Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Geek Alert

Okay, this PHP shit is FUN...well, at least for a geek it is.

A Foray Into The New (For Me)
I'm teaching myself PHP and related technical skills so I can write the on-line ballot for the 2006 Knit Blog Awards at the end of the year (as I mentioned yesterday). I decided to start off slowly, with a brief reader survey to see if I could put together some of the tools I'll need. This is my first pathetic attempt.

Select One of More Preference for Blog Topics

Enter Any Unique Userid or e-Mail Address:
Knitting, Spinning and Quilting
Leftist Political Commentary
Personal Rants
Stupid Surveys
Family and Work Life Stories
Gage Stories and Pictures
Fiber-Related Purchases
Personal Wounds - With Pictures
Other - Note Below

Readers' Comments/Questions
Franklin, and then echoed by Marilyn asks, "May I ask, what book/manual/whatever are you using to teach yourself PHP?"

There are a bunch of free, on-line tutorials, but the one that I found most useful as a technically-inclined, but not-so-talented beginner was at

Jacquie ends her comment yesterday with, "I knew you were a techie."

Actually, I'm a techie-wannabe, but I would never want to put in all the rigor associated with real programming. Way too detailed for me.

Regarding the Grist chart I posted, Carrie asks, "Anyway, doesn't the yardage per pound depend on the fiber you're spinning? Cotton is said to be much heavier than wool of the same thickness; does the yardage range take different fiber weights into account, or do the fibers really not differ as much as I think they do"

I'm not too sure. I'm sure some of the real spinners could answer this better, but I would guess that tightness of the twist and loft would have a lot of impact on these numbers as well.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Skills

I've always known I was a geek, and I take some pride in that, but getting excited about learning a new technical skill just seems to take it to a new level.

Bettering Myself?
I'm teaching myself a new skill in learning how to code PHP web pages, and I can't tell you how exciting it is when a page I create as part of an exercise actually works like it's supposed to. For the techno-tards out there, I actually created a MySQL database and connected to it using PHP.

My next project will be a survey page that will collect data. I will use it as a prototype for the second annual Knit Blog Awards at the end of the year.

Try not to get overexcited on my behalf about this. It will be very telling of the kind of person you are.

Weekend Wedding
My sister got married this past weekend, and I got the chance to see a lot of my family, which is always fun. I actually enjoy being around them quite a bit.

I took some pictures during the ceremony, but I was too far away for the flash to work. As a result, I have no useable pictures of the groom, so I'll post a picture of the bride (my sister) and her three daughters (my nieces).

Weekend Spinning
In addition to the wedding and the knitting I posted about yesterday, I also got a little bit of spinning time in.

I finished the first large bobbin of singles using the Romney-like wool, and then started my second bobbin.

Double-plied, this will come out to be about worsted weight, I'm guessing.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Nothing But Gratitude

If you love your freedom, thank a vet. Or if more would fit on that bumper sticker, I'd include thank the family of a vet, or the family of folks that fought other non-combat wars.

In Memory
I know a few families of soldiers that have died in Iraq, but I'm not close enough to any of them to express gratitude for their sacrifice, and so I ask you to meet the Murphy's.

I grew up with the Murphy's, a family with four children, Laurie, Tom, Timmy and Patrick who have suffered their share of wars in this lifetime. The Murphy's went to our church and Timmy was my age, and we went through some grammar school and high school together, and were good friends. It was tragic, when Timmy's older brother Tom was diagnosed with testicular cancer. There was much concern about both his life and if he would be able to father children. As a survivor of that cancer, he was able to do both.

In the mid eighties, Timmy was a rising star in Hollywood. He had been a regular on the soap opera, Search For Tomorrow, he had also been in a couple of movies, and then landed a regular role on Dallas, as the boyfriend of Charlene Tilton's character. Timmy fought this country's war on AIDS, and was one of its many casualties when he died in 1988.

Finally, the Murphy's suffered the last blow in the war on terror, when they lost their youngest son Patrick, on 9-11. He died in the World Trade Center collapse. I didn't know Patrick very well, but you can read a beautiful tribute to him here.

On this day of barbecues and pool openings, I send my prayers to the Murphy family.

Current Knitting
I've completed about five or six inches on the front of the Faux Rib sweater.

Even with weekend time to knit, this sweater still seems to be taking an eternity.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cynthia asks, "I am doing my first intarsia project. I am doing well on the knit side of the work, but the pearl side is looking terrible. Any words of wisdom?"

I really don't. I know a lot of folks purl differently than they knit, but I've never really had that issue, and I can't imagine why it would be different just because you were switching colors. This sounds like a problem that would require you to show someone in person.

k asks, "I'm not a spinner yet. Could you define grist?"

Grist is basically the weight of the yarn, usually expressed in yards per pound or wraps per inch.

This little chart will give you a sense about how to estimate various yarn weights by yards-per-pound and by wraps-per-inch.

Yarn WeightYards per poundWraps per inch
Lace3000 - 600036-42
Baby2400 - 300030-36
Fingering1800 - 240024-30
Sport1300 - 180018-24
DK1000 - 140012-18
Worsted900 - 11008-14
Aran700 - 10006-10
Bulky400 - 700Less than 8

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thoughts On Happiness

"Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."
Abraham Lincoln

It's The Journey, Stupid
I have to keep reminding myself that happiness isn't a destination, and that it's the times while pursuing life goals that happiness occurs.

I get very wary of people who tell me that they've achieved happiness, especially when their happiness is founded on something or someone.

I also shy away from folks that are always happy, because I figure they're either on drugs or faking it. While I sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between them, I make a strong distinction between addictive euphoria and happiness.

Sorry to pontificate, but I've been doing a lot of self-examination lately, and sometimes I find working out my thoughts in writing helps to clarify them for me.

Current Knitting
I got some additional work done on the front of the Faux Rib sweater.

I'm now up to about three inches out of the twenty-six inches I have to do. But I figure that's not bad considering that it's weekday knitting time which is more rare than weekend knitting time for me.

Beautiful Knitting
Reader Jacquie (the one who called me a Republican for being concerned about the uniformity of my Blueface Leicester spinning), has recently posted a picture of a lace baby blanket she knit using Suri Alpaca yarn, and it's spectacularly beautiful.

The pattern she used is "Christening Chrysalis" by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts in The Best of Knitter’s Magazine, and it truly shows off the incredible luster of the Suri yarn.

Her work has convinced me I need to get me some of that Suri and knit me up a batch of something with it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
In addition to adding valuable comments about handspinning, Ted asks, "How do you maintain grist consistency in a batch of yarn? Do you keep a sample by the wheel and compare with it every so often, or you just eyeball it and hope you're not drifting too far away from what you have in mind?"

Up until now, I have never kept a sample, I just eyeball it. I sometimes end up with inconsistent results, but usually I have a relatively consistent grist throughout a batch of spinning. The inconsistencies have never had a significant impact in my knitting. At one point, I think I will attempt to be vigilant in maintaining a consistency in my spinning, if to only show to myself that I can. But for right now, the spinning is more about the enjoyment than the resulting yarn.

Concerning the white roving, Duffy asks, "So you figure you'll get another huge honkin' hank o'handspun from your huge honkin' pile of roving?"

I figure that with over five pounds of roving, I will easily have at least three large sweater's worth of yarn after all is said an done. I plan on spinning my singles a little less finely so that I can get through it a little more quickly and end up with a light Aran weight or maybe DK weight yarn.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

National Travesty

"We shall all consider ourselves unauthorized to saddle posterity with our debts, and morally bound to pay them ourselves."
Thomas Jefferson

The Spend And Tax Later Administration
Yeah, the Democrats may have a reputation for taxing and spending, but at least we pay our own way.

The thing I have never understood about this current government is how they can justify using the equivalent of limitless credit cards, to achieve their goals (even if the goals are valid). Especially when they have the ability to generate the money to pay for it.

I truly believe that if the current administration had spent as much time telling Americans that added taxes during a time of terror threats was necessary as they did telling us that tapping our phones was necessary would have resulted in one less problem for them today, which is our staggering debt. Americans would have understood the necessity of paying more money to ensure our safety and the safety of our troops. Some even eager to do so. But instead, we get a president who wants to be liked and gives tax rebates. Pathetic is the only word that comes to mind.

Current Reading
I just finished a wonderful book last week.

A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon is a wonderful read, despite the annoying cover that is always begging to be turned right-side up.

Mr. Haddon writes as Christopher, the main character of his book who has some behavioral issues that most agree is a fair representation of a boy with Asperger's Syndrome, although no such diagnosis is ever explained in the text. The book is quite well-written, and the plot is compelling. The unlikely protagonist is very appealing and walks the reader through a well-balanced adventure that evokes strong feelings of both relating with Christopher's reactions and worrying for him as a parent might. The reader goes back and forth between the intimate thoughts of the main character, and then worrying about his well-being, and the result is an extremely engrossing and pleasant reading experience.

Other Non-Knitting
This past weekend was another one focused on spinning. I finished the singles of the Flame Targhee that I got from Carol's Etsy shop.

I then double-plied this wonderful fiber and came out with an incredibly beautiful hank of about 400 yards of sport-weight yarn.

I have to admit that I wasn't liking the color of the singles or the yarn on the bobbin. That coral/peach color is not one of my favorites. But the result after all is said and done is a spectacularly beautiful color that I'm very pleased with.

Finally, I couldn't stand having the Robin wheel stand idle, so I started work on the HUGE bag of white roving I got from the sister-out-of-law.

There was no label to say what breed of sheep this wool came from, but it feels and spins a lot like Romney. I'm spinning it as loosely and bulky as I can and still have it be even (for me, it's a lot easier maintaining evenness in spinning by spinning the fiber as fine as I can without overtwisting).

Suffice it to say, this bag 'o wool should keep me busy for a good while.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the telephone database the government is amassing, Gail states, "I find that sometimes, people have knee jerk responses about data mining - it actually has many applications that have nothing to do with invading privacy."

I totally agree with Gail. I think there are some great uses for data mining to uncover otherwise indiscernible trends and patterns in data that can be very useful. I even love when web companies like Barnes & Noble and NetFlix recommends books or DVD's that I might like. If a salesperson in a clothing store can see the types of clothes I'm buying and recommend something else I might like, I find that very helpful. I'm just as glad when a computer does that.

k notes, "I see you're knitting is shown outside. Do you sit on the deck and knit?"

Not usually, although I have done it. I use the deck to get natural-light pictures of my work sometimes. Mostly the deck is too hot to be knitting.

Monday, May 22, 2006

More Hypocrisy

I don't get it...why would this moron president expect that the U.S. public would trust him to appropriately use the illegal power of accessing our telephone reocrds?

Valerie Plame's A U.S. Spy
Oops...I slipped.

Yeah, Bush is the prick who got revenge on a diplomat who told a truth the president didn't like, authorized Cheney to release dangerously secret information and minimally ruined Ms. Plame's career and possibly put Ms. Plame's life in danger.

And yet, we can trust this administration to only use private phone records to fight terrorism?

I can only imagine the dirt he could dig up and use against people that piss him off.

And why the hell aren't the NRA and other conservative groups infuriated by this? I hear all the time that "It's a consitutional right to bear arms," and yet it's okay to completely obliterate any right to privacy.

This nation should be storming the capital with torches and pitchforks to oust this ballsy bastard.

Ahh...I Feel Better Now...Thanks...And for Knitting
I made some good headway on the Faux Rib sweater.

This picture shows that I finished the back of the sweater, and completed the first inch of the front.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Missing Friends

This weekend, a group of knitter friends are gathering in New York (the City) to eat, dish and shop for yarn.

I Won't Be There
I just couldn't work it all to be able to be there, and I am envious as hell. Marilyn, Kathy, Carol S., Lisa and possibly Selma will be getting together with a couple of other folks in NYC for a fun get-together. Lisa's partner and famed Author of "Self-Made Man", Norah, will be joining them for lunch only (yarn inebriation isn't her thing), and Lisa's mom and Marilyn's granddaughter will be crawling yarn stores as well.

Planning for this has been going on for a while, and now that the date is so close, our little group mailing list has been discussing little else.

It hasn't helped ease my envy.

Current Knitting
I'm almost up to the neck and shoulder shaping on the back of the Faux Rib sweater.

Since this will be a somewhat oversized sweater, I'll need to carefully plan out the neck and shoulder shaping.

Quilting Design
I've worked out the numbers for the rows of mushrooms. Each mushroom block will end up being 8 inches wide and 7.5 inches tall.

I even went so far as to cut out the shapes to show how it will look when finished.

And then created the actual template pieces with the 1/4 inch seam allowance that I'll use to cut fabric.

Now I just have to start playing with fabric patterns and colors to get the desired look. I started with a VERY preliminary version of the quilt, using cyber-swatches of fabric from the Kaffe fabric web site, and this is my first meager attempt (actually, it's about my 7th meager attempt, but it will be easier when I can play with actual fabrics, rather than graphic software).

I tried offsetting the mushrooms in a different graphic, but I think I prefer the pattern to be more stylized looking.

It has been an amazing amount of fun playing with all of Liza's fabrics. Seeing them in person is even more exciting. I can't wait to go shopping again.
Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the Trinity Stitch, new knitter, Serendipity says, "I am really stumped at the direction starting on row 9."

A couple of generalized pieces of advice when reading patterns.

1. Always just try it. You might want to try using crap yarn, but just follow instructions and see what happens.

2. Read all the instructions for a pattern stitch over and over trying to picture how it will knit up. When things don't seem to make sense, re-read them again, or go back to #1 advice.

3. Look for Errata on the book or pattern you're trying to do. A Google search for errors in patterns can reveal that it's not you, but the pattern that's screwed up.

4. Ask an experienced knitter to show you.

That being said, here's one on-line version of the Trinity Stitch that I found which will probably be similar to yours:

Row 1 (RS): Purl
Row 2: *[K1, P1, K1 ALL into next stitch; P3 together], repeat from *
Row 3: Purl
Row 4: *[P3 together; K1, P1, K1 ALL into next stitch], repeat from *

I'm assuming that since you're having trouble with rows 9 and 11 on your stitch pattern, they are similar to rows 2 and 4 above.

If you'll notice, each P3 together instruction is accompanied by a K1, P1, K1 ALL into the next stitch. So everytime you reduce stitches, you then increase them the same amount. Sometimes seeing it graphically can help.

Where the dots are Purl stitches and the Up Arrows are P3 Togethers and the Down Arrows are Knit, Purl, Knit all in the same stitch.

Bob Casey Wins PA State Senate Primary

This is the first step in ousting the biggest embarrassment Pennsylvanians have ever had to endure, Rick Santorum.

Casey Wins With 85%
Despite some conservative views, especially on abortion, Bob Casey has been given a clear "thumbs up" from Pennsylvania Democrats as our candidate to beat Santorum in November.

Casey astutely assessed the results of the election with this statement:

"Tonight voters from across the state overwhelmingly showed President Bush, Rick Santorum and the whole 'wrong direction' gang in Washington that the values that unite us as Democrats are stronger than anything that might divide us."

I can only say, from his lips, to God's ears.

Current Knitting
I've finished about 23 inches of the back of the Faux Rib sweater, and I'm moving along quite well. I actually could have included a picture today if I had gotten my ass in gear and taken one.

Next time.

Spinning Choices
Last I wrote about spinning, I was debating on which fiber to spin first. Most folks voted for the deep red sliver I got from James, and others voted for Carol's "Flame" dyed roving.

I took your advice.

I spun some of both.

I started with the deep red roving and it spun up beautifully. The fiber just seemed to fly onto the bobbin in a nice lofty single.

And then I double-plied it, also loosely and came up with a beautiful deep red tweedy yarn that I just love.

This hank turned out to be about 280 yards of light worsted weight yarn. I'm still not sure what it will become, but whatever it turns into will be beautiful.

I also started spinning the Flame colored Targhee roving.

What is Targhee? It reminds me a lot of Merino, but it's a lot easier to spin finely and loosely. Switching from the New Zealand fiber to this took me a couple of seconds to get used to, but now it's moving along quickly.

It's also surprising that while some yarns get darker when spun, this yarn is looking more like a Creamsicle than any flame I've ever seen.

I've decided to double-ply this into what will probably end up being a lightweight DK yarn. Again, I have no idea what I'll make of the resulting yarn.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Non-Knitting Urges

Yes, I have them sometimes...I'm not an automaton, you know.

Evil Temptress
I got a call from "friend" Liza last week, and she invited me over for "coffee" on Friday, since Kaffe was in town and working with her on the new book.

I should have known better, but I couldn't resist a chance to see some of the new fabrics and how Kaffe and Liza were using them, so I went for "coffee."

Good GOD those two are amazingly creative and talented!

Kaffe showed me a quilt they had done that can not be described in words. It's like if you had never seen a cube before and the best I could do to describe it is draw a square on a piece of paper. It just doesn't do the cube justice in its three-dimensionality.

As with most of Kaffe's quilts, the design was quite simple and easy, and yet looked random and complex. The colors and patterns combined were over the top and should have looked downright garish.

But the overall result was one of the most well-balanced, beautiful dance of colors and patterns I have ever seen. I envy his talent every time I see his work.

During this visit, I showed Liza a graphic of the quilt I was trying to design.

It's a stylized graphic of mushrooms that I thought would include Thaddeus' interest in mycology and be able to use some interesting fabrics in the mushroom caps.

Liza thought I'd have some problems with the design, so I'm re-looking at it. I'm thinking that I could use the Drunken Path template for the mushroom cap and the Tumblers template for the stem. I just have to get the sizes to match on both.

But, suffice it to say, just one short visit has started me back up with quilting urges again. I've been browsing the on-line fabric catalog again.

Birthday Fiber Surprise
I know, I birthday was in April, but the surprises continue.

My sister-out-of-law is reknowned for her yard sale finds. She's one of those types that you hate because she buys a purse for $5 that retails for $300, and it's still in the original wrapping. And what's worse, she looks fabulous with it.

Well, on or around my birthday, she's at a yard sale where the yard-seller(?) has bags and bags of combed wool for sale. My sister-out-of-law picks up this whopping-huge bag of wool and sends it to me for my birthday present.

This is actually over 5 pounds of roving which she cleverly compacted in one of those re-usable vacuum-seal bags. I pulled out a little of the roving and while there is no label saying what kind of fiber it it, I'd guess Romni based on the best comparisons I have in my statsh of fiber. I'm thinking I will spin up tons of this shit and ask Carol S. for an estimate on the cost of custom-dyeing the yarn after it's spun.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol S. asks what I'll be knitting in Chin-speed for my sister for her wedding.

It seems the poor girl will have to go around with chilly shoulders since I refuse to speed-crochet a capelet in time for Memorial Day weekend. I'd think my sister would prefer frostbite anyway.

Concerning the last ball of Blueface Leicester, Fredda asks, "Joe, what do you have planned for the 'thicker guage yarn'?"

I'm guessing that I'm getting dinged for my poor spelling, but in my defense, I do know how to spell gauge. In answer to your question, in case you really care, I'll need the last ball of yarn to finish the Faux Rib sweater, I'm guessing, so I hope the difference in thickness won't be noticeable. It shouldn't make any discernable difference.

Family Business

In between fiber-related activity, I had to take care of some family stuff this past weekend.

Mother's Day
I'm fortunate that I have a great relationship with my mom and her husband. They're both great people and they seem to enjoy being with Thaddeus and I as well. That's a good thing, since they live about a mile down the road from me.

And just to be clear, I was there first.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still a typical momma's boy, but not so much that I would have needed to live near her.

In addition to a gift and dinner at a local restaurant with my mom and her husband, I also had to RSVP to my sister's wedding. She's getting married on Memorial day and I kept putting off RSVP'ing. She knew we were going, but I still had to confirm it.

Current Knitting
I added on another few inches to the first side of this Faux Rib sweater.

On a related note, I did end up winding the largest hank of yarn I've ever made, and it ended up being 861 yards long.

At 12.4 ounces, this makes it a little thicker gauge yarn than the other two balls.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Linda B. writes, "I don't understand why people are so frequently rude, attack rather than debate, resort to ad hominem comments they wouldn't have the courage to say in person. Why not use reason, wit and intelligence?"

I've answered similar comments in individual e-mails before, but thought I'd do it again. I really like my blog and the comments forum. I have had the opportunity to be exposed to a lot of very interesting and extremely intelligent and creative knitters. There are some blogs that I love, but cringe when I open the comments to read what others have written.

Yes, sometimes folks get mean in my comments, and sometimes that limits access to some of the folks with less tolerance for nastiness. But given the option, I'd prefer to have a smaller, thicker-skinned readership than a huge following of folks that don't contribute as much to the conversation.

Marilyn asks, "You mean no one's asked you what the yarn is on the report cover?"

Exactly my point to Linda B. Readers wouldn't ask you or me that kind of question, except in some ironic way, perhaps.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

If I Say It Enough Times...

Are Americans so stupid and lazy that they take our president's word about the piece-of-shit prescription drug plan that was put in place in January of this year?

I Don't Buy It
President Bush included the following in a speech:

"The more choices you have, the more likely it is you'd be able to find a program that suits your specific needs. In other words, one size fits all is not a consumer-friendly program."

"This is a good deal for American seniors."

I used to deal with a lot of seniors in my first job as a billing/insurance coordinator for a large chiropractic clinic. While sometimes they pretended to not understand things, for the most part I felt like a pathetic beginner when I dealt with their insurance and billing needs.

So, I have to believe that having to deal with a comlex and confusing prescription drug program that was built to support the drug companies and not the seniors, was a pain in the neck for most of the folks on medicare. Republicans left us all out to dry by completely eliminating the ability to negotiate large-volume prices with the drug companies for no apparent reason, other than the obvious assumption of payback for campaign contributions.

If all this wasn't true, why the hell would Bush be out on the campaign trail promoting such a miserably bad plan?

Current Knitting
I got a little more done on the Faux Rib sweater, and possibly even enough to show in a picture.

Possibly not.

Financial and Fiber Worlds Collide
Where else than on this blog could folks have incredibly well-informed conversations about both financial issues and fiber issues?

Well, one of the investments I own sent me this report.

I have to admit, it was a nice surprise seeing a picture of yarn on something other than a catalog. The small writing mentions something about Blended Funds, but nothing about yarn.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Ann asks, "How do you decide how much roving to get? Do you get enough for a particular project? Or just to do a test spin?"

When I first started spinning, I got some very good advice from one of the places I bought fiber. She basically told me that I should decide on amount in the same way I decide on how much yarn to buy. If I saw a yarn that I wanted to make a sweater out of, I'd buy enough yardage for a sweater's-worth. A scarf, a shawl, underwear, I'd buy the appropriate amount. With roving, I translate the yardage based on the anticipated gauge of yarn I hope to make to ounces, and buy appropriately. I usually add about four ounces or so to the sweater calculation.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


What if I decided that I wanted to surround myself with fawning masses on this blog?

Blog Changes Required
First I'd have to come up with clever stories about Thaddeus and how he reacts to my knitting, or post pictures of my current sweater project in various historical locations around my hometown, or have daily pictures of my cat with accompanying cute stories.

Here. I'll get it out of my system.

Here's a picture of my "Darling Partner" with our incredible cat, Gage. Thaddeus has just finished administering Gage's twice-daily, tuna-flavored beta-blocker medication for the cat's heart condition. The medication is mixed specifically for Gage by a local chemist.

Thank gawd one entry won't be an open invitation to the hoards. I much prefer the intimate, intelligent group of readers (mostly) that come and read this site.

Current Knitting
I stayed up late last night and overslept this morning.

No knitting occurred what-so-fucking-ever.

I'll try to do better.

Other Fiber Activity
I finished spinning the singles and then triple-plying the remainder of the Blueface Leicester this past weekend.

I wasn't sure I was going to get the last bits to fit onto one bobbin on my Louet. You can see that the plied yarn is almost touching the flyer.

I wound this off into a hank with a whopping weight of 11.8 ounces. If my yards per pound remains somewhat around the same, there will be about 1,130 yards of yarn.

Now that my Robin wheel is empty of the Blueface, I'm itching to start a new spinning project. Which should I begin?

The choices from left to right are:

1. Blue, multi-tone Merino that I bought at "Twist" Knitting and Spinning
2. Flame colored Targhee roving from Carol's talented dyeing workshop
3. The new sliver or roving I got from James for a birthday present

Any suggestions?

Readers' Comments/Questions
Via e-mail and in French, Monique asks me to ask my readers, "Est-ce qu'il a quelqu'un qui peut traduire un modele de tricot d'Anglais, en Fran├žais?

Let me know, and I'll pass your e-mail to her for assistance.

M-H notes, "Having visited Anna's Gratton's little treasure cave, err, shop, more than once I can tell you that she's lovely and her fleece and fibre are lovely too."

I can't tell you how envious I am that you have access to such a wonderfully beautiful artist. I was talking last night with a fabric artist who started selling his fabric to Walmart until he realized they were only going to place one order, have his fabric knocked off more cheaply in China and then not pay his invoice. He's realized that sometimes his art and sufficient income to live are enough. One day, I'll make it to New Zealand and hopefully Anna will still be around.

Marilyn offers, "Joe, if you need help with the Brother..."

Thanks for that offer. After my big schpiel yesterday on obscene consumerism, I'm ashamed to admit I now own three flat-bed knitting machines and an antique circular sock knitting machine. I actually know how to use all of them, as a friend of mine does machine knitting for a living and gave me a number of very helpful tutorials. I don't know how folks could possibly learn to machine knit without having someone who knows how help them.

I just wanted to Thank Ann for her mini-lesson in economic indicators. It reminded me of the scene in Annie Hall where Alvy and Annie are in line behind a pompous blowhard pontificating about movie directors, and Marshall McLuhan comes out from behind a poster to tell the man, "You know nothing about my work."

Thanks for setting us all straight (so to speak).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Money To Burn

Every once in a while I take a step back and realize how obscene the spending habits of some Americans are...including my own.

How Is American Spending Perceived Elsewhere?
I worked for a client who designed and manufactured control devices for personal computers and video games (things like mouses, web cams, joy sticks, etc.).

All of their actual manufacturing took place in China.

The head of Global Human Resources for the firm told us a story about one of the factory workers in China. Many of the rural Chinese will come to live at the factories of large companies (like my client) for a year or two to make money that will be brought back to their farm and family when they return home. One of the factory workers who lived in a factory dormitory while he was away from his farm, died of natural causes. His entire town of about 200 people came to the factory to picket and protest the company, asking for restitution for their community-member's death.

Since the employee's death had nothing to do with working conditions or anything for which the company was liable, the company ignored the protests. After a few weeks, when the 200 people refused to give up, the issue was escalated to corporate Human Resource management in the U.S. The Americans asked the local factory management to find out what restitution the protesters were looking for. When they found out the cost of having them end their protest was the equivalent of about US$500, they obviously paid the demands and closed the issue.

As I opened a birthday gift this past weekend, and half-ignored a $3 stuffed animal that my friend Charles had used as part of the wrapping, I tried to imagine what the folks in China thought of this insignificant luxury that Americans could throw money away on, as they sewed and stuffed them with speed and agility, hundreds at a time.

Are they envious? Do they find us foolish? Do they question it at all?

I saw this license plate on a car last week, and thought, "What moron would pay for such a stupid vanity plate, unless the irony was intended?"

Current Knitting
I've made some additional unremarkable and photo-unworthy progress on the Faux Rib sweater.

I'll post pictures whenever noticeable changes have been made.

Other Obscene Spending
I made it to the local flea market this past weekend, and on Saturday, I made a couple of knitting-related purchases.

The first purchase was for three not-so-great knitting magazines.

I had to wait for the seller while she gabbed with the woman at the next table. When I asked how much the magazines were, she said 25 cents each. I gave her a dollar for the three of them. I turned to Thaddeus and said, "She clearly just isn't trying."

Then Thaddeus spotted this.

This is a Brother-Knit machine that I picked up for $30. It has all the critical pieces, including the instruction manual and most of the tools. I set it up immediately and I love all the vintage chrome and aqua. I need to oil it up a little, but it seems to work just fine. Can't wait to get home and play with it a little more.

Readers' Comments Questions
Thank you Lucia for the graph of the idiot's poll numbers. Not only was it beautiful, but it was...well, beautiful.

With regard to the roving that James sent me, k asks, "I love the Boysenberry. What's it going to be?"

I'm thinking that I want the colors to remain as distinct as possible, so I will probably spin this loosely and at about a worsted weight. I'm not sure what I can make with approximately 100 grams of worsted weight. I think I'll wait until I know the yardage and then decide.

Also concerning the gorgeous roving, Jacquie asks, "Where did he get it? I came up with but I didn't see any roving listed.

Yes, this looks like the right site. If you look on her on-line catalog under sliver you'll see Boysonberry listed. And let me tell you, the colors are ten times as beautiful as my pathetic picture. Indescribably beautiful.

Regarding conservative comments from the other day, Anne Marie asks, "Can she be blocked from commenting on anyone's blog?"

I have the ability to block commenters, although I've never done it. I actually thought Susan's initial point had some merit, and if I banned everyone that insulted other commenters, I wouldn't have many left. Like Lisa, I'm not a big fan of blowhards other than myself, but you all know I encourage differing opinions even when I don't agree with them.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A Political Wet Dream

Is that an oxymoron?

Bush's Ratings Fall Still Further
I hate to get my hopes up again, because November seems so far away. But all I can hope is that when Democrats take over Congress, a law will be passed allowing Laura to take on her natural role in the relationship.

Yes, Laura Bush will then be known as the First Mistress, and whenever she is on a plane (with or without her dreary husband), it will be known as "Dominatrix One."

Current Knitting
As hoped, I was able to get past the sleeve shaping on the first side of the Faux Rib sweater.

Now I'm down to just 131 stitches per row.

Comment Bavarde
In French, this would mean "how talkative," but it makes a nice double entendre for the amount of activity on comments this weekend.

I considered telling folks to get a nice big cup of "shut your fucking pie holes," but I figured it would all work out fine. And then Jacquie comes along and writes pretty much what I would have anyway (except I would have used more profanities and been more succinct). Thank you Jacquie.

One interesting thing I learned about myself during it all.

I found that when someone insults someone on the blog I either don't like or don't care one way or the other about, I have little or no reaction. When someone insults someone I like and respect a lot, despite the fact that she can defend herself way better than I ever could, I get very protective and insulted on her behalf.

I just found it surprising the size of my reaction.

I'll need to discuss this with my therapist.

Weekend Joy
Two birthday-related events happened this past weekend, despite the fact that my birthday was over a month ago.

The first one was expected and lovely. My friend Charles took Thaddeus and I out to dinner for my birthday. This is a birthday tradition, and it's always a nice time. With my hectic work schedule, it was just impossible to schedule it any sooner than this past weekend.

The second event was a complete surprise and also perfectly lovely. James sent me a birthday gift (well, three gifts and card, to be exact).

Let me tell you, it's nice having knit-blog friends, but there are none as generous as my Kiwi pal James. A small book on Wool, which I haven't had an opportunity to peruse much yet, another block of that incredible Schoc Chocolate (this one is labeled as "Coffee and Walnuts"...yum!) and 100 grams of a spectacularly beautiful roving from Little Wool Company. The colorway is Boysenberry, but the photo doesn't do this justice. It's mostly eggplant colored with soft streaks of navy, olive and smokey fuscia and then bold splashes of phosphorescent red.

I can't wait to see how this spins up.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Small Business Support

I don't have a lot of the answers, but I struggle with how I can support small businesses and shun larger businesses that practice what I consider to be unfair trade.

How Do You Know Who's Good and Who's Not?
Some decisions are easy.

I don't go to Walmart or Sam's Clubs because I value the small town centers of commerce and deplore companies that have a goal of destroying small businesses so they can take advantage of consumers once they've become the only game in town.

I don't go to Exxon/Mobil gas stations because of their unfair policies on domestic partner benefits (did you know that Mobil granted domestic partnership benefits shortly before the merger of the two companies, and then Exxon revoked them for seemingly no good reason?). Even if they didn't have this stain on their record, I still would prefer gas companies with less obscene profits.

Other decisions aren't so easy, especially when it's difficult to stay abreast of all of the bad things corporate assholes are doing every day.

In general, I try to send as much of my business to small, innovative businesses who can be a lot more responsive to changing styles and demands.

Yarn Businesses
This goes for my knitting-related purchases as well.

I will always support my local yarn stores when I can. Or trusted web sites that are run by creative, talented folks with whom I have had personal interactions. I also much prefer the smaller vendors at yarn and fiber events like Rhinebeck.

Some of these options cost more, but I am almost always able to find unique, beautiful products, that will never been seen on the mass market.

All this, so I can justify another purchase from my friend Carol's Etsy site.

The first purchase was this very large hank of laceweight yarn in gorgeous shades of green. This is going to make one fantastic shawl. I also couldn't resist getting some of her hand-dyed targhee roving in a color appropriately named "flame."

Now that I'm almost through spinning my Blueface Leicester, I will be wanting to try out more and different fibers for spinning. And who could resist this colorway?

I am amazed everytime Carol puts up more product, it disappears almost as quickly as she puts it out on her site. There is clearly a high demand for people that know how to dye fiber in interesting and beautiful ways.

Current Knitting
I told you that I had made some steady progress on the Faux Rib sweater, and that progress continued last night.

This picture represents about 12 inches of knitting. This weekend should bring me up to the armhole shaping where things will hopefully move along a little more quickly.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol S. asks, "Did you happen to catch Stephen Colbert's "speech" at the recent Press Corps dinner?"

I hadn't seen it and found a full video of it with transcripts through Google. It was very freakin' funny although I didn't hear a lot of laughing in the crowd. For me, that made it even funnier. All my friends were talking about it last night, so I was glad to be in the know.

Franklin notes, "Dude, if you pull of the reversible sweater, I'm totally sending over Dolores with a trophy or something."

All I can say is that you better keep that opiate-of-the-masses-lemming-in-sheep's-clothing away from me or I'll be serving mutton sagwala. You do know that if you could come up with a knitted pattern for that dust-rag-alter-ego, you'd make a million, right? But I'm not bitter...really.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hopeful News

The fact that the United States FINALLY sent representation to Darfur is obviously long overdue. The fact that protests seem to have helped make this happen actually gives me hope.

People Still Have Power
I had started to think that protests and petitions and boycotts were having no impact whatsoever on our current government. But, this past Sunday, the "Save Darfur" protests to stop the atrocities, seem to have sparked the Secretary of State to send her deputy to help salvage peace talks.

I can't imagine how our Secretary of State can utter words like the quote below without choking on them:

"The president feels very strongly and very passionately about the need to get an agreement, about the need to get a robust security force, a blue-hatted (U.N.) force in to be able to protect the innocent people of Darfur."

That is just an insane lie, and I don't know how folks listening don't just laugh when she says things like that. She's getting as ridiculous as Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi spokesman for Saddam Hussein who used to spout daily lies for the entertainment of the press.

Current Knitting
I made some additional progress on the Faux Rib sweater. I'll post a picture in my next blog entry.

Thank you all for the feedback on which side of the fabric to display publicly. I have considered trying to make it reversable, but I'm just not sure I could do seams that would look good on both sides. So I will work to make the seams on the #2 fabric look good and hope they will look good on the reverse as well.

Other Weekend Fiber Activity
I wound the second hank of the Blueface Leicester this past weekend.

This ball is slightly smaller at 8.7 ounces and 825 yards, although the yarn is a little heavier overall at 1,520 yards per pound, compared with 1,550 yards per pound on the first ball.

I started plying the final ball of this yarn, and ran out of singles on one of the three bobbins well before the other two were depleted, so I began spinning singles again with the last bit of roving I have.

I should be able to finish spinning and plying this coming weekend.

Reading And Movies
I just finished my latest book and I plan on reading more of this author.

The book is Born Naked by Farley Mowat. He tells a wonderful story of his adventures as a young boy growing up in various areas of Canada. I'm not sure if women would relate to this book as much as a man would, but I was completely drawn into this boy's life and reminisced often about my own boyhood. His writing is a joy to read. It's clean and smart and extremely well-crafted without being at all contrived.

Thaddeus and I also went to see Friends With Money with Frances McDormand, Jennifer Anniston, Joan Cusack and Catherine Keener (the men in the movie weren't overly recognized except the waddle-loving guy from the Ally McBeal t.v. show).

I loved the movie and found it to be well put together. It's not a movie that most of Jennifer Anniston's fans from the t.v. show "Friends" would probably like, but the acting was very good and if you're a Frances McDormand fan, this should be a must-see.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the Faux Rib sweater, Duffy asks, "When I look at the swatches, I also consider that they will be a little stretched in places with ordinary movement. So which would look good when stretched?"

This is a good point. The #1 (top) picture from yesterday looks quite a bit different when stretched, while the #2 picture looks no different at all.

Regarding my absence from blogging over the last three weeks, Fredda asks, "Enough guilt (did it work? The Jewish mother in me wants to know...)"

I don't think Jewish mothers are all that good at guilting folks. They try a lot, but the subtle, passive-aggressive nature of Catholic guilt is much more effective with me. Or even the incessant nagging guilt of some Asian cultures.