The UUA has been working hard to get Unitarian Universalism into cyberspace, both as an institution and as individuals. UU Planet collects all kinds of video related to or produced by Unitarian Universalists. The Reverend Shana Lynngood, associate minister at All Souls church in Washington DC, was interviewed for an “I Believe” segment several years ago. Now the show is available here:
I Believe (Shana Lynngood).

For all the people whose poll-watching for two years of US campaigning left them desperate for political intrigue, this is way better than Obama’s cabinet picks:

Ever since I served in Canada, I’ve tried to make a point of keeping track of Canada–major issues, political events, that sort of thing. But what with Mumbai’s crisis and the economy and the rollout of a number of new church projects, I’d sort of lost track. So imagine my surprise when I popped over to catch up on Yarn Harlot‘s writing and saw her PPPs at the bottom of a post: “If you’re Canadian, can you believe what’s happening?”. I promptly felt guilty for letting my Canadian tracking slack, and popped over to the Ottawa Citizen for a look at Canadian news.

Turns out Prime Minister Harper, recently reelected with one of the lowest-ever Canadian voter turnouts (precariously close to some of our US HIGHEST voter turnouts) has lost the confidence of Parliament. Now ordinarily, when a PM is messing up, the House of Commons calls a vote of no-confidence, in which everyone votes on whether or not they think the PM should remain the PM. If the PM loses, this means another election.

Strange things sometimes happen as a result. In India in 2000 there was such a vote, the PM lost, they had an election, and THE SAME PARTY won, meaning that they ended up electing the guy who had just lost the vote of no-confidence.

All this is much more exciting than our usual politics because in most countries with a parliamentary system, they have lots of parties. So apparently in this case the Liberals (moderately liberal) and the NDP (more liberal than the Liberals) have gotten the support of the Bloc Quebecois (did I spell that right?) which is a party whose primary goal has historically been the secession of Quebec and whose liberal-conservative identity tends to be a little hard to discern, at least for an outsider like me. This makes them a coalition majority, more than capable of unseating the sitting PM if they all vote together. And they’re all upset about Harper’s handling of the economic crisis and apparently over the government’s plan to pull funding for all political parties.

That’s all normal politics in a parliamentary system. Here’s the kicker: apparently Harper is asking the Governor General to suspend parliament so that he will not be subjected to a no-confidence vote.

What?! Who’s the GG? The Governor General has a job that we don’t really have here in the States. The GG is the Queen’s representative in Canada. She (in this case) is also the head of state. In the US we roll “head of state” and “head of government” into one job, and we call that person the President. In Canada they figured that cutting ribbons and representing the country at formal affairs and being commander-in-chief of the armed forces really might require a different set of skills than wrangling with Parliament over the latest economic relief package (although they do sometimes cross over–Harper is going to cut a ribbon at a new Toyota plant this week). So they split them up. The head of government is chosen by the parliament (by tradition and by default, the leader of the party that wins the majority of the seats in the House of Commons). Technically the head of state in Canada is still the Queen, but the Queen gives power and permission to the GG to take care of things without consulting her all the time. You can read more about her here. She is appointed by the Queen at the recommendation of the Prime Minister, but then serves independent of the PM and at her majesty’s pleasure, although terms tend to correspond with the terms of Prime Ministers. (Wikipedia offers more here.

So one of the GG’s primary jobs is to see that there is always a functioning government in place in Canada, which is why Harper is appealing to her to suspend Parliament.

At any rate, some very interesting things are afoot with our neighbors to the north. That will teach me to get behind on my reading. If you want a really in-depth, thorough primer (and you don’t mind some knitting content) read the comments on this post.

Last Thursday, religious leaders supporting marriage equality in Maine held four simultaneous press conferences to make public our position on the issue. We got coverage in the Bangor Daily News, the Ellsworth American, the Portland Press Herald, and a few other papers. But media is no longer confined to print and broadcast. A friend recently wrote to me on Facebook to congratulate me on being quoted on Pam’s House Blend, an “online magazine in the reality-based community”. Read it here. Thanks, Pam! With blogs and the internet, anything that really matters can become national news.

According to the bylaws of the UUA, the Principles and Purposes must be reviewed regularly (and changed, if necessary). We have been overdue for our latest overhaul, and the Commission on Appraisal has been hard at work for the last two years or more drafting an updated version of Article II, where the Principles and Purposes reside. The new revisions are now available! Go here:

click through to the document after reading their introduction, and then give them your feedback. Comments here are closed to encourage you to reply directly to the COA, which can actually do something with your opinions. Enjoy!

I’ve posted several times about furoshikis, the Japanese squares of fabric that can be transformed into carrying bags and wraps of all kinds. A little while back I noted that there was a book, and promised a follow-up if I could get my hands on it.

I found it. Gift Wrapping With Textiles by Chizuko Morita was, unbelievably, in the Bangor Borders. Now that I’ve had it for a few months, I feel qualified to comment.

The truth is, almost all the really useful wraps are demo’ed on YouTube or diagrammed on the Japanese Ministry of the Environment furoshiki. There are a few good additions in this book, notably a large folio carry (think framed art), the long tube wrap (think rolled posters), the kimono wine wrap (not as useful as the ordinary bottle wrap, but prettier), and the backpack (uses two furoshikis, and really only good in a pinch). Everything else is either a reapplication of a basic concept or cute/pretty but not useful as such (and here my New England pragmatism peeks through). The instructions are generally good, especially the section in the beginning about the different sorts of knots and how to tie them. there are a few places where the wording is a little tricky, but nothing insurmountable.

If you’re planning to convert your life to a furoshiki-only existence, get this book. If you want a lot of instructions about decorative wraps (the title is, after all, about gift wrapping) with flowers or rabbits or kittens worked into the tying, get this book. Otherwise, see if you can get it at the library.

I’m very, very excited. We now have a choice of velomobiles in the US. In addition to the allwelder from Velomobile USA in Texas, we now have a US dealer fro the Go-One3. Prices are still high-ish (base model at 10k, and then accessories for winter and assembly bring the cost to $17k) but I’m so glad velomobiles are making inroads into the US market. Unfortunately the “financing” available is a credit card at 24% APR. Yikes! We need to get banks educated so we can get auto-type loans for these.

PS: my favorite is still the Aerorider. Anyone importing them yet?

I had some time today without contacts or glasses, which means I couldn’t do much if it wasn’t three inches from my face. I spent it reading, which is the one thing I have always done with or without corrective lenses. Today’s focus was environmentalism. When I spend time online I tend to bounce from thing to thing in a stream-of-consciousness research fog, noting and bookmarking as I go. I’ve learned a lot of good things that way. I’ve also lost some time to things to esoteric to mention, but when you spend time online you have to take a certain amount of chaff with the wheat, no matter how good your search strings are.

Today was more focused than most, though–something about the 3 inch radius of my world. So I started with my “lived values” bookmarks.

I delved back into furoshikis and found some more pictures, but not any more styles of using them. I seem to have exhausted what is out there for the time being. I hemmed off some pieces of fabric and have been using them–and the more I use them the more I want to play with them–so I’m still interested. There’s a book called Gift Wrapping With Textiles that may be next on my list. I’m really enjoying the variety of possibilities with furoshikis. For one thing, they can be reused. For another, the bags can be made to fit their contents (more or less) and the icing on the cake is that they don’t have to match anything. If you see an appealing, two-sided or through-dyed fabric, you can use it. For someone like me who revels in beauty, this is a great way to make use of small amounts of beautiful fabrics without having to make clothes of them.

After furoshikis (don’t ask how I made the leap) I started researching transportation options. I’ve been wanting a recumbent trike for a while now–ever since my very dedicatedly environmentalist friend in Minneapolis introduced me to recumbent bikes and I discovered that they were lovely, except for the falling-off part. (A ‘bent allows riders to sit more or less naturally and pedal with their feet in front of them). What I discovered today is that the base price for trikes has dropped from about $3000 to about $1200, and in some cases, as little as $999. That was hopeful news. But the truth is, living here in Maine it’s hard to justify even that much for something that has a shorter season than a kayak. Ice, sand, salt, poor visibility, and cold, driving rain will get you off the road long before the snow flies, at least if you’re me. In addition, we have some wicked hills. Eventually I’m sure I would master them. But that would certainly make the difference between commuting on the trike and going out for occasional pleasure rides. I have a $70 used touring bike that is perfect for riding twice a year. If I’m buying a serious vehicle, I need to have plans to use it.

So naturally I started looking at fully faired, electric-assist trikes, also known as velomobiles. Holy cats, are they ever cool. And not just cool, but sensible. Apparently there are two down in the Biddeford area, but no others in the state of Maine. A fairing is a shell, made to reduce drag and increase protection from the elements. It can be made of anything from neoprene to molded fiberglass to wood, as long as it does its job. Of course, with a human powered vehicle mass is a factor, but so is structural stability. If you get rolled or hit you don’t want to get hurt if you can help it. Some velomobiles are basically frames with thin shells; others use the shell for the structural strength. With electric assist you can even make it up steep hills despite the doubled or tripled weight (these things tend to weigh 60 lbs or more) and reasonably arrive at your commuting destination ready for work, and not for a shower. Living here in Brooklin with Wooden Boat School just around the corner it of course occurred to me that a stitch and glue or strip-built fairing would be fun to build and stunning to look at…but it would also be heavier, and I have no experience with either of those building techniques. Still, given the prohibitive $6000-and-up price tags (closer to $12000 with all the options that would make them Maine-winter-ready) it’s tempting to give it a try. Given the price drops on the recumbent trikes, though, maybe I should just wait for mass production and importation to have its effect; a good third of that cost is getting the machines from Europe, where they are somewhat available, to this side of the pond.

I think a Subaru and a fully-faired trike with studded tires would make a good two-car solution for our household. Somehow, though, I suspect the bank won’t finance a velomobile. Ah well, someday.

Often, in my world, one thing leads ever-so-sneakily into another. So with my interest in furoshiki. From research and interest and admiration springs the desire to try it. Trying it means needing to have one. But, coming from a long, long line of do-it-yourselfers, do I just go buy one? No.

Considering the possibilities, I decide to make one. It’s essentially a square of cloth. It helps if the square is of fairly fine fabric, so that it knots without much bulk. In Japan they often use crepe of one kind or another. Crepe, however, is hard to find cheaply and hard to sew. In Japan they sometimes also use cotton. So okay, cotton.

Having practice at DIY projects, I know that I should use something I don’t mind throwing away in disgust, but it should be something I wouldn’t mind keeping if it works. Off to Mardens to find cheap fabric.

Having located some attractive-but-not-too-girly fabrics, withstood the perplexed look of the very nice Mardens clerk when I asked for “a square of each, please”, and gotten home, I sit down at the sewing machine.

The first one I hem in my usual way: roll the hem, pin the heck out of it, sew. It comes out just fine.
On the second one, I get cheeky. Hmm, think I. there is somewhere a hemming foot. (rummage rummage) Ah hah! I have heard these are hard to use, but what better practice than hemming a square of cotton? I read the internet. I read the instructions. I try it.

The third time ripping out the tiny stitches, I get frustrated and slice off the edge.
All said and done, I slice about four inches off the edge on successive attempts. I have had three inches of successful hemming. The fabric is 45″ square.

I get out the pins. Pin, pin, pin. Sew. It comes out just fine.


The next morning I go on to the third one.

Do I learn my lesson and use the pinpinpinsew method?

I noticed something interesting while slicing off the edges of the last one: as long as I ignored the directions, it worked really well.

So here, without further ado, are the things I have learned which I have not seen in any set of directions anywhere.

1) Your fabric needs support, people! Let’s say you’re just sewing along, everything is fine, and about halfway through your piece, something goes terribly wrong. You have no idea what just happened, but suddenly your machine and your project are in cahoots and the seam is crooked, the hem is off, the buttonhole was designed for a button by Salvador Dali. What did you do?

In all likelihood you are sewing near the edge of a table. Your fabric has mass. It pulls ever-so-slightly (unless you are sewing a cape out of boiled wool, in which case it pulls like a St. Bernard after a rabbit) and as you begin sewing, you adjust for the added tension. But when the mass moves, the tension moves. And when the tension moves and you don’t adjust, whoops! There goes your seam, your hem, your buttonhole. The ideal solution: a bigger table. If that’s not realistic, keep piling the fabric on what table you have so that it’s supported and the only tension you have to adjust for is in your shoulders.

2) Sometimes the technology will tell you how it wants to be used. After some observation I discovered that even 1/8″ hemming feet can be used to good advantage if you ignore the directions. Turn a hem of, say, half an inch. Let it run across both sets of feed dogs, under the whole presser foot. Keep the left edge running into the scroll. The foot will roll the edge under. I hear that bigger hemming feet can be used the way they were designed to work; I don’t know. I hear that starching the edge helps. I have to admit I didn’t try that. This time. But my half inch hems are tidily turned under.

3) Even cotton has a lot of stretch across the grain. Ignore this at your peril.

4) If you are frustrated, and this is important: get up and walk away. Really. If you fight when you are angry, your project will look like the enemy and it will win.

* Bonus lesson: if your front loading washing machine is acting unbalanced for no good reason (i.e., it’s level), try putting more clothes in it.

So it goes in pursuit of a more environmental life.

The Board meeting tonight is being rescheduled, probably for Saturday at 3:15. Keep your ears open for updates from Kay.

I am so proud of this congregation. Really. It isn’t easy being small in this world of bigger-is-better, and we love new members, but even at the size we have these sweet people make stuff happen. We’ve got a growing religious exploration program for our children and youth, a newsletter, a coffee hour, a brand-new mailbox and doorbell, a Solstice/Christmas tree donated by the fine folks at the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Land Trust in Orland (check out their organic tree fair this weekend!), a website, and most recently, audio sermons!

Thanks to everyone who makes these things happen. I am grateful to have found such a can-do congregation.

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