Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Power of Intention

Has anyone read "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne?  From what I understand, it claims you can make things real through the power of intention via the universal laws of attraction...or some such thing...I've clearly not read the book myself.

What Make Sense to Me

I'm not sure I believe much of this concept of intending for things to happen and they magically do, despite the fact that this book was a mega best-seller.

"I intend to be a billionaire by this Sunday, April 3rd, 2016."

I do think there is some merit in setting my conscious awareness on some goal or some specific thing, and by doing so, become more aware of it's presence in my life.

So, for instance, I set my sights on "cake" - and magically, every where I go I seem to find store, in the small kitchenette on the fifth floor of my office, in photographs on friends' Facebook page, etc.

Did I create all this cake through intentionality?  Through some force of Universal law?  I don't believe so.  Did I set my mind to focusing more on cake and so therefore was more cognizant of the cake that was already there?  Did I set my unconscious mind to be more aware of opportunities to spot cake?  Probably.

So, do I think prayer, conscious intention and/or making my desires known can help me reach goals?  Yes, to a certain degree.  Do I think the Universe, or God is some petitionable entity where I can send up my requests and expect to have them delivered...I don't really.

But even still, I might have wanted to choose a healthier example of intention than cake...just in case.

Current Knitting

Working on what will be the last of 22 London Beanies if there is enough yarn to complete this one.  I fully INTEND to have enough yarn for the final beanie...let it be so!

It will be quite close, or it may be a VERY shallow beanie...more like a kippah.

Monday, March 28, 2016

When You Know You've Got a Problem

One of Americans' favorite pastimes is complaining about poor customer's blog entry isn't that.

The Life of a Customer Service Rep

I have recently been on the phone with the customer service department of a company that is renowned for how bad their customer service is (think Department of Motor Vehicles), and I have to admit, a couple of times I got quite frustrated with the process.

Then I read an interview with a customer service rep from that company, and I vowed then and there that I would NEVER take out my frustrations with a customer service representative again...even when the customer service rep seems incompetent.

First of all, one of my many rules with ground crews at airports is that they are the ONLY people who can help me get what I need, and being nice to them gets a LOT more results than yelling at them.  I realized this goes for customer service reps as well.

Second, I realized (especially with this company) that most of the reps I speak with are quite intelligent and really want to be helpful...they often times just have no ability to help me in the way I need it and very little incentive to go out of their way to do so.  Yelling at them only makes them LESS likely to go out of their way.

Third, and finally, if the rep truly is incompetent or just not helpful despite all my charming appreciation for her/his talents, I know I can always call back later and hopefully get someone who is.

If anyone reading this is a customer service rep for a company that gets pummeled for it's bad reputation for how they treat customers, I would LOVE to interview you and print the results here on this blog for all the world to see what your world is really like.  Let's hear your side of the story.

Current Knitting

I'm working on one of the last few London Beanies.

At least I think I'm running out of the Noro Hanabatake yarn.  Looks like the final total will be 20 hats (from 15 balls of yarn).  I'll be quite pleased with that.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Putting The Pieces Together

I hate having leftover yarn.

Waste Not Want Not

In general, most of the yarn in my stash is pretty good quality yarn.  So when I finish a sock or a blanket or a sweater and I have left over yarn, I always think I'll end up doing something with the extra yarn, so I stash it away in my wall of yarn...usually in a place where I won't look often, so I can avoid the guilt of having stored something I will most likely never use.

If it's a full ball/hank/skein or more of a yarn, it's even more difficult to decide what to do.  I bring a box-load of single balls/hanks/skeins each year to the Men's Knitting Retreat so newbies can practice with it, but not even a tenth of that yarn is even used.

I know there are tons of projects out there using scraps...I have even started a couple of those projects with lots of good intention, like the hexapuff blanket.

But when I tire of projects like this one...the bag of scrap sock yarn just grows and grows and so does the guilt.

And there are those that say I should donate the yarn...but I just can't justify unloading my albatross of unused yarn on someone else.

My solution, is every once in a while, I go through all my leftovers and throw out what I know I'll never use, and re-stash the items I think may some day be useful and try not to look at that drawer, to avoid the inevitable guilt.

Anyone have any workable solutions?

Current Knitting

To avoid leftovers on my current London Beanie project, I decided to ball up the remainders of every ball of Noro Hanabatake and make as many hats as I can of the leftovers.

The leftovers created a pretty large ball...probably enough to make 4 or 5 hats...and I'll have no issue with throwing away whatever remains.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Pieceing It Together

For many long-time knitters, it's a simple fact that much of our work includes tasks other than just the knitting of the garment.

Enjoying It All

Many knitters bemoan the fact that once the knitting is completed for a garment, there is still the sewing up of the garment.  But other than sewing up a garment, there are also a lot of non-knitting tasks when it comes to creating knitwear:
  • Winding center-pull balls from hanks of yarn
  • Tying on new balls of yarn
  • Untangling and rewinding collapsed center-pull balls
  • Weaving in ends
  • Tidying up buttonholes
  • Sewing on buttons
  • Sewing in zippers
  • Sewing on edges
  • Blocking knitted fabric
I'm sure many knitters reading this could add to this list of non-knitting-specific tasks that take up time when creating knitwear.

But I have to say, I've come to embrace all facets of the designing, knitting and finishing processes and take a lot of joy in each and every once of them.

Current Knitting 

Finishing tasks on a London Beanie aren't exactly complicated or overly time consuming...closing the hole at the top, weaving in ends, blocking...that's about it.  That's why I have been able to finish 15 of the lovely little caps so far.

Okay, I haven't washed or blocked them yet, but I figured I'd do all that in one group of beanie washing and blocking.

The other outstanding task, is using up the remnants from the 15 balls of Noro yarn by joining ends together in ways that don't cause shocking color joins.  I've begun the process by balling up seven lengths of leftovers.

The ball-of-seven doesn't look very big, but it's quite condensed and the eight ball remnants are loose blobs of yarn at the moment.  Overall, I think I'll be able to knit another five or six beanies from the leftovers.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Keeping Up With the Yarn Industry

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to attend a workshop on upcoming trends in yarn and I realized I had no idea how involved the process was for large yarn companies to come up with lines of yarn for wholesaling.

Surrender Now

I also realized, I hadn't a chance in hell of trying to master the art of being on top of industry trends...the industry is just way to vast and moves way to fast for me to keep up.

Fortunately, there are some amazing yarn companies, that donate yarns to the Men's Knitting Retreat each year, and their donations give me a good sense about what they'd like to specifically market to men who knit.

Here are some examples:

Trendsetter Yarns
Margaux - Aran weight, 94% Micro Cotton, 6% Nylon
- VERY soft, braided yarn in fresh and bright colors - love this yarn

Cin Cin - 50% Rayon, 25% Cotton, 20% Acrylic, 5% Nylon
- Light worsted weight, textured yarn in fantastic trendy colorways - FLASHY!

Lana Grossa Yarn
Magico II - Fingering weight, 75% Wool, 25% Nylon
- Single ply, soft and slightly fuzzy in brilliant colorways of self-striping color lengths

Ragazza - Bulky weight, 100% Virgin Wool
- Thick single-ply/twisted roving yarn, in soft, broody colors - would be perfect for quick hats or cowls

Meilenweit Men - Fingering weight, 80% Wool, 20% Nylon
- Self-Striping/Patterning sock yarns in deep, rich colorways that I would LOVE wearing as socks

Kelbourne Woolens Yarns
Acadia - DK weight, 60% Merino, 20% Baby Alpaca, 20% Silk
- Soft, and warm with rich, deeply saturated colors

Knightsbridge - DK weight, 65 Baby Llama, 25% Merino, 10% Silk
- Lofty and cushy with a slight halo and a color palette that is sophisticated and beautiful

Road to China Light - Sport weight, 65% Baby Alpaca, 10% Cashmere, 10% Camel, 15% Silk
- The camel and silk make this ultra soft and beautiful and the color palette is more traditional and beautiful

Terra - Aran weight, 40% Alpaca, 40% Wool, 20% Silk
- Sturdy single-ply, soft and rustic, with sophisticated colors - QueerJoe's favorite!

I make it a point that I never take any of the donated yarn for myself, no matter how much I love it, but it does often inspire me to find some of my own and buy it!  I will definitely be doing that with at least a couple of these yarns.

Current Knitting

Two more hats finished toward the ultimate goal of 18-20 hats (depending on how much yarn I have to work with).

Once I've finished as many hats as I can, I'm planning on washing, blocking and putting a tag on each hat, with fiber content, washing instructions and a place for a sales price.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

More Random Thoughts

It seemed to work out well the last time I posted random ideas, thoughts, questions and annoyances, so I've collected a new batch.

Latest List

  1. When I say "I'm having trouble hearing you" why does it never occur to the speaker/phone caller to try raising the volume of her/his voice?  The most common response I get is "Is this any better" in the same tone and volume.
  2. It appears there are two types of couples...couples that find great joy in knowing each other so well that they finish each others sentences and couples that find if fucking annoying to have the other finish their sentences.
  3. At strip joints in the U.S. (I refuse to call them Gentlemen's Clubs because they're not clubs and their clientele aren't gentlemen), they throw dollar bills at the strippers...did you know in Canada where the one and two dollar denominations are rather large coins, they throw those too?  Are Canadian strippers more bruised than their U.S. counterparts?
  4. How come offensive personal odors (like body odor, flatulence, bad breath, etc.) are rarely offensive to the person creating the odor?
  5. When man started shaving his face, why is it that the eyebrows were excluded from the process?
  6. If you asked me if I encouraged enthusiasm in others, I'd tell you I do...but I also have great disdain for the person who watches television on the treadmill at the gym using earphones, and laughs out loud.  That kind of enthusiasm should be stifled.
  7. I don't use the term "ear buds" because I have an irrational fear they'll bloom at the most inopportune time.
  8. Does it not piss off anyone else that you had to pay so much for a calculator while at  University when for not significantly more money, one now comes standard on your smart phone?
  9. Why is it that some of the most profound thoughts are so fleeting?  Actually, I knew the answer to this, but it's escaped me for the moment.
  10. When I was in my early teens, I wore braces on my teeth...each monthly visit to the orthodontist, they'd tighten the wires attached to the braces until my teeth ached.  The only relief would be to grit my teeth to make it hurt worse and then unclench my jaw and it felt better.  Listening to Bob Dylan when I'm sad has the same effect now. 

Current Knitting

Since my last blog entry, I haven't picked up the sleeves for the nephew cardigan even once.  But I have made a couple of more London Beanies for donation.

It's incredibly satisfying to finish these hats, and the bulky ribbing on the nephew sweater seems to grow at a snail's pace.  And the hats are so colorful...I do love Noro.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Question of Virility

As a gay man, it's been easy to question the standards society has for masculinity and virility.

Icelandic Yoke Sweaters

Are they for women or for viking-like men?

Mostly, I always saw the yoke-patterned sweaters as a garment worn by some of the women I went to high school with, but having known Lars Rains for a number of years now, his latest book, Modern Lopi, has changed my mind.

Don't get me wrong...even if a garment...especially a knitted garment, was considered feminine looking, it wouldn't stop me from making it and wearing it.  But having just received my copy of Lars' book, I feel compelled to find some Icelandic wool, and make one of the designs in his book.

The cover design, Asymptote is just beautiful, and Lars gives the secret of how to choose alternate colorways in the book.

But I also love the Fair-Isle-like yoke on Hidur.

Or perhaps I'm just enamored with the colorway Lars used in this garment.

Either way, I have decided to get over my aversion to scratchy Icelandic yarn, and I will be casting on for some yoke sweater or another...soon!

Current Knitting

I've banged out another couple of London Beanies over the weekend.

I have to say, it's nice working with no-fail color-striping yarn on these hats.  Noro hasn't let me down once so far.  Also, having completed almost eight hats so far, I think I'll start working on the nephew cardigan again.  I'd love to get that project out of the way...or at least get the sleeves finished and sewn on.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Curmudgeon - Rest In Peace

For those of you who don't know, Marilyn Roberts, the Knitting Curmudgeon passed away yesterday.

She Is Already Missed

Marilyn's blog was the reason I started blogging myself and I modeled some of my writing on her snarky, "rare and handy" writing.  Just know that the knitting world will not be the same without her, and neither will mine.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

The Tuck Stitch

The tuck stitch in knitting can be used in some quite amazing ways to create beautiful and interesting textured fabric.

Video Tutorial - Tuck Stitch

The two patterns above are the Suke-Suke Shawl by Olga Buraya-Kefelian and the Tucked Hat by Woolly Wormhead.

Both patterns use a technique called the tuck stitch, which is something I first learned to do when I was machine knitting and when I tried to replicate the technique in hand-knitting, I found it very difficult to do.  If you've ever done a hem on a knitted garment by knitting the cast on stitch with its corresponding stitch a number of rows later, you've done a tuck stitch.  When you're picking up one of your cast-on stitches, it's relatively easy to do this technique, but when you're picking up a stitch 10 rows down from your current row, I found it impossible to count down rows on the back of my work.

So, I created a technique (or probably unvented a technique using Elizabeth Zimmermann's term) to easily identify a stitch 10 rows directly beneath the current stitch I was working on.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, there's a tutorial I created that will hopefully explain it a little better:

If you link to the YouTube page for the video, there are also a few links in the comments to purchase the coilless (coil-less) safety pins I use for this technique.

Current Knitting

I'm continuing to bang away at the London Beanies.

The Noro colorways in the Hanabatake yarn are really keeping this project interesting...I just hope the guys shopping at Easton Mountain gift shop find the colors equally as appealing.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Standardize Technology Already!

For quite a while now, I've been participating in various on-line activities, many of which require passwords - I think it's finally time that all on-line functions that require a password should be required to adopt a standard format for password definition.  And perhaps even formats for userid.

Critical Information - Critically Confusing

I work in the IT field.  I have been involved in various on-line forums and communities and social media sites for years.  I have online accounts with banks, investment systems, shopping web sites, web site building sites, blogging web sites, internet service providers, cloud storage, etc., etc., etc.

So you can imagine the mish mash of userid's and passwords that I have to manage.

I thought I was clever early on, when I came up with a standard password for social sites and a different standard password for any sites or software where financial or private data might be stored.  Both of the passwords were complex enough to make it difficult to crack.

But then the standards started to change.
  1. Some sites required a minimum or maximum number of characters that mine didn't comply with.
  2. Some sites required a specific special character that mine didn't use (like a pound sign, for instance #).
  3. Some sites wouldn't allow any special characters.
  4. Some sites required a number in a specific spot (not at the end, or only at the end).
  5. Some sites only allowed for a PIN - some of those PIN's were 4 characters, some 6 and some 8.
  6. Some sites wouldn't let you use any password that contained a word in the dictionary.
  7. Some sites required a mixture of lower-case and capital letters and some even wouldn't allow a password that started with a capital letter.
Just the second and third  item in the list above made it so you couldn't possibly have a password that would comply with both.

And, of course, you don't want to write down your passwords, because that's unsafe (yes, people will look under your keyboard for passwords if they're trying to break into your computer).

There are always softwares or apps that manager your userid's and passwords, but it always scares the hell out of me that if that account gets hacked, they'll have access to anything an everything until I change all my passwords.

And userid's...don't even get me started.  Can we just not use e-mail address as a standard for that?  And if you need more than one account, there are lots of free e-mail sites, like GMAIL where you can set up a secondary.  Trying to come up with a unique identifier that looks like your name is infuriating...I can't even imagine how annoying it would be if my name was more common.

So please...for the love of the sweet baby Jesus...someone come up with a standard that everyone should be required to use!

Current Knitting

Ideally, I'd like to finish knitting about 18 London Beanies before May (which should be easy), but I've been working solely on those since the last blog entry anyway.

I will also need to block them all and create a care-tag for them so that the retreat center can sell them.  What kind of price tag would you expect on a hat like these?

Friday, March 04, 2016

License To Kill

The Commonwealth or State of Pennsylvania offers special "affinity" license plates for various causes this one below for Saving Wildlife Animals.

The Burns!

So, while this caring, animal loving Pennsylvania driver decided to spend extra money to show how much they support keeping wild animals alive, they also saw fit to declare how unimportant human lives are with their support of snipers.  Don't get me wrong, I think American snipers probably save more American lives, although I honestly have no idea.

I just thought these two items on the same car seemed a little insconsistent.

Current Knitting

I've been drawn to the more colorful lately and I've been working on the niece afghan (a little) and the Noro London Beanies.

I still don't make a very good model for hats, but I thought I'd try the latest one on.

To take your focus a bit off how old I look, I'd like to point out the double-pointed needles on the table next to me and the ones in my shirt pocket.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Random Thoughts

I've never done this type of blog entry before, but I thought it might be fun.

Ongoing Collection

I think I'll just keep an unpublished blog entry in my blogger queue, listing and adding to it until it seems to be substantial enough to publish.
  1. Why is it that the people that use "LMAO" the most, still have the biggest asses?
  2. Did you ever realize that GAF (the company where my father worked before he died) is FAG backwards?  I don't think I ever had a chance.
  3. How come the person in the meeting who is the biggest blowhard, typically seems to know the least about the topic of the meeting?
  4. It can be incredibly disturbing to be driving and come up with 3 incredible ideas for blog entries, and then forget each and every one of them once I'm back home at my computer.
  5. It can be even more disturbing to realize I refuse to use Siri on my iPhone to remind myself of blog topics when I get home, because that would be admitting defeat and besides which, I'll remember this time anyway.
  6. Does everyone cling to life harder the closer they get to death?  I'm hoping to be an exception to that rule.
  7. How come whenever I have a hunger pang, it always turns into a craving for cake or fudge or something unhealthy for me, even when eating a kale salad would satisfy the hunger pang?
  8. Has anyone ever gotten unsolicited spam that they responded to positively...and actually purchased something based on it?  Spam is the equivalent of cat-calls to women by construction workers...I can't imagine it ever being effective at getting a positive response.
  9. After studying French for years, I found it difficult to pronounce some words in the Anglicized way but didn't want to say them in French because it sounded too "croissant."
  10. Why is it that no matter how much I learn about technology, there are some who can make me feel like a complete moron?
Perhaps stopping at 10 is a good place to post...I'll start a new list and post when it hits 10 as well.

Current Knitting

I was making some level of progress on the sleeves for the nephew cardigan.  I finished the widening/shaping and then this happened.

WEBS delivered an order of gorgeous colored Noro Yarns (Hanabatake) in worsted weight, so I decided to make a dozen or so London Beanies that I'll donate to Easton Mountain...the retreat center that hosts the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat each year.  I'll put price tags on them if they decide to sell them in their gift shop, but I'd be fine if they just wanted to give the caps to the volunteers and residents there as gifts too.