the everyday adventures of sabrina

i'm happy, hope you're happy too

So a few weeks ago my friend Michael asked if I could maybe possibly if I had a free minute make him a sweater? I’m not sure who suggested it, but we decided to go with handspun wool for it. (And yes, I did disclaim that it would probably take me at least two years. I don’t even think that’s an exaggeration. I have free time now, since school is out for the year, but I still have like three quarters left and that’s most of 2011 gone, and there’s no way I’m going to be a single-project girl all year long, so once school starts back up, progress will slow to a crawl.)

I threatened to give Michael my Ravelry login and make him go through the patterns search there to find something, a dire threat indeed for someone who just wanted “a simple pullover,” but fortunately he found something he liked at Knitty first — Mr Darcy. It met with my approval as well (not boring endless stockinette, no colorwork, no zippers!), so that’s the plan. continue reading…

One of these two threads is my handspun merino singles for a laceweight 2-ply. The other is commercial sewing thread. Guess!

Handspun merino cobweb-weight singles and commercial cotton-poly sewing thread

No cheating by looking at Flickr first to find the answer.

No cheating by scrolling down.

No cheating in general.


For serious. For reals. For really, really reals.

I had never had a good experience spinning 100% merino at a wheel — any of my wheels — before this. It sits in my stash and laughs at me when I come to pet it and think wistfully how pretty a spun yarn it would make. It smirks and chortles. It snickers as it tells me, “Ha, you know you can’t spin me. I drift apart when you look away for ONE TINY SPLIT SECOND. I do it on purpose!” I can spin it on a spindle, but it still snickers and laughs because it knows that I want, like, 1200 yards of it, and with the spindle it takes me six weeks to make six inches. Merino is my enemy.

She passed out a sample of gossamer-weight yarn she’d spun. 50g. 500m. 2-ply! IN. SANE.

She handed us locks of this astonishingly soft, 3″ stapled 15-micron merino that she’d hand-washed for us, and we opened them up, and broke off the tips, and fanned them out, and we spun them tip-first because that way you don’t get pilling.

And we did it on OUR HIGHEST STANDARD WHORLS, the big fat ratios – 10:1! I spun MERINO COBWEB WEIGHT on 10:1! She even told us not to bother getting out our fancy fast laceweight whorls, we were going to spin this on the same setup we’d spin DK on!

And I totally DID! It didn’t drift apart once! It just worked! Check it out!

Merino singles on the bobbin next to the commercial sewing thread

Seriously. Best teacher ever. On my way out, I thanked her and said that before this class, merino had always been my enemy. And she smiled and answered, “Well, I hope you are friends now.”

So I’ve been working on my ethics debate paper, and I was thinking I’d kind of like to use a parable in telling part of the story. So I went off and started looking up parables about short-sightedness.

First, I found Luke 19:11-27, which I shall paraphrase for you:

So this guy, this nobleman, wants to be king, but he has to get permission from Emperor Daley first. So he plans to go off and get permission from the Central Kingship Authority to be king. Before he goes, he calls several of his slaves to him and gives them each ten bucks and says, “hey, go into business for yourself while I’m out, do something useful, make me some money.” And he goes off on the long trek to City Hall.
Meanwhile, the Committee for Not Being Ruled by Schmucks sends off letters of protest to the Central Kingship Authority, saying “hey, this guy’s a total schmuck, don’t make him the boss of us.”
Time passes, the Central Kingship Authority rubberstamps his application, and he comes home, ready to get his crown. But first he first calls a meeting with his slaves to get an accounting of what they did.
The first slave says, “Well, I bought some S&P 500 futures, and the market did spectacularly well, so my ten bucks earned back a hundred more.” “Excellent,” says the king. “You get to rule over ten towns, one for each time you made ten bucks.”
The second slave says, “Well, I invested in bonds, and they made fifty bucks.” “Nice job,” says the king, “you get five towns.”
The third slave says, “well, honestly, Your Highness, you’re kind of a schmuck, you’re well known for taking things you didn’t earn, and I was worried what you would do to us, so I just put the ten bucks in a safe-deposit box.” The king goes, “that was clearly faithless of you, so go give the first slave your ten bucks, so now you have nothing, and you’re not getting any towns.”

Now, the king in this story is of course Jesus, who had to go run some errands, as you know, and the third slave represents the Jews, who are being punished for not believing in the messiah.

But the parable ends with the third slave and the Committee for Not Being Ruled by Schmucks being totally right, because the king goes on to conclude, “I tell you, that to everyone who has, more will be given; and from the one who does not have, even what he does have will be taken away.” And furthermore, “But bring here these enemies of mine, who did not want me to rule over them, and slaughter them in my presence.”

So that’s nice. Ripping off the poor and slaughtering your enemies, always a good time. Way to turn the other cheek, Jesus!

But lest I be accused of unfairly singling out a single religion, let me relate a Buddhist parable also.

So there’s this guy, we’ll call him Fred, who lives in a hut in the woods, and worships fire. Life is good for Fred, so long as the fire keeps burning.
One day a bunch of hippie protestors show up in the forest near his hut and have a protest, like they do, and then they all go back home at the end of the day. Fred goes over to where the protests were to see what sort of mess they left. He finds an abandoned boy alone in the clearing, and he thinks to himself, “well, I can’t just leave this kid here alone, i’d be a real shithead to let him die of exposure when I could save him.”
So Fred takes the boy home, feeds him, and raises him. Life is good for Fred and the kid. Until one day Fred runs out of coffee, and has to go to town to go grocery shopping. He says to the kid, “ok, all I need you to do when I’m out is watch the fire and tend it and make sure it doesn’t go out. If it does go out, no big, just light it again – here’s a hatchet, and some sticks and a fire-drill. See ya in a while.” And he takes off.
The kid does what kids do, building forts in the woods and pretending to play cowboys and Indians, and stuff, and he doesn’t pay attention to the fire, and the fire goes out. When he realizes it, the kid goes “crap! This was my only responsibility. Well, maybe I can relight it.”
So he takes the hatchet, and the twigs, and the fire drill, and looks at them. And he takes the hatchet and chops the fire-drill up, saying “maybe this will light the fire!” But sadly, no. He keeps chopping… reduces it to a hundred pieces… still no fire. he pounds the pieces in a mortar… no fire. He winnows them… still no fire. He hasn’t given up, but he just can’t seem to figure out fire.
And now Fred comes home, and he goes, “oh, the fire went out while i was away?” The kid goes, “yes, I’m sorry, I was playing, the fire went out. I’ve been trying and trying but I just can’t get it rekindled.”
Fred thinks to himself, “how foolish this boy is!” and picks up a fire-drill, and says to him, “This, my son, is the way to produce fire; not as you, a foolish, short-sighted boy, tried to produce it, by seeking otherwise than in the right way.”

The lesson there is supposed to be that any time you go about trying to do something any way other than the right way, you’re being a bonehead. But it seems to me that Fred was the bonehead, because he’s the dumbass that didn’t tell the kid how to kindle a fire in the first place. Or maybe Fred’s just an MBA, I dunno.

Maybe Jesus was an MBA too. That would explain the the hookers.

And that is pretty much why I fail at religion forever.

fried chicken dreams

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<niqui> i mean, those [dunkin’ donuts chocolate filled donuts] have got to be the single least healthy food item on the planet — even the KFC Double Down has some protein in it, somewhere, among all the fat — but i liked them
<twork> didn’t the KFC DD (hm, DD, coincidence?) actually test with less fat than, like, a whopper or something like that?
* twork remembers being surprised at some of the comparisons when it came out.
<niqui> apparently less than a triple whopper with cheese
<nrose_kenedy> and pink donuts don’t taste like fake strawberry anymore, they just taste like pink
<wasy> there is a triple whopper?
* wasy *shudders* at the mention of pink donuts
<wasy> dammit. now /me wants donuts
<twork> ah, okay, well a triple whopper with cheese is bound to be hard to beat for fat content. that’s practically cheating.
* niqui kinda likes the pink donuts
<twork> mmmmm, cheating.
<niqui> i mean, i’m not going to go out and get one on my own
* twork wishes to cheat.
<niqui> if i go to DD to get a donut, it’s probably going to be either a ordinary glazed donut, or a blueberry cake donut (mmmm, fake blueberry).
<niqui> but the pink donuts are OK.
<niqui> …i kind of want to try a KFC double down now :(
* niqui looks guilty
* wasy has wanted one since the moment /me saw a picture
* niqui passes a KFC on her way home from school.
<niqui> i could get one on my way home tonight.
<wasy> where is there a kfc?
* twork remembers the last time /me went to a KFC, being sorely disappointed compared to KFC feeds of /me’s youth.
<niqui> on my way home FROM NUTRITION CLASS.
<wasy> ha
<niqui> kfc on south wabash just south of harrison. next to the dunkin’ donuts, of course!
<niqui> it’s a combo kfc/pizza slut, for the students.
<twork> once you’ve had Harold’s, it’s hard to go back to the colonel.
<niqui> !! our harold’s is closed!
<niqui> expired license.
<wasy> oh, right. /me has seen that place.
<wasy> !!!
* niqui saw the signs on the way home tuesday
* wasy feels the itis coming on just thinking about harold’s
* twork hasn’t had Harold’s in months. it may be time.
<niqui> if harold’s made a double down, that would be *epic*
<wasy> death
<wasy> that would be death
<niqui> i would die of a heart attack within minutes
<wasy> tasty, tasty death
<twork> but a good death.
<niqui> but i bet it would be *delicious*
<twork> you have to go somehow…
<nrose_kenedy> best. suicide. ever.

All day I’ve been thinking about this and, to be honest, I’m a little bit leery to put it into a blog post because it might all just be a dream, and it might evaporate if I actually tell people. But.

The long story made short: for a very, very long time I’ve wanted to relocate to the United Kingdom. Why? Part anglophilia, part whatever is the “anglophilia” equivalent when you like Scotland instead of England, part curiosity, part adventure. I want to see what it’s like to be somewhere else. I want to go places with cobbled roads and see only tiny cars parked weirdly (seriously, they park on sidewalks and stuff, it’s weird. I once got a parking ticket for parking on the left-hand side of a two-lane road (i.e., i had my nose pointed in the direction of oncoming traffic) in Chicago; that seems to be commonplace there). I want to see places where eggs are on the shelf instead of in the refrigerated case in the grocery store. I want to get confused when no one knows what I’m talking about when I ask where the shopping carts are, because I should have been asking for the trolleys. I want to live in a place where individual electrical outlets have on/off switches. I want to get all the jokes in Coupling the first time through without thinking to translate. I just want to do different things and see what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land. I just want to see new things. I’ve wanted this for so long.

And I’ve put it off for so long and for so many reasons, chiefly money, and chiefly related to The Fucking House.

Two years ago, I decided that I was done waiting, and I was going to pull the trigger. I went to the UK Border Agency site and started seriously looking at the visa requirements. I counted up all my points. But with all the waiting and money drama, I’d gotten older, and they didn’t want old candidates with no qualifications, even if I am really a remarkably talented sysadmin and great at my work. But I determined that I could qualify for a visa if I had my bachelor’s, which I’d never been particularly motivated to finish. This, at last, was motivation. So I went back to school.

I started back in school, just turned 31, going to City Colleges of Chicago (i.e., community college) in January 2009. I figured that I’d go for a year or so at Harold Washington to finish my core requirements, then transfer to a four year university, and that would take me four years or so to finish at half-time. It was upsetting to think about a five year delay; for one thing — and I’m sorry for how this is going to sound, forty-plus-year-olds — I don’t want to be too old to enjoy the place once I get there. I want to still be young enough to go out dancing in a club if I want, and I want to still be whimsical and silly enough to do random things just because they make me happy. I don’t want to have bad knees so I can’t walk for long times, or be too worried about my retirement savings to decide randomly to take a £15 shitty RyanAir flight to the Continent for a bank holiday just because I can and because it takes me less time to get to France than it does now to get to Ohio. I know it sounds horrible, but I really want to go before I’m 35.

Those reasons are why it was such a massive, massive blow to me when in March of 2009, only two months after I’d finally gone back to school, determined to get my qualifications so I could apply for a visa, the regulations were changed to eliminate the points for a bachelor’s degree, and mandate a master’s at a minimum. I’m sure you can see the problem: with years to go before I’d even get the BA, adding on years to earn an MA — which I didn’t even want — was traumatic. An MA takes two years Stateside for a full time student. Working half time, it could easily take me four to five. Worse yet is the cost. If I were to complete a Master’s at DePaul, the price tag would be at least around $45k — on top of the $30k in student loans I’m taking on to finance the bachelor’s.

For something that started out as just wanting to go live in the UK for a year or two, to see what it was like, just to experience someplace different for a little while, this was turning into a monumental endeavor. At least four, maybe as long as nine or ten, years. Almost a hundred grand. For what? So I could spend fifteen grand relocating my entire life for a year or two? Ridiculous. Hopeless. Beyond stupid.

I was determined, and I am a goal-oriented person. So I just rewrote the plan to involve earning a master’s. I investigated master’s programs here and tried to figure out if I could make it work to quit working for two years to become a full-time grad student. (I really, really can’t. I can’t pay my own rent plus the mortgage on The Fucking House, plus eat, on a graduate stipend.) It finally occurred to me that I could hit two birds with one stone, if I went to grad school in the UK. So I started looking at schools, and costs. I figured that I could go overseas to school if I got financial aid to cover the £12k tuition, and had about another £15k in savings for the move and costs of living, etc. I looked at schools. I figured out the application details. I started saving up.

(That saving up is one of the reasons I still don’t have cable, incidentally. I gave it up years back so I could put that money towards getting out of credit card debt. These days, my condo building actually includes cable, but I’d have to pay for the box to hook it up. So I don’t have cable. It’s not like I’m missing much anyway — like I have time to watch television. Over-the-air gets me House and Fringe, and Netflix gets me anything else. So I’m cable-free. I occasionally feel like an out-of-touch weenie, when all my friends are talking about something that’s only on cable, or pestering me about if I watched the latest True Blood or Mad Men, but for the most part I get by.)

I sacrificed my cash savings, though, when I took summer vacation this year. It was a really hard decision to make. But I was so burnt out, and work was starting to melt down, so I decided that it was worth it. I blew it all. By the time my first paycheck from my new job hit, I was down to $73 in checking and savings combined. Ouch. Quite a comedown. It’s worth saying that I wouldn’t have blown it all if I still hadn’t been paying for THE FUCKING HOUSE while jobless, so thanks for that, Mom, but still, I knew what I was getting into when I quit.

And I was getting burned out by school. I’ve been back for two years, which means for two years I have had no evenings to myself, no weekends without thinking I need to be doing homework. Any time I’ve done something fun, like the annual Brainiversary weekend trip to Vegas with my dear friends, or going to my honorary nephew’s high school graduation party, or just sitting watching TV and knitting, I’ve done while feeling guilty that I should be doing schoolwork instead. Holidays are no holiday: I should be doing my independent study work. I have at least six papers to write for that, not including my capstone project which is a big long research project. I don’t honestly have free time. I have less guilty time, while doing schoolwork, and more guilty time, when I’m not. The idea of having five full weekday evenings to myself with no responsibility beyond watching Hell’s Kitchen is alien. Plus a weekend! Imagine a whole entire weekend with no responsibility other than doing the laundry! It’s mindboggling. Free time without strings or guilt has become a luxury I literally can no longer imagine.

This summer, with its two horrible classes — one actually a bad class, with bad subject material (i.e., no forethought, no academic rigor, no useful anything gained from it), and the other just a class totally foreign and alienating because it took me so far out of my comfort zone — really broke me. I couldn’t wait to register for autumn quarter and get into some better classes. And I’ve got them — this quarter I got two great classes! But I’m still burnt out. I can barely drag myself to do the work. I was planning to finish up in two more quarters, and graduate in June of 2011, originally… but lately, to save my sanity, I decided to take winter quarter off from school. And maybe spring as well. (I’m actually committed to one class in spring quarter, but The Plan was to take three. So taking just the one, which only comes up once a year and I had to register for in July of this year, is basically taking the quarter off, I think. Anyways, that keeps my student status alive so I could conceivably take winter, spring, and summer off and still retain my library privileges for my independent study, which was what had me concerned.) I have to maintain my 4.0 in order to get into grad school, because I’ll need an Upper Honors-equivalent to get into grad school in the UK, and Upper Honors-equivalent means a 4.0. And I don’t think I can pull off 4.0-quality work going forward, the way I feel right now. I’m so stressed out already I can’t even count on sleeping through the night, even after taking a summer to decompress. So I figured that taking some time off from school was the right decision, even if it set me back by a year on getting into grad school.

But this morning I was talking to some friends, and I realized it’d been a while since I’d gone back to the Border Agency web page to see if, by any chance, anything changed. So I went back. And everything has changed!

They’ve redone it again, since the 2009 re-do. The number of required points has gone up, but they’ve changed the age strata — now I can get points up to age 36 — and they’ve redone the salaries; previously capped at about £45k/pa, now you can get points for salaries up to about £150k/pa (ha ha ha I should be so lucky). But most importantly: bachelor’s degrees are worth 30 points again!

Ergo, with my current age, current salary, current English speaking ability, cash on hand, and with the bachelor’s degree I soon will have: I will have enough points to apply for a UK Tier 1 (General Migrant) visa.

As T. says: Basically, by eliminating the grad school requirement, Parliament has had me win a $100k lottery, in terms of what I won’t have to spend to get there.

So, at this point, all day I’ve been in a giddy sort of “oh my god you guys they changed it I don’t have to go to grad school after all oh my god you guys” haze. I only spent a couple minutes looking at the site this morning because I was at work, but as soon as I got home, I read the brief to confirm. And sure enough — 30 points for a bachelor’s. I can hardly believe it. All my fretting and worry and sturm und drang about a $45k MA I don’t even want … irrelevant! So long as I can stick it out and finish this bachelor’s, so long as they don’t change the rules on me again, I’m golden. I can finally try for this visa that I’ve wanted to get, so I can move overseas like I’ve wanted for so long. It is, literally, a dream come true, because I’ve been hoping since early 2009 that they’d undo the bachelor’s negation, so I had a chance in hell of getting overseas before I died. I can hardly believe it. Truthfully, and knowing that, especially if I take time off to recover from burnout, they might change the rules back, I still believe it could all fall through. But for today? Today, I’ll take this one slice of good news, the best thing that’s happened to me since the start of 2010.