Thursday, May 31, 2012

Successful Blogathon

When I first decided to participate in the WordCount Blogathon, I thought it would be pretty easy to blog every day in May.  It wasn't quite so easy as I had imagined.

Surprising Interference
I guess I figured, how hard could it be to slap together a blog post 31 days in row, especially when two weeks of that time I was slated to be on vacation.  But it's amazing what comes up during a month...both physically and emotionally that prevented me from making my 31 day goal.

First of all, the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat was the biggest reason for missing posts.  Again, I thought I'd have plenty of opportunity to take beautiful photos and wax poetic about men knitting in rural settings.  What I didn't count on was what little importance my computer would have when choosing between it and 41 guys knitting and chatting and socializing.

Knitter-guys were MUCH more compelling.

Emotionally, I kept assuring myself I would get  back to my room before midnight during the retreat and get a post published...but I knew on some of those nights I was lying to myself.

Once I missed one post, it became even harder to keep up the daily pace, and in short order I missed two more days of posting.

But I got back into it and finished with a solid 28 blog posts for the month of May.

Thank you to all the readers that kept up with me...it was encouraging to see the number of blog hits go back up and also great to see the comments start to take on a life of their own.

Current Knitting/Crochet
I was able to complete a little less than half of the boarder for the blanket.



I like the color choice I made, and I'm also making the border wider on the shorter sides of the rectangle to make it even less square when it's finished.  I will also put a 3 stitch border around the entire thing using the same orange yarn (Trekking XXL in case anyone wondered).

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Craft Imitates Obsession

Have you ever noticed that when you focus a lot of attention into one thing, then you start to see everything in terms of that thing?

Spinning/Drafting Teaches Me a Lesson
One of the areas I struggle with all the time is balancing between healthy self-esteem and arrogance.

It seems that no sooner do I get my self-esteem up to a certain level of acceptance, and then BAM!...I overplay my hand and the universe knocks me down to self-loathing.

As I was spindling the other day, I realized I need to get more attuned to peoples' reactions to me and then get faster to adapting to how people react to me.  If you've ever drafted yarn onto a spinning wheel or drop-spindle, you know that there is a constant balancing between keeping the spun fiber from being so under-twisted that the drop spindle falls to the ground and letting it become too over twisted.  This requires a constant feel for the fiber drafting through my fingers and adapting to how it feels in such a way that I get the balanced twist that I'm looking for.

Okay...maybe you don't spin and have no idea how this analogy works...but perhaps you could substitute drafting fiber with knitting without looking at your work...you can just feel when the stitch is twisted, or if you have two stitches instead of one, of if you've hit a purl stitch unexpected.  You're constantly adapting based on the feel of the stitches and yarn.

I figure if I can adapt this quickly in my fiber-related pursuits I can certainly be as adept in my self-esteem/arrogance balancing.


Current Project
I'm still working on the spiral squares blanket...I should have a completed photo by tomorrow maybe???

But my latest pursuit is a SEWING project!!!  I know...shocking, right?

I had the chance to visit Liza Prior-Lucy the co-auther of Kaffe's quilting books and the person that turns Kaffe's color brilliance into reality.  In addition to getting a copy of Kaffe's latest quilt book:




Kaffe Fassett's Simple Shapes Spectacular Quilts is truly spectacular.  It's made me want to bathe in fabrics again.

While I might not make a king-size quilt again...I did get some fabric to make a man's tie as a gift.



Can you imagine the striped fabric as a man's tie with the goldenrod color as the lining?


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tax Woes

I've decided I need to get tax advice from Mitt Romney...I'm paying WAY more than he is and making a helluva lot less.

Additional Assessment
A few months ago I got an additional assessment for 2010 Federal Taxes that said I owed about $25,000.

It may seem shocking, but I wasn't too concerned since I knew I didn't really owe that...but my company did have to re-prepare my entire 2010 Federal tax return and I did have to pay a small additional amount of taxes.

Was I annoyed at having to pay more...no, not really.  Was I annoyed at having to print off 91 pages of documentation and send it along with my check?  You bet I was.

What an annoyance.

We really do have to go to a simple system with no loop holes.  A straight percent of income, like they do for Pennsylvania state taxes.  The complexity of filing federal taxes in this country is ridiculous.

Current Knitting/Crochet
Turns out I don't have quite enough of the Poem yarn to do a full round of blanket.  So once I finish the third side, I think I'll just make it a rectangular blanket and extend the edges with some other sock yarn.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Brief, Colorful Summary

Ever try describing this blog to anyone else?   Here's a succinct graphic to summarize for the more visually oriented (link to the original to see it more clearly).

 Wordle: QueerJoe Cloud 

Memorial Day
Three things I'd like to keep in mind today (and share with readers at the same time).

  1. My dad who was a veteran of the Korean War.  While he died many years after his service, I still like to make sure I use today to remember a veteran I knew personally.
  2. All of the soldiers who served in Viet Nam.  This was the war that I remember most.  While none of my brothers or I were drafted for this war, it was a time of great anxiety and sorrow.  Even though the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were more recent, there wasn't a constant threat that you or someone you loved was going to be called up at a moment's notice.  We also treated our returning Viet Nam veterans worse than any others in history, and any way I can help to remedy that, I try.
  3. All the gay and lesbian soldiers that were required to lie about their lives to serve our country.  Particularly the soldiers that died at the hands of their fellow members, the soldiers kicked out for refusing to live a lie and the brave soldiers that fought for what's right all along.
Current Knitting/Crochet
 As promised, I finished the latest round of the spiral square blanket.



 As it turns out, I think I have at least enough yarn for another round, so one I crochet.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Beauty Of Easton Mountain

One of the reasons we host the annual Men's Spring Knitting Retreat at Easton Mountain is because of the beauty of the area.

Annual Arrival Photo
It's been a custom for me to take a photo of my arrival at the retreat.  This year, I opted to do a one minute video instead.




 It's also an annual tradition to have a group photo of all the guys at the retreat (well, at least all the guys who aren't taking a nap when the photo is taken).

Here are the guys from this year.


Yes, the weather this year (despite the rain on my day of arrival) was glorious enough to sit at the pool.

Current Knitting/Crochet
By the next blog entry, I should have a photo of the latest spiral square blanket...at least with all the Poem Sock yarn used up.

I'll post photos in the next blog post.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Good Blogging

When I first started blogging, I had some VERY basic ideas on what constituted a good blog entry.

Those Days Are Gone
Today, it's not enough to just have some commentary or helpful tips with corresponding photos and web links.  Today, I also need to come up with an idea that most others haven't addressed in the blogosphere, or minimally, have a different take on current views.

In essence, blog entries now also have to be clever.

I guess the initial requirements for a blog entry were the bare minimum, and still are to some degree.  When all else fails, I can always throw together a blog entry that just rehashes old crap and call it a blog entry.  Even when I put a lot of thought into one of my posts, it doesn't always guarantee that readers will appreciate it.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
The Poem sock yarn spiral squares blanket gets incrementally bigger and bigger.


Since I only have one ball of Poem sock yarn, I think I'll try and supplement this by adding on a border in a solid shade.  I figure if I don't like it, I can always rip it out and order another ball of Poem in this colorway.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Second Political Blog In a Row

I try to intersperse some of the more political blog entries with non-political ones.  Today's was too important not to write today.

Now Bumper Stickers Need Spell Check...Sheesh!

Gerrymander
[jer-i-man-der, ger-]
noun
1.  U.S. Politics . the dividing of a state, county, etc., into election districts so as to give one political party a majority in many districts while concentrating the voting strength of the other party into as few districts as possible.
 
Having spent a lot of my time in Upstate New York, I've had the opportunity to watch politics in that state, and I even had the opportunity to befriend the NY State Senator from lower Manhattan, Tom Duane (a truly amazing man). Unfortunately, despite the good work of people like my friend Tom Duane, the state senate become a cesspool of scumbags.  Especially now that the Republicans have taken over the state senate.
 
As part of their power-hungry shenanigans, they have redistricted the 46th District in New York State (parts of Montgomery, Schenectady, Albany and Greene counties) so that a particular Republican candidate could run without any competition. I had the opportunity this past weekend whilst at the retreat to meet someone that thinks this is wrong.  So wrong, in fact, she decided to run against the presumed winner.

Cecilia Tkaczyk, is a former legislative analyst for the New York State Senate and is currently the Board of Education President for Duanesburg Central School District, and thought it was wrong how the Republicans have tried to cheat the system.  She decided it was time to do something herself.  She's smart, passionate about what's right and seems to be gaining a lot of momentum in the race.  She's also a sheep farmer, which is how I was fortunate enough to meet her.

If you're in the Montgomery/Schenectady/Albany/Green county area, please tell your friends about Cece and make sure you and your friends vote for her.  Since I can't vote for her, I did the next best thing and contributed to her campaign.

Grass roots politics affect us all, and the more correct-minded folks we help put into office the better off our country will be, otherwise the 1% will continue to walk all over us.

Current Knitting/Crochet
I have to say, this 10 stitch Tunisian crochet is an enjoyable project...meditative and addictive.  I've only added a bit more to the blanket, but I'm enjoying every row.
 
 
Picture this baby blocked and bordered with some nice satiny edging!

Readers' Comments/Questions
Leslie asks, "Can the yarn you are using for the baby blanket be washed AND dried."
 
It's 75% wool and 25% nylon, and similar yarns I have been able to both wash and machine dry.  But I've never tried it with this actual yarn...anyone else know for certain?
 
Deborah writes, "Can you tell us the source of the roving and spindle?  I've just started spinning and although I'm not at that level yet, I'd love to know where to find it as a sort of carrot: "Learn to spin romney and then you can spin merino... and ultimately, pygora/silk/merino blends on olive spindles."  Oh, that's lovely."
 
Thanks Deborah, I fully meant to include links to the sources for both the pygora/silk/merino and the olive-wood spindle...here they are:
 
Gorgeous Roving - Rainbow Farms Pygora - http://www.rfpygora.com/
Gorgeous Spindle - SpindleWood Co - www.spindleWOODCO.com

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Rich

Isn't there someone that can explain to Wall Street hot shots and greedy CEO's that it is in their best interests of them and their heirs to make sure there's a society left after they're finished?

Imbalance Hurts Them Too
Be careful what you pray for...and all that.

When businesses set the stage for amassing great wealth at the expense of losing much of the foundation that helped them amass said wealth, their money may not be very useful.  Okay, so let's discuss what taxes pay for.

Infrastructure - companies need roads, bridges, working rail lines, telephone lines, electrical grids, public transit and all the other "taken for granted" items that helped their companies grow and prosper.  Giving back a small portion of their wealth to support this might not get the same return that lobbyists do, but the risk of crumbling infrastructure could allow them to lose way more than they can afford.

Oversight and Laws Promoting Fairness - While some of the Wall Street shysters who made out like bandits in the recent scandals might think they would benefit from less regulation (or no regulation), I would contend they should be fighting for more oversight and regulation.  Bringing back fairness and equity to our financial institutions will help protect the very riches they gained in the past decade.  To me, it's like the people that buy a house, and then try to enact zoning laws to prevent further housing from being built...so the value of their house continues to grow.

Taxation - I would also contend that the rich would do themselves an enormous favor by ensuring that the middle class remains financially secure and growing at a stable pace.  Can you imagine what would happen if the middle class in this country collapses?  If the rich think increasing their tax rate a little now is burdensome, how will it be when they are the only people with resources big enough to support the entire country.

You'd think the more wealthy in this country would be some of the smarter people too, but perhaps their mind is blurred a bit by greed?  Or to be more charitable, perhaps they've lost sight of the end game of it all.  It's not a zero-sum game where one group has to lose if the other is win.  We could all be winners in this world.

Current Knitting/Crocheting
I've added a bit more onto the latest Spiral Squares blanket using the Poem yarn.


I think it's looking quite fine, if you ask me.

Finally, I leave you with a photo of a few VERY considerate gifts some of the guys at the Men's Spring Knitting Retreat gave me (and this photo does not include two of the gifts that were equally as nice, but didn't fit as well into my little photo tableau).

Included in the photo are a spectacular pair of hand-knit gloves by Aaron, a jar of my favorite peanut butter from David, a gorgeous hank of silk hand-dyed in woad from Chuck and Nick and the stunningly beautiful pygora/silk/merino roving and olive wood spindle shown in an earlier photo on the blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

AIDS Funding

With a cocktail of drugs that helps stave off a quick death after being infected with HIV, the urgency of supporting our brothers who are infected has been significantly reduced.

Keep It Up
And yet, the cost for those life-saving drugs is astronomical.  The need to keep educating our young to protect themselves from getting infect is even more urgent.  And the organizations the provide services to people with HIV/AIDS still need our help...now more so than ever.

A new-found friend from the retreat is riding in the Friends For Life bicycle ride, and it would be an excellent way to support the People With AIDS Foundation of Toronto (the ride goes from Toronto to MontrĂ©al).  One of the things I like about contributing to this charity, is how they detail what your contribution can be used for:
































My friend Christopher Walker (strange name for a cyclist, no?) is just $700 short of his pledge goal, so if anyone can pledge for him, it'd be great.


Current Knitting/Crocheting
I've actually started a new spiral square Tunisian crochet baby blanket.  This time I'm using Poem Sock Yarn by Universal Yarns which is both soft and machine washable AND has pretty colors.



It might actually make a decent baby blanket...way better than the Kauni blanket at least.


Men's Spring Knitting Retreat - Part 3
More photos from the retreat...just reviewing the photos again puts a lump in my throat.

Veryl, Van and Max with the Cottswold ram

Mark, Brady and Ted discussing fleece locks

Ewetopia

Cottswold ewe


Huge barn

The boys

Chuck, Nick and John

Doug and Alan

Ray, Ted, Danny, Van and Sean

Vince with projects to show

Nick felting something

Blurry Van with gorgeous weaving

Danny showing off his lace cowl

Ray in his new scarf

Scotty, John, Phil Mark, WonderMike, John and Brady

Kirk with me trying on Sean's sweater

Kyle with amazing vintage work

Dave and his wonderful weaving

Dave an his wonderful knitting

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Tapestry of Men

I've written a lot about the magic of the men's knitting retreats, so I'll just post about this year's retreat without too much gushing...but it was amazing.

Other Retreats
Currently, there are two other retreats open for registration, and they're both amazing as well:


2012 Men's Rocky Mountain Knitting Retreat
Location:  Sunshine Mountain Lodge,  Allenspark, CO (South of Estes Park)
Dates:  Thursday, July 19 to Sunday, July 22, 2012       
Cost:  Registration fee  $390 - Register here


2012 Men's Fall Knitting Retreat
Location:  Dumas Bay Centre, Federal Way, Washington (North of Seattle)
Dates:  Thursday, August 30 - Sunday, September 2nd
Cost:  Registration fee  $410 - Register here
 Both events are accepting nominations for scholarships as well...to find out more, you can just link to the Scheduled Events page on the Men's Knitting Retreat web site.

If you've ever considered going to one, I would highly recommend just doing it!

2012 Men's Spring Knitting Retreat - Part 2
Photos came out sort of lousy...my camera has been acting up lately (the auto-focus isn't working all the time), but here is the first set of photos.

Gorgeous gifts from John Wise from the West Coast - Pygora, Merino, Silk roving and a olive wood spindle
Kevin under Aaron's careful tutelage

Bill in front of the completely unnecessary fireplace

Jon, David and Ray enjoying some fiber time

Bill and Christopher sharing knitting tips

Scott, Ted and John knitting, spindling and spinning, respectively

The ever-adorable Kyle!

Aaron signing autographs...he's famous in our world

Voted most adorable couple at the retreat...sorry John and Alan 
Jeff watching over the home front while we head off to see sheep


Monday, May 21, 2012

Completely Jazzed

I miss being with the guys at the latest Men's Spring Knitting Retreat and I miss the wonderful environment of Easton Mountain, but I'm still completely energized from the retreat too.



Best One Yet
I hesitate writing that this was the best Men's Spring Knitting Retreat yet, because I don't want to diminish in any way the experiences I've had at the four prior retreats (see prior years' retreats blog posts listed/linked below), but I have to say that this one was the one that seemed to have had the biggest impact on me.

We had some amazing guys again this year...many from last year and a few who had been at earlier retreats but had skipped a year or two in between.

The biggest surprise to me this year was the impact of the new guys to the retreat.  I assumed they would incrementally increase the dynamic of the group by adding their specific personality to the group.  But instead, they seemed to act as a multiplier of energy and closeness.  It was truly a synergistic reaction.

Suffice it to say, I was able to re-affirm incredibly close bonds with some of the guys from prior years, and establish new friends with the new guys who made it there this year.

Travel Log
Overall, we had an amazing four days of men, knitting, spinning, crocheting, fiber processing, food and quite excellent weather for the retreat.

Each year, a few of the guys have come to Easton Mountain a day or two prior to the retreat, to relax and extend the time they get to spend in this magical atmosphere.  This year, we had about 25 of the 41 guys who arrived at least a day early.

The first day of the retreat was Thursday.  We had an unofficial visit to Battenkill Fiber Mill, where we got a tour of this wonderful skirting/scouring/picking/carding/combing/drafting/spinning/plying/skeining/coning mill (did I miss any of the steps?).  About 30 guys went on the tour and the staff couldn't have been more pleasant.

I took photos on my iPhone as I forgot to bring my camera on the tour, but I figured you'd rather see bad photos than no photos of the event.

Massive Bags of Wool Fleece


Barrel of Pin Combed Roving




Karen at the Skirting Table



Skirting a Fleece

Picking Machine



One Phase of the Carding Maching



Another Phase of Carding

Yet Another Phase of Carding 


Feeding Pin Roving into Spinning Machine

Spinning Machine (Multiple Bobbins)

Check the Blur Of the Spinning Fiber



Gear Box for Changing Spinning Ratios

Finally, a brief movie of the plying machine


video