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Boo!

Good morning, Halloweenies! (Okay, that’s not original. They’re serving halloweenies in the company cafeteria today).

I am as psychic as a potato. I itch to see something I can’t explain, but I am utterly blind to auras, cold spots, vibes, premonitions and heebie jeebies.

I thought I saw a UFO once. I stood in the side yard at the farm one night watching these strange lights moving far off in the sky…until the sun came up and I saw it was actually a nearby badly insulated electrical wire arcing when it slapped against the pole. I had a touch of heebie-jeebies — call it a heebie — before I knew what I was looking at. I’m apparently capable of the creeps, but my life has been sadly bereft of them.

hampton court ghost

Something about this guy gives me a heebie, though. Usually, ‘ghost’ photos are meh. Obvious double exposures. Flash noise.

This spooky dude turned up on surveillance photos at Hampton Court Palace. That’s one of Henry VIII’s haunts (ho, ho) about ten miles West of Central London. It’s mostly a tourist attraction now.

In December of ’03, a pair of fire doors in a seldom-used area of the palace blipped the security panel three days running. The third time, the guard checked the nearest camera, and these images turned up.

It doesn’t match anyone authorized to be in the area, or any of the Tudor costumes sometimes used by staff. Security in palaces isn’t infallable, but it’s generally good. Nobody ‘fessed up, nor tried to make hay afterwards.

Britain has a tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas (that’s why A Christmas Carol is one), and this looks an awful lot like Zombie Father Christmas. So…probable hooey.

But we drove past Hampton Court not long after, and Uncle B pointed it out to me. And it was kind of brrrr.

October 31, 2008 — 10:11 am
Comments: 62

Today’s Fun British Fact

my brain has escaped

It is illegal to mail horror comics to the UK.

For reals. I tried to find an online citation for that, but I couldn’t. It’s true, though. The lady at the Post Office showed me the regulation sheet.

I wasn’t trying to do that. I was trying to mail Uncle B an air pistol. A BB gun. PO Lady wouldn’t let me, on account of it’s “a weapon.” And I say, “a reproduction weapon.” And she says, “well you could hurt somebody with it.” And I say, “I could hurt you with this Customs Declaration form if I tried hard enough.”

I lost. Of course I did. Nobody ever argues the regulations and wins.

My real guns are going in the shop (most of them, anyway). But I have a couple of CO2 pistols I’d like to keep. They’re perfectly legal in the UK, but one looks exactly like a Glock and the other looks like a Walther PPK. I figured I didn’t want to pack them in with my household stuff, on the off-chance they turn up on an x-ray or something and get everything confiscated. So I decided to mail them on ahead.

I’m sure the comic regulation is some fusty old thing left over from the pre-Code comics era. Like the comic I stole this header graphic from. Which is in my horror comic collection.

Which is packed with my stuff.

Oh, piffle.

October 30, 2008 — 2:41 pm
Comments: 39

Fishing for tarts

l'Inconnu de la Seine

Lots and lots of things have been fished out of the Seine. This was one of them. Maybe. If you want the long version, ask Google and spend an afternoon at it. Or go with the short version:

No-one knows who she was, really. She is called l’Inconnue de la Seine. The usual story is that she was drawn from the river in the late 1880s and the morgue attendant was so taken with her beauty and poignant expression that he called for a mask to be made.

I’m going to call bullshit on that bit, anyhow. No way this is the face of a dead woman. In fact, it would be difficult to take a cast of a living woman and catch a smile. Plaster is heavy and the dead seriously lack muscle tone. If this thing started life as the mask of a woman, it was heavily recarved afterwards (which is not at all uncommon with casts).

Anyhow, the story continues, she was put on display (in the 1880s, unclaimed bodies — up to fourteen at a time — were put in a chilled room at the morgue, fronted by plate glass. It was the most popular shop window in Paris). No-one claimed her.

Then somehow the mask escaped into the population. It was a sensation. Factories were contracted to churn out copies (in fact, one story I find plausible is that l’Inconnue was actually an entrepreneurial mask-maker’s daughter, alive and well at the time). No salon or filthy bohemian garret was complete without one. She appeared in poems, novels, baudy limericks (I’m just guessing on that last one). She was an icon of feminine beauty for decades, well into the 20th Century.

resusci-annieAnd then she really got popular. In 1958, emergency docs Peter Safar and Asmund Laerdal chose l’Inconnue for the face of the original Resusci Annie (Snopes says oui to this story). Making her, officially, the most kissed woman of all time.

Thought a little creepy story might not go amiss today, this being Hallowe’en week and everybody being utterly sick to death of poltics and all.

October 29, 2008 — 2:11 pm
Comments: 36

It’s NaNoWriMo time again!

It’s that time of year again. The frost is on the pumpkin, the dew is on the lily and Saturday is the beginning of NationalNovelWritingMonth. So put on your fiction britches! (Okay, I started with “thinking caps” but that didn’t really work either). The goal is to start on November 1 and write 50,000 words of utter crap by November 30. No, really:

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that’s a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

I tried it several years ago. I got several days and six hundred words in before I gave up. But the experience sure taught me something: I suck. I write incredibly worthless fiction. I pretty much knew that, but some lessons you don’t learn on the first try. Pity, because I’d've liked to be a novelist.

NaBloPoMo is really more my style. Not that I plan to squeeze out a
blog post every day in November, either. I like it because it sounds like
“blow me” when I say it in my head.

October 28, 2008 — 1:04 pm
Comments: 59

My groat. Let me show you it.

charles ii maundy groat

This is my groat. There are many groats like it, but this one is mine.

how big is my groat?

My groat came up in conversation here last week, so I figured I’d give you a peep at it. This is my groat. Specifically, it is a Maundy groat of Charles II. The obverse says CAROLUS II DEI GRATIA and the reverse says MAG BR FRA ET HIB REX. Which means “Hix Nix Stix Pix.” Heh heh. Jes’ kidding. The real translation is: “HEY CROMWELL, how does my ass taste?”

A groat is a little silver coin worth four English pennies, also called a fourpence. The first was minted in the 13th Century and the last (for actual circulation — more on that in a moment) in 1888. The date on this one is 1679, but it wasn’t necessarily made in that year. They weren’t all that fastidious about minting coins every year, or changing the dies when they did. Early in Charles II’s reign, they were still producing most coins by hammering, but they switched to milling in his lifetime. This is a milled coin.

the archbishop of canterbury scrubs toeThe Maundy ceremony, confusingly, happens on Thursday. Specifically, the Thursday before Easter. “Maundy” is a corruption of Mandatum Nuvum — the ‘new commandment’ to love one another and, umm…wash feet. British monarchs have observed some sort of Maundy ritual since 600AD — which sometimes included foot washing, but nearly always involved giving silver coins to the poor. The coins were known as Maundy money.

Regular old coins were used at first, but beginning with Charles II, special coins were minted, in sets of four: 1p, 2p, 3p and 4p. And still are. Despite decimalization (in 1971, Britain utterly fucked its wonderful but brain-hurty old currency scheme and lost many a beautiful coin) Maundy money is still legal tender.

Today, the Queen gives out Maundy money to worthy old persons, as many old coots as she is years old. The foot-washin’ part was quietly dropped centuries ago, until the current Archbishop of Canterbury — a very strange man — revived the custom in 2003.

Because it is a Maundy coin, Charles II his own self may have handled this groat. But probably not. And now you can tell all your friends, “I have seen Weasel’s groat.”

October 27, 2008 — 10:13 am
Comments: 104

Dear lord, forgettest thou not a Weasel in this terrible hour


‘Fart gas’ link to blood pressure

Small amounts of hydrogen sulphide – a toxic gas generated by bacteria living in the human gut – are responsible for the foul odour of flatulence. But it seems the gas is also produced by an enzyme in blood vessels where it relaxes them and lowers blood pressure.

[...]

Researcher Dr Solomon Snyder said: “Now we know hydrogen sulphide’s role in regulating blood pressure, it may be possible to design drug therapies that enhance its formation as an alternative to the current methods of treatment for hypertension.”

[...]

“We know hydrogen sulphide is not good for us at high levels but it seems that at the lower levels in the body it is essential.”

No, no…that’s not the scary part.
The scary part is Uncle Badger sent me this.
AND HE HAS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE.

October 25, 2008 — 4:55 pm
Comments: 53

Dear British Embassy: not good at paperwork, draw picture instead?

weasel paperwork

Ugh. Starting to assemble stuff for my first visa application. But not my last!

— 10:06 am
Comments: 22

Because not everyone has the gift of plumb…

i am not really joe

Yeah, it’s not nearly as euphonious as the original. But I felt left out. Finally, populist sloganeering for artards and gay guys!

Happy Friday, everyone! Feel free to continue talking about the economy or fragging zombie vampire kittehs, or whatever we were talking about…

October 24, 2008 — 5:04 pm
Comments: 44

Junk!

Ohhhhhh. Ohhhhhh, yeah. That’s the schadenfreude. The New York Times is bleeding so hard, Standard & Poor cut them down to junk bond status yesterday. (You can play with the graphs yourself here. Slu was on this one, too).

I’ve been savoring this situation since I read this NewsBusters post from P.J. Gladnick a few weeks ago. It’s sweeter than it looks. It’s sweeter than Scott Tenorman‘s tears. Much as we’d all like to think the Times is dying due to egregious liberal bias, that’s only a part of the dynamic. Behold — Clusterfuck, the Bullet List:

■The Ochs/Sulzberger family is in its fifth generation. Twenty-seven people hold the controlling interest and live off the proceeds of the Times.

■’Pinch’ Sulzberger, editor and heir, has made many grievously bad business decisions. Good old-fashioned bad business decisions, like real estate and investments. This is a horrible time for print media anyway, so his incompetence is just a big fat cherry on top of the shit sundae.

■To keep the family happy, Sulzberger has been raising the dividend paid to family members even as profits have slid.

BAM. Junk bonds. Now he’s sinking in debt and he can’t raise money. But he can’t lower the dividend or all hell will break loose.

Why is this so very, very tasty? Because the Ochs/Sulzberger family has a collective terminal case of WeAreSoVeryFuckingImportant-itis and it’s totally funded by the Times.

dave golden, NYT trustafarian

“Sulzberger has said that his clan starts going to family meetings when they’re 10 years old and by 15 they understand their roles as caretakers of the New York Times. There’s also a one-day orientation session for kids turning 18 or 21—or people marrying into the family—to learn about the legacy of the Ochs-Sulzbergers.”

[...]

“Younger members of the family are also inculcated in the beliefs of the Sulzbergers on private annual retreats to places like Hawaii. One Timesman compares the indoctrination to Skull and Bones, but it seems more the stuff of summer camp. They sing songs together like “We Are Family” and keep abreast of each other’s lives through a newsletter called The Lookout.”

What have these golden people done with their subsidized lives? Zoo keeping. Novel writing. Protecting lighthouses and the rights of native Americans. Folk music. Folk music.

Dave Golden couldn’t stay at the paper mill forever. It was too tied to the family business, too laden with expectations. So he set off to find himself “in the tango halls of Argentina, on the snow-covered Berkshire border of Vermont and Massachusetts, in the halls of Oxford, in the jungles of Guatemala and even in Asia on a Fulbright,” according to his Website. In the Berkshires, he studied mountain music, and in 2004, the 26-year-old released a well-received folk record, with songs drawing from life experiences, as in “All I Never Wanted”: “I coulda been a CEO, they told me / If I could just stop holdin’ on to this ol’ dream.”

Oh. OH. My violence gland is throbbing like a buffalo-skin tom-tom from a native drum circle of the Great Plains. I suppose it’s too much to hope that individual branches of the family have been so incompetent that they will be left with nothing when the Times goes under. I doubt any of them will have to get a real job or anything. They’ll probably even walk away with a tidy sum after the fire sale.

But it’s going to hurt. And on that happy day, I want you to stop, think of this grinning douchenozzle with his frayed straw hat and his ol’ dream and share a warm schadenfreudean virtual hug with me. Sometimes, it is good to be a weasel.

— 10:09 am
Comments: 96

A public service announcement

Oh-kay. I think I got all the suggested blogroll adjustments.

If you’re wondering why I make such a frakking big deal out of it, see…WordPress has this automatic blogroll dingus that I can access from the control panel, but it does moron things like files blogs that begin with “The” under “T” — which just crawls all over my OCD. So I had the bright idea that I’d put the left and right sidebar blogrolls into separate .php files, which is just so thrillingly tidy.

Except WP puts themes inside a folder inside a folder inside a folder inside a www area, all of which I have to access through BlueHost’s control panel, which is slow as shit and I can only get at it from home. Look it involves clicking the mouse button several times, okay?

So I added in the add-ees, moved the move-ees. I deleted links to anything that hadn’t been updated in more than a couple of months — no offense. I really do try do read all this stuff and I am just too stupid to remember who doesn’t update very often. If you get active again, say the word and you get back on. Also I added a couple of people, like JuliaM and Jill, who didn’t ask for it but made the mistake of commenting on my blog with a URL. Dumb move, ladies. You want moving, removing or adding, speak now while I still have those stupid pages open.

Oh, and new rule: weasel-themed blogs — or just plain blogs with ‘weasel’ in the title — get automatic linkage. Because weasels stick together.

If we were cleaner animals, that probably wouldn’t happen so much.

October 23, 2008 — 5:49 pm
Comments: 38