Saturday, November 28, 2009


I've been on my ass for a week with the flu. It is not fun, but at least now I won't need to get the shot (because I really don't like shots).

Thanks in advance for humoring yet another bullet list of personal, self-indulgent crap.

  • The blog received it's first spam last week. At least they made a half-assed attempt to be relevant... well, at least right up to the part where they left a link to some scam or pr0n or something (I didn't check where it went). I was so proud!
  • I really hate being sick. And very fortunate to have someone around who kept an eye on me, even though things between us are not good. Critical thinking skills go out the window when fever hits 103.5, which should only be seen as a radio station call number, and not a body temperature. And by critical thinking skills, I mean remembering to drink water.
  • I think someone I know has stumbled on the blog. I hope they respect my pseudonimity; I'd be happy to discuss it with them in person or via email, but won't bring it up in case I'm wrong.
  • The thing about not getting what you want if you don't ask for it that I mentioned in my last TMI RBOC... well, I asked (yay me). I did get some clarification, and it wasn't the clarification I was hoping for, but at least the situation isn't muddy anymore.
  • I think I just watched an entire season of Ice Road Truckers today on History Channel. I need to not be sick anymore...
  • Contra Dancing is way too much fun!
  • I have real posts pending, I promise!

Monday, November 16, 2009

I do not knit...

I cannot knit. My mother tried to show me when I was young; I ended up with an oddly shaped bundle of knots that could not even pretend at being a scarf. I *do* do other needlework, but that's irrelevant. Because there are people who can not only knit a pair of socks simultaneously (as in, one process = 1 pair of socks, not two separate sock-making incidents = 1 pair of socks)... but will share how they do such magic, and recommend quantities of chocolate as part of the process.

I was agog. And now I want stripy socks. And chocolate.

h/t a stitch in time (nice sox, btw!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Really RBOC

I'm just a jumble right now, so I figured I'd share, put it out there, and maybe, just maybe, it will help. At least grumping will make me feel better.

  • Dear all 6 recipients of various emails over the last two weeks. I understand that the world does not revolve around me, and that perhaps you have other things to attend to. But really, could even ONE of you respond? The things that I contacted you about are quite important to me for various personal, work, and The Book related reasons. I am especially irked at Site Associated With Federal Department; I finally received an answer to an email (my third or fourth attempt), after having to send it to the top rung of the ladder, and was very excited. Then, two weeks of nothing happening, and no response to my follow-up requests. It's just a graphics request, folks!
  • Not happy about same-sex marriage being defeated in Maine. Since when are civil rights voted on in a referendum?
  • I am PISSED that a woman's right to choose was horse-traded to get the votes for the health care plan. Yes, we are in dire need of health care reform. But quit pitching me under the damn bus and trading away bits of me.
  • The Uni where I teach is presenting a Professional Development workshop called "Exceptional Customer Service in Higher Ed" about how to improve student retention... I mean, customer satisfaction. WTF, y'all, this isn't McDonalds...
  • I don't know how to do the fancy strike-through text on Blogger.
  • Personal relationships are confusing. Especially when the messages I'm getting seem mixed.
  • I have mid-semester feedbacks waiting to be looked at. Why does this make me nervous? Probably because everything else lately seems difficult. I should just bite the bullet and look at them, maybe they'll be good news.
  • If I am unclear about what I want, or fail to request it, I cannot be bent when I don't get it. I have to remind myself of this.
  • My kitchen is full of my bathroom, or what will become my bathroom once they put it back together. Folks, if you're getting water behind your tiles, DO NOT WAIT to fix it. Gross. And expensive.
  • I don't have a name for my car, but I know others who do. I wouldn't even know where to begin picking a name for my car.
  • Finally, for Ink, because is still makes me smile: CHEE!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Local Eats: Michigans

There is a thing in Northern Upstate New York called a Michigan. All I was able to sort out was that it involved some sort of sauce and a hot dog. If the nice folks at the local eatery in the crossroads town missed the out-of-state license plates on my car, they sure knew I wasn't local when I ordered 2 Michigans (thinking I was so smart by not being redundant and ordering Michigan Hot Dogs), then didn't understand the presentation options.

"You want those buried?" (The server actually asked about at least 2 additional variations, but I was stuck at buried, and didn't register the other two).

"I don't know what any of those mean..." (OH HI! I AM SO FROM OUT OF TOWN RIGHT NOW!)

"Oh. Well, they're usually served with mustard and onions, and usually served buried, so everything is under the sauce..."

"Um. Ok, I'll take them buried. With a Diet Coke."

"Pepsi ok?" (As well as being the Land of Michigans, Northern Upstate New York is also the Land of Pepsi).

What I got was a steamed hot dog on a white-bread bun. Underneath the dog were mustard (I can't recall if it was yellow or deli, but I think it was deli mustard) and chopped raw onions. On top of the dog, burying everything, was a tomato-based meat sauce with lots of chopped beef. It wasn't a chili dog... there was no chili spice or anything like that, and it wasn't like a spaghetti sauce, either. Served with pickles and potato chips on the side. Very tasty.

If you're ever out by Keeseville, New York... Tuesdays are 99c Michigans at the local joint. Have one for me (but hold the onions!)

Graphite Mine

Graphite Mine Entrance

One of the things I did last weekend was visit an old, abandoned graphite mine along Lake George. It is on private property, but my friend and I had permission from the owners to go check it out, as long as we didn't go too far inside. I love caves, but I'm not a spelunker, nor did I have any kind of safety equipment on me, so that was not a problem!

The mine entrance was very near the top of the mountain, so the walk up from the shore of the lake was a trek (climbing seems to be a theme for me lately). Following the old mine road, we knew we'd found the right place when we came to the ruins. A little further up the hill, was one of the mine openings.

Ruins of a large building at the mine. Although mostly stone, there are bricks in the foundation.

We went in as far as the light. The striations in the rock were pretty amazing. I took a photo of them using a flashlight as a light source; it looks like Jupiter! Taken with a flash, you can see the patterns throughout the cave.

Mine wall pattern, taken using an LED flashlight as light source.

Looking out of the mine

This was obviously mined by hand, the miners chasing the vein of graphite through the mountain. There are other openings to this mine, but we didn't get to them. They may have laid rails to carry carts of ore for initial processing - historic photos of graphite mining elsewhere in the area show this. I didn't see any evidence of rails either in the mine or along the road. Mules and carts were probably used to carry the ore down the mountain.

Once we got home, I looked up the history of graphite mining. This area is home to the main graphite deposits in New York State. Graphite deposits had been unearthed as early as 1815 in the Ticonderoga area. Commercial mining began in 1832. Several small works subsisted for a while, but by the 1860s, the American Graphite Company had incorporated and become the dominant player. Separation and concentrating processes devised by the firm aided its success.**

Mine road

This particular location has deposits of graphite ranging from 3 to 13 inches thick, with alternating layers of graphitic shale or schist. Overall, the graphite bed is about 9 feet thick. Sandstones form strong ledges above and below the graphite (thank goodness!). Once mined, the ore is carted for processing. In this area, it was done either by pulverizing it in drop stamps and then washed to remove the impurities, or crushed and dried and then purified using air.* The original dock on the shore of Lake George, at the foot of the mine road, is long gone, but locals told us that it had a wide end, so that the mules could turn the carts before heading back up the mountain for another load. The ore was then shipped up the lake to Ticonderoga for further processing, then to Jersey City, New Jersey for manufacturing.***

Manufacturing into what? Well, Dixon's Ticonderoga Pencils, of course! Graphite was also used as a lubricant and an ingredient to gunpowder, but the primary use was pencil leads -- once Joseph Dixon convinced Americans to use pencils, that is! Before Dixon was successful at marketing graphite pencils, he manufactured stove polish and crucibles for iron ore processing from the graphite mined along Lake George.** He would have found a ready market for his crucibles; there are a ton of old iron deposits and forges in the area as well.

American Graphite was bought out by Dixon's Crucible Company sometime in the mid-nineteenth century, and Dixon continued to make and try to sell his Ticonderoga pencils. During the Civil War, the use of pencils became widespread, as they were much more convenient than liquid ink and quills, and Dixon's company flourished. By the end of the Civil War, Dixon had machines that could make 132 pencils a minute; by 1872, the Dixon plant in Jersey City was spitting out over 86,000 pencils a day.** Graphite mining in the area ceased in the 1920s.

What we didn't see in the mine was any evidence of bats. Perhaps we didn't go in far enough, but this area is close to where white nose syndrome was first identified in brown bats. Not too long ago, the area at dusk would be swarming with bats; we didn't see any. Hopefully, it was because of the time of year, and not because they are gone.

* Cirkel, Fritz (1907)
Graphite: It's Properties, Occurrence, Refining, and Uses. Canadian Department of Mines, Ottawa, Ontario.

** Frost, Richard (2007) "Rock Pond's Mine History Written in Pencil"

*** Mills, James Cooke (1911)
Searchlights on Some American Industries A.C. McClurg & Co., Chicago.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Just back from some away-time in a different part of upstate New York than before. Adirondacks, this time, which is gorgeous, even when October turns to November. While I sort my photos and compose my text for the more geeky historical archaeology-themed "what I did this weekend" post, here is a little diversion.

Lets call the chipmunk Waldo. Can you find hir?

Hint: You can click on the picture to embiggen.