Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Life Imitates Art

Is it me, or is there very little historical perspective in political arguments any more?

Depth of Field

In photography and other image-based art, there is a great concept called "depth of field".

The depth of the field in photography describes the distance between the nearest and the furthest objects that are in focus in a photograph.

Limiting the depth of field, or the focused area of the photo to a narrow band of distance allows a photographer to highlight the portion of the photo that is important...or to manipulate the viewer of the photo to focus on what the artist wants the viewer to see as the important subject of the image.  The out-of-focus background allows for a colorful or dreamy background without distracting the viewer from what's deemed important by the photographer.

Similarly, today's political issues in the U.S. seem to lack any historical or background clarity.

Our news broadcasts use the aural equivalent of a narrow depth of field when they insist on only broadcasting sound-bytes of an issue...demanding the listener to focus on just the issue at hand.

Some news organizations attempt to blur the background by providing historical references to a sound byte that guide the listener to believe what the news organization wants them to believe, but few news organizations have the time or attention span of their viewers to be able to truly give a broad depth of field to an important story.

There are a few exceptions.  International news can often be better at this.  PBS seems to provide a broader background than other domestic news.  And individual sections of shows will sometimes delve deeply into the background.  The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC often uses the first extended segment of the show to focus on historical background of a story before even introducing the story.

Suffice it to say that "those who forget history are doomed to repeat it" is something that is proving more and more true every day lately.

Current Knitting

I rushed like a mad man to finish the latest Color Block Scarf.

It's finally starting to get cold enough outside where the idea of wearing a scarf won't soon be out of the question. 

I also started a new Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf.

This one is using a high-contrast combination of yarns that I'm liking quite a bit.  While these high-contrast, bright scarves don't always sell quickly at the Artisan/Craft Shows I sell at, they often attract people to the table to take a closer look at what I've got for sale.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Opposites Attract

Everyone knows how common it is for two people who are in long-term relationships to be complete opposites in some area of their lives.

Types of Opposites

Are you a night-person and your partner a morning-person?
Do you hang toilet paper rolls the correct way and your partner the wrong way?
Does one of you prefer savory/salty treats and the other sugary/sweet?
Is your wardrobe all spring colors and his all fall colors?

Well, I've come up with a new combination and it's how you prefer your interior lighting!

Thaddeus and I are both morning people and fortunately, he knows how to hang a roll of toilet paper correctly.  But he and I couldn't possibly be further apart when it comes to how we light the rooms in our house.

Thaddeus prefers minimal, subdued ambient lighting with accented lighting to show off a painting or a piece of furniture.

I prefer a much brighter, open all the shades and curtains to let the sun stream in sort of lighting.

To be less charitable (to both of us)...Thaddeus prefers dark, dim, dungeon-like lighting whilst I prefer surgical room, squint-worthy lighting.

Thaddeus is constantly coming into a room asking if I still need a set of overhead lights on and turning them off without waiting for a reply.  I am constantly increasing the dimmer switch to full brightness to fill the room with as much glare as it can handle.

We just replaced the under-counter lights in our kitchen.  I have complained for years at how little light the old fixtures created.  Thaddeus replaced them with multi-level/multi-warmth LED lights and while I LOVE the new lighting, he's still getting used to how bright they are.

Yes, even after almost 34 years, we're still negotiating differences.

Current Knitting

Another pair of booties is off the needles.

Still need to sew them up, but I got distracted by starting another Color Block Scarf.

I've been trying to increase the number of items on my sale table to include more gift items for men, so I'm focusing on darker, more subdued (more Thaddeus-like) colors.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Crazy About Apple?

Full disclosure...this household owns an iMac, a Mac Book Pro and an iPhone 6S...but the only reason I stay with Apple products is because it's now what I'm used to.

Are Apple Products Better?

For years I heard the Apple fan(atic)s talk about processing speeds and intuitive apps and being free from worrying about viruses and the power of graphics processing and on and on.

As I transitioned from corporate life, where PC's and Windows and Microsoft Office were necessary components of work technology, I slowly switched over my personal life to iPhones and Macs.

My thinking was:
  • The iPhone is the best smartphone and I want to make it as compatible with my home computer as possible
  • I do a lot of photo processing for my blog
  • iTunes will work better on Apple devices
  • The bettering of my life will far outweigh the cost of learning new interfaces
  • I won't have to worry about cyber security
  • Processing speeds will be faster
None of these assumptions was really true, and to add insult to injury, I paid a premium for my technology.

The iPhone has one serious flaw that was only recently been corrected...the ability to store documents and attach them to e-mail documents.  Switching from a Blackberry years ago to an iPhone, I was shocked I could no longer attach documents without some pretty big app gymnastics.  It was more compatible with my Mac Book Pro than my PC, but I was disturbed by how difficult some of the simplest tasks were.

Photo processing sucks on my Mac Book. Until I found applications that could do what I needed and then learn the new applications, processing photos for my blog was (and still is) more painful than when I did similar functions on my PC's.  I actually use the Mac version of MS Paint to do some of my photo editing.

iTunes sucks no matter what platform it's on.  I always thought iTunes sucked on Windows because it needed to override so many defaults to work well...but it seems to such just as bad on my Mac.  For example, just take an existing music CD and try and transfer the music into iTunes so you can listen to it on your iPhone.  Don't get me wrong, I do it, but it's an incredibly convoluted process.  I've considered starting a business of converting CD's to iTunes for people.

The learning curve of a new interface was initially steep, but now that I'm familiar with OS and IOS, I'd have difficulty switching's not that it's better or more's just what you're more used to.

Cyber security continues to be a concern.

Processing speed was the biggest disappointment on my Mac Book Pro...I finally converted my hard drive to solid state (which it now comes delivered with) and upgraded my RAM to the highest allowed and my computer is fast as hell.  But as delivered, it was really quite slow and I had to do a lot of research to make my computer as fast as most PC laptops I have owned.

I'm glad I own Apple products...and I enjoy using them...I will even continue to purchase new Apple products when I need to...but I am in no sense a part of the iCult and never will be.

Current Knitting

I had a library book due back yesterday which I had barely I took a lot of knitting time reading instead.  But I did also work on a few more pairs of baby booties for the craft show table.

I'd ideally love to have a couple of dozen pairs of booties in a rainbow of colors that will coordinated with the baby blankets I'll have.  I'm not sure I'll make that goal, but I should have enough booties for the shows.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Upcoming Artisan and Craft Shows

Two of the great joys of participating and selling my fiber-craft at shows each year are:
  1. Getting to show off my knitting/crocheting to a public that seems to really like it
  2. When friends (both real-life and virtual) come to my booth and I get to meet them

Love to See You

Only a small percentage of QueerJoe blog readers are geographically close by to where I live and sell my work.  So there are very few people I know from on-line forums and this blog that I ever get to meet in person.  I don't often have the opportunity to meet even the folks who live somewhat close by.

There are also very few craft shows that meet my criteria for wanting to set up a table:
  • Must be within 30 miles of where I live
  • Can't be an outside events (requiring display tents)
  • Must be between October and December (knitwear doesn't sell so well in the Summer)
  • Needs to attract higher-end buyers who can afford finer hand-crafted items
This year I'm only doing two shows:

Flemington Fine Artisans Show - Sunday, October 29, 2017
Stangl Factor - 4 Stangl Road, Flemington, New Jersey 08822

Prallsville Mill Fine Crafts & Arts Show - Saturday/Sunday, December 2-3, 2017
Prallsville Mill - 33 Risler St, Stockton, New Jersey 08559

I know many of my readers are knitters, but both these shows will have extremely beautiful gifts and items for sale you will love.

RSVP to either or both of the shows on Facebook links and I hope to see you there!

Current Knitting

Another magical multi-tasking HowlCat was finished since the last blog entry.

Alex Tinsley's color combinations are much more bold than mine.  I'm honestly trying to build up potential gift items to sell at the craft shows for men, and I believe that most people buying gifts for guys don't like interesting colorways.

But then again, these Noro Beanies seem to sell pretty well.

I just finished this last night and I'm reminded of how amazingly well Noro does color.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Social Media Usefulness

With the breaching of all Yahoo accounts, the sales of election advertising to Russia on both Facebook and Twitter and the general distaste for all things social media these days, I thought I'd post some of the positive uses for me of social media.

Community, Marketing, Communicating, Information Gathering and Expression

Currently I use the following social media sites on a relatively frequent basis:

With all the time I spend on social media, there have been many times I've considered dumping it all.

When I consider the impact of dumping all my social media, I consider those things that I rely on with each application.

I publish this blog using Blogger.  It stores all of my archived blog entries including all photos and videos, gives me simple platform to write two or three times per week with snazzy graphics and photos I upload.  I use my blog primarily to express myself (emotionally and artistically).  I also have established an extended community of readers and I use blogger for various marketing as well.

I have deemed blogger to be:  Indispensable

I find myself constantly on Facebook.  I chat with friends (real and virtual) and family, I post photos of personal activities, I organize and participate in groups (knitting, retreats, community, etc.), I market my blog, my craft shows and various other events I consider important enough to let my friends/family know about and I definitely express myself.  I also use Facebook as a news source, although it is not the definitive source for me when it comes to news.

I have deemed Facebook to be:  Indispensable

I used to use Ravelry a lot for any knitting/fiber-related areas of communicating, community, and marketing.  I also use the information/database aspects of Ravelry for yarn information, publications, patterns, and events.

The communicating and community aspects have become less useful as the forums have been replaced mostly with Facebook groups, but I still rely heavily on Facebook for information gathering.

I have deemed Ravelry to be:  Indispensable

Most of my Twitter use is cross-posting of Facebook entries so that I can reach friends and family who use Twitter as their primary social media activity.  In essence, it's Facebook-light for me and I use it for all of the same things.

I have deemed Twitter to be:  Minimally Useful

Primarily, I use Pinterest to organize and save information for various areas of my, knitting patterns/ideas, gifts, etc.  I also use it to communicate a little and to market things like patterns I've published.

I don't spend very much time on Pinterest and I gain quite a bit of use from it at the same time.

I have deemed Pinterest to be:  Useful

While I check-in at various establishments using Yelp and post photos and reviews, I don't find Yelp to be a very satisfying way of expressing myself.  Mostly, I rely on Yelp to help me find decent restaurants or other businesses.

I have deemed Yelp to be:  Useful

While I have stored photos and videos on Instagram, I

I have deemed Instagram to be:  Minimally Useful

YouTube and Google+
Mostly, I use YouTube to publish videos that I want to embed in my blog entries.  Some have become popular enough

I have deemed YouTube and Google+ to be:  Minimally Useful

Current Knitting

I finished the Full Fibonacci Scarf this past weekend.

The scarf is plush, a bit heavy and quite warm!  I should probably have expected that bulky rib would be all of those things, and still yet I was caught unaware.

I also did some more work on the second HowlCat.

This isn't the most interesting design to make (lots of 1x1 rib and stockinette in the round), but I love the resulting garment.

Friday, October 06, 2017

How To Design Knitwear

When I started designing my own sweaters or scarves or other garments, it wasn't an easy process to put together a comprehensive method for creating a successful design.

Components of Design

What are the critical components of design?
Fiber Content
Fabric Characteristics

Most of these concepts came through trial and error.  I'd knit a sweater that was fantastic in every way except the drape of the fabric would be too clingy and would show off ever bad body characteristic and ignore any good characteristics.  Or I'd design a cardigan using two beautiful yarns in red and blue and come out with a color patterning that would cause grand mal seizures.

One of the best books I've seen in a while that takes a new designer through most of the basics of knitwear design is The Mitten Handbook by Mary Scott Huff.

The author goes through a very detailed and extensive process of fleshing out all the decisions that need to be made to design a garment.

What a brilliant idea to use a relatively simple and small garment as the prototype for understanding the design process!

I truly wish I had had this book years ago...not because I am lacking mittens in my life, but because the clarity with which she details the design process is fantastic.

Current Knitting

Being so easily distracted, I decided I needed to start a new scarf and neglect all that I was previously working on.

I'm calling this scarf The Full Fibonaci Scarf since all of the numbers associated with the scarf are in the Fibonacci sequence (3 colors, 34 sts across, 13 color blocks, 34 or 21 rows in each color block.

This scarf is also being done in bulky yarn (which enabled me to get the Fibonacci numbers into the design), and I have to say I'm loving how rustic and rich this simple 1x1 rib scarf is looking.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

I Made It!

It's been a year since I retired and I wanted to acknowledge this important milestone.

Retirement Goals

As I was readying to depart my last employer, I was asked often by management what I planned to do once I'd retired.

First of all, I didn't have an enormous amount of respect for most of my management there...there were some I didn't really care to discuss how my personal life would play out in the upcoming months.  But I also didn't want to lie.

So I told most of them (even the ones for whom I did have respect and admiration) that my one goal in retirement was to not die in the first year.  Because if I had spent all these years working hard and saving toward retirement, I would have been really pissed if I didn't get at least a full year of retirement.

Goal accomplished!

Just some other updates...originally I had anticipated doing the following once I retired:

  • Adding a little more sleep to my schedule
  • Expanding my workout time at the gym three times a week
  • Adding yoga to my schedule of activities
  • Enjoying my deck and espresso machine
  • Enjoying the area where I live by walking and biking more

  • I have added more sleep to my schedule.  I probably average about 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep whereas it was probably at about 6.5 to 7 hours previously.

    I did not expand my workout time at the fact I realized that the cost of the gym wasn't worth it any more for me, since mostly I only used the treadmill for running/jogging/walking and I cancelled my membership.

    I also ended up not adding yoga to my schedule, since that would have been done as part of my gym membership.  I may still start practicing yoga...I've been doing quite a bit of Breema instead.

    I have definitely taken full advantage of my deck and espresso machine.  My latte art has improved slightly and I'm fine-tuning the grind to get the perfect flavor out of my espresso beans.

    Walking and biking have replaced my gym membership, so these activities have definitely increased.  Thaddeus has been surprisingly excited with bicycling a lot this past Spring/Summer and the weather has been ideal for it.  We don't cycle fast, and we don't cycle that far, but we cycle a lot and most importantly, my weight has remained about the same over the last year.

    Two other benefits I've found about retirement that I wasn't expecting.
    1. On the rare occasion when I can't seem to fall asleep, it used to be that I'd worry for an hour or so about how tired I'd be at work the following day.  Now, I just enjoy the peacefulness of the night, or the comfort and warmth of my bed and usually fall asleep much more quickly.  Worry-free sleeping is truly wonderful.
    2. I realized I had never really fully enjoyed a vacation until after I retired.  I went to Cancun last year in November, shortly after I had retired.  Halfway through the vacation, I had a short panicky moment when I thought, "Oh shit, I only have a few more days of vacation left."  Then I realized that I had a lifetime of vacation left, and went back to enjoying the best vacation I had ever taken.

    Current Knitting

    Having been very excited about how the first one came out, I've decided to make a second HowlCat (cowl/hat) in a different colorway.

    I'm somewhat grateful that the 1x1 rib part comes first in this pattern design, because it is my least favorite stitch to knit.  It also appears I may have to make at least one more of these for my youngest sister who wants one in "black and any other color."  I doubt she'd like the other color to be orange unless she's planning on hunting or going trick or treating whilst wearing it.

    Blog Contest Winner!

    My favorite design in the Blog Contest listing of patterns from Modern Tapestry Crochet was the Provisions Tote Bag.

    Two people guessed correctly IdigoB and Penny (others had it as their second choice as well).  IndigoB asked for the book to go to someone else, so Penny has been notified that she won the book.

    Thanks to all who entered...we'll be having another book give-away shortly.

    Sunday, October 01, 2017

    Celebrating Fungus

    Recently, the New Jersey Mycological Association recently sponsored their 2017 Fungus Fest.  Years ago, this was the event that solidified Thaddeus' hobby as an amateur mycologist.

    A Polish Tradition

    Thaddeus' father taught him to forage for wild mushrooms.

    Popinki is the Polish name for Honey Mushrooms (or armilaria melea).  They are a mushroom used in a popular Slovak soup (Thaddeus is both Polish and Slovak) made on Christmas Eve as part of a non-meat meal.  I personally find these mushrooms slimy and bland tasting, and have found that Shiitakes work better in the soup anyway.

    Rams Head or Hen of the Woods (or grifola frondosa) is a large cauliflower-head-like mushroom.  This is one of my favorite mushrooms for eating.  They are very similar in taste to a standard white-cap mushroom, except more woody and intense of a mushroom flavor.  They are used in any way that a white-cap mushroom could be used, but they are sturdier and don't wilt or lose as much water during cooking.

    I'm not sure if Thaddeus' father taught him to forage for any other mushrooms, but he definitely instilled in him a passion for all things fungus.  Thaddeus also forages for chanterelles and morels, but I think he learned about those through the NJ Mycological Association.

    Right now is Ram's Head season and we found a LOT of them recently.

    We've already eaten a lot of these with steaks and also on buttered toast.  This year was our best haul of this forest delicacy.

    Current Knitting

    I saw a fantastic new multi-use pattern on Facebook and had to try it.

    It's a two-color (or more) reversible hat and a neck cowl designed by Alexandra Tinsley and called HowlCat (clever name instead of CowlHat).  I love this design.