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Recognize this jar?


Uncle B is a charter member of the Doctor Haterz Club. He goes to a qualified medical herbalist, who manages to keep his blood pressure and other complaints well under control. Has done for years.

Actually, he’s been to several. It’s a thing here. Alternate therapies in general; I think it’s partly a side effect of the uselessness of the NHS (but I won’t go into ‘whiny immigrant’ mode).

No comment on some of the alternative therapies, but the medical herbalist thing is a proper specialty with, like, real qualifications in actual medical schools and advanced degrees and shit.

I’ve been messing about with herbal remedies lately. Not the prepared things. I’ve been buying herbs and making teas. Like, I have insomnia. I went to a herb supplier, ordered 250 grams of everything that’s supposed to make you sleepy, and I make a big ass jar of tea with it every night. Like, five or six infusions.

Hells yes, it’s working. I’ve been sleeping like a baby. A drunken baby with serious neurological deficiencies who pulled an all-nighter studying for a baby exam. Seriously, I have to cut back on this shit.

So Uncle B made me confess what I was doing to the herbalist today (in case I was poisoning myself. You can buy some pretty heavy herbs by mail order). Not only did she approve my ingredients, my quantities and my methods (I did look it up on the internet first — honest), but she made some further suggestions and offered to add my requests to her next order. I don’t suppose her suppliers are necessarily any purer, but they are sure as shit cheaper.

Anyway, I’ve been making herbal teas in this jar since forever. It’s nice and heavy, it has a handle (!), it’s just perfect. I’d like another. I’m quite sure I bought this whateveritwas entirely for the jar in a supermarket in New England. I believe it was something in the ethnic Italian (or perhaps Spanish or Portuguese) section. And it was something like olives or pimientos or something.

Anybody recognize?

Oh, and happy Equinox. Technically, it’s Wednesday, but the 21st is the thing. Autumn is upon us!

September 21, 2015 — 10:46 pm
Comments: 14

Those bubbles worry me


Now, that’s serious manspreading. Geralt of Rivia has got hisself some awful babysoft feet, don’t he? My tootsies are gnarlier than that and I’m not a 100-year-old professional monster slayer.

That’s how you know it’s fantasy. That, and the multicolored enchanted lobster that’s just about to crawl into the tub.

Have a good weekend! Y’all know what I’ll be doing.

September 18, 2015 — 10:15 pm
Comments: 9

See ya in the Spring


Yeah, I finally broke down and bought this thing. Hey, it was 30% off! Which is…still a shit-ton more money than I’m usually willing to pay for a game.

But I knew I would love this one.

And I do.

I wondered if any enterprising soul had made reproductions of that pendant he wears around his neck. Nah. Just, like, EVERYBODY.

‘Scuse me. Gotta go kill a griffin. Signed a contract.

September 17, 2015 — 10:12 pm
Comments: 13

To my fellow arachnophobes: for this picture, I am truly sorry


This thing is a false widow. Looks a bit like a black widow, has a moderately nasty bite, is a relative newcomer to the UK, and we’re promised a bumper crop of them this Fall.

Here’s the line that has everyone falling about, though: “The generally warm year with few cold snaps and no floods or droughts has meant there are more insects than usual for the poisonous arachnid to feed on…”

It has been fucking freezing this Summer. I’ve never known anything like it. We had the heat on, like, four times in July. We also had drought conditions for most of it, followed by flooding. Winter was relatively wet and mild — I’ll give them that — but the rest is pure Met Office fantasy.

So are we really expecting more false widows than usual? Nobody knows. Our ‘scientists’ are so loathe to contradict the dogma of global warming, we never know when the news is news and when it’s voodoo ritual.

September 16, 2015 — 10:33 pm
Comments: 7

Bad things happen when you fall asleep in public


I didn’t sleep well last night, for some unknown reason. So, while Uncle B went into Tesco’s for a few things, I decided to snooze in the car.

Bad idea. Left on his own to shop, Uncle B bought me a treat. Or, rather, a ‘treat.’ Viz., a box of Twinkies. Taste of home and all that.

I gather the cashier hadn’t seen such a thing before, and she and Uncle B took turns poking it with a stick.

And no wonder — look at the ingredients. All the things marked with an asterisk are genetically modified. I count six. Now, I’m not constitutionally averse to GMO’s, but I have to wonder why anyone would need to tinker with the genetic code for glucose syrup.

Tasted nasty. More that the texture was nasty. Kind of excessively springy. And either I’ve grown to gigantic proportions, or these things are about a third the size they used to be.

But I’m sure…I’m sure if they made Suzy Q‘s again, they’d be just how I remember.

September 15, 2015 — 8:46 pm
Comments: 25

Under the Sign of the Clown





Hello! Whole lot of crazy in the air over here right now. Refugees! Marxists! Tornadoes!

And I’m just sitting here making keychains with pictures of the Duke of Wellington.

Yeah, 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo this year, in case you missed it. Kind of a big deal.

The flower arrangement? A Tribute to Cape Canaveral, if I recall aright. Another one from a church flower festival.

Times like these, I cling to the advice my old mother gave me: “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet. And wear clean panties, in case you get in an accident and have to go to the emergency room.”




p.s. 200 year old tree blows over, thousand year old skeleton pops out. It’s a nuthouse, I tell ya.


September 14, 2015 — 10:24 pm
Comments: 7

Good weekend, all!

I don’t post on September 11. I don’t have anything to say, but I certainly can’t let it pass like an ordinary day, so I just give the whole thing a miss when it falls on a weekday. It is not a day for jesters.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

September 11, 2015 — 7:11 pm
Comments: 5

Always, some new geekery


You know how you’re playing a Dungeons ‘n’ Dragons kind of computer game, and you buy some food, and it’s, like, five gold pieces? Congratulations! You’ve just paid seven million bucks for a turnip!

Making currency denominations match real life experience was a recurring problem since the Middle Ages, at least. A gold piece was more than a peasant was likely to earn in a lifetime. A copper piece more than a week’s wages. So how the hell was the poor bastard supposed to buy a bowl of soup?

The value of a coin was wedded to the value of the metal it was made from until — well, until we were kids. Remember getting a silver dime or quarter in your change? Early coins were often scored with a cross, so they could be cut into quarters and the quarters spent separately. Copper coins were of the least value, and still people shaved lumps off them and melted them down to make counterfeits.

And still official government coins were in very short supply. Lack of coins in the lowest denominations became an acute problem in the middle 18th C, when more and more people were leaving the land to work in town and couldn’t be paid their wages in pig faces and corn shucks. By 1786, two-thirds of the coins in circulation were fake, and the Royal Mint responded by…wait, shutting itself down? The government refused to strike any copper coins at all in their own right for 48 years, from 1773 until 1821.

But capitalism finds a way. In 1768, one of the largest veins of copper in the world was found in Parys Mountain, Wales. Within twenty years — having failed to sell their anti-counterfeit coin ideas to the government — the Parys Mine Company was making and minting their own copper half pennies to pay their workers. These weren’t regarded as fake anything, as they didn’t pretend to be government issued and were valued based on the weight of the metal. Within a few years, thousands of such half pennies were designed and circulated by individuals, companies, towns, organizations, taking the heat off government.

They were instant collectibles — which explains why there are still so many to be had today in excellent condition. Because they were privately made, the designs range from beautiful to political to goofy. One of the very first collectors and cataloguers was a man named James Conder (1761–1823), hence halfpenny tokens are called Conder Tokens (often misspelled “Condor” on eBay, be advised). By the early 19th C, the government got back in the coin business and outlawed private tokens. The vast majority of private halfpennies bear a date in the 1790s.

Do I collect Conder Tokens? Um, kind of. I collect pictures of the ones I like from eBay. The one at top was designed by the Oddfellows (and it can be yours for a newly discounted price of £42.49!). Many can be had for much less, though, and I’m sorely tempted when local coins come up for sale.

Whenever I think I have discovered all the geekery there is…

September 10, 2015 — 9:44 pm
Comments: 10

Congratz to Her Maj


At 5:30 this evening, my time — about four hours ago — Queen Elizabeth the Twoth became the longest-reigning British monarch. Sixty three years a queen. The British papers are full of it, if you’re interested, but I cribbed a few numbers from the Observer:

33,446,430 minutes – approximate length of Elizabeth’s II reign when she set the new record. This works out as 23,226 days, 16 hours and 30 minutes.

12 – prime ministers who have served Elizabeth II since she became the Queen. The first was Winston Churchill (1951-55); the latest is David Cameron (2010 to date).

10 – hours the Queen has spent reading out speeches at the State Opening of Parliament. She has delivered the speech in person 62 times. She doesn’t get to write it, though. Boo.

7 – Archbishops of Canterbury to have served the Queen. The first was Geoffrey Fisher, who officiated at her marriage and coronation. The others were Michael Ramsey, Donald Coggan, Robert Runcie, George Carey, Rowan Williams and Justin Welby.

97 – state visits the Queen has undertaken so far. Her first was to Norway in June 1955. Her most recent was to Germany in June 2015.

173 – visits by the Queen to Commonwealth countries. Her first was to Kenya, where she learned she had become Queen on February 6 1952. Her most recent was to Australia in October 2011. The Telegraph said the Commonwealth still covers a quarter of the world’s population, but I’m damned if I can find the quote now.

2 – countries that have left the Commonwealth during the Queen’s reign: Zimbabwe (in 2003) and the Gambia (in 2013). How’s that workin’ out for them?

0 – passports the Queen has held. She has no need for one, as all British passports are issued in her name. Extra trivia: for a similar reason, she can’t sing the national anthem. How would that go? “God save our gracious ME”?

56 – televised Christmas messages delivered by the Queen. Her first was transmitted live in 1957, while the first pre-recorded TV message was in 1959. There has been a televised message every year since 1957 except in 1969, when a repeat of the film Royal Family was shown. I don’t know why.

109 – state visits hosted by the Queen. The first was a visit by King Gustaf VI and Queen Louise of Sweden in June 1954. The most recent was a visit by the president of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto and his wife Angelica Rivera de Pena in March 2015.

50,000 – number of people the Queen hosts in an average year at banquets, lunches, dinners, receptions and garden parties at Buckingham Palace. I know several people who’ve been to a garden party at Buck House since I’ve been here, so I can believe it. Not me, though. I’d knick the silverware.

67 – years the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have been married. They will celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary on November 20, 2015.

She’s got a way to go to be the longest serving monarch ever, though (scroll down).

That reminds me: I need to get my citizenship sorted while I can still take the oath to this nice old lady.

September 9, 2015 — 8:49 pm
Comments: 11

Harder than it looks


Same church as yesterday, but a whole lot higher and harder than it looks. It costs a pound to go up the church tower, and I got three steps up and chickened last time. This time I was determined.

The staircase is stone and just barely wide enough for one person. They have men with walkie-talkies stationed at both ends so two people don’t get into the tower at once. The risers are steep and the stairs are wide enough for less than half of my big clown foot. There’s a big-ass rope and you pull yourself up that sucker all the way to the top.

Truth is, it’s so narrow, I don’t think you could possible fall far. But it’s scary as shit.

I had a terrible fear I’d get up there and be unable to come down (I have a history of this, ever since I got myself up that fire observation tower in 1967 and got stuck), but for once it was easier down than up.

Maybe next year I’ll hang around and get more pictures.

September 8, 2015 — 10:41 pm
Comments: 12