It’s already the start of August, and thus it is high time for a summer break! Our time off will include some time spent abroad with friends, and I’m so looking forward to that – usually we have the summer break a bit earlier in the year, and it really was noticeable somehow.

So, just like every year, this blog will go on summer break too, to relax, recuperate, and forget that things like work even exist.

It will magically update again on August 29 – when I will hopefully have caught up with accumulated email, wrestled down all the things that popped up during the break, and there will be new things to be looked at, and new exciting stuff to be undertaken.

So – have a good summer, everyone, and I hope you’ll be back at the end of August, just like me!


Posted in and now for something completely different | 1 Comment

The Library Digitisation Unit of the University of Southampton has a Knitting Reference Library with Victorian knitting manuals and other old and really interesting knitting reference books and instructionals.

They also have, under the section slightly misleadingly titled “Knitting Patterns”, a lot of title pages of 1950-ish and onward printed knitting patterns, all of them for men’s upper body garments. Unfortunately, it really is only the title pages, so there are no actual patterns to be gotten. However, it is wildly interesting to just take a look at all of the title page pictures with the garments modeled: Some of the sweaters and cardigans look really timeless, and you wouldn’t be surprised at all to see them worn today, or a pattern for them sold, or a garment like that on a hanger in a clothes store.

Some others, though? To my modern eyes, they look really, really weird. Some of them remind me of Captain Kirk, some of them loudly scream “Nineteeneighties!!”, and some of them made me think “That looks like a dressing gown or pyjama part, that was worn on the street? Wow!”

Mind you, though, when I browse through modern knitting pattern magazines, I sometimes also wonder who would actually wear this. Those things are looking weird in a different, more up-do-date way, though.

So – if you enjoy looking at slightly weird older knitted garments – have a rootle in the Knitting Reference Library’s 164 “knitting patterns”. You might be as delighted as I was.

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The online EXARC journal has a short article about bronze spiral decoration in textiles.

Kitty Lux of the Ukulele Orchestra died about two weeks ago, here’s her obituary. I’m really sad – and feel very privileged to have seen and heard her live a few times.

The major Roman roads, drawn in a subway map style.

There’s a new podcast around: Ask an Archaeologist. (I have not found the time to give it a listen yet, but it’s definitely on my list.)

Heritage Daily reports on a Roman bronze figurine that might leave Britain.

Gillian Polack has a post on how to peel oranges… with a fork. Which is intriguing and makes me a little sad that we are currently far from Orange Season here – but it will come, and I will definitely try that.

And that’s it for today – I hope there’s something of interest for you!

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There’s some more progress on the Bernuthsfeld project, though it is all but spectacular – pre-wash documentation of the fabrics, and subsequently washing, drying, and documenting them again. That documentation would mostly not be strictly necessary, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to gather some additional data. Like how much shrinkage we are getting with the fabrics, and if there are clearly observable changes in how the yarns look before and after washing.

So what I did was take closeups of an  area marked with a bit of red polyester sewing thread – you can see that in the upper left corner of my measurement frame. And these are just a few of the many, many fabrics:

bernie_f bernie_d bernie_c bernie_a bernie_b

All of these will eventually be cut up and pieced together to form the Bernuthsfeld tunic reconstruction… before that, though, they will get washed and dried and have another photo op. And I’m really, really curious to see how it will come out!

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It has been a while since you got garden pics – high time to change that!


Bees are visiting this not-real-sage plant, enjoying the nice purple flowers. Speaking of nice flowers (though not purple):


Nasturtiums in full bloom. And I haven’t eaten any of them yet!


Finally, the good old chili plant is enjoying the sunshine, too – which actually makes a big difference in the depth of colour of the purple chili fruits. The purple colour acts as a sun protection for the fruit, so it is rather logical that it would get deeper with unfiltered sun than in the wintergarden, where a lot of the UV is filtered out by the glass.

(If you are like me and are thinking about purple chili sauce now – unfortunately the anthocyanins that make the colour are not stable enough to survive the process to make tabasco. To my great regret, it turned into a brownish-green colour very quickly…)

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If you watched the bouldering videos, you might have noticed that there are white spots on parts of the wall, and there is white stuff on some of the holds, and there’s also white stuff on our hands. That is chalk – or, to be more precise, magnesium carbonate.

The reason for this? It keeps your hands dry, which is a very smart thing to do, as sweaty hands tend to slide off holds, and wet skin is also softer than dry skin, which can lead to more abrasion (those holds sometimes feel like someone has coated them with 80-grain sand paper). So most climbers and boulderers invest in a chalkbag quite quickly, to have their necessary dose of the white powder readily available.

Up until a few days ago, we had a shared chalkbag… which basically works nicely, there’s enough of the stuff in there for several climbing sessions, even when chalking up quite a lot. However, over time, it has happened again and again that we ended up having  different projects at different ends of our gym – and there was only one chalkbag, which, for the party further away from the bag, either meant quickly de-whitening fingers or treks back to chalk up.

How practical, then, that we recently went to donate blood… where you get a) half a litre of your blood taken away, b) coffee that can wake up the dead (and is the only coffee that I actually take sugar in), c) a meal, and d) a little present. Depending on which companies and shops have donated stuff for d), the selection is very varied – we got nice water glasses there, and foldable baskets, and other quite useful stuff, but sometimes there’s mostly or all things that we do not need.

Last time was one of these times… until I noticed, tucked in the back of a shelf somewhere, a medium-sized plushy rat.


There must have been a very telling glint in my eye, as the most patient husband of them all got at once what I was thinking of. Chalkbag.

So that little cuddly rat went home with us, and then lost a good bit of its soft, squishy polywool filling… in the body, and in its left paw. There’s a rubber band on its right paw now, holding a brush ready (this is used for cleaning holds, which gather both chalk and rubbed-off rubber from the climbing shoes). The left paw acquired a zipper and is now a little bag that can hold a key, some magnesium in case of cramps, and a bit of emergency coffee or chocolate money. There is also, not visible in the picture, a clothespeg just behind the rat’s teeth at the underside of the snout, in case a pen or a piece of paper needs to be taken into safe custody.


Most important, though: the miraculous transformation of the main body, which is not very obvious in that picture. It does become more so when the press-button is opened:


revealing the drawstring keeping the chalk in, and the chalkbag itself. And once opened up, it looks like this:


A cheeky chalk rat. Which is one-of-a-kind and thus will also be easy to find again on the bouldering mat!

Posted in bouldering | 4 Comments

Since at least a few of you seem to have found the bouldering videos amusing, here’s a second pair. We did these quite a while ago, and it took me ages to find the solution that worked for me, and then another couple of tries and the encouraging words from below to work up the courage to actually do the tiptoeing thing at the end.

So here’s the normal-sized version:

Pretty straightforward, right? Well. This is mine.

As is often the case, it sort of felt much more spectacular than it looks on film. It also gave me very, very dirty legs and a good adrenaline spike. The lower bit – getting onto the large, flat-topped volume – was not so bad, it’s mostly a bit of strength and even more of figuring out where to push and pull. There was a lot more wiggling and squirming the first time I tried it. The reason for the weird leg-first-move, by the way, is that I couldn’t reach the edge of the upper grey volume well enough to get a grip on it and pull myself over like the most patient of all husbands did.

The upper bit is the adrenaline-high part, as I’m completely stretched out when I am reaching for that left piggy-head ear. If you look closely, you might be able to see what the actual sequence is: crawling the left hand up to the left ear, while lifting up on tiptoe – I can then reach it enough to hook the front bit of my fingers in there for just enough grip to switch from the handhold on the round thing on the right to the toehook – which gives me the bit more reach necessary to bump my left hand properly into the hold, and then it’s possible to get the right hand up to the right ear.

Being just that bit too small to easily flow up the bouldering problems with the intended beta? Annoying. Figuring out the alternative ways and finally crushing the problem, with weird, funny and amusing moves? Priceless. Which partly reconciles me with the annoying part… as you might have guessed.

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