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Pre-decimal mental math

I pinched the illustration off this person on Pinterest. I hope she regards the link as sufficient payment.

You want to see a wrinkly British face light up? Bring out some pre-decimal currency. Britain switched to a decimal system in 1971, but before that they had a base 12 currency. Everything’s ones, threes, sixes, twelves and twenty-fours. It’s fiendishly hard if you’re used to decimal.

They can rattle it off like nothing. AND they remember what things cost back then, too. We ran across a bag of old money in the archives today, and off they went!

If something costs one pound, two shillings and sixpence you could pay with a sovereign, a florin and a sixpence OR ten florins, two shillings, two tuppences and two pence OR two crowns, two half crowns, a thruppenny bit, a ha’penny and two farthings. You get the idea.

Try it yourself! In pennies (d), it’s:

Farthing: ¼d
Ha’pence: ½d
Penny: 1d
Tuppence: 2d
Threepence (thruppenny bit): 3d
Groat: 4d
Sixpence: 6d
Shilling AKA ‘bob’: 12d
Florin: 24d
Half crown: 30d
Crown: 100d
Sovereign: 240d (£1)
Guinea: 240d (£1)

You ought to see how they beam over a train timetable.

February 3, 2023 — 7:45 pm
Comments: 17

Sad news

It’s okay – they’re not going out of business, they’re just moving.

If you’re interested, here is an article about it in the Museums and Heritage Advisor, because this is a for real serious museum that I got notice of in my work account, y’all.

I feel like there’s a wealth of vagina-related puns to be had here and I’m too much of a square to see them.

If you poke around their website, be warned: they make their money from merchandise.

January 30, 2023 — 6:42 pm
Comments: 5

Happy Solstice!

Welcome to the shortest day, the day we turn Stonehenge over to smelly hippies who have no more idea what the builders of Stonehenge believed than my chickens have.

I love this picture (uncredited); it shows how close Stonehenge is to a couple of major roads. See where the road splits in the upper left corner. The Heel Stone, middle left, is practically on the side of the road.

I was shocked. It loomed out of the plain like a Texaco station.

Still, there are 1,000 less famous stone circles left in the UK. Plenty of places to cavort naked on the solstice. Tip: pick the Summer solstice.

From here, Winter begins, but the days get longer again. I’ll take it.

In the thread before this one, tomfrompv suggested someone might want a break from my low effort holiday shitposting by submitting a guest post. If you’re burnin’ to be published on a low traffic but very elderly blog, message me at stoaty@sweasel.com.

December 21, 2022 — 5:48 pm
Comments: 7

Marie, peas and leeks

My cabbage friend below put me in mind of Marie Lloyd and her music hall number “She Sits among the Cabbages and Peas.”

Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
With a pretty little peapot ‘tween her knees
She’s a whiz at shelling peas
So she sits and shells with ease
Till the pretty little peapot’s full of peas.

Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
And she talks to all the little bugs and bees.
They climb up her legs and arms
And all round her other charms.
They see lots of things nobody ever sees.

Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
With her little dress away above her knees.
All the boys that pass her way
Stand and stare and wish that they
Were that pretty little peapot ‘tween her knees.

Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas
And the little birds are singing in the trees
Waiting till she falls asleep,
Then fly down and take a peek
At her pretty little peapot full of peas.

Oh, among the cabbages and peas she sits,
And her pretty little dress so tightly fits
When she stoops to take a pea
That’s the time that you can see
That she’s got a pair of very lovely hips.

Oh, she sits among the cabbages and peas,
But one day she felt so very ill at ease.
She was sitting on a hole.
In that hole there was a mole.
It’s no wonder that she felt so ill at ease.

Quote: The lyrics of “I sits among the cabbages and peas” raised some objections so on one occasion she changed them to “I sits among the cabbages and leeks” much to the delight of the audience.

You can hear it here, if you’ve a mind to.

October 19, 2022 — 6:44 pm
Comments: 3

Today’s word: ambrotype

Today, a man brought in a whole box of wonderful family ambrotypes. This was a cheaper photographic process than the daguerreotype and was later superseded by the tintype.

That helped us date them neatly from some time in the early 1850s to the early 1860s. Not that he didn’t have his documentation together!

One was a very elderly man – possibly a posthumous portrait – meaning I reckon he was born around 1780. He had an old-fashioned cravat to prove it. Spooky.

(Not the example picture, though. That’s an ambrotype of Abe Lincoln. I think we can all agree Abe was a very freaky looking dude).

The man was donating all these family pictures and the meticulous research that went along with them. People do that a lot – give us their family histories. I think they feel they’ve done a duty by handing them over. We’ll get the names in our database and future historians will have access.

The best part? He knew who every one of those people were and he had documentation to go with them.

People, I am begging you – with my professional hat on – don’t leave all your pictures digital. Print your favorites and write on the back who they are.

RIP Angela Lansbury. G_d’s Middle Finger take the dick. Back here. Friday.
Dead Pool 159.

October 11, 2022 — 7:37 pm
Comments: 10

A thing I had to do today

Today, as part of a parcel of documents relating to the early history of the local Girl Guides troop (Girl Scouts to you ‘n’ me), we received a small silver bowl that was given as a prize. I was asked to interpret the hallmarks.

So here you go. There are four or five marks on a fully hallmarked bit of British silver.

The Standard Mark identifies it as sterling. This one – the lion passant – means it was assayed in London or other English assay office.

The Town Mark is what it sounds like. The crown is for Sheffield.

Some hallmarks have a Duty Mark, which tells you if duty has been paid. It’s a queen or king’s head. This one doesn’t have it.

Now that we know the town, we can look up the Date Letters for Sheffield. This is a little harder. There are several lowercase G or Q marks. I’m calling this one for 1908 based on the gothic style letter. It fits with the provenance of the object, but there’s a little knob on the corner of the letter worries me a bit.

Finally, the Maker’s Mark. HW in a plain rectangle – I made this out as Henry Wilkinson – a fine Sheffield silversmith. I was chuffed.

But then I noticed the dot between the H and the W, which would make it Henry Wigful. Who at least has the redemptive quality of an amusing last name.

And that’s that. Now the lot goes into a box and the box goes into a cupboard and there it will lie until some future scholar asks some future office weasel what she has on the Girl Guides.

October 4, 2022 — 7:51 pm
Comments: 3

The most famous spider in history, y’all

An estimated five point two billion people saw this little eight-legged ham today. And almost no-one saw Meghan.

You can’t tell me that was chance. Nothing at these ceremonies is by chance. At every turn she was behind a candle or a pillar or a tall guy blocking her face. Also, spider bro got closer to the crown than she’ll ever get.

Seriously, however you feel about monarchy, if you weren’t part of the 60-some percent of the planet that supposedly watched this thing, do watch some of the footage. Brits do these pageants brilliantly, always.

Also, your girl got the day off!

September 19, 2022 — 5:49 pm
Comments: 8

Two old favorites

An article about the Antikythera mechanism came across my Twitter feed today. I’m sure you’ve heard of it and I’ve posted about it before because I think it’s really neat.

Over time, they’ve learned more and more about it and what it originally looked at. The surviving bits represent about a third of the original mechanism. They’ve managed to recreate it, both in computer simulation and for reals. (I think the illustration above is a 3D model).

Interesting stuff.

The thing about this is, I’m not sure why, I overheard Uncle B have a conversation about the Antikythera mechanism on the phone last night. And then the article today. And that, friends, is the Baader-Meinhof Effect, and I’ve posted about that before, too. (Scroll down; it’s a discussion in the comments).

Good weekend, everyone!

January 14, 2022 — 8:09 pm
Comments: 10

Do we do Advent Calendars?

Every year, Uncle B very kindly buys me an Advent Calendar. I tend to get horribly behind, because it wasn’t a feature of my childhood and I forget.

Do Americans do Advent? I know the calendars aren’t common, but I wonder if observation of the Advent might be. Catholics, maybe?

I was raised plain vanilla Presbyterian, me.

December 6, 2021 — 8:16 pm
Comments: 21

Wet hare

Uncle B was out watering in the garden just now and called out that there was “an animal of some kind” in the cold frame. Animals of some kind are my department.

Turns out, he thoroughly watered a healthy bunny which was crouching under the plants trying to be very still and invisible. Fortunately, no cats were around, so he managed to escape with a cracking story to tell.

My first attempt to find a picture of a wet bunny took me to this article from the Dodo informing me that bathing bunnies is unnecessary, cruel and might even kill them. Okay, then.

My second attempt turned up the picture at right, the title of which was wettlauf-des-igels-und-des-hasen.

The “wet” in “wettlauf” did it. It’s two people in 1864 dressed up for a fairytale ball, representing Grimm’s The Race Between the Hedgehog and the Hare.

If you don’t know this one (I didn’t), hare challenges hedgehog to a footrace. Hare bounds off, hedgehog takes a few steps and vanishes into the grass.
At the end of the row, Mrs Hedgehog pops up and says “I’m already here!” As she looks exactly like Mr Hedgehog, the hare thought he’d been beaten. Mystified, he demanded a rematch. So they did the same thing in reverse. This happened over and over until the hare fell over dead.

Sweet dreams, children!

July 29, 2021 — 7:25 pm
Comments: 7