Friday, June 30, 2006

Amazing Lace poetry challenge

for breathing
for picking
for tasting and eating

for hearing
for sweating
and yes, for excreting

for planting
for building
for nothing but pleasure

for birthing
for feeding
for burying treasure

of soil and flesh
in logic and plots

now the ones in my wool
envelop my thoughts

Lace Scarf - Nov. 10, 2005

Please note that the photo is not of an Amazing Lace project. But it's the nicest lace photo I've taken, and in the same type of yarn as my second Amazing Lace project. I just wanted a pretty photo to follow the poem.

Not my best or more serious work ever, but as it contains neither the word "Nantucket" nor the phrase "roses are red", I consider it a mild success. And now that I've managed to self consciously qualify both the literary and fiber aspects of this post, I guess it's time to put my brave hat on and click the publish button.

lots on lace

Thanks for all the folks who voted in the Amazing Lace contest. I won! I have a $25 gift certificate for Red Bird Knits, and now get to choose what wonderful yarn I want. I'm pretty sure that I'm going to get some sort of sock yarn, though I'm a little tempted to get a cone of Zephyr for a lace project.

While I'm talking about yarn choices - do any of you have thoughts on Schaeffer Anne? I've heard a lot of good things about it, and the colors and yardage are certainly incredible. But I'm more than a little wary of it because of the mohair content. While I tolerate my Lamb's Pride hat and scarf set, they definitely make me itch at times. (Particularly the hat, which is surprising, because I thought my neck would be more sensitive to the mohair.) I'm tempted to try the Anne, but also don't want to end up with socks I don't wear because they make me itch. Thoughts on the yarn from people who aren't generally mohair fans would be more than welcome.

On the topic of lace, I have a swatch to share. I'm planning on knitting the Song of Hiawatha stole, and did some swatching to compare some left leaning decrease options (ssk vs. skp).

swatchin' lace

In this swatch, decreases on the left half are ssk on the bottom, and skp are on the top (sections divided by a few rows of garter stitch). The consensus in the Flickr comments was to go with ssk. I prefer it, and only did the comparison swatch because the pattern says to do skp. I think the ssks look slightly better. Someone suggested that I try ssks where I slip the first stitch knitwise and the second stitch purlwise. I may do another swatch to see if that improves the appearance. I've heard that tip elsewhere, but I forgot to include it in this swatching experiment.

The yarn and needles used in the swatch are not what I'll use for the project. I plan on using the Blackberry Ridge wool/silk laceweight (the same I used for the blue Gothic Leaves scarf, though in cream for this), and will probably go down a needle size. I used some leftover Lanett yarn, which was very splitty for lace, and size 4 needles. I'll most likely use size 3 Inox needles (the grey kind, not Inox Express) for the actual scarf. I actually did plain stockinette swatches with the very last bits of the yarn from the blue scarf, and much prefer the stockinette on size 3s. I prefer lace to have "tighter" stockinette sections between the holes, so smaller is the way to go here. For the record, the pattern calls for size 6 needles. I won't even bother swatching with those, as I know I'd be unhappy with the look of that. I want a crisper looking lace than that would give me.

If you're curious, Bristow is coming along. The button bands and collar are done, and I'm quite happy with how they look. I realized that I'm really not that good at judging how tightly or loosely I'll need to bind off, because I so rarely have to bind off on long, important edges, such as button bands or collars. I have to do it very infrequently, so I just don't have a lot of practice at it. I ended up undoing most of the bindoff edge for the first button band I did because it was too loose. I ended up binding off with a needle just one size larger than I knit the bands with, and not particularly loosely with that needle. I obviously was way too worried about keeping things loose.

I'm going up to the White Mountains for some camping and hiking Sunday - Tuesday, so there probably won't be a knitting update for a while. (I don't plan on bringing any knitting with me, as camping and knitting don't mix very well.) But hopefully I'll finish Bristow at some point next week. I only need to sew in the sleeves, weave in some ends (I'm about halfway through that), and buy/sew on buttons.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Well, here's one I haven't seen before...

I wasn't going to post about Bristow until tomorrow. I started seaming today, and was going to post a beautiful post-seaming photo and be all proud of myself.

Things were going well. I attached the left front shoulder and then seamed the left side. Look how pretty and curvy:

Bristow - closeup of side seam, with waist shaping
The seaming is in the horizontal strip in the middle, and you can see the curves from the waist shaping.

Then I attached the right shoulder and seamed the right side. It was going beautifully. I wove in the end of the yarn I was seaming with, and started to try the vest-like sweater on. But something was... wrong:



I'm always careful to not twist when I join circular knitting in the round. I never thought to fret about this. I'm sure it didn't help that I was watching very shameful but nostalgic TV while seaming. (It's not my fault if TiVo decides I need to relive early adolescence by recording episodes of 90210. I can't help but watch! But to my credit, I don't think I've gotten more than 45 minutes into any episode I've started. The credits are really the best part.)

It's not a disaster. In the first split second I noticed the problem, I was convinced that I'd have to undo the whole side seam. But obviously it's quicker to just redo the shoulder seam.

Now time for ice cream.

Monday, June 26, 2006

amazingly nominated; Bristow bits; blah blah blah

Shameless plug: I was nominated as a finalist in the 2nd Amazing Lace challenge! You remember the post - the one with all the sock torture and scary rubber ducks. If you have a few minutes, you should click here to see all the finalists, and put in your vote for your favorite. (If it's not me, I promise I'll forgive you. I only torture socks, not blog readers. ;-)

Now I feel a bit guilty, because I'm not sure if I'm going to enter the third Amazing Lace challenge. It's not because I'm resting on my laurels now that I've attained a coveted finalist spot in a challenge. (Which really is an honor - thanks Rachel and Theresa!) I'm just not sure about my poetry. For me, this is kind of sad, because I used to really be a writer. When I was in high school, we got to choose electives for our English classes all of junior and senior years. I took some sort of poetry or creative writing class for 3 of those 4 semesters, and loved every second of it. I wrote all the time. (Kind of like how I knit now.) And it wasn't all angsty teenage stuff. I'm still very proud of some of the things I wrote back then. They were interesting, had substance, and were truly creative and reflective of who I was as a person.

I stopped doing creative writing when I got to college. The literary magazine there wasn't my thing, though I did get one prose poem published in it before quitting in silent outrage at the way some of the editors laughed at submissions that didn't meet their fancy. (Seriously - criticism and rejection are one thing. But laughter? That's completely tactless, immature, and disrespectful. Thankfully this was an attitude toward the work of others that I never again encountered in college after I quit the magazine.) So here I am, not having written serious poetry in 10 years. I've tried to write a few silly things for the third A.L. contest, but my first two submissions were extremely silly, and I feel like writing something more earnest and serious. I think I'm going to set a personal goal for myself to write something that doesn't make me completely cringe, by the contest deadline. Whether or not I feel it's fit for publishing on the blog is another story. But I want Rachel and Theresa to know that I have been inspired to rediscover old creative outlets, and regardless of whether I actually enter the contest, I am participating in my own way. Thanks for the push, you guys!

Oh, and for the record, I have been working on the sock. I knit a whole pattern repeat (uh... 4 rows) yesterday. I really do like the sock, but it's actually pretty difficult to knit on it with this humidity. It makes the stitches feel tighter, which is even more of a pain since I have eleventy billion gusset stitches still on the needles. Socks and humidity just don't go together. Maybe I'll crank up the air conditioning upstairs for an hour or two so I can make some actual progress today.

If you care about actual knitting progress, here's Bristow:

Bristow blocking

Blocking! As it probably will be for days unless the humidity goes away. I'm a bit concerned about the sleeves, as they seem to have grown in length (unlike the swatch or body pieces...), and now threaten to be too long for me. But as I'm not averse to folding up the hem, or to having long cozy sleeves, I'm trying not to get too disappointed yet. But how is it that some of the yarn (which has been pre-washed, to boot) grows, and some doesn't? Grr.

Oh, and props (do people still use that word?) to Jessica for lending me some Addi Turbos. I'm going to attempt to use the 2-circ. technique for the Vertical Stripes sleeves. I actually just realized that it's a technique I should use for the next colorwork bag I make (either when Debbie Stoller wants it for publication in her new book, or when I need to make a new sample so I can sell my own pattern). Since I'm fairly unconcerned with tightness of stitches on either side, where the stripes run, it could be a perfect technique-pattern match.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

SFCKAL weeks 18 and 19; Bristow sleeve

Very short SFCKAL update this week: TJ talks about a bunch of things, including steek cutting, and what pattern to knit on the sleeves.

I'm itching to work on my sweater again, but I will probably try to finish Bristow first. (At least the knitting, if not the seaming and finishing.) I'm not sure yet what to do about needle size for the VS sleeves. I used an in-between size (Addi turbos) for the body - between a 1 and a 2. I don't have that size DPNs (and can't get them locally), so what do I do for the sleeves? I have to choose between a 1 and a 2, or perhaps convince myself to buy a second Addi Turbo and use the 2 circ method. I haven't loved the 2 circ method in the past, but using flexible needles like that may make it easier to do the inside-out knitting thing on this sweater. I've been concerned about it because the sleeves are knit attached to the body, which makes everything more complicated. Is it worth the needle investment? I'll sleep on it.

While I haven't been working on Vertical Stripes, I have been busy finishing the first Bristow sleeve. Here's an artsy shot of it, because otherwise it would be the same boring thing all over again. Except in a slightly different shape and size:

Bristow sleeve 1

I ended up making one more alteration to the sleeve, in addition to what I mentioned in the last post. I did one fewer increase than the pattern calls for, and then cast off only 5 stitches (instead of 6) on each side at the beginning of the cap shaping. The sleeve was long and wide enough, and I know I can fudge matching up those cast off edges when I sew the sleeve in.

Monday, June 19, 2006

ripping sleeves with wild abandon

Bristow mostly looks like more of the same, though this time in sleeve form:

Bristow, sleeve 1, June 19 '06

I actually ripped back quite a bit last night, when I realized the increases were just too frequent for my taste. I think in the size I'm knitting, there are 17 increase rows on each sleeve, and the pattern has you do them every 6 rows. I ripped back so that the first 10 increases were at 6 row intervals, but then changed to 10 row intervals. I'll probably go down to 8 row intervals at some point. I just didn't want the sleeves to be as wide as they were halfway up the arm, and I certainly don't need them to reach their full width that much before they are full length.

It was the first time in a really long time that I've ripped back (as in pulled the needles out and unravelled inches of work), as opposed to just carefully tinking (un-knitting) back. In fact, I can't remember the last time I did that that didn't involve ripping a whole piece of work apart. That I do fairly regularly with socks. I was impressed at how easy it was to capture those empty loops, given the fiber content (merino/silk) of the yarn. Truthfully, the prospect of ripping back like that and the potential for dealing with massive amounts of stitch laddering is much harder on my nerves and patience than intricate colorwork or working on needles in the multiple-zero size range. I much prefer repair methods that are more methodical and conrolled, like tinking, or dropping a single stitch down to correct a colorwork mistake. But I wanted to go far back enough on this sleeve that ripping back was worth the potential chaos.

I'm really starting to feel the itch to get back to the Vertical Stripes sweater, which is good. I'm also brainstorming ideas for the Amazing Lace poetry challenge. I'm doing my best to think positive thoughts, so I don't come off as a deranged sock torturer for this challenge. I already have an idea for a poem from the sock itself, which makes me giggle a lot. I'm not sure if I can translate it into written poetry form well enough to do justice to the snippets floating around in my head. But it should be fun to give it a try!

Friday, June 16, 2006

blast from the past

I haven't knit much this week, so there isn't really much to blog about. I did finish the second front on Bristow, but as it's just a mirror image of the other half of the front, it hardly merits a photos.

However, I did upload a bunch of old photos to Flickr. This included a lot of the in-progress photos of my Northwest Sunset vest, from Sweaters From Camp. Click here if you are interested in seeing the entire set of photos, which includes everything from the yarn to the finished product. I took photos fairly frequently while I was working on it, so it's a nicely documented project. Here's a little teaser:

NSFI June 26, 2005

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Amazing Lace - X-treme lace knitting challenge

Warning: The following post is pure silliness, for the Amazing Lace X-Treme Knitting challenge. There is no new knitting content below, though there are several, uh, "interesting" photos. If you only care about actual knitting content/updates, please check back in a day or two. If you're up for the absurd, please read on!

Okay, okay, okay. I do realize that, according to the wording of the post, this challenge is supposed to be about me knitting my partner in extreme circumstances. But please. We all know from my meet the team post that this isn't a team in the traditional sense. This is a dictatorship. I dictate, and my sock trembles in fear as it dutifully goes through with what I command. I don't put myself at risk while knitting. I don't knit on the toilet. I don't knit while driving. I don't knit while climbing mountains, as I'd rather concentrate on not falling off than on not dropping a stitch. However, I am perfectly fine with putting my knitting through extreme circumstances of its own, and taking photos of the entertaining results. Seeing as how I haven't paid any attention to my lace sock in over a week, only putting the sock, and not myself, in peril is much more true to life.

Below is a photo essay of the trials my sock has been through recently, in order to prove its love for me, and to convince me that it deserves my knitterly attention. It has put itself in "X-treme" situations as a sign of its devotion. Also, because it was a bad, bad sock, and forced me to make an error that resulted in frogging two long gusset rounds. I was in need of appeasement.

To get things started properly, I thought it appropriate to test the mental stamina of the sock. What fun is a challenge without a little psychological torture? First, I present "The Liquifier":

Amazing Lace X-treme challenge - blender
How long will the sock rest in the blender of DOOM before scrambling to safety? It lasted 23 seconds, which was quite disappointing. I was expecting at least half a minute. I'll be easy on the thing, and chalk it up to first-round jitters.

Next came the real psychology horror show. The sock was suspended over a drawer of wool products, and told that the contents were infested with MOTHS. (Yes, we don't use the silly asterisk on this blog. Say it with gusto: MOTHS!)

Amazing Lace X-treme challenge -
Time elapsed before the sock screamed for mercy: 12.3 seconds. Less time than the blender, but as socks are innately more scared of moths than of whirring blades, this is an impressive time. The sock began to earn my respect, and proved itself worthy of moving on to the more physically taxing events.

Since the sock passed the psychological torture portion of the challenge with adequate scores, we moved on to escapes. I "assisted" the sock into precarious situations, and then watched as it escaped. Points were awarded for time and style. As the sock does not yet have a toe, I was lenient about penalizing for lack of a proper toe-point. However, stuck landings were encouraged. First up was the pencil cactus:

Amazing Lace X-treme challenge - climbing
Fairly easy. While it sounds scary, pencil cacti have no sharp spines to snag wooly stitches. The numerous branches made escape easy. Time: 15 seconds, Style points: 7.2 (fell on sock-ass during dismount). Not a terrible showing, but the sock had to do 5 laps for the shameful landing.

Next up in the escape portion of the challenge was the wood stove. Not as high off the ground, but much more perilous due to the wool-singeing heat.

Amazing Lace X-treme challenge - stove
Time: 33 seconds. Style points: 9.1 (double pike off the handle, but huge step on the landing.)

And on to weightlifting:

Amazing Lace X-treme Challenge - weight
As you can see, the sock failed miserably. It couldn't move the weight a fraction of a millimeter. 0 points for time, and -2.7 for style for the unseemly sweating and grunting.

Actors are told to never work with animals or children. The sock is half lucky. I have no children for it to experience, but I do have some animals. No, not cats. How common. First, the donkey:

Amazing Lace X-treme challenge - donkey
How long does it take a sock to remove itself from the ear of a blindfolded donkey? 28 seconds, earning 9.6 style points. A nice high score because it managed to avoid the, uh, donkey gift at the rear of the competition area. Good going! (The donkey lost 8 style points, for the record.)

One can duck. One can be backed into the corner. Today, the sock experienced a first. It was ducked into a corner.

Amazing Lace X-treme challenge - ducks!
How scary is that! It spent several minutes trembling with fear, while the rubber water fowl of doom (and liberty!) stared it down. They may look like they're smiling, but you can see the ferocity in their eyes. The sock wet itself. Then it gathered its composure and climbed up the armrest of the sofa, weeping all the way. Ducks are serious business! Time: 7 minutes, 15 seconds. Pity points: 3.

After the psychological torture, escapes, feats of non-strength, and wild animal encounters, there was just one more test left. The Scissors:

Amazing Lace X-treme Challenge - scissors
Think The Pit and the Pendulum. The scissor blades, at first gaping, ever so slowly close over the terrified sock as it struggles to escape. It made it out in the nick of time, narrowly avoiding a fatal dive off the side of the sofa in the process.

Verdict: The sock passes muster. Perhaps, if Rachel and Theresa are kind enough to pose a challenge that doesn't immediately inspire disturbing sentiments of despotism and depravity in my mind, the sock and I can forget this more disturbing phase of our relationship, and settle back for some good times.

Friday, June 09, 2006

silvery texture

Blogger is back! (I hope.)

Bristow has a back! (I'm sure.)

Bristow back - done!

It also has a front. (Well, half of one.)

Bristow, left front, 6/9/06

Knitting this sweater has been almost completely smooth. The yarn is still great, and for the most part the pattern is very well written. I had an issue on the front, where there was some conflicting info. about a measurement at a certain point (which is surprising, given that the model sweater was knit in the same size), but I just matched things up with the back row-for-row, and it turned out just fine.

Pardon my shoddy pinning skills. I really need a blocking board, or at least a grid pattern to pin on. It's so hard to get things nice and square. They'll get a proper pinning when it's time to block.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

SFCKAL, weeks 16 and 17

Late in the day update this week, as Blogger was uncooperative when I tried this afternoon. Blah.
  • Becki's Crichton is (was?) blocking, and looks gorgeous! Did you choose buttons yet?

  • Terri had to frog her neck/armhole shaping on the Northwest Sunset vest, but is back on track now. Yay!

  • Sydney has frogged her shirt tail fair isle, as the hem thing wasn't working out well for her. Hope to see it back in production soon!

As for me, if you check out my post from Monday, you will see the faux-vest modeled shot. Vertical Stripes is back in the drawer until I can summon up the strength to begin the sleeves.

Tomorrow: Bristow milestone, and the end of plain stockinette. Whoo!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wow, it's grey!

I realize that the photo is uninspiring. It's a grey rectangle (err, trapezoid). Stockinette with some seed stitch at the bottom. Grey. But I assure you that it's a pleasure to knit.

Bristow back

I have indeed swatched and cast on for Bristow. I'm using Naturally Merino et Soie, which used to look like this, after it looked something like this (but way too big). As the name suggests, it's merino and silk (70/30). It held up very well to being knit up (quite tightly), stored in a musty basement for months, frogged, balled, hanked, washed, and balled again. In fact, it pretty much feels like new. As there is no sign of wear on the yarn after those ordeals, I'm hoping that it will forget its merino content, and that it won't pill with wear. I have a vague memory of hearing that superwash wool resists pilling better than non-superwash, and this stuff is superwash. Of course, I could have planted that memory in my own head, out of hope. It's also from New Zealand, and all the Kiwis I've known (all one of him) have been practical and reasonable people. I expect the same of the yarn.

I love knitting this sweater. While the back is all stockinette (except for the seed stitch hem), the shaping helps keep it from being completely tedious. Plus, it's still a novelty to be working with HYUUGE (size 6!) needles, at the ghastly large gauge of 19 stitches per 4 inches. Also, the yarn feels like butter. Stuff like that never hurts. When I tire of sailing the stockinette seas, I'll have the front panels and sleeves to work on, which all have cables and other fun stuff.

I'm about 1/12 (or more, since my yarn has slightly more yardage per ball than Andean Silk) through the sweater, if measuring in balls. So far I haven't made any mods to the pattern. I was thinking of doing less waist shaping, but after re-measuring myself, I think the sweater will work as-is. If I find the waist is a bit too nipped in, it will be easy to block it out a bit. I am thinking of changing the set in sleeve shaping a bit. I think the armhole depth might be a bit more than I need, and I may also want the sleeves to be a bit narrower at the top. So in the next day or so, I'll need to sit down with this Knitty article and figure things out. I see that there's a new episode of Math 4 Knitters out. Listening to that will surely put me in the mood for some sleeve cap math!

I'm not abandoning Vertical Stripes or the socks, but I really needed a change of pace. Especially from the colorwork.

Monday, June 05, 2006

weekend progress

  • Vertical Stripes has shoulders:

    VS sweater doing a vest impression

  • Hedera has a heel. (No photo. It's not very exciting, and I spent a long time tinking the first very long and tight gusset round because of a double yarnover, while getting my butt beat at Trivial Pursuit. I don't want to look at the sock right now.)

  • I've made several new colorwork charts for the colorwork bag, and have sent a few to Debbie Stoller, to supplement the pattern description and photos I sent last week. No photos, 'cause when the pattern gets rejected from her book, I'll want to sell it. So there will be photos of the charts in the actual pattern writeup, one day.

  • Since I've been unable to find or think up a pattern that I would like to knit and A. would like to wear, that grey merino/silk yarn will be a sweater for me! A. will get a sweater when I find a pattern that suits both of our tastes. I'm 90% sure I'm going to knit Bristow. I do wish I had red yarn. I don't always like the color chosen for a pattern, but red works really well with Bristow. Plus, I look good in red. But I'll have to make do with grey, as that's what I have, and this is stashbusting. I toyed with the idea (for about 10 seconds) of dyeing, but I don't think that will happen. I don't think I have a container large enough to dye all the yarn at once (and I don't want color variation), I don't have the money to spend on nice dyes, and I have a feeling that the silk in the yarn will take up dye differently than the merino. So grey it will be!

    I'm actually tempted to swatch for it today. I'm tired of working on socks, and just don't feel like working on VS at all. So it may be time to pull out the fat needles (maybe 7s!) and knit a big fat stockinette swatch.

Friday, June 02, 2006

amazingly orange lace

VS is blocking, and socks are socking.

I'm really loving the Hedera pattern with the orange. Knit up, it's even more subdued than in the ball. A nice pumpkin. (Of course, through the magic of photography, the sock looks brighter than the ball in this shot. Oh well.)

Hedera sock on blocking VS sweater

The pumpkin color of the socks, combined with the VS motifs (which I still think look like spooky owls), means that these socks are destined to be worn at this year's Pumpkin Festival.

Despite the thunderstorm we got last night (which was nice, but not as spectacular as it was supposed to be), it's still humid here. In fact, according to the weather page, it's even more humid today than yesterday. I was really hoping VS wouldn't take all weekend to dry, but I fear it might. Alas.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

snip snip snip

VS sweater, steeks cut open
(If you want to see a bigger photo, check out this view.)

I guess that means my task for today is to soak and block the sweater. Of course, it's so humid here that it seems like a thankless task. Unless the thunderstorms I desperately hope we get this afternoon really clear the air, this thing is going to take forever and a day to dry.

I've decided to block before attaching the shoulders together because it seems like it will be easier to pin out two single layers of fabric than a double layer. You'll notice that the shape is somewhat of a modified drop sleeve, since some of the body stitches are not continued past the armpits. This will make accurate blocking a bit more difficult than it would be with a traditionally rectangular shaped fair isle sweater body, since I can't just block all parts of it to the same width. Not that it will be too terribly difficult to get it right, but I think doing it before the shoulder bindoff is done will make it a bit easier to fiddle around with things.

In other news, I have discarded my Lorna's Laces. I'll use it for a different pair of socks (or maybe even a non-sock project), but I decided I wasn't happy with how the striping was working with the lace. Instead of stripes, which I got on the ribbed hem, I was getting more of a mottled effect in the lace. It made the lace really difficult to see, even when I was concentrating on it. It was so difficult to even read my own knitting that I ripped it out and cast on with some solid Kroy. I was a bit cranky about that yesterday, as I was really looking forward to knitting with Lorna's Laces again. I was also not sure about whether I wanted solid orange socks. (I bought the yarn when Elann had it on sale over a year ago. I don't think I own any orange clothing. What possessed me to order orange sock yarn is beyond me.) Now that I'm a couple of pattern repeats in, I'm actually quite fond of the color. It's actually not as wild and scary of an orange as I always seem to remember, when the yarn is hidden away in a drawer.

And on another new note, I decided to submit the colorwork bag I recently knit to Debbie Stoller, for the new Stitch 'N Bitch book. It's going to be a book with more advanced designs, and I thought it was worth a shot to submit the design. I'm a bit concerned about the fact that the colorwork itself is from a different book, with just a minor modification, so I'm going to try to work on some original colorwork charts. If Debbie decides she doesn't want the bag for her book, I might try to put together an enhanced pattern (with a few colorwork chart options), to sell on my own.

EDIT: I thought I should take a second to thank all of the folks who have been leaving me flattering and helpful comments lately. The commenting system Blogger uses makes it a pain (or impossible) to actually reply to people, but rest assured that your comments are received and appreciated. One of these days I need to figure out how to switch to a comment system that will allow for easier replies...