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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Harry Potter and the Return of Knitting

I don't know about you, but once I started reading Harry Potter, I was hooked. Now I wait for the movies. J.K. Rowling has something new!

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling Available for Pre-Order
Thursday, July 31, 2008.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling is now available for pre-order on Amazon. This book of fairy tales was written to supplement the Harry Potter series and will be published in two new editions on December 4, 2008. The Standard Edition features all five fairy tales from the original The Tales of Beedle the Bard, a new introduction by J.K. Rowling, illustrations reproduced from the original handcrafted book, and commentary on each of the tales by Professor Albus Dumbledore. Amazon’s exclusive Collector's Edition includes a reproduction of J.K. Rowling's handwritten introduction, as well as 10 additional illustrations not found in the Standard Edition.

It is my belief that the Harry Potter books and movies contributed to making knitting popular again. Prior to them, hardly anyone knitted anymore and when you looked for yarn, there was little choice.

In the early 90s, I remember being in a class for docents at the historic site where I worked. The lecturer asked the class, mostly retired women over 65 and me (43 at the time), how many knitted. Two people raised their hands out of around 30. I was surprised. I thought surely these older women knew how. My mother tried it once and dropped it. Bless her heart, she did start with a very difficult pattern and small needles.

In the 70s, knitting declined except for crafts people. You were lucky if you could find anything but acrylic worsted weight yarn in more than 6 colors in most shops. Then Harry Potter came out and Mrs. Weasley who was always making "jumpers" scarves and hats for her kids and Harry; plus the needles that knitted by magic (wish I had those) and soon we were awash in hundreds of colors and textures.

I predicted that after everyone had made 3 scarves for everyone they knew, the whole thing would die down again. Which it has. It's one thing to make a scarf, quite another to make a sweater. Most people don't have the patience it requires and most people are not willing to redo it multiple times until they get it right.

When Harry Potter first came out, there was a lot of conrovery about it. Even here in Northern California - supposedly the land of fruits and nuts - some schools banned it. Can you imagine?

On the other hand, I visited Salt Lake City, Utah a couple of years ago and heard a local teacher being interview on the radio. He said that he used Harry Potter as a motivational force in his classes. Kids took a renewed interest in all subjects that were taught at Hogwarts. While kids did not show any interest in Chemistry, they were fascinated by Potion-making. Kids who had poor penmanship and didn't want to write by hand anymore, really got into Calligraphy. Botany became Herbology, etc., etc. There was an article in the local newspaper about how teachers were successfully using Harry Potter in schools just like this guy on the radio. Clever and innovative.

I was a bit surprised at this reaction to HP in Salt Lake City, while at home the debate was still going on as to whether HP was 'evil' and 'dangerous to young minds.'

Monday, August 4, 2008

USPS Si, UPS No

It was the second post I did on this blog. It was called "Roadkill...." I thought it would get a response from postal workers, but it didn't. Anyway, here we go again. UPS left a 46 pound parcel on my doorstep Thurs. late afternoon. Wrong address, wrong name, wrong town, wrong zip code. This would never happen at the Post Office. The carriers know every address on their route and often everyone who lives at each address. If they can't find a house (because mailboxes are frequently far from a house in the country or woods) they don't leave parcels on front porches of any house they can find. They don't do it and keep their jobs that is.

This is the fourth time UPS has misdelivered parcels to my house that I know of. Twice my parcels were either left at the end of a dirt road in the middle of winter, when my house is clearly visible all around or dropped in the road (parcel containing glass), reported as delivered while they returned it to the sender three days later. Then twice they have left other people's packages on my porch.

So here we are, Monday, and they finally came back to get it. They didn't knock or leave a note that they had come, they just took it. I know because I was here. But just suppose I wasn't here and actually the parcel was stolen? Then whose fault would it be? Would they accuse me? Not a good way to do business.

I see they finally have gotten some new trucks, but they have not improved service.

Meanwhile my letter carrier, has had his route cut. That means he works 5 days one week and 6 days the next week. He gets 2 days off one week and 1 day off the next. And less pay because the "evaluated" time is shortened. Rural carriers are paid by the day, no matter how many hours it takes.

And people still make "going postal" jokes. How would you react to this treatment?

I met a psychotherapist the other day who leads groups for postal workers. He said he used to include them with others, but soon saw that they had special problems and needs, so he made separate therapy groups just for them. He said he could hardly believe the stories. I told him I don't know what they told you, but even without hearing, I will say this: based on own my experience working for the Postal Service, they are all true.

It's a shame that given the responsibility and the huge, yet fantastic job they do, they still have to treat their employees so badly. They might say the reason the service is so good is because of their employee policy. Who knows.

I prefer to see it the way I saw it when I worked there. I was told that carrying the mail was like a sacred trust. It was not just a job but a tradition, part of the founding of this nation. Benjamin Franklin started it here, but the phrase "Neither snow, nor rain, nor sleet, nor dark of night shall keep them from their appointed task." was said by Herodotus way back during the ancient Greek period when couriers ran documents from one town to another.

Most of the time, I carried junk mail and tons of catalogs, but sometimes, it was a card to Grandma for her birthday from a child in Iowa. The address might read, "Grandma Jones on Westside Road." Well, I sorted that mail everyday and I knew who Jones was on Westside Road. And I knew she was old enough to have a grandchild, so even though the address was incomplete, I could get it there on time. Or the people who waited by the mailbox, expecting a check. I knew my arrival would make them happy, because I knew I had it in my tray.

Christmas was especially good. Yes, we killed ourselves walking up endless slippery steps in the rain, but when someone opens a door and sees a load of boxes from family members all over the country and you are the one carrying them, you get all the smiles. Those were the kind of moments that made all the xxxx I got from management or even fellow employees, bearable. And yes, sometimes I actually miss it. But not right now and not on 100 degree days.