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I wonder if it was a surprise party…


I walked to my doctor’s appointment this morning and I was plenty early, so I swung by the local cemetery for a little cheer-me-up along the way. I like cemeteries, and I hadn’t visited our local before. It was a nice little boneyard, more remarkable for its many, many bunnies than its burials.

This lady had a bummer of an 80th.

Burial grounds in New England frequently have graves centuries older than those typical of Olde England, going right back to our colonial beginnings. The idea of burying ordinary people in their own private graves with their own personal markers started earlier in America, presumably because there were so few of us and we had so much buryin’ room. The Victorians were the first real funeral fetishists and the typical English churchyard graves are Nineteenth C. Before that, Brits planted people and harvested them later (‘alas poor Yorick’ and all that).

I believe the above paragraph to be true based on stuff I’ve read in the past, but I totally pulled it out of my ass tonight. Because references are for those who lack the courage of their own bullshit.

sock it to me

March 17, 2009 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 26

feeling faint…haven’t…eaten in…many many…minutes…


Had my first experience of the NHS last week. I brought some blood pressure meds from the States, but I knew I’d have to dive into socialized medicine when that ran low.

I am happy to report that they did not lower my blood pressure by hacking off one of my limbs with a rusty circular saw. Staff was professional and polite; appointment was timely. In fact, my experience so far has been indistinguishable from America-with-corporate-health-insurance (including having to pony up a co-pay on my meds).

For the record, I believe the US had the most sensible public medical scheme in the world…thirty years ago. Do you remember what we did before the invention of the HMO? We paid for the small stuff ourselves, out of pocket, and bought relatively inexpensive catastrophic health insurance for in case we did something extravagant like step in front of a bus. Best cost/services trade off ever devised.

I voluntarily went back to that old system for a while, maybe fifteen years ago. Several big HMO’s in a row went bust on me and I got sick of changing doctors. So I said screw it, opted for the indemnity insurance with a high deductible, picked a doctor at random and paid for the routine stuff myself.

A typical office visit was $60. A tetanus shot was $35. A thorough blood workup: $110. At year’s end, I spent less on my health than on car maintenance. I stopped when I did the math and realized my employer was charging me more to do it this way. Bastards. Stupid, stupid bastards.

The idea behind the Health Maintenance Organization is that patients getting routine medical care should spend less on health care in the long run by catching small problems before they become big problems. But in the short run, such a scheme would obviously cost more. So the state was asked to subsidize HMOs at the start. Can you guess if those projected savings ever materialized?

And is the very HMO concept viable? It seems so logical that regular, routine care is a good idea that I was shocked to read Theodore Dalrymple (in a…book…the name of which I don’t recall…that is in a box somewhere) asserting that it is not. Medicine is not without risk: there are drug conflicts, doctor errors, hospital infections. Many conditions get better on their own. Some diseases are less dangerous than their cure (slow-advancing cancers in the very elderly, for example).

It’s a matter of absolute chance whether you’ll be the poor bastard who comes down with something that needs catching in the nick of time, or whether you’ll catch something that would have been better let alone.

I’m rambling. I’m sorry. I haven’t eaten anything in almost a hundred and thirty two minutes. I went to pains to have my annual blood work done before I left but it turns out, they use different measures here and I have to have it done again. Tomorrow. And it’s a fasting test.

Ummm…vodka isn’t food, right?

sock it to me

March 16, 2009 — 5:35 pm
Comments: 10

Okay, I’ll take the headshot. But only if you let me pay for the bullet…


Did you see this article today? “A well publicized report this week that an estimated 1.5 million American children experienced homelessness in 2005-06 did not use the federal definition of homelessness. Instead, it used a different definition that grossly inflated the actual number.”

The National Center on Family Homelessness put together the study in question using a definition of “homeless” that includes kids staying with relatives or temporarily relocated (e.g. after Katrina). By this definition, they spin the utter bullshit statistic that 1 in 50 children in the States is homeless in any given year.

Whatever. My question is, who the fuck is National Center on Family Homelessness? Not them specifically. I mean, half the news stories I read every day were generated by the American Council for Healthy Knees or the Coalition for a Gluten-Free Tomorrow or Americans United in Cotton Underpants…thousands of the bastards, staffed by high-level, full-time employees and supported by PR firms and websites. And maybe with offices and company cars and annual meetings in Aruba. That’s a hell of a lot of money going down the wishing well. WHO PAYS FOR THIS JUNK? And why?

The peppery proprietor of Devil’s Kitchen has started to poke around the British world of fake charities, with a site called…ummm…Fake Charities.

Turns out, many of these organizations get, like, 1% of their money from real people donations. The other 99% comes from government — either the British government or the European Union. These are groups lobbying for things like higher booze prices or lower speed limits or restrictions on the internet. Paid for with our money (because government has no money. It maketh not, neither doth it sell).

So. Government wants a law, government funds “charity”, charity recommends law. Plus, many useless lefties with junk degrees get sweet jobs. Bonus!

With their dying gasp, newspapers tell us we’ll miss them when they’re gone — them and their original reportage. Well. If they were doing any, we might. Instead, they lazily regurgitate the latest position paper from the Won’t Someone Think of the Children? Foundation without ever troubling to tell us who they are and why we should care.

Some days, it’s enough to make a conspiracy nutcake outta me.

sock it to me

March 13, 2009 — 6:37 pm
Comments: 29

Happy half century, you anorexic slag!

barbieMonday was Barbie’s 50th birthday (counting from her introduction at the American International Toy Fair). I had a burger today at our favorite greasy spoon, Salmonella-on-Sea, and I didn’t grab a newspaper quick enough so I got stuck with the women’s rag. That’s where I read this.

Barbie was based on the postwar German doll Bild Lilli, who was a doll of easy virtue marketed to adults. Today, one Barbie is sold every three seconds. Or maybe it’s three Barbies a second. Shoot, I don’t know. I didn’t steal the magazine.

You know who loves her some Barbie? Me, that’s who. Not the doll — they stopped giving me dolls when I wouldn’t stop dissecting them — the playscale.

Playscale is the universal 1:6 toy scale that means GI Joe can wear Barbie’s panties and Midge can drive the tank. Oh. My. God. All those fabulous tiny Coke bottles and naugahyde cowboy boots and plastic fried eggs. I just love ickle things.

My best friend had every damn playscale playset in the world, because her parents actually loved her. The whole West family (remember them?), with horses. The whole Barbie family. The camping set. The dream home. Man. Poor people sure buy their kids lots of great stuff, don’t they?

Speaking of Barbie/Joe mashups, I remember this story from when it was reported. I never learned if it’s true, but I sure hope it is. I’d give a lot for a Barbie who yells, “eat lead, Cobra Commander!” Or, alternatively, a GI Joe who coos, “Let’s plan our dream wedding!”

Fun Barbie facts:

Barbie’s real name is Barbie Millicent Roberts
Barbie is from Willows, Wisconsin and went to Willows High School
Barbie has four sisters: Skipper (1964), Stacie (1992), Kelly (1995) and Krissy (1995)
Barbie’s first pet was a horse named Dancer
The first Barbie sold for $3.00 in 1959
Barbie’s signature color is PMS219 (that’s Pantone [color] Matching System, smartass)
Ken debuted two years after Barbie in 1961
Ken and Barbie broke up on Valentine’s Day, 2004

Okay, those facts weren’t really all that fun.

sock it to me

March 12, 2009 — 7:58 pm
Comments: 17

Not THIS shit again…


Hey, guess who gets to take her driving test again? And guess who isn’t likely to pass it on the first go?

Yeah. Apparently, no matter how experienced you may be — and I commuted fifty-ump miles a day down the I-95 corridor for a quarter of a century — the British driving test is no gimme. They recommend you take lessons. From an instructor.

It’s not about learning to drive, it’s about learning to pass the driving test.

Like histrionically checking all the mirrors before pulling out. And putting on the handbrake at stop signs. According to the handy self-study DVD Uncle B bought me for Christmas, the average successful applicant has spent 20 hours studying the manual and 45 hours driving.

Driving on the wrong side of the road. Roundabouts. Driving Uncle Badger’s car.

I am so screwed.

I took my first driving test in Smithville, Tennessee. I had to drive once around the public square. Took about ten minutes. Along the way, my examiner asked me to do several things that were highly illegal, like park blocking a driveway. I wondered if he was testing me, but it turned out he just didn’t want to get his shoes wet in the puddle by the legal spot.

Oh, I am so screwed.

sock it to me

March 11, 2009 — 8:29 pm
Comments: 20

Half past Dickens and a quarter to Hogarth


I’ve also kept away from politics lately because, situated as I am in dark heart of Olde England, I am obviously expected to provide an American viewpoint on British politics. And…I am…completely unable to wrap my head around that. My every attempt to understand (let alone explain) British politics devolves into a mushy, superficial on the one hand this, on the other hand that shopping list of unhelpful observations.

It’s even harder to nail down since Drudge and Fox began linking to Daily Mail stories so much. The Mail describes a Britain that is batshit, racing headlong toward bugfuck, crazy. Well. Kind of. The Mail is an incredibly low-rent populist rag that makes its coin promoting that particular loony vision of Britain. On the other hand, they don’t make this shit up.

I want to say Brits are more cynical about government, but certainly Yanks can be plenty cynical. I am plenty cynical. But Brits somehow seem to expect their government to let them down. They accept tyranny, perfidy or incompetence as what government does the moment you look away. Whereas the American attitude seems to be, “we bled real blood to put you bastards in office because you said you were different.”

And yet British politics is fundamentally miles less corrupt than the American kind.

I am tempted to say British resentment feels likelier to boil over into violence. And yet, the British public has already absorbed insult after terrible insult without demur. I am puzzled by that. I think a lot of Brits are puzzled by that, too.

The British. Famously unflappable, right up until they become howling savages.

Or maybe that spirit has been thoroughly kicked out of them.

I don’t know. I’m a foreigner and everything seems scary and strange. But that thing that gives me the jim-jams about politics right now? It’s worse here.

And that’s really all I know.

sock it to me

March 10, 2009 — 9:31 pm
Comments: 15

Couple of milestones…


Heh. Somehow in the excitement of getting married and shit, I failed to note that February 14 was also the second anniversary of sweasel.com (not counting the few practice months over at WordPress). About the same time, we quietly broke the 200K mark — a fortnight’s traffic for the big dudes, but a matter of quiet pride in this little geekwad backwater.

I want to thank you guys for sticking with me in this last boring year of girly self-absorption. It was a cinch that upping stakes, moving to a whole ‘nother country and getting hitched was going to Gidgetize and Barbify my outlook for a while. For a politics-and-geekery blog, that’s some bad mojo right there.

I thought about putting the site on hiatus until my life settles down a bit (and my natural nerdliness comes roaring back), but my mama told me blogs which hiatus never really come back. And I don’t think I’m done running my mouth yet.

I’ll tell you something, though: I don’t like politics right now. I’ve been arguing ideas — and not always playing nice — for as long as I can remember, but I don’t recall ever being so profoundly uneasy about the tone of the conversation. The center cannot hold. Bad moon on the rise. Whatevs. There’s a smell of crisis and ozone in the air and I don’t know where we’re headed. Or why I’m in this handcart.

Arguing politics isn’t fun at the moment.

So I believe I shall enjoy Spring at Badger House for a while longer. Thanks to everyone who comes here anyway. Some day — I swears — there will be bile again. And vitriol.

Meanwhile. My mosses. Let me show you them.

sock it to me

March 9, 2009 — 8:27 pm
Comments: 40

Oh look! More boxes…


sock it to me

March 7, 2009 — 7:11 pm
Comments: 16

Things that are ugly…

nan's chest

Isn’t this lovely? Why no, it is not. This is the ugliest scrap of ancient Weasel family legacy kitsch I own (and that’s saying a Very Great Deal). My heart clenched when I opened this box tonight. It’s bumblebee yellow and black…did I mention?

This handsome item was hand painted by my cousin Nan, who — as far as I know — was neither epileptic nor had a metal plate in her head of any kind. She was actually my grandmother’s first cousin, which makes me related to her only below the Mason Dixon line. Grandmother was a great friend to Cousin Nan, despite the terrible dark blotch on her past. How disappointed I was to learn Nan’s dark secret was a youthful d-i-v-o-r-c-e.

Cousin Nan was hot shit.

For most of her life, she was a seamstress nine months of the year, sewing fine gowns for rich ladies and saving her pennies. Then in the Summers, she would hop a banana boat for points South. That was back when freight boats always carried a few passengers (do they still?). She loved South America.

By the time I remember her, she had retired to California, very old and very deaf and unprepared to accept either. When she came to visit, she was a total liability in public. She would lean over in a movie theater and shout in your ear, “oh my god, would you look at that big fat woman in the next row?” Eh. Bless her.

By an odd coincidence, my dad and stepmother were in her home town for some kind of function and dropped by to visit her one day in the mid 1980s. First time ever, I think. My stepmother swears she looked up as they left and saw the curtain twitch.

At any rate, Cousin Nan was raped and murdered by a stranger later that day. It would be flattery to call her attacker a serial killer. He was an animal who had himself a brief, nasty spree…savaged a few women and got caught within the week. My dad was called to testify about the timing. Murderous asshole’s probably out by now.

Anyhow, we all took turns sticking each other with examples of Cousin Nan’s art. Because it’s horrible, but what are you going to do?

sock it to me

March 6, 2009 — 8:23 pm
Comments: 18

Got jammed up unpacking today…


So please enjoy this perfectly flipping enormous spider that sat down beside her and frightened Miss Weasel away when I was in the garden this afternoon.

Spiders. Brrrr.

sock it to me

March 5, 2009 — 9:55 pm
Comments: 22