Wednesday, September 28, 2011

cold war relic

One of the things that I like so much about thrifting is that it often leads to a mini research project, since you never know what you're going to find. The run-up to Halloween is my favorite time to shop, since stores bring out their stash of hoarded vintage and ethnic clothes, so I've started making my rounds. I had been looking for a while for an olive-drab lightweight military jacket or shirt for myself (it seems like all I ever find are various camo versions), so I snatched this one right up:

It looked old, but I wasn't sure if that was just because of the wear on it. I had absolutely no idea what the patches meant, so I started to research and found some interesting things (here's the patch closer up).

It turns out that the US Air Force Security Service was founded in 1948 and operated until 1979, when it changed names (so my shirt is definitely no newer than 1979). The interesting part is that it was the cryptographic intelligence branch during the Cold War, made up of the top 0.5 % of Air Force recruits. They intercepted military information from "countries of interest" (Soviet bloc, etc.) through spoken and Morse code sources (they also analyzed US methods to find and correct weak spots in military security, although apparently sometimes these analysis jobs were really a cover for their more covert intelligence missions). To quote Wikipedia:
These jobs, which required top secret codeword clearance, were extremely high pressure and were considered essential to U.S. cold war efforts. Members of the USAFSS were not allowed to discuss their jobs with outsiders — in fact, USAFSS members could not talk amongst themselves about their jobs unless they were in a secure location. Because of their value as targets, e.g. in Cold War Berlin, the capture of a USAFSS member was worth several thousand dollars, their off-base travel was severely restricted. Many adopted "cover jobs" to more easily conceal their real work.
Linguistics-related intrigue! Way more interesting than my initial assumption that "Security Service" implied some kind of run-of-the-mill, well, security--as in guarding a base. Also, as a pacifist by nature, the idea of a shirt worn by a spy is more appealing than the idea of a shirt worn by an infantryman.

Here's a bonus factoid: Johnny Cash was in the USAFSS as a Morse code intercept operator in Germany in the early 1950s.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

more germania

I just found out, thanks to the always-interesting "daily Heller" e-mail*, that VW has redesigned the Beetle for 2012. I'm not sure yet what I think about the redesign, but so far I'm leaning toward the point of view voiced by some** that it looks a little too much like a PT Cruiser for comfort. I loved my 1969 Bug (in the picture), but always thought the New Beetle was a little bit too cute for me. In certain images of the 2012 it looks like the cuteness has been tempered a little and it's more reminiscent of the little early-60s cars that I like so much. I guess I won't have my verdict until I've started seeing them in person.

*I particularly liked his post a while back about Ethiopian monolithic architecture; those churches are on my to-visit list (of course this list presupposes massive unexpected funding).

**Although I have to note here that I take very great exception to one commenter's assertion that women don't care about horsepower!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

freunde von freunden

I was quite excited the other day to see that Freunde von Freunden, one of my favorite "house visit" blogs, has done a little revamp (I hate to use that word, since it implies that they needed improvement, which wasn't the case). I had been enjoying the pictures for a while, but wishing that my one semester of German would get me farther in reading the interviews (it got me nowhere, consisting mainly of one-liners about how the sun is shining today and how I hate myself and want to die [I have no idea where that second one came from--not from my class, for sure]).

Anyway, I'm excited about having the option of reading the interviews in English, and as a language person I really appreciate that they're also going to have the interview in the original local language too.

And thinking about those great Berlin apartments reminds me of two of my favorite German movies, widely differing in tone but both wonderful.

free pattern: mariner shirt

Over the last few years my sister has given me the most spectacular collection of old knitting books and magazines that she's thrifted. There's a wealth of great patterns in them, despite the sometimes-unfortunate (but amusing) styling, so look for more of these in the future.

Despite the fact that summer is almost over in a lot of places, this looks quick enough to finish before it's really fall, especially if it's done in the round up to the arms. It's from 1976, by the way. {Click on the image to enlarge.}

Monday, September 12, 2011

preview { and Central Texas wildfire aid }

Here's a preview of a few things that will appear in the shop this week:

For the next two weeks (through September 25), I'll be donating 25% of sales to the American Red Cross of Central Texas. We live a few miles southwest of where the main Bastrop County fires started burning, and it was scary enough temporarily evacuating due to what ended up being more caution than necessary; I can't even imagine the upheaval, stress, and sadness for people who actually lost their homes* or who are still waiting to find out whether their property is okay. Things are looking better, but it's going to take a long time and a lot of resources for everyone effected to recover.

On another shop-related note, next week will be the week for listing clothing and accessories!

*and animals--a lot of people in the area have pets and livestock that they weren't able to take with them when they left.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


Photos of Big Big Ranch State Park and the Davis Mountains Indian Lodge (run by the State Park Service!) from a trip a few years ago. For anyone who hasn't been, I'd say West Texas is an under-appreciated treasure.

In other Texas news, I was very excited to hear a sponsor spot on the local NPR station saying that Big Red Sun has reopened their shop after being closed for a couple of years. That was one of the places I liked to take out-of-town visitors*, and I'm sure the new store (still not sure if it's in the same location) will be just as nice as the old one was.

*I run with a pretty laidback crowd, people who consider nurseries exciting.