Friday, 20 December 2013

See you on the flip side!

It's Friday, December 20 - the last weekend before Xmas or Jule or whatever you wish to call it. I, for now, will call these coming two weeks "holidays" and have my traditional blog hiatus over the festive season.

The next two weeks will be time spent with friends and family, enjoying good food, good company, and good times. There will be cookies and coffee and tea and chocolate and festive meals, there will be walks outside enjoying the fresh air and hours spent at a gaming table inside, too.

2013 was a good year for me, one that I enjoy looking back on - and I wish 2014 to be even better. I hope that your last year was also a good one, and that you can go into the next year with someone close to you.

I will see you on the flip side - regular blogging will resume on January 7, 2014. May we all have good times until then (and after that as well)!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Randomish Link Dump.

Here you go, have a random-ish link dump!

Things are stirring regarding copyright and distribution issues of papers on

Heritage Daily posts about the Archaeology of Star Wars.

A French café charges extra if you are rude.

I have posted a link to the Portable Antiquities Scheme before; here's a blog with critical thoughts about metal detecting and private collecting of artefacts.

Renaissance paintings go modern photographs - beautiful "re-enactments" done to challenge xenophobia.

Why owls do not a good pet make.

And finally, Rudolphus the Red-Nosed as Gregorian Choral.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Getting ready to wind down.

This week is the week of parties and getting together with friends and colleagues and former colleagues to eat and drink and enjoy the season. The Most Patient Husband of them all has time off already, so I sneak in some work (a few last things need doing before the holidays) and join him some in relaxing and just hanging out. A few days more, and it will be family time for us, and we're both looking forward to that.

The weather is not very christmassy, too warm and snowless, but I don't really mind. We're having the presents all lined up, the cookies have all been baked, and it's nice to have a gingerbread and a cup of coffee and just relax.

And in the spirit of things you always do before Xmas or Jul or however you want to call it, here's Arkikon's Julekort 2013. (Arkikon is a Norwegian company specialising in graphical reconstructions, so their season's greetings are worth seeing - if you go on their homepage, you can also have a look at those of years past.)

Plus the obligatory music bit - this year in German, brought to me by a friend's blog entry, and an incredible earworm:

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Textile Conference Stuff.

It's time for a little textile conference stuff - exciting things are coming up!

First of all, NESAT. The next one is taking place in Hallstatt, and the preliminary programme is online. Also, the proceedings from last NESAT are now out and available from Verlag Marie Leidorf.As usual, you should also be able to get them via your book dealer of choice.

The CTR Copenhagen also has a few conference announcements on their website, including a conference about traditional textile crafts early in 2014.

If you have been in thorough contact with textile crafts, especially tablet weaving, chances are high that you have read at least one book by Peter Collingwood. Sadly, he died a few years ago (here's an obituary). The Early Textiles Study Group, where he was a member until his death, now has a CfP out for a conference about Crafting Textiles from the Bronze Age to AD 1600: A tribute to Peter Collingwood. The conference will take place in London 10 to 11 October 2014, the CfP is open until January 31, 2014. Here is the conference website, in case you would like to be part of this.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Feeling sleepy?

This weekend, a friend told me about research into historic sleep patterns - seems like not only do we modern people sleep less than we would need to as a basic tendency, but also differently.

Research points at two sleep phases, with a time of quiet-ish activity in between, being the usual thing a few centuries ago, before electric lights were common and turned the night into day. Are you curious instead of sleepy now?

Here's an article on a website called slumberwise, BBC newsmag tells us about the myth of the eight-hour sleep, and some guy I've never heard of before gave it a try.

This, I think, is very cool - and a brilliant example on how things change, and stuff will seem strange to our modern western culture is what was so normal it wasn't even worth mentioning a few hundred years ago.

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Joy of Access.

I have been skimming, reading and researching a heap of articles recently (processing them with the help of Qiqqa, as explained some time back).

Article databases and online journal repositories can be a wonderful way to lose a few hours, by a similar thing to the encyclopaedia effect - you sort of hop from one topic to a related one, and from one author to more of that author to another author... well. I think you all know how that ends. If you don't have access, though, it will most probably end in frustration - so many things, such high prices, so little chance to get at them.

One easy way to get article access is to get a library card from a friendly University library in your vicinity. But what if you do not live near one? For the Germans (or those living in Germany), there is good news: Everybody who has a permanent address in Germany can ask for participation in the Nationallizenzen scheme.

You register for this (stating, of course, your German address); then you get sent a letter with your login data. The Nationallizenzen access has a few restrictions, such as moving walls keeping you from the most recent publications and similar, but it's a very nice and convenient way to get at a huge number of articles and e-books that you otherwise would pay several arms and legs for.

So... hooray for access! And now I shall read some more articles. Because I can. (And because I need some more nice references and suggested further reading for, oh, still too many topics of that book project.)

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Ah, not again.

Yesterday I read about flour - especially bleached flour. Which was sorta new to me, bleached flour, erm - that stuff is almost white anyways?

Turns out that flour is actually getting bleached at least in the US, with stuff that I would not necessarily want close to my food thankyouverymuch. (In Germany, bleaching flour was banned in the 1950s. Thank you, Germany. Sometimes your rules are nice.)

With that still freshly in the back of my mind, I was not happy about hearing of TTIP this morning, brought to me by an email about a petition against it. Similarly to the ACTA thing of a while ago, now corporations and politicians want to make a secret trade agreement thingie that will allow them to do wild things to "non-tariff barriers to trade". Which is, basically, the rules about things like which food is ok to sell and which is not, thankyouverymuch. Or data security stuff.

The US folks, it seems, are afraid that such an agreement will make them have stricter rules for their markets. Others are more forthrightly declaring it's a bad idea - a betrayal of the public. It would also give companies the possibility to sue against laws that cut their profit due to some insignificant things such as, for example, banning the bleaching of flour. (Lawsuits like that have actually already happened. This is... wow.) Democracy, who needs that?

So, I don't care on which side you are standing - US or EU, I think it's not a good thing for those who don't happen to be in the saddle of one of the huge companies. If you agree (which I hope you do), please sign one of the petitions against it:
this one at Sum of Us or this one from Campact (German-Language, but you will manage, I'm sure).
Or both, for good measure.

Since it looks like there will be a meeting concerning the agreement on Monday, there's not so much time left - so if you can, please spread the word about it, too!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Blogging Archaeology Carnival - December

I joined into Doug's Blogging Carnival last month (here is the digest and link list of all the 60+ bloggers who participated), and I did enjoy this a lot - I rarely blog to a topic that was pre-specified for me, and it's a nice challenge. Plus it has sidetracked me to a number of other archaeology blogs that I peeked into, and it sort of feels like connecting with other blogging archaeologists... even though it might be no "real" connection, if you know what I mean. (Don't fret if you don't. I'm rambling here.)

That said, I have just realised that December is not so very long anymore... so it's time for me to tackle the December questions for the Blogging Archaeology Carnival: What are "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly" of blogging for me?

The Good? There's a stack of things that I like about my blogging. It adds a little element of structure to my day (seldom a bad thing for a freelancer). It keeps me writing, and practising my English (never bad for a second language). I can try to be funny, share some personal things that I am excited about and that I want to get out into the world, help other folks spread the word about events, or blogs, or CfPs.
Also, I have an excuse to rootle around other blogs and investigate stuff and read up on things - it's research for my daily blogging, since I have to have something to write about, right? And I am absolutely delighted if I get a nice comment, or if I meet somebody at a conference or on a fair or at an event and get to hear something like "oh, that is your blog? I've been reading it for ages!"

The Bad of blogging is there, too. Of course. The days when I don't feel like blogging and have to do it anyways - because I am supposed to. Stretches of days when I feel like I have nothing to say that is of any interest to anybody, and that I am blogging such lame stuff that I will lose tons of readers. The times when I have so many links piled up that even though that's plenty of stuff to blog about, I can't get the motivation to get them into something like order and package them into a suitable post. And sometimes I would love to get some more comments, some more feedback, just to have an inkling on how I am doing. (Myself, I'm not much of a commenter on other blogs, too - so I probably should not complain about that one.)

On the Ugly front, though, I am happily almost untouched. I have not gotten any real bad vibes due to blogging, I have not lost jobs or opportunities (at least not that I know of), or had other grievances. The worst that happens to me, blog-wise, is someone re-posting things without acknowledging their source and the occasional spammer attack. There's no way to completely prevent the first, so I just shrug it off; the latter has been greatly reduced by turning comment moderation on for posts that are older than three days or so.

Here you go, Doug - that's my Good, Bad, and Ugly of Blogging.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Writing, and Academia, and Yog's Law.

I got an email comment regarding my post about publishing and money flow from last week - and it's probably worth it to go into a little more detail here.

There's three kinds of getting published - the kind where you get paid for (my favourite!), the kind where you don't see money, and the kind that you pay for yourself.

I've already written about what I think of paying for getting published. Now, for the record - I know that especially in academia, there are circumstances (like you have to get your thesis published, and it's such a fringe topic nobody will ever buy the book, probably) where you will end up paying for getting the book out. Personally, I think that is not good, and even unfair, and I would recommend that if you do need to get the book published with an ISBN number and stuff, try to find a publisher that will offer you decent conditions, or look into PoD and BoD services. (If you feel that you really want to cough up a lot of money just so some big-name academia publishing house's name and logo graces the spine of your book which will technically be on the market but cost a shitload of money so only libraries, if they, will buy it, feel free to do so. Myself, I have a strong opinion on things like that, which you can probably guess from what I have written so far.)

This leaves the two other options for consideration: publishing for free, and getting money for it. I will start with my favourite option. You write a book, you invest a lot of time and money, and nerves, and probably shed some tears or at least metaphorical tears, and wiggle so much on your seat you have pants-wear-and-tear to pay for, and all the black pixels in your computer get all worn out, and so on. You hand the book on to a publishing house, and they wear out some more pixels and chase around electrons and do stuff with ink and paper and advertisement designers and stuff. And then they do maths, and calculations, and then they send out a book, a real honest physical book that smells like newly printed paper, to bookshops and sellers and other people. The publisher deserves money for their work, and the booksellers need to buy their food and pay their rent, and the printing costs money and the warehousing too, so there's not so much money left once that's all paid for and done - but the author has also invested time and effort, a not inconsiderable amount of that, and that should also be rewarded with money. Not just with the good feeling of having a book out (because that won't pay the rent for the author either). I am not expecting the book revenue to add up to a honest freelancing hourly wage, and about every author out there will probably tell you that you have to write really well and really much and really fast to make a half-decent living off writing, and that is for novels and not for science books too - but I would very much like to have something coming in onto my bank account telling me that what I did is appreciated, and rewarded, and I will be able to go have some moderately priced sushi once a year, at the very least.

Now, if you are writing a PhD thesis or something similar, maybe in an esoteric out-there field that you love and few other people even know that it exists... you will have a hard time finding a publishing house that offers you money for it. When I was starting out to write my PhD, I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to publish it in a "normal", not a purely academic, publishing house. So from the very start, I tailored my writing towards that goal - and I was lucky on many counts with that: having a topic that does lend itself to being published regularly (since there is enough interest in that topic in the public), having supervisors who appreciated the style and voice in the writing and did not insist on "academese", finding a wonderfully supportive editor and a good, solid publishing house, and last but not least getting additional funding from VG Wort which made publishing the book at that price possible.

However, I have also written and published for free, plenty of times. All the articles that I have written? There was not a penny passed towards me. That is the third case, and it's the common method in academia - you publish, but you don't get paid.

Here's a snippet of the mail I received:

It does overlap your other articles on a fair price for craft though. By doing it for free am I lowering the costs for everyone? But by not doing it for free it wouldn't get done! The 'payment' I'm getting is things that money can't buy: I enjoy it, can see the longterm benefits from it (my work/ideas/research findings are published, I've gained experience, a reputation, it leaves the door of academia open and improves my ability to get in there later).
Ah, yes. I have firm principles in some areas of my life, and I have wishes that I know will not become true in others - and publishing (academic) articles and getting paid for them is definitely in the "I wish" category.
As in many things in Real Life (TM), there are shades of grey and not just black and white to things; and for some of the folks writing and publishing without getting pay for the article, it's not really an investment of time with nothing in return. If I am doing research and am getting paid for it, I have already been paid for my work - publishing for free is not working for free, in that case. If I am publishing without getting paid in money, I am (as mentioned above) getting non-monetary things back too: an article more to my name, my ideas get spread, maybe I can inspire some nice fruitful dialogue, some research gets furthered. For a freelancer, getting your name known better may be the difference between getting hired for things or not - so I could see it as an investment in a (very special) kind of advertisment for myself.
In my personal case, it might also enable me to get some copies of the book for re-selling, so I still have the chance of making a bit of money after all. What really bugs me a bit, though, is having published an article for free and then seeing said article as the online version with a really hefty price tag on it. Yes, there are costs to the publishing house - but sometimes these prices just seem unrealistically high to me.

But if you don't submit to this? We are, as academics, living in a culture where as a rule you publish your research and articles without getting money from the publishing house. You may get offprints or reduced prices for the printed article, but there is no money flow toward the author; in some cases, there is even Unlawful Flow according to Yog. Publishing for no money is not a too big deal for those who get paid for their research work, as much or all of that writing time is already paid for; it is, however, a serious investment of time with no direct revenue for an independent researcher. So the question is, in some way: can you afford to publish? On the other hand you cannot afford not to publish - to keep in the loop, to keep your doors open should you wish to stay or return to classic academia, to build up your reputation. And to get your research findings out - because unpublished research is a kind of a waste, too.
Best for publication is thus something that will get widely known, not just an obscure little place in the Internet, or a small regional journal that will be very hard to get in a few years' time, if you actually manage to learn that something of interest was published in there.
And the big names of journals? The ones that get read widely, and have a high impact? Those are often the real pricey ones, where you have a hefty price tag on each single article - even the nonprinted e-version.

So if I get the opportunity to publish an article about the Spinning Experiment in a big, widely-read journal - I take a deep breath, and the opportunity.

Have you published your research for free? How do you feel about that situation, and the question of money flow? Please let me (and your fellow readers) know in the comments - I'd love to hear your opinion!

Monday, 9 December 2013

What's that smell?

There is the odour of the season gently wafting through our rooms - smells of baking, of chocolate and nuts and butter. This weekend saw a fair bit of baking - including that of a friend who currently has no kitchen and joined in with his cookie-baking hereabouts, so the oven really did work for its keep. Now we're about finished with the making of all the cookies and goodies for the Xmas coffee table - just two more kinds to go, one of them designed to use up the egg-whites that get left over from other kinds of cookies.

I do the quite-traditional German style baking, where you have one kind of basic cookie dough and turn it into different kinds by adding diverse yumminess enhancers - such as sour (red currant) gelee between two cookies and then coating the top with chocolate. Or doing the same, but with praline (what the Germans call Nougat) instead of the jam. Or adding marzipan to them, stuck onto a single cookie with help of more praline. And then leaving a few ones plain, too - makes four kinds of different cookies from one kneading and baking.

Should you want to join in the baking craze, here's one post with previous recipes, and here is the recipe for the Lemon Thingies.

And because it's almost traditional by now to share a recipe with you at about this time of year, here is one that I took into the canon of things to bake in the season last year: Chocolate-coffee-nut-spheroids. It's one of the "use up your leftover egg whites" recipes - typical German butter cookies call for more egg yolks than whole eggs, so you are saddled with egg whites. I store them into a lock&lock box until I get around to using them; my sister once told me she also freezes them when she has to keep them for a longer while, or when she wants to save them for something larger involving more of the stuff later in the year. I usually base these recipes on 2 egg whites for writing them down, and then prepare double or triple this amount (depending on the number of whites, and the amount of final objects desired).


200 g mixed nuts (I usually go for a little less than a third walnuts, and the rest almonds and hazelnuts in about similar amounts), chopped not too finely
80 g sugar
100 g dark chocolate, molten
2 egg-whites
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder

2 drops bitter almond aroma
1 generous pinch of baking soda

Dissolve coffee powder in about 2 teaspoons of water, then add all the other ingredients. (The baking soda is not in there as a leavening agent, but to neutralise the acid in the coffee, which together with the walnuts can taste unpleasant to some folks.) With wet hands, form small spheres (I place a water bowl beside me to re-wet my hands as needed, and make the spheres about 1.5 to 2 cm in diameter).
Bake for 15 mins at 150° C (fan oven). After cooling, place into a tin to store. Or eat them right away. (Maybe not all of them at once, though...)

I love those little thingies. If you are going to bake them, I hope you'll enjoy them too!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Spinning Experiment Article!

Today it's time for me to rejoice - my article about the Spinning Experiment (yes, that one back from 2009) has been published in Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. Here's the link.

It's not open access, since that requires the author (yes, the author) to pay a stupid amount of money which I can't afford (and even if I did, I would not since I am a strong believer in the Rule, or Yog's Law). I'd much prefer if it were free, or open access, or offered at an affordable price - but as things are, I am very happy to have the article out there, and published in a journal where it will be seen (and hopefully read) by a lot of people.

(If you would like to read the article, you may have access to it from a library computer if the library subscribes to the journal.)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Stacks of Links.

The links have been piling up again, so here you go - a whole stack of them:

An article about the education of upper-class women in the Middle Ages - I found that very interesting.

Diachronic Design is a blog and webpage concentrating on computers in archaeology - there's not too much content yet, but it could be worthwhile to watch.

Pompeii is crumbling (German blog Archaeologik posts links to Italian articles about collapses).

Doug has done the roundup and synopsis of the (many!) answers to his first Blogging Archaeology Carnival, "Why do you blog".

In case you haven't seen the box-turns-something-else yet, here is the link. (I think this is way, way cool. The only question I have in regards to similar folding thingies is - where in hell do you put the mattress? You still have to store that somewhere, right? And it will be... bed-sized. So no actual space-saving takes place.)

The British Library has a medieval manuscripts blog, covering for example the marginalia of the Gorleston Psalter.

A very interesting post on sharing data: Archaeology and Github (over on Powered by Osteons).

And finally, a (German-language) repository and database of old cooking recipes, dated 1646 until the 20th century.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

New stuff in the shop!

We are nearing the end of the year, and before 2014 starts, I am widening my range of goods. You can now find more new things in my shop - linen bands.

Modern fabrics are usually woven to the standard width of about 140 or 150 cm. While this is not wider than some medieval fabrics were, and very practical to work with if you are tailoring something or trying to calculate your fabric needs for a specific garment, there are times when the standard width just won't cut the mustard.

Luckily, there are a few small companies left that have looms suitable for narrow wares. And while most of these produce modern-style patterned bands from cotton or viscose or other more modern materials, I have managed to find one that does pure linen weaves.

So now I can offer linen tape in 8 mm width, in bleached or unbleached,

as well as 3 and 5 cm wide tape.

There's a lot of uses I can imagine for bands like that - fixing fibre on a distaff, for example. The fabric has an even threadcount in warp and weft, so you can also use it as basis for late medieval counted-stitch embroidery, in case you are looking for clothing embellishment. (It's on the coarser side for medieval embroidery, though.) The 5 cm would also be a good width for a barbette, saving the need to hem a strip of cut cloth, with the added bulk at the edges that hemming brings.
And speaking of fabric for headwear:  In case you are looking for material for a veil or kerchief and would actually prefer to have the selvedge of the fabric along the long edges (both of them!) of your piece, here's something for you:

transparent headwear linen, woven to a width of 50 cm - which is wide enough, according to my own experience, for headwear pieces. It's really light and airy, amazingly so, and it saves you the hassle of having to hem at least one long edge.

The headwear linen is also available in a non-transparent version, with a weave density similar to that of the 3 and 5 cm wide bands. I'm offering all those pieces not per metre, but per 10 cm, so you can buy exactly the amount you need, no more, no less.

There's also a very small number of bronze pins, and it looks like the netting needles will be back in stock soon too. And in case you are a spinner and looking for some nice, non-merino top to spin, I have Coburg Fox sheep, German Eiderwolle and a naturally brown mixed German wool for you.

Finally, I have new spindle whorls coming in - here's a sneak preview picture:

If you want to see more of the shop (or buy some of the stuff, even), here's a friendly link to take you there. I hope you enjoy all these things as much as I do!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Rethinking stuff.

The last workshop I gave turned out a little differently than planned - a little smaller due to some illnesses, and a little more open-themed, partly as a consequence of that.

The result of this change toward more openness, and more diverse topics, pleased all of us no end. So much, in fact, that I have decided to rethink my workshop/course structure in general. Since one of the issues for workshops is to get enough people interested in the course topic together, on that one specific date, having an open-topic workshop takes out this major issue, so it's easier for me to have a workshop. An added benefit? Participants can have a look at what the other participants do, and maybe widen their interest.

So while I will keep up the offer of courses catering to a specific topic - especially for groups or museums that want to have a course or workshop tailored to their topic of choice - I will also offer small, open-topic workshops hereabouts.

These will be small because it's not possible to run multiple topics in a large group. A small one, however, allows for it since all the textile work is a bit of instruction, a bit of working on it by yourself. So basically, the open-themed courses are going to work like this: you book your course spot, and we will figure out what you are going to focus on during the workshop. I will then prepare your topic accordingly, and you can work on it during the course day(s), getting the instruction you need and want, with the opportunity to soak up some extra knowledge from what other participants focus on. (Or even switch focus, if you want that.)

I'm currently sorting out dates for the next three workshops of this type and am writing up the info text for the shop... so it will be online soon. And I'm already looking forward to the first of these workshops - since the last one was such a nice experience!

Monday, 2 December 2013

The Hunt.

These days, I get the feeling that in the middle of all the seasonal preparations, I am hunting for some elusive stuff all the time. Elusive stuff as in "that's how it was in the Middle Ages".

So high on today's list of things to do: counting threads from fabric samples and trying to decide if some of them will do as 14th century fabric replicas.

This is weird, and exhilarating, and interesting in a way that fabric samples probably should not be. Out comes the little USB microscope now. Threads, I will count on you!

Not all of the current hunts are as difficult, though - there has been some progress, and I hope to have suitable light for taking decent photos later today, so I can share my findings with you.

Until then, here is a truly breathtaking video that has nothing to do with historical textiles - but a lot with going for what you want to go for, and never mind conventions and naysayers.

This video left me totally boggled. It's... wow. Just... wow.