Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Is Facebook Spying on You?

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and within days (or sometimes hours or minutes), a "Sponsored" post appears in your Facebook feed for the EXACT thing you were discussing?

Paranoid Much?

It turns out my espresso machine was acting a bit cranky and Thaddeus knows this machine inside and out, so he took a look at it.  We discussed brew heads, gaskets, the place where we buy most of our machine equipment (Seattle Coffee Gear), our coffee grind, etc.

Thaddeus went to his computer and did google searches, eBay searches and Amazon clicks on various products including going to the Seattle Coffee Gear web site.

Two hours later, this appeared in my Facebook feed (on both my lap top and my iPhone).


There were other more specific ads from Seattle Coffee Gear about gaskets, Rocket espresso machines and brew heads.

I was a bit freaked out.

I don't use Thaddeus' computer at all.  He and I don't share userid's or passwords for anything...not Google, not Amazon, not eBay, not Safari, not iTunes, not iCloud, etc.  No overlap at all.

We do share the same WiFi network, so I assumed it might be some grouped IP address target advertising.

Until I saw this!


Facebook absolutely denies that they listen in through my iPhone microphone.  But they also stated publicly that Russian bots and interference in the 2016 election using the Facebook platform was ridiculous.

A friend of mine related a similar story to discussing Taco Bell in Flemington, NJ with his date while he was scrolling through Facebook...guess what sponsored ad showed up in his feed?  Not just Taco Bell, but the Taco Bell in Flemington, NJ.  And he had never gotten a Taco Bell ad before.  Nor had I ever gotten an espresso company's ad on my feed until this latest incident.

I'm sorry...that's too big of a coincidence...Facebook is just fucking lying.

Suffice it to say I turned off Facebook's access to my iPhone microphone (as well as any other app).  I can always turn it back on if I want to "go live" on Facebook or record videos on Instagram.

Current Knitting

On to the next section of the Silky Wool Cardigan.


If all goes as planned, this will eventually become a sleeve.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Someone (Julie??) mentioned that the pockets on the Silky Road Cardigan are rather small.

It was done this way on purpose...the pockets were more a design feature than a functional pocket, but even aesthetically, I agree the pockets are smaller than I would have liked.  I'll consider making them look bigger (even if I don't make them any bigger.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Articulating Difficult Positions Clearly


Seems that the more nuanced my position is on something, the easier it is for someone to demonize either my position or me for having the position.

Shades of Gray

Sometimes I wish I could be more "black & white" when it comes to my opinions, but for accuracy's sake, I am often conflicted about absolute ideas.

Abortion, for instance...

As a liberal, it's a slippery slope when you agree with any point that an anti-abortion person has.  Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.  But honestly, I'm anti-abortion myself.  I've written about this before, but I think aborting a fetus is incredibly invasive to a woman's body (from what I know...and trust me, I'm no expert), and it seems people I know who have aborted pregnancies had a difficult time with it emotionally.  So, in general, I'm anti-abortion.

However, I am TOTALLY pro-choice.  Taking away a person's right to their own life, health and what they do with their body is wrong in every possible way. And making abortions more difficult to obtain unless you're rich is one of the most heinous and oppressive method for trying to outlaw a woman's right to choose.

So, if you ask me if you should have an abortion, I'd likely try to help you consider ways of not doing that...but I would never try to dictate what you decide or try to make you feel badly for whatever choice or action you take.  You and your doctor should always have the ability to make decisions about your health and well-being.

And guns...

I'm pro-gun.  I like guns.  I find them intriguing and exciting in many ways...immature feelings, but true anyway.  I own guns...Thaddeus's dad left us a shotgun and a rifle when he died, and I'm glad to own them.  I'm hopeful one day to own a handgun and get training on how to use it, so I can shoot it (with glee).  I honestly don't think it will make me feel any safer or more secure, but on a shooting range, I think it would be a lot of fun.

However, the NRA stance on guns is a terrible danger to our country.  I consider owning an AR-15 to be folly and I have said publicly that if you need an AR-15 to hunt anything, then you suck as a hunter.  I also think we need significant restrictions on who can purchase a gun in this country.  The recent Republican/Trump bill that made it easier for people who are mentally ill to own guns is one of the most insane things I've seen them do (and there's a lot to choose from).  Mostly, I think it pandered to the NRA whose political tactics are getting more and more undemocratic every week.

Finally, and much less nuanced...I think we need assisted suicide in this country. 

Jack Kevorkian was one of the most sane, gentle-hearted warriors we had when it came to this.  If I have the ability to determine that a beloved pet should be euthanized...even when that pet can not speak to me and tell me their wishes...I think humans should be afforded some level of choice in their ongoing existence.

Current Knitting

Cruising right along on the Silky Wool Carigan.


Looks like I'll have just enough yarn to make the exact cardigan I was hoping for, so now it's onto the sleeves!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Just Say "No"




 Sorry to borrow from a failed drug war slogan attributed to Nancy Reagan, but it applies now to the crazy ramblings of the NRA and their ongoing threats to our democracy.

It Wasn't Bad Enough

Every time LaPierre says "they" - referring to the "socialists" and liberals, I changed the word in my mind to "we" - referring to the gun lobby for whom he works and it makes the entire video true.

The young adults have it right this time...enough....never again...we need to be able to be safe in our schools.

When the NRA brings out their rabid bulldog, Dana Loesch to attack the people who understand that we need to do something about how the U.S. allows practically anyone to own military grade weaponry...you know they're feeling cornered and trying to stem the damage this latest mass shooting of children will do to the gun industry.

In the past, they've used these horrifying massacres and the threat of losing gun rights to get people to buy MORE guns...way more guns.  They have been very successful for the gun manufacturers in terms of sales and profits.

They've also been highly successful at damaging candidates that don't support their dangerous views.

It's time to stop...support candidates who won't endorse the NRA...in fact, threaten not to vote for anyone that takes money from the NRA.  I have no problem with candidates wanting to keep sane access to guns, especially if that's what their constituents want...but they DON'T need the NRA's support to do that...it only seems to put them in the pocket of the gun industry...like little Marco defending the indefensible (badly).

VOTE OUT LOUD

Current Knitting/Cranking

The back of the cardigan is nearing completion...Finn insisted on being in the photo.


I'm looking forward to finishing the body of the sweater and moving on to the sleeves.  The shaping and the detail I'll put on the center of the arm will make knitting it a lot more interesting.

I've also looked at all the socks I've been cranking out and was kind of impressed at my output in such a short time.


Just note, this doesn't even show all the mistakes and socks I pulled out and re-cranked.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Afraid of Ignorance



Our problem in the U.S. today is not ignorance...our problem is that people are unwilling to acknowledge those areas about which they are ignorant.

Embrace the Ignorance

Some of you know this about me...but I recently had one of the most profound epiphanies I've ever had.

I realized that there were an infinite number of things about which I am ignorant.

For some, this realization sounds like something awful, but for me, it was a joyous discovery.

First of all, you need to know the definition of ignorant...it doesn't mean stupid.


Yes, the term ignorant has taken on some pejorative meanings lately, but the primary definition is just a lack of knowledge or awareness of something.

Without understanding that I lack understanding in various areas of my life, there is truly no room to grow...kind of like the "cup runneth over" concept...where my vessel is too crammed with all that I do know to allow any room for what I don't know to come in.  And if you're experience on social media is anything like mine these days, the seemingly most confident about their lack of ignorance seemed to be the most misinformed.

Current Knitting

Another section of the Silky Wool Cardigan has been completed.


This project is not very photogenic, and for a somewhat longer term knitting project for a knit blogger like me, it makes for bad and boring update photos.  The color of the yarn is hard to capture...digital cameras seem to have difficulty capturing reds and purples accurately, and while this yarn is more like a flat, indigo, it wants to show up either as royal blue or purple.  The shaping has been difficult to show as well and even the little detail that will go up the button band is hard to capture.

Just back, sleeves, button band and collar to go.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Are You Guided?



Not believing much in god...or at least not in the god I was raised to believe...I can still feel as though some beneficial guidance directs me in some form of spiritual growth.

Just What I Needed to See

"Just-In-Time Training" was a concept in my consulting days that meant having a training system that was available when it was needed and provided training just as the person being trained would need guidance.  So, for instance, with a new system, an employee could access training on-demand just as they were given access to the new system, so that the knowledge was fresh for when they needed it.

I seem to have Just-In-Time Training when it comes to my spirit.

Just as I'm given a new "system" to work with, someone says something, or points me to something that gives me the exact guidance I need to grow in ways I couldn't have imagined.

Note:  Writing about epiphanies in one's life always seems so disappointing...the description of a revelation that can be monumental for me, can seem completely uninspired by those reading about it.  It's incredibly difficult to convey something so personal, and experiential.  So when I you read the following example of Just-In-Time spiritual training, just note that it only demonstrates why I feel guided...because the impact of the realization, while it was huge for me, I understand probably won't be for you.

My example:  I'm discussing the next stages of my spiritual growth with a trusted mentor...my Breema master.  He shares the path he took at a similar juncture.  I find it educational and interesting, but there's no "aha" to it.  He basically was describing how he uses day-to-day distractions as reminders to come back to his body, which is his direct access to consciousness. 

Then we see the documentary "In Pursuit of Silence" and I have this amazing epiphany of how looking inward for the silence, leads me to being reminded of how the body can bring me to consciousness.

I know...a bunch of mumbo jumbo.  But individually these two events weren't so impactful, but together...transformational.

Guidance?  God?  Karma? Chance? Fate?  Not sure...but grateful anyway.

Current Knitting/Cranking

Overall, quite pleased with the progress on the Silky Wool Cardigan.


I know the photo makes it look more like a girls dress than a cardigan, but I'm almost finished with the two front sections and then just the upper back, sleeves, button band and collar to go!

For Gerty, I've been trying more new sock designs.  I'm thinking I'd like to have two basic sock designs that I use for making socks.  One of them will be some version of this new pair of socks I finished.








Simple 1x1 rib down the cuff and then 1x1 rib on top of the foot.  I know these are just ordinary chestnut brown socks, but they're made from a wonderfully soft wool (that is NOT superwash).

I haven't quite decided what I'll have as my second go-to design...it won't be 1x1 rib at the top of the cuff, 3x1 rib for the remainder and then a plain foot...I'm not a big fan of that design.

Readers' Comments/Questions

Leslie comments, "Hi! Just to let you know, that the Silky Wool hasn’t been discontinued. Not sure where you got that info."

Thanks Leslie...I must have seen a page indicating a specific color was discontinued and misunderstand.  Glad to know I can still get this wonderful yarn.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Do You Consider Yourself Crafty?



As a knitter and crocheter, I've never considered myself to be "crafty"...I'd classify myself as a fiber enthusiast, or a yarn technician and sometimes even a fiber artist...but I've never been one to be handy with a glue gun and end up with some clever little crafted item.

Craft Skills

Yes, I can make a pompom...yes, I work with yarn a LOT.

But even in grade school when they'd bring out the pipe cleaners, colored construction paper and the rubber cement, my ability to "craft" was  extremely limited...and it still is.

I don't make interesting wall hangings for friends.  A hot glue gun would be a waste of space in my home.  Looking at a box of a thousand popsicle sticks leaves me thoughtless and without imagining what a fantastic lighting fixture I could sculpt with them.

So when I get a book like this to review, I think, perhaps it will get those much-needed creative juices going.


Loome Party by Vilasinee Bunnag comes with a handy bamboo (?) crafting tool  embedded in the back cover of the book.


 This tool and the instructions in the book provide ideas on pompoms, tassles, friendship bracelets and small weavings.


I think this book (and embedded tool) would be of much more use in someone else's hands...someone with children perhaps...someone who teaches children...someone who likes being crafty and making nifty things for their friends.

Any of my blog readers know of someone like that who might appreciate this book?

Current Knitting/Cranking

Just another inch or two on the Silky Wool Cardigan before I start shaping the sleeve openings, which will require that I start knitting the back separately from the two front sections.



Working with this wool, I wonder why they decided to stop making it...it creates a very beautiful and lightweight fabric. The color is more accurate in the second photo...for which I'm quite glad.

I've also been focusing a lot on using my CSKM, Gerty.


I'm trying to come up with 2 or 3 "standard" socks that I make with the machine.  The blue one is a simple ribbed hem sock with no contrasting yarns for the heel or toe...it took me about an hour to make that pair of socks  The psychedelic ones are 1x1 rib at the top of the cuff switching to 3x1 rib for the remainder of the cuff and top of the foot...it also uses a constrasting color yarn for the heel and toe  This pair of socks, took me about 2 hours to make and has a lot more finishing.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day


Since Thaddeus's birthday is February 14th, the pressure is always high to be both romantic and thoughtful for Valentine's Day and birthday.

Holiday Birthdays

But it must suck for him as well...he has responsibilities on his birthday to me as well.

I've always been glad my birthday isn't on or near Christmas...I'd like to say my parents planned it, but with 7 children in an Irish Catholic family, not much about our family was planned.

But I'm also glad I don't have to feel obliged to go out of my way to show how much I love Thaddeus on my birthday...selfish of me, I know.

Fortunately, this year I get a "baby Finn" card for VD and he got things from me that he liked.

Tonight we'll go out to dinner with a good friend to celebrate it all.

Current Cranking/Knitting

I've been experimenting with new techniques on my CSM...two new techniques in particular.  The first one is a method of starting a 1x1 ribbed sock that gives the top selvage edge a more uniform look.  It's called Juana's Selvage and eliminates the flared top of a ribbed sock.


The sock cuff on the left was done using a standard selvage edge and the one on the right is the Juana's selvage.


I'm quite pleased with how the new selvage looks both off and on my foot.

The other technique is a way of "parking" ribber needles when turning the heel so the ribber plate can be removed during the somewhat tricky process of turning a heel.  The technique allows you to put your out-of-work ribber needles into the cylinder slot without transferring the stitch to a a cylinder needle.


This isn't my machine, but you can see the butts of the ribber out-of-use ribber needles sticking up from the cylinder slot.  I have to admit, I thought this idea was awesome, but I didn't like how it worked very well.  Issues with yarn snags and extricating the latch-hook from the cylinder spring made this a pain to use.  But I'm still glad I tried.

I put my new ribbing selvage technique to use yesterday and in one day, from start to finish, completed a pair of "Valentine's Day Socks" in deep red.




With 1x1 ribbing at the top, moving into 3x1 ribbing on the ankle, contrasting heels and toes and kitchenering up the toe and weaving in all ends, I went from a hank of yarn to a pair of socks in a few hours.  I still have to get better at cranking out socks, but it's getting easier and faster as I practice.

As for knitting, progress continues on the Silky Wool Cardigan.  I'll post a photo in the next blog entry.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bliss - At Least Twice a Year



I used to get paid bi-weekly, or every two weeks (not twice a week).  How come bi-annual doesn't mean every two years?

Double the Pleasure

As a child, there was always the last day of school before Summer break and Christmas.  As an adult, there were the two vacations each year...away from work and hopefully someplace sunny. 

These days, my bliss is hanging out with 40 other guys knitting and learning and laughing...and now I get to do it bi-annually (semi-annually?)...twice a year.

While I always attend the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat each year in May (because I help produce the event), I now will have the opportunity to "retreat" with other guy-knitters in September because of a second event at Easton Mountain Retreat Center.  Aaron (of AaronKnits fame) has opened up a second Men's Knitting Retreat in the Northeast at Easton Mountain.

The new event is call North East Men's Fall Knitting Retreat and will take place Thursday, September 20, through Sunday, September 23, 2018.  It was specifically scheduled for this weekend so it would coincide with the Adirondack Wool & Arts Festival (formerly Southern Adirondack Fiber Festival).  Since the acronym is NEMFK, I affectionately call it "Any motherfucker" to remember it correctly.

Suffice it to say, I plan on registering as soon as the event opens for registration (slated for Saturday, May 12th at 10:00 am).  There's always a flurry of registrations for new events when they open, so I'll be waiting eagerly at my computer for the "opening bell."

Readers' Comments/Questions

Julie writes, "Okay, Joe, inquiring minds want to know (or maybe I'm just plain nosy) - have you decided on a price for the Read Between the Lines Shawl? I cannot remember you struggling through a project the way you have with this one. You deserve some compensation for your 'pain and suffering.'"

Like the pain of childbirth, time brings a little perspective to a painful knitting project.  The most difficult part of this project was continuing to work with colors I wasn't enjoying, and sometimes I just get tired of the colors in a project and I lose perspective.  I ended up washing and blocking this project and as it was laying out, I grew to like it more.  At the same time, I got an e-mail from a blog lurker who loved the shawl and wanted to purchase it.  Normally a project this size, using this quality of yarn would be priced at $79.  I ended up selling it for $52 to the reader/lurker with the qualifier that once they saw it in person, they could return it for a full refund.  It should be delivered within the next day or two.

Current Knitting

I did end up completing the folded hem and second pocket on the Silky Wool Cardigan.




You'll note I also completed a few more inches on the body of the cardigan.  As far as I can tell, blog readers were SO right about using the Silky Wool...it creates a perfect fabric for a nice light cardigan.  Hive-mind wisdom at it's best!

Friday, February 09, 2018

Prepare and File 2017 Taxes - Check!



It may sound odd, but checking off tax preparation each year on my to-do list is always incredibly satisfying.

Proof of Organizational Skills

Pulling together all of the tax forms, collecting all the tax deduction information, like charitable contributions and completing the various tax forms...it used to all seem so daunting...such a monumental task.

But with tax preparation software and the ability to directly download much of the information necessary from investment brokers, banks and last year's taxes, the preparation gets easier and easier each year.

Don't get me wrong...I think both our Federal and State tax laws are insanely complex, and I'm not a huge fan of paying taxes.  I will never get over how ridiculous all the stupid laws are that require supplemental tax forms for every minor piece of income...for instance my craft show income required a whole new understanding of how to report small business income.  But as for paying taxes, I feel like it's my way of helping pay for the things in my country and state that we all should share the cost of...police, roads, safety regulations, security, our veterans, etc.

But mostly, the satisfaction of printing off a stack of pages with all the numbers from last year and all my personal information necessary to pay for my citizenship in the U.S. demonstrates that my life is in some semblance of order.

For me, that's very satisfying indeed.

Current Knitting

The current project...Silky Wool Cardigan...is accelerating in speed now that I'm almost through the complexities of the hemmed edge and pockets.


I've completed sewing the fold-over hem and just have a little more work to do on the left-hand pocket lining and edging.


Now that taxes are finished, and the early details of the cardigan are almost complete, the remainder of the body should knit up pretty quickly.  I'll still have sleeves, a button band and collar to contend with, but not until next week sometime.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A Bold Move in Knit Publishing!


For years, Principles of Knitting has been touted as the ultimate resource guide for new and experienced knitters.

OVERTAKEN!

There are many excellent and comprehensive guides on answering every possible question a person could have about knitting...tools, techniques, history, yarns, notions, etc.  When I found a copy of the original "Principles of Knitting" by June Hemmons Hiatt in a used book store for $7, I couldn't have been more thrilled...it was a highly sought-after book until it was republished in 2012. 

Vogue Knitting was always an excellent guide to recommend to knitters as well.  Honestly, it was always equally as good as POK, but always seemed to play second fiddle.

Until now...


Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book has no become the most highly recommended knitting resources of all the major compendiums.

In this most recent update, they have done the most amazing thing...the went through every word of the older version, deciding on what was worth keeping.  And for those outdated, unnecessary sections, they either updated them to include the most recent information, or they eliminated it.

Their bold claim of being "The Ultimate Knitting Book" is not just a claim...they truly have done all the work necessary to make this the current winner.

Some examples of updates:
  • Extensive review of yarn gauges in words, WPI and photos and recommended needle sizes that makes sense
  • Publication of the "Standard Yarn Weights" (which I hate, btw, but now there is a comparison of a useful chart with the newfangled standards being widely published)
  • Update on tools to reflect what is available today
  • A techniques section that focuses on old standards as well as current interests
  • A fully updated cross-referencing between sections (which must have taken months of effort)
  • Color-coded page sections that make it easy to find topics easily

All-in-all, they made changes to this publication that I never even knew I wanted, but will soon become invaluable.  They have truly set the standard for complete knitting guides that others will need to incorporate if they want to compete in any way with VK:TUKB.

Suffice it to say, even if you have other knitting books in your library, this is one that should be there too...even if you're a vastly experienced knitter.  They even have a picture tutorial on how to do the cross-stitch pattern from my Koigu Cross Stitch Scarf!

Current Knitting

So far, I'm quite pleased with both the yarn that Blog readers chose for my current WIP and the progress I'm making


In addition to adding a few more inches to the body of the cardigan, I have also started to tack down the hem lining, and I've installed pockets...the first one is finished.


I still have to finish tacking down the hem lining and finish the other pocket...but I'm pleased with how it's all going so far.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Blog Readers Have Spoken



Thanks to all who weighed in on which yarn I should use for my next sweater project...with the survey, comments and e-mails, there were about 100 votes...and...

The Winner is Clear

While it's definitely not what I expected, blog readers have made it clear:

Forms response chart. Question title: Feedback Type. Number of responses: 72 responses. 
 
There were a few other votes in comments (3 of which were also for Silky Wool), and a few via e-mail...none of the other votes beat out Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.
 
So despite all my time dyeing wool and playing with my CSM, I have started a new project with the Silky Wool.
 

Current Knitting

First of all, I did end up finishing the Read Between the Lines Shawl...kind of.



The shawl was supposed to have been 150 centimeters and I only went to 120, but I don't think I could have kept working on this.

And here is the start of the new cardigan project.


The orangey yarn at the bottom will be in the lower inside of the folded hem edging, so you won't be able to see that unless the sweater is unbuttoned.  There is also a band of diagonal traveling stitches on each side of the button-band.


This motif will be repeated going up the center of the sleeve...other than that, there won't be much detail to the sweater...oh...except for pockets and a reverse stockinette wide rolled collar.  At least that's what I'm envisioning right now.