I think I learned something last night. A decrease at the end of the needle is not necessarily the first and last stitch; it’s at the stitch next to the first and/or last stitch. I’ve seen quite a few patterns that call for a decrease at one or both ends of the needle every n rows. I had made a few swatches and was following the instructions literally and then tried it on the second and next to last stitch and I think the appearance is better.
I still have a lot to learn and the difference between the first/last stitch and the one next to it is probably obvious to those who have been knitting a while but for me it’s still trial and learning. I’m hoping that I’ll eventually get the hang of it and reading patterns will become more obvious. For know, it’s scarves and swatches for me.