June 24, 2008

It's Done - BCED that is

Bead Crochet Element Designer is done and up for sale. You can find it at Bead Patterns or Sova Enterprises as a download, for $30. I'm so excited that this is finally a reality after more than a year's worth of hard work. In my wildest dreams, I never expected to find myself on the authoring end of a computer program at retirement age!

There is more information about the program and what it does at Bead Line Studios. It's not a fancy program with loads of bells and whistles. It does one thing, and does it very well. It allows you to graph bead crochet patterns and see what they actually look like on a rope. The colors are limited to only 9, and we've joked that the programmer is color-blind, but with the stringing table printout, it's easy to make bead substitutions.

A design like this is difficult to see and graph on the traditional slanted flat graph. With BCED I had it completed in about five minutes. I could rotate the rope and see that it would work right away. I printed out the stringing table and was stringing it immediately. The design crocheted up without having to go back and make several sample pieces to get it all right. The hard part was not fiddling with the design to see what else I could come up with. One evaluator said that the program was better than Windows solitaire for plain play fun.

Now that the software is over at Bead Patterns, I can finish getting some pattern sets completed to add. I'm doing sets of 8 to 9 patterns in a group that you will be able to purchase and import directly into the program. Then you can either use them directly or fiddle with them to make them your own patterns.

Did I say that I was excited?

June 14, 2008

AZ to NH - via the Pacific Coast

I now have postcards in my mind of favorite places and some new places that I will probably never see again in my lifetime. I have now been in all of the lower 48 states. Gas prices were not a pleasant part of the trip, but finances and health might not make a trip like this possible in the future. So we decided to just go ahead and do it. Arizona to California(via the tip of Nevada), Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, The Dakotas, Minnesota, Upper & Lower Michigan, Niagara Falls, Toronto, New York, and Vermont. Three weeks on the road!

Southern California was great... architecture, vintage cars and a smell to the air that somehow evoked memories from my 20's.

Then up the Pacific Coast Highway 1, along the twisty road with the cliffs straight down to the ocean. The last time I drove that road was in the 1970's in a 1937 MG.

What's San Francisco without the fog rolling in over the coastal hills, driving a car and trailer down Lombard Street and eating San Francisco sourdough bread

The glorious redwoods are still one of my favorite places in the USA. Tall, quiet, and beautifully big.

The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon was a delightful surprise of a rain forest. Everything was moss covered and very green and lush. Wild flowers were everywhere along the windy road.

The Canadian Rockies in British Columbia were majestic. As far as I'm concerned, that's where the snow belongs - on top of the mountains.

While we were there we visited Fort Steel. I couldn't resist the photo of the field covered with dandelions. I like them and never have tried to have a lawn without them.

What's a trip without a "what-is-it?" - In amongst the Ft Steel vintage farm equipment was this yellow, cast iron thing with a seat on one side and a chute on the other side. "Oh sure", I said, tongue in cheek, it's a good old "C11"! Still don't know what it was used for... any ideas?

Glacier National Park was mostly closed due to snow in the higher reaches. We did get to drive about 20 miles into the park and enjoy the glacial lake and beautiful mountains.

I fell in love with Montana. What a tidy, clean state with wide open skies. The only drawback is the thought of how much it snows there in the winter. It's hard to see them, but this is a field of what they say are wild buffalo.

I had forgotten that Butte MT was a copper mining town. There are still two Bertoglio's in the phone book. We spent an extra day exploring and went to look at the old smelter stack - world's largest masonry structure - 30' taller than the Washington Monument.

A visit to White Pine and Rockland Mich. in the Upper Peninsula was a trip back to my childhood - 3rd and 4th grades to be exact. Surprise.... the small museum in Rockland had my 4th grade class photo in it.

The maple table and chairs in my AZ kitchen were build in the basement of this Rockland house in the 1950's. It's the only woodworking project that my Father ever did.

Niagara Falls from the Canadian side was interesting, but somewhat of a disappointment due to the commercialism of the whole thing. The drive along the river to Ft. Erie was more interesting.

We stopped to visit children and some old friends along the way and arrived back in NH just in time for the hot and muggy weather. All I can say is, "what a great trip and what a beautiful, ever changing country we live in!"

Trip Tidbits - Signs & Buildings

Along the back roads, we saw signs, advertising and buildings that we thought interesting or amusing. Here are a few for you to enjoy.

These are really are official highway signs......

A very interesting use of an old church building. I may never think of the acronym for ARTS the same way again.

A small town commemorated their local team on the water tower, but my first thought was, "are there only small people in this town? A block over was this great house... I like pink, but a whole house, barn and garage of it?

Someone had fun painting this on the back of a building. However, you can only see it from a one-way, back alley exit from a 1950's motel.

I just spent the winter in Poncho Villa's desert in southern Arizona.... somehow putting his name with seafood is just plain funny.

June 13, 2008

Traveling with Beads

I'm back in New Hampshire after traveling 6,000 miles from Arizona and looking at a goodly portion of the countryside to be seen in the U.S.A. I'll post a selection of trip photos after I get through sorting through all of those that we took. Right now I'm going to answer Bad Liz's question about travelin'.

My companion for the winter hand-built the small teardrop trailer for me. No, it isn't the traditional vintage camper style, but made to house beads. Guess you could call it my bead buggy! He bought a Harbor Freight rolling chassis, steam bent a wood top frame to get the right shape and covered it with fiberglass sheeting. If there had been more time it would have gotten painted to match the Honda with California flames. It sure relieved the congestion inside of the Honda and spread the weight out a bit. One quick try-it-out trip and it went on the road.... Only problem was a burnt out tail light bulb.

How do the beads travel back & forth?

All of my beads are packed into flip-top plastic containers. The worst part of each trip is to get the beads that are spread out all over my studio back into their proper containers and boxes.

The individual containers go into Plano #3700 fishing tackle boxes. Those boxes then reside in specially constructed cabinets in each studio. I can see the color groups through the translucent boxes and pull what I need quickly.

When I'm ready to hit the road I put the Plano boxes into L.L. Bean canvas bags. Last time I weighed the bags, I had 250 lbs. of beads. This trip there was 11 of those bags with an average of 7 Plano boxes in each one. That's what got packed into the teardrop trailer along with some tools and a large tote of clothing. That's about 80% of all the beading stuff I own, not counting books and reference materials.

Somewhere, about mile 3,500 we decided to change the route.... and didn't have detailed maps for where we wanted to go... so I bought the HP mobile printer I had been lusting after for some time. We found a back parking lot, hooked everything up, connected to the Internet to see if it worked ..... and laughed at ourselves! We both like rural, unencumbered life styles and yet .... here we were, behind a Radio Shack, in the middle of nowhere with cell phones, a GPS, laptop, printer and a 4 cup coffee maker.

June 10, 2008

Trip Tidbit - Bad Frog Beer

We were driving through Rose City Michigan when I saw this huge "Bad Frog Beer" sign and then a whole lot more in the window of an antique store - well, I made my co-driver stop and turn around......
I remembered a gift of Bad Frog beer bottle caps from the husband of a friend back when I was doing bottle cap bracelets. I knew it was a micro brewery and I just had to know the why of all those signs. Turns out that is where the beer started and the owner of the building was the original brew master, grew up and lives there. His original brewery was taken out by a tornado, then he contracted the beer out and that brewery got bought out and Anheuser wouldn't brew micro beers. The next one burnt down. Locals swear it's retribution for the frog with the indecent gesture. He also had a string of Bad Frog Taverns in Detroit, hence the Tavern signs. So if anyone got caps from me and they say "Rose City" around the edges, they are from the original brewery and are now highly collectible. All my caps are with my bracelet stuff in AZ so I can't go look. What fun I had in Rose City - if not for those gifted bottle caps for one of my many projects, I'd never have stopped in Rose City Michigan.