Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Distractions Abound

There are distractions that are meant to confuse and divert attention and then there are distractions that are meant to entertain.

Desperately Looking to be Entertained!

With all the craziness going on in the U.S. added with the distress of getting over a kidney stone, I have been bouncing back and forth between any distractions I can find.

I've picked up and/or started three different knitting projects:

This is the Knit-A-Long I'm doing for a pair of socks with an afterthought heel.  I'm grateful to have deadlines to force me to keep up.  Right now I'm a bit ahead of schedule.

This is a garter/biased-knit scarf done in some handspun I started a while ago when I was intensely bored.  It's beautiful yarn and the mindlessness of the garter stitch is just enough to keep me distracted.

This is a keyhole scarf in a bulky handspun/hand-dyed yarn done by a local fiber artist who I admire a lot.  I'm not so sure how this will turn out, but it will definitely look better once it's finished.

I sat down and tried finishing my current spinning project...I'm almost done with the Shetland/Mohair singles.

I'm also distracting myself (and hopefully blog readers with photos of Finn.

Unfortunately, Finn is angry with me right now...we're training him to stay off the dining room table and he was just physically removed.

And as a last-ditch effort, I'm even photographing my lattes.  Here's my latest masterpiece.

So, if you have anything you can entertain or distract me with, feel free to chime right in!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Six Point Five Millimeters

Size does matter...and since knitters deal with millimeters quite often, you may understand the shock I had with my latest CT Scan.

Diagnosis - Kidney Stones

Years ago, a friend of mine was in a lot of pain due to a kidney stone he was passing.  Karen, a mutual friend of ours, and a mother of two, asked him about his kidney stone.  When she found out that the pain was caused by a sand grain-size object through his urinary tract, her response was:

"Fuck you!  I passed a grapefruit size object through mine twice and didn't whine anywhere near as much!

About a week ago, I started having quite a bit of pain in the area of my kidneys.  It got bad enough where I felt I should see the doctor on Monday, who had me get a CT Scan to check for stones.  The above image isn't my CT Scan, but mine looked like it (except for the thin waistline of the patient above).  Turns out, I had a 6.5mm kidney stone blocking the ureter (the tube through which urine passes from the kidney to the bladder).

A quick visit to the urologist was ordered, followed by a whirlwind tour of various Hunterdon Medical facilities for pre-op EKG, blood test and x-rays, and then a visit this past Friday to the hospital to have a lithotripsy which successfuly pulverized the stone into a bunch of smaller stones.  And now I'm recuperating at home with my best friend, Percocet while I pass the smaller stones.

Current Knitting

Despite all the waiting rooms at doctors offices and labs and the time in pre-op for my lithotripsy, I had no desire whatsoever to knit.  Now that I'm on Percocet and going into and out of painful episodes, I still don't care much about knitting.

See?  So blogging about a medical condition does have some significance to knitting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Completely Nuts!

Today's blog entry is all about nuts...well...nuts, seeds, legumes and drupes...and of course knitting.

Long Story - Strap In

My husband Thaddeus used to work at this amazing little store in an amazing little outdoor shopping village.  The store was called The Nut Kettle and the shopping village was in Lahaska, PA called Peddler's Village.

This almost 50 year old business was longtime favorite of many people who have been going there since they were children.  The Nut Kettle roasted their own nuts, made various nut brittles and caramel corn all on the premises.

Until...five days before Christmas, the business suffered a devastating fire that put them out of business.  Gladly, no one was physically hurt during the fire, but the entire store was gutted by fire, smoke and water.

In addition to being heartbroken for the owner and her family, I also have to say I really missed having fresh-roasted nuts at home all the time.  They always had the highest quality nuts and they were always recently roasted, and for me, nuts are like coffee...once you've had superb, it's difficult to go back to average.

So, we've come up with our own solution until the business rebuilds...but before I describe that, just a few facts about "roasted nuts."
  1. When you read the term "roasted" do you think of the oven and turkeys? Did you know almost every "roasted nut" you've eaten was really deep fried in oil?
  2. Did you also know that almost none of the "roasted nuts" you've ever eaten were technically nuts at all?  The following information is from the Naturapathic Doctor's website:
    1. Nuts and seeds and drupes and legumes are as follows:
      1. True Nut:  Chestnuts, filberts, and walnuts are considered to be true nuts 
      2. Botanical Seed: Cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios and legumes (e.g. peanut). The peanut is considered to be a legume because it bears fruit in the form of pods (shells) that contain one or more seeds (usually two per pod). 
      3. Drupe: Almonds. Some botanists also include the fruits of walnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, and pistachio nuts as drupes because of their outer, green, fleshy husk and stony, seed-bearing endocarp.
  3. Walnuts are the oldest known tree food — they date all the way back to 10,000 B.C., despite what some bible-literalists might tell you about the apple.

Home "Roasting"

Thaddeus also used to love having fresh-"roasted" nuts at home...they're a great snack.  So we had to find a way of roasting/deep-frying them, a source of raw nuts that was as good as his old employer, the oil in which to do it and fine salt.

We ended up buying a Proctor Silex Professional-Style 1.5 liter deep fryer (small enough for one portion of fried foods, but perfect for roasting nuts).

We needed a small appliance due to space constraints, so this one was perfect.

We found a great source of raw nuts at our Indian grocery store.  Great quality and inexpensive prices for cashews, peanuts, pecans and pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

Finding the oil was easy, although The Nut Kettle used a specific type/blend of oils for their nuts, so we replicated that (it may be a trade secret, so I won't mention it).

We also ended up pulverizing some pink Himalayan salt in a spice grinder to get it fine enough to put on roasted nuts (wear a mask if you do this...inhaling this can be rather jarring).

Here are some of the fruits (or nuts or seeds or drupes or legumes) of our efforts:

Current Knitting

There was a another error on the Easton Logo Blanket that required me to rip out the grafting I did with the last panel.  I'm working on getting back on schedule with that project.

I'm also working on a Knit-A-Long sock project with an on-line group of knitter friends.

I've never knit a sock with an afterthought heel, so this is an interesting learning for me.  Here's a closeup of the waste yarn that will be removed to created the heel.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Due Respect

When is someone or something "due respect?"

Based on Title or Behavior?

Perhaps it's different in a monarchy, where certain positions demand a certain amount of respect.  I've never lived in a monarchy, so I definitely don't have that mindset.

Perhaps, my disillusionment with automatically granting respect to priests, monsignors, bishops, cardinals and popes in my religion-of-upbringing has brought me to different way of thinking on this.

Perhaps it's the fact that much of my corporate life was in organizations where respect was given based on a person's performance and it wasn't conveyed along with a promotion or title.

But I don't understand all these sheeple who tell me not to disrespect the President-elect because he somehow deserves my respect.

Honestly...I didn't support him in the elections, I didn't vote for him, and I truly believe that his election should be declared illegitimate based on the influence of Russian hacking on the election, and based on Comey's odd behavior about going public about an investigation on Hillary Clinton.

I also vehemently oppose to his complete disregard for the Constitution, when upholding its standards is really what the job is all about.  He seems to be against most civil rights I hold dear, he has threatened the freedom of the press in ways that is terrifying, and he has encouraged hatred toward women, minorities and the disabled.

And to the people that tell me I should respect the office of the president, I have two things to say.  First, I didn't hear a single word from those same people when photos or cartoons of President Obama and his family were displayed widely showing them to be bigoted caricatures of African Americans, or with a Hitler mustache.  Or when a speech of President Obama's was interrupted with "Liar!"  Second, I will respect the office of the President as much or more than the incumbent does.  Donald seems to be treating it as badly as he did the businesses he stiffed on payments or the students he cheated out of an education.

So, no...I do not respect Donald.  And I won't until he does enough to earn it.

Current Knitting

The Easton Logo blanket suffered a minor setback (is any setback minor when it comes to intarsia?).

I didn't like the color that I chose for the "sky" portion in the first purple panel...I thought it was too red, so I ripped it out and replaced it with the same color as the "mountain" in the foreground.

I recouped all the knitting from the ripping-out and also attached the first purple panel and I'm much more pleased.  It will look even nicer once the inferred border of the top of the mountains is embroiders in a darker color.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Blog Contest Winners!

Thank you to everyone who entered the blog contest.  The readers of this blog are some incredibly creative people.

Random Thoughts

It's fascinating what goes through the minds of blog readers...I honestly had no idea what kind of window I was going to be looking through when I posted this blog contest.

Below is a sampling of what came in...I only responded to the first one listed because there's an expert on the subject sitting right next to me.

  • I wondered why tires are black.  Isn't the rubber plant green?  And if so, is the rubber dyed black. And if so, why black?
    • Not all rubber is black...rubber bands, for instance, aren't typically black. For tires, carbon-black is added to rubber to give it strength and it's black color.  As it turns out, when I first met Thaddeus, he was working in a rubber mill, where they milled various rubber compounds and extruded some of them into various products for other companies.  Thaddeus tells me that carbon-black was originally made by burning petroleum in an enclosed furnace and scraping the walls.  Using the residue of burnt petroleum added the strength to rubber that products like tires needed.
  • Why do stores only send me coupons for things I don't want to buy, instead of the things I do want to buy?
  • No matter how awesome it looks, I cannot bring myself to use Manos del Uruguay yarn because of the movie "Manos: Hands of Fate." 
    The random thoughts come only when I’m showering.  Alexa needed.
  • Why did they build double-decker train cars only to use them OFF PEAK hours? 
  • Never trust a man who says "trust me."
  • How does one tiny cat take up 3/4 of the bed?
  • How exactly can one 'Wang Chung' tonight?
  • Can a life of abnegation and self-sacrifice be faulted as leading to  an unhealthy pattern of "micro-suicides", or is it the natural expression of a generous and spiritual life?
  • One of my random thoughts relates to yours regarding cleaning your teeth vigorously before going to the dentist. I have wondered why I do the same thing, yet I have the completely opposite approach before going to the hair salon. I never bother to wash my hair first, because they will wash it anyway. However, I would never think of going to the dentist without thoroughly brushing, flossing, and rinsing with Listerine! 
  • Do most people take off the toilet seat cover to clean the hinges?  How often?
  • How do cats always find the warmest spot?
  • Mind full vs. Mindful.  Are you not being mindful when your head is spinning with all the things around you; say at a carnival or concert.
  • I read some books because the cover has a good font on it. 
  • I always loved that the “paperless office” generated so many copies of whatever was sent as a computer file.
  • Every time I make a random thoughts list, I feel like Larry King. 
 Thank you everyone for participating in the blog contest.

Here are the two scarf kits that will be sent to the randomly selected winners of the contest.

I love both versions, but I'll let the first-chosen have their preferred colorway and send the other one to the second-chosen.

The winners are:

Amy B.
Helen M.

Please join me in congratulating the winners.  I'm still looking at getting coupons for MJ Yarns as runner-up prizes...I'll keep you all updated.

Current Knitting

The fifth of six panels was started on the Easton Mountain logo blanket.

I haven't worked so much plain stockinette with some intarsia for a while and I'm enjoying the easiness of it.

I've also started a sock KAL as part of a Facebook group I'm on with Hayes.

I chose Noro Kureyon Sock, US1 needles and 68 stitches.  The KAL calls for an after-thought heel, which I've never done before, but I imagine it won't be too difficult.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Ransomware - Beware!

It's bad enough that you can have your computer data hijacked by clicking on an e-mail attachment, but now your iPad and iPhone are at risk by just clicking on a web site!

Java Script Screen Lock

A friend of mine told me about how he contracted some virus that locked up his iPad and required him to pay a tech company $100 to unlock it.

So here's the scam...you're cruising various porn sites, and click on something that looks hot and titillating.  The following displays on your Safari web browser:

Or worse yet, some FBI or police notification indicates you've caused a problem and need to call a toll-free number right away.

No matter what you do, you can't unlock Safari.  You reboot.  You clear cache.  You hard-stop Safari...but nothing works.  God forbid you were doing something you shouldn't at work.  Or doing something you don't want your spouse to find out about.

You call the number and they charge you $100 to fix the problem.  They also request your iCloud password to complete the changes for you.

If that's not bad enough, they call you back two weeks later telling you additional updates need to be made for an additional $100.

My friend paid the initial $100 to get his iPad unlocked, and fortunately he didn't know his iCloud password and couldn't find where he had written it down.  And when they called him back two weeks later, he had them call me to explain the issue before he'd authorize any more money.

They actually called me and these scumbags threatened all kinds of dire consequences to my friends iPad if he didn't continue with the updates.  I was just going to tell them not to call my friend back, but "Justin" got mean, so I started to interrogate him.  Asked his full name (wouldn't give it), the company name (said it was Mind Tech, but it wasn't - he had called from an "Unknown Number).  Asked where he was calling from (he said California).  Asked him for a web URL so I could verify his information and was told that was only provided to clients, like my friend.

Just so you know, the company that called my friend is called OnTimeTechSupport . com because they sent him a follow-up e-mail to confirm all they had charged him for was at his request.  A company called Eastside Media LLC charged his credit card.

None of it was necessary, and my friend is contesting the charge with his credit card company.

There are a few different scams but most of them just require you to stop the Java Script that is locking Safari.  I haven't tried it, but a google search indicates that when you see a pop-up like the one above, go to your settings and enable airplane mode. This will cut all connections with Wi-Fi and cellular services. Then remove browsing history on your Safari app by  going to Settings > Safari > Clear history. Turn airplane mode off and reopen Safari - you should be good to go.

Current Knitting

The three Pink PussyHats were completed in time to deliver them my friend who will be wearing one and giving away the other two at the march on January 21st.  I finished the last one minutes before I had to deliver it, so I forgot to get a photo, but they came out great.

I also finished the pattern for the Milano Scarf and published it out on Ravelry.

I priced the pattern at $.99, but honestly it was published to highlight MJ Yarns, so if anyone would like a coupon for a free copy of the pattern, just e-mail me (by clicking on the "E-Mail QueerJoe" link to the right of the blog and I'd be glad to send you a coupon for a free copy.

Finally, I also made additional progress on the Easton Logo blanket.

Now I need to start on the purple side.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Life is Awesome!

Don't ever let anyone tell you the transition to retirement is difficult.  I now get to focus on the things I enjoy and never feel as though I'm jamming everything into a limited day.

Yarn Review

One of my greatest joys is testing out new yarn offerings from some of the independent dyers out there.

Jonathan from MJ Yarns has asked me to test and review two new yarns that are exclusively being sold on his web site.  His other great offerings (which I've reviewed in the past) are available at various retail yarn stores.  Here is my evaluation of both his two new yarns, One Ewe and Tough Ram.

Both of the yarns are fingering weight, superwash merino wool, put up in 100 gram hanks.  One Ewe is a single-ply fingering weight yarn (380 yards) produced in the UK (dyed by MJ Yarns here in the U.S.) and Tough Ram is a heavy 4-ply sock yarn (360 yards) produced and dyed in the U.S.

Both yarns are either dyed as a semi-solid color or kettle-dyed for a more varied tonal look.

Here is my review in the standard categories I evaluate yarns:

Durability - Very High.  The Tough Ram is a tight 4-ply yarn that holds up quite well even with casting on, ripping out, and sewing up, which I expected.  I didn't see any difference with the 1-ply One Ewe, which surprised me.  Even with a bit of abuse, I saw no pilling, unraveling or scuffing of the soft yarn.

Uniformity - Very High.  My test project was a very loosely knit scarf which wouldn't easily show variations in uniformity.  However, both yarns looked and felt extremely uniform...even the slightly crimpy One Ewe single-ply yarn.

Color/Dyeing - Exceptional.  This is MJ Yarns' strong point.  The semi-solids have a small amount of variety, giving the knitted fabric a lot of interest, and the kettle-dyed yarns are a fantastic balance of dyed/partially dyed yarn.  Mostly, I'm thrilled with the color palette of this line.  The colors are deep and saturated and very rich looking both on the hank and knit up.

Put-Up - High.  The One Ewe is a perfect put up, especially if used for a scarf or shawl.  If the Tough Ram is used for socks, a 360 yard put-up wouldn't be sufficient for a pair of men's socks, but it works great for scarves and shawls as well.

Retail Availability - The two new yarns are exclusive to MJ Yarns on-line web site, so there is no retail distribution that I know of yet.  But if you like MJ Yarns' other offerings (only available at retail yarn stores), then you will love these two yarns.
Tactile Pleasure - Very High.  I am a HUGE fan of single-ply, fingering weight yarns.  They are soft, and silky and the slight crimp makes them interesting and fun to knit with, so I could work with One Ewe forever and never get tired of working with it.  The Tough Ram yarn is surprisingly softer than most sturdier sock yarns, like Regia or Trekking XXL.  It's definitely not as soft as the One Ewe, but it has a nice hand and doesn't feel at all rigid or coarse.

The Blog Contest winners will definitely enjoy working with both these yarns, and I will be awarding myself a coupon to purchase more of these yarns myself!  Make sure you put in an entry to win one of two scarf kits with MJ Yarns.  The kits will be enough yarn and the pattern for the Milano Scarf (below)...just in different colorways.

Current Knitting

I've done a lot of knitting since the last blog entry.  First of all, I've finished the Milano Scarf.

I recalled that the pattern stitch doesn't lie perfectly flat when it's knit, but mild steam blocking both evens out a very loose-gauge fabric, but allows it to lie flat.

I also finished the third (of six) panels for the Easton Logo Blanket and joined the first two together.

The blanket is coming out very well so far.  Given that intarsia doesn't look quite so fine from the reverse of the fabric, I'm thinking I will end up lining this blanket before donating it to Easton Mountain.

Finally, a friend who is going to Washington soon asked if I could make her a PussyHat to wear.

If you don't know about this viral idea yet, you can read about it on their web site and/or make a few hats for donation.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Random Thoughts - Blog Contest!

It takes longer and longer to come up with a list of 10 thoughts I find interesting enough to post.  So, I've decided to let readers help fill in the last three in this list with their own random thoughts kicking around in their heads.
  1. If a transgendered woman bares her breasts in public, is it legally considered exposing herself in public?
  2. Right around the age of 50, the term "good workout" becomes an oxymoron.
  3. Do you ever find yourself justifying a vigorous brushing and flossing by thinking you don't want to disappoint your hygienist at the next visit...or is that just me?
  4. The entire universe thinks I exaggerate.
  5. Do you ever click on a link because it infers a hot nude photo will be displayed?
  6. Are you usually dissatisfied by clicking?
  7. How is it that the automation of many workforce tasks hasn't provided us with lives of leisure?
  8. ?
  9. ?
  10. ?

Blog Contest

MJ Yarns has sent me some yarns to test out and review, and I couldn't be more thrilled.  After my current project is completed, I'll be writing up a full review of these wonderful yarns. 

A bit of a spoiler-alert...there are two new yarns MJ Yarns is selling only on their web site, Tough Ram and One Ewe using two different dyeing methods.  You can have the chance to win some of these yarns, or a coupon to get them at discounted prices.

Simply e-mail me at queerjoe@comcast.net with up to three "Random Thoughts" of your own.  Each of your thoughts will enter you in a drawing for one of two scarf kits which will include enough MJ Yarns to make the scarf, and a free copy of the new pattern design which I'll need to write up fast, since you'll note below, that I haven't even finished making the scarf yet!  There will also be coupons/discounts offered to folks that don't win the two kits

Entries will be accepted until next Friday, the 13th of January, 2017.  Winners will be announce shortly thereafter.

Current Knitting

My new scarf pattern is simple, and easy and mixes the colors of horizontal stripes in a beautiful way.

Some of you may recognize the stitch pattern from a blanket I made a while ago.  I'm calling this design The Milano Scarf.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Christmas Bounty 2 of 2

A veritable network of people looking for knitting and fiber-related items keep my crafting area full to the brim!

Gifts - Part 2

In addition to the 35 knitting booklets, I got from my sister-in-law, Michelle, there were also 23 knitting books.  Again, most of them focused on men's knitting designs or designed/written by men.

I have many of the books already, so a lot of them will go with me to the Men's Knitting Retreat to sell on the tag sale table and make money for the scholarship fund.  One of the books, A History of Hand Knitting by Richard Rutt I have always wanted to own and I've started reading it already.

Shocking to see the price for used copies of this book go for on Amazon...yikes!

In addition, Michelle's friend Holly also sent up a beautiful gift.

These antique weaving items will be perfect for decorating my craft show table, no?

Current Knitting

The third panel of the Easton Mountain logo blanket is almost complete.

It's been a busy time (holidays and Men's Knitting Retreat stuff), so knitting time has been a bit scarce.  But I've also got a new project on the needles and a teaser for next blog entry!

Upcoming Blog Contest with beautiful yarn prizes!