Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hateful Greed

I can be self-serving sometimes, to the point of mild greed, but I will never understand the ridiculous amount of greed there is among the people running our largest companies.

Blatant Piggishness
Having worked in Human Resources all my career, I have seen decisions made by CEO's (and the boards they chair) that were so blatantly self-serving, that it was embarrassing beyond words.

Is it any wonder that CEO's, who can practically approve their own salaries and bonuses, have such bloated salaries that are so out of proportion with employee salaries that they should be ashamed of themselves? And that's just salaries and bonuses. I can't tell you how many times I had to help write descriptions of benefit plans that would increase overall compensation to executives through lower medical deductibles, or reducing taxes, or overriding government limits on benefits, etc., etc., etc. Or the CEO I worked for who relocated the entire administrative offices to a location 10 minutes drive from his house (and took relocation benefits for being transferred).  To provide one example of the huge difference in how executives are treated compared to their employees, if the minimum wage in the U.S., which was $3.80 an hour in 1990, had grown at the same rate as CEO pay over the decade, it would now be $25.50 an hour, rather than the current $5.15 an hour.

I often wonder what would have happened if I had been more ambitious and aggressive in my career, and had attained an executive level position.

Would I have been caught up in the power-hungry greed, or would I have been more even-handed in the compensation and benefits shared among the employees that make the company function?

It's impossible to tell, but I could only hope that I would have had friends who would have given me an abrupt wake-up call.

Current Spinning I didn't have anything on the wheel for a little while, and then I got a note from Australian knitter, Kerry. He had a friend who had an extra kilo or so of incredibly fine merino top, and would Ted and I be interested in splitting it? that a trick question?

His friend Libby sent me two bumps of some of the nicest spinning fiber (I guess it's fibre, since it's Australian) I have ever seen or touched. Actually she sent me four bumps, but two of them were for Ted, and with the postal strike in Canada, she asked if I'd forward it on to him since I could bring it with me in my travels and post it from Canada.

This stuff is gorgeous. It has a luster like silk, and the individual fibres are so fine and light, they practically float.

Suffice it to say, I couldn't hold myself back from spinning the miraculous fibre, so I dropped all knitting projects this past weekend, and spun up about a half a spool of singles.

When double-plied, it will probably make some of the nicest fingering weight yarn I have ever produced (click on the photo to see that I've been able to find the "sweet spot" as far as the gauge of the single this fibre produces).

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hello Readers...It's Your Mother

I hate to be a nag, but have you been to your dentist lately? Are you flossing regularly? Do you use a Sonicare toothbrush?

A Cautionary Tale
I used to floss irregularly (maybe once a week or in spurts for short periods). I brushed my teeth regularly. In the past few year, I've used a Sonicare toothbrush both at home and when I traveled. I used to go to the dentist about once a year for a cleaning. Each year I'd go, they'd tell me my teeth were in perfect shape.

Then, my dentist's practice was bought by one of those warehouse dentist chains that set up huge office spaces with cubicles instead of treatment offices. I went once, but hated the experience. Especially when I realized they were only interested in bilking my insurance company for as much money as they could by treating me for things I didn't need.

I stopped going to the dentist for a few years after that, until Thaddeus found an excellent dentist. And even though she wasn't accepting new patients, she was willing to take both Thaddeus and I on as new patients.

Coincidentally, I also started having a problem with one of my back molars. Timing seemed perfect.

Perhaps if I had gotten to see her six months previously, the timing would have been perfect.

As it turns out, I had quite a few dental problems which went completely undetected, requiring me to have the problem molar extracted.

Now, why do I write this?

Mostly, it's to alert folks (who don't already know) that there are some things I wish I had been doing about my dental care that I wasn't.

Here is my list of "motherly" dental tips:
1. See your dentist or periodontist at least once a year. It's important.
2. Learn how to brush your teeth correctly. I'm amazed that I didn't learn until I was over 50 years old.
3. Minimally floss every day.
4. Ideally, use inter-dental brushes

Butler G-U-M proxabrush handle with 2 interdental brush refills, 625R - 1 ea

5. Gum disease (even rather serious gum disease) can be occurring without you know it at all, until it's too late to save a tooth.
I know most of you have heard at least some of this for years, but for some reason I didn't pay much heed to it, and I wish now that I had.

Current Knitting/Spinning
First off, I worked on both my Austermann Step project and my Heirloom Lace baby blanket project since my last blog entry.

I only have a photo of the sock project this week.

You'll note I finished the first sock, and started the second, and they will be relatively close to matching.

I don't have a lace photo because I didn't really get enough done since last blog entry to merit a photograph.

That's because I started a new spinning project over the weekend.

Stay tuned for more details on what I'm currently spinning.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Carol writes, "I have recurring dreams about losing my purse/wallet, too -- do you have similar ones?

I don't. Honestly I might, but I don't remember my dreams. Even when I wake up in the middle of one, the content fades from memory faster than I can take a mid-sleep gerontological pee (in the loo, not in Depends or anything).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pockets and Purses

Most guys I know store their necessities in pockets, and most women store them in purses. And some men, rely on their spouses or girlfriends to hold things too big for their pockets in the purse.

I can't imagine how guys get by without the concept of a purse. Where do they put things like aspirin, or band-aids, or hand moisturizer, or calculators.

While I can jam a bunch of things in my pocket, wallet, cell phone, money, gum, receipts, plane tickets, pens, etc., there are lots of things I have to rely on my laptop bag to carry. Knitting projects being one of the major components of that content.

What other options do guys have when it comes to schlepping all their immediately needed items?

Current Knitting
I switched from the Austermann Step sock to the Heirloom lace project and made some progress on the second side of the blanket.

The interesting and subtle color changes in this handspun lace yarn is make for some very interesting knitted fabric that I'm liking a lot. I will be very interested to see this full blanket all knitted up and see how all the color patterning works (or doesn't).

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blog Tour: Knitting Knee-Highs, by Barb Brown
A few months ago, I was thrilled to get an advanced copy of long-time Blog Reader, Barb Brown. Here is the basic data about Barb's book:
Title: Knitting Knee-Highs: Sock Styles from Contemporary to Classic
Publisher: F&W Media
Retail Cost: US$22.99
Latest Amazon Price (at least for me): US$15.63 (32% savings)
Knitting Knee-Highs: Sock Styles from Classic to Contemporary

{QueerJoe} Congratulations Barb! You are the first author to have a Blog Book Tour on QueerJoe!

{Crazy Lady Barb} Thanks for having me. Yours is one of the first blogs I followed, so it made sense to ask if you would take part.

{QueerJoe} First question: Why Knee Highs?

{Crazy Lady Barb} When I started designing, it was for small publications, with no yarn support. Socks were projects that didn’t involve a huge financial outlay, so I sort of started churning out sock designs. Bonnie Franz used a number of them in her newsletter Stranded. One day my husband said I should do my own book on socks.
It seemed to me there were a lot of books out there on the subject, and I needed a “hook” if a publisher was going to be interested in working with a relatively unknown designer.
Then, my DIL asked for a pair of knee-highs, and I went looking for a pattern book (the perfect excuse to buy a book!). There really wasn’t one, and the idea was born.

{QueerJoe} First impression is that I was particularly pleased with the production quality of your book. The photos, the layout the print quality, etc. Like a good knitting design, it all came together in a great looking book. Who do you blame for this?

{Crazy Lady Barb} The samples have to fit the models. If they don’t, get another model (the one thing I didn’t think of there was the height of many models. Their legs are much longer than “average”!)
The pictures must be about the socks
No cutesy wootsy poses
And they did the rest. I’ve had a lot of compliments on the lovely job they did, and I regularly forward them on to Jenn to pass to the right people. I sent them all Cadbury’s chocolate, too.

{QueerJoe} One of the only less-than-rave reviews I saw for your book had a critique that the models were dressed in an alluring way, with short skirts and low tops. Was this done purposefully to try and get adolescent straight boys knitting knee-highs (that's my one hard-hitting question!) or was there some other subversive reason for this?

{Crazy Lady Barb} Don’t you think that’s a little bit sexist, Joe? I wasn’t just thinking of straight boys… there are girls out there who think the pictures are a tad stimulating too.
And age discrimintory too. My husband, aka The Old Fart, says “the models set the socks off very nicely” and has his favourites that he keeps looking at. A couple of his buddies even bought the book.
That’s two other totally untapped markets.
Seriously though, I do wonder just how deep in the closet this woman is. It’s rather sad, really.

{QueerJoe} I often find that when I delve into a very specific topic on something, I learn unexpected things about that topic. What did you learn about knitting knee-highs that was most surprising?

{Crazy Lady Barb} I was surprised how much fun they are to design. I love designing socks because they are perfect for a new or slightly complex technique, and the accountant who lives deep inside me is very satisfied with the balance of the design from top to middle to bottom. The shaping in knee-highs adds a whole new dimension to this. There are so many ways to shape them. And so many decisions to make… have the shaping stand out, be hidden, front, sides, back, make it the focal point.
I was also surprised that I fall short of the “average leg length” by an inch or more. I did a number of surveys to get accurate numbers for today’s averages, and I was right there at the bottom. My picture of myself includes a height of around 6 foot, so it was shock to find out how short my legs are.

{QueerJoe} Finally, if you had to choose the most complex project in your book, which would it be?

{Crazy Lady Barb} I think it would be Flora. The carries or floats in this design are quite long, and require a bit of fiddling. But they are also my favourite design. I toyed with changing my original concept, but I liked them so much as they are, I decided not to.

I would like to mention my philosophy when it comes to designing though. If there is a hard way and an easy way, and the results are very similar, I’ll go with the easy way. I like my patterns to be user friendly, and achievable by anyone who can knit and purl. Most of the patterns in the book require basic skills and a bit of patience.

Thanks gives your book even more depth to read your response to questions about it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

You Will Be Aspinnerated!

Two new words came out of the most recent retreat (although I'm sure other groups have used them before us):
Aspinnerated - To become a spinner despite protestation of not wanting to ever spin (the combination of assimilated and spinner)

Lambkin - A first-time attendee of the retreats
Phil Meets Both Those Criteria
On of our members this year was both a newbie to the retreats and was aspinnerated as well.

Phil had some initial reservations about what the retreats were about, and we exchanged a few e-mails where he was satisfied that the retreat was something he would enjoy doing. Once there, he jumped into the community with passion, and helped make the event as amazing as it was.

He also got bit by the spinning bug. Just a few lessons and a door prize from Mindy at Puff The Magic Rabbit, and he was off. In fact, he's been in correspondence with Mindy, and she is sending him a photo of the goat that donated the prize he won (well, technically Mindy donated the prize...but the goat grew it!).

Mindy has always been a strong supporter of the retreats, both emotionally supportive as well as through her donations of fiber to the retreat.  Her fiber is enough to aspinnerate anyone who's even considering taking up spinning.

Place an order for some of her Buttercup Meadow fiber or Fluff's Pumpkin Pie roving.

Ask'll never be the same after.

Plus, the thing I love about ordering from people like Mindy, is that in addition to supporting an incredibly talented independent fiber vendor, you also help support the retreats.

Current Knitting

Well, I've never been exceedingly fast at knitting ribbing, and that's what I've been working on during the few minutes each night I have to knit before passing out.

Hopefully I'll get a bit more done on my flights home tonight.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Being Connected

Whether trying to find a job, or vying for the nicer fleeces from a herd of sheep, it's always good to be well-connected.

How Connected Are You?
Overall, I don't consider myself very well networked in many areas of my life.

If I had to do a job search, for instance, I would have to scramble a bit to reach out to folks I have worked with in the past to see if they knew of anything available. Using standard channels of job search, such as Monster don't seem to be overly effective when searching for a very specific position such as the type of job I would normally look for.

All that being said, I was incredibly surprised when a knitting friend contacted me to let me know that he had over a pound of fine merino top that he thought I might be able to use. It was also unexpected when an old neighbor from my grade school days contacted me to see if I was interested in getting his mom's knitting stash, since he heard that I was a knitter. And then, someone at my local flea market let me know that he had a couple of needlepoint books he thought I might be interested in (I wasn't, but I appreciated that he was looking out for me).

Suffice it to say, I was extremely glad to feel connected in a knitting kind of way.

Current Knitting
I mentioned in my radio post on Friday (did you listen to the interview?...I thought it was very good) that I had made progress on both my two current knitting projects.

On the Austermann Step sock, I did finish turning the heel on the first sock (using a short-row heel), and I'm made my way up to the ribbing on the ankle.

I also wound off the ball of yarn and counted the total number of stripes in this 100 gram ball of yarn. I figured I could be precise as possible with using exactly half of the yarn on the first sock by knitting half the stripes..

I also finished the first side of the square Heirloom Knitting baby blanket and started the second side.

It's difficult to imagine that the second side (the knitting at the top of the photo) is 13 rows of knitting. I find this kind of knitting the most interesting of almost anything else I knit, and given the number of stitches I knit on this kind of project, it goes faster than most.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

My First Green Room Experience

Who would have believed that a college radio station in Troy, New York would have had a green room, where Ted, Wondermike and I waited nervously for our live radio interview.

The Last 2011 Retreat Entry
Yes, we were interviewed by Harry Faddis, co-host with my friend Stephen Sims on The Quest of Life.

Harry Faddis and Stephen Sims - Hosts of Quest of Life on WRPI Radio

Listen in, to hear the interview...I have to do the same, since I hardly heard a word I said since I was a bit nervous. It was live after all, and you know what a potty mouth I can be!

Current Knitting
I finished the first of four sides of the lace baby blanket from Heirloom Knitting, and I haven't quite gotten to the heel on the Austermann Step socks I'm knitting.

I'll update later with photos of both.  Go listen!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Latest Gems I Didn't Know About

I have recently come upon two amazing knitting books, that I either didn't know existed, or didn't realized how chock-full of great stuff they had.

Simply Socks and Weekend Knitting
Do you ever get to a point in your knitting where you just think "There couldn't possibly be anything more I care to learn about this craft?"

Yeah, me too...and then two amazing knit designers/authors blow my mind with information or patterns that I can't imagine I could have missed in my 25 or so years of knitting.

Why didn't anyone tell me?

Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy

Simple Socks: Plain and Fancy by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts is one of the most thoroughly researched documents on sock design and is one of those books every knitter should have in their library. With other books, like Knitting In The Old Way, I should have figured this book would be equally as important for a knitter, but it somehow escaped me.

Weekend Knitting: 50 Unique Projects and Ideas

The other book, Weekend Knitting by Melanie Falick I guess isn't quite so much a "must have" in a knitter's library as it is a surprise. I was quite pleased to see a number of designs that I would actually make, including soft-boiled egg I don't each soft-boiled eggs, but I may actually start given that I know I can make cute little sweaters for them! I also need to find myself a nice set of hard-boiled egg holders too I guess.

This last book, I found for a US$1 at my local flea market (in hardback), and it was well worth the price.

Current Knitting
I wove in all the ends of the last pair of socks, made progress on the new pair of socks and also started a new lace project!

Yes, quite a busy knitting weekend.

The new socks, if you'll remember, I hadn't even finished the toe of the first toe-up knit sock. Here's where I am now.

I love how this yarn looks like someone spattered dyes by accident on the various gives the knitted fabric a really cool look.

I also started the Baby Blanket from Heirloom Knitting.

This is just one side of a mitered outer section of the blanket. If I've scanned the pattern correctly, I think I make four of these and then do the center panel and then the edging. I'm loving working with this color's slightly mottled, but not enough to interrupt the stitch/lace patterning.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sock Accomplis!

Given how long it takes for me to do ribbing...especially 1x1 ribbing...I wasn't sure I'd finish the Skacel socks in time for a blog before I headed home for the week.

I Almost Wore Them Today!
After trying them on for the blog photos, I considered wearing them to work.

A couple things interfered with that plan. Mainly, I have quite a few ends to weave in and I wanted to make sure some of my temporary joins didn't loosen up more than I wanted. Plus, the yarn ends inside the sock might have gotten irritating, especially since I end up wearing them for about 23 hours on travel days (yes, I put on clothes at about 7:00 am Mountain time and take them off the following morning at about 7:30 am Eastern time.

Suffice it to say, I'm looking forward to wearing the socks...I just love how they look and feel.

Current Knitting
I had to immediately cast on with my latest Skacel yarn, the Austermann Step in this great blue, red, green colorway.

If it's not obvious from the mini-photo, I'm doing another pair of toe-up socks. I started with the figure-8 cast-on, and I have to say that tightening up those initial stitches was incredibly easy. I'm not sure if it's the yarn, or that I'm just getting better at figuring out which leg of a stitch to pull to snug up the stitches.