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This guy


This is beautiful Llanwenarth House, which inspired the hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful. It’s a 16th C building with a largely 18th C interior.

Or was. It was bought by a property developer who gutted it and redid it, inside and out, to modern (and bad) taste. Not surprisingly, he did all this without planning permission, because he totally would never have gotten planning permission to vandalize an historically important building like that.

All this happened last Summer and it would have been a story but not a very big one, but for one thing: when they dug up the new patio and turned over the stones, they found writing on the back. He’d used headstones from a local disused children’s cemetery, leaving a host of Victorian unfortunates in unmarked graves. None of the sources were very specific about how he got them or induced the workmen to chop them up. I suppose one good villain was all the story required.

As it happens, making unauthorized alterations to a listed building is a criminal, not a civil, offense. We know this because we live in a listed building. Every time I wad up a newspaper and stick it in a drafty crack, I think to myself, “self — you could go to jail for that.” Or gaol, as they call it here. They can’t spell for shyte.

Welp, today the news comes that the legal process has done its evil work and dude has gone bankrupt defending himself. I’m not usually a fan of lawfare, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.

Phun phact: Cecil Alexander, who wrote All Things Bright and Beautiful, was a woman.

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February 11, 2016 — 10:32 pm
Comments: none

a fragment of the starry vault of heaven


I got a note from one of my arty suppliers tonight that Michael Harding — manufacturer of excellent handmade oil colors — is offering a genuine Afghan lapis lazuli oil paint. He’s not the only one — I knicked the photo from this article on genuine lapis watercolor — but there sure isn’t a lot of it out there.

You know all those illuminated manuscripts and Renaissance frescoes with the intense blue skies and amazingly blue saints’ robes? Lapis. Very dear stuff. Kings used to inventory pots of lapis paint in their treasuries and dole it out to painters after they were commissioned.

The common pigment ultramarine is a synthetic version invented in the early Nineteenth C — a much clearer and more powerful color, but lacking a certain sparkly je ne sais quoi.

Or so I’m told. I’ve never worked with the real thing.

I once splashed out $80 for a tube of Winsor and Newton’s genuine rose madder and got a tube of paint the color of bleeding gums and the consistency of snot. That learned me.

I see rose madder is down to a measley £8.80 now. And this here lapis stuff is suggested retail £71.57, but available for a modest £57 a tube.

sock it to me

February 10, 2016 — 9:22 pm
Comments: 7

Oh, dear


Oh, dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. In what’s being called “the design fail of the year,” San Fran designer Lehu Zhang apparently really and truly didn’t mean this minimalist monkey to look like a Communist propaganda poster for gay sex.

Eh. Well. Gong Hey Fat Choy, y’all. Happy Year of the Fire Monkey. Here’s a better article about Chinese New Year, what am today.

sock it to me

February 8, 2016 — 9:11 pm
Comments: 19

Sadly, there isn’t a Church of Crom


I’m not even positive there’s a t-shirt. This link on Pinterest doesn’t seem to go to an actual shirt on Etsy.

Oh, well. I probably wouldn’t be all that good at smiting. Or wearing a brass bikini, for that matter.

Have a good weekend, y’all!

sock it to me

February 5, 2016 — 9:49 pm
Comments: 17



So, this guy died today. Joe Alaskey. He voiced Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and Sylvester.

If you’re thinking he looks too young for that and who the heck is he anyway, you’re quite right — he’s one of the voice actors who took over after Mel Blanc died in ’89. Alaskey himself was a comparatively young 63.

So. Non-story really. Condolences to his family.

Sorry I’ve been avoiding politics lately. I have a good excuse: I’ve been avoiding politics lately.

It’s gotten to the point I’m considering shaving my head and joining a hard-ass religious cult of some kind. Preferably one with a savage deity and a martial arts component.

Anyone want to start one…?

sock it to me

February 4, 2016 — 10:51 pm
Comments: 15

Immortality on the cheap



Here’s a fun game on a rainy day. Go to eBay (you can go to .com, but I think .uk is more fun). Search for collectables/postcards. Refine your search to “used“.

Voilà — you hear dead people.

The one in the picture is of Brighton Pier. The message on the back is “have not seen many of these about, have you.” 1903, I think.

Or how about, “Meta[?] wants me to say that the Bishop is going to be consecrated on St Paul’s Day in Westminster Abbey but she is not certain if she will be able to go up with you for it, as probably a houseful is coming that day. She will be very sorry if she cannot as she would v. much like it. With love from T.B.H. We have had a yet better account of Auntie.”

Some of the most interesting are too illegible to transcribe properly. On a Valentine: “A love letter. That is what. Annie said good bye.” It was neither signed by nor addressed to Annie. It was never sent.


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February 3, 2016 — 10:39 pm
Comments: 4

Oh, I think I know this one…


This came across my threshold tonight: Being a ‘morning person’ has a genetic basis, 23andMe study says.

Now, usually when I get a news article from 23andme, it’s from their own site. And that’s cool, because when they talk about the relevant SNP, they give a link to your result on that particular marker. In other words, click here to see how you scored on this one.

The article linked above is to The Verge, though, and the linked article is the source study — a proper scientific paper not cut up into weaselly-digestible chunks.

But that’s okay. I know how I score on this one. I have three copies of the genetic marker for ‘I will rip out your spleen and piss on it if you speak to me during my first waking hour.’

sock it to me

February 2, 2016 — 9:16 pm
Comments: 11

Wherein Weasel channels Mr Wizard


Illustration pinched from this fun introduction to optical microscopy

Refractive index is a measure of how much light is bent — or, to put it another way, slowed down — by a transparent or translucent material. Light moves through water 1.33 times slower than it does through a vacuum, so the refractive index of water is 1.33.

Oh, half y’all are physics geeks. You know this. I only know it because when I was a kid I thought I could invent an iridescent surface by combining painting materials with greatly different refractive indices. A thin layer of something on top of a thick layer of something with a very different RI will make a rainbow. Soap bubbles. Motor oil in a water puddle.

I failed, but let’s not dwell on that.

All this is by way of introduction to this cool video I ran across this evening. Because they have identical refractive indices, this is what happens when you dip a borosilicate rod (i.e. what Pyrex used to be before they changed the formula) into a beaker of cooking oil or glycerin.

I feel terribly, terribly cheated that real scientists don’t sit around doing this kind of shit all day.

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February 1, 2016 — 10:12 pm
Comments: 18

G’bye, Buddy


Well, well…Buddy Cianci died today. Probably the most corrupt politician I’ve lived under. When I first moved to Providence, there were dark rumors going around about him, and the following year he was arrested — for, if I remember correctly, kidnapping a state trooper, tying him to a chair and putting a cigar out on his chest.

Anyway, in or out of prison, the people of Rhode Island were happy to elect him over and over again. Six times. He was a much beloved figure, despite everything, not completely without reason. This obit catches the flavor of him pretty well.

Many thanks to reader Formerly Known as Skeptic for letting me know. And thanks to Buddy for giving me something to post about tonight — been out drinkin’ with the neighbors and just got in.

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January 28, 2016 — 11:45 pm
Comments: 4

Insidious government is insidious


Dry January is a thing here. Or perhaps an attempted thing. It can be hard to tell how much of a public health campaign is genuine, how much it’s working and how much it’s just one more scolding voice in the howling cacophony of government nannying.

Dry January is funded by an organization called Alcohol Concern, which is a fake charity. Fake charities are a thing here, too.

Here’s how it works:

►Government wants people to, say, drink less
►Up pops a charity, say, Citizens Concerned that Government is not Doing Enough to Make People Drink Less
►All of CCGDEMPDL’s funding, somehow, comes from the government itself
►CCGDEMPDL spends the money lobbying government to do that thing government wanted to do in the first place

Ultimately, if it hangs in there long enough, CCGDEMPDL may get some corporate sponsors or even individual donors, but government remains its biggest benefactor. So it’s government lobbying government to do things government wants to do. Meanwhile, out go big wads of public money, in come a few more cushy jobs for cronies in the governing class.


I made it almost all the way through (my not entirely) Dry January before I discovered Ginuary! Business lobbying me to buy products so they can make money — that familiar old relationship seems downright wholesome by comparison.

sock it to me

January 27, 2016 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 13