Monday, 30 June 2014

The cat just stared at me.

The cat, sleeping contentedly beside my desk again (lucky cat) just looked at me a minute ago, slightly confused. The reason for that? This video:

(Sorry for the facebook-link - I'd have preferred to link the video directly, but could not figure out how to do that.)

I laughed so hard I had to cry. Which, in turn, made the cat stare at me. (Weird humans.)

In other news: the library at Erlangen has digitised manuscripts available online, I have a medieval event coming up, I've finally managed to re-stock my beeswax pieces, and am planning to fire a batch of spindle whorls the coming weekend.

Also it finally rained during the last two days - finally! The garden was really parched, so it was high time. (The lawn outside has been in crunchy summer edition mode for a few weeks now, and as usual, it will recover - but the strawberries and tomatoes and flowers don't take the heat and drought so well.)

Friday, 27 June 2014

Unsorted links, and stuff.

Want to see the oldest bottle of wine? You find it here.

If you are rather looking for about 1.5 kg of chocolate turned into an anatomically correct replica of a human skull, look no further.

Speaking of skulls, Dread Pirate Roberts' Favourite Winter Hat is currently being test-knit by a group of lovely folks over at Ravelry. I hope to have it available as a pattern soon - and will take it to LonCon, too.

Other not so nice news regarding SFF: Marion Zimmer Bradley had a dark side, protecting her child-abusing husband as well as molesting herself. Jim C. Hines has a blog post about this, with further links.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Zappy Search!

If you are like me, you are using the internet a lot. Including doing numerous searches - for example on for your German-English translation needs. I also prefer DuckDuckGo to Google as my standard search engine these days, but I frequently fall back on Google Scholar, and there's a few other things I regularly search...

Now, the normal way of doing a dictionary search is... go to the dictionary, type in your word, submit and wait for the results. Similar for all the other things except the Duck - something that was, well, not really evil but just that slight bit of annoying.

This annoyance is no more. I have discovered a nifty little Firefox app called ZappySearch, which allows you to search a page by typing a shortcut (such as gs for google scholar, for example) and your search term into the address bar, hit return, and lean back while you get your answers. Ah. Bliss.

Its developer is Matt Evans, and you can find the little app either under the Firefox app menu (look for ZappySearch) or directly on his webpage. (If you want it straight away, I recommend the website - it is the newer version, and might take a little more time to turn up in the app menu thingie).Thanks, Matt, for making my life easier!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hah! It works again...

Sometimes (though not very often, I'm afraid) it's enough to complain about something to make it go away. As apparently the blogfeed problem did - I came back to a properly working feed this morning, with a stack of interesting bits and pieces. Most of them are German, though - still, you might want to take a look at the pictures.

Rainer Schreg blogs about a mikwah in Venlo that turns out not to have been a mikwah, and the long story behind it. It's real drama, archaeology-wise - complete with "input from experts" that was never given by these people. (Text German, most of the links Dutch)

Schauhuette publishes 14C-Dates from early medieval graves in the Amberg-Sulzbach area. (German, but if you want to see a photo of a nicely dug early medieval skeleton, go there anyways.)

Finally, from the V&A: Rapid Form Mannequins. This is a really, really cool idea - unfortunately it's (still) quite difficult to make. But who knows? Maybe this will be the norm in a few years?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Blogspot, you drive me crazy.

When I started out with this blog, it was an easy way to keep track of the blogs I follow (quite a list, actually) and post. Including the possibility to schedule pre-written posts.

Then, a good while ago by now, hitting that "publish" button did not always work. You might remember a few posts coming up belatedly, or a day late, if you are a regular reader here. In these cases, there was usually a notice saying "An error occurred while trying to save or publish your post. Please try again." but not always. No notice, no re-try. No re-try, no published post. But well, that's something I could live with. The worst... it's yet to come.

Over time, I have come to rely on the reading list of the blogs I follow showing up the newest posts of each blog, so I'd scroll through and see very quickly who had posted about what, and whether I might want to click over there and read the full piece. From time to time, this list appeared empty, which was fixed upon reloading. No pain.

For the last 4 or 5 days, though, I get to see one post. One. And clicking the "view more" at the bottom does... nothing. This irks me, and makes me wonder whether it might be time to look for another blogging solution. (The list of other blogs is one of my very cherished and valuable resources to find something bloggable on days when I have nothing bloggable on hand, and it saved me many a time. So it's not just a little convenience - it has grown to be a blogging tool for me.)

I won't be looking into it right away, though - there are two papers to finish, and other stuff to plan and prepare (the next market, for instance). Plus the weather here is making me sleepy. (The cat taking her morning nap RIGHT BESIDE ME does not help at all, by the way. Couldn't she channel my sleepiness and just nap it away for me, too? She stubbornly refuses to do that. Something about having to get her own 12 hours of nap-time in per day or so, I suppose.)

Monday, 23 June 2014

Solar System Graphics.

The weekend's over (already, sigh), the sun is shining, I have a pot of tea in front of me, and a heap of work lurking inside my computer, while the cat is taking her morning nap (lazy cat).

In case you, too, need something to procrastinate a little, I recommend this graphic of our solar system - the moon (our moon) is one pixel large, and you can scroll your way out to the other planets and get an impression of how much space there is in space. (Hint: I've yet to reach Jupiter. My scrolling finger needs a break.)

Friday, 20 June 2014

Did you know...

... that castrated sheep were prized for their wool growth? I didn't, until very recently, when I found this blog post at ossamenta. I stumbled across that blog through the Blogging Archaeology Carnival, by the way.

Also, you may or may not have heard about the treasure found in Vienna Wiener Neustadt (south of Vienna) - it has now been published, and you can take a peek into the book (in Geman) and order it here. For those of you who don't read German but are curious, there are several pictures of pieces from the treasure on that page (listed under "Bilder"). The treasure is a spectacular find from the Late Middle Ages, found by chance in Vienna Wiener Neustadt (the ground's owner was digging a pond in his garden), and it's been analysed and researched and published by a team of experts for three years - among them one study colleague of mine.

(Ahem, I didn't realise it was not Vienna in my original post. I now know better. Also thanks to Michaela, I now know that the treasure is on display until November 2014 at Asparn an der Zaya.)

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Today's a public holiday here in good ol'Germany, so you are not getting a proper blog post... instead, have this link.

(Hint: it's how you mouse-proof your cheese. Yum. Not.)

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Why all calico cats are female.

I stumbled across this video, purely by chance, and if you've ever wondered about DNA or why all calico cats are female... you really will want to watch this.

Plus it has really cool graphics... and you get to go "aaaw" about the smallness of the Y chromosome.

Semi-related to this: Medieval Beasties, special edition, over at the British Library blog.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The dangers of fashion, and photos.

We all know that human beings do weird and often not really healthy things in the name of fashion... and the past was no exception. There's an interesting article about "if looks could kill", so to say - here, titled "Deadly Victorian Fashion".

If you'd rather prefer looking at healthy stuff, you can guess which of these MRI scans of fruits and vegetables is which edible thing. And be amazed at what modern imaging technique can do.

Or look at snails instead, lovingly photographed... here. (I quite like snails, as long as they don't eat my salad and plants.)

Monday, 16 June 2014

Finally... the hat.

Here is, finally, the thing I've been working on, knitting-wise. I call it "Dread Pirate Roberts' Favourite Winter Hat", because, well, you know... pirates can have cold ears too.

There you go. A pirate hat. And here's a closeup of the Jolly Roger motif:

The hat is knit from the crown downwards, so there's no need for doing a gauge test. I recommend knitting with smaller needles than recommended on the ball bands, however, to get a fairly dense structure or else the Jolly Roger won't come out so well. Wool, for its blocking malleability, is also a firm recommendation.

There are quite a few special moves involved in knitting this, including an unusual decrease, some cabling, some creative stuff with elongated stitches, and the lace (yes, technically, it's a lace-esque structure) that makes the skull. Pirate knitters are known to be fearless, though, so it should not be a problem. Right, matey?

I will be writing up the pattern tomorrow - and then, then I will be looking for someone to test-knit it. If you'd like to do that, let me know in the comments or send me an email!

Friday, 13 June 2014

It's almost finished.

Remember, a good while ago, that I was writing about a knitting project? The prototype is almost finished, and I'm planning to go and sit down with it in a few minutes and finish it up (which is mostly a bit of tweaking and darning in all the remaining ends).

As so many other things, it has taken longer than I had hoped (and planned) for it to take - other stuff happened inbetween, and the little hat got shunted to the back a few times. But now the end is nigh! Rejoice! And I promise to try really hard to get you a good photo of it tomorrow (it might be a little tricky to take a picture of it...)

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Viking Figurine Find.

A few days ago, I stumbled across a Past Horizon article about a new find of a Viking age figurine, showing a woman in full dress (or at least dressed). I took a look, marked it for looking at it again a little later, and planned on blogging about it, with maybe the inclusion of some thoughts about the dress and its possible interpretation.

Well, you know how some problems solve themselves with waiting? Cathy from Loose Threads has beaten me to it, and posts in detail about the figurine and the difficulties of interpretation of its dress. So I will just point you at her blog, for now. And say that I totally agree with what she writes: The figurine throws up more questions than it answers, and that is frustrating and fascinating at the same time.

Welcome again to the world of textile archaeology.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

A bleg.

It's been a while since my last bleg, I think - and maybe you are eager for another picture hunt? As I mentioned a few days before with the links to manuscripts online, I am looking for pictures of spinning people (women or men) dated before 1300 and especially before 1100, so early medieval. There are pictures in the Utrecht Psalter and Stuttgart Psalter that are sometimes said to show spinning women, but... the Stuttgart lady has her spindle in her lap, and the Utrecht drawing is not clear enough to me to really serve as a source for possible techniques.

There are plenty of pictures from the high and late Middle Ages, especially about the themes "Adam digging, Eve spinning", "Woman beating up her man" and the Annunciation. From early medieval context, however, I have not been able to find a single picture yet that clearly shows spinning procedure and technique.

One possible reason is that there are, overall, less pictures and illuminations from the Early MA, and there seem to be even less pictures of women from that time. But maybe I just haven't found it, and you happen to know it because a reprint of it graces your living space? I'd be delighted to get any hints about a spinning picture from before 1100!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Stuff to read, stuff to drink.

It's extremely hot around here - too hot for the season, actually, both Bamberg and Erlangen scored new heat records for June yesterday. And today? We're in for another very hot day, so very soon I will close all the doors and windows to keep as much of the morning cool inside and leave the heat outside.

The heat is one of the reasons we did not do much during the long weekend - and I think everybody was happy that yesterday was a public holiday, it was certainly much too hot to work. It's warm enough to have switched from drinking tea, mostly, to my favourite summer drink, based on something I had in a pub once that they called "thai lemonade". The original consisted of mostly water with fresh ginger, fresh lemongrass, mint leaves and lime juice, with some sugar to round off the taste. I'm unfortunately lacking proper fresh lemongrass and I usually skip the sugar, but if you are looking for a refreshing summer drink - just get those ingredients, throw them into a carafe, fill with cold water and let it stand for a bit. If you prefer mint with other tastes, some sprigs of mint and a small handful of crushed raspberries will also give a nice flavour to a 2-litre carafe of water. (Probably works with strawberries too, but I don't have the self-control at this time of year to put them into a water jug... I eat them. All.)

And if you are looking for something to read along with your drink, I have recently been waylaid by some articles at They have stuff about sheep genome. And horse gaits. Plus a plethora of other interesting articles.

If you'd rather read something older, you can head over to the British Library website - the Simeon manuscript has been digitised.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Summer heat. And really old trousers.

It's getting hot here - summer is in full swing. Not yet so hot you get the feeling that your bones melt, but warm enough to take a morning walk without a sweater or jacket, and warm enough to break a sweat when dashing to the post office.

Which I just did - after waiting for ages for my computer to finish its updates so I could get at the data I needed for the postal dance. And then I missed the postie getting the packages from the office by about five minutes... I blame Windows and their weird updating methods.

On a different and more interesting note than my computer woes and the fact my brain is trying to get into summer relaxation mode (hey! not yet! still work to be done!), here's the currently oldest trouser find yet - from China and about 3000 years old. The article includes a link to the proper article about the trousers; it's behind a paywall, though.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Glorious Manuscripts, online.

There's things that digital books will never be able to do. The hefty feel of a book's weight in your hands, the neat rows of books standing in a shelf, the smell of printer's ink and paper, the beauty of a well-executed binding.

The way a well-loved, often-used book falls open at favourite passages. The little scars and blemishes and tiny drops of tea and tomato sauce that attest to a book's being so captivating that you had to keep reading even while eating. The fact that you can glance at where you are in that book and get a little sad that you are already halfway through... Books, real, physical books are a wonderful thing.

However, that's regarding modern books. Books that are in print, and that you can get easily. For manuscripts, though, I will sing a different tune: Manuscripts are rare, and precious, and hard to gain access to, so I am happy for every single one that gets digitised and put online.

Such as the Stuttgarter Psalter. Or the Utrecht Psalter. (You can even download the latter as .pdf, which is just wonderful.) The Codex Manesse (also downloadable).

In case you are wondering why this comes up now (again) - I am leafing through manuscripts looking for depictions of spinning women (or men, I'll take them just as gladly) from before the 13th century. Any hints, links or pictures are more than welcome!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Links. Books. Drug gangs.

If you've ever wondered whether to take up a career in academia or go drug dealing instead, you might want to read this article about how Academia resembles a Drug Gang (h/t to Archaeologik).

Or you can read digitised journal (old ones, mostly, and in German) at the Unibib Jena. (They also have "Alt-Thüringen", which may be of interest if you are archaeologically inclined.) I haven't really found out what they all have, yet - but I thoroughly appreciate the rising number of digitised things.

Speaking of which, you can leaf through the entirety of some cool and interesting books, including the original manuscript of Alice's Adventures, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and many more if you go here. Thank you, British Library!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

To battle the Chaos.

The last three weeks were... well, let's call them "full" - quite a bit of things going on, and quite a bit of travel, with very little time at home inbetween. Which means that, once more, I am sitting in the middle of a medium-sized chaos that begs to be taken care of.

Also, orders have to be sent out, and I have to plan for the next events (yes, already). Nothing about the relative slowness last year warned me that this year would be so busy! Don't get me wrong, though: I quite like having to be busy. It's just a matter of coping with the peaks in business (and the accompanying chaos) that I struggle with.

So, for you, while I try to stow all the things that have been on tour with me, and get the washing done and packed away again, and sort out all the other things that need sorting out, here's a link so you know where the nearest airport is. As a Voronoi map. Just in case you feel like getting away from it all. (You can turn that globe with your mouse, if you, like me, are more interested in the European 'ports.)

If you like coffee, you might also be amused by the story the Yarn Harlot posted on her blog. Something rather similar happened to us once, but with much less attending ills: we found out after buying the next glass of our preferred instant coffee and seeing them both beside each other - resulting in a new appreciation of the quality of the product we bought because we did not pay attention, and now having an alternative to the normal one.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Back from NESAT.

Even though I had a few days off to relax and take a breather afterwards, the NESAT is still on my mind. It was a wonderful time with old colleagues and friends and the opportunity to meet new people, and I enjoyed every second of the conference.

NESAT is special, and this year it was extra-special, with the opportunity to visit the archaeological excavations in the bronze age salt mines, and a tour around Hallstatt. In case you haven't been there and have no idea about how it looks there, let me tell you: Hallstatt is spectacular, in more than one way. You have alpine scenery with those big, imposing mountains all around; the Hallstatt lake which is large and quite clear and very beautiful; and the combination between those two is really breathtaking. The weather throughout the week was wonderful, hot and sunny, and only very slightly overcast on some days, so we all got to enjoy summery weather. That included ice cream splurges and sitting outside for dinner in the evening.

The papers and posters were very interesting, and everybody kept to the time, so we all got to enjoy the breaks as scheduled (with minimal changes here and there, as is usual at a conference). It was so nice meeting and chatting with all the other textile folks - and the days went by in a blur, they passed so fast. At the end of the conference, I was quite happy that it was over, while at the same time very much regretting that it was already over. (A brain can only take so much archaeological textiles at a time... even if everything is wildly interesting.)

It's a pity that NESAT is only every three years, and then only for about four days. On the other hand, it's a big thing to organise, and handling all this every three years only is obviously much easier for the NESAT board than doing it every or every second year. I'm already looking forward to the next one in 2017, myself - it will be in the Czech republic, that time, and getting to see and to know some more of the Eastern colleagues will be a wonderful thing.

(Sorry for the very late blog post - sometimes my Firefox acts up, and it takes beyond forever to load a page... that was the case this morning, so internet work got delayed.)