17 February 2020

This Is Not A Knitting Blog

This is not a knitting blog. I am not much of a knitter.

I can, however, make a hat - and I made two as Christmas presents and just finished one for my husband, using random yarn I had in the cellar. The Christmas present hats were very scrappy - mostly navy blue worsted, with dribs and drabs of other yarn striped in (hello needlepoint wool from 1972). The hat I just finished is more refined - only two yarns, in alternating stripes of navy worsted and black cotton.

Every time I decide to make a hat, though, I agonize about the pattern - and especially about how to do the decreasing to shape the top. I have finally settled on a pattern that works, so - even though I am not much of a knitter and this is not a knitting blog - here goes:

Worsted Weight Adult Sized Rolled Brim Hat - Knit in the Round

You'll need to know how to cast on, how to knit, and how to knit two stitches together (to decrease). You don't need to know how to purl or increase. As far as the porcupine business with the double pointed needles, do it when no one will interrupt you, in a good spot with great light, and have patience.

120 yards of worsted weight yarn (or, you know, a good sized ball or two)
Circular needle - size 9 US, 16" long
Set of double pointed needles - size 9 US
Gauge? We don't need no stinkin' gauge - just go ahead and make the hat.

Cast 80 stitches onto the circular needle. Place a marker and join, being careful not to spiral the whole thing around the circular needle. Knit for about 6”, ending at the marker.

Begin decreasing on the next round, as follows:

1. (Knit 6, k2tog) repeat to end. You'll now have 70 stitches left.
2. Knit.
3. (Knit 5, k2tog) repeat to end. 60 stitches remain.
4. Knit.
5. (Knit 4, k2tog) repeat to end. 50 stitches remain.
6. Knit.
7. (Knit 3, k2tog) repeat to end. 40 stitches remain.
8. Knit.

Switch to double pointed needles.

9. (Knit 2, k2tog) repeat to end. 30 stitches remain.
10. Knit.
11. (Knit 1, k2tog) repeat to end. 20 stitches remain.
12. Knit.
13. (k2tog) repeat to end.

Cut the yarn leaving a 12" tail. Thread it through the remaining 10 stitches, draw up tightly and secure. Weave in ends.

If your intended recipient has a bigger head than usual, make the hat bigger by 1) casting on 90 stitches, and 2) beginning the decrease with a row of knit 7, k2tog followed by a row of straight knitting - and then continue as above.

03 February 2020

The Reluctant Envoy

I turned the page in the paper today, and learned that Peter Serkin had died. He was a good one, and straddled a line between new and old - playing the old stuff, and championing the new. According to his obituary, in 1973 he got Grammy Award nominations for two records - one of several of Mozart’s Piano Concertos, and another of the 20 piano solos that comprise Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-J├ęsus”. He was also described as “the counterculture’s reluctant envoy to the straight concert world” - per Donal Henahan.

Once upon a time, I worked at a small arts organization. And once, before my time, Serkin had played there, as a benefit for the organization. Lou Reed had also played there, and the organization convinced Serkin and Reed to sign a fundraising letter. Hey you, we're cool musicians, we both played at this cool place, send money - that kind of fundraising letter. Well, one of the letters came back, stuffed into the postage paid return envelope. On top, someone had scrawled "Peter Serkin is a bum". I mean, what? (No, there was no money enclosed.)

I'm sorry someone thought you were a bum, Peter. And I hope Mozart and Messiaen have embraced you. R.I.P.

01 February 2020

What Were They Thinking?

It's time for another round of charitable crankiness. You may recall that in 2012 I kept every charitable solicitation that arrived by postal mail. At the beginning January, I thought I might do that again, but instead of waiting to do a round up at year end, I think I'll do it monthly.

There were ten solicitations that arrived in January - however, two of them were from the same organization so nine places tried to get me to donate.

Of the ten envelopes, four came with plain return envelopes, to which I would have to supply my own stamp:

Five came with business reply envelopes - where the sender gets to mail something and the recipient pays the postage. (I've heard this compared to making a collect call.):

With business reply mail, the post office charges the recipient for each envelope that comes back - plus a premium for handling, and an annual permit fee.

Note that two of those envelopes ask you to put your own stamp on anyway: "your stamp on this envelope is an additional contribution" and "your first-class stamp on this envelope adds to your gift". It's a little disingenuous to call it an additional contribution - but it would arguably reduce the expenses to the organization because they wouldn't have to pay the postage on that particular envelope and would therefore save a dollar or so. However, in my experience as a career non-profit person, who has worked at organizations that have tested using business reply mail, if someone puts a stamp on a BRE, the post office charges ANYWAY. So both the donor and the recipient have now paid postage, and that's ridiculous.

What really chapped my hide, though, was a return envelope from Human Rights Watch - which was a BRE with stamps. Five cents worth of stamps:

I just don't know what they were thinking - so I looked it up. Apparently it's a thing:

Here’s a relatively inexpensive trick that can increase the prominence of the BRE (and make it look like an SRE). Try adding a few low-denomination stamps, such as one-cent, two-cent, or even a five-cent stamp, ideally aligned with an element of your mission. (For nature accounts, we’ve had success using Bobcat or other animal stamps.)

Not only does Human Rights Watch have to pay for postage plus the handling charge for any envelopes that come back, they have also spent money on postage for EVERY ENVELOPE THAT THEY SENT. That seems like a crazy waste of money.

The USPS probably likes it though, all those stamps bought and never used.