Thursday, July 17, 2008

Every Four Years...

Once again, the quadriennial madness has struck. In the United States, we go through the political process, as originally laid out in the Constitution, and elect a new president, vice-president, 33 senators, 453 members of the House of Representatives, and about 20 governors. The election campaign has been going on for more than a year, the last primary was more than a month ago, and we're still nearly 3 months away from the actual voting. However, politics goes on.

Outside the United States--and for many people inside the United States--every four years means it's once again time for the Games of the Olympiad. This one is #29, so the official title is The Games of the XXIX Olympiad. However, most people just refer to the Games by their host city; 2008 is Beijing, China, so most people just call them the "Beijing Olympics." This time the Olympics are fraught with controversy. China is looking forward to the Games serving as a showcase for how the country has grown from a largely agricultural monarchy at the end of World War II to one of the economic superpowers of the world. However, with all this publicity comes a certain amount of scrutiny, and China's ruling oligarchy doesn't have the best record of being nice. There has been tremendous controversy over China's support of repressive governments in Sudan and Myanmar, and her attitude toward the people of Tibet, the followers of Fulan Gong, and generally anyone the government or its supporters think is "dissing" China or her government. There have been some calls for boycotts of the Summer Games, but it looks like every county that has an Olympic Committee is sending athletes.

The Games begin at 8:00 p.m., on August 8, 2008 (8 is considered an auspicious number), and for the next 17 days, people around the world will be glued to their television sets, radios, and computers, following individual athletes, events, sports, medal counts, and the controversies that always arise: who was caught doping, who got hurt during last-minute workouts, or whether an athlete really can live up to all the hype. The Games give people an excuse to get together ("hey, why don't you come over and we'll watch the Men's Basketball semis"), and to organize their own events connected to the Olympic Games.

Ravelry (the online network for fiber folk) has jumped in with the Ravelympics 2008. Working on the basic premise that members will start and complete at least one project during the 17-day Games, the basic idea has exploded. More than 1,000 "ravletes" have signed up to participate in such events as WIP (Work In Progress) Wrestling, Baby Dressage, Mitten Medley, Homespun Heptathlon, Sock Put, Sweater Sprint, Shawl Relay, and a host of other events related to knitting and crocheting. Ravletes sign up for events (projects they want to do) and teams that may be related geographically (Team Canada; Team Indiana) or by common interest (Team Battlestar Galactica; Team Hopelessly Overcommitted). I joined Team TARDIS (full of fans of the long-running British SF series, Doctor Who) and signed up for three events:

WIP Wrestling--I will finish a blue crocheted sweater I started down in Los Angeles on a visit home in 1999.
Baby Dressage--A friend is due in October; this is a perfect time to knit a hoodie and booties for her.
Mitten Medley--This year's charity work. I'm going to crank out as many mittens as I can (while finishing the crocheted sweater and knitting the hoodie), box them up, and send them to Afghans for Afghans.

In the Ravelympics, swatching, and the necessary prep work that goe into knitting or crocheting a pattern are considered "training," and are allowed before the start of the Games. To that end, I've been working through the mitten pattern I've chosen (a simple 2-needle pattern) to find the flaws, errors, and glitches that make knitters crazy. However, the actual "medal mittens" won't begin until the evening of August 8. Then, it will simply be a race to complete as many as possible. The other "events" (projects) are either started (the blue crocheted sweater), or I'm familiar enough with the pattern that I don't need to swatch it, so they will also get a little work on August 8. Then it will be scraping bits of time together to finish as much as I can.

The very cool Ravelympics 2008 banner was designed by Raveler K2togKate.