Thursday, January 31, 2008

De-stash and de school updates

Last week I did this:

Unwanted and unloved (but not unlovable) stash, boxed up and sent to the ladies at Interim House.

And yesterday I went overtown and took the DANTES exam for Human Resource Management. As I expected I passed, but not by as wide a margin as I'd expected. Partly because some of the questions on the exam were on areas not covered in the recommended study materials, and partly because my time in H.R. was for a very small company. So I'm all over the union stuff, and boy, do I know my harassment & discrimination issues, but international employees? No clue. But what's important is that I did pass, and that adds another 3 lower level credits to my school record. As a way to earn credit, it was fairly fast and cheap, so I'll be looking at other DANTES and also CLEP exams to see if they'll apply.

I didn't want to say anything about the trip ahead of time because the Weather Gods were feeling peevish and I didn't want to jinx myself and/or put myself on their bad side. (You think the Knitting Gods are fickle? They got nothin' on the Weather Gods.) And as it was I wouldn't exactly say they they were on my side - but I survived.  And since I couldn't read, knit, or even listen to a podcast on the way over - I had a little time to think. 

If you can keep your breakfast when all about you
Are losing theirs and barfing it near you,
If you can trust Dramamine, when ginger is not enough,
But drink the ginger tea too.

If you can force your jaws and stomach and bowels
To serve your turn long after they are done,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them:
'Hold on!'

If you can fill the unforgiving hour
With sixty minutes worth of clenched teeth,
Yours is the mainland and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be off the damn boat!

(With serious apologies to Rudyard Kipling!  And really, I only used three stanzas - but I could have gone all the way with this!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mit ideas, mitout a clue?

How does that expression go?  Something about a little knowledge being a dangerous thing?

Somehow, once I "got" the whole concept of how a thumb gusset works and how a thumb is knitted on a mitten, all sorts of possibilities occurred to me.  I mean, these fingerless gloves/wristwarmers/mitts/whatever you want to call em's, are essentially stretchy tubes with a thumb, yes? So theoretically, you could create one out of almost any stitch pattern that happens to catch your fancy, right? (If I am wrong about this do not tell me unless you will deliver chocolate with the bad news.)

It just so happens that a craptastically bad weather day of dark clouds, sideways rain, and churning seas is actually a great day to sit inside and knit so I decided to grab some leftover yarn and start testing a few of my ideas. 

Yeah, it may not look like much now.  But I'll get back to you.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Blues

Blue skies this morning:

Blue lantern at the end of my balcony:

Blue stairs up to the patio:

And a pretty sky blue Beaufort Hat:

Knitted for Megan and going out in the mail next week!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Havin' a Hat Attack

Did you ever see that George Carlin routine where he's talking about his recent health problems?  And in this great voice with really flat sounding A's he says, "I haddda hatt attack". Mind you, considering what George Carlin can do to the previously innocent sounding word, "cocktail", the words "myocardial infarction" come out sounding like something that ought to be illegal in at least 48 states.

But this is something much more fun.  This is:

Based on the model of Sock Wars, Hat Attack is some seriously competitive knitting. The idea is to knit a hat as fast as you can and mail it to your "Target" before you receive one from your "Assassin".  If you get a hat from your Assassin, you are considered dead, and must mail your work in progress and Target info to your Assassin so he or she can continue the killing spree. It starts to get a little confusing after that, but the people running the whole shebang, the "Oracle" and the "Arms Dealer" appear to have it under control so I think I'm going to give it a shot.

I like that instead of using an existing pattern the Arms Dealer is actually designing a new pattern just for this event, and although we won't get it until the start date of February 9th, we do get the gauge and yarn used (my beloved Lamb's Pride!).  It sounds like fun and I figure worst case scenario, I get a chance to try a new cable hat pattern and get a hat from someone else.  If you want to check it out, there's still time to sign up - the deadline is February 6!

Before all that gets started though, I'm going to try practicing a little project monogamy and get this little goodie finished:

Yes, it's another Beaufort Hat, even if I have to modify it to look good on me, I really do love that pattern and I expect I'll be knitting more of these, even possible spin-offs. (Beaufort Scarf? Beaufort Mitts?)  I mean, really if I could just keep a copy of the pattern, a skein of the LP, and the required needles stashed in a bag, I'd be ready for any event that needs a knitting project to get me through it!  ( about going to church on Sunday....)

Monday, January 21, 2008

The total cure

I've got just what you need. The total cure for post-holiday burnout, bad weather-related stress, and running out of quarters on laundry day.

If you've never tried Super International Pajama Day, why not give it a shot? Just imagine all the things you could accomplish without ever leaving your house or getting out of your PJs! Or even better, imagine doing nothing at all! For an entire day. In your pajamas. Could it get any better?

I am so all over this one. And yes, on that day I will even post whatever photos I can manage of my enjoyment and total immersion in SIPJ Day. And I have to believe there are others out there who are attracted to the idea of such bliss and are willing to sign on. C'mon, you know you wanna!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Outward Bound Cabled Mitts

First I'm going to say thanks to everyone who sympathized, offered helpful suggestions, or just plain ole got their yucks from my morning misadventures.  I have since relocated the decaf coffee to the back of the cupboard AND tied a bright piece of yarn to the bag.  I hope that will prevent any further mistakes.  Not stocking decaf coffee at all is not really an option for me right now.  I lurve the java and used to pound it down all day.  But for health reasons I had to cut back on the caffeine (you want to stick a needle where???) and I gotta tell ya - that wasn't fun.   So now I allow myself one fully leaded cup in the morning to jump start my brain and body (and ohhhh the rush...yes, indeed caffeine is a drug), and anything after that has to be decaf, whether at home or out and about.

With all my blithering about school and other non-essential areas of life, it seems like I don't post as many finished objects as I used to. But at long last we have a completed pair o' mitts:

The pattern is Carissa Browning's Cabled Fingerless Mitts. I took one liberty with the pattern, and that was to reverse the cables so they twist what I think of as "outwards".  So right now I'm calling these "Outward Bound Cabled Fingerless Mitts".  I used Plymouth Boku yarn in the Black Cherry colorway and while I love all their colors, I am starting to have a bit of an concern with that yarn, because it seems to have awfully short fibers and breaks way too easily. (Resulting in some extremely creative language.)

When I started out knitting these I truly did throw my matchy-matchy issues to the wind and was ready to embrace whatever color variations occurred whenever. Although it looks like I tried to get them to be another set of identical twins, I didn't do anything, they just turned out looking very much that way.

And when I started to knit the thumbs I only had one full run of the color variation left, so I couldn't even be tempted to make them the same color.  One is darker brown/burgundy, and the other one is a lighter rust color.

Even though I went down a needle size to get gauge (resulting in a very dense but warm fabric!) I realized very quickly that they would be too large for me.  However, they are perfect in size, color and style for my wonderful Sock Fairy!  And after all she has done to keep my feets covered in warm, colorful knitted goodness, it's really nice to be able to give something back.  It also seems like in her hands (or more accurately, ON them) these mitts will get to see more of the world so that makes the name even more appropriate!

Apparently she does like them, and gives them her version of what around here we usually refer to as, "Two Paws Up"!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The third variable

I've been thinking that my energy level in the mornings seemed so random lately. Some days I'd be feeling alert, healthy, and normal, other mornings it was like my ass was dragging a mile behind me. And there didn't appear to be any correlation with how I'd slept the night before. Finally one morning as I sat on the couch musing over the possibilities and contemplating this most perfect nectar of the gods:

It hit me.

I went to the cupboard and this is what I find:

Do you see the problem? No?
How about now?

Yes, indeedy, these two bags of coffee are remarkably similar! Except of course for that oh-so-crucial magic ingredient...caffeine. So what are the chances that on those down and draggy days I grabbed the wrong bag and started my day off with the unleaded formula? Pretty good, I'm thinking. And just in case you are feeling smug and superior, and that you would never do anything so foolish, let me show you what those bags of coffee really look like in the morning:

Okay? 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A is for Avalon

So this is how I decided to start.  The instructions for the ABC-Along say, "Photos should reflect the personality of the photographer, the subject should be of importance or meaning to them..." 

Well then, this is should fit the bill.  Moving to Avalon changed my life forever. It's so much more than just a change of address.  Living here alters you in ways you could never anticipate, or even when it is explained to you, understand until you experience it.  I am a different person for having lived here and even if I were to leave, some part of this place would go with me.  

This is my tenth year here, and I want to spend it remembering what brought me here.  Several years ago I was standing with two other women when someone asked why we first came here. 

Woman #1 said, "Well, I came here with a guy, and then when he left, I stayed." 
Woman #2 said, "I moved here, met a man, and we started a family."  
I said, "I came here for me."

And it was true.  I came here on vacation - with friends, family, and even alone.  I came back and I kept coming back.  To a place where just steps bring you from the wide open blue ocean to climbing green hills.  In spring, summer, fall, and winter.  And one day I suddenly thought, when you find a place in the world that you love that much - shouldn't that be where you live all the time? Wouldn't that be the start of a good life and what would that be like?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Now I know my ABC's

Well I am kind of bummed that I didn't sign up for the Hot Cocoa swap, from what I've been seeing out there in blogworld it looks like fun. But I did decide to join the 2008 ABC Along. I watched other people do it last year and thought it might be fun to try. (And we all know what a fiend for buttons I am.) The concept is fairly simple, just post a photo to your blog and the group's Flickr account of something with some personal meaning that corresponds to the letter of the alphabet for that time period. The schedule is posted ahead of time and there's still a few days to sign up so if this sounds interesting to you - check it out!

Now I'm going to apoologize in advance to anyone who reads this blog from someplace with an actual winter season. The kind that includes temperatures at the lower end of the Fahrenheit scale and mandatory long underwear. So if you are currently mulling over the fact that "snow" is actually a four-letter word, you may want to leave now.

Anybody still here? Anybody?

Okay, then here it goes - today the weather went freaky warm & dry and it's expected to be in the 70's to the end of the week. Wheeeeee!!!!! Time to de-fuzz and put those fish belly white legs out there! I know it's only going to last a few days - but I'll take what I can get. It is just so nice to be able to take my books and materials outside to study, it almost makes Statistics more bearable. (Not really.)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Flickr is WHAT?

First, my Saturday Sky:

There was a weird fog bank this morning and I tried getting some sort of cool photo but they all just ended up looking like random fuzziness. Not too interesting, and definitely not cool. So you will have to settle for a beautiful blue sky.

I actually had more planned to post today, however I ran into a small snag. Because, get this - Flickr is having a massage. I sh*t you not, that's what it says on Flickr's home page. I understand that they are working on upgrades or something and this is a programmer's idea of being cute but somehow, it just ain't working for me. (Hey Flickr - when do I get mine?)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Have you seen these?

The other day I was sorting through a stack of magazines and catalogs that had apparently mushroomed out of control and was taking up valuable real estate in my small home.  I found this cute ad:

If you've seen it you probably recognize it. (And if you were a knitter, you probably had the same thought I did, didn't you?)  Essentially the ad is for a credit card, and the woman pictured is standing in her kitchen, and saying that she doesn't cook, but she does love clothes, so this is what she went out and did with her credit card.

Turned her kitchen into a walk-in closet!  A few years ago I met a woman who doesn't cook, and she needed more storage in her tiny kitchen, so she had the oven removed and turned that into more cabinet space. At the time I thought that was just brilliant and I still do.  But this really takes that to a whole new level!  So right about now those who are struggling with yarn stash storage issues are thinking, "Hmmm...."  (Yeah, so about those gravy boats and crystal glasses on the top shelf - you use those how often?)

And this ad also caught my attention:

It's for the hat the woman is wearing.  Apparently this was really popular over Christmas, and sold out in many locations, even on the company website.  The name of this much coveted chapeau is the "Crazy Stripe Crochet Hat".  Do you see the problem with that?

No?  Let me get in a little closer:

Uh-hunh, you gots it.  That ain't crochet.  It's knit.  I'm guessing a 2x2 rib?

I mean, we who routinely utilize two pointy sticks to create lovely, warm knitted goodness are used to the fact that people who do not knit or crochet often can't tell the difference between knitting and crochet.  And I'm sure crocheters would agree.  But for the love of little green frogs - this is a major ad campaign for a hot holiday season item sold by a big name brand.  I know "Crazy Stripe Crochet" is more alliterative than the truth, but puh-leeze. 

(Oh, and to the folks at More Magazine who sent me that nice introductory subscription offer? ya mind?  Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  Back off bee-otch! )

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Trials and tribulations with pointy sticks

I don't want to go so far as to say that my knitting mojo has deserted me, but it has been a trying few days.  (And yes, this post title could easily be a blog name - but if you swipe it, please give me a little credit - 'kay?)

I'm temporarily stalled on the Cabled Fingerless Mitts, because I cannot seem to grasp the difference between the two different directions of the pattern's increase stitch, and when to use one or the other. (Make 1?  Make 1 what??? 1 to the left? 1 to the right? 1 upside your head maybe???) This, is as I said, just a temporary problem and the project is on hold until I can meet with my knitting guru (A.K.A. "mom") for some proper instruction.

So in the meanwhile I tried casting on the Villandry Scarf with some of that lovely alpaca I recently scored from Let's Knit in Gardena.  Now, I've swatched that pattern before, with some acrylic I had in the charity knitting bins, and determined that I did like it, but it just needed a softer yarn.  (Like alpaca, right?) But last night I worked the first 9 rows, which is just a little more than two repeats of the overall stitch pattern and could clearly see that it looked like crap.  I took a few minutes to fully appreciate it's crappiness and reflect on what could be done to remedy the situation, theorized that smaller needles might be the solution, and frogged it. If I'm in the right frame of mind this evening I'll collect a sampling of needle sizes and give it another shot.

And the last, but possibly the worst episode in a tragic saga of knitting gone wrong, I finished the Beaufort hat:

And you're wondering what's wrong aren't you?  Because this hat is beautiful.  The color is great, the stitch pattern is wonderful, and the perfect combination of just enough variety to keep me entertained but not so much to drive me nuts.  This hat is so freakin' gorgeous, it even looks good inside out:

But what you will not see is a picture of this hat on me.  Because on me - it looks like ass. Really, it does. (And NO I will not model it for you!)

This makes me just so incredibly sad.  And to add insult to injury, it is quite small, and highly unlikely to fit anyone else but me. (Or perhaps a 12 year old with an equally pointy head.)  Upon further consideration, (and a second cup of coffee), I think the reason it looks so incredibly heinous on me is that this particular style doesn't have any brim at all.  It does have a 1 inch band of 3x3 ribbing that could conceivably become part of a brim.  So I'm going to get creative, and attempt to pick up the 72 stitches on the cast-on edge, and knit me a good, healthy 3x3 ribbed brim.  Best case scenario is that the hat actually looks good on me and we both live happily ever after.  Worst case scenario? Viva la rana!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Gettin' schooled

(Please be advised, the following post contains absolutely no pictures, not even pretty yarn or cute kitties, and may bore you spitless.)

I just find it, well I'm not sure if "ironic" is the right word, okay interesting, that a course titled "Literacy in Elementary Education" which is about teaching kids to read, actually has more freakin' required reading material in it than any other class I've ever taken. Granted, this is a year's worth of credit for one class, so I wouldn't be grousing if it was just double the usual amount, or even a little more than double.  No, this sucker has quadruple the amount of reading. As in 2 chapters in Book A, 3 chapters in Book B, 2 chapters in Book C, and 2 chapters in Book D. Perhaps if I was taking this class with the intent to become a teacher I'd be pleased at the apparent wealth of information on the topic. But for those of us just desperately grabbing every scrap of applicable credit to fast track a degree?  It's definitely overkill. (Damn I hope I can sell all these books when I'm done.)

Just this past weekend I finally finally finally finished the writing assignment for my Psych class and submitted it.  I had actually forgotten that this class had a couple of short essay questions assignments, was just zipping through the lessons, and then I turned the page and saw the first one.  (Please insert sound of screeching brakes here.) And then I flashed back and remembered that the reason I chose this particular Psych class over the other more interesting one that would have fulfilled the same requirement was that this one only had written sections on the assignments.  The other one had them on the exams.  Eeeeep! I mean, I'm no stranger to writing.  In the past few years I've cranked out press releases, advertising blurbs, newsletter articles - you name it.  But whether I've done it at home or at work, one thing remains constant - I talk out loud while I'm doing it.  And I don't think that's going to go over to well with the folks at the testing center, do you?

I still have to get through a midcourse exam for Statistics.  That one makes me incredibly nervous, and actually almost slightly nauseous.  I can't explain why - it just does.  Rationally I understand that as long as I am prepared I should do fine.  But on this subject rational mind appears to have fled the premises.  I am trying to lure it into returning by a commitment of one hour of studying per day, a nice big stack of flash cards, and a sample exam.  I'll have to get back to you on this matter - but please keep your fingers crossed.

Late today, after 3 attempts and 20 minutes on hold I finally got through to the academic advisor team at my school.  (This is actually unusual - most times I get someone right away.)  The two courses I completed still weren't showing on my summary record (those cute little 100% progress bars!) and while one was from an outside institution and could take a few weeks to process what with mailing transcripts and such, the other was directly from my school and since I had a printout record of my score within moments of completing the final exam, it didn't seem too unreasonable to expect them to know about it in at least a day or so!  Not surprisingly, once the advisor and I got to talking she had no problem updating the records for me and said they'd be done by tomorrow.  If I hadn't specifically asked about it I expect I'd still be waitin' and wonderin' a month from now.  Essentially, the squeaky wheel got greased. (I shall resolve to squeak more in the future, at this point in my life I can use all the greasing I can get.)

The other reason I called the academic advisor was to get their official approval for a couple more classes and I'm very happy that they agreed to the ones I requested.  The last advisor I had talked to suggested CLEP or DANTES exams as potential sources of credit, and/or looking at areas where I already had some knowledge or experience.  I took her advice and will be signing up for the DANTES exam in Human Resources Management, 'cause guess what I used to do for a living? Uh-hunh, you got it.  Although I never became "Management" (because I didn't have a f***ing degree) it shouldn't take too much studying to pass the exam and something about getting credit for that amuses me.   I did see a CLEP exam listed for Spanish and my level of fluency is way too low for it.  But it gave me another idea so I went hunting and found an elementary Spanish class in the distance education division at Lousiana State University.  They had a fair selection of classes, a reasonable price and (major kudos) the same cost for in-state and out of state residents.   Based on the course overview it looks like the first semester covers what little Spanish I already have, so I ought to be able to get through it quickly.  The second semester is where I'd start learning something new.  And the really cute thing is that while LSU does have online courses, this particular subject is handled old-school style - we doin' a correspondence course now!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Saturday and Stash Enhancement

Since I blew it last weekend, I'm going to start with today's Saturday Sky:

Since quitting my job and going back to school my days are sometimes out of sync - weekdays or weekends it's all the same to me. Some days have cruise ships in port and people on the streets, and some days don't. I rely on little things to connect me to the actual day of the week, like when the trash cans need to be put out, or my cart moved to avoid getting ticketed, or the need to point my camera up at the sky and take a decent shot!

As days go, today was really top of the line. I slept in a little late, did some knitting, studying, and got all my little errands & chores done. I went for a long walk with a friend I don't get see often enough followed by a drink and a bite to eat with another friend. Now I get to end the day sprawled out on the couch with my laptop, a fluffy kitty, and pretty yarn. Do I need more than this?

Oh, and about the pretty yarn? Well for starters when I was overtown on Thursday I sorta fell off the wagon. I had time to kill before my exam and the testing center was in Gardena, so I planned to check out a local yarn shop I had heard of from Ellen Bloom. I arrived at Let's Knit on Western Avenue just as they were opening and had the place to myself for most of the time I was there. It was ummmm....interesting. I've never been to a yarn shop where so much of the stock was bagged up in plastic. It was really hard for me to get the "thrill" that I'm looking for when I visit mainland yarn shops. You know, the ability to move from shelf to shelf and bin to bin - touching, fingering, fondling, squeezing all the different fibers. 'Cause, hey - if all I wanted to do was look - I can stay home and flip through catalogs and magazines, right?

But I also don't believe in judging a book by it's cover, or a shop by your initial walk-in impression. I spent a little time poking around in all the corners and finally, stuffed towards the back of a bottom shelf behind a table I found this:

Yes, indeedy. Classic Elite Inca Alpaca. At a dollar or two less than I've seen it elsewhere. (Yes, I've been jonesing for this stuff for a while now and stalking it for sales.) I actually called someone on my cell, to see if they could throw a verbal lasso over my credit card, but I was completely out of luck. (Fiendish enablers!)

Then today I finally went and picked up my mail and was excited to find a package from tienne knits:

I entered a contest on her blog in mid-December and was one of 25 lucky peeps to win some yarn! She asked us include a brief mention of what sort of colors we preferred and as I recall I told her I'd take the scary bright extreme color combo that no one else wanted because I wasn't afraid of bright colors. (And she totally took me at my word - thanks tiennie!) So she sent me Spunky Eclectic's October sock yarn club colorway - "Goblin Eyes". It's a handpainted superwash BFL made up of purples, golds, and greens and I love it madly. Wouldn't you?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Two FO's and one WIP

Before more time goes by I need to get caught up on a couple of completed knitting projects. ("Finished Objects" for those not fluent in Knitspeak) On New Year's Day I finished my first pair of wristwarmers:

I was almost ridiculously uptight about getting them to match, wanting identical rather than fraternal twins. And apparently my efforts paid off! I read a comment posted somewhere, about how pairs of things such as socks or gloves don't need to look like each other, they really just need to like each other! So on the next pair I knit, I'm going to do my best to let go of my matchy-matchy obsession.

I also finished a hat:

It's made from Lion Brand Homespun, in the Coral Gables colorway. It's a very simple pattern and I had some ideas about how to modify it a bit, but I wanted to try knitting it straight the first time before I started dinking around with it. (Imagine that.) And it is wonderfully soft and cozy, but a very snug fit. It fits my pointy little head but would be too tight for anyone else. So I'm going to have to take a little time to work out re-sizing it and figuring how much yarn will really be needed.

I wanted to cast on the Cabled Fingerless Mitts by Carissa Browning, but in reading through the pattern I decided that it was a little trickier than I first realized (for me anyway). I still want to do it, just the timing was bad, because on Thursday I planned to go over to the mainland to take an exam, and this project just wasn't hitting me as "boat knitting". So I decided to start something else in my queue, and as we headed across the water towards Long Beach I worked on the Beaufort Hat:

And actually got quite a bit done:

Last night before I went to bed I tried on what I had on the needles so far (again, for those not fluent in Knitspeak, a "Work In Progress") and this hat is also a tight fit. It's going to need my "special personal block and stretch technique". (Take a shower with the hat in the steamy bathroom but do not get it wet, then place hat on freshly washed damp head and wear all day. By the end of the day you have weird hair and a perfectly blocked hat.)

Oh, and the exam? Aced it! (Much to my surprise). The only exam appointment I could get was at 1:00pm, but since we are in the middle of our winter boat schedule the only way for me to get there on time was to go over on the 8:00am boat. And the only boat home I could possible make it to after the exam was the last one of the day, 5:45pm. So I had a whole heck of a lot of time to kill on either end of the day! But I believe I'll sign off here and save that as blog fodder for another post.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Studying solo...or not

I've updated my school progress bars, which included adding a new one for Literacy in Elementary Education.  It's not a subject I'd ever in a million years envisioned myself studying and I'm quite happy to admit that my sole motivation is that it's worth 6 upper level credits.  I also got cute, and linked the subject names to a little more info, like the course outline or syllabus, just in cast someone happened to be interested.  (I know, highly unlikely.)

Later this week I'm going overtown to take another final exam, and that should put an end to another subject - Research Methods in Psychology.  This is different because instead of being an online course with regular assignments and quizzes to submit, it's just one big whompin' exam.  Literacy in Elementary Education is the same, one single exam for the whole enchilada. I mean, I do have an exam content outline, and recommended study materials - at least two or three textbooks, but that's it.  It's really the ultimate independent study.

Sometimes I wonder how different this would be if I was able to communicate with other people who were taking the same classes, or studying for the same exams.  Would that make it better? Or easier?  Over the holidays a few of my old friends were in town and referred to me as "being a hermit" and I'm betting there's plenty more people thinking that and not saying it.  I know I spend a lot of time alone, but it seems unavoidable because aside from the fact that I interact with less people now because I'm not working, really, most people aren't interested in talking about what's in my head most days.  

If you'd like to talk about what a politically astute artist and survivor David is and whether or not he could be considered to have been powerful enough to snub the power of the papacy - I'm game.  If you can help me remember how to find the least squares regression line or understand the difference between top down and bottom up processing - great!  If you have any thoughts on the Gestalt theory of object perception and whether their principles  have any contemporary relevance, I'd really like to hear them.  (Gettin' the idea yet?  I can bore people spitless in no time flat.)

As much as I'm used to going it alone, I do have one study partner:

She is very attentive:

And occasionally quite helpful:

Okay, I agree. The right answer is "E - none of the above".