Friday, May 13, 2016

Vacation time and knitting kits

A kit for summer vacations including camping and runs up to experience Shakespeare at Ashland. Technique is more "Dutch Knitting Stick for stiff needles", than the much faster spring / gansey technique used for large expanses of fabric. These needles/knitting sheath are not much faster than a leather knitting belt but, this knitting sheath is more compact and better for travel than a knitting belt.


The needles are short enough to be used anywhere, and this model of knitting sheath can be used everywhere. This sheath can also be used with glover's needles or swaving pricks. The needles are US0 or ~ 2 mm allowing knitting 6-strand, 840 ypp yarns in low light situations.

A kit for knitting at home and around town. These needles are US000 or ~1.6 mm.

Snug socks look better, but tight socks wear faster. Thus, "one should knit to fit!" However, using a tape measure or ruler or rule of thumb, it is hard to get to get an exact measure of the sock. I make "story boards" that are the exact size of that person's foot, and when the story board fits, the sock fits. The notch tells me the height of the heel, and the round hole tells me where to begin decreases for the toes. Kit used with four-ply to 6-ply gansey yarns in the 2,500 to 1,600 ypp range. Good socks can be knit on 12" needles using 3 plus 1 needles, with sweaters for BIG men knit on 6 plus 1 of the 12" needles. With dark yarns in low light situations, distinct expletives will occur.

See also the work of Ben Crystal, and his father David, on Shakespeare in original pronunciation. (Actually, SF Bay Area has more OP Shakespeare than Ashland.) 

(Allows knitting while listening.) Shakespeare begins at minute 35 +, but the first 35 minutes give background, and the rest ties it to Shakespeare.  Shakespeare is full of rhyme and pun; it is fun!

Wednesday, May 04, 2016


Dr. Long was a very elegant and refined Senior Professor. He could make a stick of chalk last for weeks. Then, he wrote 4 lines on the blackboard.

Define the Model
Bound the Model
Calculate the Equations of State
Calculate the Gibbs Free Energy

As he lectured on, he put stars in front of the lines as he spoke :

  • Define the Model
  • Bound the Model
  • Calculate the Equations of State
  • Calculate the Gibbs Free Energy
Then, he retraced and bolded each line:
  • Define the Model
  • Bound the Model
  • Calculate the Equations of State
  • Calculate the Gibbs Free Energy
Anyway, he went through about 3 sticks of chalk in that hour, but I still remember it after 46 years. Of course, there was a period when I used it every day.  I modified it to;

Define the Model

Bound the Model

Calculate the Equations of State

Calculate the Gibbs Free Energy

Calculate Fate and Transport

Calculate Biological Interactions and Transformations

Calculate Dose and Toxicology

Calculate Affected Populations

Calculate total damage to humans and infrastructure

After that, I could walk around any Bechtel office at night, in my stocking feet, and the only comment was an awed, "You worked for SN!"

Climate science does not bother with the whole list these days. see for example
New use of global warming potentials to compare cumulative and short-lived climate pollutants by
Myles R. Allen, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Keith P. Shine, Andy Reisinger, Raymond T. PierrehumbertPiers M. Forster Nature Climate Change (2016) doi:10.1038/nclimate2998  Published online 02 May 2016

They do not define the model; not for SLCPs, GWPs or GTPs. They do not bound the model. They excluded oceans, wetlands, and all of their contained biology, but there is no formal boundary. Since they are working in a single phase, they do not bother to calculate biological transformations. They do not bother to calculate equilibriums between aqueous and vapor phases, or between aqueous and solid phase (e.g., clathrate).  Bad chemistry! On the other hand, much of the climate system is not at equilibrium!  On the other hand, climate science does consider the atmosphere to be "well mixed" so there is an assumption that the system is not too far from 
equilibrium.  Planetary motion both mixes the system, and keeps the system out of equilibrium.

This lack of lack of modeling rigor has allowed the IPCC to consistently understated the risk and extent of climate change. I say the current under-statement is about 38% - with interest compounded second by second.  They invoke some kind of magical "half-life" for SLCPs but do not define the reaction, its mechanism, its state, or its Gibbs Energy.

One point is how they treat CH4 as a greenhouse gas. In the short term, methane is ~86 times powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.  However, CH4 is more reactive and has a much shorter lifespan in the atmosphere than CO2, or does it? Does methane deserve to be given a global warming potential (GWP) of only 24 for climate modeling?

In the atmosphere, methane is oxidized by OH- and Cl- radicals, while CO2 is not. On the other hand, CO2 is converted by plants and algae into O2 plus biomass. In aqueous environments, CH4 can be produced and metabolized by various bacteria, at material flows much greater than the “rate limited” atmospheric oxidation process.  On the other hand, CO2 is more soluble than CH4 in water, and thus CO2 can disappear out of the atmosphere into the oceans (and then reappear.) Thus, the actual amount of CO2 and CH4  in the biosphere is controlled by biological processes that respond greatly to temperature, oxygen concentration, and other environmental factors.  However, the IPCC tends to be dominated by Atmospheric Chemists and Computer Modelers that accord Biologists second class status.  In contrast, I tend to think in the terms of equilibriums controlled by Equations of State, Gibbs Energy,  and most importantly -- Biology. And everything published by the IPCC is reviewed by lawyers and governments that desire to avoid public panic.

If we consider solubility, then when equal pulses of CO2 and CH4 are added to the atmosphere, much of the CO2 will go into the oceans, so the actual near term effect of  the residue of CH4 pulse in the atmosphere is on the close order of 260 times more powerful than the  actual near term effect of the residue of the CO2 pulse in the atmosphere.  

And, as we consider sequestration, we much remember that both CH4 and CO2 are in the oceans, and will come out as the partial pressure of these gases in the atmosphere decreases. As we plan to take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, we need to plan for the gas that will come out the oceans. Or, the biological processes in the oceans can convert either or both gases into biomass, thereby reducing their concentration(s) in the oceans, and causing the gas(es) to move from the atmosphere into the ocean. The ocean may be the easy path to sequestering carbon out of the atmosphere.

If we look at the observed CH4 levels in the atmosphere ( we see that the CH4 concentration in the atmosphere goes up, not down as would be expected with a defined half-life on the order of 10 years. Looking at the CH4 bump in the atmosphere after the oil well fires of 1991, there is a decline that looks to my eye like a higher partial pressure in the atmosphere coming into equilibrium with the dissolved CH4 in the oceans/wetlands.  And, the bump in 1997, looks like higher ocean temperatures from El Nino reducing the solubility of CH4 in the oceans, so CH4 partitions into the atmosphere, then returns to the oceans as cold, deep water is exposed.

Part of the problem here is that many Environmental Scientists took general chemistry and were taught that CH4 is “not soluble” in water.  In fact, CH4 is soluble in water at a few parts per thousand. Thus, in the context of CH4 at a few parts per million in the atmosphere, the oceans can and do hold a great deal of dissolved CH4 in solution, and the bacteria in the oceans can produce a lot of CH4 as O2 concentrations diminish and temperatures rise. (in the same way, green plants algae and bacteria can reduce large amounts of CO2 (e.g., CO2=> biomass + O2) , but CO2 reduction is discounted by the IPCC.)

At the surface, CH4 in the ocean is in equilibrium with the atmosphere (resulting in a very small flux across the phase boundary). In deeper colder water, the partial pressure of CH4 in the water is in equilibrium with the clathrates at the sea floor.  As the world’s waters warm,  CH4 will move from the surface waters into the atmosphere, and  clathrates will dissolve into the bottom waters.  (Or, as we have started to observe in the last 20 years, even release CH4 into the atmosphere.)

Anyway, all of this means that we have to model CH4 in the atmosphere as if the current concentration of  CH4 will be in the atmosphere for at least 20 years.  Thus, the CH4 as equivalent CO2 is  ~160 CO2e.  Add in the real CO2 (405 ppmv), and greenhouse forcing is  currently 565 CO2e, yielding a forcing of ~ 3.6 W/m^2.  Given that permafrost and clathrates have already warmed enough to start melting/decomposing, a climate sensitivity number as high as 3 seems justified. That would indicate an expected temperature from global warming at current conditions on the close order of 10.8C.  That is well above IPCC estimates. And, it is now! Waters that were in the tropics 50 years ago, are releasing heat in the Arctic now.

Fifty years ago, the forcing was only 2.6 W/m^2 (assuming CH4 GWP = 86), while today, the tropic waters are forced at 3.6 W/m^2, and waters that are in the tropics now,  will be releasing that (38% more) heat in the Arctic in 50 years.

Some would object that the forcing formula is standardized for a period of 100 years.  I would counter that with 560+ CO2e, over the next 20 years enough permafrost and clathrates will decompose to raise greenhouse forcing to a much higher level. Over the longer term, expecting the clathrates in the bottom of the ocean to remain solid is like expecting the ice in your tea at a Houston, Texas BBQ party to stay solid. As the tea warms, the ice will melt.  As the oceans warm, the clathrates will decompose. If we are seeing large scale clathrate decomposition 50 years, then there will be a great deal more CH4 in the atmosphere in the second half of the 100 year period, and this kind of senario is simply not recognized by the IPCC.

A corollary is that  polar ice will “melt” faster than the current generation of models predict.  I suggest that the older ice flow models using Navier-Stokes/conservation of momentum equations, miss the point that -- ice near its melting point becomes highly discontinuous.  In particular, ice fractures can concentrate stress from large volumes of ice into melt energy in tiny volumes at the propagating edge of  fractures.  Likewise, moulins and hydro-fracture processes disrupt “momentum” ice flow models. Any model of ice at its melting point expressed in differential equations expressed in differential equations will fail chaotically at the discontinuities. And, we have reached the point where there is liquid water at both the top and bottom of many ice structures meaning that top and bottom surfaces are at their melting point/ discontinuities. Where there are moulins and hydrofractrue events, the discontinuities extend through the ice from top to bottom, and the ice models must fail.  Ice sheets do not have to melt in place.  Now we know, that most ice can “fall” into fjords or the ocean and float away.  All that it takes is enough warming to weaken the ice so that it fails under the stresses imposed by the weight of the ice. My best guess on sea level rise is meters in decades.  NOAA has started to report similar estimates. (E.g., , , )

The sea water advecting heat into today’s Arctic was warming in the tropics, decades ago.  Most of the heat in the biosphere is in the oceans, but most climate scientists look at the temperature of the atmosphere for a reading on the state of the climate.  This disregards the heat that goes into warming and melting ice.  This disregards the heat that goes into the oceans.

There is a significant lag time in climate systems.  We could stop burning fossil fuels today, and it would be 50 years before warming stabilized. We could stop burning fossil fuels today, and it would be centuries before the sea floor clathrate and atmospheric methane inventories stabilized. If oxygen levels in the oceans decline, then the biomass in the oceans will be converted to methane, and the equilibrium value for methane in the atmosphere could be high.  These are issues not addressed by IPCC models.

I did computer modeling for Dr. Jay Forrester for the Club of Rome Report that became Limits to Growth by Meadows et al (1972).  Much later, I wrote the Bechtel Risk Management Manual as we considered the full range of very large nuclear facility and hazardous waste site issues.  We were trying to price the decontamination, demolition, and waste disposal projects being offered to us.  For a long time, I kept a list of the 300 worst things that could happen on large, long term projects, such as the Hanford Waste Repository with its 100,000-year design-life, and potential to contaminate the Columbia River with hazardous and radioactive materials.  Along the way, I worked on a number of the worst hazardous waste sites in the world, and did fate and transport analysis of how bad stuff could affect populations; now, in the future, and in the deep future.

Risk actually has 3 components; Likelihood of the event,  intensity or damage from the event, and the likely timing of the event.  Life is a sequence of risks, and sometimes resources must be allocated sequentially. For example, the sun will die, causing great damage to Earth Bio systems, but that is in the deep future, and we should address other risks first.  Super volcanos and large asteroids can inflict great damage, and are very likely risks in a time scale of a million years, but AGW is a similar risk in the time frame of a few of decades. We should address AGW first, so we will be around to worry about super volcanoes as they will  appear.

At this time, the likelihood of AGW is near certain. (my estimate is 99.9999999%)  Given the  current concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and oceans, likely warming is almost certainly catastrophic for most animals over 4” in length.  We have already seen more than a degree of AGW, which means that water vapor in the atmosphere has increased and is now acting as a greenhouse gas. This will warm the oceans faster, lowering the solubility of CH4 and CO2 in the oceans, and increasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Thus, AGW is a global risk, a catastrophic risk, a near certainty, and a very urgent risk.

In addition, AGW carries with it a spectrum of follow-on effects of unknown impact and unknown level of warming  required to trigger the impact. These include spread of diseases such as  Lyme and Zika.  Changes in climate faster than agriculture can adapt resulting in large scale crop failures (e.g., drought) .  Loss of important ecosystems as a result of migration or extinction of keystone species.  (Ghost forests in California) Weather that routinely damages engineered infrastructure.  Weather that damages important resources. Weather that kills national populations (, , ,   , , ) have become routine. I assert that AGW and resulting drought beginning circa 2006  was an important factor in the Syrian situation.  The drought in Thailand and India looks much like the recent droughts in Texas and California.

Weather is a heat engine, and heat is fungible. All heat affects all weather.  All weather is affected by all heat.  Attempts at attribution are silly.  The heat from AGW is in the system, and is affecting all weather.  It is in the nature of greenhouse gases that as they heat the lower atmosphere, they cool the upper atmosphere, making the atmosphere less stable and much more prone to violent weather.  And, cold air above warm moist air makes large snow and hail storms more likely. 

It is very like the risk faced by the Elephant's Child in Kipling’s story after the Crocodile's musky, tusky mouth caught the Elephant's Child by his little nose. At this time we should take the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake’s advice, and immediately and instantly, pull as hard as ever we can, to avoid being jerked into yonder limpid stream (by which I mean AGW) before we can say Jack Robinson.  Like the Elephant's Child, we have been reckless and na├»ve.   We may survive, but like the Elephant's Child, the effort required will stretch us, and change our outlook in every way.
cumulative and short-lived climate pollutants
Myles R. Allen
, Jan S. Fuglestvedt
, Keith P. Shine
, Andy Reisinger
, Raymond T. Pierrehumbert
and Piers M. Forster

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Better Knitting sheaths

The usefulness of a knitting sheath depends on many things, what one is knitting, the chosen technique, and what one is wearing.  It also depends on the posture; sitting (lounging) in my  yellow leather chair in front of the TV offers a different posture than sitting in a straight backed chair, or the seats in my wife's car, or in the kitchen chairs.  A specialist, who knits in one chair, wearing business clothing, can have one specialized knitting sheath.  I have spent much of the last couple of years lounging in that big yellow chair wearing a sweat suit, leather apron, with a wide leather belt and a knitting sheath - and it was good knitting but it was never just right.  The knitting sheaths wanted a more upright posture - like the one in the kitchen chairs.

Then, recently we visited friends at Textures in Santa Monica.  My knitting perch there is a bar stool that enforces proper posture.  For that travel project, I had summer boot socks from a 6-strand cabled, worsted weight yarn, knit on 2 mm needles to produce a 7 spi by 9 rpi fabric, and I really wanted a better knitting sheath.

Even with a knitting sheath, it is a significant effort to produce that density of fabric with 6" or even 9" sock needles.  Oh, it can be done, but it is an effort. However, with 12" needles, it becomes routine knitting.

Thus, I needed a knitting sheath that allowed use of 12" needles, when traveling - when wearing jeans or Dockers, and the belt holding my knitting sheath goes through the belt loops.  This brings me back to my often repeated statement the the hardest part of using a knitting sheath is learning how to keep it in place.  I needed a knitting sheath that would always in the right place when used with a belt at the height of jeans belt loops.

There were a lot of prototypes and mis-steps:
In baby steps, I got to:
These thread onto the belt, so they are not lost in transit, and the 6" can be flipped to work with 6" sock needles or 12" "gansey needles" or 6" swaving needles.  The 4" version works with 6" sock or swaving needles and with the needle adapter at the bottom, works with 8" to 10"  DPN.

With the needle adapter angled out a bit, this style of knitting sheath provides the same spring effect knitting as 18" gansey needles with the knitting sheath over the right buttock.  Knitting while sitting on a bench, the long needles are still faster, but in with most modern seating, having the knitting sheath under the right elbow provides better access, and hence is faster.

The parts are fairly simple once one thinks it though :

However, this is not the end.

We can change the form-factors a bit so that needle adapters work as as tightening knobs:
This knitting sheath now works very well for either 2 mm or 2.25 mm needles in either 12"  or 6" lengths, including swaving pricks, I think one knitting sheath that works well with 6 different kinds of needles is neat.  If you remember, when I first worked with goose wings, I was very impressed  with the power of the knitting technique where the goose wing rocked on the tip of the hip.  A very similar technique emerges from this knitting sheath by loosening the tightening knob so the shaft holding the needle adapter can rotate, providing a rotating fulcrum for the needle.  Thus, this knitting sheath can support swaving, spring needle techniques, and rotating fulcrum techniques.  Using a softer belt or loosenting the belt slightly, the Dutch knitting stick techniques can be used.  I never had one knitting sheath that could do all that, as well as these do.

These knitting sheaths are smaller and less bulky than a knitting belt.  In the context of a casual belt through the belt loops of  jeans or Dockers, they are much less noticeable than a leather knitting belt. And, while a knitting  belt is less likely to damage wooden or tubular needles, it will never provide the speed and power of a knitting sheath. Leather and horse hair simply does not withstand the force of  steel needles used as springs. And, knitting belts do not support swaving.

Four knitting sheaths set up for swaving socks. The two traditional designs (goose wing and Durham)  on the left, are fine for sitting and working, but are a nuisance if one is out and about.  Note that  the current design is less bulky, but just as stable or even a bit more so than the traditional designs.

Notwithstanding all of the above, today is May Day, and I am wearing shorts with their belt loops in slightly different locations than jeans or Dockers.  Knitting in the garden, on the straight backed patio chairs, the best knitting sheath I can find for 12" by 2 mm needles is the new style short knitting sheath.  This for blunt needles being used with a spring technique, for a fine gansey fabric of  140 stitches per square inch.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mother Nature

One of my favorite scenes in Wagner is Wotan accepting the will of Erda. Yes, even the most powerful of the gods must obey "Mother Earth".

Most "scientists" dismiss me when I invoke Mother Nature, and that is silly, for we must obey "Mother Nature".  Here, I am going to suggest that a good number of my readers go back and read
(or reread) the first 10 of the Feynman Lectures .  Those remind us of how scientists think and work (or should think and work).  Too many of us rely on what some grade school teacher told us about how scientists think and work.  Now think!, did that teacher discuss data quality at the time? If not, there were problems with the teacher's data. The first 10 Feynman lectures are about how real scientists work out difficult issues.  Those lectures explain why no object can be precisely defined, why all data is imperfect, and how to tell if a particular set of data is good enough.

Mother Nature uses the math of probability, calculus, equations of state, finite element analysis,  catastrophe theory, and quantum mechanics to tell us what is likely. She imposes the forces of  gravity, and electromagnetic radiation on us within the constraints of thermal dynamics and rotational dynamics (including the orbital mechanics that give us ice ages, seasons, and tides). She sets the properties of matter and plasma, and the conditions when those properties change. She sets the biochemistry of life. We can calculate Pi to a trillion decimal places, but we cannot change it.  We can measure the size of a neutron, but we cannot change it. We can calculate gravity to one part in a billion, but we cannot say how gravity is different from the forces that hold a neutron together.

Invoking Mother Nature is a good shorthand for all of this.  It is a good shorthand for the fact that we need to be doing all the math, all the time, or we will miss part of what Mother Nature is telling us. (Richard Feynman was very good at math and he spent a good bit of time doing math.)

Setting Mother Nature as a cool entity of  math allows us to forget her power. She  lets us make nuclear bombs and wipe out species with abandon.  She will indifferently allow us to wipe out our  own species. She has reminded us, that with all of our ability to destroy species, we have a hard time dealing with Zika viruses,  Lyme disease,  MSA, cockroaches,  termites, volcanoes, or tornadoes and hurricanes -- much less global climate change. We have more hubris than power.

I think the scientists that dismiss me when I invoke Mother Nature are not doing the necessary math on a timely basis to understand the consequences of  human caused global warming.  They think humans are special, and Mother Nature will not enforce her rules.  Trilobites were special and they are gone. The big dinosaurs were special and they are gone.  That is why Mother Nature states her rules mathematically - those rules are are mathematically precise and are always enforced.

Climate models pass for doing math in climate science.  Just as a camel is a horse built by a committee, climate models are computer programs built by committees in an environment where there are large numbers of students and many echo chambers.  The number of students ensures that nothing too unpleasant is said, and that nothing too rigorous and time consuming is done.  I mean that one cannot have college students running climate models that predict the end of civilization within the  career of the student - the whole university community would need trauma counselling.

And yet, any kind of a reasonable model of seafloor clathrates in a warming ocean would have to include a fat tailed probability distribution of methane releases from the sea floor.  Some of those fat tailed probability distributions of methane releases would be at catastrophic levels, so the entire concept of  methane releases from sea floor methane clathrates is left out of the climate models.  As is also carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost.  This is not doing math, this is pulling the covers over our head to keep the monsters in the dark away.

Even the math that the climate models do, does not stand up to scrutiny.  Methane is about 86 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide on annual basis.  However, methane degrades in the atmosphere over time so over a period of 100 years, methane is only 24 time more powerful as a greenhouse gas.  The climate models set a time frame of  100 years and use the lower value as the CO2 equivalent of  CH4 over the entire time frame. However, climate change is a non-linear feedback system with later conditions dependent on earlier conditions. (See Jay Forrester's work on systems dynamics)  In a non linear feedback system, each time period must be calculated with the appropriate values for that time period, or subsequent time periods will be affected. Therefore this use of average methane  to CO2   equivalent is a catastrophic bug in the program.  Moreover, the assumption of declining CH4 concentrations in the atmosphere has NOT been observed in 27 years of CH4 monitoring.  I can think of several good chemical explanations, but the point is that the observed conditions  do not fit the conditions assumed in the climate models - and that is a deep failure of the climate models.

Review papers such as  Steve's  missed these catastrophic bugs in climate models. The methane/ carbon dioxide equivalent error is just one of several bad bugs in the science coded into the models. The models were written as tools to study narrow aspects of climate change, and not to predict the over-all effects of climate change. To use the current climate models to estimate climate changes from carbon emissions is a misuse of the models. (e.g., temperature rise and carbon budgets for treaties)  Even, to use the models to estimate effects of known climate forcing on human society is a misuse of the models.

This one methane / CO2 equlivalent issue means that the Earth is likely warming  ~35% faster than the climate models predict as a result of this one bug.   There are other problems with the climate models.   Consider:

The take away is that climate scientists are very surprised that climate change is unfolding much faster than they expected, despite many thousands of  climate model runs to establish boundary conditions.

All of the information in the sites listed above should have been expected if we had honest climate models. If we had honest climate models, the 2007 and 2012 Arctic Sea Ice melt events should have been expected.  The record  heat waves of the last decade ( including the July 2012 GIS melt event) should have been expected from honest climate models -- that appropriately accounted for current forcing from methane.  And, the evidence of increasing carbon feedbacks would have been anticipated.  In a system of nonlinear feedbacks, that last is a critical and urgent issue.

Honest climate models might well have resulted in a climate agreement 20 years earlier.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


I mentioned a while back that the Getty Center was having a exhibit of tapestries made gold and silver yarns.  However, I have not said anything substantive about the exhibit.

I was totally under whelmed by the associated materials.

For example, why tapestries?  Conventional wisdom is that they reduced the drafts and made stone buildings feel warmer and more comfortable.  Perhaps, but shuttle woven blankets would have done that and been much more practical.  In particular, the dyes in the tapestries tended to fade rapidly, and tapestries could  not be cleaned as easily as blankets to remove soot and smoke. Why gold and silver in tapestries? We are told it was to improve interior light, but the gold conducted heat through the fabric, allowing moisture to condense on the warmside, thereby requiring use of silver to act as an antifungal agent to keep the tapestry from mildewing and molding.  However, silver tarnished, reducing the reflectivity of the tapestry. No, when they had a practical need for more light, they used white marble as a wall facing as done in the rooms used for spinning fine thread in Bruges.

I assert that tapestries primary purpose was as displays of wealth and status. They were very valuable, but they were lightweight and compact. An 12' by 18'  wool and silk tapestry might weigh only 10 pounds (30 pounds with a linen backing).  It could be folded up and easily transported, or stored away somewhere safe. However, a tapestry was harder to steal than gold or silver per se, and not as threatening as weapons or armor.  Tapestries were a store of wealth that could be displayed  to all of one's guests.

Tapestries came in different grades. The exhibit contains a pair, both made to a similar cartoon by the same shop in Paris. The one for the King of France was much larger and much more finely worked with much gold (and silver).  I estimate the grist of the weft in the smaller tapestry to be in the neighborhood of 5,600 ypp, while the grist of the weft in larger tapestry was closer to 15,000 ypp. Thus, the yarn in King's tapestry took on the order of  100 times more effort to spin without counting the large effort to core-spin the gold and silver onto the weft.   Many of the tapestries that were less finely spun and had less gold work, had the gold work protruding slightly from the surface of the tapestry.  At first, I though this was a lack of craftsmanship.  However, reflection tells me that this was a design feature, to make sure that everyone saw that the tapestry did have gold in it.  The gold protruding from the surface, made reflective bands that were visible from any angle and at a greater  distance -- than the much finer work in King's tapestry where the finer gold work produces a more uniformly lustrous field.

At first, I was very impressed with the quality of the English spinning and disappointed with the quality of the spinning in Paris, but then it became very clear that what mattered was the rank and wealth of the person ordering the tapestries, and not where they were made.  Likely, elite craftsmen went to where the wealthy were ordering new tapestries. It was a uncommon set of skills that took a long time time to develop and refine.

Anyway, the exhibit runs to May 1, and it is likely the only place we will ever be able to do such a close comparison of such a range of fine tapestries.

 Remember the Huntington collection is also nearby.


Specialized: for 12" sock needles and a belt around the waist as defined by jeans. It works for an over stuffed chair, or knitting in the car as my wife drives.  With 6 needles, it works for sweaters, but has the spring action and speed of long gansey needles. It does not fall out and get lost, when out and about.  Is it different?  Only by fractions of a millimeter, and that makes it better for some specialized purposes.

Given modern a costume of jeans, I would say it has taken me a long time to spiral toward an optimum knitting sheath design. It attaches to a belt as used in modern pant design, it allows use of long (12") needles, and it does not get lost when one is out and about.

Mostly, knitting sheaths allow me to knit  objects from fabrics that I would not consider with hand held/ circular needles.  Note that I did not say that circular needles are bad, only that I do not consider them as practical tools for some objects knit from some fabrics.

The sock fabric above is good for hiking socks. It is a 6-strand cabled, 840 ypp yarn knit on 2 mm needles at 7.6 spi and 10 rpi for 76 stitches per square inch.  That fabric can be knit on circular needles, but the progress will be slow and arduous.   I like fast and easy knitting.

Note that this knitting sheath also fits the 1.6 mm needles that I use for other sport socks knit at 11 spi and 13 rpi for 142 stitches per square inch from 6-strand cabled 1640 ypp sock yarn.

And, I use the 12" - 2 mm needles for sweaters these days, so it is has become my work-a-day knitting sheath, and it is not really that specialized - it is worth getting right.

Monday, March 28, 2016


I mentioned the other day that it was hard to use my 18" "gansey" needles in the overstuffed chairs in front of the  TV.  Thus, when watching TV I used shorter needles.  I fixed that.  I made yet another knitting sheath that works well in those overstuffed chairs.

My knitting sheaths in current use. On the right a Durham, which is excellent for sock needles or swaving, in the center is a sheath that works well for 10" to 12" needles, and on the left the new sheath that facilitates the use of longer needles in an over stuffed chair.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Wool as a Miracle Fiber

It is a process of elimination:


And Patagonia is about the best!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations

Now published as: Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming could be dangerous
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3761-3812, 2016

Leading Climate Scientists: ‘We Have A Global Emergency,’ Must Slash CO2 ASAP

In looking over the published version, I  noticed the use of an older climate model that reduces computational loads by using a simplified method of calculating CH4/CO2 equivalents.

In the atmosphere, CH4 is 84 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas on a current basis, but CH4 oxidizes to CO2 with a CH4 half-life of ~12 years.  Thus, over a 100 year period,  CH4 is only 25 times as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2.  The model simply converts all the CH4 into the 100 year CO2 equivalent by multiplying by a factor of 25.

Looking at atmospheric monitoring data last for 25 years, I note that the concentration of CH4 increases, rather than declining as the model assumes.  Calculating annual forcing using the monitoring data, results in forcing ranging from 3 w/m^2 to 3.6 w/m^2. Using the 100-year modeled conversion factor gives forcing of 1.8 w/m^2 to 2.5 w/m^2 over the period 1990 - 2015. Note the annual data number is 44% higher.

Looking at Fig. S16, it seems that the model takes until ~2060 to arrive at forcing of 3.6 w/m^2.  Thus, I expect to see weather in the next 30 years, that Hansen et al. does not model as occurring for another 50 years.

Temperature rise of 2C is likely to arrive much sooner than any of the standard climate models project, and coming faster as a result of more intense forcing will produce more intense temperature gradients, which will drive more intense storms than Hansen et al offer.  

Greenhouse gas driven climate change is different from climate change driven by orbital mechanics (e.g., past ice ages and past interglacial periods). In greenhouse gas driven climate change, the lower atmosphere gets warmer while the upper atmosphere gets colder.  Thus, in greenhouse gas driven climate change, there is always a nearby source of very cold air to drive very intense, cold storms.

Wicked storms are coming, and we will need better knitting to stay warm.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Pile of lies

My last post was a pile of lies.

People often come after me, when I tell the truth, so I thought I would tell a pile of lies and see if anyone noticed.

They seem not to have noticed.

 First: "Ouvre", she said coyly. 
 (Gladys Thompson on page 5 of Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans, third edition, copyright 1979 by Dover Publications.) is true.  Note well, that she does not mention "Spain or Portugal".  What authors do not say is often as important as what they do say.  Experts often know what their audience wants to hear, and make a point of not saying what their their audience does not want to hear, but they got to be "experts" by by being careful not to lie.  They dance around the truth, and the astute reader must learn to recognize the dances.

Gladys Thompson, seems to define "jersey" as having a warmer and usually denser fabric than a guernsey, but the rest of the post contained nonsense.  Nobody seems to have noticed much, but I am sure that now MANY will come out of the woodwork saying "Oh, I saw the error of Aaron's ways, but Aaron makes so many mistakes that I did not bother to enumerate these!"

With hand-held needles, one way to get a denser fabric is Eastern Stitch Mount which is perhaps best handled with Portuguese knitting.  (Most of the time it is really Portuguese purling.)  If you must make traditional Eastern Crossed Stitch fabric (ECS) with hand held needles, then Portuguese knitting is the way to go. At this time, you should review the discussions in Knitting in the Old Way and Mary Thomas's Knitting Book.  However, better is and

If you need a lot of ECS fabric in a hurry, then stop; and - well the best use of Eastern Crossed Stitch fabric is socks, and the best way to make small tubular objects such as socks or gloves is swaving - using a knitting sheath with bent needles called "pricks".  In the past, I had trouble with pricks longer than 6" jamming and not turning easily in their knitting sheath. Now, pricks as long as 8" are working well for me. With a knitting sheath and pricks, Portuguese knitting will just slow you down.  With the high leverage of a knitting sheath, there are smaller motions that will do the job much faster   The virtues of practice.

If you do not need Eastern Crossed Stitch fabric, but only a denser fabric, then any stitch mount can be used with a KNITTING SHEATH and finer needles. Stitch mount ceases to be an issue.

Particularly with knitting in the round, I can switch from eastern stitch mount to western or vice-versa, and a hour later, I cannot tell which stitches were knit with which stitch mount. I can only tell by looking at the transition row. If it is a finished object, then I must look at the cast-on row to determine stitch mount. And, if it is finely knit, I need my linen tester.  I do not think that GT always got a chance to examine the cast-on row with her linen tester and thus often made her guernsey/jersey classification by the geometry of the patterns and the density of the fabric.

The fact that finely knit stitches become change shape as the fabric is knit more finely is the reason that I moved from "stitches per inch" to "stitches per square inch".  In finely knit fabrics, the stitches per inch does not convey the density of the fabric.  That is,  there are different fabrics that can be knit from the same yarn that will have the same number of stitches per inch, but have very different densities, warmth, durability, and hand/drape. Defining both spi and rpi does define the fabric, and stitches per square inch does define both spi and rpi.

Inspection of of the patterns in Patterns  tells us that Gladys Thompson considered fabrics with moderate density to be  "guernsey".  If we then take "gansey" to mean knit from fine yarns, (e.g., more than 2,000 ypp), then a sweater knit from ~1,650 ypp for Dunraven 3-ply could be a guernsey.  Guernseys knit from finer yarns  (e.g.,  ~2,500 ypp for Paton's 4-ply Behive used on pg 85),  would  also be considered ganseys. Thus, it  would be possible to have a "gansey guernsey". Note that modern Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift also has a grist of ~2,500 ypp, but being only 2 plies, produces a stiffer fabric than the old Beehive 4-ply when knit at 12 spi by 20 rpi. See  Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans, 3d ed. pages 83, 84 and 85.  

Note also that Weldon's also provides patterns for both seamen's guernseys and jerseys, allowing additional refining of the definitions.   Weldon's does not use the term "ganseys" 

This concept of finer plies producing finer fabric is why I bother to make my own 6-ply yarn at 1,650 ypp instead of just using commercial 3-ply sock yarn.  And, with all due respect to Alden Amos, more plies means a better hand/drape when knit fine. They used 5-ply for seaman's sweaters because it was warmer AND because it gave a better hand, AND because it was more durable. Real 10-ply Aran yarn makes a nice fabric when knit tight, 2 or 3-ply  Aran yarn makes less pleasant fabric when knit tight.  One can knit a very warm jumper from Jamieson's 2-ply Shetland Spindrift , but  4-ply Behive is about the same grist and will produce a warmer fabric with better hand when knit to the same gauge.  However, good luck finding commercial 2,500 ypp, 4-ply knitting yarns these days.  Good luck finding hand spinners that can produce 2,500 ypp 4-ply yarns these days.  You will likely have to order such a yarn from a mini-mill.  That is the difference between a skilled professional spinner, and a hobby hand spinner.  I am somewhere in between.  I am a hand spinner with a DRS wheel that makes spinning 2,500 ypp, 4-ply yarns easy.  I wish we had such spinning wheels for more hand spinners. with such a wheel, one can learn to spin such yarns in a few days.

I do think, the Channel Islands got knitting from the Islamic world very early, and started buying wool from England by the time of Henry Beauclerc, and knit/ sold sweaters to English seamen fishing the Icelandic waters in the 14th century, Portuguese fishermen taking cod in the North Atlantic in the 15th century, and the seamen that explored for Henry the Navigator.  I think it would be VERY odd if the origins of guernseys and jerseys were not knit eastern stitch mount. However, that was 70 generations ago.  Since then, knitters on the shores of the North Sea, the Baltic, the Finnish Sea, the Irish Sea, the English Channel, the Mediterranean, the China Sea, the Atlantic, and the Pacific have all been linked by sea commerce.  In the way of commerce, they have sought to produce better products faster and cheaper. Improvements include knitting pouches, and at least 3 rather specialized forms of knitting sheaths. 

With a proper knitting sheath, very fine fabrics can be knit at a practical pace using any stitch mount.

Hobby knitters like to pretend that they are knitting as fine and as fast as the knitters of old, and they have told each other this since the days of Queen Victoria.  Hobby knitting is an echo chamber. Experts dance around the truth and do not say differently.  They take traditional finely knit patterns and revise them to be less finely knit. (e.g., Nancy Bush and  Alice Starmore take patterns for utilitarian objects and convert them to make very pretty, but fragile objects.) Thereby, hobby level knitters can pretend they are knitting "ganseys".  I certainly took part in this echo chamber, and knit what everyone else was calling "ganseys". They are very good sweaters, but I no longer consider those sweaters to be "ganseys".   P. A Gibson-Roberts,  D. Robson, and E. Zimmerman have  likewise been careful not to tell some truths.  One such truth is that long DPN ("gansey needles") are not useful without a knitting belt or knitting sheath to help control the long needles.  These experts set-up generations of knitters to fail by telling them that guernseys and jerseys were mostly knit on long needles, and failing to mention that using a knitting sheath was more important than the length of needles.  For example, the commercial pattern, A Channel Islands' Guernsey / Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans specifies 11 DPN. I usually knit this pattern on 6 +1 DPN  that are 12" long because that knitting sheath works well in the stuffed chair in front of the TV.  However, when I am in a hurry I use 18" gansey needles because they are faster. (Piece work knitters always wanted more speed.) However, with the 18" needles,  I need to sit in the wooden chair by the kitchen window where that knitting sheath works. (It rubs on my overstuffed chair.)  Nevertheless,  I can make good progress on  "A Channel Islands' Guernsey", in a doctor's office, or in the car or on an airplane using 8" DPN and (another) knitting sheath, or even just a leather knitting belt. The 8" needles provides less leverage, so there is more stress on my hands, but not enough extra stress to be a problem in less than a few weeks. (I noticed again this morning that the 12" needles used Friday evening, produce a more uniform fabric than the 8" needles used for KIP yesterday.  This was not a surprise.  The 8" needles with sheath produce a better fabric than I can knit with hand-held needles, but the 12" needles produce an excellent fabric.)

The main thing that a knitting belt or knitting sheath provides is stability that facilitates  the use of very fine needles. And, a steel needle with a knitting sheath allows knitting faster, so that the greater number of stitches that a fine fabric requires can be accomplished in a reasonable time. Knitting sheaths allow knitting a higher quality fabric.