November 29, 2006

Mongolian Cold Front

So, as you locals know, Seattle and the surrounding area is currently encased in ice. It was 16 degrees at my house last night. And is currently 26 degrees this morning. This means Western Washington is mostly shut down (You! Yes, you in Minnesota, stop snickering.) and most people are staying home, including Ryan, who is iced-in at her house, sans computer. So I’m commandeering the blog for my own evil purposes. (Evil laugh here.)

Spinning!!
You all remember the debacle that was the red yarn?

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Well, it’s amazing what a plying lesson can do!

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Yes. That is the merino top (a lovely gift from our favorite Canadian author) that I dyed with Janine last month. It’s plied with some creamy white blue-faced leicester to tone the colors down a bit. Note that this yarn has not yet been washed. And it’s relaxed. And no one can wear it in lieu of hair!

Hummingbirds?!
On another note, I’ve adopted a couple of hummingbirds that are a little stunned by the turn in the weather. They are Anna’s hummingbirds who winter over here because it’s (supposed to be) temperate here in the winter. Well, they’ve spent the last two days huddled, and fluffed to twice their normal size, in a rhododendron at the front of my house, right under the hummingbird feeder. I’ve been bringing the feeder in after dark so it wouldn’t freeze. This morning, the birds were waiting for me. As soon as I hung up the feeder, they were on it!

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(Note to everyone. I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t TMK afraid of birds?” Yep. Except hummingbirds. Even I can’t fear something so tiny and cute. I even have a plan in case one of them falls out of the rhodie in a frozen stupor. It involves touching the bird.)

Dulaan
I have to tell you that we’ve had a small taste this week of what those kids in Mongolia go through for months, and it makes me appreciate all the more the knitting that everyone contributed and continues to provide for Dulaan. Thank you!

Respectfully, TMK.

Posted by Ryan at 01:00 PM | Comments (21)

November 27, 2006

Heartwarmers!

Much happened in the spinning, knitting and fooding universes over Thanksgiving, but all will have to wait until Wednesday since, as promised, today’s entry is dedicated to the “heartwarmer” photographs, or the lighter side of F.I.R.E. distribution in Mongolia. As before, all photos and commentary come courtesy of The Robed One.

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Picture #1. Kid With Overbite: Best picture I took, just what I imagine Dulaaners imagine.

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Picture #2. Little Boy and Boxes: In Sainshand, all the boxes were stored in a room at the town's Old Folks' Home. One of the home's worker's little boy was quite the charmer, in the middle of everything. On the first day, as vans are being loaded with clothes and medical supplies, he poses here in his little pinstripe suit!

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Picture #3. Little Boy Carrying Box: But posing wasn't enough. The tyke really wanted to pitch in, much to the delight of his mother. When we found a box he could manage (this one barely, but he was determined!) he toted it out. Just adorable.

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Picture #4. Old Man in Cap: Knitted items from Dulaan were distributed to every resident in this elderly home, maybe 27? This beautiful old guy posed for me in his new cap.

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Picture #5. Resident Cat: One surprising feature of the elderly home was a resident cat, well-cared for and super-friendly. Loved to be loved and just purred up a storm. I got this amazing shot of Suzanne, the volunteer who was also in "One Steppe at a Time" and who supervised the medical distribution, getting a little shot of kitty love in the Gobi sunshine. They both look quite pleased with the arrangement!

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Picture #6. Twins: At one stop we were greeted by identical twins, the first I think I've seen in Mongolia. Their parents wanted to know if we had matching items. This is the first time the Dulaan knitters' determined individuality was a drawback! But we fitted them out pretty well.

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Picture #7. Happy Dawg: Not all of Sainshand's dawgs are crippled and knocked-up. This happy guy soaks up the rays in a very photogenic setting outside the home!

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Posted by Ryan at 01:10 PM | Comments (16)

November 17, 2006

The Scam Myth Debunked Yet Again

(No posting next week, Dear Readers, so an early Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, especially to Big Sister and her fambly! TMK and I will be spending it with our new "dinner club" friends, including Elaine and Leslie. A novel approach to Turkey Day for us, but we're both really looking forward to it. I am especially because TMK will be making Angry Pie!)

This is the event in the “Dulaan Year” that I live for: the arrival of the photos. This year they come courtesy of Cuzzin Tom, who accompanied F.I.R.E. to Sainshand, the provincial capital of Mongolia’s Eastern Gobi region. The Cuzzin sent two sets of photos, one of which he called the “Heartbreakers” and one of which he called the “Heartwarmers.” Today, the Heartbreakers, with commentary by Tom. Keep in mind as you look at these photos that the temperatures in Mongolia are already falling as low as 10° F (-12° C).


Photo #1. Children With No Shoes: We saw a lot of poverty and related nastiness, but these two freaked us out. It was nightfall and cold and here come these two, so young, with terrible clothes and no shoes. We just grabbed 'em and started stuffing them into warm clothes. In a lot of these kids, we sensed significant developmental problems.

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Photo #2. Crosseyed Child: Here's one of them, after we found her felt booties and a warm hat. They were so emotionally unresponsive--a result of malnourishment? Hard to tell for sure.

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Photo #3. Girl and Boy Glaring: This picture really affected me. I never see Mongolian children so wary and almost hostile. Look at the little one! The bigger girl was walking by with two of her little friends. They were so ill-clad that we corralled them and made them take clothes, like the wonderful mittens on both their hands. There's also something vulnerable about the girl that scares me. Can she be more than 12?

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Photo #4. Older Sister: I'm guessing this is an older sister. Somehow this young girl was in charge of the two little ones. Too grownup, no? But...something. A little bit of hope? Unusual strength? Anyway, she has a new knit hat in her hand for herself, plus more. [Ed. Note. I believe the hats are Cloud Hats. I am so thrilled to see them in their new home!]

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Photo #5. Poor Child in Blue: Another one for your "this is a scam" reader [Ed. note: Not a reader, but, still, someone who thinks I'm running a scam.] So hard already for such a small child.

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6. Crippled Dog: Man, even the dogs in this neighborhood are having a terrible life. Missing a leg, so too relatively weak to get food in the street, hence so skinny, and just recently pregnant. And yet still playful. Mongolia.

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Lastly, Cuzzin Tom says:

"In general, I was so moved by the knitted items I saw. So skillfully made, some individually wrapped, some with home-made tags. It was a sheer joy to give them away. I mean this. We gave tons of stuff to maybe 40 families that day; Meredith will have the country-wide total, but the Dulaanettes have touched so many lives. I tried to explain to each one that these were gifts of friendship. Almost everyone got a hat, scarf, kids all got sweaters, many got scarves and mittens, great stuff for babies (some pregnant ladies were thrilled). Old folks and little ones got felt blankets. You all made a difference. A big one."

I couldn't have said it better myself. (For more on Cuzzin Tom's trip to the Gobi, see his entry for today.)

(Side note: I had an unexpected, at least to me, reaction to these photos. I became seriously choked up and weepy but not so much out of sadness as out of feeling, for the first time, the overwhelming responsibility that comes with spearheading this charity. Don't get me wrong; it's a true blessing, in every sense of the word, to be able to do this and I get so much more out of it than I put into it, but photos like this make me think, what if Dulaan didn't exist? And how can I/we take care of even more people next year? And what if the Dulaan Brigadiers stop contributing? What if? What if? What if? Yep, a wee panic attack, but once I reminded myself that I was in my office and could not, in fact, lie down on the floor and roll around and sob, I recovered quite handily. I realize that all I can do is keep knitting and keep encouraging others to do the same.)

Posted by Ryan at 10:51 AM | Comments (39)

November 15, 2006

A Fast Start Out of the Gate!

Even this early in the game, Dulaaners, we have a count from F.I.R.E.:

1,249!!

I tried to visualize how many Mongolian recipients that represents and, after a few calculations and one phone call to TMK because what do I know from baseball, I came up with 83 rugby teams, 113 football teams, 113 cricket teams, 138 baseball teams, 250 basketball teams, 312 polo teams, and the entire population of Pitcairn Island, six times over. Woot!

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TMK’s yarn survived the torture by pot and was wound into these kicky little skeins, complete with TMK Brand Homespun labels. (It’s a “thing;” I name all of our vehicles, she slaps logos on everything. I recommend not standing still too long when she’s around or—woo-pah!!—logo on yo’ ass.)

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The smallest of the skeins was then knit into a swatch by your blogmistress. Look, self-striping yarn!

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The fact that the swatch looks a little wonky (read, holey and irregular) is purely mea culpa; I used whatever needle was within arm's reach (a 6) instead of getting up off my lazy bootay to get the one I really should've used (a 3 or 4). My bad, TMK. Perhaps I can knit a better swatch this weekend? (Actually, TMK doesn't care; she's just thrilled that when I blocked it, it didn’t revert to it's severely kinky, curly, spring-loaded natural self, leap across the table, and try to strangle us. Which it absolutely didn’t. Apparently one night on the stretching rack was enough.)

TMK and I both agree that the yarn is sort of rough and scratchy, but I blame that on two things: 1. I think the romney itself was just rough, period. Sow’s ear, silk purse, blahblahblah. 2. As TMK explained in her comment, she was in that precarious world between two wheels in which she was mixing and matching equipment. I think that made one ply wrap around the other instead of the two wrapping around each other evenly. But she has a lesson with Fleece Street Kim this Friday and, I predict, will soon have knitters beating each other senseless in an attempt to get to her yarn.

What’s that? When did this become a spinning blog? Uh, yeah, well, okay, sorry (looking down ashamedly and kicking my toes into the dirt). I have indeed been knitting. Here’s proof. I finished the School Bus Yellow sweater and slapped on some ladybug buttons. This sweater took a surprisingly long time to knit, thanks to the dad-blasted garter stitch, and came out short and wide but I’m still happy wid’ it.

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The requisite sweater-on-a-bear portrait:

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Posted by Ryan at 02:12 PM | Comments (12)

November 13, 2006

The Knit of the Living Dead

Oh, my, what an exciting and adventure-filled vacation week I had, Dear Readers! Where to start, where to start. Oh, I know. Be prepared to be overcome with envy.

I went to the Ob. Gyn...

to my regular doctor...

to the eye doctor...

and had my chimney cleaned (which had nothing to do with going to the Ob. Gyn., despite what Elaine’s Leslie says). Are you overcome with jealousy over my madcap exploits? Me neither.

Fiber-wise, things were a little more exciting, though, since The Mysterious K plyed together the plain red romney and the dyed red romney. A success? I’ll let you be the judge.

As you can see, the plying and the winding-off went without a hitch. The resulting yarn varied between lace weight and sock weight, and the colorway was a nice tweedy combination of bright red, dark tangerine and blackish blue, much lovelier than this photo shows.

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But then, well, then she took the yarn off the winder and something terrifying happened:

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Eh?

Needless to say, we looked at this amorphous, dense, Brillo pad of two-ply greatly askance and I believe I even hid behind TMK for a minute or two and peeked at it over her shoulder. Hours of dyeing, spinning and plying and there it was—a skein of yarn that would not look out of place on Ronald McDonald’s head.

Brave TMK was not overly concerned, though, because the soaking, washing, and drying-with-a-weight had yet to be done. She did not imagine in a million years, however, that she would have to do this:

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Sure ‘nuff. That's a whisk (not too unusual)...and two very heavy anodized-metal pots hanging from the yarn. That’s what it took to get it to straighten out. My latest nightmare: I knit a sweater out of this yarn, send it to Mongolia, the wearer gets trapped in the rain, and is slowly strangled to death by the twisting, weaving, twining, vining and corkscrewing of the yarn as it reverts to its True State.

What gives, people?

P.S. An aside to everyone who went to Franklin's Dulaan Knit-in, thank you so much for all your dedication and hard work! You are all amazing.

Posted by Ryan at 10:52 AM | Comments (17)

November 03, 2006

Is It Just Me?

(UPDATE, Sunday, 11/5: The list of Dulaan 10,000 or Bust participants has been posted, with a final count of approximately 426 knitters and blanket makers!

The list is sorted by first name, and if you sent me an alias or nickname, that is what I used. The names of the people who have already finished their five items are shown in bold.

Thank you everyone for the flood of positive vibes that arrived along with the flood of emails!

No further postings this week, Dear Readers. See you a week from Monday!)

My neighbors are ass.

Yes, the same neighbor who starred in the “Great 8-minute Sexual Escapades of 2004,” and his male roommate, two slightly over-the-hill men who still think they are playahs who are unusually attractive to the womens. Seriously, they make me think of the “Wild and Crazy Guys” of Saturday Night Live.

They recently decided, as is their right, to have their yard ripped up, then partially hardscaped and partially landscaped. They also decided, as is not their right, to cut down some of my beautiful cherry trees. What the…?!!!

When I talked to the homeowners and landscapers—which is a story unto itself because I am a Class A super-weenie who avoids confrontation at all cost—they told me variously that (a) one of the homeowners had knocked on my door several times before they cut down the trees (hinting that, since I wasn’t home because it was, oh, I don’t know, a work day, and I was, oh, I don’t know, at work, that that gave them the right to cut down the trees, and the fact that the trees were cut down is my fault because I wasn’t home); (b) it was okay that they cut them down because they were just alder trees or maybe maple trees so it didn’t matter; (c) it was okay that they cut them down because the branches were interfering with the phone lines; and (d) they didn’t cut them down in the first place, the phone company did. Lies, all of it, and tinged with the kind of self-absorbed, the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me, if-you-push-me-I-will-make-your-life-hell machismo that would make me up and leave my husband, if I had one, and join a women-only commune. Let me tell you, TMK is looking pretty good to me right now.

To add insult to injury, this week the Neanderthals installed some kind of monitoring equipment in their back yard that, once a minute, 24 hours a day, makes the same noise a smoke detector does when the batteries are running low, a screeching, high-pitched beep that makes your spine tingle, your scalp stiffen, your innards feel slightly bilious, and your eyes cross.

Yes, my neighbors are definitely ass. Fortunately, it is Friday and I get to escape to TMK’s house for the weekend. Otherwise, carnage and mayhem might very well ensue. Or not. Because I'm super-weenie.

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I continue to plug away at the Dulaan 10,000 or Bust list. I will be on vacation next week, so I don’t plan to post, but I will try to find a day to get online and post the finished list. If haven't heard from me specifically, that’s because I’m not answering every email; my plan is just to post the list and have you check to make sure your name is on there, 'kay? If your email included, besides the "sign me up," a question about Dulaan, you will hear from me soon, probably, again, this weekend. See update at beginning of posting.

TMK continues to spin like a madwoman although the lesson the Yarn Girls learned this week gave her pause, and I am busy learning that if you try to make a Diagon Alley, I mean, diagonally striped blanket out of a bunch of one-off balls of yarn, that—der!—although you have more than enough yarn for Stripe A, by the time you reach Stripe E, you will run out of yarn before you make it half way through the stripe. Huh. The diagonally striped blanket has now become a horizontally striped sweater. Mo' bettah, definitely.

Posted by Ryan at 02:48 PM | Comments (38)

November 01, 2006

Clarificata

Do you remember playing “Telephone” when you were child, the game where you form a line and someone says something into the ear of Person 1 and by the time it gets to Person 15 it has mutated horribly and laughably, and something that started out “I like bologna sandwiches?” ends up “I fight felonious man witches?”

Well, not surprisingly, that’s what’s happening with Dulaan 10,000 or Bust! as it makes its way across the Net. First, however, let me send a big “mwah” and thank you to bloggers Rabbitch, Norma and Franklin for promoting the contest. Hugs and kisses to all of you. And now to clarify the one or two things that have gotten lost along the way:

1. You do not need to sign up for Dulaan 10,000 to participate in Dulaan. Anyone can knit for Dulaan anytime, anywhere. Dulaan 10,000 or Bust was just a short contest held in October and designed to, hopefully, drive our numbers up and increase awareness.

2. If you signed up for Dulaan 10,000 and want to knit more than five items, I beg of you, please do. You just need to knit at least five to qualify for the drawing.

3. If you joined the Yahoo Group, you didn’t automatically sign up for Dulaan 10,000 or Bust. If you still want to sign up, email me today at rymorriss at yahoo dot com.

4. For detailed information about Dulaan, please see this pdf flyer.

That being said, how many people had signed up by the end of the day yesterday? A quick check of my spreadsheet shows that 369 people have signed up, which translates into 1,845 items, and 52 people are already done with their five items. Today will be a “wiggle room” day, and I will add any one else who emails me today. The list of who has signed up needs some clean-up so I will post it on Friday. Granted, we didn't come anywhere near the 2007 sign-ups I had envisioned, but I think the contest really has helped get the word out.

While on the subject of Dulaan (amn’t I always?), Norma forwarded an interesting question to me this morning. I thought I’d post the question and the answer in case anyone else was wondering the same thing.

Q: I was wondering if the things we make go to the street kids or to those lucky enough to live in orphanages? Based on the photos of the distribution of last year's things, it looked as if the orphanages were the main recipients. Of course, I'm sure the needs there are tremendous and distribution to the "street" kids might well present a problem. But I'm curious.

A: First, the children in the orphanages are the street children. In fact, the "One Steppe at a Time" movie contains footage of F.I.R.E. volunteers meeting a child on the street—who has been sleeping in a doorway with a cement step as his pillow, and has been singing to make a living—and taking him to an orphanage, and bathing, clothing, and feeding him, and that's how it all starts.

Secondly, by coming to the orphanage (which might be more appropriately termed a “shelter”), the children don’t magically leave their "street lives" or their “street selves” behind them because, for example, some of the girls have STD's from being abused. Although they have a roof over their heads and are being taken care of, they still have physical and emotional challenges. (For a better understanding, see this page which contains specific stories about the children who live or have lived at the Lotus Children’s Centre orphanage.)

Thirdly, the orphanages/shelters aren't formal, state-supported or state-run organizations, they are charitable organizations run by volunteers, and are funded by donations. The clothes we give them frees up money for them to buy food, milk and other necessities, and allows them to be prepared to clothe any new children that come in.

Lastly, above and behond the orphanages, F.I.R.E donates many items to families living in the unheated and crowded yurt (ger) villages that have sprung up around the city, and goes directly out into the streets and into the remote countryside to make donations to whomever they find, men, women, children, usually the poorest of the poor. To illustrate, here are pictures taken by Meredith of families living in gers and who received clothing from F.I.R.E.

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Enough seriousness and soap-boxing for now. It's making me break out in hives. Off to neaten up the spreadsheet, and to remove from the Suggested Patterns page two patterns which the company is now charging for. Argh.

Posted by Ryan at 11:26 AM | Comments (10)