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I got a labcoat for my birthday! Either he’s complimenting me on my spirit of inquiry, or he’s hinting that my cooking tastes like industrial effluent.

Don’t care. Like labcoats. Used to wear one for work and it hid a multitude of wardrobe shortcomings. Somewhere around here I have a WWII army surplus one where the snaps go down the shoulder like Dr Frankenstein.

What? Yes, we do call each other Weasel and Badger around the house.

May 12, 2021 — 8:00 pm
Comments: 1

Am I a idiot?

That’s right. I’m going to bitch about my lawn mower some more.

Still not working. Same M.O. – I pump the bulb a few times to get some gas in there, and it runs until that’s gone. It mowed half the lawn before it started this stuff though. I think that’s a clue.

This guy bought the exact same mower as mine for £18 in a non-working condition and gets it going from start to finish in under an hour.

Based on watching him have a go, I reckon it’s either a clogged fuel line or the carburetor needs a clean. Ah, let’s face it – whether that’s the problem are not, you can be sure my carb is full of gunk.

But am I up to it, eh?

Hey, no probs if I mess it up. It’s No Mow May.

May 11, 2021 — 7:13 pm
Comments: 17

Guilty pleasures

Do you get Quora Digest? I think you automatically get signed up to it when you open a Gmail account, because I get mailings from them to each of my several Gmail addresses. Interestingly, the topics on each are slightly different, which either means they try different versions at random, or they’re targeting my topics based on which account I was logged into when I clicked something.

Yes, I click. Quora is one of my guilty pleasures. I’ve always been a sucker for ordinary people telling me pointless stories. I never realized until just now, though, how hard they make it to link to an individual story directly. Phew!

Have a look at the picture. It’s an overhead shot of something in China. For scale, the objects on the right hand side are electricity pylons. It is not a crop.

You’ll find the story here. For maximum amaze, scroll slowly past the pictures as the camera moves closer and closer to the subject.

And do read the article. The sheer scale of what happens when things go fuckup in China is astonishing.

Happy Monday!

May 10, 2021 — 7:10 pm
Comments: 5


The second day of the Doggerland conference was a little more accessible. The thing that struck me most was right at the beginning: it wasn’t just Doggerland. A very considerable amount of coastline all over the world was drowned by seas that rose for thousands of years. The amount of land lost during this period equals roughly the land mass of South America.

It’s all the black areas in the picture above (this image worked so much better in color).

This is significant because those coastal areas would have been the most hospitable to human habitation at the end of the last ice age. In other words, much of the archaeology of Late Paleolithic and Mesolithic cultures all over the world is perhaps still there, waiting to be found under the silt off the eastern coastlines of everywhere. Woo!

Have a good weekend, fellow Neanderthals!

May 7, 2021 — 6:55 pm
Comments: 18

That was heavy going

Okay, I knew the Doggerland conference was for archaeology professionals and not scum like me, but it was still heavier going than expected.

Like, there was the man who talked for half an hour about the chemistry of how DNA breaks down over time, with molecular orbital diagrams and long strings of equations. And after half an hour of this, he concluded by saying they found DNA evidence of walnut, walnut didn’t grow in Western Europe at the time, so it is probable evidence of both humans and trade.

See, the dumbed-down-for-weasels, popsci version would be just that last bit.

Still and all, every one of the talks had an interesting bit, so it’s worth attending day 2.
Excuse me, my puzzler hurts.

May 6, 2021 — 7:56 pm
Comments: 7

And now for something much farther afield

Photo by Jakub Hałun. I’ve cropped it and made it monochrome.

Behold, the Plain of Jars! It’s in Laos. They’ve found a bunch more in the jungle.

These things are seriously large – like, ten feet tall – and they know eff-all about the people who made them. The speculation is that these jars were used as part of funerary practices – to allow bodies to be picked clean before burial as bones. But why would they need so many? Did everyone have a family corpse jar?

They’ve found some more conventional burials (conventional for us, anyway) nearby that they can date to 2,500 years ago. They have no idea if the burial people had any relationship to the jar people. The burials were often capped with a round stone elaborately carved on the underside.

The idea of re-using other people’s sacred spaces is something that came up in that day-long course on West Yorkshire burial mounds. There was one mound in particular that started as a pit, with very old bones at the bottom (which showed signs of cannibalism). A couple more later burials higher up in the pit. When it was level with the ground, there were several more burials that had earth over them, so it began to become a mound. I believe there were a few cremation urns in there, which is late mesolithic. The mound kept growing until it finally assumed the shape we see today. The last burials were Anglo-Saxon, which is thousands of years more recent (and a whole ‘nother people).

Speculation is that the original pit must have been covered with a marker of some kind so they could find it again.

If you find the Plain of Jars at all interesting, I recommend hitting the link and then following the other links embedded in the article. They leads to lots more pictures and data.

Speaking of prehistory, a reminder that the two-day conference on Doggerland is coming up Thursday and Friday. I shall have my nose in a Zoom all day, but I’ll let you know if anything interesting turns up.

May 5, 2021 — 8:27 pm
Comments: 5

Chicken talk

That’s my best boy Mo, doing the doodle-doo.

In the thread below, tomfrompv linked to this interesting article about chicken language. Any holdouts who think the noises chickens make aren’t intelligible speech…well, they don’t keep chickens. That’s all I can say.

The article says there are 25 recognisable ‘words’ in the chicken language, but the chickenology course I took made it 50. It’s a lot, anyway.

The “look, especially delicious food!” sound they describe as tuk-tuk I would say is more like chort! A good rooster makes that sound to call the hens over when he finds a rotten log covered in ants, f’rexample. My two pekin boys do it regularly, but the poland boys never. Sam has been known to make the sound when there’s no interesting food there at all, which I guess is some kind of performance anxiety. The hens come running, anyhow.

Sometimes a hen will accidentally chort! over a treat, and then look around furtively hoping nobody noticed. Hens are greedy.

I heard on Radio 4 once (and you know it’s true because Radio 4) that chickens are the only animal we know of that has a word for you, their owner, which they teach to any new chickens coming in. The word for me is buh-BAH-buhbuhbuh. They do it when they catch sight of me. I was annoyed to find they do it for Uncle B, too, so it’s just their generic word for ‘person’. Boo. Don’t they know I am their deity?

The egg song is famous, though my poland girls don’t sing it. Or make that contented meeping sound through their noses while they peck around in the garden. Always sounded like monkey noises to me. The polands aren’t nearly as vocal.

Except for Po the poland cockerel, who makes the most extraordinary trills and squeaks and whistles for no apparent reason. Sam the pekin makes a sort of purring noise when he’s frustrated. It’s actually the chicken version of vocal fry. Sam also whimpers when I put him away, which makes me feel awful.

As for the cock-a-doodle-doo, let’s not go there. I have four of the buggers at it right this minute. I’m the most popular girl in all the land.

May 4, 2021 — 8:36 pm
Comments: 5

Sorry about that

If you checked in over the weekend, this is what you saw. Or ERROR 500. I hadn’t dropped by, so I didn’t notice (thanks to Uncle Al for letting me know).

Turns out, they upgraded PHP over the weekend and the new version wasn’t compatible with a couple of my plugins. Shorter answer, the gods were angry.

Anyway, I’m back! And now it’s May – which, you may recall, is the Month of Birthday. As in, I celebrate the whole month and am impossibly indolent.

Let’s get started!

May 3, 2021 — 8:29 pm
Comments: 11

Important survey

Laser pointers: fun toy or cat torture device?

I got this with loyalty points because I buy so gosh darned much catfood from an online place. It’s much cheaper and so convenient, but I’m getting really tired of the mountains of corrugated cardboard I have to dispose of. Allll the junk we order.

Training tool. Training cats to do what, exactly? Run psychotically around the house screaming in frustration and slamming into things? Mission accomplished.

That’s the image the laser projects, by the way. That little fish with “Training Toy” for a body. In blue.

It’s Friday! w00t!

April 30, 2021 — 7:32 pm
Comments: 10

That’s no lady

In the thread before this one, drew458 mentioned there was evidence of people in Britain going back 33,000 years, in the last interglacial. There’s not only evidence, there’s a person. This skeleton was found in a cave called Goat’s Hole in Wales in 1822, along with bones of various animals, including a mammoth tusk.

The man who first explored the site was William Buckland, Professor of Geology at Oxford. It’s a shame it was such early find – I can only imagine what modern scientists could do with a proper dig – but to do him credit, Buckland made excellent drawings and notes.

For some reason, he got it in his head she was a Roman prostitute. It became known as the Red Lady of Paviland. Modern archaeologists weren’t the only fanciful ones.

Actually, it’s the partial skeleton of a young man. It’s red because the body was covered in red ochre as part of the burial ritual. And, yes, it’s dated to 33,000 BP (before present).

HOWEVER, the earliest human remains found in Britain so far was a half million year old legbone of a Homo heidelbergensis found in a pit in Sussex. That, you probably realize, was several ice ages ago.

I heard it said at a history talk once that Britain has been colonized eight times, and seven times the settlement failed. That stuck with me. But it would be more accurate to say that Britain has been colonized eight times and seven times an ice age has come along and wiped them all out.

We’re just hanging out, waiting for #8.

April 29, 2021 — 6:47 pm
Comments: 5