Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Utzenhofen, last part. And time management.

At Schauhuette, the last part about the current excavation in the church has been posted. It's part four, though it will be less interesting for those of you who do not understand German, since it's mostly explanations, no more time-lapse excavation bits.

In completely other news, I have discovered a new programme that is quite useful for freelancers, or for anyone else who wants to track computer-use time. It's called ManicTime, the smaller version is free, and it tracks the applications that you open and how long you spend on them. No starting or stopping of a time-tracking tool needed, plus you can see how long you procrastinated by hanging out on facebook or reading webcomics or whatever.

And while I'm at it, here's another very useful tool: AntiTwin. It looks for file duplicates in one or more folders and has a really convenient possibilities to sort out files for deletion. Freeware for private users too - life is good.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Budget Cuts in EU?

Nobody can do research without money. Because researchers, like all other people, need to sleep (preferably somewhere dry and not too cold), to wear something (yes, really) and to eat something (not only chocolate, though it should be in there somewhere if you ask me). And all that needs some money.

If you are more or less involved in museums, archaeology research facilities or similar institutions, you will know that money is always scarce there. I remember being a student helper when I was still studying; we'd get paid for doing necessary preparatory work for papers such as taking and sorting slides, or helping when there was a conference. There was scarcely enough money to pay for the work that really needed to be done. Nobody doing a phd would have a chance of getting paid from the Uni - either you got funding somewhere else, or you were self-funded. You had a chance to get a work space (as in "a table") in one of the department's rooms, though they were limited, and you had to bring your own computer.

There's no law that says good research cannot be done with a low budget. But a low budget is severely limiting research in several ways: time, resources, possibilities, presentation.
Someone researching topic X with no money for it has to provide not only for the necessities of life, but also for the research. Books and articles are expensive, as are trips to libraries further away. All this has to be paid for - or our researcher has to do without. Time has to be spent on other, paid work. No funding also means little possibility to use newer analysis methods. And finally, no funding as in "you pay for going to that conference* all by yourself" means fewer possiblilties to exchange knowledge and experience with other researchers, limiting not only that one person's research, but also its impact. (Even worse when the conference has no funding and thus publication takes ages and ages and ages. Ask me how I know.)

Why am I writing all this? The next summit of the EU heads of states on 22-23 November 2012 will be a decisive step in determining the EU research budget for the next seven years. The conditions are not favorable: the financial crisis has put severe constraints on the national budgets and several countries, in particular the "net-payers", are demanding cuts on the total EU budget. Research and innovation will compete with other policy priorities.

Fourty-two Nobel Laureates and five Fields Medallists (something like Nobel, but for Maths folks) have written an open letter urging the EU to keep funding research. This has turned into a petition that you can sign here - and then join me in hoping this will be enough to keep the EU from cutting budget.

* The conferences are not as pricey as, say, medical conferences usually are - but still: you need to sleep somewhere, you need to eat something, you need to get there and back again, and pay the conference fee. Conferences (and I so love going to them) are one of the big spending points in my budget.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Knitting Link.

For those of you who would like to insert zippers into your knitting but do not want to sew them in, I can recommend going to Techknitter's blog and taking a look at her solution... nifty.

Speaking of knitting: My pair of Alice's illusion socks is actually nearing their point of completion. I am planning very, very much on finishing them before New Year (or I will have been dragging them around for more than one year).
Somehow, this shows how little knitting I have managed to do this year. I hope next year will be a bit better, or one day I'll run out of socks...

Friday, 26 October 2012

Sheep Shearing. Muahaha.

Some problems you can solve with scissors. Or shears. Like getting the wool from sheep.
Some problems you can solve with maths. Like how much to charge for shearing a sheep.

Now, a lot of textile people are not so very fond of maths - maybe this would be a good suggestion to make maths textbooks more textile-people friendly:

Shear transformation, anyone?


Thursday, 25 October 2012

More actual archaeology.

You remember the post about the actual digging out of a skeleton? A second part of this has now been put online by Mattis Hensch of the Schauhuette:

And there's one more video of the anthropological examination of the skeleton as well - you find the link to the video here.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Yarn made this possible!

If you are interested in Vikings and Viking Archaeology, you probably know that there is L'Anse aux Meadows, a Norse or Viking settlement in Canada. This was the first, and up to now only, known proof for the arrival of the Norse in Vinland (that's how they seem to have called the fabled continent way, way over the sea).

Now I have stumbled over an article published in National Geographic, and there is a second settlement where finds very, very strongly indicate that it was not made by indigenous population. The finds are from Baffin Island, in Canada, far above the Arctic Circle and north of Hudson Bay. Archaeologist Patricia Sutherland looked at the finds, made in the 1980s by a missionary, in the archive of a museum in Quebec in 1999 - and found out that the yarn which was part of the finds is a match for thread finds from the Norse colony in Greenland. Since the indigenous people of Baffin Island did not spin, this is the first very strong hint it was a Norse colony.

Recent excavation in the place seem to corroborate this - they found whetstones. But isn't it nice that the yarn finds opened up the way?

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Joy of Sourcing Ingredients.

Debbie of the Mulberry Dyer has blogged about Cream of Tartar that is part of quite a few historical dye recipes, and of some modern ones, too. It seems that some dye retailers want their customers to buy the tartar in their own shops and not in the grocery store, so they say that the cream of tartar used for baking is the wrong chemical.

Well, that's nasty behaviour - since it isn't. Go read Debbie's blog about that. It also includes some more info on what the stuff is, chemically, and where it comes from. (Wikipedia has some more, and different, info as well.) The German name is much clearer about this - it calls the chemical "Weinstein", literally translating as "Wine Stone". And that's exactly how you can find it: As small crystals or stones on the bottom of wine barrels or sometimes wine bottles or sometimes even in grape juice. We get our grape juice as 5 l bag-in-box thingies, either red or white, from the Weingut Hechler - and I have found tartar in there once the bag was empty.

So if you need tartar for something... here is your perfect excuse to get some wine or good grape juice.

Monday, 22 October 2012

I'm back.

I am back from a wonderful and relaxing few days with friends, spent chatting, eating, laughing and playing lots and lots of wonderful (board-)games. This was just what I had needed - and now I will get back to work. There's emails to be read, books to be catalogued, and papers to be prepared!

And since it's a long while since I last posted a link to this, it's time to mention the Handweaving Archive again. The site hosts a lot of old instructive and informative texts not only regarding weaving and weaving techniques, but also other textile techniques. It's a good site to know, and a place to spend lots and lots of time in.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


Summer is over, all the leaves are turning into colourful leaves (except those that have died of the cold already, like the morning glory in the garden), it's getting cold in the evening and the night, and my consumption of hot caffeinated beverages... no, it's not more frequent. But that's not due to the weather.

Things, otherwise, are progressing here as well: The achilles tendon of the most patient husband of them all is slowly healing, the heaps of washing after the season have been cleared away, the bookkeeping has been done, and I am in the middle of planning sessions for conferences and other activities in the near and middle future - among them a trip to Cardiff to the experimental archaeology conference there.

Just now, however, I will take a few days off. Things have been rather hectic around here since before the Textile Forum, and now that the most urgent stuff has been dealt with, I will take a little time to regenerate. I will be back on the blog on Monday.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Oh noes.

Now that it's getting later in the year, cooler, with less pollen hanging out in the air and being possible provokers of allergic reaction, what does our little cat do? She goes and coughs again. Despite getting allergy medication already. Gah.

So we'll be off to the vet (again), trying to find out how bad it is and what we can do against it. Just what I needed to make my scheduling today a little more difficult.

Apart from the coughing, though, she's fine. A little stressed maybe, due to a red tom hanging out in our garden - he's obviously interested in getting to know her a little better, but she is not interested in him, it seems. We're very curious to see if it will develop into a cat friendship or not.

Monday, 15 October 2012

See real archaeology! In time-lapse!

My lovely colleague Mattis Hensch (who has the Schauhuette blog) has done it again and made a wonderful video-blog that is really worth watching. It's the first part of a time-lapse of how a skeleton is dug out.

The grave is in the choir of the previous church, a Romanesque building, of St. Vitus in Utzenhofen (Lkr. Amberg-Sulzbach). They have found a grave in the place where the altar would probably have been situated, and they are uncovering the skeleton now, hoping for some help in dating it.

The text is German, but you can watch it even if you don't understand the language - you will still see actual archaeological work. Click this link to see how it's done with trowel and vacuum cleaner!

There will be a second part of the excavation documentation coming up soon, and I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of it.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Seriously? Really?

You can do a lot of funny studies in science, I knew that before. You can also do studies that are... interesting but maybe not so very helpful.

There has been a recent one about chocolate consumption. Even if you are not reading up on the newest health insights regularly, you stumble across stuff. I only snap up things from time to time and more or less by chance - such as that coffee has now become a very healthy drink that might even reduce the risk for depression), but only if you drink enough (as always) and not too much. (And do they realise there's a difference between US coffee, normal coffee and Swedish coffee? As in one cup of Swedish coffee probably equals ten cups of US coffee?)

But this is the weirdest study I have seen in a while. Someone (an M.D., to be precise) actually tried to link a nation's collective cognitive functions to chocolate consumption, on something that is not a very wide or, in my opinion, good database. Erm. I would not have drawn the same conclusions as the author from the results of the study as shown in the graphic. I'll just say "too little data error". Getting a Nobel Prize is, moreover, definitely not only a result of superior cognitive functions. Anyone else think publications, politics, luck? And what about the collective cognitive function in those countries where there is no record about chocolate consumption? And what about consumption of the other flavonoid-containing foodstuffs listed right at the start of the article? Gah.

Anyways - one of the studies cited in that article had really come to the conclusion that cocoa (and thus, chocolate, in a way) improves cognitive function under certain circumstances. So... should I print out that article abstract to use as an excuse when I have a chocolate binge? Or should I just continue as always? Oh, the choices science gives us...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Chaos before the Order. Hopefully.

After the end of a summer and market season, it's the same procedure every year: Washing the things that need to be washed, setting apart the things that need repairing or, worse, replacing; cleaning and oiling the wood stuff before putting it into storage; figuring out where goes what thing for the winter.

Well, this time, I sort of got the idea that I could use the opportunity to thoroughly re-order the stashing places for all the living history/market stall things. Add to this the fact that I have more tools now (spinning wheel and tablet-weaving frame), this has become quite necessary. The re-ordering also means that I have finally tackled to sort and organise my work books better. There were times when looking for a specific book meant just grabbing it from the shelf. Then came the times when I had to search for a little... but nowadays, the number has grown so much that looking for a book, but not finding it happened more than once. That irks me, plus I tend to get panicked that I lent that book to someone and have never gotten it back.

The result of all this? More chaos. But hopefully only transitory chaos that will lead to a new and better order for books and things! And less stuff on the floor, in temporary not-so-well-suited-storage places, or in random stacks on my desk.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Spindles, spindles!

On the website of Uni Innsbruck, there is a nice little spindle typology. It's bilingual, and it includes sub-sites with pictures and descriptions of spindles from about all around the world, plus some additional picture galleries.

If you enjoy looking at spindles, that site is really worth a visit!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Linky Things and Stuff.

Since the Dyeing Experiment at the Forum went so well, Heather Hopkins and I are considering to present it in Cardiff in January next year. Which means a trip to Cardiff - I've never been to Wales before, and being quite fond of Dr Who and Torchwood, this is even more of a reason to go there.

Today, though, the first (and actually most important) thing on my list is to wrap up the bookkeeping for the quarter and send off the VAT forms to the tax folks. Work I love... not, but sadly, it's necessary. (Good thing about it? Having to send off the forms forces me to keep the books up to date and well sorted.)

And while I'm sweating about little numbers black and red, you might enjoy this:

There is a digital charter archive sponsored by the DFG, online. I don't know how good the English translation of the page really is, but the charters are not English anyways... the database seems to be searchable, and they are working on expanding it with more items. Go see the "Virtuelles deutsches Urkundennetzwerk" if that sounds interesting to you.

Since I was speaking of Cardiff: The call for papers for the Experimental Archaeology Conference is still running, so if you want to participate, you have until November. More info is on their blogsite (I'd say website, but it runs on blog software).

Going to Cardiff = travel. Travel = interesting topic. Archaeologik has posted a picture of a medieval arterial road without firm surface, and I think it looks spectacular.

And finally, making access to unavailable and out-of-stock books possible seems to slowly spread - which is a totally wonderful thing! The book that I last heard about is this one:
Johannes Müller und Reinhard Bernbeck (Hrsg.): Prestige - Prestigegüter - Sozialstrukturen. Beispiele aus dem europäischen und vorderasiatischen Neolithikum. If you read German and are interested in social status and representative goods as factors in social interaction, you should probably get it.

That's it for today from here!

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Opening of LEA

I've mentioned the new Lab for Experimental Archaeology quite a bit on this blog already, mostly in context with the Textile Forum, and I hope to have reasons to mention it in the future at least as often. It's a wonderful concept that fits in perfectly with the Textile Forum and with a lot of the work regarding spinning and textile techniques that I have been doing, merging crafts knowledge and practical craft with scientific methods and archaeological research.

Friday, 5 October 2012

There, something happened.

As usual, there was the discussion in Tannenberg. You know the one. The one about pricing of goods and services in the historical crafts sector.

I've had this discussion so often now that sometimes I fail to fire up, but most of the times I still get going and tell people what I think. (You can read what I think - I have posted a series about fair prices in crafts a while ago, the link is in the sidebar.)

Sabine of the Wollschmiede and I have been preaching this for a few years now, and at some unknown point during this time started to half-jokingly refer to us as frontpersons of the "Liga gegen Selbstausbeutung im historischen Handwerk" (League against economic self exploitation in historical crafts). Well, we actually started out referring to the textile crafts, but it soon became clear it's not limited to this (even though there's more to that specific minefield).
In Tannenberg, I made the joke again, within hearing of a few more friends and colleagues - and they loved the concept. I was promptly told that yes, they'd join the League, and a logo was needed.

So from all this, a facebook page has come into being, and there's a logo free for everyone declaring him- or herself a member or supporter, to copy (using any materials and tools and technique) and display at the sales table, the stall or wherever else.

We hope to help with the discussion of fair wages for historical crafts with this, and I hope it will enable more crafters to actually charge a proper, living wage for their professional work - and keep some hobbyists from breaking prices because they are "just doing it for fun". After all, it's even more fun if you get respect for the work, and paying a fair price is one form of showing respect.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

This was the Summer Season 2012.

The market in Tannenberg was a sunny, relaxed and very funny ending to a nice summer season of 2012. Now it's really getting to be autumn, the days are noticeably shorter, it's getting cool early in the evening, and the leaves are turning yellow and red.

I'm back home and now there's the usual work stuff to be done after a season - cleaning, checking and repairing all the things used during the summer, re-organising storage to make enough space for the new things (such as the Great Wheel), thinking about changes or additions to the assortment of goods to sell, and so on.

And in addition, there are some exciting ideas for new projects in my mind and some of them already half in planning... it will stay interesting. For today, though, all I have planned is to clean as much of the medieval gear as possible.