Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vancouver Trip - Family by Love

There's so much to blog about from my Vancouver trip that I'm going to break it up into several posts. One of the most-fun parts was a little side trip from Vancouver to Bellingham, WA, where part of our family-by-love lives. My dear friend KJ was willing to drive down, about a 50-mile trip, plus the delay at the border.

BTW, for those of us cringing at our gasoline prices, the Canadians have been paying much more for quite a while; it cost $67 for the 12-13 gallons it took to fill up the little Honda CR-V. That's $1.443/liter, and there are 3.78 liters per gallon, making the cost about $5.45/gallon. On Salt Spring Island, where I went for my knitting retreat, I was told that they pay the highest price in Canada, $1.60/liter when I was there.

We had a great visit, meeting my new 6-week-old DGS by-love Tonio and getting big hugs from the very DGD-BL Rita. She has become quite a pianist, and is learning composition as well as the usual lessons. We had a lovely Mexican-food lunch, at a small place which serves the biggest burritos I've ever seen; KJ and I were able to share one, and nearly couldn't finish it. The hostess kindly snapped a photo of all of us, with KJ on the right.

Before we left Bellingham, we stopped at a LYS. Y'see, on the way to the house we got a bit confused in our directions, due to the street signage saying the street was one name turning right and another, not the one we wanted, on the left where we thought we should turn. So we turned the way we thought was correct and then decided to pull over and ask for directions. There was a nice little pedestrian-friendly shopping area, and we just happened to find a parking spot 3 doors from- ta da! - a yarn shop! A quick peek said - gotta come back! - and so we did. Apple Yarns is a great little shop, friendly and with a good variety of yarns. I brought home some Koigu and ShibuiKnits from their very nice selection; oh, yum!! I must be planning on making several versions of the Chevron Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. I find the pattern as written a bit boring, but there are so many easy changes to make in the feather-and-fan pattern that these won't look exactly alike. I think. It's a plan, anyway.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Home Again, Part One

I'm back from my lovely trip to Vancouver. DH picked me up at LAX at midnight, bless him! My usually-effective EarPlanes failed me on the flight from Seattle, so I'm partially deaf in my left ear and my head feels stuffed with cotton. It's 78.6F right now on our back porch, with 55% humidity - that's very high for us - so I'm missing the crisper air I enjoyed the last 12 days.

I have to unpack, do laundry, and try to get back on purring terms with Midnight. I have pictures to share, stories to tell, and lots of yarny goodness to show off. Right now I'm going to overdose on decongestants, which will eventually get my hearing back.

Missed y'all!!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

This and That and New Baby Pix

I'm off tomorrow for the Vancouver area, for a week-long knitting retreat on Salt Spring Island, and some extra days to visit with friends. I'll be back in the small hours of June 24, exhausted but with many happy memories.

I was zipping around Burbank today, getting last-minute errands done. We may be part of greater metropolitan LA, but we're a small town. Residents complain about traffic congestion if they have to wait through 2 lights to cross an intersection in the middle of evening rush hour. Our city council has spent hours and hours and many, many $$ over the last 2+ years to consider if we should change the local ordinances about the height and composition of fences, arbors and so on in front yards. Yep, our government $$ at work on minutiae.

What I saw and found so typically Burbank today:

  • Gas prices for regular, $4.61 on one block, $4.65 on the next.
  • Seeing the same woman coming out of the drugstore that I saw coming out of the bank. Don't know her, but I remembered those wild print capri pants.
  • The bank teller insisting that I was eligible for a $13,000 credit limit on a Visa, in spite of my repeated statements that we *have* a Visa account with them. She even called in a reinforcement, her supervisor. The come-on? I'd get 'Reward Points' of 1.5cents for every $1 charged. Whoopee. Our current card has Rewards, and I've never found anything I want to use them for.
  • A woman at the nail salon talking to the owner's teen-aged daughter about having told stories to her when she was still a toddler and the woman was getting her nails done. That's shop loyalty for you!
I love Burbank.

And, just so you know, our 3rd grandkid by love arrived last week. Sophia May was delivered at her grandparents' home by Dad and a midwife after a short labor. She was nearly 8lbs. Here's Miss Sophia and her happy Mom and Dad.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Hate My Cable Service!!

Let me once again add my name to the millions of people who hate their cable TV provider. Arrggghhh! Somewhere recently - Consumer Reports? Parade Magazine? - I saw a mini-poll which said the two most common causes of complaints about and the most dissatisfaction with customer service are cable TV providers and cell-phone companies. Does this surprise anyone?

I wrote a couple of months ago about the problems we had with disassembling our audio/video setup to change to a new TV/audio system stand. And I wrote last fall about the 'not ready for real service' new program from AT&T, called U-Verse; we were unsuspecting beta testers, marked our service "Not Acceptable", and sent back the equipment (their cost). Charter and U-Verse are the only two choices for cable here in Burbank. Monopoly much? (Is there such a word as 'duopoly'?)

After hours of fiddling , our cable TV boxes are - mostly - playing nicely with our TiVo. There was absolutely NO support for this from Charter; the folks at TiVo tried really hard to help, but mostly it just took persistence on my part. There are these two tiny receptors that have to work with an infrared light on the cable box, and they have to be positioned "just right"by minute increments, which TiVo can't do for me. The main set-up, which runs our big-screen TV, works well. Our former main TV moved to the living room and caused more trouble, even when I set it up exactly the same as the other. But it's been working for a couple of months. This is our main back-up TV, used for watching programs when there are 2 on at once that we want to see live, or for recording conflicting programs. So this isn't on every day.

Today I sat down to watch the movie of Nora Roberts' novel 'Sanctuary' with Melissa Gilbert, one I missed the first time these movies aired. Eeek! The cable box was turned off, so there was no picture. I turned it on and clicked to the recorded programs. Gah! I had 2 hours of black screens. Two other shows I recorded late last week or over the weekend were also black. For reasons unknown, the cable box turns itself off sometimes. Which means TiVo records black.

I called Charter. I've recently found that saying "real person" repeatedly can cut through a voice-activated phone tree and get a live person much faster. Try it. Of course Leslie asked all the identifying-your-account questions first. This is just a ploy to give the customer-service people a chance to plug the services you don't have, while you're trying to maintain patience to get back to the problem you called about. We don't have or want their DVR service (we have lifetime service with TiVo, no monthly payments); we don't have or want their Internet service; we don't have or want any premium channels. No. We like our Basic/Extended service. No; nothing more.

Finally, she shut up long enough to listen to my question: "Is there a time limit that the cable box will to stay on when it's not in use?" Her: "Your TiVo is incompatible with our service." Me: "No. It works just fine when the cable box is on. Why does your cable box turn itself off?" Her: 'Your TiVo is incompatible with our service. You could upgrade to our DVR service." And repeat. After the third round, I conceded. "So, the whole problem is the TiVo?" Her: "Yes." Me: "OK. Thank you for not solving the problem." And I hung up very gently.

If I didn't mind hurting my hands so that I can't knit, I'd go pound on something.

The reason I never feel like ranting about my cell-phone service? I have a simple, prepaid plan with Virgin Mobile; my minimum cost for an entire year is $60, and I don't spend much more than that. The $$ never run out if you don't use them. I can call anywhere in North America, anytime, for 18 cents/minute. I just can't call from Canada. I love my Virgin Mobile!!

California has a new law coming into effect on July 1, making it a ticketable offense to talk on a hand-held phone while driving. I don't know how well this will be enforced, but it's certainly going to boost the sales of those on-your-ear phones. Is that Bluetooth?

I have no knitting news.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Quick Hats and More Tonio

Yikes! I realized on Friday that I hadn't made anything for charity in May, one of the few Mission Possible 2008 goals I've been making. So I cast on for the Seaman's Cap from Brenda Zuk at NeedleBeetle, using some new James G Brett Marble I picked up last week at Stitches from the Heart in Santa Monica and finished it. I still had 'hat knitting' urges, so I grabbed some Plymouth Encore Colorspun DK from old stash and whipped up a basic 72st roll-brim hat. I admit that I stayed up way too late Friday night working on the Seaman's Cap, but I am a total sucker for long-run stripes, and the Marble is a really nice acrylic, not squeaky on the needles at all. The marled effect is great with the multiple plies. The Colorspun isn't bad, either, with its 25% wool content. Edith makes such a nice model for hats (Edith Head, get it? I crack myself up.)

A week or so ago I fell madly for a colorway from another indie dyer, The Woolen Rabbit. I saw Kim's Oh, Canada scarf (an Anne Hanson design) made from this yarn in her projects at Ravelry and had to have some of my own. This is Opulence, a 50/50 merino/silk, in the shade she calls Moroccan Spice, 300yds, which will be a nice scarf. This is the color of cayenne and paprika, rich as can be. Yum!! Small world - Kim is a fan of Cavalier King Charles spaniels and knows Jean, one of my Elannite friends, also a fan.

We also have new-baby cuteness. Mom Anna sent a photo of Tonio on the so-cheerful baby quilt I sent, quilted by one of my talented seniors. Tonio is clearly ready for a BIG hug!

And while I was carrying the camera around, Midnight was in an adorable pose, so I just had to snap a picture. She's lost a bit of ground in our fight against her kidney and thyroid problems, and while her appetite is better with a change in her canned food, she's not yet put back the one-pound weight loss from a couple of months ago. She's down to under 7 pounds, which is a really tiny, skinny girl, even though her long fur hides it a bit. The change in food may not be better for her ailments, but she had nearly stopped eating the canned prescription foods. It's all trade-offs now, I guess. I think she's feeling better, too, since she's doing more grooming.