Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

One must be an inventor to read well.
There is then creative reading
as well as creative writing.
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]


Since I live in relative solitude, my blog gives me a place to share things that one would normally share with a person in the same room. This is a, “You’ve just gotta see this…” post. The thought has crossed my mind that I’m likely the last to learn all of this, but I’ll share it anyhow. I’ll make bullet points of my disjointed thoughts.

  • The image is a screen shot of one of my iPad folders.
    • I’ve never seen non-Apple devices, but am confident that they have reasonable counterparts to this.
    • It is worth the effort to learn how to organize apps in folders so you can find your stuff easily on one screen.
    • The desktop image is either (a) my backyard or (b) a tourist stop near Cardiff, Wales (UK). HINT: I have no backyard.
  • About the first row of apps in the image—these are primarily text readers. iBooks reads books from the Apple store, Nook reads Barnes & Noble books, and Kindle reads Amazon books. The apps are free and many books can be obtained without cost as well. There are also sale priced books available from such sources as BookBub.
  • The second row of apps in the image—these are specialized readers. Audible (an Amazon company) is an audio book reader and not only reads books from Audible.com, but also reads non-Amazon books from iTunes. Overdrive accesses the local public library. Using my library card, I check out both text and audio books using Overdrive. GoodReader could also be called Knitter’sHelper. I use this for my PDF knitting patterns because it allows me to easily mark my place and make notes.
  • The third row shows apps from Blackstone. These audio books are well produced and are now available with a built-in player as apps—one book per app. I bought these in the App Store for reasonable prices. There are many choices. One of my favorite mystery writers is Louise Penny. Her books, set in Quebec, present characters in such depth and with such sensitivity, that they make me want to jump into my little roadster and drive to Canada in search of imaginary friends.

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It’s the great mystery of human life that
old grief passes gradually into quiet tender joy.
[Fyodor Dostoyevsky]

Grief Helps blogIt has been my good fortune that I have been able to spend my working life doing what I enjoy. My career has not only been fun, but it has also been enlightening, enriching and rewarding. Most of that is due to my clients. As an independent designer, every project I finish puts me out of a job. Fortunately, projects have materialized in adequate supply for the past twenty-eight years. This post is about one of my favorites.

I’ve produced print publications, electronic publications, and web-site work for Willowgreen, Inc., a publishing company, for over a decade. This company specializes in inspirational materials to help with illness, caregiving, transitions, and grief. Two of the greatest assets with Willowgreen offerings are Jim Miller’s writing skill and his magnificent photography. Recently, his publications have focused on helping folks who are experiencing grief.

Today, Jim will release a new blog called Grief Helps. It is designed especially for grieving individuals and families. It is simple to navigate, easy to read, and beautiful to view. Jim writes:

Grief Helps includes only fresh resources that are found nowhere else. Only Willowgreen’s own resources—not a copy of anyone else’s work. And the new blog provides an unusually wide variety of resources, unlike what you’ll find on any other blog: lovely mini-videos, bright mini-books, and meaningful PhotoThoughts, all absolutely free. In addition there are the more customary posts you’ve come to expect on blogs everywhere. A section also is provided for individuals to share with others their own “grief helps”—acts or practices or approaches that have assisted them personally on their journey through loss.

Working on Grief Helps has been such a healing experience for me that I wanted to share it with you.

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Any sufficiently advanced technology
is indistinguishable from magic.
[Arthur C. Clarke]

My first criteria for a good app is, it is simple. I’m a graphic designer and not a computer scientist. I look for apps that behave themselves (they work without bugs), and apps that are intuitive to use (they have a small learning curve). I spend my main self-education time keeping myself up to speed with my major software tools. I want my smaller apps to be more like a manual screwdriver than an electric drill with multiple bits. These two apps fit the criteria and are affordable.

CalculatorMyScript© Calculator is magic for sure. It was free! How does Vision Objects© do that? Also it works well and is fun to use. Write numerals and function symbols (+, -, =, etc.) with a finger on a touchscreen and then watch your writing change into real equations with the correct answer. It even charmed my five-year old grandson. When I used it in a knitting class to help people figure their stitches and rows from their gauge, it was fast and accurate. Some students even downloaded the app for their smart phones during class.

TaskTimerDesktop Task Timer by Erik Asmussen is also a winner in my book. I track my design time for billing purposes. In the past 30 years, I have tried using a number of methods to accurately record time and translate it in to an invoice. This app ($0.99) is the best I’ve found so far. I’ve even started tracking my non-chargeable tasks just out of curiosity.

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Win as if you were used to it,
lose as if you enjoyed it for a change.
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

I just mailed the new book to Caitlin in Minnesota, the winner of the drawing. However, I want the rest of you folks to win something too so I’m emailing a PDF file to each of you. It is my newest pattern that I developed for a workshop here in Fort Wayne. It is written for any size yarn, needles and feet. It is also written for both magic loop and a 5-needle sock set. Three of the folks who commented are among the only 14 knitters who have seen this pattern so I’ll dream up something different for you.

Thanks so much to everyone for playing along.

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All things are difficult before they are easy.
[Thomas Fuller]

I took this book to a sock-knitting class, and the seven class members insisted that they each had to have a copy for reference to carry with them. I listened to their excited discussion about what they liked best about the book. Here’s a partial list:

  • The photos are so clear and easy to understand
  • The binding allows the book to lie open easily
  • There are so many variations to choose from
  • The charts and diagrams are useful
  • The stitch samples stimulate sock design ideas
  • The book size is easy to handle and carry . . .

The Sock Knitter’s Handbook, Expert Advice, Tips, & Tricks by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott was published this year (2012) by Martingale and Company. At first glance, this book seems quite simple, but simple usually requires more thought, organization and effort to produce well than something lengthy and wordy. This handbook hints at that underlying effort which has made it very useful.

The authors introduce color-coded photos for parts of socks in the “Sock Architecture” chapter then proceed through the various sections using the color coding to present a number of ways to knit each part of a sock. They also present charts for such information as yarn yardage and foot measurements. Diagrams show how to execute specific stitch techniques, and a stitch dictionary presents a variety of decorative ideas for jazzing up a sock.

Since my day job is working as a graphic artist in publication design, the first thing I notice about a book is its production features. Not only does this book have a pleasing page design that enhances its message, but its binding and paper choices make it user friendly. Since I also design knitting patterns and I want to avoid being influenced by other people’s designs, I must confess that I rarely look at knitting pattern books or magazines. I’m delighted I had a reason to review this one. It will go directly into my knitting bag for future use.

Book Giveaway Contest

Ms Schurch sent me an extra copy of this book to give away in a contest. In one week, I will collect the names from the comments to this post and have a drawing. Then I will email the winner for a mailing address and send the lucky knitter the new book. So, do enter the contest by leaving a comment.

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The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.
[Lewis Carroll]

My April was full of activity, and my to do lists were longer than my time and energy. My blog posts were non-existent. Now that I have taken a long breath, I do want to share several things.

Knitting Retreat

First, the Dayton Knitting Guild annual retreat at Bergamo featured Debbie Wilson as our teacher. The tea pot cozy in the photo above was just one of the projects. She also presented us with the challenge of knitting brioche stitch in the round. Hum-m-m. I got the gist of it but raveled my sample to knit the cozy. Debbie is an accomplished knitting teacher and a lovely person. I also enjoyed the yarn market and, of course, renewing old friendships.

Knitting Book Contest

Next, do subscribe if you don’t want to miss hearing about the contest. I plan to review the new knitting book by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott later this week. I’ll be drawing a name from the commenters on that post so that I can mail the winner a copy of their new book.

Train Trip

Third, my account of a trip on the Texas Eagle is coming soon. Instead of the Orient Express, it could have been called the Blue Bonnet Special.

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Carried Away

Grace is knowing when to bind off.
[Rachael Herron]

Okay, so I got a bit carried away. This Regia Hand-dye Effect yarn caught my eye not only because of its color, but also for its unusual texture. It has what looks like single-spun wool wrapped with a fine strand of nylon to strengthen it for wear, but it knits up smoothly and felt wonderful when I tried it on.

I am currently working on a toe-up anklet pattern for a workshop in May. I have it adjusted for a variety of stitches, yarn weights and needles. I was trying one more variation with this yarn but failed to stop at the ankle and made it knee high. There are cabled clocks up each side, and increases on the back half to enlarge it for the calf of the leg. It actually stays up.

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Once a new technology rolls over you,
if you’re not part of the steamroller,
you’re part of the road.
[Stewart Brand]

We all have our odd turns of the mind. One of mine is a fear of ending up as road kill on the information super highway. After working more than 25 years in graphic design, I still spend as much time in training as I do designing. Software upgrades are a big part of that, and Lynda.com is my main training resource. One of my favorites there is Anne-Marie Concepcion of Seneca Design and Training, and InDesign Secrets.

Fear of not knowing enough can hold a person back from finishing a job, just like fear of the marketplace (agoraphobia) can keep some folks entrenched in their homes. A thought struck me as I was scrubbing out the toilet bowl this morning. I was doing that chore to procrastinate from working on a design job. I really enjoy my design jobs so why put it off? I realized that I don’t necessarily procrastinate because I’m lazy. I usually procrastinate because I’m not quite sure I have the right solution to a production issue. The question is, how much of my mental block is based on a misperception?

I’ve successfully completed countless design jobs over the years, but I’d just watched a video about advances in the software I’ve used for a decade. There were five more hours of lessons available. What if I missed something that would make a difference in the project? Well, phooey, I thought. If I’d waited to upgrade like other designers I know, I couldn’t even do what I didn’t yet know how to do. I simply finished the job. I’ll watch the other five hours later.

The conclusion to all of this goes back to maintaining a balance (but then I wonder if I can get a life-time membership on the training site?).

When I was hunting a “keeping up with technology” quotation for this post,
I had trouble picking just one. Here is another quote that nudged my funny bone:

If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has,
we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1000 MPG
[Bill Gates]

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Without the playing with fantasy
no creative work has ever yet come to birth.
The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.
[Carl Jung]

I’ve been waiting for this since 1961. Back then I had a summer job through an Indiana University research grant. In the study, one group of children sat in a traditional classroom to learn reading skills. The members of the other group received individual instruction using a mechanical device. The device used scrolled paper to lead the student through practice cycles. I was a machine facilitator. On the bus ride home after each session, I dreamed of a science-fiction device that would replace the clunky machine.

I was a nursing instructor in the early 70s when I took a course about developing self-instructional packages. I even wrote a package that focused upon learning how to compose and evaluate a plan in a variety of settings. Since it was non-linear, I realized I needed to have control over the book design process so I went back to school. I studied graphic design and have focused upon publication design ever since.

When I bought my first personal computer in 1982 (4k and no hard drive or software), I taught myself basic programming so I could compose small learning packages. I recall that my first program had something to do with multiplication tables. When it worked, I thought about the twenty years of baby steps I’d taken toward the kind of learning tool I dreamed about in 1961.

Having spent hours formatting eBooks in the past couple of years, and searching for ways to create interactive, enhanced books without having to learn programming, I told myself that we are getting close. Then I read the news on my iPad last night and saw an article about iBooks Author. I fell asleep and dreamed of the science-fiction device I used to think about riding the bus. In the middle of the night, I awoke and knew I’d not go back to sleep until I fired up my computer and installed iBooks Author.

When I opened this software, I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I am familiar with the interface because it is similar to other Apple applications so I only have to learn some details. Then I’ll kick start my imagination, and I am on my way to doing what I dreamed about 50 years ago.

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If we have no peace,
it is because we have forgotten
that we belong to each other.

[Mother Teresa]

Jacquie Lawson, an artist in the United Kingdom, offers the most charming eCards and eNotes that I’ve encountered. Her drawings are delightful. The image above is a screen shot of one of the Advent calendars she offers. She also offers a version that can be viewed on an iPad. Every day, a new number is highlighted. When it is selected, a charming animation plays along with a seasonal tune. I am enchanted, especially when I look at it at night, and the sky is darkened with the lights sparkling.

My friend, Jane Roberts, sent this to me as a gift and I’ve shared it with other folks. My biggest curiosity is about the technology behind these fascinating presentations. How does she do that?

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