web analytics

English girls scouts were hard core

Found in an archive of papers from an early troop of Girl Guides: semaphore flash cards. I mentioned this at a coffee morning and one of the old girls got up and gave me the whole alphabet.

But why? What possible use would a visual system of long-distance communication used by the Navy be to little girls?

I’ve Googled high and Googled low. I can confirm there was a lot of it about. All girls. The Girl Scouts got up to it in the States, too.

I found this quote from an old women’s encyclopedia: “A semaphore parade. Even the youngest children will enjoy a lesson on this subject, and will acquire a sense of discipline and a quickness of perception by its help” but the rest of the article goes on to describe teaching children to build a pretend field hospital and splint broken bones. Cheerful!

A lot of what is captioned as semaphore is just pictures of people waving flags around.

I guess it’s a simple as making kids memorize something. We had to memorize stuff. But why semaphore and why girls?

January 31, 2024 — 8:23 pm
Comments: 8


A week after the queen died, some chump got on Ebay and tried to auction off her stick. Well, not actually her stick, dude was a fraud. Winning bid, in the end, was £540 – though he quickly closed the auction when he got wind that the police were investigating.

How you know the police are looking into something online, I have no idea. How the police got involved, I haven’t a clue.

The story here, as far as I’m concerned, is the lengths the police and the Crown Prosecution Service went to convict him. That it went to trial at all is a bit of a surprise, but they bothered to round up “extensive computer evidence” – which couldn’t have been cheap. For a very petty crime that resulted in, basically, a year’s probation. It just seems an insane use of police and the courts.

Believe me, there are much worse things that get much less attention. I wonder if there are special police that do online searches for the royal family all day?

January 30, 2024 — 8:26 pm
Comments: 1

Paying my dues

I finally broke down and subscribed to the Epic Times. Of all the sources that turn up in my news feed or Twitter stream, that’s the one I follow links to the most. It’s spicy, but not too spicy.

I know, I know – it’s Falun Gong, about which I don’t know a whole lot except what I read in the Wikipedia article: that they follow one man who they believe is “a God-like figure who can levitate, walk through walls and see into the future.” It’s still a good newspaper.

A reminder that the Washington Times was originally the Moonies and Moon thought Jesus came to him and personally asked him to spread the word. It is and always has been pretty mainstream right.

What it is with far East personality cults and conservative media, I do not know.

I’ve been feeling like I should give money to the sources I use most. I try, but it’s like most shareware – you can have 90% of it for free, or you can have all of it for $100. That goes zero to sixty a little fast for me.

Anyway, they offered me three months for £9.99 so we’ll see how it goes.

The illustration is the Five Exercises of Falun Gong. I don’t know anything about them, either, but can’t resist goofy Chinese hoo-ha like Buddha Showing a Thousand Hands.

January 29, 2024 — 7:52 pm
Comments: 8

It sounded like a Spitfire

As I was leaving the office today, there was a nondescript gray car about to pull out of a parking spot in front of me. I think it’s the one in the picture, but not so shiny. I can’t tell you how ordinary it looked. If you told me it was a Kia Sportage I’d believe it.

Then he turned the key and it had the most extraordinary engine sound. I waited for him to pull away so I could see the make and folks…it was a Lambo!

Tragic. Expensive cars don’t look it any more.

As an exercise, I’ve been tempted for years to photoshop pictures of the front and back ends of a bunch of cars with the badge covered and see if anyone could correctly rank them by value. But that would be a lot of work and I’m super lazy.

Have a good weekend!

January 26, 2024 — 5:38 pm
Comments: 6

Last one, I swear

Furbies are beloved of hackers and soft toy makers and have appeared with all sorts of modifications and customizations. Of all the variations the one with most staying power forsomedamnreason is the long Furby.

An Etsy search of “long furby” calls up horrors beyond the imagination (I kind of like the All Seeing Lemon, though).

A lot of custom Furbies are made preferentially with non-working toys, so even broken they maintain value.

The picture is not of three long Furbies, though. It’s a three-headed long Furby. Making of here. The same guy made a much more interesting 44-Furby organ.

Okay, that’s it. Everybody say goodbye to Toh-loo Kah.

January 25, 2024 — 5:42 pm
Comments: 4

Furbish: the language of gibberish

It’s not gibberish, actually. It’s not much of a language, but there was an attempt at meaningful grammar. The original Furby had a vocabulary of 42 words, expanded in later versions. Yes, there were later versions, including one that came out in 2023.

They had 24 possible names, which were also meaningful phrases in Furbish, chosen randomly at startup. Toh-loo Kah is one of the most common. It means Like Me, which is a little needy, bud.

A new Furby speaks entirely in Furbish, which slowly switches to English (or one of six other languages) over time. The marketing implied that it learned your language by listening to you. This caused the NSA to ban Furbies from the workplace for a while, for fear it could record.

In truth, the microphone is so weak as to be nearly pointless. If you clap your hands next to it, the thing might say “big sound!” – and that’s about it. Hardly seems worth the expense of putting one in.

So how does it slowly switch languages? That seems oddly sophisticated to me, to start with one set of programmed sounds and gradually shift to a different one. I don’t understand how data is stored and manipulated on a circuit board. It seems likely to me that the words swap in a fixed order and fixed schedule.

The Wikipedia article says it would use phrases more often if you petted it when it said them. That seems a little too sophisticated to me, too.

Can confirm the one I got spoke mostly English when it arrived, but switched back to Furbish after a hard reset. It also forgot its original name, but I could never quite make that out anyway.

It’s got a little battery in it that recharges from fresh batteries, so it doesn’t forget what it’s “learned” after a battery change. I assume this is the root cause of some of the creepy Furby stories of them doing something without the batteries in.

Seriously, plug “creepy Furby stories” into YouTube.

January 24, 2024 — 6:50 pm
Comments: 2

There’s more than one way to skin a Furby

Of course I took Toh-loo Kah apart. Because of course I did.

I watched a ton of Furby skinning and disassembly videos. It’s surprising how many manufacturing differences there are between examples. Mine had a quirk where the microphone wouldn’t detach from the case. Meaning I couldn’t take the case all the way off unless I wanted a soldering job (no). Which means it wasn’t very photogenic. Which means I stole a frame out of someone else’s YouTube for the photo.

I hope he feels suitably recompensed by a link to his channel (don’t worry. It’s not a Furby channel. It’s mostly engine repair).

The innards are pretty complicated. Behind the eyes, there’s a series of vertical gears that drive the moving parts – the eyes, ears, beak and…I guess you’d call it the waist. All of these are set to slip easily without stressing gear teeth, because they knew kids are going to mess with all those joints. The movements track the speech appropriately. (I say this because Fake Furbies often don’t. Yes, there were fake Furbies).

Beneath that, a small motor drives the gears, tucked behind the speaker. You can just see the motor turn without completely disassembling. On the left side, the microphone. On the right, the tilt sensor (I couldn’t find it, though).

The white button under his thumb is a touch control the mechanism responds to. The speaker is behind that. There is another button on the back that elicits different responses. The tongue is also a sensor.

I counted three circuit boards, one large one that formed the base and two small ones wired to it vertically.

Oh, and the triangular thing between its eyes is an infra-red sensor. This enables two Furbies to talk to each other. Supposedly, you can trigger it with the TV remote, but I didn’t have any luck. Our TV remote is shit, though.

I gently q-tipped the innards, washed the skin and put it back together again. I didn’t break it all the way down – that would be too much like work.

On the whole, it’s both complicated and delicate. It’s amazing how many of them are still working after 26 years.

January 23, 2024 — 6:11 pm
Comments: 5

His name is Toh-loo Kah

I secretly wanted a Furby when they came out in 1998, but I was a grown-ass 38-year-old woman and forebore. Also, they went from the original $30 to hundreds on the gray market because supply couldn’t keep up with the demand that Christmas.

This model was made 1998 to 2001 and there were ultimately 40 million sold, so there are still quite a few kicking about.

This is an original ’98 version (they got more colorful and decorated as time went on).I paid £19.99 on Ebay for what was described as a non-working original model. I had intended to take it apart for fun. I was almost disappointed to discover it works fine.

Well, except it suffers from a common glitch called me sleep again: immediately after waking up, it says the magic words and goes back to sleep again. There are various ways to shake him out off it, but the bug will always come back. Something like 20% of the ones that still work have this glitch.

One site says it has to do with the tilt sensor – a little metal ball in a cage – getting gummy and dirty. The Furby thinks it’s fallen over, so me sleep again would be a perfectly reasonable response. Would also explain why turning it upside down and shaking it makes it better for a while.

Well, I’ve had fun. I’ll keep waking it up until I catch Uncle B tip-toeing into the room with a hammer.

January 22, 2024 — 6:58 pm
Comments: 5

Dead pool 176: here comes February!

The Honeymooners cast reunion is on at last: Joyce Randolph has passed and p2 has dick. Now that I see her picture, I realize I had her crossed with Vivian Vance from I Love Lucy (who died a thousand years ago). Never a fan of the Honeymooners.

Well, the weather is depressing as hell here. Let’s cheer ourselves up by thinking about the deaths of famous people.


0. Rule Zero (AKA Steve’s Rule): your pick has to be living when picked. Also, nobody whose execution date is circled on the calendar. Also, please don’t kill anybody. Plus (Pupster’s Rule) no picking someone who’s only famous for being the oldest person alive.

1. Pick a celebrity. Any celebrity — though I reserve the right to nix picks I never heard of (I don’t generally follow the Dead Pool threads carefully, so if you’re unsure of your pick, call it to my attention).

2. We start from scratch every time. No matter who you had last time, or who you may have called between rounds, you have to turn up on this very thread and stake your claim.

3. Poaching and other dirty tricks positively encouraged.

4. Your first choice sticks. Don’t just blurt something out, m’kay? Also, make sure you have a correct spelling of your choice somewhere in your comment. These threads get longish and I use search to figure out if we have a winner.

5. It’s up to you to search the thread and make sure your choice is unique. I’m waayyyy too lazy to catch the dupes. Popular picks go fast.

6. The pool stays open until somebody on the list dies. Feel free to jump in any time. Noobs, strangers, drive-bys and one-comment-wonders — all are welcome.

7. If you want your fabulous prize, you have to entrust me with a mailing address. If you’ve won before, send me your address again. I don’t keep good records.

8. The new DeadPool will begin 6pm WBT (Weasel’s Blog Time) the Friday after the last round is concluded.

The winner, if the winner chooses to entrust me with a mailing address, will receive an Official Certificate of Dick Winning and a small original drawing on paper suffused with elephant shit particles. Because I’m fresh out of fairy shit particles.

Note: I am woefully behind on dick deliveries. If I owe you one, you’ll know how long. I ain’t gived up, but I haven’t drawn much since lockdown. Some day, your heirs might hear from my heirs.

January 19, 2024 — 6:00 pm
Comments: 48

Twitter thinks I’m hate speeching vampires

I’m in Twitter jail. Boo. You know what I said? “Hillary won’t give up until we bury her at the crossroads with a stake through her heart.”

Twelve hours. I keep forgetting and trying to interact with people. Stupid algorithm.

Also, I’m right. Calling it. Hillary will get herself on the ballot.

See you back here tomorrow for the Dead Pool!

January 18, 2024 — 6:33 pm
Comments: 9