March 2010 Archives

Knotted Pile with Sara Lamb

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So one of the things we arranged our trip around was a class I wanted to take with the fantastic Sara Lamb. The subject was knotted pile weaving, which for the layperson means rugs.

But we used small rigid heddle looms and made tiny pieces for bags. For one thing, a much more manageable size for a class, and for another, wow, you can do a lot with one technique.

The class was held at the fantastic and awesome Spinning Loft, in Howell, Michigan. I recommend this store unequivocally. Not only was the class managed very nicely (Beth arranged a terrific lunch both afternoons, and coffee in the morning, plus all the wool you could sniff while she had her back turned), but the store is crammed with the usual goodies like wheels and prepped fiber, but also the exceptional, like an entire room full of fleeces. Worth a visit for sure. While you're in town, sign up for a class. There's a 24-hour donuts and ice cream place across the street. Can you beat that?

So, um, back to class. I'm going to refrain from trying to ID everybody in every picture, but that's Abby Franquemont's ear in this one. This is Sara showing us how to do soumak, which is a twining technique. I absolutely must make better use of that than this silly little bag project.

Sara shows us how to get started

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All Across America


Well, not all the way across, but a decent distance. Noel and I drove to visit a bunch of family and friends in the Midwest, with a side trip for me to take a class.

We started our visits in Billings, Montana, where Noel's childhood friend Scot led us on an impossibly long hike up a butte. Awesome view, though.

Jen on the butte

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Hey, Healthcare

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It should not come as a surprise that I'm a big fan of health care reform. I'd have rather had single-payer, but what we got is better than what we had before.

For me the whole issue comes down to a single question: What should be the consequences of illness?

Should you only get as much care as you can afford with whatever savings you might have? When that money runs out, should the care stop? Should you die in the streets, to be picked up by a trash crew and dumped in a landfill? Should you be treated with compassion and given the best care that makes sense?

All of those options are currently the norm in countries around the world. My own inclination is that misfortune should not be treated as a fault of the person who suffers it. Even when that person contributed to that misfortune. So when somebody is dying from lung cancer after a lifetime of smoking, I still think they deserve compassionate and, yes, low-cost health care. Just the same as I think somebody who is born with a heart defect, who has not contributed anything to society except their presence, also deserves compassionate and low-cost health care.

I wonder what the health care system preferred by people who oppose health care reform would be like? What would happen when you get cancer at 25 and use up your lifetime maximum health coverage getting into remission? What should happen? Would such a person be well advised to get some kind of extremely high-paying job (please let me know where to get such a job) on short notice, so they could pay their health care costs in cash for the rest of their life?

Do those people believe that the death panels that already exist at your private insurance company, who make decisions about whether you will get coverage or not based on whether you are costing too much -- not on whether you have a chance of recovery or not -- is sufficiently compassionate, and anything else would necessarily be less compassionate?

I'm a bleeding-heart liberal. I believe civilized, compassionate people who love their country and their fellow Americans have a responsibility -- one of the ones that comes with the rights we also have -- to take care of the neediest of our people. Some people fill that responsibility by serving in the armed forces, some fill it by volunteering, some fill it by donating money. We all fill it by paying taxes that go to pay for the common good -- to pay our soldiers wages and benefits, to pay for the roads we drive on, to pay for emergency relief to disaster areas.

I'm curious how a person can morally justify believing that we should let others suffer. I've seen people say the current bill is too expensive, ignoring budget office analysis that said it would actually cost less than our current spending. I've heard people say it forces people to pay for something that may not want, but a lot of us didn't want to go to war in Iraq, and it's not as if we're going to get to opt out of paying for that. But I've never seen anybody explain what they think is the right level of caring we should have for the unfortunate. If you oppose the bill, and care to comment, I'm curious to know.

In the meantime, I'm going to celebrate that that lifetime coverage cap that was getting so close is now gone. I'm a personal beneficiary of this bill, or rather, the future me is. And you will all benefit because my ability to get ongoing medical care means I won't go on permanent medical disability and cost you even more money. Win-win!

(As a side note, I also believe that having a health care system that profits on illness and medicalization is a bad idea. It is often (OFTEN) argued to me that without profits, nobody would do the research needed to improve health care the way it has been improved in the last 50 years. That doesn't make any economic sense, because so little of that profit is actually used to reward the people who do the research. First, most medical research relies on federally funded basic science research as a starting point. So we already pay for part of that cost. But then the government hands off basic science paid for the taxpayers to corporations to develop into a product. The profit made by those corporations is used to pay the shareholders of those corporations, and the executive and marketing staffs of those corporations. If we decided to keep all operating budgets exactly the same, to employ mostly the same people in the research and development roles, but to cut out the parts of the business that are wasteful -- executive salaries and marketing budgets -- we could afford to continue to innovate and produce new medical treatments on much lower costs.)

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March Retreat with Judith, Part Two


OK, so that was the location. Now for the spinning.

The theme for this class was colour, and boy was it. I'd already decided I prefer spinning undyed fiber and dyeing it as yarn (and Judith agreed with me!), but it's always good to challenge yourself. It was clear there was going to be some good fun on the very first night, when we found this table stacked with goodies:

Class materials stacked up and ready to go

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I spent this last long weekend (Friday through Monday) at Point Bonita YMCA doing an intense three days of classes with Judith MacKenzie McCuin. In writing about the class and the weekend I decided to break it up into two parts. This first part is about the location, the environment for the retreat. The second part will be about what I worked on and photos of the stuff we did.

The retreat is held at the YMCA hostel at Point Bonita, in the Marin Headlands right on the Northern side of the Golden Gate. The scenery is lovely, and we had lots of time each day to walk around and look at things while recovering from very hard work.

Point Bonita compound

The hostel is in the old barracks, a sort of dismal Cold War kind of series of buildings with weird bunkers overlooking them. It's all open to the public, so random day visitors were coming in and out of the area the whole time (we were warned not to leave valuables or even remotely tempting things in the dorms; thieves seem to leave the spinning wheels and expensive fiber alone, thank goodness.)

That photo above is looking from the classrooms (the building on the very left) towards the dining hall (the two large windows ahead) and the dormitories (men's the furthest away at the far side of the parking lot, women's on the right side of the driveway). If you continued in the direction I was facing here you'd walk up a path on the side of the hill, up the road, and out to the lighthouse.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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