Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How the Camera Got Knocked Down

We went to the first annual Highland County Old Time Fiddlers' Convention last weekend, and left our cherry trees unattended. When we got home, we found the trail camera dangling upside down from its tree. Fortunately, we were able to reconstruct what happened. Bear sees camera....

Bear investigates camera....

Camera gets a tree bark closeup.

This bear visited earlier, but caught wind of the ripe cherries instead of the digital camera.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Bigfoot Enigma Solved

I think this is the solution to our Bigfoot game camera puzzle. Our cherries are ripe, and along with foxes, scarlet tanagers, raccoons, ravens, possums, cedar waxwings, and orchard orioles, bears are dropping by for chow time. This year, we have a sow with a very small, very cute cub. (No photos...yet.)

Check the bad hair day on this fellow's hindquarters, as he bolts past the salt lick.

The deer show no interest in cherries, but this gal seems ready for her close-up.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Latest Bigfoot Sighting on Droop Mountain (Or Is It the Mothman?)

Our game camera pictures have been plentiful, and much alike. These deer visit regularly. However, Monday morning, the camera caught this:

Seconds later, whatever it was, it was gone.

Was it a bear having a bad hair day? Was it the the Mothman? (If so, he's a long way from Point Pleasant.) We decided it was probably Bigfoot. After all, the BFRO's 2006 sighting on the Greenbrier River Trail was so convincing that they mounted a return expedition in 2008. Of course, we can't rule out the possibility that it was the Yayho, as described by Burl Hammons.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Removing a Broken Package in Debian Sid

Recently, my Debian "sid" boxen developed a problem during a routine update/upgrade process. There was some incompatibility among the various programs I'd installed for a local LAMP test kitchen. I'm not using it, so I tried to remove the whole mess, but I kept getting a message like this at the end of every aptitude command, regardless of what programs were involved.

root@britomartis:/home/rebecca# aptitude remove php5-mysqlnd
The following packages will be REMOVED:  
0 packages upgraded, 0 newly installed, 1 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 0 B of archives. After unpacking 495 kB will be freed.
(Reading database ... 123342 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing php5-mysqlnd ...
/var/lib/dpkg/info/php5-mysqlnd.prerm: 9: /var/lib/dpkg/info/php5-mysqlnd.prerm: php5dismod: not found
dpkg: error processing php5-mysqlnd (--remove):
 subprocess installed pre-removal script returned error exit status 127
Errors were encountered while processing:
E: Sub-process /usr/bin/dpkg returned an error code (1)
A package failed to install.  Trying to recover:

After a couple of weeks' Googling and reading, I happened on Force Uninstall a package in Debian/Ubuntu:

The solution is to head over to /var/lib/dpkg/info and find the package in question. There should be a file with .prerm at the end of it. In the case of xulrunner-1.9 the file is called xulrunner-1.9.prerm. Edit the file and change it's contents so it just says:

set -e
After that the standard command will work:

I did that--I edited /var/lib/dpkg/info/php5-mysqlnd, so that it had just those two lines, and was rewarded with this:

root@britomartis:~# aptitude remove php5-mysqlnd
The following packages will be REMOVED:  
0 packages upgraded, 0 newly installed, 1 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 0 B of archives. After unpacking 495 kB will be freed.
(Reading database ... 123342 files and directories currently installed.)
Removing php5-mysqlnd ...
Current status: 0 broken [-1], 0 updates [-1].

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Frequently Interrupted Quilt Finished At Last

I've finished the long-deferred quilt project at last! Here it is quilted but unbound. I hung it on the clothesline where I photographed it in the process of deciding whether to add a border. I decided it looked fine with no border, so I bound it with the same white muslin in the blocks.

This has been an experimental quilt from the start. It was one of my first dyeing projects, and I chose half-square triangles for piecing practice. I experimented sewing the blocks together with the serger when the serger was brand-new, and I also used the serger as part of the "quilt as you go" assembly. Below, I've listed the four websites that helped me the most in understanding how to combine assembly and quilting processes into a manageable method that doesn't involve a quilting frame or a long-arm machine. I must also add that the quilt-as-you-go technique using the serger gave me a neater, more nearly square finished project than my sad attempts at traditional quilting.

  • Mama Melino's Lasagna Quilting (pdf file) is subtitled "Gotta Get It Quilted." Most of the "lasagna quilts" the search engine turns up are made of long fabric strips, but Paula Melino shows you how to turn a set of traditionally-pieced blocks into a finished quilt without ever stuffing a big roll of fabric under the arm of your sewing machine. This is where I got the idea to use the serger to assemble the quilt in big chunks. It worked really well on this project, and my quilt ended up much closer to "square" than it ever has assembling by regular sewing machine or by hand.
  • Crazy Shortcut Quilts: Marguerita McManus shows you how to quilt individual blocks and then assemble them with narrow strips. This is the process I'm going to try next.
  • Marianne, of "The Quilting Edge" offers photo tutorials and text instructions for her own quilt-as-you-go method. It's also a real treat to see her quilts as she builds them.
  • Melody Johnson's quilt-as-you-go technique is similar to Marianne's, and her quilts are similarly inspiring.

Of course, having white thread on the serger and sewing machine inspired me to sew up these underbritches and tuck them in my lingerie drawer. More fabric scraps put to good use.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Green Vintage Buttons In the Wild

I was really pleased with this "Vogue 8598" blouse with shoulder-princess seams when I altered it and tested it in blue rayon last winter. I made a simple full-bust adjustment, and liked the pattern very much. Last month, I tried it in a crisp cotton print, keeping the fitting alterations and replacing the pattern's collar and cuffs with those from Kwik-Sew 2777, the standard men's pattern that I usually use for shirts. The crisp fabric stands away from the body, and shows that my alterations have left the pattern slightly over-sized, something I didn't notice with the drapey rayon. I'll wear this shirt and wash it a few times before I decide whether to go for a closer fit. In the meantime, I'm going to sew this pattern in the relatively stiff cotton-linen blend I dyed last summer, and style it as a lightweight jacket. I'm considering a different collar treatment.

This tropical bird print is something I bought 20 years ago for a summer skirt, but mice chewed holes in it, and there was barely enough left for this shirt. I had to piece one of the sleeves, but the wild print obscures that.

I don't wear much green, but it was my mother's favorite, and her button collection reflects this. I spent an evening sorting the green buttons, and selected these interesting flat buttons for the center front. I didn't have quite enough to finish the project, but there were three of these big, gold-framed green cat's eyes, so I used these for the collar stand and cuffs, where they remind me of a cuff links/collar stud set.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Sewing Novelty--Easy Stitching, Successful Projects

The new clothesline offers an opportunity for displaying my finished projects on hangers. Most of the sewing bloggers I follow have dress forms or nice full-length mirrors for displaying finished projects. I used to take my sewing projects outdoors for photographs because the old house was too dark for interior photos. Now, although I have a (reasonably) clean, well-lighted place to sew, I find I require daylight for photography, even when wind interferes.

I cut out this flannel shirt last fall, using my favorite altered Kwik-Sew 2777 men's dress shirt pattern. I'd finished the collar and cuffs during my shirt pattern testing session, but laid it aside. It was quick to assemble with my serger because I didn't bother with menswear details. It is, after all, simply a flannel shirt.

I used Kwik-Sew 2953 for this 1990's era rayon print, because the pattern works well in rayon (but nothing else, so far) and because the pattern pieces didn't cut the bold floral print into unidentifiable slices. I think it will be fine, and I skipped the mens' wear shirt details here too, telling myself that the serger works best for ravel-y, squirmy rayon.

And, because I had green thread on the serger (for another shirt), I sewed up some underbritches I'd cut out in a scrap-basket emptying frenzy some months ago. The stretch lace embellishments were also scrap-basket denizens.

This was a particularly enjoyable sewing session--no pattern alterations, no muslins, and quick, easy, serging. It's been a long time since I've had this much fun at the sewing machine!

Monday, April 09, 2012

Digikam Failure Fixed With phonon-backend-gstreamer

After the latest Debian sid update, Digikam quit working on one of my machines (but not the other). It would flash the start-up logo, then just disappear. Googling for this didn't turn up an answer, so I tried launching digikam from the command line, which gave me some error messages to search with. I found this discussion in a forum:

For some reason Dolphin (version 1.7) and digikam (version 1.9.0) keep crashing on me. Dolphin will crash on me every time my mouse cursor is over a video file. When I start digikam it will start to load and than disappear. I have just updated to kde 4.7.4 on AMD64 but this issue was happening before the upgrade. I have tried to run both programs from the console and I receive the same error message.
[0x16865a0] main services discovery error: no suitable services discovery module 
digikam: symbol lookup error: /usr/lib/qt4/plugins/phonon_backend/phonon_vlc.so: undefined symbol: libvlc_audio_filter_list_get

That's exactly the sort of problem I was having (I don't use Dolphin very often, so I hadn't noticed that issue). Why sound module problems would affect a photo management problem is not obvious to me, but eventually the original poster announced:

I have solved the issue. I removed vlc-data along with it's dependencies which included phonon-backend-vlc. Now dolphin, digikam and system-settings do not crash for me. Now the only backend I have installed is gstreamer. I guess there is just something wrong with the phonon-backend-vlc package.

I immediately added the replacement for phonon-backend-vlc:

aptitude install phonon-backend-gstreamer

And the problem was solved. (I didn't bother to remove phonon-backend-vlc; it seems that phonon-backend-gstreamer just replaced it (and the forum participants indicated that there were problems involved in removing phonon-backend-vlc).

Sunday, April 08, 2012

A Joyful Easter, With Catkins

Another holiday postcard from my grandmother's album--an Easter bell with alder catkins and lilies-of-the-valley, postmarked "Prescott, IOWA, MAR 28 ?PM, 1908." It reads:

Dear Florence, How are you getting along? I made garden last week, that is, I planted some lettuce and radishes and raked the yard Saturday. Can't you come down for Easter? We are going to color some eggs Saturday evening after the children go to bed. Good bye. Susie

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Early Lettuce--Cute Cotyledons

I planted a little patch of lettuce in early February. Most years, such early plantings are unsuccessful--they sprout and freeze, or get washed away in heavy rain, or they mold. This year, the rain did wash all the seed into low spots, but it looks like I might get a bit of early lettuce. It needs thinning, as soon as the plants are big enough to grab hold of.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Great-Grandmas, Balanced Diets, and Cookies

The whole "If your Great-grandma wouldn't recognize it as food, don't eat it" seems to assume great-grandmas with limited culinary experience. My own great-grandmas grew up during the Irish potato famine, the Prague Upheaval, and the American Civil War. I feel sure that not one of those women was a picky eater. I also know that three of them worked as cooks in rich people's kitchens before they took command of kitchens of their own, and my Prague great-grandma was remembered as a notable cook 40 years after her death in 1938.

In What Would Great-Grandma Eat? - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education, we see some other reasons to wonder about the "great-grandma dictum:"

In 1890, 90 percent of the country's bread was baked in homes. The rest was purchased from tiny neighborhood bakeries. By 1930, this trend had reversed completely: 90 percent of bread was purchased, and purchased from increasingly large, increasingly distant factories. Despite their success, industrial bakers lived in constant fear that bread would lose its place on the nation's tables. Compared with newfangled fruits arriving by refrigerated train from California, or the novelty of modern wonders like Jell-O, bread was just basic. But something remarkable happened during the first three decades of the 20th century. Not only did Americans switch to store-bought bread en masse, but also per-capita bread consumption increased. Modern factory bread wasn't just a more convenient version of the ancient staple; it had taken on new meanings and appeal.

A couple more unrelated food links:

Monday, March 19, 2012

Some Shale Gas Links

Paleoclimate Links: Atmosphere Evolution, Carboniferous Climate

Some paleoclimate references my environmental science students might find useful:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Whose Emancipation Is Next?

Via Northwest History, a selection of negative ads for the presidential race of 1864: The Ads that Could Have Won George McClellan the Presidency. I believe I recognize the organization that paid for this ad in particular.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

To Greet You On St. Patrick's Day

"To Greet You On St. Patrick's Day." There's no message or signature on the flip side, just the address: "Miss Florance [sic] Williamson, Prescott, Iowa, RR3" in black ink and the postmark "Des Moines 1912."

phpMyAdmin and MySQL — Drop Tables

phpMyAdmin and MySQL — Drop Tables with Common Prefix | DigitalWindFire: A handy tip for my Wordpress experimentation--this is how I delete the Wordpress portion of my database without touching the Drupal installation:

WHERE table_name LIKE 'wp_%'
) a INTO @stmt;

PREPARE statement FROM @stmt;
EXECUTE statement;

Friday, March 16, 2012

Wool Double Four-Patch Coverlet--Finished At Last

Wool Double Four Patch

Here it is, tied, bound, and hung on the clothesline for photographs. This double-bed cover is made from my wardrobe from the 1980's and 1990's, with a few squares from a 1970's era blue wool skirt I wore for band concerts, and a red wool bathrobe of my mom's (circa 1950).

Polar Fleece Quilt Backing

I backed the wool top with a pieced expanse of fleece remnants. This was a tricky procedure, as the fleeces were stretchy, each in its own way. I didn't get it perfectly flat when I tie-tacked it with the sewing machine, but I'm pronouncing it "good enough."

Almost All the Squares

You can see that I couldn't wait for the completion of the new clothesline to photograph my completed project. Clothesline is still under construction.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

State launches gas-drilling database for public

State launches gas-drilling database for public  - News - The Charleston Gazette - West Virginia News and Sports -: "CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians interested in oil and gas drilling plans can now study permits and get other details online. The Department of Environmental Protection's Office of Oil and Gas has launched a website with information on horizontal drilling operations. The site was mandated under legislation passed in December."

'via Blog this'

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Knitting Down Memory Lane

pink mohair Fair Isle hat

I've been knitting hats again. I haven't figured out a good way to photograph hats, but I remembered that I have some hat images from this blog, 2005. At that time, I didn't have a digital camera, so I slapped these hats on my flatbed scanner before I consigned them for sale. These look OK squashed flat, I think, because the colors draw the eye. Cabled hats displayed flat have a shriveled, sad look.

The skullcap style hats don't look so great on my own "cannonball" head, and I don't have a mannequin, so I'm brainstorming for some suitable form to make cabled hats look nicely three-dimensional.

Pink wool colorwork hat White Fair Isle mohair hat

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Wild Silk

Yesterday, I needed to make a label for a hat I'd knitted from some 1980's-vintage silk yarn. The search engines showed me this excellent (but not new) article: Silk is the Bomb[yx] (Knitty, Spring 2006) by Michael Cook. Here's what I needed to know:

Species silks, or "wild" (actually semi-domesticated) silks, used to be very hard to find. Nowadays, hand knitters and spinners can get Tussah fibers and yarns in a wide range of colors and preparations, and some vendors even offer Eri and Muga yarns and fibers. Each of these is produced by a different species of moth. In India, which is where most of the wild silks are produced, they are called "vanya" silks; these silks each have a distinctive feel and color, and they are a treat for the hand spinner.

I was equally charmed by Michael's website, where his blog features wonderful chickens as well as all the giant silk moths a gal could wish for. I guess eggs are the common denominator.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sweater-Knitting with a Sewing Pattern Template

I haven't knit a sweater for a long time, mostly because I haven't been pleased with the fit. I've tried dozens of approaches to alterations, and I've unraveled every one. This winter, I had an idea--why not knit a sweater using a successfully-altered sewing pattern as a template?

I hauled out my much used, much altered Kwik-Sew 2900, selected a couple of lace patterns from my Barbara Walker library, and grabbed some soft and fuzzy synthetic yarn that I got cheap long ago (during the G.H.W. Bush administration in College Park, Maryland, I think).

I knit the cardigan top down, and eventually, it was all one piece. I started at the top because running out of yarn near the bottom is preferable--you can make it a shorter sweater or swap in some other yarn and act like it's a design detail. Also, I rely on frequent tryings-on to check fit and appearance.

Knitting to match pattern pieces would be much easier if one were content to knit flat pieces and sew them together, and sensible people avoid knitting set-in sleeves from the top down, but if I were sensible, I'd order an ill-fitting cardigan from a catalog and just put up with it.

Here follows a tediously detailed description of my method, suitable for some idle moments. (Don't feel obliged to read it.)

I cast on stitches for the width across my shoulders, and knit the top of the back first, shaping the arm scythe by adding stitches on each side. (Circular needles are the way to go here, because there are going to be lots of needles with knitting on them for a while.)

When I was almost done shaping the arm scythe, I got more needles, went to the cast-on, and picked up stitches to make the left side front. I knit downward, shaping the neck edge and the arm scythe by adding stitches at the edges, and I managed the full bust adjustment by making three sets of short rows, which work out to be three nice little darts around the armhole and underarm area. (I tried it on frequently at that point.)

Then I did the same thing for the right front. At this point, I had three sets of needles flapping in the breeze, and I needed to add some more stitches at the underarm areas so the sweater would go around me. I had the extra complication of lace panels down the front, which needed to be on the same pattern row or the cardie would look cock-eyed, and I'm probably not attentive enough to keep track of two different spots in a lace pattern.

This was the least fun part. I made sure I had both sides of the front on the same pattern row, and I figured out how many stitches I needed to add at each underarm. I didn't have exactly the same number of stitches on each side front piece, so this is where I needed x more stitches on the left side and y more stitches on the right side to achieve sweater symmetry.

I picked up the left front needles at the cardie opening point, knit around to the end of that piece, cast on x stitches on that needle, then grabbed the needle with the back on it, and knit it onto the same needle as the left front.

Then, I cast on y stitches to the now-quite-full needle, grabbed the needle with the right front on it, and knit across. At last, I had all three chunks of knitting on the same needle. I knit even for a few more inches, and tried it on again, and, fortunately the fit was fine.

I picked up stitches at each shoulder to match the width of the sleeve cap pattern piece--about three inches.I knit back across, picked up a few more stitches, turned and knit back, picked up a few more stitches, turned and knit back, etc. I decided how many stitches to start with and to add at each repeat by holding the sleeve cap pattern up to my knitting. Eventually, I picked up stitches all the way around the armhole, and started knitting in the round. I shaped the sleeve down to the cuff by decreasing whenever it looked right.

I finished both sleeves, and then resumed knitting the body until I ran out of yarn. Then I crocheted the front bands with a different yarn. (I've never knit a really successful button band.)

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Chaff Which the Wind Driveth Away

I've been reading philosophy and ecology papers, trying to get ahead of my students on the fly with courses I took over mid-semester. Since my personal flight from academia, I have kept up on ecology literature, but philosophy, not so much. I'd be in better shape if the topic were "biology and the literary imagination," or "aesthetics of natural history," or "nature, prose, and poetry." In fact, I'm sneaking in all the Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson I can manage, on the grounds that they are much cited in environmental ethics texts.

Thus, Prairiemary's recent blog post, Meanings of Vegetal Life fit right in with my current reading lists. Mary's introduced me to Deleuze and Guattari in the past, although I can't claim to understand postmodernism enough to explain it in my own words. In this blog post, she reprints a call for manuscripts on "Critical Plant Studies: Philosophy, Literature, Culture."

The goal of the Critical Plant Studies, a new book series at Rodopi Press, is to initiate an interdisciplinary dialogue, whereby philosophy and literature would learn from each other to think about, imagine, and describe, vegetal life with critical awareness, conceptual rigor, and ethical sensitivity....Ethically stated, the aim of the book series is to encourage an incremental shift of cultural attitudes from a purely instrumental to a respectful approach to vegetal beings.

I suspected this overlaps with environmental ethics topics I've been reading about, but I really couldn't imagine how, so I tracked down what I could find by the book series editor, Michael Marder. He has a 2012 publication in Peace Studies Journal entitled Resist Like a Plant: On the Vegetal Life of Political Movements. Here's the abstract:

This brief article is an initial attempt at conceptualizing the idea of political movement not on the basis of the traditional animal model but, rather, following the lessons drawn from vegetal life. I argue that the spatial politics of the Occupy movement largely conforms to the unique ontology of plants and point toward the possibility of a plant-human republic emerging from it.

This is where I run into trouble with modern philosophers. How is this anything more than a search for a metaphor? And isn't this already an ancient trope? Here are King David's botanical similes from Psalm 1, verses 3 and 4:

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

This famous simile has moved into politics, from spiritual to protest song: Just like a tree that's planted by the water./ I shall not be moved. Perhaps I can use this to justify shifting the course emphasis from ethical theory to literature. The whole Deleuze and Guattari: Concept of the Rhizome seems to me to rest on an inartful metaphor. I think a "stolon" would better represent lateral, multidirectional movement of ideas.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Iceman's Genome Cometh

I don't know why this fascinates me so, but the Tyrolean mummy they call the "Iceman" has made (or unmade) more science careers than you can shake a stick at. Genome sequencing reveals Iceman Was a Medical Mess

Earlier computer scans had revealed Ötzi's severe arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. But the new analysis shows that Ötzi had a genetic predisposition to the condition, despite the fact that as a hunter-gatherer he had none of what are currently believed to be the relevant risk factors, such as being overweight, getting too little exercise, and smoking or drinking.... He was also the first known carrier of Lyme disease: the sequencing yielded genes from the disease-causing Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium.

I particularly enjoy the way the stories keep changing: Iceman May Have Been Buried in a Ceremony

Researchers have long thought that Ötzi, the 5000-year-old Iceman found in the Alps in 1991, died wounded and alone, perhaps the victim of a raging blizzard. But a provocative new paper tells a radically different story. The first comprehensive map of Ötzi's body and belongings suggests he was ceremoniously buried by his fellows in the warm summer months.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Agriculture and World Water Consumption

I'm currently flapping around the Internets, scavenging for articles suitable for my environmental science classes. The good news is, it's quite interesting; but the bad news is, much of what's interesting is behind pay walls, like that of AAAS. We're left with interesting teasers like this:

Is Agriculture Sucking Fresh Water Dry? - ScienceNOW:

Agriculture accounted for about 92% of the world's water footprint, the researchers estimate. The water needed to grow so-called cereal grains such as wheat, rice, and corn accounted for about 27% of global water consumption; meat and dairy products accounted for another 22% and 7%, respectively. "Grain is the currency by which we trade water," Postel says.

Agriculture's huge water usage offers hope that humans can reduce overall water consumption, Hoekstra says. Improving the efficiency of irrigation, for example, will allow enhanced use of surface water derived from precipitation and reduce dependence on unsustainable withdrawals of groundwater. Each cubic meter of water that's drawn from surface sources, which are generally renewable, is a cubic meter that doesn't have to be pumped from aquifers. Such underground sources of water typically aren't considered renewable at timescales relevant for humans, he notes.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Poetry, Xtreme Essays, and Procrastination

My computational hours are still taken up with preparations for the classes I'm teaching, but Sherry Chandler has posted a miscellany of wonderful links, which should be visited immediately. Her book, Weaving a New Eden, is also wonderful, and should also be read (or in my case) re-read immediately.

Sherry's brief diversions threatened to turn into a longer procrastination episode for me when I discovered Xtreme Walden by Jason Harrington. For example:

In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, though they should fail immediately, they should aim for each other, in a profoundly epic game of Walden Paintball. Teams of self-reliant individuals will take cover behind shelving rocks, pines, and majestic beaver dams, to gain Shelter from the withering and varicolored fire of the opposing team. No longer in civilized country, masses of marker-toting men will lead their enemies to be pelted into quiet desperation, until they call resignation.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Amazing Giant Flea Fossil

Follow this link to an amazing insect fossil: Super-sized fleas adapted to feed off dinosaurs--Nature News & Comment: "The flea fossil record consists mainly of modern-looking species from the past 65 million years, and the identity of possible fleas from the Cretaceous period (145 million to 65 million years ago) has been debated by experts. But Michael Engel, a palaeoentomologist at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and his colleagues have now extended the history of the parasites by at least 60 million years. Their work is published online today in Nature1."

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Suspend-to-RAM and Other Troubles

I'm running KDE 4, with some grumblings on three different machines, and the "sleep" and "hibernate" options behave badly, in different ways on each machine. In my search for solutions, I ran across a way to suspend to RAM from the command line.

root@britomartis:/home/rebecca# pm-suspend

I still get a "kerneloops" message, but the keyboard and wireless don't lock up this way.

I just replaced the desktop computer I've spent so much time trying to fix lately. It was cheaper to buy a debranded, no-OS machine than to buy replacement parts that might or might not have worked. I tried to get along with the laptop as my main machine, but it was not ideal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What I've Been Doing Lately

Here's a peek at what I've been up to lately:

I'm enjoying revisiting my ecology textbooks and reading new PLoS ONE articles. I wish I didn't have to do it on such a tight deadline, but that is the way these things usually go!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ravens at Dawn

The ravens have visited us regularly all winter. This isn't surprising, but this is the first year they've spent so much time here since we started spending time here. We've had bluebirds all winter, which is also unusual. Birds of opposing omens?

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Quilt Project Long-Deferred

I've been in a tizzy the last few days, mostly a positive sort of tizzy, because some gainful employment has come my way. It involves quite a bit of advance preparation, so I'm frantically developing reading lists, lectures, and assignments for courses that should have started a few weeks ago.

This means that some of my other projects are moved to the back burner. The wool quilt top is completely assembled now, and I've pieced a backing from orange, gray, and blue fleece scraps. My next free afternoon will find me safety-pinning the top to the backing. I hope the wool/polar fleece combo won't be so heavy and bulky that I can't use the sewing machine to tie the layers together, but if it is, I can always tie it the slow way with a needle and thread.

While I see a way to finish that project sometime soon, I may have to put the next quilt project aside for a while. That's happened before. I think it was 2000 or 2001 when I dyed these muslin pieces. A couple of years later, I made half-square triangles of them. In 2005 I started assembling these for window quilts, but soon discovered I didn't have enough fabric to cover the windows. That was when I put the hand-dyed muslin away again and took up fabric scraps unsuitable for quilting to make curtains. The scrap curtain project took about six weeks of steady sewing, but the results did please me, and helped keep the old house a little warmer in the winter. I'm still using them in the new house, one pair in the bedroom, the other in the living room.

Last summer, I hauled out the slow-developing project once more, and finished sewing the half-square triangles into blocks (finished size eight inches by eight inches). I discovered I had 56 complete blocks (and a few odd bits left over). I could make a seven by eight block rectangle, but I started thinking I could instead make curtains for my sewing room. When faced with indecision, sometimes it's best to wait for inspiration. Just last month, I decided I needed a cloth to cover my dining room table (which is where the computer sits in the living room), and these hand-dyed colors would be just the ticket to brighten up the place. I hauled out the blocks, and some flannel scraps for backing, and that's when I got the phone call that sent me into a textbook-seeking, reading-list making tizzy.

Tizzy-wise, I also got some bad news about one of my other occasional teaching jobs--"Nursing program shut down." It looks like there will be far fewer teaching occasions for me there for the foreseeable future.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Testing New Sewing Patterns

2011 was my year for going back through my collection of disappointing patterns to see if fitting alterations could make any of them useful. With the exception of a loose-fitting shirt style and the frequently pre-tested jacket, I didn't find any overlooked treasures. Given all that pattern-adjusting and sewing with no new clothes to show for it, I decided to bite the bullet and order some new patterns. (Oh, for the days when they cost $1.25!) This "Vogue 8598" blouse with shoulder-princess seams was the winner of the bunch. It was easy to make the full-bust adjustment (or maybe I just have had a lot of practice lately), and that was the only change I made to the basic design. I wore this blue rayon shirt Friday, and it fit fine and didn't reveal any design flaws or tendencies to bunch or pull under a jacket. The shirt collar is a little over-sized, so next time, I'll replace it with a more "normal" menswear collar. I'm planning to try it next in a crisp cotton, and if that works well, perhaps I'll use it for the cotton-linen blend I dyed last summer.

This tunic pattern, "Vogue 7858," was half-price the day I ordered patterns, and I thought it looked intriguing, perhaps as a light-weight over-blouse for summer air conditioning. This turned out to be one of those cases where Vogue's drawing doesn't match the pattern. The side front horizontal seam doesn't sit at the bust, as the drawing shows, but well under the bust, giving quite a different garment shape. A quick look at the multi-size tissue pattern also revealed that the sizes were not graded--larger sizes were simply wider than smaller sizes.

Years ago, Vogue was reliable for excellent line drawings and accurate estimates of wearing ease. The blouse pattern above (Vogue 8598) was just as depicted on the pattern envelope. Still, since I'd already blown the money on pattern and postage, I made some pattern alterations, and sewed a muslin. I thought it looked promising, so I cut it out of some Guatemalan cotton fabric I bought in Costa Rica in 1983. I was really glad to have the serger for neatly-finished seams on the ravel-y hand-woven.

While the muslin (made of actual muslin) seemed to be the right size for an over-blouse, the finished garment in a heavier, coarser weave seems a bit too large. I think it has a future as lounge-wear, but I'm unlikely to use it as a light jacket in work settings. (These days work clothes are less in demand than lounge wear, so this is not a problem.) Should I ever sew this again, I would definitely use a smaller size One size smaller, or two? I'm not sure.

Despite the way their pattern line's name fits with my philosophy, I've never had much luck with McCall's "Stitch and Save" patterns. Still, the price was right, and I'd been intrigued with this Empire style blouse since I first saw an expensive custom-designed version of it several years ago. Although the pattern is adaptable for various bra-cup sizes, my first muslin indicated that I needed a further full-bust adjustment, and some narrowing at the shoulder seams. The second muslin seemed to fit, so I tried it in this blue silky polyester (from my mom's 1980's collection).

Ah, if only I had tried sitting down in the muslin, I could have saved this fabric for some more successful project. When I sit down while wearing jeans, my, um, need for wearing ease around the waist increases. In fact, even when I was as young and nearly as slim as the model on the pattern envelope, that wearing ease issue was there for me. I suspect the jeans-wearing model herself never made the mistake of sitting while wearing this fashion. I ripped out the side seams and added substantial gussets, so I can sit down, but I suspect when I finally wear this blouse out and about that it will not be a success in either comfort or appearance.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Looking Forward (and Back) to Dyeing Adventures

I really enjoy dyeing fabric and fiber. This is a three-yard length of cotton/linen blend, dyed last summer. I can never resist tossing a few fabric scraps into the dye-bath, just to see what happens. These over-dyed scraps are indigo denim, black denim, and a cotton print.

Dyeing projects outdoors in the summer is the most pleasant way to work, but, unfortunately, at that time of year, we seldom have enough water in the well for the recommended amount of rinsing. I'm always looking for ways to get color-fast fabric with minimal water use. That's why I was very excited to find Melissa Will's Fabric Dyeing 101. In her hand-dyed fabric business, she's worked out a process that conserves water, electricity, and price-y fiber dyes. She's put together three e-books (priced for the frugal among us) detailing her methods for dyeing, for teaching dyeing workshops, and for managing a home-based business. (The business book is free, and a very enjoyable read, whether or not you're contemplating a fabric-dyeing business.)

Once I finish a few projects and clear some work space, I'm looking forward to trying her methods on a small scale, indoors.

Melissa's put up a link collection recently. It includes Paula Burch's dyeing pages, where I learned much of what I know about fabric dyes, and Melody Johnson's "The Lazy Dyer". It was Melody's blog that pointed me to Melissa's e-books, and I found Melody through a search for modular knitting patterns almost exactly a year ago.

Fabric Dyeing 101