Monday, April 27, 2009

Pedestrian Friendliness


Living in one state and working during the week in another, it's quite interesting to see the differences in how cars deal with pedestrians.

Yielding At A Pedestrian Crosswalk
Having grown up in New Jersey, it always surprised me when I visited states like California or Massachusetts and found that when a pedestrian looked like she was about to cross a road...sometimes even a very busy road...automotive traffic would stop to let them cross. I even saw accidents caused by this pedestrian-friendly behavior.

Now living in Pennsylvania and work in Delaware, both states have similar laws about autos yielding to pedestrians in designated crosswalks. However, drivers in each state seem to treat the laws very differently.

In Pennsylvania, I'd estimate that about 10 percent of cars stop when they see someone trying to cross at a designated crosswalk. Unless the pedestrian is very bold and begins to cross, forcing traffic to stop, most cars won't stop.

In Delaware, it's even worse...drivers in Wilmington seem to ignore any rules about crosswalks altogether, and act as though they have full right-of-way when it comes to pedestrian traffic.

How pedestrian-friendly is your state or city or town? How pedestrian-friendly are you when driving? How bold will you get as a pedestrian when you know you should have right-of-way?

Current Knitting
Well, there's good news, and there's bad news. Which do you prefer first?

Okay...the good news. I finished knitting Le Soir D'Or this past weekend. Yes, I finished all 194 rounds, and I even completed the crochet cast-off.

The bad news...I didn't have time enough to block it after finishing it. But at least I was able to pin out the eight major points of the piece so I could get a couple of good pictures of it.





Overall, I am very happy with how it turned out. The design is quite beautiful, and now that I can read Ichida graphics, it's much easier to knit these lace pieces.

I'll plan on blocking it when I get home this coming weekend.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Mark writes, "While I agree that a BM song is the worst earworm possible, I prefer "Oklahoma", or possibly the theme music from "Dancing with the Stars." At this moment "Oklahoma" is winning."

Actually, one of my worst earworms is "Surry With The Fringe On Top"...I often drive by a small farm and there's a sign advertising the sale of Ducks and Geese and Chicks, and it never fails to jam that song into my brain.

Mark also asks, "Will you be bringing the Neibling to MSKR? I'd love to see it at a close-up, but safe distance."

Yes, now that I know I'll have completed the lace, I'll bring it for "show & tell" night. Saturday night is the time where the guys get to show off their accomplishments.

BTW...go wish Mark a happy birthday...we're the same age for about 25 days each year...now he's older!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

EarWorms


For those that have gotten a song stuck in their head that just wouldn't leave, there is a term for that..."earworm."

The Perfect Cure
This morning, I caught a brief snippet of the gay American Idol guy...forget his name...but can't seem to forget the snippet of song he was singing..."Bridge Over Troubled Water."

I don't know all the words to the song, so I misplace and replace words, but it doesn't stop the pain of having a song burrowing through my brain.

I've passed along this secret cure, which I extrapolated from a cure used for esophageal thrush by a man with AIDS in the late eighties. He knew he couldn't drink beer or eat yogurt, because it would cause a yeast-based thrush to grow in his esophagus. However, whenever a more virulent form of thrush would occur in his throat that he couldn't get rid of with simple techniques like gargling with salt water, he would purposefully drink beer or eat yogurt. This would cause a second form of thrush, which would kill the original infection, and then he'd gargle with salt water to kill the yeast-based version.

I thought this was a brilliant way of dealing with infection, by pitting one against the other.

So how does this apply to earworms you ask? Well, if I get a particularly virulent earworm, I realized I could find an even more awful song to kill the earworm, but it would have to be a song the would self-destruct in my head after doing its dirty work. And there is no better choice for this than ANY Barry Manilow song.

So next time you get an annoying earworm, start to sing "Mandy," or "Copa Cabana," or "I Write the Songs." The original earworm will die by virtue of suffocation, and then you'll be so disgusted by the BM song (kind of appropriate initials, don't you think?), that the new earworm will commit suicide.

It's such a tidy process, it's amazing no one has published this solution already.

Current Knitting
I have now figured out how to transfer pictures from my cell phone to my computer, so I can at least have some form of pictures on the blog that I haven't stolen from other internet sites.

First of all, I took a picture of the "alleged" sock so you could see I hadn't lied and my photoshopped version was relatively accurate.



I also got some work done on the Niebling lace project.



I'm currently on round 184. You can kind of see how the pointed arch of the design is coming to a...well...point, so it's almost complete. Actually, there are 10 more rounds in the design before I do the crocheted bind-off. I anticipate I'll be able to finish the knitting and the bind-off this weekend...I can't promise I'll be able to block it.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Happy Earth Day, and thank you to the commenters who wrote so much more eloquently than I did on the contradictions of conservation in today's world.

Also, April wrote, "The yarn on those green socks looks A. MAZ. ING. Stunning really."

I agree...I just placed a follow-up order for four more balls of the green and the denim color as well. I also ordered some additional Araucania sock yarn from James' shop, Joy of Yarn in New Zealand. The exchange rate still made my purchases quite a bargain, and the package arrives almost as quickly from New Zealand as it does from California.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Are Things Really Changing?


With all the focus on making the World greener, many of the young folks are making air turbines, bio-fuels, hybrid cars and other renewable energies a priority.

Are these the same young folks that are all too willing to throw an empty bag of McDonald's refuse out of their car window as they cruise down the highway?

Multi-Tasking
It just seems to me that there seems to be less ability to focus on multiple priorities when it comes to issues of being responsible World-citizens. Or perhaps more accurately, it seems that folks find it easier to focus on a specific topic without keeping in mind the overall rationale.

Current Knitting
First of all, I have to tell you about my tragedy for the week.

Don't worry, I didn't leave my lace project on a plane...I didn't drop 300 stitches...I didn't spill bleach on it.

I forgot my camera cable at home, so blog pictures will be difficult or impossible this week.

Which isn't such an awful thing since I did very little knitting since the last blog post.

First of all, I had homework to do for a workshop at the upcoming retreat next month. I had to knit three eight inch squares...one in garter, one in stockinette and one in ribbing. The squares had to be knit in light or pastel, worsted weight yarn. Don't ask me where I found it, but I had some old off-white acrylic yarn that I was able to make all three squares...god I hate knitting rib.

Speaking of which, I did more work on the Supreme Merino Possum wool sock (the spectacular yarn I got from James in New Zealand at a good exchange rate :))

Since I have a picture of the sock on my camera, but can't get it to my computer, I've done a photoshop representation of the current progress of the sock (use your imagination people!):



I did no additional knitting on the Niebling lace since last posting, but I should be getting a minimal amount done this week.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Global Yarn Stores


Reader Tracy started a global map on Platial of local yarn stores on a global basis. Shop global, knit local is my motto.



Some Recent Shopping
I had to make a jaunt to Twist (it's on the map in New Hope, PA), my local yarn store recently, and picked up a few items.

The first is just a few new hanks of Cascade 220...I've tried numerous other felting wools, and this one is still by far the most reliable with a wide range of colors.



I plan on using this to make a couple of pairs of felted clog slippers...one pair for me, since mine are falling apart.

I also picked up some fascinating sock yarn.



I have no idea what the brand or the fiber content is, and it's at home and I am not...but I loved the colors....pretty colors...~purr~

Finally, I bought a copy of the reprinted book, The Opinionated Knitter by Elizabeth Zimmermann.



I've never been a huge fan of EZ's patterns, but I enjoy the history that this book provides and I've always wanted the pattern for the Surprise Jacket, in case I ever decide to make one.

It just seems this is a required book to own if you're a knitter...no?

Current Knitting
I returned to the Niebling lace (although I did do a little more work on the Supreme Merino Possum sock as well).



This is up to round 178, and as all Niebling lace knitters know, the final rounds of his designs always get bigger and often get more complex.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat next month, Mindy asks, "How are all the plans going- everything falling into place?"

I just spoke with Ted last night, the co-coordinator and we both agreed things have gone incredibly smoothly this year. You can't imagine how amazing the group of guys that goes to the event is, and every time I send out an agenda, or requests, I get at least a dozen notes of thanks from the guys. Last year, I lost more hours of sleep worrying about the event than I care to admit...this year, I may have lost one or two, but mostly it was because my mind races with ideas about it, but not from worry. Thanks for asking...Thaddeus is fed up with me talking incessantly about it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

QueerJoe Doesn't Get Sports


My sister is friends with a former football player for the New England Patriots, Brent Williams, and she is very excited about his new book, Recruit My Son!



The Chess Game of Sports Recruiting
My sister's oldest son (wouldn't it have been easier to just say "my nephew), is a very talented football player in high school, and has been fortunate to have been coached by Brent Williams. As Brent went through the process of promoting his son through the college recruitment process, my sister was able to get excellent advice and help her son plan his progress in football.

I must admit, I was quite clueless about the amount of grooming and promotion and networking required to get a son into a good school for football. Especially how early in their lives this process should begin. Quite amazing eye-opener for me.

Current Knitting
I had to put down the Niebling lace this weekend, so I have no progress to report on that project at all. Three other knitting projects came up that required urgent attention:

1. The last secret project
2. An afghan square for the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat
3. A new sock project that I had no power whatsoever to resist (I blame James)

For number one, it's still a secret, so I can't write anything about it.

Number two, is somewhat self-explanatory. 20 guys who will be at the retreat next month are knitting 15 inch squares to be put together at the retreat. Here's my contribution:



I won't tell you how many tries it took me to come up with a stitch pattern and stitch count that gave me 15 inches wide. Once I finally got the gauge I needed, the actual square only took an hour or so of actual knitting.

Finally, number three is a sock done in Supreme Merino Possum yarn (50% merino/40% possum fur/10% silk). I was corresponding with Kiwi James, and he happened to mention how bad the exchange rate was between the New Zealand dollar and the U.S. dollar. I figured it was my patriotic duty to try and help out (because I'm just that kind of guy...right?) So I placed an order for a yarn made in New Zealand that looked interesting from James' web shop, Joy of Yarn.

I could not have IMAGINED how awesome this yarn is. Here's what I found when I got home on Thursday.



I ordered three colors of the yarn (the navy isn't shown in the picture, but it's quite beautiful as well) and two sets of Regia sock needles so I could try them out (plus I loved the little sock/needle holders...couldn't resist). When all was said and done, each pair of socks will cost me under US$17 in yarn, which I consider an amazing bargain given the superior quality of this yarn...and the colors are incredibly vibrant.

I just hope James has a decent stock of this yarn, because I'm definitely ordering more.

Suffice it to say, I had to cast on a pair immediately. Here's where I've gotten so far.



The soft haze on these socks is downright seductive, so I showed a bit of a close-up. My color representation isn't as good as James' on his site for this green, which is one of the nicest greens I've seen in a yarn. I'm also using a 2.00mm needle and on his site, James recommends a 3.25mm. On my second pair, I will go up to a 2.50mm, but I really LOVE the dense, soft, warm fabric I'm creating...can't wait to wear these socks.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thank you parents for your assessment of Rhinebeck as kid-friendly or not...another topic about which I am totally clueless.

Family Fairness writes, "Do you have any recommendations for an impatient and daft beginner? I really feel like if I can complete just one thing, I will be able to keep with it. But that first milestone is a hard one."

I responded to him via e-mail already, and basically told him to check out MenWhoKnit.com for a supportive group of guys and suggested a couple web/video sites like http://www.knittinghelp.com/. It's always good to have another guy picking up the needles.

One last thing...many of you have heard the Amazon has re-categorized any gay-related books as "Adult" and now removes them from their Amazon Rankings. This has caused an immediate furor on Facebook, Twitter and blogs. It looks like Amazon has quickly realized their mistake and will fix it and apologize. All I can say is they better.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

It's Actually Working


It's been about 6 weeks since I wrote about this book:



And...
I purchased a copy of I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna (which includes a hypnosis CD). I also purchased a cheap MP3 player at the same time.

I've read about two thirds of the book and listened to the hypnosis MP3 almost every day since I got it.

Before: After:



Despite eating rather well, and celebrating birthday with copious amounts of cake, I have still been able to successfully lose 10 pounds. I actually lost five pounds in the first week, and either zero, one or two pounds in the subsequent weeks for a total of 10.

I am definitely going to keep doing this...I went from 208 pounds to 198, and it would be ideal if I could get down to 185 and just hover there for a decade or two.

Current Knitting
I pushed myself to finish 10 additional rounds on the current lace project, and I honestly just didn't feel like pinning it down for a proper picture.



Regardless, I made it up to round 167 since Monday (which is very good given how many stitches are in each round, and I will continue to push myself till this piece is completed. I promise, I'll have better pictures in the future.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Thanks everyone for such nice birthday wishes...it turned out to be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate.

Also, Expat on the Go writes, "We're coming back to the US - and would like to go to Rhinebeck fair. I have seen that you have been there. Is it worth it? I have a 15 yo daughter and a 9 yo son - would they like it?"

Rhinebeck is definitely worth it for anyone that's obsessed with knitting, or spinning or any other fiber-related activity...especially if you've never been. As for whether your 9 and 15 year olds would like it, I have no idea. I know it's second nature for you to assess things based on your children, but it definitely isn't for me, so I'm never able to answer those kinds of questions. Any parents out there care to comment on this one?

Angel asks, "Did you know that Anna magazine is supposed to be publishing Neibling patterns for the next few months?"

I did...it's been all the buzz in the Niebling forums on Ravelry and YahooGroups...but thanks for thinking of me.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Another QueerJoe Milestone


A big one, in fact...this past Saturday I turned 50 years old.

Celebrations at Work and Home
Since I have been staying in my current hotel almost weekly for the last 3 years, the staff there treats me more like a co-worker than a guest (in all good ways). Last week, I arrived back at my hotel room on Wednesday evening to find the staff had done this:







And even this:



Then, I arrived to my client worksite to find that my project team members had done all this:









Not to mention, they also brought in fine pastries and soft pretzels.

If all that weren't enough, Marilyn sent this to my house on my birthday.



It's a beautiful basket filled with four different African Violet plants. It was very nice.

My mom also brought over my favorite cake that she always made on my birthday (Angel Food cake with whipped cream). And of course, Thaddeus and I stopped for coconut cake at our local Mennonite market and went out to dinner for Indian food at my favorite Indian restaurant.

All in all, it was a fitting celebration.

Current Knitting
Despite all the celebration, I was still able to continue making progress on my current Niebling project.



This shows me up to round 157. It's amazing how much slower progress goes as the stitch count increases, but I still seem to be making steady progress.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Regarding my assumption that folks that like my list of movies would hate Marley & Me, Megan in Cincinnati writes, "I think it's a matter of if you have a tolerance for silly, romanticized life stories."

I actually like a lot of silly romanticized life stories...what I really hated about Marley & Me was how poorly they tried to manipulate the audience, just to get them to cry. I know the whole idea of movies is manipulation, but the tear-jerker section was just WAY too incongruous with the rest of the movie and was clearly inserted just to make the audience cry.

Regarding my current lace project (and Ichida designs in general), Expat on the Go writes, "Two things: 1) did you know that after a certain amount of rows the author changes to larger needles (!) - from, lets say, 2 to 3. Also, when you have an odd row with a yarn over, the next even number row you need to k1,p1,k1 the yarn over. Just thought you'd like to know .... or you already know?"

I've been fortunate to have been on a lot of the Niebling lace forums on Ravelry and Yahoo, and both ideas have been discussed. I don't increase my needle size as the Ichida ladies did. Some folks say Niebling designs can be too tight in certain sections, but I haven't run into that yet. As for the yarn-over, I think what your Japanese translator really meant was that if there is a double-yarn over in the odd row, the even row requires you to K into the first and P into the second. Almost never would you increase from 1 to 3 stitches on the odd row. I just didn't want you to mess up your first attempt.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Is Mohair Good For Anything?




You can check out this web site for more atrocities in mohair (if you haven't seen enough already).

Speaking of Atrocities
This past weekend, Thaddeus asked me if I wanted to see "Marley And Me" since it was coming out on DVD this week. I decided not to...I like both Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston, but the movie just looked too repulsive even to watch for free.

Thaddeus made the mistake of watching it at the video store, and described to me the movie and all I can say is that if you enjoyed this movie, you most definitely wouldn't want to go see "Two Lovers", the movie I wrote about in my last blog entry.

Current Knitting
I had to make an executive decision on my latest project. I was making amazing progress, and got up to around the 142nd round, when I noticed some new stitches appearing on the graphic at about round 146 from no where...no increases or yarnovers to make these stitches...I assumed it was just an error in the pattern.

I soon realized I was supposed to have started increasing (based on a different graphic that I thought I didn't need) way back on round 132 or something.

There was no way I was going to unknit 10 rounds of knitting...no way. I realized that I could easily fudge the design a little by unknitting only 4 rows (at about 800 stitches per round) and make up for the missing increases. I decide this option was the best option and I've made my way back up to round 145.



Sorry, pictures are getting more and more difficult to take of this beauty.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Seanna Lee writes, "So, are you sure that you don't want to upsize the needles and yarn and make a Neibling blanket?"

I'm actually not sure if Seanna Lee is being sarcastic, so I apologize if I write an earnest answer in response to question she was just joking about. But, I don't think most of Niebling's designs would make good blankets...too holey. Shawls, yes...tablecloths, yes...blankets, no.

Barb B. writes, "Humpf. Kelly, Joe has said if I make there for high tea in the English tradition, he will put the cloths out on the table."

That is completely true...and I will look for any other particularly special occasions to use these pieces...I will however need a little bit of notice if I actually have to server proper high tea...I'll have to find one of those three tiered serving dishes so I can serve the biscuits.