High Anxiety

Just a few thoughts on why it is that I’m always feeling anxious when working at the computer, and why I’m not alone.  I thought about this quite a bit recently when my trusty laptop died and I had to upgrade to a new version of Sibelius music scoring software, a program I’ve been using for years, because the old version on which I am quite competent just doesn’t run on the Mac platform. With the death of the old laptop, we are now all Mac, all the time with a new MacBook Pro Retina 15″ laptop replacing the last link to the PC world in our little world of computing.

Consider knitting for a minute.  I learned to knit when I was 10.  I wasn’t very good at it at first, but I got better through practice and now I feel confident I can knit anything if I just follow the instructions.  There are new and better tools now and lots of interesting techniques out there of which I was completely unaware back when I learned, like circular needles, Entrelac and Moebius knitting for example, but if you gave me those same needles and yarn from 1968 (or 1668 for that matter), I could still knit with them successfully and make something useful.  Also, after a knitting interregnum of almost 20 years, I was able to take up my needles  and start knitting again as if I had never stopped.  K2tog still means knit two together.

How different with computers:  I first started working with computers at 16 in high school and did some simple programming, first in Fortran on CARDS and then Pascal in college.  The language, tools and techniques I used then are of absolutely no use to me now and probably would be unrecognizable to anyone under the age of 50.  After I took about 8 years off from computers between college and working in a library, I was unable even to start up a computer and make it run a program, much less do anything useful.  Unless you use computers every day, you are constantly out of date.  Even if you use them every day, you are out of date if you don’t upgrade every program at every opportunity. The new skills required don’t build on the old skills in the virtual world in same way they do in the analog world.  Old tools have no utility.  There is no mastery built of long experience, there is only the constant fear that the small world of utility you have created for yourself will collapse at any minute if your computer crashes and you will be starting all over again at ground zero in a new world that is several magnitudes more complex than it was last time your computer crashed, taking with it all of it’s comfortable software.  This creates a sense of dread looming in the background at all times as you work with the certain knowledge that your skills are woefully out of date and when the inevitable crash comes, you will not be able to do at all what you can easily do now.

This is one of the reasons I prefer knitting, which, by the way, I often describe as the original binary code.  Just knit and purl.  That’s all there is.  Everything is built upon a base of knit and purl, from the simplest cotton washrag to the most complicated Estonian lace shawl.  So, I’m going to take a deep breath, shut down the computer, and go finish my latest knitting project, the instructions for which I admittedly downloaded from the Internet, and very easily from the lovely Ravelry.com site.  Slip one knitwise and call me in the morning.

Celtic Braid Mitt


Radical Transformation Underway

Okay, maybe not so radical, but it sure felt that way, especially while I was doing it.

Sweater transformation1


I knitted this sweater a few years back and found I never wore it even though I was mostly happy with how it fit and how it turned out.  The bright circles are not buttons, but are pins marking the center line for the planned transformation into something I might actually wear.

While they are fast and easy to knit, I find that pullover sweaters are functionally useless for me these days.  I like a cardigan I can pull on and off as needed.  So I decided to try and make a cardigan out of this pullover that had been malingering on a shelf in my closet.

Having done steeks before, I knew a tight zig-zag would secure everything so I did that first:  2 rows of zig-zag stitches down the center front, about 1/4 inch apart.  Then, I took a deep breath and my Gingher shears and started cutting between the machine stitches.  Since the remaining yarn from this project is long gone, the option of picking up stitches and knitting a band on after cutting is also long gone.  I had to think about what to do to control that edge for…oh about 30 seconds.  I chose the fastest, easiest option that came to mind:  zig-zagging one more time over the cut edge, and I just let the stretch happen as I noticed it was wanting to do after the cutting and look at that now stable edge with the lovely ruffle, a happy accident that looks planned, at least to me and especially given the current popularity of ruffles.

Sweater transformation2


Say, Sam-I-Am, I DO like this sweater and I will wear it in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain…after I trim off the thread tails.