Friday, 30 March 2012

IRM today.

Today is setup day for the IRM fair on Saturday and Sunday... so I am occupied in shifting stuff around, repeatedly, and setting up all the things and materials and info materials that Sabine and I brought. It's the first fair of this kind for me, so I am pretty excited and totally do not know what I have gotten into - though I suspect I will know more on Sunday evening.

If you are in the region, why don't you stop by tomorrow or Sunday? It's the Roman Villa in Perl-Borg, and Sabine and I will be standing in Room 9, the Laubad.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

More being on the road. And an unexpected modern history lesson.

Today is the day when I pack for the IRM - which means I have to do some last-minute printing, sorting, and stuffing things into boxes before stuffing them into the car. Yes, I have a list to help me packing. And no, I'm not sure I put everything on that list that should be on there... so it will still be interesting. Plus my foot is still acting up a little (though I don't know where and how I damaged it), so hauling things will probably take a bit longer than normal.

Apart from this, I have just finished an update to the online shop software after a nice client sent me a heads-up yesterday that registration was not possible due to some weird error. My test registration worked, so I hope everything is in good order again now - I will check the language files and tweak the template, if necessary, once I am back from the IRM. (Sometimes, having a staff including a sys admin and shopkeeper would really, really be nice.)

And on a completely unrelated note: Did you know that we already must have had World War 11? And a good while ago, too? No? Me neither - until I received a Nigeria Scam version that totally enlightened me. Here's a snippet of it, emphasis mine:

I am leading a group of other top system analyst/programmers to develop and launch a new fire-wall at the UN`s Central Data Facility, in Geneva.

We have been here since July of 2011 and due to complete our assignment at the end of the year. Sometime in October last year I accidentally stumbled on a
secluded data base containing detailed information of individuals and families whose wealth were confiscated at the end of World War11.

Ever since this discovery, I have been on the look out for any new information and development. Just recently, I noticed that the United Nations have been
systematically releasing these seized individual and family wealth back to relatives and descendants of those originally affected. Those mostly affected were
Germans, Jews alike, and other Nationals that were found or assumed to have supported the Nazi Regime.

On further research I found out that your name matches with one of the listed family names in the said data base, hence am contacting you to inform you of
this and to also find out if you have any knowledge that the wealth of your ancestors was confiscated at the end of WW11. 
Now... I know that I'm not very good at keeping up with modern politics and what is going on in the world, but I think I would know about 9 world-wide wars that took place before I was born... no?

Moral of the Story: Sometimes, randomly clicking on the mails in your spam folder before deleting them can be totally worth it!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Nice stove ceramics, anyone?

It's time for a link again, and today I have a very non-textile link. There is a new (German-language) online mag about stove ceramics and their history, complete with gallery and quite a lot of info. You can find it at, and you find its navigation links in the blue bar on top of the page (my screen shows it as blue writing on blue-ish background, so it took me a while to find it).

If you're interested in this sort of thing, go check it out. You should also go and have a look at the gallery if you are not interested in ceramics, but like to see pictures of dragons, half-naked ladies, men and women wearing 16th century headgear, men on horses and nice ornaments. (In this case, click on "Galerie" and enjoy.)

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Uh. Oops.

It took most of yesterday to catch up with emails and get my brain back onto something resembling a track, and it feels like I should already start packing and preparing again - for the IRM on the weekend. This mostly means planning what I want to show and what I want to emphasise in my assortment of goods and services, making a list of things to take so nothing important will stay here by accident, and taking care of the urgent things to do around here.

(Now... is clearing the desk considered urgent if I still have enough space to type? Probably not. Though it feels like I should set aside a whole day one of these days to do some clearing, and sorting, and probably filing or discarding of lots of the paper around me.)

Plus I'm struggling with my youtube account which seems to have forgotten that I exist. Or that it exists. Or both. The channel is still there, but I cannot log on to it, and I don't even get a new password sent when I try. Should I be able to get it to run, I can decide how to edit the video of my talk in Vienna and how best to upload it. (It needs editing because, as a good soul just told me, I have made a horrendous mistake in a calculation that I put into the presentation. Uh. Oops. So no uploading it un-edited, and I will still have to decide how to fix the problem, which is present on two slides...)

Monday, 26 March 2012

Back from Conferencing.

I'm back - and it's nice to be home again, even if both my ventures were absolutely fantastic. The weather was fabulous, the people were incredibly nice, there was delicious food both in South Tyrol and in Vienna, and the conference in Vienna went very well.

It was, to my great delight, a different crowd from "the usual" - since I often go to archaeological or experimental archaeological conferences, or to textile archaeology conferences, you sort of start knowing a lot of the people who turn up there. Which is very nice and enables one to re-connect and catch up with each other, but on the other hand limits new input you can get. This was quite different this time, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As well as the lovely reception we got given in Vienna town hall and the Grand View tour on the rooftop of the Natural History museum (with the most splendid weather imaginable) - and of course meeting some of my friends again.

And then I came back from the conference in Vienna to a garden that is slowly filling up with blooming spring flowers and fantastic weather. Now I only have to get through the gazillion emails in my in-box and get back on track for the things that need to be done urgently... which includes the fine-tuning of plans for the IRM the coming weekend. Which I might just do sitting in the garden this afternoon, since it is pretty warm and sunny! These are the joys of being a freelancer...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Off to new adventures!

I'm off to meet friends, celebrate the anniversary of the ArcheoParc in Val Senales, my mum's birthday, the successful reconstruction of three Hallstatt bands in Vienna and speak at the 3000 years of colour conference. All during the next ten days or so.

Which means, of course, that I will spend most of the time somewhere else - with just a short pit stop here inbetween travels. And this means no blogging for this time.

I will be back on March 26, after having had fun and adventures and good times, and I hope you will have those too!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Augenmaß und Handgewicht...

Doc, over at Medieval Cookery, posted a nice entry titled "The Measure of a Cook".
The TL;DR: Measuring helps, and even if an experienced cook does not measure using an item, there's still some hand-eye-measuring going on. Pure "cooking from the heart", when done by a novice, can go spectacularly wrong due to lack of this built-in measuring and lack of experience of how something should look, feel or behave. And when we are talking about historical recipes, most of us, even experienced cooks, will count as novices since we just don't know how the concoction described in the text was supposed to behave and taste.

I find Doc's observations very true - measuring really does help, and it is more important if you lack experience with the kind of food you are trying to prepare. On the other hand, I have made the experience that some (novice) cooks will stick to a given recipe down to the last letter, including perfectly substitutable or omissable ingredients even if they do not like their taste at all. And that is... not so good either.

I am one of those lucky folks who got a good grounding in how cooking works back at home, when I was quite young. The first thing I learned how to cook was noodle soup - because it is so easy. You put in some stock, get it to boiling, just add noodles and wait a few minutes. I also remember, vividly, that I made some on my working mini child's play stove one day, and then forgot about it until it had cooked to noodles, no soup. (It was still edible, though.) I was sad about that - and then got told that yes, things like that just happen once in a while when you cook, and it's no big deal.

I learned that it's good to have a recipe with measurements as a guideline, but that they are not set in concrete, and it is perfectly okay to experiment a little, or to substitute ingredients if you do not have or do not like something. And that once in a while, things will not turn out quite as they should - but that those failures are just a part of life, and most times the food will still be edible if not very yummy, and in our age it's not too big a deal. (It was back in post-war times. My gran tells this story where someone found a pot of grease left by US soldiers and used it to fry a portion of potatoes in it. Unfortunately, it was non-edible grease for leather, and thus the fried potatoes were non-edible as well. That was a really, really big deal.)

When I started to cook stuff for groups while not in the safety of my home kitchen - especially out on living history ventures - I started seeing measurements even more as guidelines. I remember making dough for waffles without any measuring tools apart from counting out four eggs and adding other stuff until the consistency was about right, and the waffles turned out really well. But yes, that is only possible when you know how a given sort of dough should look, or what the right consistency for this or that is. And then you do measure with your eyes and hands and experience.

A friend who was a professional cook once told me "Augenmaß und Handgewicht verläßt die deutsche Küche nicht" (measuring by eye and weighing in the hand will not leave the German kitchen), and I say this to myself whenever I'm not going to measure - because I do not have the implements, or because I am feeling frisky. And I have some recipes that just state what the ingredients should be and how they should be treated and combined, but no amounts - because when I make that Irish Stew or that "Szegediner Gulasch", I will buy and cook an amount of potatoes, peas and carrots to fill the bellies and an amount of meat that will add flavour and interest but will not empty my pocket too much.

And today I'm feeling really lucky that I have learned this approach to cooking. Thanks, Mom. And Dad. And Gran.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Happy Pi day to you!

It is March 14 - 3/14 in the US notation. And since 3.14 are the first three digits of π, that makes today the Official Pi Day.

Just in case you are not a maths person, π (pi) is used to calculate, among other things, the circumference of a circle or the volume of a cylinder. Which will be a good thing to know if, say, you are doing the maths for building a spinning wheel. Or calculating the drive ratio of your wheel, and figuring out how to change it to a ratio you want. Or calculating weight and MI of spindles from a given material for a spinning experiment. Plus - I love pie. The edible kind.

If you're now frantically looking for some way to celebrate Pi Day, you can find some more information on this website. Look under "Pi Stuff" to find amusing snippets of all sorts. Or just prepare your favourite pie recipe and celebrate pi day. (And if you need an excuse for a prolonged lunch break or very early coffee break, you can always say you need to celebrate Pi Day at the correct time - at 1.59 pm.)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


I have a stack of things to read, I have to pack and prepare for a visit to a friend on the weekend, there's an almost finished presentation that I need to go through a few more times and wrap up, and I have dentist appointment in an hour.

In other news, our garden looks much different - not only due to spring now finally coming and doing stuff to the plants, but also because we ripped out an old evergreen hedge which will be replaced by something not-evergreen, not as wide and not as dense as the old one, to let a little more light and a feeling of a larger space live in our garden. A few of our friends came on Saturday to help us with this, and together we managed to remove all the hedge plants - a little more than 25 metres of hedge, so we could all feel we had done some work in the evening.

Unfortunately, the hedge is not the only thing that will not see the next spring - the little rosemary plant we bought last year has not survived the winter with its quite extreme temperatures. I'm a little sad, but I hope this is the only freeze death in the garden - there are a few other plants which are not yet getting back into the action, so it will stay interesting on that front.

To even out these losses, the offset bulbs of all the tulips I replanted last autumn (to give them a little more space) seem to happily live and grow in their various new spots now. And the first three sunflower seedlings have finally broken through the soil in my nursery pots. Plus we now have a red currant plant. I grew up with several red currant plants in our garden, and strawberries and raspberries and cherries, and while I can live without a cherry tree if necessary (and buy cherries at the market) I really miss the other three when I do not have them in the garden.  So things are looking up now, currant-wise. Hooray!

Monday, 12 March 2012


On Saturday, March 10, a castle in Slovakia - Krasna Horka - was badly damaged due to fire. Cause of the fire was possibly burning grass on the slopes close to the castle that somehow managed to ignite the wooden roof shingles.

The castle was a tourist attraction and newly restored - it only opened again for the public last year. It contained a museum as well - now probably mostly lost. It's a tragedy - and one that has been handled like all tragedies are handled in our age: it has been filmed.

So if you have always wondered what it looked like when a castle burned in the past - you can now watch and see. (There are plenty more videos on youtube about it, by the way.)

h/t to schmalenstroer's blog

Friday, 9 March 2012

Order. Order!

In spite of my giving sometimes a very different picture, I am not always a very orderly or organised person. Yes, I like to be prepared for stuff, but sometimes things escape me. And sometimes I just let a "that should work... somehow... possibly" solution go on way, way too long.

I have just finished sorting all the stuff I took home from the conferences of the past years. Usually, you get handed a little something - a bag or even a canvas bag or a folder - stuffed with a little info about the place you are, the conference programme, museum leaflets, an attendants address' list, and other papery stuff. Now, I have solved the note-taking-and-finding conundrum some years ago when I started to write down all notes from a conference in a single book I made just for that purpose. The papery stuff handed out? I had put them into a magazine file thingie to keep them all together somehow. I have now put all of it (including older notes and stray notes taken on loose leaf paper) into one large ring binder, sorted by conference, and gotten rid of all the old ad leaflets and brochures. And that made me realise... I went to a lot of conferences during those last years. I suspect I may have missed one or two, but during the last years, I almost always went to two conferences each year.

Now I only need to find all the printed-out or scribbled-down notes for the different presentations I gave at the various conferences and put those into a ring binder... and I will be all sorted and have a new, nice, relatively future-proof system. Whew.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Iron Man was a Fe-Male.

Google tells me that today is International Women's day.

So, just in case that you have not seen Joss Whedon's acceptance speech for Equality Now yet, I think it sums up a lot of things beautifully, and I really recommend it.

I also really recommend Firefly (should you be into SF at all, or even if you are not into it) - there's wonderful, wonderful characters in this series, and four of the nine core cast members are women. Plus some interesting baddies as well. It's a wonderful thing to watch, and it's a wonderful source for a lot of really nice (and geeky) quotes. And Joss Whedon really writes great strong women characters (and I don't care why).

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Technology in Archaeology!

This landed in my email inbox yesterday:

Dear all,

We are glad to inform you that it will be possible to follow the international workshop An integration of use-wear and residues analysis for the identification of the function of archaeological stone tools, “La Sapienza” University of Rome, 5th – 7th March 2012  live on the website

Everybody is welcome to participate, actively or not, in the discussion sessions using the chat.
So in case you read this in time, you can have a look. In case you are too late (or not interested in stone tool use wear analysis), you can still join me in thinking this a really awesome and really cool thing. Live streaming and interactive discussion on conferences! Welcome to the future! Yay!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

... and even more links.

If you are looking for some place to test your fibre identification skills, you might want to take a look here - and see if you can recognise these cellulosic fibres.

For those of you not only interested in squishy soft textiles, but also in hard stone, there is a Flintknapper Symposium on May 30 - June 2 in the Archaeoparc in the Schnalstal (click link for pdf with info).

And finally, I found out yesterday that Wikipedia (while it can be really, really useful to quickly get a basic idea of something) seems to be a quite not-so-friendly place behind the scenes, editing wars and all. There's an article on Sue Gardner's blog about why women do not edit wikipedia (there are less than 15% openly female contributors to English wikipedia), though the reasons given would apply not only to women, but also to men.
I find this sad. It also makes me think that maybe it would be helpful to do some wikipedia editing... but I have absolutely no desire at all to enter into editing wars, or to work hard at something and then see it disappear again.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Sprang! Tabletweaving! Links!

A few days ago, I stumbled across this sprang object in the Met museum, dated to 1450-1500. Late medieval sprang again, isn't that nice? And patterned too...

And if you are more into tabletweaving: Amalia has posted photos and information about a tablet-weave from Estonia. It's the border of an 13-14th century shawl or stole, a beautiful piece, and you should totally check it out.

(You should have clicked that link. Really. Not only because it's a beautiful textile, but also because I have nothing more to say here today.)

Friday, 2 March 2012

It all comes together... I hope.

Yesterday saw me working on a few open questions at once in the library in Bamberg, including pondering a few spinning wheel questions. There's a lot of speculation abounding in regard to the output possible on a hand-spindle, on a Great Wheel and on a modern treadled flyer spinning wheel. There are also quite a few (modern) depictions, descriptions and interpretations of the Great Wheel that do not at all fit in with the image I have in mind of that Wheel: a specialised, highly productive tool for the textile industry, with some very specific caveats and disadvantages, but also with a significantly higher rate of output than the spindle.

All these ponderings are not only in connection with the wheel project - a part of them will also find a little space in the presentation for the conference in Vienna. And all this research is finally solving a few questions I had for a long time.

One is yet unsolved, though. How do I attach the wheel rim to the spokes (or vice versa)? I don't want it all to wobble or fall apart, but I also do not want to risk damage when the wood deforms a little due to changing conditions. Input and speculation (or description of how your Great Wheel, should you have one, keeps its rim and spokes together) is very welcome.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

More thoughts wheeling in my head.

I have not yet finished with the planning for the wheel - I know which wood I will use, I have most of the dimensions figured out, so there's details and unsolved questions left - like "how much tension will my drive band need, and do I have to build in something acting as a brace or stabiliser for the main upright".

Also, there's the question of how I am going to procure the strip of wood necessary for the wheel rim. In contrast to winding wheels or modern treadled wheels, the Great Wheel has a slim but wide, lightweight strip of wood serving as the rim. Which I can either cut out or plane out of a board with normal thickness, or try to buy, saving me the work. So next step in line: find out if there is somewhere near me where I can buy it, at an affordable price and with measurements matching my requirements (and then figure out whether the whole strip, uncut and not yet bent, will fit into the car).