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Back to my roots…

I don’t suppose too many of you have been around long enough to remember. For a long time, a big topic of this blog was the long, tedious, expensive process of immigrating to the UK. Hoo, the paperwork!

(It makes me laugh when tough guys on Twitter talk about leaving the U.S. They have no idea how almost impossible it is to move to any non-shithole country on a whim unless you’re a brain surgeon or a billionaire).

Welp, this is it. The last thang. Citizenship.

I’ve been eligible for over ten years. I’m just lazy. To be honest, though, if I have to swear an oath (and I do) I’d rather swear fealty to the old lady.

First step: applying to the US Embassy for a valid passport. Mine’s expired. They shut the process down for all but emergencies during much of the last year, which slowed me down. This process makes me nervous because all the visas that allow me to stay take the form of stamps in my old passport.

Wish me luck.

p.s. No, I don’t have to give up US citizenship. As a dual citizen, I can’t get a security clearance in either country and if I get kidnapped by pirates, my two countries may fight over who is on the hook for my ransom. Other than that, no probs.

p.p.s. Have a good weekend!

June 11, 2021 — 7:13 pm
Comments: 11


I was going nuts this afternoon trying to remember the third line to “i before e except after c” – the second, if you don’t know, is “or when it sounds ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh.”

Well, it turns out there isn’t any third line, as such, that I could find. And the rhyme goes all to shit after line two.

The most complete I found was Merriam-Webster’s but, for reasons I can’t work out, they left in a number of examples where i was indeed before e.

If you can work out why, let me know. I’m probably being dense. So here’s their list with those examples removed:

I before e, except after c
Or when sounded as ‘a’ as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’
Or ‘e’ as in ‘seize’ or ‘i’ as in ‘height’
Or in ‘-ing’ inflections ending in ‘-e’ like ‘cueing’
Or in compound words as in ‘albeit’
Or occasionally in technical words with strong etymological links to their parent languages as in ‘cuneiform’
Or in other numerous and random exceptions such as ‘forfeit’ and ‘weird’.

I hope that clears it up for you.

June 10, 2021 — 6:37 pm
Comments: 12

Ooh…check this out!

This came across my Twitter today. Here’s the British Museum page for it, for zoomable color.

It’s part of the finds from Sutton Hoo, but it’s not on display and I’ve never seen it. It’s a purse lid, so I reckon the white parts were originally leather. Like a pouch flap, I suppose.

It’s not like the BM not to have a ruler in the image, but to give you an idea, the thing is about eight inches wide. So zoom in on the wire work around the bottom edge and think how unimaginably tiny that is.

The BM describes the materials as gold, garnet and millefiori. Millefiori is glass that is worked often in a colorful cylinder that is then sliced into beads. And oh, look at this – the Wikipedia article on millefiori specifically mentions the Sutton Hoo purse.

Zoom in on the object. See the tiny checkerboard patterns? Those are made of glass. That’s the millefiori. Now zoom out until it’s about actual size. Holy cats, how did they do that in the 7th Century? With no magnifying glasses?

Oh, what – y’all thought I dug this up in my yard?

June 9, 2021 — 8:10 pm
Comments: 9

I’m getting better!

A piece of china, a roofing nail and a length of wire twisted into a loop. Not pictured: another nail.

How do you find china with a metal detector? You don’t. There’s so much china embedded in our lawn that you’re bound to find a bit if you dig (I’ve even seen other bits with this pattern). So much of it, I have a theory that they put broken china on the garden on purpose, probably to deter slugs.

I need a better spade. And one of those metal detecting wands for sticking on the ‘ole. Yes, I am one of those people who takes up hobbies because I love to buy gear.

I’ve learned a few things. Don’t hold a clod of dirt under the detector with your left hand; there’s a gold ring on it. And be mindful where you put your trowel down – that thing’s metal, too.

This is not an entirely pointless exercise. There’s a not-protected field near me where I know good things have been detected. Not spectacularly good things, but interesting ordinary things like musket balls and shoe buckles. It was the main path between two villages for centuries. I just have to get permission.

June 8, 2021 — 8:04 pm
Comments: 12


Uncle B lost a spring in the long grass today, so I dug out my metal detector. It was pretty grubby after ten years in the closet, but a new set of batteries and – works!

By the time I’d got it together, he’d found his thing in the grass without my help, so I decided to do a pass around the garden. And look! I found – a big rusty bolt! It’s still got the nut!

Yes. Well.

Uncle B kindly bought me this detector when we first moved in (because, you know, Tudor farmhouse) and then I found out all the fields around me are protected land. No detectoring allowed. So I went up and down my own lawn like a sad person and found a lot of shit like this. Gosh, people have thrown out a lot of metal junk over the years.

Completely coincidentally, we’ve been re-watching one of our favorite programs from a few years back: the Detectorists. It’s seriously one of the best written and acted programs I’ve seen. I don’t think I’ve ever recommended it on the blog, though, because an awful lot of the humor is around modern English village life. I don’t know how well it would travel.

But what do I know? Uncle B loved MST3K.

June 7, 2021 — 7:14 pm
Comments: 11

You’ve been this mad. You know you have.

Happy Killdozer Day, everyone! On this day in 2004, Marvin John Heemeyer climbed into his modified bulldozer and damaged or destroyed a big chunk of Granby, Colorado – including the town hall, the former mayor’s house, his own business and a dozen more buildings. Two hours later, when he got his ‘dozer stuck in the basement of a hardware store, he shot himself.

Backstory. The city insisted he paid $80,000 he didn’t have to hook his muffler shop up to city sewage, and then repeatedly fined him for improperly dumping sewage – among other ways they were dicking him around. The combination of being injured and helpless to do anything about it is a perfect rage inducer, but few people have the sticktuitiveness of Heemeyer.

He took an ordinary bulldozer and spent a year and a half armoring up. Slabs of cement, up to a foot thick, sandwiched between two layers of tool steel covered the cab and vulnerable parts of the treads. For visibility, he had several video cameras feeding two monitors in the cockpit. These were protected by shields of bulletproof lexan three inches thick. He even rigged compressed air nozzles to blow dust off the camera ports. He had gun ports around, too, but I don’t think he used them.

Local and state police followed Heemeyer around shooting at him and what they hoped were vulnerable points. The ‘dozer took 200 rounds, a flash-bang to the exhaust and several other explosions (grenades?), but nothing even slowed him down. The governor was considering bringing in the National Guard to use anti-tank missiles when the whole thing came to an end.

Nobody was hurt (except Heemeyer, of course). It was a thing. A very thing. Good weekend, everyone!

p.s. Oh, gosh – I forgot to link to the footage!

June 4, 2021 — 8:11 pm
Comments: 15

Somebody got some poor customer service

They’ve unearthed a 2,300-year-old year old curse under the floor of the Athenian agora. It was a ceramic jar filled with the skull and lower leg bones of a young chicken. It was pierced by an iron nail (more of an iron spike, if you ask me).

On the outside – written by two different hands – were the names of as many as 55 people (a lot of the writing was worn away) and words that may mean “we bind.”

That’s when the Gregorian chants started.

Okay, Gregorian chants are not really appropriate for ancient Greek curses, but I haven’t seen many horror movies about ancient Greeks. “We bind” kind of creeps me out, for some reason.

Anyway, because it was under the marketplace, leading speculation is that these two were in a lawsuit with the names on the jar, probably craftsmen. Apparently, trials were common in Athens at the time and a bit of a spectator sport.

I have to think our legal system would only be improved by the addition of nail and chicken bone curses.

June 3, 2021 — 8:12 pm
Comments: 3

The new mower with the old mower in her arms

Yes, I broke down and bought a new one. Or Uncle B did. I didn’t think I was up to a carburetor disassembly (my hands still aren’t quite right).

(My blog knows I’m in England and would really like me to spell that carburretor).

Also, the old one had a hole in the rubber pumpy bulb thing and the cover to the air filter won’t stay on. It’s time, I guess.

I’m going to miss the old one, though. You can see how little it is compared to the new one (which is the current smallest one they make). With the plastic decking (no rust!) it was super light and maneuverable.

(My blog would really like me to spell that manoeuvrable).

The new one doesn’t have that rubber pumpy bulb thing. This concerns me. That was an important part of getting ‘er started on every other lawnmower I’ve owned so far. Do they really not need it no more?

June 2, 2021 — 7:37 pm
Comments: 14

Not a gemstone

Hast thou heard of Fordite. It’s overspray from car spray booths – hundreds and hundreds of layers of it – baked hundreds and hundreds of times and (usually) as hard as a gemstone. This article says 997 layers per inch, though that seems a little precise to me.

Eventually, the clumps of overspray got in the way and were chipped off and thrown away. I imagine in the era of “any color as long as it’s black” it wasn’t particularly interesting stuff. But the colorful ones people often took home to keep.

Also called ‘Detroit agate’ or ‘motor agate’ or even the specialized Corvettite. People do make jewellery out of it – it’s apparently light enough to be especially good for earrings and pendants. Early bits are more subdued, then the colors get louder and louder. Remember that?

In the 80’s, they switched to a different process. No more spray booths and baking. That means the supply of Fordite is limited, and we all know what THAT means.

Judging by the Ebay listings, there’s still plenty to be had., but the prices are getting on for semi-precious gemstone territory.

I just did another Ebay search. Man, people make some stupid stuff out of amethyst.

June 1, 2021 — 8:29 pm
Comments: 11

Happy Memorial Day

It’s a long weekend here, too, but for no particular reason.

Saturday was the first day of 2021 that we didn’t have the central heat on. I must say, though, it was gorgeous this weekend. When it’s nice here, it’s perfect – hot in the sun and cool in the shade.

I blew out my arms gardening, so please be content with this nice picture of senior cat, snoozing in the freshly turned earth of the back flower border.

I hope you observed appropriately.

May 31, 2021 — 8:14 pm
Comments: 5