Sunday, September 30, 2012

Black To Blue

Here's a whirlwind tour of the last few days in the production weaving world. Remember the black beam that apprentices started weaving in June? Well, it's finally woven off. I needed the harnesses and reed to set up my next batch of cloth.

When the beam gets this close to done, I switch to weaving möbius scarves.

See the blue beam in the background? Real photos will come off the camera tomorrow...

Shuttles for three möbius scarves...

A couple scarves coming off the loom...

And look how good I did getting my sections all the same length. The fates smiled and put the two mistakes on the edges. And they're longer than the others so there's no wasted cloth at all.

I decided to squeeze one extra scarf off this beam, leaving me very short ends to tie onto the next beam.

And here's the "outside the loom" view of today's work: tying on 10 sections. And don't worry, those ends are taped in place. I just pulled them all out at once so I have a visual confirmation of my goal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

MyNetDiary For Diet And Exercise Tracking

A little while ago I promised to write about how I am tracking my diet and teaching myself how to eat healthier while losing a bit of unnecessary weight.

The answers to many questions have been provided by an iOS app called MyNetDiary. First, I just have to say that I don't like the name. It does not tell me what the program does, who it was written for, or why I would want it. But, experience has taught me that this is no reason to avoid something. When I tested iOS calorie-tracking apps, this one was the best for my needs.
Let me break down what I wanted out of the app and then show how MyNetDiary met and exceeded my expectations.

First, I wanted a program to look up caloric values for foods that I eat and help me keep a daily log. I wanted those calories broken down into macronutrients: fat, carbs, and protein so I could see how many grams of each I was eating and how that translated into calories.

Next, I wanted the same lookup and tracking for the calories burned by various exercises.

Then, I wanted something to track my longterm weight loss goal and tell me how many calories I needed to be in deficit for my body to use up the right amount of fat that day. Not so little as to keep the weight and not so much as to cause problems from losing it too fast.

And, finally, I wanted something to correlate all of this information to help me make moment-to-moment decisions about whether I need more exercise or more food. Or, more accurately, to tell me how much exercise I'll need to do if I take a second helping of beef stew.
Well, MyNetDiary does all of this and more. First, take a look at the main screen. From here you can see some of the categories of data tracking and management. This shot was taken after dinner on a day when I wanted to short myself by an extra 500 calories.

Under meals, it tells me that I ate more than was recommended by 257 calories. Under exercise, I've done more than was planned by about 750 calories. And that gives me the daily goal under analysis: 522 calories left to exactly meet my weight loss goal for the day. Bingo!

Tracking calories in absolutely simple. Since this is on the iPod that I keep clipped to my belt, it's always at hand. Whenever I eat, I pull out the iPod and enter the food under the appropriate meal: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack. Searching for foods is easy and robust. Once you've eaten a food, it jumps to the top of the list next time you search.

When you tell it that you've eaten 4 ounces of chuck roast, for instance, it knows about the calorie count, but it also knows all of the rest of the nutrition information, which you can configure it to track as well if you like.

The next tracking function is exercise. Again, it knows about many, many forms of exercise and can calculate how many calories a person of your current weight would burn while performing that activity.

You just tell it what you did and for how long. See those entries for "Skimble"? I'll be writing another blog post about this digital personal trainer app. After each workout, it tells you how many calories you burned. I then enter that info into MyNetDiary by hand.

Along with tracking diet and exercise, MyNetDiary helps you set a weight loss goal and stick to it. All of those numbers on the main screen came about after setting up this plan. I decided to lose the maximum healthy recommendation: 2 pounds a week. It told me that, based on my starting weight, start date and my goal that I would meet that goal on November 22nd. That seems so soon! I mean, I've been collecting this weight for 20 years. I could really be rid of it in less than three months without starving? Cool! (The key to not being hungry is to add a lot of exercise so I can eat regular meals and healthy snacks pretty much whenever I want.)

As the day progresses, it's nice to have a plain-language interpretation of what all these numbers mean, especially when I was just getting started. There's a screen for that.

Now, I don't agree with some of the basic premises behind these warnings, but its nice that they're there at the bottom of the analysis screen.

And now, the total pushing-it-over-the-edge-into-fabulousness feature: charts. I'm a visual person and receive much clarity from seeing data formatted into charts. It also gives a sense of satisfaction that's lacking in plain numbers.

First, the calorie chart. This tells me at a glance whether I need to eat more food before bed to keep my body from burning up fat (or maybe muscle) too fast. There are a ton of problems that can arise from starving yourself to lose weight so I don't want to do it accidentally.

In this chart you can see that today does not have enough calories in it. I need to eat at least 500 more calories before bed. That's a heaping spoonful of peanut butter and a glass of milk. Yeah!

And here's the end result of all this data tracking: 12 pounds lost in about a month.

See that big dip? I didn't realize how accurate this program is so I was being conservative in my intake "just in case". I lost weight way too fast for a few days and then intentionally ate more for a few days to bring myself closer to normal.

This is reflected in the calorie chart by a few days in a row of very low intake. And the next week I overdid it a few times on purpose, reflected by tall yellow bars in the calorie chart.

(Of course, being the overachiever that I am, I need to stay slightly ahead of the curve.)

Now here's the part that's weird, but I'm doing it anyhow... All of this data syncs automatically with the web-based version. I've set my visibility to public so anyone who wants can follow along with my progress.
(Caution: shirtless photos.)

I sort of think that creating public accountability will keep me focused. I don't want to let y'all down, right? Besides, I write this blog to inspire others to follow in my footsteps if I'm doing something that they wish they could do. I don't have super-special magic powers to get things done. I just set reasonable goals and do my best to stick to them, using any tool I can get my hands on to help me.

And, if losing weight is a goal of yours, MyNetDiary can take a lot of the guesswork out of managing your diet and exercise.

Disclosure: I am in no way associated with this company. They just make a program that's totally amazing!

Update: The link above doesn't show very much info unless you're a member of the forums, I guess. If you're really interested, I'm pretty sure it's free.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Nike FuelBand

A while back I promised to write about the tools I'm using to motivate myself to get in shape. Now that I've been using them for a while I can show you that they are working! Today I'll tell you about a device called the Nike+ Fuel Band.

It takes the form of an unobtrusive black bracelet while it silently measures your movements and updates your daily activity score. This score is a new concept - a brand new generic unit of measurement called Nike Fuelpoints. Its purpose is to level the playing field for people of all body shapes and sizes. A heavy person burns more calories walking a mile than a light person, but they would each earn the same number of points as Nike measures them. Yes, the device also measures calories and steps taken, but I don't know how accurate those measurements are.

Here's my score after waking up, taking a shower, boiling water for tea and carrying my tea tray to the kitchen.

The red and green dot make more sense a little later in the day when you can see more of the dots. The green dot is the goal I've set for myself. When these pics were taken, I think my goal was about 3500. Throughout the day, I push the button to display the time and get a sense of how far the bar graph has progressed.

When I want to know my score, I push the button twice to display the actual number.

The motivating effect of this simple device is pretty amazing. I rapidly found myself doing extra things in a day just to get my score up. And, if my score was low after dinner, I'd go for a walk. With my goal set as high as it is, I have to stay active all day to make it. It would take something like a 10-mile run to get a days' points after dinner.

Now, this functionality is pretty amazing, but it gets better. The Fuel Band syncs with my iPod through Bluetooth to upload all of my activity history. The chart below is for today. I started the day a little different than normal. Since we had a house meeting this morning, I started in the studio at 5:30. Then, around 7:00, I left for my regular morning routine - a brisk 5-mile hike in the forest. At 9:00 there's a 15-minute workout and then it's back to the studio until the big dip, the house meeting. At 5:30, there's meditation before dinner and then a short, gentle walk to "help digest".

If we look back over the last two months, you can see that this device has been doing exactly what it was intended to do - keeping me more active. You can see a steady escalation in my daily activity after Coupeville. (After one day spent mostly in bed. Those shows are exhausting!) See the thin blue line behind the bars? That's my activity goal for the day. I kept moving it higher and higher until it was kind of hard to reach without some real exercise.

And, you can see that September has not been as successful. I'll explain that when I write about my new diet. It took a few days of sluggishness to get my body used to functioning without lots of sugar and caffeine, but you can see that I'm back in the saddle!

There lots of other bells and whistles (sometimes literally) with this app, but there's one other piece that really keeps me motivated. It's the "Streak". A streak is a series of days in a row wherein I met my goal.

My longest streak was 26 days. It got broken when I placed Jacob's loom setup at a higher priority than exercising. It was a calculated risk, and I was hyper-aware of the decision I was making thanks to the Fuel Band and its records.

And now that I'm pretty well adjusted to my new diet and exercise program, there's nothing keeping me from beating my previous streak record. I'm on Day 5 right now. Just three more weeks of disciplined exercise until I beat my record!

See? The self-competitive game aspect of this thing is addictive and the end result is more exercise and better health. Awesome, huh?

The Studio Today: Yarn Is Flowing

Again, I don't have much time to write, but here are a couple of snapshots of the new blue cloth in process.

Here you can sort of see how it all fits together. The raw thread that's piled on the floor gets plied slowly and carefully on the plying table. From there, the cones move to the palette shelf waiting to be placed onto the winding cart. And, finally, each of those threads ends up on the loom in painstakingly fastidious order.

I'm putting in extra long hours to get this cloth ready for my last few shows, and the muse seems to be showing up, too. This gradient is more exciting than I had envisioned. Thanks, Muse!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another "Too Quick" Update

I've gotten really serious, not only about losing the extra weight and getting in shape, but also educating myself on all aspects of diet, exercise, metabolism, and how they work together. To meet my goal of being down to my target weight by Winter Solstice, I'm spending about three hours a day hiking in the woods, doing interval training, and studying. This is drastically cutting into blogging time, but it won't last forever. I've lost an easy 10 pounds in just over a month, a third of my goal. I say easy because we've got great weather for exercise right now. It won't be so easy in the coming months as the days get shorter and the rains come.

In the studio, I've finished plying the threads for my next batch of cloth: a fully saturated blue that runs from slightly purple to slightly green.

Here is the beginning of the process: a few cones laid in a vague concept.

The dark blues are filling up.

...and here's the final result.

If you like rich, deep blues, this is going to be the cloth for you!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Rewind: Packing For The Apprentice

In looking over my photos from the past week, I see that I forgot a whole piece of the story. Before I packed the van for this past weekend, I had to do something I've never done before - pack up a beam and all of the yarn that would be required to weave it.

Ordinarily, if I need a cone while weaving a beam, I just dash down to the store room and get it. This will not be an option for Jacob while he weaves so I was a little generous in the amount of weft thread that I packed for him. And, again, that sample blanket saved me. Instead of packing from a theoretical list, I hung up the blanket and piled up the amount of thread that we would need to weave a couple garments in variations of each stripe.

(In case you're wondering, that's about 200 pounds of weft thread.)

Then, with the help of one of the guys, I pulled the beam, harnesses, and reed off the loom. We wrapped it up and put it into the van, where it sat through packing for a show, unpacking at the show, repacking at the end, and unpacking at Jacob's bus to repack the van with loom parts. Finally, after the loom was hauled up to Jacob's studio, it was the beam's turn to get unpacked.

And it seems to have worked. Jacob has everything that he needs from me to weave and weave before my next trip to Portland for photography in October.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Replacing Cables

Well, I did it. I got a swager, cables, and two sizes of ferrules to completely replace the main cables on Jacob's loom. I didn't take a photo while the old ones were in place, but you'll have to trust me. With the knots tied in them and the broken coating, these cables couldn't be made to work. If I did somehow make them work, the missing vinyl would let the steel cut into the wooden pulleys over time. Not ideal at all.

Here's the powerful tool that allows me to replace my own cables. It crimps ferrules onto cable to make professional-strength connections. The amount of step-up in force with this simple machine is impressive!

Yes, I could have just bought a new set of cables for about half what I paid for this tool, but I want more freedom. You see, I've wanted for a year to recable one of my production looms to lift the harnesses with my left foot instead of my right. This will even out the wear-and-tear on my hips and knees as well as keeping the body mechanics sensible when I switch which hand is throwing the flyshuttle. Now I can do that. I'm also prepared for any "emergency" that might arise involving any of the cables on my looms.

These photos are a little backwards because I didn't think to take pics until the project was already well begun. Here's the routing for one of the cables. It is inaccessible without removing all of the guts from the dobby box.

And a closeup to show you why it's inaccessible. That paddle is screwed in tight to keep the cable from jumping off the pulley.

I thought I'd snap a shot so you can see all of the parts that belong in there. Notice how many layers of stuff sit in front of that pulley and paddle?

Here's another out-of-the-way ferrule. It is the means by which the harnesses are lifted over and over again so it needs to be VERY strong.

That cable was pulled through the opening we're seeing here in order to crimp it. Then, the metal barrel is inserted to take the brunt of the pulling and protect the wooden cam.

And, finally, after all the cable routing is done, it's time to pull the cables by hand, ensure that everything works, and attach them to the pedals. I started with masking tape while I tested from a variety of angles to be sure that the length was just right. As Jacob says, "Measure nine times, cut once."

Here Jacob is demonstrating their use to get both beautiful cable ends in the photo at once.

Isn't that a beautiful and professional crimping job?

We've been weaving on these new cables for a day now and they seem to behave perfectly. Yippee! A new skill!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Setting Up Another AVL Loom

Here's the quick version of the process we're going through to set Jacob up to weave...

First, we had to swap out the entire contents of my van with the loom that was stored in Jacob's bus. Once the van was empty, the loom went in and was whisked away to the studio.

Look! A pile of loom parts. You never see that on my blog, do you?

And, a few hours later, it's a loom with the harnesses and reed in place and the beam about to be inserted.

Then Jacob got to work sleying his reed, which has a wider dent. This will make for easier handling of knots in the warp.

While he did that, I copied the peg pattern to a new set of dobby bars. You'll notice that it's not a faithful copy. I've decided that it's unpleasant to slam the knuckles into the harnesses with every pick. Since I don't use all of them, we're leaving the empty harnesses closer to the operator on Jacob's loom. Therefore, the pegs are pushed to the right of the bar instead of to the left like on my set. (In this photo, left is up and right is down.)

...and Jacob is still sleying, making great progress.

I made all of the design decisions for the weaving project. We now know how many garments of which style we're weaving, in which colors, and in which order.

And ta-dah! Jacob has finished the sleying! We're ready to weave the header and check for errors in the sleying and the pegging.

I love the sandpaper beam because there's no tie-on. Just stick it to the grit and start weaving!

We found all of the errors, fixed them, and then kapow! One of the cables broke.

It's really no wonder. The previous owner seems to have been in the middle of a repair when they decided to just set it aside for a while. Or a decade. Or two. And then they sold it.

So today I have to buy a tool that I've always wanted: a swager. This will let me crimp ferrules onto brand new cables. And this was the last piece of the loom maintenance puzzle that I needed to learn. After today I will have removed, repaired, replaced, or otherwise adjusted every single mechanism on these looms.

Oh, yeah, and just before I left I had noticed that my front tires are wearing unevenly so I took it in to get fixed while we set up the loom. And it's serious. Besides the alignment, my rear brakes are a disaster. If you recall from last February, I won't do my own rear brakes anymore. Yes, I can. And yes, it's worth paying someone else to avoid a day of dangerous and difficult work. Well, the final bill for all this is going to be half what I paid for the van. But, since everything else is in great shape, it's worth the investment in a vehicle that should easily see me through another show season.