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This story is from last week, but it’s pretty nuts so I’ll link to it. A teacher at Cal State was fired because she refused to sign the loyalty oath required, by the state constitution, of all state employees. The oath states that the signatory promises to “defend” the state and US constitutions against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The oath has been in place since 1952, when it was passed because of the Red Scare. This article in the LA Times focuses on one particular woman, a Quaker, who refused to sign the oath because it conflicts with her pacifist beliefs, but it also cites several other examples of people being fired for refusing to sign it.

If I’m not mistaken, not only would an oath to protect your state against enemies conflict with Quaker views on pacifism, but Quakers, as a rule, do not sign oaths or swear in court. So I think it’s not just the particular content of this oath that would be a problem for Quakers, but the requirement of a loyalty oath itself.

I don’t have anything super-illuminating to say about this, I just think it’s disturbing. In my view, the wide-spread hysteria around communism in the sixties is viewed as a dark time for civil liberties in this country, so its pretty shocking that this archaic law is a) still in place and b) still being strictly enforced. Sad.

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In honor of Bike Commute Week, I made some extra-special cookies for my office. The thing that made them extra-special was the guilt they were designed to strike into the heart of everyone who had driven to work that day. Hahaha! Just kidding! I would never, ever be that arrogant.

Ok, so can you see the spokes? And the chains? Yeah, they’re ridiculously charming. Here’s the recipe, which is just a basic sugar cookie recipe that I undoubtedly stole from someone else:

Cream together:
3/4 c shortening
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Combine:
2.25 c flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture. Chill one hour, roll ’em out, and then bake on ungreased sheets for 8-10 mins at 375 degrees. Let cool and then transfer to a rack. When they’re completely cool, you can decorate them.

Frosting recipe:
1/2 c shortening (or use half butter)
2 c powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5 oz cream
food coloring

For the record, I tried to make a little stencil in the shape of a whole bicycle, but that didn’t go too well. They do make cookie cutters in the shape of bicycles, but I didn’t have one, so I figured I could cut a bike shape out of cardboard and just cut each cookie around that. Well, I was mistaken. The dough did not hold together at all. So I went with just the wheel, because those are conveniently cookie-shaped.

People get really, really excited about fiddleheads, which I think is mostly a function of fact that they’re pretty much the first thing available locally in the spring, and also because they’re foraged and therefore something of a novelty. If someone tells you that fiddleheads taste like asparagus, that person should be treated with distrust. They do not taste like asparagus- only asparagus itself carries that distinction. Fiddleheads do taste very green, though, which is very welcome by the time they find their way into the stores in late April or May.

So, I’ve only ever seen very simple preparations for these little ferns. They need to be washed and trimmed and cooked thoroughly, since I’ve heard they have the potential to make you sick. But what doesn’t, really? Boil the fiddleheads for five minutes or so and then saute them briefly in some butter with garlic, and they’re pretty tasty. Not asparagus tasty, but they do remind you that asparagus is right around the corner!

Here is yet another update on the same old sweater. Yes, it is old news by now. I haven’t been spending as much time on it as I’d hoped, but my hours have been filled with other happy distractions, so it’s cool. When I do work on it, the knitting just zips right along, because it’s all stockinette. As you can see in the extremely modern graphic to the left, I’m most of the way through the body. If I’m feeling macho, I might leave it sleeveless. Ew, that would be tragic.

For a while, I was worried that the sweater was looking very tiny, and all I could think about was how disappointing it would be to have to give it to some miniature friend of mine. Now I’m thinking that it looks kind of wide, and I recently learned about negative and positive ease, something that no knitter had ever bothered to mention in my presence before. Negative ease is when something is smaller than your actual measurements, so if you’re 34 inches around at the bust and a sweater is 32 inches around, it’s got a 2-inch negative ease. I  usually wear things with a negative ease, because of the patriarchy. This sweater I’m making is going to have a two-inch positive ease, so I may be making my Very First Purple Sack with Sleeves! Or, right, no sleeves if I’m feeling macho.

I wonder if I could purposely make the sweater extra-long and then shrink it a little in the dryer? Very, very carefully, of course? Someone on Ravelry should be able to answer this question. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

This week is Bike Commute week, an annual event that I decided to get a little more involved in this year. This has gotten me thinking a lot about bicycles and why I love them. In fact, I spent most of my ride home a week or two ago counting all the reasons I love bikes. 

Bicycles are such elegant little machines. When you’re on a bike, you just hum along so quickly and quietly, and the only energy you use is from your own body. It seems almost ridiculous to mention the environmental benefit of bike-riding, because that’s such an obvious reason to ride a bike. But hey! It’s serious stuff.

You can actually carry a lot of stuff on a bike.

Riding a bike is a good opportunity to examine the countryside- you see things you would never catch in your car. Last year I saw a family of bobcats while I was riding through Hatfield. Bobcats!

Bike-riding is so, so fun. Is there anything more delightful than spinning down the road on a warmish spring day, with the sun and the wind on your face? There’s no reason that only kids should get to enjoy that feeling. And even in the dead of winter, when it’s so cold that everything is completely still, there something special about moving quietly through the freezing air on your bike. And that’s something that doesn’t happen when you’re trudging along on foot or cranking the heat in your car.

Bikes are for everyone. You don’t need any special equipment (except a helmet), or spandex, or to be part of a club.

I guess the real reason I love my bike is that feeling when you see the light turn green ahead, and you decide (responsibly!) that you’re going for it, and you crank away (carefully!) and you make it, and you just sail through the intersection (while looking both ways!) and you just think, “YES!!”

So, back to the environmental piece for a minute. Michael Pollan wrote an article for the New York Times sunday magazine a few weeks ago called “Why Bother?” which, like a lot of his writing, was mostly about gardening and food. But in it, he writes about Wendell Berry’s concept of the “cheap energy mind,” which basically is the mindset that most Americans have that takes cheap fuel as a given when making decisions, which I’ve been thinking about in terms of transportation. Most people don’t think of their bikes, or their feet, as a primary means of transportation, because fuel has been so cheap for so long. Well, why can’t we be a little more deliberate in our decisions about how we get around? Why do our cars have to be the only way we can think of to transport ourselves? Why should bicycling be this segmented activity that we only participate in during designated leisure or exercise time? When did anything other than driving become something like a novelty to so many people, when bicycling is actually so practical? I hope that Bike Commute Week will connect the dots for some people here in the Valley, and get some more people out of their cars and (safely!) onto their bikes.

If you live here and feel all inspired and fired up about bikes now, take advantage of the events being offered this week all around the Valley. Find out more about MassBike and get involved. And, at the risk of quoting Queen, get on your bikes and ride!

 I created this extremely helpful… graphic… to illustrate how far I’ve gotten on my Very First Sweater. All right, I cut a little arrow out of the top of a post-it and stuck it on the pattern and then took a picture. Well? It works, right? And I can totally use that post-it arrow again and again.

Anyway, as you can see, I’m just past the arm holes, so it’s basically just endless stockinette from here on out with a small amount of shaping around the waist. To pass the time, I’ll tell you about the pattern and the yarn.

The pattern is by Knitting Pure and Simple, and it definitely is both (or all three, actually) of those things. It’s the Split Neck T Shirt for Women, #257, and it’s super easy, clearly written, and if all goes according to plan the end result is going to be very appealing.

The yarn is Berroco Ultra Alpaca, which is a 50/50 wool and alpaca blend. It’s super soft, the color is lovely and grows on me every day, AND it was on sale! The thing I like about the color is that it’s a little bit heathered or something- it’s not a true lavender, so that works very nicely for such a simple sweater design. Ok, this is what it looks like right now:

It does look a little saucy at this stage, doesn’t it? It looks like something Mariah Carey would have worn in the mid-90s.

Open Source Misogyny

I know that everyone has been talking about this for days, but I just have to comment on this “Open Source Boob Project.” So, in case you haven’t heard about it, some dudes were sitting around at a comic convention or something, and talking about how awesome it would be if they could just go around touching women’s breasts, and then someone offered her breasts up for touching, and then many more breasts were fondled over the course of the convention. This, naturally, led to the creation of color-coded buttons (green for yes, red for no, natch) and the title “Open Source Boob Project”. Get it? Boobs that everyone can access, like open source software. Free! And finally, this led to the writing of a super-smug blog post by one of the masterminds of the whole thing and then a  groundswell of protestations from the feminist blogosphere.

Here’s a link to the original post, but don’t read the whole thing if you don’t want to vomit just a little. I’ve bravely waded through it and excerped a few key points for your enjoyment.

“This should be a better world,” a friend of mine said. “A more honest one, where sex isn’t shameful or degrading. I wish this was the kind of world where say, ‘Wow, I’d like to touch your breasts,’ and people would understand that it’s not a way of reducing you to a set of nipples and ignoring the rest of you, but rather a way of saying that I may not yet know your mind, but your body is beautiful.”

Allow me to translate: “Guys, I want to be able to grab boobies, but I don’t want the boobie-carriers to get all pre-menstrual about it. Is there any language I can appropriate towards that end? Something about liberation, perhaps? Yup, chicks love hearing about that crap! Let’s proceed with the button-making!”

You know how dudez like to say douchey things like, “The only reason people are opposed to strip clubs and porn is because we live in a puritanical society where people are, like, *afraid* of expressions of sexuality. I think it’s totally brave to just be totally open and honest about what you like and, you know, stand proud in the face of that sexual oppression. ” Uh, sure, buddy. Strip clubs are so totally liberating, and you’re obviously so mature and cool for really *getting* it. Well, liberating for mainstream hetero males who are into fake body parts and long hair and female degradation, anyway, and lord knows that people like that have been woefully underrepresented in our culture for far too long.

 Here’s the breakdown: Continue Reading »