Comic relief

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One of the nice things about dogs (versus, say, children or other humans) is that they don't get indignant when you make jokes at their expense for all the internet to see.

One of the nice things about being easily amused is that one can find herself entertained for hours with an inexpensive piece of software and a few well chosen photos. Click to go to the full sized image.

Balls


Baggage


Puppy_Le_Pew

PDF Patterns: Files Formats and Sizes

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Today's post is going to be a little technical but I hope it will help people choose the best file formats for their graphics, charts and other visual elements in their patterns. As always, this is based on my own experience and the software that I have available to me, on the operating system that I use. Don't be afraid to question any of this and run your own tests. If you are printing your patterns through a professional printer, be sure to ask them what settings and file formats they recommend.

A little background. Skip this if you are in a rush.

In the mid 90s I was working at the Boston Globe in the Advertising Production department and, despite the fact that newspapers may be one of the slowest industries to embrace new technology (ask me about Atex sometime) we had begun to accept PDFs from customers sending in their ads. In the time after x-acto knives and real dark rooms, but before the invention and wide acceptance of PDF technology, departments, like the one in which I worked, kept Macs and PCs running PageMaker, Quark, Illustrator, Freehand and often a few more obscure layout programs, in various versions to accomodate the vast variety of files that might come in from customers. Even if we had the software to open someone's file, we still had to contend with the fonts. Oh the fonts. PC fonts wouldn't run on Macs and vice versa (still the case for most older fonts, but OpenType fonts are now cross-platform), the fonts from Company A might conflict with the version from Company B, already running on that machine, and all of this was before the ad ever hit the RIPs. These were the hurdles we faced in ensuring that the advertiser's ad looked the same when it left their computer as it did when it printed out on that dingy newsprint, a few days later. Even if the advertiser had the forethought to send an EPS file, there was still a strong likelihood that some percentage of the files would have font problems, and worse, once in EPS format, there was little we could do to resuscitate the ad if there were a problem.

I realize to the younger amongst you, that all this sounds a bit old fashioned and silly. One might wonder if I also had to walk six miles, uphill, both ways, in the driving snow, in my bare feet, just to get to work. To you I say, "pull up your pants, get a haircut and get off my lawn."

But in all seriousness, the PDF file format was a huge boon to publishers like newspapers. Finally, an entire ad, built in any program, on any operating system, using any fonts, could be delivered to a printer anywhere and the printed file would look just like it did back at its birthplace. Even the company using Ventura Publisher and their own custom made fonts, was able to get great results from anyone printing their files.

Knit and crochet designers have benefited from this technology too. Not only can we provide customers with a file format that can be opened on just about any computer using, a free application, but we can be sure that the text will look and flow the same way wherever the pattern is viewed or printed. I don't think it's hyperbole to state that, second to the internet itself, the PDF file format is one of the primary reasons it is so easy for independent designers to self publish.

Perspective

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Yesterday was one of those days; those days that ensure I won't be a dog horder in the near future. Rainy weather and long working hours have left me making excuses not to walk Darwin as much as I should. When you have a young herding dog and you decide to skimp on walks and training you might as well batten down the hatches and prepare for the storm because you are about to see what 25 lbs of super smart and endlessly energetic has in store for you.

Darwin Socializing_03
Being cute is a survival mechanism

It was a rough day but today is already better, we've left our minor setbacks behind us and braved the downpours for a a nice long and positive walk. A little perspective (and a good nap) is usually all I need to get past a particularly bad day. I mean really, look at this lot.

Darwin's First Trip to Mt. Hood_29
Cute, non? Cute, oui!

In the same way, our other stresses in life can seem overwhelming. With one of us out of work for nearly a year now and the economy showing few signs of life, it's easy to get caught up in the uncertainty and doubt and fear. We could let the setbacks and rejections cripple us but we try to keep perspective. We have our bad days and sleepless nights but we try to remember that we have so much even if it feels like we are teetering on the edge. When I heard a friend and her son had lost their partner and father, respectively, my heart just broke. It's one of those moments where the only thing I can think to do is hug everyone in the house and tell them how important they are to me. The dogs mostly just wag and hope for a cookie. That's good enough for me.

I know that nothing can ever bring back this wonderful man my friend and her son lost and no small gesture can change that pain left behind, but perhaps it was as therapeutic for me as anything, to make them each a small gift with empathy for their terrible situation. I guess, on some level, I feel like the time I spent on each was time I was reminded to value the people I do have in my life; forget my petty concerns and endeavor to be as honest and caring as I can while time still allows me to do so.

Handspun Shrug_10
Handspun Grafton Batt crocheted side to side. Trimmed in knitted handspun optim

And maybe, if you'll indulge me a bit longer, you can find someone you love, human, dog, cat or other, and let them know you love them for no reason at all except that you do, even if they drive you up the walls sometimes or always leave a mess. Chances are, they overlook a few of your shortcomings as well and love you equally.

Lil_Monster07
Monster crocheted with DK weigh merino, with knit socks and scarf worked in sock yarn

Something old

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This past Christmas, I received a package in the mail with a small leather covered box.

Gift From Janet_03

Inside were a note and a gift that are so wonderful I wanted to share them. All typos are mine.

My darling Marnie,

John Lennon's "War is Over” Christmas song is on my mind. Here’s a story about my Mother and Daddy.

Sometime in 1942 my Daddy gave a diplomat pal some money as he was leaving for Mexico. My Daddy worked for the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. at the time and the diplomat was heading for Mexico on an official visit. Daddy requested "something beautiful for me to give to Gerry for her birthday" and handed him some cash.

So, the diplomat carried back from Mexico, in his diplomat's pouch, a box for my Daddy. It contained a necklace and earrings that my Mother wore all her life and I've worn quite a few times myself.

Gift From Janet_07

My parents went dancing every chance they got throughout their married life. Well, the Christmas after that August birthday, they went to a Diplomats’ Ball for some wartime charity. My Mother was pretty big and fat (Daddy liked her that way), but very light on her feet, and was frequently the belle of the ball with everyone who was anyone dancing with her. It was a formal affair and she wore her "gilleys" with her long gown. She also wore the lovely jade jewelry from Mexico, and danced all night long. There was a line of tuxes waiting to sign her dance card all evening, with my Daddy only getting an occasional dance. She eventually admitted to being pretty well worn out and collapsed on a deep sofa and sat there and "received" for quite some time with one diplomat bringing her one cuba libre after another.

This admirer, after plying her with mucho rum, begged a dance. So, Mother put her hand in his, and he raised her off of the sofa...into his arms...and straight onto the floor! They say it took four diplomats to carry her to the car, and nobody ever let my Daddy hear the last of it. Much giggling all ‘round ever after when rum came into a conversation.

Mother didn't remember what happened; when she like to tell the story, she'd say "Well, I was enjoying a lovely rum drink, and accepted an offer of a dance, then was flat on my face, and woke up in bed!"

I can see the sly grin on his face even now, as Daddy admitted that he was proud of her; after all, she WAS the best dancer at the ball.

So, Marnlette, here is that set of jewelry. It's not stylish these days, and I've left it tarnished. I've not worn it in quite some time. It used to polish up quite nicely, so I thought I'd leave that Joy for you to do. And, not to worry, it shall tarnish nicely again… it always has.

Gift From Janet_09

I can't think of anyone I know who I'd rather have it. I know you'll get as many giggles out of it as have I…and my parents, too! Wear It once, then maybe it would be of some use for you to show with your delightful knitted creations. It's OK if it lives mostly in a jewelry box since it's quite used to that.

My Mother would have loved you to pieces, and would have asked me to pass on to you what she always called her "best dress-up gift" from my Daddy...for Christmas this year.

"...and soooo it is Christmas" and her war IS over.

Love, hugs, kisses,
Janet
Christmas 2010

Gift From Janet_01

Fixer-uppers

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Breakfast02

When we got Panda, almost a decade ago, I wasn't a dog person, in fact, I was really unsure about the whole prospect. Leo and I had been together for less than a year, had quit our jobs to move to another state 3000 miles away with no jobs lined up and very little money. We moved into an apartment sight unseen in a state Leo had never even visited and now we were adding a little being to the mix. If a friend told me they were going to do the same thing, I'd think they were a few clowns short of a circus and I'd be absolutely right.

Snuggly Panda04

But of all the impulsive perhaps ill-advised decisions we made, getting Panda was my favorite of the bunch. She was unrecognizable from the girl I know now. She was a dog who hated, with every fiber of her body, going for walks. She would scramble like a fish at the end of a line, on her leash, panicked and running for cover anywhere she could. She'd jump into bushes, under cars, anywhere she thought might hide her from children, bikes, skateboards, and other dogs. When we would stop and ask Panda to sit, she'd shake and drool in fear, completely incapacitated. There was no way to exercise her enough to quell her fear, she was only at ease when she was home with her humans or somewhere quiet and away from the city.

As odd as it sounds, as a non-dog person, this was the dog I needed at that time. I remember being scared to tears every 4th of July as a child, so overwhelmed by the noise, so desperate to be brave enough to handle it all and so disappointed at myself at failing. Something about Panda's debilitating fear just resonated with me and it was gratifying to be able to begin to slowly help her through her fears. At 10 years old, she is still a soft dog who struggles with loud noises and boisterous children, but she is also loving, brilliant, and so eager to please. She was pretty much potty trained over night, has never destroyed people stuff and is the easiest dog in the world to train. All in all, an awesome pup.

Beautiful Thea07

When we rescued Thea, we wanted a dog for Panda, someone playful and confident and focused on being a friend to the old girl who really can't be bothered with other dogs. We got what we wished for and then some with Thea. While she was food motivated, she couldn't care less about how happy or stern we sounded. She cared nothing about staying near us when there were other dogs or people around. The idea of walking her on a loose leash was (ok, fine, still is) a pipe dream because there is no treat more rewarding than playing with someone or something new. But the payoff has been a dog who has completely brought Panda out of her shell, entertains her during the day and she's a dog who has come to really bond with her people too. I can't fathom a cold winter night without my sweet Thea curled up next to me on the bed.

Darwin05

And now there is Darwin. In two weeks he's managed to win over even his curmudgeonly big sis.

Play Time07

He's a zippy quick learner who'll do almost anything for a cookie.

Darwin Socializing at Puppy Play Time01

He's learning the protocols and manners required to live with the rest of us.

Breakfast05

But (and doesn't everyone have their issues?) Darwin is more like his big sis than many would suspect. He suffers from some fear agression with strange dogs, and to a lesser degree, strange humans. In many ways, this is the same sort of fear that Panda had, all those years back, only manifested in a vastly different way. So our big project, more so than the potty training (thank goodness for rug cleaners) is to work on little D's socializing and we lucked out with our great local dog school. Socializing a dog with fear aggression means making for a safe and positive environment for all parties involved. The only way to convince a dog that other dogs are safe is to have him around other dogs but you can't just let him loose at a dog park and expect things to work out fine.

Darwin Socializing at Puppy Play Time03

So with some expert help, Darwin is learning that great things can happen when strange dogs are around and that strange people sometimes come bearing cookies. It's not going to be an instant change but even after an hour of working with him at school, he was letting loose with dogs he'd been saying unspeakable things to at the start of the night.

One of his classmates, a purebred malamute, had the same issue a few short weeks ago and was a testament to what a little good socializing can do. I'm feeling confident that we can lick this issue so that even strangers get to see him as the same great boy we know him to be.

Play Time05

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