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FFF is this weekend – I hope to see some of you there. This is the eleventh one – wow.

I’m teaching a new-to-me class, on Japanese loop braiding. There’s no concrete evidence for the marudai braiding stand before the early seventeenth century, but there are all these braids, including the lacing for the plate armor. So how were they made? Based on very extensive research and analysis, Masako Kinoshita posits that they were braided using hand-held loops. Nifty, no?

I didn’t realize it was controversial that the Norse were trading to the east, and importing all kinds of luxury goods including silk, but apparently I was wrong. A forthcoming book, Silk for the Vikings by Marianne Vedeler, covers just that.

Elizabeth Wayland Barber muses on the meaning of “handmade.” I’m not sure she clearly makes her point, but it’s nice to see an essay on craft at the NY Times.


Oldest string found: 90,000 year old Neanderthal string.

Dinovember. This is just delightful. The eggs! And the crayons…

Bookbinding. I was going to email this to Laura, but I thought that some of you all might like to see it as well. While the entire set is amazing (I got the link from an archivist who was acquiring it for her library for educational purposes), the $15 guide to historic bookbinding techniques might be more useful (and affordable).

How to live to be 95

Lessons from my grandfather:

  1. Walk your dog twice a day.
  2. Eat oatmeal for breakfast.
  3. Always have a project going.

Tea and fishing may also figure into the plan. I’ve walked the dog and eaten my oatmeal, if with coffee rather than tea, and now I’d like to invite you to join me in wishing John J Goslee a wonderfully happy 95th birthday. If you leave a comment for him, I will print them out and mail them.

(Grandpa and Mooch, June 2009)

When I was young, my parents owned a marina in northern Michigan. Grandpa lived in Ann Arbor, but spent most of his weekends up north with us, fishing. He would stop at the Ann Arbor Public Library and bring me armloads of books. It’s possible that’s how I discovered Oz; it’s certainly how I was introduced to Tintin, Asterix and Obelix, and many more.

As well as encouraging my love of books, Grandpa encouraged my love of poking around outdoors. I spent plenty of time with him, a fishing pole, and a thermos of hot sweet tea. After I grew up and went away to college, he would send me pussy willows and pressed violets in the spring because he knew I loved them.

Grandpa was stationed in China during World War II, I think as ground crew for the Flying Tigers but I’m not positive. He came back sith a love of cooking Chinese food for his family, and I learned to eat with chopsticks very young, so young that I don’t remember not being able to do so.

I haven’t seen much of Grandpa since I left home to follow the academic lifestyle all over the country. The most recent time was about four years ago; he was building an extension on his house. I don’t write often enough either, but I think of him a lot, and of the effect he had on a little girl growing up in rural Michigan.

Happy birthday, Grandpa. I love you.

Tales from the Rumpus Room

First snow flurries this morning. It was a cold and windy walk with Trygvi. He didn’t seem to mind, but it’s probably time to get the snazzy plaid dog coat out.

The couch remains as warm and cozy as ever.


We always had a terrible time getting Grendel to take pills, until we hit on the peanut butter-bologna roll-up: a dab of crunchy peanut butter on a strip of bologna, with the pill rolled up inside. Anything less and he’d daintily pick the pill out and eat the good bits. It even had to be crunchy peanut butter: smooth wasn’t adequately concealing.

When Trygvi needed a round of antibiotics for a skin infection (boxers: no fur on the underneath, and prone to allergies and the resulting infections), we quite naturally started out with the same system we’d used for so many years with Grendel. But it’s a lot of work, so one morning I tried just a dab of peanut butter. Right into the boxer! Trygvi: not so particular.

The other night I was feeding the dog bits of butternut squash. It’s good for them, and he loves it. So I figured that would be a good pill-enhancer. Yes, the first pill+squash blob combo went right in. He got ahold of the second wrong, though, and pulled the squash off of the pill, dropping the pill on the carpet. But before I could go for the pill and fetch the peanut butter, he leaned down and snorfled up the plain unadorned antibiotic.

Um, yeah. I guess we don’t have to worry about getting pills into him.

Then there’s the velocikittenraptors, who are HUGE. They’ve completely recovered from their recent surgery with no problems, and their spotty little tummies are once more covered with fur, if not the full fluffy glory yet. (Tummy spots of DOOM!)

I went to bed with my hair braided last night, and in the middle of the night they made off with the hair tie (under the guise of snuggling). But they very considerately left it in the water bowl so I’d see it in the morning,

Everything goes in the water bowl. The other day I found a nickel and a wine cork. I didn’t think they were old enough for drinking and gambling, but obviously I was wrong. I’m most curious how they managed to pick the nickel up, and how long it took to get it into the bowl.


Next project: continuing the boxer-kitten introduction. Don’t you think they’d look cute snuggled up with an up-side-down dog?


Things have been accumulating; let me foist them off on you.

Nick thinks I need this to protect me from rampaging nightime kittens. I think it would just make things worse by adding an extra toy to the mix.

Trouble-causing cats are not a new problem.

My Little Queen Elizabeth I. This is nifty.

Modern experiments in bog butter.

Happy Halloween!

String. And Halloween. Hm.

How about a needle lace jack-o-lantern?


Or maybe some medieval ghoulies? Wodewoses, even!

Perhaps you need this wonderful early 16th c. German rosary?


In much more recent history, that hysteria about Martians invading? It just isn’t so.




I’m furloughed, locked out of my office since October 1, forbidden to even check my email under pain of fines and jail time.

The kittens have been ecstatic.

The wonderful Tania sent them a present: a catnip mat. This was met with great approval.


Most of the photos are blurry for some reason, possibly the ferocity with which the mat was attacked and disemboweled. Also rolled on, and rumpused with, as Cawti demonstrates.


The kittens were utterly delighted: they even preferred the mat to the envelope, and not many things beat crinkly paper. The package came with a treat for the human member of the group as well (even if Nora did try to eat it).


I haven’t found the mat in my bed yet, but I’m sure it is only a matter of time. Ditto the shower. And the sink. And in the laundry too.

Thank you!

Friday fun

The folk band Sassafrass is doing a Norse mythology album called Sundown: Whispers of Ragnarok and you want to take a look, and a listen to at least “The Futhark Song.” No really. They’ve also put together pretty good Viking clothing for the associated materials (their list of references has some very familiar names). (Grabbed from Patrick Nielsen Hayden on twitter.)

And then, because it’s Friday: the Catleidoscope. Surprisingly addictive!

Have a good weekend!

Two quick links

Before I lose these:

A very well preserved wool tunic from approximately 300CE was found in a melting glacier in Norway. Look at the photo gallery here, but ignore the text (“boat-neck sweater”). The find was published in Antiquity.

I was going to just send this link on fore-edge painting of books to Laura, but thought I might as well share with all of you. Lovely stuff.