Monday, September 29, 2008

All right, that's it, I hate this shithole.

That may come as news to some of the folks reading my blog, because as a rule, I try not to bitch about places. People live in those places, and inevitably someone gets offended. So if you live in the Low Country of the Carolinas (in North America), please stop reading now. And if you're easily offended by profanity, it'd probably be good to quit reading now, too. Though if you are I don't know what you're doing here anyway. I'm babbling. I babble when I'm pissed off.

This place is a damned swamp. What does "Low Country" really mean? SWAMP. They sell property here with 'marsh views' like THAT IS A GOOD THING. IT IS A BLOODY SWAMP, PEOPLE. My big beef with the whole swamp deal - other than major risk of flooding when tropical storms come through - is the FUCKING BUGS. I moved here from Hawaii. I'm used to cane spiders, and flying cockroaches, and rice beetles, and armored centipedes a foot long (uh, 20cm? about that), and scorpions. You know what? All that sounds like a lovely break from the unending parade of creepy-crawlies we get through here. Because here in this swamp, it's not about the size. It's about the VOLUME. The bugs get into EVERYTHING. I keep finding little almost microscopic beetle things in my yarn, my books, floating in my tea. We get hordes of anopheles mosquitos, you know, the ones that carry malaria, all over the place. We have banana spiders that make the husbeast scream like a girl and run for the blow torch.

Anyway. Anyway. Getting grip.

Today, I decided to do some baking. (Which is the trigger for the rest of this, though the cockroach later may have set me off, and I'm getting off track.) So I got into my pantry and pulled out the bread flour. You know, the SEALED UP bread flour, in the plastic container that SEALS because I've spent the last seventeen damn years in climates full of bugs and EVERYTHING IN THE HOUSE that contains food is sealed or in the fridge (which counts as sealed). Opened the bread flour container.

Full of bugs. Little worms. Whole goddamn container was moving. Reminded me of a rather traumatic video I once watched in EMT class that was full of maggots, but on a smaller scale. Lovely. Out goes two pounds of flour, at least, and I'm now trying my baking experiment with all purpose flour. (If it works, I'll share the recipe. I'm calling it Lazy Brioche.)

Then, while stomping out here into the other room to type a long bitch about how living in a swamp SUCKS OOZING RAT ASS, what do I nearly step on but an inch and a half long cockroach that Sekhmet helpfully killed for me, laying in the middle of the floor.

I hate living in a swamp.

More on kimono

Well. Yesterday, when I said "I wanna make kimono" I meant more 'Japanese clothing in general, probably a yukata or haori to start' not 'full-blown insane formal uchikake with the elaborate lining'. I didn't think my readers would know what I meant by all those terms, and I don't know why I was thinking that way, 'cause my readers are a smart bunch.

So, to quickly summarize, I am told 'kimono' is sort of the Japanese equivalent of clothing and generally means 'something you put on so you don't get cold or arrested'. By that definition, yes. I wanna make me some kickass kimono.


This is a formal uchikake, which would likely be worn by a woman for her wedding, a state affair, or something else seriously big-deal formal.

Those sleeves? Called furisode, which means 'flutter sleeves' or possibly 'butterfly sleeves'. I've seen it defined both ways. Totally impractical. These are usually made with silk, fully lined (and when I say lined, I mean put together in such a way all raw seams are sealed inside and you can wear them inside out - clueless westerners often DO wear them inside out). Maybe, twenty years from now, when I'm really skilled, I'll make one of these. If someone pays me enough. 'Cause I've sure as hell got nowhere to wear one. Here's another 'cause they really are amazing.

Truly amazing. Every possible form of weaving, painting, dyeing, embroidery, and other surface decoration you can possibly think of has been used to make these over the last couple thousand years.

The tsukesage is the less formal version:

Also could be called the old lady version (shorter sleeves, less elaborate decoration) which would be appropriate for me. I aspire to these. If we move somewhere really north (and cold), I may make one of these of silk (lining too) with wool batting between the two layers. Kimono used to be quilted for cold weather. I bet they're damn warm; it'd be like wearing a blanket. I'm already imagining wearing something like this (possibly more subtle, but it is ME we're talking about) to watch Friday night football games in the freezing cold.

These days, the short overcoat/jacket shorter kimono is known as a haori. This is sort of like our version of putting on a skirt to look kind of dressy. Usually when you see Japanese folk on TV or in books wearing kimono, it's one of these.

If I ever get good enough to be making kimono out of silk, I'll probably wind up making these. Sometimes they're made of cotton, and I'm considering rayon as a fallback. (Hey. They made kimono out of bamboo and birch bark, they better not quibble over some rayon.)

This is a yukata, which is the everyday wear of traditional Japan. This is what you put on to go hang at your best friend's house, or whatever. Our version would be slacks (jeans) and a sweater or casually nice shirt. Often they were dyed with indigo.

The short version of this is the hanten, which I have heard described as the t-shirt of Japan:

These are often made of cotton, and either half-lined or not lined. Likely they will be my first endeavor. I'll be working with cotton.

And the male version of the everyday kimono is known as the nagajuban (which I just looked up on another web site and it told me nagajuban or juban are undershirt kimono, so you be the judge). Formal male outfits are known as kamishimo, but I don't think this one is formal enough to be part of one.
Generally, men's clothing is darker, less elaborate, and with shorter sleeves than women's clothing.

For those of you remotely familiar with Japanese culture (I'm not claiming to be fluent at the language, the culture, the symbolism, or much of anything; I just like their clothing), you know they have a specific word for EVERYTHING. Short cotton kimono for spring, long quilted kimono for winter, 'undershirt' kimono, girls' kimono, old lady kimono, all have their own separate terms and names. I'm only hitting the high points because I don't want to be here all day, and again, I'm not fluent. I'm sure I've generalized too much already and one of the uchikake is really a kosode, or whatever. There is a lovely dictionary here you can read over, for educational purposes. (And you'll really see what I mean by 'a name for everything'.) At any rate, you got to look at some purty pictures this morning and read more of my insane babbling.

So, for now, my plan hasn't really altered from what it was: Buy some cotton/rayon dyes and scarves, and experiment with batik printing on them for Christmas and possible Etsy shop sale. That really was a plan before last night's brain wave (which I really did have while writing this last blog post and being smacked in the face with my other posts about human creativity). All that has changed is the end goal. Before, it was to make a buck (never a bad thing). Now... NOW, I wanna MAKE COOL STUFF. Which of course speaks to the human soul, from what I've seen.

Anyone got ideas on symbolism for a kamon? I think the family needs one. German/Irish heritage folks with a Japanese family crest. Yup. Sounds like my house.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I have faced reality.

And it looks like this.

(Finished the second crown; need to embellish and write the pattern.)

And sometimes, on a good day, reality looks like this.

Which is good. Very good. I'm a damn good knitter. But that's the point. I'm a KNITTER. You know what?

Reality is, I'll never turn out stuff like this:

...that first one has a giant hand-embroidered peacock on it. In case you can't tell from the crappy photo I took out of a book. Yeah, I could buy some fabric and sew my own kimono. And I probably will. But this level of art? I'm betting the people who made those kimono spent AT LEAST as much time learning their craft as I have on knitting (twenty years) to get to that skill level. For many, the intricate work was ALL they did, every day, for a living. This was how they ATE, not some hobby to fool around with like my knitting is to me. So the fact is, I'm unlikely to ever have the skill to produce something like these kimono. I have admired work like this forever, and always wanted to make things like it. A voice in the back of my head always says "Where would you wear it?" but to hell with the Little Voice. It's not about the wearing, it's about the MAKING. So we're back to acts of creativity as a human need, and... and...

Hmmm. So. Kimono. Hmmmm. I'd need to practice on some other fabric, first. Hmmm. Christmas is coming up, for easy experiment unloading.


Friday, September 26, 2008

Hey, I'm enlightened!


Yesterday, my box o' wool got here. Two pounds. I put my foot in for scale.

I'm trying to get motivated; the plan is to split it up, dye it, and sell it. (Someone wants roving, right? Someone?) It's practice for the bag of looooovely roving that Bells sent me. I don't want to ruin that, so I'm gonna practice on this stuff, first.

Anyway, with the wool I got a cute little book, Spin Span Spun.

It's less than a hundred pages, and cost ten dollars. It contains a whole bunch of spinning lore from all over the world. Among the interesting tidbits, it appears that Hindu Yogis had this list of reasons why a person spins (like to make money or to clothe their family) and the most enlightened of those reasons was for the 'meditation' of it. That's the same as spinning to chill out and not kill anyone, right? RIGHT?

The husbeast has been using colloidal graphite to 'oil' my spinning wheel, and the mofo still squeaks (the wheel, not the husbeast). This booklet points out that early spinners oiled with whatever they had, and that it was often animal fat. I'm gonna be after the wheel with some olive oil as soon as the Goob goes down for her nap.

Anyway, this came from Paradise Fibers. They're okay. Shipping's on the slow side, and their wool can occasionally reek like a barnyard, but the prices are low and they haven't screwed up an order yet. For good-smelling wool and kickass customer service, I go with Kendig Cottage.

I haven't been talking about the Goob or doing much with photos because, bluntly, she's driving me insane. Lots of push the envelope stuff that small children do. You know, make sure that the rules that have applied since birth still apply. No standing on the furniture, no tantrums, no screaming... all those really mean, nit-picking rules. Bah.

Otherwise, it's raining. Not a big deal. Still plying the black silk; started putting medical adhesive tape on my finger for that, and it's not eating my index finger any more, but it still sucks. Um. Knitting on the beige thing from yesterday continues. Sekhmet is laying on my foot. Life rubs along, as always, whether we want it to or not.

But I'm enlightened now. Right?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nothing but good times ahead.

That's some tropical storm or other (Kevin? Lola? Malaprop?) parked off shore. It's supposed to come ashore almost due west because of a high pressure area over the north-central Atlantic. Apparently it's supposed to rain and be really windy. Oooh. Never seen that before. The temperature has dropped significantly, though. For that, I don't care if it rains sideways. Now that it feels like fall, I have an urge to bake bread.

Otherwise, well, it's a damn good thing I like spinning.

Remember the black silk I got from Habu Textiles that's too thin to do anything with (at least at my level of weaving skill; and I refuse to start knitting on eyed needles like Alwen does)? I figured I could chain-ply it on the spinning wheel, thereby making it thick enough to be useful. (I'm thinking of carbon fiber and silk woven scarves as Christmas gifts; with the black silk for the warp.) So to the wheel I went.

Pain. In. The. Ass.

This was originally my plan for the spinning wheel. To ply together thinner yarns, not to actually spin from scratch. While fooling around learning to use the thing, I realized I quite enjoy spinning from scratch and have been doing that. This was the first time I used the wheel as I'd originally inteneded, to ply thin stuff. Know what? It's fucking irritating. I hate it.

Real good thing I like spinning. Otherwise I'd have bought a spinning wheel for nothing.

Did I mention that I'm getting two pounds of wool in the mail? Probably today? To dye? Whee!

Otherwise, well, I'm watching the Subprime Mortgage Scandal (if it's not called that, it should be) unfolding here in the US. For those of you out of the loop, either because you don't live in the US or you're under a rock (I envy you the rock, truly), a mildly humorous summary of the entire clusterfuck can be found here. It'd be funnier if it wasn't true. One of those lovely situations.

Anyway, the citizens of the US were informed last night that we, the taxpayers, will be expected to pick up the tab for what is, ultimately, corporate greed. Shit is rolling downhill and gaining speed. This may be the straw that broke the back of the average US citizen; as usual, the best way to get a person's attention is to steal their money. I am reminded of an old CO of the husbeast's, who once yelled at the payroll department, "You know how to get a ship to mutiny? DON'T PAY THEM!" And of course I used to do customer service at a bank, so I know how bitchy people can get when you mess with their money (and I usually got bitched out over very small amounts, not SEVEN HUNDRED BILLION GODDAMN DOLLARS). It's gonna be interesting. Duck and cover. I'm gonna turn up the iPod real loud and knit.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hunter-gathers, and stuff.

Roxie asked where I got the twenty hour work week figure for hunter gatherers. Actually, I pulled it out of my head. That's considered the standard rule of thumb in most anthropology classes. (Or at least the ones I took.) A quick flip through Wikipedia (which I hate due to the scholarship, but damn it, it's handy) gives some other figures, all around the twenty hour mark. The !Kung study in one village came to a fifteen hour work week.

Modern humans (i.e. those of us sitting here in our modern homes reading this on the internet) have a biased view of hunter-gatherer society. For one thing, I think modern humans lose track of how little we REALLY need to live a fine, healthy life. Food, shelter, clothing. That's really about it. Another factor is, all current hunter-gatherer societies have been pushed to 'fringe lands' over the years, by other agricultural societies who moved in and took the good land. The !Kung in the Kalahari Desert used to live further north in more temperate climates until the Bantu Expansion pushed 'em out. The Australian Aborigines lived in what is now farmland for Euros; they didn't CHOOSE that desert climate. That's just all they had left. Ditto for many Native American tribes, Inuit (though to a lesser degree), Lapp/Sami, assorted C Asian nomadic tribes... well, you get the idea. That is why, the other day, I qualified my twenty hour figure with 'living in a reasonably fertile area' (or something like that). It depends a great deal on where they are. I'm betting Eastern Woodlands tribes (where I grew up in Ohio) had less than twenty hours in a work week; the area is chock full of food and other natural resources.

There is a good bit of evidence showing that in many areas when agriculture/animal domestication was introduced, it was used only for hard-to-find plants or important animals. Then as populations expanded, they relied more heavily on agriculture. Also, in other places, they became farmers not because it was the better way to get food, but because the tribe wanted to become sedentary, so they could take advantage of natural resources and trade more successfully; it's hard to haul around a kiln or a blast furnace as a nomad. So the farming happened more by default than because it was a better way to get food. I suspect that farming was rarely adopted simply because it was a better way; for hunter-gatherers in very fertile areas, it was NOT the better way, it was just a different one, that suited different purposes better.

Did that last paragraph make sense?

Otherwise, I'm still knitting. Something. It's to be a gift so I don't wanna show detail, but here you go.

And, um. I'm looking into doing some batik prints for Christmas presents. I'm telling myself they'll be faster than knitted shawls. 'Cause we need more craft gear in this house.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Humanity = Creativity.

Or maybe the other way 'round. We could use the joy of creating as a definition of what makes us human. Anyway, since my archeology rant, I've been thinking about it, and as far back as I've ever gotten in my study of history, I can think of things people did, that seem to be for no other reason than the joy of creation. This is still expressed by modern craftspeople in such a basic form they don't even think about it: "Might as well make it pretty/attractive/nice." or conversely, "No sense making it ugly." But the bottom line is, why not? Why not make it ugly? If we're making things for form and function, who cares what it looks like?

I have heard the above from craftspeople of all stripes (it has been my great luck to be raised by people hellbent on educating me - does it show? - which in part meant being hauled around to every historic site within driving distance, many of them offering living history exhibits; you may have noticed I'm curious about everything). Glassblowers, blacksmiths, potters, stonemasons, gardeners. Every last one of them has expressed a variant of "might as well make it look nice while I'm at it". It does not appear to be a new idea within the human race. It does appear to be so hard-wired into the brain that people don't even pause to think about it. If you're going to make something, invest time in it, you're going to do it well.

For the purpose of this discussion, I narrowed myself down to one craft: pottery. Mostly because it's durable and lasts nearly forever, even if you drop it. So it's easy to find photo examples. Now, there are two ways to decorate ceramics; surface texture (scratching, stamping, etc) and 'painting' or application of surface color by zillions of methods. I've been thinking on this for three days, and the only PRACTICAL uses I can think of for either one of those decorative methods is, to mark each pot as different, so that you know what's in each one, you know, 'the one with the red stripe has beans, the one with no stripe holds rice' - though this could be done just as easily by making the pots themselves different shapes. Surface texture could make the pot easier to hang on to, giving your hands something to grasp, although in most early pottery (and a good bit of the later stuff) the clay itself was rough enough that it didn't really need extra help. But look at the history of pottery, and what do you see? Humans unable to leave something the hell alone without decorating it. The more I research, the more I think humans, given enough time, will decorate anything if it's not red hot or nailed down.

The oldest known pottery IN THE WORLD is Jomon Ware from Japan. It dates to something insane like seven, eight thousand years ago (this date, like many others, is under quite a lot of hostile disagreement). It is unglazed. However.

Jomon means something like 'cord-patterned' in Japanese. See the surface texture? Okay, you could argue that it makes the pot easier to hang on to. But why the wave pattern, reflected in the top edge? Why spend the extra time laying out something symmetrical and patterned like that when some irregular scratches would work just as well? Because it looks cool, that's why. Jomon Ware eventually evolved into this:

No practical purpose for that swirly stuff around the edge that I can possibly think of. In fact, I suspect it would make the thing almost impossible to pour from and hard to move around since it's likely top heavy. But it looks fucking cool, now, doesn't it? Gonna tell me it has a ritual purpose? Maybe, if they want to make offerings to the gods that LOOK REALLY FUCKING COOL. (That's another thing these 'it's a ritual object' people overlook; even if it is a ritual object, why invest so much time in it?)

There's no way it could have been some single idea that everyone copied, either. Because while the Jomon were making their crazyass ruffle pots (my term, don't try to look up 'ruffle pots' on line, the gods know what you'll find), over in the Middle East, at Catal Hyuk, one of the world's first cities, they were making THIS. (This stuff is dated to almost the same time as the early Jomon Ware. In some ivory towers there are fist fights over who was first.)

And at about the same time in Turkey, they were making this:

There's no practical purpose for putting all the time and care required into these pots. Not for the decoration. Anthropologists would probably go off on some riff about status symbols. I say, bullshit to that. People made them because they loved to create. And there was no sense making them ugly. Maybe they became status symbols LATER, but the reason they existed was because you might as well make it look nice.

No matter where or when you turn in the world, there was someone happily putting awesome-looking decoration of no intrinsic value on pottery of all kinds. Here's a few favorites: (please note dates for a lot of this stuff is contested, so I kept the dates very general; if a notation said from 3000 to 5000 BCE, I just went with 4000.)

Ancient Egypt:

Dating of this piece is iffy, but it's probably four thousand years old. Ish.

China, from six thousand years ago:

To the neolithic era about four thousand years ago:

To Han Dynasty celadons about two thousand years old:

To the insane stuff made during the Ming Dynasty for export to those Europeans with the unsubtle tastes:

The Minoans were making 'marine ware' painted with pictures of sea creatures, from 1500 BCE; this one seems to be pictures of cuttlefish.

I could go on. I will if you really want me to. But it's easy to see. Years, centuries of man-hours, spent decorating pottery (and this is just the pottery! think of the clothes, the wooden utensils, the weapons, the - the-) for no good reason. None of this makes the pottery more useful. Some of it makes it less. Yet obviously, all over the world, humans have always had a need to make stuff, and to make it well. Pride in their craft? Sheer joy at making it? Act of devotion to their craft, their gods, their tribes? Who knows. But it makes me proud to be in such august company.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sums up my day.

I know, I know, I'm blathering. Bear with me. This conversation was just had in my house and it bears recording.

ME: scowling and muttering to myself over Kunstricken patterns

HUSBEAST: "What's with you?"

ME: "I'm talking to myself in German."

HUSBEAST: "You don't speak German."

ME: "Why do you think I'm annoyed?"

I married a hero.

In the US Navy, there are many awards. From the highest, the Congressional Medal of Honor (if you are awarded an MOH, the president salutes you, as does everyone else in the military), down through the Navy Cross, the Distinguished Service medals, the Silver Star, on down through the Purple Heart, the Navy Achievement Medal (known as the NAM) and on and on. I once knew a guy who had so many ribbons and medals, he kept them in a Mason jar on his desk, and would pull out three at random to wear on his uniform each day. (I believe one of those awards was the Navy Cross, so they let him get away with it.)

All the way at the end of the list, past the Good Conduct Medal (known by some as the Not Getting Caught Award), the Antarctica Service Medal, and the Expert Pistol Marksman ribbon, is the tongue-in-cheek Yellow Sticky Note Of Merit.

I'm so proud. (Actually, he's got some REAL medals and ribbons, but the Yellow Sticky Note of Merit is my favorite in terms of humor.)

Holy fucking fuck.

Over at Vintage Textile, they have an antique knitted bag up for sale. They have closeups and general measurements; between the two I am guesstimating the gauge at about twenty stitches per inch. They are selling it for ELEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. As in A THOUSAND DOLLARS PLUS ANOTHER HUNDRED.

Why can't WE sell our stuff for prices like this??!!?? I'll even use silk, instead of that cotton. And mine wouldn't have holes or missing beads.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hey, Scandinavian people.

Help me make my friend snarf coffee out her nose tomorrow morning!

(Snarf: verb. To laugh while drinking, causing liquid to shoot out nose, often causing damage to computer keyboards.)

As I mentioned yesterday, she's been tormenting me with quotes from the subtitles at the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I've run "also also wik" through every translating program I can think of, and nothing's coming up for any Scandinavian language I can think of. So either it's misspelled, slang, or - go figure, it's Monty Python - totally made up. But it will give me something to do other than snarf tea out my nose when an IM screen pops up that says "Including the majestik møøse".

Thank you, I will let all of you know the results. Especially if it causes property damage or antihistimine consumption.

Otherwise, uh, it's a day. I had to quit taking a bunch of my medication because it was/is causing this mouth sore, and I'm beginning to suspect part of the problem was the medication. (Gee, that never happens.) I also think that for the last five or six YEARS, what we were calling chronic pain symptoms and treating as such was really fallout from the crashing thyroid. It appears that the pain problem is almost entirely isolated to my right hand and all the rest of this shit has been because my entire endocrine system was fucked up. Anyway. Anyway. I'm kinda loopy at the moment (gee, that's new) but feeling better.

Still knitting.

I have begun recording Tank Girl on the DVR. Which should make me drive for a mainac for at least a week.

And I ate an entire batch of cookies last night. Well. The husbeast had one and the Goober had three. I ate the rest.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Archeology Rant.

Which should have been titled "If you can't get the hell out of your Ivory Tower, could you at least talk - and listen - to someone who doesn't live up where the air is so thin it causes brain damage?" In a nutshell, I'm sick to goddamn death of archeologists ignoring both specialists in other fields AND human nature (which, being human, they should have a working knowledge of), to blow off every find that isn't immediately obvious as 'has an unknown ritual use'. Ritual use, my ass.

The first example that comes to mind, which is easily understood by knitters (or craftspeople of ANY type), is ancient toolmaking. Making tools goes back to our hominid ancestors, before we were even truly human by our current definition. (Though they sure ACTED human.) All over the world, in sites from the lowest of the lower paleolithic, up to the neolithic and even into the infomation age (where we are now), there are piles of tools. Tools that have never been used. Tools that look like they were never intended for use - either because they're too large to pick up, too small to handle easily, or just flat-out weird. What do most archeologists say? Those huge tools were 'likely made for some ritual purpose'. Know what I say, as a knitter? THEY MADE THEM FOR THE FUN OF IT. Experimentation, practice, learning, sure, but also BECAUSE THEY COULD. The typical hunter-gatherer in a reasonably fertile environment has a twenty hour work week, meaning it takes twenty hours a week to ensure you have food to eat and a roof over your head. The tools were made with stuff that could be found laying around; stone, leather, wood. So you're a craftsman fascinated by your craft, with a twenty hour work week and unlimited raw materials. What do you do? MAKE STUFF. HELLO. This seems so obvious to me that anyone claiming 'ritual purpose' should be whopped upside the head with some of those stone 'ritual' tools. When I ran this theory past the husbeast, who is also a craftsman, he had another suggestion. Those large tools? Leave 'em sitting in the front of the village, and send the message 'Hey, we've got someone big enough to USE THESE. Don't fuck with us.' Which is also an excellent point. I wouldn't call it a ritual purpose, though. More like a bluff.

How about some examples. One that really pisses me off? The Baghdad Battery.

It's a two thousand year old, middle-eastern battery. As one engineer put it, "If that's not a battery, then what is it??" Ivory tower archeology types insist that there's no way to know what it is (sure as hell looks like a battery to ME), and that it probably had, yes, some unknown ritual purpose. Mythbusters built a couple of these and used them to elecroplate stuff. Electroplating is a frigging ritual purpose?? (I love the juxtaposition in that video - two thousand year old building materials on a work bench next to a computer.) Here's an idea. If it looks like a battery and acts like a battery, MAYBE IT IS A BATTERY.

Another example that drives be batshit crazy? The Antikythera Mechanism.

It is, essentially, an ancient computer that used gears instead of silicon chips. It calculated the locations of the moon and planets; it is a miniature orrery. Among other things, it uses differential gearing (a variable gearing method) that until this discovery was not thought to have been invented until the Middle Ages. It is speculated that this was built by Archimedes himself. While I find it hard to believe he was the only Smart Guy in the ancient world, the idea of something he built with his own two hands in a museum in modern times is really cool. Anyway, what do the archeologists say? That it was used to calculate times for RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS. My ass. IT WAS FOUND IN A BLOODY SHIP WRECK. You know, those ships that used ASTRONOMICAL NAVIGATION? (Archimedes was still working on GPS.) You get the day of a festival off, who cares. You get a planet in the wrong place at sea, you wind up drowned in the Mediterranean somewhere. What would YOU use it for?

It's like they want the human race to be stupid.

Okay, one last one. Just for my own personal ranting pleasure. Cave paintings.

Why do they have to have ritual purpose?? Isn't it possible someone painted them BECAUSE THEY LIKED TO PAINT? Because they took pleasure from the act of creation? Maybe they crawled off into those caves because they wanted their work to last, and they realized painting on exposed walls or wood or leather wouldn't last? Maybe they wanted it hidden so NO ONE WOULD FUCK WITH THEIR WORK? Sure, there's evidence of lots of traffic through some of those caves. Know what? There's a lot of traffic through the National Gallery, too. Instead of assuming ritual purpose, let's find SOME EVIDENCE of ritual purpose! How's that for a thought? (To my knowledge, the majority of stone age cave paintings in Europe have no real evidence of ritual use. However, in other places in the world - China and the New World, particularly - there IS evidence of sacrifice and other ritual behavior. Maybe people painted them for DIFFERENT REASONS!)

So here's the really unpopular information that archeologists really get cranky about discussing. Most of the major discoveries in archeology weren't made by archeologists. Rosetta Stone? Found by engineers and translated by linguists. (I had an anthro prof who used to say the Rosetta Stone was the only useful thing to come from the Napoleonic Wars. I would say canned foods and emergency medicine were handy too, and he would glare at me.) Construction methods of the Great Pyramid Complex in Egypt have mostly been figured out by architects and engineers. Rediscovery of murex was done by a chemist, a zoologist, and a rabbi (sounds like the start of a great joke - a chemist, a zoologist, and a rabbi walk into a bar...) The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a kid hearding goats or sheep (or both) and translated by linguists. Most of the Mayan math/number charts were figured out by mathematicians and/or number geeks, up to and including Dr. Richard Feynman, a winner of the Nobel Prize for physics and a guy who liked to 'figure things out' - his work on the Mayan math codices was his idea of fun (last set figured out were some charts to calculate property tax; the more things change, the more they stay the same). Bob Ballard, the guy who found the Titanic, the Yorktown, the Bismarck, and a whole crapload of other under water stuff of historic significance, is an oceanographer.

I could go on, but you get the idea. As I reflect on this, I get the urge to go bug the hell out of the Charleston Museum to let me go over their textiles collection with a magnifying glass, and get to work on that history of knitting book that the world needs so badly. Oh, and textiles 'experts' who can't knit, weave, or sew? They really piss me off. But that's a rant for another day.

Signs of the coming apocalypse.

-Quit knitting the brown shawl at round 120 because it wasn't going to be big enough and am starting over. Which means two, three weeks of lace knitting, out the window.

-Totally brainfarted yesterday and missed Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arg.

-Paulie Shore is doing voiceovers for Disney, and Brian Setzer is writing music for them.

-John McCain is being taken seriously as an advocate for the US Military after repeatedly fucking them over as a congressman for over fifteen years. (Sorry, the politics just slipped in. I've hated the SOB since 1999 when he fucked us over with a pay grade 'increase' that actually took money out of our pockets.)

-Spent yesterday trying to translate 'wik' into Scandinavian languages, due to its use in the Monty Python subtitles. A Møøse once bit my sister...

-Sekhmet has been nice.

-The Goober is throwing tantrums because she can't read. When she reads it'll be straight to tech manuals on how to build plasma generators and nuclear warheads.

-The weather is cool enough to have the windows open, and it's not December.

I'm making cookies. When the Four Horsemen show up, we'll all have tea. But Pestilence isn't allowed to touch the food.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

More stuff.

Okay, after that last blog post, I did do some knitting. Finished the knitting/felting portion of the crown.

It is looking relatively foolproof, knock on wood. Lots of wood. All that's left now is some sewing, needle felting, and, yay, pattern writing. Whee ha.

Then I crawled off under my rock and made a mutant aster. (Yes. I am a plant freak. I am trying to re-create real flowers. This can't possibly shock anyone at this point.)

After that, I started on some leaves. I'm gonna make an actual floral spray sort of thing.

At the moment I've got two large leaves like the one above, a mini leaf, and two floral centers. I am now working toward several large flowers (rose-ish), and then some smaller forget-me-not flowers. No way I'll ever be able to sell this and make money. Screw it. It's physical therapy. And my desk looks like this.

Then I did some spinning, and had the husbeast shoot some video.

It's kind of cool. I actually look like I know what I'm doing.

Now if you'll excuse me, the ribbon is calling. It is saying "duuuuuude, you really need to get a grip".

The daily stuff.

Didn't knit a stitch yesterday. Was chortling with glee while I made these:

I can keep construction of single flowers like these down to an hour or so, which means selling singles will be mildly profitable (in that I will make back the cost of materials and something not quite minimum wage for my time spent). Sprays of flowers, on the other hand, are gonna cost. Though these days only hat makers will likely WANT sprays, so I'll try to keep it to single flowers or small groups...and I don't know why I'm babbling about this to YOU guys. Anyway, the physical therapy is going well and it may pay for itself.

Sekhmet is a fucker.

In case you can't tell what exactly is going on in that photo, there's a pile of toys and a couple pillows shoved under the coffee table, and Sekhmet has crawled in there and wedged herself onto one of the pillows. Because she's a cat, and she can.

The Goober is still cute.

That's a tiara and some fairy wings she's got on, there. When wearing this getup she has informed us she's a 'princess butterfly'.

Monday, after we'd seen off the in-laws on their way home, the Goob flounced back into the house, flopped on the couch, and told me "Oh, bummer." I think she had a good time.

When she's bored later today, I happened to pick up some bright pink quick-dry nail polish at the pharmacy yesterday. That should delight her.

As for the rest, well, I feel stupid even complaining about this, but remember how my one anti-inflammatory used to trigger shingles? (If not, I had three rounds of them before shifting medication.) This new medication seems to be triggering another version of the herpes virus, namely mouth sores from hell. I've had to quit taking the anti-inflammatories to get the sores to heal, can't eat, and am having to drink hot tea with a straw. Several of my Beloved Readers are dealing with true, serious, awful crap in their lives (I'm thinking of you, and worrying over you), so I feel ridiculous even mentioning it. But damn it, it hurts. I'd have some cheese with the whine, but it hurts to eat. Waaaaaah. Next up, hangnails.

THEN, last night I was messing around with my iPod (a shuffle - looooove it), and somehow, the display on my laptop got rotated 90 degrees to the left. (Meaning the 'top' of the screen was on the left side.) I sighed heavily, and the husbeast, sitting beside me, said "WHAT?" (he's had a really stressed out couple days at work). Apparently he was expecting 'my mouth hurts' or 'I'm tired' or some other usual, everyday crap. Instead, I said "Any ideas how to fix THIS?" and turned the computer sideways so he could see the display. After he got over the shock, he laughed and laughed. Bah. So glad to help with de-stressing. (Got the display fixed with relatively little fuss. Apparently there's an actual setting for that crap on the control panel.)

So all is as usual at my house - odd, out of date crafts like antique ribbon work, a psycho cat, a princess butterfly, and somehow turning my entire computer sideways. Just another day.

Gearing up for that archeology rant. I have photos.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Seven random things.

Leonie tagged me for this over at her blog, so I'll give it a whirl. I'm supposed to tag people and all that, but as usual I'm just going to say, if it sounds fun, go for it.

Most of this stuff is probably already known if you've read the blog for a while, but I'll try to come up with things suitably random and fresh.

1. As well as being an oboe player in symphonic band as a kid/young adult, for marching band, I played the tuba. I was the runt of the section, and have a chipped tooth from an attempt at tuba-twirling gone bad.

2. I am pantheist, meaning I think all religions are 'right', as are atheism and agnosticism. If it makes sense to you, it's the right belief. (Or lack thereof.) This somehow manages to offend extremists of all stripes. Oh, and I lean heavily toward Taoism, more by nature than deliberate choice.

3. When I was seven years old, I fell off a tractor onto a cement floor and broke my skull. The husbeast maintains this is the source of the 'you're not quite right' issue, though I say it goes back further than that.

4. I have a compulsive need to buy office supplies, even though these days I do not need more than the occasional pencil. So far I have resisted the scrapbooking sections at the craft store, and hope to remain strong.

5. Before I broke my hand I did calligraphy and had reasonably good drawing skills. After, I had to re-learn how to write and never took it further than all capital letter printing. I've been informed this type of hand-printing is the same type used by serial killers; pretty sure the person saying that was joking.

6. Because the husbeast works on submarines, he must have a security clearance. And because he must have the security clearance, I cannot run around the internet criticizing Certain Wars and Certain Presidents and Certain Political Systems, because in our current Certain Political Climate, he'll get his security clearance yanked and we will starve. I live for his retirement. No one will know what hit them, including my Beloved Blog Readers. (Big issues? Children's rights, gays' rights, freedom of speech, and copyright reform.)

7. With the above in mind, I consider myself a conservative, in that I think the Constitution should be either followed to the letter, or amended as the system gives provision for. However our current crop of 'conservatives' would not have me as a gift, and I'm told regularly that I'm a raving, bleeding-heart liberal. Whatever. Viva la revolution. A group of friends call me 'Che' when I get going. I'm more in line with Teddy Roosevelt, really, but Che has a nice ring to it.

There, I think that was pretty random, though I got a little political there at the end. Anyway, those wanting to join in, do so.

In other news, I don't know if I mentioned before, my mother-in-law and I went to the craft store Saturday. After I had half-filled the shopping cart (dear gods yes, a shopping cart at the craft store), we got to the cashier, and she insisted on picking up the tab for the whole mess. Including the impulse-purchase set of Crayola markers. So I figured she deserved something nice. Preferably made with some of the craft supplies. I made this.

It's sort of a mutant rose/gardenia hybrid thingie. There's a pin on the back for putting on lapels or hats. Hoping to get that part of the shop up and running sometime this week; I'm getting the hang of mass production. With this prototype, I figured costs and time spent, and these flowers are going to go for between fifteen and twenty bucks. I can't charge less and make any money. But I'll do on-request backings (pin, barette, hairpin, clip) and the prices will vary widely according to how much time they take to make. Basically, the more petals the flower has, the more time it takes.

Still knitting on the crown prototype. One more point to go, and a little extra. I've managed to work it so that there's no need for a gauge swatch and it doesn't matter how it felts, so long as it doesn't turn into a ball. I'd like to say it's idiot-proof, but I've destroyed several felted projects that seemed idiot proof at the time. But I'm doing my best.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A proud day.

No, no, this isn't about the Goober. I've gloated over her enough. (Though I did break down at the craft store today and buy her fairy wings, so more sickeningly cute photos, coming up soon.) This is about my mother-in-law.

I taught her to knit while I was pregnant, so, what, three and a half years ago. She has been an adventerous knitter, gradually working her way through different projects, learning new skills. As she puts it, she wants to learn something when she knits.

So, her latest project has been a sweater for my father-in-law. It is a cable knit. She was kind of sweating the gauge (she had been advised to WASH THE GAUGE SWITCH, so all SHOULD have been well) because the back was too narrow. I told her it would be fine because she WASHED THE SWATCH. She brought it down with her so we could wash it together, and (I'm betting) I could pour her wine if it went wrong.

Exactly the size it is supposed to be.

A fine, fine day.

Me? I'm knitting another crown, to make sure the pattern works. Then I'll be offering it for free, here and on Ravelry.


I was just re-reading the chocolate cupcake recipe in the "Chocolate" post and realized in the dry ingredients I had written vanilla instead of baking soda. I have corrected the recipe itself, but thought I would mention this in case anyone printed it out.

If anyone has tried this recipe already and it turned out weird, this is why. I'm really, really sorry.

Friday, September 12, 2008

It is the queen.

My in-laws have reminded me, they never had any little girls to shop for until they got hold of the Goober. This has been brought home to the nth degree tonight:

Don't miss the purple satin shoes. With sequins.

We'll be lucky to get her out of it to sleep tonight.