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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Support the Purple Letter Campaign

The Purple Letter Campaign wraps up next week. Write your letters now to support a province-wide education policy to address homophobic and anti-gay bullying, and to create a safer learning environment for all children in BC, whether lesbian, gay, transgendered, bisexual, the straight targets of anti-gay bullying, or simply bystanders who want the adults in their schools to put a stop to this.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The current state of Sexual Orientation Education in our Schools


The idea that schools might address sexual orientation in schools has come as a surprise to many parents. Letters to the editor have suggested that this was part of a gay agenda, and an attempt to introduce and promote ideas in a school culture that says nothing about sexual orientation.

Unfortunately, our children are already getting an education about sexual orientation from their peers, and sometimes their teachers. They are learning that "gay" is a synonym for "stupid" ("that's so gay"). They are exposed to gay slurs, name calling and verbal and physical violence on the basis of sexual orientation and perceived sexual orientation. Too often, teachers do not respond to these actions.

Our children look to us to be examples. Students, whether heterosexual or LGBT, are disturbed by the extent of anti-gay language and bullying. They want the adults around them to do something, to call a halt, to make a stand, and to protect all students in the schools from being witnesses to or participants in these unacceptable practices.

The choice before us is not whether or not we talk about sexual orientation in the schools. The choice is how. There are gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered children in our schools. There are children with family members who are LGBT. There are straight kids who are subjected to bullying as if they were gay. Bystanders are also affected by the offense against human dignity. If we do nothing about bullying and name-calling, then we are telling our children that this is acceptable to us. If we do something about the bullying and name-calling, then we will also need to confront our own discomfort with differences.



Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Public Interest, Policy Development and the Taxpayer


I applaud the Burnaby School Board for taking steps to protect the rights of children and staff in our schools to be protected from anti-gay slurs and bullying. Passing Policy 5.45 has been difficult for the trustees, and required courage and conviction. There is continuing protest by a group calling themselves Parents Voice, who oppose the Policy. This protest has taken the form of procedural challenges and accusations of a hidden gay agenda. Spokespeople for the Parents Voice claim that "sex activists" are seeking access to children to convert them to homosexuality. Some have suggested that, if Policy 5.45 goes forward, that in less than a century all children will choose same-sex relationships and there will be no more children. Others argue that if schools teach children to respect homosexuals, that it will mean contradicting what parents teach their children in the home (presumably, that homosexuals should not be respected).

Yesterday, George Kovacic of the group called the Parents Voice filed a complaint regarding the freedom of information request he made in April, 2011. The complaint was triggered by receipt of a copy of an email message sent by Betty Choi. However, it reflects a larger frustration with the school board's response.

The FOI request requests a broad spectrum of information, some of which is already in the public domain and freely available on the web site. Much of it seems to be a fishing expedition, designed to find evidence of a conspiracy, a hidden gay agenda, within the process by which the policy was developed. Reading between the lines, the FOI request arose after an acrimonious discussion, and is being carried forth in an aggressive and mean-spirited way. The School Board has already provided 5 free hours of staff time and $100 of photocopying at the taxpayers' expense. While some members of the public may be interested, this is not the same thing as being in the public interest. It is far from clear what public interest these notes will serve.

The timeline and process for the development of Policy 5.45 are available on the school board web page. Evidence that bullying and anti-gay slurs are pervasive within the burnaby school district can be found in reports such as Not Yet Equal. A summary of inputs to the Board regarding Policy 5.45 can be found in this document.

Non-heterosexual people are part of our community, and have the right to a safe and respectful learning environment. Children also need to learn to treat non-heterosexuals in their social groups with respect.

In the end, for me, it comes down to the human rights of children who experience anti-gay slurs and bullying. It comes down to the climate of hatred, ridicule and disrespect for different others. Being around name-calling and slurs is not good for the victims, and it is also not good for the bystanders. Being gay, or not conforming to gender norms and being called gay, should not expose children to name-calling and ridicule. Some children are simply miserable. But this misery can be so great that some children have committed suicide as a result of the homophobic bullying in our schools. We have a problem, and the School Board has finally taken steps to address it.

Some parents will undoubtedly continue to teach their children that those who love and long for people of the same sex do so as a misguided, sinful or sick "lifestyle choice". They will teach their children that a first marriage between a man and a woman is superior to all other relationships.

Although I believe in tolerance and strive to understand diversity, there are limits. Religious freedoms should not prevent human rights protections.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Call for mutual compassion around Policy 5.45

To the editor:

Like many other letter writers, I am saddened by the polarity and name-calling in discussions about Policy 5.45. Religion, like sexual orientation, is a deeply personal thing, and threatening intolerance and a lack of acceptance of either encourages people to become closed, defensive and to lash out.

My own response to Policy 5.45 is based in my compassion for those who are affected by a climate of anti-gay slurs and bullying. It is also based in my strong belief that the human rights of minorities should be protected. When I think about homosexuality (and bisexuality and transgendered people) I think of people I know who are attracted to people of the same sex. There are many ordinary, even boring, people who are gay (I use gay collectively for LGBT – non-heterosexual folks). They lead normal lives, they contribute to their communities, and some of them raise children who go to your school. Under Canadian law, their relationships are legal, same-sex couples have the rights of different-sex couples, they can be legally married (and divorced) and they are protected from discrimination under the law. Policy 5.45 addresses the rights of LGBTQ+ students and staff to be protected from discrimination (including a hostile climate) under the law.

I also feel afraid for my gay friends, because I know that there are many people who see that their relationships are sinful and immoral, who believe that homosexuals are diseased and sick, and who say and sometimes do hateful things. I know that simple expressions of affection (holding hands, a romantic look, resting a tired head on a shoulder) can expose my friends to danger. I also know that attitudes in schools and families often made it even harder to go through the difficult process of learning about their sexual orientation and romantic feelings. Some families are accepting and loving; many families struggle with a child coming-out.

At the same time, I sympathize with parents who would just rather not think or talk about anything other than heterosexual relationships with their children. Parents may be uncomfortable talking about sex at all. Most of us grew up in a homophobic culture, and learned that there was something bad, shameful or ridiculous about being gay. Some attend a faith-community that tells them the bible (or other scripture) declares homosexuality to be sinful. Many associate same-sex attractions with promiscuity, same-sex pedophilic sexual predators and sexually transmitted infections (particularly AIDS). Many don't know any ordinary people who happen to be gay. Some parents fear that they could never accept a gay child, or that they would have to choose between their child and their faith community. These parents could use support to become more comfortable with the reality of diversity in sexual orientation, and to learn that it need not be seen as a threat.

To support our schools and our children, we need to be more compassionate to one another. The public school system will not teach children that all families are heterosexual or that heterosexuality is better than any other orientation. It will also not teach children that your skin colour, ethnicity or religion are better than everyone else’s.

Passing Policy 5.45 is only the beginning of what needs to happen. I suspect that it will help the schools and our children if we as parents also create opportunities to learn and discuss our own attitudes, and to get the information we need to partner with the schools in raising children who are respectful of this aspect of diversity in our communities. In response to the protests against Policy 5.45, I formed the Burnaby Parents Gay/Straight Alliance. I encourage parents and others to join us on Facebook. Families who are struggling to accept a gay child may also want to contact PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) for information and support.

I encourage those of us who support the Policy to be sensitive to the fears of those who oppose it, and to strive to be reassuring. Including a diversity of families in the curriculum will not mean sexually explicit instruction for 7-year-olds. Saying that some people share their life with a person of the same sex need not mean describing sexual practices, any more than talking about husband-and-wife families does. For those who oppose the Policy, I encourage you to also be compassionate towards those who have a different sexual orientation from you. If you don’t know any normal gay couples, ask around. Gay people don’t want to recruit your kids. They want their own lives to be better, they want to be accepted as people with rights, and they want to improve the lives of gay kids today. Many of them are motivated because they wished someone had been there for them in their youth. Remember that being uncomfortable is not the same as being unsafe.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

ARS Amoretto Super 8 Excell Knitting Machine

The ARS Amoretto Super 8 Excell Knitting machine is a Japanese made machine with a fascinating needle selection system. I owned one for years, then bought 3 of them brand new in the original plastic still, with pristine manuals. 2 of the three are now in new homes, and I'm keeping the third out of interest. I've scanned the manuals as PDF's. I also have a stash of replacement needles if you need any - ask and you can have some for the price of shipping.

I have the following manuals as PDFs. They are large files, so give them time:

ARS Amoretto ARSKnitter Instruction Manual
ARS Amoretto Knitting Codes
ARS Amoretto Super8 Excell Supplementary Instructions


At the moment the PDFs are hosted on DropBox, but I may move them, so please link to the blog (I will update links here) rather than the file locations.

Friday, June 24, 2011

23 June, 2011. Presentation made to Community Forum

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this topic tonight.

About six weeks ago, I first became aware of protests against draft Policy 5.45. When I became aware of how large this issue had become, I created a Facebook group, and a Facebook page, both called the Burnaby Parents' Gay/Straight Alliance. Within the day, the group grew to more than 75 members, and currently there are 129 people in the group.

However, let me be clear that I do not speak for other parents who have joined the Facebook group. I speak for myself, as a parent of a child in a Burnaby school. I speak as a Canadian-born child of immigrants. I speak as a scientist. I speak as a person of faith. I support Policy 5.45, and its commitment to making our schools safer.

When I read the letters to the editor on this topic, what strikes me is that there is a lot of fear in our community. Although I don’t entirely understand the fear, I do want to honour those feelings. Some of the fear seems to be fear of the unknown. What will it mean to us to have this Policy in our schools? How do children become homosexual? Will learning about homosexuality make my child gay? Will I have to have uncomfortable discussions about sex and sexuality with my children? How will I do this?

As a scientist, one thing I can help with is access to research on homosexuality, on how children develop their sexual identity, and on the best statistics on the effects of bullying and the effects of anti-bullying initiatives on the health and well-being of all of our children. My colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, is an expert in adolescent sexual development, and she is willing to come to a public event to answer questions if we organize it and invite her. She tells me that 2/3 of the children who report homophobic bullying do not consider themselves to be homosexuals – this is also about protecting straight kids.

I am quickly learning how long overdue this policy is. I am learning that the expression "that's so gay" is pervasive in Burnaby student culture. I am learning that many children are harassed bullied and teased on a daily basis. I am learning that a shocking number of these children take their own lives. I am also learning that many of the children who have taken their own lives were straight children who were singled out, targeted, labelled, and bullied to their deaths.

I have also been shocked to learn that Aaron Webster’s killers came from Burnaby. Ten years ago, four young men got in a car and drove to Stanley Park. Although they later said that they were “looking for a fight”, it is clear that they were looking for a gay man to assault. They drove to Stanley Park, found a gay man, and beat him to death with baseball bats. These young men were a product of Burnaby schools, and two were under 18 at the time. Why was a policy not put in place then?

The rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people to be protected from discrimination and bullying is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was enacted about thirty years ago.

Four years ago a judge found that school boards were required to pass policies of this type. Today the United Nations is working on a declaration in support of the rights of LGBT people around the world. Burnaby has an ugly history. There is a clear need for this type of protection for LGBTQ youth. I am proud that the Burnaby School Board has passed this policy, although I still do not understand what has taken so long.

We live in a time of changing attitudes and that can be uncomfortable and difficult. Let me tell you another story. When my grandmother was a child, she wrote with her left hand. In England at that time, this was unacceptable, and her hand was tied behind her back to force her to use her right. Today, my daughter is also left-handed, but, as far as I know, it has not been an issue for her. It is my sincere hope that that is how we will look back on diversity in sexual orientation in another 100 years. It’s a good example – most of us are born right-handed. Some of us are able to write with either hand. And some of us are strongly left-handed and cannot write with our right hands at all. Similarly, with sexual orientation, there are many people who feel some attraction for both men and women. Most of us are heterosexual in our identity and in our practice. A minority of us are homosexual. And, so long as we recognize this diversity, it doesn’t have to be an issue.

Some have asked why this could not be addressed under current policies about bullying. In an ideal world, it could be. But the very controversy about the policy, and the parents’ directives that are circulating, make it clear that teachers need clear permission to say the very basic things that need to be said:
  • Most people are heterosexual, but some people are not.
  • Most families are heterosexual, but some students have lesbian or gay parents.
  • Most people grow up to be heterosexual, but some grow up to be homosexual.
  • Homosexual people have traditionally been stigmatized and persecuted.
  • In Canada, we do not tolerate this persecution, name-calling and bullying.
  • In our schools, we do not tolerate name-calling and bullying.
  • Homosexual people are as worthy of respect as heterosexual people.
  • Homosexual people are as capable of moral and respectful behaviour as heterosexual people.
  • Regardless of sexual orientation, it is important that relationships between people are respectful and consensual.
I would also like to speak to all of the parents who are here. While it may look like we are on opposite sides, I want to recognize that we are all here out of a deep commitment to doing the right thing for our children. And I would like to say that it is possible to be a committed person of faith and to raise your children to have values that are not taught in the classroom.

This can be uncomfortable and difficult. As parents we need to talk more among one another about the challenges of living in a country that respects and tolerates diversity, but that protects the human rights of everyone.

I myself am a Quaker, and my faith leads me to take a strong position of non-violence. The bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Jesus offered the most profound example of non-violence in giving his life without fighting, and chastising Peter for using violence in his defence. Nonetheless, I recognize that my daughter shares the classroom with children who do not share this view, and who may come from military families. I also know that she will be taught that warfare is an acceptable way for countries to resolve conflicts. As a Canadian, I need to be able to speak my truth, while allowing others to have their own, sometimes different, beliefs. And this is a challenge I share with many other families, be they Sikh, Moslem, vegetarians, and even atheists.

In mid-May I gathered with my faith community. I would like to close by reading a minute from that gathering in support of this policy:
Western Half-Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) encourages and supports the Burnaby Board of Education in its work of developing policy that makes schools inclusive and safe for all students. In particular, we strongly support the Burnaby Board’s current efforts to develop and implement policy 5.45, the goal of which is, in the Board’s words, “to ensure that all members of the school community learn to work together in an atmosphere of respect and safety free from homophobia, transphobia, anti-gay harassment and/or exclusion regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” We hold you in the Light as you work toward honouring and protecting the civil rights of all students.
These are difficult conversations that we are having, but they are the building blocks of community. I am pleased to have been invited to this event, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue.

Thank you.

Christine Hitchcock, Burnaby, BC

Monday, June 20, 2011

COMMUNITY FORUM: “BULLYING IN SCHOOLS – A MICROCOSM OF CHALLENGES FACING MULTICULTURAL SOCIETY

Date : Thursday, June 23, 2011

Time: 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Location: Burnaby Multicultural Society, 6255 Nelson Ave. BBY.

Organized by Helen H.S. Chang, manager of Sejong Counselling & Communication Services

This forum is prepared to debrief what we have experienced during several months regarding the policy 5.45. We all agree to have an open and honest discussion about this matter.

We have several speakers who presented their opinion for the Burnaby Board of Education regarding the policy 5.45 and a member of the BCCPAC.

For our discussion, two organizations will be introduced to introduce their measure of dealing with bullying in schools. One is a Bully Police USA, a watch-dog organization in the USA advocating for bullied children and reporting on state anti bullying laws The other is a Canadian teacher’s successful endeavor that make his town, Cochrane, Alta the world’s first community officially proclaim itself “Striving to be bully-free.”

1. Speakers:
Chris Hitchcock (Parent, health researcher, creator of Burnaby Parents Gay/Straight Alliance)


Debra Sutherland (Student counselor, Burnaby North Secondary)

Kaitlin Burnett (Advocate of LGBTQ community)

Shahraz Kassam (CEO, Shamin Jewelers)

Ben Seebaran, (VSB Retired Teacher/Administrator)

Helen H.S. CHANG (Manager of Sejong Counselling & Communication Services)

2. Questions & Answers

3. Refreshment

Last updated June 22, 2011 @ 11:45 am

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pronatalism is its own belief system

Lately I've been spending some of my spare time talking to fundamentalists about gay rights. I'm really struggling to understand, because I just don't get how a committed and respectful sexual relationship between two people can be a threat to society. And, given what I know of Christ and his life, I really don't understand how anyone could call this attitude towards gay people a Christian belief.

Over the last couple of weeks, with the help of a presentation from Larry Nelson about the stigma associated with early and unexpected infertility, I've realized that this set of beliefs is actually a belief system in its own right, and that it has a name: Pronatalism.

Here's how Wikipedia currently defines pronatalism (or, as they call it, natalism):
Natalism (also called pronatalism or the pro-birth position) is a belief that promotes human reproduction. The term is taken from the Latin adjective form for "birth", natalis. Natalism promotes child-bearing and glories parenthood. It typically advocates policies such as limiting access to abortion and contraception, as well as creating financial and social incentives for the population to reproduce.

I've always had trouble with the position of the Catholic Church (my faith of origin - I became a Quaker by convincement in my late 20's) on women's rights, as manifested by various pronatalist stances on contraception and abortion, as well as others.

What's also interesting is what wikipedia has to say about nativism, which brings in a lot of attitudes against immigration.

So, I've come to the following conclusions:
  1. Stigma against homosexuality is part of a larger belief system that stigmatizes single women, couples who choose not to have children (the Childless by Choice community), and women who practice contraception or who choose to have abortions rather than carrying a child to term.
  2. Pronatalist beliefs made historical sense in small communities who needed to maintain their identity and their population numbers in order to persist. Moreover, in a social evolutionary sense, this belief system was probably associated with group persistence, and so has become overrepresented.
  3. Pronatalism makes little sense in a world with 8 billion people and counting, where overpopulation and resource overutilization and climate change are posing enormous risks and challenges to peace now and in the future.
  4. Pronatalism is a strongly felt moral position. But it is not a Christian position (or a Moslem position, or a Jewish position). It is its own belief system.
Oddly enough, this is also helping me to feel a lot more comfortable calling myself a Christian.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Presentation to the Burnaby School Board on Policy 5.45

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on this topic tonight.

Two weeks ago when I first learned of the protests against draft Policy 5.45, I created a Facebook group, and a Facebook page, both called the Burnaby Parents' Gay/Straight Alliance. In addition to writing directly to the board, I also encourage all parents who support this policy to use the Facebook page to show your support and be visible.

However, let me be clear that I do not speak for other parents who have joined the Facebook group. I speak for myself, as a parent of a child in a Burnaby school. I speak as a Canadian-born child of immigrants. I speak as a scientist. I am also a person of faith. And I support Policy 5.45.

As a scientist, one thing I can offer is help finding and understanding the evidence about homosexuality and bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation. I have also spoken to a colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, who is an expert on adolescent sexual development, and she is willing to come to speak to parents and to answer questions.

The more I learn, the more I realize how long overdue this policy is. I am learning that the expression "that's so gay" is pervasive in Burnaby student culture. I am learning that many children are harassed bullied and teased on a daily basis. I am learning that a shocking number of these children take their own lives. I am also learning that many of the children who have taken their own lives were straight children who were singled out, targeted, labelled, and bullied to their deaths.

I have also been shocked to learn that Aaron Webster’s killers came from Burnaby. For those who may not have heard this story, ten years ago, four young men got in a car for some recreational gay-bashing. They drove to Stanley Park, found a gay man, and beat him to death with baseball bats. These young men were a product of Burnaby schools. Why was a policy not put in place then?

The rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people to be protected from discrimination and bullying is protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was enacted about thirty years ago.

Four years ago a judge found that school boards were required to pass policies of this type. With our history, and with a clear need for this type of protection for LGBTQ youth, what I honestly do not understand is why this policy is not already in place. I urge the Burnaby School Board to pass this policy, and then to follow the lead of the Vancouver School Board in putting resources in place to improve the school environment.

I would also like to speak to all of the parents who are here. While it may look like we are on opposite sides, I want to recognize that we are all here out of a deep commitment to doing the right thing for our children. And I would like to say that it is possible to be a committed person of faith and to raise your children to have values that are not taught in the classroom.

This can be uncomfortable and difficult. As parents we need to talk more among one another about the challenges of living in a country that respects and tolerates diversity, but that protects the human rights of everyone.

I myself am a Quaker, and my faith leads me to take a strong position of non-violence. The bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Jesus offered the most profound example of non-violence in giving his life without fighting, and chastising Peter for using violence in his defence. Nonetheless, I recognize that my daughter shares the classroom with children who do not share this view, and who may come from military families. I also know that she will be taught that warfare is an acceptable way for countries to resolve conflicts. As a Canadian, I need to be able to speak my truth, while allowing others to have their own, sometimes different, beliefs. And this is a challenge I share with many other families, be they Sikh, Moslem, vegetarians, and even atheists.

Last weekend I gathered with my faith community. I would like to close by reading a minute from that gathering in support of this policy:

Western Half-Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) encourages and supports the Burnaby Board of Education in its work of developing policy that makes schools inclusive and safe for all students. In particular, we strongly support the Burnaby Board’s current efforts to develop and implement policy 5.45, the goal of which is, in the Board’s words, “to ensure that all members of the school community learn to work together in an atmosphere of respect and safety free from homophobia, transphobia, anti-gay harassment and/or exclusion regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” We hold you in the Light as you work toward honouring and protecting the civil rights of all students.

Thank you.

Christine Hitchcock, Burnaby, BC
May 24, 2011.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Burnaby Parents Gay/Straight Alliance - Page and Group

Just over a week ago I became aware of a campaign by Burnaby Parents to protest the Burnaby School Board's Policy 5.45, a draft policy supporting students and employees who are (or are assumed to be) lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit or queer (LGBTQ). I initially set up a group, but have now also set up a facebook page. The Facebook page allows you to register your support for our cause, without being part of the discussions among Burnaby Parents who are sharing specific local information. The Burnaby Parents Gay/Straight Alliance Facebook Group will remain available, but is primarily intended for locals to organize, discuss and strategize.

If you would like to add your support, either as LGBTQ or as part of the straight-but-not-narrow majority of Canadian parents, please use the Facebook page.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Menstrual Cycles are Pretty Interesting - Conference Announcement

I am a member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research, and next month I will be travelling to Pittsburgh to meet with my friends and colleagues to talk about this important, stigmatized aspect of being a woman. If you're interested, or know someone who might be, there is still time to register and join us. Please spread the word, and post this poster on suitable bulletin boards.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Passap Duo DM: Should I worry about these bent parts?

There are three adjacent plastic parts (gate channels?) on the back bed of my Duo that are bent. I hope you can see despite the dark picture. I've shown them with the needles pulled forward so you can see the functional effect.

We have a heat gun (way hotter than a hairdrier), and that would probably soften the plastic enough to try to bend them back. Is this much bending going to interfere with function? Is it worth the risk?



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Blueberries in springtime

The blueberries are coming, the blueberries are coming!!




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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Getting the foundation ready for pouring

More photos from next door. Yesterday they built this framework on top of the gravel. They also dropped off a port-a-potty, so I guess it's time for business! LOL.

Current schedule is to pour concrete on Friday. Wonder if we should write a cover of the Friday song in honour of the event? I'll ask DD and see what she thinks.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's raining knitting machines!

I'm hoping to pick up a new-to-me Passap E6000 knitting machine tonight. That means I need to find a new home for my Passap Duomatic. Those machines are too big to hoard!

Monday, April 25, 2011

We live in a dump: They Might Be Giants

TMBG: We Live In a Dump. Kid-friendly music video.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Politics: More free images

An artist friend-of-a-friend, Marta Robertson-Smyth, has offered another image to those who would like to use them. It's also available as a PDF for those who would like it as a poster - email me at chris (dot) hitchcock (at) shaw (dot) ca to get a copy. Enjoy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Politics: why I will not be voting Conservative

Feel free to use either of these as you like.






- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Felted clogs (machine knit)

I ordered some Lion Brand 100% wool cone yarn from Amazon, because it is accessible to many people. I bought the LB 1878 which is fingering weight, good for the standard gauge machine. I adapted KrisKrafter's pattern and made a pair of example slippers/clogs according to the pattern for bulky gauge. It wont fit me, but I hope it will be big enough that DD can wear it eventually.




Here is a finished clog off the machine. I started at the bottom, knit the cuff in off- white, switched to charcoal for the heel, burgundy for the foot, back to charcoal for the toe, plum for the top of the foot, then back to off-white again for the front part of the cuff.





And here it is with the parts together the way I will sew them up later. After that I will felt/full them in the washing machine.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, April 18, 2011

Swift to cone winder set up

This is how I arrange things to wind from a skein to a cone.





We have an extra kitchen in the basement which is used for a variety of tasks. Here is how I use the kitchen to set up a cone winder to wind from a skein. I use my hand to control the direction of the yarn coming off the swift. It also works well with a manual cone winder or ball winder.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Cavalia

We went to see Cavalia yesterday. It was amazing -- a beautiful and Impressive performance of both horses and acrobats. The stage work itself was a marvel to see. They created a flexible space that transformed easily and elegantly across many different configurations.

By contrast with the Cirque de Soleil troupe, Cavalia's colours were more earth tones, softer, less circus primaries and jewel tones, more earthy browns and soft rich colours. The use of projectors to create large backdrops was gorgeous, and they were able to harmonize the projections of movies with the slight billowing of the curtain fabric in interesting ways.

The performance itself was beautiful. Horses are such strong and impressive animals, and these were glossy and chosen to look great together. The training of the animals was excellent. They also have some very strong tumblers and acrobats, and also combine the horsemanship with acrobatics at times.

It was pricey, but worth the money. Definitely would recommend it.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, April 15, 2011

Internal struggle

I am learning to pay attention and slow down when I find myself resisting.

When I am fighting against myself, it is exhausting. One of us is going to lose, and either way it is going to be me.

Cheaper than a sportscar -LOL

I am picking up another electronic gizmo. This time it is an efficient scanner that will do duplex (double-sided) scanning at 20 pages (40 sides) per minute and automagically produce a PDF. I have a backlog of old manuals I would like to scan and put up on the web, but I just can't face the work of doing it page by page. It's not cheap, but it is also fairly compact. And it is most definitely cheaper than a sportscar.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New crap for old

We went to a local kids' swap meet today. It was a lot of work, but in the end we passed a lot of stuff along to new people who can use it, and brought more of other people's crap into our house. At least it's more age-appropriate crap.

Now to Craigslist the stuff that didn't sell.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Japanese Crisis Links

I'm posting some links, so that I can keep track of them, as well as making them available to anyone else who wants to read them.

Here is a timeline of events and news items about the nuclear power damage in Japan. It's helpful to see it all in one place.

Here is a sobering series of before-and-after aerial photographs of the damaged areas in Japan, from the Australian ABC news site.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Computers, knitting and knitting machines

Talking about computers and knitting machines gets complicated fairly quickly because we vary in our background and, to be honest, in our level of interest in both computer and knitting machine arcana.

The heyday of machine knitting was the 1980s, which preceded the invasion of computers into our daily lives. So much of the information about how to use computers with knitting machines assumes a fluency with machine knitting, but a very basic and somewhat anxious knowledge about computer technology.

Today there is a new generation of knitters who take computers completely for granted, but have never seen a knitting machine. The way to present information about computer-aided machine knitting to this group needs to be completely revamped.



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Knitting machines are the new stash

Somebody said that on Ravelry, and they are so right. I'm feeling pretty happy to be doing a little bit of destashing. A week ago I bought a gorgeous Passap pinky from a local knitter for a song. But what I really wanted was the motor drive I could see in the picture. Last night I was able to deliver the machine to someone else, and get my couch back!

I've also found a buyer for the PE-1. Very good to find new homes for some of the unused equipment around here.

If you're interested in a machine to play with, get in touch. There are several unused standard gauge machines lingering in odd corners of my house.


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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Machine knitting road trip PART 1

At the end of February I had a lovely visit with Morgan Hicks of All Points Yarn, south of Seattle in WA. It's great to put a face to a name I've seen online for years. Morgan was very helpful to me last year in brokering the upgrade from Design-a-knit 6 on diskettes to DAK7 on CD, and in helping me get some landmarks in the sometimes Byzantine task of navigating North American DAK support.

It was interesting to be able to talk machines and DAK, and to hear about Morgan's recent work with a blind machine knitter, and efforts to allow DAK to provide the interface required to navigate it with accessibility software. Actually, it sounds like these changes might make the software more usable by those who could see, but would rather keep our eyes on our work while we are knitting.

All Points Yarn has a great feel to it. From the outside it's narrow, but inside it is open and inviting. The front looks a lot like hand knitting stores I've seen elsewhere, but through a wide doorway to the back room there is a conversation grouping of chairs for knitting, visiting and learning, and rows and rows of cone yarns. And, in the back room, I spied a midgauge silver reed machine, and a set of shelves with boxed up machines and accessories.

Oh, and the bookshelves were amazing to browse. Many books I hadn't seen before that were new and interesting. I came away with two: a book on modern twinsets to feed my imagination, and a book on understanding charted knitting, which I will used both to understand, but possibly also to write charted designs.

And I also bought some super wash yarn to knit a scarf for DH on my soon-to-be-new-to-me Brother 965i with Gcarriage.



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Friday, March 4, 2011

Ordering MK computer connections in Canada

After a bit of cost comparison, I've decided that the best option for me is to order from the Netherlands from this site: http://www.ibab.nl/ibb/en/index.html

I ordered an upgrade from my SilverLink4 to a SilverKnit4 on a Saturday morning and had it installed and running by Saturday evening. That was a firmware upgrade, which is a software program, but it had to be customized to my serial number, so wasn't a completely straightforward transaction.

Within Canada I haven't yet found a good DAK dealer to work with, and there's no one local, so I'm waiting for the mail anyway. If I'm going international, there's not much difference between the us and Europe, because US mail seems to get routed through Toronto anyway. And the products are made in the netherlands, so that end is more straightforward. List prices for the Cartridge system with today's exchange rates are about $60 cheaper from ibab than other advertised prices.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Leggings

DD keeps growing up, but not out, so I thought I would make her some leg-warmers to cover the gap between socks and the bottoms of her pants. We'll see if they fit, and if she likes them.



This was a simple non-pattern on my SK155 + ribber bulky knitting machine, with a Bernat Jacquard self-patterning acrylic yarn.

Set up for 1 by 1 rib, 14..14 on back bed, 13..13 on front bed, Circular cast-on at T0/0, [RC000]. Increase from T3 for the first full row, up one dot each row until at T5/5. Knit 20 rows of ribbing [RC020]. Transfer all stitches to main bed, K40R @ T5 [RC060]. Transfer every other stitch back to ribber. K10R @ T5/5. [RC070] Knit 3 circular rows, then transfer back to main bed. K1R at T4 [COL, RC074]. Back stitch bind off with a tapestry needle, then stitch up the side and bury the ends.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I love staying at hostels when I travel

Once again my family is staying at a hostel. We only stay where we can have a private room, but I love being able to talk with people, and having lots of shared public space, a kitchen, wifi, etc. As sometimes happens, when I wake up a few hours before the rest of the family, I can leave the room and go somewhere else without disturbing anyone. My 6 year old usually makes friends and talks to the other travelers. It's been a very nice experience for us, and generally affordable and convenient too.

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

PE-1 Backup Battery

Thanks to Lois Stevens, I've got some pictures of what the backup battery inside a PE-1 looks like.







It looks like this is a rechargable NiCad battery made by SANYO, of the type that was used as a backup battery on computer motherboards in the early PC years (1980's). Unfortunately, NiCads need to be recharged from time to time to keep their function. Most PE-1 units that have sat on a shelf for years at a time are likely to have dead batteries inside them.

What does this mean for the average user? First, the backup battery is not required to store patterns on a pattern card. Each pattern card has its own little battery inside it (CR2016 in mine), and so as long as that battery is still working, you can read mylars and keep them on the card.

The backup battery allows you to turn off your knitting machine electronics (which power the PE-1) and retain the working files you are using. Without a working backup battery, you will need to reconstruct those working files if you interrupt your work. That may or may not be enough of a hassle that you want to replace your battery.

If you do want to replace it, it looks like it is fairly readily available. The number you are looking for is N-50SB3, which is 3 N-50SB cells in series with some wire lead connectors. A German supplier who ships through Amazon-UK states that this is no longer being made, but offers a different technology (Nickel metal-hydride, NiMH) as an alternative. Lois found this US source. So it looks like this is a part that is available. Note that these links are from Feb 2011, so you may need to do a current search if you are reading this at a later date. It also looks like these batteries come with the wire tabs ready to put into the circuit board, so it should be a fairly straightforward job for someone with the right tools and skills1 to remove the old one and put in the new one.

My PE-1 is still almost new, and from what I can tell I will need to break a sticker to get into the unit. So I am not planning to replace the battery before I sell it.

1 According to DH who is an electronics hobbyist, you need to use a soldering iron and solder that are designed for work on electronics. Electronics solder uses rosin flux; the solder used for stained glass and plumbing uses an acid flux that will damage the board. Also, larger soldering irons are too hot and will also damage circuit boards. So even if you have a soldering iron around for other purposes, you need to take care.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

PE-1 Pattern Extender (SOLD)

SOLD



This is a PE-1, designed to connect with a Silver-Reed electronic knitting machine.



It connects to a port on the knitting machine. This is my SK580, which has the equivalent of an EC-1 built into the machine. Newer machines with an EC-1 ought to have a similar port, likely on the EC-1.



Here is the port exposed, with the cap off. Note that there is a little finger that keys the connection between the cable and the plug. There's an arrow on the plug which, on my machine, needs to point up.



Here is the PE-1, with the cable connecting it to the knitting machine. Because it draws its power from the knitting machine, it will work internationally, as long as your electronic KM works. The pattern card inserts into the side of the PE-1. You can see it there now.



Here is the "mylar" sheet that feeds into the EC-1 slot and is read by the knitting machine. When the PE-1 is in use, you push the "READ" button, and it will drive the mylar reader. It will read the pattern into memory, and store it on the pattern card (shown to the right of the PE-1). The pattern card takes a simple button style battery, of the type that goes in a watch. It is easily replaced.

Once the pattern(s) are in the pattern card, you can use it to knit. You can also use the PE-1 to piece together patterns that are wider than the 60 stitches on a mylar sheet. I have instructions for this in the book called "Operations Manual" that came with my SK580. If you lack instructions, I can copy them.

I've seen one of these for sale for $300 USD. I'm asking $200 plus actual shipping costs, but I'm open to offers.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Using MindManager to Organize my Work

Over the last 8 years or so I've developed a system of managing my work that works for me. I use a piece of software called MindManager, which builds on psychological understanding of how humans organize ideas. I find that it really works as a tool for brain dumping. And I also use it to track my workload. They have academic pricing, but it does cost real money. Still, I find it is an absolutely invaluable to for managing both my work and my anxiety about my work. Probably the anxiety even more than the work, if I am honest.

For each year, I make a MindManager map that looks like this:



I'm only showing the top levels of each branch (which MindManager will do automatically) to protect my privacy, and because you'll fill it with your own stuff anyway. I have hyperlinks for each month that will pull up the MindManager map for that month. Here's an example:



Finally, each week is also hyperlinked to its own map, so I can track at a weekly level:



I use the daily items for two purposes. One is that it shows me my meetings and deadlines. But the other is that I am using it to get a better handle on how long it actually takes me to get things done, so that I allow for that in my future planning. It also helps me to concretely answer the question "where did the time go".

There is also a natural tendency to do an end-of-week and beginning-of-week review as I open or set up the Map for that week, also at the end of the month, and at year end.

I also have project-specific mindmaps that show me things like research design, links to research tools, track collaborators and conference presentations and publications that are tied to a particular project. I sometimes use it to display hierarchical representations of complex analyses so I can see patterns at multiple levels.

I get no kickbacks for this, I just like the software. A lot.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Sweater Design (Post2)

Here are some swatches for the sweater/jacket I am thinking of making. The yarn is a two strand yarn made up of a near-roving single with some kind of a tape. It's at the upper limit of my SK155 bulky machine's ability - I need to knit it at T9. I like the reverse side, and I'm trying to work out what to do for edging.

On the left I've got a folded band, with a 1x1 tuck pattern at the bottom. I like it, but it's not sturdy enough for the garment, and it's also hard on the machine. This is just too bulky a yarn to pull that off. I left 2 needles out of work (2 because it's a 1x1 tuck pattern on a punch card, so I couldn't just leave one out of work) at the fold line - that could either be latched up, or left as is.




I also thought of using a contrasting yarn - the black sample. But I think it's too contrasty for what I want.




What I think I will go with is the circular knit edge above. It's stretchy, and it's just a little tighter than the reverse-stocking stitch. I did it by setting up for a 1x1 rib, casting on, then doing circular knitting for a bunch of rows. At the end of that, I transfered the stitches from the ribber onto the knitting machine and started knitting. This particular swatch had some 1x1 rib in it before I switched to circular knitting - I won't do that in the garment itself.

I think I'll try making some bands with the ribber as well, probably knit-as-I-go, because the seaming on this yarn is going to be prohibitively bulky.

Next plan is to look at how to get some shaping into the garment. I've got some transfer tools that will work on the bulky - I might use some vertical darts in the interior of the garment, as well as some short rows for the bust. Shaping should be inobtrusive to not interfere with the texture of the reverse stocking stitch. I want that to predominate, and not introduce a lot of distracting lines with shaping.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Design ideas for a sweater coat







I'm thinking about design ideas for a sweater coat using a tuck stitch pattern I found to do on my bulky knitting machine (SK155). It's got a fairly strong vertical line and a bit of a herringbone texture to it that I think will make it a good fabric. I'm going to make the first draft in a cheap acrylic black yarn, with a princess line design, belted closure and a shawl collar. I figure it will end mid thigh, and have some flare to it.

Unfortunately theres a broken part on my ribber. I've ordered a new one, but it's coming from the states, so theres a border to clear. Once the part is here it should be fairly straightforward to replace the part and use the ribber.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How hard can it be?

I'm amazed at how difficult I'm finding it to learn about which brother knitting machine will use which cable to talk to which piece of computer software. It's all rather difficult to sort through. Similarly, it was very difficult to figure out what I needed when I bought design a knit. I'm really grateful for ravelry as a forum to learn these things.

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Shims, Ball Winders and Quality of Life

So, I was cruising Youtube and came across a great post talking about using a dismembered clothespeg to shim a toilet paper roll onto a ball winder.



Lacking clothespegs, I instead riffled DH's collection of popsicle sticks. I put the sticks inside the TP roll, to wedge the roll in place so it doesn't fly off while I am turning the winder. It works great. And now I can move a lot of balled yarn into cakes/cones, and get knitting!