Saturday, December 12, 2009


Hema Bharadwaj wrote on her blog
Raghu asked me to open a packet of salted peanuts which led to him requesting some salted, roasted cashews and then he started to say something about airplanes (which is where the salted peanut packet came from).. which then led to this question: "amma, which is heavier... metal or aluminium?" I replied that metal is like fish... a group word... so aluminum, iron, steel etc are metals... i was unable to remember more metals and he added tin and steel. then he said tin is lighter than iron... and that he got that observation from Iron Man... which led to a discussion of the suit the guy built for himself in the movie etc.

This entire conversation must have lasted about 10 minutes. It was so satisfying and amusing and interesting to see the connections, path of conversation topics etc. This morning i'm able to write it out... but these conversations happen often and by the time i get to write at the comp... i've forgotten the exact thread/topics and connections.

I added:
Those burst-of-learning sessions are my favorite things!

If it comes up again, tell him some metals are elements and some are alloys (combos) and that the U.S. coin "a nickel" is named because of what the coin is made of. And they use nickel in stainless steel.

Maybe someday "bronze age" and "iron age" will come up and that could be a part of that discussion too!

Monday, October 26, 2009


What's known of cravings? Pregnant women have them (I did), but what's the current belief of people who are scientific? What are some of the folk beliefs about cravings?

The reason I ask is that I'm making pork for the third time in one week. Never in my life have I had a pork craving, but it seems I'm having one now. Could be coincidence, but I thought someone might come by here with some knowledge or theories or humorous speculations.

Once when Kirby was feverishly delirious, and was three or four, he kept saying he wanted "red food." We tried, guessed, asked, called friends he had visited to see if they'd fed him something red. When he was well he couldn't remember.

With the slightest little google search I found this:
Explains what food cravings mean and how to curb cravings naturally...

Should food cravings be curbed rather than indulged? Should people listen to their bodies just enough to say "no"?

Pork is a weird one for me. It's browned and in the crock pot with green chile and tomatoes, and it smells like cumin, which I love.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Same but different

Except that I scooted the top leaf over a bit, the only difference in these scans is that for the first one I put a solid cardboard box over the top of the scanner table, and for the other one I put the scanner lid down, "the right way."

These are from the fruitless mulberry tree right out my back door, the same tree from which this odd leaf came a few years ago:

I like scanner art. I have other things in a couple of places. Click for more:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Battleaxe or a Pike?

I've had a note in my desk for years that says "Find that battleaxe thing."

Today I found it. What "it" is is a post from 1998, on a forum that doesn't exist, but I printed it out then, so I'm transcribing it here.

Subject: Re: Calling Sandra Dodd...
Date: Tue, Sep 29, 1998
From SandraDodd

<<Oliver is looking over my shoulder, and he needs clarity on the difference between a battleaxe and a pike.>>

A battleaxe is a cranky old woman and a pike is a fish.

A pike is longer and has to have a pokey thing on the end (speartip). An axehead is optional.

A battleaxe is heavier, shorter, and the pokey thing is optional.

I'm saying this without looking in a book or calling my many knowledgeable friends. BRB. (Did you know I was gone?)

I would ask my husband but he's off buying a caster for my kick stool (because I'm short), which brings up the question what is the difference between a caster (or is it castor? they do make that oil...[just joking]) and a wheel?

Okay. I called my friend Jeff [a.k.a. Duke Artan MacAilin in the SCA]. He's a word-freak and medieval combat practitioner. I read him my definitions and he said "that's it."

I wanted to say something about knowing everything. I had a family visit my house last weekend. It was like an unschooling factory tour. I was showing them toys and telling stories about how if kids have played with all kinds of things and thereby gotten scientific principles down in a sensory and intellectual kind of way, after they're older all that's left is the vocabulary, the terminology.

I bought a dictionary with my own money at the age of nine. I've been accused of being a know-it-all my whole life, but what I mostly know is words. If you know the name for an alternator, if you know the difference between an alternator and a generator by definitions, it will seem you know about the electrical systems of cars, and you WILL know more than if you didn't know that.

So because I've read about the Middle Ages for fun all my life and then hung around guys who talk about and make and use weapons, I just know. Same way people can tell a poodle from a greyhound (terminology) people gradually add to the details of their knowledge every day that they live.

That's why unschooling works. That's HOW unschooling works. Because someone cares about the difference between a pike (the word "pike") and a battleaxe (the word and the parameters of its meaning).

Definitions. Look at the word itself, "definitions."

OKAY! If you read this post carefully you've just done more than many college courses in philosophy do in an hour. Congratulations, you unschooler!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

pants, bum

I had chosen words for The Lyrics Game two months in advance, but the images weren't in them all. So I was in the U.K. when I searched google image for "bum," and turns out I got no photos of scraggly old homeless guys, but many female rumps. That made me more aware of words we use all the time in the U.S. that I don't even notice.

Then this ad from the Duluth Trading Company came, and I saw it in its way-too-American light. "Pants" and "bum" both in one place, with a free pocketknife.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Variations on English

English in different parts of the world... Links and comments are welcome! Because I'm going to England in a month and a few days, I'm reviewing how I could get myself in trouble or seem rude and tacky. This is one of my favorite sites about that:

The Septic's Companion:
A British Slang Dictionary—A dictionary of British slang, written by a Scotsman living in America

It's been linked on my English Oddities page for a long time, and I was one of the contributors before it was a book, so cool! It's more fun that some of the other dictionaries I've seen, though I just love dictionaries and I love stories of words.

Hema Bharadwaj wrote recently that her son, Raghu, is having a hard time in India because the English is so different from what he learned in the U.S. My favorite part of watching "Slumdog Millionaire" was hearing the game show host's English.

I had lunch with my friend Charles Thursday. He's English, and told of a road trip to the Midwest last year or so, and of being in a restaurant with three friends of ours who grew up in New Mexico (one in Texas and New Mexico) who all ordered water and that was fine, but when he tried to order water, the waitress couldn't understand what he wanted at all, no matter how much he repeated it. That's because the main sound in the word "water" in that part of the U.S. is a heavy "r" and Charles has no "r" at all. Plus he pronounced the "t" in the middle of "water" as though it were, well... a "t."

Once I sang in a folk club in England. Maybe at St. Neot's, in a pub. Maybe in a different folk club meeting in a different pub. It was the late 1970's. I sang The Titanic, and showed them the singalong parts, and when they got to their part I laughed because I was used to " the bottom of the the sea" sounding like a southwestern U.S. "boddum" and got that very hard "t" from a group of Brits!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting jokes


That's from Neopets.
It's not important.
If one gets the joke, it's like "passing a test," but if one doesn't get the joke life can still continue, the sun will shine, people will play and eat...

It did remind me of "...To Get More Jokes," though and I should link that with it. Here's a quote about an epiphany-esque moment when I was teaching:

I would be asked "Why do we have to learn this?" Sometimes I gave a serious answer, and sometimes a philosophical answer. Sometimes I made light of it. Sometimes the honest answer was "You don't have to learn this, but I have to try to teach it so I can get paid." Or "Only some of you will need to know it, but they don't know which ones yet, so I have to say it to everybody."

Then one day, the question came phrased a new and better way: "What is this GOOD for?" The answer I gave then changed my life and thinking. I said quickly "So you can get more jokes." I think we were reading a simplified Romeo and Juliet at the time. I could've gone into literature and history and fine arts, but the truth is that the best and most immediate use of most random learning is that it illuminates the world. The more we know, the more jokes we will get.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Google maps views of medieval castles

Google Maps of Castles, Cathedrals and Abbeys

Imagine all the people in the past who would have been thrilled with this technology. It's pretty thrilling now, but think back to all the scholars, geographers, historians, kings and generals whose lives would have been different had such images existed in past centuries.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Alphabetical Food

Apple, Banana, Cookies, Dumplings, Eggs, Fish, Goat cheese, Hummus, Ice cream, Jelly, Ketchup..... but not like that, like this!

I got it here: Crooked Brains, and they got it here: Gugazine (or maybe here: Doise Dois). It's by Luiza Prado, an artist in Brazil, and is called "Eatphabet."

On her page you can see closeups of the various letters, too!

It certainly does remind me of Monkey Platters, which reminds me that this fall (maybe in November, date to be announced when I know it) there will be a three day happening for unschoolers with young children in Albuquerque (local/regional, not "big conference" at all) called The Monkeyplatter Festival.

And that reminds me of the January symposium in Santa Fe called SUSS.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Websites that are like Museums

More at

I love these public collections! Please leave links to your favorites in the comments, and if you want to make them "clickable," the code is here:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Corn Bags and Kirschsteinkissen

About fifteen years ago, our friend Bela gave us two lumpy flannel pillows. Turns out they were "corn bags." They were like big bean bags filled with seed corn (whole corn), intended for heating in the microwave and using as hand warmers or footwarmers, sitting around on a winter's evening, or putting in the bed to warm it up. When those wore out, I made more, using terrycloth from towels. They're wonderful.

These are about 10" a side, and are based on the size of the piece of terrycloth, and not being too big to hold or to put in the microwave easily. If you want to make one, buy seed corn and put in enough for it to be a solid layer of corn when the bag's on its side, and to fill the bag half or less when it's held by the corner.

This morning, Keith sent me a link to a blog entry on medieval bed-warming techniques, and one of the things was a bag of cherry pits heated in a low oven. Bed warmers puzzle & answers

That led me to an image search, because it said the cherry-pit bags are becoming popular again:

Once when we were in Minneapolis (Keith was working on a contract, and living in an apartment) Holly was cold, and we hadn't brought a corn bag. I put rice into one of Keith's white cotton socks and put an overhand knot in the top. That worked, and so Keith kept it for future visits. We still have it, somewhere. Corn stays warm longer, though, and when the corn is new there's humidity with it too. I suppose cherry pits were good because the heat would last a while and heat up without destroying the seed (in those pre-microwave days of yore).

The blog is worth saving and exploring.
Old & Interesting, history of domestic paraphernalia, household antiques in use.
Antique household equipment, furnishings, utensils - housekeeping as part of social history. Domestic life, household management - how people organised their homes and did the daily chores. Yesterday's everyday objects are today's antiques or museum pieces, and we may view them with nostalgia or curiosity about past ways of life. Old & Interesting takes a look at how these everyday things were actually used, how people managed their home life - and more. Alongside articles illustrated by excerpts from advice manuals, period novels and other literature, this page is updated every couple of weeks. RSS feed or email will let you know about new articles.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Building a 19th Century Computer

An English mathematician named Charles Babbage conceived and designed a mechanical calculator in the 1820s and halfway through the production of the parts, a disagreement halted the project.

From the article at

The plans looked good on paper, but Babbage was never able to build his machine. More than a century after his death in 1871, computer historians blew the dust off his 5,000 pages of notes and drawings and wondered if his ideas could work. In 1991, on the bicentennial of Babbage’s birth, the Science Museum in London unveiled his Difference Engine No. 2, a fully functioning calculating machine, built to the specs of the inventor’s drawings. A full-scale clone of that machine is now on display in Mountain View, California, at the Computer History Museum through December 2009.

There's a video there you can watch. Very interesting.
(Smithsonian article)
There's one in London, and the one in California, and I think those are the only two.

The Science Museum in London says this on their site:
Difference Engine No 2 designed from 1847-1849 by British computing pioneer Charles Babbage (1791-1871), which excludes printing mechanism. Size 2.1m high, 3.4m long, 0.5m wide. The engine was built by the Science Museum and the main part was completed in June 1991 for the bicentennial year of Babbage's birth. The printing mechanism was completed in 2000. Doron Swade, senior curator of computing and IT, oversaw its construction. Babbage conceived the engine to calculate a series of numerical values and automatically print the results. Difference Engine No 2 was never constructed in his lifetime.

The history of computers is fresh in my mind because of the local display at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. It's called StartUp: Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution

Babbage's machine would've belonged to England, or something, if it had been finished, so I'm not suggesting it's "a personal computer," though if you read those articles, it seems that one of the two is owned by an individual.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Horses, houses with names, connections

This photo arrived yesterday in part of an illustration of why a certain home/property in England is called "Longfields." When Cathy, in Hampshire, ordered a copy of Moving a Puddle and some Thinking Sticks, I included a comment that I loved the name of her house and so she sent photos of the fields, and the five horses they have.

The day this arrived, the Lyrics Game word was horse. I had fully planned to add this image there then, but the day overwhelmed me and I didn't get to it. I wanted to make a bigger deal of the fact that the day after I had done an image search for good horse photos, this came and it's better than all of them. And these horses are owned by a family which now has a set of Thinking Sticks. I'm going to England this summer. I'm half thinking of asking for an invitation to visit, and half afraid if I add more visits I'll just never come home.

Longfields, named because, well... the fields stretch out a long way behind the house.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Snap, Crackle, Pop

Snap, what a happy sound
Snap is the happiest sound I've found
You may clap, rap, tap, slap,
but Snap makes the world go round
Snap, crackle, pop – Rice Krispies!
I say it's Crackle, the crispy sound
You gotta have Crackle or the clock's not wound
Geese cackle, feathers tickle, belts buckle, beets pickle,
but Crackle makes the world go round
Snap, crackle, pop – Rice Krispies!
I insist that Pop's the sound
The best is missed unless Pop's around
You can't stop hoppin' when the cereal's poppin'
Pop makes the world go round
Snap, crackle, pop – Rice Krispies!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Keith bought a new hand axe lately. An Estwing hatchet. It has a leather-wrapped handle. It's heavier than the one he bought me twelve years ago, when we moved into this house. Mine has some kind of soft plastic over the handle, but the steel is all one piece, on both cases. A few years ago for Christmas I got him an Estwing 3/4 axe. We use these tools quite a bit, splitting wood for the fireplace and hot tub, cleaning little branches off of wood we want to use, or stripping the giant reed grass that grows in our yard so we can use the lengths of it as poles for various things.

Here's a professional artist's portrait of the model Keith just bought:

We used to have a poster of these concepts up on the wall when Kirby was little:
Wheel and axle
Inclined plane
When I tried to look up the list, I couldn't find it. I was looking for Greek and tool, but if I'd looked for Renaissance and machine I would have found them.

I called Keith to see if he could help. I was saying "incline, wedge, lever," and I said "I think there are six of them."

Keith said "screw," and I said a screw was an inclined plane in a spiral, but he said no, it was separate. So I believed him, kind of, and he told me about an article he had just read about the way the thinking and skills of younger people (tech natives) has changed. We talked about that a while, and then got off the phone.

I googled a bit more and then thought IF I were going to actually get up and look, I wouldn't look for that poster. I don't remember if it was rolled or folded or one of the heavy flat ones from Colborn's, a long-out-of-business educational supply house from which we used to get things like tempera, games, Dover coloring books, and single crayons. So I thought the place to look, in our fairly-vast home library would be an older encyclopedia. Yes! So I went to Wikipedia and found this, as a link from tool:

So those are not about tools, but about "machines." Yet an axe is a wedge, used all of a sudden.

This is all plenty exciting to me, because I'm easily amused and I love these little hunts and connections, but honestly, the definition of "tool" and the concept has expanded since I was a kid and was told to memorize what a tool was. When I was a kid, humans used tools and that made us human, but that's no longer "the truth." Chimpanzees can use a leaf as a sponge to gather water out of a hole. They will lick a stick and put it down a hole to collect insects (termites? ants? I don't know what). They will move things to climb up on to get something they can't reach.

Marty says he thinks maybe elephants will pick up a stick to knock something down that's higher than their trunks. If they haven't, they should.

So what, these days, are "tools"? My computer? Google? Wikipedia? My new glasses? That electric teakettle I'm about to go and heat water with?

We talk about parenting tools, and people adding to their toolboxes, and those are all in the realm of thought (and action proceeding from thought, but without physical tools).

I'll add pictures of my own little hatchet/handaxe...

Those are the two places it lives, by the fireplace or near the woodpile for the hot tub. I've had it for twelve years now.

UPDATE, May 7, 2009:
Click the image to see an article Deb Cunefare sent on designer axes:

The link was gone, but there's quite a bit more, now (2022) on designer axes, so I replaced it with a google search.


this came around by e-mail, from the best man at our wedding nearly 25 years ago, to Keith, to me.Wait... the e-mail didn't come 25 years ago; the wedding did. The e-mail came recently.

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your beer across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.

WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench with the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, 'Oh sh -- '

ELECTRIC HAND DRILL: Normally used for spinning pop rivets in their holes until you die of old age.

SKILL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.

PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.

BELT SANDER: An electric sanding tool commonly used to convert minor touch-up jobs into major refinishing jobs.

HACKSAW: One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion, and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

VISE-GRIPS: Generally used after pliers to completely round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

OXYACETYLENE TORCH: Used almost entirely for lighting various flammable objects in your shop on fire. Also handy for igniting the grease inside the wheel hub out of which you want to remove a bearing race.

TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.

HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes, trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.

TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.

PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.

STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.

PRY BAR: A tool used to crumple the metal surrounding that clip or bracket you needed to remove in order to replace a 50 cent part.

HOSE CUTTER: A tool used to make hoses too short.

HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit.

UTILITY KNIFE: Used to open and slice through the contents of cardboard cartons delivered to your front door; works particularly well on contents such as seats, vinyl records, liquids in plastic bottles, collector magazines, refund checks, and rubber or plastic parts. Especially useful for slicing work clothes, but only while in use.

DAMM-IT TOOL: Any handy tool that you grab and throw across the garage while yelling 'DAMM-IT' at the top of your lungs. It is also, most often, the next tool that you will need.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

People Collect Things

Barf Bags, for one thing.
And they have links to many other barf bag collectors. There are stories there. Don't read them if thinking "barf" would be inconvenient for you at this time. (Thank you, Robin Bentley, for that link!)

There's a link there to a collection of images from emergency preparedness materials, with captions that made me laugh aloud while people are trying to sleep, so I closed this link: (Some are unsuitable for young children, but would be hiLARious for young teen boys.)

So what other things do people collect and share online? Jello advertisements.

Send others and I"ll add the links!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing Card Animation

Read this first:
Click on the link below and a playing card will appear on your screen...wait a few moments for it to load, then scroll down below the card and you will see a line that has a little red slider bar in it. Move the slider gradually to the right and stop and watch the show take place, then move it a little more to the right and stop and another show will take place and keep doing this till you are to the end.
The marvels of technology.

It's an wordless advertisement for Adobe Creative Suite 3.
The artistry, engineering and programming are wonderful, and there's music.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters

"If people can't stand cartoons about religion, they've got a problem." —Frank Miller, author of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns; Daredevil; Sin City; etc." (28 February 2006)

This was a fun find. Some seem fairly obvious (Thor, Superman), but there are twists and turns and real evidence. It's very interesting.

"We want this page to be as accurate as possible, backed up by objective, published information and not based on conjecture. We do not want this listing to be slanted toward any particular denominational or religious viewpoint. It is intended to accurately report the composition of comic book character religiosity. If you have corrections, suggestions, additional information, etc., or would like to post an alternative viewpoint, please write to us at (Nothing you send to us or say via email will be added to our website without your express permission.) "

Although that page says there is no alphabetical listing, there's this:


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