Thursday, December 31, 2020

Eighties Sweaters Are Back: I.5. Aran

While some other Irish and Scottish communities developed distinctive "gansey" patterns (Eriskay's mix of cables and lace is mentioned in most of the historical studies), on the three islands known collectively as Aran knitters developed quite a different type of sweater. 

What makes a sweater "Aran"? 

a. Thick wool yarn. While some traditional Aran sweaters were knitted of lightweight yarn, they were worn as overcoats not undershirts, and there seems to have been no motivation to make them "fine" or form-fitting. Often Aran knitters used wool as thick as the blanket-weight craft yarn found in dime stores today. 

b. Big, bold, elaborate cables. Combinations of cable patterns in one sweater or jacket usually formed flattering vertical lines, but the garment itself added considerable bulk to the figure. And, while some cable patterns can be repeated all over a knitted piece, and a single cable pattern down the center or along the side of a knitted piece can be very effective, the most typy Aran sweaters that have been preserved in museums always show a carefully planned selection of different patterns--usually the widest pattern down the middle, and narrower patterns repeated on either side. 

Though it features a particularly elaborate, classic Aran cable on the back, the jacket shown above would not be considered a true Aran style. 

Though also of American origin, this mix of cables is more typically "Aran."

For me Aran styles knit up slowly but sell fast, and when I think of the Aran designs I've knitted, vivid memories come to mind. Aran sweaters are associated with tough men so they're the Eighties style American men are most likely to consider masculine enough to wear. I knitted a copy of one of Alice Starmore's designs (in the early collection shown below) for my "boy friend." It looked good on him; a lot of things did. Before that relationship reached its natural end I knitted a variation on one of Shelagh Hollingworth's designs to display in a store window, advertising a shipment of natural wool yarn. The display wasn't well timed, so next autumn, when I went to Stitches Fair, I still had the sweater. The friend who volunteered to drive didn't have anything else to do in Valley Forge so I said, "I'll buy you a ticket if you'll model one of my knits." It looked good on him; a lot of things did. Karen Bright, the token extrovert at Knitter's, screeched "Your husband?" and both of us chorused, "Oh no, just a car pool buddy!" The next time we went to Stitches Fair, he wore a sweater I'd knitted just for him, and he was my husband. 

Some say there's a Sweater Hex: If you knit a sweater for someone you're dating, you will break up. Designer Kristin Nicholas, who married one of her models, once claimed to be an exception. I think she and I have found a subsection of the rule. A hand-knitted sweater is too valuable to give as a gift to someone who's not given you a diamond. It can feel like Pressure, like a wad of Neediness. A hand-knitted sweater that you've made for a public display and allowed someone to model carries less, results may depend on the experience the person has wearing the sweater. 

c. Irish wool. The sheep did not produce especially soft wool, but traditionally the prickliness was minimized by using undyed wool, nearly always from white sheep. Unlike the heavy natural wools favored on Iceland, however, Aran sweaters were made of firm, rather tightly spun wool. 

d. Scandinavian shaping, with armholes worked straight up and down, seems to have been more popular than gansey shaping, with underarm gussets. Aran was also the home of the saddle-shouldered sweater, where the front and back pieces are joined to a narrow strap of knitting that extends up from the center of the sleeve. However, by 1950 Aran knitters and their imitators were adapting Aran cable stitches to every possible shape. 

Pattern books to look for: 

In addition to Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans and Michael Pearson's Traditional Knitting, discussed in previous sections...

1. Shelagh Hollingworth's Complete Book of Traditional Aran Knitting represents a transition point in the publication of knitting books. Partly because Aran patterns can be trickier to design, publishers recognized that many, perhaps even most, people who bought this knitting book would want step-by-step instructions, rather than just patterns they could plug into the sweater patterns they'd been using since grade three. Hollingworth uses most of her space describing traditional sweaters and stitch patterns, then relents and offers beginners a selection of traditional and updated sweater patterns, plus other types of knitting patterns, they can follow right away as soon as they've found the yarn and needles on which they get the right gauge. 

2. Alice Starmore's Knitting from the British Islands was the collection that was actually available in the Eighties. As shown, it's a mix of contemporary styles with traditional stitch patterns, but since traditional sweaters were fashionable in the Eighties, some of the sweaters in this book look like museum pieces. 

Later AS published other collections in which she played with the ideas of Aran and gansey knitting... None of these books was printed in the Eighties, and all contain original rather than traditional designs. However, because the Aran sweater style is unmistakable and Alice Starmore's designs revel in being handknitted, any of these sweaters that you can knit (or get someone else to knit) should satisfy your or anyone else's craving for Eighties Sweaters in the Aran style.

...and, of course, eventually...

Amazon lists another bound book of Aran stitch patterns that was available in the Eighties; I don't remember ever seeing it. Before these books were published, knitters relied on magazines and yarn manufacturers' patterns for step-by-step instructions on making our own Aran-style sweaters. 

Some knitters might even have kept or found this classic: 

Typically, in the Eighties, as publishers begin printing step-by-step knitting patterns in hardcover books, Aran-type patterns were scattered around--one or two in a collection of thirty patterns, likely. 

The Comments You Never Saw (Part 2 of 2)

More FAQ from that "Comments Awaiting Moderation" page that I didn't realize Blogspot had...

One note about the way Blogspot handles comments, generally. If you have a Blogspot blog, Google will automatically link us up when you comment. If you don't, Google will lose all your contact information. If you have a Google account but it doesn't show your home page or e-mail address, I have no way to reply to you. 

As I scroll through dozens of the "Hello, I enjoyed this post" kind of thing that does have real meaning for bloggers when it comes from readers we know, but Google is not making it possible for me to guess how many of the bland niceties are coming from friends (even from The Nephews at school) and how many are coming from spammers whose links Google is losing. It's fairly obvious that most of the flattery is coming from spammers, with tip-offs like thanks for saying something the post didn't say; the "Thank you for this, nice post" tells me nothing at all. 

Here are the other FAQ:

Hi! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading your posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same subjects? Thanks a ton!

Most people who post this question are pretty blatantly hoping to get free publicity for their sites, and for a person to try to exploit a web site as small and underfunded as this one says something about the quality of that person's web site. One non-spammy version of the question appeared on a post about survival foods. I've written an e-book on the general topic of wild food to eat in camp, and what I said in that book is that, for detailed information, you need local sources. (Also mentioned in the series of three posts about my "Survival Food Weekend.") Euell Gibbons' four books are the reference guide for North Americans but even between Pennsylvania, where he did most of his foraging, and Virginia, where I do mine, there are some differences. On the World Wide Web, survival and wild food sites have suffered from the mere fact of being worldwide. Your state university may (or may not) have developed a site for edible wild plants; photos may (or may not) be more helpful to you than the line drawings in Gibbons' books. There's now a Peterson's Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants that contains all the really useful updates to Gibbons' books, the explanations of why some wild plants that won't kill you are still not very good food choices. That one I can recommend.

Click here if the photo doesn't link: 

Hello! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with Search Engine Optimization? I'm trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I'm not seeing very good results. If you know of any please share. Thank you!

There are subscription-only sites that will help you find highly discoverable keywords. Some of them are quite sophisticated at finding lots of related keywords. However, it's still up to you to write credible content about your keywords and, for maximum discoverability, build your site's credibility with an expert author, editor, or co-author. 

The cheap'n'easy way to do SEO is available to everybody: Pick a topic. (Your favorite search engine may even show you a list of the top ten trending topics, free of charge.) Say your primary keyword is, as I did in my SEO cat post, "Samantha" (or whatever name your pet answers to). Type "Samantha" into the search bar. Now the search engine will offer a selection of phrases to help narrow your search--when I was doing the SEO cat post, they included some irrelevant ones (last names of celebrities whose given name is Samantha) and some usable ones ("," "," "Samantha...album," "Samantha...IMDB," etc.). If most of the phrases the search engine offers are irrelevant to what you want to write, try a different primary keyword. When you get a reasonable number of relevant phrases, construct your post in such a way as to work in all those relevant secondary search terms. 

If you do this with your pet's name, of course, you'll get a parody piece, because people searching for Samantha Akkineni or Samantha Lee will be using "Lee" or "Akkineni" as secondary keywords, so a post that's only about your cat won't get high traffic. 

However, if you've chosen a serious topic, using secondary keywords can be a good way to focus a long informative post and also generate traffic to your business. If you sell birthstone jewelry, you might start with the primary keyword "birthstones." Goodsearch offers "birthstones by month, birthstone colors, birthstone charts, birthstone rings, birthstone necklace, birthstone jewelry, birthstones for December..." Those are good titles for a series of posts, to which some additions will be obvious. You can refine the search further, either doing your own research at different search engines or using one of the subscription services, to generate additional keywords you want to work into each post. 

In a short post (fewer than 1000 words) you don't want readers to complain that every third word is "birthstones," so if the post were "Birthstones by Month" you'd want to avoid typing "birthstones" more than twice in the main post, and just work in all the important words from your list--"month," "colors," "charts," and so on. In a longer post you could work a different keyword phrase into each paragraph.

Still, if you are just an ordinary person who likes fitting pretty stones into bits of precious metal, this will leave your site below the top tier on search engines today. By now the Internet is pretty full of content and the search engines can afford to be choosy, so they are. Top search engine rankings go to academic sites, so even if your jewelry business has a good series of posts about the geological processes that make gemstones special, it'll still rank below anything officially recognized academics have posted on the subject--yes, most likely including Wikipedia, since Wikipedia's serious science posts tend to be written and edited by serious scientists. 

Business blogs just automatically rate lower than academic sites, even if they deliver the same information. Life is not fair. As a reader I'm more likely to look for free flower pictures at Wikipedia than I am at a florist's business blog. Google assumes that most people are like me in this way. Deal with it. 

Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites?

Considered it? Done it. Often. If you're interested, please e-mail me.

Hi there, I want to subscribe for this web site to get latest updates, thus where can i do it please help.

Unlike Word Press, Blogspot doesn't e-mail posts to readers. If you use Blogspot or a similar hosted web site, you may have the option to set up a list of blogs/sites you follow and see new posts here in your "reading list." 

If you're a mostly offline person who's discovered this site on your monthly Internet day (I love readers like that), you can send your mail drop address and ask to receive printouts for $1 per post plus the cost of mailing. 

I am not currently producing a regular Glyphosate Awareness Newsletter, because Carey Gillam is doing a very nice one.

Finally, a question that's popped up enough times to make me wonder what's going on, but I don't mind answering the question: 

First of all I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I'd like to ask if you do not mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I have had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my ideas out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Thanks!

As is obvious to the literary types who disdain blogs, blogging is the way many of us clear our heads before writing more focussed, profitable assignments...Generally, though, I think the best way for writers to clear our heads before writing is a good brisk walk. Two miles is an optimal distance, and while the dreaded coronavirus is keeping me out of town I'm having to look for ways to get my daily steps. 

And...if I hadn't found this one in among so many comments that had nothing to do with reality, so many evaluations of "this manual" attached to a silly pet post and so on, I wouldn't have laughed, but I did. Possibly you will too...

The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my apple ipad and tested to see if it can survive a 40 foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is totally off topic but I had to share it with someone!

Being unfamiliar with the iPad but having survived almost daily episodes where this laptop, the Dell Inspiron whose official individual nickname is POG (Piece Of Garbage), makes me think about non-writing uses for a POG, I cackled out loud. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

The Comments You Never Saw (Part 1 of ?)

One thing about New Blogspot is that it's now showing me a batch of comments I never saw before. Google automatically filed these comments as stuff that needed some moderation, but heretofore Google did not notify me that I needed to be moderating them.

Though some questions reappeared with a frequency that made me suspect that a lot of spammers have gone to Spammer School and memorized a list of questions to ask before pasting in an irrelevant link, the questions seemed to deserve answers. Here is this web site's current FAQ sheet:

1. Why doesn't Google rank this blog higher?

Google has been deliberately trying to keep personal blogs at the bottom of search results for more than ten years. The thinking is that people use Google when looking for material to cite in term papers, so Google ought to show them professional journals and textbook-type books first, then business sites, then personal blogs. I think personal blogs are likely to be more reliable than business sites but I'm all in favor of Google showing phenology posts by professional meteorologists ahead of phenology posts by ordinary nature watchers. It's a nuisance for writers, whose degrees, if any, might have been in English Literature but who might still have read more about, say, spider monkeys than a professional zoologist who's specialized in tigers. Ce sont les breaks.

There used to be a site called Twingly that specialized in searching personal blogs only, for those who didn't want to wade through all the commercial garbage from business sites when they were looking for a friend's content. I think it fell apart. I don't suppose it made much money for anybody, but it was a useful site while it lasted.

Because "search engine optimization" is so important in some people's business strategy, I want to emphasize that it will take you only so far. Google uses ever-changing algorithms that search for the best use of search keywords in the posts it puts at the top, but Google also considers who's publishing a post with factual content. They like to see the names of universities and professional societies in the meta. I did some science posts for a business site that put that site ahead of Wikipedia in some search ratings, last summer, partly because I used SEO writing techniques but more because the site was owned by a scientist with an appropriate Ph.D. Google will likewise try to keep "fitness" sites owned by doctors ahead of "fitness" sites owned by bike shops, and so on. 

This is a personal blog so I seldom try to use SEO strategies. This web site decided some time ago that we weren't going to try to become huge. I can write SEO content about your product--say flowers--that will put your site at the top of Google search ratings within its class. If your site is just the blog for The First Street Flower Shop, that still won't boost your site above sites owned by universities or the National Horticultural Society. 

If, however, you are a Ph.D. flower expert from Japan, and you want SEO-oriented blog posts written in casual U.S. English, it would make sense for you to e-mail me about boosting your blog ahead of Wikipedia. That I could do.

Meanwhile, it's still likely to be the case that if you're searching for one of my blog posts, and you type into Google something like "priscilla king blog post about calico cats on petfinder," you might get links to the King Street Furniture Store's sale on calico "priscilla" curtains, last year, above any links you find to any of my Petfinder posts. 

2. How do you stop spam from popping up on a blog?

Someone Google identified as "Unknown" commented: 

Howdy, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam remarks? If so how do you stop it, any plugin or anything you can advise? I get so much lately it's driving me crazy so any help is very much appreciated.

I've plugged Akismet into a Word Press blog, and I've used Live Journal's system (e-mailing all comments to the blogger for "moderation"), and I've plugged Disqus into Blogspot, and I've used what Google builds into Blogspot, and Google's spam filtering system rules. Hands down. Except that it took me almost two years to find what it had been filtering.

3. How do you discourage plagiarism?

With havin so much content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright infringement? My site has a lot of exclusive content I've either created myself or outsourced but it looks like a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my authorization. Do you know any methods to help protect against content from being stolen? I'd really appreciate it.

Having a little-bitty web site that serves little-bitty niches really helps, Unknown. If I were posting about "How to Get Rich Fast Without Working" and getting gazillions of page views, I'm sure I'd be plagiarized daily. There is not much of a market for plagiarized posts about knitting. 

4. Do you have to learn to code before you launch a blog? 

Heya this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I'm starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Blogspot, Word Press, and Live Journal all have WYSIWYG systems with the option of going into HTML to find out why something you wanted to post isn't coming out right. Using any of the major blog hosting sites is a great way to ease into understanding HTML.

5. How Can I Send a Message Directly to You? 

Scroll. Down. There is an e-mail address at the bottom of the page. 

How to Convince Google That Your Comment Needs "Moderation"

The main way people get routed to that "Awaiting Moderation" file is by posting links. Links are not bad things. I like to see links to posts that cite mine, links to data that you think might change my opinion about an issue (and it might), even links to sites that sell something that's been discussed in the post. If you blog on Blogspot Google will automatically give me a link to your blog, but if you link to your blog on Word Press or Live Journal, Google may decide you need moderation. So I'm doing that today. 

How to Convince Me That Your Comment Needs to Disappear

The main way comments get moderated off the site is by containing uninvited, irrelevant links to sites that sell stuff. Some of the sites may be legitimate and some of the stuff may be good, but you're supposed to pay me to post something on a topic into which your site and merchandise will fit. This can be done; I'll not pretend I've used your product or recommend it, but I can do, and have done, posts that contain things like "Have you ever seen a banana slicer? You can see one at," or "Speaking of amusing socks, check out" 

Some of the links are just plain spam. I do understand why people bother typing this stuff. They're beginning hack writers, penniless and desperate, and a client hands them a list of blogs in languages the client doesn't speak, languages most of them don't speak very well either, and says, "Your assignment is to post comments on these 200 blogs this afternoon." So they think of something in the appropriate language that sounds polite, "Good afternoon Sir I enjoy very much your post," and without even checking whether the blogger sounds like a "Sir" or a "Ma'am" they bang in those paid links to the irrelevant and possibly nasty sites. 

I feel for these commenters. They tend to live in global poverty pockets; they may have hitchhiked forty miles on the back of a farm truck to get to the cafe where they post these pathetic comments. I don't want to report them to anybody. I hope they're being paid enough to take more English classes and get better jobs. But this web site can't display their comments. Grandma Bonnie Peters wouldn't have allowed it, while living, and Google doesn't like it either. 

Especially the poor soul from India who wanted to post a list of the services his friends and relatives offer, from Refrigerator Repairs to Call Girls. Lines must be drawn somewhere. In my twenties I was part of a group of bright young things who liked to wail about being just the sort of prime-grade sex workers who get paid just for looking cute, not actually having sex. We meant jobs like "waiter" and "receptionist," where having the right look is emphasized more than having any actual skills, but we egged each other on to advertise jobs that in some cities tend to be fronts for prostitution. In Washington, at that time, prostitution was decriminalized, so "masseuses" actually worked the knots out of people's muscles, "escorts" actually walked around with nervous people, and "models" actually wore clothes and demonstrated gadgets. Parents of students who won high school writing contests really did pay me, as an "escort," just to meet their children at the train, walk across Union Station with them, and put them into taxis. So we did those jobs with great glee and considerable profit. But there must be standards and one of them was that people who were actually selling massage therapy, security, or product demonstrations did not tarnish our act with any public support for people who were selling a different kind of thing. No Call Girls need apply.

Is It Over?

No. I will continue sorting through the comments that Google thought needed moderation, and answering any questions that have not been addressed here. Some comments may even pop up on the posts where they were typed. 

Spammers should know, however, that Google automatically breaks several kinds of spam links, so if you took the trouble to write a reasonably cogent comment and then paste in a link, I may be seeing the comment without the link. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Petfinder Post: Long-Haired Three-Colored Cats

No, I'm not actually typing this on Christmas morning...I stayed online late on Christmas Eve to make this post timely, and to watch the fat white snowflakes cover the ground and worry about power outages. You probably can't adopt these cats on Christmas Day but you can start the process by using the links provided to contact the shelter. A few extra links seem appropriate to the Christmas Spirit...

This is a cat week, and this week's adoptable cats are long-haired and three-colored. Along with cat food, cat litter, a cat-sized bed or blanket, a sturdy plastic ball with a little jingle bell inside, and a gift certificate for next spring's rabies shot, another thoughtful gift idea for these cats and their humans is a nice new vacuum cleaner. Grandma Bonnie Peters used to love a hand-held, battery-powered Dirt Devil, because it's strong for its size and because her grandsons used to run it around her carpets--for fun. Little kids love to push lightweight objects that make noise...yes! This early conditioning should have helped to make them good husbands some day. Here is the obligatory Amazon link. If you buy this particular model they'll throw me a few pennies. 

(If the picture doesn't open the Amazon page, click or paste: .)

Now for the cats. It's interesting to note that when I entered "Domestic Long Hair" and "Tortoiseshell" into Petfinder's search bar, the site did not limit the search results to cats tagged with both of those terms, but aggregated results for cats tagged with either term. Why? Because long-haired three-colored cats stand out, so they tend not to languish in shelters as long as short-haired cats do? Maybe. 

1. Zipcode 10101, New York: Caitlyn from Massapequa

Long-haired cats are sometimes expected to be fussy about who handles their fur, like the one in The Incredible Journey. Caitlyn, however, reportedly loves to be petted and will follow her human around like a pet dog. If the picture doesn't take you directly to her web page, click or paste: .

2. Zipcode 20202, Washington: Macaroni from Alexandria, and DC from Maryland

Awww...This pretty little old lady was adopted from the shelter, once, by a senior human...that "At least this animal won't grow old before I do and break my heart again" thought process. And she lost her human. She is described as very much a Queen Cat who likes to snuggle up beside her human for naps and expects a lot of grooming. She's on thyroid medication, which needs to be mixed into her food. If you're willing to adopt a pet just for mercy's sake, Macaroni is said to be a lovable pet. If the picture doesn't take you to her page, click or paste: .

It is possible that readers in the metropolitan area want a younger cat. Here is young and perky DC, who should probably be adopted together with her brother AC, who is plain black and maybe not quite so fluffy. Both cats are just now reaching their full size and will take a lot of grooming. Natives of Maryland, they've been transferred to a less crowded shelter in Virginia. The shelter policy is to place pets "in the Greater Washington Area only, except for barn cats." These two don't look like barn cats. To meet them, use the picture or this link: .

3. Zipcode 30303, Atlanta: Izzy (and Friends) from Marietta 

Yes. Three cats. All spayed, female, and described as good with children. The one closest to the camera is a long-haired Tortie called Izzy. Behind her are Xenia, the gray cat, and Coco, the black one. You might have to tilt your screen to see Coco's yellow eyes. They were brought to the shelter as an adoptive family and deserve to be adopted as such. The shelter asks that those who call or e-mail about this cat family use the cats' tracking numbers--625755, 625756, and 625757--when following this link: .

Bonus #1: Zipcode 37662, Kingsport: Betty Lou and Cindy Lou Who from Morristown 

They're sisters, but you can tell them apart because Cindy Lou is simply gray and Betty Lou is grayzel (diluted tortoiseshell). Their coats are expected to get thicker as they mature; this is a baby picture. These kittens are still younger than kittens ought to be when separated from their mothers, so their having web pages of their own when they're only two months old probably means something happened to their mother. If you want to hear a Who, or two Who's, click or paste: .

Bonus #2: Zipcode 90209: Gisela and Elvira from Los Angeles 

Out of a threatened feral cat colony in L.A., these great gorgeous fluffballs are said to be the two of the eight rescued cats who are friendly with humans. The shelter has less to say about the rest of the colony, including the little tortoiseshell kitten. To meet any or all of this cat family, click or paste: .

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Eighties Sweaters Are Back, Part I.4.: Iceland (and Greenland)

Culturally Iceland is Scandinavian, but what about Greenland? Old drawings show that Greenlanders developed a style of wearing bands of beads around their shoulders. Beads were apparently strung separately and tacked on to coats or shirts. The leather coats people wore back then could support large masses of beads, and the urge to distinguish their own coats from everyone else's led people to string beads in separate groups, by color, shape, and size where possible, and then to festoon clumps of beads in decorative patterns around these "yokes" of beadwork. Icelanders apparently saw pictures of these Greenland coats and, having picked up the idea of knitting sweater tops in two colors for better snow resistance, realized that they could knit the styles Greenlanders were wearing too. The resulting knitting tradition is distinctive enough to deserve a separate article in this series, though a short one.

Many (some have said most) Icelanders knit, and they knit all kinds of things, but the distinctive Icelandic sweater style is a thick, fluffy wool jacket with a circular yoke of two-color stitch patterns around the shoulders. Often, though not always, these sweaters were knitted mostly of undyed wool from white sheep with undyed wool from black, brown, or gray sheep for contrast colors. That was the cheapest and easiest way for many people to produce this type of sweaters, if not the most flattering to the typical Icelander. In the twentieth century yarn manufacturers encouraged knitters to play with colorfully dyed yarns.

In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s the Reynolds/Istex yarn company sponsored knitting competitions in Iceland. Prize designs featured in their regular pattern collections were for yoked sweaters. The Best of Lopi, published in 2002, is a big hardcover book that "updates" the prizewinning designs of the past, showing the original design as published in some previous year and a new version knitted with different colors and/or lighter yarn. Click or paste this link for more about the book:

Contest entries, including some of the "honorable mentions," show that real Icelanders read foreign pattern books (Iceland, otherwise cut off from the world for centuries, also has a tradition of reading and collecting books) and wanted recognition for other types of knitting too. Knitting with Icelandic Wool, by an Icelander whose designs Reynolds was starting to publish in the 1980s and 1990s, reflects the knitters' desire to mix tradition with innovation. Two of the sweaters on the cover are the distinctive Icelandic style and would pass as Eighties Sweaters today; the third is a new design that reflected more recent fashions. (Click or paste: .)

One other knitting tradition that seems to be distinctly Icelandic was over-socks knitted for the purpose of putting over boots for better traction on ice. Over-socks obviously wore out very fast so it's hard to say how old this tradition may be. It was published to the world in the 1990s. Other Icelandic knitting traditions included "sets" with caps and mittens to match the sweater, also in Icelandic wool.

What made Icelandic wool special was not just the sheep, although the island's sheep produce a nice soft wool knitters love to handle, but the way the wool was processed. Because the arctic air was cold, the knitters were in a hurry, and the wool grows in nice long strands that hold together well without being spun, knitters traditionally knitted the thick "rovings" without bothering to spin the yarn. The Icelandic word for wool rovings was lopi so Reynolds called the yarn that sold best in the United States "Lopi," though they did spin it--a little. Though wool rovings pull apart if handled carelessly, once knitted they make a nice durable fabric, especially after that fabric has been wet and dried. It's very thick but light, fluffy more than prickly. Most people could wear it next to their skin if they wanted to.

What makes a sweater Icelandic? 

a. To be really Icelandic, a sweater should be knitted of Icelandic wool. Though Reynolds Lopi was spun, and usually dyed, Icelanders working or going to school in the U.S. and Canada in the Eighties accepted it as their kind of yarn. (A few of them went to the university I briefly attended in Michigan, and advertised "Real Iceland Sweaters Knitted by Real Icelanders" for $100 each, for pocket money.) 

b. To be recognized as distinctively Icelandic, even if it's knitted of Icelandic wool by an Icelander on Iceland, the sweater must be knitted mostly in one color with up to three contrasting colors worked in a band of patterns around the shoulders. These sweaters are begun as three pieces (waist and sleeves) and finished as one piece.

c. Icelandic sweaters were often knitted as pullovers. They are more comfortable to wear as jackets, so they might be knitted that way, or knitted as pullovers and cut down the front. Either way, the edges were finished with a simple line of knitting, crocheting, or sewing along the front edge, to which thin metal clasps, buttons and button bands, or a zipper could then be sewn. 

d. Caps and mittens were often knitted to match sweaters. The wool and patterns can be used to make scarves, socks, and blankets too, but this is a departure from tradition.

The Icelandic influence in North American knitting

In the Eighties, knitters looking for patterns they could use to make jackets out of widely available blanket yarn often took their inspiration from Icelandic patterns. Real Eighties sweaters with round yokes were designed all around the world. (In the Nineties, some of the hand-knitted sweaters sold in Europe and North America were even knitted in Africa, by people who seldom had any use for the thick warm knits they sold.) Jackets made of acrylic yarns like Dazzle-Aire, Red Heart Super Saver, and Canadiana were so popular they inspired more up-market variations--thick cotton pullovers, or lighter-weight wool sweaters, with yoke patterns copied from Icelandic designs. 

Amazon does not currently show a copy of Patons' 1982 Around the Seasons available, and I'm not about to sell my copy either, but you can order it at

A lot of these designed-for-acrylic sweaters were made, some in Patons Canadiana and some in other yarns, in the 1980s. I also remember making and selling sweaters from a Leisure Arts collection, which iirc was called simply Yoked Sweaters, that's not even listed on Amazon--it was a flimsy little paperback that might have been classified as a pamphlet or magazine rather than a book. 

The round-yoked style was reclaimed as "Scandinavian." Since this sweater is knitted of relatively lightweight, spun wool, it might be classified as an example of either Scandinavian or Icelandic influence on U.S. knitting.

I knitted this cotton sweater from a design by Meg Swansen, which makes it American as apple pie, but it shows the Icelandic influence.

This one, knitted in chunky (U.S.) wool with (Canadian) acrylic contrast colors, is closer to its Icelandic inspiration, and the colors are very much of the late Eighties.

Pushed to be "original" by the London and New York markets, designers often carried Icelandic inspirations far beyond their original sources. To be fair, Icelandic designers did this too. Patricia Roberts' designs were known for being madly original, even "fatalistic." This one was published in 1989 and, when knitted and worn, was probably knitted and worn only in the 1990s, but it's definitely "all about the excess"--extra-large, with bands of ten different brilliant colors all over. 

Knitters began to experiment with cable and lace patterns, as well as color patterns, in yoked sweater designs in the 1980s. This design by Michele Rose was first published in a Vogue Knitting magazine, then reprinted in a collection of the magazine's most evergreen designs in 2000. (Click here to see the collection...Amazon's photo looks so bad it might almost be one of mine, but it's not: .)

Pattern books to look for: 

1. Any of the old Reynolds Lopi collections you can find. Only pattern collectors will know which of the patterns were first printed in the 1970s, 1980s, or later. 

2. The Best of Lopi, discussed above.

3. Vedis Jonsdottir's Knitting with Icelandic Wool, discussed above.

4. Another Ringer: Lars Rains doesn't have an Icelandic name, his book Modern Lopi was published in 2015, and he wasn't on the scene in the Eighties, but check out his patterns and see if people you know don't see the sweaters as Eighties Sweaters.

(To buy, click or paste: )

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Petfinder Post: Mixed Breed Dogs

It's late Friday night, almost Saturday. I don't like letting Friday spill over into Saturday, but on this Friday I had too much to do in real life to look up cute animal photos on Petfinder. They'll go live on Saturday morning, with apologies to those who go online from work or school.

The last cute animal picture I saw today was a mixed breed, a shaggy dog, called a "cur," in a movie that was being replayed on TV where I was doing laundry. So, adorable mixed breeds it is...with a sigh. Anywhere you search, Petfinder always has hundreds of mixed breed dogs seeking homes. These are some dogs whom some might consider undesirable "curs," but who might be the perfect pet for somebody Out There. 

1. New York, 10101: Shiba the Mostly Retriever Mix

She's on the chunky side, a problem some retrievers have, but I have a soft spot for retriever mixes because I lived with some dear sweet ones as a young student. The cure for that tendency to gain weight is lots of walks. That's what this type of dog was designed for. And you can't keep them out of water, because the only thing they like better than a good brisk walk is a good swim. The wonderful thing about retrievers is that although most of them are lovable, gentle, goodhearted, even puppyish dogs at heart, they are good-sized dogs, and a person approaching you with evil intentions does not know how nice your dog is--to you. The dog might not even be so nice to an attacker. 

As a young student I lived in the beautiful scenic Sligo Creek Park just inside the Maryland border from Washington. Despite its loveliness the Sligo Creek Park attracts some rich and famous people and some of the evildoers who stalk them. People fretted about me walking home alone, my parents insisted that I carry a pistol, and one night some obnoxious guys actually started to harass me. Up came a big black retriever, a friend of the two golden retriever mixes who walked with me on weekends. The guys went from a smarmy "Nice chest" to a gratifying "Er, um--nice dog," and drove away to annoy someone else. What Shiba's rescuers have to say about her reminded me of that long-ago retriever...

Shiba has a terribly sad backstory- she is the only survivor of a fire that killed her family. She prefers a female owner with a quiet lifestyle and not too many visitors. Shiba truly does not like men, and we will not consider a home with a male resident. Shiba will reward her new mom with affection, loyalty and love.

I'm trying to link the picture so you can click on it. If it doesn't work, click or paste: .

2. Washington, D.C., 20202: Diego the Large Shepherd Mix 

It's not exactly a flattering photo, because German Shepherd (Alsatian) dogs are supposed to look like Rin-Tin-Tin, and this one looks more like the Tasmanian Devil. In real life, apparently, his problems go beyond looks. His rescuers insist that he's a great dog for the right people. Kinda like that Bear-dog that used to live down the street from me, who ran out and bit me, not intending to hurt me or damage my clothes (although he did), but just because he was bored and wanted someone to play with. You want a dog that weighs more than 50 pounds, you need to be a human who weighs more than 150 pounds, who can build a fence that will contain the dog and take him out of it for a few miles' jog before breakfast. 

Diego is actually in Virginia, but as the local family who tried to adopt him couldn't keep up with him, the shelter has arranged to advertise him for adoption in the city as well. If you want a big macho-man sort of dog, paste or click:

3. Atlanta, 30303: Colonel 

He's described as a middle-aged large dog who likes to run around for a bit, then go and rest in the shade. He's in foster care, and it sounds as if his main problem may be that his foster humans are bonding with him. How bad is that? To meet him, click or paste: .

4. Bonus: Kingsport, Tennessee: Roxie the Australian Shepherd Mix 

She's described as Sydney all over again. Regular readers will remember Sydney as the big Australian Shepherd dog I used to pet-sit in exchange for Internet access. Sydney was a very nice, clever, communicative--oh, well, manipulative--dog with humans, and a classic, you know, she-dog with other dogs. I was at the house one day when she decided Her Human's Mama was paying too much attention to her dog, and fur began to fly. 

I'm not seeing updates on the Blountville shelter situation. Apparently the unanticipated merger with the private Dog Sanctuary where the human became ill coincided with some disputes among the humans running the county-supported shelter, so instead of dozens of dogs, all the shelter is currently showing on Petfinder are six little kittens. I hope that doesn't mean the dogs have been killed or sent far away.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

WIP (sort of): November Stripes Jacket

In 1995, in a wool shop outside Kingsport, Tennessee, an employee showed me an issue of Knitter's magazine and referred to it as a "book." Catching herself using an expression from the older local dialect, she quick-saved, "Really these magazines are as good as books!" She was right. There are some knitting pattern magazines that gain value over time because they're about yarns and techniques, not New York fashions or whatever-the-yarn-manufacturer-is-trying-to-get-rid-of. And this 1996 premier issue of Interweave Knits was one of those magazines, packed with patterns the editors had been saving up for years. The over-the-top color-picture sweaters on the cover were not published in the 1980s, but they'd definitely pass as Eighties Sweaters among non-knitters.

I bought the premier issue in 1996, cherished it, then lost it (and a box of other things) in moving, and tried to find it on Amazon for years. I finally found it, and am glad to report that copies are there for you. (If the photo doesn't work as a link for you, click or paste: ). Need I mention that if you're looking for a short but not cropped medium-weight sweater that won't scream "Eighties," you could knit the one on the left in the cover photo in just one color? 

Because magazines are all about helping stores move merchandise, and craft stores often want to move small batches of things that will never be manufactured again, using pattern magazines nearly always requires some redesigning. 

Here's a detail shot (the only kind the cell phone can do, in such a way that the thing photographed is recognizable) of my redesign of a pattern Helene Rush contributed to the magazine. 

I followed the pattern stitch and shoulder shaping, but used my own stash of black and dark-colored, mostly acrylic yarns. As mentioned at the Ko-fi post, what makes it "November" is that it's designed as a crossover between the "Winter" and "Autumn" color palettes. About 70% of humankind are Winters, which is why Winter colors were such a fashion craze in the 1980s (stores that tried stocking things in all four "season" palettes found the Winter and Summer things vastly outsold the Spring and Autumn things). The 7% who are Autumns and the 3% who are Springs complained about being unable to find their colors, so in the present century fashion designers keep trying to bring warm-toned colors back as "fashion"--and most people keep buying black.

So, for Winters who want to wear brown slacks and Autumns who want to wear black, this jacket bridges the gap. Quite a lot of people are basically Winters who look sickly in the brighter Autumn colors but look normal in the darker ones. This jacket mixes black and dark colors, so it can cross over into either palette. If you're a Winter, wear it with a white, blue, or red shirt and brown slacks or skirt. If you're an Autumn, wear it with a red or green shirt and black slacks or skirt. (The shirt should, of course, match the stripes in the jacket.)

What's in between Autumn and Winter? November is. 

What makes it a Work In Progress? I'll be posting more of these at Ko-fi in a less final form where the shopper gets more input into what something becomes, but the jacket is still a Work In Progress because it's unisex-size (40" around, 24" back, 18" sleeve seams, the kind of deep V neck that shows a man's casual tie). So, as you can see, it does not currently have the front borders where the buttons or snap fasteners will go. (I prefer snap fasteners or a belt to fasten cardigans, but you can order buttons with buttonholes if you want them.) Is it going to be worn by a tall woman or a slim man? (It would be a good choice for a couple to share.) Your call, shoppers. 

Since most of the yarn is acrylic and the yarns that aren't acrylic are used in such small quantities, this jacket should never shrink and will probably take a lot of machine laundering. However, the glittering dark red and green yarns qualify it as a Subtle Holiday Sweater; eventually they'll break and qualify it as an Ugly Holiday Sweater. If you want to take the chance and buy it here, send $40 for the sweater + $5 for shipping (in North America, more overseas). It should arrive by Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Conversation with a Virus

Writers think in words. If I verbalize the nonverbal communication I have with the cats, why not the nonverbal communication between my antibodies and a virus over the weekend? Why not a Deeply Silly Poem? I did not actually write this poem during a fever dream. The dreams I had while sweating out the head cold were even more inane.

"Halt! Whence come you
and whither are you bound?" 

"My name is Rhinovirus
and I'm only just testing 
the human immune system.
Just doing my job."

"Not good enough, Virus.
You are in the way here.
For the second time:
where did you come from?"

"Ouch! Please...I came from
some stupid women in a store
swarming up close to each other,
crossing your personal space.
I got lost, actually.
I was aiming for one of them.
I really was. 
I can only float, not fly.
I made it this far
before you rushed away
and thought I might as well try...
and these are my 4257 babies."

"Not good enough, Virus. 
You are not wanted here."

"Oh! Mercy...I know.
Nobody likes a virus
nobody wants a cold
nobody has a Rhinovirus for a friend.
But you need to know
when your defenses are
slipping down below par."

"Not good enough, Virus.
Your mission is accomplished
and you are going to die."

"Ayyy! I beg...It's always
a suicide mission for us isn't it?
Could I interest you in making
one little trip into town, 
one grocery run, one library visit,
one little call on an old friend?"

"Forget about it, Virus.
Before you die, have you
anything to leave behind?"

"Yes! Yes! Like a nightmare
I have to leave a gift behind
because you remembered to ask me.
Here! Take back 
the use of your left ear
along with the usual energy surge,
because you resisted my urging
to pass me on to 
some other body." 

"Whoa! What is this that now I hear,
A full range of sound through that half-blocked ear.
You have been good virus,
as virus go, just doing your job
so now I'll kill you quickly.
What a loud, loud, loud, loud world it is."

" "

"Being Highly Sensory-Perceptive,
I've got by pretty well with the hearing loss
on one side, even though it's the one
next to the driver when I'm in a car.
I've known it's the kind of partial deafness
that can be cured, but not really tried
because I always used to hear too much.
Little stapedius muscle no one ever sees
or touches, can you readjust your cramp
to let in just a few more sounds, not all of them?
I'm sure you can if you'll try."

" "

"I guess that's the last we'll hear from
any of those silly little virus."

"Hey! Hey! You never caught me!
I'm here, out on this tissue in the trash bag! 
I am Rhinovirus! Hear me roar!
I'll rejoin my numbers too big to ignore
and then, oh then, we'll leave you behind
and find some old, sick, tired body
or maybe a young and stupid one, 
sweet, juicy, and more tired than it knows
from staying out too late, and drunk or stoned
and reckless about what it eats,
and then we'll overrun its bright red blood
and have our bacchanalia in its lungs
until there are enough of us to take
the heart and KILL that wretched son or daughter of..."

"Virus? Meet fire."

" "
" "
" "

Gentle Readers, y'know those people who are vulnerable enough to be dying from coronavirus, the uncommon chest cold? They are even more vulnerable to rhinovirus, the common head cold. Mean little something-or-others, rhinovirus are. Maintain a healthy distance, avoid spreading them, and let them die of frustration. They deserve that.

Long Sunday Read: Status Update, with COVID Loss

Yes. Everyone's likely to lose someone this winter. We are losing the Greatest Generation. 

The cousin who died last week was one of the younger of the Greatest Generation in my extended family, born late enough to fit into the baby-boomer demographic. He'd been ill, with a rare, unexplained, possibly chemical-related disease (always lived on a farm), for about ten years; lived with a sister and brother-in-law, then moved into a nursing home as the disease progressed. Coronavirus hit the nursing home and the next thing I heard, another cousin drove up to show me the obituary in the newspaper. 

It's sad; it's the end of an era. Still, it's not as if anyone had expected him to go back to work on his farm. 

One of the most interesting parts of watching this whole news story play out--one mutation of puny little coronavirus does produce symptoms in humans--is observing how hard it is for people even to see what I see as an obvious, fact-based middle ground, once other people have seen some advantage to themselves in "polarizing" opinions between two fallacious extremes. 

"Coronavirus is nothing, a hoax, not serious if you do get the disease, just a way for the losers of the last presidential election to steal this one." The losers of the last presidential election certainly did use coronavirus to steal, or buy, this one. It's nauseous. It's especially nauseous if you remember a time when the Democratic Party did have positive ideals that people used to vote for, rather than having to fall back on an unsustainable promise of free money to...I don't want to blog about this on the morning before a funeral, right? The exploitation of coronavirus scrapes a new bottom in the history of U.S. electioneering. At least the FDR campaign in my neighborhood handed poor people ten-dollar bills. But coronavirus is real; it's still a coronavirus, a disease "germ" that doesn't make most people feel ill at all, doesn't feel very unpleasant to most of those who notice it, and can go into fatal pneumonia very fast if an infected person lacks resistance to it. 

"Coronavirus is deadly, and the only way you can be safe is to stay home watching anxiety-inducing TV broadcasts about how you must have a risky new experimental vaccine the minute the TV talking head tells you to." Piffle. Most of us can and should do quarantine. And when coronavirus has run its course, which should be in another month or two in my town, there will still be rhinovirus and flu and staph and strep and household mold. Most of us will still be walking disease cultures, contact with which will kill people with AIDS. Most of us can and should be thinking about ways to build more healthy interpersonal distance into schools and workplaces. But seriously, the only reason why we need to do COVID-19 quarantine is to protect a minority of very vulnerable people whose first concern still needs to be isolating themselves rather than trying to force everyone else to share their living conditions. 

Most of us, in my town, have probably been exposed to the coronavirus by now. Many had that peculiar kind of cough in August and didn't even consider taking a day off work, because it's not as if a peculiar kind of cough affected our ability to do anything. I did the quarantine thing and blogged about it because I could, not because I wouldn't have been physically capable of working through the symptoms I had if I'd had an employer who insisted on it. Lots of people worked right through the dreaded COVID-19 and, because blood tests weren't offered, still don't have proof that we've had it, though we have. And most of us have continued to wear shoes that gave us more pain on the first day. 

Infectious diseases are so not "one size fits all, one Big Government policy protects everybody." They are a very individual thing. It's like the way, in a past generation, most adults never noticed being infected with polio, some children had the infection but never noticed it either, a small minority (like my father) had a long hard time but survived, and a larger minority of children died. 

Can people who are immune to coronavirus, whether they were born that way, built up resistance by having the disease, or have been vaccinated for it, still be immune carriers of the disease? Duh. Can the Pope be Catholic? Airborne diseases don't really need any living thing to carry them around; they can literally float about in the air but they survive longer on a warm body. 

Vaccines protect the vaccinated, ONLY. (That is, when the vaccines work as promised, which is not as often as pharmaceutical companies want to believe.) When disease pathogens float through the air, they can be carried as easily on a body that's fully immune to them as on a body that's suffering from the disease. Maybe more so, because fully immune bodies move around more. 

If you want to protect your elders, when any airborne infection is going around, don't get close to them. 

If they don't want to be protected...they may have a point. Some vulnerable people can pull through a season when they need to isolate themselves, and recover their health and the level of social activity they consider normal, if they isolate themselves when they need to. Others are going to get sicker and die, whatever they do. It's not unreasonable that some of these people, having heard that coronavirus is likely to take them out in hours or days rather than months of ever-increasing pain and mess, are agitating for one last big family gathering. They're hoping someone will bring in that coronavirus. Can they be blamed? 

I think our Governor is overreacting, trying to signal virtue more than actually thinking about what can help people. Curfews for adults? Well, the most obvious effect those have is to generate protest demonstrations. Among activists there's a traditional, unofficial rotation system for such things. You can be arrested for nonviolent protests ("interfering with traffic," "disorderly conduct," "trespassing" by remaining in a public place after being ordered to leave, etc.) and pay a symbolic fine only so many times before people start to consider your offenses as serious bad citizenship. I'm not going to use up my symbolic arrests protesting a quarantine order. But young people who want to resume group activities with their dates are likely to think that's worth being arrested for. Young people usually have high resistance to most infections. Young people who do not have high resistance to infections usually don't know that they're in real danger at events like the laugh-at-coronavirus demonstrations.

More seriously...really small towns in Virginia, like mine, have had an unofficial curfew culture for a long time, a feeling that--because none of our police officers wants to hang out in the police station all night, playing solitaire, waiting to see if anyone calls to report suspicious noises that turn out to be squirrels on the roof--polite and public-spirited people will just stay home in bed at night, and let the police do likewise. Making the curfew official might appear, to the Governor and to some tired cops and their families, as a way to expand this sense that "everybody will be nice and postpone their legal or illegal activities until daylight" into the big cities. If it's illegal to be driving, shopping, or drinking at one o'clock in the morning then most of the police force can get their sleep at night. People who get their sleep at night are likely to be more efficient and level-headed in the daytime. Don't we all want police officers to be efficient and level-headed?

I can empathize with that point of view but I don't agree with it. Nobody has a right to tell other people when they ought to go to sleep and wake up. If the American voters and taxpayers were willing to accept other people's rules about that, a lot more of us would have gone to church colleges, and probably a majority of us would still be living with our parents,

Bad political decisions are breaking out all over, and acrimony, "polarization," personal ill will, censorship and cyberbullying...mercy. Seriously, Gentle Readers, I think a lot of this may actually be coming from the coronavirus. Many people become grumpy when they're fighting the flu. We don't directly feel our bodies starting to pump more antibodies through our blood; one of the indirect things we may feel when that happens is a surge in biochemicals associated with feelings of wariness, defensiveness, a general readiness to fight. We may have to remind ourselves that transferring this "fight" energy into unnecessary quarrels with other people actually interferes with the fighting our bodies need to be doing, against the microscopic "enemies within," the virus. 

The word on the streets in my town, in the last week of this October, was "Democrats like Senator Warner are trying to get another handout check sent to you and me, and mean, Grinchy Republicans like the Orange Thing from New York are trying to prevent that." In the heart of Kilgore Country I saw an outbreak of Biden signs in people's yards. In the first week of November I heard, "Congress agreed to those second handout checks, and the Orange Thing vetoed them." From what reliable sources posted online, this was an exaggeration, but it bought many votes. Why would Trump have allowed this to happen? If he'd seriously wanted to stay in the White House, even if he'd intended to veto the second handout checks (for which there were valid economic reasons) later, why didn't he have enough sense to waffle about wanting to authorize those handouts, planning to authorize them after blah blah? He's an unlovable man by all accounts, but not a stupid one--like Nixon in that way, I think. I could believe that he made the stupid decision to oppose giving money to takers, right before an election, because he had the coronavirus. His body was in "fight" mode and his unconscious mind would have been going, go home to bed go home to bed go home to bed...

Meanwhile, Republican loyalists are saying, why aren't people paying more attention to the historic fact that Trump participated in negotiations for peace in the Middle East? Well, that's a question I can answer. From what Americans have been hearing for at least sixty years, the Middle East is one big war zone. If you believe that modern Israelis are the people who were to be blessed and protected as Abraham's heirs, you may find yourself supporting some decisions of modern Israeli leaders that don't sound much like anything Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob ever did. If you believe that Arabs are physical descendants of Abraham too, and the people who were to be blessed and protected were the ones who preserved Abraham's legacy of faith in One God who prefers mercy to sacrifice--beliefs with which this web site agrees--then you probably see no hope of ever understanding what Middle Easterners are quarrelling about, don't want to take sides, and just wish they'd work it out nonviolently among themselves. If Trump did make it possible for them to do that, he'll certainly deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. I hope he did; I hope he gets one. I believe God had a good purpose for every life God created and it would be very good if Donald Trump were able to serve his purpose. But the prize will probably be awarded posthumously. We'll believe that Middle Easterners are capable of living in peace when we see it. 

As for poor old Biden...this web site really doesn't want to pick on him, because what this web site saw of his campaign gave us an impression that putting him into the White House would be cruel. He's entitled to want to die with his boots on. I respect that attitude. Unfortunately, a vote for the harmless old fellow who comes across as having to make such heroic efforts just to read a speech off a Teleprompter was a vote for the radical from California. 

As a web site, this web site has not reached an official position about Kamala Harris. As a part-time political blogger, however, I will say that I have reasons to dislike her more than I do most politicians. Normally they either eagerly send us press releases, which we dutifully reblog, or ignore us in a very polite and tactful way. Harris is the only pol who's ever been so overtly hostile as to block me. That's a very, very bad sign for the country that's let her get as far as Vice-President-Elect. She doesn't know me personally; she just blocked me, automatically, when I visited her campaign site and requested information about her campaign platform. She does not believe the federal government has any obligation to serve citizens who don't belong to their own party. So, although I think Biden fits into the White House decor better than the Orange Thing, I'm still hoping the electoral college will do its duty to the nation and keep Harris out, even if it means four more years of seeing orange. 

It was a vile election in every way. It's been, in most ways, a bad year. 

Faith, hope for the nation? I wish this web site had some to offer. 

No, it's not just that we've lost the most lovable member of the team. When people enter cyberspace with a screen name that begins with "Grandma," that's an indication that you need to be prepared for them to retire or die any day. We don't like it, but we did expect to outlive Grandma Bonnie Peters. We almost lost Yona, and can give thanks that at least that didn't happen. Other, more anticipated, unpleasant things have happened to other members of the site, and at least they've survived. And though I expected any reduction in glyphosate exposure would do wonders for my health and be helpful to Adayahi, I've been thrilled to see just how helpful it's been; that dear old man's improvement has exceeded everyone's hopes. 

But for the nation...the Bible tells us that nations get the leaders they deserve. For many years the United States has been practicing the great sin of Sodom. No, that's not the physical act of sodomy, although the Bible says nothing good about that either. In Sodom only a few young men wanted to rape the two male visitors. The women and older men of the city were, however, guilty of not caring about visitors, doing nothing to protect them, taking no responsibility for the well-being of others. That was the great sin of the whole city, for which the whole city was destroyed. 

We have let ourselves be so "polarized" about the dichotomy of unethical "Communists" and unethical capitalists that we've overlooked the individual moral mandate to use whatever wealth we have in an unselfish way, for the good of all. A mainstream Republican, not especially rich by U.S. standards but obscenely rich by global standards, says, "I pay taxes! That ought to be enough! I can wish younger, smaller, newer entrepreneurs well, even give them good advice, without having to sponsor them as well--I'm old and tired!" As I type she's probably sitting in a church, receiving the soothing message that she's a better Christian than those of us who are not in that church at this moment. And the annoying part is that, although she looks and acts and probably feels much older than I am, she's only five years older; we're at the age where the difference between HSP and non-HSP starts to show--they age faster. I believe she really is tired. She married more money than she earned, but she's earned a lot. She has the right to use that money as she chooses. She cannot, ethically or morally, be forced to invest any of it in any new venture in or out of our town. She can and should be called to account, politically, for her contribution to a more general greedhead tendency that has taken out the middle tier--when people like me can afford to move up from open-air markets into stores, the town council needs to ensure that stores are available to us--but all she can really be required to do is to keep out of our way. 

Just as, long ago, a few dozen twenty-something females, resident of the dormitory reserved for "more mature students" at Berea College, very reasonably wanted to go on studying when we heard screams out in the shrubbery behind the dormitory. I remember thinking, "Oh those stupid freshmen, when will they ever learn to stop screaming before they are hurt?" as I got up and closed the window. I could hear other windows closing all over the building. We all could hear that the voice crying for help was not familiar to any of us and was not calling any of us by name. We could hear the words "Help!" and "Stop!" and "Shut up!" We all had final exams to study for. We all had telephones, constantly connected to the main line, no batteries or charges per minute to bother about. We could have stood up and called either the campus police or the town police with just one or two more steps than it took to close the windows. Nobody bothered. Somebody else's little sister, the same age as my sisters, was beaten and raped about ten yards from where my whole dormitory exercised our legal, moral, ethical right to concentrate on studying for our exams, every one of us thinking that if the kid really did need help someone else would surely provide it. Every one of us participated in the female version of the great sin of Sodom.

I have at least tried to be a more responsible adult, since that day. I have undeniably done more in that direction, with less, than most people have done or tried to do. Maybe I could or should have done more good than I did. Certainly, in a nation where the sin of Sodom was less widespread, I would have had a great deal more resources to do good with

I've often asked why God made me a writer and gave me a home in the very core of North America's confusion about economic morality. I have no idea. My writing career does show a nice linear progression forward but it's not been accompanied by wealth. I still have to prod people to pay me for writing things, regularly, when like most writers I feel that they ought to be paying me in advance. 

(Some people do, like the person who drove up yesterday to deliver a cash payment to Queen Cat Serena for more Petfinder posts. Serena doesn't seem more interested in cash than she is in computers, but she will be thanking you, in her way. As do I.)

Well...God is not a reliable source of simple answers to this kind of questions. Only once, when asking why God hadn't helped in a situation, did I even receive that quick visual impression of the sick patient's crippled hands, that insight that we mortals who are the living Body of Christ have become too sick and feeble to do what we ought to do for one another. 

I think part of the answer may be that, even though some people point out that Bible characters are always addressed as members of families, tribes, and nations, Bible characters are also held accountable for "working out their own salvation" as individuals. None of us can save another. None of us is responsible for another's choices. 

Years ago I asked people to help me write a book about how well it's possible to live on the same income that a typical U.S. welfare cheat claimed to be unable to live on: $12,000 per year. $1000 per month. I caught hate from Yahoo for writing an article about that topic. There are corrections that we should take seriously, and then there are hatespews that tell us we're doing the right thing, so I wanted to write the book. I set up a GoFundMe site and shared it with all the e-friends and writers I follow on Twitter. 

Two writers responded.

A woman in the United States, also writing about frugality, said $1000 per month was too easy. Too many working Americans are living on less than able-bodied welfare recipients demand.

A man who lives in both countries, but is originally British, said a lot of frugal middle-aged people growing old graciously didn't sound like "fun" to him. Well, the exchange wasn't private, and he's too successful to be a private citizen any more, so why not mention his name? It was Neil Gaiman, whose unique mix of horror, comedy, and wonderment continues to delight me whenever I can get one of his books. 

I thought, "Well, I know a lot of people who do not care for his unique mix of horror, comedy, and wonderment, who would think a book about frugal middle-aged people growing old graciously was a lot more fun than a book about creepy neighbors wanting to sew buttons over or in place of a child's eyes..."

Those who do think Gaiman's instant bestseller sounds like fun, and don't already have it, may use this link to buy it: .  

"...But in this great big complicated world, everybody has their own purpose to fulfill, and different taste is part of the way they know what that purpose is. Why should Gaiman fund my book? I don't write like him. I'm not related to him. I'm not from his town. Let him choose to fund only horror-comedy-fantasy book projects, or only books by British male writers, or only writers whose first names start with C for all I care. People who want to read my book are the ones who ought to fund it, and people who want to read my book would be a different group than people who want to read Gaiman's books, despite some overlap. The literary influences on my book are different; Wendell Berry, C.S. Lewis, Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Kathleen Norris, Henry David Thoreau, even Edward Abbey come to mind. Their fans would be the ones who are meant to fund my book."

So in other words I wanted to write in the genre or tradition of a lot of writers who had retired, died, or at least become old. Maybe that was a clue. I hope not. That's still my favorite kind of book to write or to read. Anyway, the fans of those older writers did not use the GoFundMe. After a few years I decided to work with the clue the American writer had handed me and write about living on an utterly unreasonable, unsustainable income of US$2000 a year--or less. At least nobody could ever say that was too easy, and I'd been doing it.

Well, after I'd written enough of that book to know I was going to finish it, the first thing that happened was that, between the coronavirus handout, an arts-and-crafts grant I got for my knitting, and such work as I was able to do, my income immediately rose above $2000 for the year I was writing about. I don't feel that that's invalidated the book since my income was below $2000 for each of the preceding eleven years, and since it's not exactly risen into what I'd consider a sustainable level, anyway. I took it as an encouraging sign. 

Meanwhile, we-as-a-nation continue to misunderstand, very willfully, the plight of our...less fortunate. Poverty in America continues to be a very different thing from poverty in Haiti; by global standards many of our less fortunate cannot really be described as poor, except in the sense of "so useless and pathetic they don't even know how to survive on $12,000 a year, like that fellow who admitted to a newspaper reporter that he was sleeping on a broken-down bed because he didn't know how to cut a piece of plywood." Well, actually some of these people are stuck in situations where they can't survive on $12,000 a year, not because they're useless and pathetic but because they are stuck; that's part of the problem. Meanwhile, when your "needs" are things like computers that run Zoom, degrees from big-name universities, dental implants, day care for children while you work at yuppie jobs, more reliable cars, and other things North Americans believe everybody needs, you're not poor. At least on the Internet, which is global, "poor" ought to describe people whose "needs" are things like food, water, shoes, and safe places to spread out blankets on the ground at night. As a direct result of North American capitalism and North American Christianity, there aren't nearly as many really poor people in the world as there used to be--even though there are more people, overall.

Anyway, we all know that there are people out there like...oh, say the mothers of the two adorable children who hang out after school, sometimes, at our local cafe. They're not exactly homeless waifs on bombed-out streets. They're daughters of privilege. They went to college, they obviously took hot showers and put on fresh clean work shirts in their nice houses and dropped their children off at an above-average school before they reported to work, they've accepted relatively low-paid part-time jobs as a trade-off for living in a place where the cost of living is low and they can be close to their families. They have pretty teeth, well-educated accents, and nice clean new-looking shoes. And when their work hours keep being cut further and further back, they lie in bed thinking about what they're going to lose and how much harm it's going to do their children, and they feel terrible. They could survive without a great number of things that they have, but they're not accustomed to doing without telephones, computers, cars, electricity, or being able to bribe the children to behave well with trinkets, so they'd miss those things. If they make the wrong choices about what to give up, and when, they might lose their homes. Or their children. 

Nobody wants those things to happen; yet, partly because the coronavirus is real, partly because the coronavirus panic exploited by the minority party was such a scam, they're happening, and they're likely to continue happening all winter. People are committing suicide over losses of income. The American middle class, who are by global standards disgustingly rich, just can't bear the thought of becoming the American poor, who are by global standards pretty dang comfortable. Well, for one thing, nobody wants to admit it but we all know it's true, the American welfare state is not going to be able to keep every unemployed adult comfortable for very long. If more people aren't paying in than are taking out, the welfare system is doomed to crash, and then our poor people may find out what real poverty feels like. 

One thing people aren't prepared to find, when their income has reached a point that really does allow food insecurity to occur, is that when they finally have enough to help others, it makes other people awfully uncomfortable. (It's a scream, actually.) Holding checks for a total of $2200, I thought, "Of course this means I have to give $220 to charity. The church? Well, let's let this be a sign: If the pastor or secretary of a church is willing to cash either of these checks, thus sparing me the inconvenience of opening a temporary bank account just because some people are too lazy to mail out postal money orders instead of blank-blank bleep-bleep checks, that church gets the $220." I called the church closest to me, the one where the aforementioned Republican is probably walking out as I type this. None of the Baptists wanted to talk about it. My beliefs are closer to theirs than the other legitimate churches in town, but I respect those churches' beliefs and good works too, so I called them too. None of them called back either. 

So I was still considering what to do with the $220 when I went online and found the man I encouraged to set up a GoFundMe: . All I know about him is what I read in a legitimate local newspaper's web site. Miguel Ochoa of Arizona, age 44, father of six, owner of a small store, had the dreaded coronavirus earlier this year and lost his store. So he was doing gigs and odd jobs, including driving for Uber, to support the children (I know, way too many children, but it's too late to do anything about that now). He felt uneasy about hauling two guys who seemed to be drunk, but Uber tempted him with the promise of a bonus, so he let them get into his car. Then they got nasty enough that he stopped the car and told them to get out. Then they beat him up. He went back to work as soon as he was released from the hospital, but not for Uber. 

I said, "Now there's a role model for those of Generation X who think they can't survive losing any of their wealth. Unless a local crisis comes up first, that young man" (same age as my sisters) "is getting the $220." He is, too, if he tells me where to mail the postal money order. 

"Oh, please, writer-known-as-Priscilla, de-ar, nobody expects you to donate ten percent of your income to anything. You need it," some people may want to whine if they're still reading this. To those people I say: Bosh. Moses had a better understanding of how a small, poor nation could become even a player on the global scene of its day than anyone currently practicing economics, and Moses said nothing about any "needs" when he told his small, poor nation that each of them should give one-tenth of whatever they had to those even worse off than themselves. Even if some of what they had had come out of the same fund to which they were giving their tenth-of-the-crop back. Plenty of people whose incomes are low don't want to give anything to anyone else. We are not told what, if anything, Jesus said to them but we are told what he said to a very poor person who did the right thing and gave a nearly valueless coin called a mite to the poor fund. He said that the worth of her mite was greater than the worth of the rich people's shares. 

One way we might reduce the incidence of suicide, in young people facing their fears of poverty, is to start thinking of even the genuinely poor as having worth rather than "needs." Consider what they have to give to others. Look for ways to reward their good work, rather than feeding "needs."

I don't like "needs." Like most English-speaking people I do use the word "need" in the usual, casual way: "I need a postage stamp to mail this letter, so I'll need to go to the post office." "If we make that trip we'll need to plan to..." "I need three more minutes to finish what I'm doing." But in a more serious sense, I do think, and people may hate me for this if they so choose: nobody really needs anything. "People need oxygen to survive." Yes, but why do they need to survive? There are more humans on this planet than it needs. Maybe the people who are fixated on "needs," who aren't thinking about worth and about the fair exchanges that build relationships that motivate others to care about their preference to survive, should be decomposing and turning into something more pleasant, like dandelions. I say this, not to encourage more suicides, but to encourage more of the reasonably comfortable to be more mindful of the way they talk to those who have less. Nobody needs anything in the ultimate sense; toward your purpose of doing good rather than harm, you need to stop babbling about "needs" and start reminding those who have less than you that they have worth.

Maybe the change we need, for the purpose of surviving as a nation, is to stop letting ourselves be "polarized" between godless "Communism" and soulless capitalism, and consider the ethical dimension. Maybe we need to remember what we've lost. More complicated economic systems built by more sophisticated cultures have certainly evolved, but they've not really changed, and won't survive efforts to change, that primal mandate that each of us take responsibility for our own adult lives, earn rewards for our work and use what we earn to reward other people's good work. 

Wanting to let a bloated government feed the "needs" of poor people, without any personal responsibility for integrating those who have less back into the local economic community, has been our national sin. The collapse of our democratic republic, the sort of socialist tyranny some of our young people claim to want and others may taunt and bait but are not working to prevent, is likely to be our national punishment. 

Some of us still claim to want to believe that countries like Cuba, Venezuela, Iraq, even Russia and China, sank into poverty under Marxism because those mean old North American capitalists cut off financial aid to them. How interesting that, before going socialist, those countries were rich, and needed no financial aid from anybody. In the nineteenth century Americans referred to the wealth of Russia as the example of vast unimaginable wealth. Iraq was once known by the name of its once-great city, Babylon, and it once ruled the civilized world. The development of Venezuela's natural wealth into financial wealth really started with oil, and in a few short years socialism has reduced oilmen to hoarding toilet paper. There's no particular reason to doubt that if the United States go socialist we'll soon be as miserable as the huddled masses of other countries that have fallen for this unworkable, unsustainable idea. There's no particular reason to doubt that, when envious foreigners urge socialism upon us, that's their intention.

Yes, Sweden exists. Sweden is a unique and fascinating nation. One reason why it's survived socialism as well as it has is a sparse population, produced by having been able to send the surplus population it once had to the United States. Since no nation now has that option, there's no reason to imagine that any nation will be able to replicate Sweden's economic miracle in the foreseeable future. And even in Sweden there's evidence that socialism, if continued, will destroy even that economy. 

For the purpose of our national survival I think we need to be making rapid progress away from the kind of unofficial, experimental socialism we've had in the twentieth century. I didn't let myself mention this before age fifty. At thirty I publicly stated that, like most baby-boomers, I liked letting the Social Security system provide more money for my elders than I could have done. At ten, however, I'd been taught that the Social Security system worked for as long as the working generation greatly outnumbered the "retired" generation; that that demographic situation was bound to change, and when it did, Social Security would implode. It's changing now. I would like to see the United States preserve some sort of financial safety net for people who really are disabled. I'm not pleased to see how many of my generation seem to want to believe that we, as a generational demographic, can sustain Social Security by allowing mass immigration, when the young people who are already here are already overcrowded and underemployed. Mass immigration might be a nice idea in some other century but it cannot work now. I think we need to say no to all handouts from government to able-bodied people. I've been saying that since the old AC days, and I've caught plenty of hate for saying it--and that hate is one reason why I'm convinced it's true. I wouldn't have mentioned this before I'd lived on an income far below what the career "needers" demand, for years. I want to say this as a person below the poverty line, and close to "retirement" age: We as a nation need to repent of socialism. We need to forsake socialism. If we want to survive.

Biden won't help. Harris will do her worst to aggravate the impending hard times. Trump wouldn't help, either, even if the electoral college agreed to discard the results of an election bought by misleading rumors and appoint Trump president. The only thing that might help, so far as I can see, would be for Americans (yes, including those in the other nations, in their own ways) to start thinking about making real economic progress...along the lines of a popular quote from a former President who was never considered "conservative" in his own lifetime:



If a critical mass of Americans agree to reaffirm our own worth rather than pleading our "needs," we might still have a chance to keep American Democracy alive.