Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm buying a loom

Now that I just sent the first payment to the amazing Dawn, I am going to be getting this baby (scroll down to the 3rd photo to see the true prize) some time in the next month or two. I am overjoyed. A dream I've had for so long of learning to weave will finally come true. I fell in L-O-V-E with the Kessenich looms at MDSW back in May, and I had a moment of temptation a few months back when Dawn was selling a 24" Kessenich. But I really wanted the 36", and now I am getting it. I could not be more thrilled. It will be quite an adventure going to get it. It's a long drive (nine and a half hours!), and I'm not sure yet how we're going to transport it, because it's not going to fit in the Prius. There may be truck rental or the purchase and attachment of a trailer hitch to one of our cars involved. I hope The Professor will be able to make the road trip with me. I've got to figure out where to put it, too. It's a pretty substantial piece of equipment. Hooray!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Audiobook: Gentlemen of the Road

Subtitle: A Tale of Adventure

Written by: Michael Chabon

Read by: Andre Braugher

It took me a bit to warm up to this book, but I blame my own failure to read either the subtitle or the blurb on the back of the box for my initial lack of enthusiasm. Having no idea where the book was set or who were its characters, combined with the reading of various quotes at the beginning of the book, which are less obvious, when heard, as separate from the story, I started out with something of a handicap. I'm glad that I stuck it out, though, because the story was enjoyable, the writing was wonderfully descriptive, and even if the action was set in a very different time than the language used to tell it, the afterword by the author was worth the whole investment. The working title of the book was something other than the published title, and I'll leave it to y'all to find out for yourselves what it was. Braugher does a fine job as reader, as well. His voice is rich and comforting, and his expressiveness adds a nice layer to the story. I'll probably try to find out if he's done any other audiobooks (could he be my new Scott Brick?).

I've been a fan of Chabon's ever since The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which I first read so long ago that I can't even remember when it was-- in college? Just after? It's one of my favorite books, and the writing is so good it's one of the few that I have read multiple times (the others being J.D. Salinger's, well, all of his stuff, John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, and Madeleine L'Engle's Ring of Endless Light). I haven't been keeping track of his more recent work, and this book inspires me to get through the backlog of titles Chabon's been cranking out since I quit paying attention, in addition to another read of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a perfect book for the end of summer.

I would definitely recommend this audiobook as a delightful accompaniment to any long-distance car ride. At just over 4 hours, it's the perfect length for, well, a visit from Cleveland to Pittsburgh.

(Pssst: The photo of the book is a link, too, because I finally realized I could do that.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Book: Lasermonks

Subtitle: The Business Story Nine Hundred Years in the Making

by: Sarah Caniglia and Cindy Griffith

If in my sewing life, I'm a shark who has yet to make the kill, then in my reading life, I'm Goldilocks. If Nickel and Dimed left me too hot (burning with desire to do anything possible to avoid a low-wage life), and Bait and Switch left me too cold (chilled to the core with fear for the future of regular old jobs) this latest book, another just-over-one-day read, was juuuuust right.

I learned of this book from the newsletter Winning Ways written by Barbara Winter, but I had learned of the ideas behind this book from my friend Rachel on her blog, which is what drove me to read it (that and it being available at our fabulous library). The idea of a business (in the case of an abbey of monks in Wisconsin, selling toner and more) supporting charitable works seems like a wonderful one to me, and I enjoyed reading about how the monks have grown their business with the help of the laywomen who authored this book. My only wish would be that the authors had made it a little more clear who they were and how they came to participate in the monks' project, because I kept rereading the first few pages of the book thinking, "Huh? Who is we?" To save others the confusion, two women learned of the monks' project from a news story, wanted to sell the monks their online toner business and instead wound up helping the monks grow theirs.

Lasermonks is not a very good primer for someone who actually wants to start a social enterprise, the advice they give is vague at best, but it's a nice inspiring story about a social enterprise that is thriving. It gave me some food for thought as I continue on my path of trying to find work that sustains both me and the world. Could I possibly employ a similar model? They donate all their profits to charity. Gulp, sounds daunting, but maybe it could also provide much-needed motivation to get off the dime as well as momentum to keep going. Can I get in a similar mindset with regard to customer service? Their practice is to follow the Rule of St. Benedict, which essentially says treat every guest (customer) as if he or she might actually be Jesus Christ popping in for a visit. You know, like royalty. Those who know me know that I am not quite that much of a people-pleaser, so that sounds even more challenging, but it's certainly a worthy aspiration.

I highly recommend this book to other entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to tie a business to good works (Rachel, I'm looking at you) or for anyone who, like me, might have been reading too much depressing stuff lately and needs a pick-me-up. Oh, and if you need to buy toner? For heaven's sake, check the Lasermonks out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book: Bait and Switch

Subtitle: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream

by: Barbara Ehrenreich

If Nickel and Dimed lit a fire under me to do something with my talents and energy, this book chilled me to the bone. Instead of going under cover as a wage slave, Ehrenreich investigates the world of white collar job-seekers, and it seems like the entire time she's in that world, she's standing in the middle of something that is rotting from the inside out. I have never been part of the big corporate world she tries to penetrate. When I have taken my various breaks from attempts at self-employment, my jobs have been at non-profits, academic institutions, and in the cozy (read: incestuous) world of medical publishing, hardly in the same league as giant pharmaceutical and telecommunications companies. I have always thought that I could never squeeze myself into the mold that those kinds of employers would require me to inhabit, and to hear her tell it, I've always been right. I would wither and die if I had to get a job-job in the sort of setting that she describes. Heck, I almost did wither and die at the couple jobs (non-profit and academic) that most closely tried to emulate that big corporate world, and the only thing that kept me from doing so was excessive quantities of wine. But what really made me shiver about this book is how Barbara Ehrenreich, who I hold in pretty high esteem because, well, have you read any of her books? The woman is sharp. How could she possibly fail to get a job?

I thought often of my friend Steve (Hi, Steve!) when I was reading this book, wondering what he, as a different sort of career coach than the ones Ehrenreich visits, would make of it. I also thought of my friend Loreto who turned me on to the news that a sort of sequel to Nickel and Dimed had been written in the first place, wondering whether it made him feel better or worse about his government job. And I thought of my friends who can exist in that world (Brian, Jaffa, and Beth come to mind) and wondered how on earth they do it.

This book reinforced that self-employment is the only way to go for me. Even if you're not entrepreneurially inclined, I would recommend this book just on the basis of the wry humor that Ehrenreich brings to such a depressing topic as begging for crumbs at the big corporate table. Her writing is crisp and punchy, and the topic is quite compelling to anyone who is less than 100% satisfied with his or her work life. Sadly, there seem to be a lot of us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Book: Nickel and Dimed

Subtitle: On (Not) Getting By in America

by Barbara Ehrenreich

I read this book while on hiatus from Not Buying It, which was both too boring and too depressing to carry on reading at the time. Nickel and Dimed tends toward the depressing side as well, although the writing is far superior and the social commentary vastly more concise, appropriate and compelling. Yes, Ehrenreich was also writing about an experience constructed purely to produce the fodder for a book, but let's face it, she just did a much better job. For one, thing, her jokes are funnier. I couldn't put Ehrenreich's book down and finished it in only a couple days. It was fascinating, and it made me want to get off my butt and put my nice shiny college degree to good use.

I would recommend Nickel and Dimed to anyone, especially anyone with even the slightest interest in economics or the effects of employment on class in the US. If you ever wanted to know what it's like to wait tables in a greasy spoon or clean toilets for a living, it's much easier to read this book than to go out and experience it first hand. It was certainly enough insight for me, and the entire time I was reading it, I just kept thinking how lucky and privileged I am to be able to get a better sort of job than the people in that book. Soo lucky. Thank you, stepfather, for paying for my college. Thank you Dean Tidmarsh for keeping me from dropping out. Lucky, blessed, and grateful am I.

I notice while adding links for this post that a quote by Ehrenreich praising Levine's book appears at the top of Levine's book page. Well, I'm glad she liked it. That makes one of us.

Nickel and Dimed is definitely worth a read, though. Enjoy.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book: Not Buying It, My Year Without Shopping

By: Judith Levine

Well, this title appealed to me for obvious reasons. I finished it a couple months ago but haven't logged it here because, well, it just wasn't that great. Nothing to get too excited about and hence my delay in reporting on it. In fact, the only person to whom I'd recommend it is my friend Adi, and only because the writer and her partner split their time between Brooklyn and Vermont. The writing was decent, but the book really sagged in the middle (I wound up setting it down for a couple weeks and reading something else), and on top of that, the author conducted her experiment during 2004, so the reader gets the depressing opportunity to relive that year's presidential election, which is not a plus in my opinion. My main beef with this book is that the personal account, which constitutes all the good bits, is too frequently peppered with social and political commentary on the state of the world and instead of being an insightful look at one person's experience it too often turns into a boring rant about consumerism's many evils. Blah blah blah. Like I said, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone but Adi, and even to Adi I say, have a good back-up plan to revive yourself from potential boredom.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

And for tonight's entertainment...

The Professor and I are going to learn about native plants of Ohio with the Cleveland Permaculture meet-up group. Woo hoo!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Yet another project and general update time

I am like a shark circling around and around but who has not yet gone in for the kill. There are still no new pants in my life, or any other finished garments, but I just ordered a kit to make a customized dress form. I need the dress form for a draping class that I signed up for on impulse. I wanted to take the class on sewing your own underwear and just figured, what the hey, that's near my birthday, I'll treat myself and do both. I'm excited. The dress form project should be interesting. I'm trying to get some others to join me in the adventure. I don't know many other sew-ers who live near me, but I have one person who might be interested, so that's something. And The Professor has graciously agreed to cover my nearly naked body in plaster cast material.

I haven't felt much like writing here lately. Nothing good to report, and I don't really feel like this blog is the place for whining about my life, so I have been laying low.

I watched a wretched movie recently. Just Friends. I will spare us all the bother and just say Don't See It. Trust me.

On the knitting front, I bought some new yarn. Linen and silk because I wanted to make something cute and summery. Still working on it. I scoured Ravelry for patterns, and finally I found one that is exactly what I was looking for (Ravelry link), but no pattern is available and the maker hasn't yet responded to my message asking for more details on when one might be for sale. Not so patiently, I wait, and meanwhile I contemplate just trying to figure out how to make it myself.

I also bought some Berroco Suede because it is one of the exact colors that was recommended as flattering by my guru, Cynthia Guffey. The color I got is called, I only just realized, Clint. What an unflattering and odd name. Clint? Seriously? Who thought of that? The pattern I planned to make was Coachella (another not-so-appetizing name), but I'm starting to think better of it. The neckline is exactly what I want, but as for the rest of the shaping, well, I don't own a racer-back bra, and this garment is not going to look good sans undergarb.

The really big news around here is that in a week from today, The Professor and I will begin our Grand Home Wiring Update Adventure. We're going to devote a full week plus a day or two to trying to get our entire home upgraded from knob-and-tube to romex. Pray for us.