Friday, November 20, 2015

Life Hack #2 - Recycling old clothes.

If you're like me, you may feel a bit bad when the clothes get worn out and you are in the position of having to throw them away. I look at all that fabric and think that there has got to be something environmentally better to do. I also feel bad about that financial investment going out in the garbage, even when I have gotten my money's worth out of the clothing. While donating clothes to the local community outreach program or sending them off to the thrift store is an option, it really isn't cool to send them completely worn out stuff. And, let's be honest, there are only so many rags you can use for cleaning. (I recommend using worn cotton t-shirts for your cleaning rags.)

So, what do you do with it? There's a lot of really great things you can do with recycled fabric. One of them is to make a rag rug with it. If you use t-shirt material, it comes out really great for in the bathroom. If you use denim, it is super effective for in a high traffic area of your house. We did this in my parent's house when I was growing up. In the end, we had a really interesting looking rug that stood up to years of use long after the clothes were no longer useful.  (If you are someone who does latch hook rug making, you have yourself an instant source of scraps!)

You can also cut up the old clothes into uniformly shaped and sized pieces. This you can sew together into a patchwork item. You can get a quilt top out of a bunch of old shirts pretty quickly. Use an old flat sheet for the bottom layer and an old blanket for your batting. Patchwork denim makes an amazing bag that you can carry a good amount of stuff in, provided you make your seams nice and strong and use a good, heavy weight thread for your stitching. You can also use those pieces to patch other clothing. (I will confess, I have cut off the good sections of the kid's worn out old pants to use to patch the knees in their newer clothes.)

Old clothing can also be used to make things for your home aside from that rag rug or patchwork everything. With a box and an old pillow, you can use a t-shirt to make a hiding spot for your pet. You can make rag dolls for the children in your life. You can also make puppets. Obviously, you can make clothes for dolls or the puppets out of pieces of your old clothes. You can cut out the logos from old t-shirts and make a display for your wall with a little ingenuity, a staple gun, and old picture frames. If you cut the leg off of an old pair of pants, you can stuff it with fabric from old clothes and stitch the ends shut. Boom! You now have something to block drafts from blowing in around door frames. Sleeves of long sleeved old shirts can make smaller ones for on the sill of your windows.

Old clothes don't just need to get thrown away. You can use a little creativity and make lots of useful things out of them. Expanding the life of your clothes can take on a whole new meaning with projects like these.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thoughts on Terrorism.

I have been thinking about lectures from a philosophy class that I took at college wherein we discussed terrorism. We redefined the term into asymmetrical warfare; warfare wherein one party targets civilians and non-combatants in an effort to disrupt the defense of the other party through the creation of divisive social responses, such as fear and xenophobia. We examined the logic of such tactics and what concepts they were rooted in. (Huge simplification, the terrorists don't see civilians, they consider the entire population as legitimate targets.)

One of the things that I came away from the class with was the understanding that you can not fight terrorism like traditional wars. You simply can not overwhelm them with force of arms. A lot of people make arguments like we should 'bomb the terrorists back to the stone age.' This is really saying that we should treat them like a traditional enemy. It plays into their hands because they want the collateral damage on their side because it creates a population of people who are ideologically ripe for recruiting. If a nation bombs another nation in the attempt to root out terrorist cells, they kill a lot of civilians. That angers a lot of civilians and they want to strike back at the nation bombing them.

Terrorists come in and basically play on the fears of the civilians that are angry. They set up a scenario in the potential recruit's mind where the nation they are in are either unable or unwilling to defend them from the other nation's aggression. Robbed of the venue that is traditionally accessible during a state of war for the angry civilian to strike back at their enemy, they get persuaded that the terrorist route is the only feasible option. This opens them up to the idea that the terrorist organization will enable them to prevent future assaults on their home nation by attacking the enemy nation until they are defeated.

Terrorists will make it a culture war concept in the minds of their potential and actual recruits. They spread propaganda in the regions where they are well entrenched to strengthen this idea. A culture war concept suddenly makes the targets for attack no longer strictly military. In a culture war, every person from the opposing culture is viewed as a combatant. It is probably the height of the US vs THEM mindset. Terrorists benefit from the target nation having this kind of mindset as well.

The target nation's increased fear and anger with the terrorists serves three goals. First, it creates a scenario where the culture becomes increasingly focused on the terrorists to the detriment of their own culture. (Don't believe me, take a look at how many rights have been undermined in the USA since 9/11. Take a look at how the culture's view of people from the Middle East has changed.) Second, it encourages the culture to become increasingly militarized which serves to legitimize the claim that there are no non-combatants. Third, it perpetuates the attacks upon the nation where the terrorists are operating which creates a larger pool of potential operatives.

But wait, this is not the only way that terrorists gain operatives. They actually have that population level off after things hit a certain ratio because of the amount of the civilian population that will flee the region increases with the increased aggressions against the nation where the terrorists are operating. The terrorists gain operatives in other nations and regions by demonstrating how the target nation is assailing the country they operate in. They gain operatives by way of spreading the culture war meme through a population that may potentially be sympathetic to the terrorists. They gain operatives by way of presenting the allies of the target nation as potential enemies and scaring their prospects into joining out of fear that they will be targeted by said nation and allies for various reasons. (This is where the culture war thing is really the terrorists strongest recruitment tool.)

Now, if you can't fight terrorists by way of traditional warfare and the terrorists are successfully recruiting operatives from people who have been taught that your culture is a threat to them, how do you defeat them?

There's two things, I think, that will be effective. First, resist the creation of fear from the terrorists and the erosion of culture that comes with it. This shows the world (and that population that the terrorists want to recruit from) that there is a distinction between civilian and military targets. It makes the people in the target nation and culture more human to the viewers. Second, actively work to cultivate the good will of others within and outside of the target nation. People will be less likely to take up arms and attack you when you present yourself as their ally or at the very least a non-threatening presence.

The real war in terrorism is not fought with bombs or bullets. It is fought with ideas. And right now, I am concerned that we are losing. When I see increased fear of terrorists and xenophobia in my neighbors, I see people who are fitting the mold that the terrorists are creating for them. I refuse to do so. Am I afraid of the idea of a bomb going off when I go out grocery shopping? No. My grocery store really doesn't make a good target for attack. Am I afraid of a bomb going of during Black Friday? No, because there is no logical reason for someone to attack shoppers. (Except for the insane shoppers who cudgel each other over toys. But, they're just acting in accordance with the brand of insanity that overcomes them in the scenario.)

Will I be afraid if something like that happens? No. I will be disgusted. I will be angry but I will not be afraid. I've got two reasons for that. Number one, I really don't enjoy when people tell me what to do (except for in specific circumstances with specific people). I'll resist it out of pure stubbornness and irritation with the concept. Number two, the terrorists, I have decided, are beneath my standard of people to worry about. They are almost always a small population and lack the formal organization of a traditional military to truly do any damage.

Because, terrorists can only do a small amount of damage in the terms of physical harm and loss of life. They don't have the numbers to do it. They want us to think they do. They want us to think that they could strike at any time, but realistically, they can't. They simply don't have the organization or forces to do so. If they did, traditional warfare would be an option because they would have a structure to disrupt, supply chains to break, and troops to eliminate.

You want to fight terrorism? Go about your day unafraid. Or, even better, go out and help someone and cultivate that idea that we're human after all and give a damn about the rest of the world.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fiber Fun Update.

I am taking a break from working on my novel and my spinning to make baby stuff. Beloved's cousin's wife is having a baby shower and I am working on a couple of quick gifts. Right now, I'm working on a hat. I expect to have it done this afternoon. Tonight, I'm going to whip off a pair of mittens and a pair of booties. Tomorrow, if I can manage it, I'm going to make a little stroller blankie.

I have this thing. For pretty much every baby that has been born into the family, I have made a blankie and some kind of garment for them to wear. It's just something I do. I only have one kid I didn't make something for and, in my defense, that was because the year leading up to him showing up in the world was really rough. I didn't get much, if any, crafting done that year. I am not thrilled with the colors of this baby yarn but I know it will be soft against a newborn's skin, which is why I'm using it.

The stroller blankie, however, I am going to go stash diving and make up something with vivid colors in a granny square. They don't know the sex of the baby. It's going to be a surprise. So, I'm trying for gender neutral colored stuff.

Here's a pic of the hat in progress. I started it about 10 minutes ago. I'm using sport weight yarn with an H hook.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mom stuff > Writer stuff.

So, my eldest is home from school today. He last night told me that his stomach was bothering him. He didn't eat most of his dinner. So, I decided that he was perhaps telling the truth and kept him home from school today. Now he is sitting up in his bed insisting that he is fine and he should get up and play. I, however, have been telling him that if he is sick then he needs to stay in bed and rest. If he is not sick, then he lied to me and he will be in trouble. As a result, his arguments that he is fine have quieted down.

I know he is bored. That was the plan. I decided last night if he was truly sick that rest would make him better. If he wasn't sick, then rest was going to bore him enough that he wasn't going to want to stay home from school again and lie about being sick. It is 9:30 am and we have had about 7 'Is it lunch time yet?' from him. He has his bear and the bucket if he feels sick to his stomach. Aside from that he's got nothing but his bed clothes. As a result, he is bored. Which is according to plan. It irritates me, mildly, that I have to sit at the couch and keep an eye on him rather than sit at the desk to write.

I have discovered that listening to music on headphones whilst typing has made for a more immersive experience, which equates to greater typing speed and inspiration. But, because I need to listen for him causing mischief, I can't do that right now. It is a bit frustrating. Still, I am attempting to do my work and get stuff going as I would any other day. I right now have a few bills to pay and to call in a few prescriptions for Beloved to pick up on his way home from work this evening. Aside from this, I have a sink full of dishes to wash and laundry to fold.

I was sick last week so I didn't get much housework done. As a result, I am playing catch up right now. I have been putting a bunch of stuff aside to focus on my writing. I am participating in NaNoWriMo again. I have met the 50K word count goal. I am actually close to 60K. But my plot is only half completed. Thus, my focus is on finishing the story by the end of the month rather than hitting a word count number. I also need to spend some time knitting because I've got Beloved's sweater only 1/4 of the way finished.

I have been doing some spinning over the last several days when I felt well enough. I am almost finished with the first batt of the raspberry pink fiber that my mother in law gave me last summer. It isn't as soft and as lush as the fiber of the same color that I used to start a scarf a while back. That is because the fiber content is different. That yarn is made from 50% merino, 30% tencel, and 20% silk, if I recall correctly. It was really nice to spin up and the first bit of yarn I ever spun using a distaff.

I have some fiber with the same content as this pink yarn. But it is in shades of grey. I posted a picture of it after Fiber Fest a little while back, you may have seen it. I am saving that to spin after I have finished the second batt of the raspberry pink merino. I don't know what I'm going to make with the stuff I'm spinning right now. I do think, however, I'm going to ply the singles from the two batts together on my kick spindle. I have fiber to comb or flick card but I just haven't gotten to it.

The spinning stuff is going to take a back seat to Yule gifts. I still have several things to finish up. I have decided not to make sweaters for the boys. If I finish Beloved's sweater by early December, I may make them new hats. I will, however, be buying them sweaters as gifts. They're outgrowing the ones they have from last year. I suspect that this winter is going to be as bitter as last winter was, thus the sweaters will be a necessity.

I have been working on a bag of fun stuff for one of my youngest nieces but I realized that what I gathered were all targeted at a lower age group than what she is in. So, I have to start that all over again. I don't know what exactly I am going to give her but I will figure something out. I will be ordering proof copies of my books soon and I intend to give some to my older nieces (and my cousin). I was really entertained to learn that one of the girls was super excited to discover that I am an author.

I honestly thought that everyone in the family knew this. Apparently this somehow got missed. I think she is going to be thrilled to get copies of my books. I have several people waiting for copies of book two. Now that I have gotten the last of the issues with printing handled, I will be getting hard copies to give as gifts to a few folks. I have a manuscript to finish that I wanted done by Yule. I don't know if I am going to accomplish that, to be honest. Getting sick last week put me behind schedule on the fantasy novel I'm working on. Which cuts into the time I have for working on the other project.

With Yule gifts still needing to be finished, I am going to have to put the manuscript on the back burner to get those done. Perhaps if I schedule my time properly, I will get some writing time in while I'm working on that. We'll see. In the meantime, I need to finish this post and get my chores done.