Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fabrics of Fairy Tale: Kilim

My girl Blynken is all about the fashion. She got a book called the Fabrics of Fairy Tale for Christmas which she left on the coffee table the other night. 

I was curious, so I picked it up and flipped through a few pages. The first chapter was about rugs, specifically the kilim

Something about that word roused a dim memory, so I looked it up.  Turns out the kilim is a type of flat tapestry-woven rug that has been used for centuries.  

When I was a kid we lived for a while in Turkey. Part of our Turkish culture class was making -- you guessed it -- a  kilim. Whoa, nostalgia time! I know how to do this!

I have a  kilim at the bottom of the stairs and a large wool Turkish area carpet in front of the couch. I love those things. I just sent it out for repairs or I'd show mine to you.

The  kilim is used as a covering for everything: floors, walls, chairs, saddlebags, you name it. Some are purely functional, others are absolutely gorgeous works of art.

The process for making them is simple but fascinating. The Turkish pile carpet uses the "Turkish" or "double" knot. The Turkish knot involves wrapping a length of yarn around two of the vertical strands that make up the warp and up through the center and then a stabilization thread through the weft (woof). [Is this a carpet or a dog?]

Peasant women the world over can do this with blazing speed. They are all handmade with natural dyes.

All it takes is a little bit of wood for a frame, some wool yarn, and a huge amount of time.  These things are amazing.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

You Look Marvelous

Blynken is nearly 12 years old and she has a special interest in sewing and making her own clothing.

Long past the time when other girls have lost interest in playing "dress up" because they are too "grown up", Blynken relishes the chance to put on a fancy cape and direct her younger cousins in this week's fashion parade.

For several years now any spare scrap of fabric she could find has gone to make patchwork clothing: dresses, skirts, handbags, and shawls hand stitched together by none other than she. Blynken also insisted on wearing her creations around the house, but we drew the line for Mass.

Well all that is changed. She got several yards of fabric for Christmas and has been taking lessons with the sewing machine with Grandma Nod and with our neighbor who is a seamstress. They tell me she has some talent because she is deliberate and takes her time when making her stitches. Mrs. H tells me that Blynken "gets it" when the techniques are explained to her and she is able to say why the technique is used.

She has already made one dress that she was able to wear to Church and is working on another pleated skirt. The best part is that she naturally chooses modest designs, so there is nothing fight about. We looked up some designs online and her first question was, "Why are those dresses so short?" Nevertheless, Blynken is determined to design her own clothes.

Now I'm a guy, so I know very little about sewing and even less about fashion. Things like A-lines, hemming, basting, gathering, double seaming and back-stitching mean nothing to me. But if my daughter wants to design her own modest clothing, then -- by gum! -- I'm going to help her do it.  As a computer guy my first thought was: there's gotta be an app for that.

Turns out there is. I found this software called Marvelous Designer which is like AutoCAD meets Fashion Design.  As a geek, I found this really impressive. Check out this video.

See the way the cloth drapes naturally using real physics and gravity? See how easy it is to adjust the hemline up or down, take in the sides, or add a ruffle? Looks like those 3D modeling engines are good for more than just Quake, World of Warcraft, or Skyrim. She could be designing and sewing her own prom dress in a few years' time.

Now we could get this software for only a few $$$ (cough cough - you've got to be kidding me). Ah, never mind, we used paper and a few colored pencils instead.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Man Down

I just want to cook, to eat some really tasty food, to drink a Belgian ale -- or something.

Instead, I got what's going around: the crud. Headache, fever, chills, stomach doing flip flops.


In the meantime, these Crusted Veal Chops with Basalmic Reduction from Crepes of Wrath look mighty gooooood.

Hey, a guy can dream.

UPDATE: I got better! Hoo-ah!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

You've Been Summoned For Jury Duty

It finally happened: I got called for jury duty.

A couple of years ago I filled out the questionnaire but I never got called. I figured they forgot about me. But my number came up and so I dutifully went to the Courthouse to perform my civic duty to serve on a jury of [someone's] peers.

It's completely automated, so the selection pool is large and you only have to serve 1 day or 1 trial if it goes over. Before that you had to serve out a 2 month period.  (Is that like prison for the innocent?)

We got little yellow placards with our juror number on it and a bar code for scanning.  Mostly it was waiting around, a little orientation video, and some more waiting around. They pay $30 a day for your expenses, but I didn't want to deal with that, so I just donated my stipend back to the Courthouse.

I finally got picked for a trial, went into the courtroom and got my instructions from the judge. In Virginia the jury not only decides guilt or innocence but also determines the sentence for the defendant if convicted.

One of the most interesting things was the lady next to the judge's bench having an asthma attack. At least that's what it looked like to me. She was actually the court stenographer speaking into a stenomask.


After swearing we would follow the law and be impartial, etc. the opposing lawyers engaged in Voir Dire which is a French term "to say what is true".  In reality it is another screening process by which they reject potential jurors "for cause", i.e. you are biased in some way, or for no reason at all "move to strike" so they can get down from 14 to 7 jurors.

This was a criminal trial for assaulting an officer. One lady said she couldn't be impartial because she had worked with police in the past, so she got struck for cause, and another guy and myself got struck for no cause by the defense because we were related to law enforcement officers. Well, my brother-in-law is only a Fire Marshall, but they carry guns and have police powers in any case.  I was disappointed, because I figure police are no better and no worse than the general population on average, so I could have been impartial.

So now I won't get called again for 3 years, so I'll have to wait and see what a full trial is really like. If you get called up, I recommend you go and not try to get out of it. This is democracy in action!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

It Would Never Happen

Something wonderful happened today.

Or rather something wonderful isn't going to happen, but it would be really, really nice if it did.

I mentioned that Wynken had got a partial scholarship offer to the local Catholic high school because he scored in the top 1% in his high school placement test.  Well, the mother of the only other student to receive such a scholarship in his class called today to say that her daughter wouldn't be accepting because at a 40% subsidy they couldn't afford that and her dance lessons together. And her daughter really, really wants to dance.

So, she thought she might give her 40% scholarship to my son, Wynken, thereby giving him an 80% scholarship (which would seal the deal for me). She figured the school "allocated" the money for two scholarships anyway, why not give it all to just one? She figured she would just ask the school in any event if it was okay with me. (You want to give me free money but want to check to make sure it's okay first?! Uh -- yeah.)

Sigh.  If only it worked that way.

It would never happen. But just the very idea that she would think of such a thing has left me flabbergasted.  Go'r Bless ye, Mrs. Jones, yer a better Christian than I am. It warms the cockles of my cold heart to know there are such people in the world.

We get to meet with the school placement consultants next week so they can advise us what might be "best" for our smart, but needy, Wynken.

Wish us luck -- or better yet give us your prayers.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Forty Percent Of Awesome

Indulge me for just a minute as a parent.

My boy, Wynken, recently received a letter from a prospective Catholic high school offering him a $5,000 scholarship to attend there. Per year. (That's twenty grand for all four years!)

Wow. How awesome is that? It seems that he scored in the top 1% on his high school placement exam. The boy is whip smart, that's for sure. That makes us proud parents, you betcha.


(There's always an "except" isn't there?)

We don't know if we'll be able to accept. The scholarship only covers about 40% of the tuition. Yeah, Catholic school isn't exactly cheap, and we have 5 more Nodlings coming up behind him.

Wynken is very smart academically but has a few social and executive function issues that make him easy pickings for ne'er-do-wells and other punks. He's grown up with the kids in Catholic elementary and middle school and they are reasonably tolerant and understanding of his quirks.

On the one hand, he could really benefit from the special service programs available through the county. On the other hand, I fear that putting him in public school would be like throwing him into a piranha pool wearing meat underwear.

Private school means driving; public school means walking. Private school is costly. Public school is free (well, paid for by our taxes).

Getting an academic scholarship to a Catholic school is awesome. Getting forty percent of a scholarship leaves us with sixty percent of uh-oh.

Which means that's forty percent of awesome.

What do do?

Got Something To Say

There is a curious phenomenon when talking to kids: they can’t hear you if they have something to say.

Try as you might, you can repeat yourself over and over in a monotone, but the kids just can’t process it until you acknowledge them first. 

Perhaps it is part of being a young kid when you think the whole world revolves around you. The brain is definitely immature and all the synapses aren’t firing in coordination yet.

But, mostly, I think it comes from the fact that the kid is thinking: doggone it, I got something to say!

I'm starting to feel the same way myself.


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