Wednesday, January 28, 2004 

Scroll half way down the page, and prepare to laugh. Be sure to read the text under the pictures, because that made me realize it was worse than I had thought!

I would never, ever, be caught dead in public with a contraption like this on. I don't care how easy it makes your knitting. Unless of course, you like getting very weird stares from people.

Monday, January 26, 2004 

Yesterday evening I went to visit my eccentric old Great Aunt Renee. A year ago she was diagnosed with, what she euphemistically calls "female cancer" (I'm a bit leary of the details, but I believe it is either uterine or ovarian). For years my Great Aunt Renee has been the brunt of many a joke. She's a rather large woman, who always caked on just a little too much make-up, and could yammer your ear off for hours, if you let her.

Common family stories revolve around some of the crazy things my Aunt has done. I remember as a child listening to my Aunt Renee tell me about how she never saw just one movie when she went to the theatre. After viewing one show, she'd push her squeaky walker, half the width of her body, across the lobby to see another movie -- without paying. She seemed to believe she was getting away with some clever plot to sneak into movies, but my family always joked (behind her back) that the clerks likely knew what she was up to, but were afraid to approach her.

Then there's tales of all the odd gifts she has given people. One year my Aunt Renee had given a box of chocolates to my Aunt Melinda for Christmas. But, when my Aunt opened the gift on Christmas morning (my Aunt Renee was not there), she discovered the box of chocolates had been half eaten! And another time, quite a few years back, when VCR's were still relatively new, my Aunt Renee purchased a number of odd video tapes from a thrift store, and gifted them to my grandfather for Christmas. My grandfather never really liked my Aunt Renee, so this was just one more nail in the coffin for him. Of course, the rest of the family made light of the situation, and continues to laugh about it to this day.

In her younger days Renee was thin and very beautiful -- a woman well on her way to having a position in high society. She was intelligent, powerful, and highly social. Her marriage to my Great Uncle Gordon (who is my grandfather's brother) was marked by a lot of difficulties. Uncle Gordon was a scientist for the Livermore Lab. His job was often stressful, and my Aunt Renee's forceful and domineering nature took its toll on my Uncle Gordon as well. He often turned to alcohol to self medicate, which led to disastrous results. Abuse was rampant in their marriage, and both seemed to be unhappy with each other. Yet, I don't think either of them could have lived without each other. I think my Great Aunt's obesity was partly a result of the abuse she suffered, though she herself is not without blame.

Her obesity however is playing a large role in her current situation. Being that she is so overweight, every doctor she's seen thus far has refused to operate for fear that her heart will not be able to withstand surgery, and that she would die on the operating table. The risk is very real, yet my Aunt is not giving up. Perhaps she sees it as her only chance for survival. Without any treatment, the cancer will surely ravage and take her. With surgery, perhaps she will die, but perhaps by some miracle she will survive.

My Aunt Renee played a crucial role in getting into college. While my parents always seemed to "expect" good grades out of me, and thus didn't give me a lot of praise and fanfare when I brought home my report card, my Aunt Renee took a keen interest in how well I was doing. At family events she'd gush over how "intelligent and bright" I was. I too was a talker, and she'd delight in holding conversations with me for long periods of time -- well after others had shooed me on. My Aunt Renee was herself a highly intelligent, and well educated woman, who was also an incredible pianist. As a young child she attempted to teach me how to play, and for a few years I was enthusiastic about it. But eventually my interests turned elsewhere, and I stopped.

From a young age she encouraged me to try my hardest, and to do what was necessary to get into college. She promised that if I kept up my good work, that I could do and be whatever I wanted. As I got older, she provided guidance in the way of advice on how to get into the best schools. Neither of my parents went to college, and while I know my parents hoped I would go myself, they didn't know how to help. So, my Great Aunt Renee stepped in when and how she could. I largely credit her with the fact that I went to Berkeley. Had she not encouraged me to go there, I probably would have ended up at a lesser school. She even encouraged me to apply to places like Harvard and Stanford, but cost held me back. My parents had little money, and it was up to me to find ways of funding my education.

A part of me dreaded visiting my Aunt last night, for fear that I would get stuck there for far longer than I wanted. But, honestly, I enjoyed the time I spent talking to her and my Uncle Gordon. My Uncle Gordon recently published a book of stories about his childhood, which is for sale at the Historical Society near the town where he grew up. They gifted me with a copy of the book, and a selection of the stories on CD. This morning as I rode to work I found myself getting really into these stories of my grandfather and Great Uncle's childhood. And quite frankly, I also found myself jealous of their adventures and experiences -- nostalgic for a time I never knew.

I'll probably go back and visit with my Great Aunt at least once more before she passes -- if for nothing else but to offer her comfort as a way of saying thanks for everything she did for me.

Thursday, January 22, 2004 

Well, I've gone and done it. I popped my tax prep cherry! Last night I had my first client. It went really well, though I was incredibly nervous. I'm surprised I was able to get the words out of my mouth as well as I did. The interviewing itself went fairly smoothly. I felt confident enough with asking the necessary questions as I went through the program. But I was shaking inside from nervousness. When I was working on case studies I was typing in information rather quickly. But, last night I was going so slooooow because I was afraid of screwing something up. Fortunately for me she was easy. All she had was a W-2. No second job, no interest, no Jury Duty pay. Easy-peasy. But, that's just how I wanted it for my first return.

Afterwards I was trying to estimate what my own refund would be. I don't have my W-2's and 1099's yet, but I did have my paycheck stubs form the end of the year. I plugged in the numbers into this program we have, and it was saying I owed! So, I entered in a fake tax return, in practice mode, with my info. After doing that, it was saying I owed the Feds over $1100!! Obviously I wasn't happy. I can afford to pay that (that's why I've been putting $100/month in a rainy day fund), but I was planning on a refund to use towards a down payment on a new car. Owing $1100 would put a damper on that. It would leave me with a much smaller down payment. However, after sleeping on it (actually, tossing and turning on it), I realize I may have made a mistake in calculating. This morning I ran and grabbed my pay stubs, and noticed that I had used nearly $6000 of pretax money for stuff like my 401k, Commuter Checks, Cafeteria Plan, etc. When I took the deductions out of my gross pay, and recalculated the tax I saw something much better. If what I came up with this morning is correct, I'll be getting a refund -- albeit, only a $400 refund. But hey, $400 in my pocket is WAY better than $1100 out of my pocket. In the meantime, I'm sending a new W-4 to my employer to have them start withholding more money from my checks so next year I'll get a nicer refund. At least some good came out of my needless worrying of myself -- I managed to learn a few things, or at least internalize a few things I had sort of learned before.

Progress on the multidirectional scarf is coming along nicely. I decided to make it just slightly thinner than my mom's scarf was. I liked the width of my mom's scarf, but remember thinking at the time that it would also be nice with just a few stitches less. Plus, that would allow me to make it slightly longer (without having to buy more yarn), and the sections would get done faster. The colors are working up differently than I had expected. At first I wasn't sure if I liked it, but now I think it's looking good. The colors remind me of peacock feathers. It's made up of greens (a light green, bright green, and a slightly darker/normal green), blues (a slightly darker blue, and a bright blue), and a little bit of a goldish tan color here and there. It sort of reminds me of a grassy field in spring. Very pretty.



This picture was taken using my camera at work (a Kodak 3.1 megapixel DX4330), not my new camera. It looks a little blurrier than what I would have gotten with the G5, but you get the idea. I took a few shots, and this was the best of the bunch. I can't attest to color accuracy since my monitor at work shows everything a little too dark, but I think it should be fairly close. (BTW, ignore all the crap on my desk!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2004 

I've picked the needles back up again. It's been a few weeks since I've done any knitting, since I've been pretty busy with tax season starting. So, this morning I cast on for another multidirectional scarf using the green Chaucer I bought from Artfibers. (see picture below)



That picture was taken using my new Canon G5 digital camera (as were the others below). I still need to learn how to use it properly, since I'm used to cheap point and shoot film cameras. But, I am learning. I also need more practice with holding the camera steady. I can't keep my hand perfectly still, so I'm prone to cause camera shake. Plus, it's worse now that I'm using the LCD screen instead of the view finder to frame shots. With the view finder, I could brace the camera against my face. Hopefully practice will help me reduce shaking. I got my last book from Overstock on digital photography yesterday, so I'm going to start reading up. Plus, my 512 mb memory card showed up yesterday, and I can put almost 400 pictures on that card at the highest resolution.

Here's a picture of the Extreme Hedonism Herbal Neck Wrap I've been working on. Actually, I haven't really touched it in about two weeks. I think it was the last thing I worked on before I got too busy. I think lengthwise I'm almost done. I just need to make the little flap, and the filling.



I'm making the neck wrap from some yarn I picked up at Artfibers on sale a few months ago. I'm actually not sure which yarn it is, since the sale yarns sometimes don't have labels -- and this one didn't.

Once I'm finished with the multidirectional scarf, I think I'm going to start on my Lily Bag. I purchased a kit from Threadbear Fiber Arts just before Christmas with some pretty green Cascade 220. Here's a picture of the kit.



Tonight I work at H&R Block again, and I may get to do my first real, live return!!! The manager, Ray, asked me if I was ready to do one on Monday night, and I told him that I was. I've finished 15 case studies, and I feel confident enough to at least to a fairly simple return (no farm income, rental property, depreciation, or anything else wacky like that yet). So, if we have clients tonight, I may get to do one. If not, there's always tomorrow night, or Sunday. But, either way, I'm getting closer to my first victim client.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004 

I continue to get spam through my disposable email address I have set up for Blogger. I have received more of those 419 scam letters (where someone from someplace like Nigeria tries to convince me they need to hide a few million in a foreign account, and that I'll get a cut). Then this morning, I opened my mailbox to find no less than 35 spam emails from someone supposedly named "ARAGATS GHOOKASSIAN." Once again, I am pissed because Blogger promises not to share your email address with anyone, so I'm wondering what is going on. I have a theory, and I'm in the process of testing it, and if I'm right Blogger may not actually be at fault.

My digital camera arrived yesterday, and as you could probably guess, I was playing with it as much as possible. I still haven't installed the software on my computer, so I'm not sure how the images will look there, but they look great on the LCD screen. Though, I took a picture of my Christmas tree (yes, it's still up!) and I did notice quite a bit of purple fringing, so that was a little disappointing (though I was warned). Other than that it seems to be a really great camera. I'll try to post up some test pics either tonight or tomorrow.

I went down to Artfibers last Friday to browse around. I picked up some beautiful green Chaucer (silk & angora) to make a multidirectional scarf. I made my mom a multidirectional scarf from some purple Chaucer, and I loved how it turned out. I also want to make a sweater either out of Chaucer, Oz (angora with a pretty halo), or Sherlock (silk/wool, with a great drape to it). First I need to pick a pattern, and so far I haven't found anything that feels right. And considering the cost, I want this to be an item I can wear for a long time. Probably a very classic sweater with either a V or ballet neck. Or, I was thinking that Oz would make a great Twin Set.

Monday, January 12, 2004 



I found this gem while surfing for more free knitting patterns to add to my free patterns site. Um, who in the world thought crocheted sneakers would be a good idea? Certainly not me. To each her own, I suppose....

My knitting books came in today. I'll probably go ahead and keep the two books with childrens/infants patterns, even though I have no children of my own, and really none to knit for. But, you never know when someone will be expecting. The patterns seem to be classic, nice looking pieces that I would appreciate receiving for my baby/child (if I had one). The other book, "Knitting School," seems to be a nice book as well. But it also looks like it covers most of what other books in my collection take care of nicely. For those who like heavy illustrations, then this book may be for you. I didn't spot one page that had more text than illustrations. Every page has pictures on it (almost always more than one). Though they are all illustrations, and none are photographs. But, the illustrations are very clear and well drawn. I've decided I'll keep it and gift it to a new knitter in the future. My best friend has considered having me teach her how to knit, and if she really wants to pursue it, I think she'd like this book.

Other than that, I'm just eagerly anticipating the arrival of my Canon G5. I've been reading up on photography and am already much more knowledgeable than I was only a week ago. I finally know what shutter speed, ISO, aperature, and some of those other terms mean. Once my camera arrives, I'll be able to start playing around with it to learn even more. I'm a kinesthetic learner, so just reading about it only does so much. I learn best through my experiences. But, I also picked up a 512mb memory card on ebay for a really good deal, so I'll have plenty of space to try things out. Look for pictures of my "experiments" to be posted in the next couple of weeks, after I get my camera.

Friday, January 09, 2004 

I finally decided on and purchased a digital camera. After much deliberation, I ended up going with the Canon PowerShot G5. Considering the G5 is now just slightly more expensive than the G3, coupled with the fact that I prefer the black body, and the 5 megapixels will allow me more flexibility in being able to crop (which I could definitely use), it seemed like a good option to go with the G5. I purchased it from Ebay, paying only $499, plus $35 (!!) for shipping and insurance. Now I just have to wait for it to come in.

I also took a little venture over to Overstock.com to look for some books on digital photography, and photography in general. I decided that if I purchased this camera that I would teach myself photography. Well, to my surprise, there were a bunch of books marked at $0.99, that were normally a lot more. I started loading up my shopping cart, but after a short while started finding that the prices of some of the books started coming up. So, I selected about 8 books and purchased them as quickly as I could (while they were still $0.99). What I ended up with was 4 knitting books, 3 books on photography, and one book on cruises. The 4 knitting books I snagged were Felted Knits (which Overstock normally lists at $12.69, and Amazon currently lists for $15.37), Simple Knits for Little Cherubs (Overstock normally lists it at $11.49, Amazon at $13.97), Simple Knits for Cherished Babies (Overstock's normal price is $11.49, Amazon's is $13.97), and Knitting School (Overstock's price is $14.39, Amazon's is $17.47). I figure if I decide I don't like any of the books (besides Felted Knits, which I already know I like), I can put them in the GSRP box, and hopefully someone else will.

The three photography books I bought (Photography for Dummies, Digital Photography All-in-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Shoot Like a Pro! Digital Photography Techniques) should be at least a good start. Plus, Jonathan knows a lot about photography, so I can ask him for help too. And it will give us something else to share and enjoy together.

Jonathan put in his interest card for Police Officer yesterday. Within a few hours he had been called into the office of the Personnel Sergeant. They had already seen his interest card and were very interested in seeing him move up from Community Service Assistant to Officer, and they want him to get started ASAP. Originally we were thinking he would be going to the academy in July. After his discussion with the Sergeant yesterday, he may be going as soon as March instead. I'm totally excited for him. I think this is going to be a great move for him. Though, I must admit, it's going to be tough over the next year as he's in the academy and going through field training. Time may become tighter, as if it weren't tight enough (we only see each other about once a week). But, I figure he and I have survived over 6 years together, so another year shouldn't be so big a deal. Plus, it means it will all be done with sooner than I had anticipated, which means we'll likely be able to go on our Mexican Riviera cruise sooner than I had thought!

Other than all of that, I've been busy with the start of the tax season. My first night at H&R Block as a preparer was Wednesday evening. Right now we really don't have many clients coming in, so I'm working on case studies. But, in a few weeks (end of January, beginning of February) things will blow up. That's when we hit our first peak. Everyone (well, just about) who is expecting a refund comes running into the office after they've received their W-2's, 1099's, and other documents, because they all want their money yesterday. In the meantime, I'll enjoy practicing with the case studies. Everyone so far has been really thrilled to see I became a preparer. I'm glad I chose to return to that office, instead of working at the one near my house, because I feel like I've got a good support system already in place. That's something most new preparers don't have.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004 

Bargain alert!

I just picked up a Magicord Machine from Bond for only $9.95 (plus $5.25 s&h). It's normally priced at $24.95, so it's a pretty good deal. Here's a tutorial on using worsted weight yarns with the Magicord Machine (which the instructions advise you not to do). Considering the large amounts of felted bags I'll be making soon, this machine will hopefully come in handy for making straps.

I'm also in the market for a new digital camera (which will hopefully mean more pictures posted to this site!). After quite a bit of research I had found that the Canon Powershot G2 was a great digital camera, still getting exceptional reviews despite the fact it's been discontinued for almost 2 years now (it came out in August of '01). Then I found the Canon Powershot G3, which was an upgrade (and major improvement) on the G2. Reviews for the G3 were all extremely good, and it had some features I liked (flip out screen that can be folded into the camera to prevent scratches, a lot of flexibility and features, great battery life, and other things). Unfortunately, I soon learned that the G3 had been discontinued a few months ago to make way for the Canon Powershot G5, which is basically a G3 with a black body and a 5 megapixel sensor instead of a 4 megapixel, which the G2 and G3 have. (There is no G4 because of the word "four" rhymes with the word for death in Chinese and Japanese.)

At first I was holding staunchly to the G3 since I wasn't so sure I wanted a 5 megapixel camera (don't really need that much). But, the price of the G5 has come down in recent months (as is the way with digital cameras) and now I can get a G5 for just slightly more than what I'd be paying for a G3 (which may be refurbished, since new ones are becoming harder to find). There were some issues with the G5 that were worse than in the G3, like increased chromatic abberations (purple fringing), and slightly more problems with red eye. Though, many reviewers said these things were only problems if you were super picky, and in most situations it wouldn't be an issue.

Probably the biggest issue I've had so far with the G3 or G5 has been the size. It is definitely not one of those credit card sized cameras that can be slipped into your pocket. I have this old HP 215 1.2 megapixel camera (which I never use because, frankly, it's not that great of a camera) that is almost the same size as the G3/G5. It's really about the size you'd expect for an SLR camera, maybe even smaller. So, it's not that bad. I think it's about 4.8"x2.9"x2.8" and weighs about 14 ounces. But, if I have to choose between size and functionality/image quality, I'll choose the latter. I tried looking at the Canon Powershot A80 which also has the flip out screen and is a more compact camera, but I found the screen to be too small, and reviews stated that the resolution on the screen was sacrificed. Since I wear glasses, it's kind of important to have a good LCD screen. Plus, while the A80 also received great reviews, they weren't as great as for the G3/G5. And, you get more standard accessories/software bundled with the G3/G5 than the A80, so I think the increase in price will be worth it.

At this point, I've all but decided to go ahead and get the G5. Originally my plan had been to buy a decent digital camera and a nice film camera (since my current film camera is a POS). But, I think what I may do is keep my current film camera (it can do an okay job when need be) in case I absolutely need a film camera (though, Jonathan has a very nice SLR that I could use too if I needed film). And then I'm going to buy a really nice digital camera to be used as my primary camera. Based on the longevity of the G2 (and the fact that it's still considered one of the best of its class) I expect to get plenty of life out of the G5. Normally I'd gag at spending around $550 on a camera, but if it works half as well the reviews claim it does, I think I'll be very happy indeed. Now all I have to do is satisfy my frugal side, and find a great deal on it, which shouldn't be too hard to do.

Monday, January 05, 2004 

I'm a little perturbed at Blogger this morning. To my knowledge, Blogger claims to not share your personal information with anyone. However, this morning I received a piece of spam (the kind where someone from Zimbabwe is trying to funnel money to you to "protect," and promising you'll get a cut).

SBC (my ISP) has a feature where you can create disposable email addresses when you register at websites (or give your email address out). This allows you not only to track where spam is coming from (i.e. who is selling your email address) but to also delete the address that's being spammed without affecting your primary email address. To do this, you create a user name. Then you create any number of disposable accounts that are formed as UserName-lettersandnumbers@yahoo.com. The portion behind the dash can be anything you want it to be. So, when I made one for Blogger, and changed my registered email address, I changed it to UserName-blogger@yahoo.com.

Less than one week later I have already received a piece of spam to that email address. While the temptation is to send Pyra (the company that controls Blogger) a nasty email myself, I'm going to wait and see what else pours in first. It really bothers me that it wasn't just an email offering to "increase my penis size" or help me "earn my college degree." This was one of those very dangerous emails that so many people have (stupidly) been duped into believing, costing them their entire bank accounts. How in the world did they get my email address through Blogger?

Needless to say, it really annoys the piss out of me. Maybe it's just a fluke...but I guess we'll soon find out.

Friday, January 02, 2004 

More than a week off from work, and what do I have to show for it -- knitting-wise? Nothing! I do at least feel like some other things were accomplished (some shopping, some catching up with old friends, some good old fashioned relaxation). I think after the stress of Christmas knitting, I wore myself out a bit. I was excited to be done with Christmas knitting, and free to start making stuff for myself. The problem is, I've amassed so many projects for me that I want to do, that I can't decide where to start. Do I finish an old project? Start a new one? Start two new ones? Which do I do first? One of the gazillion felted bags I plan to make? A new sweater (gotta start now so I can actually wear it while it's still cold). Or should I get started on my holiday knitting for next Christmas so that when December rolls around, I'll be kicking my feet up and knitting leisurely for myself while I watch and laugh at everyone else scrambling to get stuff done by the deadline.

I want to start working on my Lily bag, but I feel bad about this other purse I started making that has been sitting, untouched, for two months maybe. I'm halfway done with that bag, so maybe I should just finish it so I can move on guilt free. But...argh!

Being that it's a new year, I feel almost compelled to make myself some New Years resolutions -- particularly when it comes to knitting. But, after little thought, I've decided to stick to my tried and true, never fail, feel good resolution I bust out every year - I resolve to not make any New Years resolutions. Though, I guess in a way I've actually failed that by making a resolution to not make any resolutions. Okay, so I resolve not to make any resolutions other than the resolution to not make any resolutions. (Hello, I'm from the Department of Redundancy Department.) Yeah, I like the way it sounded the first time better, too.

About me

  • I'm Dani
  • From San Francisco
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