Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hard times.

I have this nasty (but quite common) tendency to tense up under stress in my neck and shoulders, and it can get really bad sometimes. And recently, somehow tension has built up again, sort of without me really noticing - so yesterday was high time for a therapeutic hot bath, some hot packs and before that quite a bit of stretching and relaxing exercises.

Even though working at the computer is not the best thing to do with tense muscles, it can sort of help relax with some really brilliant do-as-you-watch videos on youtube. So just in case you have the same tensioning tendencies, here is one exercise vid that I really liked yesterday.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I'm still waiting for the invention of an automatic paperwork handling machine. Or something like that.

Like... an instant secretary, maybe? I'd really like an instant secretary. That would come in so, so handy. It would mean I had someone to do that heap of typing that is waiting for me and the hundred and fifty small and more or less annoying other tasks that are not yet done.

Oh well. If anyone knows where to get an instant secretary... please tell me.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Back home.

Prague was wonderful - it is a delightful city, and it was absolutely bustling. There were interesting-looking christmas markets too, but I had no time for them (unfortunately), since I spent almost all the time not needed to get back to the station with visiting my colleague. I didn't even manage to eat one of the typical sausages-in-a-bun that they sell there. Now I will need to go back there some day not too far in the future, to remedy that. What a pity.

Prague is not so large that you can't walk most of its interesting bits - it takes about one hour from the inner city to the main station - and it is full of tall, imposing houses with lots and lots of Art Deco. The food is ridiculously cheap from a German point of view, and public transport is extremely affordable as well. There's a wealth of museums (including a Mucha museum), cafes, shops, and so on, and I'm sure it would be easy to spend a week or so just doing the typical city-visit sightseeing stuff.

It was the first time for me to travel by express bus (which leaves from Nuremberg and goes directly to Prague, non-stop) and I was quite taken - it is a comfy way to travel, especially if the seat next to yours is free, and it is also nearly ridiculously cheap if you manage to get one of the super-saver-book-in-advance tickets. I can definitely recommend both - the bus and the city!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Gotta love deadlines.

Deadlines make life so much more interesting. Especially if you have a tendency to forget about them until a short while before they are there.

Thanks to my good luck, I got reminded early on - so I now have more or less plenty of time left to write my article (another one about the spinning experiment, but with slightly different detail information). Though today and tomorrow will sort of not be spent working on the article, at least not much, since I'm off to Prague castle to look at textiles and meet with a dear colleague there.

Though I am planning to get some reading for the article done during the journey. And since I'll be away until tomorrow, there will be no blog post. Here, at least, is a link to the photogallery of Prague Castle.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

RIP Anne McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey, sf writer, died of a stroke on Monday. Locus online has an obituary, and I found out about it via ADM's blog post.

Anne McCaffrey was the writer that first made me really realise how different it is to read an English novel in the original from reading its German translation. I bought my first McCaffrey book - one from the Brain/Brawn series - on a bicycle holiday with my parents, and I loved it. With another of her books, I found that the German translation had lost all the appeal that came with her style of writing... and that convinced me to read books by English-language authors in the original, no matter what.

Then, for a while, she was my favourite author. I was in my teens, and her stories were just what I wanted: tales of love and conflict and glorious partnerships (between humans and dragons, humans and human-ish starships, humans and a living planet, and humans and humans). And all of them with a sort of happy ending guarantee. That was back in the days when it was not so easy to get your hands onto English language books in Germany, and I ordered them in via our local bookshop. With a considerable markup on the cover price in that procedure, I left quite a bit of money there.

Over the following years, my tastes gradually changed and evolved, and other authors took first place in my personal ranking. I stopped buying new books she wrote, instead turning to other tales - not so much guarantee for happy endings, not so many obvious storylines, and vastly different styles. Today, I usually tell people they are "Badewannenbücher" (bathtub books) - books that usually have more appeal to females than to males, a kind of story that you take into the bathtub with you for comfort reading when you are feeling down, with a non-taxing storyline and non-taxing style of writing, and something you don't mind too much if a splash of bath water gets onto it. (And there's nothing wrong with bathtub books - life would be much, much poorer without them.)

My sizeable stack of Anne McCaffrey books is still something I look at and remember my teenage days, my discovery of novels written in English. Even though I don't read them often anymore, they will stay - for the occasional day where I need to get into the tub with a book, or a friend does. And because Anne McCaffrey's books are an important part of my own history as a reader.

Rest in peace, Anne McCaffrey - and thank you for your books.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Medieval Toys.

The Olde Yellow Press,, has posted a link to an article by Geoff Egan about medieval miniature toys. It's just a short little article, but hinting at the fact that some things about childhood just do not change.

And if you are not sure why I call them the Olde Yellow Press... click here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

That's what friends are for.

Last week, a friend sent me a link to a blog that I had never heard of before - with an article about why Indiana Jones is not getting tenured. Which he discovers when he comes back from yet another globetrotting adventure and checks his mail.

I can recommend reading it if you like weird archaeologists, Indiana Jones, non-weird archaeologists (do they even exist) or are involved in academia and tenure stuff. Or if you are feeling bored. Or if you are sure that you like the kind of humor I like. Or... oh, go and think of your own reasons. Or not.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Please help.

If you are interested in medieval material culture, you will surely have heard about the IMAREAL - an Austrian institute that did a lot of research and made a lot of publications about that topic. The IMAREAL also includes several helpful databases, among them the picture database REAL online - which you probably also know. (If not, you should. It's huge and immensely helpful.)

All this institute is part of a larger organisation, the Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austrian Academy of Sciences). This is a rather large Academy - in fact it's the largest non-university establishment for research in Austria - and it's an important employer for scientists in social and historical fields as well. 905 people* including admin staff work there, and I have at least two friends who are employed by them.

However, this is about to change. There has been a "Performance Agreement" (that never bodes well, does it?) between the ÖAW and the Ministry for Science and Research in Austria, signed on November 4.
This agreement paves the way for a large budget reduction and, consequently, for the loss or closure of many demonstrably excellent and internationally acclaimed research organisations. With these, up to 300 full-time staff members may have to go between 2012 and 2014.

That's about one third of employees! Such drastic employee cuts are unprecedented in Austrian
history since 1945.  The current economic climate does not serve to justify this severity, and cuts on this scale have not been made in any other areas.
Since third-party funding totaling approx. 22 Mio. Euro was acquired by employees, who now stand to lose their jobs, further negative impacts are foreseeable.  This amounts to a sustainable destruction of knowledge and infrastructure. 

There is a petition online to protest against these budget cuts and the subsequent loss of jobs. The petition page linked is in German, but there is a full English translation available on the page as well, with a translation of the field names and confirmation email you will get (link opens .pdf file). It is even possible to sign anonymously, if you do not wish your name to appear. If you want to go directly to the signing page, just click the red button below.

Please help by signing and passing on the information about this petition - it will only run for 54 more days. If everyone who uses the REAL online database signs, they might be in for a surprise...

* This may not sound much if you have large businesses at the back of your mind - but for social or historical sciences, it's oodles.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

It's getting frosty outside!

And that is guarantee for an exciting spectacle of frost rims on spiderwebs. Like on this bit of spire sage...

... which is all of the blog post you will be getting for now, since I am fresh out of inspiration and need some more coffee before I tackle today's stack of things to do...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Pre-scheduled posts are something really neat.

Yesterday was a deliciously work-free day, since I went to my parents' house to help celebrate my Gran's 90th birthday. So instead of shuttling back and forth the bits and bytes on my computer, I was shuttling cakes and coffee and having way too many bites of my own.

Milestone birthdays (we in Germany call full decade birthdays "runder Geburtstag", literally "round birthday) are always something else - but now I can tell you: once you turn 90, you can really get a party on! More people stopped by or came for the birthday than I can remember for the last ones, and my Gran thoroughly enjoyed herself. And I did, too - plus I can now have lovely leftovers for breakfast...

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Why you should always check the date.

In the (admittedly very small) team of Textile Forum organisers, I am the techie person. Which means that website stuff - making, updating, and so on - and mailing stuff is my job. And that, of course, includes the newsletter.

I have been using a small freeware newsletter programme these past years that is easy to use and generally very nice - apart from one thing: It has a tendency to mangle word wraps in the email. Now this could be fixed easily by some more care on my part (it's partly a dumb-user-problem), but I tend to forget to look out for that, and I have planned to do a newsletter as well in the future, so I went out to search for a successor to my old prog.

And I found one. It looked nice, it sounded nice, it installed like a breeze (since I now know how to generate a new sql-database and which values to jot down for the server), it imported all my addresses nicely, and it has a bunch of nice features that are just what I need. And it's open source.

However, I have now run into a few bugs that ... bug me. Nothing totally serious, nothing that I could not work around, but irksome. And hey, I changed from my old programme to get rid of irksome! Not believing that this irksomeness had to be there, I went to look at the documentation. And then it dawned on me... this thing I installed? Has help files from 2008. Last update of the thing was also 2008. I downloaded and installed a zombie.

And this, my friends, is why one should always (always!) check for: a) latest update of the thing and b) check if there is proper documentation, FAQ, and (if available) help forums before installing a programme, and c) check when the last entries on the help forums were. Before installing. Because once you have an issue with the rampant zombie on your system... it's too late.

Now please excuse me while I put that undead body back to where it belongs and find myself a live one. With proper docs and support.

Monday, 14 November 2011

New dates for embroidery workshops.

I have fixed new dates for the embroidery workshops - next counted work course will be held on January 28 2012, and the next non-counted work/picture embroidery course will be on January 29 2012.

If you are interested, you can find some more information via the links above - and I'd be delighted to see you there!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Textile Forum is in planning.

For those of you who are waiting for news regarding the next Textile Forum, here's some good ones.

We are planning for the Forum to take place in Mayen, Germany, in the brand new Laboratory for Experimental Archaeology, from September 10 to September 16 2012. We also have a focus topic for the conference, which will be "Metal in Textile Crafts".

This is a wide topic that can include anything from metal tools necessary over the use of metal embellishments like threads or rings to the use of metal salts in dyeing processes and the role of metal corrosion in the preservation of archaeological textiles - so a huge range of techniques and materials that is covered by the focus topic. In addition to that, we do welcome other topics too (as usual).

We have not figured out all the organisitorial details, but we are planning to have the usual full board and possibility to sleep on site. If you would like to present a poster or paper at the Forum, or give a demonstration or workshop, please contact us at info(at), sending your name, address, and proposed title of your presentation/demo/workshop. This would help us a lot in the rest of our planning - and of course you are welcome to spread the word about the Forum!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Flash, anyone?

I own a camera - a pretty good one, as I feel - and I like to use it. Which is good, since my line of work is made easier by being able to take photographs of stuff (including small stuff in bad lighting behind glass, also known as museum exhibits).

This, however, always means "no flash". Self-evident, right? Which in turn means that although my camera has a flash, I am never using it, and I don't own a real large flash (yet). Plus I only have a very rough idea on what to do with a flash. This is no problem for my work photography - but can be awkward for the other kind of pictures I like to take: portraits.

And yesterday, I stumbled across a photographer's blog who does have an idea of how to use a flash for good, soft, nice lighting to shoot portraits. And just in case you are interested in that, here's the link to the Tangents blog pages about flash lighting.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How Medieval is That?

Doc, over at Medieval Cookery, has posted an article about how medieval a given "medieval" meal is.

And you can more or less use his three points - medieval ingredients, medieval recipes (or techniques) and menu (kit) consistency.

Speaking of medieval or not-really-medieval stuff, have outdone themselves. They have actually posted an interview (which is more or less really a plug) with a lady making "medieval leather clothing". I am not going to post a link to it - but I will tell you that I watched it, and that I could not decide whether to laugh hysterically or cry into my coffee. Leather garments in the Middle Ages are something that is not easily grasped due to the relatively sparse sources, and most leather finds we have are from shoes. Let's just say that the things shown in that video are not medieval in ingredients, recipes or menu consistency.

Wisely, have closed the interview article to comments.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Go back in history!

You probably know that saying that goes something like "once it's on the internet, it stays there forever", right?

That is one of the nice and one of the not-so-nice things about the 'Net. Well, mostly nice, provided you don't have weird or compromising stuff about yourself up in there that you would like to get rid of.

One of the reasons things stay in the 'Net is the Internet Archive. That is a non-profit project to build an Internet library - to make sure that things do not get lost just because they only existed in digital form. Part of the Archive is the Wayback Machine which you may have heard of (timetravels in the 'Net!) and which I already knew, but I just recently discovered that there are  also texts in there. Texts as in scanned books in .pdf form: catalogues, how-to books, you name it. And that includes embroidery books and other texts about textiles. So a search of the Internet Archive may be worth a try!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Hallstatt Textiles - Conference and Exhibition

Regular readers will probably remember that I was involved in spinning for a reconstruction of woven Hallstatt bands last year. The project is now coming to its end with an exhibition and a conference. Here is the official announcement text:

On the occasion of a three-year research project on 'Dyeing techniques of the prehistoric Hallstatt-Textiles' funded by the Austrian Science FWF [L431-G02] at the Natural History Museum of Vienna both an exhibition and a symposium will be organized. In co-operation with the University of Applied Arts Vienna, the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, the Austrian Society for Textile-Art-Research and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands at both events, a colourful spectrum of research and art is presented.

colours of hallstatt |textiles connecting science and art
hallstattfarben | Textile Verbindungen zwischen Forschung und Kunst
Venue: Natural History Museum Wien
Date: 17th January to 29th of June 2012

3000 Years of Colour – from Tradition to Art and Innovation
2nd International Symposium on Hallstatt-Textiles
Venue: Natural History Museum Wien
Date: 21st to 23rd March 2012
Registration and further information:

Hallstatt in Upper Austria is famous for its prehistoric salt mining. Due to the conservation by the salt, organic finds survived more than 3000 years. Among them are the oldest dyed textiles of Europe, from the Bronze Age (15th - 13th cent. BCA) and the Early Iron Age (Hallstatt-Culture, 800 - 400 BCA).

During both the exhibition and the symposium scientists and artists will provide you with a thorough insight into the unique world of prehistoric textiles and their colours. It will be shown how prehistoric dyers succeeded to use the colours of nature for dyeing textiles and what these colours mean to us today. The last three years scientists investigated the prehistoric dyeing and textiles techniques, analysed the dyes and fibres of the prehistoric finds, collected dye plants, cultivated woad, performed dyeing experiments and experimental textile archaeology and produced replicas of Iron Age ribbons. By the archaeological textiles, by ancient dyeing and textile techniques, by colours and ornaments artists were inspired to create objects of contemporary art.

In the exhibition the various topics will be presented together with prehistoric textile finds from Hallstatt, the reproductions of the ribbons and the art objects.

The three-day Symposium will include lectures of these topics, an art performance and tours of the exhibition and of the textile collection of the Papyrus Museum. A social program will enable you to exchange your experience with an international audience in a relaxed atmosphere and will complete your own "Hallstatt Experience".
 I am sure it will be a wonderful symposium, and I am already looking forward to it!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Experimental Drinkology.

Experimental Archaeology is cool. About as cool as the Internet, I would say - there are so many questions about our history still unanswered, and quite a few of them are suitable for designing an archaeological experiment around them.

Plus it's absolutely exhilarating to try out things and find out things at the same time - even if the trying out and finding out involves lengthy mind-numbing and tedious work. (It's a scientific method, after all - you don't get only the fun of doing, you get the work of analysing too.)

And then, impressive things can happen. Plus a successful archaeological experiment is almost always of interest for the public - so it also helps getting people understand how varied and interesting and yet unknown the past is. Case in point? This article here, exploring old alcoholic beverages reconstructed from organic residue in vessels.

Here's to archaeology - cheers!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Praised be the Internets.

Internet is good. Well, since you read this blog, you will know that I think the internet is good. But sometimes, it comes back to me just how good it is - and then I have to say it again.

The internet helps me to connect with my friends. To find out when favourite musicians play somewhere I can go. It enables me to buy strange and useful things, like my new spinning wheel (yes, I have a new one). It continuously provides me with new programmes that are good to use and totally free for most private purposes (like Anti-Twin, a wonderful tool to find duplicate files, or Sequoia View, a programme that shows you how big a file is on your hard disk). It is a wonderful place to do research for writing and working.*

And it makes it possible to collaborate with people who live on the other side of the planet. All the way around, with no delay whatsoever, I can send things and messages and pictures, and we can discuss what is good and what is okay and what is not so good. And that, I think, is absolutely amazing.

*And yes, it also provides me with endless opportunities to get side-tracked, procrastinate, and waste time and money. But hey, that's the Internet for everybody, right?

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Autumn has come.

All the leaves are turning red and yellow outside, we have greyish foggy weather, and the small birds are already checking out possible nesting places for next spring - it's clearly autumn.

Now is the time of beautiful golden light and roasted chestnuts and hot chocolate and tea with spices in it.

And the best time to make autumny photographs - this picture was taken in Bamberg during the long weekend.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Today's a holiday over here in good ol'Germany, so you are not getting a proper blog post.

Instead of blogging, I will be having fun and relaxing - but you might want to check out the open access journals that are still online for open access week, and there's a handy customised search engine right here, thanks to Doug's Archaeology blog.