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At the stroke of midnight I made my deadline! I hate to take on freelance work and never solicit it, but when I get axed I don’t know how to say no. Particularly as it’s a display for a local charity.

Charities. Making you feel guilty since…forever.

Anyhoo, in the comments to the previous post, the question came up — why does that banjo have four strings, but six tuners? See, this is why I love British banjos. They’re so gosh-darned weird.

That is actually a five-string banjo, and it’s strung typically for a zither banjo. Observe the headstock in the picture above (a banjo of mine, and one that I’m convinced was made out of a piano stool).

Four strings go directly from the headstock, across the nut to the bridge. One goes into a little hole (indicated by the arrow), under the fingerboard in a tube, and pops out at the fifth fret. That’s called a ‘tunneled fifth.’

And the sixth peg? Just for show. Some British banjo makers claimed that three pegs on one side and two on the other just wouldn’t look aesthetically pleasing, so they made the tuners pointlessly symmetrical.

I once suspected that this was boolsheet and they did it because standard three-on-a-side tuners were mass produced and cheaper, but you sometimes see this arrangement on the fanciest and most expensive of zither banjos. So…artard, I guess.

Sorry I gave you short shrift this week. What the hell is shrift, come to think of it? Oh. Google says it’s confession, like to a priest. If you give shrift, you are shriven. Okay. Back here tomorrow, 6pm WBT — DEAD POOL ROUND 86!

June 9, 2016 — 11:10 pm
Comments: 7



A man was walking around Dover when he happened upon a little antique shop, so he went in and took a look around. Way up on a high shelf he saw a little brass mouse figurine, and he really liked it. He asked the owner how much it was, and the guy said, “It’s £20 for the mouse, and £50 Mousefor the story that goes with it.”

Well, the man didn’t care about any old story, he just liked the little brass mouse, so he paid the guy £20 and walked out with the mouse in a brown paper bag. As he was walking home, he noticed the figurine was hollow with two little holes. Holding it up to his mouth, it made a melodious whistle. No sooner that he started, he was being followed by three little mice. When he stopped, they stopped. When he turned left, they turned left.

“Whoa, this is creeping me out,” he thought.

As he walked, the mice were joined by more mice, until our hero looked like the Pied Piper. He started to run, and he wound up at the edge of Dover’s White Cliffs. All the mice in town are right behind him. He is so freaked out that he throws the bag with the brass mouse over the cliff and into the water, and all the little mice jump after it, fall into the ocean, and drown.

“Man, this is weird!” he says. He goes back to the antique store, and the owner doesn’t seem surprised to see him. “Ahhh, you’ve come back to hear the story!” he says to our dilapidated hero.

“No, man,” says he, “I was just wondering if you have any little brass banjo players?”

Yeah, I fobbed you off with a banjo joke. I brought more work home with me tonight. I thought I was supposed to be semi-retired or something.

But don’t be sad — look at this beautiful banjo up for sale on eBay. It’s a Cammeyer Vibrante. If you ain’t never seen no banjo like ‘at before, it’s because it’s a zither banjo. A British thing that never made it back over the pond, for all kinds of reasons.

Well, Alfred Cammeyer, the inventor of the zither banjo, was an American, but he was stranded in London and forced to invent weird banjos to survive. We do what we must!

June 8, 2016 — 10:39 pm
Comments: 19

Lookit the pretties


Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800) was a Japanese painter and Zen Buddhist lay brother who painted many subjects in nature, but famously birds. Mostly famously CHIKKENS! Particularly roosters.

He’s well worth checking out — his paintings are more naturalistic and less stylized than many of his contemporaries, but nevertheless beautifully detailed and formalized. I’ve spent a happy hour banging around Google Images search.

This year is the 300th anniversary of his birth, so there’s lots of his stuff to look at online, though sadly much of the accompanying text is Japanese.

But this? This is not an Itō Jakuchū cockerel. This is a cookie in the exact shape of an Itō Jakuchū cockerel. And a pretty good copy it is, too.


Thanks to Bob Mulroy for sending me this fun link.

June 7, 2016 — 7:20 pm
Comments: 13

Worth a hundred bucks of anybody’s money



You’re one of the few people who can appreciate my recent acquisition, a small statue/table/nightstand featuring a chicken. It’s carved from teak wood, and I bought it at an antique sale outside of Tokyo.

These antique dealers buy most of their stuff from local Shinto and Buddhist temples. With the small houses maintained by most Japanese (relative to Western homes), people who inherit their parents’ belongings rarely have space for all of it. So they donate it to the local temples, who sell it to generate additional income. The antique dealers snap up most of it and resell it – at a much higher prices, of course. This little item set me back 100 USD, but it was worth it. : )

I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Regards from Japan,
tinman in the comments

Majestic! Mag-nificent! I should point out, though, it’s surprisingly difficult to say the Teak Chicken of Tokyo.

Yeah, you just tried it, didn’t you?

So I finished my Chickenology course with an grade average of 92% (there’s always that one question). Learned a lot (really), enjoyed it much, got the certificate. I wonder how long I’ll have to wait before someone asks to see my credentials.

One more time, I highly recommend the site: Coursera. Their catalogue of classes is extensive, offered in association with some very good schools and, it looks to me though I haven’t done it yet, if you enroll properly you can audit courses for free.

June 6, 2016 — 7:46 pm
Comments: 10

…this just in…

Me. I’m just in.

The whole neighborhood got together for a BBQ tonight. The wine did flow, the burgers did broil. Sadly, it’s still fucking freezing, so we all had to huddle together inside.

Didn’t much slow us down.

What we have for weather is the very edge of the same system that’s dumped so much rain on France, Germany and Austria. Don’t know if you saw — they had to evacuate the paintings from the basement of the Louvre. I think they said the Seine was fifteen feet above its usual level.

No rain for us (for the most part). Just clouds and cold. It’s supposed to start improving tomorrow.

But for tonight, we sleep off the festivities. Have a good weekend, peeps!

¡Atención! Montenegro wins the dick with Muhammad Ali! See everyone back here next Friday for DEAD POOL ROUND 86.

June 3, 2016 — 9:54 pm
Comments: 11



My sharpening stones came today, and this was tucked into the box. Actually, hippie jokes aside, I can quite see a Tai Chi of scything being a sensible thing. When you watch the smooth, controlled, thoughtful movements of a good scyther, you can definitely see how applying the principles could help. Especially since the beginner’s instinct is to slash and thrash.

The two stones I got were a very fine Rozsutec and a slightly coarser Bregenzer. The coarser stone is easier for a beginner though, obviously, rougher on the tool. The Bregenzer Quarry is now closed, so no more stones will come out once the supply is exhausted.

You don’t need to know all that, though. I do. I use you guys as a daily diary.

You knew that, yes?

June 2, 2016 — 8:41 pm
Comments: 16

Hug a chicken


I woke up feeling inexplicably sad this morning. Do you ever do that? It must be a lingering something from a dream.

Though we are having the most awful, depressing weather: relentlessly gray and cold. Like, seriously, heat on at night, everybody back in their sweaters and coats. Something to do with the Gulf Stream faffing around ineffectually. All the wind is coming straight down from the North.

First day of June, my butt.

This is the last week of my chickenology course, and it’s on commercial farming, slaughtering and culling. Well, of course it is.

I’m’a go take a hot bath…

June 1, 2016 — 9:34 pm
Comments: 13

Two things…


Do you ever get a matched pair of news items cross your threshold; two things that interlock in a horrible way?

This lady was murdered and her murderer (relationship unclear) posted pictures of her body (and his; he cut himself up too) on her FaceBook account.

The snuff pictures stayed up for days, despite the efforts of several family members to have them removed, because some drone on FB couldn’t see how they violated policies. Her sister said, “They told me I could block Jennifer if I didn’t like what she posted and gave me other similar options.” Didn’t like what Jennifer posted. Jennifer is the murdered woman. She’s not posting much at the moment.

Followed shortly by this Breitbart item:

The European Commission has today announced a partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft in order to crack down on what it classes as “illegal hate speech” while “criminaliz[ing]” perpetrators and “promoting independent counter-narratives” that the European Union favours.

The article is worth a read. Bearing in mind that we don’t have good speech protections here and bearing in mind most of Europe was until very recently some flavor of monarchy or dictatorship so they’re pretty comfy with that and bearing in mind the EU is a bunch of corrupt lefty kleptocrats, this is all pretty scary.

What ties the two together is that gatekeepers are stupid. That’s one flaw of cracking down — who decides where the line is? Either the first responders are scripts and bots (hence people in poor old Scunthorpe couldn’t get their mail from AOL servers back in the day), or they’re overworked, poorly-compensated human flunkies with a good amount of autonomy and delusions of adequacy. Either way, mistakes happen. Nothing but mistakes happen. Whole galloping herds of stampeding mistakes will happen.

My personal FaceBook is as pure as the driven snow — nothing but innocuous people I know (not counting that one brother), history and chicken groups — but something as mild as this post in a different context could land me in shit, if the EU gets its way.

May 31, 2016 — 9:30 pm
Comments: 13

I learned a thing!


We went to the country show on Saturday and it was awesome (the weather cooperated and everything) and I bought a scythe and a sickle! w00t!

Now some of my handier readers may know how this thing is done, but I did not. Using either a scythe or sickle in the field, the blades need to be resharpened every five or ten minutes. An unsharp scythe is a misery. This is done with a lozenge-shaped stone kept on your belt in a holster half full of water.

This looks completely badass. Mine are in the mail.

But after a day’s mowing, or less if you’re mowing something hard, the blades need peening (which is sadly not as rude as it sounds). What you do is hammer a couple of millimeters of metal at the edge until it is super thin. Not only does this mash out knicks and dings, but it makes the blade thin enough to take a good edge from a smooth stone.

This is done with a one-pound hammer on a peening anvil, which is not a bigass anvil like they drop on people’s heads in cartoons, but a little shiny thing. Eh, have a YouTube.

The dude on the left in the painting is using a portable peening anvil they used to take out in the fields and stick in the ground. You can still get those. (Painting by Léon Augustin Lhermitte).

If you’re a casual mower, you can get away with filing the edge to shape. That’s what I’ll do. I don’t honestly see myself peening in the near future and, trust me, I’m going to be the most casual of casual mowers.

You’d think you’d hammer the blade away to nothing in no time, but there are plenty of very old scythes and sickles to be had. Though if I were serious, I’d buy a modern one.

If you wonder why bother, do a YouTube search of “scythe vs strimmer” — spoiler: scythe always wins.

May 30, 2016 — 8:53 pm
Comments: 14

Have a good ‘un

Naw, it’s not really Weasel Day. I posted that old graphic because I FINISHED ALL MY WORK and I feel like a fairytale princess because I get to have a three-day week just like people.

And so, my imaginary internet friends, what are you doing for Memorial Day?

May 27, 2016 — 9:45 pm
Comments: 18