Yesterday’s sidewalk sale turned out much as The Poster Queen and I had expected. However, I did rather enjoy sitting outside knitting for six hours.

I made one of these sets (unblocked, here). This is the ideal knitting project for outdoor summer knitting. At a picnic or concert or something, when the termperature is in the 90s, a little bit of cotton is a pleasant thing to work on. The only disadvantage is that when someone asks you what you’re making, you have to go through a long “well, it’s this Japanese scrubbie thing…” explanation. It is actually called a “tawashi,” I am told, so you could just firmly say, “It’s a tawashi.” How you respond to the inevitable “huh?” is another question. I was resolved to say “a scarf” the next time someone asked me, when a woman came clear around the tables to look at it and said “I saw those online and I wondered how it would work.” I was of course pleased that I had not fobbed her off with the scarf story.

Another thing I learned when I found the proper name of this item is that in Asia they are often made with a special anti-bacterial yarn. This strikes me as excessive. However, I also found a pattern for a special desk duster, which looks like a weird little animal, also designed to be made with anti-bacterial yarn. Perhaps in very crowded places this would be a necessity. Perhaps it is just that rampant cuteness. In any case, if you can read Japanese, you can find patterns for special tawashis for your aquarium, car, and indeed everything else you own or might care to own.

I also added a tawashi to the bath ensemble from the book Simple Knits for Sophisticated Living. I began with the bath mat in  February and am just now getting around to finishing the set. I have enjoyed working with Morocco, though I would not care for a sweater made of it. For household goods, though, it is quite wonderful. You can click on the picture for a better view.

Today we are taking #2 son to camp. “Summer Institute,” really, a pre-college program at the local university for junior and senior high kids. His session is about architecture. He did physics last year and had a great time. He will be living on campus for three weeks. He is excited, and I am excited for him, though of course it is also hard to say goodbye to your kid.

I like to make a “See You Later Alligator” cake to say goodbye to people. Family Fun magazine had a cooler-looking one than the one I have made before, so I set out after work to make it. You can see the cake and directions for it right here. Mine did not look much like the picture, I’m afraid. It was more of a “See You Later, Swamp Thing” kind of cake.

We ate it anyway, and played gin rummy. The kids are not being allowed to take electronic games to the institute this year, so it seemed to me that #2 son needed to have the rules to gin rummy fresh in his mind. And a pack of cards in his suitcase, too.

It happened that the day I went over to the university to finish paying for the institute was also the day of the London bombings. I have been feeling a bit ill and unsettled ever since. I think it is the combination of the horror of that action and the fact that I have to say goodbye to my youngest for three weeks.

We don’t yet know who exactly is to blame for the bombings, of course, and I think the use of “the terrorists” as a term that seems to refer to a single coordinated group is inaccurate. I think, in fact, that it is intended (by our government, not by all the rest of the folks who have picked it up) to give credence to the idea that we are at war with some clearly defined set of people. Really, “terrorists” is like “criminals.” It is not a group that you can work with in some way. There is no way that you can ensure that people who are determined to do something evil will not be able to do it.

However, to the extent that one can talk about the goals of terrorists, it is surely to terrify people and get their attention. We have reached the point where daily death tolls in the Middle East no longer terrify us as they should. Britain feels different. This troubled me at first, because it seemed as though we are saying that some human lives are of more value than others. But The Empress pointed out that we cannot live with the full horror of all the evil in the world at all times. We would go mad if we tried to. In sheer self-defense, we filter things and unconsciously control our emotional reactions to it. I remember seeing this more directly when I worked in refugee resettlement. We could not continue to be distraught over every person we worked with — not if we wanted to be helpful to them.

But then something happens that is different from the usual. We are accustomed to daily death tolls from terrorist crimes — but not in Britain. It shocks us into a normal human reaction. Just as we were devastated by the shootings at Columbine, when we are inured to the shootings of children every day in our troubled cities. We cannot tolerate thinking every day of the suffering of the world, but events such as these get past the barriers we have set up. We cannot avoid reacting to them.

In some cases, the normal human reaction is fear, suspicion, and pointless scurrying about. This, I think, is what the bombers want. When they see that we have armed guards on our subways in the U.S., they must feel very satisfied. But the normal human reaction is also grief, and the sense of helplessness in the face of human suffering that is so difficult for us to accept.

I didn’t intend to write about London. I don’t write about political things, in general. There are plenty of xangas writing about London, and some of them have done so in an informative and useful way (Leonidas, for one). But I will leave the post as it is.