Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Season's Greetings!

 I'm off for the holidays now - meeting with the family and later with friends to start into the New Year. As I'm sure me and you will all be much too busy for blogs during these days, I'll see you in January 2010, on Jan 4, to be exact.

Until then have some wonderful, relaxing and stress-free days with your friends and families!

And if you are curious about which New Year's Eve tradition is most hallowed to me and my friends, you might want to know about the phenomenon that is Dinner for One (which even has a Wikipedia entry telling about its importance) and then watch it.

Best seen on New Year's Eve, along with countless Germans!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Travel Troubles

There is a German saying that goes "Wenn einer eine Reise tut, dann kann er was erzählen" (roughly translates to "Travels will always provide you with a story to tell"). This is certainly true about travel home from London yesterday, where we spent a few days to relax and take in the Christmas lights.
We traveled to London with the Eurostar, and it was a very pleasant travelling day, with windowgazing, knitting and reading the hours until we arrived in St. Pancras station. The way back, however, was not so smooth: Due to the train failures in the Tunnel, there was no train service yesterday, and according to the updates on the Eurostar website today, we would not have come home until tomorrow at the earliest.
We were alerted to the tunnel problems in time, luckily, and went back home using a plane - and again we had a good measure of luck, since our (evening) plane only ran two-and-a-half hours late, which means we arrived at our home in the small hours. Still, it could have been much, much worse.
It will never cease to amaze me that a metal contraption, made of several tonnes of metal and plastic, can take off into the air by sheer power. But comparing the journey to and from England, I liked the train journey better - and I hope that Eurostar will recover from this fiasco, both reputation- and finances-wise. (And of course I also hope that they will not try to keep their losses smaller by not paying for extra expenses of the travellers who got home by plane or ferry...)

Monday, 21 December 2009

Exhibition Catalogue about Pandolfo III Malatesta's garment

Via the MEDTC-Discuss List, I got this information about a new exhibition catalogue:

Kusch, Claudia ; Patrizia Mignani ; Raffaella Pozzi (eds). :
Redire 1427-2009 : Ritorno alla luce : Il restauro del Farsetto di Pandolfo III Malatesti [Back to the light. The restoration of the doublet of Pandolfo III Malatesta]
Fano, Museo Civico, 2009. 24cm., pbk., 107pp. illus., most in color. (I quaderni del Museo, n. 2, 2009)
Price: $48.95 (Shamansky) also available through Italian bookdealers €22.50.

There's an article (in Italian) with two pictures, one a detail of the garment and one shot of the mummy in the grave. And I really want the book, though it could be a little hard to get it here - I haven't found a German distributor yet. So you are in luck if you are in Italy or in the US!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Beavers, advertisements, and Green Living

A few days ago, Bavardess had a very interesting blog entry about "beaver" as synonym for the vagina (something I had never heard before, though I can claim non-native-speakeriness as excuse) and how this word use probably developed from a medieval play on words. She links to a little video showing a girl having a girl day out with a beaver, all as advertisement for a new brand of tampons.

Which finally makes me write this little bit concerning tampons (or other disposable sanitary products) and green living. Tampons have been a sort of revolution and have become a normal part of modern female life in our part of the world. They are sold in all kinds of different sizes, from different manufacturers, each one claiming to be the one and only brand. But they all have one thing in common with each other (and with the disposable pads as well): They mean a huge waste of energy and material. All  the water and energy needed for production, the raw materials - plastic, cellulose, paper - for making and packaging them - the tampon or disposable tab is used and then discarded, and into the landfill they go. Not so good for our planet, actually.

So maybe it is time for the next revolution, yes? Some re-usable, environment-friendly product that can be worn like a tampon, safe, healthy, and durable? If that sounds like a good idea to you, you might want to buy yourself a menstruation cup. They are called something like Mooncup or Divacup, and they are a silicone cup that is inserted much like a tampon, catching the blood securely.  You can read much, much more about them on this livejournal devoted to the menstrual cups, and on lots of other places on the Internet - as always, the search engine of choice is your friend.

If you are a tampon-user, go try one. They are really wonderful and absolutely worth the money - in fact, not buying any disposable products anymore will save you more than a cup cost very soon. Or maybe it's even a gift idea for the holiday that's almost upon us?

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Oh no! I missed my blogiversary!

I actually missed my blogiversary, which was on December 8 - that was Tuesday last week. And that even though I had marked it in my calendar, to be sure I won't forget it.

But then the internet-less time came, and the trials and tribulations of the move, and the stacks of boxes distracted me, and I completely forgot the blogiversary. Even though I think that it really is something worth celebrating - a year is quite a bit of time, after all!

When I started this blog last December, I was not sure at all how blogging would work out for me. I knew, however, that I did want the blog to offer something new regularly. Some blogs I had already read for a good while did inspire me to do the blogging-daily thing, and the most important of those is Kristin Nelson's blog Pub Rants. No, it has nothing to do with watering holes, selling beer and snacks, it's short for "publication", and I really liked (and still like) her style of writing and the fact that - with very few exceptions - I could have a few minutes every day, reading the news from Kristin, half-way across the globe.

And now, after the first year of blogging, I am really happy I tried it. I have a bunch of regular readers (and commenters), and getting feedback on the things I do and the texts I write does feel wonderful. Posting weekdaily is by far not as difficult as I had feared. Of course there's the occasional day where I can't think of anything much, but there are a few strategies that help with that: I try to cover one topic only per post and store other ideas in the drafts section, I try to have one or two "emergency posts" completely pre-written in the drafts section, and I am just generally on the watch for bloggable things - interesting links and webpages, for example. And then of course I don't blog on the weekends, and I will take time off* for holidays, events and travelling, things where blogging would be difficult or troublesome. All that together makes daily blogging a fun thing to do for me, a nice way to start off my day, and I hope that it will stay like this for at least a year or two more!

* All that time off results in about 203 posts during the one year, which is about 0.5562 posts per day, or one post every 1.79 days. Which sounds much less impressive than "I blog daily". You see me humbled.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Knitting Socks...

After knitting that very first pair of socks (during which I discovered that nifty make-two-at-the-same-time doubleknitting thing), I had to cast on for the second pair of socks.

You can guess what I did, right?

That's quite at the start...

... and that is the same setup with the second sock toe pulled out of the first.

I now actually knit like that, with both socks hanging from the needles, one to the left and one to the right; I find it much easier that way. In addition, it's also easier to see if there's a crossover that connects both socks.

However, my technique is not exactly the same as the one described in Knitty.  Instead, I knit mirror-image: One sock (the "back" sock) is knit with regular knit and purl stitches, the other sock (the "front" sock) is done with mirror-image stitches - a purl-like stitch as "knit" stitch and a knit-like stitch as "purl" stitch. I always work the "back" sock first and think of the back and front stitch as one pair, inseparable - except by disaster, of course. (I'd give you a video of that, but the camera that can do videos is still packed somewhere.) This approach means I have less shifting around of threads for knit stitches, the front sock thread stays in front and the back sock thread stays in back. That makes it much, much faster to work, and less easy to do a cross-over (I had about three up to now). Purl stitches are a bit awkward at first, and I'm still working on proper tension for the purls, but I think that will come with practice.
This approach also adds a healthy dash of suspense to a sock project, especially a toe-up sock project, because since the outsides of the socks lie on the inside of the double tube, and since the socks are closed at the toe... you can't see how your sock pattern looks from the right side. There you are, instant suspense! And as an added benefit, this means you will learn how to read how a pattern looks from the wrong side. (Or you could be a sissy and only do cuff-down socks in this technique so that you can peek inside the open tubes at any time...)

I have progressed quite a bit already, so the socks are now almost at the heel.

It's a basic toe-up pattern with a short-row toe, mostly stockinette. There's a very simple rib pattern starting to come in (after all I have to practice purl stitches too), and I'm already looking forward to the heel. Initially, I wanted to do some mini-cables, but that did not work out so well, so I ripped back (good thing, learning to rip back with two socks at once) and decided to go with the ribbing only. I had to change to smaller needles because it turned out after the first few rows that I knit more loosely with this technique, probably due to the extra loops inbetween each sock's loops. That makes me wonder a bit if I will be able to get needles thin enough for smaller stitches - these are already 2 mm only. It really is fun, though, and I will definitely go for some more socks in this weird technique!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Automatic search suggestions

A lot of modern search engines in databases and the net have some algorithm that suggests what you might have been looking for, in case you mistyped or mis-remembered something. That can be a very nifty thing, saving re-typing or even long thinking about what exactly your thingummy was called - and it can also get some hilarious results from time to time.

A while ago, I wrote a book review about M. Beaudry's "Findings", and this has been cited in a few places. In one of the discussions which I caught, another book including information about archaeological textile tools was mentioned - this one:

Late Viking age and medieval Waterford : excavations 1986-1992

I don't know that one yet, so I did what I always do in that case. I open the online OPAC of my favourite university library - the one in Bamberg - and paste in exactly the text you see above. And I get the following search spellcheck suggestion:

Meinten Sie Alle Felder = Late biking age and medieval vatermord : excavations 1986-1992

I really dig the "late biking age", and "Vatermord" in German means parricide. Medieval parricide, that's nice! And for the textile inclined, a "Vatermörder" is what they called the detachable collars of the 19th century. Now isn't that a very nice suggestion? I would absolutely read a book with that title!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Footnotes vs. Endnotes - the poll result

For a while now, the little poll on the right-hand side of this page has been closed after collecting information about your preferences on footnotes and endnotes.
As I had half-hoped, half-suspected, most of the 50 voters prefer or even strongly prefer footnotes over all the other options. Hooray, I'm not alone!

For clarity and to sum it all up (since I will remove the poll window in the near future), here are the poll results from all 50 voters:

27 persons (54%) strongly prefer footnotes
12 persons (24%) prefer footnotes
0 persons ( 0%) prefer endnotes
2 persons ( 4%) strongly prefer endnotes
9 persons (18%) prefer in-text citations, Harvard style (or similar).

Now 50 people who read this blog are admittedly a very small sample - but on the other hand, those who read me here in the Internet might just be those who go out and buy my book (I sure hope so!). And that, despite the small sample, might give it some little importance.

And the opinion of the "masses" is clear - you want footnotes! 78% are in favour of footnotes, and only 4% would prefer endnotes. I had expected a few folks to prefer Harvard style, and I can see the appeal for readers, but it is even more uncommon in Germany to do it that way than it is in the English-speaking countries, and I can't imagine getting a regular, non-subsidised publishing house to do that without really, really good leverage.

Speaking of publishing houses, they do prefer endnotes for several reasons, as I have learned. One of the very important reasons is that layout appears to be clearer and cleaner if the page bottom is not littered with footnotes - an aesthetic thing. I can sort of understand not wanting footnotes that take up more page real estate than the actual text, and I personally would try not to have so much footnoting - but on the other hand, I own (and use regularly, and very much appreciate) at least one book with such extensive footnoting which works very well, even if it looks weird at the beginning.
Apart from the "uncluttered" look, there is another reason for the houses to fear the footnote and endorse the endnoote. During a discussion with my editor, I learned that the publishing houses fear that the conspicuously academic-looking footnote style will deter people from buying a book, even if it's written for nonacademics as well.

Luckily for me, who hates endnotes, and luckily for you, who prefer footnotes (and my apologies to the suppressed minority of endnote-lovers), my book is subsidised by a grant from VG Wort, who pay most of the actual printing costs. Only because of that, my strong preference for footnotes will be honoured - and the book will have footnotes instead of endnotes.

And then, of course, I hope that my prediction will be right: People will buy the book regardless of its more academic appearance. If not - well, then I will stand a fool (with footnotes)...

Friday, 11 December 2009

Hartenstein, again

The blog post with the two boys from Hartenstein got a comment with questions from Bertus Brokamp. One of the questions can best be answered with a picture comparison - the effigy of the Hartensteiner that we worked from and the reconstruction that is now in the exhibition.

Here you see the effigy and the reconstructed Hartensteiner side by side:

As you can see (and can see even better when you click the picture to get a larger version), we tried to keep close to the look of the effigy.  The pictures are roughly the same size - the two men won't match exactly due to differences in their body proportions - and they are arranged so that the two faces are on the same line, for easier comparison. Some of the differences are due to the posture of the reconstructed Hartensteiner - the length of the short mailshirt sleeves seems different because they fall back onto the upper arms while putting on the helmet, and our reconstructed guy actually wears the gloves and the sword (not in the photo yet - we put that on him after I took the picture). But the layering of the gambeson (with riding slit, you might just be able to make that out in the effigy), mail shirt and breastplate with dagged fabric cover does match the ensemble in the artwork.

The helmet is not attached to one of the chains because he's just putting it on, but it would technically be possible to hang it from one of the chains. Dagger, sword and shield are not yet in place on the reconstruction. The coat of arms, by the way, is not the one shown on the effigy: The Hartensteiner has a fish-hook as his coat of arms (black on gold background), and that's why we gave him the fancy golden fish as his helmet crest.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Ze Internetz are back!

Our phone and internet connection has finally made it into the new place - now there's catching up galore for me to do.
It really is amazing how the non-accessibility of things (including basic things like dictionaries and online dictionaries) can hamper the workflow. And I was astonished at how much I rely on the internet for my daily work. I already knew that searches and online resources are a large help for me, but total lack of the internet has shown me to what extent.

And now I'm not entirely sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. The good part of it is that since I rely so much on the Internet, I can work almost anywhere provided I have my computer and the internet (and can concentrate, of course). Questions about HTML? There are plenty of wonderful sites. A quick check of the vegetation and blooming period of madder? Wikipedia is a good starting point (though I'll make sure to whip out a proper book about plants or dye plants the moment I want to cite this, and double-check). Phone number or contact data missing? The internet knows them (almost) all. Trouble finding a word? I have learned that for me, typing into an online dictionary interface is so much faster than leafing through an actual book dictionary - so I heavily rely on LEO (praise be heaped on LEO!), Heinzelnisse and a small stack of other dictionaries. I even make a point not to buy cookbooks, because in any cookbook there are about ten recipies that sound really interesting and an unspecified, but much larger number that are not interesting. And searching for "recipe" and single ingredients will turn up enough recipes and variations to find something to cook. (I have a little stack of cookbooks that I don't want to miss and use frequently, though - I'm not so firm when it comes to not buying books.)

The bad part? Not having online connection really thwarts my style of work - and that sort of bugs me, because I rather like to be independent. And should the Net ever go down and stay down, I will have to re-learn working without it. (And I'll probably buy even more books then.)

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Moving Mountains...

As the prolonged blog silence probably let you guess, the move did not go completely as planned. The actual "get stuff to the new place" part went very, very well (whoever has friends like those we have is really, truly blessed), but there are a few minor to medium complications.

Some things still need to be fixed in the new place before we can put up furniture and put away stuff, and unfortunately (as we now know), the time before Christmas is the time when every craftsperson's schedule is full enough to burst, so we'll be living out of boxes for a few days more. In addition, our phone and internet connection will move over a little later, so regular blogging is scheduled again from December 10.

On the plus side, the new flat is a dream come true, the kitchen is already up and running, so we won't go hungry, and our neighbors are very very nice - and half of them seem to be native English speakers!