Friday, 19 September 2014

Gobbled up.

Some mornings, even having "Blog" on my to-do list doesn't really help to get you a timely morning blog. I sit down at the computer and then I fall into a hole, doing something and being utterly gobbled up by that.

This morning, for example, I started out checking emails (as usual), writing a few short ones, and then the phone rang. Then I did my Czech lesson. And then had a bit of chat on Trillian for the current book project, and then I thought I'll just do one pomodoro's worth of work on the book right now so that I can send a file over to Australia. Which utterly enthralled me and now I'm in the second hour of work on it, and when taking a short break I suddenly realised that a) the bit of breakfast I had much earlier in the morning was not very much, and b) the blog post is yet unwritten.

So... there's the blog post. Of me telling you why it's late. And because that's not much to blog about, here are some things related to why it's late:

Pomodoro. After a long hiatus in this, I have re-activated the use of pomodoros as productivity aid yesterday. At the moment, it's mostly to make me stick with one subject for at least 25 minutes. It's nice to use this technique again, and it does help - I have gotten quite a bit of work done yesterday and today already.

Czech lesson. I've been at this for two weeks now, and I have the feeling I'm making good progress. Since I'm still quite happy with the programme, I will pass a link on to you. It's from Strokes International; they offer 24 languages (well, 22 if you want the course based in English, and counting English as second language), and you can test the first three lessons for free. They have some of the harder-to-get languages, such as Czech, Polish, Romanian, and you could even learn Japanese.
The programme has the usual problems of a computer language programme with speech recognition - sometimes you need to repeat a word a trillion times, sometimes you don't really know why it won't accept your pronounciation, and there is nobody telling you whether you are really off or whether it's a fluke in the speech recog. Still, it makes you speak a lot. It also makes you write a lot, in a not too nasty way. There are plenty of repetitions, plenty of pictures to help in learning, and a lot of "game-like" exercises such as a memory with the written term on one card, the picture on the other, and you get the spoken word for both as you flip them.
While there are a few small things that irk me (such as having to adjust the window size to my preference every time, and the programme not remembering that I want the keyboard picture at all times), I do enjoy the lessons and have the impression that yes, I am learning stuff, and not just in short-term memory - and that is the most important bit, after all. (I can memorise things quickly and easily for short term, which is nice, but not too helpful when it isn't settled into long-term brain storage, too.) For now, I can recommend it - and I hope it will stay that way!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Strap weaving.

Though I love all (or, well, almost all) textile techniques quite a bit, and I work in a good number of them, weaving cloth is not among those. There are a bunch of reasons for this - one is space consideration (looms take up space, and quite a bit of it if you want to work seriously), another is the limited time that any day has, and there are only so many techniques you can fit into one life while still doing them justice.

Another reason - much the same reason why I don't dye my own fabrics or yarns - is that there are enough proficient people out there who already know how to do it, have the equipment to do it, and are willing to do it faster, better, and probably much more efficiently than I could do it if I started out now. (That does not mean that I won't jump at any chance to dabble in these techniques, have some fun with the equipment and get some more practice.  That, after all, is both for my enjoyment and for furthering my understanding of these crafts. Or do an experiment concerning them. But I won't offer anybody to hire me for that kind of work, as I do for other techniques.)

Narrow wares, however, are a different beast, and I've done my bit of weaving these. So imagine my delight when I found out that there is a repp band weaving tradition in Ireland that is still a little bit alive: Crios belts.

Makes my fingers itch to do a little more rigid heddle weaving...

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Random Linky Stuff.

Here are things, randomly assorted, that might be of interest.

If you like manuscripts and haven't checked out the medievalbooks blog yet, I thoroughly recommend doing it. Take a look at this post about Medieval Super Models, or this one about personal touches or personal statements in the margins.

A 3,500 to 3,900 year old suit of armor, made of bone, was found in Siberia.

Chloe Giordano is making really beautiful, really detailed animal embroideries. (h/t Heather)

Modern stair solutions - some of them really breathtaking.

And now for something completely different: Transgender people tell about the differences between how men and women are treated at work.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Gratuitous Cat Pics.

It has been way, way too long since the last cat pictures here. And this weekend, Madame was sleeping especially... um... curiously, so here you go.

Portrait of a Sleepy Cat with Vampire Teeth:

Sleepy Cat Snoozing on her Back:

Not Elegant, But Oh So Comfy:

She's having a vet appointment today, so she'll be less relaxed and comfy this afternoon... but surely everything will be fine again in the evening.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Games of a different kind.

I like games. I like board games (especially cooperative ones), and I also like computer games. Most of the ones I play (or we play together) are not very deep - more like light entertainment to pass some time, such as hidden objects or lightweight adventures.

Recently, though, I stumbled across two very different games. Both are online, both are free to play, and neither of them can be called lightweight.

The first one is called "Depression Quest", and it lets you explore the life of a person with depression. Depression is a nasty illness, and the game captures very nicely how it takes away perfectly sensible choices that seem obvious, easy and attainable - unless, that is, you are too depressed to be able to make them. DQ is a pay-what-you-want game, and it might be a good help in explaining to someone else how depression works.

The second one is called "Buried" and you play an archaeologist, newly returned from fieldwork, grappling with burial and death in both personal and professional circumstances. ("Buried" is not intended for the archaeologist, but more for the lay person. Plus, according to the game, it's possible to write a short paper in one evening even when starting out tired. Talk about game superheroes!) 

Both are not recommended if you are currently struggling with depression or grief, or if you have problems with death and burial as game items; but if you are not, and willing to explore these topics - I do hope you have a memorable experience doing it, and I'd love to hear what you thought of the games in the comments!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Ah, the joy of learning.

I am trying it again. Even though the last two tries did not last for very long, or were very successful, this time I have an event to work toward which is far enough in the future to actually be realistic.

If you are wondering what I am talking about - the next NESAT conference will be in Liberec, in the Czech republic, and since the last one was in 2014, it will be in 2017. (NESAT is, sadly, only every three years.)

I do not, yet, speak Czech, nor do I understand spoken Czech. That is true for a lot of languages, though - quite important for reading archaeological stuff - I can read a lot more languages than I can speak. I cannot even read basic Czech, though. That is something that I would like to remedy, and having a NESAT in two and a half years should give me enough time to learn some. Add to this the motivational tidbit extra - the most patient of all husbands and myself have a challenge going to do a ten minute foreign language improval stint every weekday - and it might just work. So yesterday I invested in a computer language learning programme. We'll see where it goes from here.

Did you ever, successfully or unsuccessfully, learn a language using a computer lesson packet? Or some other alternative way? I'd love to know. Life interaction would surely be better than just the 'puter, but Czech lessons hereabouts are hard to find, and I can deal better, time-wise, with ten minutes a day than with longer lessons with larger gaps inbetween.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Isn't it Friday already?

Well, yes, I know it isn't. Yet. Would be nice, though!

My parents dropped by yesterday evening, having been in the area, and we had an impromptu cooking session together with two friends, serving them a nice three-course meal. That was a lot of fun, but also a bit exhausting - and now I'd much prefer today to be Saturday, or at least Friday.

So while I am trying to bring my brain into gear, you are getting links (again). One of them is a book review on "Experimental Archaeology" by John Coles. Another friend and colleague recommended that book to me, saying it would be a very good read. The book is from 1979, so it's not the newest work about ExpArch, but seems to be worth a look.

Speaking of books, Doug is posting about Archaeology and publishing, another series of posts, starting with #1: Formatting. If you, like so many others, use Word for your work and wish to do layouting, I recommend taking a look at - when I was layouting and tweaking my PhD thesis for handing it in, their information did help me a huge lot. And while it's not easy-peasy, my impression is that Word will do everything you want it to - if you know how to kick its (micro-)soft little backside hard enough and in the right way. (Mind you, it might mean having to record and edit, or write, a macro or two. Expands the horizon. Never a bad thing.)