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A thing I had to do today

Today, as part of a parcel of documents relating to the early history of the local Girl Guides troop (Girl Scouts to you ‘n’ me), we received a small silver bowl that was given as a prize. I was asked to interpret the hallmarks.

So here you go. There are four or five marks on a fully hallmarked bit of British silver.

The Standard Mark identifies it as sterling. This one – the lion passant – means it was assayed in London or other English assay office.

The Town Mark is what it sounds like. The crown is for Sheffield.

Some hallmarks have a Duty Mark, which tells you if duty has been paid. It’s a queen or king’s head. This one doesn’t have it.

Now that we know the town, we can look up the Date Letters for Sheffield. This is a little harder. There are several lowercase G or Q marks. I’m calling this one for 1908 based on the gothic style letter. It fits with the provenance of the object, but there’s a little knob on the corner of the letter worries me a bit.

Finally, the Maker’s Mark. HW in a plain rectangle – I made this out as Henry Wilkinson – a fine Sheffield silversmith. I was chuffed.

But then I noticed the dot between the H and the W, which would make it Henry Wigful. Who at least has the redemptive quality of an amusing last name.

And that’s that. Now the lot goes into a box and the box goes into a cupboard and there it will lie until some future scholar asks some future office weasel what she has on the Girl Guides.

October 4, 2022 — 7:51 pm
Comments: 3

The most famous spider in history, y’all

An estimated five point two billion people saw this little eight-legged ham today. And almost no-one saw Meghan.

You can’t tell me that was chance. Nothing at these ceremonies is by chance. At every turn she was behind a candle or a pillar or a tall guy blocking her face. Also, spider bro got closer to the crown than she’ll ever get.

Seriously, however you feel about monarchy, if you weren’t part of the 60-some percent of the planet that supposedly watched this thing, do watch some of the footage. Brits do these pageants brilliantly, always.

Also, your girl got the day off!

September 19, 2022 — 5:49 pm
Comments: 8

Two old favorites

An article about the Antikythera mechanism came across my Twitter feed today. I’m sure you’ve heard of it and I’ve posted about it before because I think it’s really neat.

Over time, they’ve learned more and more about it and what it originally looked at. The surviving bits represent about a third of the original mechanism. They’ve managed to recreate it, both in computer simulation and for reals. (I think the illustration above is a 3D model).

Interesting stuff.

The thing about this is, I’m not sure why, I overheard Uncle B have a conversation about the Antikythera mechanism on the phone last night. And then the article today. And that, friends, is the Baader-Meinhof Effect, and I’ve posted about that before, too. (Scroll down; it’s a discussion in the comments).

Good weekend, everyone!

January 14, 2022 — 8:09 pm
Comments: 10

Do we do Advent Calendars?

Every year, Uncle B very kindly buys me an Advent Calendar. I tend to get horribly behind, because it wasn’t a feature of my childhood and I forget.

Do Americans do Advent? I know the calendars aren’t common, but I wonder if observation of the Advent might be. Catholics, maybe?

I was raised plain vanilla Presbyterian, me.

December 6, 2021 — 8:16 pm
Comments: 21

Wet hare


Uncle B was out watering in the garden just now and called out that there was “an animal of some kind” in the cold frame. Animals of some kind are my department.

Turns out, he thoroughly watered a healthy bunny which was crouching under the plants trying to be very still and invisible. Fortunately, no cats were around, so he managed to escape with a cracking story to tell.

My first attempt to find a picture of a wet bunny took me to this article from the Dodo informing me that bathing bunnies is unnecessary, cruel and might even kill them. Okay, then.

My second attempt turned up the picture at right, the title of which was wettlauf-des-igels-und-des-hasen.

The “wet” in “wettlauf” did it. It’s two people in 1864 dressed up for a fairytale ball, representing Grimm’s The Race Between the Hedgehog and the Hare.

If you don’t know this one (I didn’t), hare challenges hedgehog to a footrace. Hare bounds off, hedgehog takes a few steps and vanishes into the grass.
At the end of the row, Mrs Hedgehog pops up and says “I’m already here!” As she looks exactly like Mr Hedgehog, the hare thought he’d been beaten. Mystified, he demanded a rematch. So they did the same thing in reverse. This happened over and over until the hare fell over dead.

Sweet dreams, children!

July 29, 2021 — 7:25 pm
Comments: 7

So, this happened today

And I didn’t see it. Someone in the next village over phoned Uncle B to say a Zeppelin was headed this way and he ran out and took this picture. He phoned me and I ran out, too, but it was gone.

It was all over the South of England today. The account tweeted something about promoting motor sports, so I guess that’s what it was doing. You’d think the promotion would work better if they actually told you what they were promoting, but what do I know?

Brits don’t have a happy association with Zeppelins flying overhead (note it actually says “Zeppelin” on the tail fin). But after hopping up and down and shaking sticks at it, they were happy to have driven it off.

There are four Goodyear blimps and this one is Europa. They have a fun website, including a time-lapse of one being built (I love time-lapse photography).

If you want to see this one up close and in color, there you go.

July 1, 2021 — 7:12 pm
Comments: 16

Taxes. It’s always taxes.

We went to the Summer fete on Saturday. They made us sanitize our hands and sign in – it’s part of the ‘track and trace’ thing in the UK. In theory, if one of the hundreds of people attending came down with covid, they’d phone all of us up and make us isolate. Ha!

We went in, and just like that, it was the old normal. Not a mask in sight. People hugging and laughing and standing inside the social distance to converse. Kids running around screaming and doing cartwheels in the grass. Petting other people’s dogs and buying junk.

The tents asked people to stay six feet apart in the queue, and they did when they remembered. They usually forgot.

If you were worried that we’d transmogrified into a world of neurotics, nah. The lower orders, at least, are going to be just fine.

Pictured, a smuggler brains a redcoat. This part of Sussex was alive with smuggling in the late 18th C. High taxes on luxury goods like tobacco, brandy and tea meant an ordinary man could get by very well rowing untaxed goods over from France (France, on the other hand, was desperate for leather, wool and other commodities, so it worked both ways).

There was a large contingent of colorful smugglers in attendance (and a much smaller group of redcoats). They put on a display of musketry, among other things.

Yes, that’s right. If I wanted to hassle with muzzle-loading, I could have my guns again. I’ve always fancied a blunderbuss.

June 28, 2021 — 8:41 pm
Comments: 13

It’s Sussex Day!

June 16 is Sussex Day, because it is the Feast of St Richard of Chichester, patron of Sussex. And of coachmen, of where there aren’t very many now.

Richard went to Dover in 1253, trying to recruit an army to fight another crusade and died there on April 3 at midnight. They scooped out his innards and buried them under the alter, an act so horrifying I can only assume it was for the practical purpose of helping preserve the rest of his body, which was buried in Chichester on – you guessed it – June 16.

The miracle that allowed him to be canonized (there has to be one): he once dropped a chalice of communion wine and not a drop spilled. That’s why he’s often pictured with a cup.

Let me tell you something: my mother once fell down a short flight of steps with a basket of laundry and a martini and didn’t spill a drop. And she also died on April 3. I’m thinking of having her canonized. She could be the patron of martinis and laundry.

But I digress. I asked what people do to celebrate Sussex Day and was told eating Sussex pond pudding would be a good start. This is a suet-y sponge cooked with a whole lemon in the middle. As I hate the combination of citrus and sweets, I don’t think this is for me.

So perhaps I’ll just wave the flag. I suppose I’d better buy one (I stole the picture from that flag shop; I owe them a plug). The flag is six martlets – a mythical bird in heraldry which doesn’t have any feet. This represents working continually until you fall out of the sky, I guess.

I wish they were rooks. We have lots of those and I like them. Also they have feet.

The one in the picture in red with a crown above is actually the flag of the East Sussex County Council, so no. Just no.

The six birds represent the six Rapes of Sussex. A rape is the ancient Sussex name for a large district. They need better PR.

Speaking of which, I thought about making a “You Ain’t the Duke of Me” t-shirt for Prince Hank, but I decided I should wait until I have citizenship. Nobody likes a mouthy immigrant.

In conclusion: Sussex by the Sea.

June 16, 2021 — 5:47 pm
Comments: 8

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

Yo Ho Ho!

Oldest known Jolly Roger. 18th C. It’s in the National Museum of the Royal Navy. It’s red, which apparently means they take no prisoners if you resist.

Curiously, I found several sources and they all described it as “one of two surviving Jolly Rogers” rather than the oldest. But the only other one I could find is in St Augustine, and I read somewhere it was from 1850. Which is really after the classical pirate era.

I think it’s charming that we have taken a group of history’s most bloodthirsty sadistic mass murderers and repackaged them as a funtime play identity for children. Sweet!

May 24, 2021 — 8:34 pm
Comments: 7