Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year Thought--3D Technology in 1913

"A New Year Thought and Wish" features a garland surrounding a verse: "To greet you now, kind words I send, and wish 'A Happy New Year, Friend.'" The leaves and stems of the garland are silvery, and the card has a strange texture that makes the leaf surfaces seem to "pop out" at the viewer. The postmark is "January 10, 1913, Des Moines, Iowa," and it is addressed to "Miss Florence Williamson, Prescott, Iowa, RR 1." I can't read the signature, but the message reads "How are you all? We are in usual health. Having a big poultry show. We heard some of you people were in Des Moines a while ago. That is not the way to treat your friends. A Happy Year to all."

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Merry Thoughts (With Wishbone and Pansies)

"Merry Thoughts--New Year's Greeting." It's another floral holiday card, this time with a golden good luck wishbone. The year is unreadable on this card, but it's addressed to "Mr. W. A. Williamson, Prescott, Iowa" and postmarked "Northeast Pennsylvania, December 28, 6 pm." The message is "Wishing you all a glad New Year--Maggie." I believe that would have been my great-grandfather's sister. I hope we all enjoy merry thoughts in the new year, and pansies too.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy Vintage New Year

My grandma's postcard album has more New Year's greetings than Christmas cards. I don't know if this represents personal preference or something cultural. Her father was from Scotland, and several of the cards have Hogmanay references. This card is just pretty and glittery, and too fragile to keep its glitter through the mail. It must have been hand delivered, for here is the back:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Linux Year in Review

I haven't chronicled my Linux adventures since attempting to upgrade to Debian testing back in January. I depend on my blog to keep track of my Linux trials and tribulations in case I have to figure out later how I fixed (or messed up) some recurring problem. In January the update path from Debian Lenny to Debian Squeeze just wouldn't work on my hardware. After a couple of days of trying, I installed the latest Kubuntu and called it "good enough for now."

As spring progressed, I had continuing "challenges" using Kubuntu 9.10. Desktop compositing in KDE didn't work at first, then I got it going, then it gave up again. OpenOffice crashed consistently until I replaced the package with

The Ubuntu update process seemed too "pushy," with less user control than I was used to. As it updated Xorg and drivers, I began to have the sorts of problems with Kubuntu that had snagged the Debian stable-to-testing update process. Eventually, the update process removed the sound card driver and replaced it with one that didn't work at all. So I had flaky video, and no sound at all.

I tried a clean install of the next Kubuntu version, 10, but I still had no sound and video problems. By this time, I was really sick of KDE 4.4. The eye-candy was cute, but it really didn't add anything to my work process--in fact, it was mostly a distraction from productive work. Clearly, it was time for another shot at Debian testing. This time, the netinstall disk worked without a hitch, and I had Squeeze up and running in short order.

I didn't even bother to install KDE--I've just used Gnome, the Debian default desktop. I depend on several KDE-based programs, but I installed them with all the KDE libraries and programs they needed, and they have worked just fine.

This summer, I finally broke down and bought a laptop to use at my collection of part-time jobs. I teach college classes on Microsoft Office and Windows, and it became more and more burdensome without regular access to a Windows box. I originally planned to buy the Windows OS and make my desktop a dual boot machine, but that was just about as expensive as buying a laptop with Windows 7 already installed.

Turns out I don't hate Windows 7 nearly as much as XP or Vista (although I don't like it as well as 3.1, which let me use DOS whenever I got frustrated). The cherry on top was setting up my laptop to dual boot with Linux and Windows 7. I followed a tutorial from an Ubuntu group for setting up a dual boot. It was a tutorial for dummies in that it didn't explain what the various steps were doing, it just said "Do this. Now, do that." It worked and it didn't hurt my head, but now I wish I'd understood what I was doing.

Of course, I installed Debian on the laptop, not Ubuntu. (I don't follow instructions, even for dummies.) The only hitch I encountered was that after I ran an update on Windows 7, the boot loader was messed up. I was able to fix it by running the Debian netinstall disk I'd made, using "rescue mode." I reinstalled grub (the boot loader), and ran the command "grub-update."

It's probably lucky for me that I had that problem then, because this week, after running Debian testing updates on my desktop, I got a kernel panic upon rebooting. I reinstalled grub (the new, improved version, evidently), ran grub-update, and, after about 4 reboot attempts, it's back in business. I'm not sure why I had to reboot so many times before it worked, but that's what happened with the laptop, too.

Now I have a laptop, a working Windows machine, and no more classes to teach. I hope I can scare something up before my Windows OS and software are obsolete.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Little Sock Prints in the Snow

I got to knit someone else a pair of socks for Christmas! (I am not surrounded by sock petitioners, and I hesitate to force unwanted hand knits on people who prefer to toss cheap cotton socks in the washer and dryer and trash basket.)

This time, a durable pair of heavy wool socks (in a manly color) were required for rubber work boots in cold weather. I made these from a single four-ounce skein of Germantown wool--my favorite for warm utility wear. I knitted the heels and feet holding a single strand of wool and a strand of wooly nylon, and I knitted them tightly, as you can see from the way the ribbing compresses itself. I knocked these out in three evenings, and it was really fun to finish something so quickly.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Greetings to My Friends (1912)

A particularly appropriate message--"Christmas Greetings to My Friend." This one is addressed to my grandma, Miss Florence Williamson, Route 3, Prescott, Iowa, and postmarked "Creston, Iowa, December 24, 1912." The message reads "How are you? It seems like years since I seen you. I have so much I want to tell you. You want to come down and see our new piano before it gets old. It does not seem like last Xmas, does it? We expect to be up New Years Night start New Years right. Come down soon. With love as ever, your friend, Mary B."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Periwinkles for Christmas

I don't know whether periwinkle flowers are traditionally associated with Christmas, but the floral holiday cards in my grandma's collection are favorites of mine. This one is postmarked "Bridgewater, IOWA", and reads "From your Cousin Margaret. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year."

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Inquiry Concerning the Christmas Goose, 1908

Here's another postcard addressed to my grandma's mother, Agnes Williamson, postmarked Des Moines, Iowa, December 22, 1908. I can't make out the signature, but the message begins with business: "Are you going to have one of Florence's geese for dinner? I would like a piece."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Risque Christmas Cards, 1910

These two cards are not addressed to my grandma, but to her parents. They're both postmarked Dec. 22, 1910, and addressed to Prescott, Iowa. "Under the Mistletoe" is addressed to Mr. W. A. Williamson (my great-grandfather, born in Morayshire) and the hadwritten message reads "Here's to the man, braw and gay, That would take a wee sip on New Year's Day." The smoochy picture below is addressed to Mrs. W. A. Williamson and says simply, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year." They're both signed "Agnes," and I believe that would have been Agnes Moore, school chum of my great-grandma (Agnes Williamson). I believe my mother (Agnes) was named after both those ladies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Finishing (and Refinishing) Projects at Year's End

I'm not sure what spurred my current obsession with finishing, repairing, sorting, and putting away. Maybe it's been concern to finish things "before the snow flies." Maybe it's wrapping up projects before the year's end. Maybe the new house has inspired my inner "Becky HomeEcky." I hope it's not a sign I'm fixin' to die!

Whatever the explanation, I've been working on projects I've been meaning to get to for years. Here's a piece of furniture I found in the trash in Manhattan during the first Reagan administration. Although it wasn't damaged, its varnish was crazed and blackened, and its drawer pulls had been removed. I had some wooden drawer pulls I'd collected at my local landfill, and it went straight to my bedroom.

I salvaged quite a bit of furniture over the years, repaired and refinished most of it, but this item languished. It just didn't look that bad. About 10 years ago, I bought fancy brass drawer pulls for it, but postponed refinishing indefinitely.

During that last unexpected spell of warm weather in November, I hauled it out in the yard and stripped off the old varnish. I was really surprised by what was underneath! A bit of walnut colored stain and some tung oil, and it's quite pretty.