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Oct. 3, 2018, 6 a.m.
Michelle Knee, Software Test Pilot

Michelle Knee — tester, game player, wrangler of ragdoll cats — talks about testing all of Omni’s many websites, including OmniFocus for the Web.

Show Notes:

Michelle also talks about the special challenges in testing websites: defeating browser caching, the problem children (iPhone SE and iPhone 8 Plus), responsive design mode bugs, and testing on multiple operating systems.

Then we talk about games. And Hawaii. And mystery knit-alongs. And — most critically — her cats Calvin and Hobbes.

You can find Michelle on Twitter @mec2973 and on

Some other people, places, and things mentioned:


Brent Simmons: You're listening to The Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind The Omni Group's award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. Music!


Brent: I'm your host, Brent Simmons. In the studio with me today is Michelle Knee, software test pilot at The Omni Group. Say hello, Michelle.

Michelle Knee: Hello, Michelle.

Brent: Nicely done, thank you. So, you're a tester. What do you test?

Michelle: I test the websites that The Omni Group has. So, we have several. We have the marketing website, which most people know as

Brent: Okay.

Michelle: We have the support site. We have Inside OmniFocus, Inside OmniGraffle, and Stenciltown. And then we have a bunch of other smaller sites, or internal sites that I also look at.

Brent: Okay. Do we have some kind of intranet or something that I should know about?

Michelle: Maybe. Guidebook?

Brent: Ah, okay.

Michelle: Yeah, Guidebook is pretty important.

Brent: Rings a bell.

Michelle: Yeah.

Brent: Yeah. And other utility sites, and internal things, where we do things, and...

Michelle: Right.

Brent: ... mysterious stuff. Yeah, okay.

Michelle: Yeah.

Brent: So, that's a lot of websites. In fact, when I first moved from engineering to marketing, I was stunned by how many websites we had — and some I didn't even know about.

Michelle: Yeah.

Brent: I'm like, wow, okay. But you test all of them.

Michelle: Yep. I have a list of issues. Oh, I forgot the store. We also have a store

Brent: Oh, right. Of course. Yeah.

Michelle: ... That's kind of a extremely important one. But I have a list of issue for each of the websites that I go through, and test, and generally, as we get onto... like, if Stenciltown's getting a redesign or a change, then I go through all the issues that have been fixed as they come up.

Michelle: I take a look at them. I also look at support articles that get written up by our wonderful support people. And try to look for grammatical issues, typos, generally try to make sure that the steps work. Nothing —

Brent: Okay. So, you're like the last line of defense copyeditor, too.

Michelle: ... Kind of. Kind of, yeah. I also look at Brent's blog posts. Yeah.

Brent: Yes. I've gotten a few bugs here and there. Yep. Absolutely right. A comma was totally needed right there. Or whatever.

Michelle: Or no S.

Brent: Or no S. Or whatever. Yep. Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, yeah, we have a ton of websites. You know, I'm so used to working in smaller companies. We have departments that are bigger than things I ever used to do. Right? I mean, the amount of weight behind all our various websites is bigger than the entire output of an eight-person company. Even if that company was making apps and everything, you know?

Michelle: Yeah. There's a lot of work.

Brent: So, there's an awful lot there. Yeah. So, you say, with the support articles, you actually do go through the steps and everything, with whatever various apps?

Michelle: Yeah, for the most part, I spot check some of them that I know. And then, other ones where we've had a UI change, and they've had to — say like the secret bar on OmniFocus 3 for iOS. They removed the secret bar and put the settings right on the app.

Brent: That's right. I was so happy about that change, yeah.

Michelle: ... Yeah. So, that was kind of cool to go though all those, and see the secret bar removed from all of the support articles, and there were a lot of them.

Brent: Ah, yeah. You'd think the name, “the secret bar,” was a tip-off that it wasn't the very best design ever. But I'm so glad we've improved that’s...

Michelle: It is definitely much improved. And I can find settings. You know?

Brent: Yeah, right. So, when you're testing, are you testing on iPhones, testing on Mac? What's your environement of testing like?

Michelle: If you've ever been to a major release with me, I generally bring in a stack of devices with me. I have the smallest iPhone, I have 5S. Pretty much comparable to an SE. They're very similar. All the way up to an iPad 12-inch. And I have an iPhone 8 Plus, I have an iPhone X. I have an iPad mini, iPad 9, and iPad 10.

Brent: Wow.

Michelle: Plus, my device. And then, I also have a secondary test device, which has the versions of the macOS that we support. And then I just recently acquired a machine to test on Windows...

Brent: Wow.

Michelle: ... and see our website. So, I have a lot of devices, and a lot of people will probably say, why don't you just use Responsive Design Mode, in the browser, you know?

Brent: Yeah. Hey, why don't you just use Responsive Design Mode?

Michelle: Well, see, I've found that they're off by, sometimes, a pixel or two. There was one case where Kaitlin, who's a designer here at The Omni Group, had made a design, and she had checked it in Responsive Design Mode. But when I actually looked at it on the device, because it was a pixel off, it caused wrapping to occur in the wrong spot, and, basically, we had a list, to where there was one word on each line. And it didn't look the greatest.

Michelle: I took a look at it when she was like, hey, it looks fine. I'm like, ah, let me look. Oh, Responsive Design Mode is off by one.

Brent: Oh, Geez.

Michelle: It was a big lesson for everybody to know that devices are definitely king over Responsive Design Mode.

Brent: What's the old joke? There are two problems in computer science. It's off-by-one errors.

Michelle: Sounds familiar.

Brent: So, what's the real problem child? Is it the 5S?

Michelle: The one that I bring up the most in the marketing website meeting is the 5S, because it is so small, iPhone SE, and then iPad in split-screen mode, where the —

Brent: Oh, right.

Michelle: ... smallest split-screen, those are all pretty comparable to each other. And we have to fit a lot of content in that little space, and make it look nice. And so, that is definitely the problem child for me. The other one is the 8 Plus. Well, anything with Plus, really, because it supports two modes, compact, as well as the wider screen.

Brent: Oh, when you rotate it, right.

Michelle: When you rotate it.

Brent: So, you're not only doing every device, you're rotating every device, and doing split-screen on the ones that support split-screen.

Michelle: Yeah. I look at the pages a lot, going through each device.

Brent: Yeah, no kidding.

Michelle: And generally what I do is, I take a wide pass. I will use Responsive Design Mode my first pass, because I can catch a lot with that. And then, I always switch to the devices, and I start with the smallest, and then I go to the largest. And then I do — usually, the iPad mini I catch a lot of stuff.

Brent: Interesting.

Michelle: It's just enough different that I can catch some things.

Brent: Yeah, it really is a class of its own, kind of.

Michelle: And it has split-screen.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: So, not only is it an iPad mini, but it also supports the split-screen, which is smaller. It's fun.

Brent: So, when you're testing on a Mac, are you in Safari, or Safari some of the time?

Michelle: I use Safari a vast majority of the time, so I catch a lot of the issues in Safari. And then, I always switch to Chrome and Firefox at some point, to do a pass through those. Because, for a while, Firefox had a problem. It would only do boxes. And we wanted to clip the corner of a box. So, the right bottom corner, we wanted to clip it off. And Firefox didn't support that. So, we had to make the decision as to, what do we do in that case?

Michelle: So, there's little things like that. The other thing is, Firefox usually has a pixel between. So, we have the top menu, which has The Omni Group apps, blog, and so forth. And then, on the product pages, we have a product menu. And, on Firefox, there can be, at times, on our first time doing it, there was a little gap.

Brent: Why?

Michelle: Just one pixel tall. And so, it was a problem. The other thing I'll switch to those two for is, my other problem child is Safari caching. Safari loves to keep it's cache, and I mean loves* to keep the cache. And sometimes it just will not clear it. And so, I'll —

Brent: Is there a command in Safari, or something?

Michelle: I hit command-R, command-option-R. I —

Brent: Everything to do with an R.

Michelle: ... yeah, pretty much —

Brent: All the combinations.

Michelle: ... anything to do with an R, and then, sometimes, if I'm in the mood to get rid of all my cookies, and all of my internet files, I will actually clear Safari all the way. Just to get it to reboot, so to speak. But, what I'll do in the meantime, if I don't want to do that, is I'll switch over to Firefox. Firefox is probably my best browser for seeing what things currently look like without cache.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: I have that browser set up to always clear out all the internet files, and the cache, when I close it.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: So, when I open it —

Brent: So, you can just, close it, reopen. Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah, it'll reset. And then, I can check it, and see if what I'm seeing over in Safari is actually an issue, or Safari just caching.

Brent: Right. Right.

Michelle: And, Derek, the engineer —

Brent: That's the style sheet from last week, or whatever.

Michelle: ... Exactly. Derek's already uploaded it, and, rather than me reopening the issue, I can usually go: oh, it's cached.

Brent: Ah, yeah.

Michelle: I really wish they'd fix that problem.

Brent: Yeah, no kidding. Well, they're not designing it with you in mind, they're designing it with people who are surfing the web, right?

Michelle: True, true, true.

Brent: Still though. Yeah.

Michelle: Little love for the tester, though.

Brent: Yeah, I know. Come on. Not only all that, but you're also testing OmniFocus for the web.

Michelle: Yes.

Brent: And that probably runs into the exact same issues of Safari caching, and all kinds of stuff.

Michelle: We actually had a discussion today, in our team meeting, on the caching, and is there anything we can do about it? And what changes can we make to make it better?

Brent: Okay.

Michelle: So, yeah, it has the exact same issues that I've seen over on the website. During test. Yeah, that product's pretty new. We're working on it. It's in its infancy stage. Testing, lots of ripe fruit hanging on the lower branches to pick off. And keeping the engineers busy.

Brent: People are getting excited about it though. People are like, I've wanted this for years, you know?

Michelle: It'll help out, definitely, our Windows customers —

Brent: Oh, right. Sure.

Michelle: ... To where they have an iPhone, but they go to work and they have a Windows machine.

Brent: Was that the impetus for your getting a Windows machine to test with?

Michelle: Well, I'm a gadget geek. But I also like to test on the actual device, when I can.

Brent: Sure.

Michelle: I'm not a huge fan of virtual machines. They serve their purpose, certainly. But, sometimes, what you see on a virtual machine isn't necessarily what you'll see on an actual device. It could be better, or it could be worse, depending on it. So, I like to have an actual device in front of me. And I actually got the worst, probably, device possible, the cheapest thing you could buy out there. No memory, practically. It runs Windows 10, but that's about it.

Brent: It's probably good for testing though. I mean —

Michelle: It's great for testing.

Brent: ... Make sure it can do what it needs to do. Yeah. Along with testing, I hear that you're taking a class in iOS development. Is Omni paying for this? Is it like a professional development kind of thing?

Michelle: Yeah. Omni is pretty awesome, in that they want their employees to keep up with the professional development, so that we can bring it back to the company, and do things that will benefit the company. And so, a lot of people, testers generally go to testing conferences, and things like that. This year, another software test pilot and I, James Rowland, decided to take a class over at UW in iOS application development.

Michelle: I know for myself, I did it because I was a programmer, way back when, back when I graduated college. And I haven't programmed, I figured it up, in 15 years. I haven't done anything.

Brent: Oh, wow.

Michelle: The last thing was a conversion program in C#. So, it was time to catch up, and I had never actually done any Apple development whatsoever. So, this course is using Swift as the language.

Brent: All right. All the modern stuff, yeah.

Michelle: Yeah, we had two weeks of Objective-C, and I was a little bit, like, what? I'm used to the semicolons from way back when —

Brent: Right, sure, right.

Michelle: ... But —

Brent: Square brackets are a bit odd, aren't they? Yeah.

Michelle: ... Yeah. Square brackets, @ symbols, what?

Brent: Yeah? Right.

Michelle: There's a lot of @ symbols, everywhere.

Brent: Yeah, that's true. I used to just throw them in randomly, until it compiled. Then ship.

Michelle: Well, that's actually what I did when I was doing the in-class assignment. If it complained, I threw an @ symbol, and it stopped complaining.

Brent: Yeah, right? It probably needed one, yeah.

Michelle: Yeah. Exactly. And —

Brent: Yeah, it just means, “no, really, do this!”

Michelle: Yeah. That must be it. The other reason that I wanted to take it was to help with the communication with engineers. So, our engineers, they speak the Apple language. I speak Oracle, C#, Windows language. And old —

Brent: Right. You also speak the language of users, though, which is the critical part, right?

Michelle: ... Exactly.

Brent: Yeah.

Michelle: So, a lot of times testers, and support people, as well, take what end users will say, and translate it, so to speak, into developer/engineer speak. So, I learned a lot about view controllers. I learned a lot about table views. Collection views. And then my favorite, once we got to the Core Data section of the class, I loved it, because —

Brent: Because it's database-y?

Michelle: It's database-y. And I love databases. It's my favorite thing in the world.

Brent: So, when this airs, in early October, most likely, your class will be done. And you'll have your certificate and everything.

Michelle: Yay. Woo-hoo.

Brent: Yeah, that's pretty cool. So, is there a final project or anything for class?

Michelle: Yeah, so, the certificate's divided into three classes, and this last class is basically all about what they call a capstone project, to where we have to come up with a concept for an application, and then we have milestones that we had to meet to get the application written. And then, at the end we have to do a final presentation of what we did.

Brent: Oh, cool. So, you get to demo the app for the class and everything?

Michelle: Exactly.

Brent: Oh, that's pretty cool. So, what is it? What are you writing?

Michelle: So, I'm writing a game —

Brent: A to-do list manager, right?

Michelle: Exactly! ... No, it's a gaming library app. So, my husband and I have two full shelves, and I mean five levels high shelves, full of games. Somebody has a Kickstarter habit of backing games on Kickstarter. And —

Brent: Somebody.

Michelle: ... Somebody. I'm not sure who that is. But then we go to a gaming conference, such as Gen Con, and my husband will wander the dealer hall, find a game he likes, and come back to me and go, do we have this game? And I'll go, well, it sounds familiar, but I'm not sure.

Brent: You might as well just buy it then.

Michelle: ... Might as well just buy it. Yeah.

Brent: Yeah.

Michelle: So, this is to help with that a little bit, to go, yeah, we have this, and we like this game. Or —

Brent: So, you can rate the games in the app and everything?

Michelle: ... Not rev 1.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: But that is one of the —

Brent: You'll take that as a feature request.

Michelle: ... It's actually on my list as a feature request. So, rev 1 is basically add a game, and add pictures for the game. I'm also going to add in the rating system, per person. And then, I'm going to add in score tracking.

Brent: Oh, cool.

Michelle: So, if you and I play a game, I'll write down who played, who won, what the scores were.

Brent: All right.

Michelle: And then, if Mark and I play a game, I'll write down the same thing. And then I can go back to history and go, oh, I always play with Brent and lose. I'm not playing that game again with Brent.

Brent: I think we're talking about Scrabble.

Michelle: Probably, because I am not any good at Scrabble.

Brent: I'm all right at Scrabble. Yeah. It's my one game.

Michelle: You should play against my husband, which is why I won't play with him.

Brent: I'll take that as a challenge. Well, that's sounds pretty cool. Are you going to post that on the App Store?

Michelle: The plan is to, eventually. There are a couple of other gaming library apps that exist out there. I would like to have in the score tracking, in mine, to make it unique. And then the rating system. So, I have a little bit more work to do, but it wasn't a part of my initial proposal. It was a stretch goal for my proposal for the class. So.

Brent: Okay.

Michelle: So, I'll pass the class, and then work on it in my spare time, and get it done.

Brent: I know all about working on apps in spare time. It's fun.

Michelle: Yeah. Evergreen, right?

Brent: Yep.

Michelle: Yay.

Brent: Busy working on it. Yeah. So, what'd you do before Omni? You mentioned you were a programmer, a long time ago.

Michelle: Yep, I graduated —

Brent: Oracle stuff. Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah. I graduated from Purdue University in Computer Technology. Got a job straight out of college doing Oracle forms, reports, PL/SQL. Basically, came onto the team, wide-eyed college kid, and they put me onto the report, initially. That's three pages long, just the layout. And this report —

Brent: That's huge.

Michelle: ... yeah. Really huge. Had a whole bunch of repeating sections. And so, I was on this report, and the report was basically the paycheck for broker dealers.

Brent: So, massively important. This is like —

Michelle: ... Massively important.

Brent: ... The important report, yeah.

Michelle: ... Yes. And it needed to look nice. And one of the things that my project manager noted was, I was really good at making sure things were aligned correctly, everything looked nice, the font size was correct.

Brent: Attention to detail.

Michelle: Attention to detail. And so, she was a contractor, as a project manager, which was kind of unusual. But when she left and, eventually her new company, that she was a contractor at, needed a tester, she contacted me, and said, hey, I think you would be really good at that.

Brent: Oh, yeah, right.

Michelle: And, at the time, the Stephen Covey and all that was going around, and my manager had talked about spokes on a wheel, and developing all those spokes. And so, I was really good at programming, I was called jack of all trades. I could do anything on the team that they needed me to do.

Brent: Nice.

Michelle: And I wanted to develop my tester spoke. So, I switched, and I became a tester underneath a really good lead tester, who was great at teaching how to do testing. And how to foster the relationship between engineers and testers. And her number one rule that she had, was when you write up an issue, don't use the word “you.” Because, otherwise, when you're on the receiving end of that, you're like, “I didn't write this code. You're blaming me for this?”

Brent: Oh, right. Sure. Right.

Michelle: And —

Brent: It's not personal.

Michelle: ... It's not. Yeah.

Brent: It should never be personal. Yeah.

Michelle: And so, her big suggestion was, keep it very factual. “Click this button, type this in, press this, this happens.” And it's worked. I've never had a bad relationship with an engineer yet.

Brent: No? Good.

Michelle: I hope to keep that streak going.

Brent: Yeah.

Michelle: And then I developed a support spoke. I have the utmost respect for our support humans.

Brent: Oh, yes. They're the best.

Michelle: Very much so.

Brent: They're the best there is, yeah.

Michelle: Oh man. I didn't like support. I just —

Brent: It takes a special person.

Michelle: I'm an introvert, so talking to people that I don't know —

Brent: Yeah, right. Yeah.

Michelle: ... is not my greatest strength. Then I decided that I liked testing, and switched back. And I've done testing since, I think 20 years.

Brent: So, how'd you end up at Omni?

Michelle: Actually, Brent Simmons is the reason I'm at Omni.

Brent: I know that guy.

Michelle: Who's that? So, my husband is a follower of you on your blog and Twitter.

Brent: Oh, that's very nice.

Michelle: And back in, I think it was February of 2015, Omni had job posting for a software tester. Software test pilot. And so he looked at it, because he's actually an SDET, which is a Software Development Engineer in Test.

Brent: Okay. So he writes automated tests?

Michelle: Basically. We'll go with that, and he can —

Brent: Simple enough, right?

Michelle: ... He can say something to me later.

Brent: Okay.

Michelle: Basically that's what he does, but he's on the engineering side. Not the testing side. But he looked at the job, and he said, “Well, it's not for me, but I think it'd be perfect for you.” And he told me about it, and he's like, “Hey, you should apply for this job.” I looked at it, and I went, “It's in Seattle! We live in Kentucky. Dude.”

Brent: That's a long commute.

Michelle: Exactly. That's a long commute. I'd be on the plane all the time. And he's like, “No, you should really take a look at it, and seriously, apply.” So, I let it go, because it was in Seattle, you know? Moving cross-country, really? I'm an only child. My parents would kill me.

Brent: Hey, what are your parents going to do? Yeah. Oh no.

Michelle: So, two weeks later, you had posted an article on, about the life at Omni.

Brent: Oh yeah, right, yeah.

Michelle: And he read that, because, of course, he follows you. And he sent it to me, and he's like, “Did you ever apply for this job?” And I'm like, “No, I didn't. Do you really want to move cross-country?” And he said yes. So, I applied. I had to put a resume together, because I wasn't looking. And applied, interviewed, and got the job. Easiest interviews for me. I mean, they're still stressful, because they're interviews, you're —

Brent: Sure.

Michelle: ... talking to other people. But easiest interview ever, because I wasn't looking for a job, and so I didn't necessarily need a job.

Brent: Oh, right. So, yeah.

Michelle: So, the —

Brent: When it's something you can walk away from, or whatever.

Michelle: Yeah. It's like —

Brent: Lower pressure.

Michelle: Exactly. I really wanted the job, but —

Brent: Eh.

Michelle: ... Eh, I can go into it and be relaxed.

Brent: And then you got the job.

Michelle: And then I got the job, and then it was like, well, now we have to tell our friends, my parents.

Brent: Oh, right. Sure, yeah.

Michelle: We have to pack all our stuff, and we were taking a trip to Maui that May. So.

Brent: So, was the secret that you wanted this job so you could be closer to Maui?

Michelle: Yes.

Brent: Yes. Of course.

Michelle: From Kentucky it takes us 12 to 14 hours to get to Maui. Long time to be in an airport, around other people, on a plane.

Brent: Yeah. In the end you're in Maui, which is great... But still.

Michelle: But then you have to come back.

Brent: That's a long time. Oh yeah. Ugh.

Michelle: And you have the trip back. The same amount of time.

Brent: Right.

Michelle: And so, we had talked about moving to the West Coast, so that our trip was only four and half hours to five. And, we made it happen.

Brent: Yeah. Nice.

Michelle: I've always wanted to live in Seattle. When I was a little kid, in school we did the cities of the United States. Major cities. And Seattle was one that I did, and I learned about it, and loved it, and, ever since I had that —

Brent: We have a great Needle.

Michelle: Yeah. And it's not sunny here, six months out of the year? Seven months?

Brent: I know. Don't remind me. It's still summer.

Michelle: I like the wintertime.

Brent: I like the summertime. I don't know why I live here.

Michelle: I love the clouds.

Brent: Oh, because summer here is the best place to be in the world.

Michelle: Oh, it is.

Brent: Yeah.

Michelle: It is. Except for the sun. People think —

Brent: Really like the sun.

Michelle: Exactly. I'm not a sun person. I've met one other person that's not a sun person. He's just the coffee guy, barista, at the place I go to. But, yeah, I don't like the sun. I overheat easily, if I'm out in it too long.

Brent: Oh, sure, yeah.

Michelle: So, I like the clouds. They protect me.

Brent: Yeah. All right. Yeah, my wife is similar. She talks about the clouds as being this lovely blanket that is just there all the time, most of the time. And that, she also claims that she has gills, and so, the air needs to a bit moistened by rain, or she can't breathe.

Michelle: Oh, I like that.

Brent: Yeah. She's like, “oh no, my gills!” Yep.

Michelle: And that's probably a misconception that a lot of people have about Seattle, is that it's rainy here all the time.

Brent: Right, true. It's not. Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah. Our summers are absolutely phenomenal.

Brent: It's really worth saying, we have a rainy season, and a dry season.

Michelle: Exactly.

Brent: And the dry season really is quite, really extremely dry.

Michelle: Exactly.

Brent: The grass is still brown right now.

Michelle: And we have wildfire smoke burning around us, unfortunately.

Brent: So, when you're not going to Maui, you're knitting.

Michelle: Yep.

Brent: When you're not playing games, and going to Maui, you're knitting. When you're not going to Maui, playing games, being at work, or doing this class, you're knitting.

Michelle: Yes. When I first came here, I was a crocheter. I learned to crochet from a, I'm going to put quotes around it, crusty old aunt —

Brent: All right.

Michelle: ... That taught me to crochet a long time ago. I came here and there's a knitter's area at lunchtime, that a lot of people would go to. And so, I went down there with my crochet hook, and I remember the first time I ripped out what I did, and everybody was like, [GASP], because in knitting, you don't just rip things out like I did.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: I mean, I took my needle out, my crochet hook out, and just literally ripped —

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: ... Because in crochet, you only have one loop on the crochet hook at a time. Whereas in knitting, you have a whole slew of them. And they can drop down fairly easily. So, that was kind of humorous. But then, I was, like, “I want to learn to do this.” So, I took some classes, went to a few conferences, and I've made three or four sweaters, a whole slew of hats, gloves, fingerless gloves, cowls, and socks. I have yet to make a scarf.

Brent: No scarves?

Michelle: No scarves. That's usually what people —

Brent: Seems like that's the starter, right?

Michelle: ... Exactly.

Brent: Yeah.

Michelle: Yeah. Never made a scarf.

Brent: All right.

Michelle: Might have to.

Brent: Well, maybe one day.

Michelle: Yeah.

Brent: Eh, you're past it. You don't need to. I mean —

Michelle: Exactly.

Brent: ... If you could make cowl, you could make anything. Right?

Michelle: Yeah. Maybe one of my mystery knit-alongs — we call them MKALs.

Brent: What's a mystery knit-along?

Michelle: So, I joined a couple clubs. And they send me a box. And in the box is a pattern, as well as yarn to go with that pattern. And then, it's only part of the pattern. And they may or may not tell you what you're making. So, they might just say, it's a shawl. Or they might not say anything.

Brent: So, you're just knitting based on the instructions.

Michelle: Exactly.

Brent: Wow.

Michelle: And you start knitting, and it starts to take shape, and it's like reading a computer program. You're going line by line, and it's telling you a series of steps to do. Knit this, purl this, knit these together, yarn over, is another term that's used. And I liken it to a computer program. And you just go row by row —

Brent: Only, like, you're the computer executing the instructions. I get it. Yeah. Okay.

Michelle: Exactly. Exactly. And so, it works to keep me entertained, and my brain entertained, because it's always got to be thinking. And a couple times I've looked at the pattern ahead of time, you know? I looked it over. I kind of see where I thought we were going, and went, “I don't understand this at all.” And then I tell myself, “Just do what it says. Execute the step.”

Brent: You think computers are ever like that? Like, “I don't get this? What the heck? I don't even know what this is going to be. Well, I'll just do it.”

Michelle: With my program, I'm sure it's doing that. Your first program's never —

Brent: Right.

Michelle: I'll look back on it years from now and go, “What was I thinking?”

Brent: That sounds cool though. And in the end you actually have something.

Michelle: Yeah. The last two, I've made a shawl, different types. One was a triangle shape. And the other was actually a rectangle shape.

Brent: Hmm. Why not?

Michelle: Yeah. Which started off as a diamond, which was kind of interesting for me.

Brent: Oh, right. Right.

Michelle: And then, right now, we're making little cactuses. They send us a little pot, and you knit the dirt section, and you knit the top part of the cactus —

Brent: Wow.

Michelle: ... and put a flower on it, and stick it in the pot when you're done. It's kind of cool.

Brent: Yeah, that's cool. So, are you a dog person or a cat person?

Michelle: Oh, cat person by far.

Brent: Thank goodness. There's so many dog people around here. I love them. Dogs are great. But come on. Cats are best, right?

Michelle: Oh, cats rule, dogs drool.

Brent: Yeah, I know, I know.

Michelle: Yeah.

Brent: Got some cats?

Michelle: Got a couple.

Brent: Yeah?

Michelle: I have two Ragdolls, Calvin and Hobbes.

Brent: Mm, Ragdolls. Cool.

Michelle: Yeah. Ragdolls are kind of interesting. We have, actually, standard Ragdolls. There's standard and mink. Probably, I imagine, a breeder would tell me there's more than that, but for my purposes, there's standard and mink.

Brent: Okay.

Michelle: But we have standard, and when they're born, they're born all white. And then, they develop their color up to five years. And so, we have two, one's a chocolate, and one's a seal color. They're just adorable. Ragdolls are named that way because, generally, when you pick them up, they go limp. They don't help at all.

Brent: They just —

Michelle: ... Totally trusting of you.

Brent: That's amazing.

Michelle: Yeah. We named them Calvin and Hobbes, obviously, after the comic strip. Hopefully everybody knows about the comic strip.

Brent: It will be in the show notes, in case there's any one person out there who doesn't know.

Michelle: Who doesn't know that?

Brent: Yep.

Michelle: And their first names are for their youth. So, Calvin was a young boy, with his stuffed tiger, Hobbes. And their middle names are, Statler and Waldorf.

Brent: Ah, of course. The Muppets.

Michelle: The Muppets.

Brent: The cranky old Muppets in the gallery.

Michelle: Exactly.

Brent: Yeah.

Michelle: Exactly. We actually had to look up those names, by the way, when we were naming the boys. I think we were watching The Muppets on TV, and Jeff's like, “what are their names?”

Brent: Right, right.

Michelle: And so, their middle names are for when they get older.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: Hobbes, I think, kind of got the short end of that stick, getting the name Waldorf, but, because it's the one that —

Brent: Waldorf. It's a salad.

Michelle: Yeah, it's a salad. And I —

Brent: And a hotel. Right?

Michelle: ... Yeah. And I always think of — the Waldorf salad, is what I always think of, because my grandmothers used to make it. That and the Watergate salad, of course. But the Waldorf salad, they used to make that, and so, I'm always, like, “You're named after a salad!” Which, actually, the Muppets are actually named after the hotels.

Brent: Oh, okay.

Michelle: Is actually what they're named after.

Brent: Oh, right. So, do they have any strange preferences? Like, one prefers this chair, and ... ?

Michelle: They have a strong preference to the color of blanket that they lay on. So, Hobbes likes the red blanket, and Calvin likes the white blanket. So, we had a friend over, Tom —

Brent: At least they don't like the same blanket, and fight over it.

Michelle: Well, then there's that. They do fight over the beanbag chair we have in the room, as well.

Brent: Of course.

Michelle: We had a friend over, Tom, he's an engineer here. And he sat down, and Hobbes wanted to lay on his lap.

Brent: Sure.

Michelle: Hobbes is staring at him, because he hasn't put the blanket on his lap.

Brent: Ah. Got to have the blanket.

Michelle: And then, I'm like, “You need a blanket, Tom.” He grabs the white blanket, and puts it on his lap.

Brent: No!

Michelle: Wrong color. Totally wrong color. And I'm like, “Well, that's the wrong blanket, you need to grab the red blanket.” And Tom's just looking at me like I'm this nuts person. You know? Over there, crazy, telling him he needs to switch blankets. He does, and Hobbes jumps right up in his lap, lays down, and starts to take a bath. Like cats do. He'd gotten what he wanted.

Brent: So, the lesson is, if you want the cat, you need to get the right blanket color.

Michelle: Exactly.

Brent: Yeah. Well, on that note we'll stop, because now our listeners have learned something about cats, and blankets, and colors, and things. So, thank you, Michelle. Where can people find you on the web?

Michelle: They can find me on Twitter, @mec2973. And then, mec2973 on

Brent: Okay. Well, we'll put those in the show notes too.

Michelle: Yeah.

Brent: I'd also like to thank our intrepid producer, Mark Boszko. Say, hello Mark.

Mark Boszko: Hello, Mark.

Brent: And, especially, I want to thank you for listening. Thank you. Music!