Sunday, October 27, 2013

Its been awhile

since my last post, but much has happened, and life sorta kinda got complicated.  TH has had issues with his arms/hands/upper back for a while now, and he thought it was just wear and tear and a smidgen of old age added.  After visiting a local doc in Ak, the bad news came down, he had severe issues with his spine in his neck.  A flurry of phone calls, and his appointment was set up for October 21.  Yes, after the Mongolian trip.  Yes, after the boys and I attempted to talk him into canceling.  Some might say TH is stubborn, I'd have to agree with them.

I flew down to Az on wednesday, and TH drove the car.  No he wouldnt let me ride/drive with him.  If you are wondering why re-read the sentence in blue.  He managed to get as far as Salt Lake and just couldnt drive any longer.  The pain was to intense and he couldnt sleep much at night to recoup.  Luckily his best friend since elementary school lives there.  And even more luckily his best friend's sister was up from Phoenix, and offered to drive George the rest of the way.  So best friend popped TH on a plane Saturday afternoon and George showed up on Monday night.  Being without George caused over a hundred dollars in taxi fees to the clinic and back!  But at least it saved TH from driving the rest of the way down.

After a flurry of tests Monday and Tuesday they had their game plan on what to do for TH.  A massive bone spur was pinching his spinal column and he had an over growth of one of his "windows" where the nerves branch out to the arms.  They fixed that up, but there is still a question of if he will need a second surgery, we find out on the 6th of November.  While the MRI says he has two other less troublesome spots, they dont want to operate without being able to physically pin point where the trouble is coming from.  Where the tingling, numbness or weakness is located tells the doctors where the malfunction is.

See on his MRI the really narrow bit?  Looks a bit like an hour glass, thats where they operated.  I took a picture of the monitor while awaiting for the doctor.

The insurance is being unhelpful, and he has lodged a complaint with the member service fella at the mine, he is supposed to call back Monday.  Every single credit card is maxed out, the surgery cost us $14,000!  When supposedly we are only ever supposed to pay $4,000 out of pocket.  So we shall see.

So, while he is healing and awaiting the verdict for possibly yet another surgery, at the same price point I might add, he is basically helpless.  He is not allowed to pick up anything over 5 lbs.  If the water pitcher is full he cant pick it up to pour out a glassful.  He isnt supposed to reach up or down to pick stuff up.  Added into this is he has a full raft of fairly heavy duty pain meds on board, so he's sleepy and rather queasy. 

Anything he needs, I have to fetch for him.  He can get dressed on his own, but needs to leave the door open when he takes a shower, as the heat of the water makes him dizzy, and I've had to steady him so he doesnt fall.  Getting a jar of pickles from the fridge is tough for him.  Until TH begins to feel better, I'll be MIA.

Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAY!!  sorry i missed your big day.   

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mongolia Ho!

Saving as much money as possible as been theme for the Honko family for the last 3 years.  TH has wanted to hunt stone sheep in Canada ever since he was about 8.  And so a chunk of our money was sent to a guide in Canada, months went by without a contract, finally getting the guide on the phone, it took him awhile to remember someone that had sent him $10,000!  It's been quite a while since I've seen TH that furious.  After a shouting match he finally got his point across that he wanted his money returned to him ASAP!  Now to say TH was let down, would be putting it mildly, he was super depressed, he had already begun dreaming about scrambling over the mountains in British Columbia, tenting out and seeing stone sheep and if he shot one thats good, and if not, thats ok too.  Its the experience he loves not the killing per say.

After talking it over, I pushed him to call an outfitter and see what would be possible to hunt for the same-ish price.  That's how Mongolian ibex became a household word and main topic of conversation. 

The best part about this hunt was that it was nearly 1/3 the price!  Score!  Somewhere the decision was made to invite 3rd son to hunt and youngest to go along, but not to hunt. 

The airport at Ulan Bator

 Then a flight on a prop plane to Hovd

Where the outfitters did a quick run thru a store that TH said was like a Costco.
And then off in a Jeep for a 7 hour ride to get to the mountains and hunt.

Check out the sharp drop off from the newly paved portion and the "shoulder"!!  This is the interpreter out for a smoke break.   The Russians are building a road from Russia to China through Mongolia.  While the Mongolian's despise the Russians their hatred for the Chinese is all encompassing.  China was never EVER mentioned with the word fucking in front of it. 

The bactrian camel used to be fairly plentiful, but with the advent of cars and trucks they are no longer needed, and their numbers are dwindling. 

A lovely yet barren landscape.  The pile of rocks on the mountain is a dry stone coral for yaks and sheep where they spend the nights surrounded by dogs to keep the wolves at bay.

The ger is still a popular housing choice for nomads and can actually been seen in Ulan Bator sitting quietly next to an apartment building.  TH and the boys were asked if they know the reason for the doors of the ger to face south, they guessed as something to do with weather.  No, that's where our enemies come from, fucking Chinese!  

As you can see, wood is in short supply, so the bits of wood are just to get the fire started, but its fueled primarily with yak dung and coal.
A yak getting milked by one of the ladies who live in the area.

Back to Ulan Bator.  If you look close, next to the concrete ger is an actual ger, complete with fence and outhouse.  Tis off to the right, just on the edge of the photo.
The buildings look rather ramshackle to our western eyes, but with limited equipment and a population wanting to leave the small towns and far flung nomad areas, buildings are being tossed up higgledy piggledy.   And after posing for a photo, the fellow with his arms crossed demanded money..
The traffic is completely out of control, often gridlocked for hours.  Capturing the police and ambulances, the interpreter told Th that quite often people die in ambulances stuck in traffic.  Ulan Bator is growing quickly but doesn't yet have the infrastructure to handle the current population.
The Mongolian Parliament building.  That's Genghis Khan sitting, and his two guards on horse.

Not sure of this fellow's name, but he freed the Mongols from the oppression of Chinese rule in 1912.
Gives a whole new outlook to the Disney film Mulan, yeah?
The piece of the wall is whats left of the summer palace.  The colorful buildings are the museum, where no photos are allowed to be taken, nor do they sell postcards, a photo book, etc. 

   The Blue Sky Hotel.  Lovely isn't it?  They are trying to attract tourism by offering luxury accommodations.  Mongolia is trying ever so hard to wrench themselves out of 3rd world status, but it is an uneven effort.  When TH and the boys would order something from the menu what they heard mostly was, "No!" with a sharp finger wag, that meant they were out of that.  Most of the items from many of the menus around Ulan Bator seemed to be out of many menu items.
Funnily enough, the most popular chain restaurant in Mongolia, is an American company!  Wild yeah?
Mongolian .money.  The fella in the odd hat is the guy who freed them from the Chinese.  Tis Genghis on the bottom bill, and that hole isnt a hole but has some sort of plastic imbedded with a faint printing.  The 20,000 Togrog is worth $11.78 USD.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Sock Post

I didn't realize that knitting socks was such an curious thing to do, until I went out in public (gasp!) with my knitting recently.  So, I thought I'd document the building of a pair of socks, the way I do it.  Not the way most, or some do it, but me.  I tend to do things a bit different, which I'll cover when I get to that point. 

Items for sock building:
 Circular and double pointed knitting needles
 a stitch marker
 measure tape
my trusty pattern
and yeah yarn

After snapping a few photos of the knitting in progress, I realized that scale is nearly impossible to decipher from a photo.  I tried taking several photos to get a good scale, but in the end, tis the same thickness of a piece of spaghetti.

I knit my socks toe up for several reasons, all of them being its easier.  Yeah, I trend towards easy peasy rather than tricky and involved at least in sock world.  Cause really, they are SOCKS!  I stuff em in my shoes, I could care less what people think of my socks!  So, the cast on is super cool, and EP (easy peasy) however, it really doesnt do well on DPN (double pointed needles) as their isnt any give to DPN'S made of wood or aluminum and its quite tricky getting another needle in that wee space. 

And as you can see from this next photo, the cable connecting the two points on a circular needle is quite flexible.

I continue on this way with the circulars due to having to increase one stitch at the beginning and end of both needles every other row, and on DPN's I kept getting lost.... where the fuck am I? rip rip, begin again.  The wee jewel thingy is a stitch marker showing me where the beginning is so I know when I've made a round.  The sock is a circle, more or less, and smarter knitters I'm sure could just look and keep track.  Thats way to much work for this lazy knitter, no guessing or close looking for me!

Whew!  Finally done with the increasing portion of the sock and can use DPN's just one circular needle left!  I dont enjoy knitting with the circulars due to the amount of pulling that cable thru to get the point where you want it!  GRRR......

So, I'm all happy knitting along to my latest Korean TV show, yeah I've learned to knit to foreign movies/tv!  Anyway, some stitches kept getting stuck on one of the needles, and as there are 4 in permanent play with one doing the escorting of old stitches into new ones, I never knew which one it was.  Then I heard a fatal sound, crack and the needle broke!  Weep!  Wail!  I LOVED this set of needles! 

I caught the stitches on one of the circulars and knitting had to wait until the next day when new needles could be bought.  Well.  I thought I'd caught all the stitches, turns out nope I didn't.  To make matters worse, I didnt notice it for several rows, and by that time the stitches had been quite happily unraveling.  The two markers are holding the stitches from unraveling any further until I could knit around to that section of the sock for a fix.  A quick repair and I continued on.

All done with the foot, it measures 6 inches, so ready for the gusset and the heel turn.  Which is a bit of knitting magic and makes a cool cup thingy!  Now, this is one area where I'm really a weird sock knitter.  The front of the sock isnt knitted during the entire heel turn and heel, the stitches just hang out and wait until the heel is finished, beginning the gusset I move to the circulars for the same reason I do on the toe, its easier to keep track of where I'm at.  I knit the first pass of the heel turn onto a DPN leaving the edge stitches on their circular.  Why?  That way when I do all my decreases I dont have to keep count, I just knit until there is one stitch on the needle and turn, and repeat.  I have two circular needles and 2 DPN's.  It's sorta kinda crowded, but it works for me, the anti-counter!

This is the heel all finished.  The row of stitches running away from the heel is the gusset, this is where extra stitches are added to make room for your heel.  The heel is double layer to keep from wearing out so quickly on the back of ones shoes, and is a decrease area to bring the stitch count back to the same as the foot.  Now, there are complicated maths to build socks for any foot or ankle issue.  Luckily for math lacking me, I have normal feet/ankles.

I use a ribbing that unstretched looks not like ribbing.  Knit 2, Purl has I think superior stretch and rebound ability over many other combos.  Unstretched



Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Precipice :

How Racism, Self-Indulgence and the Right's Culture War is Driving the World to the Brink

Congress hasn't passed a full budget since President Obama was elected in 2009.  It has been a cobbled together mish-mash of various bills to keep the lights on.  Even after massive gerrymandering, writing voting laws that disenfranchise primarily Democrats the Republicans still couldn't manage to wrestle control of the White House out of the hands of the Democrats, but out of a black man hands at that. 

The "birther" noise was nothing more than racism, plain and simple.  The racial divide in our country is shrinking, I think at this point more Americans are color blind than those that aren't.  Yes, there is still a huge swath of the south that is mired in racism, hatred of Blacks, Asians, Latinos and Arabs and Native Americans.  That is the correlation point of why those states are the poorest, rate lowest in education and highest in underage mothers, at least that's my opinion.  While white southerns sit and blame the lack of financial resources on the "War Between the States", it's hatred of all things not white that holds them back both financially and socially.

 While 88% of Romney's votes were from whites, 56% of the President's votes were from whites, showing that a great proportion of white voters didn't see a black man, but a man who had great leadership possibilities.  Shocked that a black man won, the right-wing lost no time in attempting to smear the President with the label of Muslim, as somehow that makes a difference?  The time is coming when we will elect a person into the Oval Office who isn't a Christian, and its none to soon for me.  

Nothing is more mean spirited than a cheater who doesn't win.  Yelling loudly that President Obama doesn't have a popular mandate, hoping that most American's won't realize that 51% of the vote is a mandate, and a two time mandate winner at that.  After the election, Republican's gathered for a post mortem in shock and dismay.  How could their whiter than white candidate have lost?  He is the poster boy for all things right wing!  No abortions!  No equal marriage!  No health care, unless you deserve it!  No safety net!  The list of things that most civilized countries believe aren't hand outs, but plain and simple human rights. 

Since they couldn't cheat their way to a win, they have done nothing since the election for the country's well being.  Unless you count trying different ways to vote down the ACA, and restrict abortion rights as being good for our country.  They haven't passed a single solitary job bill, even after listening to voters at Town Hall meetings decry the lack of jobs that offer a livable wage.  I grew up poor and minimum wage was unlivable on then, its even more so now.   All they have done is whine and cry and attempt to thwart the President at each and every turn, which has awarded Congress with a 10% approval rating!  Go Republicans, You Rock!

In attempting to keep the extreme far right happy,  Republicans have embarked on a massive culture war against GLBT'S,  women's rights, and any religion that isn't Christian, and in doing so are painting themselves into a corner with no viable way out.  The culture warriors rail against GLBT folk, loudly as the rest of America is drifting into the belief that marriage is a civil right, not a gift bestowed only upon certain citizens.  While Americans as a whole are not long term attentive  listeners to political rhetoric, we seem to be tuning them out more and more often as they make less and less sense.  I've read remarks about Hinduism and Buddhism being called new age religions.  Wow guys, have you ever read a history book?  Attacking science because it doesn't line up with recent religious doctrine, has led to an extreme dumbing down of our students.  Only 15% of Americans believe in "Godless" evolution!  A full 46% of Americans believe in Creationism, how one earth did we sink to this level of not understanding basic science? 

While their posturing to the right wing press, and pandering to the tea party only affected our country is indefensible enough, now fear of America's shut down is leaching around the world, leaving the door wide open for our favorite foes to fill the power gap, Russia and China.  These uncertainty quakes are beginning to open small fissures in both the financial markets and from a defense stand point for countries we defend, Japan, South Korea and Israel, among others.  Is that what this current crop of Republicans want is for Russia and China to become world powerhouses without any brake to hold them back?  If the Republican party doesn't pull their head out of their collected asses soon, we could see a world wide depression that could spark yet another world war.   Rumblings in Greece are remarkably similar to Germany in the 1930's  both due to extreme financial hardship.  Golden Dawn is hampering the government of Greece and at the last report I read, have possibly infiltrated the military.

Instead of using the elephant to represent the GOP, I'm thinking this is more realistic....