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Heh. Neat.

The Natural History Museum is setting out to digitize 80 million specimens. Most of these are part of various herbariums (herbaria?), particularly the Hans Sloane Herbarium. Plant samples. You know.

The challenge is, most of this stuff is just plants pressed into albums. Not even glued, just pressed. You can imagine how hard it is to open and photograph that stuff without dropping bits all over the floor.

I don’t know if you can see it, but those little armatures holding the pages open? They’re made of Legos. Which makes perfect sense:

‘By making it completely out of Lego it is possible to have it ordered and shipped to almost anywhere, and the low cost makes it affordable to everyone. It is especially important for scientists in developing countries and students.’

To be honest, I’m surprised there doesn’t exist some special titanium-and-molybdenum super-sciencey chrome-plated lego-like but much more serious kind of building kit for projects like this.

Surprised and bitterly disappointed.

April 16, 2018 — 7:59 pm
Comments: 5

I think it’s a potato

The Museum of English Rural Life says: “We’ve been working hard on our difficult second album and we’ve put in a lot of hours and we’re really #excited and #proud to present our latest #viral hit it is this potato”

Something about the lack of punctuation there cracks me up. Almost as much as that disgusting engraving of a potato.

I’ve had a very silly week, me, and I’m ready for a very relaxing weekend. Who’s with me?

April 13, 2018 — 9:46 pm
Comments: 14

i got nothin’

“As if their deadly venom and spiny exteriors weren’t enough, scientists have discovered that stonefish have a hidden switchblade in their heads that they can flick out whenever they feel like they’re in danger.”

I was out late tonight (at a history lecture, thanks very much) so have a badass fish in lieu of effortpost. G’nght!

April 12, 2018 — 9:16 pm
Comments: 12

Aw, yiss…

Well. I knew Reeves was a British art material company, but I had no idea it was so old until this 18th Century watercolor box turned up on eBay. Do check out the pictures — it’s very nearly complete. It’s got untouched cake watercolors with a pattern stamped in them, it’s got all but one of the porcelain mixing dishes, and most of the printed ephemera. The neato engraving above is inside the lid (splattered with paint).

It’s also £500, but I don’t actually want it. This kind of thing belongs in a museum, not a working studio. I wasn’t looking for a paint box, I was looking for a writing slope that I can use for a paint box — hopefully, one that comes pre-battered. As you might imagine, very cool antiques turn up here on the regular and it’s nothing special.

Stupid, the Reeves website doesn’t say anything at all about the company history, that I could find (though it does have a cool front page animation). I had to go to some other art supply site to find “REEVES WAS FOUNDED IN 1766 AT A TIME WHEN ART WAS SYNONYMOUS WITH TRADITION AND WERE A BRAND THAT CHAMPIONED CREATIVITY. WILLIAM REEVES’ OPENED HIS FIRST SHOP CLOSE TO ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL IN LONDON, AND THE COMPANY REMAINS AS PASSIONATE ABOUT ART MATERIALS TODAY AS IT WAS WHEN IT WAS FIRST ESTABLISHED OVER 200 YEARS AGO.”

The site goes on to say the original Reeves made his fortune when he invented the moist watercolor. I don’t know what that means. Tubes?

April 11, 2018 — 9:07 pm
Comments: 4

You can, but should you?

So I soaked my ‘estate’ pipe in gin and sea salt until the ghost of the former owner ran away crying and then tried smoking a little mugwort.

It didn’t taste too awful at the time. It was fantastically enjoyable to see smoke coming out of my mouth for the first time in 21, almost 22, years. I don’t think I woke the beast. I hope not.

Effects? Hm. Not really. Slight headache and nasty taste in my mouth. I’ll let you know if I have super vivid dreams.

To be honest, I was a bit skeert and only smoked a little.

April 10, 2018 — 9:26 pm
Comments: 12

She found herself a little patch of sun…

They predicted rain all weekend long, and they were wrong. For a few hours, gloriously wrong. Sun, lambs, chickens…it’s here at last.

Of course, they predicted dry and cloudy today and it pissed all over me on the way home, so bad forecast giveth and bad forecast taketh away.

In this country, you’re better off just looking out the window.

April 9, 2018 — 9:38 pm
Comments: 12

I’m not taking it up again, I swear…

This is a sort of a ‘day in the life of weasel’ story. So I had to get an Amazon order up to £20 to cut loose the add-on items (does Amazon do this over there?), so I added a bag of mugwort tea, because I read that it helps you sleep. I like sleep. The tea came yesterday.

And then I read that mugwort makes you dream vividly if you smoke it before bed. I love dreams (I love smoking, too, but I haven’t done it in 21 years). It got me thinking whether I had a tobacco pipe around the house (I used to have a really cool one I bought at auction). Nope. Couldn’t find it.

So I spent an hour after work today going through the little antique-and-junque shops in town (of which there are many) looking for a tobacco pipe. I was told that smoking memorabilia was ‘in’ a few years ago, but nobody will touch the stuff now. Finally, at the eighth or so shop, I found the pipe in the picture.

Only it didn’t look like that when I bought it. The stem was a dull greeny-yellowy color which, the internet tells me, is to plastic what rust is to metal. Recommended to soak it in bleach for an hour (which suited me fine, as the idea of smoking some old dead man’s pipe is rather ick) and give it a good polish with fine grit. So I did.

Which just left the interior. As it happens, we had to swing out for some weekend shopping which took us close to my favorite hardware store. You should have seen the look of blank incomprehension on the young man’s face when I asked for pipe cleaners. I described. I mimed. I asked him if he ever took a craft class in elementary school. I wondered if his father was around today. Honestly, he had no idea. He sold me a bottle brush (I’ll use it for something else).

So. I await pipe cleaners. There’s a big craft shop in town that I feel sure will have them, even if they will probably be all glittery, so I’ll do that Monday. As dog is my witness, I am not putting that thing in my mouth until a dozen gin-soaked pipe cleaners have been pulled through the stem.

It’s a handsome and tactile little object, anyway. The inscription is ‘CLUBMAN – LONDON MADE’. I am pleased.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

April 6, 2018 — 9:35 pm
Comments: 29

Sometimes I think my Twitter feed is taunting me

Then I remember how gosh-darned photogenic stoats are. Of course, Twitter being Twitter, I couldn’t find the photo again when I went back to look for it.

But I found it in the real world. This photo was a runner up (boo!) in the junior category for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2013. Here’s the photo in glorious color, with a bit about the young man who took the picture. He will go far!

April 5, 2018 — 9:49 pm
Comments: 10

It’s a ratty, ratty, ratty world

Happy World Rat Day! No, really. Rattophobes (AKA musophobes, murophobes or suriphobes), turn away now.

I was born in the Year of the Rat, and I’ve always had a soft spot for rodents. In isolation — I mean, not living in the walls and peeing on your cornflakes — they are nice, clean and friendly little beasties.

I got quite interested in fancy mouse breeding in my twenties, until it was driven home to me that culling is an important part of the hobby. Not really into crushing babbies, me.

Still, I learned enough about rodent husbandry that I was quite excited to come to London. One of our first dates, I made Uncle B take me to the London and Southern Counties Rat and Mouse Club, the oldest fancy rat club in the world.

We went to a rat and mouse show. And he married me anyway.

The hobby owes its origins to Jack Black, Queen Victoria’s rat catcher. Whenever he trapped an unusual-looking rat, he spared its life and bred it. A hundred and umpty years later, and the number of recognized varieties of fancy rat is astonishing.

Though I’ve kept many mice as pets over the years, I’ve never kept a rat. They are smart and friendly (and large) enough to capture your affection like a proper pet, but they don’t live long. And they tend to die horribly.

Anyway. Not sure how you celebrate World Rat Day. Eat a peanut butter sandwich and shit on the counter?

April 4, 2018 — 9:25 pm
Comments: 15

Okay, NOW it’s Spring…

At last, they’ve let the new mamas and babies out in the fields. We have them on two sides (behind us is a house and across the road are the yearlings, too young to breed). I’d forgotten the racket lambs and they mamas make, night and day.


Call and repeat. I love it. The Silence of the lambs is a thing, but we don’t have to be sad here. They move all the sheep to Winter pasture after harvest, so we never know who lives and who dies. The ewes I say good morning to today are the lambs I went SQUEEE over two years ago. It’s the circle of life, fam!

Ah, but I know what you’re thinking — that thing in the picture isn’t a lamb. No, it’s a pepper. A sweet pepper with the improbable name of Gogorez.

They’re billing it as a “beefsteak pepper” – short and fat and fleshy – and they’re promoting it super hard. Uncle B., the seasoned gardener that he is, is immune to such marketing nonsense.

But I’m not! He’s growing me a Gogorez!! SQUEEE!

April 3, 2018 — 7:15 pm
Comments: 7