Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Siren Song of the Fiber World

I find myself powerless to resist multiple calls from the island of Sirens beckoning me to knit, spin and crank.

Triple Siren

Recently I noted how Celeste enticed me back to getting my antique circular sock machine (CSM) back into working order.

I have also seen a video of Tommy processing wool at his mill in Minnesota that made my hands yearn to get back to spinning.

And the never-ending call of knitted projects continues to demand that I stitch.

The CSM continues to draw me in with it's challenges and how it expands my skill set through learning how to fix errors.  I finally got dozens of persnickety adjustments set up in a way that I could successfully knit ribbing on my machine and cranked out this sock with 3x1 rib at the top!

I can't tell you how exhilarating it was to have the machine evenly, smoothly knitting and purling...the clickety-clack of the cylinder needles and the ribber needles working together was completely satisfying.  Unfortunately, a minor adjustment to the yarn-feeder on the machine stymied my attempts to make the second/matching I will continue to work at my expanding skills on the CSM.

I am also back to spinning Tommy's Magic Roving (that's what I call it).  Rabbit, lambswool, silk and other fibers make for both a challenging and delightful spinning experience.  I can't wait to ply up this yarn and see how it knits up.

Finally, I am about halfway through the length of the Read-Between-the-Lines Shawl and even as the number of stitches increases every other row of knitting, I know that I am creating a large and beautiful garment that someone will cherish and love.

I will always respond to the Siren song of fiber never seems to leave me shipwrecked on the rocky shores of some Greek Island.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Word Switcharoo

Memory has never been a strong point of mine, so when I get confused about something, I typically rely on others' opinions more than my own.


I present to you not one, but TWO recent examples of when I was convinced by others that my memories were faulty.

The first one involves this rather odd looking root vegetable.
Growing up, this vegetable was cut, boiled and mashed into a yellow, lumpy side-dish.  It was very common at Thanksgiving dinner, and I always quite liked it.

Recently, I saw this at the grocery and told Thaddeus that I wanted to have some mashed turnip as a vegetable, so we should buy one.  He started to put this into our grocery cart.

Then he proceeded to school me on the correct name for what I wanted...rutabaga...not turnip.  I was convinced it was turnip, but the labels on the grocery shelf showed he was correct.

The second example was when I found myself constantly being auto-corrected when I spelled dilemma as dilemna.  I was always a good speller in school and I was shocked to find I had been misspelling dilemma all my life.  But the dictionary proved me to be a lesser talented speller than I had thought.

Turns out, back in the sixties, they switched the name of turnip (or yellow turnip...or waxed turnip) to rutabaga to avoid confusion with the smaller, radish-like turnip.  So I HAD been told I was eating mashed turnip all these years!

I also found out that large areas of the English speaking world were taught in school that dilemma was spelled dilemna!  I KNEW it!  I used to even pronounce the "n" in my mind's voice so I would remember the correct spelling.

My memory still isn't something I trust with complete certainty, but I'm glad to know that some memories that seem so clear to me have some basis in reality.

Current Knitting

The beat goes on with my current shawl project.

This pattern calls for placing markers every 10 stitches and I'm glad to say that I have sufficient smaller stitch markers to complete this project...I think.

Friday, January 12, 2018

1998 Travel Log - Part Deux

While it's nice to go back and review thoughts I had as a younger, more ignorant man, I want to be clear that as my understanding of humankind grew, so did my empathy for "others" in this world.

I apologize for what may be seen as "shithole-like" comments...I am less ignorant today than I was almost 20 years ago.

Second/Final Installment

18-Feb, 1998
Hong Kong as a city continues to enthrall me, although, my overall experience is being down-graded daily.  Work has been continuing at a frenetic pace and provides daily challenges as Grace dreams up new and exciting ways to torture us.  The weather also hasn’t helped….it’s been uncharacteristically dismal and gray and some rain as well.  Overall, we’ve been lucky enough to dodge most of the rain.
I’m also starting to realize that consulting in “foreign” lands is not very dissimilar to consulting domestically.  Aside from the language difference and some minor cultural differences, I find myself quite at ease with the work.  Don’t get me wrong…this client is more demanding than most and I have to adapt more to her style, but all my engagements to-date have had their unique challenges and I’m happy to say, that this one portends to be a success from our perspective.
I’ve completed most of my logistical situations (e.g., KMan access, picking up my tux), but I am still worrying about issues like my expense account and all of the money I’ve charged for personal things (also, getting through customs with my purchases).
Food here has been pretty amazing.  All kinds of wonderful and interesting foods.  I’m amazed at the variety of Chinese foods alone.  Each restaurant has a different style and quality making it fun to experiment.  Surprisingly, we were told that the ritziest hotel in the city (here) recommended a “locals” restaurant for dim sum that was the equivalent of Denny’s.  Our client couldn’t believe it, although I think that’s an unfair comparison, because the food truly was exceptional.  I think she was speaking more about the type of local who goes there.  But I don’t care.  Cindy and I actually went back there for dinner last night and it was very good.
I’m very much looking forward to the weekend to do a little more exploring.  Unfortunately the work pace doesn’t allow for much going around the city.  Although we have gone over the international section of the city a couple of times for dinner.  It’s very close (only about 5 blocks away), but I don’t think it offers all that much.

20-Feb 1998

Lan Quai Fong is an international district here in Hong Kong where a lot of the European and North American population go to drink after work.  During lunchtime, I’ve never been in such a crowded environment before.  The streets are completely packed with people going to lunch or shopping.  Yesterday we did both and then Cindy & I went back for a very nice dinner.  During our shopping, Grace gave us some interesting lessons in international trade…like how knock-offs made in HK were 1/4th the price of the real item.  An example we saw was a lighter I bought from HK$35 that was HK$165 for the exact same thing except made in Japan.
I’ve been somewhat disappointed that I’ve found no place to buy Thad’s knife nor have I found a place that sells yarn.  It would have been interesting to see what brands they sold and comparative prices.
Last night for dinner we had one of my favorite desserts so far.  It was fruit and coconut milk soup w/white wood ears.  They also served little coconut marshmallow bunnies.  It was fun and taste good.
Today’s work was difficult and demanding (both mentally and emotionally).  It’s nice to get back to the hotel and know I have the weekend to relax and enjoy myself.
It’s raining out again this evening and I have no dinner plans, nor dinner companions.  I’m only praying that the rain is clearing away this weather for a sunny weekend.  I am growing suicidal with all of these gray days.

21-Feb, 1998

Got up this Saturday morning and tried to work out, but my lower back/hip was still bothering me.  Used the steam room and Jacuzzi but it didn’t help much.
Walked over to the Peak Tram and took a ride up there.  Kind of hazy, so while it was beautiful, the pictures weren’t so good.
Decided after that to go over to the restaurant the Cindy & I had dinner at for some dim sum.  Realized that single people in Chinese restaurants who can’t speak Cantonese are REALLY foreigners.  So I cam back to the haven of the hotel and nurse my ego and my hip in the Jacuzzi and steam room.  I then took a nap and debated going out to a gay club in town, but decided against it since my hip still hurt quite a bit.  Mostly I just hung around my hotel room, watched television and considered my dinner options.  So dismal I decided to forgo dinner (I justified it by saying I can’t run tomorrow anyway).

22 Feb-1998

I can’t say how nice it was to order a burger in the café downstairs in the hotel and not have to endure the stress of being understood by someone with limited English-speaking capabilities.
Today was a very relaxing day.  I slept until after 8:00 and had a nice relaxing mineral salt bath while I read the Sunday times.  It was a local paper so it was pretty dull.  I then had that stress-free burger and sat at the window watching all of the thousands of Phillipina maids streaming by.
I then had a pretty good massage (acupressure) and spent some rehab time in the Jacuzzi.
Spent the remainder of the afternoon/evening going to Kowloon for some picture taking.  Again, we had lousy weather so pictures suck, but I did get a chance to do a lot of people watching while I waited in a mall for the sun to go down so I could get some night shots of the city.
Some overall observations of the Hong Kong people/culture:
-       Mostly a very ugly group of people.  Short with poor skin and unkempt hair.  The younger good-looking ones dress like 60’s vampires…not a very attractive look.
-       Mostly a very rude (by American standards) society.  With all the crowds streaming through doorways, very few hold the door for others, in fact often strangers would go through while a door was being held for a family member.
Also not an overly bright group.  At least a dozen people tried to push a “pull” door even though many others right next to them were pulling.

Current Knitting

I'm still plugging along on the Read Between the Lines Shawl...

I've finally gotten both the primary and the secondary rhythms of this project, but it will end up being a LOT of tiny stitches to make a rather large shawl.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Regarding the first installment of the Travel Log, GUNTer asks, "was the tuxedo well made? do you still have it? did you get use from it?"

The tuxedo was extremely well-made, but I had the feeling they may have used a less expensive fabric than the one I had picked out...but it didn't matter, I liked the fabric they used anyway.  I think I wore the tux a total of two times (max) and I'm honestly not sure if I still have it...I'll check and give an update.  Even if I do, it wouldn't fit any longer.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

1998 Travel Log

Exactly four years before I started blogging, I was sent to Asia for work and maintained a written travel log for some of that time.  It seems the urge to blog was there years before I actually began writing a blog and well before I actually had the technical skills to do so.


Travel Log Transcription - First Three Entries

In case you'd prefer not to read a slideshow of the actual journal I kept, I'll post the transcription of it here over the course of the next few blog entries (if you've already read it from the slideshow, or don't care to read about this slice of my life, just skip down to "Current Knitting."

11-Feb, 1998
My first full day in Tokyo and I've begun to be less nervous about the overall experience.  In fact I was quite proud of myself for eating at a local noodle shop for breakfast this morning.  I must admit that I almost walked away when the automatic door wouldn't open, but I forged ahead.  Being a foreigner was never so apparent as when I had to be told to use the food tick machine and then I had no idea what I was ordering.  Taking my brother Jim's advice of just eating what they put in front of you worked just fine...I had a delicious breakfast of Udon & Egg and other stuff.
The flight was very nice with a business class that wasn't even half full.  I got about 4 hours sleep which made the time go by more quickly.  I do find I'm missing Thad more just because of the distance.  It doesn't make sense, but it's true anyway.
Overall, Tokyo isn't much different than most places I've stayed.  The language has been the biggest challenge, but not too bad.  Staying in a hotel that caters to English speaking clientele helps a lot.  Also the hotel is very nice.  Small room, but incredibly efficient.  Great closet space, light switches that are convenient w/a master switch at the bedside table...even a kimono to wear.
Weather has also been tolerable...not too cold, about the same as NJ/PA.
Well it's off to my first Japanese sushi tonight...I can't wait.

12-Feb, 1998
Today I had many lesson; Polite meetings with Japanese business people, how to get information from clients about the political atmosphere, getting yelled at Japanese style and the most consistent lesson of all...I will always be geijen in Japan.
Meeting with Yuko Mitani and Masahika Ishida was interesting.  We traded meishi (business cards).  We asked the same questions 3 times before they would tell us the real answer.  We dealt more with interpersonal issues than business. And we accomplished the objective of the meeting by gathering needs.
Asking probing questions from Grace, I was able to get a lot of very useful information.  She gave me more dirt than I expected...I guess I have gained her trust (or she's planning on leaving and doesn't care).
Getting yelled at by Joseph Lee was by far the most interesting lesson.  He politely kept pressing the same issue over and over letting us know how inconvenient we had made his life by having a client who changed their minds.  The issue was brought up in front of the other staff and even though it was all said in the most polite of terms, we had clearly been disciplined.  And if that wasn't enough, he expressed interest in having me transfer to Tokyo for a year...what a joke!
The final lesson was how no matter what I said to the Japanese people I dealt with today, none of it was more well accepted than the chatting done by Hiroko.  With a few personable words of Japanese, she forged a stronger relationship with clients, with support staff and even with the woman that brought coffee to our meeting than I could with hours of English.  I actually resented it...I knew what it felt like to be disadvantaged for the first time.  Not a pleasant experience.

15-Feb 1998 – Hong Kong
My second day in Hong Kong and I’m enjoying myself quite a bit.  The flight here was long but pleasant.  Arrived late Friday night and I was very tired.
Hotel (Mandarin Oriental) is magnificent.  Very nice room with many amenities.  Spent first day by going for dim sum brunch with Cindy.  Came back to hotel and worked out (the gym was even great).  We did some shopping but prices near the hotel seemed somewhat expensive.  I even tried pricing a tuxedo, but 700 USD seemed too high for me.  I decided to shop around.
Did some swimming in the pool, relaxing in the whirlpool and then had dinner and drinks w/Velter and his friend from Singapore.  The club was very cool but clubs don’t really excite me all that much.
Today Cindy & I took the ferry over to Kowloon.  What a mad house!  I spent like a fiend.  I bought a digital camera for 610 USD that they won’t discount in the states for lower than 700.  I ended up finding a tailor who could make me the exact tux I wanted for about 400 USD…much better than the 700 quotes.  I also go some shirts and a little Chinese chop souvenir for Thad.  I also go carried away a little and bought my mom a pair of jade earrings.  It’s the one thing I think I went too far on…but I did bargain for a seemingly very good price.
I thought a number of times how much Thaddeus would like this place.  He could smoke anytime and anywhere he wanted and he’d love the hotel and the shopping districts.

Current Knitting

I've made some additional progress on the Read Between the Lines Shawl by Tammy Canavan-Soldaat.

You can see in the next photo how the "illusion knitting" technique highlights a color patterning more from a different angle.

The pattern is very well written but on US1 needles, it grows very slowly.  I will be showing progress photos of this project for a while.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Susan Writes (via e-mail): "I really enjoy your blog and love the bulky hat you recently finished and posted.  Where can I find the pattern? 
I scrolled back several posts and didn’t see a link.   If you are able to share the hat pattern, I would greatly appreciate it.  I am continually amazed and impressed by how productive a knitter you are!"

The pattern was based on a free Ravelry pattern called Grandpa's Hat by May Shimony.  My hat was done in the round with 60 stitches on US10 needles and I used about 3" of rib and kept trying on the hat until it was long enough to begin decreases. 

Regarding the Shibui Cloud cowl, Kimakhya writes, "The scarf is indeed gorgeous, like your FOs in general! As a math teacher, I'm nitpicking your terminology just a bit. Namely, what you've got here is not merely an "infinity scarf" (i.e., an "endless" loop rather than ordinary two-ended scarf), but a "Moebius scarf", since the loop has a half-twist. So your lovely scarf has no ends AND only one side!"

Thank you for writing this...I always assumed that "infinity" meant Moebius and that without the twist, people were calling it be the wrong name.  Nice to learn I was the one who had it wrong.

Monday, January 08, 2018


Having an aptitude for sensing the cyclical rhythm of a musical piece, or the ebbs and flows of money or the bio-rhythmic beats of human emotion has always eluded me.  I am a classic arrhythmic.

No Rhythm?  Rhythm-deaf?

It's not actually that I have no's just that it takes a lot of effort for me to discern natural rhythms.  More accurately, it often requires someone pointing out the rhythm to me before I can hear/see it.

Years ago, taking music lessons in piano, then trumpet, then clarinet, then saxophone, I could never understand how someone could pick up a piece of music and know how it should sound before ever hearing it...I finally had a music teacher tell me I should take up drums, because I had no natural aptitude for understanding rhythm, and that studying percussion would be the only way I might gain some understanding.

He was probably right, but the thought of learning drums seemed abhorrent to me...practically unnatural.

Years later, when Thaddeus and I got together, he was incredibly adept at seeing the natural rhythms of life and he started pointing out areas of our lives that seemed to be governed by this confounding principle.  For instance, he'd suggest we make larger purchases for our house when finances were good, but start to cut back on spending when income was less...he had a feel for the ups and downs of finances that I was finally able to recognize, but only after he highlighted the pattern for me.

Another example of me needing guidance on tempo was when I started learning to dance the two-step at a local gay bar that did Country/Western dancing on Wednesday nights.  I would rely on my dance partner to establish the rhythm of the song we were dancing to, and once I had it, I could dance really well.  But left to start the dance by myself, I'd struggle to hear the rhythm and would regularly look to other couples on the dance floor to identify the "quick, quick, slow, slow" of the two-step in the song being played.

Alas, even knitting requires this befuddling idea of rhythm.

Learning a new technique or stitch pattern seems to have a certain "rhythm" to  Having just knitted two projects that had similar stitch patterns, I had to constantly re-acquaint my hands to doing 1x1 ribbing and then switch to the linen stitch.  Both those stitches had specific repetitions that my hands had to get re-acquainted with each time I switched from one project to the other.

My latest project has a whole new (and painfully difficult for me to figure out) rhythm.

Current Knitting

I finished up the other bulky hat.

This one is for me and I quite love the colors of it.

Once finished with the hats for me and Thaddeus, I was looking for inspiration for a new project and found it on Facebook where one of the guys in one of my groups was knitting the "Read Between the Lines" shawl by Tammy Canavan-Soldaat.

The pattern seemed right up my alley...fine-gauge needles on fingering weight yarn and lots of garter stitch. also uses the "illusion knitting" technique (not garter stitch at all!).  I restarted this fiddly two-yarn shawl at least 30 times until I think I have FINALLY gotten my hands to memorize the basic rhythm of the stitch pattern.

Lest you think hours of work have resulted in yards of fabric, I've maybe finished four inches of this pattern so far.

Having established one of the rhythms of this multi-rhythmic pattern, it will move along a bit more quickly, but I have a feeling blog readers will be seeing a LOT of progress photos of this project.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Transformation Through Art

Knitting for me has been a primary identifier of who I am and being a knitter has transformed me in may ways.  Lately, I have been focusing on a different "art-form" for my self-actualization.

The Royalty of Breema

I've felt very fortunate to have found Breema while it is still yet not widely known here on the East coast of the U.S.  Further, my Breema practitioner (Matthew Tousignant) has worked closely with the man who brought Breema here to the States (Jon Schreiber) and has created the Breema Center in Oakland, CA.

For the short period of time I've been having Breema sessions with Matthew and doing workshops to participate more in the practice, I have been wanting to meet Jon Schreiber.

I'm thrilled to have the chance to spend a weekend with both Matthew and Jon in April at the Kripalu Center:

I just registered for this workshop.  Many of the workshops that Jon and/or Matthew do are geared toward people who are learning to be Breema practitioners.  This one is for everyone.  I can't tell you how excited I am to have this chance.

I've never been to Kripalu before, so I look forward to the experience of a new retreat center and basking in the Dharma of brilliant people doing Breema.

Current Knittting

I was able to finish the bulky hat I started earlier this week and also start a new one (using the same yarn in a different colorway).

The colors in this yarn (Magdalena Neuner Olympia) are really quite fine and interesting.  The resulting hats will keep Thaddeus and I warm as we shovel snow and cruise the local flea market during this Winter season.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Another Successful Holiday Season

I know the holiday season can be challenging for some people, but it's not for me.

Family, Friends and Gifts

I love spending time with my family.  They're loud and overwhelming for some people less used to being around a big family, but I always love being with them.

Every year, we also have an extended Christmas celebration with our friend Charles on December 31st.  The gifts in the video above were the result of my wrapping efforts this year...I loved the impression of walking through Princeton with an opaque bag filled with flashing wrapped gifts.

Gifts from Charles are always fun and I look forward to them each year.  One in particular was great this year.

Yes, the shirt is beautiful and it's warm and I love it...but Charles also bought me two pairs of knitting needles.

You might think...isn't that like bringing coals to New Castle?  But looking closer, you can see that Charles knows me extremely well!

Yes...the needles were personalized for QueerJoe.  I loved that he thought to do this and I also love the thought of him ordering these from some call center in Roanoke, Virginia spelling "QueerJoe" for them.

I know it's just a glimpse of all that made this holiday wonderful...but hopefully enough to give you a sense about how much I truly love this time of year.

Current Knitting

I've been sharing my knitting time between hand-knit projects and increasing my skills on the Gearhart Circular Sock Machine.

On the sock machine, I have gotten pretty good at casting on, creating tubular fabric and hanging stitches to create a hemmed sock cuff.

I can consistently now turn a nice looking heel and toe on the machine, picking up a single dropped stitch and fixing minor mistakes before they turn into major mistakes.

I have been trying to get my ribber to work and I have finally gotten to the point where I can make purl stitches using the ribber.  It's not easy and effortless to get the ribber to work, but I'm acquiring the skill slowly and steadily.  I'm hopeful that my next pair of socks on the machine will be a standard pair of ribbed-cuff socks.  Wish me luck.

On the hand-knitting front, I persevered and finished the Linen Stitch Scarf.

Overall, I am pleased with how this scarf turned out, but not pleased enough to make me want to start another linen stitch garment anytime soon.

Monday, January 01, 2018

2018 - The Year of the Project BAG!

Happy 2018!  This past year's Christmas theme seem to center around helping me carry my knitting around in style!

Bags and More Bags

Just before Christmas, I received an order of project bags for the 2018 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat (we order new logo project bags each year to give to the guys attending the one gets to see them before the no photo of this year's bag until after the guys see them in May).

I always find it interesting that the first year's bags were the least expensive bags but are now the rarest and most desirable.

On the heels of receiving two boxes of project bags, I get this incredible Coach bag for Christmas from my sister.

It's the perfect size for carrying around a knitting's gorgeous and it has no velcro...and it has smaller pockets to store notions.  I couldn't have chosen a better bag myself.

THEN...I get this wonderful hand-made bag from a friend!

First of all, she had no idea (I don't think) that she made this pyramid-shaped bag out of two different Kaffe fabrics (it's difficult to see the inner-lining fabric, but it's one of Kaffe's Broad Stripe fabrics.

She used the fabrics, because she thought they were colors I liked...and she was right...they are the colors I like!

This bag will be a perfect way to carry around s small scarf or sock project in STYLE!

Current Knitting

Three items that have taken up my knitting time:
  1. Completed first pair of socks for Thaddeus on the Gearhart (they came out so well, he wore them out to dinner on New Year's Eve and they kept his feet warm despite frigid temperatures)
  2. Banged out a Pink Pussy Hat for a friend 
  3. Worked on the languishing Linen Stitch Scarf

Overall, I'm pleased with how I finished out 2017 and the positive outlook it portends for 2018. 

Have a happy, healthy and satisfying 2018!