Thursday, September 25, 2008

S is for Scarf

S is for scarf. Yesterday when I staggered home, I found Cordelia's beauteous Steam scarf (and lots of other goodies) waiting for me on the porch. All Weltschmerz was immediately forgotten! After a bit of squeeing and dancing, I tried it on. It's perfect – beautifully worked reversible cables, gorgeous color, neck-friendly fiber, and excellent fit. I love how the ends flare ever-so-slightly to form an unobtrusive ornament where fringe would be too fussy.

Cordelia's scarf

The other loot is choice, too: tasty luxury chocolates, postcards and Sublime Stitching embroidery transfers, a mesh laundry bag, a pretty pen, and not least the sweet "birthday" card, an inspired bit of synchronicity (I'm a September girl). Thank you, Cordelia, I love it all!

Cordelia's loot

Last week at MY SnB I was bemoaning the Bizarro World aspect of current events, how the real and the gonzo have by imperceptable degrees met and merged. This week there's this gem on the $700 billion price tag of the mortgage-related assets bailout:
"It's not based on any particular data point," a Treasury spokeswoman told Tuesday. "We just wanted to choose a really large number."

The testimony on Capitol Hill similarly raised more questions than it answered. Comments that a recessionary spiral is building and action or inaction now can make the difference between a so-called soft landing and a crippling crash seemed credible. But the plan presented by the Fed and Treasury failed to persuade. Wonder of wonders, it's looking like Congress is going to save the economy. (I love how the House ordered pizza and the Senate ordered Thai for their respective all-nighters.) Maybe truth is stranger than fiction after all.

Financial crisis averted for now, I guess that means tomorrow's presidential debate is on. Should Sen. McCain prove to be a no-show, I would imagine his campaign can remain suspended sine die.

Update 9:30 p.m.: It looks like the bipartisan, bicameral bailout accord has stalled and McCain's attendance on the debate is still questionable. Oh, and Washington Mutual Bank has been seized and broken up by federal regulators. It's the largest bank seizure ever.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

R is for Roving

R is for roving. As mentioned, I've been roving and I bought some – that is, my favorite souvenirs from this vacation are the lovely fiberSpunky Eclectic I picked up at Spunky Eclectic in Lisbon, Maine, a paradise of all things fibery. I had the pleasure of meeting the fabulous Amy and the good fortune to arrive just when new stock had arrived but was not yet uploaded to her website. Most was still in shipping cartons. You can imagine how I felt (sound effects included chortle and snap!).

Perhaps the choicest of the plunder was this Abby batt, 60/30 Merino/silk, in the evocative, Maine-appropriate colorway, Blueberries for Sal. I'm a big fan of Robert McCloskey's books, too.

Abby batt

I picked up some Spunky Supernova in colorway Pumpkin for September Sockdown, but a moderator disallowed it. It would seem that asking if one's yarn is suitable is an automatic disqualification. File this under KALs Gone Wrong.

Pumpkin Supernova

As for Economics Gone Wrong, the Fed and Treasury have a plan to to protect money market funds by vastly expanding the power of the Treasury Secretary, and Congress properly has its own ideas about oversight and value to the taxpayers.Bush and Cheney Whichever way the executive and the legislative branches sort that out, the exquisite karmic irony that a rabidly anti-regulation Republican regime felt compelled to make multiple massive interventions into free market capitalism is matched only by the still-unreckoned cost to U.S. taxpayers – not only the price tag, so far estimated somewhere 'round USD 1 trillion ($1,000,000,000,000), give or take a few hundred billion, but also the lost opportunity costs. Kiss kilo-, mega-, and giga-bucks goodbye and say hellooooo, tera-bucks! ::deep breaths:: It's no wonder I'm channeling William Safire.

I wonder if Teh Mess isn't about to enter a new phase. Up until now it's been possible to ignore or even stigmatize people who lost their homes to foreclosure. It's easy to decry the fat compensation packages on Wall Street. But the next victims in the financial crisis are retirees dependent on pension and investment portfolios. Even cautious investors could have had their life savings substantially eroded or wiped out. (Just imagine if Social Security had been privatized!) Retirees are always among the most vulnerable when Wall Street tanks and the least able to recover - and they are among the most reliable of voters.

Given the rapidly changing economic situation, the presidential debate this Friday has changed topics from domestic policy to foreign policy. And PBS has an online candidate poll: Who do you trust more to fix the nation's economic mess?

OK, back to my happy place.Zarzuela's Fibers button Zarzuela's Fibers now has its own Ravelry group, Zarzuela's Fiber Junkies. I love the Zorro vibe of the button! Jessica's fibery goods are available online through her Etsy shop or at the Garden State Sheep & Fiber Festival, October 4-5.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Q is for Questions

Q is for questions. Last week I was blissfully unplugged for a bit of off-season hiking and biking in Acadia National Park. A number of favorite trails and roads were washed out, but there were plenty of alternatives and it was so quiet, just about the only questions on my mind were, Why did the turkeys cross the road? (bold as you please, right in front of the car)...


... and, Where to chain up to have lunch? (this large granite boulder, shown with bike trunks for scale, came with a delightful ocean view and a fingerbowl garnished with dulse and sea lettuce). There were some fiber adventures, too (pix in next post). Ahhhh!

Fingerbowl rock

Back in the world of quotidian cares, Hurricane Hanna rained on New Jersey and Hurricane Ike devastated Cuba and the U.S. Gulf Coast, the twin credit and liquidity crises broke like the mother of all storms over Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve, "the banker of last resort," made the most radical market intervention in its history. Why? According to the Fed, to avert worse. However one may feel about high finance and moral hazard, when Wall Street sneezes, the world catches a cold – and this sneeze is potentially a Cat 4, maybe more, with global consequences across all pay grades.

Hurricane IkeAIG YTD

Not least among the consequences, the stakes in the November elections and the contrast between candidates have increased as well. Now the questions on my mind are the ones so elegantly posed by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.:
All of a sudden, the culture war seems entirely beside the point, an unaffordable luxury in a time of economic turmoil. What politicians actually believe about the economy, what fixes they propose, whether they side with the wealthy few or the hurting many – these become the stuff of elections, the reasons behind people's votes.

... Even cultural conservatives will start to notice that McCain's tax policies are geared toward the wealthy investing class and Obama's toward the paycheck crowd. Even the most ardent friends of business have begun to argue that a re-engagement with sensible regulation is essential to restoring capitalism's health. [Read more.]

(NB. The first presidential debate will be held Friday, September 26 at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS at 9 p.m. EDT. The topic will be domestic policy and the moderator will be Jim Lehrer.)

Here's another consequence, even closer to home: now there are questions about the risk of money market funds versus bank savings accounts, for only the second time ever. Mine are insured against bank failure, but (of course) not against securities default. I'm keeping an eye on 'em – and I'm voting my pocketbook come November 4. Howabout you?

Update: 9/17 NY Times article and links to statements of MM mutual fund managers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Open Season

Someone asked me, Where were you and what were you doing when you heard John McCain had picked Sarah Palin as his soul running mate? Hrumph. Creepy question. I think it's just a bit inappropriateGiant tennis ball to compare the Second Woman to Be Nominated by a Major Party for Veep (assuming all goes as planned this evening) with the World Trade Center disaster.

But if you must know, I was with DH at the U.S. Open, watching Olympic giant-killer Jie Zheng gamely battling 2nd-seed Jelena Jankovic, who is extremely flexible and plays like composite is clay (they racked up 11 deuce points in one game), also munching a ham and arugula crêpe and coveting the giant tennis ball a couple rows down.

Although perhaps the most notable match of the day featured a rising star, 17-year-old Caroline Wozniacki, pictured above, defeating 14th-seed Victoria Azarenka. (Notice the serve speedometer – the women hit hard.)

Caroline Wozniacki

At the end of the match, Wozniacki seemed very happy to participate in a U.S. Open tradition – the winner autographs a few tennis balls and hits them into the stands. Alas, I didn't get one. Autograph hounds also tote around those giant tennis balls and line up courtside. I get a kick out of seeing people holding them out hopefully, as this bunch waiting for Roger Federer (in the red polo shirt, click to embiggen). Federer had unexpected trouble with his opponent, Thiago Alves, who played the match of his life.

Roger Federer

In between matches we gawped at old Shea Stadium on the left, currently in its last season, and new Citi Field on the right (and a subway yard in the middle distance). I never liked Shea and feel no nostalgia for it; I can't wait to see the inside of the new stadium, said to combine the charm and beauty of Ebbets Field with all the conveniences of a modern ballpark.

Shea Stadium and Citi Field

And of course I had to take a picture of the Unisphere at dusk. I'm basically happy with this photo, except it doesn't capture the scale of the thing (140 feet or 42 m tall).

Unisphere at dusk

Over the rest of Labor Day weekend, I finished my second and last pair of socks for Summer of Socks, Nanner Socks by Wendy Johnson, worked top-down in sportweight handspun by Melissa. They remind me of Bananas Foster, the famed NOLA dessert (thank goodness Hurricane Gustav did less damage than initially forecast). The Nanners stitch pattern, reminiscent of Spirogyra, has a strong bias. If the sock leg were long enough, the pattern would spiral around it completely. Which makes me wonder what effect S-spun singles would have. Hm....

Nanner socks

Summer of Socks certainly started with a bang this year and I've enjoyed it thoroughly, even if I've been ::cough:: less productive than I would have liked. Many, many thanks go to Jessica and her terrific crew for the most amazing knit-along ever! I loved the addition of the Ravelry group, the CafePress store, and the Google group. The only suggestion I'd make – to adjust the season to run from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend – is horribly U.S.-centric, alas.

Astonishing to relate, I'm in no -alongs at the moment except for the perpetual ones – it's open season and, well, you know what they say about idle hands. I've been trying to decide if this is funny. I'm intrigued by that wandering eyepatch myself. What do you think?