Good bye, sweet Estelle

We really have no luck here. Today the kid came home to Estelle being lifeless. We rushed her to the clinic, but there was nothing to be done for her. She apparently had a big tumour in her belly, and the vet told us that while she could attempt invasive procedures, it was very unlikely that she would survive it, so we decided to let her go. We buried her next to her little sister. Damn, I know that nature never intended for small rodents to live long lives, but it hurts every time.

Picture of our deceased degu estelle, wrapped in a towel and adorned with spring flowers.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Spring Blossoms and More…

Avalos has sent some spring blossoms and I am wholly envious. Here the spring is so far in various shades of gray and the weather would not be amiss in February. In fact, we had this weather in February…

Mirabelle blossoms © avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Cherry blossoms © avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

A whole lot of mirabelle blossoms © avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

And to top it off, there is also a very cute kestrel picture.

© avalos, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Not a Masterpiece But…

… I am really proud of this knife and I think I have done a good job. I genuinely think I am getting better.

You have already seen the blade, twice. It is a big, fullered, mirror-polished, 5 mm thick at the base blade based on my working knife from a failed attempt at making a machete and a bushcraft knife that I have made for my friend. It has some issues – the fullers are not entirely regular and they are not symmetrically positioned, especially towards the tip. But it is a well-hardened blade and the geometry has been already tried and tested by both me and my friend and it is suitable for camping tasks, from preparing small firewood to cutting BBQ ingredients. So functionally, it is a good blade.

But the asymmetry was bugging me, so I have decided to make a visually asymmetrical handle too. First I have tried to use a piece of black elder, a light-colored wood with dark knots that I have thought would work nicely with the mirror polish. But that piece of wood failed me so I had to seek out an alternative

And I am glad it turned out that way because the alternative I chose was a piece of an old and gnarly juniper wood (probably Juniperus x media). Any piece of that has pretty much guaranteed stark asymmetry in every piece and it is a reasonably hard softwood (oh the peculiarities of the English language!) with very small pores, so it is suitable for small woodwork.

The wood also has two distinct colors – white-ish sapwood and reddish-brown heartwood and lots of small knots, which quite coincidentally ended up positioned in – in my opinion – aesthetically quite pleasing places, especially on the right side. It has curly bits too, so it changes in some places color depending on the viewing angle. My original intent was to make the fittings from pakfong with bone plates for color contrast, but I thought that a combination of pakfong and bronze would look better and would fit the wood’s color palette more. And when I see it, I think I was correct. The pakfong part was stamped out of 1 mm sheets but the bronze half had to be made out of 4 mm sheets simply because I did not want to spend another day making a second set of punches. But I probably will at some point if I make more knives in this design. I was thinking about whether to solder or glue the two halves together and I have decided to go with epoxy glue since I needed to fill the hollows anyway and the knife tang stops them from experiencing any great shearing forces so it should be fine. And if someone uses a knife like this instead of a hammer or tosses it into a fire, then, well, some conditions do not have a cure…

Anyhoo, enough of babbling, here are the pics:

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

It is a big, big boi. ~18 cm long blade, ~14 cm long handle, ~270 gramms. Balanced on the index finger but still packs a punch.

I did not make a sheath yet and I would like to ask you if you do not mind giving me some ideas to consider in the comments. I want to make something really fancy, keeping the two-color scheme. With a pocket for a striker and ferrocerium rod. Maybe some basket-weave with differently colored weaves? Or dragonskin?

I also need to find a suitable paracord, none of those that I have in stock fit the color scheme, I might have to go with a simple beige color.


Simon Whistler has made an excellent video essay about the Holodomor in Ukraine.

Content warning: graphic depictions of human suffering.

The Czech language has a similarily sounding word “hladomor” which means simply famine. I always understood it to be a combination of the words for hunger (“hlad”) and plague (“mor”). That might be a case of folk etymology though, the expert opinion one for the Czech word I could not find online. The Ukrainian term came according to Wikipedia from “морити голодом” i.e. torture by hunger. Whether the two words are false friends stemming from different roots or if they share common ancestry is however secondary to one fact that I have learned only recently – the Ukrainian language does sound a bit like in between Russian and Slovak/Czech, which should not be surprising, so I am in fact able to understand spoken Ukrainian a bit better than Russian (still not very well without subtitles though). One such similarity to Czech is that Г in Ukrainian is pronounced as “H” in Czech (in English like the H in  “have”) and not as Czech “G” like in Russian (in English like the g in “grave”).

A linguistic interlude aside, whilst I knew from school about a number of famines throughout history, The Holodomor was completely unknown to me until well after the fall of the Iron Curtain. During my education, the collectivization in the USSR in the 1930s and in Czechoslovakia in the 1950s was always taught as a quick and glowing success of the regime. The demonization of the Kulaks, as mentioned in the video, continued well right until the end of the regime. We were taught that some farmers refused to join колхо́з and were punished as the dastardly criminals they were, but the sheer scale was never mentioned, nor was the fact that this was done along national borders. And that there ever was a famine in the USSR was not denied just because it was never mentioned at all. Maybe it would be mentioned later on with some west-blaming if the regime did not fall, but I doubt it. I have checked the most comprehensive world history book from that era that I own, an official textbook for high-school curriculum and it portrays the era s as I have just described – blaming only the kulaks and mentioning it all as just some isolated setbacks by some rebels who received some non-specified punishment. No mention of famine at all. Only a very brief mention of Stalin’s cult of personality and his “heavy-handed” dealing with problems (an understatement if I ever saw one).

And thus a genocidal act of a paranoid power-hungry maniac fell from history books for three generations. Not the first one, not the last one either.


Beading: The Coral Reef Bracelet

I cut this off from yesterday’s post, as it was getting too long. I hope you enjoy my currently favourite piece:

The “magic carpet” bracelet. I loosely followed this tutorial on youtube, but my result was a bit different.

First, the base is a bracelet weaved in “brick stitch” and that alone took about 8 hours because you need to go through each bead several times, but I’m also sure that this will never tear.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Remember what I said about the different sized beads? The lady in the tutorial uses size 6 seed beads. The smaller the number, the bigger the seeds, and she made rows of 6 beads. I only had size 8 beads and therefore made rows of 8. Now, the number of loops that are then stitched onto the base depends on the number of beads, so I was already adding more loops per row than the original. The next big difference is the beads used for the loops. I once bought a bag of “mixed blue beads” that ranged from size 6 to 13 (the 13 ones are too small for my needles), from white to black and actually, they are useless for anything else, but oh so pretty. I also used up some “mixed bags” of small Bohemian glass beads (again, what is it with me and those mixed bags?), with the exception of the red ones. The increased density of the loops plus the irregularity of the beads created a completely different look and do I love it. It’s got something organic, like an encrusted coral reef.

Now, the original pattern stitches the loops onto the bracelet by going through the beads, which I did up until the point you see above. It was hell. Getting in between those densely stitched seed beads on the base was horrible, it ruined my fingernails and my needles. At that point I simply switched to going between the beads and that was much easier and more comfortable. Not to mention faster.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

With the weight of that bracelet, a magnetic clasp was out of the question, so I made a toggle. Again I had to change this a couple of times to make it fit In the end I also added loops to it to make it fit optically as the original version looked too neat.

Here’s for the finished one. With having to alter the toggle a few times it turned out a bit wide, but it’s still ok, no risk of slipping over my hand.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Here you can see that it’s quite a size and also the many different colours and beads.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Even closer. You can see part of the original “too neat” ring on the left.


Some pretty bling in ugly times: More beadwork

Yeah, I know, my apologies are getting old, but right now I find myself unable to engage in internet discussions much. While you all know me as “argumentative”, I find the current situation too dire to quibble about it on the net. Instead I’m trying to do my best offline, take care of the Ukrainian kids arriving at school, etc. And I craft. Because crafting is my #1 stress relief. Also, beading is something I can do on the couch while watching TV, unlike working with resin or sewing, so here’s the latest bling. It also helps with cutting down on snacks.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

These are made with peyote stitch and look much more complicated than they actually are. I’m currently working on a matching necklace.

The next two pieces look like I robbed some ancient treasury, despite being nothing more than wax and glass beads. All I need now is for an occasion to wear them.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Again, youtube is a well of inspiration and comprehensive tutorials. One thing that is absolutely not the fault of the people doing the tutorials is the fact that you rarely have the exact same beads as they have. With stuff like the earrings and the necklace, that’s not a problem. They turn out a bit bigger or smaller than the original, but all in all they’re just fine. Things like the bracelet and the pendant are tricky, though. With those, the proportion needs to match and I often end up undoing and redoing them several times, swapping out beads, until I get them right.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I already have a rainbow necklace in resin, and i noticed something when wearing it at school: It’s important. Sometimes it acts as a discussion starter. We have a huge problem with homophobia at school. Many very religious kids (I recently shocked one kid by simply not believing in any deity) and also just plain secular toxic masculinity homophobia. they see my rainbow, they ask me if I “support LGBT people”. Since these are conversations that happen “off record”, kids are more willing to openly discuss matters. The other part is that of course having loudly homophobic pupils doesn’t make LGBT kids disappear, they just stay in the closet. I get a few shy “I like your rainbow jewellery” comments from kids and I thank them and they know I’m safe. Maybe they don’t dare to wear a rainbow openly, so I do it for them.

About the technicalities: The ends are glued into the caps, as simple as that, and the clasp is magnetic, so I can put it on and take it off myself, though it also means that I need to pay attention so I don’t lose it. The added semi precious beads act as a counterweight. the clasp is often the lightest part of a bracelet and will end up on top. This way it stays down.



An Ugly Tool That Does the Job

Yesterday was a tool-making day. I have been making punch and die set for making bolsters and end caps for a new knife design. It is similar to the one I have made previously. Here you can see them with the first batch of punched prefabricates.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This time I have disposed of the shafts and I have made two other additions.

One addition is that I have made two punches for each die. The first is for thicker materials and for pre-punching thinner materials. The second one is then for better punching the final form on a thinner material (1 mm). I want to use this thin material as much as possible for several reasons – it is much cheaper than massive 5 mm sheets, it is easier to fit the hole to the tang, it is lighter, and a lot faster to work overall.

The second addition is an overlay from bakelite to hold the roughly cut sheet in place for the pre-form punch. And this is where the titular ugly tool comes into play. Cutting and filing that old bakelite was a huge PIA, it clogs up teeth like glue. But I did find a way to cut the holes quickly and easily, once I drilled out the corners.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

What you see here is probably the ugliest half-assed tool ever made to meet the demand on the spot. I have used an old broken bandsaw blade, wrapped one end of the piece with twine and duct tape to make a handle, and voila! I had a pull-saw that could be quickly inserted into the drilled holes and that cut the material without getting clogged up because it has reasonably big teef. It did not work perfectly, but it was still much quicker than fiddling around with a coping saw. I may make a better handle that allows me to quickly use broken saw blades, or perhaps even new ones, in this manner.

Teh “Remarkable” Russian Restraint

War is ugly. War is messy. In a war, there always are and will be innocent lives destroyed, civilians killed, civilian infrastructure damaged. Hitting an occasional hospital or a school is inevitable even if the soldiers are trying their best to not do so. Hitting several hospitals and schools already indicates either callous disregard with regard to what you are shooting at or gross incompetence and really poor aim/intel.

The Russians have so far managed to hit nearly two dozen health care buildings and several hundred schools. And these are only those that were confirmed with pictorial evidence, the real number undoubtedly will be higher.

The tankies very much like to argue that the Russian military is doing their best to not hit civilian targets, that they are indeed showing “remarkable restraint” in this regard and not “carpet bombing Ukraine like NATO would”.

Well, if this is really is the best that the Russian military can do, if they really, really, really hard trying to not hit any civilian targets, then there is only one conclusion possible – that the Russian military is incompetent, half the time does not know what they are shooting at and the other half keep missing.

I personally do not think that the Russian military is that grossly incompetent. I think that the Russian top brass and the tankies are just lying about that “remarkable” restraint.

No, “Tankie” Is Not Orwellian

When a tankie complained on Pharyngula -click- it was instantly funny – in a sad, sad way – but it was made even funnier – in an even more sad way – later on when this particular tankie openly condoned the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Tankie”, just like “TERF” is not a meaningless slur whose only purpose is to offend and insult. It is a descriptive term whose negative connotations stem entirely from context, i.e. from the repulsive, disgusting, and, frankly, downright evil attitudes of the person being described as such. If you are being offended by being called either of those two terms, the remedy is easy – stop displaying attitudes that fit the definition of the term.

True, “Tankie” originally meant leftists who supported the use of military force by the USSR government to quell popular reforms in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the 50s and 60s of the last century. The reforms were simply deemed not in alignment with what USSR wanted so a military intervention was called in. Even though the Czechoslovakian Prague Spring was being entirely peaceful and democratic and above all socialist right until the tanks rolled in. Dubček was simply not the right kind of socialist for the authoritarian regime that had all the answers and did not need to reconsider anything, ever.

Applying the term to people who support current Russia’s use of tanks to subjugate a country when the will of its people strays from what Russia’s government thinks is in alignment with its interests is just logical evolution of its use.

And when a cheerleader for a brutal totalitarian regime invokes Orwell to criticize the spontaneous use of a term that aptly describes people cheering for a brutal totalitarian regime, it is just beyond ironic.

An Ukrainian Civilian Perspective

I have checked on one Ukrainian YouTuber whose videos I have occasionally enjoyed, although I was not a subscriber. Here is his extensive take on the conflict, accompanied with some first-hand information about the “not targeting civilian targets” lie, the “NATO expansion is the problem” canard, “denazification” misinformation, the victim-blaming, whataboutism, and others. For example – Russian tanks are shown to fire into apartment buildings. That is not an imprecise airstrike, that is a deliberate war crime.

I did not enjoy this video at all, but I watched it all all the same.

Content warning: war, violence, explosions. Video cannot be embedded thus -click-.

Video has hard-coded English subtitles. I do understand enough Ukrainian to confirm that they are correct.

Ay Maid Some Knives Again – Part 2

Now for the remaining three sets. I won’t be posting all pictures here, there will be more on Instagram and sometime today or tomorrow on the Shoppe if someone is interested to see both sides of the blades and all kinds of angles for the blocks.

So first a set of black locust wood.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I did not originally intend to make this with the “leaning tower” design bloc, but when I have seen how it looks on the other set, I have decided to make this one in the same fashion. The handles have a hexagonal profile for a very secure but still comfortable grip. I have decided on the hexagonal profile for the two-wood design to accentuate the angled boundary between the dark and light wood, and I thought it would look well on pure black locust too, due to its very visible annual rings.

Next is a set from oak. The wood is reclaimed from an old church Jesus stick, a fact that I probably should not advertise on the shoppe or on Instagram. For me, it is an improvement since now the wood is made into something actually useful and beautiful, whereas having a depiction of a mangled corpse hanging from it in a shrine to a sadistic god is just a gross waste of resources, but some people have a different opinion and might take this as a sacrilege.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Anyhoo, I still have enough of the cross left to make more sets, either more two-knife sets like this or some three-knife sets. I shall decide in the future, but ultimately, all of that wood will go into knife handles and blocs and what can’t be used as such will heat the workshop.

BTW, his is seasoned, old oak, so it is a very hard wood. But let me tell you – after working with jatoba and black locust, it feels like a sponge.

And thus we come to the last set, made from jatoba. It has the same design and an overall feel as the oak set – rounded bloc, ergonomic handle.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I have enough jatoba wood to make several dozens of these, which I, unfortunately, can’t. I just love how this wood looks and I am still incredulous that I have bought it as firewood expecting to get enough for maybe a dozen knives tops and getting enough to be able to even make knife-blocs, end-grain cutting boards, and maybe even presentation boxes in the future instead.

Ay Maid Some Knives Again – Part 1

The weather was no longer so cold that I could not heat the workshop at a reasonable price and work there, whilst not warm enough to be able to do some meaningful work in the garden. So I have finally finished four two-knife sets that were mostly done since the end of last year. Essentially the wood needed to be buffed and the blades sharpened. And now to take photos and upload it all to the interwebs.

Today I present the probably most original set of them all, a set where I tried to combine jatoba and black locust wood. I think the colors match together really well and I will definitively continue making sets with this color combination. The woods have contrasting colors but very similar grain and hardness, so they work together beautifully both in the figurative and the literal sense. They are unfortunately also extremely hard, so they eat abrasives.

I have accidentally made the bloc section for the smaller knife way too short, demonstrating my ability to diligently measure more than twice and then cut once and wrong at the same time. As a result, I could not lean the stand forward enough for it to be stable without the blae sticking out at the bottom, so I have leaned it slightly to the side too. I have named the design “The leaning tower” and I think I saved it nicely.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

More pictures below the fold

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Please shove your biking advice where the sun doesn’t shine

Gas prices are exploding around the globe, and as far as I can see, the only reason for this is pure speculation, as nobody’s stopped buying Russian oil or drilling. The amount of oil on the market is the same as 4 weeks ago. This of course causes a lot of issues and once again, several things can be true at the same time:

  • People whose car price would pay off my mortgage complain about gas prices
  • Combustion engines are bad for the environment anyway
  • Our cities have been planned for cars over the last 50 years
  • Some people could bike to work or use public transport but don’t do so for stupid reasons
  • Not everybody can reduce the use of their cars
  • Small incomes are disproportionately affected
  • Gleeful “just use a bike” advice is classist, ableist and sexist

Huh? I hear you say. How is the advice classist and sexist?

People who advocate for biking and public transport (and there are many great and thoughtful people doing that, but also a bunch of loud and privileged people, usually male, who annoy the fuck out of me) will usually point to our fucked up city planning, lack of public transport and accessibility and then propose to solve this by simply making cars very expensive and inconvenient. They will point to a past where we all had streetcars and no individual cars, or to colleges as “walkable communities” and keep forgetting that neither the past nor college are adequate models for our current societies. Back in that glorious past, people worked close to home and by people I mean men. Even though many women still held jobs, their needs were never prominent in public discourse.

If I go back to my grandparents, my grandfathers brought home money, my grandmothers made it last. My maternal grandma’s mornings were spent running errands: walking from small shop A to small shop B, all present in the small village they lived in, taking in small sewing jobs from better off relatives, taking in orders and doing deliveries for a seed merchant, and so on, and so on. The afternoons were spend doing chores and gardening. My grandparents never needed a car because my grandma would do all these things while he was at work.

Times changed. The small shops vanished for the supermarkets, the local supermarkets vanished for the huge departments stores outside of town. But not only that, society changed as well. More women started to participate in the workforce, leading to a higher demand of childcare. And also people were required to be more flexible and take up jobs that are not within an easy distance. Whenever I bring up that argument, people tell me folks should just move closer to the job. When I ask them which job we should move closer to, mine or my husband’s, they often get angry, because they notice that they haven’t thought about this. Women’s job are often worse paid, they work shorter hours and they have to still juggle all the things grandma had to do. They have to take the kids to daycare/school, do their doctor’s appointments, get them to sports… Quite often, this is only possible with the convenience of a car. This also means that women are disproportionally affected by measures that make cars more expensive and less convenient. At some point, the cost is higher than the earning, the workload just gets too much, and once again women find themselves pushed out of the workforce. So yeah, insisting that commuters fix the problem individually punishes women for living ion a sexist society. It’s a great example of how something can be sexist without anybody ever having consciously thought a sexist thought, but by having failed to consider how something would affect women differently  than men.

On to the classism. This seems even less intuitive than the sexism. After all, a bike is cheaper than a car, right? That is true, and in the long run it may be a good alternative for people with short commutes. I’m all in favour of building good biking infrastructure, not just painting lines on the road. Bikes are amazing. I just bought one last year, after not having one for several years. And do you know what? It costs money. A decent city bike that can take small potholes, has working brakes, and is safe in traffic costs a couple of hundred Euros. If your commute is longer and reachable by an ebike, add a thousand Euros*. Telling people who are currently struggling with paying for heat, electricity, food and transport that they can just spend that amount of money in order to save some in the months to come is classist. People need help now. It’s all good and fine for you to decide that you’d rather freeze and put on two sweaters instead of buying Putin’s gas, but please, don’t tell the parents of a newborn that 15°C are enough.

Personally, I’m just annoyed. I have zero control over my workplace, 90-95% of my driving is for my job, and I’m currently taking a paycut of 100€  a month just for increased gas prices that others don’t have to spend. It doesn’t put us into trouble, and I probably wouldn’t mind if that money was going towards something good, like reshaping infrastructure, or helping refugees, but it’s going directly into the pockets of the oil industry who have zero interest in making any of that happen.

*Oh, and getting back to sexism: it’s a problem for women who work more often in customer facing jobs to arrive at work “presentable” when biking for 10 km