Friday, 29 January 2010

Time flies like an arrow...

...fruit flies like a banana.

It took me a good while to make it back into the internet - now on the new computer. I have a feeling that it will take me a few days to get used to the new kid on the desk, but I already had some good laughs (and some moments of severe d'oh).

You'd think that Microsoft Windows 7 would come from Microsoft, right? And the Office suite - Microsoft, right? So I got a good laugh when the brand-new system did get all agitated and warning when I tried to install my old Office suite... because "do you really want to allow that software from an unknown author to change something on your computer? Reallyreally?"

Well... actually... yes. That was the reason I put in the CD and clicked "install", you know?

Apart from that (and the fairly annoying getting-into-the-internet-problems) and the new keyboard that I need to get used to (and tweak with my custom keyboard settings), Win7 does look nice, and things all went quite smoothly. And I really love how easy it was to transplant my Firefox settings to their new home - copy the profile folder, mend the folder name in the profile.ini, and that was it!

Now, please excuse me while I spend most of this day with deinstalling stuff (Win7 comes with about 30 gigabyte of disk space already taken, and I'm still wondering by what) and installing stuff (I have a huge list of programmes on my old 'puter, and I actually do use quite a few of them).

Thursday, 28 January 2010

It's not spectacular... or is it?

After all the paperweight is off my back for a while ( it will be time for taxes soon - more paperwork), here are some things that are not really spectacular, but give me a nice feeling of something actually moving forwards.

First of all, these dropped-off stitch markers

  - and yes, I use bits of knotted silk thread and an old, single earring - these dropped-off markers mean that I have progressed on my second slouchy hat (with better maths for the hem this time),

and am now almost into the first round of ribbing. This means slipping half the stitches to a holder and knitting the other half. Just what happens here:

Then, there's that other idea that I have had. And now I am swatching - not spectacularly either:

But other things have happened, too. Non-knitting things. Like this:

This is where the seam on the tent is today. Which is almost one metre from where it was yesterday in the early evening, and that means actually almost two metres of stitching done, half by me and half by the most patient man that lives on Earth (I'm sure he must be the most patient man on earth, after all, he lives with me). Only a few metres to go on that first bit! And it looks as if there would be sewing time tonight as well. And tomorrow.

And finally... something spectacularly unspectacular.

They have been fired for a while and are now finally in my workspace. "They" are the ceramic disks that are supposed to go on an equally unspectacular stick and there to serve as a spinning whorl.
For those of you who are not recognising these whorls, originally they were made as the reference whorl of the Textilforum Experiment, and they got a lot of praise for running extremely well. However, the experiment whorls were not intended to be sold, and they were purely functional, including all rough edges and unsmoothed surfaces. These are made for actual use - with smooth edges and smooth surfaces. The whorls are made from modern clay, and with a modern technique - I'm using a specially-made little cookie-cutter-like implement. But that modern procedure is what makes them exactly alike and as close as humanly possible to the weight and MI of the original 12th century whorl, which is what we needed for the experiment. I will weigh them today to make sure they are all on a par, and then they are going into the Marketstall tomorrow.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

More Linky Things!

It's time for me to clear away again that bunch of tabs that have accumulated (I keep tabs open with interesting things to blog about)...

First of all, phiala has started to collect museum databases on her blog and welcomes suggestions for more.

A new issue of dragtjournalen (a free e-journal) has come out - you can download the pdf file on the draktjournalen website.  The issue includes an article by Else Østergård about the history of linen; the whole journal is in Danish.

On other news, I'll be doing a much-looked-forward-to run to the post office today, to post... yes, the proof that has finally been finished! This feels like a huge load off my back. Hooray!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Linky Things

In a recent comment, I found a link to, which seems to be something like Facebook for academics (with listing of papers). Another social platform, just what the Internet needs! Did any of you know about that platform before? Am I the only one who was in the darkness?

To blog in earnest about that, I think it is a brilliant idea to have some sort of academical network like that - you can list books and papers you have read, maybe discuss them with colleagues, follow other people's work, and so on. Just like Facebook is a brilliant idea, keeping track of old colleagues and friends, instant chatting to just drop a word or two, and so on. And like Xing and LinkedIn are brilliant ideas, building a network of business acquaintances and partners, getting recommendations and seeing who trusts whom in business things, and so on. And like Ravelry, where you can connect with knitters you know and new folks, see who knits what, find new pattern ideas, message around, hang out in groups and so on. But is having so many different network platforms still a brilliant idea?

The problem of all this, as I see it: There's too many of them platforms. And each and every platform presence of a person means you need to dedicate time and energy to your place in that network, keeping your status and your information up-to-date, keeping track of your network connections, dropping a comment here and an answer there. And more and more I get the feeling that all those social networks are a good idea, but a great big honking single one would be an even better idea - because the idea of each of these networking sites is to collect everybody into the site and database, and every single platform wants as many people as possible, but my time is limited, and my energy that I am willing to devote daily to my presence on the Net is limited too. And that is exactly why I am blogging, but not going online to check Facebook or Xing or LinkedIn or whatever often: because this blog is my main bit of internet presence, and all the other groups and networks have to take the back seat. With this blog, what I write is there to read for everybody with Internet access and sufficient knowledge of English, and there is no need to be in any of the social network sites - and no need to know in which of these many sites I can be found...

Monday, 25 January 2010

Laptp wes

That title was supposed to read "Laptop woes" - and nw yu can prbably guess what key desn't wrk prperly n my laptp anymre.

Writing that phrase also made me realise why that might be so - it seems as if the letter "O" is a  frequent one in English. Or maybe I have a penchant for using words with that letter often. Maybe I should start a quest to merely utilise different expressions in the future. (I just realised how hard to nigh impossible that is.) 0r empl0y the zer0 instead? N0. N0t a s0luti0n either.

I guess that after many years of using my trusty laptop, it is probably time to look for a replacement... because hitting that key real hard and waiting for it to respond with an O seriously cramps my normally soft-typing writing style...

Friday, 22 January 2010

Yarn. Yum.

More proofreading today. Why on earth did I write so much? Yesterday didn't go so well in terms of reading progress, so I'm hoping for a much better "pages done" number today.

Inbetween and to keep me motivated, I'm knitting a second version of the slouchy hat to test the new maths for the hem/brim part. My prototype hat does fit, but only after vigorous blocking of the hem, which was not what I had originally intended to need - but I wanted that hat, and I wanted to wear it, and if it could be made to fit... well. I am (obviously) very, very much a product knitter, not a process knitter, though I do enjoy the process.
I'm working the new hat in much bulkier wool than the prototype, plant dyed by Sabine in a beautiful, beautiful orange that makes you wonder every second whether it's a friendly, warm and light earthy hue or a sparkling bright dot of colour... and that makes it very, very pleasant to work with. (In addition to that, I am very happy to find that thicker wool on larger needles really knits up much quicker than fine wool on fine needles - even if I still knit slowly, tightly and on smaller needles than recommended for the wool thickness.)

Thursday, 21 January 2010

News about Netting!

A good while ago, I ran a series about medieval hairnets and netting, writing about my experiences and results from working netting both as a spiral and based on real rounds. And I wrote this:
I'd say that an unadorned, simple net might well be worked in a spiral, since it will take very hard looking to see that: In the crown section, there's too much thread on too small an area, and the lower end of the net, if stitched to a band or sporting longer loops for closure, will not be easy to read. For any net that will show different size mesh, colour changes or embroidered patterns, spirals are out of the game, because they are just irregular enough to show.
in that post back there.

For my suspicions about nets worked in true rounds because of colour changes, different-sized mesh and embroidery, I had a prime example in mind - rolling all those treats into one beautiful hairnet that I had already blogged about by that time - this hairnet:

I was, at that time, convinced that this so amazingly regular-looking hairnet must be made in rounds, not in a spiral.


I stand corrected, and many thanks to Cynthia, who studied the net much closer than I did. And gave me a heads-up on my error. Proof that I'm wrong (and that looking at the evidence much more closely than I did in that case is always the right thing to do) was before all of our eyes all the time, because even on that blurry picture, you can see that it was netted as a continuous spiral - if you look at the bit at around 3 o'clock:

Can you see it?

Maybe it's a bit clearer in this picture:

(This comes from HEINEMEYER, ELFRIEDE: "Zwei gotische Frauenhaarnetze." Waffen- und Kostümkunde 1 (1966): 13-22.) There's a jog right beside the upper edge of the little shield motif that is cut by the upper edge of the picture. The one without a partner by its side. And there might even be a single green thread going down from the last green bit to the next green bit, crossing right through the white bit. Which would be totally the thing to do if you couldn't be bothered to cut the green thread just for that little bit of white.

So much for netting in rounds... and I take back what I wrote, and now say:

While you might suspect that netting in the rounds would be more useful for nets with embroidery, different-sized mesh and colour changes, the busy overall pattern of such a net, made in fine threads, distracts the human eye enough from the slight irregularities of the jog that these are only seen when looking very hard or studying a net in detail.

(And now I'll wait for somebody else to prove me wrong again. Bring on your hairnet analysis results - I'm quite in the mood!)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

A Sense of Accomplishment

Meanwhile, back in the lair...
In addition to proofreading and several instances of planning going on in the background, I have finished the hat which is currently blocking (oh why does blocking take so long!) and looks very funny in its being-blocked state; the pattern has been updated and supplied with some more instructions for the fancy parts; photos have been taken of some bits of the process; and if the hat fits perfectly after blocking (which I hope very much), I will be a very, very content knitter.

Proofreading has also progressed nicely, though I have some last pages to read (and the images to look at). And I have caught up with things far enough to start getting back on track with plans for next season's market stall additions... which means a library day. Which means coffee with a good friend in the break. After I did my batch of proofreading...

However, while I am looking at black letters on white paper, I can glance up and see the hat being blocked (and hopefully drying extra-fast), and you can have a look at it, too:

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

I'm so blogging this!

Somehow, during the last few days, I've been saying "oh I'm so blogging this" to a medium-sized bunch of things, only to forget what I wanted to blog about by the next morning when I sat down to actually blog. Well.

I am, however, blogging this, because it's blue and teal and nice and I like nice blue and teal things:

Which is part of a hat I'm currently knitting. Or, to be more precise, part of the lower edge of a hat I am currently knitting. Which will hopefully be finished and blocked and fitting me well and flattering me and keeping my head warm and my ears extra-toasty very soon. (And just in time for the next cold period, since I already missed the first one due to too-slow knitting.)
If it does all of the above, I do intend to have the pattern (yes, I did make a pattern) test-knit and if test knitters don't all run away screaming telling me that is totally not possible, I do intend to publish it on Ravelry.

Oh, and you don't even have to knit a swatch for the pattern. Or graft. (Guess which parts of the knitting process are not my favourites?)

Monday, 18 January 2010

Life Is Good

We have finally managed to resurrect a nice old personal tradition... one that has (sort of) a long (not personal) history before it became almost extinct.

Back in those days long before radio, TV and computers were there to spend the evenings with, but spinning was still a necessity for every rural household, there was a German tradition called "Rockenstube" or "Spinnstube" (literally: "distaff parlour" or "spinning parlour"). These were more or less regular meetings where women (including young women, of course) would get together to spin and chat. As helpers with the chat and other amusements (yes, all kinds) the young men of the community would come along to chat, sing, and do whatever else young people of differing sex might do on an evening that might, in some cases, have drifted off more towards the "party and amusement" thing than to a productive evening of spinning.

As a result of these drifts, Rockenstuben were banned in some regions of Germany, and later, the need for such spinning get-togethers got smaller and smaller until they died out completely. But the basic fact that once was the reason for Rockenstuben still rings true: It is much more fun to do crafty chores in good company than on your own at home.

Which is why, years ago, we introduced the "Hutzenabend" into our lives - "Hutzenabend" being another word for "evening where you get together to do crafty things in company" but less spinning-centred. In our case, we fixed one evening per week and told our crafting friends that that would be the evening where we would sit down and work on our projects, and they were very welcome to join us. I always loved those get-togethers, but after they had run successfully for a while, less and less people came, and finally, we were mostly alone on those evenings - jobs took too much time, folks moved away, other things in life got into the way, and for a while, we had no Hutzenabend anymore. But now, in the new home, we have gone off to a very glorious start with the first one - and I sure hope that our reborn tradition will continue strong from now on!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Help for Haiti

My normal life style does not include lots of reading or listening to the news, but even if you don't try to catch news every day, the big issues sooner or later still come up somewhere. Like the Haiti earthquake.
To help with relief in Haiti, the Yarn Harlot has put up the knit signal (like the bat signal, but with more yarn) and asks for donations to MSF (Médecins sans Frontières, which means Doctors Without Borders).

MSF has been doing great work all over the world for many years, and I personally think that they are one of the best humanitarian organisations to give money to - because besides other reasons, very very little of the donations does go into the overhead, and most goes to where it is needed. So if you have a little money left over, consider giving them a bit - and if you need a better pro-donation pep talk, read Stephanie the Yarn Harlot's blog.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Hooray and Uuuh...

I have safely made it through the text part of the thesis, and now I'm facing the ever-exciting catalogue part. (I've been dreading this a bit, to be honest.)

So I'm creeping along (it feels), and when I don't feel like reading any more and need a break, I'm trying to tackle the rest of the unpacked boxes here. Bit by bit, all the things that got somehow forgotten during the move are now also creeping up on my brain again and remind me of stuff that needs to be done, needs to be done quite urgently and has been needing to be done for ages (or so it seems). So in addition to reading and unpacking/sorting, I'm trying not to feel too overwhelmed.

Well. At least I won't get bored...

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Still reading (of course)

I am slowly but steadily reading and correcting my way through the book. As always, there are passages where nothing is amiss and then a bit where things come in groups, which is keeping the proofing work more or less interesting. I'm almost through the text part now and I hope I won't find a real bad blunder on that last stretch; and afterwards, it's onward to the catalogue, where I'll meet (and read) all those dear garments from all over Europe again. I'm almost half-way, page number-wise, and there are more pictures in the catalogue part, but still I'm in for many more pages (and probably quite a few rounds on the hat during the reading breaks).

Meanwhile, I have a link to share: I have come across the Antique Pattern Library, a page where you can find pdf files of scanned old needlework books. Whether you are looking for crocheting, tattting, knitting or filet patterns, that is a place where you will find something. There's even the reprint of a 1527 Modelbuch (pattern book) with pattern strips for embroidery - and lots more from the late 19th and early 20th century. If you have a thing for old patterns or instructions, that is definitely an online library to check out.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Why, oh why did I have to write so much?

As today's blog entry title hints, I'm wondering what on earth rode me to write that much for my thesis. And from this, you can guess what I'm working on now... no, not a second thesis (thankfully), not even a second book (though I'm tempted to start all that craziness again, I really am), but plain, ol'-fashioned proofreading.

Now, proofreading one's own writing is, as anybody will probably tell you, not easy - because usually you know your own text so well that you just don't see the mistakes anymore. When I try to proof a fresh text of mine, I have an even worse symptom: My brain just switches off after the first words (if the text is really fresh) or sentences (if it has already hung for a while). So I have now discovered one big advantage of the fact that publishing processes are looong processes - I can actually read my thesis again without the brain-shutdown!

On the flip side, though, that also means that I can now read my thesis again and find all those nasty mistakes, unpolished sentences and slightly unconnected paragraphs. And there's lots and lots of text in that book - but I can only read for a finite time before my attention does slag somehow.

And that in turn means that I'm currently getting a lot of knitting done - because I read some, then have a short relaxing break knitting a bit, then I read some more, then I knit a little again, then I read some more... you get the picture. You will get a picture of the knitting one of the next days, too - but for now please excuse me. I have some reading (and knitting) to do.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Proper Winter Weather

This year, there's proper winter weather in our spot of Germany - lots of snow, covering everything with a generous layer of white. There's so much snow that some even stays on the streets, which is quite unusual.

In spite of all the snow and the occasional icy patch, we are still using the bicycles to go anywhere in the city. It's fast (well, we go a little slower in the snow, of course), it's quiet, it's green, the bicycle always starts, and there's never a problem with parking space. Those bikes that we use during the winter get their tires changed in late autumn or beginning of winter - as soon as the conditions hint to possible ice on the roads - and then we merrily cycle through winter on spike studded tires. And these are really wonderful!

If you would like to ride a bike in winter, but don't dare to because of slippery roads, give these a try. Yes, they are rather loud on free road surfaces, but on snow or ice they have wonderful grip and make cycling so much safer. I used to have at least one fall each winter season, where a patch of ice turned up somewhere unexpectedly in a corner, but since we have the winter tires? None anymore. And this year, the tires are especially good to have, with these lots of snow around.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Info Dump.

Somehow I have the feeling that blogging has gotten a little unhinged with all the gaps and holidays during the last weeks - I can't really remember any red thread running through the last time (except those off-blog), there's not much interesting going on here work-wise because I'm still in the taking-things-back-out-of-boxes phase. Well, there are two interesting things going on: Thing number one, we now have bought enough additional shelves that I can take the rest of my books (the work-related books!) out of their boxes and start the process of arranging things on the shelf space, and thing number two, I'm reading the first proof of the thesis-going-book. Nothing spectacular that is good to make a juicy blog post about, though!

But meanwhile, I have received a lot of interesting info bits in the mail or found it on the net.

So, in the hopes of getting back on track with things, here's an info dump...

There will be an international conference and exhibition about natural dyes in France, 2011: the conference webpage.

In March 2009, I gave a little interview for one issue of Huscarl On Air, the radio show from Huscarl, which is a forum and online magazine for the living history scene in Austria. The whole radio show is in German, but if you can understand spoken German, the podcast of this issue has recently been uploaded, and you can get it here.

There is a new database for radiocarbon-dated textiles, hosted by University of Bonn: "An on-line database for 14C-dated textiles (from early times until the end of 1rst millennium AD) is about to be finished. It is undertaken by the Dept. of Christian Archaeology of Bonn university
(Sabine Schrenk [responsible], Frank Albert, Anne-Sophie Lüttge; programmed by Eberhard and
Jan Orzekowsky), in collaboration with the KIK IRPA in Brussels (Mark van Strydonck). "
The makers of the database are actively soliciting data for their project. The database (and all relevant contact info, including a form to get your museum's data into the database) can be found at I think such a database is an absolutely wonderful idea!

And a last personal aside, I have finally caved and subscribed to Ravelry (because it irked me much too much that I would find patterns or photos referenced, but could not take a look at them). If you want to find me there, I go under the moniker "katrinknits" (yes, I know, very imaginative).

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Nesat 11 has a place to be!

First of all, sorry for the unannounced blog silence yesterday - the 6th of January is a holiday in Germany (and I think in several other countries as well), and I got sucked into that holiday spirit so much that I totally forgot to either tell you on the 5th or holiday-blog on the 6th. (Holiday spirit, in this case, means sleeping a little longer, then working on the still-lots-of-unpacked-stuff-situation, with some cake and some knitting sprinkled in.)

Regarding non-knitting, still-textile news, the homepage of NESAT has been updated - NESAT 11 will take place in 2011 in Esslingen, Germany. There is no more info up yet, though - so it's still suspense time!

In case you do not know NESAT (though if you read this blog, chances are you have heard of it), the name is an acronym for "North European Symposium for Archaeological Textiles". The first conference was very small and took place back in the Eighties, and "North European" has since developed to include most of Europe - not only the North. The conferences take place every three years, in a different place, and include about all the big names and lots of juicy, brand-new archaeological textiles science. The publications are absolutely wonderful, and I have spent delightful hours with each and every one from the series (which is listed here).

Last time was the 10th NESAT conference, and it was the first time that the event was "opened up" and participants not giving a paper were allowed in. Before, it was always just a small circle of people, and there was no public call for papers. I think that taking this conference more public was a brilliant move, and it seems that lots of others thought so too - we were over one hundred conference participants. And I hope that NESAT 11 will be as wonderful, exciting and fun as the last one was (and I'll do my very best to be part of the fun).

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

More Knitting (who would have thought it)...

The holidays were a welcome opportunity to get some more knitting done, and not only are the blue let's-try-doubleknitting-socks off the needles (and on my feet today), there is something new on the needles.

But from the beginning.
After getting started on the blue socks, I figured out several things about this double knitting thing. Most important was the fact that if you have both threads running over one index finger and knit, it's always the thread near the stitch worked. For the left sock, it's the thread running on the left side of the needle, and for the right sock, it's the thread on the right. For purl stitches, I take the finger to one side of the needle, and provided that I didn't let the threads on the finger cross each other, it is still the thread nearest the stitch worked. This makes purling and thus ribbing (and all the other fun things) very feasible. With a bit of practice, of course.
I also learned that splitting yarn makes things harder.
And that starting a free-style rib pattern at two places at once was too much for me.
That cabling needs more pre-planning than "I'll just try it", because it will draw in the fabric considerably.
That dark-blue wool with simple to no pattern (I think ribbing does not count as a pattern!) makes for a long, boring knit.
That casting off at the cuff might have gone better with a little more preparation (read: with knowing more about casting off very, very loosely or even better, learning the surprisingly stretchy bind-off).
And it took me most of the way up the ribbed (and very short) leg to figure out that marking one sock and its corresponding working thread with a little bit of contrasting thread would make things much, much easier - because detecting a yarn swap after half a round is much less work in undoing than detecting the yarn swap when it becomes obvious by connecting two socks four or five (or more) rows down.

So now I have deliciously soft, worked toe-up ankle socks in dark blue with a little bit of ribbing in the leg. The outside (knit on the inside) is a bit fuzzy, and at some places I have mangled the yarn a little, but they fit my feet, they are warm, and they have been a real learning experience. And I got the bind-off loose enough that the cuff just goes over my heel and high instep.

After this, I had to start on some new socks. To be completely honest, one of the reasons the blue socks are ankle socks is that I really, really wanted to start those new socks with that wildly variegated yarn we had bought for my stash in London.
And there were several free days spent with friends where chatting (or listening) and knitting went gloriously well together. So this is how the new socks look today:

Again, I have learned several things already on these socks, for example: Cuff-down is a really nice way to work, and I might prefer it to toe-up. It's especially easier to try on cuff-down socks than toe-up socks with this method.
I have large calves (I knew that already) and that means that if I skip swatching, cast on, then realise that the circumference is too large for foot and ankle by about six stitches, I can still go on knitting and just decrease on my way down the leg.
Ribbing is actually nice to work in this method, at least 3x3 ribbing is.
Variegated yarns make double-knitting much, much easier (because chances are good that yarn A and yarn B have slightly different or really different colours at the same time).
It's still necessary (or at least a seriously good idea) to mark one sock and the corresponding working thread with a marker loop. (You can see some pink marker thread on one of the yarn tails and on one of the working yarns on the photo.)
Little knotted loops of cotton or other smooth threads make wonderful stitch markers that get into the way of the needles very little to not at all.
I am easily amused, because watching the yarn change colours is fascinating enough for me to not mind long stretches of the same pattern (or non-pattern), at least not too much.
At least simple lace is very much possible in that method (and loads of fun, too), even if I still need some more practice with handling k2togs - yarn-overs are actually very pleasant to work for two socks at once, and if the stitches are not too tight, I can do a ssk without rearranging the stitches from a-b-a-b to a-a-b-b.
This is fun, and I see more socks in the future. Maybe even lace socks. And cabled socks. And whatever else strikes me as totally unavoidable to knit...

Pattern is Kai-Mei from Cookie A's book "Sock Innovation", yarn is a Supersock yarn from Cherry Tree Hill Yarns in colourway Martha's Vineyard.

I'm sorry if you are a non-knitter and/or not interested in all these knitting posts. But the bug has bit me, I fear...

Monday, 4 January 2010

Welcome 2010!

The year 2009 is over, and I hope you all had a wonderful and smooth transit into 2010!

Last year was a year of beginnings and starts into new adventures for me. I made my first steps in the publishing process of the thesis, I joined forces with Sabine for some textile madness projects (including the Textile Forum in Eindhoven), and 2009 also was my first full year in the freelancing venture. I had an exhibition, I went to several conferences and medieval events I had never been to before, I did some research on new things. I planned and ordered things for the market stall, I planned some workshops, and I acquired skill in some new old techniques - like netting, brocading and a bit of goldwork embroidery. Hey, I even learned how to knit!

So looking back, 2009 seems to have been a good year. I say "seems", since a year of Beginnings is just that - fresh starts with no way to guess how each little thing begun will work out over time. And so I am curious to see what opportunities 2010 will bring to go on with each of these things... because ultimately, 2010 will decide just how good 2009 has been.

I hope we all have a wonderful, interesting and successful year. And to all the rest of things in a year one could wish for, I think nobody wishes it better than Neil Gaiman in his New Year Benediction: