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I have a cold

Luckily the miserable phase is usually not more than 24 hours, but I’m smack in the thick of it now. Looking forward to my gin.

What a miserable Summer.

We have the central heat on. Again. July 12.

It rained heavily this morning. I watched the weather satellite as one band of rain moved down the English Channel while another moved up the English coast at the same time. Like, how does that even happen?

I want a do-over.



July 12, 2024 — 7:28 pm
Comments: 3

Any beekeepers in the house?

The bees of Badger House are angry.

We’ve been coexisting with them happily for years, but a stupidly aggressive bee went after both of us while we were just standing in the garden last week and eventually it (or another one) stung Uncle B on the arm. Nasty one, too.

Today, I was quietly weeding the paving around the house when two bees, ten minutes apart, got right in my face. So much so that they both got caught in my hair. I know it was two separate bees because I was wearing gardening gloves and so was able to snatch them out of my hair and crush them to death.

I know bees in a fight will emit an alarm pheromone, so maybe the first one was chance and the second one was a reaction to the first one. Then there was a third, which caused me to move to another part of a garden. And a fourth (or maybe the third a second time). At that point, I gave up and went in.

Pity. We aren’t getting a lot of sunny afternoons this year.

We have to have the chimney repointed soon, so the bees will have to go. It cuts across my instincts, but if they’re acting this way, perhaps it’s for the best.

Picture is my girl Spoon the day she decided to fly up the roof. I suspect they had a poke at her, because she came down again sharpish. That chicken was more trouble than the whole rest of the flock put together and I miss her terribly.

July 11, 2024 — 7:05 pm
Comments: 2

A little something I stole from the cat this morning

He was in pretty rough shape when I put him in the box. I gave him some sugarwater, suet and a piece of apple and covered the box.

I checked up on him after an hour, and naturally he fluttered out into the room. There are a thousand hidey-holes in this room, so I had to give up looking after a while. Fortunately, I did catch him before the cat did and got him back in the box.

My rationale for holding him was that a fully recovered little bird would be flying all over the room, not going to ground. I kept him for another couple of hours and he began to thrash. I thought he was going to hurt himself banging around the box, so I let him loose in the garden.

He flew off, but down rather than up and skittered off into the hedge. I doubt he’ll make it, poor thing.

July 10, 2024 — 6:26 pm
Comments: 6

That Joe Biden – what a card! Amiright?

I’ve had a hate-on for Joe Biden ever since I saw this video of him arguing with a reporter about his IQ on the campaign trail. Every claim he makes in it is false, by the way. I didn’t know that then. What I saw was my least favorite kind of asshole: a blowhard.

For the record, that was in 1988.

So I had my eye on him when he chaired the Bork and later Thomas hearings. Jonah Goldberg made the observation that I couldn’t unsee: the smile he flashed every few minutes, like a tic, as if he was giving us all a little treat.

I tried to find video of it and ended up watching enough old hearing footage to piss myself off all over again (without finding what I wanted).

Goldberg went on to say that he liked Joe Biden anyway. He always was wet. (What was his NR column called? Everyone read it back in the day)

Everything since has further cemented my impression Joe is a glib dumb guy. A liar with a nasty temper. I can’t think of another example in history of a loser failing so far upward so many times for so long.

In short, I’m thoroughly enjoying the spectacle. As Howie Carr used to say, my heart feels like an alligator.

Of course, he’s not the same Joe Biden. He’s a potato. He’s still a dumb liar with a nasty temper, but he is no longer glib.

I don’t understand why now, though. He’s looked this bad dozens of times in the last few years, why panic at one more? Pundits are saying it’s because the public pays attention to the debates and this was their first sight of it. But how do they know that? They must have some amazingly quick internal polling.

Anyway – thank you, America. I badly needed this distraction from 2024 British politics. Don’t ask.

July 9, 2024 — 7:44 pm
Comments: 5

I’m on a quest

My crippling addiction to short YouTubes continues. I’ve noticed more and more channels are using what are clearly AI generated voiceovers.

They’re pretty good, actually. They inflect well and very rarely make mistakes – but when they do, they’re doozies no English speaker would make. “Dee-butt” for “debut” is my favorite so far.

I figured out they were AI because so many different channels had the same narrator. David Attenborough is the most obvious one. He must be thrilled about that – I wonder why he doesn’t take action.

There’s one particular American English speaker with a mild hispanic accent who is for some reason drafted to do voiceovers for multiple police bodycam footage channels (yes, I’m still watching those). For no particular reason, I’ve been plodding around the internet trying to find it.

I feel like we’re old friends. I wouldn’t mind making him say “good morning” or “welcome home” to me.

In my defense, the cat has been sprawled across my lap all afternoon and there’s not much else I could do.

If you want to play with them, there are dozens, including:

FakeYou (really?) lets you type a sentence and try it out. It’s slow and locked up on me once. “Eric” is indeed Cartman. Pro tip: short sentences render faster but don’t sound like anyone in particular.

Topmediai says you can sample 3,200 voices, but only gave me Benedict Cumberbatch. I think they may be the source of the David Attenborough voice.

Invideo takes your single sentence and generates a whole video, voiceover and all. I wonder if people are really trying to climb YouTube or TikTok with robot videos. This is going to shit up the internet really badly.

I got started down this rabbit hole by a Twitter ad for Speechelo. For a mere £47 you can have all the voices in the picture above. One language and multiple voices I can see, but multiple voices and multiple languages? Who needs that?

If you visit their website, you’ll see they use a little pop-up provided by a software company called Provely. “Increase Your Conversions by 30% to 400% by Adding Real-Time Social Proof, Scarcity, Urgency, and Credibility to Your Website.” Sneaky bastiches.

In this case, there’s a rolling pop-up with the name of someone who has just bought Speechelo. If you watch long enough, the names repeat.

Yes, I watched it that long. What?

July 8, 2024 — 7:44 pm
Comments: 4


The lock on the chapel door. They actually hauled out a big-ass key and demonstrated the locking mechanism for us, which much surprised me. It works.

Sackville College is still an almshouse. They explained it was originally built to house 30 people and now can handle 15. The original cell-like single rooms were knocked together into tiny apartments, with a bedroom, sitting room, kitchenette and bath. I would love to have seen one, but naturally they didn’t let us anywhere near the living quarters.

I was very curious about the selection process, but nobody else seemed to be, so I dropped it after a couple of questions. People with a relationship to East Grinstead (sometimes a very tenuous one) put in an application. The finalists meet with the warden and assistants and, if successful, they agree what the inmate will pay in rent. Nobody else ever knows what that amount is.

You have to be without a home. You can’t sell your house to apply, but you can have modest savings. If you need more than casual care, you have to leave for a nursing home. Seems an awful lot of drama to provide assisted living to fifteen people, but it’s an interesting mechanism to support the upkeep on a 400-year-old relic.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

July 5, 2024 — 6:05 pm
Comments: 3


The man who endowed Sackville College was Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset. And a very sober, dour man of God he looked, too.

His son and heir Richard, on the other hand, was described as “one of the seventeenth century’s most accomplished gamblers and wastrels.” He pissed away much of his birthright. He did build the College – I’m not sure how breakable wills were in those days – but he never added all the things his father wanted, like a regular quarterly stipend for the inmates.

It as struggled ever since.

If you go to his Wikipedia page, you can see Richard in all his glory. Doesn’t he look like a world class wastrel? I particularly want to call attention to his shoes, picture above.

We were told they were made of porcelain.

How in the sam hill would that work? I’ve thought about it. They must surely have started by taking a cast of his foot, because a ceramic shoe would have no give. The heel looks heavy enough, but if any part of the shoe shattered while he was standing, it would’ve cut his feet to ribbons. Was he carried around in a sedan chair?

They’d known about porcelain from China for ages, but the Europeans had just begun working out how to manufacture it themselves and hadn’t sorted it all out yet. I get that it would be trendy, but it would be so damned dangerous.

Happy Fourth, Yanquis! And yes, we voted. Results expected tomorrow. Miraculous, isn’t it?

July 4, 2024 — 7:43 pm
Comments: 5

Gah! Good dog!

Pazuzu has nothing on this guy. The tour guide told us how much the school children love this thing. It gave me the icks.

Back to the almshouse. Their heraldic symbol was a leopard and this wooden one was on the pinnacle of the roof for many years. If you go to the gallery section of the Sackville College website, the first image is the replacement leopard. The new one was carved out of mahogany and then coated in resin, so it should last a while.

I was surprised to learn it didn’t take many hundreds of years to age like this: he’s 150 or so. The College became very run down in the early 19th C and a mid-Victorian benefactor funded a lot of renovation.

“College” in this sense means “a group of people with a particular job, purpose, duty, or power who are organized into a group for sharing ideas, making decisions, etc.” Not an institution of higher learning.

p.s. his tongue and ears are hammered lead.

p.p.s. today is Mo the cockerel’s birthday. He’s six. Hatch day, really, but no need to be pedantic. Tomorrow is Sam the cockerel’s – hence why he’s called Sam. I don’t do anything special for them. They’re chickens.

p.p.p.s. okay, I did sing “Happy Hatch Day to You!”

July 3, 2024 — 7:38 pm
Comments: 2


I spent the day in a Jacobean almshouse. It was a work trip, so no Uncle B.

The almshouse was founded in 1609 by a member of the wealthy Sackville family. It was originally built to house 30 needy oldies with a connection to East Grinstead.

The way it was explained to me, the poorest workers had housing for as long as they could work (see tied cottages). When they couldn’t do the job any more, they were kicked out and became homeless. Mostly men, apparently, as the women could carry on longer in less physically demanding jobs.

Alms houses were built for them by the wealthy as an act of devotion. This one was written into the will of Robert Sackville, Earl of Dorset.

For the inmates, it was a life lived along strict lines. If they misbehaved or broke the rules, they were fined (imagine how little they had pay with). This is the lockbox they put the coins in. It had three locks, two you can see and one on the top that you can’t, opened by the warden and his two assistants.

July 2, 2024 — 7:51 pm
Comments: 6

Long gone

Still settling down to my new phone (spoiler: I like it). The is the very oldest picture on my camera roll: Charlotte in the snows of Rhode Island, 2005.

I hate Mondays. I mean, because Mondays. Duh.

Monday is also the day I clean the stovetop.

And boil down the chicken carcass from Sunday dinner. I hate this process. It smells, it’s slow and unpleasant – but it gives me two to four really great lunches in the week.

Inevitably, when the meat has cooled and I’m picking it off the bone, my chickens will come stand outside the kitchen window and peck around happily. They’re drawn to the window because they see me there and they’re hoping for a treat, but it makes me feel like the biggest of shits.

The cows used to do this on the little farm I grew up on. We’d be sitting there eating beef and they’d gather outside the dining room window eating hay. Only in this case, we really didn’t need to put cattle feed outside the dining room window. Honestly, Mother.

p.s. I know what you’re thinking. “She only cleans the stovetop once a week? Ewwwwww!

July 1, 2024 — 6:53 pm
Comments: 6