billions are the new millions

Already irritated beyond belief at the late news by ten minutes past eleven, I started to practice some little meditation techniques that came out in the latest head office Email yesterday (you know, the ones where the bosses pretend to care about you by telling you to manage your stress levels and stay healthy).  To my astonishment, this actually seemed to work. 

That is, until two minutes later when the following statement wafted into my consciousness in the anchorman’s dulcet tones:

Billionaires are the new millionaires. 

Exit large mouthful of Diet Coke through nose.

Man, I haven’t even made my first million yet, and they’ve already upped the bar a thousandfold?!?

Where the hell did this nonsense come from?!?

Humph.  I should have known.  And of course being the idiot that I am, I’d actually bought a copy of this issue yesterday on the way home from work.  (Perhaps if I’d stopped buying this at all when it started to get on my nerves and invested the money instead, I, too, would be a billionaire.  Note to self. 

Well, of course I had to crack it open.  Inside was a list of 19 billionaires who live in Toronto.  Hardly a trend.  But then again, they’re hoarding all the money and keeping it from all those wannabe plain old millionaires, I guess. 

At the top of the list is David Thomson with $19.72 billion.  He controls the flow of media information to the Western world owns Reuters.  Next is Galen Weston Sr. with a paltry $6.33 billion. (I guess it’s true what they say – Loblaws, his food store chain, is hurting these days!)

Now, there’s a big difference between those two figures, no?  (I can’t find my calculator and I don’t have nearly enough fingers and toes to count that high.  Another reason why I’ll never be a billionaire.  By the time I got to the end of the list and the people only had $1 billion each).

I mean, do you ever wonder what these guys discuss at parties (and I say “guys” because there’s only one woman on the list, and she’s only there by virtue of marriage, I think).  

“Yo, Galen!  I’ve got $13 billion more than you do, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!!!”

“YEAH?!?  But did you ever play polo with Prince Charles?? Huh??? Huh?????”

“You wanna take it outside to the $900,000 padded and chandeliered boxing ring which I’ve built in my Forest Hill mansion for such occasions?!?!?”

Nah, on second thought they probably all get along very well.  I imagine that they spend most of their time coming up with secret handshakes and discussing purchases such as these:

A $2,000 speaker system for your $150.00 iPod.  I mean, don’t these guys have enough money to buy a whole stereo?!?

And this:

A $50 clip to put on your dashboard to hold those pesky parking passes.  I don’t know why they don’t just do what I do and toss them all on the floor, actually.  

Hmm.  Actually, I have lots of helpful tips for these guys to help them earn even more money.  Do you think one of these would give me a job? 

Good idea.  Off to meditate now.  If I repeat the word “Money” enough times, maybe some will actually fall into my lap. 

a parable for the 21st Century

Well, gang – being as it’s Saturday and I’m recovering from a drinking session with the gnomes busy at housework, I thought I’d reprise a post that I put up on another blog I started in a blog binge last month.

So, if any of you have read it on the other blog, my apologies and I’ll be back tomorrow with more gnome adventures (there’s a new member of the Gnome family!!!) and maybe even some photos of knitting.

And, JJ and I are off later today on a trip to Michael’s craft superstore.  Yippee!

Now for my little fable.  WARNING/AVERTISSEMENT/ACHTUNG: if you are a member of the Conservative Party… well, read at your peril.  And don’t whine to me that you weren’t warned!


There is a land far, far north of where most people live, and in that land is a little fiefdom called Kanadha. Many people flocked to Kanadha, even though it was a fiefdom, because it was one of the best and brightest places in the world.

However, Kanadha mostly exists in the shadow to its neighbour to the south, Murca. Murca is far larger than Kanadha and is run by a group of dictators known as the Archconservative Party. This is their leader, Exalted Ruler Godfrey. However, Mr. Godfrey prefers to be known as “God” – and this is what most of his people call him (although some of them give him the surname “Damn” underneath their breath).

This is a rare photo of God wearing evening dress. God doesn’t like wearing tuxedos, actually, because he likes to pretend to be a man of the people. However, from time to time he finds his tuxedo a useful tool to intimidate visiting dignitaries, such as The Right Honourable Steve.

Oops, sorry – wrong photo. This is actually the Father of Confederation, Sir John Eh?. However, the new guy, Steve is the current Supreme Lord and Master of Kanadha. He spends most of his time drinking, lying to his serfs and forcing the other nobility to keep silent about whatever it is he is up to, for example, hanging out with suspicious characters:

This is his way of emulating God, with whom he pretends to be best friends. No one is sure whether he actually believes this to be the case or not.

One thing is certain though – Steve has allowed God to scare him about the possibility of harm from this man, Lucifer.

Now, no one knows very much about Lucifer at all. According to God and Steve, Lucifer is a lawless type who hates Murca and should therefore be extinguished. However, people in Kanadha and Murca are not quite sure where he lives, what he believes in, and even whether this army exists or not. (God and Steve might actually know the truth – but if they do, they certainly have not been sharing it with their people).

Despite this, lots of money is spent every year by both Murca and Kanadha to engage in combat like activity far, far away in countries where Lucifer may or may not be found.

In Kanadha, they get the money for this fighting from people like this:

This is taxpayer John Doe. He is just one of millions of Kanadhonians who pay lots of tax money every year to Steve and the rest of the lords. He doesn’t really know where all of that money goes, as that is secret information known only to Steve and his Inner Circle of other nobility.

(It should be noted that In Kanatha, there is currently no right for taxpayers like John to vote. John doesn’t really think that is a big deal because he never voted when it was allowed anyway. Having said that, he does like complaining, though.

People like John, however, typically do not complain about the people in charge, because it’s easier to blame other people like themselves for all the problems in Kanadhian society. Steve encourages this, because it distracts the people and helps them forget that they are actually living in a fiefdom.)

Here are some other taxpayers, Quack and Daisy Duck:

You may have noticed that Quack and Daisy look quite different from one another, and from John Doe. This is because Kanadha is a multicultural fiefdom, although the Lords and Masters all still look like Steve (and like God, for that matter).

Quack and Daisy are hardworking types who don’t really have a lot of time to question what is going on in the wider world. Or maybe they just don’t care.

But that’s not a very kind thing to suggest, really, because I’m sure they’re busy looking after their two kids.

First up: Tina Duck.

Tina is still a young, naive little thing who doesn’t quite understand yet how the world works. Sometimes, especially after being picked on at school because her parents look different from one another, she wonders why everyone just can’t get along.

Everyone, that is, except her and her little brother, that is:

This is Brat Duck. He’s prone to stealing Tina’s crown and running around with it for kicks. He also squawks loudly, sometimes incessantly. This makes him potentially much better suited to get on in the fierdom and the wider world than Tina, unfortunately.

And finally, there is me, your humble chronicler, (Kris)tina.

I live in a place very much like Kanadha. It’s called Trana.

In Trana, unlike in Kanatha and Murca, there is no supreme being. Oh, wait, I’m wrong: of course there is a supreme being in Trana – the Almighty D*llar.

And here I must confess that I actually misled you a bit above. In fact, the Almighty D*llar is also the Supreme Being in both Kanadha and Murca. God and Steve just pretend to be the top entities, really.

I’m not allowed to show you photos here, just as I am not allowed to type out the name in full without changing a letter. However, in Kanadha one version of the Almighty D*llar looks like this, and in Murca like this. The version that you buy things with is referred to as a “dollar”.

As you can see, the Almighty D*llar is a shapeshifter which presents Itself amongst the rulers and mortals who spend their lives in search of it in various forms. And these days, you need at least one hundred of them to buy anything that you need.)

Trana is not a fiefdom, but some – nay, most – days it’s hard for me to believe that.

So, I just content myself with fondling luxury silk yarn, smoking cigarettes and indulging in general apathy like everyone else surrounding me.


sex selection, anyone?

And no, not that kind of sex. Get your mind out of the gutter! This is a knitting blog, after all…

I really should stop drinking Diet Coke when watching the news. My nose still hurts this morning after snorting a big mouthful out last evening after seeing a certain news item (don’t you hate it when that happens?)

Long story short: do you want to conceive a boy? Then eat…

That’s right. (And JJ was right chuffed, as you can imagine…).
You see, some people got together and did yet another study (this time in the UK).

740 pregnant first-time mothers were asked about their eating habits before and during early-stage pregnancy:

The study found that 56 per cent of the women in the group with the highest caloric intake at conception had boys, compared to 45 per cent in the group with the lowest energy intake.

Hmm – does this mean that boy children have more fat in their brains? That would make some sense…

The women who had sons were also more likely to have eaten a wider variety of nutrients, such as potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12.

But this begs the question: how about Vitamin B?

I guess I’ll have to read the whole study to find out, as the rest of the sound byte was lacking in some detail, saying only:

Women who ate breakfast cereals were also more likely to have sons.

Now, if I hadn’t been paying attention I would have just assumed that this was a snippet from some conversation that a bunch of Greek grandmothers were having with a young woman. You know, old wives’ tales time honoured traditions as to how to keep the family name going.

However, the Greek yiayiadhes wouldn’t be using such high-falutin’ language to describe the theory:

Our results support hypotheses predicting investment in costly male offspring when resources are plentiful. Dietary changes may therefore explain the falling proportion of male births in industrialized countries.

And here I thought this trend was simply proof of social Darwinism – or did I just read that in some other study?!?

Well, you know what? I can write some pretty fancy language, too, when I so choose. So now I’m off to write a funding proposal to Health Canada for a study of my very own:

Can knitters influence the gender of their children based on what colour of yarn they are knitting with when they try to conceive?

I mean, imagine how business would soar at the yarn shops! This could bring down yarn prices for the rest of us…

So, what gender of child do you think would result if knitting with, for example, this:

Or would the seacell content skew the results (because this is, of course, Handmaiden Sea Silk)? I’m so confused…

Good thing I’m not planning to conceive any time soon. With all the oatmeal in the house, all the mystery would be taken out of the process.

How to Make Your Very Own Straightjacket!

(or: Brouhaha’s Tips for Faking it When You Don’t Know How to Sew)

Have you gazed with envy, nay, hatred, upon those friends or acquaintances who whip up haute couture garments effortlessly and cheaply on their sewing machine, then tell you “oh, it’s easy”? Are you a knitter who is used to needles at least 3 mm thick and deathly afraid of those baby pointed things that can do real damage?

If so, fear not. You, too, can make beautiful couture garments with no sewing experience – and on the (super duper) cheap!

And you probably won’t break skin by stabbing yourself with a sewing needle… if you take it gently. Just read on.

“Tried and Not True” Tips will be inset for your convenience. (I initially thought of calling this “What Not To Do”. But of course, you’re free to do what you want. And maybe what didn’t work for me will work very well for you!)

EXPERIENCED SEAMSTERS PLEASE READ THIS: This blog post is in no way intended to minimise your great expertise and highly polished finished results. On the contrary. Please view it as an attempt by a sewing-challenged individual to attempt to reach step two on the ladder to your vaunted heights without shelling out for lessons or instructional materials.

My sewing example for today is my project entitled Fit to Be Tied.

1. Pick a theme for your piece

I’m not going to insult anyone here with the term “optional” (usually in parentheses). I have thrown far too many recipe books off the balcony because of this one seemingly inoffensive little word. Of course (for example) cayenne pepper in a chicken dish is “optional”. So is the chicken, and everything else down from there. When I grow up I’m going to write a million-selling cookbook called “If You Can Hold Your Finger In It For As Long As It Takes You To Count To 14 Without Your Finger Burning, It’s Time To Move On To The Next Step” (a time-honoured Greek cooking tip in the recipe for yogourt, guaranteed to ensure that no one else can actually replicate your award-winning recipe. (Um… guess I’d better work on that title).

However, if you just want something to wear and don’t feel like importing deep symbolism into it, use your best judgment. I’m certain it will be better than mine. End of side rant.

I came across the base materials for this at the Goodwill:

My base theme became immediately apparent to me: anti-corporate law!!! (see my Lawsuitproject if you want more background on this theme).

The secondary theme (which quickly became the main theme) – straitjackets – came some time later. About halfway through the project I wondered if I hadn’t internalised The Tudors a bit too much. Then I thought that I was dwelling too much on work a bit too much. Finally it came to me: the piece was meant to represent:

(a) the tyranny of the corporate workplace;
(b) the fact that men wearing colourful ties tend to run the world, which constrains the rest of us.

Then I could sleep. 😉

2. Make Sure You Have All Your Materials:

The materials I used are the following:

– sewing needle (make sure it’s fairly sharp and small enough to let beads pass over, if you’re using them)
– 6/0 beads or seed beads – I used about 500 in this project
– buttons (vintage or otherwise)

You will also need:

– thread (I know, I know… but I started trying to do this project without thread!!!). I picked a fairly resilient type, in black. Any colour that doesn’t clash with the main colours of your piece will do.
– sharp scissors (fabric ones preferable – I know the sewing gods will frown upon me, but I just got a Singer pair at Loblaws for $8 that seems to do the trick).
– straight pins with the cute little colours at the end (available at most quality dollar stores or a fabric store)

You may also like to have handy:

– a seam ripper
– a thimble
– a dressform

(I did my work mostly on Aphrodite, my trusty dressform. It would help if you had one of those… if only to lay out your design. If not, I think you could improvise with a dress hanger and a shower rail).

2a. Find some appropriate music or television viewing to craft by.

While I made this piece, I listened to the following albums ad nauseam:

(Yes – ABBA. Don’t rag me about listening to ABBA. I am a big fan – and this album is my favourite. Bet you didn’t know that ABBA has dark music, either. If you don’t believe me, click this link. Bjorn and Benny must have been on the outs when this one was penned! I suspect these lyrics largely affected the more paranoid content of the vest, not to mention the straitjacket theme, actually.

And while we’re on the topic of musical preferences, let it be known that I was listening to so-called “lounge music” well before those who are too cool for school started to remix it and turn it into 21st century nightclub fodder. OK?!

Television viewing for crafting in the JB household tends toward:
– Dr. House reruns
– Law and Order reruns
– The Food Network
– British police procedurals and legal dramas (my current fave is Judge John Deed. Gotta love those wigs!!
– nature programmes (but only if JJ insists)
– science programmes (ditto re. JJ)

3. Decide how you want to put together your base materials.

I started designing the piece from the front and left the back for later (and in the process, completely changed my mind… more later).

Drape the neckties around your form (or hanger) until you see what you want to do. A criss-cross pattern worked for me:

If it’s not evident from the photo, I used six neckties on the front (for a small). They were arranged in an alternating pattern of [fat end, skinny end]. If you can figure out how to make a top with all of the fat ends in the front, please do advise.

Do not worry if all or your neckties are not of identical width. It will all come out in the wash.

4. Pin the ties as you’d like to sew them, then sew them one by one.

Tried and Not True:I decided that it would be a really good idea to use my new favourite toy, the gluegun, to assemble this piece in full with no sewing. Mistake. It did seem like a good idea at least to adhere the neckties to the top with the gluegun and skip the pinning out. Until glue blobs like this started to happen:

Not only is it virtually impossible to sew through these (when the glue fails to adhere and your neckties start falling off), but you might end up with impossible to remove blobs that show!

(What does the government do when you call them in a panic complaining about errant glue blobs?
They initiate a top level cover up! Quelle surprise!)

So – use the glue gun at your peril, and don’t say you weren’t warned!!

I used running stitch for the outside edges, and cross-stitch (from my vague recollection of needlepoint) to attach two ties together in the centre. This took a very long time… mostly because I only realised at the very last minute that I was doing the cross-stitch incorrectly. Any google search done with that word will probably yield you simple and accurate instructions for both).

This is an example of my rather lame running stitch:
5. Apply beads if you’d like

I’m going to confess that the only reason I thought about using beads was that my stitching looks so atrocious that I figured no one would notice with sparkly beads. Did it work?
I should note that I only put beads where I had used the running stitch. The cross stitch also looked rather ridiculous, but I figured it had a Frankensteinish sort of appeal (you will note that I don’t offer a close-up view, however).

I did also put beads around the bottom of the top (that’s confusing, isn’t it? you know what I mean) and anouth the points of some of the neckties).

If you’re trying this at home, sew the front neckties up to the shoulder seam of the top you’re using, unless you have a better idea that involves less sewing (and please do advise me if so!).

6. Decide whether you can live with assymetry.

Why are neckties all different lengths, anyway? I must confess that my type-A side was not happy with the uneven edge left by the neckties at the front (and back). However, I was too lazy to figure out what to do about it. So, we’ll just call this a “design feature” . I gather assymmetrical hemlines are in these days, anyway. Good time for me to take up sewing!

7. Decide what you want to do with the back of your piece.

Initially, I had thought I would want to go with a criss-cross like at the front of the piece. But by the time I had finished that (try stabbing through layers of glue and neckties with a small needle if you think I’m impatient. I warped three of them!), I decided that wasn’t going to happen.

My first option was this peacock-like arrangement:

Then JJ (who was patiently sitting by, as always – I’m very lucky that way) said “Why don’t you try this?”
Good idea!!

I should note that JJs idea, however, also involved sewing all the ends down after they had been weaved together at the top. As you will imagine, I wasn’t into it. I slept on it (barely) and thought that the braiding would work well with what had by this point become the straitjacket theme:

Originally I thought it would be OK to leave the weaved/braided portion loose (and if this were only to be an art piece, I would have left it like that). However, I realised that this was probably not practical for wearing, especially when negotiating the ever-crowded and obnoxious transit system. So, I decided to affix the weaved portion together with little beads and side stitching with more beads:

There is one bead in the centre of each “weaved” portion.

I then braided the remaining pieces partway. The braids are affixed with buttons which I sewed on:

Part of the logic for this was that they would be easy enough to take off (provided they don’t fall off by themselves, given my execrable sewing skills) if I wanted to go the “peacock” route in future.

For this reason (as well as through general laziness), I decided not to affix the braids. They are hanging loose. I’ll let you know if this proves irritating when I wear the piece to work on Tuesday.

8. Give your sleeves some fancy cuffs!

I had decided partway through that I would use my two extra neckties to try to make some cuffs for the sleeves.

This allowed me the fascinating perpective of a dissected necktie (and from what I remember from grade 8, far preferable to frog dissection, and no formaldehyde! I get enough of that in my cigarette ration anyway…)

Far more flimsy than I had thought! I guess I believed, given what I see on the news every night, that neckties are the 20th/21st century version of armour. Then again, maybe they are, given that everything these days is made out of plastic where it used to be made from metal….

But I digress. Here are the instructions:

(a) Cut a piece off the bottom of your necktie, about 3-4″ higher than the top of the point (see above).

(b) Sew the cut edges together with running stitch leaving about 1/2″ border, then trim rough edges.

Tried but Not True Tip: by this point I fancied myself to be quite the sewing genius. I also knew from all of my vast sewing experience that it is often advisable to turn things inside out. Hence:Check me out!! So brilliant… I stitched merrily away, and revealed my new creation, only to find this:

Oops. This is what I told myself:
I then did the correct thing, which was to stuff the sewed necktie cuff into the sleeve rightways up, pin it and sew it (of course I didn’t take a photo because I was so peeved with myself and just trying not to pitch the entire project off the balcony.) But here was the final result:
Nice, eh? I added a vintage button as a mock cufflink as well.

9. Add whichever finishing details you desire (or whichever you need to cover up flaws, more frankly).

For example, I added these two buttons to cover up a fray in one of the ties:

(It didn’t quite seem to work, but hey).

This, in my view, necessitated adding another button on the other side for balance:(I have no idea where the other button for this Zodiac pair is. It does display my sign, however (upside down in the photo – as JJ would say, nothing changes!) and so I was content.

I also decided to add beads along the seams (in the hope that it would even out some of the unevenness in sewing the ties to the front, as it happens – or at least, distract from it):

… and, every elegant piece deserves a lable:

(tiefed from one of the neckties – and part of the anti-corporate message):

I also put a lovely inside label which quite fits my interest in crafting:

And – that’s about it! (isn’t that enough!). All this to say that – even if you don’t sew, you too can have a lovely bespoke item in just nine steps (and with virtually no bloodshed):

Happy crafting! The tutorial is free – all I ask, if you actually use it, is that you drop me a line with a photo of the results (and whether I can publish them here or not – either is cool, of course).