Monday, April 30, 2007

Pink Trillium on Williams River

Pink trillium on Williams River

We went camping near Williams River. The unusual spring weather has the spring ephemerals blooming all at the same time. Bloodroot and troutlilies are usually gone by the time the wind anemones peak, but this year everything happens at once.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Finishing the Denim Patchwork Coverlet--Backing and Binding

Denim pieced coverlet, with backing and

It's finished at last. I got the backing tied to the patchwork denim coverlet I've been working on since last summer, and sewed on the binding this week. I had planned to piece polar fleece scraps for a backing, but I decided this bargain bolt of sweatshirt fleece was a better weight and texture. Besides, I always like a red sweatshirt with my jeans. I plan to test-drive it this weekend on a camping trip.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Red Socks In "Broad Spiral Rib"

Red sock, cuff

I finally settled on a pattern stitch for my latest pair of socks. I tried at least a dozen textures before selecting "Broad Spiral Rib" from Barbara G. Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Here I've rewritten the directions for "in-the-round" knitting. (They are much simpler this way.)

Six stitch repeat:
Row 1: *Purl 2, Knit 4.*
Row 2: *Purl 2, Right Twist, Right Twist.*
Row 3: *Purl 2, Knit 4.*
Row 4: *Purl 2, Knit 1, Right Twist, Knit 1.*

Barbara Walker's Right Twist: Knit 2 together, leaving stitches on left-hand needle; insert right-hand needle from the front between the two stitches just knitted together, knit the first stitch again. Slip both stitches from the needle together.

Brown Sheep Farm Label

The yarn is an odd skein I bought on sale 15 or 20 years ago, either in Annapolis or College Park, MD. You can see that Brown Sheep Farms' marketing was less slick years ago than now.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Last Year's Seedlings

Asparagus seedlings

I took my tomatos out of their "incubator" (our dehydrator where we keep them at 75 degress F until they germinate), and put them on the window sill. These are last year's seedlings (asparagus, cabbage, kolarabi, and tomatoes) the first week in June, a day or two before I planted them. I usually buy some plants from the local stores, and plant them at the same time I plant the seeds I start at home. Although the plants from the store look much bigger, and even have blossoms on them, by the end of June, my little fellows always catch up, and eventually are more productive.

Tomato seedlings

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Starting Tomato Seeds

I started my garden seeds last week. We usually set plants out at the end of May, and I've found that the less time they spend as seedlings in the house, the better they do. This year I ordered three varieties of tomato seeds from Seed Savers' Exchange.

Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.

While I have mixed feelings about rhetoric like this, I prefer to save garden seeds whenever possible. The commercial outlets paradoxically make very limited selections available to those of us in rural areas, and the last few years, most of the seedlings I've bought have been mislabeled. Instead of broccoli, I get cabbage, instead of Roma tomatoes, I get cherry tomatoes, etc. The seeds I save have a better germination rate, and I like to know what I'm getting.

When seed shopping, the temptation is to try too many new things at once. With great effort, I limited myself to three new tomato varieties this year. That's probably still too many experiments for our garden. I tried two "sauce-style" tomatoes, and a locally famous variety I've heard about, but never found before.

Amish Paste Tomato
Amish Paste Tomato. Heirloom discovered in Wisconsin. Produces 6-8 oz. red fruits that are oxheart to almost teardrop-shaped. Meaty fruits are juicy and have really outstanding flavor. Good for sauce or fresh eating. Indeterminate, 85 days from transplant.
Romanian Spitze Tomato
Spitze Tomato. Romanian paste tomato that is great for making sauce, but sweet and flavorful enough to eat fresh. Good set of red fruits, 2-3" at the shoulders by 4-6" long. Nice for processing. Indeterminate, 80 days from transplant.
Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato
Hillbilly Potato Leaf Tomato. Absolutely gorgeous slicing tomato. Sweet juicy 4-6" flattened fruits about 1 pound each. Beautiful yellow fruits are streaked with red on the blossom end. Heavy producer. Introduced to SSE in 1994 by SSE member Jerry Lee Bosner of Ohio. Indeterminate, 85 days from transplant.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Too Many Yogurt Recipes

It happens to me all the time--I look up something simple on the Web, and I end up with a treatise. My latest over-researched topic is yogurt. All I wanted was a basic recipe. Here are nine recipes, all of them with different advice, opinions, and ingredients. I'm currently working through them here at Dr. Bootsie's Test Kitchen and Ladybug Graveyard. A review with recommendations will be available soon.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Lucinda Roy On Effective Distance Education

I was very impressed by Virginia Tech English professor, Lucinda Roy. When famous poet/personality Nikki Geovanni wanted the deeply disturbed student Cho removed from her classroom, Ms. Roy took him on and worked with him individually. When I think about my own experiences in academe, I'm amazed. I don't think that such individual attention is common, especially at such a large university. That's why I poked around the Web, and discovered Technology and the Learning Environment: An Interview with Lucinda Roy, from 1998. Since I've become involved in distance education, I was interested to read what she had to say. She seems like a first-rate teacher.

Lucinda Roy, Alumni Distinguished Professor of English at Virginia Tech, spoke to CAUSE/EFFECT Editor James Roche about her experience teaching online courses through the university's three-year-old Cyberschool....

Roche: Is there a risk, by doing things with e-mail and with less personal interaction, that students will never get to know their instructors' personalities and dynamic style of teaching? Or are there ways of maintaining that connection?

Roy: The question about whether we're going to lose human contact in the university environment is the predominant question that lots of us are asking, especially if we care about teaching. We do know it's the face-to-face energy that often exists in the classroom, the communal energy, that creates a wonderful space for learning. Whether there's a way to duplicate that [in an online environment] is questionable....

As we become more adept at making sure that students can access us even in their homes, it will seem more natural. Let me give you an example. Right now, my students often e-mail me three or four times a day. One thing I've learned from this online interaction is that the ways in which we speak to each other [online] are very different from the way we would speak if we were face to face. Students working online are often much more informal early in the semester. Most teachers who love tutorials really love online interaction if it's designed well. You can have the kinds of dialogue you would not normally have in a public space.

....One of the things I love about e-mail is the fact that for the most part, it is not an intimidating medium. Even students who are dyslexic sometimes really don't mind sending e-mail, partly because they can spell check it anyway. There's a sense that you can express yourself in e-mail as though you're talking to someone....You cannot learn to write unless you write. When the only channel of communication you have is the online channel, it is amazing how much people will write....students write two, three, four times as much because they feel as though they can. They feel as though they must.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Writing About Writing

I haven't been reading many science fiction or mystery novels lately, but I have consumed more than my share in the past. Some of the writers I most admire write "genre fiction," and when they offer writing tips, I'm pleased to read them. Here are some links I've come across lately.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Unraveling and Re-Knitting

Mohair pullover, knit side-to-side

Although I belong to knitting webrings, I've been unraveling more than I've been knitting the last few months. In the sock knitting department, I've been swatching and unraveling. I like to learn something new, a technique or a pattern, when I knit a pair of socks, and the twist-stitch patterns I've been experimenting with lately have proven unsuitable for socks.

This winter I've unraveled half a dozen seldom-worn sweaters. To my surprise and delight, when washed, these salvaged yarn skeins have fluffed up good-as-new. I'm currently trying to decide what to do with this multi-yarn mohair sweater. I made it four or five years ago, and have only worn it a few times because it is far too warm for indoor wear. I like the color/texture combination, and I could re-style it into a cardigan easily, because it is knit side-to-side. However, I'm not sure I would wear it. My inner unraveler whispers that there are a lot of potential hats in this yarn.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

African Violet and Gesneriad Links

One grey, cold day last winter, I started to wonder how to propagate my African violets. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had lists of links.

Commercial sites and sources for plants:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bedbugs are Biting Again

BlogHer finally pointed me to some links of interest--Bedbugger Blog and "The Bedbug Blog: I had bedbugs. I needed emotional support. I created this website." People are aware of bedbugs again. For some reason they are inspiring support groups, in contrast to more familiar vermin. (I don't see any support blogs for roach sufferers--yet.)

As an entomologist, the Heteroptera were my particular interest, and people used to tell me their ectoparasite troubles. (I was a professional, after all.) Most of the bedbug infestations I heard about were in old houses with bats in the attic or basement. Bats and birds have their own bedbug species, which they are happy to share with us when circumstances permit. The recent urban infestations which leave people in need of peer support are of Cimex lectularius, Linnaeus (Insecta: Hemiptera: Cimicidae). This is the common bedbug, Wanz, cimex, which has infested humans and domestic animals for thousands of years. Like untreatable bacterial infections, bedbugs are making a comeback. Book cover: Sexual Selection and Animal Genitalia

The strangest thing about these odd bugs is their mating system--"haemocelic insemination." The male bedbug's intromitent organ is contained inside one of the genital claspers, which is used to puncture the female bedbug's body wall. Spermatozoa are injected directly into the female's body cavity, where they migrate to the ovaries. Other heteropteran families, including Nabidae and Anthocoridae, have similar morphological and behavioral adaptations. Bill Eberhardt, in Sexual Selection and Animal Genitalia, mentions several other animal groups with analogous mating systems. He classifies it as "male-male genitalic competition."

Here's something I really don't understand. A Google search of "Cimex" produced dozens of different corporate names. Cimex is the genus name of the bedbug, identical to the Latin word for that unpopular insect. Why would you select it to advertise the product you hope will make your fortune? You might expect that biotech and pharmaceutical companies would be sensitive to distasteful scientific names, but no. Here are several Cimex companies.

  • Cimex Learning Homepage. Cimex is a privately owned company with a proven 10 year track record of developing successful interactive learning solutions across a wide range of digital platforms.
  • Cimex-USA, a carpet cleaner company.
  • About Cimex-Corp" Cimex is a full service computer integration company, fulfilling manufacturing needs in various fields such as, Printing/Packaging, Die making, Automation, and Quality control.
  • CIMEX BioTech, L.C.® was created because of our belief in the importance of connecting the needs of the medical world with the expanse of engineering knowledge.
  • Welcome to Cimex. We are proud to introduce Cimex, a defining force in the world of generic drugs, offering the leading European generics players the products and services needed to facilitate access to quality medicine at fair prices.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sweatshirt Patterns-Sewing and Recycling

Pink French terry sweatshirt

After testing and altering the pattern from Kwik-Sew's Sweatshirts Unlimited book, I made this pink French terry V-neck pullover. I was very pleased with it--it fits better and looks neater than ready-to-wear sweats, and the French terry doesn't give me the teddy-bear shape I usually get from a fleece sweatshirt.

Oversized knit sweater, before alteration

I was casting about the house, looking for another fabric to try with this pattern when I thought of this oversized cotton knit sweater. I got it at deep discount from a quality menswear store in Georgetown in the 1980's. It was a handsome pattern in high-quality cotton yarn, and we were tolerant of huge, drop-shouldered knitwear in those days. However, I haven't worn it in a long time because it doesn't flatter.

Oversized sweater, shoulders, armholes and neckline recut Oversized sweater, sleeves and collar recut

I cut off the collar and sleeves, and used the sweatshirt pattern to cut the shoulders, neckline and armhole patterns, and also the sleeve caps. I experimented a bit on the scraps, and found I could use my sewing machine to assemble the pieces without too much stretching and distortion. I sewed the pieces together using a multi-stitch zig-zag stitch and the dual feed foot. (I use the dual feed or "top-feed" or "quilting feed" foot every time I sew with knits or attach elastic. It almost eliminates uneven stretching of the seams.)

The rebuilt sweater doesn't look much different than the original when it hangs on the clothesline. It's still an oversized sweater on me, but it no longer hangs to my knees, nor does it have wads of excess material at the armholes, or overlong sleeves. I plan to wear it as soon as Spring resumes its normally scheduled progress.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I'm a Triolet!

If they told you I'm mad, then they lied.
I'm odd, but it isn't compulsive.
I'm the triolet, bursting with pride;
If they told you I'm mad, then they lied.
No, it isn't obsessive. Now hide
All the spoons or I might get convulsive.
If they told you I'm mad then they lied.
I'm odd, but it isn't compulsive.
What Poetry Form Are You?

I don't take these quizes because they identify me as wishy-washy things (a "granny knitter," or "Microsoft ME OS"). However, Sherry Chandler found a quiz that calls me something I like. For the record, Sherry is blank verse.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bio-Electromechanical Bra Inventions

One challenge in sewing bras is selecting the correct pattern size. Determining one's bra size is tricky in ready-to-wear as well, and many Web sites, including Oprah's, assert that most Americans wear the wrong size bra. These sites also offer directions for measuring for a correct fit. I've tried half a dozen measuring schemes, and I've gotten that many different sizes. I finally guessed and started sewing. I've made four bras and don't have that "Ideal Fit" yet, but the puzzling nature of bra construction keeps me going. You start with flat pattern pieces that don't look anything like a bra, sew a few seams, and there you are with a wearable three-dimensional object. The following resources speak to the engineering and biomedical challenges bras offer.

  • Cat's Bra Resource Page features advice on determining your bra size, and lists several sources for ready-to-wear bras in uncommon sizes.
  • Determining Your Size (Bra/Cup) - Nicole's Measuring System. This is a non-standard method for bra size determination.
    For no apparent reason, finding out your bra size is always a big mystery. It shouldn't be. Although there is no foolproof system, the following set of guidelines should get you most of the way there. (Note: If you are trying to figure out what breast implant size you want to obtain, go to the following article.
  • Bra Size articles, as archived at the National Library of Medicine. A recent search of PubMed returned 110 links to journal articles concerning bra size. Thank you, cosmetic surgeons. It seems that many women looking for surgical change suffer from poorly fitted bras.
  • Innovation and technology of women's intimate apparel. It's a little out of my price range, and not at my local library, but I'd love to read this, especially Chapter 3.
    Chapter 3: Innovations of bras
    Definition of innovation.
    A brief history of bra invention and innovation.
    Bra innovations in the 21st century.
    Technology behind the bra innovations.
    Bio-electromechanical approaches to bra inventions.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

More Statistics Resources

Here are some statistics and mathematical modeling web resources I've gathered as sample sets for the next time I teach statistics.

  • Carl T. Bergstrom's Research interests--including mathematical modeling, antibiotic resistance, infectious disease, economics of academic publishing. We use mathematical models to understand biological and social processes. We draw upon tools from a number of disciplines, including game theory, network theory, information theory, stochastic processes, and dynamical systems. The range of topics is fascinating. His lab considers both academic publishing and antibiotic resistance as appropriate phenomenona for mathematical modeling.
  • Statistical Resources on the Web from the University of Michigan Documents Center. This is a compendium of Web pages documenting results of statistical analyses on human populations. Topics range from construction of new homes to AIDS deaths worldwide. The Documents Center's web pages are clustered by broad subject area, such as Foreign or Statistics, in order to facilitate research.
  • GeoHive: Global Statistics. Welcome to GeoHive, a site with geopolitical data, statistics on the human population, Earth and more. The main kind of data you can find here is population statistics of regions, countries, provinces and cities. Next to that there are some statistics on economic factors like wealth, infrastructure; statistics on natural phenomena; ....... and yet, even more.
  • Swivel. Swivel is a place where curious people explore all kinds of data. As a preview it's rough around the edges, yet brimming with tasty data goodies. May your love for data guide you. This is a new site, and there's been considerable hype. It seems like the sort of thing I'd want to use, but I have yet to find anything interesting there, or to think of a reason why I'd want to share any of my data sets (and I do have some, really).

Friday, April 13, 2007

Pulling My Sewing Projects Together

Adjusting the clothesline with the

After moaning yesterday that I had nothing to show for all my sewing, I decided it was time for some improvements around here. The clothesline, in particular needs adjustment. You never know what you'll need a tractor for. And here are three proof-of-concept knit tops. The green shirt on the left is made of wicking sports knit using Kwik-Sew 2900. The men's tee-shirt in the center is "Kwik-Sew 2334: Men's Boxers, Briefs, Tank Top and T-shirt," and the fuschia V-neck sweatshirt is from the Kwik-Sew Sweatshirts Unlimited book. These were test-pattern garments that turned out to be wearable.

Three knit shirts on the

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bra Making Resources

I've been sewing and sewing this week, but I have nothing to show you yet. I'm sewing muslins and testing new patterns, and, so far, nothing's working. One particularly troublesome project is finding and fitting a good bra pattern. So far, I've found and fitted several bad (for me) bra patterns. Although I can't offer my own results yet, here are some useful links for people interested in sewing bras.

  • Sew Sassy Fabric's Products for Sewing Bras. This is an online catalog, but they offer a number of useful tips, including:
    Making a bra is very easy. Follow the pattern instructions exactly the first time. Do not try to adjust the pattern. If an adjustment is needed, make another bra....It may take sewing your bra two or three times to get the perfect fit. Remember, you try on three or four bras in the department store. Whatever you do, enjoy making your bra. Do not have a nervous breakdown. It's only fabric.
    I've been very pleased with their products, and they have had some great sales.
  • Bra-making class by Pauline, from Australia. This is one woman's repository of what she knows and is giving away. It's quite wonderful.
  • Debbie's Sewing Projects: Using Wild Ginger Curves Software To Create "The Perfect Bra"
  • Bra Bra-vado! by Cindy Elam. make a pattern from that favorite bra by "reverse engineering." While there are methods for making a pattern from an intact bra, dismantling the bra provides a more accurate reproduction. If you're concerned about taking apart a new expensive bra, don't worry ... you'll have the instructions for putting it back together when you're finished.
  • Babs Woods has compiled a large set of bra-making and bra-fitting urls, with reviews, starting with FAQ's 1, and Bra FAQ #2: Bra making Tutorial, and moving on to "Underwire FAQ," "Bra FAQ: Bra Fit & Fashion," "Bra FAQ #3: Places to look for lingerie & lingerie supplies," and "Bra FAQ #4: Bra Fabric & Anatomy." It has the look of Usenet News archives, and there is link rot, but there is useful information in here.
  • Bra-Maker's Supply has a large selection of patterns and books on bra-making, and hard-to-find notions. I've never ordered from them, but they've been around for quite a while, and they seem to have a good reputation.
  • Bra-Makers' Bra-making blog. It hasn't been updated since September, 2006, but there are many how-to's and tutorials. I've found it quite useful.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Free Statistics Tutorials

My first semester teaching statistics is over, but I'm still finding Web references for my next batch of students. I've been very impressed with what's available online for free.

  • Why use statistics ? A short tutorial by Allan Parker. In any comparison in a medical context, differences are almost bound to occur. The problem is separating real effects from random variation, It is the job of the analysts to decide how much variation should be ascribed to chance, so that any remaining variation can be assumed to be assumed to a real effect - This is the art of statistics.
  • Wolfram Mathworld: The Web's most extensive mathematics resource. I'm not qualified to judge the veracity of that claim, but every page I've read through is clear, well-written, and attractive, and the range of topics is very broad: Algebra, Applied Mathematics, Calculus and Analysis, Discrete Mathematics, Foundations of Mathematics, Geometry, History and Terminology, Number Theory, Probability and Statistics, Recreational Mathematics, and Topology
  • A New View of Statistics. I have written these pages for researchers and students in the sport and exercise sciences. I also hope to get hits from students and researchers struggling to understand stats in other disciplines.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Love That Command Line!

I've been looking for a nice theme to tie these useful Linux links together, but sometimes, I'm afraid, there is no theme. Sometimes blog and journal entries just help us remember where to find things we'll need later.

  • Your One-Stop Command Shop: Learning the ShellGraphical user interfaces (GUIs) are helpful for many tasks, but they are not good for all tasks. I have long felt that most computers today do not use electricity. They instead seem to be powered by the "pumping" motion of the mouse! Computers were supposed to free us from manual labor, but how many times have you performed some task you felt sure the computer should be able to do? You ended up doing the work by tediously working the mouse. Pointing and clicking, pointing and clicking.
  • Speaking UNIX, Part 8: UNIX processes: Learn how UNIX multitasks. ...learn how to control processes and use a number of commands to peer into your system.
  • Frank's Corner: This website contains all the information you need to get some popular Windows applications and games running on Linux using Wine. Wine is an Open Source implementation of the Windows API on top of X and Unix. All information on this site is related to Wine and not to WineX/Cedega or CrossOver Office.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Debian Etch--A Seasonal Itch?

Yesterday Slashdot reported that Debian Linux had big news: Two Major Debian Releases In One Day. According to Slashdot,

If all goes according to plan, Debian should release both an update to Debian Sarge (3.1r6, henceforth to be oldstable)--and a new stable release (Debian 4.0, which was codenamed Etch) and announce the results of the election for Debian Project Leader--all within 12 hours. Sarge was updated late on April 7th UTC, Sam Hocevar was announced as DPL at about 00:30 UTC, and preparations for the release of Debian Etch are ongoing and look good for later on the 8th.

On the Debian News page I found that Debian 3.1 had indeed been updated, and learned that, if I wanted to keep running Sarge, it was henceforth to be known as oldstable. I dutifully replaced every occurrence of the word "stable" in my /etc/apt/sources.list with the word "sarge." It wasn't long before the announcement: "Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 released, April 8th, 2007" appeared.

The Debian Project is pleased to announce the official release of Debian GNU/Linux version 4.0, codenamed "etch", after 21 months of constant development. Debian GNU/Linux is a free operating system which supports a total of eleven processor architectures and includes the KDE, GNOME and Xfce desktop environments. It also features cryptographic software and compatibility with the FHS v2.3 and software developed for version 3.1 of the LSB.

Using a now fully integrated installation process, Debian GNU/Linux 4.0 comes with out-of-the-box support for encrypted partitions. This release introduces a newly developed graphical frontend to the installation system supporting scripts using composed characters and complex languages; the installation system for Debian GNU/Linux has now been translated to 58 languages.

It was exactly one year ago that I spent more than a week having Fun (?) With Debian Etch. I'd like to upgrade, but all my experimenting last year told me that some of my Etch problems may be because I'm using such old hardware. This computer was new in 1998, and my other Intel machine is only a couple of years newer. One serious problem I had with Etch was that I could no longer mount my USB thumb drive or my digital camera. The other was that the new installer just flat didn't work on my hardware. Both of these problems are deal-breakers. Fortunately, I spotted the instructions for pointing my /etc/apt/sources.list toward oldstable, or sarge, before I innocently ran a maintenance apt-get dist-upgrade and put myself out of business.

I've Bittorrented the i386 Debian4.0r0 disk image, and I'm casting about for an expendable computer to try it on. It's fortunate for me that Debian supports its old stable for quite a while.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Snow

When I lived in Our Nation's Capitol, I heard a lovely Irish air called "Easter Snow," sung with English lyrics. Today, we have Easter snow on Droop Mountain, which motivated me to look up the tune. I discovered this entry in The Fiddler's Companion: A Descriptive Index of North American and British Isles Music for the Folk Violin and Other Instruments. by Andrew Kuntz.

EASTER SNOW. Irish, Air (3/4 time). G Major. Standard. AAB. Caoimhin Mac Aoidh explains the title is an English version of the Gaelic name Diseart Nuadhain, a placename in north Roscommon which can today be found in the form of Estersnow, a Boyle rural district. Mac Aoidh states that Petrie appears to have literally translated the English back into Irish as "Sneachia Casga" as an alternate title. The same air is to be found in Brendan Rogers manuscript collection (in the Irish Traditional Music Archive) noted from the performances of attendees at the Feis Ceoil competitions held in Belfast in 1898 and 1900. The musical family the Dohertys of Donegal had a different air by the same title, and the great Donegal piper, Tarlach Mac Suibhne, played a different air than the Dohertys. Mac Suibhne's playing of "Easter Snow" was recorded by the Dublin Evening Telegraph in 1897, when he was one of seven pipers at the first Feis, held in that city (the title in the newspaper was "Sneachta na Casga"). Finally, regarding this tune, Mac Aoidh notes that fiddler John Doherty personified "Easter Snow" as a woman, Ester Snow, whom he maintained was over six feet tall, very beautiful, and had skin as white as snow (leading to her name). Source for notated version: the Irish collector P.W. Joyce, 1864. Ó Canainn (Traditional Slow Airs of Ireland), 1995; No. 105, pg. 89. Stanford/Petrie (Complete Collection), 1905, vol. III, No. 1123.

The Balladeers website provides these English lyrics, which may or may not go to the air described above. They are, however, related to the lyrics I heard sung a few years ago.

(Christy Moore)

Oh the Easter snow
It has fade away
It was so rare and so beautiful
Now it's melted back into the clay

Those days will be remembered
Beyond out in the Naul
Listening to the master's notes
As gently they did fall
Oh . . . the music
As Seamus he did play
But the thaw crept over the mantle white
And turned it back to clay

Oh the Easter snow
It has fade away
It was so rare and so beautiful
Now it's melted back into the clay

He gazed at the embers in reflection,
He called up lost verses again,
He smiled with a roguish recollection,
While his fingers gripped the glass to stem the pain
When knocked on his door was always open
With a welcome he'd bid the time of day
Though we came when the last flakes were melted
While it lay upon the ground we stayed away

Oh the Easter snow
It has fade away
It was so rare and so beautiful
Now it's melted back into the clay

A discography is provided for Irish Traditional Music Tune Index Tune ID# 3444 (Easter Snow) in Irish Traditional Music Tune Index. Alan Ng's Tunography. Some of the recordings are still "in print."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Seamy Side Of My Denim Patchwork Coverlet

I finished assembling the blocks of my denim patchwork coverlet day before yesterday. I took pictures of the seamy side because it looks rather interesting, and because it will soon be covered by the backing fabric, red sweatshirt fleece. I plan to tie it, but I haven't decided how yet, or what to use for edge binding. While wondering about all these things, I also wondered about the word "seamy." Turns out, blogger "Language Hat" also wondered about "seamy" on December 20, 2004.

....[T]his is one word that really does derive from Shakespeare...he has Emilia say (in Othello, Act IV Scene 2):

"O, fie upon them! Some such squire he was
That turn'd your wit the seamy side without,
And made you to suspect me with the Moor."

Hence the OED's definition reads: "Having a seam or suture; characterized by seams. seamy side, lit. the under side of a garment, etc. on which the rough edges of the seams are visible; fig. [after Shakes.] the worst, most degraded or the roughest side (of life, character, etc.)"...
1859 Sat. Rev. 2 Apr. 403/1 He appreciated to a considerable extent, what we may perhaps venture to call the seamy side of human affairs.
But by the end of the century it was taken for granted:
1899 H. A. Dobson Paladin of Philanthropy vi. 146 The knowledge of the seamy side of letters.

Emilia is defending herself here, saying Iago's wits are turned inside out. I still don't understand how we jump from "wrong-headed/wrong-side-out" to "sordid." Virtuous or not, here's the "right side" of the cover, snapped yesterday when the snow was just beginning to pile up.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, 1922, Prescott, Iowa

1922 Birthday postcard Many Wishes for a Happy Birthday

Today would have been my mother's 90th birthday. Here's a card her six-year old cousin Mildred Williamson (later Campbell) sent Mom to commemorate her fifth birthday in 1922.

1922 Birthday postcard--address and message

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Drafting Sewing Patterns the Old-Fashioned Way

It's another installment in "How I Frittered Away Last Weekend on the Internet." These links offer good tutorials on pattern drafting from scratch, and in choosing and altering commercial sewing patterns.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Computer-Aided Sewing Pattern Drafting Software

I spent an unconscionable amount of time last weekend searching for sewing pattern information and guides to pattern drafting and alteration. Here are a few things I learned.

Many skilled seamstresses, including Rusty Bobbin, use pattern drafting software successfully. I've avoided this software because it runs exclusively on Microsoft Windows, and I'm neither rich nor leisured enough to keep that operating system running on Droop Mountain. However, now that I teach courses in Microsoft Office and have a Windows machine on hand (kept unplugged and unconnected, the best and cheapest way to avoid viruses), I thought there might be reason to reconsider computer-aided pattern drafting [CAD].

I found these reviews most helpful:

  • Take It From Us: General observations, specific comments, and other tidbits from our tests of eight pattern-drafting computer programs in the summer of 2002 by Judith Neukam and Jennifer Sauer.
  • Pattern Drafting Software by Judy Heim.
  • The Computer Lady reviews Dress Shop Pattern drafting software.

I read these (and other) reviews, and concluded that all this software assumes that it is easier to take a lot of measurements (more than 50 per person) than it is to convert the measurements to shapes on paper. In my experience, taking good measurements is more difficult than geometry, and CAD users report they still have to make fitting muslins and change the patterns their software produces. For my purposes, spending $100 to $600 on such software is not reasonable (although I still have an itch to play with these programs someday, to see how they function). Besides, the fun part is drawing the shapes. Why let the computer do it?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Is Distance Learning All We Hope It Might Be?

I've been thinking about expanding my involvement as a teacher in distance education lately. While I am enthusiastic about all the things I've been able to learn using Internet resources, I am ambivalent about on-line classes for college credit. On one hand, people in places like Pocahontas County have few post-secondary education opportunities locally, and distance education classes expand their possibilities. On the other hand, Internet classes cost just as much as on-campus classes, and I'm not sure they deliver good value to the students, especially in science and math classes. That's why I've been reading on the topic. Here are a couple of articles I found interesting.

  • Assessing Critical Thinking in a New Approach to Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) Transcripts by Peter K. Oriogun.
    Critical thinking involves analysis, critique and some evaluation of the information gathered in order to make a reflective and well founded conclusion from the same. It is therefore very important to understand that critical thinking ultimately affects all forms of communication, including speaking, writing, listening and reading. Critical thinking in online communication is particularly challenging as it puts emphasis on students' comprehension and knowledge of elements of an argument, as such, interacting with different ideas and one another. In this article, the author assesses critical thinking in a new semi-structured approach to computer-mediated communication, the SQUAD approach (Oriogun, 2003; Oriogun, Ravenscroft and Cook, 2005) using the practical inquiry (PI) model (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2001) as a framework.
  • Lampel, J., and Bhalla, A. (2007). The role of status seeking in online communities: Giving the gift of experience. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(2), article 5.
    This article examines online gift giving in the form of opinion, information, and advice that individuals post on websites. Research has highlighted altruism and reciprocity as the key motives behind such gift giving. We argue that informational gift giving is also strongly driven by status and status seeking, and that status sentiments are more likely to sustain virtual online communities the recounting of consumption experience is often part and parcel of virtual identity formation. Given the social dynamics of modern society, this identity formation is often shaped by status seeking. Within the relative safety of online experience (compared to real settings), individuals can project identities that are closer to their ideal self. Inevitably this process elicits powerful emotions on the part of those who engage in the process. These emotions are central to the motivation that sustains online participation in conditions where freely-given information does not necessarily result in tangible benefits to those who labor to provide them.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Sewing Miscellany

I've been roaming the 'Net, searching for solutions to some sewing problems, and, as usual, I have found interesting tangentially-related resources. Too good to forget about, but without an underlying theme, I submit some more links for your amusement and edification.

  • Vintage Sewing Reference Library:
    Vintage Sewing Reference Library, Inc. offers free online access to public domain sewing books....Most of the books published at include detailed instructions on how to (fit a pattern, insert a zipper, make a bound buttonhole). If you are creating a garment for a specific year, go to the long table of contents for the books for that year and you will probably find it listed; otherwise, do a search for (fit pattern, zipper, bound buttonhole) and see what turns up.
  • The Quilts of Gee's Bend: Quilters' Collective History.
    Gee's Bend is a small rural community nestled into a curve in the Alabama River southwest of Selma, Alabama....After the Civil War, the freed slaves took the name Pettway, became tenant farmers for the Pettway family, and founded an all-black community nearly isolated from the surrounding world....The town's women developed a distinctive, bold, and sophisticated quilting style based on traditional American (and African American) quilts, but with a geometric simplicity reminiscent of Amish quilts and modern art. The women of Gee's Bend passed their skills and aesthetic down through at least six generations to the present.
  • My New Slipcover: One woman's step-by-step account of slip covering a couch. She provides excellent photos and enough detail to make the page serve as a tutorial.
  • Sewing Enthusiast Page. This is a directory of free sewing projects, patterns and directions. The Home Sewing Association (HSA) is a not-for-profit organization that represents members from every facet of the sewing industry. Our goal is to Get People Sewing!
  • Free Quilt Patterns. Looking for some inspiration or your next quilt project? You'll find it right here...There are 1017 different sites linked below and they ALL offer FREE QUILT PATTERNS!! That gives you thousands of free quilt patterns to choose from!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Appalachian Robbie the Robot?

Our modified Cabelas seven-in-one

Is this some sort of joke? We set out to improve our combination grill-smoker with a cold-smoke chamber, using an old propane canister (painted green, on the left) as a fire chamber. It works really well--a few cherry or hickory twigs burning in the little green chamber on the ground quickly give off enough smoke to flavor the meat delicately. Then we remove the dryer vent, and grill as usual. It's a marinade of smoke before cooking, much tastier than store bought mesquite chips burning on the grill.

As I was preparing to post the photo, I realized that this could also be documentation of our redneck credentials. In addition to our chainsaw and our 1946 Ford tractor (with chains), you can see our satellite dish on the left, our 1977 El Camino on the right, and the Cabelas insignia on the grill/smoker in the middle.