Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Josephine Baker

If a movie was made of Josephine Baker's life, everyone would say it was too improbable. But it really happened. (I think it was Tom Clancy who said the difference between fiction and reality is, fiction has to make sense. But I digress.)

Right. Josephine Baker.
She started her career as a scandal.

Josephine was born in 1906 in St Louis, Missouri. Which is an unlikely start for her later life, but it just goes to show. She got recruited for Vaudeville at age fifteen, and was part of the Harlem Renaissance She performed as a dancer in clubs and shows in New York, in the Roaring Twenties, working her way up to becoming a headliner. In 1925 she became the toast of Paris, notorious for dancing nearly nude - one description I've read has her wearing a single feather.

She starred in movies. She recorded music. She was the muse of famous artists like Hemmingway, Picasso, and Dior. After a quick tour in the US, she came back to Paris and in 1937, married a Jewish French guy, no doubt causing more scandal. She became a French citizen and by all accounts was extremely happy.

Then World War Two broke out.

Obviously not one to sit back and let life happen to her, Josephine first became an "honorable correspondent". She'd attend parties, listen to gossip, and report anything interesting back to the French Resistance. She put up refugees in her summer home in the south of France. She sent gifts to the soldiers. She did performances for the troops, and for the injured.

She smuggled messages around Europe, in with her sheet music, when she performed.

She was the first American woman to receive the Croix de gurre, France's highest honor.

With the war over, Josephine went back to entertaining. Her way. She racially integrated many concert halls in the US during the fifties and sixties; she's simply refuse to perform in segregated houses.

After running with the French Resistance in World War Two, the Civil Rights Movement in the US probably looked like just her cup of tea. And she stepped in with both feet, offering assistance of all kinds. One woman spoke during the March On Washington.
It was Josephine Baker, in her Free French uniform and all her medals.

After Martin Luther King was murdered, Coretta Scott King offered the informal leadership of the civil rights movement to Josephine Baker.

Baker said no, because she wanted to stay alive long enough to raise her twelve adopted children.

She continued to perform, demonstrate, and be awesome. She was found in her bed in 1975, surrounded by loving reviews of her latest show. She'd had a brain hemorrhage and died a few days later. Her funeral brought Paris to a standstill one last time.

And the planet was short one incredibly badass woman.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was born in 1815 and named Agusta Ada Byron. As in Lord Byron. You know, the poet and crazy dude. She was his only legitimate child. Byron, being something of a jerk, was disappointed she wasn't a boy.

Ada's mum, fed up with high romance, poetry, and the other stuff Byron spouted, countered with a very unusual education for young Ada; it was long on science and math, and short on the subjects usually taught to girls in that era, namely literature and painting. She (Ada, not her mum) had migraines and other health problems, and so spent a lot of her childhood doing math and other tutored subjects.

In 1833, she met Charles Babbage. He was busy working on his 'difference engine', essentially a mechanical calculator. This, a photo from the innards of one built, gives you an idea:
(Image from Wiki commons.)

Metallurgy and machining being what they were in the 1830s, Babbage's machine was never built in his lifetime. The design was solid, though; eventually it was built, and it does work.

In the early 1840s, Ada became acquainted with the concept of the engine, and corresponded with Babbage on the subject, and related topics. In her notes, there is a program she wrote, that calculated Bernoulli Numbers, a sequence important in number theory. Basically, while everyone else, including Babbage himself, saw the Difference Engine as a way to do arithmetic quickly and easily, Ada saw the big picture and the possibilities beyond. In other words - she got the idea of the computer. The program she wrote, when finally put into the working Difference Engine built years after her death, worked just fine.

Ada Lovelace is considered by many to be the world's first programmer, code monkey, or computer geek. Depending on who you ask. Her notes, translations, and mathematical work were vital to the early history of computing. She was writing programs for Babbages Analytical Engine that would have worked. Meaning she was writing useful code for a computer whose hardware never ran.

Not too many people can do that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What I'm doing when I'm not here.

But first. This last week of Women's History Month, or whatever the fuck we're calling it in the US, I was going to do a post a day, with a bio of an amazing woman. Today was going to be Marie Curie, but really, Badass of the Week already did her, in a style I appreciate. Rather than reinventing the wheel, here you go:

MARIE CURIE, from Badass of the Week.

Tomorrow I'll actually write up someone.


There is actual good news from the OT department.
I'm wearing splints to bed every night. I started last Wednesday, and as of today, it doesn't hurt to knit any more! At least for reasonable amounts of time... haven't tried a four hour marathon yet. But it's definitely a move in the right direction.

Maybe I'll get back to spinning, too. Wouldn't that be nice.

And this is in progress as I type:
I have a feeling I'm going to be weaving in my dining room. Might want to clear the nail polish and manicure station off the other end of the table. Hmmm.


Also, I've been reading and gaming. What else is there to do when you're zoned out from painkillers after a killer therapy session?

The Disappearing Spoon is what I've been reading. I have to read about five, ten pages, then sit and absorb for a while. It's chemistry, organized around the periodic table. But it's actually HUMANIZED chemistry, with practical application and amusing stories and actual, useful stuff, rather than random letters and numbers and little dots.

While I'm at it, there's a web site called The Periodic Table of Videos. It's just what it sounds like: Short videos on each element. Very cool.

Yes, I'm trying to teach myself chemistry. Again. You're all just stuck with it.

Then, when my brain has totally melted, there are games on the Kindle Fire. (It's an Android platform, so I assume these games are also available for any Android phone. Probably iThings, too.)

Where's my Water is from Disney, believe it or not. You try to get water through pipes to an alligator in a bathtub. You dig dirt, you squirt water and poisons, you deal with algae. Very silly, very fun. You can actually play it on line, HERE. Oh, and you really wanna capture the little duckies.

Angry Birds has a new one - Angry Birds in Space. Apparently they've hit ten MILLION downloads in the three days it's been out. !! It's really wild, compared to the other Angry Birds games. There are gravity wells, and black holes, and inertia. Physics is kind of a bitch. But it's very, very cool.

I'm trying to think of anything else I'm doing, but there isn't anything. I'm waiting for the weather to clear up so I can attempt to garden; it's been raining, and cold. I need to rip out some shrubs in the back yard, and I can't get my Jeep back there to do it while the ground is wet. (Or rather, I can, but it would make a huge mess and the husbeast would go bonkers.)

Right now? Well, for excitement, I think I need to go do some OT exercises.

And finish warping this loom.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Plagiarized by heikeknits.

This morning, I saw a link to a history of knitting article go by on my Twitter feed, so of course I clicked on it. Because, hey, ongoing interest over here. Y'all may have noticed.

I got THIS. My jaw kind of dropped. There was a second half of the article, so I clicked and...


In case anyone would like to compare, here is THE ORIGINAL KNITTY ARTICLE. Written by ME. She stole the pictures too. For amusement's sake, here's her, defending HER COPYRIGHTS. Yeah. Apparently she missed the two-way-street aspect of those laws.

I did not give this person permission. I didn't know it was going on.

So I went over and left a couple comments on the relevant blog posts. "YOU STOLE MY ARTICLE." With a link to the Knitty article. Seemed little else to say, really. So I didn't.

Woosh. The offending blog posts disappaeard. Poof! The wonders of the internet.

Or NOT, you know, because of Google Archive. (Known to geeks as "The Wayback Machine".)

Right then. I left a comment on the main page of the blog. "YOU STOLE MY ARTICLE." With a link. Because, again, not a whole lot to dither about.

That's when I got an e-mail. (I'd left my full contact info on the messages, because, hey, not stupid.)

I'll just post the e-mails in full. That way no one can cry about 'out of context' later. Or me making shit up, or being a meanie. Or whatever the hell.

Hi Julie,

I did use your article as the base for mine and asked the V&A museum if I could use images from them.
I am sorry if I offended you and as I do not want to infringe on any copyright issues I have taken these posts of my blog.

I hope that this is settles any misgivings there might be and you will accept my apologies.

Best wishes

You didn't use it as the base. YOU USED IT WORD FOR WORD. Those images are from MY ARTICLE. All you had to do was ask permission from me and credit me for the info and I'd have given it. AND SINCE YOU DIDN'T ASK MY PERMISSION, I DOUBT YOU ASKED THE V&A. And not all the images are from them, if you'd actually read the credits on my article where I WAS HONEST.

You plagiarized and would have left it there forever if I hadn't called you on it.

Admit it publicly. You do not deserve any credit for that article. It took three months' research with a university librarian helping me, and right now your readers still think YOU DID THE WORK. That is completely unacceptable.

No, this does NOT 'settle it'.

I am really really sorry about this and can only profusely apologise. I have a miniscule readership as this blog hasn't been here for long. I am glad you have made me aware of my huge mistake and it has taught me an invaluable lesson on copyright issues. I need to get much more clued up on all of this.

I will give you a public apology on my blog next time I post and really hope you will now accept my apology.

Best, Heike

Incidentally, the internet at large has got the bit between their teeth and are now going through other blog posts of yours, looking for other plagiarism. And I think some are looking at your designs.

I did not tell them to do it. They just saw the plagiarism and wondered if you had stolen anything else.

Today would be good. "Sometime" not so much.

I have taken my blog off the net as the last thing on my mind was to do a wrong thing or to offend anyone.

I don't care. I WANT YOU TO STATE PUBLICLY THAT YOU STOLE THE INFORMATION. Right now there's folks out there thinking you did all the work on that article. CORRECT IT.

Don't make me escalate this. I'm not in the mood and I've got better crap to deal with. But I will, if you don't do the right thing. All the deletion in the world is not going to fix this. Not until you state, on your unlocked blog, to everyone who reads it, that THAT WAS NOT YOUR WORK.

And the deletion? Doesn't matter. It's in Google Archive for anyone who wants to look.
[Link to Google Archive's relevant bits here.]

I am doing it now, it will be there in the next 10 min

THIS is the 'apology' I got.

Anyone see any remorse or regret there? 'Cause I don't.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

And then, spinning.


My local yarn store (Natural Stitches) asked me to write a fiber review when I was there last. Any fiber I wanted (so long as they sold it, of course). I said sure, and turned in my little blurb today. To sign up for the newsletter, you can go HERE. Yes, this is the yarn store with the wall of Cascade 220.

The fiber I chose was Northern Lights, from Louet.
It's a pencil roving. Lately I've been all about pencil roving, I think because it's simple and I need simple.

Remember these?

All with Northern Lights fiber.

I'll tell you what I told the newsletter readers: It's awesome. Go buy some. (Okay, I was a little more subtle. But it's awesome. Go buy some.)


Otherwise, I'm back in a chronic pain flare. I know this, because of this:
That's a Kromski Harp, 32" rigid heddle loom. It took me two days to get it put together, and I had to ask the hub to help me. It's still not warped. I see my doc on Friday, and am hoping for awesome drugs. I'm gonna tell her I want drugs that make fiber arts easy. BECAUSE THAT IS THE REAL PRIORITY HERE. Forget caring for my family, cleaning the house, or wiping my own butt. No. I WANT TO GET BACK TO MY FIBER STUFF.

Damn it.


Oh, and Roxie? The comment about steeking, drafting, and turning the cat? Hilarious. Thanks for that. Laughs is good drugs!

Monday, March 12, 2012


I've been veeeeery gradually getting back to spinning, and noticed the other day that I had a fine example of what pre-drafting is, why you do it, and what it's good for.

For our discussion right now, I'm going to call pre-drafting everything you do between taking the fiber out of the sales bag when you get it home, and actually drawing it out into a ply at the spinning wheel or spindle. In a way it covers a lot of ground, but in a way it's all the same thing. For anyone who's curious, my entire (usual) spinning process is described in more depth, HERE.

In discussions around the 'net and in classes and elsewhere, it seems like pre-drafting is THE mythical skill, like heel-turning or steek-cutting is in knitting. People who aren't experienced are intimidated by it, people who HAVE done it are blase and dismiss it as a non-skill.

In short, what pre-drafting does is this: Whatever it takes to get the fiber loose enough to be drafted easily at the wheel. You want to fight and curse and get sore hands and shoulders, you don't have to pre-draft at all. But for a nice smooth spin (and I think since we're hobby spinners, enjoyment should be a goal), the fiber needs fluffed a bit, or unstuck. How you do it doesn't really matter, so long as there's no destruction of property.

Here, have a photo of what I'm talking about.
These balls of fiber are of equal weight. Due to dye processes, the top or roving (this is pencil roving) emerges smashed flat and slightly stuck together. NOT FELTED, just dense and a bit stuck. The best dyer in the world, doesn't matter, the fiber will be this way. What you've got to do is loosen up the fibers so they draft without you having to swear at them.

What I did was divided the pencil roving lengthwise. (It was so easy, I think the roving was doubled for the dye process, to begin with.) Then, the ball on the left, I went through and every four inches or so, gripped the roving and lightly pulled it apart. It's sort of like a half-draft: It's exactly the same pull-to-make-thinner that I do at the wheel, but not as drastically, and without any twist being added. The other popular way to fluff the fibers is to pull laterally and spread the fibers out that way - basically the opposite direction of this method. Dividing top lengthwise repeatedly is often enough to fluff out the the fibers all on its own, and it is the other method I use for this.

You can see, even if you don't spin, that this loosened the fibers quite a lot. I have since started spinning the pre-drafted fiber and it's drafting smoothly. Awesome.

Here's a more extreme example:
The fiber on the left is one half of the pencil roving as it came out of the package, simply rolled into a ball. The other half, I divided lengthwise and then pre-drafted. The ball on the left and the two on the right are of equal weight.

That's what pre-drafting is for. That's the only point. However you do it doesn't matter. There's no wrong way.

Now, for my next trick, I'm gonna turn a sock heel. Or maybe steek the cat. (Not really. Still knitting the third half-a-washcloth shawl.)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Back in the saddle.

I think.

It has been a really freaky two weeks here at House O Samurai. All of us are well, thanks to everyone who checked in to say hi and see if everything was okay. It is.

The big problem, I think, can be narrowed down to this:
That's my netbook. It had been acting funny, I'd run some virus scans, and it suddenly crashed. CMOS worked, and nothing else. At first I thought it was a virus, but considering reality and how I use my computer and everything, now I'm wavering between motherboard shorts, or the hard drive toasted. It's going to the shop tomorrow.

Then, my annoyance high, the tax return in my account, and a sale on the horizon... well...
Yeah. Fuck it. I've got back up now, damn it.

Plus, I've been doing OT twice a week, and in blinding pain. And, oh yeah.
The Goob's been sick.

Same old, same old.

I've done a little knitting on another Half-A-Washcloth Shawl, done a little spinning (and took pictures for a blog post). And, um, I have a loom scheduled for delivery tomorrow. Just a small one. Nothing extreme. No, really.