writing "sentences" like the previous one. Seriously - a preposition at the end of a sentence? And that's just the beginning of that sentence's problems.
  • Taking the washing out of the washing machine and hanging it up to dry. Washing doesn't need to dry, anyway.
  • Tidying the front room. I like it so full of stuff; it makes me feel safe.
  • Designing a new cabinet for the kitchen, which would both give me an opportunity to practice my joinery skills and provide some extra storage. Who needs joinery skills? And what's wrong with keeping tins in plastic boxes on the kitchen table?
  • Cleaning the utility room. Far too dark for that crap.
  • Writing snarky e-mails to Daddy about how he should name his files something other than scan0001.bmp. Hang on - I'm multi-tasking and accomplishing this as well! I suggested scan0003.bmp as a viable alternative.
  • Organ practice. It's not as though that improves my playing, anyway.
  • Making a birthday present for Rose - she probably doesn't really want one anyway.
  • Going to bed. I am not tired in the slightest. Ho hum.
So, as you can see, writing a blog post is clearly the way forward and could not, in any way, be described as procrastination. And, as the writing is superb, it is a treat just to be able to read it. I would never get myself a reputation as a person who writes about nothing from writing like this, would I? Hello? You still there?

Then, of course, comes the question - do I leave it as it is: a finely-crafted essaylet* about how useless this blog actually is,** or do I try to form an awkward segue (is that the right word? I don't think I've ever used it before) and try to introduce some actual content. My instinct tells me that the former is the way forward, so I only have myself to blame when this next bit doesn't work at all.

This evening's plan was to come home from work as soon as was reasonable, eat a quick dinner, and then spend a couple of hours at the Motherchurch practising on the organ. Unfortunately, I was short of dinner ideas and we ended up going for pork chops with mushrooms and creme fraiche. This takes an hour to bake; by the time I had finished eating it was nearly 10pm. Also, I'm tired, and practice has been arduous and unrewarding this week. I know that this means I need to try harder, but it makes it harder to try harder. I think that I shall be winging it this week. I bet it goes well, too, unlike my last lesson, before which I had a practice session in which I sounded something like an organist, and a lesson in which I sounded like an impostor from the days before I played the organ.

Well I have eaten plenty of food, at least. That can be my achievement for the evening: that, and annoying my parents. I have promised to cut out some specific pieces of wood for them, though; they should be pleased with the results, assuming I am suitably accurate. It will be good practice for my upcoming cabinet, though. I can make the mistakes on someone else's wood.*** My cabinet will then be perfect. Naturally.

Nope - I'm broken. It's pretty much all sarcasm from now on. I had better go and reply to that e-mail instead. I am sure this sarcasm will be very well-received.

*It's called poetic licence.

**And also about how ineffectual I tend to be.

***Only kidding - I don't make mistakes!****


Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Internet in a box

Finally, over two months after moving to our new house, we have the Internet back! Instead of it residing on a silly little stick (which I had to plug into the laptop via an extra-long USB cable, before balancing the stick on the top of the bottom sash window in the bedroom, and wrapping the cable round the fastener for support, meaning that the only place from which I have been able to access the Internet is sitting in HWSNBN's spot on the bed), it now resides in a slightly less silly box, which spreads its lovely Internet rays around the house, to be intercepted by some network thingy box or other, which sends the Internet rays about the house in such a way that the laptop recognises them as friendly and Internetty, and stuff. At least, that's how I understand the process. What this means is that the Internet is faster, I am allowed to look at pictures (the stick is pay-per-byte; pictures are too big for it), and I can access it anywhere in the house! Last night, I sat downstairs on the settee and wrote an e-mail.

Next thing you know, I'll be having a housewarming party.

This weekend was a bank holiday, and so I did what any self-respecting woman would do: I made soap. I kind of suggested that I might be available to lead a soapmaking workshop on a specific date a few weeks ago, but when the time came round I was overwhelmed with moving, and hadn't yet found my palm oil (which is the cheapest one - I eventually found it on top of a cupboard in the front room, a couple of weeks later), and so I cancelled the workshop. This Monday, I taught one of the people who would have come to the workshop how to make soap. I think that she enjoyed herself.

We made two soaps. The first was supposed to be sandalwood, but I can't afford that and had to use amyris instead. It smells a bit like sandalwood, I hope. The only requirement for the second soap was that it should be purple. It turned out pale green. I think that perhaps I went wrong somewhere along the line. My next soap will be purple, though: I shall use paler oils and more pigment. I shall also avoid listening to pigment suggestions from somebody who has never made soap before.

Actually, my soaps had far fewer massive bubbles in than usual - I am obviously doing something right. Fewer bubbles means that I can give more of them away as gifts, and don't have to fob them off on unwary passers-by, who don't necessarily want to be taking home small piles of soap with them. It also looks as though I might know what I am doing, and that I might possibly care about how my soap looks.

And now my brain is so overwhelmed with tiredness that it is refusing to come up with ends to sentences; perhaps I ought to stop now, before the quality of this post deteriorates further.

Friday, 1 May 2009

A bit of a verbal meander

This is my contribution to Blogging Against Disablism 2009.

I kind of agreed to write a BADD post a little while ago, but have very little idea about what I should write. I want to write something deep, meaningful and thought-provoking, but I get the impression that one should be deep, and have meaningful thoughts, in order to fulfil that brief; this post will not be deep, meaningful, nor thought-provoking.

Of course, this post would be better if I had any personal experience of disablism, but I don't: my temporary able-bodied* status is still going strong. As such, disability issues are not at the forefront of my mind. I also feel that I don't really have a right to join in with this event - the closest I have ever come to experiencing disablism is getting salad for lunch while everyone else eats lasagne, because nobody has bothered to order me a decent gluten-free alternative** (although the vegetarians were catered for; that's not even a dietary requirement, for goodness sake!). I did, of course, get the smug satisfaction that they were getting fat while I was not, but this was tempered with the fact that I was eating lettuce for lunch. Alternatively, I occasionally get a big, tasty-looking meal while everyone else gets crappy sandwiches, and I end up feeling conspicuous and guilty - as though I am trying to make a point that I am more special than everyone else.

I suppose that this does have some bearing on disablism, though. I mean, it's a thouroughly trivial example of a petty discrimination which ruins a few meals for me (seriously - I had to eat salad!), but it does give me a tiny insight into what people with an actual disability might feel when their needs are not being met, and also when their needs are being met. I mean, there is a certain amount of stigma attached to being disabled. I gather that some people do not want to advertise their disability, and that receiving accommodations for this can be tricky. I don't necessarily want to tell people that I can't eat gluten - it makes me sound like a faddy eater, possibly the sort who wants attention. Logically, I think that very few people look down on me for not eating gluten (although those who decide to cater for me have to be at least a little bit annoyed), but I still don't want to single myself out. Although I would rather do that than make myself ill, of course.

It's all about exclusion, isn't it? When adaptations are made readily and with the minimum of fuss, people can feel included and welcomed. It is so exciting going to a barbecue where there is food that I can eat (i.e. probably not sausages or beefburgers), as I don't have to stand on the sidelines feeling hungry and wondering why I bothered in the first place. It shouldn't be exciting - it should be normal (although this is an extremely trivial example - it's just a bit of food. I often bring/make my own now. The best beefburger I ever had was one I made myself). It is presumably the same with an actual disability; quietly facilitating what needs to be facilitated without making a fuss should make a big difference to how that person experiences things. Anyway, one should be kind to people. If everyone were just kind, disablism would be much less of a problem.

So yes, I have a, erm, useful perspective, and can contribute ever so much. Hmm. Perhaps I had better stick to expanding my own mind.Oh, the joys of having such a narrow and limited perspective.

So, what should I be doing to be less disablist myself? I sort of feel that I am doing OK - I try to offer to help people when they look as though they are struggling, and stuff. I often feel that I have so few interactions with people with a disability that this is not an issue which concerns me, in general, though. Having said that, I don't necessarily know whether or nor somebody has a disability; it is not as though a special badge or uniform is required, is it? I don't see that my role is to do any more than to treat other people as I would like to be treated if I were in their situation, being mindful that their situation may be more difficult than I realise; I should be as tolerant of other people as they are of me! I think that if this rule were to be applied, the only disablism which survived would be due to ignorance of other people's needs. I suppose that this is still a bit of an issue (to put it mildly), which is where Blogging Against Disablism Day comes in. I shall take a lot more out of today than I am putting in. Well, I suppose that I could hardly take less than this measley little post.

Do I have a greater responsibility? Should I, rather than simply trying to be good and kind, and to include people wherever possible, should I be campaiging against disablism? Or working towards pointing out things that need changing (in that way which annoys people so effectively) and making what changes I can.

So, people, apologies for my uneducated stance. Do let me know- other than not being quite so shallow and thoughtless, what should I be doing differently?

Oh, and it has become apparent to me that I do have a bit of a problem, known as "inability to construct an argument". Sufferers have to endure the jeers of unenlightened people saying that their blog post is rubbish, and they often get poor marks in their essays. They may also put their foot in their mouth and, only slightly knowingly, say something rather offensive. Sorry about that. The accommodation that I require is for people to prevent me from putting my "thoughts" on the Internet.*** Alas, this is not one I have received today, and I shall have to endure the consequences (as you have already done). ;-)

*I expect it is my mind which is more likely to be a cause for concern, anyway.

**Full disclosure: eating gluten causes (engage euphamism mode) my digestive system to run a little more quickly than usual (disengage euphamism mode), with the sort of discomfort which can come with that, it makes me feel slightly sick, and sometimes gives me a headache. It helps me to lose weight, though, as I don't feel like eating when I feel sick. None of this is the end of the world, and I will eat gluten occasionally (especially if, for example, I have turned up at a wedding and forgotten to tell them about my dietary requirements. Not that I would do that, of course; that would be irresponsible), but in general I prefer not to feel sick, and I dread to think what it does to my micro-villi, so I try hard to avoid the stuff.

***'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.
Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865).
Conversely (and my justification for joining in)
As you grow older, you'll find the only things you regret are the things you didn't do.
Zachary Scott