Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today's Episode...

...we get to watch Joe and his paint dry, or in other words...

...Painfully Slow Crochet Progress
Even though I'm moving more and more quickly, it seems like I will never finish this tablecloth.

You'll note that I was able to add 3 more stars to the ever-growing tablecloth. And that was on a school night. And even with this kind of speedy crocheting, I'm still only halfway done with this project.

The way I figure it, I have to suffer through persisting till this beautiful project is done, and so do the readers of the blog (as my readership goes down to 2 hits a day).

Current Reading
I just finished an absolutely dreadful book that I most vehemently don't recommend.

Death of a Voodoo Doll by Margot Arnold is not only a murder mystery book (which is a genre I don't usually enjoy very much) but it's an absolutely awful example. Her storyline is disjointed and stuttering. The solving of the murder isn't at all clever or interesting. And she tries to add interest to her characters by surrounding them in all sorts of ineffective mystique. This was a waste of my reading time.

The book was written a while ago, and is part of a series of mysteries involving the same two so-called detectives, and I have one other in the series. I will not be reading it. Looking at the Amazon listing for this book will give you an idication of its value. Used copies for $1.40, and that is exorbitant.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Fredda writes, "The new ragg sweater looks interesting and as soft as I thought it would. My screen shows the dark part of the yarn as taupe and brown. How close am I?"

Very close...the dark color ranges from almost black to reddish brown and taupe for the lighter color is pretty accurate. The yarn is amazingly soft and silk, as is the resulting fabric.

Regarding my computer woes, Marilyn writes, "WTF is wrong with the computer? Email me. I'll help you without making you feel stupid. I promise."

Actually, my computer is completely unuseable at this point. I've got a loaner for the week while they configure a new one for me. All in all, it's working out quite well, in that I get a much nicer computer. It was how I broke it that was so stupid.

Monday, October 29, 2007


The web page you are trying to access is experiencing technical problems (or at least the moron creating it is). Please proceed at your own risk.

Computer Woes
I have had a virtual cornucopia of issues associated with my computer, and as a result, I feel like I'm walking around on crutches.

I won't go into all that's gotten me to this point of computer turmoil...mostly because much of it makes me look way more stupid than I care to look in a public forum, but suffice it to say, I don't have access to all my regular blogging tools, most specifically, my ability to professionally edit photos. Hopefully, that will be corrected by the end of the week, but I'm not holding out tons of hope.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I didn't get a photo, but I was able to add another three big stars and a couple of little stars to the table cloth. That makes 67 stars down and 73 more to go. I will have a photo of my progress in the next blog post.

I also started a new project.

After making about 10 different swatches using Mel and David's alpaca herd yarn, I finally settled on an overall design and stitch pattern for the main body. I've got my gauge, and I started knitting what will be a very warm alpaca jacket this past weekend.

The bottom hem is a simple cable design turned sideways, and the main body stitch pattern is a simple diagonal motif that shows subtly against the ragg color changes in the yarn.

Here's a closeup of the fabric if it helps any.

Readers' Comments/Questions
A number of different readers in Grand Rapids, Portland and Cleveland have been incredibly nice, and offered to meet up or show me a local yarn store or two.

Unfortunately, the time I will actually get to see any of these places is almost nil. I will fly in to arrive at night, sleep in a local hotel, attend an early morning breakfast meeting, present to a group all day, take that group out to dinner, sleep in the hotel and leave early the following morning.

Thank you to all who offered, both in comments and in e-mail. I will be back out to these three locations, but I'm not sure if future visits will be equally as brief.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Back To Reality

Or at least, back to work. Like Christmas always did when I was a kid, Rhinebeck went by so quickly, especially after all the anticipation.

Next Few Weeks
This week and the next two will have me traveling quite a bit. I'll be continuing to travel to Wilmington, Delaware each week, but also in the middle of each week, I'll be traveling to Grand Rapids, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio, and Portland, Oregon.

With all this travel, I'm not quite sure how much time I'll be able to devote to blogging or the knitting/spinning/crocheting that gives me reason to blog.

I'll do what I can to keep up.

Good Cause
Please check out this great idea. It's an auction of designer sweaters from various publications that will benefit Rwanda. If there's anything you can bid on, please do.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I didn't give a progress report on Monday, but not because of lack of progress.

You'll note, I've added 2 more large stars, and filled in five of the small motifs as well. It's nice when the countdown number of 76 stars left is getting closer to the number already completed. Soon enough, it will be all down hill.

Current Spinning
I finished up the second spool of Corriedale singles, and then double-plied it to get this lovely hank of approximately worsted weight yarn.

This is 426 yards (or 6.2 ounces) of soft, silky, lofty yarn. I started to ply up the remainder of the singles, but didn't finish, so I'll post about progress on more Corriedale next week.

More Stash Purchases - Books
Having had the opportunity to meet Véronik Avery at Rhinebeck, I now definitely want her book, Knitting Classic Style. Based on Carol's no-bull review, I should have already purchased it, but I hadn't. You know it's interesting how getting to know someone's personality, even a little bit, makes me more interested in owning their book.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rhinebeck Was A Success

Not only did I get everything I wanted, and a little more, but I got to meet up with friends, meet a few great folks, and overall enjoyed myself.

I didn't buy that much (Mel is thinking I'm lying right now), but I did spend a lot.

My first visit was with Dr. Mel himself.

I also ran into Mel's partner, David a few minutes later, and those two make a wonderful couple. Mel is as delightful as I had imagined him to be, and even more attractive in person (the kilt helped out making that determination).

I completed three of my five goal-purchases with Mel in my very first booth.

First, I found an alpaca roving and a small amount of alpaca fleece that I think will match the color of the recent bulky alpaca yarn I spun. Hopefully when carded and spun, I will have enough for a cardigan.

On the left of the picture above is the yarn I spun, then the roving that made that yarn. The next two items are the roving and the locks of alpaca I bought from Mel.

Then, I bought a couple of gift items from David's line of Red Maple products. They are truly sublime, and I may need to keep at least the one pair of socks (the red ones of course.

Finally, I bought a sweater's worth of the yarn from their Alpaca herd.

I have been doing nothing but dreaming of how best to use this yarn in a new sweater.

After my first shopping binge, I met up with friends Carol and her friend Laura, Marilyn, Fredda, Ted, and Ted's friend David. Shortly thereafter, we ran into Kathy and Selma. Lars joined us at lunch, and Steve and Sue from Twist came and sat for a moment to say hi. It was a pleasure to see each of them, and honestly, the best part of going to Rhinebeck at all.

I got the chance to also meet Véronik Avery (Carol is right, she is just wonderful), and readers Mindy and one of the Ann's and her friend (sorry, I forgot your name). It made me remember why I enjoy a certain part of the knitting community very much.

After lunch, Thaddeus helped me pick out my biggest purchase of the day, a Strauch drum carder.

Yes, I decided to go with the brand that most folks recommended to me, and also the best model they have. I am extremely happy with it. I spent a few hours Saturday night carding/blending the alpaca fleece and alpaca roving I bought from Mel's booth, and this machine is smooth, sturdy and does a spectacular job.

I can't wait to see what it does with wool.

Speaking of which, my final purchase of the day was a cormo fleece.

I bought this from a small farm from upstate New York, called Blackberry Hills Farm. The woman was quite knowledgeable and helpful and this huge freakin' fleece was very inexpensive. She had a white cormo fleece, but I preferred the darker color. I get to thank Jam the ram each time I scour, card, spin and knit with this lovely fiber.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding my list of 100 favorite movies, one of the Ann's noted, "I found your 100 interesting, and saw a few that I had missed out on seeing. I would go for a few more classics, a few more SciFi"

I tried to pick from a multitude of genres, directors, actors and time periods, but it got extremely difficult to whittle my list down to 100. I have another dozen or so movies that missed the list, but are still among my favorites, and probably dozens more that just didn't even occur to me.

On the same subject, Karen asks, "Have you seen Nine Queens?"

No, but it's certainly looks like a movie I'd enjoy adding to my list. I'll have to check it out, thanks.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Rhinebeck Bound

Like many of my knitting friends, I head up to New York State this Saturday morning to enjoy the pleasures of NY State Sheep & Wool Festival.

It looks like both Thaddeus and I will go up, which always makes it more enjoyable for me, but for him, not quite as much.

I'm not participating in Blogger Bingo this year, so if you stop to say hi, you won't be able to fill out a square on your card this year.

Mostly, I'm going to the festival to meet up with friends. I also have a couple of things I'll be looking for specifically, well, three actually. Any interesting fleece, a drum carder and items from RedMaple Alpaca.

Other than that, I'll just stroll through the festival enjoying a nice day of fiber-related excitement.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I continue on with my only real active project at the moment, the crochet lace tablecloth.

You'll note that Nico insisted on being in the photo this time.

On Ravelry, I found out that this pattern is a free available pattern from The Spool Cotton company called Queen Anne's Lace. While that's not where I found the pattern, it's nice to be able to refer others to it who might be interested.

Current Spinning
I have done some additional work on the brown Corriedale fleece that I bought last year at Rhinebeck.

I still have a box-load of roving to go, but it's a very nice fiber to be working with and Fingerlakes mill did a lovely job of cleaning and carding it for me.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thank you all for your thoughtful comments on cholesterol, niacin and vegetarianism. I am again amazed at the breadth of knowledge of folks that read this web log.

As for me, I have quasi-successfully used diet and exercise to control my cholesterol for most of my adult life. It's never been incredibly high, but always "borderline." I understand there are issues with niacin and some possible side-effects. I started taking the non-flush Niacin, which avoids the flush through slow-release of the vitamin. Some folks said that the non-flush can cause liver enzyme problems more frequently, so I switched to the regular niacin. I did get an incredibly "flush" effect, but knowing to expect it, it was just uncomfortable for about 5 minutes.

I don't recommend or not recommend this therapy for cholesterol control. My real concern is that my doctors don't even mention it as option without Thaddeus having to find out about ourselves.

As non-parents, and as gay men with exquisite taste, Thaddeus and I get to see a lot of great movies. When AFI came out with the 100 greatest movies, I thought I would come out with my own list. Below, I posted it as a separate blog entry, I give you, QueerJoe's 100 Favorite Movies.

At first, I thought I would never be able to come up with 100, and then I had trouble narrowing it down. I would highly recommend that you take a look at any of the top 20 movies you recognize, and see if you agree with my assessment. The take a look at the last 20 and do the same. If you don't agree with me on those movies, seeing the other movies on my list might be awful for you.

Suffice it to say, other than Secret of Roan Inish, many of the movies are not kid-friendly.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Knowledgeable Medical Consumers

I've always been an advocate of folks that proactively look into their health and and also folks that make sure they understand diagnoses and medicines prescribed by their health care providers.

But it gets more and more difficult trying to determine fact from fiction.

Good Cholesterol
Thaddeus recently started reading up on managing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and found that there's significant research on using Niacin, a simple B vitamin to increase the "good cholesterol," or HDL.

It seems that they've done rigorous testing (comparable to the tests done on prescription statins, used for cholesterol reduction) on Niacin, and most resources agree that it is the cheapest way of helping your cholesterol levels.

Now, first before I say more, I want it to be clear, I AM NOT RECOMMENDING ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR HEALTH OR VITAMIN TAKING AND I AM NOT A DOCTOR!! I am however, recommending that if your cholesterol is high and/or you're on a statin that could have serious liver or muscle reactions, that you might consider researching AND speaking with your doctor about whether Niacin might be a good alternative for you. I figure that when even the Mayo Clinic is willing to come out and say that Niacin is possibly as effective or more in helping folks with high cholesterol, and with possibly less potential for side-effects, it definitely merits looking into.

For the majority of my post-30 year old life, I have had cholesterol levels that were higher than I cared to have. With a father who died at the age of 43 from a heart attack, I have always looked for alternatives. It galls me that my doctors have mentioned prescription medications for lowering my cholesterol over the years, but have never mentioned any possible alternatives. My assumption is that they rely almost exclusively on the pharmaceutical companies to educate them on the latest options, and there's no way the pharmaceutical firms would be letting doctors know about alternative options for controlling cholesterol.

But finally, I reiterate (especially if you're one of those folks that reads headlines, but not all the fine details), you should definitely make sure you're having liver function monitored if you decided to try adding Niacin as a cholesterol reducer.

Local Yarn Store Anniversary Sale
For those of you that live near New Hope, PA, Twist Knitting & Spinning store is having an anniversary sale which started on October 15 and goes through October 31st. It includes 25% off all 100% cotton yarns, including: Blue Sky, Classic Elite, Knit One-Crochet Too, Manos and Cotton Chenille. It also includes 25% off all KFI yarns including Noro, Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, Katia and Elsebeth Lavold.

If anyone decides to go, check out all Deb's books by Elsebeth Lavold as well...they're spectacular.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
Keeping up with my frantic pace, I was able to get two more large stars completed, and a single filler star.

Reader Moorecat notes in comments, "I think I see a mistake (gulp). If you look at the third row from the top and the second motif from the right, it looks as if it has been joined at a different angle from the other motifs, so that it stands upright on one point, instead of two points."

Actually, I've made a couple other mistakes along the way. When I'm finished with all the crochet work, I will go back and snip these motifs out and replace them correctly. I have to admit, it amazes me that there are folks that look at blog photos closely enough to see these things. I remember a quilter friend warned me when I was putting a colorblock edge on my quilt to make sure I used the same number because there were folks out there that would actually count them to make sure there were the same number on each side.

Then again, I know some folks just have an eye that instantly spots irregularities like the one that Moorecat noted.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Cara writes, "I just saw the catalog for this show:

Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting and there were some crocheted tablecloths that you might be interested to see. Have you seen this show already?

No, but it looks fascinating. I will have to see if I can possibly arrange to see it. Thanks for sending on this kind of information.

Also, thanks to everyone who added me as a friend in Ravelry. I've been rather obsessed with the world of Ravelry lately (just ask Thaddeus), so having fast friends in this new world has been quite nice.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm a Raveler

Yes, finally, #24,153 got invited into the party.

A Wonderful New World
I am majorly impressed with all the work that's been put into this site, and how extensive the participation has been of the folks already signed up.

Personally, I was invited in on Friday, and I have already set up all my current projects, and some of my older projects. I've added a few items in my stash. I've added all my knitting books (that Ravelry has in their database). I've signed into three groups and have about a dozen friends so far.

If you're already a member, feel free to add me as a friend (I'll do the same), send a message, add any of my projects as favorites, etc., etc.

Finally, Marilyn mentioned this, but if you are a member, and you like the new fiberspace, and you have the means to do so, I would highly recommned that you support the developers by either buying a t-shirt or two, or making a direct contribution. I understand they'll be allowing members to join for free, and eventually, they will probably have advertising that will pay for their work, but as of now, it's simply a tremendous effort.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I worked diligently on the crochet lace tablecloth this weekend, and got some decent results.

Not only did I complete 9 of the smaller filler-motif stars, but I also added three more larger stars. At this pace, I may actually have a tablecloth that could be used for Thanksgiving.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Angel asks if I've every used the Clover Soft Touch Crochet Hooks?

Knit store worker and all-around great guy, Steve, showed me one of the Clover Soft Touch Crochet Hooks at Twist, and it looked kind of intriguing, but it didn't seem any longer than the regular hooks, and seemed like it would still poke me in the palm of my hand. But I may try one anyway to see how I like it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Knitters' Tips

Well, maybe not the kinds of tips you were thinking

More QueerJoe Communist Ideas
I've always found the concept of tipping to be quite a communist idea, and so very unlike most American practices. Basically, the folks that get tips in our society are allowed to be paid a pitance by their employer, and have to make up for their small salaries through the generosity or satisfaction of customers.

I have always been an excessive tipper regardless of service. It's one of my ways of charitable giving. Unless a waiter/waitress is clearly being purposefully bad, I will always give about 20%. If the service was poor, I'll round down a dollar, and if it's good or better, I'll round up a dollar. Not a big distinction between good and bad service, but I figure the wait staff in restaurants need the tip money more than I do.

Also, since I stay in hotels about half my life, I always tip for housekeeping.

I'm interested to hear from any readers on what they consider to be a standard tip for the person that cleans their hotel room, and what they would consider to be a good or excessive tip. Does that amount change based on the quality of the hotel? Or if the hotel is used for vacation or business?

Current Knitting/Crochet
Shockingly, I kept up my rather fast pace on the lace tablecloth.

Not only did I complete three additional stars, I also did one filler star motif. I think this weekend I will try and do all the filler stars so I don't get too far behind on that part of the task.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Sherry W. asks, "What type of hooks do you enjoy working with, Joe?

I use a lot of different types of hooks, and I'm honestly underwhelmed by most of them. The Boye metal hooks are what I use for small lace work, like the tablecloth. I also use Susan Bates Aluminums and plastic hooks. Both the Boye and the Susan Bates are too small (in length) for my hand based on how I hold the hook, and they annoy me by poking me in the palm of my hand. I have a 12" afghan hook that I use that is more comfortable, but still not great. Even an Amazon search for crochet hooks doesn't show me much else that I feel would make my hooking experience better.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Old Queen!

You'd think that a title of royalty might be a compliment to a gay man, but "old queen" is one of the ugliest names you can call someone in the gay community.

Revering The Elderly
Marilyn told me about a heartbreaking, but fascinating article in the New York Times yesterday about the treatment of gays and lesbians in nursing homes. Particular thanks to Jane Gross and Dan Frosch for putting together such a sympathic view of this special population.

It has never been a subject I've wanted to think about too much...getting old...and this article made me think about it a lot.

I have no children, and while I've treated my nieces and nephews fine over the years, they would certainly feel little or no obligation to help me if I needed it in my later years. I've tried to keep myself healthy enough, so that I'll be able to maintain independence from others' help for as long as possible, but that can never be guaranteed. Trying to make sure I have options as an elder in my current planning leaves me with trying to make sure I have sufficient financial resources to ensure I'm treated with dignity, and to also cultivate friendship with others in the LGBT community to make sure I have some means of social support.

I often rail with a quixotic fervor against issues that have very little chance of being solved, but I truly wish that overall, we would begin to revere our elders, rather than have disdain for them. Both in the gay community as well as with our non-gay brothers and sisters. A man can dream, cant he?

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I finished another three stars (which is extremely good for mid-week crocheting).

With 52 stars completed and 88 more to go, I'm still feeling as if there is a possibility I will finish this mammoth task. Of course, I also have the little filler stars to work on, but they don't take that much time.

Current Reading
I'm still on my binge of Patricia Highsmith writings. God, I'm sorry she's dead. I'm on my last book of hers.

A Game For The Living is a wonderful, much cheerier book of Ms. Highsmiths, and probably one of my favorites yet. It incorporates her writing style, aspects of her personal wanderlust and a vicarious look into a time in foreign lands that used to be.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Happy Columbus Day?

In the U.S., today is a quasi-holiday for which federal employees get the day off, but most of the rest of us have to work.

Hero or White Devil?
The holiday is meant to celebrate what most of Americans have learned is the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus in the year 1492, but not all Americans agree is should be a cause for celebration. In fact, some would say that it's a spit in the eye of the original population of this country. I mean how could it be claimed that this man "discovered" a land where people were already living?

So, the question is, was Christopher Columbus:
a. A brave discoverer of America who founded a new land for his country and brought civilization and happiness to the uncivilized tribal groups that suffered on this land?, or,

b. A bungling, lost sailor who arrogantly exploited the charity of a native population for his own personal enrichment, and eventually opened the door to decimation and destruction of a proud people?, or,

c. Something in between?

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I was able to get quite a bit of knitting and crocheting done this weekend.

First, I finished the Trekking socks inspired by pattern in The Knitting Man(ual).

They came out very nicely, and gave me the chance to experiment with a new heel that I like very much. I will fiddle with it a little, but I will definitely use it on future socks.

I also got some work done on the crochet lace tablecloth.

I was able to add five more stars and also start to work on the filler motifs...just three of them. Just think, only 91 more large motifs to go.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks all for your comments and thoughts on the definition of "rich." Suffice it to say that I'm not in that least financially.

Most folks don't go back and read prior blog entry comments, but since I get an e-mail every time a comment is saved, I see them all. I thought y'all might like to see one of the pearls that came across my in-box. Regarding what I called the laughable comments of the leader of Iran at Columbia University, Caitlan writes,
"Well, what would you say if you were the leader of people who executed people for being gay? It's not like he can single handedly turn his country tolerant. I don't think his stance is the most admirable one by any means but he is not condemning any one or anything, so I think it is an acceptable statement."

I don't know where to start on this. To think that saying there are no gays in Iran is in no way an acceptable statement, even if he believes he's executed them all. And to say that his statements don't condemn anyone is either delusional or ignorant. By ignoring (or worse yet, intimidating) gays in his country into the closet is condemning them, just like denying the holocaust is his way of condemning Isreal.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Filthy Rich

Thaddeus came up with an interesting question the other day. What does it mean to be rich (in a financial way)?

It's All Relative
We were discussing a friend of ours who I consider to be rich, but Thaddeus didn't.

I'm not sure how I made my evaluation. Mostly on the friend's house and belongings and social activity, such as the kinds of stores they shopped at and the restaurants they went to. Thaddeus thought that one aspect of being rich meant you didn't have to work, and our friend works.

When I reminded Thaddeus of a party we went to once at a gay couple's house, where we both considered the couple to be rich, and that both the partner's worked, it made it even more difficult to pin it all down.

Is being rich just a comparative tool folks use to discuss other people that have more money than them? Would anyone actually call themselves rich? Is there a specific net worth that must be achieved that changes with the economy to be considered technically rich...something like a "rich index"?

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I've done pathetically little. I added one star to the tablecloth and I'm almost halfway done the second Trekking sock.

I considered modifying the Andersson heel a little bit, but then figured I'd have two mismatched socks. While it might not be visibly different, it would probably feel a little different. I'll just make the adjustment on my next pair.

I think I'll also do a cuff-down version of Colin's heel on my next pair of socks.

Current Spinning
After finishing up on the alpaca fleece, I decided to get myself back to the Corriedale roving I started working on way back in like June.

You'll note I have a nice thick fluffy bobbin full of singles. I still have a rather full box of the roving, so this spinning project should keep me busy for quite a while.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Judi asks, "Have you ever tried Mary Ann Beattie's Crazy Toes and Heels?"

No, but I have to admit, the Andersson heel takes very little thought once you understand how it works. The one thing that looks intriguing about Mary Ann's toe and heel is that they're rounded, which looks very appealing.