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Who is Melba that she should have a toast?


When I was in art school, my best friend and I spraypainted the Oscar Wilde aphorism, “who is art that he should have a sake?” in bright yellow on the outside wall of our dormitory. That’s it. My one and only act of vandalism.

Uncle B is feeling a little poorly today, and so his fancies turned inevitably to toast. Melba toast. I did not know there was an actual Melba for whom there was a toast, and it worries me that he did.

She was Aussie opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (1861 – 1931), born Helen Porter Mitchell and a Very Big Deal in her day. In 1897, she fell ill and twice-toasted toast became a staple of her diet, invented especially for her by chef Auguste Escoffier. He also came up with peach Melba. He was, I think, awfully lucky her name wasn’t Snotrag McShitbucket.

I found a recipe for homemade Melba toast (which sounds very nice, actually). Also, I discovered Wikipedia has a whole page on toast, which includes a useful side-by-side split-screen photographic comparison of toasted and untoasted white bread that should enable the alert student to discriminate between the two easily.

It is wholesome when we learn together.

July 17, 2009 — 7:22 pm
Comments: 29

The indignity…


One of the neighbors, giving one of the neighbors a trim.

This was a demonstration of an old shearing machine by a local farmer. What they do for reals is import New Zealanders. They are fucking fantastic shearers of sheep, apparently.

The lady next door was telling me they got invited to a shearing (maybe next year, when people know us better). She said there was a great big Kiwi and his little apprentice. The big guy could shear a whole sheep in a minute. The apprentice took two minutes. Between the two of them, they did a herd of six hundred in a day.

And you thought you had a rough day.

After that, they put the wool in a sort of giant trash compacter and it comes out in a cube so dense and hard you can’t poke a dent in it with your finger.

Wool is graded mostly by the diameter of the individual fiber. The local variety of sheep has a very coarse wool that ends up mostly in carpets. You could be standing on one of my neighbors right now.

How rude.

July 16, 2009 — 7:16 pm
Comments: 17

Aww, dammit — the bread’s gone bad!


This is from an occulty shop we visit occasionally. I figure anyone who sells dream-catchers, fairy sculptures and Buddhas has got to be deeply spiritually confused, but what can I say? I like pretty, shiny stones and good incense. Also, this is funny.

It’s a piece of toast magickally decorated with the face of Aleister Crowley, famous occultist, junkie and all-around asshole. He died of an overdose not far from here.

If you want to know more about him, visit his Wikipedia page. Topicks with inappropriate K’s in them give me the ckreeps.

July 15, 2009 — 7:34 pm
Comments: 19

Things got a little tetchy ’round the old Badger place…


I’m doing my taxes, and Uncle B is…well, he is what he is. Can’t change that, can we? (Photo via Lipstick’s drunken badger link).

Yeah, filing from a foreign country, I automagically get an extension until…well, okay, I’m still late. But they owe me, so they don’t usually care. And I’m damned if I can find Form 998 and some other shit. I was going to do this one on my ownsome, but I finally broke down and crawled back to TurboTax.

Which, I have to say, wasn’t MUCH easier. Though they acknowledge foreign filers in a superficial way, they won’t accept my UK phone number, address or postal code. In the end, I had to use the address of the house I sold in Rhode Island just to get the forms to print out (no e-filing from out of the country).

Do you know, I’m going to have to file with Uncle Sam for the rest of my days? I’m unlikely to make enough money that I owe anything (over and above what I pay Her Maj, that is), but I have to file anyway. The theory is, the only reason anyone would possibly leave the good ol’ US of A is to evade taxes, so they have to keep asquint on us shifty overseas types.

Generally speaking, I’m as much of a rah-rah, flag-humping, pie-loving, jingoistic, obnoxiously patriotic American as the next weasel, but this fills me with meh.

July 14, 2009 — 7:02 pm
Comments: 14

Uncle Badger had a farm, E-I-E-I-O


a youthful primrose yellow colour which cooks to a pale honey. Once cooked, the papery skin rubs off easily, while underneath the flesh of this salad potato usefully keeps its shape when cut or squeezed.

Let the potato cool slightly after cooking and then squeeze it lightly. There’s an immediate hint of fresh cut grass and a delicate earthiness. This is followed by deliciously buttery aromas, as if the potatoes had already been topped with sweet, unsalted butter.

In the mouth it is full-bodied, and tastes equally fresh and buttery, with a lingering note of sweetness. The flavour is remarkably long and persistent. The texture is firm to bite, but it gives way immediately to a supple, velvety melting quality.

That near-pornographic potato tasting comes to you from the British Potato Council. They are referring to a potato called Charlotte, which we will be growing next. The crop in the picture is a variety called International Kidney. And very nice they are too, even if they haven’t got a “hint of fresh cut grass and a delicate earthiness.”

Or maybe they have. How the fuck would I know?

We’ve done very well out of the garden this year, considering he has very little actual land under cultivation. We’ve had potatoes, peas, spinach, carrots, onions, broccoli, lettuces of several varieties, green beans, tomatoes, chili peppers, gherkins and cukes, with cabbages and cauliflower and godnose what else yet to come. And that’s not counting the fruitcage, with rhubarb, red currants, black currants, white currants, strawberries, loganberries, raspberries, gooseberries (two kinds!) and blackberries. Or the herbs in pots. Or the flowers, which I only eat when he’s not looking.

We could be entirely self-sufficient for the summer, if we had a taste for runnybabbit and I didn’t mind disemboweling and skinning adorable fluffy buns in the sink.

I’m not a very good weasel 🙁

July 13, 2009 — 7:23 pm
Comments: 15

Weezl is leegl!!!


Got confirmation of my second visa today. Actually, “confirmation” is a bit of an overstatement — I got a package with all my stuff in it and a cover letter that said, “here’s your stuff; you’ll get your ID next week.” So I guess that’s a yes.

The first visa was the fiancée visa — required biometric data, good for six months, entitled me to enter the country and get married. I’ve been here longer than six months, but I was covered by that visa for the fourteen weeks they considered my second application. That’s standard turnaround for this one, but I was starting to sweat a little.

This visa is the Further Leave to Remain — biometrics again, and then I’ve got two years less a month from the date I entered the country to apply for the next one. During which time I have to take the Life in the UK Test, a multiple choice exam in which your humble weasel regurgitates facts such as the year Her Maj was crowned and the percentage of the population that is Hindu. No shit. Really looking forward to it.

Ordinarily, the next visa along would be the Indefinite Leave to Remain, and soon after I’d be eligible for citizenship. But they’re in the process of rolling those two things together into a Provisional Citizenship, with community service and some shit to be determined later. The almost certain change in governments we’ll have in the next year may not change that — sometimes the civil services rocks on regardless.

Anyhow, the important thing is — I can get a job now!



July 10, 2009 — 6:18 pm
Comments: 44

Risk assessment, weasel style


Rick Rostrom commented on the last post that Al Gore’s statement about the relationship between reason and fear — while garbled as only Algore can — was based on some real research. Indeed it is.

Specifically, imaging of the brain has recently taught us that the pathways from our emotion gland to our logic lobe are much larger than the pathways leading back the other way. From this (near as I can figure it) Al deduces that it’s easier to frighten people into thinking than it is to think people into being scared.

This is why stupid people shouldn’t be allowed to handle facts (not you Rick — I know you know Al knows nuffink). Analogies about pipelines and highways and streams can only get you so far, and then they drop you over a cliff into a kettle of fish. The “size” of a neurological connection doesn’t necessarily speak to how “easy” it is for information to move. It is likely to have entirely different implications. Say, speed.

Like, I’m a hell of a lot more frightened of getting cancer (logical; there’s a lot of it in my family) than I am being crushed by a grand piano falling from a great height. But if I see a Steinway hurtling toward my head, I’m going to need to jump sideways really, really fast. And then figure out how the fuck a crane got in here, with the low ceilings and all.

I have worked with people who assess risk for engineering projects. They scoff at what they believe is the emotional, irrational way people evaluate personal risk. There’s a sort of math makes it science prejudice about sticking with pure probabilities and leaving sphincter-clenching horror out of the equation. But is that really more sciencier?

Okay, you’re like a willionty-jillion times more likely to die in a car crash than a plane crash. So why do people sweat flying in a way they don’t sweat driving? Wellll…most of us have personal experience of traffic accidents; they range from the truly fucking awful to the merely annoying. A plane wreck, on the other hand — son, you’re going to die. And before you do, you’re probably going to see it coming. Good and hard. Trapped in a small metal box. With a bunch of screaming strangers. And your pants on fire.

Yeah, I think even Spock would add that into his risk evaluation alongside pure numerical probability.

So, how likely a thing is does have to count the most. But other factors do and should count, as well. How horrible it would be. Whether you could prevent it. How predictable it is. How much warning you’re likely to have.

Have you heard the argument that terrorism should be WAY down in our list of priorities because the death count is so small? That there is some serious stupid masquerading as science. Terrorism adds human malice into the equation: a bunch of somebodies aiming all their brainal capacity at sneaking past every safeguard to do something of maximum horror, pain, visibility and surprise. I want a buttload of resources thrown at that creepy shit no matter how much more likely I am to be hit by lightning.

Emotional considerations are a kind of a logic. Thinking is not the opposite of feeling. They can elbow each other out of the way, but they aren’t two different states of the same element.

And poor old Al Gore, who thinks he can use the one to prop up the other, doesn’t have either on his side.

July 9, 2009 — 7:33 pm
Comments: 29

Thirty five minutes of rambling stoner gibberish


Did you follow the Al Gore link I put in yesterday’s post? No. Of course you didn’t. See, this is why we can’t have nice things.

Well, I just listened to the full 34 minutes and 57 seconds of Al’s address to Oxford, and I’m half dead of bullshit poisonining. I tried writing some of it down, but it doesn’t sound half as crazy in print as it does in Al’s inimitable lisping, halting, rambling stream-of-consciousness, bizarre emphasis on the wrong syllABLEs, crazy-ass numbtarded fucknut delivery. What a maroon.

I think I can translate: if we can scare people enough, we have a fantastic opportunity to take shit away from rich bastards and give it to poor people. (Don’t believe me? Listen to the damn thing yourself). Uncle B and I differ on whether he’s dumber than he is dishonest, or crookeder than he is dumb. I’m on the “dumb” side of the argument.

I know stoner bullshit when I step in it: this is the voice of a dumb guy who hangs around science nerds long enough to pick up a few phrases to impress his fellow dumb guys. Here, have some:

We have to connect the soils with the trees and the vegetation and the energy sources the built environment and the human system including population. Population is a success story. It’s a success story in slow motion. But we are bending the curve and the old models of what people once thought worked to stabilize population have thankfully been discarded in favor of a model that works. It’s a common system that shifts from one equilibrium to another.

Aw, see…that’s a lot funnier when Al says it. Though, come to think of it, some of this gobbledygook is probably because he’s talking to people who already know what he’s talking about, and he doesn’t want anything leaking to the straights.

No. Dumb. I’m still going with dumb.

The part of our consciousness that feels and expresses and acts upon urgency is tied to the recognition of those ancient threats and when one of those appears then that part of our consciousness that is aroused and alerted can instantly activate the reasoning process and we can respond instantly and then we can respond in a more deliberative way. But when the threat itself can only be perceived with the instrument of reason, pushing that recognition into that part of our awareness that activates urgency is an entirely different proposition.

Had enough? Ready to confess?

The connecting lines between the amygdala and the neocortex are asymmetrical. The flow of information from the urgency center to the reasoning center is quite robust, but the flow in the opposite direction is just a little footpath. And that really is at the heart of the problem. But it is for us as a civilization the aggregate bandwidth that really matters, because when enough people make that connection and when that connection with all its import is held in common, then consciousness can focus on the danger we face and the solutions that are available to us.

I think what he’s saying is, if you scare somebody you can get him to reason, but if you reason with somebody, you can’t scare him.

Only a man who never had a mortgage could believe that shit.

July 8, 2009 — 7:37 pm
Comments: 34

Seven reasons a layman can be sure global warming is complete bullshit


It can be tough for a non-scientist to tease apart the arguments of scientists. To make truly informed decisions, you’d have to throw it all over and become one yourself. No thanks — there’s math involved! Instead, let me share a few reasons you can be pret-ty daggoned sure anthropogenic global warming AKA climate change is complete shite without a glance at the science.

7 Surprise! The “cure” is ALLLLLLL the things hippies have been trying to get us to do for decades: biff our cars and ride bikes, save the rainforest, go vegetarian — organic vegetarian (home-grown, or at least local), recycle, reject consumerism and, like, get back to the land and shit, man. What a lucky coincidence for hippies!

6 Globally, the “cure” involves sucking billions out of the economy and handing it over to government. Yay! What a lucky coincidence for governments!

5 Burning wood for heat — thereby releasing a bunch of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — is now considered a net REDUCER of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Ha! For this to be even remotely true, all firewood would have to come from lands newly turned over for purpose-grown forests. Boolsheet. Hippies just like woodstoves.

4Al Gore. Seriously — Al Gore. That’s some big fat clue right there, folks.

3 Nobody can think of a single good thing that would follow from higher average temps or CO2 levels. There was this article I read — see, plants love CO2, so it was all about how carbon dioxide is making poison ivy loads more poisonous. That’s really the only thing that comes to this writer’s mind when he thinks “plants love CO2”? Change makes some things better; an honest discussion includes those, too.

2 As Glenn Reynolds famously put it: I’ll believe it’s a crisis when the people who say it’s a crisis start acting like it’s a crisis. Downsizing their mansions. Selling beachfront properties now, before they sink beneath the waves. Riding bikes to work — or at least not so much flying their personal jets to the 7-11 for a pack of Kools.

Numero uno But the main reason you can be sure global warmening isn’t happening? IT’S GETTING COLDER!!!!!!!

July 7, 2009 — 7:34 pm
Comments: 33

Jam and Jesus


That’s who you can blame for the lack of a proper post today.

I promised to do the layouts on a guidebook to the local church — the quaint little place we done got hitched at. Only, all my work muscles have atrophied and it took me forever to remember how all the dinguses and thingies worked. Oh well. “Making excuses” is my besteses job skill, and one I will NEVER forget.

And then I remembered my strawberry conserves were due for the final boil and potting up tonight.

Jam. Jesus. Where the hell am I and how the fuck did I get here…?

July 6, 2009 — 9:16 pm
Comments: 8