Sunday, June 17, 2018

That sweater -- again

Here's the sweater! I used a pattern generated by sweatermaker software, based on C's measurements and my gauge swatch. She's turning 4, but she'already a little bigger than a standard size 6.
She chose the main brown color and the rusty orange from my stash. I could see I would not have enough of the orange to do much, so I added the white and ripped back the gauge swatch I had of the dark yellow, so there's just a couple of yards of that yarn left. Even then, after knitting the sleeves, I could see that I wasn't going to have enough of the yellow and orange for stripes on the body section. So, I made a pocket.
The sleeves, following the pattern instructions, were too short, so I lengthened them and I lengthened the body a little. I have plenty of that chestnut purée colored yarn. Once I sewed everything up, it looks to me that the yoke is too short, that there isn't enough armhole.
Following the pattern, I knit the two yoke pieces, first, sewed up one seam, and did the neck ribbing. I followed the instructions, but the folded neck was too tight, so I undid the cast off and sewed it shut. Then, sewed the second seam. I put the required stitches from each yoke back onto the machine to knit the first sleeve, from the top, down. And the second one. I had to be extra careful to get the stripes in order -- opposite from the order on the yoke, which was knitted from the bottom, up.
This is exactly where I got to the first time. It went faster because I remembered what I was doing. I was very careful to have the right number of stitches on the yokes. Then it was time to put the body stitches on - front or back, didn't matter. I ran into the same problem as before. The yoke circumference would not stretch enough over the straight needle bed. I had to put the stitches onto a needle and hand knit several rows. I did 17 rows, in all. It was still a tight fit onto the machine, but workable and the rest of the was fine, finished in the time it took to cook the vegetables (about 10 minutes). That was the back. Before repeating for the front, I had to create the pocket so it would be ready to integrate into the front -- and the first time I did that, it was backwards. Again, I'm not used to thinking Top-Down. I had to rip out about 10 rows and put it back on the right way. Just before doing the ribbing, I had to put the bottom of the pocket on the needles, but I forgot. I had to rip out the ribbing and start that bit over.
With all this ripping out and doing over, it took five sessions over two days to do. A much faster feat than had I hand knitted the whole thing. Now comes the test. Will it fit. Especially, will it fit in the Fall and winter. If the yoke is too short, I can unknit a row and add a few extra brown rows and graft it back together by hand.
Can I trust this software to churn out the patterns correctly, or will I have to constantly correct them?

Saturday, June 2, 2018


English first, French after the line _____________________.
We just had a very short mid-week visit with the Northampton crew. They all seem fine. We're fine. Al.. had us over for an excellent lunch to set us off on the return, yesterday. There's absolutely no news to report, which is, as the saying goes, good news.
On our way there, on Tuesday, it was gray and foggy in northern France and pouring cats and dogs on the English side of the Channel. It poured until Luton and continued raining until Milton Keynes. The Northampton area was dry. It was a harrowing drive, though.
The sweater I had started knitting for Ch.. ended up like this. I stuck the frogged balls of yarn onto a circular needle just to keep them in order, so that when I start the project, again, I won't have to go looking for them. (to "frog" knitting means to "rip it" back. Say that fast enough and you'll get it.) I miscounted the number of stitches for the yoke pieces and didn't realize the mistake until the sleeves were all done and I was trying to mount the body stitches. Grr.
This weekend, I intend to call family in the US. Be forewarned. I will try to call at a good time, but we all know that the time zones make that difficult.
Nous rentrons d'une petite visite à la famille à Northampton. Ils vont bien ; nous allons bien. Al.. nous a invité pour un excellent déjeuner, hier, avant notre départ. Il n'y a pas de nouvelles à rapporter, ce qui, d'après le dicton, est une bonne nouvelle.
La route aller, mardi dernier, était grise et dans le brouillard côté France, mais il pleuvait comme vache qui pisse en Angleterre. Il pleuvait fort jusqu'à Luton, moins fort jusqu'à Milton Keynes, et pas de tout, enfin, à l'approche de Northampton. C'était éreintant.
L'image de toute cette laine sur une aiguille est le résultât du pull que je faisait pour Ch.. J'ai du tout défaire suite à une erreur de montage. J'avais fini les manches et ce n'est qu'en montant les mailles du corps que j'ai vu qu'il me manquait une 20 de mailles de chaque côté. Grr.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The almost annual Pierwigian trip

It's become something of a habit. The group of friends from our Pierwige days travel together. Last year, it was to Valencia and this year, to Andalusia. Spain is so lovely in the Spring.
We were a group of four couples, this year. F and C seem to have dropped out. That worked out perfectly, as it happened, because Y. has a friend who is French but whose mother was from Seville and who has spent his life between Spain and France. He volunteered to organize our trip and be our guide and driver. That made us a group of 9, the limit for a van rental with a normal driver's license.
The Parisians (J-P, R, Paul and I) found one another in the baggage drop-off line. We had lunch together at the airport and flew straight to Seville, where A met us. We just had time to introduce ourselves to A. before the others arrived, having connected in Madrid. It was already a bit past 5 pm and by the time we picked up the van and got into the city to the hotel, it was 6.
First thing to do was to explore Seville. The hotel was not the one originally reserved, but no matter, the Ferdinando iii is an excellent hotel, not far from the Cathedral. We walked and walked and walked. The path from the hotel to the Cathedral took us past the Sephardic Jewish Exhibition Center in what was the Jewish quarter. It was close to closing time and reservations are recommended for this. When we came back to Seville at the end of our trip, we were disappointed that it opened at 11 and that we would not have enough time to visit. This is a must for our next trip to Seville, when we will concentrate on the city. We went through the Murillo Gardens and then headed back to the hotel with a stop for tapas on the way. There we were, sitting at an outside table at a street corner, when Paul cried out N...., quickly followed by P-F. Our nephew and his wife were strolling through the streets of Seville, too! You never know who is going to turn up where you just happen to be! After that pleasant encounter and the photo to prove it, we sat back down, finished our tapas and went back to the hotel for a short rest before heading out for the evening. Remember, we didn't get started until after 6 pm and were now getting ready for the evening.
Audience participation
The evening was a taxi to the Triana for a dinner of more tapas at 10:30 followed, after midnight, just around the corner from the restaurant, la Casa Anselma. I understand the frustration of those who queued up for this and then saw some go in ahead of them. A. had reserved for us. Anselma comes out, a little after midnight, and says something in very rapid Spanish that sounds a bit scolding. She then allows people in, one by one. There were a few individuals ahead of us, then a group, then us. We could hear people complaining. As the small room filled up, we could see that many were frequent visitors and they added a lot of animation during the evening. All were dressed in normal attire, not in flamenco costumes. As the entertainment heated up, they would get up and dance, clap the rhythm, sing along. The bad reviews on Trip Advisor are from people who did not get in, and I can understand their feeling after having waited over an hour in the night chill. For us, it was an extraordinary privilege to be there. A. is well-known, there, and spent time chatting with the musicians and with Anselma. We had excellent seats, in the second row. I couldn't understand the language, but the emotions of the songs came through loud and clear: love, anger, humor...
After breakfast we were treated to a carriage ride through Seville before we piled into the van and headed westward towards the rio Tinto. I think we got off the highway to head towards La Palma del Condado and continued on to the southern edge of a reservoir on a tributary of the rio Tinto to the Ctra. El Berrocal.  If you look at a map (I'm looking at the via-Michelin map) and zoom in on road HU-4103, there's a private road off to the right that goes to the southern edge. That's where the 600-hectare (more than 1482 acres) hacienda where we were having lunch is. Before lunch the owner gave us a jeep-tour of the property where he raises bulls. Of course, not all the cattle is bull-fighting material. There are the cows that are selected for breeding at 2 years. There are the bulls that are just not going to make it. It's very hilly territory. While the other half of our group went on their jeep-tour, A. took us on a walking tour. We were hungry for lunch by the time it was served, after 2. First, there were countless tapas, which were all excellent and which we were encouraged by the hostess to finish up. That would have been fine, if it weren't followed by a paella! We staggered up from the table at about 5 and headed towards El Rocio.

El Rocío is a small town of 1500 permanent residents. During the pilgrimage, just after our visit, there can be up to 2,000,000! The town is on the border of the Doñana National Park. It's built on sand. During the pilgrimage, cars are not allowed, only horses. Every home and shop has hitching posts in front. Our little hotel had stables on the ground floor, under the rooms. This is not an ancient village. It's got a grid layout, with large avenues in a V formation from the closest asphalt road leading to the church, near the river. The streets are wide and, as said earlier, hitching posts everywhere. Close to the church there are big grassy grazing areas surrounded by restaurants and streets with shops full of flamenco dresses and riding suits. We had a carriage ride that took us through the town and a little bit into the park. There were lots of bird watchers out. There were pink flamingos out on the river. On a walk, we saw a bird watching information center. And storks. As we drove out the next day to go through the park and some standard tourism, we saw stork nests on almost every electric pylon along the road. We arrived with a little time to rest and walk around the town a bit before dinner, but in the short rest at the hotel before going out for dinner, Paul and I decided we'd had too much lunch and went to bed before the others got back. They reported, at breakfast, that they had had a very nice dinner of tapas.
We set out towards Matalascañas where we intended to turn west into the park. We got as far as the roundabout when we encountered a bicycle race. The road we wanted to take was blocked. That meant turning around, going past El Rocío and up to the highway to head towards Huelva. The strawberry pickers were out, but here, the  plants are all in greenhouses, so you don't see fields from the road; you see plastic.

We did a bit of standard sightseeing. There's the monastery Santa Maria de la Rabida that hosted Christopher Columbus and encouraged his discovery trips. The picture shows the patch of original fresco of the cloister with the "restored" painted all around it. The tidal wave from the earthquake that destroyed Lisbon in 1775 hit the monastery! There's a room full of interesting boxes of earth collected from the Spanish colonies in America.  Just down the road is Palos de la Frontera, with the replicas of the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, a well-done information center on the first expedition. They are really small. The Santa Maria was the admiral ship and it never made it back to Spain. It got grounded in the islands and the crew had be distributed between the two tinier boats (hard to refer to them as ships).
We took the road that we had planned on taking in the morning and stopped at a beach to have lunch -- another great selection of tapas, including fresh sardines. And a stop at a nearby Parador, a luxury hotel overlooking a beach, far below. We went a bit further along and stopped at another beach, but the sandy walk down from the car to the beach was pretty long and steep and when I reached the cliff edge and saw how small the people on the beach still appeared, I stopped and did not go all the way down. It was still quite a hike uphill getting back to the van.
Sunday, we left El Rocío after lunch. Cars and horses were pouring into the town. The road leading in was jammed while our way out was empty. The cars, from Sunday evening, would be banned and parked out in the fields to make way for the horses and carriages for the pilgrimage.

The road ended at El Esparragal, a ranch in American terms: 40 km²! It's a beautiful place. Once a private home, now a luxury hotel that hosts weddings and communions. As we arrived, a wedding party from the ceremony on Saturday was leaving, a lovely couple: he, American from Boston; she, Spanish. They now live in New York. The parents stayed on and were the only other guests at the place with us. A. had negotiated a remarkably low price for us. Walking around the estate, we picked sweet grapefruits and oranges from the trees and had our afternoon snack. There were storks in their nests and more storks flying around. A. told us that up to about 15 years ago it was an active farm; the stables still held horses and there were carriages. He used to take a horse and just go riding around. There are Roman ruins on the property and a chapel, site of an annual pilgrimage from the nearby village. There's a road that divides the property, vertically. There was a small group of cows just outside our window, and orchards along the road, but not much sign of farm activity, much to A.'s regret.

On our way out the next morning, we drove up to the chapel, just for a quick view, and then continued on to a hacienda that raises bulls for bullfighting in the traditional manner. The herd manager is French, from Nimes, a connaîsseur and traditionalist. He's also an author: Fabrice Torrito with a blog. I'm not much of a fan of bull fighting, but I understood his point of view and we saw how the bulls, cows, and calves are handled. It wasn't completely new to us, since we'd had our lessons last year at the féria in Camargue, but more intense. The animals have a much nicer life than those destined for their meat from birth. As a traditionalist, Fabrice does not do artificial insemination; he has large areas set aside for groups of 30 cows and a bull and lets nature take its course. We visited a field with a 3-year-old bull and plenty of cows and calves. The breeding cows are selected at age two and the ones who don't make the grade are sent to the slaughter house. The breeding cows can live a long life until they die a natural death. The cowboy was sent off, after our ride around the grounds, to look for a missing 20-year-old cow that had probably gone off to be alone to die. The bulls have a nice, quiet life, with some fighting among themselves for dominance, but they won't go to a bull fight until they are 5 or 6. 6 is the limit. These are the bulls we visited! Once a bull has seen a cape, a single bullfight, he's done. Even if the president of the corrida graces him, he'll go to the slaughter house afterwards. (Very rarely, a graced bull gets to go home and breed and live out his natural life.) It's not pleasant, but really is it worse than the cattle that go straight to the slaughter house?
Gardens at the Palace
Fabrice sent us into the nearby village of Gerena for lunch. Again, only local people, friendly, warm, and stuffing us with good food. Then, back to Seville for a walk around town, again. Starting from a different hotel, it was a different walk. We tried to reserve to see the Alcazar on Tuesday, but with the size of our group, it wasn't possible until after our departure for the airport. In Seville, that is not a problem. We visited the Casa de Pilatos, which has nothing to do with Pilate other than the builder of the house was fascinated with Roman history. It was built in three distinct styles, starting with a heavy, moor influence, then Italian Renaissance, and another addition, later. It's well worth the wait for the guided tour of the upstairs. The house was still lived in two years ago!
More walking, lunch, and back to the airport. A fine time was had by all and we were already discussing where to go, next.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Meetings, meetings, meetings

My nature is to volunteer. I do. I left the AARO board, but not the committees and I'm still organizing most of the Paris events, but I insist that others find the topic and the speakers and let me just handle the logistics.
Nothing was scheduled in April. That didn't bother me after a busy March. But then, an urgent meeting came up -- to present the new repatriation (transition) and GILTI taxes imposed on U.S. shareholders of foreign corporations. The motivation for those was the money hoarded abroad by U.S. corporations in their foreign subsidiaries. It also affects the Americans who live abroad and has a (small) company, like a restaurant, hair salon, or a service company, who have no intention of "repatriating" the profits to the U.S. because they don't live in the U.S. No more about that. I'll post the link to the report when available for anyone really interested.
The meeting was decided just as we were on our way to the south of France, in the second week of April. Paul was driving and I was trying to reserve a conference venue by phone. As soon as we would go over a hill, I'd lose the signal and have to start over. The meeting was scheduled for May 2. The month of May, in France, is a difficult month. May 1 and May 8 are fixed holidays; Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Monday are floating holidays. When these days are close to one another or close to weekends (Tuesday or Thursday) you get what are called "ponts". People bridge over the workday (Monday or Friday) to create a 4-day weekend. When they are all close together, people manage to get a whole 10 vacation with only a few work days in the count. Now, add in the two days of train strikes in every 5-day period! May 2 was not a strike day, but May 3 was and that could have impeded people needing to leave on May 3 from coming, at all. There was no availability at Reid Hall, so we held the meeting at FIAP Jean Monnet, which is, in my opinion, a fine conference center. The speakers agreed.
All of the May mess makes any hope of people showing up for a hastily scheduled meeting a risky hope. May 1 was Tuesday, so many for many of the expected professional audience, May 2 would be the start of their week. I was overly optimistic, but we were not too far from breaking even. oof.
The next meeting, coming up, is May 7 -- yikes! That's the Monday before May 8, in the bridge! It's the meeting dealing with how to declare your French taxes -- generally speaking and your U.S. income, specifically. We couldn't get the big room at Reid Hall for this, so we settled for a smaller room and it's sold out. The original date for this meeting was May 23, but people who are filing in France for the first time have a May 17 deadline, so we had to push it up. The deadlines for filing online are different, depending on what "département" you live in. In the Parisian area, we are lucky, having until mid-June.
There have also been committee meetings: a communications project and further advocacy on this repatriation and GILTI tax issue. But at least I had nothing to do with the scheduling.
Once the French tax meeting is over, Paul and I will be off on another excursion. More about that, later.