Sometimes, making a ruckus by getting a lot of people to sign something does actually help. The “save the bees”-Bürgerbegehren that was running a while ago had a huge lot of people sign, and as a result, the contents of this petition will actually be turned into laws. Nice, isn’t it?

So, since there is hope of things changing to the better if enough people speak up, here are links to some petitions currently running that seem like a good idea to me.

First of all, and for Germans only: The Elbe river is scheduled for works to deepen the river bed, starting very soon in 2019. Unfortunately, this deepening means a lot of excavators removing matter from the river bed, killing everything that lives in there – the microbiome in the river bed soil doesn’t withstand sudden changes in its environment. The excavated soil will then be dumped in the North Sea, where it doesn’t belong and in turn causes more death of local fish and crustaceans, as their habitat is disturbed.

A petition against this is currently running on the petition site of the German Bundestag. If you are a German citizen, you can register and sign. Unfortunately, it will only run for a few more days, until and it is very far from reaching the quorum number yet – so please do sign, quickly, and spread the word!

Another petition, also regarding stupid things planned in Germany, is against a mountainbike park in the Saar-Hunsrück-Region. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against mountainbiking and MTB trails – but the plans are for a huge beast of a park with lifts, ramps, and other fixed installations. The forest that this is planned for, however, is home to wild cats and technically under protection as a natural reserve. Not a good idea to get about 27000 people per year in there, mountainbiking…

Third thing’s the charm, finally – Greenpeace is asking for signatures for better protection of the high seas. That protection is necessary, as the high seas are in danger of overfishing, there’s plastic floating around, and that together with the climate changes is damaging animal and plant life in the sea. Which, in turn, will bite us humans in the butt – so it’s high time to have some more protected areas in the sea.

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Spring has really sprung now, and there are flowers, flowers galore in the garden. Here’s picture proof, first of the first tulips:

The peach tree is also flowering nicely:

… and the hyacinths are doing a good job of adding some blue to the flower beds. Which I much appreciate, with blue still being my favourite colour!

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If you’re interested in inks or ink corrosion, there’s a conference planned about just that topic – ink corrosion – in October 2019, on the 24th and 25th. Right after this conference, there’s a three-day workshop (October 25-27) on making and using historical inks.

The webpage OpenEdition offers a number of open source books and articles from the humanities and social sciences. The website, for me, shows up as an odd mix of German, French, and English, but it seems to be natively French, and a high percentage of the texts are french. (Try searching for “quenouille” instead of “spindle”, for instance.)

There’s an old Egyptian rug that is made from cat hair.

And while we’re at the topic of animals – the Rare Breeds Survival Trust has published the current watchlist with endangered rare breeds in Britain. There’s quite a number of sheep on the list – so if you’re in Britain and thinking about keeping some sheep… (or horses, or poultry…)

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Here are a few images from the workspace, so to say – I’ve been outfitting part of the new embroidery frames with bands to attach the fabric.

The way these frames work is rather simple: You baste or herring-bone-stitch your embroidery ground fabric to the bands at top and bottom of the frame. Then you tension the fabric between the frame bars with help of the wooden pegs; if your fabric is a long strip, you can roll it around one of the frame bars to store the excess. (The bars are fairly rounded to avoid sharp crimps in the fabric or, as you progress, in the embroidered fabric.)

Once your vertical tension is thus established, you get a nice horizontal tension by stitching the left and right edges to the vertical slates. Using a needle, you pierce the fabric, then wind your tensioning thread around the slate, then go through the fabric again.

This setup of the fabric is, obviously, more time-consuming than just plopping a modern round embroidery frame onto a piece of fabric, but it will give you a higher, more controlled tension that will not slack off quickly or easily.

To make all this possible, though, you need the bands on top and bottom of the frame – and fitting these is a story of its own.

First of all, the bands are cut and their edges are hemmed. Then the real thing is up – the attachment. I use small copper tacks to attach the linen bands to the frame; they have to be placed close enough to each other so the band doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to sag between attachment points.

They are tiny, and soft, and they look really nice. As they are tiny, it’s rather fiddly to handle them, though. And because the wood of the frames – birch, beech, or maple – is rather hard, it’s also very easy to just deform the tacks instead of hammering them in – which is why every one needs some pre-holing. I do that with help of a slim steel nail.

Once every attachment spot has its hole prepared through the band and into the wood, the tiny tacks are inserted into the holes, two or three at a time. Theoretically, I could insert all of them at once, but experience has shown that this does not save time, as the vibrations from hammering in their mates makes those further down the row jump out of their prepared holes again… which is not very helpful.

So there’s bit by bit fitting and hammering, until all of the holes are filled. And then the process is repeated for the second of the bars for each frame.

Once that is done, the two fitted bars get bundled with their side slates and four pegs, turned out of the same wood – and they are ready to be used for some lovely embroidery!

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Easter is coming up. That festival of eating eggs (lots of eggs!), both chocolate and chicken-produced. When everybody is happy about spring finally being in full spring, and winter being over.

So, in preparation, here’s two things:

Openculture writes about killer rabbits in medieval manuscripts. Yes, the Monty Python Killer Bunny is not completely made up – there are Evil Rabbits of Megadoom abounding in manuscripts…

The second thing? It’s in case you would like to make some weird, relatively quick-to-make confection that can be eaten at Easter. Or at any other point in the year, actually – it’s just my excuse to post this now. I call it “Inflated Figs” and it works like this:

Buy cream, dark chocolate (a good, yummy kind, not the cheapest, please), and soft dried figs. You’ll also need a pot and a piping bag with either a filling nozzle or a slim nozzle with a small opening.

Put some cream into a pot and gently heat; add an equal-weight amount of dark chocolate and stir until completely mixed. You should have a thickish brown sauce-like ganache as a result. Spoon your ganache into the piping bag. Insert the nozzle into a fig and press the warm ganache into the fig until it inflates. Repeat until running out of figs, ganache, or both. Place in the fridge to cool, and it’s probably best to also store these in the fridge for as long as they will last – if, in case you are like me and love both figs and chocolate, might not be very long.

They’re not looking like much – but trust me: They are delicious!

If you have ganache left over, you can whip it up, put small mounds on it on top of cookies, and serve that as a dessert in its own right, by the way. Or use it to glaze a cake… in case you need an excuse for some cake-baking!

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Here’s your gratuitous service announcement, since it is spring – no, really, for no other reason than that I’ve recently stumbled across these issues again, and found it smart to check – and change – some of my passwords… which, admittedly, I am doing way too rarely.

So… amidst all the spring cleaning, and the gardening, and spending time outside where it’s finally nice and sunny again, maybe you can make time for some spring security stuff regarding your computer?

Thing One: Make a backup. I’ve written about that before, but it never hurts to repeat this from time to time. Hard disk drives are, yes, prone to die at some point, and preferrably at the worst possible point for you. So get yourself an external disk, or – if you are data paranoid – a simple RAID 1, and backup your data. There is plenty of free software around; I use SyncBack (not because it’s the best ever, but because I got it at some point, it’s all set up, and I have not seen a need to change it yet).
While you’re at it, make sure that you will be reminded to actually use your backup software and equipment. Put a reminder into your calendar, set a recurring to-do on your to-do-list, or do whatever else works for you to do periodical backups of your important data.

Thing Two: Make sure your software is up to date. (Most software updates itself readily on its own if you allow it to do so; there’s usually a “check for updates” menu item somewhere in the Help or Options menu.) Outdated software can pose a security issue – and sometimes the new version comes with nifty new features that make life a lot easier. (Sometimes they come with annoying new features, admittedly… but well. Life.)

Thing Three: Change some passwords. There is a rather good chance that at some point in time, you too were affected by a data security breach – that is someone stealing personal information from some portal or website that you have an account at. These stolen data then turn up in form of lists somewhere on the Internet, for other shady individuals to use for dark deeds. Such as sending you spam emails, or using your address to send spam from.

Fortunately there are sites that let you check if your email was leaked, and if other personal data got out as well. The Hasso-Plattner-Institute offers a free Identity Leak Checker, where you can check if your personal data was leaked.

A second site worth checking out is “have i been pwned“. This not only lets you check for your email address – it also has a search function where you can input a password and see if that has been leaked and is on a list available in the Internet.
If you get hits, you should change the password on the sites that you use that specific email address for. Which is annoying and might be a lot of work, but might save you a good amount of heartache and hassle in the long run. And spam. It might save you from getting as much (or, worse, having it posted from your account).

If you set any new passwords, there’s a few good guideline things to remember. Most important of them all: Don’t use the same password for several sites, especially not important ones with sensitive data, such as your bank data. Managing that ever-increasing number of passwords is a hassle, which is why password managers such as KeePass are a very good thing – you only need to remember one master password to access the database, where you store all your other passwords. These managers can also remind you to change your passwords regularly, which is a feature that I have now (finally) enabled… because I’m just as lazy, or as prone to forget about the age of a password, as the next person is.

For the master password, or any other important password that you need to type in on your own, you should choose a strong one that you can remember easily. There’s a brilliant XKCD comic about strong passwords that fit the bill – which is the type of password I use for the ones that I actually want to remember. For those used only rarely, and only from my home machine, I tend to let the password generator in my manager do the work; it spits out a long random string of numbers and characters which is pretty secure.

So. Ready for some cyber housekeeping?

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I know it’s already a little late, but then, it is never too late to have some funny things, right? So here’s a roundup of some nice April Fool posts…

First of all, did you know that the Bayeux Tapestry is a fake that was made waaay after the Middle Ages? No? Well, you can read all about it here on HistoryHit.

CurrentArchaeology has made a compilation of archaeology-related April Fool posts. My favourite is National Trust workers turning the clock forward for Daylight Savings time at Avebury!

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