Thursday, 28 February 2013

Science is a cool thing.

Thanks to a colleague tweeting, I stumbled across this really nice article about really nice research regarding the influence of our culture on how we perceive, for example, fairness. Or see the world. Or how easily we are fooled by optical illusions.
The research team's paper is titled "The Weirdest People in the World?”, it's 58 pages long (well, including the abstracts) and available for free online (just click the link).

When I read the article, I was instantly reminded of Chimamanda Adichie's speech about the danger of a single story... which sort of goes into the same direction. It's also a beautiful speech, and very thought-provoking, and I can really recommend it.

In case you have no time or no desire to follow those links, I can tell you in a nutshell what I personally am going to take away from this: It's hard to judge people from a distance; it's easy to fall into your own preconceptions that are based on your own background; it's way too easy to suppose that everyone else will see things similarly to you while that is probably not the case. And the further you get away from your own culture the greater the differences will probably be. Which also applies to getting away from your own culture in time - with the added complication that you can travel to pacific islands and try to figure out the cultural differences, but you can't travel back to the ninth century to do the same. So, just to be on the safe side, we should suppose that those medieval folks did think, and act, and perceive things much differently from us today.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

New workshop dates!

Planning the season has progressed enough for me to set a few new workshop dates!

These are, in short:
A workshop in Piacenza, Italy, in English language on April 13/14;

two single-day embroidery workshops in German language in Erlangen, on May 18 (counted work) and May 19 (picture embroidery);

a two-day workshop to tailor a garment in Erlangen, October 19 and 20.

For the workshops in Erlangen, you can book your place starting now - just follow the links for more information and booking possibilities. And if you have a special project or a group of like-minded friends, why not arrange a private lesson or a private mini-workshop? Contact me per email if you are interested!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Almost. Aaaaalmost.

There are things that are fast and easy to do, there are things that aren't, and then there are things that will just gobble up all the available time and then some. Just like most of yesterday was gobbled up by finalising that reviewed (and thoroughly re-worked) paper.

The most interesting thing about it? The three proofreaders (thanks again! you did great work) sometimes totally agreed on which phrasing was totally crappy, and sometimes totally did not agree. I got to pick and choose, somehow.

So today I'll spend a half hour more on the last bit of the thing, finalising it for submission, and then I will get rid of it. Finally. Whew.

It makes me wonder, however. How much time is writing a paper supposed to take? I suspect there will be a huge range of timespans eaten by paper-writing, and probably time spent is not correlating directly to paper length. Or even paper importance.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Oh snowy Monday. With links.

I woke up today to a wintry-looking world again - it has snowed more than 12 cm by now, snow is still falling, and everything is covered in a soft, fluffy layer of white. The cat has ventured out anyway, and she will probably be quite wet when she comes back. But that's not what you are here for, right? You are here for... juicy links. Here you go.

Coming up in the V&A in March is a new exhibition called "Treasures of the Royal Courts", showing among other things treasures from the court of Henry VIII.

And in case you prefer reading about stuff right now instead of looking at it some time in March: I have recently re-discovered a link to the Electronic Theses Online Service the British Library offers. You can search the EThOS database for authors, keywords, the usual; and quite a few of the theses are downloadable for free.

Finally a little bit of curiosity: have any of you experience with spinning on a spindle held (and turned) in the hand? If so, what do you like about that technique - are there advantages to turning in hand compared to a suspended spindle?

Friday, 22 February 2013


It's a good thing that it is finally Friday - somehow, this week feels like it's been chock-full of activities of all different sorts.

Which it probably does because yes, it was chock-full of activities. Remember that to-do-list thingie I posted about last week? (In case you did not, here's a blogpost elsewhere that nicely explains it.) I'm still using it, and for the first time in ages I am not feeling only daunted by a very long list of things I have to keep track of and have to keep care of. Instead, I have been getting a sense of achievement by getting stuff done - some (relatively few, though) of my to-dos from the huge list have been dealt with (though most have led to more items being added in turn). What, to me, is even better: I have managed very well to get my "dailies" done. Dailies are small tasks that you set yourself for daily repetition, such as "sort books on shelf for 10 min".

Which means there has been noticeable progress in the sorting of the library (aka the bookshelf behind me). Noticeable progress in looking through a very old bookmark list. And very noticeable progress in me sticking to doing at least some shoulder and neck exercises to keep those computer-work tensions at bay. Keeping track of these little things and motivating myself to do a small bit every day, nibbling away at very large and time-consuming tasks, is something that I have been remarkably bad at in the past. Sticking with doing ten minutes of book sorting (and entering book titles into the database) for more than one week? That, for me, is really very good.

So this little to-do list tool has really done something for my productivity, and it has passed the first test: it has been in use for one week (actually more than that) and I haven't fallen off yet. In fact, I'm still very happy with it. And feeling very motivated. (And I have a goodly list of tasks to take over for the current daily tasks once those books and bookmarks have been sorted. Like going through my main bookmark list... which is, regrettably, not really organised at all.)

Oh, and by the way, here is one of my favourite at-your-desk exercise videos:

Thursday, 21 February 2013

How things grow.

When we started out with the idea of making the very first Textile Forum, we had just a limited number of goals - we wanted to make the Spinning Experiment possible, and we wanted to try if it's possible to get people from different backgrounds together to exchange knowledge, and practical knowledge.

After the absolute success of that first Forum in 2009, we decided to try making it a regular fixture. This was just four years ago, so it's not a real long-standing full-fledged tradition yet. Quite on the contrary, we are still finding how to make the Forum even better, to get better connection between the academic and the practical side, and how to establish it as a true long-term thing.

What I did not expect back then, or dared to dream of back then, is that we would have our own publication one day. But largely thanks to one person taking the stick and running with it (and gently hitting the contributors, including me, when appropriate, with said stick to keep them working) and doing all the editing work, we will have one. And now, since the proofs are in my inbox and our editor is waiting for the feedback, it suddenly feels much, much more real than before.

I will keep you updated once we have a firm publication date - and I am so looking forward to this!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Links for reading.

I have two very different links for reading material to share with you - first of all, the work-type one:

JSTOR (which is an electronic journal archive) has introduced a new programme "Register and Read" with a limited amount of free journal papers for everyone. You can read up to three papers online, for free, at once; and after 14 days you can choose a new paper to substitute the old one. More information and an Excel list with the journals in that scheme (which I cannot open since it's .xlsx format) are on their info page, here.

And reading pdf texts as well but completely different: Neil Gaiman has made a writing-and-illustration art project together with Blackberry that is currently still running. Apart from having several stories available for download, for free, there's also the possibility to hand in artwork illustrating these stories. And here's the link for your delectation.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Search engines.

A few days ago, someone pointed out another sciency search engine on the web in one of the comments: Scirus. Meanwhile, I have managed to try it, and it might be a good additional way to find things - articles, books, pdf files - regarding a research topic.

Like usually, it is a bit biased towards both patent applications or natural science articles (because more of that is on the net than, say, scientific articles about the performance of a 16.5 g spindle whorl on different spindle sticks), but it's nice to have a second place to look in addition to Google Scholar.

Speaking of alternative search engines - I have been trying to get a little more independent of Google search recently. Because, you know, monopoly is not good, usually - and total dependency is not good either. So I have given DuckDuckGo a go.

DuckDuckGo searches stuff but does not rank it by hits like Google does by default; they have a very, very good privacy policy (that is so good it will havoc stat tracking functions for webmasters, since you will not hear about search terms used to find your site); there's goodies like instant calculator and password generator, and no ads except from a very unobtrusive sponsored link.

I have, by way of testing, put it into my browser as the default search engine. It is very interesting to see how different search results can look, and quite impressive how much Google "tunes" the results. I'm not totally convinced I will stay with it forever, though - and I still use Google for some stuff. I have noticed that in quite a few cases, I have a much easier time finding the site I am looking for with Google, thanks to their sorting algos. And the Duck has no image search (something that I need not too infrequently).

However, I like their policy. Go give them a try - maybe it's just the (additional) search engine you were looking for.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Monday. Really?

It's monday again. I got up way too early (well, in comparison to my usual time). I have a crazy-long list of things to do (yes, still). The cat is sleeping on a chair across the room, and I am getting jealous of her.

But on the other hand... there's progress on several different things on that list, and there are quite a few exciting prospects for stuff that will hopefully all happen later on this year. So. Now? Motivational coffee. And then? Bouts of frenzy actionism.

For you, in the meantime, from my long-overdue link list overhaul, a link to the Historical Needlework Resources Website. Have fun.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Open EXARC journal archives, folks!

If you are involved with open-air museums, chances are that you have heard of EXARC. If you are not, EXARC is an organisation for open-air museums (or individual archaeologists) with an emphasis on experimental archaeology.

They have published a journal, EuroREA, since 2004, and recently made the transition to an online-only journal. Now that the hardcopies have sold out (or almost), the archives have been made open and public in form of .pdfs. You can delve into it from here.

And this, I believe, is also the place to express my total appreciation of and joy over that choice - it can be really (nastily) hard to get hold of an article that is behind a high, well-defended paywall or not on the 'net at all, and only available in some very few copies in some select libraries.

So: Thank you so much, EXARC! I hope that many other journals will follow suit.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Archaeologists do weird things.

Or... wait... maybe they don't. After all, it's not really weird to do a reconstruction of a Bronze Age structure and then test if it's possible to use it for making beer, right?

And completely unrelated but pretty (and both pretty cool that this is possible and pretty intimidating that we produce so much light-smog): A picture of the earth at night, with all the lights on.

Also? I now have a twitter account which I intend to use (occasionally, as in when I feel like it) provided I get some people that are interested in that (which means followers). You find me under the handle @katrinkania (yes, not very creative, I know). And if I manage to find out how, I will try to get a last tweets thingie onto this blog.

And finally, I found a new search portal searching a group of libraries, archives and museums, called BAM (only in German). I have not tested it thoroughly yet, but portals like this are usually a good thing - at least knowing about them does not hurt!

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

To-Do lists.

I don't know how all of you handle it, but I have tried out a lot of to-do lists and other track-keeping things over the years. Calendars, special "get things done" thingies, hand-written lists, reminder calendars, you name it. Some of these worked for a day, some for a week, some for two weeks... and then I would quietly ignore them and go on with my life in some other way.

The method I currently have involves a blackboard (or something quite like it) that is hanging at the wall across from my desk and that holds several things, mostly long- and mid-term projects. Add to that a stack of paper snippets with lists on them directly on my desk - most of those are short- to mediumshortterm things. (Though there are some items that keep getting transferred from one list to the next. Gah.)

But yesterday I stumbled across a new sort of to-do list... one that is supposed to give you extra motivation by not just taking that task off a list, but by sort of Roleplayifying your life. (If you have never played a roleplaying game - pen and paper or computer - and have no clue what roleplaying means, here's the short one: you play a character that goes on adventures, kills monsters, saves people, finds treasures (to buy stuff that will help during the monster-killing and people-saving and treasure-finding) and gets better and better at stuff over time.)

So the basic idea is that you have a list of stuff to do - daily, weekly, or small things you want to make a habit - and each time you sucessfully finish a task, you get XP and gold. The gold can be used to buy stuff - either rewards you made up yourself, such as "have cake", or rewards available from the shop that will help you get more gold and more XP. Which sort of makes clicking "done" on these tasks... more fun.

I'm trying this out, and I can tell you: I had a lot of fun yesterday already, even though the to-do list is freakishingly long. And even if it will not work long-term for me, I will happily take a spike in productivity.

Oh, yes, the details: The thing is called HabitRPG. It's under development, it's free (unless you die and need to resurrect yourself), and there is currently a Kickstarter campaign running (which also features a video telling you more about the idea and the "game") to help develop it more, including a mobile app, and faster.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Digitised manuscripts. And books.

There are more and more libraries that have digitised manuscripts, in a very decent quality, and they can be leafed through for free on the Internet. (I love the Internet.)

One example that I recently stumbled across: The Württembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart. (The link will take you directly to the list of manuscripts; there are other categories on the left-hand side. The page is only German, though.) When you click on one of the manuscript titles, it opens in a viewer and you can look your way through the entire book.

Speaking of books, there is new software out - it's called Booksorber and is supposed to turn your camera into a high-speed, high-quality scanning device. I have already downloaded the demo, but not tested it yet. If this works as well as the demonstration pictures on the homepage promise... I will definitely buy it and be a very happy woman.

Speaking even more of books, my library database sorting and ordering is coming along - there are much less unaccounted books in there now than were before, though it is still a sizable heap. Real-life ordering and sorting of books has also taken place and lead to me realising I have quite a few duplicate copies of journals (Experimentelle Archäologie and Zeitschrift für Waffen- und Kostümkunde, mostly). So a new item on my to-do list: make a list (ha!) and offer those for sale...

Monday, 11 February 2013

Experimental Archaeology at Wall Street!

Well... at least in the Wall Street Journal.

Janet Stephens, a professional hairdresser, has researched and tried to re-model Roman hairstyles (the ones often said to have been wigs). I have personally never really bought into that theory, so I'm very happy to see that someone has managed to do it on non-wig hair (and is also quite sure it can be done normally).

Go read the lovely little article about the Roman hairdressing (also because it involves needles and thread).

Meanwhile, I will be here and very happy about the bit where a journal editor says that this was something that needed a craftsperson, and that no normal scholar would have written such a piece as the article published in 2008, "Ancient Roman Hairdressing: On (Hair)Pins and Needles."(Published in the Journal of Roman Archaeology, in case you now really want that.)

Friday, 8 February 2013


It has snowed again - a deep, white, totally beautiful cover on everything. It looks really nice and soft and fluffy and almost cuddly from inside here.
The cat, it seems, has finally come to the conclusion that she will really be allowed back inside even when there's snow on the ground, and has gone off for her morning round in the usual length of an hour or more.

She was abandoned sometime during last winter, and found last year in February, and would not go out into the snow at all at first, and then not  for more than a few minutes at a time - so we speculate that she had bad memories connected with the snow. Accordingly, we took extra care to both encourage her to go out and let her back in again as soon as she wanted to come inside. Which sort of still holds on, so now I'm getting up and checking for cat ears in front of the door rather frequently.

In non-weather-related news: there is progress on the writing front, for both projects. Not much of that is due to yesterday, though, because I had a rather nasty headache and did not get much done in consequence.

I have also done some more spinning on the Great Wheel. This has led to me coming more and more to appreciate how absolutely and enormously crucial the quality of the fibre and the quality of the fibre preparation is for flawless spinning on the wheel, at least if you are not really proficient at it. The search for the perfect-rolag-making technique is still going on here, but I feel like I have gotten much closer.

Since I started spinning with the Great Wheel, I have read about carding techniques and looked at carding instructions and people carding quite a bit, but the up to now best set of instructions is "Handcarding with a Light Touch" by Carol Huebscher Rhoades. It's available as part of an e-book offered by; the .pdf can be downloaded for free after you register with the site. (I did, and I do not regret it due to this article. They have a few other free instructional e-books as well. There is also a (not-quite-but-almost-daily) newsletter that they send out with info about new free e-books, though it also includes (and is mostly) advertisement for courses, dvds, books and other things they would like you to buy.)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Winter. Not-Winter. Winter. And boats.

The weather outside cannot decide whether it is still winter (a bit of snow is covering the ground) or not winter anymore (it's not very cold, and the snow does not stay for long). It has been like this for a while now. The cat has stopped caring and just upped her morning walks again to their longer version, the snow seems to have lost some of its cat-repellancy.

In other news: A good while ago I posted about the boat building project in England, where some folks (quite a lot of them, actually) are building a bronze age sewn-plank boat. Well, looks like it's finished! And here is a time-lapse video summing it all up.

A while ago, I chatted to one of the people from the project, and she said that the project has generated a lot of response, and upped the visitor count of the museum. I was very glad to hear that, and now I'm looking forward to their launch, planned for March!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Sometimes... it makes you go "argh".

There is that article that I am writing (or, rather, re-writing according to the suggestions made by the reviewers). It's about, who would have thought it, the never-ending spinning experiment. And it is driving me nuts.

Why? Well, for one thing, I am trying really hard to get some proper plots out of the thing. Which, according to my instructions and due to the help of a lovely person who knows R should be no problem... but my modules keep crashing, not reacting, or not giving me the results I need.

And then there's the citations. I have read in gazillions of publications that "thick yarn is made with heavy spindles"... and of course I did not take that as a note. And now I need to add a few more references to this, and it seems I cannot find them anymore. This is probably due to the fact that many of these books or articles were quite basic, or not typical scientific reference literature - but it makes it not easier to re-find them. So I will be shamelessly blegging:
Do you know a book (preferably something like a beginner's guide) or an (archaeological) article about hand-spindles and hand-spinning where heavy spindles are linked to thick(er) yarns? Please tell me in the comments. That would be really helpful.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

They found Rich the Third!

If I am now going to admit that I did not really catch on about the stuff going on with the skeleton in the carpark thing, it makes me feel self-conscious. But thank goodness I have a lovely friend at the other end of the world who did - and who sent me the links to the BBC radio site yesterday, in time for me to catch the Great Announcement.

Long story short: There have been several years' work in trying to trace the burial place of Richard III of England, and they finally found him. Skeletal as well as DNA analysis strongly hints to the skeleton belonging to the king. And you can read more in this report here, where there are also lots of extra links.

That is also a very nice presentation of archaeology for the public - very well done.

Monday, 4 February 2013

So much to do, so little time.

I have not written a list of all the things I need to do because I do not want to see such a long list. Among the things that would be on it are: take care of the bookkeeping (especially the one considering the car costs, since that is necessary for one of the steps in finishing last year's tax work, and that should be done before March at the latest); scan in more of the spinning experiment visual survey cards in a high dpi setting (tedious, boring work that eats up time and nerves because of its pure, undiluted boringness); have a bit more of a spin-in with my Great Wheel (that is currently standing in the living room) since there was that project planned with lovely Vix that requires about 500 m of decent wheel-spun yarn; testspin with the other, new little wheel that lives here since the start of the year and see what has to be done to fix it; finish an article; work my way through many chapters of the project I have with Gillian; review and possibly change (or at least tweak) my website; make a new info leaflet; plan the next Textile Forum; and I will now stop noting things now or I could really have just written a list to shock me.

Also coming up? Each year's sudden February need to sort and put away any jumble standing around and clear tables and spaces. And have a thorough cleaning of the place. So... plenty of work around here, as you can see. But as they say: "Everything is better with a cup of tea." Which is exactly what I shall get myself now before starting into the day. I am determined to make at least a little dent in the stack of stuff to do with today's work!

Friday, 1 February 2013

I'm doing it again. The pdf library organisation, I mean.

As the long-term readers among you might know, I am using EndNote for my citation and bibliography needs. Theoretically, I also have all the .pdf files that I have of articles in one folder on my system, and all the titles of these articles in the EndNote database.

Theoretically. Which, unfortunately, is not at all what I really have - over time, a large stack of .pdfs has accumulated that are not yet in the database, because it all meant opening the file, copying the relevant bibliographical data into the database, then saving the file under a new (and unique) name also written to the database file. Yes, the programme can theoretically attach files to database entries - but I have never gotten the hang of that, and I also prefer to have things separately in case of desasters.

So here I was, with a stack of pdf files - unsorted, and with quite a few non-articles crept in between them - and my database. Enter Qiqqa, a database/citation tool geared entirely towards .pdf collections. (If it were a little less geared towards those, and a bit more open and more import-friendly from EndNote's end, I would have considered switching to it completely.) In my process of checking out Qiqqa, I already tried to use it for sorting, organising, and EndNote-ing my pdf files, but it turned out to be a tiny bit less trivial than I had thought.

So I have made a clean slate in Qiqqa and have now tackled (again) the task of sorting my files and inputting them into EndNote. It's still a multi-step process, but much less tedious than before. Preparation step was to make three new folders for sorting: One to hold the batch of pdfs for processing, one to hold the exported files, and one for the "rejects" - files that have obscure bibliographical data that will have to be entered by hand.

Step one: Move a batch of pdf files from the big heap into the processing folder.
Step two: Import that folder into Qiqqa (or set it as watch folder). The programme will now index (and, if necessary, OCR) those files.
Step three: Use the inbuild BibTex-Sniffer to match bibliographical data to the individual files, and delete all the non-articles from the library.
Step four: Make sure to move all the files for hand processing from the processing folder to the "rejects" folder (else they will be lost), then delete them from the library.
Step five: Export bibliographical data to a .bib file.
Step six: Export complete library to the export folder.
Step seven: Convert BibTex-file to an Endnote .xml file using this nifty little programme.
Step eight: Import bibliographical data into Endnote (excluding duplicates). (I only had one minor glitch with importing up to now which seems to have been an incompatible record type number.)
Step nine: Add "pdf file available" or similar thing into a suitable field of each of the new references (this can be done quickly with "change and move fields").
Step ten: Move all the exported files from the "doc" subfolder in the export folder into the regular folder for referenced pdf files.
Step eleven: Delete everything from the export folder and the processing folder.
Step twelve: Delete all the entries of the library.

Then start over... until everything is processed. It takes some time, but on the other hand, it allows me to be sure I get everything referenced and lets me clear out all the other pdfs that crept in without too much woes. And with the possibility to do this in smaller batches, it's also not so overwhelming to add hundreds of BibTex entries at once.

(And if this blogpost has made you want a bibliography programme/database, here is a list of those currently available, including EN and Qiqqa.)