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…and then there’s this…

Today was a misty, mizzly, miserable sort of day. It precipitated: something more than fog but something less than rain. We did our weekly shop then set out in search of lunch.

I’ll be honest with you, we stopped Mickey D’s first. But the school holidays are on so the place was chock full of screaming children. Um, no.

So we went on to an old pub not far away. We’ve been in this one many times, but we’re not regulars and we heard it’s under new management. When we walked in, honest to god it was like a Hammer film. You know the scene, where strangers walk into a country pub and all conversation stops and grizzly old men squint at them over pints of beer? That one.

Being the smooth social operator that I am, I gibbered, “Oh my gawd, this is like a Hammer film, where strangers walk into a country pub…”

Turns out, it’s not new management, it’s old management. The man who owns the place and has rented it to a series of wannabes has taken it on again to build the business back up. He came and sat by the fire (see crappy cellphone photo of fire) and all the old boys told us spooky stories about the pub.

He told us about a wounded smuggler being brought in to have his injuries dressed (this was — and is — a *big time* smuggling area, beginning in the 18th C. Before that, it was piracy). And a notorious and probably fictional murder on a bridge nearby. We’d heard of that one.

More recently, there was the neighbor up the hill who had 17 children. All their water came from a big rainwater butt. One day, the man next door disappeared. Three days later, they find him drowned in the water butt with his pockets full of nuts and bolts. Suicide by fresh water supply. Pretty unneighborly, if you ask me.

And the bloke who tried to kill himself with a humane killer. My advice, don’t Google it. It’s a sort of gun barrel with one round in it. Put it against an animal’s head and hit it with a hammer, bang. So he put it against his own forehead, swung, missed and smacked himself in the eye with the hammer. A sort of happy ending. Well, we laughed.

There was the inevitable pub ghost. All it did was move a chair and smell like rotten eggs, though, so I wasn’t impressed.

Also, the food wasn’t bad and the beer was excellent. All in all, a most convivial way to spend an English afternoon.

October 29, 2014 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 23

Has science gone too far?

The answer is yes. Yes, it has.

This is exactly what it looks like: a woman with a foot where her knee should be, but backwards.

This East Yorkshire woman had bone cancer, so they removed her thigh and knee. Then they moved her lower leg up to replace her thigh, but turned it around facing backwards. That way, her ankle bends in the same direction her knee used to.

It makes a certain sense. I get it. It’s not unlike having a big toe grafted to replace a thumb. But…I dunno. I could maybe, after a lot of years, get used to having a toe on my hand.

Having my foot where my knee should be but facing backwards rattles me on a deep, baseline body image level. I can’t explain it. Just, trust me…I would freak the fuck out. Every day until they took it offa me.

This lady looks happy, though, so who am I to judge? brrrrrr

October 28, 2014 — 8:12 pm
Comments: 17

We ate here today

It’s between Battle and Hastings. As in Battle of Hastings? 1066?

Oh, well. We should’ve ordered the greasy breakfast; the burgers weren’t great.

October 27, 2014 — 8:54 pm
Comments: 16

Puny mortals!

I love this thing. The internet tells me it’s a stone sculpture in Krabi, Thailand. I go to sleep at night listening to a looping MP3 recording of ocean waves and imaging happy little crabs skittering across sandy ocean floors.

But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about GamerGate.

GamerGate is an unfolding nasty slap-fight between low-status nerdy video game players and high-status hipster smartasses. It should be small and meaningless, but it’s blossomed into something big and ugly…and emblematic.

I’m firmly on Team Nerd, but I haven’t been able to articulate what I think about it — and before I managed to do it, someone at PopeHat did it ever so much better than I could, with links and references and everything. (If you don’t read PopeHat, I recommend that you do. This group blog frequently pisses me off — I’m just sure they take more pokes at my team than they do the other guys — but is nearly always thoughtful and interesting and seldom wasted time).

Clark does a bang-up job relating the current kerfuffle to the larger historical trends, which is the very thing I have been thinking about lately. Larger historical trends, I mean. If you haven’t got time for the whole thing, skip to the bit that’s sub-headed “Our forces have Technograd surrounded are pounding it with shame bombs, and our sappers are inside the walls” (I’d link to it directly, but there isn’t a tag for me to grab onto. That’s nerd talk).

Oh, and see you back here tomorrow, 6pm WBT, Dead Pool Round 70!

October 23, 2014 — 9:06 pm
Comments: 8

Yeah, that’s a bug

Long story short: Englishwoman hears the roar of a motorcycle, then the smack of something against her front window, examines the CCTV footage and decides she was visited by a fairy.

Um, no.

But you know what I immediately thought, right? Cottingly Fairies is what.

Long story short: during WWI, two little girls in England took pictures of themselves in the garden surrounded by terrible paper cutouts of fairies. For some reason, quite a lot of people believed they were real, included Arthur Conan Doyle. Astonishingly, this was still the subject of controversy when I first got into photography in the Seventies.

I’ve never understood why. Honestly, they’re terrible fakes. They’re not even good illustrations (and so much of their era). I was always particularly struck by #4, in which our fairy sports a modern Flapper bob. I mean, geez — is that a Marcel wave?

Anyway, one of the little girls confessed in 1981 (when she was no longer a little girl, duh) that she’d traced the fairies out of a 1915 picture book, thereby laying to rest one of the dumbest controversies ever.

October 22, 2014 — 7:58 pm
Comments: 20


Just ran across this in the newspaper: little origami paper airplanes. Propeller at one end, controller at the other. Fly ‘em by waving your smart phone around. Run for 10 minutes, up to 180 feet away. Don’t cost an arm and a leg. Christmas will be here before you know it. Just saying.

We’re bracing for the ass end of Hurricane Gonzalo or Bazinga or Zoobadebeebop or whatevers. High wind and rain starting about midnight. It looks like the worst of it will pass North of us, but our little microclimate is subject to wilder-than-predicted weather, so we’re bracing anyway.

If you don’t hear from us, it’s because we have a tree tangled in the phone wires. We were trying to cut them free this afternoon, with only moderate success. One good gust could take our internet away.

It’s an elder tree, see, so it grows really, really fast and we didn’t notice it had gotten entangled. Also, you have to be careful trimming elder trees. If you don’t ask the Elder Mother nicely before you cut, she’ll give you restless leg syndrome.

Not kidding.

October 20, 2014 — 10:14 pm
Comments: 20

Plague Doctor

Meh, I’m probably not going anywhere with this. I just had it stuck in my head, the resemblance between Medieval plague doctors and all those guys in hazmat suits.

I’m a big fan of pandemics. Have I ever mentioned that? Black Death, Spanish flu, polio. Been reading up on them for years, only in part because we’re overdue for another big one.

Ebola is probably — probably — not it.

Cons: it isn’t all that easy to spread (maybe. I think). We’re close to a vaccine, and a treatment.

Pros: it’s nasty. It’s virulent. We’re months away from a tested treatment, and a proper supply of it. And our officials — all of them — are proving themselves to be utterly incompetent boobs.

So. Don’t lose sleep over it. But, you know, if you see cans of tuna on sale, pick up a few. Goes good with saltines, just saying.

p.s. this Enterovirus D68 is giving ebola competition. Leaving aside persistent rumors that it came across the border with this year’s children’s crusade, it’s an evil customer in is own right. Goes for the kids. Half a dozen deaths, and at least one outbreak later resulted in polio-like muscle weakness several weeks later. One to watch.

p.p.s. have a good weekend!

October 17, 2014 — 8:50 pm
Comments: 10

Peace in our time

Well, this is unusual. He must’ve snuck up on her while she was asleep on the cold frame (a cold frame is like a little halfway house for plants raised under glass but destined for out-of-doors, for those of us who don’t garden). When the sun shines on it, it warms up and becomes a cat magnet. She still hates him with a hissing, growling passion, though.

It’s been warm for October, and wet. Which is what we got all last Winter. I suppose it’s better than cold and wet, but it’s awfully dreary when it goes on month after month.

But do I care? I do not. Uncle B bought me my first pair of decent wellington boots. These ones. They’re soft and warm and snug and stink to high heaven.

Also, a Swiss army surplus rain poncho. This one. Two ladies walked up to me on the street the other day and burst out laughing, so I’m pretty sure I look amazing in it.

October 16, 2014 — 8:41 pm
Comments: 22

Oh, *those* WMD. Sure, there were some of *those*

Okay, that NY Times article about chemical weapons today. Help me out here. They put this together from a bunch of Wikileaks stuff and some FOIA requests. It shows that US soldiers were finding chemical weapons regularly from 2004 and 2011 and some were hurt by them.

And the Times is scolding the government for downplaying the danger and significance of chemical weapons? WTF happened to “Bush lied, people died”? Yeah, they’re describing them as a bunch of old crappy weapons (and of American design, woooo!) but isn’t that entirely in line with what we expected to find and were told we hadn’t? Tens of thousands, by the sound of it.

And why did the military downplay this? Why did the government?

And why is the Times doing a bunch of original reportage on this now? Could it be that ISIS is closing in on this stuff and they want an alibi when the bad guys start lobbing chemical weapons around…?

October 15, 2014 — 9:21 pm
Comments: 16

Real headline from a fake newspaper

I don’t know if Ace or anybody picked up on this reeking gem last week, but I’m still trying to wrap my braincell around it. It’s from the Daily Telegraph — once the best center-right newspaper I know. Brace yourselves. Ready? Here we go:

How the Nobel Prize has favoured white western men for more than 100 years

Complete with helpful maps and graphics.

Let’s leave aside for a moment that Alfred Nobel was a white western man. He might have called this thing “a prize for people who are a whole lot like me.” He could have called it “white western men who do white western man things awesomely well.” His money. He could’ve done.

But I’m sure he’d have been happy if people from other places invented lots of amazing things. Even people from brown places. Gosh, even the ladies.

Who doesn’t look at the actual results and think, “wow — white western men kick all kinds of science ass!”?

How did we get to a place where you have a contest with clear winners and clear losers, first reaction is the winners must have cheated and the losers must be victims?

October 14, 2014 — 9:21 pm
Comments: 13