Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Mice Will Play

I have a little mouse problem. Last night two small grey mice ran out in the middle of my rug and wrestled with each other. Before I could decide if I should hurl "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" (Salman Rushdie) or "The Blind Assassin" (Margaret Atwood) at them, they were gone. These books should not be taken lightly, they should be thrown with great force. A few years back I killed a mouse by accident. I had it cornered and was going to trap it with a bowl. Not a real plan, I just happened to be holding a plastic bowl at the time. But then I kicked over a stack of Childcraft Encyclopedia (stoop sale treasure) resulting in rodent blunt trauma from "Stories and Fables." A little knowledge is dangerous, but a pile of books on the floor can be fatal.

Cat's Entertainment
I thought of borrowing my friend Eleanor's cat, Bhindi. I cat-sat him a few months back, he did a great job chewing the buttons off my shirts and he almost destroyed my printer. So I made him a plush blue bug to get his attention away from my printer. It's probably not the best use for baby alpaca.

At first the fetch 'n' throw routine got his attention away from the printer, but he soon abandoned the blue bug and slinked away. Hours later he came back with something else in his mouth — a plastic frog that I kept on my bathroom sink. He wouldn't give it back so I held him down and pried it from his mouth. He really wanted it, he kept biting my leg. Soon "frog on a string" was born — hours of feline excitement.

I can't believe he prefered a plastic frog over a blue plush toy with orange bug eyes and legs. If he could talk he would've said "Mother of God, Look! Forget that damn bug! It's a frog! And it's tied to string!" I thought again about the cat loan, he might be too picky to be a good mouser only bringing back the more entertaining mice.

Anyhow, I went to a few drug stores bewteen meetings. Duane Reade only carries the old wooden "snappers" and poison. One hardware store had this device that captures live mice so you can release them back into the wild (Prospect Park? Queens?). Are glue traps really that unethical? I had a six-toed cat named Benny years back — lovable but not so bright. He even drooled if he got too excited. One day he dragged something back in, batting it around the kitchen floor. It was mouse in a glue trap. It made the worst long shriek I'd ever heard, but not as loud as the growl that Benny made when I took it away from him. I drowned the mouse in the bathroom as Benny hissed and growling at me from the other side of the door. I then disposed of it properly. What a lazy cat.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Bike Police, They're Coming to Arrest Me

Here's a reason to wear a cycling helmet. On July 25th a Critcal Mass cyclist was assaulted in Times Square, but instead was charged with assualting a police officer. If you look at the video the truth is evident: the cyclist swerves away from the cop, but the cop lunges at the cyclist. On our local message boards the discussion has been "Rogue Cop or Systematic Abuse of Power." I in fact know good cops and detectives, but there are also very bad cops. If the NYPD can defend this officer's claim of being assaulated by a crazed cyclist (again), this is in fact systematic. This harkens back to a New York Metropolitan Police run by the notorious William "Boss" Tweed. So far the officer has been re-assigned to modified desk duty, probably assaulting a crazed copy machine for aggressive paper jamming.

Our criminal court system works as such: if this case is not dropped, the cyclist will probably be in court for two and half years, spending lots of money on a defense lawyer, and then be forced into taking a misdemeanor assualt plea while signing papers stating that he or she can not sue NYC in Civil Court. In the eyes of a DA this cyclist deserves to get something. This practice has become as predictable as weather. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a meaningless catch-phrase in the United States. In other words if you have no monitery means, you can sit in prison for years until you're proven innocent. Just ask Martin Tankleff. "Guilty as entered" upon arrest is the harsh reality.

RNC August, 2004
"Walk this way." That's what many people outisde of the RNC protest area were told by the police. They were mis-lead into a restricted area bewteen police gates, coralled, cuffed, and arrested for unlawful assembly. Entrapment? Not according to billionaire Mayor Bloomberg. The NYPD was simply doing its job — if so, who's giving them directions? No one wants to take reponsibility for false arrests. According to a friend, their sweep included a lost 14-year-old French girl who was separated from her tour group, a woman walking her dog, news reporters, anyone with a camera, and a Chinese food-delivery boy — all declared a danger to our city. Some spent 48 to 72 hours being shuffled from dirty warehouses to "The Tombs" cuffed to each other. I have a legal client that is still represent '04 RNC people who were unlawfully arrested — to this day.

Unlawful Assembly at the Gate of Heavenly Peace
A friend's sister married a man she met during the riot in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing China. Ironically Tiananmen means "Gate of Heavenly Peace." Both of them (Phd student teachers) escaped with their lives and the cash they had in their pockets. They said the Chinese government recruited people from the country who were instructed to use brutal force or kill the city deviants. If one searches YouTube for "RNC 2004", the New York City RNC arrests reside in the cue along side with third-world police violence. The scarey thing is that the violence looks roughly the same. It makes one wonder where we are now. Can you imagine what they'd do to us on World Wide Knit In Public Day?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mercury: A Cycling Tale

Tadashi A. from Oregon is one of my friends. He finished making my cycling cap this weekend and is getting started on another one. You so rock! Just check out his skilled work (below). Tadashi is an avid biker, as many Oregonians are. I'm glad to know that my cycling cap isn't just decorative. But be advised, please, please, please, always wear a helmet. I've seen too many bad bike accidents here in New York, most of them involved opened car doors in the bike lane.

Josh advised me on smoking: "Get a bike!" — I've got some vertigo issues and by nature I'm as graceful as an albatross on land. In Brooklyn, me + bike = certain death under a car. Until the NicoDerm patch comes out with "For Senstive Skin with Aloe" I'm smoking ultra-light cigarettes. My straegy is to shame myself into quitting. What kind of moron pays $8.50 for ultra lights? SHAME!

I've actually owned a few bikes in my life time, but I have particularly bad bike Karma. In college I got hit head on by car on my way to work. A car ran a light and threw me over its hood. The driver asked "Mohawk dude, are you OK?" In shock I checked myself and said "I think so." Then he said "Bitchin'" and sped off. I was bruised but fine, but my blue Fuji 5-speed was totaled.

Another time, my college aparment was robbed. It took a day to realize that it wasn't my piggish roommate borrowing my stuff. Our place was in fact ransacked and burgled. Missing: my silver bike, my camera, vinyl, hair gel(??)... but worst of all, the theif had time to make a sandwhich and use the bathroom.

Once on my paper route, I was attacked by a pack of wild boonie dogs. I had to crash my bike and jump a fence. My Huffy's frame was completely bent. "Boonie dogs?" you might be asking. That was Guam in the '70s, they kept the rat snake population down — and overweight 6th-grade paperboys for that matter. I'll tell you, I didn't keep that job for much longer.

Where was I going with all this... anyhow, bikes are cool by me. I like the colors that Tadashi chose, they look very "Timberland". Two color combinations have a clean classic appeal. Three colors need some thinking. Four might look like a clown car, use your best judgement people. I recommend cotton yarns for summer. Tadashi used Cascade Superwash 220, a 100% wool machine-washable wool — that's a plus for an avid biker. Just don't toss it into the dryer, unless you want to shrink it down for a medium-size dog or a child.

This 8-page Mercury Cycling Cap pattern comes in men's M, L, and XL. It's now available for sale via and PayPal. $10.00 USD.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Future Is Now

The spectre of Christmas future is haunting us. I sat in a two-hour client meeting with a group of designers on Friday. We are all consulants for Christmas 2009. I presented current packaging, font, color trends, marketing; Suzanne — patterns, fabric trends; Roseanne and Maria — hosting/home-entertaining trends; Jan and Marc — last years production v. sales. I can't disclose the client, breach of interest, non-circumvent situation, et cetera. This topic is not unique, it's what every retailer is trying to resolve by the end of August.

As a group we gave each other valuable insight for Christmas 2009. "Cocooning" (circa 1989) is back, but it's now called "home entertaining". Our American life-styles are greatly influenced by the currrent state of the economy, the Iraq War, patriotism, fuel costs, job lay-offs, and declining realstate values and home sales. In this meeting we hung up our NYC know-how to observe a Heartland America that is addicted to plastic, online and off.

The Social Climate
Wealthy and average folks alike are spending more practically and less luxuriously. Most have just purchased real estate and new cars. Catalogs (online and off) compete heavily with the brick and mortar shops since they usually don't get taxed and shipping is free. Consider that gasoline is now at an average of $4.00/gallon, online shopping lets the store come to you. Maybe part of the solution is to create a mobile store task force and really let the store come to you — a retail RV armada? The more practical things that surround living and maintaining a lifestyle have come to the surface. Is this so bad? We do live in a wasteful society, and our disposable incomes are less disposable.

"Green Living" or the semblance of being green is even more popular. But in terms of development it means wearing something green, making products the color of green tea, and using the recyle symbol on the back of a carton. I guess that's no differrent from McDonalds offering Mc-salads. Most people would rather buy something "green-ish", since it's too hard (and expensive) to go fully green.

"Home Spun" — not just a concept for hand-dyed yarns. Heartland America wants something hand-made and personalized, but in the end they'd rather buy it half-assemble. The solution is kits and gift sets: cake decoration, scrapbooks, place setings, frames that one can personalize.

"Americana-Nostalgia" particularly current movies and late 70's to early 80's television. As a country that looks fondly on the good times, our recent history portray simpler times and super heros. A pop-culty salad bar made from the Dr. Sues, the Peanuts Christmas Special, Happy Days, Starwars, Batman (any era), Spiderman, Angels, Santa, Disco, Glitter/Glam Rock, so on. It's prevelant from the fashion runway down to us.

We played a little gestlat marketing game. One person would name a Holiday and someone had to yell a movie or TV show off the top of their head. Something like this:
Halloween = "The Adams Family", "Batman", "The Great Pumkin"
Christmas = "The Grinch", "Rudolph", "Frosty the Snowman"

"Color Schemes/Patterns", it's safe to say that the European jewel tones are completely out. Colors are somber, textures are flatter, patterns are cleaner. Stripes and dots are big at the trade shows, same as with clean simple typography and graphics. I honestly believe that most new desingers don't know what clean really means. It's not just a look, it's a design approach and ergonomic philosophy of placing the essentials as opposed to the subtracting the obvious. "Faded Glory" is back — traditional patriotic red, white and blue will be at our tables far beyond the 4th of July and Memorial Day.

I'm not certain where any of this goes but we have to plan on Christams '09 in August '08. It reminds me of a chapter from "The Handmaid's Tale" where no one can remember their own history, so they reconstruct a generic era by assembling a party where the women wear costumes that include nuns, Playboy bunnies, cheer leaders and 1920's flappers.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Knit PH at Freddy's: July 20, '08

A nice small crowd at Freddy's, that meant more AC for us. Eearlier that day Tomo e-mailed me about bringing the yardage counter. It never occured to me that it doesn't convert to meters. She's been in yardage recovery mode — buying stoop sale sweaters and frogging them for yarn. Eliza brought some of her home-spun Kool Aid-dyed yarn, just enough to make a neck warmer. It still had that blackberry and wool smell. Last week Eliza needed a five-foot long branch for the play she and her husband, Christopher, are producing ("Couldn't Say"). I got her in touch with a former co-worker, Barb, at the BBG. It's for a highway scene. We welcomed new member Hibba to our group.

Archie popped by. I told him to drop in if he needed any help with the Mercury cycling cap that I designed. I'm doing some focus testing on Ravelry. I liked his choice of colors, bright yellow and blue in Mirasol "Ti' ki", a very soft Pima cotton. I explained the pattern theory, caught some typos, then turned around and spilled beer on his yarn and print-out. What a mess. I blame the heat. Archie thought about using wool for the cycling cap. He felt that wool might wick moisture better than cotton. I said "I've never seen a wool towel." Mercury would make a nice fall hat in a DK wool, maybe Lang "Silk Dream".

Elle and Victoria showed up. Elle's daughter is looking at colleges, Oberlin seems to be a good candidate. I hadn't seen Victoria in while, she was working on a charcoal grey winter sweater. She also brought her stash down to swift and wind. I worked on some di shapes for a baseball cap, written for intermediate knitters. I'm also getting the braided scarf pattern ready to release on Ravelry. Before the night was up Eliza got up and spilled water on Hibba's work. And what did we learn from the beer spilling episode?

You can't beat AC, beer, and knitting.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tropical Heatwave

We've had three straight days with evening temps at 90°! Brooklyn is boiling. When I got back to my aparment and opened the door, it felt as if I were checking for bread in an oven. This past Saturday, Matt and Adrianne had their annual summer party. It was a lot more subdued than last years party — with the hotdog eating contest, eww.

I kept hoping it would rain, at least that would've broken the humidity. Everyone pitched in with food — Matt put some burgers and dogs on the grill, I brought a cold tuna casserole, Dan made his Korean shortribs, and Ellen made potato salad. The coolers were generously stocked with beer, but the though of drinking made me a bit queezy. I pointed out to Chris that I designed the label on his beer, "Hop Devil" from Victory. I'm sure he still doesn't believe me. I had grapefruit juice most of the evening. I actually stuck an ice-cold can of beer down the back of my shirt until it went warm.

Every now and then a breeze blew past me. I retreated to the comfort of an airconditioned room with Pat and Paul, but soon enough other people caught on.

These ladies braved the heat in cool cotton dresses. It always helps to smile.

And of course, the kitchen was a hub of activity, no matter how hot and crowded it got. Someone asked how Guam's weather was different from a New York heatwave. Although I don't go back home often, I remember that evening always cooled down considerably. I also think eating a lot of spicey foods help cool the body down.

Jared F. (Brooklyn Tweed) e-mailed me back, we're supposed to get together about knit stuff. He's still out in Oregon, mild 70° weather, clear skies and all. I like his work, I complimented him on the red sweater on his blog — very ingenious. He has many fans among Knit PH, including me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Adam O. Turns 50

I sold my first hat pattern this week! Thanks Archie. I'm still proofing the others to put up on my Ravelry Shop for fall. The real shop is in progress.

Adam celabrated 50 on Saturday — hat's off to Adam Osterfled! Sigmund Meachum up-staged the birthday boy with one of her hat designs. Although he and Janice moved out of the 5 borough area, Janice threw him a party in the theater district at Pomaire. We don't see each other often, so this became a small Brooklynite reunion. Most of us have known each other since the '80s, but haven't seen each other since 2002.

Janice couldn't resist trying on Sig's black floral applique hat. Sigmund has her own millinery line, and also designs for Broadway Theater. She's recently worked on the revival of "South Pacific".

Of course Maureen had to join in — three Brooklyn beauties involved in a mugging, for the camera that is. I made Adam a red and grey cycling cap, it almost fits his son Ellis — kids grow up so fast. Ellis is now in second grade, old enough to handle my camera. He took most of the party pictures.

There's almost a Weegie/Arbus quality to some of these photos.

This one looks like an Edward Hopper painting. That's Craig at the table.

Ellis took this picture of his dad showing off the goods to Karl and Beth. In other news Adam has completed his masters in teaching. We'll have to call him Mr. Osterfeld from here on. A toast, good friends, good times, congratulations Adam! And Thank sto Janice for getting us all together.

For a slide show of Ellis O's photography CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Strange Fruit?

Here's a short pointless story with a semi-sweet ending. Another hot day, deadlines kickin' me in the head. I was out running lunch errands on Canal Street yesterday. I needed 3 yards of Belgian linen for a photo back drop and then separately, new shorts (I lost weight). After a quick lunch I passed by a fruit stand on my way back to the train.

I saw a scaley red thing that was about 6" long and 3.5" wide on a fruit stand. The sign read "Dragon Fruit / $5". I asked the vendor what it was, he pointed and said "Is dragon froooot, good fo yoo." "Do I cook it?" "5 dolla." I figured this conversation was going nowhere so I just handed him 5 bucks. According to the movies, if I had turned around to haggle, the fruit stand and the little Chinese guy would have vanished.

I got it home and Googled. I wasn't sure what to do with this thing. The fruit turns out to be from a type of epiphitic catus from central South America. It is of three varieties of color: red, yellow, and purple.

The flesh is bright white, soft and pulpy, disbursed with tiny black seeds. It had a semi-sweet flavor that tasted somewhat like an unripened guava or a paw paw. This thing would be great frozen, scooped, and served like sorbé with Nilla Wafers. I'm sure it would be sweeter if I let it ripen.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mercury Rising

This 8-page Mercury Cycling Cap is available on PayPal and Ravelry ($10.00/3 Sizes: Men's XL, L,M). To purchase click below.

Well, the NicoDerm™ patch has given me a rash. It might coincide with smoking while using the patch, but let's not split hairs. Why is quitting so difficult? I am smoking less, so that's a good start. So I'm almost ready to launch my first e-booklet: "Mercury Cycling Cap".

I wrote this pattern for 3 men's sizes (M, L, XL). My friend Heather is doing me the gracious favor of copy editing. I set up PayPal. The Yahoo store still needs more programming. But more importantly, I've road-tested this hat. It's been test-knitted in three sizes, worn, washed, crammed in bag... chewed by a dog. It holds up well.

It took a while to arrive at a format after studying patterns that I've purchased — online and off. Mercury is written for the advanced knitter, but I'll be releasing patterns for beginner and intermediate levels as well. This e-booklet has pictoral how-to's for tips and special intructions. I'm no Avedon, but it does help having a decent camera and a lighting system.

Hopefully I'll get the store up and running sooner than later.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


A while back, a co-worker from the BBG Children's garden gave two huge bags of her mother's yarn. They were stashed away in the rafters above the garage. Most of the yarn was very coarse and stiff — suitable for weaving only. Recently I passed that treasure along to my neighbor Susan, who weaves at a studio here in Broolyn, Weaving Hand. She told me that the studio always needs materials for adult and children's classes. Last Monday, I dropped to mmet up with Susan on my lunch break. I met proprietor Cynthia Alberto, a textile designer and artist.

Much more than knitting, weaving is a technology of great antiquity. Colorful projects made by children are displayed along side with hand-woven fabrics from everywhere — Guatemala, Peru, Philippines, Bolvia... Park Slope. The detail in some of these works are astounding.

These looms are more than handsome pieces of furntiure. Cynthia and Susan graciously demystified them for me with a quick lesson on one of the smaller looms. Weaving Hand has a total of 9 looms of varying sizes and capabilties. Cynthia also named each one for their distinct personalities. She told me they will be getting a carpet loom for larger projects.

Susan and Cynthia strung the "warp" — multiple strands of stiff yarn that run from top to bottom. As shown below, the "weft" is loaded onto a shuttle and woven through the warp from left to right. Each loom has one or more foot pedals. Weaving, warp, weft... were these terms coined by someone with a speach inpediment?

These free standing looms are pedal operated, controling the motion of warp so that the shuttle can pass bewteen the long alternating strands with the softer working yarn (weft).

For a tighter weave the warp is combed into place. The colors and placement of the work below remnd me of a traditional Igorot fabric called Bakat (Nothern Philippines). It's actually a placemat.

This free-form plaid below is woven from different weights and textures of yarn, then treated with starch. It's sculptural, not wearable.

Although the free standing loom is the standard tool of the trade, Cynthia showed me a refined, textural fabric strung on a traditional Peruvian loom — which really is a strategic arrangement of dowels.

Weaving Hand is located at 320 2nd street (between 4th and 5th aves.) It's a fairly new business that has developed a good following. Amidst all the changes we've seen in Brooklyn, it's nice to see a good one come along.